Monday, February 19, 2018

English May Be My Second Language

There are days when, as an English major, I believe I have a pretty good grasp on the English language.

Then, there are most days.

Take last Thursday, for example. I was in downtown Iowa City pleading with local bookstores to carry my self-published book, Scout's Honor. (Scout's Honor as in “that's the title of my book,” not “Scout's honor” as in “honorable promise.” Although I promise I am being honest about the title and the following story.)

I should mention up front that just being in downtown Iowa City has an unsettling way of making me feel . . . unsettled. And inadequate. With the University of Iowa being right there, downtown Iowa City is part college-chic/intellectual and part “hold my beer”/party town.

As I walked the block between Iowa Book and Prairie Lights, I was considering my good fortune – my meeting at Iowa Book had been delightful (they said yes!), and I had found a primo parking spot two days in a row. I wasn't sure if I should buy a lottery ticket or build a bomb shelter, but I was hoping that my luck would hold until after I'd been to Prairie Lights.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a young man, no more disheveled than any other college student, exiting a bar/restaurant. Lost in my musings, I made eye contact. Small-town hick mistake.

“Excuse me, ma'am,” he said. (Ma'am? Ouch.) “I'm looking for a salad.”

His request threw me for a loop, both because I was daydreaming and because . . . salad? It was almost noon, and he had exited a pizza/bar place. In the “hold my beer” part of downtown, they may not serve salad. On the other hand, I think the intellectual/chic laws require all establishments to serve salad. Even fro-yo shops.

“Do you know where I can get some lettuce?” he asked.

Something about his tone of voice made me wonder if, in fact, he was talking about “salad” and “lettuce” as in “fresh, leafy greens that you eat.” I began to suspect he was talking about “lettuce” as in “dried leafy greens that you smoke.” Or even as in “leafy green bills that you spend.”

I mumbled an apologetic “No” and kept walking, but my friendly, inner small-town hick felt guilty. What if he really was looking for a healthy lunch alternative? Not knowing what he might have meant by “salad” also made small-town hick me feel very un-intellectual and un-chic.

I was still pondering the whole salad/salad conundrum when I walked into Prairie Lights. This legendary bookstore appeals to my inner nerd, while still making me feel unworthy. It's not just the books themselves, of course, but the great writers who have been there – the realization that you may be standing in the very same spot that Jane Smiley or Kurt Vonnegut or Toni Morrison once stood.

One incident in particular illustrates the depth of my feelings of inadequacy in regards to Prairie Lights and to downtown Iowa City in general. Years ago I was herding The Little Princess and Prince through Prairie Lights when I happened to overhear a woman, pushing a very posh stroller, ask her very quiet, well-behaved child if he/she would like to go to the coffee shop for a “cwaa-saaah.”

This obviously intellectual/chic woman pronounced “croissant” exactly the way the fancy French chefs on TV do. It was clear, even to a small-town hick that she was talking about “cwaa-saaah” as in “a delicate, over-priced bakery-store pastry” and not “crescent” as in “common, refrigerated, whomp-biscuit pastry small-town hicks serve.”

Prior to entering the store that day, I had bribed my children into three-minutes of relative un-monkey like behavior by promising them a package of crackers from the bottom of my purse. When they balked at the broken remains, I told them they were “oyster crackers” – as in “fancy, small crackers” and not “crackers made of shellfish.” The children counter-offered to behave in exchange for bake-shop chocolate chip cookies – as in “we can't be bribed by bread alone.”

That chance meeting plays through my mind every time I walk through the doors at Prairie Lights. I close my eyes, breath in that rarefied smart-book air, and BOOM! – I'm reminded that I'm a chocolate chip cookie trespassing in a land of “cwaa-saaah.

Last Thursday my “cwaa-saaah” inferiority complex was compounded by my “salad” anxiety, with a bit of parking meter angst thrown in, leaving me more befuddled and less able to speak coherently than usual. When the polite lady behind the big, book-piled desk asked if Scout's Honor was distributed online through “Ingram” I heard “cwaa-saaah” and may have said “Me write book gud. Please to sell?” (Ten minutes and two miles later I realized the correct answer was “Yes.” I think.)

