Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Major Award

 It seems I have won one of these.............


And I was like WHAT????  I don't even win in bunco let alone a blog prize, but I got friends in the right places and my OSMA nominated me.  She is a blog/cyber friend.  Sometimes when something funny happens at work I think to myself, "Wait until OSMA hears about this!"  Then I remember that I don't know her in real life and me thinking about her like that would sound kind of weird to other people.  And by other people I mean the police.

Anyhow, it's a baton that's handed off from blogger to blogger to promote the little engines that could and not the big ones everybody knows about.  You must nominate eleven other bloggers.  My OSMA cheated so I will, too.  A combo of little and big blogs that are my go-tos on a regular basis.........

An Inch Of Gray
I found Anna after her son died in a tragic accident during a seemingly harmless storm.  When you are a blog reader and someone is going through a tragedy it makes its way around pretty fast.  That was the case with me and Anna's blog, but I am in for the long haul with her and her family.  She raises the bar on writing and her Jack............oh her Jack was something to behold.

The Simple Wife
I came across this blog in the same manner.  A fit, 40-something mom, wife, and author has a massive stroke and during that time it felt like you were right in the middle of it.  Her husband posted updates on her condition and though she made it through, everything about their life has changed.  They post rather sporadically now (for obvious reasons) and after a long spell of no updates she recently wrote something that breaks my heart.  There's problems, people, and then there are problems.

Anecdotally Yours
This darling couple are friends of Maggie and Nate's and were the photographer and videographer of their wedding.  They are an incredibly talented powerhouse of talent.  I look at their postings of photos and videos and cry...........and I don't even know anybody they're featuring.  Stop by and see them and their new son, Ben, the cutest baby to ever rock a winter hat.

The Gardener's Cottage
A friend sent me this link and I've been hooked.  This woman is all about simplifying her life and tells you how to do the same.  Closet full of STUFF?  She shows you how to pair it down, edit your furnishings, trim your roses and make a vegan Thanksgiving.  This blog is the calm in the storm.

A Beloved Life
This is my friend, Amy's blog.  Amy was the HR manager where I work and left to pursue other interests as they say.  She has become dear to me and was my saving grace in the choppy waters of a new job.  She practices yoga and meditation daily and is so in tune with herself that I am in awe.  She does the work of being her and shows you how to do the same.

A Work In Progress
This is my friend, Mary's blog.  I met Mary at a mutual friend's Christmas party about five years ago.  Once a year I would see her and we would chat.  From someone else I found out she was a writer and I screeched at Panera's,"I NEVER KNEW THAT!!!"  Then Mary moved to California thus preventing the long friendship I had planned for her and me.  We are mutual admirers from a distance and supporters of this hard work called writing.  Her husband has a blog, too,  I love to read both of them.

Now the big ones which you probably already know of and don't need any explanation from me.

Miss Mustard Seed

The Lettered Cottage


Victoria Elizabeth Barnes

Does Huffington Post count?  No.

People I Want To Punch In The Throat

Next post..............the Q & A

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Final Push

The other day our Christmas cards came and unbeknownst to me at the time of order, they required additional postage.

Oh dear baby Jesus, why oh why is everything so hard for me this year?

I decided not to go to my usual post office but rather one in a cute little shopping district with lots of small, independent shops so I could finish my shopping.  I started at the post office even though I was warned not to go to that one because it is so slow.  The warning was accurate.  There were about fifteen people in line and one person working the counter.  I got in line and scrolled my phone while I waited.  At one point, I heard the cheerful postal worker say, "Oh good, they finally sent me some help."  With that the not so nice newly arrived postal worker said to those of us in line, "We close at 4:00 so not all of you are going to be able to go through so you may as well leave now and go to another post office."

I didn't care so much for the new help seeing as how I'd been in line for twenty minutes.

The older woman ahead of me in line said, "Oh dear.  Oh no, honey.  I don't think you and I are going to make it."

Me and everyone else just stood there.  My new friend made it to the counter with a minute to spare and my eyes were pleading with her to hurry it up.  Cranky Mr. Postman started pulling the metal doors closed by the counter when the post lady said, "Stop.  We're going to stay late and we're going to wait on these people because they've been in line and they have things that need to get mailed out today so they arrive by by Christmas."

And I was like,  "Dear baby Jesus, that woman is an angel.  She is an angel."

When my time came I thanked her a meeeelion times over, wished her a Merry Christmas and if the postal bouncer wasn't so pissy already I'd have hopped the counter and hugged her.

Moral of the story:  Don't lose your cool.  It's all going to work out.  The angels are ready to swoop in and give respite from the Christmas storm.  The people behind the counter are worn out.  They probably haven't been off much at all for the last month so be kind, be kind, be kind. 

Okay, a couple of last minute gift ideas to consider............

This book.  Oh my goodness, I love this book.  It has seeped into my being and set up camp for, hopefully, a lifetime.  The last page???  I've read the last page about thirty times.  I talk about this book all the time so go get it for somebody you love and do a little holiday self-love and buy one for yourself.  The movie version is in production and stars Reese Witherspoon, but we all know that the book is always better.


I've wanted this perfume forever.  Loved the name and loved the Philosophy.  If I was at the mall I'd go into Sephora and spritz myself with it but could not lay my money down because it seemed like such a luxury.  My lovely daughter dragged her dad to the mall last year to shop for my birthday and made him buy me this.  I wear it almost every day.  It comes in all sizes and price ranges but Sephora sells a roll-on for $18.00 if you want to take it for a test drive.


This was the other thing I got last year for my birthday and I use it every day.  I think it's about $125.00.  It exfoliates your skin so that all the anti-aging stuff gets deep into your pores, and when you wake up in the morning your husband thinks he's in bed with a twenty year old.  True story.


Some favorite things.............there's more but it's midnight and my copy and pasting skills quit a few hours ago.  Take note, friends, you will always be at the top of the list.  Now go be merry and bright then prepare him room.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

An Absence of Spirit

As soon as they said there was one less week this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas I knew I was doomed.  I will never get everything done in time was my immediate thought.  So much to do......

I have shopped but not finished.  I ordered Christmas cards that haven't even been shipped yet.  We thought about having a party and a week after Thanksgiving I threw in the towel on that idea.  I am trying to keep on top of holiday chores, work, the house, the laundry and the finances and have failed at all of them.  Three nights in a row we were invited to some kind of holiday event and I was so happy, not because we would be spending time with people we love but because I didn't have to cook dinner.  I have written one crappy paragraph of the Christmas letter I have sent out for twenty years.  The dog can barely get up and my heart knows it is time for him to move on, yet I do nothing about that either.

I miss my dad.

Twenty three years since he's been here for Christmas and this year has knocked me for a loop.  I have watched interviews with parents of kids killed at Sandy Hook and I still can't believe that happened in this country and we did nothing about it.  I see commercial after commercial that caters to the affluent in such a way it feels obscene to me.  I wonder how typhoon misplaced people in the Phillippines are doing but that news has been replaced with November retail sales figures.

I am searching for the joy.

A few weeks ago we went to the funeral of a friend.  He was 53 and died of brain cancer.  I have never been to a funeral with so many people which goes to show you how many lives he touched.  The loss of him to his wife and sons is enormous..  The community he was a part of will feel his absence in profound ways.

