Monday, November 03, 2014

Cat-tastrophe

Published in the Miami News-Record on October 12, 2014

About a month ago one of the kids noticed that our momma cat, Chuck Norris, was putting on some weight.  I inwardly groaned because I knew it meant that Chuck was in a family way. Her last litter of kittens was about four months old at the time and while we like to keep a cat or two around, we don’t want to get crazy with feline overpopulation.

Typically when we notice a cat is pregnant around here there is usually time to prepare for the blessed event. I told the kids we had about a month before the kittens came, but Chuck Norris, well, she likes to keep us on our toes. A mere week after our discovery, we had another discovery: four teeny tiny kittens in a barrel out by the shop. Our oldest daughter’s pup, Josie, took to barking at the kittens, which wasn’t much of an issue considering their ears were still shut, but apparently Chuck didn’t much care for it. A little over a week ago she moved her babies to an unused doghouse right by our front porch. Josie didn’t bother them there and all seemed right with the world. They figured out how to crawl and wiggle out into the sunshine and loved being paid attention to. They just needed giant sunglasses and they’d have been little kitty Kardashians.

And then the rains came.

While I was at homeschool co-op and our oldest was at home, she discovered one had nearly drowned after she wiggled out of her house. After some drying and lovin’-on, she perked up, Abby secured them all back into the doghouse while the rains kept coming. Then Chuck decided that her accommodations were worthy of a scathing Yelp review and left her kittens high and dry. Actually, low and soaked. So in the middle of a downpour, we moved a barrel to the porch, put the kittens in it, and Chuck deemed it suitable.

And then the winds came.

The barrel started filling with water, again soaking the poor critters. When I went out last Monday morning one kitten was gone, two were soaked to the bone, and one was barely breathing. Chuck would have nothing to do with them and kept bolting away when we tried to put her with the wet little varmints, running for cover like she was insisting the rain was going to make her hair frizzy.  We found most of our Monday school day whittled away by bottle feedings and mewling kittens. My husband was less than thrilled that our No Indoor Pet policy had been pushed aside in our humanitarian (felinatarian?) attempts. I was adamant that we were doing the right thing and that we were only showing our kids how to be kind to animals.

But at 3 am when those kittens started hollering that the milk replacer was gross and they  missed their momma and could they see Santa and “Are we there yet?” all rolled into a bunch of  “She’s touching me!” type shrill squeals and meows, I found myself having misplaced my kindness. I found myself with a scratching, wiggling ball of fur in one hand while I blearily tried to fill a miniscule bottle with milk replacer and warm it so as to not scald the poor thing’s gizzard. It was a flashback to when my own kids were newborns, although with less scratching, but pretty much the same amount of yowling.


Since then Chuck has been forcefully placed into a confined area with her kittens and is only let out when the little ones aren’t screeching with all their might. She glares at us when we let her out and I’m pretty certain that look says, “I’d rip your heart out right now if I could.” And again, it is reminiscent of when my husband and I had a newborn. I’m pretty sure I blearily directed that thought at him more than once at 2 am.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Halloweary

Published in the Miami News-Record, November 2, 2014

I love Halloween. So much so that we’ve had our Halloween decorations up since the first week of September. We have these really cool pictures that look like old black and white photos but when you get close they are skeletons, vampires, zombies, etc. Our fireplace beheld a pile of bones until my husband evicted ol’ Boney Maroney when he installed our new gas logs. Now ol’ Boney just hangs out all piled up in a galvanized bucket next to the TV. There are creepy cobwebs hanging everywhere. Actually, that’s not just a Halloween thing, just my lackadaisical housekeeping.

I used to go all out on Halloween costumes. Halloween costumes and Valentine’s Day boxes brought forth a part of me that stayed hidden the rest of the year, but come October and February I was a woman obsessed. I stayed up until 3am on more than one occasion crafting and building costumes and boxes. All I can figure, I was a lot younger and really cared way too much about what other people thought. Now I’m old and don’t give much of a hoot. And since we homeschool and they’re older now, costumes (and Valentine boxes) haven’t been a big deal around here for awhile. In fact, we haven’t trick-or-treated since I made this deal with the kids: You don’t make me create a costume for you and drag you out in the wind/cold/heat/crowds, and I buy you a metric ton of candy and let you stay up as late as you want.  It’s my favorite Halloween tradition.

