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Posts Tagged ‘Humor’

Lead Balloons

A wee collection of conversational clunkers from the week:

He swallowed what?! Two of them? Well, he won’t start glowing…just watch for them on the other end.

“I need to tell you something serious…are you ready? I’ve been diagnosed with early onset dementia.”    “Umm, I know…”  “Oh, no, did I forget that I already told you? Hahahahahaha!”

“Who dumped liquid soap in my water glass?!?”

(at company picnic of sorts, by high-ranking administrator to wife) “Look, honey…that’s the girl I told you about who runs every day in the 105 degree heat!”

“Hey, Mom, check out these stalactites in the microwave!”

“4 kids? It’s like having maxi-pad expenditures wrapped around a thong budget.”

“What did he flood now?”

Sign outside the biscuit joint in the middle of nearby cotton field: G   OD FOOD

“So…what do you think about moving to Brazil?”

I almost hate to write over the last post…the traffic has not yet stopped. Must have hit a tender spot in the blogosphere with the minimalist vs. pack rat issue!

In the meantime, join me in relishing the afternoon today, seeing the dolphins play while chasing a shrimp boat on the sparkly water, toes in the warm sand, while the bbq slowly cooked at home. It’s been a long week. I wish you all could live here with me, my friends.

Hey, God…thank you for bringing me here. May my friends reading this be blessed with rest and relaxation. May they find the same peace amidst the storms of life. Thank you for neighbors rocking in our chairs on the front porch in the light of the waxing moon, sharing their trials and victories. Thank you for blog friends virtually doing the same. Thank you for reconciliations and renewals. Thank you for a rich life, for richer dreams, and richest eternities.

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Once upon a very long time ago, I lived in the middle of Nowhere. I’m talking four rambling, adventurous hours away from the nearest Victoria’s Secret, folks. I was carefree and young, my whole life ahead of me, my education behind me (so I thought then), and I was surrounded by miles of rugged vastness, where the most entertaining thing to do was to go cow-tipping at night.

There were only two roads to choose from to get in or out of this place, and half of the time they were either buried under snowdrifts or cluttered with cattle drives. This was indeed the very place in the world where a tree would fall in the forest, and could not be heard. Here, we had to adjust our recipes due to the altitude, and hope for the best. There was no McDonald’s, or, for that matter, anyplace with a drive-thru. You had to know what to do when tumbleweed got caught up under your axles. You had to know how to chop wood to avoid freezing. You had to know how administer first aid because you may or may not be able to get to the nearest hospital before you keeled over. You had to know how to fend off packs of wild animals or the occasional escaped bull trying to break into your bedroom window during a blizzard at night. This was where you could test the limits of your car, and see if it really could go as fast as the speedometer claimed. Yes, this is where I learned to shoot various types of guns, out of necessity and survival, as a young, single lady. This was a different sort of education altogether, one my formal degrees had certainly not prepared me for.

Some people lived here because they either had lived there all their lives and had little desire to know about the rest of the world. Some came and stayed to escape common society, hoping to be left alone. Some followed others, but didn’t last long. And some were there because nobody else was willing to be there.

There, I learned to make do with little, and to be happy with it that way. The sun always rose again, even if I had to wait a week to get to town to get a staple. It was very simple and peaceful. It was easier to appreciate both little and big things, and easier to take care of what I had. I didn’t make much, but I didn’t spend much, either, and life was good that way. I was rich in being able to spend time with things that were far more important, anyway.

I was surrounded by like-minded simplicity: the one outpost “grocery store” was small and well-organized. The church had four pews on either side of the aisle (both collection plate and communion rites were 60-second affairs or less, done deal). The one lady in town who ran a small restaurant could only do so much herself, so the menu was the same throughout the day, and would change tomorrow according to what she had left on hand. We ate a lot of venison there. I learned right away I was not very welcome early in the morning in there, when the elder men of the community gathered for their daily coffee and contemplations. Things kind of got real quiet when I walked in…even the social culture was organized there, making it easy to know your place. And easy to want to stay in your place.

I liked that kind of order and peace.

