Category Archives: Coffee Corner

Rainy Day Activities for Grown-ups (Sort Of)

“No drought this year!” happy weather experts proclaim.

Thank you for informing us, as people bail out living rooms. Facebook whines and surly crowd mumbles at Walmart — my scientific tools for measuring demographic mood — have reached record levels.

So I share suggestions for coping with April showers until they produce May flowers and golfing hours.

  • Celebrate that nonstop rain = a power wash for house. And cars. And the lawn mower I forgot to put in the garage.
  • Instead of a rain dance, do a sun dance. Show your moves to bored kids and grandkids. They’ll either join in or run screaming, leaving you to dance — or nap — in peace.
  • Monitor the backyard battle. Marching dandelions take over my lawn. However, violets are mobilizing, too. Who will win? My neighbors are taking bets.
  • Clean the junk drawer—a penance that satisfies the pathological urge to accomplish “spring cleaning” without actually doing it.
  • Stick your nose outside to sniff the wet glory of earth and hyacinths.
  • Count cars racing through the rain — my nostalgic salute to inclement childhood days when I truly had nothing to do.
  • Reassure pansies. Mine won’t spend their entire lives in our garage. Soon I’ll send them, plus houseplants, outside and watch them party.
  • Try on summer clothes. If mine fit, I pat myself on the back. If not, I shop for a new wardrobe!
  • Listen to your parents’ music. Doing so recalls the rare privilege of sitting in the station wagon’s front seat while envious siblings elbowed each other in back. The radio poured out orchestra music led by David Rose, Henry Mancini and Percy Faith while raindrops raced down the windshield. Wipers, resembling long, thin Fred-Astaires clad in tails, bowed in sync.
  • Snuggly rainy days are the perfect backdrop for devouring an I-can’t-put-this-down book.
  • Throw a baseball inside the house. Someone will yell at you, and you’ll feel like you’re nine again.
  • Be daring. Watch an old movie, when good-night kisses were considered somewhat scandalous.
  • Find an intact umbrella and walk. Pass a house with Christmas decorations and feel smug because you put yours away last week.
  • Sing outside. Belt out “Singin’ in the Rain,” “I Love a Rainy Night,” or “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” — and watch traffic clear out.

Some hot, dry summers, I feel like a walking raisin. But this spring, I check my arms for sprouting mushrooms — one more thing to do on a rainy April day.

What’s your favorite rainy day activity?

Loony the Lamb

For years I celebrated holidays by directing church musicals. One fateful Easter I chose Watch the Lamb, which focused on Jesus as the Lamb of God. A live lamb would make the ancient story come alive.

During rehearsals, the cast greeted our lamb with enthusiasm.

Church janitors did not. “Do something before that animal pees all over — or worse.”

Why hadn’t I considered this minor complication? Especially as the lamb made entrances down different aisles. Most Passover lambs in 30 A.D. did not wear Pampers®

 What other option existed?

God provided the perfect solution: we would cover the stage and church aisles with the burlap-like backside of my recently discarded carpet.

However, God didn’t send angels to cut, arrange and duct tape the carpet throughout the sanctuary. After two unspiritual, aching-knee days, all my bases were covered. No worries now, right?

Wrong.

Loony the Lamb had his own ideas about entrances and exits. A hay bale helped keep him quiet, but for obvious reasons, we avoided feeding him too much.

The 60-member cast’s noise made Loony more nervous than your Aunt Nellie. Kids petted him without mercy. Bright lights and heat caused him to hyperventilate. During dress rehearsal, Loony the Lamb collapsed onstage in a wooly, quivering heap.

Watch the Lamb? No audience would want to watch this.

Two animal lovers carried the prostrate lamb outside while we prayed — and Loony recovered. One guy built a pen outside the stage door where our prima donna cropped grass between scenes. Visiting hours were restricted, with no autographs. We did everything but paint a star on Loony’s gate.

Thankfully, he showed no new signs of cardiac arrest. His brassy baaaaa erupted only once during performances — during solemn prayer after the crucifixion.

