I Am an Expert—I Bet You Are, Too

I came across an article promising to make me an expert. According to a Tedx Talk expert on expertise, David Mitroff, I only have to do three things to be considered an expert:

Spend three years learning about my area of expertise.

Build my confidence.

Take action. (This can be as simple as nominating yourself for awards.)

That got me thinking. At my age, there are lots of things that I have spent way more than three years learning. Heck, I should make a list of the topics that I have spent more than three years on.

For instance…

I am an expert at telling my husband what he is doing wrong. This topic includes a host of subtopics: beekeeping, house maintenance, small machine repair, gardening, finance, fashion. He could add to this list, I am sure. I have spent decades on this topic and I have full confidence in my ability to tell him where he is wrong. And I do not hestitate to tell him so. That’s taking action, right?

I am an expert at demonstrating what not to do in airports. I have demonstrated to my student travelers how one must sort one’s souvenirs before the flight home because the Florentine letter opener that ressembles a wicked dagger in the x-ray machine will most certainly be tossed in the trash. Same thing with a kilo of nougat that scans like a block of plastic explosives. And one should really use caution when borrowing a backpack from an ex-military dad—in case he forgot to remove all the bullets from hidden pockets. Object lessons like this are what make me such an effective teacher. An expert, really.

I am an expert at determining exactly how late the rush hour traffic will make me. When I call in with an accident report, I know exactly how many extra minutes to add to my travel so that when I walk in earlier than expected, I am told, “Wow, you made great time!”

I am an expert at reading handwriting. This skill increasingly amazes my students, who cannot read any handwriting at all. Once in awhile, textbook materials will include readings “written” in italicized script or some other cursive-like font. I have to read those selections out loud. Piece of cake. The true challenge for me is the dysgraphic, dyslexic student. The letters are not just poorly formed, they are in random order. In a second language. I am that good.

A corollary to reading handwriting is deciphering spelling. This is where a colleague keeps me sharp. She sends me puzzles from actual student work and challenges me to figure it out. Sometimes I can guess it outright. Other times, I need context clues. My all-time favorite was from the student who wrote about things “on a day-lily basis.”

I am an expert at doing all the laundry in one day—except for that last load that I forget about in the washer until I try to reach for an item in the closet and find it not there. And then I have to re-wash the load. Sometimes more than once. Because here’s the thing, my expertise is limited to Saturdays. If a load goes in on Sunday, it is doomed to dark dampness until next Saturday.

Speaking of dark and damp, I am also an expert on the rates of mold production inside refrigerators. Most of the time, I can even identify the original host of the mold. Decades of experience. What can I say? Plus, usually I am the one who put the host container in the fridge in the first place. But I am the undisputed expert. That’s why my husband comes to me to ask, “Dear, what was this?”

Wow, this small sampling of my areas of expertise has already built my confidence. I deserve some awards! The Science Award for refrigerator experiments. The Almost Finished Award for weekly laundry loads. The Cipher Award for spelling and handwriting decoding. The Airport Security Award for modeling dumb things not to do. And last but not least, The Lifetime Achievement Award for instructing my husband in so many different specialty areas.

If I read the expertise article correctly, being an expert does not necessarily mean you have to be successful at the topic. You just have to know a lot about it. Hmm, that may explain why there are so many so-called experts everywhere. But, that boosts my confidence even more. By that definition, my husband and I are expert beekeepers. More years than not, our bees fail to survive the winter. Some years, they haven’t even survived the summer. We have done countless dumb things as beekeepers. But we have a wealth of knowledge.

I am going to keep working on my list. And then, when I am sufficiently impressed with myself, I will share more of my expertise with you all. Feel free to award me for my expertise.

What are you an expert at? Take some action and share in the comment section below.

The Vaccine Games

Who knew, in the spring of 2020, that the battle to find toilet paper was just training for getting a Covid vaccine? Who knew that our lives would begin to ressemble the Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies as we scrambled to get a vaccine appointment? Who could have imagined that we would even have a vaccine, or that, as we competed for available appointments, we would compare vaccine brands like we compare cell phones?

When vaccines opened up for school employees, my husband immediately received a link via his employer. Our demographic group opened on Friday, and Saturday he had an email. He clicked the link and —boom!— he made an appointment for the following week. Score one for him.

The link was unique to him and he could not share it with me. I had to wait for my own link. I was optimistic that by Monday or Tuesday, I would receive my own link via my own employer.

