A pearl among women

Mom died.

She’d had a fairly unremarkable elective surgery earlier in the week.  I talked to her the next day.  She sounded great, optimistic even.  And the next thing I knew, she was gone.  I’ll never hear her voice again or feel her touch.  My son might not remember her.

They visited for a few weeks in the fall.  I’m really grateful I pushed for them to stay longer than originally planned.  I’m grateful she got to meet all of her grandbabies.  I have faith that she went to Heaven.  I know she’s walking easily, chatting with her own mother.  Oh, how I remember her grief when her own mother died.  And now it’s my turn.

I can be happy for her and sad for me and my family.  That divide which stands between life and death is stark.  I was looking at the clouds as the sun rose.  It was that moment when the clouds seem to shine with their own light: brilliant and dazzling.  I felt like she was there in the midst of that glorious shining and I was under the deepest of dark clouds without her.

beach clouds cloudy coast
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I told Landry I could almost pretend it hadn’t happened.  My day to day life hasn’t changed.  But there is this sick feeling in my gut and a feeling of nakedness – the vulnerability of grief.

Do you categorize your friends?  These are the friends I drink with.  These are my nerdy friends who like Dr. Who. These are my friends that would drive the get-a-way car.  Well, now I have a list of friends who have lost someone close.  They’ll get what I’m going through.

How are you?

It’s such an innocent question.  I find I don’t know how to answer it anymore.  Mostly I feel abysmal.  I haven’t slept well since it happened and my appetite is low.  I’m jet-lagged.  I went home for a week to lay her to rest with my family.  And now I’m back.  Grief and fatigue and the stress of travel have done a number on me.  I broke down and sobbed in the airport.

I wish I could be with her now, but I have work to do here.  I have to raise my own babies.  Some day, I will cross over myself.  She’ll be there waiting for me with a smile and a big hug.

All Hail the Queen

The “People of Walmart” has been a thing for a while now.  I should say at the outset that I like shopping at Walmart.  It’s convenient.  I can find just about anything I might need in the average shopping trip under one corrugated tin roof.

Chicken breast? Yes.

Diapers? Yes.

Swimsuit for toddler? Yes (depending on the season).

Yarn? Yes.

Tires for my car? Yes, and installation!

For a person with a biggish family and a hatred of spending all day running errands, Walmart is great.  But there’s something a little low-brow about Walmart.  The concrete floors and bare industrial ceilings make people think they can go to the store in whatever they happen to be wearing in the instant they decide to go.  And given that Walmarts are often open 24 hours a day, this can mean apparel is casual.  Very casual.  Risqué even.

[One of these days, I’m gonna dress to the nines and visit my local Wally World.  Just to see what would happen.  Hmmm, a fancy dress, fur coat, cigarette holder…  Basically, Cruella deVille goes to Walmart.  Ah, but that is a post for another day; Walmart is an ocean away.]

This phenomenon has been meticulously documented on the website “People of Walmart” *.  Warning, the site is NSFW!

I am here to say that the People of Walmart have a new queen.  She was parading around a Walmart in Texas on one of the motorized carts.  It gets better.  She rode in her carriage for three hours early one morning.  Drinking wine.  Out of a pringles can.**  True story.

I have so many questions.  Was it white wine, red wine, or rosé?  What flavor of Pringles are we talking here?  Did she bring the wine and Pringles into the store or did she take them off the shelf?  Was she using the Pringles can as a cover for the wine bottle or did she pour the wine directly into an empty can?  Was it an empty can?!   Surely she didn’t pour the wine into a full can of Pringles.  But this is the Queen of Walmart.  Perhaps, her majesty was trying to cleanse her palate during the wine tasting.

All hail the Queen!

* http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/

** https://www.foxnews.com/lifestyle/woman-banned-from-walmart-after-riding-cart-while-drinking-wine-from-pringles-can?fbclid=IwAR1WzbzQpBiTcQsHypCNZgyouhnDAMOT0yZ1H0jCgjlGDV8fgMPXrG_RQuA

Favorite places

Another writing prompt from http://writingexercises.co.uk/ .

“Describe your favourite place using all five senses.”

