Sunday, August 3, 2014

Stop It. Please.

I started writing a post for today, and it was going to be full of humor about our first world problems, but then I saw this on Facebook.
And my heart felt that it was time to write about something that is so important, to all of us, that it couldn't wait. I'm tired of seeing people spread hate and intolerance over social media, when it would be just as easy to spread love and compassion. And enlightenment.

When you first read the above caption, you might think, 'Sounds about right. There will always be mean people in the world, and we can't always stop them from being mean.' But then this goes so wrong. The message is that A: we shouldn't do anything to stop bullies, because hey, they're always going to be around, so what are ya gonna do? and B: wearing pink is a sign of weakness, something to be mocked for, and makes you a target as being someone who is overly-sensitive (at the very least) or gay (which is certainly something that makes you fair game - sarcasm), as well as a sign of a victim. Since when did victimization have a color? The responses I read were full of the attitude that violence is the best, and only, answer. One particular gem: "Turn the other cheek...with a fist." Nice. Violence is always the answer, right?

Maybe my eternally optimistic life-view sets me up for shock whenever I see things like this. I walk around in my little fantasy world where things are better than they used to be, so how can this kind of thinking still persist? Part of that is right - things are better than they used to be. But part of that is wrong, because clearly, this kind of thinking does still exist. One doesn't need to look on social media for too long before you see hate messages. People are so quick to throw out words like 'gay', 'pussy', 'girly', 'loser', 'idiot', 'wimp', 'retard', etc., as a way to demean someone else, or even to joke around with their friends. We're all guilty of it. I am. But that doesn't make it okay. Ever. Have you seen this ad?
See? We all do it. Even the women this particular stereotype hurts. What is it about being feminine that is so damn shameful or weak? Check out this doozy:

Can I just tell you how much I resent that kind of garbage? Who is this benefiting? Anyone? Anyone?Bueller? Bueller?
The strongest people I know are women. I defy you to show me one shred of evidence that females are somehow lesser beings. And yet we send messages to our young people that feminine = less. We need to wake up and knock it off.

Also? What do pink shirts have to do with any of this? Let's talk about pink. Pink connotes the feminine. Look at baby showers. Or baby cakes. What are they usually? Pink or blue. Pink means girl. Can you get around this? Not easily. This color is loaded with connotations - good and bad. Thanks to the Susan J. Komen foundation, pink has come to symbolize our commitment to fighting breast cancer. That's a very good thing. What isn't a good thing is the slogan 'tough enough to wear pink'. This slogan perpetuates the stereotype that wearing pink is something men would usually (and rightfully?) be mocked for. But when you say you're tough enough to wear pink, that means you're totally tough and secure in your manhood, so bullies can't make fun of you. Especially since you're wearing it for such a worthy cause. But without that disclaimer, is it okay for men to wear pink? Mmmmmmaybe not...But by whose standards? Who gives a crap what color your clothing is? Seriously.

Here's something I learned during my second round of college. In Nazi Germany, Hitler forced homosexuals to wear an inverted pink triangle. Why pink? I'm not sure, but I'm picking up on a theme here, are you? Now, thankfully, the symbol has been turned up, and is used as a sign of pride or a place of safety for those who are being bullied or persecuted. I like the idea that a symbol once used for persecution is now used for safety. That's a huge step in the right direction. And yet we have so far to go...

While we're on the subject of Hitler, I'd like to put all of this in oversimplified terms, as it relates to the card above. Hitler was a bully. A huge, terrible, evil bully. And you know what it took to stop him? An act of Congress. Literally. Our legislative body had to declare war in order to stop this bully. But we shouldn't pass anti-bullying laws? Now that just doesn't make sense. You know what else doesn't make sense? That puffin. Why did they put this caption over an image of a bird? I don't get it, but then, I don't get the whole card. It sends some mixed messages. "We're never going to get rid of bullying, and I'm going to project a message of intolerance." Gee, do you suppose it's messages like this that make people think we're not going to get rid of bullying?

I could go on and on about gender stereotypes, but I'll save that for another post. Bottom line: this crap has to stop. We have got to stop perpetuating messages of hate, even if they're couched in what seem like good ideas. Should our kids know how to stand up for themselves? Absolutely. Should we throw our hands in the air, shrug our shoulders and say there's nothing we can do to prevent bullying so why bother? Absolutely not. Should the pink shirts even be a part of this discussion? Um, no. Nope, nope, nope. It doesn't make sense. Should we tell people who are bullied to suck it up and stop being victims, because nobody cares, and 'Hey, ya can't stop bullying!'? Gimme a break. Think people, think. It would be laughable, if it weren't so awful.

Some of you might read this post and think, "Whoa, militant feminist alert!" You would be wrong. I don't like labels. I really don't like the feminist label. I'm a people-ist (Is that a word? Probably not, but I'm going with it.). I believe in the basic humanity of each and every person on this planet. I believe we all have flaws, just like we all have basic needs. One of the most basic is to be treated with kindness. With respect for our humanity - all that makes us alike and vastly different. I believe that if God loves and forgives every soul, we can at least try to be nicer to each other. We can stop putting each other in black and white boxes. The world is a crazy, colorful place. That's okay. We need to stop fighting it.

