Friday, April 25, 2008

Vehicular drama

Things have sorted themselves out reasonably well today, so it looks as if I can put off my nervous breakdown for the time being, although I've given it a pager and asked it to remain on standby.

1) Poppy has authorized us to find a mechanic for Buddy so that his (Buddy's, not my dad's) transmission can be rebuilt, which my dad feels would be a better value than buying a new car altogether. After Buddy is fixed, my dad says that we can continue driving it as long as we need to, and considering that this repair is going to be about $1,200, I think my dad needs a really super awesometastic Father's Day gift, don't you? I usually buy him a Kroger's gift card loaded with enough cash so that he can buy a couple of their rotisserie chickens on the way home from the golf course, but I think this year, we might do more money, like maybe enough for about a thousand rotisserie chickens. Perhaps with bows tied around their waists.

2) My husband's bosses, who are some of the nicest people ever to walk God's good earth, have arranged for him to borrow a car until either Applesauce Anne or Buddy is fixed, whichever comes first. Bless them.

3) Larry the mechanic told us yesterday evening that Applesauce Anne is not as hideously damaged as we feared and that she'll be out of his convalescent hospital and back in our loving possession within two weeks. It's going to cost a pretty penny, but again -- better the car you know than one you don't.

4) I have been thinking about reviewing one of my favorite childhood books, Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, to see if I can figure out how my husband can tesseract to his place of business and how the girls and I can tesseract to the 4-H meeting or the Indianapolis Museum of Art. It would be faster and way cheaper on gas. A tesseract, for any of you who didn't read this most marvelous book, is a time-wrinkle -- a way of traveling through space that confounds the notion that the shortest distance between two places is a straight line.


This morning, I was driving my husband to work, an activity which I do a couple days a week and which we both enjoy. It's been very pleasant to have that time to spend together. Meelyn and Aisling don't like to come with me in the mornings because they prefer to get themselves up and start on their schoolwork. They do like to come in the evenings, however, and I've mentioned in other posts about how we enjoy praying the rosary on the way home.

Buddy was acting funny today, however. When I pressed my dainty hoof on the accelerator, nothing much was happening. But of course, that didn't happen while we were still close to our house. No, that happened about twelve minutes out on the highway.

"I'm pressing my foot on the accelerator and nothing much is happening," I said to my husband, watching the rpm gauge on the dash leaping like a trout stranded on a riverbank.

"Oh God..." groaned my husband, bringing his palm to his forehead with a resounding smack. "Oh, please, no..."

"What does it mean?" I asked timorously, allowing Buddy to coast into a gas station parking lot where everyone else was putting gas in their cars that run and coming out of the mini-mart with cups of fragrant coffee and little sausage biscuits and getting into their cars that run and driving off to work with nary a care in the world, or at least that's how it seems when you're in your forties and sitting in a vehicle that you've borrowed from your dad and it just died.

Truthfully, when Pop and Nan dropped the Blazer off, my dad told us, "Now, this thing is pretty rough, and to tell you the truth, I don't know how much longer it's going to last. You can use it as long as you need to, but it's got a lot of miles on it and it does some funny stuff every now and then, so just be aware..."

By "funny stuff," my husband and I ascertained that my father didn't mean that Buddy would suddenly grab up an open mic and say, "Hi there, ladies and germs, it's great to be here with you tonight. Say, have you heard the one about the duck, the priest and the rabbi who met up in front of an ATM?"

So Buddy's demise wasn't a total shock, although the abruptness of it all and the fact that it happened fifteen minutes before my husband was supposed to arrive at work did cause a few moments of fluent swearing, although we both managed to confine our vulgarities to the inside of our heads. For the moment. My husband did offer a devout word of thanks that the bad stuff happened while he was still with me -- "Thank GOD it didn't decide to do this when you were by yourself along the state highway" -- and we turned Buddy's nose and started gingerly off toward home.

It took us about half an hour and every single frigging Ameritech phone we passed by the side of the road was out of order. Both of us are people who hate being late. HATE IT. And the fact that my husband was now fifteen minutes past due with no word to the manager was going briskly over our nerves like a belt sander on a champagne flute. When we finally rolled into the driveway, my husband launched himself out of the truck and hit the ground running to get to a phone, where he talked to a manager and found a friend who was willing to come get him in exchange for gas money.

So now I'm sitting here at the computer, typing feverishly, trying to keep my mind busy so that I won't have to think about how we're going to go get groceries or go to Mass because right now, I feel like I could use a Zoloft about the size of my head in order to get through the rest of this day.

And I, I'd like to point out, have a really big head.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

4x4 disappointment

Since my husband's place of business is along a state highway, we have plenty of opportunities as we drive him back and forth to work to see cars that people have for sale along the side of the road. We've been keeping a sharpish eye on what's available, hoping to find something not too far gone to rust that would serve him as a work car. Because this business about being a one vehicle family? It is really hard.

Really hard. Mee's having to miss some teen activities because of schedule conflicts with dropping her off and picking my husband up from work. We've had to quietly cancel some other activities, simply because we can't drive my husband there and back every day he works -- it costs too much in gas and also in wear and tear on Poppy's Blazer.

But the worst is not being able to go to weekday Mass anymore. I miss it so much. Even on the days when I have the car, I can't go because Mass is usually just starting right at the time when he's supposed to be at work.

So imagine my delight when I saw a very elderly Isuzu Trooper sitting by the road with a For Sale sign in its window. It was one of those vehicles that just spoke to me; I felt an immediate affinity with it. It just looked so sportily preppy and you could see that there used to be ski racks on the roof and a bicycle carrier on the back. The day I got out of Buddy to look it over, I was amused to see an orange-and-black Princeton University sticker in the back window, faded and old. Do I know my preppy vehicles, or what?

The tires were good; the interior an old tannish tweed, but not torn, ripped or stained. It had a dignified yet jaunty air that I strongly identified with. My husband estimated that it was about a 1986 or '87, with a manual transmission. I loved it. I already felt like it was mine, especially since he looked up the Kelly Blue Book value on it and found that the Kelly Blue Book values don't even go back to 1986 or '87 and that a 1989 Isuzu Trooper in excellent shape should run about $780.

We were looking to pay about $500-$600, so I felt very hopeful.

My husband called up the telephone number that I'd written down on a scrap of paper and I lingered nearby, pretending to put dishes in the dishwasher and fold laundry and generally getting underfoot while I eavesdropped on his conversation.

