Drinking Heavily

Last year, the Bubs and I toured the town for the Best Sno Cone EVER.
And we found it next to a tepee. No, really, it’s the TP Church, even shaped like one. And across the street…the Best Sno Cones EVER.

This year, we ventured into the Sonic Drive-In for a much-needed chili dog. Horrible nutrient wise and certainly not thigh-slimming; super, though, for the jonesing-for-crap DNA I possess.
And in the stall next to us sat an enormous, lit-for-best-view-from-space neon sign advertising suggestions of the variety of Sonic Drive-In drinks that can be made by carbonating sugars, syrups, candy pieces, and corn syrup.
Well. That’s a CHALLENGE if ever I’ve seen one, right? I mean, c’mon, who can resist the glow-in-the-dark coloring of all things un-naturally purple? Like a moth toward a flame, baby.

Thus was born the Top 10 Drinks to Try This Summer, with two versions to play:
the Bubs Edition, and the Mama Format.
(Guess which list seems more palatable?)
And the worst part…er, I mean, the BEST part…is that the drinks on the list only need to look INTERESTING, not DRINKABLE.
AND. We both have to try all the drinks!
Gauntlet, THROWN!

Last night was the First Day of the Voyage into Unpalatable Beverages, but since it’s one thousand degrees outside and I don’t stop whining about the heat until Halloween, anything cool and/or icy is a PLUS to moi.
On tap for me: Tea, BUT. I already deviated slightly from my own list, because I had initially written “Raspberry Iced Tea,” and my craaaaaaazy rogue ways went with PEACH. I know! I’m a warrior! WHAAAAAT?? Peach tea!? Insanity.
Bubs’ first selection: Green Apple Slush with Jolly Rancher Pieces.
After I told him, “That cannot be a thing,” he indeed successfully ordered it.

Since, per the agreement, we BOTH must try BOTH drinks, and because I’m a Mom, I went first. I sipped fully, with caution.
Not enough caution.
Bubs stared while I tried to get the feeling back in my tongue and willed my eyes to re-seat themselves in my sockets — they went internal, like, touched my brain; that’s how far back into my head that they were sucked by the pucker of the green apple tang cruelty that lay festering in the Sonic cup.
And while I was trying to regain a normal breathing pattern, my Bubs sipped my innocuous iced tea — with the wacky zing of Peach that only a Mom can bring — and he acted like I’d fed him strychnine.
I’d love to see the video from the Sonic security cameras, the one showing the Bubs and I, both suffocating from icy beverages that we hurriedly exchanged, thereby sucking upon our own beverage choices as though the straws held a rich oxygen mixture able to reanimate life forms and not make them oh-so-hate this new 10 Day drink challenge.

But worse than trying to tease my tongue into unfurling — “no, no, I won’t let the bitter foul taste get you again” — is the drive home, when the drinks are half finished, my tea is delightful, but alas, the Bubs has chosen a slush, which had all the liquid sucked out of the ice, and is thus not slushy, which means he’s dry-sucking ice bits and candy pieces up a straw, across air bubbles hitting the sides of the plastic straw and resembling the sound of my grandmother’s coffee percolator, the one that woke me at unearthly hours as a child and made me deeply resent all coffee forms until much later in life, when I could buy the coffee premade and thus eschew all knowledge of coffee brewing sounds.
I digressed a moment, but still, I insist that the soundtrack of Bubs sucking air and ice particles — then pulling the straw up and down through the plastic lid, with that awful donkey-in-the-morning braying sound over and over; really, it’s like nails on a chalkboard, you know the sound — then sloshing around the frozen mess with his straw like that will liquefy things quicker, then continuing with his musical number, like Orcas coming up for air. That’s what it sounded like when he retried to drink the no-more-liquefied air and chunks. It was a musical number that rattled across my peach-tea ridden nerves all the way home.

Day 2 started early, with the 8 a.m. order of two large
Cranberry Frozen Limeades — because Large was cheaper than Small in the morning (?) — a concoction we both agreed looked enticing, and thus we tried them on the same day.
Bubs said, “It tastes like limeade.”
And I replied, “Yes. Squeezed from the actual lime fruit.”
(It was a bit tart, that first sip. Drinking it got easier…or my taste buds died.)
The two giant cups lasted all day long, with our finally tossing the nearly empty cups into the trashcan at 5:05 this evening. We were wired for sound all day, buzzing around like we were on fire for 8 hours waiting for the sugar effect to dull.
It didn’t.
Goodness knows what Day 3 will bring…I’m a little skeered…

