Monday, June 29, 2015

BEAUTIFUL

The Backyard Big Hair Band Singer Dude has disappeared.  I haven't heard from him on a week, and while I am not at all upset by this, it does leave me with a shortage of pithy things of which to write.  Sadly for all of you reader, I am forced to go to the deep and meaningful and wise writerly stuff ... err, at least TRY to do all those things ... until a new, crazy neighbor comes along and gives me a new set of writing options. 

I will tell you, I am praying quite fervently for a handsome, single, NORMAL man my age to move into Hairy Man's house. He'd be a wonderful addition to the neighborhood in my estimation. However, until then, you must deal with this:

I was born in 1972.  Back then, seems like every girl was named Amy, Heather, or Jennifer.  In kindergarten, I vividly remember thinking, "I wished my parents had named me Jennifer."  I named my favorite baby doll, Jenny, probably in response to that thought.

No one was named Megan.  No.  One.

Many, many moons later, I learned to appreciate my unique name ... one that isn't so unique any more.  Many girls are named Megan.  Not many my age.  They all seem to be younger.  Still, I appreciated the individualism involved in being one of the few Megans in the world.

I tell you this, dear readers, to say, that was the first time I recall wishing I was something I wasn't.  This was the beginning, y'all ... the beginning of the spiral that most girls fall into -- then they become women, and the spiral drills down pretty deeply.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately.  Struggling with it.  This thing called beautiful perfection or rather the quest for it. 

Beauty. It's a relative term ... a subjective term ... and dang it, it's driven by what this out-of-touch place called HOLLYWOOD determines is beautiful, it would seem.

So, what makes beauty?  

If we listen to social media, it's ripped abs and thigh gaps and no back fat and perky boobs and a tight butt and perfectly proportioned facial features....yes!  That's what I said, perfectly proportioned facial features.  There's actual scientific research that studies our attraction to perfectly proportioned facial features.

I'm not even going to comment on the fact that breast cancer is still one of the leading causes of death among women, but we're putting money into perfectly proportioned facial features???

So, what is beauty?

I've spent the great majority of my life, starting about middle school, when body image becomes a huge issue in a female's life, scrutinizing what I thought beauty was.  I determined it was everything I wasn't. 

For roughly 30 years, I've built an inner monologue about all the things that aren't attractive about me ... hips are too big ... thighs are too jiggly ... butt is too big ... Quite frankly, I am not sure if my boobs were ever perky, and back fat?  I've got it, baby!

I'm going to be honest, when I look in the mirror, I don't like what I see.  I fear that even if the weight were down, I still wouldn't like what I would see because I am looking at the reflection in the mirror with overly critical glasses.  I look back at those times I thought I was really fat.  I really wasn't, but I couldn't see it.  Why???

How do we as women get to this point? 

When do we get to the place in our lives that we lose sight of true beauty? 

I mean, isn't beauty the bravery we see in the eyes of a woman rocking that bald head while she's fighting for her life against the scourge that's breast cancer?  Isn't beauty a brilliant sunset spreading its magnificence across a the blank canvas of the horizon?

Beauty is looking up at the sky and realizing it's absolute perfection ... azure blue perfection.

Beauty is witnessing a father's love as he envelopes his child in a tender embrace. 

Beauty is the tearful smile of a woman crossing the finish line after being told she'd never make it. 

Beauty is a foal finding its legs, wobbly and unsure.

Beauty is the pureness of new fallen snow.

Beauty is seeing the wonder in a child's eyes discovering something for the very first time.

Beauty is the last breath from an old soul and the very first breath of a new one.

Beauty is the edge of a cliff looking out over the a valley that stretches out before you as far as your eye can see.

Beauty is a roaring waterfall or a trickling creek ... it's the quiet noise of a still forest.

Beauty is the peaceful flickering of a million fire flies in an open pasture.

Beauty is the wrinkles, rolls, and paths that are the road maps of our bodies.

Why is it we can't see that? 

Why are we pushing our little girls to value everything that floats on the surface of a life, but none of the substance that's boiling just below? 

Why are encouraging our little boys to recognize beauty is only skin deep?

Why is it I can't see myself as others see me?  As Jesus sees me? 



Friday, June 26, 2015

SEXY HAIR

A couple of months ago, my truck decided to stage a coup.  It got together with my laptop and cell phone and said, "Hey!  Guys!  Let's start falling apart, k?"

I had to call Tony the Mechanic, and Tony the Mechanic had to get one of his guys to come and pick my truck up from school and so began my approximately $1200 odyssey into making my truck better ... er, betterish.  It is, after all, a 13 year old truck. 

