Tuesday, December 25, 2012

And The Children Shall Lead Us

We always go to the children's mass on Christmas Eve at 4:00.  It has a lot more to do with the great time of the day it is than the kid part of it.  I was supposed to work until 5:00, but managed to find somebody who was looking for a legit excuse to get out of a commitment and offered to work the end of my shift for me.  That in itself was a miracle.

We got there about twenty minutes early, and all those kids.........  I started tearing up the second we sat down because across the country in a little town in Connecticut, their celebrations had twenty less kids and that..........  Well, that still doesn't seem real to me.

For the children's mass, there is a multi-generational choir, and if you can hold a note or your attention for a hot minute you're in.  Nobody in our family is good at either of those things.   A young one of about fourteen sang between the readings all by her nervous little self.  She'd sing the psalm and everyone would sing the refrain............

All the ends of the earth have seen the power of God.

She would sing her part and look over at Pat, our choir director, and Pat would smile and she would smile back.  And you could see her get more confident, and as she got more confident the refrain would get louder.

She rocked it.  Oh my goodness, did she rock it.

When she finished, she went racing up the side steps of the altar, disappeared behind a door and then reappeared two minutes later to be an altar girl, and I was better after that because in the brokenness I had seen a great light.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Festivus 2012

We have sent out a Christmas letter for twenty years and for a girl who writes every day, this year was tough.  Every time I sat down to do it, I'd write five minutes of crap and then surf for crap on the time-sucking net.  I found out that the Kardashians photoshop their card, Michael Jordan got kicked off a golf course in Florida for wearing cargo shorts and the way to make your crinkly, aging neck seem more youthful is to wear a scarf.  Drrrrr.................. 

But I got it done in the nick of time..................a Festivus miracle.

So............we had a little party this summer.  We cleaned up and invited the whole clan to come celebrate the day that Maggie and Nathan got hitched.  Contrary to what you may have heard about Kansas and our peoples, in this case the new Mr. and Mrs. are not cousins.  Near as we can tell.   

In August, Mal bid the parents adieu (that’s French for I can’t get out of here fast enough) and departed for college.  She rarely makes a home visit for the obvious reason that we are here.  She is a dance major and had her first gig at the new performing arts center this fall.  We paid admission to get a glimpse of her, bought her some dinner afterwards and then returned her to the dorm and her pretend family.

Will is a senior at K-State and working in a grocery store as a bagger and weekend food demonstrator.  He may have found his college job passion with an electric skillet and vast refrigerated bunkers of food at his disposal.  He is a weekend warrior at the Hy-Vee (where there’s a helpful smile in every aisle) and when he finally made it home for Thanksgiving, he smelled like tortilla-crusted tilapia.

Maggie and Nathan (and their little dog, too) are happy and living about a mile from us.   Maggie is in her 3rd year of teaching and Nathan is still at Sprint, thus providing a Friends and Family Entitlement for our cell phones.  Unlike the other two, they show up around here often to eat dinner while their dog roams around snacking on wayward underpants.

This was the year that we became empty nesters, which was quite sad for about three days.   It didn’t take us long to figure out that cooking and picking up after ourselves wasn’t nearly as labor intensive as when the house was full.  We’ve had grand plans to travel abroad (or maybe to Omaha) but with two kids in college we instead walk the dog, go to work, come home, yell at the t.v., go to bed, rinse and repeat.

Whether to carry on with this letter or not has been the dilemma of the weekend in the wake of so much grief and sadness in recent days.  We decided to continue with what we hope to accomplish every year, which is to remind you that you are loved, that you are the shiny ornament in our tree of life and that more than ever, we wish you and those you love a merry little Christmas.  Until next year………

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I Think I'm In Love

My youtube consultant is home for winter break and it didn't take long for her to get back to doing what she does best.................

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


This was supposed to be a post about teachers and parents........like the over-achieving ones I've known who have marched into the principal's office in August with the letter that had the name of their kid's new teacher and demanded it be changed because "I've heard some things." 

Or the mothers who made Maggie's 5th grade teacher's life a living hell.  Years later she told me that if she didn't have a mother (who was a high school teacher) to prop her up every night she would have never come back again.

I never understood this trash-talking of teachers that goes on among parents.  It is so counter-productive to success in school, and wouldn't it be nearly impossible to be fair to a student when their mother is bitching to everybody about you?

Instead I will tell you about a conversation I had with Maggie about teacher wardrobe issues...........

I was wearing a really cute outfit the other day.  A pencil skirt.  Hose.  I was wearing hose.  Do you know not one person told me I looked cute.  Not one single person.

Mama said there'd be days like this.

So a couple of days later, there's this old teacher - maybe a couple of years older than you.........


She's wearing one of those dorky holiday sweaters and you know what I said to her?

That she belonged in a museum.

That I liked her sweater.

You said that about a holiday sweater?

I didn't like her sweater.  I thought she looked like an old lady in a goofy sweater.

A relic wrapped in a knitted Christmas tree.

Is this my life?  Pumpkins, turkeys, snowman, shamrocks, hearts............all over my clothes?

It sounds disturbing.

It's Pinterest, you know.  Mallory and Caitlin are always pinning these cute outfits and I don't know what I'm doing.

We'll have an intervention over the break.  Those two live for that kind of stuff.

Be generous this year if you're giving a gift to the teacher.  No dollar store crap.  No apple mugs.  No lotions or potions, notecards or hot cocoa mix.  Give them a gift card for coffee, a movie, Panera or Chipotle, the mall.  Give them something that's just for them.

Give.  Give.  Give...............