This year a friend of ours decided to host a costume party. And my children got really excited. I made the standard candy/stay-up-late offer and even said I’d watch scary movies with them, but no, the little extroverts wanted to go to the party. Then the himming and hawing began over costumes. And to top it all off, the oldest daughter wanted to dress up for work and she wanted to be “super scary”. Because that’s what everyone who comes in to the restaurant want to see while they eat – her creepy scary zombie doll clown vampire face.

The two youngest kids decided on cosplay-type costumes from the Batman comics – The Scarecrow and Harley Quinn. Fortunately Kady’s costume was her idea alone and she did the entire thing herself (the Overachieving Force is strong with that one) and the oldest decided on a mime (decidedly un-super scary, but sufficiently creepy for those of us with clown phobias already). The girls’ ability to create theirs on their own left me to work on their brother’s costume. By 11pm the night before Halloween I had enough burlap fibers on me to make me look like a crazy cat lady and my dining room had little bits of twine pretty much everywhere. In an attempt at singeing the cut edges of the eye holes, I managed to catch the mask on fire and here’s some wisdom for you: flaming burlap fibers will embed under the tender flesh of the pad of one’s finger. Then after I stitched the mouth with some sloppy, creepy stitches I realized the mouth was smiling happily, not grimacing menacingly. I, however, was grimacing as I pulled out the stitches to start over. And itching from an apparent burlap allergy.

When it was all said and done, though, all three costumes looked great. Harley Quinn and The Scarecrow represented Gotham City well and the mime didn’t even scare a single customer (although she did give her mother the creeps). And while I thought my costume-making days were over, I was granted one more flurry of sewing, gluing and memory-making. It was worth sporting melted burlap around in my finger for a day or two to see them trot off excitedly and for my six-foot-tall son to wrap his arms around me and say, “Thanks, Mom. It looks great. You’re the best. Really.”


Be still my Halloweary heart. I’d melt burlap into my finger every day of the week for that.  

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Clowning Around

Originally published in the Miami News-Record, October 12, 2014 (with a few bonus pictures!) 


Krusty the Clown from "The Simpsons"
I was 13 and had just been given the key to Pandora’s Box when my dad took me with him to the college library while he was doing some research for a paper. I sat cross-legged in the floor on the second story of the NEO library and read excerpts and passages of a seemingly endless supply of horror novels, creeping myself out, page by page. I had never had access to such a collection of “grownup” books and I was ecstatic. The book I settled on that night – my very first scary read – was “The Bachman Books”. It was a collection of Stephen King’s first stories when he was writing under the pen name Richard Bachman. And just like that, with those four short novels, I was hooked. Between my scary book obsession and my best friend and I watching low-budget horror films (rented from Showtime Video – anyone remember that place?) virtually every weekend of our adolescence, I developed a bit of a fascination with the horror genre. I love to be scared.

Pennywise. Eek!
I have read virtually every Stephen King book ever published – most of them more than once. I got Mr. King’s book “It” in all of its 1,138-page hardcover glory when I was 14 and began reading it as the family took off for a Branson vacation. I can’t tell you much about our trip to the Country Music Capital of the World that go ’round, but I can probably tell you anything you would want to know about Derry, Maine, where the story took place. I read it so feverishly and incessantly that I ended up carsick on those Ozark Mountain backroad hills. I was also reading it late one night (when I was supposed to be sleeping) by the light of a flashlight while covered up in a blanket. My mom came in to put up some laundry not having a clue that her opening my bedroom door would shave about 47 years off my life. As she stepped into my room, all she saw was a flashlight, a giant book, a blanket, and her daughter shoot straight up into the air followed by a round of nightmarish screams. When I realized she wasn’t Pennywise the clown coming to drag me into the sewers to kill me and she recovered from the heart attack I had just given her, we both busted out laughing.

I have a short list of phobias: water, spiders, heights, sewer grates, and clowns. The last two items on that list are directly because of the aforementioned book. It is the most haunting of Mr. King’s novels in my opinion and has stuck with me well into adulthood. Now, this might seem a bit oxymoronic – the girl who loves to be scared is phobic and terrified of something, but call it what you will. All I know is: clowns really freak me out. Really. Spiders freak me out, too, but after having been bitten by a black widow, I think anyone would be slightly scared of them. But clowns…..man. *shiver* Ronald McDonald is one scary dude in my opinion.

