Author Archives: Kim Peterson

Painting Procrastinator

With a rare gap in my writing schedule, home improvement projects I nobly postponed in the name of literary accomplishment circle like grinning dragons.

Take, for example, my living room upgrade. Unless I wanted to endure yet another year of the red print chair jousting with peeling, green, flowery wallpaper, I had to don my HGTV armor and sally forth.

New wallpaper? No, the last time Hubby and I attempted that option, we required a Middle East negotiator. Paint presented a simpler alternative.

Right.

Before the Information Age, I limited color research to two minutes in the hardware store, three kids dangling from me as I grabbed fistfuls of paint chips. Then came scrutinizing them against walls for three-second intervals between sibling wars, hamster chases and Sunday shoes flushed down the toilet.

Not a perfect decision-making process, but an oddly efficient one.

However, modern technology blew my system. Viewing 5.43 gazillion websites, I could postpone painting until an archaeologist found the red chair in the flowery green living room 6,000 years hence.

Besides, Hubby delayed progress. Perhaps it is the physician in him who prefers boring, neutral walls, like a hospital’s. Eventually, though, he uttered my favorite words: “Fine. Do what you want.”

Renewing my Internet color search, I discovered Dog’s Ear Pink. Perhaps this presented a bedroom hue with which a pink-loving woman could placate her macho husband? I objected to the delicate pink called Baby’s Bottom. Fresh from caring for my newborn grandson, I knew the person who conceived that name had never changed a diaper in his life. …

But why was I looking at pink? Abandoning the Internet’s “efficiency,” I returned to the hardware store. I would hold real paint chips in my hand, chips I would force my husband at gunpoint to hold up to the wall until I made my decision.

But paint namers struck again. Our living room’s ambience had to feel stylish, yet cozy, the backdrop for family to gather around the piano and the Christmas tree. I didn’t think a shade called Totally Scientific would accomplish that. I liked Blue Dust, but already found sufficient dust in my living room, thank you very much. Water Fountain was the nice pale blue I desired, but the name resurrected grade school images of yellow-stained porcelain and anonymous bubble gum with tooth marks.

Somewhere, a paint namer exists with a simple, yet profound gift for calling the colors as he — and I — see them. Maybe even Light Blue.

But then, I would have to quit procrastinating … and paint.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Does the prospect of home improvement projects exhaust or excite you?

Mom’s Potato Salad

When the first sleepy daffodils awakened, my mom made potato salad. In her eyes, spring was as good as here.

She taught me her dab-of-this-and-that recipe. Chopping onions wrung a million tears from my eyes, and my weepy attempts couldn’t begin to match her blue-ribbon results. At potlucks, I learned to avoid other cooks’ mushy, bland concoctions sprinkled with scary green things. Thus, I took part in the Great Potato Salad Controversy, far more extensive than I could have imagined at that tender age.

That reality truly hit home when, at 16, I waited on a restaurant customer who ordered German potato salad.

Retrieving the food, I called to the cook, “You forgot the potato salad.”

“You’re crazy. It’s right there.”

The manager corroborated the cook’s absurd claim: the sliced potatoes in gooey stuff with bacon was indeed German potato salad.

When, as a young married woman, I explored recipes, even American potato salad presented controversies. Some cooks insisted on real mayo, as if Miracle Whip were pushed by criminals out to ruin the purity of American cuisine.

Then yogurt and low-calorie radicals intensified the debate.

Add mustard versus no-mustard schools of flavoring, dill versus sweet-pickle/relish, mystical devotion paid to fresh herbs, and religion-sized chasms separated various sects.

Rewind to Mom’s potato salad. I wish she — and I — had conceived the lucrative potential of our culinary endeavors.

According to the New York Daily News, Zack “Danger” Brown challenged viewers of a fundraising website to finance his first attempt at making potato salad.

Expecting $10, he raised $55,000.

Thankfully, Brown was no potato head. He made a huge contribution to his hometown food pantry.

Click to enlarge.

Mom also fought hunger with her potato salad. She regularly filled up a large, voracious family. She shared it with lonely parishioners, troubled teens, ex-prisoners, domestic violence victims, and itinerant preachers. Occasionally feeding 30-40 people at one meal, she made tons of potato salad throughout the decades.

