Betty Crocker

I love cake. I also love to bake, but my execution kind of sucks. I always have an idea in my head of how something is going to turn out and it rarely turns out that way. It’s okay, I have fun baking and now my daughter and I bake together so it’s twice as much fun. I normally buy a cake for our big events. I am blessed to know an amazing baker. She was a neighbor for a short period of time and she has a daughter who is a month older than my daughter so we got them together for a play date when they lived in the neighborhood. We have been friends since then. Life happened which took my baking angel away for a time period, but now she is back in the area. We have remained connected through social media and when I am in need of a beautiful cake for a big event, I know who to call. I will bake a cake for a small family party but not for larger gatherings. We alternate the size of my daughter’s birthday parties from year to year. For the years she has big parties I don’t bake, but for the small family birthday celebrations I will attempt to bake a cake. (more…)

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Zoom Zoom Zoom

The best part about this pandemic has been watching people try to use technology when they have no idea what they are doing. Last spring, I laughed watching a bunch of third grade kids do things like wander into the bathroom while holding their tablets or walking off in the middle of a zoom meeting because they forgot what they were doing. That was understandable, and I have to say, all of the kids who have had to navigate using technology over the last six months are going to be better for it and more skilled teenagers. Adults are a whole different story.

I am in graduate school with a bunch of people who can’t figure out zoom. Sure, everyone quickly figured out how to turn their camera off so nobody could see they were lounging around with no pants on. Unfortunately, many of the same people could not locate the mute button. In one class, 25 students were muted and one was not. The one who was not muted had an entire conversation with her boyfriend about what to get her mom for her birthday and about how she somehow got makeup all over herself while the other 25 called her out in the chat area to shut up. There has been at least one incident like this per month. I even have a professor who kept using his personal account to open zoom calls so the entire class got kicked off after a half hour. It took him a full three sessions to figure it out and half that class still can’t log in to his new link.

But by far, the best people to observe on zoom calls are older retired people who are not adept at technology but think they are. I do a lot of volunteer work, so I am often surrounded by older people trying to be helpful. One of the organizations I volunteer for provides tutoring services for elementary aged kids. Since the pandemic, we have gone online. The kids are pretty skilled at zoom and the various platforms they are using for their schoolwork. The volunteers are great at tutoring, but are lost when it comes to technology. Luckily, a bunch of college kids were recruited this fall and have been able to help out. Unfortunately, many of the volunteers who are lost online have no idea they are lost online. I knew one woman in particular was going to be a problem when we had our tutor orientation and she was confused when people were explaining how to use some of the zoom features. When people told her to click on a dropdown menu she couldn’t find it. She didn’t even understand what we meant when we told her to click something. She finally said “I don’t have a mouse. I have a tablet!” to which most of us just threw our hands up. We were trying to show her how to get the drawing feature. I finally said “Put your finger on the screen and move it.” It was similar to teaching a caveman how to use tools if the tools were made of play-doh.

After the orientation, a second orientation was scheduled to get the half dozen elderlies comfortable using their devices. Apparently, even after the second session, this woman still didn’t get it. Tutoring has been going on for a month now and she still has no idea what she is doing and rarely even makes it into the breakout rooms when the host sends her there. She spent the first 15 minutes of the last session talking to her husband about how she couldn’t sign in to zoom. She didn’t realize she was signed in and we were all watching her as she peered at her screen barking “I don’t know where it went Stan. It’s normally right here! There is no picture.” She must have been continually touching the unmute button on her screen as she poked at it since the host continued to mute her every 30 seconds the entire time. 

Virtual learning has certainly been an education for everyone. All I know is next time I am having a computer problem, I am calling my kid to help instead of my husband. And, I am thinking maybe this tutoring program I am part of should make the tutoring reciprocal. First the kids can help the old folks figure out how to use their computers and tablets and then we can teach them how to do math the correct way!

**One thing I know how to do with a computer is find music. I’m listening to some new material these days.

 

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Die, Die My Darling

While boating the other day, I told my dad we were trying to kill him. An hour later my husband and dad almost killed me. Karma sometimes acts pretty quickly. Seriously karma, I was just kidding! Not that my husband trying to kill me is anything new. In fact, I’m pretty sure he has been working on a plan since the day we were married based on the amount of “accidents” I have had in the last 16 years. I am going to ignore the fact that I am accident prone here.

