Responding to an anticipated question

It’s an anticipated question when you return to work after days away from the office, be it on a stay-cation or a go-away trip.

“So how was your vacation?”

I heard the question posed when I returned to the newsroom mid-week – a question I answered with honesty and without hesitation as I rattled off a list of words to describe the days away from my desk and duties.

“Let’s see,” I responded with a roster of words. “Fun. Exciting. Exhausting. Annoying. Sleep-depriving. Stressful. Happy. Sad. Frustrating…”

I would have continued had a co-worker not interrupted.

“Ohhh,” assessed the sympathetic colleague. “You had a family get-together,” he said with a smile, a nod of his head, a hint of sarcasm and a been-there, done-that sense of understanding.


It’s not every day that your mother turns 90, so like it or not, a birthday party is in order – aka, an extended celebration that is not one day, but rather two or three or four, depending on your energy level.

Ruth Ann Hout, my mother, was surprised to be at the nine-decade mark, officially arrived at on Aug. 2.

“Oh my gosh” were the exact words she uttered monotone and with an incredulous sense of “impossible” when reminded of her age achievement, one that brought a small avalanche of greeting cards to a woman who is no fuss, no frills.

No family celebration is worth its weight in posterity or one for the scrapbooks if it doesn’t generate a little angst and anguish. Or maybe a lot of it.

As hosts, Better Half and I are always good for initiating home improvement projects undertaken with the notion that impossible deadlines will produce spectacular results. Of course, I should clarify that the home improvement projects are my bright idea, and I expect Better Half to share my enthusiasm. I’m pretty sure that’s part of the marital vows.

The wallpaper in the Hout House bathroom was fine for “The Brady Brunch” or the “My Three Sons” years, but I decided in last-minute fashion that enough was enough, and there’s no time like the present to peel and paint, and while you’re at it, get some new mirrors and lights, etc., etc.

Probably not good timing, but then neither was the gas line leak that left us without hot water or the ability to cook right down to the wire of picking up an aunt flying in from the Chicago area – a trip that almost seemed not destined to happen in the Kiaskimobile anyway when the brakes suddenly went bad and needed work.

The old Murphy’s Law was in overtime.

Throw in food preparation, cleaning and figuring and fussing and a get-together for a 90th birthday party is everything it should be.

Fun. Exciting. Exhausting. Annoying. Sleep-depriving. Stressful. Happy. Sad. Frustrating…

A good time.

(Kiaski, a resident of Steubenville, is a staff columnist and features writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and community editor for the Herald-Star. She can be contacted at