Okies on Tour: the Jelly Making Trail

Since last summer, I’ve wanted to find the Jelly Making Trail, an Oklahoma Tourism attraction set up to lead consumers to all the fabulous fresh fruit picking places in the state.
I forgot all about it in the following year and last week ended up on it. Serendipitously.
How? Because of a Peach Need.
Every June, when the heat rises, and the grass grows because of all the glorious rain, I swear at the Heat — I’m not a fan of the hot — and then swear at the grass — because I’m not a fan of the Mow — but I do mow in the ridiculous heat because there’s nothing quite so magnificent as a cold peach after a long ride on the Deere.
Unless it’s an ice cold beer.
BUT. A chilled fresh peach AND a dripping-down-the-sides-cold beer?
Good googly-moogly, that’s the STUFF right there.
(Insert longing whistle and an appreciative head shake.)
But in June, I lean toward peaches, because after a long spell of Letting Them Grow, the trees are officially on duty, producing phantasmagorical delights. And every year, I’ve been lackluster in my efforts to get out to the Wind Drift Orchard in east OKC before the season ends.
(I’m not great at planning ahead. Also, again, if it’s hot outside, I really see no need for being anywhere but in the doors.)
And by the end of peach pickin’ season, the grass has finally given up on tormenting me and chosen to go dormant.
Thus, my presence is no longer required atop the mower.
So I don’t need a peach.
But the beer…
Well, anyway, I’ve wandered off course.
Wind Drift Orchard, located East of Oklahoma City, is a hidden paradise. We pulled through the entrance — only a modest sign to proclaim its existence — rolled over a rise in the drive, and behold, across the valley: a seemingly endless landscape worthy of Monet’s brush: acres of peach trees, all popping with red and orange orbs, screaming to be chosen to go home with me.
I was not one to deny such pleading.
We parked the truck and moments later, our chariot awaited: a canopied carriage driven by a friendly fellow willing to deliver us over the acreage to the day’s Best Spot, where the freshest, most Pick-That-Peach-NOW fruit hung precariously from slender branches.
“Try the fruit,” he requested as he handed us bags to hold our treasure. “Eat them, so you’ll know how good they are.”
He had me at “Try,” the only request I needed.
And try I did! Peach nectar ran down my arms, onto my toes, before I finally got wise enough to bend over, thus  saving my feet from juicing. And ants. I pictured ants, coming to feast upon my delicate digits. (Shudder.)
Bubs used about two and one half minutes to fill his bag with fruit. Ready to pick? Didn’t know. Red and ripe and juicy? Didn’t ask. He simply filled his bag, asked, “Ready?” and looked down the empty lane, awaiting the appearance of our tractor ride back to the truck.
Me? Oh, sweet pits o’ goodness, I took my time. I fondled more peaches than was absolutely necessary. I certainly Taste Tested more than required. And I had a wonderful time in my haze of All-This-At-My-Disposal-and-I-Only-Have-this-ONE-TINY-BAG?
The tractor of return came, announced by, “Mom, he’s here!” and, seeing that I wasn’t ready for the escort, went, leaving Bubs to shout, “Mom, he’s leaving!” and stare indignantly, hands on his hips, face frowning in confusion, as the poor man retreated, leaving Bubs to marvel at the indecency of stranding a young boy with his mother, who gave not three shakes of a peach leaf about leaving just yet.
“Do you think he’s coming back?” my Bubs implored, curious as to how he would survive (could he survive??) in the wilderness of six foot trees for the foreseeable future of at least five more minutes. I watched his face as he mentally calculated turnaround time to be at least five…whole…minutes…
Finally, though, sated and weighed down under peachy goodness, we accepted — begrudgingly on my part, while Bubs practically skipped onto the deck — the second offer of a ride back to civilization.
I haven’t told the Bubs yet, but we’re going back in July, when a dozen more varieties will be ripe and ready to come home with me.
Plus, now that I’m a connoisseur and harvester, I need to investigate the Jelly Making Trail to see where it leads us next.

The Day’s Catch: twelve pounds of fruit.
Treasure retrieved and safely ensconced within the domicile: less than twelve pounds.
And I really need to get the truck detailed now; who knew peaches were so messy?

Anyway. Fruit is chilling, and now I’m skipping off to mow the fields.

