Eating what I’m served.

During my visitation, I try to be an agreeable guest when in the homes of my family and friends.  Although I am known to be a picky eater, I do eat what I am served unless I know it will make me sick.

That means I eat a lot of food I would never eat at home, which is not a bad thing.

“Would you like a grilled cheese sandwich?”

I so rarely eat in other people’s homes now that I forget that they use white bread and American cheese when they make a grilled cheese sandwich.  I don’t think I have ever purchased American cheese or white bread, although at least one of my children wishes we’d been a white bread family.  It might have been a bland sandwich, if my friend hadn’t also offered tomatoes.
Farm Fresh Tomatoes
This summer, the local farm stand tomatoes are delicious, bright red to their center, juicy, and flavorful.  I’d almost forgotten what a real tomato tastes like.  No wonder I rarely buy them at the grocer’s.

“I know you don’t eat meat, so I made chicken.”

I always tell people not to plan meals around me.  I am quite happy eating the veggies and skipping the meat course of a meal; it’s what I do at home when I cook for my family.  When people tell me they made chicken especially for me, though, I am flummoxed.

Should I explain that chicken is meat?  It seems rude, so I eat a small a portion and hope my digestive tract doesn’t hate me for the next couple days.  I would not know if it did, Cupcake made with lovebecause my entire body is hating me right now for sitting it in a car for hours every day and eating dessert everywhere I go.

I can’t help it.  I’m special occasion to everyone, and they all make dessert for me.  Homemade.  It would be heartless to say, “No, thank you,” to a cupcake loving made and decorated by an eight year old.

“I forgot you don’t eat this.”

Until I arrived, my mother in law forgot that I can’t eat mayo (it does make me sick), so her beautiful luncheon of chicken and tuna salads was out of the question for me.  I was so happy when, without a fuss, she offered to scramble eggs for me.

I never realized she added condensed milk to her eggs before.  No wonder they taste so creamy.  I should try that for guests at my house.

I did remember that my in laws eat cool whip.

Pretzel Delight, the jello dish of my husband's childhoodThe only time I’ve bought cool whip was to make the very dessert she served:  pretzel delight.  I made it for my book club once, when we’d read Bill Bryson’s Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, which mentioned his memories of the many jello salads served during his childhood.  Pretzel Delight was the jello dish of my husband’s childhood.

I am not a fan of jello, or cool whip, and could happily scrape those layers away and eat the entire tray of pretzel, butter, and sugar crust.  I don’t, of course.  I eat a neatly cut square.

As I write about it, I am wondering what non-jello, non-cool whip concoctions I could place atop a pretzel crust.  I’m going to experiment with this when I get back to Colorado.  I’m thinking tart apples and a caramel sauce.  Or berries with slightly sweetened cream cheese.  Or peanut butter mousse and dark chocolate.

I’ll let you know if anything works out, because, if you’ve never had it, you need to try a pretzel crust.

Every movie a children’s movie?

My sister reminded me this week that Grease was the first movie she’d seen without an adult,  My mom dropped my brother, sister, and me off at the theater.  In June of 1978 that meant I was not quite eleven and she was a few months from turning seven.

Which led her to exclaim, “Who let’s a six year old watch that?” and reminisce about my mother’s look of shock when her tiny daughter danced and sang along to Greased Lightening.

Then I listed several more entirely inappropriate movies which I remember watching as a very young child.  Either my mother did not think about it at all, or she assumed that if the actors were clothed, we were clueless.

Even a naive child could not remain entirely clueless watching Natalie Wood steal her mom’s skeevy boyfriend in This Property is Condemned, and, unlike my sister, I knew full well that Gigi was being trained for prostitution.

Not that this is surprising.  I’ve told my husband for years that I never saw family tv as a child.  My mom only watched cop shows, variety shows, and MASH when I was little.  Quincy, Rockford Files, Starsky and Hutch, Carol Burnett, Sonny and Cher, those I remember.  The Waltons?  Never.

Not that it seems to have harmed either of us, but my sister and I both exercised more caution with our own children.  I wonder if her girls have even seen Gigi?

 

Passport to Dream

Passport to DreamMy passport expired earlier this year.  I only used it a couple times in the ten years it was valid, and I don’t anticipate using it in the foreseeable future.  Yet, I’m sad that it is gone.

