Archive for the ‘Life as Comedy’ Category

Happy New Year!

From the Morris Family

Before all of you decide that I am very rude for not sending you a Christmas card, I must give my pitiful excuses…

  1. I bought Christmas cards last year on sale, but could not find them in my disorganized house.
  2. My husband moved out of his “office,” giving our teenager her own room, which brings us back to excuse number one.
  3. Every time I sat down to start making homemade Christmas cards I found that my children had absconded with the craft box or an integral part thereof, which leads us (unbelievably, I know) back to number one.
  4. I contracted a nasty poison sumac rash from helping my husband with a university art project, which consisted of twisting vines ( poisonous, I can now vouch for that) into primitive wreaths (God help whoever takes them out of the university courtyard, for it has taken me two shots and two courses of steroids and I am still itching!)
  5. My eyelids were too swollen to see properly, let alone write upon the Christmas cards (see number four), and photo cards seemed completely out of the realm of possibility (again see number four.)
  6. Five days before Christmas, a snowstorm hit our little village, which took out the power lines and left us without electricity for four days, so the Christmas cards again went by the wayside.
  7. After power was restored, we were too busy celebrating about hot showers and warm bedrooms to write to anyone.
  8. When it seemed our lives had returned to some kind of normality, it was December 26th and how could I send out Christmas cards after Christmas???

And so, it had nothing to do with being “green” or saving money (although that is a definite plus.)
It was just life getting in the way. Here is a non-nutshell, unabridged, lengthy letter about our newsworthy items and events. Enjoy… or just skip to the end (smile):

Barney— is on the home stretch now with his degree in Art Education. He will be student teaching in the fall and graduating in December, 2010 if all goes as planned. He is always on the Dean’s list and his professors love his talent. He has been very busy working weekends and taking a full load of coursework. He brings home all of his art and sculpting projects and puts them in various corners of the house, along with so many books and papers that Julie has given up hopes of organization (see number one and number two) until that blessed graduation day. He is still very much a media-maniac and collects movies and music. Every three months or so, he looks forward to what he and his friends have dubbed, “Bad Movie Day”– a full blown festival of sorts, where making fun of bad movies is the thing, where testosterone levels are high and the movie reviews are very low.

Julie— is still quite itchy at the moment, feels that it is horribly unfair that Barney missed all of the poison fun, and so she has indignantly sworn off all future art projects (see number four.) Julie is still teaching Spanish and French at Ripley High School and enjoys her work. — In her free time, (hahahahahahaha! Sardonic laughter) she enjoys reading good books, taking long, brisk walks, hiking, collecting catalogs and circling everything she wants in them– (it is a learned family neurosis), cross stitching, GOOD movies (hint, Barney) and baking desserts! Last but not least, Julie became an aunt again on November 30th, when sister Jeanna and brother-in-law Joe had their second daughter, Abby Hope. She is a darling!

Cassandra—Barney’s oldest daughter is now 23, living in Parkersburg and waitressing, still unsure whether she will go to a technical school or get a cosmetology/ hairdressing certificate. She has two beautiful little girls, Lillie Addison age 4, and Lorelie Rose, age 10 months. Grammy Pamy (Julie’s mom) is ecstatic to share a middle name with Lorelie. It is a zoo at the Morris house when everyone is together, but Barney and Julie love being Papa and Nana. Julie usually cares for Lorelie every other weekend to help out. (Rowan is quite jealous and says she doesn’t like babies on account of their germs and stickiness…) Cassandra is still so beauty-queen beautiful, and everyone is very proud of how she takes care of her little family on her own. She is a great mom.


