Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Path usually not taken…

The “Path not taken” was the theme for our timed writing exercise at this week’s writing group. I’d arrived just as the group was starting its introductions…a bit late due to my usual predicament…dogs!

My dogs chose the “Path Not Taken” that morning… it was the path that is usually underwater! But we are in low tide season up here in the Pacific Northwest. OLAE, the off leash area in Edmonds, has been experiencing a major expanse of beach exposure. Receding waters in the Puget Sound open up the natural rockery barrier between our dogs’ “allowed” area and the public beach where the wagging tailed visitors are not so welcomed!

“It was not their fault! They were tempted.” This is the stock answer from my Hubby when ever our pups commit some transgression.  But Hubby was not the one jogging in heavy stiff soled Mephisto®foot ware, burdened by the additional weight of wet sand! I had not planned on this level of exercise before sitting in my writing group that morning. I’d planned on contemplating the beauty of the snow kissed peaks of the Olympic Mountains and being calmed by the sounds of the waves crashing on the beach. Now my thoughts were derailed by wondering if I’d have time for a quick change into drier attire before I arrived to sit and write.

My pups were, in their defense, truly tempted. A low flying gull that teased them with hope of capture, coupled with their lack of literacy had them flying down the beach in hot pursuit. They raced right by the bright yellow sign that said “No dogs allowed past this point”. This barrier is usually enforced by deep enough water and a high rocky expanse that discourages, or at least slows down most of the canine curiosity about what is on the other side of that point.

As I jogged after my escaped canine charges, I tried not to slip on the still moist rocks, recently exposed and still covered with algae and sea weed. Muttering commands that my mischievous mongrels pretended they’d never heard before, despite the 6 weeks of Puppy Manners class where they’d performed perfectly, I finally caught up with them.  I was aided by the presence of a Beach Ranger who sternly informed me that “Dogs must be leashed in this section of the beach!”  She stated this as I was breathlessly struggling with the clasp on one of my dogs’ collars and had the other one in firm grasp.  Talk about stating the obvious!

Her terse smile did not brighten her words.  “I hope that you are going to go back where you came from.” Her nod toward the other end of the beach indicated a “Path frequently taken”.

I am currently searching for a real time “app” for my Droid phone that posts the tidal charts in Edmonds. I believe I will need to consult this on a daily basis for the next few months or risk time in “Dogie Detention.”

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Powder with an Extra P(ee)!

My Grandmother prayed as she sifted the tainted contents of the “Gay Powder Puff Design” box of Coty Fragrant Face powder. She needed Divine Intervention to endow the flour sifter from her kitchen with magical properties that would transform this substance back to its original state.  A miracle was required to restore the gossamer lightness and caressing texture to the Coty face powder.  If not perfectly, at least close enough that her oldest sister, Mary, would not suspect that her two young nieces had urinated into the beautifully decorated container!


My mom’s Aunt Mary was the terror of her siblings and extended family. She had quite the temper.  Woe to those who crossed in her path when she was in a mood. Family lore has it that my grandmother had failed to successfully toilet train her almost two year old twin boys.  Aunt Mary decided this was enough and took over the task. Her “rat tailed comb” incited such fear that the boys scrambled to get on the chamber pot. Even if their pants were still up, they peed in the toilet bowl.


Urination is the theme of this tale. For some reason, which to this day my aunt cannot explain, she and my mother took the box of face powder under the bed, squatted over the box and urinated. My mother and her cousin were only 3 months apart in age. My grandmother folded her youngest sister’s child into her brood of five while Evelyn worked at her beauty salon.


This was at the height of the Great Depression. Most of the family lived with their mother, my great grandmother. My aunt’s family being the exception, her father was a well to do business man and her mother’s salon was successful enough to support their more upscale home. But my aunt still was not in school and happily spent her days with her cousins.


A box of Coty Face Powder, purchased at the cosmetics counter at O’Neill’s department store downtown, for one whole dollar, was quite an extravagant luxury. Advertisements claimed this substance to be the preferred choice of the world’s smartest woman. My grandmother certainly counted her older sister as a member of that posh sounding group.  Aunt Mary worked full time and had no children of her own. She pampered her complexion with the porcelain finish provided by Coty’s silky product.


Upon discovering her daughter and niece’s prank, my grandmother was horrified. Whatever possessed these two little girls? They were always getting into trouble. She shook her head to hide her smile; “What one didn’t think of, the other did.”


Clothing was often provided to my grandmother’s children via the generosity of her sister’s thriving beauty shop. My mother and my aunt took their brand new snow pants and draped them over the bedroom lamp to make the room dark enough to play their hiding game. Suddenly the room filled with smoke and the snow pants were smoldering from the heat of the lamp. Much to their embarrassment, the two girls had to wear patched and repaired apparel that winter. Not a happy memory for my grandmother.


