Thursday, August 25, 2016

100 Things Divorce Taught Me: 7th Heavenish

52.  I am occasionally 'entertaining' again, to borrow a wretched phrase from HGTV.  I did it all the time when I was single.  When I was married, we intended to do it. We talked about doing it. We never did it. There is that pressure to be good hosts, to have the perfect party, to invite the right mix of people.  We always talked about doing it, but never did, knowing it wouldn't be perfect.
How lame.

Now I'm back to hosting people like I did, lo, these many years ago.  I vacuum and try to get the worst of the dog hair off the seldom used furniture.  And that's it.  People know to come bearing food or prepared to go hungry.  I don't cook or try to have the perfect setting or guest list or anything else.  I just open the door and enjoy the laughter.

One thing has improved, though.  I used to call these BYOC parties.  Bring your own chair.  Because I had no real furniture in those post-college, single days.  Now, at least, I do provide you a place to sit.

53. I think I might have found a way to watch college football games without use of satellite service.  We don't even HAVE cable service available out here in the sticks.  If this works, I'm canceling satellite.  This whole thing of not watching TV unless you actually want to WATCH TV is really a life-changer.

55.  I think maybe I like baseball.  I have hated watching baseball my entire life.  Loathed it actually.  I don't mind softball, as it is a much faster paced game.  Learned that from being married.  But since being divorced, I've missed football -  season's end grief is a normal yearly experience, regardless of marital status - and I wanted something to just listen to while drawing.  There is only so much of the ungratefully pretentious white people you can stomach on HGTV, so I fell into baseball by default.  I may be a convert.

56.  How do you divorce a woman who loves football and fishing?  What were you thinking? Mindy declares me a closeted lesbian.  That made me smile, but alas, no.  I am, however, really good girlfriend material.

57.  It takes me a really long time to get to the point of asking for help.  Personally, professionally, metaphorically, any other "ly"s I can think of.  Lots of different reasons for that, I guess.  Most of the time I can fake my way through just about anything.  I'm a pretty capable person. But here and there life would be much easier if I would just say "Hey!  I could use a hand here."  This is not some sort of vague facebook-esque post where I'm hoping you will all jump up with your hands out and offer to pull me from the depths of my as yet undeclared despair.  Not at all - I truly (see what I did there?) do not need help at the moment.  It's just something I'm becoming aware of - a character flaw, a flake in my personality.  Something to work on.

58.  It's been almost exactly one year since my marriage ended with a single ten-minute conversation.  When I think about it, it feels like it's only been a matter of weeks.  Most of the time, I don't think about it.  (Contrary to what you might think from reading these lists.  ha!) I've got better things to do and lots more books to read.

59.  I am going to have to give in and pay someone to give me a back rub.  

60.  I don't know what this has to do with divorce, but I need to buy a new pair of cowboy boots.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Jeezus Weejus

A few months ago I told you about Jimmy the Lions Club Prayer Guy.  Jimmy was a true patriarch of the community and deaf as a post.  He was a master of the institutional prayer.  He couldn't hear a single word I said for the entirety of my tenure as Lions Club president.  But he knew when I gestured at him, he was supposed to do his thing.  "MAY WE PRAY?"

Jimmy died.

My year as the grand poo-bah of the local Lions Club is thankfully also at an end.  I am ever so happy about that. Ever bloody so.

The new Lion Boss has declared pay back upon me for the many times I asked him to do bits of the weekly program.  So far that payback has included making me lead the pledges to the American and Texas flags each week.  This week he upped his game.

I was in the middle of stuffing fajita chicken into a warm tortilla when he knelt next to me at the table, pen and agenda in hand, and asked if I would do the prayer.

I looked a little stricken, fajita filled fist frozen halfway to my open mouth.

"That's ok, right?" he asked, halfway serious.  "I mean, you're right with the Lord and stuff, aren't you?"

"We talk," I admitted.  "Are you sure you're not worried about lightening strikes though?"

"It's not like I'm gonna be standing next to you or anything," he admitted.  "I'm just hoping the whole building doesn't cave in around us.  You're not going to call down snakes or our heads or anything like that, are you?  I mean, I've seen Carrie.  That sort of stuff doesn't end well."

