Thursday, January 29, 2015

Happy Birthday, Middle Child State

Our state bird, the Western Meadowlark, in a party hat.
Today is the birthday of one of my best beloveds. Kansas, the state where I was born and raised and now choose to live, is 154 years old today.

When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica oh, so many years ago, I often tried to explain where Kansas was. Because even though my home state is four times the size of that country, pretty much no one in the tiny Central American paradise had ever heard of it. They knew Nueva York, and Los Angeles (conveniently easy to pronounce in Spanish) but the reality of how very, very far it is between those two was inconceivable to the Ticos.

"Kansas is exactly in the center of the United States," I would try to explain. "If you drew a big X over the map, right there in the middle is Kansas."

Today it strikes me that while this description is a conveniently accessible way to locate the state, it's also way too facile. To locate the true state of Kansas it's more appropriate to consider birth order. Here, too, we are right in the middle. We are a middle child.

Kansas not only is geographically in the center of the United States, it was the 34th star on the United States flag, so just over halfway through the list of states admitted to the Union. It is not desert or swampland, so pretty much in the middle of climates. It does not usually top the list in education rankings (no big foam fingers to indicate that We're Number 20!), but it is is also nowhere the bottom of the list and if I may be so bold as to say so, we're graduating a way higher percentage of high school students at a way lower cost per pupil than number one Massachusetts.

So we're in the middle, but you know what? That's okay with a lot of us. As the middle child, we are the peacemakers. The Huffington Post article I linked above says middle children are "understanding, cooperative and flexible, yet competitive...concerned with fairness."

Oh, mercy, we are that. We understand that we are the butt of jokes (What's the difference between Kansas and yogurt? Yogurt has an active living culture.), and have grown to hate Dorothy and her misguided notion that not being in Kansas any more could ever be a good thing. We read What's the Matter With Kansas and despair that people who don't love Kansas are reading it as if it were truth but we still bless their hearts.

We want you non-Kansans to like us. We build excellent roads so that you can speed through from Kansas City to Denver and say "Well, THAT was unpleasant," even though you've just passed the wheat fields that feed you and the pastures where your next steak meal is fattening. Our state gives birth to people who invent basketball for you, and explore space for you, and concoct cooling drinks for you, not to mention winning World War II for you.

We want you to like us so we share (free of charge) our spectacular sunsets and sunrises, and offer our flat Midwestern non-accents (also free of charge) to news anchors across the nation. Heck, unlike states that are all hoity-toity about letting you climb to the highest point within their boundaries, Mount Sunflower is a (still free of charge) drive-through.

We know we are going through a phase right now that involves some wackadoodle politics, but we are hopeful and optimistic and have faith that all will be well. Ad aspera per aspera--those stars are still waiting right there on the other side of this difficulty.

At this point you may be saying, in a folksy Kansas way, "Now wait just a doggoned minute, MomQueen Bee. Dwight Eisenhower wasn't born in Kansas." To that I say that I KNOW Dwight Eisenhower wasn't born in Kansas. He was born in Texas, but he claimed Kansas as his home. He loved us for our humility and our stubbornness and our attitude that we will gladly take all the abuse you can heap on us, and still be proud to be Kansans.

He was the third of seven children, a middle child.

He was a proud Kansan, and so am I.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Weather Gods Must Be Crazy

You can tell that today's illustrative photo was not taken today. Firstly, I do not have on my hipster glasses. (And, rabbit trail here, does anyone else notice how weird old glasses look? I didn't mind going out in public in these glasses, even thought they were kind of spiffy, and now they look too-wide-too-skinny-too-bronze-too-everything.) But secondly, I have on my wool hat and winter coat and in Small Town America the forecast for today is 74 degrees.

Seventy. Four. Degrees.

I know, you folks in the upper right corner of the nation are either bracing for or already buried under Snowmageddon 2015. I saw the news reports last night that showed grocery shelves empty of bread and refrigerator cases holding not one drop of milk, and Husband's morning dose of the Weather Channel was filled with giddy forecasters standing outside in their LL Bean parkas.

Deep down inside those of us who live in Kansas are a little jealous.

