Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Things That Made Me Laugh

You ever have those moments when something funny happens to you and you have to tell someone about it? Well, I’ve had several of those moments lately – but each one individually wasn’t enough to write an entire blog about. (Not that I haven’t given it the ol’ college try before. Sometimes I can write about pretty much nothing at all!)

Nevertheless, I thought I could probably cobble together a blog about a few of those moments.

We’ll see how it goes anyway!

So I recently had my family in for the weekend. Before everyone arrived I was out running last-minute errands and I was at a big strip mall-type shopping center. I had several more stops to make and I suddenly remembered I had to get to a pet store to pick up some cat food lest the felines in utter starvation started gnawing on my brother’s leg in the middle of the night. Thinking that wasn’t exactly hostess-with-the-mostest behavior, I asked Siri for directions to the nearest pet store from my location.

I heard…

“…you have reached your destination.”

What? So I looked to my right and I was literally rolling past a PetsMart!


I burst out laughing at myself and then parked. I was still laughing when I entered the store so the clerk at the checkout thought I was either a loony bird – or a very, very happy person.

But it was surely a blonde moment if I’ve ever had a blonde moment!

And, by the way, I have particular pet stores that I frequent, depending on which shopping area I’m near. I evidently have never needed pet supplies while in this particular shopping center before.

Now I know.

This next thing didn’t specifically happen to me – but to Vince. I’m sure he’s figured I’ve forgotten it by now…but sometimes my mind is a steel trap. Especially when it isn’t my gaffe.  It was his “blonde” moment…although he’d probably prefer I refer to it as a “senior” moment!

One morning he was making breakfast for us. This would mean it was either a Tuesday or a Sunday because I make breakfast for us all the other days of the week. That has no bearing on the story other than I apparently want to get credit for most of the breakfast-making duties. And, okay, so his breakfasts are way tastier than mine (hey, oatmeal is good for us!), but, again, that isn’t the point of the story.

The point of the story is that Vince was cracking eggs into the skillet when I walked into the kitchen and he, with a very confused look on his face, started searching on the floor and on the counter. I asked him what he was looking for and he replied, “The egg I just cracked; do you know what happened to it?”

I said, “No, honey – trust me, I didn’t come in here with the dastardly plan of walking off with your raw egg…!” Yeah, it was a smart-ass response, but I was only coming in to refill my coffee cup and wasn’t paying a lot of attention to the egg-cracking going on over at the other counter.

So he searched for a moment more, even casting an accusatory glance in the direction of the dog and then, shrugging his shoulders, cracked another egg into the skillet.

As we were settling down at the table to eat breakfast, he said, “Oh! I left my coffee near the stove.”  So, being the helpful partner I am (and the fact that I was closer to the stove), I got up to fetch his cup. I looked in and…

…you guessed it. There in the murky depths of his coffee cup was a yellow yolk peering up at me!

I started laughing and Vince, realizing what I was laughing about said, “Stop it!”

I think somewhere in his commentary after that was something to the effect that I should never tell anyone about it. But I could be remembering that wrong. (Heh. Heh.)

Another thing that made me laugh happened just the other day. I was out with Maggie for her first post-dinner walk. (There are three before she retires for the evening. She’s a high maintenance pooch.)

Anyway, I got as far as two doors down when we bumped into several neighbors. One was walking her two dogs and distributing neighborhood newsletters and the other two were outside being, well, neighborly.

Maggie, as you may have heard before, is relatively high strung – despite our assertion that she has calmed down a bit in recent months. And our neighbor Dave knows just how to rile her up. He calls her name and plays with her and pets her and then gets her to run around all crazy-like…and then he leaves and I get to deal with the aftermath.

Dave’s a fun neighbor, isn’t he?!

In truth, Maggie loves it and he dispels a little of her energy – so that’s a good thing. Right?

Anyway, I was talking to them while desperately maintaining a vice-like grip on Maggie’s leash because, well, she’s a runner. All of a sudden Dave and Barb started laughing and looking at the house in between theirs and mine. Our neighbors Steve and Meg have one of those “Ring” gizmos. Have you heard of these things? They can access the camera on a cell phone and are alerted whenever anyone comes up the driveway.

So, when Suzy dropped off the newsletter at their house, they were alerted that someone was around. And they could see our group on the sidewalk near their driveway.

