What We Had Was A Failure to Communicate

I don’t have to listen to the weather reports.  I’m pretty sure I know what’s happened.

It was a discombobulated December for me.  I lost my iPhone around Thanksgiving and quickly realized how much I’d come to depend on it and all of its uses.  Out Christmas shopping, I couldn’t take a quick picture of something to text to someone for a second opinion.  I had to borrow the customer service phone in Harris-Teeter to call Dearly Beloved to see if I needed to buy beer for visitors.  That proved to be a fruitless exercise, as he rarely gets his phone out of his pocket in time to answer.  (He says it’s because I always call when he’s picking up dog poop.)

He told me later that he figured it was me, so he returned the call. . . until he realized he was phoning a supermarket and I wouldn’t be apt to answer.

I couldn’t look up directions, addresses, or recipe ingredients when I was out there in the jungle. It felt downright primitive, I tell you!   For a month now I’ve been asked dozens of times, Haven’t you found your cellphone? or, from realists,  Haven’t you bought a new phone yet?  I’ve had to go back to carrying a book to waiting rooms, where Free WiFi seems to have suddenly sprouted up everywhere.

I despaired, then surrendered.  I was never going to find it.

Today is my birthday.  DB asked what I wanted to do and I said I wanted to start with breakfast at the restaurant that serves red velvet waffles.  I never get them; I just like to  make sure they’re still on the menu.  After breakfast,  I wanted to go to the mall and get a new phone.  It being my birthday, bless him, he didn’t even gasp at the four-letter ‘m” word.  He froze a second, then nodded.

Speaking of freezing, it was SEVEN degrees when I let the dog out this morning.  SEVEN degrees on January 7!   Definitely a day for my Minnesota coat.

I wear that old full-length, warm, hooded coat so seldom now that I no longer even keep it in our crowded coat closet.  Instead, it’s stashed in a guest bedroom closet along with odd items like a size 4 ring-bearer’s suit,  a pink polka-dotted piano recital dress, and an assortment of old ski pants.  I found the coat, slipped it on, and, deciding not to mess with gloves, stuck put my hands into the soft plush pockets.

And pulled out my cellphone.  Deader than a flat possum on I-95.

At first I couldn’t remember even wearing the coat at all, then decided it could have been one night when I took the dog for a short walk.  I wore it then, not because it was that cold, but because I was wearing my pajamas underneath.  I must have stuck the phone in my pocket in case I got arrested.

At least three members of the family had stood on their heads looking under all the car seats.  I’d gone through drawers, pockets.   I’d looked underneath every cushion.  I checked the dog’s toy basket and honestly, even eyed her poop suspiciously for a couple of weeks.  I’d checked every closet.  Except the one with the polka-dot recital dress, the ring bearer suit, etc.   Oops.

On my computer, the FindMyPhone app identified the phone as being at this address, but we couldn’t hear the audio signal it said it was sending out.  The next time I tried the app, it told me there was nothing.   I decided that the first time the phone might have been in the outside trash bin and had been carted off to the landfill by the second time I tried.

There was nothing to do except buy a new one.  Buying a phone just like the one you had  is like buying a replacement hot water heater.  It’s necessary, but it’s not exciting.

Had the Arctic blast not hit today, I wouldn’t have bothered with the Minnesota coat.  We’d have headed for Apple and bought the phone.  If the icy cold hit tomorrow instead, I’d have worn that coat and found myself the disgusted owner of two cellphones.  (Tomorrow is, of course, Elvis’ birthday.  You DO go out and celebrate, don’t you?)

It’s like the Elf on the Shelf has been messing with me.  Maybe I entered The Twilight Zone.  Or perhaps Saint Anthony was giving me a preview of what life would be like if I became a Catholic.   One friend called it serendipity, another said it was a senior moment.  Heck, it was a senior MONTH!  Dearly Beloved has reminded me that patience is indeed a virtue.

I received this e-mail today in Twilight Zone fashion: 

A sound was played on iPhone.
A sound was played on iPhone at 7:06 AM on January 7, 2014.

So what does this have to do with how cold it is?  I’m thinking that hell must have frozen over.

Getting Lit

Getting lit on our end of the block doesn’t involve a drink, although we could certainly use one afterwards.  Had Thomas Edison been our neighbor, you’d still be lighting candles right now.  I think it’s something in the air.

Our neighbors on the other side–Beauregard and Boo–have always had tall, lovely, aromatic NC Frasier Firs until this year.  After years of cajoling, she’d finally convinced Beau to try an artificial tree and she’d hit the after-Christmas sales and found a real beauty:  a large, very deluxe, artificial tree for Christmas 2013.   She was understandably nervous when they finally took it out of its box last week.

