Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Perfect Christmas Tree

Miss Mabel thought you might enjoy this Christmas essay from Ginger Hanson's ebook A Dash of Ginger. Happy Holidays!

We passed a neighbor's house the other day and I noticed they had bought a Christmas tree. Bundled in travel mode and tied with twine, it leaned against the fence near the garage door. Several hours later, we returned from running our errands. By then it was dark, but standing in an uncurtained front window of our neighbor’s house was their Christmas tree, its lights twinkling cheer into the night. 
I was shocked.
A Christmas tree purchased and decorated within hours! I had always assumed everyone made a production out of buying a Christmas tree. 
Obviously, I was wrong. 
Obviously, only my husband does. 
Bob insists on buying just the right Christmas tree. Actually, buying the tree doesn’t take very long. It’s the pre-purchase and post-purchase guidelines that must be followed that eat up the time. 
First, the tree must be untied, in upright position and available for a thorough examination. This means casing the area Christmas tree lots. Any place of business that fails to untie at least a sample of its trees is avoided. 
Second, the correct height must be determined. There is an immutable law of physics that all Christmas tree purchasers must accept: the Christmas tree you buy off the lot is always higher than the ceiling of your house. I’m especially prone to choosing trees that won’t fit into the living room. Bob finally decreed that I had to be able to touch the top of the tree without standing on my tiptoes. And no whining about how small the tree looked in the lot. 
Third, Bob examines the tree. It must have a good Christmas tree shape or one that can be corrected by a nip here or a tuck there. Any deformed trunks or the tendency to lean too far to the right or left disqualifies the tree. 
Fourth, he makes sure the top is properly stemmed to hold the ornament that crowns the tree. The decision of what best crowns a Christmas tree came after years of experimentation by his wife, who has been known to put some unusual stuff on the top of the tree. It's taken a few years, but Bob finally talked me into a spired topper, which is his favorite.

When all the above criteria is met, the chosen tree is loaded on the pickup truck and brought home. Once home, it is put into the tree stand. It is not, I repeat, not decorated for another two to three days. According to Bob, the tree needs time to "fall out" before he can determine how much to trim from where. 

After the tree “falls out,” he trims away the excess branches. When he is satisfied with its look, the tree is deemed fit to enter the house. 
This action greatly confuses our pets. That’s right, if you want mental confusion, drag a tree into the house where two dogs and a cat live. 
Bandit takes one look at the tree and thinks, "Finally, indoor doggy bathroom facilities."
Scooter takes one look and thinks, “What a good place to hide when I tease the dogs into chasing me!” 
Toffy takes one look and thinks, “Can I skinny between the tree and the wall to catch Scooter?”
And I think, “If I electrify the tree will it keep them from messing with it?”
Although the tree is inside the house, it isn’t yet ready for decorating. It must first be placed in the corner, its tree stand filled with water, and the tree skirt tucked around its feet. Now, we’re ready to decorate.
Ah, the joy of decorating a Christmas tree with my husband. As with preparation of the tree, there is an order to the actual decorating. The first step is to put on the lights. 
Wait, the first step is to untangle the lights. 
No matter how neatly Bob winds the strings of lights the previous year, they spend their off season time twisting themselves into unmanageable messes. At least, that’s what he claims as he mumbles and mutters his way through unwinding the lights. 
Once he untangles the lights and ensures they all work, we start draping them around the tree. Being the artist he is, Bob doesn’t settle for lights trimming only the outside of the tree. No, the tiny lights must be layered from the trunk outward in order to achieve maximum effect.
Oh, and depth. 
After the lights are deemed properly placed, the silver garland and strings of silver beads are draped and tucked around the tree. They must be placed on the tree in such a way as to ensure they are enhanced by the twinkling lights. Then Bob places the spired topper on the treetop. If all goes well, he only needs to check the tree from various angles and do a little tweaking before announcing it is now ready for the ornaments. 
This is where we clash.

