Posted in Family, Just Funny, Minimalism, Uncategorized

It’s Not the End of the Road

For the last 20 years, a print entitled, “End of the Alley” has been on display in my house. I fell in love with this picture, I think because it reminds me of a print my mom had when I was growing up.

Whatever the reason, I spent my birthday money on it some years back, and hung it in the most prominent location in my home: the wall behind the toilet.

Sidebar: I have this long-term goal of one day becoming a successful minimalist by eliminating one possession per day. Unfortunately for my online-shopping-self, it’s kind of a ‘one step forward, two steps backward’ process.

8d4ab-end2bof2bthe2balleyAnyway, my quest for simplicity finally led me to this 16×20. I love it dearly, but it is woefully dated and needs to go (much like that herb-laden wallpaper border in the kitchen.  But that requires a stepstool and a boxcutter and two hours of my time, and I’d rather whine about it than strip it. But I digress.)

I took “The End of the Alley” off the wall behind the toilet and placed it in the Goodwill box.

A couple of days later my husband announced he was having urinary issues. “What’s the problem?”  I asked, “UTI?  Prostate?  Asparagus?  What?”

“Well,” he said, “for years I have been peeing at the ‘End of the Alley’ and now I don’t know where I’m supposed to go.”

Good grief.

Later, my son was generously helping me pack up the Goodwill box when he saw the frame and mourned the loss of the familiar picture that brightened our bathroom since he was in Pull-Ups. “Don’t you like it anymore, Mom? Cause I think it’s kinda cool.” And I admitted that I really do still like it, but the frame makes it look out of style.“Maybe I could reframe it and hang it in the bedroom.”

“You COULD reframe it,” he said, “but I wouldn’t advise hanging it in the bedroom. Dad may still try to pee at the ‘End of the Alley’.”

Good call, son. Good call.

Posted in Beauty, Just Funny, Minimalism, Quirks and Other Weirdness, Uncategorized

Monogamy & Handbags

For the last three years I have been in a serious monogamous relationship… with my purse. I have carried this faux-leather sensible black handbag (with a frivolous lime green lining) through better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, forsaking all others and remaining completely faithful to my beloved handbag “until death do us part.”

We are very much alike, this handbag and I:  practical, organized, oversized, and somewhat amusing (reference the lime green lining). She has been a faithful companion.  She supported me without fail, and we have, for all practical purposes, been inseparable.

Regrettably, my $40 faux leather partner had a lifespan rivaling the career of an American Idol contestant or the shelf-life of an incandescent light bulb. “For as long as we both shall live” turned out to be about 32 months, thus I found myself in mourning.

After her untimely demise, I must admit to a brief rebound relationship with an adorable little buckle bag, but at only 5” tall, she turned out to be much too shallow for any kind of meaningful relationship. I’m also ashamed to admit to a lust-based one-night-stand with a flashy metallic copper number. However, she proved to be nothing more than a vacuous tote, a hollow single-compartment chasm in which I could find nothing.

I’m happy to announce my grieving phase has finally ended. I am once again in LOVE. My new purse is practical – large enough to hold my grown-up coloring book, but small enough to wedge into the console between the front seats of Eddie van Honda. She is designed for organization – monogamy handbagcompartments with magnetic snaps, a separate pouch for the progressive trifocals I never wear, and a small zippered pocket so I always know where to locate my elusive keys.

Most importantly, my new bag is a bit whimsical – ivory leather with silver studded fringe.  She’s nearly perfect. I love her.

I’m sure I could draw some sort of spiritual analogy here about how we were all created for a specific purpose, or about the wisdom of choosing good companions, or about the how our physical life is just transient, but, after all…it’s just a purse.

Posted in Just Funny, Minimalism, Uncategorized

Perhaps her heart was two sizes too small

Everyone, it’s assumed, liked Christmas a lot
But Steph, who’d felt scroogey, most certainly did not.

Oh, she loved all the sharing and wee balls of rum
And songs about drummers who rum-pa-pum-pum,
But she hated the shopping and wrapping and glitter
And taking the tree down alone made her bitter.

Utility BeforeIt could be perhaps
that her socks were too pinchy
Or the stuff in the utility room
made her grinchy.
But whatever the reason,
the socks or the junk,
She stood here in January,
feeling the funk.

