Walla Walla life
Thank you to those who have inquired. Thanksgiving turned out to be very relaxing and enjoyable, and I am as astonished as those who know my holiday history.
Our troupe of five arrived at Camo Mom’s house bearing side dishes and hungry tummies. Once we got in the door I hugged a few family members, then looked out a small sea … maybe a pond … of new faces. Squaring my shoulders, I adopted my reporter persona and did a quick tour of the great room, shaking hands, smiling just so and moving on, trying to memorize names in order to later win points.
My teen daughters emerged from the Honda already — don’t judge — playing their electronic games. In the house, they seamlessly blended with other kids playing their electronic games. I know they all spoke, but mostly they imitated some of the adults who were strengthening their own relationships with their tablet or iPhones.
In other words, they all looked related. They acted as such within minutes.
My lady in-laws cooked and orchestrated the placement of food in the new kitchen, while I hovered around the edges, unsure of what to do once I had stuck serving spoons in my own offerings. My men-in-law did as predicted, sitting side by side on the comfy sectional and discussing manly things.
Camo Man was in his element. He had his sisters and their husbands, one son and his family, nieces and nephews and their assorted offspring, plus his mom and dad.
I watched him closely. As of now, I have no childhood pictures of my husband, so I can only try to imagine him as a boy. But seeing him fully relax into his family brought me closer to knowing. My husband laughed and joked and ate and talked to kids and ate some more. His face creased a hundred times with a smile or chuckle, not a worry on the menu for the day.
Camo Man, however, did not forget about me. He knows I can get overwhelmed around folks I don’t know well, that my confident facade easily crumbles. We had set up a signal system before arriving and he did the eye-to-eye checking in … can you see why I love him so?
But I was fine. Dandy. Lovely. Calm. I had delicious food on my plate and great company. I had no real responsibilities and my kids were not embarrassing me or their dad, so I was totally chill. I was even happy, which has never been the case at my own Thanksgivings — my obsessive-compulsive disorder kicks in so fiercely that I start lining up place settings with a ruler and wiping every dot of food off the counter the second it lands.
It’s hard to be around that much bizarre.
Fortunately, no one had to get a helping of that dish of crazy this time. To my new family I say, you’re welcome and thank you. You may not realize what a gift you gave me — aside from Camo Man, of course — but a delicious-in-every-sense Thanksgiving is huge.
I have been, by and large, the hostess of Thanksgiving dinner nearly every year of my adult life. Which is a cornucopia of Thanksgivings.
Certainly, I’ve had years off, like when I’ve supped at the table of my friend Penny, who is the most awesome cook. Or the years we’ve met up in Hood River and used Vagabond Lodge like the family retreat center, bouncing in and out of each other’s rooms and producing lovely meals out of coolers.
And my family did some really fun, alternative Thanksgivings in Alaska, where people seem more apt to be nontraditional.
The year our church journeyed to its summer camp location, dug out walks and doorways, and cooked like there was no tomorrow is a memory I will cherish forever.
Also? Learning to sleep under 50 pounds of blankets while frost clogs your nose in unheated cabins is an ART!
Mostly, however, I’ve been in charge of the planning, shopping, cleaning, cooking, washing up and — the most hated job of all — dissecting and storing the leftover turkey. Because I am the mom. And we had too many little kids to foist ourselves upon others.
But when I married Camo Man in June, I became an official part of a BIG family that includes two parents. Who are, by anyone’s standards, hale and hearty for the stage they’ve reached in life.
Yup. I now have Camo Mom.
And, partly because of tradition and partly because she has a beautiful new home — how many 79 year-old couples do you know who build a brand new house? Exactly — my family is headed to Camo Mom’s on Thursday .
I am so nervous.
For starters, I’m still new to this family. There are like four dozen of them and I get all shy and tongue-tied in these situations, tending to huddle in a hallway or corner. With my little “I’m just fine!” smile. That won’t look weird at all.
There will be talk of hunting, camping, hunting, bulldozering and hunting. And doctoring animals and raising pigs and plowing fields. I’m not well-versed in any of those languages.
And have I mentioned the ladies in Camo Man’s sibling set are beautiful, confident and accomplished women who are? Sigh.
