Your Someday is in the making today

This is for all the mothers and fathers who dream about Someday.

When our three children were small and I’d clean up after baths for the thousandth time, pick wet towels off the floor, squeeze water out of yellow rubber ducks and call the kids to come back and brush their teeth, I often thought of Someday.

Someday I’d do something important.

When I read bedtime stories, the same stories I’d read so many times that I knew them by memory, my eyes glazed over, my brain froze from the repetition and my mind wandered to Someday.

Someday life wouldn’t be so routine.

When I stared at a pound of frozen ground beef, considering my two standard options of spaghetti or sloppy joes, trying to remember when we last had what, and if anyone else noticed this culinary rut, I thought of Someday.

Someday I’d be creative.

Someday we’d eat food that required table knives. Someday we’d have a meal and nobody would fall off a chair, flip a serving spoon out of a bowl of peas or knock over a glass of milk.

When I had to have another nose-to-nose about lying and honesty, the consequences of disobeying and why you don’t take a swipe at your sibling, I thought of Someday.

Then one day I had an epiphany. I wasn’t one who was going to leave a mark on the world or build an empire. But I was going to leave a mark on this family, and I already had an empire. It was right under my nose, nestled snug in bed by 8 o’clock.

The Someday I often dreamed about was being shaped by all the todays and yesterdays. Someday was in the making now.

I was doing something important. Caring and nurturing children, creating family, trying to make a home that is a sanctuary from a rough and tumble world is one of the most important things a person can do.

Creativity? We didn’t always have ground beef. Sometimes we had chicken or fish. It wasn’t the food that mattered; it was being together around the table, the conversation, the laughing, the connecting.

As for routine, no routine stays the same. But even as the routine changed fundamentals are taught—the fact that choices matter because choices become habits, and habits become a way of being and that is how character takes root.

Sometimes routine meant another lecture on respect for others’ property or dealing with a kid who acted up at the grocery, then later growing misty-eyed reading the apology letter in crooked letters left on my bedside table.

The things that matter most—knowing you’re loved and knowing how to love others, being generous, extending charity, working hard and recouping after failures and setbacks—are learned incrementally, one day at a time.

Someday is closer than you think.

Marriage-related hearing loss

Sometimes the husband and I pretend we have superpowers and can hear through walls, around corners and upstairs.

Yesterday he was in the kitchen and I was in the family room and he said, “Would you like to see ‘Hank the Dirty Narcissist?’”

We have different likes and dislikes when it comes to entertainment, but this was more puzzling than usual.

“Why would I want to see a show about some guy named Hank who is a dirty narcissist?” I called back.

He walked into the family room and slowly said, “Do you want to go see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra?”


Our superpowers aren’t as super as we think. In truth, sometimes we can’t hear each other when we are in the same room.

The husband thinks we may have age-related hearing loss, but I don’t think that is the case at all. I think we have spouse-related hearing loss, which is entirely different, but equally as frustrating.

Spouse-related hearing loss begins around the 20th anniversary, picks up steam by the 25th, and is a runaway train by the 30th.

The husband surmised he should have his hearing tested and I said, “Don’t bother, I can diagnose the problem.”

“You’re not a doctor,” he said.

“No, but I play one in real life—ear infections, sore throats, strep, sinus problems, chest colds, appendicitis, asthma, flu and broken arms. I can test your hearing right here, right now.”

He just looked at me.

“No charge,” I said.

“OK, have it your way.”

A few minutes later, we are in the same room and I say, “I’d like to go see a musical I’ve been hearing about. What do you think about Wednesday evening?”

Of course, in a musical the actors periodically break into song and dance and I knew that might be a problem for him.

No answer. Nothing. The man is within arm’s reach and he cannot hear me. His problem is twofold—tonal frequency and topic.

My tone told him I was about to attempt to sell him on something, so his hearing began shutting down. At the mention of the possibility of attending a musical, his hearing turned completely off.

Had I inserted the words football, basketball or baseball in place of musical, he would not only have heard and responded, but pumped his fist in the air.

To further test the theory, I try again.

“How do thick juicy burgers on the grill sound for dinner?” I whisper in a barely audible voice.

“GREAT!” he yells. “I’ll light the grill.”

Just like that, the man is out the door and fanning flames on the grill. Excellent hearing and even better response time.

Dinner is now on the table.

“The burgers are ready and I bought tickets to the musical,” I say.

“I heard the burgers are ready,” he says. “What else did you say?”

New traditions for the stroke of midnight  

Our one and only New Year’s Eve tradition is putting a coin outdoors before the clock strikes 12. Every year a coin goes out; every year a coin come back in. The husband insists the custom is supposed to bring good fortune and prosperity.

