Friday, April 30, 2010

I is for Inventions

The Engineer never does things the easy way. Or the fast way. He does them thoroughly, and that takes time. Let's start with the garage. When we moved in, we were so excited to have a garage. A two-car garage. Our previous home, a 1925 bungalow in Old Town, had no garage. Now we can park indoors! And store things! I was so stoked to stop scraping ice in the winter, and to be able to step into a cool car in the summer. It didn't quite work out that way, though.

It all started innocently enough. We filled one side with garage “stuff”, you know, shovels and rakes and various implements of destruction, bikes, skateboards, roller blades, and all those other wheeled toys my children like to test my blood pressure with and ride in a manner I find dangerous. The other side was going to be for my car, since it was newer than his.

All was well until the wallboard. I don't remember where it came from, but The Engineer collects things. Things that other people throw away. Or things that cause people call us with the question, “We didn't quite know what to do with _________ and were wondering if The Engineer wanted it.” Regardless, we had seven sheets of wall board, and they were leaning up against the wall, making it very difficult to get into the car. “Honey, would you please move the wallboard to the other section of the garage, I'm having trouble getting in.” You'd think this was a simple request, and easily done. You don't know The Engineer. Ask him, and what you get is, “If I'm going to move it over there, then I need to move the _______, which frees up the back wall. But while I have it cleared, I might as well put up the pegboard I was planning to, but I was also going to redo the sheetrock on that wall, so I'll have to do that first. And then what's the point of putting up the pegboard if I don't paint that wall, and as long as I'm painting the wall, I might as well redo those outlets, because I don't want to be messing up my new wall when I get to it. And while we're at it, we might as well paint the whole garage because we'll already have the paint, and the equipment, and that way we don't have to drag all that out again.” My “move the wallboard” turned into remodeling the garage. And I didn't park in it for a year. Because who has time to do the garage project when you have LED's to play with.

Which brings me to the growth chambers. The Engineer spent several years experimenting with LEDs, long before they were the new buzz word and in everything from flashlights to tail lights and traffic signals. He saw their potential, and wanted to invent an application as grow lights, for starting your seeds indoors before gardening season. But to experiment with lights and which color combinations produce the best growing plants, he needed a place to grow said plants. And our house didn't have one. So he built one. In our crawl space.

The crawl space was just that, only tall enough to crawl in. That didn't deter him one little bit. He just dug it out. Over the course of a winter, he removed half the crawl space. So now it's “the cave”, with four, separate temperature and light controlled compartments. He had to install a new breaker box to take the load of the high pressure sodium lights which were to be his control. Each chamber has it's own thermostat, which he can program remotely. Nothing shabby or second rate about this set-up. I'd take pictures and show you, but he's rather shy about some of this experiments.

I think he should be proud and show them off! Not everyone has the patience to dig that long or that hard, carting five gallon buckets on a dolly around the water heater and furnace, making that tight turn in the laundry room/food aisle, and then up the stairs, dropping little dirt clods on my white carpet. And I don't know anyone else who'd build a conveyor belt, with custom fit bucket, so that instead of tracking dirt along previously described path, it goes straight out of the crawl space and up the window well bypassing the white carpet altogether.

As you can see, life with Mr. Visionary is never boring. He can fix ANYTHING that goes wrong with the house, and when we installed our wood burning stove, I had full confidence that as he hacked into our duct work, to install fans, to pull all that heat up to the main floor, the whole thing system would work beautifully, and it does. I just can't park in the garage, because that's where you'll find his latest project: Sparky Von Boom Car, the electric conversion. But that's a story for another day.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

O is for Oxygen @ Life is Good

Oxygen. Common enough substance, readily available to most of us in unlimited supplies, and accessed without thought. Automagically, we breathe in and out every day, sometimes faster in delight or stress, sometimes slower to calm down and not strangle that disobedient teen. But we breathe, and we don't think about it. At all. However, there are many of us for which this breathing thing has become a conscious act. An act that consumes our thoughts and fears and sleepless nights. I can't seem to catch a good breath...what's wrong with me, and how long will this last?

Those of you who have been following me for a while know that I've had whooping cough, and a lung infection on top of that. That I've spent time on bed rest and couch rest and just plain pooped-out-can't -do-anything today rest. Since early February. I had thought my recovery (and I did think I'd have one) would be linear, you know, like a straight line. Heading UP. Each day a little better than the one before, and that it would have an end. That I'd be able to not lug my nebulizer everywhere, that I could stop having this racing heart and shaky hands and hyped up feeling from the albuterol. But what's happened instead is a sine wave (or cosine, I'm not picky) where instead of that straight line, what I have is the peaks and valleys of wave on the ocean. Some good days, some bad days, some medium days. But not really going anywhere. And repeating the above, in an endless semi-regular pattern.

The doctors don't agree on what's wrong with me. One says I have chronic obstructive airway disease, which is adult on-set asthma, only they don't call it that, they give it a longer name that takes more of your precious breath to say. Have you ever gotten out of breath having a normal conversation? It's inconvenient, especially for a talkative person like me. The other doc thinks I just have a very severe lung infection that I'll finally get rid of. Some day.

Faced with that, I decided maybe a tie breaker was in order. So on one of those days when I can barely talk without coughing and hyperventilating as I gasp for air, I called a pulmonologist (lung specialist) for another opinion. They were happy to make an appointment for me, but the soonest was two weeks away. Do you know how long two weeks is when you can't breathe? Damn long, I tell you.

So here I sit, waiting. The American Lung Association's slogan is so very true. “When you can't breathe, nothing else matters.”

I apologize for the whininess of this post, but two and a half months of being sick has left me cranky. If you'd like some cheerier posts about the letter O, please visit the other participants of the fab Ms. Jenny Matlock and alphabe-Thursday.

How to Survive Physics

It was lucky for me that I was right. He was the kind of professor who not only had a wicked sense of humor, but was also a good sport. Otherwise my harmless little prank of a joke might have ended quite differently.

My freshman year in college I took PH160, Physics for Scientists and Engineers. I think a better description might have been, “Physics for Einstein Only, Beware the Rest of You Fools Who Think You Know Anything.” As a math major, I had certain science requirements to fulfill, and I thought that this would easily knock out five of them. (This torturous class also had a lab.) Oh, how wrong I was. Just because you get an A in high school physics, and are good at math, don't think too highly of yourself.

My college was the large state university, with over 20,000 students. Most of my classes were of normal size, and my honors classes had even fewer students. Ph160, however, was a herd of a class. We met in an auditorium, seating over 300, and most of the seats were full. If you wanted to have a chance at seeing the board (this was back in the days when they still used chalk on blackboards) you'd better get there early. It didn't take me long to realize I was in WAY over my head. I wasn't getting anything from the lectures, but I went anyway, thinking perhaps a smidgen of useful info might drift into my brain by osmosis.

Sitting there, day in and day out, I did notice one thing, though. The professor had only four shirts: blue, white, blue with white stripes, and white with blue stripes. I got to wondering, did he wear them in order, same order, every week? Or was he a fashionista who mixed it up and varied the order? I began an investigation. It did give me a reason for going to class, and I started planning how I was going to present my findings.