More fondly she remembered the time the two girls decided to sample the family dog’s milk! Their golden haired Collie named Lady was a wonderful and patient mother to her pups.  She seemed ambivalent to the little girls cuddling in with her puppies and stealing a swig from her teats.


Mostly grandmother feared her sister’s wrath when she discovered the fancy face powder defiled by the girls. Fortunately the beautiful fluffy puff had escaped their ministrations. She carefully spread out the powder on a linen tea towel to dry. Next she sprayed the mixture with the Eau de Toilet from Mary’s dresser, hoping to mask any unpleasant lingering smell. When the powder was dry again, she carefully pressed the freshly scented talc through her flour sifter. Satisfied with the results she gingerly spooned the contents back into the fancy box decorated with powder puffs, replaced the fluffy applicator and closed the lid.  Whispering a prayer, she placed the powder box back in its place of prominence on her sister’s dresser. Both of the girls knew without my grandmother threatening them, to keep silent about the incident.


My aunt reports that my grandmother’s efforts passed muster. Aunt Mary never knew about the new and improved ingredient added to her facial regime.

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And the winner is…..

“Who won the mail contest today?”…. this is a phone call from my Hubby, on his way home via the local transit bus, too anxious to wait to hear the news.

This is not about the big manila Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes envelopes that declare “You may have won $100,000!”  Our contest has evolved from a simple task of our son’s; bringing in the mail each day.

Our middle son still lives at home, due to his visual and mental disabilities. He is very helpful around the house and loves to have jobs to do as a member of our family. Skills that he is able to perform are incorporated into his daily routine. These give him a sense of purpose and worth as a capable person, even if he is not able to live independently.

Our blind son is amazing at sorting the laundry! He can easily identify his own T-shirts, socks and underwear from that of his dad or his brother. He is occasionally undone by the colorful bandanas that I wear around my forehead to collect sweat during workouts. They are the same shape, size and weight of cotton as his white men’s handkerchiefs.

Other daily help includes loading or unloading the dish washer, taking out the trash from each room to the big wheeled cart that goes to the curb each Tuesday morning at 7:00am. He knows which day of the month includes the recycling too. His favorite part of this particular task is “reminding” his father to take the containers out to the curb. I love that part too… as it takes me out of the wifely role of “nagging” my Hubby to do this step!

Autism sometimes presents a challenge to the individual, kind of like an itch to be scratched or an impulse that just cannot be ignored. Such is the case with our son. He cannot abide a change in routine or schedule. He is not happy when someone else performs one of his assigned jobs. Even though the intention is to be helpful, he may become agitated and seemingly ungrateful. When we have visitors or family members that stay at our home we are careful to let them know which jobs our son considers to be his domain, so that harmony is maintained.

As an exercise in improving his mobility skills we taught him the route to and from our mail box which is located across the street and down a few houses. This is a daily task and involves locating the box, unlocking it with a key and bringing all the mail back home. My Hubby decided to make this more exciting by creating a contest scenario. Each day our son brings in the mail and Hubby reads off the address labels on each of the envelopes. Jointly addressed items to not count for the total to “win” the day’s final tally; only individually addressed labels count. Also excluded are labels bearing the title of “occupant” “homeowner at this address” or “resident”. The contest does include packages including those from Fed X or UPS, in addition to ones delivered by the US Post.

I truly believe that Hubby gets quite the kick out of his game too. It has evolved to the point that phone calls are executed when either he is out of town or our son is on the road traveling to a music gig. Some days Hubby is so eager to see “who won” that he will meet our son at the door or even in the driveway, not willing to wait until he enters the house to tally up the count of recipients.

Hubby makes such a big fuss when he doesn’t win that now our son roots for him to get the highest number of pieces each day. For some reason many of the utility bills are addressed to me alone. I am also the major recipient of catalogs and all of my business mail comes to our home address, so I am frequently the winner, much to the disappointment of the guys in the family.

Grandma visited a few times and observed that her son (my Hubby) was not winning the mail contest very often. She vowed to send him more letters when she returned home, to help his numbers in the final mail count! She may have even enlisted some of the other family members. Hubby was delighted by birthday greetings from some of the distant relatives who were suddenly anxious to communicate with their nephew or cousin after all these years.

I secretly think his agreements with many of the phone solicitations for the Red Cross, Heart Association and various other funding raising type outreach; are seen as a way to pad his daily mail count.  We can never move from this house address! We have received enough “contribution gifts” of beautifully decorated address labels, in Hubby’s name of course, to last us for the rest of our lives.

Hubby has even subscribed to a few magazines recently! Who knew that men like to read the Ladies Home Journal? Hubby swears they have some great recipes. I think these new subscriptions are part of his “recipe “to ensure that he wins the mail contest as frequently as possible.

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