Posted in Family, Home & Garden

A Visit (And a Visitation)

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my go-to resource when I’m in an orange apron!

One of the interesting things about working at Home Depot is that our customers have a definite expectation that anyone in an orange apron will be able to answer any of their questions. And the reason our customers have that expectation is because we are encouraged not to answer with “I don’t know.” When I don’t know (which is often) I’m consulting my Home Depot app, or tracking down someone from a specific department who can answer.

I may be “just” a cashier, but I get asked about pouring cement, assembling drip-line sprinklers, installing flooring, and pretty much everything else you can think of. I’ve been working a lot of hours in the Garden center, which means I’m getting asked about plant varieties and mulches and fertilizers. It’s an educational job, in the sense that I’m learning more and more as I go. With regard to plants, that has included making a habit of glancing at the tags while I ring them up. Oh, so that’s what a hydrangea looks like. Now I know.

But (just like with freelance writing, where I often don’t have a clue what I’m writing about until after I’ve researched) Google is very much my friend. Is that thing a perennial? Let me find out…

So I was in the Garden section again Sunday morning, enjoying the quiet opening-hour before customers really start showing up, walking among the plants to learn some more names, and thinking of my dad. It was my first Father’s Day without him, and I was thinking about him and his garden. He was a plant physiologist and an avid gardener, a guy who carried photos of his lilies next to photos of his grandkids. Working in Garden I’ve wished I could channel his encyclopedic knowledge of the plant kingdom. Continue reading “A Visit (And a Visitation)”

Posted in writing

Radio-Speak (Do You Copy?)

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snapshot from the British Virgin Islands, Christmas 2003… Uncle Dick at the helm, my sister (holding my son), and me (pregnant with my daughter)

My first sailing trips were under the tutelage of my uncle, who’s a stickler for doing things properly. (Best training ever! Sailing with Uncle Dick made my later “official” training a breeze. Even when the “breeze” was 18 knots!)

Uncle Dick’s pet peeve regarding the radio is when someone signs off with “Over and Out.” So okay, for the record: it’s EITHER “Over” (meaning you’re standing by for another transmission from the other party) OR “Out” (if you’re signing off entirely). We hear “over and out” on the TV, but it’s actually a mixed message—are you over or are you out?

Working at the RV park office, we use radios to communicate with our outside guys, who serve as parking guides for new arrivals and pump propane for guests. We’ve had a couple military guys who know radio-speak, and I had fun “being proper” with them, since they understood and appreciated.

I don’t break out the full-on marine-radio etiquette though, because that would be silly. An office coworker and I were giggling yesterday about what that would sound like, if I used the triplicate marine hail: “Parking Guide, Parking Guide, Parking Guide! This is Office, Office, Office, Over.” Somehow that sounds fine when you’re hailing a marina or a drawbridge with your boat-name, but pretty goofy if you’re hailing a golf cart from a desk chair!

radioStill, I guess I do take after Uncle Dick, because I prefer “affirmative” to “yeah,” and “Office receiving” to “Mic check,” and “copy that” to “okay,” and a “Bravo” designation when someone is parking in the B-row… I keep my transmissions clipped and concise (though I do add the human etiquette of “thank yous” that aren’t strictly part of radio etiquette).

And like Uncle Dick, I’ve discovered I have a radio-peeve. Mine is when someone asks “Do you have a copy?” So okay, for the record… “Copy” is the verb in that query, meaning to acknowledge receipt of the message. It’s “Do you copy?” Copy that?

And with that little note, I’m “Out.”

Posted in People, writing

Going GRAYcefully?

I’m thinking about letting my gray grow.

I know this doesn’t sound like an earth-moving decision, but the question has deeper roots in how I see myself. I don’t “feel” like a gray-haired person, so I haven’t liked seeing the silver strands framing my face when I let it lapse between color rinses.