This kind of extreme weather normally belongs to us. We are the hardy breed, not you Easterners. We whine and complain about the weather that is toooo hot, or toooo cold, but down deep we're proud of ourselves because we choose to live in this land of extremes.

So we let you choose the fashions we wear and the television shows we watch, we follow your lead in the getting or not getting of tattoos and piercings, we let you pick the newest food trends and we go organic and gluten-free because you have done that, although we follow all these trends about five years after you lean any specific direction.

We let you make all of these decisions because WE OWN THE WEATHER.

Yes, we do. Record-breaking heat? We hit triple digits way before you did. A cold snap that stops our water dead in its tracks? Yup, that sends you scurrying to the hardware store for insulating tape to wrap your pipes.

If the East Coast wants to see what its weather is going to be like in a week, it merely has to see what Merril Teller has for the Sunflower State today.

That's why getting dressed today was a little confusing. What do you wear in January when it's supposed to be 74 degrees? Sandals with tights?

The weather gods must be crazy, but that's okay. A little bit of crazy feels like sunshine, and this means now it's our turn to pick the next television trend.

I choose an Idris Elba channel.

Monday, January 26, 2015

My Horrible Life

My life is horrible.

We had a potluck dinner at church yesterday, so Saturday I tried out some new recipes I'd found on the internet. (I looked them up on my iPad, while sitting in a cozy chair drinking the most wonderful cappuccino that I made on the machine my terrific sons gave me for Christmas, but that's not the story I'm telling today. Fortunately the wireless internet was working perfectly in the House on the Corner.)

The Starbucks Lemon Loaf was a complete flop--do you see that crater in the middle of it?--and I didn't want my friends at church to think I'm a terrible cook so I set it aside and tried another recipe, this one for Peanut Butter Balls that claimed to taste just like Reese's cups. (Although I had all the other ingredients, I didn't have any graham crackers so I pulled out a box of Ritz crackers, which was a good thing because my pantry had gotten so full it was getting hard to get the door closed.)

I can't bring myself to throw away food I've spent time on unless it is actually poisonous--because starving children in Armenia--so I decided to bring the Starbucks Lemon Loaf to work today. (I balanced it on my briefcase to walk to the car and already had in my hand Pearl's automatic-unlocker-thingie, for which there is a word even though I don't remember what it is right now. I do love words.)

But there was frost on the windows! Frost! I had put down the briefcase and Starbucks Lemon Loaf to scrape windows even though temperatures are supposed to get up to 68 degrees today, in January. (I hate scraping car windows almost enough to consider walking to work, but my office is uphill from my house. Up. Hill. Am I going to risk my knee health by walking a full block uphill every day? I don't think so.)

When I got to work I put the Starbucks Lemon Loaf in the break room. (My working group has its own break room, but sheesh, we have to walk all the way down the hall to the restroom, which, thank heaven, has automatic-flush toilets because I really hate having to remember to flush.)

I'm sorry all the people who do not live in the First World have problems, too, but you have to agree.

My life is horrible.

But the Starbucks Lemon Bread actually was not so bad.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Drumroll, Please!

Oh, gosh! This is it! My first REAL giveaway, of something that actually has dimensionality. (I mean, I send you my love and best wishes every day, and while that may be tax-free, I'm the first to recognize that love and best wishes are not as exciting as the Grand Poo-Bah of DeStuffifying Prizes.)

But in order to add to the suspense, and since I don't take commercial breaks nearly as often as they do at the Academy Award presentations, I'll explain my methodology.

First I wrote down the names of everyone who joined in de-stuffying during 2014. I prove that with a picture of the in-progress name-writing-down:

Then I folded the names and put them into a fancy-schmancy piece of heirloom Fostoria (see top photo). At that point I called in a guest random name drawer, and it was this woman!

Sylvia! My friend from the Peace Corps whom I had not seen in THIRTY-FIVE YEARS until she spent the night in the House on the Corner last night. She still looks as if she could jump on her motorcycle and ride off to visit a school in the campo.

Being completely unbiased, Sylvia reached into the fancy-schmancy piece of heirloom Fostoria and pulled out the name of...

leafyNell!