One of my favorite quotes, attributed to Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Can we stop all the bullies? Nope. It sucks, and it's depressing, but it's not fatal. Because we can do something. A small thing, in our own lives. We can stop. Stop using words that hurt. Stop making the jokes that aren't funny. And when we see things like the card above, we can speak out against them. What we can't do, shouldn't do, mustn't do, is remain silent.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Life Is Grand

I owe much of who I am - good and otherwise - to my dad. He was a force to be reckoned with, whether you were discussing politics, playing Trivial Pursuit, fighting for a later curfew, or cooking in his restaurant. Everything about Dad was grand. His laugh, his mustache, his hard line when he was convinced he was right, his commitment to his kids, his sense of humor (he always thought he was hilarious), his love of food and books, and his personal demons. He could be a wonderful man when he set his mind to it. One of the things he did well was write a column for the local weekly newspaper. The column was entitled "Ain't Life Grand", and it was full of musings and observations from his corner of life. I present the following as evidence. This entry, "Huntin' Trouble" was published October 6, 1994.

'Once again it's that time of year - hunting season. There's a hint of winter in the air, Aspen leaves are golden, and any woman worthy of that name is finalizing negotiations for a new major appliance. "Of course I don't mind you using all your vacation time to go hunting, Honey. And that new Maytag will sure get your Carhartts clean."

Every year the boys, Fish Boy and Snake, and I do a little hunting. They scan the horizon for whitetail, elk, goose. I scan my brain for excuses: "It's too dark; it's too far away; how was I supposed to know that was a spike?" I love to hunt, I'm just not too keen on all the work after you yank the trigger. (Let me save you a stamp. To all who think hunting is a cruel, heartless, male ego thing, let me reply in my most heartfelt and humble manner - "Sez you.")

One particular hunt stands out in my mind. The boys and I were just about to call it a day. Then a lone deer came bouncing along the pasture below us. I was plumb out of lame excuses by this time, so I took a bead and down it went. Now we needed the truck.

The pick-up was at the house, not far away. We strolled on up. Fish Boy was complaining of cold hands and asked his sister GiGi if he could borrow some of her gloves. To my surprise, she graciously agreed on the condition that no innards be permitted to soil her property. I assured her that the gloves would return in pristine condition. They almost did. Who could have guessed?

I wheeled our 4-wheel drive 400 big block '79 Ford blue beast fence buster pick-up into position by the carcass. Leaping to the ground, I was handed the knife as neatly as any brain surgeon ever received a scalpel. We proceeded - Fish asking for parts indentificiation while I tried to avoid thinking about my lunch wending its way upwards. Done at last! Back into the beast, wheel into position for loading. As I jumped out this time, my olfactory lobes signalled my brain that something was amiss in the odor department. My right rear wheelwas smack dab in the middle of the gut pile.

With a maximum amount of grunting and groaning we hoisted the cadaver into the twelve foot high truck bed. I advised my accomplice, "Wait here a minute and I'll turn the truck around." I hopped in and gave 'er the gas. To my surprise the wheels began to spin furiously. Then I realized that pancreas and spleen make for poor traction. Oh well, no big deal. As Fish Boy climbed into the cab, the smell became more pungent. Apparently, he had been standing directly behind the truck during the acceleration process. Well, Goodyear Mongo Lug Black Beauty Churners effectively transform deer innards into airborne flotsam and gutsom. It's the first law of Cuisinart Dynamics.

The brain is a marvelous device. Fish Boy's brain saw this awful barrage flying toward him. This sent a signal to his hands, "Whoa, wake up down there. I don't want that stuff anywhere near me. Action, Jackson." The hands did their duty. They maneuvered the gloves into place, covering the face. As a result, the gloves acquired a new color, texture, and aroma. None of which the manufacturer would tout in a national ad campaign.

I knew the deer was not the only dead meat in the truck. I had assured GiGi that her gloves were safe. There are a few things which every man fears. Trashin' fashion is one of them. Being sensible, I immediately tried to think back to my college course, Creative Excuses 101. I was stumped. May as well face the music. As we stumbled into the house in our crimson stained hunting clothes, GiGi spied the now soiled gloves. Her eyebrows snapped to attention. She had us dead to rights. I began babbling apologies. Fish Boy even begged her forgiveness. She turned to me and said, "He loves hunting so much, and those are old gloves anyway, don't worry about it." Huh? Well, we'd been huntin' trouble and failed to bag our game once again.'

Some might argue that I chose this entry because it casts me in such a flattering light. You'd be right. I also chose it because it's a story near and dear to my heart. Dad had a gift for words, and each time I read this story I'm transported back to our warm kitchen, where Mom and I were working on dinner while The Boys did their hunting thing. It was a good day. We had a lot of good days.

As time went on, the good days started coming less frequently. By the time I was in high school, Dad had sunken into a deep depression. Life with Dad wasn't easy. I went off to college, while Mom and The Boys worked to make the best of life. Eventually, Dad came out of his depression, but it left a mark on us all. Good days started coming back, though not the way they were before. We all struggled, as most families do, but life went on.

