Psychotic Decorating on a Shoestring

We moved into our tiny retirement home in Florida a little over a year and a half ago.  The home was much in need of love and updates, so we rolled up our sleeves and commenced.  Bedrooms came first, with fresh coats of paint and a little ingenuity to make the small rooms work. We landscaped the yards, and a lanai was added in addition to new windows and a roof.  Things were finally starting to wind down before I spent an evening just staring at the “bonus room” at the back of the house, looking for inspiration.

It was added to the house by some former owners. In northern climates, it would have been considered to be a mud room.  But, this is southwest Florida, and we have no mud, so that didn’t work.  It’s tiny; no more than 8×7. Very little wall space was available, as the original outside doors were kept to separate it from the dining room, it has sliding doors that lead out to the lanai, a door to my husband’s music studio (i.e. man cave – save yourself and do not enter!) and a window to the outside.  We didn’t even know what to call this room, as it lacked a function, so, we just called it Loretta.  Loretta was quite a conundrum for me.

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You can see that there are built in shelves in the corner. They really had no purpose, other than a place to catch clutter and home for a litter box.  We put the cat food on one of the lower shelves so the dogs wouldn’t get it. (They could totally reach it, but for some reason, decided to leave it alone. Bonus!)  Our kitchen is itty-bitty, and there’s very little cupboard space, so we put a cheap cabinet along another wall to use as a food pantry.

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My brilliant plan was to turn the corner-clutter-catching shelves into a pantry. My long-suffering husband helped by building my crazy dream around the already existing shelves, plus adding a couple of extra ones inside. I used the paint that I had leftover from this crazy project on the lanai, since Loretta leads right outside, and I’m cheap.

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This is where I think I started to go off the decorating rails. Before long, it became the anything goes room. I used pink spray paint for the lace effect, which I accomplished by laying old, lace curtains over the corners, then spraying over them.  A peacock feather is used on a chain to close the doors. We now had a pantry.

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Because that wasn’t crazy enough, I painted the walls light green, then added this bird cage that I made during what I can only call a psychotic episode.  It reminds me of a cage in Whoville.  I call the bird Nathan Lane.

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Here’s the “before” shot of the next wall.  The door leads to the man cave, a room I’ll never touch; not even with a dust rag.  Or a camera. The cheap cabinet that used to serve as our pantry was moved to the garage, and now houses bales of paper towels and toilet paper, not to mention lots of crazy stuff I use for artsy projects.  This is also where Ruth sits.  (For the 20 people in the world who don’t know what a Ruth is, she’s my mannequin.)  She was obviously dressed for Halloween when I took this picture.

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Let the games begin!

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Ruth now sits in the chair from the first picture, opposite what I now use as a computer desk.  I picked the desk up at a flea market.  It was actually an old library table, but this room is so small that I had to figure out how to make it fit.  So, my husband cut it in half for me and mounted it to the wall after I went insane on it.

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I made it tall enough to serve as my desk by putting it in leopard stiletto heels that I found on sale for $5.* Then, I also put fishnet stockings on it.  I was on an insanity roll.

* The fact that Ruth is dressed in leopard is just a happy accident.  She was dressed that way before I found the shoes.  What?  You don’t regularly change the outfits on your mannequins?  face/palm

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I used the same old, lace curtain to jazz up the top, and had a piece of glass cut to fit it.  I “laced” the front of the drawers the same way.  Beads are my drawer pulls.

I created a crazy sign to fit the flavor of the room.

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And what funky room is complete without a funky, faux chandelier?  I created this from Mardi Gras beads, fake pearl necklaces, and leftover Christmas decorations.  I did buy some fringe from a fabric store, but the frame for it was salvaged from a discarded chandelier in our… uh… hallway.  Yes, there was a chandelier in both of the tiny hallways when we bought this house.

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I’d already painted the doors purple in Loretta right after we made the insanity that sits out on our lanai.

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Basically, I just want to prove to y’all that the rest of my house is decorated with some kind of class.

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Not a lot has changed from this view.

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It’s brighter and cleaner, though.

