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Weekend at Mom’s – or – She Ain’t Goin’ Gentle

What would we do without our mothers? copy

Everybody needs a mom. Image credit here.

Day I

Mom greets me at the door with life-changing news: She has ordered green-lipped mussel oil!

“Larry King uses it.”

Mom’s intentions are golden. She is going to cure a family member of a chronic illness. She has found the solution the doctors have missed. I am to learn all about the oil from her and then deliver it to the intended recipient along with the proper instructions.

We sit together, and I listen.

“Here, read the booklet.”

I read the booklet. I open the jar and sniff. I think about popping a capsule into my mouth and biting it when a vision intrudes, and I change my mind. A sea of terrified faces implores me with countless sets of tiny green lips. The word “lips” has personalized the creatures whose juices I am about to suck.

“And it comes with this DVD.”

“Well, that is very thoughtful of you, Mom.”

“All the way from New Zealand!”

“I see.”

“Now make sure Susan takes the oil each day for 30 days so I can call and have the next shipment cancelled if it doesn’t help. Well…they might have already sent the second shipment by then, so I would just have to cancel the third one. I gave them my credit card, you know.”

“Have you mentioned this to Susan? I really think you should discuss this with Susan.”

“They say 4-6 capsules daily for the first 30 days but I think that’s too much. Just tell her to take 2-4.”

(sigh)

Day II

The following day, I get up early and make breakfast. After that, I squire my Mom to Sunday school and church. My stepfather Seamus takes us all out for a hearty lunch. Following a gorgeous walk with my husband Henry, the family eats a dinner prepared by my sister, Gwen. We make sure–Gwen, Henry, and I–to be kind, attentive, and helpful throughout. Mom is a big talker, and we listen actively and respectfully. She has stored up many words and opinions, and the pressure has to be released. What is Wrong with the World Today receives special attention. We take care of all of the cooking and washing up.

At long last, it is time for me to curl up and introvert. Luscious!

“Jane, are you ready to watch the DVD about the mussels?”

Uh oh.

“Actually, Mom, I think I’ll pass.”

(exhales loudly) “Well, I’m surprised at you, Jane! Why not? This could be the key to Susan’s recovery.”

“It would feel like work Mom. And I’ll be taking the DVD to Susan anyway. I think I’d rather relax.”

(huffs) “Well, I bet Henry would like to watch it with me.”

He takes one for the team. I owe him big time.

Day III

Mom produces a page-and-a-half of yellow legal paper. She has handwritten a recipe she has been wanting to try.

“Here is the tuna casserole recipe. Thank you so much for doing this. I really need to lie down for a bit.”

“Sure, Mom! Happy to!”

Mom is worn out. She wanders over to the sofa for a nap. Mom is thrilled that we have finally come to visit but entertaining is exhausting. Who knows what we might get up to if she isn’t there to assist? Did I mention that Henry is 53, I am 52, and Gwen is 50? Mom is…it would not be polite to tell you, now would it?

Mom starts to drift off to sleep. But for the sounds of cooking and the subdued drone of the news channel, the house falls silent.

Following her directions religiously, I place the flaked tuna in the bottom of the pan and dribble the lemon juice–fresh squeezed!–over it. The shredded cheese, peas, and cooked noodles are mixed together and stand off to the side, waiting. I am halfway through cooking the sauce.

The silence does not last long. I feel a disturbance in the air and–

“Did you sprinkle the lemon juice over the tuna?”

“Yes. I used fresh lemons like you said to.”

“How much did you use?”

“The recipe didn’t give an amount. I just guessed.”

Mom’s gaze releases the Pyrex pan and fixates on the stove top.

“I think you are going to have to double that sauce recipe. It doesn’t look like you have enough to cover everything going into the pan.”

“Ok, Mom. No problem.”

I double the sauce recipe, and Mom disappears around the corner. For a moment.

Gwen enters the kitchen with a basket of dirty laundry. She turns the washer knob, activating a siren call. Mom materializes.

“Be sure not to overfill the washer.”

“Ok, Mom.”

“Here, let me. I want to make sure the load is balanced.”

“Ok, Mom.”

