Pillow talk

Last night while laying in bed, it occurred to me that pillows are a wonderful thing, and new, soft squishy pillows are even better. Have you ever noticed how a new pillow, even the cheap $5 ones from StuffMart, can make you smile, and snuggle down into the bed and feel grateful? Well, maybe you don’t. Maybe your pleasures are more complicated than mine. I love a new pillow. Or even a freshly washed one that had a bit of bleach in the water and sat in the sun after a toss in the dryer. It’s comforting, and in these trying times when diseases are trying to eat us and the economy is iffy and Wall Street is doing it’s scary thing, a lovely soft clean smelling pillow is about as good as it gets, after a long day…..

why is that car slowing down in front of our house? that is the 3rd time it’s passed by. Next time it goes by I’m getting Madge to keep handy. Madge is the .357 Himself gave me for our Anniversary. Now, there’s a confident man, to give his wife something called The Peacemaker for an anniversary gift.

Anyway. Pillows.  Do you make a nest when you sleep? We both do. 7 big pillows on the bed, 4 for him and 3 for me. I tease him a bit about being kind of prissy about his pillows, because he has to have Certain Ones That Are Just Right in order to be comfortable and sleep well. This wonky one fits between his legs, that memory foam one goes tucked under his arm, these 2 under his head, one to the right overlapped a little by the left one. I’m no better, really. 2 extra long ones and a feather filled one, that I have NO IDEA where it came from but danggumm it’s comfortable. I used to think feather pillows were an affectation and all pretentious…not anymore. If they weren’t $100 a piece I’d replace all our pillows with them, but $700 for pillows seems a little extravagant. Maybe one day, but not today. It takes us about 10 minutes to get settled, because I have to mess up the system by attempting to make the bed reasonably pretty with a balanced layout and shams and all. And if I put some to the side at night, because they’re only for pretty and not for use, Agnes McCalvinox*accuses me of self indulgence for owning useless pillows.

These days, going to bed is my favorite time of the day. The preparation for it, that winding down in the evening is wonderful. Himself and I, now that it’s cool, sit on the patio and indulge in Adult Libations and conversation, going over events of the day and hashing out situations, solving the world’s problems if only everyone would listen. There’s the rituals of face washing and toothbrushing and pill taking and pillow fluffing and (noneofyourbusiness) and settling in under the covers. now that it’s cool enough to leave the windows open and put a blanket on the bed, there is a comfort to it that isn’t there in the Summer heat. There is something about snuggling down under a blanket your grandmother made, wrapping up in long memories and soft cloth someone wore so long ago, a comfort and sense of peace settles down and calms any anxieties because it says “Rest now, I’ve got this for a while.  You sleep.” Getting all the pillows just right, smelling the clean linens and feeling that crisp cotton pillowcase, cool and not yet nasty with drool because your nose is stopped up….I had to go there because you know it’s true.  I am getting over a cold and grateful pillows have 2 sides so you can flip them over when one side gets damp. Ew.

I’m kind of like Daisy, our fat dachshund, who starts watching the clock around 7:45, looking for that long hand to be straight up or the double zeros maybe, and watches us, hoping to hear those wonderful wonderful words “Bedtime, Daisy!” to which she replies by making a mad dash (well, as dashy as a fat dachshund can get, it’s really more like an enthusiastic mosey) to her crate, and joyfully flopping down on her big squishy pillow.  I know it won’t be long before we can both flop down on our own pile of squishy pillows and pull that old, soft quilt over our heads and sleep. Wonderful stuff, those pillows.

*Agnes McCalvinox is the voice of disapproval that lives in my head. She shoots down any desire for frivolity, whether it’s a pretty throw pillow or a bright scarf or a stack of Oreos. Sometimes I can stuff her in a box but occasionally the cat lets her out.

