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.

p1010026

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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Resolved

New Year’s is fast approaching – the final horrifying holiday of the seasonal onslaught.  Every single year, I think I’m going to wear a fluffy dress, go out, have an amazing time, meet a handsome prince and ride off into the sunset.  Expectations often fail to match the reality, which in my case, involves staying home with Stadler – an 80 pound dog whose solution to fear of fireworks is to physically lie across my body  shivering until the neighbors stop blowing things up.  She gets super angry why I have to go to the bathroom, I can’t imagine her wrath were I to actually leave her at the babysitter’s to suffer through it.  The Rev and G.P. have very little sympathy for wussiness.

Even prior to adopting Stadler, I never quite got the holiday right – unless you consider making out in a temporary photo booth with a somewhat reluctant Red Bull distributer the modern day handsome prince/sunset equivalent (Pro-tip: it’s not).  I’m not great in crowds, and lately when I consume any alcoholic beverage exceeding half a glass of cabernet while not safe in my own home, you can find me standing on a bar stool yelling that I, “NEED AN ADULT.” I have somehow, in my decrepitude, become that girl.

They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.  If that’s the case, then my road is a 16 lane mega highway with a ton of confusing cloverleaves, several drawbridges, and a ton of detours.  My heart is pure, but my attention span is limited. Each year when I snip my shadow free and hold it up to see if it still fits, it always does.   Even though a year seems like such a long time to accomplish fairly major goals, truly altering oneself is pretty difficult – especially if you quit trying by January 13th.   It may come as a surprise to you, but it’s next to impossible to learn to play the banjo in 13 days.  All I managed was to drive the dog outside and possibly anger the neighbors (although that could have been because of my house’s general lack of curb appeal – another resolution that failed the second a sticker bush stabbed me in the face).  This year, I’m giving up before I get started.  However, if you have the desire to be resolved, here are some good ways to still make resolutions, but also insure you’ll be able to skate by on a technicality at the end of 2017.

Guidelines for Winning  Resolutions

  • Populate your list with easy resolutions to offset the difficult ones.  I like about a 75/25 ratio (with 75 being the easy ones).  Think about it – if one of your New Year’s resolutions is, “I will take a kamikaze shot” you can whip that one out at 12:01 a.m. New Year’s Day.  1 down.  Want things that will actually improve your life…okay, fine….but make most of them easy.  Instead of resolving to say “save $10,000” when you only make $15,000/year how about resolving to “find all the change in the couch and put it in a jar which won’t be spent until 2018 even on chicken McNuggets.”  You won’t save much, but you’ll have a both a jar full of pennies and a cleaner couch and maybe less of a McNugget gut– real progress for some of us.
  • NO ROMANCE RESOLUTIONS. The basic rule of thumb here is not to resolve things you can’t control.  If you can agree that perhaps it would be foolish to pin your success or failure for the year on whether or not you were able to control the orbits of comets with your magic, then you essentially have to agree that you can’t control whether or not you’re going to find the person for you this year.  If you want a relationship, you can resolve to make yourself more available, but if you decide that hell or high water you’re getting some poor sucker to move in with you, the probability is that you’re just going to wind up settling for someone who isn’t quite right.  Face it, those are stinky socks that you don’t want to be picking up.
  • Remember the problem of process. One of the most frustrating things for me in this life is that everything is such a stupid process.  You have to lay foundations before you can build houses, and the better the foundation, the sturdier the house.  When we think it would be cool to learn a new skill (cough *how to play banjo/use tape), we envision the result (annoying an entire bar by yodeling exclusively Neutral Milk Hotel songs while accompanying myself on a banjo/being able to successfully tape anything together without taping self to thing), but we tend to forget about the hours and hours of practice that is required to become even marginally banjo competent, and we also tend to forget our general lack of coordination and tendencies toward both dyslexia and distraction.  It is possible for me to learn to play banjo, in the same way that it is strictly possible that a honey badger is right now hatching a complicated, but technically accurate, plan to launch himself into space and land on the moon.  Possible and probable are entirely different sets of odds.  Moral: remember the work when you’re resolving to get to the result.
  • When in doubt: tacos.   It is always wise to build emergency tacos into the original plan.  That way, you get tacos.  I really hope you understand…because tacos.
  • Keep it vague. Don’t assign numeric values to anything.  “I want to lose some weight” or “I will exercise more” is much easier to achieve than “I want to lose 20lbs,” or “I will exercise five days a week.”  That way, when it’s the end of 2017, the super fancy scale you purchased in January will come in handy.  It will be able to tell you all about that .001 of a pound you lost – which means, by the way, that YOU WIN RESOLUTIONS.

