Remembering Grandma’s Grandpa’s House

We joined hands in a large circle around the island in my mother’s kitchen. There were 18 of us in all. My uncle said grace and we prepared to eat our Thanksgiving meal.

“Kids! Come over here and go through the line,” someone said shortly after the amen.

I grumbled to the person next to me, as I do every year, “Kids didn’t get to go through the line first when I was a kid. We always had to go through last.”

The person to whom I grumbled happened to be my 89 year-old grandmother. She laughed and attempted to remember how things had been handled when she was a child. She began to describe her grandparents’ house.

“Grandpa had a chair in the corner of the room,” she said. “His radio stand was right next to it. The dining table was over there.” She motioned with her hand. Her hands and words painted the picture of a cozy Thanksgiving gathering.

“The kids would run around playing,” she continued. “And eventually we’d get too loud and Grandpa couldn’t hear the radio anymore. So he’d start yelling in German.”

At this point, she startled me by uttering some words in German. I knew her parents had both been first generation American-born citizens of German descent. I had never considered that that likely meant German had been spoken around her as she grew up. I had never considered that she might know any German herself.

She cut off the German abruptly and chuckled at the memory.

“They didn’t have screens in their windows,” she said. “And I remember some of my cousins diving headfirst out the windows. They weren’t very far off the ground. But when he started yelling, you got out of the way!”

She smiled as we walked over to pick up our plates. “I don’t remember though whether we got our food first or last. I don’t remember what we ate or how we did it.”

I don’t know about you, but if she couldn’t remember it all, I’m glad she retained the radio, the German, and the cousins flying out the windows rather than who went through the line first and what they piled on their plate.

When One Gets Too Proud…

Life has a way of humbling a person when they get a little too proud of themselves. Or, at least, it does me. Doesn’t seem to get through to the likes of Donald Trump, but that’s a different story.

I was feeling a bit smug – ok, a lot smug – when I pulled out of the local Wal-Mart parking lot at 6:21 Wednesday evening. I had just left my friends’ house a mere 14 minutes earlier. I had parked out in BFE because the entire town was at Wal-Mart. I had rushed in, navigated around the swarms of lollygagging shoppers, grabbed my jalapenos and evaporated milk, and bee-lined to the self-checkout, where only one person was waiting ahead of me. Score!

I thought about my imminent drive to family the next day and grabbed a box of Junior Mints so I wouldn’t have to stop anywhere. Then I remembered I was out of gum at work and quickly restocked. Then my eagle eye caught someone leaving a station that the less-attentive woman ahead of me had missed. I pointed it out to her and moved to the front of the line.

As soon as the next person left, I hurried to that station and displayed my check-out prowess, efficiently scanning each item and dropping it into the bag as I scanned the next. I grabbed that receipt and was probably out the door before the next person even noticed I was gone. Man, I was good!

Efficiency continued when I got home. I had three hours before bed and I was going to make the best of it. (My family was away from home so my time was all mine). I let the dog out of her crate, fed her, then hauled the laundry to the laundry room as she ate. Started the washer and then took the dog out to potty.

Back in the house, I started up Pandora and began making the super-easy but tasty Jalapeno Cheese Squares recipe I’d been given. I’d get it in the oven and then finish up some other tasks and pack.

That’s when I noticed that the 18-count carton of eggs only had one egg in it and I needed two. I was stunned. Defeated. All that efficiency!

I live outside the city limits. I don’t really know my neighbors. One couple won’t answer the door when I knock – I’ve tried too many times to try again. Plus, I’m pretty sure they think my dog attacked their dog and sent it to the emergency room. I’m not saying she wouldn’t try if given the opportunity; but that particular day, she hadn’t been out of the house.

The couple we did know moved out. The people who moved in, I don’t feel comfortable approaching. And the people at the end of the road have a sign that reads “We don’t call 911” and has guns on it. No way I’m going to their door after dark!

Guess it’s the convenience store around the corner. I loaded the dog up in the truck so she could have some fun and headed that way. Maybe I shouldn’t have already removed my bra for the day, now that I was going back into public. Oh, well. It’s just the convenience store.

Except they were out of eggs. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one with this problem.

Ten minutes later, I was standing in line at a grocery store even busier than Wal-Mart. I had picked a line that only had three people who each had only an item or two on the conveyor belt. Except the first person was in one of those motorized carts. The reason she only had a couple items on the conveyor belt was because she couldn’t easily reach the others.

An employee asked us all to back up and she then began filling the belt with all the items that I could now see in the basket and even riding alongside the woman’s feet. This was going to take awhile.

