Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I'm old when I say so.

I saw the saddest thing in the grocery store a while back.
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There was this rumpled woman with her silver streaked hair all pulled back in an untidy knot. From the way that she was squinting at the nutritional information on the back of the package, it was obvious that she should be wearing reading glasses. She was mumbling things about cholesterol and sodium levels. No one was around her, so she apparently was talking to herself.
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Sad picture, isn't it?
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Sadder yet, that is ME. That's it. I've officially become a 'geezer'.
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Even doctors with pleasant sounding names like Gina are sadistic and cruel, and miss no opportunity to put you on a diet of grass and sticks and water. In the great cholesterol controversy, I explained, reasonably, that we don't usually eat beef (venison is free), that I have spent a summer getting huge amounts of exercise, and that really, with Tim on second shift, Cara and I had taken to pretty much eating salads for supper, because we are lazy and saw a chance to skip cooking. Really. So our diet is a very sensible one, low in cholesterol to begin with. Dr. Gina began to talk about genetic links. (Note to self: Kick all old folks in the family. Those with actual high cholesterol need to be kicked twice). She began to talk about diet. (Note to self: Find a store which sells organic grass, sticks, and water). The woman took my sensible diet and began to slash things from it. Turns out she doesn't believe that a person needs to eat as many dairy products as I do. I believe that she was traumatized by a cow as a child leading to unreasonable, phobic behavior as a professional adult. There are other doctors who specialize in phobias. I suggested she see one.
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If you feel the urge to comfort an old lady, you may do so by e-mail. Please note that you are NOT permitted to comfort me in public where others might overhear. Oh, and if you are a relative, I'm in the process of hunting you down.
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Adulthood reached.

I've shared my Dylan as a boy stories. Believe me, there are more where those came from, but if I started remembering all those special times with my boy, I'd begin to think of special times with the other 4, and next thing you know, I'd be curled up in a fetal position in a quiet corner of the house, making little moaning noises, eyes tightly squinched shut. So let me share my latest grown-up Dylan story.
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Dylan drove home from Allentown for the holidays. He was home for less than 24 hours before we were sharing a special moment, the magical moment that set this Christmas apart from any Christmas before it and (please, God...) any Christmas after it.
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Cara and Dylan came into the livingroom, where I sat at the computer. They had been in high spirits all day. We all had been, actually. That's why I was so completely blindsided by what was to follow.
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Dylan casually leans against my chair and says, "Mom, I've been thinking of getting a tattoo."
Now, I'm a mom who firmly believes that when your kids grow up, and begin living independently, supporting themselves, they get to make their own choices. You just really pray that you've raised them with enough sense that those choices do not lead them too far off the straight and narrow. So my answer went something like this. "Dylan, you're a grown man now. I don't tell you what to do. These decisions are yours to make."
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Dylan says, "Really? Well, the tattoo I've been thinking of is a tattoo that no one could see when I had a shirt on. I don't want to be unemployable."
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This was a relief. I'd hate to think that his college education was going to be for naught. "What kind of a tattoo were you thinking of?" I asked, trying to be a mom with her nose plainly out of her children's business.
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Dylan waves his hand up and down in the general vicinity of the right side of his rib cage and says, "Well, I was thinking of getting a tattoo of torn flesh, and underneath the torn flesh, you'd see gears and computer chips, like I was a robot. It kind of goes along with the whole Electro-Mechanical Maintenance Field."
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You know what? My nose went directly into to my boy's business. What he was talking about was huh-uuuuuuuuuuuge, in the words of a local car salesman. "What the heck would you want something like THAT for?!!!" I asked. "Jeepers, Dylan, that is grotesque! And it's big! Ew. Don't do something like that to yourself."
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Dylan and Cara were both rocking back and forth laughing uproariously. Dylan says, "Would you rather I got a fairy riding a unicorn, chasing a butterfly into a rainbow?"
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"No," I allowed, "but I don't understand why you would want a tattoo of torn flesh. That's just gross. You could never go without a shirt if you got a tattoo like that."
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At this point, Cara was laughing so hard she was holding her ribs. Dylan was laughing hard too. He was not holding his ribs. Hindsight being 20-20, there is one thing that I missed that was pretty obvious. His hand had waved up and down in the general vicinity of the right side of his rib cage, but he never actually touched the area. Like it was tender to the touch. Something like that. Yes. I missed that.
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Dylan said, "Mom, going shirtless went out with the mullet."
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"Then give me one good reason why you'd even think of such a thing!" I demanded.
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Still laughing, Dylan said, "I've wanted a tattoo ever since I was 17. It's just one of those things on my 'Things To Do Before I Die' list.
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I opened my mouth to tell him that I really hoped that his list was short, and that the tattoo was the last thing on it, because if he got a tattoo like that, his mother might kill him. Before I could speak, however, Dylan lifted his shirt. I reeled in shock, and, friends, what flew past my lips will not fly in polite company, so I won't even try to recount that.
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My boy, my fine looking boy, had his tattoo. It was big. It was grotesque. It was brand spanking new.
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I sat there staring. Dylan said, "I bought myself a little Christmas present."
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Weakly, I said "Geesh. I can't wait to see what I got."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On the Road to Adulthood II

As previously told, Dylan was not above a good snit fit. However, what he is most remembered for is his curiousity. I'm not sure what it was about stores, but he seemed to do some of his profoundest thinking there, coming up with the most outrageous questions. And once he had his question, he was relentless. He could not stop until his question was answered. He also had an amazingly shrill voice for a kid, and that voice carried. So we had amazing moments like this:
Mom (in a whisper): "Dylan, get your finger out of your nose."
Dylan (looking up at me with offending digit still buried): "WHY?"
Mom (heaving sigh): "It is not nice to pick your nose. Please stop it."
Dylan (having made zero changes to his appearance): "BUT I LIKE TO PICK MY NOSE, MOM..."
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Or this:
Walking behind his 8 month pregnant mother at the grocery store, a question has formed. "MOM!" he shrills. "I BEEN THINKING."
What happened next was my own darn fault. "What, hon?"
'HOW'S THAT BABY GOING TO GET OUT OF YOUR STOMACH?"
A few people around us titter.
Knowing that one question invariably leads to another, I do a stupid thing. I attempt to ignore him. He figures that I have not heard him, and begins to speak even louder.
"YOU DON'T GOT DOORS IN YOUR BELLY, SO HOW'S THAT BABY GOING TO GET OUT OF THERE ANYWAY!"
"Dylan, mommy will talk to you in the car, okay?"
Starting to get temper tantrum-y, he's now yelling "I WANT TO KNOW RIGHT NOW. WHY DO I GOT TO WAIT TIL WE GET TO THE CAR? HOW IS THE BABY GOING TO GET OUT OF YOUR BELLY..."
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All of these events conspire to another day. Again, we are in the K-mart. Dylan is hanging off the front of the cart, in the check out line. I am at the back. His baby sister is in the seat. Dylan is unloading the things and putting them on the conveyor. This is his special job. He picks up a box of prophylactics and shrills "MOM? WHAT'S THIS FOR?" and the crowded line titters. I know the drill, so I quietly say, "We don't want more babies at our house." I figured that this was enough to shut him up, quietly enough said so that it would not draw any more laughter. Foolish optimist. Dylan looks at the box quietly for all of two seconds and then begins to wave it over his head yelling "I'M GLAD WE ARE NOT HAVING MORE BABIES AT OUR HOUSE, 'CAUSE I'M NOT SHARING MY ROOM WITH NOBODY." I lunged for the box as people laughed.
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As previously stated, this boy has grown up. He now lives a long way from home. I've just about gotten over my fear of shopping.