Okies on Tour: Strebel Creek Vineyard

One thousand times, I’ve driven by Strebel Creek Vineyard in The City, always with the thought, “I’d like to check that out.”
At the time of those one thousand drive-bys, I lived less than two miles away, yet never checked anything out. Then I moved to the Out There and promptly forgot about it.
From the street, Strebel Creek looks like someone’s really nice backyard — a small vineyard by the road, a store sitting behind, housed within a discrete steel building — on the edge of a heavily traveled street. Nestled into a neighborhood, the vines grow near a curb by a small sign announcing every weekend, “Winery is Open.”
On the one thousandth and one-th drive, I spotted the Open sign and impulsively turned into the modest drive — the one I’d ignored because it felt so personal, so invasive to turn into what looks like the driveway to someone’s home — and parked in the shade of an ancient oak. (Or Elm, maybe. I don’t know. It’s just huge and lovely.)
Bubs, with no inhibition or thought of invasiveness, ran along the sidewalk to disappear into the building while Mom and I strolled up, stopping at the thriving vines for a couple of Kodak moments before meandering through the door. There, we beheld a large flat-screen tv tuned in to the sport-of-the-day sitting in front of a large area rug and two over-stuffed comfortable chairs awaiting viewers awaiting potential shoppers.
I could hear a gentleman, presumably the owner, gathering the next round of Tasters, but since the Bubs was present, I reluctantly wasn’t one of them. A lady, presumably the also-owner, greeted Mom and I, telling us to look around and make ourselves at home. She waved toward the store, indicating any and all of it was ours for the perusal as she disappeared into the tasting room.
I very much felt like her generous wave wasn’t just a suggestion, that I could in fact kick off my flip-flops and stay a while, should I choose to.
But instead I shopped.
Trinkets, decor, purses, scarves, all things wine and wine-accessorizing, atop table after table, all housed together to create a cozy, fun gift shop. Impromptu as our stop had been, neither Mom nor I had any one item in mind; we simply pawed and investigated every single thing while we listened to the soundtrack of wine demonstration, little descriptors reaching our ears: sweet, bubbly, dessert wine, wife’s favorite.
A few minutes into the tasting, the hostess, indeed the establishment’s co-owner, returned to the store and stood behind one of the recliners, awaiting any questions.
I had many.
How long have you been here? Do you crush your own grapes? Do you bottle here on the premises? Do you live on the property? Is there really a creek?
And with each question, the lady answered matter-of-factly, with humor and grace.
I liked her a lot.
She and her husband open the store each weekend, when day jobs are over until the following Monday. They spend their leisure time chatting about wine, talking with customers, sharing tips about grape growing and getting rid of unwanted garden intruders.
I shared my woes about my fruitless — literally — attempt at grape growing and learned that I was not the birds’ only victim.
“Oh, the birds,” she lamented, then tutted and shook her head. “And the raccoons, and the foxes…One day late, and all the grapes are gone.”
With the few vines they have, and the numerous fauna that insist upon their share from those beautiful bundles of fruit, the owners contract out to other growers for their wines. Northern growers have far more land, with space to grow far more vines, thus generating a better harvest.
I didn’t feel so badly about my gardening skills, about not being quick enough to pluck the fruit from my one little vine, a veritable snack tray for local avian populations.
Now that we’ve met these nice people, when I’m venturing into The City again for a gander at civilization, I won’t just drive by when I see the Open sign at the vineyard. I’ll park and go in to say hello to the folks willing to share their knowledge and recliners with strangers.
Next time I’ll visit a minute, even sit in one of the comfy chairs to lament longer upon tales of gardening efforts gone wrong. And maybe even try the wine.

Another Day, Another Eye-Opening Book(s)

I’ve been reading again.
It led in interesting directions, so I’m hoping you’ll follow my trail.
Okie author Jennifer Latham’s “Dreamland Burning” is written for young adults. It’s the story of two fictional young people narrating the account of a very real event, the Tulsa race riot of the early 1900’s.
Of course, being regional, the location appealed right away. I didn’t know the book’s premise, and once I opened the covers, I was a bit queasy. I vaguely knew about the abomination that happened in Tulsa’s city streets, when whites got mad that blacks existed and decided to gang up and be jerks, in the very most upper levels of jerky-ness that jerks can be.
(I have delicate fingers. My palate can’t stand to verbalize or write the true words that come to mind when the anger this story evokes wells up.)
So insert your favorite incendiary verbiage here, about truly heinous people, and know that racism is the ugliest. And racist packs, fueled by heat and unquestioned loyalty to ignorance, are intolerable.
So, at first, until I knew the true subject matter, I enjoyed the references to familiar Tulsa places as much as I enjoyed meeting Will and Rowan, the two leading teen aged characters. But when their stories kicked into high gear, my heart raced, and I got so involved in what’s-next-what’s-next that the just conclusion came too quickly.
What is even more interesting, is that not only does Latham talk about the atrocities of Tulsa’s racial divide, but Will is part Native American. His grandmother was murdered by evil greedy men, part of another true and horrific state secret, the Osage Indian murders. Native American women were killed because of money, especially that tangled up with oil and mineral rights. David Grann, author of the highly praised “The Lost City of Z,” chronicled the Oklahoma story in a book published in April of this year titled “Killers of the Flower Moon.”
I drove through Pawhuska just a couple of months ago — ironically, it may have been April! — thinking it was a ho-hum, tiny town, its most interesting attribute being that its street signs made me slow down for a couple of miles on the way to my destination, another thriving metropolis of about 50,000 folks, an hour or so further down the trail.
Pawhuska in 2017 did not strike me as eventful in any way, but it certainly was a hotbed of furious — literally furious, unhampered, and evil activity a hundred years ago.
Too much terrible history, too close together, in a state that has never seemed overly large but now seems especially tight quarters to fester so much hate.
By Oklahomans.
Against other Oklahomans.
And current Okies know little to nothing about any of it until a full century later?
Ignorance of history, atop so much hate and violence, equals further abomination.
Read these books. Let’s talk.

