Pardon Our Dust

In order to create an awesome omelette, a few eggs must be broken.

I’m standing in front of my laptop with a few crates of eggs, determined to keep throwing them at the monitor until a decent meal can be served to you.

Here I was, all poised to jump into our New Year’s resolutions and realized that I left one of mine (okay a significant amount) undercooked.

I am incredibly good at generating ideas. I excel at starting things. I love to take what is, throw it into the blender and make something totally different with it.

Life is full of possibilities.

If the idea really floats my boat I will stay with it and have a great time.

But like most excitable types, I am easily wooed into the next great idea.

“Squirrel!” cries the brain, and off I run to the next big adventure.

I am surrounded with half finished great ideas.

A lot of them are still in the “scribbled down on sticky notes” stage.

Ask anybody.

If ever I was to have one goal in life it would have to be: Finish What You Start!

Taken literally, this is physically impossible, as the impulse to start things happens every five minutes or so.

But taken rationally, I suppose with some prioritizing I could get just a few main things actually ‘finished’ in a timely fashion.

It sounds painful, truth be told. And maybe messy. Definitely not ‘perfect’.

But really, where should we draw the line with ourselves?

I love myself enough to talk myself into doing the best thing for myself (like going to the gym), and I respect myself just enough to be able to sit through a little pain to accomplish it (“I was just there last week. Why should I come back today?”).

This is the last blog of 2014 and when I meet you on the other side, I would like it to be in the form of a fresher, slightly tastier version of a website.

I haven’t the faintest idea what I’m doing. It might be a complete disaster before I make something palatable.

But it’s the next step.

So be safe and have fun ushering in a Happy New Year!

I’ll be playing the egg toss game.

I hope I win!

Are We There Yet?

I would like to thank everyone who made this particular moment possible…

The traffic that swarmed the mall next to my house and turned a five minute drive-by into a half hour exercise in patience…namaste.

The mother who made fudge, cookies, and great grandma’s pumpkin pie recipe so I could “sample” it all. The goats who made the cheese that I covered in raspberry chipotle sauce “for our guests” and then ate by the spoonful. The girlfriend who bought me pajamas a size too big…because by this time next week, they’ll fit just right.

The basketball coach who thinks practice never takes a vacation and scheduled out of town tournament games…because he can.

The inventors of Skype who allowed one family party to connect with another family party across countless miles se we could open presents together and virtually annoy each other. The brother-in-law and the niece who each drove many miles, just to make sure the family was together for Christmas so we can annoy each other in person.

The Hubby who thought giving our 13 year old a flying drone in the living room was a good idea.

The doctor in orthopedics who decided not to cast our son’s broken arm for physical therapy reasons but in reality saved us from the stench of a week-old sweaty splint.

You all know who you are.

This moment is just a snapshot of the past few days or so. But it could reflect our year.

Ours is always a bit of a roller coaster, starting off slowly, building momentum quickly, and after the first hairpin curve, we just hunker down in the seatbelt and hold on for dear life.

No one seems to mind if our eyes are closed or if we’re screaming, but occasionally a photo gets passed around of us doing it.

There’s really no need for explaining.

Today is the pause.

The part where the ride has dropped us over the last big dip and is lurching slowly into the docking area. My head is up, my grip on the roll bar relaxing, and I’m seeing the next line of victims eager to jump in and go for the ride. They can have it.

We are just about “funned” out.

New Year’s Eve will be the celebration of getting off this ride and looking around for the next big thrill.

We’ll have the usual gang hanging out with card games and glow in the dark sticks and we’ll go outside for a countdown and then cheer real loud so the neighbors know we gave it a fair shake.

And then go to sleep as fast as possible.

This year was exhausting.

Heaps of fun, of course, lots of gorgeous views from the top of climbs and lots of great company along for the ride. There were a few moments when I thought perhaps we were going to end up hurtling through space without a parachute and several times when I was definitely nauseous from an unexpected drop. There was, occasionally, an unavoidable loop thrown my way.

