Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Out of the Closet

I was lying in the recliner staring at the television praying for a comet to hit my house. I had stomach flu. I had my little companion on my lap and I started wondering if other houses possessed such an item. It is an old pan, quite worn and not good for much, but perfect for one thing, which is why we keep it around. It even has a name. The Barf Pan. For times you may not make it to the other room, or for placing on the night stand of a sick child. Then, in my state of semi-delirium, I started thinking about other things that most houses probably have. Here is my short list.

1. The Junk Drawer. There are several versions of this drawer, but I believe most kitchens have at least one. Ours contains keys, flower seeds, manuals to various appliances, restaurant menus, random coupons (I can almost see Lois cringing), and a device that will make our neighbors' security alarm stop if it goes off (again) during the day when he is working 30 miles away and she is in court (she's an attorney, not a serial felon).

My desk junk drawer currently holds key chains, batteries that are probably dead, a large white feather, scraps of paper with names and numbers of people I don't remember why I have their names and numbers, three old cheapo calculators, some orange rubber ear plugs, about a hundred pens and pencils, a button that says I Am Loved and another that says Minnesota for Bush/Cheney '04. Don't ask, I don't remember.

2. The Coat Closet. Near the front door, for guests to hang their coats (preferable to piling them on the bed, especially if they are overnight guests). Ours has coats, boots, hats, mittens, scarves, a vacuum cleaner and a Bissel steam cleaner. Because we don't have an appliance closet.

3. The Junk Closet. Randomly placed in a hallway somewhere. Because bedrooms have clothes closets and bathrooms have linen closets, there has to be somewhere else for your other junk. Like board games, old towels, a couple of boxes of art supplies that are on the bottom and you have to move a mountain of crap to get to, a sleeping bag, a small tent and an AeroBed. The AeroBed would actually fit into the tent. But if you were out where you needed a tent, there would be no electricity to fill it. You could fill it and put it in the back of the van to haul it. But if you had an AeroBed in the back of the van, why would you take the time and trouble to put up a tent? I'm just saying. But I digress.

4. The Cookie Sheet/Pan That Won't Come "Clean." You buy a cookie sheet or some sort of pan, you use it, you wash it. It gets brown stuff. You put it in a dishwasher where the temperatures are the same as the surface of the sun, it's still not all shiny and new. I fail to comprehend this. When we lived in Duluth, Lois brought us one of her ridiculously delicious rhubarb pies, which was in a cake pan. One night for supper, I pulled out a pan and cooked some meat or other in it. After supper, we finished off the rhubarb pie. I washed dishes and then decided to take Lois' pan back to her. Except I couldn't tell it apart from mine because it was the same size, shape, had the same handles, and the same brown-ness in the same places. So I took both pans over and guess what? Lois couldn't tell them apart, either. I don't know if we ended up with our biological pan babies or not, but every time I use that pan, I think of her. Which is always a good thing.

Here's to never needing your barf pan.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


That is what my son calls my father-in-law, Gramps. He is also known as Bob, or Dad. Tomorrow is his birthday, so I thought I would write a post in honor of the occasion.

I met Dad 24 years ago when I was dating his son. He flew himself, his wife and two daughters to El Paso in a blizzard. They didn't actually get to land in El Paso, but that is a different story. The next time I saw him was six months later, when he flew to El Paso for our wedding. A month later, my new hubby and I went to Minnesota for a reception and our honeymoon to the Boundary Waters, with my new in-laws and another couple. (Yes, I went on my honeymoon with my in-laws. They made us put our tent far away from the other two.)

Bob has five kids and ten grandkids, and family is the most important thing to him. He has set a wonderful example for all of us. He is the most honest man I have ever known. He is a charter member of his church and has spent thousands of hours volunteering there. He also volunteers for Habitat for Humanity and probably other places I am not even aware of. His generosity is amazing.

That's him with my son on the left, and with his first ever granddaughter on the right. He and Grandma flew to El Paso shortly after they were each born. In fact, they flew to El Paso a lot. Also, to Oklahoma every year for my daughter's dance recital. Which is why there are a lot of pictures like this around.