It did not come.

I signed up on three different lists, hopeful that one of them would come through before the county where I work.

Nuthin.

Finally, a link came to the employees at my school. But when we opened the link, all the appointments were already taken. This happened several times. We learned that our link had been leaked. Other people were taking our slots. And our shots. Points for them. We were losing.

Oh, how quickly the darkness of human hearts reveals its sinister presence. As I gnashed my teeth over the evil vaccine stealers robbing my of my vaccine, I gave nary a thought to my 88 year old mother or my 93 and 95 year old in-laws. Hey, they don’t go anywhere anyway. I have to actually teach live children, who are germ factories even on a good day.

The county I teach in eventually wised up to the breach in the link. They sent out a new link in which they came close to threatening bodily harm to anyone outside of the intended group using the link. My colleagues and I signed up for appointments. Armed with a file folder of documents proving our identities as private school teachers, we successfully received our first shot. Score for each one of us.

Meanwhile, social media announced the vaccine panic to the world. A vaccine hunter group was formed on Facebook. People were willing to drive halfway across the state to get an appointment. When Walgreens opened a drive-through vaccine near us, the NextDoor Digest was flooded with queries about why the appointment scheduler was not working. What to do???? Wait? A whole six months?

I read all the social media posts with mild interest. I had my first shot and an appointment for my second. My niece found an appointment for her grandmother, my mom, in another county. My brother took her for her first shot. I was happy. Score one for Mom.

My daughter, also an educator, announced her vaccine appointment. Score.

I asked, “Which one are you getting?”

Another daughter asked, “Why is everyone comparing vaccines?”

Because they are different, silly girl. Although, really, what does it matter? Getting a vaccine is like when I was served dinner as a kid. You get what you get. You will eat it. And you will be grateful to have it. No whining to Mom that you got served more disgusting lima beans than your brother. Or that the puddle of butter on your mashed potatoes broke.

My husband got the Pfizer. He had one symptom after his vaccine. He immediately felt weird. I asked him to define weird as different from his usual self. He was unable to articulate the difference except to say that a trip to McDonald’s for a quarter pounder with cheese cured it. Score.

A couple of my colleagues also felt weird after their shots, but they survived without going to McDonalds. My husband’s boss, though, took his advice and got two quarter pounders with cheese after his vaccine. He reported no side effects. From the quarter pounders or the vaccine.

My colleagues and I got the Moderna vaccine. Moderna has more reported side effects. Most of us had sore arms and fatigue after the first shot. My son-in-law had gotten his first Moderna shot a few days before me, so I knew to plan for a day of doing nothing. Sure enough, I spent that Saturday doing absolutely nothing. It was so effective that I did it again on Sunday, even thought I felt perfectly fine. I am very good at doing nothing. Score two points for pulling off two days of doing nothing.

My daughter will be getting the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine. She gets an extra point because she only has to get one shot. The Johnson & Johnson is rumored to have the least side effects, so it remains to be seen if she will get points for McDonald’s or a free day to do nothing.

Yesterday, my colleagues and I got our second Moderna shot. This morning, my younger colleagues reported fever, chills, aches, and the sore arm. I awoke to nothing more than a sore arm. Score one for me—being older has its perks! But as morning moves to afternoon, my temperature is rising and my head feels fuzzy and a nap is looming. Score one for me! I am young enough to have symptoms!

Mom got her first Moderna shot recently. She is old. In spite of nearly passing out from her flu shot this year, she had absolutely zero symptoms from the Covid vaccine. I am scheduled to spend the night with her after her second shot. I anticipate that she will have absolutely zero symptoms again. And she will win the entire Lord of the Covid Vaccine Game.

Why?

Because she will have gotten her vaccine and a sleepover with her daughter.

Win. Win.

Propolis: Bane of the Beekeeper’s Wife

There are many things that set me off on a rant but the worst ones involve Any Other Person messing up My Stuff. It doesn’t have to technically be my stuff. If I use it and/or clean it, it counts as mine.

Any beekeeper wife will agree that beekeeping presents some challenges with protecting stuff. For instance, you can not melt wax using any pots or utensils you ever again would want to use for food prep. And even then, there are better and not better ways to clean up the wax tools. But the worst offender by far is propolis, the sticky stuff that bees use to seal up nooks, cracks, and crannies in the hive. It is all over the top and bottom edges of the honey boxes. And then it gets on everything else.