When I became pregnant with WyoGirl, Dad sort of came to life again. He would refer to Fetus WyoGirl as Louis, after Louis DePalma, from Taxi, because they were roughly the same size. He decided that rather than being called Grandpa or some variation thereof, he wanted to be called Yuda. Short for Yudaman. And with Dad, it fit.

As WyoGirl grew, she and her Yuda became thick as thieves. They did everything together. Best Buds. Theirs was a bond I envied, having never had a relationship with any of my grandparents. But it did my heart good to see how happy they made each other. Good days were back.

But, life is transient, and good days couldn't last forever. As WyoGirl grew, Dad's war against his inner demons grew. Things changed - good days started to disappear again. Distances expanded, along with hurts. But somewhere in there, along with all the mess and hurt, was my dad. The man who had raised me with such love and devotion. With a hard line and high expectations. With an appreciation for wit and humor, cooking and the written word. Over time, however, it became harder to find him.

We lost Dad in November 2011. When I got the call from my brother, I crumbled. I had been expecting this day for a long time, but was nowhere near prepared to accept it. I screamed, and I cried, and I cursed God and Dad. I sat down on my kitchen floor and cried with sobs that wracked my entire body. And then, we all set to work figuring out how to say goodbye to a man who had been larger than life, in all our lives.

Dad never wanted a sad funeral. He wanted everyone in attendance to wear nose glasses. Oh, the family nose glasses pictures I could show you...We did the best we could, but loss and saying a final goodbye are difficult, painful things to do, and there's bound to be some sadness that gets through. One of the songs we chose for Dad's service was Vince Gill's Go Rest High on That Mountain. It seemed to fit Dad so well.

I know your life
On earth was troubled
And only you could know the pain
You weren't afraid to face the devil
You were no stranger to the rain

Go rest high on that mountain
Son, you work on earth is done
Go to heaven a shoutin'
Love for the Father and Son

Oh, how we cried the day you left us
We gathered round your grave to grieve
I wish I could see the angels faces
When they hear your sweet voice sing

Saturday evening, driving home from Billings with J and WyoGirl, I heard this song on the radio. As soon as I heard they lyrics, I began to weep. It wasn't a deep, sobbing cry, rather a soft, quiet weep. Tears filled my eyes and streamed down my cheeks, while a lump settled in my throat. I looked out the window, and beheld an amazing sunset. Later that night, when I took The Hound out to do her thang, I was struck with the sense that life was humming, all around and inside me. The air was filled with evening flower fragrance. Beauty surrounded me. Just inside, two of the people I love most on this Earth sat, healthy, safe, and peaceful. The evening felt grand. Grand in scope, and grand with a realization of blessings, of struggles fought and won, of grace, love, and forgiveness. In that moment, I realized just how right Dad had been. Life ain't always good, but it sure as hell is grand.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

You Keep Me In Stitches

"Hey Mom I need sticks." That text, sent at 8:10 last night, is the reason I'm a shoe-in as an extra on The Walking Dead. I'm exhausted. Thanks to autocorrect, I didn't grasp the meaning of that text right away. Where autocorrect put 'sticks', she had typed 'stitches'. As in, 'I've cut myself badly, and am going to need medical attention in the immediate future.'

Around 7:00 last night, WyoGirl headed out the door with two of her best buds and the mother of one said bud. They were headed to the park to a free concert. A park that has a creek running through it. On a day where the mercury sat at 94 forever. At 7:45, I sat down to eat my dinner, leaving my cell phone on its charger in the kitchen. I, who am never more than two feet from my phone, had left it clear across the house. So, when I returned to the kitchen at 8:20, imagine my surprise when I read the above text, saw the two missed calls and voicemail from WyoGirl. She only tries to contact me like this in an emergency or when she wants Starbucks. Also an emergency, according to her.

The voicemail was actually left by her lifelong friend, N, and went something like this:
"Hey Cody, um, it's N, uh, don't be mad or anything, but uh, WyoGirl kinda fell on a rock, and um, she needs to get like two, three stitches, but it's not, she's not in pain, she's not crying, but um, she's doing fine, she's just, I just wanted to tell you so you're not worried, I just wanted to tell ya, just don't be mad, please, love ya, bye." Alrighty then, my child needs stitches. But she's fine, she's not crying. Super. I'll go ahead and not freak out right now.

That part about WyoGirl not crying didn't surprise me at all. Our girl is one tough nut. When she was a baby, and the doctor gave her shots, she would look at him with an expression that said, "If you do that again, I will cut you." End of discussion. When, as a toddler in footy pjs, she slid down an entire flight of hardwood stairs, smacking her head when she landed at my feet, she got up, looked up the stairs as if to say, "What the hell was that?" and just walked away. During a soccer game a few years back, that girl took a soccer ball to the face at least three times. Each time, she would look over to the sidelines and yell, "I'm fine! Don't you dare take me out!"And when she crashed on the last hurdle during a neck-and-neck heat, she popped back up and finished third. She'd been closing in on first, and still finished third, mere milliseconds behind first, after leaving all her knee flesh on the track. High pain threshold. Seriously.

