Friday, May 27, 2016

Why Be Ordinary?

I have had some interesting jobs throughout my life.  Interesting and fun to me.  My father-in-law however once asked me, "Where do you find all these strange jobs?"  He was a Naval aviator his entire life.  While I have had job diversity.

Before I got married I had been employed as a receptionist for a group of pediatricians.  I suppose my favorite father-in-law considered this a normal respectable job.  Then I got married and the fun began.

While living in Japan I taught English to children.  This may not seem particularly odd.  Some mothers just wanted their children to come and play with my kids and they would pay me.  Others wanted me to come to their doll sized apartments so the children could hear my accent.  (FYI:  I did not have an accent.  They did.)

Back in the States I would occasionally entertain the idea of going back to work.  I delivered biweekly newspapers the old fashioned way-walking.  That was a great gig:  exercise for pay.  Until one dusk I came face to face with a black masked bandit.  Mr. Raccoon.  I was convinced there were other creatures hiding in the shrubs waiting to pounce on me as I scooted from house to house.  That was the end of that job.

I jumped for UPS one Christmas.  That was another exercise for pay job.  The driver would slow to a snails crawl.  I hopped out of the truck, sprinted to the door, gently placed the package down, and raced back in the truck.  I was able to down many cookies that Christmas without a worry of holiday pounds.

One Valentine's day I worked for four days delivering flowers.  Such a fulfilling job.  People are so happy to see you carrying bouquets of sweet smelling beauty.   Well, most are pleased to see you.  There was always that one person, "There's none for me...?"

Then all my children started school and I got a "real" job in my father-in-law's eyes.  I became a preschool teacher.  He couldn't understand, though, why it was two year olds I taught.  The secret is they are really, really sweet.  Nothing terrible about them.  It's a bad rap.

That was ordinary.  I do not like to be ordinary.  So to spice up life, my unordinary friend talked me into doing a flash mob at the San Diego Fair.  We took lessons and learned how to dance to Michael Jackson's Thriller.  It was exhilarating to dress as a zombie and entertain/scare people.

Fast forward to Iowa.  I again felt the need to be something other than ordinary.  While cruising through Craigslist I found my next paying gig.  The mall needed an Easter Bunny!

What fun!

Children love the Easter Bunny.  All children.  Although some can not get within 30 feet of the Bunny before turning to butter and screeching "No!  No!  No!"

Others professed their love for the bunny.  One four year old felt the need to pray with me.  Some children had to be pried off my lap their love was so great.  And some tried to make off with my extra large Easter eggs.

The oldest "child" I saw was 98.  He didn't even ask for anything special in his Easter basket.  He just smiled for the camera.

A couple of grandpas came to have their pictures taken with the bunny for grandchildren far away.  It must have been a delight for these children to get a picture of Grandpa being brave and sitting beside the Bunny.

The strangest visitors were a couple in their forties on their first date.  He pulled her into my springy compound.  "We must have a picture with the Bunny.  It will give us something to laugh about in 20 years."

He was pretty confident for their first date.  What I really wanted to know is why their first date was at the mall?  This mall had no restaurants or coffee shops.  What were they doing?  Did they have a second date?  I may never know.  I'll have to ask Santa.  He keeps tabs on people for his nice or naughty list.

Now I'm back to being ordinary.  Working at school and mowing my lawn.  I'm on the lookout for my next adventure at being odd.  If you have any suggestions or want to come on an adventure let me know!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

An Iowa Concert

Jack, my brother-in-law,  was visiting Iowa in winter.  Besides constructing snow men and throwing around balls of frozen water, I wanted to entertain him.  Iowa style.  I asked if he would like to go to a concert?  He would.  I informed him we could have supper there also.  "Great!  We have places like that in Houston with outstanding new bands," he replied.

"Yeah.  Just like that."  Sort-of.

I told Jack the name of the place we were going was called The Corn Crib.  He came back with, "I don't want to go there.  I don't want to eat outside."

Outside?  What was he talking about?  This was Iowa in the dead of winter.  It was 7 degrees outside. Did he think I would eat outside?

Then my light bulb came on.  There is a spot on my acreage we call the corn crib.  It is a cement slab in the middle of the property with a fantastic view of the river and fields and tractors rambling down the road.  This is the spot when work is done and relaxing is called for.  It's also where the corn crib used to stand.  This Texas boy thought anything called the corn crib was for relaxing outside.  I've been called crazy many a time, but not that crazy to eat a full meal outside in near subzero temps.

