A Quarter Cup of Coffee Goes a Long Way.

Last Saturday morning it was rainy. A rainy Saturday morning in a July with record amounts of rain.

A lightning strike in the back yard the previous Thursday evening took out our Internet connection, and ATT hadn’t bothered to restore it yet. Without the Internet to distract me, I had spent the morning going through some of the accumulated mail.

Feeling good about having made great progress in decluttering mail, I reached a stopping point. To reward myself for my diligence I decided I would brew a cup of coffee, relax on the sofa, and browse through some magazines. After all, reading magazines is another way of dealing with the mail.

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While my coffee was brewing, I noticed a piece of old mail that was tucked under the K-cup drawer. I would just pull it out. But first, I should fill up the reservoir so the light would quit blinking. So I grab the water filter pitcher and refill the brewer. Then I set the water filter pitcher down next to the brewer. Oh, look the brewer stopped. I’ll get that mail in a minute. Let me put cream and sugar in my coffee so it can cool while I deal with that mail that is just under the brewer and drawer. I’ll just set down my coffee cup so I can reach it.

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Ok, now a quick tug, and I’ll have another piece of mail decluttered. Oh, it’s stuck. I pull a little harder . . . harder . . . harder. It’s really stuck. Pull harder. Finally . . . it comes loose. The force that I had been using to tug on the piece of paper sent my hand flying. My flying hand with the piece of mail jostled my coffee cup. Good thing that piece of mail wasn’t important, because it was now saturated with coffee. In fact, most of my kitchen was saturated. Although the cup did not overturn, coffee spread all over the place. Coffee all down the front of the dishwasher. Coffee covering at least 12 square feet of the kitchen floor near the coffee pot. Coffee all over the water filter pitcher. Coffee on the counter. It seemed as if there was coffee everywhere.

Of course, I had to adjust my plan to relax on the sofa. One simply cannot ignore a spill containing a liquid sweetened with sugar. To ignore such a spill would be like hanging out a welcome sign for ants and palmetto bugs (aka roaches).

Wipe up the spilled coffee on the floor. Wipe down the dishwasher to get rid of the spilled coffee. Rinse the water filter pitcher inside and out. You wouldn’t expect coffee to be inside the pitcher since it had a lid, but it’s there. Use a sponge to mop up the coffee spilled on the counter. Grab a paper towel to dry the counter. Notice that the edge of the towel that slipped under the storage drawer is stained with coffee.

At this point, I realize that I’m living in a grown up version of one of Laura Numeroff’s IF books. http://tinyurl.com/ifmouse Here goes my version. If you notice that the paper towel has a coffee stain, you will want to move the single cup brewer and the drawer it is sitting on so that you can wipe up the coffee underneath. If you move the brewer, you will notice that the coffee spill extends underneath the adjacent tea brewer. If you move the tea brewer to clean under it, you might notice that the carafe could stand cleaning and you put the carafe into the dishwasher. If the carafe is no longer in the way, you might notice there are some tea stains on the tea brewer itself. If you tilt the tea brewer just a little to get the pesky stain, you might realize there was still water in the appliance, but you might not realize that fact until the water spilled on the counter. If you clean up the water, you might also have to move the next appliance on the other side. If you keep this process up, you might find that you have cleaned under all the appliances on that side of the counter.

Finally finished and ready to relax with my coffee, I figure I’ll need to brew another cup. I glance at my coffee cup expecting it to be nearly empty, but I am surprised. The cup is almost completely full. Maybe a few ounces are missing. Amazing how much mess a few ounces of liquid can make.

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Farewell, Sweet Arwen

Reader Alert I usually blog about humorous memories. Today’s blog has memories and a funny picture, but it is a little more somber.