Only a crazy person would have tried to get off the ride half way through it.

But believe you me, I considered it regularly.

I don’t want you to think I’m whimpering because, frankly, my daughter gave me a pep talk the other day saying, and I quote, “Mom, you did sign up for this you know!”

So I voluntarily set this ride in motion.

I wouldn’t mind spending a bit more time in “It’s a Small World” and a little less time riding the “Matterhorn” though.

Pavlova

Good morning to you! Take a moment and breathe deeply. I hope you’re in your comfy chair.

Enjoy the sounds of excited kids, perhaps the hissing of the tea kettle or distant bells on the street corner.

Smell the pine or the dinner cooking or the candles on the table.

This is a moment for peace and reflection.

It may become my one lasting tradition.

Although my family has grown through many stages and tried several holiday traditions, I have to admit none of them really stuck. We used to make a family photo card every November, but no one will sit for it now. Young children made paper countdown chains, teens did puzzles from an advent calendar, but now we are never all home at the same time for those 24 doors to be faithfully explored.

Perhaps it’s a good thing not to be too tied down to any one ‘necessary’ bit.

Flexibility is key. One year we chopped down a palm tree that had the audacity to grow where it was not wanted. That’s the tree we brought in and strung with lights.

When we moved, I brought along a Christmas tradition. Or so I thought.

For many years we’ve made cookies or truffles or cinnamon rolls or biscotti, wrapped them up and delivered them to our neighbors. Our old ‘hood was steady as a rock and our kids knew everybody.

As the kids grew, the tradition somehow morphed into me doing everything and then begging someone to help deliver the goods. They have better things to do than decorate cookies I guess.

All of our new neighbors are strangers and seem to be constantly moving themselves. I can’t decide if a plate of slightly crooked gingerbread men delivered by slightly surly teenagers will solidify a month-old relationship.

It may just make them reconsider their new location.

So maybe it’s time to re-think this tradition as well.

I can fuss and plan and stress and make huge kitchen messes all by myself.

Or, they should all be expecting wine-in-a-bag.

I will be choosing by the label design, how else?

One Christmas we hosted a wonderfully fun family from Australia. Among the many memories we made, a recipe for pavlova is one that stuck. Probably because I wrote it down.

Her measurements were metric and my kitchen was not.

The ingredients had to be interpreted. ‘Caster’ sugar is finely granulated, but we used what I had and all was well.

This lovely lady reached for my pint of buttermilk, thinking it was milk. I only just saved her cup of tea.

She was gracious enough to demonstrate her pavlova magic for me and with the leftover egg yolks, prepared a chocolate cake from scratch a couple of days later. No one bakes from a box except us Yanks. She used cocoa powder and the flavor was distinctly different. Her kids were in heaven, and so was I.

I had the cooking channel right here in my kitchen! Woot!

Don’t let the recipe worry you. I made it successfully for a couple of Christmases thereafter and it’s a nice change of pace, especially if you top it with fresh fruit or perhaps crushed candy canes.