Today, chopping onions and staunching teary eyes, I remember a woman who gave not only cups of water in Jesus’ name, but bowls and bowls of the world’s best potato salad.

 

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What comprises your perfect recipe?

I Was an Empty-Basket Wonder

Like all greedy youngsters, I couldn’t wait for our school’s Easter egg hunt. When, when, when would the magic hour arrive?

We suffered through everlasting classes of English and arithmetic, drooling at the prize: a chocolate bunny with a yellow bow tie.

As we sallied forth to the playground, I dreamed of delectable treasures I would discover: yummy jelly beans (all but the black licorice kind), chocolate eggs, fat pink marshmallow chicks. Where would I conceal my Easter loot from my siblings?

The kiddie crowd’s roar at the starting point dissolved my blissful sugar fantasies. Only our omnipotent principal kept us from rioting.

Unlike my childhood experience, my grandson is not an empty-basket wonder.

He boomed, “Ready. Set. Go!”

A horde of barbarians, we attacked.

I could run fast. However, with zero sense of direction or strategy, I dashed randomly within the hunt’s borders — not unlike the way I now seek parking spaces — arriving just in time to see others grab the goodies.

I complained, loud and clear. Why did the Easter Bunny put us through such agony?

While I stood by the merry-go-round, debating the hunt’s constitutionality, two kids found a nest of pink, blue and yellow eggs under it.

I stomped across the playground — and smashed an egg left in plain sight.

By hunt’s end, I found only jelly beans. Black licorice ones.

Afterward, I stood at the front of the classroom with other empty-basket losers, hoping the victors would, at our teacher’s guilting, share the wealth.

Some did. I received more black jelly beans.

I survived Easter-egg-hunt trauma. You did, too. But as all grown-ups know, adulthood does not immunize us from empty-basket syndrome. After a steady diet of motivational speeches, we may improve our egg-finding techniques and even win a chocolate bunny or two. Often, though, we watch others celebrate success while we count black licorice jelly beans. And we ask God, “Why?”

In the Bible, Jesus often displays the same annoying habit my mother had. Instead of answering the question asked, He addresses the one hunkered behind it: “Jesus, do You care about me, too?”

To us empty-basket wonders, He says, “More than you can imagine. You don’t have to hunt for Me.

“Actually, I hunt for you. You’re the lost coin I treasure, the clueless, obstinate lamb I love — yes, I’ll even leave 99 winners to search for you, no matter where you wander. Stop fighting Me and let me hold you close.”

I still dream of finding the chocolate bunny with a yellow bow tie. But if I don’t, that’s okay.

My basket already runneth over with His love.

 

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you consider yourself an empty-basket wonder?

In Praise of Blue Jeans

Packing for a weekend trip, I panicked. No sign of my favorite jeans!

I dumped the clothes hamper. Searched my closet. Rummaged dresser drawers where my multi-size jean collection resides, waiting for me to lose anywhere from five to 75 pounds.

I later discovered my truant jeans sulking in the dryer. Having taken them for granted, I promised to mend my ways. Hence, this blog post.

During college, I was a blue jeans girl.

I wore my first pair at age five in Mexico, loving their multicolored embroidery. When my missionary family returned to the States, we noticed little girls rarely wore jeans. So, upon outgrowing my Mexican pants, I donned starchy dresses. Not a problem; boring U.S. jeans couldn’t compare to my dear, departed, south-of-the-border favorites.

After years of white Levis, I bought blue jeans during high school. However, they were considered inappropriate for school events, even ball games. When our local school board finally got radical, they permitted pantsuits — not jeans.

Upon entering college, though, I discovered pantsuits were outlawed. Jeans comprised the official campus uniform. When someone robbed my dormitory washer, my near-zero bank balance left me with only one pair of jeans till Christmas. I became an early advocate of grunge.

After finals, I chased my jeans to wash them. Strengthened by long-accustomed grubby splendor, they escaped me for a few blocks. But they and a few other rarely-washed pairs remained true friends throughout college.