And it won’t come off. Clothing, countertops, floor, you name it, if propolis was there it will stick there.

Sunday, our newest junior beekeeper donned the junior-sized bee-suit to watch PopPop BeeMan pull a honey box from Hive 2. His sister stayed back at the house and joined in to watch the honey spin and be bottled. They learned quite a bit about the honey harvesting process.

Seth uses the smoker

They also learned that MomMom does not like to share.

BeeMan had used a bee escape to minimize the number of bees in the honey box. It’s a clever contraption that allows bees to go down to the hive box at night but then they can’t figure out how to get back upstairs. It’s a great way to bring the honey home without a couple thousand accompanying bees. Nevertheless, there were still some bees that made it back to the house with the honey. BeeMan blew off those he could with my new leaf blower but, still, a few made it into the mudroom where we process the honey and they were buzzing around the room.

Checking out the bees on the bee escape

What to do with buzzing bees inside? Vacuum them. BeeMan got the hand vac, but it was not sufficiently charged. So he asked for the vacuum.

Oh. No. Absolutely Not.

I explained to the children that I just bought a wonderful new Shark vacuum and have used it only two weeks. BeeMan may not get sticky bee glop on My Brand New Vacuum.

There is, however, a fully functioning old vacuum in the basement for BeeMan to use for any vacuuming needs he might have. So he sucked up the stray bees who continued to buzz in the dust bin while the children worried for their health.

Fast forward to today. The old vacuum still sits in the mudroom, the captive bees now dead. (Don’t tell the kids.) I have moved on to another project– cleaning out bathroom cabinets in preparation for painting them. I grab the hand vac from the charger. You know, the hand vac that BeeMan didn’t use because it wasn’t fully charged?

He didn’t use it.

He touched it.

The handle is all gooped up with propolis.

Arrrrghhh!

Propolis on My Stuff

But the internet is a wonderful thing. Rusty at Honey Bee Suite discovered that propolis can be removed from a camera with isopropyl alcohol. Well, having just emptied all the contents of the bathroom cabinet, I happen to know that I have isopropyl alcohol (and two bottles of witch hazel and more bottles of lotions, creams, and ointments than I know what to do with). Right at my feet. In one of these eight bags of stuff. Oh, there’s a whole bag of cotton balls, too.

Three cotton balls later, the hand vac is sparkly clean– and sanitized, too. It was super easy. This is great! Now, after we are done harvesting honey, I can use alcohol to de-goop the counters and floor. Despair is lifted. I can return to the bathroom project.

No more propolis!

But first, I better go inspect the leaf blower.

Surf and Turf

Not yet 8 a.m.  Vacation Man heads to the beach to set up camp for the day.  He’s not the first.  He has been spurred to action by another Vacation Dad hauling beach gear down the street.  Yesterday, he set out after eight and barely found a good spot. Today, while he claims his turf, the procession of Vacation Dads begins, probably spurred on by seeing him. Half a dozen WonderWheelers lumber down the street.  Not on the sidewalk, mind you, but down the middle of the street.  It is that early. They rumble and creak, piled with chairs and umbrellas and boogie boards.  

Toys and towels will come later, with the women and children.  But we are hours away from that. Lifeguards won’t report for duty for another two hours.  Sleepy-eyed children are still slurping cereal while watching cartoons. Comatose moms nurse their coffee.  Early risers are just now coming home from their runs, coffee and even newspapers in hand.

But Vacation Dads are out providing for their families.  

A good beach position is important.  You want to be juuuuuuust beyond the high tide line, at the crest of the rise of soft, fluffy sand.  Not only does this put you in front position, but this is where the breezes are best.  For families with young children, this position enables parents to supervise children from their beach chairs.  If they are too far back, some parents will still try to supervise their children from their chairs, but their cries of supervision can only be heard by the annoyed adults sitting around them.

Yesterday, it went something like this.  Little Dillon (never saw the boy in my life but I know his name now like I know my own) wanted his cousin/aunt/young female adult person who was used to doing his bidding to come out of the water and tend to him.  He is maybe four years old.

“Emma, I need you!…Emma, I need you!…Emma, I need you!”  He shouted this over and over and over and over again.  Louder and louder and louder.  But still, his little voice did not reach Emma, who was rolicking in the waves with other young ladies her age.  We (and the couple next to us) could hear him because he was sitting in front of us. Mom was behind us, in her chair.