She snarled with a sneer,
“I can take it no more –
This house is too full,
the stuff has to go!”
Then she got an idea!
An awful idea!
Why, Steph got a wonderful, awful idea!

She gathered some empty containers and sacks
And took down the lights and the ornament of Max.
She packed up the wrapping and shiny red balls
And rolled up the garland that decked out the halls.

“Now all I need are some boxes to fill.
I’ll pack up my stuff, and I’ll go to Goodwill”
She cleaned out the closets and shelves of the clutter
And emptied the fridge of the last Nutter Butter.

She boxed up a wreath and a vase and a candle
And even got rid of the “R” on the mantle.
She slithered and slunk with a smile almost gruff
And cleared out the house of all excess stuff.

She got tired more than once, and thought she was through,
But she mustered the strength of ten women, plus two.
She kept working all day and into the night
When she heard a deep voice that gave her a fright.

She turned around fast and saw You-Know-Who
The teenage boy Kevin, who was no longer two.
He looked at his mom with gleaming blue eyes
And said, “Why are you cleaning and boxing up, WHY?”

And you know, that ol’ Mom, was so tired and so sick,
Of working alone, that she schemed really quick.
“Get out the step stool and climb really high,
Take down the tree topper, then be a good guy

Haul these to the dump and then when you can
Load the rest that’s for charity, into the van.”
Her jobs hushed the boy, then she patted his head
And said, “Thanks for helping!” and sent him to bed.

utility AfterNow the chaos was vanishing
from under her roof,
The odds and the ends
were all going “POOF!”
She’d bah-humbugged throughout
the whole holiday season
But please don’t ask why,
no one quite knows the reason.

It just could have been
that her socks were too pinchy.
Or maybe her heart
had become mean and grinchy.
But the most likely reason
for holiday gloom
Was all of the stuff in the utility room.

Posted in Just Funny, Quirks and Other Weirdness

traditionally untraditional. part one.

My family loves to be traditionally untraditional, especially when it comes to holiday food.

For years Mom would faithfully get up in the wee hours of the morning to baste the turkey – only for us all to admit years later that none of us even like turkey. We had a few years of trial-and-error options like fried turkey and Tofurkey and Turducken and othersuch critter combinations (just don’t say it incorrectly in front of the children!), but they all taste like they sound.

For the last few years, Dad has thrown caution to the wind and prepared either a prime rib or a pork tenderloin with a Jack Daniels marinade, glazed with a brown sugar/cranberry reduction, while Mom double-stuffed the potatoes and maple-glazed the bacon and over-soaked the rum cake.  It is nothing short of A-mazing.

thanks26Adding to the traditionally untraditional feel for our holidays is Mom’s flair for decorating. The dining room is completely harvest-festive, from the dramatic stalks of wheat reigning over the tablescape, to the subtle touches like leaf-shaped pats of butter, to the whimsical turkey-embossed napkin rings.  

Why is that untraditional, you ask?  

Because my mother callously engages in the practice of irreverent holiday jumping.

While the dining room is harvest-festive, you should understand that Thanksgiving is confined to that space, and that space only. If you venture out of the dining room, it’s like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia, because sometime back in August she began completely Decking the Halls for Christmas…and the front porch and the den and the garden room and the foyer and all the bedrooms AND THE BATHROOMS.

516oO0W3S4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I am so not kidding. Sometimes there are as many as EIGHT lighted trees, all with different themes and/or color schemes. The house rivals a the Southern Living Christmas edition.

I, on the other hand, am still contemplating whether or not I want to go to the effort of putting a pine wreath on my front door.

Posted in Minimalism, Quirks and Other Weirdness

Desperately Seeking Simplicity

elfilm.com-the-jerk-302431“I don’t need this stuff…I don’t need anything except this ashtray. That’s it. And this paddle game. The ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game and the remote control, and that’s all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle game. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that’s all I need. I don’t need one other thing, not one – I need this! And this! And that’s all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair.”

Sitting barefoot under a tree on this serenely gorgeous September afternoon, I should be content to just be. But I can’t get my mind off all the stuff.  The stuff in the house. The stuff in the garage.  The stuff in the barn. The stuff in the other house. (Yes, we just bought a 2nd house). The stuff in the other garage. The stuff in the other barn. The stuff in the cabinets and closets and boxes and drawers.  

