My Name is Mud

At least some of you veteran home improvers will not be surprised to read that my ceiling project is still ongoing, officially entering week five tomorrow. I’ve stopped using comforting phrases like, “We’re almost done now” because every hopeful utterance produces another week of unforeseen complications.

I can report that all the hated popcorn has finally been eradicated in the first three rooms. The G.P. and I are now in the “mudding” phase of the project. Basically, this means that we’re covering the ceiling in compound to level it out. Dad dreams that the finished project won’t look like a goth rock teenager who covered her acne with white foundation.

My fantasy is that we get this done by Thanksgiving.

I have, however, learned a lot about construction over the past month. For instance, it is possible to get blisters UNDER your callouses, which is unfair and makes you shout things like, “YOU HAD ONE JOB YOU STUPID CALLOUSES!”

I feel like I should pass on some of this knowledge, in case you gentle readers are considering embarking on home improvement projects of your own.

Here are some things to expect:

Learned Ambidexterity: even if you’ve been unable to effectively use your non-dominant hand in the past, after eight solid hours of scraping sheetrock, you will teach yourself how to function with that other body part because you’re unable to hold the tool anymore in your preferred grip. If you’re me, you will use the tool backward in that other hand and cuss until you have that “Oh, it goes the other way moment.” The scientific name for this phenomenon is holdustoolswrongus.

Twenty-Dollar-itis: everything costs at least twenty dollars. Need a tiny pan to mix mud in? Twenty bucks. Dinky plastic spatula? Twenty bucks. Drop cloths? Twenty bucks. You get where this is going. Even in the rare instances when the thing you need doesn’t cost that, you’ll find your happiness short-lived. Guaranteed you will need the tool on the shelf next to it even more than you needed the original thing, and it will cost $42.95.

Under-the-ladder-clamatosis: this one is a two-parter. The first universal truism about ladder work is that the higher you are on the ladder, the more likely someone will come and stand directly underneath it while trying to talk to you. Also proportional to ladder height is the frequency with which family, pets, strangers from down the block, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the occasional seagull will use it as a tunnel rather than just walking around. Often these interlopers will stop midway through to say something helpful like, “How’s it going up there?”

No. You cannot deliberately drop a hammer on their head for doing this. I checked.

The Up-Down-All-Aroundies: is simply the physical restriction that states that a human being cannot climb a ladder while also having all the tools she will need once she reaches the top of the ladder. Another manifestation of this law is that if anything drops off a ladder and you climb down to get it; another tool will fall while you’re trying to get back up.

Everything-but-the-drop-cloth:  one of the few things I learned during this project is to NEVER skimp on drop cloths. Save money in other ways. However, no matter how well you cover and tape, mud has a way of getting on everything that’s NOT the hygienic covering. The G.P. somehow managed to get some in my cable modem the other day. It’s like I’ve spent eighty bucks to hire a lazy Chuckie Cheese security guard – he’ll stop one or two big disasters, but little stuff sneaks by all the time.

Gender-biased-tool-designius: tools are designed for men’s bodies and their existing equipment. For example, I bought a scraper ($20) that you could screw onto a pole. This was a great idea, EXCEPT, when I unscrewed the handle from my kitchen broom, it would not screw into the scraper. The same thing happened with my mop and my dust mop. “Well, this is stupid,” I thought. “I guess they’re going to make me buy another stupid pole ($20).” Then I went out in the garage and checked the pole on my shop broom. Sure enough, it fit like a dream. In retrospect, the fact that the kitchen broom handle doesn’t fit the tool has probably saved a lot of men from being chased with a rolling pin. However, I sincerely doubt that the United Kitchen Broom Factory Association and the Ceiling Scrapers Manufacturing Guild had a convention wherein they reached this important safety decision.

The Bogies: I’m not going to describe this except to say that even with a respirator the bogies that you get from sanding sheetrock are uncomfortably epic. My nose looks like Mammoth Caverns every night when I finish. I’ve got both stalactites and stalagmites that could give them a run for their money. I’m thinking of offering tours.

The G.P. says that the only way to get through tasks like this is to pretend you’ll never be done. “I AM SISYPHUS” I shouted a week ago (in my best Spartacus impression), but even that thrill wore off after a few hours of shoveling gunk on to the ceiling and smoothing it out.

