Anniversary gifts leave them flushed with embarrassment

You might have heard that the husband and I are hopeless romantics, in which case you heard wrong. We recently celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary by buying two toilets.

Our house is younger than we are, but is falling apart at a far faster rate. Two of our toilets, original to the house, needed to be replaced.

That giant flushing sound you heard was us being sucked into the world of plumbing. A buyer is dizzy with choices these days – round bowl or elongated, a 12-inch or 14-inch set, one-piece or two-piece and so many GPFs (gallons per flush).

And then there are the names – toilets are now like fingernail polish in that they have names. There’s Glacier Bay, the Cimarron, the Cadet, and the Santa Rosa. Perhaps you’d prefer the Niagara, the Elliston or the Devonshire.

We bought two Wellworths – affordable and efficient and with installation on Tuesday. The installers came, removed the old ones, set the
new ones and sped away. All was well with the Wellworths until someone attempted to use the one in the half-bath off the family room. so closeThe bathroom door would not close. The new toilet stuck out farther than the old one-not much, but enough that the door couldn’t clear the toilet.

It was such a close fit, it almost looked like if you got behind the door and kicked, you would be able to send that door flying past the toilet. “Why yes, the bathroom is around the corner on your left. If you want privacy, get behind the door and try kicking it until it clears the toilet.”

We were now the proud owners of a toilet, bolted to the floor in the most visible high-traffic area of our home, that could only be used with the door fully open.

Suggestions for solving our dilemma were many. One wit suggested we remove the door and hang a shower curtain in the doorway. Another card suggested we hang hippie beads. Another proposed we cut a curve in the door to match the profile of the toilet. Another friend told us to get in to sort it. Someone else suggested we rip apart the door frame, then rehang the door so it would swing out instead of in.

I was pretty sure all we needed was a toilet one inch shorter from the front to the back. The husband questioned my math and went all engineer-y on me, drawing chalk lines on the bathroom floor tile to calculate the arc of the door closing in conjunction with the projection of the toilet.

Someone passed through the house, saw the chalk outline and asked if there had been a crime. “Yes,” I said. “Wellworth was murdered. We think the butler did it.”

We found a toilet that is 1 and 1/8 inch shorter from a plumbing supply house online. This one goes by the name Toto. Now all we need to do is get a plumber near me to make the swap and this headache will be over.

Wait ‘til you hear what we have planned for our 40th.

Care for veterans extends beyond Memorial Day at national cemeteries

There is a good chance you’ve not been to Marion, Ind. It is north of Indianapolis, past Elwood, but not all the way to Etna. Like the rest of our state, it is what people on the coasts call flyover country—towns and cities bordered by corn and wheat fields that look like checkerboards from an altitude of 36,000 feet.

There is a gem nestled in Marion. It is the Marion National Cemetery. Spanning 52 acres of rolling hills and towering shade trees, it was designated as a Soldiers Home in 1888 to care for vets in the region. Two years later the first funeral took place. Before that, this cemetery

was a farm. In an old photograph of a funeral long ago, a horse-drawn hearse is parked in front of a stable and a barn. The enormous red-brick stable with white-paned windows still stands.

It is quiet here this morning, all but for the hum of riding mowers and weed eaters preparing for Memorial Day. The dew is thick and grass clippings cover your shoes.

Yesterday they laid a female World War II veteran to rest. Patricia Brinkman is now beside her husband, Franklin D. Brinkman, Sr. A floral spray of pink carnations and lilies lies atop her fresh grave.

Three  Medal of Honor recipients are buried here, as is Thomas Jefferson. No, not that Thomas Jefferson, but a Thomas Jefferson. He is in section 1, grave 1, buried in the late 1800s.



Grave markers date back to the Civil War, Spanish American War, World War I, World War II and Korea. There are a few from the Gulf and they’re getting more Vietnam vets in all the time.

