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The birds and the bees

“Familiarity breeds contempt~and children.”   Mark Twain

All parents know it will happen sooner or later. The question.  THAT question. You know the one: “Where do babies come from?” Inquiring minds of sweet innocent children all over the world want to know. My own sweet child had a very inquisitive mind.  She thought long and hard about things, and tried to figure them out for herself. Still does, in fact. I had always said that as a nurse, I wouldn’t tell stories like “The milkman brought you,” or “You were found under a cabbage leaf in the garden.” I would always tell her the truth about everything. Well, not EVERYTHING. I didn’t tell her that Santa Claus wasn’t real,  but I should have, because a little boy in kindergarten blabbed and ruined the surprise anyway. She figured out the Easter Bunny on her own shortly after that. When she asked the question,  I explained it as simply and as age appropriately as I possibly could. She listened intently, nodded her head and said, “Can I have my snack now?” Whew. That was easy. After telling her that she could always come to me with questions at any time, we went about our usual business after I gave myself a small pat on the back about my parenting skills. That was probably parenting mistake #754:  Don’t pat yourself on the back or it will come back to bite you on your biggest asset. Flash forward a couple of weeks. We were in line at the grocery store on a Friday afternoon. It must have been payday, because all the lanes were filled with weary people and overflowing carts. It was in the days before everybody and his grandmother had a cell phone, so people were quietly chatting, looking at the ceiling in boredom, or tapping their feet impatiently. My daughter was doing her usual begging for a candy bar or a bag of Skittles, or whatever sugary temptation that some marketing genius put there just to drive parents stark raving mad by constantly having to say, “No.” “Because I said so!” “No.” “Because I said so, that’s why!” Anyhow, my sweet baby girl, in all her innocence, picked that exact moment to ask for more details about the birds and the bees. In a sweet, clear, and loud voice, she asked, “So I’ve been thinking.  If there is an egg and there is some fertilizer, just how does the fertilizer get to the egg to make a baby?” The busy, payday Friday afternoon noises at the grocery store quieted, then stopped altogether.  All eyes turned in our direction and all the cash registers stopped their busy noises.  I swear, if there had been a spotlight, it would have shone brightly down on me as they waited for the answer. I swallowed hard, my mind racing. I began to perspire. “Well…, ” I said, “Well…in a very…special…way.” I quickly grabbed the biggest candy bar I could find and shoved it into her hands. Thankfully, she took the bribe. Everyone must have been holding their breath, because there was a loud collective sigh that seemed to echo throughout the store. Perhaps there was a smattering of quiet applause, or was it the sound of my first grey hairs popping through? We’ll never know. 

“The proverb says that Providence protects children and idiots. This is really true. I know because I have tested it.”  Mark Twain

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Out of the blue

When we got married nearly 40 years ago, I was a young bride and not such a great cook. Oh, I could throw together a hotdish (aka casserole for my southern readers) or a dessert, but I had a lot to learn. Unfortunately for HIM, I seemed to learn better by my mistakes. I cried the time I tried to make hard boiled eggs by putting ice cold eggs from the fridge into boiling water and ended up with scrambled soup. The cookies that I rolled too large and put too close to each other on the cookie sheet until they became one giant cookie were not pretty, but tasted all right.  I proudly served a big plate of homemade barbecue baked beans and cornbread, thinking they were the same as his beloved pinto beans. I didn’t cry, because even though he disliked baked beans, he ate every bite. (I admit to sniffling a little bit when he gently suggested that I ask his mother how to make them.)  I didn’t even admit for years that I nearly flunked piemaking in high school Home Economics class because our group’s banana cream pie turned into banana cream soup due to an improperly sealed meringue. Miss Huset gave us a “D” because it tasted good, and we sat around the table and ate it with spoons. I haven’t made meringue since, and I rarely make a pie from scratch. (I have been known to wheel and deal and barter for a homemade apple pie, since it is HIS favorite next to chocolate pie with MERINGUE.) My cooking skills have improved over the years, thank goodness.  One food that I have prided myself on has been my potato salad. Making potato salad is an art, and since I have always gone by taste, there is no recipe,  but it is a combination of the way both HIS mom and my mom made it. It is not hard to make, but tedious. The potatoes have to be sliced just so after they have cooled. Not too thick and not too thin. Just a touch of onion, and not too much celery. Finely diced pickles or pickle relish, and the dressing made with real mayonnaise and mustard and thinned with a little milk. Salt, pepper, and celery salt are added, and hard boiled eggs are folded in as well as sliced on top. (See how NOT to boil an egg, above.) I always made a lot, but personally didn’t like it after the first day, so he would always eat it until it was gone. All was right with the world until I gave up potatoes in my diet. I  kept on making potato salad for HIM, because he enjoyed it so much, or so I thought. One day, out of the blue, HE informed me that I didn’t have to make it any more. “I don’t really like potato salad all that much.” Wait. What?? Thirty nine years of eating potato salad and he informs me that he doesn’t like it! I wonder what other secrets he is keeping from me? 