Remembering that I have three more rooms to do (one of which is the kitchen) took the wind out of my sails.

My body is in out and out rebellion – here’s a snippet of my internal dialogue.

Brain: We sure are leaving more tool marks in that mud than we did yesterday.

Body: You’re a tool mark.

Brain: Was that absolutely necessary?

Body: Shut up, tool mark.

I guess my name is going to be Mud ($20) for the foreseeable future.

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Just Scrapin’ Along

Everybody told me it was a terrible job.

It’s not that I ignored my parents, friends, and the entire internet – I certainly took what was said under advisement.  I just didn’t think there was any possibility that an inside-the-house-not-out-in-the-heat home remodeling job that didn’t even involve tile work could possibly be that bad.

I was wrong.

My charming little cracker box house was built in 1953. To describe it simply: it’s just a long rectangle with rooms broken out into smaller rectangles on the inside.  Upon consideration, it’s possible that every Lego house I ever built was essentially the same architecturally as the house I live in now. There are no complicated bay windows or strange porticos messing up the stolid shapes of my sturdy home. In fact, if my residence had to speak to its own design it would probably sound exactly like Dwight D. Eisenhower giving a speech on the frugality of form.

I’m sure that Old Yeller (the G.P. recently had the exterior of the house painted yield sign yellow) has gone through many evolutions of trends.  There’s some pretty suspicious light green and burgundy tile in the bathroom (ahem, 1990’s you’re welcome to come for your tile any time). However, someone had the sense to put in natural stone tile and laminate flooring which means I don’t have to deal with decades worth of hideous lime green shag carpeting (thank you 1970’s). There’s only one wall that looks like beadboard, but may actually be classy wood paneling.  It’s painted orange right now.

What I do have to deal with is approximately 1100 square feet of popcorn ceiling.  As though this isn’t bad enough, someone decided that they’d “just paint over it” rather than remove it. It’s a little stuck.

And by a little stuck, I mean that the simplest method of removing it is via sledgehammer.

I spent last Saturday spraying water to loosen the gunk and then scraping.  At about the nine-hour mark, I started to get really angry.  We had tested the gunk for asbestos (there was none), so whoever made the choice to blow a bunch of junk onto the ceiling had done so for purely aesthetic purposes.

“Probably,” I thought, angrily spritzing, “some idiots came home from seeing Poltergeist and instead of being afraid that the house was built on an Indigenous burial ground, instead decided that all that popcorn was a ‘real modern look.’”

In my head, the couple was from Minnesota complete with the heavy accents.  They were called Bob (pronounced Bawb) and Barb (pronounced Berb).

“Ya know, Berb,” said Bob. “Popcorn on the ceiling would really help the acoustics of my hi-fi.”

“Yer right, Bawb!” replied Barb. “Plus, it just looks so great, don’t cha know?”

I was pretty angry at Bob and Barb from Minnesota, even though they probably don’t exist.

Then, sometime down the road, someone said, “I’m not taking that stuff down.  Let’s just spray paint over it.”

All-in-all, it might have been better if the house got sucked into a sinkhole like at the end of Poltergeist.

I guess that’s probably what my pond is.

Here’s the thing: paint your walls whatever color you want.  It doesn’t really matter. Heck, paint them black. Wall color is easily and inexpensively changed.  However, if you’re going to make decisions based on trends, pick readily reversible ones.  Don’t do trendy tile or wall textures.  Seriously, I think Bob and Barb applied the leftover popcorn to my bathroom walls and then painted over it in an attempt to make a “Mediterranean Stucco Look.” I’m going to have to take it off with a grinder.

Even popcorn that has been painted on gets everywhere.  I had to hermetically seal up my living room.  It looked like I was Dexter about to commit a murder.  What I was about to do took much longer, was way messier, and was fairly unsatisfying.

I got a 9×12 area cleared after about 10 hours of solid scraping.

I did have quite a bit of time to think, though, and I had this realization: since my parents spent my childhood building, repairing and fixing up a variety of everything, cars, clothing, fences, gardens, houses; I’ve always had it in my brain that one controlled one’s own environment, if one was willing to work.