After clarifying this was indeed a restaurant with heat and indoor plumbing, he was in for the adventure.  Jack dressed in his best blue jeans and a fine looking shirt.  He was in for a surprise!

We hurried out of the icy wind into The Corn Crib.  Jack took the place in.  Informal restaurant seating on the left, a convince store on the right with random tables scattered through out.  A large circle was cleared by the windows with chairs around the perimeter. The band was warming up in them.

"Look!"  I cried.  "There's a table right next to the band."

Jack squeezed into his chair.  "This is it?  This is the band?  I don't think there is a person under 80 in it.  And the instruments...That lady has a...What is that anyway?"

"Well, it's a...I think it's a...."  I had no idea what it was.  It appeared to be a large cane with a cowbell, a bicycle horn, a metal box, some jingle bells, and another kind of bell decorating the top.  She was armed with a drum stick ready play it some how.

There were a few guitars scattered around the chairs, a banjo, several harmonicas, and a man with two spoons.  A couple the chairs just held people sitting and smiling.

Jack inspected the menu.  "What do you recommend?"

I informed him The Corn Crib had won an award for it's hot beef sandwich.  I had not actually tried it.  This was going to be the night to indulge in an award winning meal.  Jack agreed.

The band began to warm up.  An elderly man was sitting at a table with a suitcase at his feet.  What appeared to be the band's spokesman inquired of this man if he was playing tonight.  He shook his white head no.  My curiosity was aroused as to what was in that suitcase.  I supposed I was to never find out.

Our meal arrived as the band started to play.  Steaming tender roast nestled between two soft pieces of bread.  Mashed potatoes adorned the rest of the plate.  All was drenched in brown gravy.  Our server bet I could not eat the entire thing.  I proved him wrong!  Jack had to roll me out the door!

Everyone in the chairs took turns choosing songs.  The mike was passed around the circle so all the participating band members could sing.  The lady with the musical cane used her drum stick to tap the cow bell or the metal box.  One man strummed his guitar while simultaneously blowing his harmonica.  The man with the spoons thumped them against his knee.  It was loud, too loud for a conversation.

Jack did manage to yell at me.  "I suppose the spoon man has a sore knee by the end of the night."

I supposed the man had a calloused knee from playing those musical spoons.

Six songs into the concert the man with the suitcase rose and joined the band.  The mystery as to what the suitcase held was soon to be solved.

Slowly he opened the lid and pulled out an ordinary board cutting saw.  Was he the resident magician?  Was he going to saw someone in half?  Was I sitting too close to the band that I would be volunteered?

I started to rise to sprint out the door when the white haired man began to play a tune with the ordinary saw.  That was a musical instrument?

Yes it was!  He played a couple of solos.  It was easy to recognize the song.  The saw laid across his legs as he bent it to and fro.  I have no idea how the tune was actually played.  I decided it was just talent.  That or he had goofed off many times when he was supposed to be actually working with that saw.

Everyone in the band had a genuine smile on their face.  There was ice and a bitter wind outside.  But inside The Corn Crib everyone was warm, toasty, full, and having a grand time.  Jack suggested we come again some time.  Next time we should bring Claudia.  I suppose that will happen when the temperatures rise above 80.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

It's Coming...Part two...Snow at Last!

The much anticipated blizzard had come and wrecked havoc in my yard.  My truck was a hostage in the garage.  I needed to be in Texas in two days.  What was I to do?

It was my cousin, Norris, to the rescue riding in on his white van.  We hauled my suitcases through the snow and over the broken tree.  He deposited me at the airport to rent a car.  I was on my way to Texas to bring home treasures from my parent's house.

But that wasn't the only thing I brought home with me.  I brought back a brother-in-law.  A brother-in-law, Jack, who had never seen snow!  Did I have some snow for him!

Jack has been obsessed with snow for years.  He would venture north in the dead of winter only to meet with a heat wave.  The two day trek from Texas to Iowa was like riding with a small child.  "Are we there yet?  When do we see snow?  I don't see any snow.  Are you sure there's snow at your house?"

My sister, Claudia, has a different attitude about this winter and snow thing.  She hates it. I was given my marching orders as we departed Houston.  "Make him cold.  Get his blue jeans wet.  Take away his mittens.  Get this out of his system!"

Jack and I arrived at my disheveled winter wonderland on a cold winter afternoon.  The electric wire was strung proudly in the air to my house.  But the sad pin oak still lay strewn about the driveway and front yard.  It was then I realized my mistake.  I had left my house key inside my locked house.

