Christmas Rush

I like to pride myself on getting my holiday shopping done before the last minute. Normally I’m done and ready for the holidays at least a week before Christmas, letting me sit back and relax a bit before Christmas morning. Well not this year, this year I just didn’t have any inspiration for Mitch. I didn’t have any creative juices flowing. Everyone else was done and shipped off, which made me feel even worse, like a real slug.

I finally came up with a couple of ideas, one was a table saw since last year when I went through the “Great Purge” and either gave away, donated or trashed a lot of our belongings so I could sell the house and move nineteen hundred miles to the Pacific Northwest. Mitch’s table saw was one of the things that didn’t make the move. Yeah I know, it’s so much fun rebuying some of the tools and other belongings. Not. But space was tight and I made sure it went to a good home.

So yesterday morning I got up early and headed out to deal with western Washington traffic, (no fun at any time of the day) in search of a table saw and a work space light because for some reason our desk lamps didn’t make the move either. I don’t remember getting rid of our lamps, but then there is a least one or more boxes that didn’t make the move either.

First stop was Home Depot and a search of the tool section showed me that the affordable table saws were a popular item, because they were out of stock. So I jumped back in the car and headed off to Lowes. Lowes had three left that looked well-made and under a million dollars. The only problem was that I couldn’t lift it. I had to have help getting into the car, which meant I would have to have help getting it out of the car. And since we have no friends here that are a quick call away, I was going to have to get Mitch to carry in his own gift. That left me with another dilemma, how to get him to carry it in the house and not see what it was. Compound that with a barking Orso the minute he sees the car which always wakes Mitch up. I definitely had a challenge ahead. Too bad Lowes doesn’t have a gift wrap station, I would have been set.

I pulled in the driveway and rushed to open the front door to shush Orso before he woke up Mitch. Mitch was already awake but was in the shower so I had a few minutes. I ran inside and grabbed a roll of wrapping paper, tape and scissors, went back outside and climbed in the back of the station wagon to wrap the table saw. There I was draping wrapping paper over the box, cutting the paper and trying to tape the paper together in a reasonably nice looking way. The challenge came when I tried to lift the box high enough to slide the paper under the box, not so easy when you are in a cramped space and the box was bulky and heavy to match. The wrapping paper wasn’t long and wide enough to completely cover three sides and two ends, so I had to cut another piece about a foot wide to cover the ends. But the paper wasn’t long enough to drape over the top and cover both ends, so I had to cut that section in two pieces and tape each section to the top of the box and over the end.

This had to be the worst wrapping job I’ve ever done. There were pieces of wrapping paper taped over the top of the box to cover the ends of the box and wrapping paper edges hanging loose on the sides of the box because I couldn’t lift the box high enough to slide the paper under the box. An unwrapped bottom meant leaving the bottom of the box exposed and I could only hope the bottom of the box was blank without any description.

I got done with the pathetic wrapping job and went inside to fetch Mitch and make him carry his own gift inside. The poor sad gift looks almost as pathetic as Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree. I am so glad shopping is done and all I have to do now is open a bottle or two of wine sit back and enjoy the rest of the day. Good thing tomorrow is Christmas.

Merry Christmas to you all.

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Goofball

That completely describes Orso in one word. Ten years old and still a big dope that acts like a two-year-old puppy. He is the one dog I didn’t want. I didn’t want to go see him, I didn’t want to add another dog to the mix. We had two dogs at the time, AJ, our black lab, a super sweet beautiful dog with a steamer trunk full of issues and Charlie, our half breed, half chocolate lab and half German shorthair, who was animal aggressive and a bit unstable.

We had just gotten the two dogs settled into a routine and everyday life was going along fairly smoothly without any episodes for a while which was all I wanted, quiet and boring. Then one day Mitch came home and said that a coworker had a son who had a dog that he needed to get rid of. The dog was a nine-month-old chocolate lab, purportedly with papers and he wanted to “just go take a look see”. I said absolutely not, we had just gotten to a point in our lives that things were settled and quiet, the dogs were happy and content. I didn’t want to upset any balance in our lives.

