Sunday, June 30, 2013

Vic The Paint Guy

Our Ace hardware store was having a paint sale.  Benjamin Moore paint.  I've been a big fan and used to use it all the time, but when it hit the $60.00 a gallon price range I had to bid it farewell.  I missed that paint, though, and so at 30% off I decided to date it again.

I went to the paint department and wandered the aisles looking for my Ben Impervo with no luck.  That's when Vic appeared.

I told him what I needed and he said because of the VOC it had been replaced by something else.  "VOC, you know?  Gets into the atmosphere.  They banned the Impervo in California first then everywhere else.  But heck, you can't even grill a burger in that state."


"No.  That's just my opinion."

He sold me on all the features of this replacement including the fact that it is not oil based and cleans with water.

Sign me up, Vic.

While he was shaking the paint I picked out a Ben Moore brush for half price.

"Now what will you be using that for?"

Cutting in.

"Well, I can't let you buy that.  I made a living for 30 years as a painter.  Did you ever notice the line from cutting in because I have.  What you need is a wider brush and then you're going to blend in with the roller and you won't see that line."


"You have to give me that brush.  I can't let you buy that."

I turned it over like a middle schooler busted with a pack of Kool Menthols.

My gallon of paint was done mixing and while Vic was putting it in my cart, I was putting some rollers in.

"Now what will you be using that for?"

The walls.

"I can't let you buy that.  You can't go cheap on the rollers.  Turn that over.  You have to get his kind."

And that's how it usually goes with Vic The Paint Guy at Ace Hardware.  On days when I have extra time and money, I love him.  On my normal days I want to say...........

Vic, Vic, Vic..........

I have painted oil over latex and had a peeling mess on my hands.  I have not primed when I should have.  I painted white on white stripes on the bedroom walls and when I tired of it I had to sand and prime the whole thing to paint over it.  Except behind the bed.  If you move the bed you'll see a five foot square of white on white stripes because I said screw it.  I painted Maggie's walls blueberry and then PAINSTAKINGLY painted a white picket fence around the whole bottom wall.  The blueberry was too dark and the cutesy fence was a bad idea once she hit 13.  I  had Mark take down the drop ceiling on the screened-in porch and there was the most beautiful vaulted ceiling and beams.  Then it took 13 gallons of primer and paint to cover that raw wood.  I painted the kitchen cabinets and never followed the drying times.  I painted the garage door and when I took the paint chip to be matched they didn't have the formula so I said, "Give it your best shot" and so the door is lighter than the house because I wanted cheap paint fast.  I have never NOT gotten my hair in the paint.  My prep work is using my tshirt to dust the baseboards as I paint them and squeezing behind a dresser I've moved a foot away from the wall.  I lean way too far away from the ladder so I don't have to get down and move it a foot.  I take Motrin every four hours because I know the next day going up and down that ladder is going to make me want to cry.

Vic, you're an outstanding employee and an asset to the painting community, but Vic, despite your years of experience and best efforts, you don't stand a chance of saving me from myself.

Retro Images - House Painters


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Why It Matters

I got an iphone awhile ago and it sits parked on my desk at work.  It is my news source from 8:30 to 5:00. 

On Wednesday I was frantically scrolling every few minutes and it wasn't long into my work day that I found out the Supreme Court's decision on gay marriage.  There was nobody there to whoop and holler with (like Jude and Marian at my old job) so I emailed Mark and my friend and thanked Jesus that love kicked some ass first thing in the morning.

During those early days when we found out Will was gay and I wandered around like some lost dog, my neighbor called me over one evening when she saw me in the yard.  "There's going to be an article about me and some of my friends in the New York Times," she said.

"The New York Times?  What??!!  How did you end up there?"

"Well, we're kind of politically active and get some good results so that's what they're focusing on in the piece.  A bunch of Democrats in Middle America."

"That's so cool."

"There's another part to the story.  It's gay men and women who are doing this.  Getting people elected that will work on behalf of equality because here's the thing.............I'm gay."