Our ingenious actors shifted and blocked escape routes, all the while looking very holy.

One child earned my special appreciation: “Loony was peein’ on my foot the whole time Jesus was on the cross, but I didn’t say nothin’.”

Even after Loony returned home, I couldn’t shake off sheep. Scriptures about lambs leaped from the Bible’s pages. Jesus frequently called his followers His sheep. After Watch the Lamb, I figured He didn’t mean it as a compliment.

Nevertheless, the King of Heaven volunteered to take on the title “Lamb of God” — what God in His right mind would do that?

Only a King who loves confused, clueless sheep more than His own life.

Even one dithery pageant director named Rachael — which means “lamb.”

 

Have you participated in a pageant/play that taught you more than you expected?

 

 

 

 

Closet Confessions

Scientists declare the universe is expanding. If my poundage provides ample support for this hypothesis, why doesn’t my closet?

Getting dressed has become a religious experience. Every morning I fall on my knees before opening the closet door, because one tiny shift on my shelves sets off shock waves that could lead to global disaster.

Still, I do not pose the ultimate threat. Rather, people who alphabetize socks pose a menace to freedom and the American way. Their closets resemble well-organized mausoleums, with shoes and sweaters residing in little plastic caskets. They file shirts, dresses and pants according to color, fiber content and button count.

Worse yet, their clothes fit. No sign of the fat-jean wardrobe every normal woman cherishes. No rack of size three dresses to provide the self-delusion necessary for good mental health. These disturbed personalities are desperately in need of therapy, medication and grandchildren with Popsicles.

They also demonstrate a pathological lack of conscience as their clothes age. How can someone be so callous as to condemn a loyal pair of black pants that has stood with them through years of Christmas parties, church services and funeral wakes to an unknown fate?

Sometimes, though, I long for the freedom of college days, when my wardrobe consisted of two beloved pairs of jeans, two T-shirts and a granny dress I wore when my future in-laws came to town.

After marriage, however, my expandable waistline stretched my outfits into three categories: pre-prego, prego and post-prego.

By my children’s adolescence, not even an underweight moth could edge in. I never would have suffered from closet claustrophobia if my daughters had done the decent thing and raided my closet during their teen years.

Instead, they plundered their father’s. We didn’t realize he had become a retro fashion icon until one Sunday before church as I made a routine check of the “teen corner.” Our younger daughter was wearing a purple-striped surfer shirt.

“Steve, she’s wearing that shirt I gave you for your 18th birthday.”

He cocked an eye. “Um, her friend’s wearing one of my shirts, too.”

It wasn’t fair. If Steve had worn ruffles during the 1960s like every other self-respecting hippie, the girls never would have touched his stuff. His closet would have looked as bad as mine.

Eventually, our children all married young and left town. I have no idea why.

I visited their quiet rooms and shed tears at the sight of neatly made beds and unnaturally bare floors.

And three beautiful, empty closets.

Which, years later, now overflow — and getting dressed each morning has once more become a religious experience. …

Does opening your closets inspire fervent prayer as well?

 

 

A Storm’s the Norm

In the Oregon desert where I lived two years, the few thunderstorms rated newspaper headlines. People ran for cover as if King Kong had invaded. They spoke in hushed tones of thunder, lightning and the deluge that made them search for the nearest Ark to rent.

Those storms hardly would have rated an umbrella in Indiana. Still, my father’s congregation trembled when he assumed the storm watcher persona he adopted long before The Weather Channel. Piles of purple clouds — if rotating, all the better — called for his scrutiny.

“Beautiful.” He’d wave a big, brown hand as if conducting a symphony. “Nothing grander.”

Mom, however, insisted that my siblings and I remain safe inside. How boring.

Later, back in Indiana, I was a passenger in a car that defied a white sheet of rain stretched across the road. Tree branches ripped, grabbing sparking power lines as they crashed. A chimney exploded.

The driver very appropriately prayed, “Dear Jesus, keep us safe. But if not, please take us to heaven.”

This struck me as unnecessarily pessimistic. In one of my less holy moments, I yelled at the top of my 18-year-old lungs, “Knock it off, Jo. Quit giving me last rites, okay?”