I knew what would happen if we went. I knew without a doubt once I set eyes on a puppy he would be in the back of the station wagon headed home with us. That was why I fought it so hard and still I lost. We drove up and as soon as our car pulled into the driveway and this ninety-five pound brown clumsy puppy came bounding out of the garage I knew that it was last time that dog would ever sleep in that garage. We loaded him up and took him home. His name was Rebar, which I thought was a stupid name for a dog and that it was getting changed right away. I liked the word orso, which is Italian for bear, and I think it suits him just perfectly.

Orso has always been a big dumb beau hunk, falling over his feet and mine, getting in the way, knocking me down and always sporting a big goofy smile on his face. We didn’t get any papers as they were reportedly lost, so we had to take it on faith that he is actually a Labrador Retriever, though at the time we suspected there was a Saint Bernard lurking around in there because Orso was and still is one giant drool machine. He can sling drool as high as seven feet and with enough velocity to knock a fly out of the air if it gets in the way. He wasn’t much of a hunting dog, preferring to walk behind me and let me knock down the brush to clear a path for him. And as far as the term “Water Dog” goes, Orso would rather ride in a boat feeling the wind on his face than get wet swimming.

He got interested in birds, but instead of pheasants Orso prefers to flush robins, sparrows and his arch nemesis, crows. Out here crows are proliferate, with large numbers banding together to swoop down and walk around searching for food. It’s not unusual to see three or four crows walking around together just a few yards away from us. This makes Orso crazy that these large birds would totally dismiss him as irrelevant and not fly away. He has taken to stalking them on leash then at the right moment Orso will stand up on his hind legs and give them a loud woof to try and make them fly. Because that is so effective the birds fly a short distance then shout back at him.

He’s the one dog I didn’t want, he’s totally devoted to me and now I’m just as devoted to him. Yes, he’s a goofball but he’s my goofball.

Not Your Ordinary Funeral

Funerals are for the living; the dead don’t care because they are dead. Funerals are there to bring closure to the family and friends. For me the whole process of the funeral, from notifying the funeral home, buying the casket or urn and arranging the services at the funeral home and graveside, is long and tedious and does nothing to aid in the grieving and healing process. I also must admit I am bitter from past experiences with my mother and father’s funerals. So my opinions are quite biased and slanted.

My father in-law died last week, necessitating a trip to Texas for his funeral. This was a trip neither of us wanted to make, we had been pretty much estranged from his family for years. There was tension and hard feelings over the years with his father. Don’t get me wrong, Mitch loved his father, he just couldn’t be around him for any period time without the past being dredged up. Lets’ suffice it to say, Mitch had a misspent youth, part of his charm.

We made hurried travel arrangements, taking Orso to a dog spa and me reserving the hotel room. I found one close to the airport and an hour away from the funeral home, thus keeping his exposure to his family limited and maybe saving me bail money. Our flight got in Austin at midnight and after picking up the rental car we got to the hotel around one in the morning. We ended up getting about four hours sleep before heading off through the Texas hill country to the funeral home.

We parked the car and slowly walked into the funeral home, dreading the first salvo of family comments, but everyone was on their best behavior. We met the pastor that was going to preside over the service, a nice young man who obviously didn’t know my father in-law. We were asked if we wanted to go look at my father in-law, (a ghoulish tradition, in my opinion), something I have never been able to do. I waited outside until Mitch and gone in to see him, maybe to make sure he was dead and not just an elaborate ruse to get Mitch to come for a visit. I’m pretty sure he probably poked him to convince himself his father was really dead.

After the casket was closed we were ushered in as the service started. The pastor began his sermon with a short eulogy about his father, which was the obituary, chapter and verse printed on the memorial, then said we would listen to a song. I was expecting a hymn, but no not a hymn, a song by Neil Diamond, which the pastor said was my father in-law’s favorite singer. Who knew? I looked over at Mitch, who had this look of utter disbelief on his face. I turned my head and looked at the pastor who was sitting there with his eyes closed and head bobbing up and down rocking out to Neil Diamond. It was hard to not laugh out loud.