Arwen’s mother, an obviously pregnant tabby, showed up at my folk’s house a little over 12 years ago. START RANT – Why do people drive out to a rural location and dump their unwanted animals? Do they think their pet will go feral and survive better in the country? Do they think people away from town have unlimited resources to care for the pet they no longer want? Do they just want to make sure that they don’t have to find the body when a car hits their pet? – END RANT

To everyone’s surprise, one of the kittens looked Siamese. At the time, we were without a cat for the first time in over a decade. My children wanted another cat. I wanted another cat. My husband likes cats, but did he want one? Not so much. Our girls spent a few days at my parents’ house. When we went back to get the four daughters, we also got a kitten. Here is a picture of Arwen and her litter mate at my parents’ house. Yes, Daughter #4 did learn how to hold cats.

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Although she had been an outdoor kitten, Arwen adjusted right away to indoor life and was only outside for an extended period 2 times. Both times she wandered out when we had the door open to move furniture in. The first time she was gone for a couple of days, but we found her in the crawl space under the house. The second time she went missing, she was gone for almost 2 weeks. Our children were devastated. There were many prayers for Arwen’s safety and quick return. We made posters. We checked with the neighbors. None of the neighbors had seen her. As the days stretched on and there was no sign of Arwen, I began to think that perhaps she had met misfortune. One evening after I had given up hope of ever finding her, daughter #3 noticed Arwen sitting on the deck. All our sadness turned to jubilation, and we thanked God for our cat’s safe return.

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Here’s an attempt that we made at making a classic cat in a mail box photo. She really wanted to go back into the house. She was not wanting to be a photo model.

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During my husband’s first deployment to Iraq, Arwen was diagnosed with diabetes. Our whole family learned how to give her insulin. Twice a day, she got a shot. We tried to give Arwen the shot at approximately the same time every day. We always fed Arwen and Olive (by this time we were a 2 cat family) after the shot. Although she didn’t seem to especially like the shots, she didn’t seem to mind them either. We didn’t have to hunt her to administer the shots, probably because she knew getting a shot meant getting food.  The cats were almost as punctual as a clock. When it was time for Arwen, aka Kitty, to get her shot, she would come to the kitchen and wait on the step stool for her shot. As we added more cats to our household, they all learned the routine and would start hanging out in the kitchen just in case we forgot that we needed to give Arwen a shot. We were never able to teach them about Daylight Savings Time. For the first week or so after a time change, the cats will still show up on the previous schedule.

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If you have cats in your household, you know that they usually lay claim to one family member. I always considered Arwen to be my cat. I think the feeling was mutual.

Over the last few months, Arwen grew increasingly feeble. We talked about taking her to the vet for euthanasia, but since Arwen got extremely carsick, no one wanted to make her final moments even more miserable. We decided to keep her home and make her as comfortable as possible. Tuesday she stopped eating. Wednesday evening she lay down by the window. An hour later she was gone.

Yes, I miss her. No, I do not want another cat. Although none of our other cats have claimed me as their person, Olive, Ootini, C3PO, Anakin, Puppy, and Houdini all love to be petted.  If I want to pet a cat I have 6 to choose from.

Happy Birthday Aunt Eloise (or a funny thing happened on the way down the aisle)

On the occasion of Eloise’s birthday, I thought I would share a few memories of Aunt Eloise, aka Aunt EE. I always thought it was cool that Aunt Eloise’s first and middle name started with the same initial. Then when she married, her name became even cooler because her maiden name and married name started with the same initials – EEMM. EloiseBruce

Eloise has always been interested in history. My family often vacationed with her; her love of history rubbed off on me. I remember visiting Gettysburg, Washington, DC, Amish country, and several other locations with Eloise. Rarely did we get to pass a historical marker without reading every word. Between Eloise’s love of history and my dad’s desire to see every odd or peculiar thing within driving distance of our hotel, we spent a great deal of vacation time in the car. Usually, I felt that I needed a vacation to rest up after we returned from our scheduled vacation.

Recently Eloise shared the following story with me and I’m including it with a couple of editing tweaks: My cousin & I [Eloise] were sharing a house in DC. A good friend called and said that he was in DC just returning from Army deployment in Korea. We invited him for dinner and mentioned if he wanted to bring along another guy he could. (That made 2 gals, 2 guys). Oops. Serve a Jewish guy ham for dinner—learn next day he was Jewish! It was a pleasant evening—I do not even remember that red-headed Jewish soldier’s name!!!! Just a funny memory now….and a faux pas! He was courteous and ate it without a word.