God in His mercy listened to Jo and ignored me.

I later succumbed to Boring Mother Disease during storm season. One spring, my small children and I spent so much time snuggled in our bathtub, they regarded it as a second library, the normal place to read storybooks.

My husband, bone-tired from a 24/7 medical practice, refused to budge from his nice warm bed just because pesky tornadoes suffered from insomnia.

Our next house featured an ancient basement. Hubby still favored Oz during tornado warnings. The kids and I, however, preferred the dungeon to our former cramped porcelain refuge. We added Play-Doh and Yahtzee tournaments to the storm regimen.

Now empty-nesters, Steve and I again live in a one-story ranch. Upon purchase, I assured myself that no storm could hoist my post-middle-age body more than a few feet.

Soon, however, lightning seemingly sizzled around my pillow, and moaning wind and rain drowned my husband’s snores. I craved my former dungeon, but tried to reassure myself.

You’ll laugh about this tomorrow.

The next morning, our ceiling had not moved. Peeking out windows, I saw no branches on the ground — not even many twigs. Why had I been such a nervous Nellie?

Then, opening a newspaper, I noticed a photo of our town’s Little League cement block dugout. A “small” tornado had dissected it.

Back to Bathtub Story Hour for me.

Are you a storm watcher? Or do you run for a basement–or bathtub?

Spring Stuff

Most people stay far too busy during spring to pause and practice their God-given powers of observation. Although I, too, keep an encyclopedia-sized to-do list, I decided to sacrifice the time, pour myself a cup of coffee and ponder spring stuff:

  • Spring is when we rid our yards of pretty dandelions and violets and instead, try to grow plants whose native habitat is the Amazon River Basin.
  • Some high-fashion people wear flip-flops when it’s sleeting. Other divas wear boots during heat waves. Moral of the story: Spring footwear has nothing to do with feet. Though I feel the mad urge to wear white shoes.
  • Storing one’s winter woolies at the spring equinox can prove almost as dangerous as selling a crib at a spring garage sale. (Blizzard or baby, you pick.)
  • A sadistic burglar obviously replaced my spring clothes with an identical wardrobe two sizes too small.
  • Prom dresses currently bloom throughout area stores. Either that, or lots of people are going to Vegas.
  • I may never have looked like Debbie Reynolds, but I’m a Singin’-in-the-Rain kind of girl. You?
  • I can’t wait to clear out clutter, watch the Cubs and make my mother’s potato salad.
  • During early spring, strawberries taste more like medicine than a fruit. Still, I buy them.
  • Doesn’t it seem sacrilegious to celebrate the Resurrection at the same time we will have to pay the IRS?
  • After spring break, an epidemic sweeps our nation’s campuses, victimizing students, professors and administration alike. The name of this menace? The College Crankies. A large migration of university spouses has been noted to take place at this time.
  • Have you ever noticed that spring soccer fields smell like wild onions?
  • My scudsy, corroded car, whose unfortunate state hasn’t bothered me all winter, now bothers me.
  • Ditto for my house’s dirty windows. And my dirty carpets. And my furniture. And. …
  • Gangway! The golfers are loose!
  • Now that spring has arrived, my husband no longer gripes about my sleeping with the window open. An added bonus: a nearby frog choir provides a nightly lullaby to ease us into Dreamland.
  • No five-star restaurant’s swanky French dessert menu could hope to rival the first luscious, drippy ice cream cone of spring.

Perhaps it’s time to rouse myself from my profound cogitations and determine if this year’s cone will uphold the standard.

No weightier spring pursuit than that.

What’s your favorite spring stuff?

 

 

 

 

Bacon, How Do I Love Thee? Check My Cholesterol Count

How I wished this treatise began with heavenly fragrances and sweet sizzling leading to crispy, smoky bacon.

Unfortunately, I sat in a hospital laboratory, breakfastless, awaiting a routine cholesterol test.