Lovely Pavlova

  • Separate 4 room temp eggs (they should sit out for at least 20 minutes first); save the yolks for another recipe.
  • Beat the whites and a pinch of salt until they won’t slip in the bowl when it’s tipped sideways. (Use a glass or metal bowl. Make sure your bowl and mixer were dry.)
  • Gradually beat in 2 cups of white granulated sugar until it’s stiff and glossy. This will take forever. (Because the sugar must melt a bit at a time. If a pinch feels grainy between your fingers, you’re adding too fast. If you over beat it, it starts to separate or curdle; start over.)
  • Last, beat in 1 tsp each of: cornstarch, baking powder, vanilla, and white vinegar.
  • Lay a sheet of foil on a cookie sheet. Parchment paper works. No rim on your pan.
  • Gently spread your egg glop onto the center of this foil, spreading into a 10” roundish cake shape. (You could use a plate to mark a guide first if you like. But messy is also pretty. And a gentle hollow in the center will hold fruit nicely.)
  • Pop it into a pre-heated 300 degree oven, and then immediately reduce the temp to 250 degrees.
  • Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, then turn off the oven and leave it in there to cool and dry out. No drafts allowed. (A challenge on rainy days. Better during santa anas.)
  • When ready to serve, beat 2 cups heavy whipping cream with a pinch of powdered sugar and a drop of vanilla until stiff. Spread it onto a completely cooled pavlova and top with fruit, etc.
  • Refrigerate leftovers.
  • If, by chance, your pavlova is cracked or tanned or weeps or acquires other beauty marks, eat it all the same! You could switch up this recipe into a lot of flavor variations. Have fun!

I’m in Love With the Trash Man

This year at gift giving time, I want to sing for an unsung hero. A guy who is reliable, strong, smart, a good listener and drives a big truck. Like the sheriff, he cleans up this town and makes it safe to walk the sidewalks and enjoy the fresh air.

He’s your neighborhood trash man. And I’m in love.

I’m not a respecter of persons. I love them all. If they made a Trash Man Calendar I would buy it and hang it in the garage. Probably turned to Mr. August.

The trash man will take anything you put in the can. ANYthing. I have, little bits at a time, gotten rid of old water heaters, furniture, kitchen remodel chunks, even concrete.

The greens guy unknowingly but very cheerfully removed an entire pool deck. I had to saw the pieces into 4’ lengths, but there it is. Super service.

Our recycle bin has held the remnants of every party we ever threw. Soda bottles and pizza boxes and colorful crepe paper streamers.

They all show up faithfully every Thursday.

They are the only thing standing between us and the dark ages.

I can go without a lot of modern conveniences, but plumbing and trash removal aren’t on that list.

I finally drove over to the disposal facility today. I don’t know why it took me months before getting around to it. I had a collection of half used paint cans that were considered hazardous waste.

You can’t just dump them in with your regular trash, you have to make an appointment to drop them off.

I felt just guilty enough to not sneak it in there anyways but just put out enough to procrastinate getting it over there.

I’m so spoiled.

It’s free of course, but you take a few minutes of your time to do it.

I sat in the line of cars waiting to drop off “hazardous waste” and watched the trash men empty each load. It was great fun.

They wore gloves and coveralls and tossed giant TVs, computer keyboards, empty propane cylinders, and…hey! that’s the exact same bread machine I have! The one that makes your loaves square instead of round. Someone tossed it? What a waste.

I mean…I guess waste is the idea here. Waste disposal. Got it. Don’t have to like it though.

Watching them work was like watching the Three Stooges pack for a move.

They were doing something I always thought would be fun: take that machine that just broke on me in the middle of something super important and THROW IT ACROSS THE PAVEMENT WATCHING IT BURST INTO TINY SHATTERED BITS OF SORRY.

And these guys are getting paid to do it. Awesome.

My little box of paint cans took them less than a minute to toss. I didn’t even get out of the car. What gentlemen. They were efficient, friendly and helpful. I felt like I needed to go home and find some more things for them to toss.

Driving back out through the facility, I discovered all of the amazing behind the scenes shenanigans. Trash trucks were emptying into large warehouses where trash was processed into further heaps.

Conveyor belts were moving recyclables three stories high and stacked all around were compacted bundles maybe five feet cubed: some were solid crushed milk jugs. This looked like art. White with bits of random color.

Other cubes were cardboard, packed so tightly they were reduced to card stock.

Soda cans were impossibly interlinked, a cube of shiny aluminum brilliance.

The smell was a wonderful pungent tart and sour thing you could almost taste.

But it only lasted a moment or two.

The helpful trash men were insisting that I move right along and for all I know, saving my life in the process.