In short, Gramps has been a kind and benevolent patriarch, fun to be around, and easy to talk to. So Dad, I hope you have a great birthday and many more to come. We love you!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen

We are having another bout of weather here in Oklahoma. Last weekend was an ice storm and now it's snow.

It's pretty much just started, and they say we're going to get quite a bit more before it stops. We are stocked up on food and fully prepared to be housebound today and tomorrow. What we were not prepared for was the sudden pixeling of the television picture. OH NO, THERE'S SNOW ON THE DISH! So we bundled up and set out to remedy to problem.

All it took was an extension cord, a trouble light, and a bungee cord. We came back in to check the telly. Picture perfect. The cover had come off the cable box, however. So hubby dug it out of the snow and we found a couple of big rubber bands. Didn't even have to use baling wire or a C-clamp. We did try duct tape, but the box was wet, so it wouldn't stick.

Whew! Dodged a bullet there. (BRB, I have to change the channel. There is a Tom Cruise movie on.) Okay, dodged another bullet. Anyway, all that got me to thinking about our ancestors. The Donners are probably spinning in their graves.

I sure hope we don't lose the internet.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Kinder, Gentler World

I was going to post this a couple of days ago, then I got sidetracked. But today someone told me that I haven't worked for twenty years, so now I am focused. I was very blessed that I did not need to work outside the home while raising my kids. But cooking, cleaning, and so forth aside, I had a lot of discretionary time during school days. So I volunteered. I took training at Learning Disabilities of Minnesota, learned how to be a mediator for children with learning disabilities in the school system. I also volunteered at my childrens' schools. There was a woman who wanted me to be a part of her pyramid scheme who asked in contempt one day why I 'wasted' so much time doing unpaid work when I could be making big bucks.

This is a little bit of why. The people I trained with at LDM in St. Paul ended up making $45 an hour in The Cities for what I did in Duluth for nothing. I did it because I had a child who needed an Individualized Education Program (IEP), so I knew what other parents and students went through. Most of the people I helped in Duluth couldn't come close to affording $45 an hour. During one session, a mother and a bus driver got into an argument so heated that I literally put my body on the table between them. Once I got them settled down, they talked and came to an agreement that was better than anything I would have dreamt up. I knew a teacher/counselor who was magic at writing IEPs, which can be quite an ordeal. I took a sample of hers to several mediations and both school staff and parents were thrilled and relieved to be able to streamline the process.

The best reasons for donating my time, though, were the little ones. I spent so much time at my kids' school that, if staff needed me during the day, they would page me on the school intercom before they even tried my home or cell numbers. I went on every field trip for both kids. I graded papers and tutored reading in my son's class. It was really rewarding to see the progress the students made because I was able to give them individual attention.

This is Andre doing Jumprope for Heart.

He was quite a character. He called me Mom. When we went on field trips, my daughter held one hand and Andre held the other.

This little guy was quite a challenge.

I tutored him in reading and math, and he took part in math games groups. He had a hard time keeping his bottom in the chair. During one math group, he was all over the place. I asked him a couple of times to sit down and finally put my hand on his arm and asked him. He said, "Linda, I CAN'T! I have ants in my pants." Well, okay then. Carry on. After a few weeks, he would sit quietly next to me during math games, with his head on my shoulder. He and others wanted to hold my hand during field trips. I ran out of hands and had to resort to arms. The year after he was in my daughter's class, I was putting stuff on the wall outside the school library. He walked by, saw me, and ran over to give me a big hug. He had the biggest smile on his face when he told me, "Linda, I haven't gotten even one warning all year!"

So to those who say if you don't get paid it doesn't count, here's to Bill and Lois, Jane, Di and Tracy, all the gals at CEC, everyone at YFS. Not getting money, but making a difference in someone's life, and possibly the world. Priceless.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Media Mania

Okay, I am officially ticked off at the media. They bombard us with trivial crap, like Tigger in an altercation with a teenager at Disney World. We are inundated ad naseum with Britney's antics, the baby and wedding of the Cruises, the baby and maybe but probably not wedding of Brad and Angelina, every ditzy thing Paris Hilton does, Rosie and Donald slinging mud at one another in true pig style.