I like this one, because it allows you to remember.  Who doesn’t like to wander in memories of golden times?  Perhaps, not everyone.  Such places are tinged in sorrow.  They are favorites because of things that were, not things that are.  Or, is that just me, I wonder?

I have two candidates in mind.  The old family farm, which is no longer in the family, is one.  It’s the first place I remember being captured by beauty.  I stood in awe and let that feeling resonate within my soul.  Looking back now, I’m not so sure what it was about that place that touched me so deeply.  It’s a humble farm.  There are thousands like it.  The old barn was in a state of disrepair such that it fell down not long after.  The farmhouse wasn’t in much better shape.  My memories are really too hazy to do the place justice, anyway.

We lived in Bavaria for a brief time.  This is the south eastern ‘state’ of Germany; it borders with Austria.  If you’ve seen ‘Sound of Music’, then you have the right general idea.  The area we lived in was made up of narrow glacial valleys of grey granite.  Driving down the highway for the first time was enchanting.  As tired as I was from jet lag, I was still touched by the charm of the villages that unfolded around us.


The buildings are almost uniformly two colors: cream and chocolate brown.  You’d think that would turn monotonous almost immediately.  But somehow the Bavarians have made these colors joyful.  The similarity of hue allow the architectural details to leap out.  And, oh, the window boxes.  Window boxes of riotously colorful flowers trail from every balcony and railing.  Village churches are narrow buildings with onion domes on top.  Every fifth building, or so, has a fresco somewhere on the outside.  Perhaps, it is a sort of fanciful picture frame around a window.  I’m joyful when we get to visit Bavaria.  Except when we leave.  I become very cantankerous when it’s time to go away, again.  If Landry and I ever settle down, I’d like to build a Bavarian-style home.  There’s even a Pinterest page, where I gather my ideas.

adventure alpine alps architecture
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There are little flowers that grow in the grass.  They’re weeds, really.  A bright yellow and lilac purple flowers pop up all around.  If I ever get around to making a dirndl, I want it in these colors: purple with pops of yellow.  Little bees buzz among these flowers in the spring and summer.  Being in the mountain valleys, the air is generally cool and it rains a lot.  But, those days that are sunny are golden.  I’ve stood there with my eyes closed, letting the warm sun soak into my very soul.  I’ve never felt more at home anywhere.  It’s like the very earth sings to me that I’m where I belong, that all is right, and I am loved.

Hilarity Ensued

When you’re living in a country where you don’t really speak the language, there are going to be challenges.  You will buy the wrong thing at the grocery store.  And you will realize it was the wrong thing after you’re home or after you’ve cooked… ew.  It’s much easier to get along with the invention of translation apps and websites.  Some phrases, however, just don’t translate.  One of those phrases is “fly swatter”.

I’d looked through the store in all of the likeliest places.  I looked a second time.  My eyes roved the shelves like a hunter on the first day of the season.  My shoulders drooped, no luck.  I would have to ask for help.  I pulled out my phone and pulled up the translation web site I most often use.  Hopefully, I typed in “fly swatter”, hit ‘translate’, and approached the guy who was stocking shelves.  Pro tip: stocking shelves is monotonous and people assigned this task are generally eager to help with anything that is not ‘putting crap on shelves’.

I asked if he spoke English in my best local-speak.  “No”, he answered.  I took a steadying breath and asked in local speak, “Do you have…” and then showed him the words on my phone.  He read, wrinkled his eyebrows, and then shook his head at me.  I asked if he understood and he shook his head again.  Now, at this point in the encounter, you have a choice.  You can either thank them and walk away without your fly swatter OR you double down and communicate the best way you can.  I’ve been at this awhile now, living in places where my mastery of the language is not masterful.  Far from it.  Sometimes, you just have to go for it and lay your dignity down in the dust.  Pantomime and sound effects work when words fail.

My fingertip became a fly.  I made buzzing sounds.  My finger moved in seemingly aimless circles before landing on a shelf.  Then, I took a step back to show that the perspective changed.  I had my imaginary fly swatter and swung it fast onto my imaginary fly perched on the shelf.  Finally, I looked back at my partner who returned a blank stare.  Again with the head shake.

