Friday, January 31, 2014

Somewhere in My Age or Elderhood, I Must Have Done Something Good

Ten-Dollar Daughter here, reporting on today's outing with my mom. Uh huh. Don't mind me puffing out my chest, huffing out exhalations, polishing my fingernails on my lapel. I earned a 100% raise since my last daughterdom report.

It's the last Friday of the month, you know. Bill-paying excursion day for Val. Actually, I paid ahead yesterday, on my day off for the funeral. That's because icky weather was in the forecast again for today. So I got it out of the way just in case. But I DID promise Mom that if the roads weren't bad, I would still come pick her up and drive her over to Bill-Pay Town to get some fries at Rally's.

Mom already had one outing this week, when we took her along to get that free computer part. She refused fries that day, but sampled a couple. I knew she wanted some. Even though she didn't ask. When I picked her up today, she (of course) had a story of strange coincidence to relate.

"I heard a car at my mailbox around noon. I looked out, and it was red. My newspaper lady has a red car. I wondered why she was so early, but I figured I'd just wait until I went up to get the mail, and bring in the paper then. I closed the shades and forgot about it. About an hour and a half later, I heard the awfullest noise out front. I looked again. There was a red car revving it's engine, sitting in front of my mailbox! I was starting to get worried. What in the world was going on?"

"Was it the same car?"

"I don't know. It was a red car. And I didn't know what it was going to do."

"Had it been there the whole time? Or did it come back?"

"Well, I don't know. I quit looking out, but I didn't hear anything until later. Then I got to thinking...'my friend Freda has a red car. I wonder if she put something in my mailbox?' She's always doing things like that, leaving me food on the porch and not knocking and not telling me."

"Like that cinnamon roll that she left on the porch, and you came home and found it, and saw a bite out of it when you went to eat it, and thought a dog unwrapped it to sample it, then wrapped it back up?"

"Uh huh. So I called her, and she said yes, that she had put a card in the newspaper box for me. When the mail came, I went up and got it and the paper. And would you believe that there was no card in my paper box? Just the paper! I looked and looked. I guess the newspaper lady thought I had put a card in there for her, and she took it! I'll see if I get it back tomorrow. If not, I'll have to ask her about it."

"You have more trouble with people leaving and taking random stuff! Good thing she didn't get your three bags of hedgeapples."

"Oh, and yesterday I caught the mail lady trying and trying to stuff my medicine package that I've been waiting on for two weeks into my mailbox, and it wouldn't fit, so she BACKED DOWN THE DRIVEWAY! I went out and got the package from her and told her she didn't have to do that."

"Good thing she did. Who knows WHEN you would have gotten it if it went back to the post office."

"I guess you're right."

We were in line at Rally's by then. Mom decided that she would like a Diet Coke, also. She had put off making one at home because she knew I was coming by to get her. We were also picking up a meal for The Pony, who was waiting at Mom's house with high-speed internet.

"Here. Take this ten for my food, and The Pony's. Keep the whole thing."

I'm back in the high life again. Ten-Dollar Daughter, signing off.


Val's Blog Post For the Reluctant Reader

My mom is back to giving me ten dollars when I take her somewhere.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

My Hunter-Gatherer Excels

Hick and I headed to school this evening for different reasons. He went to see The Pony play on his Smartypants team, and I went to put things in order after an absence today. I tried to haul my work to the room to listen, but we were late, coming from a funeral service, and the match was already in progress.

Unlike years past, the contestants were not set up around the teacher desk, backs to the door, leaving room for a small audience to enter and spectate. They were facing the door. Like a semi-circle of tooth-gnashing wolves, a sight a bit off-putting, if not downright pants-wetting. An adult man and woman (as opposed to infant man and woman, I suppose, after writing that and not wanting to back up and erase it) sat on the floor of the hall, backs against the painted concrete-block wall. It appeared that they had abandoned all hope, they who had not entered there. A few sets of parents could be observed, gloating along a wall behind the contestants. They must have camped out overnight for those spots.

I started back to my room, and passed Hick, who had just arrived from a stop by his doctor's office for a shot. "They've already started. I'm not dealing with it. I've go work to do."

Hick the big dumb doofus brave warrior opened the unlocked door and entered between quarters as substitutes were switched out. When that match was over, he headed to my classroom to await the start of the next round. Having not partaken of our nighttime repast, both Hick and I were feeling a mite peckish. He headed off to seek a machine soda while I remained 44-oz.-Diet-Cokeless.

"Hey, you can go in the teacher workroom. There's a snack machine. And while you're at it, bring me a little pack of that Sweet and Salty Mix. I think it's D4." That stuff is tasty, full of sunflower seeds, peanuts, raisins, and generic blank M&Ms. Off Hick went, a modern-day hunter-gatherer, in no danger of being gored by a vending machine while plying it with bills.

The Pony came charging through the door. "We won! By a lot. 270 to 60. I only played three quarters, and I scored 110 points. Here. Dad said to bring these to you."

"Wait! Why are there two bags? I only wanted one. I gave him a dollar. I know he didn't spend his own money on me."

"One was stuck. So when he put in money, two came out. Here. I've gotta get back."

Yes. My sweet baboo brought home the bacon x 2. Well...he SENT home the bacon x 2. That's a good quality in a mate.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

There's a Hacker, Darn Every Minute

Yesterday I waited for The Pony in the dentist's waiting room while he had his twice-a-year cleaning and inspection. Or, as The Pony might call it, torture. Yes, I waited in the waiting room. It's pretty obvious that's what one is supposed to do in such an area. It's not called the all-you-can-eat buffet room, or the auction-every-Monday room, or the extreme-log-rolling-championship room. A waiting room is for waiting.

The parking lot was full of cars, but only one person sat between me and The Pony and privacy. A woman sat near the restroom and inner sanctum door. The Pony and I chose seats in the opposite corner of the room. That's what normal people do. Perhaps you can sense the direction this tale is taking. If not, feel free to jump to the bottom and read about the point in my new feature: Val's Blog Post For the Reluctant Reader.

The Pony was called back within five minutes. The Waiter was joined by a man and tweenage boy. Apparently, they were all waiting for a similar boy who was already being polished and readied for release. The tweenager inquired as to why he and one adult couldn't just go home. So the Waiter got up and left with him. The man was summoned to the inside counter to grow a long white beard while the anemic appointment-scheduler caught twenty winks. That left me, myself, and Val to rule the room. Revel in solitude for the first time since 5:00 a.m. But not for long.

A new gal came, on decidedly not-little, not-cat feet. She quickly surveyed my kingdom, said, "This looks good," and plopped down in the only cushiony armchair in the place. Which was right beside me, at a 90-degree angle. For those of you who are not friends of Euclid, that means the sitter of that chair faced my side. Were I a football player, and she pursuing me, she would have been the perfect candidate for stiff-arming. I was simply a waiter, though. A waiter in a wait land. A captive with an audience.

Armchairy brought nothing to read. Nothing to pass the time during her wait. She was too involved with sniffling. And hacking out phlegm. And breathing. All within reach of Val's throttling hand. I would not have dared touch her, of course. I could only imagine psychedelic swarms of bacteria and viruses swirling down her shirtfront, sliding over her knees like a waterfall, and beginning a surge towards me. I turned my head as far to the left as I could get it, facing the open door to the entrance hall, and tried to suck in untainted oxygen from that side. It was all I could do to keep from jumping out of my chair and charging across the vast waitland to stop stewing in her juices.

What the not-heaven is wrong with people?


Val's Blog Post For the Reluctant Reader

A coughing woman sat way too close to me in the dentist's waiting room.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sometimes, Even the Universe's Conspiratory Machinations Are No Match For Goodness

A most curious event occurred this evening. More unexplainable, even, than the strange goings-on in the Val Thevictorian basement.

Last night, The Pony had a mishap. One minute he was happily ensconced on the new basement couch, pecking away at his laptop keyboard...and the next minute his world fell apart. His laptop slid off the edge of that dastardly divan, and hit the pressed-tile-over-concrete-covered-by-a-braided-rug floor. The plug-in thingy that connects to the cable of the power supply broke off in his laptop hole thingy.

The Pony was a brave little soldier. He came to my dark basement lair to report the damage. Neither sullen nor tearful was he, but simply resigned. Resigned to the fact that we had traversed the 8th continent of Backroads seeking that power supply. All because the original began emitting smoke one evening last summer. Possible replacements found on the internet all had comments such as: "I ordered this as a replacement, and after two days, it started smoking!" Yeah. We did not feel that such a purchase would be prudent. Much calling around resulted in ONE shop, a mere fifteen miles from home, that might possibly have such a rare jewel in stock.

The Pony managed to pry the offending stump loose from the hole. "Now all I need is that little part that sticks in. The power supply itself is fine." Fine, indeed. To the tune of fifty dollars.

Flash back to last summer...The Pony had felt the purchase well worth that price. The universal power supply unit offered by the TechyGuru store came with an array of ten or more sizes of connectors. The Pony did not have his laptop with him at the store. The counter guru tried to find the size by comparing parts on the old smoky power supply. He said that if the universal unit did not have a connector that fit, we could bring it back for a full refund. He showed The Pony how to change the power output or some such thing that showed up in a green light on the side of the unit. We got it home, and The Pony had it running in less than a minute.

Flash back to this evening...The Pony had packed up the whole kit and caboodle this morning at 5:30 a.m. I promised to take him to TechyGuru after school, after my traded duty, after his dentist appointment. TechyGuru was open until six. I was sure we could make it, and we did. The Pony took a deep breath. Grabbed his backpack full of laptop essentials, and headed toward the door. He usually hangs back, but this time he walked right up to the counter.