We are still waiting.

We’ve also had black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day a time or two, another tradition that is supposed to bring good fortune, but for the most part our celebrations have stagnated.

We’re so predictable it’s painful. Routine is our middle name.

I’ve been reading about traditions around the world and think we may go global this year.

People in Romania are about coins just like we are, only they throw them into the river. Maybe that’s where we went wrong. We held onto the coins instead of tossing them. This year we go to the river and throw.

In Spain, people eat a grape for every strike of the hour at midnight. I can’t quite visualize eating 12 grapes at a time (nor do I want to), but in the name of adventure, I’m not ruling it out.

People in Denmark save unused dishes and plates until New Year’s Eve and then, and I’m quoting here, “affectionately shatter them against the door of friends and family.” I have never seen anything affectionately shattered, but I’m willing to try.

The French often celebrate New Year’s by eating a stack of pancakes. I’ve always liked the French.

In some parts of South Africa they throw old furniture out the window. And to think of the years we spent watching the ball drop over Times Square on television when we could have been throwing furniture.

In Columbia people carry suitcases around with them in hopes of having a year filled with travel. It’s certainly worth a try.

People in Switzerland often drop a dollop of ice cream on the floor. I suppose as long as they all clean up after themselves there is no harm, but it’s still a waste of ice cream.

In several other countries people throw buckets of water out of the windows for good fortune. We thought cheese and crackers was a celebration.

In Denmark people often stand on top of chairs and literally jump into the New Year at the stroke of midnight.

We’re going to be ready this year. We will be standing on chairs by the river, our pockets bulging with coins and our hands clenching clusters of grapes. At the stroke of 12, we will throw coins, jump off the chairs and scarf down a dozen grapes.

We will then trek home carrying suitcases filled with unused dishes, which we plan on smashing against the doorways of close friends and family.

Should we actually make it home before we have been apprehended by our formerly close friends and family, we will feast on stacks of pancakes, drop ice cream on the floor and heave buckets of water out the window, as well as our old piano.

Out with the old, in with the new!

A few of my favorite things

Every Monday I post the column that I send to the outlets that distribute me, but because they all work almost a week in advance, that would mean you’d be reading a column about New Year’s today. So instead of rushing Christmas, I’m posting a few of my favorite things this Christmas season and hope you enjoy them, too.

Nativity scenes staged by little hands
One of our daughter’s little ones have a plastic nativity set that they rearrange nearly every day. These are a few of the pictures we have received, along with titles speculating as to what may have been going through their minds.



This ornament is a hoot!
A 10-year-old Georgia girl came crying to her mother that one of the Christmas tree ornaments was scaring her. The mother, who has several owl ornaments on her tree, investigated and found a real owl perched in the tree. The family tried leaving the doors and windows open, but the owl didn’t budge. They finally called a wildlife expert who captured the screech owl. They think it was in the tree as long as it had been in their house — more than a week.


The Sad Side of Christmas
We do a lot of pretending at Christmas — that it really  is the “Hap, happiest time of the year” when in truth, it is often a conflicting and sad time for many. Craig Aven, wrote a song titled, “The Sweetest Gift.” A member of Piano Guys lost his daughter last year, heard the song and asked Craig to record it with them. This song is dedicated to everyone who is missing someone and could use some comfort. Click here

But be sure you come back because there’s one more you have to see below.

Absolutely beautiful
This is a wonderful musical and visual portrayal of the nativity. A feast for the senses! Click here


From our home to yours Merry Christmas!

And wishing our Jewish friends Happy Hanukkah!

Family resemblances and the joy of Christmas

One day of the year over the Christmas holiday, our children and grandchildren are our prisoners for the entire day.

We lure them in with lights on the house, a wreath on the door, gifts under the tree, mugs of hot chocolate and wonderful aromas emanating from the kitchen. Once we get them all inside, we bolt the door.

They couldn’t escape if they wanted. Coats and jackets piled on the hall tree spill onto the floor beside mittens and gloves, puffy snowsuits, wet boots and bulging diaper bags, creating a virtual barricade to the front door.

If there were ever an emergency, we’d all have to bail out through the windows.

My favorite part of the day is “after”— after the gifts, after the meal, after the last piece of pecan pie has disappeared, after the last blast of aerosol whipped cream has been shot into a kid’s mouth, after the kitchen has been returned to some semblance of order and after the dishwasher begins to hum.

The energy wanes, the commotion quiets and a lull descends. A game of checkers unfolds on the rug. One of our sons-in-law falls asleep on the couch and the other often naps in a wingback chair. I like that. It tells me they feel at home.

