Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Charlie Brown Ain't Got Nothin' on Me

Christmas was racing toward me.  There were cookies to bake, a house to make sparkle, and cats to tease with glittery decorations.  All of the kids were making the trek home along with my daughter's fiancee, (Who I had not yet met.  Which meant the wedding was technically not on until I could give my okay.),  my sister (Who swore she would never set a toe during another Iowa winter.) and a cousin.  There was also the dreaded tree to purchase.

My children demand a live Christmas tree.  My husband demanded a live tree.  I am blaming him for his children following in his foot steps.  Doug is no longer here to supervise a tree buying trip and the children don't live within a watermelon seed spitting distance.  So why go to the trouble of getting a live tree?


I would buckle down and get a live, needle shedding, needing lights strung around those pokey needles, tree for my sweet adult children.

The majority of my life has been spent living south of interstate 10.  The southern people with a live tree purchase it a couple weeks before Christmas.  The weather is too warm which causes those pesky needles to fall at an accelerated rate.

That was my plan.  I was ignorant to the fact that in the northern hemisphere people gobble up trees after Thanksgiving like it was left over pie.

My search started in a nearby town a couple weeks before Christmas. I cruised the parking lots of the few stores that sold trees.  It was to my horror there was not a sign of any pine trees.  Not even a scattering of needles on the ground.  I sped off to another town.  Same scenario.

My next decision set the hair on my head straight up.  I would buy an artificial tree.  And my children would learn to love it!

Strolling around the Christmas tree aisle at Wal Mart, I realized there were tons of options.  Short trees, tall trees, round trees, skinny trees, trees that are already have lights on them.  Any tree I didn't have to wrap lights around would be the tree for me.  I chose a skinny tree about my size.  My thoughts were why go all out on a big tree.  There was always that possibility the children would pick up the entire thing and toss it into the burn pit.

I screwed the tree together.  I pushed the plug into the outlet and had instant illumination.  Easy-peasy.

Then the guilt returned with a vengeance.

The tree had easy lighting.  But it looked fake and there was no pine sent wafting through the air.

I pulled out my phone book.  I would call those stores where I saw no sign of a tree.  Maybe they had them hidden.

My second phone call proved a success.  One store had one tree left.  "I'll be right in.  Do not sell that tree.  It's mine!"

I boogied into town.  I strutted up to the cashier and announced, "I'm here to buy your last Christmas tree."

We waited while someone fetched the price off the hidden tree.  When the price tag arrived the cashier and I both exclaimed, "One dollar?!"

"I'll take it any way."  How awful could it be, I thought.

I lugged the tree into the house.  Past the artificial tree standing like a sentry in my living room.  I plopped it down in the dining room corner and took a good look at my children's live tree.

This was not a live tree.  It was past the point of a "Charlie Brown" tree.  This tree was plain dead.  One side was devoid of any needles.  Only brown crispy twigs poked out.  The other side had a scattering of green needles and black holes.

On the bright side, I didn't have to put lights on it.  It would shoot up in flames in half a millisecond.

Now I had two trees.  One with lights.  Both with colorful ornaments.  One stood tall.  One leaned like a drunken sailor.  But my children had their "live" Christmas tree.

The day of the children's arrival dawned.  I held my breath as they strolled into the house.

"Mom, why do you have two trees?"  Then, gasps and horrors, they yelled "This one is fake!"

They trotted over to the live tree.  As they reached out to loving stroke it came the order from me-"Don't touch that tree!  It will disintegrate at the slightest movement!"

They learned to love our own Charlie Brown tree and to tolerate the tree that "Daddy would be ashamed of."  Christmas was a success once again.

This year my daughter is getting married.  (Yes, I approve of the fiancee.)  I think at Christmas we should congregate at her new home.  I'll let her worry about how not to buy a Charlie Brown tree. 



Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Angie's Chainsaw Massacre

Jack's traumatic ER experience was behind him.  He was now ready to be useful.  This entailed becoming a master instructor.  He was going to teach me to use my chainsaw.

I needed some trees cut down.  I phoned up my friend, Denny, to beg his help in this endeavor.  He agreed to come over and teach me to properly use my chain saw.  One sunny humid morning Denny and his wife, Amy, came riding to my rescue in their Ford truck.

