Wednesday, December 31, 2008

“We are so vain that we even care for the opinion of those we don't care for.” Marie Von Ebner-Eschenbach

DH and I (well, mostly DH) have dealt with our fair share of business disappointments and the ensuing legal woes these past couple years. Finding joy in my family and friends has helped me stay positive (at least for the most part) through all of this. In fact it is the reason I started this blog.

I never expected to find humor in the legal woes themselves. But if anyone can surprise me, it is DH.

One evening DH was on his cell phone when he walked in the front door from work. With a slightly louder and more high pitched tone than is normal, I immediately knew the nature of the call was not social.

"My opinion!?" he harshly asked the person on the other end of the phone.

"My opinion," he continued, in a slightly softer more satisfactory tone, "is whatever my attorney says it is."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Boogers Bug-her

While driving in the car, D3, buckled in her lounge recliner/car seat, suddenly shouted, "Mom!"

It is a little odd to me that someone so young calls me by that name. Even D2 and D1 still call my "Momma" and "Mommy". I am fairly certain that "Mom" is something your children call you when they become arrogant teenagers. Not when they turn two and start to talk.

Since I was driving and focused intently on the snowy winter roads, I ignored the salutation.

"Mom!" she shouted again - very distinctly. I continued to drive.

"Mom! she burst with even more gusto.

"What, Sweetie?" I finally replied.

"Here! Hold this for me," she demanded.

Musing to myself at her unusually mature speech, I briefly glanced over my shoulder to see what she needed to me hold. However, I declined taking the little "gem" she had pulled from inside her nose that was perched at the tip of her finger.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

She Takes the Cake

This morning at breakfast, D2, our nine-year old, announced,

"I haven't had a birthday in years. But on my next birthday, I'm gonna be a double digit woman."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Choosing the Wrong Stinks

While I heard myself say, "Yep. I'm still planning on it - sounds fun," I immediately knew it was wrong. But instead of heading home after school, I left with my friend in the opposite direction. As I exited the school yard, I passed my mom's friend in her burnt orange station wagon. She was parked as usual, waiting to pick up her two daughters from school. I saw her look at me inquisitively as I turned right instead of left outside the chain link fence. But I pretended not to notice.

By the time we got uptown, I could see the brick exterior of our destination on the far end of town square. It was next to the only hardware store in the area. I had been to the hardware store with its bell donning, single door entrance many times. Often, I had gone with my grandpa to gather supplies for a home improvement project. He always completed something special each summer he visited. Thanks to him we had a great swing that hung from the tallest pine tree in our back yard and monkey bars by the garden.

One time I even went to the hardware store by myself. I remembered that day clearly, even though it was several years prior. Probably because it was the first errand I had ever run for my mom all alone. I felt so grown up getting on my bike with the money carefully tucked deep in my pocket so that it would not accidentally fall out. A direct result of mom's phone call, the small package of miscellaneous supplies was gathered in a brown bag with dull red stripes sitting by the register when I arrived. To my amazement the store clerk immediately recognized me, even though I was certain I had never seen him before. Or maybe Mom had explained, probably in more detail than the clerk cared to hear, that an eight-year old girl in a red and white polyester top with red shorts and two long, brunette pig tails would be arriving soon on her bike. There couldn't have been many that fit that description. So maybe it shouldn't have been so amazing after all.

However, this trip was not an errand for my mother. And I was not headed to the hardware store. For the first time in several minutes, guilt suddenly crept back into my thoughts as I recalled what I was about to do. I started to feel strangely nervous. But that was ridiculous. Everyone did this. Everyone but me anyway. Until now.

Each step I took toward the building made it more difficult to turn and walk the other way. Like walking through thickly wet cement, with each stride my decision was more distinct and more impossible to change.

My friend seemed oblivious to my pounding chest and clammy hands. Of course she had been here before. Many times, in fact. She walked along like it was no big deal. And that is what I kept telling myself it was: no big deal. But it was a big deal. And I knew it. At least for me. But for some reason I kept walking toward the wrong, instead of turning back.

It would be so simple too -to do the right thing. I could even make up a white lie. Except lying was wrong too. But some things were more right or wrong than others. I imagined that all I would have to do is stop short and gasp,

"Oh no! I forgot. My mom needs me to babysit after school. Sorry, I gotta go, maybe another time."

And then I could quickly turn around, and run down the wide, mostly empty, small town sidewalk. When I got to the corner lot with only a shell of a building, covered in white peeling paint and framed with a couple lone gas pumps covered in rust and missing their hoses, I could head west. From there I would be home in only a few minutes. I could walk inside the familiar craftsman that probably smelled faintly of dinner already in some stage of preparation. And since I would only be less than five minutes later than usual, Mom would probably not even notice.

But I couldn't bring my mouth to utter the words.

Suddenly, we were at the front door of the circa 1950's brick building. It was too late. However, uncertain I was about the decision before, it was made now. I saw a couple bikes on the outside of the entrance, dropped there no doubt by a couple kids from my school. This meant my friend and I would not be the only ones. It should have made me feel better, but it didn't.

As I followed my friend's soft blond curls inside the smoky room, it took a minute for my pupils to adjust from the bright afternoon sunlight to the dingy darkness of the establishment. The neon signs on the wall cast a soft glow in the haze. I suddenly thought about Mrs. Greedy's 3rd-grade class. She asked us each to promise not to smoke. And we all raised our hands together to make the commitment. I wondered how much breathing that air felt like smoking. If it were similar, it made no sense to me why anyone would ever smoke anything.

A couple rough looking guys with bellies as round as pumpkins sat on barstools in front of us. They slowly turned to look at the newcomers. And then, just as dully, wheeled back around on their swivel seats.

