Author Archives: rachael

Something Lost in the Love Translation?

Hubby and I attended the prom in 1971.

Years ago, when the tall boy in my high school biology class called, I didn’t understand him at all.

Flattered, I small-talked for five minutes before realizing he hadn’t said a word. I left strategic moments for comments.

Silence.

I babbled about our class’s fruit-fly genetic experiments. My subjects’ Great Escape. The school cafeteria’s subsequent fumigation —

“Well, goodbye.”

Click.

Maybe he wasn’t the scientific type, after all.

Maybe he’d decided I wasn’t his type.

However, he soon called again.

This time, my monologue focused on literature. My English teacher didn’t understand my paper’s crucial insights touting fried chicken’s symbolism throughout Southern literature.

I continued my learned discourse —

“Well, good-bye.”

Click.

 Did this sadist call girls just to hang up on them?

Nevertheless, I had seen a glimmer of this shy guy’s meaning: I like you. Do you like me?

However, I didn’t realize he disliked fried chicken until after our wedding, four years later. I cooked my mom’s special recipe.

He refused it.

This time, he was the one attempting to break lo-o-ong silences. And translate touch-me-and-you-die assurances that I was fine. Fine.

 Hubby seemed aghast that he’d married an alien whose language he’d never understand.

Ditto.

Nevertheless, we’d vowed to love each other.

Against impossible odds, we determined to learn each other’s language.

Hubby now understood that I, like all women, said “fine” only when I meant the opposite. We then grappled with another mysterious word: we. Only two letters, it appeared cozy — until used thusly:

He: Sure, we can feed 237 runners.

She: Yes, we will dig the new church basement.

Eventually, Hubby and I understood that if we valued our lives, we would use accurate pronouns.

Throughout the year, unequal estimates of garage wall/car distances and checkbook balances also challenged our powers of translation. But after three decades of marriage, we finally mastered each other’s languages … until our empty-nest purchase: a tandem bicycle.

Hubby’s “Ma-a-an!” didn’t soften the effects of potholes on my, er, anatomy.

My “Aaaaahhh!” meant little to him, riding in front. Fortunately, the pursuing Dobermans ate only one of my ankles.

The tandem initiated a repeat of Marriage Translation 101.

Hey, everyone needs an occasional refresher course.

And today?

If Hubby’s pondering deep theological, medical, or I.U. basketball issues, a visual reminder, such as a cartwheel, must accompany my “Dinner’s ready.”

I assume he’ll automatically finish my half-sentences, e.g., “Last month’s letter from the IRS …”

After 43 years of marriage, he should read my mind, right?

Fortunately, we aliens rarely need a translator now. Love language hasn’t taken light years to learn, after all.

Only a lifetime.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite mistranslation story?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: New Grandson!

O my God, thank You for an incredible weekend — meeting brand-new grandson Theo, doing the Hokey Pokey with big brother Jonah, and playing with him in the snow! Monday morning, with its to-do list, isn’t nearly as much fun. Yet, OMG, I’m still smiling.

                                     

Pillow Power

They soften our woes, absorb frustrations without complaint and support us.

Our mothers?

No, our pillows.

I could happily sleep with a dozen, but my spouse considers extras speed bumps in the night. So I content myself with daytime heaps of decorative pillows on our bed.

When Hubby makes the bed, he sometimes forgets the universe will implode with the green pillow in the middle rather than the white.

Fear not. I continue to rescue the cosmos.

I also help him regarding sofa cushions. Our geometric pillow must always be matched with the sage green cushion. Never the brick red.

No one should desecrate them with actual use. Both Hubby and grand-dog must understand that the aged, ameba-shaped cushion, stashed under a throw, is reserved for naps. And naps are permitted only when all 30 other pillows can be stacked on a spare sofa.

They are called toss cushions. But no throwing them on the floor!

“OC, aren’t you?” chorus a hundred voices.

The fact I hear voices doesn’t negate my point, which is … uh, yes, pillow power.

We must respect a product that upsets an entire continent. Australian health alerts demand that pillows be replaced every two years or frozen to kill dust mites. One manufacturer even conducted a free pillow exchange.

Pillows can exert power in positive ways, e.g., the OSTRICHPILLOW®. The owner inserts his head into a soft, closed tube, resting the padded “microenvironment” on his desk. Supposedly, a 20-minute nap using the OSTRICHPILLOW® increases work productivity by 37 percent.

Any nap might accomplish this. Still, who am I to deny the combined force of capitalism and catnap?

