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.

Communing with Nature…It just isn’t Natural

Okay, I’ll say it: communing with nature may be more than advertised.
This morning I began the day singing a little song, thinking of my tiny chicks, wishing they trusted me, or at least didn’t run and hide whenever I go in their coop to feed them.
Or maybe it’s my dog. He’s huge. I don’t trust him, I don’t expect the birds to.
Or the wind. They apparently don’t trust the wind, either, because the slightest breeze can send bird feet reeling.
Okay, I have neurotic birds, equally unsurprising because my ranch is home to the prairie’s weirdest animals; another story, another time.
Anyway, the sun rose, the Bubs went to school; it was time to Be One with the Animals of the Chicken Variety. BUT. It’s also Thursday, which means I have two-and-a-half hours of Me Time before I go to work, and what do I do in my Me Time?
I watch Netflix.
Yes, commune with the birds. Yes, build trust. But also, Yes to Netflix, because fortunately, the internet is accessible within so many yards of the house.
Oh, and also Yes to a portable stool, because sitting inside with chickens is a nasty business.
Me. Stool. iPad. And a Dr. Pepper, because, I’m me.
I sat. I shielded the opening so that the dogs could see me but not reach me or eat Avian for breakfast. I opened the iPad and clicked on the Netflix and while it buffered and opened the app, I awaited my flock to adore me.
Well.
I have a rude flock. They ran as though on fire.
Fine. Whatever. My feelings were not hurt because I had Netflix and it was loading my chosen show and the mellifluous tones of its opening music soothed me and, surprisingly, like the flute of the Piper, it wooed the birds. Beaks first, they broke pack rules and one by one ascended toward my feet.
Sure it could have been the music but I’m betting it was the Raisin Bran I wantonly threw toward the ingrates I wanted so very much to like me.
It worked, so lesson learned: bribery pays. I learned that from having Bubs.
Okay, so picture the birds adoringly hopping at my feet, dogs slobbering from behind — probably wishing they, too, were allotted a portion of Raisin Bran — and iPad in my hand thoughtlessly playing video at my command.
Good morning.
Boring, boring morning.
Fifteen minutes of communing was all I needed.
Why? Because birds and dogs are loud.
How many times did I hit the 10-second replay button? I don’t know. I tried to shush things: “Hush, dog; stop chirping, brown one; do not poop there, spotted one; this is a no squawking zone; dog, if you don’t stop panting in my ear, you will be a rug by afternoon.”
Again and again with the 10-second refresh.
Not wanting my fifty-minute program to swallow seventy-four minutes of my Me Time, I brushed the now loving chicks away from my soiled shoes, snapped my squatty red stool up by its handle. and petulantly swept out of the coop and into the house.
I was huffy. And my shoes were soiled. And I hadn’t followed my video at all, so all of my Me Time had been squandered on trying to earn fowl love.
The birds liked me, but I wasn’t so sure of my adoration of them.
Three dogs were following me like I was a giant chew toy, mostly because I still carried a half bag of Raisin Bran.
And I’d lost the thread of my story, so I’ll have to start all over again next Thursday during Me Time, that I will not be sharing with other living things, thank you very much.
Sigh. This ranching stuff is hard.

Lithe Lithgow

I don’t see my mother enough, so finding “outings” is a great way to pen in an appointment. Tickets in my hand force that same hand to find a sitter, to juggle a calendar, to find cute shoes, and to get out into the world with my sweet mom.
At nearly curtain time, I stumbled across the announcement that John Lithgow was to appear at a community college in the City.
What was he going to do? I didn’t care; his act made no difference. If he wished to sit and fart for two hours, I’d be proud to watch.
John Lithgow has been ubiquitous to my personal entertainment. From Garp to 3rd Rock to the most recent, The Crown, I’ve watched this man portray larger than life characters effortlessly.
I only drew the line at Mr. Lithgow as Bad Guys. I staunchly refused to watch his skill in a Bad Guy role. (Why? I blame Mary Tyler Moore. That’s a much different story; we’ll discuss later.)
Knowing my ridiculously tender psyche cannot handle stress, I have avoided all movies with Mr. Lithgow as the Bad Guy, mostly because I know he is an exceptional actor and would convince me so fully that I’d have a much taller Mrs. Tyler-Moore on my hands.
Not knowing what to expect with an evening with Mr. Lithgow, my mother and I pranced into the theatre ready for anything.
What we saw were two acts, each with Mr. Lithgow, alone, in the near dark of a spotlit stage, telling a single story, but not just telling it: living it. Employing every molecule in his six-plus-foot frame, he created a scene using invisible props that seemed just as real as the paper ticket I unconsciously twisted in my hand while I watched, mesmerized.
After a quick intermission, Act 2 began with Mr. Lithgow describing a scene: his parents, each ill, and sad, and worn out, laying in separate beds in the same room, and their son, desperately reaching for an infusion of hope, deciding to tell them a story. After years of being the child recipient of tales spoken into reality, he could return the favor by using the curative powers of P.G. Wodehouse nonsense to bring life into his parents, even if only for an hour.
Glasses settled onto his nose, his legs crossed, comfortable within the depths of a  high-backed leather chair, Mr. Lithgow opened an ancient volume of “Tellers of Tales,” and began reading his chosen tale. Within a couple of minutes, the book was set aside and to my utter joy, Mr. Lithgow acted out every nuance of the hilarious story of a guileless uncle soaking life’s every moment into his bones to walk within his own Utopia.
Seven people — and a parrot — inhabited the stage, each character distinguished by a particular affectation Mr. Lithgow bestowed upon him or her, and through a series of high steps and fluttering hands and the use of a suit coat and a cocked head to seem more avian, our audience gleefully sat and watched as though the story was breath itself.
And near the end, glasses back in place, book in hand again as though it had never left his fingers, Mr. Lithgow re-settled into his chair, leaned forward, and said, “Goodnight, Mother. Goodnight, Dad. I hope you’re feeling better.”
Instant tears! (On my part, not his.)
Ovation! (From everyone, not just me.)
More tears! (Again, all mine, though I probably wasn’t alone. Theatre etiquette prevents the inspection of other faces to determine proper appreciation of a dramatic moment. I think that’s written somewhere.)
And it was over. Two hours of existing in another world, Mr. Lithgow’s head.
Mr. Lithgow’s head is a beautiful place to be.