Steve and Meg, by the way, were in Traverse City.

And, so…from that state Up North, Steve was yelling, “Maggie!!” into his phone – and Maggie was hearing his voice, but had no idea where he was.

So she was one befuddled puppy. I thought it was pretty funny that someone five hours away was getting my dog all barky and confused.

And, no, I don't have an actual photo of a riled up Maggie. Are you kidding? First off, any photo I managed to snap would be a complete blur. But mostly, there is no way I could hold her leash and my phone - and somehow manage to press the button to get a photo. So I'll simply post a picture of our Doggie Dearest looking a little fierce.

These days we have much about which we can be sad or upset. In no way am I dismissing or diminishing those upsetting events that surround us. But the one thing I do know is that we need to find something in life to smile about. 

My dog, my husband and even myself - those things I can laugh about.

And, now, if you'll excuse me, it's time for Maggie's walk. I've lost count which one this is.

Enjoy. And I hope you find something to smile about!  

Thursday, September 28, 2017

I’ve Been a Busy Bee – A Busy Decluttering Bee

It seems as if life has gotten pretty busy lately in Jane’s Domain.

Last week I had to move all the furniture out of the living room so new carpeting could be installed. And then, a mere 24 hours later, I had to move it all back. And, because I’m a little OCD when it comes to furniture and knick-knack placement, I had to do it all myself.

This was an arduous process made bearable by the fact that we now have pretty new carpeting in the living room.

So now we’re hoping the carpet is Maggie proof. And we are also hoping that Twinks-the-hairball-yakking-cat will avoid it, too, but all bets are off because as you may know, you cannot control a cat.

Plus, 4 a.m. seems to be the magic Hairball Hour, and I am not awake at that time to shoo her off the Berber.

Nevertheless, as of today – an entire week after installation – I can happily report that the carpet is still in pristine condition.

Wonder if the “Caution” tape and the homemade barriers I’ve erected that would also come in handy during a zombie apocalypse have helped?

Nah, I’m just kidding. That would’ve been too much work, especially since I’m still in the “sinking my tootsies in the new carpet” stage and don’t want to have to climb over and under and in and around barriers just to reach the carpet myself.

But I will say that we’re watching our critters a whole lot more carefully these days.

I had other extra chores to do as well last week. We were hosting my brothers and sister this past weekend, so I knew I had to tackle the lower level. The bedroom down there has become the catch-all, U-Stor-It room for the past year or so ever since I packed up my parents’ house to sell it.

I had boxes of my parents’ photo albums in that room that I’ve been planning to scan, but have yet to start. I have my mother’s wedding dress in a box that I couldn’t throw away or donate…but I have no idea what to do with it. I had other miscellaneous bric-a-brac from their home collected over some sixty-three years of married life that I couldn’t seem to part with, but have no place to put – so I’ve kept it all in boxes in the bedroom downstairs.

I also had empty boxes and bins for all those things I need to someday clear out and organize. And I had the remnants of a dresser that I will someday refinish and place in my Craft Room that is also currently a storage area but hopes to be an official Craft Room. Someday.

You can imagine, then, the work it took to clear out and clean this bedroom. My brother John was coming along for the family weekend, so I knew I had to have that room ready for his stay. It took hours of hard, sweaty labor, but when I was done, I was relieved and happy with the results.

And then John ended up sleeping on the recliner in the living room in the lower level because he has to sleep with the TV on and there is no TV in the bedroom, a few short feet away.


Fortunately, the weekend went off without a hitch and a good time was had by all. We had mom over and celebrated her birthday. Sure, we were a month early, but (a) mom sadly doesn’t know the difference, and (b) we wanted to celebrate when she had all her children together. I’m sure when October 23rd rolls around I’ll celebrate with her again, but it was nice to have us all together.

Normally, when the family weekend visits are over, I take a day to put my home back to rights and then I zonk out for a day or two. The perfectionist in me spends a LOT of time cleaning and doing what I can to make it a great weekend for all and I’m pretty worn out by the time it’s over.

But I’m happy to report that my decluttering instincts were still in overdrive and I spent the better part of yesterday tackling the dreaded furnace room – or DFR for short.

Vince says anyone who enters that room must be wearing an OSHA-approved hard hat.

