Saturday, October 24, 2009

Step right up, get your tickets here

In spite of my earlier bemoaning of fall, in Arkansas, there are a few redeeming qualities to the season. I find caramel apples, vibrantly hued leaves and 70 degree days to be relatively fair trade offs for the horror to come. However, by far the most appealing event to occur each fall is the County Fair. Yes, I love the County Fair. Does this shock you? It still shocks me... This year I think I finally realized the reason I love the fair. I am, at the very core of my being, a very competitive person. I truly believe this was a genetic trait instilled in me from eons past. I am competitive at everything I do; when in school it wasn't enough to just get an "A", I had to get the highest "A", when I began my career it wasn't enough to be the first woman in my company to be promoted to a certain position, I had to also be the youngest woman to do so. You no doubt get the drift. I discovered this year that the County Fair combines my two greatest loves; critters and competition. While I may not understand the difference between a fine bovine and a poor one, I appreciate the dedication and work it took by said animals handlers to raise their specimen to meet those specifications. So, I find I can wander through the various barns and admire for hours on end the multitude of examples of equine, bovine and porcine perfection. I can even look covetously at their dangling purple ribbons,and know full well that had I chosen to enter my prize pig (if I'd had one) it no doubt would be carrying one of those home. I love furry footed chickens and velvet coated rabbits, woolly lambs and bleating goats. Those all give me warm fuzzy feelings that are just perfectly topped off by a funnel cake and a lemonade. But then, to really get my competitive blood boiling, the fair also has the midway, does it not? For a highly competitive person this little thoroughfare is the epitome of pleasure. There is just something about all those little men with their "step right ups" that just get my competitive juices flowing. And here is where it gets really nasty-it isn't good enough just to pop the slightly flaccid balloons with the more than dull darts to win the tiny, and no doubt highly flammable, stuffed toy. I, and my competitive mania, have to pop ALL the balloons to win the BIGGEST toy. It isn't just that I want any old prize; I want the biggest and the best. Strangely, this puts me very much mind of how I wooed and won my biggest prize; my husband.
I met Mr. Big Prize at just this time of year. The air was just turning crisp, and I was just turning back to dating after a particularly foul time in my life. I met him in the most unlikely of places, and it was wonder and amazement at first sight. My husband is a stunningly beautiful creature. He was once described by another woman as "the most beautiful man she'd ever seen in real life", and I have to say that I ascribe to her feeling, 110%. Owning no doubt at least in part to that fact, and to the fact that when I met him he was 28 and never married, Mr. Big Prize had dated nearly everyone in the state of Arkansas over the legal driving age and under that of the average nursing home resident. I just fell quite head over heels almost right away. We'd been dating for a few weeks when one of his well meaning friends pulled me to the side to give me a bit of what I'm sure he considered well meaning advice. "Laine", he said "you're a really nice girl,and we all like you a lot. But there is something you need to know. Mr.Big Prize never dates anybody for long. He's way WAY too picky, and is looking for perfection. He'll no doubt find something wrong with you too pretty soon." Then, he proceeded to list for me a myriad of reasons why Mr.Big Prize had dumped my poor predecesssors, and you can read in parenthesis my thoughts in return. "For instance", he said "he once dumped a girl because her toes were too long (well, of course, feet are disgusting anyway and should be lopped off) and once he dumped a girl because she ate all her dinner and some of his too (naturally! What kind of grocery bill would this glutton eventually run up) and worst of all, he once dumped a girl for not liking dogs (what kind of monster doesn't like dogs????)" You can imagine what kind of response this elicited in me. It was like 10,000 of those little Carnies all waving at me and screaming "step right up". There's nothing like going after the Big Prize, the one that is perfect for you, and the one you want most of all, when the odds are just dead stacked against you. Well, long story short, 10 short months later I had Mr. Big Prize standing at the alter saying his till death do us part's, as I giddily waltzed down an isle littered with the broken hearts of most the women in our fair state. And no, I do not exaggerate.
That was 14 glorious years ago. Turns out I was his version of perfect and he mine. He is more perfect for me now than he was then. Our lives thus far have been filled with a myriad of joys and hurts, challenges and triumphs. We pledged from the beginning that we were going into marriage as a team, and that it would be as a team that we would face every challenged lobbed at us throughout life. She's thrown some doozies, I can assure you, but she's rewarded us along the way as well. I cannot imagine what my life would have been without him, and I cannot adequately express the wondrous joy it has been with him. I pray that God grants us both long life, so we can have even more of this incredible adventure together. What an adventure it is...and it doesn't hurt that I'm having it with the most beautiful man I've ever seen in real life.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Midlife meanderings...or, random thougths on the meaning of life

