Sunday, April 29, 2012

Weird uncle and barb wire - Part 2

Continued from previous post...

Great uncle O raised cattle and occasionally took in ponies and horses to board on the farm. He became owner of a pony somehow….I’m really not sure. My great grandfather ridiculed him for making yet another bad trade; however, I do greatly appreciate the summer we had a pony to ride. We weren’t allowed to ride any of the horses or ponies that were boarded, but for a little more than one summer (until he got rid of it) we were free to ride O’s pony all we wanted.

I loved riding horses and rarely had a chance, so this was a grand opportunity for me. Unfortunately, the pony was mean-spirited. The previous owner had spoiled him with sugar, but I worsened the problem by using sugar cubes to lure him away from the barn so I could ride him. We had no saddle for him. Sometimes I was able to get a bridle on him, but it was hardly worth the battle. Usually, I’d lure him out to the edge of the field with sugar. Then while he was distracted by all the tall lush grass, I’d leap onto his back and grab onto his mane for dear life. He always bolted for the barn (sometimes he’d rear up first) and I quickly learned to jump off just before we got to the barn door because he always tried to rub me off. It was a wild, crazy, out-of-control ride and what fun to hear him snorting and to go galloping at top speed across the field.

One time, I lured the pony to the far side of the farthest back field. I was wearing shorts and a sleeveless cotton shirt, fortunately, a button-up shirt. With the pony in the farthest corner of the field and distracted by grass, I jumped onto his back. He took off like a rocket. Great fun at first, but then the pony went nuts when he approached the place with fence posts on both sides of the path between the fields. He spooked, dipped his head and bucked while making a sudden turn. I sailed off over his head and flew into a saggy barbed wire fence. One of the fence posts was rotten and broke off from the impact, further allowing me to entangle myself before I came to rest in the pasture. I was hopelessly tangled in the wire which gouged into my skin every time I moved.

I layed there a few moments assessing my situation and the damage, and thinking evil thoughts about the demon pony who I could see in the distant field contently munching grass as if nothing had happened. Blood and rips in my shirt brought dread to mind, and I began brainstorming about how to hide the damage. Blood meant the dreaded, burning Mercurochrome my grandmother would insist on using, and maybe even a tetanus shot. Extricating myself was clearly the first order of business. I untangled my hair from the barbs and freed my head. So as not to rip my shirt or skin any further, I carefully unbuttoned my shirt and worked myself out of it. My shorts were relatively unharmed, I only needed to unsnag one place, but barbs dug into my bare back as I did that. Free at last, I stood and scanned the countryside, hoping nobody would see me with my shirt off. I worked my shirt out of the barbs and while putting it back on, my heart sank when I realized the damage to the fence - I couldn't hide that! Sadly, I knew confession would be necessary.

The long ride – bad idea, and not one I ever repeated.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Weird uncle and barb wire - Part 1

For many years, my great aunt and uncle (L and O) lived on the farm with my great grandparents to help take care of the place. O (husband of my great aunt) was a retired plumber and was always the black sheep of the family, though I really don’t know exactly why people didn’t like him. I didn’t like him – he didn’t seem to like me much either. People were always mad at him and talked bad about him. He could do nothing right. 

My father had two female first cousin sisters who were 2 and 6 years older than me, and who visited the farm occasionally with their mother (sister to my grandmother and L).  They were blonde and giggly girly-girl types (nothing like me). If O was sitting on a chair and one of them walked close enough, he would grab her and pull her onto his lap to sit. He would hold her until she started to cry. Was he some kind of pervert? My impression of him for as long as I can remember was that he was creepy, so I avoided speaking to him or getting close.  I imagine every family has someone like that in it. 

One time, O put my brothers and me to work on a very hot summer afternoon. I think I was about 10 years old. He gave us three shovels and promised us a few dollars each if we’d dig a ditch that would probably take two men a day to dig. Anyway, I started out all gung-ho and excited at the prospect of going to the store with paper money in my pocket. It was sunny and at least mid-90 degrees that day. O sat in the shade in a lawn chair smoking a cigar and listening to a baseball game on the radio. My hands had thick calluses but were no match for ground that was hard clay. It didn’t take long for blisters to form. Not only that, O kept honey bee hives not far from the site where we were digging. Random honey bees and carpenter bees were buzzing around us – not really threatening to sting but their presence was enough to put me on edge. It was hot, I was thirsty, my hands were sore, so I decided to quit. My brothers continued to work as I dropped the shovel and walked off the job. My uncle called,“Where do you think you’re going?” I pretended not to hear and kept walking. Next thing I know, he grabbed my arm. I spun around and kicked him squarely in the shin as hard as I could. He let go and I took off running. A few minutes later, my brothers came running up behind me to catch up. We left O to finish his own ditch.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

