The Return of the Coffee Dog

We don’t eat a lot of hot dogs at our house.  And when we do, I am picky about buying BEEF hot dogs, as I am completely turned off of pork and the idea of a compressed mixture of turkey, pork and beef and the processes that must produce such an unnatural product is something I try hard not to think about.

The children get to choose their birthday meals, and a couple times of year, someone will request cheeseburgers and hot dogs.  So hot dogs are considered a rare and delicate treat by the children here.   And there are rarely leftovers.

A few weeks ago, the boys were involved in a 4-day choir camp at the local Baptist church that culminated in a musical performance.  Performance Day was exciting and busy with 3 hours of practice, and I got this rare, crazy idea to feed the kids hot dogs for supper.  This was really lazy-mom-needs-a-quick-meal-to-get-the-kids-out-the-door-by-6:15 pm, but with proper presentation it turns into “hey kids, y’all have worked hard and I am treating you to hot dogs!”

So I made hot dogs on that fateful Thursday afternoon.  In our rush to get to church on time, I left kitchen clean-up until later.  We returned home after bedtime, and I began clearing plates and scraps.  To my surprise, there was a half-eaten hot dog and bun left on a plate.  We usually wrap and save every possible leftover, but I felt uncomfortable saving a piece of meat that had sat out for 5 hours, so I tossed the dog and bun in the prep sink on top of the potato peels and veggie scraps I had processed that day.

It was late and I planned to give the kitty a surprise hot dog and bun the next morning when I hauled the scraps out to the compost pile.

I got up the next morning and set water on the stove to boil.  I put away clean dishes that had dried on the counter overnight and turned my attention to the prep sink.  I reached for the hot dog and bun . . . . . . . . . but, what was this?  The bun was empty.  I glanced in the sink, thinking the hot dog had rolled out of the bun and nestled with the potato peelings, but . . . . . . .no hot dog.

The children were still sleeping after their late night, and there was only one other person who had been up before me.  I had a suspicion, but . . . . .no . . . . . .surely not, I thought . . . . . .

I picked up the phone and called my hard-working husband, my busy, busy husband who is up at 5 am every morning, who works 12- 14 hour days, and whom I try to be sensible about calling.  In fact, I would say I am sparse in my phone calls, preferring to interrupt his day as little as possible in hopes that he will get done quicker and home to us earlier.

However, some things are important enough to rate a call and risk that I am interrupting an important meeting between my professional ditch-digger and a client or engineer or Mr. Important Whomever.

I dialed.

“Hey, sweetie.  I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I called seeking reassurance from you this morning.   Um . . . . . . . . . well, you see . . . .there was this half-eaten hot dog and bun that I threw in the sink on top of the slop last night.  I was going to give it to the kitty this morning, but I can only find the bun . . . . . . . . .the hot dog is missing . . . . . I, um, was hoping that you could reassure me . . . . . . . . . . . .”

He waited it out.

He was going to make me say it.

“PLEASE, please, tell me you didn’t eat it this morning.”

“I ate it.”  He sounded cheerful.

Deep breath.  I had to plan my next words, careful with the placement of emphasis.

“Okay, let me make sure I am understanding this.  You picked up a half-eaten hot dog that had been IN THE SLOP PILE ALL NIGHT  and ATE it for breakfast?”

“The hot dog wasn’t touching any of the slop.  It was in the bun.”

Pause.

Did he HAVE to sound so reasonable?

“Okay.  I can make this work,” I said hopefully.  “You probably came behind me last night and picked it up out of the slop . . . . . . .  like only 5 minutes after I had tossed it in and you put it in the fridge until this morning.  Right?”  Somehow 5 minutes in the slop pile sounded better to my desperate mind than the whole night in the slop pile.

“I picked it out of the slop this morning.”  He sounded like he was on the verge of laughter, like . . . . . . . .like he knew something I didn’t.

A deeper breath.

“It’s okay.  Just give me a minute.  I called seeking reassurance but am finding that my deepest fears were true all along.  I just need some time to wrap my mind around this.  I’m sure I’ll be fine and ready to greet you properly when you get home.”