................because this week we know.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Public & Private

When I was growing up, my siblings and I went to a Catholic elementary school.  With a public high school just blocks from our house we parted ways with a private school education after the 8th grade.  Some of my siblings have sent their kids to Catholic schools, and some of us have gone the public route.

Like my family, my neighborhood is a combination of both.  When we moved here I entertained the idea of sending my kids to the Catholic school, but this area of Kansas is known for its quality education and so we decided to send them to public schools.  We have never regretted the decision and I am sure my neighbors with kids in private schools would say the same.

Over more than twenty years of being in the school system, we have known many families that have experienced tragic losses.  My dear friend, Vicki, died of ovarian cancer with a 7th grader and kindergartner left behind.  Days later, another 7th grade girl lost her dad to a sudden heart attack.  I know two families who have dealt with the sudden shocking diagnosis of a brain tumor and several mothers who have breast cancer.  Last month, a senior at our high school died in an ATV accident two days after Thanksgiving while the fifty year old father of two other students collapsed and died on the following day.

In the midst of all of this is a school community that has been enormously supportive.  Meals, carpools, transportation to doctor appointments, house and yard cleaning.  If a family is in crisis, somebody takes charge and puts people to work.

It is what we do when we cannot fix the very big thing that has gone terribly wrong.

Former Governor Mike Huckabee and other conservative Christians were quick to point out hours after the devastating losses in Connecticut that this tragedy was because we have removed God from our public schools. 

Our community is a mixture of many faiths and our public schools are a reflection of that.  If those first graders, and the courageous staff that tried to protect them in the last moments they had on this earth, didn't hear the voice of their higher power say..............

Be not afraid 
I go before you always

..............then I have wasted a lifetime of prayer.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Last month, Mark, Mallory and I went to see Lincoln.  As is the nature of our half-assedness, we ordered tickets online but left the house later than we should have for a crowded Friday night that also featured the new Twilight movie.

When we got inside the theater there weren't many seats left and so we sat near the front.  There were five rows ahead of us that were too close to the screen, then a wide aisle before the rest of the regular seats.  We sat to the left of the movie screen behind the aisle - a small row with only four seats.

Directly in front of us was a ramp that led to an emergency exit.

Throughout the movie my eyes kept darting to the exit.  Over and over.  There were no seats in front of us, and so I surmised that if that horrible night in Aurora, Colorado was replicated, I would dive onto Mallory and Mark would likely shield both of us.

Twice during the movie, a guy got up to share snacks with someone he knew who was sitting a few rows ahead of him and I watched his every move.  When friends asked what I thought of the movie, I said it was good and left out the part about feeling trapped for too long in a theater.

Ever since then I've thought about writing of that night.  I thought about it again last week when there was the mall shooting in Oregon.  I also thought that my anxiety level was reaching ridiculous levels.

I never fathomed it was about to go to a new place.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Knitter

The busloads of people from Crazy Town have been pulling into the shopping district every day since Thanksgiving and they haven't been taking their meds.

Since I need this job I can't tell you the best stories, but there was a customer in this week that can't wear turtlenecks because she's a Taurus.

True story.

Twelve. More. Days.

Today we had a return customer.  I helped her last month when she came in to buy some yarn for a scarf she is making for her mom.  She is all of about fourteen and came in her school uniform with a backpack bigger than she was.  She needed to look at some of the other colors.  When she's done with her Mom's gift she's making something for herself, but right now she is under pressure.

Her dad paid for the yarn.  If she doesn't finish this gift ("because I'm known not to finish things") she has to pay her dad back.  She taught herself how to knit by watching youtube videos.  She loves our yarn but she's getting a new bike for Christmas so there won't be much else under the tree.  Maybe, she said, her Grandma would come in and get her a couple of skeins. "Okay, thanks for letting me look.  I've got to go home and do my homework so I can knit tonight."

My trampled spirit was restored by my new little friend.  Pure of heart.  Pure gold.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Office Party

Over past years, The Big Daddy's occupation has required us to go to many Christmas parties.  While it may have been fun at the beginning of the month, by the end of the month staying home and watching "It's A Wonderful Life" began to seem far more appealing than getting dressed up again and making small talk.

Except for the big party at the hotel in town where there was a small fire at our table.  

I'm not naming names.  


This occupation of The BD lives and breathes on the ability to get grants, and one's success and self-esteem hinges on the dollars you bring in.  When you hit the jackpot (which has gotten ever so unlikely over the years), it's like winning the Heisman Trophy.  We had a string of years where try as he might Mark could not get funding, and it was painful at times to be at some of these parties with others who were having far more success while we struggled with a mediocre base salary and a lab on the verge of shutting down.

It is the nature of the business.

Every request for research money is a crapshoot at best.  Years of work and months of writing a grant mailed on a wing and a prayer, can be shot down in a heartbeat and rejection is never easy to get used to, although everybody in his field gets rejected.  A lot.

From the perspective of a spouse watching this all these years, it remains a frequent stress.  Will he manage to hang on?  Will we be able to send the kids to college?   What will happen if he doesn't get the next grant, however small it may be?

I am a bystander in this Worry Department, but the people he works with every day, regardless of research dollars, are all rowing the same boat.  Hanging on and still committed to finding cures for Parkinson's, diabetes, Lou Gehrig's disease, MS, cancer, AIDS, kidney disease, Lyme disease, Alzheimer's.................

They care so very much about what they do and about each other.  The number of parties has been scaled back these last few years and that's o.k., but there are no other people I'd rather haul out my little black party dress for than the biochemistry department.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Awhile into working at our new location, it was brought to the attention of the staff that we had a rodent in the basement.  What specifically would you mean by this?  You know, a rodent.  Would you say the rodent was big?  Perhaps.  Mouse big or rat big?  Probably the latter.