Let me start by saying that my kid and I are daredevils. When it comes to dangerous activities, we are all in. So needless to say, when we go rafting, we are the ones screaming “faster” as we bounce along the water. Saturday was no exception. My dad spent the better part of his afternoon pulling me and mini me around the lake on a raft. My mom spent the better part of her afternoon having a panic attack and covering her eyes. At one point we were almost completely sideways on the raft. I looked down and I was literally on top of my kid as we bounced over a wave. On the same trip around the lake my dad nearly plowed us into a family of ducks as he turned and we flew out to the side of the boat. Luckily it was not a family of swans or they would have popped our raft and pecked our faces off.

After an hour of my mom glaring at my dad he took her to shore. The thrill seekers were still up for more rafting so we took one of the wave runners out dragging the little two person bouncer behind. Everyone took a turn riding and driving. I didn’t drive since I drive one speed no matter if I am alone or dragging bodies behind me. I have been told that 55 is too fast for rafting. But I learned that you can injure yourself at any speed. My husband was going only 9 mph when he almost killed me. After the old man and mini me took a trip around the water she decided she wanted me back there with her so my dad took over the spotter duty while my husband drove. We were just getting ready to head back in when the men decided it would be fun to whip us around in a circle so my husband proceeded to spin around at single digit speeds while we circled. We had gone around twice when all of a sudden we were air born. A wave came out of nowhere and we hit it like a ski jump.

Both passengers were able to hold on with one hand, but we came down fast and hard. I landed on my side and was immediately pummeled in my ribs. I was clinging to the raft wondering who threw a bowling ball at me when I heard crying from above. My daughter was sitting on my rib cage right under my armpit holding her mouth and crying. She had apparently bitten her tongue. I eased her off me and tried to see inside her mouth while not moving. I felt like a baby holding it’s breath right before an enormous scream comes out, but no scream came, just small gasps. When we finally got back to shore, I slid off the raft and walked onto the beach still gasping for breath. I have had the wind knocked out of me on many occasions so I knew it would take a minute or two to catch my breath, but when five minutes went by and I still couldn’t suck in any substantial amount of air I was getting a little nervous. It didn’t help that three people were in my face asking if I was okay. I couldn’t get enough air to talk which was the scariest part. Not being able to talk for 10 seconds is torture for me. I would rather be water boarded than not be able to spew every thought in my head for five minutes. Since I couldn’t argue, being unable to speak and all, I was at the mercy of my family when they insisted that I go to urgent care to get an X-ray.

Luckily, I managed to worm my way out of actually seeing a doctor. One urgent care was closed and the other one didn’t have an X-ray machine (seriously!) so we headed home where I splayed my body on the couch with a bell while my family waited on me. I argued that even if I had fractured ribs there was nothing they could do anyway. I guess my husband figured if I was well enough to argue with him, I was well enough to carry on. I’m guessing I’ll discover some abnormality six months from now while getting a massage, which is the same way I found out I had a rib in my back that managed to flip over the wrong way and stick out under my arm. Until then, as long as I can get enough breath to keep ordering my family around, all is well.

**I wrote this while listening to the Beastie Boys takeover of XMU which is the best station to have on while driving around to urgent care centers!

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Sad Semester

There are many reasons I send my child to someone else during the day to learn her three Rs. I don’t understand new math, I don’t explain things well, I need to look at a map to tell you where Nebraska is and I can’t figure out which fingers go on which holes on that godawful instrument called a recorder. But at the very top of the list of why homeschooling is not a good idea for this family is because after three days of too much time learning together, we all want to murder each other. Strangely, I am more of the victim in this situation than the instigator.

If I were my daughter’s real teacher, she would be hiding my erasers and writing dirty limericks about me on the bathroom walls. Luckily she isn’t old enough to even think about skipping school or I would be showing up to an empty room by now. I’m fairly certain the last person she wants teaching her anything is me. Second to last is her father. I don’t want to say my child is critical of my teaching style, but she is. Very critical, in fact. So critical that she can find fault in anything I do, down to the pencil I choose to help her with a math problem. When both of her parents are in her learning space with her, she gets even more annoyed. We apparently breathe too loudly. I get it, we are not her teachers, we are her parents. She doesn’t want us to be the ones teaching her math and science. She wants us to be her cheerleaders, not her coaches.

