Suck Week

We have officially entered what I refer to as “Suck Week.” Beginning on Valentine’s Day and ending on or around February 22nd, this is the worst week of the year.  Not only do I have to deal with Valentine’s Day, but exactly one week later (not even enough time to barf up all the chocolate), I have to “celebrate” my stupid birthday.  My general methodology for dealing with Suck Week is to listen to the Cure and stomp around the neighborhood wearing all black while aggressively smoking clove cigarettes.  Unfortunately, I don’t smoke any more, and as I always wear all black because constantly having obvious  ketchup stains on your shirts can be read as “unprofessional,” I no longer even have this outlet.  I’m thinking about just crawling under my bed and waiting it out.  This is also my plan for most major catastrophes including the zombie apocalypse, tsunamis and if there’s something really gross in the sink.  I’m not great at planning.

Last week I started narrating my life, pretending I was the Shark Week voice-over guy, and singing the Jaws theme song under my breath. This is evidently disconcerting to elderly ladies trying to buy cans of cat food in the 15 items or less lane at H.E.B. Whoopsy. I tend to take Suck Week seriously because birthdays have been terrible for me as long as I can remember.  On my first birthday, I was terrified of the cake, but then figured out that sugar was THE GREATEST THING IN THE WORLD, and splatted my entire face into it. There was also the five year long stint during which I accidentally literally set myself on fire every single year.  Those jokey candles that won’t go out are not always super hilarious, and often cause unintended bangs.   In one particularly poignant episode, on my 16th birthday, I set my bathrobe on fire trying to boil water on our gas stove and the Rev caught me in the “rolling” part of stop, drop and roll on the kitchen floor.  She thought this was hysterically funny because the kitchen sink was about four inches away from the stove, and the drama of yelling “I’M ON FIRE” while flopping around like an overly excited walrus was probably unnecessary.

  My friends and family tend to duck and cover at this time of year.  Amber said the other day that she vaguely remembered me being a huge pain in the butt last year, which means someone did some pretty significant liquid forgetting.  I’m not easy to deal with normally (two weeks ago, I fell in love with late 90’s terrible hair metal and made everyone listen to it for a solid week), but during Suck Week I allow myself to be just terrible. Aside from the Discovery Channel style narration, I also get extremely morose, sometimes rocketing past moderately depressing and ending up in Elliot Smith-ville. It’s not a good look, but I regard Suck Week as my rock bottom. Who doesn’t love a good wallow?

The upcoming birthday has gotten me thinking about generations.  I’m at the very tail end of Gen X, and because of this, I have friends who are both Boomers and Millennials.  Amber is a millennial, but she refuses to acknowledge it.  I guess if my generation’s major contribution to the zeitgeist was Justin Bieber, I’d have a hard time claiming it, too.  Her age group has taken a ridiculous amount of hits lately, (“You lazy snowflakes need to toughen. We ate Spam and when there was no Spam we ate air because we loved America”) and has been playing right into the battle by hitting back (“Spam wrecked Planet America, you jerks.”)   Sometimes, especially during Suck Week, I can’t help but push her buttons.  Here’s a transcript:

Me: I hate everything.  Let’s go get a barrel of marshmallows and like a raft of Graham crackers and a battleship of chocolate and a blow torch and just drown ourselves in smores, but also eat our way out…until we explode like really gross Easter Bunny chocolates that accidentally got left on the car’s dash during church.

Amber: Travis says trade the Graham crackers for star crunches.

Me: Can you buy them in “raft” quantities?  I’m only interested in sugar products that come in size “desk” or larger.

Amber: Yes.

Me: Ok. Star Crunch will work

Amber: And be more delicious

Me: That’s the problem with you millennials…always messing with the classics.  It’s like terrible things that have always been absolutely awful just aren’t good enough for you.

Amber: DON’T CALL ME A MILLENNIAL.  I WAS DOWN WITH GRAHAM CRACKERS.

Me:  Dude, it’s a SMORE.  It’s made of burnt marshmallow, the kind of chocolate no one voluntarily eats in any other capacity and a high fiber cracker that was deliberately designed to minimize pleasure and stimulation.  That’s why they’re like the ultimate drowning yourself in depression food.  The only way this gets worse is if you make people pray over them – which happens.

Amber: I wouldn’t pray over a smore.  That’s just weird.

Me:  Michael row your boat a – gimme a smore because they’re slightly better than beans containing one tiny weird piece of pork fat cooked in the can.

Amber: True…

Me: And the thing about smores is that they’re awful, but it’s your own fault.  It’s absolutely impossible to evenly toast a marshmallow over a camp fire without turning it into a flaming death turd, which you then just shove into your mouth to hide your shame.