After all, paint is cheap.

However, people grow up in different ways.

If you grew up in an apartment that never changed, if your family didn’t work on their own cars, or grow their own food, or work with textiles, why would you even begin to think you could change oil or redo a ceiling.

And, as urbanization increases, skills that we used to consider basic to survival are phased out in favor of disposable goods.

It only makes sense to build things that will last for people who can maintain them.

Old Yeller has a lot of life left in her antique rafters and joists.  In fact, I’m sure that she’ll outlast me.

Especially since there is a 100% chance I’m going to fall off a ladder trying to scrape this BLEEPING BLEEP off of my ceilings.

Thanks, Bob and Barb.

I hope you have to peel up glued-on linoleum in the summertime.

992 square feet to go.

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Ghosts of Our Past

I grew up in a little town on the prairie (think Deadwood rather than Little House) called Hays, Kansas.

Almost in the geographic center of the state, Hays is a city bolstered by a local university, proximity to that great artery, I-70, and a notable Oktoberfest which features epic amounts of beer, bierocks, and an increase of around 300000% in the urine content of the creek that has the misfortune of running adjacent to the event.

It wasn’t the worst place to grow up. We had two hospitals and an old-fashioned, brick Main Street which high school students were known to drag on a Friday or Saturday evening.

Law enforcement often had a sense of humor. For instance, we didn’t even get into any trouble when we spray painted an entire herd of Charolais (they’re all-white cows) various shades of neon with temporary hair coloring we found on sale for ten-cents-a-can post-Halloween. The cop, after tracking us all down in school, (turns out temporary just means “will wash off at some point but not immediately”) just said, “Dammit, kids. I feel like I shouldn’t have to tell you not to go out and paint an entire herd of cows!”

Then he started laughing.

We made the front page of the paper for that one.

The Rev pretended not to be amused, but it was pretty difficult to keep a straight face when she had to drive past a herd of pink, blue, green and orange cows every day.

When I started looking into the city to research this article, one writer described Hays as “an idyllic American town nestled in the heart of the prairie.”

To this, I can only respond that it appears the aforementioned author has neither been to Hays nor seen any pictures. “To each their own,” quoth the milkmaid as she kissed the (neon blue) cow.

In my travels, most people who have been to (or, more likely, through) Hays have so often said, “Oh, Hays! My car broke down there once” that the city’s unofficial motto might as well be, “Hays: Your Car Probably Broke Down Here.” Or, alternately, “Hays, Kansas: Do You Need a Mechanic?”

Since, as teenagers, our choices for weekend activities were limited to a party somewhere or dragging Main Street (because honking at people you saw on the last lap two minutes ago never gets old), sometimes we’d get bored and go ghost hunting.

Hays is an old city, founded in around 1867 when the U.S. Army relocated a Fort there. The combination of a local water source (Big Creek, and yes, that’s the one from Oktoberfest) and the arrival of the railroad caused the population to spike to around 2,000 people in a matter of months.

This, predictably, caused a cholera outbreak.

Elizabeth Polly

Elizabeth Polly was the young wife of a hospital steward at the Fort. She worked tirelessly during the epidemic, treating soldiers and helping many through their final hours. In the evenings, she would walk away from the hospital tents to the top of a nearby hill (now called Sentinel Hill) where it is said that she would find some solace and salve for her weary spirit.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth contracted cholera as a result of working so closely with the sick and dying, and she succumbed to the disease in 1867.

Her one request was that she be buried on top of the hill that she so loved, but unfortunately, the found as they tried to dig the hole, that the ground was limestone bedrock. They instead buried Elizabeth wearing her blue dress and white bonnet at the foot of the hill, erecting four limestone posts as markers at the top.

The local legend goes that those markers were stolen soon after by four thieves, each of whom met a swift and messy end: one was run over by a train, two were killed in a gunfight, and the last died in a stagecoach accident.

People have witnessed Polly’s ghost walking near the hill (a woman in a blue dress) since her death.

To this day, people report a blue light bobbing at the top of Sentinel Hill, and the local paper runs reports of sightings.

We never saw anything, despite a copious amount of stumbling around in the dark. I can’t tell you how many chunks of rock I tripped over on that hill. It’s possible that all the yelling scared her away.

