Is it just me???

So, when a lady just about my age calls me "honey," does it mean she thinks I'm a lot younger - or a lot older?

When reporters write about someone my age, do they say I'm elderly? I'm not a senior citizen yet and I guess 59 is waaaaaayyyyyy past "middle age." What am I?

But back to the honey lady. I've had women much, much older than me call me "honey." It's nice. It makes me feel like a little girl (and probably I am to her). But someone my own age? It just makes me wonder. . . is she blind? Or do I look a lot better than I think I do. Or does she think I'm old enough to be her grandmother?

When my mother-in-law had her stroke, I started calling her honey. Some days she knew her name and other days she didn't. It was just a lot less frustrating if I called her honey. She knew it was an endearment. If she was having one of her off days and I called her by her real name, she wondered who the hell *I* was, let alone why was I talking to someone not even in the same room. It just was easier to relent and call her honey.

However, when my significant other calls me honey - I am on alert. Because he calls everyone honey - especially women who are being nasty to him. Like clerks. When that happens I want to shout at them, "He's being SARCASTIC, you ninnie." But I don't. When he says it to me, though, I do a mental rollback in my head of anything I have said in the last five minutes that might be considered offensive. Granted, sometimes he is really being a romantic guy and calling me by a pet name.

If he calls me Chunkie Butt, I know he loves me.

Actually, I don't think he knows my name. In the last 22 years, I have never heard him say my name.

So, I was at a gift shop this weekend, when the clerk called me 'honey' several times. She looked to be about 60. I am still wondering which end of the scale she thought I was? Old? Young?

Have I become an old lady without any warning???

Hey! The rules totally change when it's a guy calling me an endearment. Then, depending on how hunkie he is, I immediately fantasize on my good fortune!! I blush, preen, bat my eyes, and feel twittery. Sean Connery can have me! George Clooney! Antonio Banderas! Yummy! I don't even question my age with those cuties.

But a Woman. My. Age???? Total turn off.



The Despicable, Dastardly, Yet Desirable and Coveted Cell Phone

I am highly skilled at computer software and training staff members in Word, Excel, and just about any software that comes along. I do it well. I do it fast. I am excellent at it!

But, give me a cell phone, and I'm all thumbs. If I had to text an SOS I would be SOL, TU, and FUBAR. Don't ask.

I bought a cell phone for my Significant Other (S.O.) so he could call me when he is so engrossed in his job (restoring engines) and is in a dark place far, far away from a phone, to tell me he is going to be late(er) for dinner.

After two years of this, I finally got my own cell phone. For, you know, emergencies. But first, I needed to spend an hour with a magnifying glass to read the little manual with the teeny tiny print to see how to customize my phone. It was days before I learned how to leave an intro message that simply said, "hi, this is Jeanie. I am away from my phone right now…." No, wait, how can you be "away" from your cell phone when you have it duct taped to your right hand? "Hi, this is Jeanie. I can't come to the phone right now…." Same quandary. "Hi, . . . . I can't talk right now because I am already talking to someone else."

Finally settled for "sorry I missed your call, please leave a message."

That took about two weeks to figure that out. Then there was choosing the ringtone. I could choose New Age tinny sounds, rippling tinny music sounds, annoying indescribable tinny sounds. Or I could go online right from my phone and find sounds from movies, sounds from famous people, sounds from cartoons, sounds from Disney. . . and I immediately thought of "It's a Small World" and shuddered. Can you imagine? Just thinking of that song will cause an endless loop running inside my head for 48 hours. What would happen if it was my ringtone? I'd probably lose my mind by the end of the week. So I settled for the T-Mobile theme music.

I snapped a picture (with my cell phone after I figured out which button was the camera) of my cat and miraculously made it my "wallpaper." These things I can do blindfolded on my computer. It takes a little extra bit of time to figure this out on my cell phone.