Luckily I had one hidden.  I instructed Jack to put on his boots and follow me.  (He brought knee high wader boots.)  We tromped through the snow with Jack oohing and awing over snow at last.  The wind had blown leaving about a three foot drift I had to jump down to retrieve the key.

Key in hand I was uncertain how to scale the almost chest high drift.  Jack being the gentleman held out his hand for me.  I reached to grab it when the most hysterical thing brought tears to my eyes. Jack started to disappear.  In slow motion he sunk into the snow.

Tears ran down my face as I convulsed in laughter.  He managed to pull himself out of his snow bondage.  I assessed the situation.  No mittens.  Blue jeans soaked.  Snow inside his wader boots.

Text to Claudia:  "Mission Complete!"

This did not deter Jack.  He high tailed it into the house.  After several rotating twists in front of a heating register he was ready to tackle the snow for real this time.

I decided to "dress" him this time.  "Yes, you need snow pants.  No, I don't have any that will fit you."

Jack pulled on my son's snow pants.  (Robby keeps them stashed here.  There doesn't seem to be a large supply of snow in Florida.)  They were snug in the waist, but the length was a problem.  Robby is a few inches taller than Jack.  We managed to scrunch them up around his boots.  The crotch was almost to his knees.  But isn't that the style anyway?

The next few days were a blur of snowball fights.  Which I might proudly add, I won.  In Jack's defense he had never participated in a frozen fight before.  He did improve his skill.  I will practice more.  I can't have a southern boy whoop my butt at snowballing.

Jack made his first snow man.  He was a proud sculptor.  I sent a picture to Claudia.

Her reply, "Why isn't he cold?"

A few days later the temperatures started to rise.  Jack squinted out the window at his snowman.  He shrieked in dismay, "My snow man has become a snow woman!"

Tragedy hit the next morning.  The snow man/woman lay in melting parts across the ground.  Jack was beside himself.  What probably hurt more was my snow man was still standing.  I didn't mention to him I had more practice.  Instead I strolled outside and freshened up my white friend.

I'm sorry to tell Claudia, but this winter obsession of Jack's is not gone.  Getting a taste of it may have intensified his need to have more winter.

However, I do think in the end the southern boy was happy to fly off into the dawn to a place where snow doesn't exist.  A place where his wife was waiting for him clad in shorts and a tee shirt.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

It's Coming...

They had been forecasting it for days.  The anticipation was making me shaky.  I had gathered all necessities to get me through.  We were going to have a blizzard!

A blizzard was coming to town.  I was as excited as a six year old anticipating the tooth fairy.  Everyone else seemed to be down in the mouth about this weather phenomenon.  My very own sister (warm and too toasty in Texas) doubted my enthusiasm.

"Are you sure you are prepared?  Do you have the necessary provisions in case you are stranded for nine days."

Yes and yes.  I had everything I needed.  Books.  Cats.  Milk.  Bread.  Popcorn.  Beer.

I guess the kids were home for Christmas.

I had been through hurricanes where the wind whips its nasty fingers tearing off roofs, uprooting trees, knocking down fences.  Surely a blizzard is more beautiful.  Powdery snow glistening on everything.  I was told the wind would howl.  But I would be inside snuggled in a soft blanket surrounded by four warm fur balls.  My book would be my best friend and popcorn my nourishment.

Blizzard day arrived early on Tuesday morning.  I stirred up a warm bowl of oatmeal.  The snow drifted down covering the brown winter ground.  It was looking like a winter postcard.

After breakfast warmed my insides, I curled up with the cats and a I-can't-put-you-down book by my favorite author.  It was then I realized the wind wasn't howling.  It was shouting and rattling my windows.  I peered outside.  Snow was flying by almost horizontal.  This wasn't the peaceful scenario I envisioned.

All at once there was a chest rattling boom.  Sixteen paws flew into the air and scrambled under the nearest piece of furniture.

"What in the world would make that noise,"  I wondered.

Looking out the dining room window I quickly snapped to the decision that I didn't like blizzards any more than I liked hurricanes.

There laying sprawled on the glittering snow was the top half of my seventy some year old pin oak tree.  Under it lay hostage the electric wire to my house.

The electric wire!  Oh no.  Now I have no electricity.  But wait.  My lights were still on.  I could hear the heater running.  (Thank goodness!  My blood has gotten thicker, but still has traces of being a southern California junkie.)

After a frantic thought of "What do I do now?"  I called my sister.  She's in Texas.  She'll know what to do.

Yes, I called the electric company.  They rushed right over in the storm.  After surveying the damage and checking I did indeed have electricity, it was decided to leave everything until the storm was finished causing havoc.

