Monday, June 30, 2008


I do not cook supper on Sundays.

I know. I'm a shoe-in for Mother of the Year.

My mother didn't cook supper on Sundays. We always had a huge lunch at noon, then we went to my great grandma's house and ate pie and cookies. We kids would drink ice water out of tin cups that became so cold our teeth would hurt. It was great.

And as we were eating our pie and cookies, my mom would say "This is supper kids" And she meant it. Sometimes she'd whip up a batch of pancakes or we'd eat a big bowl of popcorn, but most of the time, when we were old enough, we fended for ourselves on Sunday evenings.

My mother did it that way because her mother did it that way.

That's why I don't cook supper on Sunday.

Because I feel very strongly about continuing such a lovely family tradition.

But, ok, to be completely honest, there are many week nights I don't cook supper, especially in the summer. But it's totally not my fault, because our kids never seem to be around at the same time to eat supper. One has eaten a cheeseburger at the pool at 3:30. One picked up McDonald's after fishing with Cody. One grabbed Chinese at the mall, while one ate an entire box of oatmeal cream pies and couldn't possibly eat another bite (Lord help me) One is running off to a softball game, while one is going to wrestling practice. See? I can't get my family to be in one place at one time, so supper is very difficult right now. Sometimes I put a pot of taco meat on the stove and leave out the makings of taco salad so everyone can eat when they get the chance. Or I might cook a roast and slice it for barbecue sandwiches. Stuff like that. Cooking supper through the week with active teenagers is kind of hard; but I at least pretend to feel bad about it when I don't get it done.

But I absolutely do NOT feel guilty about my NO COOKING ON SUNDAY rule.

Because it's a family tradition.

So yesterday when both kids were gone - Kayla at a youth function for area churches and Blake at wrestling camp - I sat at the bar and ate a bowl of my new favorite cereal - Cranberry Almond Crunch - for supper.

Because when the kids are gone, we like to take advantage of the alone time and keep the flame of romance burning - shake things up a bit.

So I was enjoying my cereal with a glass of skim milk while Paul read the Sunday paper.

And thank goodness I looked in my bowl between bites because otherwise I might have actually eaten that little black furry spider that was sitting amongst the cranberries in my cereal bowl.


There was a spider in my cereal.

And I DO NOT like spiders. Especially in my food. I am an arachnophobe (that is, if arachnophobia means "the fear of spiders." I think it does.)

I jumped up and allowed little bits of food to fall out of my mouth as I said in a breathless, nearly silent scream...

theresaspiderinmycereal!! theresaspiderinmycereal!! theresaspiderinmycereal!!

And I stood there staring at the bowl - um...well....doing Kegels so I wouldn't wet my pants, while at the same time breathing deeply so I wouldn't vomit.

I know.

How coordinated am I?

The thing is I had opened a brand new box to fill the bowl. So I immediately took the nearly full box and threw it in the garbage can. I don't think it had come out of the box, because I had seen a few spiders in the house over the past month or so...(note to self: SPRAY FOR SPIDERS) but I didn't want to take any chances.

*By the way, my head is really itching as I type this post*

And then my husband went straight to the garbage can and pulled the box right back out!!

Are you kidding me?

Because he absolutely hates it when I throw stuff away.

And he said "I'm not. I'm checking to see if there are more spiders in it." And he was incredibly calm. What's with that?

"OK," I said. "But DO. NOT. EVEN. THINK. OF PUTTING. THAT. BOX. BACK. IN. THE. PANTRY." You know? Because perhaps he hadn't noticed that I was about to vomit and wet my pants at the same time; and perhaps he wasn't grasping the gravity of the situation.

Then he took me to Starbucks and bought me a cafe latte.

And now I am sad, because I don't know if I'll ever be able to eat my beloved Cranberry Almond Crunch again. I mean, could you? You know, if you found a furry black spider in your bowl? Oh how I loved my Cranberry Almond Crunch. But not with spiders.

I guess it could have been could have been half a spider.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


As with most couples who have been married 21 years, or more, Paul and I have been through a lot together. We've made it through things that are known to tax a marriage. We are not without battle scars; but we've come through.

We have built two houses together and loved every bit of it, having had no major disagreements nor threats of divorce throughout the process each time. In fact, if not for having to sell the existing house, and actually having to MOVE, we'd build again, and again, and again. Well there's also the money thing....

We have managed career changes, a job loss, business travel, business travel, and more business travel; and somehow managed to still LIKE each other.

We have helped each other carry the baggage of childhood sadness and emotional trauma that was brought into our marriage.

We have wall papered rooms together and managed to come out without slitting each others' wrists with that blade you use to press out the bubbles.

We have suffered the heartbreak of two miscarriages.

But also experienced the magic of childbirth - times two.

Between us we have buried 6 grandparents and one father.

We have seen our children make poor choices, watched the consequences come tumbling down around us and somehow found a way to pick up the pieces, continue to show love and mercy and JUST. KEEP. GOING.

We have entered the"Sandwich" phase of life, where our parents and children seem to need us almost equally.

We have worried about money, fretted over report cards, dealt with health issues, lain awake watching the clock to make sure somebody doesn't break curfew; and asked countless times "Are we doing this right...?"

We have laughed together. A lot.

We have watched our children be disappointed, and held each other back from rescuing them when it is simply best to let them swim out of the sea of sadness on their own power.

We've been through a lot, as have most couples. And we are blessed that somehow we seem to have found a way to make it all work.


We cannot shop at Sam's Club together.

No, Really. We can't.

But we do. Go to Sam's Club together that is. Mainly because I like him to come and lift the heavy beverage cases onto the cart ever since I had my excruciating shoulder injury a year ago. Sometimes Blake will go but usually I drag Paul along.

Because I love to do romantic things like that with my husband

And he doesn't like it. Because he doesn't like to go anyplace that requires spending money.

Oh he never complains. There is no overt hostility on either part. Just a tension so thick you could cut it with a knife from the Sam's Club meat department.

Because I like to buy more things than he likes to buy. And when I put something in the cart that he thinks is totally unnecessary, he never says anything, but he does this thing with his eyes and I know he's THINKING it. Whatever "it" is.

