Make it “Theme Thimple”

When little kids lose their front teeth, sometime between 5 to 8 years old, they acquire (for a time) the most adorable lisp. Around that same age, they also develop an appreciation for themed learning opportunities and events. (Put those … Continue reading

Encounters of the Creepy-Crawlie Kind

Rodents and spiders, snakes and crawdads, slugs and salamanders, insects and warty toads, and caterpillars of every variety – in my life I’ve held each of the above-mentioned critters (and then some) in my very own hands. With my rural upbringing … Continue reading

Overtaken by Offspring (A Serial Theatrical Production)

Overtaken by Offspring
(A theatrical comedy about family get-togethers)

ACT ONE, SCENE ONE:

Lights come up on the family Matriarch as she sits in her recliner, nodding off to sleep. Suddenly, there’s a knock at the door. Matriarch awakens in a startled fashion, and makes her way groggily to the door. Opens door to Delivery Boy.

Delivery Boy: Telegram for Mom
Matriarch: (Yawns rudely) That’s me.
Delivery Boy: Sign here, Mom….ummm, I mean Ma’am.
(Matriarch signs)
Delivery Boy: Thank you, have a “good one!”
*{Please note: “Have a good one” is NOT an acceptable way to wish people a good day (if that is, indeed, what you are attempting to convey). “Have a good one” is a useless, grammatically incorrect statement….a good what?! A good lunch? A good commute to work? A good cry? A good laugh? A good report from my doctor…? A good nervous breakdown?! WHAT THE HECK do you mean by “one?”}

Matriarch closes door, fumbles around for reading glasses so she can focus on delivered telegram she holds in her hands, finally finds a pair and gets them correctly positioned on her face, and reads: “Extended family members to arrive next Tues (stop); Driving down from MN with camper (stop); Will camp out with you and rest of family (stop); Will expect all siblings, in-laws, and nephews to be in attendance (stop); Get EVERYTHING ready.”

Tired Matriarch looks at calendar and collapses.
Lights fade for end of Scene One

ACT ONE, SCENE TWO:
Scene opens on Matriarch with pile of papers in front of her, as she writes frantically on one of the papers.

Matriarch (talking to herself, as usual): “Okay….meal list complete; packing list complete; time to work on my shopping list, and then a detailed plan of action for the next four days so that I can be ready to go when the family camping reunion commences. Friday….at work all day; husband & I out with friends in the evening. Saturday…at work all day; to grocery store in the evening; Sunday…to Church in morning; get busy preparing all the meals we will need while on our campout. Monday….work all day; in evening, start packing my personal needs for the campout, also, clean the ENTIRE house and prepare to house numerous lodgers (i.e, twelve people, counting me) in case heavy rains come and we are forced to bail out (literally and figuratively) and head home for dry and comfortable housing. Tuesday…finish any last-minute housing and food details, pack personal belongings and food, rent moving van, head out to our Indiana property for the family camping adventure.

Lights fade as Matriarch climbs into bed and immediately falls asleep, murmuring something about bug spray, bubble wands, and big bottles of wine. The director thinks it best not to disturb her for a curtain call. Check back late next week when this delightful, dramatic comedy presentation continues with ACT ONE, SCENE THREE, when the Matriarch waves good-bye to her older daughters, sons-in-law, and five grandchildren as the visit (finally) comes to an end. 😄

Close Encounters of the Spiritual Kind (Elder Care, Part II)

In my last post, I shared my personal views on elder care. There are many reasons for finding ourselves in this mess. First of all, let’s be honest, a lot of us are just too busy (or, too far away, … Continue reading

Tuckered-out in the Twin Cities

“Our family is really close, because we live in a small house!” This is a direct quote of my oldest daughter, from way back when she was about 8 years old. Yes, we were close, all right, with a small cape cod, 3 bedrooms for five people, and only one full bathroom. You learn military scheduling and crafty maneuvering in such tight spots, and even with those skills, inconvenient glitches often occur. With a useable toilet in the basement, bunk beds in the big girls’ room, and an extreme distaste for clutter, we survived quite well.

