Posted in Down on the Farm, Just Funny, Uncategorized

Ice Skating with the Devil

Back in January, the cowboy made room in our 24×28 garage for me to park the car. We’ve lived in this house 16 years and this is a first.  I mean, I never minded NOT parking in the garage, but when the temperature outside rivals the interior of the deep freeze, or I’ve got a trunk full of groceries to haul inside, it sure is lovely. Point being, now that I can park my car in the garage, I have no need to be outdoors. Not even a desire really. In the winter it’s too cold or too windy or too gray. In the summer it’s all buggy and weedy and there’s the ever-present “odeur de equine” that blows northwest from the barn. I’m just an indoorsy girl at heart. Give me a bookstore or a museum and I’m happy as a nerd.

My husband, on the other hand, spends every waking not-at-work minute outside. He comes in the house after dark to eat and sleep. If he’s not working with his horses, he is cutting down trees, or disking up fields, or hauling hay, or chopping firewood, or, well, you name it.

So, he comes in from the mailbox the other day, the latest edition of “Saddle Boy” magazine in hand, proclaiming, “I have found the destination for our next vacation!”

I glance at him skeptically over the top rim of my 2.25 reading glasses. One, because we rarely go on vacation, and two, because we never agree on anything, much less recreation pursuits.

“No, I’m serious,” he assures me.

I’m in a good mood, so I bite.

city slickers
from “City Slickers”

He proceeds to describe a “vacation” that has all the appeal of Yemen and ranks right above Chinese Water Torture on the fun-o-meter: a working dude ranch.  I’ve seen “City Slickers”, thank you very much, and there ends the extent of my interest in Big Sky Country and, for that matter, the late Jack Palance’s acting career.

Once again I glance at him over the top rim of my glasses. This time with less skepticism and more sarcasm, “You’re a funny, funny little man.”

He gives me a sales pitch with all the perks: You get to work with horses, cut down trees, disk up fields, haul hay, chop firewood, and, if you’re lucky enough to have double-X chromosomes, you also get to help fix the chow! And, let us not forget – YOU get to pay THEM for the experience!

feltandwire
from feltandwire.com

The cowboy cannot seem to grasp the concept that THIS IS NOT A VACATION. Not for a sane person. But to him it sounds like heaven. To me it sounds distinctly like something I plan to do… right after I go ice-skating with Satan.

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 Family, Parenting, Uncategorized

the calm before the storm

We are entering the season: traveling, Christmas shopping, decorating, the early December “calm before the storm.”  I love the holiday season.  Really, I do. I just want it to last twice as long and be four times less hectic. And while I’m not generally a procrastinator, except when it comes to Christmas shopping. I haven’t even begun to think about it, much less actually do it. (sigh)

 I love the cold, the dark, the white twinkle lights, humongous bows on packages, snow, boiled custard, holiday get-togethers, timers that automatically turn my trees on and off, Christmas music, my rabbit-lined leather gloves, appetizers, holiday movies, sweaters, and reminiscing about previous years as we hang each ornament on the tree . . .

aalights (2)I’m not so crazy about wrapping gifts, turkey in any form, pulling boxes out of the attic, property taxes, vacuming pine needles, “Santa Baby”, pumping gas when it’s 18 degrees, or, one of the great mysteries of life: untangling Christmas tree lights which were most definitely NOT tangled when we put them away 11 months ago…

Mostly I just love the whole “being together” thing – the dropping of everything else that clutters our lives every other day of the year to munch on maple bacon and boiled shrimp the size of your palm, play cards, and laugh at each other.  That’s my favorite part of Christmas.

Well, that and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

Posted in Starting Over

50 shades of concrete

It began as a convenience store – a Minit Mart or 7-Eleven maybe… I forget, but you know the building I’m talking about. For several years they were successful selling gas, cigarettes and Big Swigs before they moved closer to the interstate and abandoned this structure.  After a while, a talented burger-flipper thought he could turn the empty building into a lucrative greasy spoon, but he was wrong. The concrete blocks were soon vacant again.  More time passed and an up-and-coming chiropractor painted the exterior a dark shade of gray (“Rain Dance” to be specific), put a couple of topiaries by the front entrance, and opened up her practice.  Eventually, however, she upgraded, leaving the building abandoned once more. For exactly 73 days, a local dude transformed it into a pool hall.  A few months after the pool hall endeavor, the left side opened as a Tanning Salon, while the right side converted to the Second Church of Holiness Prayer Center.  Kind of a “Body & Soul” joint venture, you might say. Eventually a hippie chick came along, painted aliens and spaceships on the ceiling-to-ground window and attempted a consignment store she called “Clothes Encounters of the Second-Hand Kind”, which again turned out to be a mistake, as almost all thrift stores are. It seems like, one summer, the place might have even been a burrito joint.  Who can remember, really? The point is, in-between each ending and the subsequent beginning, the building sat empty and abandoned, looking increasingly world-weary, waiting to either collapse or find its niche.

At this point in the blog, my brain has wandered into some sort of middle-aged commencement speech, and I am thinking how much this Building of Perpetual Beginnings and Endings represents my life, each business undertaking a different phase of life – some successful, some not so much. Always doing my part to be accommodating, generous, 50 shades of concrete (2)compliant.  Always doing my part to suit the needs of whatever came next. Each in-between phase leaving me hollow and lonely, looking for occupation and purpose.  Waiting for things to happen. Hoping for things to work out. Waiting. Hoping. Waiting and hoping.

Wait a minute….WHAT???