Happy New Year one and all.  I hope 2017 is a kinder year than the tire fire that was 2016.  Be safe.  Find your happiness.  And don’t call me if you need an adult. I’m woefully unqualified.

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Wrapped

I am not a fan of Christmas.   The excessive materialism of the occasion really sinks my battleship, and that’s without mentioning that the holidays are the absolutely worst time of year for the perpetually single.  Without a date, there’s no way to deflect any of the traditional “slightly too merry” drunken co-workers, and every single family member feels like asking you about your prospects is an acceptable conversation starter (but get angry when you start talking about imaginary numbers).  If I hear the line, “You should try match.com.  My friend whatshernuts met her husband on there.  The internet isn’t teeming with dangerous weirdos anymore.”  (Subtext: you’re so hard up that you should pay dates with possibly not dangerous weirdos).  (Implication: singleness is the reprehensibility equivalent of leprosy.) Also, even though I’m the eldest child in my generation, I’m the one who eternally gets stuck at the kids table.  Not that I mind too terribly – the kids have trucks to play with, and almost never talk about politics or ask you where your boyfriend is.

Thanksgiving turkey is generally the magic elixir that turns me into a mad Madame Scrooge.  I try not to bah too heavily because other people seem to really enjoy this time of year, but upon seeing yard art inflatable Yodas dressed as Santa Claus, I must admit the occasional, barely audible, humbug escapes.  The Great Provider (my Dad) feels the same way I do – even though he never has to sit at the kids table, but the Rev (my pastor Mother) predictably has a different take.  Sometimes, the G.P. and I can oppress her enough that we can nearly get out of celebrating – although historically we’ve had to literally skip the country fugitive-style to escape the seasonal bacchanalia.  However, this year, my brother and his entire brood are descending from Hawaii, and my Aunt and her son and grandson are traveling from California.  They won’t be arriving until New Year’s.  Due to this seemingly salient fact, I really thought for a second that the G.P. and I would get our once-a-decade-no-Christmas-Christmas (without having to wear dark sunglasses and false mustaches on some Mexican beach).

“So Mom,” I said to the Rev who had just explained the situation, “does that mean that we don’t have to have Christmas?”  The G.P.’s eyes lit up in glee. He perceived immediately that the Rev was caught in a huge technicality.  She couldn’t possibly expect us to do Christmas TWICE, could she?  There was a pause so pregnant it seemed to be bearing quintuplets.  “Of course we have to do Christmas,” the Rev exclaimed, “we’ll just have to do it twice because of the kids.”  The G.P. deflated like a toad on hot asphalt.  She got us.

