long-suffering

What We Watch

My long-suffering wife and I enjoy watching British murder mysteries. In fact, we reserve Sunday evening specifically for their viewing. Netflix, Hulu, and other sources provide a smorgasbord of great stories. However, I must admit a couple of things. One is that we watch for different reasons while agreeing that the story's the thing. But my wife likes to point out the gardens while I'm saying, "Look, there's a body over there!"

We have also come to the conclusion that there are only 47 actors in the UK. We'll be watching an exciting episode and simultaneously say, "Oh, she was also in The Midsomer Murders," or "That guy was the killer in Broadchurch!"

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Whack It

"Whack" means "to prune."

Diet Coke Does NOT a Happy Cactus Make

Diet Coke Does NOT a Happy Cactus Make

I don't worry too much about my ineptness because I know there are people out there who can do what I can't. Computer geeks, automotive engineers, and heart surgeons all have my respect and gratitude.

Lily the Brave, Sorta

Our rescue dog, nearly three years old now and weighing sixty pounds, is mostly pit bull with some terrier thrown in. She is sweet-natured, intelligent, playful. She is also willful, having learned all basic commands that she follows. When it suits her.

Sometime people acquire pit bulls for the wrong reasons. You know what they are. We acquired Lily to give her a good home and to provide us with company. Every day, she makes us laugh at least once. Yet, despite the fact that is the most passive dog who has ever owned us, her breed carries that reputation.

Last night during a storm my long-suffering wife heard a banging just outside our bedroom window. "It's something alive," she said.

So I got dressed, picked up a flashlight, and went forth to confront the source of the banging. Since we live at the edge of the woods and at the base of a small mountain, a wide range of "alive" things could have been the source of the banging. Raccoon, fox, bear, and yeti all came to mind. So I asked Lily to join me as backup as we went out the back door and around the house in the wind and the rain and the dark.

I turned around once to see if Lily had my back in case I needed protection. She was not there. I called and she appeared, or least, her head appeared at the corner of the house, so I proceeded and found the source of the thumping. A small access door under the crawlspace was loose. I secured it and turned around. Lily was not to be seen.

But she was nearby. On the back porch, wagging her tail. Lily now has a middle name. It is "Liver."

That which we call a rose...

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I offer a free service to friends and acquaintances.  It is this: I offer to name their babies for them.  So far, no takers, even though some of my offerings were as follows:For girls: Chalice Hulga, Blanche Tiffany, and Maude Ivy. For boys: Oscar Dudley, Zeno Horace, and Manly Francis. I've always been fascinated by names, whether it be people, book titles, countries, or anything else with a name.  Even medicines, like FloNaze.

So when my long-suffering wife and I were out early on our big road trip in September, I was impressed by two towns in Mississippi through which we passed.  One was named Bovina and the other was Chunky.  I am not making this up.  Being one who enjoys sports, I ruminated over what the schools' teams might be called.  I thought about the Bovina Bulldogs, but a former colleague of mine said that would be cross-species and wouldn't work.  I thought and thought about it.  Finally, I came up with the Bovina Buttercups which, I think, honored the bovine in all of us.  The town named Chunky provided a little more room and, thus, required less thought, which always appeals to me.  "Chunky Chubbies?" Nope on that one.  I would hate to hurt the feelings of any snowflakes in that school.  "Chunky Chickens" was a nonstarter.  I finally turned to the "Chunky Cherubs" which would not strike fear in the hearts of their opponents on the football field, but would certainly lull them into a false sense of superiority.

We finally crossed the Mississippi River at Vicksburg and made our way to a lunch date with friends in the Natchitoches, Louisiana.  Their public high school calls itself the "Chiefs" in honor of the Natchitoches Indians indigenous to the area.  I'd prefer they call themselves the "Natchitoches Neanderthals," or "Natchitoches Knuckledraggers."  Much more intimidating than "Chiefs."  Maybe if they called themselves the Neanderthals, they'd be having a better year, but nobody asked me.