So, there I was, in the mechanics after being dropped off by one of my teammates, and the lobby area was loaded with testosterone. Men every where.  One of them, covered in dirt and grime from the day, was being interviewed by another man in a suit.  Turns out, The Suit was a life insurance salesman and was doing his level best to sell the Grimy Dude a policy.  From the conversation, I garnered the following bits of information:
  1. Grimy Dude was about my age.
  2. Grimy Dude had a wife, and they'd been married a while ... like 12 or 15 years or so ...
  3. Grimy Dude worked for a local landscaping company.
Here's the thing, Grimy Dude was a good-looking dude, in a rugged, grimy kinda way.  I noticed this, appreciated him silently, then pulled out my Kindle and decided to start reading. The life insurance salesman's car was ready, Grimy Dude promised he'd call if, after talking to his wife, they decided to do purchase the policy.  I looked up, realized Grimy Dude was watching me, smiled, and then returned to my book.

All was quiet for a while.  It wasn't too long, however, that I realized Grimy Dude had continued to watch me. Out of no where, he said to me, "So, I think short hair on women is sexy."

Oooooooookay!

I looked up and glanced between him and the Paunchy Married Dude sitting on the other side of me.  In my mind, Grimy Dude had to be talking to the other guy, even though, when I looked over at Paunchy Married Dude, he had a look of "Oh LAWD!  Help me get out of this situation like NOW!"

It was then I realized that Grimy Dude was addressing me.  I smiled, determined to accept the compliment without questioning it.  I thanked him and attempted to return to my book.  Only, Grimy Dude wasn't done with his expository speech on the positives of sexy short hair styles.

"Yeah, there's some guys out there that don't like it.  Wished their ladies had long, luscious locks, but I don't think so.  Short hair is soooooo sexy.  Really.  I really like yours too."

I thanked him, and mercifully, Tony the Mechanic, came in and told Grimy Dude his car was ready. 

This did not, in any way, deter Grimy Dude!  He stands up, walks right over to me, and says, "My name is Steve.  You are?"

"Megan."

"Well, Megan, never change that hair.  I'm telling you.  There are guys like me that just love that short hair {and at this point he practically growls}.  If anyone ever tells you to grow it out, you just tell him no.  Seriously.  Nice meeting you and stay good-looking."

Not going to lie.  It was flattering.  I have spent the better part of this past school year feeling fat (and being fat), and not really feeling very good about myself.  So, this guy's adoration over my short hair really gave me the shot of ego I needed.  Only, he was married, and man!  If he'd been my husband, I'd have been crushed that he was saying this to someone other than me.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I saw him the other day at Kroger ... with his wife ... and guess what?  She doesn't have short hair.  In fact, that complete opposite....long, stringy stuff.  The look on his face was priceless too!

This leads me to much pondering ...
  1. Grimy Dude needs a swift kick in the butt.  I get it.  Marriage for the long haul can get boring, but DUDE!  If you aren't building your wife up (and she does the same), how can you expect the sparks to fly?
  2. Why is it I ALWAYS attract the weirdos and married dudes?
  3. Why, and this is the root of much of my issues, can't I see myself the way others do?  Why is it so hard for me to envision myself as anything other than dumpy?  Is it possible that I could be sexy?
Something definitely to ponder ... while I'm mowing ... the job that puts me in the LEAST sexy light ever ... what with all that sweat dripping off my short, platinum locks. 

Wait!  That's why Hairy Man used to come out of his house to watch me mow!  I get it now! 

Lawd!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

36 MORE TO GO ... 50 BOOKS IN A YEAR CHALLENGE

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

I gave this book 4 stars on Amazon, but I have to be honest you, I wasn't sure. I wanted to give it three stars.  This book was both maddening and hard to put down and ridiculous and enchanting and hard to believe and quite believable.

It's Allen's second book in a series about the Waverly sisters and their oddly magical apple tree.  Supposedly, the sisters have weirdly enchanted gifts that everyone knows about ... and therefore are both drawn to them as well as "creeped out" by them.  Umm, hello!  A magical apple tree?  Creepers!!

This particular books takes place just before the first frost, when things always get really weird and topsy turvy for the Waverly family.  One of the craziest things about first frost is that their magical apple tree always blooms during first frost!  The petals of the flowers are magical.  Also, the tree doesn't like the men in the Waverly sisters' lives.  It throws apples at them.  And still, these guys accept it, give the tree a wide berth and move on with their lives. 

The Waverly's never eat the apples of the tree.  They don't like the taste of apples.  It is said that one family member did eat the fruit, saw her fate, and became a wild, untamed creature that eventually met that fate.

Hmmm, sounds very Adam and Eve-like, no?

This book felt so de ja vue, like I'd read this story before or was at least familiar with the plot, and yet it was so well-written, so enjoyable, I didn't so much mind that the plot was completely and undeniably not possible.

It's a well-written book that is worth the read. A terrific beach read! I plan to go back and read her first novel in the series, Garden Spells.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

NEIGHBORS

I preface this by saying I am not sure what attracts the insanely ridiculous to my life.  I really don't.  If I did, I would some how work it so that the insanely rugged, handsome, and single men of this world were instantly attracted to me and my life. 

