Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The 500 Hats of The Average Mom

A few months ago a woman from Pennsylvania named Robin spoke to our church women's group.  She had come with her husband who was a guest preacher for a series of services.  We are always happy when the wives accompany these eastern preachers and we are especially happy when they consent to speak.

Robin and her husband were former missionaries in addition to being parents of a number of children and also pastoring their church and I think running a business.  I got the sense that Robin was a calmer soul than me despite her busy life, so I listened closely when she talked about how to make it all work.

One thing she said especially intrigued me.  She suggested that women take a few hours or a day several times a year and evaluate all their current roles and then pray about what they should be doing in each role and set goals accordingly.

That sounded very wise and deliberate, as opposed to flying by the seat of one's pants like I usually do.

I decided to do this exercise after the rush of school, weddings, and travel was over.  But while the rush was still on, I started a list of all of my roles, so I'd have that done when I finally had a few hours to evaluate and pray about this.

The list grew.
And grew.
Longer and longer.  More and more.  Like Bartholomew Cubbins' hats, one popping up after another.

It was terrifying.
Did I really have this many people depending on me?

You know those Mother's Day cards that gush about how Mom wears so many hats and if you paid her for each sub-career she has, she'd be earning a 7-figure income?  Nurse, counselor, dietitian, cook, seamstress, teacher etc etc.  I've always thought they were a bit contrived.

So I tried to stick with actual different divisions and jurisdictions and people in my life.

Of course first of all there's [1. Child of God] which takes top priority, and then. . .

Actually, let me tell you about my day yesterday and eventually this will actually be relevant to you.

So Paul was still sick with this mysterious fever when we got up yesterday. [2. wife of Paul] but let me digress to say that since he has so many different roles, they translate into different roles for me.  [2a. Minister's wife] [2b. Principal's wife] [2c. Seed cleaner's wife]

I didn't count "nurse" as a separate role but maybe it should be because we had at least 3 sick folks in the house and I am always the go-to medical person here.

I made coffee [3. hostess]  for my brother Fred [4. sister] who had hauled my dad [5. daughter] to Oregon on his semi truck, no small feat for either of them.   Dad is to stay with us until his new apartment in my brother Marcus's basement is finished.

I took Dad's temperature as well and was happy to see it had dropped a bit, since a sick 97-year-old is a scary thing.  He ate a good breakfast [Cook isn't a separate role either, I don't think, but it feels like one.]

I typed up a list of work for Jenny [6. mom] who was in a big hurry because her cousin Allison [7. aunt] was coming over for the day.

I also dug out the hedge trimmer and weed-eater [8. groundskeeper] for a young friend who needs work for two weeks and loves to work outside so I hired her [9. employer] to clip things into shape around here.

Not long after that, we all watched as the neighbor's [10. Neighbor] windrower rounded the corner of the ryegrass field by the house on the first cut of the field.  Then he didn't cut any more because the field must not have been quite ready.

Later I heard a cat meowing by the steps and ignored it because I was sure it was Jerome, the dumb stray that comes around.

Then Jenny told me that Claudio, our huge beautiful black cat, [11. pet owner] was hurt.  He was lying out in the shade by the grapevine.  I was horrified to find his front left paw all mangled.  On closer inspection things got much worse.

Apparently the poor thing had been hunting in the field like he does, and went through the windrower, Paul said. There was no option but to have him mercifully put down.

I don't think I can count "funeral director" as a sub-role of "Mom," but what farm mom hasn't prayed and given tribute and comforted beside the graves of cats and goldfish and crickets and dogs and bummer lambs and maybe a chicken or two?

Or maybe we just take this more seriously than some.  I'm still queasy over Claudio's injuries.

The day went galloping on with more cooking, cleaning, laundry, [12. Housekeeper] taking of temperatures, answering of questions and phones, and taking of guests up to Washburne Heights, to look out over the valley like Moses on Mt. Pisgah's lofty height, where we tried to view our home but did not have binoculars, and did not take our flight either, not having a glider on hand like Steven wished we did.

Of course I had to give some thought to upcoming deadlines [13. Writer] [14. Speaker] and also make some publishing decisions [15. Agent/Publisher/Businesswoman which is definitely a different role than writer].