I finally managed to get her on her cell phone, and she said, "Oh, I'm at the...'wait, where am I? The ER? Okay.' I'm at the ER Mom, and so can you come up here? 'Pressure, right here? Okay.' Anyway, can you come up here, because I need stitches?" She was so flippin' calm, it kinda freaked me out. I went to find J, who was in the shower. "Kiddo is at the ER, she needs stitches, I don't know what happened, so let's go." After I repeated myself three times, he said, "Okay, I'm almost done here, give me a sec." A sec? Um, no. Baby hurt. Momma go now. You drive.

As we pulled up to the ER doors, I tried to climb out of the car while he was still doing 10 mph. Stupid new safety locks in cars. You can't get out until the driver shifts into P. Grrr. Let me out, let me out!! I got inside, and was immediately taken to WyoBaby. Y'all, when I saw her, I was blown away. There she was, chatting away with the doctor and doctor-in-training, calm as could be, while blood ran down her leg. This was not my child. I am not calm. I tend to freak out a lot. Blood doesn't bother me, but adrenaline? Oh I'm a mess when that stuff kicks in. Not she. But as soon as I was within reach, she latched onto my hand and didn't let go for the next hour. Remember that high pain threshold? They had to give her three different rounds of Lidocaine to numb her enough to clean out the cut. And that bad boy was deep.

J, who is a former Corpsman of the Marines, treated this ER visit like a bit of a field trip. He was asking questions about which kind of Lidocaine they were using, he wanted to get up close and personal with the wound, and when the doctor asked if we wanted to keep the suturing tools, he was all over it. All the man needs is access to some fresh sutures, and we'll never have another ER bill. And that is one of the things I appreciate about J. He is calm. Whenever there's an injury or crisis, the man is calm. He balances out my crazy nicely.

After they poked and prodded, and determined she hadn't done major damage to any tendons or important parts, they gave her two quick stitches and we were outta there. The sweet mother and the two girls WyoGirl had been at the park with had hung around the entire time, just to make sure she was okay. When they released WyoGirl, they sent her home in the hospital gown, because her clothes were soaked with creek water. Picture it - six of us, one in a lovely hospital gown, standing outside the ER chatting at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday night.

The mom told me she had the whole thing on video, if I wanted to see it. She said the girls had been jumping into the creek, and the first two had gone in just fine. Grace went in, and, according to the mom's account, when she came up she had a glazed look in her eyes. Grace looked down at her knee, saw the blood a-flowin' and said, "I think I need stitches." Just like that. No tears, no freak-out, no screaming or fainting, just a calm medical assessment. Hence the calm, matter-of-fact text she sent me. You know, just hanging out with friends, and oh, hey, I need to go to the ER. That's just how she rolls.

We pulled up to the house and WyoBaby said, "Um, someone's gonna have to carry me, because I'm not wearing any shoes." Enter J. He scooped her up and carried her to the house. For my money, there's nothing sexier than watching your husband carry your sweet baby girl, recently the recipient of stitches, up the stairs and into your house. Our hero. I got her settled into bed, and was watching some t.v., waiting for my adrenaline to wear off, when I got the following text from WyoGirl: "Hey mom, can we go to McDonald's and get some fries, because I'm hungry and I'm really craving some fries. If you're still awake." You know time it was? 11:21 p.m. True, the girl had just been through a traumatic night, but that still didn't warrant an 11:30 run to McD's for fries. I told her I would fix her a snack from our kitchen, and then she needed to get some rest! As I walked out of her room, she was calling out, "It's a mere flesh wound! Come back and fight me!" Quoting Monty Python in the midst of it all. I love her so much.

By midnight, I was under the covers, exhausted. By 12:01, I was out. At 4:00 this morning, I was up. I was up because WyoGirl was standing over me, puke bucket in hand, yelling, "I feel like I'm going to puke and then pass out!" Puke is a motivating word. It inspires action. I leapt from the bed while yelling, "Here, lie down, breathe slowly, drink this water! J, bring me a washcloth!" I don't think I was even conscious at that point, but I was up. We got her settled into bed, J went back to sleep on the couch, and I was up. Why not? It's 4:15 in the morning, time to start this day! I sipped my coffee while J and WyoGirl slept and I thought about how blessed we are. Her injury was minor, her care at the ER was excellent, and she has friends who love her enough to hang out at the ER for an hour and a half, just to make sure she's okay. I have a husband who will carry his thirteen year old daughter at the drop of a hat, and who is level-headed and reasonable when I most need him to be. And I have coffee. I love coffee. I need more coffee. And sleep. I love sleep. I need more sleep.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

I Am a Tool (modifier)

In my spare time, which I have so much of, I redo furniture. This is my latest completed project, WyoBaby's vanity. Only took me a year to finish it - record time!

On a side note, I feel that since WyoBaby is thirteen (and very good at it), I should probably drop the 'baby' title. How about WyoGirl? Yes, I like it. WyoGirl. Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, furniture.

My latest project is a desk to match WyoGirl's vanity. I've only had it for a year as well, so just the fact that I'm starting to work on it puts me light years ahead of my established schedule. No wonder I'm tired.

