Random Photos: Ironing

With my ironing board from Santa, circa 1959

Despite an early exposure to ironing (Santa left me an ironing board when I was just a toddler), I have never liked it. In fact, I’ve done whatever I could to avoid it.

I’ve owned an iron since I was married, but I didn’t buy an ironing board until sometime after I had two kids. I remember buying it, thinking everyone should have an ironing board, but knowing I didn’t really want one. A towel spread out on a bed or counter had always been adequate.

Theresa ironing, November 25, 1977

What brought this topic to mind was finding a picture of myself ironing a shirt the day before my wedding. I found an envelope of snapshots taken the weekend of our marriage. I know I’ve seen some of these pictures before, but I had totally forgotten them. I didn’t remember the photo of me ironing.

There are only two times in my life that I have agreed to iron my husband’s shirt—and only once that I actually did it. That was the day before we were married, Friday, November 25, 1977.

At the rehearsal dinner, fiance in dress shirt I’d ironed

He said he needed his dress shirt ironed before we went to the rehearsal dinner. So I agreed to do it. This photo was taken in my parents’ basement, where I set up my mother’s ironing board and went at it.

I must have done an acceptable job, because he wore the shirt to the rehearsal dinner.

The other time I agreed to iron his shirt was Friday, May 10, 1985. How do I remember that date? Well, the day is memorable for many reasons.

I had spent that week in an executive development program in Lawrence, Kansas, with other managers and professionals at Hallmark Cards. I left Lawrence about noon on May 10, 1985, to go to my obstetrician’s office. I was eight-and-a-half months pregnant. After I got home, I called my husband to let him know I’d made it back. We were scheduled to go to a social event sponsored by his law firm that evening. He asked me to iron his shirt. I sighed, but said I would.

Then I went into the family room to lie down on the couch. After all, I was eight-and-a-half months pregnant, and had an evening event to attend. And a shirt to iron.

As I lay on the couch resting, my water broke. Contractions started immediately.

I called my husband again and told him I would not be ironing his shirt.

“Why not?” he asked.

“Because we’re having a baby tonight instead.”

What will you do to get out of ironing (or other detested tasks)?

Bowl Game: Another Road Trip from Hell

I wrote about one road trip from hell—a 2007 trip to New Orleans for my daughter’s law school graduation that involved Southern heat without air conditioning, floods, and a broken bone (mine). Over New Year’s weekend from 2009 crossing over to 2010, I took another road trip from hell—this one to Houston.

The planning began a few weeks earlier, when we learned that the University of Missouri football team would be playing Navy on December 31, 2009, in the Texas Bowl in Houston. Wouldn’t it be great, someone suggested, if my husband and I took his mother to see the game? She is an avid Mizzou fan, and my husband is an alum of the Naval Academy. It seemed to others that these alliances would lead to a good time being had by all.

Well, it might have been a good time, if either my husband or I liked football. I grew up watching football games on television with my father and brothers—that was all there was to do on weekends during my childhood. I understand the rudiments of the game. One team of big, burly men tries to get the slippery, odd-shaped ball across the goal line while the other team of big, burly men tries to stop them. The players fall down a lot. Flags on the field are bad, unless they are timed strategically to magically transform fifteen minutes into an hour.

One problem with football is that it is played when the weather is cold. I managed to never attend a football game during high school, and only passed through the stands briefly during one game at college. I don’t like being outside in the cold—at least hockey is played inside.

My husband was forced to attend football games when he was a student at the Naval Academy. In uniform. And often marching. He didn’t mind marching, but he didn’t care about the football games themselves, and he did not follow his alma mater’s standings after he graduated. People would ask him about the Army/Navy game, and he had no clue when it was or who had won.

Nevertheless, on December 30, 2009, we found ourselves on I-35 South driving from Kansas City to Houston. I was retired by then, but my husband was still practicing law, and he wanted to make a quick trip of it. So we planned to make the drive in one day.

