Tales from the Last School Year

When I first started homeschooling, Magne was a little fellow. I wrote about our first day then (and you’ll find that below). This year began with Dawn and Pearl navigating the adventure of dual enrollment. Online dual enrollment requires a serious learning curve. We spent the first day in a panic attack, a meltdown, and a crying binge. Just this past week we were finally beginning to feel the satisfaction of getting into a comfortable rhythm when a call came from my son that he was experiencing hot and cold flashes and had a bad headache. Knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was not going through menopause, I advised him to get a COVID19 test… which came back positive.

As per the protocol of his school, he came home to isolate himself until the virus runs its course. Realm and Magne must have great minds because, without talking to each other, they both drew the same lines of demarcation and have not crossed them. None of the family is to be exposed! Magne sequestered himself in his room like a hermit, or a leper in this case. His room is out in the garage with its own air and ventilation system, so we’re not even sharing the same air.

Oddly, this makes me sad. Except for video calls, I’ve seen his face only once through the window in the backdoor as he carried his dinner in from the TV tray outside his room. At least I know it’s really my son in the room. I was beginning to wonder.

He seems to be doing fine. He’s keeping up with his studies online and feeling well enough to game with friends late into the night. He’s designated one door his through which he goes out to exercise and get sunshine. (This I insist on.) We don’t use that door, so we don’t even cross paths. So, this Labor Day weekend of our last school year we are spending together in the same house. That’s something.

The First Day of School (c. 2007)

I know I was fretful about how our first day of homeschooling would go this year, but never fear; it was worse. The morning did not begin as other mornings, so we’ll have to forgo that opening. My parent’s A/C had quit working, and they were spending the night, along with my sister and their charge, a girl of four. We will call her Goldilocks. This leaves my three as the bears.  But on this particular day only the twin toddlers were being bears. The eldest was my rock who greatly held his mother together—poor child, taking care of his mother at the grand ol’ age of five.

Goldilocks was loath to be parted from the bears on Wednesday morning, the first of August, and I was of the impression that to have her stay might tame the wild, unruly creatures. So, I put Goldilocks into the playroom with Bear One and Bear Two and turned on a Dora movie so I could work with my son on his schoolwork in the dining room. We were in the midst of a sentence-building activity when heightened screaming commenced. Bear One was in a desperate situation, even my son knew this.  He said, “I think that’s bad.”

I rushed into the room, expecting a tussle had resulted in a minor injury. Bear One was on the floor before me in her birthday suit sitting in something white. Behind her were Bear Two and Goldilocks, equally lacking garb, with their hands in the white substance which was spread upon the floor in large quantities. I searched the room for some clue as to what the substance might be and espied an empty box of my laundry detergent.

Yes, Goldilocks and the two bears were covered in laundry detergent, and Bear One had discovered Gain was a cause of irritation to her little, “powdered” bottom. Into the tub went the bears (Goldilocks’ turn was next), and my knight in shining armor came to the rescue by saying, “Don’t worry, Momma, I’ll make sure the girls stay in the tub while you go clean up.”  He proceeded to set up two camp chairs, where he and Goldilocks presided at the door of the bathroom like fans at a tailgating party.

I vacuumed and vacuumed and scrubbed and vacuumed.  For anyone who has not tried playing beach with laundry detergent, you might not know the sticky tendencies of this cleaning agent.  It also makes a bathtub and its inhabitants extremely slimy.

My mother and sister returned and tried to help me put the house back into some semblance of order. I fear the carpet in the playroom will always feel sticky; and I admit, I think I will never have a pleasant thought for the merits of powdered laundry detergent again.

Some of you may be wondering, “How did they get to the detergent in the first place?” This is how the tale goes:

Bear Two saw the box sitting on the dryer (the laundry closet is in the playroom). Bear Two pulled open the dryer door, stepped up on the lip of the dryer opening, grabbed the box, and the rest is evident.  Hence, I could blame myself for having kept the laundry detergent on top of the dryer, where I have kept it for the year and a half we have lived here, but I prefer to blame Bear Two. She knew better.

I asked Goldilocks, who is older, why she had participated in the free-for-all instead of coming to tell me. She replied, “I wanted to play in it, too.”