"Oh, honey.  We need to talk.  Will is gay and I need somebody like you to help me out.  I need a consultant because screwing this up is not an option."

Her eyes widened and she said, "So you're okay with this?"

"Okay???  I'm better than okay.  In fact, this could be the best thing that's happened to me since that closet door swung open.  Maybe not you because I might be knocking on your door every other day but we can work that out.  I'll bring wine and you can be my gay-therapist-advisor-neighbor."

Since then she has met someone and they have lived next door to us for years.  We adore them.  We invite them to parties, Easter dinner, Maggie and Nate's wedding.  They send over cocktails in the middle of a Sunday afternoon that make us have to nap for awhile after.

Yesterday was my turn.  I took over a bottle of wine with this note.................

Do you need a bridesmaid?

Tee hee.

And alleluia.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Civic

After many, many weeks we finally found Mallie Bee a car.  Due to our measly budget the competition was fierce and three times we lost out on three different cars by a matter of minutes.

I became me on overdrive which makes even me crazy.

One day I left for work with instructions for Mallory to call on the Honda Civic I found on Craigslist.  ASAP!!!  DON'T DELAY!  TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE!!

That night we found her new/old dream car within our same/old budget.

Because the car was purchased in Missouri it had to be inspected in Kansas by the Highway Patrol which we were told was a formality.  A piece of cake.

They checked some things out and called the numbers in and for a wee few seconds there was some discussion of the engine perhaps being a stolen part.  Mark had a sick smile on his face trying to pretend all was cool and I felt the need to breathe into a brown paper bag.  This was after I had been up all night earlier in the week because I'd convinced myself that the miniscule dent in the hood was because the car had been involved in a hit and run.  But the windshield isn't smashed.  Hmmmm......  Maybe they replaced the windshield.   Maybe they took it in and got that fixed but forgot to get the body part that's stuck underneath.  Note to self in the a.m:  Look under car for a leg.

Alas, it was legit. 

I was driving Mal somewhere and told her the story of how the car we had for a few days could have been impounded.  I was so scared, Mal, I thought I was going to get sick.

"Actually, Mom, I'm pretty sure you've been scared through this entire process."

Well, that's kind of a snarky thing to say.

"No, it's sassy which is different than snarky.  Sassy's endearing."

Yes, Beester, you always have been and me and my blog will miss our little car chats.  Now fingers crossed all goes well at the DMV on Friday so you can drive this cutie and get some freedom from your very neurotic mother.

Monday, June 24, 2013


As I've grown older, I am very aware of my spiritual self.  It may be my grounding in Catholic school and parents whose lives were steeped in that faith, or maybe it's due to age and experience giving me a view of things that repeatedly defy explanation.


I have always believed in a higher power and a new life after this one.  My faith is not in step with my parents or their generation, however, for decisions made by the Catholic Church have become more and more to difficult to accept.

***There is the continuing pedophile scandal that has been so grossly mishandled by educated men (even to this day here in Kansas City) that it sickens and enrages me.

***The obsession with women's reproductive organs as if we are no more or less than a uterus.

***The political bent of this church with admonishments from the pulpit every election year to vote in the interest of the Catholic church.

***The ridiculous public lecture the church hierarchy gave to the nuns last year to stop focusing on the poor and to fall in line.


For a free will kind of girl seeking a deeper meaning to life, it's all I can do sometimes to show up. 


On Saturday night Mark and the kids and I all went to Five Guys to grab something to eat.  While we were sitting at our table I noticed a man in traditional Muslim clothing going up to get his food.  Then I noticed the woman he was with.

She sat at a table twenty feet from us completely clothed in black, including her gloved hands.  Only her eyes and nose were visible.  When her partner brought their burgers to the table she took her gloves off and tried to eat.  Every bite and drink was consumed under her veil, slowly and carefully brought towards her covered  mouth while he chomped away unencumbered.

