Wednesday, February 25, 2015

An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg

Dear Mark,

You don't mind if I call you Mark, do you? I think of us as, well, FRIENDS even though it appears you sometimes can be kind of a jerk. I know that you either invented Facebook or at least are making all the money in the world from it, but I have spent enough time with your baby that I would like to make a few suggestions for you. (I do the same thing with the parents of any babies I'm around--I have Thoughts and Suggestions.)

Here are the things I do not want to see on Facebook:

  • Quizzes that reveal my friends' spirit animals, or the color they really are, or the name they should have been born with, or the president they would have been, or the '50s song they most resemble. 
  • Or any quizzes. Gaaaaaaaag.
  • The miracle products being sold by any of my friends. I do not want to buy their miracle products. Life is a miracle! Anything more is too many miracles!
  • Pictures of food. Food that is ordered at restaurants, food that is cooked at home, any food. Except for cute cupcakes. Bring on the pictures of cute cupcakes.
  • More than five messages per week from friends who are "feeling really cranky today," because at that point this status has become the rule rather than the exception and status updates should be deviations from the norm. 
  • Status updates about the idiocy of Kansas politics and politicians, because see previous point.

Here are the things I want to see more of on Facebook:
  • More videos of my son wearing purple celebration pants and playing the accordion, and of my son (a different one) wearing a panda hat or a Krispy Kreme paper hat.
  • Heck, more pictures of any kind of my sons (and Lovely Girl). And of my siblings and their families. And my friends and their families, especially if the friends are waving pompoms. 
  • The jokes posted by my next door neighbor, which are so terrible that they make me laugh all day.
Everything else seems to be in about the right proportions--enough to make me appreciate the glimpse into my friends' lives, but not so much as to make me want to gouge out my eyes. Except for the quizzes. The quizzes threaten my vision. 

This isn't too much to ask, is it, Mark? I mean, you seem to be able to change Facebook randomly every couple of weeks so that I have to rejigger my approach to it, and it would be a nice gesture to change it to my specifications. 

Thank you, and thank you for being my friend!


Tuesday, February 24, 2015


When he left for the office Saturday morning (tax season) Husband offered to bring pizza home for supper.

"I'm guessing you won't be able to lift your arms so I don't want you to have to cook," he told me.

My husband knows me too well. He knew that I was going to be painting that day, and that even though painting is not quite as tiring as being a baby, having a meal with me was quite likely to be very much like having a meal with Max.

I'd already stripped off the darling bears-and-tractors wallpaper a few weeks ago, and the professionals had finished replacing the original-issue windows and outside door with new energy-efficient models. (Don't believe they needed to be replaced? The door out to the balcony had a tendency to self-open when the wind was from the north--check out the fancy way we kept it closed. We are klassy.)
Yup. A stack of CDs wedged into the crack.
Over the past few weeks I've scrubbed the wallpaper paste scum off the walls (vinegar and hot water, applied with a sponge and rinsed with clear water), spackled the dents where pick-up football games had gone awry (I know! I'm practically Bob Vila), and prime-coated over the little blue dots where Boy #2's Plasti-Tak had kept hundreds of pictures affixed to the ceiling. 

The room was ready to paint in the gorgeous color Husband chose, and I approved. 

Unfortunately, you are not going to see that color in this post because Husband was absolutely right about my stamina or lack thereof: At the end of the day my arms were not only too tired for supper preparation, they were too tired to hold the camera and take a picture. 

Soon, people, soon. We'll be moving furniture in and negotiating whether to keep the art deco armoire I found at a garage sale and whether the futon should be positioned kitty-cornered or against the wall. At that point, I'll take another picture and you can see if I should have just kept the wallpaper and CDs. 

In the meantime, the pizza was delicious, even if I couldn't lift it to my mouth.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Orts and a Blurb

This week's blurbs open with a fancy photo collage made of fancy photos snapped this morning at (guess what time?) 7:04. It is the latest sign that the Apocalypse is near--even though I don't have documentation of the big clock on the west wall, every one of the four clocks in the kitchen showed exactly the same time, and that time was correct according to iPhone Central Standard  Time. 

People, this is HUGE. 

An observant reader (Hi, C.!) noticed in the blog illustration yesterday that apparently the House on the Corner was listed at an astonishingly economical $1,969. While I'd like to take credit for being the thriftiest of thrifty house shoppers, let me explain it to you, C.: That was the 1927 assemble-it-yourself price, and we paid significantly more than that when we purchased  it (assembled) in 1987. 


Boys, you will want to not read this, but my friends who have had The Talk with their children will find Momastery's recounting of that experience hysterical. She titles it "Sex Is Tricky" and I started laughing when I saw the illustration. 

