Cosmic Humor

Or, I wish life would laugh with me, not at me!

Life has a strange sense of humor sometimes, doesn’t it? You know what I mean. Like the fact that I spent two years trying to rid my yard of Nutsedge, only to move three states away into a neighborhood where every yard uses Nutsedge for grass. Seriously?? I spent $60 a month last summer for Scott’s lawn service to get rid of the pesky weeds before the upcoming wedding weekend, then fired them when the Nutsedge took over my side yard only two months into the deal.  Now, all I can see in every direction is that little ‘weed’.

It crawls under ground like Bermuda, only worse! Whatever you do, do not attempt to pull it!! That only makes it grow 99.936 times faster!!

Life. Funny, isn’t it?

At my previous location I had oodles of birds to go with the oodles of Nutsedge. I all but became a bird watcher, right along with my kitties. They used to love sitting in the window watching the cardinals, chickadees, titmice (titmouses??), and colorful finches feed. There were even mourning doves and chipmunks to enjoy the seeds that fell on the ground.

I preferred to sit on my side porch where my next-door neighbor (read: best friend) and I would drink wine, grouse about the other neighbors (or husbands, whichever were most deserving of our snark at the time), and watch the birds come to several feeders I placed in, around, and under the flowering tree that was the central focus of my side garden bed. I never found out what species the tree was, but it bloomed twice every summer and I absolutely adored it. The squirrels, though, the squirrels were my nemesis.

I am not ashamed to confess, I despise squirrels. I’m one of those people who will swerve to avoid a turtle or frog but then aim a tire right at a squirrel in the road. Hey, natural selection. If the critter is too stupid to get out of my way… Besides, birds will not come to a feeder occupied by such a demanding and voracious animal! And, squirrels continually ate me out of house and birdseed (never mind the endless trail of useless bird feeders they managed to either chew to bits or clean out in an hour). I had one feeder with a screened tube that held the seeds, allowing them to empty into a tray at the bottom. Mind you, this feeder was huge – so huge, in fact, that we had to secure a 2X2 piece of wood to the shepherd’s crook to support the feeder when full. (Well, I’m lazy I worked full-time and did not want to fill the feeder every dang day!) Soon after I put it up, I discovered that screen is a wonderful material for little squirrel claws to hang onto. One squirrel was literally wrapped around the tube – upside-down, mind you – feasting on the never-ending abundance in the tray! Oooh! *&^#@!! Squirrels also adored my vintage feeders. They sat on the saucers and feasted from the cups. How convenient for them. *sigh*

You should know, the birds (and turkeys!) liked them, too:

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In an attempt to rid myself of squirrels, I purchased two (yes, two) special feeders designed specifically to keep the squirrels out. But, life has a twisted sense of humor, remember? (Before I continue, you should know that I am cheap.) My neighbor-friend searched online and invested in a caged bird feeder guaranteed to keep the squirrels out. I found the imitation at Walmart. One day I looked out of the window to see a squirrel’s hind legs balanced on the pole of the shepherd’s crook while it’s forelegs reached through the cage bars to steal seeds from the feeder. I’m pretty sure this squirrel should join the circus (and leave me alone!). But the baby squirrel sitting inside the cage took the cake – er, bird seed. All of it! Next I purchased a (slightly) more expensive “squirrel-buster” feeder designed to close the gate to the seeds when an animal of a certain weight sat on the perch. I soon discovered that squirrels are smarter than I (and probably the creators of these feeders). You guessed it, the pesky thief simply balanced on the shepherd’s crook and helped himself to the plethora of seeds from the opening. Perhaps the squirrels in my yard will be able to avoid my tires, too. Evolution at work.

What’s a bird-lover to do?

Well, I moved the squirrel-buster to a tree in hopes that there would be no access to the seeds (it seemed to work, but then, just because I didn’t see a squirrel eating from it did not make it so). As to the cage, I let the baby squirrel clean out the feeder prior to my move. That way, at least I didn’t waste any seeds.

Finding reasons to willingly feed the enemy = cosmic humor!

