Mac and Cheese

All of my children have learned (or are currently learning) to drive a manual transmission. And they have all done an excellent job; it’s an important skill, and one that is becoming less common.

So the other day, my daughter came to me and said, “How long—on average—do you think it takes to learn to drive a stick shift?” By the way she asked, I figured she had the answer.

“I don’t know,” I told her. “How long?”

“Well, I was taking this online quiz about the average time it takes to learn certain skills, and that was one of the questions. I said 10 hours, but the answer is 67.”

“67 hours?” I questioned. That seems like a bit too much. WAY too much, actually. She nodded. I shook my head, “I don’t think it takes that long. Where was this quiz you were taking?”

“It was a BuzzFeed quiz.”

I burst out laughing. “And you believe everything you learn on BuzzFeed?”

“Mom!” she said, sarcasm oozing. “BuzzFeed has the best quizzes. I took one that determined how many kids I should have based on my macaroni and cheese preference!

Well, I guess a penchant for macaroni and cheese couldn’t hurt when it comes to raising kids….

Positivity Post: Lessons from the Bug

Last week, I was driving to my son’s college to drop him off for the start of the school year. The car was stuffed to bursting with all of the necessities of college dorm life, so much so that my son was in the car in front of me. We were traveling up the highway at a good clip when a peculiar bug appeared from somewhere in the back of the car, flew directly between my face and the windshield, and settled on the window of the driver side door. I batted at it, and as I started to roll down the window, it flew to the windshield.

The bug was long and thin and black and pointy like it would sting with a vengeance. My daughter was in the seat next to me, pressing up against the door and watching as I frantically batted at the bug. I was not sure whether I was trying to kill it or brush it out the window—whatever was necessary to remove it from the car—all the while continuing to drive at highway speeds. My window was open, and each time I tried to flick it out, it would fly in the other direction.

“Mom, I think you should pull over,” my passenger commanded. “You’re going to crash the car if you don’t.” She had a point. I turned on my directional signal, glanced in my completely blocked rear view mirror, and pulled to the side of the road, my tires buzzing across the rumble strip.

At this point, the bug was on the windshield, and as I tried to move it toward my open window, it flew to the other side of the car and landed on my daughter’s window. She shifted to the other side of her seat as she slowly and carefully rolled down her window and was able to coax the bug out of the car. She quickly put up the window before it found its way back in, and we carefully pulled onto the highway, navigating the blind spots (i.e. anything behind me or to my right) provided by the cargo.

A few miles ahead, we merged with another highway, and as we did, I looked to my right, attempting unsuccessfully to check the right lane around my loaded car. As I did so, I was surprised to see the bug clinging to the outside of the passenger window.

“That bug must be mad at you,” I said to my daughter. “It’s clinging to your window.”

But it wasn’t long before its thread-like legs couldn’t hold on through the winds of highway speed travel, and it was gone. But this got me thinking…. The bug was clinging to what it thought was safe, what it knew. Letting go was a much bigger risk because the bug didn’t know what would happen to it when it let go. Yet, letting go would provide it with the very freedom it was seeking.

How many things do we hold on to because we can’t see the unknown? How often do we cling to what is safe and familiar when we might be better off if we take a risk, let go, and tumble through the unknown, growing wings and strength as we go?

Perhaps next time I find myself in a situation where I’m clinging to what is safe, I’ll remember the lesson of the bug. Rather than using all of my strength to hold on, maybe I’ll take a risk—let go and enjoy the ride. Taking a risk may be scary, but gaining newfound freedom might just be priceless!

Sibling Challenge

Through years of parenting and even more years of working with teenagers, I have gained a certain perspective on teen shenanigans. When this weekend started out with a “friendly competition,” I knew things were not headed in a positive direction.

We were getting ready to leave for a weekend away, and we were rushing around to take care of the few final tasks that had to be completed before our departure. We needed to dispose of the garbage and load the car. My youngest agreed to “take a quick run” to the condo dumpster. But instead of walking, he thought he would ride his bike.

Now, anyone with more than one teenage boy knows that nothing is real—or fun—unless it is made into a competition of some sort. In this case, “a quick run” became the point of competition.

“I’ll get down there and back before PiE gets here,” my son announced. “But instead of walking, I’ll take my bike.” His bike was lying in the front yard waiting to be loaded onto the bike-rack.

“I’m gonna time you!” challenged his older brother. “I’ll start the timer as soon as you get outside.”