The day ended with sitting around the living room listening to Fred's stories, like the time he and two friends took a shortcut and drove down a runway in a Jeep with the lights off, but the friend didn't know that since the last time he'd done this, the runway had been extended and now it stopped abruptly with a 20-foot dropoff at the end.  They hit so hard the Jeep's wheels were splayed out, and then they cleared a fence, and bounced down a slope, and finally came to rest in a creek.  They all walked away from the accident, miraculously, and lived to tell about it, and the one guy's RN mom tied a series of knots in Fred's hair above the gash on his scalp, and the guy's dad came the next night and quietly hauled the Jeep away, and any scattered pieces of it he could find.

Oh wait, I was talking about roles.

There still remains [16. Friend] [17. Counselor, an informal role but its own job for sure] [18, 19, 20. Daughter,- Sister,- and Aunt-in-law]. And [21. Teacher].
And a few I can't recall off hand.

And the ones still to come: Mother-in-law.  Grandma.

Of course we could argue until the coffee was all gone about how I divided these categories, but here are some thoughts on this exercise.  And a few insights I'd like you to share.

Since I am not the only woman with this many roles, by far, and some of you have many more, and they are much more difficult.

As I said, a few thoughts:

1. Maybe it's not so wise for some of us to take Robin's advice and make a list.  Because
2. It's terrifying to see how many balls you're juggling at once.
3. I tend to think I'd be happier with fewer.
4. But I can't go dropping them now, in the middle of the circus, and neither can you.  People who matter are depending on us.
5. Which is why we all need that time alone to pray about this.
6. Oddly enough, I could list older women who are nostalgic about these super-busy days, and who went a little stir-crazy when their roles got reduced by about 2/3 due to their age.
7. So maybe the crazy days are happier than the quiet days ahead will be?
8. But how do you do it, you who wear even more hats than I do, and more challenging ones, such as Breadwinner, Missionary, or Marathoner?  And mom of many littles?  And Caregiver for special needs children or parents?
9. How do you know when to start laying balls down because there are too many, and when you're getting too old, and how do you transition gracefully into a more sedate phase?
10. Or is retirement not a Scriptural concept, as I've heard some say, and we should all be so fortunate as to die busily juggling, half a dozen balls in the air at once.

I'd like to hear from you, really I would.

Friday, June 20, 2014

On Plugged Vacuum Cleaners and Fierce Moms Properly Humbled

This is a story about How My Life Goes.

These things do not happen to other people.

Bob Welch the famous local author once saw me swatting flies and wrote in his newspaper column that I was this gentle person and that was probably the most violent thing I’d ever done.

Let’s just say he’s never seen the drill sergeant side of me, like the time during our recent visit to Minnesota when I was saying goodbye to Matt and he didn’t want to get out of his chair to hug me and I snapped, “Get! Up!” and he said, “The last woman I heard give orders like that was a two-star general, about to be promoted to three star.”

Bob had also never seen the Avenging Angel side of me.  It doesn’t come out that often, but when it does, oh, People, stay out of my way.

Here are two things that let loose the Avenging Angel:
1.      1.  Empty pitchers put back in the refrigerator.
2.       2. Clogged vacuum cleaner pipes due to people vacuuming up stuff that was never intended to get sucked up a vacuum.

Today Jenny was helping me with some cleaning.  She tried using one vacuum cleaner, but soon put it away, declaring that it left a little pile of dirt instead of picking it up, and used the one from upstairs instead.

Oh my.  A sure sign of a clogged pipe.  I felt the AA wings unfurling.

Then I knelt down and took apart the vacuum cleaner, click by click, and oh my goodness, you never saw such a nest.  I pulled and plucked, and then Jenny helped out by blowing into the other end, dislodging some more, and I had some words to say.

Such words as would make you flinch for the rest of your life at even thinking of rolling over that twist-tie or button and trying to vacuum it up.

I thought I’d gotten the point across to all the offspring who were at home.

So then I sat down and wrote a poem about it.

Listen my children and you shall hear
Your mother shifting into gear.
This morning a daughter tried to vac
But the cleaner would only spit and hack
Like a dying sheep whose end is near.

With grim resolve I approached the task.
I should have worn a breathing mask.
I popped off the pipe and out came wads
Of dust and various ends and odds.
What else might be there? I did not ask.

