Try to be clear next time

Years ago, a friend called and asked the husband and me to come to dinner “next” Saturday. Since Saturday was only a couple of days away, I assumed she meant a week from the coming Saturday. On Saturday, the friend called and asked where we were.

I told her we were at home having dinner with friends.

She said we were supposed to be at their home having dinner with them.

Clearly, the vegetables weren’t the only thing steamed.

I apologized profusely, offered a wobbly defense about the confusion of the words “this” and “next,” and then apologized some more.

I’d like to say all was forgiven and forgotten, but there was never another next time.

To this day, when I hear the words “this” and “next” used in reference to a date, I still cringe. I also immediately ask for clarification. The last thing we would ever want is another mix-up. Or to miss a meal.

The Science of Us recently did a piece on the ambiguity of words in relation to time. They offered the example of receiving an email from a co-worker that says: “Next Wednesday’s meeting has been moved forward two days.”

So does that mean the meeting will be Monday or Friday?

The article said our answer to what day the meeting will be reveals our perspective on time–whether we perceive ourselves as moving through time (the meeting will be Friday) or we perceive time as moving toward us (the meeting will be Monday). People are evenly divided on interpreting such things, which is why the person who composed the email should be reprimanded for not including the day and date and possibly even forced to conduct the meeting on both Monday and Friday.

Some of the hottest arguments are between people trying to straighten one another out on time—time zones in particular. One says a time zone is ahead and the other says, no, that time zone is behind. And, of course, nobody ever backs down.

You could put both parties on a plane, fly them to the time zone, have them deplane, see the same clock in the airport, and they’d still be arguing about whether they were behind or ahead.

If you really want to stir people up, don’t just ask them to come for dinner this Saturday or next Saturday, ask if they’d rather come for dinner or supper.

For a lot of people, the word “supper” means, well, absolutely nothing. But for people who grew up in more agricultural country, supper likely means the last meal of the day; dinner was the big meal at noon that gave people energy to get through afternoon work and chores.

As a child we lived in the city, but coming from parents who had grown up on farms, we ate supper in the evenings, while many of our neighbors were having dinner.

We can probably agree that today it is most common to invite someone to dinner. As for a date, why don’t we say the Saturday after next.

Oh wait, that won’t do. Can we push it back a week?

See you then.

James Bond pulled it off, but good luck guys

Sometimes between 2 and 3 a.m., when I can’t sleep and my mind fires one bizarre question after another, I occasionally wonder whatever happened to my old high school gym suit.

It was a hideous thing— a one-piece contraption gathered at the waist with short sleeves with a shirt collar, and ill-fitting short legs. The whole shebang snapped up the front. Every girl who wore one looked like a jumbo marshmallow waiting to be shoved into a giant s’more.

Imagine my shock to open my computer browser and find my old gym suit reincarnated as a romper for men. It’s called RompHim—a man-size romper which is a one-piece contraption, gathered at the waist with short sleeves with a shirt collar, and ill-fitting short legs in pastels and prints.

I was so upset. We never had a choice in color. All we wore was white. Before my eyes were a dozen striking young men in pastel pink, baby blue, soft apricot, dainty print and Wonder bread polka dot girls’ gym suits. I mean onesies. I mean rompers.

I can’t help but wonder what the unveiling of the prototype went like. Were there men standing around in rompers asking women, “Does this make my backside look big?”

Or, “Do you think I have the legs for this? I’ve never been all that happy with my knees. They’re sort of dimpled, don’t you think?”

Some question whether a romper for men calls masculinity into question. Sean Connery wore a very short terry cloth romper as James Bond in “Goldfinger.” Personally, I think it comes down to leg hair. If you’ve got it—flaunt it. That said, not just anybody can look manly in what is nearly a pair of Daisy Dukes gathered at the waist.


But listen, whose business is it if you want to wear a pastel pink or baby blue romper? It’s a free country. Well, at least outside of college campuses.

And it’s not like guys in rompers hasn’t been done before. We have a picture of our 35-year-old son in a romper. Of course, he was six months old at the time. Someone gave us a onesie with a clown face on it and big orange clown hands attached to the sides. We actually had him wear it and took pictures. He’s still mad.

In one sense, rompers for men aren’t that different from Carhartt overalls turned into cutoffs—country boy meets urban chic.

It’s too early to say if rompers for men will have staying power. Before you write them off, you should know there was a time people said leisure suits for men wouldn’t hang around for long. Were they ever wrong. It was a long and painful decade.

Then again, remember last year? The new trend that was sure to take off was men wearing shorts with a shirt and tie and a blazer. The trend took off all right – like the Titanic.

If you do decide to wear a RompHim, just a mother’s word of caution: Stay with your group.

Search for armadillos takes a wild turn

Concerned the grands don’t get enough exposure to wildlife, I announce we would be looking for armadillos on a recent road trip.

“Keep your eyes peeled,” I say. “Armadillos have come up from the southwest and are frequent visitors here.”

“What’s a marmadillo?”

“An armadillo.”

“Yeah. What is it?”

“Well, an armadillo is the size of a small dog with short legs, has a pointy nose and a shell over its body like a turtle.”

They look at me like I am out of my mind.

“Seriously—and the shell has ridges on it and little itty bitty bumps.”

I might as well have said that I was going to grow a third ear.

“Start looking and I think you’ll see—“

“I see one!”

“Yes! I saw it, too!”
“It wasn’t moving, Grandma.”

“No, not today it wasn’t.” (And not tomorrow or the next day either.)

“There’s another! And another!”

“Why are they all on their backs, Grandma?”

