Thursday, November 10, 2011

Stay Tuned.. . !

A brand new post is coming. Honest.
Thought I'd warn everyone so you don't faint.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

To Every Mom Who Gets Bath Stuff for Mothers Day

I was trying to decide between a khaki jacket and navy one when I noticed them. Right away, I recognized their look. It's the same one I get everytime I'm sent to the hardware store, or have to pick up a doozywhatsis at the auto parts store: total bewilderment, as if I'd just stumbled upon a secret alien planet right here on earth.
He looked like the typical dad - jeans and golf jacket, early 30's, expression hovering between deer-caught-in-the-headlights and weight room can-do. Each of his hands rested atop the head of boys who looked to be about 8 and 5. The older boy looked bored, the little guy leaned against his dad's leg and snuck his thumb into his mouth.
To their credit, they plunged in with resolute determination.
"OK, boys," he said quietly. "Let's find something nice for mommy." Like a small army, they moved along the racks, sliding hangers here and checking tags there. Dad held up a green blouse. Both boys shook their heads. They looked at a red flowered jacket on a mannequin but couldn't find it anywhere on a rack.
"What size does mom wear?" asked the older boy, fingering frilly top.
"Um, I don't know," Dad admitted. "She's always saying she's fat. . . "
"Mom's not fat," said the older son. "She's just right."
"I know, buddy. I agree. Hey, how about this?" He held up a black and white striped dress with ruching across the front.
"Not that, daddy," said the younger boy. "It looks like a prison dress!"
"No, it doesn't, you dope," said his big brother.
"Yes, it does," said dad, laughing as he slid the dress back onto the rack. Both boys cracked up.
I added a green jacket to my stack, and headed for the fitting room. When I came out, they had wandered over to a display of colorful plaid shorts and were checking sizes by holding them up to their dad. They seemed to settle on a turquoise pair and then located a tshirt to match. The dad held up both pieces in the air.
"Hmmm. . . maybe not," I heard him say.
"Why not?" asked his younger son. "Mommy looks pretty in blue."
"I know she does, " said dad. "But didn't she tell Aunt Jen she hates plaid shorts because they make her behind look big?"
"Mommy doesn't have a big behind!" protested the little guy, plunging his thumb back into his mouth.
"I know," agreed dad, ruffling his son's hair. "But let's try to get mommy something she would like, ok buddy? There's got to be something here. . . " he trailed off as the three of them turned around to scan the endless sea of clothing racks around them.
I picked two dresses off a rack along with a pink jacket and headed back to the fitting room. When I finished, I hung everything on the cart by the door and headed over to suits. On my way, I spied the trio hovering near raincoats. Dad had a gawd-awful shawl under his arm, and the younger son was holding a canvas rain hat.
"Hey," said the older boy. "How about a new purse for mom?"
Off they went across the aisle like hungry lions on the trail of food. There were shelves and tables stacked high with purses in every conceivable shape and color but they plunged right in. After much searching, they found a lime green bag with a cell phone pocket on the outside.
"This one!" cried the younger boy. "Mommy's always losing her cell phone. Let's get this one!" He stuck his arm through the straps and hoisted it onto his shoulder. It cleared the floor by two inches.
"Good idea, buddy" said dad. "But maybe we can find her one that's a little smaller." They went back to their task, inspecting flowered fabric bags, suitcase bags, hobo bags, clutch purses and a large purple bag trimmed in leather ruffles. Finally, the older boy held up a sleek black bag with an array of shiny buckles and clasps.
"How about this? She could keep her cell phone in one of these pockets."
"Hey," said dad, taking the bag from his son and turning it over. "This just might work."
"Yeah, " said the little guy. "It looks just like mommy's now purse."
Dad looked at his son and then squinted at the purse. "You're right," he sighed. "It looks just like mommy's now purse."
I found a sweet tan linen suit in my size and headed for the fitting room. To my amazement, it both fit and was on sale. Whoooeee. Now all I needed was the right accessories. I checked my watch. I'd been here 45 minutes and still needed to get to the grocery. A quick stop in the jewelry department and I'd be good to go.
That's when I saw them again. A little ragged perhaps, but enthused . . .almost renewed. And then I understood why. After navigating the baffling world of women's clothing and accessories, then forging through a universe of purses, they'd latched onto the one department that said "mom" above all the others: ladies toiletries. In this realm, you didn't have to know the difference between petite and misses. You didn't have to worry about size or pattern or the misfortune of giving a gift that made one's behind look bigger.
This was a sure thing.
And there they were, dad crouched down looking at a row of shiny bottles trimmed with flowers and lace. Some were housed in clear plastic bags; some in chrome baskets, others nestled in shreds of colored tissue. Everything oozed clean girliness. The little guy was sitting cross legged on the floor, surrounded by bottles. He'd pluck one carefully from the shelf, unscrew the cap to sniff the contents and then methodically screw each cap back on. The older boy and his dad were contemplating a kit containing bath salts, cremes and lotions.
I glimpsed some chunky wooden earrings and headed past them toward jewelry.
"What do you think?" asked the dad. "Think she'll like this?"
"I don't know," said the older boy, cautiously. "Mom likes all this girly stuff, but she takes showers. She doesn't take baths."
"This one!" cried the little guy, perilously brandishing an open bottle as he struggled to his feet. "Smell this, daddy. THIS is the one we should get!"
The dad but his hand on the bottle to steady it and slowly drew close to give it a sniff. He pulled his head back, then went in for another smell.
"I don't' know," he said slowly. Then he turned to his older son. "What do you think?"
The older boy took the bottle and smelled it.
"Yeah, that's okay, " he said.
"I want this one," cried the little guy. "This one smells like mommy on vacation!"
"What are you talking about?" scowled his older brother. "Besides, that says bath salts and mom only takes showers."
"I don't care. I want mommy to have this. It smells like when we went on vacation to Sea World and mommy got a flower behind her ear."
The dad looked at his boy. Then he looked at the bottle, and screwed the cap back on. "Well, it does smell good but mom takes showers so let's see if we can find something for the shower that smells like this. "
I located a necklace to go with the wood earrings and finally headed for the cash register. My feet hurt and I still had to get groceries.
As I waited my turn in line, the three shoppers got in line behind me. Each of them was holding a different bottle containing something pink. The little guy's bottle had bath salts in it.
"You sure, buddy?" asked the dad.
"Yes," the little guy nodded, looking at his bottle. "Maybe mommy doesn't take baths because she doesn't have the right stuff."
I couldn't help but smile as I remembered all the Mothers Days that I'd been blessed with bath salts and gaudy jewelry and clothes that didn't fit. I'd loved and treasured all of it, but never more so than now.
I drove passed them as they were coming out of the store. Three weary shoppers on their way home to wrap gifts for one very lucky mom.
I hope she appreciates them.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hijacking the Truth