The three of us—husband, his mother, and me—left our house in her car at 8:00 am. We arrived in Houston at 11:00 pm. Fifteen hours on the road, which alone made it a trip from hell. My husband and I don’t do well on long car trips together, not when there is any time pressure involved. He stops too frequently and drives too slowly for my taste. And his mother travels faster than I do.

I had anticipated we would arrive at our hotel around 9:00 pm, but by Oklahoma City it was clear we wouldn’t make that. We ate dinner somewhere around Dallas (which we reached during rush hour) and still had hours to go. But we got there and went straight to bed.

The Texas Bowl itself was on December 31, 2009, which was a cold day for Houston. As a Navy alum, my husband had tickets to a Navy tailgate party where we ate lunch, then we found our seats in the stadium. It was colder than I had anticipated, and I spent quite a bit of time in the concession area where I could warm up.

Surprisingly, once the game started, my husband got interested and rooted for Navy. His mother, of course, rooted for Mizzou. Navy won decisively—35 to 13. The Mizzou players seemed as uninvolved in the game as I was, while Navy displayed a solid, workmanlike approach to scoring. However pleased my husband was by the result, his mother was about twice as disappointed. Since the trip was a present for her, it would have been nice if she had seen her team win.

On New Year’s Day, we played tourist at the Johnson Space Center, the U.S.S. Texas, and the San Jacinto Memorial. I enjoyed learning something of Texas history, but wished I had brought a heavier coat as I shivered in the wind.

We ended the day at a pizza joint somewhere near our hotel—the only restaurant we could find open on the holiday. That’s when the trip turned to hell. As with the New Orleans trip, I seemed to be the weak link in our family chain.

I became deathly ill that night—upset stomach, shakes and chills. Whether it was the pizza or a virus, I have no idea. I didn’t care then, and I don’t care now. I just know I felt bad. Too sick to eat, too sick to drive, too sick to do anything but moan.

Regardless how I felt, I had to endure a fifteen-hour car ride back home on January 2, 2010. I curled up in the back seat and tried to ignore everything—the conversation, the terrain, the world. All I ate that day was hot tea and a couple of saltines.

About Wichita, we hit a snowstorm. We had heavy snow all the way from Wichita to Kansas City—a three- hour drive in the dark. Every time a truck went by it threw snow across our windshield.

Once again, our travels ended about 11:00 pm, when we arrived at our house. At least by then I was feeling better.

And I’m happy to report that this was the last road trip from hell I’ve made. There was the time in 2013 that I drove my daughter from Vancouver, B.C., to Seattle after she broke her leg. But that was a shorter trip, and I wasn’t the one suffering.

When was your last road trip from hell?

Anniversary in Aruba

For our 25th wedding anniversary in 2002, my husband and I went to Aruba. First, we celebrated Thanksgiving at home with our two children—I think that was the only year we have ever had just the four of us for a holiday. We cooked turkey and all the trimmings, and at the end of that weekend, we sent our son back to college and made arrangements for the neighbors to watch out for our high-school-age daughter while we went to Aruba.

Our daughter was a good student, a good driver, and I trusted her. Still, I wanted someone to know she’d be by herself at home for a week.

“If we hear music, we’ll call the cops,” our neighbor across the street said with a deadpan face.

I must have looked appalled at this possibility, because he laughed. “Don’t worry,” he said. “We have teenage girls. We know what to watch for.”

Then, in the first week of December, we set out on our adventure.

What I remember most about Aruba is the wind. My husband and I stayed at a lovely resort on the northwest coast of the Caribbean Island, one of a series of resorts along that shore. As soon as we arrived, we walked to the beach, and the wind whipped my hair about my face.

View from our hotel room

Our tiny rental car

After a day or so near the resort, we wanted to explore more of the island and rented a car. Over the rest of our stay, we toured much of Aruba. We drove all along the southern shore, did touristy things in the capital of Oranjestad, snorkeled on a reef in shallow water near the Citgo Oil Refinery, viewed the lighthouse on the northern tip of the island and the natural bridge on its north-central coast, toured an aloe plantation and factory, and hiked a corner of Arikok National Park.

