Posts Tagged ‘Jumping in Mud Puddles’

West Virginia Barns

As you can tell by my lack of  blog posts lately, I have become preoccupied with photography. I should be working on my third book or writing here more often, but it seems to have taken a back seat to what has become my passion: pretending to be a photographer.

My father was a photographer when he wasn’t working as owner and broker of his real estate company. He used a press camera which I wish to God I had in my possession. He loved taking pictures and vacationing through West Virginia meant getting out of the station wagon at each hairpin turn so he could get a photo of the “beautiful view.” There were at least 150 “beautiful views” per vacation. I didn’t mind because I was little and a ham for the camera. He has since passed, but I honestly feel him beside me when I frame a shot.

I love photography more than writing.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy receiving a royalty check each month from Amazon for my 2 ebooks.  It’s not much, but it still pays a bill or two, so that is nice. But, I’ve decided to concentrate on writing after I retire in a few years. My summer writing time has been replaced by day tripping and photography.

When you focus your camera, it is interesting to find out what your interests are. I had no idea when I started taking pictures that my eye would find old barns appealing. Old stuff. Maybe that’s why I like to haunt antique shops.

But, I credit my love of old barns to my grandfather.  He didn’t actually live on a farm, but purchased one to house his prized palomino horses. He named it Cherry Farm and I loved going there.  I believe he rented the house  to a family who took care of the horses. There was an old barn full of pigs. And I was sold. A couple of years later that barn and the pigs inside burned to the ground, but my love of barns lived on.

So, the first time I decided to take a drive, I was surprised what caught my eye. I seem to like old bridges, barns, and abandoned buildings. Who knew I would take back roads in hope of finding a wonderful farm to photograph. Here are just a few of the barns I have photographed in the past few weeks.

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Old Route 250 on the Marion/Taylor County line. It’s a goat farm and I love driving by it.

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Dean Drive. This is on the road behind my former home. I’ve driven by it hundreds of times…funny how it is now a

focus.IMG_2972Near Seneca Rocks, WV

The rest are from my little jaunt yesterday.

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I took about ten photos of this “truck graveyard.” Of course, that’s not really what it is.

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Near Watter Smith State Park

Near Watter Smith State Park

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Had to put the dead tree in this shot.

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This is the best I could do. It was on a winding road with no place to pull off. I rolled down my window, and aimed.

This is what happens when we finally get a break from the snow and the sun is shining on a Saturday afternoon. For those readers who are barn lovers, I drove from Fairmont south on I-79 and took the Lost Creek Exit. I drove on Route 270 from Lost Creek to West Milford and took Duck Creek Road (love the name) to Watters Smith State Park, which was CLOSED…bummer. I doubled back to get some photos I missed on the way and then took I-79 to the Jane Lew Exit in Lewis County and took Route 19 to Clarksburg. I had never been on either road before, so I had fun.

When I was young I told my grandma I had been on every road in West Virginia. She laughed at me and I got mad at her. In my defense, it seemed like I had. My dad couldn’t be away from his real estate business for too long (although I know now he really didn’t want to be in the car with my mom for very long), so our vacations were traveling around West Virginia.

I still love traveling around this state. The barns are becoming old and decrepit. Pretty soon a  new Walmart  or housing development will spring up on old farmland and  yet another barn will be just a memory. I hope to photograph a lot of them before time, or perhaps another derecho takes one down.

Ginger-Ale House

I made my first gingerbread house this past Christmas. I am fifty-seven years old and had never made one, so I decided that would change. I informed my children, who are now 28 and 26,  it is never to late to begin a tradition, and that when they came home from eastern Europe and New York City to stay with me over the holidays, we would be making gingerbread houses….beer included in the mix.

I have been researching gingerbread houses and even have a board on pinterest on the subject. If I was going to create a gingerbread house, I really needed to know what the hell I was doing.

I started by looking at recipes for creating the gingerbread walls and roof for the house and I thought to myself, “Oh, hell no.”  No, this gingerbread house newbie was going to have to buy kits this first year. The thought of mixing and rolling and baking on top of my Christmas cookies and planned dinner was too much for me.

So, I found kits at Walmart. I also started accumulating candy and stuff to put on the gingerbread house. I bought other bases because I wanted to have room to make a yard. I was ready.

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The best part of this was the fact that my kids, now grown, seemed to be excited to put together a gingerbread house. When they were small, I was so busy getting ready for a Christmas Eve sit- down dinner at our house for 25 people, baking cookies and cleaning, that I just never thought about gingerbread house building.  It took us a while to get everything cooked and ready. I even used china and didn’t think about using plastic bowls or plates for salads or desserts until I was just tired of  it all.  So, our gingerbread house building I guess had to wait.

Better late than never.

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My son has been living in the Republic of Georgia and already had plans to alter his gingerbread house. He was thinking of Georgian architecture and went to the kitchen and came back with a knife. He sat, studied, and then began manipulating his walls and roof. He was smiling, so I knew he came up with an idea.

Alex, on the other hand, jumped right in and began icing her walls to the base. She remarked several times she was going to win. Before we started, we decided we would post our houses on my facebook wall and ask my friends to vote on the best gingerbread house. No one would know who built what house. Alex was on a mission to win.

I, on the other hand, was dealt a blow when my gingerbread house was missing the icing bag. Really? Strike one on momma’s house. I tried to improvise by getting a zip lock bag and cutting a hole in one of the corners. Total fail. I made quite the mess.

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We had a lot of fun though.  After Alex spent a lot of the time bragging about how her house was going to win, disaster struck….sort of. She put so many round little balls on her roof, that her roof slid right off the house. It was too heavy. She used a few choice curse words and then just sat and looked at her award winning gingerbread house.

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So, her roof became a side yard. She exclaimed that she was done, but then grabbed a few gingerbread people and started icing them on as the roof. It left a hole in middle. As she finished her bottle of Blue Moon beer, she placed it into the middle of her house and proclaimed her creation, “a ginger-ALE- house.”  Way to recover, young grasshopper.

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Adam, meanwhile, changed the whole thing and created a drive-in. Yes, a drive-in movie theater. I was ready to start calling him Gingerbread Fred as he had pieces of gingerbread lying on the table with no direction in mind. And then it came to him. The result was creative and so very cute.

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I loved his result! It’s a Wonderful Life was even playing at the gingerbread drive-in and the scene where George tells Mary he would lasso the moon for her was on the screen. He had little cars with the speakers by the car and I just loved it.

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So, we were done. I was pretty proud of my first gingerbread house.

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It was a basic house, but I liked how I made the icicles. I also put tootsie rolls as logs.

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Now it was time for the judging. We cleaned off the messy table and lined up the contest entries.

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I then put it on Facebook, where my friends obliged and immediately began voting. People were also guessing who they thought each gingerbread house belonged to. Most of the people thought I made the drive-in, Alex made the cottage, and Adam made the beer hall. It was fun. I won, of course, but  as I got votes for “best workmanship,” the kids both received kudos for being creative.

In the end, our first gingerbread house building was a success, minus my icing fiasco.

I smiled when Adam said he wanted to do it again next year.

Gingerbread Fred will be thinking ahead.

Alex, on the other hand, will probably take a more modest approach and wait until her house is done before bragging.

And I am just happy I had both of my children on the same continent, spending an evening with their mom making memories.

Success.

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Pill Compartment Thingy

When people turn 40, 50, or 60, they usually get gag  gifts from friends who want to rub it in their faces that they are getting up there in the age category,  Black balloons add a festive touch to the marked occasion. And when the fun is over, the balloons burst and the gag gifts are put in a closet and forgotten about until they can be re-gifted when their next broken down friend reaches the golden age of creakiness.

I’m all about re-gifting goofy presents to the next birthday boy or girl, but wait a minute. What if you can actually use a gag gift? I think I can.

When I turned 50, I received some strange gifts to mark my creaky, decrepit, broken down, sapless body.  Some people receive prune juice, arthritis rub, or Depends undergarments. I was presented, among other treasures, a magnifying glass, a saggy boob bra, and a pill compartment thingy.

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It’s actually pretty big, you know, for all my medicine. I laughed when I opened this one, but after the party was over, I walked my rickety legs over to closet and shoved it somewhere to sit forever beside the rest of the gag gifts. I did later re-gift the bra to the friend who bought it for me since she was just a year behind me.

One day, a year or two after the wonderful birthday party, I couldn’t remember if I took my blood pressure pill or not. Strange. I mean, what the hell? Did I take it or didn’t I? Well, shit, this was frustrating. I didn’t want to take another one because maybe it would kill me or put me in a coma.

Hey, where is that pill compartment thingy my dear friend Debbie bought for me? I could actually use the thing.

And I have for several years now. Every Sunday morning I put a new week of blood pressure pills, calcium pills, and multi-vitamins in each little container so I won’t forget to take my medicine. Good grief, I am old!

When I travel, I really don’t have the room in my purse or bag for this giant pill reminder, so I carry pill compartment junior when I hit the road.

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Pretty sad, aren’t I?  I’m using my gag gift and purchasing more for my benefit. Yes, I am an old fogey now. But, I need to remember to take my medicine since I have little brain cells left.

But, take a look at the photo….

Yes, that’s right. You can barely see some activity going on in compartment M (which means Monday 🙂 Today is Saturday and on Tuesday I realized I missed my Monday medicine.

I obviously need a 24 hour nurse.

Etched in Tree

When my daughter graduated from NYU in May, I was hoping to squeeze in a visit to Central Park after all the activities.  We did and as usual, it didn’t disappoint. Spring had sprung and people, wildlife, and flowers were all around us.  I took pictures of turtles,

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my daughter watching ducks

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and just took in the beauty of the park.

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I then walked by and noticed a beautiful tree littered with initials carved into its base. I kept walking, but then smiled and turned around. It needed to have its picture taken and I immediately thought “blog post idea.” I’m just now getting around to writing about the  tree with the initial tattoo (ala The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

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This tree had initials carved on it on all sides. I am terrible at estimating how old the tree is, but I am sure many of the initials were from long ago. I thought about the people who carved the initials. Long ago men carried pocket knifes. I don’t know if this is still the case, but I imagined people strolling along the path in the park, holding hands when they decide to mark that specific moment in time by carving their symbolic love in the tree, a permanent reminder of their love.

This custom has been around for centuries. I know one instance of tree carving, but decided to google and see what else came up on the subject.

Well, I’ll be damned. There is even a name for tree carving: arborglyphs.

The lifespan of an arborglyph ( I feel smart writing that) is of course limited to that of the tree. If a tree in the forest dies, so does its etchings…eventually. So, archeologists are confined to perhaps a few hundred years with the tree carvings, unlike petroglyphs, which may date back thousands of years.

Too bad trees don’t last forever. What a story that could be told!

Which brings me to a lesson I teach every year about the lost colony of Roanoke and a famous tree carving.

 

On May 8, 1587, a group of 117 men, women and children left England to sail across the Atlantic Ocean.  The colonist,s under the command of John White, headed for a destination on the Chesapeake Bay, but landed further south.

This colony on Roanoke Island was the first English settlement in the New World.  White, then governor of the colony–left the settlement and returned to England to get more supplies. Because of England’s war with Spain, there were no ships to spare. Three years passed before John White could return to Roanoke Island with the supplies. When he finally returned to the colony in 1590, he found the island deserted. The only trace left by the colonists was a mysterious ‘cro‘ carved in a tree, and ‘croatoan‘ carved in a fence post. Croatoan was the name of the nearby island and a local tribe of Native Americans.

It is possible that some of the survivors of the Lost Colony of Roanoke may have joined the Croatans. Roanoke Island was not originally the planned location for the colony and the idea of moving elsewhere had been discussed.

In this case of tree carving, it was done for the purpose of relaying a message. There was no heart with an arrow through this one. But, in the end, it was etched in a tree and made the fourth grade history book ever since.

So, the next time you want to  show your love by etching the big plus symbol between your name and the one you love, remember that  announcement  will  last a couple of hundred years.

So, be sure of it.

Our Disappearing Roadside Rest Areas

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

Robert Frost

Years ago, there were no interstates. We had two lane roads and that’s about it. Sometime during the summer we would hop into our family car and travel around West Virginia. My dad was a realtor and land developer and said he could not be away from the business for too long at a time. I’m thinking that he just didn’t want to be cooped up in a car with my mom, who was so much more than a co-pilot; she was a drill sergeant  driving instructor and a callous wife. That combination was not fun if you were sitting in the front seat…which I was not.

No, I was sitting in the backseat…with a bucket between my feet and my face out the window. The hairpin turns on these West Virginia roads did not make me a happy traveler. My dad would also make us get out at almost every scenic vista to pose for a picture. He had one of those huge press cameras, and also took home movies. So, it took us a while to travel 60 miles through the mountains.

The great thing about traveling on a two lane road back then was the fact that there were numerous places to pull over and take a break. You could tell  because there was a place to pull over and the three main requirements:

1) shade

2) a great view

3) a picnic table right by the road.

Many people would pack a lunch before their little jaunts as  restaurants and gas stations were just here and there. Nowadays, there are interstate rest stops along the way where you can buy food and drink out of vending machines. Just writing this makes me feel sorry for the youth in 2013, as this way of traveling in the 50’s and 60’s was ideal now that I think about it. Well, except for the fact that most of the pull-off picnic rest areas did not have a bathroom. But, for the most part, they were a welcome break from traveling with three fighting young children in the back seat and one continuously perturbed woman in the passenger seat. My dad would always say the same thing:

“Look at this beautiful view. We need to get a picture.” We would then get out of the car and strike a pose.

If you lived in West Virginia back then, there were certain places your family would travel.  I will never forget stopping by the smallest church in the lower 48 states.   Right alongside Route 219 in Thomas sits Our Lady of the Pines. My dad even let me sign our name in the guest book located right inside. This cute 24×12 foot church has only six pews and seats twelve people. Peter Milkint, a Lithuanian immigrant, built Our Lady of the Pines in 1938. You know, I’m thinking that since Hawaii and Alaska did not join the United States until 1959,  perhaps Peter billed the church the smallest before those states had their statehood. I may have stepped into the smallest church in all the 50 states.

This tiny sanctuary receives about 30,000 visitors a year.

There were other places we would venture on our yearly 2-3 day “jaunts” around West Virginia and stopping by the roadside rest areas were always part of the plan. We would visit Senaca Rocks, Smoke Hole Caverns, Spruce Knob, and come to think about it, we never went anywhere else except for the Monongahela State Forest area. Naturally, they had many pull over rest areas with added concrete fireplaces. But,the  one place I remember most vividly, and that was Cool Springs Park.

