“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”?

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‘Not so fast, Facebook Friends. Not so fast.’

I was all ready to write an amusing Memory Lane type tale about my first Real Summer Job (the kind that did not involve babysitting, but did involve the procurement of a Social Security Card), when I saw this on Facebook:

Posted on June 25. Exactly six months before Christmas. I get it, I get it. But I don’t want to play, OK?

So, excuse me, but the First Real Job at the Carlyle Union Banner story will just have to wait. Because (speaking of waiting) I plan to wait till at least after Thanksgiving to begin my own Countdown to Christmas. A “countdown” that will be “brutish and short”, if not “nasty” (sorry, Thomas Hobbes).

Those of you who have read my rants (er, pieces) for a while know that Thanksgiving — not Christmas — is my absolute A-Number-One Favorite Holiday. Christmas, with its obligatory gift-and-tip-giving and endless trapped-in-an-elevator playings of “Little Drummer Boy” doesn’t even come close. (For an amusing and non-crabby recounting of Five Big Ways Christmas can’t hold even a red cinnamon-scented candle to Thanksgiving, just click here.)

‘Little Children Forced to Greet Benevolent Uncles dressed as Scary Santas’ isn’t on my list, but probably should be

The other reason I’m not even close to being ready for a Countdown to Christmas is that I haven’t even begun my Countdown to the Fourth yet. And the Fourth of July is coming up this very next weekend. So I’d better get a wiggle on, as they say where I come from.

A former Christmas Tree. No filter, no decorations. Best of all, no snow

Yes, I’m planning a Fourth of July celebration. The Fourth is the Birthday of Our Nation, after all. Besides, planning for the Fourth is a firecrackery snap. We open our doors to a Girl Gang of The Child’s TwentySomething friends, and basically just stay out of their way.

Oh, there are menus to plan and food to buy. Which can get a bit tricky, being as how this Girl Gang is, shall we say, “health-conscious”. I have some who are fish-but-no-meat, others who are not-even-fish, and some, including The Child Herself, who is “off carbs”. Imagine the fun at the traditional Fourth Cookout of burgers and dogs. Half will eat the burgers but not the buns. And the other half? Well, I sure hope they like buns.

Holiday Shopping, Fourth of July edition. At least I don’t have to wrap any of this stuff

But hey. There are no decorations, no gifts (unless the TwentySomethings want to bring me a bottle or two of wine — hint hint), and no snow (unless you count the drifts of pollen covering every surface these days — bring your Zyrtec, Girls).

You won’t even have to pose for Holiday Photos wearing scratchy new clothes. In fact, clothes — except for a teeshirt thrown over a bathing suit — aren’t even required.

In fact, my idea of “dressing for dinner” on Fourth of July Weekend (or any summer weekend, for that matter) is to change from the shredded “everyday” cutoffs to the relatively-intact “dressy” cutoffs.

Actual summertime lap in Real Time (like this very minute), displaying actual Everyday Cutoffs

So. If you guessed that I haven’t given serious thought to beginning my Countdown to Christmas (sorry, Hallmark Folks and FB Friend Jayne), you’ve guessed right. But I do, in fact, need to get that wiggle on already with my Countdown to the Fourth. See you next week — on July 4, in fact, otherwise known as Blog Day (er, Tuesday).

Excuse me while I get crackin’ on my Countdown to the Fourth

Amagansett, New York. June 2017

“Yet’s go to Ye Yake”

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‘Gosh. Illinois’ largest lake has been around for 50 years’

Now before you Whippersnappers out there start in with “Hey, isn’t Lake Michigan Illinois’ largest lake?” Or even “What’s so all-fired old about 50 years? There are lakes (see afore-mentioned Lake Michigan) that have been around for, like, a zillion years,” let me point out that Carlyle Lake (or if you’re feeling fancy “Lake Carlyle”) is the largest lake within the borders of Illinois, and that it’s a man-made lake that’s been around since 1967. So there.

This picture from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch shows the Carlyle Lake dam and spillway in all its glory. Nice stats, too, if that floats your boat

Carlyle Lake is also the only lake named after my personal home town, Carlyle, Illinois. But I’m not going to get into Fun Lake Facts. My mission here is to entertain. And so, actually, was (and is) the Lake’s. Oh, there was some serious flood-control going on. But for my family and friends, The Lake was really all about fun and games. Continue reading

What’s that in the road — a head?

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‘On Swedes and their noggins’

Last week, in ‘Close, but no cigarette’, I wrote about malapropisms. You know, like when someone warns about ‘upsetting the apple tart’ or says they put too much ‘canine pepper’ in the soup. (Thanks for that one, Ruth!) Infamous Chicago Mayor Richard Daley once mentioned ‘Alcoholics Unanimous’ in a speech. And, of course, Donald wants our nuclear weapons to be ‘top of the pack’.