Isn’t Vince funny? Oh, soooo funny.

If you ever watched Friends, you may recall that Monica was a neat freak. Her apartment was always impeccably clean and organized. But she had a secret closet. And one day Chandler – who was told never to open that closet door – jimmied the lock. And, inside, was a veritable hoarder’s paradise. It was filled floor-to-ceiling with junk.

That’s how I have felt about my DFR. It’s my shame. It’s my “junk drawer” morphed into an entire room.

And I can’t stand it anymore so it has to go!

So I took those empty bins and boxes and spread them out in the living area in the lower level and waded into the DFR. I started sorting like nobody’s business. I had little sticky notes with headings and I separated and sorted and purged.  I hauled three large garbage bags to the garage. I have boxes ready for the donation center. And I’m starting to see the floor, er, I mean, the light at the end of the tunnel.

I still have hours (days?) to go, but at least I made a good-sized dent in this massive undertaking.

I see several more trips to the donation center in my future. And more trips to the resale shop. I don’t, however, see another garage sale in my immediate future. Two this summer was about two too many!

But unless we’re planning to build a dedicated Bric-a-Brac storage room in this house, I’m going to have to part ways with a few boxes.  Okay a whole lotta boxes!

Because I am NOT filling up the lower level bedroom again – I just finished decluttering in there! did NOT take any "Before" and "After" photos. Someday there may be "After" photos. But not yet.

Friday, September 1, 2017

If I Could Go Back…

I visited my mom yesterday. She had the newspaper on her lap and, for once, she opened it to read beyond the headlines on the front page. But she didn’t really understand what she was reading.

“Who is Harvey,” she asked.

“No, mom,” I said. “Harvey isn’t a ‘who’ – it’s a ‘what,'" I answered. And I explained that it was a devastating hurricane that has affected Texas and other states.

She expressed dismay…for about a half a second.

And then she read the headline again – and, once again, asked me about Harvey.

Sometimes I think she surely must be testing me.  That she really does remember, but she wonders if I’ll give her the same answer every time she asks.

But, sadly, I know mom truly doesn’t remember. That from moment to moment, her grasp on what is happening is fleeting. When she is in her little room in her rocking chair, she can be as comfortable as possible with her situation. But if we take her out of that comfort zone, she is stressed.

And she doesn’t know what is going to happen next. Or what she is supposed to do. And she very desperately does not want to appear to be incapacitated – and that, I think, is what stresses her the most.

I miss my mom. My old mom. The woman who was strong, intelligent, decisive and had an opinion about everything. Some of which I didn’t agree with. Ha. Okay, so there were many opinions mom had that I didn’t agree with. Funny to think that now I miss having those kinds of discussions with her.

And then I wish I could go back. Back to those days when mom would state an emphatic opinion and I’d just roll my eyes and say, “uh, huh…” If I could go back, I’d try to engage with her – and try to have the lively debate she really wanted to have.

Instead, I’d look at them as confrontations instead of discussions and I avoid confrontations like the plague. I’d end up doing whatever I could to get her focused on something else.

“Hey mom – does this hangnail look infected to you?”

Yeah. Like that worked. That mom knew what I was doing. But most of the time she’d let me change the subject anyway.

Mom had this funny habit. She’d state her opinion in the form of a question. She’d say, “I don’t really like the style of her hair – do you?” And then we were left with the option of either agreeing with her – or disagreeing with her. But we knew what answer we were supposed to choose! And if we disagreed, we knew there would be a debate about it until we came over to her side of the aisle. Sometimes, we’d agree with her just so we wouldn’t have the ensuing debate.

That example was a mild one, though. Mom would have strong opinions about everything – including the “heavy” subjects like politics and religion. And she was well-informed. She read books and newspapers and watched the news. So there were very few current events that mom hadn’t heard about.  And there were even fewer subjects she didn’t have a strong opinion about.

Nowadays, devastating hurricanes are beyond her grasp.

I wish I could go back and hear her state an opinion again. About ANYthing. I wish I could go back and cherish even those moments when mom and I disagreed – just because I’d know she was fully engaged in the conversation.

I wouldn’t even use the infected hangnail ruse.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Going Once, Going Twice...SOLD!

