How did that happen?

Clumsiness this evening as the middle aged office monkey exited the building and headed toward the stairs. As usual, she was futzing in her purse as she stepped down off the landing. Except this time, instead of her foot landing squarely on the step below, only the edge of her three inch heel made contact (darn vanity!), and her foot slipped just as she transferred her weight to it.

Suddenly, she was airborne, her legs useless as they flew up. And just as suddenly, her backside hit the stairs and she bumped down a few steps, just for good measure. Even more quickly, she whipped her head 'round to make sure no one had seen the tumble (did I mention vanity yet?) and scrambled to pick up that pesky purse and scurry off to her car.

Driving home, the front of her ankle began to throb. And she thought "how the fook does the FRONT of my ankle hurt?"



Last April, I got the great idea of restoring my grandparents' picnic table and benches. The set is over 50 years old, and has been sitting out in the elements, uncovered and unmaintained for the last 15 years.

Using two sets of pliers, I loosened the rusty bolts holding the pieces together. When pliers didn't work, I switched to a hacksaw. 50+ years of dried out, unhealthy wood had to be sanded and smoothed before treating with five coats (yes, it was THAT neglected) of penetrating oil stain and putting pieces back together with new hardware.

I finished the table and one of the benches before I lost interest in the project about a month later. Here's a before and after shot -- the bench on the left is the one that didn't get restored. A month or two after I finished the table and one bench, the boyfriend and I were sitting on the unfinished bench, when it collapsed. One of the 2x4 legs had split.

I took the bench apart, decided that everything but the seat had to be replaced, sanded the seat planks and let it sit in my workshop for a year. In the meantime, the boyfriend complained about my already overly crowded workshop, aka garage and back house, which is capable of neither storing a car nor housing people because there's too much junk stuffed into it. Okay, maybe he had a point, but hey, he knew what he was getting into before he moved in with me!

A few weeks ago the boyfriend mentioned we hadn't had a party since we'd moved in together, and lucky us, barbecue season is here! I glanced out the back door, saw the picnic table with the one lonely bench, and set off on foot to the hardware store with Piglette to pick up a couple of 2x4s for fabricating new legs and supports. No, I didn't think about how heavy 2x4s are after balancing them on your shoulders for three blocks while gripping a leash with a zigzagging dog, but I made it home without dropping lumber or losing dog. A few mis-cuts and a lot of swearing later, I finished the second bench. Here's the finished set:

The legs don't exactly match, since they're pine and the original set is redwood, but they will work. I'd love to sit and admire my work a bit longer, preferably with bloody mary in hand, but the work never ends. There's still setting of pavers, weed-whacking, pruning and raking that needs to get done before the place will be in an acceptable state.


My Niece's Mom

It's Mother's Day here in the US, and instead of my own mother (who was a great gal and fantastic parent, by the way), my thoughts turn instead to another mom with whom I share DNA.

A lot of people, including herself and her family (including myself), underestimate my sister. Looking at her today, you might see a somewhat flighty, middle-aged, Pollyana-ish, empty-nester suburban mom cushioned from the outside world with a protective layer of pets on whom she dotes, who's a bit obsessed with her looks and weight, and whose deepest thoughts rotate around the number of miles she runs on the treadmill. 

But the big sister of my childhood memories was an extremely talented violinist, the only girl on the boy's high school soccer team, a brave person who'd run off a cliff with the aid of only an oversized kite, and the only (one of the first) female in the aeronautical engineering program at her university. 

In retrospect, she was a trailblazer with regard to women's equality (the equal rights amendment was brand new), but she never thought of herself that way, she just did what she wanted to do, feet first, with extra gusto. Oddly enough, possibly because of her enthusiasm, or maybe her unassuming, non-competitive demeanor, what were almost certainly maverick moves by her were pretty much unnoticed by others while she was in the midst of it all.

Females didn't hold her up as an example for others, even though she was one of the first females to embrace pursuits so recently in the male-only domain. To the males around her, she was just one of them in some ways, so they didn't view her as a groundbreaker, which could be seen as both positive and negative. Her male counterparts may not have recognized her accomplishment, but they also didn't feel threatened by her, so they were largely welcoming and there wasn't a lot of the bitterness that can exist today. 

Even today she underplays her achievements, saying that she barely passed her undergraduate program, or claiming that she is no longer capable of those things. But that person still exists, she's just changed her focus. If there is one thing I wish for my sister on this day, it's that she knows that she is still more than capable of great things if she puts her mind to it. 


A Happy Place

Days are lengthening as the northern hemisphere is nearly midway in its tilt toward the sun. Sunnier days and warmer temperatures encourage this middle-aged gal, whose thoughts have turned to ... income taxes. Yes, this middle-aged gal is boring. And yes, it's tax season here in the US, so work has ramped up in the accounting office. I'm not normally a tax person, but everyone in the office does some kind of tax work from January through April. I could thank Congress for a tax code that is convoluted and changes from year to year for the extra work, but really wish that work were spread out a bit more evenly through the year!

The gardens are currently full of weeds. Granted, that's nothing new, although one of my friends visited last spring and weeded the front yard for me. Friends are, indeed, a good thing. The chard is still everywhere, and the artichoke plants are large and lush. A few fava bean plants have poked their way out of the ground, and a San Marzano tomato seedling is already in-ground. That's one of the favas, with the ubiquitous chard in the background. Hopefully, it will overshoot the chard soon.

We put out a little table under the wisteria and added a few potted plants (that little sago palm is the only survivor of about ten babies I propagated from the mother tree). This spot gets nice morning sun, making it a pleasant place to sit while injecting our coffee in the morning. We're also thinking about installing a flower box in that window to the left and moving the table farther to the right. In a few weeks when the wisteria blooms, it should be an even nicer spot to contemplate the world, although maybe not so great for meals with falling petals and buzzing bees.

There are a lot of day-off projects to do this year, but for now, it's nice to have this little spot for relaxing.