Monday, January 28, 2008

On the road to adulthood

I was reading a lady's blog about her children. She was talking about them raising a ruckus in public places. Since my children are all grown up, her story was pretty funny. I've got stories of my own. Honey, every mother has those stories.
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My son was the worst, I think. That little snot has embarassed me in public way too many times to be counted.
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He was about 4 when I took him to the K-mart. I had a new baby. He began to whine for the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. I told him no. He began to push. I told him quite firmly, "Dylan, you can either stop, or we will have to leave the store." To my surprise, the tantrum escalated into a full blown screaming fit. People began to stare at my heathen. And me.
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I took a deep breath and lifted his sleeping sister out of the cart, slung the diaper bag over my shoulder, grabbed his little hand, and headed for the exit. He was screaming his head off and jerking and pulling trying to get free. People stared.
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Suddenly, I lost my grip, and Dylan went sailing across the shiny K-Mart store and flew neatly under a rack of women's nightgowns. Dead silence. I knew what it was. Even as a young child, Dylan had a horror of being embarrassed in public. (He did not mind embarrassing the spit out of his mother, but this is a story for a different day) I knew the beast was under that rack, and mortified to crawl back out. This struck me as just the funniest thing ever, so I began to laugh.
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Two little old ladies had been watching this scene play out before their little old lady eyes, tsking, and shaking their heads over parents who will not make their children behave, just moments before the boy disappeared. The next thing I hear is one of them saying to the other, "Did you see her just THROW that poor boy?"
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Yes. With a diaper bag, a baby and my purse, I was still able to toss four year olds around the K-Mart. I was SUPER-MOM! By then I was practically in convulsions, I was laughing so hard.
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"Dylan," I choked. "I'm not coming under there to get you, but I'm going home now. If you're riding with me, you need to come on." And with that, I turned and began walking away. Before I had taken 6 steps, he was behind me, bawling in outrage, embarrassment, and the confusion that results in a kid's head when he starts a tantrum and doesn't have the maturity to make himself stop.
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On the way home, he cried. I talked about why big boys don't throw fits in stores. And when we got home, we played "Concentration".
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Dylan is 21 now. A college grad, with a very good job, living 6 hours from home in the big city. He is a hardworking boy of uncommon good sense. He did come home with a tattoo at Christmas. But that is a story for another day.
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Here is the moral of the story, Moms:
The opinions of little old ladies are not important.
What IS important is this:
If you want your children to be disciplined adults, they need to be disciplined as children. Love them dearly, and know that they grow up. Some days, it's the only thing that keeps you going.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Feminine Hygiene and Dogs

Buck-the-amazing-wonder-dog decided to liven up my otherwise dull and dreary life. I'm not sure what got into the beast but he did something that he has never done before in all his eight years. He got into the bathroom trash. I had an awful feeling that he had ingested a feminine hygiene item. Just guessing. Not sure. I was pretty worried. Call the vet...not call the vet? What to do? Finally, I decided to watch him for the next couple days for signs of distress. Nothing. Acted pretty normal, just like any other tampon eating dog.
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A couple days later, my husband comes tearing home. He'd found a side by side refrigerator with the ice/water dispenser in the door and this thing of joy was marked down from $1498 to $719. He wanted me to look at it, and he wanted to be quick about it, sure that a bargain like that would be snapped up in a matter of minutes. I'd just put the dog out the back door to do his business, so I called him. He did not come. Tim was getting increasingly antsy. Finally he went out to bring the dog in. He was back in the matter of a half minute, his face reflecting shock, disgust, and hysterical laughter.
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He said, "You need to do something for your dog. He has a string hanging out his a** and he can't seem to crap."
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Egads. How in the hell do you transport a case like that to the vet? By the time that I got my boots on and headed out the door, Buck was trotting back to the house. His trial had passed.
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We keep the bathroom door closed now.
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Geesh.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bubba

I once had a cockatiel. His name was Bubba. He was a bit of a redneck, as far as birds go. He was clever. He learned how to open the door of his cage. We began to wire the door shut. He would patiently spend hours working at the twist tie until he got it undone. Then he would let himself out. Bubba spent a fair amount of time out of his cage because everyone loved to play with him. We kept his wings clipped so that he was not flying up on curtain rods (washing bird poop out of curtains every day was a pain). Plus he had a disconcerting habit of flying into windows, and we were afraid that he would injure himself. Bubba didn't mind walking, however. And walk he did.
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His favorite hangout was the cat dishes. He loved to fling the dry cat food hither and thither and yon. Our three cats were afraid of Bubba. They learned very quickly that if they showed the slightest bit of interest in him, they got a smack with a rolled up newspaper. So they learned to ignore him. Even while he stood in their dish, flinging cat chow. Bubba annoyed them to no end however. He took advantage of the fact that they were afraid of him. He'd chase them when he saw them. If he had a chance, he'd nip at them. Oh. The cats did hate Bubba.
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As Bubba grew, he began to speak. One thing about birds is that once they learn they can imitate, they begin to imitate indiscrimately. One of the things that Bubba learned to imitate was me calling the cats for dinner. "Here, kiiiiiiiittyy, kiiiiiiiity, kiiiiiity". The cats reacted like they always did. Three cats came running from every corner of the house. They'd stand at their cat dishes, looking at me, looking at the dishes, looking confused. And lo, this was funny. We all laughed every time it happened.
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Then came the fateful day when Bubba had managed to work his cage door open and let himself out. He came strutting out into the kitchen where I was making dinner, whistling at me, making sure that I knew he'd done it again, clever bird. I laughed, and kept on working.
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Suddenly he began to bellow, "Here, kiiiiiiiiiitty, kiiiiiiiiiitty, kiiiiiiiiittty!" To my horror, three cats came flying from all corners of the house. They hit the ceramic tile of the kitchen floor, caught sight of Bubba, and tried to change direction in a hurry. Furry paws just can't function that quickly on ceramic tile. Kitty chaos for several seconds, and then they were gone.
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I scooped Bubba back up and put him in his cage. We actually used a little padlock on his door after that. We did not want our little feathered friend to become cat chow.
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Bubba still had plenty of play time. He rode around on my shoulder, talking away, nibbling my hair, checking himself out in the mirror while I cleaned the bathrooms, or playing with the socks when I folded laundry. He liked to ride the vacuum. Lots of fun that little bird. I was coming downstairs one day, with Bubba on my shoulder. The doorbell rang, and without thinking, I opened the door. The UPS man stood there. Suddenly Bubba just picked himself up and flew out the open door.
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I couldn't believe that he could fly. I must have waited just a little too long to clip his wings. He flew up into a big old oak tree in our front yard. I called him. I ran into the house to get him a treat. When I came back he was gone.
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I ran an ad in the paper, but received no calls at all. I cried for days, envisioning poor Bubba out in the big wide world all by himself, forlornly calling to anyone who would listen "Here, kiiiiiiitty, kiiiiiiiitty, kiiiiiiiitty!"
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It really was hopeless.

Dogsitting

I babysat a friend's dog. Elsie was going to Kenya on safari for a couple weeks. Now doesn't THAT sound glamorous? I noticed that she did not invite me along, but tried not to be really hurt about it.
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Her dog was named, of all darn things, Poopie. Poopie was a Shih-tzu. This is not a real dog in my book, but understand that we were living in the Washington DC area. There were a lot of things that were not real there in Washington, DC.
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Now, Poopie was old. Real old. He was 24, deaf, blind, he had hardly any teeth. He smelled just awful, and he had hair coming out in big patches. This dog made me just a little squeamish. He had near death experiences probably every month, but Elsie spent a fortune at the vets office to extend her beloved Poopie's life. Elsie was a good friend. Her condominium was downstairs from ours. I was a stay at home mom, so really, there was no excuse to say no to dogsitting.
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I went downstairs for a tutorial in caring for the nearly dead dog. Elsie opened the door to her patio, and Poopie obligingly went out. Elsie explained that you did not have to watch him. He was too old to be interested in wandering. He simply went out, did his business and found his way back in the open door by his sense of smell. So I could put him out, fill his dog dishes, leave him a biscuit, and by then he'd have returned, I'd lock the patio doors, and let myself back out of her apartment. The whole thing maybe 10 minutes from beginning to end. If I did this 4 or 5 times a day, Poopie would be fine. Easy enough.
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For the first week, it was, too. Just like she said. One rainy, windy day, I ran downstairs to do my Poopie duties. He was standing with his little mooshed nose right up to the patio doors. I opened the door and out he waddled, slowly. I went to the kitchen and checked his food and water situation. I set out his highly nutritious dog treat. I returned to the livingroom and was surprised not to see Poopie wandering back. I stepped out of the door and looked into the rain. I didn't see him at all. This was new. I actually stepped out into the rain and looked all around the commons. No Poopie.
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This was a huge complex. I was pretty nervous. How on earth was I going to explain to Elsie that I had lost her nearly dead dog. Whether he was a real dog or not, he was a beloved dog.
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I walked around, getting more and more worried when I couldn't find him, kind of picking up speed as time went on. Next thing I know, I'm actually jogging and calling "POOPIE! POOOOOOOOOOPIE!!!!!!" People looked at me curiously. I ignored them. I mean this wasn't making any sense to me at all. This dog was too frail to have wandered far. He certainly was not the kind of dog anyone would steal. Most people would hesitate to pet him, let alone pick him up and put him in their vehicles. "POOOOOOOOOPIE!"
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After a couple minutes, it occured to me that I was making an ass out of myself for nothing. The dog was deaf. He wasn't going to come running when I called his name. I was just a crazy woman jogging around a condominium complex yelling "Poooooopie!" for no reason at all. Dammit.
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I finally found Poopie. He had his nose pushed up against the patio door of a different condominium in the same complex. There was an Asian family looking out their patio doors with horror, never, apparently, having witnessed the undead before.
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I took off my shoe, and used it to gently herd Poopie back to his own home. I still could not bring myself to pick him up. His wet doggie smell was way worse than his regular doggie smell which was pretty bad to begin with, despite the skin treatments and dietary supplements.
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I spent the rest of Elsie's vacation actually not letting Poopie out of my sight. Too scared. And when I finally got the nerve to tell Elsie what had happened, long after she returned from Kenya, she laughed. "When it is windy or rainy, it confuses his sense of smell. He does lose his way home sometimes then.
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Oh.
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Maybe it's just me, but I really did consider that little bit of information to be important. It would have saved me a lot of trouble.
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And if you are looking for a moral to this story, it would be simple. Don't ever name an animal Poopie. You can never tell when you might have to call it. In public.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Friend of Bill's

