Determining what stuff is his, hers and theirs

We’ve been having issues with possessive pronouns lately. Forty-five years of marriage and we’re still carving out our turf.

A green light on the refrigerator door indicates it is time to order a new water filter. The reminder has been glowing green for more than a week, yet I successfully managed to ignore it. I file the little green light under the category of “nagging.”

Yesterday, my husband says, “Have you ordered a replacement for your water filter for the ‘fridge yet?”

Did you catch that? “Your” water filter.

Why does the water filter belong to me? I didn’t birth it or potty train it. I’ve never even unboxed one, let alone removed an old one or installed a new one.

I am the one who orders the hard-to-find rascals, so I suppose that “technically” makes them mine. I unruffle my feathers.

On the other hand, he buys the furnace filters, so that makes them “his.” I love sharing.

I began thinking about other things he might think are “mine.”  The kitchen comes to mind. I’ll take that. The kitchen is “mine,” but the garbage disposal is “his,”—as in, “Your garbage disposal is acting up again.”

The lawnmower has never been “yours,” or “mine” or even “ours.” It’s always been “the” mower. I would like to take this opportunity to officially make it “his.”

Glad that one is settled. He can thank me later.

The garden is “mine” most of the time, but sometimes it is “ours.” The gutters are “his.” So is the roof.

“How is your roof today?”

The leaf blower and small power tools are “ours.” We both use them, though I am usually the one who knows where to find them.

I have no desire to make the chainsaw “mine” or even “ours.” No contest, he can have it. I hereby yield the chainsaw.

We used to have “his car” and “her car,” otherwise known as “your car” and “my car,” until he retired. “His” car became “the” car because it is newer and gets better mileage. Whew. A definite article saves the day.

We share a bathroom, but it is “the” bathroom, not “yours” or “mine.” Neither one of us wants exclusive rights because we both know that to own it is to clean it.

We share “the” hairbrush (mainly because I have three other ones in another drawer), but it is “my” blow dryer. What hair he has left can air dry.

I am eyeing the washer and dryer and realize they have never, ever in the history of us been assigned a possessive pronoun.

He’s a smart man. He wouldn’t dare.

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Don’t needle her; she’s pine

Cradled in the palm of my hand is the gift that keeps on giving. It is not returnable nor refundable. It never decays, disintegrates or fully disappears.

Behold, the artificial pine needle.

Each year we wrestle the Christmas tree and greenery from their large plastic tubs, see all the pine needles nestled in the bottom of the tubs, and are relieved to think they have already done their shedding.

Ho, ho, ho. The joke is on us.

As soon as the tree is up, and garlands are in place, the shedding begins.

The tiny hard-to-grab needles wedge between the hardwoods, huddle in dark corners and lurk under furniture. They multiply faster than plastic containers with no lids.

Based on the volume of pine needles consumed by the vacuum, our tree and garlands should be bare—Charlie Brown-style Christmas.

Manufacturers boast that their artificial trees replicate the realism of live long-needle trees. Maybe shedding is part of the realism. That said, we have three white pines and two firs in our backyard that don’t shed this much.

Last week I found two artificial pine needles stuck to the ironing board cover. Considering how infrequently I iron, I’m considering having them carbon dated. Just curious.

Last summer I found one in our safe deposit box. It’s our fault for not locking it.

When we whipped out the Scrabble board a few weeks ago, three pine needles were clinging to the cloth bag holding the letter tiles. On the upside, it prompted me to make the word conifer, thereby scoring 50 bonus points for using all seven tiles.

Loose pine needles seem to have the upper branch this year. Emptying the vacuum again, I ponder switching to the leaf blower.

This morning there were a half dozen in the dustpan when I swept the kitchen. My theory is they smelled cinnamon rolls baking. I’ve found them under the kitchen table, stuck to my good winter coat and on a sofa pillow. I have no comfort or joy.

A few years ago, we bought a real tree. It didn’t solve the stray needle problem; it only compounded things with pine scent that triggered allergies.