The assembly didn’t go smoothly.  Boo encouraged Beau to read the instructions, but he declared that he didn’t have time to do that.  Instead, he began shoving the parts together, figuring he could build a tree, whether it was the one on the front of the box or not.  It was definitely more “NOT.”

When the branches became a tangle of twisted wires, Beau began ripping the lights off the branches, even though they were carefully wired in place and even camouflaged with a pipe-cleaner-like material covering every wire.  (It was a VERY deluxe tree!)

Seeing the lights and the camouflage material being yanked was enough to make Boo panic.  She called the store where she’d purchased the tree.  They told her to bring it in and they’d have one of their technicians put it together properly.

Again, things didn’t go smoothly.  Now that the eight-foot genie was out of the box and lying in crazy-quilt fashion all over the den floor, there was no way they could get it into their car.  They called a friend for help.  She rushed over in her van and they loaded it up with all the tree it could hold: about 2/3 of it.  The top part had to ride in the car with Beau and Boo.

When they arrived at the store, it took all three of them to get it inside.  I can imagine the scene,  the three walking parade style, carrying the pieces still tethered together by wires, some of them dangling.  The tree technician took it back to Critical Care and told them it would take some time.

The technician was able to work his miracle and the wounded tree is in full glory now, standing proudly in their den, lights glowing.  Boo added a small stick with balsam fir scent to make it seem even more authentic.

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Dearly Beloved hooted at their tree story.  He wanted to know why Beau hadn’t called HIM for help, since tales of DB’s…um… expertise in matters of electrical wiring are circulating through the neighborhood.

After they left, I went back to assembling our own pre-lit tree and DB went back to carrying wheelbarrows of leaf mulch around back to the azalea beds.

Our little tree is several years old.  We’ve always set it up in the bay window of the sunroom and the direct southern sun has taken its toll.  Instead of the original deep green, the tree has faded to a sickly greyish-blue.  (My friend Beanie suggested I think of it now as a blue spruce.)  Blue or green, it has always been easy to assemble and I’ve assembled it so many times,  I went ahead and decorated it without bothering to test the lights.  Oops.

I plugged it in, but only a small belt of lights around the middle of the tree came alive.  GOOD GRIEF, did we have an epidemic in the neighborhood???

When DB came inside and saw the sorry sight, he immediately reached in among the branches to fix it, not even pausing to remove his jacket.   He appeared oblivious to the ornaments bouncing off the tree as he worked.  As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes The Jackass takes over in these situations and for a while there, I was understandably nervous.

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Several broken ornaments later, the tree was in one piece and lit from top to bottom.  Applause!  Applause!!  Applause!!!  My man!

Notice the Christmas tree skirt in the picture above.  It’s an inheritance from a relative who never met a sequin she didn’t like.  She made them all by hand.  Consequently, I have three tree skirts, plus a large, round tablecloth that looks much like an enlarged tree skirt.  Ghosts of Christmases past.  They’ve been stashed in the attic for ages, but this year I decided to bring out my heritage in all its sequined…um… glory.  We may be light-deficient, but danged if we don’t still sparkle.

Maybe that contributes to the tree looking more anemic than ever this year.   It’s also wonky; the treetop angel keeps leaning left.  I wonder if Santa ever puts a tree under the tree?

I’ve a mind to hit those after-Christmas artificial tree sales myself.  I’m thinking that I’d better start at the store which has a tree technician.

Just in case, mind you.

Deck the Malls

Every December Dearly Beloved and I go to The Cheesecake Factory at the nearby mall for a Christmas lunch and to see the mall decorations.  That last part is tricky because technically, since The Cheesecake Factory’s entrance is outside the mall, he has, on occasion, tried to weasel out of actually stepping inside the mall proper.

DB dislikes any shopping but take him inside a mall and by comparison,  Jack Nicholson in The Shining seems like Santa Claus.  The khakis and jeans he wears daily are not shabby chic, but ragged.  He wears the same tired pants that he walks the dog in whenever he takes me out to eat and even on trips.  It isn’t that he doesn’t have more, it’s… well, who understand Martians’ reasoning?!

 I’ve been telling him for some time that he needed some new casual pants and each time he says, “Get me some next time you’re out shopping.”   

Sure.  As soon as they start selling them at the supermarket.

Finally, Senior Day at one of the large department stores, not to mention the extra discounts for their cardholders was enticing enough that he agreed to go.  We could  even have our Christmas lunch while we were there.  