After the song ended, the pastor started speaking again, saying some prayer. Since I am not religious I couldn’t name one prayer from another. After the prayer, he spoke for a few minutes then asked if anyone had anything to say or share a memory about my father in-law. A man stood up and related a story about the time my father in-law spent on a mine sweeper during World War II relating a story about a man dying during a battle and how interesting the story was to him. I thought that was an odd story to tell and almost stood up myself to relate a memory of my first hunting trip with him, but didn’t.

I would have told about opening day of pheasant hunting in Western Kansas. That for three hundred and sixty-four days, cars drive up and down the country roads with people stopping along the side of the road opening and closing car doors, but on the three hundred and sixty-fifth day of the year, the opening day of pheasant hunting season, a closed-door meant one thing, Pheasant Hunters! So while we were getting our guns out of the truck walking around, the dogs going nuts in the back of the truck, the one thing we always heard from him was, “Don’t slam the doors, it will scare off the birds.” Oh please. I figured that story would not be well received so I kept my mouth shut.

After the memory sharing, another Neil Diamond song and a rocking out pastor. This was getting entertaining. The pastor closed the funeral with a traditional song, “Amazing Grace.” Then came the announcement that there would be a last viewing of the deceased. I almost tripped over Mitch trying to get out of the row and out of the room faster than they could open the casket.

After everyone walked by the casket again for a final viewing, we got in the rental car for the drive to the cemetery. Another surprise, we had a police escort (not unusual) but this one had both city police and county sheriffs as escorts. One in the front, one in the back and one would race up the road to the intersections and stop all traffic. Oncoming drivers would pull over and wait patiently for us to pass. Very touching. I chalked it up to small town people.

As we pulled up to the burial spot there were eleven men in military uniforms waiting for us. There was a flag draped over the casket and chairs facing it. We sat down and the pastor said a few words then turned it over to the Honor Guard that was waiting. Two men walked up to either end of the casket and picked up each end of the flag and stopped, waiting. Another man stood in the middle of the casket to help hold the flag. A fourth man walked up to the podium and spoke in the microphone explaining the meaning of the flag and the eighteen-gun salute. The men folded the flag until it was a long narrow strip, then the man at the podium started explaining what each fold meant. At the last fold, the second man tucked the end of the flag into the folds. Then the six men fired three shots each, and one of the men picked up three spent shells and brought them to the men holding the flag. One of the men placed each shell in the flag and explained what each shell meant, Duty, Honor, Country. The speaker at the podium walked over saluted the man holding the flag and took it from him. He then walked over to my mother in-law, saluted her and presented her the flag. Then one of the men played Taps on his bugle and sounded so soulful and sad. It was all very special and something I had never seen before.

So far so good, everyone was on their best behavior, the day was sunny and hot and just as I was thinking we were in the clear, one of Mitch’s cousins called over to me to warn me that I was standing on a fire ant mound. Super, and I was wearing open toe sandals. Fire ant stings burn like an acid burn and the only thing that works to remove the burn is to pour bleach on the stings.

Ah the hill country in Texas, I am so glad we live in the Pacific Northwest.

Ad in the Personals Section

I think I’m going take out an ad in the newspaper. We moved out here a year ago and for the first eight months we spent every free moment house hunting. Then when we found a house we really liked, the next four months were spent moving in and making it ours. Now that we are all moved in and winter is coming, there isn’t much to do. Not to mention our work schedules are polar opposites, I work days and he works nights, I get up shortly after he gets home and he goes to work shortly after I get off work. The only evenings we have together are on his days off, which rotate every week, and weekends together happen only every six weeks. That leaves me alone most of the time.

