Little Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Measure twice, cut once. It doesn’t apply just to carpentry and sewing. A variation of this maxim can apply to virtually any activity. Pay attention and slow down enough to do it right the first time.

*Not* raspberry!

Twice in the past week, I’ve been faced with the consequences (thankfully small) of my own carelessness. I guess I have to learn the hard way. First, I *thought* I was stocking my household up on tea to get us through the winter when I went online and ordered cases of some of our favorites. Welp, after the large box arrived, I learned that Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger is not the same as Raspberry Zinger (my husband’s fave.) Turns out they are very different products. I should have paid closer attention and proofread my order rather than making assumptions based on seeing a red box and the word “Zinger.” Now we have an entire case of tea none of us will drink. Well, I already gave away two boxes of it. I’m sure I can find takers for the rest.

My second hard lesson came this morning. Read up and learn from my mistake. After refilling the tank on a humidifier, make sure that lid seal thing really is clicked in place tightly before turning it over to place it back on the unit. SPLASH! An entire gallon of water on the bedroom carpet! I saturated three bath towels sopping it up and then still had to run a fan on it. I measured once and cut twice, costing myself time and annoyance.

The worst part is, I can’t think up any excuses or anyone to blame but myself. That’s the hardest lesson of all.

Exciting News: Game Launch

Pretty exciting news from my family today. My son’s (and his colleague’s) first video game has launched.

I’ve been watching from the sidelines as it’s gone through development, noting a number of times that the job looked similar to the task of writing a novel. My son and I have engaged in several conversations about creative process, in fact, as we both work on our various projects — game development for him and creative writing for me.

It’s likely my imagination, but I thought I got the skeptical side eye a from a couple of folks over the past year and a half. They’d ask me, “What’s your son up to these days?”

When I said he was working as an indie game developer…in his bedroom…in our house…I caught a whiff of oh, suuuuurrrre, just slacking and playing games on your dime, more like. Maybe I worried this is what people were thinking because I have a history of saying, “Yep, I am in fact still writing that same novel.” (But I really am!)

Anyway, I know everyone is dying for the reveal. So here’s the real product he’s really been working to produce and is now really available for purchase.

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1663410/Happenlance/

If you’re a gamer, go check it out.

The Great Playground Stick Fight of 9-11

Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was bustling around trying to get my oldest kid ready for a day of first grade when my phone rang. A friend was calling to tell me an airplane had flown into the World Trade Center. I totally didn’t get it. I was like, hm, that’s weird. Hey, I’m about to be late taking my child to school. Can I call you back?

After dropping off the six-year-old, I turned back toward home with my three-year-old still in the car. And I turned on the radio. Oh.

I had been picturing a small two-seater plane with a confused pilot. I know a lot of parents all over the country retrieved their children from school after hearing the news. I’m going to be honest and say it didn’t even occur to me. I guess I felt we were pretty safe here in the midwest.

I spent the day trying to entertain my three-year-old while surreptitiously checking the news via internet. I didn’t know how much he was capable of understanding and didn’t want my growing internal panic to become contagious. My husband and I were emailing back and forth some and decided we’d have to talk to the six-year-old about the events of the day, but would wait until after dinner when we were all together.

We tried to keep dinner as routine as possible, making our kids feel safe. They were behaving pretty normally, with the usual little sibling squabbles and testing us parents on where the line got drawn vis-a-vis the no feet on the table rule. After we were finished, I don’t remember how we distracted the younger one, but my husband and I sat down with Age Six and said we had something to discuss.

My husband started. “We wanted to talk to you about something really bad that happened today.”

Age Six immediately turned red-faced and said, “They started it! They were throwing things at us first! That’s why we picked up the sticks to sword fight them.”

On any other day, I would have been called to the school and informed that my child was one of a group that prompted a new rule about not swinging sticks on the playground. Apparently, there had been a pint-sized gang fight. Later I heard from school staff that many of the students seemed to be picking up on the anxiety of the adults and acting out that day.