All this is to say that it probably took me a year to figure out how to put names in my phone book, how to save my pictures, how to download sounds (at $1.99 each). And then my cell phone was pick-pocketed right out of my purse while I was at a little neighborhood store. In two minutes, my 14-month investment of brain cells trying to puzzle out the different functions of my cell phone was gone.

So now I have a new cell phone and I am having to start all over. It's not the same. My cat has since died and I no longer have his picture. My sons' numbers were in my lost cell phone and I didn't have their numbers anywhere else because they were, well, IN MY CELL PHONE. They change numbers so often that I have given up memorizing their numbers. I can't keep up. So, finally one son called and I immediately saved his phone number into my cell phone and managed to spell his name correctly – something I was never able to fix in the old cell phone. Andy was forever AmdY (I don't know how I did it).

I think my only solution is to take my new phone and go to a middle school and just hand it to the first 12-year old I see and have them set it up for me.

I also got a Blue Tooth to use while I'm driving so I won't be breaking Washington laws of not using your cell phone while you are driving (which is not being followed by the way). Only – I have this little tiny booklet with teeny tiny print. . . – So, how long will THAT take me to figure out????

I can always put the Blue Tooth on my ear (if I can figure that out), and jabber at all the idiot drivers, cursing their mothers, and look like I'm talking "hands free" on my cell phone.



Clowns Rule!

For some reason, I have been thinking about clowns. I was sitting with a secretarial group this week, when one asked a question of all of us: Tell us something about yourself we never knew.

In the answers, one of us is a stock car racer on weekends. One was a police decoy for busting drug dealers. And one is a professional clown but she only performs for her grandchildren. (Keep in mind, these are very professional legal secretaries and paralegals.)

I've always wanted to be a clown. Inside I'm a clown. Outside I am a shy, quiet, legal secretary that dresses conservative and doesn't wear makeup (uh, maybe I should). Inside I'm also a race car driver with a bent towards demolition derbies.

When my boys were little, their aunt made them clown costumes, one-size-fits-all, which meant they were clowns from the time they were 3 and 4 until they were 13 and 14 and finally mutinied on the clown issue.

When I was 40, a coworker, Salina, thought it would be wonderful if a group of us came as clowns for Halloween at our office. (At that time, it was a manufacturing firm which made high speed printers.) She garnered two other "clowns" besides herself (yours truly and our marketing director) and supplied the costumes, the hair, and the nose. I traveled across town giggling the whole way to work, thinking how silly I looked and boy, I'd better not get in an accident. I made sure my underwear was brand-new looking just in case. (It would be the only semblance of dignity on my entire body.) I had visions of Mary Tyler Moore laughing helplessly and eternally as if I were Chuckles the Clown, crushed by an elephant because I was dressed as Peter Peanut. O dear.

I made it to work in one piece.

Then I heard all kinds of racket from the parking lot, banging on cars, snaky sounds, and spasms of giggles – and here comes the second clown, our dignified marketing director, ON ROLLER-SKATES. She hadn't skated since she was ten – so she was kind of like Bambi trying to move on ice. She spent the whole day on her skates – forever giggling.

And finally Salina arrived. She was sorry she was late because as she was getting in her car a county sheriff went slowly by and then backed up and rolled down his window. He looked at her very carefully and said in a very straight monotone voice, "We've been looking for a clown like you." And then threw his head back and barrel laughed all the way down the road – she could still hear him after two blocks.

We made it through the day, faithfully wearing our noses, and surviving all the stares and laughter at our expense, finally arriving at our homes in time to pass out candy to all the little clowns out there. (Oh, yeah, they were really awestruck!)

Since I've got the clown thing under my belt, I'm looking for a car. There's a demolition derby calling my name.



To cell or not to cell, that is the question

I have been doing a lot of thinking about cell phones.

Are they absolutely crucial to own?