There is no magic

When Sarah was about four years old, I asked her what she wanted for Christmas. She gave me her standard answer – she wanted a horse. Reading my face (blank look = no horse) she added “and a real magic wand”.   Well, I figured she would have yet another disappointing holiday, but I found a totally cool magic wand that I thought she would love.   It was pink and silver plastic and used batteries to make the star on the end flash multicolored lights. When you moved the wand, the lights in the star lit up and the wand made an electronic musical sound, sort of like *zing*. OK, to an adult, that’s about as magical as it gets in this world.
So, Christmas morning came and Sarah opened her gifts.   She opened the box that had the wand. At first sight, she was thrilled.   As soon as she discovered its powers (light and sound), she jumped to her feet, took a defiant stance, and waved the wand authoritatively.   She stood there a moment and then glared at me. “This is not a real magic wand!” she declared disdainfully. “This is just a toy!” I nodded my head in agreement, and told her there are no such things as real magic wands. She argued, “Magic is real. Why can’t there be magic wands?” I told her I didn’t believe in magic, but sometimes it seems like things happen by magic when no other explanation makes sense.   I didn’t want to totally disillusion (disenchant?) the poor girl; her Christmas was already a disappointment.
I wish magic was real because wouldn’t it be nice to have power to control what happens in the world?   The down side is that there would always be evil people using magic for evil.  When I was little, I thought if I wished for something hard enough, it could come true.  Sarah - if you're reading this and you've found a real magic wand, let me know.  I have a list.... 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

a taste of near future??

Two of my lovely and brilliant daughters are on their way home (a long way, 7 hour drive) having traveled across state to compete in the Kentucky State High School Science Olympiad.  Both of my daughters competed in two events.  The team now advances to Orlando for the national competition.  ORLANDO!!  In May!!!  Can you imagine?  I know what I’m thinking – vacation opportunity.  Universal Studios.  The Everglades?  Maybe have the girls take in a college tour or two on the way home. 

Someone and I got a chance to experience a teen-free weekend since all teens cleared out Friday morning and don’t get back until something like 4 AM Sunday.  We played golf Friday – great fun for me.  I expected to play miserably having not played in so long.  That was not the case.  I had a few pars and a birdie, no thanks to my short game.  Some of my drives were FUN!!  It’s fun to hit the ball really sweet and hear that plink.  The way the club vibrates in your hands when you strike the right part of the ball with the right part of the club.  It’s magic!  Mostly everything else was bogies but I intentionally wasn’t keeping score.  Keeping score changes the game for me. 
Fairy Tale Dying Tree - #3 white tee Sandy Creek
I need to get back on my proposal.  Changes are needed to the proposal application and Chapter 3.  Someone dragged me to Sam’s Club this morning – he wanted to join and shop.  We walked in and fortunately there was no wait (no line) to join.  Then Someone gleefully grabbed a cart and we shopped.  Not true.  He shopped, I accompanied.  My brain was not where his was. 
There’s something sinful about shopping in a store like that.  It feels like too much excess.  Giant boxes and cans of too much stuff.  If you are supplying a business, or if you have a family of 10, OK – it makes sense.  For us?  Jeez.  What do we do with all that?  Someone is a hoarder at heart.  One of the benefits of being married to Someone is that we have never run out of anything essential in all these years.  It’s kind of scary to be so consumed by consumption.

Monday, April 16, 2012

the hanging

My brothers and I spent a lot of time on my great grandparents’ farm when we were growing up. One of my favorite places to be was in the barn loft. The barn was close enough to the house so that I could usually hear if my grandmother was calling for me, but too far for her to walk over to check on my whereabouts. When I thought she might come looking for me, I would climb down from the loft and slip out the back of the barn through a wide crack between the boards. The immediate ground behind the barn was always a bit damp so they rarely mowed it. It was usually grown up in tall horse weeds and pokeberry bushes. I’d walk straight back a few hundred feet (hidden by the tall weeds) and then cut over to the path and double back so that if anyone saw me they would think I was innocently walking up from the back fields.  

Sometimes the hayloft had bales of hay stacked in it. That was when I loved it most. Not only was the smell of hay pleasing, but being able to climb up high on the bales was fun. From up on top of the hay, I could see bats hanging from the rafters and gigantic spiders sitting in their webs. I liked to rearrange the bales to make foxholes and sometimes (less often) tunnels. I would partially cover the opening of the holes with a bale, leaving just enough space to slide down into the hole with a supply of candles, matches, comic books, and candy. It sounds kind of dangerous to have open flames in a hayloft, but really, the hay was always a bit damp, especially down inside where I was.