Growing up, I had some wonderful neighbors:  Mr. Averill (ever the patient elderly man that would listen to the CRAZY stories I made up and then told him!), The Weavers (they had the awesome Dalmatian, Barney), Mrs. Gaskell (she always got us a Christmas present each year, and her grandkids became great friends!), The Konkles (hours of fun playing with Mandy and her siblings), The Dorlands (Mr. Dorland LOVED golf), the Knights, the Stellingworth's, The Beglins .... the list is long.  Suffice it to say, my childhood was filled with wonderful neighbors that were entertained by my antics, no doubt .... which, now that I think about it, might be why I am in the boat I am in currently.  I will let you, my dear readers, decide as you continue to read. My adult life and neighbors have been ... well, interesting, shall we say. 

There was the sweet couple that lived above me when I moved into my very first apartment.  The very sweet couple who were newlyweds.  Very sweet, young, newlyweds.  Y'all ... I've never been a newlywed, but y'all ... there were nights I felt like I needed a shower. I won't go into the details ... the LOUD, gory details.  Suffice it to say, well, what can you say?  Soon enough, though, they moved out to pursue Masters degrees, and a retired nun moved in.  We had lovely theological conversations, she and I did. And I didn't have to worry about X-rated evenings. 

My next apartment was across the street from my first apartment and right next door to a boarding house, of sorts, for, shall we say, the wee bit crazy?  I had a stalker at that apartment.  He'd come out when he saw my pull up and start to walk toward me. I kept crazy hours being that I was 25ish, and young, and social and out a lot. After one particularly scary incident, my dad reported it to a police officer friend of his, and I started looking for a new place. 

My third rental property was next to a place called HAIR JOY.  Not even joking here, folks.  The lady who lived there did not appear to be all there in the head department, but she ran a hair salon out of her house.  Mind you, her hair looked like something exploded in it, which might account for the scant amount of customers coming in and out of HAIR JOY.  Her son made up for the business by dealing drugs out of the house.  There is nothing better in this world, than falling asleep on your sofa late on a summer evening (front door wide open, with only the screen door for protection), only to be awakened by people running past your door, and a police officer hollering, "GET DOWN ON THE GROUND WITH YOUR HANDS BEHIND YOUR HEAD."  Like a scene ripped from the pages of COPS.  I swear!

My fourth rental property was in a better part of town, but was not without its adventures. I mean, the guy that lived next door to me grew pot in his basement (or had a meth lab ... one of the two)!  There were always very interesting characters going in and out of that place.  My dad thought I was crazy, until, after I'd moved to Kentucky, they went up to check on the house, and witnessed police and people all over the house carrying stuff out.  Turns out, dude lost the house, and when the bank went up to clean it out, what did they find?  Drugs and drug paraphernalia!  Need I say more?

My fifth place was here in Kentucky, and I have to admit, it wasn't without its quirky neighbors ... like the guy who sold drugs out of his apartment in the building next door (another late night run across the yard with police yelling and stuff...I detect a theme, no?). 

My current house, the one I own, has been, by far, in the best neighborhood I've lived in (not that the other neighborhoods weren't bad).  I have lovely elderly neighbors who are quiet and never have loud parties. Okay, my neighbor across the street invites her "80s Ladies"  (her name for them not mine) over for rocking games of Bridge and BUNCO, but they are done by 5 p.m., so I never have to worry about raves and stuff. My neighbor next door to me always complains that he never sees me.  Dude is ALWAYS on the go.  But he's precious, and he's promised to share some of his homegrown tomatoes with me.  They are just beautiful, beautiful people.  Insert screeching tires here, folks. 

My first experience with a crazy neighbor hereto and forever more referred to as Hairy Man, in this new neighborhood occurred on my very first night in this house.  Y'all, I can't even explain the excitement and trepidation I had moving into this house.  I mean, it was MY house ... well, 30 years of payments, and it's mine.  But still.  I was responsible for it. It's care and maintenance and stuff.  So, there I was, in the middle of what looked like an explosion of STUFF.  My friends, the people that moved alllllll that stuff from one place to another, the same ones that complained about the amount of STUFF I had (granted, it was A LOT), had all left, and I was in amongst all my stuff, and I hear this obnoxious banging on my back door.  Like "POLICE, OPEN UP" banging.  It wasn't the police.  It was the neighbor behind me ... well, one half of the neighbors behind me.  I opened the door and was greeted with "Shut your damn light off....it's shining in my bedroom and none of us can sleep." 

I was so annoyed by her greeting that while she was trying to walk down my back steps, I did just that, shut my damn light off. 

I decided to apologize a few days later... just to show them I was the bigger person and was actually a friendly neighbor.  Hairy Man cracked a smile in response, the only one I saw him crack in the three years they lived behind me. 

My attempts to be friendly and neighbor with them came to an abrupt halt when two things occurred:
1. Hairy Man revealed the reason he was so named.
2. Hairy Man's family revealed to me they were really very, very, very odd.