“Dillon!  She can’t hear you!”  Yeah, well, Dillon couldn’t hear Mom either.  “Dillon! Dillon! Dillon! She can’t hear you!”  This went on like a recording on repeat.

Oh. My. Gosh.  It was all I could do to stay in my seat.  I wanted to tell the mom to get off her butt and talk to the boy quietly.  Or tell Dillon to quietly wait for Emma to come out of the water.  Or even go into the water myself and tell Emma that Dillon needed her. 

No, one does not correct other families at the beach, anymore than one gives unsolicited advice to people being attacked by seagulls while eating.  It is, however, perfectly acceptable to laugh when a teenage girl’s cry of “Gack!” is followed by “And this is why I hate the beach!”

Beach rules: Don’t correct other families.  Don’t give unsolicited advice.  Stake out your spot early.

I don’t know that other beaches adhere to the early stake-out rule.  It might be unique to the Cape May neighborhood we frequent, where families rent by the week or month and have routines.  It reminds me of Baltimore rowhouse neighborhoods during snowstorms.  There is no law that says you can stake out your parking spot with lawn chairs just because you shoveled it out.  But woe to the obnoxious neighbor who parks in a spot that someone else shoveled.  

Like parking spots after snowstorms, people at our Cape May beach generally accept that the early bird gets the prime location.  Even if the early bird won’t sit in it for hours.  It’s part of the beach culture here.  And astute Vacation Dads pick up on this quickly.  Is it a desire to keep the Woman happy?  Or is it a testosterone-driven competition?  Whichever, with every successive day, the WonderWheeler parade gets an earlier start.

Based on the number of prime spots already taken by 7:45, today’s parade must have started at dawn. 

Trees Must Die

Another tree made it onto my hit list this week.  It must come down.  It has attacked and offended me. 

The tree is perfectly healthy.  For years it has grown near the corner of our house, sneakily growing taller and reaching smidge by smidge over the driveway toward my car. And then, just as my car approaches its first birthday, the tree begins splotching sap. First, a curious clear sticky blob appears on the driver’s side door handle.  Then another streaks down the window.  Blip and blop, sticky patches bloom everywhere.  Where is the source of this oozy mess?  I look up and see just one possible source…the red maple that now arches all the way across the parking pad.  Last summer, when I bought the car, the tree did not reach this far.  It did not drip sap on the car last summer.  Last summer, it did not offend.

This summer, the tree has crossed the line.  Encroaching on the house is bad enough–it encourages the squirrels to find new access points to the attic.  But messing with my car?  See, Tree, now you have made an Enemy.

Mr. Handyman Husband already has tree-whacking on his To-Do List. He even has Son-in-Law salivating at the prospect of felling some trees.  However, there is a waiting list of trees that must come down.  

First in line are the two dead oaks out front that suffered a direct lightning hit a few years back.  These are the trees causing Son-in-Law to salivate, for standing dead trees mean instant firewood. Standing dead trees also pose the greatest risk of becoming falling dead trees, often in the middle of winter when a tree crashing through the roof is most inconvenient.

Next in line is the perfectly healthy hickory tree on the other side of the driveway.  This tree does not drip. It drops hickory nut bombs.  Then they roll across the driveway like grenades, ready to pop under the weight of car tires.  The car parked beneath the hickory tree belongs to IBM, so Handyman Husband does not care so much if the hickory nuts leave dents all over it.  His lovely Ford F-250, however, is an altogether different story.  The truck can get muddy, but dents?  No tree will ping nut bombs at the truck. So, the hickory tree is next after the dead oaks.

There are easily five or six more trees on The List, but the sap-attack tree takes precedence and immediately earns placement as Tree #4.

“How many trees can you take down at one time?” I ask Handyman Husband.

“We could take several trees down, but then we would have to deal with what is on the ground,” he replies.  

He knows what I want.  I want all the trees to come down and he can deal with the mess in stages for the rest of his life. I know it is impractical and unsafe and probably beyond human strength. But he’s been doing things for years that have been impractical, unsafe, and beyond human strength.  His eye roll lets me know to back off.  He can only do what he can do.

In the meantime, I have to deal with tree sap stubborn enough to withstand a high-pressure car wash.  A little bit of research provides a quick and easy solution: hand sanitizer! I squirt a bit onto my finger, rub it into the sap to break it up, then wipe with a clean towel.  Repeat forty thousand times to hit every single sap drip and voila! Sap is gone. Well, maybe there were twenty drips, not counting the ones on the roof that I can’t see and can’t reach anyway.  It didn’t take long at all to remove a week’s worth of tree droppings.

