O my God, the forecast predicts 70 degrees all week. Can those people shivering in shorts and flip-flops since March 20 be right? You really can bring spring to Indiana? OMG, I kind of forgot … You have done this before!
On frozen days like today, I want to press my nose against the window pane, spread my fingers and push winter away, as I attempted when a preschooler, living in the trailer park.
When spring showed up for real, our mother would no longer imprison my four-year-old brother and me in snowsuits. She’d stop slathering us with Vicks® VapoRub ®. She’d let us go outside.
We didn’t dislike the tiny yellow trailer we called home. The kitchenette smelled like bubbling bean soup and love. Our play area: the closet-sized living room. We slept on the sofa, Ned at one end, and I at the other. Long before ESPN’s kickboxing competitions, we conducted world-class foot fights at bedtime — until the Head Referee called emphatic fouls on us both.
Finally, a hundred robins outside sounded an all-clear. Before sending us outdoors, Mom drilled us: Thou shalt not play around the railroad tracks. Thou shalt look both ways before crossing the drive to the playground. Thou shalt never speak to strangers. But the First Commandment eclipsed them all: Thou shalt not shed thy jacket.
Fully catechized, Ned and I darted to freedom. We stopped and looked both ways before splashing across the gravel road that circled the playground, the center of the trailer court and our world.
Paradise awaited, with a clangy old merry-go-round that spun us into an ecstasy of nausea. Ned and his buddies defied God, gravity and their mothers, walking the teeter-totters instead of sitting. Kathy and I soared on swings, singing Perry Como’s hit, “Catch a Falling Star,” as we touched heaven with our toes. Sometimes, we all simply galloped like a wild-pony herd around the playground.
As suppertime approached, Ned and I picked up dandelions like golden coins to take to Mommy. When Daddy’s old blue Chevy turned into the drive, we raced toward it. Daddy stopped and threw the back door open. Ned and I rode home, waving to friends as if in a parade.
Eating soup and johnnycakes, we fought sagging eyelids like an enemy. We wanted to watch Rawhide, with our favorite cowboy, Rowdy (a very young Clint Eastwood). I wanted to sit on Daddy’s shoulders, eat popcorn and comb his wavy, Elvis-black hair. But it had been such a long, wonderful … spring … day … zzzz.
What do you mean, fall asleep? Not me! It’s springtime! That lazy, good-for-nothing sun has finally shown up. I’ve got more to-do items on my list than candles on my last birthday cake: garage to clean, closets to organize. Plus, a new book to write …
But first, I’m going out to play.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What childhood spring memories warm your mind?
This radical confession could create cultural schisms the size of the Grand Canyon. But I believe in honesty when dealing with my readers, so here goes:
I take naps.
Oh, I know some confess to sneaky snoozes on weekends. I mean daily naps during the week, when employees buzz around workloads like frantic worker bees.
“No wonder you take naps. You’re a writer,” critics point out. “What else could we expect of a degenerate who talks to imaginary people and spends half her waking hours in jammies?”
I resemble that remark. But in defense of jammies, real waistbands stifle creativity.
Back to the nap issue. Is it so difficult to believe a short rest empowers workers? In a word, yes. Anti-nap propaganda has programmed us for decades. As a college student, I never considered naps an option, not even when my then-boyfriend, now-husband, claimed I’d turned 200 pages of my zoology book, my eyes closed.
As a young office worker, I sneaked to a back room at noon and closed the drapes so no one knew I was sleeping. You would have thought I was conducting drug deals. Naps, even during breaks, make supervisors nervous. Just because my boss once tripped over my prostrate form … He recovered nicely after cardio rehab.
Like others, I have fought illegal slumber with coffees, colas and energy drinks that could substitute for rocket fuel. Some misguided souls believe noontime exercise generates energy. Since when does energy output increase energy input? They obviously have never chased after two-year-olds.
Efficient work policies include power naps, which promote employee health and safety. Alert employees are less likely to fall out of their chairs, catch their noses in machinery or flush themselves. They provide faster, friendlier service and make fewer mistakes. Studies have shown that teachers permitted a brief daily collapse are less likely to leave the country after the second day of school. Only three percent of air flight controllers who nap direct pilots to park behind McDonald’s.
Still, old attitudes are difficult to change. Decades passed before my breakthrough. One day, having dozed off, I awoke at my laptop to discover my fingers had purchased 307 Pampered Chef ice cream dippers.
I ejected from the computer, set my cell phone alarm and crashed.
A 45-minute, preventative nap could have saved my relatives the prospect of ice cream dipper gifts every Christmas until 2037.
“But I can’t fall asleep in 45 minutes!” some protest. Soothing music, accompanied by fake waterfalls and synthesized bird twitters, often prove effective. Other daytime insomniacs use power-of-suggestion downloads. I, however, find nothing works like the Lacrosse Channel or Bonanza reruns.
Speaking of Bonanza, the opening music has begun. Grab your blanky. Take a stand — er, sofa. Snuggle down, close your eyes and join the power nap revolution that … will change the … world … zzzzzzzzz.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you a rest revolutionary?
O my God, thank You for people who help us laugh. For Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield, who grew up on a farm in our county. And, OMG, thanks especially for special people who laugh with me!
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.
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?
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.
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?