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The colorful decals on the door are to keep certain Jack Russell terriers and certain adult males from walking through the glass on the rare occasions that I actually clean it.  The sign above the door was moved from a different wall to its new home.

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This is Bobby.  He’s lived with us for many years.  He often wears hats and/or masks, along with an occasional wig that Ruth loans him.  I just spiffed his corner up a bit.

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I needed a place to put our beach towels for handy access when pool season starts back up, so I made this odd pouch out of fishing net.  I spray painted it blue (yes, I painted the net!), then hubba-hubby hung it with strong, plastic-like string.  I wound some fluffy, purple stuff through the top loops and up the strings.  When it’s floating season, the damp towels hang off the hooks that you can see on the back of the door.

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All in all, I’m pretty happy with my little oasis of insanity. I’m finally off the dining room table, and into a space of my own. Continue reading

Shedding Sheldon

The first line of the blog post read, “I was flying in to Cape Corral Fla. on southwest” and I was forced to swallow the bile that immediately rose.  Admittedly, the rest of the story was entertaining, but I had too much difficulty getting past that first line to enjoy it.  You see, I’m a grammar Nazi.  A spelling Nazi.  A detail in the written word Nazi.  Had the line read, “I was flying in to Fort Myers, FL on Southwest”, I could have enjoyed it more.  I happen to know that Southwest likes their name capitalized, that Cape Coral doesn’t have an airport, and I know how that particular city spells its name.  I’m my own worst enemy.

I have a group of friends online that are the same.  We skip through the interwebs and get together in little groups to point our collective cyber fingers at the grammatical miscreants and laugh at them privately.

But, I realize I need to change my ways.  I have friends who tell me they’re afraid to comment on anything I post because they fear I’ll point out their errors; if not to them, then to my other grammatically high-brow friends.  It’s gotten to the point that I actually annoy myself.  I won’t go into a store with a misspelled word on their marquee or in their windows.  Cutsie spellings just piss me off, and I won’t ever buy ice cream at Kustard Korner, even though I crave their root beer floats more than breath.

Yes, Sheldon. I, too, am a loser.

I realize that I have become Sheldon Cooper; I’m annoying, and not in a cute way.  I feel superior and refuse to take into consideration the fact that I can’t shoot a hoop, work a mathematical equation or rebuild an engine.  My grammatical skills have made me a snob.

So, from here on out, I’m going to try to amend my ways.  Tpyos are just something taht happen.  Kyootsie spellings will be overlooked and I’ll learn to think of them as kewl.  txt spk wl b 4gvn  No, I’m sorry.  I just can’t go there.  Pour grammar n speling will be… Oh, hell.  Who am I kidding?  Certainly not me, and probably not ewe.

Did I mention that the book I’m currently reading is set in 1977 and they drink bottled water and play Pac Man at the arcade?  Do you have any idea about just how much this pisses me off?

It’s baby steps, Bob.  Baby steps.

*Image of Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper courtesy of Google

Giving Each Other The Bird

You know you might need to find something else to do with your time when you start to snap about the little things.  I mean, the really, really stupid little things.

This is Feldman, our travel flamingo.

Feldman on Key West

He goes on vacations with us and is generally used as a marker on beaches so we can easily find our chairs after taking a stroll down water’s edge.  He’s always held a spot of honor in our home, and since our move to Florida, he’s on display outside at all times.

Now that we’re fairly well settled into our retirement down here, we’re finding ourselves with more time on our hands to play with silly projects.  That’s where Feldman’s updated look began.

For some completely warped reason, I decided he needed dreadlocks.

Kevin stepped in to help and drilled holes in dear, little Feldman’s head while I was still sleeping one morning. I was mildly annoyed, because I’d pictured the holes to be more like slits, and I knew there was no way I’d be able to weave the dreads through these tiny openings. Kevin, in his never-ending need to fix things for everyone, then created a tool for me to use in the task.  OK, it wasn’t how I wanted it to proceed, but I could grumbling and mutteringly see where it would work, although differently from my plan.