As I watched this I felt like crying for the indignity of this stranger trying to eat her dinner under a veiled mouth that was nothing more than a roadblock to satisfying her hunger.............or maybe I felt like crying for myself and many other women of faith who have long tried to dine at a spiritual table that seems to only be reserved for men.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Rules of the Table

My sister, Jean, is a guest blogger today with this story she remembers from the family dinner table.

When we were growing up our Dad worked in an office north of Chicago.  We lived in the south suburbs so his commute was over an hour during rush hour.  When he came home he and Mom would have some quiet time with the newspaper and a glass of wine before we all sat down to dinner.  It was so much later than every other neighborhood kid that it seemed as if we ate dinner and then went to bed.  He insisted that with six kids manners were a priority at the table  A sampling of some of the dinnertime rules:

*All dishes were to be passed clockwise around the table.

*You could never take too much on the first passing to ensure that there was enough for everyone.

*If you wanted seconds you had to get the attention of the person closest to the dish and ask:
Me: “Tom?”
Tom: “Yes, Jean?”
Me: “Can you please pass the green beans?”
Tom: “Sure.”
Me: “Thank you.”

*Only one person at a time could raised voices and no interrupting.

*You could not take the last of any dish without first asking if anyone else at the table wanted some.

*You had to finish everything you put on your plate and when finished you had to clear your dishes from the table, take them to the kitchen and rinse them off.

Even though we had a lot of rules there were many memorable dinners and lively conversations.  I remember one dinner in particular.

Since we lived in a small house Kathy and I shared a bedroom.  The room was too small for twin beds, so we had a full size bed.  Kathy is not so much which was the cause of many disagreements.  The biggest one was over making the bed.    Kathy insisted the bed had to be made.  I was sure I had something better to do.  I have no idea what that would be but nothing was still better than making the bed.

The battle of making the bed carried over into the dinner conversation one night.  In retrospect, I'm sure mom was tired of hearing about it so she let Dad handle it.

After some back and forth I said: “Why should I make the bed?  I’m only going mess it up again.” 

To which Dad said..................

“Well, why wipe your ass if your only going to go again?”

The man who wore a shirt and tie every night while sitting at the head of the table, who insisted on impeccable table manners not only swore, but made his point in the manner that his smart-aleck kid would understand.

Then right to left the food got passed around the table.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Uncle

Last week my dad's brother died.  It was a long time coming, but as Maria Shriver once said, "Death, even when it's expected, is always a surprise."

Larry was my dad's youngest brother, and growing up I can't say we were all that close to their family.  It wasn't due to some long-simmering feud which would have made for a more interesting story, but more because of two brothers with busy lives who lived far enough apart that staying close seemed like one more thing to add to the list of grown-up obligations.

A few years after my dad died, my Aunt Pat got leukemia.  As time went on and her health deteriorated, she sent me a note saying that Larry would need things to do to keep him busy after she died and if I had any projects that needed to be done around my house I should ask him to come and do it.  Anything, she said.

Our house is one big project.

Months later I got in touch with Larry and it was decided that my downstairs bathroom would be Project #1.  He and my mom drove to town, tools in tow, and he laid the tile for the shower and floor.  I wanted the floor tile angled and he had never done that before.  "Well, how am I supposed to do that," his voiced bellowed.   

I don't know.  I thought I only had to say what I wanted and you made the magic happen.

When I said my neighbor had done it that way in her house he said, "Tell her we're coming down to see it," and he was halfway down the driveway with no idea where he was headed while I was still scrambling for my shoes. 

One trip to barge in on the neighbor and a five minute conversation was all he needed to figure out the logistics of this job and he nailed glued it.  In fact, he was so happy with this novel way to lay floor tile that he went home and did the same thing in his house.

He came back a couple of years later and did my upstairs bathroom, mom and toolbox in tow again.  My own dad would have likely offered me help like that if he had lived long enough to see Mark and I become homeowners, but he had long moved on by the time that happened.  Having Larry in the house was the next best thing.   He asked the kids what they learned in school when they walked in the door, marveled at the way Mallory inhaled asparagus for lunch in her high chair, and yelled.  Mom would remind him every afternoon that there was a napping baby in the house. 

