Ant Invasion – A Poem

One, two, three…..thousands…

Crawling on my countertop
Sugar ants they just won’t stop
From the ground they formed a line
Up the stairs they climbed and climbed
In the door across the floor
Saw them, freaked, and slammed my door
Didn’t work they went beneath
Thousands marching past my feet
Mix the borax, sugar, water
Ant buffet go get the swatter
On the glasses plates and pans
Swarming on my noodles, cans
Every bit of food’s a target
Vacuum over under carpet
Vinegar is my new friend
Bring their ant trail to an end
In the bedroom gone too far
Me and them it’s time to spar
To the store for some more bait
Set it out and sit and wait
Bare no grudge against the mass
But it’s them who did trespass
They’re a part of nature’s order
But my doorjamb is their border

“Are You Sure That’s The Cat”?

One night when we were still living in our twenty foot travel trailer our cat jumped onto the top of our canvas canopy and collapsed it onto us as we lay in bed. As I was holding the animal up off of myself and screeching about the damned thing, my half asleep husband mumbled “are you sure that’s the cat”?

This story is similar.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard one of our two cats munching in our dining room and for some reason, I decided to get up. I stumbled out of bed, put my robe on and made my way out into the kitchen to see what was up or to get a snack or something.

We’d just installed a cat door so we wouldn’t have to let the felines in and out of the house fifty thousand times a day. It was great once we’d taught them the “ins and outs”. They could now come and go as they pleased at whatever time of day it was.

I sleepily shambled down the stairs and flipped on the light only to see a skunk in my RV. I can’t remember exactly what I shouted but the poor thing ran into a corner then out the “cat” door which was now officially a skunk door.

I sniffed and to my great relief, realized it hadn’t sprayed. I wondered if it was the same one I’d dumped out of a cage in the middle of the night a couple of months earlier.

What’s a good name for a skunk?

The Small Small Trailer

An essay in inadequacy.

I’ve been wanting to write more about the vehicle that was our home for over a year after we sold our house back west as it deserves honorable mention. We’ll never forget the time we spent safely tucked behind it’s half-inch walls. The trailer is a 20′ Jayco Lite with canvas pullouts on each end. It was designed as a camper trailer … the kind you take the family for a weekend campout in, not live in for a year. That was not our plan, I assure you.. it just happened as some things do.

When I spotted it in an ad, I was sucked in by the extra amenities and the price. Plenty of room for the job as I saw it at the time. It came with a TV, radio, almost a wood stove (renovations had been started for the project), an air conditioner, central heating and something else so appealing I’ve forgotten what it was. It also came with a badly rotted floor which I didn’t know about at the time. The rest was standard.

We spent a summer living in the thing expecting to find a property with a house. We didn’t, and ended up tubed in for a year too long. The single table inside was only big enough for my son and his computer so I spent a lot of time doing whatever in our bunk at the rear or in the shed we half-built. My husband even moved his TV and Xbox outside during the summer. Just too cramped.

The sink was too small, the bathroom was too small and the hot water heater was glitchy and it became an art form to pull a shower off in the approximately six minutes available if the water didn’t boil over first. The pipes froze solid during the winter and imagine doing dishes outside in zero degree weather at a makeshift table. It happened.

We managed to break not one but two windows and had to tape them up and when the freezing temperatures hit, we had a major problem on our hands what with the canvas walls of the pullouts. We were clearly unprepared. That seems to be the story of our lives.

We ended up putting rigid sheet insulation and plywood around the walls and over the roofs of the pullouts but zero degrees doesn’t care. The rain had a tendency of finding a way through all the tarp we put over it too. Wet mattress pads, sheets and pillows were the order of the day. I don’t know how we survived but we did.

Some time during the summer the rotten floor made itself apparent and we crawled under the contraption to shore up the floor with two by fours to prevent a “yard sale” while driving down the freeway at sixty-five miles an hour.