It didn't go all that well.

My husband started out by saying, "Hi, I'm calling about the Isuzu Trooper along state road 38? Well, it says 'Make an Offer' on the sign, so I thought I'd call up and make one. I looked up the Kelly Blue Book value and it seemed like $500 or $600 would be fair, because it's a 1986 model, right?....Uh-huh......Oh.....Okay....I see....Well, that's definitely a lot more than we can offer you....No.....Well, I just need a dependable car to get to work and this looked to be in pretty good shape.....No, we can't offer that much....No....No, there's just no way....Listen, thanks for your time....Sure, sure.....No, I don't need to think it over. Good-bye."

I was terribly disappointed. I'd all but named this car and given Wimzie a ride in the back and hung a rosary from the rear-view mirror. Give it a little sprinkle with holy water for a heavenly blessing, and she would have been a done deal.

"What?" I asked my husband, my lower lip protruding slightly.

"Well," said my husband, his eyebrows raised and chin lowered in an expressive grimace of utter incredulity, "he said that he and his son-in-law bought it a year ago to use for deer hunting, but then the son-in-law bought a new truck just after they'd put all this engine work and new tires on the Isuzu, so this mad old coot is sticking firm to a $3000 asking price for this twenty-two year old vehicle with 123,000-plus miles on it."

"Everybody has to have a dream," I said, sighing. How's come, when you don't want one, the sides of the roads in our Hoosier state are littered with cars in the $500-$1,000 price range, but when you're in sore need of one, they dry up like a puddle in the sun?

So. No Trooper love for me.

Cast iron

I went to the grocery a couple of days ago to stock up on the usual stuff we need, which always includes a large jar of jalapeño peppers. We eat jalapeño peppers on almost everything, which I choose to believe is not a quiet commentary on the quality of my cooking. Or maybe I should choose not to believe it, which would give me the excuse to serve heat-n-eat specialties like Spaghetti-O's and Swanson's Chicken & Dumplings every night.

We had tacos on Tuesday evening for dinner - really good ones with seasoned ground beef (spiced up with half a cup of jalapeño pepper juice, natch), lots of shredded cheese and lettuce -- served with tortilla chips and nacho cheese. Everyone who has ever eaten at a swim club or volleyball team's snack bar knows that you have to have jalapeño peppers for the nachos, and they're not too bad on the tacos, either. I didn't have any, however, because one of the woes of middle age is the tendency to get heartburn from eating extremely spicy food in the evening.

For lunch yesterday, then, the girls had some oven-baked pizza snacks and they had jalapeño peppers with those, although I abstained, feeling that the piquant taste of pepperoni and sausage is overwhelmed by the heat index of the peppers.

Last night, we had a pot of delicious Mexican chili for dinner. Mexican chili is served with corn chips instead of the typical saltine crackers of traditional chili and also boasts diced green onions and some shredded cheese on top - very tasty, especially when jalapeño peppers are added on top as a tasty little garnish.

I opened the fridge to get out the onions, the cheese and the jar of peppers, only to find that the peppers weren't there. Upon interrogation, the girls admitted that between the two of them, they had consumed an entire jar of jalapeño peppers between Tuesday's dinner and Wednesday's lunch. Wednesday's dinner would have to carry on, pepper free.

I was annoyed by this and told them that they need to cut back on their consumption of jalapeño peppers, leaving some for someone else in the world -- namely, me, who was willing to risk the heartburn -- to eat. Meelyn and Aisling were indignant and insisted that we need to increase our grocery budget to allow for the purchase of more peppers, two jars per week instead of just one.

Is my cooking really that bad?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ton of Bricks

Carol came to stay this weekend, arriving at about 10:00 on Saturday morning and staying until 3:30 this afternoon. She brought with her a bundle of about 400 photographs and a shoebox full of memoribilia from her parish's pilgrimage to Ireland last fall.

We had a scrapbooking extravaganza planned, which started out with me putting together my mom's fantastic spaghetti sauce and turning on the slow-cooker so that we'd be greeted later with the wonderful, rich smell of a thick ragú simmering away. The noodles and garlic bread were ready and it was very nice to be able to anticipate a yummy dinner with not much prep work when we arrived back home, eager to start on her book.

We had lunch in Fishers at Sahm's, home of the world's best shrimp cocktails and fiery homemade cocktail sauce. Carol and I got salads; Meelyn and Aisling got sandwiches. When we were all nearly foundered, we got up and dragged ourselves out of the restaurant and over to Carmel to meet Anne at her Creative Memories scrapbooking studio.

Anne was lovely, as always, and provided Carol (and me, incidentally) with a two hour scrapbooking class. Carol bought a bunch of stuff -- an album, pages, page protectors, a photo cropper, was wonderfully exciting. We promised Anne that we would go straight back home and get busy. We also met her new dog, a Bichon Frise named Bear, and heard the too-many-coincidences-to-be-a-coincidence story of his arrival in her life right before her first Christmas without Rich.

We went next to Scrapbook Corner in Noblesville, which is one of the most overwhelming places you could ever hope to go, if you are a scrapbooking kind of person. And I mean "overwhelming" in the most positive sense of the word - it's a lot of fun. We bought all kinds of fancy papers and plain papers there to decorate Carol's scrapbook, as well as a few stickers. Super cute!

We arrived home at about 4:00, and when I walked into the house, I sniffed the air eagerly for a whiff of spaghetti sauce but....whiff of spaghetti sauce....whiff of spaghetti sauce?...I HADN'T PLUGGED IN THE FRIKKIN' CROCK-POT. I plugged in the CD player instead. There was my beautiful sauce, calmly waiting for me at room temperature for six hours on a 60o day. I had to pour every single bit of it right down the garbage disposal. It was so off, it didn't even smell right. We made an alternative plan to go get a pizza, since Carol and I felt that botulism and whatever unpleasant sort of food poisoning you get from spoiled food might possibly ruin the rest of the weekend.

The pizza was delish, but we hurried our way through it so that we could work on her scrapbook at top speed. We worked all evening until we went to bed and got some really nice pages done, including St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin (which doesn't mean what it sounds like it means) and the Guinness Brewery at St. James Gate. Carol and I felt that the pages turned out very, very well; Meelyn was instrumental in laying down papers; Aisling was desolate that I didn't trust her to do cuts on Carol's paper. I should also probably add that we were eating cheeseball and crackers, chips and dill dip, brownies and sugar cookies while we were doing this. I thought I was going to have to be launched upstairs out of a cannon.