My sister says that Larry's hands were just like Dad's.  I saw it in his nose.  Each of us staring at the features in him that we missed in our dad, clinging to his presence like a life raft in choppy waters.

I have stared at the tile work he did for me years ago as if it's some kind of priceless heirloom, but the true legacy of this uncle was the infectious, booming spirit of him in our lives...........

.............and now another family life raft has drifted off to peaceful waters where news of his pending arrival must have been highly anticipated.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Trouble With Facebook

There are things I love about Facebook.  I like to see what my very cute nieces and nephews are up to.  I like being able to stay in touch with old friends and classmates.  I appreciate it when somebody posts a link to an interesting article or funny video.  An engagement, new baby, new house, great trip, funny dog, graduation?  Yes!  Yes!  Please post pictures.  A significant loss or disappointment?  Sorrow should be shared to lessen your burden.

The other stuff - the running updates on every moment of wearing me out.  Does anybody go out and put the phone down and enjoy the experience?


*Guess where I am?  No, don't guess.  I'll tell you.  Every single time I walk out the door.

*Were you wondering what I had to eat and drink for dinner tonight?  Not really?  I'll tell you anyway.  Wait, I know what's even better.  I'll post a picture of it.

*Let's document us getting plastered.  This won't be used against me in a court of law, will it?


I was talking to a former student of Mark's - now a professor of biology and in the Army reserves.  Nearly two decades past the age of consent, he got shipped to Afghanistan for a year and the emails he sent during that time are more than worthy of a book deal.  His goal as captain was to make sure everybody came home, and one of his emails talked about the unrelenting pressure of that commitment for 365 days and nights.  The making sure as a leader that everybody lives to see their family again. 

His take on our society?  We have become a nation of narcissists who think sacrifice is a long line at Starbucks and being without cable for half a day.  

One click and you'll find plenty of evidence to confirm that.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


When I was a little girl, my best friend's family would take me on camping trips with them as company for Nancy. 

I didn't love the camping experience, but I loved getting away from the crammed house I lived in with all those people.  For Nancy's mom, it seemed to me to be a lose-lose situation with her having to pack half the house to go live in the woods for a week.   As a frequent guest, I was treated like family and required to participate in chores.  Early on I figured out that pumping your water, heating it, pouring it into a tub, scrubbing the dishes, rinsing them in another tub of water that you had to pump from the ground and then drying them seemed stupid when there was a perfectly good dishwasher at home.

I knew I wasn't cut out for the camping life but I married somebody who was. 

When the kids were little The Big Daddy started to entertain the idea of getting a camper.  A Winnebago.  Are you kidding me?  Do you know how much those things cost?

"But it's the perfect solution.  Everything you need is right there.  It's not like your roughing it."

I wasn't on board.  Ever.  When he said the RV Show was in town and that we should go take a look......"you know to see what's out there"........I told him I wasn't participating.

The years passed but his interest never waned until the summer we were driving through Idaho.  Going up a mountainous road we were waved over by another driver who was FA......FA.....FA.....FREAKING out.  It smelled like smoke and within a few minutes you could hear the wail of the fire department sirens.

The Recreational Vehicle doesn't much like those steep climbs, and what seemed to have started with smoking brakes turned into A Smoking, Flaming Winnebago up yonder.  Everything in the traveling home burnt up real good with the stunned owners helpless on the side of the road.

We sat on the shoulder for nearly two hours surrounded by the most picturesque scenery you could imagine.  I read Tuesdays With Morrie and boo-hooed and blew my nose all the while we were stuck.  The Big Daddy said, "Pass the Kleenex," and  wiped away a few tears of his own.

With the smell of pine all around us, I fell in love with the charming Morrie Schwartz while The Big Daddy was watching his ongoing plan to seduce me with the pleasures of a Winnebago go up in smoke.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

This Neighborhood

Maggie and Nathan are in the process of buying their first house.  Maggie is beside herself with excitement while Nathan tempers that with worry about making this leap into home owning. 