Despite my inability to communicate verbally she agreed to carry my book. YAY! Of course she may have meant “carry” as in “use them to prop up the leg on that wobbly table.” Whatever the reason, I am grateful that both stores (and Burlington By The Books) agreed to carry Scout's Honor. However, I dread the prospect of trying to string together a coherent sentence when I pick up the unsold stock. In fact, I've considered paying someone to go to Prairie Lights to buy them out.

If only I knew someone who needs to make a little lettuce . . . .

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

New Car-fessions

I have a new car.

It's a black, sleek, shiny, stylish hatchback.

It also has four-doors, front-wheel drive, gets great gas mileage, and was reasonably priced.

It's sporty AND sensible.


There are those in my family who say pairing the terms “sporty” and “sensible” is an oxymoron, if not an outright contradiction. They think I'm delusional.

The Little Prince, who is 16 years old and male and therefore an expert on all things automotive, is not a fan. I have been running new car suggestions by him since I first started “theoretically” looking for a new car.

If I were to get a new car, and I'm not saying I'm going to, but if I were, what about a Fiat? … Escalade? … Mini Cooper? … Renegade? … Escape? … Charger?”

His answer never varied in content, tone, or delivery. By now, I am so used to his monosyllabic, post pubescent baritone response that I could hear his voice in his texted reply to my text.

Me:“Signing the papers! Honda Civic Hatchback. It's sporty. And sensible!”

Little Prince: “No.”

But my Mom-enhanced voice recognition software picked that up as “Nnnnnnnnno,” revealing all the underlying apathy and disinterest reserved for any vehicle short of a V-8 or Miata.

The Little Princess, who is 19 and therefore an expert on all things, is not a fan. She still has not forgiven me for allowing her father to sell the ginormous, rattle-trap, rust-red, manual transmission, 1994 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup she learned to drive in. Nothing I picked out – short of a Ford Raptor – would have pleased her (and then, only after I gave it to her).

Me: “It's a Honda Civic Hatchback! It's sporty! And sensible!”

Little Princess: “It's the world's smallest car. There's no room for stuff.”

Pass that through any Mom-translation program and you get: “There's no room for MY stuff.”

The King, who has been my husband for 25 years and is therefore an expert on staying married, did not say anything.

He didn't have to. Thanks to our marriage-telepathy, I could tell that he was mentally calculating how long it would take me to break one of my New Car-mandments:
  1. Thou Shall Not eat in the new car.
  2. Thou Shall Not drink anything besides water in the new car – and then only from a container that can be securely resealed.
  3. Thou Shall park in the furthest corner of the parking lot, away from all shopping carts and two-door vehicles.
  4. Thou Shall Not drive on gravel roads.
  5. Thou Shall Not allow gummy bears or crayons in the new car.
The longest I've followed these rules prior to this car? One week. The shortest? Thirty minutes. (The Vue never lost that new-fry smell.)

I've gotten in, and I can't get out.
I know it's only a matter of time before life – and my bad habits – cause me to slip up. Once you lose that first french fry between the seats, get that first door ding, or find a puddle of melted crayon and gummy bear in a door handle, your New Car (!) is just your (new) car.

But until that happens, I am going to enjoy the heck out of it. In fact, if you need me, you will most likely find me out in the garage, sitting in my spor-sensible car.

Because part of that sporty look comes from a lower-than-I'm-used-to seat-height, and I'm not as spor-flexible as I used to be.

What are your "new car-mandments"? Could I market Car-mandments 1-3 as "The New Car Diet?"

Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Mom For All Seasons

Just when I am wallowing in a good, deep, pit of despair because my baby – the boy child, the 16-year-old going on 60-year-old – doesn't need me anymore, life puts a little hurdle out there that proves Moms can be pretty useful. Even if the boy child doesn't want to admit it.