I was genuinely surprised not one of them tried to tell us to leave. I knew we didn't belong here and I was only twelve. Didn't grown-ups know what's right and wrong? And wasn't it their job to keep kids from doing wrong things? But since there was no one to stop us, we proceeded through the room over to the far corner.

And there it stood. It was flashy and beautiful. I felt my stomach do a little leap for joy. My goal. The one thing that had caused me to break so many of my parent's rules.

In only a few minutes I had used numerous quarters, saved from small jobs like babysitting the karate teacher's kids. After awhile, I reached deep into the pocket of my Lee jeans, and only felt string and fuzz. I bent down and then handed my friend a damp, rolled up dollar from inside my sock. I had brought it for an emergency like this. She was plenty brave enough to ask the bartender for change. I was not.

The arcade game that started out so new and unfamiliar soon became more rhythmic and easy to maneuver. However, it wasn't long before I was completely out of money. I was hugely disappointed. The time had gone by far too quickly. I impatiently watched my friend finish her last game on a neighboring machine. Then we grabbed our school books, and walked out the door and headed home.

The sun was low in the late afternoon sky. I had no idea what time it was, but I knew it was late enough that I needed to work on a very good excuse for Mom and, by this time, probably Dad too. I considered all the trouble I'd be in and wondered if a few minutes on the brand new Ms Pac Man game would be worth the punishment I'd be given when I got home.

In the fresh, early autumn air, I thought I caught the smell of something terribly rank. Cautiously, I sniffed at my shoulder. Hmmmm...this excuse was going to have to be really good.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Victim of Proposition 8

We've heard a lot about the "victims" of the passing of Proposition 8. This story is a little different than the others.

Regardless of where you stand on marriage for gay couples, I hope you will read the following segments of a statement from Scott Eckern who, after receiving public criticism and threats for donating $1000 in support of Proposition 8, recently announced his resignation as Artistic Director for California Musical Theatre.

Portions of the released statement are as follows:

I understand that my choice of supporting Proposition 8 has been the cause of many hurt feelings, maybe even betrayal. It was not my intent. I honestly had no idea that this would be the reaction.

I chose to act upon my belief that the traditional definition of marriage should be preserved. I support each individual to have rights and access and I understood that in California domestic partnerships come with the same rights that come with marriage.

My sister is a lesbian and in a committed domestic partnership relationship. I am loving and supportive of her and her family, and she is loving and supportive of me and my family. I definitely do not support any message or treatment of others that is hateful or instills fear.

... I have now had many conversations with friends and colleagues,and I am deeply saddened that my personal beliefs and convictions have offended others.

...I chose to express my views through the democratic process, and I am deeply sorry for any harm or injury I have caused in doing so... I hope that through future conversations bridges may be built and healing can occur that will allow us to arrive at a better place of understanding for all involved.

I am leaving California Musical Theatre after prayerful consideration to protect the organization and to help the healing in the local theatre-going and creative community...It has been an honor to serve alongside those I love and respect in this noble profession. I am disappointed that my personal convictions have cost me the opportunity to do what I love the most which is to continue enriching the Sacramento arts and theatre community.


Scott Eckern

SOURCE: Randle Communications Randle Communications Clay Merrill, 916-448-5802
Copyright Business Wire 2008

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Truth About Boys

Inside the cover of D2's journal she has defined the essence of the boy/girl relationship that causes mankind endless joy and woe:

Girls are clean and pritty

Smell Butiful


Boys are stinke

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Spoiled Dinner

With an uncanny ability to speak with skills that would not normally be expected of a 28-month old, D3 often elicits chuckles as we hear ourselves in someone who is only 30 inches tall.

The other night D3 and I sat at the kitchen bar eating dinner. As she crawled up, down and around the eating area, I cautioned her that she needed to remain seated and hold still. But she continued to fidget, oblivious to my advice.

Eventually her fork fell off her plate and tumbled to the floor. With an animated look of surprise, she crawled off the edge of the counter and back onto her bar stool. There she perched on all fours and peered down to the floor from the rattan seat.

I sat in silence watching her think. Soon she looked up at me, shook her head, and distinctly confessed,

"That's not good."

Friday, October 3, 2008

Post Dramatic Stress Syndrome

Our family does not have an impressive track record with pets. In fact, we have inadvertantly caused premature death to a quiet helpless lizard, an adorable fluffy Guniea Pig, and countless fish.

Personally, I am tired of the burden of so much death and carnage.  Unfortunately, our lack of ability to keep the few creatures we have cared for, or at least attempted to care for, alive, has not slowed my childrens' intent to continue to beg for more pets. 

Recently D1 has picked up the oral arguments with me on this subject.  Apparently she wanted creatures that belong in lakes and rivers to live in her bedroom more desperately than I originally thought.  In exasperation she finally stomped out of my bedroom.  A little while later, she slipped this under my bedroom door:

Why I Should Have a Fish
by (D1)
  1. It is a great responsibility lesson for me...and my future.
  2. My friend has given me great advise about what fish are easy to take care of and how to take care of them, and she will supply supplies.
  3. I would love the fish like my brothers and sisters and care for them always.
  4. I know where I can get cheap but good fish and I'm willing to keep up with the fish.
  5. I will do my best to find fish that are low maintenance but fun.

If I do not get fish side affects may include, thoughts of suicide, chronic depression, nausea, insomnia, post dramatic stress syndrome, and series of violent mood swings.  A serious but rare side affect may include schizophrenia resulting in multiple personalities and frequent conversations with imaginary objects, people, fish and places.  

