Category Archives: small town life

My Son, the Grave Digger

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grave digger2My kids love their electronics. For this, I am immensely grateful! Oh yeah, you heard me right.  I thank my little parental stars for the attachment my kids have to their respective devices for one reason and one reason alone – it is the best tool known to man/woman (the parenting kind, that is)when it comes to getting  kids to do parental bidding. Nothing says get your chores/homework done like the threat of losing a device – or screams curb your teenage posturing after being separated from Clash of Clans or (gasp) texting for a few days.

Little did my kids know when they succumbed to the charms of their electronics, the slippery slope of manipulation they were setting themselves up for. Their misguided devotion has most definitely been my gain!

However, maybe, a complete ban from all electronics for say something like – not doing your homework when you are told to leaving it until the last possible moment having to stay up late into the night with Mom helping you in order to just finish adequately and then being all snarky about it to boot – is sometimes a little precarious as well.

Case in point. Recently, Pre-Teen, lost his electronic privileges for an extended amount time due to…well, I think you got the general idea above. For the first few days, he walked around the house like one of those zombies looking for fresh meat (the kind that says “I’m bored” a lot). Now don’t get me wrong, Pre-Teen loves the outdoors, when the weather is nice (which it’s not) and reasonably warm (which it hasn’t been for what feels like an eternity). However, finally out of sheer desperation – i.e. looking for something to do that did not involve my offer of household chores – outside he went. I have to say, I did not pay much attention. I suspected the basketball hoop was getting some long denied attention and there was likely some random rock throwing going on, but other than that, I did not have much concern…until Pre-Teen came blustering inside one afternoon.

Pre-Teen: “Hey Mom, do you think Dad will care if I dig a hole in the field?”

Mom: (picturing something the size of your average garden hole) “No, I don’t think so.”

And back out he went.

When it started to get dark and still he had not come back in the house, my parenty senses (you know, the Mom version of spidey senses) began to tingle and I felt compelled to go and investigate. This is what I saw:

Don't bother me, I am busy exploring a new career path.

Don’t bother me, I am busy exploring a new career path!

And as the days ensued, he began to gain eager followers, or rather, enthusiastic diggers.

His brother, Teen, got in on the action:

Finally, something they can do together without fighting!

Finally, something they can do together that does not end in somebody bleeding!

Soon, friends began to show up…fully equipped with shovels and picks for the task at hand.

Where was this gang when I needed sticks picked up?

This gang could come in handy come yard clean up time…

And every day, there seemed to be more work than one guy could handle.

Where will this madness end?

Where will the madness end?

Pre-Teen has long since earned electronic privileges back, and still the digging continues on a daily basis, rain or shine, no matter the temperature – except now, he has a pad to play music on while he works and a phone to text friends to come over during his hours of operation.

Where it will all end, I have no idea.

But, I do know these three things…

1.  The hole keeps getting bigger,

2.  I have been parenting long enough to know, sometimes it is best not to ask too many detailed questions, and…

3.  If you have something dead you need buried…I know just the guy for the job.

(But, he probably won’t come cheap)

Other adventures with Pre-Teen

A Decade of Wisdom

Never Sit On a Couch at a Nudist Colony

Puerto Rico Island Travels Part 2: The Clothing Optional Tour

The Day I Killed the Vacuum

 

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A Polar Vortex Photo-Op

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It’s cold outside.  I know this, not from a tremendous amount of personal experience because I am pretty sure no living creature in his/her right mind, and without fur, should test the limits of survival.  However, as I have already established (Live from the Polar Vortex), my cat is the only one who truly knows how to stay warm during these pv conditions. So, I trust her as my gauge and watch her intently for clues. That being said, even with all her fur (and, if you must know, fat) she only attempts outside jaunts long enough to “do her business”.  As I can “do my business” inside the warm house (although my boys don’t seem hampered by the same restrictions), I see no other purpose to leave it. And also, my trusty weather gauge, tells me to not make any sudden movements that would require leaving the house unless absolutely necessary,  like to get food or engage in the annoying activity called work.

Did I mention, it's cold?

Did I mention, it’s cold?

However, against my better judgment and self-preservation, I allowed my husband to talk me into a wilderness hike into our woods nearby.  Something about his words “to see the beauty”, “virgin snow” and “you are going to want to bring your camera” had me putting on as many layers as I could still stand up in, grabbing my camera and hoping to make it back home with fingers and toes still intact.

But, he was right.  It was beautiful and probably worth the risk of a little frost bite.

Winter Woods1

Winter Woods2

Winter Woods 3

Winter Woods 4

Winter Woods 5

Winter Woods 6

Winter Woods 7

Winter Woods 8

Winter Woods 9

Unfortunately, our woodland adventure ended when my husband had a disagreement with a hill as to whether his SUV could make it up its icy, snow covered surface in 4 wheel drive or not.  The answer was “not”,  with the end result being a backward slide into a tree that was kind enough to stop our decent, abruptly…

Unfortunate time of year for creative ventilation.