Tegan— is now fifteen, a freshman at Ripley High School, and enjoys hanging out with friends at school, while sometimes ignoring her mother who works in the same building. She looks forward to getting her driving permit as soon as possible. Tegan has grown into a beautiful young lady who is almost as tall as her mother and almost as opinionated as her father. She has a boyfriend named Darren, who is a sweet boy. However, her parents will not yet allow her to go on dates (she thinks this is stupid and completely pointless as rules go.) She loves sci-fi books and is a huge “Doctor Who” fan. She enjoys her new room that she does not have to share with smaller siblings (see number 2) Tegan has enjoyed the company of her new kitten, Rafiki. The resident cat, Doctor Byron Orpheus, tolerates the newcomer well, however he shares the opinion of many, that Rafiki is a mental case. Tegan disagrees, maintaining that tail-chasing, separation anxiety (meowing at 4 in the morning), missing the point of the litter box, and sitting on top of anything anyone is reading are all normal cat tendencies. Much to Tegan’s disappointment, he is now an outside cat with marginal inside privileges, especially at night.

Benjamin— is now almost ten years old, in the fourth grade, and is elated to have our good friend and neighbor, Mr. Knopp, as his teacher this year. Ben still enjoys LEGOS and video games. He is always so funny and animated, and yet he can spend hours building forts and creating projectile-launching contraptions with LEGOS. So, I am not sure whether he will be an architect or an entertainer. He played baseball this past spring for the first time. He isn’t into sports much, he is an intellectual and a self-proclaimed nerd, but his mother thinks it did him some good to broaden his interests, be a part of a team and make new friends. Ben does not plan to continue baseball, but his mother is certain to have him try some other activity just so she gets the chance to scream his name from the bleachers. Ben is as smart as a whip and can still outdo anyone in asking questions about life, the universe, and everything…

Rowan—Where shall we start?? Rowan is a kindergartener this year and has had some difficulty adjusting. Her enthusiastic spirit and imagination often get the best of her, meaning that she prefers to be a cat at school rather than a human, and if anyone disrespects her stuffed animals, she has been known to clobber even the largest of kindergarten boys! Her teacher, Mrs. Kennedy, has stated on more than one occasion that Rowan is very stubborn, but very smart, and “unique.” (Rowan’s mom who is also a teacher is able to decode her true meaning, which is “I don’t understand your child and I am grasping at straws to say something positive.” Chuckle!) It is no secret that Rowan is a strong-willed child, but the good news is that Rowan is quite a fearless and determined individual, and she will accomplish much if mom and dad mold her character carefully. Rowan’s MRI of the left arm went well, and her visit to see Dr. Kozin in Philadelphia confirmed that her arm strength and her agility are still very good despite her birth injury, but may not improve much. We hope for 10 percent improvement per year. Rowan’s mother was mortified to realize that she brought kindergarten cooties with her to the Philadelphia appointment. Life lessons in humility abound this year! After the flight home, Rowan had to endure de-lousing… Being a kindergarten parent is not for sissies.

A serious note— Many of you know that Barney’s father is in critical condition at the moment. Bud had been in serious back pain for four months and finally decided he could no longer endure it, opting for surgery. The surgery went well, but he contracted a serious pneumonia which has caused him to be sedated, on a ventilator. He will be 80 in a few days. He has always been such a strong and wiry farmer, and it is very difficult to see him in these circumstances. All is uncertain at this time. Please continue to pray for his recovery, and for his doctors.

We also lost our favorite little dachshund, Fritz, to a road accident this month. We were not at home and poor Barney had to perform the burial rites alone. He was over 12 years old and will be sadly missed.

So, despite the trials, the tribulations, there is still joy and jubilation for our loving family, our good friends, our warm house, and our Great God. Thank you, Friends and Family, and may all of us enjoy a bright New Year, seeing it as a clean slate upon which we will write so many blessings. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light…and find out what pleases the Lord.” Ephesians 5:8

With much love,    The Morrises


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Summer Circuses

Here I sit in a “park and ride” parking lot, waiting to pick up my grandbaby for the weekend, and the scenes of summer road trips unfold before me. A sleek, silver minivan parks a few yards from mine, and I see a mother and her grown daughter struggling to pull two big dogs out of the back seat, trying to move them beyond a car seat containing a toddler who holds and waves his colorful sippy cup. After a few minutes of pushing, pulling, leashing, and juice sloshing, I smile at the family circus before me. I am completely entertained and absorbed as the panting dogs, longing to be free, are finally led past the child who baptizes them generously as they leap to the ground. The older mother grabs the dog leashes and is immediately pulled to a grassy area where her canines can sniff and snuffle around. Meanwhile, the younger mother is searching for something in the van, presumably a wet wipe, or a treat for the tike who is showing his impatience, still strapped in the car seat.


