Survival Skills

Once again, I am luxuriating in the solitude of a day off.  With the exception of Toby, Molly, and Lamonte, I am all alone for the next 6 hours.   Believe me, I am appreciating every minute of it.

Now that my husband is gainfully (or painfully, depending who you ask) employed, I don’t have to spend my days off with him. Don’t get me wrong; I love my husband.  Tomorrow will be our 10th anniversary, and although I’ve told my fellow member of SMPCC* otherwise,  it’s not true that I can only stand to be married to one man for 10 years.  That being said, I will state that I believe marriage licenses should have a 10 year limit, then the participants in said institution can, if they wish, renew the license at no charge.  If they choose not to renew, there’s a $10K fee to do so.

I don’t have $10K…I don’t even have $10.  But if I had 10 grand, instead of  choosing not to renew our marriage license, I would spend it on things that would only guarantee another successful decade of marriage.

First and foremost would be separate vacations.

Absence DOES make the heart grow fonder.  At the least, it makes you forget the annoying habits of the person who is absent, and makes their positive qualities (such as bathing, walking the dog, doing the dishes) seem like saintly aspirations. I have never had a separate vacation from either of my husbands, which probably explains why I’ve been married twice. The price for this? I’d say about $5000 . (Hey, we’re not talking something fancy, but I would love to see how far I send myself for $5000.)

A “driveway mechanic’s class”.

 Not for me, but for that sweet partner of mine who doesn’t realize the significance of  dashboard warning lights or strange thumping coming from the engine. I don’t know what goes on inside his pretty head when he’s driving, but I know it’s not acknowledging the smoke coming out from under the hood. Price? $500. Maybe even $750 if the instructor looked like Mike Rowe.

A STFU Stun gun.

I was raised in family where irritability and indignation were not only accepted, but encouraged.  Most of our spouses were made aware of this deadly combination before entering into the sacrament of marriage, or learned the hard way after exchanging vows.  We don’t give a rat’s ass about how you saved $1.10 by driving across town to get cheaper gas.  We don’t care if someone allegedly cut you off in traffic when your were going  35 MPH in a 40 MPH zone.  Zap!  STFU!  And a double zap goes out for every time you argue with a server at a restaurant about the price and quality of the food.  I would happily pay $50 per zap.  And that, dear readers, would pretty much take care of the rest of the $10K allotted.

Again, I love my husband.  Truly, deeply, and above all, madly.   We were married 10 years ago on a cold, blustery Valentine’s Day with my beloved children, sister, and friends in attendance.  It was one of the happiest days of my life.  But at the height of our reception, when my new husband began arguing with the caterer about their charges, I knew I was in for the long haul. But I would still choose to spend the next decade with him, in a heartbeat.

*Spousal Murder Prevention Coffee Clatsch”. Call me for information on joining. 

You know you grew up in…

There is a Facebook page out there that is dedicated to memories of growing up in my home town.  To protect the innocent and guilty, I won’t name the town.

I grew up in a town in northwest Nebraska. The population never exceeded 7500, and as of now I believe the population is around 5500.  ( I’m sure someone out there will correct me on this.)  The Facebook page titled ” You know you grew up in ******* if…” has been a wonderful thing to participate in.  Reading everyone else’s posts gave my own memories a different perspective, a different and deeper dimension, and made me look at life as it was in a different way.

Someone started a thread on this page about bullying and/or being bullied when they were in school.  Memories of being taunted as a child, 20,30, 40 or more years ago still linger with a lot of people from my hometown.  With the postings of incidents of bullying, teasing, or physical abuse came postings of apologies and forgiveness.  But, on the other hand, there were some who were not as quick to forgive or apologize, and it makes me wonder; how long has this been angering that person?  How long has that been eating away at their souls? I posted the quote ” Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”  But after posting that, I began to think about all the poison I’ve swallowed, all the grudges I’ve held, all the jealousy and hatred that filled my soul at times… was it justified?

I come from a very large family….and not a well-to-do family.  For years I (and my siblings) were subjected to taunts and ridicule by our peers simply because of this.  We were a good, decent, family. We just happened to have a lot of siblings and our father, who always worked hard, simply could not afford the same kind of lifestyle as our classmates.  We wore second-hand clothes, homemade haircuts, and none of us got our own car on our 16th birthday.   Was this a legitimate reason to mock us?  Did money,social status, and size of family really make a difference?

I was never taught that I deserved better treatment, more respect.  I never thought to broach the subject with my parents, teachers, or counselors because I believed the bullies, the teasers, the taunters, because of their status, were correct.  Being shoved against lockers, ignored by classmates, and shunned by others in my school was something I accepted.  As much as I wanted to make my place in high school—and I could have, academically—my efforts were thwarted by my own thoughts of inadequacy, brought on by words and actions of my peers.