Hairy Man, in the time I knew him, had an aversion to clothes.  Specifically, he didn't appear to like shirts.  I came to this conclusion because every time he came home from work, he stripped the shirt off, revealing the carpet that covered his chest and back.  Y'all, that man NEVER WORE A SHIRT.  What's more, he loved nothing better than to run outside and watch me mow my lawn ... without his shirt on.  AND, AND he would rub his carpeted belly while watching me.  Now, lest you think that he was the only one that fell into the category of weird, I would, at this juncture, like to point out that the WHOLE family would come out and watch me mow. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I. MOWED.  I will never know why they did this, as they moved out two Christmases ago. 

It might be that northerners mow differently than southerners. 

Perhaps I sweat more than most.

It could be that a had a zip in my step ... although, I highly doubt that. I HATE to mow.  Loathe it.  More than likely, I looked (and still do) like a hippo pushing a wagon full of the world's burdens. 

Not going to lie, I had a little celebration when the Hairy Man family moved out.  I really did.  Life in the 'hood was going along swimmingly, too, until I began summer break ... and the dude on the street behind me began his singing career. 

And by career, I mean, DUDE!  Go for plan B!!!

I've come to the following conclusions about Singer Dude:
1. He's a drunk.
OR
2. He's mentally unstable.
OR
3. He's both.
OR, and this is a real stretch,
4. He really does think he has talent. 

If #4 is the case, some one needs to right the wrong that has been done there, because I am here to tell you, Singer Dude does not have talent. None.  Zero.  Zip. Nada. What he has is the ability to make your ear drums want to pack it up and move to an isolated island some where in Siberia. 

This guy has, for three weeks now, been playing 80s Hair Band songs on his deck while he caterwauls along with Bon Jovi, Steven Tyler, Brett Michaels ... I mean the list is endless and fraught with variety. 

I will say, sitting out on the deck right now, I have heard someone throwing a lot of glass bottles away.  So, I am going to conclude that Singer Dude likes his libations, which is sad, because, really, he needs help.  Someone, please provide him with help!

Again, I am not sure what has attracted all of these crazies to my life, other than it gives me great stories to share with you all ... and fodder for future books.

Monday, June 22, 2015

GIVING MYSELF GRACE

There are seven more weeks until the beginning of my 14th year of teaching commences ... 14 years!  Good Lord, y'all!  How has it become 14 years already? I mean, I'm not that old! Yes, my driver's license says I'm 43, but seriously, I don't FEEL 43.  What does that feel like anyway?

But I digress...

I am focusing on the seven weeks ...

With some minor exceptions for work, I have seven weeks to refocus, and I've decided something radical.

What's that, you say? Well, I'm giving myself grace.  Grace, as defined by Dictionary.com, is mercy; clemency; pardon; and you know what, I'm in some need of a pardon these days

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I have struggled with my weight most of my adult life.  There are a variety of reasons for that struggle but the bottom line is that I've struggled.  It has consumed my life, actually, and I don't like that it has had that much power.

So, yeah, seven weeks of GRACE.  I am giving it to myself.

But what does that look like?  What does it mean?

Well, for one thing, I am not going to step on the scales for seven weeks.

I know!!!  Radical, right?  Here's the thing.  I was going through some old photos the other day, and I ran across some photos I took of myself when I'd lost a bunch of weight two years ago.  I was crushed, because I vividly remember how frustrated I was with the number on the scale, and y'all, I was tiny!  I looked good!  But because I was stuck in the rut of A NUMBER, I couldn't see how good I looked....how much my hard work was paying off.

Being obsessed with a number isn't helping me.  In fact, it's doing the opposite.  It's hurting me.  So, for seven weeks, no numbers.

This, of course, doesn't give me carte blanche to do whatever.  ABSOLUTELY NOT! What it does do is free me to enjoy the good food I nourish my body with, enjoy the activities I choose to challenge my body with, and to just enjoy this life I've been given.  Freedom is a good thing.

I'm also giving myself grace when it comes to my body. 

It's flawed, y'all.  I can't do everything with it that I'd like to do.  My degenerative arthritis is keeping me from running.  I can't do pounding exercises .... the list is lengthy, but rather than dwell on that, I'm going to dwell on what I can do ... and embrace it!  There is no sense in wasting any more time on what I can't do.  Time to do the things I love to do with this body ... the same body that is flabby and full of cellulite.  My thighs aren't thin and shapely.  Nope.  Not even close.  They are, however, strong and large, and they get me up steep hills when I'm hiking.  My shoulders are broad and large, but that's because I have a lot to shoulder in life.  I need those broad shoulders!

I am not a cute, little petite thing that all the men are dying to marry.  I have never been petite or little.  Tall and gangly....then tall and curvy.  I am never going to be that woman.  Nevertheless, I am creative and opinionated and funny, at times, and smart and bookish and loud and stand-offish and shy and out-going, at times, and obsessed with coffee and all those things that make me an individual ... and I'm going to love myself for all those things.

I'm giving myself grace. 