This is not the first time I’ve proclaimed this, but
I AM SO TIRED OF ALL THE STUFF.

I don’t deal well with clutter – physical or mental. Disorder and chaos make me feel overwhelmed and out of control. Truthfully, the “Where’s Waldo?” books even kinda stress me out. I spent the first half 5706126657_cca84635bdof my adult life wanting and wishing I had more; a bigger house, nicer car, more shoes, and an endless supply of essential throw pillows.  But now all I want is less. It’s not exactly the Amurican Dream, but collecting and cleaning and organizing useless junk is not how I want to spend the remaining 301,128 hours of my life (give or take a few).  

I’ve been on this journey of simplifying for about 4 years; unfortunately most of it has been verbal. I talk a good game. I get on a kick and clean out a couple of closets, haul it off to Goodwill/consignment/the dump, but to be honest, I haven’t made notable progress.  I continually bring more in than I remove.  The closets are overflowing, the utility is packed, and there is such a quantity of food in the house we could survive the apocalypse by bartering frozen okra and jars of salsa.

minimalism-empty-shelf (2)Do the cowboy and I really NEED 16 towels and 32 washcloths? What about the collection of coffee mugs in the cabinet or the accumulation of boots by the garage door?  Does every flat surface in the house have to be “decorated” with lamps and vases and picture frames? And have we EVER used the pickle fork that came with the flatware?

My makeup bag contains no fewer than 27 cosmetic items, when I’m certain paring down to 8 items would achieve the same underwhelming morning makeover. I have an entire drawer devoted to hoarding nail polish and Jamberry stickers, and I haven’t done my nails since April.  And don’t even get me started on the clothes (the ones that fit now, the ones the optimist in me hopes to wear, and the ones the pessimist in me is afraid to let go of)…and shoes…and bags…and oh my goodness, the jewelry.

Why do we feel the need to possess 207 dvds when we have Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime and a library card?  For that matter, why do we have Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime when we hardly ever watch tv? And can I confess the only reason I stockpile books is because smart people have books and I want you to think I’m smart even if I never intend to read most of those books again???

ZZ08EBF772I may not have the body of a minimalist, but I sure have a frustrated one living in my brain. One who needs to go home and start decluttering. Again. But it’s so much nicer spending this afternoon lounging under a tree, soaking up the 72° weather, and pinning dozens and dozens of great ideas to my “Minimalism” board on Pinterest.  

Yes, I get the irony.

Posted in Down on the Farm, Just Funny, Minimalism

Holy Cow, Batman

The cow. Got out.

Repeat after me: Green Acres is NOT the place to be. Farm living is NOT the life for me.

My husband, the cowboy, was out of town. WAY out of town, buying a registered quarter horse, because… you know… we didn’t have one yet.

I was hosting something we called “Friday Night Hangout”, where a bunch of high school kids would come over to the house on Friday Nights to – you guessed it – hang out.

And since the cow (affectionately known as “Patty”) was a relatively new phenomenon at Reynolds Ranch, the kiddos wanted to go out and see her.

And, apparently, pet her.

The problem: She is a COW. She does not wish to be petted. She wants to be left alone. The kids approached her. She backed away. They moved closer. She ran in circles. They continued to advance. She disengaged her hindquarters (which, in the animal world, has something to do with submission. In marriage, however, it has an entirely different meaning…but that’s another blog altogether.)

Patty tried to dissuade them from petting her. She spoke to them in Bovinese:
“Children, lovely children… I do not wish to be touched.
I do not wish for you to come closer. I prefer that you not force me to…”

Then she squealed some sad-sounding cow scream, bolted to the north, and jumped a 4-foot chain link fence, yes she did.

Kevin immediately ran into the house to inform me of the Cattle Coup, and I instantly did what city people do in a farm emergency: I made some phone calls. After many calls to multiple sources all giving me the same ludicrous advice (“just go find her and herd her home”), I did the other thing city people do in an emergency: drive.  I put on my 2 1/2″ black wedge sandals, and took the car up the road, all the while muttering to myself as to why I wasn’t living somewhere – anywhere – that didn’t offer a view of manure-freckled hay fields.