I had one teacher, Mrs. S, who took me aside and talked to me about my life, my future plans.  I thought it was funny….me? future plans? what kind of future was in store for me, other than making it out of high school alive?  She was sincerely concerned about me, a concept I could not comprehend.  No one, especially the schoolmates who scorned me, showed any concern for me, so why should I waste time on myself?

I didn’t finish high school with the rest of my class.  I got married, had children, and made a life for myself that I was proud of.   Over time, I learned that  the bullies in my life  were acting out of fear and insecurity. Fear of the unknown, the possibility that the person you are bullying may, in fact, be a slightly better person than you, thus a threat to your identity as top dog in that dog pile called school.

It’s silly to hold a grudge against someone who was actually weak, fearful, and unwilling to face the unknown.  Yes, I drank some of that poison, but as they say, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. I have forgiven the bullies. I learned to be a better person, more open, more loving and accepting because of their actions.  I only hope they learned to same lesson.

Ol’ Chunk of Coal

I am posting a tribute to my father, who would have  been 86 years old last week if cancer had not taken him away from all this, and us.

My father was crusty, cynical, and at times, crude.  But when he was given the diagnosis of cancer and prognosis of death, he began to change.  Although he rarely, if ever, praised his children or told them he loved them, as he grew weaker from the illness, he allowed us to express our love for him, and he in return whispered the same words to us.

His illness changed him from a loud and eccentric man to someone who finally accepted the fact that he was, yes, merely mortal; someone who prayed silently for forgiveness and a smooth transition into afterlife. His pain and suffering smoothed the rough edges away and there–under that crusty, cynical, and crude exterior–was a brilliant, precious man.

I found the lyrics to a country song popular several decades ago.  This song had to have been written for people like my Dad,  if not for Dad himself.

I’M JUST AN OLD CHUNK OF COAL

Hey I’m just an old chunk of coal,

But I’m gonna be a diamond some day,

I’m gonna grow and glow ’til I’m so blue pure perfect,

I’m gonna put a smile on ev’rybody’s face.

I’m gonna kneel and pray ev’ry day,

Lest I should become vain along the way.

I’m just an old chunk of coal now Lord, But I’m gonna be a diamond some day.

I’m gonna learn the best way to walk,

I’m gonna search and find a better way to talk

I’m gonna spit and polish my old rough-edged self,

‘Til I get rid of ev’ry single flaw.

I’m gonna be the world’s best friend,

I’m gonna go ’round shakin’ ev’rybody’s hand

Hey I’m gonna be the cotton-pickin’ rage of the age,

I’m just an old chunk of coal now Lord, But I’m gonna be a diamond some day.

Keeping it fresh

It’s been a hot one…and two..and a dozen.  Walking outside, as my friend Molly put it, is like having the whole world fart in your face through a hot, wet blanket.  Oh, to be back in the land of dry heat…..

Every time I wish that upon myself,  I look back and recall when I first spent time in this fair city.  I lived in the land of dry heat, where everything was dry and crispy before the 4th of July, where raising a vegetable garden was to do battle with the devil himself, and we won’t even talk about raising a lovely flower garden.  It was in late May ( a thousand years ago) that I first came down to Lincoln to spend a few days with my younger sister.  I marveled at the traffic, the buildings, the fantastic supermarkets that actually sold individual potatoes, compared to the 25-100 lb bags I was used to buying.  My first night at my sister’s 3rd (gasp) floor apartment was spent watching a fantastic thunderstorm that included lightning bolts hitting the sower on top of the capitol building a few blocks away.

The next morning she and I walked the dozen or so blocks to a supermarket to get a few things for a hibachi barbeque she’d planned on the back landing of their apartment.  As we walked, I ooohed and ahhhed over the lush lawns of the stately houses we passed, marveled at the gorgeous flowers blooming along the route, and thrilled at the sights of the castle-like mansions that dotted the streets through a historic part of the city.  We entertained ourselves on the way by calling  “here kitty kitty kitty” to the numerous cats lounging on the porches and stoops along the way.  Some actually came down to greet us, but most looked at us with lazy, sleepy eyes and chose to stay put.

Ah, the tall oak trees! The fireflies that blipped through the heavy night air!   The 24 hour supermarkets and convenience stores!  City bus service!   The internet at one’s fingertips! The sounds of the city–sirens, horns, trains, people passing..it was so exciting for me, a farm girl who lived in the sandhills where there were 3 people and 50 head of cattle per square mile.  I decided that, if life for me ever changed drastically, I would move to this Eden.