But it starts as soon as we walk in the door and the Membership Card Checkers meet us. Except they don't always meet us. And if we start to walk on through and one of them sees us too late, they start yelling at us "Sir! Ma'am! I need to see your card...!!" And then Paul gets irritated that they aren't doing their job. If they were doing their job, they'd see us immediately and not have to chase us down. And if they happen TO NOT SEE US AT ALL, I say "Honey, we need to show them our card" and he'll say "I'm not going to hunt somebody down so I can show them my card just so I can shop here. If they aren't at their post...." as he's waving his card above his head and behind his back so somebody can catch a glimpse of it as he continues on his way, unhindered by ridiculous club rules.

See, I'm all about following rules and he's a rebel.

And it's really bad when we take the kids and they ask for things like...oh...a big strawberry cream cake, or a giant box of cinnamon rolls that would feed the local football team. They know they are not going to get it if Dad's with us. Then they start saying things like "Next time, let's leave Dad at home so we can get fun stuff." And I'm stuck in the middle because I know they're right, but I have to keep to keep my mouth shut so we, as good parents, present a united front.

Plus, I totally need their dad to help me carry the heavy stuff.

I, on the other hand, have severe stock-up issues and have no problem buying two giant jars of peanut butter, a bottle of 750 acetaminophen tablets, a box of 154 cheese slices, and a 5 pound bag of broccoli florets.

The only thing Paul thinks should be bought in bulk, besides water and Gatorade, is ranch dressing, because he thinks it is one of the major food groups. Seriously, he practically treats it as a beverage - just like pancake syrup.

Then there's the "Receipt Checker." Paul absolutely hates the Receipt Checker at Sam's Club. He doesn't hate the actual person, just the job they have to do. I can feel him start to get irritated as soon as we turn the cart in that direction and I start holding my receipt out for the Receipt Police to make sure I haven't stolen anything. He starts to mumble and I hear the words "ridiculous" and "waste of time."

And so, at the end of each trip to Sam's Club, I walk out feeling guilty for buying so much, while at the same time, planning my week so I can come back soon to buy the giant jar of cashews and the big plastic tub of grapes that he was sure would spoil before we ate them. You know? Come back without Paul. And I inevitably say something like "This drives you crazy, doesn't it? I bet you'd rather be wallpapering an airplane bathroom with me than going to Sam's. Or having a root canal. It's just not something we do well together, huh?" Because I usually can't keep my mouth shut when silence would indeed be the best option.

And he usually says something like ", it's really not the best thing for us to do together..." Then he probably starts wondering "Why? Why on God's green earth, did we have to build our current house 2 minutes from Sam's Club? Why did I have to marry a woman with such neuroses? Do they have Sam's Club in Europe? Because if they don't I'm putting in for a transfer on Monday." Something like that.

And then we start driving home and he calls the kids and says "We're on our way home. Be ready to carry in groceries." And that's the only pleasure he gets out of shopping at Sam's Club - making the kids carry it all in.

The poor, poor man.

Friday, June 27, 2008


So...let's see...what day is it?


So on Wednesday morning, we left for the Amana Colonies in Iowa. As I mentioned earlier, we had to meet my brother to pass off Mom so Paul and I could get her back home after her five days in South Dakota. You will all be glad to know that we all three made it home safely. There was NOT a homicide on I-80; as I had feared.

Rather than drive five hours one way, then home, all in one day, we decided to make it a little getaway and visit The Amana Colonies Wednesday afternoon. Then we only had about 20 miles to drive westward on Thursday to get Mom, turn around and head back home.

Let me just add right here, that I had found a rubber stamp shop in Davenport, from one of my magazines. All I had to do was mention to Paul it looked like a nice one and he Mapquested it, said it would not be that far out of the way and drove me right to it. How sweet is that? I was so, so, so happy he did that. Of course, he might have done it because, since he sat in the van while I shopped, it meant an hour of silence without me saying "So, what can we talk about...?" But still it was pretty darn sweet.

Anyway, our children did not come with us because, well, they cannot fit us into their schedule anymore. Since we were not going to a major league baseball game, a UFC event, Disney World, or a mall of any kind, neither of them found it the least bit tempting to get in the car and drive for five hours into Iowa.

So we dumped Kayla onto the R family, and left Blake, who is one month shy of 17, at home.

Thanks, R family, for taking our daughter. I mean, I know you said it wasn't any trouble and that H, her good friend and classmate found it a treat, as did Kayla; but still, it's really a help that you took her because otherwise she would have had to come with us and she was NOT going to enjoy walking through the historic Amana Colonies, because they did not have an Aeropostale or a purse shop. And since we could NOT have softened her mood at all with the locally brewed beers or locally bottled wines (like I did her father's in preparing him for the trip home with his mother-in-law), well, it just would not have been pretty. So, thanks.

Anyway, we really only got to explore one colony out of seven, which was still great. We spent about 3 hours walking up and down 6 blocks of their little business district, where each shop was housed in an original building from the colony that had been settled in the late 1800's.

I was in Heaven.

And not just in the bakery, where I had a "Raspberry Pocket" made with the flakiest crust I've ever eaten and locally made raspberry preserves. And not just in the Chocolate Haus, where I bought a box of Chocolate Cashew patties and two packs of gourmet coffee. Those cashew patties? Oh. My. Gosh. It oughta be illegal for something to taste that good.

No I was in Heaven the entire time.

Because I literally felt the stress melt away from me as we walked those streets, admired the old buildings, read some history, and of course explored their unique and beautiful wares. I especially liked crossing the tiny wooden bridges built over the ditches lining both sides of the street; and imagining the need for such tiny bridges when the original settlers were building the town. Really, the stress just ran off my shoulders as I walked those quiet little streets. I had no idea I needed this getaway so much. And it is, indeed my favorite kind of getaway.