Last week (at my new location), I hung the cage bird feeder on a shepherd’s crook in front of my bushes. Unfortunately, I am unable to hang it from the one tree in my yard in an attempt to confound the gymnast-squirrels. I have been watching, hoping to discover what kinds of birds will find it. I should probably just ask Mike – he’s a real live birdwatcher, but I’d rather discover this all on my own – a kind of adventure. Today I caved and looked up bird species in my area. I was not disappointed to find that the same birds live here as in Tennessee, but I have yet to see any at the feeder. Thankfully, no squirrels have shown up either! *stows shotgun back inside corner cabinet*

Last night I sat on the porch drinking my daily shot of whiskey. I was sorely missing my Tennessee neighbor (read: best drinking buddy) and wondering if I will ever find anyone willing to join me for some snark a drink on my new front porch. Suddenly I saw a rather large bird fly into the neighbor’s yard. It was a mourning dove tending to a nest in a little nook above the neighbor’s front entryway. It kept looking back at me as it sang the familiar whoo-hoo song that is so mournful and yet so lovely at the same time. When I asked my neighbor about it, he informed me that this is the fourth year in a row the dove has raised its chicks above his porch. Hooray! At least I will be guaranteed of one feathered friend to entertain my kitties and me. Maybe instead of laughing, life is smiling on me at last. 🙂

The Reluctant Wedding Planner – A Cautionary Tale

If you read my recent post about my back yard, you are aware that I am in the middle of planning my daughter’s wedding. I now have less than 6 months in which to accomplish this Herculean task. We have (obviously) ruled out my back yard (mostly), but how does one find an affordable venue to hold a reception? Booking a church for the ceremony is relatively easy compared to the other details: flowers, photographers, caterers, bartenders, bands, tables, linens, decorations, hair stylists, Master of Ceremonies, invitations, dresses, suits, hotel rooms, & a reception venue (if you have a daughter and that list didn’t make you start to sweat, you might want to check your pulse).

Sometimes I feel like I have too many choices. Then I remember we have a specific date and are trying to stay within a budget. That’s when the panic attack comes on. This morning I found a venue in our price range that might have the date available, only to find out it’s a historic house that doesn’t allow speakers, DJ’s or a live band inside. Um, have you priced a tent, tables, & chairs for 75 lately? I have, and it ain’t pretty within the budget. But what if it rains??

I had this all worked out 2 days ago … to the tune of – you guessed it – ten THOUSAND dollars (all told)! Too bad I didn’t win the lottery last week (extremely difficult without a ticket). Last night I decided I did not want to spend the cost of an exceptional used car on a one-day event. Instead, I trashed all of the previous quotes and started over from scratch. I’m pretty sure my ulcer reappeared that instant.

It’s really frustrating because I love my daughter and my future son-in-law (a rarity in itself), but there just isn’t enough room in the national debt tank for me to pull this off. At times like these I start to think about what’s really important in life. These thoughts often take me in two opposing directions:

1. All that matters is the people, relationships, and the fun we have making memories together. It doesn’t have to be fancy or costly for it to be great. My daughter understands this and is as committed to the budget as we are. All true.

2. It’s only money … you can’t take it with you … the Country’s going down whether I add my piddly debt or not … Screw it! spend, SPEND, SPEND!! (My son will probably forgive us before we die for blowing his freshman year of college on his older sister’s wedding.) Also (mostly) true.

I really do want to be responsible and not frivolous. I really do want to honor my daughter and her fiancé with the coolest wedding they can imagine. Unfortunately, these two ideas are in our case mutually exclusive.

So, back to square one. I have sent emails apologizing to vendors who quoted me too high and more emails to new vendors to request (hopefully lower) quotes. All the while my brain is just tired of thinking about it all! I told my daughter yesterday that when this wedding is over I’m the one who’s going to need a honeymoon vacation in Hawaii!!

Meanwhile, the back yard is looking better and better everyday.

This is actually the side yard ... oh, right, tent, chairs = too steep!
This is actually the side yard the way it looked last August … at least I know I have this amazing view to look forward to!

 

Nothing Says ‘I Love You’ Like a Backyard Wedding

Did I mention my daughter is getting married? That’s right! In less than 7 months she will tie the knot. I hear it takes a year to plan a wedding, so I’m starting what – 5 months in the hole? To make matters worse, the wedding is taking place 8 or so States Northeast of me. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to plan a wedding with only 6.5 months left, from 8 States away?! Oh, one more thing. In case you hadn’t heard, they say it costs $10,000 to get married these days. WHAT?!

