Fall Should Last Longer

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fall in Wisconsin brings out many beautiful colorsI’ve been taking more walks lately, just to soak up the beauty, hear the leaves crackling and smell the snappy fall air.

I truly wish the season would hang around a while longer – when we get a good, rip-snortin’ Wisconsin winter, it can last for four months or more, making me wish for fall, my favorite season.

Fall 3Wonder if the people living in the small ranch house behind this magnificent maple tree know that they have daily access to the most spectacular color in our village. Maybe they do…

My Friday walk took me almost 3 1/2 miles through town, on a street that meanders past Lake Michigan before winding through woods. It’s a popular spot for hunters and hiking, and since I don’t often walk this way, I was glad I made the time.

fall 5

The colors of the leaves along this stretch were a little mousy, so I couldn’t help notice the blazing red fire hydrant. It added some flare to things!

One of the earliest signs of fall around here is the arrival of the pumpkin wagon. Whoever owns this usually hauls it to the corner around the middle of September. It’s an on-your-honor system, and I often see parents with little children who are very determined to pick out just the right pumpkin to bring home.

pumpkin wagon

My Family is Hairy

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I just finished giving our 19-year-old son a haircut, and I’m struck again by how much hair this kid has.

For those of you wondering, no, I’m not a professional stylist. I don’t even play one on TV, although I’d probably get paid more if I did.

We just look for ways to stay in-budget wherever we can. That’s why I’ve been cutting both my husband’s and our son’s hair for years.

haircuts are necessary to keep growth under control

Swipe #1

Our son starts his sophomore year of college next week, and wanted a haircut to get rid of this summer’s growth. It’s more along the lines of trimming a hedge, or mowing a field, because his hair is so thick the clippers sometimes makes this snarly gagging sound when it hits a heavy patch.

So far, the at-home chop jobs have gone fairly well. *Cough* There was that time my husband tossed his head back, laughing at something I said. The clippers ran a bit amok, leaving him with a little wonky *cough* indentation at his hairline.

Or the time I ever so slightly nicked my son’s ear, a fact he insists on bringing up every time I get the clipper box out.

Or the time I misjudged the snap-on comb length, and he ended up with what I generously called his Modified Buzz Cut. it was summer, so it worked. Mostly.

Hair 1

I think I see a tail…

But still, every time I give our son a haircut, there’s so much hair laying around that it looks like a small footless mammal slunk into the house and died on the floor.

He gets this from my side of the family. There aren’t any comb-overs at our holiday gatherings. No shiny spots. No widow’s peaks. We’re a hairy bunch.

I can basically count on the fact that anyone who has the telltale dark-hair-dark-eyes combo from my grandpa’s side of the family also has hair that grows like a Chia pet’s.

ChiaThis was brought home the last time I got a haircut. For obvious reasons, I don’t take the clippers to my own head. I save that for less fortunate family members. I go to the salon once a month for a trim, but my stylist is trying to convince me to come in more often.

She ran her hand through my hair and got it stuck somewhere along the top. “Jeez,” she said. “You have a lot of hair. Are you sure we shouldn’t thin it out?”

donald_trump_hair_careI wear my hair like a Girl Scout merit badge. It took me years to get it like this, and I shudder at suggestions that it be less than its full glory. I have friends who complain about hair loss, who are afraid that someday soon, they’ll be embracing The Donald or some such version of an awkward combover.

In the meantime, the home chop jobs will continue. And I’ll remain thankful that in a world of Rogaine, bad comb-overs, and thinning hair, I come from a hairy family.

Family photo

Denial Is Just a River in Egypt…

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As with many things, it happened without my knowing it. And I could ignore the whole thing until I got my hand stuck in it.

This morning I went into the bathroom to take a shower. Like I’ve done hundreds of times before, I opened the cupboard below the sink to get a towel.

woman-gaspingThat’s when I noticed it. This line of goobery material that looked like that adhesive snot used, say, to stick a mailing label on a box. The kind that pulls up in rubbery strings and snaps back on your fingers.