Rocky beach on Aruba

Reef where we snorkeled, with refinery in the background

Natural bridge on Aruba

Through all of it, the wind blew, hot and drying. It wasn’t really unpleasant—I was used to wind from my childhood in Richland, Washington, where the wind came through the Columbia River Gorge and east toward Richland.

But Aruba was a far different Caribbean experience than our trip to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands for our tenth anniversary. St. Thomas was a more typically humid Caribbean climate. The vegetation in St. Thomas was lusher, the beaches whiter, and the water a deeper blue.

Still, our trip to Aruba was a memorable week in our lives and a delightful change from early winter in Kansas City and the madness of Christmas preparations.

On our last day in Aruba, we headed to the airport and learned our flight was delayed by snow in Charlotte, North Carolina—our transfer point. We made it to Charlotte late that night, but not back to Kansas City. We got one of the last hotel rooms near the airport and made the final leg of the trip home the next day.

Our daughter had managed fine without us. And we’d had a wonderful trip, until the journey home.

What memorable vacations have you taken?

Recipe: Old-Fashioned Green Beans

A staple recipe in our household is Old-Fashioned Green Beans. They’re easy to make, and the recipe doubles easily so it can feed a crowd. My husband and I often take these beans to potlucks and other events where we are responsible for a side dish. We also serve them regularly at family meals.

The official green bean recipe, with updated annotations in the corner

Despite the simple recipe, my husband doesn’t think I make green beans right. This recipe comes from his side of the family, so he feels some proprietary ownership in it. He’s often suspicious of my cooking, thinking I don’t follow the recipe. And sometimes I don’t.

Still, what can go wrong with green beans? Fry the bacon and onion, dump in the beans, and add some spices.

It’s in the spices where he thinks I go wrong.

So I wrote down what he did when he made the green beans for our Thanksgiving dinner last week. Here is the official Old-Fashioned Green Bean recipe (though he modified it from his mother’s recipe, because we didn’t have the exact spices she used):

Old-Fashioned Green Beans

2 lbs green beans
2 strips bacon
1 medium onion
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp Mrs. Dash or Perfect Pinch or Beau Monde (see, there are variations)
1 tsp seasoned salt (he used Lawry’s)
1 tsp garlic salt

Cut up bacon, fry on medium heat. Chop onion and add to bacon. Cook for 3-5 minutes.
Add beans, up to 1/3 pan of water, and seasonings.
Bring to boil, then simmer as long as time allows (at least 2 hours).

Enjoy!

All that’s left of our Thanksgiving green beans — enough for one more meal for the two of us

What recipes does your family argue over?

A Belated Veterans Day Post

It seems that in over five years of writing this blog, I have never written about Veterans Day. This year, I am finally doing it, albeit a couple of days late.

I never expected to be part of a military family. I didn’t have any veterans among my relatives. Neither of my grandfathers served during World War II. One grandfather was just past draft age in 1942. He also owned a business that made machinery for sawmills—his work was deemed part of the war effort. I don’t know why the other wasn’t called up—he was still of draft age, though at the high end. He was married and had two children, but so did other men. I never heard of any health problems that would have kept him from being drafted.

My father toyed with the idea of joining the Air Force during the Korean War, but his eyes were too bad for flight school (which is what he wanted to do), so he went to college, got married, and had kids.

My brothers did not turn eighteen until after the draft for the Vietnam War ended.

So none of the men in my family served, and of course, it was much rarer for women to serve.

USNA picture

Then I married a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Class of 1971.

My husband and I met after he had served his five-year commitment in the Navy, during which he had both sea deployments and shore assignments. Though he had left active duty, he was still in the Naval Reserve and drilled every month while we were in law school together.

He thought about going back on active duty after law school, but I was adamant that I didn’t want to move our family every few years. I wanted to put down roots in a community. So he didn’t return to active duty, but he stayed in the Naval Reserve until 2001, when he had thirty years and was forced out as a Captain.

