Anniversary #31

Today was our wedding anniversary — thirty-one wonderful, adventurous, romantic years together.  Paul provides the wonderful and I provide the adventurous.  The romantic just is.  I thought I’d give a report on our day, so that all of you who don’t have the first idea how to have a great anniversary together will get a few pointers.

Gifts — For weeks I pleaded with Paul to give me some ideas of what he wanted.  My eyes glazed over when he mentioned the technology items.  I don’t do technology.  It mortally confuses me. 

Finally he announced the need for a new set of dress trousers.  I had just about simultaneously gotten the same brilliant idea, having noticed a  huge white wear spot on the pocket of his navy blue slacks just that morning as he stood at the front of the church.  The entire church family saw the need at the same moment I did.  Humility is not something I have to strive over-hard for.  Opportunities abound.

So I thought the problem of an anniversary gift was solved.  Not.  Finding Paul trousers is a monumental challenge.  He is long and thin.  The trousers available have the dimensions switched around.   32 x 34 will work; 34 x 32 will not.  I was still looking today without success.  Fortunately, I had a book stashed away for his birthday, which had to do anniversary duty.

When he hauled out several presents for me, I felt like a heel — until I opened them.

Gift #1 — A homemade Fernando Ortega CD case — without the CD.  “Thank you, Paul.  I have always loved Fernando Ortega’s CD cases.  Usually they come with a CD inside.”

“Oh, did I forget the CD?  Duh.”  He ambled off to his man-den in the basement to retrieve the music portion of the Fernando gift.  He had downloaded the music (legally) from the Internet and made a lovely case and all — just forgot to put the CD in it.

Gift #2 — A Hershey Milk Chocolate-flavored lip balm — with instructions to smear it, but not to eat it.  I normally do not use lip balms.  Petroleum jelly out of a jar serves the same purpose quite effectively.  Beebee asked if I knew how to use lip balm, or if she needed to demonstrate for me.  She probably just wanted the first lick.

Gift #3 — A bag of Lemonheads.  Yes, exactly.  The same candy they sell at swimming pool concession stands.

I now understood why, whenever I had pleaded for gift ideas, Paul had consistently stated he only wanted a bag of circus peanuts and a tube of braunschweiger to fulfill his fondest dreams.  He had hoped to put our gifts on an equal plane.

(The man gave me roses and truffles, too, but Lemonheads and CD-less CD cases are more fun to talk about.)

Other festivities —  We spent a romantic afternoon together at ShopKo Optical.  I have needed new glasses for a while, not being able to see overmuch out of the old ones.  They had a huge 25% off sale, and Paul generously offered to buy me any $49.95 frame in the place.  (Actually, I was the one who opted for the $49.95 pair.  The $99.95 frames looked a little nicer, but the price tag hanging from them wasn’t near as elegant as the one on the $49.95 pair.  I know cool when I see it.)

We dined on petite sirloin at Applebee’s.  It was a weird experience having the cook bring our steaks to the table and stand over us, demanding that we cut it and make sure it was done to our taste.  He refused to leave until we had done so.  It must be a custom peculiar to Applebee’s.  A few minutes later, the waitress came by and asked in a whisper if we had “cut our steak for anyone yet.”  I’ll bet it has nothing to do with whether the steak is done to perfection.   They probably don’t trust the customers to handle knives without supervision until the management is sure they are mature enough to manipulate sharp objects alone.  We were being tested.  I got so nervous I tried to cut with the serrated edge up, but they let me keep my knife anyway.

While I demonstrated my knife-wielding prowess for the cook, precious seconds were lost, and the butter ran off my baked potato and into the zucchini.   I was disappointed.  If they had wrapped that potato in traditional foil, the butter would have stayed put.  Sigh!

We dressed up for our big occasion.  Paul wore a sweater and white jeans (because I could not find dress slacks for his anniversary present, no doubt).  I wore my beautiful hunter-green tunic with the Nehru collar.  I fell in love with it and its $3.00 tag at Goodwill three years ago.  I look ever so chic in it, but have not had the courage to wear it in public, since I don’t see other ladies flaunting football player-size padding in their jacket shoulders right now.  I keep hoping such fashion will come back into style eventually.  (Beebee tells me it is coming back, but only young ladies who have never yet had opportunity to do huge shoulder pads are allowed to wear such things.  Old ladies who had their chance back in the 80’s do not get a second shot at it.  I will never understand the rules of fashion.)  Anyway, I figured nobody at Applebee’s would know me or care, so I wore it and enjoyed myself.  I sashayed around Target after dinner in it, too — again looking for the elusive 32 x 34 trousers necessary to restore my man to respectability.

