Seeing Red

Knowing Mom’s penchant for little things that were sentimental and greeting cards for all occasions, I decided that particular year I would send her a larger than life Valentine; actually, a door hanger for the folks’ front door.

I was taking a craft class.  This was going to be my big treat to myself at this time.  Though I didn’t care too much for sewing, I figured I could still pick up some basics.  I had always loved fabrics and envied the women who could spend hours at the sewing machine, fashioning something pretty for the home.  My perfectionist tendency had taken any possible enjoyment away years ago, so I rarely sat down at my Singer, knowing full well that I didn’t have the “laissez faire” attitude to just sew and not want to rip out each imperfect seam.

I purchased a yard of two Valentine shapes meant to be used for one heart-shaped pillow.  The design was similar to Pennsylvania Dutch, with red/pink tulips emblazoned on the heart.  Being the close-to-the-ribs frog I could be, I’d stretch the two pillow fronts into two heart hangings by using cardboard backing, some stuffing, lace trim and a stapler. AHA!  Cheaper by the pair; and within my household budget! So far, so good…

I worked on the Valentine Door hanger and, surprisingly, even the teacher thought it was rather clever!  I had completely circumvented the requisite sewing by using glue and staples; but even she had to admit the effect was overall holiday festive and perfectly suitable for a front porch door hanger.  I managed to finish the first one in time to mail down the completed heart for Mom’s enjoyment well before Valentine’s Day!

I could hardly wait until I would get Mom’s call.  In the meantime, I worked on my own, completing the lace trimming and hanging it up on our front door.  Success!   I could see it fairly clearly from across the street.  Mom is going to love this, I thought!  Imagine our both having matching Valentines on our front doors, emitting the welcoming love and hospitality that was so a part of our nature!  How neat was that!  Like my mother, I could get excited over little things.

Mine had been hanging up and in clear view of the neighbors who drove up our cul-de-sac for a few days before I received Mom’s thank you phone call.  Funny, but she was laughing as she tried to explain what had occurred the first day she hung it on the age-old nail above the glass window of the old door on Rubberneck.

What is so funny???

Mom tried to be subtle, but there was a slight problem.

Didn’t the heart look cute?  Had it arrived safely?  Was it OK?

Mom then contained her laughter and explained:  Daddy had driven up the driveway, walked up the steps, and seeing the oversize Heart in all its pink and red glory, had immediately determined that it looked like a target and would attract too much attention to our front porch, so he immediately insisted that she remove it!

Looked like a WHAT?

Apparently, Daddy didn’t want our home to attract any type of attention! The sixties may have been over with, but the seventies were just as screwy in his mind; and this was the Bay Area, not the North Valley.

The Valentine message that the hanging was to impart for the upcoming holiday was completely lost on my father.  Like this was a big surprise; I had watched this man over the years, one of many who waited until the last minute to buy “the wife” a Valentine.  He was always shopping late, when the selection was picked over and the dregs standing in the allotted card section were all that was left.  He was really very lucky Mom hadn’t hit him in the head with her large cast iron fry pan the year he came home with a Mahogany Valentine to My Wife that was meant for women with more melatonin…

Like I said, Daddy wasn’t exactly tuned in to the Hallmark thing.  But I was irate!  Certainly, the times were very different from the original Rubberneck years.  But a homemade Valentine as a target?  Yes, I’d been away from the Bay area for a few years, but give me a break!!!  Just who was Daddy listening to these days besides a few talk radio hosts and the local boulevard merchants?

Mom and I could not stop laughing at this current impasse.  No matter how we tried to see Daddy’s concern for the social behavioral changes that were occurring in the old neighborhood, neither of us could meet him halfway! Even with the most creative, out of the box thinking, I could not reeducate myself that my hand-made Valentine would be subjecting the family home to a dangerous encounter from a sniper or mugger or whomever Daddy feared might impede the relative safety of the old guard still living on the block.

How he had made the jump from the occasional stolen hubcaps or robbery of the corner liquor store to a current rash of cruising criminals looking for marked front doors with Valentine Hearts in the porch entry was beyond my comprehension!

I went down to visit over the years and, when the occasion was timely, I’d dig out the heart-shaped door décor from the bedroom closet, and then personally hang it on the front door.