Last week Vince and I went to an auction house in Newark, Ohio. Not because we needed anything, but simply because our neighbors were going and we thought it would be fun to tag along after them. It was Vince’s day off and, besides, we had nothing better to do.

Well, that’s not entirely true. We could easily have spent the day doing long-neglected chores around the house. Like painting the trim around the garage. Or cleaning the grout in the shower.

As those particular chores held less than zero appeal on a sunny Tuesday morning, we hopped in the car and headed to Newark.  Besides, I wanted to hear an auctioneer talk really, really fast.

I’ve never actually been to an auction, so I pictured the auctioneer on a raised platform standing in front of a podium with the crowd below in organized rows so the auctioneer could see who was bidding.

Ha. People just hover around the auctioneer and whatever it is he’s selling and somehow or other he knows who is bidding. There is no podium, no gavel, no raised platform.

Me? I had no clue what was going on.

By the time we arrived, our neighbors had already purchased several boxes of junk, er, treasures.  They only cost a few bucks each, so it’s not like anyone’s bank was getting broken. But what I didn’t know is that even if you only want one particular thing in a box, you have to bid on the whole box.

Holy heck – I’m tryin’ to get RID of clutter around my house – not add to it! And I just had a garage sale a couple months ago that I still haven’t gotten over yet. (For your information, it takes approximately one year, eleven months and sixteen days to get over having a garage sale before considering having another one.)

So I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be bidding on any boxes of stuff.

On the other hand, it was kind of fun walking the aisles and looking in all those boxes filled with trinkets and toys and housewares that once was treasured by someone. There was a box of copper kitchen tools that attracted Vince – but it was on the very far wall, which meant that the auctioneer wouldn’t get to that aisle for several hours. Plus, I have no more room in my kitchen cabinets or drawers for one more stinkin’ colander or ladle.

I’d be bringing boxes of junk, er, treasures back to the auction house just so we could get into the kitchen.

They also have several auctioneers working at the same time – something else I didn’t know.  So Vince and I wandered outside where outdoor goods were being auctioned – flower pots and garden decorations and the like.

While I was standing there I realized, “This is SO not me!” I’m much more deliberate in my thinking about the things I want. I have to consider where I’m putting it and why I would even want such a thing.  I have to consider how much I’d be willing to spend and if it would be a good addition to our home.

At auctions, deliberate thinking goes completely out the window. You have to make snap decisions. Plus, I couldn’t tell who was bidding and how much things were going for. By the time I decided that, yeah, I would be willing to pay $15 for something that – new – would cost me at least $100, the item was sold and they were three items down the line by then.


I knew that if I ever tried to bid on anything, I’d probably start bidding against myself. So I decided to step away from the auctioneer.

I did, however, tell Vince that there were a couple ceramic pots that I might like. But I was leaving the wheeling and dealing up to him.

And it was right about this time that I felt something crawling along my shoulder inside my top. That is NOT a good feeling. Ever. So I lifted up the neckline of my shirt – and saw a wasp. There was a freakin’ WASP inside my shirt!

So I screeched and with much flapping and flailing of arms and swatting at the thing, I practically tore my shirt off in order to get the wasp out.

And, yes, I made quite a spectacle of myself – but I didn’t care. And, surprisingly, I didn’t get stung.

I was a little surprised, however, that the auctioneer didn't take all that arm flapping as me bidding. I'd have won the tacky garden gnome for sure. 

It was just about this time that I decided that auctions were not my thing, so I headed back inside to wander the aisles to see if there was anything I’d missed. In truth, I was really trying to avoid further interactions with stinging insects. And I was sort of hoping to avoid making a further spectacle of myself.

By the time I walked back outside to see the action, Vince told me he’d bid on (and won) several items, including a very pretty mint/teal green ceramic pot.

I was thrilled with it because I could just picture it in our kitchen. We have a plant that has outgrown its current pot that would fit in it perfectly.

And he spent less than 20 bucks all told – so that was a “win” in my book!

So, while I had fun at my first auction, I’m probably not anxious to go back to another one. Too stressful. Both the bidding thing – and the potentially stinging insect thing.

Maybe next time I’ll tell you about the other auction I attended recently – the art auction on the cruise ship (completely different than a household goods auction).  All I’ll tell you now is that Vince wasn’t there to protect me. It was not good that he left me to my own devices.