*shiver*

There are different schools of thought regarding phobias. Some say immersion therapy is the most effective way to overcome a phobia or fear. Immersion therapy simply baby-steps a person into different levels of contact/experience with a particular phobia until they have overcome their fear. I’m not 100% convinced. Although I guess I shouldn’t scoff at something that is regarded amongst the psychiatric community as successful.

I guess if there’s a doctor out there willing to set up a scenario regarding a clown who jumps off of a skyscraper into a body of deep water where he water skis on a sewer grate to a pit of spiders, I’d be open to watching that and see where things go from there.

 Twisty the Clown
from "American Horror Story: Freakshow"
Dude is seriously messed up. 


On second thought….nah. I’m okay avoiding clowns for the rest of my life. I’m not a big fan of McDonald’s food anyway.   

Mystery Meat

Originally published in the Miami News-Record, October 5, 2014

We are a one income family and have been for most of our married life. Please don’t misunderstand – we aren’t living on one income because that’s all we need to live on; no, we live on one income because it’s our choice. We do without a lot of things in order to make it work. It’s not for everyone. Living frugally to the extreme isn’t easy and it’s not for everyone. Sometimes you just have to get creative and do the best you can. Sales are my best friend come menu-planning day and I take my shopping very seriously.

A few weeks ago the little grocery store near where we live had a great sale on fryer leg quarters. It was limit two and I wanted to get as many as I could before they went off sale. (Please don’t judge – it didn’t say “Limit two per household forever” or anything.) I picked up two and sent money with my oldest daughter to pick up two more when she got off work that night. I never thought that she didn’t know what a fryer leg quarter looked like, but later realized that at nearly 18 I guarantee you I didn’t know what they looked like either. I told her the price per pound and that they were in 10-pound bags, so they should be $6.80 a bag. She wrote all of that down along with “fryer leg quarters – CHICKEN” on a scrap of paper, tucked it into her purse with my $20 and headed to work.

That night around 9:30, she walked in the door with a rather large plastic bag of flat, frozen hunks of meat and a very upset look on her face. She held it out at arm’s length and asked, “Is this what you wanted?” I squinted at the contents and shook my head. Her shoulders slumped as she said, “I didn’t think so. But oh, let me tell you the story.” I gingerly took the bag of frozen meat pucks and inspected it, trying to not bust out in hysterical laughter only because I knew she was upset at not fulfilling her duties that night. She then told me how the nose-picking, slack-jawed hillbilly kid at the register stared at her blankly and said, “Uhm….yeah…..uh….I got no idear what y’all are talkin’ ‘bout. I don’t know ‘bout no fr’ar leg quotters,” to which my outspoken daughter then said, “Well then, I think maybe you should find me somebody who does.” The kid was still knuckle-deep in a nostril as he called for “someone from the back” who, coincidentally, had no idea what she was talking about either. He did, however, manage to dig up the bag of mystery meat and said, “I don’t know if this is what you want, but it’s only five dollars so….” and trailed off as if she should be pleased at the $1.80 price difference. She was not, but she was also tired and irritated.

One adventurous night a few weeks ago I decided to make the Mystery Meat for dinner. Abby took a picture of them and put it on Facebook. Several people commented, saying they wanted to throw up just looking at them. A few said we were crazy for eating them. A few tried to identify them. Turns out, they were backs. Chicken backs. *shudder* The family said they tasted good, but about an hour and a half after dinner we were all in the kitchen looking for a snack. Turns out, there just isn’t a whole lot of meat on a chicken’s back.


*Certain author liberties were taken with this story. There are no actual hillbillies working at the local grocery store. Nor were any noses picked during the incident in question. So says Abby. She might also be protecting her secret hillbilly boyfriend who bought up all my cheap fryer leg quarters. 

Friday, October 03, 2014

I Got Problems

I always have been and always will be a words kinda gal. I love the sound of words, the beauty of them on paper and how they sound when spoken. I love the power behind them, the things they can accomplish, the feelings they can evoke. Numbers just can’t do that. Numbers are solid, logical, tangible… and insanely frustrating. Words can’t always be captured by the voice and have many different meanings to many different people. The number five is always going to equal the number five. But say any word – any word you can think of – to five different people and it will likely be interpreted five different ways. 