I laboriously drew the black strands through the holes. Black yarn was wrapped around each dread to keep them looking dreadful.  The bottom of each strand was sealed with a dot of red nail polish, to give it the look of a bead.  My creative juices were flowing like our now thinner, Florida blood!  I was rejoicing in my stupidity!  The top was knotted and sealed with clear nail polish so it wouldn’t fray.  However, that left the top of his head looking kind of unkempt, so I decided he needed a hat.

I mentioned to Kevin that I was going to search online for a Rastafarian hat for Feldman, and before I even had the opportunity, my “fixer” reported that he’d done an internet search and couldn’t come up with anything.  However, he found Rasta shoelaces that I might be able to work with.  I went to Amazon, found something similar and ordered them, all the while grumbling to myself about the fact that he stole my internet search.  In record time, they were in my mailbox.  I then spent a very enjoyable morning fashioning one lace into a really cool hat.  When I tried it on Feldman, I realized it needed to be glued on to his head.

And this is where my pissed-offitude really took wing.

We only had Python Glue.  I don’t like Python Glue.  Kevin likes Python Glue.  I wanted Gorilla Glue, but the last time we were in a store and I tried to buy some, Kevin insisted on buying Python Glue, because he uses glue, too.  The nasty Python Glue wouldn’t work the way I needed it to work.  It needed to be held on for hours.  I wasn’t holding a hat on a stupid, plastic flamingo for hours.  (Sorry, Feldman!)  I told him that I’d be waiting for pay day to go buy the glue I wanted, all the while internally seething that I could have had my project already done if only he’d have butted out of my need for Gorilla Glue the last time and let me buy what I wanted.  But, noooooo…

The next morning when I woke up, Feldman was up high on a cabinet with rubber bands securely holding my Rasta creation to the top of his head… with Python Glue!  Kevin wasn’t around, so I was able to get a real, good snit going.  WTF?!  This was supposed to be my project! Did he really think he was helping me?  I couldn’t even look at my darling Feldman.  I had a unique way that I wanted to attach the hat so it would slouch down his back, and I was sure he didn’t do it the way I wanted it done.  I spent the rest of the day avoiding looking at Feldman on top of the cabinet, and avoiding Kevin as much as possible.  I knew he thought he was helping me, but I felt he’d destroyed… yes, destroyed!.. my project.

Oh, but it got worse.  The next morning, Feldman was waiting for me by my computer.  The rubber bands were gone.  Swallowing a huge lump in my throat, I picked him up to see how he looked.  My masterpiece of a hat was glued firmly, dead center, on top of his head.  He looked like a Chinese coolie flamingo. The tip that I’d sewn over to form a slouch pocket down the back was pointing to his left.  I was livid.  I didn’t want to make a scene (quite yet, but I was certainly masterminding one), so I just left poor Feldman laying on the table by my laptop, while I worked on letting myself get into a real snit, and mentally prepared for the hissy I was going to throw.  I picked him up a few times throughout the day and lamented all the hours I’d put into the beauteousness of him.  My upper lip trembled with repressed rage. My nostrils quivered with anger. He was ruined in the final hour.  RUINED!  A coolie hat!

I could barely talk to Kevin.  I kept my distance.  I growled to myself over and over and over about Python Glue and Gorilla Glue and holes instead of slits and leave my shit alone and maybe I could have found a pre-made hat if he hadn’t interfered and rubber bands and coolie hats!  I even thought of throwing my beloved Feldman away.  I was working up an enormous head of steam and I was just about to blow when I finally took a deep breath and picked Feldman up.  Sniffling and with unshed tears filling my eyes, I started folding parts of the hat this way and that.  I imagined what I could do with it if I bought some Gorilla Glue to use in certain, small spots.  I realized he might not be a total loss, and as much as I wanted to severely punish Kevin and make the rest of his life a living hell, it probably wasn’t worth ruining my marriage over.  After an extended cool-down period, I grudgingly made myself hug Kev, thank him for his efforts and tell him I was going to go buy some Gorilla Glue.  A couple of days later, I was even able to laugh and tell him how angry I’d been and how I’d planned on never speaking to him again because of his interference with my dreadlocked, pink, plastic flamingo project.