Each day I'd arrive early for my good seat, and await the next data point. In the margin of my totally useless notes, I'd make a note of the color. I used a code: B,W, BS, WS. Which totally nerdy, short sleeved oxford would he have on? To make it even more fun, I started trying to predict the next one. Mostly I was wrong. Which got me thinking, does he have multiple copies of each shirt? How else could he manage that random order without doing laundry every night? And he didn't strike me as the laundry every night kind of guy. More like beer and pork-rinds every night while watching wrestling. He was a very educated, intelligent man, but he looked more like Bubba the redneck, with beer belly and shotgun.

About a third of the way into the semester, I was enjoying my game so much that I finally gave in and told Christy what the code was. Now we were betting each other for the next day's shirt. And by now, I'd also found a study group of real engineering students who dragged me through that class with lots of patient explanations. I shared my joke with them, too.

In the end we settled on making a graph of our findings, and planned to casually leave it on his overhead projector for him to find before class. I took my time with this, more time than any real assignment, unfortunately. It was a beauty, the line wiggling back and forth, up and down in its randomness. And almost done.

Then the unthinkable occurred. The shirt one day was yellow! With white AND blue stripes! I was crushed. Now my graph was going to have this REALLY out of the norm data point. And horror of horrors, would he wear it on the last day? Because we had quite the bet going. The person who guessed right got not only the satisfaction so well deserved, but also bragging rights AND got to keep the graph to proudly display. I wanted my graph back.

The last day of the semester arrived. I was giddy with anticipation. I got there really early this day. Snuck the graph onto his overhead. And then had to wait through most of the lecture for satisfaction. Finally he noticed it. Stopped talking. “What is this?” And he began to GIGGLE. GIGGLE! Not what I expected AT ALL. The class is starting to murmur by now, so he shares the joke. “Someone made me a graph. Let me read you the title. “A Longitudinal Study of the Random Variations of Shirt Colors in Professoria Physica.” And he could barely get that out between laughs, and then he's belly laughing when he notices the errant data point. “I guess I messed you up that day, didn't I?”

In the end, no one got to keep the graph. He asked if he could keep it. “Best laugh I've had in a long time. Thanks to whoever took the time to do this. My wife is going to love it!”

Monday, April 26, 2010


Looking back on it now, I really can't believe my Dad let us get a dog. I mean, really. The stoic Swede who relishes his quiet and his trains and his time to word-nerd really didn't need a dog to disrupt it all. But it's in retrospect that I realize it's just another example of his quiet love for his kids. I knew he loved us. I really did. But looking back as an adult, I can truly appreciate all the sacrifices of comfort that he made.

I don't know how long we'd been begging for a dog. To me it seemed like forever. I can't remember what finally convinced him, but convinced he was and we took that opportunity and pounced. As I recall (and my recollections have not always been spot on, I must admit. Some family members read this blog and have (gleefully?) pointed out some slight inaccuracies. Just because I exchanged the West River for the Severn River as the location of Annapolis does NOT mean you shouldn't believe my story...) ANYWAY, we got Salli at seven months from a co-worker of his. She was the last pup of the litter and their favorite whom they had planned to keep. This was perfect for Dad because she was 1) FREE and 2) from a known source and therefore not an abused shelter dog who'd be a heap of trouble.

Ha. The first night home, we put her in the basement where The Reluctant One had said she could sleep. She immediately began to howl. Not a puppy, whimpering howl that can be ignored, but a coyote worthy HOWL that none of us could sleep through. I begged to have her in my room. After all, it would end the howling. NO. If you want this dog, you'll sleep in the basement (not the finished part, with a couch, tv, and carpet, but the unfinished concrete part) with her to stop the howling. Ok. So I did. For what seemed like a week. But this had its eternal reward. You dog folks out there know that a dog always picks someone in the family as their “person”. After sleeping with her, feeding her, walking her, loving her, Salli picked ME.

Part beagle, part lab, she was just a darling. Not as big as most labs, and with the black and white markings of a beagle, minus the brown. What a wonderful companion she was. I was 14 when we got her, and we went on many, many walks. Dad had built a separate fenced in area for her “business” that was directly out the basement door. She of course knew how to use that, but she loved her walks, and I loved walking her. Especially by Lance's house. Over and over again, thinking he might notice me. Alas, he did not, but Salli got her exercise, and I had my fantasies.

All this came to a crashing halt the day she was hit by the car. She was such an obedient dog that I got quite lazy with the leash. One of my favorite things to do was ride my bike down to Sligo Creek with her on the leash beside me. Once we'd get there and it was just the winding path with the creek between us and the traffic, I'd let her off to do some real dog exploring. None of this being watched at every turn. Free to sniff that rotting, dead bird for as long as she pleased. Free to speedboat back and forth (we also thought she might have been part greyhound – she was scary fast) and round about. One of those speedboat runs led her into the creek, through, and up on the wrong side and under a car. My world stopped. In shock I threw my bike down and ran to her (would have been much faster getting there on said bike, but when the love of your life is under a car, your brain is in neutral, if at all connected.) It's mostly a blur, as it was even then, but a kind person stopped her van and bundled my pup in her own coat, and drove us to the vet.

Salli had a broken front leg. It would heal. But the recovery was long and hard. Lots of me carrying her up those basement steps to her area, holding her casted leg for her, desperately waiting for her to finish her business. But she did heal, and only limped a little. Much better than the lifeless body I'd seen on the road, eyes staring straight ahead. There was nerve damage, however, and she would obsessively lick that paw until it was raw and bleeding. We tried all kinds of different solutions, but none of them worked. Into the cone she went. It was much harder to sit beside her on the couch while watching tv. Much harder scratching her favorite spot behind her ear. But she was alive, and a conehead dog we had. For the rest of her life.

Such is love. One person gives up on a dog-free house, the rest respond in gratitude with all the care and love that beloved dog needs. I know a lot kids promise that “I'll take care of _______.” I did. And when she finally was at the end of her life and I was a “grown-up” married woman, I still grieved her loss deeply. And I think my stoic Dad might have, too. She was a great pet. And a great friend. I think every childhood deserves a pet. Mine was Salli.

Friday, April 23, 2010


She was the kind of girl who would have dated Lee Harvey Oswald in high school.” I remember that line very well, in fact, it was just last year that I tossed the tape of that episode of “Designing Women.” (Just so you don't leave and head for, it was "Dash Goff, the Writer")I loved that show. It was clever, amazingly well written for a TV sitcom, and those women said things out loud that I sometimes wish that I could say. You know, that perfect combination of words that would either solve the argument, or put that rude person in his place, or correctly convey my opinion without me sounding like a pompous ass. No, instead I end up stirring the pot, offending the boss, and making myself look a fool.

Words. I've always loved words. When I was hit by a car at age nine, and ended up in a body cast for four months, one of my favorite gifts was a Scrabble game. I don't remember who gave it to me. My father's company (Volvo) sent a lot of gifts, and our vintage Monopoly may have come from them, though I prefer to think that it was that superb example of Swedish engineering who gifted me with the game that sent me on the path of word-nerdness that was to define a lot of my adult personality. Recovering from a broken hip and spending that time entombed in plaster (that itched, and stank) was no easy thing for this new immigrant, but it was made more bearable playing Scrabble.