Since Washington passed a law July 1 banning using a cell phone while driving your car unless it is hands free, I have played a game of "Who's Talking on Their Cell Phone?" And it is just about every car that passes me. Are they hands free? The answer is a loud NO. They are NOT hands free. They are still holding the phone to the left ear with their left hand while they are turning left and NOT looking left. It drives me crazy!

And why is it that there is never a cop around when you see these little infractions one car after another? Drives me totally freaking nuts. Can I make a citizen's arrest? If I catch their eye (unlikely since they aren't looking this way anyway), I do the "I see you" motion with two fingers pointed at my eyes and then turned to theirs. Or I mouth "CELL PHONE!" and pick mine up and mouth "POLICE" except it would be my stupid luck to have a cop right behind me and arrest ME for being on a cell phone while driving, which means he'll pick out something else to go along with it because it is only a secondary offense. I'll have to hawk my cell phone to get out of jail.

Worse – jaywalkers doing the same thing: holding the cell phone over their left ear, with their left hand, crossing a one-way street where all traffic is barreling down onto the jaywalker's left side, while the jaywalker is going merrily along as if "what I don't see isn't there."

I really want to grab that phone and superglue it to their ear. Now, THAT's what I call hands free.

I have never understood the importance of having to talk right now, no matter what. In restaurants. On the bus. Walking along the street.

And then there are the good souls who have gone totally hands free, using a Blue Tooth in their ear. They always look like they are talking to themselves. When I first came across this phenomenon, I truly thought the person talking in normal conversation at "something" in front of him, while walking down the street was certifiably insane. Get the straight jacket! Get the funny bus! Save me from all these insane people – gaggles of gabbers talking to nobody. Then I learned about Blue Tooth.

When I got my own cell phone, I did it as a last resort. I don't talk on the phone other than to tell someone else that I will meet them at this place at that time, see ya. My sons have as their sole phone their cell phone. So I can never tell if they are nice and safe in their house when they call me, or illegally talking to me while they are driving their car.

I have used my cell phone during a couple emergencies – flat tire here. Flat tire a week later (same tire). Flat tire a month later (different tire). All late at night, all on a dark stretch of road. So there are benefits of having a cell phone.

So this weekend I was thinking about the pros and cons of using a cell phone, using one hands free, investing in a blue tooth headset. . . . and just before I was planning to sit down to write this, I had stopped at a little store near my house, bought a thing of ice cream, got home and saw that I had stupidly left my cell phone at my other house (I live with my significant other six days out of the week and come to my house Sundays to do the laundry). I drove back to the little store and used the pay phone (THAT is a whole other article about germs, gooey sticky stuff on phones, and other creepy crawly things that attach themselves to public phones that we are privileged to use at 50 cents a whack) to tell my SO that I had done it again – placed my phone down somewhere, the bathroom? The kitchen counter? The dressing table? He would look for it later, he said.

I went back and started another load of laundry when my SO shows up. He couldn't find my phone anywhere he said. So he called my cell thinking he'd be able to track it in the house. Guido answered! Then he passed it to Igor who passed it to Bubba. They are all joking around, being obscene, and my SO is giving the same right back until he finally hung up.

My phone had been lifted from my purse at that little store where I spent only two minutes.

Here's the timeline: I "lost" my phone around 7:50 p.m. Sunday night. SO called my cell at 8:15 and got Igor & Friends. SO speed bumped across the Valley to my home, kind of in a 'beam me down, Scotty, NOW' mode, and arrived at 8:45 (with a gun). I called T-Mobile at 9:00 (on hold for half an hour!!!) and the phone was suspended at 9:45. The mysterious new owner of my cell phone made one call to a house in my neighborhood at 9:00. He must have done something to occupy his time for 45 minutes and then made several calls up to midnight that were all aborted by T-Mobile. Heh.