Sometimes, my great grandfather filled the barn with tobacco. I hated tobacco – it stunk, it was dirty, and it attracted lots of spiders and bugs. I didn’t play in the barn at all when it had tobacco in it.

One dreary winter afternoon, my brothers and I were loitering in the barn loft. The tobacco had recently been moved out to be sold.  The loft was bare except for some some baskets, wooden crates, and odd junk.  There were ropes and poles left in place from where workers had climbed up to take the tobacco down.  My little brother tied hangman’s nooses into the ends of each of the ropes he could reach while my older brother and I threw corn cobs at each other.
Sometimes we played nice

The nooses gave me an idea.  I placed a crate next to one of the ropes, grabbed a noose and put my head through it.  I was wearing an old lady’s headscarf that day because I’d recently had an ear infection - my grandmother insisted the wind and cold would make my ear worse and threatened me if I dared take it off.  I tied the scarf over my eyes like a blindfold, pulled a candy cigarette out of my jacket pocket and pretended to smoke it  (and then ate it).  I instructed my brothers to tie my hands behind my back, but my younger brother immediately objected, reminding us that our grandmother would whip the shit out of all of us if she caught us. My older brother found some short pieces of dirty twine and tied my hands behind my back.

There I stood on the crate, imagining myself in an old Western film ready to be hung in front of townspeople.  I wailed that I was innocent, they had me confused with someone else, and dramatically begged them to spare my life.  My older brother asked if I had any last requests, but before I could answer and very much to my surprise, he kicked the crate out from under my feet. Down I went onto the floor of the loft, horizontally, and fortunately the rope was long enough that the noose didn’t cinch up. I got a bit of a rope burn around my neck and the air knocked out of me, but nothing more. “You stupid son of a bitch!” I shrieked, just as soon as I could get enough air. He made a speedy escape down the creaky ladder.  My little brother fiddled with the knot to untie my hands, and finally cut the twine with his pocketknife.  We quickly untied the nooses and left the barn. As far as I know, nobody ever found out about the incident.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

rabid squirrels

My brain is possessed by rabid squirrels on Fridays. I used to look forward to Fridays and the weekends when I was younger and life was simpler. I still look forward to weekends because really, I get significantly fewer night-time and weekend trouble calls from work these days, and now that classes are over I get to sleep in sometimes. Just thinking I might get some time to do something I want to do gives me a sense of hope.

It must be that the fifth day of hell that is every Friday is just one day too many for my fragile, elderly, worn out brain.  By 8:30 AM, I start getting a wild-eyed stare. By 10 AM, grumbling sets in; everything and everyone annoys me. By 11 AM, I’m pacing and climbing walls. This past Friday afternoon (i.e. yesterday), I got some bad news in an email. Basically, my cat-herding project has failed. Why? One of the cats said “I’m not going to do this and nobody can make me.” Management’s response was, “OK, you don’t have to. Our standardization initiative was only a fantastical whim and not intended to be a strategic direction."

So, rather than scream curse words at my computer, gouge out my eye with a highlighter, or pick up my cubicle wall and throw it through the window, I went for a walk. It was a beautiful day outside yesterday.  Squirrels and ground squirrels were hippity hopping everywhere. Red headed woodpeckers were up in the trees making their exotic jungle noises. The locust trees are blooming, replacing the dogwoods that are all leafed out now and dropping their blooms.  The locusts are lovely when they bloom.
Black locusts make great fence posts.

Did I mention the IRB rejected my proposal application? I knew they would find something wrong; it’s OK.  Primarily, they have a different definition for “briefly describe” than I do.  When they asked me to briefly describe A, B, and C, they really meant “Describe in great detail A through H”. Also, they pointed out that a nondisclosure agreement is needed between me and one of the researchers who stated he wants a copy of my data in exchange for letting me use his scale. Fair enough.  I’m still waiting for my chairman to make the IRB clarify one of their more cryptic comments that neither of us understands. I’m not permitted to interact with the all-powerful IRB myself. I must have a middle-man (my chairman).    

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

the bitch is in

Maybe it’s just old age, but I have little patience anymore for bullshit. Or maybe (perhaps more likely) I’m just totally burnt out in my job. This young twerpy guy emailed me for help. I did some research because it wasn’t something I knew off the top of my head, answered him, then he proceeds to start an argument and copy everybody he knows on the email thread. He wants to start a pissing contest and I have no time for that crap. If you want anything else from me asshole, just leave me a voicemail.