The boss was relating a story about her 4 year old son. He had gotten carsick. The miracle here is that the little guy managed to barf in a bag. Made no mess. Now that's pretty amazing. I've heard of grown adults who cannot manage to barf in a vehicle without making a mess.
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Bill was dropping off some stuff. He's the state guy who protects our water ways. He was laughing as he related another vehicle/barf story. In this case, a humorous fellow had made a slit in the bottom of a bag before handing it to the sick man.
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"Just guessing here, Bill, but I'm going to guess that the vehicle did not belong to the humorous guy who sliced the bottom of the bag."
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Bill laughed and allowed that I was right. He went on to explain that the car actually belonged to the guy who was sick.
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"Was this a random act of car sickness or was it self induced?" the boss asked.
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Bill explained that it was not random, and that it couldn't be called self induced really, because although the sick guy had been drinking, that drinking was pushed to extremes by the bag slicing guy who recognized a prime opportunity to 'get even' for something that had happened a while back.
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We laughed even harder, even as we protested that this was not a funny joke, not at all.
"Yeah, he didn't think so either," Bill said. "After all these years, he's still pretty darn mad at me."
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It needs to go in an office memo. "If you go drinking with Bill, make sure that you are riding in HIS vehicle. "
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Disclaimer: This column is not intended, in any way, to encourage the unwise use of alcohol, or to make light of the problems associated with the unwise use of alcohol. I seldom drink, and am even less likely to indulge now. Especially around Bill, although I don't believe I've ever gotten on his bad side.

Busted Pipe

Yesterday. at work, I answered the phone. It was one of our farmers. John. I call him Tiny. Mostly because he's not. At all.
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So I said "So hows it going today?"
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And John says, "Plain awful. This has been the most awful day. Just every damn thing going wrong."
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I said, "Jeepers, John, I'm trying to think of some comforting words here, but I can't. I don't think that I have any left, having used them all to comfort myself this morning when I walked into the basement and discovered that a pipe had burst on the water softener over night."
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John rumbled with laughter in his big deep voice, and said, "Well, do you have any colorful words for me then?"
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"Sorry, Tiny. I used them all up this morning, too.
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I need to lay up a store of emergency rations, keep a stock pile of colorful phrases and comforting words for times such as these. I hate being caught short like that.

Mothers

A mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child.
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I think this is true.
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My 26 year old is missing.
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She walked out of her life, her job, her apartment, her furniture, clothing, her things. Her cell phone rings, and the voice mail says "Merry Christmas, y'all." We've been getting stalkerish e-mails from her ex-fiance.
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She's called. She sounds completely rational. She will not tell us where she is. She's not using her cell, she says, because it's broken. She acts as if it is completely normal to just suddenly decamp, leaving the camp behind. Not a word to anyone. Her brother had been there visiting when she left. She offers no reason. She's living in a farmhouse somewhere with 3 men. That's all.
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"Don't worry," she tells me.
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I'm sick with worry.
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Please pray for my daughter.

The Secret Lives of Dogs

We live just down the road from the Seneca Nation. The drive through it is scenic. It is a remote area, and there is no cell phone service. Just thick heavy woods. You have to be very watchful for deer and bear while driving.
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We were in our big truck, pulling a car dolly, driving along. I noticed a dog, stretched out in front of what appeared to be a pile of rags. The dog was very alert, ears up, staring at this pile of rags. And I saw the pile of rags move. A hand fluttered.
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Tim slammed on the brakes, but a big truck pulling a dolly does not stop on a dime. We both leaped from the truck and ran back.
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The dog had watched us approach warily. He was a very large dog, and I was not sure of his reaction, so I dropped to my knees to talk to him. He hesitated, and then stepped aside. We were able to go to the girl lying along side the road. It was a badly beaten Indian girl from the reservation. She and her brother had been drinking. They got into a fight on the way home. It turned physical. He pushed her out of a moving car and left her. All night. She'd laid along the side of the road, drunk and injured, the entire night.
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She refused medical care. She just wanted to go home. We were much closer to her home than the hospital anyways. We loaded her up. When I turned to let down the tailgate for her dog, he was gone. I worried about this, and asked her to call her dog. She said, "That dog scared me to death. I don't know where he came from. He came in the dark. I couldn't even tell what animal he was. I was afraid he was a bear. I didn't even know he was a dog until it started to get light. He stayed with me all night long."
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We took the girl home to her father's house.
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We've traveled though that remote area many times since. We have never seen that dog again. I always wonder about him. Did he go to the door to be let out that night. Did a sleepy owner get up, open the door, and then stand swaying at the door, half awake waiting for him to get back? And when he didn't come back, did the owner grumpily go back to bed? When the dog wandered back home the following morning, was there an angry owner scolding him, telling him he was a bad dog, not having one clue that his dog had been on a God given mission that night?
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And I look at my own good natured beast, Buck-the-amazing-wonder-dog. I wonder what heroics he has performed on the rare times that he's gone missing. I wonder at the secret lives of dogs.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Aliens Are Among Us

I've got a sister.
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She is one year and ten days younger than me.
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She's been pretty sick, and had surgery in December. She was in critical condition for a week. She made it.
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Between making the half hour drive to the hospital to see my sister nearly every day, working, meeting column deadlines, and trying to get ready for the Christmas holidays, I got behind on my domestic responsibilities. I was getting that harried, panicked feeling a person gets when they've got a wagon full of stuff to do and not nearly enough time in the day to do it.
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My sister was released from the hospital the Friday before Christmas. She came to our house to recuperate. I was anxious to have her with us.
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Let me say this. My sister is one of these domesticated women that cannot sit still. I kept losing her. Now I've got a big house, six bedrooms. 4 of them empty because the ungrateful children grew up and left the nest. So it is possible to mislay things at my house. I lose reading glasses, papers, books etc. on a pretty regular basis. But I'd never lost people before. This concerned me.
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I kept finding my sister, of course. She'd be in the basement at my washing machine, or wandering around with some cleaning things in her hands. This made me pretty ashamed. So what I tried to do was get things done before she had a chance to get to them. Suddenly, the house began to take shape. Even the small things were getting done. At an amazing rate, too, because my sister's response to my increased activity level was to get even busier. I mean CLOSETS got cleaned. This was some manic activity, let me tell you.
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My sister is back home now. My house looks great. I'm really pretty zealous about keeping up with it, to make sure that it doesn't slip back into a pre-sister state. It feels nice to have an organized house.
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Because my sister was so sick she'd lost a lot of weight. Nearly 150 pounds, incredible as that sounds. I had to really focus on making nice easily digestible, highly nutritious meals. Now, I've got a freezer full of highly nutritious meals as well.
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I've been a freaking dynamo at work these past couple weeks, too. Getting things done, being organized, making steady measurable progress in the half dozen major projects that I've got in my lap, ticking things off my to-do list with great efficiency.
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I'm not only meeting my writing deadlines, I'm ahead of the game. I am two extra articles ahead for each column.
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The dog is even bathed. My husband did not have to make one comment about 'doggy smell'.
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My resolution is to lose that 15 pounds that's been steadily attaching itself to my menopausal self this past year. I got on the scale this morning. I have lost seven pounds since the New Year began.
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Okay.
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I admit it.
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I'm afraid.
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Who is this person at my computer? I don't remember the space ship, but where did the aliens take the old me?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Goody two shoes.

