My daughter and her husband came to visit for a friend’s gender reveal party. The friend has two daughters and was kind of hoping for a boy. As the designated revealer, my daughter picked up the ultrasound photo from the doctor’s office and was the only one to know until the party a few hours later (which was at a pizza restaurant yesterday).

Although I’d heard of such parties, I had no idea how they went, so it was fun to watch. My daughter decorated a clipboard with cute drawings, and everyone voted on it with tally marks for “girl” or “boy.” Then the reveal was done by putting a little toy duck into a bowl of water; it had a chemical that made the water change color. The ducks are sold online in packs of two, with a “boy” duck that turns the water blue and a “girl” duck that turns it pink. The revealer brings the appropriate one to the party after taking off the identifying sticker.

The water turned pink, so there will be a third girl, much to the delight of her sisters. My mother-in-law came to the party too; she adores the little girls. We had a good time, except for getting sideswiped by a careless driver on the way to the restaurant, which left my husband with the unwanted chore of buffing the scraped fender and applying touch-up paint. Could have been worse, though.

This morning my daughter, her husband, and their dogs packed up and left, and the house seemed very quiet again. After an unseasonably warm day, it had gotten much colder overnight, with snow flurries and howling winds. I put this image of a lonely canyon on my digital art display.

Dry, lonely canyon under an orange sunset.

Even though it’s not a real window, changing the landscape to match the feeling of a particular day seems to improve my mood by making clear how quickly everything changes. Just like the image on the display, a lonely house and the winter blues won’t stay too long.

Friday morning was unusually warm for midwinter, so my husband and I went rowing in our double scull. We had the boathouse and the river all to ourselves. When the sun came out, it felt like a pleasant early spring day. Although we weren’t rowing fast, my hands got a little blistered because my calluses go away quickly when the rowing season ends. My husband, who has tougher hands, was fine.

The blisters didn’t really bother me because we had such a good time getting outdoors in the lovely weather. Of course, it did not last long. Soon after we returned home, the temperature started to drop, and by evening we were back to ordinary winter weather.

I spent the afternoon playing a computer game with my husband and then re-reading The Princess Bride on my Kindle. Nothing came to mind that had to be done. That left me with an odd feeling, as if the mainspring on some kind of mental machinery had gotten close to winding down, like a mechanical toy or music box with a winding key. This wasn’t the same as my lack of energy before Christmas vacation—I had gotten plenty of sleep all week, and rowing had not left me physically tired.

Wind-up toy with a large key at the top.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Rather than spend any time pondering this oddity, I decided that whatever tasks might need to be done could wait a day or two. Surely I would think of them in the morning. In the meanwhile, this seemed like a good night to stay in and watch one of the movies that my husband had just bought. I went to bed afterward and slept well.

When I woke up, there was no doubt something had changed. In the mental space where the imaginary wind-up machinery had been, there was only silence. After a minute or two, I realized what had happened—my internal to-do generator had shut down. You know, the one that switches itself on sometime in the teenage years, or perhaps even sooner, and chugs along continuously forever.

How could this be? I’d had vacations for a week or two before—plenty of them, in fact—but the to-do list never had spontaneously evaporated like this. Was it even possible for a modern-day adult to function without having a long list of tasks automatically load itself into the brain at boot-up?

Most likely, it would come back sometime later in the morning, I decided. Kind of like a brief power outage. No reason to worry. So I got my breakfast and opened my Kindle to the page where I’d left off yesterday. There was certainly nothing wrong with a nice relaxing morning while on vacation.

Afternoon came and I still didn’t have anything in mind to do. That was when I began seriously wondering what the heck was going on. Maybe I was coming down with some strange new disease. I hadn’t noticed any changes in my health this week, though, so I didn’t rate that as likely. As far as I could tell, I was generally healthy—about the same as always, but for the mysterious disappearance of the to-do list.

Meanwhile, my husband was sitting at the computer writing programs, which he likes to do when he’s on vacation to keep his skills sharp. Ordinarily when he does this, I’ll spend some time writing stories and blog posts, or maybe work on some other creative project. When that thought came to mind, it left me worrying—what if the disappearing to-do list might be a variation on the dreaded Writer’s Block? What if all my creative energy had drained away, too?

That, at least, could be tested. I got a notepad and pen, sat down on the couch, and started writing the first draft of this blog entry. I didn’t have any problems getting my thoughts organized on the page, which was a relief. Once I took a break when I wasn’t sure how to end a sentence, but that was nothing out of the ordinary. Apparently, my brain is still functioning much the same as before, except that the day is almost over and I still haven’t seen hide nor hair of the vanishing to-dos. Maybe they decided to take a vacation too.

December 26, 2018 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

This year we had Christmas dinner at our house, for the first time. My husband’s parents always hosted it before now. Although everyone liked their home-cooked meals, this year our daughter offered to do the cooking to give them a break. (She actually bought the macaroni and cheese from Sam’s Club and the green beans and pie from Bob Evans, but it was all pretty good and I didn’t have to cook, so I’m not complaining.)