I assured him I would leave off the incantations and praise of the dark side.

His request was unusual.  Singular, even.  I wondered if perhaps he asked me to do the prayer because of my outfit.  Mindy describes this particular ensemble as my Anton LeVey garb.  It's a black priest-looking shirt and a necklace of black crosses.  I did soften things a bit with a pair of blue jeans instead of the  black pants I normally wear with it.  But I still wore black boots with silver studs.  

(Lord, I've owned at least one pair of black boots with silver studs at all times since the late 1980's.  And how many years have I worn this shirt?  Maybe I should get a new one.  Wonder where Anton LeVey shops?  Demon Marcus?)

While I finished my meal - including almost all of my vegetables - I tried to think of something to pray.  It has been years since I've been asked to do an extemporaneous prayer.  Long, long years. For starters, I am a woman.  That precludes me from these duties in most social and civic circles here.  And forget being asked to do it in a Baptist church.  Or most of the other denominations we have here.  Besides, the weekly club meeting is really the only gathering I attend that requests extemporaneous prayer these days.  I'm not saying that's a bad thing.  Not at all.

A well-written prayer trumps pretty much all extemporaneous attempts when it comes to public performance.  Admittedly, I do love to count the repetitions and churchy phrases that most of us don't realize we've fallen victim to when put on the spot.  One of my favorites from childhood was the church treasurer who could never pray without requesting to be delivered from the lust after filthy lucre.

I've been enchanted by all the good stuff in the Book of Common Prayer since becoming an Episcopalian.  In years past I've been the designated pray-er more often than not at any sort of institutional gathering that I was a part of, outside of church.  It's a dubious perk of being the preacher's kid.  I have prayed at every single graduation ceremony I've ever been in. I've prayed Catholic prayers, poetic prayers and my favorite was a particularly beautiful Baha'i prayer.

After my college graduation my grandmother admitted to having 'peeked' during the prayer.  "I wasn't sure that was really you.  You sounded so...different!"  That may well have been when the probation voice was born.

The probation voice doesn't get as much use these days.  It's my own attempt at the voice of God.  Or at least Morgan Freeman.  It's all about gravitas and authority.  The older I get, the less I use both those qualities.  Now maybe I'm more about consensus.  And really listening.  And finding a solution rather than demanding one.

And then, if all that doesn't work, it's time to use the probation voice.  That normally doesn't work either, but it's at least kind of fun.

Today was not a probation voice day.  I managed to quietly say a few words of thanks for the meal and request that we'd all be blessed as we returned to our lives and work in the community.  Blah, blah, blah.

I don't know if Jimmy would have been proud or not.  But I do know what he would've said.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Downward Headed Dog

When I retire, I might want to live in a city.  Big towns fascinate me.  I love to visit.  Lots of times I wish I lived in one.  Lots of times I'm glad I don't.  My only plans for retirement so far are to live somewhere with trees and rain.  That's it.  Although I'm considering adding one other requirement to the list:  a yoga studio.  I cannot imagine living in the vicinity of an actual yoga studio.  That is just the height of  decadent existence as far as I'm concerned.

Some day maybe I will live near a yoga studio.  And maybe even a Whataburger.  

But today is not that day.  

Today I am grateful to live in a small town because things happen in small towns that are precluded, by the laws of physics, as well as probably those of the University Interscholastic League, from happening anywhere else.  

It was a little after 7:30 this morning when I finished getting dressed for work.  As I was about to leave the bedroom, I noticed Parish.  He's a dog.  He was sitting in the doorway I needed to pass through, which made him hard to miss.  And he was doing some odd licking and shaking.  

One quick glance showed that his groin was hugely swollen.  I prodded the large knot, which was behind and to the side of his boy bits and discovered the area was unnaturally hard and unyielding.

The veterinarian's office opens at 8:00 a.m.  At 8:01 I was on the phone with the secretary/assistant, who told me the doctor was "in" and would be willing to examine my dog.  

I put Chapel, Parish's brother, out in the back yard alone, something he decried at ear-splitting levels, and bundled Parish into the truck. 