I never heard a word of this in the media when it happened. I only know of it because of an e-mail a friend sent me. Go to this address to see some awesome pictures and read an amazing blog entry by one of the men who witnessed this event.


People of the press take note: we would like to see more of this and less of Tom's footprints on Oprah's sofa.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A Good Walk Spoiled

I used to hate golf with the white hot passion of a thousand suns. Mostly because I was really bad at it. Up until a couple of years ago, I had only played golf about five times in my life, always as a favor to my husband, who actually enjoyed it. Shortly after we moved into this house, he asked me if I wanted to go to the driving range with him. I thought it was an odd request, but I was fairly stressed out at the time, and I thought smacking something might be fun. Turns out it was quite therapeutic. I went a few more times and then hubby asked if I wanted to play nine holes on a par three course. I agreed and, much to my surprise, I actually liked it. I think it was because I didn't care if I was good or not, and neither did he. We started to go on a regular basis and I found that, not only was I having fun, I was getting better.

We are very fortunate in that our location is about ideal if you like golf. This is where we usually play, about a seven minute drive from our house.

It's on the edge of town, with rolling hills, interesting vegetation, and a variety of birds and animals. It's quiet most of the time. Hubby and I walk instead of riding a cart, which gives us a good four mile hike for nine holes. It's cheap and we never need a tee time. We get to spend time together in the fresh air and smack a lot of balls. We are able to play most of the year because our weather tends to be mild.

Crikey, there's a croc in the water!

There are a lot of houses around the golf course and they are building more. The realtor's slogan is "What's the view from your backyard?" It might be fun to live in one of those houses. Or maybe not.

If I had to clean one of these, I would never have time to play golf.

I'm not sure this post has a point. It's just that today, this is the view from my yard.

Cabin fever and golf withdrawal. A dangerous combination. I'll be like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, only instead of an axe, I'll be wielding a five iron. Maybe I'd better turn on the television and see if Tiger is playing somewhere.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Weird X 6 = Me

So Jeff tagged me with a meme. The topic of the meme is six things about me that are weird. I thought that might be a challenge, but it was frighteningly simple to come up with half a dozen things about me that make other people go "Wait, what??" What's even more frightening is that most people I know could probably come up with stuff that hasn't even crossed my mind. Anyway, here is my short list.

1. When I drink through a straw, I make a funny noise. The roof of my mouth must be oddly shaped, because I get a high-pitched whistling sound. My daughter pointed it out last summer, when I was sucking down a cherry limeade. I was aware of it, but didn't realize other people don't actually do that.

2. I play Solitaire in my sleep. I like to play Free Cell online. If I play it too close to drifting off, I end up dreaming that I am playing a hand. The problem with this is that I can never win, because I'm sleeping. It's like hitting "Replay Hand" a gazillion times, or until I wake up, whichever comes first.

3. I'm claustrophobic. I know, lots of people are afraid of closed-in spaces. That's not what I'm talking about. Sleeping bags, no. Driving in the car with a coat on, unthinkable. Don't even talk to me about hats. I tried on a dress that had no zippers, just pull it over your head, almost ripped it to shreds trying to get it off. Not a big fan of gloves or shoes, now that you mention it. This was a very bad thing when we lived in Minnesota. There was one year when the wind chills were something like seventy below for about six weeks and I had to put on everything I owned just to get the mail. Shudder. I still have nightmares.

4. I can close off my sense of smell. Totally. Something mystical happens at the top of the back of my throat and odor just goes away. This has served me well on numerous occasions. I don't know how I would have made it through diapers and my offsprings' bouts of stomach flu without it.