“NO!” I told them, sternly. “We are going away, and if you race to the dumpster, you’re liable to end up hurt. I don’t want to be taking you to the ER before we leave. Or spending the weekend at the hospital, thank you very much.”

“Oh, I’ll be fine,” W pronounced as he continued out the door, grabbing the garbage on his way.

“Don’t race!” I hollered after him, but my command fell on deaf ears as he strapped on his helmet and took off at break-neck speed, his brother’s challenges urging him on. “Ugh!” I groaned in his wake as C focused on the stop-watch on his iPod.

It was only seconds before C was running out the door to check W’s progress, fully expecting to see his little brother disappearing in the distance. He stood outside for a minute, yelling after W, and then he came back into the kitchen, laughing. “He fell,” he informed me. “He was standing at the bottom of the hill saying, ‘Mom was right!’” Of course, these kids joke around so much, I didn’t fully believe him.

But sure enough, when W returned to the house, he had an odd combination of scrapes and cuts—his left elbow and his right thigh and ankle. While his injuries didn’t require medical attention, they did slow him down (just a bit) during our weekend adventures.

The lesson learned, “Mom was right,” could be priceless. But this lesson will fade as quickly as the pain of the road rash, and he will have to be reminded, once again, that sometimes Mom can see into the future and can predict how things will end. Some lessons need to be learned again and again in order for them to eventually… maybe… stick.

Changes

I am pretty sure my father would have secretly loved to have a son. I say secretly because when you have two daughters, you can’t really express a fact like that. “Oh darn. I really wanted a son!” But if he’d had a son, he would have been very happy.

However, my dad always made sure that my sister and I knew how to make simple repairs and improvements around the house. When he embarked on a project, he would often recruit us to “help,” which allowed him to impart wisdom and instructions as well as dos and don’ts of home repair.

When my children left for a recent trip to Florida, I knew this solitary time was my opportunity to re-caulk the tub in their bathroom. There is no denying the fact that I know how to have a good time when my kids are away. Really, the only time the tub is not in use for several hours a day is when they are away, and anyone who has ever caulked [successfully], knows the tub and its various components need to be good and dry before the new caulk is placed.

When I settled in to remove the old caulk, I decided I would do a better job if I could just remove the tub spout to better clean off all of the tiny remnants (or large gobs) of caulk that had made their way under the fixture. But how to remove the fixture? It seemed to twist, but just in case, I consulted YouTube. There, I found a tutorial on how to remove (and replace) an old tub spout. Replace had not occurred to me, but a new tub spout would be just the thing to make the tub shimmer!

I took a trip to the local home improvement store where I found the parts I needed. At the checkout, the cashier looked from my purchase to the old spout that I had brought along just in case I needed a visual example. “That’s a good idea,” she said, pointing to the old spout. “To bring that along.” She paused for a moment, and then she said, “Are you doing this all on your own?” I nodded.

“I wish I was brave enough to take on that kind of project,” she commented. “That’s impressive.”

Not really. I must say, I was trained by a good man to recognize that many projects are not as overwhelming as they might appear. In truth, it’s not a big undertaking to change a tub faucet. The big undertakings I leave to professionals.

Back at home, I finished my project. It was straightforward without any frustrations, and I must say, it looks pretty good. Typically, when I finish a project like this, I would call Dad. “I just changed my tub spout,” I would tell him, and his first response was always the same.

“Did you?” he would respond with a hint of pride in his voice and then we would talk about what I had fixed and how the project had gone.

This time, I can’t call Dad to share my success. But I’m pretty sure he’s smiling with that same hint of pride up in Heaven. Because love… it doesn’t end. It only changes form

Skinny Pete

I was out for a walk with my son the other evening. Truth be told, it wasn’t just a leisurely walk; we were taking out the garbage, and in our neighborhood, “taking out the garbage” means walking it a quarter mile to the dumpster in our condo complex. In the summer, I prefer to walk the short distance rather than drive.

It was a beautiful night with a slight breeze, and even though it was just after 8:00, it was already quite dark. A couple walking their dog appeared out of the darkness like a grainy photograph in a pan of developer.

The dog was friendly and came over for a sniff and a greeting. I pet her quickly on my way by. “She always has to get her greeting,” her owner said from well within the shroud of the evening darkness.

“I have a cat like that,” I told them. “Perhaps you’ve met him. Black and white… very friendly? He’ll come right up to you and say hi,” I informed them.

“Oh, sounds like Skinny Pete!” they both said.

“Oh, you have met him! He has a bit of a reputation in the neighborhood. He’s cute and friendly, a bit of a pest, but he keeps the chipmunks at bay,” I informed them. “His name is Poto.”