Unfortunate time of year for creative ventilation.

(Truthfully, his vehicles have looked worse)

The hike back out of the woods to get a ride home until his car could be towed out was somehow not quite as quaint,

Did it all of a sudden get colder?

Did it all of a sudden get colder?

But, we lived to tell about it, and then some.

The cat was the only one who stayed home…

Live From the Polar Vortex

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polar vortex

Yesterday, I went to the bank.  Exciting, I know.  But, I made a crucial discovery in the process.  You see, as I dumped into the teller’s space my unfinished deposit items, I expressed apologies for my inability to perform the simplest of math required to complete the deposit slip.  “That’s ok” she generously replied, “It’s too cold to think”.  In the words of Pre-Teen, who immortalized the phrase in our family after discovering a London street we had inadvertently walked down late one night was the “gay party street”…

”That explains a lot!!!”.

Too cold to think!  Of course! Suddenly all was explainable.  It explained why I can’t seem to write a blog to save my life (which aside from my recent run-in with a barbed wire fence hasn’t really been necessary), why I have been driving in circles on country roads in the quest to deliver my sons to sporting events (because how else to explain that after 12 years, I still have not mastered country-style direction following), and why I can’t seem to put two words together or remember anyone’s name (cause, like, in no way could that be age or anything).

Honestly, the whole Polar Vortex thing is getting on my nerves.  Aside from the “too cold to think” phenomenon (which, seriously, is the last thing I need as my thinking abilities are challenged under the warmest of conditions), and the fact that I can’t leave the house without cursing at the wind like a crazy lady, and those weather-chicken school officials who keep making my kids stay home with me, stuck in the house being bored, instead of in school annoying the teachers, (don’t they know waiting at the bus stop in sub-zero weather builds character?),  there are the questions.

For example, my husband, asking me every single morning – like my uterus is somehow hard wired into the Doppler radar – “What is the weather forecast for today?” (um cold, freezing or excuse-me-while-I-scream-in-agony-cold?).  Or from friends and family smugly living in my native California – like they don’t recall that anything under 60 degrees qualifies as “cold” in Cali (yeah, you know who you are) – “Is it cold there?”  (um, yeah, cold, freezing, and excuse-me-while-I-scream-in-agony cold).  Or from Teen and Pre-Teen who I suspect secretly just want me out of the way so they can watch a cagillioneth episode of Family Guy “Why are you watching Dexter…again!?” – (because the Miami setting makes me feel warm and I have a soft spot for a cute sociopath with heart, if you must know).

I can at least appreciate the question from friends who, like me once basked in the glory of a sunshine state but have now unwittingly found themselves relocated in a polar vortex – “Are you surviving the cold”  (since I wear gloves to grocery shop, I would have to say “No”).

One thing is for certain.  My cat, Lulubelle, doesn’t seem to have trouble thinking in the cold and has in fact figured out a way to survive and keep warm, which makes her the smartest member of our family.

You don't mind a few, or say hundreds of white hairs on your clean laundry, right?

You don’t mind a few, or say hundreds of white hairs on your clean laundry, right?

Yep, things are that bleak.

So for now,

I am coming to you live from the Polar Vortex…

But, only barely.

Fall and the Drive-By Photo Op

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Being a native of California, I scientifically lack the gene required to flourish in a cold climate – cold being, anything under 60 degrees.  Seriously, it’s true. There is a grant-able study in there somewhere, I am sure of it!

Therefore, having chosen to live in the Midwest (and by choose, I mean going all pioneer woman and falling in love with a country boy – True Love By Way of Kitty Dance and a Bucking Horse), I have had to rely on instincts from my ancient ancestors, ugly shoes and, at times, the cat’s pooper scooper (A California Girl’s Rural Winter Survival Guide) in order to survive.

However, there is a bright spot to living in a place where all vegetation turns into standing firewood for months on end each year.  Just prior to becoming winter skeletons, the trees and bushes turn, if only for a brief time, into the most amazing parade of yellows, oranges and reds.  It is truly beautiful.

This fall season has been particularly stunning where I live.  So of course, I spent the whole of the Fall season running around trying to get “the perfect photo” to share with Sweet Spot visitors.

Some of the most amazing displays are along the main highway I traverse on a daily basis.  Unfortunately, I quickly discovered, on my 60+ stretch of frequented highway, there is virtually no place to safely pull over for Vista Views and Photo Ops.  I suppose this is to keep the foreigners (i.e. people from Kansas) from stopping until well across our state.   Anyway, since I did not desire my epitaph to read “died in pursuit of a pretty picture of trees” and the “drive-by” photo always looked exactly like what it was, a crazy lady trying to drive and take pictures on a highspeed interstate highway at the same time,

Crazy Lady Photo Drive-By

Crazy Lady Highway Photo Drive-By

I ditched the effort.

Thus, I resorted to skulking around back roads, byways and onto peoples’ private property – which can be precarious in a place where the guns outnumber the residents 2 to 1 – to take photos.