Ahhh!!  I e-mailed our daughters that their dad was going to the mall with me.  Willingly.   A whine-free excursion!

There are at least five department stores and many shops in this large mall, but I knew that  one-store shopping was going to be as much as I could count on for his good intentions to last.

I over-estimated his good humor.  We’d barely walked out of the parking garage when  he announced:

“I’m not trying any pants on.  Let’s just get them and you can bring them back if they don’t fit.”

I stopped in my tracks and glared at him.

“I told your children this was the one day when you’d go shopping with me without being a turd and you have already blown it.   

He looked momentarily chastened.

“How about if I am a good sport the second we step through the door?”  

I was adamant.

“I don’t think so.  We’ll come another time for our Christmas lunch.   Without the jackass.”

As soon as he stepped inside the store,  he stuck his hands in his pockets–the international signal of Husband in Distress.  He moseyed  around, showing no interest except to occasionally offer his opinion to other guys trying on clothes, telling one man why he shouldn’t buy the vest he was trying on.  (That was the point I began watching for Store Security.)

As we rounded the Ralph Lauren section, we heard a woman telling her husband, “The pants are TOO LONG!”

DB stopped and assessed the scene, then told the guy, “Those pants fit you perfectly.  That slight bend in the length is exactly what you want.”  

The man’s wife scowled.  (I don’t know if it’s relevant, but let me mention here that the woman was using a walker and had an oxygen tube in her nostrils.  She may not have been using either when they first arrived.)

DB continued meandering, but signed, “I’m just not feeling it.”

“That’s because pants are not going to jump into your arms.  Take your hands out of your pockets, ask a salesperson, and get in there and find what you need.”  

I felt like a football coach.

The salesperson he found was already working with another man so sullen and unpleasant to his trying-to-be-helpful wife that I’d have thought the poor woman must have held a gun on him to get him there, except that by now she would surely have fired it.

But back to my Prince Charming…. When the salesperson turned to him, he said, “My wife thinks I need some new britches.”  

Sigh.

“DB, they haven’t been BRITCHES since you were six years old.”

People around us were were beginning to giggle and stare.  He told her in a stage whisper,  “She called me a JACKASS.”   A bit more of his “long-suffering” humor and–I’m not kidding–the poor sales woman,  snorting with laughter, put her head down on the counter as she pounded her fist and gasped, “You’re killing me!” 

Finally, after she helped him find two pairs of pants and a cashmere sweater that he liked,    he asked me hopefully, “Are we through?”

Nope.  I decided we’d have one more stop.  We rode the escalator to the third floor:  Ladies’ Lingerie.

“I’ll just find place to sit down,” he said, assuming there would be a “man chair” around.

I browsed through the department and eventually made a purchase, then headed back to find him.  I spotted a store mannequin in a set of lacy black bikini bra and undies, posed seductively on one of those short platforms stores use.  Sitting on the platform, his head about crotch level to the mannequin, was my Dearly Beloved.

We didn’t have our Christmas lunch or go out into the mall to see all the holiday decorations that day.  Guess we’ll schedule another outing very soon.

I can hardly wait.

Backroads With BroJoe: Sampson County, North Carolina

When my brother Joe travels the winding backroads of eastern North Carolina where several generations of our family lived, he often sends photos of the dishes he tries at some of the local restaurants–the ones where no part of the hog goes unused.  He likes to mess around with my gag reflex.  Chittlins, cracklin’ bread, bone marrow… get the drift?  (I’m not sure if I mean literally or figuratively here.)

This time, the photo he sent back surprised me.  I remember visiting farmer relatives in that part of the state when I was a small child.  Perhaps that is why I found this photograph so hauntingly lovely and nostalgic.

Than again, maybe it’s because I didn’t find myself staring at a plate of brains and eggs.  I promise that you won’t, either.  Enjoy.

Backroads: Sampson County, North Carolina.

The Grove!

People had told us that the spectacle of an Ole Miss football game is unique, that there was nothing quite like tailgating in The Grove.  The Grove?  A bunch of trees?  I had so much to learn!  Is it still called tailgating when cars aren’t allowed in the area?

The Grove–a shady, park-like setting with a magnificent assortment of mature trees– is lovely enough to enchant any gardener.  It is situated in the middle of a campus so well designed that everything seems within walking distance for its just under 20,000 students.  The buildings are Southern classic and beautiful and the traditions deep.

The Lyceum, oldest building on campus, served as a hospital during the Civil War.

The Lyceum, oldest building on campus, served as a hospital during the Civil War.