The minister was a friend of his and said to the mournful congregation ......."Death did not claim him.  Cancer did not claim him.  God said this man is mine and I claim him.  I have prepared a room for him and he is mine.  He is coming home to my house."

A funeral will make you think about a lot of things.  A beautiful funeral for a good man will make you want to change a lot of things.

While my own holiday spirit does more ebbing than flowing this year, I keep circling back to the words of that minister and think of my own dad.  Like the friend gone too soon, neither cancer nor death claimed him.  God did and that thought has given me peace.  He was always his and nobody lived a life more ready for The Day than my Dad. 

If I could wrap peace in a box and tie a ribbon around it I would give it to everyone I know.  The mall and the aisles of Target are crappy substitutes for the gift that most people desperately want.  Before long Christmas Eve will be here and everything that needed to be done will be.  Or not.  My restless, worried mind will relax and if nothing else the pressure to provide the perfect holiday will have dissipated.

I will tether my soul to the Prince of Peace once again.

I will sing Joy To The World.......

.......and I will mean it.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Strange Man In A Foreign Country

When the kids were very little and most of the Christmas shopping was for toys, I asked Mark to take a day off work to help me.  I was overwhelmed with three kids with three different interests.  To be clear, Mark RARELY takes time off work.  A few days between Christmas and New Year's and the rare vacation, but long ago he agreed to this shopping day and so it has been a standing date with us ever since.

In recent years we have capped it off with Happy Hour down on the Plaza before we head home.

This year we weren't able to do that and so we started with breakfast before we headed to the mall.  Eek!  The mall.  We are not mall people, but we also are not Eskimos so we opted for indoor shopping.

A long time ago, a customer told me about a strategy to remember things based on a plan by St. Thomas Moore.  You envision the rooms of your home, and as you try to recall something you walk through the rooms to retrieve the information.  It sounded complicated to me and I never did it, but at the mall I am just like that saint.  I know where to park based on the time of day and day of the week, I know the layout, I know every place I want to go on the first floor, up to the second, loop around and out.

The plan being to retrieve what I came for and spend as little time there as possible.

With my husband and shopping assistant along, my saintly plan got side-tracked.  He's a slow mall walker.  He doesn't got out much ever so he has to look at everything.  That's how we spent 45 minutes at the Microsoft store talking to a guy about a computer we have no intention of buying.

Prior to the mall, we went to Target and he kept disappearing so I started yelling, "Marco" and from the coffee aisle I heard a faint "Polo."  There was my lil wanderer with boxes of Keurig coffee to add to the cart.

When we set foot in Sephora, he took it all in for fifteen seconds and said, "I can't do this."  The saleswoman tried to sweet talk him into staying, but I knew that place would max out his estrogen limit.  "Okay," I said, "but please don't wander off.  I won't be in here long."

And off he wandered and I felt like I was a shepherd watching over an ADD lamb all day long.

Where is he now?  Socks?  Why is he buying socks?  Slippers?  With memory foam?  Not on the list.  No, no we're shopping for other people today not ourselves.  (That's later.  Online where the evidence is not so easy to uncover.)  One day, dude.  That's what we have here.  One day to knock most of this out. 

We made a tiny dent in our shopping and there was much more to do, but I had to get a cut and color and even the soon-to-be birth of the Lord doesn't get in the way of that.  He dropped me off and came back later to get me.

I was still in the beautification process and so he hung around waiting for me to finish.  Amy told us a story she'd heard about a guy who surprised his wife in the bedroom with leather underwear that zippered in front and Mark said, "What if the zipper got caught in something?"

"Like what," Amy asked.

We laughed for too long and that might be one of the many reasons why I won't be seeing him during the week for another year.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Heaven & Nature Sing

Prior to meeting Mark, my encounters with nature were few and unintended.  One time a blue jay attacked my brother when he was going out the front door and he went screaming into the house.  Unbeknownst to him there were some babies in the vicinity, but from that point on Mom always referred to them as "those gulldamned blue jays."

Mark has since informed me that birds like crows and blue jays are rather sophisticated creatures, and if you've ever had a hawk come into your yard you would know that those are the ones that alert the whole neighborhood of impending danger.

When he and Will were in Scouts they always came home with a bucket that contained everything from frogs, snakes, turtles and tadpoles.

I got used to it.  It came with the marriage.

While the girls freak out over a spider, Will or Mark would scoop it up and take it outside where it would rather be anyways.  I have long admired their appreciation for even the smallest forms of life.

Mark makes it his job to keep the bird feeder full especially in these cold months.  "They've got it especially hard this time of year." he tells me as he vigilantly buys more seed.

In the frantic pace of December as I was going to buy a few gifts and grocery shop before a full week of work, I happened to notice a white hawk coming to rest on top of a street light.  I had never seen a white hawk before and Mark later told me it was a male harrier hawk.

While the world buzzed around him he patiently sat in wait, and so I took note and stilled my hurried mind.

Lingering like the hawk during the season of Advent and wondering what is about to unfold before me.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Martha Effect

When my dad got a little older and had more time, he got very involved in the Christmas decorating.  He would go down into the crawl space and whack his head a couple dozen times getting the boxes up and unpacked.  Of special importance was the full Nativity scene we had that was lovingly wrapped in paper towels.  It was very lifelike and plastic and mom still puts it out every year.  Dad would arrange everything like a respectable stable scene and then we would go into the living room and rearrange the Jesus and his posse into all kinds of configurations on the coffee table.  Sometimes baby sister, Ann, would ring up the sheep and donkeys on her cash register.

One year he decided to make the Nativity scene the star of the show, and so he built little shelves and attached them to the wall for each of the main players.  Then he cut evergreens from the back yard to make it look even more authentic. 

During those years when Dad was getting his Martha on, we would all hightail it out of the house.  There was a lot of conflict and aggravation that went on during Decorating Day and it was in your best interest to get out of Dodge Bethlehem.  Mom would plead with us to help, but help meant getting yelled at all day by someone who didn't give a hoot about the reason for the season until nightfall when he and mom sat down with a glass of wine to admire the tree.

The girl who came from generations of perfectionists married a man whose motto is "Good from far.  Far from good."

He hops on his bike in the cold and rides to nowhere as soon as he sees that look in my eye.  The glassy-eyed look with the hedge clippers in one hand and ribbon in the other with a plan to cut me some boxwood for the toilet paper holder.

"It will be Christmas everywhere," I say with my holiday grimace.  Except in my hardened, brittle heart.

We went and picked out the tree the other night and I promised myself I wouldn't be the joyless pain-in-the-ass that I usually am when it came to getting ready for the holidays.  We found a frasier fir we both agreed on and The Big Daddy, who collects bungee cords like they are fine antiques, came prepared and strapped it onto the roof like a pro.

"Done and done," he said to me to me as he got into the car.  "Smell my finger."

"What?  No.  Smell your finger?  Really, Mark?"

"Yeah. It's balsamy."

"Oh, I was going somewhere completely different with that line."

We came home and the good tidings of joy on the tree lot went out the window when I couldn't get all the plastic netting off and it kept getting caught in the screws of the tree stand while Mark tried to wrestle that balsamy bear into its proper place.

The year my dad built the little shelves for Mary, Joseph, The Three Wise Men and Baby Jesus, Mark backed into it after we had come home from midnight mass and knocked the whole thing off the wall.

Everybody gasped and looked at Dad, who was sporting the seasonal family grimace, but he calmly said, "Don't worry.  Just leave it and I'll put it back up later."