I could take a class, but the last class I took was a yoga class and I turned that into competitive yoga trying to beat everyone else time. So much for relaxing and breathing, I don’t seem to play well with others. I could take up shopping, but then I would need to get a part time job to pay for the shopping. I could take up drinking, oh wait I already do drink, oops.

Hence my reason for the ad in the paper.

I think I’ll start off with:

Wanted: A friend.

“Woman in search of a friend who likes to get up early to greet each day. Someone who has weekends open and likes to explore new and old places. The friend needs to have a warped sense of humor; be able to poke fun at themselves as much as everyone else. The friend can’t take the world too seriously; enjoy life lightly. There are two very important prerequisites: the friend must like wine and dogs, drinking wine, talking wine and trying new wines. The friend must like dogs and all that comes with dogs; dog hair, dog drool and dog kisses.

The friend must like outdoors, hiking and odd adventures. A friend that likes pedicures, shopping and lunch out is an added bonus. Age is not an issue, the friend can be any age over twenty-one, (sorry must be legal drinking age).

Interested parties apply here.”

Another Myth Busted!

We’ve all heard them, the statement of “facts” handed down for ages that turn out to be not true at all. Like the one, “If you swallow chewing gum, it will stay in your stomach for seven years.” Well it won’t, it will pass through looking pretty much like it did going down. Or the myth, “Your hair and fingernails will continue to grow after death.” They don’t, but because your skin starts to shrink, it looks like your hair is growing longer.

Well I have a new myth to bust. Mine is much more relevant than chewing gum in your stomach or hair growing on a dead body. I have through research and “clinical” trials debunked a myth that has plagued women for decades. And I want everyone to be forewarned so as not to get fleeced by this long standing myth.

First off, let preface this by saying I have curly hair. Not only do I have naturally curly hair, I have very thick coarse naturally curly hair. If I were to place one of my hairs next to one of Mitch’s hairs, mine would look like a redwood tree next to a piece of silk. So when I say I have a lot of hair, it is an understatement. In order to have hair that looks somewhat presentable, I wash it every day. Because when I get up in the morning after rolling around in bed all night, I wake up with clown hair. I am not exaggerating one little bit when I say my hair is pretty scary to look at when I jump out of bed. It is sticking out in all different directions with curls going up, down and straight out in a wildly uncontrolled mess and it is not brush-able.

When my children were just three weeks old, they decided it was best to sleep through the night because I was so scary in the middle of the night. Orso won’t get up and ask to go outside in the middle of the night because he has seen what I look like after tossing and turning in bed. Suffice it to say, that thick curly hair does not sleep well.

The woman who cuts my hair told me to buy a satin pillowcase, because it would keep my curls under control and I would wake up with this beautiful head of lovely naturally curly hair with every hair still in place. Of course she neglected to say that I had to have every hair in place to start with. I am the poster child of the “messy hair” look and I wear it well. Anyway, I was willing and eager to try something, anything that might make my clown hair look less clownish.

I found and bought a single satin pillowcase, red of course. My choices were red, zebra print or leopard print so I bought the red pillowcase. I thought that I would just buy one and see how it works and if it did, then I would go back and get more. Well another myth bites the dust. I slept on it and woke up with clown hair. Nothing different than any other day, hair sticking out in all different directions, pretty scary for any unsuspecting soul out walking at four in the morning.

Maybe satin pillowcases only work on straight hair.

Someone Talk Me off the Ledge

I am having a life crisis and need some guidance before I make a huge mistake. Orso is ten years old and our only dog now. He is calm and sedate for the most part, giving way to the eternal puppy inside occasionally, running around like a loon. Those displays of puppy idiocy are few and far between. Life is good, quiet and boring.

Because life is going so well, there are fewer moments in life that are out of control and as chaotic as in the past, when he was younger and we were three dogs strong, AJ, our counter surfer and pantry raider, Charlie, our split personality dog, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Walking them was always a challenge and I had many instances of being the boat anchor, getting dragged after some poor unsuspecting creature of the night. Worst of all I have less and less to write about. No one wants to hear about how loud Orso snores or how he runs in his sleep.

