Sunday, March 18, 2018

It's Quiet...Too Quiet

After the chaos and upheaval of the past couple of years, some down time and prevailing quiet was the best thing for all of us.  Clearly, I can handle only so much of that nonsense before I start getting twitchy.  I had this nice, mellow job where I could read, do crossword puzzles or indulge my virtual hoarding prelidiction on Pinterest.  Drinking on the job was not only okey dokey, but part of the job duties when you run a bottle shop.  It was a good gig, didn't pay much, the hours were tailor made for someone as un-go gettery as me and I enjoyed it.  Things have been peaceful for a while, calm for everyone in the house and smooth sailing as far as the eye could see.

So I decided to throw a rock into the middle of it and take a high stakes (for me), high demand and high pressure job and take over as the general manager of a rudderless, chaotic and throughly mismanaged shitshow of a store.  Turning it around and rebuilding the reputation of this business are the two main expectations for me and I'm not entirely sure I know what the hell I'm doing.  I've done retail and I've done quick serve food but this is entirely uncharted territory for me but apparently taking a deep breath and jumping in is my best course of action.  Training out of town for two weeks and we're off to the races.  It's been a hell of a ride so far, but I think I'm actually enjoying myself.

It's been interesting from the get go, the interview was an entirely unique experience as I was totally in charge of that meeting.  I drove the bus from the start and the two people interviewing me seemed to have no problem with it, it was weird.  After the initial get to know you back and forth, I was asked if I had any questions and both seemed a bit taken aback when I flipped open my notebook to two pages of questions I had prepared.  My first question of "What kind of goals or benchmarks would I be expected to meet in my first six months?" Was met with what seemed like befuddlement followed by casting about for an answer.  They both seemed relieved when I said "Okay, we can come back to that later." And I figured, in for a penny, in for a pound and continued to steam ahead and show them all my cards.  There is a certain freedom in interviewing for a job you don't actually need, the pressure is completely off and you can absolutely be yourself.  It obviously did the trick because twenty minutes into the interview, the district manager (my now boss's boss) asked, rather incredulously, "Where the hell were you a year ago when we opened this store?"

That question made me pause for a minute before I answered her.  Where WAS I a year ago?  My answer to her was simply, "I wasn't the person you needed a year ago." And briefly explained about my parents' decline and deaths in a shocklingly short period of time, a life changing medical diagnosis and a whole lot of life piling in on me at once.  Reflecting on that later, I realized how true that simple statement was, I WASN'T what they would have needed a year ago but I absolutely am now.  I got involved in organizing and executing the biggest event my town as ever seen (by involved, I mean my best friend told me we were going to do a thing and we did).  In that year of brainstorming, planning and pulling it all together I rediscovered both a skill set and a passion for getting shit done.  Managing people, coming up with fresh ideas and getting people excited about acheiving a goal is something I am good at and I enjoy doing.  Planning that event was restorative, confidence building and made me into the person who is ready to take on this kind of a challenge.  Thank God for best friends who drag you, kicking and screaming, out of your comfort zone and into a whole new thing that turns into another whole new thing.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Here We Go Again

It's that time of the year again.  It's not pumpkin spice season, it's not Halloween or Thanksgiving or Election time, it's hunting season.  It's the most wonderful time of the year, according to my beloved and our of them anyway.  Eldest boy is a bit more like his mama, hunting is awesome but I really, really don't want to do it.  Son the Younger has been an enthusiastic participant in this yearly adventure since he was about eight years old.  

Hunting season is a multi phase event, each phase is distinct and as important as the hunt itself. The following is a chronicle of this annual undertaking:

Phase One: Discussion

This phase consists of an extensive rehash of the previous year's hunt, topics include:

Deer seen

 Trail cam photos referenced

     Annual claim that deer are living in the back yard

     Occasional claim that a bear is living in the back yard

     My interjection that someone is drunk or insane

     Topic tabled

Deer not seen

     Lengthy exchange about deer others have seen

Deer seen and not shot at

Deer seen, shot at and missed

      ALWAYS a gigantic, monster, Bigfoot buck that can read and drive a car

Deer seen, shot at and hit

     Quality of hit

     Crappiness of missed shots

     Spirited debate about who had the crappier miss

     Consultation with other hunting party members about the crappiness of same

     One party deciding the other party and the rest of the hunting party are full of shit

     Discussion Tabled after offense is taken

Deer hit with Elder’s car that one year

     Elder is still salty about it

     Reminder that he has a different car now

     Description of that deer grows exponentially with every retelling

Other wildlife seen

     Usually mundane stuff, birds and such

     Discussion of asshole squirrels that warn the deer away

     Guilty admission of unloading the shotgun at offending asshole squirrel

     Spirited insult throwing that one or the other didn't even hit the squirrel

Poop sightings

     Debate over origin of sighted poop

     It’s not a bear, Bigfoot or dinosaur

     Might be a bear

     Probably a moose

     Turns out it's a dog

     I cannot believe how long the poop discussion has gone on

     Debate over use of the term “scat”

          Stop it, you’re not Jack Hanna

          Debate over the supremacy of Jack Hanna vs. Marlon Perkins vs. Steve Irwin vs. Wild Kratts

Phase Two: Strategy

This phase usually involves analysis of weather forecasts, trail cam video, water levels in ditches, maps, satellite imaging and input from Stephen Hawking.


     How many said they’re going

     How many are actually going

     Someone is bringing their cousin/nephew/co worker/idiot brother in law/some guy

          Detailed dissemination of everything we know about the potential interloper

          Assumptions made, debated and discarded

          Grumpy acceptance of new person

     The traditional and ceremonial insistence that I come hunting this year

          I politely decline

          My beloved pushes the issue

          I decline, less politely this time

          My beloved insists

          Son The Younger suggests dad shut up now

          Dad doesn’t shut up

          I decline through clenched teeth with a hissed threat to drag him to Lowe’s again

          My beloved drops it


     The recitation of what we need vs what we have begins

     This is repeated three to twenty times over the next two weeks as items are stored in multiple locations that make no sense to anyone but my Beloved

     I refrain from pointing out that the large ORANGE Rubbermaid tote purchased by me for the hunting gear several years ago is currently occupied only by one pair of boots of unknown provenance

     A list is not made, my Beloved insists he’ll remember everything

    Things are forgotten or double counted

     The same question is asked repeatedly

     The mere suggestion of writing things down is treated as an insult

     Three more boxes of shells are purchased

          The three boxes from last year are found

          As are the three from the year before

     Buck scent (yes, a bottle of pee) is not located

          Bottles are bought

          Other bottles are found

           We have many bottles of pee

          I again question my life choices as two of the members of my household have a lively debate about deer pee.

     What is happening here?