Don't start with me on my age, and whether or not I can actually be considered "mid-life". This conclusion has been reached by scientific analysis and careful consideration of my familial track record where life and living are concerned. It appears, if one considers a mother who had triple bypass at 47 and a father who was struck with cancer at 58, that I am indeed in my middle years...if I'm lucky. It may very well be that I could, in fact, be considered quite geriatric. My husbands people, on the other hand, tend to just keep on living until they decide they are quite done with it. His maternal grandfather passed away at 99, and only then after he'd announced to all and sundry that he was quite finished living, thank you very much. His paternal grandmother, now 92, is living independently and only last year quit mowing her sloped yard on her riding mower. She did slip and fall off of her ladder while painting her bathroom ceiling, so that has curbed her activity somewhat. When one extrapolates the data it doesn't take long to discern that I am, in fact, going to leave my gorgeous hubby at the mercy of the nursing home hotties.
In all seriousness, when one considers one's own mortality, it is easy to slip into a maudlin sense of the macabre. One shouldn't. We are all going to die; what matters is what we do with the time we are given, no matter how much time that might actually turn out to be. These thoughts so frequently lead to that eternal question which has plagued man from the time of creation; what is the meaning of life? How many great minds of the ages have pondered and pontificated on just that point? To me, at my advanced age, it seems that the answer to that question is really quite simple. I feel that there are really two meanings of life a) to give love and joy and b) to find love and joy.
When one takes the time to really break down the things that matter, and that will last, that are of eternal significance, I suggest to you that one will find that they are all fundamentally linked to love and joy. Love-loving your fellow man, and expressing that through showing compassion, patience and giving; loving your family, and recognizing their intrinsic importance in your life; loving the minutia, and finding pleasure in a beautiful sky, or a great meal, or a hearty laugh. Joy-bringing joy to those around you; taking joy from the mundane and the magnificent; bringing joy to the everyday. I know to some this will sound simplistic, but if you find the time to really investigate what makes a life worth remembering, I will suggest to you that it will always be through the love shown, or the joy brought to the world by that individual.
So, on my tombstone, I can think of no better epitaph than "She brought love and joy to the world"...and considering the family track record, I may need that tombstone sooner rather than later.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