Cool Springs was not a destination, but a stop along the journey. It was what our interstate rest stops are today, minus the animals and rusty tractors. It was such a surprise the first time we came down a 3 mile hill and saw this great rest stop/souvenir shop/petting zoo and I was thrilled to death. Kids love souvenirs and this place had everything. This was roadside kitsch galore.

I’m pretty sure my brother bought a tomahawk and I liked the penny in a small bottle with the words Cool Springs Park written across the front. Parents are more than obliged to purchase these souvenirs because it may mean some quiet time once the kids climb back into the car. Well, not when there is a tomahawk involved. But, regardless, it was a vacation pressed in my memory and I decided last week to travel to Cool Springs once again on my way to nowhere in particular.

Now, this isn’t my first trip back to Cool Springs since I was little and was continually tomahawked in the back seat of the car. No, we traveled along Route 50 when I had my own children. But, it had changed since the early 60’s. In the early 90’s, it was, well, more rusty. The owners of cool springs had many displays of train cabooses and other mechanical devices showcased around the acreage beside the gas station/ souvenir shop.  You could walk through the park like grounds over bridges and see the large water wheel in action. But, the tractors had a lot of rust on them and I didn’t want my children to touch anything. The animals weren’t around that day, but there were a couple of peacocks walking around.

Inside, the kids picked out a souvenir or two. The tomahawks were still there. Thank goodness my kids walked right by those. I smiled when I saw the penny in a jar and I believe I had a thimble to add to my printer’s tray.

Cool Springs was the ultimate roadside park. So, fast forward to 2013, and I decided to stop there once again, this time with camera in tow. Earlier in the morning I decided to do something spontaneous and hurriedly packed an overnight bag and I was on my way. The only certain plan I had was to travel east on Route 50. I was going to get to visit Cool Springs again.

Since I was looking out for photo opportunities on my drive, I noticed numerous abandoned buildings along the way. Once an interstate is built, a lot of restaurants, motels, and small businesses had to close due to a decrease in people stopping. Roadside parks had decreased also. People weren’t really stopping to stretch their legs or check out their map. Afterall, that’s what a GPS is for. Coolers are kept in a car for longer jaunts, and people wanted to stretch their legs where ever there were also restroom facilities. But, Cool Springs Park was still open, after all these years.

Ah,nostalgia.

The sign was still the same.

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I smiled as I got out of my car and decided to walk left through the park and save the store and restaurant for later.

I immediately noticed the neglect of the once magnificent park.

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The collection box was quite rusted. I think they quit checking for donations years ago 

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There was a very pretty covered bridge, but what you didn’t see is that it was jammed with old pieces of machinery and cars so there is no way anyone could cross the bridge any more.

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I’m thinking this is where all the old steam engines and mechanical devices go to die.

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There were a couple of birds in a very muddy pen. With the amount of rain the area had earlier, the whole park looked as if the creek bed washed up over its banks and covered the whole park. It was a very muddy walk.

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The more I walked around, the more I realized that this park will probably not be here in twenty years. Fences were down, the water wheel was no longer working, and the shelters had fallen down.

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I remember climbing into this caboose when I was little.

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The water wheel is no longer working. It was such a wonderful thing to see.

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I have no idea why this wishing well is enclosed by a chain link fence and is now full of water. I stared at this for a while, trying to figure it out. I should have asked someone.

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Sit at your own risk.

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And then I walked into a swarm of about 25,000 gnats. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating, but they went up my nose, in my eyes and ears and all through my hair. There were so many shallow pockets of water throughout the park, I immediately thought that this could be a prime breeding ground for the West Nile virus as the bugs and mosquitoes were plentiful. Since there were a couple confirmed cases of West Nile Virus elsewhere in West Virginia, don’t think that wasn’t on my mind.

I was miserable. It is not fun having bugs up your nose or in the corner of your eyeballs. And then I stepped in donkey poop.

Yes, I didn’t see them, but I knew there were two donkeys on the property. And there was donkey poop everywhere.

So, now I was just a mess. I decided to make my way into the store so I could clean the donkey poop from my sandals and splash water on my face, you know, to drown the gnats.

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Once inside, a flower arrangement sits in one of the sinks in the bathroom that no longer works.

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A souvenir store on one side and a restaurant/hardware store on the other. I could not find a penny in a bottle.

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Darn, a blurry picture and I only took one of the crowd that was sitting for lunch. The place was crowded with tourists wanting a tomahawk, locals, and those just stopping for gas. There were three people in front of me at the cash register, so I knew this was still a hit with those passing by.

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As I left to continue on my trip on the scenic byways of West Virginia, I pulled over to take one last photo of Cool Springs Park. I then just sat and looked over the whole place. I remember such a manicured place with a water wheel and people sitting under shelters eating food they brought in their cars. This is the ultimate roadside park. And unless something is done, the shelters will be on the ground, the fences that are still up will have fallen, and the rusty tractors and train engines will be a further rusty mess. There’s no going back unless the decay is stopped.

I would so prefer driving the back roads. Interstates are rushed, impersonal, and agitating. Back roads offer scenery, a meandering pace, and a greeting from a roadside picnic table for stretching your legs and taking in the beauty that surrounds you.

I hope Cool Springs Park survives for future generations of tomahawk buying children. It was a West Virginia treasure, and still is, despite being so very rough around the edges. Luckily, it is a major route for those enjoying a ride on their motorcycles and short cuts across our state.

I hope you stop if you are ever in the area.

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Canadian Rockies, Day 4: Kamloops to Banff

I’m very excited for this leg of the journey. I deliberately chose to travel eastward because I wanted to climb from the lower elevation of Vancouver up into the Canadian Rockies. The Rocky Mountaineer does operate in both directions. I think it would be more awe-inspiring than if I reversed my trip. So, yes, I’m excited. My camera batteries are charged (yep, I have two of them) and I am ready to go. We found out that we were not going to be able to make it past Golden today because of the horrendous flooding in the area. We are going to miss the Spiral Tunnels, but I’m glad the whole trip wasn’t canceled. Rocky Mountaineer is bending over backwards to make sure we are happy customers despite this drawback. It’s just something that has happened and it’s just a disruption for the last two hours of our journey. There doesn’t seem to be one person who has had a problem with this whatsoever. So, we carry on.

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Not only do I get to sit by myself, I am sitting at a place where there are no seats directly in front of me. I am right by the stairs, so I have a long counter in front of me and an amazing amount of leg room. It’s wonderful.

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I sort of liked the scenery approaching Kamloops and I’m excited to climb higher into the Canadian Rockies. This is the part I have been looking forward to the most. Kamloops is only at 1,100 feet in elevation and the Kicking Horse Pass between British Columbia and Alberta is over 5,300 feet, so we are going to be climbing higher, that’s for sure.

As I was eating breakfast, we came across the hoodoos outside of Kamloops. Since I was on the other side of the train, I knew there would be a glare in any pictures I took. We learned a trick on the train to get our cameras as close to the window so it would help eliminate those darn spots.

Anyway, about the hoodoos…

So, while researching the different places I would be seeing on my Canadian Rockies adventure, I stumbled across the word, hoodoos. I was going to get to see the hoodoos in along the way near Kamloops and in Banff. Ok, that’s cool, but I had no idea what hoodoos were. Sounded like something I would see on a ghost tour during Halloween night. Oh, no, here comes a hoodoo. Something like a Boogeyman…I’m not even close.

I’m a 4th grade elementary teacher, and we have studied rock formations. I’ve heard the word spires, but never hoodoos. So, I thought I would share what I found out about hoodoos, and if someone ever brings up the conversation at your next dinner party, you will look pretty damn worldly, because, you too, will be able to talk about hoodoos. You can thank me later.

Hoodoos are tall skinny spires of rock that protrude from the bottom of arid basins and “broken” lands. They have also been called fairy chimneys, tent rocks, and earth pyramids. Hoodoos are found mainly in the desert in dry, hot areas. That would explain why I had never heard of them. We don’t have any in West Virginia.

Hoodoos remind me of the drip castles we used to make every year while vacationing in Myrtle Beach. So, there you go; a little information about hoodoos.

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Since I had breakfast first yesterday, I will be in the second seating today. But, wait. The onboard director came back and said there were some open slots for first seating if any of us want to take it. I walked down and sat with a lovely couple from Tennessee and a woman from Alabama who had a strong southern accent. I enjoyed listening to her talk.

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We are traveling on the South Thompson River, with volcanic hills, and the hoodoos on the left across the river. I enjoy hearing the clickety-clack of the train in this portion of the country. We learn about Billy Miner, who committed Canada’s very first robbery in 1904 and coined the phrase, “Hands up!”  Our attendants came up the stairs, donned with a white scarf (napkin?) over their nose and mouth, yelling, “Hands up!” but we weren’t too scared, considering we knew who they were and for the fact they were carrying bananas. We all laughed, as it was quite amusing.

 

"Hands up!"

“Hands up!”

 

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This is one of my favorite photos of the whole trip

This is one of my favorite photos of the whole trip

The landscape is changing again as we are coming along lakes and the hills are getting higher.

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Lake Shuswap is also known as Osprey Alley, but to be honest, we saw many more osprey nests yesterday. I have called out “Eagle!” several times already this morning. I’m sort of having fun with it. We have been traveling for such a long time along the lake that I wanted to call out “Shark!” I knew that would get a laugh, but probably wear a little thin after a while, so I behaved myself and just said it to the Australian family. Speaking of the Aussies, the mom, Margaret, lost her voice and could not talk to anyone. I could tell she wasn’t feeling well today.

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We keep seeing the telegraph poles along the way. Some are sitting precariously over the lake. I like taking their picture.

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We pass places like Salmon Arm and Lake Mara. Salmon Arm is home to the longest wooden wharf in North America. I didn’t see it.

Craigellachie- Last spike for the  Canadian Pacific railroad is on the left. The train slows so we can all get a picture. I bet they were glad when the railroad tracks were complete. What a job!

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There are streams and creeks all over the place as we climb higher. Some of the water is still quite high due to the flooding as many of the trees and bushes are knee deep in the rushing waters.

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I am outside on the vestibule more this second day. I love the feel of the fresh air on my face. It is cooler, so I am wearing my new red fleece Rocky Mountaineer jacket. Feels wonderful.

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Ah, here come our snow-capped mountains. We all reach for our cameras to snap this one.

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A popular photo stop

A popular photo stop

We inch across the Stoney Creek bridge, a steel girder structure high above the canyon floor. I’m talking high. We travel slowly over the bridge, but approach it head on, so we aren’t able to get a picture of it. I have seen a picture of it, and it is imposing and scary. But, yet, since many of the guests have no idea what we are crawling over, they are taking pictures left and right and below.

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The creaking noise is a bit creepy. This bridge reminds me of one you see in old westerns, where the black locomotive goes over it and something bad usually happens. The creaking noise was unsettling, but we are over the bridge quickly, even though we are crawling.

looking down

looking down

 

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We are still climbing and the views are stunning.

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The last thing we pass through is the Connaught Tunnel, which is a long tunnel. I believe we travel through it for 5 miles. . The trip takes around 8 minutes to get through the tunnels. Our attendant tells us stories about the building of the tunnel at this time.

Our train journey is coming to an end and our attendants gather to talk to us and to pass out a postcard with their names on it. What a great group we had! I tipped them handsomely, as they did a great job to make sure our time on the Rocky Mountaineer was a good one.

 

IMG_1653We pulled into Golden, where there are buses waiting for us. I am on bus #7 with the other guests who will be traveling to the RimRock Resort.  Rocky Mountaineer is so very prepared in this flooding diversion. We have two onboard attendants who answer questions about what we are seeing next. But, what we are seeing next is amazing: two bear near the railroad tracks that are running parallel to the highway.

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I’m a big believer in things happening for a reason. Maybe today those bears are alive because we didn’t take the train like we were supposed to. That would have been awful and I know this happens every year on the tracks.

We missed traveling the Spiral Tunnels, but all the buses pulled over at the overlook so we can all get a good look across the mountain. We soon pass Lake Louise and follow Castle Mountain for a very long time. The Bow River follows us.

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We are soon entering Banff and I have immediately fallen in love with the town. Our bus meanders up a hill to the Rim Rock Resort, where my bags are supposed to be waiting for me. Check-in is smooth and easy.

It is hard to believe that my Rocky Mountaineer adventure has just ended. It was an amazing experience. I will sing their praises until the day I die, as for a solo traveler, I was in awe the entire time. Some people think it is an expensive vacation, and it is, but, you get what you pay for over and over again. I was pampered from start to finish, met some incredible people from all over the world, and saw a part of the country you can’t see in a bus or car.

I am ready for my days in Banff and Lake Louise.

So, when you are a guest at the RimRock, you are able to use your room key to take the Roam bus downtown. I entered my room to a most wonderful view. I have to thank Fresh Tracks Canada for recommending this hotel. It is closer to the gondola and hot springs and just a quick shuttle ride downtown. Thanks, Tyler!

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What a fantastic view.

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I was hungry, and decided to check when the next shuttle was coming through. It was almost 8:00 and I was ready for some pasta at the Old Spaghetti Factory. (Yes, I checked up on the eating establishments before I arrived. I knew exactly where I wanted to go.)

The concierge smiled and pointed outside. The bus just pulled up. I hurried outside and stepped on the bus. What luck, considering it arrives every 40 minutes. I would be eating 40 minutes sooner now.

Banff is already my favorite town. I love it! It is postcard beautiful!

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I ate, looked through some stores, purchased a t-shirt and a Banff Christmas ornament, and then walked to the bus stop. There is a live message board that lets you know when the next bus was coming through. I only had to wait 5 minutes. This was wonderfully efficient.

I got back to the resort to find complimentary internet, so I wrote a blog post and went to bed since it was such a very long day. Tomorrow I’m headed on a 10 hour tour on the Icefields Parkway. Off to bed I go.

S’mores

I have always loved picnics. Since I was the pickiest child on the planet, it was hard for my mom to find something I liked. No problem at a summer picnic, because there was a lot of food for me to put on my thin, wiggly paper plate. I would eat corn on the cob and watermelon. Ta-da. Ok, there were other foods I would eat. I wouldn’t touch the potato salad because whoever heard of putting chopped up potatoes in a whitish mixture ? I could also see little bits and pieces of unidentified food that I knew would take me forever to dig out. But, there was no way I was going to eat potatoes and white stuff in the first place and then call the damn thing a salad. Made no sense to me…potato salad. Give me a break. I saw no lettuce.  There was no way I was going to try that…ever. They did the same thing with macaroni noodles and called it macaroni salad. Macaroni is supposed to be with cheese or with beefaroni (which we called slop in my family.) Sometimes these ladies at the picnics brought the weirdest food.