I played Scrabble with anyone would take the time to entertain the housebound invalid. It was easy to beat my siblings, after all, they're both younger. It was also easy to beat my Farfar, because English was his second language. But I could never beat my Dad. We've continued to play Scrabble my whole life, and as I graduated from college and went on to teach, there would be the occasional win for me. You see, my Dad is even more of a word nerd than I am. He's a word nerd in two languages, and master of, I actually lost count, but I think it's six. He taught himself Russian so that he'd more effective on the trips he and my mother used to make with ISP . A win against him is akin to an olympic medal. Now as the years march onward, and my word studies continue (I'm a Precept leader, certified word-nerd), I beat him more often.

He does cheat. Ok, not really. It's my fault though, because I bought him not only the 25th Anniversary Edition Scrabble (Fans, you gotta get this one: it has a plastic overlay that holds the tiles in place! No more obsessive straightening while waiting for your turn! AND, the tiles go in a little velvet bag, so no more annoying turning of all the tiles at the end/beginning of a game!) but also a computer version. So in his spare time (of which he has more than I do...) he plays his computer. And BEATS the computer. I think it's cheating that he gets to practice between bouts.

I think I've got him now, though. My dear friend RemodelWoman has introduced me to facebook Scrabble. She's in the Pacific Northwest, I'm in Colorado, but we can play Scrabble anyway. You play your turn when you have a chance, and sometimes days go by with no one doing anything. (Ok, it's usually me. Obsessing over what the perfect move is. Calculating all the different scenarios and psychotically flip-flopping over what to do.) But I'm playing again. And one of these days I”m going to be the one to make the call. “Hey Dad, want to come over for a game of Scrabble?”

I think I'm ready.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

N is for Never Give Up!

I expect all my intermediates to have a back hip circle and a back-bend kick-over.” Boy, I was in trouble. I'd been taking gymnastics lessons with the Montgomery County Department of Recreation for two session as a beginner, and I felt that I was ready to move on to the intermediates. Kelly, apparently, did not. I just didn't think I, as an eleven year old, fit in with the six and seven year olds, though were I to be brutally honest, my skill level probably did. But I wasn't ready to give up.

The gymnastics bug first bit me on the playground of East Silver Spring Elementary School. Nancy was the ring leader. She could do perfect cartwheels, round-offs, and of course, the trick we all aspired to: hang on the bar by your hands, swing your leg up over the bar (between your hands) and pull yourself to a sitting position so that you could then do windmills. Takes tremendous stomach muscles, as well as flexibility. The rest of us losers had to help each other up, literally giving a leg up. THEN we could do the windmills. Of course not as perfectly as Nancy. Which of course she pointed out.

When I hit middle school, which in this school system was fourth, fifth and sixth grade, I joined the gymnastics team. This was of course faux gymnastics, more jump off the springboard, wave to the parents type stuff. But it was fun and I got to say to everyone, “I'm on a gymnastics team now.” Satisfying. Especially when talking to Nancy, who went to a different school.

But what I truly wanted was REAL gymnastics. If you've caught on to how old I am, this was during the Nadia Comaneci years, the Olympics where she scored the first perfect 10. So off to the rec department I went. What's a girl to do when she's got no talent, AT ALL, for gymnastics? Well, if you're as stubborn as I am, you don't give up. If Kelly says back hip circle, well I'd better learn one before the next practice. Off to the playground. Made myself dizzy and nauseous but I actually learned it. Wow. I amazed even myself.

The back-bend kick-over was a different. I could do the back-bend, no problem. It was the kicking over that my stomach muscles weren't strong enough for yet. But it was Friday, so I had until Monday. I remember this so clearly, because we were going to the Briarpatch for the weekend. And the house sits on a hill. And hills are slanted. And if you do a back-bend with you feet uphill, it's easier to kick-over. When we weren't sailing, I was on that hill. Practicing over and over again. Until finally, surprisingly, I could do it not on the hill. Wow. I'm now so stinking excited I can't wait to get to gymnastics. I'm so sure Kelly is going to test us and I'm going to pass!

She doesn't test us. I even ask her. “Aren't we having the test to see if we can stay in intermediates?” “No. I just say that to scare away the kids who aren't motivated.” Seriously? I've worried and made myself dizzy and probably strained my back for nothing? I'm mad. But I do eventually calm down when I realize that I learned two really hard (for me) gymnastics tricks in less than one week. With no coach. I wonder what I could do if I keep taking lessons?

Retire as the sixth in the state at the age of 16 is what I did. And that was the gymnastics season I broke my ankle in April, my collarbone in September and my wrist in December. (I'm not exaggerating for dramatic effect. I really AM that orthopedically lucky. And besides, one of them was horseback riding and you can thank my Aunt Risky for that one.) So never underestimate what you can do with a whole lot of hard work. And a whole lot of stubbornness. And a whole lot of prayer.

This post is linked to the fab Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday class. Click on over and check out the other great N posts!

G is for Gardening

My first attempts at gardening left me an enemy of the whole entire stinkin' business. My mother thought it would be just a wonderful idea if we kids learned to love the process, so she divided the raised beds at our first house in the U.S into zones and gave us each one. We then selected what we wanted to grow, planted it, and watched it flourish. Yeah, right. More like stab at the concrete-like, sandy substance formerly known as dirt. Try to pry up a section to shove a seed underneath, give up in frustration and tears, only to be told that we need only wet the “soil” and all will be well. Ok, so now I stab the WET, concrete-like, sandy substance and get myself all DIRTY, while trying to pry up a section to shove a seed underneath. She lets me give up. But only for that day. Makes me try again the next day.

We now have more tools. Shovels and rakes and other implements of destruction have been added to our arsenal. I don't recall exactly how long it took us, but it sure seemed forever. We did finally get those stinking seeds planted. I don't even remember what I planted, I just remember it didn't grow. At all. All that frustration for nothing. All it produced was a hatred for gardening so ingrained in my being that even grown up and married, I refused to garden.

That of course didn't stop The Engineer from having a garden. A very large garden. A very large, organic garden. As in home made compost. And straight from his friend's farm fresh manure. Lovely. Lots of our weekends were spent on the garden. Each year I'd hear the dreaded words, “I think I'm going to make the garden bigger this year.”

He of course respected my hatred and didn't make me participate unless I wanted to. He let me do my thing while he roto-tilled, weeded, harvested, canned, blanched, froze, gave away, and stored the bounty of his labor. Each year we had more tomatoes, peppers, squash, pumpkins, basil, cucumber, eggplant, beans, peas, tomatillos, and broccoli.