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Garage sale, part II

HE says I have too much stuff. Except he doesn’t exactly call it “stuff”, but a word not suited to a family-friendly column. I don’t agree. My stuff is an interesting and nearly historic collection of antiques and vintage items, books, and old magazines. HE has a closet stuffed full of old golf shirts, and won’t part with any of them, even when I loudly announce that I am making a donation to the veterans’ clothing donation bin. “I’ll get to it”, he says, and never does. He also didn’t want to part with an iron fireplace poker found in the garage, even though we have a whole fireplace set in the living room, so there it will hang for another 10 years. I don’t think he wanted me to touch the “stuff” on his workbench, either,  because he just said “I’ll take care of it.”  He didn’t complain when I removed the old leaf blower, since for some reason, he bought another, even though this one still worked. The workbench wasn’t cleared off, either, so I covered it with old sheets so people wouldn’t pick through it, but believe me, I was tempted to allow it and offer them a free golf shirt as a bonus!  It was a good sale, and I think I got rid of perhaps 2/3 of my things, all of them to good homes. For some strange reason, that is important to me, but being able to let it go in the first place should take me off the Hoarder’s List.  I hated to see the stuff go, but it was time. When it was all over but the complaining about my aching back, I sent my last customer home with plenty of free items. A few things went to the fire pit,  like a beat-up old wooden picture frame that nobody wanted, even with a “free” sign on it. Books will be given to the hospital volunteers for their fundraiser, and all the rest is boxed up for donation and ready to deliver.  Well, almost all the rest. I brought just one item back into the house. Aren’t you proud of me? Just one! It was a large plastic tote, and it wasn’t even full! I’m pretty proud, myself. I’ve created so much extra storage space that HE won’t even notice, not unless YOU tell him. 

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Cheap Sunglasses

I usually purchase at least one pair of sunglasses every year. Nothing fancy or expensive, because I almost always manage to misplace, lose, or break them. This year was no different. I had two pair of cheap sunglasses, one for my purse and one for the car which I kept in that special little compartment above the rear view mirror made just for sunglasses. Kind of like a sunglass garage of sorts. Out of habit, I always park mine on top of my head and therefore, they never make it into the garage.  They never seem to make it back into my purse, either, which is why I was down to not having any.  As a side note I’ll have to admit that I probably can’t find them because my house is in disarray at the moment, since I have emptied out all the closets and cupboards in preparation for a garage sale and there are both trash and treasures spread all over the table and countertops. HE is getting more than little crabby over this, too. Sheesh, you would think he would be happy that there is finally some room in the closet! Anyhow, my attention finally moved to the garage, (the one for cars, not sunglasses ) and I was about halfway finished and on a roll before HE came home, and I had to play 20 questions: “Why did you move your tools to my side of the garage?” “What is in this box?” “Can you move this stuff out of the way so I can powerwash the floor?” Etcetera, etcetera, ETCETERA!  Those of you married for four to forty years will understand. I was quite surprised as I cleaned the shelf on “my” side of the garage to find a cache of sunglasses. Seven pair, to be exact, and I recognized them all. I know that I didn’t put them there. Either I am going crazy, or the squirrels that sometimes get in there are squirreling them away. It is probably the former rather than the latter, because as I was muttering to myself about the mystery, the ZZ Top song about cheap sunglasses kept going though my head over and over. Some of you might be a little older or a little younger than I am and don’t have any idea what I’m talking about. The rest of you will understand why I played a little air guitar and hummed an old song of my youth and made a dirty, dusty, squirrely day go by a little more quickly.  Thankfully, I won’t have to buy any cheap sunglasses for a long, long, time!

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Apocalypse

The next time our local hospital volunteers have their annual book sale, would someone please distract me so I stay far, far away?  It is bad enough that I have to be there on the first day, digging through the stacks for old books, first editions, and best sellers for a mere dollar each. On the last day of the sale, they have the “fill a bag for a buck” special to move the inventory out. One dollar for A WHOLE BAG of books. Last year, I spent three dollars on the last day, and believe me, there wasn’t an inch of space left in the bags, either. I won’t even tell you how much I spent the first day, but it was for a good cause, after all. This year, they decided to make it a semiannual event, so the date came around sooner than I had expected.  I was nowhere near finishing the  books from the year before.  I tried not to go, but found myself hovering around the sale area, especially during the “bag for a buck” day.  I only spent a dollar…the first time through. I managed to fill another bag during my lunch hour and one more after work. I also brake for garage sales, and always find myself heading over to the book box or table…almost everyone has one.  I simply can’t resist all those hours of reading pleasure for the simple price of one quarter. If they ask more than that, the book has to be a special one, because I am pretty cheap. I have a small problem, however. I mean, besides obvious problem of being a cheap hoarder.  I simply don’t read as many books as I used to. As technology advances, even an old Farm Woman can keep up, at least a little bit. I can no longer say “there is nothing good on TV” because I record all of my favorite programs and movies, and the list is long, and a fact that was a surprise to me, I can watch it on my smart phone.  There’s also Pinterest and social media, both of which are literally at my fingertips on my phone. I think that perhaps that is part of the problem in our world these days. Everyone is constantly staring at their phones in restaurants, while walking, while travelling, and sadly, even at their jobs. Nobody looks up and smiles anymore, not to mention carrying on a conversation with an acquaintenance, stranger, or even a friend. The constant sensory overload of computer games,  breaking news alerts, and texting is changing the way we think and act toward each other. Perhaps the Zombie Apocalypse that we all worried about is finally here and we are it. There is a new word do describe these people already: Smombie. A Smombie is a person who walks slowly while focused on their smart phone. I read it on the internet, so it must be true.  I think as a Zombie (or Smombie) preventative measure, tonight I will choose from one of the many books on the shelf and get lost for a little while. 