Paul was in Heaven, I think, when we separated briefly because "the brewery is going to close in 20 minutes, so I'm going to check it out while you shop here. I'll meet you at the Chocolate Haus." And really, it would have been very cruel of me had I NOT encouraged him to sample the local brews when he had made this long trip just to bring his mother-in-law home. He also sampled some local wines. Oh, and so did I. Sample a wine I mean. A communion cup full. The plum wine I sampled was almost good enough to turn me into a drinker and make me risk a seizure, but alas I did not chug from the bottle, as I was tempted, because to be truthful, I was a little uptight about the ride home with Paul's mother-in-law too. We did however, buy two bottles for our Thanksgiving dinner, because it is expected that we will bring wine to the Aunties; and a three pack of half bottles for my aunt and uncle for when we take my step-mother to visit them in the fall. This aunt is my dad's sister. She was with him when he died, so she deserves a sampling of local wines, no?

What else did I buy? You ask. Well I bought a stainless steel pancake turner, made locally of course. A CD of a local pianist, because it was playing in the store and it gave me goosebumps, 9 old fashioned candy sticks - 3 for each child and 3 for myself (because I knew Paul wouldn't want any) the raspberry pocket and the chocolates and coffee. And...I think that's all until we stopped briefly at the outlet mall, where we bought a Big Dog shirt for each of the kids (and for me - a $3 one), two gadgets from the kitchen shop, and a pair of earrings from the Liz Claiborne outlet.

The only room we could get at the Holiday Inn was a Kids' Suite. It had the cutest little room, walled off from the main bed area, that contained a set of bunk beds, a tiny table and a separate television for children. I kept saying how perfect that would have been when our children were five and eight. In fact the getaway would have been nice for our children when they were little because the hotel contained a very small indoor water park and a mini golf course. Of course they wouldn't have liked walking through old historic buildings built by German Settlers when they were five and eight but we could have bribed them with bakery items and goodies from the Chocolate Hause. Oh and maybe if we'd had little ones with us, I would have had an excuse to buy that handmade musical marble tree for $74.99, that fascinated me.

Alas, we are beyond the stage where our children found it exciting to pack up and leave home to stay in a hotel that has a pool. In fact, they really don't find it exciting to leave home overnight at all - at least with us - because that would require them to leave their friends and all their activities - movies, the pool, fishing, ballgames, mall time, watching BOYS' baseball games (and I don't mean Blake... ahem).

We have been outgrown.

Anyway, we're home for a while. And thank goodness, because I'm tired.

Oh, and from the "How Cool is That" File -

Paul is taking Blake to New York in late July to watch a Yankees game, because Paul wants to visit Yankee stadium before they tear it down at the end of this season. It happens to be right around Blake's birthday so he said "This is a pretty awesome 17th birthday gift. Thanks mom and dad."

We haven't told him that, because of the gazillion frequent flier miles Paul earns from work travel, and because of the free hotel rooms he earns from work travel, this trip to New York is probably going to be cheaper than feeding him and some friends at the local steak house. I mean if he wants to believe we are splurging on him and giving him a gift fit for a prince, why should we burst his bubble? I am so happy they get to do this. They are going to make some great Father/Son memories during their 48 hours in the Big Apple.

Now I just have to get through July during which we will be moving my mother, and then life will be good.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


We returned on Sunday from a weekend trip to Indiana, where I met up with my brothers and sister to help Marilyn clear out some of our dad's things. Needless to say, I had been dreading the trip, but it went as well as it could have, I guess.

I will naturally post more on that later, but now I am getting ready for another brief trip.

Tomorrow we are heading to Iowa. My mom has spent the week in South Dakota with my brother, and we are meeting them on Thursday to pass her off like a relay baton, so we can get her back home.

Paul and I are going to spend tomorrow afternoon and evening at Amana Colonies, and then get up on Thursday and drive to Malcolm, Iowa to pick her up. We picked Malcolm because it is EXACTLY halfway between our two homes and because it is our grandfather's name and the middle name of my brother's son. Paul and I decided we JUST HAVE to say we've been to Malcolm, Iowa. I hope I can find a t-shirt.

In other news...

We have had something going on EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND since the beginning of May, and I don't see a break in sight anytime soon. We are starting to feel the stress of always having to be on the go.

I just want to stay home.

Many thanks to Susiewearsthepants at She has me on her blog roll!!

I've been linked!!!!

Monday, June 23, 2008


Dear Mr. Sears and Mr. Roebuck,

I appreciate your store.

I grew up wearing your clothes. My mother, having had four children in four years, dressed my brothers in your ToughSkins and my sister and me in whatever little girl tops came in two packs. Ditto with our skirts and slacks. She tried to dress us all in coordinating clothes because having that many children so close together completely zapped her memory and her sanity; but that isn't your problem.

I dressed my own children in your clothes when they were little. You carried cute, reasonably priced children's merchandise, and I always liked that KidVantage (is that what is was called?) thing you had where I got a gift certificate after spending so much on kids clothing or shoes. It allowed 20% percent off the purchase of any kids' products. Clearance merchandise included.

I still occasionally drop in at your store and browse. I will buy my husband's tools there, look at your housewares, and even find a cute trendy top now and then. It's kind of nice to find some clothes at your store that I like because, well, no offense, but most women my age don't shop at your store. So when I find something surprisingly cute, I'm sure nobody else will have it.

Anyway, I've been wanting to let you gentlemen know for quite some time that a visit to your store is getting more and more annoying.

And, since I consider it my duty to help retail managers everywhere by pointing out their flaws as often as possible, I thought I should finally let you know about the problem. I am only doing this to help improve your business and make it more customer friendly. You DO want your business to become more customer friendly don't you?

First, may I suggest that your cashiers cease and desist their constant questions about whether I have a Sears credit card and if not would I like one; and if I already have one, would I like to upgrade to a Sears Gold Visa, or whatever it's called? May I suggest that when I answer in a way that is not acceptable to them that they be instructed to simply count their blessings that I'm shopping at Sears anyway and cheerfully accept my money? May I suggest that when I say "No, I don't want to upgrade," that the cashiers be instructed to NOT tell me what a great deal I'm passing up, and then purse their lips at me as though I am the greatest disappointment they've come across in their lifetime?

Just so you know, YES I have a Sears Credit Card, but NO I don't want to use it. EVER. Unless I'm in desperate need of an appliance and even then it would be iffy because, frankly, your appliance people are a little snooty if the customer does not want to buy the extended service warranty. Perhaps I will fill you in later on the appliance lady that threw a little hissy fit and slammed a dryer door shut when we said "No, thank you" on her offer of an extended service warranty.