"Well, it seems I need another power supply. I broke mine off in my laptop last night." He removed the laptop and set it on the counter. Took out the strip of accessories and showed the space where the working one had been. "It's this one I need."

The counter guru headed to the back room. We heard him talking it over with somebody out of sight. He brought a connector out and tried it. It didn't quite fit tight enough. The Pony dug around in a side pouch on his red laptop backpack. " Here's what's left of it." He took out the miniscule end that had not fallen apart.

Counter Guru went to the back room again. We heard some muffled conversation..."only needs the connector...I don't about five dollars...we have all kinds of them." He came back out front and pushed the connector into the hole. It was a perfect fit. He pulled it out and handed it to The Pony. "There's what you need."

"Great! We were hoping you would have one."

I pulled my household cash reserves from my pocket. "Thank you! How much will that be?"

"No charge. We have a bunch of them."

"Thank you so much! That's a really nice thing to do. I'll be sure to recommend you to everybody."

A lady walked in. "They're the best computer store ever."

Ain't that the truth! I'm giving my proposed handbasket factory future employees the night off. I think those handbaskets can wait one more day.

Monday, January 27, 2014

I Need To Install Security Cameras In My Kitchen

The Pony spent Friday night with his grandma, who dropped him off at bowling league at noon on Saturday. I normally give The Pony his bowling money, but this time I forgot. Hick meets him there, so I knew he would have money for his games, and for lunch. After all, I am the one who doles it out. Hick made sure to inform me on Saturday night that he would be needing reimbursement of his $20 so he could afford his own league on Monday night.

Flash forward to Sunday afternoon, when The Pony and I were headed off to town to meet my mom. As I rounded the kitchen counter, The Pony already standing with one hand on the doorknob, I said, "Wait a minute! I need to leave your dad's $20 before I forget." I went back around and laid the bill under one of his unbunched bananas. I turned my back a minute to grab some leftover fortune cookies for Mom. We were already running late, so I hurriedly joined The Pony to make our exit.

As we drove down the gravel road, we saw that Hick had his Ford F250, his $1000 Caravan, and his Pacifica all parked in front of the BARn. Who knows what kind of Frankensteining was about to be perpetrated. I know that Hick had left earlier on his Goodwill/home show/tire tour, so I assumed he must have been eenie-meenie-minie-moeing to see which vehicle would need major repairs next.

When The Pony and I returned about an hour later, we forgot to spy on Hick across the BARn field. Going up the driveway, all out of sync with our routine because we had left the garage door open as a spring-saving method, we were discombobulated. "Oh. I forgot I don't need to push the door opener," said The Pony, standing, bent at the waist, reaching for the passenger side sun visor from his regular seat behind the driver's. "Huh. There's Dad's Pacifica. I guess he's home. I didn't notice the van, though. So give me the keys just in case." He headed off to carry in some unperishable Walmart spoils from Saturday.

Inside the house, I saw that the twenty was gone from under the banana. "Your dad must be here. His money is gone. Do you see him?"

"No. Everything's off. The front door is locked. Maybe he's gone in the van, or in the BARn."

That was as curious as we got. It's not like the temperature was 1 degree. It was upper 50s. For all I knew, Hick might have been cruising around on his Gator. Because nothing spurs a man to tool around in a bright green open glorified golf cart like spending nine hundred dollars on truck repairs three weeks ago, and a couple hundred on tires that very day, all while having a perfectly good Pacifica for driving anywhere, any time. No search party was being mounted by Val Thevictorian.

"Hey! Look what I found in my pocket!" The Pony pulled a folded twenty from the right front pocket of his camo pants. Not that money means anything to The Pony. He rarely spends. He's not a skimmer like Hick and Genius. "Where did that come from?"

"I don't know. Did you wear those pants to the auction with Dad last week? Maybe you left your money in there."

"No. I didn't put it in my pocket. It was in my wallet. And I don't know where that is right now."

"And I just got those pants off the dryer this morning. They've been washed since then. But that twenty is crisp. I never went through a wash and dry. Huh."

"Here. I know it's not mine."

"Good. Now I have an extra twenty!"

We went about our Sunday afternoon business. Hick returned with no word of his whereabouts. We ate supper. Went our separate ways again until bedtime. On Monday morning, as I was trying to catch a chair nap while Hick was getting ready to leave, I heard him call from the kitchen, "Remember, I need my $20 back for bowling." I had almost dozed off. Ding dang dong it! Hick always picks the worst times to speak.

"Okay. Because we might not be home before you leave for bowling. Wait! I gave you that twenty yesterday!"

"No. You may think you did, but you didn't."

"Yes I did! Right before The Pony and I left, I laid out a twenty under your bananas. It was gone when we got back. PONY! Didn't I lay out Dad's money when we left for town?"

"I don't remember you laying it there."

"Yes you do! I made you wait by the door. I laid it there right in front of you, under a banana so it wouldn't blow away."

"Well, I didn't see you put it there."

"I didn't get a twenty."

"Get one out of the inside of my purse, where I keep the house money folded, in the back left." Several minutes passed. "Did you get your money?"

"Well, I'm looking for it. Folded, did you say?"

"Just bring it in here! Turn on the light! What are you doing?" Hick had my whole checkbook out, digging through the middle, when any fool knows I keep the house money in the folds of the purse, and not with my allowance inside the checkbook. I grudgingly pried out a twenty for Hick. Off he went. Nap ruined, I picked up the phone to call my mom. WAIT A MINUTE!

"Hold on, Mom. PONY! You picked up that twenty and put it in your pocket, didn't you? The one under the bananas?"

"I don't remember doing that."

"It's the only explanation. Mom, you're not going to believe what I go through around here."

"Oh, I believe you."

And she's not just taking my side because I'm her precious five-dollar daughter to whom she gave not a shred of currency this leftover-donation time.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

You Get What I Pay For

This morning Hick took off to check out those automatic-kick-on generators that run on propane from a tank outside your house that will sit there, menacing, ever-ready to blow you sky-high, until just the right instant when its services are needed to supply you with heat/AC and light and computers and TV and washers and dryers and refrigeratiors and ovens and microwaves to warm up and heat food instead of cooking. There was a giant annual home show nearby.

Since the home show didn't open for a few hours, Hick informed me that he would be stopping by Goodwill to look for bargains, and then taking his tire for repair. Nevermind that he could have removed the broken spring from the garage so my mom could drop if off and have a new one created on Monday. Hick said he patched that behemoth with a clamp, like he did when HIS garage door spring broke, and it lasted a good six months before we had to deal with it. Uh huh. That was six months of spring and summer. Not below-zero temperatures that are in the forecast again all week. I am going to make Hick open my garage door when he leaves each morning, to make sure that spring doesn't break and trap The Pony and I inside and make us miss school. I would certainly hate to look for keys to the other four vehicles and wonder if they have gas and inflated tires.

And speaking of tires...Hick mentioned that the tires on that $1000, 2000 Caravan were in worse shape than he originally thought. WHAT?

"Didn't you just get snow tires put on the van last year?"

"Yes. ON THE FRONT!" He said that like any fool would know that you only put snow tires on the front of a 2000 Dodge Caravan. Like that's in the manufacturer's specifications in the owner's manual that nobody ever reads.

"So we didn't get four new tires last year?"

"No. Just two. On the front. It's a back tire that's flat. They were on it when we bought the van from Missy from work. They weren't her original tires. Bob at work got new tires on his van, and his old ones were better than the ones on Missy's van, so he gave them to her. Then we bought it, and they were those tires."

"Huh. Shame he didn't give her a speedometer needle that would actually spin instead of laying on its side at the bottom of that dial."

"Whatever. I don't see the point in getting an old tire like that fixed. It's going to need a new tire."

"Doesn't that mean you'll have to get TWO new tires?" Even I know you don't keep one threadbare.

"Yeah. I'm going to need two tires."

Between car insurance with our two teenage male drivers, and all the Frankenstein parts we've put on that $1000 Caravan, I figure we could have bought a brand new one with the outlay.

At least we're saving money on that garage door spring.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Official Spokesman and the Conclusion-Jumper

Hick is working himself to the bone for no good reason. Why should he crawl around in swarf pits, take machines apart and put them back together, dangle high above the concrete floor on ladders and man-lifts while entwined in electrical wires which he assumes are un-live...when he could simply be the official spokesman for a company with something to hide? Not that Hick is crafty like a fox, or a silver-tongued talker. Or even evasive. Well, I'll concede that Hick attempts to be evasive. But he's no good at it. If his job depended on him being deliberately evasive, he would never win an Oscar.

This morning Hick left for work at the regular time, an hour before I arose. He works half days on Saturday, then meets The Pony at the bowling alley for the youth league. I called my mom to see how she and The Pony weathered the night, took a shower, wrote out some bills, paid for Genius's new semester books with an eCheck, and called Garage Door Springs R Us to see if they could solve my new carport predicament. They could not.

Just as I was packing up my cell phone to head to Walmart, I got a text from Hick: "I have a flat tire. I noticed it when I got to First Blacktop Road." Oh, dear. Had Hick been sitting in his $1000 Caravan for three hours, waiting for me to wake up and come help him? Surely not. He's smarter than that. In the very least, he would have no qualms about calling and waking me up the minute he needed a ride. So what was he up to now? This tire business could throw a monkey wrench into my plans. I called Hick. He didn't answer. Huh. You'd think he would still have his phone handy. Oh, well. I sent him a text back: "What do I need to do? Since you won't bother to answer your phone." Nothing. Deader than a doornail was my cell.