The blurb of the day is for knitters who (much like myself) have spent themselves nearly into bankruptcy buying thingamajigs and gizmos to enable their obsession sanity-preserving hobby. It's a good thing our house only cost $1,969 because I am a complete pushover when it comes to stitch holders, row markers, counters, and other knitting aids. And if you buy the accessories especially made for knitters, they aren't cheap. 

However, perhaps the best investment I ever made in pursuit of this sport were these hair clips.
Thanks for the photo, WalMart
I use them for everything. I mark rows, "pin" seams when I'm setting in sleeves, clamp them around a set of double-pointed needles when I'm alternating sizes, clamp loose yarn to keep it from unraveling--they are the wonder drug of knitting accessories. They don't catch on the yarn (hey, they're made for hair) and come in three colors.

Best of all, they're $3.98 for a package of 30 at WalMart so if you break or lose one, no big deal. 

I love my local yarn shop and try to buy everything I can there, but this is one case that I don't regret making the exception to my shopping local habits. 

Knitters, you're welcome.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Not Where We Expected to Live (a very long post)

This is our house
When Husband and I started dating he lived in a tiny little starter house he had bought when he first moved to the Big City.  We both loved old houses, though, so we spent most of our weekends looking at real estate, haunting open houses and deciphering cryptic ads.

In fact, the weekend I met his parents for the first time we spent an afternoon driving around, checking out For Sale signs and speculating on whether that chimney was attached to a working fireplace. His parents were in the back seat, holding hands because they could not have been cuter, and Husband-to-be was driving.

"The thing you have to remember," his mother said idly, "is that the most important part about choosing a house is making sure there are good schools in the neighborhood."

Did I mention that we weren't engaged yet? As I watched Future Husband's knuckles tighten around the steering wheel and the color go out of his face, I wasn't sure we ever would be, but less than a year later we were actually married and I moved from my apartment to his house and we began house-hunting in earnest.

We knew exactly what we wanted: Something old, big (at least three bedrooms), two stories, big kitchen, plenty of character, with a basement (because we live in Kansas).

Soon we found it! Yay! The perfect house, at a price we could afford, in a neighborhood we liked. We knew we couldn't afford two house payments, so we prudently did not put an offer on the perfect house, but a realtor's For Sale sign went up in the yard of the tiny little starter house.

This is where the needle screeches across the record. Our perfect march toward domestic bliss derailed when the tiny little starter house refused to be sold. It was in what's euphemistically called a "changing neighborhood," and none of the upgrades and cosmetic improvements Husband had made were worth a plugged nickel compared to the obviously deteriorating financial condition of homeowners a couple blocks away. Buyers ooohed and aaaahed about the new shower and the interesting wall treatment in the living room, then invariably bought a different house in the suburbs.

The perfect house sold to someone else, so we found another perfect house, which also sold. By then Boy#1 was on the way, and we had had only one offer--an offer that would have required us to leave the appliances, then write out a hefty check to the buyers for taking our sweet house off our hands.

We prayed for a buyer, and we lowered the price several times, and I cried, and still we were stuck in the tiny little house.

Then Boy#1 was born, and out of nowhere Husband got a call from the president of the college where he had graduated. They needed someone to teach an evening accounting class--would he be interested? The college was only an hour away and he'd always wanted to try teaching, so he agreed.

He was a good teacher, and when the president learned that the full-time professor was leaving he asked Husband to apply for the position. It was a perfect opportunity to fulfill his dream of teaching, and my dream of raising a family in a small town. And there, right across the street from the college, was our dream house. It was old (a 1927 Sears kit house), big (five bedrooms), two stories, big kitchen, plenty of character, with a basement.

There was only one problem--we STILL hadn't sold the tiny little house. But the time had come for a Joshua 3 moment. We closed our eyes, stepped into the water, and made an offer on this perfect house. A few weeks later, on the exact day we took possession of the House on the Corner, our Big City realtor called. She had a buyer for the tiny little house, but that buyer didn't want to wait to move in. He wanted possession of the house within a few days, and would pay rent until the closing could be completed. And so it came to be.

Twenty-three months. The tiny little house took 23 excruciating months to sell, but if it had sold any sooner we would have bought a perfect house in Big City, and would not have moved to Small Town, and would never have lived in the House on the Corner, and our lives would have been so much poorer.

I tell this (interminable) story because I have dearly beloveds in my life who are finding and losing perfect houses. To those loved ones I say, keep the faith. In spite of its eccentricities (and sometimes because of them) I have loved the House on the Corner beyond what is reasonable. I have loved its cockamamie layout with four doors in the living room that befuddle the arranging of furniture. I have loved the creaky wood floors that make sneaking around impossible. I have loved the memories that hide in the corners with the dust bunnies and swirl around my knees when I walk through a room.

