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  • Fire Ants Are Of The Devil

    August 15, 2009

    God made all the animals. It says so right in the Bible. But I’m convinced that fire ants are of the devil.

    I say this because fire ants are so vile and so wretched and seem to be born to pour out misery upon humanity.  And also I say this because of the many similarities between fire ants and sin. And also because I thought it would make a clever little post.

    Now I did not grow up with fire ants. I grew up in the mid-west where the icy anesthesia of winter calls the earth and everything within it into a long and deep frozen sleep.  And for some, like the cockroach, the long  cold mid-western winter brings death. (insert applause)

    But. The Texas winter is more of a power nap. After a short nap, the fire ants wake up refreshed and energized and after a few stretches and push-ups, they are ready to destroy happiness and all living things.

    Now, how are fire ants like sin? Well I’ll tell you.

    For one thing, like sin, fire ants are ubiquitous.  In Texas at least, they are everywhere, all the time, and one must never let one’s guard down. In Texas and in life, one must always be aware of where one is standing.

    As well, like sin, fire ants are opportunistic.

    For example, right at this very moment, just below the surface of my lush and spongy green St. Augustine grass, are likely a number of fire ant mounds, invisible to the naked eye. Just below the surface is a menacing mob of fire ants, rubbing their six tiny hands together in anticipation and cackling with glee, just waiting for some unsuspecting tender flesh to happen by.  And in Texas, it eventually happens. Sooner or later you will find yourself standing unawares in a pile of fire ants.

    And because fire ants are the spawn of the devil, they are sneaky and surreptitious.  An entire army of ants will silently tip toe up your leg in stealth mode and at the appointed time, the ant commander will give the signal to BITE! And all at once, all of the little bastards will joyfully chomp down on your ankles and that very very tender space between your toes. And you will scream in pain. And maybe even cuss.

    And it’s not just the fiery sting of the bite that issues agony.  Some sort of substance in the bite sends a nausea-inducing, bone chilling current of electricity, pulsing and snapping up and down your spine and out your eyebrows.

    And like a wiener dog, once a fire ant bites, it will not let go until it dies.  Many people do not know this, but the fire ant was the model for the modern day invention we all know as The Jaws of Life. It’s true. No it’s not. I just made that up.  Everyone knows the wiener dog was the model for The Jaws of Life.

    Anyway, like sin, fire ants always leave an ugly calling card.  After a fire ant bites, he leaves behind a tiny, hard, painful puss-filled, hateful blister. And there is nothing you can do about it but cry just a little and poke at the blister and maybe show other Texans hoping for some sympathy.

    And finally, so that I might take an analogy just one step too far, as I like to do — like sin, there is nothing to be done about fire ants. Oh sure you can try this and that and for awhile it might even work.  But not for long.

    Sin and fire ants.  Man can master neither – for very long.

    Alzheimers and Home Improvement Found To Be Closely Related

    October 16, 2008

    Last week, as you may recall, I embarked on a home improvement project. I decided it was time to re-do my guest room and bath.  By my estimate, I’m about half way through.

    The thing is, home improvement projects always take a little more time and money than you delude yourself into believing going into it.  I’ve done fairly well on the money budget because I can turn a sow’s ear into a Dupioni silk pillow. I can flat out design on a dime.  But the time budget? Not so much.

    So far I have removed the wallpaper from the bathroom and I have painted the guest bedroom walls and ceilings.  I still have to texture the bathroom walls, then prime the bathroom walls, then paint the bathroom walls and then probably glaze the bathroom walls at which point I will wonder what in the heck was wrong with the wallpaper in the first place and then I will  possibly punch myself in the face.

    Here’s the breakdown of how much time I’ve spent on this project so far:

    Moving furniture out of guest room:  1 hour

    Dislodging mattress from stair case:  45 minutes

    Removing switch plates: 30 minutes

    Wandering around trying to remember where I set down the screw driver: 1 hour

    Combing the carpet for the teeny tiny switch plate screws that I dropped:  1 hour

    Removing wallpaper:  6 hours

    Wandering around trying to remember where I set down the scraper:  2 hours

    Painting:  6 hours

    Wandering around trying to remember where I set down the paint brush/paint can opener/stir stick/drop cloth:  2 hours

    Wiping paint off the bottom of my foot:  45 minutes

    Wandering around looking for my glasses which were on my head: 2 hours

    Wandering around trying to remember where I set down my iced tea:  2 hours

    Wandering around looking for the cordless phone:  45 minutes

    Have you ever noticed they never show Bob Villa wandering aimlessly around the set wondering where he set down his screwdriver? Of course they don’t, it’s a one hour show.