“Now remember. Once the washer fills, you have to use this plunger to push the clothes below the water level.”

(sigh) “I’m not going to do that, Mom.”

Gwen and I engage our psychic connection.

“No, really. You want to be sure the clothes are good and wet so they get clean.”

(silent lip biting)

“Just stand here and wait for it to fill so you can plunge it.”

(silent lip biting + rapid eye blinking + quivering nostrils.)

My mother is providing instructions in the use of her top-quality, high-capacity machine in excellent condition.

My mother is providing instructions in the use of a washing machine to her top-quality, high-capacity daughter in adult condition.

Mom pads out of the kitchen and back to the sofa. Gwen is watching the washer fill. I am crushing potato chips for the top of the casserole. We feel the pressure of each other’s eyeballs, look up, and silently message one another.

The washer has filled and begins to agitate. Gwen is not-plunging, and the sound of not-plunging pierces the air.

The end of the world still has not come. Gwen leaves the laundry room and steps around the corner. I relax and begin to arrange my potato-chip blanket.

The washer lid flies open. Plunging happens.

Mom, risen from the dead, has sneaked behind me to save the load of laundry and the future of the Western world.

Satisfied, she starts for the sofa a third time. But first, she checks my work.

“Are you sure you have crushed enough potato chips? I think you need more.”

Exit Mom. Enter Gwen.

(stage whispers above the kitchen noises) “Mom was plunging.”

“No!”

“She was. She was plunging.”

We are wound too tightly. We have swallowed exasperation, suppressed disrespect, spared feelings, and avoided mutiny. We have painted ourselves into a corner, and there is only one way out.

Gwen and I lock eyes in agreement.

I begin first. I bob my head like a chicken to the rhythm of the washer. Gwen joins in, swaying. We dance tentatively at first. Naughty snickers escape our lips. Shh, Mom is trying to sleep! Shhhhhh!

Soon we are stepping, gyrating, and waving our arms, our tribal dance growing in fervor. Pig snorts and raspberries escape in spite of tightly clenched lips.

We can’t stop, and we don’t want to.

By the time Mom rounds the bend a fourth time, our recovery is nigh.

Mommy! She laughs at us and with us. Mom is as she always was, though we may have to work a bit harder to find her. In the end, it is a small price we pay, a light yoke we bear, to uphold this sacred trust. It is our honor to protect her from inconsequence.

Postscript.: In my last post, I promised I’d publish a shout-out to the first person to guess the rationale behind my naming of a particular silly photo. The winner was Elaine Hill of Burtonsville, MD. She correctly guessed that the woman had not yet been “deflowered.”

Is green-lipped mussel oil is any good? I don’t know. Do Olympic athletes use it? I have no idea! But apparently a good number of Olympians trust Shaklee nutritional products. I know this because I became curious after talking with Elaine, and I did a bit of googling. Elaine is a Shaklee distributor, by the way, and she seems to know her stuff. Feel free to stop by her website and pick her brain.

Just so you know–I am not affiliated with Shaklee, and I have not been compensated for this mention.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dog Knows, Things Ain’t What They Used to Be: A Wandering Essay on Physical Fitness, Sex, & Wilted Produce

Image credit here.

Image credit here.

March, 2013

Things were better when I was younger…well, my things were, anyway!   –Maxine
(Maxine was created by John Wagner for Hallmark)

 

I was born with endurance and a great bottom half. From jump roping to pogo sticking to sibling kicking, my legs spelled power and possibility from an early age. Plus, they provided a great diversion from some of my weaker features. Dad always said my ears stuck out too far and that I had a bit of a chicken breast. Well, now that I’ve reached middle age, my arms are starting to resemble chicken wings. It looks like I’m getting the neck to match.

In elementary school, I was all about my banana bike. I got it the winter I turned 9. I was in heaven! But when the weather turned warm, and my younger sister learned to ride, Mom and Dad turned on me and granted my younger sister Gwen equal ownership.