After all, I imagine even a ghost wouldn’t want to deal with a bevy of idiot teenagers.

Someone was probably honking their horn.

Today, Hays has a park named after Elizabeth Polly that features a sculpture by world-famous artist and local son, Pete Felten. 

It is, however, the lonely and desolate hill where the prairie grass waves like eddies in the ocean, that Elizabeth sometimes lights blue.

If your car ever breaks down, maybe you can go check it out. 

However, the Sternberg Museum has cheesy animatronic dinosaurs.

I think you know what to do.

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It’s Her Party … Assuming When Can Figure Out the Date

I don’t know when my mother’s birthday is.

There. I said it.

In my defense, I do know that it’s on an odd-numbered day (probably somewhere in the teens)in  September.

Every year my experience of the ninth month begins with a moment of intense panic.

“Oh crap! It’s September again! Mom’s birthday is coming up! But when? Arrrgh.”

My process of elimination gets stranger each year. This year, I advanced the argument that the Rev’s birthday couldn’t possibly be on September 11th because then we’d remember it.

“But,” my brain continued, “what if it is on the 11th and we DON’T remember it because of the other thing. AHHHHHHH!”

Every year, I turn to the internet for help.

The Rev doesn’t have her date of birth listed on Facebook. She is not a vain woman, so I’m pretty sure she left that field blank simply because she gets a lot of enjoyment out of watching the G.P., the Brovarian (my brother Josh who lives in Germany), and myself struggle to figure out the true date of her “special day.”

This year, the internet was not amused.

“Didn’t we just do this last year,” asked my friend Wooz, who remembered the thread but not the date.

“Yeah,” I replied ruefully. “We do it every year.  I can’t search my Facebook memories, though, and by the time it comes up, it will be too late.

“If only,” my pal Teri weighed in, “there was some invention or device that would make it easy for a person to save important dates, perhaps even to plan for them.”

“I kinda tend to go through cell phones,” I countered, having saved the date of my mother’s birth in several such devices which had met bitter and expensive ends.

“I was thinking of a calendar, Ab.”

Teri and the Rev both earned Phi Beta Kappa marks in sarcasm.

This year, however, the family weighed in.

The Brovarian’s wife, (my sister-in-law Kenia) messaged that she was sure it was either the 17th or the 19th.

My Aunt Kate (a former history teacher) sent a date that I’m pretty sure was either Lincoln’s birthday or the day Kennedy was shot saying, “Sorry, Ab. I don’t even remember my birthday anymore.”

My Aunt Karen said she thought it was the 19th, but then she and Aunt Kate hijacked the thread trying to figure out when everybody else’s birthday was.

Aunt Karen then said that we didn’t have to worry about her birthday because she “gave them up years ago.” This was good news since no one in the family had worried about it since around 1971.

As a pretend journalist, I regarded all this information as coming from unreliable sources and took a deeper dive into the “Rabbit Hole of Truth and Small Cakes Which You Should Not Eat Despite Instruction to the Contrary.”

I bravely asked Mom via text message.

I got nothing in return but silence so tense even the crickets shut up for a change.

Dad replied to my Facebook query with a very exact date which included the year. This seemed like it might be a more plausible solution.

However, one year, the G.P. and I forgot Mom’s birthday so thoroughly that we had to shop last-minute for gifts and a cake. She got some magazines and a Bic grill lighter from the gas station. Her birthday cake was a pizza.

One would think that would cause the Rev to have a more vested interest in us remembering her birthday, but when the Rev digs her heels in, they stay dug.

Panic was setting in. I decided that since the online consensus was the 19th, I’d just go with that.

Then, early one morning, Mom rang my doorbell. I let her in, and she sat down on my white couch.

“I need to tell you something,” she said, dramatically.

“What Mom?” I replied, as my anxiety painted mental pictures of the torture she was going to inflict upon me because I forgot when her birthday was…again.

“For my birthday this year, I want a three-quart Instantpot. Don’t get a six-quart one. I already have one of those. THREE QUARTS. They used to have them at HEB, but they’re sold out.”

“I GOT YOU!” I crowed in my head, thinking that if she wanted her gift, she’d be forced to tell me when her birthday was.