Second, and this is the bigger issue for me, may I suggest that you stop sending that little bald man around to accost shoppers and ask if they are interested in siding, windows, gutters, and whatever else he is trying to push on us. I really don't care that I could get all of that from you. Frankly, if I was interested in any of that, I would do some research and find out that you carry all those things and I would consider your services along with all the other suppliers of such materials. You really should let the customer come to you on that; because it is quite annoying to be stopped by the little bald man and listen to his spiel; especially when I have told him several times that my house is only a few years old so NO I don't need any of those things. But, to be quite honest, when I was living in a 75 year old bungalow whose windows were painted shut, I still would have told him I lived in a brand new house and didn't need any of those things, because I am not above lying just to spite pushy sales people. And no I won't keep Sears in mind, when the need does arise, because, frankly, you've bugged me too much about it.

So there.

I know that many stores nag, I mean ask, customers about using their own store credit cards; and, frankly, it's annoying from all of them. They just may receive similar "helpful" letters from me too. But yours is the only store that actually sends somebody around trying to pedal wares and push services onto the customers while we're shopping.

So I'm begging you to stop. In the name of all consumers everywhere, please stop.

Also, please let me know if I can be of further assistance to you at any time in the future. That's what I'm here for.

Yours in NO need of any household improvement item whatsoever (at least from you)


Thursday, June 19, 2008


Yesterday, somewhere in the bread aisle at Wal-Mart, I'm pretty sure my uterus fell out.

But that's ok. I don't need it anymore. I have no intention of birthing any more babies, and it's been nothing but trouble for me for quite some time now. I fully intend to speak to my doctor about this; because, somehow, it is his fault.

Anyway back to Wal-Mart; the previous two nights had been really bad, as I had lain awake much of the night in extreme pain. You know? Because I'm a woman.

The first night, I actually started calculating whether or not a "fall" out of my second story window would be bad enough to knock my uterus out but still allow me to get up and walk away so I could continue raising my children. But then I realized I'd probably just land in a pile of dog poop and that would not do anything to improve my mood. Plus, my day lillies and hostas are really looking good right now and I'd hate to ruin what little beauty I've managed to attain in my yard, on the off chance I landed in them. Plus, I can never get our bedroom blinds pulled up right, so I'd probably just end up tangled in the slats and strings of the blinds and my husband wouldn't even notice when he woke up the next morning.

So I just fell asleep doing the breathing exercises I learned in childbirth classes many MANY years ago.

The second night I decided the pain was so bad I was probably going to wake up with a newborn suckling at my breast.

Well wouldn't that just be GREAT if I was one of those women who gave birth without knowing she was pregnant!? I'd be on the news; and since we all know the camera adds ten pounds, that thought didn't do much to improve my mood either.

Then, on that second night, I decided to wake my husband for some help.

*nudge, nudge*

"Honey, tell the nurse I'm ready for my epidural."

But that didn't work. He just sat up and stared at me with haunting glassy eyes. He's not good in middle-of-the-night emergencies.

Fine, I'll take care of this myself.

So I went downstairs and got on the phone.

*Ring. Ring*

Labor and Delivery, may I help you?

Uh, yes, I'd like my epidural now, please.

What room are you in ma'am? kitchen.

You're giving birth at home....?

Oh Lord No. I'm not giving birth. I'm just having really bad cramps so I'd like an epidural. Do you deliver? Well of course you deliver, you're a labor nurse *ha, ha*. I mean, do you deliver epidurals?

Ma'am epidurals are for women who are in labor?

But...but...I'm in just as much pain as I was when I was in labor.

Ma'am you're not even a patient here.

But I'm in just as much pain as any of your current patients, probably more because many of them have probably had their epidurals.

Ma'am this is ridiculous. You do not qualify for an epidural. You are not in labor and you are not a patient here.

Let me get this straight. I've given birth twice at your hospital, had numerous x-rays, scans, -grams, and tests. My children have had numerous x-rays, scans, -grams, and tests. My son had surgery twice when he broke his finger. Of course it was broken for two weeks before he had his surgery, which would make some say I'm a bad mother. Do you think I'm a bad mother?

Ma'am my thoughts on your mothering are irrelevant, although I'm beginning to form an opinion...

Anyway, I've had all those things done at YOUR hospital and now I can't get one small pain killing measure when I need one. I'm a good customer. All I want is a small epidural to go. Hello? Hello....?

*Ring Ring*

Surgical Services. May I help you?

Yes, I'd like to come in, like, right now for a hysterectomy.

Do you have a referral.

Um...yeah, my uterus is referring me loud and clear. Hello? Hello...

*Ring Ring*

Neurology. May I help you?

Yes, I'd like to schedule a lobotomy, please....

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


So yesterday Paul and I decided to go out alone.

To Sam's Club for a few groceries.

Because we're romantic like that.

And I guess by saying "Paul and I..." I'm being a little deceitful, because actually I decided to go to Sam's club and convinced him to come with me so he could load the cases of water, Gatorade and green tea - that HIS children drink - into the van.

Anyway, after another romance-filled trip through Sam's club, we stopped by the library to pick up a book that was on hold for Paul. Actually, the book was on hold for Blake; but it was on hold under Paul's name, so our Top Level Library Security Team (the TLLST), would only let Paul pick it up.

I waited in the car, because the library was going to close in 10 minutes and I wouldn't have time to browse if I went in anyway. As I was waiting I saw a young man get out of his truck and enter the library with a couple of DVD's in his hand. Before he entered the door, he threw his nearly whole cigarette on the ground. I had two thoughts when I saw him do this.

First, he didn't step on it to put it out, and I thought if the grass was dry enough he could have started a fire and sent our nice little library up in flames. I intend to turn him into to Smoky the Bear once I have run his license plates through the system.

Second, since the cigarette was almost whole (is that the correct term - "a whole cigarette?") I thought how wasteful it was, to light one up, take a couple of puffs and then throw it away. I mean, aren't cigarettes like really expensive?

But I needn't have worried about the waste because when he came out of the library, he stopped, leaned down to the ground, picked up his still smoldering cigarette and put it in his mouth and proceeded to puff away at it, as he walked back to his truck.