Then, as if to put an exclamation mark on the first family circus, another minivan comes to a stop at the end of the exit ramp very close to the parking lot. Motor still rumbling, the front doors quickly open and a middle aged man and woman hop out of either side of the automobile. The man comes from the passenger side, wearing a t-shirt and shorts. His wife starts around from the driver’s side in similar attire. What grabs my attention about the switching-drivers-on-the-exit-ramp-drill (admit it, most of us have done it) is that the man is wearing only white tube socks on his feet, so he is padding quietly on tip-toes around to the driver’s side. It looks as if he is afraid of waking someone (possibly a pack of napping kids) inside the dark interior. I have to grin at him. I know that he is simply hoping not to soil his white socks on the black asphalt, but the effect is wonderfully silly!


My turn came. I was destined to complete the three-ring circus. My daughter’s black clunker screeched to a halt in the little parking lot, smelling of burnt oil, right beside my own minivan. She’s late again! Here she comes, barreling out of the driver’s side, grabbing the back door and flinging two black diaper bags over her shoulder. I exit my vehicle and open the sliding door on cue. We pass each other, hurriedly give a kiss, and I begin pulling the baby, seat and all, out of her car’s back seat. Meanwhile my daughter has thrown the bags into my van. We pass again, give hugs and kisses and “I’ll call you”s. I secure the precious cargo, we both slam our doors shut almost simultaneously, in a synchronized swimming kind of moment, and we both turn the ignitions. Her car moves swiftly to the lot exit. I am following close behind, and we spin off into separate choreographed directions, neatly finessed. I smile as I exit, imagining myself taking a bow with a wave and a flourish to the still-sitting silver minivan full of dogs, juice cups, and harried adults. “Amateurs,” I giggle to myself. And I am sure they are staring after my tail lights, in awe, at the Grand Finale of family circuses.


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As many of you know, I have an eight year old son. If you have sons, then you can relate to the question above. At this age, all little boys are fascinated by tales of danger, bravery, fantasy, heroism, war, and weapons. This fascination for danger also tends to create a curiosity for the “bad guy.” Don’t get me wrong, heroes are great. My son thinks the world of Indiana Jones and Luke Skywalker. But the flipside- the other side to the story is that the menacing villains of these stories are also very popular.


Think about it…Nazis, storm troopers, evil aliens…my son talks about these bad guys more than he does the good guys when he is acting out his favorite battle scenes with his action figures. Why? Because bad guys seem so scary, powerful, and strong. Isn’t that what every little boy wants? He wants to grow up to be strong, brave, courageous, and powerful. The only thing that saves these bad guys from being too revered is their evilness. The good guys must triumph, even if the bad guys are really cool. It’s an unwritten law in every eight year old’s universe. The bad guys must lose.


I understand this “hero worship versus bad guy curiosity” thing, so I am never too worried when my Benjamin comes home breathing and strutting around like Darth Vader. I know how his brain works and why he chooses to put on that “evil guy” persona. He is choosing to role-play villainous creatures in order to understand them, and to overcome his fears of evil. No problem, I get it. However, a glance at Ben’s math homework gave me a few misgivings today! Take a look:


In math, Ben and each of his fellow students were instructed to write three word problems using addition or subtraction. His contribution to the lesson was as follows:


“Ben had 8 friends. Five of them moved. How many friends does he have now?”


  • Okay, interesting subject– I thought- seems a little lonely. His teacher probably wonders if he has many friends. I moved on to the next word problem he had written.


“Ben had ten Star Wars toys. He gave nine of them to Luke. How many Star Wars toys does he have now?”


  • Oh, that’s definitely something Ben would write, I thought, and chuckled to myself. I half-expected collectible Legos to be mentioned in the next problem. I moved to the last of his unique word problems, and I could not contain my laughter:


“Ben had 14 henchmen. Four of them ran away. How many henchmen does he have now?”