Great choice, since leafyNell says "We moved out of our first house this year. We'd lived there 12 years and over those years we'd gained: my mom and her stuff, a first baby boy and all the little baby stuff that is somehow huge, and a second baby boy who added more stuff. Combined with the fact that both my mom and I are pack-rats, moving was a great de-stuffifier. Our goal was to start out in the new house with nothing to squirrel-away in the attic. Goal achieved!"

Good job, leafyNell!

Also, since I do not know leafyNell in real life, unlike most of the other entrants, no one can yell that I was prejudiced and picked her because I love her to pieces. I mean, I might love her to pieces but I haven't really met her yet. If it makes you feel any better, I have entered countless blog giveaways in the past and my success rate in being a randomly-chosen winner still stands at zero percent.

You're all winners in my book, and I send you my love and best wishes. I just won't send you the Grand Poo-Bah of Prizes. leafyNell, I'm sending that to YOU!

One final detail that is probably important: I put the wrong email address in my last post about the giveaway. Sheesh. If you entered this drawing and would like a consolation prize knitted dishcloth or are leafyNell and would like your Grand Poo-Bah Prize, email me at momqueenbee4@gmail.com. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Color Me Blue


My eyes roll to the back of my head when I read Facebook posts about internal family squabbles so I'm not proud of my own Facebook post from Saturday morning.

Husband and I are discussing paint colors. Shoot me now.

I know! Airing dirty laundry, TMI, personal business should stay personal--normally I agree. Does it help to explain that the biggest fight Husband and I have had in 31 years of married mostly-bliss was over the color of the living room?

We are compatible in so, so many ways but when it comes to paints, we are products of our upbringing. He is a preacher's kid who grew up in parsonages where walls came in two colors--white and eggshell. I'm the daughter of an mother who gathered leaves from oak trees in the back yard to stencil them onto the corner of the living room, which she had just painted terracotta red. He's the son of parents who collaborated and discussed every decision, from menu to sermon topic. I'm the daughter of a man who could look around and say "Have you done something different in here?"--a year after something different was done.

My idea of decorating is "Hey, honey! Look at this great color I've picked for the living room! It's celadon, and it's gorgeous!" and he thinks celadon is both too dark and too bright and a decision that should not have been made in a vacuum. We're both right, is what I'm saying, but aaaaaaarghhhhh.

So even though we're both right, my blood pressure started to rise when I even thought about picking out colors for Boy#2's formerly bear-papered room. It's being transformed into Husband's home office so he will be the one spending the most time here, even though it also will have a futon for Boys on holiday visits.

Saturday morning I pulled out the chips I'd pinned to my Pinterest page and started doing my best optometrist impression.

"Do you like this one or this one better? A or B? Do you really like B better or is it just that it's exactly the combination we have in the sun room? Okay, B or C? C or D? B or D?"

Of the nine swatches I had chosen, he was able to rule out five. And he added one, which was yellow and on which I used my peremptory challenge because I'm planning to re-do the kitchen in that shade.

Then we headed to Lowe's, picked out an area rug we liked, and realized that one of the finalists was perfect with that rug. Done.

We survived to paint another day, but in my heart of hearts I agreed with the friend who replied to the Saturday morning post.

"If Husband is part of that discussion," Rebecca wrote, "you're going about it all wrong." 

Is it too late to put the bears and tractors back?


Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Orts and a Blurb

This Friday's edition of orts and blurbs begins with the final picture I will download from my camera inflict on you  present for your delight from the 2014-15 end-of-year holidays.

Boy#3 would have been the New Year's Baby in Small Town if he had been born in Small Town instead of in Fairly Large City an hour away. But because fairly large cities are filled with people (go figure) someone else delivered on the first day of the year and Three was born the next day. There is no consolation prize for being the second baby of the New Year.

Nevertheless, at the time I thought being born in the first week of a new decade was pretty cool, especially since he was so considerate and chose to arrive two weeks early for the comfort of his mother. What I didn't know was that having a January 2 birthday pretty much dooms you to the worst birthday parties ever, year after year after year.

By January 2, everyone is sick of celebrating. We've been through the Best Day of the Year, and the pre-Christmas office parties, and Christmas itself, and the post-Christmas family get-togethers, and New Year's Eve, and the holiday bowl games. By January 2, we are one day overdue for getting on with the diets and new resolutions. This has led to a lot of birthday-rolled-into-Christmas celebrations. The worst year was the year my mother's funeral was held on (you guessed it) Three's birthday.