Take me or leave me, this is me, and I'm okay with that. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

37 MORE TO GO ... 50 BOOKS IN A YEAR CHALLENGE

COLD FEAR by Rick Mofina

I wasn't sure about this one, y'all.  When I first got my Kindle, my mom told me about this service call Book Bub.  You can get cheap and free ebooks downloaded right to your Kindle.  I signed up, not really sure what sorts of books I might be getting.  Some of them are just plain bad, I'll be honest with you.  Some are no-brainers.  You know the kind ... the ones you want to read but not think about it.  Some of them, however, are gems.  I would say COLD FEAR is one of those gems.

I actually started reading this book back during my Spring Break in March.  However, the beginning just dragged along, and I had other books in my queue that were loaned out from my library's ereader program (why must I have a limit on the time it takes me to read a virtual book???  I. Don't. Get. It.).  So, I sorta virtually shelved it for a while.

I started back up with it last week, and if it weren't for the fact that I couldn't keep my eyes open whenever I began to read this book, I probably would have had it done in two days time.  Because, once the plot got rolling, it was a page turner for sure!  The story was told through a number of characters, and each character built on the last, and before it was all said and done, I was pulled into the story and wanted to see how it all played out.

Rick Mofina was a crime reporter, so his story is plausible. He alludes to the fact that this particular story might sound familiar to some that lived along the US-Canadian border near the Pacific Coast some 25 year ago.  I imagine he pulled heavily on stories he actually reported on. 

After finishing the book, I did a scant amount of research on Mofina.  Turns out, he's a prolific writer, and this particular book was in a series of books highlighting two characters from this title. Funny thing is, the characters didn't play a particularly significant role in this book, at least from my stand point.  There was another character that seemed slightly more integral than others.  Having said that, all the characters whose point of view the story was told were pretty strong characters.

As a side note, who ever edited the book, missed quite a few grammatical errors.  That was fun to pick out.

Overall, if you are looking for a good suspense/mystery title to take to the beach, I would recommend this one!

37 more to go ... I might be able to do this yet! 

Monday, June 15, 2015

BLOOMING

I went for my daily walk this morning.

It was sooooooooo HOT. 

I can not stress this enough.  HOT.  HOT!

I waited too long into the morning to go, but I drug my butt out there because, well, my butt is the size of Cleveland.  It needs the walk. 

I went to my favorite walking spot, realizing that I would probably be out there by myself.  Just me and nature.  And the HOT.

Not sure why this happens -- maybe it's because I am a captive audience, but profound stuff occurs to me when I am by myself in nature. 

There is this spot on the track (a soft, cement-like track that goes around a pasture and the edge of a forested area), where a crack has formed, and a clump of crab grass has grown into a lush, bushy mess.  Right there in the middle of the track, there's this grass!  It has always struck me as ironic (I like literary irony), and I've been meaning to point it out to my walking buddy.  Only, she isn't in town currently. 

So, there I was, sweating buckets around the mostly exposed walking trail, and there was that ding dang clump of grass. 

You know that clichéd phrase: BLOOM WHERE YOU'RE PLANTED?  Yeah, well, that floated into my head the first go-around on the walking trail.

BLOOM WHERE YOU'RE PLANTED.  This clump of crab grass certainly took advantage of that opportunity!

And then it hit me...amongst the wilty weeds (you know an area needs rain badly when even the weeds are wilting), blue skies, and blessedly stiff breezes, that I've been blooming where I was planted.

Listen, it hasn't always been easy.  When I look back at the almost nine years (NINE. YEARS. Where does the time go???) I've been a Kentuckian, there have been plenty of times where I would have liked to have thrown in the towel.  I never did, though, because I knew this is where I was suppose to be blooming.

There were plenty of times that I looked like those wilty weeds, just limping along, waiting for a good downpour to quench me.  I bloomed though. 

I landed here in the Bluegrass when I was 34 years old.  Sheesh!  That seems a lifetime away from my current 43 years.  So much wisdom has been garnered since then.  So many life lessons have been learned (or not) since then.  So many seasons under my belt since then.  So many mistakes have been made, and so many celebrations have been had.

If it weren't for my blooming, I wouldn't have this rugged beauty before me ... I wouldn't have had the experiences offered to me ... I wouldn't have these beautiful people I call my Kentucky family. 

Blooming where I've grown has allowed me to weave a tapestry of colors that are both complex and beautiful.

It may be a cliché, but BLOOMING WHERE YOU GROW is a challenging thing ... a hard thing ... but an oh-so rewarding thing.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

POISON OAK

I have poison oak.

Y'all.  It took me TWO DAYS to figure this out!  TWO. 

I got a wild hair, and, as so many of these projects go, a weeding project turned into a "Get Rid of ALL the DANG Bushes in my Yard" project ... with a hacksaw, mind you. 

I suppose the itching started that next day.  Three spots crawling up my leg.  Chigger bites.  That's what I thought.  Those dag-blasted things love to eat me alive, and they will cause me to itch for weeks.  I'd much rather have mosquito bites, I do believe.  And I'm not talking the wimpy mosquitoes you find around this area.  No, no.  I'm talking about the come-out-of-the-back-woods of Northern Michigan kind.  The kind that could pick you up and carry you away. 