That day recalled my bacon fast at 16, when I swore off because I heard it caused zits. Mom, concerned about my skinny frame, entreated in vain. My heartless brothers wolfed down handfuls of bacon like popcorn. I closed my eyes, but their crunch-crunch-crunch, reminiscent of giant locusts, started my days on a miserable note.

Plus, pimples, unappreciative of my sacrifice, showed up anyway.

Nowadays, I rarely hear about bacon bans related to acne. No, those who wish to deprive mankind yammer about good and bad fats. Which is which? Both look lumpy in a swimsuit.

Despite bad press, bacon recently has enjoyed popularity surpassing Justin Bieber’s. To skeptics, I inquire: How many Bieber-of-the-month clubs exist in which members fork out 50-plus bucks monthly to have Justin dropped off on their doorsteps?

I thought so. Yet thousands subscribe to The Pig Next Door, Bacon Freak, and dozens of bacon-touting clubs that do exactly that.

Bacon isn’t just for breakfast anymore. Many crave it for dessert: bacon cookies, bacon-sprinkled cupcakes, bacon ice cream, even apple pie with a bacon lattice crust. Others indulge a sweet tooth with bacon truffles, bacon brittle, bubble gum, lollipops, soda and candy canes.

Not content with filling their stomachs with delectable morning meat, bacon addicts treat their teeth to bacon-flavored toothpaste and floss. They wear T-shirts with slogans such as “Bacon is meat candy” and “Praise the Lard.”

One Christmas, I gave my son-in-law a grilling apron sporting a pink pig and the caption, “Thank you for turning vegetables into bacon.”

Sadly, I didn’t discover the gift that would have won me the Lifetime Mother-in-law Award until too late. Sculptor Mike LaHue created a larger-than-life bust of actor Kevin Bacon, covered with cooked bacon bits. No, he didn’t eat Kevin. But he chowed down on extra bacon bits to sustain artistic fervor.

According to reporter Rosa Golijan, LaHue was glad to complete this project, auctioned off for charity. However, he missed Kevin smiling from his refrigerator every morning.

Reading such reports in the laboratory waiting room, I wished I could have delayed this test a little longer — say, 30 years. I considered leaving and continuing my fat-lovin’ ways.

In that case, another product would meet my needs in a most unique way. A bacon coffin. A $2,999.99 steel casket with slice-of-bacon décor, complete with bacon air freshener.

Advertised with a fitting slogan: “For those who love bacon to death.”

So … how do you like your bacon?

Grandma Withdrawal Syndrome

[Note: Wrote this several years ago. But some things never change!]

The Center for Disease Control has never dealt with one of the most devastating maladies to afflict humankind: Grandma Withdrawal Syndrome.

Attacks can be prevented by regular doses of grandchildren. Too often, though, busy lives sidetrack good intentions, and early symptoms appear. These include showing photos to convenience store clerks and flagmen.

Untreated grandmas actually take on their grandchildren’s characteristics. In advanced cases, women throw tantrums if they can’t have chocolate milk or sandwiches without crusts or 17 readings of The Poky Little Puppy.

After the 18th reading, my husband no longer asked why I had to see our grandchildren. He packed my bag, filled up the car and clicked me into my car seat.

Grandkids during my early years of grandma withdrawal

Knocking on my daughter’s door, I felt an immediate surge of wellness. My granddaughter bounced onto my lap, asking if I’d buy Girl Scout Cookies. One grandson wanted me to play. A toddler Velcroed chubby arms around my knees and applied his snotty nose to my jeans. Could there be any better cure for Grandma Withdrawal Syndrome?

Despite my 10-box Thin Mints® purchase, I decorated cookies with my granddaughter. She noted frankly that ours were nothing like those baked by their perfect sitter.

Her brother and I played with Bendaroos, waxy, colorful, string things. He said he was making a purple caterpillar bigger than God.

“How big is God?” I asked.

He threw his hands open wide. God is 31 and 300 and thousands big! Bigger than the sun! Bigger than the sky!

“Is your caterpillar as big as the sun?”

He shook his head. Was his caterpillar as big as God? Another head shake.

Some adults refuse to admit that God’s handiwork outshines their own. But my grandson didn’t sweat it.