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.
Some weekends I'm furtively tethered to it much more than I should be, waiting for new posts and adding insipid status updates like the I have nothing better to do.
Other days, it's like having your mother living next door. I'm supremely aware of the coworkers and relatives who've friended me and am more comfortable moving away from the window for awhile.
Always, though, I'm amazed at what a terrific detective Facebook is, reuniting me with college roommates, old acquaintances and people I thought I'd lost.
Take Ken's cousins, Jim and Mark. They live in Florida and - since Ken's not much of a traveler - we've only seen Jim when he and his wife, Joy, have visited Ohio. I remember Mark from our Florida honeymoon some 30 years ago. He was a cute teenager who'd mastered the art of the wisecrack.
Thanks to Facebook, though, I've been following Jim's trevails with back injuries, The Cat from Hell and his updates to the family tree. And today, I found Mark on FB. He's all grown up and - from the looks of these rules - has become wise and insightful. Those are family traits.
I wish I'd written these Adult Truths. But since I didn't, I'm highjacking them for a blog post.
Mark can always head north to register his displeasure in person if he objects. It'll be a nice opportunity to catch up.
I just hope he brings some sunshine. . .

Adult Truths

by Mark Stephenson on Sunday, February 13, 2011 at 4:16pm

1. I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.

2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.

3. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

4. There is great need for a sarcasm font.

5. How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

6. Was learning cursive really necessary?

7. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on # 5. I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

9. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

10. Bad decisions make good stories.

11. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.

12. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blu Ray? I don't want to have to restart my collection...again.

13. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to.

14. I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

15. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.

16. I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lite than Kay.

17. I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option.

18. I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

19. How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear or understand a word they said?

20. I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers and sisters!

21. Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.

22. Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.

23. Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, finding their cell phone, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I'd bet everyone can find and push the snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time.

24. The first testicular guard, the "Cup," was used in Hockey in 1874 and the first helmet was used in 1974. That means it only took 100 years for men to realize that their brain is also important. Ladies.....quit laughing.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Denial, Anger Issues and One Close Call