And nobody knew what had happened that Dad didn't completely lose his holiday shit, except that unto us a Savior had been born and he had just saved my future husband's ass.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Black Friday

Several years ago when this Black Friday business was still in its infancy, Maggie suggested that her and I get up early and do some shopping.

"It will be fun," she said, "and we can bond."

By 6:15 I was backing sleepy-eyed her and me out of the driveway.

We laughed at the foolishness of getting up before the sun to get after-Thanksgiving bargains and headed to Kohl's - not because we ever shopped there but because they were one of the first to open at 4:00 a.m.  "We'll beat the early crowd," I said.

The parking lot was so packed that we both looked at each other and said, "Not this one."

Best Buy over yonder?  "Or this one."

Target?  "Negatory, fellow shopper."

We ended up at Michael's and got our craft on in the semi-deserted place and bought a few early bird specials.

It was uneventful and nobody tried to tackle us over.......well, anything.

Then we went to breakfast which is all we really wanted to do that day. 

This year we arrived at Michael's after ten and missed the crack o' dawn discounts, but we had other coupons and filled our cart.  At one point we lost it but when we found our Lost Sheep of Holidayness not a single thing was missing. 

When we were done we went out to breakfast which is all we really wanted to do anyways.

I got the Sunrise Special like always and we ate our meal like civilized people tend to do when they haven't been punched in the jaw in the middle of the night over a 50" t.v.........but it would have been a different story had anybody dared to take my bacon.

Most of the time.................

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Giving Thanks

A few weeks ago I was having writer's block and decided to dig through the closet to find the journal I kept for my creative writing class in high school.

That was eye-opening.

I think a few meds would have been helpful for that girl back then.

When I brought up the idea of starting a blog to my writers' group a few years ago it was met with a lukewarm response.  The opinion was voiced that blogging was bastardizing your writing.  Real writers get published, hacks blog.  Since the majority of writers never get published my focus was writing regularly and not just once a month for our meeting.  I knew a blog would force me to write more frequently and so I forged ahead.

In the beginning my regular readers were my sister, Ann, my friend, Nancy and Mark.  There were times I would work for hours on something, publish it and the total # of hits that day was seven.  I knew all seven people who were reading A Speckled Trout (those three and me four times) and the time of day they were reading.

My mom who does not own a computer didn't even read it.

I have no idea why I kept at it because I am a chronic quitter as evidenced by my prolific recent job history, exercise DVDs and the stacks of unopened scrapbooking crap in the basement.

But I continued to write and during this last month when I check my numbers I squeal in happiness.  I have no idea how or why the tide has turned.  The other day when we were buying a turkey and ran into the owner of the store whom we know he said, "I really like what you've been writing lately."

I have three responses to this every single time.  First is to say, "Really?"  Second is to cry.  Third is to breathe into a paper bag.

A little while later I said to Mark, "What if I hit it big and people find out I suck?"

Oh my dear...........stop.

And so in the spirit of the season..........

Thank you for coming back time after time and making the grown-up version of that dreamy-eyed girl from high school believe she could tell a story.

Thank you to the above-mentioned early pioneers who nagged everyone they knew to read my blog.  I know this for a fact because I was checking out at the grocery store and somebody two lanes over saw me and yelled, "Nancy told me I have to read your blog."

I tried out many names for the blog.......all Kansasy and prairieish and they were taken.  How fortunate.  My dad always called me his "speckled trout" and so it was christened.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Do You Hear What I Hear?

I like nothing more on my Fridays off than to putter around the house.  Give the place a good cleaning, do some laundry, shake up the chi.

In the midst of doing that this past Friday I decided to go out and shop for a few things.  There is some bedroom rearranging going on around here and so I was looking for new bedding, something for the mantel, a new plate for the shelf in the dining room, another scented candle.

I went to my favorite places............T.J. Maxx and Homegoods.  I struck out on the bedding and couldn't decide on the mantel, but I wandered.  Oh my goodness did I ever wander.  And while I was wandering I came across some frenzied shoppers.  Carts piled with stuff to the point they could hardly see where they were going.  A couple that had one of everything sold in home decor in white in their cart.

It was crazy.

I found an upholstered bench on clearance that I didn't go to get but decided to take it home and give it a whirl.  When I asked a sales associate about the return policy he said BECAUSE IT'S THE HOLIDAYS I have until January.

Oh, that.  Is that Christmas music I'm hearing?

Then I spent half an hour picking out hand soap for the kitchen while the madness whirled around me.

Packaging/scent?  Packaging/scent?  Should I be doing something else?  Nah............

I went to Bath & Body Works to get another of the Autumn candle (because I loved the first one I bought and it's autumn) and I was out of luck.  Only Christmas scents were available.  I spent another half hour sniffing everything that wasn't frasier firrish.

"Just one?" they asked when I checked out.

Yes, just one.

On Saturday morning we finally confirmed where we would actually be eating Thanksgiving dinner this year which was only five days away.   There seems to be a concerted effort to make me think that I am ridiculously behind on Christmas when I have had trouble deciding the logistics of the gratitude day.  I don't want to shop for holiday decor in July, listen to Christmas carols in October or see retail sales people work on Thanksgiving night.

And a car does not make a perfect gift because if it were I would know of at least one person that's gotten one for Christmas.

I will tune all that out while I get ready for Thanksgiving, and think about the times we squeezed around my parents' table crammed with relatives, bowed our heads and listened to dad give thanks for life and love and each other.

Thankfulness only asks for a quiet mind and a blessed chi.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What's The Story?

Obviously, I love a good story.  I can laugh until I cry at stories I've heard a hundred times, like the one my friend tells of the coworker who farted in his cubicle and how the office busy body came by, got a whiff of the offense and said, "Seems we have a sewer gas problem here.  I'll call maintenance and get them up here right away to take care of this."  She imitates the way this woman talks and I die every time she tells it.

Or the woman I followed into Nordstrom's last week.  She looked to be in her 80s with silver hair, a black cape and the most awesome flats.  She was so flipping stylish that I imagined at one time in her life she must have been a designer and could picture the pattern pieces scattered in her sewing room.

Funny, happy, sad, doesn't matter.  I am the moth to the story flame.

Sometimes I'll come across a situation where I start writing the story in my head.  The couple at the table next to us at a nearby restaurant who are barely speaking?  Are they on the verge of splitting up?  Maybe he has a girlfriend?  Is she crazy and he's had enough?  I never make it as simple as "maybe they're just tired and hungry and don't feel like talking."  I go for the drama and work up an imaginary narrative of their life while we eat our dinner.

And forget to talk to my husband because I'm busy making up a story.

I have many different routes I can take home from work.  A few months ago I took a different one and came across a house sitting on the corner in a very nice neighborhood.  It has seen better days.  It is abandoned with crumbling brick, broken windows and ivy engulfing the side of the house.

I have pulled over a couple of times to get a better look.  One day I got out of the car and took a few pictures.  In its heyday I think it was grand, maybe with flower boxes and evergreens.  I wonder if they decorated the outside with Christmas lights.  Was it full of kids and their friends running about?  Is that a pool in the back?  Whatever it used to be doesn't much matter, now it is the neighborhood eyesore.  Nearly every tree on the property (front, side and back) has been marked with an orange X and whacked down.  All that remains are scattered four foot carcasses defiantly sticking up as a painful reminder of what used to grow there.