I came away with two very relevant thoughts.

I am re-confirmed in my opinion that, in this large living America, less is very much more. So much of our trappings are disposable. Simply outdated, unused, or unloved.

Less things. Try not to have so much in the first place.

The recycle idea is wonderful. Re-gift. Re-purpose. Don’t toss it, see if someone else can use your bread machine. Shop at the thrift stores. Donate freely. Circulate your stuff.

Sharing is caring.

But you can buy me one of those calendars.

Kicking the Habit at The Boston Tea Party

I’ve joined a 12 step program. They’re helping me to “just say no” to my substance abuse.

My name is Jolie. And I’m a tea drinker.

When I peel the plastic wrapper off the new box of tea, I have the uncanny realization that it’s also how cigarettes are packaged. Both products are made of dried leaves and both need to remain fresh until consumed.

It dawns on me as I make my third giant mug of tea.

I keep spare boxes of tea so I don’t run out. If I do, I will dash out in the middle of the night and buy some. From the only store in town that carries my brand. I can’t tell yet if it makes my life “unmanageable”. I rather think it makes my life “manageable”. But still…

“Do I have a problem?”

I’m the first tea snob on the family tree. My ancestors grew tobacco in Virginia.

Maybe I’ve just traded one crop for another.

My ancestors weren’t at the Boston Tea Party. They had the sense to be taxed without representation in order to enjoy a decent cup of tea.

But somebody’s were there…on the wrong side of the ship.

It was exactly 241 years ago today.

And I’m taking it very personally.

Can you believe they had the nerve to dump freshly arrived tea from England? What in the world?

This was not an affront to the British sovereign.

This was a declaration of war on the home front.

Wife: “Well I certainly didn’t wait the last eight months for a fresh cup of bona fide tea for you crazy men to just haul off in the middle of the night and DUMP IT INTO THE OCEAN!!”

Hubby: “My dear, it’s time to show England we mean business. Get your priorities straight!”

Wife: “You were dressed as a Mohawk. Why couldn’t you just bring the tea here? Who would know?”

Wife (feeling weak. she sits down): “45 tons of tea. TONS. of. tea.”

Hubby: “But darling, this was a political statement. We’re the Sons of Liberty!”

Wife: “Oh yeah? Well here’s MY statement: why don’t you just jump in there and fish some tea out of that harbor because it is stinking COLD where we live and if I don’t get a proper cup of tea soon, you’ll be dumped overboard yourself!!”

The hubby walks off to get his priorities straight, and the desperate housewife thinks to herself, “What can I turn into tea around here?”

And the hookah is born.

Let’s see….Step 1….

The Christmas Shopping Coma

Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly…Fa La La La La La La La La!

Now that you are in the department store elevator with me, let’s chat.

Because it will take my mind off the numbing fog of whirlwind Christmas preparations. Maybe I’ll just rest my forehead on this sterile tinsel-free elevator wall for a moment while you talk.

How are you coming along with your Christmas list? If I really had my life pulled together, I would have finished mine in August. If I left Hubby in charge, he would be cheerfully racing through the malls on Christmas Eve without a budget, buying random and completely unsuitable gifts.

My reality falls somewhere in the middle, but it is never pretty.

Did you find a parking spot? On Mars? I out-waited three other cars for a space near the front and I fully intend to sell it to the highest bidder when I’m done here.

I walked in on the bottom level which was a big mistake. The line to see Santa snaked around the corner and the screaming limp children were torturing their whimpering limp parents.

People pay to do this.

I didn’t even reach my first store before I fell into my Christmas shopping coma. It happens every year about this time. I look like a sincere and cheerful shopper but I am actually sleeping with my eyes open.

Here’s my proof.

Our mall boasts a three story Target. Three. Stories.

This means they have escalators in there that take you and a cart full of stuff you don’t need but are buying anyway up and down all night.