We are sitting at a traffic light in our new blue Ford Galaxie in downtown Tiffin. It was summer, and I was contemplating my new sandals and thinking how unfair it was to get in trouble just because I told my sister she was stinky.
I'm only telling the truth, I argued. She is stinky.
Am not, cried my sister with her stupid fake tears.
Girls!, shushed my mother.
Enough, said my father.
Then the light changed, and my dad eased into the intersection. Suddenly, there was the loudest bang I'd ever heard. The car behind us had been rear ended and it shot toward us into the intersection, missing our shiny new car by inches.
Whew, said my dad, peering into the rearview mirror. He missed us by that much. He held up his hand with a little space between his forefinger and thumb.
Oh my, said my mom. We are blessed. Girls, say a little prayer.
I prayed that my stinky sister would find stink bugs in her bed.
A lot of time has passed since that day in 1963. And as far as I know, my sister has never found a single stink bug in her bed.
But I think of the kismet of that moment back in 1963 whenever I have a close call of some sort. Like the time I jaywalked in downtown Columbus only to have a car swipe by me so close it left a stripe on my pants. Or the time I tipped a six-foot ladder up onto two legs while sneezing, and didn't fall OR spill paint.
There are times, though, when we skip our way through life, blissfully unaware of close calls we've had. Take my doctor, for instance. Today, he had a close call and tonight he's probably enjoying a typical evening at home, none the wiser.
For the past year or so, I've had sharp pains in my wrist and the thumb of my right hand. Not all the time, but some days the joints throb and it hurts to uncap my Diet Pepsi or pull the lid off a carton of Starbuck's Coffee ice cream.
Arthritis, said Ken.
Ha, I said, trying hard to forget the annoying flyer AARP sent to me in yesterday's mail. I'm too young for arthritis.
OK, said Ken. But I'm telling you, it sounds like arthritis to me.
Finally, when the pain got worse, I called my doctor who set up an appointment for me to see a hand specialist.
So today, my achy hand and I went to meet the nice Dr. Lanford. Tall, 30-ish, easy going, nice smile. We joked about winters in Cleveland as he stared thoughtfully at my xrays. Then slid his chair over and took my hand.
He pressed here. He poked there. Then he took my right thumb, pushed down and turned. Instantly, gritty pain shot through my hand. I nearly kneed him in his boy parts.
But that wasn't the close call.
The close call came a little while later when he patted my hand, looked me sincerely in the eye and said that while I may have beginnings of arthritis, most of what he saw was just "mileage."
Mileage? my mind said.
MILEAGE?!!? it yelled like I was hard of hearing. I'm doing my best to build a dam against the ravages of time and this pipsqueak talks to me about "mileage"???
Listen, buddy. You try finding trendy clothes in a normal size when everything you see is made for women the size and shape of a swizzle stick. You try sneaking off to the dermatologist's office on your lunch hour for botox so everyone stops asking you why you're angry. You want to talk to me about mileage? Slide that damn chair back over here, frat boy, and I'll show you how strong a hand with mileage on it can be. Care to thumb wrestle, wimpy?? Huh? Huh? I didn't think so.
The anger was startlingly instant and white hot. It blasted through my mind in about half a second. I never said a word but it must have shown on my face, because the nice Dr. Lanford immediately scooted his chair back a few inches and offered, "Well, not a lot of mileage for sure, heh heh. Just. . . you know - normal wear and tear. That kind of thing. Certainly nothing serious. "
He carefully placed my hand down on my knee and scooted all the way back to his desk. I gave a little laugh to ease the moment, and then we moved on to the what-to-do's and what-not-to-do's. He made his notes, asked if I had any other concerns, then told me to call him if the pain got worse or anything changed. I stood, and thanked him for his time. He shook my hand as he opened the door to the hall.
"Take care," he said as I walked past him.
No, you take care, my mind shot back with an evil little smile.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Winter Evils