Then, THEN he dropped the bomb, what I had sensed he was holding onto through this conversation.

“Honey, I enjoyed coffee with that hot dog this morning.”

“YOU.  DID.  NOT.”

I could FEEL the silent smirk across the phone line.

TWENTY years.  We’ve been married almost 20 years, and I thought I had nipped THAT atrocious habit in the bud.

But it is true.  History is doomed to repeat itself.

Or I am doomed to my husband resurrecting his premarital coffee dog days.  Doomed to smell the nauseating mixture of coffee and hot dogs.

But maybe it is just me.  Maybe there is a market out there for this original coffee flavor and I had better post the recipe here, on my blog —– proof that my husband is the sole creator of this product.

I suppose I would find it more palatable if it made a profit.

The Original Coffee Dog

Ingredients:

1 young, unmarried male college student rooming with 2 other male college students (necessary as I believe most sensible females would halt this recipe mid-prep)

hot dogs

instant coffee

water

1 pot

Instructions:

Put hot dogs in the pot with enough water to cover and bring to a boil.  Get your coffee cup ready with a scoop of instant coffee.  When hot dogs are cooked, pour your boiling hot dog water into coffee cup.  Stir.  Add cream and sugar to taste.

Enjoy (if you can) your nasty coffee with your hot dogs, otherwise known as Coffee Dogs.

Back in the early days of marriage,

I looked ahead toward our 20th wedding anniversary as something big, the kind of big that called for a special trip or . . . . .or . . . . . something out of the ordinary.

Today is our 20th wedding anniversary. 

And it is an ordinary day. 

Just as he has done for many, many years, Sid came upstairs at 6:45 am, brushed his teeth, then nuzzled me awake with his unshaven, scruffy jaw.  It is the mark of a brave and righteous man who dares to disturb the slumber of a woman/bear. 

Now, he is many hours away, working hard to bring home the bacon.  I am at home feeding and teaching  his children.  I should also be slaving to cook up the bacon by 6 pm sharp, but I . . . . .um . . . . . will get distracted, as usual . . . . . .and let my hard-working man go hungry a little longer than he should .  . . . .until 6:10 . . . . .sometimes 6:17 . . . . . . .oh ALRIGHT  ALREADY, sometimes supper is not on the table until 7 pm.

And though he will be ready to chew his own arm off by then, he will forgive me, praise me, and entertain us with a story of his day.  He will help me clean up the kitchen and direct children in chores. 

After the children are in bed, I will attempt to do this or that, a desperate attempt to get something DONE.  But he will seek me out, find me and coax me into dropping my load.

“Tomorrow is a new day,” he’ll say.  “Come walk me.  Come sit on the porch with me.  Come watch a movie with me.”

Just an ordinary day.  But I suspect it is our ordinary that is the singular experience.  I can say with certainty that no wife has been more cherished.

Thank you Lord for our beautiful, delightful ordinary days.  I pray that we will be blessed with many more.

Later . . . . . . . . . .

After supper, I got the brilliant idea to have our pictures taken to mark our 20th Anniversary.  Yeah, I’m kind of slow about thinking of these things, but Sid and I aren’t exactly professional portrait people.  I don’t know why, we just aren’t.

However, we could still get our portraits, Sid-and-Tina-style.  This meant that I lasso-ed the 11-year-old with my Canon Rebel camera strap and instructed him to take pictures of us that didn’t make ME look fat.

The photographer didn’t pay attention.

Before anyone asks, no, I’m not pregnant.  I guess I can’t expect figure flattering from a fifty cent yard sale dress.   But, hey, LOOK at that handsome man with the distinguished gray hair and scruffy jaw.

Our photographer got distracted . . . . . . .

We didn’t have those professional studio backdrops, so we chose backgrounds that show who we are . . . . . .

This portrait says that we are people of the dirt.  Sid digs in the dirt to install septic systems.  He comes home and moves dirt to build his wife a cellar.  And because we are grass-growing failures, our children play in the dirt, and I must wash all the clothes with the dirt.

More dirt.  With a little flirt.