It feels exactly like you’re in an airport. Which is fine. If your flight is cancelled, everything you need to live on is in there.

I had my daughter with me and we were heading down the down escalator while my own sister, who works there, was riding the other escalator up.

I looked her right in the face and she smiled at me as we passed, two ships in the night. Her smile dissolved into a puzzled frown just before she disappeared into the second floor.

My daughter waved and tossed out a quick “Hi!” as we dropped to the first floor.

Then she turned to me and said, “Mom? Why didn’t you say ‘Hi’?”

I leaned over and whispered, “Sweetie, I don’t know who that is.”

After some extreme eye rolling and patting me on the head, she left me to wander aimlessly while she dashed off to the food court.

My sister will understand. My daughter will check me into an old folks home.

It’s just that I find the frantic holiday push a little too…pushy. And my coma is a subconscious buffer zone.

There’s only one year in my memory that I joined the ranks of the frenetic and loved every minute of it.You can blame it squarely on Starbucks.

My children are all bigger than me, faster than me, and even, if you can believe it, bossier than me now. But when I was at the top of this food chain, I dragged my feet putting up Christmas.

It just feels harsh to jump directly from giving thanks for what we have to writing up all the stuff we suddenly want.

Plus, it’s a lot of work.

So, the first week of December was almost gone and everyone was wondering why Mom was still not in full Christmas mode. Where was our tree? Why were the ornament boxes still in the garage?

The neighbors have had lights up for a month for crying out loud.

Hubby and I had a date night. We went out to a movie and then over to Starbucks for dessert. I had recently discovered the joy of gingerbread lattes and treated myself – why not – to a venti.

That’s Italian for “we just put three shots of espresso into your veins”.

Which at the time, I didn’t realize.

An hour later, I was higher than a kite on caffeine and the whole world just glittered. I imagine that’s because my eyeballs were jittering in their sockets.

The family was in bed when I first eyed the Christmas stuff.

I was putting the finishing touch on a triumphant nativity set when I noticed the time.

Three in the am. Boom!

Every single holiday item we owned was on display. The family woke up to a winter wonderland.

And this, my friend, is why my comforting little coma will remain.

It keeps me solidly between Grinch and Tasmanian Devil.

Santa Clause, Satan, and The Swing Set Sucker Punch

I am about to open a fat can of worms. There’s no way around it. We don’t need this to get messy. But we’re going to get real for a few minutes.

Are you one of those moms who drags her kids down to the mall for a Santa photo? Santas worry me like circus clowns worry me. At least a mime has the sense to keep his mouth shut, and they are plenty creepy.

Every kid worth his salt will take one look at Santa and see a phony. What normal adult dresses up like that and expects to be taken seriously? What crazy mom tells her kid to go sit on a total stranger’s lap and tell him secrets? Who does that?

I only attempted two Santa photos back when I was a young lemming mommy, and my rational kids were screaming bloody murder at the whole nonsense.

But I never ‘did’ Santa. I never did the Easter Bunny. I never did leprechauns. The Tooth Fairy was always a day late and a dollar short.

Don’t lie to your kids. They will tell themselves lies later all on their own (“Mom said to eat the cookies…I’m pretty sure I heard her say that.”).

So while my mommy friends were on the roof at midnight, ringing sleigh bells and leaving hoof prints, my kids knew it was all just a fun game that parents played and they got ‘Santa’ presents all the same. They swore not to tell their friends, and I got a good night’s sleep.

Lest your holiday cheer is wilting like a June snowman, you need to understand…like the infamous Grinch, I too have a tragic back story.

Remember my tiny childhood home? Next door lived a dyed-in-the-wool catholic family with three little girls. The oldest daughter was my age, 9, and got threatened regularly with Satan when she was naughty.

If Lorraine’s mama said Satan was in her bottom dresser drawer ready to snatch her, then he was.

I was being raised believing in only one God, which meant there couldn’t be one anywhere else. Satan was a figment of a grumpy and misguided imagination.