Carefully then I dug further in.
Out came an ancient bobby pin.
A strip of card stock six inches long
A bottle cap still round and strong.
All stuffed up into that tube of tin.

“Who did this again??” I asked with wrath.
Haven’t I shown you a better path?
Haven’t I lectured and lessoned a lot
What goes in a Hoover and what does not?
Yet still you’re unable to do the math??

They looked at me with guilty eyes.
I felt a need to apologize--
Not to my children in frightened pause--
But to all of my future children-in-laws
Stuck with these vacuumers so unwise.

Then I felt better.

However.  I still had some children who might have been the guilty ones and weren’t here for my lecture.

After a while Emily came home, along with Esther Mae and Abigail, two friends who had spent the week with her teaching vacation Bible school at Winston, two hours away.

We all hung around the kitchen making supper and doing dishes and getting ready for the purse party we were hosting later in the evening.  Both visitors are a lot of fun—Esther Mae is energetic and witty, and Abigail is quiet and creative.  They both fit right in, and Emily said, “Esther Mae said she just feels at home here, because our house isn’t all spotlessly clean.  And stuff.”

Esther Mae suddenly realized how this sounded.

I told her it was ok.  That is the sort of compliment I tend to get.

After a while Steven came home.  I had a strong suspicion he was the culprit in the plugged vacuum cleaner, but I thought I’d give my rant to him and Emily at the same time, so it would look a little more fair.

So I started in, marching from, “I am SURE I’ve explained this to you before!” to “Vacuum cleaners are not DESIGNED for stuff like bobby pins that are going to stick in the pipe” to “SERIOUSLY we should not have to be going over this again!”

I watched them keenly for signs of guilt, ready to pounce on the culprit with Lecture 2(b) 32 about a fine if this happens again.

Esther Mae and Abigail listened with interest.  I did not tone down my tone for their sakes because, as I said, they just fit right in with the family.

Suddenly Esther Mae said, “It might have been me.”


“Really.  It could have been me.”

I looked at her, dumbfounded.  She has never vacuumed in this house in her life.

She said, “You were gone.  Emily let me use your vacuum cleaner.”

Oh. My.

I listened in disbelief and the Avenging Angel’s wings drooped humbly as Emily explained, “You were gone to the International Student Convention, and I stopped in at their house, and here Esther Mae was upstairs cleaning her carpet with a broom, and I was like, ‘A broom??’ and she said they don’t have a vacuum cleaner, so I let her use ours, and she filled the hopper three times.”

Esther Mae added, “And the stuff you found?  Like, a bobby pin and paper and a bottle cap?  That could all very well have been on our carpet.”

Oh, how my tone changed then, from harsh to kind, from judgmental to full of grace, from fierce to smiling, from prideful wrath to meek humility.

"Oh, really, it's okay, really, I shouldn't have been so upset."

Strange how my children enjoyed watching this transition in their mother as she ate her words, bite by bite, bitter as dandelions, chewy as beef gristle.

My children were more gracious than I deserved, and so was Esther Mae.

And that, as I said, is how my life goes.

Quote of the Day:
Emily: You know how sometimes you step on an ant but you don't squish it?  It keeps right on going.  Well, I wonder if it's possible that if there were a giant that much bigger than us, they could step on us and we wouldn't get squished.
Me: You THINK about this stuff??!!
Emily: [sigh] I lose sleep over this stuff!

Guest Post: How We Met

I was honored with a request from Bethany Eicher at About My Father's Business to share our how-we-met story. Which is up on her blog today.

Click here to read it, and stick around for some of the other stories she's posted.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

