Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ladies First

``You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentleman-like manner.''  Miss Elizabeth Bennett, “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen.
You tell him, Lizzy!    
I’m trying to raise my son to be a gentleman.  How do we define gentleman-like behavior these days?  Wikipedia says gentleman is a man who is chivalrous, courteous, or honorable.
That sounds good.  Of course, we would hope everyone would behave that way.  So, to narrow it down, let’s talk about teaching boys courteous manners.
Is gentlemen-like behavior a thing of the past with our changing culture? 
Lately Dirk and I have been watching the 1960s television show “The Saint.”  I noticed Simon Templar (cue the halo!) helping ladies with their chairs, holding doors open, jumping in front of them when there is danger. 
How does Simon Templar compare with modern day TV heroes?  Rick Castle always holds the door for Beckett, but Beckett has the gun, and protects Castle from danger.  Booth holds the door for Bones, but occasionally you’ll see her hold the door for him.  Bones usually tells Booth to let her be when he tries to protect her from danger.  You certainly wouldn’t have seen that on “The Saint.”
Different times, different roles; but I still appreciate it when a man defers to “ladies first.”
A few years ago, two boys caught the bus at Libby’s stop.  When the bus came, it never failed:  Those two boys would rush to get on the bus in front of her.
This bugged me, so when my younger kids’ bus came, my goal was to get Jacob to hold back and let Megan go first.  He was a bit resentful, but things got better when I told him he could exit our van first before getting on the bus.  I also suggested that he might offer Megan a hand out of the van, but that didn’t go over so well.
Having a sister seems to be a big influence on whether a boy grows into a gentleman.  This is not an easy task for the sister, let me tell you.  Don’t tell my sister-in-law, but she wasn’t the one who trained my brother to be a gentleman.  My sister and I did.  And let me tell you, it took a lot of bossing, tattle-telling, and hair pulling to accomplish it, but I think we did a good job.
My friend Adele, alas, has five sons and no daughters.  She worried that they would not know how to act around girls.  So, occasionally, Adele would sit all five down and make them watch “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”  Three of the boys are married now, so they must have picked up some good pointers.
Mr. Darcy:  “Your reproof, so well applied, I shall never forget: ‘had you behaved in a more gentleman-like manner.’ Those were your words. You know not … how they have tortured me.”
Lizzy:  ``I was certainly very far from expecting them to make so strong an impression.”
Ladies, let’s raise those expectations. 
I think having four sisters helps keep Jacob in line.  Also, his best friend is a girl.  When Jacob is with Ella, he’s gentler than when he’s hanging out with the guys.  He’s more courteous, even to the point of playing with Polly Pockets for a FEW minutes before suggesting they go back to playing on the Wii.  (His Pollys are superheroes, but still.) 
We attend church with Ella’s family.  When it’s time for the children’s classes to begin, Jacob watches for Ella to stand up from her pew.  He jumps up, hurries to her side, puts his 9-year-old hand respectfully on her 8-year-old back, and walks her to class. 
I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Last year at college, Jenna started cooking for herself. This meant that in addition to clothes and school supplies, she would need an adequately stocked kitchen. We gathered (mostly from the recesses of my kitchen cabinets) used pots and pans, spatulas, a can opener, mixing bowls, pot holders, dishes, utensils, and two shiny, new plastic cups from the dollar store. Her new roommates had contributions of their own, so they hopefully had everything they needed to feed themselves.

A month or so after Jenna went back to school, I was searching for rosemary in my spice cabinet and accidentally knocked over a container of toothpicks. I suddenly thought of Jenna: Did she need toothpicks? What if she needed to test a cake for doneness? Hm. Actually, we really didn’t leave her with any spices, or vanilla, or cupcake holders, or … toothpicks. How would she get by?

It was a brief and useless thought; she’s a college student, she won’t have much time to cook, and as her specialty is boxed macaroni and cheese, she wouldn’t be using it anyway.

But the idea snowballed, and I thought about the cabinets and closets and drawers and a whole garage full of stuff that we had collected over the years. How did we ever manage without it?