Plus, now I eat low carb and am more than likely going to offend some incredible cook when I stick to veggies and meat.
What if my teen daughters do their ever-so-lovely sister squabbling, to top it all off like extra whipped cream on the pumpkin pie?
Until we get to clean up. Holy dishwasher, Katy bar the door! That’s when my OCD, never far from the surface, will jump up and BEAT DOWN anyone who tries to clean off the counters ahead of me. Or sweep up or Windex or scrub the sink … it’s highly likely I will completely embarrass myself.
I can see Camo Man trying to talk me down from the Pledged ledge, offering me some wine or anything else that will quiet the craziness.
Should I take video for you all?
I owe Leslie Snyder 50 cents.
It was Monday when I uttered the foul phrase, “I can’t.” Each offense is a quarter and I said it twice. Through gritted teeth.
But not when I sat cross-legged for the first time in nearly a decade. Then I grinned and practically announced it to the entire facility.
Let’s back up. I told you two weeks ago I was dragging my friend Ann along to the YMCA. The Y offered to let us do this for free so I could tell you all the wins and woes of strength training.
As I said before, Ann and I both have our reasons for wanting to muscle up.
Like my bone-on-bone knees. Basically, I have nothing but a thin layer of cartilage left in those puppies. It’s been that way for 20 years, ever since I stupidly did a stair-stepper workout every day for a year-plus. My knees never could forgive that and arthritis hasn’t helped.
I’ve treated the mess with regular cortisone shots, pain medication and so much whining.
Sometimes I limped, sometimes I could barely cross the street before the light changed. And the stinging and aching has robbed me of what adds up to months of sleep.
I read recently that exercise reduces inflammation, which is the major cause of my pain. That’s a little factoid I probably knew but chose to completely ignore. When I started losing a lot of weight last year, I attributed a lack of knee pain to a lightened load — I didn’t take into account that I was working out regularly for the first time in years.
I know, I know. I’m blaming the fact that I was busy falling in love.
Leslie, a personal trainer and who knows what else at the Y, drew the short straw of working with us middle-aged mamas. She officially started us off by assessing where Ann and I were in terms of strength and stability. And how much of our bodies could float in water. In other words, fat content.
Turns out we’re middle-roaders. I ranked “good” in biceps strength — probably from squeezing Camo Man’s waist in bear hugs — and average in the “sit and reach.” Although, to be fair to myself, when I did a Y series a few years ago, I could barely yank myself out of the “poor” category.
Then Leslie applied the calipers for the “pinch” test. Three skinfold measurements later, we had our answer: I wasn’t in the red alarm zone, but “slightly over your ideal body fat,” the computer’s report told me. Inside my head I mocked the wording with a smirking “ya think?”
The good news is, by losing less than eight pounds, I can move “moderate” to “optimal.”
Leslie assured me I can do this. In less than two months. Without a lot of fancy machinery or bulking up, which is apparently a big fear among women. Myself, I like seeing some muscle in the mirror.
Which just happened this week. I was lotioning up my arms and caught a glimpse of my shoulders that stopped me cold. What was this I was seeing? The smooth mound of muscle coming from the back of my shoulder to wrap down to my biceps … this belonged to my arm?
It didn’t happen overnight, but a whole lot faster than I had figured. And that “criss-cross-applesauce” cross-legged maneuver was downright miraculous.
I’m going to give a road map of where Ann and I are traveling on this road in future columns. I’ll talk about what exercises Leslie has us do, what machines we’re trying (most for the first time, since we both considered them off limits to us weaklings) and how we’re translating much of that for use at home and on the road.
You’ll want to hear about Port-a-Potty squats, for example.
Watch for tiny updates on the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin Facebook page, as well. Maybe a video if I get very brave. And if you do nothing else today, write yourself a note and put it on your mirror: “I can be stronger, I can be in less pain and I will be healthier because of it. Sheila said so.”
What I said in the newspaper this week:
I recently wrote — whined — about no longer being able to find the kind of sheets I want. Those crisp sheets woven so tightly your sleeping body barely leaves a dent. No soft stuff, ridiculous thread counts or “special” finish. Just sheets that feel baked in the sun on flat rocks somewhere very hot.