I liked hamburgers with ketchup, but I would give the guy at the grill a dirty look if he tried to scoot a cheeseburger onto my bun. Um, Mr. Barbecue man, did I say cheese? No…who would ever put cheese on top of a piece of beef? That had to taste terrible. I would eat sliced Velveeta cheese at home and got pretty good with that cheese slicer thingy, but I would never put a slice of that on top of a hamburger. You just can’t mix things like that. So, sometimes I would just skip the hamburger and grab a fresh hot dog bun and put ketchup on it. I loved ketchup sandwiches! And in the end, I didn’t starve and picnics were great.

When our family would stay late at a picnic, usually a campfire would be involved. The adults whittled sticks and would place a hot dog in one hand and slide shove the stick through the middle of the hot dog halfway and would hand them to the kids. The first time I saw this happen, I didn’t know what the hell was going on.  What is this for, exactly? Everyone would then move close to the fire to get their hot dog nice and cooked.  Well, ok, but why not just throw them into a pot of  boiling water and be done with it? I didn’t much care for hot dogs on a grill because some of them had black pieces on them. The blackened burned spots would peel off like a scab, but again, it was too much work. And now someone was trying to get me to stick my hot dog in a blazing fire.

The whole problem with a hot dog impaled on a whittle stick was the fact that what if there was a sliver of wood that came off in the hot dog? I would put my hot dog near the flame, just enough to get it warm, and then take the hot dog and stick over to my mom and ask her to take a look at the inside of the hot dog to make sure I wouldn’t get a splinter in my throat. You know that could happen, right? My mom would shoo me away because I guess I already bothered her for most of the day, so I would take a plastic knife and dissect that damn hot dog to see if it was ok to eat. Again, though, this just took too much work, so I would just eye the hot dog bun and put some ketchup on it.

So, this whole  picky Vickie story leads up to the whole problem with s’mores.

S’mores. The word even makes me cringe. I don’t think I saw them until I was in junior high. I was still picky in junior high, but I wanted  to be cool, so I had to pretend I was all about s’mores and not complain like I did when I was at a campfire with my family. The first part of the whole s’more experience was getting that damn marshmallow warmed up and gooey. First of all, I wasn’t a fan of getting gooey fingers. Not going to happen. Oh, sure, I would impale my marshmallow down on the stick after slyly checking the stick for errant splinters. I would hover my marshmallow over the flame for a second and while everyone else was watching their own marshmallow, I took mine off and would eat it. I hated warm marshmallows. I hated melted marshmallows. But, I wanted to fit in with the other kids and if I told them I hated s’mores, then, well, they would hate me and maybe call me “Picky Sticky Vickie” or something.

By the time some of the other kids got their marshmallow off their sticks, I was already by the picnic table grabbing two graham crackers. Thank god I liked graham crackers, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to share them with melted white goo and a hunk of chocolate.  I decided whoever mixed these three food items together for the very first time must have had rocks in their head.

So, it was like this every summer at every picnic I went to. I had to work hard and perfected my s’mores avoidance technique: Put the marshmallow on a stick for like 5 seconds, take it off, pretend it is gooey, go to the table and on the way eat the marshmallow. One time I thought I was being watched, so I made the whole damn thing and then….oops, dropped it on the ground. There is no 3 second rule in the woods or any place with me.  There was no way I was picking it up.

It wasn’t until college  when I was invited to a picnic and offered a stick, that I realized a lie didn’t take much work at all.

“I’m allergic to marshmallows, and you can’t make a s’more without marshmallows.”  Damn, why didn’t I lie earlier. I lied about everything else.

In the past twenty years it has been easier to pass on the s’mores.

“Oh, hell no.”

The Cab Ride

Most of you know my daughter has been living in New York City while attending grad school at NYU. I was able to take a few personal days to travel up there to attend the graduation ceremony for Steinhardt, her grad school. At first I was going up to the all school graduation which was held at Yankee Stadium, but my daughter asked me if I could change my plans and come up to her earlier one since the venue would be a tad bit more personal than Yankee Stadium. I wish I would have just taken the whole week off and went to both, as I had a wonderful substitute in place, so I didn’t have to worry about that while I was gone.

Since the last time I went to New York, the major airlines decided to quit flying directly from Pittsburgh to JFK. Jet Blue used to be pretty inexpensive, but now wanted to take me from Pittsburgh to Boston and then to New York and jacked up the price on me. Delta did have one direct flight, but it was now $709. Gee, thanks major airlines.

My options were driving to New York City (oh, hell no), taking the MegaBus (when I googled it, pictures of burning wrecked Megabuses came up that I just had to go and look at), and Amtrak. I took Amtrak before and although it takes several years to get to New York from Pittsburgh, I enjoyed the ride. So, I booked my trip with Amtrak. This time, however, to avoid sitting near a woman with 4 children who wanted to sleep while the children squirmed, fought, and tattled, I decided to see what the business class car might be like, and upgraded to business. Wow, what a difference.

It was worth the $30 upgrade. I really thought I was getting away with something as there were about 64 seats and no one had to share the other seat with anyone else. At each stop, the conductor would make an announcement, “Folks, we are going to have a full house today. Please keep personal items off the seat next to you so people will be able to find an open seat.” I would look around and see people spread out watching movies or sleeping. Business class was definitely worth the upgrade.

Nine hours later, I arrived at Penn Station. It was raining and of course I did not bring an umbrella. Penn Station is attached to Madison Square Garden, so I thought it would be better to catch a taxi if I was out front there, instead of a side street, and I did. I put my hand up in the air like Carrie Bradshaw did on Sex and the City and immediately a cab pulled over. Well, it pulled over because there were people getting out. I asked if I could use the cab, despite seeing about 10 other arms in the air nearby. I clearly pissed off people who were standing on the long street in front of Madison Square Garden. Remember, it was raining, not sprinkling.

I hopped in the back with my carry-on, laptop bag, and purse and off we went. But, it can’t be that simple for me. I had to go and say “Hello, good afternoon!” to the taxi driver. You wouldn’t think it was a big deal to talk to a taxi driver. But, Oh, Dear God, the conversation took a dramatic turn, or a comedic turn. I will go with comedic. Now you have to realize that traffic was heavy and I had to go up all the way to East 95th Street. Madison Garden is on West 33rd, so the following conversation is abbreviated somewhat.

“So, is this your first time in New York?”

“No, this is I believe my sixth time.” blah blah blah. Found out he has lived in the city for 19 years, from Bangladesh, he told me I should visit there, blah blah blah…more chatter. He started to talk about the April Bangladesh earthquake and handed me a flyer to look at while he talked about the disaster.

He asked what I did in West Virginia. I told him I was a teacher. He asked if I wanted to share half of his banana. No, thank you, I told him. I had eaten on the train.

Then, he went down the wrong road…not literally, being in a cab and all, but the wrong road, figuratively. I looked at the street sign and we were only at 59th. The traffic was bad. I was wishing I would have taken the subway and lugged everything up the subway steps.

“So, what does your husband do in West Virginia?” he said with his heavily broken English.

“I’m divorced.”

“How long you divorced?”

“4 years.”

“That is so sad.”

“No, I’m pretty happy about it.” I smiled. I was hoping there would be silence for the rest of the ride. Oh, hell no.

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

“No. I’ve had my share of goofy dates, though.” He looked at me strange. Maybe “goofy” was just a West Virginia word. Then he started.

“You know…. I believe in God….I love God….and I know God would want you to share your life with a man until you die.”

“You don’t think God would be okay that a person can be alone but happy for the rest of his or her life?”

“Maybe, but you should share your life with someone until you die.”

“Oh, you know, I am happy the way my life is.”

“Maybe………………..I’m going to fix you up with someone so you can share your life with him until you die.” I had to laugh.

“No, really. I’m ok. I am just going to get a cat.” I laughed, but he didn’t understand the whole cat lady scenario.

“You give me your phone number and I will have you meet someone.”

“No, I am only in New York for a few days, so I don’t have time to meet anyone, but that is so sweet of you to be worried about me since you don’t know me.”

“I can tell you are a wonderful person. You need to share your life with a man. God would want you to.”

“No, thank you, really. I really don’t want to meet anyone right now. I was married for 25 years and really enjoy being by myself right now. If it happens,it happens….. I’m not going to go out searching for a man.” I nervously laughed.

“I sorry I bother you. I can tell because you talk to me that you are a good person. God would want you to be married until you die.”

I can’t tell you how long this conversation went on, but by 80th street I was ready to jump out of the moving cab and meet God without a man. I know the Bangladeshian meant well, but he was spending too much time looking through his mirror at me in the backseat and little time watching cars changing lanes and waiting until the last second to stop at a red light. I was ready for a nerve pill.

When he pulled up in front of my daughter’s apartment, I handed him cash and a few extra dollars as a tip. After all, he did offer half of his banana and wanted to play matchmaker for me.

“I’m sorry I bother you. I won’t fix you up. Have a good time in New York and I do hope….God hopes…that you find a man to share your life until you die.”

“Thank you for being so worried about me. I will be fine. Thank you!”

I walked up her steps and as I opened the door to her apartment building, I noticed that he was still parked at the curb, watching me. I couldn’t buzz in fast enough. My daughter came down the steps, and I didn’t want to turn around again, but out of the corner of my eye saw a hint of yellow go past. He was gone.

And all I could think of was that quote from Casablanca, altered a bit to fit my situation:

 

“Of all the taxi cabs, in all the towns, in all the world, I stepped into his.”

The Time Change and Church

For those of you who follow my blog, you know tomorrow is my least favorite day of the year. I’ve surely written enough about Daylight Savings Time and how it turns me into a zombie for a few weeks after the time change.

Daylight Savings Time Ends….Again

 Spring Forward into the River

Hello Circadian Dysrhythmia

Go Fly a Kite, Benjamin Franklin

So, how many times can I beat this dead horse? Apparently, at least five times. I guess I just need to really get my opinion out there. Daylight Savings Time just sucks the life out of me…….and millions of other people too.

But, I have to admit, the whole time change did have one perk: church. Now, don’t judge, but I just did not care to attend church when I was younger. My dad was a Sunday school teacher, so we had to get up every Sunday morning and drive downtown to church. And, I’m sorry, but I just didn’t like it. I had a problem with the whole Noah’s Ark story when I went to that private hell of a Catholic school from first through third grade, and was tired of arguing about it with Sister Maria and then at Sunday school. I just didn’t buy it. I was mad at God for drowning animals. Taking only two of a kind was really mean, and when I was little, I held a grudge for a tremendously long time.  So, I just thought the whole church thing was a big ole fat lie to get money in a collection plate.

So, there was one Sunday each year that I didn’t have to go to Sunday school, and that was when it was Daylight Savings Time. Oh, I remember my parents talking while sitting on the couch about how they had to remember to turn the clocks ahead before they went to bed. I always wanted to try to sneak into my parent’s room and change the Big Ben alarm clock my dad kept by his bed, but after getting caught the first time, I decided I was doomed and would have to go listen about multiplying fishes and walking on water. None of the Bible lessons were believable to me. People can’t get that old. I told my mom Caspar the Friendly Ghost cartoon was more real than church. I remember my dad looking at me like I needed an exorcism. His Bible was all marked up and his handwriting in the margins. He was clearly into it, but his  nine year old heathen daughter wasn’t buying any of it.

I know  my dad would change the kitchen clock above our lovely gold refrigerator that Saturday night before he went to bed. He would change the time on his wrist watch. He would change the time on his Big Ben alarm clock and set the alarm to get up for church. But, every Daylight Savings Time Sunday morning we would always miss Sunday school. We slept it! My mom would yell first.

“Elwood, wake up! We’ve missed church!” I would wake up and smile. But, then, my mom would march into my room and ask why I pushed down the alarm clock so it wouldn’t go off.

The problem with all of this is that I was a great liar and lied every chance I got. So, when I really told the truth and tried to explain that I didn’t do it, no one believed me. I would be just like me to sneak into my parent’s room and push in the alarm buzzer thingy.

For years I thought my sister was the culprit because she would laugh at me for getting yelled at for turning it off. She wanted to go to church because she liked wearing her white patent leather shoes. She would deliberately put on a pair of white anklets that had a hole in the big toe so she could entertain while sitting in the pew at church. But, you know, I never ever pushed down the alarm button to keep us from waking up on time. I mean, I wouldn’t wait until Daylight Savings Time to do that. I’d do it every damn Sunday.

Years later, when I had my own children and complained how my husband wanted to go to church the next day when it was Daylight Savings Time, I would always try to balk. “Oh, come on. We are losing an hour. Let’s just sleep in.”  My mom was visiting during one of those time changing moments and just smiled when I was complaining about being blamed for turning off the alarm.

“Mom, I really wasn’t the one who would push in the alarm so we could sleep in after losing an hour.”

“I know.” I looked at her and she was wearing a shit-eating grin on her face.”

“God dammit, Mom! …….You were the one?…….and then you came in and blamed me?” She smiled and nodded.

Well, there was only one thing I could do….

I stood up and clapped.

“I needed that hour,” she said with a shrug.

So, in the end, the heathen’s mother threw her own daughter under the proverbial bus in order to garner a lost hour of sleep once a year.

Well, played, Mom, well played.

Happy Badger/Groundhog/Hedgehog Day!

 

Several men dressed like Abe Lincoln will gather on a knoll tomorrow morning, proclamation in hand, and will proceed to yank a fat squirrel out of its heated den. Crowds who have gathered on this cold cold February morning will wait with bated or alcoholic breath, whichever comes first. Will Phil see his shadow?  We must know.

Another Groundhog Day, another prediction. Will we have another six weeks of winter or will spring be right around the corner?  According to Wikipedia, ” if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then spring will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will continue for six more weeks”.   The Weather Channel is already telling us we are going to have six weeks of winter. So, why all the brouhaha over a sleepy chubby squirrel?

Ok, a groundhog is not a fat squirrel. I apologize. A groundhog is a member of the squirrel family, but much larger than the ones I see eating out of the bird feeder.  Putting that aside, I’d still like to know how  the people in a small Pennsylvania town decided years ago they have a weather prognostigator?

“Hey, look at that groundhog! I can see his shadow. Do you think that means something?” I mean, how did this weird ritual start?

And it is weird. Think about it. People drive from miles around to gather in the cold to watch the town leaders grab a sleeping groundhog from its luxury living quarters, hold it up, and then proclaim to the masses if there will be six more weeks of winter. The crowd will clap and yell “hoorah” or moan and go home…or back to the bar. When did we start believing a groundhog? Why not a raccoon? They are smart enough to take the lid off of a garbage can. Surely they too, can predict the weather?

