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At the moment, Tom and I are sitting at the sidewalk tables in front of the BookEnd Café in Boulder, Colorado, soaking up the atmosphere and a large glass of iced black tea. Okay, okay. I also nibbled on a cookie, but I’m on vacation, so it doesn’t count. Anyway, it’s a beautiful day here in Boulder, and it was a beautiful morning at our cottage up in St. Vrain Canyon just outside of Lyons, Colorado.

We arrived at the cottage early yesterday afternoon after spending Sunday night with some good friends in Denver. We had a wonderful time in Denver, and hope—with any luck—to spend another evening with our friends before heading back home, maybe a dinner here in Boulder with them. I’ll let you know.

Meantime, we’re doing as much NOTHING as possible. This morning, doing nothing meant hanging out in the cottage. Yes, the cottage of Shelly’s Cottages fame, the same cottage I wrote about earlier. If you read my post on P.S., it will not surprise you at all that being a guest at Shelly’s involves RULES. Even more rules than we were given when we first made the reservation, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

We headed up to the cottage from Denver mid-morning yesterday. According to the official-looking letter we received from Shelly’s prior to our departure from home, check-in time at the cottages is 3 p.m. Considering the no-nonsense tone of the phone conversation with Kim, the owner, when I initially made the reservation and the equally strident tone of the letter, we were a bit nervous about arriving any earlier than we were “allowed,” so we pit-stopped in Boulder to eat a late breakfast and to kill some time. There aren’t many places on the planet more entertaining to hang out and watch the world go by than the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder—which partially explains why we came back this afternoon—but after leisurely morning meal and a slow stroll up and down the mall yesterday, we were tired and ready to get unpacked and settled. We took a deep breath and called Kim to inquire about an early check-in.

Kim was perfectly pleasant. Our cottage wasn’t ready just yet, but if we could wait an hour, she’d finish cleaning it and have it waiting for us. Sweet! An hour was just enough time to grab a few groceries and drive the 20-or-so miles up there. We headed back to the car, found a Whole Foods a few blocks away (imagine finding a Whole Foods in Boulder), and grabbed a grocery cart. The cottage has a full kitchen, so we figured it would be a good idea to bring in breakfast- and lunch-type goodies, making it easier to sloth around until such time we feel compelled to tidy up and leave the cottage this week. As an aside–and in our defense–our lives have been pretty nutty lately, so—at this point—our idea of the perfect vacation is one that involves no dress clothes, no early mornings, and no schedule of any kind. Sweats and flannel pants are required.

Anyway, Whole Foods was packed, so shopping took longer than we expected. Since we were ready to crash for the day, we decided to grab salads at the salad bar at the grocery store to eliminate the need for another stop on our way to the cottage or the need to go scavenging for lunch after getting settled. Elbows out, we navigated our way down each side of the salad bar, filling our re-cycled, totally organic, flimsy-ass paper salad containers, and headed to the front of the store to check out. Thank goodness, I’d had the presence of mind to grab my re-usable grocery bags from the car before entering the store. I would not want to be the lone schmuck standing in line at the Whole Foods in Boulder, CO, the birthplace of all things green and the home of the largest contingent of Green Peace volunteers I’ve ever been accosted by, having to ask to have my groceries sacked in paper or plastic.

After a long wait at the checkout, the two of us and our re-usable grocery bags full of healthy, over-priced chow were headed for the car. Because we hadn’t been to the cottages yet, the trunk was still full of luggage, so we loaded the groceries in the backseat of my car and took off for Lyons (In the wrong direction, but that’s another post. Stupid googlemaps.). Within minutes of leaving the grocery store, I could smell the balsamic vinaigrette on Tom’s salad. “That’s strange,” I thought to myself, but because I was driving, I had to concentrate on going the wrong way out of Boulder. We’d have to deal with the smell later.

Once we were out of the circus that is Boulder traffic, I said aloud, “Man, I can really smell the dressing on your salad.” Apparently, Tom had been thinking the same thing. Without a word, he whirled around in his seat and lifted the offending bag. “Shit,” he mumbled.

Salad dressing was everywhere, including on the leather seat of the car, so we pulled over in a little town outside of Boulder (Niwot for those of you who know the area) to assess the damage and attempt a clean-up with the only thing I had in the glovebox: Windex wipes. Dried-out, nappy Windex wipes. Ugh. Needless to say, it was a feeble clean-up attempt.

