My Goodreads Reading Challenge

I love me a good reading challenge. I raised my fabulous five surrounded by books and, so far as I can tell, I think it’s done them well. The youngest is a tender twenty years old and can figure out the letters they put into math and occasionally spouts the Greek at me across the kitchen, just to make me shiver.

The alphabet. Don’t underestimate it.

We’ve graduated from the good old days when kids had nothing better to do during the long lazy months of summer but chase chickens around the backyard, annoy ant hills with a magnifying glass, or walk with the fam two blocks south for a visit to the public library. The attraction had as much to do with the free air conditioning as it did with seeing how many borrowed books we could squeeze into our little red wagon.

Every summer, the library held a Reading Challenge for kids. And we knocked it out of the ballpark. The kids still have medals to prove it. Perhaps the idea of a reading competition feels as exciting as watching grass grow or—follow me here—a golf tournament. But as my third child would say, you are a bucket of wrong.

And there comes a time when a mom can no longer live vicariously through her children.

Have you seen my Goodreads Challenge page? It’s Fitbit for readers.

The idea is to set yourself the goal of reading “X” amount of books during the calendar year and then, as you finish each one, you post it to your list along with a review if you so choose. Not just for a summer…for an entire year!

Come here, Goodreads.

First, I had to throw a huge backlist together of my favorite books that I’d already read (possibly multiple times) and it keeps me up at night, knowing I’ve missed actual thousands of titles because I was too chicken to post the kid books. I’d love for you to think my reading list is classy and intellectual, but I love “Where the Wild Things Are” and Ezra Jack Keats and every single Nancy Drew ever written, even though Caroline Keene is a lie and our relationship has been strained at best, ever since she came clean.

After posting the backlist, I had to remember what I read last year and hurt myself trying. It’s mostly accurate. But a goal for this year? I took a step back and made the rational decision that a book a month felt healthy. I do have a full-time job writing, but after all, I’m also in a real live Book Club. If I read nothing else, I can post the dozen current books that these hip and happenin’ ladies put in my path. Right?

Sigh.

I’m supposed to be halfway through “A Million Steps” by Kurt Koontz. Instead, I’ve hidden under the covers at night and binge-read Sue Grafton. My secret goal for the Reading Challenge is to get all the way through her alphabet before the Book Club catches on to me and I get the boot.

This is how my kids got into trouble at school, reading fiction under their desk instead of their math book sitting on top. I suppose that explains my twenty-year-old, though.

I read “Migrations” by Charlotte McConaghy like a good girl, and it gutted me entirely. I don’t know if I can handle that level of emotional shipwreck every month. I mean, I’m already doing that with menopause.

Last week, I posted “F is for Fugitive” on Goodreads. I’m claiming every page. Kinsey Millhone is steady, predictable, and teaching me about my own craft. It annoyed me that she didn’t describe herself until page fourteen and then said her hair was “dark”. Dark? Like brunette? Black? Mahogany? Glints of red or blue in the direct sun? Sure, it’s good enough to use those details on the suspects, but we readers need foundational reference. If you don’t tell me, I will make it up, Kinsey!

But that’s not the kind of stuff you post on Goodreads. You have to say things like, “Delicate and fresh, very soft tannins with fruity aromas. A little vivid for my taste, but overall well balanced and smooth on the palate.”

Sigh.

I will keep my opinions to the blog and keep my enormous pile of TBR books in the little red wagon next to the bed.

It’s full of the alphabet, G through Y, with a couple of Kiplings, a secret Madeleine L’Engle, a Shel Silverstein side wall, a bottom layer of JK Rowling, a mix of CS Lewis and EB White, random Janet Evanovich numbers, and a flashlight.

What’s in your little red wagon?

The Top Five Blogs of 2020

As if you couldn’t evacuate 2020 fast enough, here are some parting stories to keep you company till midnight.

The five most popular posts of the year according to my website stats are:

Five: The Maelstrom. Appropriate word for 2020, little did we know in February.

Four: Seattle Shenanigans. This was our first and only trip for 2020 (sob), but we all made the most of it.

Three: Murder Mystery Mayhem. We all began the Loveda Brown series together, and it’s been quite a ride.

Two: Mother’s Day Hotline 2020. In appreciation of moms in the weeds. Ain’t no hood like motherhood.