We told them how we found and bought our first (and only) house which in every step was dumb luck.  We knew nothing about the neighborhood, the schools or the basement that has flooded more times than I could count.  We only knew that when we were in it we loved it and thought it was perfect for raising our family.

Over our 21 years in this house I have been frustrated, especially by the lack of money to do the things that would make it better, but I have never fallen out of love with it.

After we had made our offer and it had been accepted, we would drive by the house all the time.  Up and down the street we would see our soon-to-be neighbors and their kids everywhere.

It seemed like there was a Fisher-Price Cozy Coupe in every driveway.

There are a few of us long-timers that have stayed put while younger families come and go for the lure of bigger closets and tonier zip codes, but the pendulum is swinging back and our beloved street is filled with young families again.

Our kids had the good fortune of having many friends right outside the door, and their memories of those days make me happy for them and for the serendipity that led us to this street.

Two weeks ago, one of those friends died suddenly.  It was a shock to everyone and his parents and sister are heartbroken.  They are one of those long-timers.  The kind of neighbor that you can depend on to show up for the good and the crappy with a bottle of wine and a helping hand.  Always.

When Maggie was expressing frustration with the home-buying process, I told her that it takes faith to make a leap of faith.  Things have a way of working out like they should I said, but for some families nothing they could ever fathom lands on their front porch in the middle of the night and life changes in ways it never should..

If you happen to be the neighbor of that kind of family, you sit and cry.  Alone in your house, while walking the dog, at work when you tell your boss you need a few hours off, with their other friends and family at the services and most of all when you are with them.........

.............for words of comfort fail to roll off the tongue and the work of faith takes enormous faith.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


When I was pregnant with Maggie I worked at the bank.  As was the custom there, a pool was started to determine the sex and weight of my soon-to-be-baby along with the birth date.  I was an incubating bystander in this game of chance, with no opportunity to collect on the pot that was growing with me.

About ten days prior to my anticipated due date I had a doctor's appointment.  When I got back I told my work friends that I was dilated to three.  This caused a frenzy of activity within the baby pool for those who had been waiting to make their wager.  I didn't know that being dilated before labor was a good thing until a coworker looked at me like I was some kind of idiot.  "Don't you know that most women would love to be dilated to that before they go to the hospital?"

I didn't.  I knew nothing. 

I did know that when my water broke in the bathroom at work when I was washing my hands that I should probably go home and call my doctor's office.

Mark came home from work and we got to the hospital around 3:30.  After I was admitted, we walked the maternity ward over and over to get things moving, stopping by the waiting room each time to catch the score of the Cubs game.

After lots of pushing until my tailbone broke, Maggie Erin came out.  My labor lasted four hours.  I didn't know that was good for a first-timer.

She was born on a Wednesday night.  I got discharged on a Saturday morning.  Those were the good old days of baby delivering when you actually got to recover a bit before they sent you home.

The following day there was an air show at the little, local airfield that Mark wanted to go to.  I thought I should stay home with this brand new baby, but he said, "Heck, we gotta get her out sometime so why not today at the air show?"  Well, yeah, I guess that does make sense........... half-wit morons. 

It was a HOT day and Maggie and I spent our time sitting in the shade under the wing of an airplane while Mark and his friend checked out all the planes.  The weather report on that night's news said that the temperature on the tarmac at the airport reached 120 degrees.

I looked at this five day old baby and thought we'd cooked her.............and how was I going to explain this to the grandparents who hadn't even met her yet?

A few days later when I took our little bambino in for her first check-up, I asked the pediatrician about taking her out in the heat wave that hadn't let up.  "It's okay if it's not for very long," she said.  "I mean not like Sunday's heat.  That was terrible, but I'm sure you're smart enough not to do something like that."

I wouldn't be so sure, lady.

Happy birthday Maggiekins.

You'd have had a better start in life with a pack of wolves in the woods than with me and your dad.