Ok, I know we don’t really believe a groundhog, but how did the people of Pennsylvania believe in it enough over the years to create such a tribute to weather forecasting? I just had to know.

I have written several times about the little varmint  Ground Beaver Day   Groundhog Day  Groundhog Day and a Haiku or Two in the past, but really never took a look at how this event started. I actually have this on my bucket list. Sure, why not drive up there one year just to say I did it?

Well, it looks like Groundhog day  began as a German custom in the 18th century in this country. When German settlers arrived in the 1700s, they brought a custom known as Candlemas Day.  Supposedly, a custom in ancient European weather lore used a badger or a hedgehog as the prognosticator.  Seeing  there aren’t too many badgers or hedgehogs in Pennsylvania, I guess the groundhog was the next best thing. It has been celebrated in Punxsutawney since 1886 or so. In Europe, it was the tradition on Candlemas Day for the church official to bless candles and hand them out to the people in the middle point of winter.It also has something to do with Mary and Jesus, but I didn’t want to go in that direction, so I ignored the religious meanings of the day. So, If the sun came out February 2, the mid point of the season, it meant six more weeks of winter. Tomorrow will be Punxsutawney Phil’s 127th prognostication.

Shouldn’t he be dead?

So, when you turn on the Weather Channel in the morning, you will undoubtedly witness the faux Abe Lincolns pulling a fat squirrel out of a den on Gobblers Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. It’s a big deal. And maybe the ground hog will be alive, celebrating its 127th year of forecasting or maybe he is an imposter for the real Phil, who no longer sees his shadow. Regardless, it is a tradition in our country that is here to stay. In fact, there are many “Phil’s” in different parts of the country. Afterall, the weather in Florida is different than Pennsylvania. It is known as “The Sunshine State.” Of course Phil would see his shadow down there. And that surely wouldn’t mean six more weeks of winter in Florida. That means, “Hey, I saw my shadow because I am in freaking sunny Florida.”

Here are some of the other “Phil’s” that will be called upon this February 2:

French Creek Freddie – My home state of West Virginia.

 A pissed off French Creek Freddie

North Carolina has five prognosticating groundhogs- Grady, Nibbles, Queen Charlotte, Sir Walter Wally, and Mortimer. ( I fancy the Sir Walter Wally moniker)

Tennessee- Chattanooga Chuck

Georgia- General Beauregard Lee

Canada- Wiarton Willy

New York- Staten Island Chuck

Ohio- Buckeye Chuck

I could go on and on. There are many famous fat squirrels that will be pulled out of their dens tomorrow.

Happy Groundhog Day! (Whatever the hell that means)

Smokey and the Car Wash

I was sitting at our local lazer wash the other day thinking back to the first time I ever went to an automatic car wash. I grew up in Weirton, West Virginia, and the new “automatic” car wash had just opened “up on the hill” near our home. I can’t remember what kind of car we had back then, but the whole family jumped in when my dad told us a car wash opened where you sit in the car while it is being washed. What??? No taking a bucket of water, soap, and a garden hose out into the driveway anymore? Well, not that I really helped wash our cars in the first place. I was and still am, a “non-finisher.” I just really can’t finish anything all the way through. Same for washing the car. I would get one side done and then spray the other side with the hose to knock some dust off and call it a day. You could never see that side from our picture window, so it looked like I did a great job.

When we pulled up to the new car wash, we had to wait in a line because, as all things new, people wanted to experience this new-fangled way to wash a car. It was the 60’s, after all, and inventions were just waiting to be invented. When it was our turn, a guy motioned for us to move up a bit. We then had to put the car in neutral. They guy then took some gigantic hook and put it somewhere in the front of the car.

“Will that pull off the bumper?” I thought that was a pertinent question.

The guy told my dad to make sure all of the windows were rolled up. We were ready. There was a little jerk and our car was on some track through a little building with these scrubber things on the sides. The noise was loud and the water was really hitting the windshield and roof of the car. To be perfectly honest, it was a bit scary. Those brushes were right up against our windows and then one roll up over the car and down the windshield.  Hey, this was fun….but not really.

After we were done, there were two teen-age boys who wiped our car with dry cloths. My mom had to interject her authority of being Queen of Weirton.

“Make sure you dry the car good….and there better not be any spots of dirt anywhere.”

Oh, but there was. When we pulled into the driveway, she had my dad not park the car in the garage. She wanted to inspect the job the new automatic car wash did on our family vehicle.

“Well, we won’t be going there again.”  I remember there were seven places that were missed. I smile at this because I can’t remember what I did fifteen minutes ago, but I can remember my mom ranting about SEVEN missed places on the car after visiting the new automatic car wash “up on the hill.” She loved to find something to bitch about. My dad was probably relieved that he wasn’t at the end of this particular rant. I remember thinking he was going to like this new car wash. Anything she disagreed about, my dad was then quietly all about.

So, one day I was sitting, watching tv, with our dog Smokey, on our lap. It was a hot summer day and my dad must not have wanted to wash the car by hand. I mean, who would want to, now that we basically had a robot to do it for us?  He asked me if I wanted to take a ride with him to the car wash.

Since Smokey was already sitting on my lap, I just picked her up and carried her a la Paris Hilton with her prized chihuahua to the car. Smokey often rode in the car. As all chihuahuas, Smokey was a yapper. Yap, yap, yap. But, who knew what was about to transpire.

Well, Smokey went ape shit. The noise first scared her and she buried herself beside my hip. We were yanked ahead on the conveyor belt. When the brushes hit against the car, that’s when Smokey defended her territory and her family. She ran over to the window and bared her teeth and growled and barked like she was ready to take on the brushes. She ran back and forth, over my dad and over me to each window. She was going to save us from this barrage of red and yellow bristles attacking us.

I should have counted how many times she ran back and forth. My dad also found it amusing. Smokey the chihuahua was fighting with the brushes at the automatic car wash.

When we got home, Smokey was exhausted and fell fast asleep on my dad’s lap.

The next few times we went to the car wash, we took Smokey along for our pleasure. It seems so cruel now to put the little yapper through this sort of animal abuse, but you have to understand I never once thought I was being abusive. I just thought it was really really funny.

And each time we got home, my mom would disappear downstairs for a few minutes. We knew she was heading for the garage.

Four missed places this time.”

Go Directly to Jail, Little Token

When I have played Monopoly in the past, I have always reached for the iron as my token. I know for a fact I have never played with another token. I never came across another friend who just had to have the iron too, so I guess that was good because I wouldn’t have played. I guess when you find a right fit  you just have to go with that one each time. And the iron and I made our way around to pass Go many, many times. So, imagine the horror when I heard today that Hasbro, the maker of Monopoly, is going to send one of the little steel tokens to jail……and they can’t even pass Go first.

What a great marketing ploy. Hasbro has set up a Facebook page and is letting people vote for which token gets to stay and which one will replace it. I went to the site to see how this was going to unfold.  The choices to vote for are the car, thimble, shoe, dog, ship, hat, iron, and wheelbarrow. I wish we could vote for which one gets to go, but alas, we were only allowed to vote for which one we wanted to stay.

It’s funny, but I think baby boomers are going to feel the same way about this that I do. Oh, sure, in the whole scheme of things, I really don’t give a rat’s ass about the impending doom of one of the Monopoly tokens, but yet again, off I went to vote to save my beloved iron.

The options to replace the permanently jailed token are a helicopter, a diamond ring, a cat, a robot, or a guitar. I immediately voted for the diamond ring. It makes sense and goes with the game. What the hell does a robot or a guitar have to do with Monopoly? Ok, I guess an iron doesn’t make much sense either, but you know, whatever.

So, baby boomer friends of mine, what token did you use when you played Monopoly?

 

 

 

Everyone Watch The Rose Parade, Ok?

I used to watch the Rose Parade every New Year’s Day for years before I was told all the floats were made of flowers. Maybe I just didn’t listen much to the commentator:

“And here’s a float from McDonalds…blah blah blah blah..roses.”

I was hyper when I was little, so maybe I just couldn’t watch and listen at the same time. The floats were beautiful. And it was named after a flower. Hence, the name, Rose Parade. I thought maybe it was named after a woman…….Rose McGillicuddy of Pasadena…..Ok, I made that name up. But why roses, I asked? Why not the Purple Cone Flower Parade or The Natural Material Parade?” I didn’t ask that when I was little. I’m asking that now when I am older and still challenged in so many ways. But, since I love to learn about insignificant things, I headed to google, king of all kings.

So, it looks like The Rose Parade started way back in Pasadena, California on January 1, 1890. The Rose Bowl football game was added in 1902 to help fund the parade. I thought that was pretty interesting.

The whole reason the parade started was to showcase the mild California winters. Many members of the Valley Hunt Club, the organizers of the very first Rose parade, were former residents of states in the east and midwest. One member announced at a meeting, “In New York, people are buried in the snow. Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let’s hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise.”  I would think the man should have said the oranges were ready to be picked, but I guess that’s how the hell they talked back then.

And so they did organize a little parade to show off how wonderful Pasadena is in the winter and how putting flowers on moving things made the freezing New Yorkers jealous enough to withdraw all of their money and move to their sunny community. What confuses me is the fact there was no television in 1902. People elsewhere would have to read about it in a newspaper. So, in the end, I am thinking the Valley Hunt Club wanted to ride down the street on their horses.

They had horse drawn carriages adorned with flowers. After the parade, there was a chariot race, tug-of war and other games which drew about 2,000 people. After a few years, the parade got too big for the Valley Hunt Club, so the Tournament of Roses was formed and later a football game replaced a chariot race, which was a big deal of the whole celebration.

The floats of today take about a year to construct. According to Wikipedia, “It is a rule of the parade that all surfaces of the float framework must be covered in natural materials (such as flowers, plants, seaweeds, seeds, bark, vegetables, or nuts, for example); furthermore, no artificial flowers or plant material are allowed, nor can the materials be artificially colored.”And this is what bothers me.  I mean, it bothers me just a little, but enough to gripe about it. Isn’t this a waste of nature?

I’m beginning to think somebody in the Valley Hunt Club was a florist.

Think about it. I bet you there are more florists in the Pasadena area than anywhere else. Ok, maybe flowers are shipped in from other flowery places. Tulips from Holland, perhaps. Acorns from a forest in the Applachians. I don’t know. But, this has got to be a boon for florist owners and growers. I guess that is a good thing for the economy. But, what happens to the flowers and natural materials after the parade. Do they go into the biggest compost pile in the world?

So, being that my mind is still a bit hyperactive and all over the place, I wondered about other wastes…..like Christmas trees. I have a bit of a problem with cutting down beautiful pine trees, dragging them home on top of a car, sticking them in the corner of a room and putting things on it….only to throw it away come New Years Day. Poor pine tree.

But then again, everything is like that, isn’t it? Chickens are raised only to have their heads cut off so they can be served on our dinner plates. Corn is grown on farms just so we can eat popcorn and cornbread stuffing. I guess I could go on and on. So, in the end, flowers are grown for the Rose Parade. I guess I have to live with that.

That being said, I think it is our responisibility to watch the Rose Parade to see the beauty of Pasadena’s mild winter and of course, the magnificent floats. They are beautiful. Band members nation-wide fund raise their little asses off to be able to be part of the parade. Our very own East Fairmont High School was able to participate in the Rose Parade several years ago. That was a big deal. And it was exciting to watch on tv.  I didn’t notice the sunny environment of California, however.

Is this still the objective? Regardless, watch the parade tomorrow. Kudos to the Valley Hunt Club of 1890. They came up with a great idea. Look how many people are now living in California.

 

 

 

What The Hell, Seagull?

I saw a seagull today. I realize that is not an unusual observation for many. People always see them at the beach. After all, that’s where they belong. So, why the hell are they flying around my local Walmart’s parking lot? In West Virginia.

I came to Fairmont to go to college in 1974 and there were a few seagulls in the Middletown Mall parking lot. I was confused then and I am confused now. They have no business being in the mountains of West Virginia. That is against the laws of nature. Why, that would be like seeing a polar bear on a Miami beach, a rattle snake crawling along in the Arctic, or a moose hanging out in Central Park. So, after going through more “animals out of their element” scenarios, I decided I needed to learn more about seagulls and why they are in Fairmont, West Virginia. We only have streams and rivers. And they aren’t even cool rivers, like the Columbia…..or the mighty Mississippi. No, my seagulls are near the Tygart and the West Fork Rivers. There is no sand, no waves, no crabs to peck at. Why, oh why, are they flying above me in the freaking Walmart parking lot? The search was on.

Many people are perplexed as well. A woman wrote from Iowa about seeing seagulls in her Kmart parking lot. Many other land-locked puzzled people were wondering the same thing. Is it a migration route? And if so, where the hell are they coming from or going to in Iowa? That makes no sense at all. Iowa is too far away. And a blogging friend informed me that the seagull is the state bird of Utah. Utah!  Seems that years and years ago locusts were eating a lot of crops and all of a sudden seagulls appeared and ate the locust. The Mormons saw that as a sign and the next thing you know, they’ve got a state bird. Apparently, the seagulls in that state like the brine in the Great Salt Lake.

Maybe the seagulls think West Virginia is part of Virginia. They, afterall, have Virginia Beach, seagull capital of a small stretch of beach. There are a lot of geographically challenged people out there who think West Virginia is western Virginia. Maybe the seagulls think the same.

Years ago, near Point Pleasant, West Virginia, people thought they saw a strange flying “thing” that was dubbed Mothman. Hysteria reigned in that small Ohio River town for many years afterwards. Mothman supposedly had red eyes, a large wingspan and could pick up a German Shephard and carry it off. There is even a statue to Mothman and a Mothman festival. But, a wildlife biologist said all along it was a sandhill crane,  a large American crane almost as high as a man with a seven foot wingspan featuring red circles around its eyes. He said  the bird may have wandered out of its migration route.

I guess not all birds know what the hell they are doing. Sure, Canadian geese flaunt their knowledge of their ABC’s by flying in a V formation. They fly south for the winter. Well, they used to until they decided that since these silly Americans are  feeding them, they’d just stay all year long. We can’t get rid of them or their trail of slimy algae green poop.

So, maybe my Walmart seagull got lost on his way to Bora Bora or Aruba or where ever they fly on their migration route. I had no idea there were so many varieties of gulls. All I know is that they can attack. I know this because I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Tippi Hedren got pecked in the forehead by one.

In the end, I guess I feel sorry for the seagull who is living at the Walmart parking lot. Where does he sleep at night? Sitting on a light pole can’t be fun. Doesn’t he miss the sound of the ocean waves lulling him to sleep?  And if he doesn’t leave, will the crows let him hang out with them? They are usually a tight group, not making friends easily.

