Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Okay to be Comfortable

“I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” -J. Wellington Wimpy
It is very hot in Nebraska in the summer, and on some days, it is humid enough to make one consider that doing the backstroke might be faster than walking. The only thing to do on days like this is to sit indoors in front of an air conditioner.

The problem with that plan, however, is that sooner or later, you have to pay the electric bill.

Some people would pay any price to keep cool. I am one of those people who tries to keep it as warm as I can stand for as long as possible. My husband gets home from work, though, and immediately cranks it down to “frostbite,” which is admittedly better than “barely comfortable,” but the latter is less expensive.

Maybe we’d be more frugal if we got the bill immediately. If you buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks, they make you pay for it right away, but then you can enjoy it knowing that you don’t have to pay for it in the hazy, distant future. Perhaps I’d feel better if the thermostat had a credit card scanner on it: “76 degrees? $25. Credit or debit?”

As it is, I have no idea if the cool (or warmth in the winter time) that I am enjoying is racking up a bill that we’re going to need to take out a loan for or if it’s perfectly okay for me be comfortable inside my own home.

Most likely, the problem is not with the utilities providers. They have been providing electricity, gas, and water to people’s homes for years and this system has worked for them so far. The problem is, in all probability, mine and mine alone. I probably just need to chill out (no pun intended) and relax.

That’s what an air conditioner is for. For me to be comfortable in my own home. I should learn to be okay with that.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Review: Singin' In The Rain, Lofte Theatre

I have my opinions about movies made from books. Sometimes they’re good, usually they’re not. Singin’ In The Rain is a movie about movies. Specifically, it is a movie about the movie industry when it went through a great change: the shift from movies without sound to the talking movies we enjoy today. It’s a great musical, with hilarious lines and intricately choreographed dance scenes.

This weekend, my parents, sister-in-law, and I drove out to Manley, Nebraska to the Lofte Theatre to see a play based on a movie about movies.

It’s easier for actors to portray a character out of a book, I would imagine, than for actors to portray something that has already been acted. The audience is continually comparing the acting in front of them to the original acting. It would be difficult to make a character your own if you were always thinking about the first actor’s facial expression, how they held themselves, or how they inflected a line.

Movies have so many more options for scenes than the stage. For instance, it’s difficult to have a scene with the characters driving down the street in a car on the stage. You can’t jump in a huge puddle of water on the stage, and there’s only one angle that the audience can see the characters.

The stage is so much more genuine than the movies. There’s no second chance if you flub a line. There’s no redo if your singing is flat, and the audience gets to see how nervous you are every time your smile falters. The audience also has the pleasure of knowing that even though this may not be the first time you’ve performed it, you’re performing this time just for them, and that there’ll never be another performance exactly like this one.

There were several parts during the play that I enjoyed much more than the original movie. One was the addition of a song for Lina. Her character spends so much time in the movie being the antagonist that I always considered Cosmo a more amusing character. In the play, her comic relief gives his character a run for his money. One of my favorite lines of hers was, “I’m not going to take this lying down!” as she lounges on a couch in her dressing room.

My beautiful cousin plays a Hollywood party girl hoping to make it big. “Mr. Brown, can you really get me in the movies?” Her contemptuous air after Cosmo’s line offering to meet her outside the movie theater (unless the movie playing is something he’s already seen, in which case she’s on her own) is much more amusing than in the movie.

Rod Phillips is an amalgam, a character spliced together of quite a few characters from the movie in order to save time, lines, and actors. “Rod” is the head of the publicity department for the studio, and “Mr. Phillips” is a director of some kind. My very talented brother landed this role, and made it more hilarious in several occasions without speaking a word.

In one scene, Kathy very inappropriately hugs R.F., the head of the studio, after he decides to give her a job. She steps back and gives him a handshake instead, then steps over to thank Rod, who looks like he’d rather have a hug than a handshake but settles for what he can get.

In the movie, during the scene when Lina strikes back, Rod walks into R.F.’s office with a newspaper and says rather forgettably, “You can’t pull a switch on the publicity department like this, Boss!” Instead of just waltzing in and leading with that, my brother entered from Stage Left and paced back and forth for a bit, making little worried whimpering noises before R.F. demanded to know: “What?!”