That was the last time I worked at that location that I wasn't scared to death.  I have taken to wearing boots when I'm there and when I have to get something from the basement I clomp really loud down the stairs and say, I'M GOING DOWN TO THE BASEMENT TO LOOK FOR A TURTLENECK.  HERE I COME.  LOOKY HERE. I'M ALMOST ALL THE WAY DOWN.

This is to notify the rat that he should probably hide (and not by the turtlenecks) so as not to give me a heart attack

This strategy has worked except for the time I was eating lunch (with my feet up) and thought I saw something black from the corner of my eye.  I scrambled to safety due to my high alert status but the blackness followed me.

Because it was my hair.

Though an exterminator was called and there hasn't been a speck of evidence of any problem since then, I cannot relax when I'm in that basement.  Can't stop wearing boots.  Can't stop shouting like I'm FDR making a speech from the back of a train.

Last week I was driving home from work and a raccoon ran across the front of the car.  He was coming from the golf course and I thanked my lucky stars we were too poor to live in that part of town. 

Two days later I was driving down the same street and saw a mountain lion.  A. Mountain. Lion.  I came home breathless and shaky and told The Big Daddy to lock the doors.  They. Are. Coming. For. Us.

He said what I expected him to say on my nature observation.........You did not see a mountain lion.  It was probably a big cat.

Don't you think I know the difference between a cat and a mountain lion?

No, I don't.  Not at all.

I knew you were going to say that.  That was no "big cat".  It was big, spotted, fast.  A mountain lion.


True story so help me God.

We live in Kansas.  You cannot have mountain lions when you have no mountains.

Oh yeah.  There's that. 

An internet search determined that what I saw was a bobcat.  A bobcat just two miles from home and IT SURE WILL BE HARD WEARING BOOTS DAY AND NIGHT BUT ONE MUST BE READY WHEN THE OUTSIDERS COME KNOCKING.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Hofmeister Ham

 This is a repeat from last year and a reminder to my dear brother.

Many years ago, my brother stopped by my mom's house, popped open the trunk of his car and pleaded with us to take a ham.  Take two, he said, I've got to get rid of these things.  He is a salesman and his company gives a Hofmeister Ham to its best customers during the Christmas season.  He had a serious overstock issue.

I took one, put it in a cooler and drove it back to Kansas.  We stuck it in the fridge until Easter and IT WAS THE BOMB.  Everybody raved about the Hofmeister.  I entertain a lot of people at Easter.  A free good ham is essential to my dinner being a success.  And to people liking me.  Really, really liking me.

Now I make it my business to get in touch with my brother in early December. Hey, how you doing?  How's Sharon?  The kids?   Good, good.  Work?  Good.  Yeah, well, since you brought up work, how 'bout securing me one of those hams?

Last year in exchange for a Hofmeister, I offered him a mint condition, collectible Scottish snowman in golf attire.  What could be more perfect for a guy who loves golf?   He emailed me back.  "Nice job trading crap from your basement.  You sure know how to make a guy feel special.....like-wearing-a-helmet-short-bus-special."  Always the short bus jokes with the brother even when you're both old enough to qualify for AARP.   I told him he's always been my my special boy and to go easy with the tinsel on his helmet this Christmas so things didn't short out upstairs.  If you know what I mean.

From there, the email got sent to my sister and all of his kids.  It was a hamstorm of activity....like chimps at the zoo flinging crap at one another.  There were accusations of me being cheap, regifting and of him only hearing from me during Ham Season.  I was offended.  I remained mature and generous (me Scotty Snowman was still on the table), but I really wanted a Hamosaurus for Christmas. 

No crocodile. 

Sure enough, The Man In Brown shows up one day and I could hear the choir of angels singing as he walked up the drive.  The shepherds watched over their flocks, the people who walked in darkness had seen a great light, and unto us a Child was born.  

Oh, and The Mighty Holiday Hofmeister in refrigerated packaging was sitting on my doorstep like the best damn gift ever.

Hit it angels..................

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Making Merry: The Ornaments

Last fall I was in my favorite thrift store when my cell phone rang.  It was my cousin and he wanted to know if I wanted something of his.  He had offered it to my sisters and sister-in-law and they all turned him down and said to call me.

His wife had died the year before and he didn't think he'd ever put up much in the way of Christmas decorations.  That was her thing not his and if I was interested in some of their stuff he'd save it for me.

I was.

Just before New Year's we went to his house and he started hauling out boxes.  Plenty of it was stuff I didn't need and we put that in a pile to donate.  Then he showed me boxes of ornaments.  Glass vintage ornaments and oh, pitter-pat.  Some were ones they bought years ago and some were his mom's.   

Belle?  These were Belle's?  As in Mallory Belle.

One in the same.

After nearly a year in my basement I brought them out, and there were so many of them I couldn't put them all on the tree.  I have never have loved decorating the tree part of Christmas, but this year was different thanks to my new old ornaments.

I was finishing up and had two vacuum cleaners out and the slipcovers in the wash.  In the middle of my very big mess my friend came over to return the chairs she borrowed for Thanksgiving and I told her about Belle and Carol's ornaments. 

She stood next to me admiring the tree and said, "Oh my goodness, you know they're right here.  I can feel them."

Yes, I know.

What a perfect way to start the season

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Making Merry: The Lights

It has been our experience that maybe the Chinese are trying to break us, drive us to Crazy Town, send us over the edge.  It's those lights.  Those bloody #%&*@#% Christmas lights.

Last year, half the tree went out less than a week into the season.  This year I started with three strands.  They all worked.  I sent The Big Daddy to the hardware store for another set.