When Dirk and I were first married a hundred and twenty or so years ago, among the wedding gifts from our friends and family there were five toasters. I thought this was hilarious. What would we do with five toasters? I told Dirk we should return four of them, because really we didn’t need more than one. He suggested that we keep at least three, just in case. And you know, in twenty three years (this number is real) we have not only worked those three toasters to death, but eventually purchased and used up two more. Turns out five toasters was not excessive.

How do you get by with less stuff? I haven’t figured it out. I guess I haven’t embraced simplicity. I love the idea of minimalists, but really I am a little disturbed by them.

A few years ago we were invited to a surprise party for our friend. (You don’t know them; they live across the water.) It was held at a beautiful home, tastefully decorated, neat and tidy. I marveled how everything could be so orderly and clutter free when there were several children living in the home. I was in the kitchen and someone asked me to find a utensil to help serve the cake. I opened one of the many drawers in this beautiful kitchen…and it was empty. Weird. I opened another drawer, and another, and another…most were empty. It gave me the willies. My friend, whose sister-in-law lived at the house, was helping me look.

“Are they moving soon?” I whispered, wondering if everything had been packed. She whispered back in the negative. We eventually found a drawer with a few knives and forks, and managed to serve up the cake.

I’m sure there’s something of a pack rat in me, but am I alone here? Isn’t there a balance between hoarding, and living such a Spartan lifestyle that you could move out with only one box marked “kitchen”? I just wish I could figure out that balance.

Jenna fared fine her first year cooking, and now this year Cassidy is off to college as well. Strangely enough, we found almost everything she needed to stock her kitchen by again scrounging through mine. As my kitchen continues to be well stocked, it’s a little embarrassing. If I keep this up, by the time all our kids are off to college, maybe I’ll end up with an empty drawer or two. Spooky thought!

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Trees and I, a love story

Part one

Still moving in auto sleepy mode, I went out to the back porch this morning to feed the dogs.   Yawn, yawn, mundane stuff.  A hammering noise from somewhere nearby caught my attention.  I looked up, expecting to see a woodpecker, but the view off our porch was so enchanting that I forgot to look for the bird.

If you’ve ever been to the Seattle area or seen pictures, you’ve probably seen views with the white ferries, blue water, and, across Puget Sound, a land of tree-covered hills.  We live in those hills.  And, if you’ve been in Seattle on a day when fog lies purring and cozy between the stoic pines, you may have wondered what it would be like to live over among those trees.

Well, let me enlighten you.

We don’t have a traditional view.  Actually, if you cut down all the trees on our land and our neighbor’s land, we would probably have an enviable view of Seattle.  Then the people of Seattle could watch us, and we could watch them.  Maybe we would use telescopes, and wave, like travelers on cruise ships waving to strangers on the dock.

I prefer our view.  This morning, the sky was blue, sun was shining (yes!  The sun does shine here!), and fog drifted slowly through our trees like a shy creature of the woods, too large and sleepy to see us as a threat, but emerging to feed.  Feed on what?  Oh, probably the romance and vitality of the forest.  These woods are thick with it.

When I was in college, living in Utah and enjoying the very different beauty there (though, I admit, I sometimes counted the scant trees growing on the hillside), I read “The Romance of the Forest” by Ann Radcliffe.  You know how it is when you read something and discover yourself in it?  If you’ve read that book, you are probably frightened that I found myself there; but I realized when I’m in a forest, it’s all romance and story for me.  Musicians carry tunes in their heads, writers have a story; and when I’m in the woods, those stories are as alive as the trees.

It is so green outside right now, it’s variegated, wall-to-wall and floor-to-sky green.  Moss, grass, ferns, and trees – fir, hemlock, and my favorite, cedars.  Patches of blue sky light up between them, but in summer even those patches are pushed out by leafy maple and alders.

When we moved into our home ten years ago, I saw the last remnants of fog one sunny morning, curling gently upward like smoke.  I thought maybe a drifter had made camp in our woods, and had started a small fire.  I’m silly (and a bit territorial), so I tiptoed out through the trees for a peek.  There was nothing there, no fire, no person; just the wispy smoke without flames, floating through the evergreens.