Fast-forward decades later, living so very far away from that experience: House, spouse, multiple offspring, demands, obligations, not enough hours in the day, the dog, the cat, the endless supply of Small Toy Parts which get sandwiched firmly between brick and bare foot, uncannily most often when the first cup of coffee has been poured at 0445, all is dark, all others slumber, and I am en route to the table. And he wonders how I manage to regularly burn my lower extremities with coffee. I am navigating my path and must endure the melting skin like the Wicked Witch of the West but with no vocalizations, lest I awake the rest of the house and get the party started during what is supposed to be my solo quiet time, my only time of introverted bliss to charge me up for the next 18 hours.

I fantasize about throwing it all away. Why do I put these Small Toy Parts back in the toy box, which have spawned two wicker baskets, one in the den and one in another bedroom? Why didn’t I get rid of more toys? We taught the children to be charitable, and had them donate old toys to make room for new ones, each year. The last time I remember doing that was about eight years ago. The children kept coming, and so did the toys, and somehow we got to a point of realizing how donating one thing (say, the crib and all its linens), was like a jinx, and *boom* another child came along shortly thereafter. So eventually, we started hanging on to stuff – all kinds of stuff – and I got suckered right into his We-Might-Need-This-Someday mentality.

I thought we had settled this early on in the marriage when, much to his chagrin, he soon discovered that he had gained a wife but was losing his marbles, as Things and doo-dads he was sure he thought he had on hand, were mysteriously disappearing with increasing regularity. At first I was truthful and admitted to donating or throwing “useless” things away. Then came the dreaded Turkey Roaster Lecture. Fed up with my fastidiousness, he finally sat me down one day and asked how I’d like it if he tossed my turkey roasting pan, something I only use once or twice a year, but that occupies an obnoxiously large section of kitchen cabinet. Okay, point well-taken.

So I respected his stuff for a while. For quite a few years, actually, until the stuff he had once begged me or even threatened me with dire consequences if I ever threw THAT out, began to  multiply into many things like it, which went untouched, unused, forgotten and buried alive.

Then one day I awoke buried alive, surrounded by clutter. Half of it was the children’s, half of it was his. I was so disturbed, I engaged in vigorous self-harm practices. This soon proved to be futile, and did nothing to alleviate the clutter.

Then I got to work. I alternated between selectively, gradually, making some things quietly disappear after he left for work on garbage day (I write this at my own peril, as this will surely reopen old wounds), and throwing guilt-inducing, mild tantrums to shame him into dumping his own stuff himself. I marveled at how mighty proud he was to excavate six dusty magazines the first time I pulled this, his hands shaking as he threw them away, pausing to consider how he may be parting with the ONE article that may prove the key to saving the world in that fictitious future when the sky is going to fall. He only reclaimed two of them from the trash at the 11th hour, sprinting toward the trash can at the curb as the garbage truck rumbled down the block. He thought it was a big help, four magazines. My idea was a little different; I was thinking about four CRATES of magazines.

Since I can’t give away his stuff overtly (We Might Need This Someday always prevails) or covertly (I suck at lying), I now instead give generously to our local volunteer fire department. I am convinced they will someday be paying us a visit when our attic spontaneously combusts. Perhaps I should also consider paying it forward to the contractor whom we will be calling, should our ceiling cave in prior to combustion.

The problem is, in the years of our marriage, once in a while, the sky DOES fall, and he has squirreled away just the right knick-knack to fix it. Never mind that it takes him damn near a week to find it. Nevertheless, he has saved the day enough times that, like the devil injecting just enough shards of truth into a blatant lie to make it entirely shiny and believable, I am forced to admit that yes, dear, you were right…it was good I didn’t throw that away after all. It really did wind up coming in so very handy, I gush! It hurts to find bad habits actually useful. Back in the day, I would have merrily tossed the broken gizmo and probably not missed it, or would have been more than happy to save for an updated model.

This morning I went on a rampage after all the Small Toy Parts. The children thought I had either lost it or was very close to losing it, the way I determinedly scurried about putting any and every stray Thing in my line of vision in every room, barking orders for each child to take responsibility for handfuls of Things, too.