There isn’t much between the outdoors and the humans either in a canvas pullout. One night the roof caved in on my face. I could feel paws on top of me as my husband half slept. When I screeched at the cat, he said “are you sure it’s the cat?” Helpful. One night shortly after we’d set up camp on our new property, we heard something that sounded big scrape up against a trash barrel outside just feet from our heads. My husband continued to take the outside position in the bed.

Last fall we got a fifth wheel for a temporary upgrade, not knowing for sure when we’d be able to build a real house but our fifteen year old insisted that he didn’t want to see the Jayco go to waste. He’s a teenager and still occupies it’s space.

We were quite happy to say goodbye and move next door forty feet away. At least we no longer have to worry about Mr. Foot reaching his hand under the canvas wall and making away with my husband.

 

Marshmellows and Coffee

Five a.m. and I’m on my third marshmallow with the coffee brewing. Off to a good start.  Not the best food choice but I seem to be doing well enough for my age. Years of exercise.

We decided to roast marshmellows for Easter this year. Twenty minutes family time is what we managed to squeeze out of the teenager. Incineration was the preferred cooking method. Who doesn’t like a carbonized shell with a gooey dirt magnet underneath?  I couldn’t whittle my stick thin enough so every time I tried to force a mellow onto it, about ninety percent of it would be displaced, leaving nothing but shreds.  Surprisingly, our son suggested we roast again the next day.

Dusting off the lawn chair.

Speaking of food choices, my husband will eat anything.  He finds tortillas especially useful and would put a trout on one only he doesn’t like fish.  Yesterday, I saw him crammed into the pantry from the waist up, looking for a snack. Later I caught him ladling the last night’s hamburger gravy into a sourdough bun he’d hollowed out. Not so bad except he was eating it cold. I’m grateful he recently discovered cooking with Chef Ramsey.

We always have sweets around but so too do we have fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s tick season so we keep the garlic out on a cutting board. Every day we slice it up and eat it on bits of cheese or tomato to help it go down. Garlic can make you nauseous if taken alone. My husband and I smell but that’s the point. Thankfully, we cancel each other out.

We could eat healthier and exercise more but our coffee and marshmellows aren’t going anywhere.

 

Two Idiots, A Water Heater and a Hero

Most people probably don’t give a second thought to their water heaters but ours came with a story.

We are afraid of it as we’re unfamiliar with it’s inner workings and are concerned it may blow up at any moment. It’s not the heater’s fault nor that of anyone involved with it’s design or installation; they’re just suspicious-seeming by nature. It doesn’t help that we’re ignorant of such things despite over a year of living off-grid in an RV.

When we first got the thing, we had recently seen an episode of Mythbusters wherein the guys purposely removed all of the fail-safe measures on some water heaters and cranked the heat up. The tanks shot hundreds of feet into the air after smashing through mock ceilings without effort, giving my husband and I pause as to what our own rocket/heater might be capable of. But let’s back up.

When we came by our fifth wheeler it had been gutted and refitted for use with city hookups such as electricity rather than for it’s original purpose of boon docking. The electric water heater that had been installed was gobbling our energy so we ordered a propane model. It arrived promptly and we managed to get it nestled into the side of our RV without much ado. We carefully hooked up the gas, checked for leaks and lit her up.

Everything went fine as we turned the bathtub spigot on and off to check the rising temperature but the water got hotter and hotter and stopped flowing altogether. Clueless and sure the heater was nearing ignition, we turned it off and called it a night.

The next day we exchanged the old faucet for a new one and the water ran fine but continued to overheat. We shut it down for a second time to save our very lives lest we recreate that episode of Mythbusters.

Photo by Kurt Cotoaga on Unsplash

We needed a professional. Enter Norstar Heating and Cooling, Inc.

We gave them a call and explained the strange behavior of our water heater and made an appointment. Although they didn’t normally deal with RV type systems, they were willing to come take a look. We kept the unit shut off while we waited for our savior- his elevated status growing every day we went without the ability to shower.

