My Human Hard Drive

They say marriage is falling in love and promising till death us do part. It’s being parenting partners and partners in life. My husband has been all of these to me. But the function I’ve been appreciating more and more lately is when he is my human hard drive.

My husband is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to caring for the plants and trees in our yard, when the furnace needs a new filter, and how to get somewhere he drove once ten years ago. But he’s also my go-to for remembering words I can’t. I’ve always had a terrible memory for names. At this stage of my life, specific places and things get misplaced as well.

Just yesterday we went to a movie. In the ads before the movie started, I leaned over and whispered, “That guy looks like he could be the brother of the guy on that show. Josh Somebody, who tries to discover things.”

It was still bugging me when we stopped at a place for lunch. I asked if he knew who I meant.

“Sure, Josh Gates on Expedition Unknown.”

As conversation continued, we were trying to recall the last time we’d been to that restaurant. Was it last Christmas with my family?

“No,” I said. “I think we ate at the one by the airport. What’s the name of it?”

If I can’t remember the name of it, it’s pretty hard to talk about it. But he’s so used to my clues, he usually gets it.

He’s especially useful for celebrity monikers. When we’re choosing a show, he may ask, “Who’s in it?”

My reply is frequently something like, “I can’t think of her name. You know she was in the movie where she and her sister were witches and she used to be married to Tom Hanks – No! Cruise?”

Sometimes he waits to see if it will come to me, but eventually he’ll put me out of my misery and just tell me.

I’m not completely senile. If we met once five years ago and had a good conversation, I can remember that we met at the tire place and you told me about your stepson’s nephew’s gall bladder surgery. Just don’t expect me to recall your name.

If I really do develop dementia someday, it might be hard to tell. But I’ll bet my husband will be the first one who notices.

 

For a mushier view of marriage, read Valentine. If you’re hungry, try A Marriage of Meals.

Gallons

The first time I gave blood, I was with my teen-aged brother.

Once the nurse hooked us up and blood was flowing, I sat and relaxed. Nothing to it.

Not so much for my skinny brother. He looked pale and said he felt queasy. The nurse adjusted his cot so he could lie down.

Now this was my little brother who had tried to gross me out for years. So being a kindly sister, I tried to distract him from feeling bad by talking. I talked about the color of the blood, the tubing, and how fast the bag was filling up.

The nurse glared at me and moved between us. Honestly, I wasn’t making it worse.

Fast forward a few decades to last weekend, when we were both at a family reunion.

My sister noticed the Red Cross T-shirt my brother was wearing. “How many gallons are you up to now?”

“I just got my seven-gallon pin.” Now middle-aged and no longer skinny, donating is no problem for him.

I’ve been donating blood occasionally for years. But I’m nowhere near seven gallons. I’m going to a blood drive today. I have some catching up to do.

Blood is always needed. To find a drive near you, go to http://www.redcrossblood.org/

Lost Golf Balls

(To the tune of Jingle Bells)

Driving to the course,

My hopes are running high

My score will be low.

But no. I start to sigh.

 

Now my drive goes right.

Fairway’s never found.

My chip is out of sight. I’ve had

Another rotten round.

 

Oh!

Lost golf balls, lost golf balls,

Hitting every tree,

Landing in the bunker with a lip up to my knee.

Lost golf balls, lost golf balls,

Dropping in the drink,

Shank it, slice it, draw it left,

Splashing with a plink!

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In response to “got filk?” at YeahWrite.Me

Downsizing

For the first time in several years and several pounds, I clean out my clothes closet. Maybe that’s what makes me resolve to be ruthless in getting rid of much of it. A few things with price tags still attached. The dresses that don’t fit and the ones that I kept for unexpected school skit costumes when my daughters were in high school. I don’t really need to keep the flowered bridesmaid’s dress from my best friend’s wedding either. Anything stained or tight or frayed. The piles for Goodwill and the trash grow equally. I toss out pieces of my history.

I pitch a pair of worn sandals and the white heels I wore as a bride that pinched my feet. I send my daughter a picture of a pair of cream-colored flats to see if she wants them.

“Are those from the 80’s?” she texts back.

Hmm. Maybe. Doesn’t seem that long ago.

My pale green prom dress, as unattractive as it was, and my lacy wedding dress go back in. Some stories need to stay.

