Category Archives: Uncategorized

Throwback Thursday: Hand-Me-Down House

When my parents got married in the late 70s, they didn’t have much.  Fortunately, if you grow up on a farm, there’s likely to be a piece of land on it where you could build a house.  That was the plan all along, it just took some time to come to fruition.

My parents’ first house, the one I lived in until I was 6, was a used trailer left over from Hurricane Agnes. It had been a government-issued pre-fab home used as a dwelling by people who were displaced during the aftermath of the storm.  There was no insulation, so often in the winter our blankets would freeze to the walls in the middle of the night.  It was small, especially once we became a family of four, but my brother and I never minded.  We were little and it was plenty for us.

It took my father years to build an actual house all by himself.  Once he did, though, it was time to get rid of the trailer.  Conveniently, there was a nearby couple just starting out that needed something to live in until they were able to build their own house.  So, our house was handed down to them.

The trailer, in front of the new house

The trailer, in front of the new house

The moving day was one of the most exciting days I remember from those early years.  I can’t believe they pulled it off.  Basically, with help from both families, they towed our house away with a tractor and placed it on the property of the new owners.  The roads by us were hilly and curvy, and I think they almost took out a bus shelter.  Eventually, the trailer made it to its destination and served its purpose once again.

There she goes!

There she goes!


What was left when it was gone (this later became our driveway).

What was left when it was gone (this later became our driveway).

“Home is where one starts from.”   T. S. Eliot

Throwback Thursday: Swing of Death

This week, while I’m on vacation, I’ll be blogging from my phone. Expect some weak editing. But go ahead and judge. I’ll be in a beach chair soaking up the sun with my toes in the water.

You would let your kids do this, right?


This is my brother on a swing at my grandparents’ house when we were young. We would take off from a hill that you can’t see in the picture and fly out across a driveway lined with steel poles that helped store firewood. (You can see them jutting upward in the bottom of the picture.)

For a height reference, note that our mom and our uncle are standing on the ground by the house. Sometimes, we would shift our take-off spot over a bit so that we could slam our feet into the brown building (always referred to as “the shop”) and kick off as hard as we could.

Both the house and the swing are merely memories now. I cannot imaging letting my kids do this, but I have to say that this swing is one of my all-time favorite memories of childhood. We spent hours every summer on it, as did our mom and her siblings 25 years before that. The rope was strong and tied well by our navy-officer grandfather. We never feared for our safety, although it obviously wasn’t really safe.

I’m thankful to my parents for letting us take this risk because just thinking of this swing brings me joy. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to flying.

And, yes, my brother is wearing a cape. Wouldn’t you?

Throwback Thursday: Get In Shape, Girl!

For my 7th or 8th birthday (I can’t remember which), I received the “Get In Shape, Girl!” kit.  It came with a leotard, tights, leg-warmers, a headband, free-weights, an instructional poster and a dance ribbon.  Here’s a shot of me sporting the entire ensemble:GetinShape

For nostalgia’s sake, you can click HERE for the video.

My memory is fuzzy now, but I think I may have actually requested this as a gift.  From the picture, you can tell I wasn’t out-of-shape (in fact, I rocked the Presidential Physical Fitness Test at school every year – flexed arm hang was my b*#ch.)  The fact that this was even a “toy” says a lot about women and society, but I wasn’t thinking about that at 8. Honestly, I’m not sure what I was thinking.  Maybe I was drawn to it because aerobics was something grown-up women did and it made me feel grown up.  Perhaps I was just drawn to the leotard, which I wore when I pretended to be a member of the 1984 US Olympics Gymnastics Team.

Whatever my reasoning, this was the first in a long line of exercise purchases that have included machines, weights, bands, videos, books, and outfits.  Like most of those things, I’m pretty sure I only used my “Get In Shape, Girl!” kit a handful of times before abandoning it to my closet shelf.




Grandparent Swap

Jim and I spent the past weekend here:Wallervillebloga

Nice, huh?