The tree still must die.  And I still must wait.  But armed with hand sanitizer, I at least do not have to drive around town with tree boogies stuck to my car.

A Sauna-dweller travels to Colorado

I should have packed eye drops, but I forgot that Colorado air is dry enough to suck out all your eyeball juice.  In Colorado, no one says, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” like they do in Baltimore.  In Colorado, when it is hot it is dry hot. Sweat doesn’t stick to skin like a wet blanket.  No, the air in Colorado is like a hot towel fresh from the dryer. Perspiration wicks right into that hotness, tricking one into thinking it isn’t happening at all.  At dinner, I chug two tall glasses of water and realize that I am just as dehydrated in the Dry Land as I am in Sauna Land.  

By Day Two, my sinuses are disgustingly crusty, reminding me of a visit to Spain where tour group members from Las Vegas complained about the humidity while Baltimoreans were discretely dealing with dried up bloodied boogers.  Ah, but on a brighter side, the tiny persistent patch of maybe-poison ivy is drying up.  Too small for a prednisone cure but too stubborn to succumb to over-the-counter cortisone, it seems to have met its match with 20% humidity.

Day Two is also when my body notices that there is hardly any oxygen at 5430 feet. I was born at sea level (ok, maybe fifty feet above, if you allow for whatever floor of the hospital I was on). The altitude of my hometown is 6.9 feet above sea level.  I currently live a whopping 689 feet above sea level.  I forego hiking today. Instead, I ponder the mysteries of the universe at the planetarium.

By Day Three, I can enjoy the low humidity and oxygen-deprived hike trails all at the same time. I think I am adjusting.  I overhear a clerk at McGucken’s Hardware telling a co-worker that she had to move “back down” because her oxygen levels were too low.  “Down” in Baltimore refers to “Downy Ocean, Hon” where we rinse our sticky sweaty skin in salt water. In Boulder, it means to come down off the mountains.  Yeah, the struggle is real.  

I think my eyeballs are drying out. I miss my eyedrops, the ones I use to treat excessive screen time.  They are in my other purse, the bigger one, the shoulder breaking one, the one I downsized because I do not need to constantly carry with me stuff for every possible contingency.  But dry eyes is a contingency I forgot to plan for.  

I did plan for my usual skin care. Still, the little tubes of moisturizer in the hotel that I usually stash as souvenirs in my suitcase to keep in my desk at work?  Gone. Every day, my skin soaks up the whole dang tube.

By the time I get semi-used to Rocky Mountain air, it is time to come home.  Reentry to Sauna Land is delayed by a band of thunderstorms in Baltimore that prevent our departure from Denver International Airport by an extra two eyeball-sucking hours. We emerge from BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport into a slap-in-the-face literal 100% humidity.  As we drive home, steam rises from the highway.  Closer to rural home, puffs of low lying clouds hover barely overhead, and as we drive through the cornfields on our road, we see that the cloud puffs emerge directly from the field.  Rainfall is evaporating but there is no room in the air for it.  

The air, full of oxygen and saturated with water, is heavy to breathe.  I understand now how my (few and far between) houseplants feel when I finally relieve them of my neglect (all the more desperate since they often sit right by a sink).  I am like those dehydrated toy sponges in a capsule that come to life in a bowl of water.  Hydrating and blooming, I will be bloated again by morning.  

I think of the family from Austin, Texas, that sat next to me on the plane, who had vacationed at Yellowstone and were now visiting friends in Baltimore.  They must think they are drowning.

Ah, but they won’t need eyedrops.

Three Things I Would Bottle

Three things I wish I could bottle for later: summer sunshine, the restorative powers of vacation sleep, and the energy of a child. Probably in that order.  I crave sunlight. I love sleep.  And with  every passing year, it takes more energy than I naturally have to carry me through the day.

I don’t want the constant energy of a child. I’m not really a high energy person.  I just want to bottle their non-caffeinated all natural enthusiasm so I can partake of  little sips when this dilapated body needs some.  An infusion of kid energy combined with the wisdom of years of experience would possibly enable me to complete everything that my caffeine-hyped morning self put on my to-do list.  