Numbers are just not the primary language spoken by my brain. It took from 3rd grade to 6th grade before I could finally do multiplication without breaking out into a cold sweat. I took Algebra I my Freshman year and passed it by the skin of my teeth. I started my Sophomore year in Algebra II and after one week of that nonsense I marched into Mr. Lippe’s office with arms crossed, determined look on my face, demanding that he remove me at once from that vile class and put me into something else, anything else. He moved me over to Business Math, a class I passed with an A. I went on to end my high school math career with Accounting I and II, passing both with A’s. It’s not that I can’t do math, it’s that I just prefer not to. The add/subtract/multiply/divide kind of math is do-able. Please do not put letters in there. That’s where it gets all jumbly – like a really sick and twisted can of algebra soup.

Last year our son made it through Algebra I with a resounding A at the end of the year. The program we use is computer-based, thorough, and very easy to understand, but starting out this year in Algebra II has been challenging to say the least. He suffers from the same phenomenon I do: Mathematical Amnesia. If I learn a math concept I can do it all day long. But if I sleep? You can forget about me remembering a dadgum thing the next day.

I’ve been learning Algebra II right along with him this year, a task that has gotten easier in my old age – a fact I find very strange considering I have maternal oatmeal brain and am on medication for nerve pain that messes with my memory. This past week they introduced “distance” word problems. One might think I, a word person, could do word problems. One would be wrong. Oh. So. Wrong.  I loathe word problems. They never, ever make sense to me.  “If Bob is on a subway car traveling at 15mph and Douglas is on a rocket ship to Mars traveling at 27mph, how long will it take the two of them to create a macramé sculpture of the Mona Lisa using only their toes?” That’s how I interpret every single word problem I ever encounter.

It took my son and me nearly 30 minutes to figure out a particularly difficult problem one day and when we eventually got it right, you should’ve seen the high-fiving and hollering that was executed right there at the dining room table. Then we got into my secret stash of chocolate. And soon after that he decided that college didn’t seem like a real fun option for him after all and “homeless street person” sounded safely math-free. I patted his leg, handed him another Reese’s Cup and said, “Or you could always just homeschool your own kids, son. And learn it at 41 like I am.”


I’m really not looking forward to telling my husband that our soon-to-be-homeless son won’t be blessing us with grandchildren. 

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Canned

Published in the Miami News-Record, September 14, 2014

This past week I had my first experience with canning. Well, I say first experience, but I guess I should clarify. I witnessed my mom and Uncle David canning before now, but I was a kid and I was sitting on a barstool in the kitchen at my Papa and Memaw’s farm eating a piece of Roman Meal bread with real butter on it, swinging my legs, chatting up a storm about nothing in particular, not being at all quiet or even remotely un-annoying. So, yeah, this experience really was altogether new.

One of my husband’s brothers has had this amazing apple tree for years now, but this is the first I have ever heard of it. I’m sure proximity has something to do with it, seeing as how we used to live 20 miles away and now we have clear line of sight between our two houses. Paul walked in the house the other night with four Walmart sacks just full of apples and I was like a kid on Christmas morning, clapping my hands and squealing with a strange glee that surprised even me. I don’t even really like apples all that much. I will eat apple pie and apple crisp, but it’s very rare you’ll see me eating a raw apple and you’ll never, ever see me eating applesauce. Why I got so excited at the sight of those apples is beyond me. Maybe it was because I was still feeling adventurous after this summer’s first garden, maybe it was because I felt nostalgic for those childhood days at the farm, or maybe it’s because I’m a glutton for punishment and like to pile my plate as high as I can with as many activities as I possibly can. I’m going with the last one.

And really now, who couldn’t use about 40 pounds of apples just sitting around their kitchen on any given day?

Our oldest daughter had a minor surgery last week and I had cleared our schedule for the days after. I figured it was as good a time as any to try my hand at canning. I was going to can apple butter. I’d never had apple butter, but it seemed like an obvious choice with that many apples in my possession. Mom also gave me a recipe for apple pie filling and I was determined to can that as well. The first thing I had to do was go to Walmart for a water bath, a jar grabber, some seals (I had jars and rings), and some lemon juice. Then I forgot the lemon juice and had to have my sister-in-law pick some up on her way home from work. (Thank God for a Walmart associate in the family.)

