I’m sure I’ll find this funny eventually.

If you’ve been following here you know we had an upstairs sink overflow which flooded through my office ceiling and then our washing machine broke the same day and flooded the laundry room and kitchen and I’ve been living with severe anxiety disorder in a house of workmen and plastic tarps and industrial blowers, but today all the plastic was removed (except for the bit that covered the hole they had to cut in my ceiling and the world seemed almost normal for a moment – until the insurance adjuster and contractor showed up to talk about construction and ripping up the warped floors -which they probably can’t match because they’re 40 years old- and I may have felt a bit sorry for myself because having strangers in my house is like living in a bucket of razors but I told myself that this was very little for normal people and I soldiered on and felt very proud of myself for not hiding in a closet.  And then they left and 10 minutes later I heard this terrible tapping noise and I realized THAT WATER WAS POURING INTO MY OFFICE AGAIN.  So I screamed for Victor who did not hear me because he’s on a conference call and is used to blocking me out as I found that someone (either the contractor, the adjustor or the cat they accidentally let in) had turned the same flooded sink on AGAIN and it was pouring all over the bathroom.

So now I’m legit crying and the water mitigation people have to come back in today and start over and Victor and I have decided that we’re going to rip out the offending sinks altogether and replace them with ones that have an overflow (WHO MAKES SINKS WITHOUT OVERFLOW HOLES?) but the ones that came with the house are fancy ass custom-made ones so basically I’m going to destroy the most beautiful sinks I’ve ever seen and pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket to do it (not including the thousands of dollars for my deductible for the floor damage) and I’m feeling very sorry for myself and also very bad about feeling sorry for myself since this is such a small problem compared to…I don’t know…the plague, I guess.

The good thing is that several people told me that flooding always happens in threes so we’re done now.  Right?

Please say I’m right.

Also, please don’t let me get the plague.

Please tell me it’s going to be okay.  I know it is.  I just need to hear it.

PS. As this was happening I was literally publishing these shirts in my shop.  Not sure if this is irony or just punishment.

PPS.  I made Victor get up on a ladder and pull down the tarp on my ceiling so that the water could escape but he didn’t want to because he was afraid we’d do more damage but I insisted and I was like, WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG? and then when he untaped it a torrent of water hit him right in the face and soaked his business suit and I’m going to just go hide in the closet now.

 

BORKEN

This is going to be even more confusing than normal.  It’s been a week, y’all.

You know how at the beginning of every year half the people you know pick a word for the year?  Like PASSION, or THRIVE or CREATE and the word I always pick is NO-THANK-YOU because I already fail enough without adding random dictionary words to also disappoint thankyouverymuch but this year a word seems to have chosen me.

Remember a few days ago when water was pouring through my office ceiling and then the water mitigation people came and cut holes in the floors and ceilings and put plastic ET tents all over the house and ran industrial dehumidifiers and blowers for days to get rid of the damage and it looked like if Dexter (the serial killer) had an art installation and I handled it about as well as you might expect:

By day three of water damage pergatory things started to get weird and I just hid in the guest bedroom and texted everyone rather than leave the room and see the destruction.

So basically the water damage fucked up my office AND Victor’s conference calls.  He says it was less the water damage and more me being me but water damage multiplies everything by three so I’m pretty sure I’m not to blame because EVERYTHING IS ALL BORKED UP.  And Victor thought I was overreacting and that “borked” isn’t a real word but it totally is.  It’s when something is so ludicrously broke you can’t even spell the word right and it’s exactly what my office looks like right now.

So you know how people always say that the way you bring in the new year is indicative of how you spend the rest of your year?  Well, we went to pick up sushi for New Years and when Victor opened the restaurant door the entire thing ripped off of its hinges like Victor was some sort of very confused Hulk.  And then we had to apologetically hand the door to the restaurant manager and I was like, “YEP.  THIS IS OUR YEAR.  IT’S ALL BORKED UP.  WE’RE BORKED, VICTOR.”  And probably we are, but then I started laughing about it because it’s so ridiculous and I realized that bringing in the new year laughing at things falling apart is sort of how my whole life has gone so at this point I should just embrace it.

And then the manager leaned the door back into the door hole and he taped this sign to the door and I had to take a picture of it as we left because…I mean:

And that’s when I realized that my word for the year had chosen me.

My life is a little borked right now.  I am more than slightly borken.  I’m all borked up.  But that’s fine.

All the best people are.

UPDATED.  As requested, now available in my shop:


Or the more abrupt alternative.

FORGIVE ME, WHOEVER I ANGERED.