The next morning, we all got up to get ready for Mass, but I complicated matters by stepping on a blanket to get to the light switch in my bedroom, catching my heel in the blanket and falling down flat on my floor, managing to twist my ankle, injure my wrist and hurt my....pride. It was rather painful and made all that getting up and down during Mass a whole lotta fun.

When we got back home, Meelyn and Aisling set out a nice little spread that included turkey sandwiches, chips and dip, cheeseball, brownies and cookies. Carol and I ate and then got back to work, completing a number of other pages. We carried on until about 3:30, which is when Carol felt she ought to pack up and head south.

The rest of the afternoon seemed terribly empty and quiet after she left. "I miss Carol," Aisling said wistfully about an hour after she left. I did too, especially considering that it is going to be over a month before we see her again. My husband and Meelyn did a nine mile run in preparation for the Mini, which is coming up in two weeks, and when Meelyn got home, she came in and said, "I miss Carol."

We do have lots of memories of this whole weekend, though. Carol has her lovely scrapbook and I have assorted bruises from falling like a ton of bricks. I wish we didn't live so far apart, especially when only an overnight stay is involved. The good news is that by coming to our city on interstate 65 instead of the old traditional state-highway path -- and I do mean "path," since it is all too easy to get stuck behind everything from farm equipment to Amish buggies on that curvy, two-lane highway -- we've always used, Carol was able to cut half an hour off the journey.

It seems like a huge letdown to be back to Monday again tomorrow after such a lovely weekend.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Sweet fifteen

Meelyn was born fifteen years ago today after twenty-one hours of labor and no drugs whatsoever except for a little bit of something that had no effect which made me frantically ask the nurse, "If I just had an injection, why do I still feel pain?" And she said, not looking up from the magazine she was casually thumbing through, "Oh, it doesn't really take away the pain, it just changes your perception of it." And I said tightly, "My perception is still that it reallyreallyreally hurts and that that injection may have been water for all the change I'm feeling," and she gave me an impatient look, just a milli-micro-tinymeter away from rolling her eyes, which, if she had been so foolish as to do that, I was going to launch myself off the bed and hurt her and later plead that I was not responsible for my actions due to the second-rate drugs that hospital offered, but anyway, where was I?

OH YES! Meelyn is fifteen years old today! And all I can say is that if everyone had a teenager like Meelyn, there wouldn't be such a fundamental distrust and irritation for that particular demographic.

She has spent the day fielding telephone calls, emails and cards in the mail and yesterday, even received a package of the most adorable heart-shaped, pink-frosted cookies from Cheryl & Co. from a good friend. Today is Daddy's day off, so he took us to get an ice cream (in lieu of a birthday cake -- Meelyn is not a cake kind of person and asked Nanny to make her a pecan pie for their mutual birthday celebration last Sunday) and tonight, she has requested Applebee's. All this plus no school, an episode of Top Chef to watch when we're usually doing composition and grammar, Survivor later this evening and a cessation of all spring cleaning duties for the day, have made this a very happy day for her and the whole family.

Happy birthday, sweetheart. You are such a good, sweet girl and we all love you so very, very much.

Different worlds

Pope Benedict made a beautiful address yesterday afternoon at some venue I didn't quite catch -- I watched it on EWTN. A lot of it was high praise for the United States' Christian faithful, but being the Pope, he was wise to start out that way, to tuck the pill into a spoonful of jam. He also deplored our culture of crass materialism, which so often leads to a grasping sort of greed that pushes past community in the great quest for STUFF and also leads to things like married couples choosing to remain childless and a birthrate that is beginning to slowly but surely creep downward, not yet to the frightening point of France, Spain or Italy, but nonetheless worrisome.

He spoke of children being the greatest gift and blessing of a marriage; that children are beings to welcome into hearts and homes.

It was a very moving speech and I couldn't help but contrast it with a telephone call a man made to Dave Ramsey's radio show this morning.

"Dave," the man said, "my wife and I net $6,600 per month, we've been married for a few years and we're out of debt except for our mortgage. Can you tell me at what point in the future we could be ready to start a family?"

I was behind Buddy's wheel and fortunately, I was stopped at a stop light because I might have run right off the road and, I don't know, driven up the side of a building or over a tree or something. This was undoubtedly one of the craziest calls to this program I've ever heard, the craziest one being the guy who didn't see why it was wrong to charge up a bunch of top-of-the-line appliances on his credit cards as gifts for his wife and then file for bankruptcy.

The caller seemed to affect Dave the same way. He was silent for a brief moment and then said incredulously, "Dude. What are you waiting for? Baby time is, like, NOW."

I can't even tell you how much my mindset has changed over things like this -- although my husband and I certainly weren't rolling in money when Meelyn was born fifteen years ago today -- because now I believe with my friend the Pope that the best wedding gift a couple could ever hope to get is a honeymoon baby.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Anne! Walk away from the light!

As the five of you reading this blog may recall, Applesauce Anne blew a head gasket thirteen deca-- I mean, thirteen days ago, leaving my husband and I with nothing to drive, not even a moped or one of those little tiny cars clowns crowd into at the circus. If it weren't for the combined efforts of Poppy, Nanny, Carol, Katie, Jerri and Michelle, I seriously do not know what we would have done.

My parents have a nice neighborhood mechanic named Larry, who listened to my husband's lament about Anne and then opined that he could fix her. "And once this is fixed, it isn't likely to happen again," he said wisely. My husband, who Knows Things about cars, concurred: We have been really rigorous about taking care of our van, knowing that she was going to have to put in some hard duty before we bought another. It's better, said my husband, to put a good amount of money into a vehicle we're familiar with, rather than buying another that's an unknown quantity.

So I called Larry's voice mail today to tell him that we'd be arranging for Applesauce Anne to be towed down to his house within the next week. I'm glad she's going to be fixed, because every time I see her sitting there, forlorn, in the driveway, it wrenches me. I have really enjoyed driving Buddy, my dad's Blazer, but I still feel disloyal whenever we jauntily pull out of our driveway in all our cranberry red-and-silver glory, Anne's rosary swinging gaily from the rearview mirror.