Daddy didn’t like it, but he was outnumbered by the women of the house – even those of us who lived one hundred eighty miles away were now “three times seven”; we knew now to exercise our vote when necessary…

Growing Wiser

By January 6th, our tree was hanging on for dear life.  We never put it in a bucket of water. It stood on its own wooden stand on top of the marble and cherry Victorian table.  The silver tips were very brittle and drooping long before the Feast of the Epiphany arrived.

Time to put away the gifts that were still displayed under the table’s cabriole legs.  Normally, anything red or pink was mine.  I had the dark hair and brown eyes.  Brat had blue eyes, so everything blue was hers.  Apparently, this formula had been set into practice years before; I never believed there was any breaking it ever until the year our neighbor bought us matching yellow sweaters. WOW! What a treat not to open a package and see red.  Imagine: Yellow! At Christmas time! Who’d have thought it?

I was absolutely delighted! Wearing the same sweater as Brat was bearable, as we had worn matching outfits before.  In a past Christmas photo, we girls were dressed in a matching plaid and pleated skirt and blouse sets; we posed in front of the table legs with our two giant dolls from family friends who had decided to spoil us! The dolls were really big, almost as tall as we!  Obviously, we were very impressed.

Unfortunately, we were not quite as enamored of the blackboards that Mommy and Daddy had given us.  They sat untouched for the first few weeks; the only time we’d touched them was to move them with the rest of the new stuff into our bedroom.  A couple of weeks after that, Mommy observed that we were not paying any attention to the boards at all.  They leaned against the wall, their slates still perfectly clean.

Mommy announced in her very parental voice that if we were not going to play with them then she might as well give them away to little children who had nothing to play with and would appreciate having a new toy for Christmas.


The message comprehended, we immediately set about, drawing and writing and coloring in our designs on the two boards.  We didn’t even have colored chalk, but we learned to shade and texture the farm animals, dinosaurs, and other things we drew.  Over the year, we entertained ourselves quite a bit at the blackboards, slowly realizing that black boards weren’t too bad a plaything after all; they did indeed offer lots of fun!

Nothing like a good parental threat to encourage that creative urge…

We Had a Thing for Guy

The folks prided themselves on knowing what good music was; they each had strong musical ability. My dad had sung in a barbershop quartet, competed, and won a chance to sing professionally.  He’d have traveled the country via the Orpheum Circuit – had one of their guys not turned chicken, gone into hiding, then appear only after the contract opportunity had expired.  Mom used to say that the guys had a beautiful blend; and how sad it was that no recordings existed of their performances.

Consequently, music in our home was defined as the good kind, which meant that every Saturday we watched Lawrence Welk and every year without fail, we tuned in to the one and only Mr. New Year himself, Guy Lombardo, televising live from New York, with His Royal Canadians, leading the crowd in celebration on New Year’s Eve.

Before Dick Clark, Guy Lombardo was the musical host that America liked to watch.  His manner was friendly, tempered and refined; old tapes from his earlier celebrations exist on the net.  I watched and remembered just how warm and welcome he made you feel…almost as though he was actually inviting us to sing along with him!  He did invite the viewers at home repeatedly, to sing and enjoy the popular band tunes.  Some of the ones that I remember were Red Sails in the Sunset, Always, Sioux City Sue, and Harbor Lights, one of Mom’s very favorites.  Mom’s voice was soft but her memory was like a trap.  The words flowed along with the memories.  Brat and I sang along, since we knew most of the songs, having been brought up on the top ten tunes from 1900 on!!!  Obviously, I Want to Hold Your Hand was not among the approved collection.

Brat and I would watch the couples, dressed in their finest party attire, ballroom dancing at the Waldorf-Astoria, singing along to the music and wearing funny hats.  My entire concept of New York was of this celebratory spirit that permeated our West Coast home each year on this Eve.   I really loved my window into the East Coast’s elite; the gaiety of what I thought was exclusively from high society proved not to be totally accurate.  A good many attendees were middle class, just living and loving and welcoming another year of only the best that American Life promised!

Of course, Daddy was already asleep, so we girls stayed up with Mom every year to welcome in the New Year.  We struggled to stay awake because we knew that Mom would bring out the fancy little aperitif glasses and let us have a taste of sherry once midnight arrived.  Always, about five minutes before, she’d awaken Daddy so he could join us in the living room, click our little aperitifs, and wish each other a Happy New Year with a kiss on the cheek.  Of course, Mom had to tell Daddy just how beautiful the music had been that evening, relating all the tunes we’d heard.  Daddy managed to stay up long enough to appease Mom, then walk off promptly back to bed.