Amber:  Shhh, they’re delicious.

Me:  They’re vile burned sugar jammed between the only crackers in the world that get somehow both stale and soggy three seconds after you open the package.  Graham crackers should be used to dehumidify basements.  They should make those capsules that turn into dinosaurs when you dump them in water out of them.

Amber: But then they’d get mushy

Me: True, but they’re pretty mushy anyway, being sponges.  I guess you Millennials are just opposed to ephemeral dinosaurs.

Amber: (Rage emoticon)

Me: “We need accuracy in our colorful dinosaur sponges.  Actual dinosaurs were around through at least three major historical ages, most notably the Jurassic.  And, as fossil records can’t reveal what colors they were, it’s highly possible that they may, in fact, have been aquamarine and violet, gosh darnit” ~ Every Millennial ever.  #aquamarinedinosaur #gilmoregirls.

Amber: DON’T INCLUDE ME!!!

Me: You realize that the millennials are making all the valuable points here, right?  You know, about not wanting to continue to make things that are terrible and wanting better accuracy in their sponge representations of dinosaurs.  You have to draw the line somewhere.  If the Boomers hadn’t put a stop to it, we’d all still be suffering through bunt cake shaped Spam and Green Jell-O Surprise.

Amber: Shut up.

I’m often shocked that I have any friends at all.  I really need them, though.  Somebody has to drag me out from under the bed and make me clean the thing out of the sink.

Author’s note: Amber read this article early this morning. She said, “It’s funny, but I’m not a Millennial (she was born in 1988). “Yes, you are, Amburgler. Look it up,” I replied. She’s currently not speaking to me. Welcome to Suck Week.

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Insufferable Audacity

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The Pits

I tried to turn on my heater for the first time this season during the cold snap we had around the first of January.  Predictably, because this is my life, it wouldn’t light.  The city spent about six months (instead of the 4 weeks they initially predicted) working on the gas lines in the easement behind my house last spring/summer/fall, and I figured that they just forgot to turn the gas back on.  I called the public works department, and a few hours later a guy came out.  He, after much tromping around, found that the line wasn’t holding pressure.  He then turned the gas off and locked the meter.  Houston, we have a gas leak.

I called the Rev and the G.P. to let them know.  It was a Saturday, and since weekend rates of plumbers often have to be expressed in scientific notation, we decided to wait until Monday to call one.  The G.P. had me covered, though.  He brought over his ancient grey metal space heater and announced that I was saved.

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Old Shocky, the Electrocutioner

I know this space heater well from my many banishments to the camper.  We call it “The Electrocutioner” or “Old Shocky” because not only does it shock you every time you touch it, it also creates a static charge that travels through walls and floors and electrifies everything metal, including doorknobs.  Just try to open a door without first covering your hand with your sleeve, and you get a filling buzzing jolt.  As a basic rule, it’s always a good idea to wear rubber soled shoes around my Dad, but when the Shockster is heating the shop, the addition of ugly yellow dish washing gloves is also wise.  It would have to get pretty cold in the house before I would turn that thing on.

I survived the weekend by putting on a sweater.  It really doesn’t get that cold in Corpus Christi.  On Monday, the plumber came and replaced a fitting near the house.  The city returned and told us the problem remained unsolved.  To me, living without natural gas wasn’t that big of a deal.  I have LOTS of sweaters, and the heater is the only appliance in the house that runs on gas.  The Rev and I suggested that when it’s time to sell the house, we just replace the gas furnace with an electric one.  There’s little need for super efficiency when you only need the appliance three weeks out of the year, max.  The G.P. was having none of it, and because the plumbers estimate was over $3,000, he began conniving plans to dig up the 35 meters of gas line running through my backyard himself.

The day your Daddy goes full on Don Quixote is a difficult one.   Instead of jousting windmills, however, the G.P. is digging trenches.  The initial plan was to dig pilot post holes in order to locate the line, and then to use his drill with an auger bit to make small holes between the larger post holes and use an electronic gas sniffer to find the leak. He started tunneling alongside the house, to figure out where the gas line went out through the yard.  My Dad is 72 years old, and recently spent a month wearing a heart monitor to allow his cardiologist to check on his ticker. The Rev and I suspected that the monitor was more for the Old Man to clock his heart’s efficiency, much like the way he is obsessively aware of his car’s miles per gallon.   Either way, Digging Dad was worrisome to me, so I spend a lot of time raking leaves and hanging around when he was working.  I wasn’t allowed to dig.  Dad was sure I’d mess it up.  My job was to clean the yard and hang around in case he died.  The Rev said that if the G.P. did expire, I wasn’t allowed to just kick him into the pit and fill it in with lime and dirt.  She can be unreasonable.