I am eagerly hoping that my husband will ask Larry to touch up the four places of chipped paint on her nose, which we've been watching with concern lest rust develop. Those four places detract from her dignity, I feel.

Our Anne. She's coming back to us.

Happy birthday to youuu! (And many more)

FoxNews is reporting that a crowd of more than 13,500 people sang the happy birthday song to Pope Benedict this morning on the South Lawn of the White House. The article I read related that the lamposts around the South Lawn were "fluttering with the red, white and blue of America and the yellow and white of the Holy See."

Many Knights of Columbus were in attendance (I love their plumy, cavalier-style hats) as well as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and lots of civilians, many of whom couldn't fit inside the White House grounds and spilled over onto the streets outside. There was a twenty-one gun salute and soprano Kathleen Battle sang the Our Father with great feeling. I was able to hear that when Rush Limbaugh replayed it on his radio show this afternoon. It was lovely.

"Viva il Papa!" many people cheered, according to Fox. "God bless America!" the pope returned, smiling. I got to hear that on Sean Hannity's radio program when his show began at 3:00 p.m. It was also lovely, and hearing the Pope's kind voice.

From that same article: "We need your message to reject this dictatorship of relativism and embrace a culture of justice and truth," [President] Bush said in brief remarks welcoming Benedict to the White House. "In a world where some see freedom as simply the right to do as they wish, we need your message that true liberty requires us to live our freedom not just for ourselves, but in a spirit of mutual support."

Beautifully said, Mr. President. You are now completely forgiven for pronouncing the word "nuclear" as "nuke-you-ler."

Unpopular, unloved and undelighted

"You should write that you're totally unfair," Meelyn groused as I sat down to write this post. So please add 'unfair' to the list above in the title.

Why am I unfair? Because I am making my beautiful, strong, sturdy young daughters help me spring clean our house.* Why? Because it builds their character and helps them have strong teeth -- all that gnashing, you know.

We cleaned the living room and foyer Monday and Tuesday. That cleaning involved wiping down all wooden furniture plus the stair rail and the part of the stairs not covered by carpet, washing the glass in the curio cabinet and dusting the shelves and figurines within, dusting silk plants (I kill the real kind) and other activities that brought a snarl to their lovely lips and dire threats of further manual labor to mine.

Today was their breaking point, however. Their assignment was to tackle the two big bookshelves in the dining/study room and they both chose to forget that one of my requirements for bookshelves is that the books be ordered from tall to short, left to right. It's just how I roll. I told them this on Monday. I told them this on Tuesday. So here we are on Wednesday and they acted like I'd made this job up on the fly to persecute and annoy them. Aisling, who like her mother before her doesn't have the sense to just shut up and get on with it, whined and complained and forced two large, salty drops out of her tear ducts and tested me to the point, after two fair warnings, to say in a calm and pleasant voice, "Don't you wish you'd just minded me? Because now? You're in trouble."

Meelyn remained tight-lipped, shooting me a couple of hard glances that I chose to ignore only because she didn't have the courage to actually meet my eyes and turned her withering gaze away every time I looked in her direction. I coached them through the task and the bookshelves look absolutely beautiful.

Now that they're finished and no longer need my constant supervision, it's time for me to get my own task started, which is taking the display items out of the china cabinet and washing them, wiping down the shelves and shining the glass, then going over the whole body of the piece with the brush attachment on the vacuum, which I find removes dust from carving and other crevices much more efficiently than even a Swiffer.

To keep myself company, I plan to shed a couple of angry tears, shoot myself wicked glances, whine several remarks about how this just isn't faaaaaaaiiiiiir and then punish myself by sending me upstairs to spend time alone in my room, reflecting on my many sins. Or maybe reading my library book.

That'll teach me.

*I am writing this all down so that I'll have it as a handy reference next year. This year, the girls refused to admit that we'd done any spring cleaning last year, even though I clearly remember hauling furniture out from the walls so that we could sweep under it ("Hey! There's that piece of candy that fell out of my mouth that I never could find later!" said Aisling in delight) and going around the edges of all the vinyl floors in the house -- upstairs and downstairs bathrooms -- with scrub brushes.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Papa has landed

The Shakespeare class met this afternoon, where we discussed many points of the plot in The Taming of the Shrew. Everything went very well, I thought, especially the groaning table full of treats that Michelle set out for the kids, who, as always, were anxious for a snack break.

The best part of the day came when class was finished, though. Michelle's husband, Dr. Al, was in their family room watching television while moms and students gathered up folding chairs, class notes, books and used paper plates. Suddenly, we heard him yell, "Hey, everybody! The Pope's plane just landed at Andrews Air Force Base!"

We all rushed to the family room in a large stampede, where we flopped down on furniture and floors, waiting for His Holiness to deplane or whatever it's called. It took forever, of course, with some guy whom Jerri insisted had a tiny walkie-talkie hidden in his tie, standing in the door of the plane and soaking up all the television coverage. He smiled, rubbed his nose, fidgeted with his tie and pulled his ear lobe so often, I wasn't sure if he was a bundle of nerves, or saying hello to Carol Burnett's grandmother.

When the Pope deplaned, the whole room erupted in cheers. It was terribly exciting. The wind at AFB was whipping around something fierce and the Holy Father reached up and grabbed his white cap before it could be lifted from his head, Mary Poppins-like. The kids in the room were delighted at his red shoes. He descended the staircase with an affable smile, greeting President Bush with a warm grasp and moving on to Mrs. Bush, who looked radiant with her sweet smile. Mrs. Bush tugged Jenna forward, who looked extremely nervous and kind of like she wasn't sure if she should curtsy or faint. The Pope shook her hand, smiled, and made a comment and Jenna faded back behind her mama.

The people in the crowd were shown briefly on camera, cheering and waving little papal flags -- wouldn't it have been so cool to get one of those as a memento? Katie told us that there were some kids from Lumen Christi, the small K-12 school at Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis, there in the audience. Fun!

It's always a blessing to be Catholic, but yesterday was a real treat.

And by the way, happy birthday, Pope Benedict! (I bet no one will give him eighty-one spanks and one to grow on.)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Old-timey humor

Yesterday, we had a family birthday party for Meelyn (April 17) and my mom (April 6) at my parents house in New Castle. After a fun afternoon of watching the Masters' tournament, eating pizza and nachos and pecan pie (Mee's choice), napping and playing cards, we four McKinneys headed over to the assisted living center where my grandparents live for a visit.