Then we moved to this house. Which has a front yard, unlike our first house, which had a sidewalk, and some bushes. He says, “You can have some flowers out front if you want, or I can put some of my tomatoes out there.” I start to wake up. I do not want tomatoes growing in my front yard! Guess I better stop pouting and start working. Because we have a deal. He'll take care of it if it grows something useful. He does NOT do useless, pretty flowers. If I want those, I gotta take care of them. Therefore, we haven't had flowers, yet. Just veggies. Lots of them. But in this new house, I want flowers in my front yard. You know, just to impress the neighbors. So I choose some flowering perennials, and we plant them together, and it's kinda fun. You know, only sorta. Not that I like it or anything. Being out there in the gorgeous weather with your hubby, working together, you know, I could get used to that.

And that's how it started. Now, nine years later, I'm proud to say that my neighbors come to me for advice. Can you believe it? The girl who spent her life hating gardening is now the proud grower of amazing varieties of sunflowers, and roses, of hollyhocks,

daisies, columbine, morning glory

lupins and violets. Who knows all kinds of stuff she never thought she would, and who gets immense satisfaction getting out the whole root of that stupid weed that dared set it's foot in my flower bed.

But that's not all. I'm now friends with the veggies, too. You'll even find me weeding, and harvesting, sometimes even canning and freezing. Just not too much. Wouldn't want The Engineer thinking I'd like to take over or anything. But the garden has gotten so ridiculously big that we now have a harvest party each year right before the first frost. Friends and neighbors come and help us pick it clean.

We feed them, and the kids each go home with a pumpkin.

We light a bonfire in our firepit and make s'mores.

It's a wonderful, festive fall time. So if you're out this way come end of September, drop on by! We'll even send you home with some veggies. After all, we've got plenty to spare.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sacred Serenity

Although I'm an outgoing, talkative, leader type person, I have to have my alone time. My peace and quiet, nobody bother me time. It's sacred. It's also hard to fit into the schedule when you're a mom, wife, sister, friend, and all the rest we do as women today. But if I don't have it, I lose sight of who I am. And then I'm lousy at being all of the above.

Even Best called me crazy when I used to get up at 5 am. But that's how I used to get my sacred serenity. It was just me, my candle, and my green tea. I so enjoyed the quiet before my family woke up. The house just sounds different when they're sleeping. It's a stillness that's different than empty. Cozier. Since I teach a Bible study, this was the perfect preparation time. Writing my lesson plan on a fresh brain was a lot more effective than trying to do it in the afternoons, even if I did kick the boys outside. That's a different quiet. A quiet punctuated with, “That's MY nerf gun!” and, “I need a drink, Mom!”

Now that I'm homeschooling and our schedule has gotten all loosey-goosey, I'm no longer getting up early. It's a rebellion thing, I think. Why should I get up, when there are no lunches to make, no carpool to drive, no school starts at 8:30 to worry about? There's also no serenity. They boys are home ALL THE TIME. I'm never alone. And I've noticed I'm a bit tense around the edges. Ok, crabby a lot of the time. I think I know why. Gotta get me some alone time.

Here's what I need. Here's my version of perfect serenity.

I slide out of bed and no one notices. I grab my breakfast as I head out, but I can't wait until I get to the dock, so the first bite of my reuben goes down as I tip-toe out, being careful not to slam the screen. The mist hovering over Mill Creek is like a shroud of secrecy, ready to envelop me, give me cover. The great blue heron is in it's usual sentinel position, and doesn't flee as I arrive. He's seen me do this so many times, he allows me passage to the dock with scarcely a glance. It's too early to sail, since barely a ripple disturbs the glassy water. I untie the kayak instead and just let myself drift into that mist, not bothering with the paddle just yet. I lay back, and let my thoughts drift too. What a perfect time to talk to Him. Thank Him for His amazing creation. For the salt-murky air tickling my nose with all the memories of my childhood spent at this place. For the birdsong as they greet the morning, each other, and me, with their melodies of praise. For His love, which surrounds me every day. Thanks, God for all of this.

I allow myself to just drift, just listen. I hear the world begin to wake up. A mother calling to her child. Engines starting. The manager of the fuel station greeting his first customer. Conversations. Sound travels far over the water, and I've heard some familiar voices, too. I grab the paddle and head back to the dock. I see two not-so-little-anymore boys. Ready for breakfast. And their mom is now ready to face the day. Renewed. Relaxed from some time spent in sacred serenity.

Monday, April 19, 2010

F is for Friendship

I bought her the friendship necklaces even though we were turning 40something and weren't still in junior high. It was a silly, feeble attempt to convey my love. I gave her the part that said “Best” and kept the part that said “Friend”. Sometimes now we sign cards and emails with those labels, but mostly we use our initials. It's impossible to convey how much she means to me. There we were, two wounded-on-the-battle-field-of-friendship souls, who found each other rather late in life.

We met going to a retreat at our church. They arranged the carpool for us, and the church secretary informed me that she'd be picking me up. “She lives right around the corner from you.” That's strange, I thought, she lives right here. Best was not really a stranger, you see. I knew of her. Her daughter had assisted me in the nursery. She had attended my parent's small group progressive dinners. She'd even led the worship team at church and done a wonderful job of dedicating “How Great Thou Art” when our prayed-for-for-three-years-YellowBoy was dedicated. But we'd never spoken in person. But you know that “click” thing? As soon as we did, we clicked.

I'm no fashion girl. At ALL. I'm a uniform girl. For many years I wore only white t-shirts and jeans. Seriously. Then I switched to black t-shirts. I'm now proud to say that I've come a long way. I have multiple colors of t-shirts to go with my jeans. I was going on this “by invite only” brainstorming-how-do-we-start-a-women's-ministries-team at our church retreat and I had NO idea what to wear. I know it's not a big deal, but I had been really wound up about what to wear, had even considered not going because of it. She showed up in casual clothes. What a relief. I could like her. On the way up the mountain, the conversation in the car among the four passengers turned to friendship. I had just barely survived a brutal, abusive friendship with yet another “project” friend, and I was hurting. The conversation left her in tears. I wondered why. Did she have friendship hurts of her own?

Prior to this, I'd always had what I call project friends. You know, those people who need something. Need you. They're always in a crisis. They make you feel important and useful when you help them. But they're tiring. Draining. I think I get the project friend thing from my mother. She has the gift of mercy, and is always helping people. There's nothing wrong with that, but I've come to realize the hard way that you can't and shouldn't have these people as your best friend. It's up to Jesus to save people. Not me. I may be Type A, choleric, go get 'em, but I ain't no savior. So I'd met this wonderful person, but I was reluctant. Ok, scared silly.

Throughout the retreat I found myself buddied up with her, and then I'd withdraw. I just really wasn't ready to go there again. Too many hurts. So we danced around each other for several months. I had foot surgery. She brought me dinner. Her dog died, I sent her a card and flowers and helped bury him. But sometimes you just have to take a risk to have something great. So one day I picked some lilacs from my back yard and took them to her. Wrote a card asking to be friends. She accepted. And we've been “best” and “friend” ever since. (And we laughed hysterically later when I discovered that her entire back yard is lilacs. She sure didn't need mine, but it's the thought that counts.)