And that was the first day of school.

Karma Meets Good Fortune

My husband Realm doesn’t always follow the rules. He does things like taking a handful of the weekly ads at the grocery store for kindling on winter evenings. He believes that a yellow traffic light means “speed through this intersection and you win!” Using turn signals is optional, and this seems especially true when he is weaving through traffic or pulling out in front of another driver. He has no qualms about spitting his gum onto the sidewalk or out the window. As you can see, I’m maintaining a list of all these adverse behaviors, but it’s not for any reason you might suppose. My daughter Pearl clearly understands my reasons for keeping track of Realm’s feats of inconsiderateness. In fact, as her father swiped a handful of ads and carried them out of the store one evening, she warned him, “Karma, Dad.” And then, when he laughed and began to explain the mainstream definition of karma, she said, “Well, it’s more like Mom is getting your karma by association.”

You see, whenever I enter a grocery store hoping to find a weekly ad in the tray, they are always out. Or when I have the green light at the intersection, some maniac driver speeds across, determined to “make it” long after the signal. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stepped in gum. And my sister, Gemma, thinks I need to seek PTSD therapy for my knee-jerk reaction to cars pulling onto the road beside me while I’m driving by. It’s because I’ve had a lot of drivers pull out in front of me brimming with confidence that my vehicle’s brakes are in tip-top condition. My brakes have held steady, but my nerves have not. My nerves are shot, and I blame Realm. Why do his poor decisions come back to bite me? Maybe it’s because he never needs a weekly ad. Maybe his shoes are too dirt-encrusted for that wet, stretchy gum to stick. Maybe he can run lights and dodge cars like he’s in a pinball machine because he’s got some sort of serendipitous-ness.

It wouldn’t surprise me. He wins all types of drawings and contests. He’s won Godiva chocolate—I mean the big pyramid package. He’s won two iPads, along with gift cards, cooler cases and backpacks and t-shirts. It’s a nuisance how many travel mugs we have because he won them. (I’m constantly trying to unload them when he’s not looking.) Fortunately, he has not come home with a leg lamp.

So, is his luckiness a shield that wards off the karma stuff from happening? Does it ricochet off him and hit me? You’d think this would make me wary of hanging around him. And, yes, I cringe when he zips through an intersection at the last minute. I admit to lying back in the passenger seat, closing my eyes, and announcing, “I’m not here,” as we zig-zag through traffic. I also admit to eating more than half the Godiva chocolates and getting one of the iPads, not to mention enjoying a few Amazon gift cards. My exercise t-shirts are easy to pick out because he brought home duplicates of the same shirt in my size. Not only does he hand over his winnings, he picks out things he thinks I’ll like the most. He’s kind of nice that way. Plus, when there’s gum in the tread of my shoe, he stops and gets it out for me. So, it’s not so bad, really. By the way, is anybody asking Santa for a tumbler with a random business logo on it? Yeah, I’ve got leads on some tumblers.

A ‘Fridge by Any Other Name

When we first moved into our house, we didn’t have the money for a new refrigerator. Fortunately, the previous owners left one for us, only it did a poor job regulating the temperature. Cruciferous veggies that sat near the back came out frozen and spoiled. Ruined produce is a tragedy, and my mourning was heard throughout the house. So, our goal, among many, became saving up for a new refrigerator—well, new to us. Discussing our move to his coworkers in passing, Realm mentioned the refridgerator situation among things we were looking to fix up after buying our home. A generous co-worker approached Realm the next day, offering us a refrigerator she had in her garage. We were elated, we were thankful, and we moved the new (to us) ‘fridge into the kitchen and kept the old, partly-working one in the garage for overflow. This is the first time in my married life I’ve had two working ‘fridges going. So, here I am, fulfilling that never-before-attained stereotype, enrolling myself in the society of American families who use two human-sized cooling containers to hoard their lifetime supply of cold food stuffs–that only last a week. I hear my minimalist side weeping. My frugal side is cringing at the electricity bill. My green-loving side is completely confused because… am I reusing what I have or am I wasting resources with the second ‘fridge’s energy draw? (First world dilemmas.) Obviously, my practical side won because my desire for smaller spaces and less stuff cannot compete with living with people who are just as opinionated and hungry as I am. And all I can say to the inner minimalist shaking her tiny head at me is, “Let’s declutter the bathroom, shall we?” She is slightly mollified.

