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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Down to the last pair

When you’re married for a few years, life has a way of just starting to flow in an unspoken smoothness.  Some may call it a well-oiled machine. 

In our house, there are certain signs that alert each of us to something going on in the other’s life.  If my husband heard me tossing and turning or handling children during the night, he will have the coffee made before my eyelids finally push their way open.  Likewise, if I know he’s had a rough day at work, I try to gather the troops and welcome him home with love, hot food, and if at all possible, keep the kids from fighting with each other. 
Sometimes, though, the simple situations are more practical and less emotional.  Not being a milk drinker myself, if we’re out of milk there will be an empty jug placed on the counter and I’ll know immediately to add it to the shopping list.  If we’re out of shampoo, there will be a bottle out of place on the bathroom counter. Same goes for the kids when they stand at the fridge and not so politely yell “there’s nothing to eat!” and I look inside only to find they are right.  Pickles, mustard, and maple syrup do not make for a delicious after school snack.
While I consider myself a “modern day” woman, I still have accepted the role of housekeeper and have control over my domain, even if it means that that control comes with the tasks of shopping, cooking, cleaning, and most dreadfully, laundry.  Clean clothes are my downfall, simply because the act of laundry doing takes so long to complete, that by the time I’ve finished, the hampers are already full.  Too frequently I have to finish laundry just to have the baskets free to begin again.  It’s a dark, dark place in my life if I’m being honest.
My beloved husband knows this.  He knows how much I despise it all—the carrying, sorting, washing and drying, folding and putting away.  He knows how cranky it makes me, and even more, he knows that if he plain out tells me that I need to do laundry I might just snap.
So in a symbolic act of love, we have worked out a system to alert me that the time has come for me to saddle up and ride that horse into the dark cave of detergent and fabric softener.  It comes in the form of none other than flannel undergarments. 
We don’t know where the Cleveland Browns flannel boxer shorts came from, but at some point were a gift because my husband assures me that he would never purchase anything so warm.  They are, in fact, so uncomfortable that he will wear every other pair that he owns before finally putting them on, which is the subtle clue that it’s time for me to empty the hamper.
“Are the Browns playing this afternoon?” he’ll say.
“Gotcha, dear,” I’ll reply.  “Sorry about your day.”
It’s funny what women talk about when there are no men around.  We don’t discuss sports or cars or the weather.  We apparently talk about important things like our husband’s underwear, and in one recent conversation I learned that this laundry alert system that we’ve designed isn’t all that uncommon.  Without potentially embarrassing anyone, let’s just say that a purple pair of briefs hangs locally in warning when one husband is running low, and another girlfriend of mine said she uses the alert system on herself.
“When I get down to the giant ones leftover from my pregnancy years, that’s my blaring reminder to start the laundry,” she admitted. 
“I understand,” I said.  “If it’s not December and I’m wearing my holiday undies, you know there are a few dozen load of laundry waiting for me at home.”
Therefore there is one heartbreaking conversation that goes on in my home:
“Go Browns!”
“I know, honey.  Merry Christmas.”

