The Breaking Point

What kind of an idiot plans a total home renovation

in the weeks right before Thanksgiving?

 Oh, right….that would be me. 


Demolition started months ago.  Walls came and went with the appliances as a new kitchen was created from scratch.  I’m no Martha Stewart, but on any given day I could copy a recipe down on any horizontal surface using only my finger on a makeshift drywall dust etch-a-sketch.  Optimistically, three days before Thanksgiving I brought a frozen turkey home to thaw in a small fridge, upstairs.  My pots and pans were buried in storage boxes, the new oven was in the middle of the dining room, and we had no running water.  Minor technicalities.  WWMD?

Miracles do happen and on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving I began the unpacking and moving-back-in process.  The song, “A Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall, A Hundred Bottles of Beer” kept running through my mind as I cherry picked through dozens of boxes in the garage in order to find the basics:  serving spoons, bowls, spices (paper plates, plastic forks and napkins we could buy) my Kitchen-aid Mixer, and baking pans.  What a cluster.  I found crap I forgot I had and never knew I needed.

By 10 p.m. that day all the essentials were in place but my food cupboards looked worse than Old Mother Hubbard’s.  Heading out to the grocery store for EVERYTHING for turkey dinner for 14 was next up on the hit parade.  I didn’t have a cup of sugar, a jar of gravy, or a bowl to put them in in the house.   My shopping list was organized by aisle, row, quantity and temperature.  Stick THAT in your pie hole, Martha.

After almost two hours lugging a 700 lb. shopping cart up and down the Meijer Store aisles, I was wrecked.  I pulled up to the check out lanes in time to see the last checker click her light off.  The only lanes left open were self check out.   My blood pressure was rising; I could feel the veins in my body begin to snap, crackle, and pop.  My hand struck the “help” button which gave me the opportunity to vent to the guy running the 17 self checkout lanes.  Now this guy was a sharpie; one look at me and he knew it was a postal moment.  To his credit, he called up front for a checker to help ring and bag my crap.  By this time it was all crap.  The whole night.  My feet hurt, I was exhausted, it was after midnight, and I had a good “crab” going.

Fine.  With seven items on the belt, I looked back and saw a young mom and dad with a 10 month old baby boy in their arms, and five items in their basket, waiting for me to finish checking out with Goliath.   Remembering all the years I towed two carts; one with two kids in the basket and one kid in the seat, and one as full as this behemoth was, made me stop and prioritize.  The memory made me human again.  Managing a smile, I invited them to take “cuts” and complimented their little guy.  He was a cutie.  The mom and dad seemed happy and the baby was happy (even at midnight!) and they took pity on me, refusing the offer twice.

Feeling a sense of renewed urgency and quite a bit of guilt, I started whipping the cans and bottles and dry goods up on the belt; both hands were flying like a fast forward movie reel and my head was buried down looking for the next easy item.  When I looked up again, the dad had sneaked up past me and was cheerfully loading my groceries into a new cart.  He said, “It looks like you needed some help.”  My dear Reader, God works in mysterious ways.  This was nothing short of divine intervention and I was thankful.  Prior to that exact moment; I was truly at the breaking point.

We chit chatted and I learned that they were both 28 years old.  Their mothers did a good job.

My bill came to a coupla-hundo and sixteen bucks.  I paid in 50′s and when the young couple wasn’t looking, I whispered to the cashier, “Put my change on their tab,” and hurried out with my spoils before they figured it out.   It was a little after 1 a.m as I opened the hatch on my car and chucked my coat (with the key fob in it) up to the front seat and piled all those plastic white bags so high that the hatch wouldn’t close.  “No worries,” I thought, “I’ll just tap the driver’s door, get in, and move the rear seat up.”  Apparently, the automatic doors don’t work unless the fob is OUTSIDE of the car.  Nice.  Now steam was flying up out of the top of my head again.

I had to go back to the cart corral, retrieve the cart, and unload all the crap I had just loaded so I could crawl on my hands and knees into the back of my car, over the rear seats, into the front seat to get that fob.  It was an I Love Lucy fiasco only without the humor.   Just as I climbed back out of the trunk of my car, the young couple walked past me.  They had been parked in the same row.  They didn’t recognize my big fat can backing out of the trunk, but when my head popped out, they were surprised and smiled.   I saw that the two of them were absolutely beaming.  The mom was holding the baby so the dad came up to me and hugged me tight.  She smiled, and they both said that nothing like that had ever happened to them before.  We each took a moment to appreciate this raw, rare and meaningful moment when all of us did what we could to help a stranger.   We shared a few more holiday wishes and we left better people than when we had arrived.