Yet, I wasn’t ready to tackle two ‘fridges. I couldn’t designate which was which. It seems so obvious to my reader that I should designate them “the fridge in the kitchen” and “the fridge in the garage,” right? Not so easy. For weeks, I couldn’t get out the words “fridge in the garage.” I would repeat, “the fridge… the fridge..” while a kid held a bag of zucchini in anticipation. They would shift the bag in the direction of the ‘fridge in the garage. “No, no!” I’d respond, ruffled by what should’ve been an effortless interaction.

I’m not sure if it’s part of having Bipolar Mood Disorder or a mental block or what, but it’s been a family game for years that everyone tries to guess what Mom is not able to say. In situations where I’m multitasking, like cooking in the kitchen or driving, I simply can’t get certain words to come to me. My daughters have lived with me long enough to know how to work around these lethologica limitations. They make nicknames for things. Like, we have two butter dishes I struggle to refer to individually. One dish is called “Philip” (because I often ask someone to fill up the butter dish), and the other is named “Melton” (because someone I’ll call “the son who didn’t consider what would happen” put its plastic lid in the microwave once and now the lid fits like a botched lip job). After offering all sorts of names for the ‘fridge, Dawn teasingly suggested, “How about ‘the fridge that must not be named’?” “Coldemort” was born, and now, I can tell the kids where to store the 2-ton barrel of cheddar and which gets the forest-like crate of broccoli. The minimalist in me is dead.

Behind the Mask

I’ve been honest about my secret love of not having to go anywhere during quarantine. It gets worse. Truthfully, I love wearing a mask. Mind you, I’m not having to sport an N95 here, just a cloth mask. I find wearing a mask so comforting. First, my own breath warms me. So many buildings I walk into are cold. I have my own little cozy cave on my face. Also, I like that no one can see my expression. Friends say my face is easy to read. Family members tell me I get so wrapped up in my thoughts that I start scowling at people. It’s nice to keep my expressions to myself for once.

Even though I like wearing a mask, I’m tired of repeating every single word I say. I’m convinced there are way more people than I realized who rely on looking at my mouth when I’m speaking. I’m also convinced that when I go somewhere with my mask where people are not wearing masks, they feel judged. I had one lady inform me it was useless to wear a mask. Contrary to her opinion, I find it very useful. But I just nodded in hopes that she’d stop talking, and I might have stuck out my tongue. Yeah, I like wearing masks.

Stuck in a Rut

Staying on the topic of relationships, here’s another anecdote about what life’s like for Realm, dealing with my antics. Two years ago, we purchased a house on some land. The previous owner had used an old tractor to mow the grass, and I decided I wanted to learn to use this tractor. So, after a quick tutorial from Realm on how to manage the gear shifts, I set out on my wild adventure. Each time I mowed, I became more impressed with the power of the old, beat up tractor, especially since I couldn’t seem to get the hang of the brake system. Was it the clutch I was supposed to push or the brake, or both? Yelling, “Whoa!” I bumped into more than one item trying to figure this out. I steered the tractor too close to some fixed objects, too, rolling a wheel or two over them while the tractor shifted on its side precariously. And I ran over some alarmingly noisy things. Still, that tractor persevered under my faulty guidance. I admit, the more this happened, the less confident I felt. I had a feeling I was going to destroy something serious, and I feared it would be me–or, at least, one of my limbs.

I should add here that no one attended me outside while I was mowing, and I appreciated their wise decision to stay well removed from my efforts. Part of me felt I was contributing to the workload of keeping up a yard; part of me knew I was doing no such thing. Sometimes, when I got off the rumbling tractor with that rattly, vibration feeling, I wondered if it had been trying to shake some sense into me. But I was that zealous volunteer at the community fundraiser who ends up selling the brand new children’s playset for a song, to the neighbors’ dismay.