The next day dawned sunny and bitterly cold.  The electric company showed up as promised.  The unexpected news was they didn't have the part to repair the damaged wire. I supposed since I still had light and warmth it wasn't a big deal.  Except my truck was trapped in the garage.  The tree and wire littered my driveway.

The electric company offered to cut the tree up to make it easier for them to repair things. Then they offered to cut down the remaining large stub of a tree.  Which caused another sonic boom with cats scrambling in all directions.

The tree was cut up.  The parts ordered to repair the wire.  I found someone to come move the trees parts cluttering my driveway.  But he couldn't come right away.  And I had an appointment to keep in Texas.

Now what was I going to do...

To Be Continued...

Monday, January 25, 2016

Ice Monsters

It had been a wonderful Christmas.  I had asked Santa for snow and he delivered!  We had 11 inches before Christmas and a couple more after.  The temperatures were hiding in the below freezing range.  It was cold.

Nicole had extended her Christmas visit until after New Years.  We headed into town to raid the grocery store.  On the way we passed my Uncle's house.

"Did you see that strange icicle on Uncle's house?" Nicole inquired as we zoomed down the road.

I had not and thought nothing of it.  Nicole was from California.  She had lived the majority of her life in  warm weather climates.  It was time for her to see what real icicles looked like.

We were zipping down the road home when Nicole exclaimed, "Mom!  Look at the huge icicle on Uncle's house."

I glanced the the left.  I gasped.  I hit the brakes-hard.

Did I mention the temperatures were below zero?  One should probably not be zooming and zipping down the roads at that temperature and then slam on the brakes.  Luckily I managed to keep us out of the ditch and away from the mail box.

It was the icicle.  Well, it wasn't really an icicle.  I was correct in saying Nicole did not know what a real icicle was.  I had never seen anything like it in my 55 years of being.  These were ice monsters!

Rising up from the north side of his house were about fifty ice monsters.  They were all shapes and sizes.  Some short.  Some over six feet tall.  Some were slender.  Others were chubby little pigs.  There were even baby ones dripping off the eaves.

Cautiously I pulled into the driveway.  Nicole jumped out and headed up the hill.

"Stop!  Now!"  I screamed.  "They might be related Medusa and turn you into a permanent ice sculpture."

Nicole rolled her eyes and kept going.  At times she can still be a teenager.

What to do?  Watch and see if she is turned into ice art and go for help?  Or scoot along after her and protect her with my powerful biceps?

Motherly instinct kicked in.  I trotted along beside her to conquer the invading ice ogres.

Nearing the top of the hill we began to hear a faint hissing.  "Nicole, they sound like opossums.  Do you think they are large opossums from the Arctic?"

Again I was rewarded with an eye roll.

"Mom.  Look.  There is a mist spraying behind that wall of ice."

Sure enough.  A mist shot eight feet into the air.  It looked like a water mist at the San Diego Zoo trying to cool everyone off.  Except it was 20 degrees outside.

These were not ice monsters after all.  They were harmless bushes and trees that had been frozen into beautiful, intimidating pieces of ice art.

A phone call later and the mist from a garden hose was gone.

A month has now passed.  It's still cold.  The ice monsters are still guarding my Uncle's house.  They are as beautiful now as they were in December.  I am considering making my own ice art.  I could turn the hose on some bushes and trees.  Let them freeze good and hard for several days.  Then I could go out with my chain saw and some picks.  I will not have ice monsters guarding my house.  I will turn my guards into ice cats!


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Lumpy Pumpkins

Most of my growing up years were in Texas.  People love to hunt there.  Their trucks are armed with gun racks positioned and loaded in the rear widow.  Hunters don their camouflage and head to their deer lease.  There they sit in a stilted camouflaged blind for hours waiting for a deer to pass their way.  I moved to Iowa and the hunting was a bit different.

It was hunting season.  My usually quiet gravel road was buzzing with pickups.  They raced up and down the road.  Some stopped by my property.  The excited hunters hopped out and stood peering towards the mile away river.  They stood as still as a cactus in the desert.  Could the deer around the river actually see their movement so far away?  Fifteen or twenty minutes later, the cactus became  men again.  Back in their trucks they rushed to another deer look-out point.

Through out the day I could hear "bam-bam-bam" as gun shots rang around the country side.  I wondered where the hunters were.  I wondered where the deer were hiding?  A trip to town answered one of those questions.

I was tootling around the back roads when a curious sight assaulted my eyes.  A field was filled with what appeared to be lumpy gigantic pumpkins.  It was way past pumpkin harvest.  So what were these alien shapes?