     A list is made, lots of muttering and dirty looks, I try not to look too smug

     The Blind is examined

          87 things are found wrong

         Options are discussed

          New blinds are priced out

           Blind is reassessed

           Duct tape is deployed

          The blind is actually fine

     The Guns are brought out

          Commence lecture about cleaning 

          Commence lecture about touching

          Commence lecture about shooting

          Commence lecture about deer

          I Commence drinking wine

               Continue drinking wine

               Fall asleep and insult my Beloved

     Blaze Orange Bonanza

           Six hooded sweatshirts

          Two vests

           Seven and a half pairs of gloves

          Four sets of long underwear

          I question the necessity of blaze orange underwear and am shot a quelling look

          Eight pair of socks

               I do not say a thing

          127 hats, I swear to God

          Eleven full face masks

All of this is hung outside in the universal sign that hunters live here, I think there is a deeper code here but cannot get confirmation.

     Commence lecture about neutral smells

     I do not roll my eyes during the no laundry/no shower/no shampoo talk.

          Yearly reminder from me that no shower = no physical contact

          I’ve insulted him again, not sorry

     I put my foot down about the purchase of another blaze orange item.

          Three more show up the next day

          Both deny any knowledge

          They’re colluding, I know it


     Can’t tell you a thing, my eyes have glazed over and my brain is currently rejecting any hunting related talk.

     My Beloved just asked me a question, he’s looking expectant

          I panic and say yes

          The surprise and delight on my Beloved’s face tells me I’m probably in deep trouble

          I just agreed to buy a license so we can get an extra deer

          The implications are horrifying

               I will have to go

               We could potentially get THREE deer

               I'm going to have to empty the chest freezer

               I'm going to have to buy a new chest freezer

          Steps must be taken

               I need a way out of this

               My brain whirls with ideas

                    Coming up with nothing

                    I'm struck with inspiration

          Sacrifices must be made

               This is every man for himself

               I point out that Elder Son has never been hunting

               The look of betrayal flung my way does not sway me

               My Beloved is delighted at the thought

               I have no regrets

               I'm going to have to make amends at some point but today is not that day

Phase Three: Preparation (you thought the preceding was the prep? Silly rabbits)

This phase covers food shopping, the Laying Out Of The Gear, Blind Assembly and a lot of storming around the house in one’s underwear while attempting to communicate to the second floor of the house from either the garage or the basement.  This is a delicate phase and must be navigated with caution, diplomacy and quite a bit of finesse as the participants are nervous and easily startled.

Food Shopping
     This is usually the extent of my involvement, I buy food and cook it
     The wilds of the grocery store is as far as I venture
     Trust me, it’s not all that civilized in those days before 
          Bread, lunch meat and certain snacks are at a premium and their purchase can only be done in dark alleys out of the back of trucks from sketchy box boys and carry outs with a bad attitude and an ax to grind against the man.
     Portable food that doesn't smell like anything is not easily achieved
     Baked goods are treated as manna from the Gods
     Noisy food is banned
     Nothing can smell like anything, this cannot be overstated.
     The list of specifications is extensive
          Fine, Fig Newtons, one banana, soy milk and lefse it is
         Don't give me a look, that’s all that fits within your goddamned parameters
Blind Assembly
     This takes place the week before and involves a lot of argument that I am not privy to, I have no information on this ritual
     Someone usually comes home and stomps upstairs for a while
The Laying of The Gear
     This is done over the course of the three days (or weeks, who can say?) before The Hunt
     Finding ammunition in the bathroom and deer pee in the bookcase is not considered strange during this phase
     The dining room table disappears under a pile of orange accessories
     Long guns on the couch is par for the course
     Panic ensues when the key for the gun locks is temporarily misplaced
     Hence, the shouting up the stairs while in underwear
     My work done, the food laid in, I'm for bed

Phase Four: The Hunt

The Wee Hours
     They’re up and moving before God is awake to head off into the woods
     Despite the elaborate and extensive preparations, many questions seem to linger
     Many, many trips up and down the stairs
     Seriously, stop turning the hall light on when my door is open
          Please shut the door if you need the hall light
          Please turn the light off before you leave
          That does it, light bulb removed
               Now the light switch is being flipped on and off repeatedly
               OH GOD NO He’s looking for the bulb
               He’s standing next to the bed, isn’t he?
               He KNOWS
               Bulb? What bulb?
               WHY DO YOU NEED IT?
          The distinct crash that indicates a fall down the stairs
               More muttering and some very creative swearing
     Many trips in and out of the garage
     Door slam
     Into the house again
     Back to garage
     Door slam
     There’s the back door
     Door slam
     I'm in hell
          Twelve. The number is twelve based on car door slams
     The car has started, we’re so close.
     Don’t turn the car off! Why are you turning it off?
     You were almost gone. Go!
     Garage door slam
     House door slam
          Someone is getting the guns
     Car starts again
     They’re away!
     Time to go back to sleep
     What’s that noise?
          They’re back?
          They’re back.
          Car door slam
          Garage door slam
          House door slam
          Light switch flipped on and off and on...and off
                More muttering
           Ammunition is located and taken
           House door slam
           Garage door slam
           Car door slam
           Please God let them be gone for real this time
          Okay. Gone.
                But I’m awake now.
                It's 4:30
                That sucks

There you have it, this is what takes place in my house every year during the run up to hunting.  My Beloved is a low key guy that turns into a complete lunatic once a year but as he tolerates and even embraces my everyday insanity, I totally roll with it.  There are only a few things that he gets this worked up about, hunting with his boy (or, this year, boys) is one of his very favorite things. My kind of crazy is all day, every day, his comes only once a year. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Disaster Kitchen

I want to cook like Trisha Yearwood, Giada, Ree The Pioneer Woman and a host of other TV chefs.  I have accepted the reality that I never shall.  That's just fine, if ever I get my own cooking show, it's going to be called "Disaster Kitchen" and it will show every step of the new recipe process, not just the ready for prime time bits.  Let me preface all of this by saying that until about seven years ago I was a competent, but not particularly inspired or skilled cook.  Then I quit smoking and needed to fill the time between getting home from work and dinner time. That was the hardest cigarette to give up for some reason so I decided to make food that kept me busy for the danger time.  I needed recipes that required attention to detail, I wanted to chop and dice and simmer and blanch and all those cool things that I watched on Saturday mornings.  In my head, that dangerous phrase formed, the one that has been the downfall of greater men than I. "How hard can it be?"

Harder than you think, it turns out.  I knew the basics, I could make hamburger gravy and (boxed) mashed potatoes, I was a whiz at making Kraft Mac and cheese all fancy by adding a few chunks of Velveeta and sticking it in the oven for ten minutes and my addition of a shake each of garlic and red pepper flakes to a jar of spaghetti sauce bordered on genius, but that was pretty much where my culinary inspiration ended.  This was it, my time had come and I was about to become master of my kitchen domain.  Or I was about to get my ass kicked by a metric fuckton of potatoes.

At that point in time, my beloved worked for a company that, among other things, makes French fries.  This meant he had access to huge bags of potatoes for just a couple of bucks.  I'm talking 50 to 100 pound bags for $5, needless to say, we were the go to whenever our kids' sports teams wanted to do a baked potato fundraiser.  This meant that on any given weekend, my kitchen was host to enough potatoes to have saved my people from the Famine.  Occasionally, my beloved would randomly bring home 50 pounds of spuds just for the sheer joy of eating our body weight in potato.  Slowly but surely, I started to notice that friends and family had begun to avoid eye contact and declined invitations to the house for dinner.  As it turns out, a menu comprised solely of potato dishes wears on the palate and the belly after a while.  Perhaps finding potatoes in their purses and slipped into their coat pockets put them off but I was desperate to unload the damn things as my house did not come equipped with a root cellar.  