The first day got away from me. Then, there was the next day. On Thursday I managed to start. Bright and early that morning, with paring knife in hand, I was determined to show those apples who was boss. Then I saw the recipe for apple butter called for TWELVE POUNDS of apples. I measured out one pound and realized that I didn’t own a stock pot big enough to hold 12 whole pounds of apples. I used my math skills to cut the recipe down by 1/3 and got started.

I referred to my recipe and directions a lot. I consulted the internet a lot. I texted and called my mom a lot. I finally got the water bath to agree to a “vigorous boil”, started ladling my hot apple butter into my hot jars, to realize that four pounds of apples yields… about four measly pint jars of apple butter.
I won’t even tell you how my first experience at blackberry butter went. Let’s just say that after five hours of reducing, I now have two pints of blackberry syrup that is so strong it’ll put hair on your chest, strip wallpaper, and remove corrosion from car batteries.


I might just stick to gardening. 

Sunday, September 07, 2014

When I'm Gone

From the Miami News-Record, Sunday, September 7, 2014

This past week I celebrated the life of Don Hall with his family and friends. I met Don when we attended church east of town and marveled at how many children he could fit in the cab of a pickup truck. (I became much more at ease when I heard he had bought a van – then I learned it only bought him that much more room for more kids.) I stood in that church parking lot and asked my Pops (and pastor), “Why does he bring all those kids to church?” Pops smiled and said, “Because he wants to.” And oh, how he wanted to. He felt a calling, a desire, a mission to introduce as many kids as he possibly could to Jesus and if that meant testing the limits of a vehicle to fit just one more in, he did it. About four years later my husband and I were wet-behind-the-ears youth leaders at a church south of town and had the privilege of seeing again just how many lives “Papa Don” touched when he rolled into the parking lot one night with an even bigger vehicle – a bus – in which to haul kids to church. When he stepped onto those streets of gold last week and had instant knowledge of how many lives he had touched, how many people he had led to salvation, I would imagine he just grinned his shy grin and ducked his head as he heard his Savior say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
I am not a fan of funerals. (I might also ask, “Who is?”) I will avoid a funeral just about any way I can simply because I think too many times we get caught up in mourning and forget to remember. And since I’m a cry-er in the presence of other crying folks, I just don’t subject myself to that if I don’t have to. So often we forget to focus on the good that person did and the way they lived their life and we instead shed our tears in earthly sadness. I guess you could say we get a bit selfish when it comes to someone dying. We will miss them and we can’t stand the thought of life here without them, then we cry. And if you’re me, you cry a lot. So just know this: if I show up to your funeral, I really thought you were pretty darn special.
As I sat in that pew last week waiting for Don’s funeral to begin, I thought ahead to my own passing. (An event I am not planning on having happen for a very long time.) I leaned over to my oldest daughter and said, “Listen to me, young lady. When I die, there had better not be a memorial service held in a church. I want a party.” She looked at me with the strangest look and said, “A party? Like, what on earth would we do at a ….. a party in honor of your…..DEATH??”
So given that she pinned me down right there, I pondered a bit before I said, “Well, you had better eat BBQ. And chocolate cake. Lots of chocolate cake. You guys take turns telling stories about my clumsiness, read some of the stuff I’ve written over the years. Talk about my awful hair. Laugh. Poke a little fun at me – heck, I’ll be gone, so go for it.” I went on to tell her that I’ll be writing my own obituary, so that’ll taken care of already. She seemed relieved at that. She was amused at my party plans and nodded a lot so I hope she intends to honor my wishes.

And while y’all are at my memorial party crying only because you’re laughing so hard you might wet your pants, I will have already hit the gates of Heaven, hopefully hearing the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” and not, “Girl, you’ve got some explainin’ to do.”