“So…what day is your birthday, Mom?”

“You don’t know?” she teased.

“Is it the 19th?”


If there is a magic phrase that instantly causes a human being to forget something, it’s “And don’t you forget it.” I remember right now, but I’m positive that at midnight on my Mother’s birthday, I’m going to come down with a soap-opera-level case of amnesia.

To Dad’s credit, he got it right.

To mine, I’m better about it than I was before.

Until about 2011, I was positive Mom’s birthday was in November.

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Taken, Too

Yesterday was sort of a messed-up day.  I went to the gym for a swim around 11:30, came home, got in the shower to hose off the chlorine, and stepped out onto my dog.  I wasn’t expecting Stadler to be there.  She’s the world’s only hydrophobic black lab and hasn’t voluntarily stepped foot into the bathroom since she emerged victorious from an epic battle of You-Have-to-Take-a-Bath-Because-You-Smell-Like-You-Rolled-in-a-Fresh-Diaper. She flailed so hard I was positive she’d break my glass shower doors, and we’d both wind up in the hospital.

I wound up spraying her with Febreze and locking her out of the bedroom.

In any case, I knew there was a problem if the dog was in the bathroom – either we were both about to be murdered, or she’d heard thunder.

A few seconds later, a loud boom resounded throughout the neighborhood and the power went out.


I sent my boss at the Moon (Jan) a text message to see if there was power at the office, and she responded in the affirmative.

“I guess we’re going to work,” I told Stadler who (although she is so “afraid of thunder” that she must lie on top of me shivering and drooling on my forehead every time there’s even the hint of a nocturnal BOOM) grabbed a toy and raced out her dog door.

When we got to the office, there was no one there except a totally freaked out Lizzy-the-Official-Moon-Doggie.

I was very worried.

Jan and Dale never leave Lizzy alone for very long. She usually gets a baby sitter if they’re going to go anywhere for more than an hour, plus it was storming out and Liz is also terrified of the weather.

Immediately, my standard racehorse-on-meth level anxiety blossomed into a verdant garden of what-ifs.  After about two seconds of rapid-fire synaptic processing, my brain decided that Dale and Jan had been taken.

“The Moon had,” my anxiety argued, “recently received a fairly non-specific, racist death threat on the answering machine.” In fairness, we had unilaterally decided to consider it a wrong number because it was directed at a race that couldn’t easily be confused with “random white people with strange tans” which is what we all are.

“How would they take Dale, though?” I thought. Dale is a big guy who would not be easily subdued by idiots.

My rational side worried that my bosses were just at lunch and that I’d look stupid if I texted them to see if they were kidnapped.

“They chloroformed him!” my anxiety responded happily. “Check the carpet for drag marks. They would never leave Lizzy!”

I checked the blue rug for anything that looked like a 6’2 guy had been hauled across it.  Unsurprisingly to you, but shockingly to me, there was nothing.  Also, it didn’t seem like anything in the office was especially disturbed (frankly, our office usually looks like a hurricane flung a metric ton of paper all over everything, but that’s just our organizational system).  Both of their cars were also gone, which gave me some pause.  I could see a kidnapper stealing one vehicle, but both would present a problem.  I mean it’s not like they could just tell Dale to follow along in the truck.

“Okay,” said my anxiety, “then Dale’s at Channel 3 and they only kidnapped Jan.”

I didn’t think Jan (although she’s tiny) would be particularly easy to take, either.  As Shakespeare wrote, “though she be but little, she is fierce.” Still, my anxiety would not be mollified.

“Time is passing,” screamed my anxiety. “The longer the bad guys have them, the more difficult it will be to get them back! Do something!”

I decide the way to start would be just to ask my fearless leaders if they’d been abducted. I sent Jan a text that read, “Did you get taken?”

I decided I’d wait five minutes for a response, and then start calling people.

“I’ll call Jan and then Dale and if neither of them answers then I’ll call Mary and the Rev (that was for me because I sometimes need my Mom to talk me down) and then I’ll call Channel 3 and drive all over the Island and IF I STILL CAN’T FIND THEM, I’LL CALL THE NATIONAL GUARD,” blurted my anxiety.