It's not where we expected to live, but it's been our perfect house. Dearly beloveds, your perfect house is out there, too.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

This Is I

I am working on a big project right now, a project that may kill me because (a) I do not have the autonomy I normally have in working on similar projects, and (b) while I'm usually near the top of the grammar-centric food chain on this type of project now there are many, many larger grammar-fish circling the water above me and each of those fish has an opinion that differs from mine, and (c) I signed a confidentiality agreement about the project so I can't even gripe about it. (At least not here; Husband may have heard a discouraging word or two.)

To take my mind off the project, I have now watched this YouTube video three times, because those dogs? I've never related more strongly to creatures on the internet. I cannot catch anything thrown at me. Not with my bare hand, not with a baseball mitt, not with my mouth (assuming the thrown object is edible).

Oh, I have plenty of want-to. If someone throws a baseball to me I watch it into my hand, right up until the point when it's a foot from my hand and I close my eyes so it won't hit my face, and then it's hitting my knuckles and bouncing away. Or I stubbornly keep my eyes open and stare at the ball as my catching hand flaps aimlessly out to the side.

These dogs are my spirit animals. And I almost said "They are me," but because this large project has fried my brain and crushed my spirit, I can't even be folksy enough to write that warm but incorrect phrase.

Someone, please. Put me out of my misery. Throw me a baseball.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday Orts and a Blurb

Ooooh! I had completely forgotten tomorrow was Valentine's Day, what with Husband and I being such total romantics ALL the time that we don't even need a special day of the year in which to confine our sentimentality. But then this arrived at my desk! Woooo! A Valentine for me.

Or, not for me. Turns out that the name under the impeccably-applied heart shapes in the picture above? Not mine. Because I am an honest and forthright person, I delivered it to the correct recipient, whose desk is right down the hall. "A Friend" should be grateful that I am indeed honest and forthright because I was sorely tempted to lick the frosting before I set it on the correct desk.

(NO! I didn't. What kind of a person do you think I am?)

Speaking of holidays, is February the weirdest month for holidays or what? Yesterday Boy#1 and Lovely Girl got the day off because they live in Missouri, where Abraham Lincoln apparently is esteemed more highly than he is in Kansas. As I was pfffft-ing this lack of work ethic in our neighbor state, One suggested mothers should be able to take the day off in honor of their children's birthdays, in which case it was time for me to pack up my laptop and go home.

That is a suggestion I could totally get behind, one that would give me two more days to spend in my default position.

Okay, I know I watch way too much television, and consequently you-all get way too many recommendations for things you absolutely positively have to get on your DVR queue, but if you are not watching the Great British Baking Show, you are missing a chance to have your cold, hard heart expand sixteen sizes.

You know how most reality shows are equal parts skullduggery and brazen ambition? And how you pretty much hate most of the contestants before a "winner" is crowned? This is the antidote.

I stumbled on to the show while I was waiting for Downton Abbey on Sunday night, and I am beginning to believe I could live without all my television channels except PBS. This baking show is so...jolly, is the only word I can use to describe it, that it makes me smile all over. The judges are the wonderfully-named Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry and the hosts are hilarious and put meat pies in their pockets.

But my favorite part is that the contestants are just so...nice. Last week Martha (who's only 17) had a terrible time with her eclairs. They were disastrous, and even though the judges were kind, they were also clear that they were decidedly not good eclairs. Martha walked away biting her lip and trying to keep from crying. One of the other contestants, a middle-aged man named Norman, called out to her quietly and patted the bottom of his chin--"Keep yer chin up," he whispered.

People, I CRIED.

You can watch the latest four episodes online (here). Then you'll want to have a cup of tea.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Happy Birthday, Boy#2

Twenty-seven years ago at this very moment I was in the hospital remembering why my birthing plan would always and forever include an epidural. Today Boy#2 is half a nation away, and his loser parents haven't even sent him so much as a card to celebrate his birthday.

But Boy#2, we could not love you more. You are a delight in every way, from your beautiful eyes to your terrible jokes. (I understood the one you sent yesterday, it was just not as hilarious as you thought it was. "Two fish are in a tank when one turns to the other and says, 'Hey! Who's driving this thing?'" Really? That doesn't hold a candle to your previous best, which was "What does one snowman say to another? 'Do you smell carrots?'" Now that is a joke.) We love that your brothers prefer your advice to ours. We love that you are smart and hardworking and level-headed. Oh, and did I mention funny?

I hope you are wearing a straw cornucopia on your head all day long to celebrate.