I honestly don’t even know for sure how much gray I’ve got (besides “a lot” around the face), because I tend to run to WalMart for another three-dollar box of Revlon color every time I start seeing silver.

kana red
My FaceBook profile from the redhead years

When I started coloring my hair, it wasn’t because of gray; it was because I’d always wanted to be a redhead. Unlike my literary heroine Anne of Green Gables (who always lamented her hair color) I admired its “standout” quality, and wished as a kid that my subtle copper highlights would somehow morph into a full-on head of red.

So I bought a box of red ten years ago, and I loved it and I stuck with it. While my late husband and I owned our restaurant, his spicy barbeque sauce was called “Redhead’s Temper” after me (though he was politic in declining to comment on the “temper” half of that label). I spent that whole marriage as a redhead… And then the day after his funeral, I went back to the brown that God and my mother gave me.

That shift was entirely unpremeditated, and I didn’t bother at the time to try to explain it to myself. Perhaps it was a modern expression of a Victorian sensibility—a sort of putting on mourning, or the mark of a chapter-of-life being closed.

Because I’d never colored my hair to its natural hue, I didn’t know what color to buy. I took my daughter (whose tresses match mine) to the store and walked her down the hair-color aisle, holding a hank of her waist-length locks up against the various boxes to find a match. And I figured that was my last box of hair color, since going back to my natural color meant not having to cover or color roots, right?… Continue reading “Going GRAYcefully?”

Posted in Motorcycle

On Physics and Fear

Our next door neighbor is learning to play guitar. I know this because his open screen door wasn’t far from our open bedroom window at nine o’clock last night. As he worked his way through the opening chords of “Smoke on the Water” (over and over and over and over and over) I consoled myself with the fact that it couldn’t go on indefinitely, because he IS still learning. Meaning he probably doesn’t have the finger calluses yet, and he’d have to quit after a bit.

I can sympathize, because my “motorcycle muscles” are also feeling the effects of unaccustomed use. Well, let me be more accurate. My learning-the-motorcycle-muscles are feeling it. I recognize that on some level I was still trying to “muscle” the bike into staying upright, even though the bike can do just fine on its own, thank you very much. I may behave at some moments as if I’m holding up the bike with my arms, but of course that’s not what’s happening.

The bike will stay upright pretty much on its own when it’s in motion—basic physics takes care of that. And the faster you’re going, the easier that is. (It’s counter-intuitive, I know—but if you think about balancing a bicycle at next-to-nothing speed, you know how much harder that is than staying balanced when you’re pedaling down the street. Same principle.) Given that I haven’t yet graduated out of first gear on the motorcycle, I’m learning to control the bike at its most difficult speed.

My own “newbie” lack-of-confidence was my worst enemy before yesterday. I’ve been rather too aware that there’s a (literal) tipping-point, and if the bike’s center of gravity crosses it, I don’t have the muscle to hold it up. Yet I also know the rest of the physics involved, and the fact that the bike is designed to stay upright when you ride it! Truly, all I need to do is trust the bike (trust the physics) and not indulge in any herky-jerky reactions to my own fears. And therein lies the challenge. Some moments I’d been letting my fear drive—and Fear is not a skilled driver.

Trust is the antithesis of Fear. By the end of yesterday evening’s session I wasn’t tensing for every corner anymore, and that’s huge improvement. I was not just “managing to turn” the bike—I was turning it more tightly, and pretty precisely on the path I set for myself. More improvement.

Strange as it might seem, I actually think that those improvements happened because one of my fears got realized, early in the riding session. (Bless his heart, Jon would go to the grave without telling this to anyone… But I find it useful to stay REAL here, so I’ll tell on myself.) Continue reading “On Physics and Fear”

Posted in People, writing

Advice from a Polyglot

imageYesterday I asked my co-worker Shawky where he’s from. He was born in Cairo, he answered, and grew up in Greece—and he used to work on ships, visiting 89 countries and acquiring six languages. Apparently Home Depot doesn’t have an “I speak Romanian” badge, because that’s the only one he’s missing.

I joked that he probably doesn’t have much call for that here, but wouldn’t you know—not half an hour later a customer made a beeline for his register, greeted him by name, and started chatting him up in (you guessed it) Romanian.

