Monday, December 31, 2012

Winter Hats

My grandson Brody has a royal blue coat. After Christmas I found yarn the exact same shade and decided to make him a hat.  Now I feel like Goldilocks.

The first hat was too big:

Daddy modeling the first attempt

The second hat was too little:

Baby brother models the second try

But the third hat was ... just right!

Brody, the dinosaur

It was ugly but my husband Jerry pointed out that measuring Brody's head and adjusting the gauge of the knit might have helped me in doing the project right the first time.

 Maybe I should have paid more attention to those story problems in eighth grade math.  Perhaps, just perhaps, there may be practical application for mathematical skills after all. 

Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My Reindeer Ears

Our annual Z Indoor Christmas Caroling party was last Saturday night and fun was had by (almost) all.  One of the stellar moments of this special evening was when Miss Brenna Lockaby, age eight, brought down the the house with her spontaneous a Capella rendition of Pat-a-Pan, garnering thunderous applause as well as rave reviews from her audience.  (Jack and I immediately scrapped our plan to sing a duet of Silent Night in German...) 

For the first time ever, there was a dark underbelly to our (normally) joyous celebration.  For decades I have worn the same pair of reindeer antlers to this evening of caroling.  They are classic and classy and include dainty golden bells suspended from a beautiful red satin bow.  This year, however, my daughter, Captain of the Fashion Police, felt I should upgrade and spring for a new pair.  Although I looked, the new crop of antlers available for purchase were lacking in quality construction as well as in bells.  My old pair are nothing if not gorgeous, but I chose not to wear them anyway.

Midway through the event, Jerry had occasion to go into our bedroom and saw the lonely antlers hanging in the closet.  He must have felt sorry for them because the next thing I knew, I was wearing my reindeer antlers again.  God's in his heaven, all's right with the world. 

Did this woman steal my antlers?
Time elapsed and a friend (well, I thought she was a friend...) plucked them from my head and onto hers.  That's the last I saw of my beloved antique antlers.  Did my (former) friend spirit them off?  Did someone else take them from her?  Were my daughters involved?   

Whoever has stolen my reindeer antlers:  listen up!  Put them in a brown paper bag and leave them at my front door by Friday.  No questions will be asked and, if you follow these instructions, no police need to be involved.

Merry Christmas to everyone (else.)

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Haircut

I was getting my hair trimmed for the holidays when my beautician started to cough.

"You must have sucked in some hair," I said.

She just laughed, opened her equipment drawer and fished out a pair of tweezers.

"I use these to get all the hair out of my bellybutton before I leave the shop at night," she said. 

Wow!  That new tidbit of information inspired me to tip my stylist a lot more than I usually do.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Committee Meeting

A recurrent problem in my life as a wife and mother has been that suppertime often creeps up on me and catches me unawares.  How can this be?  I mean, it happens every day.  You'd think I'd be better prepared for it.

Once I read an article by Rose Kennedy where she was asked her secret for feeding her large brood.  "Long ago, I made up a menu for two weeks," she said, "and I have been repeating it ever since."  She added, "Nobody has ever mentioned it.  They don't seem to notice."

As in love with the simplicity of this idea as I am, I have personally never been able to pull it off.  Not that anyone I ever should have fed regularly would have been more observant than the Kennedy Clan, but that designing and implementing the two-week menu has proven difficult.  I have attempted it more than a couple of times but somehow gotten distracted somewhere between the writing and repeating.  It seems to be a case of inner child rebellion.  (My bratty inner child acts up a lot.) 

Hope springs eternal. My mature self thinks it would be freeing to know what we're going to have for supper days in advance.  Organized me thinks this way I could be assured of having all the ingredients that I need on hand.  Frugal me adds that there would be less waste which translates into monetary savings, a delightful bonus. 

Apparently the whole "me" committee is willing to give this this brilliant idea one more shot.  My inner child will only cooperate if I allow her to bake cookies, but since it's December we all even agree with that idea.

Rose would be proud.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Request

My daughter texted me asking if she could bring a friend to Thanksgiving dinner.

"Sure," I said and I meant it.  The more, the merrier.

Then she texted me instructions.  She said, "Be normal and don't wear something too weird." 

Yeah, good-luck with that, Kate. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Perfect Couple

When Jerry gets up in the morning, he's like a ninja.  He silently slides out of bed while I remain deep in slumber.  He could be dressing an inch away from my face and I'd never know it, he's that quiet.

When I get up, I'm like a baby elephant.  With every step I take, the house shakes on its foundation.  Pictures rattle as I bump into walls and doors.  It's hard to believe I can make this much noise when I'm trying to be so quiet.  Not only do I wake Jerry (and anyone else who might happen to be sleeping in our house,) I'm pretty sure I wake up the neighbors too.

It's true what they say:  Opposites DO attract.

Friday, November 16, 2012


Growing up, I was a feisty, stubborn little thing and I hated milk.  HATED!
My folks ascribed to the "clean plate" school of parenting (and that included liquids) which is how I ended up sitting alone at the dinner table one evening while my mother cleaned the kitchen.

I knew that children were starving in China but couldn't connect how my drinking this milk could help them.  Finally, I snapped.  When Mom had her back turned, I poured the milk into the trash can which was lined with a brown paper bag.

 "My milk's gone."

"You may be excused."