Now that I’m writing again, everything makes me think of stories. I finish the closet rack and shelves and turn to the dresser. My ruthlessness continues through my sock drawer. They’re just socks after all. But as I’m sorting through a couple decades of t-shirts, I think, it’s no wonder I find it so hard to edit. Everything has associations. Everything ties together to make a whole.

Since I started my blog last fall, I write stories. They’re not as wordy and rambling as the ones I tell in person, but I’ve gradually realized that staying on topic and speaking concisely are not my forte. Every piece I write should be edited down to its essence. I sometimes compose a gripping lede and often add a pithy closing. It’s the squishy middle that bogs me down.

It’s not that I haven’t pared down my clothes before. I have. It’s just that this time, I can pitch my favorite ancient dinosaur t-shirt that says, “Read! Avoid Extinction!”

If there is hope for my wardrobe, maybe there is hope for my essays as well.

The Best Laid Plans

Years ago, when my husband and I were young and planning our lives, we also made plans for after death. We agreed on cremation. My husband said he wanted his ashes scattered over a lake.

“Okay,” I said. “I want mine scattered in a garden.”

“Okay,” he answered. “But flowers, not vegetables.”

We’re not morbid, not really. Just practical.

I’m not sure whether a love of fishing prompted his love of water or his love of water spilled over into fishing. But either way, his choice is fitting.

My choice of a garden is less obvious. My husband is the gardener in the family. Back when we had a big garden I was the one who processed all the produce. I’ve been known to plant flowers and tomato plants, but they’d all wither if he wasn’t around to water them.

I think I like the garden as a metaphor for life. We all start in a lifeless winter, begin in the spring of our lives, flourish in the summer, and harvest our hard work in the fall. I like to think that after I’m gone I could still be encouraging life.

But that’s true of all the natural world. In more recent years, I’ve been thinking that nourishing the soil in a forest somewhere sounds peaceful. If you’ve ever seen a fallen tree, you know how life appears in unlikely places.

Then I did a simple Google search and found this. Turns out ashes are so highly concentrated in soil nutrients that they are poisonous to plants. Businesses have been created just to solve this problem.

So, either someone will have to do some work with my ashes to get them ready or I need a new plan. In the end, it will likely be my daughters’ decision what to do. Here is what I hope they’ll do. I only wish I could be with them.

Choose a windy day and stand at any spot out in the country. Then (this part is important) turn your back to the wind. Open the box and toss the ashes into the air.

For the first time in my well-planned life, let the wind take me where it may.

 

(I’m so excited that this post was featured on Discover’s best of WordPress at https://wordpress.com/discover.)

 

Garden Life

A garden lives a lifetime in just a year.

There’s nothing quite like the bleakness of a garden in winter. The remains of dead plants and bare earth, a dreary combination of brown and gray. Bare trees trace stark lines across the sky.

But the rebirth of spring brings green shoots and seedlings, emerging, breaking through the upper crust of soil. Bulbs bloom early color. Trees and bushes leaf out, while lilacs waft fragrance in the air.

Through summer the green explodes to cover the natural world. Apple tree blossoms have fallen, leaving swollen bulbs that promise fruit and seeds. Strawberries and asparagus give early rewards. Vegetables form thick bushes and vines in preparation for the heavy bounty to come. Corn plants shoot higher and tomatoes begin their chameleon transformation from green to red.

But autumn is the reward. Just before the dormant death of recurring winter, come the sweetest apples, the juiciest tomatoes, the squash, the last of peppers and cucumbers. Picking the last of the harvest is a game of roulette, trying to guess the first killing frost.

As autumn color fades and brown winter returns, the garden withers and dies.

To be part of a garden is to have a taste of reincarnation, as winter again lies in wait for the spring.

Motherhood: An Adventure

I was raised on music and intellect. Five years of piano lessons didn’t take, followed by eight years of violin lessons that went much better, overlapping with four years of high school choir. This was in a time before Mozart and math ability, but my parents were believers.

High grades were a must and college was in the stars. On family vacations, we traveled to historic homes, battlegrounds and museums. I got my first library card as soon as I could write my name.

Once in high school, I told my parents, “I think I’ll try out for the volleyball team.”

I was met by such complete bewilderment that I never followed through.