 

Lost Peanut Butter Equals No Joy

In my zeal for joy, thanks to the Tidying Up book by Marie Kondo, I moved the peanut butter.
Well, why on earth would one move a staple good like peanut butter?
Because the location in which it lived was joy-less. Poor placement. Too low to reach, thus no convenience. Plus, I believe mice live in that cabinet, which leads to a different joy-less story.
With vim and vigor, I moved my beloved jug o’ Jiffy to a more practical spot, a higher locale, an ingenious place: the pantry. I know! Who knew that’s what pantries were for? I thought the picture of food etched into the frosted glass of the pantry door was a “suggested usage” kind of graphic, not a “We’ve already thought this through; food in this pantry equals joy.”
So thoughtful of them. It only took five years to follow through on their idea.
Anyway, I overhauled the kitchen a couple of weeks ago. I was the Tasmanian Devil of Clean: I gave pans to Goodwill, I retired old dish towels, I discovered far too many gadgets in the “What do you think this is?” drawer and decided there was no joy in not knowing, so out they went, all the tchotchke of indeterminate origin or purpose. Out!
Once I was finished, the room felt lighter, less weighted. It seemed roomier, certainly tidier and less cluttered.
I breathed in clean air — because I had to clean. I was in there, in the kitchen; might as well clean it, too.
I’ve said it a hundred times: “The kitchen is where I keep my purse and keys.”
Verification of that mantra arrived last night, when at close-enough-to-midnight I thought, “A tiny smackerel of Peanut Butter would cure the rumbly in my tumbly.”
I set sail from the bedroom to the kitchen, flew right past my purse and keys, and opened the Peanut Butter Cabinet, only to discover and thus remember that, oh, yeah, the PB doesn’t live there anymore.
It took literally moments for me to connect the dots and find the jar in the Now It’s Food Pantry.
So I felt stupid. And the kitchen seemed even more foreign. And I felt no joy.
I’m at a crossroads: move the peanut butter? or use the kitchen and actually cook, learn about the stove, dice something?
Yeah. I didn’t think it was a huge decision either.
Guess where the peanut butter resides today?
Joy is back.

Ah, May Day: the First of Mowing Season

So for a second year in a row, I decided against hiring a flock of goats to bring the house’s frontal expanse into order.
(Mostly because there’s no fence to hold them in; how do I know they wouldn’t literally find a greener pasture across the street, thus abandoning me for the friendly cow family luring the stupid Caprine family over for fresher grub? Then all the rental money would be gone…my grass would still be thigh-high, and suddenly my willy-nilly, ineffective lawn-eating team would end a year later with a new breed of cow-goat baby. Things just get out of hand when I try to incorporate livestock in my prairie world.)
It would have been so much simpler, yet my ineptitude with the ranching ability leaves me breathless. As it would a flock of goats. Thus, I’m considering myself a humanitarian by not involving fauna in my lawn fight.
Because it IS a fight. The grass grows, the mower blows — in the euphemistic way, I’m sad to proclaim — and still I must either cut the stuff…or move…and I hate packing.
OF COURSE the John Deere is ineffective. Because EVERY SPRING it has turned up its wheels and snubbed its hoodless, non-headlight-lit, battered face — really, it’s an ugly beast, even for a ten-year-old, lived-through-a-tornado mower — and pretended to be dead. The annual death ritual of this machine is more reliable than that rodent Phil “predicting” spring.
(Sorry, that sounded a bit cynical. It’s been a hard day.)
After futile attempts at resuscitation, including the infusion of three heavy gallons of gasoline, I had to concede that the Greene had “bit it” and borrow a mower yet again — fourth year in a row? fifth? — from my favorite dad-in-law, who is ever at  my rescue.
Thank God for generosity and kindness and knowing that girls can do anything, as long as you show them — yearly — how to reverse the trajectory in order to avoid ditches and hills that make me queasy and still not kill the mower.
Those are the essentials.
Fortunately, I had all three of those things.
And for two days, with Sam’s ears a-floppin’ and his claws a-diggin’ trenches into my legs for purchase, we mowed the afternoon hours away. Sure, we swore, we got a tiny bit stuck — no one saw; there were no witnesses — and we bogged down a few times, because the prairie endured torrential April rains that brought May weeds, the kind that grow in protective clumps that require scything and baling, but the lawn tractor would have to do — who needed a dumb ol’ goat? — because Sam looked so cute.
That’s right, I blame my aged, tiny, sweetest-ever dog for the continual backing up, moving forward, backing up, moving forward action required to bring the grass down, severing the stems to a minimal height amongst mounds of shorn trimmings.
How can one scythe, though necessity begs for it, when one has a pooch upon her lap?
She can’t.
Thus, we mowed. Sam’s ears flapped, I swore only a little, and we enjoyed the full throttle action that only Dad’s mower has, as the dead John Deere has no horse, no power, and no speed even if it’s upright and breathing. I really should bury the thing, but man, that sounds like so much work.
As an extra “Atta-Girl” Bonus today, I also gardened. I planted the remains of several unknown vegetable species that once stood proudly within my baby greenhouse, but now look severed somehow, as nine baby chicks found their wings, flew to heights I did not know they could reach, and ate every green leaf of every plant they flapped into.
And then the snake came, for the second time this year.
To sum up:
Lawn: 1, Sam and I, zero; except in the cuteness factor, because in the ability to look adorable, we totally dominated over the lawn. (In fact, the yard looks like a verdant 3-acre expanse of Super Cuts flooring; hundreds of clumps of rolling bits of clippings moving with the winds; unsightly, true, but no longer attached to the parent plant, which is all that matters right this moment.)
Chickens: 9. The odds weren’t ever in my favor. (Geek literary reference there, sorry.) Yeah, they won, but someday I might have leafy greens again, given enough Miracle Gro, and by golly, as soon as I recognize something, I’m pulling out the Labeler and going to town with defining nomenclature: Tomatoes, Brussel Sprouts; Bell Pepper (though frankly, they kind of all look alike at the beginning to me; might have to wait for actual food before I label anything properly)
Snakes: 2. BUT. I did NOT lose to the snakes. It so serendipitous-ly, serpentine-ly, happened that at the exact moment I was through with my current task, a snake slithered by on his way to den for the evening. Twice. And both times, after the initial appearance, it so happened that within fractions of a second later, I needed to make for the inside of the house as though I were on fire and only the interior side of the front door could save me.  All serendipity; the fates at work. Planets aligning, and all that crap.
Goats: However many it would take to shear. But I did consider that if I had the goats do the initial job, I could get a miniature donkey for summer maintenance. (They’re so cute!) But it was a brief, rambling thought that didn’t last long once I remembered I have a Killer Scout the Moose Dog that takes down any living thing deemed valuable to me. (Sad but alas, ’tis true.)
Heroes: 1. Total Dad Hero today. Plus I housed the mighty machine within the bowels of the garage because of even more impending rain. AND filled it with gas. Go, me. Good daughter.
Back Fat: 1…hundred pounds…of new rolls I didn’t remember from last season’s lawn season. Brownies were tasty this winter; now the tractor will have to wiggle them off. It’s a movable Tan ‘N Tone, isn’t it, this riding mower?