Happy Holidays

Twenty Twelve!












The wood is natural, not stained.








Happy, Happy, Happy









The big day arrives!


Me and Woody.  That’s what I called us.  We were six and five in 1966, living on 52nd and Kedzie, on the south side of Chicago.  Woody carried a little red metal tool box that year, everywhere he went.  The handle flipped this way and that but fit perfectly into his little hand.  Summertime and big, yellow fuzzy bees were bumbling on dandelion tops. 

It was my job to stomp on them and his job to collect them and place them in the trays of his tool box.  We went walking around the block, back when kids could walk around the block, stomping and collecting bumblebees.  I would “kill” them and he would pick them up and put them in the toolbox.  Our collection.

The streetlights came on; our cue to go home.  Woody put our treasures under the bunk bed in our room.  I had the top; he the bottom.  He used to put his feet up and kick the wooden slats to send me a message.  I used to throw my dolls and toys down, wallside, sneak attack, to hit him back.  We giggled.  Innocence.

Mother heard a dull buzzing sound coming from our room.  It kept getting louder.   Upon further inspection, she detected it was coming from under the bed.  That morning we had gone to school so she took it upon herself to investigate.  The sounds were coming from inside Woody’s little red toolbox.

I would have like to have been a fly on the wall when Mother opened the box and hundreds of previously stunned bees came to life.

The Sound of Silence

Winter Camp.  Barren trees, whipping winds; a chill that blows through a jacket and rattles the bones.  All around me this November day are signs of hibernation.  The chitter of squirrels is missing.  Songbirds are gone.  Flowers have wilted and died.  Grass is every shade of brown.  Days are short.  Only the occasional caw-caw of the black crow breaks the sound of silence.   The crow is the only sign left of life.   Stillness and solitude in the campground.  Crackle of fire and hiss of hot dog  at the end of a whittled branch is the only warmth.  Feeling alone.  Feeling peaceful.  Able to feel.  Feels okay.   Another day.  November in the big woods is divine.  Time to think.  Time to be.  Me.  Alone with my thoughts and plans and hopes and dreams. 

Hocking Hills, OH where the Delaware Indians carved a long ago life.  On a trail I spooked a deer; a majestic eight point buck in his prime.  He blew at me and waved his flag.  A gift.


   At daybreak along a well worn trail, I happened upon a cave years ago carved by glaciers.  Colorful rock, sturdy, and home to early man.  Ancient.  Sitting on a stone perch, I can imagine life for its inhabitants.  Holed up against the elements.  Safe. A good life.  For sure.

November people are sung under the blankets in their soft beds.  Plastic blue tarps cover pontoons and RVs.  Children are finishing homework.  Bikes, bats and balls are put away.  Crock pots are out and soups are made.  Turkeys are being flash frozen by the millions.  Christmas trees are baled, stacked and ready to ship.    Me?  My nose is cold.  My campfire is hot.  Winter camp.  My favorite time of year.  Time to think.  Time to be.  Time to reflect.  A simple time.  Quiet before the storm.


Stuck, Stick, Stuck

The dynamic duo never disappoint when it comes to heavy equipment.  We just took delivery of a 5000 series Deere tractor with a nice front end loader and within an hour I got “the call.”  She’s not stuck, she’s STUCK.  It took a real professional to accomplish this; someone gifted in the art of forward and reverse.   I don’t get my undies in a bunch anymore.  It is just another day on a farm blessed with two skilled technicians, Adam and Bryce.  When they are not busy destroying things, they are playing in the sandbox with their elephant masks on.

It was the mud’s fault–slicker than dog sh*t

As this year’s farm season winds down to a crawl, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at the glory days of summer.

“Lets drive around with our masks on!

“Events” this year include a backhoe with a splinter shoved up its grill, the 8WD JD 9300 articulating tractor–an unstoppable tractor–stopped so bad that it took two more big tractors and a cruise ship tow line to get it out, a ruptured muffler that got a hillbilly fix job, a Blue Ox with blown rubber, shattered glass on a red jeep, and the best:  using the spray rig with 60′ booms to launch a little bass boat–stuck only because SOMEONE forgot the rig was loaded hundreds of gallons of water.  She went straight down to Davy Jones’  locker.  Brilliant.

Morning Wood

Then there was the day the Freightliner missed a step and fell into a ditch.  Good times.

These days I wake up happy simply because we haven’t been a featured story on “I Survived.” 



The trusty yellow fixer upper.

Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.

