Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Chomosome I Wish I Had

I was mowing my lawn two days ago when my engine made a loud POP! and then promptly died. I wasn't optimistic, but I tried to start it again only to get a sputter-sputter-chug-chug-plop and that was that. Eli and I gave it a fretful stare and then I pushed it into the shade to cool off, hoping it was just somehow, mysteriously overheated.

About an hour later, I went back out and gave it another yank or two, to be met with the same sputter-sputter-chug-chug-plop, but no engine starting. My fretful stare became a more serious worry.

I spoke with Bear (ah yes, poor Bear) and he suggested I check the gas cap and maybe purchase a new one as they had experienced similar problems years ago and it was solved with a new gas cap. I thought $7 sounded like a great fix idea.

My dad suggested I check the spark plug. He wasn't sure beyond that or the air filter thingy, but the spark plug made a lot of sense now that he mentioned it, and so I headed out the the garage, thinking a $3 spark plug and/or a $7 gas cap was still far better options than a new $250 mower.

I pulled the mower out of the garage into the sunlight and took a look around for the spark plug. I immediately realized how right my dad must be. The spark plug MUST be the problem, because there WASN'T ONE. There was an empty hole and the little rubber cover was hanging loosely, but the actual spark plug itself was unexplicably AWOL.

I called Bear. (Ah, poor Bear) I verified with Bear that I must have had a spark plug to have started the mower when I started the back yard. While unlikely that a spark plug would just wiggle itself loose, it was most likely to be found somewhere in the yard. And so I searched. And I searched. But I didn't find a spark plug.

Bear had mentioned that in lieu of the old plug, I could take my model information to Tractor Supply and they could look it up for me. Which is what I did. Only the catalogs full of useful spark plug information didn't list anything for my make and model in combination with the horsepower mine proclaimed to have. The saleswoman suggested I return home and find the actual model number on the deck of the mower.

Running out of time before I had to be elsewhere, I wrote down the model number, but wasn't able to return to Tractor Supply until this morning. A new (and remarkably good looking) man tried to answer my question, but he came upon the same information and nothing more. We google'd it, we looked in several parts catalogs, but none listed my make, model and horsepower together. He asked me several times what color my mower was and if the plug was on the front or the side, and I became aware that he didn't believe the information I was providing. He suggested that the model number on the deck is not necessarily the same for the engine, as this particular company likes to just confuse people by providing two different things. I told him I lived just up the road and I would go home and find the OTHER number that he apparently needed.

Flash met me at the door when I returned home and asked if he could help in anyway (I know, I nearly fell over, too). I explained the problem, and I began taking pictures of my mower and the lack of another model number to take back to hottie at Tractor Supply (who, by the way, I am certain was as impressed with sweaty, gross, pony-tailed, make-up-less, Saturday morning mess, me) I asked if Flash would walk the back yard and see if he could find the missing old plug that I wasn't able to locate.

Armed with photographic evidence, I headed back to Tractor Supply. As I was about to walk in the doors, I had a text message from Flash saying he found the old plug and he provided me with the serial number on it.

I found hottie and shared the triumphant news. He located the right part for me and even looked it up in the catalog to see what sort of engine that part is said to go with (and still wasn't the one I have). I thanked him profusely and returned home to install a $3 spark plug and immediately start up my mower.

I don't know how men just know these things. I don't know how they can just fix things with such little to-do as they do. It must have something to do with that stinkin' Y chromosome. With my two X's, I feel completely helpless when it comes to some mechanical malfunction. I just stare at it and I know it has me beat before I can even pretend to put up a fight. I am in no small part, so grateful to Bear and my dad for their little words of wisdom, without which I would have a mower in a repair shop for $90, or would be contemplating the purchase of an entirely new one, all for want of a missing spark plug.

It reminds me of something a friend said in college when the dorm vacuum stopped sucking things up. "Did you check to see if the bag was full?" I asked.

"Bag? What bag? I didn't know these things had bags? Wow, look at that, it is full! Thank goodness you were here. I'd never know to check the bag. I would have just had to throw the vacuum away and buy a whole new one."

The mower may have outwitted me this time, but let the record stand, it will not fool me so quickly the next time. Unless, of course, the repair has nothing to do with a $3 spark plug.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Poor Bear

Perhaps the person who will suffer most in this breakup is really my brother-in-law, Bear. I haven't been single for two days and I had to already hit him up with broken lawnmower questions.