I started out the kitchen door. The house phone rang. I hurried back inside to grab it before the machine picked up. You'd think that Hick would have called me right back on the cell. The one I texted from not two minutes earlier. You see, around here, the cell only works outside or on the main floor. When I'm in my dark basement lair, cows could text me to say, "Quit dancing. We're coming home." And I'd never know. Once I'm in the basement, my cell phone ceases existence. I only answer the house phone. So it should have been obvious to Hick that I was either out about town, or within arm's reach of my cell.

Anyhoo, I grabbed that house phone, and one of the most inane conversations of all time this week commenced.

"Why didn't you pick up?"

"I guess my phone was still on silent. I was in a meeting."

"You texted me from a meeting. Then got my text. How could you not know I was calling?"

"I'm not in a meeting."

"Where are you? What do I need to do about your tire?"

"I'm at work."

"How will you get home?"


"Driving on a flat ruins the tire."

"I KNOW that."

"Well, what are you going to do about your tire?"

"I'll get it fixed."

"Do you have a spare?"

"I don't know. I might."

"Well, how are you getting it fixed?"

"I'll take it off and get it looked at."

"What about The Pony? Do I need to get him from bowling?"

"No. I'll get him at bowling."

"You're getting your tire fixed."

"I don't have to do it TODAY."

"But how are you getting to bowling?"

"I'm driving."

"You can't drive on a flat tire!"

"I KNOW that!"

"But your tire is flat!"

"Yeah. On my van. In the garage. I drove The Pony's truck."

"Then why did you text me about your flat tire?"

"Just to let you know."

You'd think, perhaps, that Hick might have let me know from the beginning that he came back and got The Pony's truck, and that eventually he was going to need a tire repair or new tire. But that's not the way Hick's communication skills are wired. He's going to keep this up until I totally disregard any communique that others immune to his ways might see as vital. In simpler times, Hick might have been the boy who cried wolf, only to explain to the villagers that he was merely showing them he knew what to do in case of an attack emergency.

Hick. The man who called flat.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Spring Has Sprung

No, sillies! I'm not talking about the weather. It's colder than Val's heart on a cruise to Antarctica in July! Get it? Because the seasons are reversed in the southern hemisphere, by cracky! Sometimes I simply outdo myself spreading scientific knowledge throughout the blogosphere. Sure, go on, act like you already got my reference. It's okay. I'll emphasize it to my fellow Backroadsians who are rocking in front of the cast-iron stove down at Drucker's General Store, whittling corncob pipes, taking a break every now and then to play some checkers, or dip a giant pickle out of the barrel.

Spring has sprung! That dastardly giant spring that used to raise the garage door every time T-Hoe's clicker said, "Open Sesame." Now it only raises the garage door one panel. That is not quite enough to let T-Hoe through. A cat, perhaps. But not the fat tuxedo cat doing very little to escape the advances of the beagle.

I thought I had hit the clicker twice. That makes the door stop, and go back down. But this one stuck. When I clicked again, it closed. Another click, it went up one panel. I must have sat there on my heated seat trying that about 20 times. Hope springs eternal, you know. But my spring was sprung.

I saw the extent of the carnage when I walked all the way around the garage to go in through the people door, and saw that giant spring in two parts. As you might recall, we just replaced that spring on Hick's garage door this summer. So now, during the cold snap, my spring snapped. When Hick got home, he wrestled with that wily coil, and managed to open my garage door all the way, manually. Now we have to leave it open. Which kind of defeats the purpose of having a garage, turning it into a drafty carport. The onus falls on Val to drag the twisty traitor to the garage door store to seek a fabricated replacement.

Our infrastructure is failing fast.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Don't Let Anybody Tell You That Cleanliness is Next to Warmthiness

When it comes to cold, I have no shame.

I really, really did not want to venture outside to get to work this morning. I was cold all day Wednesday, at a balmy 32 degrees, weather that would have an Ice Road Trucker clomping about in flip-flops, cut-off jeans, and a wife beat   ribbed sleeveless tank undershirt. I was cold when I got up this morning. Cold making The Pony's lunch. Cold in the shower. Cold out of the shower. Cold under my soft blankie snuggled into the folds of Hick's La-Z-Boy for my morning chair nap. And...cold while sticking an arm out to hold the phone while calling my mom, cold eating breakfast, cold getting dressed.

I could take it no more. "Pony, I'm going to wear my old sweatshirt in the car this morning. I know it is all stretched out. I know it has an orange spot of vegetable beef soup on the baby-blue neck trim. It's just for the car. And the walk into the building under my coat. I'll take it off inside. Then put it back on to come out. Nobody will see it. I have to be warm. I can't drive in a coat."

Yeah. My old sweatshirt friend rode along to work with me like a second skin. It did nothing to warm my hands in my new Christmas gloves that are two inches too long for my fingers (and, some say, not even MINE), and nothing to warm my feet inside my shoes that felt like blocks of ice. But my core was warm. And my buttocks, too, as soon as the seat heater kicked in, which was not soon enough, if you ask my buttocks. Strike that. You really don't want to hear them talk.

I might have to take Baby Blue along for the ride again in the morning. I might even toss him into the washer when I go to bed, and into the dryer when I get up. Hick might be onto something with that "dry soup" concept. No dripping, no staining. A clean sweatshirt suitable for more wearings between washings.

Though I might miss out on that soupy sustenance if T-Hoe goes off the road and I have to survive in the car for several days.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Attend Here

Well, ain't that a fine kettle of fish? And I'm not talking about the mystery meal one of my colleagues chowed down on at the teacher lunch table.

Just before the final bell today, in the midst of a rollicking faculty dance-off at the homecoming pep rally, several official-looking school officials wended through the crowd, passing out pieces of paper. I read one. It was a letter home, stating that our district WILL BE IN SESSION ON THURSDAY.

Yeah. I know you're shaking in horror right along with me. To add insult to the fright, the letter pointed out that other districts were already notifying media that due to the arctic, skin-freezing, Day-After-Tomorrow-like polar vortex headed our way tonight, they would not be in attendance. But we will.

That kind of takes all the fun out of potentially deadly weather.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Some Days Are Like That

Did you ever have one of those days when things just don't work out the way you'd planned?

I don't mean a really bad day, like when Brownsville Station got caught smoking in the boys' room, after everybody was on their case, from their teacher all the way down to their best girlfriend. Nope. Just an inconvenient day. Like I just had. Today. AND yesterday.

Did you ever think you were going to snap a little picture with your phone, just a whimsical air-bendy advertising yellow stick-man dude, while your little Pony was paying for gas at the convenient store that sells neither good Diet Coke nor gas station chicken? So you put down your window, ready the phone, wait until cars drive out of the frame, and SNAP. But instead of the whimsical bendy dude, you just get dude.

Ramrod strait. Like he just graduated summa cum laude from finishing school. Or had spinal fusion while you were fumbling with the zoom.

This morning, after arising at 4:50 a.m., getting The Pony's lunch ready, showering, and settling down for a chair nap...I got the call that school was canceled for flying snow (heh, heh, I just mis-typed that as "flying snot" which is incredibly more interesting that what is to follow).

The Pony had put off wheeling the trash dumpster to the end of the driveway until this morning. That's because it's only half the work in the morning, because I pick him up at the end of the driveway. So this morning he had to get dressed by 8:00 instead of spending the day in his pajamas, and put on a real coat, no hoodie, and zip it up and raise the hood and wear gloves to brave the 2-degree wind chill.

Hick sent a text for The Pony to go out and feed the chickens and goats, but since he sent it at 6:45 a.m., and The Pony was still abed, I completely forgot until 4:30. Sorry, chickens. Goats, not so much.

I was just drifting off for a chair nap at 8:50 when Hick's optometrist (NOT The House of Charlatans Optical Delusions Emporium and Professional Prevaricators Shoppe) called to remind him of his appointment. But they did not mention the date or time. Some reminder. Off with their heads!

Soup sounded good for supper, so I combed the cabinets to see if I had the ingredients. Yes. I grabbed some frozen hamburger (not from the pantry, how cold do you think we keep it in here, anyway--you must stop listening to Genius), soup starter mix, and canned veggies. You didn't think I'd actually cook up some Bigguns when canned was available, now did you? Huh. I cranked open the cans with my hand can-opener, aggravating my imagined case of carpal tunnel syndrome, and discovered that the tomato sauce was actually diced tomatoes. Oh, well. That goes good in vegetable beef soup. Then I saw that the green beans were not the short cut, but regular length. Guess people will just have to practice balancing them in a spoon. Oh, and the potatoes were not sliced, but were whole small. I jammed a knife down in that can to diminish them. At least the carrots were just right. Goldilocks will pick them out for her bowl. Hick will be pleased. He can have an easier time eating his tower of soup with a fork. To make up for my tomato sauce, I poured in a small jar of pizza sauce. Nobody will know, after adding my other liquids like Worcestershire, Heinz 57, ketchup, hickory BBQ, steak sauce, minced garlic, and some fresh ground black pepper, and Splenda.

Some Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits sounded like they would be tasty with that soup. Round about time for Hick to get home, I whipped up a bowl of dough and plopped them into my oven with a non-heating bottom heating element. I put the butter in the microwave for melting, getting it ready to stir in that garlic powder that came in a packet. Meanwhile, I Frankensteinized a Walmart big salad for The Pony. He only likes the lettuce and cheese, not the strips of chicken and bacon bits included in the Ranch Cobb. Hick arrived, and said he did not want any salad, so I set out the chicken and bacon and half egg for Juno, because we were on that salad's third day.