Then one day, it happened. Now I had been forewarned a number of times by Realm to steer clear of the trees–he would take care of those areas. I did try… and, most of the time, I succeeded. But on this day, I rolled too close to our beautiful cedar and something scary happened. The tractor popped a wheelie and ground its back wheels down into the wet mud. Then it fell forward with a groan and died. When the wheelie part happened, I held on for dear life, convinced I was going to fall out the back and become mincemeat. When the tractor shut off, I put it in gear and removed the key. My shaking, as I climbed down, had nothing to do with the rattling engine. I high-tailed it into the garage, and, as I went, I became angrier and angrier. My thoughts went something like this.

“What in the world just happened? The tractor almost flipped, and I almost died!”

“What is wrong with that thing?”

“Why am I allowed to get on that monstrosity; I can’t even reach both pedals without standing up and bracing the steering wheel!”

“How dare he let me do that? (‘He’ being Realm.) Doesn’t he know how dangerous it is to let me mow?”

“I refuse to do his mowing for him!”

That’s when I arrived at the garage, marched straight up to Realm, and said, “I’m done. I’m finished with that beast out there. I am not going to mow the lawn with it ever again. You do it!”

I plopped the keys down on his tool bench, and he asked me what had happened.

“I don’t know! One minute I’m mowing, and the next the whole front flies up and the back wheels are making a big rut. All I know is, I will never get on it again. You’re mowing from now on. I’m done.”

I huffed and flew into the house, my heart still pounding. The cool thing about Realm is… he’s cool. He stays calm when he can see I’m flustered. He lets the Tasmanian Devil stop spinning before he talks me through it. When he came to talk me through it, he brought this.

tractor trouble(1)

It seems I hit a branch, causing the front of the tractor to lurch up and dig into the ground. As the roof cracked under the weight of the vehicle, the front fell back to the ground. Realm had to saw off the cedar branch to free the tractor’s roof from the tree.

Any remaining anger and frustration with that old tractor dissipated when I saw the picture. I felt both sheepish and sorry for what I’d put it through. I decided to have mercy on the poor vehicle and let Realm handle the backyard. I guess this last adventure helped it finally shake some sense into me.


The Bacon Shortage

It is an all-out war, and the odds are stacked against him. Well, mainly, the bacon is stacked against him.

“You have been eating all the bacon!” I challenge. “You’ve been eating bacon every day, and there is a shortage on bacon in this house.”

“What are you talking about? I’m eating the same amount of bacon I always do!”

I shake my head vehemently. “You only make bacon on the weekends, but now you’re eating it every day. Plus,” I raise my index finger to the sky, impassioned by what I aim to reveal, “you are hiding it.”

“What? I’m not hiding anything!”

I hold up the foil-wrapped package, placed in a zipper baggy. “Then why is it being disguised?”

“That’s how I always wrap it. That’s how my mom and dad wrap it at home.”

“It’s true.” His daughters, who are sitting at the table waiting for bacon, nod their agreement, and Pearl adds, “They wrap the leftovers in foil.” It occurs to me then that we don’t usually have leftovers on weekends. Realm cooks the whole package, and we close in like hungry sharks.

“Why would I hide bacon?” continues my husband.

“Because you want to eat it all?” I mumble.

He hears me and replies, “You can cook it and eat it, too. I don’t care. I’m eating my regular breakfast. I eat three slices of bacon every day at work.”

“Ah.” I nod my head in discovery. “Ahhh,” Dawn and Pearl repeat. The mystery is solved. Realm eats bacon at work every day.

“Okay, I see now, but I can’t keep up with your bacon intake. I’ve barely been able to buy our normal amount of bacon because all the meat is gone at the store. So, you’ve got to cut back on the bacon.”

Realm looks at me as though I have just told him he must swim with the hungry sharks. “I am eating my three slices and that is final.” He cooks his bacon in silence and eats it–I wouldn’t say defiantly; he eats it rather cooly. His routine will not be shaken by this virus scare. He will continue on, stoic and calm, through the stay-at-home orders, working and having meetings in pajamas, the threats of tornadoes, the threats of his tornado-tempered wife… The world may have to change, but breakfast will remain undisturbed.