If any of these side affects occur, do not operate machinery or perform manual labor of any kind.  If side affects do not lessen with in a few days consult your local Petco store for further advice.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

It's Official: I'm a Dealer

Politically speaking I am more of a Republican than anything. However, I'm not as Republican as some since I actually do care about the environment. And I'm not a huge NRA activist. In fact, while I understand the right to bear arms was a fundamental liberty once-upon-a-time, I am not so fond of guns or their accouterments. I don't care to see, touch or hear them.

So you might be able to imagine my surprise when my father-in-law brought an old circa 1965 US military ammunition box to my home for Sunday dinner. But, as is typical for George, the surprises did not stop there.

"Hey, Deb," he called out as he was leaving for the evening, "Can you give that ammo box to Steve at work on Monday."

I like my brother-in-law (aka my co-worker) Steve and am happy to facilitate family errands, so naturally I replied, "Of course."

"Your employer shouldn't mind too much, right," he stated more than asked.

"I don't think Security is going to stop me over an ammo box," I said, suddenly doubting it myself, "It's not like there is really ammunition in there."

George looked at me in silence.

"There isn't ammunition in that box. Is there?" I asked.

"Well sure, some," he admitted, and then turned around and walked out my front door.

I am not experienced in dealing arms. So the next day I called my brother-in-law at work from a phone in an empty conference room. I asked him to meet me at my car, because I had a very important package for him.

Is that how you deal in contraband? Hope so.

Monday, September 22, 2008

She's Too Hot for Marriage

I have made a conscious effort from their infancy to brainwash D1 and D2 into believing that they should allow me, the one person in the world that has nothing but their best interest at heart, to plan their weddings. I make no secret about the fact that this would be an attempt to re-create my wedding day, but with better choices. And when I say, "plan their wedding", I mean everything. As in everything. From choosing the wedding dress to the paper mint cups, of course it will all be tasteful and perfect. Their young age does not temper the seriousness of my intent in this scheme.

For the most part D1 has accepted this enormous generosity as fact and has not questioned my motives. When she has begun to inquire, I have quickly reminded her that on her wedding day she is the Princess Bride. Once she makes the most important decision of all, on who will be her future husband, she should not have her mind cluttered with more choices. At this point in the conversation, D1 usually smiles faintly and lets the matter drop.

As D2 has gotten older however, her independent mind is becoming more apparent. And as such, she has become more of a problem in my planning-the-girls'-weddings conspiracy.

One evening D2 had gone to the Home Depot with me and, as usual, ran to the paint section to grab - er steal - as many paint chips as she felt she could - without me forcing her to carefully file them all back. On the way home, she picked two colored squares and placed them side by side. Shoving them in my face, she showed me what she called her "wedding colors." I gasped at the juicy orange and electric teal samples.

"Oh, Sweetheart," I lightly chuckled, trying to downplay the seriousness of the situation.

"You know that Mommy is going to pick your wedding colors."

D2 shook her head furiously and an argument ensued. D2 asserted her rights to plan her "own wedding" as I attempted to convince her this was something best left to her loving mother. I could tell I was losing the debate, but that failed to dissuade me from continuing the heated discussion.

Finally, D2 threw up her hands in frustration.

"It doesn't matter," she confessed, "since I'm never getting married anyway."

"What!" I shrieked.

"Of course you will!" I tried to assure her. And myself. I was not ready to let my visions of her gloriously planned wedding slip away so soon.

D2 was silent.

"Love, what would keep you from getting married?" I questioned hesitantly.

With fingers up by her head forming quotes in the air, she replied,


And then with finger quotes curling, she continued slowly and distinctly,

"Global. Warming."

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Final's Week Flirtation

In an effort to further my education, obtain a college degree and thereby prepare myself for a successful career of some sort, I attended Brigham Young University full-time on an academic scholarship. I worked 20-30 hours a week at a furniture store to supplement the scholarship. However, I barely managed to buy food and books and still have some money leftover for computer fees.

In an attempt to meet and marry some good-looking, smart chick, DH was enrolled part-time in a few evening classes at the same university. (However, do not falsely assume that enrollment is equivalent to attendance.) When he and his buddies were not challenging the BYU varsity basketball team to pickup games at the Richards Building, DH also worked part-time. His waiting tables gig at a Provo Pizza Hut afforded him all the essentials: 1) A paycheck with which to purchase ski passes and gas for his '79 Honda Accord hatchback, 2) All the pizza he could eat, 3) Cute girls to not-so-slyly leave their phone number on table napkins, and 4) Coins (from cheap tips) for occasionally doing laundry. It was a college guy's dream job.

One evening during December final's, known as the infamous Final's Week, my roommate managed to pull me from my studying to traverse down the hallway of our apartment complex. Her boyfriend lived a few doors down and had proudly called to invite her over to see their apartment which was festively decorated for the upcoming Christmas holiday, although he most certainly was planning to not-so-coyly catch her under the mistletoe hung above the front door. Reluctantly, I put down my books to follow her.

Meanwhile, DH was helping my roommate's boyfriend hang the last cardboard Rudolph Reindeer, and he was realizing some unpleasant news. A quick trip during Final's Week to a friend's cabin for snowmobiling was turning out to be more of a couple's trip. Soon realizing that everyone of his buddies had invited a "date" for the adventure, DH was suddenly worried that the long awaited day was going to leave him an uncomfortable 5th wheel.

"What am I going to do?" DH quizzed his roommate. "I have no idea who to invite."

At that very moment my roommate and I knocked on the door. We walked in, pretending to admire the amateur decorating job in their tiny apartment. As I walked into the living room, acccented with sparkly tinsel hung with scotch tape, DH stood up. We knew each other casually since our roommates were dating, but rarely had spoken.