It's a sprightly -473 degrees up here on Ohio's north coast. I know this because as soon as I stepped out the door to walk DaBoys this morning, two things happened. 1) Every part of my body froze beginning with my eyeballs and 2) in 0.1 seconds flat, DaBoys had done their business (ON the bottom step, no less) and ran back inside before the storm door closed. By the time I untangled the leashes from around my ankles and lurched inside, they were sitting by the kitchen counter looking pointedly in the direction of the treat jar, Sammy still sporting his LLBean winter doggiewear. It took me ten minutes to clad and unclad myself for our little micro-expedition this morning. Tomorrow morning, I may just lean out the door, hold them over the hydrangea and be done with it.
I have to admit that the snow has been really beautiful these last few mornings. Lovely, white glitter. And it hasn't been icy, thank heavens, because I don't care for ice. Especially black ice.
Black ice is sneaky.
And evil.
I backed into the turnaround behind the house one evening, completely unaware that a mischievous layer of black ice had stretched itself across the asphalt and was lurking beneath my car.
Flo Rida was on the radio, so I car danced for a moment before turning off the ignition and gathering my things to go inside. I opened the car door and stuffed my purse, a bag full of drug store purchases and the Tupperware from lunch salad into my left hand and began to step out.
Now even under the best of circumstances - clear weather, sensible shoes, flat terrain, no distractions - I'm not known for my coordination. So when my foot began to slide, I just figured that I needed to reposition my foot.
I grabbed the steering wheel with my right hand and hauled myself up a bit to give my left foot better purchase on the driveway with my fabulous new Rocket Dog heels.
That was my first inkling that something was terribly wrong.
Slowly, uncontrollably, my left foot began sliding beneath the car like a magnet being pulled toward the North Pole. I scrambled furiously to gain traction but for some reason the driveway was too slick.
My foot slid further under the car.
I was gripping the steering wheel so tightly that it began to turn to the left, leaning even more of me out the car door.
My left foot was taking me places I didn't want to go and I couldn't do a thing about it. Helpless as a baby, I began to fall out of my car. Because I refused to let go of the steering wheel, this all happened at a snail's pace.
I was now under the car past my left knee. My right foot was still inside the car as was my right arm at the end of which was my gloved hand with its death grip on the steering wheel. The wheel was turning as far left as it could go. I was clutching the car door with my left hand. My upper body was hanging closer and closer to the driveway.
There was a nasty breeze up my skirt.
My purse was still around my left arm and was resting nicely on the door handle. Slowly, though, I found myself looking up at it as more of me headed for the driveway. My purse started to tip over. First my mirror then my keys then my wallet then a week's worth of straw papers, receipts, tissues and change all marched out of my purse and onto my head like orderly soldiers.
I heard Ken a mere ten feet away in the house, talking to DaBoys.
I tried to holler for help but every muscle in my body was tensed in an attempt to ward off the inevitable.
Next I watched as my CVS bag plunked from door handle to map pocket where I prayed it would stop. But soon it slid open enough to dump its contents on me, too. Not a problem until the extra large bottle of Juergens nosed its way out of the bag and headed south.
That hurt.
Finally, my shaking right arm could hold me no more and I was suddenly plunked unceremoniously onto the driveway.
My left foot was hanging out somewhere by the oil pan.
My right foot was on the drivers seat, minus one snappy Rocket Dog.
My skirt and coat were clumped somewhere around my armpits.
My left hand was holding onto the map pocket, an unscarred box of Jelly Bellys perched like an acrobat on my arm.
I took stock.
I was feeling wind in places no true lady would ever expose to the elements. I had no shoe on my right foot and could only pray that the shoe on my left foot wasn't ruined. Nothing seemed to be broken, though.
That's when I looked up and noticed my Tupperware. It was in the most improbable spot up by the car window, its lid perched casually against the glass. I watched as it slowly tipped forward and fell, clipping the box of Jelly Bellys on its way down.
My sides hurt but I took a deep breath and hollered for Ken.
Nothing. He and DaBoys must be in the living room.
I got my right leg out of the car. My right arm felt like a ten foot long piece of Silly Putty. As I rolled over onto my side, everything that had been piled on top of me fell into a neat little pile. After a minute, my left foot bade farewell to the oil pan and I managed to get my knees under me. Kicking the Tupperware out of the way, I grabbed the car door and pulled myself upright.
I blew the hair out of my face and tried to yank my clothes back into position. Carefully, I bent down and shoved my purse items and drugstore purchases into the plastic bag. Balanced on one high heel and one bare foot, I slowly stood up and retrieved my right Rocket Dog from the car. Taking very small steps, I turned toward the house. A used tissue was stuck to the front of my coat, I'd torn my hose and lost my headband.
Ken pulled open the door just as I reached the steps. He was holding Sammy and smiling his happy little "my wife's home" smile. Charlie's little head was bobbing up and down in the window of the storm door. Ken's smile turned to a look of horror as he took in the sight that was his wife. In no time, he'd ditched the boys and lifted me into the house.
After a quick inventory to make sure nothing was broken or spurting blood, he ran for the phone. Taking in my bare foot, disheveled clothes, tattered hose and wild hair, he'd come up with the only logical conclusion:
His wife had been attacked in her own driveway.
He was quite relieved to find out that I'd merely fallen under my car.
So relieved that he couldn't stop laughing as he plucked paper clips and cough drops off my coat, helped me peel off my torn and twisted clothes and deposited me into a hot shower.
Later - after a long shower and hot meal - I sat blanketed in my comfy chair with two adoring furry dogs and one adoring furry husband, and sipped a steaming cup of tea.
My right arm still hurt and I had a lovely bruise blossoming on my backside. But I had survived my first close encounter with black ice. I was also happy that we'd avoided involving the police.
I felt sure Ken would have ended up in the hoosegow. No way they'd believe my "black ice made me fall under my car" story.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Crown Me the Queen of the Oblivious

