Of Flags and Flowers

I sometimes think our house has the curb appeal of a fairway exhibit. Or else a parade float. I can’t decide which, but I blame our neighbors.

We live on a busy corner in an older neighborhood. At some point during the pandemic, a house across the street started flying one of those Trump-Rambo flags and I was incensed enough to not care whether our response made us look like we were trying to sell hot tubs at the county fair, or enter the Mardis Gras parade.

After careful consideration, we hung a trio of our own flags. Combined, they’re about a third the square footage of our whole house, and so aggressively brilliant and demonstrative. We’ve never been flag-flying people and I kind of waver on the edge of embarrassment every time the wind blows.

The neighbor with the faux Rambo flag moved at some point, and eventually we took ours down, too. We put them back up for special occasions, like to commemorate Pride month, for example, or Juneteenth, or welcome our part-time legislature to town.

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My Car is in a Cult

I was at an intersection the other day, kind of zoning out until the light turned green. As I accelerated, I noticed the people in the car across from me waving and smiling.

They were waving at my car, which was the same kind as theirs. Folks, this is a thing.

A couple of years ago, when I floated the idea to some friends of trading in my fourteen-year-old Prius for a Mini Cooper, they said “oh, that’s so you!” They probably meant cute, but maybe also squat, pill-shaped, and surprisingly aggressive.

I’m fine with either notion.

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Outfit of the Day

The last couple of years I’ve really leaned into dressing comfortably as a method of self-care.

This has been my modus operandi for most of my life, but I’m now the queen of fuzzy socks, leggings, hoodies and piles of fleece blankets and dog snuggles on the sofa and I’ve curated a wardrobe that’s perfectly suited not only for virtual work, but also gives the coziest never-leave-the-house vibe ever.

This is normally not much of a problem, except recently, when everyone started peopling in person again in earnest. I had a conference earlier this month, which was absolutely agonizing to pack for, given how far down I’d whittled my wardrobe. And next week there’s a photoshoot for a small magazine. If I didn’t do something soon, I’d be representing my employer in some form or fashion that gives way more hermit than I think they’d appreciate.

I knew I needed help.

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The Tao of Red Velvet Cake

What does one get for the guy who has everything? How about a dying star?

That’s not technically what this blog is about. It’s about box cake versus homemade and the existential thoughts on the state of things around here that question raises for me. All which were brought about by my getting it into my head that box cake wouldn’t be enough for Jack’s birthday. Just like it wasn’t for Mike’s birthday, when we grated carrots and whipped up cream cheese with butter and powdered sugar for frosting.

That was the day Colin said he was excited about having helped with the cake, and it made me so happy knowing he could be excited about anything, I dug out the bone China cake plate we’ve used maybe three times in the eons since it was a wedding gift.

When it comes to today’s cake, I again ask if Colin wants to help, and he again says yes. I buy new cake pans and decide on red velvet. Not only will this not be a box cake, it also won’t be just a regular cake with red dye. It will be traditional red velvet with ermine frosting.

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With This, I Might Just Change the World

Photo by @esteejanssens

Expect big things from me in 2023 you guys, I just bought … a bullet journal.

I’m not sure how I landed on bullet journaling as the Solution to All Things including my current writing slump and the pandemic pounds I’ve gained. Were I to give up social media, I might find the time to address these issues, but if not for TikTok, how would I have discovered the inherent whimsy of hand lettered and color-coded to-do lists?

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I’d make a terrible ghost hunter, or maybe a really good one

(Photo courtesy of The University Inn and Resort “A Fun Place to Stay”)

When the organizers of the conference I attended earlier this month included a link to our meeting location, I took one look at the place and then closed the tab on my browser, resolving not to do any more than look up the address until I was home again.

What I mean to say is I wish I’d closed the tab. I didn’t. When I saw we’d be staying at a 100-year-old college-turned TB hospital-turned hotel-conference center, part of my brain was screaming “close the browser! Close it! You’ll never sleep!” and the other part was all “Ooh! Scooby Doo vibes! Yay!”

I would be staying in the Gooding Inn for two nights.

Assuming I could make it that long.

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A Bee Redux and thoughts on Picking Up Where We Left Off

Mike was on the fence about getting back into beekeeping this spring. I was hoping we would, but after last year, I didn’t want to press it. Bees are fun to watch and to talk about and I love it when he picks up hobbies where I reap rewards and am required to do almost no work. But after the Great Bee Debacle of 2021 I was leaving the decision up to him.

For those who don’t want to go back and read through part one of this bee story, here’s a recap: Inspired by Colin’s foray into beekeeping the year before, Mike built a backyard bee Taj Mahal and brought home a package of bees for it. Our queen decided the digs weren’t for her and took off, flying in big, lazy spirals into the clear, spring sky while we watched her go.

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When is a dream a dream, how many should one person have, should you even call them that maybe, and what’s with the mice?

Of Dreams and Mice - Midlife Sentence

You don’t have to tell me that’s too long for a title. My blog platform has this built-in tool that tells me that, and also whether any one piece I write has the appropriate number of subheads and the right sentence structure and whether it has active versus passive language and the appropriate key words. It looks the whole blog over and grades me with a red, yellow, or green light for readability. I’m thinking it also wishes it had another light for “what the hell even is this and how do I grade it?”

(Which is how I’ve come to realize that, if machines do ever take over, we’re going to need someone to be our designated free association speaker to be in charge of confounding the AI while we break in and take all the canned chili and Ho-Hos and other nonperishable foodstuffs and make our escape while the machines are trying to decipher whatever it is the free association person is saying because machines don’t have a “what the hell even is this you’re telling me” response).

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Dark Secrets and Hot Sauces

Red pepper photo by manseok_Kim

When you look at us, you likely see a happy family. True, there’s the occasional squabble and a fair amount of foul language. We’re often the last people on the block to take in our trash cans. We’re not always an organized, prompt, or recently showered group. But in general, I think what people see when they look at us is a well-adjusted, close knit family.

But every family has its dark secret.

I wonder sometimes if people can tell what ours is by reading my face. I wonder if it’s something I should try to hide. Is it fair to burden people with such information? Maybe just close friends or perhaps a broader circle? Should I, say, feel obligated to disclose this information when engaged in small talk with mere acquaintances? Does everyone have a right to know? Even people I don’t know if I’ll ever see again?

Grocery checker: Were you able to find everything you need today?

Me: Um, I think so.

C: Great! That’ll be forty-seven dollars.

M: Okay.

C: …

M: …

C: There’s a card reader th–

M: My dog eats poop.

C:  …

M: I know … it’s a lot. It was hard for me too.

That’s right, friends. Within our own ranks, we harbor a poop eater.

Okay, sure, he’s a dog and dogs do gross things without thinking. It doesn’t matter what kind of dog he is. Poop cravings don’t care about pedigree. Poop eaters can be papered just as easily as they can be rescues.

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A post that’s a little like speed dating, but with more frogs

You guys, I just noticed the 10th anniversary* of this blog has quietly come and gone and I did nothing to make note of it. What started as a simple task to keep family from freaking out while we traveled, burgeoned into an up-to-thrice weekly effort to build an audience platform that might make me more attractive to publishers, and then waxed and waned according to how funny (or pissed off, embarrassed, caustic, or inspired) I was feeling week by week has really atrophied as of late. And I feel terrible about that.

Someone asked me recently “are you even writing anymore?” as if it’s something like a tree falling in the forest: not really there unless someone is able to respond to it in some way.

In short, writing? Yes! Pushing pithy material out on this poor blog? Not so much.

Buckle in, I’mma going to catch you all up:

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