Yesterday, three grandkids paid a brief visit while desperate momma bought groceries.  In anticipation of their visit, I stopped my activities early to put my feet up with an iced Kahlua coffee and a couple of non-pareils.  (French note: non-pareil means “no equal” and I’m telling you there is no equal to one or two quality dark-chocolate non-pareils with a tall iced coffee laced with a splash of Kahlua.) Life got even better when hubby walked in early from work.  Back-up. 

See, the eleven-year-old has two speeds: hypnotic, technology-induced coma and hyper-adrenaline laced activity, which usually involves adult supervision and/or tickets to a theme park, but can be temporarily assuaged with a fidget spinner.  Prior to PopPop’s arrival his choice of activity was going to be a new book I bought.  He actually flipped through it and grunted tentative approval. Actual reading will likely require a sleep-over which he not so subtly hinted at.  But PopPop introduced a new level of engagement: driving lessons on the zero-turn mower. Do you want to see a fidget spinning kid toss aside the fidget spinner? Put him on a piece of heavy machinery and let him drive. He was in seventh heaven.  The trick will be to channel his enthusiasm into mowing all the grass.  I’m pretty sure money will be involved.  The kid is a mercenary when it comes to money.

Meanwhile, his three (and a half!) year old sister watched from the screen porch, dying to drive the kiddie tractor.  There was no way I was letting her out in the yard to get run over by her brother, so she had to content herself with non-stop storytelling to her captive audience (me) while  17 month old  brother busied himself removing everything from the kitchen cabinets.  His favorites: the salad spinner and crab mallets.  Lucky for me he didn’t use the crab mallets on the salad spinner.  Big brother eventually heeded sister’s sporadic cries to “Stop! Please stop! Stop now!”  Her interest in driving the battery-powered kiddie tractor lasted about three nanoseconds.

Since we were now all outside and little brother was investigating the human-powered toddler tractor, I took the talkative one over to the Big Hill so she could practice rolling down it.  Once upon a long time, her mother and aunts sledded down this hill (her mom sledding right into a tree that is no longer there). Now on a glorious sunny afternoon, the hill is cushy with thick zoysia grass.  I get her lined up perpendicular to the hill (she expected to “roll” with her feet facing downward as for sledding), I tuck her arms in, and cry, “Go!”  Silly me expected her to roll like a log down the hill.  That’s how one rolls, right?  In a sort of straight line, maybe veering off to the left or right?  

No.  This girl meanders down the hill like a child going from Point A to Point B in “Family Circus.”  It’s sort of a cross between a roll and a crab walk, limbs flapping and body flopping all over the hill in any direction but down.  I’m not going to tell her it’s wrong because she is delighted.  And if I tell her how to do it “better” I will have to demonstrate.  I am half tempted because the day is just that nice, but the fact that my knee is in a compression bandage from getting awkwardly into a car keeps my enthusiasm in check.

But oh, to have the energy of a kid!  I would sail through a teaching day with a three (and a half!) year old’s  energy and delight! I could tackle the biggest projects if I had the enthusiasm of an eleven year old on a zero-turn.  And my kitchen cabinets would look great if I tackled them with the reckless abandon of a toddler.  Add a splash of summer sun and some stored up slumber, I could take on winter.

Well, that’s not going to happen.  The best I can do is store up memories. Consider it done.  

Summer Time

With the school year over, my To-Do List looks a little different:

1. Wake up to daylight.

2. Have a second cup of coffee.  Finish the coffee while it is still hot.  

3. Pee whenever I want to.

4. Hydrate.

5. Repeat item 3.

6. Be outside.

7. Eat when I am actually hungry.

8. Think about things.

9.Drink more coffee later with ice cubes because it is a choice, not because it is what sits before me from morning.

I am pleased to report that on Day 3, I am wildly successful in completing this To-Do List.  Not that it has been easy. Take item 4, for example.  Whoever decided that everyone should drink 64 ounces of water a day must also have invented water-boarding as a form of torture.  I do love my chilled water (infused with natural flavors), but by ounce 48 I’m drowning.  However, I have flushed 2 lbs out of my body, so I will Keep Hydrating and Carry On.

The real struggle is with my addiction to To-Do Lists. I have other Lists for this summer.