The poor man.

For a few months there, he only had one honey-do list.

I should restock my fridge with his favorite beer. He doesn't even know about the shutters yet.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In a conversation about nothing really, Flash retorted with a quick, "What? So sue me for being a romantic!"

And I realized, of all things to hand-down to your child, of all the genetics, dispositions, inclinations, habits, tendencies and beliefs to pass along to your offspring, could there be anything worse than condemning them to the life of a romantic?

I wanted, then and there, to just hug him and beg for forgiveness for passing along the romantic curse. I wanted to apologize and try to sway him off the course I know he is now destined to suffer through.

What fate could be worse than to be a romantic in this life? Is it not a life of continual disappointment? Is it not a life of frustration and suffering? Is it not a life where the glass, while rose-colored and lovely, is not just half-empty, but full of poison to boot?


But maybe there is hope. Maybe there is a glimmer in all of this, for Flash is not just any romantic, he is a male romantic. The romantic male is a rarity indeed, is it not? I don't mean to suggest Flash is some sappy, effeminate poet. He merely believes that life's precious moments are worth savoring, worth contemplating, worth creating and planning to bring out full emotion of the occasion. He doesn't leave to chance the important moments, and he makes little moments important with his care and thought. A first kiss is a masterpiece in his mind. Scripting the perfect, nerdy love-letter takes days. He even sweated out the details to make sure just having his girlfriend to dinner was planned and thought-out and not just happenstance. He worried over the timing: dinner then movie? Movie then game? Game before dinner? Until he thought he had it all orchestrated just so.

Life won't always go this way, in fact, it won't even go this way often. But from the viewpoint of a 40-year old romantic cynic, I guess I admire his naive tenacity. I admire his effort, his desire, his enthusiasm. Ahh, puppy love. What the innocent enjoy before they learn that love bites.

24 Hours

I've always told myself that no man is worth crying over for more than 24 hours. One day is it. Wallow, pity thineself and then, 24 hours later, move on. Certainly, for first or second dates gone badly, it's a good theory. There's no use getting upset for longer than the wretched bad date lasted in the first place, but along my many years of single-hood, I'll admit, there has been a time or two when 24 hours wasn't quite long enough to cure my heartache.

Without a doubt, I know that this is one of those times.

I made the call, I own the decision, and while I regret that it came to an impasse, I couldn't have kept going as things were.

But I liked this one. I loved this one.

Maybe after this summer's brief hiatus from each other, I should have been more prepared for this inevitable. I think it only made it worse. I thought...well, it doesn't matter now what I thought. We convince ourselves there's a reality to the things we hope most for, don't we?


It has been 24 hours. We're still sorting through the "I'll return your..." and the "What do I do about..." emails, still discovering things in my life, my home, that belong to him and vice versa. Things I don't want to let go of, but things that remind me too much.

Six months was a long time for me. Long enough together that I know 24 hours apart isn't going to even come close to healing this heart. 24 days might not even cut it.

This is going to take awhile.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

School work done for the day? Check.

Kitchen cleaned up? Check.

Bowl of popcorn? Check.

Blanket to take the chill of the evening off? Check.

Oh how I love Sunday Night Football!

Written for Flash?

I saw this book at the Dollar Store and showed it to Flash. I thought it might help the next time he is in Tennessee and encounters a Blue-Tailed Skink.

(Flash didn't think it was nearly as funny as I did.)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Again, Not Quite What I Meant

Flash was helping me unload the car yesterday after I returned home from another morning at school. I had brought back boxes of books that are too difficult for first graders, a small table I need to paint and take back to my classroom, a posterboard and a few small crates.

"What is this thing?" Flashed asked, pointing at a heavy item in a white case.

"Aunt Jules' sewing machine."

"What do you need it for?"

"The next time I'm procrastinating doing anything truly important, I thought I would sew a skirt for my overhead cart."

"I thought you had a sewing machine."

"I do, I have my mom's. But it doesn't work very well anymore. It's older than I am, Flash. Things that are older than me don't tend to work very well."

"Papa is older than you, is that why he is retired?" Flash said with a smirk.

Sigh. Teenagers.