Then the day arrived and “he” showed up. He didn’t have six-shooters on his side but he came with a notepad and a toolbox.  Wringing our now filthy hands, we recounted our misadventures as the repairman stole sideways glances at the beast waiting silently in it’s hole on the side of the fifth wheel.

Finally, our man adjusted his collar and approached the offender with a swagger and a coolness that would make John Wayne jealous. He stared at his foe for a moment or two then reached out confidently and began to manipulate the dials with the authority of a….well…appliance repairman. We stood a good ways back and watched with mixed fear and excitement at the prospect of being able to resume our personal hygiene routines.

Then we heard it; the rocket-like flame of the gas feed shot to life as the man cocked his head and squinted suspiciously at the device while he made his final adjustments. With a satisfied nod he turned and walked back our way to give us the news.

His words will haunt us forever; “I turned the heat down.”

 

 

 

How Do I Write?

It’s 7:45 am in the morning and I’m sitting at my computer looking at the smudges all over the screen, wondering if that’s an extra period I’ve added or a speck of food. It’s a touch screen and the first time I cleaned it I had to wait twenty minutes for the commands I accidentally activated to process.

Imagine just finishing a blog post and the commands deleting the whole thing, writing an entire new post that was pure Shakespearian, and publishing it; all while you look on helplessly.

Or maybe my cat could walk across the keyboard and accomplish the same thing.

Our fifth wheel has about a foot of snow on the top and I’m wondering how my husband and I are going to shovel all it off. I hope the ceiling doesn’t cave in while I’m writing yet I’m choosing to sit down and blog rather than get out there with the heavy equipment and clean up literally tons of snow. Easy choice, actually.

I love to write but being just months in, it’s daunting. I’m trying to find my sea legs and thrashing about every time I get washed overboard, which happens a lot.

 As I  paddle around in circles, I’m realizing just how much I don’t  know about writing. Did you know there are curly as opposed to straight quotation marks? And double and smart ones? I didn’t until yesterday when I downloaded a proofreader. I was having so much trouble finding a transition from one paragraph to another the other day I gave up and just wrote “segue” between the paragraphs.

Ever wonder if you’re the worst, least professional writer in existence? I do on a daily basis. I  suspect I may not be the only one.

I ran the proofreading tool on my last blog post and I didn’t understand what the thing was telling me to correct. I feel like an amateur but I was buoyed by a blog post I read yesterday by The Art Of Blogging.

It featured a book by Stephen King on writing. I liked the part about failure the most. I feel much better knowing that is a part of the writing process and to expect it.  If Stephen King failed and is still with us (boy is he ever), then I stand a chance.

I want to learn how to write better. I want to find my particular style. I want people to want to read my blog. Every once in a while I get frustrated and consider walking away but I immediately dismiss the thought because I love to write.

Most of all, I want to find my style.  I currently rotate between what I call my boring style to humorous, then some poetry with weird subject matter, to super descriptive, and the emotional stuff.  My favorite is the humorous.

I want to perfect the art of humorous writing more than any other style. I want to write like Jean Sheppard of A Christmas Story fame. That’s my biggest bestest aspiration. Funny words.

As far as cleaning up the roof of our RV, I’m already looking for a humorous angle.

Tidbit

All I see are the points of two ears angled sharply backward; below them are two intense eyes barely visible above the snow line. Retinas contracted into black slits in the brilliant sunlight, they bore a hole right through me; it’s target. I stare back.

I didn’t see it until I was almost on top of it. Most of it’s body was hidden in the snow, the predator having found a depression within which to lay in wait. Too late, I see the butt wiggle in preparation for the attack then…..it launches at me.

Tidbit, our cat, connects with a brilliant catfoo double-time cuffing at my legs before ricocheting off at a ninety degree angle, ears still laid back. Recovering, he swaggers away, satisfied he has made the kill. Time to go summon the pride for the feast.