You think I'm exaggerating, don't you? 

Oh honey!  Think again.  The mosquito is the unofficial state bird of Michigan.  For realsies.

So, I scratched the daylights out of those chigger bites because I CAN. NOT. leave bug bites alone.  I'm like a 10 year old.  In fact, I am not entirely sure why I tell my fourth graders to stop picking at bug bites/scabs/what not and so forth on their arms and legs, when, given the opportunity, I would pick away myself. 

It's a sickness.

Only these chigger bites weren't like normal bites.  They started oozing after scratching them. 

Ummmm, red flag number 1! 

I'm a bit slow on the uptake at times.

Then there was this whole spot of stuff that looked a lot like a spider bite.

Folks, my first bout of poison oak?  Yeah, thought that was a spider bite too.  In fact, so did the inept ER physician I saw at 2 really early in the morning.  He sent me home with antibiotics. 

Fat lot of good that did me.  By morning, it was all over my forhead and chest.  My mother was all, "GET TO THE DOCTOR, NOW!"

Doctor took one look at me and was all, "OH YEAH!  Poison Oak!"

What the doctor failed to tell me was that while on vacation, I should avoid the sun ... and sweating ... cuz, that encourages the spread of said poison oak. 

Awesome sauce!

That little misstep led me to ANOTHER ER visit, this one in Westfield, NY.  I highly recommend this little hospital ... at least I did 11 years ago.  Nice staff ... totally knew there stuff ... and dude that helped me out (I'm a little fuzzy on all the details what with all the Benadryl they pumped me up with .... Land a'mighty, that stuff will put me under a table faster than you can say SWEET TEA!) informed me, "Yeah, so, sorry about your vacation, but stay out of the sun."

Vacation....at a lake ... for a week ... talk about cruel and unusual punishment ...

Any who!  It wasn't until last evening that I really took a look at that supposed spider bite, plus the other spots that were starting to show up (and itch!) that I decided to do what all smart, highly educated people do:
1. Google it
2. Ask the interwebs

So, yeah, poison oak.  This mean I must limit my sweating. Easier said than done when it's 91 degrees out, and you refuse to turn on your AC because you're trying to save money. 

Summer Break is starting out fabulously!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

On the Lines of "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!"

A couple of weeks ago, my sister and I were out antiquing, and we found our selves at a local-ish outlet mall area, parched and ready for a snack.  We decided upon Culvers, in part, because they have diet Root Beer, a sister favorite. 

Now, we probably should have known better when we got ourselves into the longest drive thru line EVER. 

I'm claiming ignorance due, in part, to being in a state of heightened dehydration.

I am not going to hazard a guess as to how long we sat in the line, but let's just say A REALLY, REALLY long line. 

As we pulled up to the window, we both saw the girl, with BRIGHT pink hair, fussing with our diet Root Beers.  See, the thing is, I get it.  Root Beer is a drive thru window server's nightmare.  Cars are piling up all the way around the place, and there you stand, waiting for the dang fizz to settle down.  And I might have given her some grace if it weren't for the fact that they were terminally slow to begin with ... and if it weren't for what happened next.

I grabbed the drinks, noticing, immediately, how light they were.  Ann voiced what I was thinking. 

"Are you kidding me?"  Peeking in the cup, she then exclaimed. "Umm, these are only a quarter of the way full!!"

Apparently, said drive thru window chick (let's just call her Pink Hair) decided she didn't have the patience for dealing with the root beer fizz, so she handed us the cups full of fizz and sent us on our way.  

True story.

Ann went in to fill our cups, both of us cackling the entire time (and, really, it didn't take her long at all), only to discover, when she got back, that we didn't have any straws.  I suppose, when you only hand a person a cup with just a smidgen of liquid, in your mind you're thinking, "Eh, why bother with straws?  One swig, and it's gone."

And while I appreciate Pink Hair's attentiveness to the environment, I sorta feel like if I'm going to spend a $1.50 each on beverages, I maybe should get something that equates to more than just a swig. 

Call me crazy.

This leads me to the following question:  What has happened to the art of common sense?

I wouldn't ask this if it were an isolated incident.  However, more and more, I am encountering people that are straight-up stupid. 

Is it social media?  Are we becoming a species of dumbies due to our obsession with social media?  It seems like a logical deduction when you watch how many people actually interact with each other at, say, a restaurant, versus look at their phones/Facebook accounts/Snap Chats/Instagrams, etc., etc.

I, oftentimes, wonder why I waste the money to go out to lunch/dinner with people when all they do is read their Facebook pages.  Am I that much of a dullard?  I mean, I realize I am not the best conversationalist around, but, I mean, I think I can hold my own. 

I will just float that question out there to the interwebs ...

Thursday, June 11, 2015

ON DOING NOTHING

"So, what are your plans for summer?"