"Debbie!" he exclaimed, "How'd you like to go snowmobiling up to a cabin with me tomorrow?"

Despite the fact it was Final's Week, and I had a political science and a Hebrew exam for which I was completely unprepared, I readily agreed. Walking out of the apartment I was baffled by my uncharacteristic spontaneity.

Maybe it was the ambiance of a remote cabin in the Wasatch Mountains. It could easily have been the blazing fire and DH picking out Christmas carols that evening on a guitar. Whatever it was, by the time we got back to Provo the mistletoe hung in DH's apartment doorway certainly came in handy.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Boyfriends Can Be Handy to Have Around

I was only eleven years old and in the sixth grade when my two next younger sisters caught wind of my flirty ways at recess and excitedly announced the news to Mom that day after school.
“Debbie has a boyfriend!” they tattled, “She’s going with Steve!”

Mom was shocked at the news and questioned the nature of my relationship with the supposed suitor Steve.

I assured her it was no big deal, while my sisters stood behind me shaking their heads in disagreement. I explained that I did not ask him to go with me, but that one of my friends suggested it to one of his friends. Then they got him to agree to go with me and then confronted me with the proposal. Naturally, I agreed. It was cool to go with someone.

Mom was still more than cautious about the announcement.

“Does this mean you’re going to kiss him?” Jackie asked loudly.

Mom gasped.

“Gross!” I shouted in reply, trying to assure them all, especially Mom, that was not part of the plan.

After a few weeks of nothing between Steve and me, as in no phone calls, no notes, no hanging out together at recess, he broke up with me. While my friends were ready to launch a hate campaign against him, before assisting me in finding my next beau, I was not too upset. And so the going together with some random classmate continued off and on throughout my sixth grade year.

The summer before seventh grade, I was going with Doug. And the relationship was upped a notch. Mostly we played around at the community pool where he and his friends would throw my friends and me into the pool. He was a little taller and definitely stronger than the other boys in our grade, and I had noticed. When an injury kept me homebound for a time, he brought me a gold necklace with a heart pendant and we spent hours sitting on my front porch as my sisters and baby brother ran around us. Mom’s concern undoubtedly increased with this advancement in the "going together" definition.

As usual, summer loves rarely last past September, and Doug and I were no different. But he was quickly replaced when Jeff wrote a note to Becky ,to give to me, to ask me to go with him. And so once again, I was no longer single.

By this point my Mom and Dad were still trying to chart a course in the new territory of boyfriends they had been thrown into several years earlier than they had ever anticipated. Always leery and worrying about me, they asked incessant questions.

However, as far as I could tell, going together meant Jeff and I would say, “Hi” to each other when we passed in the hallways at school. He never called my home, but before his family left for Christmas Break and their ensuing trip to Colorado, we did exchange Christmas gifts. He gave me another necklace - my collection was growing - and I gave him a plastic skiing Smurf.

One spring day I was walking around town with my Dad when I saw Jeff approaching from the opposite direction on the sidewalk with his Dad. My heart started to pound. We always acknowledged each other in the school hallway, but in public in front of our fathers? I did not know what to do, so I let him take the lead. As we got closer he started to look at the store fronts so, I looked out at the street. And so we passed without even looking at each other, let alone speaking.

“Hey, wasn’t that that Jeff kid,” my dad wondered after they passed by.

“Shhhhh, Dad. He’ll hear you,” I cautioned.

After that Dad in jest told Mom I could go with any boy I wanted to because it clearly meant we spoke to each other less than we would a typical classmate. Jeff and I continued to go together for the entire school year and into the summer. However, unlike Doug the summer before, Jeff never visited my house and I rarely saw him at the pool.

That July, as a 4-H member I entered the Cherry Pie Baking Contest, one of the traditional festivities for the Fremont County Fair. On my appointed time I walked into the assigned fair building with tables lined in white paper, manure smells wafting the air. With my flour, shortening, rolling pin and other equipment lined up on the table, I prepared by masterpiece. I did well. While I did not win Grand Champion or 1st place, I did place a respectable second.

The next day, after the judging was complete, we went to the grandstands and stood in the dirt where sheep had been parading only hours earlier and holding our pies, we waited for them to be auctioned off. All proceeds were destined to our 4-H group.

Most pies were bid on by family members - in-laws fighting it out to be the top bidder. Many pies went for well over $100, especially if the participants had placed in the contest. As a transplant to Iowa, we did not have any family nearby, and I knew my parents would be unable to afford a competitive bid on my pie. And Dad reasoned if he wanted one of my pies he could ask me to bake one anytime - in a clean kitchen - with no sheep or pigs nearby.

Needless to say, I was more than concerned that my pie might not even sell at all. My fears were initially confirmed when I stepped forward, and the auctioneer announced the bidding. Since mine was a second place pie, he started at fifty dollars. With no takers, he dropped to forty-five, forty, thirty-five, and then thirty. Finally at $25 a local women’s group offered a bid on my pie. Going once, going twice, and then suddenly a man in the shadows of the back raised his hand and placed a bid for $115! Going once, twice and then thrice, my pie sold for a very respectable price.
Although I did not understand the lack of incremental bidding at the time, I didn’t care either. My father, however, was more then curious and after doing a bit of research found an answer to the mystery bidder.

“Linda,” he warned my mom, “This going together might be more of a concern than we originally thought. Jeff’s dad is the one the bought Debbie’s pie.”

Hmmmm…that was news. I guessed that next time I saw them in town I had at least better say, “Hello.”

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Very Rich Man

When I was about 10 years old, it seemed everyone we knew was getting a dishwasher. Often it was avocado green and on wheels. The butcher-block top allowed it to double as a kitchen island. When it was full of dirty dishes, you could wheel it over to the sink, secure the hose to the faucet, dump in some soap, turn on the hot water, and wah-lah, 2 1/2 hours later your dishes were clean.