Hmmm, maybe it is the red crocs.  Maybe that is why we aren’t professional portrait people.  Or maybe it is the chicken feathers in my hand.  I have a suspicion that a professional photographer wouldn’t put chicken feathers in my hand.

Speaking of photographers, ours got distracted again . . . . . .

Happy Anniversary Sid.

For my picture-appreciating man

who read Tuesday’s post “I steal his things” and commented,”Awwww, you didn’t post a picture.”

It also occurred to me that a picture would explain why I did not immediately catch on to the direct relationship between Sid’s nailing down of his office supplies and my theft of his 3-hole-punch.

He screwed them vertically to this homemade shelf on his desktop.  So it looks like he did it to conserve desktop space and still keep his handy tools . . . well, handy.  (Apparently, he doesn’t think hiking up the stairs to the schoolroom and searching through my desk and shelves is “handy.”)

And just to make my love sweat a little . . . . .I did a little investigating . . . .

Just for curiosity’s sake, of course.

But now I know exactly how they are attached. 

I know where the screwdrivers are  my boys know where the screwdrivers are.

I’m pretty sure I know how to use a screwdriver.

I steal his things

and how he deals with me . . . . . . . .

Sid stood in the schoolroom last night, quietly watching and waiting while I took care of last minute school checking.

“Here, Sidney, 3-hole-punch this and put it in your book.”  I hand Sidney his geography pages.

“Three hole punch . . . . . . . ,”  Sid muses, “that brings back a memory.”  He is wearing a little smile.

“What memory is that?” I ask, innocently walking right into it.

“The memory of my 3-hole-punch disappearing from my office and reappearing in the schoolroom . . . . . .when I mentioned that it needed to be put back, I remember what you said —-You shrugged your shoulders and told me  that you assumed I had become resigned to the fact that it was no longer my 3-hole-punch.”

I giggled, though I felt chagrined too.  What had I been thinking?  Sid’s obvious amusement kept the embarrassment from lingering.

We bundled up and headed to the Suburban.  Sid’s work truck had been fixed, and was sitting in the Blue Ridge Tire lot.  He needed it very early the next morning,  so we were off to town to bring it home tonight.

A full 10 minutes have passed and I am still thinking about that 3-hole-punch.  Suddenly, the ole brain synapses make a connection and I see the answer to a mystery wavering within my grasp.

“Is that when you nailed your stapler and tape dispenser to your desk?  Was that AFTER the 3-hole-punch thing?”

“Yep,” he admitted.  “I envisioned you tugging and tugging on that tape dispenser and finally giving up when it wouldn’t budge.”

I laughed.  He knew I was too lazy to attempt prying it off.

In the backseat , the 4-year-old gave a long-suffering sigh and said very seriously, “You guys are just a little tooooo funny.”

An UnOrdinary Hour

***In the interest of complete truthfulness and because my children will likely read this post and wonder at my ability to understand the passage of time, this “night” actually occurred  5 nights ago, which is when I began writing the post.***

Sometimes we are just living our ordinary moments when suddenly, I am struck by the UN-ordinariness of our lives — the preciousness of “here and now,” this exact moment, those exact words, the shape of Prairie’s eyes when she scrunches up her face, the curve of Lincoln’s smile.  It is that brief moment when I am wise, and my heart clings to every sight and sound, savoring it, wrapping it in memory, protecting it from loss.

This happened to me tonight, and these are the memories I captured . . . . . . . . . .

“What’s for supper Mama?” Rachel asks.

“Roast, sprout salad and buttered noodles.”

A very brief moment of silence as her mind shifts through her distaste for roast and ambivalence toward sprouts.  In the next instant, she throws her arms around my thighs and hugs me.  “Oh THANK YOU for making noodles Mama!”  Suddenly, I want to make this girl cookies.

Cleaning up after supper,  Sidney wiping counters,  Lincoln sweeping the mudroom, I load the dishwasher and Sid clears the table.

“I took some of your Lentil Soup for lunch today.  It was most excellent,” Sid complimented me.

“Oh, did you remember to douse your lunch portion with oil and balsalmic vinegar before you took it with you?”  In my book, these last minute additions to the individual serving MADE the soup.

“No,” he said.  “But you added it to the big pot of soup last night.”