I did just read that we may be confused by their name, as it implies the “sea.” Someone wrote there is no such thing as a “sea” gull.  Gulls can adapt inland. Well, then maybe their name should change. Canadian geese are no longer Canadian….. Hermit crabs are quite social……a teddy bear hamster is not a damn teddy bear……

and a jumbo shrimp is not a big little thing. Whoever is naming animals is on drugs.

Let’s Drop Something

It all started with Groundhog Day, you know. There was a famous groundhog prognosticator in Pennsylvania, and soon after cities came up with their own weather fortune teller whistle pig. Such is the case with the big New Years Eve ball drop.

When you think of New Years Eve, all those who don’t live under a rock know about the ball drop at midnight in Times Square in fantastic New York City. I took a picture of it from the top of the Rockefeller Center when I was there this summer. It’s just not the same, I guess, as being there smooshed up against thousands of people on a cold, drunken New Year’s Eve.

IMG_0670

 The first ball drop in Times Square took place on December 31, 1907. According to Wikipedia:

“The first New Year’s Eve celebration in what is now known as Times Square was held on New Year’s Eve 1904. The New York Times newspaper had opened their new headquarters at One Times Square (at the time, the city’s second tallest building)  and persuaded the city to rename the triangular “square” surrounding it for their newspaper (which the city later did on April 8, 1904). The newspaper’s owner decided to celebrate the opening of the company’s new headquarters with a midnight fireworks show on the roof of the building on December 31, 1903. Close to 200,000 people attended the event, displacing traditional celebrations that had normally been held at Trinity Church. After four years of New Year’s Eve fireworks celebrations, the newspaper’s chief electrician Walter F. Palmer constructed an electrically lit time ball that would be lowered from the flagpole on the roof of One Times Square. It was constructed with iron and wood, lit with one hundred 25-watt bulbs, weighed 700 pounds (320 kg), and measured 5 feet (1.5 m) in diameter. It was first lowered on New Year’s Eve 1908 (December 31, 1907).”

The Times Square ball drop is one of the best-known New Year’s celebrations, attended by at least one million spectators yearly.  The Times Square ball drop has also inspired other drops across our great nation. So, if you can’t be there in New York City for the ball drop, and don’t really care to watch it on tv, you can always check to see if your city has a creative drop of their very own. Not all cities drop balls. Some cities use their famous icon to ring in the new year. It  is obvious the state of Pennsylvania loves to share their symbols on New Years Eve.

*  Eastport, Maine- a maple leaf is dropped. There is also a sardine drop in the city also. The Great Sardine and Maple Leaf Drop

*  Saint George’s, Bermuda- a Bermuda onion wrapped in Christmas lights is dropped.

*  Key West, Florida- A gigantic conch shell is dropped.  There is also a gay bar that drops a giant ruby slipper with a drag queen inside. Fun times.

*  Miami, Florida- The Big Orange Drop. Well, Florida is the orange capital of the world. “Mr. Neon” was recently renamed, “La Gran Naranja,” which I am thinking means the big orange. I really know my spanish.

*  Atlanta,Georgia- The Peach Drop. Georgia loves their peaches.

* Gainesville, Georgia- Chuck the chicken drop in honor of the humane society.

*Harrisburg, Pennsylvania- strawberry drop.

* Tallapoosa, Georgia- they drop an oppossum. It started out as a joke and has now grown as their biggest yearly event. I hope it isn’t alive. The Possum Drop

*  Winder, Georgia- A jug drop.

* Easton, Maryland- a crab drop.

* Havre de Grace, Maryland- a duck.

* Princesss Anne, Maryland- a muscrat.

* Niagara Falls, New York- A Gibson guitar is dropped from the Hard Rock Cafe.

*  Black Creek, North Carolina: A large red heart drop represents “A Small Town with a Big Heart.”

* Eastover, North Carolina- a flea is dropped….. A flea.

* Charlotte, North Carolina- a crown is dropped.

* Mount Olive, North Carolina- The New Years Eve Pickle Drop.

*Raleigh, North Carolina- Acorn drop

* Elmore, Ohio- a sausage is dropped.

* Marion, Ohio- a popcorn ball is dropped. Marion is the popcorn capital of the world.

*Port Clinton, Ohio- a walleye fish named “Captain Wylie Walleye” is dropped. Walleye Madness.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qPNV-88Aok&feature=player_embedded

* Cincinnati, Ohio- A flying pig is not dropped, but flown, maybe to show there is at least one time “when pigs fly”.

* Allentown, Pennsylvania- a replica of the liberty bell is dropped.

* Akron, Pennsylvania- a gold and purple shoe is dropped.

* Beavertown, Pennsylvania- a beaver is dropped. I hope to God it isn’t real. PETA would be all over them.

*Bethlehem, Pennsylvania- a Peep is dropped. Yes, one of those yellow Easter peeps. The company that produces Peeps is based there. I was happy to see they aren’t dropping baby Jesus in Bethlehem that night.

*Blain, Pennsylvania- a wooden cow is dropped from a silo. Moo.

*Cleona, Pennsylvania- a pretzel is not dropped, but raised. Why, Cleona, are you raising the pretzel? Not cool.

*Carlisle, Pennsylvania- an Indy car is dropped.

*Cornwall, Pennsylvania- a Cannonball Drop.

*Dillsburg, Pennsylvania- two pickles are dropped. I guess one should drop a pickle in Dillsburg.

*Duncannon, Pennsylvania- a sled is dropped….without any kids holding on I presume.

*Easton, Pennsylvania- a crayola crayon is dropped early in the night to accommodate little kiddie’s bedtimes.

*Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania- a giant M& M is dropped.

*Falmouth, Pennsylvania- a stuffed goat is dropped.

*Frogtown, Pennsylvania- a frog is dropped. This is getting sort of redundant, no?

*Gratz, Pennsylvania- a wildcat is dropped.

*Halifax, Pennsylvania- a hemlock tree. Oh, come on, now!

*Harrisburg, Pennsylvania- a strawberry is dropped. My son has been to this one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvjwtM37CmY

*Hershey, Pennsylvania- a Hershey Kiss is dropped. Well, this makes sense.

*Hummelstown, Pennsylvania- a lollipop is dropped.

*Ickesburg, Pennsylvania- a french fry is dropped. These people are just bored.

* Lebanon, Pennsylvania- a giant stick of bologna is dropped.

*Lisburn, Pennsylvania- a pair of yellow pants is dropped. Can’t wait to read the history on this one.

*Liverpool, Pennsylvania- a canal boat is dropped.

*McClure, Pennsylvania- a kettle is dropped in honor of their Bean Soup Festival.

*Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania- a wrench is dropped. The Wrench Drop

*New Oxford, Pennsylvania- an antique trunk is dropped.

*Palmyra, Pennsylvania- The Giant Shoe is dropped.

*Pottsville, Pennsylvania- a bottle of Yuengling beer is raised. I bet those attendees are having fun that evening.

*Red Lion, Pennsylvania- a cigar is dropped.

*Shippensburg, Pennsylvania- an anchor is dropped.

*Strasburg, Pennsylvania- ping pong balls are dropped.

*Shamokin, Pennsylvania- a chunk of coal is dropped, turning into a diamond when it hits the bottom….like magic…oooh

*Hilton Head Island, South Carolina- a giant golf ball.

*Fredericksburg, Virginia- a pear is dropped.

*Mobile, Alabama- a moon pie is dropped. Yes, a moon pie and then the manufacturers of the moon pie hand out about 5,000 of them to revelers.

*Wetumpka, Alabama- a meteorite is dropped in honor of the meterorite that hit the city. Um, ok.

*Fayetteville, Arkansas- a hog is dropped.

*Panama City, Florida- a beach ball is dropped.

*Pensacola, Florida- a pelican is dropped.

*Des Plaines, Illinois- a diamond is dropped.

*Manhattan, Kansas- “The Little Apple” is dropped. I get it. Cute.

*New Orleans, Louisiana- a gumbo pot was dropped for a while. The new drop is Fleur-de-lis. Like I’m supposed to know what that is.

*Bartlesville, Oklahoma- an olive is dropped.

*Memphis and Nashville- a guitar and a music note.

* Plymouth, Wisconsin- a cheese wedge is dropped.

*Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin- a dead carp caught by locals is lowered.

* Show Low, Arizona- a deuce of clubs cards is dropped.

*Flagstaff, Arizona- a pine cone is dropped.

*Tempe, Arizona- a giant tortilla chip.

*Honolulu, Hawaii- a pineapple is dropped.

*Vincennes, Indiana- watermelon drop. Many engineering students across the nation drop watermelons and pumpkins throughout the year.

So, there you have it. There are New Year’s Eve celebrations all across the world. Many more cities just drop a ball,  but some places use their representative symbol to usher in a brand new year. Happy New Year to all!

I have decided to have my own celebration….. I am going to drop a few pounds.

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Enjoy this story? Jumping in Mud Puddles is now an ebook  that you can download on your Kindle. Don’t have a Kindle? No problem. Amazon will let you download their Kindle app FREE…Yes, free.  Have a look see.  :)  My literary debut….. Amazon.com for $3.99. It’s sort of funny.

Jumping in Mud Puddles: A Memoir of a Picky, Hyper, Big Fat Liar

Daylight Saving Time Ends….Again

For those of you who have been following my blog for several years now, you know it is time for my Daylight Saving Time rant. Yes, it is time for all of us to take down our  clocks and turn them all back an hour tonight. Well, it ends at 2 a.m. I am sure there are some people out there who are OCD enough to wait until exactly 2 a.m. to turn them back. The rest of us will change them before we go to bed tonight. I shall be mumbling and cursing as I change each time machine.

I just re-read my Daylight Saving Time posts from the past and it is clear I have issues with the stupid time change. And it is stupid. My economics professor son told me once there is a savings. I say “No way, Jose!”  It messes up the workings of my inner clock and that’s all I care about. It takes me almost two weeks to feel normal again. Well, as close to normal as one can feel.

All I know is that it will now get dark earlier until Daylight Saving Time begins again on March 10, 2013, when we spring forward yet again. I find this yearly thing a little monontonous, especially when there are problems associated with this procedure…. My beside alarm clock adjusts itself. Well, my former clock adjusted itself and it is now in a landfill somewhere nearby. It decided to change back an hour on a Wednesday in the middle of October. I woke up an hour later than reality and barely made it to work on time. Damn Daylight Savings Time. I got to school and realized that I only put mascara on one eye. Maybelline hates Daylight Saving Time too, I imagine.

I think the only good thing about Daylight Saving Time is that it is also known to be a time to change the batteries in your smoke detector to make sure they work. The Energizer battery company endorses that, you know. So, you will be reaching and dusting and changing clocks and changing batteries tonight. Life just sucks.

Arizona, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa do not observe Daylight Savings Time. These are the smartest people on the face of the earth. There are also 75 countries that do not observe the time change. Again, smart people. The rest of us should rise up against the machine. I have no idea what the hell that means.

Here are my Daylight Saving Time rants. I would write more today, but how many times can one beat a dead horse?  Apparently, I try more than three times. See you in March for my next rant. I am not a happy camper when that one enters the picture.

Peace be with you, Daylight Saving Time people.

Spring Forward into the River   Hello Circadian Dysrhythmia    Go Fly a Kite, Benjamin Franklin

You know, this is all George W. Bush’s fault. Yes, I realize he has enough blame on his plate, but he is the one that changed it to the first Sunday in November. I remember the day well:

On Monday August 8, 2005, then President Bush signed into law an energy bill that extended Daylight Saving Time by four weeks beginning in 2007. Since 1986 the United States had observed Daylight Saving Time from the first Sunday in April through the last Sunday in October. The new bill calls for Daylight Saving Time to begin three weeks earlier on the second Sunday in March and end on the first Sunday in November. Why? Why can’t this madness just end? No, Georgie wanted three more weeks of Daylight Savings Time….so we all could save what? I don’t know.

The mastermind behind Daylight Saving Time is Benjamin Franklin…. inventor, statesman, and someone who played out in lightning storms one time too many. He wanted to save candle burn time. Well, guess what? We now have freaking electricity.

In the end,  I’m not saving a damn thing that I can tell.  I’m wasting. I’m wasting time writing about Daylight Saving Time when I could be doing something more productive……like changing the batteries in my clock or something.

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Enjoy this story? Jumping in Mud Puddles is now an ebook  that you can download on your Kindle. Don’t have a Kindle? No problem. Amazon will let you download their Kindle app FREE…Yes, free.  Have a look see.  :)  My literary debut….. Amazon.com for $3.99. It’s sort of funny.

Jumping in Mud Puddles: A Memoir of a Picky, Hyper, Big Fat Liar

NYC Trip Report: Scoring tickets to the Colbert Report

I’ve been to New York City to visit my daughter several times, and let me tell you, it is exhausting. Every time I come home I am pissed at myself for being out of shape. And people, if you plan to visit New York City, you will walk. Oh, sure, there will be some of you who taxi from one place to the next. That is the smart thing to do. I am one of the stupid tourists.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I had a great time in New York. I love New York. But, my daughter walked me all over the damn place. And I will admit that I need to lose weight. I was able to lose 22 pounds last year and did pretty well hoofing it around NYC last summer when we went apartment hunting. Oh, hell, that’s a lie. I was ready to have a stroke. Like I said, I’m not very smart. I picked 90+ degree weather to walk around the city. I’m beyond stupid. This year was the same.

My journey to NYC is not quick. First I have to drive two hours to Pittsburgh International Airport. I have to park in the extended long term parking lot, which is not close to the terminal. By the time I make it to the building, I really want to just stand on that people mover thingy. When I hear someone coming up behind me, I will start walking, but I don’t wanna.

After my nice flight with Jet Blue, I arrived at JFK airport. I like airports. Just thought I would mention that. I don’t know why taxi cab men scare me, but I feel like I am imposing on them. So, I head outside to the ground transportation area and buy a $15.50 ticket to ride the NYC Airporter bus. It takes a while to exit the airport, as the bus driver stops at each terminal.  I didn’t mind. As long as I didn’t have to drive through New York, I don’t care if I was on the back of a donkey. Again, quite a lie. I would care.

The bus dropped me off at Grand Central Station, where I have to find the 6 Local Uptown train. Again, it’s easy. Well, except that I found out while I was on the subway that the Local 6 was not working this particular day. What? I’m on the local 6. Well, apparently it is allowed to change to be called the Express 6 which bypasses my stop. Someone sitting next to me tells me that I can get off at 125 and then take the local 6 downtown to my stop. What?

So, I get off the stop and walk across to the train going in the other direction and hop on, hoping it is the right one. It was. I then walked a couple of blocks to where my daughter was meeting me for lunch. I could see her smiling at me. I know that smile. I am doing somethig stupid.