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Nostalgia and School Supplies

From The Miami News-Record,  Sunday, August 31

When I was a kid, school supply lists consisted of: Pencils – fat in lower elementary, skinny in upper – two of them, no more. A Pink Pearl eraser – these weren’t used for erasing, just pegging your neighbor in the back of the skull. Elmer’s glue – one bottle. This was used to glue construction paper to manila paper (most kids called it “vanilla paper” – FYI: it didn’t smell like vanilla) and was also applied in thin layers to the backs of your hands then peeled off when dry in order to gross out your classmates with your “skin”. Crayons – a pack of 16 was all that was required, but there was always some kid who showed up with the fancy pack of 64 with the built-in sharpener and that was the kid you wanted to sit next to. Colors were Indian Red, Prussian Blue, Maize, Raw Umber, etc. “Burnt Sienna” was the weird brown that baffled everyone. What was a sienna and why was it burnt? Scissors – metal, blunt-end scissors that rusted by Christmas break. The purpose was to cut paper, but was usually just used to cut chunks out of your hair – or your Pink Pearl eraser. Colored pencils – these were only required in 5th and 6th grade because that was when they taught map skills (and we all know maps cannot be colored with crayons – just ask Christopher Columbus). Kleenex – two boxes. No one brought Puffs; they were too expensive. 

All of the above supplies were to be contained in your cardboard school box. The school box (and your metal lunch box) was a direct reflection of your interests at the time – Strawberry Shortcake, Dukes of Hazzard, Bugs Bunny, etc. School boxes started out with square corners and a lid that closed squarely as well. By year’s end most were covered in elementary-grade graffiti, the lids were held on by that really good tape the teachers kept in the locked drawer, the corners were torn, and the lid was kept from caving in by a pushpin (said pushpin stolen from the bulletin board). Throw a Big Chief tablet into the whole mix and your school supplies maybe cost a whole $10 - more if you were the kid with the 64 pack of crayons. These things were stored in your desk with the squeaky lift-up tops that slammed at deliciously loud decibels – and pinched countless fingers.

Now, all pencils are small because the big ones hinder small motor skills. Scissors must be kept out of the reach of the children until they are brought out and carefully monitored, saving many a head of hair I’m sure. Glue is in sticks and you must equip your child with roughly 4,823 at the beginning of the year. Crayon colors are politically correct and exciting – Wild Blue Wonder, Cerise, Fuzzy Wuzzy, Jazzberry Jam, Smokey Topaz, and others that to me sound more like stripper names than crayon colors. Manila paper has given way to iPad apps and antibacterial gel is liberally applied to the children throughout the day. Ziploc bags, paper towels, wet wipes, and acetaminophen/ibuprofen make the supply lists these days due to dwindling budgets. If we had a headache we got a wet brown paper towel from the bathroom for our foreheads. And the only thing we had for germ containment was the stuff the janitor sprinkled on puke when someone got sick after riding the merry-go-round. Today’s kids must stay home if they have fevers, but back in my day you were given a baby aspirin and told to tough it out. Skinned knees got “the spray” – a yellow aerosol that burned like the fire of a thousand suns. Pounding erasers was the biggest honor a kid could get and the white residue that covered you was a badge of honor. And probably caused asthma and dry eyes, too, but we survived. We survived it all.


Ahhh, nostalgia. I hope someday our kids develop an app for that. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Well. That's a Problem.


From The Miami News-Record, July 6, 2014

Growing up we lived in a house in the country with rural water, so when the electricity went out and all our neighbors on wells were without water we were still drinkin’ water and flushin’ toilets with wild abandon.  Paul and I lived in town for 5 years on city water then moved to our Hudson Creek house which was again on rural water. There was only a short 10 month period as newlyweds that we had a well. It took a section of pipe with a hole in it to throw us into a waterless two day span marking what this spoiled girl thought was the seventh level of Hell. Fast forward to one day last week at our Wyandotte house when the kids and I were happily washing dinner dishes and the water just kind of fizzled out then …. stopped. I turned the water off and turned it back on, as if that magical routine would fix the problem. It didn’t. So then I did what I always do when something goes wrong: hollered for my husband.

He called the brother that lives closest. They both crawled under the house, scratched their heads a few times, then they called the other brother. Then they called a neighbor. Well, called the neighbor after Paul came in and asked if we had any money. I said we did, but not to get all high-falootin’ with that notion. He nodded and rushed back outside. Not long after that it was declared that some wires or something or ‘nother was shorted or burned or cut or possibly sabotaged by garden gnomes, heck I don’t know. Regardless of the actual problem, there was a bigger problem: by this point, all of us girls had to pee. The boys take advantage of Nature’s Toilet quite frequently out here, but we girls are a bit more delicate. Actually, I used to be quite adept at the ol’ pop-a-squat, but age and short chubby legs make it a bit more challenging these days. I mean, if I want to do yoga, I’ll ju—oh, who am I kidding, I’m never going to want to do yoga. Anyway, my girls just screeched at the thought of going outside even though their daddy told them to just get over it and go. I was going to, until I got out there, got myself all limbered up and then the coyotes that I’m pretty sure were attracted to the whites of my thighs started in with the howling and I vapor locked.

