March madness….

I’ve been watching basketball.  Often, as I’m clicking through channels,  I find myself drawn into the final four or five minutes of games between teams I know absolutely nothing about.  Teams like Gonzaga, for instance.  I had to Google Gonzaga. Now I know that it is in Spokane. Thanks, Google.  Go Zags.

When I’m not watching really tall Wisconsin farm boys shoot three pointers or Googling things like “Where is Gonzaga?” I’m cleaning like a lunatic.  People who know me who are reading this are thinking, “her house is always clean. Why is she cleaning, for heaven’s sake?” To those people, I say, Hold up. Don’t let those cute orange Dala horses on the windowsill in the sunny breakfast nook fool you. You haven’t seen the shanty Irish places in my house like drawers and the dank hobbit hole of a room where I store paint cans and everything else I don’t want you to see. I’m a fraud.  A fraud, I tell you.

And so, to clear my conscience and my head and get ready for April, I have been unloading junk with what borders on religious fervor.  I’ve been in the “I forgot to get dressed because I am cleaning/organizing/tossing/ and no, I didn’t get to the store to pick up milk today” Zone.  No, really.  This is an actual Zone.  One day last week, I stopped moving just long enough to realize that it was after 3 p.m. and I was still in my fuzzy black and turquoise leopard print pajamas because I’d gotten so into what I was doing that I’d forgotten to put on actual clothes or comb the hair that was standing straight up on top of my head like a chicken.   I had already hauled the second load of other people’s crap to the garage this way.  I was thankful that we don’t live where people who get dressed could witness the spectacle of an old hen in leopard print pajamas and bedroom slippers schlepping garbage bags filled with flotsam and jetsam down the sidewalk on a Tuesday afternoon in March.

Did you know that flotsam and jetsam are actually two terms that describe types of ship debris?  Apparently, the term flotsam is defined as debris that ends up in the water by accident and jetsam describes debris that is deliberately thrown overboard, usually to lighten the load of ships in distress. I plan to share this with our two mostly grown up Easter chicks when they get home and start asking questions as to the whereabouts of their belongings. And then I will tell them to look in the garage where their jetsam bins are stacked.

It feels good to be carrying a lighter load physically and psychologically.  To have the luxury of focusing on the mundane and not the massive, acutely aware that others are not so lucky. News updates on the terrible plane crash in the French Alps and the young co-pilot who was responsible for the disaster make me remember just how crazy hard it is to be human. Too much sorting of blame and compassion to muster in March, the month that went out like a lion, windy and raw and full of debris.




The view from higher up…

The world only exists in your eyes. You can make it as big or as small as you want.

-F. Scott Fitzgerald

I spent last weekend back in St. Paul helping with the Great March Move.  This is what I’m calling it these days.  I hemmed curtains and washed windows and did other Mom-type tasks and did not grumble when I was asked to load my car and haul more things.  I’ve pretty much accepted that our garage is nothing more than a staging area for large plastic bins.  Someday, we will be able to see the back wall of our garage again.   Someday there will be no bins.  But not yet.  I figure I have about a month to relax until the Great May Move for the other kid who lives with us (but not really) begins.

In case you haven’t been moving anybody’s anything anywhere this month, I’m happy to report that spring is trying to well, spring in St. Paul, too. However, the entire city needs a good vacuuming and then maybe a tidal wave or two to get rid of all the grit and grime on the boulevards and at intersections. Oh, and if anyone is needing a plastic bag, there are a couple thousand of them wrapped around light posts all along I 94.  St. Paul! Pick up your stuff!  Of course, we have our springtime issues up here, too.  Road kill comes to mind.  But at least, up here, someone picks up the flattened raccoons, the trees start to bud, and we’re on our way to April.

By Saturday evening, much as I love St. Paul, I decided that it was probably best viewed from across the High Bridge.  I asked my daughter, the driver, to take me over there away from the crushed beer cans and Whopper wrappers along Grand Avenue.  As newlyweds, her dad and I had lived on that side of the river in a big old Victorian with leaded glass windows where, at night, it was possible to see the domes of the Cathedral and State Capitol fully lit and all the other lights twinkling below.  Those lights are what made me fall in love with St. Paul when I was the age my daughter is now. When we left the city a few years later for lush, green, Wisconsin, it wasn’t so much the house I missed as it was the perspective of being so high up above a city like St. Paul, watching the sun set and lights begin to twinkle below far away on the other side of the Mississippi River.  Which, I suppose, is why every so often I go back when I’m in the city.  To gain perspective and to remember.