My family has been coming here since long before I was born.  It’s private and quiet, and at night you can see more stars than you’ve ever seen in your life outside of a telescope.

For various reasons, when we go we don’t bring the kids to stay with us the whole weekend.  Instead, we leave them with my parents who bring them up for the day on Saturday.  We get to sleep a little later, play with our children during the day, and send them home.  It’s almost like we’re….um…let me think….grandparents!

While they were there, we had fun spending time with them:Wallervilleblogb

When they weren’t, we could relax:Wallervilleblogc

This weekend, Jim took full advantage of the situation by telling 6yo she could have a treat whenever she asked.

“Sure, have another cookie!”

About 20 minutes before they all went home for the night, she was hopped up on M & Ms and cookies and was running in circles for the heck of it.  As they were getting ready to leave, my mother commented, “Boy, she’s really sugared up!”

Heh, heh, heh.

Throwback Thursday: Barbie Serial Killer

Barbie Dolls.  I had them.  Lots of them.

I also had the Barbie car, the Barbie patio set, The Barbie piano, the Barbie horse…..

My father built me a beautiful doll house for my Barbies, which my mother painted, wall-papered, and furnished.  It was lovely and I spent hours playing with them.  (I don’t actually want my daughter to play with Barbies, but I’ll cover that in another post.)

There were three things that I loved to do with my Barbies:

Stage them in various scenes from my favorite Broadway musicals.  This was difficult because I only had two Ken Dolls.  Sometimes G.I. Joe had to stand in as Curly in Oklahoma.  When re-enacting Into the Woods, Brunette Ken played the Baker, Cinderella’s Prince, and the Wolf, while Blonde Ken covered the parts of Jack, Rapunzel’s Prince, and the Narrator.  I think, for Les Miserables, I may have also had to “borrow” some Transformers from my brother for a rousing Mattel rendition of “One Day More.”

Me, with the "Ladies who Lunch"

Me, with the “Ladies who Lunch”

Murder them.  Ok, so maybe playing happy housewife did not appeal to me.  Having Barbie stand in the kitchen or take a nap in the upstairs bedroom of her dream house was boring.  Instead, one of my Barbies would pretend to befriend my favorite Barbie (a redhead whose name was actually Midge) then betray her in some way.  Perhaps she would steal Midge’s jewels or kiss Brunette Ken when Midge wasn’t watching.  Midge would respond by first beating the crap out of Barbie, then finishing her off by stabbing her, running her over with her car, or shoving her off a cliff (i.e. my bed).  Sometimes I even smeared them with lipstick so they’d look all bloody.  Midge killed so many blonde Barbies that I’m sure she qualified as a serial killer.  I blame this on my father, who didn’t see it necessary to censor any of his television watching that he did in our playroom (because that’s where the recliner was).

Launch Them.  My brother and I are not particularly close, but if there’s any memory we can bond over it’s this one.  After knocking off too many Blond Barbies, Midge got her comeuppance when, one fateful day, my dog chewed off her foot.  She was no longer attractive to me as the femme fatale, so instead my brother and I took some yarn from our mother’s craft drawer, tied it around her neck, swung her in a big circle off our second-story deck and let her fly.  Because he was younger, it was his job to retrieve her from whatever field she landed in.  We learned that she would fly farther when she was naked and that, if you whipped the yarn too violently, her head would pop off and it would take you several minutes to figure out where it landed.

Good times.

If I ever decide to see a therapist, perhaps I should mention my Barbie playing habits. It may reveal a lot about me.  On second thought….

Camping for the Non-camper

My parents never took our family camping because my Mom considered camping to be the opposite of a vacation.  After all, you have to pack lots of the things you’d use at home (kitchen supplies, toiletries, linens, clothing, etc.), drive them to the campsite, unpack them, use them, pack them back up to leave, take them home, unpack them, wash them, and re-pack them again for their regular use.  Why go through all that when you can just stay home and not have to pack or unpack anything?  Not to mention, there’s the cooking while not in a kitchen and the sleeping while not in a bedroom.  Millions of people camp all over the country every year, but we were never among them.  As a result, I’ve tended to side with my mother when it comes to opinions on camping.