Without it, I cannot buy tickets to Italy at a moment’s notice; my husband cannot sweep me away for a romantic getaway to Paris; and I can’t decide that this is the month I should see the Great Wall of China.  Nor could I take an impromptu Kenyan safari or visit a friend in Brazil or England or anywhere else.

Not that I did any of those things in the ten years I had the passport, but I imagined I could.

Without it, I may as well schedule those dental exams six months out and accept the fact that I really will be home.  I may as well stop wondering if these shoes would be comfortable walking all day on cobblestone streets or which is the best season in Prague.

I enjoy my delusions of globetrotting, but are those dreams worth the $150ish fee for renewing a passport?

Three Minute Road Trip

 

My road trip looked nothing like this, but you really would not want to see a time lapse of Route 70 from Denver to DC.  The first half of it is pretty much nothing, followed by billboards and XXX Truck stops.  The second half is Billboards with Antique Villages rather than XXX establishments, which I find an improvement.

Also, many places claim to have the best pie.  They all lie.  Good pie is harder to find than one would think.

We drive Rte 70 because it is fast, not because it is scenic.

This year is the centennial of the first road across the USA, the Lincoln Highway, so we are thinking of driving it home.  I’m actually excited about it.  It will take longer, but I am hoping for good pie.

What can I say?  I’m an optimist.

 

Modern slang? Not me, ducky.

Nifty slang, like a fine mustache, never goes out of style.All week, I’ve been trying to remember to write and say “audiobook” instead of “books on tape.”  I think “books on tape” makes me sound like someone who cannot keep up with technology.  In writing I was 100%, but when I went to the library’s drive through window, and was asked if my holds were books or dvds, I automatically said, “Books on tape.”

Why did I bother?  I routinely use outdated words, phrases, sayings, some of which were long past their heyday even in my own youth.

Words like heyday.  Does anyone still say that other than me?

Here is a short list, some of the words, phrases, and sayings which are a regular part of my spoken vocabulary:

Words, like fashion, fall in and out of style.

  • spiffy
  • lollygagging
  • pernickety
  • discombobulated
  • flabbergasted
  • high-falutin’
  • trousers
  • knick-knacks
  • flibberty-gibbit
  • dunderhead
  • Don’t sass me.
  • You scared the bejeebers out of me.
  • gentleman
  • lady
  • slugabed
  • fuddy-duddy
  • luddite
  • For crying out loud!
  • pokey (as in moving slowly)
  • shoddy
  • frou-frou
  • hanky panky
  • thingamajig
  • Oops!
  • You’re a crotchedy old man.
  • cantankerous

So why should I worry about “books on tape” making me sound odd?  It may have been the most normal thing I said all day.

Now, please, tell me what you say that is hopelessly untrendy or old fashioned.

The monotony of travel

On Friday, I’ll be leaving town for two weeks.  It’s the same trip we make every summer.

It is one of the unanticipated downsides to moving here.  When we lived within a few hours of our parents and siblings, we took vacations every year.  Since moving here, we’ve used our vacation time and funds to visit our families.

Mount RushmoreAt first, we tried to invite them to come here, or plan joint trips.  That worked exactly once with each parental set, but at least we were able to visit the Grand Canyon and Mt. Rushmore before our parents decided we live too far away for them to travel here again.

So every year for almost a decade, sometimes more than once a year, we pile into the car and make the trip from Colorado to Maryland.  I love my family, but these trips are not vacations.  They’re visitations.

Yesterday, I spent hours selecting and putting audio books on hold.  Nearly a dozen of them.  Because there is nothing worse than driving 26 hours on route 70 without books.

Sometimes we drive straight through, not even stopping for the night.  By we, I mean my husband; I barely drive.  Sometimes we try to break the monotony by getting off the beaten path for at least part of the drive.

Rocky Ridge, home of Laura Ingalls WilderOne year we visited Rocky Ridge, the home Almanzo Wilder built for Laura Ingalls Wilder, and another time we stopped by the site of the Little House on the Prairie.  Well, my daughter and I toured Rocky Ridge; my husband and son walked the dogs.

Last year my husband and daughter visited the Grave Creek Mounds in WV while I walked the dog around the fence line.