In the end, the one Utopian Fall Photo I was so desperately in search of eluded me. But maybe this collection of my favorite photos (and one stolen from a friend), make their own kind of perfection:

Fall in the MidwestFall in the MidwestFall in MidwestFall in MidwestPhoto by: Nollie Moore

Fall in MIdwestFall in Midwest

If you want to see the most beautiful fall display, I guess you will have to someday come and drive our Midwest highway yourself…just don’t plan on stopping.

Pajama Party at The Post Office

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pajamas in public

I have one really big personal rule – I never go anywhere in public wearing pajamas!  Not on a coffee run, for a quick school drop off, on an airplane, to the bank, grocery store, pet store, DMV and nope, not even to Wal Mart (even though I would be so not alone there).

However, rules were made to be broken, right?

To truly understand my story of rebellion, though, you must first grasp the workings and plight of the small town post office.

In my town, many of the residents only option for receiving mail is to collect it at an assigned P.O. Box inside the small town post office building.  It is not such a bad system.  I can collect my mail from the combination box during business hours, or even later as the door to where the boxes are located is left unlocked into the evening.  However, the boxes are small, and well ancient

Don't I belong in a museum somewhere?

Don’t I belong in a museum somewhere?

and thus any item bigger than the standard letter must be collected from an actual person, at the window, during Post Office business hours.

So here inlays the problem -the plight of the small town Post Office, or should I say, the slow extinction.  In order to cut losses (and pay for Michele’s new bangs), the independent government agency responsible for U.S. Mail is slowly whittling down and closing small town post offices (which makes people mad, and let me just tell you, this is not a good idea -‘cause country folk have guns, and lots of beef). Anyway, in a move one step closer to closing altogether, my small town post office hours of operation were recently reduced to only 9am to 1 pm, Monday through Friday and 7am to 9am on Saturday.  I think you see the problem.  You can pretty much forget about ever getting packages again unless you are out of work, too old to work, playing hooky from work, or allergic to work.

And this is where my situation stood last Saturday.  My post office was holding hostage several of my packages that had come in during the week, which since I don’t fall into any of the above categories, (although I am seriously lobbying for the allergy angle), I was unable to collect during the limited business hours.  Thus on Saturday, when I awoke at 8:45 am (15 minutes before post office closing) the idea occurred to me to break my long standing pajamas in public rule.  As I jumped out of bed and threw on my coat, I reasoned “how bad could it be?”  The postal lady knows me and will surely excuse my break with decorum showing up in rumpled pajamas.  But just to be on the safe side, I donned dark glasses on the cloudy morning in the attempt to hide my bare face, draw attention away from my pjs/ bed head, and protect from the traumatization of small children, old people and stray dogs I may encounter along the way.

When I arrived at the Post Office just prior to closing, I quickly stepped to the window trying my best to hide inside my coat and behind my glasses, ready to make a joke at my own expense, get my packages and steal away home.  But, to my surprise and horror, the clerk was NOT the familiar face I expected to laugh with me about my public pj exposure (which I suddenly realized looked disturbingly like long underwear – Beverly Hillbillies here I come!).  No, the postal clerk was new, a guy, someone I had never seen before who was surely wondering what side of the bed I had just rolled out of (um, the left?) and why I was all Corey Hart wearing my “sunglasses at night.”

But, nonetheless, I wanted my packages. So, I quickly formulated a new plan –  grab my packages quickly, keep my head down, and run out the door. Then maybe, just maybe, the new postal clerk guy would not recognize me if we chanced to meet in public later when I actually had clothes on… and mascara.

But then, before I could even put my new plan into action, the new postal clerk guy blurted out excitedly as he handed me my packages…

“HEY!  You live at 467 Smith Street?!!!” 

“Um, Yeah” I answered with trepidation.  Was he sending the fashion police to my house?  Stacy and Clinton? The Moms Who Have Let Themselves Go Intervention Team?

 “I’m your new neighbor!  I move in next week!”

Some rules were just not meant to be broken.

Like, ever.

You Know You Live in a Small Town When…

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You know you live in a small town when…

You are sitting in your car at the bank drive-through window waiting on the lone teller  (we’ll call him Ted) to finish your transaction.  Around the corner of the bank comes the other teller heading out on her way to lunch.  She waves to you as she walks by heading to her car.  Suddenly, she doubles back and approaches your drivers side open window.

Teller:  “Paula (yes, first name basis, of course) could you give this key to Ted when he returns with your transaction receipt?”

Me:  “Ok.”

Teller:  “It is the key to open the safe to get money out.  I forgot to leave it when I left for lunch and he won’t be able to get any money for customers without it.”

Me:  “Um, yeah, sure.”

Teller:  “Thanks.” 

Me: “No problem, have a good lunch.”

And no, I did not run to the nearest Walmart to make a copy, because well, the Walmart is like everything else when you live in the boonies, far away.  Oh, and that would be a federal offense…and wrong…and very un-small-town-like.