Non-Competitive Photo Shoot #2

Okay, Dad, you have 20 minutes to get a better picture of a Walking Stick. Go!
WG earned serious points by the boy for bringing the bug over, but the boy earned no points from the bug. As it turns out, looking like a stick is in no way a deterrent to a teenage boy. The poor bug was held, turned, dropped, grabbed, studied and photographed. When finally he was placed in the herb garden, he struck a rather forlorn five-legged pose on a basil leaf. He was still there hours later. We are fairly certain this is the official Walking Stick sign of surrender.

Note: No calls from the SPCA of Southwest Michigan were received.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I've Said It Before

but it bears repeating. I have the sweetest boyfriend ever.

I blame it on Super Mario. If Flash hadn't started playing the Wii, I might not have insisted that we do something so crazy. But I did. Maybe it was just the cool weather, maybe it was the sense that summer is rapidly slipping by and my child is rapidly growing up that made me seize the opportunity with gusto and suggest, nay, insist that we go for a bike ride together.

The bike ride itself wasn't really the issue. It was the destination that secures my room at the insane asylum. I suggested we ride to WG's house. It's only four miles down the road, I proclaimed with confidence! Four miles is nothing. It's just that I live on a hill, and WG lives on a hill, and suffice it to say, they are not the same hill.

Flash agreed with as much confidence as I had suggested the original proposition, making me immediately aware that I hadn't thought this out very well at all. I had water, granola bars, cell phone, keys, helmets, but no sanity. Certainly the necessary muscles for peddling up the numerous hills were lacking as well.

I sent a text to WG about half way through the ride (not while riding, geez, I can barely peddle and look over my shoulder without fallling off the bike! Flash had to stop to fix his chain so I thought it was a good time to check and make sure my prince charming might be home to save me from myself.)

The second worst hill of the entire ride is the one leading up to WG's driveway. The worst hill is WG's driveway itself. Being gravel, I wasn't even about to attempt his driveway, but being winded from trying to get up the street itself, just trying to push my stupid, old body bike up his driveway nearly killed me.

WG met us at the top of the drive. "Are you okay?"

I think it took me five full minutes to be able to breathe well enough to actually answer him.

He declared us both mentally insane. He offered water and chairs and a chance to sit and rest. Then he fed Flash leftover lasagne and he quietly went out and put the bike rack on his Jeep. We loaded the two bikes on and he drove us home without once telling me I'm a wuss or an idiot or perhaps, quite reasonably both.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Not Quite What I Meant

"Flash, you know, I didn't really expect this driving thing to be quite so hard on me."

"What do you mean, Mom?"

"Well, I remember quite clearly, how difficult it was to endure you learning how to ride a bike. It was one of the most painful things I went through as a mother. Luckily, it only took a few days. I guess I thought teaching you how to drive would be difficult, but the difficulty would be short-lived, like the bike-riding was. You had it mastered in about three short days."

"Yeah, but I sure fell a lot in those three short days."

"But that's part of learning, Flash. When you learned to walk, you fell and you got up. You fell, and you got up. When you learned to ride a bike, you fell and you got back on the bike, you fell and you got back on. It's just part of the process."

"So what you're saying, Mom, is that to learn how to drive I need to crash over and over?"

"Um, not exactly, no."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dear Mom

Today is one of those calendar days where it's hard not to think of you. You come to mind on so many other days as well, but today, the day you had to leave, is one of the hardest every year.

You've come to mind often, the past few days and weeks. I'm changing to a new classroom this year and I'm scared to death. I know you'd say just the thing I need to hear. I know you'd laugh about first graders and tell me entertaining stories of the three of us when we were that age. You'd help me with sewing and creating all the little things I need that are bogging me down from focusing on the new curriculum, the new assessments, the new lesson plans. I know you'd be here, supporting, encouraging and laughing. I could really use it about now.

Did you see us playing Canasta? The last time I played that game I am sure we were partners. How long has it been since we played? 25 years? I played this time with two boys I love and realized you've never met either of them. That very thought just makes my heart heavy sometimes. You would have been so proud of Dad and the prank he played on your grandson! You would have been right in the thick of it, too. You'd have pulled several of your own, I'm sure.
I am certain, every time I am in Tennessee that you are in Heaven laughing. It's hard to believe, isn't it, that this family of ours actually boats?! I never thought I would thank you for the years of shivering swimming lessons at the City Park Pool, but they sure have come in handy. Dad even got in the water this time. It may be well over 25 years since I've seen that happen.

I was travelling again on my birthday this year. Seems appropriate after all the times we did it when I was young. I didn't much like turning 40, though, thinking of how few years you had after your 40th. And I can't help but think of how much you would have loved retirement. Travelling, visiting friends often, having the grandchildren come and stay.

