What You Need


Saturday our rural internet started feeling like we should be attaching rabbit ears to our modem, so I went to work at the round table with the red and white checkered table cloth at back of our local country store, parking myself next to the deli case, compete with a view of the giant rolltop desk that sits in front of a sign that reads, “If we don’t have it you don’t need it.”

Most Saturdays what I need, in addition to the internet, are soda and vittles from the deli, but there are other things I need from our country store that aren’t on any shelf — and they can’t be had any place else.

Yesterday, the store’s proprietress sat at the desk working on an order for the summer season, and we chatted as we both worked and visited with neighbors stopping in for groceries or a coffee break.

Around lunchtime, the owner’s granddaughter came in for her shift. Her son toddled behind her, continuing a time-honored tradition of ‘helping’ at the family business. Kids love the sights and constant flow of friends and family in and out, and this toddler did an excited two-step, giving a little squeal whenever someone he knew came through the door.

While his mom worked in the office, he darted between her and his great-grandmother.  Occasional soft whimpers began signaling the need for a nap , and his great-grandmother reached out, inviting him to snuggle with her for short nap. He went happily to her outstretched arms and, with a little help, climbed onto her lap, resting his head on her shoulder and looking as contented as a person can be.

It took only a moment to draw enough energy from that hug before he got back to the business of being a toddler. I watched him explore thinking how nice it is that somethings can still be made right with a hug, which was exactly what I needed

Smelling the Roses


“When are they due?” I texted, knowing exactly what the answer would be.

“Today,” he texted back.

I had tons of baby pictures, but we hadn’t snapped many pic of Thing1 or Thing2 since Christmas and none that were remotely yearbook-worthy. So that’s how the Big Guy, Thing1 & 2 and I found ourselves packed into my Jetta, zipping toward the mall portrait studio after I got done with work.

The ball-drop was my fault. I had messaged a friend about senior portraits a few weeks earlier and then forgotten about it when round 3 of this year’s flu started up. Thing2’s classroom has been a petrie dish that would make a bacteriologist green with envy and gangrene, repeatedly recycling flu and strep that caught Thing1 in an especially vicious spin of the cycle.

Thing1, understandably, has had to work to remind himself of the good things that have happened to him this year — getting into most of the schools he applied to, a job he loves with people he likes, and miraculously managing to be in the hospital mainly on days he’s not scheduled.

Still, he’s been out of school a lot. Normal bodily functions require planning. A fitness buff, he struggles to remember the healthy version of himself, and it has definitely affected his mental health.

“I just wish he’d get a break,” the Big Guy says every so often.

The entire family has learned that breaks are rare, brief and never scheduled. So, even though it was our first family outing in months that didn’t include a hospital, none of us was ready to let our guard down Saturday night as we sped toward the mall for the last minute appointment I’d booked.

The Big Guy, however, quickly started doing what dads do best, using his special talent for turning innocuous road signs into the finest eighth grade humor, and Thing1 and Thing2 were, as always, an appreciative audience. They segued into fart jokes, and we all started bawling. I focused on trying to drive as I surrendered any pretense of trying to minimize the inappropriate humor.

The shenanigans ceased only briefly as we walked through the department store to the portrait studio, but as soon as Thing1 and then Thing2 got in front of the camera, the Big Guy went to work with his Family Guy impressions ensuring that the two of them smiled for every shot.

They smiled for their individual sessions and then together with Thing2 putting Thing1 in a headlock or grinning up at him as if to say, “I’m willing to be the bratty brother the whole way home if it would get a laugh.”

And in every shot, I can see them completely forgetting their troubles. The only thought they seem to be sharing, as every kid does at least once, is how embarrassing parents can be in public.

Trouble started back up for Thing1 the next morning as his body refused to respond to medication and fart jokes.

We had known the fun would be short, but at least for a few hours on Saturday night, we had been reminded of an important truth which was the only unspoken thing that night. You have to take the bad, but when breaks come your way with a bit of good, you positively need to enjoy them — even if someone has to tell a fart joke to get you started — because you don’t know when they’ll come around again.

What’s New is New

Sunday, Sunday

In October, wanting to go back to school to train for something new, I took a long-heldout promotion and started working weekends.

Murphy’s Law still being the only functioning the law of the land decreed that my new weekends— Wednesday and Thursday–would be otherwise occupied, making school impossible. Most of my new weekends have been spent driving to hospitals, but as flu season winds down, I have been able to carve out at least one day on the weekend for re-creation, usually in the form of doodling.

Doodle time did not evolve into painting time until last Sunday when T2 and I went to a Paint and Sip. I haven’t played with acrylics since high school, and even though I’m more confident with watercolors, dipping a brush and a new medium with the spark again.

I haven’t forgotten how much I need to paint, but sometimes it’s easy to let the doldrums keep you from what you were meant to do. My doldrums were plastered under a layer of yellow acrylic last Sunday. When my Sunday kicked off this morning, paint — oil this time —was on the brain.

Oils are completely new and will require a more than little bit of homeschooling to get the hang of, but it’s all part of making something old new again and making the new weekends count.

And hey, I did want to go back to school.

These Kids are All Right 

“Is he OK?” she texted.

“The fever’s down a bit,” I texted back. T1’s temperature had peaked at 107 for about an hour in the middle the night, and we had spent the rest of it calling his doctor and forcing fluids and more Tylenol. Super Gal and T1 had texted each other a few times in the wee hours of the morning until T1, out of the danger zone, fell into a deep sleep and forgot about texts.

I knew she’d been feeling under the weather—no one has escaped this winters ravages – and it made me smile little to see them reaching out to each other, even if, between illnesses and normal senior year time pressures mean they can’t be together much right now.

They’ve been seeing each other for a couple of years now. They’re planning their third prom together which, in high school terms, is practically a golden anniversary. Neither of them knows where they’re going next year or if they’ll end up in the same place or what they will do with their lives beyond that.

I know statistically that most people don’t often end up with their high school sweetheart, but everything about the way they have supported each other over the last few months tells me that there’s a deep friendship there that can survive a lot and be a source of comfort and strength for each of them.  And right now it’s nice to have a small reassurance that, in the long run, these kids will be all right.