Sheets like my Nana had, I bemoaned in that column.
So many of you, men and women alike, responded with sympathy and suggestions. You understood my pain and I had some great chats on the phone with a number of fellow sheetophiles. My editor was stunned, but I knew my people were out there, suffering along with me.
In dozens of communications, one thread emerged as the most probable solution. And when Joan dropped off the catalog at my desk, I could see why.
“The Vermont Country Store” is a seller of things you either (A) never knew existed, or (B) completely forgot about, such as Fels Naptha laundry bar soap — which I personally know to be magical for stain removal — and Tangee lipstick. Rotary dial phones with the heft of the original Bakelite cases, that folding Bulova travel alarm your grandma packed for visits, Munsingwear men’s briefs with the “kangaroo” pouch, which I will not go into here.
Christmas ribbon candy, the same “Mystery Date” game you giggled over in fifth grade and real maple sugar candy in the shape of maple leaves. Like the ones my friend Ann brought to my sixth-grade birthday party and I’ve drooled over the memory ever since.
OK, I am reining myself in now.
The Vermont-based company is a merchant of memories, a purveyor of nostalgia and marketer of “the good ol’ days.” And sheets, specifically its line of “Clothesline Crisp” sheets, right there on page 73 of the “Christmas Preview 2012″ catalog.
These people have obviously been eavesdropping inside my brain. “Rediscover the cool, fresh joy of your grandmother’s sheets,” the catalog description says. “Why don’t sheets feel crisp and cool they way they used to?”
But if no one makes them, how can this store sell such rare treasures as decent sheets?
The company hasn’t stayed in business since 1946 by chance, company marketer Ben Nooney said. “We listen to what our customers want. We find an old formula, or we find a company that still makes it — just because it’s not in Walmart doesn’t mean its not being made.”
His father, Lyman Orton, is the “consummate merchant,” noted Cabot Orton, proprietor of the company’s physical store in Weston, Vt., and one of Lyman’s three sons who work in the family business.
Lyman took over management of The Vermont Country Store in 1972 from his parents, Vrest and Mildred. His instinct for merchandise and marketing grew the New England company from its starts in 1945 as a 12-page catalogue of 36 items.
Today the business employees hundreds of people and has millions of customers, it says.
Those customers seem to appreciate his dad’s ability to anticipate unmet needs, Cabot said from his Vermont office.
The Clothesline Crisp sheets are the perfect example, he told me, once we had decided together internet shopping is no substitute for the tactile pleasure of leafing through a catalog, thumbing back a few pages once a trigger has gone off in our brains.
“Anyone can go online or find 300 kinds of sheets at Bed Bath & Beyond, spending hundreds on imported sheets. But there is still a significant audience who want our sheets. ”
In the global market, the biggest spenders get to decide what the rest of us will have to choose from. Somewhere along the line, some group fell for the “softer is better and higher thread counts matter” campaign. Yet the minority who don’t want to sweat against their bedding is pretty darn big, Cabot said.
Nostalgia aside, your grandmother’s original sheets aren’t going to be the answer today. Those were made for thinner mattresses, the kind we all slept on before the bedding industry compelled us to buy the 17-inch, or higher, behemoths we have now.
A Vermont Country Store’s purchasing agent, Danila, spent a year trying to find a seller of such crispy sheet wonders for modern beds, or a company willing to try to meet the need, he added. Lucky for people like me, Danila didn’t stop until she had success.
These sheets are manufactured to echo yesterday but take advantage of modern technology. Unlike my grandmother’s day, homemakers no longer spend an inordinate chunk of a week laundering bedding (or anything else, generally), running sopping sheets through a mangle, which left a wrinkled product needing devoted ironing.
Now, the price might make Grandma gasp — a set of “Clothesline Crisp” fitting a queen bed runs a nickel under $100. However, my own investigation into the matter tells me that figure is but a drop in the laundry tub in this new world order of specialized bedding.
His father is adamant, Cabot said. “Our products have to solve a problem. We sell a lot of great gifts, but at the end of the day, most solve a problem.”
The company sells thousands of these sheets sets a year, he added. “It’s a cult following.”
I’m thinking about becoming just such a member.
And Danila, give me a call. I have some other ideas for you.