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bowling makes a comeback

One would think that I would be a decent bowler, considering how much time I spent in a bowling alley during my childhood.  One would also think that since a large portion of females in my family bowled on leagues and even had their own fancy shoes and balls that I would be a respectable bowler.  One might even think that since my mother had a plaque hanging on the wall of the Seven Hills Bowling Alley commemorating her perfect bowling game that maybe one of those skillful bowling genes could have gotten passed down to me and I would be able to follow in her stylish footsteps.
But if one thought that, that person would be sadly wrong, and I am left to scar the family name in the world of bowling.  I may never know if I disappointed my mother by being so terrible that breaking 100 is cause for exuberant and exaggerated celebration, but chances are she’ll tell me after reading these words.
Truth be told, bowling was a really big deal for me growing up.  I spent many a Tuesday night while my mother and grandmother had their league at the lanes.  I used to hop around the building on the colored tiled floor with some pattern game I created because when you’re a kid alone in a bowling alley with a hundred women, what you do is drink root beer and eat pretzel rods and hop through a haze of smoke.  I probably should have paid more attention to the game, but you have to realize that every Sunday morning after church we would go to my Grandparent’s house to do three things:  eat, watch the Polka Variety Show and move the coffee table and dance, and then put the table back and watch bowling tournaments.  There is only so much bowling a non-bowling kid can handle.
Soon enough I started to grow.  Suddenly my hands were big enough to reach all three holes in the ball and strong enough to hoist the heavy thing down the lane.  Still, the hours I spent among bowling did nothing for my abilities and when we had a school field trip to the bowling alley to practice our math filling out scoring sheets (I’m not making this up, and if you’ve ever scored bowling by hand you know what a great math exercise it actually is), my math skills were barely used; No strikes or spares makes for an easy addition grade.
But this was all so many years ago, and someone out there might argue that bowling is a dying recreation.  I beg to differ, based on the rebirth of bowling that has taken place in my own family.  Besides the bowling video game that has become so popular, my family has found a new love for the real deal.  The magical invention of automatic bumpers and automated scoring and the smoke-free environment makes it a great place to haul your kids.  It’s a real, tangible game in a world of electronic entertainment that requires you to actually hold a heavy object in your hands and flop it down the lane.  It’s a turn-taking, cheer-on-your-friends, wash-your-hands and then go eat-some-snacks kind of evening that takes old-fashioned family fun to a new level.  And you don’t even have to do the math.
I like to think that one of life’s purposes is to make memories.  Not that you should live in the past, but there’s something sweet about bringing a piece of your past into your present, even if that something sweet is the smell of bowling shoes and the depressing fact that no matter how hard you try, you’ll never out-bowl your mother.  So maybe you’ll just grab a root beer and hop around and hope that your kids pay attention to the bowler in the next lane.

Living life by the seasons

The infinite jokes about living in Northeast Ohio involve the same things:  sports teams (or lack there of) and the weather.  “Don’t like the weather around here?  Wait an hour, it will change” is more than just a silly joke, and anyone who lives here can attest to it by admitting that he or she has literally used the heat and the air conditioning in the very same day.
But griping about the weather never does us any good, and instead we try our hardest to convince ourselves that we love the seasons.  “Oh, I could never live in Florida,” we tell people.  “I need the change of season or else I’d go crazy.”
But is it true?  Do we really need the change of season?
Scientifically, yes.  This year’s mild winter is wreaking havoc on our natural world.  According to a news article by Discovery, our current warm winter is going to cause us a doozy of a flea, tick, and mosquito season.  And beyond that, bears are waking up from their winter slumbers earlier than usual, and may wander a little farther in search of food that should be there according to the temperature, but isn’t quite ripe for the picking yet.
Socially we need it, too.  There are way too many of us out here who were gifted fantastic sleds for the holidays or bought our kids new snow boots for the season, only to see them stacked in the garage, perfectly dry and clean.  Not even a trace of the telltale mud that comes along with our Ohio snows caked into the laces or clogging up the handles of the sleds.  
Emotionally, though, we Ohioans will take as much sunshine as we can get.  Data from the NOAA say that on average we get about 200 cloudy days and 100 partly cloudy days each year.  (Do the math—that’s only about 65 days of sun, a disgusting 17.8%.) And while I can’t prove that cloudy days make me grumpy, I know my world is a much happier place when the sun is shining and the bright blue sky lights up everyone’s grinning faces.  Sunshine makes you smile, don’t it?
But if there’s anything we know, griping about the weather won’t get us very far.  So what’s left to convince ourselves to find the joy in every season, whether it be winter, not-quite-winter, morning-winter, or evening-spring.  I’m not na├»ve enough to think I could tell you to find peace and serenity in scraping the ice off of your car or love the humidity of a summer day while weeding your flowerbeds.  But I can give you a few tips to get through these transitional days between spring and winter and whatever other season it happens to be at any given time of day.  Next time you find yourself with the late winter blues, peek out your window and let these five things brighten your day.
  1. 1. Gray skies and leafless trees make a great backdrop for spotting last year’s bird nests or early birds starting to rebuild for the season.
  2. 2. Even the saddest, muddiest, brown/gray flowerbeds are brightened by the tiniest of bulbs poking through.
  3. 3. Puddles bring out the kid in all of us, except when we’re wearing white (which we aren’t supposed to do until Memorial Day, right?)
  4. 4. Mud isn’t all that muddy when it’s frozen.
  5. 5. Chilly days have the ability to warm your heart as long as you’re inside, sipping tea and looking out the window.  You can snuggle in and look out at the constantly changing weather, wonder what the forecast for tomorrow will bring, and enjoy what we have while we have it.
No matter what it is.

