The jOYs of Life

Extended Sample

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This Author’s Life, Book 1

Michelle Hoppe

Published 2016 by Book Boutiques.

ISBN: 978-1-944003-49-4

Copyright © 2016, Michelle Hoppe.

All rights reserved.


In 1995, my husband and I uprooted our three children, much to their disgust, and moved them to the state of Washington. Our oldest daughter Nicole, age 13, was convinced we’d lost our minds and ruined her life. The middle child, also a daughter Renae, age 11, was at least open to the possibility that things might be okay as long as she got her own room in the new house. The youngest, a son James, age 3, didn’t really express his feelings in full sentences, he just wanted the front seat for the drive to our new home.

All packed and ready to take the state of Washington by storm, we headed north and settled into small town life. Of course it didn’t take long for the kids to discover they were right, we had lost our minds. Not only did it rain…a lot…it was also very different living on the Washington coast versus the San Francisco Bay area. There were still bridges, although much smaller, and the ocean was still close, but colder! And if you had asked Nicole…life sucked.

For me, life was definitely easier—no crowds, no traffic, no six hour commutes. But, there was also no opera, no ballet, and no symphony—I’d arrived on another planet. It was like Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ, we were no longer in Kansas. I remember telling my sister we’d discovered the point where the universe ends…and now lived 3 miles past that point.

It took a few years to adjust. I didn’t grow webbed-feet, I learned to live without the annual theater season, and discovered I had time to indulge my passion for writing. When Renae graduated from high school, I finally had time to wear my fingers to the bone on a computer keyboard.

My first romance novel was published in 2003 and in the following 4 years, 8 more books followed. It was during this time I started writing snippets about the daily craziness, also known as life in the Hoppe house, on my publisher’s forum in a thread called Author Life. It didn’t take long to build a following of fans waiting with bated breath for the next installment of football, life with a teenage boy in the house, grandchildren, marriage, and divorce. Over the next several years Author Life was a staple part of my writing diet. Many people told me I should put these stories into book form, and after some soul searching and discussions with my family and friends, to determine if I needed to change the names to protect the innocent, I decided to take their advice, and the jOYs of Life was born.

It is my hope that by sharing these stories, people will see that humor can be found in most of the oy veys life dishes out; and if not, at least you can enjoy mine ~smiles~.

Chapter 1

A construction company … What were we thinking?

It’s 6:17 a.m. and I’ve been out of my nice warm bed for almost an hour. Had to get up early to get much needed information out of my husband’s brain so I could get the job invoicing done today, or we would all be eating off the dollar menu at the local quick-stop store for breakfast, lunch, and dinner next week.

Grumbling about the fact it was still dark outside, I reminded him that as the boss he could change the hours if he wanted to … His new summer hours, 6:30 a.m. to whenever the cows come home—no wait, that’s construction workers come home—are a real drag. He didn’t seem too interested in discussing the issue, so I snapped off another smart-assed comment, while making the bed, which I would much rather be climbing back into. Once the sheets were straightened and the pillows plumped, I headed to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, hitting the start button on my computer along the way.

Ten minutes later, as I sat at my desk waiting for him to give me the updates on jobs, I realized I should have stayed in bed. The love of my life, the man I married and worked alongside for years, sat at his desk writing out all the needed info on the estimate sheets.

So, I’m sitting here, fingers poised on the keyboard, waiting for him to give up all the secrets of the jobs. What was added, what the owners decided not to do, what price adjustments were agreed to, and all the while he is furiously scribbling the information between already crowded lines on original documents.

Silently I wait for him to look up from his desk, glance my way, and see the expression on my face, which I’ve been trying to hold for what seems like hours. I think my face is frozen, a look of wonderment and disgust forever etched there. Finally, he turns to hand me several pages of hand written scribble, “What?” he inquires upon finally noticing the look on my face.

“I got up at the crack before dawn for this and you have the nerve to ask me what? I’ll tell you what, buddy.”