The vet watched us get out of the truck from  one of his waiting room chairs, legs stretched out in front of him, nursing a cup of coffee.  We took Parish into the back and put him on an exam table while I explained the problem.  Then I helped the vet turn him over onto his side so he could examine the groin.  

The growth was gone.  

No knot, no tumor, no nothing.  

The kindly old veterinarian looked at me with warm brown eyes and, without laughing, told me that sometimes when a boy dog really, really likes a girl dog...  Well, no he didn't.  But he did say that when a dog is ready to mate, there is a gland that can become very swollen and that this can happen even with a neutered dog, like Parish the Mortified. 

Imagine my chagrin.  

Thankfully, the vet didn't even charge me for the 2 minute consultation.  (He's also about to retire.  Anyone know of any good veterinarians that want to move to a small town?)  I got Parish back in the truck, not taking nearly as much care about it as I had initially.  

On the way home we had "the talk".  The talk about how 'they ain't nobody in this house gettin' any.'  Not me, not the cats and certainly not him.  Especially not when he doesn't even have all his parts!  Parish just hung his head and muttered "yes ma'am" at the appropriate points.  

Before I'd left for the vet's office, I texted my secretary to tell her that I would be late.  She reminded me that we were having court.  I'd completely forgotten.  Thankfully it was here and not in one of the out-lying counties.  When I got home, I put Parish out back with a delighted Chapel, then went inside and changed into more court-appropriate, less dog-hair covered clothing.  

I jumped back in the truck and headed to my office, ten miles away.  I walked in the door at 8:39 a.m. - only nine minutes late.  

Maybe I'll never be able to do a decent warrior pose or sun salutation here, but living in a tiny town does have its benefits!

Monday, August 08, 2016

A Priest Without a Corkscrew Is Like...

I love to camp.

Sitting by a fire and staring at the stars while listening to the coyotes kinda camping.  It's good to be still and quiet and know. It's even better with a good friend who knows good stories.

It's also good to hike and kayak and play in the water.

It hit 112 degrees in the state park the day before our camping trip, and we are in Texas, in August, which by anyone's standards is a dumb-ass time to go camping, so we went with more of the relaxing recitals and the contemplation of flames than the more active and participatory camping occupations.

The "we" being the priest with the pot in her car and myself.

I've been camping in this park since I was in college.  It's less than an hour from my house.  It used to be visited by me and about six other people, but since they reintroduced bison to the habitat, and then let them roam the park freely, it's popularity has sky-rocketed.  You've actually got to make an advanced reservation to get a campsite.

The bison are fabulous.

But, I get ahead of myself.  Before you can commune with the canyon and the buffalo spirits, you gotta get there.

To get there from my house, you have to drive down forty-four minutes of flat, straight, rural, West Texas road.  One mile of that length is spent on FM 207.  Perhaps you remember that I've mentioned recently that this road is my nemesis?

This time it was really out to get me.  Even though I only had to drive on it for a single mile, that mile was hideous.  We sat at a stop sign for a long time, waiting to turn onto the road.  A farmer pulling a load of liquid fertilizer sat in front of us.  We waited and waited and waited.  We couldn't proceed because of the second sign.  That sign said "Wait Here for Pilot Car".  The only driveable part of the road was a single skinny caliche lane, so traffic had to drive from first one direction, then the other, taking turns.  You couldn't see any movement of any kind for miles in either direction.  The farmer was getting antsy.  He got out of the truck, leaned on the bed and stared accusingly first in one direction, then the other.

At long last, a glint on the southern horizon.

It move closer, incrementally, at an excruciating pace.

The glint became an dusty red pickup. None of the banners or flashing lights that identify a pilot car were visible.  As it got closer, you could see the driver, hunched over the wheel, barely able to see over the top of the dash.   He was wearing a greasy straw cowboy hat and thick glasses.   He looked like a turtle, driving a truck.  He was about 113 years old

Obviously, he was not the pilot car, but he'd either (a.) not been able to see/read the warning signs about not venturing out into the road construction zone without a proper guide or (b.) he didn't give a shit.

The farmer in front of us got back in his truck, turned on the ignition and shrugged his shoulders.  As soon as the turtle-looking guy passed us, at a stately 17 miles an hour, the farmer pulled out behind him. I followed suit.  I figure the farmer and I were thinking the same thing.  The red truck turtle man had obviously lived a long, and hopefully happy, life and if he got creamed by on-coming traffic or construction trucks, he'd serve as a warning and the rest of us would have time to swerve out of the way.