But what was it doing in front of my towels? And how’d it get there? I scraped some away. Along with it came a few dust bunnies. Scrape, scrape. After a minute or so of this, I realized I had reached an impasse:

I could grab a towel and close the door, pretending I hadn’t seen the mystery material. (Sounds really good to me…)

Or I could get the scrub bucket and tackle this the right way.

Just then, I heard my mother’s voice, faintly, from a galaxy far, far away:

“If you’re going to do a job, do it right.”

Sigh. I got the scrub bucket and went to town on the offending strip of mystery material.

At this point, my female readers will know exactly what happens next. It’s not enough to rid the bathroom of the rubbery stuff. As long as you have the scrub bucket out and the rag in your hand, you might as well tackle the rest of the cupboards. 

It’s that phrase “as long as I’m…” that gets me in trouble a lot.

SharpenerDrawer 1I opened Drawer #1 and took a good, hard gander. Dust. Another mystery blob of white stuff in the corner. Inside was a warped pre-Civil War eyeliner sharpener that looked like it could shred anything in its path. That went in the garbage before it came after me.

Next came Drawer #2. Hidden behind my hair dryer was some weirdo gizmo attachment that I haven’t touched since I bought the dryer back in the early 90s.

hair dryer gizmoExhausted from my efforts thus far, I took a break and Googled the gizmo, learning that it’s a Concentrator Nozzle, designed to “concentrate the airflow directly onto the hair you’re working on, rather than blowing your strands all over the place.” Who knew? I tossed the nozzle in the garbage next to the killer eyeliner sharpener. Let ’em fight it out.

razorsI moved to the more manly side of the bathroom, emptying all the stuff my husband has in his cupboard. Out came three containers of dental floss, wart remover with an expiration date sometime in 2013, and four razors.

My first thought was jeez, how many razors does one guy need? I mean, he’s only got one face, right??

Dental mirrorBut then my thoughts wandered to the shoe collection I have upstairs. And possibly a few sweaters. Wisely, I put the razors back on the shelf. And as far as his floss collection goes? I’m just glad he’s not my friend’s husband. I also replaced the dental mirror. Hey, if my man’s into dental hygiene, who am I to argue?

On and on it went. Drawers and cupboards were emptied, their contents sorted out, tossed, cleaned. Dust bunnies that gossiped in corners and congregated along drawer pulls were flattened and rinsed away by my rag, clumping at the bottom of the scrub bucket.

Finally, it was over.

I took a well-deserved shower and pondered my madness. Is it better to be in denial when it comes to the things that lurk in my house? Can a little dirt be good for us? How clean is too clean?

I decided I’m probably good until next spring when I’ll tackle the basement. Or until I see the next collection of mystery material…

The Answer to Five Truths and a Lie…

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Earlier this week, I posted “Five Truths and a Lie.” I listed six items, and asked you to pick which one was the lie. So here goes!

Big Reveal

1. I once got a pencil lead stuck in the upper left corner of my scalp. This one is TRUE. When we were little, my brothers and I were playing sled dog, and decided it would be cool to make a whip out of a string tied to a pencil. One crack of that sucker implanted the pencil lead in my scalp and the story is now part of family lore.

sled dogs are used in races like the Iditarod

Right after it hit…

2. One snowy night, we drove my friend’s mom’s Grand Prix almost through the back of their garage. This one is also TRUE. Thank goodness I wasn’t the one driving…

3. One of my earliest jobs was a grave digger at a pet cemetery just outside town. This baby is FALSE. This was actually one of my husband’s first jobs. Good thing he didn’t reveal that on our first date…

Eating too much candy results in a toothache4. I once wrote a school paper for a friend in exchange for 20 packages of Bubble Yum gum. This one’s TRUE. Man, did my teeth ache after that one!

5. I had a secret mini-crush on James Garner when he starred in “The Rockford Files.”  TRUE

6. I never played Ding-Dong Ditch-It or toilet papered anyone’s house. Several people picked this one for the lie, but it’s actually TRUE. What can I say?