In March, particularly.

A brownstone state of mind…..

“Life for both sexes — and I looked at them, shouldering their way along the pavement — is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle. It calls for gigantic courage and strength. More than anything, perhaps, creatures of illusion as we are, it calls for confidence in oneself. Without self-confidence we are as babes in the cradle.”
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own


She’s fallen madly, passionately, deeply in love, this Girl of ours.

The object of her affection is tall, dark, handsome, and well-built.

My sister calls it the”brownstone phase” in a young woman’s life.  That time between college and being responsible for someone else when a woman has a place of her own and can do pretty much whatever she feels like doing as long as she can afford to do it.  It’s the path not taken that her aunt and I look back at wistfully even though we are content with the one we chose instead.  The one where the next logical step for a woman in her twenties was to marry and set up housekeeping with a man.

Don’t get me wrong.  That path had its share of adventures, too. However, we agree that the brownstone phase is one that we hope our daughters all have.  It will make them stronger and more confident than we were in our twenties.  There’s something pretty awesome about knowing that the place you come home to at night is yours. All yours. It is also kind of scary and sometimes a little lonely, I’m sure.  Each week, it seems, she tells me about another high school or college friend’s engagement or pregnancy.  It reminds me of so many in my generation who barely waited until the ink was dry on a diploma to pick out a wedding gown.  I’m glad she’s not there.  That kind of love and commitment to another human being can wait.  There’s plenty of time.

This week, she is scrounging furniture from Craigslist and curbs and planning exactly how she wants her home to look.  She’s saving for the perfect IKEA curtains and planning a trip home over her Spring Break to pick up the rainbow striped area rug that has made more trips across the state of Minnesota than a lot of her classmates.  She’s trying to decide where the piece of furniture we call “the Green Thing” will go in her sunny apartment. She’s trying to find the cheapest upholstery cleaner in the Twin Cities so that the free blue sofa she moved from the apartment of a 97-year-old woman in a Highland Park nursing home will get a fresh new start, like her.

Because, for now, she’s in love.  With her sweet nest built for one.  With her job and coworkers and good friends.

With her busy life in the city she calls home.


Somebody really smart has invented a tiny video camera that can be attached to just about anything.  Now, I’m not generally one for gadgets,  but I will admit I’ve been tempted to get one of these bad boys. I’d attach it to myself and run errands to record how many young store clerks, bank tellers, nurses, receptionists, and others call me “Dear” or “Hun” or “Honey” as I go about my business on any given day.

I’m not sure when this became so common, but I have a hunch it began when kids started calling every adult they knew by their first names in that casual, “Hey, Betsy! How was your colonoscopy?” way that many do today.  There are still people who I run into that I call Mrs. or Mr. for no other reason than that it was ingrained in me as a child to be polite. Back then, if I’d tried to form their first names and say them out loud, I’m pretty sure that my tongue would  have withered up and fallen onto the sidewalk. This would have made us both very uncomfortable.

My aunt calls me “Dearie” from time to time.  She’s known me since before I was born, so she can call me anything she wants. If she lives to be 100 (I’m banking on this) she’ll probably still be calling me that when I’m 75.  When I was young, local legend Melba Miller called everyone she knew “Honey” and got away with it because, well, it was hard to get mad at anyone in a silk brocade jacket and gold I Dream of Jeannie shoes who was that happy to see you.  But post-Melba, unless you are related to the woman you are saying it to, you need to cut it out with the Honey stuff.  For real.  Just. stop.  If you are a doctor, lawyer or teacher you need to stop, too, because you sound like a ninny.  It is 2015, not 1950. We live in Minnesota, not the deep South. Most of us are hanging on by a thread as it is, what with menopause and husbands and bifocals and the rest.  We are an unforgiving lot.  And you’re not Melba.

And so, as we all look forward to springtime, this is my fervent plea.   If you are anyone other than my Auntie, just smile and say hello to me.  Go ahead. Make my day.  If you know me, call me by my first name or my last name.  Heck, if I can order off the Senior menu, I’ll even take a  “Mrs.” or a “Ma’am” from time to time and smile.

I’ll try to be sweet as honey, actually.