Starting out on a romantic vacation, or treading water hoping someone will notice?

Aunt Leena and the Butt Zapper (not a typo!)

I’ve introduced you to my cousin Ollie - great guy, but about a leg short of a chair, if you catch my drift. Today, I’d like to introduce you to Ollie’s ma, my Aunt Leena. She taught him everything he knows, which explains a lot. Now Aunt Leena doesn’t have a lot of book learning, but you really can’t fault her logic. Like when she tells Ollie if he doesn’t have enough sense to come in out of the rain he might as well go on down to the mailbox and get the mail. Or when she’s been canning tomatoes all morning and her husband, Sven, hollers from the door that there might be a few extras for lunch. She looks out the window and sees a good half dozen beat up trucks down at the barn, and hol

Memorial Day: it's more than a long weekend

Memorial Day is a national holiday to honor those who died while serving in the armed forces. While people have been honoring their dead and decorating their graves for a very long time, the practice really took root in America during the Civil War. I don't think the original concept is adhered to as much these days, with people around here putting flowers on any family or friend grave, whether veteran or not. None of my immediate relatives died in a war, so for most of my life it's not been something I've given a lot of thought to. I can remember going to the cemetery with my grandmother and helping her put fresh-cut flowers on the graves of relatives I had never heard of. I'd follow her ar

Empty Nest Syndrome, Not

Something is wrong with me. I must be a horrible aberration or have a rare immunity to this debilitating disease. You see, my youngest child recently moved out. And I’m happy. Possibly even thrilled. I’ve been hearing about this disease called Empty Nest Syndrome for years. I’ve dreaded it, but understood it was a rite of passage. Something you just have to get through, kind of like PMS. Each day I wake up and wait for the agony of ENS. But it’s just not there. Don’t get me wrong. I love my children dearly. But the problem is that I really love all this incredible free time, too. For the first time in nearly a quarter century my husband and I can make plans to go wherever, whenever, we want.

The Zen art of M&Ms

Today I'm going to introduce you to a life-altering method of relaxation. Anyone can do it, almost anywhere. All you need are a bag of M&Ms and a flat surface. First, dump all the M&Ms out on the flat surface. Sort them by color Then make a picture with them. I prefer landscapes. Somehow, the colors and shapes lend themselves to patch of flowers, with a big sun (okay, so you have to use your imagination here, people!) The bigger your bag of M&Ms, the bigger your picture. Then, starting with any left-over stragglers, you eat them. Then you eat the petals off your flowers, then the leaves, and stem. Then the birdsandthesunandtheground.... If you practice this each day, you will become as round

Cousin Ollie and the Big Red One

This is another story in the continuing (mostly factual) saga of my Cousin Ollie. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, and speaking of tool sheds... There was the time Ollie went out to clean the garage at Mom's farm. The shed was a tiny little place, barely room for the little station wagon parked with its bumper up against a big metal work table and the tall red tool chest - you know, the industrial type on wheels with a big lower section and smaller upper one. Mom's husband, Bob, tends to leave his tools scattered from here to Kingdom Come, so Ollie was wandering around gathering up armfuls and putting them in the appropriate drawer. Pretty soon he had nearly every drawer open and a bun

Ever thought you were out in the Middle of Nowhere, but found you really weren't?

Last weekend the weather was absolutely great. Normally I would have spent it doing chores, but winter isn't that long past and I couldn’t bear to waste the sunshine. We all loaded up for a drive up in the hills – husband, kids and, of course, dogs. While I packed the cooler, gathered coats, hats, sunscreen, dog bowls, first aide kit, etc. (all those items that keep disaster at bay!), and loaded up the dogs, everyone else sat in the truck complaining they were ready to go. Eventually we headed out, and while there are perfectly good mountains minutes away, my husband preferred those three hours distant. By the time we got there the kids were bickering, my husband was grumpy, the dogs were

Does your family have a "Cousin Ollie"?

You know, that odd duck who just seems to get himself into all kinds of crazy situations? That slightly goofy relative who’s always the first to offer help when you need it but is about two tacos short of a combination plate? Don't get me wrong. Ollie's a swell guy. Hard worker. But requires supervision. Anyway, old Ollie was staying out a my mom’s farm this past summer, helping out with chores while her husband recuperated from some surgery. One of his projects was putting trim on for the new siding. Now, mom’s house is an old two-story farmhouse and Ollie wasn’t all that fond of heights--but he was game and climbed on up. Eventually, Mom went inside to start lunch after he reassured h

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