As of two minutes ago, I have nabbed all the stray pine needles in sight and am once again in the lead. Of course, the day is young and more will surface tomorrow, the day after that, next spring, next summer and next Christmas.

As Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” would have said, “Tradition!”

The only good thing about finding stray pine needles throughout the year is that Christmas never ends.

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The Second-Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The biggest problem with the small nativity play turned out to be casting. Who knew 5-year-olds could put an entire production in jeopardy?

Every parent of a 5-year-old just raised their hands.

The plan was that Brown Eyes, a 5-year-old grand, would be Mary and Blue Eyes, her 5-year-old cousin, would be an angel.

Brown Eyes was happy with the role of Mary. In hindsight, this makes sense. Who would refuse top billing? Meanwhile, Blue eyes was digging in her heels, refusing to be an angel.

She wanted to be Mary.

A lot of liberties have been taken over the course of history interpreting the manger scene in Bethlehem, but at no time has Joseph ever had two wives.

I said I would see how adamant Brown Eyes was on being Mary and asked if Blue Eyes’ stance was “Mary, or she walked.” Talk about navigating a tense situation. I suddenly understood why Hollywood agents often skim money from the talent they represent.

The response came that Blue Eyes was softening and considering the angel role—providing Brown Eyes would be an angel, too.

Blue Eyes has golden hair, a sweet smile, a soft voice and plays hardball. She may one day do well in sales.

When Brown Eyes was asked if she would yield the role of Mary and agree to be an angel with Blue Eyes, she put her hands on her hips and matter-of-factly asked, “Do I get to fly?”

If Blue Eyes is stealth, Brown Eyes is “go big or go home.” Brown Eyes had every right to ask if she might play the role airborne.

Brown Eyes’ mother explained that she would not be flying, but she would have a star. It was a good bargaining chip. Brown Eyes seemed satisfied but was no doubt imagining a star that would be remote-controlled and shoot lasers.

Brown Eyes later asked an aunt if she had met Mary (Jesus’ mother).

“No, but I hope to someday,” came the answer. “Do you know where I could meet her?”

“Israel?” Brown Eyes asked.

“No, that was a good guess, but she isn’t alive anymore.”

Brown Eyes’ next guess was heaven.

That was an interesting question; however, I thought Brown Eyes would ask if her Labradoodle could come to the manger, which would mean Blue Eyes would want to bring her big black lab that lands both font paws on your shoulders to say hello and lick your face, which would meant her siblings would insist on bringing the ducks, the chickens, the cat and the rabbit, and the whole thing would be over before it ever began.

The line was drawn on live animals, but one who plays violin is bringing her fiddle and another is bringing his guitar. Chances are, someone will load the drum set as well.

With cardboard stars wrapped in aluminum foil and angel costumes made from white satin pillowcases, it may not be a polished operation with all the bells and whistles, but it may capture the heart of Christmas: An invitation to draw close to the manger just as you are, with whatever you have.

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We wish you a merry birthday

We knocked the birthday candles out of the park this year.

Our oldest granddaughter’s birthday fell on Easter, her mother’s birthday fell on Mother’s Day and my sister-in-law’s birthday fell on Thanksgiving.

One was overshadowed by the resurrection, the next melded into a towering pile of handmade cards and the last was in competition with turkey, trimmings, pilgrims and Plymouth.

Frankly, it was a lot of two-for-one.

Happy Birthday and He is Risen!

Happy Birthday—how was your Mother’s Day?

Happy Birthday! Pass the dressing, please.

A son-in-law and his oldest daughter have birthdays on either side of July Fourth. Now, that’s the time to birthday—cookouts, parades, fireworks and flags—it’s all about you, baby! Well, it’s not really, but why not pretend it is?

Having a birthday on Christmas is an entirely different matter.

I had a beloved great aunt whose birthday followed Christmas. It was always a dilemma what to give her so soon after an avalanche of gifts. Mom usually wrapped a pretty package for her containing lotion or fragrance.

Her birthday was overshadowed by a major holiday, but she always smelled good.

December 25th, Christmas Day, ranks first in the U.S. for the least common birthday. The second least common birthday is New Year’s Day. The third least common birthday is Christmas Eve.