I very much dislike this question.  Not because I dislike people getting into my business.  It's just that when I say, "Nothing," I'm met with this look of pity.

It's true.  I can't afford flashy trips.  Heck, I can barely afford gas to head to Michigan these days.  I'm certainly not heading to an ocean beach locale or to a wilderness backpacking trip or on a cruise or to some resort destination or any of the other myriad of things people are doing this summer.

I am staying at home.  The same thing I do every summer.

I used to feel guilty about this.  But I don't any more.  There's something to be said for doing nothing. 

Not that I am doing NOTHING.

Yesterday, I walked 2.4 miles before 9 a.m. and spent the rest of the morning cleaning, straightening, mopping and rearranging my kitchen.  The afternoon?  Well, I tried to read, but mainly took two naps. 

Today, I was out in my front yard before 8 a.m., weeding and cutting down three ugly bushes with a hack saw.  I planted some poor, sick-looking plants that I'd forgotten about (how does that happen???), and started on weeding the front walk before the sun came over the front yard.  This afternoon?  Well, I tried to read, but mainly took two naps.

The point being ... I have spent 230+ days shoving as much as possible into a day, and, frankly, I am exhausted.  Thus the naps.

Society today would have us all believe that if we just shove our days full of everything imaginable, we will live a fulfilled life.  Only, most people just feel rushed, crabby, angry, and unfulfilled.  Sitting and doing nothing ... listening to the birds sing ... watching the sun sink below the trees ... sipping a good wine or sweet tea ... laughing with a friend ... reading a book ... just doing nothing, that's what our minds need. 

Rest. Quiet.  Peace. 

This summer, I plan to rediscover those three things, and, trust me when I tell you, I will have a wilder adventure having done those three things than if I'd planned a trip zip-lining through the Amazon Rain Forest.

Monday, June 08, 2015

DRIPPING WITH HONEY

I am a Northerner living in the South. 

This shouldn't be a problem, right? 

Most days it's not.

Well, except for the nasally accent ...

...and the loud mouth ...

...and the brusque, business-like attitude with which I approach life ...

...and the fact that I provide opinions ...

...opinions that aren't sugar-coated or dripping with honey, because, well, I'm a Northerner. 

In the North ...
  • We live by the an economy of words.  In the wintertime, there's no dilly-dallying.  Spit out what you need to say and move on before you freeze to death.
  • We are a hardworking, blue collar, live-and-let-live group of folks. 
  • We play just as hard as we work.  Winter or summer, we are out enjoying the outdoors.  And by the way, we've EARNED the right to complain about the weather.  Until you've attended a football game where ALL FOUR SEASONS are experienced at one time, you have no room to talk.  Period.
  • We are raised to value a person's opinion, but to also recognize that opinions are like butt holes; everyone's got one.
I have lived in Kentucky coming up on nine years.  It's min-boggling that it's been that long, by the way. I can still remember my first day in Kentucky.  My sister and I had stopped at a Thornton's.  While Ann got gas, she tasked me with getting directions to the post office so she could get a registered check.  I went inside, asked the clerk politely if he could point out the post office, and then proceeded to be completely befuddled by his answer, mainly because I couldn't understand a word the man was saying.  Poor dude!  I had to ask him four times, and I really never got it the fourth time.  Saving myself and him from further frustration, I just pretended I had it down and headed for my sister's car. 

Ann was less than thrilled with my lack of getting directions.  I believe the conversation went something like this:
Ann: "So, where's the post office?"
Me: "I'm not sure.  Near as I could tell, he said right some where in there."
Ann: "Oh for heaven's sake!  I will go in and do it."

Only, she couldn't, ladies and gentlemen. She had no earthly idea what he'd said either!

I can translate most Kentuckian dialect now.  It doesn't take a person very long, and truth be told, I am probably sounding more and more like a Kentuckian every day, or so my Northern friends and family would have me believe.

Still, some things will never change.  Like, apparently, my knack for bunching people's britches when I ask questions or state an opinion. 

Honestly, y'all, I don't have one earthly clue what I do that makes every one think I am being hateful.  I really don't.  The fact of the matter is that my momma taught me that if you don't understand, ASK!  And so I do.  Somehow, my questions get misinterpreted as being hateful, argumentative, and undermining. 

My momma also taught me that if you have an opinion about something, don't be afraid to share it.  Be kind; be thoughtful; be diplomatic, but share it.  And while you're sharing it, use your vocabulary!  Articulate appropriately.  Help others to understand that you know of what you speak.  That isn't being haughty; it's putting your best foot forward.

Because I use my vocabulary, I am mistaken for being in a social caste that is far above from where I actually came.  It is assumed I came from wealth and privilege. 

Ummm, nothing could be further from the truth.  I just came from a hardworking family (on BOTH sides) that valued a job done well, a job done correctly, and a job done using your best abilities. So, I am gob-smacked at the idea that I am attempting to be mean. 

I don't think I will ever have the ability to lace whatever I am asking or whatever opinion I am trying to make in honey.  It's an art form of which I have no ability. 