Seven Texter Types

I’ve noticed a pattern with my friends’ texts. Maybe you’ve noticed these little texting habits, too. Here are seven types of texters:

Wanda the Winker 😉 My friend Wanda winks all the time. She winks in FB comments and blog comments. She winks in text conversations with me just as often. Winks are her thing, but she doesn’t wink when we’re face to face. Basically, Wanda has found a humorous and affectionate way to say, “I have it under control.” Folks who like to use winks often like to be seen as confident, got-it-together people. Text winkers need to surround themselves with people who rely on them and confide in them.

If you have a winker friend, there are some great ways to feed their need. First, let them know how much their efforts mean to you. Let them know what they do for you doesn’t go unnoticed. Praise their skills and assistance—appreciate them in the context of what they do. Second, give them opportunities to be there for you. If you find it hard to lean on others, you don’t have to step out of your comfort zone with Wanda. She will be just as happy to give you emotional support as she would be to get all up in your business.

Warning: Winkers can be pushy and try to advise you on things you don’t want to be advised on; but if you give them good boundaries, they will generally appreciate you for giving them guidelines they can clearly work within to strength your relationship.

Exclamatory Lori White Exclamation Mark on Facebook 3.1 Exclamation marks after every sentence? Wow! Fun! Folks who like to use exclamation marks like to be seen as upbeat and positive. They prefer to keep their problems to themselves, keeping folks at arms distance when they are struggling. Loris exude lots of joy and good vibes. That’s her specialty, so let her work her magic.

If you are good friends with a Lori texter, you will know when she’s faking her excitement and having a hard time. The best way you can help her out is not to let on. Lori texters like to work through the hard times with very few questions. Don’t prod them about their problems; they’ll confide when they’re ready. (And it will probably not be through texts.) So, be the patient friend who checks in without pressuring her to confide. Keep it on the surface; send funny memes to let her know you’re thinking of her while she’s working through things.

Warning – A Lori texter is easy to lose when the hard times come for her. She will push you away, and, later, be upset with you for not being there for her.

Too-Busy Bella 🤪 This type of texter is best explained by the character Patricia Heaton plays on Moms’ Night Out, when she tries to send instructions to her daughter and ends up telling her to eat some “Chicken Poodle Poop.” Autocorrect is not Bella’s friend, and she tends to write a bunch of these nonsense texts. It’s not because she’s technologically challenged; rather, she’s in a hurry and doesn’t find it worth her time to review the message before she sends it. Bellas love to be busy and look busy and breathe busy. They might not know how to tell you what they need by text, but they’re not shy. They’ll crank out a few more nonsense phrases so you can use them as a cipher to solve the mystery of your Bella’s situation.

Bellas like helpers. If you want a little crazy in your life, and don’t mind dropping everything for a Bella, these friends can be fun and spontaneous. They tend to leap from idea to idea, which doesn’t make them the best conversationalists. While you may never feel a close rapport with Bella texters, the nice thing about them is hard feelings will often dissipate quickly. Most Bella texters don’t have time for grudges. Texting with them will be brief and probably humorous. They try to be supportive and tend to pick up where they left off in relationships.

Warning: Your Bella’s “getter done” mentality can lead you into filling in her blanks and completing her half-started jobs. Don’t let this texter rope you into a fulltime position of working for her. She runs many businesses, and you might find it hard to live your life and run her errands.

Smiley, Heart, Heart Hannah 😍 Hannah texters use a ton of emoticons in their texts. Most of these texters just like the variety, but some of them really find it difficult to say all the things they want to say. So, you’ll get an animated sticker instead!

The best way to communicate with a Hannah texter is to send her love, lots of love. Respond with emojis, and she will understand you just fine.

Warning: If a Smiley, Heart, Heart Hannah is upset with you, her emojis will show it. She will send little faces at intervals—some sad, some funny—after you’ve left off texting for a while. She’s letting you know she’s still feeling her sad feelings, and she doesn’t like that at all.

Vampire Violet Syringe on Mozilla Firefox OS 2.5 Unless this texter is young, she isn’t much fun. Violets will text you with questions like, “What are you doing?” Or they might not try at all and just type, “Hey.” Adults who send these texts are expecting you to carry the conversation; and, chances are, you are not dealing with an emotionally mature individual. These texters need a source—a source of amusement, mainly. When they choose you as a source, you need to know what your text response does to them. Every time you respond, dopamine shoots through Vampire Violet’s system. She gets a little high from the attention. It has nothing to do with what you text back; it has to do with her need to feel better about herself. Violet texters are not usually aware of what’s going on. From their point of view, they are keeping in touch with their friends.