Possession is nine tenths of the law, so I always made sure I got to the bike first. I’d peal out, legs treadling as if possessed, and leave Gwen flailing at the end of the driveway. I stayed away for as long as I dared. Sometimes I sneaked up to the shopping center to spend my pocket change on candy. I returned when the needle on my Spankometer indicated I was about to move from “Trouble” to “Big Trouble.” I often miscalculated. Between the Now & Laters and my Dad’s belt, I’m surprised I have a tooth left in my head and a hiney left to sit on.

I discovered another level of freedom at age 10 when we spent a few years in a good-sized German city. My bouncing stride propelled me to destinations of my choosing under my own steam and on my own terms. The city was very safe back then—both day and night. I needed no car. I needed no parents. I felt powerful knowing I could walk out my front door and take myself anywhere in the world. My adventures were limited only by my porte-monnaie and my own daring. Would it surprise you to learn that a good number of adventures involved eggs, tomatoes, toilet paper and my buddy Michaela? I ran faster, thank God. I hear she is doing hard time.

In 10th grade, I discovered cross country and track. Talk about a rush! I became a competitive athlete, and these very legs secured me lifelong friends, a million road trips, and two bachelors degrees. Ask me about my bunions another day.

If my physical activity was consistent, so were its fruits. Ripe, firm fruits, I might be persuaded to add–if I weren’t so humble.

One aunt liked taking me out to shop for clothing because, she said, my booty was SO. DARN. CUTE. Back in the days when I lived close enough to walk to our annual Renaissance Fair, a fellow I met there—a friend of a friend–raved about my tights-clad legs. Even my best friend, an athlete herself, coined a phrase to describe my awesome bottom. Happily, the passage of time and the dawning of political correctness prevent me from disclosing it here. My sister Gwen was content to call it my “buttflower” but, hey, what are sisters for?

Ok, ok. I admit that these occasions of bum worship occurred while I was in my teens and early twenties; however, I have it on good authority that even if I don’t exactly have “It,” I still have something. You noticed too? Oh, stop! You are making me blush!

So, the fruits have been predictable. The same can be said for the nuts. By this, I mean the males of our species, who feel compelled to demonstrate their machismo by ogling even those women whose AARP applications are stamped and sitting on the kitchen table.

I haven’t run in decades but they haven’t noticed. For years upon years, my walks have exposed me to the same primitive mating ritual. I used to find it frightening. Years later, I found it enraging. And then annoying. Now I just find it pathetic. My assets are holding up pretty well, butt….Get a life, guys! Get some glasses!

The ritual goes something like this:

(Car approaches from behind, slowing.)

HONK!

(Head cranes out window to take a closer look.)

NICE ASS!

This February, after much cajoling and an astonishingly professional and well-researched PowerPoint, our youngest daughter convinced us that so much undiluted time spent in the company of The Old People might get her down since both sisters are away at college. We caved and allowed her to adopt a rescue greyhound. Trident is striking! He is slender, white, and aristocratically graceful.

We had a break in the weather today. Trident and I, the two retired racers, set out on a long ramble down the bike path which runs alongside the highway.

And wouldn’t you know it…

(Car approaches from behind, slowing).

HONK!

(Head cranes out window to take a closer look.)

NICE…
.
.
.

(Wait for it….)
.
.
.

DOG!

Simple Pleasures

Image credit here.

Image credit here.

Fall, 2013

After checking my kitchen, I determined that I still needed cilantro, fresh ginger, and a jalapeno for my attempt to wrestle Maybonne into the aforementioned chicken pumpkin stew. To tell the truth, I was unable to locate the original recipe. But with help from Google, I came up with another one. It sounded perfect, and so off I went to my favorite Korean market.

The plan seemed straightforward enough:

1. Purchase the remaining ingredients.
2. Make the stew.
3. Enjoy the stew.

In my effort to accomplish these modest tasks, however, I learned that any or all of these may apply:

1. I am easily distracted.
2. I am a weirdo.
3. I do not have a life.

Perhaps I should have named this piece “Pleasures for the Simple Minded.”