As my tirade continued in less than lady-like fashion, he started to smile, stood and walked over to my desk. You would think after thirty one years, I’d have seen all the questionable looks my husband could screw his face into, however the one he gave me this morning was a new one. Maybe he gets up in the middle of the night and practices in front of a mirror. However he does it, I can tell you, at 6:40 in the morning my mood is less receptive to his looking at me like I’ve lost my senses.

Taking my hands, he pulled me to a standing position, his eyes laughing, he said, “Nope this is why you got up at the crack of dawn.”

Wow, what a kiss. Okay, so I’m easy, sue me.

After hubby departed for the job site, I took a shower, drank two more cups of coffee, and in normal fashion … got sidetracked. It was mid-afternoon when I finally returned to the task of invoicing and started trying to decipher the scribbled comments my dear hubby felt compelled to squeeze between the single spaced lines of the estimate forms.

After many grueling minutes with a magnifying glass, I was able to recreate everything he wanted to add for the owners benefit. The invoices looked perfect, no typos, no confusing language; I tell you they were perfect! All I needed to do was print them.

Three hours later, the man I call mine walked through the door, looking less than attractive, drywall dust coating his clothing, face, and hair. No desire exploded about wanting to kiss him in that state, so I simply welcomed him home “Hi honey, rough day at the office?”

“Very funny,” he responded dryly, as his feet swiftly took him to the shower, to remove the evidence of the day’s labors.

He used every ounce of water available from the 40 gallon hot water tank, and finally emerged from the steam filled room, a towel wrapped around his waist. “Did you get my invoicing done?”

Thinking to myself, you’re a shit, I instead responded, “Of course, all I need to do is print them and they are ready to go in tomorrow’s mail. I do have one question.”

Looking rather dashing in his towel, the look on his face was less debonair. “Don’t tell me, I forgot something and now you’re going to delight in telling me how long it took you to get them ready, what’d I miss?”

While I cannot see the looks on my face, I assure you my hubby claims they are extremely wicked when I catch him in a mistake. So with a wicked glint in my eye, I set about giving him the list I’d made.

Several minutes later, we finally completed all the change order pricing, and my fingers were flying over the keyboard making updates. It was seconds later when my mate walked out of the bedroom, dressed in sweats, to ask the burning question. “What’s for dinner?”

Looking up from the paperwork stacked in front of me, I again plastered a fiendish look on my face to tell him, “It’s your night to cook. The steaks are on the counter and I’m starving.”

Ok, there is really no word to describe the look on his face, I promise. Suffice it to say he was less than pleased at the prospect of doing the barbeque thing. Grumbling under his breath, he headed to the kitchen, as I set about correcting the invoices.

It was about this time that James returned from his work-out at the YMCA. Upon entering the house, in typical teenage fashion, he grunted his hello to his father, and apparently having forgotten the last time, he dared to ask, “How was your day?” I won’t go into the conversation that followed; let’s just say it was amusing at best.

Twenty minutes later, dinner was served. As we sat eating, my darling husband looked over at James and announced, “I got you a couple of presents today.”

An excited look on his face, James exclaimed, “Did you get the engine for the go-cart?”


His face now holding a tentative look, James asked, “Is this something I’m going to enjoy?”


Now with a look of disgust, James boldly inquired, “Ok, what is it?”

Smiling, the man of my dreams proceeded to remind James of the empty planter boxes in the front yard, which needed soil. “I picked up the manure and peat moss for you to add to the dirt. Make sure you mix it really good with the shovel before you put it in the planters.”

If I told you James was overjoyed, you would know it to be a lie; therefore, I’ll just say I wasn’t surprised by his tone when he replied, “Gee dad, thanks, I was worried I’d run out of fun things to do this weekend.” Their conversation went on a little longer; however I’ve learned to tune these two out when they get going on such delightful subjects as steer manure at dinner.

