Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Giving Thanks

A few weeks ago I was having writer's block and decided to dig through the closet to find the journal I kept for my creative writing class in high school.

That was eye-opening.

I think a few meds would have been helpful for that girl back then.


When I brought up the idea of starting a blog to my writers' group a few years ago it was met with a lukewarm response.  The opinion was voiced that blogging was bastardizing your writing.  Real writers get published, hacks blog.  Since the majority of writers never get published my focus was writing regularly and not just once a month for our meeting.  I knew a blog would force me to write more frequently and so I forged ahead.

In the beginning my regular readers were my sister, Ann, my friend, Nancy and Mark.  There were times I would work for hours on something, publish it and the total # of hits that day was seven.  I knew all seven people who were reading A Speckled Trout (those three and me four times) and the time of day they were reading.

My mom who does not own a computer didn't even read it.

I have no idea why I kept at it because I am a chronic quitter as evidenced by my prolific recent job history, exercise DVDs and the stacks of unopened scrapbooking crap in the basement.

But I continued to write and during this last month when I check my numbers I squeal in happiness.  I have no idea how or why the tide has turned.  The other day when we were buying a turkey and ran into the owner of the store whom we know he said, "I really like what you've been writing lately."

I have three responses to this every single time.  First is to say, "Really?"  Second is to cry.  Third is to breathe into a paper bag.

A little while later I said to Mark, "What if I hit it big and people find out I suck?"

Oh my dear...........stop.

And so in the spirit of the season..........

Thank you for coming back time after time and making the grown-up version of that dreamy-eyed girl from high school believe she could tell a story.

Thank you to the above-mentioned early pioneers who nagged everyone they knew to read my blog.  I know this for a fact because I was checking out at the grocery store and somebody two lanes over saw me and yelled, "Nancy told me I have to read your blog."

I tried out many names for the blog.......all Kansasy and prairieish and they were taken.  How fortunate.  My dad always called me his "speckled trout" and so it was christened.




Sunday, November 24, 2013

Do You Hear What I Hear?

I like nothing more on my Fridays off than to putter around the house.  Give the place a good cleaning, do some laundry, shake up the chi.

In the midst of doing that this past Friday I decided to go out and shop for a few things.  There is some bedroom rearranging going on around here and so I was looking for new bedding, something for the mantel, a new plate for the shelf in the dining room, another scented candle.

I went to my favorite places............T.J. Maxx and Homegoods.  I struck out on the bedding and couldn't decide on the mantel, but I wandered.  Oh my goodness did I ever wander.  And while I was wandering I came across some frenzied shoppers.  Carts piled with stuff to the point they could hardly see where they were going.  A couple that had one of everything sold in home decor in white in their cart.

It was crazy.

I found an upholstered bench on clearance that I didn't go to get but decided to take it home and give it a whirl.  When I asked a sales associate about the return policy he said BECAUSE IT'S THE HOLIDAYS I have until January.

Oh, that.  Is that Christmas music I'm hearing?

Then I spent half an hour picking out hand soap for the kitchen while the madness whirled around me.

Packaging/scent?  Packaging/scent?  Should I be doing something else?  Nah............

I went to Bath & Body Works to get another of the Autumn candle (because I loved the first one I bought and it's autumn) and I was out of luck.  Only Christmas scents were available.  I spent another half hour sniffing everything that wasn't frasier firrish.

"Just one?" they asked when I checked out.

Yes, just one.

On Saturday morning we finally confirmed where we would actually be eating Thanksgiving dinner this year which was only five days away.   There seems to be a concerted effort to make me think that I am ridiculously behind on Christmas when I have had trouble deciding the logistics of the gratitude day.  I don't want to shop for holiday decor in July, listen to Christmas carols in October or see retail sales people work on Thanksgiving night.

And a car does not make a perfect gift because if it were I would know of at least one person that's gotten one for Christmas.

I will tune all that out while I get ready for Thanksgiving, and think about the times we squeezed around my parents' table crammed with relatives, bowed our heads and listened to dad give thanks for life and love and each other.

