How Mameve Medwed saved my summer reading life

About that pile of books I’m supposed to be reading…

Some time ago while I was reading through others’ blogs, I spied the cover of a book in a sidebar. If I remember correctly, there was somewhat of a tease in the caption encouraging me to receive the book free if I was willing to review it. You do know that I am completely aware of the promise I made to read all the books I have at home before I purchase another, don’t you? I chide myself each and every time I see something I’d love to read that isn’t in my stack of books. I’ve been so trustworthy. So diligent. Well, perhaps not quite tenacious enough when one considers the amount of time I’ve taken to read through a couple of the first books on my list.

Just a refresher: the whole point of reading everything in my house has been my cost saving measure: a sort of contribution to the family’s coffers since I’m sans income. Besides, I did take the time to choose and purchase these ah… tomes at one point in the past, mulling over the authors, considering the reviews, and projecting the mood each would lull me into as I read.

So when I saw How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved my Life in the lamentably forgotten blogger’s sidebar (I am so very sorry!) with “free” nestled beneath the cover shot, I thought that it wouldn’t be cheating if I accepted the offer. Sure, I’ll read a book and write a review. Technically, I wouldn’t be spending money for the book. It would be just fine if I sneaked this one in to relieve myself of the recent horrendous reads I’d suffered through. So I clicked. A free book!

The book was delivered, and read. I read it in two days. Not a month like Mapping the Edge. Not weeks and weeks and weeks, like Dog Days. Two days. Now, that’s more like it. Nothing like being back in the saddle again. Greasing up the ol’ reading machine. I’m back. Besides, it’s summertime, and what can be more perfect than a book that travels easily to the beach and back? A book that’s about antiques, New England, a little romance, an obscure biography by Virginia Woolf called Flush, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s thunder mug. Ahem… Excuse me?

Let me back up a bit before I truly begin.

Quite some time ago, I was in Cambridge, MA, working on a project at the Harvard Graduate School of Ed and happened upon Mail. The cover was an eye-catching yellow, and I was drawn to the author’s name — unusual. The setting was Cambridge — how coincidental; the protagonist a writer — and I wanted so much to be a writer. So it seemed perfect for a summertime read to ease my mind from the less than glamorous work I was involved in: curriculum writing. I no longer have the book, most likely loaned to a friend who neglected to return it, but I remember enjoying the woman in the story and her quirky personality. I remember her mailman, too…It’s been a while since I’ve read something by Mameve Medwed — nearly ten years.

I’m so sorry, Mameve. I know you’ve published other books in that time, so it’s odd that I’ve not come across one while traipsing through bookstores, or surfing Amazon’s cyberstacks. And I know that had I found one of those books, it wouldn’t be hidden in that dusty stack I currently find myself having to read. I would speak to my marketers, if I were you, because I enjoyed your first book quite a bit and would have read the others had I known…

Memories of Medwed’s writing came quickly back as I began this latest of her novels. Abby Randolph is an easy to get to know woman who sells antiques. Her store isn’t one known for grossly ornate 18th century European credenzas, or priceless Baccarat crystal candlesticks. In fact, her “store” is a booth that sits alongside that of others who have a passion for, and know much about old things that just might be worth more than we think they are worth. Like the porcelain chamber pot that sits in Abby’s booth. The one her colleague encourages her to lug to the Antiques Roadshow soon coming to town. The chamber pot once owned by her mother who was recently and tragically killed. Her lovely mother who, after years of chin-up tolerance with her role as one of “the Cambridge ladies” poet E.E. Cummings writes of, runs off to seek a new life: a life with the woman next door. Yes, woman. Her best friend’s mother. The mother of the boy next door she fell in love with so many years ago.

Medwed’s ability to sell Abby and her self-deprecating existence, her seemingly new found promise of wealth, and love, are what make this book. Otherwise, liking Abby could become a challenge. She seems not able to hold herself up or deal with her life. She lets people walk all over her. She just accepts things. But she knows it. And when she acknowledges her shortcomings over and over again, you find that you are on her side, cheering her on, wanting her to step up and push back against the pathetic people she has chosen to tolerate throughout her life: the pseudo best friend who is really only out for herself; her ex-business partner and lover, gone after taking what he could from Abby’s life as a Cambridge professor’s daughter and has moved on to a more profitable lifestyle; or the reporter who surfaces to get the inside story on the chamber pot, now authenticated and valued at a staggering amount of money.