They worked.  I unplugged them.  I plugged them back in and there was one little bitty one that wasn't lit.  The Big Daddy said that's o.k.  Just one is o.k.  That's how they work now.  If one goes out it doesn't take them all out.

No.  No.  Let me just pull this one out and put it back in.

No, don't, said The Big Daddy.  Just leave it alone.

I couldn't leave it alone and that is how half the strand went dark and The Big Daddy bellowed, "WHY CAN'T YOU EVER LEAVE THE LIGHTS ALONE WOMAN??????!!!!"

Because I can't. 

Maggie and Nate showed up for the fun shitstorm and grabbed the camera.  Here's me acting like I know how to fix the lights.  I am cursing.

Here's The Big Daddy checking out the situation.  He is cursing.

 And here he is after he got them working again.

Made in China lights versus The Gun ShowSmackdown.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Making Merry: The Tree

The Big Daddy and I have been going back and forth about a tree.  Real or fake?  Actually, I'm the one going back and forth.  He doesn't participate in my anxiety-filled decisions as they are frequent.  And quite meaningless.  

After shopping around for a fake one I made a last try at The Hob Lob.  I found a skinny, flocked frasier fir that was pre-lit.  Marked half price at $199.00 and it was the perfect fit for my little living room.  I stared and stared at it but couldn't bring myself to pay that much money for a fake tree.  A fake tree made in China.

The decision was made.

On Friday night we decided to go to the local hardware store's tree lot which is where I fell in love with the tree salesman.  He was bustling around by himself when we showed up and started talking to him.  He was about our age or a little older and has been working there since August.  Moving all those mums and pumpkins and now trees these past few months and he's lost fifteen pounds.  

We picked our tree out and he cut the bottom of the trunk and down below were all these little wood tree circles and I asked if I could have a few for something I want to make.  "Well, heck, you can have 'em all," he said.  I was going to have a couple feet of garland cut and he scrounged a couple of  branches on the ground and threw those in so I wouldn't have to buy any garland.  "You folks are the recycling type, aren't ya?"  Why yes we are.

I went inside for something and when I came out he and Mark were having a deep discussion about composting.  Come here after dark and you can raid the dumpster for all the compost you need, he told us.  Then he wished us a merry everything and said we made his night a little more fun.

When I was a little girl, my dad would sometimes take me to the hardware store on Saturday mornings and I would hold the brown paper bag while he counted nails and dropped them in.  Don't mix 'em up, Kate.  We've got to keep them straight.  We'd carry them up to the front to pay, walking along the creaky wood floor and one of the employees would always say to my dad, "Looks like you brought a little helper along today."  Yep, Dad would say and she's a good one.

Guys who work in hardware stores........a crush that goes way back.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Second Act

The other day at work, a woman came in and bought a pair of jeans.  They were a very hip, skinny jean treated with a sparkly taupe color.  Of all the things there were to choose from that is the last thing I thought she'd buy, but she had plans for those jeans and a New Year's Eve party.

She was 91.

Last week our local paper had a story about a woman who was a customer where I used to work.  In a conversation I had with her I found out she volunteered in the inner city.  The program is called The Front Porch Alliance and Betty is one of a group of people who developed and has fostered a partnership with the residents of this low income area.  They provide tutors for school-age kids, home repairs, fitness and gardening classes as well as counseling on finances - particularly payday loans that target these neighborhoods.  She has been a fixture there for years.

Betty is a grandmother many times over.

Today's paper had a story on SueEllen Fried.  Ms Fried has made it her life's work to educate kids about bullying.  She is a rock star in this area and if you ever heard her speak (like I did several years ago) you would not forget her message.  Empathy, kids, you've got it.  Use it, stand up for each other.  Don't let one kid attack another and do nothing.  You are not helpless.  You have a voice.  Besides working in schools, she started another program in prisons.  Nearly every person behind bars has been a victim of physical, verbal and/or sexual abuse.  The anger that rages from them has everything to do with these unaddressed issues.  This program teaches them how to recognize and address those feelings so that they don't resort to violence.  Inmates who have attended 60+ hours of this program have a recidivism rate of 8%.

SueEllen is 80.

Earlier this month when Nancy Pelosi was introducing dozens of new congresswoman, Luke Russert asked her to address concerns that she was too old to be the minority leader again and that perhaps it was time she stepped aside for someone younger. 

The woman who is the same age as Harry Reid and two years older than Mitch McConnell could barely hide her disdain.........for the kid with the last name that opened the reporter door was painfully ignorant of how confident women become when their first career was raising people.  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Reserved Parking Only

This is a repeat from last year..........probably one of my favorites because sadly, it is an accurate description of immaturity.

I may have mentioned a time or twenty that The Big Daddy and I are from the Chicago area.   As you know, they get some mighty wintry winters.  What you may not know is that if you are a Chicagoan, and you shovel a space for your car, say in front of your house, and say you set up some 2 x 4s propped on some webbed lawn chairs, say in January, it means that you have reserved that area and are the rightful owner.   The law may say that it is public property, but street law says it belongs to the shoveler.  Messing with it and thinking you can park in a space you did not clear could get you one of those 2 x 4s upside the head.

When all three kids were really little, there was a new store opening in town called HQ.  It was like Home Depot, but more designery.  The Big Daddy offered it up for the team and agreed to take the kids and I there for a fun family outing on opening weekend with thousands of other people.  We circled the lot forever and finally found someone who was leaving.  The BD turned his blinker on and we patiently waited for them to pull out.  As they did, another driver whipped around the corner and beat us to the spot.  "SON OF A BITCH", The Big Daddy yelled.  "DID YOU SEE WHAT THAT BASTARD JUST DID?"  Oh my God, he stole his space.  With his blinker on.  He totally ignored Blinker Etiquette.  This was Parking Space War and we waited patiently for the thief to get out of his car so we could lay down some ef bombs. 