Jim, on the other hand, has always had romantic notions of camping.  His parents didn’t take him camping either, but he attended many years of church camp where he slept in lean-tos and cooked over an open fire.  He counts those experiences as some of his favorites.  So, it’s no surprise that he’s been eager to take our family camping. I finally agreed to give it a try last summer when we found out that some out-of-town relatives were planning to tent camp at a nearby campground for a few days.  I figured we could join them and try it out. If we didn’t like it we’d only be a few miles from home.

As it turns out, the week we selected was the hottest week of 2012 – 100 humid degrees each day.  We were tent camping and we didn’t even have a fan.  In addition, we were camping during the week, so Jim had to leave each morning to go to work, leaving me with a 5-year-old and a 7-month-old in the sweltering heat all day.  The first night, a thunderstorm so intense that it washed out some local roads rained down upon our little campsite.  Between the rain, the heat, and the loud neighbors I barely got any sleep.  It was not the charming camping experience I had been sold, and I made my own promise not to tent camp again.  A month later, when the opportunity arose, we purchased a cheap, used pop-up camper.Camping

This weekend, we camped again at the same campground and it was a completely different experience.  Despite the unseasonably cold temperatures (low 40s at night), we were cozy and snug in our quiet, heated camper.  All four of us slept soundly in our separate beds that were not on the ground.  We had a refrigerator to keep our food cold and a stove and griddle (for Jim) to cook on.  It was wonderful.

There’s a term for my kind of camping: “glamping” or glamorous camping.  We still get to enjoy all the fun of campfires, hiking, and fishing – not to mention the community aspect one finds at a campground – but we don’t have to sleep on the ground or watch our tent get blown over by the wind.  Besides, it’s not like we’re alone, you know.  Three quarters of the campers in our campground this weekend were in campers larger and cozier than ours.

So, now I’m definitely up for all the “glamping” Jim can throw at me.

(I’m also up for ignoring the mountains of campfire-smelling laundry in my basement).

Happy Mother’s Day (my minions)!

Happy Mother’s Day to anyone and everyone who has ever mothered someone -sons, daughters, nieces, grandchildren, neighbors, cats, dogs, fish, or fowl.


A conversation with 6yo in the parking lot of the restaurant we went to for Mother’s Day dinner:

6yo: Mommy! Your shadow looks like a minion!

Me: A Minion? Cool!

6yo: Wait, I really meant a midget.

Me: It’s not really polite to call people midgets, lets stick with minion – I like that.


Something I learned about 1-year-olds today:

When they want their older sister’s ice cream, you can trick them with a plate of whipped cream.


Abercrombie & Fitch: Why is Anyone Surprised?

When I was in 8th grade, the Esprit brand was all the rage, as was Benetton. The uniform of all who cared about conforming was a sweatshirt with “Esprit” emblazoned across the front, high-top sneakers, and an awkward-to-carry, wind-sock-shaped Benetton bag.

I would be proud to say that I, at the age of 14, was above all of this commercialism but that would be a lie. I wanted to fit in, too. Unfortunately (although in hind-sight I feel differently), my mother refused to pay for anything simply because it had a brand name screen-printed across the front.

So, I saved up my babysitting money and finally procured one knock-off Esprit sweatshirt at an outlet and a Benetton bag that may also have been of questionable origins. The first day I wore them to school, the number of “I love your sweatshirt!” comments I received was overwhelming and also eye-opening for me. Thanks to my parents, I knew deep down that I was selling out. Without the brand name, I was wearing a sloppy, faded blue sweatshirt. The only thing that separated me from the girl in class wearing the plain, blue, no-brand sweatshirt (who was often referred to as “scum” in our early 90’s prep lexicon) was six little red letters.