It's now been nine years. We've supported each other through some major crises. And laughed through some wonderful times. We vacationed together as families, and the two of us have managed to sneak away without the families for our annual birthday trip. Yes, we share a birthday – isn't that amazing? She's taken her vacation to nurse me through three more surgeries, and has been by my side now through this horrid whooping cough. She's called me in the middle of the night to take care of her son while she took her daughter to the emergency room. We're “through thick and thin” friends. There aren't many people who get to enjoy this kind of friendship. I'm blessed to be one of them.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

E is for Eggs, Holey Eggs

There are parts of this homeschooling thing that I'm actually enjoying. Very much. YellowBoy requested that cooking lessons be part of our curriculum on a daily basis. Who am I to refuse a thirst for knowledge such as this? He's asking me, the Food Network addict, for lessons. What better way for me to show off my knife skills, my mad knife skills. And my new knowlegde of mix-n-match stir fry, gained from my subscription to Food Network magazine (yes, I'm a sucker when my niece is fundraising for her band...) Your wish is my command! Let the lessons begin!

My YellowBoy already loves to cook and bake. He makes wickedly good M&M cookies. Owns his own Pampered Chef chef's costume

(“Mom, I don't want you to wash this apron, I want it dirty like this, like a real chef. It shows that I actually cook.”) He requested these scoops for Christmas.

He also lamented our lack of a complete set of measuring spoons, so I bought these.

(It does help that sister-in-law sells Pampered Chef). One morning he brings me my magazine and says, “This is what I want to learn how to cook.”

Um, yeah. I've tried that before. My brother DataBoy makes a wicked rendition he calls Baskety Eggs. I make a thing called a big mess. But this is what he wants to learn, so this is what we'll try.

I wish I'd thought to take pictures of our subsequent attempts, but I didn't. I had to take one for the team and eat the first one. Egg too runny. YellowBoy, though loving yellow, does not love yolk. His eggs must be cooked completely. Yolk well done. Jake loves a runny egg, but this one was way, way too runny for even him. I know what you're saying, geez, cook it a little longer. Not that simple, bread was already mostly charred. Throw it away you say. Have you MET my mother??? I cannot do that. (Remember the ketchup packet?)

We continue our quest for holey egg perfection. Each time we get a bit better. But we have realized that it's either a two man job, or a three armed person's job. Takes teamwork. But that's a good lesson, too. Here's what ours look like. Not too shabby. And certainly delicious. Bon apetit!

Friday, April 16, 2010

D is for Donuts

It was a big change going from gymnastics coach to donuts, but I'm a firm believer that to graduate from high school, you gotta serve time in food service. There are so many good life lessons to be learned. I learned mine at Winchell's.

First there's the lesson of humility and having a servant's heart. Once you've been behind that counter having to politely wait on all manner of people, from the nicest little blue haired grandma to the drunken, slobbering, reach-over-the counter-and-grab-your-D-cups fool, you'll have more patience and compassion for the pimply, shy boy who forgets your french-fries.

Respect for authority. Regardless of the idiocy of said authority. My boss was a stoner who somehow missed the memo that we were no longer in the 60s. He used to go into the men's room to smoke his marijuana. For long periods. Customers would want to use the ONE restroom. And couldn't. I'd apologize. “It's out of order, I'm so sorry.” I'd finally had enough and confronted him. Casually. “Jerry, someone's been smoking marijuana in our restroom, and I think we should alert the police.” This brought his eyes UP from where they usually rested during our conversations. (Finally!) His reply, “But we don't know which customer it is!” Too which I calmly replied, “Oh, but I do.” And stared him down. I guess he had some functioning braincells left because he didn't do it again. He just came to work already stoned. SIGH.

Hard work. Do a good job at whatever job you find yourself. It just makes it more pleasant for everyone. It wasn't long before Jerry had me working the oh-dark-hundred morning shift. “You're so fast, I need my best girl in the morning.” If you want to get on my good side, making me get up at 5 am is NOT how to do it, buddy. But I'll say this, time does go by a lot faster when you're on your toes for a morning rush than it does in the afternoons when all you're doing is cleaning up the grease in the back room and making frosting for tomorrow. And you don't have to mop in the mornings.

Customer service. People appreciate extra attention and the personal touch. These days a lot of us make regular stops at coffee shops for lattes and such. Back in the 80s when I was schlepping donuts, people made regular stops for our coffee. It was good coffee, and being a coffee snob, I always made sure we had fresh pots, and I did memorize which regular had which size and what they took in it. And since I couldn't help but also know what car they drove (my dad worked for a car company, I'm always looking at cars) I'd have their order ready when they hit the counter. They liked that. Ok, there was that one time that I spilled LargeCoffeeBlack's order all over the counter...but that was when my apron got stuck in the cash register...which is a whole post by itself.

So if there's ever a petition going around adding fast food to graduation requirements, I'll be signing it. But apparently I didn't learn my lessons well enough at Winchell's, because I had a few more hard ones to learn at Wendy's. In costume.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

M is for Mom's Group @ Life is Good

I don't think I could have survived having YellowBoy (who never slept and only screamed) and toddler-exploring-with-lots-of-questions-along-the-way Jake if I hadn't also had Mom's Group. I mean this sincerely. People might think I started Mom's Group to be all nice and provide a place for moms of all ages to come together and share their brags and sags on a weekly basis. But I'll let you in on a secret. I did it for my own sanity. Nothing altruistic about it.

I met her when we were both pregnant with our first child. We hit it off immediately. Even though she was nine years younger, a foot taller (ok, eight inches) and a former professional model, for some reason she still wanted to hang out with me. Together we'd pack our diaper bags and boys, lug our car seats, and head half an hour down the road to a church in a neighboring town where a distant acquaintance of hers attended a group for moms. I liked it. It was like a 12-step meeting. “Hi, my name is Tina. I have a six month old boy named Jake. My brag for the week is that I did get to make dinner uninterrupted last night because The Engineer actually got to come home before 9. My sag is that the other nights he worked until midnight and this is the only adult time I've had all week. I couldn't leave the house because Jake's asthma is flaring and his doctor doesn't want me taking him anywhere. I'm actually not supposed to even be here, but I thought I might explode if I didn't step out of the house so I'm here.” “Hi Tina!”.

We did this for the two short years that we had together. Although the friendship endures to this day across thirteen years and 1500 miles, she had the nerve to move away when our boys were two. But I continued with “MomsAholics” until it ended. By this time, I was also on the women's ministries team at my own church. Whenever we brainstormed about new programs to add, I'd suggest a mom's group based on my favorite parts of what I'd already experienced. And like any good leader should, our leader at the time said, “Great idea, Tina, why don't YOU do that.” I was cornered. Time to shut up. Or actually do it. So yeah, I did.

My version of Mom's Group followed a simple, recurring agenda, because I think moms appreciate knowing what' going to happen next. After all, a lot of our day is unpredictable. We have to change poopie diapers just as we are getting everything into the car. We have to clean vomit from our hair. Our child throws a fit on the entrance rug to the butcher shop. (Don't tell me I'm the only one?)(And I must interject here that FREE child care was provided - who can enjoy a mom's group WITH your child???) We started the morning with a silly question. What's the worst job you ever had? If you had an unexpected, child free evening, what would you do? When you were little, what did you want to be? What was your favorite childhood toy? Describe your first best friend. It got the moms talking and sharing, but about non-threatening stuff. Broke the ice.