However, pillows can cause complications. Sleepers lose hours of rest, constantly awakening to refresh their pillows. For only $100, a sufferer can buy one filled with cool gel that reshapes itself. He should, however, take care not to drop it on his toe, as it weighs 14 pounds.

Or, for only $400, one can purchase an intelliPillow. Why so expensive? Because its name starts with a lowercase letter, with a capital in the middle. It also uses a complex air compressor for automatic adjustment.

Ultimate power, however, is evidenced in the classic pillow fight. Taking this ancient concept to a higher level, devotees use pillows shaped like scimitars, battle axes, and hand grenades.

Airline cushions sufficed, however, for passengers on one economy flight who took out lack-of-leg-room frustrations in a mass pillow fight. Hostilities resolved, they celebrated one flight attendant’s deadeye aim with loud applause.

Perhaps if world leaders engaged in a day-long pillow fight, peace might be a step closer.

I’m not the only one who likes lots of pillows!

A powerful idea.

As long as they don’t throw my sofa cushions.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you picky about your pillows?

Soup-er Bowl

Does anything spell h-o-m-e like a kettle of simmering soup?

I grew up in southern Indiana, where winter (aka slop season), gleefully dumped rain, sleet, snow, or all of the above on us. After school, my siblings and I slogged through frozen fogs and bogs. After petting all the wet dogs we could find, we arrived home looking like mud-sicles. The bubbling, meaty fragrance of Mom’s soups thawed us out and cured a host of maladies: lost-library-book anxiety, gym class climb-the-rope deficits, spelling-contest memory loss and flat-chest syndrome. That delectable vapor also scared away any viruses that had followed us home.

Dad, after long days at his construction job, noticed a similar curative effect. His sore muscles unknotted. The what’s-this-economy-coming-to hammer on his temples slowed.

Mom’s soups, consisting of between-paycheck rations, wouldn’t appear on The Food Channel. Teeth-defying beef bits were simmered into submission with potatoes and frozen vegetables from our garden. She boiled ten-cent-a-pound chicken wings, then cooked “slop-and-drop” rivels in the broth. My Southern-born dad looked forward to ham-bone bean soup. Saturdays brought chili, a suppertime ritual sacred as the weekly bath night.

When no meat remained in the freezer, Mom cooked creamy potato soup. Occasionally our family saw several days of bean or potato soup in a row, a silent marquee that proclaimed, “Don’t ask for money.” Still, those soups warmed us up, filled us up and helped us grow up.

Perhaps, by law, every northerner should consume one steaming bowl of soup daily from November through March.

Groucho Marx wouldn’t agree. In the classic 1933 Marx Brothers movie, Duck Soup, he elaborated, “Take two turkeys, one goose, four cabbages, but no duck, and mix them together. After one taste, you’ll duck soup the rest of your life.”

Duck soup? He obviously hadn’t tasted my mom’s soups. Perhaps Groucho had been sampling Chinese bird’s nest soup. This concoction with an unappetizing name — and a literal bird nest— currently costs $30-100 per bowl. Or maybe he ate lunch with a Japanese mountain tribal group who served their soup of bananas, beans, and dirt (twigs included). Perhaps Groucho hadn’t recovered from a trip to the island of Palau, where bat soup — boiled whole and hairy with  ginger, spices, and coconut milk — is considered a delicacy.

I’ll stick with less exotic fare. Tonight, beef vegetable barley soup, using Sunday dinner’s leftover pot roast, plus crusty bread, will take the Groucho out of Hubby and me. And leave us only one pan to wash.

Simple. Cheap. And, as an old canned soup commercial declared, “Mm-mm, good!”

 

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What favorite soup warms your winter days?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: The Morning After

Guess who won the pillow fight?

O my God, when I’m with grandsons, I lose decades. Such fun! But after a museum-sprinting, pizza-eating, pillow-fighting weekend, I feel 157 — and look it. Still, OMG, thank You for every tackle-hug — and the sweet time warp of being a grandma!

Brown Versus White Winter

For a few short days, we are about to experience a brown winter.

Even typing those words makes me quiver with paranoia. Do I dare mention the weather to neighbors, coworkers or friendly convenience store clerks? With a few unguarded words, I may jinx the entire Midwest!

Despite brown winter’s ugliness and dreariness, some consider the warmer weather a gift, especially after enduring several weeks of Snowmageddon. Anyone who mentioned “global warming” then was sentenced to shoveling the town’s driveways with a teaspoon.

