Category Archives: Coffee Corner

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?


Olympic Oddities

Along with with millions of other global spectators, I’ve been fixating on the Winter Olympics, averaging one blink per day.

No wonder. Guy skaters wear Vegas outfits and Norwegian curlers sport pajama pants stolen from Grandma.

Curlers actually win gold medals for wielding brooms. (Shouldn’t I receive one for vacuuming?)*

Competitors also careen on sleds at 90 miles per hour. How did insane sports like the bobsled, the skeleton and the luge ever come to be?

I discovered they all originated in the nineteenth-century spa town of St. Moritz, Switzerland, where, ironically, visitors hoped to improve their health. Caspar Badrutt, a hotel owner, pushed the new concept of winter resorts. However, complaints that young tourists were running down local fraus with sleds threatened the town’s reputation. A track built to keep them off the streets continues to serve Olympic hopefuls today.

That’s the official version. More likely, these sports were invented by snowed-in women whose men had been lying around the house. “Go sled to the store at 90 mph and pick up bread,” the wives ordered. “Better yet, do it face first.”

The husbands must have wanted to escape their women, too, because the idea caught on.

Perhaps cabin fever drove others to aerial skiing and snowboarding, when besieged parents told antsy offspring, “You need exercise. Go jump off a mountain.”

Even odder sports have been showcased during past Olympics. In the Paris Games of 1900, for example, champions took medals in firefighting, kite flying, delivery van racing, hot air ballooning and fencing with walking canes.

Club swinging, despite Neanderthal images that come to mind, often involved intricate choreography — and more trust of fellow club swingers than that required by ribbon-wielding rhythmic gymnasts today. Perhaps by 1932, when club swinging was eliminated, everyone had discovered new ways to get concussions.

Spectators need not fear that the Olympics will suffer from future lack of weirdness. The Summer Olympics include the equestrian sport of dressage. I assumed the horses wore clothes, a modesty trend not reflected throughout the Olympics. Authorities didn’t confirm this, but said the animals do perform moves “Dancing with the Stars” competitors would envy.

It’s not enough that perfect-bodied athletes flood my TV screen? No, a horse with two left feet outdoes me on the dance floor.

Worse yet, pole dancing, or “pole fitness” is now considered an Olympic sport — and no, I’m not making this up. Children will be told to turn off the TV and go jump off a mountain. Spouses will be sent on sleds at 90 mph to pick up bread.

Me? I cast my vote for more dressage.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What Olympic sport keeps you glued to the TV?

*My friend, Ruth, awarded me this gold in the Vacuuming Olympics!




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.


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

“Well, goodbye.”


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.”


 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.


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?

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?

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. …


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?









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?