Such luxuries, however, were not for us. Regularly, my younger sisters and I were sent to the kitchen to wash dishes after dinner. With orange vinyl kitchen chairs pushed up to the sink, inevitably, we would get the counters, the floor and our clothes as wet as the dishes.

Occasionally, we hosted guests for Sunday dinner. After the meal, they would begin to rise and offer to help with the dishes.

"Sit down," my dad would insist, "The girls will clear the plates." And even though we really wanted help with our chore, obediently four little girls ages 5-10 would get up and begin clearing the table.

"Well I can help wash the dishes," the guest would often offer, "You don't have a dishwasher do you?"

"A dishwasher?" my dad would brag, "Are you kidding? We've got four!" And with that his four dishwashers would take the dirty plates, glasses, bowls, and silverware and disappear into the kitchen for a water fest.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Dad and His Five "Deere's"

Me (in front of S2 and D2 this morning): When I was little we woke up on Saturdays at 5 AM to watch Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. We didn't really like that cartoon, but we knew Dad would have us up at 6 AM to do chores, so that was our only chance for Saturday morning cartoons. And when I say we got up to do chores, I'm not talkin' clean-the-house chores. Oh, we did those, and then we went out to work in the garden.

S2: But it's not like you lived on a big farm.

Me: No. We lived in town and gardened a small plot of land in our backyard and another at the neighbor's. I big farm would have been easier! There you have tractors to help you. My dad did not have any tractors or plows. He had five daughters instead.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Helicopter Regrets

S1 was telling a story (and let's hope that's all it was) about some people during a war trying to get two men to talk. Neither captive was offering up much information so they put them both in a helicopter and took off. Once high in the air they pushed one guy out.

"I bet the second guy was thinking I had better start talking," I interrupted, rudely finishing the story.

"And I bet the first guy was thinking I wish I were the second guy," S2 added.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Sometimes the Child Must Protect the Parent

Gardening was a family chore from which no one was ever excused. It began with bringing home milk cartons from school in January and February so we could cut off their tops and use them as small individual planters for indoor seedling starts. We were more than embarrassed to collect the empty cartons after milk break each morning and afternoon. Each Monday during the first two months of the year we took a black garbage bag to school. Mom arranged with the teachers for us to collect empty milk cartons all week. The pile of cartons would grow until we hauled it home on Friday, the oversized yet lightweight bag knocking our ankles the entire way home.

When spring arrived we spent hours in the still cold air hoeing rows marked by two sticks with twine strung in between, creating a fertile bed for our small plants. Once nestled in the black soil, we tended the garden rows daily all summer long, weeding meticulously so no nutrients would be stolen from our quickly growing plants.

When it came time to harvest, our personal preference played much too large a role for mom and dad’s liking. We purposefully left as many green beans hanging on the plants as we felt we could get away with. But we made certain to grab every strawberry and ear of corn, often too eagerly plucking them before they were fully ripe. Another crop we never left behind in the dirt was our pumpkins.

Over time, we gradually became better at growing the large orange holiday staple. We found the best variety that grew into perfect big round beautifully shaped Halloween decorations. One year, our planting time corresponded perfectly with the rain and the sunshine in the crisp fall air ripened our large orange fruit on the vines.

With an extra bounteous crop, we excitedly picked out the six largest gourds for each of my sisters, my brother and me. Proudly displayed on the front porch, we put the rest of the produce in the back of the station wagon and hauled it to an abandoned gas station on the corner of town square. After several trips we had the inventory ready to sell. With Mom's handpainted banner across the station wagon, our advertising was complete as well.

Once open for business, we assisted our friends and neighbors in the small town as they selected their purchase and after carefully weighing each pumpkin, we’d announce the bill. Our big eyes glistened with each sale, which added more and more money to our metal cash box. When a poor family came by, Mom’s soft heart would encourage us to give away a couple pumpkins for free, and we didn’t mind too much, because we knew we were still making plenty of cash.

After two consecutive long Saturdays of sales, we came home, happy that we had sold virtually every pumpkin and eager to split up the profits. Since Mom’s station wagon was used for free, as were the pumpkin seeds, land space, water, garden tools, and fertilizer, our overhead was next to zero, making for an assuredly profitable activity.

The following Sunday morning, as we made our way out to the car in the early, still dark morning hours, Dad was the first to spot the night-time destruction. Our individually selected, cream of the crop, huge, orange, prized pumpkins had been smashed all along the street in front of our house. Our house was not the only one hit along the street by the produce pounding thugs. But it was the only one where five girls had spent the previous eight months growing the potential jack-o-lanterns. In our Sunday dresses, our little bums got cold and then numb as we sat on the concrete porch and cried, Dad’s face reddening with every tear drop.

“You older girls go to school Monday and find out who did this,” he instructed.

The orders momentarily silenced our sobs.

“Ask around,” Dad continued, “And you can find out what boys were involved. Then I’ll pay a visit to their father about this whole incident.”

Jackie and I looked at each other frightened. Our looks told each other what we already knew. We knew who did this. But we would never reveal that to Dad.

Most certainly the culprits were some fellows that lived down the street. They were hard and rough. Their dad and all the boys were boxers that spent every weekend in small-time fighting rings. We would never want our father walking up the vacant hill to their poorly maintained house to knock on the door. Dad would be greeted with a punch square in the jaw if he even hinted at those boys’ involvement in the prank.

But we nodded our heads in approval at Dad's suggested detective work.

When Dad came home from work Monday he quickly found us watching Brady Bunch on the black and white television in the family room and asked what we found out at school.