I have mentioned that the sun is shining today.  Please do not think that it is always sunny here, and that you would want to move here amid the trees.  It does rain something like 370 days a year, and we often don’t see even a hint of blue sky for weeks.  So, don’t get any ideas to leave Arizona or Minnesota or wherever you are.   When you’re standing in a puddle, and you start thinking about windshield wipers for your glasses, it’s a fine trick to enjoy the view.  I’ve had a lot of practice.  Besides, the green is always there, whispering romantic tales, even when it rains.

I did finally see the woodpecker, a large male with a red head.  He was laughing at me in my pajamas, hyuck-hyuck, hyuck-hyuck.  I have the best neighbors.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Dear Doris Day,

I have this wonderful fantasy that I get to meet you.  Actually, in my fantasy, my home state of Washington is on its best behavior, sunny blue skies and green trees vibrant and welcoming.  My parents are visiting, my children are home, and there is a knock at the door.  I answer it, and it’s you.

In my daydream, I introduce myself, and you introduce yourself (because you are so sweet and humble you at least pretend we don’t know who you are).  Then I call my mom and daughter from the kitchen, because they are huge fans. 

“This is my mom, Linda, and my daughter, Cassidy.  This is Doris Day.”

And then my mom would cry, and Cassidy’s mouth would gape in a delighted smile.  And I’d probably cry too, and Ms. Day, you would smile kindly, and watch us.  Or maybe you’d make an exasperated, slightly cross-eyed look, I’m not sure.

We love your movies.  Our favorites are “On Moonlight Bay” (1951), “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” (1953), “It Happened to Jane” (1959), and “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” (1960).   Big-hearted movies about the girl next door, the busy young housewife, the spunky young woman with a dazzling smile and a positive attitude.  These stories and characters mean a lot to us.  I feel all happy and warm inside when they end.  I know some people don’t like to feel warm and happy, but I love it.  There are plenty of other movies out there that offer Reality, Something to Think About, Grit.  I’ll take clean and uplifting any day. 

Whether your character was decorating an enormous, run-down house in the country, or hosting a Cub Scout pack meeting (serving lobster, of all things!), you portrayed life as fun and energetic.  I choose to relate to your characters.  When my daughter spent three months sleeping under a table so she didn’t have to clean her room, I shrugged and laughed.  I felt just like Kate McKay in “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” when her son liked being in a cage.  When I’m having fun with my daughters at girls’ camp, I feel like I could be a character in one of your movies.  You helped me view life as fun and adventurous, never dull or gloomy.  Or at least, not for long.

Personally, your roles I’m fondest of are the sweet, girl-next-door movies, and the mom-with-kids movies.  They’re engaging and wholesome and that’s the life that appeals to me.  I’ve heard critics say they represent an Americana too virtuous, more perfect and small-town goodness than ever really existed. 

To that I answer, Says who?  Sure, every town has its meanness, ugliness, and tragedy; but aren’t there also sweet moments when a nice boy falls in love with the girl next door?  Or a curious boy does something like get his head stuck between chair rungs?  Or the family’s pet lobster Larry continually gets mixed in with the girl lobsters?  (I love that part.)

If gritty movies are real, I say sweet ones are real too.  Nothing wrong with a positive spin.

I hear you turned 88 in April, and that you are going by Clara these days.  May I call you Clara?

So, Ms. Day – Clara? – would you consider stopping by sometime for dinner?  If you give me warning, I’ll try to have the house clean.  I need a lot of warning, actually.  You can meet our pets, as I’ve heard you are an animal lover.  I do caution you, we also have kids.  We promise not to ask you to sing, or entertain us.  We won’t call you America’s Sweetheart, or even ask what it was like making all those wonderful movies.  We just want to say hello, and thank you.

Let us know if you can come.  Fall is a beautiful time in the Pacific Northwest, and you can even enjoy a ferry ride on the way.  I hope you can make it.  Either way, que sera, sera! 


Your longtime devotee, Denise 

Monday, July 2, 2012

News from the Big Woods

I’m very happy living in the woods, as you probably know.  I love looking out the window or stepping outside, and seeing green, green, green.  Lush, fresh, it never gets old.

But Saturday I had a pause in my love for the forest.  We had walked a half mile down our gravel road to a neighbor’s party.  The less sociable of my household left for home early, which left me, 11-year-old Megan, and 9-year-old Jacob heading for home at the party’s end.  Just me and the little kids.