During this brief pause I can watch and study the grands, noting growth and changes and see family resemblances.

A little one is on her daddy’s lap reading him a book. They have the same eyes. A toddler curls next to her momma on the sofa. Their skin and hair color differ, but she is the same spitfire her momma was at that age.

Three of the kids have double-jointed toes just like their dad. Our gatherings are highbrow.

Our son loved building when he was a boy and his sons are carbon copies. His youngest built a Lego contraption that will hold four drink cups and can be wheeled down the center of the table at mealtime.

The resemblances between parents and children are a wonder to observe as we lounge about in the aftermath of the holiday. Even more wondrous is the resemblance between another father and son that is the very heart and soul of Christmas.

In the deep of night, long ago, there was another lull, one of a most holy sort. A baby boy was born to peasants in a manger stall. The birth of Christ is celebrated because the son bore far more than a resemblance to his heavenly father—he was the exact representation of the father, a mirror image of heart, intention and purpose.

The healing hands of Christ worked the will of the Father. His teachings and commands spoke the words of the Father, and his anguished death demonstrated the love of the Father.

That is the true wonder of Christmas, worthy of reflection.

Santa will see you now

I-PASS is the nifty system where you stick a gizmo to the windshield of your car and automatically pay tolls from an online account, which lets you forgo stopping at toll booths and fishing around for money to throw in the basket.

Now comes FastPass, a similar concept but with a Christmas spin. Instead of breezing through toll booths, a Santa FastPass lets you move to the front of the line to see Santa. It’s pay-to-play Christmas.

You go online, reserve a time you’d like to see Santa at the mall, choose a photo package to buy and get a FastPass.

Elves no longer assemble toys at the North Pole, they patrol Santa’s perimeter to make sure parents do not take personal photos of children with Santa. Hey, the guy only works one night a year, he’s got to make some money to get him through the other 364.

Still, you basically invite the guy to come to your house in the middle of the night, give him total freedom to wander around while the family sleeps, but taking a personal photo somehow crosses the line.

FastPass is a smart convenience when lines are long, but you have to wonder what the kids who have been standing in line without a FastPass think when they see other kids cutting in front of them.

I’ve seen that happen in the self-checkout lines and it’s not pretty. I suppose parents can tell the kids there is a nice line and naughty line – better luck next year. Or they can just read them my poem, “The Days Before Christmas.”

T’was the days before Christmas and inside the mall,

The line for Santa had slowed to a crawl;

Kids were tired, shifting from foot to foot,

A baby wailed because she wanted her Nuk.

A Mom yelled, “Up off the floor, don’t mess up your shirt;

We don’t want a photo of you smeared with dirt!”

All of a sudden there arose such a clatter,

A security guard sprang to assess the matter.

A family of five flew like a flash,

To the front of the line, ducking under the sash.

“No cutting, no cutting!” the crowd started to jeer.

“We didn’t cut!  Our FastPass allows us here!”

The father waved it overhead for all to see,

A Santa FastPass for his children three.

The kids raced to Santa and sat on his lap,

The elf took their pictures—snap, snap, snap.

Clutching their premium photo package, they ran out of sight,

The dad calling to those still waiting, “Patience to all — just hang tight!”

Dash away, dash away, dash away all,

But buy your Santa FastPass before hitting the mall.


101 Reasons why sleep is not an option

We have met the resistance. It is high energy, has sun-streaked hair from endless hours outside, considers Carhartt canvas overalls high fashion and has dirt under his fingernails.

What is he resisting? What every child who has mourned the setting of the sun has resisted since the beginning of time — bedtime.

He has been out of bed for a trip to the bathroom, a drink of milk, a drink of water, followed by yet another trip to relieve his bladder and, several minutes later, an emergency trip to the bathroom because he forgot to brush his teeth.

He is back in bed now, but I can guarantee you he is not asleep.

Next on the agenda will be the lighting phase of resistance.

“Grandma! It’s too dark to sleep in here.”

“No, it’s too light to sleep at your place in Chicago. This is what night looks like. Dark.”

I plug in a night light. I am nearly out the door, when a sweet voice whispers, “Can you turn on the hall light?

I turn on the hall light. I close the door halfway. I reopen the door. I adjust the door to precise specifications and return downstairs.

Five, four, three . . . “Grandma?”

“Yes?” Grandma says in a sweet voice, although it may not be entirely sincere.

“Grandma, I think I need a guardrail.”

“You’re in a double bed with a younger brother half your size, who I might add, has been asleep for an hour. Why would you need a guardrail?”

