The 12 Year Honeymoon

Daily Prompt: First Sight

Whether a person, a pet, an object, or a place, write about something or someone you connected with from the very first second.

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I had never been one for long term relationships. I would make excuses for myself and place the blame solely on whatever guy unwittingly had one foot out the door at the time (even though at times it genuinely was a wise decision to move on), but in retrospect I can chalk it up to mostly my own selfishness. I had developed a “grass is greener” mentality, and when the butterflies in the stomach were gone, the guy that wrought them was soon to follow.

I went through a plethora of “relationships” in my younger years, with my 2 longest being 3 years and 5 years respectively, and even those were on and off at times.

I would dump a guy for the most absurd things, too. This one because he had too much nose hair, that one because I didn’t like the way he laughed, another one because he’d hold his fork like a 2 year old at the dinner table.

Yep, just give me a willing heart, and I could break it into a million pieces in the most creative ways.

I had developed an unhealthy relationship pattern, and I honestly didn’t even recognize that I had a problem at the time. I mean, society had made this type of behavior perfectly acceptable, how could I possibly see that it wasn’t right?

So on I went, hacking away with my relationship machete, oblivious to the  wake of destruction I left behind…

Until HIM.

It started innocently enough, with a “Happy Birthday” from a distance of 1200 miles via the online game we both played. If I think about it now, I was probably hooked from just those 2 words.

Over the next few weeks, more words were to follow in the form of lengthy conversations long into the night. We discussed hopes and dreams, wishes and desires. We got to know each other on an emotional level, without that pesky physical attraction business getting in the way.

We exchanged pictures after a time of course, and neither of us were disappointed. Exchanging pictures led to phone numbers, and after several lengthy phone calls (accompanied by astronomical phone bills), we were making plans to meet in person. He bought a plane ticket to Michigan to come see me, and I counted the days until I would see him with bated breath and nervous anticipation.

When he walked down the gangway and into my waiting embrace, the sparks were instant. I mean sure, we had connected on an emotional level already, but this…this was chemistry.

He told me later that his very first thought when he saw me was, “I’m going to marry that girl”, and I can’t say that I wasn’t thinking much the same. Love at first sight was always a trite and ridiculous concept to me, but there I was, with stars in my eyes, feeling like my heart would explode out of my chest.

As he walked me to my car, he held me close, placing a string of soft little kisses along my fingertips and up my arm to the tune of me giggling like a schoolgirl. This guy…oh…this guy.

Our first weekend together was magical, and our first kiss was off the charts. He had spent the day teasing me…getting close enough to move in for a kiss, making me think it would finally happen, and then he would quickly back away, leaving me breathless, confused, and still longing for our lips to finally meet.

He waited until a time when I was least expecting it. I had just stepped out the door when he turned me to face him, and the passionate connection that ensued left me with wobbly knees and rendered me speechless for some time to follow. I couldn’t even rate that kiss. On a scale of 1 to 10, that kiss was somewhere in the 50’s.

He was no sooner on his flight home than I was planning a trip down to Florida to see him the following month. Another amazing weekend was spent together, and that was all we needed to be sure. Truth be told, we were both sure even before that second visit.

I flew back home, found the perfect wedding dress, and 4 months after the words ‘happy birthday’ flowed in bright green letters across my computer screen, my hair was tressed up in flowers and curls, and I was shivering in chiffon while making a promise to love that man for life on a Florida beach in the nippy January air.

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Our ‘love at first sight’ is now going on year 12.

I still look at him sometimes and wonder how I got lucky enough to win over this beautiful man. We drive our kids crazy with our frequent smooches and love affirmations. “Get a room”, my son will say. I’ll retort with, “Got one already.” Then they’ll roll their eyes and groan. My husband and I will just look at each other and smile.

Sure we’ve had our ups and downs. We’ve wanted to kill each other at times, and we’ve wanted to kill for each other at times.

We are each other’s world, though, and we wouldn’t trade that…

For the world.

Halloweening on a Budget

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Well folks, it’s almost that time of year again.

That time of year when our kids beg us for expensive costumes that they’re only going to wear for about 2 hours, while they go door to door begging for candy like a band of street urchins.

Now, the candy part I like. If I don’t send them out begging for candy, how else am I going to steal all of the good stuff like Kit Kats and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and leave them with junk like Necco Wafers and that nasty chewy peanut butter taffy? (Seriously people, stop even buying those things, they just end up in the garbage or at the end of some kid’s slingshot.)

It’s just the buying costumes part that tries to throw a monkey wrench into my devious, candy thieving plan. We haven’t been able to afford a store-bought costume in years, because we just happen to be certifiably, duct-tape-your-shoes, Ramen-five-nights-a-week, wear-your-undies-until-there’s-more-holes-than-actual-fabric poor. So, we’ve just managed to make do with what we have.

We’re so poor, in fact, that one year we cut some arm and leg holes into a trash bag, stuck some wadded up paper and wrappers to my son’s head, and took him to an upscale neighborhood, (you know, the kind where they give out candy that didn’t come from the dollar store) where he went door to door proudly proclaiming, “I’m poor white trash.”

Don’t judge. It worked. Not only did the kid win a costume contest that year, but he even got double the candy out of sympathy, and it only cost us a trash bag.

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So, lack of funding during this time of year has forced us to get quite imaginative when it comes to costume creating. Call it Halloweening on a budget. We make it work, though.

I thought I’d highlight a few of my favorite past costume creations for you; my adoring one and a half fans. In honor of the upcoming festivities.

May you be inspired.

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Let’s start with this work of art that we like to call “Stepped in Bubble Gum.” This one happens to be one of my all time favorites. It was cheap, easy, and won him another costume contest. One of his sisters had the pink shirt and pants already, and I drew tire tracks and footprints on them with a sharpie. We found the pink hat at the thrift store, and I sewed one of my old shoes to the top of it. Voila! The kid was transformed into a wad of ABC bubble gum. (That’s “already been chewed” for those who aren’t in the know.)

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We all know that money doesn’t grow on trees, but sometimes it does for Halloween!

I had alot of fun with this one. The fake foliage, headband, and play money all came from the dollar store. I got a pack of brown pipe cleaners from Wal-mart to twist into little branches, and we found the brown gloves at the thrift store. I sewed some of the leaves and money onto the finger tips of the gloves, attached the remaining leaves and money to the ends of the pipe cleaners, wound them around the headband to look like branches, and sewed a couple of the makeshift branches onto the shoulders of the shirt. I even found a rubber dragonfly hiding out in my bins of craft supplies, and sewed it to the front  of the shirt. All in all, we spent about 6 bucks to make this costume.

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This costume didn’t cost us a dime. She was going through a goth phase so she already had most of this stuff in her closet  anyway. She threw together a few of her items to make a dark fairy costume, and the wings just happened to be hand-me-downs that I found stuffed in the back of my closet from some Halloween years ago:

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I pieced that together, too, but don’t ask me what I was. No clue.

Oh, and by the way:

Tree hugging fairy!!!