We drove our mile and turned off on yet another road, headed for the canyon.

Almost immediately, my tire pressure warning light came on.  That was followed quickly by smoke and a thud.  I had a blow-out.

It was noon.  In August.  On the asphalt.

And I'd never changed a tire before in my entire life.

I'd never even bothered to find out if there was a jack in my truck.  Thankfully there was.  So, with Jay holding the dogs and occasionally the owner's manual, I changed the damn tire.

I felt completely bad ass.

But of course the spare tire was flat.

Once again however, bad-assery prevailed because, even though I'd never learned to change a tire, I had purchased one of those electric tire pumps at the Ye Olde Auto Parts Store.  Best twenty bucks I ever spent.  10 minutes of airing and the wimpy donut was more or less ready to go.  We got back on the road.

We managed to drive all the way to Quitaque without any further incident.  Upon arrival I pulled into the same garage that my friend Cyn went to for help the last time I took someone(s) to the canyon with me.  A flying rock from a lawnmower shattered her driver's side window.  While she was driving.  Not fun.  Maybe it's bad luck to hang out with me at the canyon?

The old guy manning the garage, looking lonely and doing nothing but fly swatting, was more than happy to air up my spare.  He gave me a lecture about not driving over 45 miles an hour or for more than 35 miles on the tiny tire.  And then he lectured both of us about hiking in the heat and how much water to carry and when to turn back.  He was nice enough about it, but did grumble about how he'd rather lecture us than go hunt for our bodies.

I suspect he wouldn't really mind either option.  It would be something to do, and it's not like he'd have to be the one to drag our bloated carcasses out of the canyon.

When we got to the ranger station, we took turns going inside to purchase our passes and staying outside with the dogs.  Jay left and returned in about five minutes.

It took me nearer fifteen.

I got stuck with the shiny new park ranger who very much reminded me of a young Miss Ballbricker.  She gave me a lengthy lecture, elucidating ALL the rules.  I guess I appeared not to be taking it seriously enough because about halfway through she stood up to try and stare me down. 

It didn't work.  I am taller and I've been staring for way longer.  But I tried to smile and even paid attention.

Perhaps we should take it as a compliment that either of us looked capable and even willing enough to engage in mid-afternoon hiking in August in Texas.  In reality, I am much, much lazier than that.

We found our site and went about setting up the camp.  I discovered I forgot the tent stakes, but that was not a big deal as we are weighty enough to hold the tent to the ground without them.  Luckily, it wasn't windy.

Note to self:  buy tent stakes.

I learned some things on this camping trip.  I learned my dogs are not good campers.  I have faith that they will improve, but so far they are real bad at it.  I learned that the traveling communion kit does not contain a corkscrew.  Sure, the holy water comes in handy for keeping the vampires at bay and all, but sometimes you just need a damn corkscrew.  Wouldn't you think there would be one in the kit?  How else are you gonna open the communion wine?  I learned that buffalo footprints are very deep in lake mud.  Sink right up to your knees before you even know you stepped in one.  I learned that it's a good idea to leave the top off of the tent, not only for viewing the 'stars at night' that are 'big and bright'...(You fill in the rest, native Texans, and don't forget to do the clapping.) but also because Jay didn't want to sleep in a "big old Ziploc bag". She made an excellent point.

And I learned that the raccoons are still bastards.

I've had a few run-ins with the sneaky little thumb-havers before.  I thought I knew how to deal with them and their little switchblade-fueled thievery.  I was wrong.

Deep in the night, I awoke to a sound that I immediately recognized.  Raccoons scavenging across the top of the picnic table.  My valiant four-footed protectors never even stirred. I listen for a moment, then shined a light out in their direction.  I heard them scurry off, taking the Styrofoam cooler with them.  They headed for the non-existent hills, their ill-gotten gain in tow.

I scoffed at them, knowing the cooler, which had recently housed some bad-ass smoked ribs, was now totally empty.  It might smell fantastic, but that Styrofoam was gonna taste like nothing.  With a sneer at their ignoble retreat, I turned over and went back to sleep.

