Two kinds of grandparents in this world

There are two kinds of grandparents in this world—those who love personalized gifts emblazoned with adoring messages and those who do not. Naturally, the husband and I are opposites on this matter. I believe the Bible refers to this as “iron sharpening iron.”

Yesterday, the husband opened the kitchen cabinet, coffeepot in hand, and announced there were no coffee cups. I counted six. He said he couldn’t use any of those because they were special gifts, coffee mugs with pictures of grandkids and loving messages on them.

He says if he uses them, they could wear out. My thought is, how can they wear out if he never uses them, but I have learned not to exacerbate our differences with logic.

Because he enjoys personalized gifts, he is the absolutely most fun grandparent to buy for. He has T-shirts with photos and clever sayings on them (most never worn, sitting in a drawer), socks with photos of grandkids’ faces on them (sitting in the same drawer) and ball caps emblazoned with declarations of love. Those he wears.

I am the grandparent known for practical. I have no photo mugs, socks with faces on them or ball caps declaring my greatness.

What I do have is a garbage table. You read that right.

It was a gift handcrafted with love by our oldest grand, a young lady of 11.

It took considerable time and effort to build and she reminded us the last time we visited that it was ready for us to take home.

A garbage table will not fit in a drawer.

Her two younger brothers helped me lug it out of the workshop. We were doomed halfway up the hill to the car, whereupon the husband lugged it the rest of the way and loaded it into our vehicle after folding down the rear seats.

The garbage table principle is simple: you eat on the tabletop, then lift the lid and throw your garbage in a trash bag secured over the frame below the lid. Apparently, I am not the only one who sees my life as a never-ending cycle of cook, eat, clean-up, repeat.

The garbage table is 3-feet tall, with somewhat narrow legs supporting a 21-inch square top. She did a fabulous job installing the hinges as well as the crafting the tabletop consisting of eight chunks of 2 x 4s fitted together. The tabletop is heavy—as in potentially lethal. Of course, people probably said the same of Michelangelo’s “David.”

If you lower the tabletop to the back, the table falls backward. If you close the lid and carelessly let it fall, you and your broken fingers will be speeding to the ER.

It is the thought that counts, which is why I will display the garbage table proudly, anchor it securely, and make sure it always has adult supervision when in use.

If the husband ever decides to break out a personalized photo mug, I will insist he enjoy it standing at my very delightful, highly practical, one-of-a-kind  garbage table.

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Two tips for improving your smize

One of the grands sent a self-portrait she created for art class. The top half of the portrait shows her hair parted in the middle with one of her signature hairbows perched on the side of her head. Her big brown eyes peer through her glasses.

The bottom half of the self-portrait is a bright blue face mask with colorful flowers, cheerful like she is. It is a clever art project; the face mask is an overlay. The mask is removable, but we received her picture with the mask on. Such a sensible child, protecting her grandparents.

Her eyes look a touch bewildered. Who hasn’t looked a touch bewildered in recent months? Fortunately, I think I know what the problem is. The child needs to work on her smize.

Fashion model Tyra Banks coined the term “smize” several years ago. A smize is a combination of smile and eyes; meaning to smile with your eyes. Models can make their eyes smile without moving their mouths. Of course, models can also pound concrete in stilettos.

Smizing is big right now. It’s hard to convey friendliness when the smiling half of your face is covered. Restaurants are coaching wait staffs to perfect the smize behind face masks and retailers are coaching sales staffs.

Two exercises can help improve your smize. First, practice crinkling your eyes.

Go ahead, try it. Hold your mouth still and squint so your eyes crinkle.

No. That looks like you need you find your reading glasses.

Try it again.

No, not that either. That looks like you just took off your sunglasses and are waiting for your eyes to adjust.


Better, but it looks like you don’t understand what is being said.

I had on a face mask and tried my smize on the husband. He asked why I was glaring at him.

The problem is intersectionality – of wrinkles and crinkles. It is hard to crinkle when you already have wrinkles.

There are fundamental differences between crinkles and wrinkles. A crinkle is self-made; a wrinkle is time-made. A crinkle is temporary; a wrinkle is permanent. Well, unless you intervene with products like wrinkles schminkles, or skin therapies to help smooth them out. Otherwise, they are permanent, though there’s no shame in having a few wrinkles to show your wisdom as you grow older, even if they do interfere with crinkling.

The second part of a smize is to use cheek fat to help push your eyes up from the bottom to create a smiling effect.

I have cheek fat, but for several years now it has been bent on a slow downward movement, not upward. My cheek fat attempts to respond to my facial commands and only serves to intensifying the glare.

Like most people, I can mask and smile at the same time, but my eyes can’t smile without my mouth. They have an unbreakable bond.