Then, OK, we’ve changed our password standards. Of course security is important, but you tell me the password has to have 8 or more characters, upper and lowercase letters, special characters, and numbers. No problem. I suggested xMs357#9, and you said OH HELL NO to that. It’s too easy to guess and she emphasized AT LEAST 8 CHARACTERS. In my book, at least 8 means 8 or more. So I suggested 1SkankyHO! and she accepted that one. :) I will never have privilege to use that password but it makes me smile to think about our business partners in India using it. I wonder if they’ll know what it means? That really wasn’t very professional of me….but I’m not really caring much this morning.

My cubicle reflects my work life. Beige, boring, cluttered, disorganized, shuffled, messy, last in first out (usually), stacked up, backed up. My photographer friend brings me photos of butterflies and flowers to cheer me up. I tack them up in the bare places and they help. He hates the bullshit too – I think his is actually worse than mine. He is close enough to retirement to quit and never work again (i.e. he will stop being a whore for this company and do work he wants to do).

I’m totally uninspired.  I have at least 40 unfinished things to juggle, and none are interesting.  I walk in every morning to mountains of paper, files, and dreariness.  I hate cubicle life.  Maybe I just need lots more plants. 

I keep hoping to fall asleep at my desk one day and one of my vines will creep over and suffocate me while I sleep.  My insurance pays double if I get killed on the job.  I think my philodendrons may be an unrecognized office hazard.     

Sunday, April 8, 2012

I'll fly away

Sunday night.  Laundry is underway, and I just finished assembling a stand for our still-in-the-box  gigantic TV.  Someone insisted we must have one; our lives were incomplete without this monstrous thing that will easily assume 25% of the floor space in our family room.  He bought the TV and then realized “Oh, I think it’s too big to sit on the stand we have for our current TV.”  Um, doubt.

Saturday, Someone and I took Erin to the Columbus Zoo.  We got a late start; we just took off without much planning.  It’s about 130 miles to the zoo, and about halfway there Someone starts bitching about how he should have stayed home.  I wanted to agree but knew that doing so would only fuel an argument.  I had reservations about going in the first place because Emily insisted she didn’t want to do anything....I didn’t want to leave her behind all day.  We parked, bought tickets, and entered the gate with a little less than 3 hours until closing.  Someone was cranky about that too.  Erin looked at me like, “Oh God, let’s just go home.”  After 30 minutes or so, Someone decided the zoo was an OK place to be.  It was crowded but really a gorgeous day.  The flowering trees and spring flowers smelled heavenly.  My favorite animals this time were the flying foxes (big bats).    
Flying foxes

So, the three-day Easter holiday is over.  In six-hours, I have to get up for work.  Bummer – not even going to think about it. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

spring fever

The daffodils have come and gone this crazy spring we are having this year.  Now we have lilacs in full bloom and the dogwoods are very stunning this year.  I wandered our yard today and took photos of blooming things that make me happy.  I was trying to get a nice photo of our lilac when a butterfly happened to land right in front of me.  What luck!

Our yard is becoming a swamp again.  We have continual drainage problems.  The grass is dying and in place we have a lawn of moss and weeds.  The good news is that we have more violets and bluets this year.  Someone just ran the mower over our violets but the bluets were low enough they survived.
So here we are into another week of relative freedom and I still don't know what to do with myself.  I cleaned the kitchen today, and cleaned the oven (believe it or not).  We have a self-cleaning oven and I had no idea what a spectacular invention that was until today.  I have cleaned ovens the old-fashioned way (with Easy-Off and a scouring pad).  Easy-off is a euphemism - there's no such thing as easy chemical cleaning of ovens.  The self-cleaning oven, however, is sheer brilliance.  Set it and walk away for 3.5 hours.  At the end of the cycle, I wiped away white ash...a 5 minute cleanup and it looks almost like a brand new.  WOW!!

Me and someone hit a bucket of golf balls this afternoon.  We also went to see Hunger Games yesterday.  I liked the movie but it was kind of disturbing.  It made me dislike government and rich people at the same time.  What a horrible means of controlling people.  Surely intelligent people could have come up with something better than that!

Tomorrow, back to the grind.  The kids are on spring break.  I might try to take a day off toward the end of the week.  The girls want to go ghost hunting at Trans Allegheny Lunatic Assylum.  Perhaps we will go and I'll check myself in for a long stay.