If there was a National Society for the Oblivious, I'd be their poster child.
From the vantage point of my 30+ years on this earth, I can now look back and see those moments when I was totally oblivious to the situation at hand, yet somehow lived to tell about it.
(And yes - I know I'm WAY older than 30. But I'm oblivious to my true age, so saying "50+ years" is not within my capabilities. Got it? Good. We shall never speak of this again.)
I remember visiting my great-grandparents in Hazeldell, Illinois, when I was in grade school. We rode the train - my sister, my mom and my Aunt Lois - and I got to wear my Sunday shoes for the trip. Other than that, I only remember one thing: that the Mayor of Hazeldell let us sit on his horse.
Truth be told, Hazeldell was about the size of Mayberry so the Mayor probably wasn't named Bloomberg. He was probably more like my great-grandparents: loving, hardworking, no nonsense Christian folk who'd rather visit with you on your front porch than gush over your new car.
But heck, I was seven and I was impressed that THE MAYOR let us ride his horse. When I got back, I told that story to anyone in my third grade class who would listen.
Then a few years ago, my mother pointed out that what I got to ride was a MARE that belonged to a neighbor who was the town Constable. Hazeldell, it seems, was too small to have a MAYOR.
Um. . . . duh.
When I was 1o or so, my grandmother had a few apartments that she rented to school teachers. My dad and I were in my her backyard one day when the art teacher who lived above the garage headed to his car with a painting under his arm. He unwrapped it and showed it to my dad and me, telling us that it was the first painting he'd ever sold. I was awestruck. It was the most beautiful painting I'd had ever seen: a creamy, golden sunset filtering through a forest. My dad clapped him on the back and congratulated him. He was less than effusive when I exclaimed "Wow! Is that a paint-by-number??!"
Um. . . duh.
The ensuing years have not bestowed upon me any greater sense of savvy. I'm still as gullible and oblivious as ever.
A few years back, a friend bought one of those new zippy Porsches. A sporty little thing it was, with a push button starter. I wondered how he kept it from being stolen, what with it not needing a key or anything. He explained that the car was SOOOOOO tech savvy that it actually had facial recognition and wouldn't start unless he was behind the wheel.
Wow, I exclaimed. It's a good thing you don't grow a beard in the winter.
Two weeks later, I recounted this story to my dad who gently explained that facial recognition had nothing to do with it - the push button starter only worked if you had the key with you.
Um. . . . duh.
A few years ago, I worked downtown. Every morning, I passed a neatly dressed man panhandling in front of my office building. I appreciated that while his clothes were old and not in the best shape, he always took care to be clean and polite. I could picture him as a tragic icon, an ethical man pushed to unimaginable limits to care for his modest family during his unfortunate unemployment. More than once, I ate peanut butter sandwiches because I'd given him my week's worth of lunch money. But by golly, I was happy to help. In the spring, he'd hand out daffodils as thanks for my modest donation.
Then one day, my boss cautioned me against giving any money to panhandlers - especially that young guy who hung out in front of our building.
Why? I asked. What's wrong with him?
Oh, nothing, she replied. But if you watch him at 9AM, he drives away in a new Lexus and those flowers he hands out are from the city flowerbeds at the back of the building.
Um. . . duh.
My penchant for being oblivious sometimes has immediate and quite public effects. Last week, I was in another building at work and used the ladies room. Now as far as I can tell, I don't think about anything particular while in the ladies room, but I must have had something on my mind this day because I never noticed that the toilets in this ladies room were equipped with automatic flushers.
When the toilet flushed, I about jumped over the stall door. I think I also screamed, because a few coworkers I hadn't yet met came in to see if I was okay.
Didn't you see the flushers mounted on the back of the toilet?, they asked.
Um. . . duh.
Many people make grandiose New Year's resolutions. They want to stop eating so much, or make more money, or learn French.
Not me.
In 2011, I just don't want to take any wooden nickels.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