Jacob had brought his bike, and though I told him to stay with us, he pedaled far ahead.  (This surprises no one who knows Jacob.)  There are only woods and less than a dozen driveways along this road, so it wasn’t a big deal.  Megan and I walked peacefully behind, Megan enlightening me about a mafia-type game she had played at the party.

While the gravel road to our friends’ house is off the beaten path, we are off a second, even less beaten path.  When we reached our turn, I looked up the road expecting to see Jacob.  Instead, a few hundred yards ahead, I saw what looked like two large black dogs.  It took a moment to process that I was looking at bears, and I felt my stomach drop before the question really hit me:  Where was Jacob?

I called Jacob’s name, but instantly wondered if that was wise.  If he had already made it safely past the bears without seeing them, would he hear me and head back toward me?

He answered, but I couldn’t tell where his voice was coming from, or what he was saying.  It could have been, “I’m at the end of the driveway, see you at home,” or “Help, there are bears sniffing me!” 

Just then, our friends pulled up in their Suburban.  They were also leaving the party.  I stopped them, opened the back seat of their car, tossed Megan in (over the laps of their seat-belted children), and climbed in myself (scooting next to their seat-belted children). 

“Jacob…bears….go!” I said, and they are good friends, so they understood, and drove.

We didn’t see the bears (although later I called the nearest neighbor, who looked out her window and said with annoyance, “Ah, yes.  They are down by our swing set, the stinkers.”).  By the time we got to the house, Jacob was walking in our back door.  Although he must have passed within yards of the two bears, he never even noticed them.

This is not the first time we have encountered wildlife.  We’ve heard bears making their cumbersome, crashing way through the woods, and even sometimes seen them from the car.  A coyote once came right into the yard, but left as soon as it saw that our dogs were really as big as their bark.  And once, I suspect that one of the dogs treed a cougar, but it was way down in the woods, so not a big deal.  But let me tell you, when a couple of bears got between this mama and her Ja-cub, I was ready to rumble. 

Now, on this non-rainy July day, my kids are hanging around inside the house.  Normally I send them outside, tell them to go for a bike ride.  Today, I think I’ll keep them in sight.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Today Jacob was on a mission.  He had found a DVD in the cupboard, and thought the gold lion embossed on the cover looked cool.  So cool, that he decided he needed to watch The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ASAP.

I said, “Sorry, you have to read the book first.  Do you want to read it now?”

Delayed gratification being a disappointment, we had a sad moment.  It was short lived, and he decided that reading the book was an acceptable option.  I fetched the book, by C.S. Lewis.  When Jacob realized it would be more than a twenty-minute read, sadness returned.    He wanted to watch the movie today.

I offered to read the first chapter aloud to him, get him started.  He followed the words while I read, and I ended up completing four chapters.  After Lucy returned from her second visit with Mr. Tumnus, and Edmund had eaten the witch’s Turkish delight, I told Jacob he needed to find someone else to read, because I had to go outside with Dad and do yard work.

I came in an hour or so later to find Dirk on the couch, reading the book.  (I had thought he was on the other side of the house picking weeds…hmm.)  Both Megan and Jacob were reading over his shoulder.  They completed several more chapters together.

Later still, I found Jacob in Jenna’s room.  She was trying to ignore him (although it’s one of her favorite stories), and his plan was to stare at her until she caved.  I suggested that every minute he move a little closer.  She ended up reading three chapters as well. 

I love catching the kids reading.  When I became a mom twenty years ago, I was so excited to introduce Jenna to the world of books that I read to her for at least an hour a day.  Consequently, she was reading fluently at age three.  According to her preschool teacher, I may have overdone it.  For the next few years we frequently had to write a note to get her attention. 

But, Jenna loves reading.  For a while she was even a speed reader.  At ten, she read “The Hobbit” in four hours.  I quizzed her; she really read it.

Our other kids began reading at different interest levels and abilities, but I can proudly say I’ve converted them all.  They all love a good story, and are often plopped onto the couch or porch chair, or holed up in their rooms, reading a book. 