The biscuits looked done. I called to Hick to get his serving first, thus making it easier for The Pony and me to dip out some liquid for our soup. He rushed in like Man-O-War out of the gate, dished up his soup with a slotted spoon, and commandeered three Cheddar Bays. As The Pony was adding more ground pepper and salt to his cup o' soup, I put the finishing touches on his salad. The Pony was ogling the biscuits. That's when I remembered. THERE WAS NO BUTTERY GARLIC TOPPING ON THE CHEDDAR BAYS!

I grabbed the liquid gold from the microwave and ripped open that packet. Sent The Pony to Hick in his recliner, where he had retired after a hard day's work to feed on his delectable soup tower with his feet up. "Tell Dad his biscuits have been recalled for lack of garlic butter." I slathered them up and sent them back. The Pony chose three biscuits for himself, after gladly painting them with butter from a BBQ brush.

"Hey, we have some garlic butter left. Can I just take that and dip my biscuits in it?" Genius does not call The Pony a Butterton for nothing.

"Sure. Knock yourself out."

"I'm only taking three biscuits, because I have quite a lot of food here."

Oh, to be 15 again. When the day stretched out endlessly, you recovered quickly from near-zero chores, food appeared magically for your consumption, and when you took a picture of a whimsical air-bendy advertising yellow stick-man dude, it turned out like this:

Monday, January 20, 2014

More! More! Wire Hangers!

I suppose this won't be the last time Genius makes me think of a crazed Joan Crawford. I wish it was so. But I'm a realist.

Just before leaving on Saturday, he went to the laundry room to gather his wardrobe. The wardrobe I so lovingly tended when he was here, hanging his cotton shirts so they wouldn't shrink into revealing midriff tops, carefully sorting colors, bleaching the whites. The wardrobe Genius tossed all willy-nilly into the giant Whirlpool, proclaiming, "Our washer is so great! I can get all my clothes in it. At school, the washers are tiny. It takes me two or three loads to get it done every week."

Yeah. No lover of Whirlpool am I. Val's a Sears Kenmore gal. I would have used mine for a lifetime, even though only one of the three wash settings worked, after that unfortunate inundation of broken-pipe water in my old house that came halfway up Kennie's body, like floodwater in that insurance commercial with the dude reading the paper and the kid playing on the floor and their dog unaware that he would soon need to get to paddling. Hick declared that we had an issue with Kennie after a brief spate of leakage, and made me go that very morning to the Whirlpool store and buy a floor model, which is too deep for Val to reach the bottom for errant socks glued to the spinner, even though upon installing Whirly, he discovered the problem was in the cold water connection, and went another four months before fixing it.

But we're not here to complain about Hick today. There are 364 more days for that in the upcoming year. We're here to discuss Genius's newest obsession:


"Mom. Don't let Dad throw any more of these away! I need them. Do you know they don't make them any more? You can't find them anywhere. I went to Walmart in College Town, because I ran out of hangers, and all they had was those stupid plastic ones. They're crap! I had to pay 98 cents for eight of them!"

"Yeah. I hate those plastic ones. I gain a classroom cabinet full of them every year on graduation night. I knew you liked the big wire hangers. That's why I put The Pony's shirts on the small ones. So what if his shoulders slope. I knew you liked those special silver ones, but I thought Dad only got a couple of them at random."

"No! Every time you guys are gone, I go into your closet and take them. One time, I caught him THROWING AWAY A WHOLE SET OF THEM! Don't ever let him do that again!"

"Well, he gets whatever the uniform company gives him. And he never takes the dirty clothes back on hangers. So he gets too many."

"Save the silver ones for me!"

"Okay. I'll try to remember."

That boy was quite emphatic. He's turning into a regular Milford Fierce.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Crisis Narrowly and Belatedly Averted

Genius went back to college last night.

No, he doesn't attend night school. He packed up his little red truck and hit the road, first gassing up, getting a mom-sponsored car wash to cleanse the Backroads mud from his ride, visiting Walmart to procure a few supplies, and running by his grandma's to say goodbye. He was in no hurry, you see, because he wasn't allowed back in the dorm until Sunday. However, the mind of Genius is always cranking, the gears never get a rest. He hypothesized that since incoming freshmen were allowed on campus Thursday, the newcomers would not get one key for three days, then a new one on Sunday. The locks on the dorm would most likely have been changed out Wednesday. He knew that the desk would not be staffed after 8:00 p.m. So he could just let himself in, no one the wiser, and if he was caught, the worst that could happen was that he'd be charged $25 to sleep in his own room for one night. And he would be avoiding the move-in chaos of Sunday.

Oh, Genius had a backup plan. He had a contact inside who could let him in if the key didn't work. And worst case scenario, he knew someone in another dorm that was open. I had to explain that to my mom, who was wringing her hands that Genius might do something foolish if he couldn't get in, like sleep in his truck, and freeze to death. She was elated when I reported that he called and said he was on the inside, that his key worked as planned. The old gal might have even celebrated with a bowl of slaw.

This afternoon, the phone rang. It was Genius. I was certain he was calling to tell me how much he missed me, and just wanted to hear my voice. Can you believe that was not the reason? Genius was calling from Walmart.

"Mom. I forgot my fleece blanket. The gray one on my bed. I'm looking for one at Walmart, and I can't find them. Where did you get it? What part of the store?"

"'s in the bedding. In housewares. In our store, it was down at the end of the mattress covers and blankets. Near the towels, where it switches over to dishes."

"Uh huh. I'm here at the blankets. I found one that says it's a fleece, but it's not SOFT! And besides, it's $20, so that's not happening."

"There were a bunch of them just before Christmas, rolled up, all different patterns. Maybe they're on the clearance aisle. Can you ask somebody?"

The phone went dead. Perhaps a blue-vest walked by, and Genius needed to snag her with a shepherd's crook. Don't think Genius is the kind of guy who won't ask. When he was barely in kindergarten, he was always wandering off from me in Walmart to ask the electronics workers if they'd gotten in any new hard drives, or if they had Linux. Too late to call 1-800-BAD-MOM on me. Besides, that's not enough numbers.

"Mom? My call dropped. I found one. But it's a leopard print. That's the only style."

"You can get that one."

"Uh, no. Not leopard."

"You could use it until I can send your other one. Want me to mail it to you?"

"Yes. Mail it."

So...tomorrow Hick is going to take it to work in an old Amazon box and ship it to that poor shivering boy who only has a comforter to comfort him.

Funny how the whole time he was here, Genius complained how frigid our house is at 69 degrees, and how he wished he was back at school where the dorm is a normal temperature, well into the seventies.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Forget Dogcatcher. Val Couldn't Get Elected Public Enemy.

I might be a criminal. I'm not really sure. Some signs point toward my criminality. But, like a tree falling in a forest with no one there, making no sound...nobody stopped me and accused me. That must mean that I am not a criminal. Pound that gavel. Case dismissed.

Today I searched high and low in Walmart for TurboTax. Okay. I searched wide and wider. It's usually in a special glorified cardboard box display in the back aisle. I was without my partner in dime-spending, because The Pony was competing in a tournament against 16 other Smartypants teams from around the state. I had nearly broken my arm patting myself on the back for not needing to roll my cart/walker to the pharmacy end of the store. All I really needed there were some foaming denture tablets to lift the tea stain out of the two cups Genius has been using to brew his Christmas present of a five-tin tea assortment. I figured, with him leaving today, nobody would be using those two cups for a while, so it could wait. The farthest afield I had to go was the paper plate aisle. Just a hop, skip, and a jump from the food section.

Then I remembered the TurboTax. It's not that I'm planning on firing off my tax return tonight. But if I get the urge to start working on it, I want that disk an arm's length away, at my fingertips. I trudged across the back aisle, past the pallets of toilet paper, past the dog beds, past the books, past the lay-a-way/bathroom area, past the DVD section, past the electronic accouterments, past the TVs, to the area where I found TurboTax on a regular shelf last year. Of course it was not there. I went on, into the computer games. Up the aisle to the camera and phone counter. Past the folks with uniform polo shirts in non-private thigh-high cubicles doing people's taxes for them, down a parallel non-through aisle. Aha! Getting closer. There was a cheap-looking cardboard display of H&R Block software. I don't think so. No need to teach this old dog new tricks. I sniffed all around the area like those pooches looking for bacon on the Beggin' Strips commercial. Huh. No TurboTax. I went back to the main aisle, tired of the chase, ready to throw in the towel.

There it was! On a glorified cardboard display case. Three flavors of TurboTax. I grabbed the one that Goldilocks would choose. The one that is just right. Deluxe, I think it's called. Not basic. Not premier. I tossed it on top of my coat on top of the child-seat area. I start out putting things in there, so as not to possibly lose a pound over the course of the year from bending over the main section of the cart unnecessarily. Thing is, I first stuff stuff down in there, then flop my coat back over until that little area is full, then pile it on top of my coat. Some days I can get by with nothing in the main cart. But that's usually at Save A Lot.

I really had more stuff that my list revealed. Thank goodness the check-out lines were virtually non-existent. I piled on my tabloids and bellied right up to the conveyor. Regurgitated my selections, placing frozen with frozen, boxes with boxes, soft with soft, produce with produce. You know, to make it easier for the checker. So she didn't have to think about what to bag together. I put TurboTax with the tabloids. Dry. Flat. Could share space with boxes if need be.

Huh. Wouldn't you know it? I had a checker designed by Rodin! Heh, heh. At first I typed "Rodan." It didn't look right, so I summoned my BFF Google. I don't want to appear as ignorant as I really am. checker kept three bags going on that carousel before she would spin it and proffer them to me. My classification system was not good enough for her. Still, she did a more-than-adequate job. Unlike the many checkers I've had who were indeed designed by RODAN! The horror!