And yet a few squeeze by: Jimmy Buffet was born on Christmas Day, as was Isaac Newton, Clara Barton, Humphrey Bogart and Justin Trudeau.

The downfall of a birthday on Christmas? You rarely have a party. For starters, nobody can come. Seems they’re all busy doing other things.

Candles on the cake pale next to the brilliance of a Christmas tree with a thousand sparkling lights.

Your gifts have tags that say, “Merry Christmas/Happy Birthday.”

On the other hand, a good thing about a Christmas birthday is that nobody forgets it.

Plus, some of those Christmas birthdays come with riveting stories about a harrowing journey preceding the birth. Ice and snow, plows and ambulances—there’s even one about a trip through the desert on a donkey.  All of which is followed by the giant exhale and cloud of euphoria once the baby safely arrived.

Nearly every December birthday is somewhat swept up in the whirlwind of joy and celebration that permeates the season, an air of giving and human kindness that can puncture the most dismal of headlines. That’s a lovely ambiance for a birthday or any day.

A Christmas birthday also shares a timeless truth with a unique birth that has been celebrated on Christmas Day for centuries—a baby changes everything.




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Pie contest judged on taste, crust and Heimlich

The pie contest from Thanksgiving would be completely forgotten by now were it not for the Heimlich incident. Nobody actually needed the Heimlich, but that is a minor detail.

It was our second annual pie competition with bakers as young as 10 and as old as, well, let’s just say a woman of a certain age since I’m the one telling the story.

Pie entries were lined up along with a sour cream coffee cake, chocolate chip cookies and tiramisu. Yes, cookies, coffee cake and tiramisu are not pies, but it is extremely difficult managing the talent.

Eleven grands squeezed onto a folding bench in front of the dessert lineup, some adults sat in chairs at a table and some stood.

Our two judges, the husband who believes pie should be the base of every food pyramid, and a son-in-law who considers siracha a major food group, prepared for the first tasting when a 5-year-old began coughing.

Someone asked if she was all right. Someone else asked if she was choking. She was fine; it was just a benign little cough.

Despite the non-event, our daughter in the medical profession immediately flew into action asking if everyone knew what to do if someone is choking. She grabbed her sister (who was not choking and had brought a delectable chocolate pie), leaned her forward and announced the thing to do was give the person five firm whacks on the back.

There was one whack, two whacks, and I wondered when her sister would revolt, pie would fly and small children would run for their lives. But her sister, a teacher, obliged for the educational benefit of the group.

Our medical professional then explained that if the whacking maneuver fails, you then wrap both arms around the person, as she proceeded to again demonstrate on her sister. “Making a fist with one hand located just above their belly button—thumb side on their abdomen—place your other hand over your fist. Now pull quickly inward and upward.

“In and up,” she repeated, executing the move, “so the person can cough it out, not just up.”

At that point, the demo model pretended to forcefully spit something out of her mouth, whereupon all the children and both judges immediately sprang to shield the pies.

Eventually, calm was restored, no pies were harmed and the contest resumed.

The beautiful Greek pie with phyllo woven in a spiral pattern throughout the pie won “Pinterest Worthy.” A fabulous pumpkin pie, made by a boy using a pumpkin from the family garden, won “Best Crust” and another pumpkin pie took the “Delish” award. The apple pie with the secret ingredient (Ritz crackers) took “Beautiful Presentation” and the sour cream coffee cake was awarded “I Don’t Like It – I Love It!”

Everyone enjoyed sampling everything, although everyone was still on edge and did not so much as clear their throats. I personally stepped outside when I felt a cough coming on and saw one of the grands with allergies slip into the hall closet when she had a tickle in her throat.

It was our medical professional who enjoyed the holiday the most of all. She accomplished a worthy educational goal and simultaneously covered for the fact she did not enter the pie contest.

Christmas should be fun. Once the dishes are cleared, she will probably lay someone out on the tablecloth and step us through CPR.


