Monday, June 30, 2008
The hydrangea is blooming and that makes me happy. I'm not looking into the cesspool too much lately, just kind of puttering around it, pretending it isn't the color of "Green River" pop. Thank goodness my hydrangea is right next to the water, otherwise I would have nothing lovely to look at. In times of discouragement, it is important to look past the gloominess and to find something lovely. Something joyful. Something that holds the promise of a better tomorrow. I think I found mine.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Well, first, I noticed on how many obese people there are in Walmart. No skinny chick myself, I'm not talking 25 or 50 pounds overweight--I'm talking I-have-to-drive-a-scooter-to-get-around kinda overweight. I didn't realize that they had that many scooters up front for these people. I always saw one, maybe two up front, but I'm talking about six went zooming (well, kinda chugging) by me. I think the law of averages was a little skewed that day, as I don't think there are really that many scooter-using peeps out there. Maybe it's just the Walmart.
And I have to comment on how these peeps drive those things. They are nuts! They push those front baskets right into the counter, shelves, or other people like there aren't any brakes on those things. They ride right down the center of the aisle, and god forbid you try to get by them. I think there is an unwritten right-of-way rule for them that I am not aware of, or they are just pushy. Now, I'm thinking what comes first? Do you get that heavy from not walking around, or do you just get so heavy that you can't walk around? I also noticed that these scooter-drivers always have an assistant or two, someone to grab the items off the shelf for them or to put the items from their little basket onto the check-out counter.
Next comes Slipper Lady. Girlfriend looks like she just woke up from a good night's sleep and just had to get to the Walmart for something. She's got on pajama pants, a giant t-shirt, and slippers. Slippers! Not flip-flops. Not crocs. Not even gym shoes. Slippers! Her companion was better dressed, as I think he was up for awhile. He had Docker-like slacks on and a golf shirt. Did he notice that she had on her slippers? Did he suggest that maybe she put on some clothes for a trip to the Walmart? Was he embarrassed? Ah, the Slobification of America, as Tim Gunn would say.
Now, I sat there for only about 15 minutes and I saw more fodder for strange characters in stories than I could have found in a lifetime. There were old men with no teeth. There were Hispanic families of about 25 in membership swirling about the cart like a hive of bees. There were bratty kids in those darn Heelies skating in and out of shoppers. There were well-dressed dudes that refused to push a cart in front of them--they kind of hang onto the side, real cool-like, acting like it wasn't theirs. There were spandex laden big butts that shouldn't have seen the light of day. There were older couples discussing the pros and cons of every fiber product on the shelf. I just kept thinking--where do they come from? Why don't I see these people anywhere else in the neighborhood? Why do I never see anyone I know in here?
My favorite was the Tatoo Lady--arms bigger than tree-trunks and a tattoo that encompassed her whole upper arm. Thing was probably a good 20 inches around and 24 inches long. The strangest part of it was that her body wasn't as large in comparison to her arms. I can hear it in my mind--"Whatever I eat goes straight to my arms!". It cracks me up. And why would you choose to accentuate your figure flaw with a huge tatoo? I can't even imagine that decision process. It wasn't a good look.
When my writing teacher asked for summer meeting suggestions, I mentioned The Walmart. If you are ever in need of a good character idea, a boost to your self-esteem, or even just a good laugh, this place is IT. I'm glad that nobody was with me, as I'm sure the comments would have been flying and we would have laughed our selves silly. I can't even imagine bringing the camera--now that would be rude. Do you think anyone would notice a group of writers with tablets or laptops sitting there watching shoppers? Probably not. The weirdos would fit right in.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Monday, June 23, 2008
Friday, June 20, 2008
We are living with a teenage brother--which is probably the worst. Joe and I both grew up with older brothers, and fully understand what he's pulling. We lived with the worst, and Colin pales in comparison. He is lovingly referred to as Steve Jeff--the combination name of both of our brothers, kings of dogging the other guy. We bust his chops at every opportunity because we both see what he is doing--opposite of our parents, who remained blissfully uninvolved.
Jeff would take the shared car and leave it for Joe with no gas in it. Steve would take out the peanut butter and leave it for me to put away because I "used it last". He would also leave it out for me to put away when he used it last, because I "took it out". Kings of Manipulation. Both brothers made sure they spared common courtesy and decency in everyday life. Smelly socks left about, dirty underwear shoved under the beds, wet towels draped in the bathroom for you to walk around, and gaseous fumes emitting from either end with no "excuse me" in sight. We aren't even getting into the punches into the upper arm, "indian burns", or pokes from the back seat of the station wagon. They were sinister and wicked, laughing silently in your face when the folks finally gave you both the "knock it off" look.