Why in the world didn't they cut the whole tree down?

For the life of me I cannot come up with the story of this house, but every day I am fascinated by it and every day it begs to be brought back to life.

Maybe I'm the girl it's talking to.

Five days after I published this I drove past my house on the way home from work.  It was completely gone......torn down for what likely will be The Suburban Monstrosity.  After all that time someone is finally going to do something.........but a tear down?  I feel like I lost a charming, old friend.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Drain Cleaner

After a week without a functioning bathroom sink, I called somebody out to unclog it.  I got the name of a guy from a coworker, but when I called him he told me that he no longer does drain cleaning.  He gave me the name of somebody else - Davey.  "He's a good kid, knows what he's doing and is reasonable."

I gave Davey a call in the morning and by 3:00 he was at our house.

When Davey came to the door I was a little taken aback.  He looked like he was still in high school but I seem to think that about everybody these days.  He was as sweet as could be, shook my hand and introduced himself when he walked in the door and spent a long time petting Henry.  I took him upstairs to show him our problem sink.  "Oh man, the plumbing in these old houses can be tricky sometimes," he said as he poked around, and while he was doing that we got to know each other a bit.

Davey grew up modestly in a house along the Tennessee River.  His older brothers moved to Kansas City years ago and bought an apartment building which they still own.  As soon as he turned 18, Davey got in his car to come to the big city where the opportunities were more plentiful.  He used to do maintenance for his brothers' building but now he's the night security guard for a different building.  His rent and utilities are paid in full as a perk of the job and and so he does side jobs during the day to make some extra money.

When he went downstairs to get his tools he looked around the living room and said, "Ma'm, I like your house.  I really like your house.  You got a knack for putting stuff together."  We started talking about vintage stuff and curb finds and he pulled his phone out and showed me a picture of a table he got for free in exchange for some drain work.  It was impressive.

Geez, Davey, you're a kid after my own heart.

Before long I could hear the water running and draining upstairs and went to check things out.  He was cleaning up the black sludge that had come out of the pipe and while he was doing that he told me about the time he was drunk and decided to ride his bike home instead of getting in the car with his brothers.  The next thing he remembers is waking up in the hospital.  He crashed his bike into a tree, and thankfully, a cop happened by and saw the bike which led to the badly injured Davey.  He had a concussion and didn't come to for 19 hours.  The next two years, he said, he was loopy.  "Couldn't remember anything.  I've smoked a lot of pot over the years, but even after all that with the accident I prefer whiskey to weed.  I kind of manage that a little better now after what happened to me, though."

Geez, Davey, you need to be careful.

When he had put everything away and it was time to pay him, he told me how last week he hit somebody crossing the street with his car.

You hit somebody with your car?

"Not bad, but it scared both of us," he said.  "I pulled my car around the corner to get out of traffic and went to check on her and that's when somebody stole my gun.  Right off my front seat.  Just helped themselves to it.  I think I know who it was, too.  I remember her good.  We'll meet up again and I'll get my gun back."

 A gun, Davey?  You have a gun in your car?  Like right now in my driveway?

"Gotta have it, Ma'm, when you're a security guy like me.  Don't worry, though, it's not on the front seat."

Jeezus Davey.........

"Okay, well here's my card if you need anything else.  I don't do plumbing because that would require a lot more tools than I have right now.  I keep it simple and just do drain cleaning so if anything comes up with you or your neighbors give me a call.  I'm reasonable, don't you think?"

Yep, Davey, you are.

"Oh and Ma'm, if you need some weed I sell that, too.  Three different kinds but I'm liquidating so I'll give you a good price."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Forcing The Issue

Back in the good, old days of dating when Mark wanted to impress me, he volunteered to change the oil on my Ford Escort.

Swoon.........wasn't that so sweet of my boyfriend?

He had a little trouble getting the oil filter off and asked me to get him a hammer and screwdriver.

"It's on here so tight I can't budge it so I'm going to drive the screwdriver through the oil filter and make a handle so I can turn it."

It was the dumbest thing I'd ever heard of and I didn't know a thing about cars.

That was my first sign from the repair gods that my breakable life with him would involve brute force, but I was in love and ignored that which was right in front of my face.

Over the years he has busted most things he's tried to fix.  I stand over him and say, "It's fine, Mark.  Just leave it, Mark.  DON'T FORCE IT, MARK!!!"

He mocks my girliness and then says, "Just a little bit tighter, a quarter of a turn and I'm there."  That's when the piece snaps off, the glass breaks or the metal bends and before I can scream at him he screams at himself.

Son of a bitch is the preferred scream.

We have been trying to unclog our bathroom sink that has been draining incredibly slow.  My favorite hardware man gave me something to try and said once should do the trick.  Maybe twice but no more than that and your sink will work like a charm.

You dump the stuff down the drain, wait an hour and then run hot water.

#1 didn't work

#2 didn't work

The next day Mark wanted to give it one more try.  "No, that's okay. Mark," I said.  "We probably need to call a plumber, Mark.  Just leave it and I'll call somebody out."


But my Neanderthal couldn't leave it alone.

He tried hot water one more time.......massive quantities of hot water dumped into our little, bathroom sink.  After the third time in two days the sink protested the repeated water boarding.

The pipe gave way from all the pressure and all that water gushed over the bathroom floor, the dining room underneath on the first floor, the basement.

"SON OF A BITCH," he bellowed.


Will and I went scurrying for the mop, the buckets, the towels, the National Guard.

It took awhile to clean everything up and when we finished Mark shook his head.  "I think if it weren't for that pipe breaking I was pretty close to unclogging the sink."

He. Was. Never. Close.

In the meantime, I am washing my hands in the tub until a pro can come out and fix the bigger problem we now have, and that boyfriend of mine is dragging his knuckles on the ground until he hears the call to duty once again.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


I do not work on Fridays and it is always my intention to get a lot done.  That never happens.  I sleep a little later, I read the paper a little longer, I waste ridiculous amounts of time on Facebook and Pinterest, I get on the phone, I putter the day away.

This past Friday was the first Friday of the rest of my life.  The start of getting shit done on my day off.

I had a dentist appointment at 11:00 that was purely for cosmetic reasons.  I started seeing a new dentist a few months ago and she asked me if I wanted the gaps filled in between between my front and eye teeth.

That's okay.  We like to stay current with the house payment.

As if she could read my mind she said, "It's not an implant or anything expensive.  I'll put a bonding material on it like a filling and it shouldn't be more than $80.00 for both teeth."

So I signed myself up because if my smile dazzles then maybe you won't notice the wrinkles.

I was ridiculously optimistic when I sat in the chair and the dental tech said, "We don't even have to numb you for this."  Yeah!!!  Instead they started with a lip spreader which is just as awful as it sounds.  A huge hunking plastic thing that stretches and holds your lips apart for oh, I don't hour or more.  And I was thinking, "You have got to be kidding me," but since I couldn't put my lips together to make any sound I pleaded with my eyes.  The dentist and the tech cheerfully chatted over my head and so my plea was to Jesus who happened to not be on ceiling duty that day.

Toast perhaps?

The hour it was supposed to take to do both teeth stretched into an hour and a half for one tooth and I called a time out.  I had a mammogram appointment in thirty minutes and seeing as how I was six months past due on that one I needed to schedule another time to come back for the second tooth.

