Waiting for Blizzards

Smoking Grass

Snow is to start at midnight and continue until Monday at noon, dumping up to 20 inches during ambient negative temps and wind chills so low I could kill a boar and leave it outside until the grill is heated.
That was the forecast at sunset.
Thirty minutes ago, updates report that we might get 8 inches of the white stuff with no temps below zero.
I’m giving it until 3am to learn that tomorrow will be sunny and forty degrees.
Millions of dollars in sonar, radar, blipping machines that tell the time on Mars and no idea when or how much snow will fall.
At sunrise tonight I pressed my into the “throw boiling water in the air and it will turn into vapor, or snow, or fuzzy stuff resembling steam…I don’t know…just do it.”
Come to find out, 16 as a positive integer is not cold enough to vaporize anything, but boiling water will shock dormant flurry-covered Bermuda grass into early death.
Friends say, “Wait until the temp is negative 15 and try again,” but I’d already compromised my personal ethic by venturing outside during less than freezing temperatures, so waiting another thirty degrees to throw water to the wind is not on my horizon.
Also, smoking grass looks similar to a whale trying to breach the prairie.
Come spring, I’ll be reseeding the lawn.


Fallen, Fashion-less, but not Defeated

Today is a ridiculously cold, and getting colder, week. Forecast is for 10 days of single digit temps with wind chills in the negative digits. Oh, and new to the party, we are expecting fifteen to twenty inches of snow on Saturday.
It just gets better, doesn’t it? I’m afraid to turn on the news tonight, in case of locusts or frogs.
Lately, I’ve found myself tossing one or two items of clothing into the trash each day. I’m sick of everything in my closet, all of it, and instead of reasonably filling the voids before tossing things aside, I stare at empty hangers and swear no one Out There is making cute but affordable clothing for middle aged women.
And then I get mad because I’m middle aged.
And then the WEATHER is threatening my good spirit.
I’m just angry.
Yet I need my job.
So I stomped outside in slippers — threw my boots out because the dog ate the top half; seemed reasonable to delete them from the closet — and promptly fell upon my bulbous bottom before spilling to the side taking out a shoulder.
And here I am, still angry, but enjoying the benefits of Advil and tiny sips of limoncello while perched atop a heating pad by a roaring fireplace.
Still no clothes to wear tomorrow — the most recent clothing purchase I made and still enjoy wearing was for a fundraiser shirt for a local charity; so soft, I’m telling you — still no appropriate footwear, still need to get to work tomorrow, but all in all, not a horrible day.


Convo Flow of a Pro and a No-Know Non-Pro

A photographer friend gave me a camera a while ago and I have yet to learn how to use it.
It’s on my list.
Today I wanted professional photos of my artwork and since I’m not a pro, I consulted my pro friend.
Granted, I’ve had the camera about a year and by now should have learned its ins and outs, or at least more than On/Off. But I didn’t.
Anyway, here’s our text-versation:
Me: What’s the best setting on the camera to take photos of paintings I’ve done now when the light is so good from my west window?
Him: Automatic is good as anything
Him: Maybe set your exposure compensation 1/2 stop over exposed
Him: Make sure shutter speed is at least 1/60th of a sec (preferably 1/100 or faster) if you are handholding the camera
Me: Yes! That’s the kind of weird professional photographer kind of technical stuff I was looking for! (I was really was, because then when someone asked, “How did you take this exquisite photo?” I could answer honestly with lingo I did not understand but accomplished.
Me: Whaaaaaat?
Him: That said, you artists are very OCD with the photographing of your artwork so maybe take a pic and then if it’s not what you want, explain to me what’s wrong and maybe I could help with ideas
Me: Ha! Yes! Ok I like that!
Texts lag a bit, as you know; crossing in the ether allows for some delay, so his next thought was slightly behind my own.
Him: What do you mean?!!! You asked!!
Me: LOL! Yes I did
Him: And it wasn’t even technical! Next time though, next time
Me: It was totally technical…you can’t go from “fully automatic” to “f stops a half step over xx the short stop with bases loaded at 1/600 of a second past midnight”
Him: Two settings! TWO!!
Me: Problem: my paper is wrinkly and the window is so dirty I’m actually photographing smudged glass reflected upon my painting…I wish I was kidding.
Me: Where are these settings?
Him: Just use auto!
Him: And see what happens
Me: Ok, ok, sheesh…so much yelling…
Him: Then let me know what you don’t like about it. The whole key is trying to keep the whites white; the camera wants to make them gray. Hence 1/2 over exposed.
Me: Yup, gray. Where’s the half stop?
Me: And when was I OCD? I loved your photos [of my previous art, photos he’d taken and suspiciously did not offer to take today] and I don’t remember complaining about a single thing
Him: …
Me: This th
ing [the camera] isn’t touch screen…it’s broken…
Him: …
Me: Um…hello?
Him: …
Me: I broke you, didn’t I?
Many minutes later…
Me: I found the half stop! Yay, me!
Twenty-two minutes later…
Him: Ok. Did you figure it out? Did you get results?
Me: I…got pretty pics…I think. Wanna see? I can maybe figure out how to DL to a FD [flash drive] and IM them to you. [I’m not certain in any way I can DL them…it requires a cord, and rising from this comfy chair and digging into the depths of one of the many kitchen junk drawers for a cord I’m not certain I would recognize if I saw it]
Him: …
Yup, he’s done with me.
But sometimes, poking at someone is just too fun. 🙂