A Day to Remember, though Not Fondly

I was going to tell you an interesting story about a mean bird, a four-foot Nerf gun, and a fruitless attempt at channeling the wisdom of Renee Zellweger.
The bird lived; the Nerf gun cleaned up nicely; and Zellweger’s quote has yet to be Googled, but I know it was brilliant and timely, the spirit of it was dead on, and yet I declined the advice.
But before I could fill in the blanks on that startlingly brilliant vignette, another thing happened.
My Bubs, my beautiful Bubs, has an instinctive need to lock the truck doors before exiting the vehicle. While I appreciate his kindly protecting our maybe-valuables while we spend time outside the confines of a Ram truck, sometimes…well, sometimes.
Yesterday I stopped for gas. Bubs stopped for an Icy drink and perhaps a hot dog, if they were indeed spinning in oil across that roller-dog thing.
I was watching his safe travel across the parking lot while the pump put gas into my car.
Once my son was safely upon the sidewalk of the local convenience store, I turned to put my credit card back into my wallet.
I guess Bubs and I are all about protecting things.
But the door was locked, blocking my re-entry into the driver seat.
No matter how many times I pulled on the door handle, it would not let me in.
Three times, four times; denied.
I could see through the tinted window: my wallet, my phone, my purse, my son’s brand new book from the morning’s book fair, and my keys, sitting lovingly and ready in the bucket of my seat.
Only the ending click of the gas pump startled me back to life.
There are no pay phones, yet twelve thousand walked around the 7-11 while I stood rooted to one place, trying to recall any single number to contact any single person I knew who could help me in my new emergency situation.
And I was coming up empty.
Adrenaline took over, I rushed into the convenience store to look for my Bubs by the hot dog rolling thing, and he was not there. In fact, he was sucking on a cola icy drink while holding the side door for an overall-clad gentleman. He’s such a good boy.
Except for the locking the door thing. There’s that.
Suffice it to sum up:
7-11 doesn’t allow long distance calls.
Neither does Subway.
Not everyone likes that you ask to pleasepleaseplease borrow their cell phone.
Library patrons frequent 7-11 and are kind enough to help, though the efforts prove fruitless and now I owe him a couple dozen cookies to repay his kindness and replace his own melting icy drink.
Subway gentlemen are willing to offer their personal phone for help.
Fortunately, I could remember my own dad’s cell number and he was kind enough to start a text chain of frantic needs for immediacy and chocolate.
And last but not least, firemen rock.
Though I was able to start a Help Me Pleasepleaseplease chain, Subway gentleman prompted a secondary 911 by pointing across the street to a firehouse full of men who “aren’t supposed to, but I bet they will.”
Thus did Bubs and I find ourselves running across a busy street toward help.
And help rushed out the door, into a big red truck, and dashed back down the street toward my stranded-in-pump-six truck while Bubs and I loped after them.
The firemen had already unsheathed their tools and started on both sides of that vehicle.
Five minutes later, truck open, I was taking orders for treats and rewards and Bubs and I were on the road to the local grocery for Rocky Road and Homemade Vanilla.
Can’t thank people enough for their kindness, and can’t wait another minute to scroll through my phone, write down all my contact numbers, and sew the list into my bra.
It’s gonna be a busy day.

Look at this Shirt…but Not this Jacket…and Don’t Look at My Neck…wait, Does My Neck Need Work?

I once overheard in a dress shop dressing room, “What do you think?”
Since I didn’t know of anyone else being in the area, I peeked out my flimsy curtain and saw a lady in a pair of shorts, white socks, and a blazer over a white blouse standing in front of a chair full of her husband, obviously lulled by hypnotic somnolence.
Hubby roused for a second, then glanced up at his wife, who asked again.
“What do you think of this shirt? But only the collar. Don’t look at anything else. And I’ll have a different color jacket, probably navy, maybe black. And a necklace…”
No response.
“What do you think?”
One more beat, a quick shrug, and hubby said, “Yes.”
Ah, I thought to myself as I tucked myself back into the dressing room. He’s a pro. Well done, sir.
Why do I tell you this story? Because I have friends coming from Wyoming, to a house not Spring Ready or Spring Cleaned — or maybe even Winter Cleaned, but March is probably too late for that, I guess.
Having given up on the home’s interior, I’ve been working in the front yard. And the parts that are pretty are really, really pretty! I truly considered calling an emergency meeting of the Garden Club so that they could see I can actually have a pretty, living garden for five minutes every spring.
For my poor visiting friends, I’m hoping that after four back breaking days of labor in the front yard, the collar of the shirt will dazzle them to the point that they won’t notice the awfulness of things like the guest room. (Ooo, better yet, maybe they’ll want to live outside for the duration of their stay! I have a couple of comfy chairs, surely. Well, one needs to be re-webbed…and the other has a wonky leg; it rocks; but rocking motions, they can be soothing, right?)
Except, like that half-dressed woman’s request, I need my friends to look at one half of the front flower bed, the west side…and don’t look around the corner of the house…or the back yard…or even the east side of the same flower bed…
That’s it. I’m taking them to a hotel.