  • I laughed until my muscles ached! I could see it all now- Ben the Great Menace surrounded by his Horde of Horrible Henchmen. I must admit that I was even a little proud. How many 3rd graders know what henchmen are? And how many could spell it? I cannot even imagine what his teacher’s thoughts were, but if she has sons, I am sure she understands. If she does not, I am quite certain that at the very least, I have her sympathy…

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One of my favorite pastimes in the summer is picking blackberries. This is only surpassed by my love for making and eating blackberry pies. Yes, homemade blackberry pies… I make the crust from scratch, roll out the dough, keeping it thicker than the store-bought shells, and fill it with a mixture of sugar and sweet, tart, wild blackberries straight from the briar patch. There’s nothing that compares to a handmade blackberry pie in the middle of summer, unless it is a well-stocked freezer full of berries in winter which yields such amazing desserts and cobblers as to astonish and amaze our frozen taste buds.

Even my children enjoy hunting berries in anticipation of those sweet pastry rewards. I remember one day in particular when our clan went on a search through the far-reaching hills around our home in hopes of finding hidden patches of these wonderful, thimble-sized fruits. My oldest daughter cares nothing for the seedy things. My youngest daughter is a great blackberry eater. However, neither of them is enthusiastic about harvesting. On the other hand, my son, Benjamin, is always ready to hunt berries. He is the first one to suggest a hunt, and the last one to gain a bucketful as he eats them hand- over- hand right off of the thorny brambles. He is also the first one to point out that we should take care, for we might meet with a bear, or a snake, or worst yet, a tornado. (At his tender age of eight, he is excessively interested in dangerous hypothetical situations and natural disasters.) But so far, he is relieved that during our berry excursions, we have only met with a few cows and some yellow-jackets who love the berries as much as we do.

But as I was saying, on this day in particular I remember that we walked through many neighboring fields and forests. We first went to the best patch in the area. This berry patch is legendary. Its circumference and size would put one in mind of a grand oval swimming pool, and its berries are large and heavy with juice. To be frank, most of the other patches pale by comparison. It yields several gallons each summer, and so this became known to us as The Big Patch. My children and I wound around the sticky bushes to get the fruits easiest to reach, but soon it was time to delve deep into the heart of the thorns and weeds to get to the ones most difficult to glean. Briars and small splinters yanked at our clothing and tore at our flesh, but it made no difference. We were hard-core berry pickers, resigned to the work at hand in order to receive our delicious reward. We were poked, our fingers stained purple, our arms and legs bleeding, but the large, shiny berries were in sight, so we paid no mind to the pain. It was all worth the toil and effort. After a half- hour, we had filled our large plastic pitcher with at least 3 quarts of ripe berries, minus the ones surreptitiously popped into small, purple mouths.

We left The Big Patch in search of other bushes, but we had difficulties finding the quality of berry that we were used to picking. We found some bushes which were empty and unproductive, filled with tormenting thorns and barbs. Some were plain briar patches with nothing at all to offer. When we did find a productive patch, most of the bushes were small in comparison to The Big Patch, and the berries were tiny as well. A person would need to pick at least 6 of the tiny berries to equal one berry from The Big Patch. But I decided not to complain. I mean, the truly pleasurable thing about working in a blackberry patch is that it is a “freebie!” We have not tilled, or fertilized, or watered. In fact, wild berries blossom for everyone- for people, or for cows, or for yellow-jackets, or for whomever. So, despite the size of the berries, we continued picking, simply grateful for the small harvest nature gave us. Blackberry bushes can crop up on any patch of earth that is not trimmed regularly. For example, Terry’s meadow was never mowed.

Yes, our next stop was Aunt Terry’s house, our neighbor and my sister-in-law. Terry was out of town for a while during summer, and so she had given us permission to harvest the berries from the field behind her house. She had always been an avid picker like the rest of us, and her small, square cobblers were deliciously present at family gatherings. She had mentioned that her blackberry bushes were numerous and fortuitously close to her house. Thus began my blackberry envy. I had always wished for blackberries near my house, growing wild, copiously fruitful. Yes, I was jealous! But this summer, I was finally able to take advantage of her blackberry meadow. Maybe I would not have to search so diligently through the woods this season!