It is in times like these that I am glad I am a worrier with doomsday prepper tendencies because, see, I’ve been hoarding water in jugs since we moved out here. We moved in the middle of the winter to the top of a hill where the power lines run through the jungles of Wyandotte. The threat of ice storms periodically through the winter had me planning ahead for power outages. I’d nearly tackle a family member heading for the trash with a milk jug or juice bottle. Those were the precious receptacles of flush-water, I told them. They scoffed. I stood firm in my hoarding. When no ice storms came, I told them to just wait until the spring storm season. And even that has been mild. So turns out, I was just preparing for a shorted something or ‘nother in our well pump.


Because the well guy obviously had a life outside of coming to fix our well at 9pm, we were left with no choice but to employ the motto “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down,” further into the next day than any of us wanted. To be honest, you just don’t realize how pampered you really are until you are forced to piggy back your – ahem –efforts with family members and flush your toilet with hoarded water. We are definitely spoiled and incredibly fortunate, but more than anything, glad that’s over. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Of Sister and Sprouts

From The Miami News-Record, July 13, 2014

My sister, Heather, is three and a half years younger than I am. We didn’t get along very well when we were kids and to this day, Mom still tells teary tales of lying in bed at night, crying, wondering what she did wrong to make us hate each other so much. The thing is, we didn’t hate each other, we were just….annoyed and annoying. I being the annoyED one, Sis being the annoyING one. It’s an ages-old tale, the one of siblings and the eternal cycle of bickering, pestering, fussing, and downright fisticuffs on occasion. My own kids do it. Sometimes it’s nearly enough to drive me to drink. However, I can’t think of bickering siblings without remembering the first time Sis and I had a “sister moment”, an unspoken reconciliation of sorts. We were probably 14 and 17 and it was the first time we realized we were on the same team. Of course, we still fussed from time to time after that, but it was just … different from that moment on.
We were sitting at the bar in our kitchen in the usual configuration and scenario: Dad at the end, Mom on the short side, Sis and I across from her on the long side. As usual, elbows were jabbed at each other, Sis thumped her feet against the cabinet, I exasperatingly squealed my disgust, insults were slung under our breaths, various other antics were displayed. Mom had made brussel sprouts for dinner and I DID NOT (still don’t) like brussel sprouts. The rule was we had to try new food once and if we didn’t like it, we were cleared from having to eat it when it was served. But every few years or so, we would have to re-try the foods to see if our “taste buds had changed”, as Mom put it. I always thought that to be a load of bull, but it was the rule. For some reason, that day Mom decided I needed to re-try the sprouts and put one on my plate. I whined. She added another. Before I got wise and shut up, I ended up with three of the nasty things on my plate. I ate everything but those tiny orbs of revulsion and Mom said I should get busy. I sat. Humor was a big thing in our house, so I tried that, making jokes about being allergic and did she want the possibility of my death hanging over her head for the rest of her days, but she didn’t buy into my cuteness. You would think that at 17 I’d have just eaten one and been done, but no, my mouth got me stuck with three and there seemed to be no way of getting around it.
Mom got up to refill her tea, her back to the bar, and quick as a flash, two sprouts disappeared from my plate and were in my sister’s mouth. She gave me a look and through a mouthful of green mumbled, “Chew!” When Mom turned back around, she saw her darling oldest child chewing away and her youngest intent on her own plate, shaking. Dad just stared. Mom asked, “Are they good? Do you like them?” Still “chewing”, I just nodded and made some noises I hoped would convince her that I was chowing down. I don’t know if it was my cartoonish “swallow” or the fact that Sis was about to have an aneurism from holding back her laughter, but I was found out. Then Mom did what any good mother would do: she force fed me the remaining sprout on my plate. All of us girls were laughing hysterically and before it was said and done, I had brussel sprout in my eyebrows and ears, green vegetable was slung all willy nilly and Dad just sat shaking his head.
But suddenly, annoyED and annoyING became friends. And we still are today.