So, still going the wrong way (actually, it wasn’t necessarily the wrong way, it was just the loooooong way—I repeat, stupid googlemaps), we got back out on the road, more desperate than ever to reach our destination. As we drove, Tom clung to the dripping salad container (around which the helpful checkout clerk had placed a large, worthless rubber band), grumbling and cursing, periodically threatening to throw the whole mess out the window. After 5 miles or so, we couldn’t take the smell any longer and rolled the windows down. It was about then I got the giggles, then the guffaws. Then we hit road construction.

Thirty long minutes later, we pulled into the driveway of Shelly’s Cottages and leapt from the car, gasping for fresh air. Before we could do anything meaningful about the salad dressing mess, we had to get checked in, so we headed to the office where we were met by a smiling, cheerful Kim who robotically ran through all of the additional rules for staying at Shelly’s that had not already been posted for our viewing pleasure on the website. She concluded her spiel by saying, “ Also, you need to know there are black bears in the area.  In fact, there are often black bears on the property, so NEVER leave any food outside and be sure to place all your trash in the receptacles behind the cottage. Oh! And don’t leave any food in your car.”

“Are you kidding,” I shrieked in my head. “My leather seats are currently marinating in balsamic vinaigrette. My car’s an Italian-panini-sandwich-lover’s dream! Total bear food!” Groan.

Luckily, I was exhausted when we went to bed last night, so I didn’t lie there worrying about a bear eating my car, but I sure as heck checked on it when I finally crawled out of bed about 9:30 this morning.

We drove to Boulder with the car windows down this afternoon, so, with any luck, my car won’t smell like an Italian deli when we get back in it.

Disclaimer: Names in this posting have been changed to protect the innocent. And the guilty. You know who you are.

Last Saturday promised to be another scorcher, so Tom got up and headed out to run at 7 a.m. instead of his usual 8 a.m. As I’ve mentioned before, Teddy is not a morning dog; in fact, he gets downright grumpy if forced to get up much before 8 (have I mentioned how much I love this dog?). So since I knew he wouldn’t be in need of a wee for a bit longer, I snuggled back down into the sheets for another hour or so of snoozing after Tom left.

A little after 8, I dragged myself out of bed, threw on some capris and a T-shirt, and woke Teddy up. The two of us stumbled out into the backyard; me tugging on Teddy’s leash, slapping the side of my leg, blathering on in a high-pitched plea, “C’mon Teddy. Go potty. C’mon, Fuzz-Butt, do your thing!”; Teddy eyeballing me like I’d completely lost my mind.

When we got about 50 yards away from the back of the house–which took a few minutes because Teddy kept stopping to lay down in every patch of shade we walked through–I heard a low rumbling sound coming from the side of the house and immediately thought, “Oh, crap, I hope the air conditioner isn’t about to blow up.” But it was only 8 a.m. If the air conditioner was thinking about having a nervous breakdown in the god-awful heat, I didn’t want to know about it or deal with it until I’d had a chance to fully wake up. I didn’t even turn around to see if there was smoke. I just kept walking, cajoling Teddy every step of the way to take care of business. Even at that early hour, the heat and humidity were so bad, sweat was trickling down my back and my hair was starting to plaster itself to my head. I just wanted to go back inside.

When Teddy had finally squirted all the trees and bushes in need of a squirt and had determined that all was right in his realm, we turned around to head back to the house. That’s when I saw it. The low rumbling sound was not coming from the air conditioner. It was coming from an ambulance, and I knew immediately why it was there. As we raced up the backyard and around the side of the house, I saw the police cruiser and the firetruck.

The afternoon before, our neighbor, whom I’ll call “Ward,” had started painting his new detached garage. “June,” his wife, had left a day or two earlier to take their boys, “Wally” and “The Beav,” to summer camp and then to go to the lake to hang out with her mom. I knew June was planning to be back in town at some point for a bachelorette party she was hostessing Saturday evening, but as I ran up toward the street, I couldn’t for the life of me remember when she’d said she’d be back.

As I raced toward their house and saw the crowd of firemen, EMTs, and police officers, I had two recurring thoughts: “Good lord, I hope Ward is okay!” and “Thank goodness I put on a bra!”

After Teddy and I navigated our way around the emergency vehicles, I paused momentarily to survey the situation. Two ladders were lying in the side yard as though they’d been tossed out of the way in haste. As I feared, Ward was on the ground toward the back end of the garage, the firemen and EMTs gathered around him. Good grief, the garage is nearly two stories tall at that point, I thought, and I shuddered. I saw that the EMTs were working to get Ward secured onto a board, and I was relieved–at least a little–to know he was in the hands of professionals. I looked around a few seconds more and didn’t see anyone but emergency personnel. No June. No other neighbors. I hesitated, not wanting to be a Gladys Kravitts, asking questions and getting in the way, but wanting to know if June had been notified. A police officer was standing a few feet back from the action, so I approached him and asked if they’d been able to get a hold of Ward’s wife. “She’s right over there,” he said as he nodded toward the crowd around Ward. Phew.

Sure enough, just then June stepped out from behind a tree. When she saw me, she started calmly up the hill. Her demeanor was reassuring. She let me know immediately that Ward was hurt, but he wasn’t going to die. His shoulder was dislocated, his right leg was scraped up, and he was in enough pain that the first words out of his mouth when the EMTs arrived were, “Give me morphine,” but he wasn’t going to die.

As we stood there waiting for Ward to be loaded into the ambulance, June and I commiserated about the fact that he shouldn’t have been up on the ladder in the first place, and she filled me in on the few details she had. Apparently, Ward had gone out early–by himself–to get as much painting done as possible before the heat became unbearable (too late for that, I thought to myself as she talked and I sweated). June had returned home the evening before and, like me, was taking advantage of an opportunity to sleep in Saturday morning. Her reverie was interrupted by the next-door neighbor who came into the house to find her after finding Ward sprawled out in the side yard. That the neighbor found Ward at all is a miracle. Normally she would have left before Tom, who Ward remembers waving at a few minutes before swan-diving off the ladder, but she was running uncharacteristically late that morning. As she opened her garage door, she and her daughter heard his calls for help. Thank goodness. Heaven knows neither June nor I would have heard him. Geez. I didn’t even hear the fire truck coming into the neighborhood with its sirens blaring around 7:30, and it was less than the length of a football field away from my bedroom window when it came to a stop. Unbelievable. And un-nerving. Ward had been lying there waiting for someone to help him for about 20 minutes before the neighbor found him.

Before it was all said and done, Ward ended up having to be fully sedated so his shoulder could be put back into place, but he did come home from the hospital that afternoon. Groggy and heavily medicated, but he came home. I’m happy to report, he’s doing quite well as of today, all things–and all possibilities–considered, but I doubt he’ll be up on a ladder anytime soon. For that matter, I’d be surprised if any of the guys in the neighborhood find themselves up on a ladder in the near future–that is if their wives have anything to say about it. The memory is too fresh.

I don”t know about the rest of the guys, but Tom’s not complaining. He’s never been all that fond of dangling from the top of a ladder. Once he knew Ward was going to be okay, he even joked about the new “toys” the guys in the neighborhood were going to be able to buy or  rent–things like hydraulic lifts–that they’d need if they couldn’t use ladders.

Amazing. I’m fighting the nausea I feel every time I think about Ward lying on the ground, all alone, immobile, and in horrible pain, and Tom’s imagining the circus tricks he and the other guys can do in the forklift…or hydraulic lift…whatever. Truth be told, Ward will probably want to be first in line to operate it. Boys. I give up.

I sincerely hope that you have someone in your life who makes you laugh out loud at least once a day. For me, that someone is Tom, the hubby. Tom has many fine qualities, but his most endearing has to be his ability to find humor in nearly every situation, even when the laugh ends up being at his expense. In the more than 10,230 days we’ve been married, it’s no exaggeration to say he’s made me laugh audibly at least 10,000 of them. Yesterday was no exception.

Late yesterday afternoon, I was working in my home office with the windows open. It was a gorgeous spring day, so it came as no surprise that Tom headed straight to the bedroom when he got home from work to swap his dress slacks and pinpoint Oxford for his “play” clothes. On his way back down the hall, he stuck his head in the office and said, “I’m going outside to mow.” Because I was distracted with my own project, I heard the words, but I didn’t absorb their meaning. At most, I managed a grunt in response.

A few minutes later, when I heard Tom ratting around down in the basement and heard the mower start, the neurons in my brain finally fired, and all I could think was, “Oh, crap. I hope he doesn’t try to mow behind the willows.”

We live on just a little over an acre– most of which is high and dry–but the very back of our lot includes a swale that gets downright swampy after a really heavy rain or rapid snow melt. Years ago, we planted a bunch of willows in and around the low spot thinking the water-loving trees would soak up the excess moisture and hide the muddy mess from the rest of the yard during the soggy seasons. It was an un-characteristically brilliant bit of landscaping. The willows have done exactly what we hoped they would do, which means there are truly very few times when the ground is so soggy you can’t maneuver through the swale on foot or on the mower. But still…there are times…

As I mentioned, yesterday afternoon was perfect. Perfect temperature. Perfect blue sky. Perfect southernly breeze. However, the day hadn’t started out that way. The morning had been grey and dreary. More than two inches of rain had fallen overnight onto ground that was already struggling to absorb the rainwater from previous storms. For the last several weeks, walking on the golf course has been like walking on a sponge. Even our yard–which normally drains really well–is squishy in spots where it normally isn’t squishy. Under the circumstances, I wasn’t surprised when I could see standing water under the willows from clear up on the back porch. Surely, Tom wouldn’t take the mower down into that mess, I thought to myself. Surely.

I heard Tom engage the mower blade and head out into the yard. Without giving his activity another thought, I turned my attention back to the computer and began scanning the screen to see where I’d left off. I had just managed to recapture my train of thought when…WEEEEEE, waaaaaaa, WEEEEEEE, waaaaaa, WEE WEEEEE, Waaaaaaa…I froze…WEEEE, waaaa, WEEEEEEEE, waaaaaa…you have got to be shitting me…I got up from my chair and walked over to the window…WEEEEEEE, waaaaaaa, WEEEEEEE, waaaaaa, WEEEEEEE…oh, for the love of …sure enough, Tom and the mower were in the middle of bog, the mower buried up to its back axle in slime…WEEEEEE, waaaaaaa, WEEEEEEE, waaaaaaaaa…Tom was trying to rock the mower out of the mud much like you would rock a car out of deep snow…WEEEEEE, waaaaaa, WEEEEEE…I stood there and watched…WEEEEE, waaaaaaa, WEEEEE, waaaaaaa. I repeat, you have got to be shitting me.

After a few minutes, Tom finally grasped the futility of the situation and shut the mower off. He stepped down off the deck of the mower and into the mud, picking his way gingerly through the willows to the near side of the swale and firmer ground. Oh, and did I mention he was wearing baloney-slice-slick flip-flops? Once on solid soil, he stomped back up toward the house–I guarantee you, cussing all the way–so I returned to my desk. I knew what was coming.

“mary?…MARY!”

“Yes?”

“Can you help me?”

Here’s where things get dicey. We live in a neighborhood of large lot homes. Around here, manhood is measured not by the size of a man’s kick-stand, but by the size of his lawn mower. Mower attachments–seed spreaders, aerators, tillers, snow plows–all earn a guy bonus points. I’m not joking. Tom put a good size riding mower on lay-away two days after we signed the contract to have the house built, weeks before the builder even had a chance to start scratching around in the dirt. But mower fever didn’t stop there. A few years after we moved in, Tom succumbed  to mower envy and bought (cue the heavenly music) The Grasshopper, a professional zero-turn radius mower with a 60-inch deck. We’re talking a manly mower here. He attempted to whitewash the whole business by claiming he’d bought it for our son to use as a way of earning some money, and, admittedly B-man did earn much of his mad money and a good chunk of his college tuition running a rather lucrative mowing business while he was in high school and college, but that’s beside the point.

Tom wanted that mower. He loves that mower. He loves to mow. And, in his defense, I understand why. Tom works in a profession where most projects morph into different projects before they can be completed. He rarely gets to enjoy the satisfaction of seeing a project through to the finish line. With mowing, he gets to complete a project in 45 minutes or less. The grass is long. He gets on the mower and runs it around the yard. The grass is short. The job is done. Ahhhh.

But, again, that’s all beside the point. The point is I can’t drive the dang thing. There’s no steering wheel or anything remotely similar to a steering wheel and/or a shifter to get it to move forward, go in reverse, or turn in the direction you want to go. What it does have is two inverted L-shaped levers, one on either side of the driver’s seat, that you push and pull and yoink around in various combinations to get the mower to move in the direction you want it to go. The two front wheels spin spastically in all directions, and the back tires are so wide you can’t possibly keep them from running over flower beds or getting caught in the neighbors fence. And here was Tom, standing at the top of the stairs, asking if I could help him. Sheezzz. The possibilities weren’t good. The way I figured it, my options were either to stand in the muck and push while Tom splattered me with mud or to get on the mower and try to get it to do what I needed it to do without leaving Tom face down in the gunk or, worse, under the mower. Decisions, decisions.

I followed Tom downstairs and donned a pair of B-man’s huge rubber boots. Tom shoved his bare feet into an equally oversized pair, and we began our trek to the back of the yard, clomping along like a couple of goobers. As we walked, Tom kept looking at me like he expected me to say something, but what was there to say? There was no need to state the obvious.

The decision as to which role I would play in the recovery mission was easy once we reached the mower. The mud stunk. There was NO way I was going to end up covered in that stuff, so I climbed on the mower, and Tom gave me a review lesson on operating the mower while I kept thinking, “Holy crap. I’m going to kill him. I’m going to kill him. Holy crap.” After several anxious minutes of cussing and grunting and pushing and cussing some more, the mower was out, the newly formed ruts in the yard were rapidly filling with water, and we were on our way back up to the house. This time, when Tom looked in my direction, waiting for me to say something, I couldn’t help but smile.

“What?!” he almost yelled.

“What do you mean, ‘What?'” I started snickering. We’ve been married 28 years. He knew what I was thinking. It started with a “dumb” and ended with an “ass.” We kicked off our muddy boots at the edge of the patio. He grabbed the hose and began blowing the mud off the boots as I climbed the stairs, laughing harder with each step. But the time I reached the top step, I was gasping for air. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t laughing then. I couldn’t have heard him over my own guffaws even if he was, but, in typical Tom-fashion, he’s laughing and making snarky comments about the whole escapade now. As I said, it’s a very endearing quality.

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I’m pleased to report that the Sticky Date Pudding I served to my book club Thursday night once again elicited moans. I have to be honest, not as many as the last few times I’ve served it, but moans nonetheless. It was a tough crowd. Six of my friends were gathered around the table, juggling at least three conversations, their heads swiveling in an attempt hear every word and morsel of gossip. Under the circumstances, the Sticky Date Pudding was a distraction, albeit a notable distraction; still, The Pudding was not the center of attention as it has been on previous occasions. That’s okay. I had fun making it…and eating it. The next time I make it, I may experiment with a variation of the recipe that I found on the Internet–a titillating version that calls for adding rum to the caramel sauce. That can’t be bad!

Friday night, Tom and I went to Cascone’s, one of our favorite Italian restaurants here in Kansas City–favorite because of the food and because of the memories we’ve made there. Unfortunately, it’s on the other side of the metro area. Every time we go, we say we need to go more often, but then, of course, we rarely do because of the drive. Our loss. Their tiramisu may be the best in the city. I say “may” only because I have yet to try all the other contenders in these parts. I can’t imagine that anyone else’s version of tiramisu is any better–maybe as good or nearly as good–but certainly not any better. I’ll continue my research and let you know. While I’m at it, I’ll sample the lasagnas and cheese raviolis along the way. I know. I’m a giver.

Anyway, Cascone’s is where my parents took the two of us and my future in-laws to celebrate shortly after Tom and I got engaged. Tom and I had only dated a couple of weeks before we got engaged, so our parents hadn’t had an opportunity to meet. Shoot, Tom and I barely had an opportunity to meet. From my vantage point today–28 years later–I can see that the evening was ripe for all manner of disaster, but then I was young, dopey, and head-over-heels in love, and that night, all was right in my world. If any of our parents felt differently, we never knew it. From the beginning, the evening was lovely. Frank Sinatra music played in the background, wine was poured, glasses were raised, and the conversation flowed until the waiter started placing food on the table. We fell silent only long enough to savor the pasta and meatballs and sauces and bread and…Everyone smiled and laughed and got along beautifully. No one pointed out the incredible ludicrousness of our pending nuptials. No one suggested Tom and I might want to slow down before jumping into marriage. No one asked us how we were possibly going to survive on our laughable salaries. No one.

It was the Italian food. Seriously, how can anyone not see the world through rosy, marinara-tinted glasses while enjoying the tang of ricotta and the velvety smoothness of melty Parmesan stuffed between ruffly layers of al dente noodles? You can’t. You simply cannot. The combination of tomatoes, basil, garlic, and cheese is magic, so it was a no-brainer deciding where we would take everyone to celebrate our 25th anniversary a couple of years ago. We were not disappointed then, nor were we disappointed Friday night. Cascone’s is guaranteed memorable evening every time.

And, just in case you’re wondering, I’m still dopey, head-over-heels in love which, I suppose, also makes me very lucky.  Even so, I’m grateful my daughter and son-in-law had the good sense to date for a couple of years before getting married. I hope my son will be as level-headed. If he isn’t…if he comes home and tells us he’s marrying a girl he’s only known a few weeks, I’ll…I’ll..I’ll have to head to Cascone’s.

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