Jackie looked at me signaling she’d take the lead.

“We asked everyone and no one has any ideas.”

“I don’t think anyone we know did it, Dad,” I added shrugging my shoulders.

“It was probably someone from out of town,” Jackie suggested.

I nodded, agreeing wholeheartedly with the brilliant decoy, “Yeah, probably someone we won’t ever know. So there is no way you can go talk to them.”

“Sorry, Dad,” Jackie offered.

“Yeah, sorry,” I added.

Then we started to sniffle in the remembrance of our pumpkin loss and the future of no jack-o-lanterns for Halloween. That ended the conversation before our unskilled lying gave us away.

Dad encouraged us to not give up and to keep “asking around”. We promised him we would.

After a few more days of no names and no news, Dad suggested, “Maybe I should do some talking to the neighbors.”

“Oh no, Dad! Don’t do that!” we begged. We told him we could do a much better undercover job ourselves at school.

“You don’t think it was that family of boys on the hill down the street do you?” Dad suggested referring to the boxers, the most likely offenders.

“Them? Heck no!” Jackie shouted. “They look mean, but they would never smash our pumpkins.”

“Maybe I should just go talk to their dad anyway,” Dad reasoned.

“No, no, no!” we begged. “It wasn’t them, we’re sure of it!”

And so our dialogue continued off and on for weeks as Dad was adamant to find the boys that broke his daughters’ pumpkins and hearts. And we were just as adamant to keep him out of boxing fist harm, by preventing him from ever learning the true identity of the offenders.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sometimes Boys Look and Notice

One of the better money making opportunities for young kids in rural Iowa was walking beans. Beaning, as it was called, was actually weeding (of the beans). For a few weeks in the summer the opportunity to make much more than minimum wage was one which my younger sisters and I embraced, even though the work was dirty and difficult.

One year, by a stroke of luck, we managed to get hired on with a very tough, but well paying crew near Randolph, Iowa. We labored with a couple dozen or more young people, but at 12, 13 and 15, we were the babies of the group. Most days we divided up into two groups with the farmer’s wife taking one group and his son, who was about 19, taking another. My sisters and I were assigned to the younger group with the farmer’s wife. And the son would take the stronger, older kids. But we’d usually meet up with them around mid morning for our break and again at the end of the day. In beaning country, the end of the day, thankfully, was always 12 noon.

After meeting at the farm house promptly at 5:45 AM, we would climb in the back of an assigned pick-up truck. Then we were taken on what my dad would consider a scenic drive through farm fields and dirt roads before we eventually ended up at that day’s designated bean field.

During the drive, my sisters and I missed all the scenery as we would curl up together bracing ourselves against the wind. Even with our heads buried under our arms, our arms buried in our t-shirts, and our bodies pressed up against our legs, our teeth chattered the entire way. Our once combed hair in a neat ponytail would soon be a mangled mess as well. Hitting ruts in the dirt roads was inevitable so the ride did nothing for our tailbone comfort either.

Some mornings I marveled at how the dreaded windy ride felt so icy and miserable in the morning and yet was a cool welcome relief a few short hours later. I fruitlessly wished I could store up the cold air and dispense it throughout the morning as the sun would start to bake the farmland.

Once at the field, we grabbed our bean hooks and in a very organized fashion briskly walked the endless bean rows. We kept a keen eye for sunflowers, ragweeds, milkweeds, or the hard-to-spot button weed. When we came upon an unwelcome brier, we would quickly and expertly use the 5 foot long bean hook to slice the weed at the base, without slowing our forward moving pace. And so the weeds quickly fell leaving only beautiful round bean plants with small white blossoms standing in perfect rows.

The summer job had more hazards than the uncomfortable truck ride. At our parents' insistence, we wore long jeans to do the work, and the early morning dew from the maturing bean plants would soak into our jeans. Our pants would hang and stretch long, cold and heavy on our legs, making walking difficult. Inevitably mud would cake not only on our shoes, but the bottoms of our jeans as well. And since we were speed walking, the brisk pace in the wet, mud-caked jeans was even more of chore.

Our cold, wet, heavy legs were only temporary. As the morning heated up we quickly dried out and warmed up. We always warmed up much more than anyone would hope for.

Usually we wore gloves to mitigate the heavy calluses that developed on our otherwise tender palms. But the gloves became unbearably hot after a few hours, so sometimes (against Dad’s strict orders before we left home) we’d take them off and stick them in our back pockets. But as we sped through the thigh-high beans, the plant leaves would slice up our bean hook toting hands if we did not hold them high enough above our waist.

Once in a while we would come across a larger than normal weed and after a few tugs with the bean hook, we’d finally take it down. However the additional exertion sometimes caused us to continue slicing through the weed, through our jeans and into our leg. A little blood was part of the gig, so we kept walking; trying to make sure we were never the last one in our group to reach the end of a row.

While the work was anything but easy, by far our biggest obstacle was the sun and the heat. Most crews we had worked with in years past stopped for a water and graham cracker break once an hour. This crew stopped once every three hours.

The only thing that made it all worth while was getting a big paycheck. It was always handwritten by the farmer’s wife, while we waited in the shade of an old tree in the front yard of the farm house. After our Saturday shift waiting for our checks we'd often get our fill of lemonade and oatmeal cookies too.

But the job had other perks. Speed walking six hours a day, six days a week, made my thighs as lean as pretzel sticks. Since I spent many of my afternoons at the community pool, in the early eighties when dark coconut oil trumped sunscreen, I was quite tanned as well.