So maybe I didn’t score well, but the lawn is cut, the neighbors might concede that it looks better and thus not be ashamed to share a fence any longer, and hey, I still have my cute pup.
I win.

 

Losing the non-Joy

My friend Amy came to work the other day and told me of a tiny book she read about losing clutter in her home.
It’s dangerous when I listen to what friends read.
Because of Marie Kondo’s book, “the life-changing magic of tidying up,” Amy said she’d rid herself of non-joy-giving things; if there’s no joy in handling something you own, why have it? Get rid of it.
She’d gleaned bits of thought provoking suggestions and ignored the rest of the manuscript, but it certainly made her look at things differently.
Her book review stuck with me.
I mulled. I’m a mull-er. I mulled until I could no longer mull, and then I had no option but to pick up the mulled book and read. Curiosity was a killer.
Without realizing my mulling was having an effect, I tossed a bottle of hairspray; it wouldn’t squirt, thus no liquid was embalming my tresses.
Thus I lost patience. Holding the half-full bottle of non-squirting madness over the bathroom trashcan, I announced, “No joy!” and released the traitorous liquid to the depths of the pear green can that sits — also joylessly, I realize — next to the toilet: the perfect burial for “no joy” spray.
I was therefore unleashed upon my own closet, where my shirts and pants quaked in fear. I had one motto, which I announced to my wardrobe: “No joy equals no happiness equals housing things that give no pleasure and thus should be exterminated.”
It got ugly, I can’t lie.
But a funny thing happened. After three bags of no-joy-to-me items were insouciantly tossed recklessly into a corner to be discarded later — who cared when? joy wasn’t emanating from the sacks, thus they were dead to me — I let the project go.
I let the remainder of the non-joy items sit and think about how little joy they’d brought me and that maybe they should change their attitude.
For two days, I dove into the closet, choosing only joy-filled items, ignoring the rest, and living just fine. For two days.
And on the third day — joy reigned. Two more bags of items lost their leash upon my life. They, too, suffer in cotton/poly silence in a corner.
Then last night at 10:30, I hit a can’t-contain-the-curiosity-any-longer wall.
I read the next page of the book. It talked about socks.
My socks were stressed, the book told me. Socks don’t like to be rolled into balls within the drawer walls, unhappy in their elastic-stretcher-cized orbs, and it was entirely up to me to alleviate their tension.
Poor Bubs woke to my apparently noisy unpacking of spheroid footwear, tossed and unrolled at lightning speed. I cooed, I apologized, I begged the stripes to regain shape, the anklets to resize, the boot socks to think thin.
And I repacked the tidy thin parcels as instructed: vertically, in sight, with respect and love.
And because I have mindfully re-positioned the alignment of my crew socks, I have room for another twenty pair; extra footage I did not know my dresser could possibly allow.
It’s like a chest-of-drawers Tardis.
With socks at ease, I did not stop there. I worked until nearly 11, creating tri-fold packets of cotton tees I’d thoughtlessly hung for years. Now they are craftily folded in quarters and squares, vertically, so that I can see their logos and know which shirt is which. Now DMB rests comfortably alongside Billy Joel, all couched between two Dirty 30 5K run shirts so their spines are aligned and I can pull whichever shirt appeals to be worn that day.
I slept well last night, I must say, once I finally let myself sleep.
I blamed Amy for the late hour, thus I texted her to let her know her reading habits had duly affected my sleep patterns. She replied that though she’d removed all joy-less items from her closet, her socks were continuing to suffer within roly-poly balls, and though she’d apologized and thanked them for their service, their fate was not going to change.
Poor socks.
So. I’ve perused the next few pages of the book, to see where I’m headed next with this de-clutter project, and I’m hesitant to say the next chapter addresses my much beloved subject: books.
Books!
I’m gonna need to let this simmer for a while.
Meanwhile, my books are shaking in fear.