‘Til Death Do Us Part, Which May Be Sooner Than You Think

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Yesterday was my 16th wedding anniversary.  Yesterday, I wanted to strangle my husband. Ok, hold on, don’t send for “the Po Po” just yet (and for those of you who don’t speak 10 year old – “the Police”). Contrary to what you might be thinking, it is not because he had not gotten me a gift (which he hadn’t) or card (again, nope) but because he promised a favor.

You see, my husband is one of those good guys.  Therefore when our elderly neighbor asked my husband to drive her 2 hours to the airport to meet and pick up her adult son and then drive them the 2 hours back, he, of course, agreed.  However, at the moment of acquiescing, he did not realize two things.  One, the day in question was our anniversary and two, he would be called to one of those can’t-miss-on-penalty-of-death type meetings.

So, I guess you are thinking I was ready to commit husband strangulation because he forgot our anniversary.  But, the truth is, I forgot too.  No, what got my undies all in a bundle was the fact that now, in light of the meeting, his saintly gesture to our neighbor now fell to me to execute and well, I am just not that saintly.  Nonetheless, execute I did!

Really, I am not as big a twirp as I sound.  At the time agreed, I met my neighbor with a smile, assured her it was no big deal when she thanked me on the outset of our trip and declared me over-the-top neighborly (ha, if she only knew).

At first, we played telephone on the long drive to the airport,

“Did you have dinner?”

“Who did you say was thinner?”

“No, I asked, DID YOU HAVE DINNER?”

“Oh, I am not much of a singer.”

Then, we opted for silence.

We arrived right on schedule… 40 min before the flight arrived.

We parked and waited at the gate for arrival.

With my neighbors son in tow, we slowly walked to baggage claim, waited,  and then slowly back to the parked car.  I paused for them at the crosswalk while a pair of turtles hurried past (ok, she has an excuse – at 90 you are allowed to walk any speed you want and I guess he was just tired).

On the 2 hour eternity ride home, we played more telephone. But after my best sorority-girl conversation starters fell like a drunk man off a roof, we rode in awkward silence.  That is until out of nowhere, like we were about to be in a 10 car pile up, my elderly neighbor’s son shouted “THERE IT IS” pointing out our approaching exit (like I didn’t know that since I had been counting the mile markers for about the last 35 miles).

Finally, we arrived back.  I wished them a good visit and went home.

When I arrived at my house, I was ready to tell my husband all about my eventful “good deed” – the pain, the suffering, the agonizing silence, the rousing games of telephone. But, no one was home.  My husband still at his meeting, kids still at their assigned places.  Then, on the table, I saw this:

What is it they say, no good deed goes unpunished?  That may be true, but  it wasn’t all bad. Flowers, presents, and a happy elderly neighbor… yeah, I suppose I came out alright, possibly even ahead.

4 Things to Know About Raising Country Kids

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Yes, I seem to be running a theme of Country Living lately (Top 10 Clues You Are Not Cut Out For Country Life).  No rhyme or reason, just where my brain is roaming around on these hot summer days leading up to Fourth of July!

Today, my most recent article about raising country kids is running over at ParentSociety.com.

I grew up in the suburbs, lived in the city, and then moved to the country when my kids came along. I did not expect there to be any difference when it came to raising my kids in the country as opposed to the city/suburbs. Kids are kids, how different could it be? But I am here to tell you I was naive as a turkey on Thanksgiving…

Yes, I was naive – but my kids have educated me well.  I mean really, who needs shoes or a license to drive anyway?  Have I said to much?  Alright, already, just go read this quick little piece and find out the rest!  Whether you are planning on ever being a Country Parent or not, you just might be glad you did! Go Here!

4 Things to Know About Raising Country Kids

Top 10 Clues You Are Not Cut Out for Country Life

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So, you think you can cut it in the country?  Yeah, well that is what I thought, too.  However, last week after dissolving in tears upon committing vehicular skunk-slaughter, it became glaringly clear you can “Take the girl out of the city, but…”.  (I mean really, the poor creature was just trying to, shall we say, get to the other side).

Therefore, just in case you may have the bright idea to a switch to rural life anytime in the future, allow me to bestow upon you the benefit of first-hand experience!

Top 10 Clues you are not cut out for Country Life.

10.  You cry over road kill.  Including the skunk that assured your car would never smell the same again.

9. You shudder when instructed to park your car on the grass – even though it is already filled with cars, trucks and ATVs.

8.  You think wearing 4 inch wedges to a hayride is a feasible alternative to high heeled pumps. But, at least you learn the purpose for the warning “beware the steaming rocks”.

7.  You look at your kid like he is Jack the Ripper when requested to gut and cook the fish he caught.

6.  You feel compelled to declare the yard an animal sanctuary…from your kids.

5.  Your car and a deer leaping out of the woods collide – you are dismayed over the deer’s injuries but completely unconcerned by the fact your car is now totaled.