Can anyone tell me who ‘they’ are? When you finish explaining, please help me re-locate my credit card so I can do my part to drive this country even further towards financial ruin.

Okay, I admit it. This post isn’t really about my daughter’s wedding, it’s about me. Because everything is about me, all the time, right? Of course, right.

Therefore, in the spirit of “it’s-all-about-meeee” (you have to sing it to get the full effect) I have decided to unveil my idea for the perfect wedding venue: our backyard. Seriously. I am convinced that our backyard is THE perfect spot for my daughter to get married. Truly idyllic.

Welcome to my version of The Wedding Venue Blues, a short list of great reasons why my backyard is the perfect venue for my daughter’s wedding:

1. Wildlife abounds

  • We have gaggles of turkeys stealing food from the cardinals cruising our yard daily. My next-door neighbor buys corn especially for the miscreants darlings, guaranteeing they will stop by each and every morning. While I sing the praises of toms flaunting their feathers before the hens, my husband claims they poop disease all over the yard; and, since we’re 10 feet inside the city limits, we aren’t actually allowed to kill one for Thanksgiving dinner … whatever. Aren’t they adorbs?

TN Turkey

  • Skunks are literally everywhere in my little town. If I’m not running over one in my car, I’m inhaling the sexy musky aroma whenever I open a window. What wedding would be complete without our furry tuxedo’ed friends? As one YouTube Source put it “Pepe le Pew is Odor-able!” True, true.
  • Vultures are a local icon. I have friends who take pride in the fact that our little Nashville suburb suffers very few long-decaying animals due to the enormous vulture population. Now tell me, what wedding party wouldn’t enjoy a nice Bevy of Buzzards? Doves, schmuvs!
  • Plenty of wasps, hornets, Japanese beetles, and mosquitoes invade enjoy the bounty in my yard all summer long. Just imagine the loveliness created by these insects as they perform their acrobatic dances amidst the lightening bugs, all the while being picked off one-by-one by our friendly, local bats! Who needs hanging candles or tiki torches when nature is right outside the back door, ready and willing to light up our lives?

2. My backyard comes with built-in rustic seating and a custom dance floor

  • The previous owners of my little cottage believed in using natural boulders rocks as borders around the plethora of gardens. (Did you see how I found a way to use ‘plethora’ in this post? Skill people, skill.) These rocks vary in both shape and size, helping to accommodate all of the guests (both large and small), and they come complete with painful angled edges and plenty of soft moss to give everyone that cushion-y feel we all love in a fine seat.
  • As an added bonus, in the little town where I live, if you want to hit solid rock, you simply dig an inch or so into the ground, anywhere, and VOILA, rock-face! It will be a nightmare simple task to remove the top layer of Bermuda shiz grass from my yard to produce an instant stone floor on which the Bride and Groom can boogie into their new life together!
  • Of course, what wedding party would be complete without a pavilion? Fortunately for me, several large oaks and hickory nut trees provide all of the head injuries shade and weather protection one could hope for. Besides, by the time September comes, all of those loose nuts should have fallen already (crazy relatives not-withstanding).

3. Finally, my backyard neighbor will provide entertainment FOR FREE

  • At all times of the day or night I hear horrific noises lovely tunes blasting emanating from my neighbor’s boombox located inside his concrete garage/driveway ensemble (when he is not revving his motorcycle engine at 2 a.m., that is). The annoyingly ugly stately structure provides the perfect wedding backdrop all the while managing to enhance the horse-sized charming black dune buggy trailer in the driveway. Because my neighbor’s lot sits higher than my backyard, all anyone will hear are bass guitar licks, drums beating loud enough to shake the shingles off my roof, and the frequent occasional f-bomb lacing his rebel-screamer-country-rock/rap music. Oh, and when he tries to belt it out sing along – ooohh, shivers, I tell you, right up my spine! Perfect for dancing the night away, I think! At the very least, everyone will have a great reason to drink a little more than usual. Always a plus whenever in-laws are gathered together in one place. 😉
  • Let’s not forget the possibility of a dune buggy ride in between musical sets for all our guests, especially those who appreciate the brand new Ah-ooga horn on my neighbor’s latest rebuilt toy which he prefers to show off share with us in those quiet moments of peace I savor after work each evening and on Saturday mornings. Sleeping in is overrated, don’t you think?.