Lorraine and I were never what you would call ‘friends’. We were quite opinionated ‘frenemies’.

So I pulled that dresser to pieces looking for the guy with the pitchfork. We never did find him.

She insisted: just because we can’t find the guy doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist.

And she waited for her moment of revenge.

One Christmas morning, we woke up to sunshine and a few frugal gifts which we enjoyed. Passing a window, I noticed something; a shiny new swing set was sitting in the backyard and with whoops of delight, we raced out to play.

Lorraine and her sisters were watching through the fence.

“Look!” I cried, “Santa brought us a swing set!”

“No he didn’t,” she said smugly, “your dad built it.”

“There’s no way he could have!” I retorted. My spy system was pretty good, and there had been zero hints that this possibility was in the works.

“I sat up last night and watched him do it,” insisted Lorraine, “There is no Santa Clause.”

I stopped swinging.

My frown of anger, doubt and possible betrayal began to grow as I marched back into the house.

“Mom!”

My mother’s guilty face, however, told me immediately that “Santa” used the same wrapping paper that she did (a detail I had been overlooking until today) and furthermore, while quite easy to locate (one on every corner in December…well, technically in November too in progressive malls) he was also a figment of a cheerful and misguided imagination.

Can you blame me if I never invited her over for a swing on the set?

Just because there is no Santa doesn’t mean his gifts disappear.

How Many Queens in a Full House?

A homemaker is a gambler.

She gambles every time she makes something new for the family dinner.

She gambles on whether Hubby will throw a fit over her new short hair cut.

She gambles on whether the car will run out of gas before she runs out of errands.

So it’s only natural that when she has incoming house guests, she invites Lady Luck to join her in the linen closet for a game of bluff.

Four of a Kind would be lovely but Two Pair are all I can realistically ask for.

The gamble is finding the right combination of sizes, colors, and pieces that will go onto the correct configuration of beds.

Simultaneously.

Our large family has no shortage of beds. The girls have twin beds with rolling trundles that pop out when needed and the boys have twin beds that can combine into a king size, and we have a queen size bed that just sort of moves around between rooms.

I really don’t know how that happened.

But she lives here too.

Depending on who our guests are, I may need to take my game up a notch, as the kids donate their rooms for the occasion.

The girls have bedding that is coordinated but comes with an array of unique pillows, stuffed animals, college blankets, clip-on headboard lamps, a couple of candy bar wrappers in the duvet and possibly some pocket change under the mattress.

One daughter always makes her bed. One daughter never makes her bed.

The boys share a room that is completely stripped of toys, trophies, or trinkets. Instead, their room with two beds and two nightstands has a central sacrificial burial mound where a week’s worth of laundry (clean and dirty) mingle with sports equipment, gym bags, school papers, shoes, cell phone chargers, backpacks, and empty gatorade bottles.

When I tell them to clean up they use a skip loader and put it all into the closet.

None of them will use a top sheet, so the fitted sheets get worn to rags and the tops are brand spanking new. The quilts are somewhere in the middle.

My linen closet takes a good beating but we manage to make it work.

I reach in and pull out a king top and a queen bottom. Okay, double or nothing. I grab another blue sheet and two twins and a pillow sham fall out.

I decided to toss all of my dice at once, gut the shelves, and look for the Royal Flush.

I lined up the kings and kept a set in yellow. I hunted down all of the queens. Only the brown set stayed. Because only the brown set had all the pieces. I discovered I had twin bedding for a dozen beds, but only if those beds needed a random top sheet or pillow case. So I stacked matched four piece sets for six twins, tossing out the kickers.

I had to find a blanket and quilt to each set. By now I was surrounded with linens.

Let’s see…two twins equals a king….

“I’ll see your sheet and raise you a bed skirt.”

It was then that I decided to raise the stakes even higher. When your son hits 6’2” and his feet are hanging off the end of his bed, you have to get what they call a twin “long”.