At some point, I was awakened a second time.  I could have sworn I heard the lid to the second cooler  - the big plastic one - close.  I flashed the light towards it, quick as a thief myself.  Nothing there.   Nothing about.  No noises.

I went back to sleep.

The next morning, we perused our campsite, but nothing was amiss.  Jay saw the empty cooler lying abandoned a few feet into the brush.  We laughed at having outsmarted the little demons.  Then we started searching for the tea.

I gotta have tea.  And my preference is the aforementioned loose leaf Earl Grey.  I was desperate.  Almost as desperate as Jay who is sadly addicted to coffee, a beverage I refuse to even entertain the thought of. She was steeling herself to survive the impending daylight with just tea.  Only now we didn't have any tea.  We couldn't find it.

That pissed me right off.  It was a brand new tin and it was the good stuff, which doesn't come cheap.  I was working on all sorts of creative epithets to hurl at the wildlife, while stomping around the picnic table.  But just as I was getting really wound up, Jay yelled triumphantly from  the depths of the provisions bin.  She'd found the tea, right where I'd hid it the night before so as to thwart any five-furry-fingered skulduggery.

We were saved. 

I was saved, that is.  She was still going to have to make do with a different type of warm caffeine than what she really wanted.

Jay made a fire.  I made the tea.  We kicked back in our chairs and watched the sun creep higher into the sky.  Until we got hungry.

We had a choice between cinnamon rolls to be cooked on a skewer like an over-sized marshmallow or bacon, egg, cheese and potato burritos, already made and just waiting to be warmed on the fire. We decided on burritos, but knew eventually we'd eat the cinnamon rolls too. 'Cause camping is hard work, right?

I opened the cooler and stared down at the busted can of cinnamon rolls.

Those greasy little pilfering pelt monkeys!  They had gotten into the cooler and whacked the rolls, leaving them lying ruined in the icy water.  They did it on purpose, just to get back at us for messing them up with the Styrofoam decoy cooler.  We grumbled and cursed a bit, but our hearts weren't really in it because: breakfast burritos.  Yay!

Jay sloshed through the murky melty ice to retrieve the package of burritos and salsa.

And sloshed some more.  And began to look concerned.

The raccoons took them.  Took the whole damn bag.  Left no sign of it behind.  It was G-O-N-gone!  And then they shut the cooler behind them.

We were bereft.  And more than a little chagrined at being so handily outsmarted.

In the end we survived on a few pieces of watermelon, some kick ass tea and the knowledge that if we could limp along for an hour of driving at a slow enough speed for the donut tire to survive, we'd be in a town where Kay at the Something Special Restaurant makes a damn fine breakfast and some absolutely stellar fried pies.

We packed up our camp and hit the road at a grandmotherly pace. 

Just as we rolled into Ore City, my tire pressure gauge came on.  Again.

I sighed.

But first, breakfast, which was well worth the wait.

When we left the restaurant, each of us clutching a white paper sack with a fried pie inside, I told Jay I was going back to the tire shop we passed on the way into town.  It was one of the very few viable businesses in this very small town and they'd been open when we passed by.  

She got lost while trying to follow me.

(Those of you that have been to Ore City can keep on laughing.  The rest of you might want to watch this documentary about the town.  It includes footage of our breakfast spot and the tire shop.)  ((Those pies, y'all...oh my gawd!))

Of course, in this town, getting lost was something easily remedied and we ended up standing on the periphery of the tire shop property with the dogs who wanted to sniff and pee with impunity.   From there we had a nice view of the guy who was crawling in and out from under my truck putting on the new tire.  He had really

They got me fixed up with a fresh rubber in under fifteen minutes, on a Saturday morning, for an excellent price.  Problem completely solved.  Jay pointed her car in the direction of a distant interstate and headed off to buy green chilies and write a sermon.  I took the back roads for home, glad to be able to drive the speed limit.

One and one half blocks from home Parish (the dog, brother to Chapel) expressed his opinion of the whole trip by throwing up all over passenger seat.

The whole thing was really a bit of a mess.  But it was so much fun we've agreed to do it again in November.  Just as soon as it gets good and cold!