I maximized the look by wearing short shorts every summer afternoon. One day toward the end of beaning season I came home from another day of drudgery, and as usual showered and curled my hair. I put on a bit of lip gloss for a finishing touch. With all signs of dirty farm work erased, I dressed in tan cotton short shorts and a teal green knit polo top.

At my mom’s request, I then rode my bike up town to run an errand. After setting the used Schwinn against the white washed store front, I walked in. The old wooden door had a Christmas bell, holly included, hanging on it which jingled with each opening and closing. In the nearly empty, dimly lit mom and pop store I grabbed what I needed and got in line to pay for my purchase. Somewhere from the back room appeared the farmer’s son in a John Deere yellow and green baseball cap.

He took one look at me and then took a longer drink.

“Debbie,” he asked, as if he was not sure he recognized me, “Is that you?”

I was immediately offended. “How could he see me virtually everyday for a month and still not recognize me?” I wondered. But I was also terrified to have been spoken to directly by a nineteen year-old boy.

So I nodded in the affirmative.

“Boy, you look a shade different than you do in the bean field,” he commented still eyeing me from glossed lips to tanned ankle.

I was so embarrassed and confused I did not know what to say. All I could think of was that I hoped I looked different than I did as a the mangled hair, muddy mess that I was in the bean field. After a few moments of my dumb-stricken silence, he shrugged his muscular shoulders slightly, smiled, met up with his girlfriend, and walked out of the store.

The next Monday morning in the bean field I was suddenly bumped up to the older crew. This promotion meant I received a 50 cents an hour raise for the rest of the season. My younger sisters, on the other hand, remained with the farmer’s wife for the next couple weeks.

While my dad was proud, assuming his daughter’s hard work had caught the farmer’s eye, I realized it probably had a lot more to do with the eye of farmer’s son and my short shorts.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

You are Rarely as Cool as You Think You Are (PART 2)

This is part two of a two part series. Read Part One here.

It seemed my knowledge of popular of music remained forever hindered after that. However, I did not realize the extent of my popular music handicap until years later in Mrs. A’s 9th grade Algebra class.

Humming a pop ballad before the bell rang to signal the start of class, I sat at my desk behind Bobby. As I opened my text book and began locating my homework from the night before, Bobby turned around in the one piece desk and chair, and asked in a highly agitated voice, "Why are you humming that stupid ol' song?"

"It's not stupid. And it's not old," I retorted. "It is a pop song. As in a song that is popular. Duh."

"You really think that song is popular," he asked. "What radio station do you listen to anyway?"

"I listen to FM 100,” I retorted grasping the name of one of only a few radio stations whose weak, static-filled signal made it to our small town. “What do you listen to?" I asked.

"Ha! That is an old lady station." Bobby said, "I knew it! You are a nerd. Rock 95 is what the cool kids listen to. Don't you know anything?"

At that moment I wondered if I should have said Sweet 98, but realized it probably would not have mattered much, so I continued to defend my original answer.

"I am not a geek! FM 100 is a fine radio station. They play all kinds of popular songs like Neil Diamond and Barry Manilow!"

"Oh my gosh!" Bobby snorted, "You are worse than I thought! Have you ever even heard of Ratt?"

Confused by what farm varmints had to do with the discussion, I paused, unsure of how to respond.

"How about Metallica?" he continued, "Motley Crue? Def Leppard? You'll never be cool like me."

Finally, the bell rang interrupting our debate.

Bobby turned around, stuck a wad of chewing tobacco in his cheek, returned the can to the back pocket of his tight jeans that had a round, weathered imprint of the circular container in the middle of the stitched "W". He straightened up the collar of his plaid western cut shirt, kicked his cowboy boots out under the desk in front of him and slumped in his chair, now fully prepared to sleep through the upcoming lecture.
Wow. Isn't that cool?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

You are Rarely as Cool as You Think You Are (PART 1)

As young girls, my sisters and I idolized our babysitters. We always hoped our favorite, 17 year-old Carmalita, would be available to baby-sit when Mom called Carmilta's home from the beige phone in Dad's den. We watched intently as she dialed each number and the rotary dial slowly turned backward between the numbers. With our fingers crossed we’d sit believing hope could make it so, and that she would come to our home to tend us. With long golden brown curly hair, we believed she looked like an angel. And she acted like one too, especially when she let us stay up fifteen minutes passed our bedtime for being good.

Carmalita was splendid, but the drive to her house was a downright thrill. We traveled up and down some very steep gravel roads to get her at her farm house in the country. My sisters and I would chant, "Woooooaaaahhh," all the way up the steep incline and shrill, "Weeeeeeeeeeee!" with our arms raised like we were on a roller coaster ride as we made the sharp descent. Truly picking up the babysitter was as much fun as having a babysitter that let us shirk our bedtime.

Soon after Carmalita turned 18, she got married and she never babysat for us again. This was a difficult transition for all of us. Finding a babysitter willing to tend us that we were willing to accept, was no easy task for Mom.

However, soon we found Lynn. She lived down the street and walked to our house for each babysitting job. With no ride to the babysitters to look forward to, it was a huge disappointment for us. While Lynn was no Cramalita, and always made sure we were in bed right on time, we grew to like her. A little. We definitely had had much worse.

Most babysitting nights followed a usual pattern. After my parents would go over all food instructions and bedtime routines, they'd finally leave, mom's heels clicking on their way out. Dad's Stetson after shave would linger in his den long after our parents had left the house for the evening.

But there was no time for melancholy, because Lynn would immediately call us all into the living room. After walking through the wooden craftsman entryway to the formal room, she would stop in front of the console that held a black and white television surprisingly much smaller than the furniture's overall size. There on the gold carpeted floor she'd lie flat on her stomach and tell us to scratch her back.