After paying, I was momentarily sidetracked three steps toward the door by a guy in the 20 items or less aisle hollering, "Hey!" It was my old custodian. He left his wife minding the items, and came to have a short chat, ask about Genius, The Pony, and Mabel. He looked good. Said he was busy all the time, keeping up with the kids at basketball games, and his granddaughter who is quite a talented athlete in another sport. He looked over his shoulder and his wife was giving him THE LOOK. So he excused himself. I guess he paid or put the items in the cart, so next thing I know, I'm walking toward the exit door, through that vast vestibule where the Subway is located, pumping out that fresh bread smell, past the electronic thief-sensor.


I stopped. There was no cheerful sexagenarian to greet me and ask for my receipt. I stopped. Looked behind me, like, "Was that ME?" I'm sure I will be nominated for best People of Walmart actress during the next Oscar cycle. Vote for me if you're a member of the academy, 'kay? The sensor-tripper must have been TurboTax. I know Rodin's The Checker rang it up. I saw her slide it across just before the tabloids. I guess she didn't demagnetize it. I doubt it was on purpose. She didn't seem the type to set my up for a fall.

Here came my OC. He was chatty again. I took one backward, "I'm not guilty" glance, and wheeled my walker/cart out the door.

I know I paid. It was on the receipt when I looked after loading my purchases in T-Hoe's rear compartment. I even stood around a bit, taking my time, in case a blue-vested loss prevention specialist came after me.

Nobody cared. Val is not Public Enemy material.

Friday, January 17, 2014

How I Spent My Friday Preparation

What a day! I spent my whole planning period on the phone with those fraudsters at Banishment Well-Being Concern concerning their refusal to process my insurance claims. Never mind that I've spoken to them three times since December 20, and each time was assured that the info I provided would take care of the problem. At first, they just needed the start date of Hick's current policy, which we've had for two years now, my secondary, because they thought IT was my primary, because there's no number like 01, 02, or 03 at then end of the policy number for the members on his family plan. After I tracked that down, they said my claims would process. The next time, they said the note with the info was in the file, they were just waiting for the people to get around to reprocessing. So here's today's runaround.

Banishment Well-Being Concern is not paying because now they say I must provide a TERMINATION DATE for insurance I had that started Jan. 1, 2007. Otherwise, they assume I am still covered by this insurance company, which they now say is through my very own current employer, which is the one paying the premiums for Banishment Well-Being Concern to be my primary insurance. It's a regular ouroboros. An O. Henry tale from the health care field. Oh, what a wicked web they weave! Then they act like I AM THE ONE BEING UNREASONABLE and trying to deceive!

To start with, I told that treacle-y sweet-talker that under no circumstances have I ever had insurance take effect on January 1, because my employer is a SCHOOL, and our policies always take effect on July 1. She hemmed and hawed about looking at the wrong screen. The wench put me on hold again for ten minutes, while she probably stepped outside for a smoke and a Krispy Kreme. They know they are being recorded, so they get all polite in a passive-aggressive way and give a long pause, and say, "Would you like me to check on that date to make sure?" Um. Yeah. Because there's no way that's right. She came back after running down to the Seven-11 for a burrito and a Big Gulp, and said, "Oh, that WAS the effective date."

When I complained that since July 1 (imagine that) they had not paid my claims, Sugar Lips said that wasn't true, she only saw two claims from December they hadn't paid, conveniently leaving out all the prescription issues I had for four months, and that the whole process was held up because I had not provided the needed information. I washed my hands of her and called the main office of my employer to see if they, perchance, had the termination date of an insurance policy from seven years ago. Nope. But they can send a letter declaring that they are paying for Banishment Well-Being Concern to insure me since July 1 this year, and that there is absolutely no other policy in effect that could be considered my primary. That's the backup plan.

I called our company insurance rep, who grinds the bones of these giants to make her bread. Of course she was on the phone, and I was down to my last five minutes of plan time. So I fired off an email with pertinent names and details.

No wonder people go without health insurance. Dealing with these companies is enough to make you sick.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Like a Psychic, But Not

I'm not sure what's going on over my head right now. One thing is for certain: it is NOT supernatural.

It sounds like Hick is having a rodeo in the master bathroom. There's the frantic thud of his man-hooves, and some scrabbling of another kind on the forest-green glazed tile. I certainly hope a vent fan light mouse did not set up residence without my knowledge, catch Hick's attention, fall out upon further investigation, and cavort with cartoon cuteness about the facilities before being dispatched by Hick's bare hands. He probably just dropped something like a pill bottle that skittered across the floor, then he kicked it, then his glasses fell with him is like giving a mouse a lifetime supply of cookies.

I have no idea what he's up to. But I have an idea how I will spend my plan time tomorrow at school. I had a message from my insurance company on the home phone this evening. Perhaps you remember them: Banishment Well-Being Concern. Maybe I should have said that I had a message from the insurance company who swears they are not my primary. Like I fork out my own personal cash to have them on retainer, just for fun, never expecting them to pay for anything, even though claim after claim is submitted by lab, doctor, and pharmacy, and my workplace insurance rep has had her people on the inside browbeat them repeatedly until they coughed up coverage for my prescriptions. My employer is taking a beating by paying these premiums for nothing.

I can't wait to see what angle they will take now. I have to gather my trunk full of correspondence, and write down my reference number and the names of the three people I have talked to since December 20, all to no avail, because Banishment Well-Being Concern continues to deny that they are responsible for any claims. I never thought I'd have to prove that I DON'T have coverage with a specific insurance company in order to get my rightful, employer-provided policy to pay. Oh, and I'll have to take my old pair of bifocals, because I'm sure I will have to read off a bunch of tiny phone numbers from those cards I have for insurance that doesn't cover me. The new bifocals are still not satisfactory for extreme close-ups.

They're probably closed on Friday.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

It's All Fun and Games Until Somebody Loses an Electron

Well, this is embarrassing...

No, Val hasn't been turned into a Firefox pop-up message. She simply has nothing to complain about tonight. So here are some science jokes for you:


Did you know that if somebody throws sodium chloride on you...


Never trust an atom...


What did the thermometer say to the graduated cylinder? 


Why did the chicken cross the mobius strip?


A small piece of sodium lived in a test tube. She fell in love with a Bunsen burner.
"Oh, Bunsen, my flame, I melt whenever I see you."
"Don't worry," said the Bunsen burner. "It's just a phase you're going through."


If you're not part of the solution...


What did one earthquake say to the other earthquake?


Two atoms walk into a bar. One of them is bumped by another customer.
"I think I lost an electron!"
 "Really!" the other replies. "Are you sure?"
 "Yes, I 'm absolutely positive."


There. That was relatively painless, now wasn't it?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My Coke, It Don't Come Easy I've grown soft over the Christmas vacation and snow days, like a 30 lb. neutered tuxedo cat lazing in the sun on the front porch, too lackadaisical to protest the randy Beagle having his way with me.

After a long first day back at work, topped off by a first-Monday afterschool meeting, I decided to treat myself to a 44 oz. Diet Coke. Never mind that I'd had one nearly every single day of my overlong vacation. I actually do not partake during the work week. But I saw no need to go cold turkey on the very first day back.

Perhaps I've mentioned the exorbitant price increase in 44 oz. Diet Cokes at the gas station chicken store. FIFTY CENTS MORE! That's Backroads robbery! For that very reason, I turned up my nose at the gas station chicken aroma, and headed for Voice of the Village, where I can get my magical elixir refilled at the rate of eighty cents, or free if the right person is working. Val has connections, you know.

So I grabbed my refill cup and headed inside, leaving The Pony to tend to T-Hoe, and promising him a bottle of Sprite. He only has about one a week. I bellied up to the soda fountain, filled my cup one-third full of crushed ice, and stuck it under the Diet Coke spigot. I was busying myself by wiping up a previous customer's drippings with the wet rag those clerks so kindly leave on the counter, when I glanced at my vessel and saw a stream of clear liquid cascading down. I'd shoved it under the Sprite spigot, by cracky! The one just to the left of the Diet Coke. I was a bit off-kilter, leaning over with the wipe rag. What to do, what to do? Of course I dumped out all that Sprite, and the ice as well. Can't have Sprite ice in a Diet Coke. It disturbs the palate.

I did not feel guilty about dumping. It looked like I was not the first one with that idea. There was a mini mountain of discarded ice across the grate of the soda fountain. I clunked in some fresh ice, and looked dead on to make sure I was pushing back the Diet Coke lever with the edge of my cup. Then I moved the wipe rag back over by the lid and straw cubbies. No sooner did I turn my attention back to the soda stream than the reality hit me.


Time slowed. I think I heard myself bellow "NOOOOOO!" in that deep, draggy slo-mo sound effect. I may or may not have used my free hand to do half a Home Alone boy aftershave imitation of The Scream.

Well. Ain't that a fine box of not-chicken? I poured that foul fluid, plus ice, out of my cup and grabbed a bottle of Sprite for The Pony from the cooler. At the counter, I tilted my empty cup. "I didn't get a refill. Your Diet Coke is running clear. It must be out."

"Is our Diet Coke out?"

"It's not out!"

"Well, it's clear. Not the way it should be."

The "It's not out!" gal went to check behind the scenes. A regular Oz was she, in back of the long double fountain, pulling all the levers, calling all the shots. I paid for The Pony's bottle of Sprite and left, a bad taste in my mouth. As if my day had not been hard enough, now Even Steven was busting my chops over a 44 oz. Diet Coke. I headed for my old Coking grounds. Filled my cup. Stepped up to the counter, ready to lose my shirt. There was no avoiding it.

"I wasn't paying attention. Was that a refill?"