Thankfulness only asks for a quiet mind and a blessed chi.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What's The Story?

Obviously, I love a good story.  I can laugh until I cry at stories I've heard a hundred times, like the one my friend tells of the coworker who farted in his cubicle and how the office busy body came by, got a whiff of the offense and said, "Seems we have a sewer gas problem here.  I'll call maintenance and get them up here right away to take care of this."  She imitates the way this woman talks and I die every time she tells it.

Or the woman I followed into Nordstrom's last week.  She looked to be in her 80s with silver hair, a black cape and the most awesome flats.  She was so flipping stylish that I imagined at one time in her life she must have been a designer and could picture the pattern pieces scattered in her sewing room.

Funny, happy, sad, poignant......it doesn't matter.  I am the moth to the story flame.

Sometimes I'll come across a situation where I start writing the story in my head.  The couple at the table next to us at a nearby restaurant who are barely speaking?  Are they on the verge of splitting up?  Maybe he has a girlfriend?  Is she crazy and he's had enough?  I never make it as simple as "maybe they're just tired and hungry and don't feel like talking."  I go for the drama and work up an imaginary narrative of their life while we eat our dinner.

And forget to talk to my husband because I'm busy making up a story.


I have many different routes I can take home from work.  A few months ago I took a different one and came across a house sitting on the corner in a very nice neighborhood.  It has seen better days.  It is abandoned with crumbling brick, broken windows and ivy engulfing the side of the house.

I have pulled over a couple of times to get a better look.  One day I got out of the car and took a few pictures.  In its heyday I think it was grand, maybe with flower boxes and evergreens.  I wonder if they decorated the outside with Christmas lights.  Was it full of kids and their friends running about?  Is that a pool in the back?  Whatever it used to be doesn't much matter, now it is the neighborhood eyesore.  Nearly every tree on the property (front, side and back) has been marked with an orange X and whacked down.  All that remains are scattered four foot carcasses defiantly sticking up as a painful reminder of what used to grow there.

Why in the world didn't they cut the whole tree down?

For the life of me I cannot come up with the story of this house, but every day I am fascinated by it and every day it begs to be brought back to life.

Maybe I'm the girl it's talking to.


Five days after I published this I drove past my house on the way home from work.  It was completely gone......torn down for what likely will be The Suburban Monstrosity.  After all that time someone is finally going to do something.........but a tear down?  I feel like I lost a charming, old friend.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Drain Cleaner

After a week without a functioning bathroom sink, I called somebody out to unclog it.  I got the name of a guy from a coworker, but when I called him he told me that he no longer does drain cleaning.  He gave me the name of somebody else - Davey.  "He's a good kid, knows what he's doing and is reasonable."

I gave Davey a call in the morning and by 3:00 he was at our house.

When Davey came to the door I was a little taken aback.  He looked like he was still in high school but I seem to think that about everybody these days.  He was as sweet as could be, shook my hand and introduced himself when he walked in the door and spent a long time petting Henry.  I took him upstairs to show him our problem sink.  "Oh man, the plumbing in these old houses can be tricky sometimes," he said as he poked around, and while he was doing that we got to know each other a bit.

Davey grew up modestly in a house along the Tennessee River.  His older brothers moved to Kansas City years ago and bought an apartment building which they still own.  As soon as he turned 18, Davey got in his car to come to the big city where the opportunities were more plentiful.  He used to do maintenance for his brothers' building but now he's the night security guard for a different building.  His rent and utilities are paid in full as a perk of the job and and so he does side jobs during the day to make some extra money.

When he went downstairs to get his tools he looked around the living room and said, "Ma'm, I like your house.  I really like your house.  You got a knack for putting stuff together."  We started talking about vintage stuff and curb finds and he pulled his phone out and showed me a picture of a table he got for free in exchange for some drain work.  It was impressive.

Geez, Davey, you're a kid after my own heart.