Among the claimed items tossed back into the toy box and baskets: plastic 1-inch machine gun, fourteen missing puzzle pieces, 17 toy cars, 4 pieces of railroad track,  2 noise-making stuffed animals (one of which has low batteries and emits a very ominous noise that would make Chuckie shudder), a naked baby doll, headless GI Joe, 2 broken Happy Meal toys, long-lost Gumby, the Wii remote we all thought the dog ran away with and buried, a very tangled slinky (why are we keeping this, I ask?! answer: we might untangle it someday…put it in the bathroom, I’ll work on it next time I go), a well-scratched unidentifiable DVD, 7 magnetic refrigerator alphabet letters, the tangled string that keeps coming off the Playskool Snoopy dog that yelps when you pull him along behind you, enough Monopoly money to pay the mafia to off the relatives who keep plying our children with noisy gifts to drive us crazy at every occasion, 3 mystery Things no one could say with any assurance what on earth they went to… and a partridge in a pear tree. There was more, I promise you. Much more. I am blocking out the rest; it is far too painful.

And this is just the inside of the house. Sometimes I think more is less, less is blessed. I am not ungrateful for what we have been blessed with, just overwhelmed. Perhaps this is the unavoidable result of having teenagers through toddlers.  I have made a mental date with the year the youngest turns of age, to return to simplicity. No, it will start long before then: I shall begin to purge the toddler toys in the next couple of years, and work my way up as he works his way up. I will keep all the crap nicely organized – baskets for this crap, boxes for that crap. Hopefully I won’t have to have a skin graft for any more coffee spilled in the dark of the wee hours stepping on yet another Lego.

Thus, as of yesterday morning, I was forbidden to throw away a broken folding chair; never mind that I have determined that throwing things away – no, decluttering – is an act of mental wellness for me. Nosireebob, that canvas, I was urgently informed, can be removed from the metal and “we” can sew it into bags to be used for camping and such. Yeah, right…just after the last child leaves for college and the canvas is growing spores. Then we’ll have time for more camping, too. Perfect. We’ll just toss the ol’ broken chair onto the top of the heap in the attic, no problem. Reminds me of that old sticks-and-marble game, Kerplunk!

(I sure hope somebody else sees the humor in all this, because he may not so easily, and I may be in for an icy week ahead.)

In the meantime, I think I hear the producers of “Hoarders” knocking. I reckon now is a good time to go vacation at my old stomping grounds in the middle of Nowhere while they tape this segment.

On the other hand, maybe I should just stay put…now that I think of it, there’s not a lot of difference between being stuck in the cattle drive and having to wait for it to pass there, and the cattle drive going on here, except this one smells better most of the time, and the cattle stampeding through my house have more fun.

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Helluva Monday, it was. I did nothing but explain stuff:

2:38 am: To two young children, why it was not time to get out of bed and plug in a Three Stooges DVD.

4:45 am: To my body, why I was ignoring the alarm and snoozing another 1/2 hour, when I hate snoozing.

6:19 am: To algebra teacher via email, why child is not living up to potential, and what we will do to rectify situation.

8:06 am: To supervisor, how I was able to heed her advice to not think about “this place” over the weekend, by hitting the beach.

10:32 am: To irate grandparent, to their face and with authorities present, why I was recommending their rights to child be terminated.

12:14 pm: To coworkers, why they ought not kidnap and take me on 3 mile run on lunch tomorrow, because I’m still weak from illness.

1:20 pm: To myself, why I’m missing my dad when he’s long gone.

2:03pm: To several children swarming me, why each of them could not have my undivided attention immediately and simultaneously.

2:46 pm: To coworker, why I will never ever ever reveal the location of this blog, over my dead body, etc.

3:14 pm: To child, why an unavoidable obstacle preventing her expectations from being met, feels like being lied to.

4:09 pm: To administrator with a windowed office, how and why another one of my good intentions paved yet another road to hell with my staff.

4:43 pm: To myself, why I just now “got” something somebody told me months ago, while dreaming and flying over the bridge over water.