One: The Bottomless Bookshelf. I love that readers keep coming back for recommendations! What was your fave read this year? Add it to the comments.

And now, because I just can’t help myself:

The 2020 Christmas Newsletter

When Covid broadsided us in March, my family members reacted each in his own way, but that didn’t stop us from doing things. Special things. Things we just didn’t see coming…like this watercolor by Kid 5.

Hubby bought groceries. He bought them until our cupboards exploded and I took his Costco card away. Then he bought blocks. Eighty-pound keystone wall-building blocks. He hid his credit card from me and he won’t stop bringing more home. Hubby is building the Great Pyramids on our hillside property with his bare hands. Obviously, he has a better chance at stopping gravity than stopping any of 2020s dumpster fires.

I picked up a sledgehammer and demolished the master bathroom. All of it. I ripped the flooring out and you can stare into the basement if you don’t mind the funny smell. I left nothing standing but the toilet, only you can’t get to it because the floor is gone. This is fine because, conveniently, there’s a toilet paper shortage. I ripped out the dry-rot—the nasty slime that no one could see, but I knew it was there—because there was a lot of it swirling in the global atmosphere that I couldn’t reach.

Some day, Hubby will stop building walls and build us a bathroom.

But this is not that day.

Kid Numero Uno, about to turn a whopping thirty years old, created a plethora of art for people. Art makes people happy. That’s a big deal in 2020. He lives in L.A. and has gone all adulty on me. He calls on the regular to make sure we’re all healthy, wears his mask, visits people outdoors six feet apart, and to really understand the level of his shocking behavior: he exchanged Christmas presents with us. This is unheard of and I’ve asked him repeatedly to take his temperature and read me the little numbers on the thermometer.

Senorita Dos Equis, on her way to becoming The Most Interesting Teacher in the World, went back to school for her master’s degree in Education: Learning & Technology. She also works in the local school district: “I don’t always zoom with kindergartners, but when I do, they take naps on camera and there’s not a thing I can do about it.” I can’t help feeling like this is some new level of Jumanji where juggling swords on a unicycle will be required. I hope she wins.

Tres Leches Mija ghosted on us. She lives less than a mile away, but the only proof she’s alive is when she sends me hilarious memes at two in the morning. Although her plans with her sidekick, Alastor the Wonder Dog, were curtailed (haha), the two managed to win ribbons (Best in Class for “Who’s a Good Boy?”) and are in training to join CARDA as a search and rescue team. He’s already snoofed up plenty of hotdogs and rescued cats from boredom, so glory is in their future.

Quatro Corazones split the year four ways: college, work, girlfriend, and a brand new car. He passed his classes. He was promoted into a full-time position at work. I’m not sure his girlfriend knows that the Toyota 4Runner is for camping and boys’ trips, but we’ll do coffee soon and talk. He had his blood drawn last week and texted me: “I blacked out. But got a cookie.” Me: “Never watch!” Him: “I didn’t, I just tilted my head for a second and I couldn’t see anything. Good news tho, I don’t do drugs.”

Me: “Whatever. Just try not to slurp up any Covid while you’re in there.”

Cinco de Mayo Mijo is currently the favorite kid because he stays home and feeds me. He rode the restaurant industry rollercoaster all year, and it taught him that food could be used to steal car keys from parents. “Mother dear, I see that you are typing sideways and about to fall onto the floor on your face. Could it be that you haven’t eaten in three days in your effort to MAKE MORE WORDS?” Then, he slips a grilled cheese sandwich with a tiny dill pickle nose and a ketchup smiley face on it in front of me and runs away with my car key. I don’t even care where he’s going. I lick ketchup from my fingers and keep typing.

These are great life skills. Why he insists on staying with college, I don’t know.

Covid-Kitty Furrybutt Smoochin’ Sugarloaf Whiskerboy is doing fine, thanks. He misses his life on the street and plays Ninja-paws in the back alley once in a while, to hone his tough guy persona. I carry my scars with pride. I want to go on record as saying, “When the animals in this family get more stocking stuffers than the actual kids, it must be 2020.”

We’re all leaning a little sideways, and that’s okay. I celebrate your own flavor of crazy this holiday season and lift a virtual cuppa with you as we farewell 2020.

