Category Archives: Reflections

Naming Cats Leads to All Sorts of Things

What happens when you name a cat? And once you make it official — on the vet’s office paperwork — do you continue to use that name?

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This guy here sauntered into our lives about four years ago from parts unknown, making himself at home on our front porch and insisting that everyone who came through the door stop to pet him on our way in or out. We really couldn’t take in another pet. We already had two cats, a rat and a hedgehog. So sorry, bud. No room at this inn.

Yeah, right.

Before long, my husband was bringing food outside for our new squatter. Then of course, there was a storm and we felt bad for that stray, so we let him in just this once. Next thing we’re getting him de-wormed and vaccinated. Then the spouse started calling the cat by a name — Puff Daddy, because of the way the fur on his face puffs out to the sides sometimes. It was all over with after that. Naming him made him one of the family.

Now the orange goof sleeps on our bed, and we call him all sorts of variations on Puff Daddy, but seldom use his official moniker. Puffies. Puffaroo. Puffaroo Bonzai. Puffington Host. Sir Puffington of Orange. Puffburger. Goofball. Galoot. It doesn’t matter what name we use, he knows when we’re talking about him and always responds the same way. He headbutts one of us until we pet him.

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The Two-Job Tradition Lives On

Is it a sign of the economic times or family history or family background or family tradition? For several years when our kids were young, I was mostly raising them while working very limited part-time hours. Meanwhile my husband worked one full-time job and a part-time side gig doing database development.

His side gig eventually went away, but then I picked up more hours at work. Now that our kids are grown and one of them flown, I’ve picked up a second job for a few hours a week to try to fulfill some long-time needs and goals of ours.

And following in our footsteps, the newly launched 23-year-old has graduated from one job to two. The retail job they’ve working was offering 20-30 hours per week. But starting this week, my “kid” is at a full-time office job, while keeping one shift a week at the retail place. This is the same person I had to drag out of bed to get to school back in the teen years. The same one who couldn’t manage to bring a dirty dish downstairs from the bedroom while living with us, but is now the designated dishwasher in their own household.

Funny how that happens for so many of us.

 

 

Random Advice to My Firstborn Upon Their Second Leaving

My firstborn has left the nest for the second time, moving 230 miles away. This attempt looks like it might be more permanent than the first try. This time, there’s a job lined up, a lease signed, a car owned, and roommates who seem less sketchy than the previous group.

The two of us drove up last week with two loaded vehicles. And I returned alone with an empty minivan, after having carried  many boxes, surreptitiously recorded the license plate numbers of the roommates, and inspected the rental house, declaring the basement suitable for tornado sheltering.

The last couple of weeks before departure, I fretted over whether I had given all of the advice I needed to for navigating adult life. I became prone to randomly blurting out directives as they popped into my mind:

Oil changes every 5,000 miles.

Late fees are expensive. Pay your bills on time.

Don’t bank with Wells Fargo!

Calculate the price of toilet paper by the square foot and not by the roll.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. And don’t buy romaine lettuce until they give the all clear.

If you see Pyrex anything at a garage sale, snap it up.

Voting is a super power. Make sure you use it for good.

I’m sure more will occur to me as time goes by. But ultimately, I’m sure my kid will figure life out by living it, as the rest of us do. Then, too, we’re still on the same family phone plan and can make liberal use of messaging apps.

Gotta go. I need to fire off a text about duct tape before I forget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Slice of Life, or Two

It’s my lunch break and I’m at a grocery store down the street from my workplace. I often walk here because they sell pizza by the slice. I’m sitting in the dining area, chowing down and reading a book I brought along, when I hear someone say my name. I look up and see an old friend I haven’t talked to in months.

She totes her bag of groceries over to my table and joins me for a brief visit. “I really like their pizza here, too,” she says, gesturing to the what’s left of mine. “And their slices are so big, I can make two meals from it. I eat half here and then take the other half home for dinner.”

I force a nervous chuckle, hoping it sounds like an “of course” kind of laugh. I’m suddenly glad she didn’t show up earlier, suddenly glad I already finished off every last crumb of evidence that there was another slice of pizza before this one. As far as my friend knows, the half-piece in front of me is from my first (only) slice.

We chit chat for a few minutes as I self-consciously nibble at my food. I leave a little of the crust. Maybe leaving three crust bites will mark me as a not-glutton.

I tend to be very enthusiastic about eating. I was raised by parents who grew up during the Great Depression. While they had more money than their parents did, that wasn’t saying a whole lot. We still experienced tight times as a family, with six kids to feed. “Yay, food!” was the attitude in our household. Food was not something to be wasted, or worse — disdained.

Once I left home and lived in a college dorm, with people from different economic classes, I discovered the phenomenon of the woman who pretends she doesn’t like to eat. It boggled my mind that some folks, women especially, thought they had to maintain an image of being able to exist on air. It was also the first time I noticed myself being judged for liking my food too much. I learned to keep my enthusiasm for tasty calories under wraps a little.

My friend at the store is one of the least judgy people I know. She probably really does feel full after half a slice of pizza. Different metabolisms, etc. I’m 99% certain she’s speaking strictly about herself and not judging my eating habits. I don’t think she’d think less of me if I ate that last little bit of crust.