The Day Old Faithful Wasn't

On a recent road trip that found us in Yellowstone Park, Wyoming, my long-suffering wife LIsa and I were sitting on benches with hundreds of people from all over the world, waiting for a geyser to erupt. The geyser was "Old Faithful," so named because it goes off regularly, day after day, year after year.  The Park Rangers set up a bulletin board that tells you when the next eruption will occur.  Typically, Old Faithful spouts off every 90 minutes, more or less. The "more or less" part is ten minutes either side. So there we were, waiting. Patiently waiting.  Idly waiting.  Waiting in anticipation.  Then, as the time drew near, there was a faint rumbling and finally the eruption, which did not draw gasps and shouts from the bystanders.  It was, in a word, "Underwhelming." No big deal. A man near me said, "I came all the way from Finland to see that?"  It wasn't much, for sure.

Everyone grumbled or laughed and the group split up and drifted off into different directions to be mangled by a bear or trod under by a bull bison, or to buy souvenirs.  Lisa and I headed for the nearby Visitors' Center to be educated at various displays telling us we were standing on a volcano that could erupt horrifically any time.  While Lisa was learning things at various displays, I noted that the Ranger Station had posted the time for the next eruption, which by that time, was close.  The time came and went.  The "more or less" ten minutes passed, and then some more.  Old Faithful was late.  The crowds waiting for the next eruption grew and grew.  I watched from the vantage point of the Ranger Station at the Visitors' Center.

Then it happened.  A distant rumbling followed by an eruption of the first magnitude as the geyser shot nearly 200 feet into the air and continued to do so for 10 minutes, thrusting thousands of gallons of water into the sky.  When Old Faithful stopped, there was applause and satisfied people moving on.  I don't know where Old Faithful was hanging out when it should have been performing, and I guess we'll never know.  Let's just say it was worth waiting around for the real thing.

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Hope the guy from Finland saw it.

Blogging, Snake-style

I hate snakes.  I don't even like the useful ones, like blacksnakes, who supposedly eat rodents, copperheads (folklore, I believe), and ATF employees because the main purpose for all snakes is this - scare the bejeezus out of me the instant I see one.  I don't want to see one, but I am ever vigilant that there is a snake somewhere just waiting to jump out at me and say, "Aha!" at which point, as soon as my heart starts beating again, I go get a shovel, hoe, or gatling gun to KILL IT.  But by then it is usually gone, blogging to other snakes about what fun it was to make me wet my pants.  I hate snakes. So, when my long-suffering wife, Lisa, came in the house to tell me there was a snake in her little vegetable garden (one of only two manmade creations visible from outer space the other being The Great Wall of China), I asked, "Do you want me to kill it?" she replied, "No, I want you help me to free it."

"Free it?"

A simple, non-assuming, modest rat snake, about 3-4 feet long, had gotten itself entangled in a roll of mesh Lisa uses to cover our blueberry bushes to keep the local birds from ripping us off when the berries are ripe.  The poor snakey-wakey was twapped and couldn't get fwee!  I told Lisa I'd go get a shovel and put it out of its misery.  I mean, it was a freaking snake, not a bunny wabbit.

My wife, The Snake Whisperer, prevailed.  While I used a long stick to pin the snakes little noggin, Lisa took a pair of clippers and snipped away at the mesh, holding the snake by its tail as she did so.  Finished, she let go and I let go and the snake slithered away, no doubt giggling about more opportunities to sneak back and surprise me.

I hate snakes.sp_blackratsnake006

If you buy a gardner a hose...

My long-suffering wife has a wonderful garden that keeps us supplied with fresh veggies for months and months, not to mention blueberries and figs.  She does the raised beds thing, and thoroughly enjoys getting dirt under her fingernails and bringing baby plants along and into production.  Recently we made a trip to Home Depot with the plan to buy a hose to be used when watering the garden.  But one does not go with my LSW to a garden store to buy one thing.  It can't be done.  It's like me in a used book store - can't buy just one book. So I tagged along and watched as my bride picked out one of these and a couple of those and, oh!, need that as well.  It was fun.  I like to look at pretty flowers and she likes to acquire purchases that make gardening more productive.  So, that "one thing" grew almost as fast as the federal government.  When we checked out, we had picked up a heavy duty hose, a cone sprayer for the hose, a heavy duty nozzle, a bag of natural plant mix, two bags of pine nuggets mulch, a 175' capacity hose reel cart, a lavender plant, a calypso plant, and another plant I can't identify.  It was bright yellow.  She was thrilled with her purchases.  I was thrilled with mine - a large Diet Coke.

