A sunny day in the neighborhood

As family members in Washington D.C. and “warm” cities of the south endure the biggest snowstorm in decades, I found myself tra-la-laing outside. It was below freezing most of the day, but the sun was bright and there were almost no clouds in the sky.

The Middle School Mafia took a break from their mayhem to skate and bike on the snow-less roads. Sure, they were wearing wintercoats and heavy gloves, but they were thinking Spring in their tiny misbegotten brains.

Under the sun’s rays, the snow decreased enough in the back yard for the squirrels and birds to rediscover the cache of birdseed and corn kernels. In the front, the grass appeared in patches and the roof lost its white blanket.


Nuggets of Nonsense: Troisième Part

  • My sojourn in Quebec was a wonderful experience but hard to explain in words. I suppose that’s the difference between a vacation trip and a pilgrimage: ineffable souvenirs.


  • I want to learn French better. So many French-speakers approached me – evidently I look like I belong to them – and many knew no English. Yet despite the language barrier, they were so kind and pleasant. One elderly lady wanted to show me that there were better souvenirs than the one I was holding; she pantomimed and even moved her hands like runway guidance torches to show me the way. This desire to learn French was sorely lacking after I returned from Paris – but such is the power of the Quebequois and the Haitians!


  • A good traveling companion is the difference between a good trip with inconveniences and a penitential journey with bright spots. My roommate had the same sense of humor and similar interests. The humor was especially important when we awoke at 2 am to the drunken singing of a young woman in the alley below our window (no AC in the dormitory, either).


  • Music really is the universal language. Notre Dame du-Lac featured a series of musicians and singers on the feast of the Assumption. One of our party was dancing in her wheelchair while listening to a Gospel choir from NYC. The Haitian choir waiting their turn saw her roll past, clapped for her, and started seat-dancing with her. Joyeux!


  • I didn’t miss social media or radio. Everyone’s main concern was weather reports and an up-to-date itinerary (particularly supper time!). But a baseball fan asked me to text my younger brother a single important question: Did the Cubs win? (No, they did not.)


  • Several things changed while I was away – the temperature and the gas prices rose – but the grass scarcely grew at all.

Continue reading

Good neighbours

Last night (and this morning) I was sleepless because of the dog-that-never-stops-barking and the attendant drama.  The wretched creature lives on the street that parallels mine and, judging from the sound, a few houses down from mine. The incessant barking comes day or night.

Then there are the people who shush the dog. One of them is a middle-schooler with the voice of a disgruntled bullfrog. “Shuuut uupp!” he croaks. It’s bad enough during the day, but after dark I want to throw a brick at him. Preferably a brick still attached to a wall.

(No, I don’t think he’s part of the Middle School Mafia. I’m just a morning person, which means I become a homicidal maniac when someone prevents me from sleeping.) Continue reading

Hurray for rainy nights!

Despite the threat of flash flooding, I rather like the evening rains. It dampens outbreaks of Middle School Mafia.

Like cicadas and virulent plagues, its appearance is cyclical. Summer is the height of infestations because of the increase in leisure time and uselessness allows for greater levels of dumb-assery. (Please let me know if these descriptions are too esoteric. I sometimes fall into professional jargon.)

All three conditions must be met for a group to coalesce. However, it will dissolve or revert to a more benign form unless the group perceives an external threat. Please note: This doesn’t involve an actual threat, such as an angry parent or a patrolling officer or Mister Guy-Who-Just-Wants-To-Be-Left-Alone.

No, not at all. The perception is the key. Continue reading

Opportunity, or How to Prevent an Infestation of Middle Schoolers from Damaging the Garden

Opportunity is missed by people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. – Thomas Edison

There’s a lot of opportunity in my garden right now. Raking and pruning and mulching – I’m not sure I deserve all these opportunities. There’s also the matter of moving all the cement blocks that Jerkface MacGuyver thought would make a fine way of destroying lawnmower blades and trimmer strings marking the border of the flowerbeds.

He couldn’t limit himself to just the house. He had ideas about gardening, too. When I moved into La Casa de Tontería, the flowerbeds consisted of azaleas, dandelions, thistles, and a morning-glory-like vine that strangles other plants.

Homicidal plants. It makes me happy he never built a fire pit. *shudder*

Last weekend I bought a trellis and set it perpendicular to the shed and the privacy fence.  It’s too dark there to grow anything, but that’s not its purpose. Really, it’s a middle schooler barrier.

Rumor has it that in the Old Country, adults would hear the burping farting thundering herds of middle schoolers in the distance and they’d dig huge pits to trap them. But modern zoning ordinances do not allow for such structures. Pity. Continue reading

Out of the mouth of babes: Boyfriends

This past weekend, I mowed the lawn in preparation for the torrential rainstorm that propelled another grass growth spurt. I don’t mind mowing. However, the pre-mowing ritual is getting longer. With autumn descending, it includes picking up sticks, raking up acorns and chasing toads out of the way.

However, during this process I had an epiphany. Or maybe her name was Tiffany. At any rate, a pint-sized neighbor ambled by and, during the course of our conversation, informed me that I could save myself the trouble of mowing a lawn if I got myself a boyfriend. If she were an adult, I would have been aghast at her mercenary heart. (And if she were one of the Middle School Mafia, I would have pelted her with sticks, acorns, and possibly toads.)

However, a child’s perspective is simultaneously amusing and enlightening. Why not approach dating like a job interview? Lord knows it can’t hurt. In fact, maybe this would be a way to focus on what’s really important in a relationship: House maintenance.

Picture the following scenarios, and it’s easy to see who’s the best boyfriend: Continue reading

Middle-schoolers are my enemies…

Yesterday night I went to the local high school football game, wanting to see some of my favorite people play in the game and/or the band. The half-time show was great, with the 90-strong band playing a medley of songs from the musical Grease (which I despise, but it sounded good sans lyrics and looked great with the costume changing – poodle skirts and sequins!).

But I was hit in the head by a football. Continue reading