Visiting Grandad and Mary Liz is always a hoot. They are both octogenarians and have reached the time of life where they say what they feel about life in no uncertain terms, much like Dayden, my seven-year-old nephew and Kiersi, my two-year-old niece.

They were terribly pleased to see us and we all gave out hugs and kisses -- I belong to a very huggy and kissy family. Pat and Poppy and my Uncle Mike frequently greet Grandad with a kiss on the cheek. I wonder where all that started?

Anyway, we got our first installment of frank and uninhibited discussion when I asked Grandad, who has had trouble with one of his feet due to poor blood circulation, that foot was doing.

"My doctor is an idiot," he trumpeted belligerently. "You know I ended up having to get my little toe cut off because he wasn't checking my foot out. I might have ended up having to get my leg cut off right below the knee."

(He tells me this every time I talk to him, and I know his doctor, who is not an idiot. Grandad often forgets -- conveniently? -- that the reason why his circulation is so poor is because he just wants to grumpily recline on his bed like a sultan, watching endless reruns of Matlock, Magnum P.I. and Little House on the Prairie.)

"Yes, that's too bad," I said sympathetically.

He ignored me. "You know what I told him? You want to know what I said?"

(I know, because he tells me this part every time, too. I looked uneasily at Meelyn and Aisling, but you might as well try to stop the earth in its orbit than try to stop Grandad when he's in Indignant Mode about his foot.)

"I told the doctor, 'Get me a gun. Just go ahead and get me a gun.'" He made a gun out of his thumb and index finger pointed it to his temple. I caught my husband's eye and he raised his eyebrows. Meelyn and Aisling looked at Grandad with shocked expressions.

I gave a tiny, silvery laugh, indicating that we all knew he was telling a funny little story and hurriedly changed the subject. "And how has the food been recently?"

This is a topic on which he can work up a great head of steam -- the deep injustice of the lack of variety, the poor use of seasoning, the enormous field-hand style servings that no one could be expected to eat and the ice crystals that are allowed to form on the outside of every cup of coffee he lifts to his lips. I don't completely understand this, because the assisted living center has a family brunch on the last Sunday of every month, and every time we've gone, the food has been wonderful.

He made an impolite noise.

"What did you have for breakfast?" Grandad and Mary Liz both love breakfast, so that's always a good place to start.

"I had oatmeal," he said, brightening. "And some eggs. Toast, and some bacon. Milk, orange juice and coffee."

"That sounds good," said my husband encouragingly.

"It was," Grandad conceded. But then he frowned. "Everything else is terrible though. I won't eat lunch, ever. I had a glass of Ensure and some yogurt today."

I smiled at him. "That sounds good. I didn't know you liked yogurt."

"I don't. I hate it. But they tell me I ought to eat it, so I do." The fact that he doesn't do anything he's in the least bit disinclined to do was not lost on me; he must like the yogurt more than he's willing to let on.

"Have you had your dinner yet?" I asked, noting that it was seven o'clock.

"Yes, chicken noodle soup."

"It would be kind of hard to ruin chicken noodle soup, so I bet it was good," I offered.

"It was awful. It was cold. Everything's cold. But the thing that gets me the most is that whenever they serve chicken, they boil it."

I was a bit nonplused by this. On the one hand, there are so many delicious ways to cook chicken, why always boil it? On the other hand, the source was a man who dearly loves to complain about the food served at his really lovely assisted living center, which you'd think from his description was run like a reform school instead of being the beautiful and gracious place it actually is.

He took my silence for disbelief because he raised his voice and said, "Isn't that right, Liz? They boil it, the chicken."

Mary Liz hadn't been following all this because she is terribly hard of hearing and often turns down her hearing aids so that conversation murmurs past her as gently as the waters of a quiet stream slip over the rocks. "WHAT?" she yelled.

"They BOIL the CHICKEN."





Mary Liz paused to consider this. "WHY WOULD I WANT TO BOIL A CHICKEN? I DON'T HAVE A KITCHEN!"

Grandad, exasperated, shouted back, "NO! The KITCHEN here -- they BOIL the CHICKEN!"

Mary Liz gazed at him thoughtfully and then abruptly lost interest. "I LIKE FRIED CHICKEN," she announced helpfully to the room at large and then refused to participate in the discussion any further.

"She's very deaf," Grandad said unnecessarily, but in a conversational tone that indicated that he thought the visit was going quite well indeed. I was fighting back laughter by that point and noted that my husband and the girls were purple in the face and quivering.

We stayed a few more minutes after that. I took note to bring them each a Frosty from Wendy's the next time we visit, and maybe a couple of extra-crispy meals with mashed potatoes from KFC if we're there before they eat a meal. We kissed them both goodbye and came home, praying our rosary as we traveled through the greening countryside.

After we finished our prayers, I sat quietly, pondering the fact that I can see myself -- if I make it to eighty-eight years old -- being just exactly like Grandad. Or maybe even more so.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The wearin' o' the green

Is that not the most hideous jacket in the world? Even a nice foresty green would be preferable, but that kelly green, pictured here on Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in another year, is enough to damage your vision. Yick. The only thing I could think of that could possibly be worse is the gold blazer Century 21 realtors used to have to wear. At least I think they used to wear them -- surely they don't make them wear those awful things anymore....a quick Google search revealed that the gold jacket in question is no longer of the 1970s harvest gold variety, but has blessedly been toned down to a more sartorially acceptable buttery yellow. Clinton and Stacy can draw a cleansing breath over that one, but as long as there are still multimillionaires with those Masters greens hanging in their closets, they've still got day jobs.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Green jackets, azaleas and a Tiger on the prowl

If you are a member of my family, the first sign of spring is not that early robin chirping outside your window, nor is it the lengthening days or the greening of the grass.

No, in my family, the first sign that spring has truly and irrevocably arrived is the greening of the jackets when The Masters begins, brought into our eager homes via satellite from Georgia's Augusta National Golf Club, which is a lovely place indeed with all those azaleas in bloom. Susie, who lived in the south for many years, tells me that they have to keep the shrubs packed with ice to prevent them from blooming before the tournament opens. Whatever they do, it is well worth the effort. I'm convinced that there is no place other than heaven that is more lush and green and bedecked with gorgeous flora than Augusta, Georgia in April.