After finishing dinner, I must report I never made it back to the invoicing. I swear, every client my husband has must sit around the dinner table discussing what new and wonderful things they can dream up to create a change order. Just as the last dish was cleared from the table, the phone rang. For the next hour and a half, it was one call after the other, causing a great deal of paper shuffling to get the correct file for the job being discussed at the moment.

At ten o’clock we finally called it a day and fell into bed. Laying there, the only light the flickering screen of the television, with thoughts of the morning’s kiss coming back, my husband got his revenge for the list and dinner, “Oh by the way,” he said in a sweetly deceptive tone, “I need you to go over to the project house and put a second coat of paint on the upstairs built-ins. If you can get to it in the morning that would be great, ‘cause it needs to dry before the carpet guys get there.”

The conversation that followed did not include any romantic kisses like those that started the day, the thought of paint brushes effectively driving any desire right out the bedroom door. Several minutes later when I hit the off button on the remote, I kissed my husband’s shoulder and whispered, “Wake me up at five please.”

Chapter 2

It’s not English…it’s baby talk!

Yesterday afternoon, my son-in-law Jeff arrived to pick up my granddaughter. Usually this young man, whom by the way I really like, doesn’t have a lot to say to me, his mother-in-law, with whom he has very little in common. Don’t get me wrong, he’s always willing to talk if I start a conversation. However, usually when he arrives for the baby, we discuss the last time she ate, when she got up from her nap, and when the last diaper was changed.

So I was somewhat surprised when he sat down in the chair next to my desk. “Mom, do you have time to talk to me?”

I turned around, lifted my granddaughter into my lap, and responded, “Sure son, what’s up.” Now mind you I’m thinking he wants to ask me about what to get my daughter for Mother’s Day.

Instead he hits me with, “Can you take care of the baby tonight for a couple of hours? I want to surprise my wife with dinner and a movie?” I just love that he says “my wife” instead of Nicole, like I don’t know who she is.

“No problem son, Dad will be home and he hasn’t seen Katie in a few days. This will give them some time to play.”

I’m not sure exactly what time my hubby got home; I do know it was earlier than usual. He’d been home for about thirty minutes when his granddaughter arrived.

Katie is a delightful, precocious, thirteen-month-old, who is the apple of her granddad’s eye. When she walked in the door and saw him sitting on the couch, she ran over to him, a big smile on her face. She has learned to say “hi”, however when she does it she tends to really drag it out, “Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii”, with a very soft ending. It’s hard to type that sound, but I’ll tell you, if she still says it that way when she’s a teenager, I’ll have to sit her down and explain the word provocative!

My husband said hello to his princess, lifted her to sit in his lap and began a conversation with Jeff, who has no problems finding plenty to talk about with my male counterpart; go figure. Meanwhile Katie is trying to tell grandpa about her day. Keeping a running dialogue going, she told him about the new toy she’d gotten and what she had for lunch. All of which was being completely lost because hubby was not paying attention.

At some point Katie realized she did not have her grandpa’s attention so proceeded to gently pat him on the chest. Her efforts were not rewarded. So she moved to plan B, which involves patting harder while voicing, in an ear piercing shriek, “Ga boba ddabda.” Which loosely translated means: “Hey you. Ya, you…big guy, I’m talkin’ to you!”

At this point my dear husband usually gets the message his princess is trying to tell him something. He looks down at her and asks, “What do you want sweetheart?”

Now having him hooked, she starts over with the day’s events. My darling husband sits there, a quizzical look on his face as he tries to understand the unintelligible language coming from this tiny person. Desperate to comprehend, he looks to me for translation, which of course I give.

“She wants you to know she got a new toy today from her great grandma. She had cottage cheese for lunch. We played outside for a while in the rocks, oh and sorry for putting rocks all over the deck again…”

“Wait!” he interrupted. “How the heck did you get all of that from ga dab bup?”

I smiled that smile…you know the one, where we tell them with our eyes we understand because we are female, and they don’t because they are male. “I’m a writer remember, I read between the lines.

