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Thursday, July 9, 2015

The pride of plunging

Sometimes I get the feeling that I’m going to be a feisty old woman; the kind of woman who covers the back of her car in stickers and tells the waiter just what I think of the food when it arrives without concern because feisty old women don’t care what others think.  They are so unfazed by the thoughts of others, these glorious gutsy women carry on with a strong head on proud shoulders.  This feeling hit me again when I found myself doing a little plumbing work at a local establishment.
I would have never expected myself to be the kind of person to be standing in this restroom holding a plunger, but there I was, throwing caution to the wind and unclogging a public toilet.  I admit while standing there and staring at the nearly overflowing toilet, a few thoughts crossed my mind.   The first thought naturally was, “why am I standing here, watching a public toilet overflow?”  The second was, “I should probably do something about this.”  The third was, “if I go tell the people in charge, they were going to think that I clogged the toilet, which I did not, and that I was too straitlaced to do anything about it.”  The fourth was, “well, here we go.”
There have certainly been times in my life when I would have simply stormed right out of there, but time and wisdom and general apathy set in with age, not to mention the multiple badges of motherhood that I have earned changing diapers, scrubbing unmentionables, and various other unprincess-like tasks that I seem to tackle on a daily basis.  (“Sorry I missed your call, mom, I was out catching crickets for the frogs and fixing the neighbor kid’s bike.”)  I no longer take heed when faced with tasks at hand and dive right in instead of pawning them off on others. 
And although I did not dive right into the plugged porcelain bowl, I did what any feisty woman would.  I stuck in the plunger and with a simple heave ho, watched the water drain down with success.  A quick wash of the hands and a double check of my handiwork, and I left that commode knowing I had left the world a better place in spite of my reputation for being a public toilet plumber. 
I marched my shoes right up to the first employee I could find and politely told the bartender that although the bathroom floor may need a bit of tending to, I, the woman who has sacrificed good status for this act, had saved the day.  His blank stare caught me as off guard as my story did to him, but still it was one of those life moments that make me think that feisty women, young or old, kind of make the world go round.

I need a sticker like that for the back of my car.

Originally written 7/28/14

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Happy little habits

This fall, my husband and I will celebrate our fifteenth anniversary.  We’ve been together through sickness and health, good times and bad, and even survived extended road trips with all three kids fighting in the backseat.  There is no one else I would rather spend my life with, and am thankful for every day he puts up with my weirdness.
But just recently I think we’ve gotten more comfortable with each other because within the last month I have found out about a couple of my quirky habits of which I was completely unaware.
“Do you realize you always eat ice cream that way?” he asked at a restaurant while I was downing my delight from the ice cream sundae bar.  Not sure what he was talking about, I offered up a questioning look and he and the children all demonstrated.  “You put the spoon in your mouth and then you turn it upside down.  Every single time.”
“No I don’t!” I argued, but while enjoying seconds of ice cream I noticed he was exactly right.  I flip the spoon over in my mouth.  I am a freak and instant panic set in—here I was, for the last fifteen years thinking that I was a model of perfection without any annoying habits to irritate my family.  Apparently I was wrong.
The devastation continued not long after.  “Do you realize that every time you go to the bathroom you blow your nose?”
“No I don’t!”
“Yes, you do.  I hear you walk in, shut the door, and you blow your nose.”
After making myself aware of it, I found out it was absolutely true.  A complete robotic routine I didn’t even know I was doing.  Just like the flip of the spoon.  How many other instinctive behaviors have I been putting him through for all these years?  How could he not go stark raving mad watching me eat ice cream and listening to me honking my nose?  How could he stay with me through all of this madness?!?
Wondering and watching every step I took and action I did, I woke up early, made coffee, and poured it for my kindhearted and patient husband.  He came downstairs and grabbed his coffee and commenced his routine of drinking it with the loudest sip I have yet to hear in my entire life.  Even when I attempt to mock him I am not able to make so loud a sip.  I dare say that if I hooked up a vacuum hose to the rim of a coffee cup, it may not rival it.
But I say nothing (and neither will you, dear readers!) because as much as it drives me crazy, I know that these little habits make happy marriages.  I’m sure of it.  We’ve got fifteen years under our belt to prove it.

Originally written 7/20/14 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Jumping for joy

I have always been fairly against trampolines.  The injuries, the liability, the thought of a massive fifteen-foot circular monstrosity clogging up the backyard; it was all just too much to handle.  There was no way one of those things were ever coming to my house.
But then I realized the containment capability of a trampoline.  Now that they are required to have safety nets that extend way beyond any reasonable height a person could actually jump, they look a lot less like a trampoline and a lot more like a play pen suitable for grown children. 
Our kids begged for one and during the whining I had a vision of myself sitting in a lawn chair relaxing while they jumped happily for hours on the trampoline and not on my couch, beds, or off the walls.  I caved under a dream sequence that involved my actually finishing a book and a cup of hot coffee, and the monstrosity arrived shortly after.
Anyone who has set up a trampoline knows what is coming next.  If you haven’t had the pleasure of doing so, let me give a couple of pointers:
-Read the directions in their entirety, cover to cover, before you start. 
-If you happened to have purchased the same brand that we did, reading the directions will do no good.
-Keep your children out of hearing range because the profanity of an angry sailor will unavoidably ensue.
-A set of matches will be handy when it is finally assembled so that you can set fire to the blood-pressure rising directions which failed to mention one very important step.
I understand that a lot of things are not manufactured in an English speaking country, and I accept that so much can be lost in translation, but when a crucial set of directions fails to mention the correct location to start attaching all 96 springs that encircle the trampoline, I start to get a little upset.  And then if you don’t realize that you have incorrectly assembled 96 springs as well as the rest of the joyous toy until you have done all of that and tied together 192 straps, I begin sounding a bit like that sailor myself.
We started too late in the day, and then after putting the entire thing together and then having to take it all apart, we had to shift it twelve slots to the left and re-build the item of desire in the dark so that we could finally say “yes” when the children constantly asked if it was done yet.
And then, they jumped.  And jumped. And I sit in the comfort of my chair and watch them play cheerfully and I do quiet things, like read a book or drink some tea or write an online review for a wonderful trampoline with the worst set of instructions I have yet to find in my non-sea faring life.