Determined to maintain healthy, non potato based relationships with the people in my life, I needed to figure out what to do with mass quantities of red potatoes ASAP.  Searching YouTube yielded a blanch and freeze method of preservation, so I set about peeling and cutting a pile of potatoes the size of a VW Beetle.  I can see why this was used as punishment back in the day.  There are few tasks quite as tedious that cannot be done mindlessly as you risk slicing off layers of skin and flesh from your fingers as the price of inattention.  The onerous chore completed, I set about the blanching process, this involves the biggest pot you can find (borrow one, seriously, because if you buy one, you will likely never use it again and it will stare accusingly at you from whatever dark cabinet or basement shelf you exile it to after this one ill conceived experiment), a shitload of salt and a week's worth of water.  You get that giant pot of salted water to a lusty boil and, risking life and limb, dunk batch after batch of potatoes in to cook partway.  Part way being the keyword here, as what what actually means is "Just cook them all the way because what you saw me do on YouTube is nothing you're going to be able to accomplish in your entire pathetic life, you silly little amateur."  Then you let them cool, vacuum seal them and pop the tidy potato packages in your freezer for convenient use whenever you need them!

Wrong, you've never been so wrong in your life.  Two weeks later, you'll go down to the basement freezer to begin your new life of preserving your own food only to find how terribly wrong this whole process can go.  You see, if the potatoes aren't blanched for EXACTLY the right amount of time, something horrible happens in the freezer.  Your careful vacuum sealing can't save it, your best intentions are not going to help you or the stacks of now gray/green/black/blue/whatthehellisthatcolor potatoes that cringe away from the light of the open freezer door like some kind of swamp dwelling, previously unknown creature that will forever haunt your dreams.  Twenty five carefully labeled, stacked and sealed packages stared defiantly back at me, mocking my inexperience and daring me to step into the ring with my own kitchen for another go round. So "blanching" actually means "just cook the damn things, you'll thank me for it later".  So noted.

We started our own compost in the back yard that day so it wasn't a complete waste.

My sister in law offered to come over and make salsa some months later, she's done it before and it's easier than I'd ever imagine.  That's what she told me, that's what she said.  And, I can use that giant pot that I've done nothing but move from place to place because I can't seem to find a permanent, out of my way, WHY IS IT SO DAMN BIG home for it.  So, salsa, is it?  She, my beloved, her beloved and I spent an enjoyable couple of hours chopping, seeding and prepping our tomatoes, onions, peppers and the rest while imbibing in a beer or maybe some bloody Marys with beer memory is a little fuzzy for some reason.  Brenda claimed that we didn't need to boil the jars for canning, we just need to run them through the hi temp cycle in the dishwasher and that serves the same purpose.  Having never canned anything in my life, I demurred to her experience and superior knowledge which turned out to be kind of helping her mother in law and seeing someone do it on TV once.

DO NOT DO IT THIS WAY.  Not ever.  Also, make damn sure you fill the jars almost to the brim.  Why, you ask?  Because the dishwasher method creates too much of a vacuum seal that eventually compromises the structural integrity of the lids and they pop.  And by "pop", I mean they fail completely, make a noise that I don't not have the vocabulary to describe and launch the contents of the jar skyward until they inevitably encounter the barrier to the open sky that is your kitchen ceiling.  You and your helpers will stare at a ceiling that now resembles nothing as much as a murder scene for a very, very long time as the reality of what just transpired takes a loooooong time to register to a vodka and beer soaked brain.  Once it does, however, much hilarity ensues and the stain never quite goes away.  Side note, tracking down and bathing your now salsa covered cat who was unlucky enough to have been in the kitchen at the moment of impact takes a lot of coaxing, chasing and eventual capture that involves brooms, tennis rackets and a bedsheet you're willing to sacrifice for the cause.  He also won't speak to you for several days and when he does, you know you'll never be completely forgiven for this transgression to his person.

We did manage to seal the remaining jars properly and the salsa was delicious.

Fine, we'll start a little smaller than 500 potatoes and a couple dozen jars of salsa.  Let's take a whack at something we can eat right away and enjoy the fruits of our labor immediately. I know, poached eggs!  I always considered poached eggs to be a super fancy, special occasion kind of food that it never even occurred to me to try making at home as it seemed solely the domain of seasoned chefs and Saturday morning Food Network stars.  I set my pot of water to a hearty simmer, got it swirling to the recommended velocity and carefully cracked an egg into the vortex. I could see immediately that this was not going well, the white of the egg spun wildly out of the grasp of the vortex to morph into jelly like tentacles that slithered to the edge of the saucepan in a desperate attempt to escape.  The timer dinged and I gamely scooped what I knew was not a beautifully compact poached egg out of the water that was now cloudy and speckled with bits of gluey, semi cooked egg.  It's okay, I know what I did wrong that time.  Attempt number two was equally as unsuccessful as the first but my determination was not to be swayed by two failed attempts.  Number three had me hopeful that this would work until the poached looking egg disintegrated into the water as I lifted it out, rendering the boiling water into an Irish girl version of egg drop soup (see what I did there?).  Attempts four through nine involved vinegar added to the water as recommended by several chef types but yielded soggy jelly like messes that smelled strongly of pickles, this will not do.  By now, I have abandoned even the pretense of wanting the damned eggs and am committed exclusively to the principle of the project I had set for myself.  To hell with ever eating the damn things, I WILL WIN, THESE EGGS WILL NOT DEFEAT ME.  Eighteen eggs, prolific swearing and three eggs that may or may not have been thrown at the wall (much to the dog's delight as he happily licked away the evidence of my burst of temper) I came to the conclusion that the perfect poached egg was a myth, some kind of culinary unicorn that only exists in story and song and I would never achieve this magical food in my lifetime.

One week later, I stumbled upon a poached egg cheat that actually did produce that perfection I had only dreamed possible. A ramekin, lined with plastic wrap, sprayed with nonstick spray, the egg nestled inside and tied into a little bundle with a bit of string and tossed into a pot of boiling water for three minutes and there is was, sexy, silky, creamy perfection in a gorgeous little bundle.  It was glorious and I made it myself.  The angels raised their voices in a magical chorus to this vision of beauty as a ray of golden light shone upon my plate as I raised my fork to pierce the lovely yolk, freeing it to fill every nook and cranny of the waiting English muffin, toasted for just this occasion. I took a moment to record my hard fought success with the perfect picture to share with all those who ever doubted me and watched in horror as my precious, gorgeous, perfect egg slid off the plate on its English muffin raft to the floor and the waiting jaws of my eternally patient yellow lab.  That was it, it was over, I was done.  I can't reproduce this result, or can I?

Turns out I can, and I do on a regular basis because poached eggs really are that good.

There you have it, the basis of my cooking show would show all the disasters in the first half and THEN the carefully crafted successful execution in the second half. I think it would be a smash hit.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

I Have A Great Idea

I am not crafty.  I do not quilt, paint, woodwork or any of that stuff. I know how to sew, I know how to crochet, but I don't do much of it on a regular basis.  That said, I am periodically struck by inspiration and leap in with both feet. These are some of those stories.