There I was, piddling my way up and down the aisles, when I was transfixed by the most gorgeous mound of jalapenos. So deeply and uniformly green, smooth, firm, glossy, and well formed! I had a hard time moving on from the pepper display but I did so for fear I’d be arrested for fondling. Instead of buying one jalapeno, I bought two. One to cook, and one to admire in private. (It’s in my fridge, stashed in a baggie, so I can ogle it whenever I please. Do I need to join a 12-step group?)

Finding the ginger was easy as well. It was gorgeous in a knobbly, fresh-gingery kind of way but it did not move me. I then went in search of the cilantro.

After checking a few times to make sure I hadn’t missed it, I figured the green bunch labeled culantro had to be the herb I sought. The market has many Spanish-speaking customers and employees. Hmmm. Maybe this was just another word for the same thing. I picked it up and sniffed. It didn’t look the way I thought it would but it smelled, well, familiar. I placed it in a plastic bag, added it to my cart, and checked out.

Groceries in car, I headed off to my daughter’s music rehearsal.

I guess culantro is one of those odd foods, like kimchi, which mess with your mind. When I walk into my house and think: O.M.G.! Would someone please locate that dirty diaper and dispose of it, STAT?!, it eventually dawns on me that I have stumbled unprepared into another person’s kimchi experience. But when I anticipate kimchi, my tongue tingles in blissful expectation.

The reason I bother to explain this is because, when I arrived home that day and stuck my nose into the sun-warmed grocery bag, I was assaulted by the foul odor of a fresh stinkbug massacre. You know what I’m talking about if you have ever attempted to stem the Fall Invasion with your Dirt Devil hand vac. Except, in this case, it wasn’t stinkbugs. Nope. It was my tiny bag of culantro.

My stomach churned. I tied the bag tightly, tossed it into the fridge and went to do a little more Googling. Apparently culantro is cilantro’s cousin—it’s hairy, well-muscled, odiferous cousin. The one who trips little old ladies and picks fights in bars.

I pulled out my cutting board and got to work.

The dish was coming together. Onion, garlic, curry, jalapeno, chicken, pumpkin, coconut milk, red bell pepper, ginger. The scents were intoxicating. All that my work of art required was cilantro, and I was loath to add this vomitous imposter. Fortunately, my research had indicated that culantro will safely permit you to substitute if for cilantro in small quantities if you:

1. Wear a hazmat suit.
2. Give it your lunch money.
3. Promise to do its homework until Christmas break.

Well!

Alrighty, then!

I knew what I had to do.

I thought hard about cilantro–how delicious it would taste warmed in this aromatic blend on a cool autumn evening. Suddenly my mind made that strange shift. I hurried to chop the culantro and add it to the mix.

The stew was delicious!

If you want to give it a go at this recipe, the link is here.
If you are up for reading a strange poem about things whose smells can trick you, click here.

Maybonne and Earl

Pumpins on Phone

Photo info at bottom.

Fall of 2013

Several times now, my husband and I have grown pumpkins in the long flower bed which runs along the front of our house. The southwestern exposure makes it the perfect location! We did it again this summer. Don’t you envy our green thumbs? Don’t you think we are the coolest people ever? Not only did we defy tradition and plant them in the front yard, we strategically threaded the lush leaves and brilliant orange blossoms between the blue and pink perennials to create a work of art. Close your eyes and picture it!

Can you see it? Good! Now let me admit my deceit.

Each year we buy (or grow!) at least one pumpkin to put on the front stoop for Halloween. We usually forget to carve it. That isn’t a problem. It’s so cheerful sitting there that it doesn’t really matter. But then we just forget it’s there at all. Until a putrid stench brings to our attention the fact that it has liquefied into a skin-covered bag of slime pudding. The solution: Kick it into the flower bed…and forget about it.

One warm day several months ago, I noticed a darling little tendril creeping out of the flower bed and onto the sun-warmed sidewalk. At this moment, I understood Wilbur’s excitement at the hatching of Charlotte’s babies. I tenderly turned it and pointed it back into the flower bed. It continued to grow steadily.

At some point, my husband began making diplomatic comments about the difficulty of mowing around the vine. My (notice I have become possessive) little runner was picking up speed. It had sent its suckering tentacles out onto the lawn in a reconnaissance mission which was soon followed by a full-blown invasion. Not wanting to cause a fuss but unwilling to sacrifice the vine, I repositioned the growth so that it fit within the footprint of the flower bed.