I went off to play while my mother finished up the dishes.  When she lifted the brown paper sack out of the wastebasket to take it outside to the garbage, the bottom fell out. 

My parents also believed in corporal punishment, so I got spanked.  I secretly felt things worked out well for me though - because nobody thought to pour me another glass of milk.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How I Spend my Time

This morning while I was in the middle of executing a perfect "Y" turn to get out of my garage and head up my driveway, I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw that I'd nudged my garbage bin and it had tilted backwards.  I put the car in park and as I walked over to right the bin, I realized that it's twin, the recycling bin, was missing. 

My bin nudging had sent the recycling container sailing down the hill below our driveway. The garbage bin was empty but our recycling only gets collected every other week so it was overflowing.  A week and a half's recycling had now fluttered down to rest on the hillside. 

When I was cleaning yesterday, I dumped the shredder wastebasket into the recycling bin so there were teeny tiny strips of paper intermingled with the plastic berry containers, tin cans, bits and pieces of aluminum foil, newspapers, magazines and junk mail littered all over my backyard.  It was a major mess.  I would have to wade in leaves to get to the bin -- leaves that are, I might add, the same color as snakes. 

Earlier in the year I made a bargain with all creepy crawly things that if they'd stay out of my area, I would stay out of theirs. This hillside was clearly not my area. It seemed wrong to welsh on an arrangement that had been working so splendidly.

What to do? Honestly, my initial impulse was to let Jerry deal with it but I immediately discounted that as being a little immature.  It was high time that I put on my big-girl pants and handled this mess myself. 

I broke into my secret Halloween candy stash and ate three miniature Butterfingers.  Fortified by chocolaty goodness, I grabbed my jingly snake bracelets and searched the garage until I found my rubber knee boots -- these boots are not the cute kind like the girls in Charleston wear when it rains.  These are brown rubber farm boots which I wear when I don't know how high whatever muck might be that I'm about to step in.  I pounded them upside down on the pavement until I was satisfied that all the spiders were gone, crammed my feet in them and embarked upon my task.

It took two and a half hours for me to pick up the recyclables and drag the bin back up to my driveway.  Although I was serenaded by my neighbor dog during the entire time, the only living thing I saw was a Daddy Long Legs.  That's all I saw.  The whole time I imagined thousands of beady eyes staring out at me from under piles and piles leaves.

If, like my husband, you've ever thought to yourself, "Chris stays at home all day.  How does she spend her time?"  Well, now you know.  Not quite what you'd imagined, right?  Me either.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Night Text

Whenever I get a text from a kid of mine that starts out with the words, "Don't freak out but..." I know the next few words are not going to be something pleasant, especially when I receive the aforementioned communication at 3:21 a.m.  Just waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of a text coming is scary enough for me.

The bad news was that I did, in fact, freak out. The good news was, well I couldn't think of any good news right then.  The rest of the message read, "A tsunami is going to hit us on Oahu in an hour or so."  My teeth began to chatter uncontrollably.  Most mothers will understand that, I think.

Josh and Susan were staying at Turtle Bay, one of "the most spectacularly beautiful places on earth, where every room has an ocean view."  I'm not sure how much of a plus having a window facing a tsunami is, but I can say that I prayed to God in Heaven that everyone would be okay and I believe he heard my prayer because about the time the tsunami hit, my lights flickered off, just once.  I took it as a sign from Heaven and calmed down a bit.

The second text, that the tsunami - which had roared in at a mere three feet -had been downgraded, arrived at 5:23 am.  It was the longest two hours and two minutes of my life. 

My ardor to visit our 50th state has cooled considerably. Most mothers will understand that, too.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Learning the Ropes

Wednesday was Brody's first trick-or-treat Halloween.  He and his baby brother dressed up as Mario and Luigi for parties, but Halloween night it was too cold to wear the outfit outside so he wore a cute sock monkey hat. 

At the first house, they put a Kit Kat in his bag.  At the second house, the man held out the bowl for Brody to choose a piece of candy.  He looked at it a little while, then Brody took his Kit Kat from his orange bag, gently placed it on top of the mound of candy in the man's bowl, turned around and walked away.

Friday, October 26, 2012

My Brilliant Halloween Idea

I became a vegetarian shortly after our son Josh was born and during his formative years I was pretty vigilant about what he ate.  (And by "pretty vigilant" I mean "fanatically zealous.") 

His first couple of Halloweens were not an issue because he was still little but by the time his third Halloween rolled around, there was a problem.  I was strongly against the idea of him gobbling up his weight in sugary junk (as I called candy back in the day), but I didn't want to deny him the fun that comes with dressing up in costume.

"Hmm....How to get around receiving massive amounts of candy without branding my child as a social outcast for life?" That was the question.  I mulled it over and over in my mind until I was struck with a brilliant idea! I would go in advance everywhere I would be taking him trick-or-treating and drop off a healthy snack for them to put in his bag.  This was creativity at its finest!  He'd have all the fun and none of the cavities!

And so it happened.  That Halloween and the two that followed it, Josh got tangerines, apples, oranges, bananas, popcorn and even the occasional fruit leather in his trick-or-treat pumpkin.  Everyone got to see how adorable he looked in his costumes and he got to see what all the other kids wore, too.  He got a kick out of the whole evening and seemed genuinely pleased with his healthy haul. (That's how it looked to me anyway.)