Prairie Dwelling with what Preys

fuzzy mantis

Yesterday, I communed with nature,
I meant to whack nature down with the tractor, not make peace, but along came a preying mantis to perch upon my hood.
I took the picture without cutting the mower because, hey, I was working. All that vibration and the mantis is fuzzy, yes, but look how crisp the grass appears? Splotchy, browned by August heat, but green thanks to weird rains.
I digress.
We rode the acreage, and the bug made me miss my pups, the two who usually rode the plain atop my lap when I mowed. They are gone. One rode no matter what, ears flapping, toothless, tongue drying in the wind, there for the duration. The other rode until he couldn’t, at which point he clawed my denim leg seeking a point for launch. Brake. Set the pup free. Mow on, while he plodded along behind until the mower quit.
If Fitbit had counted his steps, he would have set records.
Now on a fine Sunday afternoon, a storm to the north sending cool breezes my way while I watch the clouds for lightning, Pup-less, I’m riding with a bug, his oversized eyes upon the changing horizon, my human-sized eyes torn between the sky and the insect. We are happy.
Around the sixtieth left turn, Mantis grew bored. With a pivot I did not see he set upon a path straight up the orange hood of the mower while my subconscious screamed, “They jump!”
Just as danger green-leg stilted in my direction, as soon as his antennae honed into my location, and as his back legs crouched further, tensed to pounce, I may have jerked the wheel to the left.
His tiny form flew past, front legs reaching to nab me.
Whatever he found wanting in the ride, I don’t know. But these days, I travel alone.
An hour later a juvenile rattlesnake sprang from beneath my favorite Vitex bush, and a cicada riding a weeded tree limb cried “foul!” from beneath the oversized plastic lid of the world’s most gigantic municipality-provided trash can.
I told them all to suck it and hit the shower.
All in all, a good day on the farm.


Empty Fortune

I didn’t take this as a clue, a premonition, insight from a cookie I cracked open in January at the end of a festive Asian meal celebrating the turning of a page.
At the time, I naively saw it as only interesting before snapping a photo-journalistic statement for the next 6-plus months:
2020: anomalous.

I didn’t even eat the cookie.
Cheated, twice.


Backman Overdrive

Do I wish I was a prepper, now that store shelves are depleted? Yes, a little, but I still contend that I don’t have storage for superfluous food.
Ask me in a week, when the chocolate donut gems are a memory and Bubs is seeking yet another bag of baked Lays potato chips.
THEN I’ll fervently wish I was more of a prepper, and ALSO that I had more pantries.
But for NOW, while Social Distancing, in a county newly besieged by a lone despicable case of COVID-19, I CLEAN.
And I don’t just spot-clean like I’ve done all my life, nope, not today.
Today, I BACKMAN clean.
My favorite author wrote somewhere that he cleans a bathroom like a rabid tornado — not just a REGULAR tornado, a RABID one — and though I may have altered things a bit, in my head I see a gloved, snarling, middle-aged, blondish man armed with Lysol-equivalent spray bottles, wringing a soapy sponge, gutturally snorting and diving into the bowels of the most disgusting room in any home.
I channeled the vision and did the same. I CLEANED, people, I ATTACKED, with a fervor never seen in my fifty years. The tub GLOWS, the toilet GLEAMS, the floors are unwrapped from their coating of don’t-ask-just-remove accumulated over these many moons.
I cleaned so hard that the walls look MORE beige, THAT’S how vicious I was with the scrubbing brush, the anti-septic wipes, the numerous sponges that now reside in the big blue trash can outside.
I went all BACKMAN on it, then I did it AGAIN…because there are two bathrooms…and now I’m frenzied, hopped up on fumes and redolent sounds of blaring heavy metal reverberating around one-chick army of clean.
I’m slightly deafened…perhaps the sound could have been lower.
I’m exhausted…attacking filth is hard work.
My dermis is alligator-like, dry, hardened, moisture-depleted from so very many chemicals.
And I’m discouraged…because Bubs has finally risen, disappeared into the belly of the spotless restroom, and I’m going in there….never. It’s officially dead space to me.
So THAT’S good news. No more cleaning THAT area of the house.
But the I caught a glimpse of the feet of the stove. Have you ever seen the feet of YOUR stove? I’m going to need a nap before Going Backman on THAT.