Before long I could hear the water running and draining upstairs and went to check things out.  He was cleaning up the black sludge that had come out of the pipe and while he was doing that he told me about the time he was drunk and decided to ride his bike home instead of getting in the car with his brothers.  The next thing he remembers is waking up in the hospital.  He crashed his bike into a tree, and thankfully, a cop happened by and saw the bike which led to the badly injured Davey.  He had a concussion and didn't come to for 19 hours.  The next two years, he said, he was loopy.  "Couldn't remember anything.  I've smoked a lot of pot over the years, but even after all that with the accident I prefer whiskey to weed.  I kind of manage that a little better now after what happened to me, though."

Geez, Davey, you need to be careful.

When he had put everything away and it was time to pay him, he told me how last week he hit somebody crossing the street with his car.

You hit somebody with your car?

"Not bad, but it scared both of us," he said.  "I pulled my car around the corner to get out of traffic and went to check on her and that's when somebody stole my gun.  Right off my front seat.  Just helped themselves to it.  I think I know who it was, too.  I remember her good.  We'll meet up again and I'll get my gun back."

 A gun, Davey?  You have a gun in your car?  Like right now in my driveway?

"Gotta have it, Ma'm, when you're a security guy like me.  Don't worry, though, it's not on the front seat."

Jeezus Davey.........

"Okay, well here's my card if you need anything else.  I don't do plumbing because that would require a lot more tools than I have right now.  I keep it simple and just do drain cleaning so if anything comes up with you or your neighbors give me a call.  I'm reasonable, don't you think?"

Yep, Davey, you are.

"Oh and Ma'm, if you need some weed I sell that, too.  Three different kinds but I'm liquidating so I'll give you a good price."


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Forcing The Issue

Back in the good, old days of dating when Mark wanted to impress me, he volunteered to change the oil on my Ford Escort.

Swoon.........wasn't that so sweet of my boyfriend?

He had a little trouble getting the oil filter off and asked me to get him a hammer and screwdriver.

"It's on here so tight I can't budge it so I'm going to drive the screwdriver through the oil filter and make a handle so I can turn it."

It was the dumbest thing I'd ever heard of and I didn't know a thing about cars.

That was my first sign from the repair gods that my breakable life with him would involve brute force, but I was in love and ignored that which was right in front of my face.

Over the years he has busted most things he's tried to fix.  I stand over him and say, "It's fine, Mark.  Just leave it, Mark.  DON'T FORCE IT, MARK!!!"

He mocks my girliness and then says, "Just a little bit tighter, a quarter of a turn and I'm there."  That's when the piece snaps off, the glass breaks or the metal bends and before I can scream at him he screams at himself.

Son of a bitch is the preferred scream.


We have been trying to unclog our bathroom sink that has been draining incredibly slow.  My favorite hardware man gave me something to try and said once should do the trick.  Maybe twice but no more than that and your sink will work like a charm.

You dump the stuff down the drain, wait an hour and then run hot water.

#1 didn't work

#2 didn't work

The next day Mark wanted to give it one more try.  "No, that's okay. Mark," I said.  "We probably need to call a plumber, Mark.  Just leave it and I'll call somebody out."

"Mark."

But my Neanderthal couldn't leave it alone.

He tried hot water one more time.......massive quantities of hot water dumped into our little, bathroom sink.  After the third time in two days the sink protested the repeated water boarding.

The pipe gave way from all the pressure and all that water gushed over the bathroom floor, the dining room underneath on the first floor, the basement.

"SON OF A BITCH," he bellowed.

BUCKETS!  I NEED BUCKETS!!!!

Will and I went scurrying for the mop, the buckets, the towels, the National Guard.

It took awhile to clean everything up and when we finished Mark shook his head.  "I think if it weren't for that pipe breaking I was pretty close to unclogging the sink."

He. Was. Never. Close.

In the meantime, I am washing my hands in the tub until a pro can come out and fix the bigger problem we now have, and that boyfriend of mine is dragging his knuckles on the ground until he hears the call to duty once again.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Maintenance

I do not work on Fridays and it is always my intention to get a lot done.  That never happens.  I sleep a little later, I read the paper a little longer, I waste ridiculous amounts of time on Facebook and Pinterest, I get on the phone, I putter the day away.