It’s been one heck of a ride.

 

The Boxes

God is in it all. The mundane, the crazy, the life-altering zesty life things that come at us every day. But how often do we see it? This blog was about sorting boxes but the God Echoes would not stop coming. They are in italics. You can read this piece with them, or without them, either way.

Boxes. Boxes and boxes. In these boxes are memories. Baby shower cards and diplomas and finger paintings. Coins and yearbooks and a newspaper from the day each child was born.

I am not a saver by any stretch and my beloved children will tell you that I am practical to a fault. So why are there so many boxes on my dining room table?

In all fairness, I blame my mother.

Back in ye olde days of April, when the world was ending, my mother’s somewhat panicky voice – the one that lives in the back of my head – spoke up:

What if?

What if I lose the last fifty years of memories to fire or earthquake or some other chapter of Revelation? To locusts or rats, or *gasp* outdated tech?

What if the world ends and I haven’t organized it yet?

We can’t let that happen.

And so, in April, I gathered every box from the basement, attic, and closets. Cleared out under the bed and emptied my cedar chest with one goal in mind: turn all of this overwhelming why-did-I-save-that pile of flotsam into a future-proof time capsule.

A little Noah’s Ark.

When the world as we knew it was going to end, God thought it was important to bring the past forward into the new future, too. My fifty years counted. Noah’s 600 years counted. For better or worse, we can’t act like they didn’t happen. God does not erase our past, He offers a better future. The mosquitos and the ants were on the ark.

I opened the first box and lifted out an infant onesie, covered in tiny yellow bumblebees, stained on the front, snaps in place, and I was undone.

And now I know how Noah must have felt on the other side. And why he needed a drink. We don’t get to go backwards. Be still, my heart.

The child that wore this tiny scrap of fabric is no longer interested in it, but I was transported instantly to a place where he was. I was holding the memory for him. Literally.

If there are parts of our past that are too heavy to carry, poop that happened in the infancy of our relationship with Him, entire boxes of memories we would rather forget, know that He holds those closest to His heart because it represents how much you’ve grown. He wouldn’t trade that journey for anything.

My memories will never mean as much to anyone else as they do to me. And that’s okay. I would like to keep them, please, just not in so many boxes.

It’s nice to know God has an attic that stretches to infinity. I’ll let Him keep the boxes.

The next generation has no concept of my anxious task. Their memories go directly to the cloud.

You see? Safe. Likely decorated that attic door with a rainbow or two. Typical proud parent.

Mine are in a cloud, too. A dust cloud. I march my memories, two by two, across the scanner, and this, too, results in another memory.

The Year Mom Sorted the Boxes.

It took Noah over a hundred years to pull the ark together. He probably paced himself. I guess I shouldn’t whine about six months.

The little time capsule, filling and thrilling, reminds me that life is full of good memories when you stop and pay attention to them.

And now I can carry them on a lanyard around my neck, close to my heart.

Mom always said, “Look where you’re going.” Since the past is not where I’m going, I will only spend a little more time looking down instead of up. Whatever happens next, my past and my future sit safely in the cloud. And we will not be forgotten.

He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart. Isa 40:11

A VHS Time Warp

 

Sometimes the past comes back to haunt you and sometimes, it arrives in time to help.

Let’s hit the pause button.

We used to own an obscure Disney movie that was part of an extensive VHS collection. It lived in a box labeled “Mommy’s Sanity”. We dipped into it so frequently that my two year old could operate the VCR on his own. I should have asked him to program it so the time displayed correctly. Too late now.

Some of you may have seen “So Dear to My Heart” at one time or another. I suppose its popularity faded as fast as an actual Disney movie with morals – and Bible stories! – in it would. It’s as preachy as Pollyanna and as bathed in buttermilk as Charlotte’s Web. You might be wondering whether my kidlets picked up some nice manners or learned a few lessons on how to respect their elders.

But no.

Fast forward about sixteen years.

My baby boys are all grown up and can drive cars and everything, although I feel in my bones that driving the VCR was far less dangerous. A friend of theirs is flying into San Diego and my boys insist that they are going to pick him up at the airport. I attempt logic first.

“No problemo. I’ll drive you guys and you can load him into the car. Just ignore me, pretend I’m the chauffeur.”