It took us longer to sip our little bit of sherry; we were not really into the taste of liquor at so young an age; it was just part of the family ritual.   Staying up was harder than we wanted to admit, and ultimately, we’d fold up a few minutes right after Daddy.

But not before we’d heard the last refrain of Auld Lang Syne and Guy’s thanking us for joining him once again to welcome in another year…

It was our pleasure.

Seeing Through the Frost

So, I walk within my garden; it is cold; and I am chilled!

I’ve still earth, but seek a memory of the birds’ last summer trill.

I’ve an old tree standing there.  Will I once more see it leaf?

The surrounding ground seems spent; I am filled with winter’s grief.


I suppose should I just wander past, and clean the pathways here,

I could wake one morn to Spring!   The sun would melt away my fear.

You have left me but a plot of land.  What have I to gain from toil?

It’s then I grasp your guiding words:   what I sow will grace the soil!




24-7 Entrepreneurial Bliss

Less any reader be misled, I truly do understand that the term 24-7 was originally coined to advertise a business or service entity’s round the clock availability to its clientele.

As a public service to other working-at-home wives, allow me to clarify for the men in our lives the normal signs of a female telecommuter after two days into her workday week.  Ladies, whether you accidentally print this snippet and place it in the bathroom library or decide to tape it onto the inside lid of the butter keeper is entirely your choosing.

This past year, I’ve struggled weekly to effectively communicate to My Rogue just what my scheduled work week is.  Granted, I call my own breaks now and then, but I still operate on a daily routine.  My original 1.3 mile commute may have ended, but in my perspective, the few steps from bedside to desk still qualify as a legitimate, gear-switching beginning of another workday, worthy of respectful quiet and even a modicum of awe for the self-motivation repeatedly displayed by one’s hardworking spouse!  But I digress…

Of COURSE I can pursue my freelance writing assignments in between the political banter and the occasional commercial blasts, Honey… it’s okay: keep the radio at Volume 12. I’ll just work around it; should my I phone ring, I can run over to the master bath, shut the pocket door and run the fan if I have to so I can hear my caller…

Who would have thought that sitting at one’s desk would imply one is focused on the task at hand? I sit at my desk and, truth be told, I don’t always type.  Sometimes I pause, waiting for the right word to come.  Sometimes the pause turns into a minute or two while the wheels slowly conjure up the desired adjective; sometimes the word never appears.   Okay, okay, so I’m just not moving, and neither are the piles of paper, but I AM still thinking…

This is not a sign that I am bored or in a stupor; nor does it suggest that I am available to look up the landscaper’s’ phone number; the same number that we should have written down in our address book several years ago when we first hired him; the very same one I look up every time and we fail to record because our address book is never on the same floor that we are.

More coffee? NO PROBLEMO; a second pot of coffee coming right up, Honey!  I used to brew a new pot mid-morning in the office; why should I consider it any trouble now? Especially when you can’t put the book down until you know who the killer was…  You know I’ve never been a feminist… (but I’m beginning to reconsider some of the finer points).

What was once the quintessential “home desk” with all the pretty keepsakes displayed like in Sunset is now completely covered with post its, stacks of incoming baskets, memos, dr. appointment cards and notes, and a few grocery ads… Like the meeting of the intercontinental railroad, the final spike connecting this woman’s prioritized tasks has been hammered securely! Home and work now collide daily on my same track. I’m wheeling and dealing the intermingling of moneyed tasks with un-moneyed tasks and piles of unfinished tasks.  WHAT paperless society???

No dear, I’m not going anywhere right now; just looking for something…

I’ve decided to take a break – I set the timer for ten minutes – should be enough time to find that old dental guard of mine if I can remember what drawer I stored it in… it can’t be lost; I paid four hundred dollars for that thing in 1985… no way would I toss that thing away; used to wear it to protect my teeth from grinding at night… THERE it is! Wonder if these things work during daylight hours?