Sue Nan Jehlen is the director here. She is a hairdresser turned school psychologist turned Veteran’s administrator who loves her job. She is preparing for an Unaccompanied Vet Ceremony later today. They’ll be honoring 23 veterans who were buried unaccompanied by family or loved ones, and without military honors. The vet community in the area finds that unacceptable, so vets from Tipton, Kokomo and Indianapolis are meeting up at a nearby Meijer store and will come together to honor those who served. There will be a ceremony with the Posting of Colors, the Pledge of Allegiance, speakers, a high school choir, placing of wreaths, a 44-rifle salute, taps and a benediction.

Those who rest here are tended well.

Before Veteran’s Day last year, community members placed solar lights by nearly 4,000 grave markers to illuminate headstones at night. This year they are aiming for 10,000 lights.

While this cemetery is no Gettysburg or Arlington in scale, it honors the same measure of service and sacrifice. This, too, is hallowed ground.

As Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address, may we “highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”





Here’s the skinny on Thin Privilege

Just when you think you are reasonably up-to-date on all the words, behaviors, attitudes, moral and religious convictions that are now deemed offensive by the politically correct, along comes another one to add to the ever expanding repertoire—Thin Privilege.

Thin Privilege is decried by self-described fat activist Virgie Tovar who, in my more unenlightened days, I may have described as curvy. Or maybe even fluffy. Fortunately, I now know that I should call her fat, embrace fatness, never mention the word diet or heart health and invite her over for three-layer chocolate cake to prove that I don’t care what size she is.

I don’t care. And I won’t care. Unless, of course, she cares that I am short. Then it could get ugly. Short sensitivities would demand that I play the Tall Privilege card.

The thing is, I think Virgie and I would be friends even though she thinks that I am probably bigoted and hateful because of her size. I have long maintained that the whole thing with food is incredibly backward. When you are a young child and have no appreciation for food, you can eat all you want and not gain weight. When you are mature enough to have discriminating taste buds, you just look at food and gain weight.

In the interest of full disclosure, know that I have probably lost a total of 200 pounds—never all at the same time, but more like gain two, lose two. As a matter of fact, if you are someone who can eat all you want and never gain weight, I’m not sure that we can be friends—you and your Fast-Metabolism Privilege.

According to Tovar, whose mantra is “Lose Hate, Not Weight,” fatphobia is rampant in white society where people seek to oppress people with larger body types. Dear Virgie, both of my grandmas were full-figure and every single one of their combined 49 grandkids loved every ounce of them. Few things were more comforting than to lean in and get lost in big loving arms.

Please don’t accuse people you don’t know of hating heavy people. If you persist, I’ll still invite you for cake, but you may be wearing it, not eating it (Cake Throwing Privilege).

What are we to do with all these privileges that we hold against one another? We have the Two-Parent Family Privilege, Not Living in My Parents’ Basement Privilege, the I Do Not Struggle with which Restroom to Use Privilege, Flat Abs Privilege and the despicable Good Hair Privilege.

It reminds me of that childhood song—which is now surely banned – “Everybody hates me, nobody likes me, guess I’ll go eat worms.”

Used to be we made gentle fun of self-pity. We acknowledged that life was unfair and leaned into the wind anyway.

Today we revel in self-pity and elevate carping, clawing and tearing one another down to art forms. Before long the only way we will be able to function as a society is to level the playing field by declaring that everybody hates everybody else.

Maybe when we’ve collapsed under the crushing weight of bickering and narcissism we can begin to regroup and rise from the ashes.

Or at least call out for pizza. Extra cheese.



How Taft may have gotten out of the tub

We are having lunch with several of the grands, eating on plastic placemats that feature the United States presidents on one side and the three branches of government on the other. They are old placemats, as the last president shown is Clinton—and it is Bill, not Hillary.

“Who is that one by Roosevelt?” one of the girls asks.

The story that Taft got stuck in the tub is a slippery one.

“That is Taft. He was the heaviest President in history.” History with Grandma is fun because, one, Grandma is old enough she might actually have been there and, secondly, even if Grandma wasn’t there, she tells the story like she was. “The man weighed more than 300 pounds,” I say, as though I was there for the weigh-in.

Clearly they are disturbed by the news. Attempting to ease their anxiety, I say “He probably should have eaten more vegetables.”