Who says a wedding has to cost $10,000??! Pshaw! Besides all the free stuff I’m getting, consider the other amazing benefits I’ll enjoy:

  • Food and drink for all the wedding guests? $56.78 (thanks to Food Saver coupons!)
  • Airfare from D.C. to Nashville for Bride and Groom? $745.98 (at least I won’t have to walk through TSA’s x-ray scanner anytime soon!)
  • Hearing all 87 of my daughter’s wedding guests tell the asshat behind me where to shove his music?

Priceless!

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This view from my back porch doesn’t scream “wedding” at you, huh? Maybe I can get asshat to drape flowers over the horse box … ? No, probably not.
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What I affectionately refer to as the horse box. 

Nightmare on the Pacific

I’ve wanted to write this story down for many years now. My Senior year of High School I used it as an ‘improv’ audition for a part in my high school’s production of “David and Lisa: A Play in Two Acts”. My retelling (complete with an animated reenactment) of the following true story earned me the only lead role I’ve ever had.

The year was 1981, and while I had traveled alone before, it was not a common occurrence. About 18 months earlier I had made my first unaccompanied trip: A 6-hour bus ride to visit my sister in the middle of nowhere, West VA. That’s when I learned that a 15-yr. old should not be allowed to see “The Shining” (on the big screen, no less) prior to sleeping in a house 3 miles from civilization. An inability to see the hand in front of one’s face combined with the kind of terror only Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall can inspire … well, you can imagine, yes?

Shelley Duvall in Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining'.
Shelley Duvall in The Shining

I suppose the scariness of my first trip should have warned me off ever traveling alone again. Alas, teenager = notoriously slow on the uptake.

So, at 17 I made the trek (by plane this time) from East Coast to West for one last adventure before my final year of High School. I would again be visiting family (Aunt, Uncle, & cousins), and I looked forward to seeing what life was like in the State famous for balmy weather, horrendous traffic, and movie stars. Little did I know that this trip (along with a few other things I’ve picked up on in the 30-years since) would inspire in me a disparaging an affectionate mantra for my West Coast brothers and sisters: ‘Everyone in California is crazy!’

I have always been a ‘beach girl’, you know, the way some people are mountain folk? Well, that’s me, only at the beach. Even now, if I could, I would build myself a house on a sand dune and spend the rest of my days watching the tide roll in and out.

Every summer as a child my family spent a week or more at the beach pictured here:

I would not build my house on Virginia Beach. It is seriously this packed. All.Summer.Long. Seriously.

The entirety of the main strip of Virginia Beach is jammed with condos, hotels, dance clubs, beer joints, sandwich shops, and retail stores. As a child, I remember a carnival of sorts adding to the magic of our vacation by offering rides, cotton candy, a fun house, and salt-water taffy.

The California Coast I visited was quite different from the Virginia Coast I knew and loved.

That August day, 1981 was pretty hot as Coastal California goes. My Aunt drove me about a mile from her house and we agreed she would pick me up at 3:00 p.m., giving me roughly 4+ hours on the beach – plenty of time to get burnt to a crisp enjoy the sand and surf.

Arriving at the spot my Aunt had chosen – ALONE, mind you – I stood atop a cliff overlooking a virtual wilderness stretching out to meet the dark blue waters of the Pacific. The hike down the rock stairway from the road was a bit daunting, but I soldiered on. Bravely waving good-bye to my Aunt, I settled my towel on a patch of sand and began my Pacific Coast Adventure.

Capistrano Beach, California. Besides the lifeguard in the stand, there were maybe 20 people scattered around me in various directions.

The hot day and the fact that I’ve never enjoyed baking in the sun lying out, meant it wasn’t long before I wanted to get in the water. I stumbled across the blazing sands, anxious for a dip.