“Mom, you are such a tourist. You don’t need to look both ways when it is a one way street.”

We had a nice lunch and walked back to her apartment so I could drop off my carry-on. Our plan for the day was to head to the Brooklyn Bridge and then head over to High Line. We walked the several blocks up the hill to the subway. I had to stop several times on the way up. I am weak. We got off the subway on Chambers Street. I had never been this far south before. So, there was the Brooklyn Bridge. And it was all boarded up on the sides of the bridge for construction. I had no idea we were going to actually walk over to the other side. What?

My daughter on the Brooklyn Bridge

Well, we had to walk over to the other side. I don’t know why. Because everyone else was doing it? There was nothing to see for quite a while. We stopped and wrote our names on some plywood…because everyone else was doing it.

It took us forever to get to the other side. And it was 90 degrees and 2:00 in the afternoon. Where the hell are the clouds? I was complaining a lot. My daughter told me to stop. I stopped.

It’s a 1.3 mile walk, but it takes a long time to walk due to the amount of foot traffic….and baby strollers…..and people like me who take pictures along the way and complain about the heat and stop alot. But, I was glad I did it. Because when we got to the other side, there was a park. And that park had a water taxi. Oh, hell yeah, I was on that thing.

The water taxi cost $25 and takes people around the statue of Liberty, past Ellis Island and Battery Park and up the Hudson. It makes stops along the way for those who want to get off in a different stop. I sure as hell didn’t want to walk back over the Brooklyn Bridge.

It was pretty cool. The taxi was huge and besides those who just wanted to look from inside the air conditioned lounge area, there was an upper berth and lower outside viewing areas. It was nice. We opted to get off at one of the piers on the Hudson, Christopher St., Pier 45 on West 10th Street.

This is also Grenwich Village, which was pretty darn cool. We walked past a Bareburger, where we had an early dinner. After that, my daughter wanted to take me to High Line Park. We had to walk again.  I thought she was taking me to a normal park. Boy, was I surprised when I saw High Line. High Line is a park built on an elevated freight line railway. The freight line wasn’t in use since the early 1980’s. It was slated for demolition as it became an eyesore for those who lived in the neighborhood. One man’s crusade led to the development by the city of New York to create this elevated park. It is magnificient. We walked along the park until a storm hit us. That’s not the best place to be when a thunderstorm approaches you. Luckily, there were places for all of us to hide. We then hailed a taxi and headed back to the apartment. We had great aspirations for the next day. We were going to wake up early and head to the local bagel shop for breakfast and then rent bikes in Central Park. However, we ate a huge breakfast and opted to go back to bed for a little bit. We then showered and headed via subway down to visit the Top of the Rock.  I’ve always wanted to visit Rockefeller Center and see the ice skating rink and the NBC Studios. It didn’t disappoint. Several blocks are pedestrian only, and it is just a really neat area. We finally found the place where we were to buy tickets to the Top of the Rock. I wanted to see Central Park from the top of this building. It was great.

After we left Rockefeller Center, I looked at my watch. We were late. My daughter wanted to go to the Colbert Report Studios to see if we could get standby tickets to that night’s show. We were supposed to be there by 2:30. So, we started walking. We had to go to 54th Street. We were on 50th Street. The Colbert Report was filmed on 54th Street. We had to hurry. Oh, but wait. We got to 54th Street. Alex asked a doorman and he told her it was about four blocks to the west. What? Four long ass blocks. We walked some more. And walked some more. We passed by where The Letterman Show was filmed. Nope. We kept walking. I was ready to give up. We had to be there in ten minutes. Not going to happen. I really thought she got the address wrong. We were headed into a less commerical area, one that had auto repairs and……nothing else. My daughter was laughing at me. Finally, we found it.

It was 2:40. We didn’t make it. Alex walked up the steps and a guy stepped out of the office. He told her that we needed to go stand by that garbage can. He pointed to….a garbage can. Someone would be out at 4:00 and hand out stand- by tickets if there were any to give out. It was a slight chance that we would get tickets and we had to discuss this.

Well, right by the garbage can was a narrow covered alley and there was a guy sitting there eating lunch. He told us he was in line for tickets. Except he had tickets. Oh. So, we were screwed. We stood there talking to another couple who came to stand in line. They too had tickets, but came to stand in line, because if wasn’t a certainty even with tickets that you could get in. I was ready to give up when the couple told us they had 2 extra tickets that we could have. What? Omg.

So, we sat and stood in line from 2:40 until they came out at 4:00 and took our information from our driver’s license and then left. Now there were two lines…one for ticket holders and one who were stand-by’s.

We were now full fledged ticket holders. They let us go into the studio at 5:50. We had to go through a metal detector and hang out in the lobby for a long time. We took pictures.

So, we got to watch the Colbert Report being filmed. Since, we got there so early, and they took us in after the VIP people, Alex and I were #7 and 8 to be seated. It was great. By the time we got out, it was time to hail a taxi and head to a Thai restaurant in Upper East Side. We then walked to her apartment. I was one tired tourist/mom.

 I left early the next morning. I hope to return in the fall sometime when the weather is a bit cooler. I’d like to see the 911 Memorial this time…and Central Park again. I missed it this visit.

I just love visiting my daughter.

Guinea Pig Children

With Christmas just around the corner, it reminds me of  the toys and games I received for Christmas when I was young.  The 1960’s and early 197o’s were the decades of  “The Misfit Toys.”

I don’t think they had testers back then. If someone invented a toy or game, perhaps the toy manufacturers just packaged it and put it on the shelves. I really think that  if there were toy testers back then, some of them surely would have died. I’m thinking specifically of  my first chemistry set. I can’t find any research on “toy tester deaths.”  I did look. If they would not have perished,  toy testers  would have received brain damage,  an amputated finger, or if not injuries, than stains on their clothing. And on the carpet. And on the couch.  Which piss mothers off to no end. Probably worse than the brain damage. This mother hates glitter. Just thought I would add that because if glitter gets in your eye, you WILL  go blind. For that reason, it is banned in my house.  I know I read that somewhere. You can’t dispute facts. Especially if you make them up.

Anywho,  children got to be “guinea pigs” when the product actually game out.  And of course you know that a “guinea pig”

is a person  is a person who is subjected to experimental or other observational procedures.  Like children of the 1960’s and early 1970’s. That would include me. I very well may have been one of the “Guinea PigChildren.”   I was, after all, hit in the temple by flying clackers.

I loved my Clackers…. until  THE incident. Clackers were popular in the early seventies, when I was about 13-16 years old, perhaps.  Clackers  were  two hard plastic  marbles, (if marbles can be plastic), each about two inches in diameter. They are attached to a ring with a sturdy string. A person  puts their index finger in the ring, allowing the marbles (or balls) to hang below. Through an up-and-down  motion, the two balls swing apart and together, making the clacking noise that give the crazy toy its name. With practice, it is possible to get the marbles swinging so that they “clack” together above and  below the hand.

Clackers were discontinued because children were being injured. I continuously hurt my fingers while honing my clacker craft. Not all children follow rules. They also made an excellent weapon. If you swing them over your head, and let them go, they could fly across the room and either hit or strangle a kid…. Or a poodle. I read that cave men used Clackers. Or bola’s, as the South American gaucho called them. (See, I do research). I heard that if struck too hard, the acrylic balls could shatter, with flying consequences. I became really good at clackers. I could hit them above and below. I was the Crystal Lane Clacker Queen.  Self-imposed title, perhaps, but queen, nontheless.

One day, several of us were “clacking”, and mine flew across the room and knocked over a glass of water that was on the coffee table, which in turn, spilled the water, which then flowed  into my mom’s pack of Salem cigarettes. I guess water-logged cigarettes aren’t easy to light. I tried to get one out of the pack and it just wilted in half. So, I put it back in there. We were done clacking for the day. My sister told on me and off to my room I went. When I came out, my Clackers were gone.  Damn….

 

I really don’t know what the fascination was with Clackers. You didn’t win anything. You didn’t have a high score. But, you could be timed to see how long you could “clack.”  Time clackers, so to speak.  Maybe it was a lesson in eye-hand coordination.

I really think that I could have been a ninja assassin with my clacking skills. But, I preferred to grow up and become a teacher.

Same thing.

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Scarf on Head

     I recently found a picture of my roommate and great friend, Jeri, and myself  that was taken in 1976. Or maybe 1977.  We were either at the beach or we had just come home. Our faces were  peeling and we looked quite ugly. So, what do you do when you are looking ugly?  Of course, you put “scarf on head” and head to the mall. We headed right to the photo booth to capture our beauty for all to see. We looked like lepers. I bet neither of us knew that 30+ years later, one of us would be posting our mugs on facebook.

The “scarf on head” look was very popular on our college campus during the 1970’s. I’m pretty sure that it was like that everywhere. We didn’t wear silky scarves. That would have been silly. And we didn’t tie them in front like a babushka. That was saved for Russian women and Queen Elizabeth.

Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe, Larry, and Curly

After we had built our house, we had our contractors come back a few years later to build a pavilion on our patio.  I looked out one day and I saw the two brothers standing as still as could be. I watched for a minute or two, and they never moved a muscle. Strange. I opened the door and the one brother waved me off, making just a little movement with his hand. “Vickie, shhhhh. Turkeys…..”

I looked out in our field, and there were 6 huge turkeys. Well, I knew all about how turkeys were skiddish. I also knew that the

brother builders were big time hunters, and were probably salivating at the prospects of killing one of those birds. I was wondering how long they would stay frozen like that. All they needed were some British outfits and they could be guards at Buckingham Palace.

The turkeys were still far away, but were coming closer.  I let it continue for a few minutes, but then I thought I should put a stop to this. I wanted to sit under my pavilion some day, after all.

I grabbed the cracked corn and opened the door. “HEY YOU GUYS!”  I yelled for my turkeys. Yeah, my turkeys.

As soon as the turkeys heard my voice, they ran to me like I was their momma. They surrounded me as I threw corn to the ground. I sweet talked to them and called them by name: Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe, Larry, and Curly.  We knew each other pretty well. After all, it took me a very long time to tame them.

The builder brothers reminded me of little boys who were just told them there was no Santa Claus. Deflated. Hurt. Then mad.

“Vickie, that’s not right. It goes against the laws of nature.”  Builder brother #1 said, as he limbered up from his stoic pose. Brother #2 just looked at me.

It all started one day while watching them through my binoculars. They were pretty far away. I was so excited. I had never seem live turkeys before. There must have been 15 of them.

I decided I was going to tame them. I started by putting corn out on the ridge. When they would go to the corn, I would just step outside on the patio. They would run away, but then come right back.  The next day I put the corn closer. When they found it, I would come outside and stand, once again. I did this daily. In a couple of weeks, I had them eating out of my hands.  The picture, above, shows my turkeys under the hickory tree. I called this “the mound,” where I put food out for all my critters.

  One day I was pruning my Japanese maple in the front yard, and I heard my husband talking to someone. ” Hey, I don’t have any food. Your momma’s in the front yard.”  I smiled and then yelled for my turkeys. And around the corner they came. The followed me to the front door, knowing I was the food lady. I loved those turkeys.
My turkeys came every day for a long time. As hunting season approached, I saw less of them.  The turkeys are long gone now, and so am I. I moved from the property I loved so much and don’t get to feed wildlife too much. Well, there are the Misfits down at the river, by my apartment: 2 white ducks, 1 mallard and one strange looking goose. They have been together for 2 years now. I need to go down there more often.

Feeding something every day…all year long

 

I am now looking for a house to buy.  “Wanted: 3 bedroom home with central-air, garage and woodline for turkey feeding”

CSI: West Virginia

If you are a mom, you have to wear many hats. You are (in one long breath), a doctor, a nurse, a vet, a teacher, a psychic, a story teller, a cop, a beautician and barber, a chef, an EMT, a genealogist, a bodyguard, a maid, a professional organizer, a seamstress/costume designer, a personal shopper, a referee, a fashion coordinator and a chauffer. I would like to add another to the long list of  jobs that mothers perform daily :  crime scene investigator.

You may not think that mothers should put crime scene investigator on their resume, but I beg to differ. Case in point: The Case of the Smeared Ladybugs. It was a new case that I was working on for a few weeks. I had just finished solving,  The Case of the Baby Powder all Over the Carpet with an arrest in that one.

I had two suspects in that case: Big Boy Adam Jay, a curly red-haired punk, age 6.  He’s been downtown at the station several times.  We had his mug shot hanging up all over the place.  He knew the ropes.  The kid  knew how to use his noodle.  I soon found out  he had an accomplice, Baby Face Alex. Alex was Big Boy’s sister. She was 5 years old. Soon, she was singing like a canary.  Big Boy called her a Stool pigeon. I told him to shut his yap. She didn’t want to go to the big house.

During interrogations under the lights, Alex spilled her guts. She fingered Big Boy as the culprit. He was the brains of the operation. In a nutshell, Baby Face told me that they didn’t want to move. It was explained that the new house was almost complete and that she and her brother were to box up their possessions for the move to the country. They talked and decided to sabatoge the house-selling process. Big Boy figured that if they made the house “ugly and smelly”, no one would want to buy it. So, one night, they took a large container of Johnson and Johnson Baby Powder, and sprinkled it all over  their bedroom carpet, beds, and dressers. It looked like snow on Christmas morning.

During the investigation, I also found smashed jelly beans in the carpet throughout the house. They also put Match box cars on the steps leading to the second floor  for the prospective buyers to trip on and tumble down the stairs to their death.  The cars appeared their daily, but the two denied any involvement. I had to interrogate the only other occupant in the house that could have been responsible, their father, Clueless Jay. He wasn’t aware there was a second floor.

After I shut the books on that case, and we made our move to the country, so our children could lead a normal life away from the big crime city of Monongah, population 345 1/2 (Don’t ask) , I noticed a smashed lady bug on my kitchen nook window. Somehow lady bugs entered our new home and enjoyed crawling on my nice, clean windows. Someone had murdered the lipstick-red insect. It appeared upon further investigation, that the perpetrator put his or her finger directly on the lady bug, crushing it to the window,

and then smearing its remains down the window for approximately 4 inches. Someone in the new house was a cold-blooded killer.

a line-up, several years and 4 cases later

This did not sit well with me. After all, Jeffrey Dahmer started off by taking wings off of butterflies. Soon, he was eating people. I had to nip this in the bud. First, lady bugs, and then the killer would move on to ant hills or earthworms. I was an animal lover. A lady bug has worth, and perhaps some bug children somewhere else in the house.