So why, at such a beautiful, top drawer place like the ANGC, is the coveted jacket so hideously ugly? No one has ever been able to tell me that, but I suspect it is something akin to the fact that preppies are drawn to Top Siders like steel to magnets, even though they are the yuckiest looking shoes ever cobbled.

Check here at the official Augusta National Golf Club website for the constantly updated leader board.

A visit from our German shepherd

Who is the cool dude in the shades? Why, it's our German Shepherd, Pope Benedict XVI!

Il papa will be here in four days, and Meelyn is terribly pleased that he'll be in the United States for her birthday, which is on April 17. He's not coming to visit us on that day, although if he wanted to, we'd be happy to take him with us to Mee's choice of birthday restaurant (she's still making up her mind since our city seems to be the Chain Restaurant Capital of the western world, so it would be short notice.)

(And hey! I'm editing this post to add that I just found out that Pope Benedict's birthday is on April 16! He's almost Meelyn's birthday twin!)

One of the things I like best about Pope Benedict is that he looks so much like our Grandad. Many people say that the pope's deeply set eyes are scary-looking, but since he looks so grandfatherish to me, I've never seen them that way. He and Grandad even have the same white candy floss hair. Cute!

Anyway, despite his stern looks, Pope Benedict is reported to be a very warm and likeable person with a keen sense of humor, also just like Grandad. They only physical dissimilarities they have are that Grandad generally tools around the assisted living center in his scooter, while the pope cruises in the Popemobile. Also, Grandad can generally be found in a pale blue Izod cardigan over a golf shirt, while the pope usually wears all white.

We would love to be able to go and join the crowds to see the pope in person. How awesome would that be, especially since I had the privilege of seeing Pope John Paul II when I was in Rome at age 15 with my grandma. He'd only been the pope for a few weeks. We saw him rather close up and he was so vibrant and handsome. Anyway, I'd like to see Pope Benedict so that I could keep my streak of Seeing Popes in Person going, but I don't think it's likely to happen.

Unless, of course, he takes us up on our offer to come to Meelyn's birthday dinner.

Here's a really good piece from the Wall Street Journal by the fabulous Peggy Noonan about Benedict and John Paul. It really is a must read. She's such a great writer.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Meelyn just came into the dining room, where I was sitting at my desk working.

"Hi," she said.

"Hi," I returned. "Whatcha doin'?"

"Oh, I'm a little bored. I thought I'd do some math."

It's either the beginning of the Second Coming or God has just invented a non-greasy, non-staining balm for the weary soul.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Where there's a Will....

This current Shakespeare Workshop, in which I am teaching The Taming of the Shrew (Elizabeth Taylor and on-again/off-again hubby Richard Burton starred in Franco Zeffirelli's 1967 version, pictured at the left) to a group of Catholic homeschoolers in grades 5-12, is really going so very, very well. Yesterday, I had a couple of absolutely brilliant comments (which of course I cannot now remember) from Jimmy, Isaac, Alea and Rebecca. Working with homeschoolers is never, ever a burden. It is a blessing, from beginning to end. Even when I had a monstrous hot flash during my lecture.

The Taming of the Shrew caused my hot flash. Shakespeare had a very ribald wit and it seems that nowhere is that wit more exercised than in Shrew. Yesterday, we were viewing the scenes of Kate and Petruchio's stormy first meeting on my two DVDs and that whole section where Kate starts off by calling Petruchio a "joined stool" made me quite nervous. It's....rather naughty. Unmistakably so, although some of the references probably slipped right past the kids' heads. But some were too marked to ignore. I wrestled with myself last week as I made my lesson plan. Should I just ignore it and turn a deaf ear to the inevitable adolescent giggling, or should I just say: "Look. This is who William Shakespeare was. He was a Catholic, fervent but not perfect. He was a genius who could portray the human condition, sinners and saints and everyone in between, in a way that no other playwright has ever done. But he also wrote poop jokes. And fart jokes. And...other jokes. He was a man for the people, both highbrow and lowbrow. So there you go."

I chose Option #2. The kids giggled as I told them -- with restraint -- about poop jokes and fart jokes. I completely left out any references to the sexual jokes. I am not that brave.

So anyway.

The planning for next fall's workshop needs to get underway, which means that Michelle and I need to sit down with a calendar and figure things out so that her schedule won't just be butchered like it has this spring. She's had to juggle a Spanish co-op and piano lessons in order to fit my class into her living room and although she is always cheerful and uncomplaining, I know it's been a headache.

Here are the two choices I have presented to the Shakespeare Moms: Katie, Michelle, Virginia, Lucy and Jane. They are the five ladies whose children have taken part in all three workshops I've offered so far (Twelfth Night, Hamlet, The Taming of the Shrew) and I've asked their opinion on what we should do in October.

Henry V -- Would be wonderful because HISTO is going to focus on the medieval period next year and King Henry fits right into that time period with the Battle of Agincourt, Joan of Arc and the Hundred Years War. I have three DVD productions of Henry V. Kayte also suggested a day trip to the Frasier International History Museum in Louisville, Kentucky. The Frasier has a living exhibit of the Battle of Agincourt, complete with in-character docents, armor, arms and history info. That sounds just too delightful for words. And I simply can't resist Henry's St. Crispin's Day speech to his troops. It makes me come unglued every time I hear it.

This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

If you'd like to hear it, here are both Kenneth Branagh and Sir Laurence Olivier declaiming wonderfully on

I thought that Henry V seemed like an excellent choice until I got the Indianapolis Repertory Theater's brochure in the mail announcing their upcoming season. And what should be there but Macbeth?

Macbeth -- I absolutely hate the idea of turning down the chance to see Shakespeare performed live, as it is supposed to be. I am violently opposed to the reading of Shakespeare. It puts kids right off him. That's why I've collected an extremely extensive DVD library of Shakespeare's plays; I have several different copies of about seventeen plays, maybe more. I haven't taken count for a while.

Macbeth would be a wonderful play to study because it fits in so well with Shakespeare's Catholicism. Scholars believe that it was already written at the time the Gunpowder Plot was foiled, but that Shakespeare added to it to mollify the king, and also incidentally allow the play to serve as a way to distance himself from the Catholic terrorists who had planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill King James, his son and many members of Parliament. They also planned to kidnap James's little daughter. It must have been a terribly anxious time for Shakespeare - all the conspirators were Warwickshire men, most of whom were undoubtedly personal acquaintances. In fact, the Gunpowder Plot was planned at the Mermaid Tavern in London; this happened to be Shakespeare's neighborhood pub, the one he visited frequently.