The next person in line had a runner. While we waited for the first woman in the scooter to check out, his runner kept returning with more items. They had a dozen by the time it was their turn. I grabbed another pack of gum.

My second trip to the place you never want to go the night before Thanksgiving had been exactly what you expect it to be. I had been given a gift the first time. And I thought it was all me. Don’t tempt fate! Karma bites!

Silence, Please!


I went to see Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 with some friends yesterday. We enjoyed the movie, but I’m honestly not sure if there was more drama on the screen or in the seats. There were a dozen of us in the theater – maybe 20. We heard the usual warnings about silencing your cell phones and all but one actually did. With the exception of some occasional laughter and sharp intakes of air, it was silent.

Until the baby started crying. It started off relatively ignorable. OK, not really. But it was quiet enough that if you really focused on the screen, you could still hear the actors. The crying didn’t stop though so I thought for sure the person caring for this child would remove them from the theater.

Nah. The kid ratcheted it up a notch. Then two. Which is to be expected when a kid’s needs aren’t being met. I soon realized as the kid started talking loudly that the kid was not a baby but a young toddler. At a loud and violent PG-13 movie. Great.

The mom started whispering to the child. The child quieted for a bit. Then the child cried again. And then the spanking started. Which any idiot could have predicted was going to make the child cry harder. So no surprise to the rest of the movie-goers when the screams got louder than the whispering in the quiet, intense scene on the screen.

I heard the mom whisper various threats. You better quiet down. You need to behave or I’m going to spank you. Stop that. You need to stop right now. Other people were starting to mutter to each other. It was getting very hard to focus on the movie. I’m not confrontational, but several times I thought of calling out for her to take her child out. But like all the other well-behaved citizens, I just gritted my teeth.

At one point, we could hear muffled crying and my friend commented, “I think they are suffocating that poor baby.”

After the second round of spanking and wailing, though, a woman on my row had had enough. She stood up, turned around to face the back row, and called out, “Will you please take that baby out of here? No one in here wants to listen to her – or him – cry like that! We can’t hear the movie. You are being selfish. You need to take her out.”

The mom became immediately defensive and called back, “If you don’t want there to be noise in here, then why don’t you sit down? You’re making a bigger commotion!”

“Look! I’m sure other people in here feel the same way. They just aren’t saying anything. Please! Stop hurting that baby,” the first woman responded. “Stop spanking her!”

“Spanking?” The incredulous mom responded. “It’s not  spanking – it’s called discipline.”

Hmm… So when she threatened to spank the kid… she… misspoke?

It was getting ridiculous. Now I couldn’t hear the movie or focus on it. The two exchanged some more loud and angry barbs until the confronter sat back down and  apologized to us for causing a scene. While we all agreed with her assessment of the situation, I really just wanted her to shut up so I could hear Katniss.

The mom was beside herself. She began whispering desperately to the person next to her. Soon she was sobbing. I then heard a theater employee, who had apparently walked in, call out, “Please put away your phone.” I have no idea if she was talking to the sobbing mom or someone else, but the confronter took the opportunity to go explain the situation to the employee.

By then mom was outright crying herself. She and her seatmates, and the poor toddler who had been setup to fail by being brought to an inappropriate movie, began filing out. The mom’s cries lasted all the way out the door. Eventually the theater was quiet again and we finished the movie.

I thought about the (obviously) young mom afterwards. She hadn’t been willing to miss some of the movie to take the child out. She expected the child to behave at an age beyond her ability inside the theater. She had no consideration for the fact that the rest of us had an expectation of watching the movie without distraction. She was indignant that she was called out for her behavior. Ironically, she likely left feeling wronged.

I’m not sure what the best reaction is in a situation like that. Do you just sit quietly and politely ignore the rude and inconsiderate behavior (as most of us were doing)? Or do you call the person out (as the one brave woman did)? Should we have clapped to show our support for the woman? Or would that have just heaped more embarrassment on the mom? Do we have an obligation to point out inappropriate conduct to fellow citizens? Who gets to decide what’s inappropriate? Do we do more harm when we call people out or when we say nothing?

I don’t know. Like I said, I don’t know if there was more drama on screen or off. I certainly know which was more enjoyable. At least Katniss was fighting over something worthwhile.


I saw something on Facebook the other day that really excited me. It was a trailer for the upcoming Pixar movie Finding Dory. It hadn’t entered my mind that they might do a movie focused on her, but as soon as I saw it, I thought, Perfect! Of course! She was the best character in that movie!