Don’t most people fare well after they’ve received news of a windfall? Shouldn’t everything turn around in their lives, making their dull existence more bright? Can it erase the sadness one feels for the tragic loss of a mother, and a young man always thought of as someone who would be part of her future?

Maybe it can. Abby Randolph has to confront her demons in much the way that you and I would, failing over and over again, before she is able to arrive at what matters. Without Medwed’s clever sarcasm and tight narrative, without her insider knowledge as a Cambridge resident, How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life could be just another book in a growing list of what is now referred to as Chick Lit. Without Medwed’s dry humor and ability to capture the odd characteristics humans have, Abby could be just another female whose pathetic lack of self-awareness makes her unnoticeable. Instead, we are left smiling as Abby grows into herself and her life.

Mameve Medwed has saved me from the depths of yet another completely dreary read. Thank goodness. Now I can go back and read her novels I’ve missed in the past ten years. But not until I finish that stack. Promise. Well, maybe the public library has them. That’s free, too. Right?

I’m left wondering on whose site I originally found the offer to review this novel and will continue to do some investigating. My quest has dropped me into the world of publishing houses and their quest to step up their on-line marketing. It has taken me to Booksquare and a very interesting look at opinions on the publishing industry. It has also taken me to First Look at Harper Collins — a very intriguing opportunity for someone like me, trying to avoid those books I already own, wanting instead to wallow in the possibility of buying more, always more.

Oh, that heaven is a bookstore when I get there…

Makin’ Like a Tourismo in So Cal

The weekend was lovely. Completely. Go figure. I don’t especially like driving — or riding in a car. LA Traffic I’d like that twitching nose thingy so I could just pop in and out of places. And it is summer, so the potential for a hot day anywhere in Southern California is quite high. But the wind was blowing, and we were up high on a ridge with a lovely view. Crowds? Oh my…we don’t mix. All those bodies, that mass of humanity. But it was fine. Miraculously fine. Really. Even though the parking lot attendant said they were expecting 25 thousand people Saturday. The MoH and I looked at each other. Was that a lot?

IMG_2293 I know my mother was doubting my confirmation that all was well on my call home to her. She would have a hard time believing me because she completely knows that I usually don’t enjoy this sort of thing. For years, I’ve completely avoided it, or just gone along with it in the spirit of familial companionship. Or something like that. So now I’m wondering what was up? Perhaps again, I less than enjoyed anything that took time and energy because I needed to savor my down time — store up my energy — get ready for Monday. Can you imagine doing that for nearly 20 years? What a complete loser I’ve been. A lesson in moderation would have been nice along the way to learn a bit of tolerance.

So off to Universal Studios we went a la family road trip style. Now, I did have something up my sleeve. The Hotel. I love nice hotels. Swanky lobbies, eight million percale count sheets, and lovely bathrooms. It’s a problem. I could totally be one of those traveling people who just stay in hotels. I’m thinking it’s the clean factor. There’s no clutter, the bed is made when you return from a difficult afternoon touristing, car parking is valet only, and they hand you an ice cold bottle of water as you head out for your day of adventure. And if you’re feeling special — room service. *sigh* Not on this trip, though. The Graciela Lounge But you do remember The Stagecoach Inn in Monterey, right? You decide.  The GracielaThe Graciela Coffee Bar Or the Stagecoach Inn?  Hot Towel?  I rest my case.

What was nice about this trip was knowing that there was only so much we could do and see. There was no hurry to fit in a zillion things, no itinerary, no waking up to the blare of an alarm clock. And surprisingly, no serious traffic. What? And we drove through LA? Go figure. Okay, so the picture above is the only snag we hit and it was only a 15 minute one at that.