Now – my first reaction was, well that's a bummer. Then the more I stewed about it, the ickier I felt. I have spent all morning trying to get a new phone. I'll pay. Boy will I pay. The operator asked if I had insurance on my cell phone and I kind of giggled and said "Heck no. What do I need that for?" And instantly I knew – that old adage, "it's not IF, it's WHEN" popped into my head. I'll have insurance on the new phone.

Anyway for someone who has so little to do with cell phones, this was a big huge deal. Hey - I also got a Bluetooth. Now, when I talk to myself, I will really be talking to someone else. :)



Girls' Night Out -or- The Fire Up There

Tonight is my monthly dinner with four friends. We have been doing this eating thing for 30 years, monthly, religiously, unfailingly, devotedly. We save up our individual little daily "adventures" (single mothers (well, parents generally) have very few days that roll along without and "adventure") and then we share them at our dinner table, along with commiserating with each other on their unique adventures of the last four weeks.

This time we can hardly stand ourselves to sit by idly waiting for the minutes to pass until 6:30. One of our group lived through and survived the Spokane Valley View Fire of 2008, Thursday July 10. Last Thursday we had a fierce wind storm that whipped up a little campfire to a roaring frenzy, aiming it at an exclusive gated community of very expensive homes, with one single access road going north. The fire and the smoke were unbelievable, the wind insurmountable. In the end, the firestorm acted like some tornado you would see in Indiana. It twisted and turned and jumped any which way, striking one house, leaving another, and pouncing on the third. Eleven houses were burned. There was little carnage – it burned so hot and fast, that nothing is left except cement pillars, cement porches, cement foundations, and lots of ash. It spread over 1,000 acres, slipping through the locked community gate and indiscriminately changed lives forever. Fortunately, and blessedly, there were no injuries or deaths. Not sure about pets – but people came out from everywhere, strangers, and took in dogs, cats, horses, goats, while their human families were evacuated.

My dinner group friend lives in the middle of the fire zone. She and her sister (another of my dinner group) were doing errands on Thursday and noticed the smoke coming from the area quite a ways west of my friend's house. They both thought nothing of it - that it was just a small brush fire or maybe even a controlled burn. They went on with their chores. When she drove up to her house, though, a guy was parked by her driveway and she asked him why he was there and he said "Oh, I'm just watching that fire." She looked over and it was suddenly a lot of smoke - an awful lot. She still felt safe though - that the wind was blowing more northerly than southerly. However, when she got in the house, her animals were all acting totally nuts and she decided to take caution, even if it were too much, and started gathering important papers.

She is WAAAYYYYY more organized than I am. She was able to instantly put her hands on: a box of pictures; a box of bills and statements; and a box of all the receipts and floor plans for her house, which she and her husband built about ten years ago. She loaded the boxes into her car, gathered up the animals and stuffed them beside the boxes, and started down the road - only to come across fire on both sides - near the Pring house (a two million dollar mansion which would be engulfed moments after she passed). A little trickle of fire was running across the road and she floored it past there and drove until she reached a "meadow" which was a baseball field that one of the gated community residents built. There she waited with about 30 other residents, AND a fireman. They couldn't get down further because a larger branch of the fire was burning across the road. They sat there in pretty much a safe zone and watched the fire burn around them, sweep up towards her house, and crawl around and down the other side across from the baseball field. About two hours later, they all were led out of the fire zone. Her house was saved - but the two on either side of her were burned to the ground.

So I have been quite introspective lately. I could easily be jealous of my friend – she lives on top of the world, with a great view, locked safely in behind a key-coded gate, in a house that she and her husband built, their dream home, for half a million (one of the lower end houses).

There is much to be thankful for that we (well, I) take for granted. My house is paid for, is comfortable and fits me, has good insurance on it, in case a purple elephant should fall on it. I have a plethora of friends that fill my various needs for affection, caring, praise, love, empathy. I have a good car that is paid for and gets 34 mpg, a real necessity today with soaring gas prices. I have two adult sons that are my whole life! A house is simply shelter. A house can be easily replaced. My friends and family cannot.