So there you have it – thanks to Susie, Erica and Peg (and my parents, who already knew the answer…) for guessing. It was fun digging back in the archives of my life!

Five Truths and a Lie

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Inspired by Jess Witkins over at The Happiness Project, I’ve decided to do my own version of her game “Five Truths and a Lie.”

person lyingAs Jess explains it, I’ll share six random things about myself, and you decide which one of them is a lie.

To take it a step further, I’ve decided to run with a childhood theme. All the items listed below come from my misspent youth.

I’ll announce the winner this Friday. As Jess says, the winner gets bragging rights, and a smug sense of satisfaction that comes from knowing which of my random items is nothing but a big ol’ fib!

Capture

1. I once got a pencil lead stuck in the upper left corner of my scalp. Yes, I say “corner” because if I ever go bald, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

1980 Pontiac Grand Prix. A popular car2. One snowy night, we drove my friend’s mom’s Grand Prix almost through the back of their garage. Notice I said “almost.” It was just a few boards that got dislodged, for Pete’s sake.

3. One of my earliest jobs was a grave digger at a pet cemetery just outside town. Creep-E.

4. I once wrote a school paper for a friend in exchange for 20 packages of Bubble Yum gum. It was a transaction my teeth soon regretted…

James Garner starred as Jim Rockford in the TV show

5. I had a secret mini-crush on James Garner when he starred in “The Rockford Files.” C’mon – tell me that smile isn’t adorable!

6. I never played Ding-Dong Ditch-It or toilet papered anyone’s house. Ever.

Feel free to guess below. Share your own list, or write your own post and link it back here – either way, it’ll be fun to guess which one’s the lie!

Me and the Wild Rider Fitness Challenge

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Last month, Susie at susielindau.com challenged readers to her 90-day Wild Rider Fitness Challenge. It’s easy, really – exercise at least two or three times each week, and make one of these an outdoor adventure.

I’ve talked about my exercise routine before. It’s not always easy, but every morning, I lace up my shoes and head out, rain or shine. Or snow. Or ice. The only thing that stops me is lightning or extreme cold.

Temperature readings tell me what to wear on my walkAnd since it’s July in Wisconsin, you’d think I wouldn’t have to worry about that. Did I say July? In Wisconsin? When it’s normally in the 80s and slightly humid? Not today, happy readers.  (Bottom number was the outside temp this morning…)

According to the chirpy TV weatherman, living near Lake Michigan brought luck, though: inland areas of Wisconsin were close to the freezing mark. I felt really good about that – not!– as I put on my winter hat and headed out.

Over the years, I’ve found that walking itself wasn’t enough. It brings many benefits, and is worth every step. I just needed more. So I added Pilates and really enjoyed that for a few years. Then I heard that a local school offered free use of its workout room to employees and area residents. My half-Hollander genes, the ones that have my radar keenly honed to freebies, kicked in, and I checked it out.

Extreme weight lifting results in crazy muscles

Not me. Really.

At first I thought weights would get me looking like some female Ahnold, which I didn’t want. But the more I learned, I realized that at my advanced age – cough, cough, 50 just around the corner – I really needed to incorporate weights into my routine.

Six days a week, I head to the weight room after my walk. I alternate – upper body one day; lower the next – and have Saturdays off. I’ve noticed a difference in the way my clothes fit, my posture, and my overall strength.

I use www.bodybuilding.com, which posts lots of motivational videos and workout ideas, to keep things fresh and interesting. Any kind of workout routine can become boring after a while, so mixing things up helps.

And thanks to Susie, my goal this summer is to try paddleboarding. I’m looking forward to this – when it warms up. I can’t imagine paddleboarding with a winter suit on, but I may need to. Stay tuned…

Wisconsin summer...

Wisconsin summer…

Weird Word Wednesday!