Another year we stopped in Columbus, Ohio and saw a replica of the Santa Maria.  It was early Sunday morning, so we walked the dogs around the park while looking the ship.  It, like the Dunkin Donuts we were seeking, was closed on Sunday mornings.

The dogs may be a nuisance when we play tourist for a few hours, but I like having them with me when I arrive at my mom’s.  They give me a reason to go outside, away from the television which is always on.  Besides, I worry about Trixie dying if I leave her behind.  (She has cancer and sometimes refuses to eat when I’m away.)

On the road, they help me, too. Wherever you go, there you are.  I always volunteer to be the dog walker when we stop to eat.  I’d rather walk around than go from sitting in the car to sitting in a restaurant to sitting in the car again.

I also volunteer to stay in motel rooms while others eat or swim so the dogs don’t bark.  In the morning, I take them for a walk while my family eats breakfast.

I walk the dogs more away from home than I do when we’re at home, because it is a good excuse to be alone and active.  Honestly, I value the time alone more.

Walking is definitely beneficial.  Sitting in a car for 26 hours wreaks havoc on my crooked back, but the psychological effect of solitude and quiet restores me in a different way.  Walking the dogs makes me feel purposeful instead of anti-social.

St. Louis Gateway ArchEvery year we debate stopping at the St. Louis Arch, but we never have because my husband and I cannot agree on who will go up to the top with our daughter.  We both want to walk the dogs while the other goes inside.

I’m not sure if or where we’ll be stopping this year, but if you see a lady in black compression knee socks walking a dog, it’s probably me.

This post is part of a BlogHop at Generation Fabulous, where you can read tales of more Transformative Travel.

7 Reasons to Love Thrift Shops

Adventure.

You never know what you’re going to find.  Every time I visit a thrift shop or browse Craigslist, I stumble across something that stirs my imagination.  Take the regulation sized bowling pin ashtray I saw last week.  Imagine the room that was in!  There had to be bowling trophies on display, right?  And dark 70’s paneling?  And a home-built bar?

Reduce-Reuse-Recycle!

Buying second hand is the most environmentally friendly way to shop.  There is no manufacturing cost, not even the cost to recycle.  No cargo ship or train had to bring that item from China to you.  You’re doing the earth a favor.  You might also be putting a child laborer out of work.

Old Fashioned Thrift.

I like saving money.  At thrift shops, I buy labels from shops I’d never enter because they are out of my budget.  Also, it’s convenient to try on clothes from a dozen stores, and discover ones that fit and ones that don’t.  Now, I know which stores to avoid if I find myself at a mall (which has not happened yet this year).

Patience Rewarded.Vintage Cosco Stylair Step Stool

Patience is a virtue, and virtue is its own reward, right?  Yes, but it certainly is nice when patience pays off in a more tangible way.  I could have gone to Target and bought a reproduction Cosco Step Stool, or I could have bought an original on ebay or etsy for $100, but after a year stalking Craigslist, I found a vintage Stylair for only $20.   The rust is vintage, too.

Charity.

Most thrift shops are fundraisers (or job training) for charities.  By shopping there, you are supporting a worthy cause.  If you don’t consider it worthy, you don’t have to shop there.

Individualism.

Whether it is furniture from an earlier generation, or fashion from a prior season, shopping second hand means you and your home do not look like the rest of the neighborhood.  Tired of the new neutral already?  Go to a thrift store; they still have black … or brown … or navy … or white … or beige.  Are you tired of your square plates now that all your friends have them, but afraid you’ll be jumping from one trend to another if you replace them at CB2?  You’re right; you will be.

Commitment Phobia.

I am not attached to my decor.  I get tired of looking at the same old things.  When I’m buying items second hand, I have no qualms about changing them out as often as I please.  If I buy a table on Craiglist and sell it a couple years later for half what I paid, I’m happy.  It’s like renting furniture, but cheaper.  Also, these are not my family’s heirlooms.  I might be reluctant to paint my grandmother’s table, but I have no reservations about painting your grandmother’s desk.

Anticipating Happiness

I am a big fan of happiness.

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18A few years ago, I had to work hard to regain my sense of happiness, and during that time, I embraced this verse:

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

It reminded me, again and again, that wanting to be happy is not selfish.