The toddler liked peekaboo games 20 hours straight. He cracked up when I poked my finger through holes in a plastic something or other from his toy box. I wiggled my finger. He giggled and fell down. Every time.

I returned home, health improved. But I’d barely unpacked when an SOS arrived: my younger daughter’s sitter fell through.

I braved snowy interstates to play with another twenty-month-old. Using a puppet, I devoured Fisher-Price “people” and spit them out 3,129 times with a loud “Ptui!” We raced cereal boxes. We practiced hugs and kisses. His “bye-bye” warmed me all the dark, icy way home.

I now owned jeans slimed by two toddlers, multitudes of unneeded cookies and a killer caterpillar smaller than God.

I was completely cured of Grandma Withdrawal Syndrome.

For a few days.

Your turn. Tell me, have you ever experienced Grandma Withdrawal Syndrome?

 

 

 

Birthday Magic

Today, my birthday eyes me from the calendar like a big dog craving a cheeseburger.

When did the magic disappear?

Me, age 5, proud of my birthday dress

Childhood

When I was little, February dragged in slow-mo. But TV’s Captain Kangaroo always sang and dedicated a candle-laden cake on my special day. (That he serenaded thousands of kids born in March didn’t occur to me.)

Mom asked what I would like for dinner. No washing dishes! I received gifts, including my first bicycle at age 11.

Hiking the distance to my magical 16th birthday took forever. Not only would I drive then, but pimples would vanish, and long-overdue curves would appear.

The next day, still cursed with a negative bust measurement, I suffered the first inklings of cynicism.

The Twenties

Five years later, even with girlfriends celebrating and 21 roses arriving from my long-distance fiancé, a cold, adult realization icicled the hoopla.

Birthdays wouldn’t stop.

The Thirties

When I turned 30, Hubby tried to soften the blow with a pretty plant — cheaper than roses. Our baby refrained from puking on me that day, though she refused to skip diaper changes.

Three children steered birthdays toward a new frontier of McDonald’s parties, giggly sleepovers and laser-tag wars. Years before, I didn’t think I’d live until my birthday. Now I hoped I would survive theirs.

Fellow mothers and I learned to recreate magic, commemorating each other’s birthdays with to-die-for cakes topped by only one candle and gifts we really wanted.

The Forties

The year my husband and I turned 40, birthday carolers wearing pajamas serenaded us. They brought a beautifully decorated cemetery cake, complete with a figure crawling out of a grave.

Hubby served on a board that accidentally established a unique birthday tradition. During a meeting, someone arranged for a cake to celebrate a new member’s birthday. The guy’s surprise was even bigger than we anticipated, as his birthday would not arrive for months. We had so much fun that wrong-day bashes for new members became a yearly ritual.

The AARPies

Years sprinted past, and my birthdays faded in favor of grandchildren’s head-splitting, joyous celebrations.

Not long ago, I changed decades. Immersed in a writing project, I barely looked up from my desk. A birthday only meant I was growing older, fatter and weirder.

Our son called. Could we meet at a coffeehouse in our old hometown?

Upon arrival, we didn’t see his car. I kidded, “Hope they remember they asked us.

Hubby smiled as he opened the door. Our children and their spouses hugged me. All the grandkids. And dear friends, gifts unmatched by any they could bring.

Birthday magic was back. Better than ever.

Has growing older proved magical for you lately?

Confessions of a Weekend Snowbird

Several winters ago, I flew to Florida. But only for a weekend. And only because of work.

Thanks to my in-laws, I realize snowbirding isn’t easy. Snowbirds deal with two sets of household worries. Before leaving the Midwest, they must forward mail, stockpile medicines, and empty refrigerators. By law, they cannot desert the state until they eat or give away every single egg.

I only had to stockpile frozen dinners for Hubby — and assure him I would try not to enjoy my work too much.

However, I faced wardrobe complications, digging through mountains of summer clothes for an outfit that fit. Usually I don’t even have to say the word “waistline” until May.

