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For my birthday, I asked for and received just what I wanted: A handy-dandy garden cart which is kind of like a green metal wagon with sides. It came in a box in about a gazillion pieces and one page of directions. Those of you that know me know that I can do a lot of things as long as those things are not mechanical. I can read music. I can read a map. I can even follow a recipe, but mechanical directions generally do not call for two cups of sifted flour and a teaspoon of vanilla. You might be wondering why I just didn’t ask HIM to do it for me. As a former electrician, HE is much more mechanically inclined than I am, but sometimes in putting things together, he lets a few naughty words slip out, and since it was Sunday, I would rather not hear them. Besides, he wasn’t home. So, on this bright and beautiful spring day, I sat on the front porch and tried to figure out how to “attach rear axle support assembly to rear of bed using M8 x 20 carriage bolts, M8 washers, and nylon nuts.” Yes, there were fuzzy black and white pictures of all the washers, nuts, and bolts that looked exactly the same, and I have no idea what nylon nuts are, since everything was made out of metal. None of the nuts screwed on to the bolts as tightly as I thought they should, and for some reason the “wrench provided in the hardware package” wasn’t provided, so I used my fingers. These kits are always missing something, and by the way, does anyone know what the heck a hex bolt is? After several false starts, I finally gave up altogether on understanding and/or using the directions and just started putting those gazillion parts together, and guess what? It worked! At least it seemed to be working. I stopped before I was finished, because with all that stooping over and the stress of trying not to say naughty words on a Sunday, my back started hurting and I broke a nail, so I came inside for a cup of coffee. The rest of my nails look pretty grubby from attaching the wheels to the axle, which is connected to the strut, connection bar, and support assembly. I am pleased to report that I didn’t get any of them on backwards or upside down, either. I was getting a little concerned, though. Grubby fingernails, not reading directions, and a few (but only a few, I promise) naughty words….I thought I just might be turning into a man. Do you remember the missing wrench? Apparently, it was needed, because my wagon had a few wobbles. My knight in shining armor…er… a blue pickup truck arrived. HE actually knew what a carriage bolt was plus had a ratchet wrench. Since I’m not such a quick learner with a ratchet wrench and it would have taken me an hour, HE tightened everything up, added the handle, and checked all the wheels. I sat back to admire my handiwork. Yes, it sure gave me a warm feeling inside to know that I put that nice little wagon together all by myself.

Laundry is my favorite household chore. In fact, it is the only household chore that I enjoy doing. Still, I don’t complain when HE does the laundry and would gladly give up any and all forms of housework to anyone that will take them. When I do the laundry, clothes are sorted into three piles: 1) Dark tee shirts, jeans, and my 20 pair of black ankle socks, 2) Medium to light-colored things which are mostly my clothes such as pastel tee shirts and lighter pants or shorts. 3) Whites. This load always contains our white sheets, white towels and HIS 120 pair of white athletic socks. Bleach can be added if necessary. When HE does the laundry, it is two loads only, no matter how large or small, and those loads are either white or dark. White is self-explanatory. Dark is everything that is not pure white stuffed into one load, mixing my pastel colored shirts with the black socks and dirty jeans. We hang our clothes outside most of the time, and I could probably get my own hour on Dr. Phil for the hanging rituals that I have which are admittedly close to OCD. Pants are hung by the waistbands using two clothespins, three if it is windy. Tee shirts are hung by the hems and in order according to owner. Towels are hung on a separate line, end to end and sharing clothespins, sized large to small with wash cloths on the end. The white sheets are on the outside line to be bleached naturally by the sun and never turn yellow, even with my country water that leaves rusty stains in all the sinks. Socks are hung in pairs by the cuffs, and unmentionables are hung on the inside lines and out of sight, just as my mother taught me to do. Him? HE hangs everything upside down and in no particular order. Socks and jeans are hung by the cuffs, his tee shirts are mixed up with mine, and I hate to mention it, but the unmentionables are actually hung on the outside line for the entire world to see! Yesterday, after he did the laundry, I had to run some clothes through the rinse cycle a second time, since they had some soapy-looking spots on them that I was certain came from HIM stuffing the washer too full. I’ll admit that I inwardly rolled my eyes and had thoughts of him leaning on the pile to squeeze in a few more things, then adding enough soap to swab down the deck of the USS Teddy Roosevelt before pushing the start button. I folded the clothes HE had done and hung the load I did the proper way. My way. I noticed that there were still a few soapy-looking spots and decided that they weren’t HIS fault after all but caused by the new high-efficiency-low-water-usage washer that doesn’t have an agitator and spins the clothes practically dry but tightly wrinkled. Not good for the few of us left in the world who still hang their clothes outside. Still, it was a good day. The chickens were pecking in the yard, the laundry was blowing in the breeze, and all was right with the world. Bring it on, Dr. Phil.