December?  Yeah, that sounds good.  No, not this December.

I flew out the door of the dentist's office and raced to my other appointment.  I had been instructed over the phone to arrive fifteen minutes earlier than my scheduled time to fill out paperwork.  I arrived one minute late.  Forty-five minutes later I filled out paperwork.

I was called in and got my mammogram which compared to the dentist wasn't so bad except for the side views which felt like I was being steam rolled.

People.  Really...........

I came home and laid on the couch.  I was spent.  No cleaning.  No laundry.  No grocery shopping.  No bill paying.  No dinner.  Not even Facebook or Pinterest.

I gave everything I had in me on my day off to two women who told me they were almost done about thirty times.

The Big Daddy came home from work and took pity on me.  "Let's go out to eat," he said and I poufed my couch hair and put some lipstick on.  Then I showed him how the gap was filled in on the right and he said, "Holy crap, honey, that looks awesome."

And it did.  White and polished........a Crest commercial smile if I ever saw one.

We went to the new pizza place in town and had a glass of wine.  We oohed and ahhed over the funky, industrial-vibed restaurant and watched the hipster employees running around with their cute selves.  My day of being squeezed and stretched was but a distant memory.

The second bite of my pizza made an odd crunching sound and I thought, "No. No. No.  Please no.  Not that.  Please. Not. That."

And then I spit out a chunk of my newly spackled tooth.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Apples & Chocolate

We never had snacks when we were growing up.  Once in awhile Mom would bring home a package of Jewel brand sandwich cookies and the six of us would tear through the perfect rows so fast it would make her mad.  "For crying out loud, those were supposed to last all week," she'd yell after us when she saw the empty package on the counter.

Dad's solution to the snack problem was to buy a bushel basket of apples every fall and put them in the garage to keep them cold.  That was fine for a week or two and then nobody wanted them any more. 

About November when there were still a couple dozen left, he'd munch on the spotted, mushy rejects and say, "I don't know what's the matter with you kids and these apples.  You don't know what you're missing."

We knew exactly what we were missing.

About six blocks away was a shopping center with a dime store.  As soon as any of us got a few quarters together we'd walk up there and fill a brown sack with candy.  We wore a path between our house and the Almar Shopping Center.

On the corner of our street was an older guy named Joe.  Joe was a talker and married to Wanda.  I think Wanda would get tired of his yapping and kick him outside where he would stop us kids if we happened to be walking by.  When he got done talking he'd think of dumb, little chores for us to do like move some rocks or pick up some sticks and then he'd shove a quarter in our hand.

Across the street from him lived Doris and Pork.  They had a dog named Beans.  Pork was always working on the in-ground pool that we were never invited to swim in and he'd give a wave while hyperactive Beans ran up and down along the fence barking at us while we did our chores for Joe.

I did some work for Joe one day and then walked up to the store by myself to buy a FULL-SIZE Hershey bar with my quarter.  As soon as I got close to Pork and Doris' house on the way back, Beans started barking at me like the crazy dog he was.  I scurried past his canine fool self with my chocolate treasure and ran the rest of the way home.  Once there I slipped into the bathroom and locked the door.  I unpeeled the wrapper and sat on the toilet slowly eating my Hershey bar square by miniature peace away from my vulture siblings that would surely expect me to share it if they only knew.

Mom knocked on the door.  "Are you okay?  You've been in there a long time."

"I'm fine," I said.  "Almost done."

I shoved the wrapper in my pocket to be discarded after dark deep into the metal trash can outside and came out.  In the Apple World I lived in chocolate was the hands down winner.

Last week at work a Halloween Fairy put FULL-SIZED Hershey bars in our mailboxes.  My first instinct was to go into the bathroom, lock the door, sit on the toilet and eat it in peace.....

Which isn't such a bad idea in a home overcrowded with siblings or in the workplace when you want to hide.



Sunday, November 3, 2013

Partying With 1st Graders

On Friday I went to Maggie's first grade class to help with their day-after-Halloween party.  It was my first time meeting the kids that she teaches every day.

I have heard some stories about these little darlings.

They were at recess when I arrived and so I met Doris who the kids call Grandma.  She is 74 years old and comes every day to help in the classroom.  She does not get paid.  When she found out I was Maggie's mom she said, "Oh that girl of yours is so kind to these kids.  I tell her to be tougher and yell at them but she hardly ever does that.  Just talks to them real nice."

Shortly after that I met the kids.  Maggie said to them, "We have a special guest today.  This is my mom and she's come to help with our party.  Her name is Mrs. Fisher."

And one little voice said, "Wait. What?  Your name used to be Miss Fisher.  How come she has your old name?"

I met and talked to all of them.  One little girl told me I was pretty and another told me I was awesome for the simple fact that I hot glued googly eyes on mini pumpkins which they were convinced were fake because they'd never seen pumpkins that small before.   

A first grader is very good for the soul.

They worked on a Frankenstein math sheet and one-by-one left to put their costumes on.  Many forgot their costumes which led to some tears, and so the pieces of the costume Maggie was going to wear got doled out to the kids.  All the while they were waiting for their turn inside the haunted house upstairs.  Some kids were sure they didn't want to go into the haunted house, but the Ninja and Superman seemed prepared and ready to battle spookiness.

The haunted house proved to be too haunted by the reaction of the older kids and so the 1st grade and kindergarten could not go.   The disappointment lasted for a long time.  There was whining and complaining and begging to their teacher and she would put her arm around every kid and say, "Hon, I know.  I'm sorry but we can't go."

Superman was so dejected he put his teary-eyed face down and wandered aimlessly around the room in his red cape - a superhero stripped of the only job he had looked forward to all day.

The kids went to the Halloween parade and then came back to juice and cupcakes, a pumpkin craft and bags of candy and the party was a success even without the feared or anticipated haunted house.

When the day ended the walkers left and the bus riders lined up, waiting to be dismissed by bus number via speaker from the main office.  While they were standing in their fidgety line their teacher went through the alphabet with them in sign language.  One of the boys came up to me and said, "Mrs. Fisher, I've been to five haunted houses.  FIVE!  I'm only seven, you know, so I'm kinda an expert on haunted houses."

The bus riders were let go and were high-fived and hugged out the door.

Ninjas and Superheroes, Tinkerbells and Princesses.............all to return on Monday morning for another week of 1st grade with the girl I raised who is now raising up her "hons."

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Prodigal Cat

We have had a feline crisis of sorts around here.  Half of the Turd Brothers went missing.  The Frank half.  Both of these cats go in and out all the time so I was not aware that Frank was AWOL until Mark brought it to my attention that two days had gone by without a Frank sighting.  When two more days had gone by I began to worry about the guy out there in the cold.

We decided not to let Mallory know that under our care the cat population had diminished by 50%, so at dinner last Sunday Maggie asked me on the down low if Mallory knew what was going on.  I shook my head "no" while Will blurted out, "Hey, Mal, did you know that we can't find Frank anywhere?"

So much for keeping secrets.

"What???" she yelled.  "What do you mean Frank is gone?  How long has he been gone?"

Four days, dearie.

"Well, what are you guys doing about it?"

We're worrying that's what we're doing.

"Yeah, but like a plan.  What's your plan to find him and bring him back?"

Oh honey, we have never been planners.  You know that..........we're wingers.

"There is a cat missing.  Plans need to be made here."