4.  You don’t like red meat. But, you try to keep this one under wraps on the off chance there really is some truth to the “ride out of town on a rail” rumor. (oh, and on a side note: You never mention that “vegetarian” word)

3.  You have a maniacal fear of mini-blood-sucking-demons-from-hell,  also known as  Tics.

2.  You are not a fan of dirt/dust/mud/gravel/snow/ice – they interfere with your shoe choices.

and last but not least…

1.  You are at a loss as to how to respond to the question “Do you want ½ a cow?” because you are busy picturing which half and how a cow stands up with only two legs.

If you still decide to give the country a go, I wish you luck and may you never feel the sting (or smell the smell) of skunk road kill.

You Deserve The Wave Today

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I like The Wave.  I want The Wave.  I want to kick the person’s butt who denies me The Wave.  Do you know of what I speak?   I am not talking about that thing in the sports stadiums that makes you get off your behind, flail your arms like a Muppet on crack, and spill stuff.  I am talking about that little acknowledgement you get from a fellow driver on the road.  The simple hand gesture that can say “please”, “thank you” or just “I acknowledge you exist”.  The Wave.

Never gave it much thought?  Well, neither did I.  That is, until The Wave was gone. (Feel free to hum a few bars of “Don’t know what ya got, ‘til its gone”, I did)…

Even during my 10 years in LA, where driving is sometimes like something out of a Mad Max movie (only without Tina Turner riding shotgun), you can still get The Wave – and I don’t mean the one where the middle finger is prominent (although, that one is generously given as well). I am talking about a true and significant appreciation Wave, enough, at least, to feel satisfied.

But then, I moved to New Orleans.  Now (disclaimer coming), New Orleans is a great city, with many wonderful attributes and people – boy, do they know how to throw a party. However, when it comes to The Wave, they are a big, fat void.  In my 5 years living there, no matter how hard I tried, begged, frantically waved, offered beads and occasionally even a boob flash (ok, not that one) I could never illicit a return or acknowledgement Wave in any way, shape or form.  And, I missed The Wave, desperately.

However, our next big move was to the Mid-West.  And, much to my pleasant surprise, Mid-Westians (Mid-Westers?) really know how to work The Wave.  You know how the Eskimos have 100+ words to express “snow” related things?  Well, that is how prolific Mid-Westians are with The Wave.  I kid you not (‘cause that would be so unlike me).  Here are just a few that come to mind:

The “Thank You” Wave.

The “No problem” Wave.

The “Go ahead, I’m in no hurry” Wave.

The “Sorry I did not see you there” Wave.

The “That’s Ok” Wave

The “Thanks for not honking at me even though I deserve it” Wave.

The “Sorry to make you wait while I cleaned up the juice my kid just spilled” Wave. (followed by…)

The “I can see that you are stressed and I won’t make it worse by honking at you” Wave.

The “We are just two cars passing on a country road” Wave.

The “I’m cool” Head-Wave.

The “I’m even cooler” Chin-Lift Wave.

The “I don’t want to take my hands off the wheel but want to greet you” Finger-Lift Wave.

The “You are welcome to pass my slow farm vehicle” Wave.

The “I’m sorry I was just a dork for cutting you off/getting in your way” Wave.

I possibly overuse this wave and therefore often receive back…

The “Never mind, it is ok that you are a dork” Wave.

The “Hello fellow truck owner” Wave (hubbys favorite)

The “I won’t smile at you but will still acknowledge you exist” Wave (my visiting Mom’s Fave).

And the truly unique, from my elderly pedestrian neighbor…

The “I am too involved in what I am doing to look up at you but here is my hand” Wave.

To which I always respond with…

The “I know you can’t see it but I will reciprocate anyway” Wave.

I love them all. Who knew such a small thing could speak volumes when silenced.  There are many things in life I can definitely live without – coffee  a 2nd cup of coffee,  an ab six-pack, shoulder pads, another social network, Journey to the Center of the Earth Part 3. 

But The Wave?  No, I know now, I need The Wave.

In fact, I deserve The Wave.

And so do you.

So, if you are ever out Mid-West way, look for me.  I’ll be the one giving you

The “Nice to see you ‘round these parts” Wave.

Faking It as a Country Girl

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10 years ago I did something unbelievable; so amazing in fact, that my friends and family were in awe (or, shock was it?).   I moved, with my husband and two boys, from the city to my husband’s hometown in rural mid-west Missouri (for how city girl met country boy go here).

Now, I know what you are thinking: California girl moving to the country – train wreck about to happen. Well, sometimes, it felt that way.  In truth, there were adjustments to make.

First off, in an attempt to minimize my transition trauma, we chose a house in “town” as opposed to one smack dab in the middle of a farm – like, without neighbors…and lots of snakes. However, while it is true that in “town” I can actually see my neighbor’s house, it is also a fact that “town” is basically a one block main street with some off-shooting streets, not even enough inhabitants to fill up an AMC Movie Theatre (unless you include the animals and livestock), and to get a decent work-out, you must run/walk/bike the circumference of the “town” numerous times.