“I’d like to know more about Taft,” one says wryly, insinuating that my claim about Taft’s bulk warrants verification.

“There is a story that he was so big he got stuck in the bathtub.”

“Grandma!” they shout in unison, as though I am telling such a whopper that lightning may strike.

“It’s true,” I say.

“I’d like to see the tub,” states the skeptic who will one day be a prosecuting attorney.

We look it up on the Internet and see that it was a tub specially built to hold four men and, in fact, four fully-clothed men are pictured sitting in the tub.


They are quiet, mulling over the dilemma. How could one man get stuck in a tub, when they have seen as many as four of their little cousins fit in the tub at a time?

“Did they have phones?” says the one, who at age 5 is the unofficial event planner in the group.

“Honey, not even a smart phone could have helped the man get out.”

“Why didn’t he just hold onto the bathtub and jump?”

“He was wedged,” I said. “The story is that they tried using butter — ”

“That wouldn’t work,” interrupts the event planner. “Curious George got his leg stuck in a trash can and at first the Man in Yellow used butter but it didn’t work, so they had to call the fire people. They had to use a saw to cut George out. Maybe they sawed the bathtub, spread it and then he got out.”

“Maybe,” I say.

“Or, or, or!” Her brain is at full-throttle and in problem-solving mode. “He must have filled the bathtub more because when you fill it with water—fill it up super high—he could go higher and take a breath and then pull up.”

The prosecuting attorney remains skeptical and unconvinced. She jumps off her chair and exits the kitchen saying, “I just wanted to know how he got out.”

The event planner, satisfied that either a fire department arrived and used Jaws of Life or that Taft dislodged himself relying on the mechanics of displacement, gazes at the placemat then ruefully says, “My favorite president was Washington, but now it’s this one – Tadd.”






Mom’s lesson: give generously

My mother was a giver. The woman loved to give. The occasion never mattered – weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, Ground Hog Day, Arbor Day or no occasion at all.

She was always thinking about who might enjoy what. She once bought a deluxe toy firetruck that had flashing lights, sirens and a ladder, and kept it on a closet shelf for months until a nephew retired from the fire department.

weekly-wrap32She always wrapped her gifts with loveliness and care. Sometimes she’d take wedding gifts to the gift wrap counter at the department store thinking they could do a better job. She didn’t really believe they could do a better job, she was just checking to make sure her own skills still rivaled theirs.

Thoughtfulness and creativity went into the gifts she gave and she appreciated a thank you note. Once she sent out a note to family members, her own deadbeat children and grandchildren who had not acknowledged gifts, stating that they were now on her “Fecal Roster” and would not be removed until she had received a proper thank you.

Even if you were a cad and didn’t send a thank you, she’d give you another gift the next chance she had. She figured bad manners were your problem, not hers.

The funny thing is, she didn’t come from a gift-giving background. She grew up in a large farm family during the Depression. She said she used to dread going back to school after Christmas because the teacher would always have them write about what they got for Christmas. Not being the sort to wallow in self-pity, my mother made up some fine stories brimming with an opulence unknown to the county.

She taught us to give, too. She told us not to be cheap or cut corners—and those weren’t suggestions; they were orders.

Every time Mom and Dad drove over to visit, there would be a ritual with all of us gathering in the driveway as they unloaded luggage and “a few things” she threw in for the family. There was always something for the kids, often a big container of homemade chocolate chip cookies or a couple of bags of candy that I said would rot their teeth and, quite frankly, was too cheap to buy.  They weren’t gifts for any particular occasion, they were simply “Isn’t life great?” gifts.

My mother wasn’t a schmaltzy person, but one spring when they came to visit, she handed me a gift bag billowing with tissue paper. Inside was an etching on glass that read: “A Special Daughter. So many of the good times we remember from the past happened because of you. You’ve brought laughter and joy to our lives and so much love to our hearts. The most precious things we can wish for you are the things you have given us . . . Happiness and Love.”

She mentioned that she’d given one to my sister-in-law as well.

Not long after that visit, Mom suffered a brain aneurysm and died.

Mom was a great gift giver, but the gifts we will always remember her for were her love for life and her love for us.