She was right and I thought about going to the rental house a few doors away.  We're a little familiar with that family.  When we had our other cat the girl that lived there liked him so much she picked him up and brought him home.  Mal had her suspicions that Beamer was blatantly kidnapped, and so the next day Mark knocked on their door and said to the dad, "Yeah, I think you've got our cat."

"We don't have a cat here," the dad said.

"Yeah, I think you do," Mark said and the case was busted wide open when a meow came from the bedroom of the alleged kidnapper.

This was running through my mind after Mal left and so I looked at Pip and said, "C'mon, find your brother.  Be useful for once in your life."  Pip seemed content to be King of the Cats around here and would stalk fluttering leaves like the half-wit that he is without the slightest idea that he was being kicked out of the house to comb the neighborhood for signs of his brother.

He is gone for good, I thought.  Swooped up by an owl, chased to another zip code by a fox, run away to a better home.

We were sad.  Not that I'd want either of them to lead the gypsy life, but of the two Frank is the least annoying.  Pip will bug the shit out of you all day long until you're screaming WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME like he's some kind of bad boyfriend that keeps showing up drunk, needy and crying with a pee stain on the front of his pants.

Not that I've ever had first hand experience with that.

Mal came home to spend the night on Saturday, and night owl that she is she heard a single meow at 2:00 a.m. at the back door.  Ten days after he left you-know-who came back to his girl.

The Frank Whisperer.

Pip gave him a cat bath after his long journey abroad and our wanderer napped most of the weekend.

On the clean shirts right out of the dryer.


Sunday, October 27, 2013


The first person I met in this neighborhood was Marie who lived next door.  Because we had closed on the house and had until the end of the month to leave our apartment, I would come every morning with a load of stuff - Maggie and Will in tow.  They loved our new empty new house and would run around exploring while I worked on getting things set up.  After a couple of hours we would leave to take Maggie to afternoon kindergarten and return again the next day.

Marie was standing in her driveway one morning when I pulled up.  "Hello new neighbors," she yelled over and the kids and I went to meet this woman.

It didn't take long for her to become a mainstay in my life......the older surrogate mom while my own mother and mother-in-law were very far away.  She would come over often, sometimes to visit or to show me some new clothing purchase.  If we were working in the yard she'd tell us to take a break because we were making her tired just looking at us.

She had many friends and when she would go to lunch with them she could never fasten her favorite bracelet and so would appear at my door in her long red skirt and ask me to help her with the clasp.  After my mom met her she said, "Those tall women can wear anything they want and look like a million bucks."  In Marie's case, this was very true.

Marie had raised two boys alone in the house next door long before we arrived, and during a time when that was far from being a common experience.  At one point in her life she was the private nurse for Harry Truman after his presidency when he came back to Missouri. 

Mark and I found her fascinating and could listen to her stories over and over.

She was raised in Atchison, Kansas and had a deep knowledge of antiques.  When a local place was going out of business I put a hold on a pine cabinet and drove home to get Marie who couldn't be happier to go on this adventure.  "Tell me what you honestly think," I said.  "I'll only buy it if you think it's worth it."  She gave her blessing and every time she'd come over she would admire our mutually agreed-upon purchase.

Sometimes she would call us up and say, "I've got his bottle of wine that I can't open so why don't the two of you come over and help me out with it."  And we would sit at her dining room table and talk and laugh over a glass of wine.

For a short while one of her sons moved back home and the two of them wore a path between their house and ours.  They each found the other incredibly annoying, so Mike would come over and complain to Mark about Marie, and Marie would come over and complain to me about Mike.

We were amused.

One day Marie came over very distraught.  Someone who said they were from the water department came to her door to check some things out and she let them in.  While they were in her house she became suspicious and thankfully, got them out before anything happened.  She called the police and by dinner time was on the local news being interviewed about this water department scam that seemed to be preying on the elderly.

She became nervous and afraid after that and I noticed some other things that didn't seem like her.  I mentioned them to Mark who said her confusion was a sign of aging and that she seemed to be fine to him.  I wasn't so sure and would later learn that women are especially good at covering up memory issues unless you're around them often enough to figure it out.

A few weeks after that we were walking down the street to a graduation party for a neighbor's son when I noticed Marie a few doors away.  We went up to her and though she was going to the same party, she couldn't figure out where it was.  Her confusion was evident and disturbing to her and us.

After that I called her son, Dan, who lived close by.  "It is none of my business," I said, "but she seems very forgetful and we're worried about her.  We are all keeping our eye out for her but I thought you should know."

He was already aware of her lapses in memory and in the process of taking her car away which made my heart sink.  No more lunches with friends?  No trips to Macy's for something fabulous to wear when she went out?   No going to church?

I was already mourning Marie's independence.

As time went on she would often come over to get Mark for help with her washing machine.  "The darn thing keeps breaking down," she said to him, but in fact she would set it and never pull the knob out to start it.  Once she came and got me in tears because the numbers on the refrigerator wouldn't stop going around.  It was her dishwasher running its cycle, and rather than explain that I just shut it off which seemed to relieve her greatly.   Besides those things, my neighbor with the impeccable fashion sense started making odd clothing choices.  Wool sweaters in the Kansas heat in July, and layers of clothes that would make me sweat just looking at her.

It was obvious that staying in her home was not going to last for much longer.

Dan came over and told us that Marie had Alzheimer's and would be going into assisted living by the end of the month.  They were packing up what they could to make her new residence feel like home and selling off the rest.

The day before Marie was to leave I went over to my old friend's house and invited her over for a glass of wine.  "Just like the old days, Marie." 

This time Marie had no Harry Truman stories to engage us with, just a nervousness that wouldn't go away.  We talked about being neighbors for such a long time, and that we promised to see her in her new place when she got settled.  She had a piece of pie and took her wine with her when I walked her home.  By mid-morning the following day she was gone.

I dragged my feet going to see her and when I ran out of excuses and was but five minutes from the place on another errand, I pointed the car in the direction of my friend.  There was beautiful Marie sitting in the lobby with another woman and I was so happy to see her I could have cried.

"Sit, sit," she said.  "What do you think of the place?  Do you know I can have coffee whenever I want?  It's just right over there.  Would you like me to pour you a cup?

Always the hostess, our Marie.

"Have you ever met my son, Dan?  He comes by to check on me a few times a week."

"As a matter of fact, Marie, I know Dan pretty well," I said.

"Oh yes, of course you do.  I forgot."

We sat for awhile catching up and then she took me upstairs to see her new place.  There were all the familiar things that were in her house for years.  The chair I always sat in when I went to visit her, the framed paintings of family owned farms in Atchison, the bedroom set that had been handed down for generations.

"I like it, Marie," I said.  It looks like you have everything you need."

"Are you kidding me," she said.  "Sometimes I want to call a cab and tell them to take me back to 71st Terrace, the best street in the world."

"I know.  Aren't you glad we found our way there?"

"71st Terrace I would say to the cab driver if one pulled up right now.  Take me back there as fast as you can."

"Well, Marie, I think you're in good hands here and I need to be going.  The kids will be getting out of school soon and I have to pick them up."

"Oh, the children, how are they?"  I miss them so," she said.

"They are just fine and and they miss you, too," I said.  "Things haven't been the same since you left."

She walked me out and I hugged her when it was time to leave.

"I'm so glad you came," she said.

"Me too, Marie.  Me too."

"You have a great husband and kids, don't you?"