Tracing the line from the house under two large decks proved more difficult than the G.P. thought, and now there are so many post holes that the back yard looks like it’s overrun with prairie dogs.  I called the Rev when this was happening and told her that Dad had gone gopher.

Eventually, after much digging and cussing, the line was located and it was time to drill the smaller holes.  The G.P. looked online for gas sniffing dogs, and then got mad because they were all German Shepherds – “In case the line needs biting when they find the leak,” he joked.  Unfortunately, my yard is made of antediluvian clay baked into a solid secondary mantle, and was too hard to drill through.  I tried to tell him, having once nearly decapitated myself trying to turn the topsoil with an electric tiller.  He didn’t listen and almost broke his hand when the drill kicked back.  Time for a new plan.  The G.P. starting posting on Facebook about valor and quests.

My parents friends from Kansas, Ron and Nyla, arrived.  Ron was the foreman on our family farm for years, and is still hale and hearty at 78 years old.  He’s like Spongebob, super cheerful and always willing to lend a hand.  He refused to be left out of what I’m sure looked to him like Don Daddy’s Super Fun Time  Digging Adventure Project — so I wound up with over 150 years of old guy in my back yard.  They started cutting the soil with a Milwaukee Saws all.   After two days, Don Daddy and Sancho Ron had deep pits running across the yard, and were considering ways to remove one of my crepe myrtle trees.  They didn’t have any dynamite, so the tree lived.

The lawn looks like a WWI battlefield – as though the Smurfs are about to take on the Kaiser – but you can see a lot of the gas line, except the bits that are under the two decks and the tree.  You know, the parts where the leak probably is.

Both guys got injured on the last day they dug.  Don Daddy hurt his shoulder, and Sancho Ron cut his hand.  The G.P. also lost his beloved Yeti coffee cup.  That evening, Don Daddy turned to the Rev (DulceMama?) and said, “Well, Kris, it sure would be a lot easier and much less dangerous just to get an electric heater.”

“That’s right, Bruce,” she replied.  She’s learned after 40 years of marriage to face palm on the inside.

I’m awaiting the order to go fill in the trenches.  I may plant poppies to commemorate the great battle fought there.  Maybe I’ll also erect a small plaque that says, “Here fought Don Daddy and Sancho Ron.  They didn’t win, but only for lack of dynamite.”

Stay tuned for Don Daddy’s next quest: The Search for the Lost Yeti (coffee mug).

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Wrecked

As you may have noted from earlier columns, each day I take my dog, Stadler, on a long bike ride.  I call it the dog jog.  Some of you have had a few questions about how this works.  Essentially, Stadler wears a harness to which I attach a leash.  I put on my helmet, given to me by the G.P. who says, “I can fix a broken arm, but broken brains are intolerable,” climb on Gertrude (my bike), and Stadler drags us right on down the road.  It’s only really dangerous when she’s fresh and raring to go.  After about a mile, she settles into the jog and I start pedaling.  Or at least this is what usually happens.

Last Sunday dawned sunny and blustering.  I don’t like doing the dog jog when it’s windy because it gets about a thousand times more difficult to pedal.  Gertrude is many things, but aerodynamic is not one of them.  In fact, over the years, I’ve adapted her to be even less streamlined than she was originally designed to be (imagine the Merrimac trying to win the Tour de France) because death by over enthusiastic dog isn’t on my bucket list.  Anything to slow Stadler down on the Cannonball Run bit of the ride had been added – we’ve got a wicker basket, and an emergency bell that is supposed to alert pedestrians to dive out of the way.  Unfortunately, the bell dings so cheerfully that people think something nice is coming rather than a giant black dog running flat out in pure stupid dog joy, and thus they often hit me with stink  eyed looks born of ding-related disappointment.  Gertrude’s seat is also very low because I like to at least think I might have the opportunity to get my feet down in case of an accident.  The guy at the bike shop when I bought her was horrified,  but he couldn’t talk me into putting that seat into a higher position (for easier pedaling).  Short people can’t be easily talked into falling further than necessary.  I’m close to the ground, and that’s where I’m staying.

Dogs are endorphin junkies.  There’s no real nice way to say it.  When Stadler thinks it’s time to go, she acts like a heroin addict in a long line at a methadone clinic.  She bounces straight up into the air, all four feet off the ground in somehow tiny but simultaneously very high dog hops.  She tries to help me put on my shoes, even though she very clearly has no idea how shoes work.  She tries to herd me out the back door, going through her dog door and coming back in just to show me how one gets outside in case I forgot during the night.  If Stadler doesn’t get her fix, she bugs me for hours and then finally settles on her dog bed and gives me the brown frown all day long.  Petulance, thy name is dog denied.