Now, I'm not saying that living with a teenage girl is any easier, god knows that they have their own issues, but there isn't a day that isn't trying with boys. Yes, they aren't as emotional, but their moods change like the wind. He hates me at 9:00, tolerates me at 9:45, and then hates me again at 9:46. He stays up late and wants to sleep until the next afternoon. He wants money. He doesn't want to work. He won't clean up after himself. His room stinks--literally. He won't sit with us for more than 10 minutes, and the thought of eating dinner with us is his daily hell. His eyes are googly from all of that eye-rolling that he does. He is even peppering his language with a periodic "shit", "damn" or "hell". I guess he is a typical teenage boy, god help us all.
He is a good kid, great grades, and has respect for us on most occasions. He will cut the grass if I nag long enough. He is sweet to the kitties and has his good moments with Em. He fixes the computer and my blog site. He helps me navigate the web, and encourages me with my writing. He asks Joe everyday "How was work?" and actually listens to the answer.
I guess I cannot complain, but it sure is trying these days. I understand the break from the parents and the quest for independance--but does it have to be so dramatic? All that we can do is forgive him, love him, and wait for this to pass.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I was going through my farm pictures yesterday and ran across this one. It was a "Major Award" hung with care in the Ostler seed barn office. Right there, above the old crank phone was the bronzed plaque announcing the world that this is the place to buy your corn seed. But, couldn't they find a more appropriate figure to bronze? Or perhaps, a less giggly one? How come nobody else found this funny, but me? When I pointed it out to Uncle Fain, she just rolled her eyes and chuckled out "Leave it to you to find something like that." What did that mean?! I didn't make the trophy, I just cracked up that somebody thought this was an honor to receive!
I imagine the trophy-making factory. There's the sculptor in the back room, giggling and creating the ear of corn masterpiece. Was this a man or a woman who created it? And was there an order from the higher-ups? "Jim! Create me an ear of corn!" I imagine the meeting in my mind.
Then I wonder about the bronzing part. Was anybody questioning what this thing looked like on a plaque? Were there any women on the line cracking up and rolling their eyes? How many filthy jokes were going on in the assembly room? C'mon--I can't be the only one.
This whole process of designing, casting, bronzing, and mounting this ear of corn seems to be missing the "maybe we ought to use something else" element. Can you imagine the serious look on the presenter? Or the recipient? How do you not laugh? Or smirk?
Maybe I'm just really immature, but I'm wondering what the animal breeders get for their award?
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Now, I don't mind "Forest Gump" so much, I actually like the movie. I just don't want to watch it over and over again. It has a sweet gentle message and there are parts I connect with. My favorite though, has to be when out of the blue, he just starts running one day. I don't remember why he starts running, he just does. And he runs from one end of the country to the other. Then he turns around and does it again.
Did you ever feel like running away from everything? Who hasn't? There are just those moments in your life when everything is coming down and things aren't going your way. And it seems to linger--forever. It's those days/weeks that I'm with Forest, I want to run too. I want to put on my gym shoes and just run. Run away from home. Run away from the family. Run away from responsibility. Run away from all that is bothering me. Run away from laundry. Run away from bills. Run away from solving everyone's problems. Run away from you-name-it. And never look back. The only thing that stops me is that I don't particularly like to run. Maybe I can walk away--it will just take me longer.
So what happens if I don't come back? What happens to this crazy place known as "home"? Will anybody miss me? Will they even notice I'm gone--I mean, earlier than the dinner hour when they want food and I'm not there? I can just hear them.....
"I dunno. I think she went to the store."
In actuality, I'm halfway to Mexico or maybe just Kentucky.
So, if I don't return who will program the VCR/DVD to record their favorite shows? Who will set the programmable thermostat for the changing seasons? Who will vacuum under the beds or behind the furniture? Who will wash the windows both inside AND out? Who will water the flowerpots? Who will take Henry to the vet? Who will count the frogs? Who will get their lazy butts out of bed before 2:00 p.m.? Who will drive them a cazillion places in one day? Who will buy them cute shoes or the "in" shirt? Who will worry about them?