  Once upon a time, I went to a stamp party (if you've read previous posts, you know how I feel about those "parties") and spent practically a month's rent on stamp sets featuring teddy bears, ribbons, balloons and a load of other girly shit that is totally NOT my style but I was riding the euphoric wave that accompanies a fair amount of Moscato, snacks, chocolate and LOOK AT HOW CUTE THAT IS YOU'RE RIGHT I NEED IT! Okay, the classic Winnie The Pooh stamp set is still one of the cutest things I've ever owned, but once my babies became full on kids, my opportunities to use them faded fast. I was going to scrapbook my ass off, I was going to make my own greeting cards, invitations, calendars, I was going to be a stamping, fancy scissors wielding, ribbon tying, hot glue master GODDESS. Or my kids were going to discover sports and hunting and I was going to realize, once again, that I am not that kind of girl.  Not even a little. I'm not even sure what happened to all the stuff I acquired in my scrapbooking fantasy fueled frenzy.  I think they're still in a box somewhere but haven't seen the light of day in probably fifteen years.

I could have done this, I'm that organized, really.

From stamps, I moved on to crocheting.  This was actually a hobby that lasted for a good while but once you've made an afghan for pretty much everyone who has passed through your life since the fifth grade, your enthusiasm tends to fade. As does everyone else's once you've gone completely round the bend and started making holiday themed afghans and afghans for the dog.  My yarn stash reached a problematic level when my unsuspecting beloved opened the wrong closet door and unleashed a seemingly unending cascade of bundled yarn in every possible shade and thickness.  Once he was extracted from the softest, fuzziest avalanche in history, he sat me down for a rather stern discussion about what he called "a giant addiction" but really was maybe a tiny bout of overenthusiastic sale shopping, idea formulating, someday I'll make it, I love this color and will make a thing, did you see that one, I know the perfect....okay, FINE I NEED HELP.  The ensuing purge went down in the annals of our family history as "Yarnmageddon", a combination of returns, sales to friends and strangers and a copious amount of donating, we pared the stash down to a manageable level. (Note, the following is NOT my stash, but my God LOOK AT IT)

Sweet Martha, I just had a yarngasm.
After Yarnmageddon, things were quiet for a few years, at least as quiet as things get around here which really isn't all that quiet come to think on it, but you get the point.

Then I quit smoking.

When you quit smoking, you have to find things to do that aren't lighting a cigarette so a few things crossed my path in relatively quick succession:

 I made my own earrings for a while, some that I still wear to this day but the magic wore off before I could become truly dedicated to the lifestyle. I still have the beads and some wire, I make a pair from time to time but honestly, the bloom fell off that particular rose pretty quickly. My beloved and I do not share the same aesthetic, never more clearly displayed as when he asked when I became interested enough in fishing that I was making fishing lures for him.  And that's how that fight started.

Y'all are jealous now, right?
Woodburning appealed to me for a fair bit but as I'm not particularly artistic, there was a limit to what I could create.  A person only needs so many cute little signs and nameplates, after all.  I did sew, but really only ever mastered rod pocket curtains and hemming things so that got pretty dull after a while.  Decoupage, cross stitch, collages and mosaics all came and went until I realized that I was having way more fun cooking that anything else.  Better yet, my younger son liked to join me.  He's adventurous and has really good instincts when it comes to food.  Hitting on something like that was very satisfying and everyone in the house breathed a sigh of relief that I hadn't gone completely off the deep end again.  The stuff I'd buy to indulge THIS obsession weren't insane and actually served a purpose.  I've learned my lesson, I don't have drawers full of lovely, single use kitchen gadgets but I will admit to a weakness for cool serving pieces and storage items. I found an extra large metal Calumet baking powder can that holds all my long spoons and such that is AWESOME and the greatest deviled egg plate that looks like a painter's pallet but both of those are useful. Don't look at me like that, a deviled egg plate in the shape of a painter's pallet IS a necessary kitchen item.

These days I don't become obsessed with an all encompassing hobby so much as I am struck by inspiration.  I tend to formulate a plan, work it out in my head and then go for it.  My beloved has declared a moratorium on my drinking coffee and browsing Pinterest on Saturday mornings because that has come to mean we're at Lowe's by noon.  My family's reaction to "I have an idea." is "uh-oh" followed by a hasty exit from whatever room I'm in.  They love to bitch and moan but we're three for three so far this summer.

Our first project started with Charlie's and my shared love of cooking.  I have a decent kitchen but it lacks the counter space needed when two people are trying to cook everything from scratch and have two cutting boards going and such.  We were doing a lot of moving one another out of the way or one of us would end up doing our thing at the dining room table.  I found a long double dresser for $50 on the local sell/swap site and snapped it up.  Two weeks later, I was the proud owner/creator of a movable, five foot by two and a half foot long wood topped kitchen island with three shelves, a cabinet and four drawers.  Granted, it did take multiple trips to local hardware stores and an aborted attempt at using flood coat (side note: that stuff will freak you out when it's been spilled on the basement floor because it forever looks like a puddle of water), but three days of sanding it off and about ten coats of polyurethane later, the damn thing is GORGEOUS!

Still can't believe this worked.

A couple of weeks later, after I had killed off the herbs I was trying to grow in cute little pots on the kitchen windowsill, I had another idea.  I caught my beloved before he could flee the room and we headed to the building center once again. Ten feet of rain gutter, two end caps, a mess of drilled holes, four screws and a bracket later:

That's right, I have herbs.
Not long after the herb garden triumph, my beloved and I were sitting on the deck listening to the sprinkler running and he mentioned how soothing the sound of running water is and how we should dig a creek into the backyard.  This lead to a discussion about Koi ponds and how that was not going to happen because I'm not spending the winter with giant goldfish swimming in the bathtub.  However...
My beloved has come to recognize the signs, there's apparently a look in my eye that portends a trip to Lowe's.  He's learned resistance is futile and is just giving himself over to it at this point.  He is a wise man. A few hours later and we return home with the gathered supplies.  We're making a fountain for the deck.  Both my sons just shake their heads when I tell them my latest plan but they dive right in because they know their involvement is inevitable.  A large ceramic planter, a planter bowl, a plastic plant bucket, a medium sized pond pump and a T shaped nozzle and we're off to the races.  I came into this one so optimistically but it almost got the best of us.  Note for future fountain making: BUY A PLANTER WITHOUT DRAINAGE HOLES IN THE  BOTTOM.  Four dime sized holes became the bane of my existence for the next two weeks.  We tried that aerosol rubber stuff, other than making us high as a kite and creating a mess that had to be sandblasted off, it did nothing.  Next we tried spraying that crap onto some wine corks and stuffing them into the holes.  I'll give the corks and E for effort but ultimately they failed.  Next up were boat drain plugs but they didn't work with the bucket that was necessary to hold the pump in it with the inverted bowl on top.  Finally I ordered rubber laboratory stoppers online.  My hopes were high until we realized they were just a shade too big for to GODDAMN DRAINAGE HOLES.  Unwilling to admit defeat, my beloved dug out the Dremel tool I bought when I was going through a glass etching phase.  I have never seen him take a project quite so personally, but he was quite offended at the resistance we were encountering with the freaking holes.   Did you know that both the Dremel and the ceramic start to smoke after a while?  They do, a lot.  He did it, though.  The stoppers went into smooth as butter, followed by a copious amount of Gorilla Glue...they'll outlast us all, I'm fairly certain.  