High points? The back lot tour. Yes, I’ve been on it several times over the years, but this time was the longest and the most seen. Maybe we just had a tour guide who was into it, wannabe actor that he stated he was. I had to stop and wonder about what kind of life that would be. But he looked like he was enjoying himself talking to a tram full of blase tourists — most of whom probably do not know or care about all those old glorious black and white movies. All those gorgeous and perpetually glam shot ready stars like Hedy Lamarr, or Carole Lombard. And there’s no way they could possibly get a thrill looking at those old deco style dressing rooms of the stars and famous costume designers. Or knowing that those soundstages have housed a very unique brand of history. Somehow, Terminator 2 doesn’t cut the mustard as something to get nostalgic over. Astro Studs

The brand spankin’ new Mummy roller coaster ride is way fun. You have to totally love a ride that whirls, spins, and shoots you through the darkness. Yes, I scream. A lot. Of course, I yell on the simulated Back to the Future ride also, and it’s more than 10 years old. Does anyone but me scream on a fake ride? I’m hopeless.

A semi high/low point was the Jurassic Park ride. Yes, you get wet. I knew that. But the advertised “new and improved” was a bit too much improved. As the ride concluded, I wondered what the Japanese man sitting in the row in front of us was looking at, but I smiled at him none the less. After I asked the MoH whether my eyes were black or not, he said, “You’re going to have to go to the ladies room” quite graciously, and with not the slightest hint of controlled laughter. Not, what he could have said, like, “Oh My Gawd Your Eyes Are Completely Black and You Have Streaks of Mascara Running Everywhere!” No, he didn’t say that, kind man that he is. But he could have.

I spent about 15 minutes in the bathroom trying to rub the black streaks of mascara from my cheeks and around my eyes. And no sunglasses to hide behind because they were in a locker. By the time I was done rubbing, I was left with some freaky black eye liner and no sun screen. So should I have thought about waterproof mascara when I was in the drug store purchasing my “Buy One–Get One Free” Maybelline that I haven’t worn for years? I wasn’t planning on crying, no weddings were booked, and most days, putting on mascara isn’t high on my list of priorities. So I got soaked. Completely drenched. It took my shirt several hours to completely dry. It was a blast.

The nicest surprise was the original Bob’s Big Boy around the corner from the hotel. It was in the cutest little neighborhood called Toluca Lake, “Established 1923,” or that’s what all the signs said anyway. It was cool. And the whole area had remnants of that old LA look when things weren’t so slick and smoggy. When neighborhoods were quaint, and you could walk down the sidewalk to a store close by. It made me wonder for five seconds about living in LA. Well, maybe 10.

IMG_2365  Where was I? Oh yes, breakfast. It was completely saturated with calories, but my goodness, was it delicious. I didn’t lick the plate, but I wanted to. Have you ever had deep fried French toast? With cinnamon? And syrup. And butter? Coffee refilled every time I got it doctored up just right. Hot coffee. Not warm you better be careful or our lawyers will sue your lawyers coffee. *sigh* I didn’t even need a crane to get off the vinyl bench. But I also haven’t eaten much the past two days. I just wanted to see if my arteries still worked to be safe.

The “mall” next to the theme park is pretty interesting as well. Musicians, food, strange tee shirt shops and stores that sell chocolate covered Twinkies. Really. No, we didn’t buy one. Chocolate Covered Twinkies  But the RT and I are thinking we can come up with something better. Plus, we’re headed to the County Fair on Friday where I hear they have deep fried Twinkies. I couldn’t spoil my appetite, right? Ewww….How do you spell C-A-R-C-I-N-O-G-E-N-I-C, class?

Completely low point? The theme park food. I can’t believe I got sucked into it. Again. They just have you by the short hairs so know they can charge a chunk of change for warm cardboard. IMG_2342  School cafeteria food is better. Real warm cardboard is better for that matter. Really. Put a little bernaise on it….The giant Corona helped wash it down, though. And the giant Heinekin the next day was even better.

On that note, I’ve survived the assault on my taste buds and have been cooking. If you’re in the mood for a salad or hunk o’ beef (sorry to my vegetarian friends) then check it out. We’re giving our Barby the workout. I’m still not back to my usual blog self, however, and the MoH has more days off scheduled next week, so I’m going to have to figure out how to keep things running smoothly in Bloggsville. Stay up all night? Schedule particular days for visiting my favorite people? The word “schedule” makes me quake in my flops.

Anyway, thanks for bearing with me while I figure it all out. And know, that when I’m not sitting here, you are sorely missed. *sniff*

Just in case…

I thought I’d put my blogname in my header three times.  Just in case you wondered, or forgot about wondering.  And I won’t be able to fix it until later.  You don’t even want to know what my style sheet looks like.  You know how those WordPress guys say “code is poetry?”  Well, I’m thinking they’d disown me if they saw what’s under my hood.