My two oldest daughters, now married mothers/homeowners, also have small houses. This simple living is the best choice when mama wants to be able to give her attention full-time to the little ones. However, now that we live further apart, these tiny houses are starting to cause us trouble. I can no longer find a workable, comfortable plan that will allow our oldest daughter and her family to bunk with us. And, with their growing family, the rest of us now have to travel in shifts to go visit them in Minnesota. We pushed the limits this time, by four of us coming at once. My middle daughter, her husband, and their foster baby, along with me, are all here at the same time. I got bumped out of my usual basement bedroom for the sake of the three of them. The oldest sent out a message through a neighborhood social media site, asking if anyone nearby had a room to rent. (I am so proud of her for doing this, because it is totally something I would do….have already done! 😉).

It took a few days, but some lady living close-by, in half of a duplex, replied to my daughter’s request, to say that I was welcome to stay with her, no charge! (A great example of utilizing my, “It never hurts to ask” life philosophy!) It’s a lovely little home, very clean and nicely decorated, and wonderfully quiet….except for her little dog. He’s a sweet boy, but it’s one of those “yippy” breeds of canines (by which I mean that he has a high-pitched, piercing bark that penetrates all possible defenses deployed for blocking out unwanted noise). That does not bode well for someone like me, who has trouble sleeping in any bed other than her own and needs absolute silence. The first night of our stay, I did not sleep well, mainly because of the new environment. By the second night, I was exhausted and ready to get a good night’s sleep. It was going really well until 5:30 am, right after my “landlady” left for work. Apparently, doggie sensed my presence, and thought I should wake up and keep him company….or, maybe there was just a squirrel outside. Whatever it was, the yipping started and didn’t stop. I grumbled to myself, pulled out my earplugs, turned off the fan, and went to tell him to be quiet. He did so….for about 3 minutes. I got up again, went to the bathroom, and told him again to be quiet. He obeyed. I laid back down, and tried to relax. Not happening, because now I am wide awake. I gave up and rolled out of bed once more. I shuffled downstairs to the kitchen, and fumbled around for a source of caffeine. Too tired for a shower, I headed over to my daughter’s house with my hair sticking out every-which-way. I somehow managed to make it through an entire day of baby bouncing, baby talk with so much smiling my cheeks hurt, reading to the older girls until my throat was feeling scratchy, playing pretend, and helping to hand-wash the dishes after supper. Luckily for me, the little ones go to bed pretty early, normally tucked-in by 7:30pm. By 8:00, I was at the “boarding house,” getting ready to settle in for (what I hoped might be) a long, winter’s nap.

I am happy to report that my landlady was also looking forward to sleeping-in that morning, so that meant that doggy would be sleeping, too (and quiet!). I slept until nine o’clock the next morning (over nine hours!). I had a nice, leisurely breakfast, chatting with my newest friend, then took a shower. My oldest daughter texted me to see if I was okay. The next daughter down called to tell me that the granddaughters were getting impatient, wondering where Mimi was. Gee whiz, people, give this old girl a chance to catch up on her sleep and squeeze in a quick shower. I should be there before the little ones head down for their morning naps! Tell them to start working on a stack of books for Mimi to read, and I’ll bring my throat drops. Gotta capitalize on this time together, so I’ll push myself to the limits (and sleep in as often as possible!).

Fat Tuesday Facts

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Tuesday is the big day, people. We can eat, drink, and be merry, because looming ahead is the Forty Days Of Lent! I have everything in place for our own big Mardi Gras blowout. At the store today, I bought two (yes, I said TWO!) bags of flavored popcorn and a bag of peanut M&M’s! After a normal, at-home supper, we will work on our winter jigsaw puzzle, watch the winter Olympics on Network television, and snack on the acquired goodies. WOO-HOO, this is gonna be some crazy party here tomorrow night!