5:01 pm: To my car, why I switched to the left lane because the right was too slow, only to have the left lane slow down thanks to the guy 3 cars ahead slowing down to turn left. Then switching back to the right, only to have the right lane slow down thanks to the guy another few cars ahead hold us up to turn right. Repeat left and right, two more times.

5:14 pm: To husband, why I am late. Again. Aaargh.

5:49 pm: To inquisitive eight year old, why God won’t rain manna right now, why we can’t have “smart marshmallows” rain down instead that we can eat and instantly get smart, and to sage twelve-year-old, why God doesn’t just rain down wisdom. And what the heck manna is anyway.

6:35 pm: To laptop, how the month got away in rare form for me, and why I was paying a bill online instead the usual way.

7:52 pm: To three-year old, why mommy doesn’t have the same equipment that all the other guys in the house do. And what it’s called instead.

8:31 pm: To my keyboard, why I should restrain myself from responding to the missions outfit that sent a plea in the mail today for us to support their unemployed missionaries while they hang here in the States until “God provides,” listing the identical financial obligations I also am faced with.

9:02 pm: To my disabled child, why he should not be afraid to go to sleep even though he will probably “see dreams.”

9:52: To God, crying out why life is so hard, then feeling guilty for crying out because others have it harder… hungry but not able to eat, weary yet not able to rest, grateful but too downtrodden to show it, joyful but too grieved to celebrate, surrounded and loved, but lonely.

Hey, God…do your stuff. That’s all I know to pray right now. This was one crazy day!! Your will, not mine. I’ve plain run out of ways to explain myself. You do the rest, please. Thank you, Lord!

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Hey, God…

Thanks for the laughing-till-crying story exchanged at 1am today. I hate that I already have to edit and censor the story, and can’t share that slice of life. I would much rather assume the world would be better off seeing the humor instead of seeing the legal implications. Anyway…I was just sayin’….

Had I come upon this scene, I probably would not have connected the morgue door+breathing body on gurney. I am too hyper to notice such details in the moment; these are the type of things I connect later on, typically during sleep. I am the one capturing these delayed realizations on Post-It notes at 3 in the morning or flying down the interstate. I am also responsible for editing this blog days later, when I realize I had yet another song title butchered. I type what I hear, facts be damned. There is always time for pesky details later, right?

So this guy lies to me a couple of days ago, looking me earnestly in the eye while doing so. I fall right into it, fully believing him, even though I knew better. We were surrounded by other people who, although otherwise occupied and not really listening, also would have known better. I was being served up a royal yarn. “Wow,” I habitually and wrongly assumed, “I must have my facts wrong, or hadn’t heard those facts yet.”

This has long been the drumbeat of my superiors, who see me do this time after time: “Trust your judgment, it’s always spot-on,” they inform me, as if this were a foreign concept to me. This week, although I fell for it in the moment, I knew something was amiss, and instead of awaking at 3 am to “get it,” I marched straight to someone who could immediately assure me that I was indeed just lied to.

Yep, I was lied to, alright.

The weird thing was everybody else laughed about it like it was nothing new. REALLY? I was floored anew, albeit satisfied that the liar was going to be justly confronted and dealt with. I, on the other hand, always react as if I am being hurt anew, as though this is not normal human behavior, as though, as I naively assume, everyone shares the same values as I do: to be honest, forthcoming, do your best, willing to learn and change, and knowing that things like lying eventually come back to haunt you, so it is illogical to do so.

You would think in my profession, I would have gotten “it” by now, that humans do not operate logically in most cases. I’ve even known some so obsessed with conducting their lives in an ultra-logical fashion, that they paradoxically lived illogically.

Maybe I need to live a little more illogically, think a little more illogically…assuming that lying is illogical, and assuming that most of us are illogical. Maybe I need to quit being so naive and assuming people have the best of intentions at all times.

God, I know it’s a world of sin. But I don’t wanna see it that way. I like to think higher of people, of the world. Help me temper my impatience with sin, including my own. God, is it good or bad to be so naive all the time?

Thanks, friend, for contemplating these things with me here on the beach with God. I’m in a hurry this morning and have a bazillion other things I am mentally multitasking, and I will probably come back and edit this later. Not one of my better posts, and I could care less…that’s the nice thing about friends, we don’t have to be something we’re not…we don’t need to lie to one another, do we? Meanwhile, I’ll try not to be so naive and work on paying more attention to details. And trusting my judgement more.