Ever since his sister left for college (thoughtlessly leaving him as the sole recipient of his parent's attention) The Little Prince has done everything he can to assert his independence. Everything he can, that is, while still living under our roof and enjoying free groceries, laundry, and maid service. As soon as he turned 16 he got a job, so he now supports his musical and automotive ambitions, as well as a steady diet of fast-food and jumbo convenience store sodas. Despite his relative economic autonomy, the occasional gas-money donation is still appreciated, and I have found that I seldom (although not never) get change back when I ask him to run an errand for me. This child-labor service charge is a small price to pay for convenience, I suppose.

Between work and well-timed outings with his friends, his schedule precludes dinner with the 'rents most nights (possibly because his mother insists on using lame, outdated slang like “'rents”). He typically shuns homemade leftovers (a trait inherited from his father), preferring microwaved delicacies such as pizza rolls and frozen chicken wings. Likewise breakfast (Pop Tarts) is spent in silent contemplation (a trait inherited from his mother), scuttling back to his room like a hermit to his hermitage as soon as the toaster pops.

I don't blog much about The Little Prince, precisely because he is so self-sufficient and easily embarrassed. I fear any public recognition (actually, I know from experience that any public recognition) will result in an immediate cessation of his already limited acknowledgment of my existence. Let me tell you, you have never been shunned until you have been shunned by a teenage boy.

But I have learned to live with it. Just like I have learned to not jump out of my skin when he slips silently into my office/hermitage and stands there – silently – nodding and occasionally making eye, until I summon all my Super Mom abilities and read his mind.

“Going out with your buddies?” I ask/say/hypothesize.

“Yup,” he says before silently slipping away. My petition to "have fun, be good, love you" chases him down the hallway.

So it was early Saturday morning, when he materialized at my side as I was finishing my first cup of coffee. He stood quietly, nodding with a bit more agitation than usual.

“Heading to work?” I asked.

“Need a coat,” he said, grimacing.

Now, I could have reminded him that I have nagged him for at least two years about getting a winter coat. I could have reminded him that last year I took him shopping and practically forced him to buy a coat before relenting when I realized it would just hang, unused, in the closet. I could have reminded him that he has lived in Iowa for 16 winters and he knows that it gets cold and he knows that his job requires him to spend at least a little bit of time outdoors. But as the temperature hovered at a balmy 2 degrees (expected to fall) and he needed to get to work, I kept all this to myself.

Instead I left my coffee to cool while I helped him search through closets and totes and drawers for a coat, gloves and boots. Then I realized he had grown at least a foot taller since he had last worn a proper winter coat, gloves or boots (since, apparently, high school students are too cool these things) and he had to borrow said items from his father (who was outside and wearing them at the time, because old folks value warmth over coolness).

You may wonder why he didn't ask his father if he could borrow a coat in the first place, instead of making his mother feel like she had neglected him by not forcing him to get a winter coat. You could also ask yourself why (a month ago) he told his mother – at 6 a.m., during her first cup of coffee – that his arm hurt and he thought he might have broken it. And why he then allowed her to sit nervously in the emergency room with him and allowed her to take him out for breakfast when it turned out it wasn't broken.

You may wonder that, but I would prefer that you wonder that in silence. While you're at it, perhaps you could nod your head and wait – silently – for me to acknowledge your presence.

Because the important thing here is that my little boy still needs his mom (whether he will admit it or not).

And a coat.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Gifts That Keep On Giving

The further adventures of Randy and Clarice . . . . (Christmas in Stitches, Dec. 25, 2016)

Randy and Clarice sat nestled on the couch, watching the lights on the Christmas tree twinkle. Outside, a picturesque Christmas morning snow was falling – huge, fluffy, marshmallow flakes that swirled crazily in the rosy light of dawn.

“This reminds me of last year,” Randy said quietly, nuzzling his wife's hair. “Remember how we sat in the car outside your folks' house on Christmas Day? Remember how long it took you to get up the courage to go in? I thought I'd loose at least one finger to frostbite.” He chuckled lightly and squirmed. He enjoyed cuddling this way, his arm around Clarice, her head on his shoulder, but they had been sitting that way for nearly 20 minutes, and lack of circulation was making his fingers numb in an uncomfortably familiar way.

Clarice sighed and straightened, attuned to her husband's discomfort. Besides, she was getting a crick in her neck. “You had finally proposed, and I was afraid my crazy family would scare you off.”