Thanksgiving Shopping

Today I must do the annual Thanksgiving Day grocery shopping.  I am not fond of shopping in any form, nor am I fond of cooking turkey and all the fixings.  I am a mac-and-cheese kind of cook, so Thanksgiving, the annual obligatory family dinner necessary to appease my mother, is not nearly as much fun as going to the dentist.  More on the cooking part next time.

My husband likes shopping in all its forms, so he takes care of the groceries the other fifty-one weeks of the year.  But shopping the food sales for Thanksgiving takes a special finesse that he does not possess.  I have an ability to get deals beyond our wildest imaginations.  Grocery store robbery is one of the few areas of life in which I excel.

In years gone by, I practiced my art on a weekly basis, even looking forward to the adventure of the excursion.  I was the customer the grocery clerks loved to hate.  I got frowns when they saw me coming, which deeply hurt my sensitive feelings, but not enough to make me change my ways.  It had a lot to do with combining sale items with double couponing and leaving the store with arms loaded down with multiple bags and a total bill of $4.63.  When my favorite place went out of business, I vowed to go straight and never ruin a grocery store again, but the temptation proved too much for me, so my husband took over the shopping.

Thanksgiving, though, is different.   The stores are all begging to be plundered for that event, so I oblige them to keep them happy.  Alas, I can no longer get away with a cartful for $4.63, but I might find a way to abscond with a turkey for that, along with a $1.00 apple pie and a free tub of Cool Whip.

Rummage Sales

It is April 29.  Even though it snowed big flakes all over the lawn yesterday and it was only twenty-five degrees when I got up this morning, I know that rummage sale season is right around the corner.  In Wisconsin, we walk by faith, not by sight.  We believe in spring and summer, even when neither of them has yet shown up by the Fourth of July.

At our house, we are veterans at hosting  rummage sales.  My teenager, who thrives on cleaning out my clutter, sees to it that we have one every year.  Through the years, we have noticed some patterns among the customers, and I thought it might be fun to pass on our observations to the world:

First of all, maybe you don’t call them rummage sales where you come from.  Yard sales, garage sales, rummage sales — they’re all the same thing.  Come to think of it, not everyone calls them rummage sales here, either.  I’ve seen quite a few signs for rumage, rumige, rummag, and rammuge sales.  We may know how to have ’em here in the Rhubarb State, but we don’t necessarily know how to spell ’em.

People spend their hard-earned nickels on the oddest things — gross things, to my way of thinking.  Why would anyone want to buy used personal items — deodorants, cheap perfumes, body wash, lipstick, makeup, hairbrushes(!)?  I wouldn’t buy them, and I wouldn’t have the guts to try to sell them.  However, it works.  A friend sold them at one of our sales.  I’m wondering what would have happened if she had attempted to get rid of used toothbrushes for a quarter each.  My guess is that somebody would have bought them.  She managed to unload samples she had gotten through the mail, too.  Resourceful creature!

Do you know what sells best?  Stuff that comes out of the junk.  My husband occasionally junk-picks.  I don’t know why he does, so don’t ask.  Now that he is retired, I think I am going to send him out every trash day to look for salable stuff.  He brings home seemingly worthless items, and the rummage sale queens all want them — lamps, bicycle baskets, rusted milk cans, flower pots, Christmas garland, radios, plastic flowers, you-name-it.  If it came out of somebody else’s trash, it is guaranteed to be the first thing to go.  Perhaps this is because Wisconsinites are a very ecology-minded folk.  We do our duty to God and our country by recycling our junk back and forth among each other, rather than filling up landfills.

The guys that come through really get into all the hardware and technology items.  But sometimes they want to know why my husband would have fifteen razor knives, eight bottles of windshield wash, and ten wire nippers (all still in the package), in the first place.  I don’t usually divulge the reason: Paul gets them free with rebates at the local hardware store, and then sells them at the yard sale.  Sometimes the men are onto him: “I know where he got these … I got them there, too!”  I just smile and don’t say too much.