So pardon the three colors, and the fonts, and the, well, mess.  But it’s still me.  Three colors and a mess.

I’ll be at Universal Studios with the MoH and the RT and most likely a billion tourists.  In the sun.  Eating theme park food.  Getting sun burned.  And having fun.

Toots.

Solstice Love in Paradise

Surf Hut Memorial We did not carry drums. Black cloaks may have been an excellent idea considering the damp, salty chill. And antlers may have been in order had we thought of the idea. There always seem to be those who are just more creative that we are. Regardless, we did take the time to pack a quick dinner, throw a few sand chairs in the trunk, grab sweatshirts, and roll down the hill to celebrate the Summer Solstice. Beach Snack

MoH's Cold A bonfire might have been nice, but there’s probably a rule about that. A maypole would have drawn too much attention from those whose view we could have blocked, solstice celebrators’ silhouettes frolicking back and forth as the ribbon wrapped its way around the pole. Besides, we’re mechanically disinclined, remember? Waving bundled sheaths of grain did cross my mind, however. Of course, there’s always another time.Just Flops

Semi Peaflock We sat on the rocks, so did share a remote kinship with those who head to Stonehenge on this day each year. Does that make us pagans? Unlikely, considering that “hick,” or “rustic” may be a bit harsh as far as descriptors go.

Is the experience spiritual? Being with those you most love often is — isn’t it? With a massive ocean stretched as far as you can see, and the anticipation of that amazing orb growing as it sinks slowly into its watery end for the night.   What more could a person want?  Sandwiches, of course. Eating is always spiritual event for me.

Sundown

For some reason that I can’t exactly remember, we started taking the two older boys up to a hill near by to watch the sunset on the longest day of the year. It was free, and we did many free things in those days. But the real reason was just to introduce them to something that doesn’t take much effort, and allows you to pause for a time to consider the passing of time and seasons — whether we have much of a seasonal change here in Paradise or not is beside the point. They loved it.

Solstice Sun And when the June gloom was so heavy that even in East County Paradise where we were living, no glimmer of golden orange light could be seen, we were always disappointed. The pleasant aspect of this disappointment, however, was that we were able to do the very same thing on the Autumnal Equinox. It is extremely rare for there to be cloud cover here at that time of the year, so we were able to promise them a make-up day not too far in the future. It is usually unbearably hot just about anywhere inland, and the build up of pollutants in the air thanks to Tijuana and Los Angeles guarantee that there will be a spectacular sunset. Unfortunately, by that date, school has begun again, and the day is a reminder that soon, darkness will come earlier and earlier — a poignant end to a carefree time of the year.

Cold sunset

Ahh…the ebb and flow of time and seasons.

The rituals we hang on to for life and love.

Solstice is Over

Summer Trough in Paradise

There’s a significance about this summer: it’s the first one in about 10 years that the RT hasn’t had to attend a camp. Hasn’t “had” to. “Had.” He has attended camp because like many others, we worked, and he would have been alone at home for a good portion of the day if we hadn’t found something for him to do. No siblings his age to stay home with like we were able to when I was growing up. RT's Father's Day Promise No endless days of doing absolutely nothing — although I do remember being completely entertained. Hours of black and white television reruns. Dressing up in my mom’s clothes. Mixing every ingredient in the spice cupboard and daring each other to taste it. Watching my brother take the dare. Tying my sister up and chaining her to the street sign in front of our house. Like I said — fun.

So the RT’s been packed off to a variety of YMCA camps to endure popsicle stick craft projects, “special” weekly outings, and a tough kid or two who have tried to poke him in the nose. He’s been to camps that focused on mask making and rocketry. San Diego Zoo camp, and Seaworld camp. He’s had plenty of time at Camp Gramma as well, to fill in the spots between the other camps. The last two years, he’s been dropped off at UCSD, a host site for iD Tech Camps. It’s a bit pricey, but he has shown some interest in various aspects of computer technology like every other boy his age — read video games — so this was an opportunity to provide some depth learning in a couple of areas. He seemed to enjoy it, but all in all, it was still camp. No buddies to hang with. No war mongering soul mates to hunker down with and talk shop. Just camp.