I fingered the blue wool coat with its velcro straps and eyed Sammy. Bare-tummied Sammy, who is built for long walks in summer heat, not leisurely strolls in winter snow.
Sammy hates his coat. He sees me pondering it and hides under my chair in the living room. I check the temperature gauge tacked to the window. 35 degrees. I peer out at the back yard where all the bushes and trees hold their arms to the still-dark sky. No wind.
"OK, Sammy," I finally concede. "No coat." I pluck his harness off the hook by the back door and sit on the desk chair just in time for him to barrel into my lap.
Ultra-furry Charlie, long strapped into his harness, starts running in tight little circles of anticipation by the back door. I zip my coat, pick up my gloves and check the desk clock glowing in the darkness.
5:15AM. We'll be out the first outside today, before anyone in the neighborhood is up. My favorite time to walk.
I open the back door and two noses push open the storm door. I follow the dogs down the three steps but they wheel back and snuffle at something on the top step. As I reach back to quietly close the door, I notice the yard and driveway are a seamless blanket of white snow, perfect and smooth. Except for tiny footprints that tattoo their way from the back of the house, down the driveway and up our back steps.
I look closer. They look like cat prints, and it seems the cat spent some time on our top step while DaBoys were blissfully pawing their way through doggie dreams last night.
Satisfied that the intruder is gone, DaBoys pull me down the driveway and into our morning walk. Our first visit is to the young maple across the street, where grass stubbles its way up past the thin half inch of snow. From there, we turn west down the sidewalk, out of street light range. I'm the first to blemish this snow, but DaBoys find a scent in the grass and pick up the pace as they sniff and snort along its trail like little detectives.
Further along, the Wilson's uncut straw flowers and ornamental kale make a tapestry of their snow blanket. Two perfect tire tracks stripe the snow from garage to the street, evidence of Cathy's early shift in the ER.
Already, the sky's inkiness has burnished to navy against pinpoints of stars. DaBoys stop to water a fire hydrant.
I listen.
Miles off, a train lumbers away. The last echo of it's whistle barely threads the early morning air. I take a deep breath. Not enough snow to scent the air but enough to clean away the musky smell of fall that lingered yesterday.
Both dogs move on past lawns neat as graves beneath the thin snow. We turn down Parkview, a half-moon shaped street tucked away nearby. Big old trees, manicured flower beds and friendly people make this one of DaBoys favorite destinations for daytime walks. But I like Parkview best just like this. I thief my way through this neighborhood unwatched, while it is still quietly put away for the night.
It's peacefulness is what I'll steal to begin my day.
Almost right away, though, we find evidence of visitors before us. A rabbit has looped it's way from Merrick's hydrangea bed to the woods. The prints it left behind - dots for the front feet and dashes for the back feet - look for all the world like Morse code.
Further on, the Harrold's new cat has made it's way home from it's nightly explorations. It's eyes catch a glow from the yard light as it waits by the front door, puffed and patient as a hunter.
We make our way around the first bend. Houses rise up on our left with their generous lawns spread out before them. At their back are yards that slip down long, wooded hills to the quiet expanse of a city park.
A little gust of wind cartwheels a lonely maple leaf and it stitches its way across the snow in front of us.
In the Simon's driveway I spy a string of pawprints, probably from the family of raccoons they feed in the winter. Along the hedge that rings the Henry's yard are the perfect staccato prints from the deer who wonder up from the park to feast on leftover plantings. DaBoys are unimpressed by how perfectly each hoof print was left in the snow.
Craftier animals have explored the lawns overnight, leaving the snow on the sidewalks undisturbed. The dogs follow each scent through the grass, their noses scooping along the snow as we make our way around the second bend and back toward our street like ghosts.
At the corner, I turn to look back. We have been messy interlopers; there is evidence of us everywhere. My footprints waggle down the sidewalks, crossed by smaller prints from the dogs. Deeper drifts along flower beds are left churned up by snuffling noses. There's a patch by the Thompson's old walnut tree where the grass has been brushed clean. Evidence of our stop there lies securely tied in the poo bag I'm carrying.
We turn toward home, Sammy finally giving in to shivers. I think of his warm doggie coat back home on the table and wonder if he'll ever let me put it on him.
The sky has blued a bit, already bruised by the morning. Soon, it will have the daytime look it carries for everyone to see. Then, lights will go on, streets will be filled and lives will be lived.
But perched here on the tipping point between night and day, the world's stillness is fresh and special like a gift.
We turn down our driveway to join the outbound prints we left in the snow a mere 20 minutes ago. We follow them to our backdoor, up the steps and into our warm house. I hang up leashes, wipe off icy feet and hand out treats. The smell of the coffee I left brewing is too much to bear and I make my way through the dark house to the kitchen. Cradling the steaming cup in my hand, I tiptoe to the living room and open the draperies. Upstairs, Ken is still sleeping. I sit in my chair by the window, holding my cup high until DaBoys settle on my lap.
All the world is still.
The furnace hums on, and then back off.
I listen to the creaks in the bones of this hundred year old house.
Already, both dogs have fallen asleep. I listen to their breathing and sip my coffee.
Outside, the street lights wink out one by one by one.
Up above, the stars are bowing out of the waning night sky.
They leave behind the first blush of a fresh morning, unashamed and hopeful.
It is good.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Small Gestures

My friend, Eileen, lost her best friend and the love of her life this weekend to cancer. Pat was a big guy who loved his Harleys, laughed long and loud and was a total "guy" when it came to powering through whatever ailed him.
Except he couldn't power through this.
I know people who are living relatively normal lives while being treated for cancer, thanks to progress made in the the fight against this awful disease. But Pat had adenocarcinoma, cancer of the sheaths that cover the nerves in the body. It is a cruel and ravenous bastard. In the space of five short weeks, adenocarcinoma brought down this big tough guy, but not before making him suffer horribly.
Thankfully, Pat's suffering is finally over. He's in the arms of the Lord, and things like tumors and morphine and hallucinations are long gone.
But how do you go about easing someone's pain when they've lost their husband?
You say prayers. Thanks to you amazing friends I have online, people who don't even know Pat have been praying for him. We've all been saying them, and I know they work.
Last night, I baked cupcakes and made pasta salad just to keep busy. DaGoils and I will pile into our cars and go visit Eileen this afternoon and I'll take my cupcakes and pasta salad. We'll hug and cry and talk and hug some more. Such small gestures that will be repeated often in the coming months because we know Eileen's suffering won't be over for a long time.
She is no cream puff, either. This is a lady who walked the first twenty miles of the Breast Cancer 3Day Walk with a migraine. If you've ever had a migraine, you can appreciate the resolve and strength of this woman.
Please remember Eileen in your prayers now. The next weeks and months mean adjusting to the worst loss of her life without the one person who could make it all better.
And I know Eileen. She'd sign up for a migraine every day for the rest of her life if she could just have Pat back beside her.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Charlie Video and AllRecipes

