Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Clearing the Cobwebs and Killing Spiders

"Mom! There's a GIANT black spider in your bathroom!"

My oldest son was standing in front of me, wrapped in a towel. Water still dripped from his head. He was distressed.

"Mmmm. Okay." I responded with disinterest.

I was not afraid of spiders. Mostly. They didn't really bother me. All that much. I lived in the country. Spiders came with the territory. I've lived with spiders since I was a kid. I usually just left them be, even if they had decided to take up residence in all of the windows and doorways on the exterior of my house. I left them alone even when they lived inside the house with me.Were they really hurting anything?

"But Mom! It was REALLY BIG!" he insisted.

"Okay buddy. I'll take care of it later," I said.

It was the first chance I had to sit down all day. I certainly wasn't getting up for a spider. I was going to sit on my couch and flip through my new magazine. There were Halloween crafts in the new issue. The kids love that crap. I would find a craft and we could all do it together! Look! A spider craft! How cute! Plus, I was sitting. Finally. It had been a long day. Again. It was time for some self care. I secretly couldn't wait to flip on the television and completely check out for the day.

"Go get into your pj's, it's bedtime." I said to my son.

I hoped he would drop the urgency of the spider hunt. After a book, a cuddle, and a nighttime prayer, he did. Distraction is an art. Luckily, I majored it art. It's almost its own language; one that I spoke proficiently. I was a master of distraction.

Two days later, two minutes behind schedule, I stole a glance in my bathroom mirror before bolting out of the door. I shuddered at my bedraggled reflection. At the very least, a hairbrush was required. STAT. I grabbed for my brush and instead, found my hand tangled in a mess of sticky cobweb. When I started to peel the web from my skin, I noticed the giant black spider that sat approximately one inch from my fingers. It seemed to be sizing up the tasty meal entangled in its web. GAH! My heart raced a bit.

"I am not afraid of you!" I muttered.

I quickly snagged the brush bucket (yes, my brushes were in a bucket. I was raised on a farm, okay?) and dumped the spider into the toilet. I flushed and waved goodbye with a smirk on my face. When I turned around, I saw a second giant black spider scurry under the sink vanity. UGH. Yet I had no more time to lend to spider slaughter that morning. I was already late. As usual. Lateness is an art. Luckily, I majored in art. It's almost its own language; one that I spoke proficiently. I was a master of lateness.

I ran my slightly web-strewn brush through my hair and went about my day. I looked like I fell from the dumpster end of a garbage truck. Meh. I would take better care of my appearance another time- as in, in another life. Why did it matter how I looked? I didn't even have a job. I reminded myself of that daily. Self-criticism is an art. Luckily, I majored in art. It's almost its own language; one that I spoke proficiently. I was a master of self criticism.

Two days later, after consuming too much of my favorite dark roasted diuretic, I rushed to my bathroom for bladder relief. I stood and turned to flush. That is when I saw it. The giant black spider that was perched inside the toilet bowl. The very toilet bowl over which I had just exposed all of my delicate lady bits. I was rattled. I did not expect a spider to be THERE. It's one thing to confront a spider while fully clothed and wearing sturdy shoes, it's quite another experience when you are basically naked and barefoot.

I shuddered and flushed. I watched it twirl down the drain and wondered if it was the same spider that I flushed two days ago. Could it have re-emerged? Again? Or was it the one I ignored that went under the sink? Or was it a new one all together? Shit. This spider business was all getting to be too much.

I wasn't afraid of spiders, but the thought of them creeping up on me when I am unprotected was... unsettling. Thinking about what they might do on my face when I'm sleeping was enough to grip me with chilly fingers of fear. And it made me angry to know that I could be vulnerable to hurt in my own home... particularly when I was not even awake.

I was not a fearful person... unless I was afraid of something. I was not an angry person... until something pissed me off. Angry fear is an art. Luckily, I majored in art. It's almost it's own language; one that I spoke proficiently. I was a master at angry fear.

That was it! These spiders were overwhelming me. It was time to take care of the spiders and all their webs. I knew what I needed to do. The spiders and their messy killing traps were no longer allowed in my life. I put a pillowcase on a broom and swept the walls and ceilings in every room. I used the vacuum hose and sucked up those bastards that had been lurking under the beds. I scrubbed behind doors,  swept under furniture, and wiped the corners. I power washed the outside of the house. Then I power washed the inside of the barn. I literally put on my big girl boots and stomped the shit out of every creepy, unwelcome- albeit familiar- invader.