So Glad to See You, March

Three Things:
1. I hate February.
2. Kismet brings the best dogs to me.
3. I’ve been on a search for mindfulness.
Last Monday, I talked myself into heading to the gym after taking Bubs to school. As is usual, our Pekingese, Mr. Pugglesworth III, rode along for Bubs’ delivery to said school.
Because it was Monday. Pugsy knows that every Monday, after I leave the gym, I drive through the McDonald’s line for a medium hot mocha for me — because “medium” is a size at McDonald’s, bless them — and a yogurt parfait for him.
Last Monday, the road to the gym was doubled time-wise, as construction vehicles had set upon the planet and removed huge chunks of my route, forcing traffic to crawl in a lane we usually at least toddled. It’s never been a quick route, no doubt, but to double the time, on a morning I didn’t wish to travel that route in the first place, increased my resentment of my mission to Get Fit, Get Strong, Fight Aging.
But after the arduous journey, I parked the vehicle, strode into the gym, scanned my ID so I would get credit for having made the epic quest, used the restroom, and accomplished one plank before thinking, “I want to be with my dog,” and leaving the establishment.
To be clear: forty minutes on the road, ten minutes at the gym, including the walking time into and out of the building from the space where I parked.
Free, I drove my pup jubilantly toward the McDonald’s where I ordered the appropriate food stuffs and Pugsy was appropriately coo-ed upon before leaving the drive-through and heading home to drink coffee and eat yogurt. (I eat the berries; they’re virtually frozen and delicious.)
The next day, I returned home after work to find my Mr. Pugglesworth dying beneath a tree after crawling over an acre, away from the dog fight of his life, to burrow under the evergreen’s limbs and wait for darkness.
Long, long story shorter, my Pugs is alive.
He walks, he tries too hard, he weakens quickly and exhausts even faster; he is still compelled to bring mulch into the house, he hates to be left alone, he barks on occasion, and he lists to the right when he walks.
Number 4: my son suffers from anxiety issues, and Number 5, he had an enormously important task for school this week, one that would affect his grade, and Number 6, this was the worst week for something tragic to happen.
Number 7: I prayed a lot this week, for miracles, for guidance, for patience, for Bubs and Pugs equally.
It was a solid week of waves of affirmations and positive thoughts treading water with reality and prayers to not be beached.
But at last — remember Number 1? — yesterday my son, after all that we’d endured, all the prayers, all the sobbing and gasping and tortured days, my son said on a sunny, seventy-five degree Sunday, “Hey, Mom?”
“Yes, my baby.”
“It’s March 1st.”
1. We survived February.
2. This dog is our perfect companion.
3. Screw mindfulness. I had enough awareness of every moment this last week that I need to coast a while.


Ironic Aging

Age brings intolerant complacence.
I have examples.
The other day my hair dryer died. Just stopped. Without missing a beat, with my hair damp on the right, dripping on the left, I simply unplugged the beast and with a quick lean to the left, dropped the useless junk into the bathroom trash can.
Turned out to be a hat day.
Later, my electric toothbrush crapped out.
As did a space heater.
Three losses in one morning.
Technology mounted up and over the edge of the trashcan before I stopped to consider that perhaps it wasn’t the appliances so much as a blown fuse.
Five minutes later I retrieved misjudged electrically-fine paraphernalia from the bowels of waste and removed my ballcap.
With the accoutrements rehoused, only then did I consider my blasé attitude.
Shouldn’t I have been angry? frustrated? put out? Everything crapped out, I thought, yet it bothered me not at all.
Because I didn’t care? Because I didn’t want to worry about frizzy hair ever again, because I have a huge hat collection?
Maybe because Amazon delivers replacements nearly as quickly as a trip to the city and its claustrophobic forays up and down retail aisles.
Nah. It’s because I’m aging.
And I don’t have time to care about small stuff.
Another example: the next day, I determined I was sick to death of oozing toothpaste, it’s weirdly squeezed housing quietly exuding gelatinous white paste from a seemingly closed, half crusted-over opening. And the backup tube, the non-leaky one, well, it had been clamped in the middle so many times it resembled an ocean floor sea creature, weirdly shaped, deformed, and innocuous.
And I was sick of it.
So both tubes went straight into the space recently evacuated by misunderstood electronic items.
Again, because I’m aging, it’s out with the old.
No anger, no bitterness, just get rid of the stuff that bugs. Complacently.
Because I’m intolerant.