“No, mom. So uncool. We don’t need a driver. We can do it ourselves.”

“You’ve never been to the airport to pick someone up before. The place is a multilayered pretzel on steroids. You’ll take the wrong exit and get all turned around and the clock will be ticking while your friend stands on the curb wondering where you are and YOU NEVER SHOW UP.”

“Mom. Jeez.” Eye rolls, pats on the head, and the casual mention of senility because apparently mama has forgotten that they are MEN and can DO this and just hand over the KEY.

“Look. Boys. You don’t have smart phones. I’ve never seen you read a road map. The place is crawling with one way streets. Just call me when you get lost. I’ll talk you in from where ever you are stuck and get you there, okay? Easy, peasy. Don’t panic. Just pull over in a safe location and call me. Please.”

Three hours of phone silence go by. I hold my head high because this very fact proves beyond doubt that they are, indeed, men. I am that super cool mom who refuses to call them and check in. Instead, I pace the house and stare for the millionth time at the map of the San Diego airport.

“Just turn on Laurel,” I tell it.

When the men return victorious, I pat their little egos on the head and take my key back. I’ll check the paint job and the gas tank level later. There is loud banter as they proceed directly to the kitchen to attack the fridge and scatter its remains throughout my kingdom.

But later, in the shadows, a snitch tells me the story. He is both joyful and triumphant as he hits the rewind button.

“Mom. Remember that movie when we were kids? The one with the black sheep? And the kid wants to find honey? Remember that? Well, we got totally lost downtown today and we pulled over to discuss our options when a plane went over our head. So we decided to follow the planes.”

“Follow the planes?”

“Yeah. Like the movie. He tells the kid to just find a bee and follow it home. That’s where the hive is. So, we just kept turning on whichever road went the same direction as the planes. And we found the airport!”

Now, isn’t that a dilly?

The JARR Farmhouse Revisited

 

What a difference three months can make! For everyone considering, attempting, or winning at urban homesteading, here are some things to consider from “a house of four women who are completely unqualified farmers” but are having a go anyway, sharing inspiration and creative tips for container gardening and other homestead adventures direct from the southern California quarantine.

In April, the planter beds and containers were set up, the soil prepared, and the sowing commenced. See the previous post for our “before” photos. A lot of new skills came into play during May, June, and July, and now it’s time for the summer harvest. Let’s see how the ladies managed.

  1. Remember this lil chick? She was a dude. Four hens came home. One was an imposter and crows now.

    Are we planting flowers or fowls?

    Claudius Maximus Caesar is a lavender orpington. Attitude sold separately.

    Pika is a pheasant cochin, Mochi is a blue leghorn, and Boo is a blue plymouth. They trade manure and eggs for leftover garden produce and bugs. Win, win.

  2. Chickens here require a coop built like a maximum detention facility. Suburbia is no barrier to critters like coons, possums, snakes, weasels, bobcats, coyotes, hawks, skunks, and toddlers, all of whom love to ruin months of hard work in a single night. Build it, and they will come. Search my blog for other stories on chickens.

    Extra points for cuteness. This went inside a larger, chain-link enclosure.

  3. Speaking of extra, the watermelon patch has taken over most of the yard. The first five seeds were planted in April. Nothing happened. They planted another five seeds in May. Nothing sprouted. They bought watermelon seedlings and then it rained. Fifteen watermelon plants later, they could open a corner farm stand and sell melons if they wanted to. For now, they are making friends and influencing people with them. Smart business ladies.

    Summer picnic time!

  4. That one rain is a good reminder about SoCal: we have to water our yards and gardens. We live in a desert. But we are in denial. The spring months were unseasonably cool but by the end of July, the hot spells rolled in. Either way…we have to get out there and water the garden or lose everything. Here you can see the block planter with herbs gone to seed, the shelf planter with greens gone to bunnies (they jump? who knew?) and only part of the rioting watermelon patch.

    Planter mosh pit.

  5. Rows of corn planted along a fence grew to different heights, based precisely on how much sun vs shade they received during the day. Lesson: more sun = taller corn. Taller corn = more ears.

    Growing gold.