“I love you, and your crazy family,” Randy said, kissing the tip of her nose. “You don't regret eloping to Vegas, do you?”

“I'm not sure that qualified as eloping, since both our families showed up to surprise us.”

“I learned my lesson. Never leave unopened mail around where your brother can find it when he jimmies the lock and invites himself in to our house for a beer while we're gone. And always pay cash for airline tickets. Cuts down on the paper trail.”

“Thank you for not abandoning me at the altar with the Elvis impersonators after Aunt Ethel kidnapped the minister. I'm fairly certain her ordination is legit.” Clarice said.

“And thank you for bailing me out of jail after that incident with my uncles at Treasure Island.”

“I'm sure they weren't the first drunken tourist to battle the pirates.”

“No, but they were probably the first to win,” Randy said.

“Besides, I was already at the station waiting to pick up Gramma.”

Randy snickered. “Glad she got those solicitation charges dropped.”

“Entrapment is more like it,” Clarice grumbled. “Why else would they put a handsome bicycle cop right outside a Chippendale's show? Who knew real cops wore spandex uniforms?”

“Good thing she only put a dollar in his shorts.”

“Yeah, he was just going to give her a warning until she tried to make change.”

They went back to quietly contemplating the Christmas tree, and the concentric arcs of gifts radiating out from under it.

“Do you suppose any of those gifts are for us?” Randy asked.

“Don't be silly. Your gift is upstairs in bed,” Clarice said, looking up at him coyly.

“Delivered by Santa himself. Ho, ho, ho!”

Clarice shook her head in amazement. “I'll never forget the look on Santa's face when I went into labor. Thank goodness his pants were water-repellent.”

“Thank goodness Santa was an off-duty paramedic! Leave it to the Donner-Dasher progeny to make a grand entrance. Or exit, as the case may be.”

“I'm going to guess there weren't a lot of requests for baby dolls after that. It was nice of the mall to give us the twins' first photo with Santa for free.”

“Speaking of Santa, did you hear any noises on the roof last night?” Randy asked.

“No, I'm pretty sure all these presents were delivered the old fashioned way – by the postman, the UPS man, and the FedEx man,” Clarice said. “I read that shipping services have been swamped since the older generation downsized to smart cars.”

“True. I don't think a Barbie Dream House would fit in Aunt Lucy's Fiat. But that's beside the point. I could swear I heard reindeer earlier. That's why I was up so early. Do you have any idea the kind of damage hooves could do to a steel roof?”

“I thought you got up early to put together those trikes,” Clarice laughed. “For heaven's sake, the twins won't be able to use them until spring – two years from now.”

Randy shrugged and stood up. “Nothing like a little motivation,” he said as he picked his way carefully along a crooked path through the gifts towards the kitchen. “Besides, they're our kids. I sure they're, ahem, gifted.”

“Your grandfather sure seems to think so. He sent early admission forms to Harvard yesterday, via courier.”

“Do you suppose a Harvard acceptance letter will get them short-listed at Peter Pan Preschool?” Randy said as he poured two cups of coffee, adding a generous splash of Baileys to his.

“Before you know it they'll be walking, and talking, leaving for college . . . .” Clarice's voice trailed off. Randy returned to find her sobbing quietly, tears streaming down her face.

“That won't happen for a long, long time, sweetheart.” Randy carefully arranged the two steaming mugs of coffee on opposite sides of a gargantuan bow, on top of a Power Wheels Jeep-sized box, which had replaced the coffee table. “There will be plenty of dirty diapers, skinned knees, broken bones, doctor bills, orthodontist bills, prom tickets, . . . .” Randy's voice trailed off.

Clarice wiped a tear from his cheek. “That won't happen for a long, long time, sweetheart.” Randy managed a weak smile. “At least not until they open all these presents!”

“These presents are taking over! I'm sure the dog's bed was in that corner yesterday. Now there's a . . . does that look like a pogo stick to you? Have you even seen the dog lately?”

“I shut Frosty in our room. He was whimpering at the door to the babies' room – I checked and they were sleeping – I didn't want him to wake them.”

“Did that box just meow?”