I'm having a totally indulgent Saturday.
Not a mani/pedi/massage kind of induglent Saturday; just a work around the house kind of Saturday. The indulgent part is that I can watch Law & Order reruns until my eyebrows start to look like Sam Watterston's and even stop for a quick nap if I feel like it.
Now THAT's indulgent.
Ever notice that the more you dread a task, the bigger and gnarlier it gets every time you think about it?? That's what cleaning the kitchen looked like to me this morning so I tricked myself into being motivated: I took the overripe bananas off the kitchen counter and whipped up some banana bread. Once I had both loaves in the oven, I told myself I would use that 35 minutes to clean the kitchen. 35 minutes and not one minute more.
I've never moved so fast in my whole life, but I got it done! And I have yummy banana bread as a reward.
Cooking dinner sometimes seems like a big, gnarly task to me, too. Oh, I can cook but I have a tendency to migrate toward the same foods, the same meals, the same recipes over and over again especially when I'm pressed for time. But I get out of my rut by hopping over to AllRecipes, a nifty little website I've been using for years.
Anyone can submit a recipe for this site, so some are better than others. I've found some spectacular recipes here (Shredded Brussel Sprouts for one. . . oooh - and Lavender Tea Bread) along with some just okay ones (Apple Pudding) but I've never, ever found one I thought was awful.
But here's what makes AllRecipes a cook's best friend:
AllRecipes has a recipe for whatever you have on hand.
Think about it. It's Thursday night. You've had a crappy week, your head hurts, everyone is cranky and hungry and looking to YOU to put a Giada-worthy dinner on the table in oh, say five minutes.
AND it's the day before you do grocery shopping so all you have in the house is a can of mushroom soup, some macaroni and a couple wrinkly tomatoes.
No problem.
Go to AllRecipes and click on "Ingredients" at the top of the screen. Type in mushroom soup, macaroni and tomatoes under "Ingredients I Want" and click GO.
Tonight you're going to wow your family with Fanny's Italian Casserole.
It's as easy as that.
But wait - it gets even better.
What if you HATE mushroom soup? (Hand up here.) Or what if you're allergic to peanuts or shellfish?
No worries.
There's also a place to list the ingredients you don't want to use.
AND. . .with the click of a button you can adjust the ingredients for the number of people you're serving, save it to your very own Recipe Box, get nutritional information and even have AllRecipes make out your shopping list.
If you have an iPhone, there's even an AllRecipes app, but then that doesn't surprise anyone, does it?
While I've been typing this and waiting on my banana bread to cool, I ground up some Dunkin Donuts coffee beans and brewed my first cup of the day. Mmmmmm. . . my sparkling kitchen smells heavenly so I'm off to have breakfast.
What's that you say. . . ?!?
Banana bread is great for breakfast! It's bread and bananas. Also, bananas are fruit and everyone knows fruit is good for breakfast.
But first, here's the Charlie video. A little background: Charlie is the snuggliest, squishiest little bundle you'd ever want on your lap. But as much as he loves to be picked up, he's never quite figured out what he should do when you reach for him. Usually he just ends up just rolling over on his back and goes limp, which means picking him up is a little like picking up a furry octopus.
Awhile ago, I discovered that I could make him roll onto his back just by talking him. If you have a low tolerance for baby talking, you might want to turn down your volume.
I know we should both be embarrassed.
But we're not.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Scraplexicon insatialis

