Posted in Quirks and Other Weirdness

I feel, therefore, I am.

I was crying.  Scratch that.  I was sobbing.  Ugly, runny-nose, red-eye, hyperventilating squawks of despair even the waterproof mascara could not contain.

Kacey was quick to console…until she learned I was intentionally reading stories I knew would break my heart.  “Mom. Stop.”

“But…but…but…” I protested, gasping, “she was laboring…and then the baby…and oh the sadness…” Incoherent blubbering, as the crocodile tears fell from under my reading glasses.

“Take a B vitamin and SUCK IT UP, woman.” She rolled her eyes at me.

heart-vs-mindForget the dichotomy of the right-brained vs. the left-brained, the introvert vs. the extrovert, the optimist vs. the pessimist. The personality contrasts that most affect my life are the Thinkers vs. the Feelers.

And the differences have nothing to do with intelligence or brain dominance or gender or age.

Most of us (let me just make the transition here)… most of YOU are Thinkers.  You watch movies and are simply entertained.  You read books and maintain the ability to fall asleep when you go to bed.  You meet a suffering friend and are able to be kind and supportive without letting it ruin your day. You endure personal loss, and upon reaching the “5th Stage of Grief:  Acceptance”, you pick up the pieces, buy a yellow shirt, and move on along.

We Feelers don’t do that. We CAN’T do that. Believe me, we try. We often think there is something wrong with us because we dwell on everything. We FEEL everything. Deeply. Your telling me to “stop it” or “get over it” is like telling me to stop breathing.  The way I feel things is not a defect in my personality, nor is it simply part of who I am. It IS who I am.

Now, some of you Thinkers THINK you are Feelers. You aren’t. Just because you can BE emotional doesn’t make you a Feeler.  If you can reason your way out of an emotion – EVER – you are a Thinker.  And some of you Feelers  assume you must be Thinkers because all you do is think, think, overthink. Don’t be fooled, that’s part of what makes you a Feeler.

Feelers can’t shake the emotion, whichever emotion it happens to be.  I am the one laughing the loudest. The one using sarcasm to deflect pain. I won’t settle for an answer of “I’m fine” when I know you don’t mean it. I will struggle to break down those walls you build around you.  I am not the one gossiping because I refuse to assume the worst about you. But I will take all kinds of crap from you and for you because I don’t ever want you to have to feel the pain I have felt.  Ever.

Feelers crave passion and connection. We automatically put ourselves in your shoes to better understand you. Sure, we are the cryers. But we are also the entertainers. And the huggers. And the empathizers.

tumblr_lqpz0qLo0x1qm6ac1o1_500This does NOT mean we are always depressed and gloomy. Far from it.  But when we are, there is no shaking it, and definitely no faking it. We take no comfort in “Things Will Get Better” or “If It Is Meant to Be It Will Happen”.  We only know it is NOT better and the thought of living without whatever it is, is more than we can bear.  And we feel this, not only for ourselves, but for anyone whose story we become a part of.

Unfortunately for me, it only takes 17 seconds for me to invest my heart in someone else’s story.

And it doesn’t even have to be a REAL story.

cramer-krasselt-letters-to-dadstill-boy-back-750xx1648-927-76-0By the time the little boy in the Packaging commercial throws paper airplane messages over the backyard fence, I’m sniffling. Before Tim McGraw mentions x-rays as a reason to “Live Like You Were Dyin’,” I’m overwhelmed.  When Max grows tired of the Wild Things and wants to be where someone loves him best of all, my voice is quivering.. And I am unabashedly mourning when I realize that no matter how much Noah reads to Allie from “The Notebook”, there really is no such thing as a happy ending in a Nicholas Sparks story.

Tears of laughter. Tears of loss. Tears of frustration. Tears of hope. Tears of anger. Tears of joy.

So when you see me, I will probably be crying.  Or I will have just been crying.  Or I’m about to cry (just give me 17 seconds). If you’re a kindred spirit, you will give me a hug and shed a tear with me.  If you’re a Thinker, you will offer me a Kleenex, tell me it will be okay, and wonder what the heck is wrong with me.

Nothing.  I’m a Feeler.

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 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?

Posted in Hippy-Dippy Stuff, Just Funny

See the Ball, Be the Ball

Dryer balls.

They are, unquestionably, at the pinnacle of “The List of Things I Will Not Miss When My Girls Move Out”.  

If you aren’t familiar with them, they are the “green” alternative to Fabric Softener sheets. My daughter loves them.  I, not so much.

snuggle (2)Wool tennis-like balls used in place of dryer sheets to fluff, minimize static, and speed up drying the laundry. And while they are somewhat less creepy than the Snuggle Bear, they are the epitome of All Things Annoying.

schweddy ballsAdmittedly, outside of Alec Baldwin’s recipe for the Schweddy ones, I’m not really a big fan of balls in general, be it bowling balls, footballs, matzo balls, melon balls, Lucille Ball, ball bearings, ball bags, or Magic 8 balls.

But I especially despise The Dryer Balls.  Bouncing around in your dryer, they create the noise equivalent of a team of construction workers reroofing your house.

Plus, they don’t REALLY do anything about static. Not an issue in the summertime when the house is essentially a sauna, but in the crisp winter air, when I cross my ankles, my leg hair is in danger of spontaneously combusting, so static control is kind of a deal.

dryer ballsHowever, the real pain-in-the-you-know-what about
The Dryer Balls is that they are never where they are supposed to be. Oh SURE, six of them are residing in the dryer when I start the load, but when I go to remove the clothes, I’m lucky to find even one still in the drum.

Dryer Ball 2  makes itself known as it rolls from the pile of clothes in my arms, causing me to trip and do a Chevy Chase pratfall over the coffee table.

I discover Dryer Ball 3 in-between the double layers of a canvas bag. The bag has to be unzipped, inverted and given a fetchgood Heimlich maneuver to unlodge the ball.  I quickly, but unsuccessfully, drop to all fours in an effort to catch said ball, then speed-crawl across the floor like a puppy playing fetch.

Wedged in the sleeve of a dress shirt is Dryer Ball 4.  I fish it out by squeezing from the cuff upward, but it pops out and rolls under the bed.  And not just under the edge, but all the way to the top middle so I have to lie on the floor with a yardstick to retrieve it, only the toddler broke the yardstick trying to pole vault the ottoman, so now it’s not long enough to reach, causing me go on a scavenger hunt through the house for something – anything – long enough, and I know the broom would work only the cowboy absconded with it to sweep out the horse trailer and never returned it, and so there I am on my belly, clamping a shish-kabob skewer with the salad tongs, trying to rescue the fourth stupid wool ball like a First Responder trying to save Baby Jessica trapped in the well.

I finally give up looking for the last two, though the following morning as I make the bed, I find Number Five in the pocket corner of the fitted sheet that wasn’t even in the same load of laundry.

The Last Dryer Ball comes and goes mysteriously.  Nobody really knows where it’s been or how it finds its way back into the dryer. Sometimes though, after a load of underwear has finished, the lint filter is dislodged.  I think it’s possible that Number 6 just might be smuggling freedom-seeking socks through an Underground Railroad.