In northern Minnesota during my growing-up years, a sure sign of spring was when all the neighborhood kids played marbles. We played in the typical Minnesota spring climate, shooting marbles into gigantic mud puddles and snowbanks. There wasn’t a specific game, we just aimed our marble at another kid’s, and if we hit it, won their marble. That was only if we played “for keeps” or “for keepers”, though. Otherwise it was just for fun. We had cat’s eyes, shooters, steelies, puries, commies, and others in a whole myriad of colors and sizes, carried in fringed leather bags bought from Ott’s Drug Store or sewn by our mothers. The first house that my parents bought in the early 1960’s had a basement full of stuff, including a gallon pickle jug full of old marbles. I could fill my bag whenever I needed to, and I would often grab a handful. It was like reaching into a jar of colorful candy in all colors and flavors. My favorites were the marbles that had animal figurines inside the spheres of glass. There were only a few of those, and I wish I knew what happened to them, but I never took the chance of losing them in a game. When summer arrived, my best friend and I were too busy catching frogs and fish to play marbles, but we often carried a homemade slingshot in our back pockets and instead of using pebbles, we often used marbles. We were only allowed to use those slingshots when we went to the woods, because there were just way too many windows in town. Through the eyes and thoughts of a child, that big jar of marbles should have lasted just about forever and a day, but by the time I was in high school, they were gone. I didn’t feel any sense of loss until years later, when we cleaned out our parents’ house and I found a few, tucked into the back of the junk drawer. Over the years, I have picked up a handful here and there at estate sales, and now I have three small jars of them on my dresser. Looking at them always brings back the memories of Minnesota springtimes and childhood. I have often wondered how much that big jar full of old marbles would be valued at today. It would probably be worth quite a bit of money, but even if it was, I know for certain that it is worth far more than that in memories.

There I was, plugging along in my own happy little world, when I found out that someone changed the rules. The grammar rules, I mean. I know that most of you probably don’t give two hoots about the rules of commas, spaces, and parentheses, but believe me, if you have an internet blog that is read by people from all parts of the country and beyond and you leave out a comma, someone, somewhere will be sure to let you know about it. I recently learned that it is now all right to remove your Oxford commas when writing a list of things, such as this: Drives, me and crazy. An Oxford comma would be adding the comma after the word me. No, I didn’t much care or even know about Oxford until someone sent me a chastising letter about commas, and I decided to stick with good old Oxford and not to fret about someone who has nothing better to do than write comments to people about punctuation. In my never ending quest to publish a book, I ran across an article that said that it is “old-fashioned” to type two spaces after a period in a sentence. It said that editors actually check that out and toss out or delete manuscripts with the extra space because they wanted new and fresh writers. Fresh? What`s wrong with vintage? Both wine and Farm Women get better as they age. Besides, after a hundred years of my fingers hitting the space bar twice at the end of each sentence, I do it without thinking, and as they say, it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks. Alas, dear friends, my steamy love story about love and chicken coops, and my sinister mystery novel set in Talmoon, Minnesota will have to be published at a later time, once I learn the rules all over again.