My devotion was starting to resemble a gambling addiction. I checked for baby pumpkins daily. I rationalized the smothering death of our perennials with the thought that the next time I looked, I would surely find the start of a pumpkin.

My husband is a patient man; however, it was clear that my project was starting to kill off large swaths of lawn. I had been reshaping this explosion so that it followed the contours of the bed, but it had long since billowed out of bounds. Mature and understanding couples’ therapist that I am, I admitted my burgeoning affair. The vine had to go! Just as I was poised to start yanking, I discovered my Beloved had given birth to two darling offspring.

I compromised. I removed parts of the plant “downstream” from the pumpkins. Would this buy me enough time to harvest them? I knew I needed counseling when I started neglecting my hygiene in order to spend more time searching for new buds. I dispatched them in short order. I had to save the plant’s vital energies for my wards! My husband has had years to figure out he married a madwoman, so I guess my compromise was sufficient. He didn’t say anything further.

Soon we had a couple of vibrant orange pumpkins sitting on our kitchen table. Please understand “couple” in the literal sense. I sent my husband and daughters a wedding invitation with a photo of the happy pair posed side by side in front of a pale turquoise wall. What a lovely color combination. I swooned!

The groom was taller and thinner with a slim, curving stem. I called him Earl. A few weeks younger, the bride was short and round with a thicker, stubbier nub. I named her Maybonne. I conducted the ceremony and pronounced them man and wife.

When I went to rip out the vine a few days later, I found a surprise addition to the family. I christened him Junior and placed him by his parents. Day after day, I sat at the kitchen table enjoying their companionship.

At about the time the table started to feel a bit cramped, the weather began to show the first inklings of Fall. I decided to put Junior out to decorate the front stoop. He looks great out there! Unfortunately for him, history foretells a rotten end.

The chill in the air got me started thinking about chili, stews, and squash. Squash…

I surveyed Earl and Maybonne with glassy eyes as I recalled the delicious oven-roasted Kabocha we had eaten a few years back.

Earl ended up on the dinner table, wearing olive oil and herbs. He also volunteered for a mighty fine pie. Maybonne watched, traumatized, but otherwise intact. Until the arrival of the power company newsletter. Which just happened to feature a recipe for chicken pumpkin stew.

I wanted to remember the happy pair so I saved their engagement photo and made it my phone wallpaper. Here they are on our kitchen table in 2013.

Creative Blogger Award, Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Me, and I Am a Shameless Cheater

I

I “borrowed” this from this blogger. I hope that is ok. If not, please let me know and I will take it down. You see, I AM really a cheater!

I stole this one from another blog. Sue me. No, no! Don't! Just ask me to remove it.

I stole this one from another blog. Sue me.
No, no! Don’t! Just ask me to remove it.

I want to thank my peers for the attention they have given to my blog this week! I both love and hate you.

I am ever so stoked about the kind words and the traffic on my site. At the same time, I think the excitement is making me a bit weird. I’m an introvert who needs a lot of solitude in order to be worth knowing. All those pings and dings rocked my world until I started to become overstimulated.

I realized I was in trouble when I woke up last night to use the bathroom and interrupted myself in the middle of a dream about a conspiracy by Canadian pennies to ruin the U.S. economy.

They were sneaking over the border unnoticed the way ants reconnoiter a kitchen. The idea was for the scouts to infiltrate and for all the other pennies to follow in a steady trail until Canadian pennies spilled out of every unsuspecting purse and gummed up every vending machine, thereby causing the U.S. financial system to collapse.

What might be even more concerning is the fact that I was so worried I would forget this dream that I grabbed the only writing implement handy (my kohl pencil) and jotted a short note on the only available surface (my dental floss container). To tell the whole truth, I wanted to write on the mirror, but my husband Henry would have noticed for sure and questioned my sanity.

I had to write it twice. I was so tired the first attempt came out looking like

I had to write it twice. I was so tired that my first attempt came out looking like “Prunies,” and I was afraid I would wake up the next morning with no idea what that meant.