However, I didn’t fully appreciate jeans until married with three little kids. Wearing darling denim overalls, my children qualified for Cute Baby of the Year, regardless. What other clothing in my own wardrobe cheerfully endured the perils of finger paint, squishy banana, baby drool and toddler unmentionables? Our magic jeans looked almost as good washed as unwashed — though that might have been due to their stained state, plus frequent, long-term residence in the washer or dryer.

Another virtue of blue jeans: they go with everything. They’re easily coupled with a purple T-shirt, orange lace bustier, tiger-striped socks, peacock feather boa — or all of the above.

However, the fashion world is achieving new lows: Torn jeans appear on the world’s most stylish runways.

Me? I personally don’t give a rip.

Nor can I advocate the other extreme. According to Guinness World Records, Escada’s Couture Jeans — studded with Swarovski crystals — are the most expensive pair commercially available at $10,000.

Not even these developments outrage me, though, like “skinnies,” designed for people who haven’t eaten since 1999.

Whatever happened to “relaxed fit”? Let’s mount a protest. In good, old, 1960s fashion, let’s conduct a sit-in.

First, though, I have to unbutton my jeans. …

 

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you own a favorite pair of jeans?

What Time Is It, Anyway?

I live in Indiana, where longstanding time change gripes have solidified into a Hoosier tradition. A child during the 1960s, I recall debates: Should the Eastern Time Zone stop at the Ohio or Illinois border? In the middle of Indiana?

When the time changed, I was dragged out of bed and taken to church or school when I’d rather sleep. But I endured those indignities daily, so why the brouhaha? Neither “springing forward” nor “falling back” made sense. Both sounded dangerous, possibly resulting in scraped knees and Mercurochrome, an orange antiseptic (now rarely used) that stung worse than any injury.

Early controversy centered on urban versus agricultural concerns. Some farmers believed Daylight Saving Time undermined cows’ health and confused chickens. Extended morning darkness, they claimed — the farmers, not the chickens — would make their children lazy. Long summer evenings would encourage kids to party late like decadent city cousins.

As a teen, I reconsidered time changes. Maybe my parents would miscalculate my curfew?

No, they were pastors. Congregation members, upon finding an empty church, might bang on the parsonage door early or arrive only to hear the last amen, but my folks always got it right.

Finally, in 1972, lawmakers established a mostly Eastern plan, with no Daylight Saving. Everyone carried slide rules to calculate the timing of television programs and events in neighboring states. We and our chickens were content. Cows never missed church or favorite sitcoms. We Hoosiers, along with the independent-thinking citizens of Arizona, thumbed our noses at the rest of the country.

Until 2005, when Daylight Saving Time, in the name of energy conservation and business, became law. My children and their spouses endured a nightly barrage of theological questions: Why does God want us to go to bed when it’s light outside? God made the sun. Why isn’t it working right? Where does God keep all that daylight He saves?

Excellent questions, especially the last concept. Did you save any daylight last summer? Me, neither. If only I could have deposited the daily 9:00 – 10:00 p.m. sunshine into a rainy-day account, accumulating enough interest to brighten March.

Perhaps daylight can be preserved like pickles. We could offer jars of daylight to relatives who threaten to stay extra because “it’s too dark to start home.”

Politicians, so good at passing bills, would you also mandate the best method whereby we can save summer daylight?

Until then, I, like thousands of other Hoosiers, (yawn) will keep our semi-annual griping tradition alive and well.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you a Daylight Saving fan? Why or why not?

 

March Insanity or Therapy?

I am writing a dangerous blog because it’s a dangerous time of year.

March Madness, rendered Hoosier Hysteria in Indiana, attacks even the most level-headed citizens of our sensible state.

Take my husband, for example. He wears navy/gray one day and brown/khaki the next. Hubby functions as the voice of sanity on boards and committees. While airport officers seem to regard me as a permanent threat to national security, they never search him.

But when Hubby watches Indiana University play basketball, I don a helmet. With earplugs.

When they lose, I steel myself for the usual statistical post-mortem and week of mourning.