Knowing what happened to the conspirators as they were captured and executed, he must have wanted to make certain that King James understood what side of the terrorist fence he stood on.

The entire play underscores the tension of the era, when Catholics had hoped for a sympathizer in their new king, only to find that the persecutions they'd endured under Queen Elizabeth I were only worsened. He was, after all, a baptized Catholic himself, although he'd been raised by a staunchly Protestant guardian. But James was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots. And his wife was a Catholic. The members of England's "old faith" were in near despair when they learned of the Plot, knowing that heightened troubles were going to rain down upon them.

I'm looking forward to seeing what the moms have to say.

Next in line: the DVR

Yesterday evening, we got in from picking my husband up from work and hurried to the living room to watch American Idol, which was taping on the DVR. My husband manned the clickers -- sometimes when I look at the vast array of remotes on the side table by his chair, I'm not sure if we're trying to watch television or fly a jet -- and turned on the TV, where we were greeted by an ominous blue screen.

"We did pay that bill, didn't we?" said my husband.

"Yes, we took it straight to the drop box at the Comcast office because it was due," I said, looking disconsolately at the TV screen.

The girls made various noises of displeasure while my husband did all the things you're supposed to do when the DVR takes a fit, as my great-grandma used to say. There was no response except that same maddening blue screen, taunting us with the knowledge that we had totally missed David Cook's performance, and Brooke's and Jason's.

Aisling dug Pirates of the Caribbean I out of the DVD drawer and put it in, but even Johnny Depp failed to reconcile me to missing those performances,

There was a toll-free customer service number we could call, so my husband telephoned this morning, handing the phone off to me when he'd been on hold so long, his Social Security nearly kicked in. Thankfully, I wasn't on the phone long, but I was on long enough for a Comcast agent who was suffering from some dreadful nasal congestion (I kept having to say "What? I'm sorry....what?") to tell me that the earliest a service person can come to replace our DVR is FRIDAY MORNING between 8:00-12:00.

Although the way he actually said it sounded like, "I gan sed you ub wid an abboindmend on Friday bedween ade o'glock ad twelb o'glock."

"What? I'm sorry...what?"

When he finally made it clear that it was going to be two days -- TWO DAYS, in which my family is going to be missing Idol Gives Back tonight, the results show on Thursday and Survivor -- I said, appalled, "That's a very long time."

"I gan pro-rade your negxt bill do dat you wode have do pay for the days you ard receibing serbis."

"What? I'm sorry...what? Oh, thanks, never mind. Okay."

So now we can add our DVR to the list of Things That Have Irreparably Broken at our house in the past three weeks, the first two items being our computer (seven years old) and our minivan (ten years old; 153,000 miles) But do you know what I have to say about that?


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Known best in the breaking

Today's Gospel reading at Mass is one of my favorite stories about Jesus, mostly because it reminds me so much of my own conversion. Father read the story of the two men (one named Cleopas) who met Jesus on the road as they were walking to a town named Emmaus.

5 6 Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
7 but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them, "What are you discussing as you walk along?" They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?"
And he replied to them, "What sort of things?" They said to him, "The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see."
And he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer 8 these things and enter into his glory?"
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning (within us) while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?"
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them
who were saying, "The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!"
Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:13-35 NAB)

Because spring had better be here

I posted a picture of daffodils below, but tulips are actually my favorite flower. I don't think William Wordsworth wrote a poem about tulips, and in my opinion, that was a terrible oversight on his part. The only person I can think of right off the top of my head who wrote anything about tulips is Tiny Tim, and I am stringently opposed to any man other than Barry Gibb who sings in a falsetto.

Flowers are important. Spring is important. It had better be here, or Mother Nature is going to GET IT.

Dare we believe it?

We have now had two days of sunshine -- TWO DAYS. And the temps have been warm. And the birds, they have been singing happily in the trees. And we have actual daffodils coming up around our house. Yes, daffodils!

Could it be, in this misbegotten, truculent, fickle spring, that nice weather might be here to stay? I don't mind the gentle spring rains, even. Naturally, at this stage, I would prefer sunshine, but if I can just avoid bundling up in my winter coat, gloves, scarf and earmuffs, THAT WOULD BE JUST DANDY, MOTHER NATURE.

Anyhoo, on a lovely Sunday morning like this, there's nothing for it but to bust out the William Wordsworth, even though I'm not much on rhyming poetry. Today is finally our chance to get out there and wander like little clouds, and maybe plant some grass seed.

So here you are, from 1804, William Wordsworth's "Daffodils."

I wander'd lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,

They stretch'd in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:

I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Big freakin' weirdo

I dropped the girls off at the YMCA today and Buddy and I tooled over to the grocery store near our home, where I picked up a couple of needed items.

I wheeled my mini-cart up to the line, where two people were in front of me and proceeded to stand there reading the covers of tabloids with a jaundiced eye and a cynical air, noting that Reese Witherspoon has Broken Beyond Her Heartache and Finally Found Love (divorce #2 several years in the offing, I imagine) and that Kevin Federline has decided to Make Things Work with Britney and the Kids (possibly candidate for canonization, if true).

A few moments later, a very large young woman leaning on the handle of her cart rolled up behind me. I happened to meet her eye because she sort of nudged me with her cart when she got in line. She didn't look like the usual clientele of this particular store, which is much more upscale than the one I often visit across town. A lot of the clientele there look like they stopped by to pick up a gallon of milk after a long, weary evening of selling eightballs and breaking the windows out of parked cars. She looked like she could be one of them.

"Peeyew," she said in a very, very loud voice, looking at me. "It smells bad up here, like somebody farted or crapped theirself or something."

You know what? I am also a very large woman, considerably older than herself standing there with her lank, greasy hair and her near-together eyes. Not only that, I was dressed in an outfit that I like, wearing my nice red spring jacket, decently groomed with makeup, jewelry, and a generous spritz of vanilla sugar body splash. I am a woman who doesn't feel the need to take cheek like this off anyone, particularly two weeks after my computer died and one day after my minivan died and two seconds after I'd had my last thought of "what next?"

