Category Archives: Coffee Corner

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?

 

 

 

Morning Vs. Night People

Two kinds of people coexist in this world: morning people and night people. Night people don’t officially breathe until noon. Morning people stop breathing at 10:00 p.m. Or earlier.

During peak energy hours, both can conquer their respective worlds. During lethargy hours, they also conquer those worlds, but they require coffee. Oxygen. And a spouse/parent/boss wielding a high-voltage cattle prod.

All toddlers and preschoolers are morning people. Their shiny inner weaponry systems launch them from bed at the crack of dawn. They will begin search and destroy missions unless intercepted with a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios.®

 Fortunately, they retire early, which explains why the human race has survived.

The lone exception: if a parent must reach a destination before 8:00 a.m. Then little ones portend the future when, as comatose teenaged princesses, they won’t awaken if 10 Prince Charmings appear; or, as hairy 17-year-olds, they must be spatulaed from their beds.

I, an oddball teen, retained my morning person habits. As a college student, however, I had to change my ways.

Even my boyfriend, Steve, who shared my staunch early-to-bed-early-to-rise background, joyously embraced night-person status. I attempted staying awake till midnight. According to Steve, I learned new study skills, including turning pages for hours while dead asleep. When our weekend Bible study group partied, I never lasted through a game of Monopoly. Dragged to a quiet corner, I snoozed until awakened for breakfast.

Regardless, I, a dedicated music student, hit the practice rooms by 8 a.m. Afterward, I phoned my boyfriend.

Groggily, he asked, “Did I miss breakfast?”

“You missed lunch.”

“Oh.” Then, “You want to get something to eat?”

I’d already eaten twice. But if the early bird got the worm, pecan pie proved a satisfactory substitute.

After marriage, a studio apartment, medical school/practice and new babies helped us cope with our incompatibility. We no longer categorized ourselves as morning or night people. We mostly were exhausted.

Fast forward a few decades. Steve has slipped into old patterns, staying up to finish compelling books or ball games. He occasionally sleeps in, wrapped in blankets like a giant burrito. I confess to adopting his stay-in-bed vice during dark, arctic months.

But soon, dew-fresh spring mornings will arrive. I’ll run outside early to welcome delicious fragrances wafting from earth, trees and flowers. Most birds are morning people, too, singing their best concerts at dawn. On days like that, how could I be anything else?

Which do you do better, mornings or nights?

 

 

 

 

 

Lifetime Fitness Awareness

Three little words.

We’ve all heard them: word trios that drop on our heads like clusters of miniature anvils.

  • You are overdrawn.
  • The IRS called.
  • What’s our deductible?
  • Congratulations! It’s quadruplets.

But the three words on my adult college registration eclipsed them all.

Dress for exercise.

Dress for exercise?

“Lifetime Fitness Awareness is required for everybody,” my college adviser insisted.

“But I’m already aware,” I whined. “My knees crack and I injured my back reading the newspaper. Why should I throw away perfectly good money to find out what I already know — my abs of steel are flabs I conceal.”

She gave me a sympathetic look, but said nothing.

At the first session, I felt encouraged. Our instructor, a Nice Young Man (over-50 translation for hunk), prayed at the beginning of class for health and well-being. A Christian college has its advantages; I could use Divine help, especially since one glance told me I was at least 10 years older than any of my co-sufferers.

He prayed, his voice full of compassion.

Then he proceeded to kill me.

“Okay, everybody, let’s hit the weight room!”

Weight rooms exist for football players. Olympic medalists. Japanese wrestlers in loincloths.

I don’t even like to swimsuit shop.

As we filed into the weight room, young men with biceps the size of hams gave us polite smiles as each hoisted half a house above his head.

I stared at a machine.

It smirked back. Deep in its shiny metal innards, it knew the truth: to me, heaven presents no mystery, compared to the incomprehensible operation of any and all machines.

I refused to be defeated by a lower species. I grasped the machine’s cold, skeletal limbs and yanked them toward my chest. The machine fought back, but with grim determination, I conquered my opponent. I had nearly completed a whole set when the instructor interrupted me.

Would I please stop wrestling with the equipment rack?

He stuck close after that, introducing me one by one to various torture devices:  machines that

  • bent my biceps,
  • pulled my pectorals
  • decreased my height
  • reversed my elbow direction.

“Can you believe it?” I asked my adviser later, after describing my brush with death by machinery. “We spent the last class session talking about managing stress. I’ll tell you about stress. Taking ‘Slow Execution 101.’”

My adviser looked up from her schedule of classes. “You’re mistaken,” she said. “That course is required next semester.”

What exercise horror stories are you trying to forget?

 

 

Ten Commandments for New Grandparents

More than 12 years ago, while eating out with our daughter and her husband, they informed us we would become grandparents the following spring.