When I finally came around to visit her home, I was ready for a full afternoon’s work. I had my work gloves, a plastic bucket, and I was smothered in bug repellent. My son was at my side, ready to eat his weight in luscious fruit. As we rounded the corner of the house and surveyed the back lot, I realized that yes, there were many wild berry bushes near her house; but as I began picking, I saw that these berries were also the tiny-sized dwarfs that were time consuming to pick, leaving little to show for the work at the end of the day. Sure, these berries were better than none at all, but it took half an hour to get a teacupful when The Big Patch could yield a quart in 15 minutes. My blackberry envy was completely unfounded! I could picture poor Terry holding a handful of berries with briar-scratched knuckles. Her work must have been painful and slow for each small cobbler she baked. I felt quite ashamed as I continued plucking the miniscule morsels of fruit and plunking them into the very hollow and needlessly large bucket.

Meanwhile, Benjamin gave up on the job quickly this time, yielding to the call of a forgotten trampoline in the backyard. As I made my way around the meadow, treading in tall grass and watching for snakes, I began to look at some berry bushes from afar, gauging whether or not it would be worth the wade to get the few tiny fruits that were ripe. Discouraged and itchy, I decided my son didn’t have such a bad idea. I threw down my bucket and gloves and joined him on the trampoline. We jumped and laughed until dusk, then walked home hand in hand, smiling, although we had not filled our bucket that evening.

Upon arriving home, it was nearly nightfall. We stood and rested our dirty, briar-bitten legs in the graveled driveway- watching as the bats took over the evening sky with their loop-de-loops and fast dives. I tilted my head upward for a better view of the “acro-bat-ics” and put a hand on a nearby stump to steady myself. Ouch! Something prickly grazed my arm. As I backed away from the stump, a thorny branch pulled at my skin. In the near-darkness, I squinted at some swaying red and purple objects dangling from the branch like tiny Christmas tree ornaments. Well, what do you know! I had a wild blackberry bush of my very own, right beside the driveway of my home! How about that! After all of those afternoons searching through the woods, there were berries right next to my front porch. I chuckled and showed my ironic discovery to Benjamin, who was still enthralled with the bat show. He examined the berries in the twilight, then popped one in his mouth. He announced that they were large and juicy berries like the ones from The Big Patch, not the tiny dwarf variety that was so difficult to harvest. What good fortune! It was a small bush, but maybe with time and patience, it would grow into a larger patch someday!

And so, through my berry patch adventures, I have not returned unscathed, nor have I returned empty-handed. I have resurfaced with more than battle scars, scratches, and blackberries. I have gained much more than poison ivy.  I have also gathered some bits of wisdom:

  1. Be thankful for gifts. – A wild blackberry is an undeserved gift in a world full of savage barbs. Never complain about the size of your gift.
  2. Do not envy your neighbor’s blackberry patch. – It does neither of you any good, and you may find that your envy is for nothing more than a few tiny berries and horribly scratched knuckles.
  3. Decide if the bush is worth the wade. – When it comes to blackberry picking, wading through some weeds is a requirement. Make your goals worthwhile.
  4. Know that every prize comes with a cost. – In order to enjoy those delicious blackberry pies, the berries must be picked. We must be willing to endure the thorns and the pains of the harvest.
  5. Take breaks when you are discouraged. – When the berries are tiny and the work is tedious, there is no crime in stopping to enjoy a giggle and a jump on a nearby trampoline.

And finally…

   6.  Look for happy little patches near home. – Sometimes we trek through woods and wilderness only to find that ironically, a blossoming berry bush is growing in our own front yard.