Because of my limited bandwidth, I have decided 1. to respond to both of these nominations in one post, 2. take a break from accepting awards and nominations, and 3. save time by making up my own rules so that I don’t have to quit my day job to work on my blog. (I am grossly exaggerating for effect. Did you like it? I really have only 85 followers.)

Without further delay….

Many thanks to Mogromo for nominating me for the Creative Blogger Award. If you are reading this, I hope you will visit her blog! She’s not just another pretty face. Mogromo will take you on a tour of Frankfurt, complete with quality photos and personal observations. It’s the next best thing to being there. You will be in good hands as she enjoys researching her subjects and sharing her learning. Mogromo’s blog also assuages some of my homesickness for a city I love but have not been able to visit since 2004. I am pretty sure she will be taking us to Amsterdam at some point (Mogromo, is this so?), so don’t miss the adventure!

The award calls for 5 random facts about me. Here they are–except they are actually three truths and two lies. Can you spot the lies? Make your guess and I will answer in a couple of days. (as of 8/11/15, answers are at the bottom)

  1. I wear glasses.
  2. I wear Birkenstocks.
  3. I wear decals on my nails.
  4. I wear out a lot of can openers (strong hands!)
  5. I wear a bikini.

Here are the original rules:

* Display the Creative Blogger Award logo on your blog.
* Nominate 15-20 blogs and notify all nominees via their social media/blogs.
* Thank and post the link of the blog that nominated you.
* Share 5 random facts about yourself to your readers.
* Pass these rules on to them.

I nominate the following blogs/bloggers for this award. They may choose to follow the rules. Or not!

  1. Moylom Enterprises (a single mother and a woman of faith who also blogs for self therapy)
  2. Erich Michaels  (interesting and sometimes disturbing stories)
  3. Melanie Griffin (very authentic writing on spirituality, grief, social issues, and more)
  4. These Wings are Made to Fly (a newly-minted au pair from Europe heads off to her first job in Dallas)
  5. Shirley’s Heaven (the daughter of a mentally ill mother writes memoir pieces mixed with everyday reflections)

I would also like to thank Bumbi’s Mom for nominating me for the Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Me Challenge. I’m just getting to know her blog, in which she shares amusing parenting stories and some helpful tips. I hope you will pop over and have a look. Ahhh, I remember those sweet and sticky days of young children….I suspect the next time I have those experiences will be with grandchildren. (Note to my daughters: No rush, ok?)

Here are the rules she provided:

  • Link back to the blogger who nominated you and answer their 10 questions.
  • Add the badge to your post.
  • Write your own 10 questions and tag 10 bloggers to do the same.

Again, I’m going to cheat and just answer her even numbered questions. You’ll be annoyed in short order because a one-word answer feels too limiting.

2. Favorite genre of music? My tastes are eclectic. For example, I like baroque music, some classical, The B52s, The Pretenders, bhangra, some Christian worship songs. I try different things just because I’m curious. Even if I’m not a total fan, I like to know what’s out there. I have told you that I am easily overstimulated. Since I work full time and live in a lively household, I often prefer silence when it is an option.

4. First concert you ever went to? I went to many classical music concerts as a child, but I don’t think that is what Bumbi’s Mom meant. I think my first concert as a teen was Amy Grant.

6. If you could have any job in the world, what would you want to do? I’m doing it: Wife, Mother, Therapist. I hope one day to have an essay or a short something published–at least once–so I can add Writer 🙂

8. Mountains or beach? If I can’t be back on the shores of Madeline Island prior to the 1990’s, then it would have to be the mountains.

10. Train, plane, or automobile? First choice: my own two feet. Second would be train. Third would be plane. Fourth would be automobile. I life in an area of the country vying for the title of Worst Traffic Nightmare, so I’d love to spend fewer hours behind the wheel of my car.

I hereby nominate the following bloggers to answer 10 questions (or however many they would like) if they choose to participate.