After the silly question, someone led a devotion. Then we'd discuss the book we were reading. A lot of us wished for the time to enjoy a book club, but moms of toddlers don't have a lot of time to read. This way we got a mini-version of that with just a chapter a week, and we all participated in choosing this book. It did take us two years to get through A Purpose Driven Life, though. But we all knew we were there for more than that. We were seeking a deeper connection. We'd end our morning by sharing our brag and sag for the week. This is where we spent the most of our time. This is why we were there. This is were we shed our tears.

It wasn't just a group for moms of small children, though. It was a group for moms of all ages. We had moms of teenagers, moms of college kids, and grandmoms. GREATgrandmoms. I really wanted a mentoring aspect to it all. For us to learn from those who had been there, done that. And we did. It was precious to listen to the mom-of-college boy share that she wished she'd spent more time on the couch cuddling the five year old who wanted to explain excruciating detail each one of the over one hundred Pokemon. It was awesome to have the two moms who had been acquaintances for years finally realize each of their teen boys were rebelling, and now they had each other to lean on. In confidence.

So here's to all of you. Thanks for helping me to live through all the challenges of those years. Thanks for praying for me, and for bringing me lasagna when I had foot surgery and YellowBoy had scarlet fever. Thanks for telling I wasn't insane when I thought__________________. (It happened more than once). Thanks for listening. Thanks. I couldn't have done this mom thing without you.

I'm a student of the fab Ms. Jenny Matlock and her alphabe-Thursday class. Check out the other great post based on the letter M.

Monday, April 12, 2010

H is for Honeymoon Sailing

No one said they had to be in order...

Honeymoon Sailing

The Engineer and I got married in June, 1992. I was a seventh grade math teacher, he was an engineering student. Obviously, we had no money. Our honeymoon was a road trip from Colorado to the Briarpatch in Annapolis, MD. Nothing like starting your marriage driving 1800 miles in a 1976 Volvo. He'd spent time at the beach as a child, but had never been sailing. I was SO excited to show him where I'd spent summers growing up, and ever so excited to teach HIM something.

The Engineer does know everything. He grew up at his father's side, learning every sort of home improvement project as they added to their house and built a terraced garden. He was also employed as his neighbor's handy-man by the age of 12, and then worked at greenhouses doing more than watering plants - he built the greenhouses. It's hard to find something he can't do. I thought I'd found it. He didn't know sailing, but I did!

We'd already spent three days on the road, a whole day in a lovely, nameless suburb of St. Louis getting a new alternator after we blew ours up on the beltway at 2 a.m, then five days at his aunt's condo on the beach in Ocean City, and were now at my beloved Briarpatch. Married nine whole days. Time for some conflict! Let's go sailing!

I'm on fire-hose mode as I explain all about how to launch and how to recognize the poison ivy on the boat ramp and how you don't have to wear you life jacket as an adult as long as you have it along and the paddle goes here but you also need a bailing bucket because the self draining plug doesn't work so well in brackish water brackish means that this estuary which is a mix of fresh water coming down the rivers mixing with the salt water coming up the bay from the Atlantic makes it yes salty but not as salty as the ocean...and he's not listening. He's just taking in the view. I appreciate that. It's a gorgeous view. (The picture is taken from our back porch)

Mill Creek, which is where we have our waterfront property, empties into White Hall Bay, a little indentation in the Chesapeake Bay, near the Bay Bridge, and just north of the West River, which is where you'll find the Naval Academy and Annapolis. You used to be able to find White Hall Bay by the radio towers, which blinked so romantically at night, but they took those down. Damn.

If the wind is blowing at about 20-25 knots out in the Bay, it's perfect Sunfish weather at our end of the creek. And 90% of the time, the wind is blowing down the creek, which means you've got to go against the wind (can't you hear Bob Seger right now?) the whole way up to the channel leading out to White Hall Bay. It's not often we've made it that far with the Sunfish, mostly because it takes a while, and it's usually someone else's turn by then. But also because compared to who is usually out there sailing, our small Sunfish is an annoyance, not easily maneuvered out the way, and the wind does die with little notice. An hour of paddling it home with one tiny paddle is not fun. After you've done that once, you're really not anxious to do it again. That's why most of our Sunfish sailing has been racing back and forth and up and down our end of the creek. There's lots of maneuvering room, we're beyond the sandbar and the gas station so there's hardly ANY traffic to speak of. Think of it like a cul-de-sac. So you take your turn, and then when the impatient person on the dock yells loudly enough that you really can't pretend anymore that you didn't hear him, you head back in and give up your turn. And yes, there's a reason for all of this back story. Patience!

The Engineer and I head out for our first sailing experience together with me at the helm. I start to explain about reaching and tacking and winds and I've barely begun. Seriously. I think we've hard alee'd maybe once. He says, “Ok, I've got it.” And reaches for the rudder and the mainsail “rope”. (He refused to learn the names of the different “ropes”. Stubborn man.) I start to protest. “You can't learn sailing in three minutes! It was several summers before I understood it completely!” He calmly looks at me. “I'm an engineer. I've got it. Winds, vectors, it's easy. Seriously. Let me have the rudder now honey, you relax, I'm taking you sailing. Let's go out in the Bay.” I was willing to give in to him having learned to sail in three minutes, but this part I had to explain. So I start in on what I explained to you in the previous paragraph. He doesn't buy it. He still wants to go “where no man has gone before.” He wants to take his new wife on an adventure. “But didn't you sometimes wish that your Dad wasn't so sensible and cautious, and so courteous to the other big boats? Didn't you just want to go out there, with the big waves, in the small boat, and see what it's like? I'll take care of you.”

So we went. And the brand new sailor navigated us through the channel. (For you non-sailors, it's a path marked with red and green placards on posts to show where the trench is for the fixed keel boats, (they don't want to run aground.) Of course we COULD have pulled up ours, but he wanted the challenge of navigating it. Of course he did. And we didn't turn for home until we were starving. Really starving. It was a great time. With lots of "I love yous" and lots of wondeful gazing at each other, and lots of adventure. Lots of splashing too. Big waves out there. Exploration. And me learning early on to just let go and trust him and let him "drive".

It did take us a long time to get home, though. But he didn't let me paddle. He paddled the whole way home. After all, he had promised to take care of me.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

C is for Claustrophobia

I don't know what it takes to qualify as a card-carrying claustrophic, and frankly, I don't really care to find out. I just know that most of my life I've been very uncomfortable in confined spaces. Very uncomfortable probably doesn't accurately convey my feelings, but it's a place to start, and since I already have enough maladies with which The Engineer has to put up...I don't really single this one out all that often. (And for the record, I TAUGHT English, and I do know that you DON'T end a sentence with a preposition, and I also know that writers have license...and since that's what I'm trying to be...I get to use them where I like, AND I get to use as many strange punctuations as I like as well.)(And while I'm confessing...I'll confess that one thing I don't know how to do is punctuate with parentheses, but perhaps I should learn. You might have noticed that I tend to write with parentheses from time to time.)