This year? I guess it’s all about me. Big surprise, huh? Call it Camp Mom. Makes you all warm and fuzzy inside, and then want to yawn, right? Apple pie, baked bread…..well, not exactly. More like frozen microwavable burritos and and IV with Black Cherry Vanilla Coke flowing from its bag. Endless trips up and down the stairs from the computer in his room, to the TV, to the PS2, to his models. Oh, and there is the daily chore of walking the doggo I neglected to mention. So some movement is involved. Small enough?

So what’s my role? Balancing the amoeba-like oozing I’ve illustrated above with semi-constructive “other things to do that involve learning and moving your body.” See? Camp Mom. You do understand I’m not very good at this, right? But I have been thinking about it for a couple of months now.

So the first things that come to mind are museums. You know — special exhibits. Things we could talk about. I picture the RT sort of slogging after his mom through these places, wishing he was in front of his computer, or tinkering with one of his tanks. That image doesn’t particularly sit well with me. Or art galleries. Take our sketch pads, do our own renditions of what we’re looking at. That could be interesting. Abstract nudes? He’d shoot those flat eyebrow darts at me for that.

And the beach is five minutes away. We could rent bikes — yes, I said rent. No, we don’t own bikes. And when the RT did own a bike, he chose not to ride it. Ever. It ended up in a parent raffle at my old elementary school, scoring me many bonus points. We could ride on the boardwalk or around the bay. I think he’d like that. We could see how many rollerbladers we could crash into, or tourismos we could knock down. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a bike as well.

Or we could rent kayaks. He enjoyed it when we went to Cape Cod a couple of summers ago. Besides, Mission Bay doesn’t have the currents that Nantucket Sound does, so he wouldn’t have to worry about exerting himself, or spraining his mouse finger. Just kidding. And what about one of those boards you run, jump on, and skim across the water with before falling on your caboose? Yes, I can see myself doing that, all right. It does look fun, though. I’m thinking he’d most likely not be interested in being close enough on the beach to me that people would connect the two of us as belonging together. So maybe the better purchase is a board for him, and an umbrella for me. An umbrella, beverage, and a really juicy beach read. Except there’s soooooo not one of those in that stack of books I’m wallowing through. Wait. On second thought, I do have The Bride Stripped Bare somewhere just waiting to be read…

The library is definitely in order. Once a week should do it. Yes, he always gets to choose his books. What do you think I am? I’m only a wannabe control freak. He’s always enjoyed his books, and although I’m sure he’d like to purchase them so he can savor them over and over again, we’re on a semi “what can we save if we don’t really need to spent it” kind of quest here.

RT's Books

Besides, I’ve heard our local branch has quite the collection and some great events scheduled, so I’ve wanted to check it out. Has he wanted to check it out? He’s 14. He’d most likely rather rent time at Office Games over at the mall while I shop. Or hang out with the seals at Casa Beach.

War Models

The biggie is nudging him to set up his own website. He is a walking storehouse of knowledge about WWII, tanks, military vehicles, aircraft in particular, weapons, and history in general. It’s truly incredible. So in an attempt to get him to consider bringing together his knowledge, tech interests, and to sneak in some much needed writing practice — along with some graphics for good measure, I think he’d enjoy this. But I’m only the camp director, so what do I know?

And then there’s photography and Photoshop — something he learned to use this past year at school. Then he can show me how to do it so I won’t have to learn. Trick. But he does click those buttons faster than I seem to be able to.

We’ll see how that goes. Camp Mom. Like I said. I’m not great at it.
You can lead a horse to water, but… if you have to, you can push its nose in the trough.

Troughs are not quite the same as hoops. It’s easier because all you have to do is fall in — or be pushed. And if it’s big enough, you can either sink or swim.

Or get a floatie and then splash water at the person who pushed you in.

Hoop Jumping and Birch Swinging

Birches

My head and heart are full.

It isn’t that on most days they aren’t, but the sense of fullness is different today. The difference is the result of something I’ve grappled with for many years — a by product of raising my sons. The result of years of observation, interaction, angst, and tribulation coming to a conclusion milestone by sometimes painful milestone.