One advantage of having everyone come here was more space. Because my in-laws couldn’t fit all the Christmas dinner guests in the same room, one group would sit in the dining room, while the others sat around the kitchen table. Our son always got relegated to the living room recliner with his dinner on a TV tray. He didn’t object to that, but obviously it was not the ideal situation.

Our house has more space because the great room always was left empty, with the exception of a rocking chair in the corner (as shown in this post), which we relocate every year when we set up the Christmas tree. Truth be told, our first few years in this house, we simply couldn’t figure out a good way to furnish the room. Then we decided it made a good place for parties and get-togethers as it was, bare and minimalist—with plenty of room to set up temporary tables.

For Christmas dinner we set up the folding tables in an L-shape around the tree, and our daughter cheerfully decorated them with holiday tablecloths and placemats from the dollar store. The photo below was taken while she was still experimenting—the tablecloths ended up being in a different arrangement.

Tables pushed together, with holiday tablecloths, around the Christmas tree.

The chairs were totally mismatched because they came from the dining room set, the kitchen table set, other random chairs that we had around the house, and one that we borrowed for the occasion. Everyone had a comfortable place, though, and that was the main point.

After all the plates had been cleared away, we could easily open the gifts while still gathered at the table around the tree. My husband got me one present that was too big and heavy to lift up to the table, so it had to be opened on the floor. (I’ll post a photo of it another time.)

Overall, the holiday dinner went well, and it was very good to see our daughter’s thoughtfulness in offering to make Christmas easier for her grandparents. We are proud of how well she has grown up!

December 27, 2017 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

This was another year when our daughter couldn’t be home on Christmas because she had to work, as the low nurse on the totem pole. So my husband and I decided to go visit her instead, at her house in Cleveland. We drove up there with our son and all the family’s presents, which went under our daughter’s tree.

Brightly lit Christmas tree with presents

After we opened them all (there was nothing really big this year, but everyone enjoyed them), we sat on the rug next to the tree and played games for a while. Our daughter’s little dog jumped up on the couch and watched us sleepily, looking so contented to see the family all together in one place.

We didn’t stay the night, and it got kind of late driving back after dinner; but it was definitely worth it to get everyone together at Christmas. We had a great time, and all was well with the world!

September 12, 2017 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

My daughter’s wedding is planned for January. She got her dress a while ago, but I have to admit that by last weekend I still hadn’t yet gotten around to shopping for a mother of the bride dress. Although her fiancé is a great guy and we have no complaints, it’s still hard for both my husband and me to wrap our minds around the idea of giving away our little girl.

So she sent me a text message on Sunday telling me T.J.Maxx had a good sale and including a few links to dresses that she thought would look pretty on me. I suppose that at some point in her youth, I must have given her useful motherly lessons in how to nag people effectively without it being too obvious! I ended up buying this one, as shown on the store’s order page:

Model wearing a lace mother of the bride dress. 

I thought it looked like the dress was on a mannequin rather than a model. That got me thinking about Barbie dolls in wedding dresses and how quickly little girls grow up. It’s probably going to be a while longer before I can get used to seeing myself as the mother of the bride…

March 15, 2017 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

My daughter’s dog, called Diva in this blog because she will sometimes sit by the front door wailing like a tragic opera singer when my daughter goes out without her, will soon be three years old. Yesterday my husband mentioned that he likes to get presents for the dog on her birthday and Christmas, even though pets have no concept of celebrating special days, just because the dog is part of the family.

We gift-wrapped a dog biscuit and some chew toys, along with the other presents under the tree, when our daughter (who is currently a student in a nurse practitioner program in Cleveland) came home for Christmas. Diva Dog definitely got into the spirit of the occasion in tearing off the wrapping paper!

Small dog trying to open a Christmas present. 

That conversation with my husband yesterday got me wondering just how common it is to gift-wrap presents for the family dog. Readers, do you have any interesting stories about doggie presents? If so, feel free to post them—I’m curious!

October 25, 2016 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

When I mopped the kitchen today, I decided that it was time to put away everything in the corner where the dog’s chew toys, food, and other things had been kept. My daughter moved to Cleveland a year ago, along with her little dog. Here’s a photo taken during a visit in May, showing the dog in the kitchen:

Small black and white spotted dog eating her breakfast. 

With no pets living here now, it wasn’t necessary to leave everything in the corner for occasional visits; but putting it all away seemed like a sad empty-nest moment, so that never got done. Finally, while I was putting away some flip-flops that had been left next to the kitchen door during the warm weather, I couldn’t avoid the fact that the dog items needed to go down to the basement too.

Empty corner of my kitchen, with bare walls and vertical blinds. 

I suppose I’ll get used to seeing the empty corner, and both daughter and dog will be here for a visit at Thanksgiving; but for now it looks awfully bare.

