It was in Low Moor that I had my first affair of the heart.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
A while back, when our daughters were teenagers, I was sent to the supermarket to pick up a few things, one of which was shampoo. Fine. But once I got to the supermarket, and sauntered down the aisle marked "SHAMPOO," panic began to well up in me. My girls had not told me what kind of shampoo they wanted, and I didn't have a cell phone to find out. So, up and down I went, learning about shampoo. There was beer shampoo, wheat shampoo, honey shampoo and wheat germ shampoo. I had never before thought of shampoo as food.
Finally I just stood there, staring, a bit of spittle beginning to slide down my chin. After about an hour, maybe two, I took a deep breath and made a choice. I mean, shampoo is shampoo, right? How could I go wrong?
Back home, I presented the shampoo to the girls. "You got us Flintstones Shampoo!" they wailed in unison, that followed by a long, drawn-out "Daaaaaaad!"
Since then, I have always asked for specifics when I do the shopping. What kind of flour? How many eggs? How many baking potatoes? But three days ago I grabbed the grocery list without checking with Lisa, and off I went. I picked up the things I needed, methodically checking items off the list. Milk, almonds in the little round can with the red plastic lid, marshmallows for Roxie the Wonder Dog, frozen pizza, and vegetable broth. And then I came to the one word that sent chilled earthworms through my innards. "Shampoo."
I quickly recovered from the shock, selected a very expensive shampoo, and took it home. Lisa was pleased. If she had said, "But I prefer Flintstones," a discussion might have ensued.
We are now living full time in our country cottage up against the mountain, woods all around, a lovely meadow out the front door, and nice neighbors halfway up Paris Mountain who fire weapons on Saturday afternoons. In other words, bliss. The condo we're about to put on the market has about 1,800 square feet. The cottage has 1,030. In other words, for you math majors out there, we have 770 less square feet, which makes us truly appreciate the 30 in our 1,030. We have learned a great deal about efficiency, and these truths have set us free, in a sense.
We have learned to be efficient with space. My long suffering wife, Lisa, is an expert when it comes to making good use of space. She amazes me how she can create useful storage out of nothing. Take closets, for example. We have three, the largest just big enough to hold two cats at once. However, I have learned that one clothes hanger can support three pair of slacks, four shirts, five neckties, and a belt. Who knew?
And a tiny utility room that housed one shelf and the electric control panel has been transformed into an efficient little pantry that contains enough food to last through the end of the year, two bins of pet food (one feline, one canine, interchangeable), a trampoline, a life-sized stuffed American Bison, and a wine cellar.
I suspect we will learn more about consolidation of available space. For example, Lisa looked at me the other day and asked, "Dear, do you think you could learn to sleep standing up?"
Just think how much room that would save.
Lisa said, "That's right." And she was. Somehow, no matter how many covers I start out with, she ends up with approximately 82% of them. I don't mind very much because I don't really need those covers most of the time. Still, it was a revelation.
Women also live longer than men as recompense for having to visit a gynecologist on a regular basis. But that's another story for another time. In any case, I don't begrudge women the extra years. They earn it.
My wife, beautiful and brainy, almost always makes wise decisions. I say “almost” because her discernment escaped once briefly when I proposed marriage, she agreed, I instantly offered a diamond ring, and she slid it on her finger, sealing her commitment to marry me forever.
In the years since, the word “commitment” periodically leaps into her mind, inevitably paired with “John.” As it is with others; “damn” with “Yankee,” or “cruel” with “stepmother.” Part of my commitment to her was the genial acceptance of “honey-do’s.” For the uninitiated, a “honey-do” presents a gentle request from the fairer sex (Lisa) to the cruder sex (moi) to accomplish some simple task that will enhance connubial bliss.
A while back, a particular honey-do seemed simple – acquire a truckload of (FREE!) mulch from the city landfill to be used for establishing beds for a well-planned, lovely, privacy-providing plant-and-flower garden off our sun room. No sweat. Happy to comply.
I reserved an open day in early August to acquire and distribute the (FREE!) mulch while Lisa would be in meetings at her high school. When she came home I would surprise her with a completed love offering. Suspecting vigorous labor ahead, I ate a big breakfast. After Lisa left, I rested, waiting for the landfill to open. When I did stride out to my truck, I noticed that it seemed unusually hot for so early in the morning.
Being one who continues to woo his wife, I shrugged off the heat and hustled off to the county landfill. Heat or no heat, a honey-do is a honey-do. I joined a line of trucks and patiently waited with the radio on and the air conditioner thrumming coolness into the cab. The man on the radio said, “Hoo-boy, but it’s gonna be a hot one! Maybe a record high!” Then it was my turn to acquire the (FREE!) mulch.
Almost immediately there was a mistake. The man operating the front-end loader mistook me for a Ford 350 and dumped approximately six metric tons of (FREE!) mulch into the bed of our little Nissan Frontier. When the front wheels settled back down to earth, I eased away from the landfill and skated home with the a/c on high and the radio off.
Safely home, I unloaded (FREE!) mulch, interestingly, hot to the touch, so hot it exuded steam in (I learned later) 97-, then 98-degree heat. I whistled while I worked, pleasantly productive, shoveling out the back end of the truck. Delighted to be useful, pleased to be needed, I labored on for the next five hours, pausing more and more frequently to make sure I completed my task professionally, and to make the dizziness go away.
When I finished, I tottered to the truck and parked it out in front of the condo, slithered up the steps, and plunged myself into the air-conditioned interior of our residence.
Lisa was surprised, pleased, entranced with my efforts to help nudge her dream garden along. She flashed mild alarm when she was forced to feed me at dinner because I could not raise my hands, but I fully recovered in forty-eight hours.
The next step waited coyly around the corner, peeking at me, beckoning with a delicate, feminine finger, innocently imploring me to acquire another load of vital material to feed future fragile flowers and bountiful bushes.