With three young children in the backseat.

After a few minutes and off in the distance we could hear sirens and The Little Boy Child said, "That's the police.  They're coming to get that guy and they're going to poke both his eyes out until they bleed and put him in jail for taking our space."     

I'd like to thank the Academy on behalf of The Big Daddy and I for naming us Parents of the Year.  Again.  

A few years later, with the three kids in the car, I was meeting a friend at a festive holiday shopping center for lunch.  We were running late, the parking lot was jammed and I was circling and circling until I finally found a space near the door.  I got all the kids out and an older couple stopped and said, "Didn't you see the sign?  It says compact cars only."  Well, no, I didn't see the sign and there was my minivan and geez, it wasn't even a tight fit.  Kids, I said, we're just gonna leave it there.  The Teacher Girl was in a Mother Theresa phase and said, "No, Mom, you can't.  We'll get in trouble for not following the rules."  Oh, for God's sake.  I put all the kids back in the car and looked for a regular space.  A minivan space.  Which is how I scraped the entire driver's side when I pulled in too close to a concrete pole.

We got into the shopping center and I was so rattled and stressed that I needed a drink or three.  Instead I sat with my friend and six kids with a paper engineer hat on my head waiting for my burger and fries to be delivered by a choo choo train.  That I thought about punching.  I told her about my mishap with the pole and my encounter with the Parking Lot PoPo.  

When we were leaving, I happened to spot Deputy Fife and The Mrs. and stopped them for "a moment of their time."  That's when I told them that when I moved my car the entire side was hit and maybe they should mind their own beeswax when it comes to people parking their car.  I did leave out the fact that it was me pulling in too close to a pole that caused this crime against my car because I like to blame other people when I mess up.   "Oh my, oh dear," the Mrs. said,  "Are the children o.k.?"

What are you talking about lady???  What children???   Oh, ya mean those three watching Mom get her crazy on.

As we enter the hap-happiest time of the year, it's all about parking, parking lots, parking etiquette.  For The Big Daddy and I, it means working hard to suppress that Chicago thing that's in our DNA.  Oh, but our hearts sure would be glowing with holiday greetings if only we could bring our lawn chairs and 2 x 4s to those gay happy meetings at the mall.

Source: google.com via Mady on Pinterest

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Late Shift

For the holidays, the store is now open until 9:00.  That would be p.m. when I am usually in my p.j.s. 

Jude and I worked the late shift together on Monday.  During those evening hours, we had about six people come in the door.  One was drunk.

We straightened and dusted, refolded, checked the emails, spritzed the greenery, had some tea and talked. 

Did I tell you about the pie I made for Thanksgiving?  Apple, wasn't it?  Yeah you told me.

Should I get a real tree or fake this year?  I thought you were doing fake.

Oh yeah.

I think I might get this sweater.  I thought you decided not to.

Oh yeah.

Have you seen Lincoln yet?  No.

What do you think Hilary Clinton is going to do next?  I don't know.

Did you see both episodes of The Dust Bowl or just the first part?  Both.

I think I'd have gone mad with all that dust.  Yeah, you said that the other day.

Did you see that video of the dog and baby talking to each other?  No.

I can't decide if I like Real Simple Magazine?  Sometimes they have good recipes.

I know but all that organizing drives me nuts.  Yeah.

Is Modern Family going to be new this week?  I don't watch that.

You should.  It's really funny.  I know.  I forget.

Did you ever wear tights that you have to yank up about every thirty seconds?   Yes.

I think they're making me insane.  Yes.

A mere two days later and Jude and I will be working together again tonight.  Not a single thing has happened to me since then so I think I'll tell her the story about the time Jimmy Castelnuovo tripped me in Sister Morrison's 4th grade class.

I'm pretty sure he did it to see my underpants.  I'm pretty sure she'll find it fascinating.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Running Late

I've been on a work bender lately and it is only the beginning of the holiday season.  Oy.  Every time I dip my toe into the retail world, I wonder what the heck I was thinking.  The ridiculous holiday hours, the standing, the lousy pay, the hand holding and counseling that goes into selling.  If customers could read my mind they might hear me saying..................

You do know that this is not the radiation versus chemo dilemna, but rather a skirt?

On Sunday, I was running late because I didn't want to go to work.  I wanted to stay in some sweat pants and not put on makeup.  I wanted to vacuum the swirling dog hair and do some laundry with football as the background noise.  I didn't want to make small talk, offer everyone who walked in the door a cup of coffee or explain the current discount. 

I was on the 3rd floor of the parking garage and flying down the stairs with a young one who was also late to his job.  We commiserated about working all weekend and then ran off in different directions.  In front of our store was a guy pushing a cart of vegetables into the barbecue restaurant next door and he laughed when he saw me. "You late, honey?"

Yes, Honey was late because she forgot that it is a gift to be useful.  That sometimes the right skirt makes things better so careful thought must go into the selection.  That there are plenty who would love the chance to earn a paycheck.

Honey needed a guy pushing lettuce uphill to remind her.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Link To My Life

This is the link to the highlights of Maggie and Nate's wedding.  Besides being alumni of KState, this photographer and videographer have been friends of theirs for a long time. They are kind and fun and oh so very talented.

When my kids were growing up, I never discussed with them what their wedding might look like.  It seemed so far off and I thought we'd get them all through college before we'd even have to think about that for any of them.  Little did we know that Nathan would come along, and besides sweeping Maggie off her feet, he'd sweep the rest of us as well.