So yesterday I insisted that I could hear rain but no one else did and turns out the upstairs sink was overflowing and there was water pouring out of the ceiling of my office BUT AT LEAST I WAS RIGHT HAHAHA ::quiet sobbing::

The bathroom cabinets are fairly destroyed but it could be worse, and turns out it is worse because a few hours later when we were washing all the towels we’d used to soak up the water there were suddenly gallons of sudsy water pouring down the stairs of the laundry room BECAUSE OF COURSE THERE WAS.

And all of the towels were already in the washer so we had to use beach towels and paper towels to stop the deluge and I can’t use the washer to clean any of the towels for fear of it happening again and I yelled, “WHAT TERRIBLE WATER SPRITE HAVE I OFFENDED AND HOW CAN I MAKE IT STOP?” and twitter said that I was going to need a young priest and an old priest and some holy water and I was like “NO MORE WATER, Y’ALL.

But twitter said I maybe needed to have my pipes snaked(?) which sounds very porny –

– but Victor said I was reading too much into it and he called Roto-Rooter but when the guy got here this morning he was like, “Your pipes are totally clean.  Clearly you have some sort of water demon infestation.”  He didn’t say the last part out loud but you could feel it.  He said he’d have another guy come today to make sure we didn’t have water behind the walls from the leaks and that guy just arrived a few minutes ago and Victor was on a conference call so I showed the guy around but he didn’t know anything about testing for water behind the walls and was just doing the same thing the first guy did so I went downstairs to get Victor and he was like, “”Why would Roto-Rooter be here again?  They just left.  WHO THE HELL DID YOU LET IN THE HOUSE?”

And that’s when I realized that the Roto-Rooter guy was probably the evil water phantom and I’d just invited him in the house so now we were totally fucked.  Victor said I was confusing vampires and phantoms and I was certain we’d go upstairs and he’d just be a demon shaped puddled of toilet water that would drown me.

But he was still there and human and seemed to doubt we’d had someone there already that day because according to dispatch no one else had been there but him and he said that the roto-rooter man we’d met had been dead for 20 years.  He didn’t actually say that last part but again, it was implied.

But then he called dispatch again and turns out the girl in charge was new and had no idea what she was doing so it was probably just a mistake.  Or possibly that’s just a trick water demons use to lull you into a false sense of security.  I don’t know.  Frankly I’m much more versed in vampires.

But on the bright side we realized that the washing machine was incredibly old and probably just busted so I just bought a new one for my birthday tomorrow but it won’t be delivered until next week so it’ll be a late birthday present.  So basically I can’t do laundry until next year because of demons.  Which is not a terrible birthday present all things considered.

PS. I just realized that they’re going to bring the new washer and take away the broken one on New Years Day and isn’t that bad luck?  Something about not removing anything from your house on New Years Day?  Is there an exemption if you’re removing broken things that might be haunted by demons?

PPS.  My laundry room isn’t upstairs.  Our house is built on a steep hill so there are two stories but there are 5 sets of stairs because every room on the ground floor is about 3 feet shorter than the one before it.  It’s like MC Escher built a house and then filled it with water demons and cats.

PPPS.  There is a Kristen Bell gif for everything.  That woman is a national treasure.

PPPPS. The water mitigation people just came and they’re going to have to tear out a bunch of the upstairs bathroom and my office and our insurance deductible is almost as much as I paid for college.

Going to just cry for awhile now.  Fucking water demons.

I don’t know whether to be flattered or insulted.

My cat (Rolly) does this thing where she finds socks and washcloths and carries them around in her mouth like they’re baby kittens and yowls these loud muffled meows until she finds me and then she drops them at my feet and immediately walks away and at first I thought that she was trying to help me because maybe she thinks I’m an ineffective cat who obviously can’t fend for myself, but I just noticed that the socks left at my desk today are all pulled out of the dirty laundry and now I’m pretty sure that she’s just bringing me reminders that I am a terrible housekeeper.

Judging you. Harshly.

PS. A few of you were not aware that I have three cats as Rolly always gets left out since she’s crotchety and hides in cabinets most of the time (much like me).  She was born grumpy but we love her.  She will not let anyone hold her but she will occasionally perch on your head while you brush your teeth, but only if really, really don’t want her to.

Me and Rolly almost eight years ago today:

The thing I never got for Xmas

I was just thinking that I bet everybody has that one thing you REALLY wanted but never got and your neighbor had one but they were bored with it so you didn’t get to play with it as much as you wanted and even now you sort of still want one?

I’ll go first.  Sit and Spin.

You sit on it and twist the handle and spin until you throw up. It was magical.

I was trying to tell Hailey about it and she thought it sounded like something you’d yell at someone you don’t like and she has a point.  I looked up “adult sit and spin” and got some very questionable results so maybe she’s right.

Your turn.  What’s the one thing you never got but always wished you did?

PS. I found that picture on this pintrest page and now I’m nostalgic for all 80’s toys.