Fast forward to kindergarten.  Halloween approached but even then I didn't realize that I hadn't thought this idea through to its logical conclusion.  I had totally ignored the friend factor.  When Josh found out that all the other kids got candy when they went trick-or-treating, he had a melt down.  Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny were nothing compared to this!  Josh was beyond angry.  He was livid. 

To this very day, if you mention Halloween to him, he will zero in his pre-school years and get annoyed all over again.  In his mind, I still owe him about a hundred pounds of nerds, starbursts and skittles.

Sometimes brilliant ideas are best left alone.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Yoga, Revisited

On Tuesday and Thursday mornings I get on an elevator, descend into Hell, meet Satan's Mistress, and pay actual American currency for the privilege of attending her "Deep Stretch Yoga Class."

Deep Stretch Yoga is code for "Yoga for Old Ladies" and it focuses on flexibility and balance. I've never been particularly flexible and not even a stranger would mistake me for someone who was well-balanced, so this class is a good fit for me.

Today when I arrived in the studio, I noticed two chairs sitting sideways against the wall. Miss Mary Ann was feeling particularly feisty and had decided that today was the day we were going to stretch our trapezius muscles, doing a pose called the "fountain of youth."

I'm all for youth -- I even dimly recall being one once -- but had sincere reservations about this Cirque du Soliel move which consisted of suspending oneself with the head wedged between two chairs in what amounted to a headstand in midair.

Although I'm pretty sure that I verbalized my concerns, no one paid much attention to my pitiful whimperings and that is how I found myself in the aforementioned position and then, to add insult to injury, they took pictures of me.

If we're going to continue to do these types of moves - especially if I'm going to be photographed - I'm going to have to insist that we wear glittery outfits made of sequins and feathers, perhaps with the addition of a small, tasteful tutu.  In pink or turquoise.  Would a tiny tiara be asking too much?

People ask me why I return to yoga week after week when I make no secret of the fact that I don't enjoy this form of exercise one little bit. The answer is simple. I spend a lot of my time hunched over a computer and my neck and shoulders get tight and sore from it.

As much as I hate to admit it, I feel better after I leave yoga class.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Thieving scoundrel!

Help!  We've been robbed!!

I know that the thief was either a pudgy woman or a gay man because the only thing she (or he) took was my black yoga pants with pink and blue hearts on the hiney.

Why anyone would want these pants is beyond me.  Who understands the criminal mind?

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Scary October Story

Don't read this post if you frighten easily...

Last week Jessica was visiting and as we stepped outside onto our front porch she screamed one of those screams of sheer terror that I, personally, reserve for snakes. I screamed too as I jumped back and grabbed her, which did nothing to allay her fear I might add.  I had to laugh when she pointed out what we were screaming about - a tiny chameleon on our railing.  Turns out that lizards -- really just miniature snakes with tiny feet when you think about it -- don't bother me at all.  Good to know.

Yesterday I decided to clean the basement and stuck the Swiffer behind my piano.  I captured a whole bunch of pill bugs in various stages of life and was so grossed out by this catch that I put my telescoping feather duster under there.  When I pulled it out again, a big, brown spider was attached to it.  A slender spider, it was easy to identify: brown recluse.  The very name sends shivers of horror up and down my spine!

Either of these events could have sent me -- a card carrying phobic -- over the edge, but together they multiplied my angst exponentially.  I had difficulty sleeping last night.  My entire body was tingling and I was certain that I was in the beginning stages of paralysis.

When I awoke this morning apparently perfectly fine - except emotionally, of course - no one was more surprised than I was.  Emotionally though, I'm a wreck!  Where there's one spider, there's a potential for many more, right? 

My kids had an audio of Charlotte's Web (read by the author) that we listened to endlessly while they were growing up.  You may recall that Charlotte gave birth to countless baby spiders by the tale's end.  Who knows the sex of the spider I threw outside yesterday?  I was in a panic but even if I hadn't been, truthfully I don't know how to tell a spider's gender anyway.  Chances are that even if I did, in the heat of the moment I wouldn't have had the presence of mind to check.

Today I'm going to buy an industrial can of Home Defense and have Jerry spray it this weekend.  I can't do it myself because insecticide creeps me out, but that would be belaboring the obvious now, wouldn't it?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Funny One

Every single member of my family secretly thinks that they are the funniest one in our group.  They're all wrong.  It's me.  I'm the funny one. 


Friday, September 28, 2012


In Michigan, Grand Rapids ArtPrize is going on this weekend (and until October 7th) and there is a two-hundred-thousand dollar purse for the best of show.  I'm sorry I can't attend it because if I could, I surely would vote for Tom Kaufmann's Junkyard Music Box. It combines many of my loves into one neat package --  music, scavenging, re-purposing and even friendship.  (Friendship played heavily in the making of this creation because, although Tom conceived the idea, many hands helped him achieve his stellar entry.)

Tom is from my hometown of Hastings, Michigan and, even though in sixth grade he once spontaneously told me that he wouldn't date me even if I were the last girl on earth, I am going to overlook my wounded pride and wish him the Grand Prize that he so clearly deserves. 

If you happen to attend ArtPrize, please take a moment to vote for Tom.  His creativity and musical genius should be rewarded with cold cash.