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There’s this thing that comes in my Facebook feed called Hometalkers or Hometalking or something like that. It’s intention, supposedly, is to give you inspiration for renovations and decorating ideas (like painting chevrons on everything…I am over chevrons, can we move to another, less annoying decorating cliche’, please?)(Himself informs me that it is crass and condescending to say things like that, what if someone reads this and LIKES chevrons? I might be offending them or hurting their feelings or something. So, sorry about that, sort of, if your feelings are hurt.)  Anyway, I think Hometalker’s real intention is to make you feel bad about your house, or the sad wreath on your front porch, or the pathetic lack of chevrons in your decorating scheme.  Every day there is a blurb on 24 OF THE MOST JAWDROPPING KITCHENS EVER!!1!!!!1. I think I am supposed to feel inadequate, or that Himself isn’t properly providing for me because I don’t have an island the size of Australia in the middle of my kitchen which is as big as the Pacific ocean.

Wide open design for this kitchen includes expanse of dark marble flooring reaching living room area, with ornate seating at large black island with white marble countertop. Dark wood cabinetry all around adds contrast to white walls and arch doorways.

I don’t want a kitchen that requires a Segway to get around in. In fact, the kitchen I have is perfect. It holds what needs to be held, and nothing is more than 3 steps away from anything else. Of course it means that more than 2 people at a time cannot function in there, and even with just 2, territories must be established with firm boundaries and laws. I know I am a bit dictatorial about the kitchen (I can hear Himself, “a BIT, you say?” but someone has to lay down the law in there because it’s not very big and if everyone wandered in and out without any laws there would be chaos.

It’s also easy to clean. Small is good. If a huge meal for 20 people (and it can be done, and has been, every Thanksgiving for the past umptee years) is being made, there is a lovely grill outside that can keep stuff warm, and a big table as well, and a spare fridge downstairs. Who needs a Subzero you can park a car in? Not me. More space is just more room to make a mess. Smaller is better, to a point.

Hometalker does the same thing with bathrooms. JAWDROPPIN!!!!! I say! Walk in showers for 2 with those side spray things and bathtubs that could double as a cattle trough or a fishpond if you squint…more to keep clean, it is. Yes. I would surely love a bathtub big enough to submerge more than half my body in at a time. It would surely get used on a regular basis, as there isn’t much that is nicer on achy bones that a hot tub of water, but those things need cleaning as well. And, too much floor space means more room to drop towels and shoes and clothes and for hair to gather. No, as long as the basics of sink, counter (enough for all my potions and Himself to have a couple of inches), potty, and a shower/tub combo (efficient use of space, you know), nothing else is needed.  The bathrooms (we have 2 of them!! How luxurious is that?! #4 gets his own place to drop towels and clothes and I only yell on Mondays, when the cleaners come! AND I have cleaners that come once a week! Because even a tiny bathroom is more than…anyway….it is indeed the height of luxury to have someone else deal with it)(and don’t for a minute think I ever take THAT for granted.)


So, I think the purpose of Hometalker is to make me feel like Himself isn’t doing enough, or that somehow this 45 year old house with it’s small kitchen and bathroom, and it’s somehow not-as-interesting walls and doors (rectangles, they are, ordinary doors that are ordinary rectangles) is disatisfactory…only….

it’s not. It’s a wonderful house with plenty of windows and sturdy strong walls and a roof that keeps us dry.  It is full of the echoes of #4 growing up, wearing boxes on his head and playing “smack the belly” in the (apparently inadequate) bathtub. #’s 1,2,and 3 were teens here, learning to drive, sneaking in too late, commiserating over girlfriends. The table, scratched and worn, has had so many meals, all of us sitting around it and laughing, telling stories. This house has good walls with many memories in the short 9 years we have lived here. I don’t want one of those huge houses with everyone in their own room doing their own thing. It’s nice having all of us together, arguing over who gets the remote, and where to put the Christmas tree.