Because of huge chocolate eyed sadness followed by a session of extreme dog jerkiness,  I rarely deny Stadler her run., and Sunday was no exception.  I’ve since looked up the weather, and the wind was blowing at about 32 mph in three directions.  I’m not sure how this is possible, but it sure happens a lot in Corpus, which has caused me to hypothesize that this place is some kind of Bermuda Triangle style hell vortex.  I knew it was going to be a rough ride, but some things have to be done.  I asked my friend Amber to wish me luck, and off we went into the wind.

The first few miles were all directly into the gusting, and we went slowly. I had to take Gertrude down to second gear and grimly pedal the whole way.  Stadler was high on endorphins (puppy smack) and didn’t even seem to mind that her ears were blowing behind her head like black hairy banners.  If her ears represented a country in the Olympics, it would definitely be one where they really like yaks and are still  cooking-with-burning-poop rugged.  Stadler’s ears are a tough looking standard.

We made it about 8 miles, with little relief from the wind.  It seemed like no matter what direction we went, we headed directly into the vortex….until we headed for home.  At that point, the forces were at behind us, and my back acted like a huge sail, propelling us forward at a high rate of speed.  Admittedly, I should’ve braked, but I was tired of pedaling, going slowly and basically the entire canine species.  Instead of doing the responsible thing and slowing us down, I instead started pretending that I was the Millennium Falcon and the Stadler was a TIE fighter.  I might have been kind of swerving all over the road, chasing my dog.  I MAY have also been singing the “Imperial March.”  Whatever.  The sun was out.  The day was glowing a sort of ethereal happiness. Most importantly, everything was easy and nothing hurt.  Clearly horror movies have taught me nothing, because right when the happiness hit like a skillet to the face is exactly when I should’ve started worrying.  Stadler saw another dog walking on a leash with what appeared to be a nice young couple.  My dog is well trained.  She knows that she has to “mind her business” when we’re on the run, and very rarely does she mess up in an uncontrollable way.  On this day, however, she decided to jerk the leash to try to go and say hello. Even this would’ve been okay, had her leash not got caught in the front brake while we simultaneously got hit by a hard gust.  I went right over tea kettle.  Being old means that, when you fall, you don’t bounce right back up like your legs are pogo sticks.  You have to lie there for a minute and try to figure out if everything is still attached and movable.  The poor kids thought I was going to die.  Stadler did, too.  She suddenly got really concerned and helpfully stuck her nose in my face.  I eventually got up and got back on the bike with just a few cuts, fairly gross road rash, and some deep bruises.  We wobbled home.

My left knee was swollen up like an eggplant, and it was pretty clear that I was going to have to lie around and ice it if there was going to be any chance of getting back into the saddle the next day.  I’ve long held the philosophy that sometimes, when the chips are down, it’s best just to default to pirate.  I got an ice pack and a tumbler of Sailor Jerry.  Here is the conversation that ensued with my friend, Amber:

Me:  Stadler wrecked us on the dog jog.  She’s pretty contrite. She just tried to give me her rawhide treat, but I was putting bacon in the oven, so she probably just wanted to trade.  Dog is a jerk. I’m drunk and I need a nap, but it’s four p.m.  I’m screwed.

Amber: (20 minutes later) What are you drinking

Me: Sailor Jerry.  S. Fub.  Fun.  I mean fun.  Because spelling is a thing.

Me: (40 minutes later)  I just made the bed half naked because all my bits got hot.  I might also have had to tie a scrap of fabric around my head Rambo style to get it done.  Fitted sheets are stupid.  It takes a million minutes to figure out which way they go.  I’m gonna put on x’s with a sharpie.

Am: DON’T MARK YOUR SHEETS WITH A SHARPIE.

Me: (15 minutes later) Do I have a piece of fabric tied around my head (sends picture)

Am: Yes.  HAHAHAHAHA!

Me: (30 minutes later) I’m bad at drinking.

Am: You are not good at drinking.  This is TRUE.

Me: SHHHHHH.  I am awesome at drinking.  I’m the drinking Rambo.  SULTANA RAMBINA!

Am: I like the title.

Me: Sultana Rambina says there is a time when a person of personage should personally eat some pizzas.  But that person is not me because cats are CLEARLY aliens.

That’s evidently when I passed out.  I work up the next morning, drank a lot of water, looked at my text messages, and then I checked my bedding. There is a neat, black X in all four of the corners of the fitted sheet.  Sultana Rambina is not a problem solver, but she got further than I ever have.  I can’t even find the Sharpie.