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Carpool instructions anything but elementary

It has been 20 years since I drove carpool. I’m covering this week for our youngest daughter who has been sick.

A neighbor is dropping off and I’m “picking-up,” as they say.

Our daughter texted detailed instructions. She can’t quit texting detailed instructions.

Round 1: “The signs say earliest pick up time is 2:35 but you have to arrive at 2:20 to check in anywhere near that time. They have the first entrance closed. You take the second entrance and wrap around a bit.”

Waze and Google Maps never use “wrap around a bit,” but I’ll figure it out.

The instructions continued, “Just join in the line and you’ll be fine. When you pull up closer to the elementary building, a lady will be there with an iPad. Print out this card with all the kids’ names and codes and hold it up or roll down your window and show the photo from your phone.”

She continues, “You stay in line, park and someone will open the door and the kids will get in. Stay in the vehicle.”

Like I would get out and let a second- or third-grade kid get in the driver’s seat.

Round 2: “Once you have the kids, pull into the left lane and wrap around the school. You will then go into the middle lane once you turn the corner. Stay to the left as you wrap around the first building. Other cars are getting in line and staying to pick up middle schoolers. Don’t get in that line to the right.”

Round 3: “Just ask the girls if you are confused. Call out one child by name or all four kids will yell at you at once.”

I am now drawing a diagram, rehearsing lane changes in my mind and have a racing heartbeat.

A few minutes later comes Round 4: “Don’t yell at the kids.”

“Why would I yell at the kids?”

“Because they are wound tight after school.”

I’m leaving for pick up when another text says she was just notified that her oldest went to the school clinic feeling nauseous. She rested a while, had no fever and returned to class.

Pick up goes without a hitch. Kids pile into the car. We wrap around the elementary school, change lanes, wrap the middle school, don’t change lanes, pass the high school, merge into a single lane and exit the campus.

“How am I doing?” I ask.


We merge onto the interstate with six lanes of traffic where every other vehicle is a huge semi.

Somebody coughs.

You know what often follows a child’s cough, right? Vomit. Vomit that covers the child, the car, and places you can’t see in the car so that it reeks for months.

“Who coughed?”

“NOBODY!” they yell.

Then they all start coughing. COUGH! COUGH! COUGH! HACK! HACK! HACK!! Germs fill the vehicle like buckshot, some ricochet off the windows, some ping the rearview mirror and others remain aloft in the air.

“NOT FUNNY!” I yell.

More coughing.

I blast the AC pointing all the vents toward the back. Yes, it is selfish, but none of them can drive and we have 15 minutes to go.

I am dripping sweat by the time I drop them off at their respective homes.

Both mothers thank me profusely for doing pick up.

“Piece of cake,” I say.

And then I went home and ate some.

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A punny version of the First Thanksgiving

Following is an account of the First Thanksgiving as recorded by a very punny Pilgrim writer:

It was early morning of the great feast. Pilgrim women had been busy in the main cabin before sunrise, dashing about, peeling potatoes, turnips and apples and monitoring food in the fireplace, when one was heard to say, “Hard to be-leaf it’s already Thanksgiving.”

A cackle of laughter ensued, greatly encouraging other pun meisters.

“Pumpkin sure smells good in here!”

Being that one good pun deserves another, a woman holding a handful of turkey feathers said, “We’re plucky to assemble a feast so fine this year.”

“Poultry in motion,” sang out another.

“But can we pull it off?” cried a weary soul.

“Yes, we pecan!” came a resounding chorus.

“Is anyone keeping thyme?” asked another.

“We’ve got this, ladies—we’re going to give them pumpkin to talk about!”

Yes, they were the sort of women who bake the world a better place. They were strong, stalwart and not ones to take the path of yeast resistance.

After hours and hours of preparation, last but not feast, the women paraded the dishes to the tables.

“Y’all bready for this?”

There came an array of fruits, vegetables, hot dishes, cold dishes, fish, venison, and wild game. It was, quite simply, a gourd-geous spread.

The guests oohed and aahed. “You aint seen stuffin’ yet!” cried a robust Pilgrim woman.