For Violets who are not the unhealthy, needy sort—think friends with mental disabilities and kids—responding to their texts can bring a ton of good feeling. Just be sure not to enable your friend when her texts are coming in All. The. Time. Instead of texting, send her a card. That way you are showing her you care without feeding her addiction.

Warning: Vampire Violets feed insatiably on crises. They will create one if they think it will benefit their need.

Last-word Lucy Thumbs Up on Apple iOS 12.2 Don’t you love that texter who cannot leave that goodbye text alone? She must add another heart or respond with one last thumbs-up. Last-word Lucy is not trying to be controlling. Lucys are highly sensitive friends who take their job of communicating very seriously. Last-word Lucy thrives on knowing she “gets” you, and her goal is to show you that you’re worth her time. Your friendship means so much to this texter, and she wants to be sure to show you by approving every text, carefully and conscientiously. Lucy texters want to be seen as the givers, and they enjoy the feeling of knowing they’ve given all they can give. (This is a dreadful match with a Vampire Violet because there is no end to the giving, and it ruins Last-word Lucy’s perception of herself.) Lucys will expend great amounts of energy on the soul who won’t squander or belittle their talent to care.

The best thing you can do for these texting friends is keep connected. Sprinkle them with honest, affirming thoughts you are thinking about them throughout the week and your friendship will bloom and thrive. The hardest thing for a Lucy is when there’s a conversation dry spell. They can need a spill-your-guts fest to know they are caring about you properly after a dry spell occurs.

Warning: Last-word Lucys can feel neglected easily and will get offended without telling you. If she complains about always having to initiate the conversation, she’s telling you she needs you to give more than you are giving. It’s up to you to decide how much you are willing to give.

And last, there is

Novel Nelly Scroll on Mozilla Firefox OS 2.5We all have that friend who can’t text without giving you a lengthy explanation. If you don’t have a Nelly in your life, we need to be texting buddies because I’m a Nelly texter. Nelly texters need to be understood and feel listened to. Their long-winded spiels are not meant to exasperate you; this is how they say, “I’ve thought about this, and here is what I’ve concluded.” Novel Nellys like to be seen as informative and helpful.

The best thing you can do for a Novel Nelly is make it clear you understand by repeating her thoughts in your own words. Assure her by letting her know you appreciate her thoughtfulness and research. Nellys tend to apologize for their novels, so tell her when you thought the essay actually benefited you.

Warning: Nelly texters are extremely analytical and critical. They tend to read things into others’ texts that probably aren’t there at all. (They might even come up with a whole blog post about the way their friends text.)

So, now you have seven texting sorts you’ve probably met in your e-communication travels. Leave a line if you’ve thought of another!

First-World Contemplations – Don’t Buy the T-shirt

This is purely an opinion piece, exactly like all my other posts, and I want you to feel free to agree with me. Let’s talk t-shirts and how buying t-shirts can’t change our lives. In fact, I think buying a t-shirt can be a grave mistake. For example, one sad purchase would be the dated t-shirt. Another one is the t-shirt for an obscure event, especially if that event never happens again. If that event is a once-in-a-lifetime deal that no one’s really heard of, then take a picture of yourself experiencing that moment. No t-shirt necessary. A dated t-shirt is a little different. There might be sentimental value involved, and in such a case, you might consider how you can reclaim the material at the end of the year—and it should be in a way you will truly use. Like, a t-shirt bag is great and all, but we have reusable bags being handed out for free at every function. Is it worth the time and effort to remake a t-shirt into a bag?

We have all fallen for the myth that we are going to wear those t-shirts again. This is only true for a select few that get the honor of being worn to shreds by our brothers, sons, and husbands. As both a thrift store shopper and a donation sorter, I can assure you most households toss stacks and stacks of those custom-made, event t-shirts every year. The thrift stores, in turn, redirect those t-shirts and find other uses for them because they are donated in droves, and they do not sell. Nobody wants to sport the baby blue shirt with the “Haversham’s All-Stars 2013” on the front, and “Go HAS!” on the back.