It's been a long time since I heard your laugh or saw your smile or that mischievious twinkle in your eye. I miss your hugs. I miss how you would exclaim, "Eliza is home!" when I walked in the door. While I don't want to rush things down here, I sure can't wait to hear you say those words to me one more time.

I love you, Mom.

Eliza Jane

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Endangered Blue-Tailed Skink

While in Tennessee, Flash became obsessed interested in the Blue-Tailed Skink.

He searched high...

...and he searched low. He would abandon a game of pool to run off and chase a skink.
When we couldn't get him to take his headphones off or abandon his computer to be social with any of us, we could merely whisper "skink" and he'd go running.

And then, finally, he caught one. He was beyond excited. We all came out and took excessive numerous photos of the occasion.

Blue-tailed indeed. Flash's lizard was not to be mistaken. He was quite disappointed that his mother would not allow him to take the lizard home as a "gift" to his girlfriend, but he took photos and played with the lizard until it escaped and he felt quite satisfied that he had accomplished a terrific feat.


We were all playing cards around the table when Papa's cell phone went off with a new text message. His face became quizzical and then upset as he read the text. He shared with us the message, "The SPCA of Eastern Tennessee has received notification that a member of your household has tampered with an endangered species. An official summons will be sent via mail in three business days. Subsequent fines and/or punishments may be enforced if a violation can be proven."

The table grew silent. Flash's face turned red.

"What endangered animal?" we innocently asked.

"Must be the Blue-Tailed Skink," he said.

"Endangered? I didn't know it was endangered!" exclaimed Flash.

Much talk ensued around the table as to how we were spotted and who in the neighborhood might have reported the incident. "There was that white van that went by while we were out in the driveway," WG chimed in.

"We'll have to destroy all the pictures," Papa said. "They could incriminate us."

Flash feverishly google'd the Blue-Tailed Skink. "There's nothing in here about it being endangered! They must be mistaken!"

"Well, maybe it wasn't really a Blue-Tailed Skink. Could it be some other kind of skink?"

Flash pulled up multiple pictures of skinks, scouring each page at a furious rate to figure out where the confusion might lie. He shouted stats at the table in a crisp, legal defense. "The Mole Skink of southern Florida is on the endangered list, but it doesn't look anything like the skink I had!"

He continued to scan the pages, again and again, with increasing emtion, refuting the claim. He was passionately adamant that the skink he had held and photographed was a not a protected species.

The table grew silent as Papa suggested we await the written notice and see what steps we might take to refute the claim. Flash was not placated by any of our reassurances. He sat, with stricken face, his mind running through various scenarios, trying desperately to find clear and rational proof of his innocence.

Papa excused himself from the table. When he returned, he suggested calmly that we re-read the message and see if maybe there's something we originally missed.

"Verizon wireless would like to offer you a new Droid phone for only..."

We all sat and looked at Flash. It took a full, long, breathless minute for him to realize he'd been had. Papa had pulled off one of the best pranks ever. Flash laughed with relief and admitted he had been gotten. We all congratulated Papa on a well-played joke and patted ourselves on the backs for being able to go along with it on the fly so well.

It may be a long time before Flash lives down the Endangered Blue-Tailed Skink Incident.

As for the skink, I think if he took on an Australian accent, he might just have a career in advertising.


Squeezed in between the week James requested off nearly a year ago and Flash's epic return to band camp, we snuck in a quick but wonderful trip to Tennessee to see my dad and Judy.

Of course there was charring grilling.

And card playing.

Suspicious card playing indeed.

And presents. Who can beat presents?!

I don't understand it, but apparently some teenagers people prefer simple thank you notes to deep-felt hugs! Who knew?

There may have been an unadvertised and certainly not competitive photo shoot.

While we have been taking our children to Tennessee for many years, one thing remains the same: the children never really mature age.

There was tubing, of course.

Which for some reason involves playing the air guitar.
(What would his girlfriend say?!)

There were some of us who returned home with a very sore elbow and stern words from his doctor to "stop acting like you are 20 and just drive the boat!"
but I won't mention any names. Ahem.

There was laughing, of course.

And evil, maniacal water fights.

And beautiful sunsets
(even if these clouds did contain many bolts of lightning and threatening thunder).

We had a great time and all three of us thank the Tennessee clan for their generous hospitality year after year. We hope next time we can stay just a bit longer!