However, in addition to learning to survive a rural mid-west winter (A California Girl’s Guide here), I have acquired knowledge of immense use to making it faking it as a country girl.

1.  Anywhere in town, always leave your keys in your unlocked vehicleThis is very important, because you never know when someone will need to quickly jump into your vehicle to move it out of the way of a passing farm apparatus, help an elderly person needing your parking space, or borrow it for some quick, random errand.  If all goes well, your car will be in the same location when you go to retrieve it.  If not, a few phones calls (in my case, usually to car-swapping brother-in-law) will quickly establish a location and alternate transportation if needed.

2.  Don’t be fooled, in the country the snakes live in town too. In fact, they enjoy flaunting this fact by dropping out of trees in front of your house guests, sunning themselves outside your kitchen window, slithering through your baseball pick-up games, or hibernating in your domicile.  It is best to pretend you are copacetic with co-habitation and hope they are eating rodents and not your baby birds.

3. If you run out of or forget an item at a store, seek help. “Running” to the store to get a needed item is just not an option, the store might as well be a billion miles away (Which explains why savvy country dwellers have pantries the size of Mt. Rushmore).  Therefore, if you need an item such as eggs, milk, spices, butter, canned corn, etc…appeal to a neighbor.  If you require items such as: Whole Wheat flour, tofu, tempe, organic beans, or turkey bacon…make spaghetti.

4. Learn how to follow road directions.  I know what you are thinking…how dumb can you be if you can’t follow directions. But trust me; survival depends on a vast amount of UN-documented knowledge.  Here is generally how my first direction experience went:

Me: “How do I get to xyz?”

Direction Giver Guy/Girl (DGG): “Drive straight out of town then turn left at the Smith house” 

Me:“Who are the Smiths?” 

DGG: “The Smiths are the people who used to live in that house next to the barn where John Chaney kept his horse named Champ”.

Me:“Oh”.

DGG: “Then, take a right onto Boat Road” 

Me: “So, there will be a road sign?” 

DGG: “No, that is not the actual name” 

Me: “Huh?” 

DGG: “It is called that because of a building that looks like a boat”

Me: “So, I will see this building that looks like a boat and know when to turn?”

DGG: “No, the building was torn down several years ago.” 

Me: “Oh”.

DGG: “Then, when you see the black bull standing in the pasture..” 

Me: “You mean, like with horns?”

DGG: “Yeah – turn right at the sharp corner where Duke Dudley wrecked his truck and there you are.”  

Me: “Where?”

DGG:  “At the chicken coup with the rooster weather vane.”

Me: “Oh”…

And as a country Mom, I have learned to curtail the shock of watching my kids driving before their feet reached the pedals, wielding all manner of power tools and weapons of mass destruction, and requesting flying squirrels as pets. But, that is a story for another day.

In closing, if there is one key thing I have learned about rural life, it is this…

The good thing about living in a small town is,

When you don’t know what you are doing, that’s ok…

Everybody else does…

True Love By Way of a Kitty Dance and a Bucking Horse

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Over the years I have been encouraged to tell the serendipitous story of how my husband, Jim, and I found each other. Valentine’s Day seemed like a good time.  Honestly, I tried to keep it short, but it just isn’t that kind of tale.

I was 23, touring as a performer in the National IV tour of CATS.  He was 25, working at his family owned hotel in New Orleans, LA –  which is where the story begins.  The tour stopped in New Orleans for  2 weeks of performances and some of us ‘Kitty’s’ were thrilled to find and stay at his quaint, historic hotel.  Our first meeting occurred over a broken stove. I called the front desk to have someone come repair the stove in my room (this was when cooking actually seemed fun) and he showed up at my door. Over that hot and steamy repair job (kidding!) the attraction was immediate. We spent those 2 weeks together, getting to know each other.

After those two weeks, though, on I went with the tour to the next city.

Over the next several months we stayed in contact by letters (you know the handwritten thing that goes on paper).  We kept in touch while I finished the tour and went back to Los Angeles to continue my performance career and he cruised around South America starting an export business (the legal type – Alpaca sweaters) and around the US on the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) circuit as a Bull and Bronc rider (all true, I swear).

Finally, an agreement was made; he would come to LA to visit me.  However, not long after his arrival in LA, I informed him “I do not see this relationship going anywhere”.  In truth, I do not recall saying it in just this way (as he relayed to me some time later), but my Mom ratted me out by saying it sounded “exactly like something I used to say in those days”. (There went her Christmas present that year!).

Anyway, off he went, back to New Orleans. That was the last time we spoke.

7 years went by (yep, 7 years!).

In that time he continued with his export business, riding the Pro-rodeo PRCA circuit, and attending to the hotel.  I kicked around LA doing commercials & videos, singing in bands, marketing music artists, and doing what all aspiring performers do in LA –bartend, waitress and do odd jobs.