Sorry, just had to throw that in there.

Moving right along:

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The Low Budget Ninja.

Michelle Phan (love her) has this awesome little YouTube video called “Be a Ninja In 30 Seconds…I Think“. She basically teaches you how to take a black t-shirt and turn it into an instant ninja mask. That’s what we did for this costume, and then we just went through closets until we found some black garb to complete the ensemble. He had the weapons already because, well…he’s a boy. Grand total spent on this costume: nothing.

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Uh oh. Looks like Mr. Ninja stepped in some gum.

Anyway…

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Who doesn’t love a zombie girl, especially when she’s eating her daddy’s brain? This corpsie cutie made her costume herself. She cut up a shirt and some jeans to look like they had slash marks, added some fake blood and face make up, and her undead look had suddenly come alive. This costume only cost a few bucks for a tube of fake blood and some face paint.

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The following year my daughter was going through an “Everything Batman” phase and decided that she wanted to be Batgirl. So, I got this little slip-type skirt that I cut up from the Salvation Army store for a buck along with the shirt which was 3 dollars. I got the fabric for 5 dollars at hobby lobby, cut out the wings, and sewed them along the side seams of the shirt. I then sewed the tips of the wings to a couple of her rings so that she wouldn’t have to hold them.  We found the mask for a couple of bucks at a Halloween store. She already had the belt which was a gift from her dad I think, and the boots were borrowed. We probably invested about 12 dollars total into making this costume, which is pretty good considering the fact that when we looked at Batgirl costumes in the store, they were 40-50 dollars! Yikes!

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What good is a superhero without her trusty sidekick?

I had found this plain green shirt and little red slip-skirt at the Salvation Army store for a few dollars as well. I cut up the skirt to match her batty counterpart’s ensemble. I bought some t-shirt paint at Hobby Lobby for 4 bucks and painted the Robin symbol on the front of her shirt. I then found some red, green, and yellow fabric pieces in the craft section of the thrift store that I used to manage. I used them to make the cape that I sewed onto the shoulder seams of her shirt, and also her green armbands, and her belt. The mask was a couple of dollars at Walmart, and she already had the boots. The total spent on this costume was around 10 dollars.

Off to fight some crime, ladies?

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Go get those candy bandits!

Alrighty then.

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Mr. Gangster here was a last minute throw together costume because we really had no other ideas. The pinstripe suit was given to him by some friends of ours, and I used an eyebrow pencil to draw on a snazzy little beard. Don’t worry son, you’ll be growing facial hair of your own soon enough.

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Last year my daughter opted for a mother nature look. I’d say we only put about 5 dollars into creating this costume with the purchase of the make-up. I used an eyebrow pencil, metallic gold eye shadow, and metallic green eyeliner to paint the design on her face. A friend had given her the fake fall leaves that she used to weave into her corded belt and make into a circlet for her head. The shirt and cover-up she already had, and the skirt was a part of my old renaissance costume:

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Uh…yeah. Old school.

And then there was Juliet:

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Okay. I’m no great seamstress, but with the added help of a plain white skirt and some gold-trimmed pink velvet ribbon, I managed to recycle an old church choir robe into a work of art. I accented the ensemble with a teardrop shaped pearl bead tied to a piece of gold ribbon to adorn her forehead. All of the items for this costume were found in the thrift store that I used to manage, so the only thing it cost me to make this costume was time.

Now, these last few low budget costumes weren’t necessarily for Halloween, but I’ll throw them in with the mix anyway because they were just so much fun to create:

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Even better than the Von Trapp family is…well…mine.

You see, we had this “World Nations” dinner at church and we were supposed to dress up in a costume that represented a country of our choosing. Since I’m of German decent, I naturally chose to piece together a few German costumes for the fam. All of the clothing and fabric that I used for these costumes I found in the thrift store. I sewed their cute little hats out of felt pieces and ribbon. I dissected an old fashioned ruffled shirt and added the sleeves to my vest and some of the lace to my step-daughter’s shirt. We found some plain white skirts that fit and used some gold cloth place mats as aprons. I made the suspender pieces out of fabric and wide ribbon and sewed them to pairs of shorts that we already had to make Lederhosen.  Ja!

And there you have it folks!

This year we’re working on an awesome Alice costume for my daughter. My son is going to be the Mad Hatter, and Ray Darr, the worlds worst excuse for a pet rabbit is going to be the March Hare.

Stay tuned for those pics. It’s going to be fabulous!

Collaborating With My Kid

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On a recent trip to Michigan to visit my parents that included my husband, daughter, son, and one of my step-daughters, we found ourselves attending my cousin’s college graduation party. It was just a simple outdoor gathering with a barbecue style buffet spread.

While there, there was an item made available to the gathered guests and children that caught my ever-artistic daughter’s eye:

Sidewalk chalk.

She proceeded to grab the bucket of chalk and set to work doodling on the cement driveway.

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This eventually led to her working on a detailed picture of one of her favorite things to draw:

Her “Mushies”.

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Being the huge Alice in Wonderland fanatic that she is, she loves mushrooms, and she loves to draw colorful and creative pictures of whatever toadstools her imagination can work up; among other things, of course. She has a very vivid imagination.

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So there she was down on her knees, diligently working on her chalky cement creation while other party-goers were slowly packing up and heading out one by one. The party was coming to an end, and my husband and parents were trying to hurry my daughter along so that we could leave soon ourselves.

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My child, however, takes after her mother in that she’s not only an artist, but a perfectionist as well, and walking away from an unfinished work of art just isn’t an option for her. I understand this incessant need to finish a masterpiece while others may not.

In a crunch for time, however, I bent down and asked, “Would you like me to help?”

She responded with a relieved “yes,” and we proceeded to finish the creation together that she had started herself.

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Now, in the artistic world, one does not simply allow other people to dip their hands into one’s creative cookie jar. This is especially true with me and my daughter, considering how seriously we take each project that we set our minds to. There has to be complete trust in another person’s artistic abilities to even consider allowing them to touch your own masterpiece.

My daughter and I share a bond that goes deeper than just mother and child, though. We share an artistic bond, in that we have almost the exact same sense of artistic style, imagination, and ability. We have complete trust in one another artistically, and often times, we’ll find ourselves working together or running ideas by each other on any given project.

We collaborate well, and we complement each other quite nicely. It means a lot to me that I’m the only one on this earth that she trusts enough to touch her work. This goes both ways.

We recently worked together on a project to rework a beat up old gun rack that had been kicking around the thrift store for almost a year into a sword rack for my step-son. My husband screwed a wooden plaque on the front for us, and I painted the whole thing black. I had intended to paint some sort of Asian dragon design on it, but I asked my daughter if she would be willing to do it instead, because I knew it would turn out just as well if she did it.

And it did.

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I look forward to collaborating on many more future projects with my kiddo. As a matter of fact, we’re wracking our brains even now trying to come up with something amazing that we can work on together. I have a few ideas. You’ll have to stick around if you want to see what we come up with.

I told her yesterday that I was throwing her out of my art class. Not because I don’t love her, of course, but because she’s just way too advanced. Then I decided to let her stay, but only as my assistant. I think that would be a much better arrangement, don’t you?

Oxymorons and Such

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I have admittedly been suffering from writers block for the last two weeks. Well that’s not entirely true, because the words still seem to flow when I’m given a topic assignment that interests me, so maybe writers block isn’t exactly what I’d call it. It’s more or less been a lack of imagination. Creative Constipation. I’ve simply had an inability lately to think up good writing topics on my own.

So, I’ll go to the Daily Prompt each day and look it over. Lately they haven’t appealed to me much, but occasionally I’ll say, “Ooo, that’s a good one.” Then I’ll get sucked into some TV series on Netflix, and writing goes out the window for the day. Sad, I know, but it happens.

I used to try and write something daily, but I’ve been pretty unmotivated for whatever reason these past couple of weeks, so it’s been more like twice a week. I suppose I can blame my allergies. I’ve had an almost continuous sinus headache that has kept me feeling pretty crappy and has sapped my focus.

When I have written lately, it’s usually turned out to be something sad and depressing. When I wrote the previous post, my husband came home that evening and said, “Would you warn me before you’re gonna post stuff that makes me cry? I can’t be bawling like a baby at work.”

He’s right. I have been getting further and further away from the lighthearted humor that I used to try to fit into all of my posts. I’d rather be funny than depressing. I was just trying to keep it real. Didn’t mean to make anyone shed tears on my account. Don’t cry my adoring fans, don’t cry. There, there.

I mean sure, it’s all true stuff about my life and the emotions that past events have brought about, but all one and a half of you don’t want that sappy junk. You want the good stuff. You’re humor junkies, shaking in the ultraviolet glow of your electronic devices until you get your next fix. “Show me the funny,” I can hear you say. I’m telepathic like that. I’m watching you with my mind’s eye right now. You’re looking good. Have you lost a few pounds? I have to be honest, though, pink isn’t your color, and it’s about time you had a haircut.

Anyway, in the interest of lightening the mood for a change, I thought I’d grace you with a few of the crazy things that my kids have done or said that have made me chuckle over the years. Having offspring, while a full time, exhausting job most days, isn’t without its entertainment value, after all.

A couple of years ago, my daughter and I were discussing the fact that my son will walk around with sticky, gooey hands and a dirty face, and it doesn’t bother him in the least. So, in an effort to sound all motherly and intelligent, she turned to him and said, “You’d better wash your hands more often, or you’ll get Glaucoma.” I about died laughing. She of course knows what that is now, and I, being the compassionate, loving mom that I am, bring it up from time and time just to agitate her. It always works. She’s easy to rile up, though. It usually takes little to no effort to push her buttons. I think it’s a redhead thing. Or maybe a teenager thing. Probably both.

Then a few months back, my husband, who refused to cut his hair for whatever reason, decided to slick back his unruly mane with hair gel one day. I looked at him on the ride home and said, “Nice hair.” He said, “You think? I was going for a Bella Lugosi look.” I responded with, “Well, I think you more or less have Fonzie pegged.” My son vehemently disagreed from the back seat. I said, “Son, do you even know who  Fonzie is?” “Yeah. He’s that guy from the Muppets,” he replied.  My husband and I both laughed out loud.

This is also the same boy that was bored one day while we were running the thrift store, so he decided to go out and dance in the rain with a stuffed buffalo. I peeked around the corner out of the big roll up door at him spinning around with his buffalo, and said, “Son, should you have that buffalo out in the rain?” His response to me was, “Yeah, it’s fine. He’s a water buffalo.” I love my son.

Many years ago, when my oldest step daughter was about 11, her younger brother decided to shut the door in her face while we they were getting out of the minivan. A small argument ensued between the 2 once she made it out of the vehicle, which resulted in her eventually calling him a ‘stupid genius.’ I looked at her and said, “He can’t be stupid and a genius. That’s an oxymoron.” She put her little hand on her hip, gave me a cocky glare, and said, “I am NOT a moron.” I laughed until my sides ached.

Several years later, we all went to Krystal after church to get burgers; all 7 of us. On our way out, that same child thought that one of the large, sectioned windows next to the door actually was the door, and walked right smack into it. She stood there for a second and then said, “Oh. This one must be locked.” The whole family witnessed this display, and we all burst out laughing. This resulted in my quick witted self turning the situation into a joke. “How do you confuse a blond?” I asked. “You put a window where a door should be!” Everyone laughed, but I got a slug in the arm for that one from the blond in question. That whole scene still haunts her from time to time to this very day. Only because I bring it up, of course.

My kids.

They’re crazy, but I love them, all five of them; two that I gave birth to and three that I married into. When we’re all out and about people will say, “Are all of those your kids?!” I just smile and say, “Yep, never a dull moment in my house.”

And I mean it.

Luxury? What’s that?

Daily Prompt: Luxurious

What’s the one luxury you can’t live without?

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Disclaimer: Due to the pathetic nature of this post, tears of pity for the author may be shed. Please have tissues on hand.

Luxury? What is that?

We pretty much live at poverty level with 5 kids. My husband is paid a fraction of what he should be making after 15 years of property management service with the company he works for. So, my idea of luxury probably isn’t what everyone else’s idea of luxury may be. I don’t think of luxury as fancy cars and expensive jewelry and the finer things in life. No, I consider luxury to be what others may just think of as standard living. I can’t pinpoint any one specific thing that I’d put above any others, though, so I’ll just list a few items that I consider to be luxuries.

Personal space. Now there’s a luxury. We live in a small 3 bedroom condo, which doesn’t seem bad in theory because we at least have a roof over our heads while many others don’t. It’s a nice place, too, so I’m not complaining about my home. It isn’t falling apart or run down or anything and it’s in a fairly decent area of the crime infested city we live in. However, when 3 teenage girls are crammed into a bedroom that isn’t even large enough to park a car in, it does become…problematic. The oldest is moving out next month, though, because she’ll be 18, so the 2 remaining girls will have a bit more space.

Then there’s food. Food is a luxury. This saddens me deeply, because I love to ingest food. What would I do for a Klondike Bar? Start selling off children or body parts because that’s about what it would take for me to get one.

We’re often forced to have small portions to make meals stretch, which often leads to whines and complaints from the kids because they’re still hungry after a meal. Well, of course they’re still hungry, they’re teenagers. They’d eat the furniture if it were deep fried and covered in ketchup.

We can’t afford decent food, either, because we’d have to take out a loan and put our vital organs up as collateral to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. No, we can only afford the cheap, unhealthy junk. Our weekly meals consist of stuff like hamburger helper, macaroni and cheese, ramen, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and French fries. I can’t recall the last time any name brand items crossed our threshold, either. I have fantasies about Kraft macaroni and cheese, because that generic stuff, while not only a lovely shade of florescent orange when you mix in the powder, is like chewing on a dirty shoe. I stopped wondering why my intestines light up like a glow worm a long time ago, and assumed it must just be the generic macaroni and cheese.

Our kids are so sick of eating ramen for lunch every day (that isn’t an exaggeration), that they’ve started experimenting with different ways to make it. My daughter will boil it, microwave it, or sometimes fry it. She’ll mix it with teriyaki sauce, sugar, frozen vegetables, butter, or anything else she can think of to try. They have learned not to whine to my husband about how sick of it they are, though, after hearing, “You’ll eat anything if you’re hungry enough” any time that they do.

New clothing is a luxury, too. I have to admit, though, that it’s been nice working at a thrift store because we haven’t really had to worry about how we were going to get clothes for the kids. I’ll usually just tell them to bring in their outgrown items and exchange them for clothing that fits. We’ll be lost when we don’t have the thrift store helping us out with clothing anymore.

Now underwear, that junk is definitely a luxury. I’ve worn my sports bras right down to the point that they look like Swiss cheese. The elastic will be shot in my “drawahs” (that’s southern for underpants) and those suckers will be hanging to my knees before I finally get some new ones. Then my eyes light up like a kid on Christmas morning when I get that new pack of Fruit of the Looms.

Having a laptop and Internet to go with it is beyond luxury. It’s straight up extravagance. Lucy, my beloved laptop, is getting up there in years though. She’s an old girl as far as computers go. She’s like…5 or something. She’s a hand-me-down from my husband because he needed a new laptop for work. I’m happy to have her, though, she’s my baby. My husband has thought about cutting off the internet a few times to save money, but we don’t have cable, so if he did that we might actually be forced to…oh I don’t know…have conversations or spend time together and junk. How horrible would that be?

We do get to go on a cruise at least once a year compliments of my husband’s company. That’s a huge luxury for us. They take us every October, so that trip is coming up, too. I’m excited.

Through all the things I’m lacking, though, I’m content. Contentment is being satisfied with what you have and not longing for more. I don’t sit around in misery all day and say, “I wish I had this or that”. I like my home. I like the things in it. Sure, the kitchen table is in rough shape, but I found a nice table runner at the dollar store. Problem solved. Man, have I learned to solve some problems over the years with nothing but spare change, too…

I don’t look at what other people are driving and long for something better, either. I like Bessie, my minivan with the wired on bumper from getting rear ended by a texting taxi driver. She’s a sturdy old gal. Now if I could just get my kids to stop thinking she’s a trash can and laundry hamper on wheels…

Sure I get frustrated sometimes if there’s a need that can’t be met financially. I haven’t been able to visit a doctor in years due to lack of insurance, which is hard because I’m getting older and problems that I’ve had for awhile are becoming more prominent. We just can’t afford insurance, though, and I don’t qualify for Medicaid. So, I suck it up and cope when I have a medical issue. Ibuprofin is one of my closest friends.

I’m sad for the kids more than anything because they’ve had to miss field trips, birthday parties, and other events due to our financial situation over the years. They’ve gone without birthday presents for as long as I can remember and have pretty meager Christmases sometimes because we just can’t afford to buy them luxurious things.

For the most part, they understand, though, and they don’t complain as often as they have reason to. I think they know that we do the best we can with what we’ve got.

We get by, and that’s what matters.

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Grandmother Times Two

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Left:Grams, Middle:Me, Right:Bets

My grandmas were as diff’rent as night and day,
But both of them loved in their own special way.
I would have adored for them both just to stay,
But grandmas, I fear, must one day go away.

For some reason, I’ve been thinking about both of my Grandmothers a lot lately. I think that this dive into the memory pool is due mostly in part to the fact that during a recent vacation to visit my parents, my dad and I reminisced a bit about my Grandma Betty. “Bets” as she was called by all who knew her, had many eccentricities. My dad would always say that she was somewhat of a cross between Phyllis Diller and Lucille Ball.

The whole reminiscence was brought about by hot dogs. Yes, hot dogs.

We were preparing a dinner of what was supposed to be hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill, and we realized after the hamburgers were finished cooking that we had forgotten to put the hot dogs on altogether. So, we just microwaved them instead. Bets would not have approved, for she liked her hot dogs hot off the grill, and burnt to a charcoal crisp. I mimicked her voice to my dad; that loud, gravelly voice filled with laughter that we would hear at every cook-out and function during the warmer months, calling to my dad as he stood over the grill. “Johnny, I want a black weenie,” she would say. We would all then burst into laughter at the sheer ridiculousness of that request.

We chuckled at the memory, my dad and I. Ah Bets, we sure do miss you.

So, I decided to dedicate today’s post to them; the Grandmothers that I loved, and ultimately lost.

When we’re children, we don’t stop to think about the fact that they won’t be there some day. Grandmothers just seem so eternal, as if they will always be permanent fixtures in our lives. We tend to take the quilts, cookies, and cuddles for granted until we wake up one day and realize that we aren’t young anymore, and neither are they. Then the inevitable happens; they leave us with nothing but memories of the love that they lavished upon us, and it’s too late to go back and savor every deliciously perfect moment that we were able to share with them.

My grandmothers were both very different, but they got along well. I can’t recall a Christmas, birthday, or any other major even in my life that they weren’t both there to celebrate with me; until they were gone. Then I noticed their absence even more than I noticed their presence at such events, because it left a gaping hole that had always been filled by their big happy hearts.

They both lived their lives at opposite ends of some stereotypical grandmother spectrum, but it’s hard to picture either of them any other way than how they simply just were.

Bets was a social butterfly, and after she was awake and dressed each day, she was off and running. My other grandmother, Grandma Groth, or “Grams”, was your typical grandmotherly type. She baked. She quilted. She knitted. My home is still graced by some of her lovingly crafted creations today.

Bets would start her day off with gin and juice and a morning smoke. Grams would start hers with a poached egg, toast, and coffee.

Grams gave the best hugs. Bets would cover your face in sloppy lipstick coated kisses.

If I wanted to find Bets, I knew to look at the American Legion. She would likely have beer in hand, and be perched upon the bar stool that she had claimed long ago and that had, by then, formed to fit the shape of her backside. If I wanted to find Grams, I knew that she’d either be at the local bowling alley, taking part in her senior’s league and staying young at heart, or in her own kitchen.

Grams loved to cook and bake, and her award winning confections were raved about by all that knew her. She made the most amazing chocolate chip cookies. She also made these things called “Butterhorns” that were to die for. They were basically croissants made from scratch with raspberry jam in the middle, covered with a thin layer of frosting and crushed walnuts. I can almost taste their soft, sweet deliciousness as I sit and call to mind the memory of them now. Bets, well…she could make a mean bowl of corn flakes. That was the extent of her culinary skill . She couldn’t be bothered spending her time tied to a kitchen.

Bets had this cackling, infectious laugh that you could hear from across the room. She also didn’t have much of a filter between her brain and her mouth. If she was thinking it, she said it, often to the point of embarrassment. “What are those red spots all over your face, Piggy-coo?” (Hated that name, I seriously did, especially since I struggled with my weight from about 8th grade on.) “They’re zits, Grandma. Thanks for pointing them out at my graduation party in front of all my friends.”

Grams had her “Grandma-isms”; all these silly little sayings that she’d use regularly that made no sense whatsoever.  “Kwitcherbelliachin”, which was coincidently displayed on a bright green plaque by her door, was what she would say if you were doing more than your fair share of complaining.  “Want an egg in your beer?” was given in response if you were just being too demanding. “Like poop through a tin horn.” (Okay poop wasn’t the exact word she used but you get the idea.) I think that one indicated swiftness. “Sugar jets!” was an exclamation of frustration. I’m sure that there were more, but those were the most prominent ones that come to mind.

I miss them both very much. Like all Grandmothers, though, their time on this earth was just way too brief.

Grandma Betty’s lifetime of drinking and smoking finally caught up with her, and she succumbed to her vices swollen and gasping for each shallow breath hooked up to a ventilator in the local hospital’s intensive care unit. When I was told that she had taken a turn for the worse, and would likely not last through the night, it took all the reserve I could muster to make the pilgrimage to visit her that one last time. I could hardly bear to see her like that, but I needed to say my good-byes. I knew that there would be regrets on my part if I didn’t.

She could do nothing more than move her eyes at that point, but as I held her swollen and limp hand in mine, she rolled her now kidney failure yellowed eyes  in my direction. I realized then that she was looking at me for the last time in this all too short and fragile life. As her eyes locked on mine, my tears started to flow. I read her goodbye written in those once vibrant eyes, and that brief goodbye gaze tore my heart out. I told her I loved her, kissed her clammy forehead, and made my departure. The woman that I had once thought to be immortal had fallen, and I could scarcely handle seeing her as less than the star of the one woman show that she had always been to all who knew her.

Grams went much more peacefully, and it was simply old age that finally got the better of the strong, independent, active woman that I had also thought would live on forever. It was in her sleep in the nursing home where she resided that she finally left us. I had already started my new life 1200 miles away by that time, and I received the phone call from my mother breaking the news to me.

I didn’t have the money for travel expenses, so I wasn’t able to make it to the funeral to pay my respects to Gram one last time. That fact devastated me almost as much as her passing, and I will always have pangs of regret because of it.

It was hard on me for a good long while to lose her, even though I only saw her toward the end during the 2 times a year that I made the trip home to visit. I would stop into the nursing home every time, and she would always recognize me, even though her moments of memory loss became more and more frequent with each passing year. I loved to walk into her room and hear her exclaim my name and watch her eyes light up with all the joy and wonder of one who has just spotted a celebrity in their presence. It always reminded me of just how much she genuinely loved me.

Even though I never got to truly say goodbye, I can rest assured that she knew I loved her, too.

If any of your grandmothers are still with you, appreciate them. They won’t always be there, so find the time to let them know you love them and enjoy each moment that you’re able to spend with them.

If you’re a grandmother yourself, just know that you’re loving presence is one of the greatest blessings that your grandchildren could ever receive, and they will one day realize it.

This little trip down memory lane has caused me to shed a few new tears, but they’re welcome tears. Tears of warmth. Tears of fondness. Tears of privilege at having had my grandmothers in my life.

I just looked up to see them both standing before me, smiles on their fading but not forgotten faces, and eyes filled with love.

It seems that they approve of this message.

The Anti-Health

Weekly Writing Challenge: Fit to Write

What does health mean to me?

Well, not being the me  that I am now, for starters.

I’m a mess, but I’m not even a hot mess. I’m more like the aftermath of a hurricane.

I’m health’s biggest joke. Health laughs, points, and torments me like a bully in the schoolyard. Health sticks my head in the toilet from time to time and gives me crap caked swirlies. I, in turn, hang my stinky head in shame and retreat back into my eternally warped mind.

I’m admittedly overweight. Some 60 pounds by my own standards, 80ish by the standards of those that set an impossibly obtainable precedent for what is, in this day and age, actually considered to be fit and healthy.

Marilyn Monroe had it, I think. What I would consider to be a true, attainable picture of health and beauty. She was not rail thin. She had hips. She had curves. She gave J-Lo’s infamous backside a run for its money.  She was, and still is, a beauty icon that women compare themselves too. She would, however, be considered obese by today’s ever shrinking standard of “healthy”.

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I don’t want, nor will I ever want, to be a size zero. I think about a 6 is sufficient. We won’t discuss what size I really am, though, or how far I’d have to go to get there…

Sure, I could fix it. I have before. In all honesty, though, I have absolutely zero ambition to get me started, and, well…I like food…a lot

I also have more important things that need repairing inside before the repairing can start outside. I consider myself the equivalent of a “fixer upper” sitting up on blocks in some redneck’s yard in the trailer park of life. Nothing fancy like a Mercedes. No, more like a rusty El Camino. Sure, some body work and a coat of paint would do wonders for the outside, but she aint goin’ nowhere if the transmission’s shot, Jim Bob.

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Boy is my tranny ever shot.

I’ve officially been broken for 16 years now. Something in my head snapped like a dried twig at the ripe old age of 22. I was 4 months pregnant with my daughter, when poof…the anxiety fairy came down on her crappy little cloud and sprinkled magic crazy dust over my frontal lobe. I should have ripped the little witch’s wings off.

After years of trying different medications and “highly recommended” self-help books, all the king’s horses, and all the king’s therapists haven’t been able to put me back together again. I doubt they ever will. Some of the pieces have gotten lost along the way.

You’ve gotta love the Christian crowd, too. “Just pray it away,” seems to be the ultimate answer. “Give it to God, He’ll fix it” or there’s my all-time favorite, “You must not truly have faith in God or you’d be healed by now.”

It’s not that I entirely disbelieve them, either. I know God can fix anything that He wants to. I do believe, however, that there’s a part of me that wants to be the way I am, and won’t let Him. I’ve wrapped my OCD around me like a security blanket, and I’m not sure I’d really want to meet the me I’d be without it. So, instead of letting my emotional blankie go so that I can begin the process of growing up, I’ll just pop my proverbial thumb back into my mouth and hold it tighter.  Just try and take it away from me. I dare you. I’ll scream.

I feel like my OCD is the only control I have over my life, and in reality, to those up above looking down into my rabbit hole of insanity, it’s what makes my life spiral out of control. And one side makes you smaller, and one side makes you larger, Alice…

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I used to blame my parents for the way that I am. They dabbled in prejudices the way that an alcoholic dabbles in whiskey. The term “lowlife” got tossed around like a football at Cowboy Stadium.

“Look at that lowlife, probably hasn’t cleaned her house in months. Did you see her bathroom?”

“Look at that lowlife in that piece of sh*t car.”

“Look at that lowlife white girl dating that black guy. Do something like that, and I’ll disown you.”

“You’re not going to turn into one of those lowlifes, are you?”

That lowlife stigmata has haunted me so much over the course of my lifetime, that I honestly don’t know what genuinely qualifies anymore. All I know is that I still bend over backward to this day not to become one of those people. In reality, though, I bet those people are genuinely happy. My parent’s never were. Still aren’t.

Parents, if you think that your prejudices won’t have an adverse effect on your kids, just go ahead and keep it up. Let them turn out like me.

They also sculpted my guilt the way that Michelangelo painstakingly sculpted David. I didn’t turn out to be a great masterpiece, though. “Just look at what we do for you and you won’t do this for us?” I was apparently the poster child for ungrateful and unappreciative. Thank you was never enough. Hours upon hours of household service were never enough. Blood, sweat and tears were never enough. I was never enough. Never going to be enough.

Never would amount to anything. Still haven’t amounted to anything. Always point out my flaws. Never focus on my strengths. I do have strengths, I know I do. Don’t I? I did what you asked, why is it not good enough? Will you praise me now? No? I forgot something? Didn’t do it right? Missed a spot? Sorry. Are you proud of me, anyway? Be proud of me, no matter what. Accept my flaws. Tell me I’m good enough.

Love me. Say it. Well, mom says it…now. She does. Never used to when it counted, though. When I needed it. Dad? Once a year if I’m lucky. Formative years? Yeah right. There’s a joke. I know I’m not a Mercedes, mom and dad. I turned out to be an El Camino. Love me anyway. TELL ME. Let me out of this cage of worthlessness. Break…this…cycle…

It will go on. I’ll likely ruin my kids now with my OCD. They’ll need extensive therapy because of me. I’ll have to make amends with that someday. Face them when they tell me that I’ve destroyed their lives. Pay for their therapy and try to fix them. Darned if they won’t know that I love them and I’m proud of them, though, no matter how much they screw up, make the wrong choices, or disappoint me. I will love them, and they will know.

Blame. In the end, that’s all it is. Blame that I can’t place on anyone but myself anymore. If I’m going to point fingers, I might as well aim them right back at me.

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My husband always talks about a wonderful thing called the “age of accountability”. That’s when, sometime early in the teen years, one starts to know the difference between right and wrong and becomes ultimately responsible for the choices they make. I’m well past that age. My choices are my own now. I can’t play the blame game anymore. I have the power to stop this.

So why do I feel so powerless?

I can’t say I’ve lost all hope in getting better eventually. I’ve taken baby steps over the years. I can leave the house to go to work now. I wasn’t able to before. I don’t vacuum 3 or 4 times a day like before, either. I’ve even been known to skip it for a day from time to time. It’s hard to do. The anxiety punches me in the face, but I fight through it.

Baby steps aren’t enough, though. I can’t lead a normal life on baby steps. I can’t be considered healthy on baby steps.

I can’t go on trying to gain some childhood approval that still isn’t forthcoming, either. It’s likely too late to do any good anyhow.

I’ve all but driven my husband nuts. I think he has depression now because of me. Good going. We can just add that to my ever growing list of screw-ups.

Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I know that I’ll eventually have to pull up my big girl panties and take big girl steps. I can crawl now, sure, but I have to learn to walk…

Someday.

Later.

Not now.

Not ready.

Oh health, just shove me in a locker again, and get it over with.

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The Bad Place

Daily Prompt: Smell You Later

Humans have very strong scent memory. Tell us about a smell that transports you.

Yesterday, I traveled 30 years back in time to a place that I had never really wanted to revisit…

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There’s nothing particularly special or unusual about what I do during the week. It’s just your average blue collar job giving painted facelifts to aging and abused apartments. It was just your average Thursday morning, and I was in my average lazy mood.

After a fifteen minute commute, I arrived at the run-down property that my husband manages. It’s not his fault that it’s in such disrepair; he does his best with what he has. The outside of place hasn’t been painted in over fifteen years, and though I offered to do the job for much less than any of the other commercial painters, the economy still won’t allow for any major renovations right now. The wooden privacy fence surrounding the property has either been pulled down in several places by the local class-cutting high school students looking for a place to hide out, or it has simply rotted away. The pool fence is being eaten away by rust. Most of the fenced in enclosures that house the air conditioning units have been destroyed by the local kids on their summer vacation. Many of the window screens have been torn up or ripped out. Several of the decorative shutters have fallen off. The parking lot needs to be resurfaced. The list goes on and on, but there’s just no money to have any of it repaired or replaced.  I tell my husband that he’s been demoted from property manager to slum lord, but he’s just too optimistic to accept it.

The insides of the places aren’t much better. I’ve come to realize that because of the deteriorating conditions outside, most of the residents aren’t motivated enough to take care of the inside, either. The apartment that I’m currently working in has a thick layer of nicotine on everything, torn up carpets with thick greasy stains all over them, and roaches as abundant as the stars.

I sat on the couch in my husband’s office for awhile, taking my sweet time nibbling at a microwaved breakfast sandwich, and trying to devise new ways to stall the inevitable. Eventually, though, I had to face the facts; 402 wasn’t going to paint itself, and I needed the money. So, I summoned up enough energy to haul my lazy rear end up of the sofa, grabbed my roller and brushes out of the refrigerator (that’s a nice little painter trick so that you don’t have to rinse them out at the end of every day), and toddled off to earn my dollar fifty and a small fry.

After fighting with the door for a moment because it’s one of those that you have to pull on in order for the key to properly turn in the lock, I finally managed to work it open and step inside. That same familiar nicotine smell ran to the threshold and greeted me, though it was admittedly not as strong as before due to the fresh coat of paint on several of the walls. I had already seen enough of this particular apartment to last a lifetime, though, so I decided to waste no more time getting started. I set my painting paraphernalia on the kitchen counter, grabbed my angled trim brush, popped open the 5 gallon bucket of white, and knelt down in a far corner of the living room to get started.

I had been avoiding that particular corner with good reason. I knew what those thick brown and yellow stains covering that matted patch of carpet were from. Sure enough, as I squatted down, my nasal passages were instantly assaulted by an all too familiar odor. Ooo, that smell. Can’t you smell that smell?

That memory smell. The one that sent a cold chill up my spine the second that my nostrils caught the first pungent whiff.

Animal urine…

I was instantly transported out of the ‘now’ to find myself gazing into the ‘way back when’.

Christmas time and a week or two of summer vacation in which I went with my parents to “The Cabin up North”, were really the only times of the year that I was made to visit my grandfather as a child. I couldn’t have been more thankful for that fact.

He was a crotchety old man. The kind that you see in the movies or on TV, waving a fist in the air on his front porch yelling “stay off my lawn!” at the neighborhood kids playing outside. I never saw him smile; at least, not in any of my childhood memories.

I was admittedly afraid of him, as would be any happy-go lucky, pig-tailed little girl whose attempts at fun were met with stern and foreboding glares and admonitions that little girls don’t behave in such a manner. Don’t run around the dogs. Don’t play around the dogs. Don’t raise your voice around the dogs. Don’t have fun around the dogs. Don’t be a child around the dogs…

The dogs.

My grandfather had 4 of them. Four Daschunds. These were NOT your average cute, cuddly little sausage dogs, either. No, these dogs were spawned directly out of the 10th pit of hell. They could not have been scarier had they had multiple heads and breathed fire. You could not make any sudden movements around these dogs, like running, or they’d tear into you faster than you could scream. You could not be loud around these dogs, for loud noises set them off and you could possibly lose a limb. There was one in particular, Schnapps, that was the meanest one of the bunch. You couldn’t even look at him, or he would growl and lunge at your face.

They behaved that way due mostly in part to the fact that they were spoiled rotten. They were the kings and queens of their castle. So much so, that they weren’t even made to go outside to go to the bathroom. There was a dog door in the kitchen that they NEVER used. They had corners of certain rooms that they had claimed as their toilets, and because of this, my grandfather’s house always smelled very strongly of animal urine. You really didn’t want to play in any of the rooms, either, unless you had to, because you’d have to dodge doggy land mines.

I remember the Christmas it happened. The Christmas that I first broke the rules. I was 8 years old. Perhaps even younger, but for some reason, my mind always reverts back to that particular age when I travel once again to the long ago and far away.

We were gathered at my grandfather’s house to exchange gifts and enjoy a holiday meal. I was “playing” in the guestroom, if you could even call it playing, with my grandfather’s wife’s grandson, Joey. In truth, it was more like we were sitting on the sofa watching TV and trying not to draw attention to ourselves.

We were kids, though, and boring TV quickly turned into some childish game that resulted in me running down the hallway. My feet had barely hit the cold, hard floor before Schnapps was hard on my heels and had his teeth sunk into the leg of my pants and the flesh within. He tore my corduroys, the ones that my beloved grandma had made for me. They were tan and had a monkey patch on the back pocket. The tears immediately started flowing, and to make matters worse, here came the grandwarden around the corner. He surveyed the scene. He didn’t really care whether or not I was hurt, he just started yelling at me because I had upset his precious dog.

He then wanted me to try to calm the vicious beast and make friends with it. “Just talk to him, just talk to him…” He’d say. I didn’t want to come within talking distance of that dog. I wanted nothing to do with Schnapps, or my grandfather, who seemingly cared nothing for me.

Every Christmas trip to grandpa’s house thereafter was just some nightmare that I had to live through. At least during the summer trips to the cabin I could hideout in the loft where my grandfather and his evil beasts wouldn’t venture, or I’d spend my time outside on the dock watching the ships roll through the channel, highlighting each new ship that I saw in my special book.

Gramps is long gone, and so is Schnapps. This still doesn’t change the fact that a filthy carpet ripe with animal urine takes me back. Back to a place that I’d never otherwise go.

The Rubber Band Effect Has Snapped

Well, here we are again.

Willie Nelson sang a hit song back in his glory days that pretty much sums up this situation. ‘On the Road Again’ is what we are, although I’m not entirely sure that I agree with the ‘just can’t wait to get’ part. The Hubster and I, 3 kids, and Ray Darr, the rabbit that even Elmer Fudd wouldn’t bother to chase, all stuck in a vehicle for 19 hours. No, this is definitely not ranking high on my list of formulas for fun and excitement. I put the experience on par with…oh…stapling my eyelids to my bottom lip. I have my feet comfortably propped up on the dashboard, though. My hubby absolutely loves it when I do that.

Ray smells like onions and armpit, as usual, therefore, the aroma wafting toward me from the back of the minivan is about the equivalent of a Saturday night Rave party at a Taco Bell. There has to be something wrong with this rabbit.  I’ve raised rabbits before. The cute little, fluffy, cuddly dwarf ones, though. I suppose the fact that Ray is a massive, hulking beast might explain the reason for his enormous stench. He’s so large, that my mom and dad’s 5 full grown Collies ran in fear when we first let him out of his cage. We’re thinking of investing in a saddle and riding him, since gas prices are so high.

Needless to say, Ray did have a big-time bunny blast on this trip, being a general nuisance and doing what rabbits do. See for yourself:

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Rotten Ray strikes again.

Good ol’ Ray Darr. My dad will likely be filling in yard holes for the next week or two. The local gopher population is probably scratching their fuzzy little heads right now and thinking, “What in the world? This is not our handy work.”

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The aftermath. Well, some of it, anyway.

So…

My husband swears by what he calls “The Rubber Band Effect.” That’s where it supposedly always takes less time getting back to point A from point B than it originally took to get to point B to begin with, like a rubber band snapping back into place after it’s been stretched out. I think it might just be wishful thinking on his part. We won’t be proving his theory correct this time, anyway, thanks mostly in part to yours truly.

Here’s a tip for you future travelers out there: Don’t eat greasy carnival food the night before you have to embark on an excruciatingly long road trip. We’ve had to stop every 45 minutes since we left 8 hours ago, and I’ve left a wake of destruction behind in several McDonald’s restrooms along the way. I’ll just leave it at that. I’m sure your imagination can fill in the rest. You can thank me later for imparting this helpful information.

I have to admit, though, that the Pronto Pups might just have been worth the pain.

What is a Pronto Pup, you ask? Well, let me show you:

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Hellloooo Gorgeous x 3!

Now then. Let me explain the awesomeness that can only be summed up as local legend and Yankee tradition in the town where I was born and raised. Don’t you dare say that it’s ‘just a corn dog’, either.

The quaint little waterfront stand that sells these delicacies hasn’t changed a bit in the 66 years since the amazing Chuck Nelson sold his first secret recipe serving of awesome on a stick. The stand is still family owned and operated today by Chuck’s son, Carl, and Carl’s wife and kids.

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The Famous Pronto Pup Stand

In the summertime, people flock in droves from miles around, even from the neighboring towns, to partake of the yumminess that is the Pronto Pup. The line usually spans at least a city block or more. If you mention the name of this tasty treat to anyone within a 50 mile radius, they immediately know what you’re talking about and have likely eaten one…or one hundred… in their lifetime.

They’re made with top of the line frankfurters flown in in huge quantities. When the stand first started, Chuck had searched the world over to find the perfect frank. Many years ago, the brand that he used was discontinued, so, once again, he searched high and low to find a match to his traditional dog. He finally found one that came pretty close, and, because his little stand was so popular with the locals, he sold SO many of them that the owners of the frankfurter company flew in to see exactly who was purchasing such a massive amount of weenies. They took one look at the itty bitty waterfront hovel and said, “are you serious?!”

Now, years later, this little seasonal stand is still so insanely popular, that they open up for one week during the winter so that their thousands of demanding fans can get their Pronto Pup fix. You can get them naked, with ketchup, with mustard, or both. I opted for just ketchup. I’m such a rebel, what can I say…

In other, not so amazing news, I did realize on this trip that my teenage girls believe that they are supermodels, and any and every new location that they set foot upon instantly becomes the setting for an impromptu photo shoot:

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Amazing Amber

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Glorious Grace

Oh em gee, mom…Instagram…helllooo!

Apparently, to the under 18 crowd, I’m what you’d call “lame”. This point was proven true when the girls were floating around on rafts in front of the dock, and I said, “Come on, ya’ll. Get out of my fishin’ hole,” to which my daughter responded with, “Geez mom, give us a sec.” Without really thinking it through, I said, “I’ve given you lots of secs.” This resulted in 4 sets of jaws hanging agape for a second or two. I say 4 sets because those within ear shot not only included the girls, but also my son, and Matt; the teenage neighbor boy that followed the girls around ceaselessly, and that I now apparently looked like an idiot in front of. Their shocked expressions were immediately followed by peals of uncontrollable laughter from them, and a really red face from me. Rotten kids. They know what I meant!

Well then. I have to admit that I slightly dread walking in the door when I get home. The bugs probably realized that we were gone after the first 24 hours and threw a wild party. The spiders likely tipped off the cockroaches, and then things got completely out of hand I’m sure.

I can’t wait to crawl into my big, comfy, king sized 4 poster bed, though. I’ve missed my mattress. Well, my back has missed my mattress, anyway. I think that through a sleep induced haze I vaguely recall a caveman standing over my parents’ guest bed demanding his boulder back.

As far as I’m concerned, aside from unpacking Ray Darr and his rabbit paraphernalia, the rest can wait until my bed and I get reacquainted for a while. That could take at least a day or 2.

Don’t wait up!

Crazy Defined

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THIS in my father. My father and his entourage. My parents happen to be the equivalent of your average crazy cat lady with their animal collecting, except they collect…Collies. Full-fledged, bona fide Lassie dogs. They have 5 of their own right now, and they also participate in a collie rescue program where they foster unwanted collies until they can be adopted by worthy families. There can be up to 7 of them in their house at any given time.

I grew up with a house full of Collies, so I’ve never known a different way of life at my parent’s house. Since I’m an only child, my parents had me convinced that these hairy, slobbery 4 legged beasts were really my brothers and sisters until I was about 12. This is probably why I love to have my hair stroked and petted now.

My favorite childhood collies out of the many that have passed through my life in the 38 years since my birth were Jaica, Mica, and Nick. We had them all within the same time frame, and my parents thought that having 3 collies at once was really pushing the limits of sanity back then. That must make them certifiably straight jacket and padded room crazy now because they’ve expanded their brood to 5 plus the occasional extra.

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Jaica (left), Mica (middle), and Nick as a puppy (right)

Jaica, or “Jake Break” as she was called by my father, was a schizophrenic nutball of a critter. She was scared of her own shadow. I’ve found out over the years that most female collies are. She ran away for 2 weeks once because she heard a gunshot while she was outside. We put up lost dog flyers, and several people spotted her, but she’d run from them in fear. My mom was driving home from town one day when she spotted her crossing the street and called to her. It took her a minute or 2 to recognize my mom, but she eventually came to her. I was so happy to see her when she got home, that I ran to her and hugged her tight, and we fell on the floor in a big bundle of arms, legs, and fur. The fur was mostly mine. Yep, she was nuts, but I loved her. She would sleep with me every night, and she was the best cuddler. She had some wicked dog breath, though.

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My Jaica

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Poor Jaica. I tormented that dog.

Mica, “Mr. Mica-phone” as my dad later dubbed him, and Mikey to me, was my buddy as a kid. He was trained to go into my room, jump onto my bed, and lay across me to wake me up on Saturday mornings. There was no sleeping in with him around. We’d play house. He was quite the hairy husband.  We’d play office. He was my boss, I was his secretary. We’d try to play barbies, but he wasn’t very adept at upholding his end of the relationship as Ken. So, I’d use him as a barbie, and dress him up in beads, purses, dresses, and hats. My dad came downstairs to yell at me once for something that I had done, saw Mica in full ‘bag lady’ regalia, and laughed all the way back up the stairs after he had forgotten whatever atrocity I had committed. Mikey tolerated it like a trooper, too. I once dressed him up in a white T-shirt and a bow tie, put Jaica in my favorite dress, and held a wedding ceremony for the 2 of them. It was a teary-eyed, beautiful moment.

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The Infamous Wedding Picture

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Mica. I tormented him, too.

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Mica loved car rides.

Nick, a.k.a “Nickymeister Burger Bear”, as was his ‘Nick name’, will always hold a special place in my heart because he was discovered by me. I was Christmas shopping at the mall with my friends and decided to go into the puppy store, where I stumbled upon 2 of the cutest little collie pups I’d ever seen. I went home and told my parents that evening, and we went back up to the mall to see them. By that time, one puppy was already gone, and there sat Nick, staring up at us with his big, forlorn ‘please love me’ eyes. We didn’t stand a chance at that point. We went home with a bundle of fluffy collie pup, complete with hernia that had to be removed by the vet. He kept us all up howling that first night, and several nights after that, and I remember my dad saying, “Maybe we made a mistake?” Not my darling Nicky! We all grew to love Nick quickly, though, even as obnoxious as he was. He developed into a huge ball of fur with the shortest, stumpiest legs that I’ve ever seen on a collie. Nick, our Christmas dog. That’s how he got his name. Saint Nick. I miss him so much.

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Me and my Nicky

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Nicky and Dad.

My parents refer to their current herd of hairballs as “The Bears”. There’s Malibu, a.k.a “Boo”. We say that she ‘can’t hold her licker’, and your toes are fair game. There’s Bella, or “Bells” as my father calls her, and she, like my beloved Jaica, is afraid of her own shadow. Then there’s Savannah. She’s deaf and blind, has seizures, and her hind legs don’t work the best, but she’s my mom’s favorite so they do all that they can to make her comfortable in her old age. There’s Wyatt, or “Erpster” as my dad has dubbed him, (he happens to have a nickname for almost every dog that’s ever passed through their home, if you haven’t noticed by now.) Wyatt is a grumpy old man, and king of his domain. Then let’s not forget Gus, the skinny escape artist that’s a favorite among all of the grandkids, and the reason that the chain link fence surrounding the yard is now lined with an electric wire on the top. There’s nothing that can contain Gus, he’s pushed his way out of a screen window before in his efforts to be free.

These days, as my parents have grown older and softer, the collies have gotten considerably more spoiled than the ones they had when I was growing up. Most of them are fat enough to feed a starving family of 7 for a month. I call them couches with legs. They weren’t allowed on the beds without special dog blankets when I was young, and that rule went out the window years ago. My dad feeds them from his plate, too, so “no people food” is a foreign concept to this batch of furballs.

There isn’t anything that my parents wouldn’t do for their dogs. They spend top dollar on the best food, frequent vet trips, treats, toys, and medications to keep the whole herd happier and healthier than your average wet-nosed companions.

I could be jealous of my 4 legged siblings, getting all that special love and attention, but nah. I have a life of my own now, and the thundering herd not only keeps my parents busy in their senior years, but they’re all just too cute for animosity. To each their own, I suppose, and for mom and dad, with the wall to wall canine carpet, ‘Crazy in Colliewood’ is just the story of their lives.

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How do my parents even sleep at night?!