I like these cheap curtains bought from a catalog that I can throw in the washing machine, and the utter lack of rugs for the dogs to pee on   and the scuffed up dining chairs that (purchased for $1 a piece from a Fraternity house that was moving) I don’t have to worry about if Someone’s Dog (who shall remain unnamed except he is our 3rd child…the Someone, not the dog) gnaws on a leg. Maybe one day we’ll have Fine Stuff…maybe. probably not. I want the Grandkids to be able to gnaw on the furniture without fear of repercussions beyond an admonition to be careful about splinters.

So…Hometalker…you have some interesting ideas occasionally but I think you’re fixing to be Unliked (Disliked? Unfriended? Defriended? Verbs these days. Bah.)

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Fall is in the air!

today was the first day since a while back that it felt like a promise of Fall. The morning was cool enough to need socks (thin ones, but still…) and the humidity dipped below 90% for the first time since June (ok maybe that’s hyperbole, but not much).

Ok, you know how I love food. Not any food, it has to be GOOD food (by the Ina Garten definition, not  the Ellie Krieger definition) (Never trust a skinny cook)

Someone with good intentions posted a picture of chicken and dumplings on Facebook. It was the Proper kind, too, the ones made with big fluffy biscuit dough dumplings. of course, “proper” is relative, isn’t it. One of the first arguments Himself and I had after getting married involved what constituted a Proper dumpling. He, being a Southern White Boy of Country Origins, was raised on strip dumplings. Basically they are pie crust cut into strips and boiled in a hot milky broth made from boiling a chicken and taking it out. I, being (obviously) of a More Sophisticated Culinary Upbringing (translation: we never had cake or ice cream in the house) was raised on dumplings made from a buttermilk biscuit dough, dropped by elegant spoonsful into a delicate and savory chicken based herbal broth, carefully crafted with fresh chopped herbs from the garden and serv….anyway. Mine were better.

The argument happened when he asked what I was fixing for dinner one night. Upon being informed that chicken and dumplings were being prepared, he became excited and exclaimed “OH THAT IS MY FAVORITE!”  When they were served, I heard the ::crickets:: or maybe that scratching sound of a record being bumped, or something indicating a certain cognitive dissonance, because he said “What are those? Those are not dumplings. That is boiled dough. My mama doesn’t make dumplings like that.”

Whoever has been married and had that “My mama doesn’t (do whatever) like that”, you know the feelings it causes in a New Bride, seeking to create family harmony and a Happy Husband. It goes like this… (ahem)


Same thing happened with cole slaw, but those are the ONLY times he has EVER said that, lest you think he is a cad. Because he is not. We both had figuring out to do, with the whole “being married” thing.

We have since compromised, and I try to alternate between his beloved strip dumplings (which I have come to like) and my preferred buttermilk biscuit dumplings.

Anyway…Fall is making me hungry for warm, thick, comforting foods. Rich stews, pot roasts, mashed potatoes and gravy.

Good heavens I love mashed potatoes and gravy. Not the instant kind, either, but soft fluffy russet potatoes, smashed with half-and-half, and an inordinate amount of real butter (gotta pack on the weight for hibernation, doncha know) (and you never know when the society is going to collapse and we might have to make a 2 week walk westward to reach The Old Homeplace and Safety). Oh, and gravy. I never met a gravy I didn’t like except for Cracker Barrel’s and any other kind made from a mix. no. homemade gravy with no lumps. One thing Mom did right was teach me how to make exceptional gravy. I might screw up many things, from relationships to car tires, but never a pan of gravy. Himself will tell you that. I want that on my headstone. “She never screwed up the gravy”




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The Green Eyed Monster

Envy isn’t generally part of my sin- lexicon. There are plenty of other character flaws, but not that one, normally. Lots of relationship skills, a lovely house, long legs, well-traveled, highly educated, all those things I am not, they do not cause envy. Mostly my response is “good for you! tell me all about it!”