The Rev has a right to revenge, I suppose.  One year, I gradually stole all the characters out of her manger scene and replaced them with toys from my niece’s room.  The three Wise Men made way for Transformers, the camels and donkeys were replaced with small, pink hamster things, all the shepherds were replaced by a Mr. Potato Head, Mary and Joseph were GI Joe and Barbie, and Baby Jesus (who I saved for last) was the littlest doll in the matroyshka (Russian nesting doll) placed lovingly in the dollhouse bathtub.  I really thought the Rev was going to notice – the Mr. Potato Head was pretty glaring, and it didn’t help that the G.P. snickered every time he walked past – but she never did.  Then my brother, his wife and their two year old son, Jovanni arrived.  Kenia zeroed in on the manger scene with drone strike accuracy.  “Oh look, Jojo,” she exclaimed, “Grandma has a nativity scene.”  The Rev was happily buzzing around the house getting everyone settled in the family hive, and cooed something like, “Look at the cow, Jojo!  The cow says ‘mooooo’.”  Only it wasn’t a cow anymore.  It was a weird hamster thing.  A very befuddled Kenia (unsure if this was deliberate on the part of her mother-in-law and not wanting to offend) carefully offered, “Kris, there aren’t really any cows, or shepherds, or anything…really.”  The Rev, confusedly, bulldozed over to the manger scene to check.  Clearly, Kenia was in error.  Nope.  My Mother doesn’t cuss often or blaspheme ever.  On this occasion, however, she belted out in terms so stentorian they would have made a legionnaire snap to, “Abigail Jane Bair where in the *?!x@ is my Baby Jesus?!?”  I don’t know why she assumed it was me.  It could just have easily been the G.P.  Baby Jesus was in the spoon drawer.  That year, the Rev. made me sleep in the camper…in Kansas.

In any case, I’ve been preparing Christmas presents for the familial invasion for months.  Finally, yesterday, I decided to wrap them.  For 26 years, I have held the title of “World’s Worst Gift Wrapper,” and it appears that my reign will remain unchallenged in 2016.  I went through four rolls of wrapping paper, two rolls of scotch tape and one roll of duct tape yesterday before finally completing the project.  If I were to write a tag line to describe the mess it would be: “If you don’t think dog hair encrusted tape and really crappy origami are “Christmas-y,” then you’re really not going to like what’s happening at my place right now.”  At one point, I taped myself to the rug, and then I pulled the tape off of my leg and the rug and used it to seal up my nephew Avery’s present.  It was a pretty hirsute piece of tape, and not just because of the rug.  I finally got the job done, however, and had a huge pile of shiny, crumply, occasionally square packages with the errant piece of duct tape for contrast.   I hated every second of the process, except the part where the dog managed to track muddy footprints on the wrapping paper for my brother’s present.  That was pretty funny.

I stopped last night, briefly, at the Rev’s, and made the mistake of commenting that I accidentally messed with the kids by putting their very small presents in big boxes because that’s all there was in the garage (it’s bad – I put a 10oz Yeti cup in the furnace filter box).  “I have small boxes,” said the Rev, “just bring them over here and re-wrap them.”  It’s like she doesn’t even know me.

 

May you have a Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday, if that’s your bag,  If not, you are not alone.  This, too, shall pass.

 

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Burgled

 

Last Sunday night, at around midnight, someone broke into my garage and stole my awesome Schwinn trike and a very nice cooler.  When I say, “broke in” I mean they opened the gate at the back of my property, walked around the house, opened the garage door and went inside.  It was a pretty easy job. I suppose it’s a blessing that there’s no evidence that the crooks actually tap danced their way through the job, although I’m not sure how I could be more embarrassed.

My dog Stadler (the world’s only hydrophobic black Lab, and former security professional), tried to warn me by barking, but Stadler has a tendency to sound the alarm in non-emergent situations like: another dog is being walked by the house, a truck is stopped at any of the four stops signs on the corner, an errant leaf is blowing across the driveway, or SQUIRRELS ARE EVERYWHERE!  I’m not sure how to communicate human emergency prioritization to a dog, but there have been several conversations this week about the problem.  We’re not making much headway.

Monday morning, I discovered the crime because the thieves messed up my garage door on the way out.  After pressing the button to open the door 41 times, I quickly ascertained that it wasn’t functional.  They had switched it to manual while finishing the heist.  Missing items were noted, parents (the Rev and the Great Provider) were informed and the cops were called.  An officer arrived in about an hour (the Rev and the G.P. made it in less than 8 minutes).  He looked around, rolled his eyes at my “home security” (Stadler), who tried to lick his hand affectionately in return.  He told me that even though the cops have a pretty good idea who’s committing the rash of burglaries in my neighborhood, they’re much too understaffed to do anything about it.  He said the department is short 100 – 125 full time officers.