Grandma gifts are in much demand.  (Pink flamingoes really do sell, folks.)  If my mom bought it for me to hang in my kitchen, living room, backyard, or on my person, it’s probably going to end up in the rummage sale.  Please, don’t tell on me!  Gaudy plastic butterflies that will pop your eyeballs out 300 yards away, grinning cows wearing flowered pantaloons, plastic “Home Sweet Home” plaques spray-painted gold, ceramic plates etched with sentimental calligraphy about a woman and her kitchen.  Tsk!  The mail-order outfits that sell this stuff ought to be prosecuted for taking advantage of little old ladies!  These are very hot rummage sale items.  Grandmas not only buy these things through the mail.  They pick them up new on the summer rummage sale tour.  They pass them on at Christmas to their daughters and granddaughters.  The daughters and granddaughters smile and say thank you — and then shuffle the items into the basement, where they wait in happy anticipation of being recycled at the daughters’ or granddaughters’ rummage sale the following summer.  Other grandmas buy them at that sale and save them up for Christmas ….  They become like Aunt Maude’s recycled fruitcake — they just keep making the rounds.

Lawnmower vs. Rummage Sale

Every year we have a rummage sale (a.k.a. “yard sale” or “garage sale”), and every year, when it’s all done, I vow I will never have another one.  They are just too much work.  But come summertime, my teenager gets the bug for cleaning out the junque, and I comply again. 

Once we have everything set up and ready to go, I usually decide rummage sales are not so bad after all.  I settle into my lawn chair, open my eyes wide, and wait for something bizarre to happen.  If I stay carefully observant and wait long enough, something will happen, guaranteed.

There was the year the lady next door decided she did not appreciate our yard sale.  I don’t think she liked the cars parked in front of her house.  (We had heard about this before: “Do not park in front of my house.  I want MY friends to be able to park there.”  Well, it wasn’t my friends or myself parked in front of her house this time; it was the rummage customers.)  Anyway, she decided to display her displeasure with our rummage sale, using her lawn mower as a prop.

Our tables were parked flush with the edge of our driveway.  Never mind that we own six feet of grass on the other side of it.  She expressed her distress at not being able to mow her lawn with the rummage sale going on next to the grass.  My husband assured her she need not worry about it; he would mow the strip of grass next to the driveway when we were done with the sale.  However, she did not want to wait.  Besides, she had already planned that the lawn mower would be her vehicle of exhibiting her displeasure with us.

She proceeded to mow. When she got close to the strip along the driveway, I noticed that her grim facial  expression was crescendoing into one thunderhead of a scowl, and her mowing action was becoming decidedly more emphatic.  Violent would be a better word.  I was dealing with several customers right at that moment, but I remember seeing her throwing that mower in and out under a table and thinking she was getting mighty close to the table legs and what if — too late.  She took out the table legs.  Everything slid to the ground.  Fortunately “everything” was clothes and books, not breakables.

Her face bore a fearful, stricken look.  She had not intended to destroy, only to communicate disgust. She desperately hung on to one end of the table, trying to stop the avalanche, but to no avail.  I ambled over, helped her wrestle the rest of the mangled mess to the ground, cleared my throat, and said in a relatively even tone, “Maybe this was not a good idea.  Perhaps we had better let Paul finish the mowing later!”  Truly, I know she felt bad.  The table was a total loss, legs snapped right off the bottom.

I tried hard not to be annoyed.  It was a monumental challenge.  I succeeded in being calm with her (after a fashion), but I did not continue smiling pleasantly throughout the incident.  (So, tell me you would have done any better!)  But I consoled myself with having a story to tell among all my acquaintances for weeks to come.  I love stories!  They tend to make up for most of the unpleasant events that birthed them in the first place.

Shopping Excursion

My daughter Beebee and I went thrifting at St. Vincent de Paul this morning. I can find a story in almost anything, but there is ALWAYS a story waiting to happen at Vinnie’s. Today, it was a mob of grownup sisters shopping with their mom. There was the bushy, long-haired gal who was the consultant of the family. We’ll call her “Cinderella” for convenience’ sake. (Don’t ask why, just live with it. Beebee informs me she was no Cinderella.) Her sisters were taking up two of the three dressing rooms for a very long time. It was long, not only because they had to try on lots of stuff, but because of how they went about it. Go there in your mind with me:

Sister #1 puts on an outfit. She steps dramatically forth from the dressing room and strikes a modeling pose, to be admired by all. I happen to look their way, just then, because they are all loud. (I am in the book department, yards and yards away.) “Loud, loud, loud,” as the Dick, Jane, and Sally readers would say. Sister #1 does not look appealing in her outfit. Cinderella thinks otherwise.