Now, obviously he didn't care about the toll the smoking was taking on his lungs, but what about the countless number of icky things that could have ended up on that cigarette while it was on the ground in front of a public library?

What was he thinking?

So I'm just going to take this opportunity to plead with you, my ones of readers, to stop smoking. If you don't smoke but know somebody who does, try to get them to stop.

Because lung cancer or any lung disease is not a pleasant way to die.

My dad quit smoking about five years ago. Less than two years ago, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died two months ago, tomorrow.

He did not slip away quietly as he slept. He died a frightening, horrible death.

His cancer had spread to his bronchial tubes and it was those tumors that the chemo and radiation could not shrink. But the treatments, of course took their toll. For some of his radiation, they actually had to insert a tube down his throat and deliver tiny pellets of radiation into his bronchial tubes. His voice faded and he could no longer speak loudly. He had to gasp for breath between words.

Ironically, it was not the tumors on his bronchial tubes that eventually caused his death. It was the the tumors in his lungs, that were breaking away from the lung walls. As the tumors broke away, he bled.


He did not cough up little spots of blood. He, in his own words, sprayed "sheets of blood" with each cough, and could not stop coughing, when an episode hit.

He had about four of these episodes, over the last ten days of his life. The first episode brought his children rushing to the hospital late at night because we were told he had hours left to live, he was in organ failure, and needed 3 units of blood to rebound. But he did, indeed rebound.

The final episode is what took his life. I was not there for that, which will forever by a huge regret, but by the way it was told to me, he basically drowned in his own blood. The coughing and bleeding started and was worse than ever. He was not able to control it, even by turning up his oxygen and taking all the other measures he had learned to control the situation.

He bled to death, and that bleeding filled his lungs.

And I'm sure he knew what was happening. I'm sure he knew his life was ending. I'm sure he knew that this episode would not be controlled like the ones before it.

I desperately want to tell all the smokers I know, especially those who have small children to STOP! IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY, STOP SMOKING! Even if you think this won't happen to you, why in the world would you want to gamble with your life like that? Why in the world would you want your loved ones to see you sick and suffering?

We are living in an age where there is no excuse to be uninformed. Warnings are everywhere about the dangers of smoking. I know it is a terribly difficult habit to break, but try. Please try to stop. There is no reason to believe that if you stop now, you can't have a very long and healthy life. Don't assume that because cancer takes some lives even after they've stopped, that it will take yours too. Don't assume that stopping won't matter in the end. Give yourself a chance.

This concludes this public service announcement.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Dear Paul,

Did you know that our children absolutely adore you?

Did you know that when they walk in the door each day, the first words out of their mouths are usually "When will Dad be home?"

Did you know that when you are away for business they always ask "Has Dad already called? Will he call back?"

Did you know that we are blessed beyond measure that our 17-year-old son says "Love you Mom," and "Love you Dad" every time he leaves or hangs up the phone, even in the presence of his buddies?

Did you know that when they were babies their faces lit up like a starry night when you walked into the house at the end of the day?

Did you know that when Blake picks at you and starts a wrestling match nearly every night, it is his way of wanting to feel your touch, to be close to you? Did you know that, by agreeing to those wrestling matches every night, you are blessing him beyond measure?

Did you know that even though he is several inches taller than you, our son looks up to you?

Did you know that when our daughter was little and could have chosen any frilly soft nightgown in the world to sleep in, she chose your flannel shirts simply because they were yours?

Did you know that she still tells her friends that you were always able to fix her hair into a perfect ponytail when she was little?

Did you know that the day you baptized our daughter is a day she will never forget? Nor will her mother.

Did you know that the respect and honor you show me is mirrored in the way our children treat me?

Did you know that our children's friends really really like you and enjoy visiting with you?

Did you know that our daughter's friends, in particular, feel so comfortable with you that they make up songs about you?

Did you know that sometimes I search and search my memory for what incredibly good thing I might have done in my life to deserve a partner such as you? And I can't come up with anything.

Did you know...?

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Dear Blake and Kayla,

Did you know what an amazing dad you have?

Did you know that you were just as likely to see his face above your cribs at night as mine, when you were babies?

Did you know that each of you, upon your arrival into our world, turned him into a soft puddle of mush?

Did you know that, even when you were newborns, I never had to leave the slightest instructions for him when I left you with him?

Did you know that, when you were little, you always had more fun with Daddy than with Mommy?

Did you know that he worked two jobs while you were little, so that I could stay home with you full time? He drove to a nearby college on Saturdays to teach a review course for the CPA exam. Did you know that?

Did you know that he has NEVER ONCE said that I need to return to work, because he respects my desire to be home for you at the end of your day?

Did you know that early in his career, you never saw him work into the early morning hours, because he always came home for dinner, bath and bedtime and returned to work after you were asleep for the night?

Did you know that he has taken midnight flights to London, rather than early afternoon ones, so he could sit through one of your concerts or sporting events before leaving for the week?

Did you know he often excuses himself from business meetings at corporate headquarters to speak to you on the phone, even if it's just to hear the latest Cubs' scores, or the details of your day?

Did you know that he, year after year, has said "I'm not coaching again," but up until this year has always allowed himself to be talked into volunteering for one or both of your teams?

Did you know that he actually LOOKS FOR WAYS to spend time with you, and doesn't wait for suggestions from anybody else?

Did you know that he calls me at 3:30 nearly every school day to make sure you are home and to get a report from me on how your days were; then offers to talk to you if you're around?

Did you know that when you are sick, he will come home from work to bring ice cream, movies, or whatever other treats will make you feel better.

Did you know that he was the first person in his family to graduate from HIGH SCHOOL, not to mention college and then go on to become the professional success that he is?

Did you know that he counts you two as his most successful achievements in life?

Did you know that he NEVER complains about the money I spend on myself or on you, even though we all tease him about how cheap he is?

Did you know that he treats your mother like a queen, and makes me weak in the knees with his devotion and love?

Did you know, Kayla, that if you marry a man just like him, you will be happier than you ever imagined?

Did you know, Blake, that if you treat your future wife as beautifully as he treats me, you will make her happier than she ever imagined?