Denny informed me he was going to cut down the trees then he would show me how to use the chainsaw.  This wasn't what I had envisioned, but okay.  Denny poured oil in his saw.  He cut.  He sweated.  Amy and I hauled limbs and trees to my burn pit.  I waited for my lesson.

And waited.  And waited.

Just when my patience was evaporating with the summer heat, Denny turned to me and calmly said, "I'm not going to teach you to use your chain saw."

What!  This was the deal!  What did he mean?

He went on, "You shouldn't be out here alone using a chain saw."

What a man!  "Don't you use your chainsaw when your alone?"  I shot back.

"No.  The dog is always with me."

"Well, the cat is always with me!"

I sensed I needed another teacher.  That's where Jack came in.

We grabbed the chainsaw out of the shed along with the bar oil and some special tool to open where the oil goes.  Oil was poured.  Jack proceeded to tell me about the black thingamajig on top of the saw that was an emergency shut off.  (Yes, he had a name for it.  I just can't remember.)

Time to hack away on a tree.  The saw was lighter than I anticipated.  It was deafening.  Jack had to holler instructions to me at the top of his lungs.  "Hold on tight!  Don't jerk, slow and steady!  Brace your legs!"

I did all this and in no time the tree was reduced to rubble.  Or large sections.

It was actually fun.  More cutting.  More noise.  We had Claudia picking up pieces to haul to the burn pit.  That was fun too!

A couple hours later, trees were downed and cut into pieces.  They were transported to the pit.  We were hot and sweaty.  (But still smelled like roses!)  It had been an enjoyable learning morning.

Jack went home confident in my ability to handle a chain saw.

I have not used it since he left.  There was one problem with working the saw.

I couldn't start the dumb thing.

I've been grabbing my barbells and doing upright rows to build up my lats.  Hopefully that will put more muscle in my pull.  In the meantime I will have to find some helpful soul to take pity on me and pull that chain saw to life. 


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Where's the Birdseed?

I grew up in the south.  I lived in the south and west most of my adult life.  Recently I attended a classic Midwest wedding.  The next day I was asked if there were differences in this wedding compared to weddings of my past experiences.

 "You bet!"

A program was handed to us as we entered the church.  One side listed the complete wedding party right down to the personal attendants.  This was helpful.  I did not have to tap the stranger's shoulder in front of me to inquire if I was supposed to know all these people.  Sometimes my mind takes a flying leap out the window and doesn't return for days.

The other side was the Order of Ceremony.  This too was informative.  I have been to weddings and heard a moving wedding song but never learned the name.  The Order of Ceremony listed the songs names and musicians.   

After the "I do's" and the wedding party departed down the aisle, I grabbed my purse preparing to head for the door.  Suddenly I was the only one standing.  Everyone else had plopped back down in their seats.  I planted my rump quickly in the pew.  The new Mr. and Mrs. returned to the church.  They dismissed guests row by row with smiles and hugs.  We were able to offer our congratulations without having to fight for time at the reception.

It was then time for the reception.  Which was in another town about thirty minutes away.  I wondered how the bride and groom would get there.  Would there be a limo?  Would their car be decorated?  That's when I noticed a black psychedelic party bus.  Coolers were being loaded on to the bus by the wedding ushers.  The entire wedding party followed.  The bus sped off to parts unknown.

All the guests assembled at the reception.  Drinks and snacks were waiting for us.  Shortly ACDC took over the reception hall by the DJ.  "Back in Black" was blasted as the wedding party was introduced.  Bridesmaids and groomsmen made dancing entrances.  The bride and groom danced their way in also.  I can honestly say I have never seen such a Hollywood entrance.