Thanks to that same sister (and other extenuating circumstances), my life did change drastically.  She and her husband had just upgraded their computer, and she gifted me with their old one.  When I got back to the Sandhills, I found that I could connect to the internet on that same computer, and by connecting with the internet, I also connected with the man who is now my husband.  One thing led to another, and I packed up everything I could say was mine into my Mercury Marquis and moved to this lovely city.  Two years later I married that man I met on the internet, and we now live in a lovely deep-porched bungalow with two cats and a dog, a huge back yard with a vegetable garden, blooming flowers, and a clothes line.  Everything I had dreamed of on that first visit to Lincoln.

Now, whenever I start complaining about the heat, about the humidity, about the noise, about anything, I take a trip back in my mind to the days of awe and wonder of this city, and it all comes back to me; fresh, new, and exciting.  And I am filled with awe and wonder that I am now actually living that dream.

Got A Long Little Doggie

Sweeney Dog, the Demon Dachshund of 12th Street (better known as Toby) has rid our back yard of squirrels and rabbits. His low profile, keen sense of eyesight, and razor-sharp teeth have made them all afraid, very afraid–and has left at least one squirrel with dog-nips on its tail. Now all he has left to attack in the back yard are sticks, a couple of old gourds I threw out, and our cat Lamont.  He’s also been dragging the garden fork (better known in farming circles as a “manure fork”; which thankfully, there’s a serious lack of in our neighborhood) around the yard..it probably weighs twice as much as he does.

We thought that having him neutered would calm him down a bit, and it has; he’s no longer humping animate or inanimate objects.   But he’s turning into a supreme smartass, which, I suppose can be attributed to the fact that, at 7 months of age, he’s the equivalent of that kid in your 9th grade class who was always tripping other kids in the hall, forging his parent’s names on report cards, smoking in the bathroom,  and spending most of his formative time sitting in the principal’s office.

Toby is a show-off.  This is one of the Dachshund’s most admirable (or annoying) traits.  He will play rocket dog in the backyard at 10:30 at night, grabbing sticks, rocks, or dirt clods from the garden and race around the yard, growling like some crazed monster, his long ears flying in the whirlwind he’s created.  When he’s satisfied that we’ve been thoroughly impressed, he’ll stop, walk over to a bush and piss like a dogly dog–hind leg raised, his eyes fixed on some invisible fire hydrant a foot above and slightly to the right of him. ( I’ve watched him enough to know exactly how he poses.) When he was just a little baby (a month ago) he would lift his back leg and pee all over his front leg.   His aim, although incorrect, was impressive.   It’s a long distance back to front on a Dachshund, and his ability (or talent, as it were) to consistently pee on himself still amazes me.

If, for some reason, his antics don’t amaze but merely amuse, he gets all embarrassed and tries to change the subject to distract us.  Like the time he tried to impress my brother with his jump-on-your-lap skills (comparable to nunchuck skills, which,  for the grace of God and lack of opposable thumbs, Toby will never achieve) and didn’t get it done in one giant leap; instead it turned out to be a scrambling of wiener dog legs and grunting and finally a helping hand from my brother to get him up. This caused too much damage to his psyche; with lowered head and drooping tail he jumped off the lap and slunk away.  But wait! A chance to save face!  There, just a few feet away was Bunny, the stuffed toy he’d had since we brought him home.  Bunny no longer has eyes, whiskers or tail, and Toby chewed most of stuffing out of its rear end.  Bunny is Toby’s whipping boy.  If Toby is embarrassed, ashamed, or just pissed off, he’ll grab Bunny by the hole in the butt and shake it as if it was a living thing.

Think starving shark, fat swimmer.

While he is whipping his head back and forth in his effort to snap the spine of a spineless toy, his eye is on his audience.   When he hears a warm and loving “Blah Blah Blah Toby..Blah Blah Blah”  he’ll finish his performance and wag his tail in appreciation of our adulations.  (Note: ‘ Blah Blah Blah’  can mean anything from ” What a strong handsome dog you are! Such talent!”  to ” Knock it off, you little bastard, you’re shaking Bunny stuffing all over the carpet!”, but to a dog, it’s all good, unless the words NO! or BAD DOG! or F**KING DOG CHEWED UP MY NEW CORDANI’S!” are included.)

Bunny has had a better life than most of Toby’s other toys.  The sacred burial ground of doggy toys is scattered with the sad remains of squeaky toys that he chewed until he got the squeaker out ( thus rendering them useless to him), “indestructible ” balls made from old tires and kryptonite, completed destructed; frisbees, gloves, slippers, cardboard boxes, planks, chew toys passed up for designer shoes, and designer shoes.  It’s common knowledge that puppies chew…they are teething, and just like a human baby, and they need the massaging effect of chewing on something to ease the pain of those erupting teeth.  Unlike a baby, who gums up a biscuit or sucks on a cold teething ring to sooth the way for their pearly whites, dogs have snarly fangs which require massive amounts of gnawing to bring them out.  You can set a teething  baby down in an aisle at DSW and nothing will happen.   Set a  puppy down in a room where you have a new pair of pricey pumps tucked away on a shelf in a closet, and the animal will have them destroyed within seconds.