The Junkyard Music Box
Inspired by Tom's massive and successful project, I decided to attempt to (drum roll, please) assemble a tulip chair for my grandson.  I know it's paltry by comparison to Tom's way-cool Junkyard Music Box, but I have zero mechanical aptitude -- I can't even use a vacuum cleaner without breaking it -- and this seemed as insurmountable to me as making a pile of junk morph into a melodic beauty.

The directions, straight from China, were six pages long.  Still, I plodded through them one step at a time and success was MINE!  I got all the way to the final step before I hit a snafu.  "Now go back and securely tighten all bolts and nuts."  No matter how hard I tried, I could not get the nuts to move all the way up the bolts like they were supposed to.  Both ends twirled every time I tried to tighten the nut.

Since my Grandson will be sitting in this chair, I decided to let my muscle-y husband go back and do the "securing" step.  Above all, I want to be sure the chair is safe to sit in.  My pride is a little bit dinged yet again, but even Tom has a team.
* * *

 UPDATE:  When I was cleaning up my mess, I found this mysterious tool under the pile of instructions.  When I stuck it in the top of the bolt, I was able to use the wrench to truly "securely tighten all bolts and nuts."  So, my team will only have to check my work, not do it.

I'm on a roll!  I think I'll go vacuum...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Tower

It took Brody a long time to complete his masterpiece.  He labored hard to put the rings on the tower of the classic Fisher Price toy.  When he was finished, his mom told him that it wasn't quite right.

Here's a difference between being a mom and being a grandma -- it looked perfect to me.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Brand of Clean

Katie moved to a condo in Charlotte over the weekend, our friend Bill visited the first of the week, and Jessica and Brent are arriving tomorrow with our two grandsons for an extended visit. 

I have post move-out cleaning, post houseguest cleaning and pre-family cleaning all dovetailing into one giant mess of a house.  Naturally I decided to move our bedroom from the first floor to the downstairs yesterday, increasing the drama exponentially.  Why do I do this?

Babies come with a lot of accessories.  My thoughts were that there would be maximum space in the master bedroom for the bassinet, Pack 'n Play and various assorted other baby and toddler paraphernalia.  Living out of a suitcase is no fun either, so drawer space would be nice. 

Although that may be true, nonetheless,  this was a major lapse in judgment.  If I take all our clothing to the basement bedroom, won't we want the stuff out of the bathroom, too?  Otherwise, we'll have to run upstairs to brush our teeth, take a shower or even just put on deoderant.  That doesn't make any sense.  Move the junk out of the bathroom too while you are at it, girl! 

I need to run errands today to pick up baby specific items (like diapers, outlet covers, bubbles, etc.), shop for groceries and hit the library for board books.
Instead, I'm cleaning out the closet under the stairs in the basement. 

On the up side, I've unearthed our Halloween decorations and it isn't even October yet.  There's always a silver lining, isn't there?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Getting Dressed

You know how sometimes you get up super early and it's really dark out and you don't want to wake your husband up, so you just get dressed in the dark and sneak out of the bedroom?

Well, that didn't happen to me today.  I got up well after dawn - my husband was long gone - so I dressed leisurely in a room that was full of light.  

I was half way through yoga class when my instructor mentioned to me that my yoga pants were on inside out. 

I have no explanation for this.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Ever had a conversation where both parties seem to be speaking in English, but there's no actual communication happening?

This occurs most often for me when I am talking to people at call centers.  They usually live in some far off country, are working the night shift and are more concerned about getting me off the phone than in solving my problem, whatever it may be.  They always end the conversation with "May I help you with anything else?" when usually they weren't even able to help me with why I called.

It always surprises me when these conversations happen at home.  I came in from a walk and Kate was watching a YouTube video on tying shoelaces.  I was confused because I thought I taught her how to do that when she was three.

"What are you doing?"

" 'S fairies." she said.

Fairies?  I searched my mind to try to make sense of this comment.  I couldn't find one mental picture of a fairy with shoes on, and even if I had, can you imagine how tiny the little shoelaces would be?


 " 'S fairies, Mom.  I'm trying to learn to tie a square knot."

Did girl scouts teach her nothing?  She could sense my bewilderment. "Mother.  I got leather shoe laces for my new shoes and I want the knots to look cute."  She was getting a little snippy with me because she was attempting to watch a video and also because she felt that she had done enough explaining.

I still was mystified as to what fairies had to do with leather shoelaces but when I picked up her new top-siders, I figured it out. 

"Sperry" is embossed on the back. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Many kind people have expressed their condolences at my loss of my father.  Lots of folks said "May you be comforted by your memories." which is such a sweet, sweet sentiment, isn't it?  Thank-you, everyone!  To lose a parent, no matter what the age, is an awful thing.

My dad was an extremely talented, amusing man.  His memorial service is this Saturday and I know, although it will be a bittersweet affair, there will be lots of stories and lots of laughter.
* * *
One of Dad's favorite hobbies was napping.  He was a champion at it.  If napping were an Olympic sport, my dad would have been a gold-medalist.  His favorite napping spot was our living room couch, which was, by definition, in our living room.  Not the best spot to snooze when you have five kids running around, but it didn't seem to be a problem for him - he was that good at it!

* * *

"Breaker, breaker, Good Buddy!"  My dad was also a technophile and when CBs (Citizen's Band Radios) entered the scene, he had to have one.  After he got it installed in his car, he was so crazy in love with it that some nights he would go out and talk on it while the car was just sitting in the driveway. 