It is yet another hot July day here in Blackberry Land. I am sure we have at least two more weeks of fruitful production. So, if anyone needs me, I’ll be in The Big Patch. Or I might possibly sit on the porch and admire my newly-discovered and easily accessible berry bush. Or better yet, maybe I’ll spend the afternoon in the kitchen making a pie…

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I was gardening, mowing, just basically giving the yard a good cleaning today. There is a place near our little grey shed that I had hoped to turn into a flower or vegetable garden last year. That summer, I did succeed in planting beans, cucumbers, and some corn, but I received nothing for my labors, because the deer came grazing along, leaving very little left in the way of vegetables. I had a few cucumber plants remaining, so I thought I would try to scare away the greedy deer by strategically placing two of my son’s plastic snakes near the plants on a lumber post I was using for a border. Unfortunately, the deer were much too smart for my feeble fake snakes. No cucumbers.

Remember, that was all last year, and I had nearly forgotten the strategically placed plastic snakes that were still near the wooden border of my forgotten flowerbed. Today, I brought out the push-mower to rid the yard of the weeds that had grown around the shed due to my neglect. There was no time for a flowerbed or a garden this year, so I thought I’d start over. I mowed for a bit, then stopped and pulled the first lumber post out of the way. I nearly jumped out of my skin, but then quickly recovered, realizing that the black and red “snake” I spied under the wood was only made of plastic. Chuckling, I pulled the post further out of my overgrown “weedbed.” I saw the second fake snake near the first one. I was still smiling to myself, then did a double-take.

As I recalled, the second of the plastic snakes was painted green and white. The one in front of me now was beige and brown with very detailed spots and rings- a little too detailed! Lo and behold, it was a real snake sleepily knotted-up beside my silly plastic imposter. I froze, caught my breath, backed up, and yelled to my husband while keeping one eye on the suspiciously scaled creature. I yelled again- this time more urgently- to Barney who was on the front porch with our preschooler. He squinted back at me in confusion, shielding his eyes from the afternoon sun, not understanding my dilemma.

“There’s a snake over here, and I think it’s a poisonous one!” By this time, I feared my screams may have scared the evil thing away. (The only thing worse than finding a snake is finding one and then losing it again.) But no, it stayed put, without even moving a millimeter. Barney walked over, took a good long look, and said, “I’m not sure what kind it is.” For those of you who do not know my husband well, he is a snake lover. Ground snakes, garter snakes, black snakes, milk snakes, even boa constrictors, he loves them all. He thinks they are fascinating. To prove my point, (on a side note) we once kept a ground snake for a while- one he found near his parents’ house when we were dating. We named it Louis Pasteur, which was soon changed to Louise when it had babies a few days later. Yes, Barney is a snake’s best friend, and he was still standing, staring, and pondering when I broke the silence.

“It looks poisonous to me, we need to kill it!” I was ready, standing behind him with the sharp end of a shovel poised for action and a crazy look in my eyes.

“I think it might be a copperhead, but I’ve never seen one. I’ll call Dad.”

“What? We need to kill it now before it gets away! I won’t have it near my children.”

“Just wait for Dad to look at it before we kill it. I’d hate to kill a good snake that would keep mice out of the building.” He walked to the house to get the phone, muttering something about “karma” and “killing things” under his breath.

So, here I am, still poised, still staring at this statuesque little serpent, and I just knew he was a baddie. Hang karma! I was ready for combat, feeling like a momma bear protecting her cubs.

“If it starts to run, I’m killing it!” I yelled over my shoulder to my husband with something like focused insanity in my tone. He quickly returned to my side with the phone in one ear. After a brief few words, the conversation with his dad was over. We both just stood there, waiting for “Farmer Bud” to show up and save us.

Two or three minutes passed. The kids had been instructed to stay inside. It was just us and him, a stare-down between the cowards and the copperhead.

“Let’s kill it!” I growled.

“Well, it does have a “copper” head,” Barney continued quietly. “Yep, I think he’s a bad one.”

“Then kill it! Kill it!” I was handing him a hoe, but he just took it disinterestedly and waited.

Bud drove up within another minute. He walked solemnly toward us, crossed the yard in old sneakers, threadbare work pants, and a tattered plaid shirt. He had obviously been outside working today as well, looking like a hobo out of the Depression Era. When he reached our show-down position, he looked into the tall wheat grass but saw nothing at first.