    What Goes Around

    November 12, 2007

    One day, about 25 years ago, not too long after I had moved to Texas from the mid-west, I went to the grocery store to get a few necessities.  I was about 22-years-old.  I aspired to be dirt poor. To say that I was struggling would be an understatement.

    Into my cart, I put the very few carefully chosen things I could afford – a small carton of milk, a loaf of day old bread, off-brand toothpaste and a small box of feminine products.  I put my groceries onto the conveyer and watched the cashier ring up each item, making sure she hadn’t rung up anything for one penny more than it cost.  I don’t remember what the total was.  I do remember reaching into my purse for my checkbook and not finding it. And then realizing I had left it at home.  I remember the sensation of disbelief and then panic wash down my spine like lighter fluid.

    I began scrounging through my purse looking for enough money to cover my groceries, although I don’t know why.  I was as likely to have a kangaroo in my purse as I was to have enough cash to pay for my groceries.

    As I was frantically digging through my purse willing money to materialize, I felt the spark of life begin to flicker and wane.  That little spark that I had been tenderly protecting for months, that spark that had burned just bright enough to beat back the loneliness and kept me convinced that I could make it in Texas, that little spark that was going to prove to all those people back home that they were wrong about me – that little spark was all but out.

    It had been a hard, hard year and for some reason the missing checkbook seemed like a big bucket of water aimed right at my spark.  I was trying so very hard to be a grown up and I was failing.  I felt like crumpling into a heap onto the grocery store floor and crying my eyes out.

    I looked at the cashier and tried to work up the nerve to tell her that I had no money, that I would have to come back for my stuff. She looked at me with her arms folded across her chest and her eyebrows raised expectantly, as though she had seen this before.

    Then the lady in line behind me handed the cashier $10.

    “It would bless me to do this small thing for you,” she said to me. “Please. Allow me.  This money means nothing to me.”

    She looked into my face for consent.  Her expression was hopeful and happy. She nodded her head yes.

    I sighed and hung my head in shame.  And then I nodded agreement.  I was grateful. I was embarrassed.  If I had allowed my voice into my throat at that moment, I would have begun sobbing uncontrollably.  With big fat tears threatening to spill, I simply smiled at her and mouthed the words thank you.

    After I composed myself and collected my bag of groceries, I offered to mail her a check but she waved me off, telling me to keep my chin up and have a nice day.

    Recently, when I was in the grocery store, that memory came flooding back.  It was early in the day when the only shoppers in the store are the AARP mafia and a few other moms.  I got the things I needed and then got in line behind a young gal.  I watched her methodically put each item on the conveyer, carefully checking the price, doing math in her head.

    After her purchases were rung up, she counted out her cash to the cashier.  And then she looked at the total and counted it again. Something wasn’t right.  And then she began rummaging through her purse.  “Oh no,” she said, “I thought I had another $10 in my purse.” She kept rummaging while at the same time glancing back at her groceries to see what she could put back.

    I recognized the look of panic on her face. I saw in her that her spark and her spirit had been tested.  I reached into my purse and handed the cashier $10.

    “Please,” I said, “It would bless me if you will allow me to do this for you.”

    “Oh no,” she said, “I couldn’t.”

    “Please,” I persisted.  “I must.”

    And it was true. It was as if I had no choice in the matter. I had to.

    “Well thank you,” she said.  “I don’t know what to say.  It’s been really hard…” and then her voice trailed off.

    “I understand,” I said. And I did understand.

    She gathered up her bags and then turned and smiled at me. She thanked me again.

    “Have a nice…” Then I stopped.

    Have a nice day didn’t seem fitting.

    ”Have a nice life,” I said.

    “I will,” she said, “You too.”

    I am having a nice life.  When you grow up to to be the lady in the grocery store who is lucky enough to get to pay it forward once in a while, that’s a nice life.

    Pa Palmer

    May 15, 2007

    Friday afternoon, Antique Daddy and Sean and I were on our way to celebrate Mother’s Day weekend with Memaw when we got the phone call. The father of one of our dearest friends had passed away unexpectedly.