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The historical intent of Mardi Gras is religiously/liturgical calendar based. Mardi Gras is French for “fat Tuesday,” and this was the day that the French Christians would finish up all of their butter and rich cuts of meat, so as to be better disposed to hearing the word of God during Lent. (Making little sacrifices does, indeed, lend oneself to being a better listener, for that I can testify!) This Wed, we will enter into the penitential season of Lent, when we give up certain earthly pleasures to allow our hearts to be more open to the joy of knowing and loving God. Some people choose to give up meat, or chocolates, or all sweets, or snack foods. Others might choose to refrain from complaining or criticizing, which is a different form of “fasting” that could be very beneficial for themselves and those whom they love. This is, at least, the history of Mardi Gras. It was a day, sometimes several days (or weeks, even), when Christians would celebrate and eat heartily prior to Ash Wed. Sometimes there were masked balls and public celebrations, particularly in France. In the UK and Ireland, the day before Lent is referred to as Shrove Tuesday instead, which points more strongly to the true nature of the observance and the coming Lenten season. Shrovetide (which is actually the whole week leading up to Lent), comes from the word “shrive, which means to confess, or to be pardoned. In other words, folks in England & Ireland are promoting a visit to the confessional during that week prior to Ash Wednesday, to prepare oneself appropriately for the coming liturgical season. And, then, for some unknown reason, they all go home and eat pancakes. Don’t ask me why.

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With our country’s fair state of Louisiana being historically settled by a strong French influx and influence, it was natural that the more extensive Mardi Gras observances would flourish there. Everyone has heard of the contemporary Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and thousands travel there to join in the excitement. Over the years, however, they have thrown out the Christian concept of the season, and have adopted the observances of the ancient Roman celebration of Lupercalia. This was a feast (around the same time of year) to honor the pagan god of fertility. In addition to feasting, there was lots of booze and “carnal behavior.” Sounds pretty much exactly like what goes on in New Orleans these days. You could not pay me to go there! In my house, we will stick to the liturgical sense of the season, which doesn’t lead to possible weight gain, hellacious hangovers, and serious deathbed regrets.

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So, if you haven’t already, get to the store, get to confession, and get ready for Ash Wednesday. It will be here soon, and by then, all of the pancakes will be long gone. You don’t want to miss out on those pancakes, and you don’t want to miss out on a holy Lent, either. Lent is one of the best “gifts” of the liturgical year, so don let it slip by unnoticed. So, when the Mardi Gras celebrations are but a memory, head to church this Wednesday for (what I call) “Must Ash” day (Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, and Lutheran churches can be counted on for observing this practice). You’ll feel the gritty ash against your skin as the shape of a cross is imprinted upon your forehead. Wear it proudly throughout the day….you’ll be glad you did!

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A Seasonal Song for You

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This time of year, some of us are walking on eggshells, wondering if we are “allowed” to wish people a “Merry Christmas.” Is it more proper to say “Season’s Greetings,” or “Happy Holidays,” or perhaps, “Bah, humbug!”? I got news for ya’ folks. If it weren’t for Christmas, there would be no seasonal greetings needed, and also no holidays to be happy about. The “season” was built a long, long time ago, around Christmas! Yeah, there’s New Year’s Day, but…who cares about that?! This lowly holiday gets top billing only because it happens to come a week after Christmas, which is the holiday, and the reason for the “season!!” And folks have been using those different seasonal greetings for years, and they all refer mainly to Christmas, followed by that humble holiday who just happened to be lucky enough to tag along with the Star! (the Star……get it?!) When folks use those salutations of Season’s Greetings and/or Happy Holidays, they are, in fact, wishing you a Merry Christmas anyway…they just don’t realize it.

Here’s what it boils down to – you can offer to me whatever you like, by way of seasonal greeting, and I will sincerely thank you, and then wish you a Merry Christmas, BUT, I will only say that when Christmas is really here. Because here’s the next big surprise that will cause a wedgie in your “holiday” PJ’s…Christmas starts at midnight on Christmas Eve! It didn’t start shortly after Halloween, when the stores immediately clearanced the left-over Trick-or-Treat candy and set out the Christmas sweets, decorations, gift bags, Santa hats, Christmas socks, etc, etc. And, it didn’t start on Black Friday, when people got up hours before the sunrise and started the mad rush to buy gifts for everyone on their list. Nope! Christmas starts on the anniversary (or at least the date that has been traditionally celebrated, for nearly 2000 years, as the anniversary) of the birth of our Lord and Savior.