But at least there weren’t any wasps.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Just Breathe.

My Apple watch harasses me about breathing. I’m serious. Like who needs a piece of technology reminding us to breathe, for crying out loud? But it does. It buzzes on my wrist constantly. Tells me to stand up, too. What? Like I’m not standing enough during the day?

Nag, nag, nag, Apple Watch.

But okay.

So the other day I decided to follow the directions on the thing and truly stopped and focused on my breath. I breathed in and out slowly several times. I concentrated on filling my lungs with air, which I realized I don’t do very often. I’m more of a shallow breather. And I even tried to ignore – for just a moment – all the “I have to’s” and “I need to’s” that constantly invade my thoughts.

And I realized something.

I rarely take the time to let the ever-present chatter in life stop for a moment. I’m constantly checking my cell phone or looking at my tablet. I’m making appointments and I’m busily writing out “To Do” lists and check-marking items off those lists. Even worse, there are many times I feel like I should be doing the things that would allow me to cross tasks off my list but instead I’m contemplating taking a nap.

And even if I don’t take a nap, I often don’t get into that task because it’s a monumental one that is surely going to take longer than, say, writing a quick check to pay my mother’s monthly pharmacy bill.

But then NOT crossing off those items causes me more stress as I have to add even more tasks to the list the next day.

I mean – how am I supposed to breathe in and out slowly  when I have to deal with a small dog who has the bladder the size of a thimble, and who requires a walk about every 20 minutes on average? Frankly, I think she has bamboozled me and really just wants another shot at those infernal squirrels who taunt her through the windows as they scamper about in Maggie’s Territory.

Then one day last week I went to the community pool with a friend to enjoy the sunshine and float around in the lazy river. I haven’t been to a community pool in years and I’ve never relaxed in a float on a lazy river before. Up until recently, I didn’t even know lazy rivers existed.

Believe me, it was pure heaven!

I mean, the sun was blazing and there was a scattering of fluffy, white clouds in the sky. The temperature was hovering somewhere in the upper 80s. So floating in the cool water was just plain bliss.

I leaned my head back and looked up. And I mean I really looked up and noticed the clouds. And, in between applications of 70 sunblock at what seemed like three minute intervals, I watched the clouds roll by. I don’t think I’ve done that since I was a kid lying back in the grass without a care in the world.

I was so much happier than if I’d been home sweating in the hot sun pulling weeds.

Oh, who am I kidding? I would never be home sweating in the hot sun pulling weeds. That’s why we hired a lawn care guy.

But, sadly, the lawn care guy has been AWOL recently and the weeds in our garden had pretty much taken over the flower beds – until Vince finally went out there the other day and pulled weeds.

Which made me feel guilty for floating around in a lazy river the day before.

And which made me breathe shallowly – until my watch told me to take a moment and breathe.  

Yeesh. I guess I DO need a piece of technology telling me what to do!

Nevertheless, the whole experience was a real awakening. As adults, we rarely take the time to just “be.” To float and watch the clouds roll by. We seem to have to fill every waking moment with activity and purpose. And we miss a lot of the wonder of how it felt when we were kids.

If you ask me to remember my childhood – I do. I remember climbing trees, riding bikes and jumping on pogo sticks (something I haven’t seen in decades. They probably have safety harnesses on them now…). I remember whispering secrets to my best friend and checking out stacks of books from the library in anticipation of discovering new characters and new experiences far beyond my little life in Alliance, Ohio. And I remember writing in my diary every night (and hiding it in new and innovative places so my brother John wouldn’t find it).  

But I have to think harder to remember how absolutely carefree I was and would somersault down the entire front lawn – just because I could. Or the first time I was able to turn the perfect cartwheel. Or when my parents trusted me enough in the kitchen to bake that first batch of non-burnt brownies for my family.

And I can even remember how amazing it felt when I was able to tie my own shoes for the first time. I was either four or five – I can’t remember exactly which - but I can remember being out with the neighborhood kids and looking down and seeing that my shoelace was untied. I remember the feeling of desperation because my parents weren’t around to do the tying – and then the feeling of victory once I finally got it tied all by myself.

I immediately forgot about my friends and the activities we were doing. Instead, I ran all the way home just so I could tell my mom that I learned how to tie my own shoe.