Toby is not my first Dachshund. There was Scratchy, the “ranch hand” dog who grew up with my daughters.  Scratchy was a legend in the neighborhood, adventurous and daring but basically useless for anything but companionship and entertainment. He lived (or I should say survived, considering how many times he’d encounter a wild animal, been rolled by a pickup or kicked by a horse) to the ripe old age of 15.  That was nearly 20 years ago, and the girls still get teary-eyed reminiscing about him, and the neighbors  still laugh about Scratchy’s shenanigans.  I have been yearning to get another Dachshund ever since, but my husband has always balked at getting a dog, especially a Dachshund because he was bitten by one when he was a child.  He finally caved and now he and Toby are inseparable, by Toby’s design. My husband is discovering the personality and traits of Dachshunds and now knows why one bit him years ago: bottom line; they are assholes.  Little jerks that bark when there’s nothing there but will wag their tails and lick the faces of strangers entering your home.  Their idea of being a guard dog is to lie on their backs under a piece of furniture and bark and snarl ferociously, wanting to prove their worth but too lazy to get up to do it.   They will find, and proceed to roll around in, any rotting animal carcass or garbage then offer to share the exquisite stench with you. They will stand in your way and act offended when you trip and fall over them. They will dig holes all over your lovely back yard lawn, eat acorns and puke them back up on your carpet, taunt cats, and chew up your shoes.

But there is something about a Dachshund I haven’t found in any other breed of dog.   No matter where you go, or who you meet, someone will squeal “Oooo, a Wiener Dog!” And every one has a Dachshund story to tell, a loving memory of  Uncle Jim’s little Trucker or Grandma’s Trixie.

And that is, in my opinion, the only thing that has kept us from eradicating the breed from the face of  this earth.

.

Thank You, Benevolent Donor of Clothing!

All year long, and especially at this time of year, people give generously of themselves by donating clothing, housewares, books, and toys to non-profit organizations such as the one I work for.
Yesterday I opened a large box and began removing the items within. The top layer was an assortment of broken down shoes circa 1980. Beneath that was a large number of men’s white dress shirts…stained, stiff, smelling of old sweat and basement,  and stuck together. I started pulling them apart and was hit in the face with the dust of mold and mildew. If there’s anyone out there looking for mold stained shirts, I’m sorry to have to tell you I threw them out.
Last night around midnight I started having coughing and hacking spells, and couldn’t sleep because of it.  I may be wrong, but I’m almost positive this is a reaction to inhaling that moldy dust.  Most of my Christmas Eve plans have been cancelled because of this. I could follow through with my plans but I don’t have the energy.

Our organization depends on the sale of good, reusable donations to fund our vocational rehab and employment training programs.  Do you seriously believe we can resell moldy clothes and unwearable shoes?   And as for other donations, such as old toys that have been recalled by manufacturers, non-working electronics, broken dishes and other household items, wouldn’t it be easier for you (and your conscience) to just throw them in a dumpster? Separating this garbage from the good items takes up more time, money, and energy than you would spend hoisting a bag into a garbage bin. 

There are many people who donate clothing that is clean, nearly new, and obviously well taken care of.  People who donate household items that anyone would be proud to own and excited to purchase at a fraction of retail cost.  Most of our customers are folks who know the value of the little money they have, and shop at thrift stores for Christmas gifts because they want to stretch their last dollars to see smiles on their family’s faces on Christmas morning.  When I go through donations consisting of dog-shit filled shirts, filthy thong underwear,  blood-and/or-other-body-fluid-stained bed linens, mud caked shoes, and terminally broken toys, it makes me want to hunt you down and re-gift them to you.

I believe there is a very special place in hell for people who donate their garbage to organizations such as mine.  Think twice next time you bring it to our donation center.  Think about the misery you inflict on a stranger when you think nothing of dumping your trash off at our door instead of just putting it in the dumpster.
 And, to add insult to injury, you demanded a tax receipt from us.
Merry Christmas, you filthy slob; you greedy, thoughtless asshole.
I hope you get audited by the IRS.

Through the tunnel, darkly.

My brother has finally snagged a job…it pays a bit more than minimum wage and only part time, but a job is a job.  I thank God for this! 

He has been such a great help around the house, and a great source of support for Dr K as he searches for employment.  As for me, having my brother around give me the incentive to cook and serve sit-down meals, and we have a blast reminiscing about the old days when he lived with me and The Rancher back in the ’80’s.  I didn’t realize how much I needed that comradery.

We are still trying to keep the wolves at bay.  But this bit of good news, my brother’s new job, makes that light in the tunnel a bit more believable.