Never a Domestic Goddess Will I Be

I have decided that domestic talent eludes me. It is simply not a priority for me – it’s not in my genes. It passed me by on the conveyor belt of life’s attributes.

I should have a warning sign that goes with me wherever I wander:

WARNING: Failed home economics in college (a basic requirement course, Home Ec. 101); marry at your own risk.

I once was a wife. A good one. I know the qualifications and duties and job description. Now, I want one.

My husband often hinted that we should work it into our pitiful budget to have a housekeeper. Yeah, right, on an Airman’s salary. You betcha.

I have decided the only help for me is to get a wife. I am going to post my wish on eBay this very second: Wife Wanted. They should be lining up at the back door as I write!

Now that I am NOT married (and no we didn’t get divorced because of my cleaning skills), I still play the role of wife. I am in a relationship going on 22 years. He doesn't work. I do. He is an auto mechanic and a great cook. I am neither.

Housekeeping and cooking and decorating just weren’t up there on top of my list of amazing talents. Sweeping stuff under the rug had a unique meaning to me – like, really! I can do that? Okaaaaaaay.

Don’t get me started on my total lack of skill when it comes to cooking. O My!

Within five minutes of arriving home from a day of working (my significant other says I am just sitting on my tush doing nothing physically exerting), he asks the inevitable burning question, "What's for dinner." I silently groan. Ack! And then I run through my mind the three things I can cook – fried chicken, fried pork, or hamburgers. I suggest "chicken?" and he immediately says, no, that doesn't appeal to him. "What does?" I ask, knowing he won't have an answer other than "I dunno." I'll go to my next item on my short list and get the same answer. It's pointless.

Keeping the contents of the refrigerator on a constant rotating “freshness” scale was also beyond my skills. I have bowls and jars and baggies in my fridge that are camouflaging what used to be edible items. Sometimes, when I lift the lid to try and guess the contents, I think that it speaks to me. “Yo! How ya do’in?” said in a deep gravelly voice coming from leftover asparagus (maybe). The fridge is so big that things can be shuffled back and forth until the back row is two weeks to two months old. What is the shelf-life of leftover macaroni and cheese? They don’t teach that in Home Ec. Nor do they even talk about leftovers. The bane of my kitchen existence. Have you seen lettuce if it is stuck behind the cucumbers and onions and carrots and radishes for, oh, two months. I have to get a Hazmat kit out to remove it.

Then there is working with home grown vegetables – all good in their own right – except for cleaning them. Lettuce! Lettuce is filled with...... BUGS. I don’t like bugs. They are icky. I can wash them just fine but later when I put the salad bowl on the table, I can’t eat the salad because I know where each one of those lettuce leaves have been. With bugs. Eeeuuuuuu.

That’s just the kitchen. There’s the dusting, polishing, vacuuming, sweeping, and we haven’t even entered the bathroom yet – a gargantuan Petri dish if I ever saw one. Maybe my kids could use the bathroom for a science project – and get an “A”.

I want a wife! I want someone (other than me) to think of what to have for dinner, have all the ingredients at hand or magically appear at a snap of her (my wife's) fingertips, prepare the dinner, set the table, call me to dinner, and then poof!, go invisible while I eat. Then I want my wife to wash the dishes, dry them and put them away. I want a wife who will dust all the furniture as she walks by, multitasking as she goes – she is a miracle worker and can plan for dinner, dust the coffee table, and fix the tear in my significant other's jeans. Just.Like.That. The floor is spotless and shiny. The refrigerator is organized, clean, and everything is edible! The bed is fresh and made. My work clothes are clean, pressed, and laid out for me to just jump into.

My wife also does massages.

Yep, I want a wife! All applications welcome.


Move Over Moose!