Two days later, as we sat on the deck listening to the bubble and gurgle of our wonderful fountain, sipping wine and basking a bit.  My beloved sat down next to me on the loveseat, pulled me close and whispered in my ear "I've changed your Pinterest password, my dear."  Silly boy, he doesn't know about Instructables...

Sunday, September 3, 2017

My Happiest Place

Anyone who knows me, or who has spoken to me for more than five minutes in the past few weeks knows of my deep and abiding love for the Minnesota State Fair.  For ten days at the end of August until Labor day, the state of Minnesota gathers in Falcon Heights, just a shade outside of the neighborhood where I spent my formative years. Some of  my happiest and most vivid childhood memories revolve around the fair.

My father, his brother, and their father were fair fanatics.  I imagine the familial obsession went further back in the annals of our history as we are a St. Paul family from way back when.  My dad would go multiple times, always with the whole family, with just one or two of us and at least once on his own.  My mother came along when we were all little, but never had the passion for the fair that dad did. We had routines and rituals at the fair, some of which I follow to this day, it feels natural and comforting that some things truly never change.  Dad taught us early on that the only acceptable hot dog on a stick was from the yellow and brown Pronto Pup stand (the wiener dun in a bun) and no other would do, don't even think it. To this day, the first thing we eat at the fair is an official Pronto Pup, it does not matter what time we arrive, that is first.
That's the ticket!

I don't know what magic is imbued in that fluffy yet crunchy coating but it envelops the dog in a loving embrace of pure wonderfulness, a corn dog just won't do, it MUST be a Pronto Pup.  Generally there is a root beer barrel located in close proximity to the Pronto Pup booth so I naturally associate the two.  The last time dad and I went to the fair together was in 1992, a month before I got married and we managed to hit every single Pronto Pup booth on the grounds (eight, I believe) and washed a few of them down with root beer.  The sight of those booths and that first bite will always and forever bring me back to my father's side.

The other must is the All You Can Drink Milk booth.  When I was a kid, it was all you can drink for a quarter and boy, did we take advantage of that deal.  The milk was ice cold, foamy and somehow tasted a thousand times better than the milk from home because fair milk is special.  We'd hit it every year, just about first thing as it was near the entrance on Como Avenue where dad always magically managed to find parking.  That is until one fateful year when I was about nine years old.  Imagine a 90+ degree day, not a breath of breeze and packed fairgrounds.  Combine those conditions with four children drinking their body weight in milk followed by a trip to the livestock barns and I'll leave out the details of the horror that followed but a speedy departure and a change of clothes was required for all of us.  From that day on, my father issued a decree that the All You Can Drink Milk booth was off limits until we were on the way OUT of the fairgrounds, never again to be visited on the way in, and that rule stands to this very day.
The fair is a constant, comforting, familiar but ever changing piece of the Minnesota landscape and I am always shocked when I meet someone who grew up here but has never been.  That's the strangest thing I can imagine because missing the fair is simply not done.  In my family, fair time is our holy season.  Vacation days are taken, all other plans and obligations are put on hold, strategies are laid out in the days and week preceding the fair.  The new food list is pored over and disseminated in loving detail and with palpable anticipation.  New walking shoes are broken in well before the start because wussing out over a blister or sore feet will result in years of ridicule, a stock of sunscreen is laid in and appropriate headgear is tested and made ready.  Children of the family are indoctrinated from birth that these are sacred days, not to be fraught with whining, fighting or pooping out early.  If we had an official family religion, the Grandstand is our cathedral, the crowd noise our hymns and the Space Tower our ascent to the heavens.
There's me!
While the food is, obviously, a huge draw, the fair has innumerable attractions that truly requires more than just one trip to appreciate them all.  The Creative Arts building houses everything from needlework and woodcraft to Bundt cakes and jellies, all lovingly created and proudly displayed.  I am overwhelmed every year by the incredible beauty created by people all over the state.  Exquisite handmade lace, gorgeous embroidered table linens, jewel colored jams and jellies displayed and lit like pieces of art and baked goods nestled behind a frustrating glass barrier that keeps you from burying your face in the deliciousness that they promise.  You could spend the day in that building and still not see everything, it is a museum in its own right.
They kick you out for licking the glass.


Being a farm-centric state, the Agriculture/Horticulture building is the centerpiece of the fairgrounds, an enormous and beautiful art deco exterior holds many strange and mysterious things for a child raised in the city.  To me, it was like visiting a foreign land, complete with a language all its own.  To this day, I come out of that building knowing something I did not know when I walked in.  This year I learned about the gladiator style fight to the death between old and young queen bees and the shifting political scene inside a beehive. Apples, flowers, grains and sugar beets are displayed as lovingly as the quilts and cakes in the Creative Arts building.  This building also houses one of the more unusual art mediums you've ever seen...seed art.  Unbelievably detailed, painstakingly executed and sometimes surprisingly political, this is a wonder of creativity that I could never begin to accomplish.
Yep, all seeds
The Fine Arts building is more like an art gallery, again I marvel at the huge amount of beauty created by the people of my state.  While I cannot create art, I am an appreciative and mesmerized audience.  You move seamlessly from the hustle and bustle of the fairgrounds with the noise and crowds to a collection of art that rivals high end galleries.  It's a different atmosphere in the Fine Arts building, the pace is slower, it's quieter and even a bit reverent in those rooms.  I always find the Fine Arts building calming, a nice little quiet time in the midst of the fair.
There is some really beautiful stuff in there.
The Dairy building is where you find the quintessential Minnesota fair thing...the butter busts of Princess Kay and her court.  Seriously, life sized busts of 7 young women carved from butter.
Nope, not a metaphor, butter busts.

You can visit the booths of a variety of politicians, home improvement services, foods and products from all over the world.  The Miracle of Birth center is the cutest place in the entire grounds, the grandstand houses world class musical entertainment and a host of gadgets, tcotchkes and stuff you never knew you needed but you must bring them home NOW.