There were games at this wedding.  The bride and groom sat back to back with one of their own shoe and one of their new spouse's shoe.  The point was to see how well they actually knew each other.  The DJ asked personal questions like, "Who is the better driver?"  (A loaded question if you ask me!)  A shoe was held up for the answer.  This couple knew each other fairly well.  Either that or the bride is wise and let her man think he is the better driver.https://dgbnfw.bl3302.livefilestore.com/y3m16wxDEiwftIlC53630uVjyFgeWDBBMHFxy5-tzfu3pTtTTBijpusSoShFW_D2q_sF-4vJ4zU8ZMgT08Zs2hcxeqm9WuvE8DAHlx8jsG8a8dPWSUmNwS-2Yw9B0lixUT3LwubEZhZOXGwHsfE0TUEdeJ4qQcZamPj9Pq9-3D-qfE/2016-07-23%20056.JPG?psid=1

On the way to the buffet I spied the dessert table.  There was no elaborate tiered wedding cake.  The table was loaded with frosted cupcakes, creamy cheesecakes, mouth watering bars, and colorful candy.  There was a chocolate cake decorated with Iowa State and University of Iowa logos.  (The bride and groom are a house divided on this issue.)  I would call this a groom's cake.  Sadly there was no cake cutting ceremony with the new partners delicately feeding each other a slice of moist white cake.  Or shoving it in each others face.  Depends on the wedding, I suppose.

The DJ announced there would be no dollar dance.  Dollar dance?  Was someone going to strip?!

I was informed a dollar dance was where you pay a dollar to dance with the new bride or groom.  This money was used to help pay for the wedding.  Instead there would be two buckets coming around.  The buckets were decorated with Iowa State and University of Iowa's logo.  It was a competition.  The end result was neck and neck.  I can't remember who won.  I can't seem to get the two schools straight in my head.  I was actually searching in vain for the Florida bucket.

The rest of the evening was the typical wedding festivities.  Music, dancing, visiting with friends.

Except there was no bouquet tossing or garter scramble.  How do we know who gets married next?  I had people I was planning on shoving to the front line to catch these things.

The bride and groom didn't have the traditional send off.  There was no tossing rice on them.  Or saturating them with bubbles.  I think they missed out.  On my wedding we had guests throwing birdseed as we ran to our waiting horse and carriage.  Beer was popped open in the carriage as birdseed continued to fly through the air.  Doug must have been excited.  He forgot to cover his bottle.  His beer was chunky.  I wondered if he was going to have grass growing in his stomach.

This Midwest wedding was fun!  Nice ceremony.  Tasty food. Good music.  And everyone looked great all fancied up!  The groom's father was decked out in a sophisticated gray tuxedo.  He is a school bus driver by day.  He informed me he was wearing the tux for driving the bus this school year.  Maybe he will trade in his standard bus for a yellow limo.

My daughter is getting married in a year.  This Midwest wedding has given me some ideas.  I wonder if for the favorite mother in law and favorite son in law dance we could do the hokey pokey?

Congratulations to Sean and Ashlyn!  Here's to many exciting years to come.  Don't be afraid to let the birdseed in life rain over you.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Jungle Rot?

My  sister, Claudia, and her husband, Jack, had arrived for a visit.  I noticed Jack was scratching here and there.  My first thought was "He's brought fleas with him!"  Then I noticed his arm.  It was rashy.  I ran to Claudia to inquire if Jack had jungle rot!

Claudia, the nurse, patiently explained Jack had a bad case of poison ivy.  He was clearing some fence line and tangled with the stuff.  It was obvious Jack lost that encounter.

Jack continued to rub and dig all around.  Claudia decided it was time to see a doctor.

Doctor may be a six letter word to most of us.  But to Jack it is the worst four letter word in history.  He detests doctors!

First was the protest.  "I'm not going.  Not. Not.  Not.  You can't make me."

Then came, "I'll go when I get home.  It can wait.  No problem."

Finally the realization set in, "I want a blanket and a box of tissues.  Claudia, you will have to drive.  I can't manage it."

"Okay," I said.  "Let's head to the emergency room."

"Emergency room!" they both shrieked.  "We need an urgent care facility."

Obviously they were from the city.

"We can drive a hour and a half to Omaha and wait to be seen in an urgent care.  Or we can mosey over to our local hospital and been seen immediately."

They skeptically agreed with my logic.

I have three children.  We have traveled thousand of miles in the car.  Nothing prepared me for riding thirty minutes with Jack to the emergency room.  The whining.  The many proclamations of "No Way am I getting a shot.  Not going to happen folks."

We arrive at the emergency room.  Claudia is holding Jack's hand.  (Actually she is tugging him towards the entrance.)  There is no wait.  We are ushered into an examining room.  All the while Jack is informing the nurse, "I don't do shots!"