Midnight in the Garden of Pure Upheaval

For a month, I’ve had a plant swap scheduled at the library.
For four weeks, I’ve badgered garden club members with oh-so-important reminders: plant swap!; Saturday — this Saturday! 9am sharp! not a single moment later than 9 in the morning of the Saturday of this very week! — bring plants, bulbs, seeds, anything that will grow; bring fungus, I don’t care, just bring something to trade for other greenish tinted things that other grow-minded people wish to share. I might have even thrown an, “I’m not kidding, people!” in one of those emails, just to let them know: Hey, there’s a swap, and you’re gonna be there, and you’re gonna have stuff, and it’s gonna be fun!
And this last week, I made final preparations: seasonal handouts of information pertinent to our growing zone as well as season; memos about upcoming seminars/classes/sales; lists of reminders: next month’s meeting, a where and a when. I was ready!
Friday I spent the afternoon arranging tables, shuffling papers, moving things from left to right; lengthy preparations for the next morning’s early arrival/prompt meeting time.
Friday night, well after the sun has set, leaving the prairie in the black; long day; about to head to bed, and what should I hear? A tiny, wee, little (yes, I see the redundancy, but this sound was that of a Disney creature, it was so microscopic, made even more annoying by its “cuteness” factor) voice rings in my head: THERE’S A PLANT SWAP TOMORROW AND I HAVE NOTHING TO SWAP!
Adrenaline takes over and I shuffle into my slippers, gather my shovel (located handily outside my front door, for those of you curious as to where I keep my gardening/potential burglar repellent supplies, for just such an emergency; fortunately I know it is there; otherwise I would have tripped over it) and beeline for the front flower bed where I’ve been growing items — nurturing them, really — for just this very opportunity: swappage.
It’s a word.
I near the general area of flowers and I dig up lilies like they’re on fire and one second more aflame will ignite a bomb beneath the roots of those bulbs.
Handfuls of sedum, the world’s easiest plant to propogate, practically pull themselves out of their comfortable pot-o-dirt and fly across the darkened sidewalk into the vicinity of a waiting tray readied for travel to the swap meet. (Next morning, I discover in my flight from the house that indeed, not all of the sedum was as self-propelled as I had hoped. One quick scoot with my sneaker, though, returned them to their bed to grow another day.)
And as I’m shoveling the last bit of earth from around yet another clump of what-I-hope-was-lily, I trip over a flat of periwinkles I’d forgotten about entirely.
“I gotta plant those!” I thought for the jillionth time, and yet it was then, standing in a sweat drenched t-shirt, yoga pants and a pair of hopefully-machine-washable slippers, that the compulsion arose to indeed set the new plants into their permanent home, my flower bed.
Five minutes later: DONE!
New Plants: in the ground.
Share-able Plants: shoved unceremoniously to where I hope the front tire of the truck sits, so that in the morning, when I can actually see, I will pick up the tray of love I hope will find good homes and store it properly for safe travels to the library.
Shove: returned to its proper housing: the front door.
Pants and slippers: stuffed into the washing machine.
And I’m in the shower.
Two days later, plant swap was a major success. Love and abundance to all who arrived and left with packets of delight to plant and enjoy.
And I returned to my own flower bed, to water it, to fawn over it, and to inspect my new arrivals for signs of transplant shock.
Blink.
Blink.
I’m almost sure they were somewhere in this vicinity…
Okay.
So now it’s Monday, and I am planning another Plant Swap, because I need something to put in my beds. I have giant holes where once attractive flowers sat minding their own business. General signs of chaos abound — dirt amok, leaves littered, roots of questionable lineage strewn about — as though I’ve cut appendages from the body of my yard and left the dirt to ooze out.
And my brand new plants?
Well.
I’m sure they’re in there somewhere.
I just need for them to grow a bit — emerge from the soil graves into which I hurriedly threw them — and I’ll find out about my placement. I hope I chose good spots for each of the…oh, twenty or so…new souls to my loving garden.
And my house shoes?
Yeah…who knew they weren’t amenable to a good scrub in the Maytag…

Inflatable Raft, 20 mph winds, What Could Go Wrong?