Saturday, June 06, 2015

ON SHARING THE ROAD

We have a lot of cyclists here in the Bluegrass.  A LOTTTTTTTTTT.  These cyclists love to traverse the back roads around here, and who can blame them!  Our rolling hills?  The beautiful horse farms?  Craggy cliffs?  I mean, it's breathtaking!

Apparently, we have an inordinate amount of cyclist deaths due to tangling with cars. Stands to reason with all the cyclists we have in the state. And if you've not traveled our fair state, allow me to let you in on a little secret.  We don't have shoulders.  No, not the ones just below your ears.  I'm talking road shoulders.  Now, native Kentuckians are under the impression that we do have shoulders in the road, but let me be clear here.  We do not.  When a sign says LOW SHOULDER, rest assured that should translate into NO SHOULDER THERE AT ALL ZERO NADA ZILCH AND YOU'RE SO SCREWED IF YOU GET OFF THAT ROAD EVEN AN ICH.

So, as a result, we have this campaign SHARE THE ROADS or some such stuff with the cyclists.

Now, I'm not one to say we can't all share the roads ... well, except tractors during spring planting or fall harvest.  Then I am allllll about them having separate roads just for them!  In fact, I am totally cool with sharing the roads with cyclists.  However, when this whole SHARE THE ROAD thing started, I don't believe any one thought that cyclists would be TAKING UP THE WHOLE DRIVING LANE.  Am I right?

Today, I got behind three cyclists who, despite ALLLLLL the traffic, refused to move even a modicum of a foot over so vehicles they are so nervous about could move around them.

First of all, let me digress for a moment and say that the dude who was bringing up the rear was showing his rear, and it wasn't pretty, people!  He was wearing biking shorts, which, I understand, are essential on long distance rides.  Great!  Only these puppies were shear until the padding portion, and by shear, I mean I could see ALLLLL of his butt crack. All. of. it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I do not care to share the road with someone that must show me his butt crack.  As butt cracks go, this wasn't a pleasant one to look at.  So, I was already off-putted by that.  Then he added salt to the grimy wound by violently waving me to pass him ... on a GIGANTIC Kentucky curve WITH A DOUBLE LINE. 

Yeah, dude!  I don't care how much of your hinter regions you plan on showing me, I am not, I repeat, AM NOT going to be passing you on a curve with a double line.  Just.  Not. 

Listen, if I am to continue sharing the road with these people, I propose we do some major road construction, like, say, adding a bike lane.  Deviate from that lane at all, and you get a ticket.  Period.  End of story. 

The reality is that while we as drivers need to be constantly aware and vigilant of all the pedestrians, motor cyclists, cyclists, pets, etc., around us, you, as a cyclist, can not expect that you get equal billing on the roadway.  You just can't.  Number one, you don't go as fast.  Number two, you become a road hazard, and that's where problems occur. 

I will continue to share the road, but man!  It would be nice if you did the same, oh bicyclist.

SUMMER 2015 BUCKETLIST

It's is 8:03 a.m. on Saturday.  The official start of my summer vacation!!  Year 13 is in the books, and I can spend 6 or 7 short weeks (and they WILL be short ones ... so sad) just relaxing and getting my life back in order and recalibrated.  Task #1: Clean the atomic waste dump that is my house.  Holy cow!

Waxing a bit sentimental on you all, as I've looked at life (and my age, let's be honest here), I am struck with the idea of having each moment count.  Now, more than ever, I want each moment of this summer to count.  I want to have fun, and I want no regrets about the time I've spent doing "stuff."

During our testing period, when I was tasked with walking around the room monitoring test takers, I began "researching" Summer Bucket Lists.  And by researching, I mean, I got onto Pinterest to see what other people had done for bucket lists.  Turns out, lots of people do Summer Bucket Lists.  Who knew!

After looking at all the neat (and not so neat -- there are some weirdos out there, people) ideas out there, I began to craft my SUMMER 2015 BUCKET LIST. 

Here is it, folks, in allllll of its glory!!!

SUMMER 2015 BUCKET LIST
 
Daily Yoga
Rainy day readathon
Summer Capsule Wardrobe
Finish my novel
Read 5 books
Paint the Garage Door
Visit a Summer Festival
Rustic Porch Decorating
Create New Jewelry
Find a book agent/publisher
Significantly alter portion sizes
Eat watermelon for an entire day
Make a bird bath
Use the grill 5 out of 7 days
Grow lavender
Create a patio paradise
Fall Capsule Wardrobe
30-Day Photo Challenge
Blog every day
New, creative display of house numbers
Visit a Kentucky lake
Garage sale scavenger hunt
Build a bottle tree
Lose 30 lbs
Make homemade popsicles
Old movie day
Host a summer party
Eat more fruit for dessert
Grow an herb garden
Find five new salad recipes
Go to a baseball game
Visit a historical site
Go on a Kentucky river boat ride
Do a drive in movie