My little family has our own carved in stone tradition, we go to the fair early in the morning on the first Monday of the fair.  There is no better event that takes place during the entire fair than the herding dog trials.  I adore this event, not because the incredible skills of these dogs are a wonder to behold, but for the rookie class.  I love, love, love the rookies. Don't get me wrong, the experts are ah-mazing, but my heart will always by firmly held by the rookies.  These dogs are VERY new to the world of herding, most have been at it less than a year and it shows.  The dogs and their handlers have four minutes to get three uncooperative sheep through a series of obstacles and into a small pen.  The experts practically snap their fingers and the sheep obey immediately.  The rookies have not earned the respect of the sheep and it shows.  First of all, the rookies get SUPER excited to see the sheep when they are let  into the ring, the sheep are not nearly as happy and initially do their damndest to get the hell out of there with a lot of milling about and bumping into each other.  The rookies do a lot of romping about punctuated with belly crawling and straight up laying down (this is hard work, y'all).  Usually the sheep split off and then all hell breaks loose as the hapless rookies have no idea how to handle three separate sheep when the single cluster of sheep was barely manageable.  The handler tries to communicate commands to the rookie either through whistles or voice commands.  It goes well for the first thirty seconds or so but deteriorates quickly once the sheep realize they're dealing with a newbie.  By about 2:30, the handler has usually resigned him/her self to the fact that those sheep are not going into the pen.  The rookies are usually having too much fun to notice that they've failed.  This year, two handlers decided that it would be a good idea to train Corgis to herd was not.  The sheep seemed confused as hell as to what they were even seeing, much less that they were supposed to obey it.  The Corgis, to their credit, did their best to keep up but have you EVER seen a Corgi's legs?  By the end of the four minutes, each on of those poor little guys had to be carried out of the arena, probably to nap for the remainder of the day.  However, the Corgis were no match, entertainment wise, to the clueless trainer that attempted to train a Husky as a herding dog a few years ago.  Huskies are working dogs, yes, but herding is definitely not in their wheelhouse.  Not. Even. Close.  This dog was so damn happy to see the sheep, there was barking, there was cavorting, there was that thing dogs do with their head and paws at floor level and their butts wiggling in the air.  The sheep were having none of it, moving as a group, they led this Husky to every part of the arena, managing to miss every single obstacle.  The even tried taking refuge by surrounding the handler for a moment until the Husky, barking happily hurtled toward them with reckless abandon, stopping only after a graceful leap over two of the sheep and literally scaring the pee out of the third.  The clock ticked down as the sheep leaned into the handler, the Husky danced and barked and the handler reassessed his life choices.  Time ran out and Dot, the expert clean up dog, shot into the arena to restore order.  The sheep seemed glad to see her and dutifully followed her out of the ring.  The handler called his dirty, happy, goofball of a dog to his side and gratefully acknowledged the largest and loudest applause of the day.  The Husky seemed to be satisfied. 

So there you have it, my loving ode to the Minnesota State Fair, start making your plans now for next year.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Thank You For Playing

I'm pretty savvy about stuff.  As a natural born skeptic, I don't fall for much.  In this day and age, more and more scams and rip offs emerge on an almost hourly basis.  Sadly, a lot of people get taken for a ride and, in some cases, lose everything.  I recently saw a story about a computer programmer that someone tried the IRS scam on and he turned the tables in delicious fashion.  Those stories are awesome and hopefully, a lesson for all of us.

Once upon a time, we'd get the odd call on our home phone.  My method of dealing with them when they'd call for my beloved (usually butchering pronunciation of our last name, a tip off) was to burst into noisy tears and demand they tell me where the son of a bitch got himself off to leaving me alone with all these kids and no car and who the hell did he think he was anyway. The response from the other end of the line usually ranged from apologetic to sympathetic to extremely uncomfortable stammering but the end result was the same: I'd never hear from them again.  Bonus that I'd get to hone my acting skills at the same time.

I got a good one the other day, I'm sure you've heard of it, the "Windows Tech Support" call.  My call came in the form of Todd (I'm betting not his real name) who magically detected a serious problem with my computer and needed remote access to fix it. It being a bit of a slow day and this kind of shit pissing me off to no end, I decided to have a little fun with ToddNotTodd.
Our journey together begins when he tells me to get in front of my computer so he can talk me through the next steps, I happily comply (honing my acting skills again, YAY!). I immediately interrupt ToddNotTodd to tell him I turned it off because that's what they say to do on TV shows if your computer is broken and that ALWAYS fixes everything.  ToddNotTodd tells me I didn't need to do that but okay.  So we wait together while my imaginary computer reboots, I whistle tunelessly and he sighs a few times.  My imaginary computer rebooted, ToddNotTodd starts his instruction again, telling me to double click on "My Computer" on the start menu.  I say okee dokee and tell him that I've opened the start menu and clicked restart because I know that's different than turning it off and on again.  ToddNotTodd says "No!", and rather sharply, I must say.  I apologize profusely and tell him that it's showing the Windows picture and that's a good thing, right?  ToddNotTodd says that's fine, he seems a bit bothered at this point but is determined to help me.  I tell him about my five cats while we wait. ToddNotTodd seems less than enthusiastic to hear about about Boots, Sassy, Fluffy, Miss Priss and Tim.

My computer freshly rebooted, we are ready to proceed.  ToddNotTodd, a new spring in his step, gets back to the business at hand, getting me to allow him into my financials.  We move through the process slowly and on step two, I interrupt to tell him to wait a minute, Miss Priss has pulled the mouse cord loose and it doesn't work.  I tell ToddNotTodd not to worry, I can fix it by turning my computer off and on again.  I receive an anguished "DON'T DO THAT!" from the other end of the phone.  I tell ToddNotTodd it's okay, the computer will be ready in a couple on minutes.  ToddNotTodd thinks I'm low hanging fruit, too dumb to function, so he hangs in there for another restart.  I tell him how I tried to make a standing rib roast last night and after it came out of the oven, two of the cats and the dog knocked it onto the floor and we ended up having Taco John's instead and I don't usually eat that kind of food because of my digestion. ToddNotTodd is disinterested and is muttering continuously, I think it might be some kind of calming mantra.
Fourth restart finished, ToddNotTodd decides to sally forth, he has a mission to complete and failure is clearly not an option.  We start over, as I've forgotten by now what it was he wants me to do and we get three steps in when I tell him my computer just made a beep sound and I know that can't be good so what should we do? At this point, ToddNotTodd loses his head completely and shouts "DON'T, WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T TURN IT OFF!" I respond with "Turn it off? Whatever you say, Todd!"
Who he thought he was dealing with.
Who he WAS dealing with.

Perhaps ToddNotTodd made a tearful plea to his God for a moment or two because there  is a long pause before he speaks again.  In very careful and measured tones, he starts again, enunciating every instruction as clearly as he possibly can while I make him repeat every single direction three times before acting on it.  I make him start over twice.  I believe ToddNottTodd has begun drinking from a hideout flask at this point because all the life has gone out of his demeanor, he seems sad and a little defeated.  I ask him if he's accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  ToddNotTodd does not respond.  I tell him I accidentally turned to computer off again and ToddNotTodd becomes more than a little put out.  By now, we've been at it for almost 30 minutes and I have an appointment in less than an hour.  While ToddNotTodd weeps and bangs his head on his desk, I reveal my true nature and tell him that there was no way in hell this was going to end with a success on his part.  I tell him I hope I gave him a migraine and he should find a more honest way to make a living.  ToddNotTodd called me a foul name and hung up on me.  I don't think we're friends anymore.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

It's Not A PARTY Party

There is a cultural paradigm that I don't completely understand and, try as I might, cannot embrace.  I speak of the (Insert Something Here) party.  I'm not talking costume, kegger, Super Bowl or dance party; I'm talking the kind of party that involves demonstrations, catalogs and a huge, steaming slice of guilt. I have been to just a few of these events (I say event because, in no way do I consider them real parties) only out of a deep love for the friends who invite me.