I mean, if Bob wants to pick, fall out, trim, light up, garland, and bead the perfect tree, why should I complain? He’s doing most of the work. But when it comes to what else goes on the tree, well, that’s my area of expertise no matter what he says.
And he says traditional conservative, while I say eclectic whimsical. This is a basic difference in taste. Traditional means hang a few dozen matching glass ornaments and you’re done. Whimsical means hang those matching glass ornaments, but give the tree some pzazz with a zillion cute little ornaments. 
Now you’re done.
My ornament selection drives Bob nuts. He can’t figure out why I’d want to put a Santa flying his biplane next to an angel made from a cotton boll. Or add a Santa playing baseball about two inches from a sparkly elf. The hodgepodge of decorations I hang on the tree each year conflicts with his desire for the uncluttered, symmetrical look. 
He has a point. 
There is a place for the traditionally decorated tree in some households. I’ll even I admit I enjoy viewing them at department stores or gift shops. These trees look really nice, but they don’t reflect my personal philosophy which runs along the lines of “isn’t this cute, I think I’ll buy it for the Christmas tree.”  
Then I buy it and put it on the tree while Bob grumbles about how my Christmas ornaments mess up his perfect tree. Frankly, I disagree with him. I think my choice of ornaments makes the tree perfect. Just as the family that buys and decorates their tree on the same day believes they have the perfect tree. 
That’s the miracle of the Christmas tree. Once any tree has been decorated, it’s the perfect tree. 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Fishy Art Causes Explosive Stink

Right up front, I admit I’m not now or ever have been an art critic. That said, it seems to me the words art and dead fish don’t seem to belong in the same sentence, much less the same art gallery. 

Yet, there’s an “artist” who has a piece of art made of rotting fish. And there’s a gallery in London that put it on display last spring.

Or tried.

Seems the fish (fishes? there were a lot of them) didn’t like being put on display and just up and exploded. Hmmm, now what would cause a display of rotting fish to explode?

Before the cause, what about the why?

Why would anyone think rotting fish a good idea for a piece of art? I can’t for the life of me figure out how anyone can make a piece of art from something that falls apart with a
stink that comes on fast and keeps getting worse. 

And the how…

How long did it take the artist to sew on the beads and sequins? How long was it before his mother/significant other let him back in the house? How many times did he have to wash his hands to get rid of the fish stink? And did any of it accidentally get near his mouth, like say when he rubbed his hand on his itchy nose?


Why did “art experts” ooh and ah over the rotten fish picture and stick it in an art gallery for folks to come and look at? 

Or not. 

Seems this fishy display hit New York’s Museum of Modern Art back in 1997, but the smell made visitors so sick it was out the door with the flashy fish.

Roll the clock forward 20 years and a gallery in London thinks “let’s try that again.” This time, the fish were wrapped in individual plastic bags and a chemical was added to mask the stink. BUT it also increased the flammability of other materials—like duh, the gasses coming off rotting fish. 

Which are now trapped by plastic bags.

Or not.
The London gallery got a heads up that maybe adding that chemical to the fish wasn’t a good idea. They decided to remove the fish art, but waited too long and 


The fishy art exploded.

I can’t help but wonder: 

1. Were these the same fish the artist used in the 1997 show?
2. Who had to clean up the fishy mess? 
3. How long di the gallery smell of fish?

But mostly, I think just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Friday, September 7, 2018

It Ain’t Easy Getting Older

Aging is not for the faint of heart. It’s also not for anyone who doesn’t want to hear a litany of physical complaints when they absentmindedly ask an acquaintance, “How ya doing?”

You can forget hearing “Fine. How are you doing?”

Oh, no. Once you and your acquaintances hit the 50s and up, conversations drift into health issues with amazing frequency. All of a sudden, you not only know what dementia is, you know someone with it. And you worry every time you stand in front of an opened refrigerator and can’t remember what the heck you wanted, if dementia has started messing with your brain.

Even if you’re feeling good, most of your friends aren’t.