The G.P. spent the rest of the day installing new and interesting security measures around the property.  Super locks went up on all the doors and gates.  Screeching, one zillion decibel alarms went on every door and window.  Stadler lost the use of her dog door.  I knocked on the steel insert by way of explanation saying, “Buddy, don’t ram into this.”  She acted like she understood right up until she heard a squirrel outside and almost concussed herself trying to go say hello (our yard squirrels are so fat and glossy that I suspect she’s sneaking them dog food).

The weird turn pro

After a day of beefing up home security, my keychain weighed approximately 90 pounds and looked like I had a second job as a jailer in a medieval dungeon.  One would think that all the new security on top of the old, dysfunctional system (which was essentially a few locks and 80 pounds of loud, fuzzy love torpedo) would allow one to feel a sense of calm comfort in their home.  Yeah. Not me.  As the night descended, I became increasingly paranoid.  Sleep was impossible, even though I was emotionally and physically exhausted. Here is a brief timeline of the evening’s events:

9:00: First attempt at heading to bed.  Check all 370,000 locks.  Looks good? “Better safe than sorry.” Start over and check them again.  Arm screechers.  Test screechers by unlocking locks and opening doors and windows.  Get hit in face with a gajillion decibels.  Disarm and rearm screechers.  Re-lock locks.  Re-check locks to make sure locks are ACTUALLY locked.

9:08: Begin the cycle of existential dread.  Note Stadler sleeping soundly on end of bed.  Get jealous of dog.

10:30: Lock re-check.  Unlock locks to make sure locks are locking.  Re-lock locks.  Head back to bed, but have to turn around because none of the screechers went off.  Unlock locks.  Open door.  Get hit in face with a gazillion decibels. Close door.  Re-lock locks.

11:00: Still can’t sleep, but don’t want to go check locks again. Already sorry about safety. Contemplate further security improvements.

Midnight:  Still awake, listening intently for the sound of crooks slinking around the property.  Consider taking sleeping bag and shotgun and crawling up into the rafters of the garage and waiting for them. Dismiss idea because unsure of location of sleeping bag.  Maybe in garage? Convinced thieves are inevitably returning.  Must be ready.

2:00: Increased security a must.  Begin installing new units.  Wedges go under doors (which sets off alarms and causes more decibels in face).  Begin considering other weak spots.  Decide that yard security needs some help.  Unlock doors, set off alarm, disable alarm, head into yard with keys and flashlight, locking door behind me.  Definitely need to eliminate hand holds on fence.  Definitely need Stadler-proof tiger trap.  Head to garage to get shovel.  Unlock door.  Set off door alarm AND motion alarm.  Disable alarms.  Get shovel.  Realize that it’s now 3:00 a.m., visibility is nil and that digging a tiger trap may be a tiny bit of an over-reach.  Note shovel in hand.  Design burglar trap in garage that consists of shovel hanging from rafters with rope rigged so that if the door opens shovel hits burglar in face.  Feel very Indiana Jones.  Arm shovel.  Close door.  Lock door.  Re-arm motion detector and door alarm.  Double check everything (predictably get a gajillion decibels right to the face twice).  Head to backdoor to re-enter house.  Can’t find keys.

3:23: Cussing.

3:30: Find keys on BBQ grill.  Re-enter house.  Locks.  Alarm.  Decibels.  Double check.

4:00:  Still waiting for incursion.  Have almost worked myself up to accepting that thugs are  definitely going to come into my house and make off with all my stuff.   Considering that I furnished my place with other people’s trash (garage sales) and that the net value of all my junk is approximately $83.32 at the pawn shop, what I’m really worried about is that if further burglaries occur, I won’t be able to sleep for a year.

4:23: Fall into fugue state.  Waves of paranoia intermingle with hallucinations of me finally getting to yell at people who park poorly.

5:31: Alarm clock  beeps.  Emerge from blanket cocoon and prepare to go to the gym.  Unlock 370, 000 locks, successfully disable screechers without getting nailed, happy with self, am security genius,head to garage, disable alarms, unlock door (feeling of total pride at successfully navigating the maze).  Narrowly avoid death by murder shovel.