What makes the situation harder is that I feel like I am failing, all day, every day. There is nothing that will make you feel more like a monkey trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle than trying to work through a math problem you have been using a calculator to complete for the last 30 years. With my mini-me peering over my shoulder, it feels like I am trying to defuse a bomb on a school bus full of children. My daughter’s teacher is great about sending the parents instructions to guide us through this process, but even with instruction I feel like I have forgotten more than I will ever know and I am a small step above useless to my kid. All I see on the internet are supportive posts from fellow parents and mommy blogs telling me to be gentle with myself and my child and to let things go, but that is just not my nature. I want to thrive in this situation. I should be good at this. I tutor kids my daughter’s age. I spend time volunteering at her school. I left a job I hated several years ago to spend more time with my kid and now that I have all day every day with her I kind of want to run far far away. 

The thing is, everything is weird right now and as humans, we are uncomfortable with uncertainty, which is pretty much all we have today. I am certain about a few things – my kid enjoys me dancing with her to fulfill her PE requirement and she will follow instructions from her dad for music and art, so we have that going for us. I am focusing on these areas more than I am arguing about how to properly add fractions. She is getting more time on her skateboard and piano. She is also cooking and reading like a middle aged single woman.

I am helping when I can, but sometimes I think my child is better off working on her school work by herself. I attempted helping her with her french work but only managed to teach her how to swear in a foreign language. I mean, realistically, it is one of my few areas of expertise, so I may as well pass it on. She gets her musical ability from her father and her ability to say “go fuck yourself” in four languages from her mom. In my defense, the instruction was totally unintentional, just like how she learned to swear in her native language. 

If nothing else, my child is learning to be self-sufficient. She is doing more for herself than ever. Since both of her parents are busier than usual, this kid is actually figuring things out for herself. In the past six weeks she has had more training in technology than she will in the next six years. She is trouble shooting problems herself before asking for help which is going to serve her well later on. She has also had a lifetime’s lesson in patience and grace. She is watching her mom be frustrated but keep going and she is doing the same. She is watching her dad come up with new ways to get things done when the old ways aren’t available and she is doing the same. She is being coached by her cheerleaders in unexpected ways. Most importantly, she is being gentle with herself and with her parents. She has yet to swear at me in french or any other language for that matter. And as always, I am learning much more from her than she is learning from me which I think is kind of how parenting works. 

**I wrote this while listening to NOFX who are masters of making me laugh when I want to be outraged. 

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Let’s Get Physical

The past month has been strange to say the least. My child is home all the time, my husband is home but working long hours, we can’t go to church, the library, my beloved Target or out to dinner. But the change that is most disruptive to me is that I can no longer go to the gym. This was such a concern to me that before I even thought about getting my daughter set up in her new remote learning space I was online ordering an elliptical to be delivered as quickly as possible. I was fully aware that not everyone in my house would make it through this crisis if I was not able to sweat it out for an hour a day. While everyone was out raiding their local grocery store for toilet paper, I was online comparing elliptical specs. I don’t know why I bothered since I picked the one that most resembled my favorite machine at the gym. When shipping options appeared I opted for the white glove set up after remembering our last experience with purchasing gym equipment. My husband and I nearly killed each other trying to get a treadmill down a flight of steps into our basement twelve years ago. Clearly that experience scarred me for life as it was the first memory that popped into my head when I was ordering.

When I clicked “submit order” I was a little surprised to see that it would take two weeks to deliver. I set up a delivery time for a saturday afternoon and headed outside for a walk. Over the next few weeks I discovered all kinds of new places to walk around my house. There is a nature center less than a mile away where I spent hours at a time walking and watching wild turkeys and deer while I made observations about my fellow hikers. The one thing I didn’t do was sweat. I was getting desperate to get back to my routine when I received a call from the delivery company informing me that my equipment would arrive the following day between noon and 2 pm. That night I was like a kid on Christmas Eve. I actually dreamed about riding my shiny new elliptical. I had cleared out the space in my office where my new machine would be placed and I even vacuumed the floor. I was going to sleep in my workout clothes just to be prepared, but I thought that may be a little much.