The RT finished his first year of high school today, and in a few weeks will be 15. But he did not beat The Geometry Teacher. He received a “D” for his hoop-jumping efforts in her class. In this newly completed step toward the rest of his education, I’m left wondering so many things about what I have strongly held on to about learning and raising humans:

 Some humans are better at being trained to jump through hoops than others. In fact, some are so good at it — it’s the point of their existence. Their day revolves around how many hoops are lined up, how far apart they are, and whether each successive hoop is positioned higher than the last. Whether the person jumping next to them is quicker, or more graceful in their quest to finish first. It isn’t about what is at the end of the hoops they crave. It’s the hoops.

Some humans are more easily missed than others. Or skipped over like one skips a step when jogging up a flight of stairs to get to the next floor more quickly. Their non-hoop jumping idiosyncrasies are not easily understood by others, and often difficult to tolerate. They are more than capable of jumping through the hoops than many others. Many. But they just don’t seem interested. What they see in the world and think about from one day to the next is difficult to know. They are quiet about much that matters, and talk about things that don’t. Hoops are not one of the things they think or talk about.

They even bruise differently than most. They haven’t figured out how caught up in the hoop game most people are. So when a zealot moves a hoop at the last minute to trick them, it takes them a while to start the game again. They are only just beginning to understand, or if understood, have a tendency to forget that there are people on this earth who live to have power any way they can get it. It’s probably another reason that hoops don’t interest them. It’s all so petty.

I am not a mother of hoop jumpers. And I am routinely reminded of this fact.

I have diligently tried to raise my offspring to understand the construct of the world. But they are very content to think about, getting around to, considering, being involved in, possibly participating, in life’s basic rules of engagement at their own pace. They construct their own hoops. Unfortunately, when you’re their mother, the hoops resemble hurdles. Large ones.

It’s not supposed to matter to me that so-and-so’s daughter is in “advanced this” or AP that. Or that this person’s son was recommended for such and such. That this acquaintance has a daughter that crosses all her T’s and dots all her I’s all the time. Sometimes those same people don’t understand how hard it is has been to let my children be who they are instead of what I want them to be. What I believe they can become. It’s not supposed to matter. But it does. It always has.

I’ve tried many years to act like not having a hoop circus at home doesn’t matter. I believe strongly that many have been duped about the educational system so many of us willingly send our children to each year. “All children can learn,” is what that system blithely professes. We have so willingly trusted that it will meet their every need beyond what we have worked to meet ourselves at home. But not every child fits into that system. It’s not supposed to matter. But it does. It always has.

Birch Trees by Scott Pickering

I cringe every time I realize that my nobly held philosophy could be a sham by wanting more for my boys than they seem to want for themselves. I argue with myself that I don’t really want them to care. I swear I’m not interested in wanting them to want what society expects them to want. The way society expects it. The way the system acts like it’s structured to prepare them for.

How sad to have to admit that I want for my sons something I say I don’t believe in. I would never tell them because I have acted like a hoop jumper most of my life. And they probably figured that out a very long time ago.

One could do worse than be a mother of non-hoop jumpers. Perhaps my boys were born knowing that life is a birch and that their job on this earth is to teach me so that I will know, too.

Mint Juleps end the BBQ Saga in Paradise

What a busy weekend — but a great one considering the less than pleasant shopping expedition to The Home Depot last Thursday. Perfect weather — something we were seriously due considering all the very grey days we’ve had since early May. There was good company, time to relax, and of course, our standard lots of good eats and the accompanying perpetual mess in the kitchen.

The Truck The MoH was able to snag the truck at The Home Depot on Friday after work — not bad for a second attempt. I guess all the wannabee home fix-it type folks were already partying hearty, leaving the rental for those of us who are challenged in the “Managing to get a BBQ to their House” category.

“So who put the BBQ on the truck?” I asked the MoH as he jogged up the stairs to change his clothes after pulling the behemoth alongside our curb.

“Me and a guy at the store.”

“So then I can help you get it off the truck, right?” I responded like there was some sort of a legitimate comparison between my own strength and a guy’s — any guy’s. Well, except maybe a 4th grader’s. “It should be fine,” I mumbled, already wondering. “I’ll just look for something we can lower it down onto.” This had worked in the past when the two of us had to put a large TV into an armoire. Now that was scary, I remembered, picturing one or both of us bent backwards with a humongous TV ready to fall back onto our heads as we fell through the hardwood floor. Ugh. Or the time that we moved the same armoire up to our bedroom after getting a new TV.