There is no beast so foul in heaven or hell as Bipalium Kewense; no creature so loathsome, no animal so vile. Not in all my days as an animal lover have I found such a creature as could make me gag, start, stare or moan, until Bipalium Kewense, otherwise known as the Shovel head worm. May I remind you, my readers, that just last week I regaled you with tales of my ardor of nature. I have been an avid gardener in my home state of Arkansas for the better part of 22 years, and in such time I've encountered spiders, snakes, skinks, lizards and variety of insects to boggle the mind. None of these have so much as caused me to flinch...until I encountered the shovel headed worm. Not familiar with this vermin? Let me introduce you. Bipalium Kewense is a flat worm, which is the consistency of a soggy slug. It is flat as a pancake, and has a head that is in fact shaped like a shovel. They can be up to 12 inches long, and exhibit a color that can best be described as snot-like, with three black stripes which run down their backs. To make matters worse, they are members of the planairan family, which in layman's terms means that if you try to off one of the buggers by cutting it in half you then are merely stuck with two of the wriggling demons. You can continue this process until you have any number of writhing nasties from one single worm. They creep about in the garden, feasting on my earth worms. But what makes Bipalium kewense even more vomitous is their propensity to produce copious amounts of mucus when they are 'attacked'. They wrap their noxious little bodies around their 'attackers' and stick like glue. So, as luck would have it, they are particularly nasty when mixed with dog hair....Pomeranian dog hair most especially. One night about four weeks ago 'The Dude' brought one in on his hind leg. Daddy held him, while I used scissors 'et al' to remove it. Now, you cannot imagine the horrific things I have removed from Pomeranian dog hair in the 13 years I've had them as members of my family. But this, by far, was the worst. It was the first time in history that I had to take a moment to gag and breathe before finishing the task. At first the hubby and I were horrified that these aliens were something spawned from the bowels of our beloved 'bitties', but praises be, that was not the case. A second made it's way in on 'The Smidge', and a third had the audacity to crawl under the threshold to my HOME and die on the floor. But, horror of horrors, tonight the unthinkable occurred.
Kev and I dined out, spent time with Little Miss, and came the the damp (two things Bipalium kewense loves). We walked in, and as I was putting away a few groceries I slipped on something on the floor. Looking down I spotted one half of one of these little devils squirming about on the floor...but where was the other half??? Then, I saw it; wrapped around my LEGGGG. Oh dear GOD save me from a fate such as this. I turned into a weeping, screeching whirling dervish. All I could do was extend my leg in the general direction of hubby, and start shaking it wildly while screeching 'get it get it GEEEEEEET ITTTTTT OOOFFFF'. Praises be that he is the very definition of a 'manly man'. He subdued me (while I turned my head and alternately whine-moan-gagged), and removed the demon from my leg. HALLELUJAH I AM SAVED!!!!
So, I have to ask myself, what purpose can these abominations serve? They eat my much needed earth worms, and they cause all forms of unnatural reactions in my psyche. Here you go; they eat slugs. The nastiest of garden gremlins, slugs eat all variety of carefully cultivated flora, and shovel head worms eat slugs. So, while they are the bane of my existence, many people online who actually discuss this horror do so with an attitude of gratitude. Once again it is proven to me that there is a purpose for everything in creation, and that one mans horror is another mans blessing. I may not understand the why of so many things under heaven, but I trust there is a purpose. I hope to always be a woman of purpose...even if I do it while loathing Bipalium Kewense.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

How many fruit flies can dance on the head of a pin?

My husband has a penchant for muscadine grapes. Perhaps I should be fair in that statement; we both have a penchant for muscadine grapes. From what either one of us can tell their sticky sweet tartness is about the only redeeming aspect of fall. We take regular trips to the farmers market in hopes we'll see those gorgeous globes of fabulousness, and if found, will finish off whatever we buy in one 'sitting'. So far this autumn we'd been unable to find even a single grape, much less the quarts we were craving. Then, as I was leaving my sisters home two weeks ago, I passed a street vendor with quart after delicious quart of muscadines glowing from his offering table. So naturally, I swung my car around in traffic, parked in the mud, and tromped through the rain to get to said bounty. He had 6 quarts left, and I took every single one. I honestly can't tell you how much they cost. Like some kind of grape junkie I grappled in my purse and spilled whatever dollar amount the man quoted on his table, and took off with my six precious quarts. Like any good junkie I broke into my cache immediately, and in my haste, I may have dropped a grape...or my car. What harm could a grape...or two...really do? Then today, I got the answer to my question.
Now, it really has been two weeks. Those six quarts are LONG gone. Today I got in my sporty little car, and hovering to my left, I saw a swarm. At first panic set in, because anyone who knows me knows that I am an absolute magnet for mosquitoes. Luckily, it wasn't mosquitoes. It was fruit flies. Dozens of cute little hovering fruit flies, and they were doing their hovering directly over my passenger seat. Were they hitching a ride somewhere? Had they mistaken me for a little fruity taxi? Surely not. So I did what anyone would do-immediately set out for a search for what on earth could be the source of fruit flies. My car is clean, the floors are vacant of refuse, and there were no apparent signs of fruit anywhere. Don't fruit flies come from fruit????
Then it hit me, the grapes! The one...or two...little grapes had brought with them dozens of fruit fly larva. I suppose they come from larva-do they not? They had to still be under my passenger seat, fermenting away, and bearing fruit of their own. Life is amazing, is it not? It will thrive almost anywhere, even under my car seat, all the time. Isn't it seemingly miraculous that we live on a planet which is 93 million miles from a ball of fire, which is neither too close to cook us alive, nor too far so that we freeze. Life is delicious, and perilous, and precious. It should be protected, and valued, and cherished. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, as is all the world around us. We have been commissioned with the protection of life; the lives of those around us, the life of the planet, and the one life we have each been granted. Cherish each moment, and cherish each life, no matter how seemingly insignificant-the fruit flies will thank you.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Random thoughts on Happiness