I had a PLAN, by God, and I was sticking to it.  There was no way I wasn’t going to SAVE THE DAY, even if I had to call in the A-Team.

Exactly three minutes later, I got a return text from Jan.

“We have not been taken.  We are at lunch.”

“But,” reasoned my anxiety, “isn’t that exactly what they’d make her say if she had been taken?”

My phone beeped again with another text message, “I’ll be back at the office shortly,” Jan returned.

I decided I’d wait a few minutes and see what happened.  I was feeling a bit better regarding everyone being shanghaied.  I started working on this week’s edition of the paper.

The minutes ticked by slowly.  Ten passed and then twenty.  Still no bosses.  I started imagining that they had been hauled out to some evil yacht and were now somewhere offshore being prepared to be auctioned off as sex slaves.

If you’ve never pictured Dale in a pair of harem pants and a bikini top, don’t.

My phone beeped again.

“Abi, we have still not been taken.  There’s been an accident on the bridge.  I’m stuck in Scuttlebutt’s parking lot.  I will be there soon,” texted Jan.

A few minutes later Jan and Dale arrived, much to my (and Lizzy’s) great relief.

That’s anxiety for you.  It’s not fun when you’re in the terror zone, but it’s often hilarious when you’re out.  The upside is that if anyone ever does get taken, I have Emergency Plan A already in place. So what if it mainly rests on the shoulders of an imaginary team of 1980’s television mercenaries?

In this life, sometimes you’re going to need B.A. Barrakas to lift a van for no reason.

It may not save your bosses from gold silk harem pants, but hey – Mr. T. just lifted a van, and that is also cool.

Posted in Humor | 4 Comments

Fat Dog Blues

The dogs are really piling up in my little, yellow (the G.P. just repainted it and it’s now the exact color of a yield sign) house.  Dad is out of town, and the Rev doesn’t like to leave ol’ Rowlfie home alone, so the enormous, shovel-headed, street cur (retired) is staying at my place.  He’s nice to have around most of the time.  He’s got great manners and is a terrific (if a bit stinky) snuggler. Stadler has made many attempts to get him to play with her, mostly by placing her toys on top of his head, but Rowlf prefers sleep and ear rubs to any untoward rambunctiousness.

There is one big problem with Rowlf, though: he is on a diet.

The poor guy got fat due to Dad sneaking him bacon grease and because he figured out how to stick his entire head into his food bag and eat as much as he wanted.

Mom caught him late one night after letting him out for his third perambulation because he got his whole gator-mouthed noggin stuck in the Candidae bag and needed help getting out.  My parents had to put a large box on top of the bag so that ol’ Hungry couldn’t get into it.  He simply pulled off the chip clip that they tried at first.

Mom and Dad realized that the problem was serious after Rowlf’s last vet appointment when he weighed in at a whopping 91lbs. Now Rowlf is a big boy, and far from obese.  He gets two walks (rain or shine) every day, and is in pretty much glowing good health — although I suspect that some of the phosphorescence may be flatulence-related radioactivity.  However, a five-pound gain was significant enough that our vet recommended a diet.

“I have a fat dog, too,” said Dr. Lowell.  “Some of them just like to eat.  We add a can of green beans to our dog’s food to make it seem like there’s more in the bowl.  The only problem with that is that now she’s very territorial about green beans.  Humans don’t get to eat green beans in our house anymore.”

Now, on doctor’s orders Rowlf gets a cup and a half of food twice a day and people food is strictly forbidden (although I’m positive that Dad still sneaks him bites).

Rowlf is not happy about this development.  He thinks green beans are stupid, so he picks them out of his bowl and drops them on the floor where he smooshes them disdainfully under his saucer-sized paws.

Stadler is pretty much the opposite of Rowlf.  She never wolfs down her food, instead preferring to daintily graze throughout the day.  Even when she was a puppy, she had to be hand-fed to keep the other dogs from stealing all her kibble.  She also has a weird quirk caused by excessive exposure to Hot-Fat-the-Cat in her youth — Stadler hates when she can see the bottom of her bowl.  It is always my sworn duty and most important job to keep that bowl full or WOE BETIDE ME.  If her dish ever totally empties, she delivers it to wherever I am, and lets it crash to the floor with the mighty thunder of righteous dog indignation.