Every day, I slayed spiders. Every day, I knocked down webs. But they are persistent little bastards. And they continue to return, rebuild, and to prey on whatever stumbles into their familiar trap. It's a process that feels never-ending, but I know that winter is nigh and their life span is short. A new season is around the corner. Change happens, whether we are prepared or not, so we might as well prepare.  I'll turn over every rock in my garden and look behind every shutter on my house to make sure nothing is hiding out, laying eggs, and waiting to re-emerge when I am least expecting it. I'm doing the work now, so that in the next season I am free to chase butterflies.

Wish me luck.



Author note: This post isn't actually about spiders.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book Review: People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-Off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges

In a shocking turn of personality, I spent my summer as The Fun Facilitator to my children. I was a one woman entertainment committee. I finally earned my parenting gold star. Between the horseback riding, swimming, hiking, fishing, art, camping, and baseball, my house was basically a fucking summer camp.

And I enjoyed it. Truly, I did.

Keeping my work writing (horse magazines) and fun writing (this blog) to a minimum allowed me a summer of fully engaged adventure with my boys. We made memories. We read the first two books in the Little House series. We ate popsicles. We all learned new things. Naturally, I took lots of pictures. And I did so much physical work and activity that my legs are full of bruises and I inadvertently lost about 10 pounds. And I am tired.

Now school is back in session and fall is on the horizon; promising hours of non-mom activities, shorter days, increased hunger, and more can't miss television. All of which will slow me down and suck me back into those wonderful and horrible couch cushions.

In addition to that, over the weekend I received a special package in the mail. It was a book! I love books! I remember reading books of my choosing for pleasure! I love reading! The lure of slowing down and reading was beckoning me, so on Sunday I hid from my family in the barn with the intention of reading this book. But the people found me. As did the biting flies. So I admitted defeat, cleaned the stalls, and opened a beer.



I don't like to give up on my dreams, so tried to read again today. I hunkered on the couch with my new friend, a copy of Jen Mann's newest publication, People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-Off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges. I read that mofo cover to cover while allowing my children a few hours of what I like to call "unstructured play", because that sounds better that "I'm busy doing important stuff, so go entertain yourselves." The children chose to play "classroom." I read the book. It was a success!



If you have read her blog, you know that Jen writes with a combination of wit, intelligence, confrontation, self-deprecating humor, and assholishness. In essence, she is everything I look for in a friend.

Within the first few pages, Jen had me laughing out loud. From her oblivious choice of a lewd screen name to her conscious choice of farmer's attire for her first date with "The Hubs", Jen was constantly making fun of herself while maintaining a strong sense of certainty. Her stories of marriage were my favorite. She says exactly what most married women think (yet are too afraid to verbalize), with little to no apology. She clearly loves her spouse, even though he drives her absofreakinglutely batshit crazy. I feel you, Jen.

Jen writes of parenting with refreshing frankness. She masterfully exhibits the harrowing struggles of all parents- from breast-feeding and early socialization to school and educational involvement- all with a clever tongue and more of her signature snark and humor. Yet she artfully veils an actual sense of dignity and morality. Again, I was guffawing so loudly and suddenly that I interrupted my children's "unstructured play." Thanks a lot, Jen.

It is always an added bonus to read something that brings insight and gratitude into your own life. As the book closed with Jen's tales of suburban moms and their pretentiousness, she made me grateful for my amazing friends... and for the fact that I live in the country. The biggest drama in my life is when Black Dog chases my neighbor's car down our dead end road. I'll take it.

If you are looking for a laugh-out-loud funny, often surprising, slyly thoughtful read, pick up a copy of Jen Mann's People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-Off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges. You won't be disappointed. School's back in session. You deserve a little couch time and spontaneous laughter in your life and that is exactly what Jen Mann delivers!



Saturday, July 26, 2014

Adventures in Cheyenne, Wyoming

Everyone in Fort Collins can thank me for the precipitation yesterday. I hung some laundry on the clothes line then drove out of town, clearly causing it to rain. It's all part of my Life Plan, the one I call "Making Good Choices."

I took the boys to Cheyenne, Wyoming to spend the morning with my parents. They had made a trip from Iowa to attend Cheyenne Frontier Days. The town of Cheyenne is at its prime during the annual Frontier Days. With a parade, daily rodeos, and nightly concerts, it was hopping with cowboy activity. It was also crawling with transients, but that is another story that I probably won't tell.