I never say “Let’s keep at it” or “Keep on truckin'” or “Keep on keepin’ on.” Nope. If I need to comment on the need to just keep after something, I start singing:

Just keep swimming,

Just keep swimming,

Swimming, swimming,

Just keep swimming…

Every. Single. Time. Dory has, in her own special way, stayed with me more than any other movie character. Needless to say, I was excited. Everyone had already left for school though. I had no one to share the moment with. So I decided to send my daughter a text.


I expected something along the lines of “Omg! That’s so awesome! I can’t wait!” I imagined her telling the rest of the family and the car literally rocking from people’s excitement.

Instead I got this:


Well, at least I got the “omg” part right. I responded:


But she was already in the process of typing something else, which came in just ahead of mine. Which means the conversation ended up looking something like this:


Which, of course, looked kind of bad. I decided to respond to her second comment with sarcasm. But she got another comment in first again and I ended up looking considerably more sarcastic than I planned…dory4

I decided it was time to explain.


But no way my daughter was going to let me off easy.


All in all, I think teenagers spend way too much time communicating via text instead of in person or on a phone. That said, I’ve really enjoyed my literary sparring with my daughter over the last year or so.

Battle of the Bands: Little Brother vs. One Direction

This morning was a good morning. Hal returned to the land of the living – he had been ill and was asleep when I got home last night and never stirred from the couch all evening – despite all the bustle of activity around him. At one point, he heard my voice and reached for a hug but was back asleep in no time. He slept all night too. But this morning, he bounded in, full of energy. We told him to take a shower and eat some breakfast.

It was a good morning for Jane too. Today was the release day for the new One Direction album that she had pre-ordered months ago. She had the music on her iPhone and was trying to devour all the songs as she prepared for school.

And that’s where the collision occurred.

The happy, energetic, feeling-better seven-year-old was singing heartily in the shower. The happy, excited teenager was trying to listen to her new music while applying make-up and fixing her hair in the same bathroom.

“Hal! Can you please stop singing?”

{More singing of nonsense words.}

“Hal! Please! I’m trying to listen to my new music!”

{Singing continues.}

“HAL! I asked nicely!”

I called to Jane. She called back in an irritated voice.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“I’m trying to listen to my new music but Hal keeps singing.”

“Singing in the shower,” I said, “is an intrinsic right. You can’t deny someone their right to sing in the shower.”

“Well! I didn’t want to turn the music up loud and bother people!”

“But you can’t tell him not to sing in the shower. It’s a primal need. You’ll have to go get ready in your room or wait to listen to your music or just put up with him.”

She groaned.

“Jane?” I called out.

She’d had enough. In her most tortured, irritated teenagery voice, she yelled back, “ARE YOU STILL TALKING TO ME?!”

“Yes. I just wanted to tell you that I’m glad the One Direction album came in. I’m glad you are getting to enjoy it. I’m happy for you.”

“Oh. Thank you.”

“You handled that well,” my husband whispered.

“It’s what I really planned to say all along. Really.”

But I will hold the “ARE YOU STILL TALKING TO ME?!” line in my head all day. As my mother-in-law loves to say on Facebook, it was my first laugh of the day.

Hello, It’s Me.

Hi. Remember me? I’m the person that used to write here. In fact, I used to write here a lot. You might have even gotten a little tired of me – I don’t know. But it’s been 2 1/2 weeks since my last post and at least 5 weeks since the one before that. I thought maybe you might have forgotten about me.

I thought of some really great stories over that 5 weeks. I did, really. Do me a favor, okay? While looking at the screen, chuckle softly under your breath. Go ahead – I’ll wait. Just a light little chuckle will do.

Now grow it into a loud guffaw. I just said the funniest thing in the world. Wasn’t it great?

Okay, new story. Widen your eyes. Make sure the whites are clearly visible. Let your mouth drop open. I know, right?! I can’t believe I lived through that moment either! It was so stressful! But we came out the other side. It’s all good now.

Last one. Stare in awe at the screen. Isn’t my kid wonderful? He’s indeed special. Now nod your head slowly at the wisdom I imparted on closing. The moment was so powerful for me and you see that. You see the majestic lesson I learned and you are so happy I shared it with you.

How was it? Did you enjoy the stories? See… I can’t remember the stories I wanted to tell. I’ve been trying for several days now. What I do remember are the emotions I wanted to evoke. And I have a rough idea which child each story was about. But that’s it. I really wanted to tell those stories and I feel an odd hole when I try to remember them. Since they aren’t coming back to me, I’m going to have to move on. But I hope I succeeded in making you laugh and smile and nod your head anyway. It’ll have to do.