 

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Miss Direction

I suffer from a condition that my family politely refers to as “directional impairment.” Impolitely, it’s probably a form of dyslexia.  It’s definitely hereditary.  The G.P. has it even worse than I do.  The Rev finds our inability to find due north (or, technically, left) hilarious, and helpfully teases us unmercifully.   Yesterday, when I briefly got lost out on the dog jog (on a route we have traveled daily for the past two years), I did some quick calculating and realized that I’ve been lost approximately 80% of my adult life.  I’ve been lost so often that I now have degrees of lost-ness, sort-of like the way Eskimos have words for snow.

Most of the time, the situation isn’t dire.  Because I don’t know where things are located in any conventional sense, I navigate by landmarks (on the dog jog it’s canine points of interest like Rich Man’s Alley, the Pee Pee Tree and that place we saw the cat that one time).  Once I recognize something, I can usually deduce how to get home from there. Technology has been great, too.  Now that there’s a magical lady who lives in my phone and knows where everything on planet Earth is located, I can get anywhere in almost a reasonable amount of time.

Several years ago, my uncle died suddenly.  The funeral took place in Colorado, and the G.P. decided to forego the expense of buying plane tickets for the Rev, myself and my brother, Josh. In lieu of flying, we drove from Corpus to Longmont in Dad’s Mercury Marquis.  My brother tried to name it the “Fun Bus.”  I tried for “Titanic,” but it didn’t fly.  Ultimately, and for obvious reasons due to four upset adult digestive systems being imprisoned for days in what felt like a shoe box, we just went with “Fart Car.”

As you can imagine, a family road trip with children in their 30’s wasn’t going to be a laugh riot.  My brother, being tall and a jerk, got shotgun and the Rev and I were stuck in the back.  My initial plan was to chug Nyquil and try to sleep through the whole thing, like a decent human being, but Mom caught me and confiscated the bottle before I could down enough to drown out the family. She thought that deliberately overdosing on cold medicine would somehow be worse than spending 40 hours in a car, awake, with all the Bair Primes.  Parents just don’t understand.

Due to innumerable past family trips wherein we wound up lost in places like the only swamp in Nebraska,  EVERYBODY brought their own on-board navigational system.  Dad had his cherished Oracle (which also told him his miles per gallon), Josh (a tech junkie) bought a system that had accuracy up to .1 meters and probably also flew a drone, I had my phone (with poor accuracy but excellent Tetris) and Mom had her innate sense of direction combined with a determined cheerfulness so brutally annoying that Pollyanna would be unable to resist slapping off the smug.

Of course, even with all the assistance, we got lost within about six hours because everybody’s GPS had different ideas about getting to Colorado.  The G.P. overrode our strident objections and decided to “split the difference.”  This caused us to wind up on a farm road in the middle of nowhere.  Even if you get lost a lot, seeing a dust devil blow menacingly over the ruts you’re bumping down (when you’re pretty sure you should be on a highway) is disheartening.  That’s about when The Fight started.

I was automatically out because we were so far removed from civilization (we’re talking no power lines, no telephone poles, ears straining for the penultimate banjo music rural) my cell phone wasn’t at all functional.  This also meant no calling for help.  I wasn’t about to let that stop me from joining the fray, however.  When a good Bair fight breaks out, you get in there and scrap, otherwise you get branded as a wussy and no one listens to you at all, ever, on any topic until you get a few licks in during the next Mega Battle.  You could have a PhD in astrophysics, and be trying to answer an astrophysics question that only an astrophysicist could really adequately answer, but if you refused to fight in the last Family Scramble, you’d get told to hush while the G.P. (who does not hold a PhD in astrophysics) took over.  We are a contentious bunch.

An old boyfriend of mine once pointed out that my family’s default volume is “yelling.”  The Fight was no exception.  It started with the G.P. hollering at all of us because we were lost, despite the fact that he was definitely the one who drove us there.  Then Josh started bellowing about having a better GPS and how we should have just listened to him in the first place.  Then I started screaming about “why in the hell would you take a “shortcut” when you don’t know where we are or where we’re going?  What part of “dirt road” didn’t seem wrong to you immediately?  Better GPS is stupid.  When is .1 meter going to be a valuable accuracy?  We’re looking for a whole, giant city literally called LONG MOUNTAIN, not buried treasure.  Also, GIVE ME THE NYQUIL, MOTHER!”  The Rev then chimed in, cheerfully channeling Admiral Peary, “Well, we’re heading North.  Just keep going and eventually we’ll get there.”  I’m pretty sure that my mother is unaware of just how much north there is in the world, and that if you miss your north place, you can’t just loop back around the world and catch it on the next pass.  This released another barrage of screeching, but no Nyquil.  The whole argument was punctuated by the G.P. interrupting everyone to tell us that he was, “Getting 32 miles to the gallon (joy voice)….oops, now 12 (despair voice)” because even though we were more lost than Columbus, it’s important to always know how much you’re spending on gas.