Here’s another memory that makes me smile. I recently mentioned this story to Eloise, but she didn’t remember it. However, she told me about the incident when I was visiting her in NC one summer probably a decade or more ago, so I guess I thought it was funnier than she did. The day before my visit, Eloise had sliced up some cucumbers fresh from the garden and decided that they would be better with a splash of vinegar. She carried the bowl to the laundry room because she kept the vinegar there to use as a laundry aid. She took off the lid and drizzled the liquid on the vegetables. When she got to the table, you guessed it, she had sprinkled the cucumber slices with bleach.

When my brother tells the following story about a time he and my parents were eating lunch with Eads and Eloise, Bryan includes arm motions and everything. Here’s Eloise’s version of the story (copied and pasted with minor edits): I do remember when your family came to visit us while we lived in Maryland—–I believe Bruce was a toddler. I had forgotten the event until someone (probably Bryan) reminded me of it in recent years. Evidently it struck him as funny even though he had deep sympathy for the dog. We had just sat down at the dining table for a meal. I picked up the catsup (or salad dressing?) bottle, gave it a quick check to see the cap was on securely. Then I turned the bottle upside down and I jerked the bottle down quickly by my thigh to get the contents flowing quickly. I did not know that our beloved dachshund was standing by my feet. Wham! Poor doggie! He got whacked right in the head. I guess he forgave me….we kept him for years and always enjoyed him.

In 1968, Eloise married Eads (Bill) her longtime boyfriend. My family went to the DC area for the wedding. I was hoping to get to be a flower girl since many of my friends had been flower girls in weddings, but that wasn’t the plan. Perhaps it was a consolation prize, or perhaps it had been the plan all along, but Eloise asked my brother Bryan and me to light the candles in the branched candle stands on either side of the platform at the beginning of the ceremony. Being 10 years old and very responsible and very proud of myself, I listened carefully to the instructions. Bryan, being almost 7 and not that interested in the wedding was playing with the wick in the lighter and looking all around at the vestibule. I was so excited and felt so important. (If this incident had happened recently, the video would be YouTube or Funniest Home Videos.) Finally after waiting so long, it was time for Bryan and I to walk down to light the candles. I followed the instructions. I walked over to the side, walked up the steps, and started lighting the candles from the highest to lowest. Bryan just saw the candles. There were candles, and he had fire to light them. Who needs steps? I was indignant when I realized that he was lighting the candles from lowest to highest. I was embarrassed when he climbed on the altar rail to reach higher. I was mortified when he began to tumble into the greenery. I think the soloist had to grab him. Despite all that, Eads and Eloise had a nice wedding and recently celebrated their 45th anniversary.

A couple of kitchen memories

When Daughter #1 was a preschooler, we spent an afternoon making cookies. She loved to help. After the cookies had baked and cooled, she took one bite out of her cookie and then put it into the refrigerator. I noticed that throughout the afternoon, she would occasionally go back to the refrigerator, take the cookie out, and then return it to the shelf. I was baffled by her actions till she asked me, “how long do I have to leave it in the refrigerator until it turns back into dough?”

A few years later, I was preparing to wash a sink full of dishes. I almost always use the dishwasher because washing dishes seemed like a huge chore. As I ran the water, Daughter #2 pushed the step stool over to the sink and asked with great enthusiasm, “Can I play dishes and bubbles?” So we played dishes and bubbles. The dishes were clean, and all the soapy water on the floor made the floor easier to mop. All these years later, I don’t mind hand washing the dishes so much because remembering her enthusiasm for dishes and bubbles gave me a new perspective for the task.

Who Is She?