“Ooohhh, Rachel, you look beautiful! Mom! Mom! Come see! You gotta see this!” Rachel looks anything but beautiful, and the dress does not help. Wrong color, a few sizes too small. Mamma waddles over. She has been in a completely different section of the store, so it takes some time for her to arrive. But she hears the call and makes her way as fast as her legs will carry her.

They ooh and aah briefly, and then go on to the next outfit. Sister #1 seems to be majoring on smart little dresses and power suits. Each one has to be modeled, exclaimed over, and discussed to the Nth degree, whether she is going to take it home or not. Even if she does not like an outfit, she models it for the family and the rest of us poor people waiting to get a dressing room.

After we have heard several outfits declared cute (they might have been — on somebody several sizes smaller than Sister #1), Cinderella wants to know, “Rachel, what size do you wear?” Rachel announces to anyone who doesn’t care to hear that she wears 8’s and 10’s. This is why the stuff she is trying on looks so awful on her. Yours Truly only wears 8’s or 10’s when the clothing is from a very expensive shoppe–or when someone has sized it wrong. Yours Truly wears 12’s, 14’s, and an occasional 16. This woman is quite a bit larger than Yours Truly. She is also tall, and is trying on petite-ish type thingies. It is embarrassing to look at her, stuffed into those little bitty outfits. I wonder what is wrong with the family. They all look like normal, average, attractive people. They do not appear to have mental challenges of any sort. Clothing challenges, yes, however. (Please understand that I do not have issues with large. One can be very attractive and large. It is all in how one dresses.)

Sister #1 continues to pose and model for us, with an occasional interruption from Sister #2, in the next dressing room. She also likes to wear her clothes way too small. She is not into power suits and business dresses. She is doing shorts and slacks. (Beebee’s feet are sore from standing. My eyes and mind are sore from watching.) Sister #2 does not have the confidence and modeling ability of Sister #1. She does not jump and strut out of her dressing room and strike poses. (Good, I’m getting too much of this already.) She can’t find pants that are long enough, but they are plenty tight enough to make her happy. Finally, Voila! pants that are long enough. The whole family agrees that they are long enough AND cute! Sister #2 does not like them, though. They are “too baggy” (translation–they fit her just fine for a change). Cinderella likes them and thinks she should buy them. She turns to me for moral support. Aaaarrrrgggghhh!!!! She wants my opinion. I am shocked. I mumble that they look fine to me. (Why drag me into this? Do I look like a fashion designer in my neon blue-and-cranberry jacket with the clashing red sweater underneath? And why AM I taking issue with other people’s clothing choices when I wear this thing all over town? Perhaps I ought to accessorize with a paper bag over my head.)

Before Cinderella asks for further expounding from me, we are all distracted again by Sister #1 bounding forth from her dressing room, in a cute little business suit that would have fit Princess Di about right–but Fergie would never have attempted it. (Fergie has brains. She looks elegant and nice. I like Fergie, in her own little way. She may be a worldly gal, but she is winning.) They all decide after much deliberation that she MUST buy the outfit because of the blouse and blazer, but the skirt should not be worn (neither should the rest of it, but yes, the skirt DEFINITELY should not be worn). If any of us had a curiosity to know the exact dimensions and shape of Sister #1’s tummy, we are curious no longer. It is starkly framed in black and white checkerwork. It will be starkly framed in my mind’s eye for the next decade, at least. (I have a tummy. I know that pictures are supposed to be framed — but not tummies.) How she managed to zip or button that skirt is beyond comprehension. Yes, let’s avoid wearing the skirt.

By this time, Beebee and I are wondering if we will get to try on our stuff before closing time (noon). It’s 10:35 when we begin to whisper our wonderings about this. The two sisters finally exhaust all the outfits in the store that are too small for them, as well as all the commentary they can think of on how all the outfits in the store that are too small for them looked on them.

We get one of the dressing rooms. Cinderella finally gets her turn in the one next to us. She is thinnish, and I thought perhaps she might not be trying on stuff three or more sizes too small for her. However, I am mistaken, for I hear her shout loud enough so that the people in the furniture department know all about it, that she “couldn’t even get it on over her ….” We didn’t want to know, Cinderella!

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