“You're imagining things. I'm glad we're hosting Christmas here this year.” Clarice tucked her feet up under her, carefully straightening a tower of noisy boxes – Legos she guessed – at the edge of the couch. She didn't remember them being there when she sat down. “This gives us a chance to start our own Christmas traditions.”

“I love your optimism, but my mom has been trying to weasel out of holiday hosting since my oldest brother got a place of his own. Nothing says Christmas quite like 12 Donners dining in a dorm room meant for one.”

“Well, we have plenty of room to host everyone. Or we had plenty of room. Tell me there aren't more boxes in the kitchen.”

“Not yet. Thank goodness our moms organized a pot luck meal.”

“Iowa beef roast meets Minnesota hot-dish with a side of Kosher.”

“And an un-healthy dollup of Paula Deen, balanced out with vegan . . . vegi . . . ovo . . . . What did your niece bring to the last supper, anyway?” Randy asked.

“I believe it was organic, non-GMO tree bark and pine needles, eco-consciously harvested from the ground. At least that's what it tasted like.”

“Happy Chris-Hanuk-Za-Stice. Did you stock up on Tums?”

“And toilet paper.” Clarice sighed. “How soon will the invasion start?”

Randy pointed to a timer perched on top of a huge box which had replaced the television. Around the outside edge of the timer was written “Doomsday Clock.”

“Two hours!” Clarice shout-whispered. “It's still dark outside. I thought we told them noon!”

“We did. But you know my mom is going to want some extra grandchild time, so she'll be here an hour early. And your mom wants extra grandchild time, and she knows my mom will be an hour early, so your mom will be here two hours early. And how long has that pile of gifts been in the doorway? I swear it wasn't there when I got coffee.”

“Honey, it's not like the presents are breeding. At least, I don't think they are.”

“You're right. I'm just nervous. What were we thinking? Both families here at the same time? We'd better enjoy this peace while we can. It will probably be the last quiet Christmas morning we'll have for several years.”

Clarice sighed and snuggled closer to Randy. “And I wouldn't have it any other way.”

As if to prove Randy's point, the baby monitor crackled to life. A voice, quiet as a mouse, spoke: “Good morning, Mother.”

Then another: “Good morning, Father.”

Clarice and Randy sat up straight and looked at each other in surprise.

“Did you hear . . . . ?”

“Did they just . . . . ?”

“Merry Christmas, losers!” A much louder, not at all mouse-like voice bellowed from the monitor. The living room was flooded with lights shining in through the window, and a recording of 'The Little Drummer Boy' began blaring. Randy and Clarice's looks of amazement turned to horror as they realized only one group of people could create an exterior illumination display of this magnitude.

“The cousins!” they both groaned.

“They have a bucket truck! I told you to fix the latch on the children's bedroom window!” Clarice shouted over the music.

“But that means . . . .” Randy and Clarice turned to see both their mothers joyously descending the stairs, holding little Francine and Victor Donner-Dasher aloft. Behind them followed a rowdy profusion of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins from both families.

“Look on the bright side,” Clarice said to Randy. “This won't happen again for 324 days.”

“That soon?”

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Have Yourself An Ugly Little Christmas Sweater

The Halloween pumpkins are moldering on the front stoop, and the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers have been left over for their last meal, ushering in the most angst-iful time of the year:

Ugly Christmas Sweater Season.

While I do loves me some Ugly Christmas Sweaters, I do hates me the potential for offending someone by complimenting them on their Ugly Christmas Sweater – which they do not consider to be an Ugly Christmas Sweater. As the mother of two teens, I am empathetic to having clothes judged so harshly. 

For example, when I asked The Little Princess what makes an Ugly Christmas Sweater ugly, she said “Anything that comes from Goodwill and looks like it was made by a Gramma.” When I asked The Little Prince the same question, he hesitated, quickly scanned what I was wearing and shrugged.

His response made me a little teary eyed, because that was the most he talked to me last week. And because I was wearing a normal, ordinary, not ugly, black sweatshirt, proudly emblazoned with “IOWA” in gold lettering.
Ugly? Or Taste Challenged?

