Such Discerning Taste

20150325_114957We’ve been taking advantage of decent weather to clean up the yard, a task that includes lots of weeding, stick gathering, and dog poop removal. That one called for a dump truck and Hazmat suits. We ignore the canned ham-shaped metal blob in the yard and make a mental note to do something about Daisy.

I weed with a fervor that scares family members, ripping out invaders like a lion ripping apart a carcass. It’s been a rough few months. I have anger issues. Liriope is my victim. I hate monkey grass with a passion that exceeds Putin’s desire for “ze olt Russia.” I jab my weeding tool into the ground, loosen roots and pull. Out comes a football-field of monkey grass with roots so deep, I pulled up kung pao chicken.

One reason I enjoy The Taming of the Liriope is that the goal is well defined. I don’t worry that this monkey grass might be salvageable and has a life worth living. Or that the previous owner had award-winning designs in mind when she planted it. I hate the stuff. It goes. I wish I were that discerning with other aspects in my life.

I am the least discerning member of a family who has no discernment. We like everything and I like even more than that. If less is more, then more is better. I am a golden retriever. Everything is my favorite thing. “What is your trigger food?” a friend recently asked me as I complained about my weight.

“Food.” I replied.

She didn’t give up. “Sweet? Savory?”

“Yes,” I said. We had a four-hour, pony-hauling drive ahead of us. She gave up. She is a discerning woman.

I wish I were discerning. Being a golden retriever can be exhausting. Write a novel. My favorite thing! Write a blog. My favorite thing! Watch television mindlessly. My favorite thing! Go to Target. My favorite thing! The result is a cacophony of clutter that lives in my home, my mind and my facebook friend list.

Discerning people are successful people, according to Warren Buffet. “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything,” he said.

I’m screwed.

That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate those with discernment, people who can look at a situation, assess it and remove what they don’t want or no longer need. Minimalism is good, they say as they fill the Goodwill donation bin. But…I stutter, doesn’t the Rock Band set bring to life the memories of your son’s colorful middle school friends screaming “Dani California” into the night?

This inability to discern manifests in our yard. After we bought the property we learned that the former homeowners “had the most beautiful gardens!” Stories of garden parties and garden club tours filled my ears and my insecurities. The yard, like the house, was in disarray, neglected for several years because time is a cruel thief who takes away a woman’s health and then her life and then her husband’s desire to “keep it up.” When we bought the place from him, the only signs of once lovely gardens were brick borders holding back weeds that were mowed down each time the lawn maintenance company visited.

I proceeded slowly. First I would observe. What flora came up when? There were hyacinths. Two of them. Tulips. One. Lots and lots of vinca vine, that I hate almost as much as monkey grass. Another year passed. More plants rose from their memories of abuse and weed eaters, peaking out their heads to see if it were safe. Hostas. And some variegated broad leaf something that looked like a misplaced houseplant.

Then I began digging, pulling up weeds. I discovered stones. Big, heavy rocks in nearly every garden in the yard. I wondered if they had served as walking paths and then became buried under years of mulch and leaves. What on earth were her designs for her gardens, I wondered.

I remained tentative about pulling out existing plants, but began planting my own stuff where there were holes. Then some of her stuff would pop up in the middle of it. There is a saying among gardening types. “The first year it sleeps; the second year it creeps; the third year it leaps.” Apparently, a homily for a garden resurrecting itself is, “The first year it sleeps. The second year it hides. The third year it disappears and the eighth year, it erupts, full grown, consuming everything in its path.”

This, year, I kneel on my foam mat, weed tool in hand and I contemplate. Perhaps it is time for discernment for that other than monkey grass. I may not know whether the variegated broad leaf plant is a weed or not, but I do know whether I want it in the garden.

After several months of being stymied with Daisy, I have come to a similar conclusion. Once we dig through her rot and literally get to the bottom of things, I am not going to worry about whether something is original or is true to the period. I will discern what I want for Daisy.