The cast isn’t huge, so for the big numbers, most of them had to step up and dance. The choreographer planned it so that often, my cousin and my brother are dancing near one another on stage. When I jokingly asked them afterward if the choreographer directed them that way so that their family members would only have to take one picture to get both of them, their answers were different. “I think, with our heights, we just match,” my cousin said, as my brother interrupted with, “I think it’s because we’re cousins.”

I highly recommend that you get out and see Singin’ In The Rain at the Lofte before it closes. That is, if you can manage to get tickets for it. I can guarantee you’ll enjoy it.

Even if you’re not related to any of the cast.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Unsolicited Opinions on Pet Ownership

Most people like babies. They are little and cute, and make adorable noises. The majority of the population would be glad to hold a baby and play with it... for a while. The downside to babies is that they scream when they want something, they make very stinky diapers, and anywhere you go you have to haul around a bunch of stuff for them to eat, sleep on, or poop on. I am happy to take my baby and show her off to people who don’t have one so that she can be adequately adored. The ones adoring her are also probably pretty happy that I’m taking her home with me when they’re finished tickling her toes. It’s nice to see something cute and cuddly like that occasionally, and enjoy it while it’s there, but it’s also nice that it doesn’t come home with you afterwards.

This is how I feel about animals.

My sister-in-law has a tiny cat. It is fun to watch it chase insects around and perch on windowsills, and amusing to see how it reacts to my daughter stealing and hoarding all of its toys. No matter how cute it is, I’m never sorry that it stays there when we go home.

My brother and sister-in-law have two dogs, a fluffy Sheltie and a leaping Jack Russell Terrier. I love them. They are cute and fuzzy and I like to pet them and watch how delighted my daughter is when she gets to pet them. But the thing I like most is that they stay at my brother’s house when we go home.

Pets are wonderful things. They are always excited to see us when we come home (even if it’s just a feline glance which means “where have you been all day? oh well, who cares; feed me”). They cuddle in our laps and provide companionship. And they’re usually pretty cute, too. The downside to pets is that you have to clean up after them, you have to buy food to feed them, and they generally shed their fur on anything they sit or sleep on (especially in the summertime).

People who don’t have children don’t usually understand why those who do would want to have them. It’s a love thing. It doesn’t matter how many loads of laundry I have to wash, how many times I have to mop the floor, or how late I have to stay up trying to rock someone to sleep. I love my children enough to endure all of that.

I can imagine that this is how pet owners feel. They love their fuzzy cuddly animal enough that they don’t mind cleaning up after it. And that’s okay. I love your pets too, other people.

I’m just glad they live with you.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Just Like You

We grow up watching our parents. We strive to be like them in the awesome things they do, and roll our eyes and swear we’ll never do the things that we think are silly. But there are a lot of things we get from our parents that fall between those two extremes, and many are things we don’t even notice that we’re doing.

When my father gets to work on something, it’s hard to get him to stop and take a break until it is finished. It doesn’t matter if it’s inside work (something accountanty) or outside work (repairs or yard work), and it doesn’t matter if it’s time for lunch now or was time for lunch two hours ago. It takes quite a bit of nagging sometimes to get him to pause long enough to eat or drink something so that he can continue to work.

It surprised me a couple of weeks ago while I was working on unpacking things in to our new place when I looked at the time and found that it was 3 PM and that I hadn’t eaten lunch yet. I laughed at myself and scrounged around for some food, but not before I finished what I was doing.

My mother talks to other drivers on the road. They can’t hear her, and she doesn’t mean them to. I wouldn’t call it “road rage,” since it’s just little comments like, “get out of my way, Individual,” or “come on, Boppy.” She never gets angry or shakes her fist at anyone else, so her "road rage" is more amusing to the passengers than anything else.

It surprised my mother when she was riding in the car with me recently and she witnessed my own version of her “road rage:” I said, “where are you going, Sally?” to a driver who couldn’t decide whether to turn or go straight. My mother said my name in a tone that means that she disapproves of my behavior, but I just grinned at her, since I knew exactly where I learned to do that.

We and our parents don’t realize how much their behavior influences the way we act. It happens without anyone really paying attention.

Good thing my parents are awesome.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Going Home Again

I have heard it said that “you can’t go home again.” I’ve always thought it was kind of a silly saying, since you obviously can; just get in the car and drive there. It’s a lot shorter and catchier, however, than saying something like “don’t expect everything to be exactly the same ten years later as they were when you were a kid. The world is in a state of constant change, and does not respect your childhood memories."