What happens to these lonely, unwanted t-shirts? Maybe the story should be told by a movie, “T-shirt Story,” where a t-shirt with a cowboy hat and lasso gets jealous of a spaceman t-shirt. Cowboy t-shirt gets spaceman t-shirt thrown out of the house when the owners aren’t looking. Then, in an exciting twist of events, cowboy t-shirt decides to rescue spaceman t-shirt from a horrible t-shirt torturer. Maybe there could be a couple of sequels. Nyah. This story’s going to end up making me cry; I can feel it.

Seriously, lonely t-shirts are sent to nursing homes, where they are used to cover nicer shirts or they are cut up into bibs. They are also made into fat quarters for the quilters who don’t mind working with knit. Some people cut t-shirts into strips and make rag rugs. Those people are not me; but if you have the skill, I think you should go for it. For those of you into “family cloth,” have you considered the potential of these one-day event t-shirts, languishing and forgotten in your child’s drawer? Please think about that. I won’t. It makes me gag, but that’s just me.

How do I reuse old t-shirts? I use them to clean wood and as paint cloths. I also annoy toddlers with them by telling them they can’t paint unless they put a huge, man-size one over their clothes, and they hate me for it. Just so you know I’ve tried, I’ve made the t-shirt bags, too. My daughter made one that came out halfway decent. It was very small, so I stole it to hold my hairdryer. Her hairdryer is now naked and self-conscious. No worries; my daughter is still talking to me.

It isn’t that one-day-event t-shirts aren’t great, it’s that we are buying and donating an abundance of them. I’ve contemplated tallying up how much is spent on t-shirts by the average four-person family. How many sports team, club, work, church, and camp t-shirts do we consume in a year… and can t-shirts be cooked in a way that will make them nutritional? After thinking about the expense of t-shirts, I think it would be fun for budget-savvy families to start a “no-buy t-shirt” savings account. For every t-shirt they probably would have bought, they should put that money in savings. If every member of the family usually bought two t-shirts a year per person at an average price of $12.99 each, a four-person family would save… Wait. I’m not good at math. They would save money. And if families decided to use that money to help someone, they could tell people who were pressuring them to buy the t-shirt that they had committed the money they usually use to pay for t-shirts to a cause that is personally important to them.

What about the free t-shirts at events? Well, someone is paying for them, even if you get them for free. And I can’t help but wonder what would happen if event organizers considered that money as a donation for a cause instead of buying t-shirts with it. Like, instead of including a t-shirt in the registration fee, why not charge the same registration fee, figure out how much it would have cost to print those t-shirts, and advertise that “in lieu of t-shirts this year, a portion of your registration goes to such-and-such charity”? It’s trendy for birthdays, right? Basically, you get to not bring home another t-shirt for the same price that you get to help both a charity and help the overrun-with-t-shirts thrift store.

Together, I think we just might save the world… one less t-shirt at a time.

The Treaty with Edie

Rilla sorts out writer-ish things with Edie, her rather critical inner editor.

Rilla: Okay, Edie. We’ve been working together for some time, and I think you need to understand something I’ve figured out about me—us.

Edie: And that is…

Rilla: I write for the joy of it. I truly believe we’re not seeing eye-to-eye on this, and I need you to get onboard so I can finish The Zorce Collection.

Edie: Meaning, you want me to stop being honest? You’d rather I didn’t tell you the uninteresting, unpolished, unprintable things you write are trash and need to be burned?

Rilla: Yeah. Pretty much.

Edie: I can do that. In fact, I have no problem letting you wallow in the mire of your own dumb compositions.

Rilla: Now Edie, you’re a good editor. You’ve saved me from a lot of mistakes, I grant you–

Edie: And this is the gratitude I receive for being there for you at all hours? All hours! Because you know I wake you in the middle of the night so you can know about that typo in the comment you posted yesterday! Who else would be as concerned about your image? Protecting you has been my top priority for over thirty years now, and all you can say is, ‘You’re a good editor, Edie, now shut it’? I see how it is.