* * *

On one particularly memorable trip, Dad was driving on the expressway just chatting along when the car started slowing down.  It went slower....and slower....and slower.  Mom was alarmed when it finally coasted to a stop, but Dad was just so engrossed with his conversation, that he hadn't even noticed that the car wasn't moving any more.  "Ten - four!" 

* * *

When our son, Dad's first grandchild was born, Dad got a brand-new, state of the art video camera.  This was in the '70s and the thing was enormous and heavy.  He lugged it along to the hospital and took shots of the new baby.  Then, he edited the film and added sound.  The video opens with Dad panning the nursery and focusing in on our beautiful baby.  Meanwhile, “How Much is that Doggie in the Window?” is playing in the background.

* * *
Ah, memories!  I look forward to my father's service and the stories that people he loved and who loved him will share. 

Thank you all again for your thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


At the Masonic Lodge in Middleville, Michigan, there is a "Charles E. Collins, Sr." dining room named in honor of my father, a life-long Mason and a tireless supporter of his Lodge.  He spent many, many nights of his life attending meetings and fund-raising for his favorite organization.

The last handful of years, his lodge fund-raising took the form of selling poker chips at Texas Hold 'em charity tournaments.  This is a Michigan thing and I don't know the ins and outs of it, but I do know that Dad worked until the wee hours of the morning, lately seven days on, seven days off.

When a stroke claimed the lion's share of his vision, he convinced his wife to go with him.  One of the proudest days of his recent years was when his grandson Max became a Mason.  Max, too, would occasionally accompany Dad to work the game room.

This week Dad and his wife Carol had planned a trip to South Carolina to visit my baby brother and me. But "Man makes plans, God changes them" and this time, God called my father home.  After his normal night-shift at the poker room, Dad got to bed about 3:30 am.  During the night, he suffered another stroke and on Labor Day, he slipped peacefully into the next world. 

Dad was a man of action and I am grateful that on the last Saturday night of his life, he was joking around with the guys at the Masonic Texas Hold 'em game.  It was just where he wanted to be.

Way to go Dad, you went out with your boots on. 

I Love You.

Charles Elmer Collins, Sr.
1929 - 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

Life Lessons

The Blue Mosque
My son and his wife went to Turkey on vacation.  When they got back, they showed us beautiful pictures of the Blue Mosque, pictures of old men sitting outside of shops playing checkers and pictures of people drinking steaming hot tea out of tiny tea cups.  "If a local begs you to let him 'practice his English' with you on the streets of Turkey," Josh said, "you will come home with an oriental rug."

First the Turk miraculously has "a cousin who lives near you," next he gives you tea, and before you know it, you are stepping into his "uncle's" oriental rug shop.  By the time you step over the threshold of the store, there is no turning back.  The rug is already sold. 

The life lesson is, steel yourself against charming foreign accents and don't talk to strangers, no matter how friendly they may seem.

In my life, this translates into: Don't make eye contact with the beautiful twenty-something named Jordan (from Israel) who's working at her "uncle's" kiosk in the high-end mall.  If you respond when she speaks to you, you'll be taking home high-priced sea salt scrub with minerals from the Dead Sea in it.  Or, maybe a wonderful facial mask guaranteed to make your skin look years younger.  In my case, maybe both.

I'm reasonably sure that if I ever have the pleasure to visit Turkey, it's a foregone conclusion that I'll end up with at least two beautiful oriental rugs, but at least I'll have young-looking skin on the trip.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

At the Grocery Store

A new grocery store just opened up in our neighborhood, and I went there to check it out.  I was zooming around looking at the specials when an older guy stopped me and told me he'd forgotten his glasses.  He asked me if I could read the expiration date on a glass jar of grapefruit sections.

"You're good," I said. "It doesn't expire until May of '13."

"I don't know why my wife lets me come to the grocery store alone," he replied.  Then he told me this story:

"The last time I came shopping I was in a rush.  I didn't even take my wallet, I just stuck my debit card in my pocket.  Of course I forgot my glasses, I always do.  After I found what I wanted, I stood in line at the check out. 

When it was my turn, the cashier swiped my bank card and it was denied.  She swiped it again but it still didn't work. I knew I had money in my account so I was confused.  Why wouldn't my card work?  I asked her to try it again.  For the third time she tried it and for the third time it was rejected. 

Just then the guy behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said, 'Sir, that card will never work.' 


'Because it's your driver's license.'"

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Another Airport Story

Our Godson Dawson was coming to visit and I had to pick him up at the airport at 3:49 p.m.  Although the airport is only around twenty-five minutes from here, I wanted to be absolutely certain I was there on time so I planned to leave at 2:00.  I set my alarm, my cell phone alarm and even my oven timer as a back up.  I was quite proud of myself for my over-planning because it's pretty much the opposite of how I normally behave. 

This would be a stress-free trip because I had factored in plenty of time for the unexpected, right?  I had covered all my bases - except one.  The timers rang, I checked my purse for my driver's license and headed off to the garage.

Some thoughtful someone had backed my car into the garage so I didn't have to turn around in the driveway before I left.  Unfortunately, that special someone had neglected to turn off my headlights, so the battery was dead.  I panicked and called my (very thoughtful) husband who suggested I call Mary Ann who suggested I find someone to jump the car.  (She's brilliant!  Why didn't I think of that?)  Of course my jumper cables were in my trunk which I couldn't open because it was backed into the garage..