Moving back to the neighborhood where I spent so many years growing up is a bit weird. The streets, buildings, and trees are all generally in the same places, though a bit run down occasionally. The surprising changes come in the local businesses. When my family first moved into this area, there were three gas stations within a block of us. Now there’s just one, but it’s gotten a face lift. They knocked down the old building and built a brand new one. It’s nice, but it’s not the same, and I do a double take every time I drive through that intersection.

Despite the changes, it is still a nice neighborhood, and will be a good place for my kids to grow and play, with several schools close by, in addition to parks and a place to swim.

We’ll have to go somewhere new for ice cream, though, since the place where we used to get 31 original flavors is now a gym for dogs.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Being an adult is weird. All I really want to do is play Portal, but instead I do a whole bunch of other stuff that’s really lame. Pssht. Stupid responsibility.

I remember being taught responsibility when I was a kid. I think everybody has at least one encounter with their parents or teachers or babysitter where they look up at the more experienced person and swear that “when I am an adult, I...” will or won’t do whatever the authority figure is trying to make them do or not do.

When I was a kid, I swore that I would always have pepperoni in my refrigerator, just in case I wanted a snack. (There is some there right now.) When I was a kid, I swore that I would never make the bed. (You’re just going to unmake it again when you go to bed... I still don’t make it very often.) When I was a kid, I swore that I would play all day and never do any chores. (That one didn’t stick, thankfully.)

Most days, I plan out what I’d like to get done (work and other chores), and by the end of the day, I haven’t accomplished half of it. I get sidetracked, or realize later that I had a whole pile of laundry that I could have washed, or I have a surge of creativity that has me writing most of the day and taking breaks only to make sure my children don’t get into too much mischief.

No kid says, “When I grow up, I’m going to use my time wisely and be a fiscally responsible member of society!” Fun is what being a kid is about. It’s important to learn responsibility, because it’s important for being an adult. Responsibility is what being an adult is about.

That, and managing your time so that everything is taken care of at the end of the day and you can relax and play some video games.

Monday, July 23, 2012

July 22nd

It was pretty hot in my parents’ backyard six years ago. My mom, Lindy, and I had tied bows on a million fans so that people could stay cooler, and someone had the brilliant idea beforehand to freeze a bunch of bottles of water, so my brothers were handing those out, too. It was still pretty stifling even though the guests were sitting under the canvas shelters, so I’m glad they had multiple ways of keeping themselves comfortable, since they were there for me.

Well, me and the guy who became my husband that day.

I’d always wanted to get married outside. Some little girls dream about a church wedding, walking down the aisle and all that, but since I spent more hours outside up a tree than I did thinking about which colors any future bridesmaids would wear, it was a no-brainer. Actually, the only wedding planning I remember doing as a kid was deciding that my wedding would be outside. The house I lived in had a very prominent front walk up to the door, with yard on either side to set chairs for guests, and I could see a long train cascading down the steps to the porch... it was going to be perfect. Since my wedding was in a different place, there was no sidewalk and no front steps, but I did have a long cascading train.

How we settled on July I can’t remember. Maybe it was that May was too early and August was too late, and everyone got married in June and I didn’t want to get married in June if everyone else was. That day my Grandpa told me that at his wedding (inside, in June), it was 110 in the shade! It wasn’t quite that hot at mine, but it was certainly warm enough. Summer + Nebraska + outside = hot.

I don’t remember being overly hot. There are pictures of my husband and I, sitting on the bench in the shade of the big tree, cooling off after taking pictures and before the ceremony. I must’ve been hot, but the only time I definitely remember being warm was at the reception, coming off the dance floor, sweating, when there were only about fifteen or twenty people still there. I was downing every glass of water I could get my hands on, and someone handed me a pitcher of water. There’s a picture of me drinking out of it, and I have to remind anyone who sees it that, “no, I wasn’t tipsy, I was just thirsty. We were shakin’ it. ‘She’s a brick... house...’”

Planning a wedding is pretty exhausting. You work hard and set things up meticulously and it all comes down to one day where at least one thing will definitely go wrong and you hope that it won’t be something huge like the groom being missing and is only something little like the caterers promising one thing and giving you completely the wrong potato salad.