For the first twenty-four years of our marriage, then, he was in the Reserve. He drilled every month, often in cities far from our home in Kansas City—a couple of years in Milwaukee, another two in Fort Worth, and there were a few other cities he traveled to as well.

In uniform, as a Naval Reserve officer

In addition, he went on two weeks’ active duty every year. Sometimes he trained on a ship and was at sea. Sometimes he went to a course in Europe or did training exercises in Japan. Sometimes he set up a Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare unit on the coast and trained.

These Reserve weekends and active duty periods always seemed to fall at the worst times.

Both of our kids were born on drill weekends. He had to skip the Saturday drills to be with me at the hospital. But he made the Sunday drills.

Our first dog went into seizures on a drill weekend when hubby was in Milwaukee. I had to take the poor thing (a 60-pound mutt) to an emergency vet clinic by myself to be put to sleep. The only 24-hour vet I knew of was all the way across the metropolitan area. Our son helped me load the dog into the minivan, but I was alone when I dragged him into the clinic.

Our toddler daughter broke her arm on the Friday of a drill weekend when my husband had already left for wherever he was going at the time. I took her to the pediatrician on Saturday morning, five-year-old son in tow. It was the only time in my life I showed up at the pediatrician’s office without an appointment.

Our son almost got our car insurance canceled due to too many speeding tickets. I found out while my husband was in Japan on his two-week stint. Son and I had several lengthy conversations about the issue before hubby returned, and I purchased alternative high-risk insurance for son as well.

All of this in the years before cell phones and text messages made communications around the globe a simple matter.

In addition to the crises, my husband’s stock response when we debated who ought to do what around the house, or which of us should ferry a child to a social or sports commitment, was “I provide national defense,” as if his Naval Reserve obligation should exempt him from all other responsibilities. He said it tongue in cheek, but he did spend many weeknight evenings after working as an attorney all day on Naval Reserve paperwork and training. It’s hard to argue with the importance of supporting the national defense mission.

I do not pretend that the problems our family faced were anywhere near as significant as those of families where one spouse has been deployed for months on end in a war zone. But my husband’s military service did have an impact on our family, and I experienced enough of the single-parenthood caused by a spouse’s service that I can relate to what service members and their families endure.

Our marriage survived my husband’s absences, and we celebrate our fortieth anniversary later this month. Many veterans are not so fortunate, and many military families disintegrate under the pressures of distance and trauma.

Our veterans deserve huge thanks from this nation for their service and sacrifice, and so do their family members who do without them.

A belated expression of gratitude this year—to my veteran and to all our nation’s other veterans.

After Forty Years, I Wonder—Did He Ever Propose or Not?

There is one issue that I continue to debate with my husband of almost forty years—did he ever ask me to marry him or not? He swears he did, but I don’t remember it. You’d think a girl would remember something like that if it had happened, wouldn’t you? Even if it took place forty years ago.

My engagement ring

I remember that he raised the subject of marriage not long after we began dating in the spring of 1977, but I told him then it was too soon to be talking so seriously. I remember that sometime in July or August we set the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend as our wedding date. And I remember him giving me an engagement ring sometime in October 1977—we were outside on the Stanford Law School campus, when he pulled out the small box and put the ring on my finger—but that was well after we’d made the decision.

So him actually popping the question? I’m not sure that ever happened.

Did I ask him to marry me? I don’t think so. I think we just sort of fell into it.

Oh, well. It doesn’t really matter, I suppose.

Just before the wedding. If you look closely, you can see the sweat on his brow.

In my opinion, today’s practice of making a monumental occasion of getting engaged is silly. Planned spectacular events. Scenic locations. Photographers. Witnesses. Parties. None of it really matters in the long term. In the long term, what matters is the day-to-day. Who empties the dishwasher? Who walks the dogs? Who gets up in the night when a kid vomits?

In the best of marriages, you both do. At least, we have, though there have been tiffs over all these things.