You may not be having serious health problems, but darn if your body doesn’t start changing in weird ways. Shoes don’t fit right because when you weren’t looking your toes got crooked. Veins you didn’t know you had show up on your legs. Your hair, once  a brown with a sprinkling of gray, heads toward gray with white around the corner.

Suddenly, everyone in your circle talks about their aching and creaking joints. And next thing you know, they’re getting new hips or new knees.

Every time you look in the mirror, there’s a new line on the face looking back. Which explains all the products guaranteed to slow the hand of time. I heard about the latest wonder cream on a recent John Tesh radio show. It’s called Wrinkle Butter. No fancy dancy product name here to entice use. Why bother? After all, its main ingredient is earthworm pooh!

Yep, earthworm pooh. Or more technically, earthworm casings.

I’ve got no idea how long Wrinkle Butter has been around, but it hit the media recently so lots of folks know about it now. Seems that earthworms are not only good for plants, but also for human skin. This, according to farmers who muck around in the pooh. Sam said he could just see a gnarled, old farmer holding out his hands and admiring how soft they were since he started raising earthworms and could play in their pooh.

I’m going out on a limb here, but I figure the Wrinkle Butter makers have added stuff to make Wrinkle Butter smell good so folks don’t have to worry about smearing earthworm pooh on their body parts.

But, hey. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it. That’s my motto. Which is also why I ordered me a jar of the stuff. Now if only the Wrinkle Butter can help creaky joints and funny shaped toes.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Squashing the Salesman

I read somewhere that a good salesman can convince a customer she needs whatever he’s selling. Sure as shooting, this is the first lesson taught in sales class. I’m just guessing here since I’ve never been to a real how-to-get-people-to-buy-stuff class.

But I did piddle around with a short stint of selling vacuum cleaners when I was in college. That was a lot of years ago, last century to be more specific. Back when selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door was in its heyday.

It seems a good door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman (sorry about the historic terminology, but I did say last century) doesn’t walk into the customer’s home and think:

This person doesn’t need this wonderful but pricey vacuum cleaner. Lord knows she ain’t got that much to vacuum.

Real quick like, I learned feeling sorry for your customer
means you don’t make many sales. Which means you don’t make much money.

Gotta admit, this attempt to sell stuff was an eye opener for me. I was right young when I discovered what a lousy salesperson I was. Which pretty much slammed that door in my face. But as y’all know, when one door slams shut another one opens. Not sure what door opened way back then, but I did study journalism rather than marketing in college.

On the other hand, having been on the sales end of the stick, I’m wise to the ways of salespeople. This came in real handy when Jeb and I were renovating our house many years ago. The sales rep of a popular brand of windows tried to convince me to buy his windows over another brand.

Bless his heart, his windows were less expensive than the ones I wanted. And the cost of renovating the house was eating our lunch, so saving money was a good thing. Problem was, we wanted windows that opened from the top. And this guy didn’t have any that did.

When he wasn’t able to convince me how great his windows were, he tried using the old “Dr. So and So over in Rich People’s Subdivision had a bunch of our windows installed in his house. He’s right happy with them.”

Now I was glad for Dr. So and So, but I wasn’t fixing to live in his house so I really didn’t care what windows he had put in. Right fast, I put the squash on that move with a very polite-don’t-give-a-hoot, “You don’t say.”

The window rep finally recognized defeat when he saw it. That’s another aspect of sales I don’t miss, doing all that talking and not making a sale.

Then again, being a rotten salesperson led me right out of sales into the newspaper world. Which pretty much assured I’d never have the money to buy an expensive vacuum cleaner, either.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Doggone Right They Need Seatbelts

There sure are a lot of folks around here who don’t seem to understand basic physics. Remember this law? For every action there is a reaction?

Action: Slam on the brakes of your car.
Reaction: It skids to a stop. 

Simple? Right? 

Car going, apply brakes, car stops.