You know, I'm a pretty laid back person, but today, I yelled at a man in Wendy's. I mean, I yelled.
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I was waiting for my daughter. We were meeting for a mandarin chicken salad. There was a man, a woman, and two teenage boys eating. I was absentmindedly staring out a window, looking for Cara's car. Two girls were walking down the sidewalk in front of the store. The man begins to loudly accuse his two boys of checking out the 'bump cushions' walking in front of the restaurant. This got my attention. One of the boys denied it. The father then begins to taunt the boy, insinuating that he might be gay, getting more and more graphic and more and more vulgar. Much laughing and hooting. This was not a quiet conversation, not by any stretch of the imagination, and showed no signs at all of letting up.
****************
I gave him a look, and said, "For God's sake, shut up!" He immediately copped a 'tude. "I was not talking to you, so shut the hell up." I gave him a look, and said, "Listen, bubba, I don't give a rat's butt WHO you're talking to. This is a family restaurant and a public place, and I'm not going to listen to you." He looked a little uncertain, because by that point, everyone in the restaurant was looking at him. He tried to stare me down, but by that point, I was good and mad, and I won. He looked away.
****************
Don't get me wrong. He continued to run his mouth for the rest of the time he was there, but the vulgarity stopped. From what I gathered, he was not all that fond of goody two shoes.
***************
One of my two shoes was not all that good. It wanted, in the worst kind of way, to connect with his damn neanderthal ass.

Coffee




My very favorite time of the day is first thing in the morning, when I'm the only one up. I make myself a cup of cappucino. I love my espresso machine. It is like my second favorite appliance, after my Kitchen Aid mixer. Well, Maybe third. I really like my gas stove. Of course, without a refrigerator, I'd be screwed. So maybe the espresso machine is only 4th on the list, even 5th, if you count the crock pot. (Takes another sip of coffee). No. It's first. The espresso machine is number one.
When you have a blog, what do you write about if you have a boring life? Really?




Wednesday, January 9, 2008

There's no place like bed, there's no place like bed

I was sound asleep in my nice comfortable bed. The wind outside woke me up. I'm not a nervous person, although I can develop a tic when I'm around one of five kids for any length of time. The wind was rattling the house, roaring and carrying on.

At 1:30, I got up. It had occured to me for the first time that perhaps the Dorothy's house fell on the Wicked Witch of the East because she was not paying attention. Maybe even sound asleep in her own comfortable bed. So I got up. Not because I was worried, but because I was being alert.

I'd like to point out that no house fell on me. Coincidence? I don't think so.

I better get ready for work. I think that I'll wear my ruby slippers today.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Home

This is where I call home. Not the rock. See the mountain in the background? I live at the top of that mountain, in Northwest Pennsylvania.
I was born in this part of the country. I couldn't wait to see Pennsylvania in my rearview mirror. When I left, I was very happy.
******
I joined the military and kicked around the world for several years. I got to see places and live in places that I never thought that I would. Hawaii, Korea, Mexico, Texas, Washington DC metro area, upstate New York. I was very happy.
******
I left the military to raise a family. I lived in Michigan for 6 or 7 years. I liked Michigan. I enjoyed being a mom. I expected to be in Michigan for all my days. However, life does not always work the way you expected.
*******
My children and I left Michigan and came right back to where I started. My plan was to raise my kids, and then live out my life in a nice little house with a garden, and books and the stray cats that invariably found me, irregardless of where I was living. I would be happy.
However, life does not always work the way you expect.
*******
I met a man. Tim was very quiet. He was very polite and respectful. He was one month to the day older than me. He was much impressed with the fact that I went to church every Sunday. Turns out that Tim had a prayer. Tim prayed to meet a Godly woman his own age. Tim thought that his prayers had been answered.
******
I explained quite firmly to Tim that I was not getting married. Ever.
*******
However, things do not always work out like you expect.
We'll be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary.
And you know what? I am very happy.

I'll figure out what I'm doing, but probably not today.

Just a note of explanation.


I never thought that I was a nosy person. It started out with one blog (www.pioneerwoman.com). Seemed harmless enough. I like to laugh. She was funny stuff. It was good. Then there was the www.BrummieBlogs.com . Fastfingers was wicked funny too. It was even better. Then there was Mikey (thehorseshoeinghousewife.blogspot.com). Next thing you know, I've got a full blown habit, and I'm fascinated by these women. Their blogs gave me glimpses into lives that seem wonderfully exotic and exciting compared to life in the Backwoods, Pennsylvania.

Don't get me wrong. I love my life. I have a wonderful church family, a great husband, five kids who are constantly amusing me, when they're not scaring the bejeebers right out of me. My dog is great. My job is great. The people that I work with great. Really, I have nothing to complain about.

But I don't live on a ranch, or in England, or shoe horses for a living.

These women live exciting lives.

The interesting thing is that in talking to them, I realized that they were curious about me. And Mikey is a nag. Plain and simple. Nagged me unmercifully to get a blog. I really couldn't take her anymore. She's making me nuts.

So here's the blog. I've no clue what I'm doing yet. I'll learn. I'm not as dumb as my kids would like me to believe, so I'll figure it out. In the meantime, I've enclosed some of my humor columns from the paper. Read them while I figure out what I'm doing.

PS

And don't rush your reading, okay?