This week, I’m going to write about Swedes and their heads, a subject dear to my heart, since I am in possession of a classic example. But first, speaking of heads, did you ‘get’ the title? ‘What’s that in the road — a head?’

When I was a kid, our mother would regale us with stuff like this all the time. Like, she would say (or sing, actually) ‘She has freckles on her but…she is nice’ (with extra dramatic flourish on that word ‘but’) and we kids would absolutely crack up. There’s nothing like the word ‘but’, with or without that extra ‘t’, to make a little kid weep with laughter. Incidentally, the next verse was ‘and when I’m in her arms, it’s paradise’. Continue reading

What in heaven’s name do kids do at Atheist Camp?

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‘Well, you can bet they don’t sing Kumbaya

After last week’s story about The Dude and The Child and Gary the J, I promised to stay away from stories involving politics. So, instead, here’s a story involving religion.

It’s about the time(s) The Child went to Atheist Camp.

First, let me say something about camp. When I was a kid in the Midwest there were two kinds: Church Camp and Scout (specifically, Boy-or-Girl-Scout) Camp. I’ve learned from my Northeastern friends that they had their own two kinds: Day Camp and Sleepaway Camp.

A third kind of camp: 'ing' We did a lot of this when I was growing up

A third kind of camp. With an ‘ing’ on the end. We did a lot of this kind when I was growing up

These days, of course, there are all kinds of camps, Math Camp and Music Camp being just two I can think of. There’s even Computer Camp. Wait. Isn’t there a danger of getting S’mores on your keyboard? But I digress.

Anyway, this atheist camp was (and is; I looked it up, and it’s still going strong) called Camp Quest. The name ‘Quest’, I learned from its Wikipedia entry, is actually an acronym for ‘Question, Understand, Explore, Search, Test’. Hmmmm. Like ‘LOL’ is ‘Lots O Love’. Continue reading

The House Guest Hall of Fame

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‘I hope you had a really really good time’

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of an extra room must be in want of a house guest. (Sorry, Jane Austen.)

When I told The Child about my plan to write a post about house guests (both the really great ones and the really, um, not-so-great ones), she was concerned.

‘Mom! What if one of the Not-So-Great Guests reads your post and sees that you’re writing about him (or her)!’ And I’m like ‘So? Maybe he or she would benefit from being thusly outed. And besides, I don’t think any of them even reads my blog.’ (Another reason they find themselves in the Not-So-Great File).

But then, just the other day, when I was thinking of writing a post featuring a television appearance by Yours Truly in a documentary that appeared on British TV back in the 90’s called ‘Skyscraper’. (I know, I know. You’re very excited and impressed.) I was nervous about appearing, well, self-aggrandizing, and the self-same Child said, ‘Hey. It’s your blog. You can write about whatever you want.’ Continue reading

The days are long, but the season is short

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‘Childhood and Summer. Both over way too soon.’

Some wit on Facebook said the other day that September was kind of like one big ole Monday. Well, I totally get that. Places to go, people to see, work to do, school to go back to.

But, hey. If September is Monday, then isn’t August Sunday Night? You know what I mean. Summer starts out so full of possibilities and then all of a sudden it’s August, and you’re filled with regret over all the stuff you didn’t have time for. That New Thing you were going to learn (yes, I mean you, bridge.) That project you were going to finish (the Christmas pillow I’ve been needle-pointing my entire adult life). That book you were going to write (or just, um, read).

If August were a book, it would be this one

If August were a book, it would be this one

When it comes right down to it, that unused paddle board in the basement isn’t so different, really, from that pile of math homework that used to confront you accusingly on the dining room table while ‘Sixty Minutes’ ticked away in the living room.

What makes things even worse is when you realize that you actually had the time to do all these things, but just didn’t get around to them — because, well, summer is so long, and you have plenty of time. Continue reading

Something everybody but me knows how to do

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‘And what happened the one time I tried to do it’

I grew up in The Midwest, where people drive. A lot. I can remember all seven of us piling in the station wagon and making the more-than-six-hours drive up to my Gramma Peterson’s and back — for the weekend.

So yes, I know how to drive. I can handle not only one but two stick-shift cars (’91 Honda and ’98 Toyota, if you’re curious). And I have my motorcycle license, besides.

But — embarrassing though it is for me to admit — I never learned how to pump gas.

See, when I was growing up, there were people at the gas stations whose job it was to pump your gas. They also checked your oil and washed your windows. While wearing snappy uniforms. Seriously! Here, if you find this hard to believe, is a TV commercial from the Sixties that now, darn it, I can’t get out of my head:  Continue reading