Over the weekend my husband spent a lot of time doing homeowner stuff. He cut the grass on Saturday and power-washed the deck on Sunday. It all looks good now, though we still have to wait for the wood to dry out before staining the deck, and there was some rain yesterday.

My backyard after the grass was cut and the deck power-washed. 

Meanwhile, I was lazy and sat on the couch reading a sci-fi novel, The Martian by Andy Weir. It’s about an astronaut who gets left behind on Mars when his crewmates mistakenly think he was killed in an accident, and then he has to figure out how he’s going to survive until he can be rescued.

The author is such an uber-geek that he actually wrote a program to calculate the orbital dynamics for his fictional spaceship’s paths. But readers don’t need any particular knowledge of math and science to enjoy the story because it’s written in a chatty, wisecracking style that is easy to follow. While I don’t have a hard science background myself, I do appreciate a meticulously plotted novel.

I felt some little twinges of guilt about not having done much writing myself recently. Then I thought, well, I’m just being silly. After all, I write my blog and stories for fun, and to share that fun (and cheerful positive energy) with others. There’s no money involved, and certainly no need to impose a regular production schedule on myself.

In fact, with fun as the metric, I believe it’s fair to say that the more fun I have in life generally, the more successful my blog is likely to be!

High winds on Saturday, when a blast of cold air came through, caused a power outage on my street and many other areas. At first I thought it was a minor interruption and a bit of an annoyance. My daughter was visiting from Cleveland with her dog. I had been browsing the Internet and had just found an image of a heron that was in the right aspect ratio for my digital art display, but hadn’t yet uploaded it.


(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Soon it became apparent that the outage was widespread and that my power wouldn’t get restored for quite a while because only some of the houses in the neighborhood had lost power, a small enough area that it was far down on the priority list for repairs.

We put on warmer clothes, since we had no heat and it was getting chilly. After a while we went out to dinner at a nice steakhouse, for which our daughter proudly paid, now that she is an adult making good money. Then, on Sunday, when the power was still off, she kind of went back to her childhood when she found an old thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle in the closet and spread it out on the family room floor. We all worked on it for a while before she got on the road to return to Cleveland. Then we went out to dinner with our son at a nearby Red Robin; he’s a big fan of their burgers.

The power was on again when we got back from dinner. Then we had the unwelcome task of throwing away whatever had spoiled in the freezer and refrigerator. But thankfully, it wasn’t all that much because I hadn’t bought a lot of groceries the past week, and many of the containers were almost empty.

My husband asked if we should throw away the condiments in the refrigerator door. My first thought was no, condiments don’t generally need a lot of refrigeration, but then I noticed that many of them were getting old anyway, or were mostly used up. So I pitched them all and cleaned out the plastic drawers. The refrigerator looks much neater and cleaner now, with that old stuff gone and fresh bottles of ketchup, etc.

So, I would say that the weekend turned out pretty good after all.

March 5, 2016 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

Some authors suggest that hereditary conditions might not be caused entirely (or even mostly) by genetics, but reflect patterns of thought and behavior in families. When I came across this idea, it didn’t convince me. It seemed too far afield from the conventional wisdom, shading into woo-woo and unfairly blaming people for their own health issues. But, setting aside my skepticism, I gave it more thought recently.

When I was a child, my mom gave me milk with every meal because she was concerned about a family history of osteoporosis. She told me to eat my veggies and always kept plenty of fruit in the house for healthy snacks, but I’m not sure how much difference she thought it would make. She has said, on many occasions, that she believes almost everything is genetic.

Could there be any patterns of thought and behavior in the women of my mom’s family that might relate to weak bones? Not lack of exercise, as they always enjoyed activities such as gardening and tennis that got them outdoors and moving around.

Three large hostas in bloom. 

Maybe there was something on a subconscious level going on, but what could that be? My mom’s family have been comfortably middle-class for many generations, well respected in their communities; they haven’t struggled to keep food on the table or a roof over their heads. Then a few words spontaneously came into my thoughts: “Brittle on the inside, keeping up appearances!”

My first reaction was along the lines of, wow, this is farfetched. Not the part about keeping up appearances—that really is important to my mom’s family; they don’t want anyone to see their vulnerabilities and mistakes because people might talk. When I was a child, my mom never really got angry (or at least, she didn’t show it) unless I misbehaved in some way that set the neighbors to talking. Then, in addition to getting punished, I would get sternly lectured about behavior that was a bad reflection on the family.

“Brittle” was not a word that I’d have used; on the contrary, I saw it as a strength and a quiet sort of confidence, just going about one’s business and calmly doing whatever might need to get done. It wasn’t until about two years ago (as I discussed in this post) that I began to understand there was a downside to bottling up feelings and acting tough.

I’m still not convinced that taking a more relaxed approach to life is enough to keep bones in good health regardless of genetics, but I have decided to reserve judgment. Much is still unknown about how the human body and the subconscious mind work. And in any event, letting go of old worries about keeping up appearances is likely to improve health and happiness generally, whether or not it does much for bones in particular. So, it’s all good, one way or another.