    Pa Palmer, as everyone called him, was 85-years-old. On Monday, we returned him to the sandy East Texas soil from whence he came.

    Except that we all will miss him terribly, it is no tragedy really. Pa Palmer lived long and he lived well. He loved others and was loved in return. He lived by his faith and he died by his faith. In that there can be no tragedy.

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    Pa Palmer was a mild and unassuming man with smiling eyes that turned downward at the corners. I remember the first time I met him. He was a greeter at a church I was visiting and he reached out to shake my hand as he handed me a bulletin. His hands were large and warm and soft and perfectly matched his face. As I got to know Pa Palmer, I learned that the only thing larger and warmer and softer than his hands was his heart.

    Pa Palmer made his living working with his hands, but he made his life serving with his hands. Someone told the story of how one time when he was delivering a meal to a shut-in, he spied a rusty and broken fan in the trash. He took it home, fixed it and returned it the following week. A fan is a blessed thing to have in Texas. One time I mentioned in passing that a lamp I loved had quit working. Not long thereafter, he showed up at my house and fixed it. As I watched him sit at my kitchen table tinkering with mysterious lamp parts, there was an unmistakable light and glow about him that came from within. To do for others was a joy to him. But perhaps the memory most deeply etched in my mind is watching him pull his 4-year-old great granddaughter up into his lap and those large hands of his patiently and tenderly combing the tangles out of her wispy white angel hair.

    As we filed past the coffin, I reached out and touched Pa Palmer’s hands for the last time, the hands that had touched so many lives in the past 85 years. They were not soft and warm this time, but hard and cold. He was not there. The spirit and and energy that had fueled his life’s work had flown away home.

    Tears filled my eyes and overflowed. I patted his hand one last time. Farewell Pa Palmer. Until we meet again.

    Dr. Texan

    April 24, 2007

    When our health insurance changed a while back, one of the things I was required to do was select a General Practitioner. Prior to that, I never saw a GP. I have so many quirky medical issues that I employ an army of specialists and I have no need of a GP.

    I took a lot of time selecting my GP. I thumbed through the insurance directory and narrowed down the list to doctors in my geographic area that claimed to speak English as their primary language. From the long list of two, I settled upon a doctor who was nearby and I put in a call to his office. “And it says here that the doctor speaks English, is that correct?” I ask the nurse. “Oh yes!” she says proudly, “He was born and raised right here in Texas.” And not one red flag went up, with or without a lone star.

    Lest you think I have an attitude against foreign doctors, let me say here that my Ob/Gyn, to whom I pretty much owe my life and Sean’s life, is Iranian. And I do have difficulty understanding him sometimes, but he is so good, that I don’t care what he’s saying. I just trust him. After he leaves the room, sometimes I ask his nurse, “Now what did he say? Is it anything I really need to know? Do you think he noticed the Dr. Pepper on my legs?”

    Nonetheless, communication is important to me and even though it was a doctor that I probably would never see beyond the initial visit, I wanted a doctor who spoke English with a degree of fluency. So I made an appointment for a complete physical.

    The walls of the exam room in which I waited were lined with professionally taken pictures of Dr. Texan on his ranch, Dr. Texan and his children in a field of bluebonnets, Dr. Texan standing next to a longhorn steer. As I’m looking at the beautiful photos, I’m thinking this is great! A genuine US citizen!

    About that time, Dr. Texan knocks on the door and comes in.

    “Howdythayerleetlemissyimdoctorafixintotakealeedlelookieyahoodoggy. Okiedokie?”

    “Um yes! Or hi? Did you say hi? No, my name is not Missy. You want to fix whaa? Did you just say hoo doggy?”

    It was Dr. Suel Forrester from SNL.  He checked my blood pressure, listened to my heart and whacked my knee with a rubber mallot. He checked here for a lump, there for a lump, everywhere a lump lump. He talked the entire time. And I understood not one word. And then he left.

    And then I turned to the nurse and asked, “Now what did he say? Is there anything I really need to know?”

    Nothing To Complain About

    January 17, 2007

    After three months of freezing weather, too much cookie dough and entirely too much plenty of togetherness at the House of Antique, I am feeling the urge to complain. I am not a winter person. It seeps into my bones and settles into my soul. Like a chest cold. (Correction: Someone just mentioned that it hasn’t been three months, just three days. Sorry. My bad.) Ironically it was just this time last year I was feeling the same way. After I dislodged my nose from my navel I wrote the following post.