Luckily Denny, a neighbor who occasionally works from home, was there today had a set of cables and said he'd be happy to help out.  He'd never driven down our driveway, which is a little like an amusement park thrill ride, but he was game.  He had my car started in a flash. 

Our driveway is not the venue for polishing rusty driving skills and I am not wild enough to attempt backing up it myself, but I'm not a guy.  Guys are different, more optimistic.  Denny made a couple of attempts at backing out before deciding to reevaluate the situation. 

Remember those 'Y' turns we all had to learn in driver's ed?   They are a good starting point for turning around a large vehicle on a small driveway pad.  I usually use a 'W,' another 'W', then a couple of 'Y's myself and I have a tiny car.  It's a humbling and time consuming experience.  Denny was aware of my time-crunch so he pulled off to the side to let me leave while he figured out whether or not to abandon his vehicle.  (When I got back, he was gone so obviously he figured out his own alphabetical turning techniques.)

Thank GOD I had allowed extra time!  It was now after three, but I still thought I could make it to the airport before Dawson did.  Technically I was right.  I did arrive at the airport before him, but he beat me to the terminal

I hit a snag in the hourly parking garage.  I couldn't find one single spot, not even one that looked like it would be dicey to squeeze into.  Zero!  This was supposed to be hourly parking.  Why was it full?  It didn't make sense.  Were so many people at the Charlotte airport picking up and delivering folks that their cars would fill an entire parking garage?  About this time, I was feeling stressed, believe me.  

There is an overflow garage and I drove through half of it before I saw an open  space in Blue East, Level Two, Row C.  Just after I pulled in, my cell phone rang. Dawson was calling to tell me he had landed.  "Take your time,"  he said.  "I will be the last one off the plane."  I told him to wait at the gate and I'd get there as soon as I could.

Problem.  There were plenty of overhead exit signs, but none that said "Terminal."  My spatial orientation skills are pitiful on the best of days and today wasn't falling into that category.  I walked the length of the garage and followed an exit sign out to what looked like an abandoned construction site.  Then I went back inside and took a creepy stairwell to a lower level where I eventually came across an area where I could look up see the feet of people walking above me.  I found more stairs again and saw the terminal across the street.  By now, I'm not humming or whistling merrily, ya know?

I entered the terminal through door 'D' and speed walked down to the other end.  I could see that the security lines were long but I had to have a gate pass to collect an unaccompanied minor first, and that would be granted at the Delta ticket counter.  When I wormed my way to the front of the line, all the ticket agent needed from me was to see my driver's license with photo id.  Guess what?  I COULDN'T FIND IT!!  What I had seen at home and thought was my license was actually a credit card. 

I tore through my entire purse but the license was nowhere to be found.  I could hear my heart beating now I was so upset.  I had every grocery store bonus card in America in there along with a handful of library cards from every city I've ever lived in, but NO LICENSE!  By now I was shaking.  Finally I found an expired COSTCO card with a six-year-old photo of me that was as big as a baby's fingernail.  It was enough to prove I'm me, but not enough to secure the gate pass.  For that, you need a driver's license.

The agent suggested I go back to my car and search but I felt we needed an alternate plan, since I had no earthly idea where my car even was and The Godson was already on the ground.  Finally, we compromised and she said she'd go get Dawson and bring him through security herself.  She told me to stay at the ticket counter and call him to let him know she was coming for him.  Then she vanished, just like my driver's license had.

I called Dawson several dozen times and texted as well, but his ringer was off and he never answered.  I began worrying that he'd refuse to go with her.  As time ticked by, my imagination kicked into high gear.  I decided she must have sold him into slavery or, worse, to medical research and he might wake up tomorrow in a seedy hotel room with only one kidney...

Eventually he arrived.  After offering heartfelt thank-yous to the ticket agent, I left the Delta counter with a grateful heart - and, more importantly, a Godson!

Our first adventure:  find the car.  (He later described it as "a tour of the airport.")  Yes, I knew I had parked in Blue East, Level Two, Row C.  I simply did not know where Blue East was.  When we finally fumbled our way to Blue East, Level Two, Row C, the car was gone.  Somehow as we'd walked down the row, we'd changed levels.

ENOUGH!  I had had enough!  I felt panic, so I hit the panic button on my keyring.  It worked.  When the sound stopped, my car magically reappeared and my panic evaporated.

I wonder if I can use it to help me find my driver's license?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Mysterious Eggs

Kate left for work and two minutes later my phone rang.

"You going for a walk?" she said.


"There are some huge-ass eggs by the golf course across the street from Mary's.  They don't look broken.  Go and see if you know what they are."

As I grabbed my tennies, I wondered what type of egg they could be.  Ostrich eggs are massive, but I've never seen any ostriches wandering around the perimeter of the golf course.  Still, I guess that doesn't mean they can't be there.

I also wondered when "huge-ass" became an adjective.  I know that Jill Conner Browne used "big-ass" to describe the hair of the wannabes in her wickedly funny book series The Sweet Potato Queens - but she's from Georgia. 

I've never actually had the pleasure of hearing Ms. Browne speak, therefore I don't know if 'ass' is actually part of her spoken vocabulary.  I imagine she only writes it and so I grant her poetic license. I have not issued any such license to my daughter.   