  • All the things I need to do to be better prepared for the next school year. (As though,after 33 years in the classroom,I am unprepared.  Still…)
  • All the things I need to do around the house because it fell into near total chaos during the school year.  Only the bi-weekly sprint to tidy before the cleaning ladies arrived saved us from total disaster.
  • All the things I need to do to be the perfectly healthy individual that everyone else I know is.  Or at least so I can visit the doctor for a checkup and not cringe.
  • All the people I am going to invite over because I don’t have the overstimulation of the work week as an excuse and because introverts love to spend their vacation hosting events.  (FYI, for an introvert, hosting more than 2 people is an event.  So if I invite just two of you over,  consider than an act of love.  More than two, I am sacrificing myself on your behalf.)
  • All the summery fun things I need to do to feel like I had a vacation.

So, yeah, the list of Lists is fraught with opportunities for failure.  There is no way to do this.  And each of these Lists comes with Sub-Lists.  And yet I need the Lists or I will do nothing.  It’s like my WeekSheet of lesson plans.  I may not get everything done by Friday,  but I come a whole lot closer if I work to the plan.

A missionary to Cameroon shared at church last Sunday his struggle with being back in the States for a year.  The Africans have a saying, “Westerners have clocks; Africans have time.” It is hard to shift from one timeframe to another.  That really resonated with my launch into summer.  I have a “need” To Do while simultaneously desiring a break from the tyranny of doing.  I long to discern the difference between maximizing my minutes and fully living in time. I long for a compromise between the list the top of this page and the List of Lists lurking beneath it.

For the moment, my compromise is looking like this:

  • Look at each day as a day of possibilities. What can I do as opposed to what ought I to do? (Being the first-born that I inescapably am, my “can-I’s” will surely contain enought “oughts” to keep me from sliding into total slothful irresponsibility.)
  • Follow the nudges of the Holy Spirit and be open to divine appointments.

And for the immediate moment, I am behind on my water intake and I have to go to the bathroom.

THE END

Nougat Non-Non

I should have bought the salted caramels.  Then I would have some to share because they would not have ended up in the trash can at Paris Charles DeGaulle airport security.

We were vacationing in Port en Bessin, Normandy. After enjoying coffee and pastries in the brisk morning sun at Café du Port, we explored the weekly open-air market.

Oh la la! Cute little quail eggs! And next to them, live quail in a cage.

“Do they have names?” we asked.

“We have 600 birds, madame.  Non, we do not name them.”

Ok, moving on to the dairy vendor.  French cheeses galore.  And fresh yogurt.  In cute little glass jars! We bought…as much for the jars as for the yogurt.  (And oh, such yogurt!) On to tastings of charcuterie, where hubby John had to show the vendor photos of his charcuterie. We meandered past chickens roasting on spits and wide pans of simmering paella towards a tasting of Normandy’s famous distilled apple apératifs– calvados, pommeau and eau de vie.

CIMG9176

The calvados (apple brandy), pommeau (calvados/cidre blend), and cute little yogurt jars made it home safely!

Directly across from the calvados tasting was the nougat vendor.  He, too, was giving samples– from wheels of nougat the diameter of car tires. It was impressive.  It was really tasty. It paired surprisingly well with the calvados we had just been tasting at 10 a.m. Yeah, I’m thinking my reserves were down a wee bit.

I decided to buy some.

“How much do you want?” he asked.

I had no idea.  He was selling in metric measurement.  I’m American.  I can handle the French language, but numbers are completely beyond me.  I fumble through rough pathetic calculations.  A kilo is 2.2 pounds.  Une livre is half a kilo.  How much nougat is in a kilo?  Chocolate I can guestimate.  Salt water taffy I have a handle on.  But nougat?

I ask for une livre. He whacks off a big honkin’ piece. But I want it in two flavors. He whacks off another big honkin’ piece.  He is only half listening because this whole time he is luring in customers with free samples.  He wraps the two bricks of nougat (which now I really don’t want) but he’s busy and he’s wielding a huge knife with the skill of a guillotine.

“Ca fait 37 euros, madame.”

Thirty seven euros?  For nougat?

He did say it keeps for a whole year in the pantry. “Not in the refrigerator, madame. That will ruin it.” Ok, ok, we will enjoy it this week and take the rest home to give to family.

The week goes by with barely a nibble of nougat.  I keep forgetting it is there.

Fast forward to the airport and the now-expected body pat-down, this time by a woman who also has had both hips replaced.  She knew exactly where my body was going to ding. We laugh. One can bond with people in the most unexpected circumstances.

My carry-on bag rolls through the scanner and the guard pulls it off.

He needs to check the bag.  I can’t imagine what could be a problem in my carry-on bag.  It’s not like that time I forgot I bought a letter opener in Florence for my son-in-law.