5. I am somewhat psychic. My maternal grandmother had an other-worldly quality that seems to have been passed on to me. Not like reading Tarot cards and such, just that she sensed things to which others seemed oblivious. I think I have passed it to my daughter, because our brains are so much in sync it's almost creepy. I will have my hand on the phone to call her and it will ring, and it's her. "Hey, how's it going, I was just going to call you." "Yeah, I know." We watch the TV or movies, something happens onscreen, we make the same comment, at the same time, in the same tone. My husband of 23 plus years can't tell us apart on the phone. This sixth sense led me to move to the shoulder of a hilly, sparsely traveled road on a hunch. I felt stupid, but I stayed on the shoulder. Coming up over a rise, I faced a truck illegally passing another truck, which would have certainly hit and probably killed me and my unborn son had I stayed in the lane(and I didn't even know he was in there yet!). So, yeah, it's weird, but I tend to trust it.


Ghost Whisperer

6. I have saved the weirdest for last. I had a twin brother who was stillborn. I was a member of Twinless Twins for a few years, and I went to a convention in Chicago one summer. There was a woman there who was doing a study of twinless twins, and she asked those of us who had stillborn twins to fill out a survey. One of the questions asked if we had "twinning behaviors." After thinking about it, I realized that I did. I "twin" letters. Mostly on signs when I'm out and about, but on other things, also. KFC is just plain bad, there's no way, one of the letters is left out. IHOP is perfect. McDonald's is a dilemma, because the only way you can make twins of everything is if you include the apostrophe. Which is do-able, but, geez, it's so little. Jeff, aren't you glad you asked?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Worms Crawl In . . The Worms Crawl Out

The topic du jour is weird, gross, interesting and how-the-hell-did-that-get-there items that turn up in your food and/or beverages. This is what prompted the subject. On the afternoon of New Year's Eve, my husband and daughter and I went to a local eating establishment. It's a national chain whose name you would recognize, so I will not name it, you know, to protect the innocent. I ordered nachos, which are listed as an appetizer. But given the size of the plate they bring, they are way more than most people need as a meal. I started to dig in and noticed something you don't, as a rule, find in a plate of nachos. A chunk of green apple. Which wouldn't be too surprising, the restaurant makes a salad with fruit in it. No, what was interesting about the apple was that it had one of those grocery store produce stickers on it. That's odd on several levels.

When the waitress came by to ask how things were, I showed her the apple with the sticker. She looked surprised and said she was sorry. I told her it wasn't a big deal, I just thought in was amusing. Anyway, she took the thing and showed it to her manager, who comped us the plate of nachos. Which I thought was pretty decent.

But that got me to thinking about similar incidents. Like the time we were in a Mexican restaurant and my mother found a twist tie in her burrito. That was pretty icky. But when she told the waitress, the girl looked at her as if to say, "And you're telling me this . . . why?" She didn't even take it and toss it, tell anyone in the kitchen that twist ties are not a common burrito ingredient. Just walked away.

Then there was the day my mom got a can of pop out of the machine at work. (I think my mother may have some bad karma with the food gods.) She said the pop tasted kind of funny, but she didn't think much about it and finsihed the can. And set it down and heard something rattling at the bottom. Which shouldn't happen. So she up-ended it and out came . . . a bobby pin! She actually called the company and reported the incident, for which they sent her coupons for free pop. Yeah, like I'm in a hurry to buy more of THIS stuff.

The grossest thing in recent history was about a month ago, when my daughter stopped at a sandwich establishment. She brought her sub home to eat, sat down at the counter, unwrapped it and said, "Oh, gross." She then proceeded to pull a hair out of the sandwich that went through the entire six inches of it. She ate that six inches of sandwich (don't ask me how, she seemed unperturbed). Then she picked up the other six inches and said, "And here's the rest of the hair," and pulled out another six inches. Then she ate that half of the sandwich. I was kind of grossing out about how she could stomach all of this. Then my daughter, who has worked at three different jobs where food was prepared and/or served, said, "Mom, if people knew what goes on behind the scenes in restaurants, no one would ever eat out again. This is nothing." Ugh. I'm not thinking about it. At least the apple was clean. Not sure about the sticker.