"I do.  I'm lucky that way."

 "I thought so and now you get to go back to 71st Terrace.  Maybe I should go with you."

"Oh Marie, I'd get in a lot of trouble if I did that but maybe Dan can bring you over one day for a visit."

"I would love that.  I'm going to talk to him about that.  About taking me to see my old friends, but before you go tell me is it that I know you?"

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Row H

Last week Will, Mallory and I went to see Sara Bareilles.  Will and I saw her six years ago which you can read about here.

She is beautiful, funny, talented, adorable, worth every cent.

Will got the tickets from a free app called Seat Geek.  He and Mallory went into a lengthy explanation of this app and how I can download it on my if I was their age and knew what they were talking about. 

I did not.

Because of this app Will was able to get us seats on the floor for only $23.00 each.  That's my boy.  When we got there the rows were marked but not the seats so we were a bit confused.  We thought we were supposed to sit on the end but there was a nerdy, young kid with a fro bigger than mine sitting there by himself and he wasn't moving.  Or talking.  Or making eye contact.  Turns out we were on the opposite end which was likely a relief to this kid who looked like he wanted no company.  Especially chatty company like the three of us.

Just before the concert started I was scrolling Facebook on my phone and found out my neighbor was there.  I left a comment "hey, me too" with our location.  A few minutes later she showed up.  The seats in front of us were empty so she texted her sister and they watched the concert right in front of us.

Yeah!!!  Neighbors at the concert!

Finally Sara Bee came out and did her thing and she was so freaking amazing.  She told the story behind many of the songs she wrote and I loved her even more.  She played the piano, the guitar, she sang with a voice from God and danced across the stage.

As the pace of the music picked up during the concert, everybody got up to sing and dance along and that's when things went downhill for me.  I didn't know how to dance.  I thought doing the whoop, whoop dancey thing over my head would obstruct the view of the people behind me and so I had no idea what to do with my arms.

They were like brand new appendages that had been stapled on for the night.  Creaky, stiff and never been used.

I watched Mal the dancer but that wasn't much help as she's a little advanced.  Will was having a blast but I couldn't see his moves well enough to replicate them so I settled for my neighbor's sister who I don't even know.

Yes, yes, that's what I'll do.  I will dance like her tonight.......which I did in an uptight hey-don't-move-so-fast-I'm-copying-you kind of way.  During my fake dancing, I wondered if the guy with the fro and shorts (even though it was freezing that night) sitting at the other end of the row was having as much trouble as me moving his arms to the music.  Or maybe he knew that was beyond his skill set and wasn't even trying.   

Note to self.

The review of the concert in the paper was gushing and said of Sara, "Her enthusiastic dancing during the electronica of Eden was endearingly awkward."

Good thing the reviewer never let his eyes wander from the stage and the star of the show because the two fans flanking Row H were grooving to all kinds of major awkward.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Business 101

When I was going to school at night I took an accounting class.

It. Was. So. Hard.

I remember spending hours on a Sunday afternoon doing a spread sheet for homework and could not find my mistake.  I felt like ripping it up and stomping on it, but just when I was about to give up I found my transposed number and VOILA........we balanced Mission Control.  Now I have a job doing accounting and often daily it feels hard.  It was a failure of my imagination to think that the debit/credit/fixed assets/prepaid expenses mumbo jumbo that made me soooo crazy would rear its confusing head and park itself in my life years later. 

If I am keying something in at work and the numbers don't jive, a big, red WARNING WILL ROBINSON will appear on the screen saying, "Girrrrrrrl, you can't do that cuz that just doesn't add up.  Now put your thinking cap on and try again."  Then I have to find my mistake.  Often it's an easy fix but if it isn't I stare at the screen and whisper in desperation, "Come to Mama."  

It is my secret accounting tactic from back in the day.

Prior to my accounting class I took Business 101.  Halfway through the semester the teacher missed our weekly class and it was cancelled.  For the night school student who has come from work to finish her degree this is like manna from heaven. 

When he came back he apologized for his absence and said, "I had a death in the family and that's why I couldn't be here last week.  It was my father," he said stopping to control his emotions.  "He had been sick for awhile and his death was not unexpected, but now I am an orphan.  I am a 46 year old orphan and I'm not sure I know how to find my way now that both of my parents are gone.  I'm trying to figure that out so please bear with me for awhile."

And we did just that while he taught on his wobbly feet.

My accounting background might have gotten me this job and on rare occasions I can recall some of those lessons, but it is the words my teacher spoke that Monday night in Business 101 that have forever been seared into my memory. 

It is the only thing I remember from that class.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Safety Nets & Coworkers

My first retail job was at Petite Sophisticates nearly two decades ago.  I shopped there frequently and one day the manager came up to me and said, "I like your style and we are looking to add to our staff.  Would you be interested in working here?"

The rest is my service industry history.

The assistant manager was a woman named Dorothy.  She was a retired nurse and this was her 2nd career- a welcome departure from the stress of caring for sick people.

One day Dorothy told me about her life.  She had five kids and was married to an abusive man.  When the abuse kept escalating she went to her parish priest for advice and counsel and permission to leave this man.  The priest said to her, "If you leave him you will become a divorced woman and you will go to hell."  She stayed until one day he kicked her down the stairs and held a shotgun to her head.  "That was the day," she said, "when I decided that my chances in hell were better than my chances with him."

Many years later I worked with a woman who was subjected to such verbal and psychological abuse at the hands of an ex-boyfriend that she would shake in fear when the store phone rang.

There are many other examples over the years of woman I have worked with that live on the edge.  Thankfully, the abuse stories are not the norm but the scraping by certainly is.  The ones who are consistently kept under forty hours week after week so the company doesn't have to pay them health insurance.  The ones who juggle several jobs to make their rent.

They are the woman who know that a car accident, an illness, a root canal or a cut in hours will put them under a pile of bills that they might never recover from.  They rob Peter to pay Paul and come to work sick because that is all they know how to do.

I have loved these woman and it has been my honor to work along side them.

One time I told one of my friends about a situation with one of my coworkers and she said, "Well, why doesn't she just take some money out of her savings account or get a loan from the bank?"

It doesn't work that way.

I have worked most of my life.  Getting out of the suburbs with the cars and vacations, the home remodels and relentless faux problems and into the real world was the best thing that has ever happened to me.  As my mom said years ago when we left the comfort and security of our Catholic grade school for an integrated high school that closed every spring because of racial strife, "Kids, you need to see how other people live."  For the time being, my retail career is over but I miss it and those women.  I miss their guts, their perseverance, their example of putting one foot in front of the other and praying your way through the latest crisis.

I miss their stories most of all because when you know the uninsured, the single mom and the underemployed - when you work next to them eight hours a day, week after week unpacking boxes, hauling trash, moving fixtures, steaming clothes, smiling and waiting on customers when their burdens are so heavy that they could sit and cry at any given moment..........

When you know all that you cannot hear one more time that somehow these are the people who have milked the system.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fall Around The House

Despite my mishaps in decorating our bedroom, I really do love to fluff the nest.  I have entertained the idea of home decor employment forever, but I figured I'd end up being the lame front door person that said "Welcome to Pottery Barn," 10,000 times to people who ignored me.

I see myself as more the photo stylist for the catalog shoots.

Doesn't everybody?