This past Friday was the first Friday of the rest of my life.  The start of getting shit done on my day off.

I had a dentist appointment at 11:00 that was purely for cosmetic reasons.  I started seeing a new dentist a few months ago and she asked me if I wanted the gaps filled in between between my front and eye teeth.

That's okay.  We like to stay current with the house payment.

As if she could read my mind she said, "It's not an implant or anything expensive.  I'll put a bonding material on it like a filling and it shouldn't be more than $80.00 for both teeth."

So I signed myself up because if my smile dazzles then maybe you won't notice the wrinkles.

I was ridiculously optimistic when I sat in the chair and the dental tech said, "We don't even have to numb you for this."  Yeah!!!  Instead they started with a lip spreader which is just as awful as it sounds.  A huge hunking plastic thing that stretches and holds your lips apart for oh, I don't know.........an hour or more.  And I was thinking, "You have got to be kidding me," but since I couldn't put my lips together to make any sound I pleaded with my eyes.  The dentist and the tech cheerfully chatted over my head and so my plea was to Jesus who happened to not be on ceiling duty that day.

Toast perhaps?

The hour it was supposed to take to do both teeth stretched into an hour and a half for one tooth and I called a time out.  I had a mammogram appointment in thirty minutes and seeing as how I was six months past due on that one I needed to schedule another time to come back for the second tooth.

December?  Yeah, that sounds good.  No, not this December.

I flew out the door of the dentist's office and raced to my other appointment.  I had been instructed over the phone to arrive fifteen minutes earlier than my scheduled time to fill out paperwork.  I arrived one minute late.  Forty-five minutes later I filled out paperwork.

I was called in and got my mammogram which compared to the dentist wasn't so bad except for the side views which felt like I was being steam rolled.

People.  Really...........

I came home and laid on the couch.  I was spent.  No cleaning.  No laundry.  No grocery shopping.  No bill paying.  No dinner.  Not even Facebook or Pinterest.

I gave everything I had in me on my day off to two women who told me they were almost done about thirty times.

The Big Daddy came home from work and took pity on me.  "Let's go out to eat," he said and I poufed my couch hair and put some lipstick on.  Then I showed him how the gap was filled in on the right and he said, "Holy crap, honey, that looks awesome."

And it did.  White and polished........a Crest commercial smile if I ever saw one.

We went to the new pizza place in town and had a glass of wine.  We oohed and ahhed over the funky, industrial-vibed restaurant and watched the hipster employees running around with their cute selves.  My day of being squeezed and stretched was but a distant memory.

The second bite of my pizza made an odd crunching sound and I thought, "No. No. No.  Please no.  Not that.  Please. Not. That."

And then I spit out a chunk of my newly spackled tooth.
                

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Apples & Chocolate

We never had snacks when we were growing up.  Once in awhile Mom would bring home a package of Jewel brand sandwich cookies and the six of us would tear through the perfect rows so fast it would make her mad.  "For crying out loud, those were supposed to last all week," she'd yell after us when she saw the empty package on the counter.

Dad's solution to the snack problem was to buy a bushel basket of apples every fall and put them in the garage to keep them cold.  That was fine for a week or two and then nobody wanted them any more. 

About November when there were still a couple dozen left, he'd munch on the spotted, mushy rejects and say, "I don't know what's the matter with you kids and these apples.  You don't know what you're missing."

We knew exactly what we were missing.

About six blocks away was a shopping center with a dime store.  As soon as any of us got a few quarters together we'd walk up there and fill a brown sack with candy.  We wore a path between our house and the Almar Shopping Center.

On the corner of our street was an older guy named Joe.  Joe was a talker and married to Wanda.  I think Wanda would get tired of his yapping and kick him outside where he would stop us kids if we happened to be walking by.  When he got done talking he'd think of dumb, little chores for us to do like move some rocks or pick up some sticks and then he'd shove a quarter in our hand.

