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Saturday, August 26, 2017

A Tale of the Generous Spirit

One summer during college I worked at Mickel’s – that landmark restaurant of Shelby County with the cheery orange and yellow facade on the corner of 12th and Chatburn. Decadent fried rolls. Homemade sweet salad dressing which was clearly the best condiment in the house. Mickels (may it rest-in-peace) was a local treasure. I still think fondly of my time there, remembering the fun environment and, of course, the fried rolls.

There was an elderly couple that came in fairly frequently. Okay, there were a lot of elderly couples who came there frequently. But this particular couple was iconic to the waiting staff. The man was a dear, gentle soul with an adorable smile. And his wife? Oh my goodness. I’m not sure there are words. Maybe the best way to describe her would be this: a fire-breathing dragon lady.

As he would try to make friendly small-talk, she would interrupt with a spitting, “I want a cheeseburger.” Then she would tell him to shut up and order. As she growled, he continued to chuckle in a polite way. She never liked her food. He always complimented. And when it came time to pay the bill, she made darn sure he wasn’t going to leave a tip. Somehow, he always managed to hide a little something under the placemat.

You know what I think about when I remember that old couple? The kind soul of the old man. It easily eclipses the fire of the dragon lady.

Here’s the thing. Kindness is powerful. I loved waiting on that couple – we all did. Because Mr. Kindsoul was inspiring. The poor guy lived in hell, but you’d never know it. His response to his situation seemed to be patience and generosity.

In our household lives a soon-to-be 16-year-old boy. I’m not sure if any of you have experience with teenage boys, but they don’t always think. As a matter of fact, it’s been proven scientifically that teenager brains are not fully developed. But, when Cole forgets to shut off a hydrant and lets water run all night, our knee-jerk is not to remember that he can’t help his folly. We are ready to chew some ass. 

“Cole! What kind of dumb-ass move was that? You gonna pay the water bill next month?”

Cole feels terrible. I feel terrible. I’m thinking Doug feels kind of bad too, but I’m not sure fathers experience mom-guilt like we do.

Maybe patience and kindness is the answer. What would be so wrong with this?

“Cole. The weirdest thing happened – the hydrant was left on overnight. Any thoughts on how that might’ve happened? Ha ha!” 

Okay. Maybe no ha ha. Cole would still feel horrible, but I’m thinking he’d appreciate our gentle approach. And we all would move on to the next thing. Unless, it happened again. Then I’d probably emerge into Mrs. Dragonlady.

Friday, August 11, 2017

This one goes out to the one I love

This is the weekend of Doug as he flips to minus one year and counting before…a big decade birthday. This also happens to be the same month we celebrate 23 years of wedded bliss. It all feels like a major milestones for us. (Maybe it has something to do with seeing his ex last weekend at the class reunion.) I’m just so happy I married someone I still like. As a matter of fact, I made a list.

Why I like my husband:
He will even selfie with me.
·         He makes me laugh even when I don’t want to. (Case in point: whenever something good happens, he shouts out with glee, “Tits!” I hate this exclamation, but I laugh every time.)
·         He is as cute as ever and kills it with his thinning tresses. Yessiree, Alex and Cole Kramer. The chemistry between us is still there. So, suck it up and watch us kiss.
·         He loves his kids in a way so different than me that without his influence, we might have raised horrible children who would’ve never learned anything about baseball.
·         He convinces me to relax. That is exactly why my house is a disaster most of the time. And I rarely throw a tantrum about it.
·         He’s entirely handy, not be confused with handsy. (He’s that too, but I wouldn’t think of adding that on this list.)
·         His favorite outfit is a gray t-shirt and sweat shorts, which happens to be my favorite outfit to wear as well. I love being a couple who wears comfy threads to the bar on a Saturday night.
·         He feeds our cat potato chips off the counter.
·         He’s annoyingly modest. (He actually makes me feel like a show off. But the quality is so endearing. I try really hard to be more like him in this respect.)
·         He takes the dog for rides on the four-wheeler.
·         He will take me to Natalie Merchant and hardly complain if they run out of beer.
·         He thinks Tom Hanks is the best actor of all time. I don’t happen to agree with this, but I love it that he has an opinion about acting. (Mr. Hanks—if you’re reading this blog, you would be in my top ten.)
·         He calls me beautiful every day no matter how depraved I look.

And those are the main reasons I like my husband. Oh yes. I love him as well. Why you ask? It can be summed up as this:

Douglas Mark Kramer is something better than great—he’s good. (Yeah. I totally ripped this off a movie. But it’s true.)

Happy Birthday, Love.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

One Time, at Band Camp

The summer is closing in on us! And kids are biting at the bit to get back to school! Well, some kids probably are. Not mine so much. My college-aged child seems to be having a notorious time in Iowa City, as indicated by her Snapchat stories. (I’m a stalking mom.) My high schooler also seems to having a good summer with his various expeditions. (Thank goodness for friends who do cool things and invite Cole to tag along. And a cousin who's convinced him that golfing is addicting. Otherwise his summer might’ve consisted of “How I Met Your Mother” marathons with his parents.)

Actually, the summer hasn’t been without a little constructive activity for our children. Alex has been working her tail off at a restaurant and discovering the freedom that comes with a little pocket change. Cole has been required by his mother to take an online Algebra class. And we made him go to soccer camp.


Now, as most of you know, Cole is very passionate about soccer. But he was less than excited about attending camp–at CREIGHTON no less! The university he dreams of attending, but probably won’t because it’s too pricey. On the day we were to take him to Omaha, our happy son turned atypically growly. I didn’t blame him for being anxious. You see, when I was young, my parents sent me to (wait for it) piano camp. Yes, I’ve been the butt of many family jokes about this.

It was the summer after my 7th grade year. My parents dropped my off at Coe College in Cedar Rapids–that city with the emanating rancid odor from the Quaker Oats factory. It didn’t add appeal.

After Mom and Dad left me with a roommate who was less than excited to be chumming up with a small-town girl from the other side of the state, my heart sunk and I felt lonelier than I had ever felt. I would’ve done anything to go home. But I also knew my parents had paid a fee that took a decent bite of their paychecks. I had to suck it up. And you know what? I learned some valuable life lessons, like:

·         Not everyone will be nice. But you’ll still be okay.
·         A lot of people are nice. It’s up to you to seek them out.
·         Only you can make or break an experience.
·         Getting out of your comfort zone will prepare you for more situations in life than you can possibly imagine.

Hey Dude. Where should we put the snacks?
I went to piano camp every year through high school. And I have no doubt that piano camp was training ground for my career in college and, well, my career. I told all of this and more to my son before we left that day. He was still cranky. Until, of course, we picked up his best friend and met four of his other buddies at the dorm. He practically pushed us out the door with glee. Sure, he had the benefit of being surrounded by his friends, as opposed to being stuck with a snooty bitch from Des Moines. (I'm not bitter.)

But still! He met people, learned to play with an unfamiliar team, take instructions from new coaches, and be responsible–getting to all of his sessions without his mother's help. He did it! And only locked the keys in his room once! No matter, he had received something better than soccer tips at camp.

I sensed a new confidence in Cole. (He’s a confident kid anyway. As a matter of fact, when I told him I missed him the other day, he responded, “I know! I would miss me too!”) But this was a different, more mature confidence. Perhaps he’s realizing that college isn’t so far away. And the future isn’t so scary after all.