We lovingly refer to ourselves as The Doopids, because we can get things done most of the time, but it’s somewhat of a 3rd class circus act in the delivery. “All elbows and a**holes,” as my mother would politely say before pushing one of us away from the task and getting it done herself with a few grunts and a snort. Sadly, my mom wasn’t available to remind us that one buff senior can handily put to shame two younger desk jockeys — or act like she could.

But the MoH had his own plan in mind, and after locating the trusty toolbox that the RT and I got him for Christmas a few years ago, went to work removing the heavy lid and drawers to make it a bit lighter for yours truly to be able to tackle. “So what if it doesn’t work?” I asked while he was shoving screws and washers into his pockets. You know, one of those motivating questions that only a wife can ask at that perfect moment. Always the planner, I.First Come, First Serve

“Well, we’ll just have to go and knock on doors to beg neighbors we never talk to for help,” he replied with just the slightest twinge of sarcasm, head still bent to his task. *On a Friday evening at 6:30?*

But then the guy next door who plays the piano at a swanky local restaurant appeared from his garage, calling his usual greeting. He was quickly into his car and backing out of his driveway, all the while asking what we were doing, like it wasn’t plainly obvious. “Hey, you guys need some help?” he continued in reverse, paying more attention to the MoH on the back of the orange truck than his rear view mirror.

“Sure, if you’ve got the time,” the MoH responded, cracking me up, knowing he wasn’t serious.

“Well, I’ve got a slipped disk, but I’ll do what I can,” the Piano Man answered before I could interrupt.

“You’re not going to help if you’ve got a back injury,” I called thinking about not wanting to be law suit bait. The MoH had the BBQ to the edge of the truck by this time, and was getting ready to lower it down to the chest of drawers I had dragged from the garage. I figured if we could lower it to sit a bit on that, we could muster up the energy to lower it the rest of the way to the ground. It wasn’t as heavy as I thought it was going to be, but the Piano Man was out of his car at this point doing what he could to “spot” like we were engaged in some bizarre gymnastics routine.

No sweat outside of my wondering whether the MoH would slice his throat on the edge of the damn thing because his grip was much lower than mine and the weight of it was leaning heavily on his neck. Done. Well, not the neck slicing — the lowering the thing to the ground. We hoisted it up the outside stairs and around back to its new home in only a few more minutes. Voila. Not bad for a day-and-a-half’s work, two stores, eight employees, a truck, 550 bucks, and two less than mechanically inclined and not very muscled suburbanites. Task Completed The MoH was back in the orange flatbed and back to The Home Depot, but just over the 70 minute mark that would keep the rental in the 20 buck zone. Just another jab to make it burn.

The New QFinish things off with two hickory-roasted pork tenderloins, and a top sirloin, served with Henry Bain Sauce and some Chow-chow. I know. I’d never heard of it, either, but my wonderful father-in-law is from Kentucky, so I decided to delve into a Kentucky influenced southern spread for our Father’s Day celebration. Yes, there were Mint Juleps all ’round. I did quickly discover that I’m not quite up to sucking bourbon and mint flavored sugar thorough a straw. My father-in-law told me that it was okay because after all, Mint Juleps were most likely the reason the South lost the Civil War. Sheesh. No doubt. *hick* Cheers, Southern Style

If you’re curious about the spread, I’ll have it up at Sass & Veracity later today. Then you can drool.

Thank goodness that BBQs last us about eight years. Now to rid ourselves of the beast sitting in the garage. Oh, to live in a neighborhood where you’re allowed to put an old BBQ by the curbside with a sign that says, “Free” like we used to be able to do. Feh. Not here. Our trusty monthly newsletter included a pleasant reminder that we will have a more attractive community if we remember not to put our trash cans out until after 6PM on Sunday night, keep our garage doors closed, and park our cars in our garages instead of in our driveways.

McNeighborhood I have noticed that residents park their cars outside the community gate when they’re trying to sell them. Well, until somebody gets pissed off that there is an “inactive” car sitting in the street and they call the police to ticket it. Which the police do. Whatever.

So maybe I’ll roll the Great Black Grease Beast down the street tomorrow morning when I set out for my 5:30 walk. A bit of WD-40 on the wheels will certainly keep it from making as much noise as the paper lady’s truck, and I’ll park it on the curb with a big sign that says, “STILL WORKS.”

Dare me?