I had an idea last week, to go kayaking with girlfriends today.
Over the weekend, the winds held steady at 30 blistering miles per hour — hair all over town was frizzy, on end, or tucked into hats.
But optimistic as ever, I was certain today would be calm, still, serene.
I’m a regular Pollyanna in my head.
Being Monday, it isn’t surprising that things didn’t go as I had envisioned.
(And there went Pollyanna.)
I have two kayaks at my disposal. One is hard plastic, a floating jewel of red, sit-upon loveliness.
The other is a Boat in a Bag — I don’t think that’s its official title. Kayak and flooring, seat, air pump, three-part paddle, one handy rucksack the size of the back seat of the pick-up.
Really. The bag filled the back seat, which I had once thought roomy, but good news, I can actually lift the bag all by myself. I felt quite strong.
Okay, so I collect three adult women, one more hard, ready-to-ride but pointier than my wee little red kayak, all of our accoutrement — water bottles, sunscreen, bug spray, extra clothing to replace wet items, snacks, water shoes, life jackets, paddles, etc. — and made for the creek I love to ride.
It isn’t far from the prairie. And creek isn’t the correct term; It’s a channel, really, extending off of a lake, that leads into a river winding into a bird sanctuary nearby. A lovely place to meander. Plus, it’s close to my favorite diner, its food made even more delicious by three hard hours of kayaking.
Once at the drop-in, we unloaded the two regular kayaks, then pulled the Boat Bag from the back and I started pumping air into its bits.
The pump is one of those that look like a TNT detonator, or the do-hickey for one of those train car jobbies you see in Charlie Chaplin films. Surprisingly difficult on the thighs, to hold that contraption down and repeatedly pull and push on its handle. My thighs were burning, calories flowing away, and I had yet to paddle an inch.
Once inflated, the kayak, surprisingly, acted more like a sail when we picked it up to get it to the water. That was my first clue, ignored, that perhaps the winds were not calm. Instead of thinking, “Oh, no, this is crazy, let’s bail and go get some pie,” I thought, “Wow, this boat is light and will be a cinch to drive. Aerodynamically speaking, this is the Corvette of the Creek.”
I’m not smart, did I mention that?
Once on the water, against the wind, the waves on the channel splashed across my bow, soaking me entirely after only a few seconds afloat. And of course, my friends’ boats, being less sail, more vessel, were able to accommodate the moody breezes far better than I, seated low in a plastic boat flung side to side as though unoccupied.
When I paddled left, the wind pointed me right. When I paddled right, the wind laughed and pointed me left. I saw far more of the banks than I did the river, and, using an upturned tree as a guidepost, I’ll bet I was stationary eighty percent of my time as well.
Oh. And the three-part paddle? Broke.
Envision my joy.
Twenty mile an hour winds, plastic sheeting for a vessel, one oar flipping back and forth over my head just to stay straight in the water — my shoulders are so bulky now that they touch my ears; really — soaked to the core and mumbling to myself, “You can do this. No biggie. No sweat. I mean, probably no sweat. Who can tell? I’m soaked through. Sweat, nasty river water, fish castings, probably snakes abound — oh, look, a turtle! — why has that rock not moved? Am I truly sitting still? Lovely day, lovely day, I do so love to go kayaking…”
And pure Stubborn over the course of an hour and fifteen minutes is all that got me the normally quick three-quarter mile distance to land at a still spot under a bridge vastly under-rated as shelter, oasis, and mecca for joy and release of spasming shoulder muscles ready to seize.
My friends stopped to check on me to be certain I wasn’t overturned or hadn’t turned back, but they couldn’t come back to see to me; they never would have resumed course. So I used them as beacons, lighthouses in the daytime, paddling to catch up to them.
But mostly I concentrated on my left lung and assuring it that it couldn’t pop, that it was supposed to work this hard, and isn’t cardio just awesome?
The trip back was a snap.
And I got the prize at the end: diner food that only occasionally shuddered its way to my mouth, one forkful at a time under duress and constant muscular complaint.
And I apologized heavily to the server for the wet booth seating after our departure. I assured her I had full bladder control, that we’d only been kayaking and things had been a bit breezy out there, so please excuse the damp conditions.
She looked at me as though I were daft, because only those not thinking clearly would go out on a day like that, right?
Absolutely correct.
Yesterday, Tuesday, I drove by the channel of doom, armed with life preservers and ready to come to the aid of those in need, ready to see posted precautions out for boaters: danger! Stay off the water! Too risky and stupid for you to be on it today!
Calm. Not a breeze. Beautiful, glassy, evil water. And a two-seater kayak floated by, both participants waving joyfully, in the spirit of adventurers, yelling, “Great day to be on the water!”
Traitors
.