I’ll just save all my evil revenge plans for his next infraction of my unstated rules.

Feldman, mon.

Good-bye, My Friend

I found myself at a place in my life where I’d suffered many losses.  With lots of important people missing from my world, I decided that no one else was going to get in.  But, with a need for interaction of some kind, I ended up on a website that allowed intelligent people to cyber-mingle.

I thought it was the perfect solution, but I was wrong.  These online people were more than just icons and snappy comebacks.  There were people behind the profile pictures, and I found myself forming attachments.

It started out with cards, then phone calls and texts.  Gifts started being sent and received, and shoulders were both lent and given for crying.  Then, visits became kind of inevitable.

I found myself caring for these people in a way that I didn’t think possible.  I’ve met a baker’s dozen or so, and have plans to meet more.  If you add their family members in to this mix, I’ve met upwards of 25 or 30 online friends.

You can get into all kinds of real life situations with online friends.  You can laugh, joke, cry, bitch, moan and even get pissed off. Some online friends stopped being friends because cyber-bullshit doesn’t always translate any better than it does in real life.

And when an online friend dies, you grieve just as though they were a co-worker, real-life friend or neighbor.  You cry, rail at the gods and remember.

I lost Terry and Søren.   I knew how hard this next loss was going to hit, but I’m still reeling over the recent events.  I lost Ruth.

I’m not going to go into detail about what an amazing woman she was, or all of the things she accomplished.  Our mutual friends know all of these details.  I just want to say that when she requested my friendship on that old website, it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.  She guided me, aided me and slapped me when I needed slapping.  She became my online mother.  My Mummy, as it were, and she named me InaPie.  She yelled at me when I needed yelling at, and sometimes when I didn’t.  Those were the times I yelled back at her.  We locked horns, danced and hugged each other on numerous occasions.  I felt honored that I had the chance to actually meet her.  I’m blessed that I had Dame Ruth Dickson in my life, and my only regret is that I didn’t have her longer than the six years I was granted.

Good-bye, gorgeous.  Until we meet again.

Ruth Dickson (1925 – 2012) and me.

Bauer Construction Group, Inc. aka Premier Aluminum in Fort Myers, Florida: How Do You Sucketh? Let Me Count the Ways

I guess I shouldn’t complain about what I considered to be terrible service from Bauer Construction Group, Inc. aka Premier Aluminum.  I’ve learned that it helps if you try to look at the positives you get out of an experience, so, with that in mind…

On May 14, 2012, we contracted with Bauer Construction Group, Inc. aka Premier Aluminum for what should have been a very small job.  We wanted to have paving stones put in over the asphalt deck that already surrounded a very small, existing pool, plus a cage (or, screened enclosure) put up around it.  We didn’t get it in writing on our contract, but we both remember the owner of the company telling us it should be done in three weeks; two weeks to secure the building permit, and one week to do the job.  With gobs of gunk and leaves and decaying shingle shit falling into our little pool, it needed cleaning several times a day, and we were really thrilled to think it would be done so quickly.

Lesson #1:  Always get your project completion date in writing.  Thank you, Bauer Construction Group, Inc. aka Premier Aluminum!  This new knowledge is invaluable!

As you can see, the project area is incredibly small.

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On May 22, we gave them a down payment for half of the project.

Lesson #2:  Companies we have since contracted with for other projects have told us that you should never do that.  You only pay a certain percentage after the job has been completed to a certain stage.  Thank you again, Bauer Construction Group, Inc. aka Premier Aluminum!  You taught me just how gullible an asshole I was!  I’ll never fall for stupid stuff like that again!  Whew!  Boy, you saved me from all kinds of future anguish!

Well, four weeks later, we still hadn’t heard back from them.  We were desperately trying to learn patience from this, something I’m told the bible wants us to practice.  I guess Bauer Construction Group, Inc. aka Premier Aluminum was just doing Jesus’ work,  bless their hearts.  But, we finally couldn’t stand it anymore.  We called them.  We didn’t get a return phone call.  We called them again.  No return phone call.  A pattern began.  A call, no return, a call, no return, lather, rinse, repeat.  We got angry.  Then we got angrier.