Originally written 7/13/14

Cell coverage

There are still parts of this world that don’t offer cell coverage.  In these rare places, you can find your average human beings who are usually riddled with kindness angrily pushing buttons and holding their arms in the air while balancing on chairs on top of chairs on top of tables.
Or you might find someone who happily hits the off button and goes on his or her merry way.
This used to be me.  At a family cabin hangout, we used to have zero cell service.  In fact, my father once bet me $50 that I couldn’t complete a phone call and I walked away with a dropped jaw and a heavy pocket.  For the most part, we were isolated.  There were no emails, texts, phone calls.  The thought of Facebook crossed no one’s mind.  It was a place to escape the reality of the uber-connectedness of the modern world where you could eat a delicious plate of food and if you took an antiqued photograph of it, it would possibly be days before it hit the social media for others to like. 
But then, a new cell tower went in.
At first, we were all in denial.  “It doesn’t really work.  You have to balance on this chair wearing a helmet made of aluminum foil and hold a spoon in your teeth if you want to send a text,” we exaggerated, trying to fool ourselves.   
Before long, technology improved and even though we often pretend to disconnect, it now works quite well back in those hills.
Sometimes, though, the world works in mysterious ways. 
While recently visiting, I felt a bit of disconnect of my own because even people who write humor columns in the newspaper have bad days.  Feeling a little down and sad, there came a faint “ding” from my phone that had been stashed in my pocket only for taking photos.
“Just wanted to say hi.  Stuck in FL but miss u!” wrote my vacationing friend, as randomly as if an eagle had flown overhead.
I smiled.
Not long after, another “bing” from my back pocket, the conclusion of a group conversation with old friends from hours earlier.  “We all need to get together soon.  For real this time.”
There’s something to be said for removing yourself from the outside world, the constant connection that never lets us feel alone.  But that evening when my spirits were down, there were my friends, new and old, magically picking me up via the mystery of the airwaves by saying hello at the right time from right in my pocket. 
I vowed just then to make sure I send a text the second I get an inkling to say hello to someone.  Perhaps the airwaves and continued cell coverage was just what they might need, too.

Originally written 7/6/14

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The lies I’ve told

It didn’t help that my mother was a school aide and when we’d run outside to recess my “friend” would sprint up and tell her that once again, I didn’t eat the crust of my sandwich.
I didn’t like the crust.  So like many kids, I’d nibble all the way to the edge and then toss out that dark brown and vile part.
My mother did the only respectable thing a mother could do.  She told me a lie.  Two of them, actually.
“Did you know that the crust of your bread makes your hair curly?  And the more bread you eat, the more you’ll float when you swim.  Ever throw bread in a pond?  It floats!”
I, being the straight haired swimming sinker, bought into it for quite a while, stuffing myself with bread and gagging down the crusts, checking my hair in the mirror and laying on top of the water at the lake.
Why would my mother lie to me, I wondered?
And then I became a mother.  We lie out of desperation, out of exhaustion, and sometimes just for fun.
A recent evening of resting our feet up on a giant hassock, some inquisitive child of mine asked why my second toe is so much longer than the big toe, which it really is.  Like a quarter inch.  I often wonder if I should have specialty shoes made to accommodate them. 
It’s actually called “Morton’s Toe,” or sometimes Greek Foot, Shepard’s Toe, or my favorite, Royal Toe.  It’s not actually a super long second toe, it’s a shortened first toe.  There is also a group of people that truly believe that it’s a genetic deformity that originated with an ancient royal family, so anyone who boasts this freakish foot phenomenon comes from royal blood.  Feel free to refer to me as “your highness” from now on.  I know for sure it’s genetic because I see the same long toe in my father and some of my children.
But where’s the fun in that?
“It’s called Brain Toe.  The longer the second toe, the higher a person’s IQ.  Look how long my second toe is; I’m just really, really smart.  Look at your dad’s toe,” I joke.  “It’s sadly not so long.”
Immediately they investigate their toes and my short-toed husband looks at me and rolls his eyes as I spread the harmless lies of parenthood that I just can’t bring myself to correct. 
And instantly, the snowball effect of telling a simple little late night fib commences, especially during flip flop season.  They can’t go anywhere without examining everyone’s feet and pointing out just how intelligent or not friends and strangers are.
Maybe they are budding podiatrists?  They do have the long-toe smarts to handle med school.

Originally written 6/28/14 
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