The tables creaked under the weight of the bounty. Governor William Bradford announced there would be no fowl talk or getting sauced and said a blessing, and the feasting commenced.

It quickly became obvious that the candied sweet potatoes were going untouched. This was not unexpected – silence of the yams.

“Anymore rolls?” inquired one of the guests.

“You butter believe it.”

An altercation broke out between two Pilgrim families at the end of the table. “Squash the family drama!” Bradford yelled.

Family members didn’t always see pie-to-pie, but they did love a feast.

Meanwhile, at the edge of the forest, a young pilgrim boy whispered into a pilgrim girl’s ear, “Stuffin’ compares to you.”

To which she responded, “I’ve had a crust on you.”

Back at the table, hosts made the rounds with a decanter asking, “Wine not have another glass?”

It was eat, drink and cranberry.

Then it was time for dessert: Do or pie.

A chief took a serving of pumpkin, pecan and apple, nodded his thanks and said, “Piece out.”

Three days later, the feast was finally over. Leftovers were wrapped and sent home with the guests and plates and gobble-lets were washed, dried and put away.

The pilgrims all joined hands, said a prayer of thanks, raised their arms to the sky and shouted, “Whip, whip, hooray! Corn in the USA!”

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Something suspicious about my new popularity

My number of new friends has exploded in recent weeks. All of a sudden I’m incredibly popular. It’s staggering.

Letters fill the mailbox every afternoon, texts ding on my phone and, oh, the emails. My inbox overfloweth.

“I need you!” a new friend says.

“I want you!” another new friend says.

“I’m married!” I say.

All this fawning is embarrassing.

“I can’t do this without you.”

Do what? We’ve never met! Who are you? Did our kids go to school together? Did you live in the neighborhood 20 years ago?

The pleading continues, “I’m counting on you.”

My new friends often ask for money. It seems like an odd way to connect.

Today I had an email from a new friend asking for one dollar. I wonder where my new friend lives that a dollar is worth anything. Asking for one dollar makes absolutely no financial sense. What is this guy? A congressman?

Then there is the request that says, “I don’t need your money! I just need your signature.”

Obviously, the sender has never seen my handwriting. My own mother told me to never write to her in cursive.

Who are these people?

The last time I had a huge uptick like this in new friends was back in the fall of 2020. It was nice to feel needed. All the concern and care were overwhelming. Yes, they all did want money. We were “working together, forging a future, building partnership.”

Then the election was over, and my would-be partners went silent. My friends never wrote, never texted, never called. To think we’d been so close; then just like that, I was tossed aside.

I felt so used.

Just now an email arrived saying, “Lori, Ohio is in trouble!”

I haven’t been to Ohio in two years! Don’t blame Ohio’s trouble on me.

Unfortunately, a few of my new best friends are high pressure and I don’t appreciate it: “You have until midnight.” Or what? My car turns into a pumpkin? I lose a glass slipper?

Yesterday, and this is the truth, I had 29 emails from new best friends between 9 a.m. and noon. My new best friends are very needy.

The most bizarre message was virtually pleading: “I’m asking you to . . . ACT.”

I don’t act. I don’t sing either.

But I do make good lasagna. And I excel at unsubscribing.



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Sharing the dirt on guest towels

I’m on the fence about using a guest towel in someone else’s home.

I only mention this because my sister-in-law, one of our daughters, and several close friends routinely keep paper guest towels in their bathrooms.

It’s an identity crisis of sorts. I see the pretty paper guest towels and ask myself, “Am I a guest or am I family?”

Is family ever a guest, and is a guest ever like family?

If my good friend notices a used pretty paper guest towel in the bathroom trash, will she think we’re not close friends after all?

There I stand, water running down my arms, soaking my sleeves, pondering how to dry.

To towel or not to towel, that is the question.

Tell you what is out of the question – those air dryers in public restrooms that sound like jet engines on takeoff. They’re so deafening that nobody stays until their hands are dry.

Yes, I do know there’s a war going on, but sometimes pondering banal matters of life can extend your sanity for a few more minutes.