The Goose

I really have the best job ever. I was driving back from Erie with my cooler of dry ice, feeling that all was well with my world. Suddenly I caught sight of a hound laying at the side of the road. "Oh, no, the poor thing has been hit", I thought, and quickly jerked the truck off the road to render aid and assistance. But the dog bolted for the weeds at the side of the road, and I saw that he had been attacking a large Canada goose.
Well, now, that left me in a quandry. I'd had a previous experience with a Canada goose. I was spending the weekend in silence at a monastery outside Washington, DC. I had been walking through a field thinking profound and holy thoughts when suddenly a large squonking goose charged at me through the jing weeds, flapping his wings and snapping. All vows of silence were temporarily forgotten as I tore through waist high grass getting away. I knew first hand that they are an aggressive bird, and wasn't really keen on tangling with this one, but I knew that if I left him, the dog would come back and finish the job.
Resolutely, I marched back to my truck and got my sweatshirt. I returned, crooning kind words, and slowly reached down and wrapped him ever so gently in my sweatshirt. He made no sound at all...not even a hiss. Encouraged, I made a sort of goose straight jacket out of my sweatshirt, and lugged him back to the truck. I shuffled my equipment around and made a nice little corner for him to sit in.
When I called the office on my cell, Chris answered. I explained my predicament as quickly as possible. She laughed and repeated the phrase I've come to expect from the people I work with. "This could only happen to you", she said. But she promised to find out who I needed to contact. I pulled into the Corry State Trooper Barracks to wait for further instruction.
The goose studied me as I walked around back of my truck. I opened my only bottled water and generously poured it out for him. He drank, and then stood up and looked at me. The last time that I had stopped for an animal, I made the mistake of looking him square in the eyes. This led to probably the biggest argument Tim and I have had in our married life. Tim was bellowing that he was NOT going to have a dog in the house. I was standing my ground, explaining "I looked that dog in the eye, and I saw him make the choice to trust me, and I am NOT going to break that trust." That argument lasted a couple weeks, and we now have Buck, the amazing wonder dog. I made up my mind, no matter what, that I was not looking this goose in the eye.
I called my office again, thereby avoiding any accidental eye contact. Pam answered. I barely began to speak before she said, "A GOOSE? How did that happen?" I was starting to get antsy, and had to bite back a number of clever answers. Pam transferred me to Chris who gave me a number to the Tamarack Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.
It was not long before I was talking to Amy, carefully keeping my back toward the goose. I'm explaining that I'm on the job, that I've got the work vehicle, and that there is no way I can drive this goose to Sagertown. I'm beginning to think that picking up this goose might not have been such a great idea. Amy tells me that the Game Commission will not pick up a Canada goose. "If it were a bald eagle or something..." she muses.
"You know," I say, "I really stink at bird identification. This is not a Canada Goose after all. The little toque fooled me. You take that off, and the bird is bald. This is a bald eagle, now that I'm looking closely."
She laughs and says, "Well, the Game Commission does NOT stink at bird identification. They'd figure it out pretty quickly." Pause, followed by "Wait. Where did you say you were?" I tell her. Incredulously, she tells me that there is someone bringing in 9 baby possums from Corry. She tells me to stay put, that she's going to see if she can catch the person. I stay put. The goose watches me calmly. I talk to him, still not looking him in the eye. My cell rings and it is Amy, ecstatic. She has intercepted the person. As soon as he gets a box from the grocery store, he'll swing by to pick up the goose. I'm much relieved. Amy tells me the person will be driving an SUV, and will be along shortly.
Sure enough, about 10 minutes later, an SUV pulls up. The driver smiles at me. I've made it. I have not looked this bird in the eye. We have not bonded. I smile right back at the driver and make a beeline for his vehicle. However when he turns around, he is apparently shocked to find me right behind him. He says, "Why am I feeling nervous right now?" Puzzled, I utter the fateful words. "Wait. You're not here for a goose?" He looks at me in astonishment, and I die a little, explaining feebly, "No, really. I have a goose in the truck. Somebody is supposed to meet me to take it to Tamarack..." but I'm talking to an empty space. The guy has made for the safety of the Police Barracks.
I go back to my truck, and wait. I do not look at the bird, studying me. I'm not bonding with the bird, but worry that maybe he is bonding with me. Not too much later, another SUV pulls up, and this one has a very nice couple in it. They save me further embarrassment by jumping out of their vehicle with a box and asking, "Are you the one with the goose?" I open up the back end of my truck and the goose goes into a panic, flapping and leaping all around the truck. Incidently, he is crapping on every piece of equipment that I have. I die a little more, take a deep breath and carefully wade in. Literally. I capture the goose in my sweatshirt, and bundle him back up. I croon kind words as I stuff the sweatshirt wrapped goose into the box. I do not look him in the eyes. I do however sneak a quick peak at the baby possums. One of them blinks his eyes sleepily, wriggling closer to the pile of brothers and sisters. That's it. One episode of blinking eyes, and darn it, I've bonded with a baby possum. They are just the most darling things ever. I want one.... My new found friends drive away before I can figure out how to get them to give me one.
My job is done. I watch them leave, and I am relieved, but my adventure is not over. I meet a nice batch of people sitting around a picnic table on Horn Siding, listening to Larry the Cable Guy. After listening to my story, apparently they think 'that's funny right there', too because they lend me their hose. I have to take every piece of equipment out of the back of my truck, hose out the truck bed, hose the equipment off, and then repack everything. I'm finally ready to begin work. I head off, feeling like I've done my good deed for the day. I get an amazing amount of work done in the afternoon, making up for lost time. I head back to the office, late, tired, feeling fine, parking the truck and transferring my backpack and other personals to my car.
Laura and Heather are there as I make the discovery. My car keys are not in my pocket. Thinking back, I remember. It was chilly that morning. I was wearing my sweatshirt. I stuck the keys in my sweatshirt pocket. The sweatshirt last seen on a goose headed for Tamarack.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The whole 'with age comes wisdom' thing does not appear to be panning out for me. At all.

Senior Portraits

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. We've been dealing with senior portraits for a couple of months now. Most of those thousand words should probably not be repeated.
I have a line of senior pictures across the buffet. Mike and Stacey had the standard formal senior portraits, and they look very nice. Brianna's is more casual. She's holding a sunflower, against her green sweater. She's a bit of a diva, and the camera caught that. Then there is Dylan. He actually had two poses. One in his letterman jacket. That was his personal favorite, so we got that, but the one I love is just a shot of him wearing his favorite Fox tee-shirt, outside, gazing off to the side with that grin of his. The camera caught his relaxed nature well. I was also pleased to discover that the photographer could edit the picture. That was good. I loved the expression on his face, but was not so wild about the toothpaste on his tee shirt.
Cara is the youngest of the herd, so when she started talking about her senior portraits, this was not a big surprise to us. Been there, done that. We selected the photographer. Little did we know that our torment was just beginning.
Unlike the others, Cara began to obsess. She obsessed about what to wear. She had nothing suitable in her closet. Moreover, she also discovered that there was not one thing in any area store that was suitable for senior pictures. I ventured that just maybe she was being a little too particular. She gave me a disgusted look. In seeking consolation from her best friend Sarah, they were able to find the perfect outfit. Turns out the outfit had been hiding Sarah's closet the whole time.
Was the torment over? No. Sadly it was not. Because then Cara began to worry about her hair. She kept walking out of her bedroom during the next few days. She would say, "How do you like my hair?" I would look and I would say, "It looks very nice." This earned me yet another disgusted look. "You did not even look. Why don't you just say, 'Not interested...' "
I am not a girly girl kind of mom. I felt my shortcomings keenly. The truth is, I couldn't see any difference from the latest style and the last half dozen or so hair styles she had emerged from her room with. I was really trying to be enthusiastic and encouraging, but darn it, after awhile, I began to get a bit exasperated. I explained it to her. "Listen," I said, "I don't care what you wear. I don't care how your hair is. I just want a good picture that captures you as you were in 2007. I think that you are a beautiful girl. Your pictures will be fine."
She shot me a yet another disgusted look. She retreated to her bedroom, and the door shut me out.
Now I remember my senior portrait day. I simply showed up at the high school at the pre-appointed time. In those days, you wore a nice shirt, prayed that your hair did not choose that day to do something funky. You sat in front of a screen set up in the nurse's office, and the photographer took pictures, maybe three. That was it. I knew that things had changed a bit in 32 years, but oh my! Cara's trip to the studio lasted a full hour. Carefully selected music blasted as Cara posed. She stood, she sat, she laid on the floor, she was outside, she was inside, she changed clothes. I got bored about halfway through Cara's session. I played with the photographer's puppies. Cara shot me disgusted looks in between camera shots. The puppies gave me no disgusted looks. Is it a mere coincidence that I so love dogs? I think not.
Finally the picture taking was done. Was the torment was over? Of course not. A couple weeks later, we were sorting through hundreds of pictures on the computer, trying to select 18 pictures. I was looking for that perfect picture that captured the true essence of Cara . Every picture I loved, she hated. Several times she said "Ew, Mom! That's my disgusted look!" I cocked my head and looked closer. "I thought I recognized it," I said. She gave me a live action disgusted look. It probably took an hour, but we were able to settle on 18 pictures. No blood was shed.
Was the torment over? Heck no. A couple weeks later, we received a booklet in the mail. From those 18 proofs, we had to choose 2. I picked my choices. Cara picked hers. Tim picked his. Only problem is that we had picked 6 different pictures. Cara took the book to school and her friends pored over the pictures, giving her their opinions. Backed with the all important opinions of her friends, she came home to argue her case. We argued back, in a most loving, Christian family sort of way. By this time, disgusted looks were flying everywhere.
Cara would not back down. Finally, she said it out loud. In an impassioned voice, she said, "But these are the pictures that everyone is going to remember me by for the rest of my life. I don't want to be remembered as a DORK!"
Silly, naive child. I remember looking at my parents' yearbooks and thinking about how goofy everyone looked in the 50s. Probably laughed at their pictures with my friends. Still, it was a shock when I heard my own extremely rude children looking at all the cool kids from the 70s, laughing at how goofy WE looked. I hated to tell Cara. She can spend as much time as she likes, agonizing over these pictures. 20 years from now, she's probably going to have snotty children of her own flipping the pages of her yearbook. They will laugh like crazy at how goofy all the kids look.
Grandma will be laughing too. And I imagine that Cara will probably give me a disgusted look.