"Yes. You might notice by the red Cherry Limeade stain around the top rim, and the scuff marks around the bottom. Believe me, I tried to go get an eighty-cent refill at your competitor, but they were out of Diet Coke." I tossed two dollar bills on the counter, no correct change from Val anymore, to show my displeasure with their price-gouging measures instigated at the start of the new year.

"That will be a dollar thirty-seven. Out of two dollars. Sixty-three cents back. Oh! Did you get your straw?"

"No. I have other straws. But I guess I should make sure to take one every time I come in. For a dollar thirty-seven." I think my sarcasm was lost on this one, the elder cranky lady who says every part of the transaction out loud.

Handbaskets. Factory coming soon.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Like a Woodpecker's Beak Through Dead Timber, So Are the Nights of My Life

I went to bed early last night. It was no later than midnight-thirty. That's early for me, the night owl, usually roosting around 3:00 and sleeping in for a good six hours, whether I need it or not. No reason to get up early those 23 days between school ending for Christmas break, and school beginning after the Polar Vortex.

I was counting on being well-rested. Especially since my back-to-school headache started on Sunday, not on Monday. Yep. Catch a few winks, let that old headache fade away, and start fresh at 4:50 a.m. Monday morning. That was the plan. Perhaps not the best-laid plan, but it still managed to go awry.

Now that the dreaded moisture barrier mattress cover has been ripped from my pillow-topper for a couple of weeks, I was looking forward to a comfy snooze. Sure, I knew the sheet would still be way over my head, and mist would be spraying from Hick's breather. Those were small potatoes compared to the Biggun of that crackly unfitted mattress cover.

Then I laid me down to sleep
No flannel quilt upon my feet
A single hour before I was waked
Across the coals Hick will be raked

Ah...I was sawing major logs. Logs as numerous and girthy as those floating down the river when even Paul Newman could not save cousin Joby, trapped under one of those behemoths, in Sometimes a Great Notion. Then I was startled out of my stupor by three giant words: "THOSE STUPID DOGS!"

Never mind that I hear those hounds barking their fool heads off for nothing every early morn. Do I shout out my critique of their home defense prowess? No, I do not. Did Hick haul himself out of be to look outside and see if his trailer was being towed away by early birds? No, he did not. But I did. I went to the front door to see what was the matter. Nothing. My sweet, sweet Juno came running to the door for petting. I was of a good mind to bring her in and plop her between me and Hick, her feathery tail brushing across his quilt-covered breather. But I did not. She was happy, and returned my figurative paw de-thorning with several blessed moments of silence. I went back to sleep.

One hour later, I was jolted away by a kick from a mule. Or a horse-donkey. It's a regional thing. Funny how when I fell asleep, I had no idea that I was sleeping with a horse-donkey. What a powerful rump you have, dear horse-donkey! I know. The better to dislocate your knee, my dear. Uh huh. That's what if felt like. My right knee bent inward, toward my left knee. The joint is not configured that way. It was quite painful. I think I may have lost consciousness, because the next thing I knew, I was counting the elusive ZZZZs.

Another short hour later, and I was beset with a disturbed nest of TrackerJackers. Oh, wait! That was Katniss in The Hunger Games. She escaped with minor injuries. I, however, was not so lucky. Again with my right leg. It was stabbed over and over by the raptor-claw of Hick the Prehistorian. I think he was trying to break Lizzie Borden's whack record. Such a pummeling I took. Yet I tried to shake it off. To drift back to dreamland. Hick was having none of it. He began piercing my side-tibia flesh with his talon like a famished woodpecker seeking sustenance. Great Googly Moogly! I tried not to be a Nancy Kerrigan, and managed to stifle my, "WHYYYY?" But I am not so stoic as Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse, stitching up my own beer-bottle-slashed flesh with a common sewing needle and cotton thread. I had to get up and walk it off.

It was now 3:30 a.m. Still time left to lay slack-jawed with drool escaping the downhill corner of my gaping maw. Please. Spare me the lamentations of those who simply cannot fall asleep. I can fall like a Wallenda with an inner-ear infection, and continue falling like Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, and Anita Briem through the schist on their Journey to the Center of the Earth. AND THEY'RE STILL FALLING! My problem is that somebody keeps breaking my fall.

I got up and checked on the barking dogs again. I did not shout out, "THOSE STUPID DOGS!" That is not Val's style. I did, however, fling back the quilt as I re-entered my flannel-covered pillow-top. Sometimes, the leading edge has a way of commanding Hick's attention.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

What Cools Down Must Heat Up

Lest you think our school administrators here in Backroads are a fool-hearty bunch of lily-livered classtime-shunners, cancelling educational opportunities all willy-nilly...let the record show that it has been darn cold down in these parts.

Our 12 inches of snow had little opportunity to melt during last week's deep freeze. In fact, the meltage didn't really get underway until Friday night into Saturday morning. Here's a couple views of our creek. While the roads had been treated, and the chemicals finally unthawed and began their dutiful road-clearing, nobody told the creek water a thaw was in effect.

As the creek rose from the meltage, the top cracked and began to flow toward the river. You may not be able to see the thickness from this photo. I know I don't take good pictures. I am not a photographer. It does not help that my phone situation is always a year late and a lens-cover short, what with me getting cast-offs from Genius when he uses our upgrade to get himself a new phone. I apologize. I know it's enough to make you squint and call for an appointment at The House of Charlatans Optical Delusions Emporium and Professional Prevaricators Shoppe, in hopes of getting some working bifocals within 30 days and 8 visits.

The thickness of that ice is about 8 inches. There are two layers, a cloudy layer and a clear layer. Must depend on how fast that water froze, and the oxygen content in it at the time. Here's a look at a smaller section up against the edge of the low-water bridge.

I suppose the water might have been running over the bridge earlier, and the icebergs got caught. I'm certainly glad I was not driving the Titanic to town. I had asked The Pony to get me couple of snapshots on his way to bowling, but apparently he missed the whole point of, "Get me some pictures of those big ice chunks Dad says are on the bridge."

So...there you have a good view of the left and right sides of the creek, taken from the cab of The Pony's truck. He might have been all discombobulated, what with having to actually ride in the front seat, and not pretend he was a ritzy passenger with a chauffeur, looking to get his hands on some Grey Poupon at a stoplight.

Looks like we're off to school on Monday, where we shall remain until after Memorial Day. Back to the trenches, earning an honest day's living, then coming home to work for free.

Summer, we'll hardly know ye!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

How Ya Gonna Keep 'Em in Front of the TV, After They've Touched the Remote?

Friday I made my mom get out of the house. Her own house, not mine! Val is not one to shoo her own mater out the door with a kitchen broom like a common house cat. For a brief instant, I was afraid I would have to pluck her out like the nutmeat of a pecan from the bitter shell, with a pointy silver nutpick.

We had prearranged her exodus, no small feat, our planning stages, which I have previously compared to mounting the invasion of Normandy. Mom was certain the incoming rain would melt the eight inches of snow coating her gravel driveway. The driveway I am not allowed to enter. The driveway she begrudged the footprints of her neighbors bringing in her mail and newspaper during the -45 degree wind chill days. I tried to reason with Mom. "That snow is not going away overnight. The temperature today is in the low thirties. It's going to take a while to melt."

"Oh, I'm sure it will be gone Saturday. Saturday I'm getting out to go to the bank. I really need to cash these two little checks that have been laying around here since the first of the month. And I want to take some coins to trade in. Then I really need to go by the Post Office to send in my estimated taxes, and to get some stamps. Well. I still have 13 stamps left. But I like to always have some on hand."

"I'll come by and take you today. Just in case it's not melted by Saturday. You'll be kicking yourself if you put it off and you can't get out. I'm giving you that chance now."

"'s going to rain, and I know my driveway will melt. You don't need to come out here and get me. It's out of your way."

"Mom. I'm off work. I'm coming to town anyway. And I won't pull in your precious driveway!"

"Oh. Well, I can meet you at the end of the driveway. I'll bring my broom, and stay in those footsteps."

We left The Pony at her house, downloading game updates. He didn't have to seem so happy to get away from me. He helped Mom up the driveway, she and her broom, and her Walmart bag full of checks and mail and clutch purse. Mom lives on an outer road. Because I was not allowed in her driveway, I had to catch a leg of the two-lane highway to get back to where I started from. I am not fond of highway driving, even though (or because) I used to drive myself to the city every day across multiple lanes to work. But I did it, for Mom. She kindly offered her neighbors' driveways for me to turn around, which kind of seemed like dirty pool, after they'd been looking out for her. It didn't look like they were "saving" their driveways, but I didn't want to be so bold.

We ran our errands and picked up a Diet Coke for Mom at McDonalds. According to mom, a lady in the bank looked at her like she was crazy. "So I just left. I don't care what they think of me. I was telling that lady that always helps me, the one who got back my ten dollars that drive-thru teller shorted me that time, that I had not been out of the house in so long, I hoped I was in the right place. And that other lady just stared at me. So I left." Good thing that lady didn't know what was to come.

I dropped off Mom and picked up The Pony. I sat in the car, mind you, because I am not allowed in Mom's driveway. It's not like I can park on the wrong side of the road and go in for a visit. The Pony had accomplished his downloading. We headed home. I called Mom later to tell her we were in the house safely. She calls if she doesn't hear from us. Her phone rang, but she didn't answer. Her thingy came on to say the line was in use. I figured she was talking to one of her long-winded friends. Then she called me back.