You will see many of the people I've written about for the last two years.  The family, friends and neighbors who are dear to us.  The Queen Mum and Mark's Queen Mum.  Our house and neighborhood, my hydrangeas.  Nate's parents and siblings who we adore.  The church we go to, our siblings, nieces and nephews.  My sweet hairdresser.

You will see Mark who gave the most poignant, honest toast and though he is often in the path of my snarkiness, he and I have always seen eye-to-eye on the big stuff of life.

This is the story of the beginning of a marriage and other big stuff.  Big stuff like a day to celebrate love...........and maybe I never talked to the kids about their wedding day because I couldn't even fathom something so lovely.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

All Roads...............

The company I am working for has two stores in the same city.  One will close in March, hence the opening of the second one to become the permanent location.  The stores are approximately five miles apart and all of the employees work both locations.

They are very different spaces.  One store is big, the other more intimate......like going from a regulation field to the park district lot.  Because we are constantly moving between the two, we all have trouble finding things.  You may know exactly where the bootcut cords are at one store and be circling all day to find it in another.  Add to that, the nature of retail is to shake it up all the time.  Move the merch.  Get the coats up front when it's cold, then replace them a week later with party dresses now that the holidays are here.

There have been times when I am driving to one store and am uncertain if I am even going to the right place.  The schedule now is made out well into December and I often don't know what week it is let alone where I am supposed to be.

It can be unnerving to the anal retentive likes of me, but I've become accustomed to being confused.  Sometimes I ask for help, sometimes I just keep circling.   All I care about is that at the end of the confusion the road leads me home.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Rated G

I was trolling Craigslist the other morning on the ipad to see what's out there as far as jobs.  I am not looking presently, but my current employment will end in March and so I surf around to see who advertises for help and what they are looking for.  One of the listings was for a water softener salesperson.

Just then The Big Daddy came through and I asked him to rub my shoulder.  The one that hurts all the time.  That feels like a pinched nerve under my shoulder blade and needs a live-in massage therapist for it to get better.  He noticed what was on the ipad.

"What........you're gonna go door-to-door selling water?"

And then he laughed.

He laughed for too long.

That was the start of the verbal turd flinging at one another like monkeys stuck in the same cage for too long.   As is frequently the case with us, we kept at it until we'd sufficiently pissed each other off first thing in the morning.

He went upstairs to take a shower, turned around and said, "You'll never find another guy who can rub your G-Spot like I can."

What did you say?

"You heard me."

That would explain why I can't get no satisfaction.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Checkers & Baggers

When the last of her kids was in high school, Mom decided she was going to get a job.  For years she was a faithful shopper at Walt's Food Center.  You can't beat Walt's meat!  She knew everyone who worked there including the manager of customer service, and so she filled out an application after a thirty year plus absence from the work force and Phyllis hired her to be a bagger.

She worked a few days a week and always had a good story to tell about her day. One time, the employees were asked to remind customers not to leave their purses in their cart unattended as there had been some thefts in the store.  Some woman told Mom not to worry because the Blessed Mother would watch over it and Mom said, "I'll be darned.  I thought she was too busy for that sort of thing."  She was often chastised by the old ladies to not pack their bags too heavy and she said, "I always wanted to tell those old bats that I was lifting those bags into carts all day long and I'd have to be an idiot to pack them heavy."

Despite that, she loved working there and these many years since she still sees her Walt's friends once in awhile.

Because of that experience, she has always told me that I should work in a grocery store.  You'll never be bored, she says.  I know, Mom, but I don't think it's for me.  You should try it.  That's o.k. Mom.   When I was looking for a job she'd tell me to check out the grocery store.  Just until something else comes along, but you'll probably like it so much you'll never leave.  O.k., Mom, I'll think about it.   Then she'd call and ask if I decided to apply at the grocery store.  Not yet, Mom.

This fall, Will was in need of employment at school and applied at the grocery store.  He was hired and works one shift a week as a bagger and on the weekends demonstrating food.  I know.  It cracks me up.  

He loves it.  He loves his fellow employees.  He loves the customers.  He loves cooking up some tilapia in an electric fryer and serving it to shoppers.  He loves when they pile some in their cart.  He loves helping himself to the veggies in the produce department and making some concoction that will move those mushrooms out the door.

I have kept Mom up-to-date on her grocery store employed grandson and she couldn't be happier.  I thought it would be enough, but is it ever when it's your mom?

"Kath, get yourself an application the next time you go to the store.  Fill it out.  Tell them your mother worked at a grocery store."

So I've heard, Mom.  So I've heard.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012


We live within walking distance of a small shopping center here in Mayberry.  It is a handy thing to have close by with a grocery store, bakery, hardware store and other mostly small, independent businesses.  It is anchored by Macy's.  As Macy's goes this isn't one of their flagship stores, but rather the red-haired stepchild.   While the prime age of their most devoted customer is 105, on occasion they throw something out for the rest of us.

I've been lusting over the cashmere sweaters - carefully folded and on display when the temperature here was still over a hundred.  I would go and visit them and pretend that the $120.00 price wasn't a factor.  What color?  What style?  Would I wear it to the opening of a new art gallery?  Do you have to get an invitation to one of those things or can you just show up?  They serve wine, right?

In an ad for The Biggest Sales Event of the Year, they were reduced to $59.99 during a morning special.  In addition, there was a coupon for $10.00 off, good for the morning only.  $49.99   Hello!!!!!!  I was there by 9:30.  I wandered around and got a couple of things then went to the register, goods and coupon in hand.

That's when I found out that the morning only coupon wasn't good on the morning only specials.   Careful reading of the fine print qualified the savings for about three items in the store.  I had other coupons in my purse and started placing them on the counter.  Something was bound to work and I'll give the associate credit, she tried.  Multiple times.  20% off your entire purchase any day you choose.  I choose today!  $20.00 off any purchase over $50.00.  Yep.