The following morning I was awoken by a truck rumbling outside my window. I knew it couldn’t be my delivery since it was not due for several more hours, but then my doorbell rang an there was an immediate pounding on the front door. I shook my husband awake and told him to run downstairs since I was in my underwear and my hair resembled something from a bad new wave video from the 80s. Within that ten seconds my phone started to ring. These delivery men were anxious to get in our house. Maybe they had heard about the mass amounts of hand sanitizer I had lined up on the counter.

When my husband answered the door he was informed that they were not all that anxious to get in our house, they were actually not even allowed to enter our house. They rang our bell at the crack of dawn to tell us we would have to reschedule or they could leave the box at our door. As I heard this from the top of the stairs I yelled down “LEAVE IT!!” knowing I would not survive another few days without a good workout, let alone another few months. They shoved the enormous box through our front door crashing right into the closet, knocking the door off the track. They said that was their “white glove service” and scampered away. My husband later informed me that we were supposed to have received a call about the delivery change which we still have not received a month later. As a matter of fact, the $250 charge for the white glove service has also not been refunded. Apparently Nordictrack charges a fee to send a couple of guys out to break your closet doors, just in case anyone needs this service. Maybe this is a ploy to get people to buy additional equipment. I can attest that after several calls, e-mails and online chats with no resolution, I need a good workout to burn off the anger secreting from my pores.

Delivery day turned out to be a lot less like Christmas day than I had anticipated. It was more like Tuesday at a work camp. After my husband and I stood staring at the box for an eternity, we finally got to work. It took a good 30 minutes to get the giant box on it’s side and cut open, and that was just the beginning. We decided that if two delivery men could lug this monstrosity up the stairs, so could we. This was the same magical thinking that had us believing we could set up a treadmill unassisted twelve years ago. We spent a much longer time than we should have walking around the machine trying to determine the best way to approach the lifting. Then we proceeded to circle the machine several more times trying to lift it periodically, both of us convinced that we could lift the side that our spouse was clearly too weak to lift. Neither of us could lift one side alone and we didn’t want to scratch up the hardwood floor trying to drag it. We were able to come up with several solutions to our problem, all of which included having other people move this beast which was not going to happen for awhile.

We finally conceded and dragged the machine into the living room using rugs. We were only able to move it an inch at a time and about halfway through I laughed that we had ever thought we could carry this thing up the stairs by ourselves. I did finally get to sweat the way I had been craving and was getting a full body workout just trying to situate the machine in the least obtrusive place. There is no such place with a piece of gym equipment in a living room. Gym equipment is obtrusive, especially in a living room. While we used the tiny tools to attach the arms to the machine I thought back to going to a relative’s house for a party where they had an entire gym in their living room. It was the first thing you saw when you walked in the front door and I was perplexed about why they would do such a thing. Now I know that they probably moved into the house and gave up on trying to move the equipment once they got ten feet through the door. Luckily nobody would be coming to our house to see our new home gym/living room.

The good news about this is that our living room faces the street so I still get the people watching I got at the gym, just with more dogs and kids. I get to read my book while I peddle away as well as watch the neighbors walk their dogs and weed their gardens. My kid has also decided that riding the elliptical is a blast so she hops on for a half hour at a time when she can’t get outside. My husband hasn’t used the machine much. I can’t determine if it’s a matter of not having the time or if he is holding a grudge from when one of the arms swung down and beamed him on the top of the head during assembly. Either way, he isn’t complaining about it being an eyesore in the middle of the living room. I’m just happy that I am able to get in a good workout in my own house. Lord knows I need it after the pandemic pantry bingeing that’s been happening around here.

*I wrote most of this in my head while on my new elliptical, but here’s some good workout music in case you decide to open a home gym in your living room…

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Don’t Stand So Close To Me

This social distancing thing has been really eye opening on a lot of fronts for me. I have learned that some people just don’t understand what combinations of words like “social” and “distancing” mean together, much like “self” and “checkout” at the grocery store seems to confound people. I have also learned that people have spacial relation issues and do not understand the difference between six feet and six inches. And worst I have discovered that I may actually be a rule follower deep down.