So my early life left a lot of room to explore.

Then I married a man who was raised on sports and fishing. Together we raised girls who got to follow their interests by the season.

They took piano, violin, saxophone and voice lessons, but with no yearly requirements.

As a Girl Scout parent, I got another chance at horseback riding. A little saddle sore, I decided I wasn’t missing much.

When they wanted to learn to ice skate, I signed up too. At 37 I found out I didn’t have weak ankles after all.

When my older daughter was bitten by the acting bug, I learned about set design, blocking a scene, and making costumes. In just a few summers, I figured out how to fake grommets, sew on a collar, and make a top hat out of purple velvet.

One or the other tried T-ball (sheer comedy for six-year-olds), seasons of swim classes, the track team (world’s worst spectator sport), even boxing.

They both played soccer. I learned the difference between a striker and a sweeper. They both danced and I trailed behind with costume changes. In Junior High one dropped soccer and continued dance. The other dropped dance and joined a travel soccer team.

When my older daughter tried out for the dance team, I met mothers who were reliving their own dancing days. For me it was all new.

Who knew motherhood was so educational?

When it came to vacations, my husband favored locations with water. My kids favored the sand alongside. Thanks to my girls, I discovered motion-sickness applies to parasailing. I learned that I hate to breathe through a snorkeling mask. But I love to zipline from tree to tree.

My older daughter got me to finally take the trip to Europe I had always wanted.  We cruised the Mediterranean, stopping at ports in Spain, Italy, Portugal, France and Gibraltar. Three years later I got to go again with daughter number two, this time including Greece and Turkey.

You might say my daughters showed me the world.

A Marriage of Meals

I chop green pepper, onion, mushrooms and spinach and saute them in olive oil. I heat a pan on high and swirl beaten eggs in a thin, light layer. As they cook I sprinkle black pepper and the sautéed vegetables over the eggs. I fold the omelet over into a half moon and slide it on a plate. With sides of fresh asparagus and buttered toast, I settle down to eat dinner.

On the nights I cook for myself, I often make some variety of veggie omelet, French toast, or big spinach salads with loads of veggies or strawberries or chopped apples. Always with balsamic vinaigrette.

My husband is all Ranch dressing and cheese. He’d happily eat iceberg lettuce if I wasn’t so particular.

This has been our marriage in meals.

Alone, he eats plates of brown. Fried meat with potatoes.

Alone, I eat plates of color. Light on meat, plentiful vegetables.

Together, I make his mother’s chili recipe, slow simmered ground beef and beans. I add tomatoes to mine and he adds shredded cheddar to his. I make meatloaf and sneak in bits of cooked carrots, peppers, and onions.  He makes steak sandwiches and I load mine with peppers and onions, while he adds a little onion and cheese. He makes a wonderful roast chicken with baked potatoes and peas. We turn the leftovers into chicken salad or sandwiches. I boil the remaining bones and meat to make broth that will become chicken and noodles or chicken soup with carrots, peas and noodles. The omelets I make for him include bacon and potatoes. We have meals that can be tweaked to taste by one or the other.

In my thirties, I became lactose intolerant and in my forties the doctor told me to cut down on salt. I’m a nightmare dinner guest. Once when talking to our daughter, my husband joked, “I’d better go cook my no cheese, no salt, no flavor meal.”

They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I’d say that’s the way to a woman’s heart as well.

In the early days of our marriage, cooking and chores were shared equally. As time went by, he did less of the cleaning and more of the cooking. Now that he’s retired and I’m still working, I rarely cook at all. Tonight, he served barbecue chicken, with baked potatoes and the last of the asparagus.

Without me in his meals, my husband wouldn’t eat as many healthful vegetables. With him in the kitchen, I can have perfectly roasted chicken or tender beef. We eat better together.

They say we are what we eat. A marriage of meals.

Unfolding From the Fog

I am up before dawn, cursing this stage of life that doesn’t let me sleep late on a Saturday. I grab sweats from the floor and dress in the bathroom, while my husband sleeps on.

Downstairs, my dog prances around my feet, eager for her food and walk.

I bundle up for December, unprepared for the mild outside air. I step out the back door into another realm, my backyard transformed. Grateful now for an early awakening, we wander and linger as the sun rises through the fog.

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