I do not believe that happiness is the purpose of life.  Nor do I believe it is a guarantee or a right.  I don’t believe that the pursuit of happiness is an excuse to put your own desires above the needs of others.  That would be selfish.

I also know that life is full of grief and sorrow and times when joy seems impossible.  The Bible also tells us that there is a time for weeping and mourning.  “Sad things are sad,” I tell my children.  “Grieve over them.  Give yourself time to be sad.  Then remember to be happy again.”

When we’re ready to be happy, I believe that it is something we can cultivate, and that it is closely tied to a sense of gratitude.

There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.  Robert Louis StevensonI agree with Robert Louis Stevenson who said, “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.”  Moods are contagious, and I’d rather spread happiness.   I’d rather bring out the best in others than drain them or drag them down.  I don’t advocate being artificially chipper.  That’s not my personality, but I am quietly joyful and content.

In a greater sense, I have so much for which to be thankful, and delighting in life is the best way I have of expressing my gratitude to God.

Happiness isn’t always easy.  Sometimes, we slip into grumbling and focusing on the negative.  We develop patterns of behavior and thought that promote discontent.  It happens so subtly, that we often don’t notice until the habit has become engrained.  So when Middle Sage announced that they were going to devote July to assessing habits that might be interfering with happiness, I knew I wanted to follow along.

On Monday, the featured habit was Waiting for the Future.  When I took the initial assessment, this isn’t one I thought applied to me.  I am happy right now; I’m not waiting for something to change to be happy.  However, they included this quote, from Eckhart Tolle:

“Waiting is a state of mind. Basically, it means that you want the future; you don’t want the present. You don’t want what you’ve got, and you want what you haven’t got. With every kind of waiting, you unconsciously create inner conflict between your here and now, where you don’t want to be, and the projected future, where you want to be. This greatly reduces the quality of your life by making you lose the present.”

Am I doing this?  Yes.  What is that future I want?

An empty nest.

I love my children, but teens are not my thing.  I love them.  Usually, I like them.  Sometimes, I even enjoy them.  Mostly, I want them to grow up and move out.

There is a part of me that wanted to delete that, because I think it sounds harsh, but there it is.  I don’t find parenting a teen any more fun than I found being a teen.  I want my kids to grow up and move out, the same way that I spent my own teen years wanting to grow up and move out.  Then, I looked forward to independence.  Now, I look forward to being alone with my husband, who is my favorite person in the entire world.  I daydream about it, and in my dreams, we are Incredibly Happy.  Sometimes I shop online for our retirement home, the one that doesn’t have enough bedrooms for anyone to stay with us for more than a weekend, the one we’ll never buy because I really do want my children and future grandchildren to be comfortable staying for a week or two.

For the past couple days, I’ve been pondering this – this that I would have named anticipation, but which Tolle has named inner conflict.  Is it interfering with my happiness right now?

Would I enjoy my last teenager more if I wasn’t looking forward to her leaving me one day?  It seems like I should say yes, but I don’t think so.  I don’t think the eye-rolling would bother me less, or I’d have more patience with the know-it-all-sass.

I would not be more tolerant of the mess.  My younger son is here for the summer, for the longest visit since he moved away three years ago.  I forgot what a slob he is!  No, that’s not quite right.  I forgot how much I dislike living with a slob.  I miss him; I don’t miss living with him.

For me, anticipating an empty nest is more than escapism, although it is that.  It enables me to remember that this phase will only last a few more years.  It reminds me that I do miss my children when they move away.  It reminds me to not snap at every stomp and door slam, because this temperamental teen is not too many years away from being a young woman whose company I hope to enjoy.  When she visits my empty nest.

(Please, know that I do not believe, not even a smidge, that people who suffer from clinical depression are ungrateful or spiritually lacking or that depression is a personal failing or an improper response to God.  My desire for you is that you will find a treatment plan that works for you, one that enables you to regain both health and happiness.  If you would like me to pray specifically for you, I would be honored to do so.)

Peaches, the taste of summer

Peaches are my summer food obsession.  While I haven’t eaten millions of them this summer, I’ve certainly eaten dozens since they first appeared at my local market.

It’s not that I don’t love all the summer berries, but I can buy them year round.  Peaches are just for summer, so I must eat as many as I can before they are gone.