My parents are what some might call Western Enthusiasts. They not only live on a horse ranch where they raise Quarter Horses and operate a horse camp, they also are avid collectors of anything vintage western. Some would say it's their passion; others might call it their illness. Whatever it is, I compare it to my inherent love of all things shoes. So naturally, ma and pa had selected touring a cowboy museum as part of their time with me and the boys. We stepped into the Nelson Museum of the West and were met with a burst of air conditioning and a friendly lady behind the desk. Well, Dad, the boys, and I stepped into the museum. Mom was outside taking a phone call.

The lady at the desk walked to the counter to greet us and my dad said, "Three adults and two brats."

I watched her visually scan our group and a perplexed look appeared on her face when she only counted two adults.

To save her the concern for my father's ability to do simple math, I said, "Mom is outside."

Then I smiled in a helpful way.

The woman frowned for a split second, tilted her head and asked, "How old is your mother?"

I saw my dad smirking. It's no secret where I got my love of mocking people. Then I did a quick rundown of our apparent scenario and realized that this woman was assuming two things that were not correct. One- she thought that I was married to my father and the "brats" were our spawn. And two- she believed that we left some apparently elderly woman alone out on the streets of Cheyenne to fend off the massive homeless population and heave open the heavy wooden doors. In both situations, I am a loser.

There was a long moment of silence where the only thing I could hear were the sarcastic remarks that my dad was thinking.

I corrected her, "No. THIS is my FATHER." Then I pointed at Chief Tall Hat, just to make it clear that I was referring to the big guy buying the tickets.

Just then, my youthful mother burst through the giant wooden doors with the ease of a veteran door opener. She didn't even break a sweat... or her hip. Because I'm not an asshole that leaves an old lady alone on the street. "Hurry up and get across that intersection, GRANDMA! I should hear your cane a-clacking!"

Immediately I suffered a shock of PTSD and I was right back in that moment in Vegas, where I was accused of being my OLDER sister's MOTHER. Then I felt that familiar twinge of mild rage toward the general public. I briefly considered shaming the woman, but judging by the high color in her cheeks, she felt plenty uncomfortable.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the museum. But then again, don't most old people love museums?  My particular favorite was the part where the giant bear tried to eat my children.


Walking through museums sure can work up an appetite, particularly when you are hungry before you walk into the museum. So we sidled on over The Capitol Grill, were I accidentally ordered enough salad for the Duggar Family and my dad taught my children proper restaurant etiquette, which apparently includes entering into a coloring contest and mocking your seven-year old opponent, then throwing french fries. The food was delicious and they maybe had the best french fries on the planet (for eating, not throwing).


After that we walked across the street and stopped into Cheyenne's legendary western store, The Wrangler. It was bustling; packed full of people and merchandise- the kind of store that you could lose yourself, or your child, in. Mom and I found Dad a belt and I discovered that the only jeans I like are over $88. Shocker.

The final stop in downtown Cheyenne was to visit The Big Boy Train, number 4004. The boys were dwarfed by this steam engine, which is over 132 feet long. Only 25 were built for a short period in the 1940's and only eight remain on display. I would say that we stopped for the boys, but in all honesty, I love trains, too.



We headed back to Little America. Because the boys were well-mannered, I had to make good on my promise; so I reluctantly donned my swimming suit and took my very excited boys to the pool. I thought to myself, This is fine. We're in Wyoming, which is not exactly the landmark for physical fitness. When I entered the pool area, I noticed that all around me where tanned, toned, gorgeous people in their twenties. I cannot explain it, the only thing I can fathom is that a bus of models from Miami must have broken down on the interstate. I spent about 20 minutes getting water kicked in my face and responding to "WATCH THIS!" and "LOOK AT ME!" 146 times- all of which included a random little girl who joined us. I tried not to shout for glee when the storm rolled in with big, fat raindrops and lightening.

"Oh darn it! We have to get out of the pool now!"



After showering, I wondered over to the gift shop, where I found a $198 Tasha Polizzi sweater that made me salivate and a wonderful photo-on-canvas of two flea bitten grey horses drinking from a stream. My dad bought me the picture, because he's truly a generous, big-hearted guy. Don't tell him that I said that.

I drove my little cowboys home and they both fell asleep immediately. Looking into the backseat and seeing their little heads resting on their shoulders filled me with joy. They are such good, sweet boys. And they are particularly precious when they're sleeping. Because... silence.

When we arrived back at our homestead, I pulled the wet laundry from the line just in time for the clouds to break up, leaving us with a beautiful evening. The boys begged to ride (after they begged for food), so ride we did. I was too lazy to heft my giant saddle onto Gus, so I went bareback.


It was a pretty good day.

Maybe, after all, my choices are just fine.


Peace, Love and Summatime,
Johi