June 15 Letter from Harrisburg

Squished berries and silly stories make a house a home

We went to pick strawberries an hour after we got home from Minnesota, even though the van was still stuffed to the rafters with the old pie safe and Grandpa Adam’s little table and the Formica cutting board shaped like a pig that my uncle once made for Mom.
As we rolled heavily down Interstate 84, with Mount Hood ahead, more than 20 hours of driving behind us and our son Steven nonchalantly at the wheel, my husband called our friend TJ of Bear Fruit to see if the berries were still available.
“My wife is desperate,” he said. “We’ve been in Minnesota for her dad’s sale, and she’s afraid she’s going to miss out on the strawberries.”
Paul got off the phone. “They still have plenty. They’re not as big, but we can still get them.”
We turned into the driveway at 3:30 p.m., cleaned up a bit, looked at the mail, and drove to the patch, where TJ’s wife Marcia gave us buckets and directed us to the pink flags.
Green leaves pushed aside, bright red berries underneath, sun shining, dirt under my knees, family near me. The first bite was a taste of heaven.
Everything was going to be all right.
In Minnesota, strawberries ripen at the end of June, and when I was a child, the nearest U-pick patch was almost an hour away. Once a year, we would rise early, Mom and my two sisters and me, and load the car with ice cream buckets and huge stainless steel bowls.
The routine never varied.
First we picked with excitement, tasting frequently.
Then we picked fast, marveling at the clusters of red down under the overhanging green.
Hours passed and buckets filled. Mom picked steadily, crouching down in her worn dress and apron, with a bandana on her head.
We girls inevitably started throwing rotten berries at each other, giggling about the people in the next row and eating far too many berries without considering their high moisture content.
We talked with other pickers about the quality of the berries and the weather, and also about us, since this was far enough from home that people weren’t used to our “plain” appearance.
“Are you sisters?” an older woman in the next row once asked Rebecca and me.
“Yes, we are.”
“What order are you with?”
A confused conversation followed until we figured out that she meant Catholic nuns, and we meant female siblings.
By the time Mom finally decided we had picked enough, the sun was high and hot, we were dirty and tired and hungry, and our fingers were stained red.
We trekked down the long rows carrying our overflowing buckets, which we piled on the table in front of the little shed. While the cashier weighed and Mom paid, we girls dashed to the nearby PortaPotty and danced desperately as we waited in line, the same urgency, due to the same indulgence, having afflicted many of the pickers at once.
We drove home with the windows open and knew that our work was far from finished.
After a quick lunch, we sat around the kitchen table and stemmed berries for the rest of the day. Mom washed and cut and sugared. We scooped them into square containers for the freezer.
By late afternoon our fingers ached and we were tired of strawberries. Descending into silliness, we laughed crazily at things that weren’t that funny. We had quit eating berries.
I recall dropping an overripe berry down Rebecca’s back once, and squishing it flat.
And then, finally, we were finished. Stacks of containers carried to the freezer, clanking bowls sloshed in the sink, stems tossed to the pigs, and then we could scatter to relax and read a book or go outside to sit under a tree and just breathe.
Selling your parents’ belongings, moving your dad into your brother’s basement apartment next door, and saying goodbye to the home place is like a berry-picking day on a much larger scale.
We assembled the family, dove in with enthusiasm, worked impossibly hard, descended into silliness, exhausted ourselves beyond bearing, and were so sick of the stuff at hand — in this case, old papers and glass jars and Cool Whip containers — that we never wanted to see them again.
Mom and Dad sold their farm in 1984, the summer Paul and I got married, and moved onto a 5-acre property half a mile up the road. Sadly, the house and many heirlooms burned down in 1987, but they rebuilt on the same site.
So for 30 years of our marriage, that was the place we went home to.
From Highway 4 we would turn onto the dirt road. A mile west and the road stopped in a T with another gravel road, but we would continue straight ahead, down the long driveway with neighbor Olaf Johnson’s crops on the left, around the awkward uphill curve, and then we were there:  red barn with goats and cats and a pig or steer, the shed with the old Farmall tractor, and the white house with Mom rushing out to hug us.
We had big Christmas dinners there, and birthday parties, and lots of coffee. We came with our babies and Mom took care of both them and us, insisting that we needed a break. She made Popsicles for the grandchildren that they ate on the deck on summer evenings. She cut fresh lettuce from the garden and showed us all her latest quilts.
None of us liked to sleep in the basement bedroom under the kitchen because Dad was always up before 6 a.m., marching back and forth across the kitchen in his hard-soled shoes, fixing his oatmeal with its secret added ingredients and brewing his mysterious hot drink that kept him healthy for these 97 years.
Did it really take that many trips across the kitchen to accomplish this, we wondered, stuffing our heads under pillows and feeling like the troll under the bridge, with Papa Billy Goat Gruff trip-trapping over our heads.
Dad’s morning routine never changed, but other things did. The corners got dirty and the basement smelled funny and dark things accumulated in the garage.
When we came home, we took care of Mom instead of she taking care of us.
Mom and Dad were determined to stay in the house, and fully independent, until they died. We all worked together to make it possible, and they stayed until Mom broke another hip and was overcome by dementia.
She passed away last December. Dad realized that the heart and life of the house was gone and said he was ready to sell and move out.
So we came from Oregon, Oklahoma, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. From Turkey and Yemen and Canada.
We dug and sorted and washed and boxed and recycled and threw away.
We told stories and laughed until tears ran down our cheeks, especially when Anna the sister-in-law described the frightening experience of coming upon Dad suited up all Darth Vader-like to spray his apple trees.
And when Rebecca found the old enema apparatus that Mom, having trained as a nurse in the 1940s, relied on to bring down fevers, which taught us quickly that it behooved us to stay healthy.
We found forgotten teacups and old report cards and an unexplained box labeled “Letters — Discouraging Times.”
And then, exhausted, we sold what we could to friendly neighbors and sent the goats to a new owner and packed our vans and stripped the beds.
When we left, east on that long lane, we left empty rooms behind us, a silent barn, an abandoned garden.
I posted a nostalgic update online, and our son Matt commented, “One era ends, another begins ... your house is quickly becoming ‘the home to go back to’ for your children.”
Today we picked more strawberries, pushing the season’s deadline. The children are busy stemming, talking, getting tired and gradually more silly.
I hope to have 50 pints in the freezer by the end of the day, all washed and cut and sugared, a big job accomplished because we worked together until it was done, because this is what families do, and this is how a home is made.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Letter from Harrisburg: Sale and Strawberries