Wood

When Tim and I got married, we put a second floor on his house. This made a lot bigger house to heat and his old woodboiler, completely adequate up to that point, was not up to the challenge of the heating the bigger house. Tim began to look for a new woodstove. He is careful, and he is methodical in his research.
We had just gotten the internet. Tim had lobbied against it for some time, not wanted to give pornography and filth direct access to our home and our children. We debated back and forth, my take on it that if we set up the computer in the livingroom, kids would not be accessing garbage. The internet was an important tool, despite its many shortcomings, and it was important to have for the kids' sakes. This debate went on for some time, but finally, Tim gave in. The very first day we had the internet, we sat Tim down in front of the computer. Anxious to show him what it could do, we all urged him to pick something, anything, that he would like to learn more about. Mr. Outdoors extended his index finger, pursed his lips, and typed, painstakingly, one letter at a time, 'shotgun'. Of all the first words to choose, this should not have been that word. It turned out that 'shotgun' was also a euphemism for something that we had never heard of before, and, to be perfectly honest, would have been just as happy remaining ignorant of. As pure pornography poured into our livingroom, in full view of the children, Tim gave me a furious, 'I told you so' kind of look.
After that dubious start however, Tim really took to the internet. By the time that he decided it was time to look for a bigger woodboiler, he had the world as a shopping mall. He was pleased. He discovered a super efficient Danish woodboiler that he was just wild about. It burned its own smoke, making it good for the environment. It was also kind of pricey. Tim began to collect the data with which to convince me that this was the woodboiler of our dreams, which meant, for weeks, this was the only thing that we discussed. Any quiet time was perceived as yet another opportunity to discuss the woodboiler. Somehow, every conversation led to HS Tharm. As Mrs. Trouble Keeping on Track who is married to Mr. One Track Mind, I have to tell you that very quickly, the debate declined to one line. The line was this: "For pity's sake, Tim, I don't care what you buy! Do what you're going to do. Please, please, PLEASE, just stop talking about it!" By the end of the following week, I was begging him to make the call to the importer in Vermont. One week after that, I was prepared to dial the phone for him. One week after that, I was prepared to go to Vermont, pick up the stinking thing, and haul it home myself. On my back. Walking all the way. Anything to stop the endless discussions on various woodboilers and BTUs.
Well, eventually Tim became convinced that he had convinced me. We have a Danish model in our basement, and, let me tell you, she is hot. She's been there for three years now, and I have to tell you that given a choice between me and 'Bertha', Tim would have to stop and think about it. He loves his woodboiler. Tim understands all her little quirks. She, in turn, behaves perfectly for him. I think that she might be a bit jealous of me. Once I fed her. When I opened the fire door, a flash of pure heat exploded. I was horrified to find that suddenly I could not see. I was not blinded, however. My mascara had melted, gluing my eyelashes together. Once I pried my eyes open, I discovered that I would be saving money on mascara since I no longer had eyelashes. Regardless of Tim's high opinion of her, I personally think that 'Bertha' is a bit of a witch.
We collect our wood from everywhere. We collect the windfalls in our own woods. We harvest the 'tops' left over from timbering operations. This year, a nice lady in Warren had some storm damage that she needed cleared out, and we were glad to clear it out for her. One man's trash is another man's heat source.
We don't split our wood the old fashioned way anymore. I am glad of that. I am not a great wood splitter. I have poor hand/eye coordination. I was enthusiastic enough, but basically a threat to myself and axe handles. It was not safe to be anywhere around me while I held an axe, and Tim was scared witless to think what I might do to myself if no one WAS around. So Tim and the boys did the splitting. Dylan spent a lot of time in high school, weight lifting in the Eisenhower gym. He was not a big fan of "The Hornburg Physical Fitness Plan". Tim did not see the difference between working out at the gym and having nothing to show for it, versus working out in the back yard and having your fuel for the winter. For some reason, both Dylan and Mike saw a huge difference, the former labeled 'fun', the latter labeled 'work'.
When Central Tractor went out of business in Jamestown, Tim and I saw a log splitter. Even discounted, it was still pretty expensive. I talked Tim into it. He has a back problem. I knew that the boys would not be with us always. I knew also that this was a chore that I'd never be much help with. We bought it. We did not tell the kids what we had done. We couldn't wait to see their surprise. When we hauled it home, the boys were pretty excited. Dylan said, "I was so happy to see it that I had tears in my eyes. It was like Christmas, only better."
A lot has changed in these years since. The boys are gone now. Tim and I are the wood splitters. We work in companionable silence splitting and stacking our wood. The wood that we are stacking now is not for this year. We will not begin to burn that wood until it has dried for a year. Next year, Cara will be a senior in high school, on the threshold of moving out into the world. She is looking at the University of Prince Edward Island. She has always had this inexplicable desire to be Canadian. The boys will be graduated from college by the time we're using the wood we stacked last month. They'll head where the jobs are, no doubt. Brianna and Stacey are already on their own, busy with their own lives, one in Michigan and one in Jamestown.
And by the time we finish burning that wood, it will be just Tim and I. That day looms far closer than we'd ever realized. Now that its upon us, it just does not seem possible. But it is a fact. Just Tim, me, and Buck, our amazing wonder dog.
We've got kids scattered hither, thither, and yon. Before it's all said and done, I imagine that they will be even more far flung. We don't know what the future holds for them. Where ever they are, where ever they go, I hope that they will always know that on top of a hill in a quiet corner of the world, there is a house, snug and welcoming, filled with memories. There are two people who are always glad to see them. Tucked down in a quiet corner of the basement, Bertha waits too. She may harbor a grudge against me, but she has a warm spot for the kids.