So, once Jacob realized that this was really a good story he had on his hands, he didn’t let up.  By two o’clock, I found Megan and Jacob in my room, huddled around the little book, as Megan read about Aslan being killed.  They were a bit stunned that he was really dead.  I asked them if it reminded them of another story that we know, about someone who was innocent but volunteered to die to pay someone else’s debt. 

Megan, an avid Harry Potter fan, said, “Snape?”




“Harry’s mother!”


Then Jacob’s lightbulb went off.    

“I know, it’s that guy from church!”

“Do you mean Jesus?”

“Yes!  That’s him!”

You’d think we didn’t attend church every week, and have pictures of Jesus in our home, and teach about Him, and pray…  But we come down to “that guy from church.”   All righty, then.

There was a very brief discussion of this idea of Aslan and Jesus, and I left them to continue their reading.  A few minutes later, I heard their joyful shouts, and knew that Aslan had been resurrected.

By about 3 o’clock, the book was finished.  Almost everyone had helped Jacob read quickly through the story, so we decided to celebrate by watching the movie, right there in the middle of the afternoon.
Everyone loved it, of course, and we were able to discuss the story, and make fresh comparisons between the movie and the book.  It was a family event, with hardly any arguments.   A miracle.  That guy from church would be proud.

I love days like today.  I do a lot wrong as a parent (such as, apparently, failing to teach my son the savior’s name), but by golly, when I turn my kids loose into the world, they will be book lovers.  And I think that’s a good thing, a valuable skill to have.  Will they be hardworking, successful book lovers?  I hope so.  I hope the day comes when they each have their own homes with comfy chairs for reading.  Just like the Kings and Queens of Narnia, once a book lover, always a book lover.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Here is last week's column in our local paper. Although it mostly refers to local sightings, I'd love to hear stories from where you are, too!  And in case you're wondering:  Do I believe?  I can't say that I do or don't.  Ask me again after the DNA evidence comes out.  (Yes, safe answer.)  Whether the stories are fact-based or folklore, I love to hear them.  They are interesting either way.

I know, you don’t want to talk about it. It’s silly. How can grown men and women believe there are 8-foot-tall hairy creatures roaming the woods? It can’t be true. Surely there would be evidence…bones, or something. If it was true, National Geographic would be all over it.

Yes, it’s silly, you say. But you’re still reading, aren’t you?

Shortly after we moved to Kitsap County in Washington State nineteen years ago, there was an advertisement in the newspaper asking anyone who had experienced a Bigfoot sighting along Lincoln Road in Poulsbo to please call the given number. I laughed. Now I wish I had kept the ad.

Not that I’ve had a Bigfoot sighting, but I’m curious. I’d like to call the number and see who placed the ad. Someone local? Someone from an organization such as Bigfoot Field Research Organization (BFRO), whose website FAQS include, “What is a bigfoot or sasquatch?” and “How come there’s no bigfoot road kill?”

Awesome. Tell me you don’t want to live in a world with facts like that.

I’m not making fun of believers. In fact, six out of eight people sitting at my dining room table last night believe that Bigfoot sightings are not out-and-out hoaxes, that those who report them are seeing something. But what? Here are some possibilities we came up with:

1. Perhaps the Bigfoot and werewolf legends really stem from the same creature. What if once a month during the full moon, some people turn into 8-foot-tall Bigfoots. Shy, elusive, sad creatures for a few days, every month.

2. Pretty much the same as number one, but with dogs. We may have witnessed just such a transformation on the way home from church a while back.

3. Lost hippies, who only give the impression of great height because of their startling appearance.

4. Prehistoric creatures who have somehow come to live in the modern world, but not of the modern world.

Or maybe the Bigfoot species exists, but has managed in this world of scientists and explorers to not be discovered yet. Odds are slim, but it could happen. For years the giant squid was a bit of a sea legend, but in 2004 a 26-foot squid with 18-foot tentacles was photographed in the Pacific. What if someday Bigfoot lore gets concrete validation?

A 2003 National Geographic News online article by Stefan Lovgren reports that scientists are studying forensic evidence to decide if it’s possible that Bigfoot exists. Here is a quote from the article:

"'Given the scientific evidence that I have examined, I'm convinced there's a creature out there that is yet to be identified,' said Jeff Meldrum, a professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University in Pocatello."