Here's the link to today's Letter from Harrisburg which tells about getting ready for my dad's sale and picking strawberries in the old days.

Click here.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Changes Happening and Ideas Needed

When I turned 50, I had the sense that things were going to change in significant and good ways.  It was a vague prophecy, but I sensed relationships improving, personal issues resolved, pain healing, stresses diminishing, and certain sufferings ending.

I so hate being vague when I write but some areas of life--usually the very best stories--are not for public consumption until much much later.

Sigh.  Sorry.

I share all this because in one sense at least I have a sense of an era coming to an end.  You might recall that in the last ten years I've spent a significant amount of time and resources on my parents.

They wanted to stay in their house, and they wanted to be independent.  Very much so.  The diplomatic social worker used the word "resistant."  Some of us may at times have used a different adjective that starts with "S" and has eight letters.

But we also admired them, and how can you say no to your parents?  Especially parents who are that tough and determined into their 90s.  So we did what it took to keep them afloat and at home.

I think I flew to Minnesota at least six times in the last year and a half.

It made me feel like I was always catching up from the last visit and getting ready for the next one, and I never got past the surface of what needed to be done at home.  Because in between those visits I was also teaching, hosting, cooking, friending, writing, wifing, momming, and everything else.

Mom passed away in December.  We've just returned from a frantic 10 days of sorting Mom and Dad's things, hosting a sale, and prepping Dad for a trip and after that to move into my brother's basement.

So I've been trying to wrap my head around all these changes and what this new phase of life really means.

It's not that I regret a single one of those drop-everything-and-head-for-the-airport trips, but, to be honest, they were hard.

Hard times come, and we forge ahead doing what needs to be done, not knowing how long this will last.  And then when the time is right, the hard times end.

Over these years, I've managed to blog, to keep up with my column, and to publish a column-collection now and then.  That's about all the writing I've done, even though other ideas and opportunities show up regularly.

It'll be interesting to see if I'm led in new directions there, and what they are.

Meanwhile.  I have plenty of chapters for a new collection, book 5 in the series.  I plan to meet with the graphic designer this summer and hope to have the book out by fall.

However.  I need a title.

Many have suggested more of the In the [Location] the [character/s] is/are [Verb] titles, such as In the Basement the Mice are Gnawing or In the Closet the Skeletons are Rattling or Outside the Neighbors are Laughing.

All of these have their charms but they don't work for me.  The last one was taken off the list because if someone says or implies "I write humor and I am funny" I never think they're funny.

I welcome your suggestions of all shapes and sizes--Upstairs the Peasants type or something else entirely.  Extra credit to anyone who pulls a line out of one of my columns of the last 3 years and makes it into a title.

A prize, of course, to the one that I use.  A free book of course.  And maybe I'll even credit you on the small-print page.  In the comments, feel free to share ideas for both titles and prizes.