Saturday, August 06, 2011

The New Thirty?

I liked birthdays better when I was this age.
(Look, Jules! Turtle candles! Thank goodness we don't have 40 of those!)

Or I would even take this age. Although I didn't get a guinea pig for my birthday. Even with that fantastic begging expression.

Fortunately for me, turning 40 this year wasn't too painful.
In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I think I'll turn 40 again next year!

Flash's birthday card to me read, "When it's your birthday, you should get cake and a comfy place to eat it. *hint hint* Happy Birthday, Mom. May many an afternoon be spent napping in the sun." Flash went way overboard and bought me a hammock.
He had it secretly shipped to Dad's so I could open it on my actual birthday.
He single-handedly put it together when we arrived home.

Flash, I guarantee I will spend many an afternoon napping in just this spot. What a great gift!

WG gave me a silver pendant necklace and a great new CD that we rocked to on the trip home. Had I not been so stubborn about waiting until later to open my gifts, we might have rocked out to it on the way down to TN as well. Silly me. When we arrived back home, he gave me one last gift. A meat pounder. He didn't think that was an appropriate gift for me to open in front of my father. Or else maybe he thought I might use it on him when he beat me at pool.
In either case, it's the little things, right, WG? *wink*

Dad and Judy added to my new collection of dishes. They discovered dishes I didn't know existed!! Don't you love the flowers on the insides of the bowls? I need to have a dinner party so I can put all the dishes to use! They are going to look great on my new dining room table. But that is a whole 'nother post.

Jules and Bear gave me two more window boxes for the house. I can't wait to put them up next spring and plant them with beautiful, draping flowers! I'm so excited about how gorgeous they will look!

Thanks to all of my family and friends for the emails, texts, cards, gifts and laughs that made this year a truly wonderful year, indeed!

Friday, August 05, 2011


From the first exchange of phone numbers and a date three days later to see "True Grit", WG and I are celebrating six great months together. We've visited our local air zoo (where we did far more stolling and talking than looking at any airplanes) to a trip to Illinois to visit friends and check off a bucket-list item at the John Deere museum to boot. We've travelled to South Haven to watch the sunset, Mackinaw to see the lakes and even Detroit to catch a game.
I always hoped to find a man that shared my faith to fall in love with.
Maybe, just maybe, I have found him.
Happy Anniversary, WG!

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
1 Corinthians 13:13

Monday, August 01, 2011

Fairweather Fan?

I've admitted many times, I totally jumped on the Red Sox bandwagon. I had been a fan of the Mariners for many years, until my cousin retired from the team. When the Red Sox beat the dreaded Yankees in such beautiful fashion in 2004, I knew exactly who my new team would be. Bandwagons be darned, I am a Red Sox fan to the death now.

But the Pats? I've liked the Pats since I first got into football. The friend that got me hooked on professional football (I wonder if he has any idea the monster he created?!) was a Patriots fan and so cheering for them came naturally. I've been a fan of the Pats for the good and the bad.

That said, OCHOCINCO!?!?!? I mean, swallowing the idea that Haynesworth was joining the team was enough to make me choke, but Ochocinco?! The man who can't even translate his number correctly ("ochocinco" means "eight five" in Spanish) is now going to play for my beloved Pats?! I know Belichick has made questionable moves in the past that later that turned out to be genius, but I fear this is as logical as spygate. What is the man thinking?!?!

I'm appalled. I'm stunned. I'm not at all sure how to root for my team now. I love my New England boys, but OCHOCINCO?!?


I've spent all these months wondering if there will even BE football this year and then after exhaling, I find out this. I'm not sure if I'm ready for some football now.

The Things I Learn From My Students

I was tutoring one of my former third graders this morning. We were working on reading comprehension and application skills. He had just read a story about three different kinds of bears, and I was asking him to think about the story "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" and how it would change if we changed the type of bear in the story. We were discussing what would be different about the fairy tale if Goldilocks had stumbled upon the home of polar bears. My student named several differences, the weather, what Goldilocks might be wearing, what sort of "home" it might be that she stumbled upon...and then he said, "But the house would have electricity!"

"It would?" I inquired. "In the Arctic Circle?"

"That's the North Pole, right?" He confirmed. "Yep. Santa has electricity."

Well then, of course polar bears would have electricity in a fairy tale set at the North Pole. What on earth was I thinking?!