That or buy him nice ski socks.

I had a hot tip on some sheet sets at a discount warehouse, so I went to investigate. I found a lovely 500 thread count Egyptian cotton set marked down by 70%. It’s pink and yellow, but it’s new and it all matches. Maybe it’s a long shot, but no one needs to know if he’s sleeping on flowery sheets, right?

No? Fine. Scratch that.

I shuffled the deck and found one with tiny green seashells. Score!

Turns out, twin “long”s aren’t the popular size, but for us they’re the ace in the hole.

Oh. You’re coming over for the weekend? Suite!

We put jokers on the couch.

USPS to Go

So my mom calls me yesterday to get an address that she needs to update. She is still old school everything. Her address book is made of paper and scribbled on with the last four decades of updates.

When I read it off to her, I reel off all nine digits of the zip code involved and this is where we stall.

“Why are there nine numbers now instead of just five?”

“I guess the post office wants to be more accurate.”

“I don’t understand. They’ve been able to deliver mail for years just fine. Stamps cost so much now that I think they should endure a little extra effort. Rain, sleet, snow…what’s the other? Dark of night? Well, the mailman never was stumped before.”

“Mom, I think the prices went up for stamps because they are handling less and less real mail. It’s called Snail Mail now and most people use email. Or just texting. It’s faster, doesn’t use up trees, and goes directly to the other person. No middle man required.”

“You mean they are demanding more money for less work? Sounds like America to me.”

“I suppose eventually paper mail will become obsolete. Kind of sad…I like cards.”

“Well the postal service can’t ever be closed down because we still send packages. You can’t send a box over the internet.”

“Hm. Here’s where I’ll sound silly…but Willie Wonka could do it. If Willie could send a Wonkabar through space – and a mouthy kid – then it’s only a matter of time before the military figures it out.”

“And then we lose our mailman?! What will we do with our mailboxes? I just had mine re-painted. George down the street has a giant bass mailbox. You put the mail into its mouth. He loves that thing.”

“I really don’t know, Mom. Maybe you can use them as planters.”

“I blame the people making junk mail. They clog up the system. If I had to sort tons of paper that everyone is just going to throw away, I’d be grumpy too. I should bake the mailman some cookies.”

“What’s really bad are the ads for credit cards I don’t need, insurance I won’t buy and tans I’m not getting. Who lives here and buys a tan? And don’t bake for the mailman. He’ll freak out and think you’re trying to poison him. Remember the anthrax scare?”

“Oh dear, that was a bad one. The mailman has worn gloves ever since. And sometimes a face mask. In the middle of summer, too. Bad enough he has to walk from house to house, carrying his huge heavy mail bag.”

“Mom if you really felt bad about that, you could just have a post office box and go get your own mail. Save him the trip.”

“With my lumbago? All I was going to suggest is that he get a mail truck and be able to deliver it a bit easier.”

“My mailman drives along the curb but, once in a while, he forgets to take my out-going mail. He pauses long enough to toss our mail into the box, and flips the door shut while pressing the gas pedal. His route is one long rolling ‘California stop’.”

“Isn’t that the same mailman who left you a nasty note about your mailbox being short by two inches and to replace the sharp latch on it? Forgot about that. You should leave him a note about manning up already. He’s got it cushy.”

“Sure, Mom, sure. Look, write the address the way I gave it to you and put a nice fat stamp on it. Your card should get there in a day or two.”

“Yes I will. And thanks for your help.”

“Mom,” I ask for the millionth time, “why can’t you let me set you up with a computer? Your life would be so much easier!”

“For the last time,” she says patiently, “I plan on going out the way I came into this world: electronically free. I like to keep life simple.”

“And before you go all postal on me,” she continues, “remember who still sends your birthday card, with a real stamp, covered in highlighter and containing real money. Me, that’s who.”

On the other hand, simple works.