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We have two loyal readers and the Greeks to thank for today’s Weird Word Wednesday. That word is paraprosdokian. 

A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech “that sets us up to expect one thing, but ends on a surprising semantic twist.” Thanks to alphadictionary.com for that helpful explanation. Like this:

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

I experienced a paraprosdokian just this morning and didn’t even know it. It’s finally warmed up here in Wisconsin, so today I planned on opening up the basement door, hauling our junk outside, and vacuuming and sweeping the walls and ceiling. Sounds like fun, right? Wouldn’t you think all that effort deserves a little reward? Me, too.

soda-vending-machines-1

So after my morning workout, I went to the vending machine to buy a Diet Pepsi. I thought about how dusty and tired I’d be after hours in the basement, and how refreshing a DP would be. I stuck my money in the vending machine – it spat back a nickel or two, but finally cooperated. I pressed the tab for a Diet Pepsi – kaching! – anticipating the satisfying thunk of the bottle falling into the tray below. But my only reward was a little red light that said “OUT OF STOCK.”

I pressed the tab a couple more times, just in case the machine was being ornery. No dice. I flipped the change lever. Once. Twice. No dice. I felt a mini black cloud coalescing over my head – the nerve of this machine to deprive me of my reward!

Bill Watterson

Bill Watterson

I gave up and lugged my gym bag home. When I started researching the history and uses of paraprosdokian I found the one that applied to me:

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

Get how the twist is amusing? Groucho Marx used a paraprosdokian when he said “I had a wonderful evening – but this wasn’t it.”

Or Albert Einstein, who supposedly said ““The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.”

Paraprosdokian comes from two Greek words, “against,” and “expectation.” There are even websites devoted to them, like this one.

This short clip shows how to pronounce this tongue twister. I’m off to clean the basement…

cleaning basement

Weird Word Wednesday!

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It’s time for another Weird Word Wednesday! Today’s word is Brahmin. I’m reading Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. In Chapter 11, they discuss the burning of High Bridge during the final days of the Civil War.

Colonel Francis Washburn led the Fourth Massachusetts cavalry in the burning of High Bridge

Col. Francis Washburn

Colonel Francis Washburn of the Fourth Massachusetts is leading his cavalry toward High Bridge. On page 60, he orders his them to wheel left. “The colonel’s accent is Brahmin and his tone is fearless,” the text tells us.

I’ve heard of the Brahmins, the priests and scholars, highest of the four Hindu castes. I’ve also read about the Boston Brahmins, those aristocratic New England families that preserved their social status by marrying others of the same group. Think of the descendants of Samuel Adams, John Cabot, Leverett Saltonstall, and the Roosevelts, and you’ll get the idea.

But a Brahmin accent? That got me wondering, because I’ve always been interested in accents. Our recent vacation took us through Tennessee, where we stopped at a grocery store. As we chatted with the clerk, he tried to identify our accent. “Canada?” he asked. We shook our heads, smiling. “New Hampshire?” he ventured, which came out “New Haimp-shur.” No again.

“Well, ah know y’all aren’t from New York, so ah give up,” he laughed. We said we were from Wisconsin, and he smiled knowingly. I’ve talked to people from other parts of the country who think our Wisconsin accent sounds flat, which I asked the clerk about.

“I don’t wanna sound mean, ma’am, but y’all do sound purty flay-it,” he confirmed.

Thurston Howell III

Thurston Howell III

But if we sound flat to him, how does a Brahmin accent sound? Well, for an exaggerated version, think of Thurston Howell III on Gilligan’s Island. Or Charles Emerson Winchester III on M*A*S*H*.

For more relevant examples, think of Franklin Delano Roosevelt saying “We have nothing to fee-ah but fee-ah itself,” or the Kennedys‘ manner of speech. Turns out, accents develop for a variety of reasons – patterns of settlement, geographic location and social standing, just to name a few.

So there you have it! The Brahmin Mystery, solved.

Triple-Secret Probation

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It’s an exciting day here at dmswriter! It’s my first guest post on the Nudge Wink Report, the blog offering “hilarious comic-tary on news, views and attitudes.”