Monday, March 12, 2012

As it turns out, I’m slightly normal

(I'm pretty behind in posting columns...sorry!  I'll catch up this week!)

“I have to send you this article,” my mother said over the phone.  “It was practically written for you.  It’s called “Are you normal or nuts” and I found in the Reader’s Digest and according to this article, you’re actually not nuts!”
Seeing as these were such pleasant words and I’ll gladly accept any confirmation that I’m normal even if it is from my unconditionally loving mother, I prodded her to continue describing the article and finally reading to me.
The words were comforting in the wake of one of those life events that you swear are being filmed for a hidden camera video and that found me making a complete fool of myself in a public place.  I am well aware that I have an emotion problem, or rather a problem containing my emotions.  At any given program at my child’s school or church, at even slightly sappy movies, or even for no good reason at all, my eyes turn into water faucets.  Crying, for me, is a completely normal thing in times of sadness, happiness, and especially onion slicing.  I even cry during times of extreme humor, which is where our story begins…
My husband sent me a text telling me to stop at the store and pick up a medicine for our dog’s eye cyst, which I considered to be a totally legitimate chore.  In my heart of hearts I thought that after their visit to the vet that morning, I had a prescription to pick up at a human-type pharmacy.  It’s happened before, so I thought nothing of it.  So during a night of shuffling children and running other errands, I popped into the local grocery hub and wandered to the back where the pharmacy was located.  After waiting in line, I told the technician that I was here to pick up medicine for my dog’s eye.  Unable to find it, she checked through everything and even waited to confer with the busy pharmacist.
During all of that, I was texting my husband in confusion, making sure this was the correct pharmacy and what name the prescription was under, and his response was not something I expected.
“I was joking.  There’s no prescription.  R U seriously asking the pharmacist???  Lol.”
I thought I was going to die, right after I killed him for making me feel like a fool.  There I was, explaining to the pharmacy about my old dog’s eye cyst with medical detail.  
Once I got his self-confessing text, “lol” is what I did.  Trying to keep my laughter at bay, I explained to the technician that it must have got sent to a different pharmacy and turned around to quickly slink away with my uncontrollable snorting laughter.
Was it that funny of a situation?  Probably not to the average person, but at that moment in my life, it was funny.  Reeeeally funny.  And I, victim of my own extreme emotion, absolutely lost it.  By the time I reached the front of the store, I was in full convulsive sobbing, tears streaming down my face, unable to breathe and contorting my face into deep frowns.  I nearly ran into a man who certainly thought I was just delivered awful news, and as I made my way past the check out lanes, I tried my hardest to get out between sobs, “it’s ok.  Nothing’s wrong.  I’m just laughing.”  (I felt I needed to explain the spectacle of myself because people were starting to stare.)
It took hours before I could calm myself down between laughs and tears and ended up not killing my husband.
Sounds crazy, but according to what my mother read, I’m not as nuts as you’d think.  Experts say that crying is just a response of an emotional extreme, whether it be happy or sad, good or bad.  And in the end that makes me a totally normal person, with a big heart and an even bigger funny bone. 
(But no eye cyst medication for my dog.)

End note:
RIP Belle, 1999 - 2012
You were one heck of a smelly, wild dog.

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