But, the pertinent part is, during that time, I had the pleasure occasion to kiss a lot of frogs. Cute some may have been, but none of which turned into a handsome prince (although, a few morphed into evil wizards with bad complexions).

Then, it happened.  One day, on the heels of the crown jewels of bad relationships, I was teaching Line Dancing at the trendy Denim & Diamonds Country Music Nightclub in Santa Monica (one of those odd jobs).  I happened to look up at the TV screen with the ever running assortment of ‘all things western’ and there he was; on the screen, in all his Pro-rodeo glory, riding a bucking horse (well, getting bucked off a bucking horse if you must know), in a PRCA rodeo in Texas. Thus began the obsessive thought process that would plague me for days on end:  “He was a really good guy”…”What was I thinking back then (as in, what an idiot I was)”…”man, I really blew that”…”I wonder what he is doing now…married???”

I spent days thinking and thinking about it; until I could not take the cosmic hammering anymore and decided to take action.

At the time, I was performing in a trio that was preparing to open up for Carlene Carter.  As the group was addressing promotional postcards with our picture on it (this is what one did before “social networking”), I addressed one to him at his hotel in New Orleans, which consequently his family still owned, with a small note (and, duh, my phone number) included. (oh, home-wrecker I’m not – one call to chatty desk clerk at hotel confirmed bachelorhood).

Since our final parting 7 years prior had been, ummm, not the best in his memory, he was prepared to possibly discard the greeting.  That is until his English friend (I knew I liked that bloke), in his never beat around the bush way, pointed out that due to the “positive physical attributes” displayed in the picture, perhaps at least a return phone call was in order (praise be the wisdom of guy-logic).

He did call.  Then he called again, many times.  And then we arranged to get together. Gullible Forgiving guy that he is, he, again, came out to see me in LA.  This time, I did not send him home with some stupid edict, but rather with the promise of a reciprocal visit to New Orleans and more.

And despite the fact that I bristled ever so slightly at the statement made by him some months later that if “anyone had ever told me I had already met the girl I was going to marry, I would never have thought of you” and he, annoyed by the fact that I had to slobber all over a bunch of frogs before finally getting it right…

We married a 1 ½ years later.

Well, 7 years and 1 ½ years later.

This year we will celebrate our 16th anniversary. I am thinking all those frogs and bucking livestock were well worth the trouble – which only goes to show that it is a good thing, life is what happens while you are busy making plans!

As author Saul Bellow so eloquently put it:  

“Unexpected intrusions of Beauty.  That’s what life is.”

Happy Valentines Day

A California Girls Rural Winter Survival Guide

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Sometimes life is stranger than fiction. For example, why do aliens only abduct sanity-challenged recluse people? What are artificial bacon bits really made of? And, how does a born and bred California girl end up living in rural Missouri?  Rural Missouri, mind you, where roads have letters instead of names, directions are given in reference to so-and-so’s house – whether they still live there or not – and…it snows!

Well, in my case, I was either crazy or in love, or both.  Whatever the case, the predicament of surviving the winters became glaringly apparent upon the first snow; A feat which my California upbringing had just not prepared me for.  Therefore, for those of you who have found or may find yourself in a similar fix, allow me to share 5 of my hard learned survival tips.

1.  Be Prepared: If you are to survive in the harsh environment of cold, ice, and snow, you must have the proper tools. Following are, in my experience, the most important items.

  • Cat Box Pooper Scooper – Oh, sure, you will be told that having an ice scraper is what you need to clear off your car windshield every morning.  But, in my opinion, the everyday cat box pooper scooper makes much more sense to get the job done.  It is always handy, never gets taken by other family members for use and well, has multiple functional purposes (need I elaborate?).
  • Ugly Shoes – Trust me on this one.  Those peep toe pumps will sing a good song, but when push comes to shove (or rather ice comes to driveway) those pretty shoes will leave you flat on your behind.  The ugly shoes, however, will be your friend for life. They will keep you warm, be devoted to your happiness, and never let you go down looking like a flapping dodo (bird, that is).
  • Hair Dryer – You would be surprised how often a good blast of hot air will come in handy for various frozen things and/or body parts.
  • A Hammer – No real function, but it will make you feel like you belong – like one of the natives.

2.  Be Wary:  Never trust ice – it is the enemy and yes, it is out to get you.  It will freeze your pipes as soon as you stop dripping them in order to head to the mall.  It will freeze the Frappuccino you left in the car overnight. And, if you have a change of heart (i.e. panic attack) about driving on it, it will promptly and not very graciously, introduce you to the side road ditch.

3.  Be Audacious:  When that fluffy white stuff starts pouring out of the sky, get in your car and just go for it.  And when I say, ‘go for it’, I mean, when your husband tells you to drive fast to get over snow drifts growing in the road – DO IT! Otherwise you might find yourself stuck on top of one of those pretty drifts like a whale bellied up on the beach (which is, fyi, not near as much fun as bellying up to the bar). And, it may take every relative and friend within a 20 mile radius to come and dig you off.