The summer between High School and College, I worked for Yellowstone Park, along with about 100 other young people from Spokane, Washington. That summer of 1967, half of the Park's recruits were from Spokane while the scattering remaining summer staff came from all over the United States. It was an experience of a lifetime for me, precious and protected daughter, oldest of four children, first one to leave the nest and the state of Washington for a whole summer on my own.

I trained at the famous Spokane Davenport Hotel although I was never a maid once I reached the Park. I, along with one of my best friends, Mary, and two guys from Ohio, manned the Laundry/Shower at West Thumb, the southern-most location in the Park, with a motor home park the last stop. West Thumb was the most primitive of all the locations in the park, with one-room cabins and wood burning stoves. No extra amenities, no kitchens, no bathrooms. Employees slept on the northern edge of the “village,” four to a cabin. Ten years later, the tv series, M*A*S*H, mirrored my life at West Thumb. We even had a small cabin that was our movie house, all of us crammed into one small room and watching movies on an old fashioned reel, like we did in grade school.

Back at the laundry, I was stapling a receipt to another piece of paper, when I accidently stapled my thumb, in front of about a dozen people picking up their laundry.

“You ok?” One of the witnesses asked. “o yeah,” I teared, “just fine. I’m fine.” And keeled over backwards and mere seconds later opened my eyes to several pairs of eyes looking back down at me. “Really, I’m fine.”

After my work-related injury, I was repositioned at the reservation building which was above the cabin area, across a man-made berm that divided a swamp, which housed a moose. Charlie. Charlie was a lone eccentric moose. He ruled the swamp and wandered back and forth in a sporadic pattern. He wanted to be pals and then he didn’t. If you made eye contact, he’d pause for a second and then charge at you because it just dawned on him that this was HIS swamp and you had trespassed on holy ground. His ground. And we would invariably have to streak as fast as we could to the other side of the berm to escape Charlie. Now – if we didn’t make eye contact (and after one day of this, you learned to never make eye contact), he thought you couldn’t see him, and he would continue his lazy grazing of whatever he was grazing in oblivious bliss and you were safe to walk at your leisure across to the other side. He was still king of all he could see. (I usually flat out ran.)

Every day I would look both ways before leaving my cabin – not for Charlie, but for bears and, you won’t believe this, weasels. Real authentic weasels are understated models of their cartoon prototypes. They are small, carnivorous (meaning MEAT eating = ME), sly and sneaky little animals that you do not want to mess with. I passed one once who was head first in a garbage can, butt in the air, rooting for something edible. I scurried past him as stealthily as I could manage, and then fended my way through the swamp, sneaking by Charlie who figured since I wasn’t looking at him then he was invisible. (Invincible?)

Upon reaching my final destination of the reservation building, I would prepare to meet creatures of the human kind. All shapes and sizes. And mentality.

I grew to meet people with giggling fits because they would ask such silly things like “When will you be turning on Old Faithful?” I couldn’t contain myself, I would giggle hysterically until one of my co-workers would take over. They would chide me for my unprofessionalism and I would really, really try to keep a straight face. Then someone would come in and say something like, “I’m rushing today and would you please turn on the geyser right away so I won’t miss it?” Out of my mouth would raise this muffled gurgling “murphphph” and I’d clamp my hand over my mouth and run to the storage room.

When I first applied for work at Yellowstone Park, the application requested I list any talents I have. Well, yes – I am talented! I sing, play the piano, and I sing, play the piano. Guess I'm not THAT talented. Yellowstone Park has a very, very short summer – it happens in July. Towards the end of August it is possible to get snow. The Park employees celebrated Christmas in August and we had a traveling tour bus of any of the "talented" employees. When I arrived at Yellowstone, I was given a song book of Handel's Messiah and told to practice my part (alto) of the Hallelujah Chorus. By myself. So I practiced my fa-la-las walking to and from the reservation building (stifling my la las when passing Charlie), and got on a bus on August 25 where I was joined by stragglers throughout the park who also had talent – maybe a tenor, maybe a soprano. We arrived at one of the bigger lodges in Yellowstone that was decorated to the hilt with Christmas lights, trees, decorations, and all things Christmas. About 40 of us gathered together and performed the Hallelujah Chorus in front of a fairly large audience of tourists. And we did remarkably well, having had no rehearsal with each other. It was amazing! And as we were traveling back to our various locations, it snowed.