  6. The pumpkins fared well, although we are nowhere close to Halloween. Lesson: plant them in the summer for a fall harvest. Also: chunk them into the InstantPot and make homegrown pumpkin pies now because yum.

    Smallish but tasty.

  7. The rest of the garden grew nicely. The cucumbers and peppers are ready. Fresh salad greens came through quickly around the end of May and were afterward left to the bunnies. Late July is when tomatoes are bursting. The butternut squash were delicious.

    Chili pepper poppers, anyone?

    Little cuke cuties!

    Cheery cherry tomatoes!

  8. Last, but not least, we had a peek at the fruit trees in pots. I was a bit skeptical, but here’s proof that you don’t need a yard to harvest trees. These would fit on an apartment balcony.

    Meyer lemon tree. Harvest in winter.

    Mission figs. They will turn a glorious purple later.

Rock On, My Peeps

 

There came a moment in the spring of 2020 when all of the planet took a time-out. In this sabbath hush, the earth could be heard breathing. In order to better hear it, everyone stepped outside and walked the dusty soil, admired her fragile blue-green beauty, felt her pulse, and embraced all humanity as family.

Okay. It may have been a tadsy bit difficult to continue our faith in humanity. To trust that others will also think of others. To believe that tiny gestures of faith can change the world.

Here in San Diego, I discovered evidence that many gave it a go. And I salute them.

We are blessed to live next to some fabulous hiking trails and we wander them almost daily. A favorite walk of mine is a nice, flat 5K that is wide enough to let me take evasive action if I see snakes or non-mask wearing humans. Hubby always wants to hike in new different directions. He says he is bored with the same old gorgeous view and needs a fresh one. He wants to walk the wild side and go uphill. As if life wasn’t already uphill both ways in four feet of snow.

And so, my favorite walk, in imminent jeopardy of becoming “boring”, was saved when the art began to appear. Paintings left along the path, mysteriously detailed on rocks. And just as mysteriously, disappearing again. I was fascinated and had I not taken photos, would not have proof they were there. It was like discovering my own whimsical outdoor art gallery and it brought a smile to my face every time I uncovered one.

Turns out, these little gems were shifting around on purpose. Just like a Bible school project I’d covered in a newsletter last year, they were part of a larger movement where rocks are painted and then left for people to find and hide again as way to inspire communities with random acts of kindness, like rainbows or teddy bears in the windows did.

It’s a shame they had to move, though. I’m sure the art was relocated to another trail to inspire the next person. Ahem.

So it works, people. But they are gone and nothing has replaced them, and I wonder whether you would be interested in painting a few for me? I have two left thumbs but I sat down and made a couple of little trail buddies, although everyone knows I am not to be trusted with paint. Or glue. Or glitter. It mostly stayed on my hands…

Help a girl out. Let’s change the world.

If I can do it, anyone can!

I could attempt this abstract. I’m calling it “The Purple People Eater”.

Oh. My. Word. Cuteness.

A classic, with a message for our times. There are a lot of unsung heroes among us.

Mandala, inspiration for intentional, thoughtful steps forward.

My spirit rock. Inspires automatic social distancing while maintaining a sense of humor.

Alright, who invited the Canadian?? 

The strawberry is what’s left of an entire fruit salad, which was my favorite. There was also a hotdog here at one point. Hard not to reach for these treats!

This one I call, “Sally Sweet”, portrait of a tough gal full of vision and endurance who carries the sunshine with her. Be like Sally.

The Toilet Paper Explained

A long time ago (beginning of March), in a galaxy far away (across town), I made a run to Costco (Ground Zero). This is usually Hubby’s job but my super efficient self had to get gas anyway. I pulled into a front row parking spot that sunny morning, congratulating myself on arriving before opening hour and turned on the radio for a rare five minutes of relaxation. I thought it was odd to see a crowd gathered near the warehouse doors on a Tuesday, but with Costco you never know. I shrugged a couple of minutes later, gathered my shopping list and headed over to stand with the happy campers and stare at the rollup doors the way my cat stares down a can of tuna.

The woman closest to me gave me funny look. Not a happy one. Like maybe my fly was down or I had mustard on my face. I looked around and realized that she was the line leader for everyone there. Behind her stretched a trail of people gripping empty shopping carts down the entire length of the building. Huh? Since when does everyone get in line? Costco is famous for the wide open cattle range that it is. Every man for himself. It works.