Eventually, we found a highway.  Not the correct highway, of course, but it was a start.  I figured out exactly how long the charge on my laptop lasted (5 hours and 14 minutes), and made several ill-fated attempts to snatch the Nyquil.  We finally go to Colorado, and (after a few minor missteps involving Denver), to Longmont.  We weren’t even very late to the wake.

 

 

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Rowlfie

Every day, I take my poor wee gigantic dog Stadler on a long run.  More precisely: she runs, I ride my bike.  Most precisely: she runs, and I hang on like a monkey on the back of a rampaging rhinoceros.

After about a mile, (I call this bit Cannonball Run) Stadler tires out enough that we slow down to the point that pedaling becomes necessary – except in moments of “Extreme Cat Temptation.”   I should probably take a moment to apologize to the children of Montclair Elementary School for the highly articulate lesson they received in cursing the day Stadler saw a kitty and tried to run me directly into an oak tree.  Sorry, kids, hang onto what’s left of your childhoods.

Head like a shovel

About this time last year, Stadler and I acquired a fellow running enthusiast.  We were out on the dog jog, when suddenly a burly, brown, shovel-headed dog started barreling towards us.  Protocol when we’re being chased by another dog is to stop, assess the threat, let everyone chill out and sniff, and then move on.  The brown dog, however, wasn’t interested in saying hello.  He wanted to go!   So go we did.  He jogged along beside the bike for about six miles and then happily followed us home.  I opened the garage to let Stadler in the house, and the brown dog trotted off.  I assumed that he’d had his fun, and that would be all.

The next morning at 8:30, I opened the garage door to pull the bike out, and there he was again.  Waiting — smiling at me and bouncing a little bit in anticipation.  Off we went, the chocolate lab and probable pit bull cross, running collar and leash-free along with us.  This went on for about a week.  He was never a second late, and sometimes would wait for over an hour to run with us.  I thought maybe the stray had a home in the neighborhood, but then noticed him running around on his own all the time.  He had no collar or tags, and was pretty grimy.  Finally, after he was particularly good on the dog jog, I offered him a biscuit which he graciously took.  “Bye brown dog,” I said, closing the garage door.  He then sat in my driveway for five hours looking through my side window with an expression that said, “I am the saddest dog in the world.”  “Don’t pee on my rug,” I told him as I I let him in.  He didn’t.

Rowlfie is born

When the Rev met him, the love was both instant and true.  I could see her trying to resist the old, shovel- headed bastard (and resistance was easier in the first few days – he made up for his post-bath lack-of-stink with room clearing flatulence), but he’s the Borg of dogs – resistance is futile.  She collapsed the first time he climbed on to the couch with her. She agreed that we had to keep him. We were both worried about what the G.P. (currently sojourning in Mexico) would say upon his return.  The G.P. is a life long pit bull hater, calling them “baby killers and vicious, satanic hell beasts” anytime the breed was brought up in conversation (expletives deleted in above quote).

The Rev named the brown dog “Rowlfie” and we started very deliberately referring to him as a “chocolate lab.”  Really, there was no danger of Rowlfie having to go to a shelter.  The Rev was in love, and once she digs her heels in on an issue, you couldn’t move her with a bulldozer.  After about three weeks of searching for Rowlf’s family, we took him to the vet and made it official.

The G.P. finally came home and was predictably pretty angry that the Rev and I had adopted Rowlfie without his consent.  He snidely offered that when we got sued because the dog crunched a kid like a candy bar, he wasn’t paying for it.  However, since Rowlf was living at my place, and since the Rev told him to shut it, he relaxed into sulking silence.

Checkmate

When the G.P. is in town, Stadler goes to “Grandpa Daycare.”  She and Dad keep each other company.  Neither my neurotic dog nor my father like to be left alone for long periods of time, and at least one of them can’t be trusted.  Now that Rowlfie was part of the family, he started heading over to the G.P.’s every morning, too.  A week later, the G.P. and I took the dogs out to P.I.N.S. to play on the beach.

“Mom says Rowlfie can come live with us,” said the G.P., in a suspiciously plaintive tone.  “That’s okay, Dad.  I’ve got him,” I replied, paying more attention to the happy dogs scuffling in the sand than to my father’s gambit.  I should’ve known better.

Easter was only a week away, and is an important holiday to the Rev. We always at least have to eat lunch together.  Dogs are family in our world, and anywhere we can take them, they go.  Rowlfie and Stadler were both under my parent’s small kitchen table (wagging tails visibly sticking out from under the table cloth).  The dogs love it when we eat at that table because its roundness makes it possible to simultaneously get people food from every person eating.  We’re not supposed to feed the dogs from the table, but we all do, sneakily.

We got through the meal (I to this day contend that my upcoming weakness was caused in part because I was plied with turkey and white wine), and there was a sight conversational lull.  Again the G.P. said, after looking meaningfully at the Rev, “Mom says Rowlfie can come live with us.” Then he put his hand on Rowlfie’s head and said in an obviously affected old man voice, “This dog is going to keep me alive.”  My eyes filled with tears.  I choked out the words, “I guess he’ll have to stay with you then, Daddy.” My father grinned like a coyote, and I could swear he muttered, “Checkmate” under his breath. You gotta keep an eye on the G.P.

And so, Rowlfie stayed at my parents that day, and has lived with them ever since.  It took about a week for him to form an incredibly solid bond with the G.P., who he now follows like a lamb just in case something fun might happen.  The G.P. has put aside his lifelong hatred of pit bulls, and clearly  loves the power the stocky dog conveys as he runs him around the neighborhood on his electric scooter.  No one wants a piece of Rowlfie, that’s for sure.  Rowlfie looks tough.   Other guys out walking their wussy little dogs look at Dad enviously.  Dad looks back at them like they’re wearing pink tutus.  Life is good.  Don’t believe everything they say about old dogs and new tricks.

However, since I am an evil child, and can’t quite forget the literally hundreds of arguments I’ve had with my father re: dangers of the pit bull, I have to take a tiny bit of vengeance.  I now call Rowlfiie “Fifi,” just to annoy Dad.  Rowlf doesn’t mind at all.  He’s found his home.

rowlf

Rowlfie in repose.

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Sewing

2016 was the year I quit my job as a Marketing Director to become the William Lord Kelvin of poverty.  “What is absolute zero,” I asked myself, and began my research.  Be advised before you join me: most of the research is archeological in nature and involves delicately removing soil layers betwixt couch cushions in search of an elusive quarter.  Because I was poor, I decided that I would make most of my Christmas presents for my family (scheduled to descend like a Biblical plague of locusts on January 1st).  I had invested in a baby blue garage sale sewing machine several months earlier.  What could go wrong?

Assumptions

I began with the idea that “if a five year old Pakistani kid can make this crap, then I shouldn’t have any problem at all. I went to art school.” WRONG!  I know it seems valid to think that if a poor slave laboring child can make 90 of a thing in a day, a full-fledged, art school educated (we’re playing spot the oxymoron) adult should be able to make one of said thing given a pattern, instructions, and several weeks in which to complete the project.  Still, WRONG.  For instance, I thought I would make everybody really cute flannel pajama pants.  I bought a pattern that came in a package that advertised it as “See and Sew.”  To me, that indicated that you could just look at the thing and then make the thing.  You probably didn’t even need the pattern, right?  I purchased it anyhow as a backup plan – it was only $2.00.  I feel like I need to explain something to you folks who have never tried to sew pants before: you do not know how pants work.  You wear pants every day.  You have tons of experience with pants.  But let me say it again for those of you in the cheap seats: UNLESS YOU HAVE BUILT PANTS, YOU DO NOT KNOW HOW PANTS WORK.  Like most great things in life, the secret and the mystery rest in the crotch.  I spent about 6 hours sewing four pieces together.  I made two strange skirts (my friend Teri called this making “pant”) and a fabric wad before the process of elimination and what can only be described as sheer luck resulted in two legs that functioned in a pants-like fashion.  The fabric is light green.  It has rainbows with pandas underneath them.  I swear that initially the pandas were happy wee bears, but now that the pants are done the pandas seem to have an expression of total skepticism permanently etched on their bandit faces.  They doubted me.  I don’t blame them.  I still literally have NO IDEA how to make pants.  Sometimes, I lie awake at night trying to remember how I finally did it – flipping pieces around in my mind and drawing seam lines.  I keep “making pant,” even in my dreams.