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

Except this morning. (you saw that coming, right?)

Himself and I were going over the upcoming week. What we’re doing and when, coordinating calendars, all that stuff married people do. He has a busy week, I do not. Wednesday for him involves a trip to Brunswick (no, I do not envy that), and he informed me that Thursday will make Wednesday bearable.

“Why so?”I query.

“We’re doing a Benthic study on the river.” he replies.

“What does that involve?” I ask.

“Well, basically we spend the entire day in a john boat, floating down the river, taking a census of minnows and macro-invertebrates. If we don’t get far enough down the river we’ll have to do it Friday as well.”

Cue the green eyed monster.  He gets to spend and entire day, possibly two, floating down a South Georgia blackwater river, scooping up wee fish and water striders and sifting through mud for tiny mussels.

Normally I am really happy when he gets to do stuff like this. It’s a big change from conference calls and meetings and cleaning up other people’s mistakes. How peaceful can that be? Floating down a river, one with lots of shady places and wade-able places and a cooler full of not-beer (only a cooler full of beer could improve the situation but it’s WORK thus Serious Bizness.) and probably a shotgun in case of the inevitable water moccasin to keep things exciting. I mean, I suppose I *am* really happy for him, and my envy isn’t the sort that says NO! If I can’t have this then neither should you!. It’s more the kind that whines and pouts and stomps it’s foot and says NOT FAIR I WANT TO GO TOO.’

So when I did that (minus the foot stomp, it was early yet) he said if I would make the trip to Brunswick for him, he would let me come on the river trip. That won’t work, though, as the officials there would likely notice that I am not Himself, what with the 11 inch height difference and 100 pound weight difference and lack of facial hair. I offered to put mascara on my chin and wear stacked boots but no, it would still be problematic since I would have no idea what they were talking about.

When I was a kid, the Oconee River in North Georgia was about 1/2 mile through the woods behind our house.

This wasn’t it, but it looked just like this.

It had river otters, and a beaver swamp on the way. It was my Happy Place, and hours were spent there with Daisy (my mutt), watching the otters slide down the bank, wading in shallows, and poking at the tiny mussels. Weekend often included a canoe, and a 10+ mile trip on the river. It was peaceful, the physical and philosophical opposite of the grinding misery of school, the perfect rejuvenation for a weary teenager.

The swamp was a wonderful place. You went through a grove of very old oaks to get to it, like something you’d see in a movie with knights and warhorses and faire maidens in distress. on one side was a hill, leading up to more woods and a shack. on the other side was a meadow that would be covered with violets in the Spring. Not a huge area, maybe an acre or so, but purple and white and green. Daisy the Mutt loved the swamp, and would find a muddy spot just deep enough and submerge with her nose out of the water, and blow bubbles. I would collect water plants, mussels, and minnows, and make an aquarium in my room, to keep a piece of it there.

The woods were full of tiny things, monkey jugs (wild ginger), wintergreen, partridgeberry, all sorts of mosses and fungi and beautiful wee flowers.

Wild ginger

Even today, 35 years later, the woods and a river mean calm peace to me. It’s where I see God in the small parts of creation, in the infinite variety and the way it all works together to make a place that works, quiet and implacable, and I can simply be a part of it.

Instead, however, Himself will come home, happy and restored for being out in the nature for a day, scooping up waterbugs and counting minnows. I will not be in nature, but likely will go to the (s)mall and indulge in retail therapy, or maybe stay home and read about nature.

and pout.

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Waxing Nostalgic

Yesterday I saw a picture of some young boys (2-8, roughly) sitting at a table drawing pictures. in the middle on the table was a cigar box filled with crayons, and there was a pile of paper, and other drawing stuff.

Who Won?

I was kind of overcome with a sense of nostalgia, and started wondering if there would ever again be a cigar box of crayons (remember that smell? The waxy aroma of a new box of crayons?) in the middle of my table.