I think you know all of these things, because he lives such a beautiful example for you.

But on this Father's Day I just wanted to give you this sweet little reminder.

Friday, June 13, 2008


To my friend I just saw at Wal-Mart.

You know who you are. We spoke about our daughters who are classmates. You told me I looked really nice in my skirt and top. Your two-year-old cracked me up with his conversation. You said you felt a little sloppy compared to me in my skirt and top.

First, I've never seen you look sloppy. I kind of think you are one of those women who can wear a gunny sack and still look ready for a magazine shoot. I have decided to like you anyway.

Second, I seriously want to snatch your little boy away from you. He just makes me smile all the time. "...I can't find a Cardinals cap." Too cute.

Third, your choice of shorts and top today was the right choice.

I will admit to feeling pretty good about my outfit today. My lavender, black, and beige print skirt is fun. Its flowy fabric and flare at the hem make it kind of swish when I walk; and sometimes it's fun to swish when you walk. And it's comfortable.

The trouble is, when I was getting dressed this morning, I wasn't anticipating a storm moving in. So when I walked out of Wal-Mart, soon after we visited, and was hit with a gust of wind that nearly sent the hem of my skirt up to my chin, I wasn't feeling so cute and fun in my outfit anymore.

I tend to park pretty far from the entrance so that I have to walk more to reach the store. You know? It's good to get in as much movement as I can through the day. I certainly was cursing that habit as I struggled to reach my van in the high winds that had moved in.

Seriously. I was certain I was going to be flashing all the other patrons of Wal-Mart if I didn't come up with a way to keep my skirt down. My only consolation was that my underwear happens to be lavender today, so if said flashing had occurred, at least people would be impressed that my foundation garments matched my outfit. And, NO, I was not wearing a slip.

Anyway, I grabbed my skirt in my left hand as low as I could and kind of scrunched it all to my left side, around my knees, gathering as much of the fabric as I could to keep it from flying north, and proceeded to walk to the van, leaning to the left, while pushing the cart with my right hand.

I know. Dignified.

I soon realized if I held things too tightly, my knees were kind of bound together and I had to shuffle along like Morticia Adams. If I held things too loosely, I was at risk of having the skirt fly up on the right side, which would have resulted in only half a flash, which certainly would have been better than a whole flash, but still...

It was crucial to obtain a delicate balance.

I thought about trying to hold my skirt on both sides, which would require me to hunch forward a little bit and push my cart with my shoulders or my chin.

But that would have looked silly. Because, surely, I wasn't looking silly yet.

So I just shuffled along, leaning to the left, grabbing my skirt, cursing my habit of parking far away, and praying that if God chose to lift my skirt up over my face, He would also choose to strike me dead with a bolt of lightning.

It was the longest walk of my life.

Oh, and that conversation we had about finding the perfect pair of shorts? I am going out immediately to look for some.

And now, if you haven't already, scroll down and read my previous post from today. It is just as poignant and thought provoking as this. And I like to follow through with my promise to lower the standards of my ones of readers every chance I get.


*Note - this is not a debate on cleavage. Please do not weigh in on whether you are for it or against it. Because I'm sure that vote would be split evenly along gender lines. On second thought, if it will increase my comments, go ahead and weigh in on whether you are for it or against it.

That's it!

I can't keep my mouth shut any longer.

Or my fingers quiet, as the case may be.

I am sick of putting on a cute new flirty summer top and looking into the mirror to see cleavage.
I've had it up to here with it. All the tops are like that. I can't escape the cleavage. These cute new styles are something else, I tell you.

How is a girl supposed to keep her girls covered?

Now I'm no prude. I'm not Amish; nor do I belong to the FLDS. But I like to dress modestly. I like to keep certain parts covered.

I also like to dress in the latest fashions.

Evidently the two are mutually exclusive.

I try to layer things with tank tops and sometimes that works. Sometimes, though, the tank top is lower than the neckline of the cute new flirty summer top. Sometimes the tank top is lower than the top of my bra.

I usually do a little cleavage test. If I stand at my bathroom sink and lean forward EEEEEVVVVER so slightly to wash my hands, and I see cleavage, I start trying to modify the wardrobe. Trouble is, almost all my new tops fail the test - I see cleavage with almost every top.

Cleavage cleavage cleavage cleavage cleavage.

(I wonder how many times I can type the word cleavage before I'm linked from Google)

I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Sometimes I turn the tank top around and wear it backwards, if the front neckline is too low. It usually works because the "tags" aren't tags anymore. The "tags" are printed right onto the fabric. Sometimes it doesn't work because the line of the tank top - worn backwards - completely ruins the look of the shirt. But I'm getting tired of trying to layer things. I'm also getting hot, because our temperatures are rising and the humidity is usually around 90% this time of year.

Let me repeat. I am no prude. But I want to dress fairly modestly for a few reasons:

- I don't want to be speaking to a man (or woman) and notice that they are looking south of my eyes. I know a man who does that to all women, even if they are wearing turtle necks. It is irritating and disgusting. Whenever I know I'll have to speak to him I want to pin a sign to my shirt that says "Hey! I'm up here, stupid!"

-I don't want to be showing off the girls to anyone but my husband, unless I'm at the swimming pool or the Oscars. And really, guys? Even if you enjoy seeing your wife's/girlfriend's cleavage, do you really want her body on display for every other male she comes across?

-I'm raising a 14-year-old daughter and I want to model the right example for her. How can I veto some of her clothing choices if I'm showing too much skin myself.

-I'm raising a 17-year-old son who has friends over all the time. I'd think it would be embarrassing for him to have his mother walking around the house showing off her girls. I also want to model an example of moderate dress for him so, hopefully, he won't choose a wife one day who dresses like Brittany Spears.

So there is my dilemma these days - dressing fashionably and trendy (trendily?) without showing too much of myself.

If things don't improve soon I will have to give up all electricity and start driving a horse and buggy.

Or take 4 sister wives and have 12 more children.


Thursday, June 12, 2008


So when I got out of the shower today I noticed seven...little trickles of blood on my left leg, where I had cut myself shaving.


And one on the right leg. I debated the need to go to the ER for a transfusion but decided just to stick little bits of tissue on each bloody spot. You know? Like men do on their faces.