“We call him Skinny Pete,” they returned. “We have a cat at home that looks just like him, but he’s fatter.” Interesting, I thought, that they would refer to my cat as skinny. “But now we know his name, at least.”

We exchanged a few more pleasantries before we ambled down the walkway to complete our dumpster run.

“The cat knows more of the neighbors than we do,” my son said, matter-of-factly.

“It’s kind of sad,” I replied. “When the cat has a more active and exciting social life than we do.”

(Not so) Random Ads

So… I’m on Facebook today, and a random ad for Home Depot pops up. Well, I’m not really going to say it was “random” because I was on the Home Depot website earlier today looking for a new umbrella for my deck. The wind apparently took mine the other day when I wasn’t home. [This time, I think I’ll get a base and some clamps….]

But this pop-up ad was a bit surprising. It was for a “Life Pod Shelter,” purportedly for protection from tornadoes. The one for which I had an ad was a “14-Person Underground Storm Shelter,” for the bargain price of $7865. A similar storm shelter that will hold four people is only $3809.

Now here’s the thing. I live in New England, which is not known tornado country, though tornadoes have been known to strike upon occasion and under the right circumstances (perhaps that’s what happened to my umbrella…). I have not been searching for any kind of storm shelter, fallout shelter, or even a garden shed. In fact, I live in a townhouse, so I couldn’t bury one in my backyard if I wanted to (which I don’t). So I’m wondering if anyone else has similar ads popping up on their social media sites. Since the political climate is glaringly volatile right now, perhaps Home Depot thought they would be proactive in promoting this product.

Not surprisingly, this product “isn’t currently sold in stores.” I imagine storing these pods in your average big box store could be quite a challenge. However, you can order one with standard shipping (curbside delivery at the bargain rate of $55…) and it will arrive at your house between September 5 and 11. I’m afraid that might be too late. It seems the danger may be more imminent than that, but if you start excavating your yard before it arrives….

If you are curious and want to check it out, go to Home Depot. It’s listed under “Storage & Organization.” No kidding.

{Image credit: FreeImages.com / Michael Kaufmann}

Positivity Post: Useless Gems from the Past

Recently, I have taken on the job of sorting through stuff. The stuff in question consists of items that were hidden in long forgotten boxes stashed in the attic of my childhood home—old family photographs, school papers, letters, greeting cards, books, newspaper clippings… you name it. Every now and then, in amongst the useless stuff, I encounter a rare—albeit worthless—gem, and sometimes, I feel the need to share it before I throw it out.

Being a woman of a certain (non-youthful) age, I was immediately intrigued when I came across a 1941 booklet entitled “The new way to a Youthful Figure.” I am most likely the exact target demographic of this publication, though two generations out. In fact, I have finally hit the point where I can put on a pound or two just looking at ice cream, which does not thrill me. So I opened the booklet to see what the 1941 trending logic was to maintain—or regain—a youthful figure.

What I discovered is that the dieting information of yesteryear is pretty much the same information as today. There is information on alkaline versus acid: “If you would feel at your best, be quick on the trigger, physically and mentally, you should let the alkaline-forming foods be slightly in excess of the acid-forming ones.”

There is a 3-day cleanse to begin. And we are assured, “By Monday morning your system will be thoroughly cleansed. You will be so hungry that the reducing menu will taste delicious.” Ah, now that’s the ticket to a successful diet—starve yourself first so you are happy to have anything edible! Your stomach will be happy, but your brain might be foggy.

In the back of the booklet, there are menus to help limit calories each day, and there is a lengthy list of 100-calorie portions. Pretty typical. “The reducing menus, pages 15-19, provide all the nourishment your body requires. Moreover, if carefully prepared, appetizingly served, they are not only satisfying but delicious. If you follow them carefully, with absolute honesty even for a few weeks, you may look in your mirror some morning and cry, ‘Eureka! I have a waistline! And behold this faint blush of rose in my cheeks! It’s amazing how fit and lively I feel!’” I don’t know about you, but the day I talk to myself in the mirror this way is the day I might need to be moved to a safe location.

Should you feel the need to read this booklet, I would be happy to scan it and send it to you. Heck, I’ll just send it to you, so you can have the original! And I will go back to sorting my stuff. I’ll be sure to share any more gems I find.

Meanwhile, I am caught between advising readers to sort through and dispose of their own clutter so that others won’t have to do it and advising readers to save a few completely useless items just to give future generations a laugh or two.