A couple of times a year a friend pays me to come over and give her a decorating consult.  We have identical houses and she tells me the results she wants and then we brainstorm about paint, furniture placement, art, accessories.......  I love it and the reason I can tell is because I talk really fast and get louder as I get more excited.  She likes it because, like her, I can't drop a ton of money to get the look I want and therefore think way outside of the box stores.

Several people I know have downsized in the last few months.  Significantly, and I have been mulling that idea around.  Our house is already small so going smaller isn't exactly what I was thinking, but perhaps living with less stuff.  I have floated this idea to Mark but he has found it impossible to part with anything except his fat clothes after he lost a bunch of weight.

I told my friend about this and she said, "Well, I see your house very differently than you do.  When I look at your house I see a surprise wherever I look."

I came home with a different attitude and I haven't given up on living with less but I am rather attached to my surprises......especially in October.

Happy fall.  Happy cold mornings.  Happy leaves.  Happy sweaters.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The October Present

When Will was a toddler he was a holy terror or maybe he was just being a boy.  I'm not sure but he wore me out.

Then all of a sudden he stopped and that kid could entertain himself for hours.  He would go in the basement and you wouldn't see him until dinnertime.  Down there with his Playmobil and Legos he'd be building and tearing apart and building again.

He'd make roads from construction paper and scotch tape them all over the floor.  I started to hide the tape from him and dole it out on request because I could never find it when I needed it.

Once when we were at a doctor's appointment for his asthma we waited in the examining room for well over an hour.  I thought they forgot about us and was getting antsy but Will entertained himself the entire time with a paper clip.

When he was about twelve and in the basement he discovered that one of the local radio stations played jazz on Saturday night.

He became a jazz fan in the 6th grade.  Sometimes if I were picking him up from somewhere he'd say, "Let's turn on the jazz, Mom."

Today our jazz fan, interior designer, charming, funny Will turns 23 and it has gone by so much faster than I would have liked (except for when he would climb on the table and swing the light fixture back and forth).

Happy Birthday Will.

Watching you discover and march to the beat of your own drum has been my joy.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Clavicle Incident

The Big Daddy started biking to work twelve years ago as a way to get in shape.  He would come home from the five mile ride and sit on the stairs hacking and clutching his chest.  I'd stand at the ready.....scooping up plates of Prison Food for dinner with one hand and the cordless phone in the other in case I needed to call 9-1-1.

After awhile he got into shape, started taking this biking thing more seriously and participated in more rides than just back and forth to work.  There were charity rides, weekend rides, the 75th St. brewery ride, the Blue Moose ride, the Brookside group, the PV ride, the Ride ride..............

And I'd about had it with the rides.

One morning after the kids had gone to school and I was getting ready for work, he came downstairs in some of that ridiculous spandex he'd started wearing and said, "Yeah, some guys asked me to ride tonight so I won't be home for dinner."

What????  Again???  Who asked you?  What guys?  I want names.

"Oh, you know Cliff and a couple of other guys."

They didn't ask you.  You went trolling for riders.  That's what you do.  You go all over town looking for rides to go on.

"That's crazy.  I don't do that, besides it's just going to be a short ride."

You're never here.  We never sit down and have a decent dinner any more.  You. Are. Never. Here. And. What. Are. You. Going. To. Do. About. That?

He went to work.  I might have called him names after the door closed.  No, wait, now that I think about it I'm pretty sure he was still in the room when I called him names.

I stormed off to work and fumed most of the day about this ride he was going on.  At 5:30 he showed up at the store - very apologetic and willing to skip the ride and start dinner.  I was so happy to have a decent meal when I got home that I said, "You start dinner.  Everything is there for chili.  Get it going and then meet your friends for your ride."

Winning!  Marriage saved, he gets a night ride with friends, we have chili for dinner, and the kids don't have to worry about an evil stepmother - just their familiar, predictable evil mother.

For the next hour and a half at work I salivated just thinking about that chili simmering at home and when I walked in the door the smell did not disappoint. 

The kids told me that some guy had called numerous times and I was to call him back right away.  I looked at the number, didn't recognize it and said, "Okay, as soon as I have a bowl of chili."

I lifted the lid and the phone rang.

It was the police department.  Mark had flown off the front of his bike and was hurt.  Not bad the cop said, and he refused the ambulance but he should probably go to the emergency room.  He told me how to get to where he was and pick him up.

It took awhile because I got lost which happens as soon as I pull out of the driveway.

When I finally got to him, we put his banged up body in the front seat and his bike in the back.  "He passed out," one of his friends told me.  "He says he's fine but he needs to get looked at just in case."

We went to the emergency room of the medical center he's worked at for twenty years.  The shiny, new multi-million dollar new ER that had been opened for all of two days.  This would not be the ideal time to visit an ER with a non-life threatening injury.

Nobody seemed to know where anything was......essential ER things like an xray machine to look at the collarbone that was sticking up, and all I wanted was to hurry this thing along so we could go home and have some chili.

When multiple attempts to find an xray machine failed, it was decided that Mark would have to go to the old part of the hospital for the xray and a wheelchair was ordered.  "I'm fine," he said,  "I can walk."

"Yeah, he's fine," I said.  "He can walk cuz we need to get home and have some chili."  Nobody said anything, not even a polite chuckle but I was serious.  If him walking meant getting out of there sooner and going home to a bowl of chili well, let's do it.  Better yet I thought, his bike is in the back of my car.  Maybe he could ride it to this random xray department.  After all, he still had his spandex on.

After much deliberation and the curtain opening and closing around him a dozen times, a wheelchair arrived and we went to some abandoned, empty part of the hospital with one xray room.  "I'll be back," the kid pushing the chair said.

"No, no.  Just wait here with us.  He'll be done in no time and then we can all go back down together and he can get a cast or a sling or a cane and then we can go home.  We can.  We can go home real soon if you'll just stay here.




He left.

Mark got the xray and it was confirmed that his collarbone was indeed broken.  We sat in the hallway for nearly an hour waiting for the kid who dumped us there to come back and get us.

Finally I said, "That's it.  I'm pushing you back myself.  We're not waiting here another minute."

"Do you even know where you're going?" Mark asked.

"No," I said unlocking the brake.  "I have never known where I'm going.  That's my mission statement in life.  No plan.  No direction.  No clue."

The Wheelchair Pusher showed up just then.

We went back to our curtained ER room and waited for a doctor nurse resident med student anybody to advise us so we could be on our merry way.  When a doctor-like person finally arrived for the final curtain opening he said, "It's a broken collarbone.  There's not much we do for those these days.  We'll give you some pain pills, a brace if you want one and that's it.  It will heal on its own."

And I started to seriously lose it. "What???  Are you kidding me?  We've been here all night for that???  I missed chili for something that will heal on its own!"

"There, there," Mark said wincing as he got up.  "You're going to be just fine in no time."

We stopped at the hospital pharmacy (which was only slightly faster than the ER), got some pain pills and I drove us home nice and slow so as not to upset the cracked collarbone.  At midnight, with my coat still on I sat down and ate a bowl of crusty, overcooked chili that I scraped from the bottom of the pot.

Mr. Tour de Shoulder Smash sat at the table grinning in his slinged arm.  Missing were his glasses which had flown off his head as he was falling and were subsequently run over by the ambulance.  I gave him the stinkeye for ruining what was supposed to be the saving-the-marriage-dinner.

By then the Percocet had kicked in and he winked back.