I missed Charlie and have been collecting stuffed moose ever since which are displayed in nooks and crannies around my desk at work (very professional, don't you think?)


When Your Children Drive

There is an urgent need for rules for your child to get his first driver’s license.

Yes, I have rules. I have two sons 17 months apart and I knew deep in my heart that when it came to the driver’s license season, I would be in deep hurt with trying to pay for my sons’ driver’s training, license fee, insurance, gas, and, and, and….. not to mention the worry involved in keeping them afloat. You see, mothers have a DNA code that is part of their brain, where they must visualize their baby child driver-wanna-be actually driving safely, following the rules, and NOT talking on their cell phone because you are positive they cannot multitask at the young age of 16.

So – my rules were modest and simple:

  • Earn at the very least a C average per semester. I know - low, low, low – but it takes the pressure off so they can concentrate on all the busy roads, crazy drivers, and all the spontaneous combustion that goes along the highway – jaywalkers, sirens, road rage, elephants falling from the sky (it could happen!).

  • Have a job to pay for the gas.

  • Have a really good job to also pay for the insurance.

  • Do the grocery shopping for your hard working mother.

  • Never drive after dark.

  • Never drive with someone else in the car with you unless they are old enough to be your parent, and then only if your actual parent gave permission.

  • No girls.

  • No boys.

  • No food, beverage, or any other item that might take your eyes off the road and your mind off your driving.

  • So, both boys opted to just not get their license nor drive until they were well out of the house, in their mid-20s.

    My oldest joined the Army right out of high school. This is another story – but all their life I teased them that they would have to join the Army in order to pay for college. I was TEASING! But my oldest took me seriously and of all things he went into the Infantry. Shooting guns. Tell me that I didn’t just ramp up my scale of worrying to a fever pitch. Bad enough I worried when they would be driving – now shooting guns! Anyway, I was slightly mollified by the fact that he still didn’t have a driver’s license and therefore didn’t drive. But his buddies in the Army talked him into buying a truck, which he kept on base and the buddies spent their spare time tinkering on it. They taught him how to drive and so he drove around the barracks until he ran out of gas. They would pool their money and fill it with gas and he would venture to the other end of the base and back. Finally got his license when he was 24 years old.

    My youngest knew how to drive; he would sneak out to my car and drive it around the block, until I caught him one day and grounded him for the rest of his natural life. He finally got his license when he was 26 years old.

    Now that they had their licenses and their own cars, my mothering skills hyped up a notch, and I had to mentally focus on their driving skills by osmosis. It’s a mother’s duty. Drive carefully, I would say. Don’t pick up hitchhikers. Pay your insurance. Follow the rules. Don’t speed. Don’t tailgate. Don’t pass or turn without your blinkers. Be courteous. Drive defensively because all the other drivers on the road are maniacs.

    The boys would tolerate me. They would nod their heads in agreement and then peel off down the road.

    Even today, however, I “worry” them to safety. I always, must tell them to drive carefully. It’s like a spell I put on them that protects them. If I forget to tell them, I am in a total panic mode that something terribly awful will happen to them (I also tell them they have to call me when they are safely home – to which one or the other will say, "Mom! I’m 35 years old!") And I say that doesn’t matter. Call me! I have to sit on my hands to NOT call them on their cell phone, because they might actually answer the cell phone and be driving their killer car in traffic while talking on their cell phone! My work is never done!



    Time to go Camping!!!

    Camping is a lost art. You know, the kind where the only thing between you and mother earth is a tarp and a canvas tent.