This morning, I dropped in, alone, at a used book store, landing to purchase just one book.  I have no further comment.Right-Plants-Garden-Ideas

Baby It's Cold Inside

Today I emailed back and with a friend from high school days who currently lives in Dubuque, Iowa.  He mentioned that he was supposed to be in Des Moines today for a presentation (he works for the ACT people) and a second presentation tomorrow.  He said it looked like both would be cancelled due to the winter storm warning that was declared.  The weather nerds are saying 18-24 inches for a good part of the state, including Des Moines and Dubuque. This information brought to  mind our local (Upstate South Carolina) winter storm a few days ago and how my long-suffering wife and I survived being 30 hours without electricity.  At first, it was an adventure.  Fortunately, we had plenty of propane for our gas logs, so the front of our cozy cottage stayed comfortable.  We shut off the gas logs that first night and retreated to our bedroom.  We woke up the next morning raid to extend ourselves from the warmth of the bed.  No wonder.  When I checked the thermostat, it read 49 degrees.  Indoors.  I nearly sprained my ankle running for the remote control thingy that fires up the gas logs.

During the day, we entertained ourselves reading by the light of the sun.  When it grew dark, I broke out the Coleman lanterns I had wanted for Christmas.  Also, I unpackaged the Coleman stop and fuel that were part of my Christmas gifts.  So we had hot food.  If we were to have a son, I would name him Coleman.  I am not kidding.

I was thinking how fun this was, you know, camping and enjoying "roughing it," yet staying indoors protected from any snakes and bugs that weren't frozen.  We had plenty of wine, cheese, bread, and several other goodies, and so the romance maintained.  When it got dark, we scooted for bed and flipped on the Coleman lanterns to read by for a while as we snuggled.

All this time, our young pit bull/terrier rescue canine was loving it, running out in the snow and leaping and biting the white stuff, then turning on the afterburners to race back to the front porch and inside to hang out in front of the fireplace.  She thought it was romantic, too.

The electricity returned just before dark on Saturday night, but we still weren't able to get out due to the snow on the ice on our upward-inclined driveway.  Not to mention all the trees down in our neighborhood, blocking roads.  So we just settled in some more, but with the delights of electricity.

And hot water.  Without it, romance can fade quickly.  Trust me on that one.f-lamps

Sarcasm Unnecessary

Sometimes I feel my spiritual gift, although it does not appear in the Bible, is sarcasm. I fight it with my students, my politics, and myself. But this morning was one of those mornings when everywhere I went, people were pleasant, efficient, and friendly. Here's the most amazing part - two of my stops included the Department of Motor Vehicles. F262-large

First thing this morning, I headed out to transfer ownership to us of an often-used Mazda pickup truck with 176,000 miles on it that we intend to use for gardening and minor hauling. I had to go pay taxes at one location, then go on to another location to get my new license plate. At the County Tax Office, I was the third person there and was gone in five minutes. Five minutes! And the lady I communicated with was smiling and wished me a nice day. I am serious. Then I trekked over to the DVM office to get my new license plate. It was crowded as usual, but efficiently run, and the lady I worked with there was smiling and courteous and patient, even though I'd made a minor mistake on the paperwork (I had designated myself as "Thor" and my long-suffering wife {LSW} as "Venus" - just kidding). So from the time I entered the congested offices until I left, a total of only 40 minutes had gone by, and that passed swiftly as I people-watched. I had expected to be tied up there most of the morning. I left feeling chipper about my fellow man.