So in an act of idiocy I have started looking at animal shelter websites and rescue groups online for another dog. I am not sure I am ready for another dog, I don’t want to go through the last weeks of Charlie’s psychotic breakdown, bringing a new dog into our peaceful home. I am somewhat gun shy after that and I won’t put Orso through the terror of Charlie’s vicious episodes with a dog that might not be animal friendly. During my recent business trip to Kansas City, I went to a dock dog competition where the local humane society was parading adoptable dogs around. I saw a big boy, an Akita mix, that if I still lived in KC I probably would have taken him home. Then another friend showed me pictures of a litter of Mastiff puppies that are five weeks old. Thank god they are too young to separate from their mother or I might have taken one of them, even though I do not want to go through another puppy phase EVER AGAIN.

My quandary is that I am probably one of the most boring people in the world, so unless I take up some new sport, like rock climbing or trail riding, I don’t have much to write about anymore. We all know how well I would do at rock climbing or trail riding and I think that eventually even Aflac would cancel my policy. That brings me back to my present problem, taking the leap and getting another dog.

I need the voice of reason to slap me across the back of my head and tell me, “Are you out of your mind? What are you thinking? Take up knitting or something a lot tamer, dummy!”

Poor Mitch, he is in so much trouble and doesn’t know it yet.

Day Trip

I wouldn’t normally call a trip to a store a day trip, but then a trip to IKEA is not a normal stop by any figment of the imagination. I used to think that a trip to Sam’s Club after eleven in the morning was crazy enough, but that was before I went to IKEA. Oh my god, is that place a zoo or what? As we waited in line to turn into the parking lot, my first thought was to just keep going, that nothing is worth this madness, but no we waited patiently to turn into the parking lot so that we could drive very slowly about three miles an hour in a long line of cars hoping for the sight of taillights lighting up on a parked car before the guy in front of us did. We circled the building and quite by accident we ran across an empty parking spot next to a parked tractor trailer. Snagging it we then had to walk around the building to the other side to go in the entrance. There were even security guards acting as parking attendants directing the madness and keeping road rage to a minimum.

Once inside it was no better, worse I would say, because now there were all of the occupants in the parked cars running amok in the building. There is even a play center to dump your kids in while you wander around in the maze the store has designed to force you to go through departments you have no desire or need to go to. The playroom for kids was filled to capacity and there was a waiting line, which meant there were kids running around out of control just like their parents, adding to the melee. People would walk along the path through the departments sort of like the yellow brick road until they see something that catches their interest, then they would just stop in these big groups blocking the expanse of the yellow brick road, only it was gray I think. I kept looking for an escape route and Mitch kept pulling me back. He didn’t want to die alone.

I have to admit there were a lot of cool things in there. We found a couple of chairs that were very reasonably priced, I found a desk that raised to a standing position or was easily lowered to a seated position and since I work from home, this was a must. We also found some really cool window panels, but it was the chaos of the crush of people that made the biggest impression on me.

I learned that you never go to IKEA on the weekend, not unless you have already been drinking and then you will end up with a huge credit card bill. Of course that isn’t the worst of the whole ordeal. You pick out what you want, then you have to go to the warehouse where you have to wander through aisles and aisles for the items of choice, (god forbid if you wrote the numbers down incorrectly) figure out how to get the one thing you want off the top shelf then get it to the other end of the warehouse to pay for all of your finds.

After you pay for everything you have a couple of choices, you can either go get the car, drive through the traffic jam to pull into the designated loading area and load your car or you can push your cart out to the parking lot and dodge cars backing up to leave and cars that will run you down to get to the vacant parking spot. We chose the latter and after almost getting run down by another guy pushing his cart out to his car and a man who couldn’t get out of the parking lot fast enough, we made to our car. As we started unloading our cart a woman pulled up and asking if we were leaving, so she could wait for our spot.

What a day.