I just stand there giggling. wishing I’d gotten it on my phone. I continue on my way and cat falls in behind, para-scope up (what my husband and I call the tail when straight up in cat greeting).

Half of Tidbit, the white half of his black and white coat, blends into the snow leaving only the black features of his little body visible against the winter backdrop. He skulks up the hill, sprinkling a path of miniature paw prints behind him. This is routine for him. He follows us around the property, targeting bits of snowballs and taking advantage of the deepest footprints we leave behind for cover.

Our entire property is crisscrossed with cat trails. Their little paw prints reveal their wanderings in search of birds, sounds, snowballs, sticks, mice, or whatever else draws their attention. Tidbit and Asshole, our other cat, go in and out of our house hundreds of times a day, it seems. We wonder how they occupy their time when they’re by themselves. What is entertaining to a cat? Hunting is the obvious answer although we rarely see them actually catch anything other than a careless grasshopper or the unluckiest rodent of the day.

A cat can’t just walk with a human. They have to turn it into an epic display of their prowess and it takes a lot of energy to make it look like you’re not “with” the human; that you just happened along.  This particular cat will run at a gallop aiming directly for the space between your legs. Faced with either stepping on the cat or falling, you are forced to choose.  I can’t tell you how many times he has noodled me and I never see it coming.

Tidbit acquired us a few months ago when he showed up at a friend’s house hungry. Apparently, he waltzed right past their four Corgies on “guard duty”,  and found the cat dish inside the house. He was still munching when I got there.

A search for his owner didn’t yield any immediate results so when I was ready to leave, we took him with us to keep unless someone surfaced. My friends were full up on cats horses and dogs and we had an opening anyway.

He made himself welcome immediately and we had him fixed a couple of weeks later. Asshole was annoyed at first but soon warmed up to the idea that he had an extra toy to play with.

Tidbit craves attention and we wonder if he was taken away from his mother too early. Our answer to this is “regression” therapy. It’s good for all of us. He loves to be wrapped up tightly where he goes into infant mode. So do we.

Tidbit is boneless. He goes limp when stroked. He is more like a dog than a cat. He falls over and roles onto his back and let’s us rough his tummy up. He has no dignity. He doesn’t care

Tidbit is also the devil in a fur coat. He rattles around the house all night. He gets into Asshole’s face constantly, and steals our seats as soon as we get up.  His cuteness factor offsets the annoying stuff though.

It’s been about three months since he came home with us and his owner never came forward. This cat is the most unique cat either my husband or I have ever met and he fits right in with the eccentric theme of our family.

Gotta go…he’s on top of the RV again.

Christmas At Walmart

The Experience.

My husband and I spend a lot of time at our local Walmart. It’s almost a joke between us. Nothing against the brand but frankly we associate it with tackiness. Still, here we are again; the goal of the day: Christmas shopping.

My husband always parks in the outskirts of the parking lot because our truck is big. This somehow makes sense to him. He points out the other trucks and large vehicles as he edges slowly into a moorage slip.

During the mile-long walk across the parking lot and having lost me, he’ll call back “Hurry up Babe” while he strides ahead on his six foot plus frame with me taking four steps to his one (imagine a centipede), trying to keep up.

Which door to go into is usually our next big decision after how far away to park. The Lawn and Garden (Holiday supplies in the winter), the Home and Pharmacy, or the Groceries. God forbid we forget to pick a landmark so we can navigate our way back to where we docked  parked. If we lose our bearings, we may end up wandering the parking lot in humiation with a fully loaded cart looking for our vehicle.  Yesterday our landmark was the giant inflatable Christmas tree. Last week, it was the kayaks on display out front.

Once in the store, the shopping cart vetting process begins with a ten foot test drive. Results are categorized on the following brokenness scale: The Drifter (self explanatory), The Harmonic Resonator (the one that alternates every twenty or so wheel revolutions between a powerful bolt-loosening vibration and a Cadillac-like glide), and The Quitter, AKA Old Ironsides (the one that lost the jousting match with a vehicle). There is a rare exception: The Miracle (this is your lucky day. This one’s straight off the truck from the factory).