Obviously, only a discerning woman would have a rusting camper in her back yard anyway.


Spring Cleaning

20150318_105141Finally, signs of spring are upon us here at Casa Caldwell. Crocuses (shouldn’t that be croci?) are peeping their sweet little heads up from the ground, as are voles. Both get their sweet little heads removed by the golden retriever as he frolics in the yard. Daisy sinks more into the mud every day and spring sun illuminates the fairy dust of animal hair and dander as it dances through the air of our abode.

My sinuses clog up like a southern interstate with a threat of snow and when I sneeze, driving Girl Child home from the barn, she squawks with disgust and cleans her glasses. Spring is certainly in the air.

The ghostly voices of my foremothers whisper in my ear. “It is time to spring clean,” they say. “Fresh start. New beginnings. Clean sweep.” Apparently my foremothers speak in clichés and redundancies. My mother innocently mentions that she’s taking all of her curtains down and getting them cleaned. The pressure to live up to my heritage is too much. I must follow in my ancestors’ footsteps. I must spring clean.

I start with organizing clutter. Our family does clutter like some families do college football. We are fans. Like a few fans, we won’t always admit it outright. “UT? Hate ‘em.” We deny our attachment to the 1980s brass picture frames. Just as with football teams, we whisper, “They might come back.”

When I hired a professional organizer to help me some years back, I pretended I wasn’t clinging to my clutter. I needed her approval. She threw all of my master’s degree textbooks into a dumpster. In a dreamlike state, I still see them, in slow motion, arching through the air, their pages of knowledge crying for me to save them. I did not. Their untimely deaths haunt me to this day.

This is why my first task of spring cleaning 2015 is to organize the books in our den. One excellent takeaway from the professional organizer was to keep like things together. That is easy with books. Vonnegut with Robbins; Smiley with Tyler; self help with comics. Then it gets touchy. Is Robert Hicks’s Widow of the South with southern history or with local authors I’ve met? Is Cynthia Rylant with children’s authors or in West Virginia writers who rock it, (along with killer authors such as Breece D’J Pancake, Glenn Taylor and Denise Giardina)?

As if this weren’t confusing enough, I run across not one, but two fart machines. These are important components of our family culture. They are remote controlled. Battery powered. One can set the speaker part of the machine in another room, under a sofa, perhaps, while commanding the remote from the kitchen. The mark sits down innocently, with clear conscience and bowels, where he considers making moves on girl friend. Suddenly, the explosive eruption that only a Chipotle barbacoa with extra black beans could bring forth rumbles from the sofa cushions. Mission Accomplished: grandchildren averted.

Do I file these important instruments of our household with Benjamin Franklin’s tome Fart Proudly, alongside The Zen of Farting and Farts: A Spotter’s Guide? Or do they reside with the Leprechaun hats and Easter Bunny ears that I put on the car?

This, I tell myself, this is why I don’t spring clean like my ancestors did. They didn’t have these problems. Who can take down window treatments and have them cleaned when she can’t even figure out where to put the stinking fart machine? It was so easy for them back then, whacking the hell out of a rug on a clothesline.

The confusion and misery introduced by proper fart machine placement brought me to my knees. Forget that version of spring cleaning. Instead of organizing books in the den, I am focusing on completion of other unfinished jobs. Important jobs that demand my attention, such as giving a name to our newest family member, my antique roll top desk.

I wish I could take credit for this, but I have a friend who is FAR more creative and clever with words than I will ever be. She’s in denial about that, so it’s my job to pass on her gift. She sent the following in an e-mail:

“The desk is Idgie. Fried Green Tomatoes. Tough as nails. Devoted. Best Friend ever. Storyteller. Did I tell you about the ducks in the pond? Bee Charmer. Secret Keeper.

“I would love a friend like Idgie. I would love to think I’m like her. Man, what I’d give for a biscuit with honey butter. The desk sounds amazing. You know how I love things with a story. Old, worn things. And storytellers.”