I gave her the icy look that I used to give six foot tall football players who showed an impudent disinclination to learn about American writers of the 20th century in my English classes. "Well, it isn't me, my dear," I said in a tight, dangerous voice that immediately caused her to break eye contact with me and look down at her dolphin-sized shoes and mutter something sotto voce that she was probably wise to make sure I couldn't hear.

I sailed on up to the conveyor, paid for my few items and went on out of the store, my head held high in triumph. I may not be able to stop computers from crashing or automobiles from going kaput or jobs from ending or voices from giving out, but I can defend myself against an unjust charge of farting in the grocery.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Applesauce Anne

Today was HISTO Ancient Greece Round 4, which takes place all the way down in Greenwood, about an hour away from where we live. Michelle and Jerri very kindly set up a plan between them -- unbeknownst to me until yesterday -- for Jerri to come and pick me and the girls up for HISTO and for Michelle to drive us back home. This will have major significance later in the story.

Today was also Aisling's piano lesson. We still haven't been able to get back to the regular schedule, but we are managing at least once a month. The piano teacher's house is about twenty minutes away, so Aisling and I trundled off early this morning. I was going to go get a cup of coffee at the mini-mart where you can get a great big delicious cup plus cream and sweetener for only 79 cents; I had brought my book and was planning to enjoy a restful one hour period that I knew would be the one silent moment of my day in the joyful madness that is history bingo.

But on the way there, the van starting acting funny, which is terribly unlike it. This van, an Oldsmobile Silhouette, has been the best vehicle we've ever owned. Its name is Applesauce Anne, a reference to its color. The actual GM showroom color is Champagne, but could there possibly be a dumber color name for a minivan that is used to transport children to school and sporting events? Obviously, Applesauce Anne made much more sense.

Applesauce Anne had a flat tire in a church parking lot once, but I could tell she felt just terrible about that. And once she frightened us by overheating, but that was just because one of her hoses had jiggled loose and we comforted her and told her we loved her.

We recently put a few hundred dollars into some little things that needed to be tended to, which is why I was so worried yesterday when the temperature gauge spiked up alarmingly on the way to piano teacher's house. The worry light came on, showing a little red thermometer. And then she gasped and wheezed in a most alarming manner every time I turned a corner.

"I don't think I'd better wait," I told Aisling nervously. "I think I'd better drive back into town and ask Daddy what's going on." Thankfully, it was my husband's day off.

I got back home, praying all the way, let me tell you. I got my husband, who came out and looked under the hood for another loosened hose, but there was no such luck.

"Well, let's drive it and see what happens," he said, looking thoughtful.

On the way out and the way back, things did not look good. Anne was shuddering and knocking and we had to run a red light in order to keep it from stuttering to a halt. She died two times after that, and we barely had the oomph to let her coast into the little combination auto repair shop and tire store that's at the downtown end of our street. Aisling and I walked home and my husband went in to talk to the man behind the service desk.

Jerri showed up about forty minutes later and we loaded up our HISTO stuff in her van and set off for Greenwood. I knew nothing at all until six hours later when we rolled back into the driveway in Art and Michelle's SUV. My husband didn't have to say anything; the look on his face said it all.

Applesauce Anne is dead, completely dead. As a ten-year-old vehicle with 153,000 miles, my husband estimates that she's worth probably $700 in driveable condition. With blown head gaskets, it would cost at least $1600 to fix her, probably more.

So in one week's time, we've gone from being a two-vehicle family (one company car, one paid-for minivan) to a one-vehicle family (one paid-for minivan) to a no-vehicle family (zip, zero, nada, but we're saving a lot of money on auto owners' insurance, and we don't even have Geico.)

This, my friends, is a rather discouraging circumstance, I have to admit. Especially since our computer just checked out two weeks ago. I'm beginning to feel like a character in a Charles Dickens novel, maybe someone named Mrs. Periwynkle Droopybottom or something like that.

THANK GOD IN HEAVEN for family. My cousin Carol offered us money, any money we needed, to sort things out. I called my parents to see if we could borrow my Grandad's van for a few weeks, but it turned out that it had been sold. So they drove right on over without even stopping to eat their dinner and brought us Poppy's Blazer, which we took the liberty of naming Buddy.

And then, of course, there were all my friends at HISTO who were not only wonderfully sympathetic and encouraging about our prospects for my husband's new job, but also a great help in assisting with HISTO, because of course, I lost my voice on Wednesday and was unfit for calling numerous rounds of HISTO.

So here we are, devoutly hoping and praying that things will just LIGHTEN UP, ALREADY. For heaven's sake. Sheesh...

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

O, pioneers!

Yesterday was the second week of the Shakespeare Workshop for The Taming of the Shrew and it went very well, I thought. What went even weller, in my opinion, was the fact that Michelle asked us to go ahead and stay at her house until it was time for the girls and I to leave to pick up my husband at work, which was going to be about four hours. Isn't she lovely and brave?

Well, we had an excellent time. Her girls and my girls really enjoy one another's company and Michelle and I sat and talked while young William snoozed on Michelle's lap and Dom larked around the house playing the kind of interior Spider Man games that little boys play.

Meelyn, Aisling and I left their house slightly late, but we were really close to my husband -- or we would have been, if I hadn't been dismayingly sidetracked by a closed road. This led the trusty minivan on a chase down the interstate to the next exit where we picked up a state road that led us to the little town where he works at a car dealership.

As it turns out, if I'd had my head about me, he was only about twelve minutes from Michelle's house, but I somehow turned it into a high-speed, slightly hysterical, half-hour jaunt that brought us screeching into the parking lot fifteen minutes late, to see my husband standing with a look like a deer in headlights, obviously wondering if we were hopelessly lost in the wilds of Hamilton County, perhaps swatting at hungry bears with our sunbonnets and opening negotiations with the Indians to trade our vehicle for a birch bark canoe.

So today, we dropped him off with goodbye kisses and cries of "have a nice day!" and went to explore the area. To my amazement, I found that this little town that I thought was out in the middle of nowhere is actually part and parcel of the very part of Fishers and Indianapolis that my girls and so frequently haunt as our homeschooling activities take us to the area. That was a nice surprise. He's only about ten minutes away from our church.

All this is leading me to think how nice it would be, once we see if this job is going to work out as we hope and think it will, to move to this area and cut down on our homeschool driving. We'd all be so much closer to our friends and our church and all the stuff we do. What a happy thought!