Let me start by saying I am not a catastrophizer, I am also not a joiner. But when I heard that we could avoid spreading an illness and give our healthcare workers the space they needed to help the sick simply by staying away from other people, I hopped on that bandwagon, and quick. I promptly took off my pants and crawled under a blanket on the couch. This kind of social action is right in my wheelhouse. It took me a full two days to realize that my family would also need to stay at home putting an end to my month long pants-free marathon of Jaws and Taxi Driver on repeat.

Luckily the weather has been beautiful, and I am taking advantage of it when my house gets too peopley for me. I have been going for walks at the nature center up the road which is where I have been learning all kinds of things about nature of the human variety. There are usually a handful of people walking the paths, but for the most part people are pretty respectful of the distancing rules. We see each other coming and both parties walk out to the far edges of the path to allow about 8 feet between each other. I have seen plenty of teenagers wandering around, reeking of weed, holding hands and climbing on tree stumps, that I can only assume are not from the same household, but they stay away from the other pedestrians. I have seen old people, young people, moms with their littles and dads with their older dads.

But a week ago I saw something that made me wonder what the hell is going on. I was approaching a little bridge and from about 50 yards away I saw what I thought was a punk rock mom with turquoise hair and a baby stroller standing at one side of the bridge headed my way. I calculated the time it would take me to get there and assumed they would be across by the time I got anywhere near them. As I came closer to the bridge I realized that the figure I saw was not in fact a young mom with a stroller but an elderly blue haired woman with a walker. She had only made it about halfway across the bridge and as I approached she started yelling hysterically “give me 6 feet please! Stay back! Give me 6 feet!” I was at that point about 30 feet from her but I stopped where I was. I watched as she hobbled with her walker closer to me. I was wondering why she wasn’t at home seeing as she was elderly and clearly worried about coming in contact with other people. I was also wondering why she chose to take her walker for a stroll through wood chips and tree branches instead of the sidewalk. I was wondering if she would make it up the hill ahead or if they would have to medivac her out once the sun went down. I was wondering if I should warn her that the entire trail was engulfed in mud a little further along. I wondered if the wild turkey would have a run at her seeing that it’s mating season. I wondered about a lot of things. Mostly because I had about 40 minutes to wonder as she crossed the bridge. I may have taken a short nap as well. It’s hard to say now. She finally passed and I headed back down the trail. I have yet to encounter her dead body or discarded walker so she somehow managed to make it out by the following day. I’m just thinking if you can’t distance yourself from other people and you have to rely on others to make room for you as you are out and about, maybe you should not be out and about. Just saying.

A few days later I was back out in public, avoiding being around people. I had a few large envelopes that needed to go in the mail. I figured going at night and using the kiosk would allow me to avoid people, but I was mistaken. I pulled up and saw two other cars in the parking lot so I waited to enter. As I waited, another car pulled up and a woman jumped out and walked in with no mask or gloves. She emerged a few minutes later, as did another person. Only one other car sat in the parking lot so I went in. Of course the car belonged to a woman who was using the one operational kiosk in the building. I took my place in line about 10 feet behind her and waited as patiently as I could. She had been in there for at least 5 minutes prior to me walking in so I assumed she was near finished. I was again mistaken. It took her another 7 minutes to finish her transaction. I know this because I timed her. I’m not sure what she was doing, but she only mailed out one package in the end. During that time another woman walked in and jumped in line right behind Molasses Sally. She turned to see me standing there, made an uncomfortable shrug and proceeded to walk right over and stand next to me. Not 6 feet next to me, not behind me, but directly to my right. We could have held hands. Said woman was not wearing a mask or gloves or anything. Although she was wearing pants, so she had that score on me. I was in fact in pajamas and flip flops. I stepped away from her as she jabbered at me about how she had been to two other post offices already and just had one envelope to mail but couldn’t get it done. I looked around and backed away like she was holding a bomb. She clearly was unable to judge 6 feet or was one of those people who just didn’t understand what is going on right now. I literally doused myself in hand sanitizer when I got back in my car. I try to view all people as if they have a really bad case of head lice. That’s how far I stay away. If I can picture one of those little bastards jumping on me from someone else’s head, I back up. Maybe that’s how the media should be explaining the six foot rule to people.