Across the street from him lived Doris and Pork.  They had a dog named Beans.  Pork was always working on the in-ground pool that we were never invited to swim in and he'd give a wave while hyperactive Beans ran up and down along the fence barking at us while we did our chores for Joe.

I did some work for Joe one day and then walked up to the store by myself to buy a FULL-SIZE Hershey bar with my quarter.  As soon as I got close to Pork and Doris' house on the way back, Beans started barking at me like the crazy dog he was.  I scurried past his canine fool self with my chocolate treasure and ran the rest of the way home.  Once there I slipped into the bathroom and locked the door.  I unpeeled the wrapper and sat on the toilet slowly eating my Hershey bar square by miniature square....in peace away from my vulture siblings that would surely expect me to share it if they only knew.

Mom knocked on the door.  "Are you okay?  You've been in there a long time."

"I'm fine," I said.  "Almost done."

I shoved the wrapper in my pocket to be discarded after dark deep into the metal trash can outside and came out.  In the Apple World I lived in chocolate was the hands down winner.


Last week at work a Halloween Fairy put FULL-SIZED Hershey bars in our mailboxes.  My first instinct was to go into the bathroom, lock the door, sit on the toilet and eat it in peace.....

Which isn't such a bad idea in a home overcrowded with siblings or in the workplace when you want to hide.

                                   
                                                            

                                        

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Partying With 1st Graders

On Friday I went to Maggie's first grade class to help with their day-after-Halloween party.  It was my first time meeting the kids that she teaches every day.

I have heard some stories about these little darlings.

They were at recess when I arrived and so I met Doris who the kids call Grandma.  She is 74 years old and comes every day to help in the classroom.  She does not get paid.  When she found out I was Maggie's mom she said, "Oh that girl of yours is so kind to these kids.  I tell her to be tougher and yell at them but she hardly ever does that.  Just talks to them real nice."

Shortly after that I met the kids.  Maggie said to them, "We have a special guest today.  This is my mom and she's come to help with our party.  Her name is Mrs. Fisher."

And one little voice said, "Wait. What?  Your name used to be Miss Fisher.  How come she has your old name?"

I met and talked to all of them.  One little girl told me I was pretty and another told me I was awesome for the simple fact that I hot glued googly eyes on mini pumpkins which they were convinced were fake because they'd never seen pumpkins that small before.   

A first grader is very good for the soul.

They worked on a Frankenstein math sheet and one-by-one left to put their costumes on.  Many forgot their costumes which led to some tears, and so the pieces of the costume Maggie was going to wear got doled out to the kids.  All the while they were waiting for their turn inside the haunted house upstairs.  Some kids were sure they didn't want to go into the haunted house, but the Ninja and Superman seemed prepared and ready to battle spookiness.

The haunted house proved to be too haunted by the reaction of the older kids and so the 1st grade and kindergarten could not go.   The disappointment lasted for a long time.  There was whining and complaining and begging to their teacher and she would put her arm around every kid and say, "Hon, I know.  I'm sorry but we can't go."

Superman was so dejected he put his teary-eyed face down and wandered aimlessly around the room in his red cape - a superhero stripped of the only job he had looked forward to all day.

The kids went to the Halloween parade and then came back to juice and cupcakes, a pumpkin craft and bags of candy and the party was a success even without the feared or anticipated haunted house.

When the day ended the walkers left and the bus riders lined up, waiting to be dismissed by bus number via speaker from the main office.  While they were standing in their fidgety line their teacher went through the alphabet with them in sign language.  One of the boys came up to me and said, "Mrs. Fisher, I've been to five haunted houses.  FIVE!  I'm only seven, you know, so I'm kinda an expert on haunted houses."

The bus riders were let go and were high-fived and hugged out the door.

Ninjas and Superheroes, Tinkerbells and Princesses.............all to return on Monday morning for another week of 1st grade with the girl I raised who is now raising up her "hons."