4.  Be Mindful:  As in all things, there are pitfalls to watch out for during the long winter season.

  • Do NOT discover online shopping.
  • Do NOT, under any circumstances, decide the inside of your house needs to be painted all colors of the rainbow. (You may not be fortunate for to spring to arrive moments before project commencement).
  • Do NOT try to eat your weight in chocolate.

However, DO, have as many snowball fights as possible, roast marshmallows over a candle, and treat yourself to every  ‘icure come spring.

5.  Be Canny: Sooner or later you will be faced with a suspicious random occurrence that can only be experienced in the rural wilds of winter.  Therefore, when you, for example, find a several foot long shed snake skin in a storage area behind your bed where said snake clearly hibernated the winter with you, don’t, whatever you do, tell your snakephobic husband.

Goodbye and Good luck.

Baby You Can Drive My Car

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My husband’s truck gives new meaning to the word “clunker”.  On more than one occasion I have suggested (begged, pleaded, demanded) he make a one way trip to the junkyard (for the truck, of course).

The body is not only rusting, it is rusting away.  I swear I have seen a bird nesting inside one of the cavernous orifices opened up by the decay.  At some point, repairs were done to hold the rim above the tires together… those plastic electrical cable ties and duct tapes really seem to be doing the trick.  The rear view mirror is, well, gone – no-one seems to know where.  The antenna, which some time back resided in its proper place outside, has now taken up residence inside the truck with its end jammed into an earthquake like crack that runs the length of the dashboard. The license plate is permanently bent into the shape of a taco, held on firmly with a wire hanger. And in order to start up the old timer, you must pump the gas not once, not twice, but three times and no more. I think the radio still works. Which is a good thing so you have something to listen to while you are freezing into an icicle or sweating into a puddle.

The other day, I walked out my door ready to drive my son and his friend to a birthday party.  It suddenly occurred to me that earlier in the day, in the wake of loaning his car to a friend, my husband had then borrowed my car leaving me with, yep you guessed it, the clunker. But, get to the party we must.  So in we three climbed.   Just a short distance, how bad could it be? Well, the answer to that quickly came when one of the doors began to randomly open of its own accord as if to be saying “get out while you still can”; which would have been a fairly safe jump considering the general 10 mile an hour maximum possible speed as we went up hills…with the pedal floored. And despite the rattling of the vehicle which threatened to bring doubt to my faith in those cable ties and giving up trying to solve the mystery of the dashboard antenna, we finally arrived at our destination.  Basically, in one piece.

Upon arriving back home in my driveway I had but one thought… I will NEVER in a million years get rid of that truck!  You see, for the entirety of our few mile trip that took, oh, 20 minutes or more, the three of us laughed until the tears were streaming down our faces.

You can’t buy joy like that, and you certainly don’t send it to the junkyard.

Looking for the Sweet Spot Inspiration Blog

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This story, about my dog Shadow’s “heroic” moment, is clearly the inspiration for my blog venture!  I almost let this Sweet Spot moment pass me by.  In fact, it wasn’t until later that summer night, sitting on my porch, trying to stay cool in the wake of a broken AC unit on a 90+ day that the absolute perfection of the moment struck me and I wrote this article.

Just Another Day in the Life

Today, when I came home from the store, there was a goat in my front yard.  Yes, that is what I said… a two horned, split toed, gray, bleating goat, that for some reason decided my boys were its new BFFs and proceeded to follow them everywhere they went.  This, of course, was completely distressing to my 3 year old border collie who, while possessing the necessary herding instincts, lacked the benefit of any actual experience.  She, therefore, proceeded to take advantage of the opportunity by chasing said living, breathing farm animal round and round the house in an effort, I suppose, to regain some respect for her lineage.  While the goat, who clearly was not used to being subject to such base treatment, finally found safe haven on my back porch, nose to the door, pleading for entry (leading me to only speculate as to the goat’s previous place of abode and the habits therein…).

From there, the instinctual help from her ancestors seemed to abandon my worn out, panting border collie.  Or perhaps, she simply decided that herding in 90 degree plus weather was just not what it was cracked up to be.  Either way, the staring contest commenced between goat and dog, and continued until animal control (which consisted of guy down the street coming to put animal in truck and find it a home) arrived to spring the poor goat from a seemingly irresolvable conflict.

While my border collie marched into the house with her head held high as if she had just herded South Fork’s entire stock single-handedly, I contemplated why this was possibly the best part of my day.  I knew the image of my overweight dog chasing that wide eyed goat around and around my yard would be a source of laughter for me for a long time to come.  And of all the gifts in this life, the one I most cherish is the ability to laugh and find the humor.

When I can laugh with my boys, I am happy.  When I can invoke my husbands laugh, I am blessed.  When I can laugh instead of cry, I am saved.  And, when I can make others laugh, I am truly the luckiest person in the world.