My husband may never understand the concept of pretending to understand, however I will never grow tired of watching his attempts at it.

Chapter 3

bOYs…Oy Vey

What makes more noise than teenage boys? This is not a joke, by the way. I’d really like to know if there is anything as loud as four fourteen-year-old boys, with size twelve shoes, running through the house with little cap guns that shoot small, hard plastic beads. They sounded like a herd of elephants with their trunks in knots. Small bursts of laughter until the bead hit, and then ouch mingled in. All accompanied by the sound of shoes pounding hard on the floor as they attempted to rattle the house from its foundation.

Twice I tried to grab their attention as they flew past my desk, James yelling, “Careful, don’t hit my mom or we’re in trouble,” to no avail. On the third trip around, I was standing. The look on James’s face made it almost worth it. You might know the look if you have kids. It’s the deer in the headlight, quickly followed by the ut-oh now I’m in trouble look.

James went on defense and quickly turned to his friends, “We better take this outside guys.” I watched as they turned and headed to the back door. I heard several of them utter “Sorry Mama Hoppe” as they went.

Now mind you, going outside only solved the problem of the house shaking, because believe it or not they had their inside voices on before exiting the back door. Once outside the noise level went to an all-time high. I think if the EPA had an office in my town they would have been knocking on the door to issue a fine for violation of noise ordinances.

I’m really surprised the neighbors didn’t call the police. All I could do was hope against hope the boys would run out of little plastic beads soon.

What a silly thing to hope for.

They did, and it was at that moment one of the boys decided the little gravel rocks on the driveway out back might work better than the beads, and the fight was on.

Don’t get this wrong, these boys are very good friends and they would never try to really hurt each other. They play football together, and during the season the other three are responsible for making sure James doesn’t get tackled. These three boys are part of the front line; James is a running back. So it’s in everyone’s best interest to do no serious damage, however popping one another in the back of the legs with small rocks apparently doesn’t cause a lot of permanent harm. Just small discomfort and a slight sting according to the boys, as they assured me it was all right and they wouldn’t break anything.

Can you believe it? They thought I was worried about them breaking each other. It was with some difficulty that I convinced them it was the windows of the house I was most worried about. Small though the rocks might be, and the fact they were throwing them at a downward angle notwithstanding.

You would think I had taken every toy known to man away from the boys when I put a stop to the rock throwing. Remember these are fourteen-year-olds who should be able to find something else to do with little trouble, however I must report it took them about fifteen minutes of grumbling before they hit on a new idea to fill the time.

This game involved more yelling, laughing, loud talking, and the sound of skateboards hitting the sidewalk out front as they landed. Did you know, if you get a running start on a skateboard, run it up a ramp made of bricks and scrap plywood, and launch yourself into the air, you might land with your feet still on the board? Notice I said might, because as far as I could see and hear it only happened every few times. Mostly they did the crash and burn into the grass.

Each crash was followed by loud roars of delight from those not lying face down in the dirt. The jump was discussed at length, the ramp repositioned, and the next fearless soul would get their board. A check was made of the wheels, trucks were adjusted, wind speed checked and the next flyer took off. All without benefit of a control tower or landing lights, brave boys.

This exercise continued until my hubby arrived home to take the boys to the movies. Oh joy I thought, finally some peace and quiet. Right! Turns out it was too late to make the one p.m. showing, so it was decided they would attend the four o’clock show instead. This decision was followed by several minutes of phone calls to keep other parents up to date on schedules, then a return to the front for more daredevil leaps off a makeshift ramp.

My husband assures me, as an expert on fourteen-year-old boys, this is all normal. How does he know he’s an expert, you ask? Well according to him, when I posed just that question, it’s because he used to be one. Now I know why my mother-in-law has gray hair.

Pardon me, I need to go check the mirror, I feel my hair turning grey as I type.

Note to self: Stock up on slippers!

End of Extended Sample

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