I looked like I had stood in the garage and shaved my legs with a hacksaw.

I thought about taking a picture and posting it, but I couldn't put my shorts on and hobble downstairs to get the camera without leaving a trail of bloody tissue bits all over the floor. So you'll just have to use your imaginations.

I do not know what came over me; I can usually be trusted with sharp objects.

Then as I started to paint my toenails for the first time this summer, I noticed my hand shaking.

Aha! My tremors were acting up.

I have Essential Tremor, or Benign Essential Tremor, or Essential Familial Tremor.

It is a harmless condition that causes slight or severe trembling, or shaking, in the hands and arms. It runs in families.

My paternal grandmother has it. My dad had it. HIS brother has it. Three of us four kids have it - my oldest brother does not. My other brother, who is 43, has it the worst of us kids. My son has it. We noticed his when he was 15, which threw me into a panic until I talked to my neurologist about it. She assured me it was not uncommon for it to show up in teenagers, so I should not be alarmed. But yet I worry about how it will worsen for him as he gets older since it showed up so early. So far he is just as active as most teenage boys - wrestling, football, weightlifting. It probably will never interfere with his pursuit of any activities.

Anyway, the tremors are at their worst when a person is tired or stressed. Considering I was still awake at 2:00 this morning, I shouldn't be surprised that my hands are shaking today. It is mainly just annoying when I am trying to do fine motor work, like painting my nails, or finishing detail work on my crafts. You will certainly hear dishes rattle if I try to carry a cup on a saucer while my tremors are acting up. Also, I know it's not a good idea to cut my son's hair if my hands are shaking.

I'm just sayin'....

My brother's army buddies used to tease him and say he could mix a drink without using a swizzle stick. I actually think it was a little hurtful for him, but he took it in stride. It never interfered with his marksmanship or anything while he was younger, but now that he is retired it is considered somewhat of a disability - militarily speaking - and his pension reflects that. He has tried medication for it, but decided the side effects of the medicine were worse than the condition; as is often the case. And now, it doesn't interfere with his job as an agent for the Law Enforcement Intelligence Network working for an agency that falls under the umbrella of Homeland Security. I just really think that's impressive, so I had to stick that in somehow.

The Meadows Shakes, as we lovingly call them, have never prevented any of our family members from maintaining careers and leading busy, active lives.

My grandmother has said there is a neurologist in town who wants to use our family as a case study on the condition because; although it primarily runs in families, ours is one of the few this doctor has seen where it is SO common.

Just think! I could be in the New England Journal of Medicine!! I could be a statistic!! I wonder if I will be able to adjust to the stresses and problems of being famous. I think I could.

I would just shake it off.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Our son has been a staunch Republican since the 3rd grade. That is when George W. Bush first ran for president; and he loved watching the debates and news coverage during that election year. He listened to both parties and in his limited, eight-year-old comprehension decided he liked what the Republicans stood for. He was so involved that he told us that he sure hoped we didn't vote for John McCain in the primary because he called George Bush an anti-Catholic bigot. When asked what an anti-Catholic bigot was, he responded "I don't have a clue...." but he had decided it didn't sound right so he ran with it.

Our friends used to call him Alex P. Keaton.

Last weekend, he got to work at the Illinois Republican Convention. Now even if you're a Democrat, you have to admit that's pretty cool for a teenager to be so up close and personal in our national election process. Well, you don't HAVE to admit it, but it would sure be nice if you did.

Anyway, he spent a couple hours Thursday night and about 12 hours on Friday working for the "top ranking Republicans for our state." He ran errands, picked up their lunch, put together credentials, assembled notebooks of information. He dropped in at home once during an errand and said "No time to talk...I'm running errands for the GOP." How cool is that? He also informed us he spent $200 of the Republicans' money at McDonald's and Staples. I'm not sure I'm supposed to share that information with you so if I suddenly disappear, you'll know that, for sure I was NOT supposed to let you know that.

This past weekend made me think back to his third grade year when his dad took him out of school for the day to go see a Bush/Cheney rally near Chicago.

He and Paul were standing in the security line to be let into the rally when a Secret Service agent walked by. Paul asked if he could take a picture of him with Blake and the agent politely said it wasn't allowed, and moved on. A few minutes later, the same agent returned and slipped something into Blake's hand. It was an official Secret Service lapel pin. That alone was enough to send him to cloud nine.

But then, the agent returned again and asked Paul "Sir, is it just the two of you?" and Paul said "Yes, my son and I." And the agent said "Come with me."

And he led them PAST THE SECURITY CHECK, THROUGH THE GROUP OF OTHER AGENTS, AND RIGHT UP TO THE FRONT ROW OF THE AUDIENCE AREA, where Blake got to listen to Bush and Cheney speak, shake their hands and get their autographs on a campaign poster, all while standing right at the front of the stage on which the candidates were speaking.

Seriously, how cool is that? Again, even if you're a Democrat, don't you think that is cool?

We have many photos of that day - photos of the candidates and their wives and photos of the sharp shooters perched on all the surrounding buildings, which to an eight-year-old boy was absolutely beyond cool. He sill has that campaign poster framed in his room.

On Halloween that year, he dressed as a Secret Service agent and spent the night in a suit and dark sunglasses, with his hand pressed to his ear, pretending to talk into his wrist. When somebody tried to drop candy into his sister's bag, he stepped in front of her like he was her body guard. To one of our friends who offered him a full size Hershey bar he said "No thanks ma'am. I'm on duty," without cracking a smile.

Now he is thinking about pursuing a degree in political science when he heads to college in two years. I, as his mother, am expecting big things from him.

You can look for him in Washington one day.

He'll be the tall thin redhead giving the State of the Union Address.

Friday, June 06, 2008


I worked concession last night during Kayla's softball game. By the way, our girls won 13-3. I don't really know much else since I was in the concession stand, but...

Did I tell you our concession stand has been revamped? And it's really neat. Kudos to those who are in charge of it! I think one of them may read this so let's hear it for the Concession Committee. Is that what you're called "The Concession Committee?" or is it "Executive Board in Charge of Food and Beverage?"