The football players pass through The Grove on their way to the stadium on a brick walkway with arches at each end–the Walk of Champions.  The stadium holds over 60,000 and who knows how large the crowds are in The Grove.  Talk about a heady walk!IMG_0951

The Friday before the game, garbage cans were set out to mark spaces where hospitality tents could be set up, beginning at 9 PM.  During the day people hung around, marking their spots.IMG_0955The game was at noon and we went to the Grove on that overcast mid-morning, we found the area transformed into a sea of tents, chairs, people, and food.  Image 56What it wasn’t filled with was smoke.  No grills allowed and in fact, no smoking.  That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t food.

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IMG_1113The game that day was a rivalry between the Ole Miss Rebels and University of Arkansas* Razorbacks, also known as The Hogs, so folks went whole hog with their food.  Hams galore!

Not that food was all they brought.  Some tents were quite elaborate, sporting generators, chandeliers, large flat-screen TVs, comfortable chairs, and satellite dishes.  One tent sported a replica of the Lyceum, with each of its columns holding a different beverage.

Just as there were plain tents and fancy tents, there were basic toilets as well as some with more panache, like the Hotty Toddy Potty, complete with attendants.

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The Arkansas fans partied, too.

As for me and my house, we will call the Hogs.

As for me and my house, we will call the Hogs.

Elvis was there–in several shapes and sizes–raising money for St.Jude’s Children’s Hospital.  They call themselves “The Elvi.”

Image 26 Who was he pulling for? Image 29

The cheerleaders were in The Grove.IMG_1095IMG_1096And the band was in The Groove.IMG_1097You’re probably wondering did we EVER get to the game.  I’ll have to save that for the next post.  It was THE ELVI in all their glory, for goodness’ sakes!  Show some respect! 

Are you there, Elvis, it's me, Mary!

Are you there, Elvis?  It’s me, Merrily!

*BIG OOPS on original post.  My brain said Arkansas, but my fingers didn’t listen.  Sorry, Arkansas!

M-I-Crooked Letter. . .

This time last week, Dearly Beloved and I were high-tailing it to Oxford, Mississippi–a nine to ten-hour drive, depending on traffic and my bladder.  We made it a two-day trip and planned to stay at a B&B along the way.

If you’re interested in trying a new career, look into opening a B&B in western Alabama or eastern Mississippi because you certainly won’t find much competition.  The problem is, you won’t find many towns along that route, either.

Charlotte’s ambient lights make this a tough place for stargazing, but let me tell you–nights on rural Alabama secondary roads are DARK!  That night, there was only a sliver of moon and few houses on our route, so we kept an eye out for deer or Bigfoot.   When we reached the small town B&B where I’d made a reservation, I learned that the one I’d chosen was on this bucket list!

IMG_0912I’m not sure I’ll make the other 99, but The B&B, a historic home built in 1870, happened to be serving their signature dish (in the lower left corner of the list)–a strawberry/almond Belgian waffle, not to mention bacon, fruit cup, and a giant chocolate chip/pecan muffin.    IMG_0907

I-85 through the Carolinas and Georgia is not a pretty route.  NC’s billboard lobbyists have won free reign at the expense of the trees and natural beauty.  South Carolina is even worse–it has seedy buildings intermixed with one giant billboard after another; one advertises Jesus and the next one an Adult Toy Store (perhaps an unfortunate order.)   I must say, KUDOS to Alabama and Mississippi for their highways and byways.  Their senators have done them proud securing federal road funds.   We’ve been in that area before, but this was our first time on the Natchez Trace Parkway or crossing the Ten-Tom Waterway.  Lovely!

My cousin had sent excellent directions, so we found the condo in plenty of time to visit before our lunch reservation:  a window table at City Grocery.  Since their food is to die for, it should top any list of 100 Places to Eat in Mississippi Before You Die.   The chocolate bacon bread pudding is certainly list-worthy.

I think I could live in Oxford, Mississippi and love it.  (That sound you heard was my cousin gasping in alarm.)   It is a beautiful old town with wonderful architecture, large trees, nice  restaurants and shopping, the best independent bookstore in the country, and right in the middle of it all is (drumroll, please…) Ole Miss.

(Photos of the campus and Saturday’s game in a later post.  It was quite a spectacle and even though I usually read during football games, I loved every minute of this one.)

Right after our City Grocery lunch on Friday, we headed downtown and our first stop was Square Books.  I could spend days…years… in there.  I’ve never seen so many signed books in my life!  IMG_0976

Next stop was their second store just up the block where I didn’t buy a cookbook because I couldn’t decide between…oh, 50 or so… that looked wonderful.  Garden & Gun magazine was hosting a book launch, so we browsed with their wine and hors d’oeuvres in hand.   A third store, filled with children’s books was in another block.