So, the first step with these old pieces is to sand all the yucky grime and old stain off them. I like to use J's Milwaukee random orbit palm sander. I like to use J's power tools for all my projects because A: I can't afford my own and B: He knows how to fix them when I 'accidentally break them'. This sucker works like a charm. Well, almost. See, this is an older model, and its sanding pad works with adhesion. All the newer models work with hook and loop (read Velcro) to attach the sanding discs. The problem with the sticky stuff is that it loses its stickiness almost immediately after you start to sand because, ya know, dust. Dust is death to stickiness. Fortunately, they sell a handy dandy conversion disc you can stick to the not-so-sticky sanding pad to make it a hook and loop system. This works great for about thirty seconds, and then, well, read above. Dust. Dust is the enemy of stickiness, right?

I like Home Depot. That place carries just about everything I need to be dangerous. And that's right where I went to fetch my adapter disc and the multi-pack of sanding discs. I needed the multi-pack because the vanity needed some Bondo to fill in missing veneer, and that stuff, aside from stinking to high heaven, needs the 80 grit treatment. More on Bondo in another post...I paid for my weapons and left Home Depot feeling quite impressed with myself. I like the fact that I can do most of this stuff without J's help. Mostly because I enjoy the sense of self-sufficiency it gives me, but also because J tends to make me crazy with suggestions when he helps me. I love the man, but it is what it is. He's a problem solver, and he solves problems I don't even have. I know, it's in his DNA, and I appreciate it, just not when I'm being a furniture renovation goddess. Goddesses don't need no stinkin' suggestions.

Fast forward to our backyard, me in a respirator and safety glasses, with the iPhone (I hate my iPhone so much, by the way) and earbuds providing both musical motivation and ear protection, and sander in hand. I was ready to do battle. Little did I know the battle it would be. Away I went.

All was perfect for the first five minutes, until I noticed the Milwaukee was struggling. It was leaving strange marks in the wood and was definitely not sanding anything. Turns out, the adapter disc had been thrown clear. Where, I couldn't tell. I searched all over the backyard and eventually found it a good twenty feet away from where I'd been working. Oh well, reattach and back to work, goddess. The next two times it happened, the thing hit me in the chest. At a high rate of speed. Hello! I eventually got it to launch across the street and land in the neighbor's yard. We're talking World Record distances. There's got to be a category for this, right? The stickiness of the adapter disc had failed, shockingly enough. Who knew? So, every time I turned on the sander, that baby launched itself to points unknown. Clearly this wasn't going to work. What to do? Back to Home Depot! Muster the troops, aka WyoGirl. I wasn't going in without backup.

We walked into Home Depot like we knew what we were doing, because we did. I made a beeline for what I needed. And then my confidence balloon began a slow leak. They had replacement sanding pads, that you put directly on the sander, but none were the Milwaukee brand. Also? There are both 3- and 4-screw hole pads. Good God. Super. What a treat. Home Depot carries every other Milwaukee power tool, EXCEPT the random orbit sander. Of course. I couldn't use one of their sanders to determine which one I needed. And the sanders they do carry didn't help, because they were evenly divided between 3- and 4-hole setups. Which group of tortuous minds came up with this idea?! As WyoGirl and I stood there, trying to make sense of it all, inspiration struck. The internet! You can find everything on the internet! I had WyoGirl pull up images of Milwaukee sanders so I could decipher which kind we needed. We were scrolling through and comparing images to the choices we had on hand, when a helpful Home Depot Associate walked up and asked if we needed help.

I'm guessing he figured we had not a single clue what we were doing. I told him what we were doing, trying to decide which part we needed, but that we couldn't tell from the products in the store, because they don't carry said sander, and so now we were trying to search images to see if that might help us, and blah blah blah. He mumbled something about not having that sander in the store and he didn't know and blah blah blah and then just walked away. Walked away. No, 'sorry I can't help you', or 'I'll see if I can find out'. Nothing. I do believe my crazy ramblings scared that poor man and gave him pause regarding his choice of occupation.

Lacking sufficient evidence to make a definite choice, I decided to just take my chances. I bought the 4-hole setup. And I told WyoGirl, 'Watch. This is going to be the wrong one. But if I buy the other one, it'll be the wrong one. I can't win! And I refuse to buy both. I don't know why, but I do. We're outta here.'

When we pulled up to the house, I said to WyoGirl, 'You go check if this is the right part. I'm not even going to bother getting out or turning off the engine, because I'm 99.9% confident a return trip to Home Depot is in our immediate future.'

She came back to the car with the biggest grin on her face. A grin that told me we were headed back to the Depot. I told her to grab the sander, because we still had two products to choose from, and I'd be damned if I was making a THIRD TRIP to that place in one day.

Sander in hand, we compared the two candidates, and selected the one that looked like it was a match. Looked like. As I walked up to the customer service desk, sander, previous purchase, new part and four drawer pulls in hand, the delightful lady said, 'Oh, hardware return? (She thought I had an issue with the sander. We all know I did, but none one she was qualified to treat.) I'll have to get someone else over here to help you.'


I'm reasonably confident this is not the first sander-wielding crazy lady she'd dealt with. Maybe not even the first one that day. She was careful not to make any sudden movements or really say much at all. Transaction finished, I stormed out of Home Desperate, WyoGirl in tow.