I tend to keep her bowl full.

The first thing ol’ Rowlf did after the Rev dropped him off was eat ALL of Stadler’s food. I was back in the bedroom cleaning and didn’t notice until I walked into my kitchen to find him lying flat on the floor, legs happily akimbo, lovingly licking the empty container like a lollypop.

I deeply understand Rowlf’s position on dieting, and in this, he’s my spirit animal.

As soon as Rowlf left the now very damp dish, Stadler ran worriedly over to it, picked it up, ran to me, and dropped it on my big toe.

“Fill my bowl NOW, Bowl Lady! You have ONE JOB!” asserted my dog as forcefully as she could.

So, not knowing what else to do, I refilled her dish.  “No way Rowlf will eat enough to gain all the weight back in five days,” I reasoned, and went off to do something else.

A few minutes later, an even damper bowl was delivered to me while I was cleaning the toilet.

“No! You can’t have any more! I don’t care if Rowlfie ate it all!” I hollered at a very cheeky looking Stadler.  I picked up the empty and moved it to the kitchen counter.

“Click-a-click-a-click” echoed through the house as Stadler paced between the bathroom and the kitchen, jumping up and down and crying when she reached me, asking me to “Follow her to the big problem!” This behavior continued for hours, until finally it was time for bed.

I realized that there was no way I was going to be able to sleep with Captain Clicky Claws stomping all over the house and whining.  Rowlf was already passed out on the rug, sawing logs so loudly I’m surprised we didn’t get a noise complaint.  I decided it would be safe to give poor, starving Stadler a little food.

I filled up her bowl and placed it on the floor.  She looked at me reproachfully (after all this should have been done HOURS ago) and took two bites, leaving the rest.

Then a striking inspiration of sudden genius hit me: maybe if I filled up a second dog bowl, both dogs would be able to eat the correct amount when they wanted.  This was the ticket!  It had to work.

I went back to bed secure in the knowledge that both of my pups would spend a happy and full night.

One hour later I was awakened by a loud clattering next to my head. “NO, STADLER!” I yelled not even pulling off my sleep mask, “GO EAT OUT OF THE OTHER BOWL!”

Seconds later, another loud crash caused me to sit bolt upright as Stadler dumped the second empty dish at my bedside.

I leapt up, looking for the culprit. Rowlf lay fast asleep at the foot of the bed, snoring so loudly he sounded like the trombone section of the local high school marching band had recently experienced a massive outbreak of asthma.

“Honk, hork, honk,” said Rowlf, deep in dog dreams of bacon fat.

However, as I stormed past him with the two empty bowls, Rowlf lumbered to his feet and followed me to the kitchen – probably to see if I was dumb enough to do a refill.

I did not.  I set both dishes on the counter, walked back into my bedroom, locked both dogs in the hallway, and stuffed earplugs into my head.

The next morning, both dogs were sleeping in a pile outside my bedroom door. Stadler woke immediately and ran to the kitchen where her bowl had mysteriously flown off the counter and on to the floor (no dog would do that — obviously we have a poltergeist).

I put in one and a half cups of food.

It’s going to be a long week.


Not one shred of remorse.



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Jabba the Heap

20190812_140528I guess I should start this essay by apologizing in advance in case things get weird.  I’m definitely in Bat Country this morning due to lack of sleep.  My allergies have been killing me for weeks, despite the fact that I’ve ingested every single kind of medication on the planet – including a few I made up myself. I’ve been coughing this horrible dry cough that sounds as though I have an angry goose caught in my throat.  Even Stadler has been driven from the bedroom, but that could be because she’s trying to figure out a way to sneak on to the new couch.

The new divan has arrived, by the way.  It’s beige and moderately uncomfortable, but it looks nice – for now.  As every single person I showed it to has noted, beige is a “bold choice with a black dog.”  One friend even suggested that I take pictures of the sofa from a variety of angles — just so I can remember it as it “was before red stuff got spilled all over it.”

This is a valid point. I could spill stuff on a white (ish) couch from Mars – excessive caution is just prolonging the inevitable.  I must say, however, that it’s nice to have one piece of furniture that doesn’t smell like stale beer, microwave popcorn and ginormous dog.