That's the problem with Ugly Christmas Sweaters – there is no clear-cut description of what constitutes ugliness in a sweater, Christmas or otherwise. This new trend of marketing ugly as ugly has only made the situation worse. Just in case you've been living under a rock (or you shop at much nicer stores than I do) you can now buy Ugly Christmas Sweaters, Sweatshirts, T-shirts, Socks, Hats, Pants, Dresses, Pajamas and Suits. Some of these items try just a little too hard (like the suits), blowing right past Ugly Christmas Attire to Hideous Christmas Attire.

In my humble opinion, the beauty of an ugly sweater comes from the fact that it is not trying to be ugly. Are they tacky? Maybe. Tasteless? Probably. Ugly? Well . . . . It seems to me the ugliest of the Ugly Christmas Sweaters are the Ambiguously Ugly Christmas Sweaters. And this is where I struggle to know what to say, and whether or not to say it.
Trying too hard.

Should I say “I like your sweater,” and run the risk of looking like I don't recognize an ugly sweater when I see one? Or should I say “I like your ugly sweater,” and run the risk of offending the wearer, who may or may not think their sweater is ugly?

Which brings me back to my original question: What makes an Ugly Christmas Sweater Ugly?

Is it the embellishments? Does the addition of pom-poms, bells (which should be outlawed), bows, glitter, rhinestones, or puffy paint make the sweater ugly? Or is it the amount of embellishment? Personally I think lights or music (not just bells) should result in disqualification.

Is it the color? There are certain shades of pink and aqua which have taken up a firm residence in Christmas-color-land and which need to be sent back to the 1950s, from whence they escaped. Or is it the combination of colors? Red is OK, red and white are OK, but red, white and green start edging towards ugly.

Is it the pattern? There's nothing inherently ugly about snowflakes, reindeer and evergreens individually, but put them all together and the potential for ugly grows. Is it the image itself? Are reindeer, cats, dogs, penguins and elves OK? What about reindeer, cats, dogs penguins and elves wearing Santa hats? Are small images OK, and BIG images ugly? Or is it the other way around?

Ugly Christmas Sweater Season would be much less stressful if you were required to wear a button that proclaimed “Yes, I think this Christmas (fill in the blank) is ugly.”

Preferably a LARGE button, in off-pink and off-aqua, with flashing lights, music, bells and pom-poms.

And a Santa hat.
NOT an Ugly Christmas Sweater.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Trick-or- Let's Do The Time Warp-Treat

I remember being SO excited when the Little Prince was born, not just because we had one of each, but because I thought I would be exempt from bathroom-escort duty for the newcomer.

That, of course, did NOT happen. What did happen, however, was that I became exempt from trick-or-treat duty.

Even better.

The Little Princess was three-years-old when the Little Prince was born, so she was of her first, real, mobile-on-her-own, Trick-Or-Treat age, when he was most certainly not. At the time, we lived near one end of what was, arguably, the busiest street for T-O-T in W.L. – North Calhoun Street. For non-W.L. residents, this is one great big, long, almost completely un-side-streeted street that stretches for nearly a third of a mile – or the equivalent of at least 6 blocks, without any cross-streets. This was/is parent/child T-O-T paradise – let your kids out at one end, slowly drive your car up the street (and observe from warm comfort) as they go door to door to door, until they have a melt-down, their bag breaks from all that candy, or time runs out (or until you get bored), whichever comes first.

We had to take out a second mortgage to pay for all the T-O-T candy that we gave out when we lived there. (Never mind what we ate ourselves).

A side note: As a child growing up in WL, I lived two blocks (TWO BLOCKS!) south of this marathon stretch (T-O-T Nirvana/Valhalla) of North Calhoun, and never, in my recollection, did my T-O-T route venture that far north. (What kind of fool was I? What kind of kids never shared reports of this candy over-abundance?) Those were the days of grade-level class parties held at the town's churches and the Masonic Lodge – all of which (at that time) were South of the Thin, Sugared Line. (Except for the Middle School, which was 2 blocks East of NC, and therefore in a world all its own) At the time, my main concern was to plan out a route that was guaranteed to get me to my party on time! My most vivid, T-O-T memory is of the night my BFF nearly became a real, live, ghost/zombie in her haste to cross the 2-lane state highway that bisects the town. (P.S. I told her to wait.) (I blame the crappy, plastic masks of the day, of which I never was privileged to wear. Can you say perpetual hobo costume? Not that I'm bitter. Actually, Mom made me a furry Monster mask, which I wore For. Ev. Er.)