  1. Elan Mudrow (a mysterious! poet)
  2. Sober Living in Med City (honest pieces about recovery)
  3. Pint Size Fiction (short stories reminiscent of Dr. Who or The Twilight Zone)
  4. Lynette Davis at Memoir Notes (an information hub for all things related to memoir writing, plus great pieces on Black history)
  5. Nicholas Rossis (a welcoming author who is quick to support his fellow writers and who posts publishing tips, book reviews, and more)

Here are the questions:

  1. What drink are you most likely to order when going out?
  2. What is your favorite writing spot?
  3. What books are next to your bed?
  4. What is in your purse/pockets right now?
  5. Where did you go on your last road trip?
  6. If you could turn back time, what mistake would you avoid?
  7. What made you laugh today?
  8. Which movie would you like to live inside for a week (if you knew you’d make it out alive)?
  9. What question would you ask God if you were face to face?
  10. If I were meeting you for lunch for the first time, what description would you give me so I would recognize you?

Thanks for reading! I’ll talk to you soon!

Answers to Three Truths and Two Lies:
1. True: I do wear glasses.
2. True: I wear green paisley Birkenstocks.
3. False: I do not wear nail decals. I rarely even file or paint my nails. Clipper are fine with me. I am clearly missing some sort of womanly gene in the area of grooming.
4. True: I break can openers by squeezing them too hard.
5. False: NO. I do not wear a bikini. Do you know how much therapy people would need if I did that??!!

Family Math

triangle

We do math, together. It is a fun family pastime. In fact, it is a Family Rule*.

Geometry is our favorite. Because WE. LOVE. TRIANGLES.

Geometry can be a great family activity. You might want to try it yourself! I’ll type out some of our math problems for you so you can get the hang of it.

Exhibit A:

I.

The phone rings. It’s my mother.

Mom: Have you heard from your sister lately?

Me: Not since last week. Why?

Mom: Oh. It’s just that she seemed so angry. I was hoping you had resolved things.

Me: Gwen’s angry at me?

II.

The phone rings. Gwen picks up.

Me: Gwen! What’s going on? Mom said you were mad at me.

Gwen: She wasn’t supposed to tell you.

Me: Why are you mad at me?

Gwen: I can’t talk now. I have to call Mom.

III.

The phone rings. My mother picks up.

Gwen: Mom, what did you tell Jane?

Mom: I did not tell her about the restaurant thing.

Gwen: Mom! That was a private conversation!

Mom: You know she didn’t mean to. She can be insensitive but it’s not her fault. She inherited it from your father. You should just forgive her.

Gwen: Mom!

IV.

The phone rings. It’s my mother.

Mom: Your sister is mad at me. What did you tell her?

Me: Well, you told me she was mad at me. I just called her to find out what was going on.

Mom: I know she can be a bit dramatic but she can’t help it. It’s her artistic temperament. Just let it go.

Me: Mom!

Or maybe Exhibit B will help:


(Translation is included, gratis, for the uninitiated. Take it with a grain of salt—Seamus is actually a really good person.)

The phone rings. It’s my stepfather, Seamus.

Seamus: Hi, Jane. It’s Seamus. Your Mom’s fine. How are you?
This is not an emergency. This is a friendly chat.

Me: Hi Seamus. I’m fine. How about you?
A friendly chat is good.

Seamus: Fine, thanks.
Chatting.

Me: Great!
Chatting.

Seamus: I mowed the lawn today.
Watch how I subtly steer this conversation.

Me: Uh.
And I scratched my bum.

Seamus: And I weeded the garden.
I’ve got this.

Me: That’s nice.
Scratching.

Seamus: I picked up the mail too. And bought milk.
Because I am a good person.

Me:
You may have one gold star.

Seamus: Don’t worry about your mom. I’m taking good care of her.
Because I am a really good person.

Me: That’s great. I appreciate it.
I smell a rat.

Seamus: We haven’t heard from you in a while.
Your mother feels neglected.

Me: I called Mom last week. And you know, I told her to call me on my cell any time but she—
That’s not fair!

Seamus: You need to call your mother.
So she will stop sighing loudly.

Me: Uh, ok. I’ll do that.
Grrr.

Seamus: Actually, she’s just right outside feeding the birds. I’ll get her.
I am a hero.

Me:
Punked!