But my kid’s response made me realize we didn’t have to talk too much about the terror attacks. Six years old is still young enough for the most important news of the day to be what happened at recess. So we tackled that topic first, discussing what they could have done differently and what some better behavior choices would have been. We touched only briefly on the New York and D.C. attacks, saying that grownups in charge were working to keep people safe, etc., etc. I’m pretty sure the stick fight still loomed larger in my child’s mind.

What I didn’t understand completely in the moment was how our lives would forever be divided into before and after 9-11. How everything would change, often in ways I found difficult to put into words. I have tried to tell my now 20-something kids about what the world was like Before, but I’m not sure I’ve made them see at all.

As far as they could remember, we’d always been at war. There had always been huge flags flying at car dealerships and hotels. The Department of Homeland Security had always existed. “Drone strikes” has always been a phrase in the news. They’ve always had their bags searched when entering entertainment venues. I can list these details, but the thing I can’t describe in the way I want is how different things felt before the attacks.

I know I just sound old and nostalgic when I say, you used to be able to go to the airport for cheap entertainment. You could hang around to watch the planes take off and land. People could walk right up the ticket counter and get on the next flight leaving without any ID or watch lists or anything.

I’m sad that they’ll never know exactly what it is I’m trying to say. Sad that they don’t really remember the pre 9-11 world. Sad that a stick fight on the playground was so far from the biggest news of the day that the teachers forgot to mention it.

Of Hard-Working Utility Crews and My Obliviousness

I thought highly of myself and my work ethic because I made it outside to tend to yard maintenance before 7:00 this morning. But these folks were already out working when I stepped through my door.



The city switched power lines from an old bad pole a while back, installing a new one next to it. By a while, I’m speaking about increments of years, not weeks. This morning, the removal of the old pole finally made its way to the top of the city to-do list. The heat was already something by the time they and I were out there working. Stay tuned. I’m about to tell a funny story on myself.

We’ve lived in our house for 18 years this month, and there’s always been a utility pole in our yard, right on the property line between us and the neighbor to the east. It’s been defunct for a long time, too, with the city promising us they’d remove it.

While I was out this morning, weeding, and the utility workers were going about their labors, my husband came onto the front porch to monitor the progress across the street. After we watched them together for a minute, he said, “They already removed the pole from our yard.”

WHAT?!

I looked over to where it used to be, flabbergasted. No pole no more, and I hadn’t even noticed. They must have taken it out while I was at work one day this past week. You want to know the worst part of my obliviousness? I fricking mowed the yard yesterday evening, including the place where the utility pole stood for decades, without noticing it was gone. In fact, I came to this spot pictured below and wondered why my husband (or the neighbor, since it’s on the property line) had dug a hole in the yard and then just left bare dirt. I’d been meaning to ask.


Bare patch of ground

I have had a lot on my mind, lately. But geez, Louise. Should I worry about my mental state? In my defense, the spouse has been removing invasive plants from the yard, including a huge honeysuckle bush. One of my working theories posited that he’d seen another small stand and managed to get it out by the roots. If he hadn’t told me about the pole, I’m sure I would have figured it out eventually. Maybe.


Honeysuckle stumps
Just the stumps of the honeysuckle bush remain.

The husband says he’ll get back to the honeysuckle removal and take care of those stumps when he has time. I wonder if I’ll notice.

Look at Me, Being Crafty

A number of times in my life, I’ve uttered these words: “I’m not a crafty person.”

But are they true, though? I mean, I’ve patched and painted many a wall in my life. Is that not some type of craft? And while I always avoided the craft room as a parent volunteer at elementary school parties, I could often be found assisting my children with activities such as making greeting cards or carving pumpkins at home. Are those not crafts?

Maybe my self concept can change, even at my advanced age. I have decided that I am going to have at-home summer camp days for myself this year. I will do crafts — in a low-risk environment, of course, where I can easily dispose of the evidence if things go too awry.

Here’s where I’m starting:

Tie Dye in progress

When my oldest moved out, I undertook the massive task of cleaning out his room. My reward was that I got to keep for myself a handful of things he left behind. One was an unused tie-dye kit. It took me a couple of years, but today, I finally broke it out and tie dyed a t-shirt for myself. It might look hideous when it’s done, but at least the process was fun.