Quote of the Day:
We suffer from "silent callers" every so often, where the phone rings and we say hello and are greeted with silence.  No recording or spiel or even breathing.  When this happens, we quote Bible verses to them because it gives us a sense of authority over the situation, instead of feeling creepy and kind of violated.
Phone: ring ring

Jenny: Hello?
Jenny: HELLO??
Jenny: Mom! I need some Bible verses!
Me: The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.
Jenny: The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.
Jenny: I need another one.

Emily: You whisper and they hear not. You shout and they hear you not.
Jenny: What?? You whisper and??
Emily: They hear not.
Jenny: They hear not. You shout and they hear you not.
Me: HUH???
Emily: I made it up.
Me: W.O.W.
Phone: Ring ring.
Me: Hello?

My friend Patti: Dorcas? I was wondering what's happening with prayer meeting tonight. I didn't get the message. I tried calling earlier and your daughter must not have heard me. She just quoted all these Bible verses to me.
Me and Patti: [Lots of LOL]

Monday, June 02, 2014


Paul and I took seven students to the Accelerated Christian Education International Student Convention (whew!) in Indiana, Pennsylvania, last week.

Now Jenny and I are in Minnesota, getting ready for my dad's sale.

Rather than tell you all about convention, I'll cut and paste the updates I wrote on Facebook.  For unknown reasons they were all written in rhyme and rhythm.

Paul and I and seven kids
are on our way to ISC.
But first we went to J & J
to pull a poking nail free.
We got to Portland still on time
and shuffled through security.
Now all the bags are at my feet
while all the girls are off to eat.

All is silent as we fly
since Mr. Smucker soundly sleeps
and from the students' ears there grow
buds and wires plugged below
while Mrs. Smucker vigil keeps.

Everywhere we went today
we had to close attention pay
lest by a swallow unintentional
we catch a dreadful bug intestinal.
In Portland we could not get tea.
Its waters teemed with Coli E.
And tapeworms try to sicken too
all we who use the Phoenix loo.
We hope to find at ISC
a clean and healthy place to be.

Dress checks and rallies and judging exhibits.
Breakfast at Foster and passports and ties.
Curfews and rules that the naughty inhibit.
Making sure the quilt entries are all the right size.

Parking lots full of extended white vans
Blazened with church names and verses and such.
Badges on lanyards and Master Control.
Mr. Johnson in Bible Bowl and dear Mr. Mutsch.

We sing and we cheer and we eat and we walk
The girls long for flip flops as I sip my iced tea
We meet the Ugandans and Haitians and Brits
We have fun and adventures at 2014 ISC.

Mrs. Smucker At International Student Convention

The rallies each evening at KCAC
were a longstanding tradition of ISC.
There were contests and speeches and tossing of candy
sermons and altar calls; performances command-y.
There was cheering and singing and blowing of horns
Like Gabriel's trumpet on Judgment Day morn.
The volume on speakers was cranked up to HIGH.
I had a migraine one night and I thought I would die.
So the very next evening I showed up with protection--
a pair of orange earplugs that were plump soft perfection.
The clapping was muffled, the stomping was mild.
The volume on speakers to "murmur" was dialed.
I heard all the words and contentedly smiled.
the long plastic horns only made a faint buzz.
But there was one problem. We shall see what it was.
A lull in the action and I heard a faint tweedle
Like faraway music of a long-ago Beatle.
My daughter turned toward me with eyes that were stinging--
"Oh Mom! Don't you hear it? Your cell phone is ringing!!"
I grabbed for my purse and I hunted it through.
I patted my Bible, my passport pouch blue.
the music kept tweedling, I pulled out one plug.
The sound was still faint like from under a rug.
At last in my pocket the culprit was found.
Desperately, quickly I turned off the sound.
My daughter looked stricken with shame. As for me?
Perhaps I'm a little too old for ISC.

Quote of the Day:
Girl A: I just got a text from "Courtney." She's wondering if there are any cute guys here.
Girl B: Tell her this is ACE. No cute guys.
Sponsor: !!!!!?????

[But THEN I noticed the young man at the next table in the dining hall who looked just like Damian McGinty from Celtic Thunder.  I pointed this out to Girl B and her tune changed, shall we say...pun intended.]