“No, I didn’t,” I said, half-frowning and searching my memory, feeling certain that I had followed the new recipe to the letter.

“I watched you pour it in.”  Sid insisted.

I bit my bottom lip and kept loading the dishwasher.  Sid stepped toward me in a mock-threatening way, pretending to stare me down if I dared to look at him.

I peeked up at him, smiled and said, “I am soooo defying you in my head.”

In his best John Wayne voice, he drawls, “As long as that is where is stays, Little Lady.” 

Our way of recognizing that we were on the verge of foolishly arguing over oil and  balsamic vinegar and poking fun at ourselves.

After-supper-chores done, we piled on jackets and tied on shoes.  Stepping into the January night,  I was thankful for these warmer days after the previous weeks of freezing temperatures.  It felt chilly, but not freezing tonight.  The three eldest children ran down the driveway, yelling, laughing, blending into the darkness except for the crazy dance of their flashlights.  They are brave in their togetherness.

The stars clear and bright, a sliver of moon with a haze over it.  Prairie’s hand grasped tightly in mine to keep her from slipping on the gravel driveway.  Sid grabs my other hand.  “Just wait until this spring . . . . . . after the kids are in bed, we’ll take walks down the driveway, holding hands, in the moonlight.”

I hear the warm anticipation in his voice and feel mildly surprised.  We had begun those nightly walks 2 years ago when I was nearly bedridden sick.  I had needed the exercise, though it felt physically impossible to move.  Sid pushed himself to do 4 times more work in a day, pushed himself to get home at a decent hour, then pushed his exhausted body further still, while pulling his diseased wife around our trailer at night. 

What had begun as desperation turned into a beautiful hope.  He would talk to me during our walk, taking my mind from the dwelling place of exhaustion, health research and debate over my next treatment option.  The anticipation of those nightly walks with him kept me tethered to the hope and beauty before me.

One night, we laid on a blanket in the yard and looked at the stars.  I remember how time seemed suspended and if I just looked hard enough, I could look right past those stars, beyond the universe and see God.  I remember thinking that I might not live long, but that moment with Sid under the stars was bigger than life and death, and I was peaceful.

But tonight . . . . . . . . .tonight, we are not trudging along in exhaustion and three of our children are wisps in the night, while the littlest fearfully clings to my hand.  We are on a mission, a mission to see Daddy’s new “baby” trackhoe.  We finally make it to the old trailer, where Sid parks his trucks and equipment.  I hear lots of giggling, shushing and finally, a howl.  The boys must remember their “camping trip.”

Gathering around the truck and trailer, we watch Sid unload his “baby,” which unleashed a flurry of excitment in the children.

“Daddy, may I ride with you?” asks Rachel.

“Can I drive it?”  Sidney test-drives the machine, already looking like a young man on that thing, even at the tender age of 10.  Both my boys filled to the brim with brashness and foolhardy confidence.

Sid lifts the extra bucket,  “Look at the bucket.  Isn’t it cute?”  Though I wonder at his definition of “cute,” I am certain of the man’s brilliant business sense.  No doubt that trading in one of his bobcats for the “baby” will prove to be a wise business move.

The night’s chill worked its way through our jackets, and we were ready for the long trek back to the house.  Prairie and I nearly run into Lincoln, standing still as a statue in the dark.  My Mama Sense knew something was wrong and I was fairly sure I knew what it was.  But I wanted my reticent boy to verbalize his thoughts, so I waited.  Haltingly, he finally shares his disappointment that he did not get a turn on the baby trackhoe.  The desire to turn back and give my son his turn is great, but greater still is the desire to raise a strong man, a man who won’t turn away in frustration with the people he loves because his voice is too soft, because he has not spoken clearly and made his thoughts and desires known.

One hand still clasping Prairie, my other hand on Lincoln’s shoulder, I pull him close, hoping he can feel my love for him if he doesn’t hear it in my counsel.  After a few moments, he takes off, once again running in the night with his siblings, and all appears well again.

My littlest tightens her grip on my hand.  “Mama, I’m afraid of dinosaurs.”  Relieved, I am more confident in my ability to handle this concern.