When the boys were young, there was a Craft Box I kept for rainy days and emergencies. Mostly it was  a pipe dream, concocted out of the mind of a female who had such things as a young girl, because the boys weren’t interested in most of the stuff in that box, the ribbons and confetti and glitter. They preferred the pipe cleaners that could be twisted in the the shape of a gun or a sword, and the paper that could be balled up into hand grenades (when it was too wet to go outside and use pinecones). The glue was ok, too, because it could be poured into the hand of whoever was sleeping. The crayons and markers were good, because there was one boy who loved to draw, and another one who loved to count. They also make good missiles.

Here’s a story on the one who loved to count, it was a harbinger of Things To Come:

He was not quite 3, and we had purchased one of those big boxes with 64 crayons in it. He was unimpressed with the variety of colors, but was fascinated that they were separated into  smaller boxes. After counting that there were 16 in each smaller box, and noting that there were 4 boxes, and seeing on the side of the big box that it contained 64, he asked Himself if that meant 16×4=64. He was assured that it did, then we both alternated between extreme pride and mild panic. He is now approaching 25, and in engineering school, and loves all things math.

The one who loved to draw (he was approaching 5) couldn’t care less about the math of it all, but carefully arranged all the colors by type chroma and hue, which made for a very pleasing and artful box. He is 26, and still has a strong sense of what is aesthetically pleasing.

The youngest one was around 1 at the time, and determined that crayons weren’t as tasty as red clay from the yard.  He is 23 now, and while I am pretty sure he doesn’t eat dirt anymore, I know that he is usually covered in it.

Anyway…seeing that picture of those boys caused nostalgia and a little bit of anxiety and sadness, and maybe worry that there won’t ever be little ones sitting at the table, with crayons and paper, and will there ever be pictures proudly displayed on the refrigerator door, held in place with all those magnets we’ve collected over the years?

I hope there will be some children around here who will be excited about getting into a box full of stuff, messy things like glue and glitter and scissors and markers, and creating Works of Fine Art when it’s too hot to go outside.

Some of the best memories I have of the kids being little involve the kitchen counter, crayons, and paper. It would be nice to have some more.

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tasty tasty!

Food is good, right? of course it is. And good food is even better! How do you define “good food”? Is it food that is nutritious and all organicky and Approved By (whoever it is that approves of stuff)? Or is it stuff that people like Anthony Bourdain make satisfied grunty noises over, stuff like fois gras (not nutritious at all, and mean to geese, but fancyschmancy and really really delicious) or truffle butter (also delicious but not mean to geese though pigs might be somewhat exploited)?

Or is it stuff that is artificially orange and nowhere anywhere on the label does it claim to be good for you in any way other than perhaps mentally?

I love artificially orange food. You know the kind, violently colored with all kinds of unpronounceable chemical additives and labels that show expiration dates sometime about 15 years off. I do love me that fake cheeze powder.

Also? Have you ever really read the label? you know, the one that says something like “Serving size, 12 chips” Who on God’s green Earth eats only 12 Doritoes?

When life overwhelms, or people are causing anxiety and angst, nothing is quiet as satisfying as a bowl full of something unnaturally orange. There is even a holiday for it:

Strangely Orange Snack Appreciation Day: June 21

One celebrates this day by indulging in Cheetoes and orange slice candies and Tang. And Doritoes and a bowl of Kraft Mac&Cheeze


Yes, I know it is not even remotely near June 21, but that doesn’t make this craving for Doritoes or Cheetoes any less real.  Nor does it reduce the guilt of wanting nasty food that tastes delicious.