Next I went to the recycling bins to get rid of cardboard boxes, and that area was clean and maintained with plenty of room for my cardboard. Next door was a supermarket where I FAXed a Letter of Recommendation for a friend of mine headed for grad school. The people at the supermarket were downright cheerful, efficient, and accommodating. Next I dropped off books and DVDs at the library - again, more of the same kind of people. I felt sick to my stomach. Something was definitely wrong. My final stop was at the vet's offices to pick up routine meds for our yellow tabby cat, Beeker, and to make an appointment for his annual checkup. Again, happy people who seemed to enjoy their jobs.

It was a fine and glorious morning, I tell you, one in which I felt renewed faith in my fellow human beings in a beautiful part of the Upstate of South Carolina. And, I was home by noon and greeted with a kiss from my LSW. Talk about a blessed guy.

Arrowroot = Recliners, Maybe

olddefault In two previous blogs, I wrote about Carenen family shopping experiences; specifically, mine. There was the 7-minute suit and the nails and oven entries. Today, I'd like to expand the source of these blogs and include my long-suffering wife, Lisa, in this series, which will temporarily retire with this offering.

Recently, very recently, we went shopping together on a fine Saturday morning. Our plan was to go to Trader Joe's to pick up some specialty items on the list, one of which was arrowroot. I had no idea what that was. At first I thought it was a reference to an old rock band from the 60's, but I was quickly disabused of that notion. Anyway, we picked up a few items at TJ's and headed home without any arrowroot.

The next thing I knew, we had stopped by the La-Z-Boy store and purchased two leather recliners which were not on the grocery list. Fortunately, they were on sale. It's not as if I didn't know she was thinking about reclilners - I did know. It's just that, well, I didn't realize that arrowroot translated to recliners. Sometimes I miss things.

In any case, I am not the only member of the family with quirky shopping skills. I'm just glad we didn't have to drive by a car dealer on the way home.

Nailed it!

nails The response to my male shopping blog last week was so overwhelming, I have decided to do a short series of blogs about shopping habits of myself and my long-suffering wife, Lisa. A few decades ago, we purchased an abandoned stone house in the country in western North Carolina, and set about transforming the place. One thing it needed was nails so we could proceed with some basic carpentry, so I took the truck and drove into Morganton to the Lowe's. I bought the nails, and also a stove, which we also needed.

Imagine Lisa's surprised when I came home with a stove instead of just nails! Talk about a smart shopper. I don't think she expected me to return with nails AND a stove, but, hey, we needed one, and I'm pretty sure they were on sale. It was beautiful. White. And it worked right away.

I think that was the first of our Carenen family shopping saga, and a story that refuses to go away, appearing and reappearing in small gatherings of family and friends. And, heck, why should it go away? I'm proud of it.

Anyway, I hope you, dear reader, are impressed with my shopping acumen and overall wisdom when it comes to participating in our capitalistic, consumeristic society in which we live so comfortably.

Next blog? Well, I want to surprise you, but it has something to do with arrowroot. Stay tuned.

Goin' Gray

I suffer from "Gray Automobile Confusion Syndrome," or GACS. There, I said it. My long-suffering wife and I own two gray automobiles; actually, just one is gray, the other is what they euphemistically call "silver." It's gray. My problem is that I return to my car left in a parking lot and ultimately discover it is not my car. It belongs to someone else. It looks like my car. It is not. So I stand there pushing the little "unlock" button on my car thingy and nothing happens. The parking lights don't flash, there is no sound of doors unlocking. Nothing.

Then it dawns on me. It's the wrong gray car in a monochromatic parking lot filled with other gray cars like mine. I look for something inside that would clue me in to the fact that it is, actually, my car. Workout gloves, book I'm reading, an item of clothing distinctively mine.

Another person approaches. A woman. She is getting closer. The parking lights flash, the door unlocks, I edge away. Successfully offer up a confused, pathetic, brainless look. A weak smile. She does not smile back. I turn and begin wandering through the parking lot, pushing the little "unlock" button on my car thingy. My gray cars says, "I'm over here. Stupid."

I slink up to the gray car and get in, slouching behind the wheel, pressing the ignition button. I wait until the woman gets in her car and leaves. I wait a long time after she has gone. She thinks I'm a creep, a stalker; worse, a dweeb. She's right.

I drive home in my gray car.

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