Eager to get the sanding show on the road, I approached the replacement with renewed energy. Imagine my excitement when I discovered that the new pad didn't fit. You want to know by how much it didn't fit? Less than a millimeter. A FRIGGIN' MILLIMETER. Good news for my sanity. The next hour was spent trying to modify the replacement pad by drilling new screw holes. With J's Milwaukee cordless drill. The drill and I are tight. I can change bits with the grace of a quick draw sharp shooter. Try saying that five times fast.

My efforts were peppered with colorful language and deep breaths, along with requests that WyoGirl kindly not cause the table I was using to wiggle. Here's a fun fact about orbital sanders: they orbit. Always. I couldn't find any mechanism to lock the sanding head in place, so I was trying to retrofit the new pad to the sanding head while it was moving. Fun fun fun. Why don't I just shoot myself in the foot and call it a day?

Two hours later, I had the new pad on the sander, and was ready to begin again. Things went well for the first two minutes. Then, the sander started making a funny sound. And sort of stopped sanding. It wouldn't spin right when I put it on the drawer front and turned it on, but as soon as I took it off the drawer, it would work like a charm. Fortunately for my sanity and WyoGirl's tender ears, a thunderstorm began, preventing me from attacking the sander situation further. I packed it all inside, put it away, and walked away. That was two days ago. It rained all that day and the next, but today, the sun is shining, and it's time to get back to work. Pray for me. And the Milwaukee tool family. And the poor hard working associates at Hell Depot.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Teach Your Children Well

I take pride in the job I'm doing raising WyoBaby. The tools I'm giving her are invaluable, and it doesn't hurt that she's a quick study. I submit the following for your consideration.

Exhibit A: WyoBaby, like most sweet children, has issues with keeping her room clean and organized. Consequently, she has trouble finding 'important' things at crucial moments. Shocking, I know. Tuesday morning, we were getting ready to head to a bigger town, about two hours away. WyoBaby panics if she thinks she has to travel longer than 15 minutes without her dvd player. Good parenting, right? She was wildly scrambling to locate the car charger for said player, and wasn't just hitting the panic button, she was jumping up and down on the dang thing. She kept coming to me, "MOM! I CAN'T FIND THE CHARGER FOR MY DVD PLAYER!!!! DO YOU KNOW WHERE IT IS???" Here was my chance to teach her that our choices have consequences!

"Well, Baby, if you would keep your room clean, and organize all your various electronic stuff, you'd know exactly where the charger is, wouldn't you? I'm sorry you can't find your charger, but it's not my fault. Maybe you'll make a different choice next time, hmmmmm?"

Stomping off, "(Mumble), find it myself, (mumble)!!"

I am such a good mother.

Unfortunately, she didn't take my words to heart, because she managed to get almost two hours' viewing time out of the dvd player, and when that died, she had her fully charged iPod Nano to pick up the slack. Dang.

Exhibit B: Back to her bedroom, two weeks ago. She was trying to find shoes suitable for cruising the links, as her golf lesson started in 15 minutes. Again, her room looked like the Mole People had taken up residence, burrowing in piles of clothes and toys, tossing things sky-high in the process, devil-may-care where they land. While she put on her shoes, she reveled in the antics of Things 1 & 2, aka Big Kitty and Little Kitty. Her little funny bone was particularly tickled by one of them cavorting around the room, and she remarked, "I love her! She's my favorite!!" While she was busy tying laces, I was making my way through a mountain of clothes, and could feel a stroke coming. There, mixed in with DS games, posters, markers, Littlest Pet Shop accessories and discarded gum and Popsicle wrappers, were clean, still-folded clothes. I would like to publicly apologize to my dear sweet mom for every single time I tossed my clean, still-folded clothes on my bedroom floor, and for every single piece of clean, still-folded clothing she found mixed in with the dirty laundry in the hamper. I am so sorry. If I'd only known how close I came to putting you in your very own rubber room, I would've stopped. Probably. Well, let's face it, all kids pull this move, so I might not've stopped, but I am sorry. Deeply.
So, while WyoBaby was remarking on her undying love for Things 1 & 2, I was fighting the urge to do my best Mount Saint Helens impersonation. Instead, I replied, "You know what I love? I love finding clean, still-folded clothes tossed on your floor, left to get dirty! That's my favorite!"
Without so much as batting an eye, after a beat, she said, "You're being sarcastic, aren't you??"

"Yes I am."


And just like that, she ended the conversation. No 'I'm sorry, Momma', no 'I'll do better next time, Momma'. Just, 'Hmm'. Oh, she's good.

Exhibit C: I'm not entirely sure why, but I was doing a lot of heavy sighing yesterday. I hadn't really noticed, until J & WyoBaby were gathering fishing gear, getting ready to head out to hook The Big One. Apparently, as I was observing, I emitted a big sigh. Immediately, both heads snapped around, and in chorus, I heard, "What's wrong???!!" It's a beautiful thing.

"Nothing, actually. But I do love that I can get an immediate response from both of you, just by heaving a sigh! Oh, I love you two knuckle heads. Have fun fishing!"