Several things in succession took me by surprise. First, the water was freezing. Seriously, I’m not exaggerating (I’m mostly not exaggerating). Next, hidden by the dark, frigid waters, I found myself trapped on a broad swath of sharp, pointy rocks like glass which dug into my bare but sensitive feet! What happened to the sand? Gone. I knew this by the fact that my feet were now bleeding*. (My feet might have been bleeding … I was not certain since the water had turned my legs from the knees down into solid blocks of ice.) I hobbled forward, hoping the sand would miraculously reappear. Instead, I found another cliff, this one sans stair.

Totally focused on the pain in my feet, I stepped off the edge into nothingness and was suddenly, without ceremony, in over my head.

Too bad they didn’t have a sign like this. Of course, to be accurate, it would have to show the sharp, pointy rocks just before the drop-off. Little drops of blood coming off the stick-man’s feet would have been helpful too.

Forced now to tread water or drown, I managed to struggle up for a breath. I splashed around for a while hoping not to attract any Great Whites (Jaws had taught me never to trust an ocean filled with monsters … wait, isn’t every ocean filled with monsters?). Scanning the coastline, I realized that in a few short minutes I had been swept down probably 1/4-1/2 mile from the spot where I had left my towel. I could barely see the lone lifeguard stand in the distance.

So began my journey to get out of the water. This sounds simple, but no. I had unwittingly discovered the Twilight Zone Bermuda Triangle of the West Coast. Apparently exiting the Pacific Ocean is California’s equivalent of a Herculean feat. Here were the tasks before me:

  1. Swim back up the coast – against the current – to get fairly even with my towel. I thought I had experienced strong currents before, but the East Coast cannot hold a candle to the Pacific currents’ mad skills.
  2. Defeat the rip tide undertow which barred my way back to the underwater cliff edge. (I’m pretty sure I fought it for at least 20 minutes before making any headway whatsoever.)
  3. Cross the sharp, pointy rock-bed before bleeding* out.
  4. Stumble across blistering sands to find my towel and collapse. (Pain from sharp, pointy rocks + blistering sands = insult + injury.)

All these I managed to accomplish before falling, exhausted, on my towel, instantly asleep. Upon waking, I decided I had had enough of the dangerous (who knew?) Capistrano Beach. Not knowing how long I had slept, I approached the lifeguard stand and asked what time it was. Even though I was talking to (clearly) a fellow American, I had to repeat the question several times before he seemed to understand me. A little past 1:30 was the answer in the end. I then had the brilliant idiotic idea that I could walk back to my Aunt’s house, saving her the trouble of picking me up.

First, the cliff stairway to the road. Hm, now which way? I did not remember coming down a hill to the drop-off spot, so I turned right and started walking along the highway. I found myself at a sort of 4-way intersection with a nice-looking neighborhood to my left. The only landmark I knew to look for was a K-Mart store near my Aunt’s home. I was fairly certain that if I could find the K-Mart, I could find my way to her house. I didn’t see the K-Mart sign anywhere.

Just as I decided to cross the street into the neighborhood, I saw a man coming towards me on a bike.

“Excuse me,” I said, in my not-quite-Southern Virginia drawl, “but can you tell me where the K-Mart is?”

The way he looked at me I could tell he had heard and understood my question. He then proceeded to put his head down and start peddling. Huh? That’s weird, I thought. Shrugging,  I entered the nice neighborhood and found myself in a typical seaside subdivision complete with palm trees and balconies overlooking the ocean. Pretty houses with manicured lawns surrounded me on both sides.

The lovely streets of Capistrano Beach, California. You would never know that every house comes complete with at least one nut-case!

The first person I saw was a lady walking down her front sidewalk toward the street. Halfway to the mailbox her head turned in my direction, she kind of ‘started’ when she saw me, then did an about-face, and retreated back inside double-quick. Curiouser and Curiouser! (Alice, that one was for you.)

The next lady was across the street up the road a ways, watering her garden. I stopped in front of her house and asked for directions to the K-Mart (I stayed on the opposite side of the street so as not to scare her, since I apparently resembled a 17-yr. old, unarmed, female Jack the Ripper). The woman took one look at me, her eyes widened, and she literally (I wish I were making this up) dropped her hose and ran into the house, slamming the front door behind her.

I couldn’t help thinking, “Either these people are the most unsociable bunch on the planet or they’re just NUTS!”

I settled on nuts, wouldn’t you? This woman was obviously from California:

I can totally relate to that guy (not), but his bodily pain looks to me a lot like I felt.