The whole guest towel dilemma is complicated by the pretty factor. I like looking at the pretty paper guest towels; I’m just not sure I should use them.

Why use something so lovely when you can just shake your hands over the sink (sorry about splattering the mirror) then pat them dry them on your pants? Hand towels, pants towels. I’ve learned a lot from all these grandkids.

Years ago, I bought some pretty holiday guest towels that were on clearance.  They featured a pretty little snow scene with reindeer and a sleigh. Year after year, I put them out and nobody touched them. Each year I inched them closer and closer to the sink in case the message wasn’t clear.

The grew so old the edges were curling, so I snatched one up and used it for cleaning.  Santa was working double duty– delivering presents and doing windows.

My mother kept guest towels in the bathroom. She didn’t grow up fancy, and we didn’t grow up fancy, it was just a touch of loveliness. The pretty paper towels sat in a little metal holder and, of course, whenever we went for a stay, the kids raced to the bathroom to wash their hands.

“Don’t touch those – they’re for Grandma’s guests!”

“We’re Grandma’s guests!”

“No, you’re not guests! You’re family!”

I bought some pretty guest towels this fall. Fall leaves, acorns, you get the picture.

I was about to wash my hands in the bathroom that all our grands use. I looked at my paper guest towels, then at the cotton hand towel hanging all bunched up, dripping water, smeared with dirt and grime and who knows what else.

I was suddenly feeling like a guest in my own home.

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Family vacations both trick and treat

For six years running, our brood has met up for a long weekend somewhere in the fall. Such intense togetherness not only builds character but creates a wonderful treasury of embarrassing stories to repeat at holiday gatherings.

This year, unpacking at a lake house in Michigan that we rented for three days, a five-year-old grand opens her little suitcase and screams upon discovering roaches covering her clothes. Her mother lunges forward and sees the roaches are plastic—but fantastic lookalikes for the real thing.

Rolling my bag into the room where my husband and I will stay, I notice a six-foot snakeskin draped across the bed pillows. I turn to our 12-year-old grandson lingering in the doorway and say, “Rat snake? I like it!”

Clearly, he had hoped for a more terrifying reaction. He forgets I helped raise his father.

“Why not put the snakeskin with your plastic roaches?” I ask.

The yard behind the house slopes to a lake with a narrow ribbon of sandy beach. Trees ring the lake with crimson, yellow and orange splashed against a deep blue sky.

A son-in-law and herd of kids race down the hill and into the cold water for a polar plunge. This is followed by screaming, chest thumping and fist pumping.

The youngest ones prefer adventures with more sedate adults in a pedal boat trolling close to shore, collecting tiny shells that look like former homes to miniature snails. These treasures will be found throughout our stay, piled on kitchen counters, the dinner table and beside every bathroom sink.

There is a steady back and forth of pedal boats and kayaks leaving and returning at the water’s edge. It is the first time kayaking for one brave soul. She recently turned 8, is diminutive in size, but undaunted in spirit. She watched the others come and go when we were here several years ago. Now it is her turn.

She straps on a life jacket, climbs in a red kayak, grasps the paddles and someone gives her a shove. Just like that – she’s off. And that’s exactly how it will happen. The younger ones will watch the older ones spread their wings, leave home, fan out, and then do likewise. No doubt that day will arrive with jaw-dropping speed.

On our last afternoon at the lake, four of us are out in kayaks, myself and the older grands. They glide through the water with grace and speed.

Day draws to a close, the sun sinks and twilight yields to dusk. A dad voice on shore shouts, “Time to come in.”

I catch myself before shouting back, “Can’t we stay out a little longer?” I’m the classic over-indulged birthday girl who doesn’t want the party to end.

I can’t contradict one of the dads, but I can paddle slower, soaking in the sights and sounds, etching them into my memory.

We returned home and have resumed our regular routines. But each day I find a part of me still on that lake as evening falls, gazing at the strapping young adults paddling in front of me, silhouetted against the last remnants of light, gliding, gliding, farther and farther away.

I don’t know when that day is coming, but I do know this: Today is a good day.

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