Babies are as cute as cute can be. The more they smile and coo and laugh, the more smitten we become. This, my friends, is all in God’s plan. The Big Guy Upstairs makes babies so cuddly and lovable and such an integral part of our lives because sooner than we parents could ever imagine, they become teenagers. Teenagers are about as cuddly and lovable as a nest full of pygmy rattlesnakes. All right, I will admit that I may be exaggerating just a little bit here. The worst thing about my own sweet baby girl was her room. I begged, pleaded, cajoled, yelled, and grounded to no avail. It was more than messy, it was downright dirty. I finally gave up and just kept the door closed. One warm summer Florida day, I arrived home from work, unlocked the front door, and smelled something. It wasn’t a good something. The odor was sour and musty and definitely needed investigation. I sniffed my way around the living room, bathroom, and laundry room. I checked for water leaks. I got down on my hands and knees to sniff the carpet. I wondered if there was perhaps a dead mouse in the attic. As I moved down the hallway, sniffing all the way, the odor intensified. When I opened her bedroom door, I knew I had found ground zero, and it didn’t take me long to find the pile of damp stinky towels piled on the damp stinky carpet. Any of us who have been parents of young teens know that they either shower for hours or not at all. The not at all showerers are usually males. Parents can tell when their sons become interested in girls because they will start showering for hours, too. Girls usually use two towels per shower. These towels must be clean and smell April fresh and each towel is used only once. (This logic is teenage logic and not my own, by the way.) One towel is used for the clean wet hair and one for the clean wet body. Those towels are now considered “dirty” and are unceremoniously thrown on the floor next to the growing pile of clothes that were pulled off hangers, tried on, then tossed on the floor with the loud lament of “Mom! I’ve got nothing at all to wear!” Boys will pluck the same pair of jeans from the pile and wear them for a week. Even parents with sinus allergies will figure this one out fairly quickly. If you are wondering how the pile got so high and stinky, don’t judge. In the Florida heat and humidity, mold and mildew grow rapidly. We also had a pool and since there were always two or three teenage girls hanging around, emptying the refrigerator and following the aforementioned towel logic, the pile grew quickly. For those of you who are rocking your sweet and cuddly babies right now, don’t despair. As I mentioned earlier, it is all part of the plan. Your children will grow up and become responsible adults, eat organic vegetables, and clean their rooms. They will only occasionally ask you for money. Soon, they will have teenagers of their own, and you will remember the prayer you sent heavenward during those difficult years: “I hope and pray that someday, you will have a child who turns out to be just like you!” You can smile, close the door on the chaos, and go home to your own quiet and neat house. I will bet you a week’s worth of dirty laundry that you will wish that you could have those crazy days back once again, even if it is just for a moment.

I’ve been watching too much TV. It has been a long winter, and by long, I mean cold. Since I am married to a man who flips the remote from one ball game to another all evening long, I watch TV in the bedroom. HE has closer access to the fridge, and I have closer access to the electric blanket control. We each have our own TV remote. It works for me. It works for HIM, too, and keeps us out of divorce court. I’m digressing, though. I’ve decided that America is trend-setting, and I’m not even talking about all those reality shows or all those Kardashians, either. My taste in TV tends to run to antiques, cooking, Downton Abbey, and Judge Judy. Eclectic is an understatement. I’ve noticed that TV Americans are getting away from the McMansions with huge master bedroom suites sporting king-sized fluffy beds. That’s probably a good thing, because nobody can afford those, anyway. We enjoy living in a small house, but ours is gigantic compared to some of these. The latest trend seems to be 200 square feet teeny-tiny houses with teeny-tiny stairs heading up to the single loft bedroom, every one of which is a mattress sitting on the floor. Obviously, these are for folks that don’t have bad backs or have to make a trip to the necessary room during the night. Either that, or that potted plant in the corner is a cleverly disguised chamber pot. One also cannot be a collector/hoarder like me, unless there is a big heated garage, and that would kind of defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it? I don’t think I would like a kitchen any smaller than the one I have. That means that there is only room for one person to do the dishes. I’m also certain that constantly sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with your hubby while he watches sports in a room small enough that you can reach over and flip the pork chops at the same time is not the stuff that happy marriages are made of. Unless, of course, you are married to someone who says, “Sit down, Dear. I’ve just finished making supper and I’ll finish the dishes, too. Here…take the remote. I’ll never use it.” Ah, dreams and fantasy. That’s the stuff good television is made of. Welcome, spring.
If you are interested in learning more about small and tiny house living, go to livinglargeinourlittlehouse.com/

I am about as far from a fashionista as they come. Anything beyond jeans and a t-shirt is way too dressed up for me. Still, I like the current women’s fashion of wearing a brightly colored scarf around the neck. I like it both for the statement it makes and to cover up an unfortunate hereditary condition that runs in our family called “caruncle”, also known as “turkey wattle neck”. I have only had one scarf the past year, a simple infinity type that looks decent without me having to fuss over it. Getting it to look right is the hard part, and I don’t know why, but some people just have the knack for it. I have even watched YouTube instructional videos, and although I have tried knotting and draping the scarf every which way but loose, I always end up looking like a Farm Woman who is trying to disguise a turkey wattle neck. A couple of weeks ago, I bought a new scarf. This one can double as a vest, neck scarf, and even perhaps a sari, if one is slender and young enough to pull it off. Who thinks of this stuff, anyway? On Sunday morning, I draped and knotted the darn thing around my neck, fussing and mussing with it until it looked fairly decent. Then I remembered that I hadn’t brushed my teeth yet, so I gave up and tucked the whole mess into my collar so I wouldn’t spit toothpaste on it. When I finished brushing and looked in the mirror, the scarf was perfect! I looked like a YouTube video model. Well, almost like a YouTube video model. I went to church feeling like a million bucks, but knowing that it would be unlikely that I could ever get it just right again.

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