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So, while you’re all biting your tongue wondering what greeting to offer, I ask you to consider this new approach. Greet people within the confines of the correct season. I’ve decided that’s what I’m going to be doing. When someone tosses any of the above mentioned good wishes my way (or offers a greeting for any other holiday of their choosing), I am going to respond with this gem, “And a blessed Advent to you!” I don’t know why I didn’t think of this years ago, but, this little idea finally found a way to get my attention, and I am groovin’ on this ingenious concept! I no longer have to worry about whether or not to say Merry Christmas, because…., IT’S ADVENT!!

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I have spent the past few days standing in front of the mirror, practicing this response, and I think I have it down pat now. “A blessed Advent to you!” I even made up a little song, just for fun, and in the spirit of the season, I’m sharing it with you.

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I Wish You a Blessed Advent

(sung to the tune of, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”)

(refrain)

I wish you a bless-ed Advent,

I wish you a bless-ed Advent,

I wish you a bless-ed Advent,

Cuz it’s not Christmas yet.

 

Slow down and take time

To truly employ,

The gift of a holy Advent

And the coming of Joy!

(repeat refrain)

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That was my early Christmas gift to you and, yes, I am still allowed to say the word Christmas – I’m not being a tyrannical scrooge, here! If you go Christmas caroling, go ahead and sing the word Christmas at the top of your lungs, but just keep in mind, we’re still waiting for Christmas to arrive. Once it does, I’ll be wishing people a Merry Christmas for at least a couple of weeks, maybe even until Epiphany, and folks will look at me like I’ve lost my marbles, not even realizing that they are being liturgically incorrect by packing the Christmas albums away the day after Christmas! At any rate, right now, in December, we should all be preparing our hearts to genuinely rejoice and celebrate the birthday of Jesus at the proper time. And that, my friends, is what this season of Advent is all about – not shopping, not parties, not gift exchanges, not decking the halls….just waiting, and watching, in the still of the night, as though we were lowly shepherds in the field, always on the alert for the sound of angel voices. They always come when you least expect them, but only if you find a quiet place, and take the time to listen. So….embrace your own holy and blessed Advent, while there’s still time.

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Taming the Savage Tomatoes (another fun poem!)

 

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Out in my tiny garden

The plants have gone hog wild.

The vines and plants now growing

Could hide a little child.

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But I’m not sure I’d trust them

With little ones close by.

It’s “Little Shop of Horrors”

I see in my mind’s eye.

 

They started out so tiny,

I never thought they’d grow.

But something crazy happened.

Just what, I do not know.

 

They’ve overgrown the fences,

They’re pulling out the stakes.

They’ve hidden my best garden gloves.

They’ve eaten all the rakes.

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I cannot gauge the danger,

But they have grown so huge,

And on their tree-like branches

Grows a ‘mater-ish deluge.

 

It’s getting hard to hold them,

To keep them all subdued.

They’re too big for the cages

And now they’re getting rude.

 

I sometimes feel them watch me,

Walk in the garden gate.

I tell my family, “Call 911,

If I am running late!”

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Now that it’s time for harvest,

I try to play it cool.

I sing a calming lullaby,

I try to act the fool.

 

I sneak my tiny, little hand

Right in there on the produce.

I grab and snatch and back away,

Then just as quickly vamoose.

 

Then I stand back and study,

Contrive my next attack.

Before they know what’s happened,

They’re looking at my back!

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And now begins the slaughter

Of juicy orange and reds.

Tomatoes overflowing,

“Off with their unripe heads!”

 

Those pesky seed compartments

All filled with slimy goo,

Are headed for the compost.

The crowns will rot there, too.

 

We’re not tomato lovers,

Until they’re doctored up.

I’ll turn them into salsa.

We drink that by the cup!

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And though we really love it,

The work involved is grueling.

When I am finished canning

I always need refueling.

 

It takes countless ripe tomatoes

For each salsa-canning batch.

And for our salsa appetite,

The effort is no match.

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The hard work will continue

Until the ground has frosted.

And by that time the harvest

Will have me all exhausted.

 

And after it gets colder,

And beasts are moving slow,

I’ll sneak into the garden,

And deal the final blow.

 

I’ll clip and lop and gut them

Remove the vining menace,

And then I think I’ll pave it,

And next year…, take up tennis!

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