DID I JUST COMPARE MYSELF TO A CONCRETE BLOCK BUILDING????  Well…that DOES appear to be the metaphor I was going for 23 minutes ago, but now there’s this alarm going off inside my head. And not one of those twinkle-ding-dong alarms that awakens you gently to a dewy sunrise. This is one of those “TAKE COVER, SHE’S GONNA BLOW!” Emergency Alert System Warnings. Exactly when did this disaster occur??? How did I get here??? When did I decide to allow people to walk all over me, take from me and not give in return, use me as a pawn in their self-esteem games?  When did I become the passive voice in my own story?

50 shadesDarn it, I am SO not as mundane or prosaic as a lifeless rectangle of concrete blocks.  (A colorful Duplo castle, possibly. A mosaic tile window, maybe.)  A gray concrete block convenience store?  Not on your life.

At least, not anymore.

At some point I started settling for less than “me”. Somewhere along the line I allowed generous, helpful, patient and funny to morph into subservient, conforming, peacekeeping and sarcastic.  I became someone who waits and wishes instead of someone who imagines and creates. I allowed myself to become a martyr and a victim. I can’t even put my finger on when this spiral started, but I can certainly pinpoint exactly when I knew I couldn’t survive in Kansas anymore.  And while the ending of “what was” has been devastating, and this new beginning is more than a little terrifying (think “Twister” where Helen Hunt watches her life torn apart by an F4), the reality is there is a fresh start emerging from the aftermath, and – with a great sigh of relief –  it is all mine.

I’m no longer passively wishing and hoping for change…the storms of the last few years have left the concrete building in ruins, and what few gray blocks were left standing I kicked over into the pile of rubble with my own two feet.  This next adventure is my own. I don’t know how long it will last, but I hope the whole time.

 

The End

or rather … The Beginning

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 Just Funny, Minimalism, Parenting

Jeep Thrills

Amazon gives it 5 stars.

I know, because I read the reviews. Hundreds of satisfied customers raving about the quality of this toy – the speed, the size, the durability. Important details to know when purchasing a $300 ride-on Fisher-Price Jeep for your favorite 5-year-old.

The biggest perk in all of those reviews, is that not one of them mentioned the phrase “some assembly required”. WHOO HOO!

I say “whoo hoo” because I am not a woman with skillz.  With a world population of 7.125 billion, my mechanical competency ranks near the bottom, only slightly higher than community college philosophy majors.  Seriously. Just getting my lipstick to roll up and down without breaking off is a pretty big deal for me.  

So when this package arrived, it was in a box.  A box.  And not the jumbo kind you might see on The Price is Right where they drop open one side to reveal an assembly-line-fully-manufactured 3-dimensional vehicle, but a FLAT box that could contain, oh say, a chalkboard . I felt a stabbing pain shoot down my left arm.  I consoled myself, “It might not be so bad.  Maybe it’s just a matter of slipping on a couple sets of wheels and popping up the roll-bar. Yeah, I’m sure that’s it.”


And with that, I drove to my daughter’s house where this little Jeep would find its new home.  She met me at the garage door.  When I opened the back end of the van, 
she mumbled something nondescript and ispygave me that look.
You know… the one that says,

“What have you done, woman???”  
We proceeded to unpack the box. Once we had all 169 parts – please don’t skip over that number – ONE HUNDRED SIXTY-NINE PARTS scattered across the garage floor, it looked like an impossible page from “I Spy Extreme”.

3952b87d8faaba39d9b9d78607b71c4cThe Fisher-Price
I knew and loved
as a child
had just become
my mortal enemy.

I reached for the manual.  Kacey immediately swiped it from my hands.  “Oh no you don’t.  We both know what happens when you try to read instructions. Just sit down and look cute.”  She reconsidered. “On second thought, go to the kitchen and and get a screwdriver.  You DO KNOW what a Phillips head is, don’t you??”

Do I know what a Phillips head is?  It’s a crosshead screwdriver named after Henry Frank Phillips of Portland, Oregon, but actually invented by John P. Thompson who sold his self-centering screw design to Phillips in 1935.  Duh. Do I know what a Phillips head is.  Then I mumbled something motherly like, “I’ll Phillips your head” and went to retrieve the tools.

I unwrapped parts and handed her pieces and made up cheers as she moved through the  42-step instruction manual for the next hour. I even pre-assembled smaller parts that she would, of course, later have to disassemble.  During the dashboard installation she discovered a working radio that plays songs from Disney’s “Frozen”. She mumbled curses my direction and sent me away to fetch food and coffee.

After Step 16, Kacey had a conference call for work, so I decided to try my hand at connecting the pieces. She glared at me over her reading glasses,
skepticism oozing from her eyeballs, screw (2)but I stated emphatically,

“I CAN screw things!”

“Oh…that’s what SHE said,” she grinned mischievously.

I managed the hood, doors, hinges, steering column, wheel, and even the seats before she rejoined me.  I was patting myself on the back when she found a leftover pin. After backtracking the steps, seems I had neglected to install said pin in the steering wheel mount.  So while she undid what I had wrong-did, I flipped ahead to the final few pages of the manual.  “Hey! Don’t read ahead and spoil the ending!” she teased.  I told her I found no intrigue in this tragic saga, and just wanted to see how many more pages I had to endure.  With that, she threw a sheet of 44 decals at me and said, “Shu-up and put on stickers.”

jeepThree-and-a-half hours from start gun to finish line, and the 12-volt battery-powered 5-star-rated Fisher-Price Frozen Jeep Wrangler, suitable for children ages 5-8, was complete and ready for the birthday girl.  

But for Christmas, that kid is getting socks.

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?