One of our mandates as cashiers is to get customers to sign up for the Home Depot credit card. While most cashiers got a handful, or maybe a dozen, apps in the last month, Shawky had a stunning 111 credit card applications. While I worked the register next to him yesterday, I watched him sign up three more people as smooth as you please.

I teased him about his “magic” but asked him in earnest what advice he would give me to help the magic rub off on me.  He answered me very seriously, in his accented but impeccable English. “Listen. I will tell you. You must have absolute confidence. Don’t say so much. Choose what you say,” Continue reading “Advice from a Polyglot”

Posted in Family

Mother’s Day, By the Numbers

A recent Gallup poll asked Americans what they think is “the ideal number of children for a family to have” and found Americans, on average, believe that 2.5 children are ideal. ~ Gallup.com

I’m sure this quote intends to say that the averaged number, gathered from responses, is 2.5, not that people actually believe “2.5 children are ideal.” I mean, kids come in whole-number units, so that’s an ideal no one could achieve. Or could they? Sometimes I feel like fractions should be a part of my answer when I’m asked about my kids…

“How many kids do you have?”

As cut-and-dried as that question seems, I actually find it awkward to answer. I reply with a variety of permutations depending on situation and circumstance.

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two I grew (2006)

I’ve given birth to two sons and a daughter. (So I “have” three kids.) One son was adopted by an amazing other mother, and I don’t currently have custody of the other two. (So I don’t “have” any.) My daughter at least sees me (so I “have” relationship with one). And I’m still legally the parent of the two teens, even without custody. (So I still “have” two.) I could answer, with some truth, with any of those numbers, but no numerical answer to the question actually tells my story.

Kapena
a boy I mothered but didn’t grow

(And that’s not even opening the question of step-kids… Do I have five of those, because I married their dad? One, because he was still a minor during that marriage and I mothered him? None, because their dad passed away and dissolved the link? I do still consider them family, and refer to them as my step-kids if relational explanation is called for—but I’m less likely these days to include them in a kid-count than I did when their dad was alive and I was married to him.)

Despite the hypothetical argument above for “having” no kids, that’s never my answer. I’m still a mom, regardless of current custody. My most frequent answer is that “I have two teenagers.” But then, it’s not unusual for me to include the baby (with an adoption-explanation) as well. Continue reading “Mother’s Day, By the Numbers”

Posted in Family, People, writing

Legos—Did You Know?

on a scale of one to stepping on a lego, how much pain are you in?As a parent, Legos were my least favorite toys to step on barefoot. Did you know that a Lego can withstand over 4,000 Newtons of force? That’s why the Lego always wins when you step on it.

But that’s really the only drawback to Legos. (Well, that and the price of Legos these days—it’s nearly as painful to pay for them as to step on them.) The reason why Legos are so awesome is summed up in this description, from Wikipedia: “Anything constructed can then be taken apart again, and the pieces used to make other objects.” Lego is the ultimate imagination-toy.

Lego castle 1980s
This was my favorite set.

Did you know that there are over 915 million ways to combine six basic 2×4 Lego bricks?

Growing up, my favorite set was a castle compilation of all-gray bricks, complete with hinges to make the requisite drawbridges and swinging doors to hidden passages. Legos usually come with a “construction plan”—and I’m sure mine did, though I don’t remember it… because the real fun is inventing your own stuff out of the possibility of all those pieces.

Lego Jack Sparrow Indiana Jones
Jack & Indie—two of my favorite characters in Lego!

In retrospect, my castle set was pretty simplistic, in part because my Lego-play predated the licensing agreements that have brought us Lego Harry Potter, Lego Indiana Jones, Lego Pirates of the Caribbean, Lego Marvel comics…

Just listing them makes me want to sit down on the floor and play. My son’s earliest Lego sets were pirates—any guesses why? Yup, Mommy wanted to play with them. (Did you know that the name “Lego” comes from the Danish phrase leg godt, which means “play well”?) Continue reading “Legos—Did You Know?”