A few years ago, my best friend told me about Triple-Secret Probation. Your significant other does something totally, utterly dopey? Put them in TSP. It’s basically a mental “prison,” in your head, that you lock them in. Possibly forever. Or until they do 10 or 20 things that redeem them. Then maybe you can crack the TSP gate a bit.

The full post at The Nudge Wink Report is here, but I’m also sharing my original piece below. Read on!

Triple-Secret Probation

The other day on the radio, the DJs asked listeners to share the dumbest things their spouses had done. I didn’t call in – no need to. Really. *Cough* But I’m glad others did, because it was pretty funny.

One lady went out to run errands, leaving her husband in charge of their toddler. While she was gone, the toddler had a blowout diaper disaster. The husband cleaned it all up and everything was under control. *Cough*

Only problem was, there were no baby wipes in the house. That’s one of the items she went out to buy. In his world, though, the husband had found wipes, conveniently located on top of the toilet tank.

“Those were Clorox. Disinfecting. Wipes,” the wife said. A woman would see the big letters on the container and know that:

Bleach wipesClorox = bleach

Bleach on skin = bad

Bleach on toddler’s skin = really, really stupid thing to do

   But what to do in a situation like that, dear reader?

You could scream and holler. Or invoke the Silent Treatment. But guys have this sneaky ability to ignore both of these, and make us think they’re listening. Instead of expending all that energy, I suggest a fresh alternative:

 Put him on Triple-Secret Probation.

  Uncle Sam TSP Think of it as invisible jail. Mentally hiss “You, buddy, are on Triple-Secret Probation.”  And don’t tell him he’s on TSP. Don’t tell him when he’s been released, either. That way, you can keep him on TSP for as long as needed. If he feebly attempts a good act, or 10, you can think about releasing him. Maybe.

Take Clorox Dad. Putting him on Triple-Secret Probation means that nothing he can do, for at least a month or two, will fix this. Only his wife’s spontaneous good graces can release him from TSP.

In order for TSP to be effective, there are certain guidelines. Putting a man on TSP for leaving his socks lying around the house doesn’t pay. Waste of TSP, because this one’s not going away. Pick your battles, ladies.

To help, I give you several times when TSP is deserved:

  1. When he’s left his socks lying around the house. Yes, I know I just said not to bother with this one. But really – it’s never going to stop unless you DO something. TSP to the rescue.
  2. When you send him to the store with a written list, and he comes home with something so ridiculously unclose to the list that it makes your head spin. Automatic, immediate TSP.
  3. When he eats the last piece of cake and not only leaves an empty, crumb-filled container sitting there, but leaves a forest of crumbs scattered across the countertop. In fact, the dishwasher is so close it could snap his arm in half if the door closed on it. This one deserves a lengthy TSP.
  4. When he leaves used dental floss lying around the house, like my friend’s husband. Dental FlossTheirs is the house of Eternal Dental Christmas, with floss hanging like tinsel from the doorknobs. You’d think Matt would use one of the many decorative trash receptacles Kari has thoughtfully set out, but I guess they’re too close to the floor and skip his radar. Bad, bad, bad.

To be fair, we should talk about times when TSP is utterly useless. This depends on your man and the situation.

  1. When you’re out of GPS range, hopelessly lost in a neighborhood where you swear you heard gunshots, and your man still refuses to ask for directions. He won’t. Ever. That’s because he’s convinced that you’re only minutes away from your destination. Even if it’s two states away.
  2. Man Sick
  3. 2. When he’s sick. TSP is a complete waste here, because when men are sick, they can’t think about anything else except being sick. Or whining about being sick. Or speculating about what got them sick in the first place. Hack. Hack.

Ladies, Triple-Secret Probation is your weapon in this war. Use it as often as needed to keep your sanity and your voice, and keep your man wondering what he did wrong. He’ll never guess, and you can have the smug satisfaction of knowing you nipped this sucker in the bud without wasting an ounce of effort.