The jovial doctor bounced into the room.  He turns Jack's arm this way and that before proclaiming "We can fix that poison ivy up.  No problem.  Nurse please give him an injection of fast acting steroid."

Jack's face turns white.

I can feel it coming.  It started at my toes.  Traveled up my legs, across my stomach, into my throat and bubbled out my mouth.  I could not restrain my giggles.

Then the doctor laid the bombshell.  "I think we need a slow acting steroid also.  Two injections please nurse."

Jack was now green.

I couldn't restrain myself.  Laughter erupted from my mouth and tears ran down my face.  I glanced at Claudia.  She was covering her face.  Her body was wracked with spasms of laughter.

If knifes could have come out of Jack's eyes, we would have been the target.

Jack managed to squeak out, "Which sleeve should I roll up?"

The nurse preparing the injections calmly answered, "Oh we don't want anything rolled up.  You are going to have to be pulling something down."

That's when Claudia and I hightailed it out of the room.  We laughed until every part of our body hurt!

I discovered the ride to the emergency room was a piece of cake.  The moaning and wailing from the back seat didn't cease on the drive home.

"Oh my poor bum.  Both sides!"

"We didn't bring a blankie!"

"Where's the pillow for me to sit on?!"

Luckily I was a preschool teacher.  I can block things out.

We arrived home without tossing Jack into the ditch somewhere along the way.  Jack didn't sit much that day unless he had a cushion to pad his bum.  He did survive his ordeal.

The moral of the story is; if your brother-in-law visits and needs a ride to the ER-call an Uber!  It may cost a fortune to find you in the country but will save your sanity for later in life.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Years Gone By

Forty-seven years ago I was packed up and moved from Iowa.  After living around the world I have returned.  I did not graduate from small school Iowa.  Instead I graduated from a city school with over 800 in my graduating class.  It goes without saying I have not been back to a reunion.  The 37 people I knew may not show up.  However I have since attended a reunion of small town Iowa.

The town of Irwin was having an all-school reunion.  Translated means anyone who has ever graduated from the town of Irwin can and should attend.  And attend they did.  Four Hundred and three came from near and far.  When a graduating class is comprised of 30-40 people, 403 is a lot of students under one roof.  People from classes of 1942-1990 attended the bash.

They couldn't exactly get them all under one roof.  A large tent was banged into place and the "younger" people banned to outside.  Graduating classes from 1971 through 1990 were considered the younger sect.

One of my sisters, Claudia, and her husband, Jack, came to the reunion.  My arm was twisted into attending.  I don't think she was feeling bad about leaving me home alone.  I think I have lived here long enough I would recognize people she didn't and help break the ice.

I am told the class I would have graduated with was one of the larger classes in Irwin.  A whopping 5 people showed up.  One lives a mile across the field from me.  We have become friends.  I recognized her.  Two of them are faint memories.  Two others have not changed a bit in forty-seven years.  Well, they are taller, but that's it!

I dashed home after the reunion to dig out my old school photos from when I lived here.  Sure enough I had pictures of the frozen in time people.  They could be on a milk carton from years ago and no "looks like now" sketch would be needed.  I don't think it's fair some of us don't age and the others of us have to bath in anti-aging cream.

I discovered there were many reasons people did not attend this all-school fiesta.  "I didn't know."  Come on.  This is a small town.  Everyone knows everything.

"I have a family reunion to attend."  Really.  Family over long lost comrades?  All though to be fair, I drove past that reunion.  They needed an entire field to park all the vehicles.  And it looked like fun.  Yes, we slowed down as we past this all ages party.  Didn't want to dust anyone from the gravel road.

"I'm attending a bachorlette, party."  This excuse is a reason for missing...anything!

Students were not the only ones attending the gathering of classes.  Some former teachers attended.  One such teacher was a woman in her 90's.  I had the most fun watching her.  She fluttered from one former student to another.  A broad grin gracing her face.  I'm guessing she had all well behaved pupils.  Or she has forgotten.