On the other hand, I kind of enjoy blissfulness…

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The utterance out of the innocent mouth of the three-year old babe back in the booster seat was clear as day, as we whizzed (no pun intended) south through the fields along the country roads toward home in the hazy, humid afternoon.

“Penis, mama, penis.”

(uncontrollable giggles from three older siblings)

“That’s not nice, baby, don’t talk like that.”

(nervous glance in rear view mirror)

“Yes, ma’am.”

(Kings of Leon, “Back Down South,” permeating the airwaves for the next mile or two, interspersed with how-was-your-day-chat)

“Penis!!!”

(more poorly subdued tittering)

“All right, y’all knock it off…y’all are encouraging him. Quit laughing. Just ignore it, okay? Teach him to count instead, or something, k?”

“Yes, ma’am,” came the respectful chorus, quieting back down.

“Wuuun, shoo, fwee, foh, fahv, say-ben, nahn, yay-yen!!!”

“Very good!!!”

“COTn,” said the child with Down syndrome.

“That’s right, baby, there’s a field of cotton! See the pretty cotton?”

Thus was the daily commuting conversation, every day for the past two months. Until today.

Today, as the town disappeared behind us on our trek home south, the little one suddenly acquired a new letter in his communicative repertoire. That letter happened to be a ‘T.’

Through the fields we went, as usual. His counting has improved a bit now.

“One, twooo, treee, fo’, fahv, see-ix, sebun, ahhight, nahhhn, tay-en. Yay!!!”

“That’s right, baby, you’re counting’! Good counting.”

(general applause and loving adoration from his older brothers)

“COTn,” said the Downs child. “Yes, cotton!” we confirmed, pointing to the robust plants, nearly ready for harvest.

Shortly down the road, the little one piped up, “Peanuts!” Look, peanuts!”

There, past the COTn, were fields of peanuTs, also robust and nearly ready for harvest.

Sho’ ’nuff, baby!

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“You fi’n t’go back to the crazy hospital you done broke out of?” the graying, acutely psychotic man inquired, as I concluded the Sunday afternoon group therapy session.

“Yes, sir, I most certainly am,” I replied, with surly sincerity (knowing that the mentally ill tend to be more prophetic than most perceive).

I could say this and mean it. My last post was filled with cozy intentions about how time would be spent during the tropical storm. But, like all good intentions, they certainly paved the road to Hell. I think I caught a glimpse of the ghost of Erma Bombeck, smirking and waving at me as I went screaming and careening down that road this weekend.

Like a good blogger, I hit “publish,” closed the laptop and awoke from my online reverie. Except mine was a rude awakening, a tumultuous transition into what existed here with you and me in the beach chairs, to what lay before me.

I was deeply regretting the terrifying amounts of refined sugar and Red Dye #40 with a long holiday weekend in a storm, more than you can ever know, dear friend. The cutesy design drawn in the dust mocked me each time I whizzed by on my way between the front door and the linen closet to secure the assistance of yet another towel. Every Key to the Unknown buried in the no-longer-a-tool-drawer drawer, chuckled at me as I searched for the next necessary piece of hardware required to put out yet another home un-improvement fire. I believe ninety percent of the debris from the storm managed to find its way into our home, brought, blown or tracked in by sixteen busy little hands and feet, not counting the help from all the neighbor-kids.

And the collective sugar rush electrified the home better than any of the lightning bolts overhead.

Within moments of the last post, the doorbell rang. It was our smiling UPS man holding a package with the Amazon arrow emblazoned across the big, brown box. The children’s excitement mounted with suspense…it most certainly had to be for the birthday boy! They “helped” him rip into it, and within seconds of strewing the bubble cushions and wrap everywhere, their suspenseful chirping went silent. “What’s this?” puzzled the eldest.  “I don’t think that’s for him,” number three analyzed. “A present for mama!” number two surmised, as the birthday boy was blissfully busy off in the corner, amusing himself with the box and packing materials, completely satisfied with the delivery.