I imagine the repercussions--tie-dyed looking clothes from adding bleach to the wrong loads of laundry. Dust bunnies the size of Texas hunkering in the living room. Stray kitty litter crusting the bottoms of their bare feet when they walk past the laundry room. Beds unmade. Hair outgrown and goofy looking. Non-matching clothes being worn. Dirty dishes left in the sink. Grass overgrown. Christmas lights left in the attic season after season. Same paint color on the walls for years. It would not be pretty.
This family would survive, I'm sure, if I kept running. They would figure it all out--or not. I mean, people survive every day without their moms doing it all for them. Maybe that's what keeps me here, from not running. Maybe I would find out that I've actually done a good job in raising them and that they would survive just fine without me.
Friday, June 13, 2008
I've been fighting with Funai Corporation's lovely "Customer Support" center regarding a lost/stolen DVD manual. It's a very long, boring story, but the jest is that they stink at customer service. Well, I'll be fair--they just don't have any. No, they can't mail me a new one. I'm sorry--we can't help you. No, there is no one in management available to talk to you. I'm sorry--we stink. No, we aren't helpful, nice people. Yes, you could download the manual and print out the billion pages from home. I'm sorry that our customer service department is actually a customer-yes-we-stick-it-to-you-department. Oh--I could go on and on.
I'm feeling like screaming, but I'm instead going to give them the "Belle look". I'm going to smile a devilish grin and stick my tongue out in their general direction. If I could muster up some of that Belle courage, I would eat dirt to make it even more sinister. Take that Funai!
That showed 'em.
By the way--they make Emerson, Sylvania, Symphonic, and Magnavox products. Even the infamous Durabrand coffeemaker is one of their lovely products. If you are adventurous and actually buy one of their products, don't look from help from their Customer Support (notice how they don't even call themselves "customer service") Center.
Thanks for the laugh, Belle.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Anyway, I'm up super early, showering, eating my oatmeal, guzzling down the coffee and trying to get whatever done at home I can before the ride comes. I toss in laundry, feed the fish, get Hen out and then in again, and open the patio umbrella. I rush about like an ol' working mom. How do they do it? I wonder.
We drive with a cazillion other cars on hot cement, stopping every few feet or so--traffic. Lights turn green and then, too fast, red again. We sit idling, we drink our coffee out of travel mugs, and trash the White Sox after losing two games in a row. I've been blessed with company through this urban torture--most cars have single passengers zoning out on talk radio and morning commute routine. I don't miss this part of working.
We get to Laura's office and it is cool and quiet. They have the most peaceful office--not a lot of people there, and those that are there are really quiet. Nobody is loud or silly or obnoxious. Nobody is complaining about the home office or their boss. Nobody is hanging out at the coffee machine or whacking the copier. Nobody is charging in late or trashing their last phone call. This stuff is new to me, because I don't remember the offices of my past ever being this still. There is work going on--they are just quiet about it. I like this place.
Work is work, and that hasn't changed much. You do the routine, the boring, most days. Things heat up, things cool down. There are times when you have to rush to appease the boss or some co-worker, but usually that wanes as well. I don't miss the crazy people, the wacky phone calls, or the mundane stuff. I don't think I miss having to get made up at some ungodly hour or having to be somewhere past all of this traffic. I miss the paycheck and the camaraderie of a communal office--sometimes. Like on the 100th day of snow in one winter.
After so many hours of file pushing and paper shoving, Laura and I head back out into the world of metal and heat. Oh god--the right lane is closed up ahead and every knucklehead skips past us to cut in way up front. I find myself having to tap the inner farm in me. I visit the Ostler's place in my mind where my only neighbors are cows and corn. There are no horns, no red lights, and no morons cutting in front of us. Why do I find myself humming the theme from Green Acres? Ain't too far from the truth.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Aunt Laurie's property is spacious and lovely. I don't remember how much property is there (almost an acre?), but neighbors are far and it is quiet. You don't see a soul when you are out in the back. There are about a billion trees and the girls have been spiffing up the gardens to make the place a sanctuary. There is a fire pit waaaayyy in the back with some handmade log benches just the perfect height for roasting marshmallows. There are hostas aplenty and green grass galore. I keep threatening a camp-out as this place screams "vacation".