I should have celebrated big time. After all, many grandma wannabes lock their children with spouses in guest rooms until they agree to produce offspring. I did not — not because I didn’t want to become a grandmother. I just planned to do it 100 years hence.

So I indulged in a few weeks of “But I don’t take Geritol.” Then I reacted like any grandma.

Now, after acquiring six grandchildren, I share the Ten Commandments for New Grandparents, based on what my husband and I have learned:

  • Commandment 1: When informed, thou shalt throw a New York City ticker-tape parade — unless thy children aren’t excited. In that case, distribute hugs, then throw a private ticker-tape parade.
  • Commandment 2: Thou shalt not demand to know the baby’s gender. Instead, use bribery. Offer a free college education early during the pregnancy, beating out the other set of grandparents. (Hint: Regardless of ultrasounds, you may exert your influence. For example, you can ensure a grandson’s birth by purchasing every little pink, ruffled dress within 50 miles.)
  • Commandment 3: Thou shalt express enthusiasm at thy children’s choice of names. Thou shalt not require them to name their child after you nor after Uncle Ferd, though your family has included a Ferd every generation the past 3,000 years. Instead, cheerfully enter into the family Bible the name of a video game warlord from the planet Pzorxx.
  • Commandment 4: When news of imminent birth reaches thee, thou shalt not assault the officer who stops thee for speeding. Thy new descendant does not need a convicted felon for a grandparent.
  • Commandment 5: Thou shalt enter labor and delivery only when asked. Then, thou shalt not point thy phone at the mother and tell her to smile.
  • Commandment 6: Thou shalt not mug visitors who dare suggest thy future Miss America is bald. See Commandment 4 regarding assaults.
  • Commandment 7: Thou shalt resist the urge to sterilize their family dog’s tongue.
  • Commandment 8: Thou shalt reassure the mother that newborn upchucking will not result in a reduced IQ.
  • Commandment 9: When events fall outside the other commandments, duct tape thy mouth — and that of thy spouse — shut. Then thou shalt cook, clean, and launder, bringing joy, gladness and clean underwear to their household.
  • Commandment 10: All of the days of thy life, thou shalt love, nurture, and pray for this grandchild. Then someday, with deep gratitude to God, hand these commandments over to thy children.

What commandments do you suggest make the new-grandparent list?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Day the Appliances Died

One morning, when I shoved a mug of water into the microwave, it lit up like a firecracker.

Hubby came running. “Did you warm your car keys in the microwave again?”

I crept from under the table. “I just wanted some tea.”

He tentatively examined the microwave. “Whatever you did sent it to its Happy Heating Ground.”

“At least, it didn’t leave a crater.” Our son had shared scary dormitory stories of popcorn-popping microwave doom.

Too cheap to buy a new one, I considered repairs. We might even survive without one.

Right.

“How do I do this?” Hubby, holding his mug with deer-in-the-headlights uncertainty, dampened my optimism.

“Easy. Fill a teakettle, set it on a burner and boil until it yells.”

“Sounds barbaric.” He took a step back. “What’s a teakettle?”

I’d given ours away, so I showed him how to fill a little pan.

He said, “Microwaving is the only cooking I do.”

“Perhaps you should return to the simple life,” I said loftily.

“Sure.” A sudden smile broke through. “You’ll do all the cooking.”

Now that sounded barbaric.

But not so primitive as heating water to wash dishes. Our hot water heater, apparently mourning the microwave’s demise, wept all over our garage before gurgling its last.

The plumber came. Five hundred dollars later, he introduced us to an appliance that actually heated water. Accustomed to our decrepit one, I burned my hands whenever I turned on the faucet.

We reset the temperature. Problem solved. But the new microwave and I had issues.

“Someday, I’ll get the hang of this,” I tried to say. The ice bag on my tongue muffled my words.

“Too bad the owner’s manual is in Sanskrit,” my husband sympathized.

After a few trips to the burn unit, we adjusted. But then, the oven’s thermostat malfunctioned.

“Maybe it likes cornbread rare?” I said to Hubby.

The fridge, taking its cue, froze a dozen eggs and melted 27 boxes of popsicles I’d bought on sale. The icemaker swore as if in labor.

The repairman suggested Band-Aid possibilities, but didn’t pull punches with his diagnosis: at best, my stove and refrigerator had six months to live. All we could do was keep them comfortable. Keep them comfortable?

Feeling flatlined myself, I decided to self-resuscitate with enough French Roast to make me lift appliances.

But Mr. Coffee’s performance is weak. His coffee maker innards and mine both have seen better days.

Like all appliances, he won’t live forever, and the guarantee ran out ages ago.

 

But, praise Jesus, I will, and mine won’t.

When no more replacement parts are available, will you go to the Master Designer for a new you?

If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17