Lesson #3:  Yes, patience, my child.  Anger gets you nowhere.  Repeated phone calls get you nowhere.  You must also learn tolerance for those less fortunate than yourselves.  Some people are special and struggle through life with an inability to follow through on direction.  We must smile, and remember that it is really much more important to allow them the needed time to watch YouTube videos than do their jobs.  We must remember that they’ve been given this job at Bauer Construction Group, Inc. aka Premier Aluminum because no one else would hire someone who behaves like such a c**t for such an important position as administrative assistant.

Oh!  I forgot to introduce a primary character in our saga! Let’s just go ahead and call her The C**t.   I mean, that’s how we referred to her for four months.  The C**t fielded all phone calls to the company owner.  (In fact, he never did return a single one of our calls.  The C**t even hinted at the fact that he was probably avoiding us.) Then, The C**t began not returning our phone calls, either.  When we did get her on the phone, she was rude, condescending, snippy and insulting in attitude.

Lesson #4:  It’s good to always be reminded that you’re an idiot.  I must always forget I have any intelligence or worth as a human being and remain humble, thanks to The C**t who works for Bauer Construction Group, Inc. aka Premier Aluminum.

I believe it was to shut us up that we were given a start date for the pavers to be laid.  We waited at home.  No one showed up.  We called (yeah, we went through that whole farked-up sequence again) and called and called. Finally, we were told someone would be out the next day.  We waited at home.  No one showed up.  We called.  Oh, fuck it.  Let’s just call this The Pattern.

Did you know that it was possible for every staff member (except the one poor dear who had to answer the phone) to be in a meeting every hour of every working day?  Neither did we!  My, what busy people they were!  We finally decided to expand on The Pattern.  We said that we knew the “meetings” were bullshit, and we were calling every half hour until we got satisfaction.

Lesson #5:  Sometimes, it does pay to be an asshole!  Thanks for letting us win one, Bauer Construction Group, Inc. aka Premier Aluminum!

On July 10, 2012, a crew finally came out to install our pavers.  It took them two days, and they looked very nice.  We were thinking that we were closing in on completion of this project.

Lesson #6: AHAHAHAHA!  I really was a gullible asshole!

Now we were faced with the problem that the surface surrounding the pool was two inches higher than the bottom of our sliding glass door.  The contract stated they would be raising this door before completion.  What we didn’t know, was that the little trough between the pavers and the door would fill with water whenever it rained (and south Florida has lots of rain in the summer!) and flow into our house.  With every rain.  All the time. Night and day. We had to bail and mop and bail and mop and bail…  Oh, let’s just call this Pattern #2!

The C**t and Bauer Construction Group, Inc. aka Premier Aluminum didn’t seem to care much about this. We had to live with Pattern #2 for two months.  Two whole fucking months.

Lesson #7:  It’s OK to swear like a sailor when you’re as fucking pissed off as we were.

We finally got a crew out to put up our cage, after much procrastinating on their part because there was an area that needed a poured footer that they hadn’t considered when they bid the job.  Well, fine.  Send out a concrete guy and pour the damn footer!  More of Pattern #1 ensued until dude came out and did this:

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They had made it seem like it was some huge job, too.  It took him all of an hour.

Now, we resumed Pattern #1 of calling to get the door raised and the cage done while continuing with Pattern #2 of indoor water removal.  A cage crew finally came out.  We were told they would be done in one day.  At the end of day #1, they realized there was “something about the configuration” of our patio that wouldn’t let them install it right.  Day #2 saw a crew come and tear down the cage that was already put up.  They left it in our yard.

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In fact, it stayed in our yard for days and days and days and… Oh, just relax.  I’m not going to name another pattern.  In fact, I’m not going to go into detail about how they had to destroy the top of the tiled, perimeter flower bed you see above to pour cement into the holes in the concrete blocks it was made from, since no one bothered to inspect the job site properly.  In fact, I won’t go into detail about how we had to fight them to get someone out to fix the “finished” cage up to code standards.