We walk the perimeters ooohhing and aaahhing the various gardens--this one is the hosta garden, this one is Kelly's garden, this is Uncle Tom's garden, etc. Each one has it's own identity, as sun and shade are both prevalent thanks to a wicked wind storm that wiped out a few trees last year. It's the Donahue Botanical Gardens, and we are lucky they don't charge admission.
The peace is disturbed by the loud thundering of the Bumpus Hounds thumping down the deck stairs. There are three of them, although they sound more like a hundred in number. They love the yard and terrorize its inhabitants. Squirrels run for cover when they hear the roar. Chipmunks cower in their holes. Birds scatter. It is both frightening and funny to watch these beasts charge the yard with their tongues a-flailing.
Named appropriately after the pack of dogs in the movie "A Christmas Story", these three are everywhere. Rosie runs from person to person, licking everyone. You can't move for this lovable beast is right there, demanding love and attention at every turn. She looks ferocious, but is a giant marshmallow. Belle is full of energy and busies herself in digging holes everywhere--much to the chagrin of the gardeners. Her face is covered in dirt in mud and she smiles a muddy dog smile at us, smugly dismissing orders to quit. Bailey is in his (?) later years and isn't as wild as the other two. But he tags along, doesn't want to miss out on any fun.
We sit on the deck, overseeing the yard, and laugh as these three romp around like fools. Forget TV, they provide enough entertainment for hours. We laugh at the dogs, silly family stories, and Kelly's comments. My kids love this place and Aunt Laurie and Kelly. It is fresh air, lovely scenary, and loads of laughs. It is extended family and good food.
The dogs finally pass out on the deck and Baily is in the house on his pillow. They start to snore and it's the sign that it's time to load up and stress ourselves out on the highway once again.
Monday, June 9, 2008
Saturday, June 7, 2008
So, the reason I'm posting my "hanging out at a Big Hollywood Party" picture is because Frank needs a photo for his booth at The Farm today. He is representing our Wednesday writing/therapy class in a booth promoting activities and classes at The Center, and wanted to show our work. Of course, me being me, I had to offer him a giant 8 x 10 glossy--he refused. Sheesh. I guess my stories, blog, and my giant-moment-in-publishing-history-article-in-the-Southtown will just have to speak for themselves. Maybe they will inspire others to join our wonderful group. Maybe it will just scare them off. Who knows?!
Love the class, and of course, the wonderful facilitator, Frank. It is a supportive, uber-creative, and colorful group of very talented people. There isn't a soul there who ever disappoints. I have been moved on most evenings with the incredible stories and personal reflections of our writers. The thoughts, comments, ideas, and encouragement are overflowing and it has changed me. I am a better person and writer because of this new bunch of friends. Oh--and they make me laugh too.
Like the poem on the side by Mary Oliver, I encourage you to "put your lips to the world and live your life". Be creative. Be spontaneous in your artform--whatever that be. Paint and write and photograph to free your soul. It's your sixth sense, you know. We all want to see and hear what you have to say. Find a group who supports that in you. Drive your family nuts with it. Tell everyone you meet that you are a "writer" or an "artist" or a "stand-up comedian". Be what you have always longed to be, but were afraid or discouraged to be. Send your signal to the world and find those who help you do it.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Farm equipment has travelled far into the world of technology, as we learned they are commonly equipped with computers and GPS systems. It was amazing to learn on how much they depend on such modern advances, and needless to say, it sold the kids completely!
Here's Uncle Fain having her turn--I think she was trying to convince Allen to drive it to the CVS!
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Caroline is a hoot. She and Em laugh at the same silly things, jump in on any fun, and pretty much keep us entertained. She tolerates our family and goes along with just about anything--that's why we like to take her along. They drove tractors together, climbed ladders into the hay loft, and whipped soy beans at each other. They square danced, played Nintendo DS for hours in the car, and gave Patrick a run for his money with his soccer ball. They took a billion photos, ate pulled cremes, and practiced emulating Fain's Apalachian accent. Anything goes for these two and they are always stirring up fun.
They are witty and make comments that crack me up, although the morning banter after sleeping on a hotel sofa bed was a little much.
"Caroline, you had your knee up my butt last night!" Em was whining first thing.
"Well, you had your butt on my knee." was Caroline's response. You can't argue with that one.