I walked closer to Mary's house.  I saw the eggs.  I continued advancing.  I knew what they were.  Mushrooms.  We used to call them puff balls when we were kids. They sprout up over night and in just a couple of days can grow to be the size of your head. 

In the spirit of Jill Conner Browne and Kate all I can say is:

That's some huge-ass fungi.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

When Short Visits Tall

When I visit my tall friends and family (and pretty much everybody is taller than I am about the time they reach fifth grade), this is what I see in the mirror:

On the upside, I don't see any wrinkles.  If you see broccoli in my teeth though, please tell me.  Otherwise, I'll never know.

Friday, August 3, 2012


Tuesday I left Michigan for S.C.  My original flight ended up being delayed so I was re-booked ... on a direct flight!  I got to spend an extra two hours, not flying to Washington D.C., but with my grandsons.  It was like a kiss from God!

Getting the proper paperwork and actually boarding was a drama, but the plane ride itself was big fun.  I, being practically a midget, am the perfect person to sit in the middle seat.  I need zero leg room and if I want to stand up, I won't even hit my head.  The six-foot guy next to me was a bit more cramped, but at least he had the aisle sea.  He can actually look into the overhead bins though, I'll give him that.  I can't even reach them.

I couldn't have chosen more interesting seatmates.  He was a retired Army officer whose job translated well into the civilian world.  She was a nurse who took time out to raise her kids.  He regaled us with tales of his world travels, best and worst.   (Winner:  Germany.  Loser:  Texarkana.) She told us about her upcoming ten-day motorcycle trip through the Dakotas.  (Now, I know it costs eleven bucks to ship something as light as a feather from South Carolina to California, so I can only imagine what the price tag is to ship your motorcycle from Florida to North Dakota.  $$$$ ...) 

Toward the end of the flight, the stewardess came on the intercom and said she had a surprise for us.  How exciting!  I just knew she was going to burst out into song and the Army man beside me was hoping for a lingerie show. We both were let-down when we realized that we were merely a captive audience, trapped in an infomercial for a branded credit card.  If we sign up today, right now. we could earn -- after only one purchase of a pack of gum -- a free round-trip ticket. I was sorely tempted.  Thank God I don't chew gum.

It's great to be home.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Me: "I'm going to start a psychic weight-loss program!"

Kate: "Does it go hand-in-hand with diet and exercise?"

Friday, July 27, 2012


Yesterday morning, shortly before five in the a.m., the whole household was jarred awake by the crashing and banging of a dramatic thunderstorm.  Then, just as fast as it arrived, it departed.  Sweet silence was restored to our world.  Everyone here over the age of two was excited by the idea of going back to sleep.  The under two crowd was just plain excited.  We stayed up.

One of my earliest childhood memories is of being livid because I was forced to take a nap.  Times change.  Now I am in love with nap time - for the grandsons.  Brody is an excellent napper but Baby Grayson has an iron will and he's not crazy about napping.  Luckily, I discovered a trick on Wikipedia.  He was yelling his angriest cry at top volume when I wheeled out the vacuum cleaner and turned it on.  In seconds he was not only quiet, he was out like a light.  The magic of white noise!

I mentioned this to one of Jessica's friends today and she said, "You better be careful.  We burned up our vacuum motor doing that!"

I wonder if there's a white noise app for the iPhone?


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Blue kayak, red flag

There were three colors:  yellow, blue and orange.  Jerry picked an orange kayak, leaving me with the choice of yellow or blue.  I thought yellow might show dirt, so I got the blue one.  I was supremely happy with my choice.  Until.  One night as we were leaving the lake at the public access area, a boater who was also leaving said, "You do know you are virtually invisible to us on the lake at this time of night, right?"

Nooooo... I was not aware of that!  Visibility, or lack thereof, had never occurred to me.  At dusk - the time of day that you are most likely to find me on the lake -I am Chris Zimmerman, ninja kayaker.  This bit of knowledge disturbed me deeply until I saw a man with a bright orange flag attached to his kayak for visibility.  I paddled over and talked with him about it and it turns out that kayak flags are readily available online for twenty dollars, plus shipping.
Camouflaged and I didn't even know it!

The very next night, Jerry came home from work all excited.  "I was in Greenville today, " he said, "and look what I found at Radio Shack on the way home!"  He presented me with a telescoping radio antenna.  "It was only thirteen bucks.  No shipping!  I figured you could sew up a red flag, attach it somehow and it would be perfect."

Now Jerry generally isn't the frugal one of this couple, so I surmised that he needed a project. I obliged by digging out my old sewing machine and some red rip-stop nylon left over from a backpack patching job I had done for him earlier this decade.  I commenced making a flag while he went out on our back deck to attach the antenna to the kayak.  He was very pleased with himself.
For those of you who've never had the pleasure of visiting our dwelling, it is situated midway down a pretty dramatic hill and our patio juts out over nothing but a steep drop.  We live in the woods and the back of our property is heaped full of leaves left right where they dropped. They are turning themselves into lovely, dark compost in one of God's own science projects.  We never go down there to interfere because it's too steep and it's overgrown with poison ivy, a living deterrent to the allergy prone.