I eat them plain.  I eat them in my morning yogurt (peaches and blueberries are perfect in plain Greek yogurt).  I eat them as dessert with ginger snaps crumbled on top.  I eat them in pie and cobbler and crisp, although I think cooking them entirely unnecessary.  I put them in smoothies if they get over-ripe and mushy, but that rarely happens.  Mostly, I eat them standing over the sink, so the juice doesn’t drip on my shirt or the floor.

What is your favorite summer fruit?  Or vegetable, if you’re like that.

June Reads

I read an unusual (for me) amount of fiction this month, so I thought I’d share the highlights of my June books with you. Perhaps you’ll find something you’d like to read this summer.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie WarWorld War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

I don’t usually read zombie novels. Never, actually, before Max Brooks’ World War Z.  It was the comparison to Studs Terkel that drew me in, and I was not disappointed.  Written as a volume of oral histories – first hand accounts – collected soon after the war had ended, WWZ is more social/political commentary than thriller, more about humanity than monsters.

Here, the zombie apocalypse is merely the backdrop for the human story.  Brooks shows us the myriad of responses to unimaginable disaster, both on an international and very personal scale.  My husband and son both read this, and it has been a fun one to discuss.  I’m recommending it to my book group, too.

Miss Buncle's Book Miss Buncle’s Book by D.E. Stevenson

Every Wednesday on my Facebook page, I ask people to share what they are reading.  This was one of the books shared with me there.  Thank you, Stacey!

Originally published in 1932, I was happy to find it republished (and available at my library) for the kindle.  D.E. Stevenson, a popular and prolific writer in the 20th century, is all but forgotten today, but Miss Buncle’s Book shouldn’t be.

This might be the perfect light summer read: a village of quirky characters, some startled, some enraged to find themselves the subject of a book.  “Charming” doesn’t do it justice, although it is.  It’s the satire that makes it still worth reading – the very premise of a newly impoverished, unimaginitive spinster writing a novel because her maid doesn’t want to keep chickens.  Times and media may change, but people don’t.  You, too, will recognize every character in Miss Buncle’s Book.

Journey Across the Four Seas: A Chinese Woman's Search for HomeJourney Across the Four Seas: A Chinese Woman’s Search for Home by Veronica Li

I download a lot of free memoirs for my kindle.  Often, let’s just say, there is good reason they are free.  This one is an exception.

When Veronica Li’s aging parents came to live with her, she recorded her mother’s story in her native Cantonese, and translated it for us.  Flora’s life spanned most of the 20th century.  Born in Hong Kong in 1918, she emigrated to the USA in 1967.  Between those years, she lived in poverty and in wealth; attained a college degree; fled the Japanese invasion; married securely but unhappily; moved many times as her husband lost jobs; had four children; worked; stayed at home to be a traditional, dutiful Chinese wife; suffered bouts of depression; and never gave up her determination to make a better life for her children.

Admirable as the strength of her will was, it was the glimpse into Chinese culture that sets her memoir apart.  Li lived in such different places, both geographically and socio-economically, and she takes her readers there with her, whether its a Catholic girls school in Hong Kong or a sleazy nightclub in Thailand.

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

Mary Roach makes science fun, and scientists funnier.  This time she explores the science and scientists of digestion, from the first sniff to the final exit.  Gulp probably explains more than you ever wanted to know about Elvis, fistulated stomachs, or flatulence, but it’s more entertaining than revolting, or at least equally entertaining and revolting, and it’s educational, too.  I’m not sure when I’ll be able to use my new knowledge of saliva, but I’m sure it come in handy eventually.

(Although I enjoyed Gulp, if you haven’t read Roach’s Packing for Mars, I would recommend that one over this.)

The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In such a short book, Neil Gaiman writes about the power of memory and forgetting, of love and sacrifice, of the boundaries of oceans and backyards, of coming of age and never growing up.  In short, he gives us a fairytale, and like all good fairy tales, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is mesmerizing because there is so much truth in it.  It’s not the supernatural, but the realistic that makes it magical.

I don’t want to say too much, and rob you of the joy of discovering it for yourself, so I will leave you with just this one quote:

“I do not miss childhood, but I do miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled.  I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from the things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.”
Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane