Berry Butt

the source of berry butt

Eleven years ago my youngest child graduated from high school (some say “graduated high school” and perhaps that is correct, but I am unsure whether a school graduates a student or a student graduates a school. I will stick with the former.) So, back to my reminiscence… Often a state occasion such as the graduation of one’s youngest, a “launching” so to speak, brings a crush of special events. So much so, that one’s memory can blur the details. True, but Berry Butt remains crystal clear.

The term was coined at my son’s graduation party — actually at the time the party was winding down. But before I go too far, allow me to set the scene.

All of our children’s graduation parties were modest affairs in our backyard, which is no wooded estate, rather a concrete slab patio and a small square yard with various hardy plants (because no others would survive), surrounded by a 5-foot wood fence. On the north side, the wood fence ran parallel to the “Barbie” fence, a term coined by my children after my neighbor erected an ugly white plastic fence. Between the wood fence and the Barbie fence grew a spindly tree that shed berries every spring. By “shed,” I mean a near constant dropping of red berries onto our patio furniture for a two-week period in June. The berries were inedible, the tree, an ugly runt of a thing, but for some reason, likely laziness, we neglected to remove it.

On the day of the graduation party, we swiped the berries from the patio chairs multiple times prior to the guests’ arrival, but then, when guests began arriving, in the crush of congratulations and greetings, we became lax. My son’s friends stood, preferring to stop in, mingle, and move on to the next party. But the old guard–the neighbors and friends–who attended out of obligation or pride (“I knew him when…”) sat, lingered, chatted, until it was time. Each stood and reached out to say all the nice things like “You’ve done a great job.” “Wow, three kids graduated and off to college.” “Bet you’re proud.” And we nodded, but then watched them walk toward the gate, the seat of their pants a testimony to the fact that they sat in one of the patio chairs close to the red-berry-shedding tree. Berry butt.

in our defense, what were we to do? Say, “Yes, we are excited for him and thanks so much for stopping by and your pants are stained and red berry stains are hell to contend with?” No. We did not. We said nothing regarding the seat of their pants. We just watched, silently at first, but then giggling, as each and every non-high-school guest left with a confirmed case of berry butt.


For the three of you who regularly follow my blog, I want to let you know that I am Anxious (Please note the uppercase “A”. It was not a typo.)

You probably think it was pandemic anxiety. No. I have shoved aside the prospect of the pandemic. I’ve buried myself in work. In useless tasks. I don’t listen to the news. At best, I do a cursory review of the print edition of the local paper. Why? Because I cannot change the course of history. Best to bury my head in the sand, do what I can in my tiny ambit and hope for better days ahead. Oh, yes, I wake in the middle of the night, terrified about the health of those I know in the “high-risk group,” wonder if despite my spectacular triathlon performance last summer, I am in such group, worry about retirement funds, furloughed employees, mental health, and despair. But, at some point, I realize these are all out of my control. We are what we are. Buckle up.

So, why the anxiety? Otis. You remember him? The adorable cuddly, ball of fur that we brought home in November? Well, he is no more. He has morphed into Cujo.(Aside, I have an inability to remember what I deem trivial knowledge, so several years ago, in the days of movie “rentals” (how quaint), I counseled my spouse to rent the movie Cujo, telling him it was rumored to have beautiful photos of nature. Alas, I was thinking of White Fang.

I present the photos of Cujo and Whilte Fang:

Guess who is who?

(And, a further aside: I also confused Silver Streak, a comedy featuring RIchard Pryor, with Midnight Express, a very violent movie about drug smuggling. I wish you could see the faces of my coworkers when I told them I found Midnight Express very, very funny… But I digress.)

Back to Otis a/k/a Cujo.

Otis was purchased to be Lassie. I have put my heart and soul and money and time into him to alleviate all my loneliness, to make me feel important and loved and useful. He was destined to curl up at my feet, to serve as a comfort dog as I carried out my noble charitable work, weaving in among the very sick and very old, Otis and I were going to bring joy to the world. And he was to be my companion, through thick and thin.

But then he turned on me. He has become an adolescent terror. Not satisfied with ripping apart the bushes and digging holes in the yard, he has turned to systematically ripping out the landscape edging and trotting around the yard with his prize. I stride outside and sternly instruct him to COME. He looks at me, clearly thinking, “You must be kidding.” I close in and he goes on the attack. Jumping at me, biting at my sleeves, baring his teeth, growling. One day this scenario transpired when I was still in my robe. My lovely robe was streaked with muddy paw prints. I retreated into the house, dragging him by the collar. To say he didn’t seem to give a shit is a gross understatement.

Then there are the “walks.” We start out nicely enough, then Otis decides things are dull, so he pulls and tugs at the leash. I remind him, patiently, to come along and he does his leaping and nipping routine.

By the time I am home, I am capable of strangling him. But, at least to date, I have not.

I have, however, contacted a few trainers. The first pronounced his behavior “unacceptable” and “alarming,” advising me to clamp down. Think those hot boxes in Bridge Over the River Kwai.

NO, NO, NO my other consultant counsels. Yes, he is acting in an “alarming” and “dangerous” manner, but he needs counseling. Think of Otis on a couch, pouring out his grievances.

I am anxious. All right, downright panicked. I wake up in the middle of the night and read about aggressive dogs and conclude Otis will ultimately eat me. Think Lord of the Flies. After I mourn my ugly and untimely death at the paws of Otis, I lament the money, time, and effort spent on a lost cause. I remember everyone’s shock that I would purchase a puppy at my advanced age. “Yes, yes,” I scold myself. “They were all right. You are a dope, a fool, and if not dead soon, you will be at least maimed beyond recognition within a few days.”

I turn to a third advisor — the one who, I was told, was the end-all-and-be-all of dog aggression expertise. This time, I send a video. “This,” I explain, “is my own-fault Cujo that everyone under the sun warned my not to get. Can this marriage be saved???”

She responds quickly. She has watched the videos and opines that Otis seems “very frustrated, which is common when dogs are distracted and not getting reinforced.” She then adds, ” I don’t think he’s being aggressive, he’s adrenalized and frustrated. He’s still a baby and will need a lot of guidance and reinforcement for the behaviors we want.”

My head is spinning. What am I not reinforcing? How can I de-adrenalize him? (Note to self: Remove speed from his kibble starting tomorrow.) Why is he frustrated? He isn’t trying to train himself.

But, despite my questions, I find her response reassuring. Perhaps he is rehab-able. Perhaos he will become Lassie. Perhaps everyone will say, “Gosh, we were wrong. Nancy is the perfect dog owner and Otis, the perfect dog.” I am hopeful. Tonight I plan to sleep the entire night without once googling. “Can a 6 1/2 month golden retriever kill me.”

Tomorrow is our virtual training/meeting/assessment. I will keep you posted. Or, I will be torn to pieces and eaten.

An Easter Miracle

Starting a piece with a definition is an over-used literary device, but appropriate to today’s topic. To wit, Merriam-Webster defines “miracle” as “an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment.” Let’s not dwell on “outstanding,” rather focus on “unusual.” And before I disclose, some background is called for.

My late sister Rosie ran circles around the rest of her siblings in her ability to create thoughtful, cute things. She made me Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls with my name inscribed.

She made my nephew a clown Halloween costume that was passed down to the other nieces and nephews the way some families pass down a christening gown.

My inability to do these kinds of things rivaled the inabilities of my siblings, the difference being that they didn’t try. Alas, I was a member of the “hope springs eternal” crowd. Apparently Rosie shared my hope for myself, so when my kids were young and she was decluttering, she would, from time to time, ship me things. Before Christmas, she sent three two-foot high cardboard cutouts shaped liked gingerbread men that my kids could decorate. And before Easter one year, she sent me a lamb cake mold with instructions to use a box cake mix. That was it, the only instruction. Not sure why she thought that was adequate, but as I said, she had more hope in others than they in themselves.

For starters, the mold had 2 pieces. I mixed up the cake, presuming that one piece was the left side of the lamb, and the other, the right. So I filled each side with cake mix. When I took it out of the oven, each side had risen, thus when I removed the cake from each side and put them together, I had a two-headed lamb.

I’d already met the definition of “miracle,” yet there was more.

Unbelievably, I was not dissuaded from going further. I was expecting my 20-something niece and Jim’s brother’s family to join me, Jim, and my three teens for Easter brunch. After a moment’s reflection, I decided none were fussy and all would prefer dessert despite its appearance. So, I forged ahead because I had no alternative and time had grown short. So short, I felt I couldn’t wait to decorate my two-headed lamb cake.

I skillfully applied a white frosting and teased it up to resemble the soft curly fur of a lamb. Masterful. Then ,the piece-de-resistance. I added two red jelly bean eyes and a black jelly bean nose. Viewed from the proper angle, one would hardly notice the duplicate head. Into the freezer it went for a “quick cool.”

A short time later, the time for dessert arrived. I dispatched my son to fetch the cake and bring it to the table. It took him longer than expected because he paused, finding it difficult to walk and laugh simultaneously. You see the “quick cool” wasn’t quick enough and the warm frosting gave rise to some melting of the jelly beans. As all stared in amazement, someone snapped a picture.

Over the years, the picture has been shared to family and friends of family. It is forgotten for several months, then like an Easter miracle, rises.

I am thinking there is no better time than a global pandemic, when people are starved for a bit of amusement, to share my creation publicly. Hence. I present, my two-headed lamb cake.

Rosie, we will miss you tonight when I launch my inaugural attempt at a family Jeopardy game on Zoom, but rest assured, hope springs eternal for my creative ambition.

The Laundry Room

As I mentioned in a previous post, our washing machine (actually the laundry tub) overflowed three times last week. And, being March, it’s muddy and Otis ran around the laundry room with muddy paws before he had a bath(s) in the laundry tub. We also store our luggage in the laundry room and having just returned from vacation, the luggage needed storage. Before I put the luggage in the cubby under the stairs, however, I decided to pull out ALL the luggage and backpacks and free totes, hoping that one might contain my lost sunglasses, rendering them found. What I am warming up to is that our laundry room resembled a war zone.

All week I plotted my attack, knowing it best to wait until Jim could supervise Otis. No telling what Otis could get into while I was distracted with the laundry room.

Today was D-Day. And let me assure you, I have less to fear from the coronavirus than from what was lurking in the laundry room…

I won’t detail the mold. It is distasteful and is now vanquished. But I WILL discuss some of the other cleaning challenges.

First, the evidence of my good intentions:

  • Three full and one half-full bottle of Murphy’s Oil Soap
  • Three cans of Pledge, one of which had corroded, reminding me of Chernobyl
  • Three bottles of hydrogen peroxide

Those were exact duplicates. If I were to categorize by function, the duplications abound. A couple of spray bottles of degreaser (not sure that I have EVER used a degreaser. What does one degrease?) Several — and I mean several — different variants of products to clean and shine the wood in your life (and this is in addition to the Murphy’s Oil Soap and the Pledge). Lots of rug cleaning items. Bathroom cleaning items.

Next I spot the specialized tools.. The mismatched rubber gloves. The squeegee for the shower door (since the kids have moved out, we rarely use the shower with the shower door and have never even been tempted to squeegee it) and the blind cleaner. I can assure you I have never used this to clean blinds. Never.

I move on.

Our lightbulb collection has overgrown its storage receptacle. All different varieties, which is good, because who the hell know what bulb goes where anymore? Lightbulbs confound me. It used to be so easy. You need a 60 watt, 75 watt, or a 3-way. You go to the store, see the white package with the accordion insert, check the wattage, and you’re good to go. But now, where to start? I turn off lights when I leave a room, not to save the planet, but to save me a trip to the light bulb aisle.

Overwhelmed by the duplicative cleaning supplies and confounding light bulbs, I pivot back to the luggage and decide a sensible approach is to store all duffel bags in the mother of all duffel bags — the biggest and bestest one (and adorned with Jim’s initials no less). Alas, it smells. I report this to Jim, reluctantly, because I am thinking that I can do a little treatment, but it may well be that the initialed bag is headed for the garbage. Jim shakes his head knowingly. “Yeah I think one of the kids borrowed it and threw up in it.”

What???? So, so many questions!!

  • First of all, why would someone throw up in a borrowed duffle bag? And then return it
  • Secondly, if the duffel smelled like vomit, why would Jim store it for later use?

I ask Jim why he believes someone puked in his initialed bag. His proof is scanty. I wipe it down with white vinegar, wishing what it really needed was a couple of bottles of Murphys Oil Soap, scrubbed in with a blind cleaner, with a chaser of degreaser. The jury is out on whether the initialed bag will remain in our fleet of travel bags.

After hours of diligent effort, I grow weary. I scramble and organize shit and duplications of shit I will never use, just so I can get to the final act — scrubbing the floor.



No doubt you’ve been thinking Otis has indeed blossomed into the Lassie that Nancy envisioned.

We absolutely have had Lassie-ish days. Okay, perhaps just moments. But I do not want to admit failure, so I have soldiered on. We advanced from Puppy Socialization x 2 to Obedience 1. Also, in an underconfident moment, I even retained a personal trainer for Otis as he has confounded my ability to convince him that biting your way to the top is undesirable.

The personal trainer arrived and I believe if you look up “whirling dervish” in the dictionary, she would be pictured. Jim and I were breathless by the time she left. Jim, in fact, said he needed a treat. Her follow-up written communication, however, was clear and helpful so we felt good, or at least not bad, about leaving Otis with a trio of caregivers while we went on vacation.

We are fairly certain that the caregivers are now near dead, but are too nice to admit it.

We came home from this;

And this.

At 12:00 midnight.

Today is Reentry.

Jim went to work. I don’t know how his day went. To be honest, I don’t care because I had the reentry day from hell. Nothing that transpired at his workplace holds a candle to my day.

To wit:

I kicked things off with a few loads of laundry. All loads overflowed the washing machine and flooded the laundry room floor. i worked at my paid remote job while I mopped and soaked up ugly water.

Then I decided to pick up dog poop–as a break, so to speak. Well let me tell you, my pre-travel “don’t worry about picking up dog poop in the yard” statement seemed ill advised as I used the ice chipper to un-earth dog poop around the yard. Lord Almighty. A dog poops a lot in 8 days.

Eager to retire from dog poop retrieval, I decided to go to the grocery store and restock the larder. Alas, my car wouldn’t start. I added “jump car” to the to-do list of this evening’s activities. Jim will be so excited.

Now that I am homebound, I decided to take Otis for a long walk. We’d had a short walk earlier, but I know a growing pup needs his exercise, so I hurried to the basement to release him from his crate.

Ooops!! Too much hurrying. I stumble down the basement stairs and hurl myself into the wall, knocking a picture off the wall, breaking its frame. My arm aches but I press on, leashing up the hound and setting off.

Oh good God. Otis is the neighborhood litter hound. He retrieves bottles caps, cigarette butts, not one but two small plastic bottles of Fireball. By the second, I am wanting a shot of Fireball to power through the rest of our walk.

I slip on the ice multiple times, but two times are really noteworthy — slinging my body back and forth in a way God never intended the human body to gyrate.

We finally arrive at the lake — the goal of our walk. But it is frozen so Otis is unimpresesd. A lot like our backyard. To think I could have just let him out the back door and avoided this walk!

Otis now thinks he needs to ratchet things up. He leaps upon a nearby bench, not once but twice.

We press on. But then he finds the pièce de ré·sis·tance — a dead mouse. Voila. He eats half while I yelp, “DROP DROP,” all the while balancing my library book. (Did I forget to mention that I had stopped at the library at the outset of this sojourn? Mea culpa.)

I am horrified, although admit to wondering if his not eating the second half is due to obedience or dietary preference.

It is now getting dark. And cold. The previously wet sidewalks are now icy. I lurch my way home, feeling very sad that I don’t have any money as we pass the liquor store, because this is a night of nightcaps.

I press on. Otis retrieves and chews/swallows an untold number of abandoned Kleenexs, a paper cup, a forgotten mitten, a couple of “BURIED CABLE” flags, a few unidentified pieces of litter, and we are home.

He is filthy. I am exhausted. Nonetheless, I decide a sponge bath is in order. I repair to the laundry room to prepare his bath in a Rubbermaid tub. Wow! I discover the washing machine has overflowed yet again! Oh, joy.

I text Jim. Go to the grocery store. Go to the liquor store. I then address the washing machine overload and dog bath in that order, interrupted only by the realization and Rube Goldberg fix of our rusted out dehumidifier to absorb all the washing machine overflows and wet dog wetness.

A kind and good man, Jim comes home with groceries and pizza. I meet him at the front door, because the back entry now has a thin layer of ice due to the impromptu bath occasioned by the walk.

To be honest, a touch of coronavirus looks good to me now.

The only way to end this day or reentry is to go to bed. So be it.


It is 8:50 p.m. and I have settled into an easy chair in front of my gas-powered fireplace after the end of a trying evening. I also have a glass a wine —a “party pour” as my 20-something niece calls a generous pour. The reason? Otis.

Otis is my 9-week-old golden retriever. Tonight we started puppy socialization. He prepared for class by peeing on the floor in my home office and biting my pant legs. When we arrived at class, he could not find a suitable place to potty outside, rather waited to pee until we were in class. He was the only dog who relieved himself in class. But I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

We began class with a discussion of the placement of the dog crate in our home. The teacher advises that the crate should be positioned next to my bed, so the dog can hear me breathe and hear my heart beat. If I moved the dog crate to my bedroom, he’d hear my spouse packing his bags. When we came home two weeks ago, we situated the dog crate in the laundry room. My heart doesn’t beat that loud and even if I had emphysema, he couldn’t hear me breathe. I don’t disclose this to the teacher.

But I don’t need to because Otis has already drawn attention to us by straining on his leash to interact with another puppy who is nicely lying at his owner’s feet. When the straining and choking noises don’t stir the well-behaved neighbor, Otis begins barking, then ups the ante to lunging and barking. No other puppy in class is doing this. I don’t dare look at the owners; I am certain they are horrified. Being cute can only make up for so much.

Otis and another puppy, Lena, are then banished to the other room because both are new to the class. I am sure Lena is wondering what in the hell she ever did in her short life to get assigned Otis as her playmate. She is bigger but soon Otis has her on the run. There is no “me too” at puppy school. Finally, Lena takes a swipe at him. Undeterred, Otis keeps chasing her. Lena is visibly relieved when we rejoin the others to learn a few simple tricks.

The first one is to get the dog to sit. Passed with flying colors. Then we are to coax the dog to lie down. Instead, Otis pees. I mop the floor; Otis licks the wash water. The teacher takes pity on me and attempts to get Otis to lie down. He’s having none of it. Instead, he returns to an old favorite — biting my pant legs. Finally, the teacher succeeds in getting Otis to lie down for a nanosecond. Then he returns to biting my pant leg. When I try to get him to stop, he takes a nip at my hand.

At the end of class, the teacher hands us a folder of instruction. I am to work with him at least three times per day for the next week. My mind has already raced ahead to what will happen if next week is a repeat performance.

I text my son on the way home and tell him that Otis was the worst-behaved puppy in puppy class. He responds, “He is going for the most improved trophy.”

I can only hope.

Cremation and Creativity

I have been woefully negligent in sharing my musings with my vast audience of under a dozen. I believe the trendy thing to say is that I have been, “creatively blocked.” And of all things to spur the unblocking? Cremation.

I get at least 3-4 proposals per month suggesting my cremation. Seriously. Not just funeral planning, but specifically, cremation. Makes me wonder what I’ve done to signal my intense interest in having myself cremated.

However, the growing interest in my cremation has caused me to think about retirement. So much so, that I joined a group of friends to talk about how we’d like to see our later years play out, which led to my astute observation that if I didn’t fire up my creativity, I’d bore myself to death. While the cremationists would be delighted, it seems a sad way to go. And the group challenged me to sign up for a class.

So, I signed up for a class on unblocking one’s creativity. Here I am. Now instead of boring myself to death, I can bore you to death (and send you a coupon for cremation if you like). All the talk of creativity caused me to reflect on my lifetime of artistic endeavors, so I am sharing a special memory…

I desperately wanted to perform well in art class in grade school. I always got good grades, the two notable exceptions being religion and art. The whole concept of creating something enthused–but befuddled me. I had two things working against me.

  1. My impatience
  2. The wretched condition of the Burke home art supplies

No need to elaborate on my impatience. And I hesitate to even call what I had at home “art supplies.” I always had access to a scissors–could paw through drawers and find at least one, always dull. We used the one pair to cut paper, pizza, twine. We never had fabric in the home so that wasn’t an issue (and, as I’ve pointed out, never splurged on a pizza cutter either. Why? We had the dull scissors.) We were not a home of sparkles or doilies, making my own Valentine cards was unthinkable.

Art class was the ONLY place I could shine. I couldn’t draw to save my soul, so imagine my excitement when the art teacher assigned a paper mache project. We could make anything. My mind raced ahead, and I heard, but ignored the “add a layer of newspaper, LET IT DRY, add another layer” admonition. I “knew better” (as my Dad was fond of saying).

So, I waited until after dinner the night before the project was due and began construction of a turtle. I soaked newspaper strips in flour and water and layered and layered and layered them until I had a nice plump turtle. But the hour was growing late, and I had to paint it, so consulted my Mother–a grave error as she was no artist, much less a paper mache-ist. However, she was smart and aptly observed that the considerable mound of wet newspaper would not dry in time for a coat of green paint, so she advised putting the turtle in the oven. I did. Now I had a warm mound of wet newspaper and the whole house smelled.

Panic was setting in. My Dad then got into the action. He at least painted pictures so there was some artistic something in his genes. He suggested starting over with a base so I would only need one or two layers of newspaper. A round pink styrofoam bowl was produced. I added one layer of newspaper strips, barely wet. Things were looking up but I panicked again when I realized I just had a round mound which didn’t suggest a turtle with a head. I could not submit a headless turtle.

Again, my creative parents suggested I modify to a lady bug. Sure lady bugs have heads but they are so small they run into the body. I was thinking of this, minus the legs:

Excellent. I then applied a layer of red paint and in the morning, added some black dots. And my Dad drove me to school.

The lady bug was still dampish, leaching a bit of red paint, but was much improved from the headless unpainted sopping wet turtle. But when the art teacher saw it, she accused me of cheating. Apparently no honest paper-mache-ist starts with a pink styrofoam base.

Does anyone wonder how my creativity became blocked?

At the time, even in the mid-1960’s in Chicago, we burned some trash in our backyard (In fact, one time, our cleaning lady, Delores, set her hair on fire while tending to the fire, but I digress.) I mention this because I am quite sure that my paper mache turtle turned faux lady bug was cremated.


On Thursday, I awoke to a 5-alarm fire of phones ringing. The house phone, my cell phone, the house phone — I knew, without question, that someone had died. My husband ran frantically, phone to phone, missed the call, missed the call, then hit pay dirt. Found Marilee on the line on the very last ring, then promptly handed over the phone to me, still semi-comatose in bed. Although I am generally up at 7:40 a.m. on a Thursday, I had indulged myself by staying up to watch the end of the Cubs baseball game. Marilee was unhappy.

First, an aside. Although I presume Marilee spells her name Marilee, henceforth I will refer to her as “Merrily” because her name is incongruous with her chosen profession. Dental hygienist.

Merrily sounded anything but merry. Stern, annoyed, grumpy. Any of those adjectives would do. And because I was just stirring from sleep, her voice sounded so very loud.

She started off by saying, “This is Merrily from Dr. X’s office,” then pointing out the time. Having  just awakened, I had no idea of the time, so that was somewhat helpful, but my gratitude was quickly replaced with dread.

“Oooh. Sorry. I totally forgot, just blanked it out, I knew I had an appointment, but then forgot…” I could have gone on for hours with my mea culpas, but Merrily was having none of it.

“You confirmed the 7:30 appointment,” she pointed out stonily.

“Yes, yes, I know. I did. I just forgot, you know, just forgot.”

She didn’t know. Clearly Merrily has never forgotten one single thing in her entire orderly life.

After a stone cold silence, “Can you be here by 9:40?”

“No, no, I have to go to work. Have meetings.” Frankly I couldn’t remember if I had a meeting or not, but I was petrified to face Merrily in less than two hours. Best to wait until her memory of my grotesque inadequacy had dulled.

For a moment, I considered offering an explanation, but it was clear from Merrily’s tone, that telling her I overslept because I stayed up until midnight watched a baseball game would never do. So, I pivoted quickly to my stock of white lies — stomach flu is always reliable. But before I spat it out, I realized if I had stomach flu, I could not be going to a meeting. Should I offer a death in the family? No, no, too big a lie. Car trouble? No, because she can tell from my voice that I am still in the sack. My panicked review of possible excuses was interrupted by her next question:

“Do you want to reschedule now?” But it came out like, “You lazy good-for-nothing, when ARE you coming in?”

I faltered. I couldn’t face a reschedule. I hate the dentist’s office and all the worse, when I know they hate me. “No, no, I can’t. I am still in bed.”

There it was. Out. Admitted. A longer, stonier silence. “So you’ll call later?” Translation: Any self-respecting individual would have leapt out of bed and had calendar in hand by now.

“Yes.” I almost said, “Yes, certainly” for good measure, but I was feeling anything but certain.

And here’s the worst part. I didn’t call later Thursday or even Friday. I remembered, but didn’t call. Her chastisement laid me low. It is on my calendar to call tomorrow. God, give me courage.


Crafty? Or crappy?

Several years ago, before banks got too big to fail, they bestowed cloth-covered checkbook register covers on their preferred customers, which I was. (I am also a preferred customer at the nearby liquor store, which is awkward because the program is titled “Frequent Buyer Program.” I do not like announcing that I am a frequent buyer at the liquor store, thus have taken to telling the clerk upon checkout that I am a “member of the club.” Wink, wink. Nod, nod.) But I digress. Back to the bank.

My cloth checkbook register was a lovely red, but alas, now, after a dozen+ years, it is looking worn and faded. So I went to the bank the other day, asked to see a personal banker, smiled, and asked for a new one.

First of all, she looked astonished. “Who uses those anymore???” she asked, rhetorically I am sure, because it was rather obvious that I DID use one. Then she pawed through her desk to find one. I wanted to tell her I didn’t want some old thing with her pencil shavings and cough drop sweat on it but I held back. No harm done because no register covers were among the plethora of shit in her drawer.

She sighed and said she would have to go ask one of the tellers. I was glad she offered as there was a very long line of desperate looking individuals waiting for tellers. Plus, a reaction from the teller like that from the personal banker would hurt my self esteem. After a short while she came back and handed me a very ugly, navy blue, stiff vinyl cover. “This is it. No one asks for these anymore. Surprised we had this one.” Well la di dah.

Undeterred, I took the offering and returned home, fired up the computer and went to Amazon. Sure enough, Amazon sells them–for $14.99. Highway robbery. Then I got to thinking …

Encouraged by my recent knitting successes, I found a cute piece of fabric hanging around the rag bag and carefully ironed it and cut it into a rectangle. This is when, if not before, my guardian angel should have asked what I was doing. But she was AWOL. Or maybe she was laughing too hard to interrupt my concentration..

I hunted around for some spray glue. I knew we had a can when my last child did his Minnesota History Day project 9 years ago. Sadly, I couldn’t find it, but did find an adhesive I used (unsuccessfully) on his and his siblings’ Scout badges to avoid having to sew them on circa 1995.

Wouldn’t you know — the adhesive container was clogged. (Aside: Including my travel time, I had spent well over an hour to obtain a cloth-covered checkbook register. Who says I don’t have enough to do?) But, still, I had options.

I found some fabric adhesive in the back of the laundry room drawer. Damn. Despite using it 26 years ago to make my daughter’s Halloween costume, the cap was stuck on the tube. Couldn’t even wiggle it off with my teeth. But there’s more … In the very same drawer, I spied some iron-on fabric tape. Perfect.

I returned to the ironing board and proceeded to iron the fabric onto the vinyl register cover. Who would have guessed that in the process some of the vinyl melted and got stuck to the iron? No matter. I picked it off and left the project to cool.

When I returned, the cover did not meet my stringent quality standards. In fact, the iron-on tape failed to secure the material to the vinyl so I went to my “craft cabinet” where I happened upon some ALL PURPOSE glue. Excellent. This purpose certainly comes within the umbrella term of ALL PURPOSE, and due to the small size of my craft cabinet, it only took a second to locate.

Given the condition of the other household adhesives due to the frequency with which I use them, it will surprise no one that the ALL PURPOSE adhesive cap was stuck on the ALL PURPOSE adhesive bottle. This top was easily unstuck, unlike the fabric adhesive top that even my teeth could not dislodge. But having removed the ALL PURPOSE glue container cap which had a nice point, I could not dribble a thin line of ALL PURPOSE glue onto my project, so tried to gently squeeze a tidy mound from the mouth of the bottle.

As you might imagine, rather than a tidy mound, a big plop came flooding out causing panic. I quickly employed my finger to spread the glue in a nice, even, light layer but then the fabric stuck to my hand. I looked around and spied an old toothbrush. Ingenious. I used this to spread the glue, (also spreading some glue all over the top of the washing machine) and repurposed my finger to smooth the bubbles out of the fabric. But I didn’t wash my hands before I did this — really, there was no time — so I got glue on the OUTSIDE of my new cloth-covered register. I attempted to wipe it off with a wet rag. Thinking I had been successful, I left it to dry.

When I returned, the finished product was stiff and sticky. Some places the cloth had pulled away from the vinyl and, as previously mentioned, the vinyl was melted in spots.

Today I purchased a $14.99 cloth-covered checkbook register from Amazon.