Teens Learning to Clean

At twelve years old, I needed to learn to take care of myself, including cleaning places I’d been.
I was sufficient at making my bed — no change could be bounced from the mattress I assure you, but it passed maternal inspection.
I kept my room tidy, mostly because of the onset of slight OCD. I didn’t share that tidbit; I took full credit for conscientious behavior and order following, as I did love allowance.
I vacuumed occasionally, emptied the dishwasher, dusted, all upon request. I mean, come on, a pre-teen can find one million things more fun to do than home maintenance. At last one normal Saturday afternoon my father declared it necessary that I learn to clean a toilet. The thought made me gag, but gagging in front of the paternal figure would result in a withering gaze — literally, withering; my head bowed, my shoulders rolled forward and down, all involuntary movements — so I soldiered forward into the Listening portion of the lesson.
Dad crouched in front of the porcelain throne with a sponge and a squirt bottle of undefined liquid.
“Now,” he started, lifting the lid and seat together to expose the bowl. “All you do is squirt…” Here he squirted, misting the white toilet edges as well as forming clouds of droplets that fell to the carpet and beaded. “Don’t forget to get under the lip of the bowl, that’s where a lot of dirt hides.”
And hide it did. I had never before considered any such “lip,” or noticed that water sprayed from beneath that ridge, who knew? Who cared?
I was fascinated.
“Now,” he said again, drawing in a breath. He held the sponge, a three inch rectangle of orange foam far too large for such a small space, but I didn’t know that then. “You stick your hand in and scrub the surface.” He began to demonstrate, thrusting the sponge into the water of the toilet and sloshing so much that the bedewed carpet suffered under a tide of chemical water, an onslaught from above, and my internal dialogue began with, Oh, you did NOT just stick your bare hand into the poo water!
That was the day I realized I am unable to hide emotions, whether they be elation or disgust. On this particular day it was the latter and Dad showed that his face, too, cannot hide emotion.
“It’s just water!” he thundered, his frown enormous, his displeasure scarring his face into permanent frown. “Go to your room,” he finished, at which I retreated thankfully, aware I would suffer a lecture later, and that was just fine, because EW!
Today I needed to clean the toilet and that lesson crossed my memory. I felt revulsed anew; I felt dad’s anger pelting me from the past. And I laughed aloud.
Today I didn’t have an overly large sponge, or carpet to worry about. I had a wand, and tile.
I didn’t need my bare hands to plunge into a field of bacteria and only God knows what else; I had a plastic distance to keep me safe.
Though the task is not fun, it’s certainly less life-threatening than back in the days when antibacterial soap wasn’t an item on any store shelf, but a bar of Ivory, costing 35 cents, was the norm and regularly shared by however many hands, dwelling in a soap dish, when those were a thing, until it dwindled into a rind of leftover scum, filling the dish’s ridges, nearly impossible to remove before replacement with a fresh bar.
Immune systems were titanium back then.
Bubs has learned about cleaning the toilet but not the way I did. I haven’t told him of my lessons with it because he would never forget it, as I haven’t, and there’s no need for such a disgusting visual.
I expanded his lessons to include laundry. I’m appalled at what teenagers consider dirty, and what they do not, because Bubs’ scale is the polar opposite of my own. He doesn’t worry with a smell test, he simply picks up an item of clothing and determines its cleanliness by how either the weight of the cloth feels, or how he feels; it’s a fascinating lesson in animal survival: is this adequate to either eat or wear?
“Feels fine to me.”
Is Mom still looking? “Must be dirty.”
Do I want to mess with this any more? “Wear it.”
Do I want to mess with this any more and is Mom looking? “Throw it in the hamper.” One night, Bubs changed from sleep pants into a pair of freshly laundered jeans, straight from the closet where I’d hung them the day before long enough to walk to the truck to retrieve whatever in the world he needed from the truck.
Besides the jeans, he wore a pair of once white socks, this being probably day 3, but my mind won’t let me think more than day 2.
Once back into the house, he changed from the jeans into the comfortable cotton sleep pants, and promptly housed the jeans within his clothes hamper.
If I hadn’t witnessed it, I would refuse to believe it. Turns out, this is common practice with my particular brand of teen. The socks are worn once but thoroughly, and so badly blackened that one wearing is all they get, but jeans worn for less than three minutes need fumigation.
Such strange logic.
And I cannot be alone in being the only laundress regularly washing wrappers: cookies, granola bar, purloined M&Ms; wrappers galore rotate through the wash and rinse along with everything else. If I counted the calories my boy ate discreetly, I’d be astonished he isn’t ready for heavyweight wrestling.
He’s learning to do his own laundry, but his timeframe for such duties is vastly different than my own. I like to always have fresh clothes around, he prefers to walk into the laundry room carrying bundles of fabric so rank that I Febreze the room once his clothes are safely contained within their bath of water and Gain and the wash cycle has begun.
I take no chances.
Toxic clouds are invisible and I refuse to succumb.