I Fought the Lawn and the…Lawn Won

It’s impossible to write an almost-lyric and not pause in the sentence where the real lyric does. Can’t do it.
But that’s not my point.
My point, my valid, cogent argument, my reason for writing, whining, and opining, is this: grass is against me.
And power tools.
My real point is this: Grass is against me, and it’s against power tools that are against it.
Let me ‘splain.
I tried to trim a bush; the clippers need sharpening.
I attempted to weed a flower bed, I accidentally and ignominiously rapped my noggin against a brick window sill. The window sill should not have been mortared in there, where I was weeding instead of staying attuned to my surroundings and locations of all types of construction materials.
Defeated, wounded, continually pawing at my own bangs to assure myself they were not soaking up blood from the gaping maw I envisioned across my left eye, I said to myself, “But it’s a pretty day, work needs to be done, and by golly…” (Yeah, I honestly say things like “by golly,” at least in my head; my head is a sad little place, but kind of sweet, idyllic, and black and white tinted like old Leave it to Beaver episodes; theme music is different, though, not so jaunty, sad to say.) “…there’s a whole three acres that will suffer under my good intentions this day!”
And then I pointed to the sky like Hamlet did with his whole soliloquy thing. He was delusional, I was determined; we both had reasons for the insistent finger pointing.
SO.
FIRST…I played with my chickens. Because they were there, and because I did not hand pick the wisest of yard birds, and because they’re slightly south of smart, I felt better about hitting my own brain against the literal side of my house. Anyway, I threw five blackberries at the feet of ten birds. One bird snapped up a berry; nine birds chased said first bird frantically around the coop, leaving four berries to rot and be buried by sand and soil in the wake of ten fleeing birds. Humorous and distracting; as a serial procrastinator, a Dual is as good as a Trifecta. (The third thing, to add to make the Dual a true Trifecta? Chocolate. Oh, or caffeine. What’s a Fourfecta, besides fun to say?)
Head throbbing a bit less, I ventured onto the SECOND thing on my To-Do list: edging the lawn. “I hereby declare that I shall edge,” I declared to no one at all, though I again had my finger pointed to the sky like I was gauging the wind patterns. (I had a head injury; cut me some slack.)
And thus did I edge, with my most favoritest lawn maintenance tool: the gas-powered weed whacker. How can one go through life without the joys of the gas-powered weed whacker? I vibrated so much that later I went to the local eatery to pick up to-go food — because I was not fit company for anyone ever who was dining in that restaurant; not enough body spray on the planet — my arm shook when I signed for dinner. No joke. I muttered, “Weed whacker,” by way of explanation and walked away, leaving them to ponder my outcry. People on the prairie love me.
BUT. Back to the story: after the chickens, after the edging, but before the dinner…
THIRD.
(Oh, and I ran out of whacking string. So half the three acres looks gooooood…that neighbor is happy with me again. At least until about two-thirds back, where the fence is still covered over in Johnson grass from last summer and a wild rose bush I won’t touch because…ow. The other neighbor? Eh. Who cares. (I’m kidding! I love my other-side-where-the-weeds-run-amok neighbors!…though I couldn’t really tell you their names…But they killed a rattlesnake last year, so I know they’re armed and thus I never want to tick them off.)
So back to…THIRD. I discovered another shiny toy in the garage when I went looking for whacking string. An electric hedge trimmer. Wow, who knew three Pampas grasses could be taken down to the size of Monkey Grass so very, very quickly and with so very, very much glee???
(
I did not worry about whacking string after the joy emanating from every pore after the hedge trimmer; that kind of fun can’t be beaten by any kind of string. The hedge trimmer isjusthisclose to being my new favoritest lawn tool, but I don’t have enough bushes for it to ever maintain top status. I have to let things grow again in order to use it, and who has that kind of time?)
FOURTH. Back to the lawn, because it needs a mow. Why did I use the present tense of that verb? Because…once the John Deere was no longer touching the tarmac — the back porch — and had run the length of a scant three feet, mowing down tens of blades of grass in its path, it ran out of gas. Bubs helped push it back into place. I swear it laughed. Bubs, however, did not.
LASTLY. I drove to the restaurant, and a goodly portion of shrimp fried rice helped cure not only the tremors left from too much weed whacking but also my ego, as today the lawn beat me. I accept that.
But I got the rice. So nanner, nanner, Lawn! I didn’t need you to look manicured, nope! I like that you’re shaggy and covered over with mounds of tumbling Pampas grass clippings and smooshed blackberries; that’s exactly the way I wanted the lawn to look at the end of this day.
Next weekend: Buy Gas.