Square Books was the first bookstore to host a book signing for (then) local resident John Grisham’s books back when he was peddling his book out of the trunk of his car and he still shows his appreciation by signing his books for the store whenever he writes a new one.  Pat Conroy had been recently and signed books, as had authors like Lee Smith, Ron Rash, and Donna Tartt (The Goldfinch.)

The bookstore specializes in southern books, especially ones by Mississippi authors.  (Think William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, Shelby Foote and a host of newer ones like Kathryn Stockett–The Help)  Even DB commented that there was something about the area that made one want to sit down and write.

That probably makes you wonder why it took me a week to write this post.

Faulkner Alley sign

Faulkner Alley sign

The alley.

The alley.

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Ceiling of an old downtown building.

Ceiling of an old downtown building.

Books were my pass to personal freedom. I learned to read at age three, and soon discovered there was a whole world to conquer that went beyond our farm in mississippi. – Oprah Winfrey

I’m not saying she was stupid, but I asked her how to spell mississippi and she said ‘the river or the state?’ – Unknown

Take Two Redials And Call Me In The Morning

As I’ve said before, my Dearly Beloved has some peculiar notions about doctors.

He still subscribes to the theory that all injuries should be ignored unless they occur on the football field which, of course, isn’t happening at our house this century.  So, when he was playing Tennis Ball Keepaway (which he shouldn’t) with our dog Scout recently and she jumped for the tennis ball in his hand and got the fleshy pad of his hand instead, he took care of the wound himself.   I wasn’t home and he had it bandaged by the time I returned, so I haven’t seen it and don’t want to.  He claims it probably could have used some stitches, but it was a clean tear, so he wasn’t going to get any.

I ignored it, staging my own game of Keepaway from the whole incident, refusing to offer sympathy.  That doesn’t stop him from holding up his hand occasionally and dramatically peeking under the bandage to give me a report.

Still, when he felt awful for several days in a row recently, I did feel bad for him and insisted he see the doctor.  Who’s going to set the mousetrap if he kicks the bucket?

He told me that he’d be seeing her soon for his October physical.  “When is that?”  I asked, it being the last week of September.

“I don’t know.  I haven’t made the appointment yet.”

“Well, MAKE it!  Right now.”  

A few minutes later, he said he’d done so and would be going in mid-November.  (And my dentist wonders why I grind my teeth!)

“Look at you, you’re in BED!  You’ve felt lousy for days!  Call them again and tell them you’re sick and need to come in NOW!”

He sighed dramatically.

“Okay. Dial the number for me and bring me the phone.”

My sigh was even more dramatic than his, but I took the damn phone to his bedside.  I’d punched in the number; all he had to do was hit “Talk.”  Which he screwed up.  He hit Redial and Talk a second, then a third time, before he ever got it to ring.

He began talking almost immediately, explaining that he’d just made an appointment for his physical, but wondered if he could see the doctor right away.  I was mystified, since I always have to go through several automated prompts before reaching the appointed appointment human.  How did he avoid that?

While he explained his symptoms,  I stood over him with my arms crossed, making sure he   didn’t omit anything.  A look of puzzlement suddenly crossed his face.

“Scout,” he said, obviously in response to a question.  “She bit me on the hand, but it’s okay.  It was an accident.”

He listened again, then answered, “No, the checkup is for me.”  Another look of complete confusion.  “Wait a minute.  Who have I called here?”

Animal Medical Hospital.

He burst out laughing, hastening to explain,  “My wife dialed this number for me.”  

I hadn’t!  I’d most certainly dialed the doctor’s number because I’d looked it up before doing so, but by then I was laughing so hard that I couldn’t defend myself.  I fell onto the bed, clutching my stomach, shrieking and gasping, as he answered that no, he didn’t think he needed a rabies shot, but he could use a bath.

I wanted to suggest anal gland expression, but I still couldn’t catch my breath enough to say the words.

Since he’d inadvertently disconnected the number I’d put in for him before it ever connected, hitting Redial had taken him back to the last number actually called–the vet  he’d called the previous evening to arrange boarding for Scout over the weekend.

Funny thing is, we laughed so hard over the ridiculous conversation, he began to feel better almost immediately.  Since it can’t do lab work, he still had to go in for a checkup, but laughter really IS the best medicine!

My doctor is wonderful. Once, in 1955, when I couldn’t afford an operation, he touched up the X-rays. - Henny Youngman

Sign on a cosmetic surgery clinic:
If life gives you lemons, a simple operation can give you melons.