Each and every armadillo has been incapacitated. I search armadillos on my phone and see that they are also called “hillbilly speedbumps.” Great. I’ve been encouraging the grands to scout roadkill. Maybe seeing a few pictures of armadillos upright will provide a distraction. “Look, I have a picture of an armadillo on my phone,” I say.

“Let me see,” one says. She enlarges the photo and screams, “What’s that hair under its chin? Ooooh gross! Take it away!”

I used to believe a baby bat was the ugliest creature in the world—a face only a mother could love. Armadillos with bad chin hair outrank them.

“Look, girls, it says there is a pink fairy armadillo. Let’s have a look.”

Picture a baby bunny with long curled toenails in dire need of a pedicure. Add a slab of raw pork ribs to its back and you have a pink fairy armadillo.

A southern three-banded armadillo (Tolypeutes matacus) at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo.

“Gross, Grandma! Now we’re gonna have bad dreams.”

Aren’t we all? I’m about to divert attention to a word game when the husband exclaims, “I just saw a bald eagle.”

Silence. The skepticism that was once malleable has now hardened.

“Really—it’s gone now, but I did.”

The next morning, we’re cutting through a large city, cruising along four lanes of interstate with heavy traffic, when I spot a wild turkey emerge from underbrush and begin strutting on the shoulder of the road.

My claim is met with palpable doubt.

One of the grands takes pity and whispers, “It’s OK, Grandma, I believe you. I believe Grandpa, too. Did you know I saw an animal?”

“What was it?” I ask.

“A penguin. It was back under those trees.”

Money earned not as important as lessons learned on first jobs

Question: What was your first job and how old were you?

The husband’s “first job” was selling fortune eggs. He hollowed out raw eggs and inserted a tiny folded paper with “fortunes” he copied out of the horoscope section of the newspaper, took them to school and sold them to classmates. Well, at least until his fourth-grade teacher told him he couldn’t sell fortune eggs anymore.

From there he sold Burpee seed packets door to door. He also sold tomato plants and night crawlers by the dozen. At 15, he began shooting sports for a local newspaper. That was the job that never ended. He worked his entire career in newspapers.

My first job, after babysitting and accidentally flushing numerous cloth diapers down toilets, was at Smaks. It was a fast food joint in Kansas City that offered burgers, shakes and fries. Smakie girls worked the front line, wore orange sailor dresses with white ties, white sailor hats, white tennis shoes—and made change without a computer.

During college, I worked at an insurance company doing data entry for motorcycle policies (the most boring job in the universe), in several law firms (where I learned the basics of accounting), and the 6 a.m. shift in the dorm cafeteria sorting dirty dishes on a conveyor belt.

When I got a speeding ticket driving home from college and didn’t have money to pay it, I worked at a Dairy Queen until I earned the money. Yep, I know how to make a dip cone.

Our son’s first job was at a small outdoor outfitter that specialized in fly fishing. He was “let go” for not chit chatting with the customers. Never been a big talker. After that he started mowing yards and had 31 customers by the time he went to college. Both of our girls babysat and one worked at a big box store; she can tell you all about sheets and linens.

I got to thinking about all those first jobs after hearing a wise and thoughtful man speak recently. He talked about growing up in Newton, Iowa, which was the headquarters for Maytag. He said no Maytag executive lived in a 15,000 square-foot house or drove a Cadillac. It would have been proof they were too big for their britches.

Kids he grew up with, like the kids we grew up with, worked in restaurants, retail stores, grocery stores and gas stations.

Then he asked a question every parent who has achieved any measure of success in life should ask of themselves: “Are you systematically depriving your children of the things that made you who you are?”

We stand to lose a lot when we turn our backs on the experiences and values that got us where we are. As they would have cautioned in Dubuque, “Don’t get too big for your britches.”

 

Welcome to the Garden of Weedin’

There has been so much confusion in the garden this spring that I have fallen into a state of wisteria.

Here in the Garden of Weedin’ we learn by trowel and error, mostly error – and an endless flow of bad gardening puns. Yes, as you may have suspected, we are a few plants shy of a full flat.

Most of the seeds have been planted and are starting to sprout, but I can’t exactly remember what I put where.

“It looks like Daisy and wild William are the same bed,” I sigh.

“Do all gardeners talk dirty?” the husband asks.

I give him the look.

“Well, if they are, at least they’re near the taters—they’ll keep their eyes on them.”

Another look and I shake my head.

“Still having problems with your impatiens, I see.”

“Only because you keep giving me flax,” I say. “I’m trying to concentrate. Peas stop.”

He then asks, “What kind of socks does a gardener wear?”

“I haven’t given it mulch thought,” I say.

“Garden hose.”

I ignore him, as I am studying three rows of lettuce, trying to remember which is green leaf, which is red leaf and which is butter. I guess thyme will tell.

The important thing is to romaine calm.

“Well, this will depress you,” the husband says, digging around the trellis for the pole beans.

“What is it?” I ask.

“Global worming.”

“Funny,” I say. “Could you toss that hose over here?”

“Sure,” he says. “But I think it leeks.”

“It’s time to quit joking around,” I say. “If you carrot all, you’ll help me.”

“Heard about the iceberg lettuce?” he asks.

“Yes. He was tossed in prison.”

I ignore him again. “What in carnation is this?” I ask, uncovering a toy truck buried under the soil as I prepare to plant another pack of seeds. “It’s windy,” I say.

“No, it’s Thursday,” he counters.

“Are you working weed me or against me?” I ask.

“I’m rootin’ for you!”

“Thanks,” I say. “I always knew we were mint to be. Hey, where are you going?”

“Inside for a snack. Hosta la vista.”

“Is that your fennel word?”

“It’dill do for now.”