“Where is it? I don’t see it.” He shoved his heavy spectacles back onto his nose. At seventy-eight, his hearing was patchy, but I had never doubted his eyes until that moment. Barney had to point several times. Bud squinted and turned his head for a better view through the brown grass. At last, he saw the villainous viper, but Barney had to point his finger right above the reptilian intruder. He then pronounced the verdict.

“Yep, that’s a copperhead.” He reached for the blunt hoe and took a good whack at it. He caught it several inches behind the head, and the little brown snake turned on the hoe with a wide and sinister mouth. Its deadly white fangs were bared now, biting at the metal with all its strength!

Whap! I dug in with my shovel behind the hoe and I held it tight to the ground, trying to sever its flailing body in half or hold it tight from fleeing.

“Have you got it?” Bud asked me, and I gritted my teeth while nodding affirmatively. With that, he lifted his instrument and took another whack at its head. It writhed and rolled in nauseating waves of skin and scales. Barney took over with the shovel (he must have noticed my death grip on the handle.) I stood by, while they chopped at the snake’s two-foot body. In another few seconds the job was done. Barney threw the carcass over the hill and Bud handed the hoe back to me as easy as you please, nonchalantly walking back to his car like it was all in a day’s work to him.

“If I hadn’t gone into the house for a coffee break, you wouldn’t have gotten me at all,” were his last words to us as he left the driveway. We looked at each other and mused. Was that a “grow up” retort, or a very brief “quit-being-such-pansies” lecture? Or was it “the only good snake is a dead snake,” philosophy being preached to us (a philosophy with which I tended to agree.)

We could not tell. We distracted ourselves from our cowardice by laughing at Fritz, the dachshund, who found the dead snake after its demise and proceeded to bark and jump at it as if it were still alive. I walked down the hill to take a snapshot of that grotesque little serpent and to make sure it was indeed deceased, since Fritz did not show signs of giving up on his quarry…

Yes, it was still dead, I sighed. As I neared to take a photograph, Fritz seized the lifeless serpent in his jaws and viciously shook it in the air from side to side as if he were trying to snap its neck. All he succeeded in doing was to fling the horrible thing back toward me. I recoiled and felt a slight misting of snake guts across my legs. I made a face and moved away from Fritz with several choruses of “good boy,” to bolster my little dog’s self-esteem. (How could I not? He did think he was saving my life!)

As the adrenaline slowed, Barney and I went back to removing the wooden border from my weed bed. This time, we took turns. One of us mowed while the other held a hoe nearby. We did a very thorough and careful job. We were brave as Farmer Bud. You know, we even found the other long-lost fake snake in the grass with a very minimal amount of panic! I felt a little braver, until I bent down to retrieve the second imposter snake and realized that my hand must have come within six inches of the real serpent’s fang-filled mouth. (Fainting now.) I hope this copperhead was a lonely guy, just hanging out with his new-found plastic buddies when I happened to come across him, because I do not even want to think about meeting any of his real friends!


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Shoe Personalities

Shoes are my passion. One day, I arrived at the conclusion that I needed a 12- step program to curb my shoe addiction, but then after taking just two of those steps, I looked down at my feet and decided I needed new sandals.

I do not yet rival Imelda Marcos, but by the time I am her age, I could surpass her fetish for footwear. I do not count my shoes. That would require math skills beyond those of mortal man, but I can estimate that at any given time, I own anywhere from 60 to 90 pairs of shoes. Why, you ask, would a down-to-earth American girl like me carry such a sordid secret? Why, you may ponder, would I continue my clandestine life as a closet-shoe-addict?

The answer is really quite complicated. No matter how sure-footed my logic tends to be, I cannot put my foot…uh…finger on the reason for my vice. Is it because I was so poor as a child that I had to run around with bare feet? Nope. Is it because I lacked a satisfying relationship with my mother, father, or shoe salesman? Not really. Why, then, must I own every color produced by my favorite name brand flip- flop maker? Why do I insist on buying yet another pair of lace-up espadrilles simply because they are slightly different than the last ones I purchased two months ago? And finally, why am I physically unable to bypass a shoe store without having a panic attack?