A closer inspection reveled the lumpy sights to be men.  Hunter type of men.*  They were wearing bright orange vests and loud orange beanies perched on their heads.

I understand there are not deer leases in Iowa.  Hunters must prowl around different fields.  They need to be readily seen.  Not to be mistaken for prey.  I see the need to wear neon blinding orange.  What I do not understand is the camouflage clothing under the bright orange.

Picture this in your mind:  A sunrise wake-up call.  The hunter jumps out of his warm bed.  He quickly pulls on his camo pants and shirt.  Dirt brown boots are tied over the feet.  This hunter is ready to be disguised in the unsuspecting deer's habitat.  Then the hunter snaps on his vest of luminous orange and tops it off with a carrot colored beanie.  He can then be spotted for miles by any one or any thing.

So, why wear the camouflage?

Why not put on comfy jeans and a flannel shirt?  Why not work pants and a sweat shirt?  Heck even your Sunday best.  What does it matter what you wear under your pumpkin suit?

Then I began to wonder.  Are deer color blind?  Perhaps they can not see the orange vests as humans do.

I little research and the answer was "yes".  Deer are color blind.  So once again I asked myself-if deer can't see color-Why the camouflage?!

Still meandering around the country roads, my mind was busy speculating.  When I drive past these bright orange hunters scattered around the field and stream waiting for deer, I could help the situation.  I could lay on my horn and holler through my megaphone-"Hide Deer-Hide!  It's an invasion of lumpy pumpkins!"

I did not say who I was going to help.

Buck Posing

* I do not mean to be sexist, but I have never seen a female hunter in my part of Iowa.  Even though I know my Texas nieces can take down a prey with one shot.  Eat your heart out boys!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Santa's on the Naughty List

It's the most wonderful time of the year.  It's the time of the year when children flock to see Santa. Their heartfelt wishes are whispered into the jolly man's ear hoping Christmas morning brings life to these wishes.  I wanted something from Santa.  I thought only he could make this wish come true.  I sought out good ole St. Nicholas at a neighboring town's library one chilly December morning.

I marched into the library on my mission to find Santa Claus.  The children's section of the library had been turned into a homey North Pole.  There were books of course.  Comfy chairs, couches, and pillows dotted the room.  A Christmas tree glowed in the corner with presents scattered under it's green branches.  Sitting under the Christmas tree was the cutest, smallest Santa I had ever seen.  He was surrounded by larger elfs.

"If I have to sit on this Santa's lap he's going to end up being the first flat Santa," I thought.

As I turned I spied a grand red chair filled with the adult Santa.  A man was climbing onto his lap.  Perhaps this was the oldest man to ever sit on Santa's lap.  He was 98 and had a wish for the jolly red clad man.  This 98 year old was also my uncle.

I heard my uncle  quietly and politely ask Santa for a new car.  He went on to explain that his daughter was driving his old car.  A huge deer, not one of your reindeer my uncle clarified, darted across the road.  His daughter slammed into the unfortunate deer.  Luckily no human was injured, but but the old car was a total loss.

"So you see, Santa, I really need a new car,"  my uncle concluded.

"Ho, Ho, Ho!" Santa exclaimed.  "You can't have a car.  You don't even drive.  You get a trike!"

What kind of Santa was this?  He would deprive a  spry 98 year old man of his Christmas wish?

It was my turn to plunk myself in Santa's lap.

"Santa, I only want one thing for Christmas.  Snow!"

I held my breath while Santa contemplated this.

"Ho, Ho, Ho!  I can't do that.  Merry Christmas!"

Merry Christmas?  No snow?  This Santa needed to be on someone's naughty list.

I stumbled over to the couch where my uncle and cousin sat.  Near tears, I told my cousin that red guy over there wouldn't give me snow.  Or give her dad a new car.

My cousin, always sticking up for people, whipped her head towards Santa and hollered, "Norris!"

Norris?  This was not the real Santa.  This was my cousin's husband.  He was a Santa fake!

Santa, I mean Norris, looked at us.  "Ho, Ho, Ho."

I have since written a letter to the real Santa at the North Pole.  I see snow is a possibility for the day before Christmas.  I will take what ever white he sends.  Then I will call Norris to say that the genuine Santa really does listen. 

I wonder what kind of car my uncle will find outside his door on Christmas?

Merry Christmas to all my readers.  Love those around you, eat lots, and throw a snow ball! 

P.S.  My letter to the "real" Santa worked!  We had a beautiful white Christmas with snow men and everything!  I suppose I should have put my uncle's request for a new car in also.  That will be next years' letter.