The rings I’ve worn nigh on 40 years

I was going to make this post amusing. Or I was going to tell the story of how my engagement ring—the stone came from my husband’s great-aunt’s engagement ring—was almost lost in the Kansas City Plaza flood of mid-September 1977. (Thankfully, Jaccard Jewelry had the ring at their downtown location that day, rather than at the Plaza store. It was delayed in getting to my fiancé, but it arrived in California unscathed.)

But instead, this post turned serious. As I wrote, I started thinking about what makes a marriage last for forty years.

When people ask me how my husband and I have stayed married so long, I answer facetiously, “Inertia.”

The reality, however, is that it takes more than inertia. It takes work. And forbearance. And getting up at 2:00am with a sick kid. It takes knowing that, however many arguments there are over little things, in the big things of life, you have someone reliable walking beside you and holding you up.

Today my husband of almost forty years celebrates his birthday. He knows which one. I’ve bought him a few presents, but nothing that compensates for the love and support he has provided me for so long, nothing that thanks him adequately for being my mainstay when the seas of life get rough.

Happy birthday, sweetie!

Jade Earrings and Other Bequests

My husband’s maternal grandmother put tags and notes on many of her possessions, stating who she wanted to get what after her death. Most of her notes bequeathed her property to her daughters or to her four grandchildren, but there were a few things that had my name on them. She lived for several years after my husband and I were married, and we had visited them in Southern California at their lovely home near the beach.

Among the items with my name on them were her Catholic paraphernalia—prayer books and the like. I don’t know why she even owned these. She wasn’t Catholic, and as far as I know, she never attended a Catholic school. But as the only Catholic affiliated with the family at the time of her death, I suppose she thought I would appreciate them. So I took them and put them aside. They were all pre-Vatican II, and of little relevance to a modern Catholic.

Jade earrings from my husband’s grandmother

She also bequeathed me a pair of jade earrings. Once when I visited her home, I think I admired a little jade Buddha figure. From my stray comment, perhaps she deduced that I like jade.

Two pairs of my older jade earrings

I do like jade. In fact, by the time his grandmother died, my husband had given me at least three pairs of jade earrings, and I wore all of them often during my working days.

After his grandmother’s death, I had four pairs.

The earrings she left me are beautiful. I think she acquired them during her travels in Asia. They’re a brighter green than most jade made into jewelry, almost a kelly green. I knew jade could range widely in color, from the traditional dark green to white and black and even lavender and red. Still, this green surprised me when I first saw the earrings—more suitable for St. Patrick’s Day than most jade. (And, indeed, I’ve worn them on many a St. Patrick’s Day.)

The earrings when I received them were clip-ons, because his grandmother did not have pierced ears. I did have pierced ears, and they hurt, so I didn’t wear them. A couple of years later, my husband had them converted into pierced earrings, so I could wear them.

Since then, I have worn them often, when the brighter green suits my clothing more than darker jade would.

Butterfly pins from my husband’s grandmother

In addition to the jade earrings, my husband’s grandmother also left me two butterfly pins of the same color. They are some sort of lacquer on gold, I think; I don’t believe they are jade.

I wish I knew the story behind how she came to acquire these pins. I mean, who wears butterfly pins? Even in the 1950s, who wore butterfly pins? And even if for some reason you wore one pin, why would you ever wear two?

The earrings and pins together

I have only had a couple of occasions when I thought it appropriate to wear these pins. Once I put them on a white dress. And the other time was to a Girl Scout fundraiser, where the invitation said to wear “camping chic.” I wore hiking pants and boots, a sweater set, and my jade earrings and butterflies. No one made any comment, whether out of polite circumspection or disinterest, I couldn’t say.

Someday, I’ll leave all this jewelry to my daughter, who was named after my husband’s grandmother. Then she can wonder when it is appropriate to wear butterfly pins. At least the earrings have already been converted for her to wear with pierced ears.

Do you have items you’ve inherited that you wonder about?