No, it had to arrive at the start of the weekend, eh? All the exam study materials I’d ordered and forgotten about a week ago. Kinda like how annoying things you can’t deal with until the next business day, always seem to darken the doorstep on a Saturday. Curses anyway, I took the dang test precisely twenty years ago…and now they want this old dog to learn new tricks. No mercy for the mommy-track. Okay, so be it. But did it have to come now? I’d had such great plans this weekend which did not include anything academic. You cannot hold your head high and walk past an opened box of interesting books which beg to be opened and thumbed through. That’s the lure of literature, n’est-ce pas?

The bands of rain intermittently pelted our world, and I managed to get a little studying accomplished in between tornado warnings, which is when we sent the young charges out to play in the deluge. This was joyful to behold, children dancing and playing and laughing as children ought, gleefully experiencing the wet wonder of nature. Splashing, cavorting, whirling outdoors.

Then muddy, dripping, shivering indoors.

After a round of warm baths and dryer-heated towels, it was time for a tour to see how the rest of the neighborhood was faring. Out at the point where tributary meets estuary, they just had to jump out of the van and experience the weather again. Here, the rain blew sideways, and just a few moments in this sent them scurrying back in with shrieks of pain, as the sand and water had slapped and stung them with the full fury of the storm. With wincing children cupping hands to cheeks, we hydroplaned home again to coop back up and ride it out some more.

A young person who shall remain Nameless, in his mad dash for the front door upon return, neglected to close the door on the vehicle in the driveway. This remained yawned open until it was discovered approximately twelve hours later, with a pool of water suitable for marine life in the pocket compartment of the door, drowned McToys begging for CPR and bloated Cheerios notwithstanding. So the shop-vac was enlisted to assist with this crisis. While Nameless One was asking how much longer he’d have to vacuum, another one led us to a room with a leaky window, where a lovely body of water had materialized, damaging all manner of wood, wall, wallpaper and everything else in the path of its pooling.

While this was being attended to, another Nameless one proudly announced he was in the process of mastering the art of cooking pasta. “Make sure you stir it,” I called after him. Five minutes later: “Mommy, something smells like it’s burning, and it doesn’t smell like pasta.”  Shortly thereafter, we were wondering whether the missing plastic tooth of the pasta-stirrer had become one with the pasta or with the stove. I was certain the EPA would come knocking any moment. We pondered this over the vigorous squirting of scouring gel on the bottom of the smoking, blackened pot. However, I was impressed with the beautiful design the pasta made on the bottom. Almost hated to scrub it away, the gracefully curved ebony imprints of the swirled mess. I just may leave it be and nail it to the wall in the kitchen as an impromptu work of art. You can get away with something like that in our town. It would be a memento of a child’s learning process on a stormy weekend. At least until he is of the age of dating and prone to visual reminders which might embarrass.

With the madhouse at home (prophetic indeed!), it might have been a godsend to be called in to work, except the trip was fraught with hazard. Entire lanes were covered in sheets of water, road and ramp closures abounded, stranded vehicles here and there. Somehow I made it, and set about helping to restore calm and order in a world of people unavoidably affected by the plummeting barometric pressure. Monitoring the radar on computer, the charge nurse graciously sent me packing early, before the next band was to hit. You just can’t get there fast enough when the National Weather Service robo-dude is mentioning streets in your neighborhood in the same sentences with phrases like “rotational movement” and “take cover in interior hallways or, if no shelter, lie down in a ditch.” Back down the road of good intentions…

Fire ants are a necessary part of life in the South, and, returning home, I made the mistake of pausing too long in the driveway to rearrange some of the debris in the yard. During storms, fire ants like to rearrange themselves as well, and our yard was no exception. Mountains of ant hills where they had not previously existed, now dotted the landscape like miniature towers of Babel. I happened to be standing atop a hill-in-the-making, which evidently had just begun to be claimed by the fierce insects. My presence on their claimed territory was most unwelcome. These little six-legged Donald Trumps were going to ensure that they cornered the market on their esteemed piece of real estate.