Rilla: That’s not what I said, Edie. Nobody’s doubting your loyalty here. I don’t want you to quit; I just want you to look at our work as a personal reflection rather than a marketable product.

Edie: ‘Our work.’ Thank you; I appreciate that. So, you’re saying the trilogy you’ve been wrestling with for years is now a personal reflection? You’re going to spend—who knows how many—years to complete three books, and then you want to stick it in your little diary and call it a day?

Rilla: Yes. That is exactly what I mean.

Edie: (jaw-drop) What a waste of your life! Why would you want to do that?

Rilla: It’s simple. I need the freedom to write what I want to write without thinking of who’s going to look at it and what it’s going to make them think. We did that last time, remember? Where did it get us?

Edie: (nodding) I see your point. We’ve been trying to peg this story down for almost a decade.

Rilla: Ugh. Don’t say that.

Edie: Well, it’s true. But, I will admit, you’ve been able to eke out a few good stories, even while you were blocked.

Rilla: Thank you. So, what do you think? If we work on The Zorce Collection as a reflection of our life rather than a product, how would that change the approach?

Edie: Well, obviously, I wouldn’t have to stop you mid-scene to ask if the scene itself is really necessary.

Rilla: Yes.

Edie: The dialogue could be as long as you want it. The word count wouldn’t matter.

Rilla: Yes.

Edie: Ooo, here’s a big one: I wouldn’t have to alert you every time you divulge something that hints at your own painful experiences.

Rilla: Bingo, Edie. That’s the one that’s holding us back.

Edie: So, are you calling this a memoir now?

Rilla: Absolutely not! This is Casey and Ivan’s story. They need to be able to speak, and they can say what they need to say much better if they don’t have a self-conscious author in the mix second-guessing and censoring herself.

Edie: I see.

Rilla: What do you think? Can we give this a go?

Edie: You know how I despise that long-winded garble you call your style. Will I have to wade through that again? I refuse to work with you unless I can still rip apart the scenes that don’t speak the way I think they should.

Rilla: I’ll make you a deal; if you’ll give me time to get the scenes out on paper, I’ll take you page-by-page, through the section when we’ve finished. You can clean it up to your heart’s content.

Edie: It has to be crisp. You know that’s very important to me. Clean and crisp.

Rilla: Well?

Edie: I’m willing to try it. Anything to get this monstrosity out of our head.

Rilla: Thank you, Edie.

Edie: And when we’re done, who knows? Maybe you’ll want to publish it anyway, and…

Rilla: No. Edie.

Edie: I don’t see why. Can’t you just think about that an itsy-bitsy bit?

Rilla: No. We write The Zorce Collection, and it’s done. That will free us to work on (whispers name of fully-written children’s story draft).

Edie: Ah. Yes, that’s been dangling there for some time.

Rilla: Are we agreed?

Edie: We never agree, but I will concede with this one set of stories–which is all I’m giving you!

Rilla: Good enough.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Trips to the ‘Fridge

My family has a Christmas tradition of using men’s tube socks as stockings. Realm’s family does not, and he finds it disgusting. I do understand his disinclination to put candy into something that actual men’s gnarled feet can fit into, but I do not understand the virtue of using those awkward, red objects that look like baby elephant booties. I’ve assured him I have no intention of using already-worn socks. I’ve tried to cajole him by pointing out the socks can be washed and worn after the goodies are dumped out (including the apples and oranges, which look so funny in the tube socks). My utilitarian pleas hold no sway. He just can’t handle my tradition.

I, too, have trouble with certain traditions. For example, I cannot physically sit through those Christmas claymation movies. They were even dull when I watched them as a kid! There were no streaming videos then, so I had an excuse. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have to make a movie like that. Or to tell someone, “I spent this many hours moving a ball of clay two hundred centimeters today.” Now that’s a nightmare before Christmas.

The one tradition I hope will continue is the family picture card. I love getting family pictures! I put them on my refrigerator door and look at them all year round. They make me smile. And it doesn’t matter if Gerard has his eyes closed and darling Evangeline is picking her nose. So what if Lilly has her tongue hanging out? It’s natural. It’s real. It’s having loved ones waiting right there at the door when you reach for the milk.


For you, may the season be festive and fun;
And the New Year, may it be a happy one!

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