Anyway, I love the new drawer thingee that holds the cash box, and the new professionally made menu banner outside. And I can't wait to try a cinnamon-sugar pretzel. And I love that you put me down to work in early June instead of in July when the heat would be REALLY bad. I mean yesterday was bad enough at 90 degrees with 80% humidity. So a big thank you for that. So anyway, thanks Concession People. I appreciate your work.

Working concession is usually not so bad. You get to visit with the other parents that are working. You get to see lots of kids. You get to support your Youth League because being surrounded by all the treats makes you hungry, so you just keep dropping money into the cash box and eating crap...I mean junk...I mean treats.

And working concession brings back memories of the days when YOUR OWN kids were little and you tried to make a night at the ball park bearable for all. You know? It reminds you of one of your failures as a parent. It gives you an idea for a "What didn't work for us" blog post.

When Blake started baseball Kayla was about 3. One of the biggest challenges was telling her over and over again that she could NOT go to the nearby playground because we were there to watch her brother play ball; but that after the game we'd go play for a while. I carried Fashion Pollies with me. I carried coloring books. I carried snacks and juice. I carried money.

I carried tequila.

Oh! I'm kidding.

I didn't bring coloring books.

Oh stop! I'm kidding again.

Anyway, I carried money so I could bribe her a couple of times through the game with food and she'd sit quietly and nibble on whatever junk food she chose. Turns out, the kid soon learned that I'd fork out money for candy to keep her quiet. So I started being nickeled and dimed to death.

Or extorted.

And then her brother would finish the game and be absolutely starving and dying of thirst so I'd fork out more money at the stand for him. Now I believe in supporting the local ball leagues and all; but come on!! It gets ridiculous. Which leads to another of my biggest challenges at the ball diamond-keeping spending under control.

Can I get an Amen on this?

So one summer I decided I was taking charge of the concession spending our family did. I tried different things. I tried buying a case of skittle packs at Sam's and giving each child one at the game (cause they always chose skittles at the concession stand), then allowing them to buy popcorn with the 50 cents I gave them. I also carried our own water.

Turns out, if Skittles is their only option, kids suddenly hate them, even if that's what they ordered EVERY SINGLE TIME THEY PLACED THEIR DIRTY LITTLE HANDS ON THE CONCESSION STAND COUNTER. So they'd say "I dooooon't liiiiiike Skiiiiiiiitlesuh."

And as consistent and firm as I tried to be in my parenting, something about the hot humid ball diamond turned me completely spineless and I'd fork over more money.

So the next summer I tried telling them they could each have ONE DOLLAR for the ballgames. ONE DOLLAR PER GAME. I. AM. NOT. KIDDING. DO NOT ASK FOR MORE. YOU. WILL. NOT. GET. IT.

By this time both kids were playing ball and we probably had 4 nights a week, if not more, full with baseball and softball, so a dollar per game was still a lot of money by the time the week was over. But I held firm with the Dollar Per Game rule.

For about 6 games.

Because, dang!!

Kids are persistent! I don't know if any of you have noticed that. But little kids can sure hang in there when it comes to wanting stuff.

Again, I don't know how they wore me down so easily, but they did.

Mommy can I have a bag of m&m's?

Where's your dollar?

I spent it on Skittles and popcorn. Can I have more money?


Please mommy?

NO. One dollar per game. That's it.

Pleeeeeease moooooommmmmmy! I won't ask for anything else. Just one more treat.


Just m&m's. That's all I'll ask for the rest of the game. Pleeeeeeease?

Oh alright!!

And what they didn't hear me say was "if it'll shut you up you can have a whole stinkin case of m&m's. And, by the way, where is your father?!" But I was thinking it.

And now? Well, first of all, Blake rarely shows up at the ball diamond because he's a wrestler and a football player now, so I'm getting off easy with that. Plus he um...well...he doesn't find it a priority to sit through a junior high girls softball game. As for the rest of us; I usually take an Airborne tube full of quarters. By the way, did you know Airborne tubes are perfect for stacking quarters in? Anyway, I take a tube of quarters and any ones and fives I can find in my purse or in my secret place in the van. Whatever. I try to come loaded, even though the concession stand isn't such a novelty now that the kids are teenagers.

The point is that now I don't even try to fight the concession stand battle. I waved that white flag several seasons ago. Because sometimes I'm a parenting wimp.

And because I like m&m's too.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Last night we were hit with another series of severe storms. Fierce lightning, strong winds, thunder. Lots of thunder. Tornado sirens.

Paul, Kayla and I were on our way home from an errand when the sky turned black and the lightning started really shooting down all around us. Knowing that Blake was out and about, I called him.

"Hi Blake, where are you?"

"At the lake fishing. I told you I was going fishing..."

"Where are you fishing?"

"Lake D---"

"You need to get away from the lake and head home."

"Uh. Mom. The weather is not bad here" Which it probably wasn't since the lake is about 10 miles from our house.

"Well, it's going to get bad. You need to get inside somewhere. The lightning is fierce."

See, sometimes you just don't know if your teenager really will have sense enough to come in out of the rain, so you have to call and prompt them a little. Which will not go over well, but it is your job as a mom. Number one, because you worry about them, and number two because it will drive them crazy and they won't have anything to complain about if you don't get "all up in their business" from time to time.

After we had been home for a while, and Blake was still not home, our tornado sirens went off. And just like last week when they went off and he was at football camp, I became paralyzed. My hand flew to my mouth and I whispered "OH NO!" and Paul said "He's fine, he just called and he's on his way to Cody's. He'll go in there if it's bad." So I went to the basement with Kayla and sat on the sofa, staring at the Doppler watching the storm pattern, and DID. NOT. MOVE. until I heard him come in the front door.

Just like last week.

My neighbor told me, when Blake started driving, that I was entering a whole new world of fear.

And, boy, she wasn't kidding.

Thankfully we just bought a Wii. So while we spend so much time in our basement listening to tornado sirens, my daughter gets to pulverize me in tennis and bowling. She also gets to pulverize her father, which brings on lots of giggles from her and I both.

Not so thankfully, my back and shoulders are killing me today from playing those virtual games.

Yes, I am in the phase of life where I can hurt myself without leaving the sofa.