Having minored in dance in college, I was suddenly reminded of some long-forgotten dance steps, as the enemies swarmed my thong-sandaled feet. A one-woman Cirque-Du-Soleil, I acrobatically leaped and spun my way toward the front porch, throwing in a few curious upper body movements as I swiped at the stronger-jawed holdouts dining on my ankles. No worries about what the Mrs. Kravatzes of the neighborhood would think were they to peer out from behind their living room curtains and see my animated display; the Dance of the Fire Ant-Afflicted is a universal language south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Meanwhile, even feeding the outdoor pets became a contest of timing and judgment, and had to be coordinated with the latest weather reports and radars. This morning, the poor dog’s untouched bowl of food had become pathetically waterlogged, so after a thorough washing and drying and refilling between bands of storm, his bowl was restored. An hour later as the skies again darkened with great gusts of wind, I noticed he had again not touched it. I saw fit to bring in the bowl before the rain hit, placing it on the floor of the laundry room. Another round of towels was then due to the rain-romping youngsters on their way in for breakfast. While performing my now-regulation towel-dispensing routine at the front door, the baby shrieked and cried, “Ants, mama, ants!!!” His now-red, swollen feet had walked into the laundry room, exposing the reason the dog had not eaten – fire ants had overtaken his bowl within minutes outside, and my goodwill effort to protect his food had resulted in unwittingly inviting the creatures into our home. Way to go!

(Nineteen hours until school resumes)

Thus, the homey aroma of birthday cake for this long, stormy weekend has yielded to the likes of burnt plastic and Raid. The road is now littered with leaves and limbs. The mud-splattered walls testify to hasty and frequent changes of storm-soaked clothing and hardcore play. The fire ants are trying to take over the universe. The portable heater is about to set the car interior on fire. We’ll need a Bobcat instead of a broom to clear the back deck. All the things I was going to make a point not to do this weekend are not only still not done, but now we have myriad more on the list. And we’re down to the last piece of birthday cake that no one wants to be the last one to claim, because we have taught our children as such.

(I will wait till they are in bed…yes, baby, the bad ol’ ants probably got to it…No, wait, I will sneak it in to the psychotic man tomorrow, yes!)

On second thought, these good intentions did not pave the road to Hell, this was a storm of love. Our little tornadoes made the most of the circumstances and lived:  lived fully and lived well.

Thank you, God, for children and storms and ants and burnt pasta. Thank you for mud and mayhem and the unexpected. For it is the storms of life which bond us together, teach us love and endurance, give us meaning and purpose, and help us appreciate life’s journey. Best of all, they draw us nearer to You.

I think I see the Sun trying to come out. I am squinting with joy! Oh, blue sky at last! And thank you, dear friend, for sharing this storm with me, here by the sea.

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Really, it WAS a dark and stormy night, all purple prose aside.

The day had been punctuated by startling moments of sensory surprises, like standing at the copier in the office under a skylight and being suddenly overcome by a perception that something is amiss in my brain’s sense of Normal Daytime Expectations. I looked up and beheld a completely black sky overhead, prompting me to seek the nearest vertical window and exclaim to anyone within earshot, “Oooooh, look!” Looking, we all saw an impressive gust of wind busy itself with pruning a few dead leaves and small branches, barely visible through the thick blankets of rain.

Commuting home, the forward march of one of Lee’s outer bands ominously loomed in the distance, casting a mirror image of his fury across the water below, the water precisely matching his darkest parts and a couple of sparse hints of shimmer on the water, showcasing Lee’s best efforts to conceal the sun, which he had effectively snuffed out ’round about noon on Thursday.

Then came night, indistinguishable from many parts of the day. That last band had graciously passed at the time designated as local sunset (the clock was all we had to go by, as the dark clouds made the night darker….likely what Mr. Edward Bulwer-Lytton was trying to convey by describing a dark night with the word “storm” in the same sentence). Darker than night, how ’bout that?

Sitting quietly before bedtime, an other-worldly sound pierced my peace with its ghostly strains, demanding that I engage in the process of attempting to decipher its meaning and purpose. I was too tired to play another head game with Lee, so I took the best shortcut to make someone else figure it out: “What the hell was that?” It could have been the approach of the headhunters on Gilligan’s Island, for all I knew.