“He flops around. You don’t know what it’s like. He’ll be all over me, arms, legs, punching, kicking. I’ll have to roll to the side to get away from him and I’ll fall out.”

Grandpa puts in a side rail. We both head for the door, when a plaintive voice cries out, “You have ghosts!” He bolts upright, eyes bulging.

“We do not have ghosts.”

“Yes, you do. Listen.”

“That’s not a ghost. That is the neighbor’s Airedale, Ollie, singing. It’s kind of pretty once you get used to it.”

“Does he know any other songs?”

“No, Ollie is a one-hit wonder. Now go to sleep.”

Five minutes pass, six, seven . . . no footsteps, no running water, no toilet flushing.


“What now?” I call in a whispered yell, bounding up the stairs.

“The stars are falling!”

“This is the last time—” I walk in the bedroom and he’s right. Stars are falling.

“I thought you’d like to see it.”

“Of course, I would.”

They are glow-in-the-dark stars that our son put on the ceiling years ago. The adhesive has dried and they’re falling, one here, a couple over there, like an indoor meteor shower in slow motion.

I sit on the side of the bed and together we watch the stars fall.

His little chest slowly rises and falls and he is at peace with the night.

“What did it take?” the husband asks when I reappear.

“Nothing much, just a few falling stars.”


TheWhat Happens at Grandma’s Stays at Grandma’s” book tour is breaking for the holidays and will resume with an engagement at the Carmel-Clay Library in early 2020. Stay tuned for specifics! Books are available for purchase by clicking the “Shop” tab at the top of the page.  All books purchased at will be personally signed.

Books are also available on amazon.

Every field holds a kernel of thanks

We are imprinted by the land where we are born. At least I think that is true, for I know of no other reason that I find cornfields beautiful.

My early years were spent in Lincoln, Nebraska. Our parents grew up on farms and many of our relatives lived in rural communities, so we often traveled gravel roads bordered by rolling prairie and rich farmland, kicking up dust clouds behind us as we barreled along.

The topic of conversation in the front seat often turned to corn, usually introduced by Dad with an exclamation of, “Look at that corn!”

Of course, we looked because if you’ve traveled Nebraska you know there are not a lot of spectacular attractions lining the roadsides.

In spring, tiny emerald green shoots pushed through the ground in straight rows without end. A few weeks later, young stalks shot out gangly leaves at peculiar angles. It was the awkward adolescence stage of corn.

At the start of summer, “Look at that corn!” was followed by, “Knee high by the Fourth of July.” It usually was. And more.

As the sun beat down and the days of summer stretched and yawned, the corn grew taller and taller. Husky stalks transformed spindly leaves into huge arched leaves with sharp edges. Now when someone said, “Look at that corn!” the response from the backseat was, “How could we not look at that corn?”

Everywhere you looked, all you could see was corn. Corn closed in from both sides. Corn to the left, corn to the right. Massive blurs of cornstalks with tassels whipping silk in the air whizzed by as we sped along. Attempting to look directly at the corn as we blew past triggered a terrible maize motion sickness.

Summer crawled to an end and the green leaves began to fade and dry. The once golden silk shriveled and turned a charred brown.

After the corn had been harvested, there remained a fullness to those empty fields. Even today, they stand as testimony to perseverance and hard work that dates all the way back to our nation’s beginnings. Harvested fields are silent witness to the age-old partnership between the Creator and the created, laboring together to bring bounty from the ground.

Cornfields and prairies, like the oceans and mountains and sprawling forests, are part of this wide and varied patchwork quilt we call America—breath-taking reminders that despite our fractures and turmoil, we are blessed to live in a land graced with beauty, abundance, opportunity and freedom.

“Count your many blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.”

And, please, look at that corn.

Sunday, Dec. 1, from 2-3:30 P.M. I’ll be at the Champaign Public Library talking about  “What Happens at Grandma’s Stays at Grandma’s.”

Monday, Dec. 2, 6;30 P.M., I’ll be at Holy Cross Parish in Champaign, Ill. sharing “Happy Holi-daze” —  you start with a string of the lights and the next thing you know you’ve gift wrapped the mailbox and have a wreath on your car! Call (217) 352-8748 to make sure seating is still available.

Books will be available for purchase and signing.

Stretching out the holidays

The holidays are here, which means seasonal weight gain will be close behind. Or in front.

Or both behind and in front. Some people are more gifted at even distribution than others.

I’m one who tends to gain a few pounds around the holidays. The worst part is, I count 50 holidays on the calendar.

I celebrate them all.