It’s been several days and awful nights since.   I haven’t had time to dig the Stadler-proof tiger trap, but I have been secretly sharpening bamboo in preparation.  The murder shovel is still armed, although I’m beginning to wonder what accidentally (cough) decapitating a thief is going to do to my insurance premiums.  The only thing I’m sure of is that it’s definitely too late to put up a “Beware of Dog” sign.  Even the squirrels don’t buy it.

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We’re Gonna Have to Get a Bunch More Guys

When my brother and I were kids, we used to stage elaborate battles with toy robots, what were evidently supposed to be WWII plastic soldiers, cowboys, super racist Indians, Barbies, Mr. Potato Heads, just heads of various accidentally-on-purpose decapitated toys, cars, trucks and (when all else failed) mud, rocks, sticks and the occasional goat.  Often, these wars would disintegrate rapidly into name calling and throwing of all of the above (minus the goat – the goat hurled herself) at the other person until Josh (who was more often than not on the receiving end of the toy hurricane) would run off sniffling and bawling, “I’m telling MOMMY!”  In our universe, the Rev was the ultimate weapon – the PRIME Optimus Prime, and my brother was one to go nuclear after just one direct hit.  It should be noted, however, that often said hit was directly to the crotch.

Thismoreguysfin morning, as I was trying to figure out what to do in the wake of the recent election to try to keep at least a baseline of viable social services, education and art available to people who are needy – I thought about those battles.  It always worked out that the loser would (behind the Rev’s back, where it was safe) threaten to “get a bunch more guys and come back and WIN.”  And, as I remembered that, I realized that’s exactly what we’re going to have to do.  We’re going to have to get all the guys and hold on tight for as long as we can.

You see, it doesn’t matter who you voted for or whether or not you even voted to begin with.  If you claim to value education, social services, justice, freedom of faith, freedom of choice, freedom to speak your mind, the arts, libraries, the environment, civil liberties for everyone – and any ONE of these areas is enough – then you need to dedicate your time to helping organizations that provide or protect these things.  Trump has already said he’ll cut all of these on several occasions, and MORE IMPORTANTLY has the backing of the House and the Senate  — which actually gives him the power to do so.  If you have ever benefitted from any public service that will be cut – including public education, you need to step forward now and get to work to protect it for others.  If you refuse to pay with your dollars, you’ll have to pay with your time.  Even if, like me, you voted the other way, you still have to help or risk the dire consequences of knowing that you’re a total hypocrite.

Here’s the ask:

 Pick a charity.  Any charity.  Pick the one where your heart is.  Then give them 2 hours per week of yosaveferrisur time or at least 8 hours a month.  Work for several organizations, if you choose.  It doesn’t matter.  Just do the work.  Here’s the reward: you save the world, and I will dedicate this blog to you guys and to sharing my experiences as a volunteer with you.  You’ll have a forum to talk about what you’re doing, to encourage each other, and a place to direct others to learn about how they too can SAVE AMERICA.   Also, if you give me an address, I’ll send you an awesome fun pack courtesy of RCS every month filled with encouragement and probably also stickers.  Because stickers are amazing at motivation.  And I like stickers.  Some of them might say “Vagina.”

A little math

Let’s think about the 200,000 + people who now feel like their vote to protect these services didn’t count due to the Electoral College.  If each of those people contributed just 2 hrs/week to the organizations they tried to protect, that equals 400,000 man hours/week or the equivalent of 10,000 full time positions or a yearly savings (assuming all of those 10,000 positions were paid at minimum wage) a savings of about 154,000,000/year.  And don’t say that this is taking jobs away from people who need them.  The cuts will do that on their own, leaving the agencies woefully understaffed with no way to make it up.  Now, imagine if everyone who voted gave the 2 hours/week.  That’s where the saving the world part comes in.  Do you think you can do it?  Because I think you can.  The least we can do is try – but it’s also the very best we can do.

I love you.  Get to work. Go to www.volunteermatch.org and find a project.

(Don’t forget your rubbers and bail money).

Posted in current events, gay marriage, gay rights, Humor, morality, politics, religion, republican, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment