Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Art of Zen and Lawn Mower Maintenance

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I’ve tried to avoid thinking about it, but alas its lawn mowing season again.  I am the last one on my block every year to mow my lawn for the first time.  I wait until everyone else has mowed theirs first and then I’m basically shamed into dealing with mine by the terse smiles from my neighbors and the comments like, “Wow, beautiful day isn’t it?  A perfect day for yard work (wink, wink)”  The neighbors to the south mowed theirs last weekend and then the lady on the north of me had the lawn service come and do hers this week which made my lawn like even more like a hay field than ever . So, I finally had to break down and attempt to mow my lawn.  I rolled my rusted, crusty oil soaked lawn mower out of the garage today and it started right up like a good little lawn mower should, even though it still has old gas from last summer still in it.  I say a prayer every spring before I pull the cord and voila! It starts right up every time.  It is a magic lawnmower and I love it even though I don’t show it.  It’s sort of a love/hate relationship.  I started to push it and it died, so I started it again, got about 10 feet and it died.  This went on for about 15 or 20 minutes until I gave up and had to admit there is something wrong with it.  It’s probably a dirty carburetor or a clogged something or another.  I’ve had it for ten years and I ashamed to admit that I have never taken it in to be serviced, poor little thing.  I’m a terrible lawn mower custodian.  If the government had a division of lawn mower services I’m sure a lawn mower social worker would have come by now and taken my lawn mower away to a nice lawn mower foster home.

The place that takes care of lawn mowers is of course booked solid for the next several weeks and my neighbors will not wait that long for me to mow my lawn without lynching me first.  Actually what would probably happen is that my neighbor, tired of looking at my unkempt lawn would come over and mow it himself as he has done on several occasions.  He has a new riding lawn mower that his got last year.  I know this because last May he introduced me to it and showed me how it could turn on a dime and went really fast.  “Watch,” he said as he took off across the yard at lightning speed.  He got to the other end of the yard then wheeled around doing a perfect 180 and zoomed back to his starting position.  I have never seen his face beam so brightly, his chest puffed up with pride.  I really think he loves that lawn mower as much as he does his own children and uses any excuse to go out and ride it around the neighborhood.

I did not want to be that one person on the block that everyone resents, so I called my ex-husband and he brought over his mower for me to borrow until I can figure out what to do about my dilapidated one.  His is a very manly lawnmower, very unlike my dainty little Craftsman.  It has huge rear wheels and all kinds of fancy knobs, the heavy duty version of a lawn mower.  It took me the whole front yard to get used to it.  The first time I put it into self propel mode it took off so fast and pulled so forcefully that it reminded me of that time I borrowed a professional grade floor sander from my Uncle Ron. The machine got away from me and went twirling all around my living room like a drunken fruit bat.    My uncle finally caught up with it and got it back under control, but not before the handle had put a hole in my drywall. Thank goodness my uncle had stayed behind to help even though I told him I could do it by myself….Ha!  I was so young and naïve in the way of industrial strength floor sanders.

Anyway, after the mower jerked my arms out of their sockets and drug me across the yard for a while I finally realized that on this fancy mower you could just let go of the self propel bar when you needed to get your strength back or turn a corner and then pull it back up when you were going in a straight line.  I finally got the hang of it, but only after digging so many ruts in my yard that it looks like we have been taken over by gophers.  There was only one close call when the huge wheels grabbed onto the decorative stones around the front flower garden.  There for a minute I was afraid the machine might careen up over the edging and knock me ass over ankles into the rose bushes, but I wrangled it back onto the ground before I incurred any injuries.

Tomorrow we will tackle the back yard which is already full of holes because we have two dogs who like to dig.  It’s like a mine field.  I’m saving that for Ben.  Right now I am researching prices on big manly self propelled lawn mowers.  I have decided I like big powerful mowers.  I also like big powerful men except the lawn mower goes in the garage and minds its own business until I need it again…perfect.

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It Could Happen to Anyone

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This morning I was doing the usual “rush around the house like a crazed lunatic” routine because once again, I got sucked into an episode of House and could not walk away from the TV. until I had learned the real reason the pretty young oncologist/genius doctor had walked away from her promising career curing cancer to learn the art of making Italian pastries instead.  By the time I got in the shower I had about 20 minutes to complete my morning routine.  Needless to say I skipped a few steps like drying my hair or shaving my legs.  After a short frenzied shower, I jumped out and grabbed the new bottle of lotion that I got at the Dollar Tree because I ran out of the good stuff.  I squirted some into my hand and thought that the texture was kind of strange.  It was sort of sticky and thin, but it smelled nice.  I just assumed it was because this was cheap Dollar Store lotion and proceeded to coat myself from head to toe with it.  It was when I went to put it back in the cabinet that I noticed the label said “moisturizing hand wash.”  Wait a minute, “hand wash?”  “Do you mean to tell me that I just spent the last ten minutes rubbing hand soap all over myself?”  “Yes, I said back to myself.  That’s exactly what it means.”  I stood there looking at myself in the mirror and I thought that later I would probably find this humorous, but right now I had about 5 minutes to get this stuff off me, get dressed and out the door.  So, back in the shower I went to rinse it all off.  The up side of this situation is that now I am really clean.   I may resemble a shriveled prune, but a clean one…and I smell nice too.

Now That’s Gratitude for You

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gratitude-e1267977864494Today I decided to start a gratitude journal.  The lady on the Oprah show said to start with the little things.  So I thought about it and decided to be grateful for the fact that I did not have horrendous gas pains today.  For two days now, I have endured gas pains that felt a lot like dying and today they finally dissipated.  My story starts two days ago at work during lunch.  The yogurt I brought to eat did not sound appealing so I thought I might try the spicy orange Chinese chicken that the cooks were serving in the school cafeteria.  As it turns out this was a bad choice.  A little after 3:00 in the afternoon I was beset by sudden and severe gas pains that actually had me doubled over in pain and slowly losing the will to live.  This was bad enough by itself, but to make matters worse I was due at the dentist’s office in one hour to have a tooth pulled, something I had never had done before except for wisdom teeth and I remembered that experience was not at all pleasant.  I was really nervous about it and now I had the worst gas pains of my life just to make it more interesting.  I began to pray to the Gods of Gas for one big fart so my colon would not explode and I would not die….they did not answer.  Then I had an epiphany… “I bet if I took one of those left over muscle relaxers the doctor gave me for the back spasms last fall it would probably relax my abdominal muscles too and let the buildup out …no more pain and it would take the edge off my nerves at the same time….brilliant!”   I waited until 3:45 and swallowed one down.  It turned out that taking a muscle relaxer before going to sit in the dentist’s chair when you have really bad gas was not as good an idea as I had originally thought.  I drove to the dentist’s office without incident becoming a little more relaxed, but still kind of anxiety stricken.  However, once I arrived the muscle relaxer started to kick in and as I sat there awaiting my fate I noticed how the sunlight came in the window and made all these interesting shapes on the carpet and how pretty all the plants were and it was just like being in a forest, so peaceful and serene.  I was having a really good time just sitting there and at one point was singing out loud to the piped in dentist office music.  I was really getting into my own version of Moon River when the nurse came to fetch me.  I stood up and floated down the hall behind the nurse, my muscles were definitely relaxing, the pill was working.  Things were looking good.  Once in the chair I was chattier than usual and feeling kind of trippy.  I continued on with my witty repartee and bad dentist jokes until I felt the buildup of pressure in my colon screaming to get out then I sorta wished I was dead.  There was no way out now I was already in the chair with the bib on and getting my first shot of Novocaine.  I tried to hold it in, but there was no tension left in my body, I was just too relaxed and by now I really didn’t care…out it came.   It seemed really long and loud, but that could have just been me having an out of body experience.  I remember making some comment about him poking me with needles and letting the air out of me like a balloon and if he wasn’t careful I might fly around the room backwards until all the air was gone.  After that sunk in, I just kind of slinked down into the chair and pretended to be invisible.  My tooth came out really easy and it didn’t hurt at all.  I floated back down the hall and gave the girl at the desk my debit card, signed some paper, I have no idea what it was, I could have agreed to exchange a kidney for dental services I didn’t know, but then again I didn’t really care.  I flitted toward the door making some comment about gastrointestinal disturbances, letting one rip and that they should probably check the chair for damage.   Then I stopped, twirled around, looked the dentist dead in the eye and said, “So long and thanks for all the fish.”  Now that’s gratitude for you.

My Dog…The Coprophagiac

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It’s a beautiful evening.  The sun is setting in the west (which is a good thing – if it was setting in the east I would be in an alternate universe and I kind of like this one.  I just made myself a nice dinner which is a whole wheat bagel smeared with Braunschweiger and cream cheese, basically a heart attack on a paper plate.  I read somewhere yesterday that Braunschweiger is a good source of iron or B12 or something I’m deficient in (there are so many things).  That was all I needed to justify my purchase of a big roll of the fat laden liver sausage that I love.  I am now sitting on the couch with my dog, watching the sun set behind the cemetery across the street, devouring my special creation and wondering how life could get any better.  Well, if my dog would quit farting, that would be nice.  It kind of ruins my meditative mood you know what I mean?

I’m home alone, with quiet sounds of birds chirping outside, a beautiful sunset and a smell like something crawled up next to me and died, not a real Zen experience.  My dog gazes up at me with that totally innocent look like he just loves me so much.  Of course I am holding liver sausage 12 inches from his bird dog nose so I am his best friend right now.  Later, when I have to put him in the kennel, I will get that pathetic look as if to say, “If you just let me stay outside while you’re gone I promise not to eat grass and then throw up on your bed and I won’t roll in my poop I promise.”

The one thing that Attila likes more than eating Kleenex and chasing birds is rolling in poop.  Not only does he like to roll in it, he eats it too.  It doesn’t have to be his poop either.  Oh no, he is not poo particular, any poo will do.  I Googled this, what I thought was obscure dog behavior, because I was certain that my dog was probably retarded or psychologically damaged in some way, but as it turns out this is a quite common thing for dogs to do.  It even has a name.  The medical term for dining on poop is coprophagia.   Apparently even though a steaming pile of fresh excrement is abhorrent to us humans, to our four legged friends it’s like finding a treasure, a delicacy of immeasurable proportion.  Oh my, I feel a story coming on…

It was back in those days on Dorcas Street in Omaha.  My roommate Julie had a friend named Pam.  Pam’s family had a rather large gray shaggy dog named Beowulf who loved to lick Pam right in the face.  Not exactly my cup of tea, but some people are not bothered by, and actually enjoy, being licked across the face by a big slobbery dog.

I don’t remember the particulars of this story, but I do remember that Pam’s sister had a new baby and they were all together somewhere, probably at Christmas or something.

During this visit, the baby had a dirty diaper as babies sometimes do.  So into the bedroom the two sisters went, laid the baby on the bed and changed the kid’s diaper.  Mom takes the baby into the bathroom for a bit of final clean up and Pam goes back to the living room to refill the ice teas.

About this time, down the hallway and into the living room bounds Beowulf.  He jumps up on Pam and he’s just licking her face all over like he always does.  “Geez, Beowulf,” Pam says, “Your breath is disgusting. ”

“Hey Pam, ” the sister calls from the bathroom, “Can you get that diaper and put it in one of those plastic baggy things?”  …Can you see where this is going?  Pam goes back to the bedroom to retrieve the stinky diaper.  The diaper is there all right, but it’s not dirty any more…nope…it’s clean as a whistle.  Pam thought, “What the heck?  Am I in the Twilight Zone?  Is my sister trying to Gaslight me?”

She turned around and there was Beowulf sitting innocently on the floor at her feet, gazing lovingly up his beloved Pam.  That’s when she noticed something kind of brown stuck on his shaggy grey beard.  “Beowulf, what the heck did you get into?” she asked as she reached out and pulled the brown substance from his face.  It felt sticky.  “Surely not,” Pam thought as she held her fingers up to her nose and inhaled.  “Oh God,” she exclaimed as it dawned on her.  Beowulf had found the canine crack irresistible and licked the diaper clean, hence his horrible breath.  Pam almost threw up, maybe she did I don’t remember.  I know I almost did just hearing the story.

Note to Julie:  You will have to let me know if I didn’t get this right or left anything out.

A Typical Day on Dorcas Street – The Final Chapter

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So far I told you about starting a fire in my car and running over my neighbor’s trash cans.  That same day I lost my bumper in the car wash and later careened into the Jack-in-the-Box clown.  The final humiliation was an incident that occurred after my return home at the end of the day and unfolded as follows:

In our house on Dorcas Street none of us really liked curtains, so we didn’t have any, except for one window in the living room because we needed something to block the sun from shining on the TV in the afternoons.  I was the first one home on this particular evening and had changed out of my torn pantyhose and soap laden officewear into a comfy pair of jeans and a tee shirt.  I was in the kitchen making some dinner when I had to go pee.  Conveniently, we happened to have a half bath off the kitchen so I went in, used the facilities and went to reach for the toilet paper only to find an empty roll.  Damn Rick, besides always leaving the seat up, he never replaced the roll.  I looked around for a suitable replacement, there was nothing.  I knew there was a box of Kleenex on the counter at the opposite side of the kitchen.  I stood there for a minute, pants down around my ankles peeking around the corner into the kitchen, no one was home so I decided what the heck, who’s going to see me right?  I crept out of the bathroom and was doing the little baby step thing like a prisoner in ankle cuffs, my pants dragging on the carpet.  Now, when I had gotten home it was still light outside, which means no one outside would be able to see in, but in the 30 minutes since I’d been home the sun had started to set and it was almost dark now, but not quite.  The lights were on in the kitchen and it was at just the right time of day when I could still see out and anyone outside could now see in and see me.  Of course this is the time of day that I would choose to walk across my kitchen with no pants on.  I was about half way across the room when I glanced out the window and guess who was standing outside in his driveway?  Yes, it was our neighbor (the one whose trash cans I had run over) who already thinks I am a loon.  I saw him and he saw me at the same time and we both just froze.  I screamed.  He jumped back, mortified I’m sure at the sight of me.  Immobilized by extreme embarrassment I forgot about my ankle situation and tried to take a big step towards the living room where I could hide.  I fell flat on my face on the kitchen floor.  I stayed there for what seemed like an eternity and laughed until I cried, I mean why not?  What else was there to do?  Eventually I crawled over to the counter and if our neighbor was still outside he would have seen a hand reach up and grab the box of Kleenex from the counter and slowly disappear out of view.

And the sun went down on Dorcas Street…another perfect end to a perfect day.

A Typical Day on Dorcas Street – Part 2 – THE CAR WASH

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Here it is, yet another story about something that would only happen to me.  I already mentioned in the first part of this story that the Murphymobile was rusted out with parts of the car missing and that the bumper was hanging by a thread.  I don’t know what possessed me to do this with my car in the condition that it was, but common sense has never stopped me before, so why start now?

It was sunny and warm so I decided to spend a portion of my lunch break to venture out to the new automated car wash by my office.  I bought a token and pulled around to take my place in line.  When it was my turn, I inserted my token, pushed the button and awaited further instructions by the women’s voice coming from the box.  At her command I pulled my car into the carwash bay.

The water came on, the brushes went swish swish, a green light came on to tell me that my automated experience was over and the voice instructed me to pull forward.  All was going well as I exited the bay when I heard a loud scraping sound followed by a clunk and then silence.  I stopped my car and got out thinking, “What the heck was that?”  I looked at the back of my car thinking it looked kind of funny and then I realized the bumper was gone.  “Where did it go?”  Then I saw it, my bumper, lying over the drain grate in the middle of the car wash.  It had apparently been too weak to survive the powerful brushes and had fallen off.  This was really kind of embarrassing, but I didn’t really have much time to think about it because the van behind me had already inserted their token, received the green light and was inching ahead.  It all gets very surreal from here and I began to feel like I was in a Salvador Dali painting or something.

On instinct I ran back into the bay and was waving my arms around for the van to stop when the sprayers came on and soapy water began to rain down on me.  The van saw me and stopped, so I squatted in my skirt and heels to pick up my bumper off the pavement.   I realized too late that the heel of my shoe was stuck in the metal grate and as I turned to run my right foot had other plans.  I fell forward onto the wet concrete, scraping my left knee and twisting my right ankle.  I knew I didn’t have long before the sprayers began to propel water at hurricane speeds.  My adrenaline kicked in and I popped back up with my bumper in my arms, one shoe on and one shoe off and hobbled out to safety.  The whole way out of the tunnel I was having visions of myself being beaten to death by the huge blue and white twirling brushes.  It was like a bad dream.  I could see the headlines “Young woman killed in car wash found clutching what appears to be her car bumper – still a mystery.”

I was sitting on the side of the retaining wall soaking wet, a huge hole torn in my pantyhose with mascara dripping down my face Alice Cooper style when the van behind me came out of the car wash tunnel.   Even though I had started out the morning looking rather stylish, I now resembled an escaped mental patient or perhaps someone who had found their way out of a serial killer’s basement.   I thanked the nice man in the van for not running over me as he handed me back my shoe that he had wrenched out of the grate.   I shuffled back to my car and waved to him as I drove away with my bumper in tow.

But wait, there’s more and I swear every word of this is true.  My spirits now dampened I decided to drive through Jack-in-the-Box for a Jack Burrito and go back to the office where maybe I could at least dry my hair on the vent from the hand sanitizing dryer.  Here’s where I’ll say that it’s probably not a good idea to drive around town with the bumper of your car wedged between the bucket seats of your Datsun stick shift.

As I maneuvered through the drive-up, the bumper shifted causing a series of events that resulted in my car colliding with the Jack-in-the-Box clown.   After I pulled my car back down off the curb where it had come to rest, I sat there watching the clown bob back and forth on that big spring.  A disembodied voice asked me if they could take my order.  I told them that I had accidentally hit the clown and I think I cracked his plastic head.  The voice said not to worry, that it happened all the time and the crack was already there from an earlier encounter involving an intoxicated party in search of a burger and fries.

The people at Jack-in-the Box drive-up window felt sorry for me when I told them my story about the bumper and the car wash.  After all they had to believe me I was sitting there soaked with my bumper next to me in the car.  They gave me a Diet Coke on the house to go with my Jack Burrito, so I had that going for me.  Maybe the day would get better now.  After all what else could happen?  I should have known better than to ask.  This is not the end of the story, it actually gets worse.

Stay Tuned for A Typical Day on Dorcas Street Part 3 – The Bathroom

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I swear upon a stack of bibles that all three of the following stories are true and all happened on the same day.

The following is my recollection as best I can remember.

PART 1

The Driveway

It was 1984.  I was 25 years old and lived in Omaha on Dorcas Street in Little Italy with a couple of roommates and a cat named Miss Kitty.  My main mode of transport was a mint green 1975 Datsun B210, a real stunner.  Parts of the car had rusted and fallen off and the bumper was hanging on by a thread, but I didn’t care.  I was young and carefree.  Life was good.

On this spectacular morning in early spring I had just walked outside with my coffee and a cigarette to contemplate the beautiful morning.  Yes I used to smoke.  We all smoked back then because we thought it was cool.  We didn’t think so much about lung cancer because we were young and stupid and thought we were invincible.  We lived five blocks from the river  and I was embarking on my daily trek out to west Omaha for my job at an Architectural Firm.

I jumped in my green machine and was backing out of our driveway, so far so good.  It was when I tried to put the cigarette in my mouth and hold it there for safe keeping, thus freeing both hands, that things got dicey.  Somehow while executing this motion I missed my mouth entirely.  Having missed its’ intended target, the fiery hot cigarette landed on the lapel of my new white wool coat which produced a sizzling sound followed by the smell of burning fabric.  In my panic I uttered something like “oh crap” and instinctively flicked it off with my fingers not really concerned with what might happen next.  I just wanted it off my new coat and pronto!  This one unfortunate incident started a chain reaction akin to a Jerry Lewis movie or maybe an episode of the Three Stooges minus two of the stooges.

The stick of fire flew across the car and landed on the floorboard of the passenger side, which was of course, covered with discarded candy wrappers and old McDonald’s sacks.  I was still brushing ashes off the lapel of my coat when I noticed the smoke.  I had temporarily forgotten that there was a lit cigarette still rolling around somewhere among the old greasy cheeseburger wrappers on the floor of my car.  This thought occurred to me at the exact same moment that one of them burst into flames.  Thank God I had a cup of coffee in the car with me or this could have spelled disaster.  (I am blessed this way.)

I was still grasping for the elusive red hot missile when I heard the familiar sound of metal clanging together, a sound I knew all too well.  It was the neighbor’s trash cans and I had run over them…again…arrrrh!  This woke me up to the fact that I was still rolling backwards down the driveway and I thought to myself that perhaps this would be a good time to apply the brakes.

With the vehicle now stopped, I was able to retrieve the offending cigarette and I used my coffee to put out the flames (I’m very resourceful like that.)  I sat back up in my seat and perused the scene…it was as I had suspected.  The trash cans were scattered on the driveway, but otherwise in pretty good shape.  I sighed, got out and returned them to their upright positions.

Glancing around, I hoped that nobody had noticed, but my neighbor was looking out the window to see what the ruckus was all about…I suspect he already knew.  I smiled apologetically and waved, mouthing the words “I’m sorry,” shrugging my shoulders and sticking my bottom lip out for effect, but he just glared at me and closed the curtain.

I didn’t let it get me down.  Despite the fact that I had burned a hole in the lapel of my new coat, it was a small hole that I could cover up with my pin that said “Your proctologist called…They found your head.”  I still had some coffee left and the fire didn’t even burn the carpet so I considered myself lucky.   It was still going to be a great day.  I looked at my watch, it was 7:30 a.m., still plenty of time to make it to work.  I lit a new cigarette and drove away towards 105th street.

*But wait, there’s more.  Stay tuned for A Day on Dorcas Street Part 2 – The CarWash.

A Typical Day on Dorcas Street (in 3 parts)