I had some dye left over, so the husband tossed me one of this shirts to experiment on as well. I will post the results in a couple of days. It’s okay to laugh if they look funky.

As an aside, the buckets are only there for weight in the breeze. They’re citronella candles I keep on the deck, not part of the craft process.

How Frugal Am I?


Let it never be said that I’m not frugal. Just how frugal? The image above is an example of my thrift. It usually has a liner in it, but I removed it for the photo.

In 1994, I worked as a secretary. On Secretary’s Day that year, my boss gifted me with a really nice, large fruit basket. Once the contents had been shared and consumed, I was left with a sturdy wicker container. As fate would have it, I was in need of another small trash can for my home. Being true to my nature, I thought, “Oh, this basket will work until I come up with something else.”

27 years later, it’s still in use. We have moved four times, so this is its fifth household.

I wonder if my former manager even remembers me or the fruit basket. If ever I should run into her again, I suppose I’ll refrain from mentioning that I think of her when I throw away my used dental floss.

Make do and use things up. I guess I took that lesson to heart.

Another Trip Around the Sun

Spring bursting through the dregs of winter.

Today is my birthday, and I don’t ever seem to get tired of having them. It’s a great time of year for it, early spring when the day is finally a little longer than the night and daffodils are blooming everywhere. I appreciate my parents arranging this for me.

This past winter, I was about as depressed and anxious as I’ve ever been, but my own light is shining a little brighter again, too. Though this is my second consecutive pandemic birthday, I think I can enjoy the occasion. I’m off from both of my paying jobs today and plan to spend the day not putting pressure on myself. I’m going to Zoom with some friends in a little while. The weather is supposed to be gorgeous later, so a long afternoon amble will be in order. I’ll follow that with sending my husband to get carry-out so I don’t have to cook dinner.

I’v already had my birthday present for a few days — something I’ve wanted for a long time and that has improved my life at least 25%. Friends, I am 57 years old today, and for the first time ever, I have a headboard for my bed. I can now sit up and read without murdering my back. The headboard is nothing fancy, an inexpensive one from Target, but it has not disappointed as far as the reading in bed experience goes.

Happy day, everyone, wherever you happen to be in your own solar cycle!

What Love Looks Like Here

Photo by Gabby K on Pexels.com

In my family, love doesn’t often come in the form of flowers or frilly cards. Here’s what it looks like:

It’s me, already tired, double masking and wading into the fray at the packed grocery store after I get off work on a Saturday so I can make sure we’re stocked up before the next day’s predicted (now occurring) snow.

It’s my husband dragging himself out of a warm bed earlier than he wanted to on Sunday morning and working his way into the weird, cold, uncomfortable corner in the basement to set up a space heater and wrap a heating pad around a frozen water pipe. (Water is running in our bathroom again. Yay!)

It’s my older son, born and bred in the Midwest but now a resident of the Pacific Northwest, going out in bad weather to rescue his stranded friends who don’t know how to drive in the snow. (Always keep a Midwesterner around.)

It’s my younger son spending time compiling a list of resources and advice for a young person he barely even knows because they’d expressed an interest in learning game development but didn’t know where to start.

However you celebrate and express love for those in your life, Happy Valentine’s Day!

Remembering My Mother With Bells

A song in memory of Mom.



My mother left us five years ago today, an anniversary that’s hitting me harder this year than it has the past couple. The five-year mark seems to be driving home the truth that she’s gone permanently. It’s one of those things you know in your mind, but don’t really know in your bones when the loss is fresh. Last night, I kept thinking, “I didn’t understand she was going to be dead for this long.”

When my mom took me for my first day of kindergarten, an eon ago, I was puzzled by the children in the class who were crying, distraught over their mothers leaving without them. I thought to myself, “Don’t they know they’re going to come back?”

Now I’m dropped off, the day has grown long, and I see she’s not returning for me. I’m on my own here. But she didn’t toss me upon the world with no provisions or comforts at all. She had a fascination with bells, and collected all sorts. I experience a lot of joy from this tangible item she left with me — a good part of her bell collection. I rang them all for her this morning.


“Ring the bells that still can ring.” — Leonard Cohen

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