Aprons

Since pajama pants were obviously out of the question, I decided to switch focus. My friend Amber had been talking for months about how she wanted and old school ruffled apron to wear when she was making microwave pizza rolls (tagline: Good Luck: Innards Are Either Frozen or Lava).  I thought it would be downright noble to make her one.  It took about a week and several technical support drop-ins from the Rev, but I finally got it made…and IT WAS ACTUALLY CUTE!  I was obviously a genius seamstress, but the “Great Pants Debacle” was still writ large upon my recollection (we’re talking glow in the dark spikey graffiti), so I decided to stick with what I knew – super fluffy aprons.  I made seven of them, largely because I could tell the Rev wanted one, and it took 6 tries to make one good enough for my mother.  Hers has butterflies on it.  Instead of flying upwards to blue skies and freedom, the insects are upside down, evidently dive bombing the floor.  Good enough.  This is how many friends wound up with aprons.  Some look better in them than others.

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Sharks

“The problem with the devil is that he always want to dance” – Snoop Dog

I got a little full of myself due to the relative success of the aprons during Christmas Mark 1: The Quickening (we’re doing three Christmases this year…I know I said two in an earlier column, but the Rev has since snuck in an extra one).  I had seen mermaid “snuggle sacks” (Pinterest for “sleeping bag”) and I thought they were cute.  Unfortunately, the little kids in my family are boys.  I’m pretty sure that if I tried to make them into mermaids they would just run away.  They are also fast.   I almost dismissed the idea until I saw a shark adaptation of the mermaid. The shark was about a gazillion times better than the mermaid because when a kid crawls into the maw of the beast it looks like he’s being devoured.  This was irresistible.  I found the pattern online.  The actual pattern that comes in the little paper envelope with an actual photograph of what the finished project is supposed to look like on the front was sold out and back-ordered, BUT there was an option to download the pattern.  It was less expensive and delivery was instant.  I was running out of time before the family arrived for Christmas Mark 2: Thicker Blood, plus cheaper, so I went ahead and ordered the e-version.  Don’t do this.  Seriously, there should be about 8 scary warning signs and at least five of those little boxes computers throw up to prevent you from doing dumb stuff (“Are you SURE you want to do this stupid thing?  Click Yes to continue or no to cancel”) preventing you from ordering pattern downloads.  I probably would’ve done it anyway because no one can tell me anything ever, but it might save more intelligent people.  The downloaded pattern arrived along with .pdf software to “read it.”  Acrobat won’t work because Simplicity (the pattern makers) want to prevent you from printing the pattern more than three times after you buy it.  This would make sense if there were any danger of anyone printing a pattern more than once.  Essentially, what you get is a .pdf version of the pattern as it’s made to fit in the little envelope.  Those thin brown paper patterns are about 6’ square.  You don’t need all the pieces, usually, because there are generally three or four different versions of a pattern you can make.  In the case of the sharks, there were adult and child versions and also mermaids.  I wound up printing and assembling (with tape that I can’t reliably make work) 164 pages to get 9 pieces.  Some of the pages were blank, but you still had to tape them in because if you didn’t you couldn’t get the next pieces to align.  This process took two days and three rolls of Scotch tape.  I kept sending progress photos to my friends who kept asking helpful questions like, “Are those white blueprints?  You should NOT mess with blueprints.  Step away from the home improvements.”

I persevered.  I got my pattern pieces, pinned them to the fabric and cut out the S.O.B.s (Sharks of Boys – what did we learn about assumptions?).  It was now December 30th.  Two days were left to actually sew the sharks.  I managed to get it done, though my house was utterly destroyed – I pulled scraps of fleece off of a ceiling fan four rooms away from ground zero.  As I was cleaning, I accidentally jammed a straight pin a ¼ inch into my right index finger, but I had stuck myself so many times during the sewing process that it didn’t even phase me.  I sighed, pulled it out and shoved in back into the pin cushion, finger guts and all.

On New Year’s Eve, I delivered the sharks to the Rev’s house.  The sharks are huge.  I crawled into Jovanni’s to illustrate how ludicrous it was to call the things “child sized.”  The G.P. (Great Provider – my Dad) started cackling.  I thought it was because it’s funny to see someone being eaten by an inaccurately colored shark with slightly stroked out looking eyes that MAY be slightly too far apart…until I looked down.  I put the dorsal fins on backwards.  It was too late to fix the situation, so we decided that Jovanni would just have the very rare Backwards Aspect Shark Suit (B.A.S.S.).  We also decided his shark would be named Strokey, and that we were never ever going to tell him.  Avery’s shark was correct.  I’m a jerk Aunt.

sharks

The boys legitimately loved their snuggle sharks.  Avery insisted on crawling into his head first which caused him to look like he was being brilliantly digested.  I’m calling it a success, gift wise.  As for financial savings, I am unsure.  If I put any kind of realistic value on my time (remember: I did go to art school), I just gave away 7 aprons and two sharks valued at around $1,800.  Totally worth it.

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