The sofa arrived in two large boxes.  After extracting all the various upholstered bits and fasteners, I tried to shove the containers into the recycling bin.  Unfortunately, due to the fact that the boxes were taller than I am, the whole rig tipped over and I had to move everything into the garage.  I plan on cutting the cardboard into smaller pieces, but currently they are teetering monoliths that keep falling on the car and the dog (who never learns to not hit them with her tail, despite being terrified when they fall).

My nephew Avery (age 8) had offered to help me with sofa assembly, provided it showed up before he left.  “I have a lot of experience putting together IKEA stuff,” he insisted, hitching up his pants.

“That’s GREAT!” I replied, “This will probably be a two-man job.”

Avery paused, his brow nettled in distress, “But you’re not a man,” he pointed out, helpfully.

“Neither are you,” I snapped in return, “but I guess we’ll have to press on anyhow.”

The Syrup King was not comforted, but he really wanted to help, so he shut up.  Honestly, my inability to build things without a dedicated supervisory unit (the Rev) comes more from my tendency towards Instructional Dyslexia than it does my bathroom tackle.

Try, however, explaining that to any male in my family.

My brother once attempted to man-splain a screwdriver.  This “alpha bro tool mastery” only extends to things found in a typical toolbox, however.  If you hand my sibling an iron, he gets a look of abject confusion on his face and then makes a weird grilled cheese sandwich.

To be fair, though, it took me two hours to attach the arms and the back to the beige couch, and I put the first arm on the wrong side and had to start over.

The main problem, however, was the back piece.  It really was a two-person job, but because it was just me, I had to “make” a second person out of two stacks of pillows resting atop chairs which sat on Douglas Adams books.  The novels were there to properly angle the stacks of crap so that I could get the screws in the right way.

I first tried working from the bottom in order to use gravity, but I couldn’t see what I was doing and the screws kept falling out.

The stacks didn’t work that well either.  They kept falling over.  Eventually, though, with a great deal of swearing and perspiration, I managed to get the thing together.

I sat down ready to reap the rewards of beauteous newness.  Immediately, Stadler (who had been hiding under my bed to avoid the construction site) raced into the living room and tried to climb on to the couch.  I told her “NO!” somewhat forcefully, so she settled for rubbing up against the sides.

I guess we all have different ways of welcoming new furniture.

It’s lucky I’m not sleeping well right now, because were I zombie-virus-incubation-period conked out like I usually am, I would not be able to race out into the living room in the middle of the night to yell at my dog for trying to sneaky snake her way up onto the new couch.  I’m pretty sure she thinks it’s some kind of luxury dog bed and that I’m being withholding for not allowing her on it.  However, she pretty much blew her ride when she quite literally dug a hole into my sectional and made a nest.

The dog can be a real jerk.  I thought, however, that training her not to get on the sofa would be easy, since she never gets on the couch at Mom’s house.

“Ab, she just sneaks up there after we go to bed,” said the Rev when I told her my Master Plan for Sofa Salvation. “Your father catches her all the time.”

I’ve enacted several protocols for pup deterrence, including making something that resembles a seven-layer dip out of pillows, blankets and clean laundry.  The Rev would tell you that I’m just being lazy about folding stuff, but really, it’s a security measure.

Of course, having to pile junk all over the divan to protect it doesn’t exactly project the clean, mid-century modern look I was going for.  It is, however, pretty easy to find a clean pair of under-drawers.

Last night, I busted Stadler tugging at one of the blankets on the bottom of Jabba the Heap – trying to bring the whole mound crashing to the floor.

“Hey!  Quit that!” I yelled.

She walked scornfully across the room and flopped snottily into her gigantic, Tempurpedic dog bed.

“This is why we can’t have nice things,” I accused, angrily, stomping back to bed to not sleep some more.

I emerged from my den this morning, rubbing my eyes and seeking coffee.  What to my insomniac eyes did appear, you might be asking (assuming you’re the sort of person who paraphrases Christmas poems in August)?  I saw Stadler, sleeping at the apex of a roughly three-foot tall pile of dog-preventative soft goods like she was a very unworthy princess in a pea-positive children’s story.

I guess we know who’s King of the Mountain. At least she probably won’t spill her beer.

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