    When I was growing up, we were very hearty campers. Our one luxury was a little green Coleman two-burner stove. And that was one of our more current possessions; before that, our stove was a combination of rocks piled in a circle with a grill “borrowed” from our kitchen oven.

    When we first started camping, I was maybe eight years old, the oldest of four children. Our “camping gear” consisted of all the blankets in the house folded into the well between the front and back seat, creating a long bed for the four of us kids to languish on as our dad piloted the car to sights unseen by human or car. We were the first to go “where no man has gone before.” This involved traveling on roads less traveled and taking the low road rather than the high. If we took the high road, it would routinely turn into a one-lane wagon trail along a treacherous cliff, and routinely again, dad would invariably get half way up the high road, only to have to back all the way down, around curves and corners, because the road really wasn’t a road at all but merely a pathway only mountain sheep could traverse. I spent the majority of these particular trips with my eyes closed and I am fairly certain that my unreasonable fear of heights has a direct connection to our trail rides.

    Our “tent” was two tarps – one on the ground, where we laid out all the household blankets, and one tarp strung among four trees. We would sleep like sardines in a can, lined up oldest to youngest – therefore, I was smack in the middle between my Mom and my icky brother. (He has since outgrown the icky stage.)

    Then one night a bear ran across our sleeping bodies and Dad hustled us all into the family station wagon, where we peered out through the windows to wait the bear’s return; only the bear was more afraid of us than we were of it. The bear spent most of the night up a tree near our tent, while we spent most of the night trying to sleep in the back of the station wagon.

    Our next “tent” was an open-faced canvas shed. Again, the household blankets went on the floor and we all crawled in to our pre-assigned nook and there we slept. Oh! Going to bed meant, when the sun goes down, you go to bed. 9:30 most nights. When Dad was there (we often went for the whole summer to Indian Creek Campground at Priest Lake, Idaho, while our Dad commuted on weekends); anyway, when Dad was there, the bedtime rule was lifted and we sat up by the fire telling campfire stories that we made up. My Dad would start with a sentence, and then the next person around the fire would make up another sentence, and on around the circle. Dad would start off with a fairly good scary story and eventually it would morph to my little brother, who would give it a happy ending so he could sleep without nightmares. This was after it passed to me, who kept it pretty much in line with Dad, to my brother who loved to add blood, slimy worms, hissing snakes, roaring monsters, and screaming hapless victims (all in one run-on sentence); to my sister who generally went for the sliced throat, to my baby brother. The entire adventure would be accompanied by roasting marshmallows on individual sticks each person found on their own, to their own preference.

    Eventually we acquired a huge army tent and six sleeping bags, where we could actually walk around each sleeping bag. We would set up our sleeping bag and then find something to decorate our area with sticks, stones, and pinecones. A little home away from home.

    When he was at our campsite, our Dad did all the cooking. Breakfast was my favorite and he would go to great effort to disguise the bugs on our eggs with lots of pepper. We weren’t any wiser about this – just thought it was a lot spicier. Until my baby brother kept commenting about wings and legs. Eeeeuuuuuu.

    We camped at Indian Creek every summer until I graduated from high school. Through the years we made friends with a Canadian family that came every summer. All of us kids were around the same age. They had a boat! So, we spent a lot of time skiing, traveling around the lake, and spending meals together. We even set up camp together so we had two huge tents facing each other with a tarp between, like a carport. If it rained, we would set up the picnic table and play cards – 12 of us or put together jigsaw puzzles. Great fun!

    So, when you go camping today, do you use a tent? Or do you take a motor home, complete with running water and a working oven? Rent a cabin? Indian Creek still exists and has showers and restrooms and a little country store. Not quite as rustic as I experienced.

    The family army tent is still in the family and resides with my baby brother, now in his mid-50’s. It has seen many summers and many sleeping bags over the last 40 years. (And it was used when we bought it.)