I found Patty a few tenths of a mile west in a neighbor’s side yard. I parked the car, got out and walked toward her, wondering exactly how one persuades a cow to go home. She just stood there. So I waved my arms (hoping to scare her back the direction of the house). She waved back. I stared at her. She stared at me.

We stood there
Just staring,
We stood there
We two.
And I said,
“Oh, I wish
I knew how
to speak Moo.”

And since Dr. Seuss rhymes seemed ineffective as a herding tool, I went back to the house to herd the kids up to the cow. Kevin drove up in a second car.

I was now finally able to reach the cowboy by phone. Though he was 320 miles from our house, I felt it imperative that he know what was going on.
“COW JUST GOT OUT!” I yelled.
“How are the trout???” he queried.
“THE COW HAS GOTTEN OUT!” I yelled again.
“The power has gone out?” he asked, confused.
“NO NO…YOUR STUPID STUPID COW HAS JUMPED THE FENCE AND RUN OFF!!!!”
I declared in no uncertain terms.

“Then go find her and herd her back home,”
he responded calmly.

Ohhhhh . . . this ticked me off.

“Well, honey,” he asked sweetly, “What do you want me to do?”

What do I want you to do? WHAT DO I WANT YOU TO DO???

WELL, FIRST OF ALL, I WANT YOU TO PANIC WITH ME, DOGGONE IT, BECAUSE FREAKING OUT MAKES THINGS SO MUCH MORE MANAGEABLE.  AND SECONDLY, I WANT YOU TO GIVE ME THE STINKIN’ CODE TO THE COW SIGNAL YOU HIDE OUT THERE IN THE BARN SO I CAN SUMMON SUPERHERO ‘SADDLE BOY’ TO COME RESCUE ME! THAT’S WHAT I WANT YOU TO DO!!!

So, basically, I hung up on him, somewhat angry and incredibly frustrated that this Big Dumb Future Shish-ka-Bob was going to make a beeline for the interstate and cause a 7 car pileup resulting in death, dismemberment and a really big e’splosion, and I would be responsible.

I went back up the road and found Kevin driving his car through somebody’s backyard and a conga-line of kids dancing in circles and flailing their arms. Patty darted left, then darted right, and eluded them. We lost her again, and since it was nearing dark, it was becoming virtually impossible to locate a black cow in the country.

Thankfully, a couple of cowboy superheroes-in-training had been viewing our slapstick routine, and came out to join in the chase about the time Patty reappeared on a side road. After another half hour and a 9-person team of rodeo clowns, we managed to herd her into somebody else’s field, via somebody else’s gate, where she joined a herd of somebody else’s cattle.

Our Friday Night High School Hangouts included a lot of weirdness: playing “Murder”; having finger-dart wars; heckling bad movies; playing Hide & Seek at night, and glow-in-the-dark ultimate Frisbee. This, however, was a whole new experience. Just as I wondered what they would tell their parents, Erin answered the question for me: “This was the MOST FUN Friday Night Hangout . . . EVER!!!”

For those of you who are concerned about the cow, the answer is “no”, Patty never made her way onto our dinner table…

but have you seen my new black leather boots?

Posted in Just Funny, Minimalism

Real. Simple.

We were discussing the discipline of simplicity.

The concept of living simple lives…
1. Don’t “buy” things just to “have” things. (Like all those empty Rubbermaid containers I have in the utility room, just waiting for me to get one of my overwhelming urges to organize.)
2. Take joy in giving things away. (It would make me very happy to give you the bills for my eye surgery.) 
3. Develop a deeper appreciation for creation. (Like the weeds in the flowerbed?)
4. Reject anything that oppresses others.
5. Get rid of the distractions that keep you from staying on task.

The question was asked, “How can we be more intentional about simplicity?” A lovely, professional mother-of-four commented that she tries to limit her schedule to three things a day. She said anytime she tries to squeeze in more than that, it makes her a “grouchy mommy”.

Well, I don’t want to be a grouchy mommy either.

So today I got out of bed, shaved my legs, and drove to the coffee shop for a Cinnamon Latte.

One, two, three. It worked. I don’t feel grouchy at all. Mission accomplished.

Simplicity is good.