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No Wire Hangers!

One of my daughter’s favorite movies as a young teen was the campy movie classic “Mommy Dearest”. I have seen it so many times that I could probably recite the dialogue without a script. I even dressed up one Halloween as Mommy Dearest (Joan Crawford) as  played by Faye Dunaway, complete with bathrobe, red lipstick, a headband in my hair and wielding a wire hanger. I was delightfully scary, even though my face was red and stinging because I had no cold cream to rub on my face and used HIS shaving cream instead, which melted in a stingy, itchy stream down my neck, which made me look even scarier.  When we moved to our present home about ten years ago, I had decided that I would no longer have wire hangers in the closets, so got rid of them all. It had nothing to do with Mommy Dearest and everything to do with the fact that I had read in a magazine that one’s closet would look neater if all the hangers matched. This was probably the same magazine that told me in a bold headline that I could lose ten pounds in ten days by eating only hard boiled eggs and pineapple on one page and giving a recipe for The World’s Best Chocolate Cake on the next. Determined to have a  neat and well-organized look to our closets,  I decided that our clothes would be hung on white plastic hangers only. (Side note to those who don’t know me personally:  I am neither neat nor well-organized, nor have I ever lost ten pounds in ten days no matter how much pineapple I ate.)  Over the years, I have weeded out a few navy blue, brown, or black plastic hangers. My collection of vintage wooden advertising hangers are put to good use in the front closet, since plastic doesn’t always hold up to a heavy winter coat. The other day, I decided to clean out the bedroom closet from top to bottom. I noticed that HIS one and only suit looked sad and saggy, and as I straightened the shoulders and brushed it off,  I noticed it was on a WIRE HANGER.  What? Then I noticed more. Seven to be exact. I have no idea how they got there, since we rarely bring home any dry cleaning.  I confess that it has kind of been driving me crazy, trying to figure it out. That reminded me of another old campy movie classic called “Gaslight”. The husband is doing things to make the wife think she is going crazy. Uh, oh. It could be HIM, or it could be me. If I start wearing red lipstick and shaving cream on my face while I throw the wire hangers out the front door, watch out!

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Calendar Girl

When I was in my 20’s, I remembered nearly everything. In my 30’s and early 40’s, raising a family meant keeping a large wipe-off board on front the fridge, along with a small calendar that I  tucked into my purse, with almost every square filled in. Things are not nearly as busy now, but the older I get, the more I tend to forget. One simply can’t live with sticky notes stuck all over the place. A couple of years ago, I decided to get with the program and use the calendar on my smart phone. Assuming (correctly) that I would somehow screw it up, I kept a duplicate of the calendar on my desk at work. I really liked the reminder that smart phone gave me each morning of any upcoming appointments, although I often forgot them by afternoon. Last year, I decided to let my fingers do the walking and went strictly with the electronic calendar. It was easy, and I had to use only the occasional sticky note glued to the steering wheel of my car or my desktop at work. All right, I’ll admit it:  OCCASIONALLY the bathroom mirror.  The dates for doctor and dentist appointments, vacations, birthdays, weddings, and lunches with friends were at my fingertips at any given moment. You might be surprised at how many things can be going on in the life of a simple Farm Woman. Still, life was good…until the phone died. It was not a “Gee, my phone is acting up and I should think about getting  a new one soon but perhaps I’ll wait until I can afford it” type of death. It was D-E-A-D. Deader than a doornail. Deader than disco. Deader than that dead skunk in the middle of the road. The phone experts were able to revive it enough to save my contacts’ numbers,  but the calendar was gone. I must admit, though, that ignorance is pretty blissful. With no stress of an upcoming schedule, life is simple again. I’m thinking that I should keep it that way. If I am a no-show at your birthday party or baby shower, please forgive me. I’m busy watching the grass grow and the chickens scratch. 

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