What’s more, I have a bad habit of forgetting that I was going to limit calories until after dessert. Isn’t that the way it always goes?

A research project claims that holiday weight gain is nearly a universal occurrence. Findings were based on studies in Germany, the U.S. and Japan.

Graph from

Three countries hardly seem like the universe, but I suppose they deemed the findings universal because they monitored people in three different countries, on three different continents. And they all put on weight around the holidays. Americans gained an average 1.3 pounds, Germans, 1.8 pounds, and the Japanese, 1.1 pounds.

Having German ancestors, I can’t help but wonder if that puts me at risk of double jeopardy—a  1.3 gain for being American, plus a 1.8 gain for the German heritage.

I do know that Germans do amazing things with butter, flour and sugar, and beef, gravy and potatoes.

Oh, go ahead. Put me down for the full 3.1 pounds.

Those numbers aren’t terrible on a large scale (pun intended). Most people lose half the weight immediately after the holidays, some lose it later in the year and others . . .  well, others buy the next size up.

The truth is, our bodies need food so that we can store fat in order to survive eight hours of sleep until we wake up and start eating again.

A couple of years ago Stove Top Stuffing offered Thanksgiving Dinner pants—stretch pants that grew as you grew. I call those kinds of pants my workout pants; it gives the whole concept of overeating a more uplifting psychological connotation.

Stove Top took relaxed fit to a new dimension. The pants were like a maroon parachute gathered at the waist with a wide band.

The pants sold faster than you could say “pass the potatoes,” and Stove Top has not offered them since. Perhaps Stove Top feared the pants would be a reminder of the calories in stuffing and thus be a detriment to sales.

If you tend to gain a few pounds at the holidays, remember this—helping clean up after a big meal for one hour can burn 100 calories, and light house cleaning for one hour can burn 150 calories.

If you’ve cleaned up at your place and are still feeling stuffed, you’re welcome to come over and help clean up at ours.

I’ll save you a piece of pie.

Raise your key fob if you lost a black car

To my deep regret, we own a black car. Technically it’s a metallic brown, but it only looks brown two days a year when it has been to the car wash and the sun tilts at a certain odd angle for 1.6 seconds. Every other day our brown car looks like black.

I should be able to distinguish our mid-size, boxy black car from other mid-size boxy black cars by the outline of the roof, the silhouette of the hood, the curve of the bumper or the shape of taillights, but I can’t.

Not only do I have trouble identifying our car, I have trouble identifying cars that good friends and long-time neighbors drive. Consequently, I wave at every car I pass in our neighborhood. If I don’t wave at a car and it carries someone I know, they’ll wonder why I’m unfriendly. Of course, if I wave at a car carrying someone I don’t know, they’ll think, “That woman must be batty!” It’s not much of a choice, but in the interest of maintaining friendships I tilt toward batty.

The worst part is running errands. I exit the grocery with a full cart, head to my car and wonder why it won’t unlock. I try a second and third time. I pull on the door handle that won’t budge, peer inside the vehicle and see unfamiliar books in the passenger seat, a soft drink wedged in the beverage cup holder and realize it’s not my black car.

I look around to see if anyone has seen me because it looks like I am attempting to break into a vehicle, although few car thieves are women pushing fully loaded grocery carts. Fortunately, no one has ever called the police on me. Yet.

If only someone would invent a key fob you could click to launch a giant, neon orange foam arrow that hovers over your vehicle with the words “You are Here!”

They could even be personalized as to color and message: “Seriously? Lost Again?” or “I’m Right Here Where You Left Me!”

Recently, the husband dropped me off at the entry to a store, so I didn’t have to walk through the pounding rain. I texted I was ready to be picked up, then dashed outside as a boxy black car pulled up and nearly got into the wrong vehicle.

The husband pointed out it could be worse, because there are even more silver cars than black cars and even more white cars than silver.

Maybe our next car will be blue—with big yellow stripes and red polka dots—something to subtly set it apart.

The other day I saw a woman walking up and down the aisle in a parking lot waving her key fob overhead, punching it frantically.

“Can’t find your car?” I asked.

“Right” she said with a look of exasperation.

“Maybe I can help. What color is it?” I asked.

I knew the answer the minute the words were out of my mouth.


I’ll be sharing “What Happens at Grandma’s Stays at Grandma’s,” on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the at the Johnson County Library in Franklin, Ind. Grab a dozen of your closest friends and stop by. (You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll  laugh some more.) If you’re busy on that Tuesday, you catch me on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 6:30-7:30 at the Bartholomew County Library in Columbus, Ind. Books will be available for purchase and signing.