Too bad we often can’t see one another smiling these days because smiling is like yawning-highly contagious. Contagions of smiling, kindly acknowledging one another as fellow human beings, wouldn’t be the worst thing to sweep the nation. Go ahead, smize or smile, whatever you can muster. Spread it around.

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Happy to help — and get free fries

A financial planner on the radio said we should all patronize our favorite restaurants now, because in two months they’ll probably be out of business. I asked the husband what his favorite restaurant was.

“Mama Carolla’s,” he said.

I pointed out we had not been to that wonderful little Italian place in years. If the restaurant industry depended on us to keep them afloat, they all would have gone under long before Covid-19.

Still, having seen business after business in our area paper over the windows and now sit empty, we noted three restaurants to visit in hopes of helping them stay put. Two are small breakfast spots we can walk to and the third is a few miles down the road, part of a burger and shake chain the grandkids love.

Priorities mandate our first visit be to the burger place. We pull into the drive-thru line and see a big sign on the window: “Free Fries with Every Burger (Per Person).”

This is exciting to the husband who loves a special. He orders two burgers, two fries and drinks. The voice in the box announces the total, then instructs us to pull forward.

The husband hands over the credit card at the window. He says the total sounded high and asks if we got the free fries.

The young lady says, “Did you ask for free fries? You have to ask for them.”

He said he didn’t know you had to ask for them. A second lady joins the first lady at the window and says, “You have to ask for the free fries.”

Again, he says he didn’t know that.

The ladies close the window, eyeball the receipt and start pushing buttons on the cash register.

I tell the husband the point in coming was to support the business, not get free fries. He says the point is the sign says free fries. I restate my point; he restates his point. And so another happily married couple is jabbing one another with sharp points.

I then suggest he tap on the window and tell them we are happy to pay for the free fries.

He says his arm won’t reach.

Meanwhile, the ladies inside are hammering the cash register with new intensity.

Finally, the younger lady opens the window and says they adjusted the bill. I lean into view and say we only came to buy lunch in hopes they don’t go out of business and lose their jobs.

She flashes a big smile, tosses back her head and says, “I’m not going anywhere!”

We pull around front and a few minutes later someone brings out our food. We open the bag and discover the burgers are doubles. I don’t know that I’ve ever eaten an entire double burger, but I ate every bite of this one and it was good.

The double burgers might have been an accident, or they might have been deliberate because they were glad others are rooting for them.

Considering the free fries, it was probably a wash for the burger place financially, but we’ll make it right. We’ll load up two vehicles and go back with grandkids.

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Enjoying one of the last concerts of summer

The gravel path leads up a small rise and cuts through tall grass. At the path’s end a wooden deck protrudes into the pond, which provides a sort of entertainment in the early evening hours.

The deck is bordered by rushes and cattails – corndogs as a grandson calls them. Tall flowering plants with long legs and big feet submerged in muck beneath the water gently wave from side to side in a soft breeze.

The water’s surface is covered with a thick layer of green algae that makes one leery of leaning hard against the deck railing. The algae, disgusting in appearance, host a myriad of wonderful properties and marvelous uses.

The beauty of nature out here has been accented by the beauty of romance; carvings dug deep into the wooden railing around the deck.

My eyes flit across the many declarations of love but pause on “Meg loves Zack.” Nice lettering. But the question lingers—does Zack love Meg?

They’ve probably had their first disagreement by now. One can only hope they discovered decent communication skills when the euphoria began to wane.

The sky slowly turns hues of pink and peach and the music of romance rises from the water. It is a deep baritone, the male bullfrog announcing he is in search of a mate. The bullfrog is the Italian opera singer in the world of frogs.

One sounds as though he is right by our feet, another to the side, still others directly ahead. They take turns and begin overlapping rapid-fire. It is speed dating for frogs.

The bullfrog has a unique voice. Some say it sounds like a cow with a head cold. Others claim the baritones are calling “jug-o-rum.”

Some bullfrogs sound like wooden chairs dragging across the floor. Or light sabers. Really, really powerful light sabers.

Bullfrogs can also sound like the tuba section in a middle school band. Or a beginning cello player.

If you have a mate that snores, the bullfrog may sound familiar—like that low growl from the throat that often precedes the full-fledged window-rattling snore.

Not that you wanted to know, but the difference between a green frog and a bullfrog is this: the green frog has a ridge that runs from the back of both eyes all along the rim of the back. The bullfrog has ridges, too, but they curve downward behind the eyes.

After listening to the bullfrogs in concert, the husband begins imitating them. Soon it is difficult to separate the legit from the impostor standing next to me. The frogs are calling back to him. He makes a good frog man. He’s had years of practice snoring.

The sun has dipped below the horizon and the light is quickly fading, but music of the last days of summer still dances through the night.

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