The last one I attended was a Tupperware(tm) gathering. I was not planning to go but my very dear friend who was hosting called me an hour before it was due to start in a state of advanced panic that no one but her daughter was coming.  I love her so I went.  And that's when the trouble started.  Upon arriving at the soiree, I met Debbie the Tupperware(tm) lady.  Debbie is a true believer, a true Tupperware(tm) zealot, a high priestess of the Church of Plastic Food Storage and Other Plastic Items You Never Knew You Needed (CPFSOPIYNKYN for short). First off, High Priestess Debbie is a toucher, not a pat on the shoulder or too long handshake kind of toucher, but the kind that will rest a hand on your should when standing behind you while making her sales pitch...repeatedly, kind of toucher.
A little like that, yeah.

So right away High Priestess Debbie is giving me the willies with all the unnecessary touching, this does not bode well for the rest of the fete, but because I love my friend, I suppress my usual reaction to unwelcome touching and sally forth. HP Debbie is a bundle of energy, I'll give her that, she rocketed around the room with the kind of frenetic energy usually only seen in overstimulated toddlers and that thing Will Smith set loose in "Men In Black"

Yup, exactly.
She was a sight to behold, both her energy and enthusiasm were boundless, I do admire that kind of dedication so long as they don't try to suck me down their particular rabbit hole. That, however, is EXACTLY the goal of these affairs. Of course they're going to sell you loads of shit you MUST HAVE NOW or you will have a sad, unfulfilled life and will die alone. So you buy the shit.  But that's not all, you see. If you're smart, you buy your shit, fake a seizure and get the hell out of there before it goes any further.  I was overtired, hungry and my reflexes are not what they used to be so I did not quickly take the necessary steps to protect myself from what came next.

HP Debbie did not achieve her lofty position within the Tupperware(tm) corp by being complacent, no siree! She got there by sucking people into her vortex and getting them to agree to things they never would have dreamed themselves capable of doing outside of the mysterious and heady confines of a Tupperware(tm) fete. First, she tells you that you have the perfect personality to be a Tupperware(tm) consultant and that becoming one is a life-changing experience on par with orgasms or finding out that chocolate cures cancer, aging and makes you thin and hot.  She barely misses a beat when you find the strength within you to decline and parries with the suggestion (and I use that word loosely) that you host a party of your own.  When the temptations of all the free shit and discounted items that will rain down like manna from the gods don't work on you, she drops the Fat Man and Little Boy of guilt on your head. If you book a party, your friend, the one you love enough to come to this shindig, will get gifts and credits and discounts and if your really love her and she means anything to you at all and if you're any kind of friend and not a complete bastard coated bastard with a creamy bastard center dipped in bastard sauce with colorful bastard sprinkles you'll do it.

I tried to stand my ground, I hemmed, I hawed, I hedged, I broke...she got me. With my remaining backbone, I pleaded my case down to a "Facebook Party" so I could have all the benefits and none of the work. Whatever, by that point I truly believed I was never getting out of that room unless I agreed to something. I handed over a $140 check for the shit I purchased and beat a hasty retreat before I could betray any more of my beliefs that night.

I don't know how I got here.
I got home, back to the safety of my den and into the arms of my beloved, dazed, exhausted and salsa streaked, but whole and alive. I made it through the darkness and all the many dangers that threatened me, but damn it, I survived.  I immersed myself in my normal life and slowly put the events of that night behind me until a couple of weeks passed and my shit didn't arrive. WHERE IN THE HELL was my microwave breakfast maker and my vegetable keeper system?  I had been convinced that my life was incomplete without them by HP Debbie and was adrift and consumed by anguish without them. I did notice my check had been cashed posthaste.  Finally, the Holy Grail of kitchen items arrived and at last, the clouds parted and the skies turned blue again as I unboxed the items that I had been assured would change my life.

The microwave breakfast maker with the poached egg inserts (add. $8) emerged from the box like The Birth Of Venus as a choir of angelic voices heralded the arrival of all that is good and beautiful and purple plastic on this earth.  At last! I will be able to make omelets and French toast and poached eggs in 2 1/2 minutes any time I want to! It doesn't matter that I never wanted to before, I CAN.  A quick wash and dry and I'm ready to poach some eggs, don't care that it's 2:30 on a Thursday afternoon, I can poach eggs in the microwave.  I follow the instructions to the letter, I poke the yolk like I'm supposed to even though it's counter-intuitive, I do it. I set the timer for 2 and a half minutes, per the booklet. I push start and breathlessly watch the numbers tick down to silky, poached perfection.  It all goes as planned until the timer shows :27 and BANG! the lid pops off, the unit jumps like it was stung and egg suddenly coats the window of the microwave.  
My view now blocked, I can only imagine what's happening as further bangs and a strange hissing noise now fill the kitchen.  The cats have since fled the room, leaving me to face whatever is trying to escape the microwave on my own.  I cautiously, and with shaking hands, push "Cancel" to stop further mutation of the eggs within.  Opening the microwave after a couple of shots of liquid courage, I encounter carnage my kitchen has not seen since the Great Peeps slaughter of '03. Bits of egg have flown everywhere, restrained only by the door of the appliance, I owe it a life debt that can never be repaid.
Okay, maybe not QUITE.

Cautious but undeterred, I repeat the process and set the timer for 2 minutes. While the bangs and hissing return, nothing explodes this time, I am encouraged.  Opening the microwave, all appears to be well so I carefully open the purple, kidney shaped wonder that shall change the lives of all that use it to find solidified eggs.  This is not what is supposed to happen, poached eggs are supposed to be runny and gooey and gorgeous and sexy and not the approximate texture and appearance of a golf ball.  THIS SHALL NOT STAND.  I go in once more, setting for 1:30 this time.  The microwave gamely chugs on, doing its job without drama or argument. I am encouraged by the lack of fuss or fanfare from within the purple confines of the breakfast maker, I think we've done it.  The oven finishes its work and happily lets me know it's time for some lovely poached eggs.  Or not, once again, the breakfast maker with poached egg inserts (add. $8) has made a mockery of all I've been trying to accomplish.  The yolks are again hard and unyielding while the whites are still clear and only barely cooked.  Fine, I don't even want effing poached effing eggs any more.  Stupid eggs. Stupid breakfast maker. Stupid poached egg inserts (add. $8). Stupid Tupperware(tm). Stupid HP Debbie.

By now, I'm covered with sadness and bits of egg as a lay on the floor in the fetal position while the cats happily gorge on scattered chunks of weird, rubbery orange and white material that once was innocent, unspoiled eggs.  Damn me for what I have done to the eggs, the microwave and the kitchen at large.