"Bones, you gotta have something by now, c'mon !"
"Booth, I'm a forensic anthropologist, not a fortune teller. I won't just make up whatever you want to hear."
"But c'mon, Bones. Give me something - anything!"
'Well, we know that death was caused by trauma and was probably instantaneous. Booth, will you help Zack lift this shelf unit so I can examine the victim."
"Great. Now I'm a squint assistant. Bones, I'm FBI. We don't lift shelf units."
"Fine. I'll just see if that reporter over there would lend a hand."
"Alright, alright. Just be sure to lift your end, Zack."
"That's good. . . set it down there. Hmmm. . . victim is a white female, I'd say early 50's. . . less than average height. . ."
"Ew, Bones. . . that's just weird."
"What's weird, Booth?"
"She's smiling, Bones! Don't you think it's weird that someone would die with a smile on their face unless they were. . . you know. . . "
"Actually, many ancient cultures posed their dead with facial expressions they believed would be helpful when they entered their next life. The victim obviously was enjoying something when she died, indicating that the shelf unit landed on her unexpectedly. Zach, I don't know what this"Michael's" store is - find out what they sell here and see if the store manager has anything to say about this shelf unit."
"Bones, what's that in her hand?"
"I don't know. Let me see. . . hmm. . . she's clutching it very tightly. . . maybe it's something she tore off the killer. Wait. . . it looks like a piece of paper. Let me just unfold her fingers. . . .got it. It's . . . a receipt from this store. No - it's a coupon . . . '40% off a single item.'
"Doesn't seem worth killing for, Bones."
"Agreed. However, it is common in some parts of our culture to seek out - even revere - bargains. Perhaps our victim practiced bargain hunting and that somehow led to her death."
"Dr. Brennan, the store manager says this is a craft store and the victim was last seen trying to retrieve something from the top shelf."
"Thank you , Zach."
"Well, Bones - that explains it. The victim was too short to reach the top shelf."
"That explains nothing, Booth. Our modern society has many talented, productive and brilliant short people, millions of whom do not end up beneath overturned shelves. No. . . we're overlooking something."
"What about her fingers, Bones. . .what's that colored stuff on them?"
"It appears to be. . . ink of some sort. Apparently the victim worked with inks of many colors - I count four-no, five-colors staining the nail beds of the fingers of her right hand, indicating a repeated usage over a long period of time. Dr. Saroyan, do you find the same evidence on the left hand?"
"Not at all. The fingertips on this hand appear to be calloused. . .with healed cuts on the palm and thumb, almost like old paper cuts. Judging from the way the victim is dressed, I would say she preferred comfortable clothing. . . wait. There appears to be something. . . sparkly. . . stuck to her shirt. Let me get my forceps. . . there it is. . . what do you make of that?"
"Dr. Saroyan, the store manager said this aisle was where they sold something called "bling" which he described as sparkly things."
"Yes, Zach - that would make sense. Our victim enters the store in search of this bling and even brings with her a sample she needs to match."
"Cam, that doesn't tell us why she died. Look, the FBI needs answers on this one."
"Calm down, Booth. Dr. Brennan and I will get you answers. Just give us room to work."
"Zach, will you get an evidence bag for the bling Dr. Saroyan is holding and see if Angela can work with the store manager to recreate the merchandise components located on this shelf unit. Thank you."
"Dr. Brennan, I see something else quite puzzling on our victim."
"What is that, Dr. Saroyan?"
"It appears to be. . . bites. . . of some sort. . . here on her neck. Do you see them below her ear on that side of her neck?"
"Yes, I do. . . there are several in a grouping. . . and more on her shoulder. Booth, please call Dr. Hodgins over here."
"Geez, Bones. First I'm a squint assistant and now I'm an escort. Hey Hodgins! Get over here!"
"Your raised voice indicates that you are intimidated by Dr. Hodgins, Booth. Perhaps you are in need of a session with Dr. Sweets."
"No, Bones, I don't need a shrink. I need to know how this woman was killed in a craft store!"
"Dr. Hodgins, please examine these markings on the victim's neck and shoulder area. They appear to be insect bites of some kind, do you concur?"
"I do. . . and, wait a minute. . . aha! These aren't just any insect bites!"
"They are not? Are they from a rare insect?"
"Well, I wouldn't call it rare exactly. As a matter of fact, it's popularity is growing exponentially. The World Health Organization placed this little baby on it's watch list."
"And does this insect have a name?"
"Oh, it's not an insect. It's a true bug called scraplexicon insatialis. A member of the infectioso family. Once this baby finds you, you're a real goner. It's not uncommon for victims to be bitten over and over for months - even years- on end. Victims can go for days without sleeping, living on very little food although they do crave Mike's Hard Lemonade. "
"Mike's Hard Lemonade?"
"Yesssss. . . and that's not all. They need a constant supply of paper, sometimes stockpiling huge amounts of stash. Once that sets in, it's only a matter of time before embellishments, glitter, ribbon, all manner of craft items join their cravings."
"But Dr. Saroyan found a 'bling' on our victim. What does that tell you?"
"Bling? Really? Can I see it?. . . thanks, Zach. . . ohhhh, this is amazing! Once onset reaches the stage where you're hooked on bling, you may as well pack it in. There's nothing you won't do to get that next fix. See how sparkly it is? That's what draws them in and makes them really crazy. Poor lady. She didn't have a chance."
"So, wait a minute. You're saying that a tiny piece of sparkly stuff killed our victim? What kind of squint speak is that??!"
"No, Booth. This bling didn't kill our victim. That shelf did."
"But I don't get it. Bones, will you translate, please."
"This all makes sense, Booth. Hodgin's description of the bug is consistent with what we know of the kinds of people that frequent these stores. They come here seeking a fix, and there's nothing they wouldn't do to satisfy their cravings. Obviously, our victim was attempting to retrieve some of this bling and in doing so accidentally pulled this shelf unit over on top of herself, unwittingly causing her death."
"Great. The FBI just wasted an entire afternoon and there's not even a murder!"
"I disagree, Agent Booth. This woman was not an accident victim - she was a victim of something relentless and uncontrollable. She couldn't help herself.The scraplexicon insatialis bug which bit her caused. . . Dr. Hodgins, does this disease have a name?"
"Yes, it does, Dr. Brennan. I believe it's called 'scrapbooking'."
"Great! The FBI just wasted an entire afternoon and there's not even a murderer I can arrest!"
"No, Booth, there's not. But there is something this victim has that we don't get to see very often in our line of work."
"What's that, Bones?"
"This victim died with a big smile on her face."

Lori Keener