By the time all were scanned, my savings were $2.45, and the cashmere sweater I wanted for months lost its charm without the additional ten bucks knocked off.  

With The Biggest Sales Event of the Year, the holiday shopping season has begun.  Giddyup shoppers.  The deals may be everywhere but saving is just an illusion.

Source: macys.com via Felicia on Pinterest

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Perks of Being a Late Bloomer

When our kids went through high school, my goal was to get them graduated without becoming full-blown partyers or sexually active.  I figured that if I could buy that much time, they'd be o.k. going forward in college.  While I am sure they did plenty of things that I am not aware of, they came out level-headed with their morals and brain cells intact.

It was helpful that they were late bloomers.  Boy-girl parties in middle school that some parents encouraged was something I wouldn't agree to and that they weren't comfortable being a part of.   Getting drunk on the weekend is not what the group of friends they hung around with did.

I thank my lucky stars that they were successful.  Many of the kids they know were not, and on the occasion that they would relate stories of teenage escapades that they had heard about, my jaw would drop.

Right on the floor.

Now that Mallie Bee is in college, there are new freshman stories like the girl on her floor that went door-to-door offering tampons to anyone who wanted them as her mother is able to get them for free.  Mal turned them down.   

Why would you do that?   Free, Mal.  Free is good.

This girl had roommate issues early on and before long was trolling the floor looking for a new place to call home.  She was very frank about her quirks and living habits, including that she had a boyfriend and they were sexually active.  One of Mal's friends didn't see that as a stumbling block and took her in.  She has found out that sexually active also means often and indiscreet.

Mal figured that if she took her freebies she'd be indebted to her and that was a road she didn't want to travel.

Late bloomer + astute = smart girl.   Very smart girl.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Squeezing It Out

The Big Daddy and I went to a dinner party for his department.  These are usually pretty fun as he works with some great people.

As things were winding down, we wandered into a discussion about toothpaste.  There are a lot of people who put some serious effort into getting every drop of toothpaste out.  Squeezing, buying special tools, cutting open the tube.   They had all kinds of advice and tips to offer.

Who knew?

That's not so much of a problem in our house, I said.  We have this toothpaste now that oozes out on its own.  The cap is all gunked up and won't close all the way so if you just lay it back in the drawer a glob will form so I take my brush and wipe some of it up to brush.  I don't even have to pick up the tube.  It's quite the time saver especially when you're running late.

And The Big Daddy said, "You do that?  Me too.  High-five me for being a slob!"

I did.  We had a moment.  Tears.


There's the line and then there's us.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Scandal in Mayberry

When I went to the City Council meetings last year which you can read about here, I saw my representatives in action.

One council member chowed down on a plate of spaghetti while listening to the citizens of Mayberry complain and it was a wee bit distracting.   At one point, he got up and went behind a door which I thought meant he was done.  Instead, he came out with another heaping plate.

When I asked somebody about it, they told me that because the council members usually come straight from work to the meetings, the city provides a dinner for them that most eat before the start of the meeting or during breaks.

Said councilman did not adhere to the manners of most.  Now he has gotten himself into some hot water that makes jumping into a pot of the boiling pasta kind look inviting.

He had a friend who was a little down on his luck.  Homeless.  A history of drug use.  A criminal record.  When he inquired of the police department as to what resources were available to help out this friend, they directed him to a shelter in Kansas City.   While that was an option, Spaghettiman instead gave him his access code, and for the better part of a weekend this guy was camping in the comfort of city hall and its municipal buildings.  Why he even invited one of his buddies over to enjoy the facilities.

Why in the world didn't Spaghettiman bring his friend to his own house to spend the weekend instead of housing him in City Hall?

That was never an option.

No.  He could never do something like that.

He lives in his parents basement. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

There........I Said It

The other day I was talking to my sister about our efforts to lose weight.  I don't get it, I said.  Since I started working I am moving all day long - usually eight hour shifts 3-4 times a week and only sitting long enough to eat and then I'm back up again.  And by eat I mean a salad.  Granola bars or fruit for a snack.  Healthy dinner.  No wine.  Oh wine, I miss thee so.   For three days I was looking at a bowl full of Dove chocolates at the register and I never had a single one.

And nothing.  The same two pound fluctuation.  If only it was three pounds then maybe I'd feel encouraged and keep eating those salads.

While I was at it, what about this blog?  I've been stuck at 42 followers forever and how do I crack that nut?  Will it ever inch up?

Two days later, I weighed myself.  There was a THREE pound weight loss and #43 started following me.  Yesterday in the mail came a pair of antlers from my brother and his wife who went over the river and through the woods to find it for me.

The whole month of November is double discount for employees at the store.  I need money. 

A lot more money.

Chicks Rule

When I was a kid growing up, my mom used to go to the Women's Club meetings at church.  Sometimes to a bunco party.  With six kids, she didn't have much opportunity to get out of the house, run the school board or get involved in much more than Scouts and Little League.

You don't manage a house with that many people in it and not be more than capable, but she was never asked.

When I was in high school, there were no sports for girls.  Cheerleading or the dance team?  Take your pick.

Last night the field we were never invited onto looked a lot different as the women pushed the boys out of the way.

Tammy Duckworth.

Elizabeth Warren.

Tammy Baldwin.

New Hampshire.




The female body has been a target in the crosshairs of misinformation and just plain bat-shit crazy statements.