"I saw you tried to call. I was on the line with the cable company. I hit something on my remote, and now I can't get a picture, only a blue screen. I've tried everything. That lady didn't know what she was doing. She has this so messed up. I told her about how I use one remote to turn the TV and cable off and on, and the other one for the channels. Nothing would do her but to get on the internet and try to find that remote. She said she had never heard of that kind of TV. You could tell she didn't really want to help me. So I finally just told her, 'I'll figure it out. Never mind.' I'm going to call back later this afternoon to see if somebody else will answer. Oh, this is really bothering me. Like how it bothered you today when your insurance wouldn't pay for your medicine because they say they're not your insurance. That's how I feel."

"You need to call back and ask to talk to someone else. If you get that lady, say, 'I tried everything you told me, but it didn't work. Can I please talk to somebody else?' The worst they can do is yell at you and not help you. They can't reach through the phone. You call them back."

I gave her a couple of hours, then I checked on her again. "Did you get somebody else at the cable office?"

"Yes. But you could tell she did not want to help me, either. She acted like she was helping me, but then she said, 'I really don't know what to tell you. I'm going to send a serviceman out there.' And I told her not to send a serviceman."

"Why, because he'll pull into your driveway? Let them send one. Tell them to stay out of the driveway."

"I don't want a serviceman. Who knows what they'll charge me for that. Oh, it's such a mess. Ever since your sister's boy put it on the full screen that time, I've had trouble with it. I think I'll just watch my upstairs TV in the bedroom until Monday, then I'll go buy another TV."

"MOM! You've only had that TV about a year. It's not the TV! You'll just get another remote you have to deal with."

"Yes, but maybe that cable remote your sister gave me for Christmas will work with the new remote."

"I don't think that's the solution. Genius is gone, or I'd have him come out and fix it for you."

"Oh, I don't want to bother him! I don't want to talk about it any more."

"Does your remote have a "MODE" button? Or say "TV" or "Satellite" or "DVD"?"

" has "CBL" which I guess means cable."

"Try pushing the "CABLE" one.

"Okay. That didn't work. I don't even want to deal with it."

"PONY! Did you mess with Grandma's remote and put it on something else? No? Well, get on the phone and see if you can help her."

"I tried what Pony said, but that didn't help."

"I'll send Hick by tonight on his way home."

"No! I don't want to deal with it. I'll watch upstairs."

"Mom. You just got a new recliner. You know how you like to lean back and do your Sudoku books and watch TV. I'll send him by. I'll tell him not to pull in your driveway!"

"NO! Please don't! I'm done with it. Just let it go. Please!"

" to you later."

She was really adamant about not having Hick's help. Not that I blame her, but remotes ARE the domain of the weaker male sex. I discussed it with him when he got home. While I was in the kitchen, he picked up the phone and called Mom. "No. I won't come out. I was just trying to help. I'm looking at ours. Does it have..."

After several minutes, I went in and took the phone. "Mom. I have five minutes while supper is cooking. Are both lights on? The power for your TV, and for the cable? Do you have a box for cable? We have a light that comes on our receiver when the power it on." Mom hemmed and hawed with each suggestion. "Mom. You're not even downstairs, are you?"

"No. I was just trying to answer the way I remembered. I'll go down there. I'll have to leave this phone off the hook..."

"That's fine. You'll be right back up there. I only have three minutes left."

"Okay. Here I am with the remotes."

"Now...on the TV remote that you use for the power on?"

"No. I turned it off. When I turn it on, all I get is the blue screen, and a little thing up in the right corner, but not that thing in the bottom corner."

"You're going to turn on the power, then we'll try the power on the cable remote."

"Okay...I'm turning on the power to my TV remote...wait a minute! Is it coming on? OH! It's working! Everything is working! Thank you! Thank you! This is great! I can watch TV down here tonight. And I'm not turning it off! It can stay on all night, so I'll have it tomorrow!"

"You're welcome, Mom. I have to go finish supper. Don't forget to hang up your upstairs phone."

Yeah. Val is a freakin' electronics genius!

Friday, January 10, 2014

This Is Why We Can't Shop On a Snow Day

You might recall that on Wednesday, I ventured out for the first time since the most recent big snow, and headed to Walmart. A trip which was quite fruitful, supplying me with some sour grapes to stomp here.

I was in line for 20 minutes. There's a reason for that. More than just the festive snow-day retail circus to which I had a free ticket. The store was not crowded. Are you kidding? Traveling those frozen roadways was harder than running across a buttered tile floor with grape jelly on your feet. Not that I've ever tried it.

Three registers were open, and a couple of those 20 items or less short counters. The shoppers were not women alone or with a toddler in the cart-seat. The shoppers were whole families. Or at least man/woman combos. I only saw a handful of people shopping singularly. Getting to the store was a production. Most people had carts piled to the top, even though I'm sure they had stocked up with bread and milk before the storm.

I headed for my favorite register on the end, but a man and woman had two carts filled with huge bales of toilet paper. I swear, each pack must have held 27 rolls. I'm not sure if they were feeling a if they ran a business, or if they were on hidden camera, Extreme Couponing. There were two more couples with carts ahead of them, so I moved down to the only other open checker on that end. Sure, the two couples ahead of me had loaded carts, and the single woman directly in front of me also had a tall load. Still. It was six of one, a half-dozen minus one of the other. I settled down to wait.

A guy pulled up behind me, also eschewing the TP People. I had already waited five minutes by the time he pulled up. We waited another five. The TP People advanced one cart, just as I let out a heavy sigh. Nobody fails to contain her displeasure in public like Val. The old man behind me said, "That one's moving. Go ahead." What a gentleman. Perhaps these are NOT such troubling times in the kingdom.

"Oh, no. You go ahead. I started over there, then switched. I'm not going back."

The old guy moved on over. I continued to wait. I couldn't even while away the one-third hour by reading tabloids. Not because I already had that week's tabloids, but because there were no tabloids. A couple of gone-to-seed roadie-looking dudes were switching out the racks. Because if there's one thing Walmart needs, it's a new and different kind of rack to hold the tabloids. Except they don't. Because the old racks and new racks looked pretty much identical.

I was so bored that, for just a moment, I quit dwelling upon my own misery. The checker was holding up newspaper ads with every product she scanned. Great Googly Moogly! I must have been right about that Extreme Couponing theory. Ol' Savey Stacy was chatting about each item. The couples would nod. Grab a bag as it was slowly filled. Oh, well. Times are tough. I couldn't begrudge folks their savings. I just found it odd that so many customers had come out in the snow for comparison pricing.

Once the two couples were finally served, the singleton ahead of me unloaded her cart for close conveyor scrutiny. Again with the savings. Near the end of her items, as my stuff behind the divider bar was inching ever-closer, Savey Stacy held an item aloft. It was an airline-travel-size bottle of alcohol. Pink. There's a box display of them between the deli and the vegetables.

"Is this any good? I haven't seen Watermelon!"

"I don't know. It's not for me."

"This is the best! Blue Raspberry mixed with lemonade!" Savey Stacy held up a blue tiny bottle. "I used to work in Backroads at a convenience store. They had these, so I just took some home and tried them."

"Huh. I'll recommend that one." Singleton was a good sport. Thank goodness she didn't seem to be an alcoholic with the shakes, or a sneak-drinker trying to make her intended purchase inconspicuous like a tweenager with a box of tampons. And when she said she "took them home" I'm hoping Savey Stacy meant she paid for them first. Or not. Which could explain why she no longer worked there.

Finally. It was my turn. I'd almost given myself scoliosis leaning on the handle of my cart/walker. I was glad I'd sent The Pony on out to T-Hoe after the first ten minutes of waiting. There was no joy in gamevillle after Pony had spent out. He was wandering around looking at other games. Some days I take in a couple of extra bucks, but he'd told me in the car that he didn't need any more. "We'll be done too soon with that short list. I don't want you to wait while I play." He's a gem, my little Pony.

As she started scanning my necessities, Savey Stacy picked up her sale ad. Wait a minute! I was not asking for savings! I only wanted to get out of there. "Huh. Did you have the Apple-Smoked Bacon?"

"No. Just regular."

"Oh. Because Country Mart has a deal on Apple-Smoked, and I could have saved you a dollar."

"That's okay. I've been in line a while. I just want to get going."

"Is this hard to make?" Savey Stacy held up my Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuit mix.

"No. It's like Bisquick. You just add grated cheese and water to the mix, bake it, then brush the powder stirred into melted butter over it."

"My friend made it, and she said it takes a long time."

"No. It's like drop biscuits. Push it off the spoon, and bake for 14-16 minutes. Easy. My kids loved them."

"Huh. There. Save A Lot has a deal on bananas. I saved you sixty cents."

I'm sure the people behind me in line were heavily sighing.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Who or What, Exactly, Goes There!

Genius left Wednesday morning to gallivant around various cities, a trip to culminate Saturday with an all-day booth-hosting gig at some technology rendezvous where he and other members of his college solar car team can possibly secure additional sponsors for their bright endeavor. He packed his gear and headed out into the frozen wasteland, not even looking back. "I'm only going to be gone four days," he said, as if he was merely running down to the mailbox to interrogate the rural carrier as to the whereabouts of various missing packages.

Wednesday night, I heard a regular hoe-down above my head in Genius's room. The Pony was in denial when I asked, "Did you hear that?" I could see it in his eyes. Yes. He heard it. But he has to sleep in the room right across the hall.

At first it was just an odd thump here and there. Mostly in the front corner of the room, by his dresser. No creaking of the bed this time. Then, after The Pony had gone up and was using 30 minutes of hot water in the shower, and Hick was in bed already, the ruckus intensified. It did not sound like a full-sized person. None of the heavy stumping across the floor as if no feet were attached, like Hick sounds moving around the main floor. More like a toddler prancing around on a stick-horse. An active toddler training a hickory Lipizzaner Stallion.