I told my husband the other night that I have seen a lot of people who are treating this whole pandemic like it’s end days or something. I’m watching people have no fucks left to give and it’s kind of pissing me off. Mostly because it’s making me be a rule follower and be all church lady about the lawlessness going on. I saw a young couple walk into the nature center the other day with a dog. They stood in front of the giant “no dogs allowed” sign discussing it before they entered, and apparently made the decision that rules don’t matter in a crisis. I was livid. Like, unreasonably angry about their brashness. And this was not the first time I have seen such guffawing at the law. People are riding their bikes down the middle of the road in my neighborhood, people are getting in the express line with 11 items and people are unashamedly jaywalking. Jaywalking, I tell you! I saw a guy smirking at me as he strolled across the road the other day while I was driving. I said right out loud “Yeah, keep smirking. I’ll run your ass over!” God help me, I’m not only following rules, I am disgusted with the people breaking the rules. I have turned into one of those assholes. I came home, told my kid to quit doing her homework and go play in the street just to prove everything was still okay. Tonight I am going to drop a Henry Rollins book in her hand just for good measure.

The world may be a little upside down right now, but I’m confident we are going to come out of this a little better than we were as human beings. I’m going to give the hysterical old lady twelve feet instead of six. I’m going to just let the clueless lady cut in front of me instead of breathe on me next time. And I’m going to try my hardest not to mow down any jaywalkers. I can’t make any promises, but I have been getting away with breaking the rules my whole life, so I am going to just let that shit go.

**”Waiting Room” has been in my head since my husband started singing it to me last week. Put it in your head too!

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Down in a Hole

My mom fell in a hole last week. To be more specific, she fell in a hole that my dad put in the floor, while she was trying to help him. So, he pretty much pushed her into a hole. Actually, it’s not that surprising. My dad is consistently creating hazardous situations and my mom is pretty consistently falling down. The fact that my mom hasn’t fallen halfway into the basement due to a giant hole in the floor before this time is pretty impressive.

I remember most of my dad’s home improvements based on how someone was injured by them. I have incurred scratches, bruises, burns and punctures to pretty much every extremity. I know now that when I see a piece of loose moulding on the floor that at least a few dozen nails are waiting to bore into the soles of my feet. While fetching my dad a tool one year during the closing of the pool I stepped on the diving board that had been unhinged and was catapulted into the half empty pool. The diving board followed me, whacking me in the head on the way. During my thirteenth birthday party the doorwall in the family room fell on top of a few party guests when a breeze blew it in. My dad was in the middle of a build out and the doorwall was free standing. It had literally been that way for at least a month prior to the party. I remember this because my mom was hoping to have just one home improvement completed within a calendar year. One of the constants in my life has been part of my parents’ house being a construction zone.

They bought a lake house 8 years ago and it took my dad an hour to start renovating. He may have actually brought a hammer to the closing, ready to get started. One part or another of that property has been under construction for the last 8 years. This bathroom renovation began last spring. I spent days swinging a sledge hammer at a shower wall for the better part of April. My mom spent that time following us all around with a broom and putting tools back in the toolbox (sometimes while still in use). I’m sure she tripped and fell at least three times back then too. That is why I was not at all surprised to hear about her tumble last week. She stepped directly into a hole my dad cut in the floor to accommodate the plumbing for the shower. There was a big hole in the floor right in front of her and she stepped directly into it.

My mom is spatially challenged. She falls often and sometimes even takes someone with her. When I was about 7 she was walking on ice and quickly grabbed me to use as a human pillow as she fell. She still somehow ended up more injured than me. I have seen her trip over her own feet and end up sprawled out on the floor on more than one occasion. You would think after living in a construction zone for the last 50 years that she would occasionally look down before taking a step, but no.

The combination of Mr. Fix-it and Mrs. Bumbles living in the same house is akin to a 24 hour version of American Ninja Warrior. He sets up the obstacle course every day and she tries to run it. I think she is just happy that this game has moved from their main home out to the lake where she can escape. When I heard about her fall I decided to do what all good daughters would do, I found a way to tease her about it. Then, feeling guilty about this I ran right out and bought her some flowers. Strangely, there are no greeting cards for such an occasion. Apparently the greeting card companies have never met my parents. I may be their only customer, but I would certainly buy in bulk a card that read “Sorry Dad tried to kill you. Get well soon!” or “Seriously, don’t break a leg. Sorry to hear about your fall.”

**I listened to the Beatles when writing this because they are my Mom’s favorite.

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