With her tall athletic body face down in front of us, my sisters and I would obediently line up along her lengthy back and start scratching. After about 2 minutes we'd be bored. But she promised if we kept scratching she'd take us to her house sometime and let us jump on her trampoline. In this manner she'd coerce us into scratching a few minutes longer.

Several weeks later on another babysitting occasion, our little fingers started to peter out and we were miffed that there had not yet been the promised trampoline time at her house. So she upped the ante by promising a trampoline sleepover. This excited us and got us aggressively scratching for several more minutes.

One afternoon, during Lynn's senior year, we were tired of back scratching. It was late fall so the promise of a spring trampoline jump was not very enticing. All my sisters had chickened out on the trampoline sleepover weeks earlier in the summer. I was only one that actually spent the night on the trampoline. However, since I awoke with wet pants after a cold night on the stretched tarp toy, neither I nor Lynn were anxious for another such slumber party anytime soon.

So Lynn paused, and then as if the best idea since hair mousse had just hit her, she promised she would give us some of her old 45's in exchange for a back scratch.

While we only had a simple brown record player that locked up like a suitcase covered in peeling tweed fabric, our record collection was lacking even more. We had a pile of children's records mom had purchased at a garage sale that included Yellow Submarine, Puff the Magic Dragon and How Much is That Doggy in the Window. But we were tired of the juvenile tunes and did not listen to them much anymore.

My younger sisters squealed with delight at the deal. I was still a little leery - after all, 45's of popular music seemed too good to be true.

"Promise?" I asked?

"Yes, I promise" Lynn confirmed.

"Cross your heart hope to die? Poke a needle in your eye?"

"Yes, yes all those things, just scratch." Lynn replied.

So my sisters and I, with great fury, scratched her back for a long time that afternoon.

After that evening, Lynn got busier with her school schedule and never was able to baby-sit when my parents needed. But every time we saw her walking past our house on Maple Street, we'd ask about the promised records we had earned. And Lynn always said she'd bring them over in a couple days. She had followed through on the trampoline promise so we did not worry too much. But weeks continued to go by and it seemed as if she may never get around to delivering the highly anticipated, promised goods.

One day, when we had almost forgotten about the bargain entirely, we came home from school and found a small stack of old 45's on the dining room table. Mom explained that Lynn's mother had brought them by earlier that morning.

We shrieked with delight, dropped our school papers and ran in unison down the stairs to our record player in the basement. There in a large utility room with a deep-freezer, washer, and dryer, my sisters and I danced around our record player. Over and over we played the round records listening to the small variety of late 60's and early 70's pop songs including Sugar Sugar, American Woman and I Think We're Alone Now. All the while we were clueless that such hits by The Archies and The Shondelle’s had fallen out of popularity years prior.

It seemed my knowledge of popular of music remained forever hindered after that. I never realized how badly until years later in Mrs. A’s 9th grade Algebra class.

To be continued...

Monday, January 7, 2008

I Am a Great Parent (BYKT)

Tonight I am the proud owner, or at least custodian, of two additional cell phones. While I already have a cell phone of my own, in this world of technological advances, three must surely be better than one. What I plan to do with them comes later. First, I must divulge how they came into my possession.

This afternoon D1 and S1 were specifically assigned to watch, tend, and otherwise care for precious, helpless, baby D3 during two one-hour shifts. When I arrived after their two hour split shift, I found the front hall table's contents strewn across the floor, adjacent to which were broken glass shards from a dropped jar candle. Piano books from the piano bench were placed along the stairs. I followed their path passed the kitchen where the pencil tray had been dumped out of the drawer onto the floor. Then I heard my D3's jibber jabber, so down the hallway I traversed into my bedroom. There she sat in a pile of pillows from my custom made (read expensive non-washable fabrics and trims) master bedding, smelling less-than-fresh.

After changing a diaper and enlisting S1 and D1's assistance in picking up the house and sweeping up broken glass, I sat contemplating a strategic response.

"I will take your cell phone now," I offered with an outstretched hand to S1 while he played on the PS3.

"Why?" asked S1 completely clueless as to how painful this was going to be.

"Because you failed in your responsibility to tend the baby, your cell phone privileges has been temporarily suspended," I explained.

A similar conversation was then held with D1 upstairs.

Now while this all happened only a couple hours ago, S1 and D1 have already asked if I was serious and when they get their phones back.

Naturally I am as serious. Completely serious. But that doesn't mean I don't plan to have a little fun. I understand that they are very concerned about their friends having no knowledge as to their unfortunate predicament. I assured them, that I will personally answer and respond to all calls and text messages. Somehow this has not had much of a calming affect.

I expect it to go something like this:

Friend Text: Where r u?
My reply on behalf of my dear child: DIKU
Friend Text: AYSOS
My reply on behalf of my dear child: Sorry OT. Have u heard of POS? PIR? PAW? PAL? or P911?
Friend Text: Yeah. WYP
My reply on behalf of my dear child: Oh, NP. BTW this is more of a PICOCP
Friend Text: PICOCP???
My reply on behalf of my dear child: Exactly! LOL. CYL.

IMHO, I am so on track for Mother-of-the-Year award, B4N!

Text Speak Dictionary
(for those of us not born after 1990):

BYKT = But you knew that
DIKU = Do I know you?
AYSOS = Are you stupid or something?
OT = Off topic
POS = Parents over shoulder
PIR = Parents in room
PAW = Parents are watching
PAL = Parents are listening
P911 = Parent alert
WYP = What's your problem?
NP = No problem
BTW = By the way
PICOCP = Parent in Control of Cell Phone (I made this one up, pure genius doncha think?)
LOL = Laughing Out Loud
CYL = See you later

INHO = In my humble opinion
B4N = Bye for now