I know it wasn't the dogs. They had already scrabbled around the side porch to somewhere up the driveway. I heard their frenzied toenails click past, and I could hear their distant barking.

The overhead activity continued off and on, with less intensity, for several hours. Around 11:20 p.m., I saw a flash of light in the dark area between the stairs and my office. I always turn off the overhead and watch TV with just a lamp beside me. Surely I imagined it. Probably a reflection of some kind from the TV, light that had come from the television screen, hit the white wall behind the new couch, bounced off, and illuminated that area on the other half of the basement, past the stairs. Yeah. I'm sure that was the explanation, even though it has not happened before. Sometimes I reason like The Pony.

I fell asleep in the recliner, and woke up around 3:00 a.m. I always shut down my New Delly desktop overnight. Even if 3:00 a.m. is not considered "night" by some people. I made my way through the dark section, and beheld the monitor for Genius's new computer he had built over the holidays. It was on, when it had not been earlier in the evening. Not only was the screen lit up, but it was on his Zune music program playlist, playing music! What's up with that? I didn't HEAR any music, because the speakers were off. But that song was lit up, playing away as shown at the bottom of the screen. The song? "Pinch Me" by Barenaked Ladies. I've never heard it. I don't know the lyrics. But it was highlighted and playing silently.

That could explain the flash of light, the monitor coming on. But would it stay on for hours? I don't know. When I came out of my office after shutting down, and looked at Genius's monitor, it went off before my very eyes. I suppose he could have been burning the midnight oil, remote-accessing his playlist. I don't know how that crap works. I do know that my internet had shut itself down sometime between 10:00 and 3:00, because I had no access when I tried to check email before my shut-down routine.

Only one thing is for certain. Genius did NOT remote-access his room with his feet.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I'll Get By With a Little Help From My Five-Dollar Daughter

Oh, yeah! Look at this beauty!

If you were my mom, this could all be yours. This, and two more just like it. Along with...

* a quart of potato soup left over from yesterday
* two Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits made from a box mix, left over from last night
* half an 8 oz. block of sharp cheddar cheese, Coburn Farms brand from Save A Lot
* one box of Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuit mix
* one National Enquirer
* one Globe
* eight Entertainment Weekly magazines
* three McDonald's grilled onion cheddar burgers
* one large McDonald's Diet Coke, straw included

Reads like a regular prize package, doesn't it?

Mom is still hunkered down, holed up in her brick split-level on the edge of town, refusing to let anybody enter her driveway. Yeah. What's up with that? Keeping her Five-Dollar Daughter idling on the wrong side of the road while The Pony surefoots his way down other people's footprints in the driveway. It's not like I have the audacity of the ex-mayor, and merrily roll down that gravel slope without a sideward glance. Mom told me to stay out of her driveway, and I stayed out of her driveway, by cracky!

I told mom to stay in the house. That The Pony would bring her stuff to the door. I called three times to see if she needed something from the store. No. Made up a little white lie that I was driving The Pony through McDonald's. Could I bring her something from there? A crisp Diet Coke, perhaps? A burger? Well...Mom said that since I was going there anyway, those Diet Cokes were really good (I can't stand them there), and that even though she didn't need any food at the moment, maybe I could pick up three grilled onion cheddar burgers, and she could have one for supper, and freeze two for later. I've got some advice for McDonald's: YOU REALLY NEED TO PLOW YOUR PARKING LOT! Trucks were spinning all over the place in that churned-up snow quicksand. I had sense enough to go out the lower exit by the stoplight, rather than sit at the stop sign on the 45-degree hill, waiting for Walmart drivers to go by.

Did Mom stay in the house like a good septuagenarian? What do you think? We called to say we were getting near, and I'll be ding-dang-donged if she didn't walk to the end of the porch, and act like she was going down the steps to the driveway I couldn't enter. The Pony handed her all the stuff. My plan had been for him to take it in, but Mom told him not to come up the steps. She had said earlier on the phone that those darn neighbors who brought her paper to the door Monday, and her mail, because the mail carrier pulled over and handed it to them (!), had left compressed snow icy patches on her porch that she couldn't sweep away. I guess she needs a porch directive like that driveway policy.

I did not get out, but hollered down that driveway that I was going to wait right there on the wrong side of the road until Mom got back inside the door. I was quite worried that she might take a spill on that slippery slab of a porch. Did she put her McDonald's bag down inside her Walmart bag and drape it over her arm, holding the Diet Coke in that hand, with one hand left to stabilize herself along the brick house-front? NO! She tottered along holding both bags in one hand and the soda-bottom cupped in her other hand. Did she set the soda down on that one step up into the door? NO! She held that styrofoam soda cup against her body with the two-bag forearm while she pulled out the glass storm door and pushed in the wooden front door.

That ol' gal is one tough bird. She sent The Pony back to T-Hoe with a Walmart bag containing an unopened tray of assorted chocolate cookies she had gotten as a gift. When he looked in, braying like a horse-donkey about his good luck at scoring those tasty snacks, The Pony said, "Hey! There's a five-dollar bill in here, too!"

Of course there was.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Scenes From the Sucking Vortex Also Known as TheVictorian Homestead

Hey! Have you heard? I have some spare potatoes laying around. Genius asked me to make some potato soup. I'm sure he did that because he had no idea I had 20 pounds of Huge 'Uns in the pantry. I showed him! I really made some potato soup.

Okay, so it wasn't as easy as Genius led me to believe. I had to look up a recipe on the internet. I found two. Yes. I admit that they were the first two I looked at. Complicating matters is the fact that Shiba, my laptop set up in the living room in order to run internet via a Sprint connect thingy to my New Delly in my dark basement lair, no longer has printer capabilities. That happened when Genius upgraded the Sprint connect thingy, and put in a new router. It seemed too much trouble to email myself a recipe, then go downstairs and print it. Likewise, it seemed like too much trouble to keep hiking back and forth from the kitchen to the living room while making soup. Oh, and according to Genius, it was also too much trouble to install his downstairs printer to my Shiba, necessitating only a call to The Pony to grab the document and hoof it upstairs to us. As you can see, we are a lazy bunch of slackers who do not really deserve potato soup.

I read over those recipes a couple of times. I had most of the ingredients. Well. I had potatoes. I peeled six Huge 'Uns. But first I had to wash them. They smelled like dirt! And left a ring around my sink. Then I had to chop them to Genius's satisfaction, which meant they would disintegrate into pencil-eraser-sized nubs by the time the soup was done. I needed an onion. I asked Genius to hand me one from the bottom crisper of Frig while he was making a giant mess of crumbs around the toaster in a show of making his own lunch of a turkey and pepper jack sandwich. The sigh he emitted could have blown down the first two Little Pigs' houses. Oh, he gave me two onions. The smallest two in the crisper. One recipe called for boiling the diced onion with the potatoes. The other called for sweating the onion in bacon grease. I figured two onions are better than one.

There was no celery to be had, so that ingredient was struck from both recipes. One called for ham, the other for bacon. I had a little of each, four half-slices of ham left from Christmas, and a half pound of thick-sliced bacon left from Genius's noontime breakfast yesterday. I tossed in the ham after dicing, and got out the bacon. Wouldn't you know it, both boys wanted a slice. Which turned out to be three for Genius and two for The Pony. Which left me with five slices remaining for the potato soup. I fried up my second tiny onion. Then I added minced garlic, and some concoction of butter, flour, and milk. Some might call it a roux, I think. I followed those directions I had to go back to the living room to find, even though common sense told me to simply pour in some flour, a couple dollops of butter, and a hefty splash of milk.

Wouldn't you know it? One recipe required chicken stock. Seriously. My chicken stock has been sitting on the counter, opened, for a month or two. I don't think it goes bad. My work colleague had a fit when her daughter used some and put the waxy cardboard container in the refrigerator. It does not say to refrigerate after opening. I poured some out, and it looked fine. The Pony, in kitchen for his bacon, chanted "taste it, taste it" but I demurred. I ransacked the big pantry for any cream-of soup, but alas, I was fresh out. I did, however, find a can of chicken noodle soup that doesn't expire until July 2015, so I used that, meaning to strain out the juice and leave the noodles in the can. Yeah. Guess who made potato soup with noodles? VAL.

I'd been grinding in fresh black pepper all along. But for all the garlic and onion and bacon and potato soup still tasted bland. I shook in some garlic salt, then turned to my old standbys, Worcestershire Sauce, Heinz 57, and, for good measure, some Save A Lot steak sauce. It still tasted a little bland to me, but Hick and Genius scarfed it up like Huge 'Uns were going out of style. They did add a bit of shredded sharp cheddar which I provided without even including any finger skin. On the side, they were all a-twitter about the magnificent biscuits, which came from a box, Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuit mix, which is just Bisquick and some garlic powder to mix with butter. I've actually made those biscuits from an internet recipe, and they came out about the same, with the exception of the garlic powder stuff packing more of a punch and having more green-specked color than my melted butter and minced garlic brush-on coating.

Yes, I'd call that potato soup a success. Genius even stated later, without prompting, "That soup was really good." Hick hoisted himself up for a second bowl. OF SOUP! And you know how Hick usually likes his soup, TOWERING. But this he ate with a spoon and liked it! It can't be that he was simply starving, since I also gave him sliced Oberle sausage on the side in the guise of protein.

Poor, simple Genius. As he was toasting that bread for a sandwich at 11:45, he asked, "So, I'm not clear. Am I having this potato soup for lunch? Because it says it only takes 15 minutes." I explained that his soup would not be ready for lunch. It was supper. He was not accounting for prep time.

At 2:00, that potato soup was ready for a slow simmer. Fifteen minutes my--

At least there's enough left for tomorrow. And some to give my mom!