Who needs a clean house and organized fart machines when she has friends like this and a fantastic roll top desk named Idgie?

Desk Job

20150311_112143[1]Spousal Unit. Bless his heart. And I mean that in a good way. He is patiently allowing me to have my little mid-life crisis, or whatever I’m having right now. In the past five months, I’ve bought a 1959 canned ham camper, Girl Child’s first pony and a behemoth roll-top desk that is as BIG as the 1959 canned ham camper.

Each purchase made sense as I made it. After all, a vintage camper? What a riot! We’ll name her Daisy, fix her up, travel the states, write stories and Spousal Unit can build mandolins. That she isn’t road worthy, doesn’t have bathroom facilities and a mandolin can barely fit into her means nothing.

Girl Child’s first pony was a tougher sell. She had disappeared from sight, having been sold by the folks we originally sold her to. I had fretted for about a year, hoping that Callie was all right and that the people who bought her knew she is as amazing as we know she is. (Spoiler alert: they did.)

When a good friend found her – for sale – in East Tennessee, I knew I had to get her back. This did not please Spousal Unit. He is watching his retirement years loom closer and the retirement fund stagnate like the icemaker runoff spewed into a bog under our boxwoods. It sits there and stinks until the dog rolls in it and then the dog sits there and stinks. Like the bog and the dog, our retirement fund makes us wrinkle our nose in protest and moan that it needs to have something done with it.

Still, I persisted. We needed to get Callie back. We owed it to her. Ponies risk a hard life when they reach middle age. That life is called lesson pony. Just as Spousal Unit and I don’t want to retire with minimal funding, forcing us to push a Kroger cart with all of our earthly goods and the cats in it, through alleys while we we drink cheap gin and eat cat food, I don’t want Callie to spend her middle age and retirement as a lesson pony.

An amazing friend donated her Sunday and her horse trailer, driving six hours so she could trailer Callie and me to another amazing friend’s farm that is close to us. Callie is noshing on nubs of winter grass right now. She seems contented. After she puts on a little weight and gets back into shape, she will earn her keep by teaching a couple of young girls how to ride. It doesn’t sound different from being a lesson pony, but it is. Not only will she teach a couple of young ladies how to ride, but she will also teach them how to love unconditionally, how to be responsible, and how to be respectful, yet strong and assertive in the face of a stubborn force that might want to hurt them. I’ve always said if a girl can show a thousand pound animal who’s boss, ain’t no boy gonna push her around.

That leads me to the final part of the trifecta of my MLC (Mid Life Crisis). The desk. Boy Child is working at his alma mater as a sort of tech support, workshop leader for the school’s new 3-D printer. He is having a blast and is surrounded by people who love, support and basically adore him. It’s disgusting, but I love, support and basically adore these people, so it’s tolerable. I went to his office one snowy school-is-closed day to see what had been 3-D printed recently. They have plastic replicas of buildings, boats and the tech director’s head.

I stepped into my good-friend-the-school-publicist’s office so I could place happy stick-it notes all over her computer and was greeted by a great behemoth of a roll-top desk. This thing grabbed me and wouldn’t let go, the swirls and etchings of its oak patterns mesmerizing me into the heartbeat thump of “I want it. I want it.”

The desk, guarding its corner of my friend’s small office like a gargoyle guarding a building, let me know that it kept everything within its confines safe. I want a safe place to write. I bought I camper and some day I will write within her walls. The desk beckoned me write upon it at this moment.

My friend wanted to sell the desk; she’s downsizing. Much like we did with Callie, though, she wanted it to go to someone she chose. She wanted it to go to someone who would appreciate its antiquity, its beginnings as a newspaper desk in Indiana in the early 1910s. My friend is also a writer. She wanted somebody who would understand that the ink and coffee stains are stories. That deadlines were met and deadlines were missed at this desk. That written words made a difference after they left the hidden compartment that held the typewriter.