The night was warm outside.  No matter.  I had a blast listening to my former school mates lives.  Claudia also enjoyed finding old friends and catching up.  I was able to help Claudia remember some faces.  She soon took off on her own remembering her days as "the perky cheerleader" and the winner of the "Betty Crocker Homemaker of the Year."  (We have yet to find the teacher who gave her that award!)

We went home (past the reunion still in full swing) feeling nostalgic.  It had been fun to see how people have matured and learn about their different lives.  I thought the nostalgia was finished for the decade.  Claudia had other ideas.

The next morning Claudia awoke wanting the see the sight where she attended kindergarten.  This was in a tiny town called Kirkman, population 64.  The school (where our father and uncles spent their school days) has long since been demolished.  A historical marker is all that remains.

The school might be gone, but some recreation still remains.  An old fashioned merry-go-round!

Claudia and I jumped on.  We spun until our heads nearly came off and our stomachs hurt from laughing.  Jack took pictures.  He wasn't allowed to ride.  The smell of barf in the truck is hard to get rid of.  

We all look toward the future.  Wondering what next adventure is around the corner.  A look back in our personal history is good for the soul.  We must remember where we came from to see where we are going.  I thank my could-have-been class for letting me crash the party.  It was truly an experience to remember!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Monster in the Grove

Spring is wonderful in western Iowa.  The plump robins return gobbling up wiggly worms.  Red winged blackbirds make their appearance to serenade the morning.  Baby bunnies hop out of their nests to munch on troublesome dandelions.  Spring is a peaceful time.  Except for the monster hiding in the grove.

The first sign of spring is the red breasted robin.  (Actually it looks orange to me, but who am I to argue with the experts.)  One day a lone robin is hopping in the yard and the next day his friends have joined him.  They flutter from spot to spot pulling up worms for their feast.  Worms are good for the ground.  I have to open the window to holler at them not to be so greedy.

Baby bunnies seem to appear out of nowhere.  I do not have a yard.  I have a dandelion field.  Those babies get fat dining on all those yellow weeds.  The baby bunnies do not have as much fear as they should have.  My son was able to pick one up, hold it, pet it, try to bring it in the house and name it.  The son had to return back to his home.  Without the bunny.

My son is not the only one who would like a baby bunny has a pet.  So would my cat, Snuggles.  She is a ferocious huntress.  She crouches in the grass stalking the unsuspecting babies.  Like lightening she pounces on the bunny.  Snuggles thinks she has a new toy.  She carries it to the driveway tossing the terrified bunny into the air.  The bunny gets swatted around and carried some more in her mouth.

That's when I show up.  Snuggles knows this routine.  As soon as she spots my big toe Snuggles charges through the grass with baby bunny captive.  I may be technically an antique, but I can run.    My dash across the yard results in the capture of Snuggles.  I nab her by her scruff and shake the baby bunny to freedom.  Snuggles is then hauled into the garage for kitty time out.

Spring in Iowa also brings ear deafening storms.  Lightening slashes across the sky.  Thunder booms, rattling the entire house.  The wind howls its discontent.  Rain pounds relentlessly on the windows.

I am not a fan of these spring hostile occurrences.  But with a good book and four cats snuggled by my side, I can get through anything.

My son called during such a storm.  I peered out the window during our conversation.  "Holy @#%*!  There's a monster in my grove!"

"Mom, what are you talking about?" my worried son inquired.

"There's a monster out there.  It has taken it's sharp claws and attacked the largest tree I have!"

"Mom, have you been drinking?"  I could hear my son rolling his eyes through the receiver.

"No!  There are giant claw marks on my tree.  There's a huge monster out there waiting to get me!"

"Take a picture and send it to me," replied my unruffled son.

Take a picture?  He wanted me to go outside with that monster and take a picture?  I'm smarter than that.  I snapped a picture through the window.

His answer came quickly enough.  "Lightening has hit your tree."

Lightening?  Lightening stripped rows of bark off my tree?  I  suppose he could be right.

My heart rate went back to normal.  My sweet son continued to assure me there was no monster lurking in my grove.

The storm eventually subsided.  All was back to a peaceful spring.

Now when I go outside I carry a bat.  I am not totally convinced there is not a gigantic monster creeping around my grove.  While a bat may not kill the beast.  It will stun him.  And as I mentioned, I can run! 


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!