True Grit

1st Birthday Bear

When we brought her home from the hospital, our sons took one look at her blanket and said, “Pink Stinks.”  Surviving a home with built-in older brothers, one of whom wanted to name her “Hotdog,” has put a fair amount of grit in Jennifer, our youngest and only daughter.    These boys have tortured her dolls simply to spark a reaction.  They have smothered her in “the dutch oven” and are guilty of too much monkey-in-the-middle.    I drew the line when at the tender age of four, they had filled a water bucket up in the front yard and told her she was old enough to learn how to “breathe under water.”

My Stinky-Winkie is 24 years old as of this writing.   Her brothers are 30 and 28.   She grew up with Michael Jackson’s Thriller album, Power Rangers, and Leo DiCaprio.  Each October she morphed into a princess, a butterfly, a witch, or a superhero.  She danced.  She brought me hand picked flowers.  She loves traditions and decorating the Christmas tree.   The years have clicked past so fast and now, when I look at her, I see the most amazing woman…a culmination of life experience and education infused with kindness, common sense, and wit.

Daddy’s Baby Girl

She is a mother now.  My grand-doggie is about 5 lbs., has dark chocolate eyes, and a long tail that is almost as long as it’s body.  Our “Hotdog” is Lola; a red mini-dachshund, and she loves her momma.

Lola Bear

Jennifer and I share a knowing, a commonality, a connection that I know will pass to the next generation.   This is what makes daughters so SO special.  The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world.  She is my finest hour; my hope.  When I look at her, I see my perfect self in the most selfless way.

A turning point:    I’ll never forget the time we went shopping because I needed an outfit.  Jennifer was all of 15.  A black and white polka dot dress caught my attention so I picked it up.   In pure SWAT-team mode, she grabbed my arm, and urgently demanded,  “Put that back, Mom, right now.  That’s for old people.  I’m trying to save you.”   Surprised and mildly offended, I argued on behalf of my selection.  My case wasn’t complete before an obviously geriatric grey haired lady, supported by a cane, appeared from the fitting rooms, wearing “my” outfit.   Jennifer shot me a victory look and had the grace to not say another word.  We still laugh about it.

When the kids were little, I was so smart.  They would ask me something and I could give a satisfactory answer or at least get by.  They bought it.  Every time.  When they started questioning me, the backup standard was, “Because I said so.”    That response was golden for a long time.  These days they see my games and call me out or google everything.   Even my best explanations are suspect until verified.   I was gifted in the answer department until the damn Internet came along.

One day Jennifer will find all this out and I will sit on the sidelines, watching and smiling inside.



1st Day of Kindergarten

Our World Traveler




Time to Cancel His Show

 Time to cancel his show. 

Obama is a character; a shell game in the flesh, a puppet.  He acts for the audience and will say anything to get what he wants.  Remember transparency promises? 

He is coddled by the media and embraced by all that is fake in Hollywood.  He performs well in a controlled environment.   He is a man without without substance and this was painfully demonstrated during the first presidential debate on October 3, 2012:  The Rocky Mountain Smack Down.

Finally, the world got to see the insecure, smug Barry Obama as Romney chipped away at his facade.   For the first time in years, BO was on his own up against a business professional with no one telling him what to say via teleprompter, and having to attempt to defend an abysmal record over the past four years.  Obama is a narcissistic neophyte who does not have the experience or competence to hang with the big boys.  The emperor wore no clothes.


 Deep down, Michelle knew it.  

Both wives were seated

before the debate began and Mrs. Obama looked concerned, worried, and fearful. 

Did anyone else pick up on that?  After the debate, the mainstream media looked like someone had just died.  Then Al Gore gets on and comes up with the high altitude excuse for BO’s poor performance.  Really?  Rubio had it right when he said that Obama’s ideas aren’t any better at sea level.

During the debate, Barry couldn’t look the American people in the eye because deep down, he knows he is a fraud and it was humiliating for him to have to answer questions–coming from someone other than David Letterman –because he was exposed.  The president got it all wrong, likely because the fog in which he and his senior advisers are allowed to live had declared the election over weeks ago.  This led Obama to underestimate his opponent and overestimate his own position.   Earlier in the week President Obama told interviewers that his debate preparations were “a drag” because his advisers were making him do his “homework.”  If he didn’t have time to meet with global leaders, he certainly didn’t have time to do any homework either.

Obama made a grave error in believing his own hype during the last month of the campaign. Obama can never get back the moment in which he, by underestimating his opponent and overestimating himself, allowed Romney to become a plausible alternative.





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