Any leftover debris in the cart from a previous user is grounds for immediate disqualification and referral to the CDC. 🙂

I usually have my list ready to go and we set off, me leading the way. First through the Home section, then onto the Toys/Sporting Goods, past Auto and Hardware, looping back to Crafts and Bedding, gliding past clothing and shoes before reaching Electronics and pausing at the conveniently located bathrooms at the back of the store. Rushing through stationary and pets and into the Groceries with my husband, pushing whatever the cart of the day is. Now it’s HIS turn to keep up.

Zigzagging back and forth through the dairy and deli, breakfast and baking goods are but a blur. Gaining our second wind, we skillfully maneuver our increasingly difficult-to-steer barge now loaded with five hundred pounds of Walmart through the morass.

Lamps, rugs, electronics, cat food, and groceries are causing our cart to teeter dangerously on corners so we pull over to adjust the load for more ballast. It occurs to us that maybe we should have gone with shopping cart option number five; the military grade Hammerhead. With it’s semi tank-like build and roomy interior, we’d be set but that would have required a side trip to the Holiday section too far off course.

By now it takes a good push to get the carriage up to speed but soon we’re out-pacing octogenarians and the not-so-intense shoppers as we skirt the meats, frozen foods, and produce, then radio ahead for the tug boats. Eyes scanning for the checkout with the fastest line, we see them; the only other people in the entire store who get that this is a competition. Our mental calculations put us at the check stand at EXACTLY the same moment as them. This may be a dead heat. Increasing our speed by three knots we manage to pull ahead by a nose and the line is ours.

Checkout is an art form. I usually predict the total as me and my husband team up to move the inventory from the cart to the conveyor belt. Heavy items first by category (household before food stuffs), then boxed goods and finally, bakery – the delicate stuff. If you want to eat something on the way home, it gets its own bag that goes on top of everything else. I process and bag while my hubby handles the transaction. We make an excellent shopping team and quite often, my prediction of the total is only dollars off. 🙂

Finally, past the pay portal, shopping cart neatly packed according to weight and type of product, we nose out and merge into outgoing traffic, slowly accelerating to cruising speed.

Then it hits: we forgot the Christmas stuff. We bought everything BUT Christmas. Five hundred pounds of NOT Christmas and there is no slowing the shopping cart now. Might as well be the Titanic. If we’d only made that trip to the seasonal section for the Hammerhead…… But it’s too late to change course as we are swept towards the exit in the current.

As we glide past the smiling greeters on the way out the door in the Christmas regatta, (the only vessel not decked out), we maintain our heading and decide to hit the local shops on the way home. It evens out in the end. 🙂

Nine Lives Before Christmas

A catastrophe.

Nine lives before Christmas and in the RV, two felines were climbing up my Christmas tree

The lights and the baubles I’d hung up with care, strewn wall to wall not a single one spared

Shredded remains of my prized Christmas cactus, total destruction they’ve had lots of practice

They found the pine cones left a trail of debris, nothing was spared in the wake of their spree

Forget wrapping presents dispense with the bows, the effort is useless the gifts they’ll expose

I tried hanging garland, Oh what was I thinking, my light strings are broken they’re no longer blinking

cat ornament

I chased them outside tried to clear out my head, they came back in soaking wet jumped on my bed

What if St. Nick dares to come bearing gifts, they’ll ambush his sleigh from behind the snow drifts

Busting cat Kung Fu they’ll knock him out cold, one tailbone broken a fright to behold

Flat on his back splayed out under the trees, cookies and milk won’t fix his injuries

Journey cut short by two renegade cats, no toys for the children no balls and no bats

Packages strewn from his sleigh to the house, next year he’s packing a catnip stuffed mousecriminals