Unfortunately for HP Debbie, this is the moment she chose to call to hear all about my Facebook Party that wasn't a party at all.  Parties are fun and have people and fun and not Tupperware(tm).  Oh Debbie, just no.  To say she was disappointed when I told her the entire thing had slipped my mind completely, is a bit of an understatement.  She tried her damndest to keep the dream alive by offering to extend the time another week. I finally told her that another week wasn't going to make a difference as I really had no desire to continue this charade and I was little sorry about that.  I could hear HP Debbie deflating, turning back into just Debbie, her powers gone, her hold over me broken at last, I was free.  Free to reclaim the word PARTY, to bring it back to its former glory, to reestablish its identity once again.  This is my gift to the world, I have liberated the word party from this sales pitch prison and that is, perhaps, the destiny I was born to fulfill.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

To My Family

As we come the the close of "the year of firsts", I need to pay tribute to my family.  I have these three sisters, you see, and I don't know that I have ever told them how truly bad ass I think they are.  I had to watch from afar for most of the year from hell as they juggled everything.  They had jobs they had to do, they had families that needed them and they had these two parents that careened off the rails at the same time.  They managed to handle it all, work as an incredible team and still love each other when the dust settled.  I don't know if they realized just how mammoth an undertaking that was, it was just something they had to do.  They coordinated doctor's appointments, emergency room trips, long term and rehabilitative care; they arranged cleaning, repair and emptying our beloved family home and no one hated each other when it was over.  I am not afraid of our family drifting apart because these incomparable women are made of the kind of glue that never, ever loses its strength.  I am in awe of them and I doubt I could ever come close to adequately expressing how much I love them.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention my brothers in law, the men who slogged through that mess with them.  In a day and age when something like one in three marriages end in divorce, they have chosen so well.  Four of us, all 20 years in and we're all here, still together and that's a hell of a thing.  These men that arrived in our family 25 and 30 years ago walked through fire with us and lightened the load that threatened to bury us last year.  They are my brothers, my friends and the men I admire the most because they love my sisters and endured that terrible year with patience, grace and an unbelievable amount of manual labor.  There is no way we could have made it through without you, we are so lucky.

Their kids put up with their lives being upended as well.  They pitched in and did the heavy lifting, the cleaning and whatever else was needed, they showed us what wonderful adults they are and will be. They put up with moms that weren't as available, that were maybe more fragile than they'd ever seen and dads that were perhaps feeling helpless and unsure.  These kids are our legacy and I'm not worried about what kind of people they're going to be when they grow up because I've already seen what they're made of.  I'm so proud of them.

My husband felt as bewildered and helpless as I did, but never let me see that.  He kept me calm when I became frantic and guilt ridden that I wasn't down there in the trenches with my sisters.  He sat on the floor next to me when I'd finally crack and dissolve into sobs because it seemed my world was ending.  He never complained when I left every other week and came back wrecked because I didn't want to be here, but there.  I won the lottery when I married that man.

My boys saw their mom falling apart at the seams and showed me what wonderful men they're going to be.  They did everything in their power to make it better and they succeeded, I don't know if I've ever told them how much they helped me during that awful time.  I see so much of their father's deep compassion in my boys, they already are good men.

The extended family saved our sanity time and time again.  They showed up and did whatever needed to be done, dirty work included.  They reminded us again and again that we were not doing this all alone and that they always and forever have our backs.  I know our cousins will forever bring us joy and laughter and that feeling that the world can never break us because we have them.  My earliest memories are of them and my deepest love is for them.

The aunts are the old guard, they have the stories and the memories of what came before all of us.  They are the grande dames and the mothers of us all now.  These three women are our pillars and our roots.  They knew mom and dad before they were mom and dad, they loved us all from the beginning and we owe so much to their influence in our lives.

Our non-blood family showed us that family isn't always family.  They loved us and supported us and did not leave us when things got bad.  Mom and dad's oldest friends stuck through it with them until the bitter end and held us up as we waded through our grief, we did not drown because of these people.  They were a life raft, they were the hug from mom and dad that we needed as we buried our parents and said those painful goodbyes.

I don't know how I will ever repay these incredible people that got us through, there is nothing I can say except thank you and I love all of you more than I can ever possibly express.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Getting It All Out

In trying to not let the bad stuff creep into this generally happy space I've attempted to create here, I have come to realize that I've hamstrung myself quite a bit.  Last year sucked, it sucked more than I ever imagined anything could actually suck and still be survivable and I'm still not put back together yet. There it is, I'm not there yet but I'm trying.  The world has become dark and scary and finding patches of light has become harder and harder but we manage to do so, we have to.  I am finding that I have to detox from the news and the internet from time to time because I'm far more fragile than I thought. Sometimes the sad and scary stuff overwhelms me, I want to talk to my mom and I can't and everything just seems that much worse.  I haven't written a word for several months because I really didn't want to keep on the "poor me, my parents died" theme but you know what? My parents died and while grownup me accepts and understands it all, the me that still wants her mom and dad to talk to when the world is ugly and scary doesn't understand and will never accept that they are gone and not coming back.  These two factions have been at war and have definitely handicapped me in a lot of ways, but I'm trying.

I figure if I just lay it all out and organize it, I can start to shed some of the darkness and really step back into the lighter place I normally occupy, so bear with me for a bit.

For starters, 2016 really needs to take it down a notch, from mom, David Bowie and Alan Rickman to Prince and Ali, can we be done for a while, please?

I try to keep my little corner of the blogosphere fairly politic free, so I'm just going to do this once. I hate what our system has become. We LOVE to hold ourselves up as this shining example of democracy and, in this woman's opinion, we are screwing it up so hard.  I tire of paying a bunch of people to do nothing.  If the rest of us went to work and said it out loud that we had no intention of doing our jobs because we don't like the other people in the office, our asses would be out the door while the words still hung in the cartoon speech bubble over our heads.
I cannot, for the life of me, comprehend the reality that someone like Donald Trump is a viable candidate for the highest office in the land.  To people who support him, I am not going to vilify you or call you names, I just want to say one thing.  I am so sorry that things are going so badly in your life, that you are so afraid and beaten down that embracing a man with nothing to offer but hate, isolation and fear seems like the only way back.  I hope you find something to believe in, something to bring you joy before it is too late.  My dearest wish is that your world, your life, your situation improves to the point that you have room for hope and joy and love again.  It's dark as hell right now, but remember that even in these tense and troubling times, people are good, we are good and the only way through the dark stuff is by reaching for the light.  There is light, I believe it with every bit of my soul.  All is not lost and we're going to get through it the only way we can, together.
I refuse to let the ugliness of rhetoric, bluster and political posturing drive me under the bed or into a bunker.  I do not believe my country is a hate filled place, I know it's good, despite what they show us on the news.  I am not going to let CNN, Twitter, Facebook or Fox rob me of my joy and my optimism, it's mine and you can't have it.  I will share it with you, I will help you find some of your own and I will celebrate with you when you do. I challenge you to find some joy in each day.  Not a chuckle, not a fleeting ghost of a smile, but something that when you think of it later in the day, you smile and get all warm and fuzzy.  Go play Pokemon and walk around your neighborhood, stomp in the puddle, pop the bubble wrap, eat the damn cookie. Just fricking do it and quit being an old poop.  I'm sure I'm sounding naive and perhaps even a bit simple to some, but to the rest, I ask you to give it a shot.  You might live longer, or at least you'll be happier while you last.  Take a step back, turn off the world and just find something that brings you joy, you need it, trust me.