We finally went out and moved all the pieces ourselves, since they were killing our grass and we needed to mow.

Lesson #8:  It was a good thing for us to get out there and get some exercise!  I mean, we’re not spring chickens anymore.  We’re not even considered to be middle-aged!  We’re early elderly, and if we hadn’t gone outside and moved all that crap in the hot, Florida sun, we may never have known how out of shape we were!  It’s good for nearly-senior citizens to see how close to a heart attack they really are!  Thank you, Bauer Construction Group, Inc. aka Premier Aluminum!

BONUS!!  We were now able to add a new term to the family vernacular.  We all now refer to things as “all Bauer-ed up”, or if someone doesn’t show up, they “go Bauer on you”, or “pull a Bauer”.  Through the magic of the internet, let’s try to make this terminology go viral, OK?  :D

So, we resumed Pattern #1 until they finally sent someone out to put up our cage.  That part was finally, finally done.  Now, we just had to get someone out to raise our door so we could stop with Pattern #2, because until you’ve bailed and mopped water with the frequency that we did, you haven’t truly experienced burning, hot hatred and rage with an extreme need for vindication and revenge.  Getting this project done began to consume us.  It was the focus of every conversation.  We lost more than a little sleep over it.  We were fucking Bauering pissed off. We’d also contracted with another company to install hurricane protection on this door, and they couldn’t do it until it was raised.  We lived through one hurricane scare without the protection we’d already agreed to pay for.  So, OK.  I admit I might have turned them in to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation with a complaint of fraud at around this point, too.

Our slider was finally removed.  A footer was poured.  We now had a huge hole in the side of our house.

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We couldn’t lock our house.  We lived in fear of rain.  The little room the slider led into had a cabinet with all of our dry food in it.  I began imagining lizards in my Cheerios.  I could barely sleep at night, for fear of critters joining me in bed and zombies lurching into my house.  (Hey, it’s southern Florida.  We have zombies.)  We had this huge hole in our house for four days.  FOUR FUCKING BAUERING DAYS.  A crew came out to fix it, and we were told the footer was poured wrong and it had to be fixed to do it properly.

WRONG!  This is when The C**t was informed that I’d already bookmarked the pages to the local “call for action” news teams, and if they didn’t fix it that very day, they’d be on the 6:00 news.

Funny how that motivates people.

So, it took four months to complete a job (and much of it very shabbily) that was promised to be done in three weeks.  A very small job, as you can see:

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Final Lesson #8:  You have to be Bauering nuts to sign a contract with Bauer Construction Group, Inc. aka Premier Aluminum.

The Case of the Missing Guitar

We both agreed to pack less for this trip than we usually do, as we have the habit of not using at least half of what we take.  This is why I got a bit upset (OK… bitchy) when Kevin insisted on taking his bigger guitar on this trip.  He has a Martin Backpacker for these occasions, but he was adamant that he needed his full-size guitar for Key West.  I finally bit my tongue and let him have his way.  I’d just save my energy for plotting revenge.

 

He packed extra strings and flaunted the entire extra bag he needed just for his music lists.  I refused to give in to the bait and just mentally snarled, planning on getting even with a shoe-shopping extravaganza once we hit our final destination.

 

We loaded the car and left for parts south.  When it was finally my turn to drive, the first thing I noticed was that the damn guitar case was on its side, blocking a substantial part of the view through the back window.  I asked him if it couldn’t be laid flat, and he hemmed and hawed for a bit before finally laying it flat the next time we switched drivers.  Now he was concerned with the fact that he’d laid it strings-down and feared he was hurting his baby.  I was internally growling and thinking, “why didn’t you just lay it down the right way to begin with!?”  but I realized it would be spitting into the wind to bring it up again.

 

With stops to visit family on the way down, we were gone for four nights before he actually removed it from the car and took it into our hotel room.  During these four days of travel, he rearranged it in the rear of the car repeatedly; moving suitcases around to keep it appropriately cushioned and checking that it wasn’t being jostled about too much.  I remained quietly exasperated, but accomplished one helluva lot of eye-rolling. I was certain that if I had to watch him fussing over that thing for much longer, my brains would leak out of my ears from all the unreleased pressure.  Finally, after spending an entire day with his parents, he was ready to haul his precious love out and unwind with a little strumming.