Not on her watch.

I glanced to my left and a gentleman stood there with an amused smirk and crossed arms and I copied him and got myself comfortable. People are weird.

“I’m not getting in line,” I told him. “There’s enough stuff for an army in there, what’s the rush?”

At opening time, another amazing thing happened. From the exit door, three employees walked out and, facing the line of customers, held up their cell phones and began to shoot video. They shook their heads in disbelief as the line began to move into the bowels of the store. The employee who opened the door began calling out to the passing people, “Take your time, folks, there’s plenty for everyone. Be polite, please. Thank you for staying calm.”

What in the world? It must be quite a sale. Too bad whatever it was wasn’t on my list.

With one raised eyebrow, I followed the last of the line into the store. No. That’s not true. I waited for the end of the line to show up and it didn’t. The whole parking lot was migrating towards me now, so I just waved my card and conducted business as usual. All aboard.

I zipped up the sidelines where no shoppers ever linger. I’m no amateur. Tossed the goods into my cart without skipping a beat, which is how I always shop. Get in. Get out. Tea time.

I came skidding around a corner five minutes later, halfway done, and darned if the line was still in formation and stretched in the opposite direction, the length of the warehouse. Perfectly serious faces, perfectly empty carts.

“Excuse me,” I mumbled at the line. I was monitored from all directions as they let me through.

“Get some more troopers back there,” an employee hissed into his walkie, scuttling by.

I craned my neck in a brief attempt to understand when Karen plowed triumphantly by, her cart full to overflowing with…toilet paper. If you are unfamiliar with a Costco-sized package of toilet paper, just know that it takes only two to prevent all further items going into your cart. These tissue towers won’t even fit under the cart. Karen had three and the front basket where the babies go was stacked with sanitizing hand wipes. The look on her face implied she was only warming up, but where was she going to put her groceries? Down her bra?

The next man went by with a Jenga-worthy stack in his cart and I heard him say, to no one in particular, “I own a business.” His tone was defensive.

Then a little old lady passed me and saw my shocked face. She only had a single plushie in her cart but said apologetically, “Well, I don’t really need any but if this is the way things are going, I may as well get me some now.”

I had no clue what was going on. I did not get this memo. I was a little freaked out.

I flung the rest of my groceries into the cart and dashed to the check-out where I had the place to myself. That alone is a creepy experience. The clerk behind the beep beep machine wore a resigned look. One braced for the inevitable. Long suffering and just a bit in shock.

“What?” she said, scanning items, “no toilet paper?” I gripped my cart in an effort to remain calm. Was I making a terrible mistake?

“What’s happening?” I asked her under my breath, not sure I wanted to know.

She stopped scanning and just stared at me. There was no one else in line. She leaned forward and said, “Well, I’ll tell you. Last week, three of our trucks were stalled out east due to bad weather. Happens all the time. These just happened to contain our toilet paper. So, for a couple of days, there was a big empty space where it goes.” She stood taller. “It’s not like we weren’t going to get it any minute, we had to keep the space open.”

I thought for a beat. Costco never has empty spaces. Product is continually shifted to maximize sales.

“Anyway,” she continued, as she swiped my items from left to right, “A rumor went around that there was a shortage. So when the trucks finally arrived, there was a run on it.” She paused. “I get it if people were out but I mean, you can buy the stuff anywhere. We all decided they must just love our brand or whatever, but it’s happened every single day since. Cleaned out faster than we can put more on the pallets. No reason why. We have plenty. We won’t run out.”

She looked towards the cattle drive and shook her head. “Do you need boxes today?”

I declined her offer, thanked her, and bolted.

I was almost to my car and a lady went by and laughed, “What? Where’s your toilet paper?”

I was prevented from replying because three different cars were inches from my body, poised to take my spot as soon as I pulled out. The parking lot resembled Disneyland on a get-in-free day. A steady surge of humanity kept flowing into the warehouse, trapped in the toilet paper tractor beam.

At this point, you have to know some things. One, I did not in any way need toilet paper. And two, I was contemplating unloading my groceries into my car and going back for some because I didn’t want to get left behind. I felt deprived, anxious, needy, and fearful of the future.

“What if? What if?” asked my mother’s voice.