Problem is, the stuff IN the vehicle keeps on moving at whatever speed the vehicle was going. So you’re humming down the road at 60 mph and a deer runs in front of you. SLAM! You hit the brakes. The car skids to a stop, but guess what? You, and everything else in that car, keeps going at 60 mph.

This basic law of physics is the reason seat belts and air bags were invented. To keep folks from eating the steering wheel or going through the windshield head first.

Seems to me, folks would respect physics and secure all the passengers in the car. 

Even their dog.

Oh, no, not my Peaches. She’ doesn’t need a safety harness. She just loves to sit in my lap and look out the window. 

Yes, I hate to admit it, but there are some good ole boys around here who have let their lives be ruled by little bitty dogs.

As you can tell, I’ve got problems with folks who think it’s okay to have their cute little dog standing on their lap. It’s usually small dogs since the larger ones squash your legs and make it hard to even see out the wind shield, but still, do you really want your Pomeranian crushed when you ram into another vehicle and the air bag deploys?

Because, another law of physics. In order to protect the driver those things blast out at oh, 100 mph upon impact. Blink your eye and its over. As is your dog.

Or how about folks who think it’s cute to let their dog stick his head out of a vehicle window? Think of the crud blowing into their eyes and ears at 20 mph. Multiple that by more damage if you’re going 50 or 60 mph. What about a rock tossed up by a passing truck? If it can dent your car’s windshield, think of what it can do to your dog’s head

Don’t even get me going on folks who put their dog in the bed of a pick up truck. Again, basic physics. For every action there’s a reaction. Slam on the brakes and yes, the dog somersaults out of the truck to death. Or permanent maiming. One of my neighbors crippled his beautiful Golden Retriever when she was thrown out of the truck bed.

Jocko loves to ride in the car, but he’s always secured to a harness in the back seat. I even bought him a little dog booster (yes, they have them for dogs!) seat so he can see out of the side window. 

Be a good dog guardian. Secure you pet in the car (Mr. Tibbs said to be sure an keep cats in a carrier and strap it in). Think about how you’d feel if you slammed on the brakes maimed or killed your dog.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Cotton Picking for Real Snow in Alabama

Seems I got tied up with doing other things since last summer and neglected to keep everyone entertained with my blogs. Since you keep showing up to read them, I'll try and do better writing them in 2018!

Several years ago I wrote a blog about how we don’t get much snow down here in LA (lower Alabama). In fact, most years near about as close as we get to anything resembling snow is during the fall cotton harvest.

Which based on recent activities down here in Tassanoxie, it’s a good thing we don’t get snow often. You know what happens hereabouts when it gets cold and we get snowy sleet and way below freezing temperatures? 

Well, first of all, everything closes–schools, businesses, events, city operations except for emergency personnel. Who are going to be greatly needed based on all the idjits that think the advice not to drive isn’t meant for them.

Second, some idjits get in their vehicles and off they go.

Right into an accident as they skid all over the roads and cause massive pile ups. Especially on roads that cross bridges due to that thing called black ice, which it appears Alabama drivers do not recognize as being a problem. Until their car slides around backassward to where they were going. 

The real kicker comes when the next round of idjits get mad at the state and local police officers because the road has been closed to more traffic. As if the emergency folks don't need time to sort through the mess made by the first round of idjit drivers. All those cars that skidded every which a way need to be untangled and the cars and people moved out of there.

But noooooo, the idjits are mad because now they don’t get a chance to skid off a bridge. I know. I know. Bubba has 4 wheel drive and can just drive around any pile ups. Yeah, right off the bridge into the river because that’s where most of the accidents occurred. Surprise! Black ice forms on bridges.

And let’s take a looksee at who is out there skidding off a bridge. What’s so important these guys have to be out and about. Oh, yeah. They can’t miss that volunteer meeting that some other idjit insists is happening. 

All I know for sure is that Alabamians are a lot safer when it’s only cotton lining the sides of the road than when it’s real snow.