I forgot how wonderful it felt to be alive and to be able to do the simplest things. Like watch the clouds roll by and contemplate how little we are in this great big world.

So maybe we should forget for a minute the political strife that constantly plagues us and the Facebook fights that fill our feeds. Maybe we should put down our “To Do” lists and let go of the “I have to’s” and “I need to’s” (for a moment) - and, instead, take a moment to just breathe.

Ahh. Bliss.

So you can stop nagging me, Apple Watch. I get it.

(And thank you.)

Monday, July 10, 2017

The True Tale of the Lousy Lasagna

In my defense, my lasagna didn't look THIS bad.
It is a well-known fact in the world of Jane’s Domain that I’m not much of a cook. I’m more of a “side dish to the party” kinda person. And if you need a homemade dip and a box of crackers, I’m your go-to gal.

But meal-making is not my forte.

Usually there is one dish even non-Marthas or Giadas can make. Non-cooks call the dish their “specialty” and will make this dish whenever they are called upon to cook for people.

I, too, have one of those dishes. My “specialty” is lasagna.

Or – at least – it was.

True, my lasagna will never win any awards. I use store-bought sauce and I haven’t yet mastered the art of mixing egg and ricotta to any sort of useful consistency. So I use shredded mozzarella – lots of shredded mozzarella.

Thus, I have never made lasagna for anyone of true Italian descent. They would scoff and turn up their nose at my lasagna and might even say a bad word in Italian.

Well, I have two words for you mean Italian people: Chef Boyardee.

My lasagna is better than his. That’s all I’m saying. Now stop gesturing at me.

But my dad used to tell me he loved my lasagna. He used to request that I make it whenever he and my mom visited. And he used to rave that it was better than any lasagna he ordered in real Italian restaurants.

And, okay, so my dad was Polish. What did he know? Plus, maybe he just didn’t like going out to restaurants every time they visited and he was humoring me.

Nevertheless, I was thrilled that I actually made some food that someone in my family considered a favorite.

So I’ve made lasagna over the years a LOT. About a month ago I even made a small pan of it for some neighbors who were sick and the “chefs” in the neighborhood (I loosely added myself to that group), took turns making them a hot meal.

My lasagna looked and smelled heavenly. I can only assume it tasted as good as it smelled as I thought it would be a little rude to cut a big square out of it to sample beforehand.

So, since I hadn’t had any of that lasagna and I hadn’t made it for us in a long while, I decided to make a large pan for dinner last week. Vince’s son-in-law, Dan, has been staying with us while he is doing a rotation at OSU hospital on his way to earning his MD. So his days are long and start somewhere around 5 am.

Which, in my opinion, is a preposterous hour to have to start one’s day.

I figured I would make a pan of lasagna so he could have something hot to eat for dinner. And it could easily be warmed up later for Vince when he finally arrived home from work.

Since the advent of lasagna noodles that don’t require boiling beforehand, making lasagna isn’t as arduous a process as it once was. When I bought the noodles this time, I found a cheaper package at the store and picked it up.

In retrospect, this was perhaps my first mistake. I didn’t think the type or manufacturer of lasagna noodle would matter so much. But apparently it does.

And I also didn’t buy enough mozzarella since I thought I had a partial package at home.

Not so much.

Those two errors were my lasagna downfall. It was horrible. It was dry. And okay, so I admit it – it was basically inedible.

But Dan struggled through his plate of lasagna. And to his credit he didn’t make gagging noises or anything.

So I didn’t even know how bad it was until later when I had my own square of lasagna with Vince.

I was horrified! I mean, I was serving inedible food to our house guest. And he didn’t even know the difference – it’s not like he’s ever had my lasagna before so he would know that this time was a fluke.

So now someone else thinks I’m a lousy cook.

I tried to eat another square of the lasagna the next day for lunch, but took one bite and put my fork down. And then I got up and proceeded to toss the entire rest of the pan into the garbage.

And Vince didn’t even protest over the waste – that’s how bad the lasagna was!

Now my confidence is shaken and I’m afraid I no longer have a go-to dish.

You know – maybe I’ve given short shrift to ol’ Chef Boyardee. Maybe his lasagna isn’t as bad as I remember.

And let’s just hope all my neighbors stay healthy for a while. Unless they’re okay with eating homemade dip and crackers through their convalescence?