Did you catch that: professor. The article also states:

"Renowned chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall last year surprised an interviewer from National Public Radio when she said she was sure that large, undiscovered primates, such as the Yeti or Sasquatch, exist."


Despite these endorsements, however, the article still approaches the subject with a smirk and a ten foot pole. Most of my local friends and acquaintances do the same. To stay credible, you kind of have to. Bring Bigfoot into the conversation, and most people laugh. But mention sightings you’ve heard about, and suddenly everyone has some unusual story to share.

Check out BFRO online (which frankly sounds like some sort of hairdo; not sure why they chose those initials). You’ll find thirteen Kitsap County sightings reported, mostly in the Indianola and south Kingston area. I’m hoping this column will encourage those other shy, elusive creatures: local people who have seen or heard something they couldn’t explain, but were too embarrassed to say maybe, just maybe, it could have been Bigfoot. If that’s you, please fill out a report form. I’ll read it. Or, comment here. Let us know.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep an eye out. Whether driving down Lincoln in Poulsbo or walking along the back roads of Kingston, I watch. Close to home the only hairy creatures rustling through my bushes are the dogs, or Dirk, but they aren’t that tall. If something’s there to see, I want to see it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

That Time of Year

Here is a repost of this month's newspaper column. I'm working on a blog-exclusive column for next week!

That Time of Year

Sorry in advance for what I’m about to tell you; I know it’s silly, but it’s true.

I feel defeated at the first signs of spring. Leafy green buds on the blackberry bushes? Ugh. Is it here already? Winter wasn’t long enough.

I jealously guard my hibernation. While I’m indoors, I get things done. I organize the house, do research, plan our summer. Write. I read too much, and I listen to favorite DVDs while I go through the house, touching everything, trying to make a difference.

Before it’s really too late, before the forget-me-nots bloom and even before I let myself admire the sweet hellebores already gracing the rock wall, I’m going to enjoy a treat: I’m going to experience each room in my house. I don’t mean spring clean. I won’t turn the room upside down, vigorously scrub it, gently spank it, and then shut the door and hope it stays put for awhile. I mean go in, and have an experience. When I’m 80, and I remember these days living in this house, with the kids still home and ours, I’ll remember times when I stopped to have an encounter with my home, and the things we put in it.

I’ll take each book off the shelf. I’ll dust them, look for little notes I’ve left in the past, and leave a few new ones. Some notes I have written, but mostly they are notes I have received. I leave them randomly in books to be rediscovered.

And those bookshelves – we have nine in our house, I’m delighted to tell you. Dirk and I picked out each of them together. Some we refinished. Others we gulped and spent a little more than we might have, because we loved them.

Woops, make that ten shelves. There’s a little one right here next to me that I forgot.

I probably won’t open boxes under beds; that requires decision making, and I don’t want to do that just now. I might dust pictures on the walls, and really look at them. Having them clean will be a nice bonus.

I’ll probably take an hour and fix up the kids’ dollhouse. It’s always a mess of furniture, Polly Pockets, and anything miniature that gets tossed in. I’m glad that it gets used and they really play with it, but occasionally I like to have it neat and organized.

My craft supplies will receive a duty visit. Yarn, beads, stamps, scrapbooking supplies… a dusty monument to my optimism. Don’t laugh. The crafting bug could still bite someday, and I might make beautiful homemade gifts for friends and family. You never know. Supplies are lined up in clear plastic boxes, cute baskets, and lots of wrinkled craft store bags shoved into the slots of a giant IKEA wall shelf. Most of the year I ignore my collected craft materials; they just sit there and judge me.

The only craft relics I really enjoy visiting are my unfinished quilts. They have potential. The colors pieced together are my one-of-a-kind creations. Some might call them odd, kind of a Frankenstein mistake of weird patterns and colors, but all those fabrics pieced together call to me, want to be touched. Even ugly quilts are friendly like that.

I have managed a few accomplishments this winter, I suppose. Our art and game closet, formerly a hard-hat area, is lovely. If you come to visit, you may have your picture taken in front of it, if you wish. Also, I decided that the house really does belong to me (well, us), and that I don’t have to wait for my mother to come and tell me to rearrange the kitchen cupboards before I do it. Which is something else I partially accomplished, when it occurred to me that I could.