How come celery can’t taste that good? (spare me the lecture about fats and cave men and evolutionary needs and stuff. I have already heard it but that doesn’t make Cheetoes any less amazing)

I actually knew someone once who claimed his favorite food was broccoli. Himself and I felt a little sorry for the man, and while we didn’t quite think he was tetched in the head, he weren’t normal, neither.

now, don’t think that I go run to the store every time a craving for fake orange food happens. I do have a modicum of self control and the craving will pass after eating a bit of ginger or a handful of wasabi peas. Strongly flavored food is good for nipping a craving, the same way listening to Kashmir will rid your brain of an earworm. Did you know that? Works like a charm and for some reason Kashmir never becomes an earworm of it’s own.

Anyway, I want to thank the inventor of Doritoes for making something delicious. I remember discovering them when I was about 10, and starting to earn a bit of money doing mother’s helper stuff. Back then it was taco flavored only, but boy were they good, especially to a kid who was being raised on Organic No Additive Food That Was Nutritious And Nasty.

I loved those things. 

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time flies

Someone recently told me it was September.  Of 2014. Last time I checked it was August of 1993. There are people who were born in the ’90s who are GETTING MARRIED. or even already have! There are people in my immediate family who were born in the ’90s who are married! Since when was it legal for 2 year olds to get married?

And this September thing…It’s not September, is it? Isn’t it April or something? Wasn’t Christmas (of 1992) about 6 weeks ago? Since when was #4 approaching 6 feet tall and a sophomore in high school? i Isn’t that some sort of freak-of-nature event, that a 2 year old in overalls would be so tall? He hasn’t even been born yet! It’s 1993 and he didn’t come along until 1999!

I am so confused.

I have a son who is closer to 30 than he is to 20. Another one is married WITH A WIFE. Another one is going bald. Another one has a car…and the one with the car is only 2 and hasn’t been born yet.

My parents, who are 45 because that’s the age parents are supposed to be, have white hair and drive a Buick. I don’t have any grandparents anymore, which is weird, because everyone who’s 17 should have grandparents, or at least one or two of them, and I don’t have any. It’s ok, because part of me knows that is the natural course of things, but another part finds it very confusing.

Because I am 17 with a 26 year old son and a son who is married WITH A WIFE, and another son who is going bald and another one with a car…it makes no sense to me at all.

Just a few years ago, maybe 3 or 4, they were all so small, not yet in school, perpetually covered with dirt and hollering for food like a nest full of baby birds. One of them was always up in a tree, or hiding in a cabinet, or asking WHY, and now they think they know WHY and don’t ask anymore. The trees are empty of children and the cabinets hold cats instead of kids.

I know it’s the natural course of things and mostly I can accept that, but sometimes it feels so strange, an ill fitting sweater that arrived in the mail. My name was on the box and it came from a place I often order from, but I don’t remember ordering that one, and there’s no charge on the Paypal account for it…how did it get here, this aging thing with grown children who aren’t children anymore? When did that happen?

It came in between school visits and arguments and cooking meals and endless laundry, buying houses and job changes and moving vans. It just HAPPENED when I was busy doing other things.

When the kids were really young, it seemed to last forever. The days felt endless and monotonous. in retrospect they still do. People would say “Oh enjoy them while they’re young, it goes by so fast!” but it didn’t. It went by much faster once they were grown and dealing with their own lives.  I wish I could say I loved it when they were little, but that was a very difficult time, for many reasons. It wasn’t their fault, it would be a gift to go back and redo some things, but that isn’t possible. Doesn’t everyone have some sort of regret?

I guess time is relative, a sort of percentage thing. A day today….let’s see…I am 49 years+4 months old….that is (math math math) 18005 days (give or take a few) old, so one day is 1/18005 of my life. For a 15 year old (that would be #4), a day is 1/5475 of his life. (math math math) That means his day is roughly 3 times as long as mine, proportionally speaking. I  think. math ain’t my strongest subject, but hopefully you get the idea. Therefore it makes sense that the days of a 49+ person would go by much faster than those of a 15-ish person.

I guess that’s what that whooshing noise is that older people get in their ears. It’s not tinnitus, as doctors say, it’s the sound of life flying by.


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