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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Experience and reason

We arrive at values by different routes.

Many years ago I staged a surprise bon voyage party for my in-laws, the weekend before their departure for Hawaii. I enlisted some of my husband’s cousins to help keep Mom and Dad Noragon at home, and we all descended like vultures. Laid out Mom’s china and silver, set out the food we’d prepared and settled into enjoying ourselves.

An hour in I was literally felled by the flu. Dad drove me home. Later he drove some cousins home. The husbands got themselves home. Mom kept all the children involved, as parents were too sick to leave their beds. Mom and Dad cleaned up behind us. Yes, they went to Hawaii and No, they did not get sick.

This experience became the core of my maxim, “it’s stupid to perpetrate a big surprise.” People best make their own choices. Simply, don’t do things to people.

However, I listened in on a discussion between Emily and a friend recently. The friend denigrated the ethnic background of someone they saw with a remark about skin color. He needed Emily’s agreement to make his point. There was a loud, silent pause before Emily replied coolly, “I didn't notice the color of his skin.”  As effective as a bucket of ice water. I attributed that to reason.

The past weekend the girls’ father asked to take them to a big picnic. The kid calendar already included a band show in Columbus for Emily and a birthday sleepover for Laura. I calculated each would be going to the picnic on three or four hours sleep, so I asked their dad to hold while I asked if they wanted to go, even knowing they might fall asleep with their eyes wide open. Of course they did.

On picnic day Becca, the oldest sibling at 22, fortunately, called to tell me they were on the way. I said I would go at once to bring Laura home from the sleepover. “But don’t tell them,” Becca said. “It’s a surprise.”

I opened my mouth to tell her it was not a surprise; her siblings are actual people who were consulted. I closed my mouth. I dislike homilies, too.

On another note, the blue towels.

An old stacked stone retaining wall. 

Dad's fall blooming crocus, the colchicum, are up

And every open bloom has been nibbled, surely the chipmunks.
Soon the garden will be a sea of lavender blossoms.

And, the last gerbera daisy of the season.
It surprised me.


  1. A surprise is mostly for the joy of the one giving rather than the one getting.

  2. I've seen a few surprises go awry........I'm of two minds about them myself.

  3. Kind of late the day of the event to say it was suppose to be a surprise, I think. Surprises aren't good for people who don't like change I also think :)

    I do like those blue towels.


  4. Everyone notices the colour of another's skin. It is how you feel about it that is the difference. I envy dark-skinned people, but that is pointless really. I do hate 'surprises' though!

  5. She probably meant that she didn't CARE about the skin color....

  6. Hari OM
    Well done Emily. Love the blue towels. Am not in favour of surprises. When asked to help in the perpetration of one once, I asked "are you sure they want one?" ... it has been my experience that those organising them are in search of approval and praise. Having been on the receiving end also, all I wanted was to have a shower and go to bed after a long journey. This made me look like the bad guy all night... No. Bad idea, surprises. YAM xx

  7. I'm not big on surprises either...unless it's winning the lottery. That would be a surprise because I rarely buy a. Ticket!

  8. I hate surprises...unless it's some cash I forgot I left in my suit.

    1. I had that once. $50 in a winter jacket, found the following winter.

  9. Love Emily's response. Well done her.
    And the towels, and your garden, and the wall.
    Suprises? Meh. Not a fan.

  10. I know this may sound ungrateful but I have had some surprises that wore me out. I feel that it's best to keep everything upfront. Enjoyed seeing all your blooming flowers. -- barbara

  11. Have to say that I've never been big on surprises either.. neither giving nor getting.

  12. Since the surprises can go wrong badly, I don't think they are worth the risk. Small things can surprise me anyway such as a nice gift.

  13. Love Emily's "loud, silent pause"
    The blue towels are very lovely.
    I agree with you that surprises aren't always the best idea.

  14. Well done, Emily. I like the blue towels.


  15. I don't mind a small surprise...hubby bringing home a small treat (like strawberries) but I HATE big surprises.
    My hairdresser had a surprise wedding shower...the circumstances of the ruse to get her there meant she was in her pyjamas...needless to say, she didn't enjoy it.
    Jane x

  16. I think most surprises are more for the surprisers than the surprisees. Yes, good idea to include not embarrass or annoy. The rock wall is superbly rustic. Good on you for all the hard work it took to plant those fall crocus.

  17. Well, I was going to say something about how gracious you were about the surprise birthday party we threw for you the one year (which you were, and yes, you were there in your flannel pants as I recall - very pajama party-esque), but then I remembered the surprise wedding shower that happened prior to that!

  18. Joanne - my sister was twenty two years older than me and has now been dead for some years. But when she had her 75th birthday her daughter arranged a party in a local hotel, to which the whole family went. Some of us had a drive for several hundred miles to get there. My sister knew absolutely nothing about it until she walked into the foyer of the hotel and we were all there. She hated it from that moment on. It taught me the lesson that it is never safe to do things like this.

  19. It's interesting how people react to things like this, being surprised by something like this. There are surprises, and then surprises: finding a 100$ bill on the sidewalk, finding your car has been dented while parked. Good and bad.
    Then there are the surprise birthday type parties......Interesting how they react. If they are really a surprise we seem to react two different ways.....we are surprised, then somehow accept and can find fun in it. Or, the othere thing.
    I wonder what that is.

  20. I am not much on surprise functions. My best surprise is to find a piece of fudge in my van in mid-winter. having bought it at an art show in September and leaving it in the van to freeze and then find in mid-February is a wonderful and delicious surprise. Do remember the surprise BD party that Beth mentioned. Being surprised in our senior years is like, "don't remind me."

  21. Most people enjoy the anticipation of a thing as well as the thing itself. Making something a surprise takes away the joy of anticipation for the person on the receiving end. I also agree with those who said a surprise is really for the giver, not the receiver. Selfish, in a way.

    I absolutely love Emily's answer. One of my kids had a substitute teacher in elementary school for a week or so, and at some point I needed to talk to her. I asked the child to describe her so I could identify her more easily at school. About my age, glasses, that's all. I was somewhat surprised to find a black lady at the teacher's desk (unusual in our area) and very happy to realize our kid hadn't even thought about skin colour.

  22. I am glad your parents enjoyed their trip to Hawaii and did not get sick. I agree it is not always a good idea to surprise people with a party. Lol.

  23. Love those towels, they are sweet.