So first Jerry's out on the deck with the kayak balanced on the railing, drilling a hole for the antenna and the next thing I know, he's inside, madder than a hornet.  He'd dropped the little black thing [nut? screw? bolt?*] that attaches the antenna to the kayak. (*I don't know what the official hardware store name of the piece was.  Men, don't bother wasting you time trying to educate me because, in my eyes, it's not important enough info to retain.) 

Of course before he came in he had tried to find it, but talk about impossible!  It was black and about the size of a baby's fingernail.  Jerry asked me if I'd go out and help him look. I was not enthused by this idea, but he does a lot of crazy things for me and I figured this was payback. 

As I was attempting to balance myself on the hillside under the deck, I looked down and saw the ground below me undulating.  I was confused for a second as to what I was seeing but when I crouched down, I realized that I was standing in a slug nursery.  They were everywhere and the parents were huge!  That's when I abandoned my search.  (But I did wonder if slugs are the same as escargot?  Maybe our backyard is a gold mine!)

Alone again, Jerry decided to take this huge honkin' magnet down there and see if he could find the [nut, bolt, screw] that way.  Sad to say, he couldn't find the magnet in the garage.  When he realized that the magnet was nowhere to be found, he threw in the towel and went to Home Depot in disgust.  

While he was gone, I  finished my flag.  It was a thing of beauty but sort of rigid.  As a matter of fact, it was about as flexible as a piece of cardboard.  It's the right color to be sure but it won't be doing much whipping in the wind, more like perpetual standing at attention.
Jerry came back empty handed.  The [nut, screw, bolt] was a specialty item and they didn't stock it.  He went back to the woods, more determined than ever to find that little bugger.  I knew he was spitting into the wind, but I gave him credit for trying anyway.  The tiny thing could have bounced anywhere down the hill and then rolled in the gully.  He was never going to find it.

Jerry persisted.  He looked a long, long time and then the impossible happened. (Okay, maybe it was just the improbable, but it still amazed me.)  When he came in, he had that little part in his hand.  You could have knocked me over with a feather, I was so surprised  - and impressed, too.  He told me he'd just raked until he found it.  Wow!

I couldn't be more pleased with my goofy red flag on the telescoping radio antenna.  Not only is it a beacon of visibility, but it's a powerful symbol, too.  While it does keep me from disappearing amongst the jet skiers and power boaters, it's also reminds me of what persistence and determination can accomplish.  And, we saved seven dollars.  Plus shipping.

Friday, July 20, 2012


I did not make this yummy looking pie.

Judy called me and asked me if I'd bring a pie to our church fish fry.

"No," I said. "I'm horrible at baking pies."

"I didn't ask you to bake a pie," she responded.  "I asked you to bring a pie."

"In that case, I'll bring two."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Love and Devotion

 Last night my daughter burst into my room somewhere between the wee hours of the morning and dawn.  "I can't find the pacifier" she said.  (At least I think that's what she said.  I couldn't really hear her because the baby in her arms was wailing like a fire siren.)

Grayson isn't even three weeks old yet but he is rock-solid in his love and devotion to his blue paci. There's a whole jar of pacifiers in the cabinet but only the blue one will do.  Jessica realized this and so she bought four of them, hoping (in vain) to avert a crisis.  One glance at the desperation on her face was all it took for me to drag myself out of the netherworld of dreams and join The Hunt. 

The rules of Pacifier Hunt are pretty much the same as ones for a classic Easter egg search.  The prizes could be found anywhere, on any floor of the house, in any room, at any height, hidden or in plain sight.  The only variation is that the end-goal is silence and not chocolate.  There are four targets in the house and the first one found ends the hunt.  GO!

Pacifier reject jar
While I was tearing through my bedding, I heard Jessica in the kitchen.  We met in the playroom, then split up.  I went to the office and Jess took the living room where she became the big winner when she retrieved the first blue paci from behind the couch.

Peace was restored and slumber followed.  Morning came early though and as we are dragging through the day, we can't help but wonder where the other three pacifiers are.  Four clearly wasn't enough.  I vote for twenty.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Customer Service?

Some people glisten and shimmer for me like sunshine on the water......and some people don't.  I'd like to thank the people at my local phone company for reminding me of this today. 

Customer service.  Who are we kidding here?  Enough said.

Well, almost enough.  I decided to file a complaint with the FCC and I went to their website and waded through info to find the proper form only to find that my computer froze when I tried to fill it out.  I backed out and tried again, with the same results.

So, does the FCC form have a virus attached to it or is this some nefarious government plot to decrease paperwork?  I may be over thinking this.

What's left of the banana bread. 
Argh....I was so frustrated that I made banana bread but even eating a half a loaf of that wasn't enough, so I made 'Delicious Chocolate Cake,' a family favorite given to me years ago by my friend Elaine, a woman who has spent her life shimmering and shining with such beauty that it gives us all hope for a better tomorrow.

I think a piece of this cake - even an unfrosted one - will do the trick and cheer me up.   Especially if I pour a shot of amaretto on it and add whipped cream and walnuts.  I'm feeling better just thinking about it. 

Life is truly good.

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This is not a food blog, but for those of you who are going to ask:

DELICIOUS CHOCOLATE CAKE  from  Elaine Berninger
       350ยบ     30 - 45 MINUTES        


3 cups flour
6 Tablespoons cocoa
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt (I halve that.)

¾ cup oil
2 Tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups cold water


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