So fine, I surrender. I’ll make those last visits around the house, then pull on my work gloves, crawl out of my winter den, and head outside. Let the trillium bloom, let the crocus arrive. I’ll try not to cringe.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Little House in the Big Woods

I write a bi-monthly column for our local paper, and I'll be posting a copy of new columns here on My Blog as well. (I have a blog.) Here is the latest column, written about a month ago.

Little House in the Big Woods

It’s a snow day today! The kids are home, and we’re having fun. It’s morning, so the snow is fresh and new, and the kids aren’t soaked and tired yet. I’m inside by the fire, cuddling in a sweater and nibbling a homemade cookie. Water for cocoa is warming on the stove. Two of our dogs are lying at my feet, and the puppy is outside with the kids. She’s about 70 pounds now, and isn’t cooperating with the kids’ plans for her to ride the sled down. She does enjoy chasing them, though.

Today I get to feel content. Doesn’t happen very often; there’s always something to worry about, a problem to work through, needs to be met, or some place to be. My kitchen floor is picked up and mopped for a few minutes, until the kids and their wet things come inside. I’ll just sit here and enjoy it, as I enjoy the happy noises I hear outside.

One day over Christmas I watched the classic 1945 movie “Christmas in Connecticut” (Barbara Stanwyck) twice in a row. Well, I didn’t really watch it; I’ve seen it so many times, all I have to do is listen to know what’s happening on the screen.

Have you seen the movie? It’s about Elizabeth Lane, a woman who writes a homemaking column, letting her readers think that she lives on a beautiful farm in Connecticut with her husband and family, where she cooks amazing meals, spins wool, and milks her cow, Methuselah. In reality, she’s single, lives in the city, and can’t cook.

I sometimes feel like Elizabeth Lane, just a little. I love writing about my family in our little house in the big woods – big snowy woods today. For the most part, my life is just what I would want it to be.

However, I get feeling a little guilty sometimes. Do I pick out the best parts of my life, and present it like it’s all that way? Kind of like those Christmas letters you sometimes get, telling all about perfect kids with perfect grades who are involved in every extracurricular activity possible; promotions at work, fabulous vacations, all that sort of stuff? I would hate to have someone read my column and think that my life must be …perfect. Better than theirs.

So here’s a little reality from my house, because I want you to feel good about yourself.

Right at this moment, my bathrooms are in serious need of deep cleaning. If you came to visit and asked to use the bathroom, I’d have to say no.

I have two closets that are such a mess, I can’t close the doors. This is inconvenient, as they are both in hallways, and we have to step around the open doors.

I’m out of vegetables, and I don’t care.

Also, I have a pile of laundry to fold that is taller than two of my children, and my youngest is 8. Yeah.

Fabulous vacations we have planned for the year: Did I mention the kids are outside playing in the snow?

The happy sounds of my children playing right now: This just tells me that no one has taken a snowball to the face so far.

And yet, I am content. Why not? If I waited until everything was perfect to feel happy, I’d never get there.

It’s quieter outside now. The kids got bored with our little hills and went to check out the neighbors’. (Aren’t you glad we’re not your neighbors?) The puppy is now lying exhausted at my feet, and our beer-fetching older dog is out gallivanting with the children.

Life is good.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

In which I make a beginning

Hello, and welcome! Come on in, I’ll give you the tour. Excuse the mess… still unpacking. Trying to figure out where everything’s going to go. The posting boxes feel so big and white. I’ll try to get something up fast, just so it doesn’t feel so empty.

I have a blog… I have a blog. I have a blog. I have a blog. This is going to take some getting used to. As did: I am a wife, I am a mother, I am never going to have a maid.

I have a blog.

So, I moved to this blog that henceforth when I have something to share that doesn’t fit in a Facebook status, I have a place to unload. Also, so that – once I have managed to unload the previously mentioned somethings – I might stop talking to myself when I’m alone in my car. And finally, so I have a place of my own as a writer.

And that’s the main thing. Because, just as “I have a blog” takes some getting used to, I’m still getting used to, “I am a writer.” I’ve been writing for years, but apparently without making it official.

I have a blog, I am a writer. Welcome.