Am I the only one who finds it odd that our Declaration of Independence guarantees, as one of our inalienable rights, the pursuit of happiness? What an odd concept to include in the founding and defining document of a new nation. It makes apparent that the pursuit of the ideal is timeless, and constant. This opens up the eternal question; what is happiness? We hear so much about it. It seems that society as a whole is in constant search of it; singing songs, writing poems and dedicating odes to the search thereof. And yet it seems that there are an almost infinite number of people who never achieve that enviable and ephemeral state of 'happiness'. I think I have this 'happiness' thing figured out. Do not take that statement as one of arrogance, or as evidence of some kind of over enlightened state. I'm just an average Jane who is living a fairly average life, but is doing it quite happily. Don't mistake me for one of the charmed ones-we all know at least one. The 'charmed ones', as I call them, have never faced any difficulty, or controversy. They've never lost a loved one, or been rejected by a friend. Everything seems to fall from the sky directly into their laps. They live in a perpetual state of ease, and seem to be floating along in a perpetual state of ecstasy, and who wouldn't living that kind of life? I wish them no ill, and genuinely hope their lives continue on in just that vein, but no, that certainly isn't me. I've lived through intense degrees of heartache, heartbreak, disappointment and rejection. I've fallen as many times as I've risen, and honestly, if I were to actually calculate my odds I'd say the falls would well outnumber the ascensions. And yet, I'm happy. I'm very very happy. It's all because I think I've figured out the truth; happiness is a choice. It isn't some esoteric idea that only the elite few can attain. It isn't a by-product of wealth, or health, or even wisdom. It's a simple choice, that I simply make every day. Every morning, when the sun rises (or when I decide to get up) I can make the decision whether today will be a day filled with happiness, or discontent. Will I relish the very fact that I am alive, and able to breathe and walk and hold my husbands hand to be enough? Or will I choose to fill my day with unrequited longing for the things I don't have, the money I haven't made, the career I didn't choose? What good does that do? I have found that if I choose happiness each day I am far more likely to be mentally prepared and able to pursue those things which as yet are out of my grasp.
For years I have watched friends and relatives wallow in the pains of 'yesterday'. Yesterday is truly and completely gone, and all it offers me is the chance to learn and grow from what it taught. In the very best of circumstances 'yesterday' is a tool to use to improve today, and in the worst of circumstance, it is something to be left where it is. Yesterday cannot hurt you; only you can use yesterday as a tool for self inflicted pain. Instead, I begin each day with a sense of new beginning, and hope. Now again, please do not misunderstand, I do have bad days. There are days when I just get up on the absolute wrong side of the bed, my hormones are out of control, or my precious hubby has just left one too many pairs of socks on the floor. There are days when my loved ones are ill, my heart is broken, or my feelings wounded. I may have bad days, but as long as I am able to make the choice I won't chose to be unhappy.
Don't take my random thoughts on happiness to be some preachy-holier-than-thou tripe. I'm merely sharing with you my secret to happiness, in the hopes that it might help find your own. I'm happy, and as a result, I find that I am now more content and fulfilled than I've ever been before. So, in the end, 'happiness' itself may not be an inalienable right, but the right to choose it is; and that is a truth I hold to be self evident!