    Ode To Granny McKee

    Dear Granny McKee,

    You had long passed away by the time I married into your family, but I feel like I know you from the stories your children and grandchildren like to tell of you. Now that I have a child of my own, it is all the more that I admire you.

    On those days when I’m exhausted from the constant struggle of trying to shape one pint-sized caveman into a civilized human being and I’m up to my eyeballs in self-pity, I try to imagine what your life was like living out on the North Texas prairie in the early years of the century with seven children. It is then that I sober up and laugh at the absurdity of my mistaken notion of hardship.

    Sometimes I feel put upon to have to make yet another trip to the store (in my nice car and with my bottomless credit card) to buy disposable diapers and wipes to manage the never-ending cycle of diapers. Then I think of you with your two sets of twins less than three years apart. No indoor plumbing and no electricity — nothing but a bucket of water from the well and a scrub board. I know you could tell me a thing or two about never-ending diapers.

    Then there are times I imagine myself a martyr because I occasionally sacrifice the few hours of free time I have in a week to lend someone a hand. But then I recall my mother-in-law telling me how as a little girl she would hear you leave the house in the middle of the night to go deliver a baby or care for someone who was sick or to sit up with the dead, as they did in those days. I guess the fact that I no longer have time to sit down and read a novel anymore doesn’t really qualify as a sacrifice, does it?

    You would probably find it ridiculous that I groan about having to go to the grocery store when everything on your table was put there after a season of planting, tending, harvesting, peeling, chopping and cooking. And when the Texas skies were stingy with the rain, as they often are, then even all that work didn’t yield enough to feed nine mouths sufficiently. Your children like to tell of how never a Sunday passed that you didn’t invite the traveling preacher and his family home for Sunday dinner and then how afterwards you would send them on their way with a basket of leftovers. In spite of having to work so hard for so little, you shared what little you had, often at the expense of your own family.

    And after you had raised all of your seven children and were at a point in your life when you could indulge your own desires, you raised your oldest grandson, who in my book is one of the finest men I know. Except for Sarah Lee pound cake in your later years, self-indulgence was something with which you were unfamiliar.

    Thank you Granny McKee for the example of your noble life. I am so proud that my son shares in your heritage. I pray that he has inherited your steely spine and your heart for sacrifice and service.


    Sean’s Mom

    Texas Tough

    January 16, 2007

    Texans are tough when it comes to the heat.

    103 degrees for ten days in a row? We laugh at that. Ha! And then we order chips and salsa to eat outside on the patio. But get a little ice, a little wintry mix? We cower in our house and eat cookies. And our trees faint dead away.

    And that is just what happened to what Sean calls his favorite tree.

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    He asked me when I’m going to put it back.

    I had to tell him that only God can make a tree.

    But I can make cookies! And when the going gets tough, or cold as the case may be, the tough bake cookies.

    Don’t Mess With Texas Y’all

    January 13, 2007

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    October 27, 2006

    where pants
    rhymes with saints.

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    Fire Ants

    March 7, 2006

    The ides of March are upon us. Technically, it is still winter, but yesterday, it was 85 degrees. I wore flip flops, shorts and a tank top as Sean and I set off into the neighborhood to goof off. Wearing shorts in March might sound like a good thing, but there is a price to be paid for it in fire ants.As we walked towards the pond, the late afternoon sun made lacy shadows that shimmered and danced on the sidewalk under the canopy of trees. We stopped to admire the shadows and observe a parade of ants frantically marching to and fro in the crack. Squatting catcher-style, we watched them furiously shoving past one another, each one desperate to complete some invisible task. Sean held me back with one hand in a protective manner and waved the other hand over the army of ants to indicate danger. “Ants,” he said looking up at me solemnly. Then he repeated what he has heard us say over and over, “Ants bite. Don’t touch.” The sting of a fire ant bite is unfortunately something with which all Texans become all too familiar all too soon. And it seems each year they get bigger and meaner.

    With no cold weather this winter to freeze off their fire-y little behinds, the fire ants have been hanging out all winter in their subterranean dens of iniquity pumping iron, drinking protein drinks and making fun of humans.

    Which brings me to a new marketing slogan I have for our northern neighbors:Canada! No fire ants here!

    When it’s 85 in March, you know it’s going to be a long summer.