 

I was decompressing by reading out on our room’s little patio, when he burst out, ashen faced, wide-eyed and yelling, “SOMEONE STOLE MY GUITAR!”  (OK, call me a bitch [again], but his expression totally reminded me of a lemur.)

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What? How could someone steal his guitar?  It’d been in the car for four days, and that car was always locked when we weren’t in it.  Back into the room I went, and saw the empty guitar case on the bed.  After about thirty seconds of pondering where and how this could have happened, I asked him if he had actually even put it in the case.  He looked at me like I’d suggested that he would look smashing in a pink, sequined tutu, and then became adamant that he did, and that someone broke into the car at one of our stops, took the guitar, and left just the case, “to throw us off of their tails!”  Yeah, I was having trouble swallowing that one immediately, but he was totally inconsolable and irrational.  His vacation was ruined, and he refused to call home to our house/pet sitter to see if he’d left it behind, because he was certain there was no way he would have done that.

 

With just a bit of coaxing (OK, maybe I was bitching again), he did finally call home.  Yes, his Martin guitar was safely beside his computer on its stand in the corner, and our house-sitter had enjoyed playing it very much.  We’d just traveled 1200 miles with an empty guitar case that he’d fiercely protected all along the route.  Now it was my turn to become hysterical, but I was hysterical with laughter.  I was out of commission for at least twenty minutes with tears pouring down my face.

 

The next morning, we Googled used guitar dealers in the area, took a couple of hours to find the place, and I bought him a replacement.  I mean, how can you go to Key West without your muse?  I felt like I was a true Guitar Hero.­­­­

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Oh, but the payback was really a bitch.  ;)

 

(Lemur image courtesy of Google.)

Attacking the Bird Nerd (Or: I Didn’t Really Like That Pair of Underwear, Anyhow)

 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a fear of birds. I fear all kinds of birds. Dead birds are particularly heinous to me. I’m sure a childhood viewing of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds contributed to this. I imagine their wings flapping on me, their nasty little beaks pecking my eyes out, their ugly, scaly feet touching me, and then they’d poop on me. As a single mother for twenty years, I dealt with the dead birds on my property in the most rational way I could: I screamed, ran away and got either my little boy or one of his friends in the neighborhood to remove it for me.

            Fast forward my life, and you find me remarried and living right on the lip of Lake Erie. Remarried to a man who has (shudder!) bird feeders. I was now being subjected to more birds than any one ornithophobic woman should ever have to deal with. I remember my first year or two there was spent learning to live with the fact that everywhere I looked, there were amazingly skeevy winged creatures. From the tiny hummingbirds and wrens to the water fowl, such as egrets and blue herons, birds were everywhere. Seagulls by the bazillions, buzzards and even the grand bald eagle flew over my house on a daily basis. This doesn’t even touch the tip of the bird iceberg for this area. Every sub-species imaginable became a daily sighting. We lived right on a migratory path, and were always treated to the likes of butterflies, orioles and indigo buntings on their journeys both north and south. To my horror, I found myself living in what was basically an aviary.

            My husband had both winter and summer bird feeders. The dining room table butted up to a wall of windows facing the back yard, and I took this over as my desk area. I was now relentlessly subjected to their creepy little bodies in my line of sight. However, I learned that as long as I was inside with a pane of glass to separate us, my fear diminished and I became fascinated by the flurry of activity these feeders generated. I began to recognize the newcomers and started identifying them. I actually became… a bird nerd. We added nine bird houses, because it terrified me when they nested under the loose panels on the roof of our milk house. When I walked through the yard, they’d dash out in fear of me, and I’d scream and dash back in from fear of them. At least with the houses, I now knew where to expect them. I actually got a frequent flyer card at Wild Birds Unlimited and started buying designer seed. We invested in a much larger winter feeder and added squirrel feeders. Corn and peanuts were added to my shopping lists, and the paranoid antics of a multitude of furry critters were added to our viewing enjoyment. I could sit and stare out my back windows all day. There was always some kind of action going on. I was still terrified, but I knew they’d vamoose when I stepped outside. Well, unless there was a nest and they wanted to kill me. It was kind of like riding a roller coaster: after the adrenaline rush, I got to laugh at my ridiculous self.

            I swore they could smell my fear. Like cats who instinctively seek out the allergic person in a room, the birds found me. I had a pair of battling robins brush my belly with their wings (insert scream and damp drawers here). I’ve been swooped by a great blue heron (insert louder scream) and I’ve run like hell, with my little dog in my arms, from low-circling buzzards (insert continuous screaming). I’ve had seagulls land two feet away from me at the beach and I’ve even had a bat or two in my belfry. OK, maybe it was really my sun room and not my belfry. And I know it’s not a bird. But it has wings, and it’s creepy. Humor me.

            What I hadn’t figured on was the enormous draw all this avian activity would be for the predatory birds every winter. So began my first encounters with hawks: my backyard became a happy hunting ground. They landed on my patio, benches and even the bird bath right outside my window. They’d munch on my sparrows, doves and blue jays, right in front of my eyes, causing me to run and scream and hide in closets. (DEAD BIRDS! DEAD BIRDS!) I had to toughen up and learn to fight back. I’d crack a window enough to get the barrel of my Super Soaker out and give those suckers a bath. I’ve bathed everything from a tiny kestrel to a turkey-sized red-tailed hawk. I stopped screaming when I saw them feasting and just slammed doors and yelled at them so they could take their meals elsewhere. I thought I was getting so cool!

            That was, until the winter day that my neighbor called me and told me I had to get outside—there were two huge birds killing something in my back garden. As soon as I opened the door, I could hear the victim’s screams. I tiptoed through my yard to join Leslie, who was staring at the garden behind our shed with a horrified look on her face. I was terrified before I even caught sight of what she was viewing. I was already cowering behind her when I saw it too.

            Twenty feet away from us, there were two enormous black birds tearing into… uh… something bloody. One appeared to be protecting the other by cowling its huge skeevy black wings.

            “What the fuck are those?!” I managed to squeak while cowering. With her hand over her mouth, Leslie’s breath was coming in quick gasps. I thought I knew every bird in our area by now. If I didn’t know it, I’d look it up. These were decidedly creepy and were about two feet tall. I’d never seen anything like them. They looked other-worldly and prehistoric. I briefly wondered if I’d stumbled upon some baby pterodactyls. (I know, but just keep humoring me, OK?)

            The one that was cowling looked over at Leslie and me, straightened up a little taller, raised its wings a bit and let loose with a series of blood-curdling squawks. There was no need to threaten us twice. We both turned tail and made hay for our own back doors.

           My heart pounding in my chest and my bowels turned to liquid; I did the next sensible thing: I sent my husband a text, begging him to bring home a bottle of wine. Then I went right to Facebook to freak out for all of the world to see. I Googled ‘big black hawks’ and only came up with pictures of helicopters. A few of my Facebook friends started throwing out suggestions for what they might be, but no one came up with the answer. Finally, my husband called and suggested I Google ‘immature bald eagles,’ and there they were! I’d just witnessed two approximately three-year-old eagles eating what I assume was one of our plump, delicious, corn-and-peanut-fed squirrels… in my own back yard! You could now add amazement and delight to the already consuming horror and terror I was feeling. I looked them up on Wikipedia and learned all about the opportunistic feeding habits of these creepy and dastardly youngsters.

            The next year, I was faced with a choice. Did I stop feeding all of those wonderful-to-watch creatures and let them starve to death? If I didn’t feed them, the hawks, and maybe eagles, too, could also die. Then I might have had more dead birds to contend with. I just wished they wouldn’t shed so much blood right by my windows.

            But for right then, I was just afraid to let my tiny dog out alone. She would not be Purina Eagle Chow!

            Stupid eagles.

 

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