So back to claustrophobia. Because that's where we were when I got all English teacher on you. (Yes, math and English. I realize this is a strange combination, sorta right/left brained. But unless you're really new to this blog, it's not the strangest thing about me.)

I'm always the warmest person in the room. My thermostat is whacked. And I get hot flashes, because not only have I had girly part problems since I was 18, and as follows naturally, reproductive problems, God wasn't done with all those issues, he also gave me really early peri-menopause and added hot-flashes to the already ready-to-combust temperatures at which I normally operate. So take a warm person, seat her between people, give her a hot flash, AND she has claustrophobia. What does she want now? TO GET THE HECK OUT OF DODGE. IMMEDIATELY. So this is why you'll find me seated in the aisle seat. But I so don't mind stepping out and letting you go by to seat yourself in the middle where you can enjoy a prime view of whatever play, movie, recital, children's school program where we find ourselves. And I have calculated that the airflow in our church's sanctuary is optimum in the pew five from the front. (We have been going there for almost 18 years now, I've done my research.) You'll find me in the aisle seat there.

Claustrophobia girl does not enjoy air travel. At all. It's on airplanes that you find the rudest people and the least amount of personal space. I make every attempt to travel light. As a child, I was fortunate enough to make many trips to Sweden in the summers after we had immigrated to the US. Farmor, though not a modern woman by any means, (she never learned to drive, never handled finances, was quite the contrast to my Grandma Vivian), was a brilliant planner. She had seen the writing on the wall, I think long before my Dad was willing to tell her that we were not ever moving back to Sweden. So each time I got to visit her, she would pack MASSIVE amount of carry-on luggage with breakable treasure. TREASURES. Items that I now adore having. Items that I now set my table with on special occasions. But it did make flying cumbersome. Now that I have choices, I travel light. Others do not. I do know that as a teenager traveling with my little sister, with our maxed out allowance of carry-on bags of vintage china, we must have annoyed the CRAP out of our traveling companions. So I cope with air travel with vitamin V. Vodka. In whatever. I'm not kidding. It mixes with...anything. Would you like me to scream and barf, or would you like me relaxed? Not that the choice is yours. I made it while I was packing. And drinking in preparation.

I also don't do well with sleeping bags. (I know you're saying: Are you KIDDING me?) It's true. I know you've seen me sleeping in them. But I was faking it. They were unzipped. And I was actually on top of them. With my cool påslakan (Swedish for bag-sheet: it's a very thick sheet, doubled, and sewn on all sides, with an opening at the top for you to slide a blanket inside. The closest American equivalent is the duvet for a down comforter. But I'm not getting inside one of those either, it's just that a double thick sheet is the exact right weight for me when I'm camping.)

Okay, I see it happened again. I titled this claustrophobia. And once again a post got hijacked. Perhaps a better title might be...Tina rambles, and again shares a bit of her Swedish stuff...bear with me people. Ms. Matlock said just write. (Ok, don't tell her I told you, um, but she said JUST WRITE. I'm still new, and I don't know yet what happens if you don't obey, and I'm too scared to find out, so I'm just, you know, for now, obeying.)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

B is for Boats

Still doing my make-up work...

Our first boat was a Sunfish, and wow, were we proud. My parents had taken a boaters' safety class, and learned the bare essentials of sailing. We were all set. I can't remember sailing before this, so the experience was new for me. My American grandparents had exposed me to motor boats, and Dad's best friend in Sweden had a motor boat on Nordsjön, but as all sailors know, sailing is NOTHING like being on a motor boat.

Sailing is more like flying. When you hit the wind just right as you “hard alee”, you can hear that wa-oomp as the sail fills, feel the lift and pull as the craft takes off, and then there's only the waves lapping and the wind whistling, no motor, or diesel fumes to spoil the experience. Magic.

A Sunfish is not a big boat, but it's a perfect starter boat. You don't need an “official” boat ramp. You attach wheels to the back of it, pick it up by the handle on the front, walk it into the water, remove the wheels, raise the one sail, and you're off. (Ok, you do have to attach the rudder, and once your clear of the bottom of the creek, lower the center board, as my sis pointed out as she proof read me.) Bring a paddle with you, because there is no emergency, helper motor. And since there is only the one sail, you don't have to learn about the gib vs. the main sail and how to maximize their working relationship. Nor do you need a spinnaker for the “run” home.

It's supposed to seat two. In the small cockpit. But we were a family with three kids. This meant that we were never together as a family on that boat. To this day I don't know how my parents rotated who took which kid and when. I do remember my dad had all three of us kids precariously perched that one time. You're not really supposed to have anyone in front of the mast, but that was the most coveted spot. You didn't have to duck during a tack, and you can stick your hands and feet in the water (if you could get away with it, that is...does slow things down and mess up the trajectory a bit on a craft this size...and these are acts that would never escape Dad's notice...)

Dad is an instinctive sailor, born for it. He took what he learned and just went for it. Like an old salt, he'd watch the sails, and the ripples of the wind in them, and the “tell-tales”. (They look like pieces of yarn that someone forgot to cut off while making the sails, but you want them laying nicely on the sail, parallel to the cockpit.) He knew which tack to pick, he knew when it was time to turn for home so that the dying winds wouldn't be ready for their obituary before we made the channel. I love sailing with him.

Mom, though a competent sailor, is more of an adventurer. She doesn't mind tipping over the boat, getting stuck literally up the creek. She, as in all parts of life, is along for the ride and the lovely people she'll meet along the way. There are days that I'm in the mood for that, but it's not usually on a boat. When I'm sailing, what I want is solitude, waves, and relaxation of the most relaxing kind. I don't find it relaxing trying to right a boat in murky water, and then paddle it home in the doldrums, after having spent an hour “meeting the nice people in the red house at the end of the creek.” What I want is what Dad also wants out of sailing. Hours upon hours of the only words spoken being, “Ready about!” “Hard alee!” And then, unfortunately, “I think we should head home now.”

I started this post about boats, and was going to tell you how we ended up with a 36' cabin cruiser that slept six...but it went elsewhere. Guess I'll save those stories for another day. After all, it took four more boats to get there...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

L is for Laundry

You've already learned some of my quirks, like the whole add to the list then cross it off thing. And some of you also know that I'm a math nerd and love numbers, and am freakishly able to remember almost all the phone numbers that I've dialed. Even once. And that I still know that Darlene's phone number from seventh grade was 593-5952. It's still in there. But you don't yet know about my laundry thing. I love doing laundry. Don't worry, this is not turning into one of those blogs. You know the ones. Happy Homemaker sharing all her tips about buying in bulk and growing her own wheat and making her own shampoo. Not that there's anything wrong with that. At all. I'm just not her.

I'm a horrible housekeeper. My dustbunnies would frighten yours right out of your house. I'm the one who sweeps the room with a glance, not a broom. And I have a closet full of boxes from when we moved into this house nine and half years ago that I haven't unpacked. I can fake being sorta ok at housekeeping with my clutter-free zone (what can be seen from standing at the front door), but my friends know the real me, and she is a pack rat and a piler. But I'm really, really good at laundry.