This year, though, the stars aligned for Three to be home on his birthday. He requested biscuits and gravy as his special meal (Yay! Do-able!) and a carrot cake baked in layers (Yay! Also do-able!).

Happy birthday, Boy#3. I love you more than any other 25-year-old on the planet.

*****
If anyone has added Last Tango in Halifax to a Netflix queue based on my two stubby thumbs upped in last week's blurb, I need to add a disclaimer based on additional binge watching.

I've now finished both seasons of the series that are available to stream, and while I still love the show, be aware that several times I found myself thinking "Well, huh. That certainly turned dark quickly." Also, I wanted to reach through the screen and let certain characters know that much as I loved them, they were making TERRIBLE decisions.

So if you are watching LTiH and wondering what I was thinking when I recommended it so highly, I was thinking that I cannot resist a Scottish accent and that I want to talk just like Celia.

*****
The blurb this week comes from a YouTube discovery that makes me wonder why I've wasted so much time saying the word "yes."
Over the course of my life I've spent HOURS saying the word that I could have put to better use knitting. Or sleeping. Or wondering why George Clooney's wife wore my mother's prom gloves to the Golden Globes awards.

I wonder if you can do this with a Scottish accent.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I'm the Worst Oprah!

Much Older Sister posted a link to a New Yorker essay this week, and I've been giggling about it ever since. With the usual disclaimers about my non-approval of salty language, I will say that I wish I had invented the phrase "I'm the rollout of healthcare.gov."

Because I am. I'm the worst.

On Monday, which is now three days ago, I promised that if you came back on Tuesday, which is now two days ago, I would have something SPECIAL for you. EXTRA SPECIAL, in fact. And then I disappeared into work in the day and meetings at night and life in general and didn't return.

But today, I'm finally back and I have (drumroll, please) a GIVEAWAY!

I know! Just like Oprah!

At the beginning of 2014 when I began the year of destuffifying, I promised that anyone who joined me in this well-intentioned effort would get something out of it in the end, even if she/he didn't meet the actual goal he/she set. Today is the pay-off for those good intentions.

If you destuffified in 2014, as I did, you get prize. And that's even if you did not meet your set goal, as I did not. Did you get something out of your living space that makes you feel a little freer and a little proud of yourself that one tiny spot of your life is de-stuffed? You get a prize.

And for one person who de-stuffified, your prize will be the Grand PooBah of DeStuffifying Prizes. You will pick something out of my already-knitted projects (see above), or choose something for me to knit, and I will send that something to you. It could be something large, such as this shawl being modeled by my office chair:
"In soft ombre shades of peach and green, this shawl is shot with subtle glitters of gold, the perfect accompaniment to a simple black dress on a cool fall evening." (My description. Please read it in a sultry voice.)

Or it could be something smaller, such as a hat (seen above), a pair of socks (also seen above), or some warm reading mitts (seen above). I will also negotiate requests for the custom-made Grand PooBah prize, so you could choose something extra-special:
A five-hour baby sweater! Or a baby hat, or something else baby-appropriate.

Or reading mitts in a custom color! Or owl mittens! 

Or a dog! (Skeptical Boy#1 not included.)

Just comment on this post, or on my Facebook page, that you destuffified in 2014, and let me know how it went. That enters you for the drawing to receive the Grand PooBah of DeStuffifying Prize. I will write all your names on Post-It notes and stick them to the wall and the first one that falls down wins. Or maybe I'll ask Husband to draw the name out of a hat, or something. It will be a random Grand PooBah selection, is what I'm saying, so your success or non-success in destuffifying is not critical to this prize distribution. 

And even if you are not the Grand PooBah Prize winner, I'll send you a consolation prize because you are well-intentioned, just as I am.

It's just like Oprah! You get a prize! And you get a prize! And you get a prize! Okay, it's a knitted dishcloth. There. A dishcloth you probably don't even need, and you'll have to send me your home address at momqueenbee@gmail.com to claim. But still! A prize!

Yeah, the worst Oprah ever. I really am the rollout of healthcare.gov.