The One Where I Don’t Go to the Kentucky Derby…

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A month ago, my husband surprised me with an early 50th birthday present – a road trip to the Abraham Lincoln Museum in Springfield, IL, followed by a visit to family in Tennessee, and on to the Kentucky Derby.

Abe books

See what I mean? I need more Abe books…

It was a dream come true on many levels. For those of you who don’t know, I have a pretty big crush on Abe. I’ve written about him before and have a nice collection of books about him – but not nearly enough.

And attending the Kentucky Derby? That’s been Dream Numero Uno for many years. I watch the Derby every year. Every. Year. When the horses are led from the stalls to the track, my heart skips around and by the time the horses come around the final curve, I sometimes forget to breathe. Good stuff, man.

Our tickets were good for both the Kentucky Oaks, run Friday afternoon, and the Derby on Saturday.

Friday afternoon, we parked in a lot a few miles away from Churchill Downs and took the shuttle bus to the racetrack. Traffic snarled, and it took about an hour to get there.

People watching was great! Hats were everywhere, and one man in an gleaming top hat and tails leaned against a rail. In the gift store, an elegant lady wore a graceful hat – its feathers wisped above her face, and her finger flashed a diamond the size of a dime.

The gift store was mobbed, though – bodies pressed together and we moved with our shoes gummed to the floor.

This lady still had the tags on her hat...

This lady still had the tags on her hat…

The infield was crazy, too. People milled like ants, and we finally found an open spot near the beer tent. Nearby, two girls wrestled. Another girl tottered around on cork-heeled shoes – one heel had mashed flat, leaving her with a lopsided gait that sloshed beer from her cup. Step, spill. Step, spill.

We were just in time to watch the start of the Oaks on the Jumbotron. Suddenly, my husband grabbed my arm and pointed.

“Look,” Tim said, “there they are!”

In a rush, I watched the tips of the horses’ ears as they raced by, the wild colors of the jockeys’ silks flashing before being lost in the crowd.

That’s all I saw. Just like that, the race was over.

We threaded our way to the tunnel, jostling with the crowd making their way to the row of shuttle buses. It isn’t worth mentioning my porta-potty experience except to tell you not to use them if you go. Ever.

We were there for an hour, snaking our way along the s-shaped waiting fences. A large man in front of us wore a uniform of black: pants, vest, fedora and sunglasses. He spewed fumes of cigar smoke behind him, and I inched down, trying to avoid the cloud. His wife tottered unsteadily on teal-colored high heels, swearing a little more boisterously with each gulp of her mint julep.

The couple behind us argued over what shuttle bus to take. What if they boarded the wrong one? What if they ended up at the wrong parking lot? The woman promised the man that she’d “knock him so hard he wouldn’t know what hit him” if this happened. It was his fault, after all, because he bought the tickets.

At this point, I realized that Saturday’s Derby would be worse. Much worse. And I didn’t think this was for me anymore. I hadn’t felt a sense of peace since we entered the gates at Churchill Downs; I hadn’t even seen any of the majestic horses do what they’re bred to do – race with all their heart, running as fast as they can to the finish line.

“I don’t think I can do this tomorrow,” I told Tim.

Being the level-headed person he is, he suggested we return to the hotel and sleep on it. In the morning, deep down, though, I felt the same. I knew I’d rather be at home, watching the race on our TV, listening to the announcers tell me about each beautiful horse as it was led to the starting gate.

Dunbar Cave

Dunbar Cave

So we drove home. And I don’t feel like I lost out on my dream of attending the Kentucky Derby. At all. How could I complain about what Tim had done? Two days learning more about Abraham Lincoln; watching our little grandson jump on his trampoline; hiking the trails at Dunbar Cave State Park, and enjoying time in Nashville. Our Kentucky Derby plans were only a small part of that week.

Not every dream gets fulfilled the way we think it will. Or maybe even needs to. And that’s OK.

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