The desk looks good in my tiny office. She’s settled in nicely and I’m waiting for her name to come to me. My friend who had her before has come up with a few. Noting that she seems to be leaning toward names that could be in a Wagner opera, she suggested Gert, Gota, Mathilde and Britta. She also recommended Alona because it means strong as an oak and also there is the thought, “I like to be Alona when I write.” I like that.

Then she suggested Yolanda. What does Deb know about this desk that I don’t? Yolandas are sassy and they don’t take no crap. I’ve never met a Yolanda who was afraid to tell it like it is. Yolanda don’t need to learn how to ride a horse because ain’t nobody pushing Yolanda around. Is this desk a Yolanda?

I’ll check with Daisy and Callie and let you know.

Twitter Dee Twitter Dumb

20150304_104412Boy Child thinks that Daisy should have a Twitter account. I have a Twitter account, but I don’t really know what to do with it. The character limit ticks me off. Baby Boomer that I am, I ain’t gonna let The Man tell me how much I can say. So, there sits my Twitter account, with only occasional tweets, like the gasping chirps of a smoke detector with a dying battery.

I have asked for help with my Twitter account from Girl Child, the Queen of All Things Social Media. She sighs, rolls her eyes and stomps upstairs to her room. I agree. Mom having Twitter with the possibility of following her friends WOULD be mortifying.

At least I’m hip enough to not call it, The Twitter. I think it’s probably a demographic thing AND a generational thing, to add “the” in front of things that are unknown, scary, or downright distasteful. I remember words whispered in my grandparents’ house, “She has The Cancer.” As decades of chemical factories oozing into the atmosphere and groundwater of those hills made cancer more prevalent and therefore more accepted, other words became demarcated with “the.”

“She got The Religion right before she went to Florida and married that man.” Obviously religion isn’t a bad thing, but if it preceded a sudden change of location or marital status, then it certainly was suspect.

As is Twitter. Although I refrain from calling it The Twitter, I still suspect the idea of Daisy having a Twitter account. I have been raising youth in the age of cyberbullying and cyberstalking. I know the dangers. What if Daisy gets unwanted attention from a catphisher? Or worse, is bullied?

I asked Boy Child, what would Daisy’s Tweets say? “Oh,” he answered. “Stuff like, ‘Just (expletive) fix me already’ or ‘It’s cold as (expletive) out here. Get me some socks for my tires.’”

I didn’t realize Daisy’s frustration levels were that high. I thought she was just chillin’ until the weather straightened up and we could get back to work on her. Perhaps we should work on her anger management instead of her Twitter?

I suppose we could also get her a Vine account as well as Instagram. We could shoot photos of her pouring champagne into her big old booty and break the Internet. With the rot she has under her nifty fifties flooring, that champagne would go right through her like last night’s bad Mexican.

If questionably-hued dresses and runaway llamas can become Internet sensations, then why not a broken down camper? The potential is staggering. Newscasters would quiz one another. “Do you see blue and beige? Or beige and blue?”

Political pundits would argue on Face the Nation. “Is this camper leaning to the left? Or the right? Exactly what kind of political statement is Daisy making?”

Style mavens would argue on E! “Daisy’s understated dirty beige and eighties blue coloring juxtaposed with her layers of vinyl flooring echo the style of early Norma Kamali.”

“I disagree. Daisy’s glamorous style screams that of Versace at his best.”

There would be books and movie rights. World tours. Red carpet walks. “Who are you wearing, Daisy?” We wouldn’t have to worry about getting Daisy road worthy because she would have a driver. I’m sure there are flat bed limos somewhere. “Daisy, your cah is heah.”

More importantly, Daisy’s influence would change the Twitter icon from an obnoxiously boring blue bird to that of a pink flamingo. That would end mean and ugly tweets for all time. Who doesn’t grin and think happy thoughts when they see a pink flamingo?

Okay Boy Child, let’s get Daisy an account on The Twitter. But before she tweets anything, she needs to chill the (expletive) out.