Yet despite our team’s early tourney exit this year, we continue to watch the games. While Hubby perpetuates his (loud) role as High Judge of Referees, I occasionally can remove my protective gear.

Still recovering from a recent cold, I retired last night at halftime. When he came to bed, Hubby turned on the brightest light possible and whispered tenderly in my ear: “Just so you’ll sleep better, Fairfield beat Quinnipiac.”

That’s the gentle side of his fanaticism.

Hubby’s grandma cheered against Grandpa’s team, but later married him.

I can’t blame him, as Hubby’s very DNA impacts his tourney-time behavior. While reserved during off-season, his grandmother displayed no gentle side during March. A lovely old lady, she resembled Mrs. Santa Claus, with bright blue eyes, wavy white hair and pink cheeks. No doubt, she was Etna Green High’s prettiest cheerleader when she met Grandpa, a player on the opposing Atwood High School team. Their marriage marked the last time she fraternized with the enemy, however. When I.U. played, she yelled for their foes’ blood. And for that of the referees, who were crooks! Liars! Democrats!

Some critics, appalled by March Madness’ bizarre symptoms, insist this disease should be eliminated.

Contrariwise, I believe it serves as an important coping measure for those living in the rural Midwest. During long, dreary winters, we cannot linger on sunny beaches. We cannot ski down scenic mountains to deal with stress.

Nevertheless, with the exception of school bus rocking and mascot theft, we enjoy lower crime rates than other sections of the country.

Why? Because basketball games function as group therapy. We shriek, clap and stomp, taking out frustrations and hostilities on the refs. My family’s good health testifies to the positive effects of March Madness. Grandma lived to be 95. Hubby possesses enviable blood pressure numbers.

Do the referees?

Um … not so much. Perhaps they, like the rest of the world, believe we all were dropped on our heads.

We do abdicate our signature sanity during Hoosier Hysteria.

And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What sports madness seizes your community or state every year? Do you join in?

 

Birthday Cake vs. Birthday Pie

Birthday cakes boast a long, illustrious history. According to the Huffington Post, Greeks and Romans commemorated births of gods and men with candle-lit cakes. As wine flowed freely at birthday feasts, the honoree occasionally set his robe/toga on fire.

Birthday cake traditions still are regarded as sacred. Abstainers offend the family/office/church Cake Queen. (Watch your back, or she may stuff you into her oven.)

So, for survival reasons, I eat birthday cake. Thankfully, lighted candles suck out all calories.

On my upcoming birthday, however, I will indulge in raspberry pie. À la mode? Of course, à la mode. Do you think I’m an idiot?

Don’t answer that. You, either, Hubby.

Obviously, this crucial subject demands discussion. Though my sweet tooth welcomes sugar, regardless of origin or creed, I have always liked pie best, especially my mother’s — fruit-plump, with ambrosial juices bubbling through golden, flaky crusts.

As a child, I even loved reading about pie. Almanzo Wilder, in Laura  Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy, reverently scanned hundreds at a county fair: “When he began to eat pie, he wished he had eaten nothing else.”

Mom would have made me birthday pies, if I’d dared request them. But tradition ruled. I blew candles out on cakes.

Pie Heaven does exist on this earth. My brother not only married a woman who bakes the world’s best peanut butter pie, he practices optometry where Amish patients gift him with luscious offerings. Amazingly, he once shared his birthday shoofly pie with me … which made me suspicious. Had he stuck bananas up my Ford’s tailpipe? Informed the IRS I never had the three children I claimed? Volunteered me for a ten-year mission in the Sahara? I still wonder. …

Some opponents caution that deviating from the cake custom opens the door to chaos. Only at one’s wedding does one deal with cake-in-the-face. But birthday pie increases pie-in-the-face risks exponentially.

And their point is?

The lemon cream pie that once smeared my visage caused no dire effects. Fellow conference-goers, however, fussed about my suit and hair as if I’d suffered a blast of radiation.

When globs of luscious pie are within licking distance, who cares about my hair? Some people should get their priorities straight.

Did you hear that, Almanzo? I know you’d bravely take a pie in the face. And choose birthday pie, too.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Which would you choose? Birthday pie or cake? Which kind?