I immediately ruled out Baby Face Alex. I knew she had it in her heart not to hurt anything. Her stuffed animal dog buddy, Fluffy, recently fell off of her bed and Baby Face cried  because, “Fluffy is paralyzed.”  I was impressed by the kid’s vocabulary. So, I eliminated her as a suspect. I interrogated Clueless Jay, who had no idea what a nook was. My only other suspect was Big Boy, and he didn’t squeal. He denied any involvement, especially after my “all animals have feelings” talk. I saw him crying outside , while playing with his Tonka trucks. Good. That meant there was still time before we had to start calling him Jeffrey.

But, he still wouldn’t budge. So, I  brought out the big guns. I had Scotch tape and powdered sugar. And a big ole lie. I brought them into the kitchen nook.

“Big Boy, Baby Face, this is how I am going to find out who killed the lady bug and smeared it down the window.  I am going to take some of this powder I got from a police officer and lightly put it in the smear.”  I took some powder and brushed it with one of those little plastic watercolor brushes onto the lady bug guts. “Now, I will take a piece of tape and press it against the window. I will leave it on their for exactly one minute. This will then give me a fingerprint.”  I looked at my watch for a minute. ” Ok, now I will carefully peel the tape off of the window and hang it in the air for 30 seconds.”  Some more watch looking. “Ok, now, I have fingerprints of the person who smeared the lady bug.  The police officer told me that after I do this, it will only take about 10 seconds for the white powder to appear on the finger of the person who did this.”

As soon as I said that, Big Boy Adam brought his hands up and looked at his fingers. “Gotcha!” I said to him. The procedure made absolutely no sense, and that’s what made it brilliant. Score one for the mom.

And that’s how I solved The Case of the Smashed Ladybug.  Big Boy and Baby Face grew up to be upstanding citizens and although there were a few more cases I will delve into at a later time, they never spent any time in the big house. And that’s because of yet another hat I wore.

So, yeah, mom’s should add crime scene investigator to their portfolio. And we should all get to look like Marg Helgenberger.

Ringing in the Holidays, Literally

I usually put my Christmas tree up on the day after Thanksgiving.  I was a Christmas tree perfectionist. I placed an ornament on the tree, then stood back to see if it looked ok. It took me hours to decorate the tree. I popped popcorn days earlier, because stale popcorn is easier to string. I would sit and string popcorn for a very long time. I also made my own 30 foot garland by cutting strips of material and tying it onto a jute rope. My tree was beautiful if I may say so myself.  My children would be home, out of school for a few days over Thanksgiving, so I thought I would start our very own holiday tradition. I believe this began when they were six or seven years old.

One Thanksgiving day, after our big meal at my in-laws, we were sitting around, relaxing, when I said, “Wow, did you guys feel that cold air come through here?”  I shivered. The kids shook their heads and they went about their business. Adam got up and walked through the kitchen, into the Hearth Room, where he had been playing with his Lego’s before we left.

I heard him yell to me. “Mom! Dad! Come here!”  We got up and walked into the Hearth Room. The Hearth Room, by the way, is our living room, which I refused to call a living room. I wanted to be a little more creative than that. I dubbed it the Hearth Room when we built the house, and that’s what we all called it. When we walked into the room, I could tell Adam was excited.

“Look!  Santa dropped it down the fireplace!”  It was a vhs movie. I can’t remember what the movie was called, maybe Otis and Milo. I then added, “Maybe he dropped it down the fireplace at the same time I felt the cold air. Santa was here!”  And that’s how it started.

Every Thanksgiving evening I would say different phrases: “Boy, I have the shivers………Is it cold in here all of a sudden?”…….”Did someone  just open the door?…… I would say it nonchalant like, and they would look at each other, get up, and try to beat each other to the Hearth Room. There would be a movie waiting for them every time. Score one for Mom.

One year, I had just decorated the mantel and tree in the Hearth Room. I must have dropped a little elf hat that came off of a stuffed elf  that I usually left in the box of unused decorations. Adam felt the breeze before I said anything, and ran into the Hearth Room. The movie was sitting in the fireplace, on logs like it had been dropped down the chimney. But, Adam also found the little elf hat and about freaked out. I guess it would be scary to think that there was a little man in your home.

“There was an elf in the house. He dropped his hat.”  Adam looked a little unsettled. I just got him to be able to sleep after being scared by an R. L. Stine book weeks before. He would wake up, yelling for me because the “Green Witch” was in his room. I think they were watching “Are you Afraid of the Dark” also, so that didn’t help. And now there was a freakin elf in the house. Looks like his sleep patterns were going to be disrupted again.

That night, my husband had to go to work and set the security alarm. He never set it on “Instant”, which meant the lazers would be on and anyone moving inside the house would set off the alarm. We used to set it that way when we would go on vacation. I was in a deep sleep and all of a sudden I heard the alarm go off AND Adam screaming at the top of his lungs. I jumped up and ran out into the hall. He wasn’t in his room. His screams came from downstairs. It was about 3:00am, so I thought for sure someone was in the house and was trying to take Adam.

I quickly shut off the alarm and noticed that the Hearth Room was breached.  I rushed downstairs, a mother on a mission. I didn’t have a gun or a knife or a shoe. I had adrenaline. My son was screaming. I ran into the room, and found Adam, clad in his cute little Ghost Buster pajamas,holding his hamster cage in his arms.

“Chuck was making too much noise in his cage and so I thought I would bring him down here so I could sleep.” He was scared. Adam, I mean, not Chuck. I looked around and noticed that the alarm had been set to “instant.” There was no intruder. Adam walked through one of the lazers and set off the alarm. My poor little guy.

I walked Adam back to bed and tucked him in and assured him that his dad set the alarm by mistake. Adam seemed to think that the elf set off the alarm.  Just great.

All was well the next morning and the kids watched the movie that came down the chimney. They seemed to enjoy our new holiday tradition and I hope they pass it on to their kids.

I just hope they leave the elf hat in the box.

D-i-v-o-r-c-e

I have been divorced since May, 2009. I guess you could say it was a friendly divorce. We even rode together to the divorce hearing.  The judge was a little shocked. “Well, in all the time I have been doing this, I’ve never heard of the divorcing couple car- pooling to the courthouse.” But, we did. We also didn’t use lawyers, so it was quick. He even treated me to lunch at the 8th Street Confectionery after the hearing. A meatball hoagie and a divorce on the same day. Life is good.

My ex-husband and I remain close and he still calls me a couple of times a week. So, it is nothing out of the ordinary to hear his voice on the other end of the phone line.

One day this past spring, Magoo (my nickname for him because he can’t drive) called me with some unsettling news. He asked me if I had received a certified letter from the clerk of the circuit court. Nope, never received one.  I always seemed to get mail a day later than he did. That was normal.  There was a pause on the other end of the phone. “Why?”

Magoo told me that the letter informed us that since lawyers were not used in our divorce, part of the divorce process was not completed and the certified letter was sent to inform us that they had to render the divorce null and void. We were supposed to come back to the courthouse for a meeting with the family law judge who granted our divorce. There was silence on my end of the phone, because I was at a loss for words.  I am never at a loss for words. I could feel my blood pressure rapidly rise and I thought that my head was going to explode.

“What the f*&%????…….  Are you saying that we are still married? ………. Oh my God! ………..Read it to me!”  I couldn’t believe that a judge could be so inept to overlook protocol in a divorce proceeding. What a moron. I called her worse names.  I was a torrential ranter. My sentence structure was nothing but a long string of adjectives….

“That stupid, moronic, inept, worthless, incompetent, bumbling, absurd, insipid, lame, banal, unfit, impotent, brain-crippled, window-licking  short bus riding bitch!……”

He read it to me. “blah blah blah….protocol was not followed……form 425 not signed or notorized……..blah blah blah……divorced rendered null and void……must appear before Judge _____ within 30 days to begin divorce process…..”

I was shocked.  “Are you freakin kidding me?” I looked at the clock and then asked if he wanted to meet me down at the courthouse right now. He replied, “I will come and pick you up in about 20 minutes. Vickie, this means we are still married.”

“Shit, Magoo, this is absurd!!” I was ranting and rambling and I was so mad I couldn’t see straight. I wondered if we should call the Judge’s office to find out what the hell was going on.  He said, no, we should just drive down. I asked him to read the letter to me again, one more time. He said he already read it to me once.  I didn’t give a shit. I wanted to decifer it. Tear it apart with a fine toothed combed. He went to get the letter. I guess he walked with it into another room while we were talking.

As I was pacing, waiting for him to come back to the phone,  I stopped by my front door and just happened to look at the calendar. I just couldn’t believe that after almost a year, we found out that we were never divorced. I also found out something else.

Magoo got back on the phone. I yelled into the phone, “YOU SON OF A BITCH!”

I noticed on the calendar that it was April 1….April Fool’s Day………Damnit, he got me!

His laughter was deafening. It went on for quite a while. I let him have his fun. It was the first time he was ever able to pull an April Fool’s joke on the Queen of April Fool’s jokes.

He tried to talk through his hyena-like howling. “I am the Master!……After 30 years, I am FINALLY able to pull an April Fool’s joke on you.”  And he began cackling again. Cackling like a little school girl if I may say so.

He must have written down some of my remarks, because he was able to regurgitate everything I had said. He was a regurgitator.

He called me back two more times that afternoon. All I could hear was laughing. I hung up on him.  And then I smiled.

That was a good one.

Before…

After…..still smiling 🙂

Puntastic Halloween….Part 2

Well, I am on a roll now.  I really am the Queen of Halloween Costume Ideas.  It was wonderful to see the great comments from my first hit, “Queen of Halloween Costume Ideas….’Tis True”, and to prove I am not just any one hit wonder, I will offer up my next Halloween blog for your approval. I think I have better ideas on this one.  Enjoy!  These are easy, quick ideas that are cheap or will not cost you a penny.

Uh Oh....

Dog

“On a short leash”-For a guy, dress like a dog and wear a collar and a very short leash.

Dog with the words of the week written all over him. “Every dog has its day”

Dress like a dog, carrying a book with the title “New Tricks” X’d out (Can’t teach an old dog new tricks”

Cat

Couple- One dresses like a cat with a little brown bag, bloodied…the other is himself, but with fake blood all around his mouth “Cat’s got your tongue”

Dress like a cat, carry a bag – “Cat’s out of the bag”

Couple- one is a cat, the other looks disheveled, unkept “Look what the cat’s dragged in”

Heaven, Hell, Devils, Angels

Dress like the devil, carry bells -”Hell’s Bells”

Dress like the devil, tie a plastic ice cube tray on top of your head “Hell freezing over”

Dress like the devil, carry a mirror. When someone asks what you are, make them look in the mirror..”See you in Hell”

Dress like an angel and put a 7 on your chest “seventh heaven”

Dress like an angel and carry a stuffed animal pig “Hog Heaven”

Queen of Hearts- tiara and red hearts all over your body. King of clubs-crown and a golf club.

Queen Bee- tiara and a big B on your chest.

Pat on the back-  sign “Pat” on your back.

Brain freeze- ice cube tray tied on top of your head.

Ice Princess- gown, ice cube tray tied on top of your head.

3 children- Indians with the numbers 1,2, 3 on their backs-One Little, Two Little, Three Little Indians

Stuffed bunny tied on the top of your head-”Hare-Brained”

Husband, Wife and Child- Child-baby bee (lowercase “b” on its chest)  Wife-Queen B, Husband-Bee Keeper (3 or 4 necklaces with B’s)

Get a sweatshirt and velcro a deck of cards (minus one) all over and go as ” 1 card short of a full deck.” (That’s what I am going to school as I think)

Draw a picture of a shark on poster board and cut it out and just carry it..”Card shark”

Draw a square with the number 1 inside of it and put it on your back “Back to square 1”

Roll some guaze around your neck a couple of times and put a sign on your chest that says Charley- “Charley hoarse”

Buy one of those fake birds and just throw it at people when they ask what you are and you can say, “Flippin you the bird.”

Wear one of those yellow slickers and put a big check mark on the back and go as a “raincheck”

Make a red heart and put it on your sleeve “Wearing your heart on your sleeve”

So, if you decide at the last minute to dress up for Halloween or if you really don’t want to, but your significant other is pressuring you to dress, I hope you will be able to use one of  these quick and easy costume ideas.

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*My Puntastic Title was suggested by http://abeautifulrind.wordpress.com/  Check out her blog!

Red Rover, Red Rover, Let’s Mow Vickie Over

Ever wake up and see a clown sitting on the edge of your bed?  Pretty scary, right?  Well, that’s how I felt when someone mentioned playing  Red Rover.  I hated when we played that game when I was little. I mean, who invented this horrible little game? I’m thinking some German woman weightlifter named Olga.  It was bad enough that I had to sing about the plague with “Ring a round the Rosie”,  now I had to get a knot in my stomach every time Red Rover was mentioned.

“Oh, Dear God, Bozo, they want to play Red Rover today. What would you do?”

First of all, no one wanted me on their team.  Remember, I was anorexic skinny.  The other team loved not having me on their team, because they knew I was the weakest link. They didn’t even need to whisper, “Run through Vickie”…..or… “See that girl, the one with the shaking knees and…wait, ok, she was standing sideways,..anyway, see that girl with just a little bit of skin on her bones?… Yeah, the one who is crying…. She will let go of  Lee Ann’s  hand every time. Run at her!”

Now,you have to understand, I wasn’t bad at outdoor games. I was awesome at kickball. I didn’t have much power in the kick, mind you, but I could run.  I ran like a deer. A graceful anorexic deer. We played kickball in my neighborhood all of the time. In the street beside my house. I played Duck Duck Goose. (I’m laughing out loud at that one right now)… Mother May-I?…Freeze Tag….Red Light, Green Light….Hopscotch…Colored Eggs…..Do I need to go on?  Ok, I will.  Drop the Hankerchief….Hot Potato…Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?….Chinese Jump Rope (made mine with a bunch of rubber bands)…Ok, done..Wait..I really liked singing The Farmer in the Dell, but damnit, never got to be the cheese, standing alone….I remember one time when it was getting late, we started playing  Hide and Go Seek, and had Monica be it. We told her to count to 100 so we could find a great place to hide, and then we all went home..Yeah, that was my idea.

We would play outside all day long. We had to. Our moms kicked us out of the house. If we stayed in the house, we had to fold towels and do chores. We had freedom outside. The only times we ran in the house was to pee and to get money for the ice cream man. When we were very little, the whole neighborhood was pissed off at my mom because she called the ice cream trucks company and told them that the truck came when “her children” were taking a nap. How dare that ice cream truck. So, they came after dinner until we got older and didn’t take naps. What kind of pull did that woman have to get them to adjust their arrival times..Wow, what a witch…Anyway, the ice cream man came later…sigh…not when you were playing and it was hot, but after dinner, which  was not as gratifying. Thank goodness I was fairly liked by my friends, or they would be doing much worse things to me than trying to break my arm with Red Rover.