We went looking for someone else, who hopefully had a better grasp of English or charades.  His coworker had no better understanding of English.  I returned to my phone adding the words “fly” and “fly stick”.  Those translations weren’t any help either.  I know what you’re thinking… that it was translating the verb and not the noun.  But, I’m telling you the translations looked like nouns to me.

Anywho, I’m back to pantomiming again.  I really sell it this time.  I make louder buzzing, more aimless circles, a big pause for dramatic effect, my swing was grand, and for my finale a big ‘ole ‘SPLAT’.  Onomatopoeia works people.  The new fellow started nodding excitedly, laughing, and typing in his phone to translate for me.  I find myself laughing, too.  It may not be elegant, but I had successfully communicated.  What did he have to tell me in return?  The translation read: “Only sell for the summer”.  In other words, it’s November and they don’t have fly swatters this time of year.  Sigh.

My parting words of wisdom on the subject: If you have to act out the phrase “fly swatter”, make sure you sell the ‘splat’.

Gym mirrors and Narcissus

As I’ve alluded to in my last few posts, I’ve been hitting the gym lately.  As much as I hate playing sports and running, I’ve learned I do like to lift weights.  There’s something satisfying about moving something heavy.  It’s much more satisfying than running miles and never seeing the scenery change, for example.  The weights don’t go anywhere either.  Up and down.  But, somehow that’s way better than running over the same 10 feet of conveyer belt over and over.

Mirrors. I always figured the ubiquitous mirrors were there so the guys could check out the girls.  Landry says the mirrors are there to check form.  Realistically, it’s both.  But after working out for months, I’ve noticed another purpose.  The guys check themselves out.  I’m not just talking form.  One dude walked up to the mirror, lifted his sleeve and flexed.  Okay, maybe he was checking for symmetry.  After that, I started watching for it.  I’ve now seen men checking their leg muscles, six-packs and -get this- teeth.  My personal favorite was the guy who was admiring his keg.

Writing prompts

I’m trying to write everyday.  I have some large projects in the works, but I tend to get stuck on them.  Part of my reason for writing a blog is to get better at writing and finishing these things.  It’s really frustrating to have the beginning and the end of a story and really struggle with the middle, which is generally what happens.  In that endeavor of writing everyday, I thought I’d use prompts occasionally.

This prompt comes from http://writingexercises.co.uk/

“Write about a challenge you face.”

I have to admit, I’m a little tired and I thought it said to write about a problem with my face.  Well, that’s a little personal… and insulting.  Is the webcam on and is someone screwing with me?

No to both.  I’m just up later than I should be.

Language is a challenge.  I’ve never been what one would consider a linguist.  I’ve learned through traveling that language sticks better when it’s actually needed and used.  The blessing and curse I have is that I have a fair ear for mimicry.  I sound like I know a heck of a lot more than I do.   I’m sure that my gift would be a real asset if I could actually converse with people.

Fitness is a challenge.  I hated physical education growing up.  I sucked at sports and running.  So, PE was basically 40 minutes a day of public humiliation.  How to illustrate just the level of suck-age I’m talking about?  I played tennis in high school for two years.  My friend talked me into coming because there weren’t enough people to fill the roster.  I played the whole season.  The second year I went out, we had some new team mates.  They’d never touched rackets before in their lives.  And by the end of the second week, they were playing better than me.  Awesome.  For the record, I did finish the second season.  And, for lack of better players, I got a letter, too.  I never bothered with a jacket though.  It seemed foolish to invest in such a thing, when I’d only have one activity on there.


Otherwise occupied

I started this blog thinking I’d write a couple times a week.  More when the kids were in school.

We spent some of the summer break traveling in Asia.  And then I had all three kids underfoot for the duration of summer.  And I got into a fitness kick, because you can’t call it “baby weight” when your baby is in preschool.  Just as the kids got back to school and my fitness program was winding down, Landry called.  He’d found a very young kitten and what should he do?  Apparently, I’m a sucker, cause I said I’d take it in.  Little did I know that the youngster had two siblings hiding in the tall grass.  They were dehydrated and had a few fleas.  Otherwise they were in decent shape, but no more than 12 days old.  I’d forgotten how awful it is to get up every few hours to feed babies.  Before this, I was pretty sure I didn’t want more babies.  I’m quite certain now.