Our ovaries capable of shutting down when attacked?  Not a chance, but they are well on their way to changing things in ways my mom never imagined.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Days & Light

My first adult job was with Peoples Energy Corp. in Chicago.  I don't even know how I got it, how I knew about it, how any of it came to pass.  I processed health insurance claims for employees and retirees for six years.  It was long before computers and our office was a holding zone for mountains of paper.  Bills would pour in and be alphabetized and stacked each day.  The job of myself and two others was to go through every bill to make sure it was complete, accurate and payable under our plan.  Then we'd forward it to our insurance company for review and payment. 

It was a job that could make people really happy - like the sweet, old meter reader who came in with shoe boxes of bills that he didn't know he could claim.  I spent an afternoon on the floor of an empty conference room organizing it all and he ended up with several thousand dollars.  He cried when he came to pick up his check and the next day a box of chocolates were delivered to my desk.

It was also a job that could infuriate employees who had their claim denied, and try as we might to make sure that didn't happen, sometimes there wasn't a thing we could do about it.  It wasn't pretty to be on the receiving end of that, but when someone is sick or in a health crisis and denied payment the rage has to land somewhere.

When I got the job, my mom and dad were less than enthusiastic.  You'd have thought that having a kid with full-time employment and benefits would cause them to be elated but that was not the case.  Do you know you'll have to take public transportation downtown?  Do you know how much that costs?   What about eating out all the time?  Have you thought about that?  Do you know what bad weather does to a bus schedule?

Well, no, no, no, no and no.

I threw their parental advice out the window, and when I landed on Michigan Avenue I found out I was a city girl.   That is not to say it wasn't without challenges..........like the first time I went to Marshall Fields on my lunch hour.  I had no idea that there were different entrances on different streets and I found myself exiting a door blocks from where I entered with no idea how to get back to work.  Or missing the express train by seconds after an Olympic sprint through underground garages.  Cab drivers that were terrifying and Hare Krishna looking for new recruits.

But helping people when things weren't going so well in their life is satisfying even on the hard days.  I never grew tired of it or that city, and on the first Monday of daylight savings time I would always gasp when I went outside to head towards the train station.

The early darkness made it seem as though I was walking right into a Christmas tree.

Source: 500px.com via

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


The Big Daddy has some odd habits.  I don't ask why anymore.  He does strange things that I have to ignore or I'll go crazy.

For years he has waged a one-man war on squirrels.  Chasing them out of the yard, throwing things at them, cussing at them in the backyard when they were in his garden.  Sometimes he'd jump up in the middle of dinner yelling, "Sonofabitch" and I knew he was about to go Squirrel Chasing. 

A rodent.  Outdoors.

At a party we were at he was telling someone that he doesn't have to worry about the squirrels anymore which was news to me.  The population has been decimated, he said with a smirk.  Decimated.

He had been talking with a neighbor who was doing yard work when the entrails of a squirrel were falling out of a tree onto his picnic table.


The Mighty Hawk has moved into Mayberry and found a village of food.  

What will The Big Daddy do with his time if he doesn't have squirrels to chase?

Besides the bags and buckets of tomatoes currently in the dining room, there are buckets of pond water in the basement.

Buckets. Of. Pond. Water.  Indoors.

I am Charlie Babbitt.

He is Rainman.

He's a good driver.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Holy Spirits

For a couple of years, I was a 4th grade teacher of religious ed.  Classes would meet on Monday afternoons at 4:00 for one hour once a week.

It was Religion 101 for those of us who were raising our kids Catholic but sending them to public school.

The absolute worst time to try to teach a kid anything would have to be on a late Monday afternoon after a full weekend and seven hours of sitting at school.  While I started out with the highest hopes, it soon became my goal that while these kids were in my care nobody got hurt, fell asleep, were bullied or bored out of their mind.

On a lesson about the presence of the Holy Spirit, I went over some of the gifts we receive from him/her, such as wisdom, understanding, knowledge.  My little explanation went over like every other one - blankety blank stares.  When I opened it up for a discussion..........and please kids don't ask me anything hard because I'm not exactly gifted in this area..........I got more blank stares.

Until one kid equated it to ghosts.  Ghosts that lived in his house and that's when the whole class perked up and wanted to tell a story about their own encounters with the Spirit......holy or otherwise.  It went on for awhile and ended when the kid with Asperger's explained the inner workings of your basic lawn mower motor.

You could say that I lost control, but within my own low achiever parameters it was a success and everybody left ready to share the gift of wisdom with their parents.  As off the rails as they happened to be.

In the Spirit of some spirited nine year olds............

Always look in the closets and under your bed because they like dark places.

They're scary but their mouths don't work and they have no arms so they can't bite you or grab you.

Your parents can't see them but usually act like they can.

Jesus made the holy ones to send when you're fighting with your siblings.


For optimal engine performance while mulching your fall leaves, it is important to maintain recommended fluid levels at all times.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

One Voice

I come from a long line of bad singers.  We cannot carry a tune, can't identify a tune, are unable to snap along with the tune.

But it does not stop us from belting out a little Motown as if we are the offspring of Aretha.

We have other skills.  We can cook.  We're sensible.  We smile and nod a lot.  But, oh, to be able to sing.

On Saturday night, The Big Daddy and I went to church and when I cracked open the hymnal for the very first song, Mr. Smartass leaned over and said, "Bring it on home, Kath."

And I lost it........like I was on the verge of snorting.

We went out for pizza afterwards and met some friends later for a date night.  He was cranked up the whole night for if you really, really think he's funny he will continue to perform.

The evening ended at 11:00 when I found him in the garden of our friend's yard, excitedly helping him pick tomatoes by flashlight like he had done in his own garden earlier so they wouldn't freeze overnight, and I was entertained yet again by my boyfriend of the last thirty five years.

It makes up for this..............

And this...............

And especially this........