Anyone who is surprised by Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries’s recent comments about only marketing to attractive, “cool” people either grew up apart from this kind of marketing or is simply extremely naïve. It is also naïve to think that the CEOs of other companies that depend on teenage pressure to conform to brand-name purchasing (Aeropostale, Under Armour, Hollister, American Eagle) don’t have the exact same mind-set as Jeffries.

The success of these companies says more about us and our children than it does about those companies. Daily, I see 12 to 14-year-olds march through middle school hallways proudly wearing a shirt that says they belong, merely because of the brand-name emblazoned on the front. The desire to fit in (and for our children to fit in) is strong enough to convince people to purchase clothing, despite the fact that it looks old and worn-out and sometimes even dirty, simply because of the brand. What company wouldn’t want to perpetuate this mind-set when there’s so much money to be made?

I think Mike Jeffries is a total ass, but I don’t blame him and companies like his for this social condition. These companies exist because of us. They exist because we foster an idea in our children that you are what you own – that paying a lot for a ratty hoodie makes you more valuable than the kid whose parents bought his sweatshirt at Walmart. Shame on Mike Jeffries, but shame on us as well.

Fortunately, I was saved by my parents values and the grunge movement of the mid-90s. Thanks to Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder, we could happily shop at thrift stores and borrow our boyfriend’s flannel shirts and still be accepted. Granted, we were following a trend, but one more focused on who we wanted to be and less on what we wanted to buy.

Me, in 9th grade, rocking the looney tunes basketball T-shirt I stole from my younger brother.

Me, in 9th grade, rocking the looney tunes basketball T-shirt I stole from my younger brother.

To this day, even though I do fit into the clothing in those name-brand stores, I will not buy them. I will not buy them because of what it says about me and who I want to be (and because anyone my age trying to rock an Aeropostale tiny-tee is just trying too hard).

In the interest of full disclosure: In college, I did work in the Gap for a while. I did own one Gap sweatshirt that I bought off the clearance rack for $5 and subsequently got grease on it shortly afterward. I hung onto it for another decade to wear around the house. It was one of my favorite comfy sweatshirts.


Buckle Up Your Bowling Balls

When I was little, my aunt had a car that spoke.  Remember those?  If your car door was open, the car would say (in its 80’s robot voice) “Your door is ajar.”  I think it also said other things, but I don’t remember them.  I spent most of the time opening and closing the door while it was parked, so “your door is ajar” is what I remember best.  It was as though I was in my own personal episode of Knight Rider – except that I didn’t drive anywhere and the voice didn’t sound like Mr. Feeny from Boy Meets World or John Adams from 1776.

"Your door is ajar!"

“Your door is ajar!”

Considering we had talking cars in the 80s, you would think all cars today would be equipped with Siri-type personal assistants who could also help you solve crime.  Instead, my car just nags at me with an annoying beep every time I leave something heavy on the passenger seat.

Today, I had to transport some heavy equipment from my first job to my second job.  I stacked it all on a cart and wheeled it out to my car.  When I opened the back hatch, I found that Jim had left his bowling balls in the back.  By bowling “balls” I mean an entire suitcase of bowling balls that Jim needs to take with him every Monday night because one ball just isn’t enough.  I couldn’t fit the equipment in the back without moving the balls, but the only place I could put them was on the floor in front of the passenger seat.

This wasn’t a problem until I got in my car at the end of the day.  Apparently, the 50 lbs. of balls, shoes, and rosin were enough to set off the passenger seat sensor that tattles on anyone who sits in the seat without buckling.  It started off as a slow “beep…….beep……..beep.”  The longer I drove, the quicker and louder it got until it was all, “BEEP…BEEP..BEEP BEEPBEEPBEEEP..BEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!!!!!!”

Really, Toyota? This is the automotive equivalent of “Mom! He’s touching me! Stop touching meeeee!!!! Mooooooommmmmyyyy!!!!”

It’s 2013.  By now, my car should be brewing my coffee and cutting my hair.  At the very least, cars should politely clear their throats in an “ahem” fashion instead of rudely beeping at people who are perfectly capable of choosing whether or not they wear their seatbelts.

Get on that, car designers.