It is a mystery. From time immemorial, women across the ages have longed for pretty things. With some women, it’s purses, with others, it’s jackets or scarves, and for many, it’s SHOES, glorious SHOES. Why is it so often SHOES that attract us, ladies? Here is a brief and unfinished list explaining why I love shoes.

Shoes are: cute, compact, colorful, decorative, and cost way less than diamonds (but I’d still take diamonds if anyone’s asking.) Shoes are: protective, portable, polished, practical, and show a sense of style in a unique and subtle way. Shoes are: reusable, recyclable, and give-away-able when you get tired of them, or when your husband makes you throw a pair out for each new pair you bring in…But that’s not really too alarming. One can always surreptitiously skirt that issue by keeping your narrow-boxed treasures in the trunk of the car until he is nowhere in sight! (Of course, I personally have never done that.)

Why are shoes so important? The right pair of high-heeled shoes can dress up a ratty old pair of jeans, or some upscale sneakers can bring a casual air to an otherwise stuffy and over-dressed ensemble. Shoes tell so much about a person. My grandmother always said that you could look at a person’s shoes and tell right away whether or not the wearer was well off, or struggling financially. Old and scuffed shoes show either lack of money or lack of refinement. Those rules don’t seem to apply as much anymore, especially with my teenage daughter, who likes her Chuck Taylors with a bit of dirt and grime on them so as not to look too clean and preppy.

So, what can we really know about a person based on the shoes they wear? Here is my personality predictor based on shoe selection:

Habitual Sandal Wearer– calm and laid-back person, prefers open spaces to indoor enclosures, usually an optimist, extremely loyal, loves the beach, a giving friend or lover, sometimes prone to laziness, overall type B personality. If you know someone who prefers flip flops to closed shoes even in subzero temperatures (yes, I know a few,) this prediction should be very reliable.

Only Name Brand- If this describes someone you know, be aware that these people are not only high maintenance, but also choosy and particular about most things in life. – undeniably attracted to money and status, slightly pessimistic with a tendency to be difficult to please, loves shopping the big sales, hates surprises and pina coladas in the rain, enjoys predictability rather than spontaneity (after all, things might not turn out exactly as they should.)

Shoeless Wonders- brave and bold, unconcerned about what other people think or about keeping up with the Joneses, usually generous, but tendencies toward risky behaviors and often categorized as “out there” or “bats” (barefooting it in our world today has huge consequences, stepping on thorns, glass, or fish hooks for heaven’s sake! Yes, I said fish hooks (shudder); Beware!! Would you put your trust in someone who has sworn off shoes for a lifetime? If your answer is yes, be prepared for crazy, zany, and bizarre situations in your future.

Loafers Rule- Definitely Type A personality, movers and shakers, fast-paced and independent, but reliant on tradition; responsible, but often inflexible and controlling; technology savvy, they enjoy planning and scheduling the next two years of their lives using a Blackberry; can often be seen watching NASDAQ reports in their spare time. -A fearless friend, and a rock-solid kind of person in relationships, although not overly romantic.

Sneaker Freak- likes comfort, not one who cares to impress others, possibly athletic, but may also be a big Doctor Who fan; dynamic and moving personality, charismatic, tends to be a fast talker, always seems to get out of any jam unscathed, which makes the loafer people really jealous.

Boot Monger- whether army or go-go, these people tend to have a sense of self-importance, fun-loving at times, but full of pent-up energy which could be good or bad, depending on the moment. Great friend during difficult times, the boot monger will go the distance for a good cause.

Shoe Junkie- unabashedly dedicates one walk-in closet to the love of footwear; usually optimistic, spontaneous, and unique; mostly very happy, but tendencies toward a mindset to “have cake and eat it, too.” Understanding and loyal, yet slightly self-centered, reliable and soulful.

Velcro Addict- fairly geeky and unique personality, failure-to-launch kind of person, often enjoys stating that Velcro was invented for astronauts at NASA, possibly never learned how to tie shoes properly, overly reliant on others, codependent tendencies, cannot balance a checkbook without complete silence and a scientific calculator handy.

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