But I digress.

So we moved to a quiet sub-division of quiet W.B. A quiet sub-division, populated primarily by grandparents. There were probably eight children of T-O-T age in our subdivision that first year. But I was still in W.L. (and specifically North Calhoun) candy-buying mode. After amply supplying our approximately 20 Trick-Or-Treaters, we still had enough candy left over for one-bazillion and three kids.

The important thing is, His Royal Highness took The Little Princess Trick-Or-Treating, while I stayed home with The Little Prince, and handed out candy to the less-than-overwhelming horde.

And thus a tradition was born.
G&M, or M&M, circa a long time ago. Dang,they're cute.

The King took the Royal Progeny trick-or-treating on those cold, wet, dark (did I mention cold?) nights, for as long as they required an escort. I stayed at home, in the warm, well-lit, dry (did I mention warm and dry?) house, handing out (and eating) candy to an ever-shrinking number of trick-or-treaters.

And thus it came to pass, that on this All-Hallow's Eve I stayed at home where it was warm, dry, and well lit, and handed out candy to the neighborhood kids. (The grandparents have down-sized and moved away The sub-division has been re-populated by young families, of which we are not one).

And each time I answered the door I thought of my little ghost and goblin, and the costumes I sewed for them. (They were off doing who-knows-what kind of late-adolescent, it's-probably-better-I-don't-know kind of things.)

On the up-side, all the brown Tootsie-Pops have been handed out.

And I still have two bags of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

(Which I can give The Little Princess and The Little Prince when we have family dinner this weekend.)

(If there are any left.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Way To My Brain Is Through My Stomach

 I was mixing up a pan of Mr. Dell's Cheesy Hash Brown Potato Casserole and looking out the window at a gorgeous Midwestern fall day, when I was reminded of something The Little Princess said:

“I feel sorry for people who don't live in the Midwest. They've never had Puppy Chow. Or Scotcheroos.” (She also feels sorry for people who live in Australia because, apparently, they don't have the pop-n-fresh, “whomp biscuit,” canned-type cinnamon rolls. On the other hand, she says they call McDonald's “Macca's”, so . . . point for them.)

As I layered the cheesy with the potatoes, I wondered if this was strictly a Midwestern thing. There's a good chance it is, and if so, I feel sorry for everyone outside the Midwest who has never had the warm, gooey, cheesy, delicious, comfort-food goodness of hash brown casserole (or puppy chow, or scotcheroos).

And then I wondered what equally gooey, cheesy or chocolaty, delicious, comfort-food they might be enjoying that I have never tried.

And that reminded me of a quick trip we recently made to Madison, Wisconsin, for a wedding. From the interstate, all the metropolitan areas we by-passed looked alike – at least if you use restaurants as a point of reference.

There is a certain comfort in the familiar, a certain relief in uniform sameness, a feeling of safety that comes with sticking with what we know. When traveling, I – more often than not – eat at the chain restaurant nearest the hotel, rather than trying something new.

But . . . .


Where's the adventure in that? Where's the excitement of trying new things, of developing new tastes, of meeting new people? Where's the thrill of a new experience? The exposure to new ideas?

Comfortable conformity is all well and good, but when it is all, is it still good?

I could count on one hand the number of new restaurants closer to home that I have tried during the last year. What's worse, I tend to order the same thing every time I go to one of our familiar, “go to” restaurants – even when I swear I'm going to try something new. There's nothing wrong with that, but sometimes I wonder what might I be missing. (Granted, not all my “new” restaurant experiences have been winners, but still . . . .)

Old habits are hard to break. New things can be hard to try, whether they are new foods or new points of view. But maybe there's more to life than hash brown casserole and puppy chow.

Maybe I need to potluck more

Maybe we all do.