I think it started with helping Farmor with laundry. (If you missed my Tuesday post, she's my Swedish Grandma.) Farmor did laundry the proper Swedish way which included hanging it outside to dry in the summer. Oh the lovely, crisp cotton sheets dried in the sun. I know various companies have tried to bottle this scent but they can't. There's just no substitute. I hang my laundry out in the summer, too. Ok, not just the summer. In Colorado you can get away with hanging out the laundry about nine months out of the year. And there was that one time I went out the in my boots, in the snow, to hang out the comforters. It was about 60 degrees out. The snow just hadn't melted yet.

It's not just the drying in the sun thing I love, though. I also love the folding the laundry. I love making the lines crisp and smoothing out the wrinkles and making it all symmetrical and perfect. I don't think this makes me weird or a control freak. (I don't. Maybe you do...) Maybe it's mathematical, all those straight lines and the proportions and symmetry. After all, I'm not the accountant type of mathematician. I'm more the geometry and number theory kind of girl. (And you'd believe me if you saw my checkbook. Like they say, I'd rather check my facebook than face my checkbook.) And then when I'm done I can look at all those piles, sorted by whose they are and which drawer they're going to be put into.

Doing the laundry gives me a sense of accomplishment. You start with a mountain of dirty stuff piled on the laundry room floor, and you end up with neat piles of clean, nice smelling, organized clothes. Let's face it, a lot of household chores are repetitive, and there's not much to show for your work at the end of the day. If you organize say, your son's hideously disarrayed closet so that he can find his stuff, you don't really notice, because the closet door is closed. You don't walk by and say “Wow, look how nice that looks.” But at the end laundry day, the baskets are empty, (Alright, I can't resist one tip: get one of those hanging rack arrangements that let's you sort by colors. When the white bag fills up, do a load of white. And so on. No more sorting of the pile on the laundry room floor!) and the drawers are full, and you did that. Your husband is no longer asking, “Honey, do I have any socks?” and your son isn't saying, “Mom, I can't find my favorite sweatshirt!”

Just don't ask me to put it all away. That part I HATE.

This post is linked to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. Go check out what the rest of the class wrote about the letter L!

A is for Apple Tree

I know it's not Thursday, and I know that we're on the letter L tomorrow. But since I'm just writing, and always looking for a good prompt, why not just go back to the beginning, and do the letter A?

I think God really does want us to have apples from our own tree. For a while there I didn't. We've planted fruit trees every year for the last nine, and they've never survived. We've also planted nut trees, and one of those turned out to be a peach tree, but that's another story for another day. We planted three apples trees two years ago, and they all died, except for the granny smith. She didn't flourish, but she didn't die. We had considered moving her, but had so carefully chosen her spot: a bit away from the raspberries, a good bit away from the pine, but in the pine's shadow in the afternoons so that she wouldn't wither in the hot CO sunshine which can be quite intense during the summers.

So there we were. Getting ready for this year's garden. Tomato cages ready. Then came the surprise snow. (Alright, not really a surprise. March is traditionally Colorado's snowiest month and tradition held. )

This was a very wet, heavy snow. So heavy that our fabulous pine, the pine that holds the tree house had some trouble. As you can see.
The branch that flexes it's biceps and holds the house just couldn't do it anymore. For three summers it's been Mr. Universe while the neighborhood boys have climbed up and down and up and down the ladder with their gameboys and DS's and pillows and various contraband snacks pilfered from my food aisle to hide out and steal extra screen time. The branch cracked.
That morning I woke up to snow and cautiously surveyed the damage. And wondered about my apple tree. And went out to take pictures. And couldn't find my apple tree. So I mourned. No apples from my own trees. I give UP. And went about my business. Which of course was to sit on the couch and cough.

It wasn't until the weekend when the Engineer, YellowBoy and Jake went out to be manly and cut up the branch and clean up the mess that I knew the fate of my little tree. My little tree that could.
She is still there. Standing strong. The branch had missed her by mere inches. It had fallen AROUND my tree. In the midst of the mess she was still standing. Thank you God. Thank you.

It got me thinking. Sometimes we're in the middle of a mess. There is chaos all around us. Are we standing strong? Or are we falling under the weight of it? I've been falling lately. I think maybe I'll stand up now.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Baking with Farmor

{I was late joining Ms. Matlock's class, but there I met Ms. Tattoos and Teething Rings. She has a Tuesday "Write On" deal going on, and since I tend to be one of those students who joins a lot of clubs, I'm joining hers.

And I must also insert here how much your lovely comments have meant to me. I feel welcomed with open arms by this class. In real life, I was the new kid in class more times than I care to recall, and the welcome was nothing like this. Your encouragement has helped to cheer this couch bound wallower. A lot. So THANK YOU.}

Today's "Just Write" assignment: a food memory, good, bad, embarrassing.

I'm a child of two cultures, having lived the first eight years of my life in Sweden. There I could make my way literally through the woods, over the hill, across a lovely little meadow, to my grandmother's house. And since this was rural Sweden in the early 70s, my parents let me and my siblings do this. Alone. We spent many lovely afternoons baking with my Farmor. (In Swedish the grandparents are conveniently identified, she is my father's (far) mother (mor)).

Farmor baked almost everyday, or so it seemed to us grandkids. At her house there were always homemade cookies, cakes, buns, and bread. Swedish tradition calls for the home to always be ready to receive un-announced visitors, so a hostess needs to have these items ready to serve with the coffee. When a guests comes over, they are offered "coffee" which means coffee with a whole lot of baked goods. And a good Swedish hostess offers homemade baked goods.

My favorite goodie to bake with Farmor was probably the lemon cakes, because they had the best batter. Now remember, this was not baking with my mother who is the winner of the best-scraper-on-the-planet contest. Every last molecule of batter makes it into my mother's cakes. Not so with Farmor. She doesn't USE a scraper. We were allowed to lick to our heart's content. She would pour the batter into the pan, then immediately hand us that bowl, with the whole swath of lovely, lemony, gooey batter still clinging to it.

It was hard to learn how to bake from Farmor, though. Most of her recipes were in her head, and those that were written down, didn't have times or temperatures for baking. "Oh honey, you can just tell when it's done. Can't you notice the difference in the smell?" Are you kidding me? With an afternoon's worth of lovely aromas wafting around the kitchen, I'm supposed to be able to separate the yeast rolls, cooling on the counter, from the cardamon bread already cool on the dining room table, from lemon cake almost done in the oven? Nope, not gonna happen.

She was amazing. In the midst of all of this, she would have her arms around a five year old little girl, whispering in her ear, while the girl was stirring and feeling loved. On the table by the window, the very table that I'm sitting at now writing this, her oldest granddaughter had been trusted with the task of SLICING the precious lemon cake which were allowed to eat BEFORE DINNER. Then she'd send us back over the hill with baked goodies for her son's family to enjoy."I'd love to have you come back tomorrow!"

Memories like these are a legacy to treasure. A legacy to savor. I hope one day to be a grandma like her.

This post is linked to Tattoos and Teething Rings "Write On " Tuesday. Go check out the other food memories!