The importance of knowing what is pronoun refers to may be illustrated by the following example:

My husband and I stopped by a fast food place on a recent evening. He went into the house holding his hamburger and came out without it. When I asked where he put the wrapper, he replied, “in the trash can, but I tucked it where she can’t see it.”

He looked totally baffled when I responded, “she doesn’t need to see it to fish it out and eat the paper.”

Then we smiled as we realized we weren’t referring to the same SHE. His “she” is our daughter who disapproves of eating meat, especially fast food. My “she” is the cat who digs anything that smells interesting out of the trash and tries to eat the package.

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Lost in Translation

Early in our marriage, Scott became an Air Force officer and was assigned to navigation school near Sacramento. Mather AFB was the only nav school for the US and its allies, so the base had officers from several other countries. Scott and I became acquainted with some of the German officers and their wives. Since Scott had lived in Germany during high school, and I had minored in German in college, we sometimes tried to communicate in German. The German couples tolerated our trying to communicate. Most of them could speak English much better than we could speak German so most conversations were in English. Although we met several couples, Günther and Sophie B. were the couple that we spent the most time with.

The wives for the most part did not get jobs for the year they were in America. I wasn’t working either, so we wives would occasionally hang out together. We learned from each other. I explained how to use vanilla extract because they used vanilla infused sugar which was not readily available. They showed me how to make rouladen which I enjoyed eating, but never attempted to cook on my own.

When I think about our time in Sacramento and our interaction with the families from Germany I have many pleasant memories, but three things especially make me smile.

First, in March and April that year, Sophie and her friends started sun tanning beside the pool of their apartment complex. The pool wasn’t even open yet. The temperatures were only in the 50s and low 60s. I thought they were crazy, but they assured me, “This is summer.” We left California in early June of that year, but I often wondered what they thought about summer when Sacramento’s June and July temperatures went over 100° F.

Second, my attempts at speaking German provided amusement to the women from Germany. By the time Scott and I were in California, it had been two or three years since my last college German class. I found myself speaking slowly because I had to think about what I was saying and how I pronounced it. Once I started to say something to Sophie, but as soon as I started everyone started laughing. I was bewildered. I knew I hadn’t said anything that funny. Finally they explained to me that because I was talking slowly, my pronunciation of Sophie sounded the way their dialect said “as a pig.”

Finally, our attempt to introduce them to root beer was a huge flop. Scott and I had invited Günther and Sophie to dinner one evening. I don’t remember the menu, but I can’t forget that Günther was willing to try root beer. Because Scott loves root beer, he assumed that Günther would love it too, so Scott just handed him the can rather than pouring out a sample for Günther to taste. Throughout the evening, Günther sipped on the can of root beer. When Scott asked Günther about the root beer, he made polite responses. Finally near the end of the evening, Sophie asked about it. Günther offered to let her taste it. She took one small sip and blurted out, “Zahnpasta.” I immediately understood why Günther had not enjoyed the root beer. Embarrassed, I offered him something else to drink. I thought he was extraordinarily polite. Apparently the toothpaste they used had the same flavor. Can you imagine drinking carbonated minty fresh toothpaste without asking your host for a different beverage?

 

Code words

About a decade ago, my husband and I used to eat with our preschool aged daughters in our company lunchroom. On occasion, one or more of the girls would misbehave in a manner that demanded immediate correction. Either my husband or I would say something like [name of daughter] needs counseling. At that point one parent would remain in the lunchroom with the other children while the designated disciplinarian would take the child out of the lunch room to a private space where parent and child could discuss her behavior and the consequences.

I never imagined anything wrong with using counseling as a euphemism for discipline, but let’s fast forward a couple of years.

One day several years later, a daughter got into the car after school as mad as a wet setting hen (to use my dad’s expression). She was so angry at us because we had used counseling as a code word. She was upset because she had been embarrassed when her teacher asked if anyone knew what counseling meant and she had raised her hand and answered that counseling was when you had done something wrong and you were in trouble with your parents. Her classmates laughed at her. How could we have been so cruel to humiliate her?

Unintended consequences of words spoken with good intentions.