Seamus: Carol! Carol! Jane called for you!
I’ll even let Jane take the credit!

Mom: Jane! How wonderful to hear from you!
Jane! How wonderful to hear from you!

Me: Sure, Mom. How are you?
Sigh.

Gwen and I have had a lot of therapy over the years, and we are graduating from triangles to lines and rays. Conversation is a lot more efficient these days but nowhere near as fun.

Thus, Exhibit C:

I.

The phone rings. It’s my mother.

Mom: Hi Jane! Have you heard anything from your sister lately?

Me: Nope. Bye.

II.

The phone rings. It’s Gwen.

Gwen: I’m mad at you, and I don’t want to talk to you.

Me: Ok. Bye.

III.

The phone rings. My mother picks up.

Gwen: Hi Mom! Jane and I had a fight but we worked it out.

Mom: Then why are you calling me? Bye.

IV.

The phone rings. It’s my mother.

Mom: I miss you.

Me: Well, then! I’m so glad you called!

This post is part of Family Rules. For the prior post in the series, click here.

Hypothetically Speaking

Hypothetically Speaking

What would you say if I told you….

It had been an exhausting day.

I changed out of my work clothes and into my shorts and t-shirt so I could get dinner on the table and take care of some (euphemism alert!) deferred housework. I was an itchy mess so I removed my glasses and stopped to splash cool water on my puffy eyes. Ahhhhh. Our area had had its rainiest June in recorded history, and I am allergic to mold.

Henry rolled in, exhausted as well. He had a meeting in an hour and wanted to eat something before he headed back out.

“Go ahead and take a quick nap,” I reassured him. “I’m just heating up last night’s leftovers, and I’ll call you in a little while so we can eat together.”

He made himself comfortable in his favorite chair, and it was lights out.

I reheated the salmon, couscous, and asparagus and set the table for two. We were empty nesters this week, and things were quieter than usual. I’d let Henry rest a bit longer since his meeting was close by. What else could I do to make his night a little easier?

His Father’s Day coffee! Of course! Our daughter Bec had given him a bag of delicious beans: Banana Nut Cream. Their only drawback was his having to work for every cup. Our electric mill had broken down years ago. We had never replaced it, and Henry disliked grinding by hand. I knew he would want a mug of coffee after dinner to get him through his meeting.

I like hand grinding! I love the aroma and the contemplative, tactile experience. Since I had a few minutes, I got our old wooden grinder down from the shelf where we display it. I miscalculated a bit in trying to funnel the upturned bag of beans into the mill, and the next thing I knew, beans were spilling in every direction.

The dog! I had heard that coffee is toxic to dogs.

I invoked the five second rule, dropped to my hands and knees, and frantically swept the beans into a pile. These beans were too special to waste. A little dust wouldn’t hurt anyone.

I sat down and started grinding.

The old coffee mill is a thing of beauty as well as a reminder of all the good times I shared with my German friend, Hanna. Her grandfather had owned two of them. After his death many years ago, she had given the best one to me and kept the other for herself.

I checked the clock. I still had time before I had to wake Henry. There was something soothing about this process. I decided I’d surprise Henry by grinding the rest of the beans and securing them in an airtight container.

Done!

Henry, grateful for the extra moments of rest, gulped down his dinner, grabbed his mug of coffee, and bounded for the car. I ate in peace, savoring the homey smells and gathering momentum to tackle the housework.

I was already in the kitchen, so I might as well start there. I cleared and wiped the table, washed the dishes, and wiped the counters. Time to sweep the floor. Daylight was fading, and I hadn’t yet replaced the missing bulb above the table. Hmm…where had I left my glasses?

I retrieved them from my dresser and returned to sweep. Now that I could see better, I realized I had let things get a little grungier than usual.

Oh. I had missed a handful of coffee beans. I swept them into the dustpan and was just about to dump them into the trash when I realized that a few of the beans were…mummified June beetles.

What would you say if I told you….

I have decided to cut out coffee for a while. Henry agreed that I seemed a little agitated at breakfast. I am sure the coffee is to blame.

Image credit here.

Image credit here.

Credit for coffee bean image here.

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