Not by the Hair of My Chinny Chin Chin

If you are not in a woman over 40, do not read any further. Just turn the page. You won't get it. You'll find the whole thing strange and disgusting. You'll probably laugh yourself stupid over the absurdity of it all. The real danger here is that some woman 40 years or more will catch you slapping your knee and howling with laughter, and she will proceed to assault and batter you. Furthermore, if she gets a lawyer who is a woman over 40, and the case is heard by a woman judge of a like age, you have no hope. Your attacker will get off scott free.
Okay, I think that they're gone. You probably all have similar stories. Probably 10 years ago, or so, I was pondering the great mysteries of life, stroking my chin in a thoughtful, ruminating fashion and noticed, much to my shock, a long dark, thick hair sprouting out of the side of my chin. I plucked that sucker out immediately, with an uneasy feeling. You see, I remember my grandma, God rest her soul. That woman had some whiskers. She probably had more whiskers than my Grandpa. Being ever practical, she solved HER problem by grabbing hold of the first tool at her disposal, namely Grandpa's Norelco. I remember my aunts yelling at her, "Leave Dad's razor alone. You don't shave!" I thought it was pretty funny stuff back then. I was a teenager. What the heck did I know?
Well, after my shocking discovery, I scanned my chin regularly, nervously, prayerfully ('Oh please, oh please, God, don't let me inherit Grandma's chin'). And for awhile, it did seem like my prayers were heard. I had just that one whisker reappearing on a regular basis. I kept it plucked, kept on praying. At some point, I apparently fell out of favor with God. Or maybe He was being bombarded by so many other petty prayer requests like 'world peace' or 'grant wisdom for our leaders' or some such trivial thing. I'm not sure. All I know is that suddenly, these lousy stinking hairs began sprouting all over the place, lighter ones sprouting on my upper lip. God displayed His infinate sense of holy humor by simultaneously giving me 40 year old eyes, which meant that I could not see these darned hairs without reading glasses, and even then, I was peering into the mirror contorting my neck this way and that, trying to pluck those hairs. The most discouraging thing was that I would think that I had gotten them all, only to find myself sitting in a well lit place, thinking, thoughtfully stroking my chin in a ruminating fashion, discovering even more whiskers. I decided to quit thinking. I also began to be a bit depressed.
I shared this personal burden with a few close woman friends. I discovered that I was not alone. My friend Karen says that she and a friend have a pact. Whoever winds up in the nursing home first will be visited by the other who will pluck those strange hairs out. Now there's a friend. That's a real friend. I immediately thought of my best friend, my soul mate, heart of my heart, my husband Tim. He was standing next to me while I was contorting this way and that with my tweezers in front of the bathroom mirror. Testing the waters, I said, "Tim, can you give me a hand here?" My husband responded immediately, and I quote: "EWWWWWW!" he said. "Don't ask me to pluck your whiskers! That makes me sick to my stomach!" I want to point out that this man hunts. He fishes. I've seen him gutting stuff and he's going to get squeamish about WHISKERS?!
My friend Dixie was very impressed with Karen's special friendship. She would be glad to help me out. However, she lives in Philadelphia. We're also the same age. Years from now, I can't visualize either one of us driving 8 hours, tweezers at the ready. None of my friends nearby are volunteering, no doubt worrying about charges of elder abuse. ("I heard a scream, officer, and we came rushing in. Poor Debby was holding her chin with tears running down her poor wrinkled face (Fingers point accusingly) and there SHE was, standing over the bed holding a pair of tweezers!. Arrest that sadist!") That's what happens when you hang around respectable folks who don't want to read about themselves in the police blotter.
Knowing that I was on my own on this one, I began to try depilitories. The first time, I ended up with chemical burns. Burns with hair sprouting all through them. I put the box in the medicine chest and suffered through my self inflicted agony. One bit of advice. If this happens to you, I would strongly suggest immediately throwing the unused portion away. Do not put it in your medicine chest. Why? Because several months after this disaster, you might find yourself, like me, having another fit of depression about your whiskers. In the throes of your whisker fit, you will see that box in the medicine chest, and you will say to yourself, "You know, this is a nationally known brand name. A product like this would not be on the shelf for long if it did not work. Why, I'll bet that I did something wrong." Yes, my friends, sadly, it is true. Filled with foolish optimism, I sat down with the instructions, read them carefully, over and over, and tried the experiment again, only to end up with yet another round of hairy chemical burns. This time, I threw the box with the remaining solution away. My mama didn't raise any fools...just bearded daughters.
I discovered wax strips. For the uninitiated, these are little pieces of wax that you press on your face and then rip them off. It worked a lot better than the chemicals. Downside? Oh, my gosh, does this process hurt. By the time I was finished, my nose was running, the tears were flowing. The other downside is that your whiskers have to be of a certain length before the wax will work. I was not excited about letting them grow until they were long enough to harvest again.
This brings us to the miracle cure. I was at the K-mart checking out the clearance rack. (Yes...not only does this stuff work, it was on SALE! It really was just the best day ever!). This stuff microwaves, you slather the hot stuff on your upper lip and chin. You let it cool, and then you rip it off much like the wax strips, except, oh my stars, this hurt much much worse. You know why? Because it's ripping every hair off your face. All of them! Not missing a one. After ripping off the first piece, I stood there looking at the other two spots of hardened goop on my face. It took a while to get the courage to finish the job. My eyes watered, my nose ran, and I clung to the bathroom sink for support. I took a deep breath and completed the ripping. It was a miracle...my chin was just a smooth as a baby's bottom. I put the box in the medicine chest, hardly daring to believe it.
The following day, I went back to the store. I went back to the clearance rack. I bought every last box of the product they had. All of it. I scanned the checkouts, looking for the oldest cashier, one who would certainly understand. The last thing I needed was one of those perky little teenagers who would find my purchases hilarious. (Headline: Local Teenager Assaulted at Register. Assailant Described as Mature Woman With Amazingly Smooth Chin and Hairless Upper Lip.) I picked a line, and waited. I can't be quiet for long, and soon found myself laughing with another mature woman. She described a friend who plucked her eyebrows, and then expressed a fear that maybe she should stop just in case her eyebrows never grew back. "Oh, they'll grow back," my new friend assured her. "Probably on your chin." We were laughing good and hard by the time we got to Anna, the nice K-Mart cashier. Soon she was laughing as hard as we were. When we parted, we assured each other that our days had been made by our encounter.
I thought about it driving home. As I get older, Mother Nature really is winging some curve balls at me. I've found that she's winging the same curve balls at everyone. It is a joy to laugh at things with others who understand. It does make your day. I made up my mind that in just a few months, when I am 50, I will buy myself a red hat, and I will gladly join a group of high spirited women who will show me how to deal with these changes. And how we will laugh!

Men and Backhoes

Tim and I went to visit his brother and sister in law Dan and Carrie, a couple years ago. In hindsight, I cannot tell you exactly how it came to be, but by the time we left their house, Tim had bought a backhoe. Carrie was thrilled. Hornburg men have a pretty unconventional idea of what constitute lawn ornaments, so I understood her excitement as she offered a buy one, get one free deal. I declined her offer without hesitation, since I've got a Hornburg man at my own house who has his own stash of necessaries artfully arranged around the property. We certainly did not need any more stuff for our yard. I did, however, invite them to come visit us just as soon as possible.
Tim immediately began to tear up large patches of lawn with his new toy. I have always wanted a koi pond, so he dug a huge hole in the side of the yard. It has sat there for a couple years, just being a hole. When you have children, there is just always something that you need a lot worse than a koi pond, but finally, this year, I got the kit to do the pond. Oh, it was exciting. It took forever to get the liner set up properly, but I wanted this to be a nice pond. We got it all just so. The only thing left was just to get rocks to arrange around the lined hole in the ground.
My husband found a nice pile of rocks down in the woods. We had been having a long stretch of rainy weather, but one day the sun came out. Tim took this as a sign and hopped on the backhoe, heading down to the rock pile, Cara and I walking behind. Now, I will say that as we walked behind the backhoe, going deeper and deeper into the woods, there was a small voice inside me saying, "I don't know, this doesn't look so safe...this might not be the best idea that Tim has ever had." I ignored the voice. Tim's a pretty smart guy, not given to recklessness. He would not put his backhoe in danger. I told that little voice to shush and marched on.
When we got to the pile of rock, I do have to say, there WERE some mighty fine rocks there. We got the rocks we needed for the pond, but there were also a lot of flat rocks that would make a very nice walkway, so we loaded them up too. Tim started the backhoe up to head back home, but the big wheels just spun, digging themselves deeper and deeper into the mud. That little voice inside me began to speak again, and this time, I was having a harder time ignoring it, as my sense of foreboding grew. In one heartstopping moment, one of the rear wheels began to bobble up and down a little, and I knew what was going to happen. I started screaming my head off, just as loud as a person can scream with two hands over her mouth. But Tim heard me, and as the backhoe leaned to the side, he leapt off, climbing over the side as it rolled, not completely over, but up, hanging there on three wheels, tilted crazily.
We all stood staring at the scene in shock. When I saw Tim purposefully striding right back toward the backhoe, I started shrieking some more. He gave me a disgusted look, pushed a lever, swung the bucket as far to the left as it would go, and the backhoe dropped back onto 4 wheels. Determined not to ignore any small voices this time, I continued yelling for him to "Get away from that! leave it right where it sits! I mean it! I mean it! get back!" etc. etc. etc. To the untrained ear, it may have actually sounded as if I was furious at him. Any wife would understand that it was really love being expressed, lots and lots of love. As we walked out of the woods, I did not stop expressing my love for him at the top of my lungs. I loved without ceasing for some time. At one point, I did stop to draw a breath. Cara wryly interjected, "Hey, Tim, there it is...proof positive that Mom loves you more than the dog." Once love begins to flow, it's a hard thing to stop, so I turned to her, and unleashed a flood of love in her direction, too. Love was in the air, and it touched every living thing within earshot.
Well, I did calm down. I got lunch on the table, got Tim off to work, and Cara off to work. In the silence of the house, I began to consider the situation. I just knew that Tim would not be reasonable and simply leave the backhoe in the woods for all of eternity. I knew that he would want it back decorating his yard. Being the faithfilled woman that I am, I was worried sick, afraid that he would damage himself badly in the process.
That night, at a church meeting, it was asked if anyone had any prayer requests. Boy, did I ever. I poured my concern out to a group of sympathetic women, who clucked their tongues at the careless natures of men, related similar stories, and promised to pray. It was during that time that it ocurred to me that our neighbor down the road had a backhoe. Ken was also 80-odd years old. I figured that any man with a backhoe that had survived that many years would certainly have some handy tips to provide my husband. The women all assured me that going to talk to the neighbor on my own was certain to make Tim good and mad, but my mind was made up. I didn't care how mad it made him, I was going to ask Ken for help.
I left the church and on the way home stopped by to visit with our neighbors. His wife, Pearl, met me at the door and understood my fears straightaway. She comforted me by telling me about the time that Ken did flip his backhoe. Not partway. All the way. Laid that machine right on its side. Ken filled in the details. The only actual comfort that I was able to derive from their story was that Ken stood before my very eyes, none the worse for his misadventure. I made a mental note: Men with backhoes appeared to live to be 80 only by sheer good fortune and divine intervention. But Ken hopped on his four wheeler and went right off to take a look. He called later that night to assure me that the situation was not so dire as I thought, and that once the ground dried out, it would not be a big deal to get the backhoe unstuck and back home. He cheerfully offered to help.
Well, to make a long story short, it rained and rained and rained, but nearly two weeks later we were able to get the backhoe back home, only after unloading all of our rocks. In his quiet bullheaded way, Tim did it without help, not wanting to inconvenience Ken and Pearl. Later on that night, talking as we fell asleep, I told Tim that it really did not matter if I ever ended up with my little pond. I tried to explain to Tim how scared I was, heart stoppingly, stomach droppingly terrified to see that wheel bobble and I pleaded with him to never take such a risk again.
In the darkness he said, "You know, when Columbus set off for the new world, he did not know what would happen. For all he knew, he was going to fall off the edge of the world. Men just do things. We don't stop to be afraid, we just do what we have our minds made up to do."
Incredulously, I gasped, "Surely, Tim, you are NOT trying to justify this thing?!!!!" He laughed in the darkness, and it happened again. The love began to flow, and it flowed at the top of my lungs...