After a 90 minute lunch break (half the time will be spent meal planning, using every little bit of leftovers in an effort to prepare something edible and enticing for us both), I’ll go back up stairs and begin again, but not before I decide to take another supplement or two to keep my energy up through the afternoon.  Drat.  The last multiple vitamin; will need to add this item to the grocery list. I return to my desk, find a pen but can’t find the list I began yesterday…could have sworn I filed it with the coupons…

I realize then that it is suddenly quiet.  The radio has been turned off.  I can hear a soft snoring coming from the bedroom.  He isn’t reading. He is napping.

Sounds like a plan…

Promises Kept

‘Twas the evening of Christmas and all through the day

We’d celebrated His Birth in a quiet sort of way.

Our dinner was good, simple fare like in past;

The kind that feeds comforting memories that last.


The neighbors were busy, the sunshine was bright!

We sat toasting our blessings in Vitamin D light.

Visions of past Christmases awakened our hearts;

Trips, paw prints, gifts and a few toys and carts


All add up to blessings that from near and far,

Travel over the rivers in brown wrap and jars,

Bringing sweet, sugarplum moments and smiles of cheer.

Promising love, laughs and music come same time next year!

Sweep It and They Will Come

I have always been grateful that my Rogue is so wonderful a partner when we host company at our home.  Especially in the first few years, I could count on him to help set up the last minute glassware and bar, slice the bread, make sure the table was cleaned and picked up, ready for hungry guests.  He always preferred smaller groups and eating in the kitchen, but would accommodate my wishes to have a more formal setting in our dining room if I so wished.

As we have grown together in this partnership of hospitality, I’ve noticed that some things are no longer as important with him as they remain with me.  I am very detailed in my plans, so from the time the initial invite goes out, I have already amassed lists of menus, settings, decorating or seasonal items needed, you name it – it is on there; even numbering the last minute details to make sure that I plate things that morning, cover and wrap, yet still allow enough time to get upstairs one last time to check my natural look…pun intended.

So I must admit I am rather mystified at his choice of priorities in preparing for two recent events: the first, our placing our home up for sale; the second, a small Christmas gathering of very special friends.

Even with some help with housekeeping, I still go over the cabinets, wiping down counters and door fronts from recent sauce and coffee batches (does anyone remember when carafes used to pour correctly into the cups without dripping?)…on to stuffing excess paperwork in the armoire, any drawers that are handy, moving from one room to another essentially picking up any signs of life that would spoil the perceived perfectly lived-in mystique.

My Rogue wanted to know if he could help (he can sense my anxiety from the next room).

Sure, Honey.  I have something for you to do. How about (fill in the blank)

No, that can wait…think I’ll sweep the garage. (Exit stage left)

Wha…sweep the garage??? You’ve GOT to be kidding!!! I’ve still got the…

Are you kidding me?  We have to make our home look like… (Exit stage right)

For the past year, sweeping the garage has been his preferred task of choice. My response has been near-stuttering shock and awe of a variety of salty, sassy rants…women, use your imagination; men, see * below.

In my mind, I have the garage and one bedroom I can tear up and shut the door; we are moving and packing, right? Why shouldn’t I have at least one area a bit messed up or, pardon the expression, lived in

Putting a home on the market is easy enough.  Maintaining your daily routine as you exemplify the perfected lifestyle and ease of upkeep – a basket in every place to hide the mail, a tray perfectly arranged with daily needs, i.e. mouthwash, hairspray, liquid soap dispenser – each item turned just so for the total picture perfect ambience of living in said space –  is quite another.

No.  His priority is to sweep the garage, most recently, right before our entertaining some very special friends one recent weekend in our Christmas-decorated home.  I had spent the last three weeks, staging the decorations and lighting for just the right effects; making sure my little whimsical touches would delight visitors of any age. I was pooped, but I was extremely pleased with the results. To be perfectly honest, I was more than pooped…I was exhausted!

*Apparently, three men that happened to be close by at the time my ranting was still in full mode (I don’t run down too quickly), happily clarified this particular, male phenomenon.  Three of three all agreed:  yep, that’s what they’d do if company were coming; sweep the garage.  Each completely understood this nest feathering exercise of their male species.

The strain is too much…I’m beating the clock to finish the appetizers and set out the plates, make sure the candles are lit just before I run up, use mouthwash and redo my lipstick, and my Rogue is sitting downstairs, reading his latest magazine; the garage has been swept and all is well with the world… (Doorbell rings; Curtain up)