They’ll be old enough to give away next week.  Hallelujah.  So, I’m blitzing facebook and every local newsletter I can get my paws on to post an ad.  The little critters melt my heart when they curl up in my hands and purr.  If I could bottle that feeling, it would be the best anti-depressant ever.  I’d keep one if we didn’t already have two pets.  My cat spent the first few weeks the kittens were in the house hissing at me.  I smelled like “other kitty”.  He’s recently forgiven my indiscretions and he’s trying to make up for lost time.

Anywho, I suppose this is a really long way of saying: I’ve been busy and I plan to post more frequently.  I have been writing a bit on my novel; I’m up to 23,000 words.  It’s interesting how the story, which has lived in my head for nigh on 20 years has shifted once it’s out of my head and on paper.  I also plan to post a couple of short stories here someday soon.  If you’re good readers, you might even get to meet Earl.

Calculator Truffles

It takes a while to get used to cooking overseas.  The temperatures on the oven are in Celcius, the ingredients are different, and the measurements on the packaging are metric.  I don’t mind the metric system, but almost all of my cookbooks are in cups and ounces.  My personal favorite was the box of cream labeled 200 grams.  Yep.  A liquid ingredient was measured in grams.  I have to say, I’m leaning into my Alton Brown cookbooks more since living here.  He’s usually got metric and standard side by side.  Bravo.

Now, for general cooking, I don’t use cookbooks much.  And, in cooking you can fudge a bit and still come up with an edible.  Baking is a whole different animal.  If you take liberties with baking, it’ll bite you.  If the cookbook comes out, so do the measuring cups,  the food scale, and the calculator.  I actually used the calculator!!   The recipe called for a half cup of cream, and I had a box of cream in grams.  And it all hinged on how much dairy I was going to use.  I don’t use heavy cream very often, so I wanted to use all 200 grams of it.  For those who would like to know, that’s about 200 mL or 0.82 cups.  Fortunately, I had a teacher in school who insisted we learn how to do measurement conversions.  Thank you, Mrs. S, wherever you are.

And then came the weighing, chopping, stirring, and rolling.  The truffles came out well.  So well, in fact, that someone asked for the recipe.  I can pass along the recipe, but they have to supply their own calculator.


When things got serious with Landry, I knew we’d move around a bit.  It was the nature of his job and necessary for advancement.  But, I never imagined how far we would go.  We’ve lived in Europe for five years out of the last seven.  Our kids have lived overseas longer than they’ve lived in the United States.  And we travel… a lot.

We home schooled for most of that time so we had the flexibility to pick up and go when the urge hit us.  Well, that makes us sound spontaneous, which isn’t really accurate.  Landry does plan our travel.  All of that to say, I’ve been places and seen things I never imagined I would.  It’s an amazing opportunity to explore so much of this little green ball with a beautiful family.

Landry is my husband of eleven years.  We met online before it was cool.  For the first few years, I cringed when people asked how we met.  Everyone meets online now and no one thinks anything of it.  I think I fell in love the moment I read his profile.  He was smart and funny and geeky.  Maybe not love, exactly.  It was more a keen, driving interest.  It was our second date when I knew something was different.  That date was weeks after the first, because it was a long-distance relationship.  After Landry dropped me off at home that night, it felt so strange to me that he wasn’t there.  That was an odd, because I’m extremely independent.  My world had changed shape in a matter of hours.

Joy is our oldest daughter.  At ten years old, she’s lost some of her joie de vivre and entered tweeny angst.  But, upon occasion she bounces back to her happy-go-lucky self, which warms my heart.  A friend once said that Joy treads lightly upon this earth.  I love her courage in making new friends and her desire to learn.

Constance is our seven year old.  We can only pray she uses her powers for good.  Her record for a toddler tantrum was two solid hours and she has a shriek that could curdle the blood of a banshee.  And yet, she moves with gossamer grace.  She is a child of contrasts.

Nerdling the Third is our son.  He’s four and all boy.  Nerdling loves cars, trucks, trains, and basically anything that rumbles as it goes.  He’s a cheerful, easy-going fellow with a high-beam smile.

I love our little family.  It’s everything I could have ever asked for.  Getting to see the world with them is gravy on the biscuits.