The Porcupine

It was a wonderous thing to hear, even third hand. It seems that strange, unexplainable things happen at other peoples' homes too. My friend Dolly found a bath towel thrown over her shower rod that she does not recognize. It is not hers. It is not her husband, Ralph's. They have no clue who this bath towel belongs to. Just found it hanging there, it's sole purpose to confound and bemuse. I thought that stuff like this only happened at my house.
I work nights. I get tired. Sometimes I get behind on housework. Never fear, though. I always have a plan. When I get my next day off, I load the CD player with classic rock and roll. I load Bob Segar, Journey, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, the like. 5 disks. I turn the music up loud, and I tear through the house like a woman on a mission, mostly because I am, well, a woman on a mission. My mission is to get the house completely cleaned before the final song on the final CD fades away. I sing loud and long and energized by the familiar songs ('One heart feeds the fire, one heart burns desire, WON-der who's crying now?') I generally can rip through a 6 bedroom house like nobody's business. It's just a little way to make a big job small, and to get the job done.
One winter, right after the holidays, I looked around and decided that it was time to play my game. I loaded my CD's and began. I raced down to the basement, and tossed a load of whites in the washer. I added the soap and bleach, raced back up stairs and whipped through the living room and dining room, dusting, vacuuming, cleaning, throwing stuff away, putting clutter where it belonged. The dog cowered in a corner, watching all this activity nervously. Just as I was moving to the kitchen, I heard the washer buzz from basement.
Down the stairs I flew, threw the whites in the dryer, threw another load of clothes in the washer, this bath towels and sweatshirts and flannels. Many of the sweatshirts were new, received for Christmas, and I did notice two unfamiliar bath towels, but I did not stop to ponder this. Dylan wrestled, Cara is a social butterfly, Tim's brother used the house as home base. People come, people go, I figured someone would claim those towels, didn't give it a second thought. Just kept on singing ('Truckin', I got my chips cashed in...'), loading the washer, started that bad boy up, stopped long enough to make sure that the fire wasn't calling for more wood, charged back up the stairs. I did dishes and cleaned the kitchen, and was part way through the downstairs bathroom when I heard the washer buzz.
I flew down the stairs singing fortissmo ('Tin Soldiers and Nixon coming, we're finally on our own...'). I tossed the dryer stuff in a basket to fold later while watching Oprah, and opened the washer. I plunged my hands in to pull the clothes out and got scratched. A lot. "What?????!!!!!" Looking a little closer, picking through things gingerly I discovered, of all things, porcupine quills. A lot of porcupine quills. Like perhaps in my last mad dash to load the washer, I'd accidently tossed a porcupine in there with the sweatshirts and bath towels and flannel shirts. I'm talking about hundreds of porcupine quills. I couldn't believe it. I began to pull clothing and towels out one at a time, inspecting the garments, pulling quills out. This took a long time. I had plenty of time to fume. Somebody owed me quite an explanation, and by george, I couldn't wait for people to start getting home.
The music upstairs played on ('On a long and lonesome highway, east of Omaha, you can hear the engine moaning out it's one note song...') . I did not sing as I pulled went through my laundry one article at a time. I was one mad Mom. To top it all off, no porcupine emerged from the washer, dizzy, damp, disoriented. What I did discover was two bath towels. The same two towels that I did not recognize before. These towels were so embedded with quills that they had attached to themselves, to each other, and to other clothing. It was a wad, it was a mess, it was a darn pain in the butt, going through this stuff, separating and dequilling. The two towels were set aside to be used to illustrate my next lesson to my family. I put the quill-free clothing back in the washer, and stomped back up stairs, well behind schedule.
I cleaned on. There was a difference though. I was not singing, and I did not care about schedules. I was much more interested in hearing just how those towels came to be in the washer to begin with. When I heard the school bus, I was waiting at the door as Cara walked in. I led her to the basement, confronted her with the towels, related the story. I had had plenty of time to get just that much more mad. It did not help that as I pulled the bath towels and sweatshirts out of the washer for the second time, I was still finding more quills. Cara looked at the towels. She watched me finding a second round of quills, less to be sure, but certainly enough to warrant going through the articles yet again. Her eyes were big and she was just as mystified as I was.
Now, that left Dylan. I should have known. When weird stuff happens, there is generally a boy around somewhere. By the time wrestling practice was over, I'd had time to pull the laundry out of the washer for the third time. I had time to pull another round of quills out. There were not so many, but again, there were enough to warrant examining it all for the third time, one article at a time. I was pretty sure that I had gotten them all at last, and put the stuff in the dryer. I had done the same load of laundry three times. I was a busy woman. I did not have time for this kind of nonsense. So when Dylan's truck pulled in, I was ready. I pounced as he walked through the door. He looked at the two unfamiliar bath towels. He could offer no explanations either, but found the whole thing a lot funnier than he really should have, had he been a boy with any amount of sense. I told him that I hoped that any quills that might have been missed showed up in his flannel boxers.
I had no idea what to think at that point. I am married to Tim. He's pretty sharp, doesn't miss a thing. I knew he wasn't behind it. The only thing that I could figure is that wildlife snuck into our house when we were not looking, using our shower, thoughtfully providing their own towels. This actually explained quite a few mysteries. They probably used the computer too, which accounted for some of the peculiar internet activity. Now I understood how the remotes kept disappearing. As they dropped their towels off in the laundry room, stray socks just sort of stuck to their backs, explaining the box of unmatched socks. Now I knew why I could buy deserts for lunches one day, and have none left when it came time to pack lunches 24 hours later. I had answers for all of it. Darn pesky porcupines! I had been blaming innocent children for just ever so long.
Tim got home from his second shift job. I was waiting up to tell him all about the solved mysteries. He looked at the towels and sheepishly said, "Hm. I wonder how I missed that?" I got still and waited. Tim bought a car from Sue, the woman who cuts our hair. It was her son's vehicle. (Remember the line, just two paragraphs ago? "When weird stuff happens, there is generally a boy around somewhere.") There was a lot of junk in this car. Tim found the towels as he was cleaning out the car. Mechanics always need towels. It was Tim who brought the towels in and tossed them by the washer. They were folded up. He did not unfold them.
There was a story here. Inquiring minds wanted to know. We asked Sue about it. She quickly decided that her son had stories she would rather not hear. She decided that she would not ask questions about towels and porcupines. Not being inclined to excite the woman using scissors on my hair, I decided that I would also not ask questions about towels and porcupines. That mystery is still unsolved. Even more aggravating is that I still have no explanation for that box of unmatched socks. The rest of it, I can still blame on the kids.

Historical note: The final quill was found by Cara in the seam of her favorite Aeropostale sweatshirt nearly six months after that fateful day. Dylan found no quills in his boxers. I once pulled two quills out of my shirt sleeve in a Quality Market checkout line, to the amazement of the person I was talking to. Tim found no quills, anywhere. We live in an unjust world, my friends...