For any of you who have been living  in a bubble and have never experienced the painful game of Red Rover, let me tell you the rules. You get two lines of kids that don’t have anything else to do but inflict pain on each other, make them hold hands  and then you take turns calling someone over. “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Vickie over”  That person runs like hell and tries to break all the bones in your arm as the person you are holding hands with has a death grip on your hand and won’t let go.  And you know damn well they will try to run off-center and concentrate on Brittle Girl.  Every time.

In the end, all games foster cooperation and teamwork, teach social skills and help develop coordination for those who walk funny.

But, call me crazy, but I think Red Rover was a game for losers…..Yeah, that’s right….. Future loser bullies. Because it was those loser bullies who were the first to also want to play Dodge Ball.

Don’t even get me started on that brain-damage-inducing game.

Creative Play Sends Mom to Funny Farm

I love being a mother. I truly do. It is the best job in the world.  Sure, there are some days when you wonder if your children are idiots.  Or “Special.”  (Which means, retarded, but we can’t say that anymore)  Case in point, years ago, we  had just built our new house and we had just moved in. I had just scrubbed my kitchen floor earlier in the day and it was looking pretty. My husband and I had walked my brother-in-law out into the garage as he was getting ready to leave, when all of a sudden, Alex, who was only about 4,  came running out crying and pointing back into the house. “Mommy….unrecognizable blather….Adam”   I replied, “Ok, Alex, Mommy will be right in.”  I had no idea what the hell she just said, but if Adam was involved, it was going to be good.

We had a large kitchen with a dining nook and an eating bar on the island and on another eating bar by the family room. One big room. I walked into the family room, and Adam was standing still in the kitchen, like a marble statue. Like they were playing Freeze Tag and Alex quit and had walked away from him a while before. “What? I asked Adam. Then I saw it.  Shards of glass EVERYWHERE. Thousands upon thousands of mini pieces of glass, or shards, like I just said, all over the counter, all over the floor, all over Adam. Well, and in a path to the garage, because little Alex was covered in glass also.

“Oh my God!!!” Don’t move.  Adam, what happened?”  Now, you have to understand that Adam didn’t  really let anything bother him. I am sure he was thinking that it was an experiment that didn’t go too well. Like the time he and Alex covered their legs with toothpaste (Never found out what that was about). Or the time they poured the whole container of baby powder all over their bedroom in the old house because they didn’t want people to want to buy it. He wanted the  house to look “Yucky.” Well, son, it did look yucky, since the day before that, when you poured all of the cereal out of the boxes and stomped on it. Gave new meaning to “Snap, Crackle and Pop.” I had no idea he was trying to sabotage us selling the house. I just thought he was quite mental. Smooshing jelly beans into the carpet was a highlight.

I didn’t curse in front of my children. I really didn’t say a curse word in front of  them until Alex was in high school. Then, I realized I enjoyed it.  I curse all of the time now. Enjoy getting my friends to join in.   So, anywho, I didn’t curse that day, and I think even the most prim and proper person you can picture would have given their permission for me to spew out some expletives that day. “Adam, what did you dooooo?” (You idiot)

“We were sword fighting.”  Adam replied like it really wasn’t a bad idea.  “With what???” I couldn’t get to him, as he was surrounded by lovely pieces of glass shrapnel, intent on piercing and  living under the skin forever. This was just pissing me off.

“Light bulbs.”

Yes, my mad scientist son and his assistant, Igor, were sword fighting…with light bulbs. No, not the long ones that are flourescent bulbs, but the regular light bulbs. I believe they were  60 watt  bulbs. (Why am I mentioning that?)  Why would anyone in their right mind even think to sword fight with light bulbs. Pretzel sticks, perhaps, even soft, friendly Q-Tips. But not light bulbs. Right then I realized I was probably going to be put into a “home” before I was 60. (Only have 7 years to go.) And right then I realized that Adam’s elevator didn’t go to the top floor.  It went beyond.

I worked on that kitchen for hours. I first had to take their clothes off , examined their bodies, and I looked through their hair. Surprisingly, they had no glass there. I then handed each child to Jay, and he took them upstairs for bathtime. Even though they just had freakin bath time while my brother-in-law was downstairs talking to Jay. I then wiped off all of the counters. I swept the floor with a broom. I swept the floor with the vacuum cleaner. I then got masking tape and got on my hands and knees and put my face down close to the floor to look for pieces I missed and would dab them with the masking tape. Then I did the whole process all over again.  Each time I widened my circle. Hell, glass could have been in the cat dish for all I know. .All the while, I was trying to figure out why they would sword fight with light bulbs. I guess they went through a couple of the 4 packs.

The next week I stepped on an errant piece of glass that was out of my of cleaning  region.

“F&^%!  Son of a Bitch!!!”  No, didn’t make me feel any better. There was glass now living under my skin. I would be aware of it everytime I took a step. I talked to my mom, aka Joan Crawford later that day and told her what happened.

“Oh, those poor kids. Vickie, you should never leave kids alone, even for a second. You should know better than that.   They are so lucky that glass didn’t fly in their eyes and blind them. Why, I had THREE  kids and I never…………………………….(oops, hung up on her by mistake)

NOW I felt better.

MonkeyShines

Most, if not all of my adventures when I was growing up in Weirton, West Virginia, were with my best friend, Ramaine. She lived down the street from me, and we were attached at the hip.  We were in Camp Fire Girls together.  We rode the school bus together. We had a cabin in the woods together.  It seemed like we were laughing all day long.  My childhood was great because I had a best friend who was just like me. We lived outside the box, and had some very creative days.  And, boy, were we stylish… We even  bought white pants with pictures of the Monkees faces all over the pants.  We were weird, but knew how to laugh at ourselves.  We did that quite well. Sang the definition of “lima bean” into a tape recorder.  The word, “bored”, was not in our vocabulary. The only difference we had was that she was a gerbil person, and I was a hamster person.  Which lead us to the pet shop.

We used to visit the pet shop often.It was at the Weirton plaza, a little strip of stores near our homes. The guy had a lot of different animals at the pet shop.  One particular visit to the pet shop concluded in uncontrollable laughter, one that I can say  was the hardest I ever laughed in my whole life. Ramaine reminded me that we were in 8th grade when this happened. Dear God, she even remembers what she was wearing that day. Well, it was a day for the record books, that’s for sure.

The pet store was small, with a long counter with rows of animals in their little cages beneath it. The place was jammed with critters. I couldn’t bring myself to look at the snakes, though. There was even a mynah bird that cussed like you wouldn’t believe. It always amused me. But, on this particular day,  I was on my knees, looking at a mother hamster and newborns on the bottom row. Ramaine was standing, bent over a little, looking at something else, when all of a sudden she asked, “What’s on my head?”  I stood up, and my mouth dropped open.  I didn’t or couldn’t say a word. A spider monkey  had stepped off the top of the counter right onto her head. I really think I could have put my fist in my mouth.  “What’s on my head?” she repeated. Well, hell, I couldn’t answer. I mean, there was a monkey on her head. Just sitting there. Ramaine reached up to feel what was on her head, and the monkey swatted her hand away. “What’s on my head?”  She was expecting her bestest friend to give her an answer. She was panicking a little, starting to pace, and I  was not answering, but standing there with a big smile on my face. Ramaine tried to bend over, and that’s when the little fellow grabbed her hair with both little hands to hang on. That’s when I first started laughing.

“What’s on my head????”  Everytime her hand went up to feel what kind of creature was sitting there, he would release one hand from grasping onto her hair and slap it away. I couldn’t speak. I was laughing so hard. It was one of those silent, belly laughs, where you shake, but no sound comes out of your mouth. Now, Ramaine was pacing faster and moving her head, and bringing up her one leg for some reason, and that monkey was hanging on for dear life and I just couldn’t tell her that there was a monkey on her head.  It reminded me of  a little monkey jockey, riding something. I was in awe.  I had never seen a live monkey.  I did look around to see if a little old man with an organ grinder was standing nearby.

“VICKiE,  GET IT OFF!!  WHAT IS IT?  GET IT OFF!”  That monkey must have liked the view, because he had no intention of leaving Ramaine’s head.  She looked like she was having a seizure. Her arms and legs were flailing all about,  and the monkey was leaning to the left and then to the right, and would only take his hand off of the death grip on the her hair to swat at Ramaine.

I had to sit down on the floor. I started laughing so hard, I peed my pants. This is a recurring theme for me. Laugh. Pee. Repeat. “It’s a monkey….”  I finally was able to speak. “I peed my pants.”  Ramaine didn’t care. She had a monkey on her head.   The owner finally came over and had to pry the little monkeys fingers from her hair. It wasn’t working too well..  Finally, a banana (I think I am making this part up) was waved in front of  the monkey’s face and he left her head and went to sit on the owner’s shoulder. I found out later that the monkey’s name was Ginger. Ginger, I wish I had my camera that day.

I’m glad Ramaine was able to laugh about the whole thing on the way home. But, it was a nervous laugh, I could tell. I was sitting on a towel my mom brought for me and had to explain why, once again, I peed my pants. “I’m going to have to make an appointment for you to see Dr. Harper. There must be something wrong with your kidneys.”  No, did you not hear me?  There was a MONKEY on her head. I mean, come on.  Urination justification.

The Fish Head Story

My dad used to go fishing all of the time and would bring back live fish.  My mom would let them swim around in the large kitchen sink, and then she would chop their heads off and I would cry.  I can’t even tell you how many times I asked her not to chop off their heads, and just let them be my pets. You have to understand that I have an Ellie May Clampett love for animals.  I once went into anaphylaxic  shock from picking up a hornet that I accidentally brushed off my shoulder and that landed wounded on the pavement. It stung me on my cheek. (Yeah, I put it close to my face as I apologized to it.)  But, I love animals. My stuffed animals had a place to sleep each evening. Later in life (4 years ago, I had a physically challenged cricket that lived in my kitchen window. Don’t ask.)

When I was a freshman at Brooke High School, I thought I would recycle the next fish head, take it to school, and give it to my biology teacher. So, after my mom cut its head off, I wrapped it up and put it in the freezer. The next morning I took it out as soon as I woke up, because I didn’t want to forget it. Fish Head made the trip on the bus and I was all ready to give it to my biology teacher before school started. Major brownie points for the freshman.

Well, Fish Head didn’t make it to his classroom.  A bunch of us were standing around, talking, and I decided to take Fish Head out of its wrapping and show my friends before he went into the biology room. What I did next was unexpected and random.  I yelled across my little circle to a friend,  “Heather, think fast” and tossed the fish head to her. Why? Who knows how my brain thinks.

Well, old Fish Head went flying and Heather didn’t catch it. Instead, one of his teeth hooked onto a buttonhole on Heather’s blouse.  She had no idea what came flying at her, but she looked down, close to her neck, and saw a fish looking at her.  Heather started screaming, and old Fish Head started swinging back and forth. He must have started thawing out, because he had guts or something coming out of its head, and they were swinging too.  Was that a great throw, or what?

Heather was screaming a little too loud, and by this time I was laughing so hard, I peed my pants. I remember what I had on…brand new pair of red coulottes and I thought I looked hot. (or “tuff” as we said in 1971.) Well, until I peed my pants. I guess that is a turn-off.  I had to sit down on the floor because I was laughing so hard. I couldn’t stop.  Fish Head was still swinging and Heather was going into shock. Someone finally got the tooth unhooked and everyone involved (Heather, Fish Head, and me) went to the office.

While I was waiting for my mom to bring me clean clothes…and socks, I had to confess to the principal what I had done. But, I couldn’t even get the words out, because I was still laughing.  Well, laughter does tend to be contagious, and by the  end of my explanation, I had the principal, the secretary, and even Heather, laughing. The only one not laughing, was Fish Head, who was put in a garbage bag and taken away somewhere. Well, my mom wasn’t too happy either.  It wasn’t the first time I had peed my pants from laughing.  Not even close.

Riding With My Hand Out the Window

I get car sick.  Pukey Vickie.  I’m surprised that nickname didn’t stick.  When I was little I got sick on the school bus almost every day. When I did throw up, my best friend, Ramaine, would yell out loud for everyone to raise their feet (especially if we were ready to travel up a hill).  Sometimes I would run up to the front and throw up on the stairs. I guess I thought it would be confined and easier for the bus driver to clean up. Except for the fact that each child would be taking home a piece of me each day.  That’s why people should take their shoes off in their homes. Anywho,  I know the bus driver hated me.  A couple years later he ran over my Chihuahua, Smokey. I am sure he did it for revenge.  Poor Smokey.

My parents kept a bucket and a towel in the back seat for me. And kept the air conditioning running, even in the winter.  On top of that, I rode with my hand out the window.  That really helped.  Anyone who says this doesn’t work  is wrong.  And no longer my friend.   Needless to say, weekend jaunts down the Blue Ridge Parkway were quite fun.  That road had many hairpin turns. I  know that  I would think twice about going on back roads if I had a child that was pukey.  I guess if you live in West Virginia, you aren’t going to have straight roads.  My brother and sister pleaded with my parents to turn off the air conditioner.  Next trip they had a blanket.  Now that I think about it, they were always sick.  I didn’t care. What was important was my well-being.

When I was in fourth grade, my mom handed me a little green car sick pill. I took it every day for a long time. Didn’t really seem to work. I did quit vomiting when I started sitting in the front of the bus and started watching the road. The bus driver (new guy) would have the window opened up a tiny bit, so I sat there, looking straight ahead, with my little bony arm stretched up so my hand could greet the air. I was in business.  I didn’t find out until I was in my 30’s that the little green pill was a mild tranquilizer. The hell you say!   Mom said it was given to me because I couldn’t concentrate on anything and I was diagnosed with hyperactivity.  I’m thinking she diagnosed me.  Then she added, “That’s why I taught you how to play chess when you were in second grade.  You needed to learn to concentrate.”  Meanwhile, I’m concentrating how to murder her and get away with it.  I mean, seriously, a mild tranquilizer?  Ok, yeah, I was nicknamed Cricket when I was little because I hopped all over the place. I was like a little Mexican jumping bean.  But, I am sure I was endearing. To stifle that energetic creativity with a tranquilizer is just so wrong.

Nowadays, as a teacher, I can’t go on field trips unless I take Dramamine, sit in the front and stare ahead. People think that if you get car sick, once you are stopped and out of the car, you are ok. That’s not true. I’m sick for hours. So, I try to take the day off on field trip days. Yeah, my kids want me to go, because I am incredibly fun. But, seeing me with my hand out the window diminishes great teacher status.

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