Orange Scones

Aunt Lou was a horror. Mean as a rabid badger, stingy as Scrooge, but without the change of heart in the end, and forgetful, that she was evil and that she had breakfast an hour ago.
Each morning at 7:30, she wanted breakfast, from somewhere out in the world. I didn’t want to cook and she I agreed that didn’t want to eat anything I made, so out into the world we went.
My grandfather joined us, out of kindness for me, I shall always believe. He was a delightful buffer: kind, generous, and he laughed at my jokes. But when it came to the first meal of the day, Lou held sway.
She chose from her two restaurant options — I had no say, leaving my morning mantra to be, “McDonald’s or Panera, Lou?”
She would mull the options while I backed the van out of the garage and winded our way through her closely built neighborhood, then turned right onto a main road that took us to the crossroads: left if she said McDonald’s, right if she said Panera.
One sunny Thursday, she chose the bakery, and right we went.
At the restaurant parking lot, getting out of the van was an easy task. She had full faculty, only needing a cane for stability, and Grandpa was independent. Though they were mobile, they were slow, especially Lou. I watched the order entry line grow as we turtle stepped our way toward the end. And as always I glanced into the display case, its wares on full display.
Scones were running low, particularly the orange flavor, and those were my favorite.
I counted in my head. As long as only one other person ordered a scone, I would be good.
How could I point the ambivalent toward cinnamon or chocolate chip instead of the delightfully glazed orange beauty solely displayed in the middle of a silver baking tray?
“What are you going to get, Lou?” I asked her, trying for small talk.
“Oh, I don’t know,” she said, per usual.
“Grandpa, how about you?”
“Just a coffee,” he answered, his standard breakfast.
Piping in because she demanded attention, Lou said, “I want that orange scone.”
My hopes were dashed by the very person I’d trucked into this establishment, and now I was required to sit and watch her munch my breakfast between her four natural teeth? And it never failed, she always left half of her breakfast on her plate, so the insult continued. I wouldn’t get my choice, plus I’d have to leave a delicious half of it behind.
It wasn’t fair.
“I don’t know,” I said. “That cinnamon roll looks pretty good.”
Lou glared at me before inspecting the case. “Hmm, I don’t know.”
“Remember how good it was yesterday?”
“Hmm. Yeah, I guess,” she muttered, though I knew she didn’t remember at all.
Finally it was our turn in line and the cashier asked for my order.
Grandpa stepped up to order his coffee, then it was my turn to order for myself and Lou. Fortunately, Lou pointed a knotted finger toward the bakery case and said, “I want that cinnamon roll. And a hot coffee, black.”
The baker retrieved Lou’s selection before turning to me.
“Oh, I’ll take that orange scone, I think.” I tried to sound complacent, insouciant. I nearly drooled just watching the pastry being scooped onto a plate.
And then I nearly passed out when the lady pulled a radiant, brand new tray of gorgeous, glistening orange scones from beneath the counter.
Grandpa laughed outright. He knew my ploy and knew I’d been bested.
It’s been 9 years since Lou died, and my grandfather reminds me of the orange scone story at every opportunity. The man has a steel trap for a brain.
And every time he mentions it, which seems to be every time I visit with him, I blush.