I don’t believe a definitive conclusion was ever reached, so we chalked it up to a wallop of wind, since the noise was immediately followed by an intense tropical downpour. The wind bullied the thunder, restraining its commanding voice by carrying its crash aloft in waves, making it sound like a strange symphony of muted tympani and belittled brass. This, combined with the tinny thud of each heavy raindrop landing on the chimney cover, lulled me to sleep, the backdrop sounds yielding to the strangest of dreams….

….dreams which were interrupted at some point by a poltergeist-like indoor event, the miniature Dirt Devil toy vacuum turning on by itself, its glaring light at the base illuminating the room and the sickly groan of a toy with drained batteries trying to revive itself back to life. Who left this out last night, anyway? As if we didn’t have enough entertainment going on outside our walls.

After surviving some of the most destructive hurricanes this beach has known, a little ditty like Tropical Storm Lee is most welcome. We need the rain this year. It waters the garden of journalism for the long weekend, encourages bonding among the affected, and forces those of us with growing lists of Ignored and Mundane Indoor Tasks, to finally face the music. You know, stuff like sewing the button back on the forgotten shirt that’s been patiently waiting, folded on the shelf in the laundry room for a semi-eternity (does it even fit anyone, anymore?) Studying for that nagging exam. Purging the accumulating crap off the (name any and all surfaces throughout the house). Fixing the leaky faucet. Carving a path through the dust on the uncluttered surfaces. Reclaiming the tool drawer as a right and true tool drawer, instead of the tools being crowded out by things like the spare part to the thingamabob which we no longer have, the broken piece off of Buzz Lightyear’s space pack which would never survive being glued back on anyway, and the massive collection of Keys to the Unknown, which go to nothing anybody in this current generation of home occupants can recall.

On the other hand, Lee is an even better excuse to relax and have fun. Every tropical storm has a silver lining! Instead, I think I will stay in my jammies a little longer today, with an extra cup of coffee fueling the posting of this blog, to the beat of another band of downpour drumming overhead.

I will continue to ignore the buttonless shirt in the laundry room and instead spend a little extra time studying the Scrabble board so I can beat all my online opponents, instead of my usual, thoughtless, hurried plays on the fly which inevitably cause me to pay attention and wonder why my average has tanked.

I will walk briskly past the tool drawer on the way to the freezer, where I will get out the ice cream to go with the cake to go with the presents which go with the young man in our house who turns three today. We will sing “Happy Birthday” at the top of our lungs, the surreal thunder that’s not quite thunder accompanying our rendition. We will be wearing our conical SpongeBob party hats and plying the children with terrifying amounts of refined sugar and Red Dye # 40. I will take said young man on my lap and marvel at how quickly time passes, and attempt to hold on to him tightly (little wiggle-worm!) and hope that he doesn’t repeat what he did last night when I attempted the same (he did what any pre-gentleman would be tempted to do as a practical joke on someone’s lap – ’nuff said).

Speaking of which, we will bypass the leaky faucet and nosh all day on the Boston Butt our good friend talked us into buying, all proceeds going to a child’s gymnastics travel fund (eating for a good cause is standard in the South).

The exam material will be ceremoniously bypassed as we stampede out the door in between rain bands, to pile into the van and go looky-looing – you know, go see what roads flooded, take pictures of the angry surf, run barefoot in the puddles-turned-streams…maybe hang around for a beach concert moved indoors and see a fairly popular musician.

We will go beach combing for leftover tarballs Lee may stir up. (“No-no, baby, don’t touch that shell…that’s not a shell.”)

I will hold my head high as I walk past the piles of accumulating stuff, and pause at one of the dusty surfaces, and use my index finger to draw a pretty design in the dust. I may delegate a more thorough, less creative dusting to the Child Labor Department another day, but for today, we will take advantage of the circumstances.

Thanks, God, for circumstances. I see it is getting dark again in the middle of the already-dampered daylight – we’d better go make a run for the van now, while the running is good.

Whoops, too late – that was fast! Another downpour. We’ll just serve up the cake and ice cream for breakfast, instead….

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