If you are, instead, shaking your head at my pointless post… If you are wishing you could get the last couple of minutes back… then I’m sorry. I am. I didn’t mean to waste your time. I just needed to get back in front of the keyboard. And the story had to get published or it’d be just like all the other drafts sitting in my folder. So I had to do it. I hope you don’t mind.

See ya tomorrow.

I hope.

The Six Week Draught

My husband and I had a glorious running day six weeks ago. We left the house early Saturday morning and took off running. We went our usual way but added some on before turning back. We kept pushing and pushing – never stopped, never walked. As Forrest Gump would say, we just ran.

When we returned to a walk as we passed the threshold of our driveway, we gave each other a high five. We had logged over 8 miles in under an hour and a half. My legs were like jelly and kept propelling me forward as if I should keep running. I was fired up. It was glorious.

We fell off the exercise bandwagon the very next day. We didn’t realize it at the time, of course. We skipped running Sunday morning, not that uncommon the day after a big run. But then Monday morning, we didn’t get up early enough to exercise before my husband had to take our daughter to band. I still got on the elliptical – for a paltry 20 minutes.

I skipped the next day, but that didn’t set off any warning bells. Wednesday, I put in 25 minutes on the treadmill. Skipped Thursday too but that’s ok. We’re doing fine, I told myself. Friday morning didn’t work out either but we packed all of our stuff with us to run at my mom’s house the next day.

Of course, we didn’t get to her house until very late. And my husband forgot his C-PAP, which means I didn’t sleep well. And then we realized he’d forgotten his running shoes. That’s ok, I told myself – and him. It’s not like we have to run outside every Saturday.

It would be 8 days after my last short treadmill effort before I’d put in a simple 15 minutes on the elliptical. And then another 6 before getting on the treadmill. I had about a week of working out almost every other day but they were all short. The two Saturdays after the botched attempt at my mom’s house fell by the wayside too. One, we weren’t sure when the sun would come up. I can’t even remember now the excuse for the next one.

Four weeks after the great and mighty eight mile run, my husband had training to go to at 9 am. We decided there wasn’t time to run before, but that’s ok – we’d go Sunday morning. I took the boys to the park and ran around the sidewalk there – about 30 minutes. I could already tell I wasn’t the same person that had run the 8 miles. We cuddled Sunday morning instead of running.

The weekend after that was birthday weekend – we had family in town and lots to do. No running then. By then, the week days had been lost completely to early morning band and our general fatigue and disinterest. The Monday after birthday weekend, I forced myself to dress out for exercise. I got on the treadmill and felt a strong distaste. I did not want to be there. I pulled off a whopping 10 minutes on the elliptical instead before deciding I needed to get ready for work.

“I’m working on presence and motivation,” I told my husband. “I just have to be there. Today was 10 minutes. I’ll try to make tomorrow 15 and then I’ll build from there.”

Well… I got 15 minutes the next day, but by Wednesday, other priorities took over and I was lost to exercise again.

By that Saturday, the six week anniversary of the now legendary mammoth run, I felt that something had been lost. Maybe for good. How would I get my groove back? My husband left early for a meeting out of town. I dragged out of bed about 11:15. The kids were equally lethargic.Surely the laundry was more important than exercise? Surely?

The music I played while doing the laundry gave me some energy. I decided to work out after lunch. I changed into my running clothes and got on the treadmill. I was miserable. I felt like the blank monitor in front of me was mocking me and way, way too close. It felt hot and muggy. I couldn’t imagine running for half an hour like I planned. I urged myself to make 5 minutes.

But then something strange started happening. My mind kept wandering outdoors. I wanted to turn and run out the front door and run down the street on our usual route. But… but… he wasn’t with me. Was it safe? We’d never run outside without the other. I tried to stay put. But when I hit that 5 minute mark, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I stepped off the treadmill and trotted to the door. I called out, “I’ll be back in a bit!” to my daughter and then I was off!

It had been raining for days. It was cold and misty outside. The wind was blowing. It was incredible. Raindrops hit my glasses but I didn’t care. I wondered if my phone, providing the driving electronic cardio music to my ear, would survive if a deluge started before I got back home. I decided it was a risk worth taking. I ran and ran and ran. Not long – not far. Maybe two miles – at the most. But I felt alive.

It’s so easy to fall off bandwagons. It’s quite frankly kind of scary how easy it is to adjust to life without something that had previously been so important to you – kind of like my frequent blogging breaks. But I learned that cool Saturday morning that I truly am a runner. Not just someone who exercises via jogging. I actually enjoy running. Outside. I’m fired up to run again. We shall see if I’m truly and securely seated in the wagon or if I’m just running along beside it, trying to hang on.