Still, I wonder about the possibility of discreetly wrapping it in a napkin and stashing it in my purse for later. Can I do it without her noticing? Probably not, and it’s a stupid idea anyway. With a wistful glance, I toss the remnants into the trash. I’m not even sure why I think I have to do so instead of eating every bit, like I want to. I only know I’m destined to overthink it for the next week or two, until I perplex myself with some other, different behavior and let that edge out my pizza crust ruminations.

The Mislaid Plans of Wives and Men

Last summer the hubs and I took a field trip to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (aka Paradise) in Mansfield, Missouri. It was a fun day. There’s a whole little village built around the store, with much more for sale than just seeds. But seeds were our target acquisition, and we spent a good hour browsing the hundreds of varieties of just about everything that will grow in Missouri, before making our selections of…I don’t really remember.

Seed store

I do remember we both were excited to the point of giddiness about the prospects for what we could do in the yard the next spring. In my mind, 2018 unspooled ahead of me with a level of organization I’d never before achieved. Seeds started indoors in February. In the ground in April. I did a lot of reading about optimal conditions for indoor seedlings and mentally bolstered my self-image as a budding urban homesteader.

What really happened was  – well, a lot. Much has happened between our seed purchases and now. I got a second job. This is good. We needed the income stream. But it takes time. And my son started experiencing some medical problems that have turned doctor’s appointments into a time-consuming mother-son hobby. And winter has just gone on and on and on. And…all those excuses aside, my husband and I both forgot where we put the seeds!

We’ve looked in the usual places, and then some unusual places. We haven’t been able to find them. Now I can’t even remember what I bought. I’m pretty sure the spouse went for heirloom tomatoes and possibly some varieties of sunflowers. Me? I can’t say. Basil? Another herb? Maybe? Some kind of flower, I think — possibly nasturtium. I like nasturtiums. It’s likely I’d decide to grow those.

But not this year, apparently. I guess, if we ever get past the danger of frost and I ever find the time, I’ll go buy a few things from a nursery to stick in the ground. And the seeds will eventually turn up, right? And then it will be a delightful surprise. And I’ll be able once again to ignore the stark divide between the self-sufficient homesteader I want to think I can be and the real, disorganized, there-would-be-world-famine-if-everyone-gardened-like-I-do person I am.

I have an acquaintance who really is an accomplished homesteader. She cans. She makes her own soap. She raises her own sheep, shears them herself, spins the wool, and then knits it into blankets and clothing. Me? I buy seeds and mislay them.

To comfort myself, I try to remember the things I actually do well. Um… I excel at word games. And I can alphabetize like nobody’s business. If you ever need things put in alphabetical order, I’m your person. And if you need someone to daydream about gardening, I’m also your person.

 

 

Favorite Children’s Books, or My Family’s Holy Texts

Recently, my kids and I found ourselves in a waiting situation without much to do. Uncharacteristically, we didn’t even have books with us. To pass the time, I used my phone to look up some conversation starter questions online.

One question carried us for several minutes. What’s your favorite book from childhood. I have never felt more success as a mother than when they both assured me I knew the answers without asking. And I did!

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My Son Emerges From His Room

My 19-year-old son, who is living at home while taking college classes, has started coming out of his room when he’s home. And he talks to me. I mean, he initiates conversations. It feels like a bridge crossed. Or a bridge rebuilt. Or something about bridges.

In the year before he graduated from high school and for the year or so since he moved back home, he kept mostly to his room when he was in the house. He’d come downstairs if I used my phone to message him that I’d cooked some food, or to briefly take care of whatever household chores he was assigned for the day. Otherwise, I had to make an effort to make sure I saw and talked to him each day.

He tended to leave his door open, at least, so it was easy to pop in and say hi. The conversations generally went something like this:

Me: “How’s it going?”

Him: “OK.”

Me: “Keeping up with your schoolwork all right?”

Him: “Yep.”

Me: “Well, see ya.”

But lately, he’s been bringing his laptop downstairs into the living room or dining room to do his work. He comes and sits next to me on the couch and starts conversations. Granted, he somehow manages to do this just at the moment I’ve decided I’m exhausted and need to go to bed. But I’m so glad he wants to talk, I stay up anyway.

My son is having some struggles at the moment, with health issues and with decisions about the future. The amazing part is when he says he wants my advice. We sit and talk about his life, his concerns, sometimes deep, philosophical issues, and other times more light-hearted topics.

The other day he even gave me a compliment, one that touched me at the very center of my thrifty core. I had shared my excitement about the deal I got on crackers at the grocery store. “If you bought a single box, they were $2.50 each, but if you got five, only $1 per!” At our house, we go through crackers like mobile apps go through updates, so five boxes is not overkill.

My son, rather than rolling his eyes, said, “I have a feeling that if anyone else were managing the money in this house, our standard of living would be lower.” He acknowledges and appreciates my accomplishments as a penny pincher! What more could a mother ask?

Shout out to parents who have a teenaged son shut away in his room right now. Some day he will emerge, and you will get re-acquainted.