Migration itself proved challenging. At the airport, I, a sixtyish grandma armed only with expired Liquid-Plumr® coupons, was dusted for explosives.

The airline also implemented an aggressive program to increase passenger space. All zone four passengers, including myself, were tossed into compactors that crunched us into pillow-sized rectangles. We fit into the airplane seats, no longer suffering from lack of leg room.

Finally carted from the aircraft, I understood why snowbirds brave Florida migration tribulations. Palm trees, with real green leaves, fluttered a hello. Brilliant flowers abounded. No wonder the Spanish explorers named it “Flowery Land.”

Today, however, they might name it “Trailer Court Country.” Thousands bloom on the Florida landscape. These mobile home parks offer neighborhood lifestyles like no other. Need to borrow a cup of sugar? Simply stick your measuring cup out your window into your neighbor’s kitchen.

Need exercise? Walkers benefit physically and enjoy constant access to neighbors’ favorite episodes of The Andy Griffith Show — at Cape Canaveral sound levels.

If such excitement does not suffice, back out of a driveway amid the daily NASCAR Golf Cart Challenge.

I did enjoy the novelty of hearing, “You’re so young!” Throw in fresh seafood, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

Given my schedule, I did not see the ocean. Had I viewed its blue, sparkly waves, I might have, as my hospitable hosts urged, stayed much longer.

Instead, the heat chased us inside, where they turned on air-conditioning. I tried to imagine avoiding torrid Easter temperatures. Seeing Santa in a red tank top.

I envisioned myself in a bathing suit most of the year.

That prospect scared this temporary snowbird back to airport security, zone four passenger compactors, and a flight back to her Midwestern nest.

Are you a snowbird wannabe? Or do you prefer snuggling by the fire?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lovin’ It

Me, a prim 6-year-old

Vestiges of first-grade shyness still cling to me when Valentine’s Day nears.

As my class colored purple-lined mimeographed hearts, our teacher explained we’d soon celebrate a love holiday.

“Ooooooh.” The boys made kissing noises.

Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween — none of these turned my face red as my Crayola. I’d even heard yucky rumors people kissed at midnight on New Year’s Eve. But my parents always sent me to bed early, so I didn’t have to witness it.

Now in school, I celebrated mushy Valentine’s Day. Despite reservations, I enjoyed decorating a white doughnut bag with pink hearts — though I had no idea why. Then our teacher explained we, like mail carriers, would deliver valentine cards to our classmates’ bags to make them feel special.

Though I didn’t consider Scary Larry Williams and Donny the Dirt Adams special, I could live with that. On Columbus Day, we only sang songs about a dead sailor who got lost. On Valentine’s Day, I ate the red-hot cinnamon hearts off a pink-frosted cupcake, then washed it down with cherry Kool-Aid.

I labored over my class list, reserving ballerina valentines for my girlfriends. For boys, a lower species, I selected animals. Ugly ones.

I suffered my first case of writer’s cramp printing names on the cards. This love stuff was hard work!

But I received pink ballerinas and multiple Snow Whites in return. I even enjoyed those sent by subhuman boys.

I applied phonics to the faint print on candy hearts, only to discover such steamy sentiments as “my baby,” “be mine,” and the dreaded “kiss me.” More disconcerting: we each received fat red wax lips. The first-grade class looked as if we’d made a field trip to a plastic surgeon’s. More kissing noises.

But Mrs. Cade didn’t stand the boys in the corner. Instead, she abdicated her moral responsibility as a teacher and donned lips herself!

Later, I asked my mother to solve the mysteries surrounding the heart candies. Was “my baby” supposed to be a compliment? All my baby brother did was pee, poop and puke. Mom said a young man might call his girlfriend “baby.” That explained the incomprehensible songs on the radio.

Valentine’s Day appeared the strangest holiday of the year, and the love/romance scenario remains puzzling as ever. But it’s nice to know I’ve moved past the first-grade version. Forget the candy hearts; now I’m into Belgian chocolates.

I also understand real love means even harder work than addressing valentines.

And that kissing noises aren’t so bad, after all.

 

How do you remember your first Valentine’s Day experience?