While they fished, I headed out to the movie with my girlfriends. On a side note, I loved that movie. Charlie St. Cloud was wonderful. Zac Efron was beyond wonderful. And, I shed a tear or twelve. Go see it, I think you'll like it. But I digress.

After we were all back under one roof, and J had put himself to bed, (because it was after dark, which is way past J's bedtime) WyoBaby and I were watching The Nanny (Guilty pleasure, I'll admit it! Not the best choice out there, but I like to indulge every once in a while.), when I let out yet another sigh. "Mom! What's wrong?" Have I mentioned how deeply gratifying this is to me?

"Nothing, Baby. Sometimes, my sighs are just sighs. But, other times, they mean someone is in big trouble."

"Oh, well let me try." She inhaled sharply, and let out a blast of air.

"Close, Kiddo, but it needs to be more subtle. Like this. Inhale deeply, then slowly exhale, as if the very act of breathing in the same room as the offender is causing you physical pain." She practiced for a bit, taking pointers from me, until she came close to imitating The Sigh. I felt it was my responsibility to caution her, "Now, Baby? This is a very powerful tool. You can't just willy-nilly throw around The Sigh. If you use it too much, it loses its potency. If you don't do it just right, no one will pay attention. Practice all you want now, so when you're a wife and mother, you'll have it down pat."

Mother of the Year. Right here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Simple, Six Ingredient Salad

Oh how I love alliteration; it speaks to my inner English geek.

So, last night, I grilled six, count 'em six, Tilapia fillets for dinner. Those, along with three ears of corn, should've fed my family of three. Shoulda woulda coulda. WyoBaby was too busy playing outside with a dozen neighborhood kids to stop and eat, and J wasn't home from work yet. I helped myself to two fillets and an ear of corn. If my math is correct, and I like to think it is, that left four fillets. WyoBaby LOVES fish, so I figured she'd eat one fillet, (that's actually a lot of food for her, when you add an ear of corn), leaving three for J. Well, J came home and dished up his plate. I was doing something exciting, like laundry, so I paid little attention to his shenanigans. WyoBaby was still running around the yard like a screamin' street urchin. After a bit, I went in to tidy up the kitchen, and fix a plate for her, since it truly was time for her to eat. Imagine my surprise when both of the foil boats I'd used to grill the fish were empty! Insert heavy sigh here.

"J, did you eat ALL of the fish??"


"Slight problem. Our sweet baby girl hasn't eaten her dinner."


"Easy, Tiger. I know I didn't, which is why you're not getting The Eye right now. So just un-bunch your Fruit of the Looms, and pipe down."

"Fine." At this point, I may or may not have stuck out my tongue at him. All in fun, of course. I pride myself of my mature conflict-resolution strategies.

I stepped outside, and managed to yell over the din of a dozen hooligans, "WyoBaby! Come HERE, I need to talk to you!!!!"

"Um, okay..."

"You're not in trouble, I just need to talk to you." I do like the fact that I can still strike fear in her with the phrase, 'I need to talk to you'. It warms my heart.
"So, daddy ate all the fish."


"It's sorta my fault. I didn't tell him you hadn't eaten yet (and he didn't bother to ask before eating all the fish in sight), so he didn't know he needed to leave some for you. But, I do have some pork chops in the fridge I can cook for you."

"Fine. That'll work. Is there at least some CORN left??"

"Yes Baby, there is, so I'll give ya some corn and pork, mmmmkay?" I'm not sure she heard that last bit, as she'd run off to rejoin the others.

Short story long, I threw some chops in the oven to bake, as I'd already shut down the grill for the night. And, WyoBaby was fine. She ate one chop, and three bites of corn, and declared herself, "stuffed to the gills!!".

Fast forward to an hour ago. WyoMomma was hungry, so I went in search of sustenance. I had baked four chops, so there were three left this morning. Bask in the glory of my math skills, won't you? We also had some spinach, so I decided to make myself a salad, and it was sooooo yummy, I'm sharing it with you! It took about 10 minutes to throw together, and most of that time was spent letting the dressing simmer.

Six Ingredient Pork & Spinach Salad

1 can of blackberries (I used Oregon brand)
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 boneless pork loin chop, cooked ('cuz that's what I had on hand)
1/4 C walnut pieces (you could use pecans also)
3 handfuls fresh spinach
Manchego cheese

In small saucepan, combine 1/2 can of the blackberries & their juices with the vinegar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer while preparing the other ingredients. Stir occasionally.
In small skillet, toast walnuts over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
Thinly slice chop. Once walnuts are toasted, remove from pan, add pork to pan to heat.
Place spinach in a large plate or bowl, top with walnuts, pork and dressing. Using a vegetable peeler, garnish the salad with some thin slices of Manchego cheese. Toss to coat all with dressing, season with salt & pepper.

Seriously simple, and seriously yummy. The dressing is sweet and savory, the walnuts are buttery, and the Manchego adds a nutty, salty goodness to bring it all together. This served one, so you could certainly double, triple or even quadruple this recipe to serve others, if you're feeling generous. You might want to, because they'll love you for it, and you can tell them you slaved for simply ages! This is my new favorite summer salad. I hope you find it as blissful as I did, both in simplicity and taste. It would also work well with leftover chicken or steak, and of course, you can cook the meat specifically for this, if you don't have leftovers.