On the day of, though, you’re feeling so many things that it’s hard to keep track of whether this shindig you planned is going well. Did your Grandma show up yet? Is your hair falling down in the back? Did the best man find out that the flower you ordered for him is pink even though he swore he wouldn’t stand for wearing any pink? (Heh, heh.) Is your mom crying again? Will you be able to get through the ceremony/seeing the groom for the first time/your dad giving you away/seeing your mom crying without bawling? (Answer: no.)

Through all of these feelings, you have to step back and calm down and realize that you shouldn’t be thinking about all these other things, because you’re getting married today. You have to remind yourself that if you don’t slow down, you won’t be able to enjoy it, and the only memories you’ll have are of being stressed out all day.

I love going back to look at the pictures of the ceremony. It’s great to see the looks on our faces during the different parts of it: serious when saying our vows, laughing when Schmoove accidentally asked me if I wanted to take my groom as my wife, then getting serious again when we moved on to the “I do”s. One of the greatest series of pictures is our exit. Since it was so warm, everyone got a little squirtgun to shoot at us instead of tossing rice or birdseed or blowing bubbles. The photographer got everything from just before my new father-in-law turned the hose on us to my new husband lifting me up and tossing me in the back of the BMW convertible in lieu of opening the door before we zoomed away.

The pictures from the reception are pretty great too, each table took pictures of who was there with little disposable cameras. My favorite set of photos from the reception are from the table that was occupied by my husband’s family, of the squirtgun fight between two of my husband’s cousins. I’m not sure which one had the upper hand, but the final picture is the best: my Grandpa grinning as he sneak attacked them both.

I have lots of wonderful memories: my beautiful cousins carrying my train down the “aisle,” wearing Groucho Marx glasses at the reception, my dad’s speech (in which he introduced himself as “Bill. Bill Payer”), and the guys playing “BoxTent” the next morning at breakfast. But as wonderful as it was, it’s not as good as what happened after.

Some people lose sight of the facts during their engagement, or the planning stage, or on the day of. They focus on the dress, the people attending, or what songs the DJ will play at the reception. What they forget is that there is something after the wedding... and it’s the rest of your life.

I treasure the memories I have of my wedding day. I treasure the little anniversary traditions that I have (like trying on my dress every year; it has always fit me, even when I was pregnant! Not that I zipped it all the way up, or anything). But the thing I treasure most is the fact that I get to spend the rest of my life with the wonderful man who stood beside me during the ceremony.

No matter how many times he steals the covers at night or how many weird, random places I find his wedding ring (on the floor of the basement?) or how many times we have the same conversation about what we’ll have for dinner, I always know that I got the best man in the whole world. He is the best husband and father I could ever have hoped for, and six years isn’t enough time for me to show him how awesome I think he is and to fully get it through my head how marrying him was the best decision I ever made.

Good thing I've got the rest of my life.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Where Were You?

Tragedies affix themselves in our memories. When they are natural disasters, it is sometimes easier: we know that there is nothing we could have done to control the weather. The senseless loss of life is still shocking and makes us feel helpless, but it is much worse when the disaster is inflicted by man.

Anyone old enough to remember will be able to tell you exactly where they were when Pearl Harbor was bombed, or when they heard that JFK was shot. Everyone in my generation can tell minute details about things that happened to them on September 11th, 2001. And it would be surprising if they could not also recall watching news coverage of the Columbine shootings in 1999 and Virginia Tech’s massacre in 2007.

This morning at 7 AM I woke up to the sound of a text message. I wiggled around, trying not to disturb my daughter (but not succeeding), and laid hands on my phone. After reading a sweet message from my brother who was trying to make sure I’d gotten over being sick this week, I pushed the button to read the message that my mother had sent me, the one that I’d just received. It said, “Hon, can you see this mayhem in Aurora? I hope no one you knew was at the movie!”

Last night was the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, the latest Batman movie. My friends have all been known to go to a midnight premiere or two in their time, but the only one that I knew that was definitely at a theater last night was a friend from school, who went to see it in Omaha.

I called my mother immediately; she watches the news as she gets ready in the morning, and she told me what had happened. Someone had entered a packed theater at the Century 16 at the Aurora Mall, set off a can of some kind of gas, and started shooting people indiscriminately. She told me that fifteen people were dead and at least fifty injured.

My first thought was for my husband’s best friend, my brother-in-law and his pregnant wife, and another of our good friends, who I thought could possibly have been there. I made sure my daughter would not roll off the bed and called my husband, who had left for work not five minutes before, and I hurried through the house to the computer to see what my friends were saying on facebook. My husband tried to calm me down, reminding me that the Century 16 was not the best theater in the area, and that if our friends went to any movies last night, it would have been down on Parker & Arapahoe, or possibly at Southlands, but that they weren’t known to frequent the Aurora Mall.

The internet was helpful. A friend in the area who I thought might have been present had posted a video from USA Today, expressing her hopes that none of her friends were there. I breathed a sigh of relief for her safety. As I began to watch the video, my husband called me back. His best friend was on his way to work, and had skipped the premiere because of the early hour he has to get up in order to be at work. I was even more comforted when he reported that our other friend had been at work all night and was probably still there.

I took my daughters to my mother’s house, receiving a sympathetic text message from my father while trying to call my mother-in-law on the way. Colorado is an hour earlier than Nebraska, so I figured that my call at 7:15 (and again at 9:15) was probably ignored in favor of sleep. Finally I texted my father-in-law, but a little later saw that my sister-in-law was on facebook. “She wouldn’t be liking statuses on facebook if her husband were in the hospital or dead,” I told my mother.

A little later, my husband’s best friend sent me a message saying that he had talked to my brother-in-law and that they were all fine. “Everyone I know who might have been there is accounted for,” he told me. My father-in-law gave me a call, letting me know that everyone was fine and thanking me for my concern, but reminding me that he and my mother-in-law are on a church trip in Alabama this week. “Sean was probably out in the garage working,” he said, explaining the unanswered phone.

The worst part about a tragedy is the senseless loss of life. Slightly less horrific is the suspense you feel until you know that all of your loved ones are safe. The dull ache that comes after may be equally bad, feeling for those who did have children or friends who were injured or killed, and just wondering why.

Was he just a crazy person who wanted to kill people? Did he fancy himself a Batman villain? Does he have some kind of political or religious agenda? Did he just want to be famous? I’m sure we’ll know soon, but it won’t change the fact that it happened.

I am so relieved that my friends and family are safe, and my heart goes out to those who cannot say the same.

I will always remember where I was today.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What Kinda State is This?!

I haven’t traveled extensively. I have been out of the United States of America a grand total of three times, for very short periods. 10 days in Guatemala on a mission trip in high school, an hour or two in Mexico on Senior Trip, and 3 days in the Bahamas on a cruise after I graduated from college make up my short list of international travel. My family took vacations when I was a kid, but if we left the state it was only to go to the ones surrounding it. Kansas City has a amusement/water park, Worlds of Fun/Oceans of Fun, which we visited several times, and the Iowa State Fair and the nearby Adventureland drew us once or twice. The largest distance traveled was to see my Aunt in southeast Utah, to enjoy the gorgeous views of Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, to hike a bit of the Grand Canyon, and to visit the Four Corners. I’ve never been dissatisfied with the amount of traveling I have done, although I of course wouldn’t mind doing more of it.

It wasn’t until my husband and I, driving our rental car towards the place in northern Idaho where his brother would be married the next day, that it hit me: this was probably the furthest North that I had ever been in my life. A road sign confirmed this a few miles later, reading, “CANADA: 99 MILES.” A scene from the much-beloved and much-watched Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring flashed through my head: “If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.”

Northern Idaho is gorgeous. Evergreen trees line the roads (but don’t crowd them, as the trees do in Connecticut, which is incidentally the furthest East that I’ve ever been), and mountains make give the horizon variety in every direction. The views are lovely, the temperatures nice (even when in the 90s, as long as there is a breeze), and the people are friendly. There were a few things, however, that threw me for a loop, and had me asking myself, “what kinda state is this?!”

It is true that when we visited it was the first nice week for quite a while (the several preceding it had been wet and cold), so maybe I should cut the residents a break when I make notice of the fact that one vehicle in four was bound to be a motorcycle. Motorcycles everywhere! I had never seen so many in once place in my life. And these were not hardcore bikers by any means (although we did see a group of maybe ten or so of those at one point), they were just local motorcycle owners, out for a cruise. In addition to the fact that there were so many about, the thing that surprised me most about the riders themselves was that out of everyone we saw (aside from the hardcore bikers), there was one person wearing a helmet. Maybe I’m just used to the state law that requires that any person who takes their lives into their hands by getting on one of those things must at least pretend like they’re going to be safe by putting on a helmet, but... what kinda state wouldn’t have a law like that? (According to the state patrol website, Idaho does have a motorcycle helmet law, but it only applies to passengers under the age of 18.)

After leaving the wedding on Friday, we stopped at a local grocery store to grab a snack for our tired two year old. I found crackers, I found drinks, but browsing through the yogurt, butter, and milk yielded no discovery of cheese. All I wanted were a couple of sticks of string cheese, come on, where is the cheese.... I finally wandered up toward the bakery and asked a disinterested employee, “Did I just walk past the cheese six times without seeing it, or what?” “Uh,” she replied, looking at me like I was a crazy person (and I probably looked it), “Well, it’s in the meat department.” The meat department! What kinda state is this?! I could understand the string cheese being next to the slim jims at a convenience store, but this was an actual grocery store. Someone ought to tell the management at Super 1 that cheese belongs in the dairy department.

My first experience I have saved for the last because, in my opinion, it is the most strange and hilarious. My daily desire for caffeine but aversion to coffee had my husband stopping at a corner gas station so that I could purchase a soda. I had barely gotten out of the car when I saw something that caused me to cry out: “What kinda state is this?!” The young man who moved away from the front doors just as I walked up to them must have been a member of a career path similar to bodybuilding or male modeling, and my agitated state continued as the woman manning the registers rang up my Mountain Dew. “You’re giggling,” she observed. “I am!” I responded, “I’m not from around here; what kinda state is this?!” She laughed. “I told him to put a shirt on,” she said, “it’s hot enough out there as it is.” I expressed the desire to know whether every resident went out in public in a similar state of undress, and she confessed that quite a few of them did, although most were quite the opposite of easy on the eyes. Now that I think of it, I don’t remember seeing a “No shirt, no shoes, no service” sign anywhere in Idaho, and I did see quite a few more topless men in our time there than I would necessarily have liked.

Our trip to northern Idaho was very enjoyable. We got to see family, celebrate its expansion (we love you, Ashley!) and discover things about a new place. I would love to go there again, and for more than two days this time.

Just as long as they put on a shirt, wear a motorcycle helmet, and move their cheese.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Light Show

There aren’t many Americans who don’t have at least a couple of Fourth of July traditions. Usually they include things like grilling out, watching parades, and enjoying fireworks, whether it’s watching a professionally designed show or lighting them off with the kids.

When I was a kid, we would walk two blocks to main street to watch the parade. There were clowns, floats, and every piece of fire fighting equipment from every other town in the county; and every parade participant tossed candy or popsicles into the waiting hands of the children who came to watch.

At night, there were fireworks. One year we walked two blocks (in the other direction) to the school to watch the volunteer firemen set off some fancy fireworks. Usually, we went out to my grandparents’ farm and played with sparklers, bottle rockets, and set up tank wars. My uncle went to Missouri a couple of times for the good stuff, and he usually had some pretty good artillery shells. My mother likes the lights associated with a fireworks show, but not the sounds, so she used to sit inside to watch. Another year, my father had to work on the evening of the Fourth at his second job, and I sat with him on the hood of his truck and we watched people in the nearby neighborhood shoot off their own fireworks; it was like our own private light show.

This year was a bit different. My husband and I had just decided to take a new job, and so a day off in the middle of the week made a perfect moving day. (And with the fires in Colorado this year, it wasn’t like we were going to be able to light any fountains or Roman candles anyway.) I was a little disappointed not to be able to do the usual Fourth of July things, but since my family was coming to help us move and we had plans with my husband’s family, that was enough. The move went really fast, we had an awesome lunch, and we were on the road in the early afternoon.

I like driving. I like cool Nebraska nights. I like rain. I don’t necessarily like all of these things when they happen to occur at the same time. Any combination of two of these things at a time is fine, but usually adding the third makes me a bit nervous. Traveling back and forth to across Nebraska so many times means that I have been in a lot of night time rain storms. I’ve never had to pull over because the storm was so bad before, but this trip, we had to.

The rain was coming down hard. Visibility was poor. But the lightning was lighting up the sky so often that it was more light out than dark, flashing through the clouds like a strobe light.

In a couple of towns in the distance, we could see the results of some residents’ attempts to celebrate the birth of our country with fireworks. We didn’t pay any attention. Who needs manmade explosions when the sky is exploding?