Em is lucky to have such a friend through those tough middle school years. Having a BFF to share those daily dramas and laughs is essential, as Joe and I don't "understand". They confide, gossip, and giggle through it all and it is good to see. It keeps things in perspective and helps them to sort out the craziness in those difficult teen years. I'm glad that they have each other, although I do have one complaint with Caroline--she is a rainbow liar.
Standing in line at the Milky Way, the ice cream hotspot of Frankfort, Indiana, it started to rain. Not just rain, but giant sized raindrops that almost hurt when they fell on you. The sun was still shining and these ginormous bullets of water started to fall on us. There was a small overhang that we stood under, clinging together, as there wasn't much room on the sidewalk. And then it happened--Caroline said the unthinkable.
"Hey! There's a rainbow!" and we all looked upwards.
The crowd turned. We were peeking out from underneath the overhang, trying to see the rainbow that Caroline saw. All of the other customers were straining their necks, as they heard her claim. But, there was no rainbow. She was just kidding. Lying, actually. About a rainbow. You could almost feel the disappointment amongst the ice-cream-eating crowd, as they were all excited to see it. I'm not sure where that ranks in the list of serious crimes, but I can tell you, people were not happy.
We quickly grabbed our food and got out of there--before the crowd turned into an angry mob. Darn, Caroline! There are many things to lie about, but never, NEVER a rainbow!
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
We met with dear friends at their farm in Indiana and spent the weekend enjoying friendship, good food, a couple of square dances, and lots of laughs. I am renewed. It is amazing how good people can be and how just being with them centers you. I felt as though we had been gone for a week, when in actuality, it was only for 2 days. I have to have these escapes or I go crazy--I think maybe I am a country girl at heart!
We rambled the picturesque Ostler Farm for the day, learning about corn and soybean crops and the farm bill. We climbed into the bouncy seat of a combine and crawled about numerous farm implements. Allen was the picture of patience and graciousness as he let everyone have their turn driving the tractor. His kind instructions and warm smile made it the highlight for kids and adults alike. I haven't seen my kids light up like this in a long time.
We toured the seed barn, a past mercantile outbuilding that farmers would visit to purchase the Ostler seed that was so popular back in the day. The mini-elevator in the corner proved to be a hit with the kids, as they slowly (emphasis on slow) went to the second floor and then the basement of the dark building. There were soybean seeds scattered on the floor, and seed bags stuffed everywhere. Tammy and I camped out in the office which was loaded with antiques. We stood there open-mouthed touching the old crank phone and manual cash register that I don't think the Ostler's even notice anymore. There was a truck scale that worked (well, not anymore) with the old-fashioned weights which had us mesmerized. There were old posters and seed price lists posted on the bulletin board yellowed by time. There were cobwebs and dust, and it was beautiful. Rumor has it, there was a barn dance there not too long ago, and I can see why--it was the ideal spot with it's rustic posts and wooden floor. We were pushing for this charming building to be the home of Camp Ostler '09--but I don't think they relished the idea of us sending all of our kids there for a week as much as we did--although, Tammy and I thought of coming ourselves.
There was the ubiquitous large red barn across the field, and we asked to look inside. Allie and Libby, the Ostler teenage girls, probably thought nothing of the barn, but it was luminous and inviting to city folk. They were sweet, never eye-rolling or acting bored--graciousness epitmized. Jerry and Allen rolled open the huge doors and we were met with a dark, sweet smelling barn that is used mainly for storage today. It was the former home to sheep and more recently, cattle. There was a hay loft, which was the favorite of the kids to visit. They climbed the vertical wooden ladder to find the floor soft from oats and hay that scattered over the years. There was a milking room and a corn crib. There were thick hand-hewed beams and hay bales. We stepped around a rusted trap and old pitchforks. Everywhere you looked, there was Ostler family history and remants of days long gone. I could have stayed in that barn all day.
My dear friend, Tammy, and I sat on the porch swing together and sighed. If there wasn't the promise of ice cream, I don't think we would have ever left. Here we were, on this beautiful land with probably the most gracious people I know, and it was heaven. It was quiet and the warm day was gently cooled by a breeze. There were cows and chickens down the way and puffy blue clouds dotting the sky. It was the first really nice day after a too-long winter. We drove a tractor and threw soy bean seeds at each other. This is what it's all about, I thought.
We drove home, kids passed out all about the car. Joe and I were quiet, centered by the experience. I came home renewed, refreshed, and happy. I keep the Ostler's Farm experience deep inside, and it warms me.