Once I (sort of) overcame the shock of 3 people having blown off a lost stranger (really 4, if you count the not-so-helpful lifeguard), I decided a self-assessment was in order: Sandals, check. White shorts (which had dried by now), check. Blue button-down collared shirt with sleeves rolled up to 3/4 length (also dry), check. Granted, I could not see my hair, but my hands did not detect anything beyond the normal windswept mess which usually followed a swim in the ocean. Fashionable sunglasses completed my ensemble.

I continued walking uphill for probably another 45 minutes or so (it was a long street), and at the top, lo and behold, I could see in the distance the K-Mart sign!! By now I was exhausted from my battle with the sea, my feet were blistered (walking for miles in sandals will do that), and I was afraid my Aunt had already left to pick me up. I wouldn’t be at the designated pick-up spot, she would decide that I had met my end in Jaws’ jaws giving her a wonderfully icky story to tell at the next Capistrano Beach Garden Party.

“Shocking!” the listeners would reply. “Wait, wasn’t there a serial killer posing as a lost girl asking for directions in our neighborhood last week? Whew! Aren’t we lucky a shark got that one! Pass the cucumber sandwiches, please.”

Convincing the clerk at a nearby mini-mart to let me use the phone (and phone book) provided yet another exercise in How can I convince you I am a real human being in need who does not actually want to steal your phone or your phone book?! Sheesh! You’d think no one there had ever helped seen a stranger!

In case you are wondering, I did make it back to my Aunt’s house that day, despite having spent the afternoon walking out of my way in a 3-mile arc, no thanks to the peanut gallery of unhelpful Californians.

Still, I am grateful for my time in The Golden State. My experience has helped me understand why Californians continue to pass nutty legislation; I can now justify the odd behavior of so many of California’s public figures; and I gave up trying to figure out how Nancy Pelosi could hold a seat in the House of Representatives for 15 years running! It’s simple:

Everyone in California really is crazy!**

*No permanent foot damage was inflicted in the making of this story (and I seriously doubt there was any blood involved whatsoever).

**Excepting, of course, the friends and family I know there. Hope you guys got the humor in this and didn’t take offense! 😉

What about you? Have you ever gotten lost in a strange place and couldn’t find anyone to help you find your way? Was it a funny story or a scary one? How did you escape your predicament?

A Little Zooeyness Goes a Long Way

I’m late, I know. The contest ended 8 days ago. That’s okay, I don’t really want any Vegan muffins I invented this word 25 years ago. Wait, that makes you late. Oh, well, better Nate than lever late than never.

College students have it made, but they don’t realize it. I did not know this until 6-months into a secretarial job when I was late for work and felt the daggers coming out of my boss’s eyes, threatening silently to fire me for my first 10-second infraction.

Complaining about 8 a.m. classes, 3-hour lectures given in monotone, and 50-page papers are par for the college course and provide my favorite example of the truism “youth is wasted on the young.” The college years tend to be marked by rebellion free thinking. That must have been what I was doing when I invented the word zooey, ‘thinking freely’. (At least that’s what I tell myself. I was probably thinking about how the guy I had a crush on really looked like a baboon since he was ignoring me. Baboons live in zoos. He probably did too.)

But you didn’t stop by my blog to hear about my disastrous college love life. You came here to find out if I was capable of putting words together into coherent sentences inventing a word. Here goes:

Zooey (adjective) \ˈzü-ē\ 1) General craziness; 2) The giggling insanity you feel when your life is completely out of control; 3) What it would feel like if you found yourself trapped in the orangutan lion’s den at your local zoo.

RELIEF! I finally have a concrete definition for a word I have had to explain for the past 25 years every time I’ve used it in a sentence! (That would be twice, post college.) The burden has been lifted – free at last, I’m free at last!!

Which is more than I can say for you if ever you try to use my word in a blog coherent sentence (sans my permission, of course). I guarantee you will awaken the next day to find

in your bedroom. Which may be a plus for some of you (I’ve read your blogs and this is my conclusion).

My second conclusion (after running a Google search to make certain my word has not been entered into the dictionary yet) would, of course, be that although

her name

(pron.: /ˈz.i) may be spelled the same, Deschanel is completely unrelated to orangutans.