No one battling the notorious blizzard of ’78 had ever heard of global warming. If a foolhardy soul had suggested such to brides whose winter weddings were postponed indefinitely, they might have strangled him with tulle bows and buried him in uneaten wedding cake.

Others who survived that months-long whiteout not only stopped driving, they gave up finding their vehicles until spring.

Brown winter, by comparison, seems good.

  • Midwestern weddings should happen on schedule this weekend.
  • Cars start. They move!
  • Even if buckets of rain fall, we don’t have to shovel them.
  • Lower heating bills and fewer frozen pipes also give us cause to celebrate.
  • Mothers rejoice their offspring will not need the 25 pounds of clothing required on snowy days. My son rated snowsuits along with vaccinations and boogeymen. Every outing resulted in a mother/son smackdown, the loudest always occurring at either the library or church.
  • A thaw dramatically reduces the likelihood of mistaken identity. Government statistics state that due to warmer temperatures, 77 percent fewer parents bring home the wrong kid from school.

To be sure, skiers and resort owners long for the white stuff. Ice skating rink owners anxiously await frigid temperatures.

No town wants its snow and ice festival to morph into a Sleet and Slop Spectacular. Nor do cities that have busted budgets, buying snowplows and stockpiling mountains of salt, look kindly on brown winters.

Worst of all, snowbirds cannot bear photos of friends back home visiting mailboxes in their shirtsleeves.

Yes, brown winters remain unpopular with some.

Me? I’m a coat-hater from decades back. (So my son’s snowsuit antipathy is no surprise.)

Still, I can’t help but welcome whispery snowflake kisses on my hood as we walk to church. Thousands of priceless diamonds glitter in my sunny backyard. Wind-carved curves of snow defy human artistry. …

Uh-oh.

I should have kept my mouth shut.

The Weather Channel predicts snow’s return within a week. Do these scientific drama kings and queens truly know their stuff?

Brown or white winter today?

Stay tuned for our latest paranoia.

 

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Which do you prefer, a brown or white winter?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Scarf Fashionista

O my God, thank You for colorful, inexpensive scarves that cover turkey necks, gravy stains and other fashion sins. But I struggle and strangle to get scarves right. And these “infinity” things … OMG, do they call them that because of the infinite number of ways I can wear them wrong?

            

 

The Fire Is So Delightful

When we moved into our first house with a fireplace, a primeval pyro urge pumped through our veins. A friend gave us firewood, appropriately enough, as a housewarming gift. We could hardly wait to rest chilly bones by a roaring fire, snuggling close with our children and toasting marshmallows.

The kids would say, “Tell us stories from long ago, Mom and Dad. Teach us your words of wisdom.” When we needed wood, they would fight for the privilege to trudge into the cold and haul it in.

We built a real fire. Once.

My pyromaniac father considers this immoral. He turns on gas heaters only in an emergency (if the U.S. is attacked by ice aliens). We wear shorts during visits, even in January, because Dad builds fires that make us sweat like August athletes.

He designs woodpiles as objets d’art. The wood must be perfect in composition, age and texture. With the precise calculations of an engineer, he stacks it in symmetrical rows, and woe to the bumbling, fumbling fool who upsets his perfect balance.

Dad mostly grants sons and grandsons the privilege of helping. Occasionally he extends this glorious favor to granddaughters. But I, his 60-something daughter, endure the ignominy of being left out with a martyr’s smile. Somebody has to sleep in front of football games.

Occasionally, we adult children consider buying him firewood because we fear for his safety and well-being. But we don’t, because we fear for ours. The wood never meets his standards, and Dad, seasoned by years of chopping, can also throw it.

My wussy fireplace

My siblings and I confess, to our shame, that we have not inherited his noble fire-building genes. We own wussy gas fireplaces with ceramic logs and fake coal beds that don’t emit the magic fragrance of wood smoke. We, the children of hardy pioneer stock, use decorative fire pokers and shovels to hit the ON button. From the sofa. Before we fall asleep in front of football.

Occasionally, Dad has visited, condescending to sit by our fireplace and marvel at its convenience. Just the same, we hide any old Boy Scout hatchets hanging in the garage and count our trees every morning.

We stand in awe of our father — but we keep his fire-building activities a deep, dark family secret. After all, we don’t want him to get in trouble with the government. Despite extensive research, they still don’t know Dad is the primary cause of global warming.

And if they try to take away his ax or woodpiles, we know Dad will get a little fired up.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you use your fireplace? Is it the real thing? Or fake?