“Madame, will you please take the knife out of your bag?”

“Knife? What knife?”

Security guard turns the x-ray screen around to reveal the shadow of a very lethal looking Renaissance dagger.

“Oh, that knife!”

Yeah, that time all Mario got was a story.  This time the guard pulls everything out of my bag…books and scarves, cahiers for my French 4 class, souvenir magnets for the fridge.  Finally, at the bottom of the bag, he finds two bricks of nougat.

They look like a kilo of plastic explosives.

He unwraps the nougat.  He sees that it is nougat, although an unusually large amount of nougat.  He smiles at me and says, “Madame, you can bring hard nougat in your carry-on.  But next time, pack the soft nougat in your checked luggage.  I’ll ask if you can keep it.”

Off he goes to ask a higher authority.  Back he comes, shaking his head.

“But you can stand here and eat it, if you want.”

So now I am tearing wads of nougat for our group of six.  I am offering nougat to total strangers, who look at me like I am a crazy person.

The bulk of the nougat ends up in the trash.  We continue toward our gate with nougat-sticky fingers.

We pass a kiosk for Ladurée, the famous Paris patisserie.  As a consolation prize, I decide to buy a box of their renowned macarons.  And there at the register, what do I see?  A beautifully wrapped single serving bar of…nougat.

Yup. I bought it. But I am not sharing. It cost me dearly.

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My consolation prize for the contraband nougat.

Sleeping Beauty Gets Power Tools

Thanks to the miracle of 20 volt rechargeable lithium batteries, I now have my own weed whacker and hedge trimmer. It’s high time.  After 17 years in this house, the woods are reclaiming the property.   We’re close to the Sleeping Beauty scenario in which I (the Beauty) fall under a magic spell (my bed) and sleep for a hundred years (totally possible) waiting for the handsome prince (aka Maywood Man)  to hack through the enchanted forest to save me with True Love’s Kiss.

Yeah, well, I’m not exactly holding my breath here.  Thirty-five years of marriage has taught me that Maywood Man is going to spend the next 100 years fixing some tractor or other and never get around to hacking down the enchanted forest. If you don’t believe me, check out John Harp’s Ferguson tractor video, going positively viral on YouTube. (Or it will once my viral readership clicks on it! )

Meanwhile, next door, my 90-year-old mother-in-law can be heard weed whacking nearly every day.  If she can weed whack, I can weed whack. I just need the right tool.  Not one of those heart attacks on a stick…you know, the gas-powered model with a pull cord that was clearly invented by a guy trying to prove his manhood. No.  And not an electric one.  The yard is too big.  (That doesn’t stop Nana, though.  My father-in-law strings a bazillion extension cords together and she whacks all the way across the yard, somehow without whacking the cord into pieces.)

With a battery-powered weed whacker I can go all the way to the field and whack around the blueberry bushes.  It’s great! But giving me a power tool is a like giving a five-year old scissors….wow, the things to be cut! There is so much to cut that I soon realize I need power hedge trimmers.  A weed whacker can only do so much. Ah, now, with my own little girlie chain saw wanna-be, I’m like my mom with hair clippers.  Bzzz, buzz.  I begin with big slicing hacks.  Once I can see the trees, I can get a little more subtle.  Bzzz,  a little here.  Bzzz, a little there.

I think of our neighbor when we were growing up, Mr. Lapres.  Mr. Lapres was a real World War II  hero.  One of the famed Rangers of Point du Hoc, he lost a leg at D-Day.  But when I was a kid, he was a hero to my brothers by setting a stool in his driveway and buzz-cutting all the boys’ hair. He had 3 sons, I had 4 brothers, my cousins across the street had 3 boys. It was a veritable barbershop in his driveway.  He saved my brothers from my mom and the hair clippers.  Bald was not a fashion statement back then.  And bald spots will never be a fashion statement, I hope. Yeah, Mr. Lapres was a hero.

I am no Mr. Lapres.  I hack and whack and buzz until Mother Nature and  my body scream, “Stop already!”  I come inside for water.  My hands can barely hold the glass.  My arms rebel at bringing it to my mouth.  In this condition, I may starve to death.  A tractor drones in the distance.  I think I might just close my eyes for a bit.  And maybe my handsome prince will pick up all the debris I left in the yard.

http://daretodream.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341c007f53ef01348491c7e2970c-pileeping beauty

Sleeping Beauty

Zzzzzzzzzz.