Well, I answered, “if we need some, we’ll buy it at the 7-11 on the corner. If the planet runs out, squirt bottles for everybody.” It was time to go home.

Ewww,” said the voice.

“The Europeans are way ahead of us as it is. Hush.” I sat in the car and took a nice deep breath. “And if we didn’t need any, then everyone here is going to feel a bit silly a month from now.”

Ahem.

Fathers Day Hotline 2020

Good morning and welcome to the First Ever Fathers Day Hotline.

Please listen carefully as we have never tried this before.

If you never listen, please press buttons at random.

We understand. Drive this like a remote control race car down the Santa Monica freeway. Your Fathers Day, your rules.

If you need a pat on the back, please press one.

If you’re not sure how to explain your Dad job, please press two.

For a better understanding of this delicate interplay of fatherhood, please press three.

If you need a reminder that this dad gig is for life, please press four.

For a quick supply of Dad Jokes, please press five.

If you’re wondering whether or not to get a “Dad Bod”, please press six.

For a list of things Dads should never say, please press seven. (For things husbands should never say, press seven and a half. You’re welcome.)

If you’re raising daughters, please press eight.

If you’re raising sons, please press nine.

Thank you for calling the Fathers Day Hotline. Enjoy your family. You are their Hero.

The One For Vi

I know four ladies in the same family, each a generation apart from the next, something like dominoes or nesting dolls, each individual contributing to the larger fun of the game. They are each a hoot.

But would not necessarily be pleased that I told you so.

Particularly Vi, the oldest of the bunch. If you take Vi out to breakfast she will pay. She will ask the waitress to make her coffee extra hot and send it back if it’s not. She takes her coffee the way she takes her life in general: bold enough to make you sit up straight and pay attention. None of this sugar and milk nonsense.

These four generations of ladies share a common denominator or two, and the most entertaining one is their general stubbornness, or as I prefer to call it, “the determination to go forth and conquer”.

I have a separate relationship with each of them and whether I tell a story on the one year old or the 84 year old, the other generations smile and nod and insist “isn’t that just like her mama!”.

Yes. Yes, it is.

In 2014, Ronda, Vi’s daughter, asked me to write something up and speak at Vi’s funeral services. Not that Vi was feeling poorly, mind you. But Ronda wanted to be prepared. In 2015, Vi asked me if I would write up a little something for her funeral. Not that anything was amiss. But you never know.

I laughed and offered a compromise. “Vi,” I said, “Instead of waiting till later, how about I write about you now? That way, you can make sure it’s accurate.”

This pleased her, of course. Not that my writing is objectionable.

Vi was in hospital frequently over the last few years because her blood pressure refused to cooperate and it sent her into fainting spells. I asked her to make me a blog about her experience there. She was delighted at the prospect and was as helpful as possible. She would tell me all of the horrible things the doctors did to her each day and finish with, “You know you can’t write that, right? Don’t you dare put that in your blog.”

“But Vi!” I insisted, “I can make you famous! I can make you a rock star!”

She laughed but she wasn’t buying it. She retained full veto power and wielded it from her perch on the pillows until there wasn’t a hospital story left.

I’m still not sure what, exactly, a smart lady like Vi saw in a silly thing like me, but I suppose if she was willing to have me in her hospital room while total strangers worked her over with instruments of torture, she considered me “in”. With a wink and a nod one day, she informed me that calling for an ambulance brought dashing young men right into her house to tend her with first class service. “So much nicer than driving yourself,” she insisted, “that’s the way to go.”

I might try fainting myself sometime, to see how that works.

Vi’s family was everything. We passed the time talking about them. She took great delight in the fact that I was a nanny for her great-granddaughter and listened forever to my stories about “that little toot”, as she called her.

I finally wrote her blog, “Elderflowers and Rosebuds”, to celebrate the connection between generations and the love and hope that is passed down from grandparents to toddlers. It was a subject we were both passionate about. Please read it.

Vi passed away last week at 93 years young. The eldest of these four precious women went on her own terms, in her own bed at home, and will be missed dearly. There has been a lot of loss lately, in case you haven’t been watching out your window. And no one is having funerals.

We all need somewhere to put our grief. Here is my little piece of comfort. Feel free to add yours below.