Even though it was a little precarious, the weather made sure we had a traditional Fourth of July, with our very own light show.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


“Hi, how are you folks doing?”
“Oh, fine, thank you, how are you?”
“I’m all right, what can I get for you today?”

Small talk fills awkward silences. It can help to begin a conversation of substance. And it’s considered polite to at least attempt, when serving customers, before getting to the point of what exactly it is they want from you.

The best customers I had when I was in food service were the ones who answered my attempts at small talk in a way I wasn’t expecting. Even it it was just an interesting answer to my usual “how are you” and then on with the routine. If I wasn’t insanely busy, I was always happy to pause in my duties to trade banter with a chatty customer. My favorite memories from working food service usually involve someone who wasn’t satisfied with the usual dry small talk.

People get tossed out of their comfort zones when you answer anything but “I am fine” or I’m good” to the question “how are you.” It’s surprising how many doubletakes I get when I reply to that question with “I’m doing very well, thank you;” it is grammatically correct, but it’s just not what the question asker is used to hearing. One of my favorite scenes from the first season of NBC’s 30 Rock takes place between a Harvard grad and the wise-cracking comic relief. “So, how you doin’ over there, Theo Huxtable?” the comic relief asks the Harvard grad. “I’m doing good,” replies the posh man in the sweater vest. “Superman does good,” the first shoots back, “you doin’ well.”

It really throws people for a loop when you are having a bad day and decide to answer that kind of question honestly. They just want to get on with the routine of the day and check in your rental car, but here you are telling them your life story, how your two year old was up all night vomiting and you haven’t slept since 1 AM and how you’re not going to get home again until 11 PM and you hope she doesn’t start throwing up on the plane. They look at you like they don’t care and that they just wished you’d said “we’re fine” or “we’re okay” and just let them get on with their job.

Even though it’s considered polite, why do we even attempt to make small talk with someone if we don’t want to know how their day has been? When we ask a question like that, we’re ready to respond to the answer before the person we asked has begun to speak.

Next time someone asks you how you’re doing, really tell them. (It will teach them to ask!) And next time you ask someone else how they’re doing, really listen, and encourage them to answer honestly. You’ll be able to have an actual conversation that way. If you only have enough time to exchange pleasantries, there’s always stuff like, “There sure is weather happening outside today!” or “how about the home team? They are the best at sports!” But if you don’t want a real conversation, don’t start one.

By the way, how are you today?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Something Nice

My father and I like to enjoy the foods we like slowly, savoring them until they are gone. He keeps ice cream in the freezer for months, having a small bowl of it whenever he feels like it, and I am the same way.

Unfortunately, our spouses like to enjoy treats like these rather... faster. My husband will polish off a half gallon of ice cream in three or four days, eating one rather large bowl every night until it’s gone. It’s not like my mother devours the ice cream or anything, but when my father struts into the kitchen three weeks after the last time he had some and asks if there’s any in the house, my mother usually says no. “Didn’t we have some?” he inquires, to which she excalims, “I ate it!”

The solutions we have put in place to remedy this are: my mother buys ice cream that my father likes but that she’s not very fond of, and I hide things that I’m not planning on sharing.

This does not work so well with things that are in plain sight. I hide my treasured breakfast cereals in the cupboard with the other breakfast cereals. This is not an ideal hiding place, because my husband, who does not normally eat breakfast during the week, waltzes in on the weekends and eats my cereal.

He must think that I’m joking when I cry out: “Get off!” and “Don’t eat that, it’s mine!” because he eats it anyway. One reason he disregards my squawking may be because although the cereal is in short supply (I can only buy it in Nebraska or order it off the internet), we are moving to Nebraska, so soon I can get it whenever I want. Another reason may be that it’s not like we’re roommates: “Dude, don’t eat my cereal,” we are husband and wife, and cereal is one of the many things in life that we share. Or it may simply be that it’s just cereal, so who cares?

But the best way to ensure that my father and I don’t have to share is to employ my mother’s system.  I make a big batch of chocolate cookies with Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips, and my husband will have one or two, but usually leaves the rest alone, letting me eat them as quickly or savor them as slowly as I want to. When my father asks for “something nice,” my mother hands him the off brand sandwich cookies he likes but she loathes.

My parents have been married for a quarter of a century longer than my husband and I have. Maybe it just takes time to learn what your spouse likes, what you enjoy together, and what you love but they won’t touch with a ten foot pole. Marriage is all about compromise. Even when it comes to Something Nice.