Friday, July 30, 2010

'Helping' Around The House, Part Two

Since I told on J last time, it's only fair I turn the tables this time. I know it might be hard to believe, but I'm not perfect. Yikes! And it just so happens that my relationship with J runs something like this: I break it, he fixes it. Yin and Yang, right here. Case in point, the garbage disposal.

Back before they all went belly up and headed for the Great Tank in the Sky, WyoBaby owned a few fish. You may recall they were fish of the filthy variety, which meant their tank needed to be cleaned every 4 to 6 hours. (That didn't happen.) Truly, the task was too great for WyoBaby to undertake by herself; enter WyoMomma. Together, we would net and transfer all the fish, take the decorations, plants, filter and bubble bar out of the murky depths, and I would siphon all the yucky water out of the tank. Once that was done, we'd rinse all the decorations, which sometimes had errant pieces of gravel stuck to them. And sometimes, when I rinsed them in the sink, those little stinkers would run down the drain, landing in the garbage disposal. And sometimes, I would 'forget' to retrieve the little boulders.

Here's my thought process when there's something jammed in the disposal, "I am NOT sticking my right hand down there, because if there's some freak accident, I refuse to sacrifice my writing/typing hand!" So the left hand takes one for the team. Usually, I can retrieve the lodged object without loss of limb. But sometimes, when the object is fish tank gravel, it's too tricky to retrieve, so I just send lots of water down the drain, hoping it'll dislodge the gravel. That doesn't always work.

A word about J and the disposal. When he finished installing it, he handed me a sizable Allen wrench and said, "Here. Put this somewhere near the sink. You'll need it to access the bottom of the disposal, if something should happen to get jammed in there. Once you remove the cover, you can manually turn the blades with this little beauty, and fix the problem." And this is what I heard and registered in my brain, "Here. Put this somewhere near the sink. Blah blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda, blah blah." You wanna know why? Because I have someone to fix these sorts of problems. His name is J. I feed and clothe him so I don't have to remember the 'blah blah blah' stuff.

So, the last time I cleaned the tank, some gravel ended up in the disposal. I knew that, but basically chose to ignore it. Told ya I'm not perfect. At the time, it didn't seem like a big deal. Days later, it was. I sent some egg shells, lemon pieces, and last night's plate scrapings down the drain, and flipped the switch. The disposal made some weird motor sound, like it was trying to work, but just couldn't get there. Here's how I fixed it: I flipped the switch up and down in rapid succession, like a mad woman. My theory was one of two things would happen, either the disposal would magically start working again, or it would burst into flames. And, if it burst into flames, the fact that it wasn't 'disposing' would be the least of my concerns. Either way, problem solved! My genius surprises even me, sometimes. What I did not expect is that it would simply stop doing anything. No noise, no grinding, no flames (imagine my disappointment). At this point, I became rather concerned. But, I figured I'd just thrown the breaker, so I went to investigate. Are you impressed that I knew where the circuit box is? You should be. I am familiar with circuit breakers, thanks to the World's Largest Microwave, but that's a story for another day. Anyway, I shortly realized that it wasn't the circuit breaker, and I was entering foreign territory. So I walked away from that disposal. Outta sight, outta mind.

When J got home that night, I announced, "The disposal isn't working."

"What do you mean 'the disposal isn't working'?"

Funny, I understood what I said...

"I mean, I flipped the switch, and nothing happened." Not a total untruth; no flames came shooting out the bottom, right?

"So, when you flipped the switch, did it do anything? Like make a sound?"

"Nope." You and I know better, but why trouble him with those details???

"Hunh. Guess I'll take a look. Maybe it just gave up the ghost."

"It's practically brand new!! Did you buy a cheap one?!"

"Well, it's not commercial grade, if that's what you're asking."

"So you bought a cheap one. Great. Now we're going to have to buy a new one. A less-than-cheap one."

"We'll see. Let me take a look at it first."

"Fine." At which point, we headed to the kitchen. He flipped the switch, and whaddya know? Nothing happened. Just like I said. So, he rounded up his tools, emptied the cabinet of all my cleaning supplies, and set to work dismantling the little stinker. He rooted around for awhile then asked, "Where's that Allen wrench?" Suddenly, it all came back to me. ('Oh yeah, the Allen wrench! Guess I coulda tried that before I told him about the problem. Oh well.') "Ummm, it's right here. Right where you told me to keep it."

He started turning the blades and asked, "Is there some sort of dirt or gravel in there?"

"Oh, that. Yeah, there might be. I might've accidentally rinsed some fish tank gravel down there..."

"Well, that's probably what did it!"

"Okay, it's my fault, I'll admit it! It is fish tank gravel!! And if you fix my disposal, it'll never happen again!!!" And just like that, my disposal was fixed. Which is a very good thing, because I don't function well without a disposal. I send everything through that baby (obviously), because it's just so EASY. The other very good thing was the death of the swimmers shortly thereafter, which guaranteed I'd never 'accidentally' send fish tank gravel down the disposal again.

Next time: 'Helping with Laundry'