PPS. Unrelated but thought I’d mention because I keep seeing people tweet about it.  Right now there’s a big sale on Furiously Happy and the kindle version is less than $3. Same for the nook version  and iBooks.

 

Tell me something good.

If you’ve been here long enough you can tell that I’ve been wavering in and out of a depressive period for awhile now.  I know it will pass.  I know it lies.  I know to hold on.  It stops up my head though and nothing clever can come out.

In an hour or a day or a week the light will come out and I’ll bang out a chapter and cry with relief but for the moment I’m in that place where writing would make it better if I was healthy enough to write but since I’m not I feel worse…like my head is constipated.

I promise to be funny again soon.  Until then, thank you for sticking with me.

Sharing this video because Victor sent it to me and it was so completely on point that I’m fairly certain someone is in my house watching me.

Also, three months ago I was literally wearing a cardboard box on my head in front of my neighbor.  Full circle.

Want to help?  YOU CAN’T.

Sorry.  That was the depression talking.  You actually can.  Tell me something good that’s going on in your life right now.  Even if it’s little.

I’ll start.  I saw The Last Jedi yesterday and managed to avoid all spoilers.  Still haunted with the question of why Chewbacca is always naked and what his junk looks like.  Also, how does he wipe?  Because when Dorothy Barker just gets a little bit too hairy in her downstairs department I’m constantly having to cut dried dingleberries off of her butthole.  Seems like Chewy would have serious problems with his dumper.  I may have thought about this too much.

I had a lot of anxiety talking about anxiety on a podcast about anxiety.

This is not a real post.  It’s just a quick update on three things:

1. This week I’m on The Hilarious World of Depression, which is one of my favorite podcasts ever.  I sound completely insane, but I suppose that’s to be expected.

2. As requested, the 2018 Bloggess Calendar is here if you want one.

3. I’ve gotten a ton of emails from people asking if I would personalize a book for a Christmas/Hanukkah gift so tomorrow morning I’m going to BookPeople to sign and personalize books if you want one.  Just click here and follow the directions.  They ship all over the world.  Also, they have a very limited supply of my signed Lost and Found posters that they’ll ship as well.  (I don’t know why it says “hardback” in the description for the poster.  It’s on heavy archival paper.)  I’ll sign a bunch of books so you can order signed copies whenever you want but if you want it personalized to you or to a loved one or you want me to write something special please make sure you submit that before tomorrow morning.  If they get it later you’ll still get the book but probably not until next month.

PS. I’m not actually going to be at the store.  I know sometimes people go to see me when I am but Victor’s out of town and I can’t drive in Austin traffic so a wonderful friend is bringing a carload of books and order forms to a coffee shop that we terrorize once a month.

PPS.  Yes, I totally will write “Knock Knock, Motherfucker” or draw a cat’s face in your book if you ask.

PPPS. As a Xmas/Hanukkah/Flying Spaghetti Monster thank you I’m going to give away a few copies of my books randomly in the comments.  Just tell me if you want Furiously Happy, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened or You Are Here: An Owner’s Manual for Dangerous Minds and leave an email where I can contact you.

PPPPS.  Happy Hanukkah!

UPDATED: I realized that I don’t have enough time to get your addresses before tomorrow morning so instead I randomly emailed a bunch of you gift cards to buy books.  Whoop!  Check your email.  Thank God for gift cards.

Strange letters from my father

I never do paid posts but I’m doing this one for two reasons.  1) Because I was already going to write about this.  Stick with it and you’ll see why in a second, and 2) because the 8th Annual Jame Garfield Miracle is going on and I needed more money to help kids in need and this was a super easy way to do it.  So if you’re reading this, you are helping needy children.  EVERYONE WINS.

So, StoryWorth advertised on my blog this year and I loved it so much I paid full price to buy one for my dad.  Here’s how it works:  StoryWorth emails your family member weekly story prompts in the form of questions.  They reply to the emails and you get to read their amazing family stories that you never knew existed.  Then at the end of the year StoryWorth binds the years worth of stories into a keepsake book.  My dad has been doing it for about six months and the emails I get with his answers are so insane and lovely that I often have to call and ask, “Is that true?”  Stories about my grandparents and great grandparents that I may never have known are now being shared with family.  It is awesome and I highly recommend it because it’s a gift for you and for them.  It’s normally $79 but right now (until 1/31/18) it’s only $59 through this link. 

The stories my father shares are really too good to keep to myself so I’m sharing a few snippets of my favorites here.  You may think they’re strange and terrible but I love and treasure them.  I suppose that’s how family stories work though.  (BTW, Nelda is my mom.  She types the answers as my dad dictates.)

Have you pulled any great pranks?

I was prying something loose one day, and I broke off half the blade of my skinning knife. Stupid! Now the six-inch blade was only three inches long. It was now perfect for prying things loose, but it was also perfect for a practical joke.

We have an electric knife sharpener at the taxidermy shop, and I don’t allow anyone to use it except me. If you’re not paying 100% attention to what you are doing, the high-speed sharpening wheel can throw the blade back at you. Bad news.

I went to my own working area where I hide from the other workers and went to work on my joke. I super glued the tip of my broken knife blade to the inside of my inner right arm. Next I built up the wound area with 2-part epoxy. It’s a product we use in the taxidermy shop like modeling clay to make artificial skin on a mount. I smoothed out the epoxy, texturized it to make it look like my own skin and modeled it to look like that knife is really embedded deep in my arm. I used an airbrush to paint the epoxy area to match my skin. Next I feathered in some white, purple,and red paint to make a realistic cut. Finally I mixed up some blood- red and black paint. I added a little glycerin to give the fake blood a wet glossy look. I poured the blood where it needed to be, and splashed the rest on an old rag that I used to cover the gag.

I staggered into the shop and sat down, not saying a word.

Don was the first to notice the blood. “Holy Crap! What did you do?” Helen came out the office, and I removed the blood-soaked rag to show my work of art. Everyone gathered around me to either gawk or help. Helen hollered out, “Don’t put it out. He’s on blood thinners! He”ll bleed to death!”

No sooner did she say that, Jonathon grabbed the knife and pulled it out. I quickly covered the wound with the bloody rag. I figured the joke was over till Jonathon looked at the knife and screamed, “It broke off in his arm!”

I didn’t get any compliments for my realistic art work. I cleaned up my mess and came back in the shop. I sat down next to Jonathon and asked him if it looked real. He said. “Yeah, I thought it was real……..What are blood thinners?”

What have you changed your mind about over the years?

I use to think that dogs are a man’s best friend, but I’ve changed my mind. Dogs will always forgive you quickly if you ask them to, but they don’t do laundry, they don’t cook, they don’t scratch your back, and they don’t clean house. They are pretty good at doing dishes, as long as you smear left-over gravy over the whole plate.

I use to think that a loving wife would see the humor in that previous paragraph. Dogs will still always forgive you quickly if you ask them to.

I use to think this was funny.

 

If you could choose any talents to have, what would they be?

I asked Nelda what this question meant. Any talent? She suggested singing, or playing an instrument , or maybe x-ray vision. X-Ray vision might be cool only if it is selective. Some old fat guy crossing your path of vision could ruin your day. A cute young chick could also ruin my marriage. I’ll stick with my near- sighted astigmatism with floaters.

I already sing beautifully. I have that talent even though no one else thinks so. My ears are so good that in my head the notes sound pitch perfect. Self corrective hearing is what I call it.

I might like the talent to finish everyone’s sentences before they could say it. Unfortunately I hang around a lot of people that don’t make a lot of sense. I’m not going to take credit for a bunch of nonsense.

I would like the talent to communicate with animals. I would like to understand their thoughts. Someday I will.

What is one of your fondest childhood memories?

One of my fondest memories is going perch fishing with my mom. When I was about five years old, I got the fishing bug. I couldn’t get enough fishing. My dad had a farm out at Eola, about twenty miles from home. The whole family would pack up before daylight, and drive out to the farm to work. My dad would usually be on his John Deere tractor. My mom would be either building electric fence or picking rocks out of the field. My sisters would be together hoeing weeds. I, being the baby, stuck with my mom. We would work till noon, and then drive to our neighbor’s pasture to have a picnic lunch. A small dirt tank with green water surrounded by large mesquite trees was one of my favorite places to spread out our homemade quilts, and rest in the shade. We would eat bread, summer sausage, longhorn cheese, and drink Cragmont orange soda water. After lunch, I would get out my cane pole. I always saved some of my lunch to use for bait. Those perch would bite on anything, but bread was my favorite cuz it stayed on my hook the best,

My dad would usually sleep and rest while my mom would watch me fish. She was actually watching a five year old kid making sure I wasn’t gonna fall in the water. The fish would bite as fast as you put the hook in the water. They weren’t very big, but I kept anything that had eyes. I even kept a little turtle. When I caught a water snake, my fishing was over.

Have you ever won anything?

The last year that the famous Sam Lewis put on the World Champion Armadillo Races, I won. Actually, my armadillo won. All I did was get behind Army and stomp and holler and chase him across the finish line. I guess I came in second. I released the armadillo back in the woods, but I kept the silver ring. My daughter Jennifer has the ring (I think).

I probably wouldn’t have given her the ring if it was gold.

What inventions have had the biggest impact on your day-to-day life?

The cube is probably the greatest invention of my lifetime. Before the cube, there was really not much stability in my life. Spheres were the rage when I was growing up. How can one build anything on a sphere? No matter how you slice it, you end up with just a lot of wheels.There was hope for wheels in those days, although someone took the idea too far. The whole world revolved around wheels and anything that could be made with them.  Donuts were one of my favorites. It was like a wheel inside of a wheel. Clever. But look at a really fat donut from the side. It’s a cube. Give the cube the credit due. You eat a donut from the side, don’t you?

Cubes were the true building blocks of the future. The Egyptians knew this. They even made huge cubes all over their back yard. Then they sliced the cubes diagonally, tipped them over so they would rest on their most stable side, and “BAM”! They had yard art that would last for decades. People would ride by, see the yard art, and ask the age-old question, “Do you think that’s a cube cut in half on its axis, or is that cube half buried in the sand. If someone ever invents the wheel, we could build a big bulldozer and find out.”

Ice cubes. How would you like living in this planet without ice cubes. Sure, there’s people up north that don’t appreciate ice like we do, but what if they want to sit down for a while. Up north, chairs don’t grow on trees, but a big cube of ice would make a wonderful chair. You could probably build a house out of ice if you had enough of it laying around. An air-conditioned house. With an ice box.

I really don’t dislike spheres. After all, a sphere is just a well-rounded cube that likes to travel.

I changed my mind. My favorite invention that has changed my life is a 19 volt battery-operated screwdriver with an extra lithium battery. Made by Craftsman.

 

 

How has the country changed during your lifetime?

The country hasn’t changed at all. The cities are all screwed up. I lived in the country when I was a kid, and I live in the same country now. The trees I remember as a kid seemed to be a lot smaller back then. The country roads I use to walk down seem to be a lot shorter when I drive them.

Water skiing, tubing and fishing wasn’t good at all on our local lakes, but I got pretty good at skipping rocks. The trick was to find flat rocks about three inches across. If you could find rocks that were flat on the top and bottom, you were in business. With a little practice, you could get thirty or more skips out of one perfect rock. You could get even more skips if the lakebed wasn’t sandy. When you found that perfect rock, you didn’t squander it. You walked out in the lakebed and retrieved it. Once when I was retrieving one of my dad’s washers (sometimes I used artificials),I found a rowboat. It was a Sears/Roebuck 10 foot aluminum just like the ones in the catalogs. This boat was mine.There wasn’t a drop of water in my new boat, and I started dreaming about all the adventures I would have on Lake Nastywater. (We use to called it Lake Nasworthy, till the water level went down and old tires messed up our rock skipping). I named my boat S.S Minnow. Gilligan’s Island was my favorite after school tv show. I liked Gilligan the best, but Ginger and Mary Ann got a lot better over the years. My Dad enjoyed that show too. I knew he was really gonna get excited when I showed him The Minnow. We walked out on the lake and gazed down on our boat.

“Oh My Gosh! Look! ” Daddy saw my boat. He was excited. He peeled off his sweat stained farmers hat, smiled, sighed, and said something that I couldn”t believe. “There’s my old boat.”

“What! Your boat?”

“Sonny, I lost “The African Queen ” about forty years ago.” I was noodling for yeller cats down here when this was the Middle Concho. You know what noodling is……Catching them with your hands. It wasn’t against the law back in them days. Now, they would throw you in the pokie. I found this big rock right here and knew this was where the big one lived. Right under this rock. Your Uncle Sam, my older brother, was a better swimmer than me ,and he had more experience at catching big fish. Sam jumped in the water, took a deep breath, and went underwater. He came back up about 30 seconds later ,and told me the good news. “There’s a big hole under that rock, and there’s a catfish down in there. His head is as big as a five gallon bucket. As soon as I catch my breath, I’m going for him. My brother, Sam went under. He was down there a long time. He was down too long. I jumped in the water, and found the hole that Sam had entered. I reached in, and found Sam’s legs kicking up a storm. I grabbed his legs and started pulling him out of the hole. It was a struggle,but I pulled him out. We surfaced, and Sam was as white as a sheet. We looked around and couldn’t find “The African Queen”.

We sat up on the rock, Sam caught his breath finally, and told me what happened.”That monster fish was deep in the hole. I was rubbing his belly with both hands. My arms were extended, reaching for his gills. He kept swimming further in the hole. I didn’t realize that the hole was getting tighter, and I was running out of breath. My arms were out in front of me, and I couldn’t push my way out. I was stuck underwater. I was ready to give up when I felt you pulling me out. You saved my life!

We reached down to release our boat from the encrusted mud, and it proved to be a lot lighter than expected. There was no floor in the boat. It had rotted out years ago, but it still held some shared memories for my dad and me.

Uncle Sam and Daddy are both gone now. Maybe they’re floating down the Middle Concho in an old rowboat with a floor in it. Maybe they’re fishing for big yeller cats. They’re not noodling though because Sam promised God that he wouldn’t fish that way anymore.

Do you have any particularly vivid memories of your grandparents?

All of my grandparents were Czech. They didn’t speak English but they were successful farmers. They figured out early in life that to be wealthy, you had to have good discipline. They saved their hard-earned money that they made sharecropping. Then they bought land. They made do with growing their own fruits and vegetables. They raised chickens for eggs and meat. They had cows that they milked daily and butchered their own beef and hogs.They made their own clothes, churned butter, canned produce from the garden, made cheese , flour, cornmeal, and bread.  The only thing easy on the farm was falling to sleep at night.

Butchering hogs in those days was a big deal. There was too much work for one family to do all the work in one day. There would also be too much meat and sausage to cure, smoke, and package. The meat from a three hundred pound hog would go bad before one family could eat it.

When the first cold day would come around, all of the aunts, uncles, and third-generation heathens would meet at my grandparents house with all their butcher knives, tow sacks, hog scrapers, seasonings. We were having a butcher day. There was going to be a lot of work and a lot of fun for everyone except two fat hogs.

The women would build a big hot fire under a wash kettle full of water. The men would get the hogs up out of the mud, and wash them off. The hogs didn’t know what was going on with all this special treatment, but I bet they thought they were family and they were being invited for dinner. Smart pigs.

My uncles would build a sled,and then would position our dinner guest close to it. A shot would ring out and an unhappy but short squeal would alert the second dinner guest that now might be the time to cancel his reservation. The relaxing swine napping on the sled would be given a ride to the kettle area. Tow sacks (burlap bags) were pulled out of the boiling water and spread over a portion of the sleeping porker. The scalding loosens the hair on the pig and a dull butcher knife is used to scrape the hair (root and all) off of the pig.

The whole process is repeated on a new area of the pig until the whole hog is as balded as the top of my head. That pig is also pretty and pink like the top of my head.

Now it’s time to gut the clean “organ donor”. The liver, kidneys, and heart are saved. The small intestines are also saved. It was my job to clean out the green juice out of these long tubes. I liked attaching a garden hose to one end and let the water pressure do the work. My job was taken away from me because of the mess I made all over the porch. I think years later Whamo made a fortune with a toy called a Water Wiggle. I guess I was just ahead of my time on inventions, but my marketing skills had not yet been perfected. Sometimes, poop happens.

The rolls of fat from the hog is collected for later use. The ashes from the fire were shoveled into a tilted wooden trough. Water was poured over the ashes and drained into another container. This was lye. The fat is put in the kettle and rendered down to lard. Some of the lard was saved to cook with. It was poor man’s shortening. Then the belly meat and flanks were cut up (with the skin still attached), and the small pieces were fried in the lard. This was cracklins. You eat them hot with molasses and homemade bread. You now have a lot of lard in the kettle. Dump the lye in with some kind of perfume and boil the devil out of it. Let the whole mess cool down and you got soap. Cut the soap into bars with a butcher knife and let it get cold. It will last forever. I think it has such a long shelf-like cuz no-one wants to use it. It stinks, and it takes your hide off with the dirt. It will cure a young boy from cussin .

Cut up the pork chops,cure the bacon, cure the hams and hocks, and start turning the grinder. It’s “SAUSAGE TIME”.

Those casings that were rescued from me are refilled with seasoned ground pork and tied into links. Hang ’em in the smoke house.

It’s now pretty late, and everybody’s tired. We sample the sausage and clean up the huge mess. I clean the front porch.

I give Babuska (Grandmother) a hug goodbye. I smell like the front porch, but she returns the hug anyway. That was sixty years ago, but I can still smell the aroma of fresh baked poppy seed kolaches from her homemade apron.

I still smell like her front porch.

My dad with his sisters and his mother. Wall, Texas.

 

Strange new weather patterns

Last night it snowed.

That might not seem like much to you but snow is rare here.  Rare as diamonds and – in my opinion –  more beautiful.  The newsman said it’s the first real snowfall here in 30 years and I can believe it.  Everyone in Texas seemed outside last night, marveling at the soft white flakes that melted on the hot asphalt but managed to survive on the trees and grass and patio chairs.  There were family snowball fights at midnight between kids who’d never seen snow and parents who knew that sleep on a school night was well worth missing for such a rare event.

And in the morning the snow was still there.  Only an inch or so, and patchy, but beautiful.  And we all stared at our houses anew and in awe, as if decorator elves had come in the middle of the night to repaint everything we thought we knew.  We were trapped in driveways by tree limbs heavy with snow that suddenly sagged and blocked our way.  We were baffled when the car wipers wouldn’t push the snow off the windshields and we searched like terrible MacGyvers to find tools to brush it all off.  (I used a stuffed monkey puppet and a plunger.  My neighbor used a leaf-blower and yardstick.  We were as successful as you would imagine.)

Dorothy Barker whines at the door to be let out, but it’s a hesitant whine.  One in spite of herself.  It’s raining now and she hates the rain so she must really need to go.

We stand under an umbrella outside and she looks miserable but she pushes forward into the patches of snow that are still left.  She smells the place she always smells and for the first time I see the animal tracks.  Deer, I think.  Or foxen.  Small feet.  And suddenly I can see the world she smells, and how she puts together stories with her nose that are only revealed to me through snow.  She looks at me as if to say, See.  I told you.  I nod.  She wins.

I notice something so strange…the rain continues but the streets shine with bright sunlight.  I walk out into the street and close my umbrella.  There’s no rain there.  I can’t understand it at first and I look all around me until I’m certain of it.

The trees are raining.

The trees are raining and I don’t understand.  But then I do it.  The new snow in the leaves is melting so quickly it’s created a downpour.  I stand in the street with my dog and we watch the rain come down all around us while we feel the warming sun.  My neighbor says it’s like being under God’s protection.  I say it’s like being Storm from the X-Men.  Dorothy Barker says nothing because she’s a dog and anyway I suspect dogs are used to feeling like God-blessed superheroes.  

If I lived north this would probably seem normal.  If I lived north I would probably not have driven all over my neighborhood to see the places I don’t even really see anymore transformed by the snow.  If I lived north I would have probably thought the people stopping their cars in the middle of the road to take pictures of white-topped bushes were crazy.  We were all crazy, and we knew it could not last.

But I didn’t expect this.  This second weather phenomenon.  I didn’t expect the trees to become storm clouds.  I’ve been alive for more than 40 years and I’ve never seen this…I’ve never seen trees rain.

I whisper, It makes me wonder what else I haven’t seen yet.

You haven’t seen the foxen, Dorothy Barker seems to say (with a little more superiority than necessary if I’m being honest).

It’s true though.  It’s a nice reminder.  There are things I haven’t seen yet.

It’s time to get busy.

PS. The 8th Annual James Garfield Christmas Miracle is going on now.  If you want to help, go through the comments and find a child in need.  It’s the most wonderful feeling.  Like walking in tree rain.

The Eighth Annual James Garfield Miracle.

Hey.  You.

Are you struggling to buy a toy for your child this year holidays?  Are you wanting to help others?  Do you like ecstatic taxidermied heads in santa hats?  If any of these apply then you are in the right place, because today marks the eighth (EIGHTH!?) annual James Garfield Miracle.

The backstory: I bought a very jolly but kinda f-ed up boar head (named James Garfield)  and Victor thought I was crazy so I sold some homemade Xmas cards to make up the $90 I paid for him but I made so much I decided to give the money back to parents struggling to buy a toy for their kid.

James Garfield and I love you.

James Garfield and I love you.

It went quickly but as soon as I ran out of cash a ton of other people stepped up and asked if they could send toys to strangers and it grew into a weird but lovely tradition.

Each year I think will be the last year but each year people who were helped in the past ask if we’ll do it again so they can give back.  For those who like something easier you can give to Project Night Night, a brilliant organization that provides a book, stuffed animal and security blanket to kids living in shelters, and also to Heifer because it’s nice to be able to donate the ass end of a water buffalo on the behalf of relatives that you don’t really like.  As always, there are no sponsors, no rules and no one gets anything out of it except the happiness of helping total strangers.

TRUTH.

TRUTH.

So here’s how it works:  If you are struggling this year and you don’t know how you are going to buy a toy for your child (or children) then follow these instructions:

Make a wishlist on Amazon and leave a comment below (with the age of your child, a link to your wishlist and anything else you want to share).  There are a few rules that you must follow.

1.  You are not allowed to feel bad about asking for help, because all of us have struggled at some point, and people LOVE to help.  In fact, lots of people helping are ones who were helped in the past and want to pay it forward.

2. It has to be a brand new wishlist (I’ll show you how to make one below) and (to make it fair and make sure we can help as many kids as possible) you should choose under $40 in toys (per kid).  We usually stick with just toys but if your kid needs a coat or socks or something to keep them warm you can add that, but keep it to under $60 (per kid).

3. It’s REALLY important that you follow the instructions on how to set up a public wishlist (your address isn’t shown publicly to anyone) because tons of people miss a step and their list gets ignored and that sucks.

4.  Continue to be awesome.

Here are the rules for people who want to give:

1. Find a comment with a link and send a present.  If the wishlist is empty that means that the list has been filled.  YAY!  If you buy something but it doesn’t give you the option to send it to the person’s registry address that means that they messed up so delete that present from your cart and go to the next person.  You’ll know if it’s messed up because Amazon will try to send the present to your address at checkout.

2.  Continue to be awesome.

Here’s the basic FAQ because we’ve done it enough to know all the problems:

  • How do I post my wishlist so that my kid gets a present?

Follow these step-by-step instructions:

Log in to Amazon and under “Accounts & Lists” choose “Create a list”.

Select “wish list” and name your list.  Make it “Public.”  See how “keep purchased items on my list” is selected?  Don’t do that.  Uncheck it.

THIS IS THE IMPORTANT PART PEOPLE ALWAYS MESS UP:

On the list you just made click on “Edit this list” and this box will pop up.  See where it says “None” on shipping address?  You have to add a shipping address here so click “None” and select “Create new” and add your shipping address there.  (Double-check after you’ve saved it by clicking on “Edit this list” again.  The box will pop up and it should show your address instead of “None” if you’ve done it correctly.)

Please make sure “keep purchased items on your list” and “Don’t spoil my surprises” are NOT checked, otherwise things that have been bought will still show up and people could buy the same thing multiple times.

Now, go shopping.  Put up to $40 in books and toys (and up to $60 in coats/socks if needed) on your wishlist.  Instead of clicking “Add to cart” choose the “Add to list” drop-down under it and select your list.  (Make sure you choose a size if you need a coat or jacket.)  If possible, stick with things that offer Prime shipping and that arrive before the holiday.

If you don’t live in America please say where you live in the comments because it’s much cheaper for Canadian people to buy for Canadians, etc.

Once you’re done go to the comments here and put a link to your wishlist.  Here’s an example I made up:

I’m really struggling this year and have 2 young kids and 1 teenager.  They like books and movies.  I live in America.  I also added an inexpensive coat and mittens for one my youngest  just in case anyone could help.  Here’s my link: amazon.com.blahblahblah

  • What should I choose for my wishlist?

Picking things that are listed as “prime” eligible is ideal because shipping is free for people with prime memberships.  Remember the limits so that we can help as many kids as we can.  Books and art supplies and movies that kids can share are all great suggestions.  Here’s an example list I made with a ton of inexpensive books, toys, etc. that you can use as inspiration to get started.

I went to buy something from a list but the list was empty.

That is actually awesome.  That means everything from their list was bought.  Whoop!

I went to buy something from a list but there wasn’t an address attached to it. 

Then delete what you have in your cart and go to the next persons list.  That happens every year.  Leave a comment letting the person know that they need to add an address.

How do I know I’m using the right address?

When you’re looking at the wishlist it will say the name of the person.  When you check out select the same person’s name’s wishlist address or registry address.  If there isn’t one then they haven’t added their address so delete your cart and try the next person.

Are you checking to make sure people are real?

Sort of.  There are some things I do to check but go with your gut.  I do delete people if I know they aren’t real or aren’t following the rules but most people won’t go to the trouble to fake an account for crayons and kid’s books so just use your best judgement.

Can I thank the person who helped me?

You won’t know who they are, but you can totally say thanks in the comments.  You’ll know if something was bought because it will disappear from your list.

What if I don’t get what was sent to me?

It happens, but rarely.  Sometimes you’ll forget to put your address and your stuff goes to the person who bought it.  Or it’s at your neighbor’s house because you weren’t there to sign for it.  Or it was sold out and you’ll get it after the holiday.  It’s rare, but it can happen.

I can’t afford to buy something but I’d like to volunteer to make something or send a card to someone.

Okay.  Just put your email on your comment and they can connect with you.

I’d like to give even more to a particular person.

Awesome!  The best way to do that is to leave your email address in a comment and ask them to contact you so you can help them directly.  Please don’t ask them to add extra stuff to their wishlist because it gets way too confusing.

I want to give 10% off a product I make or let them enter a drawing if they like my Facebook page and tweet a bunch of crap about it.

No.  Sorry.  This is not that.

Will you be my friend?

Yes.  Yes, I will.

PS. This morning I donated $1,000 to Project Night Night in your name.   And now I’m going to fill as many wish lists as I can. The money I spend on this stuff comes directly from my affiliate links and from your support in buying my books, so if you can’t afford to help just know that if you came here this year these gifts are from you too.  In the last 7 years our community has given almost $400,000 to help kids during the holidays.  That is insane, y’all.  But a good kind of insane.

The best kind of insane.

PS. Pretty please stick to the max limit per kid.  You don’t need to add extra things so there are choices because then you end up getting way over the max if people fill your whole list and since there’s a limited amount of money to help some kids might end up getting more than a hundred dollars in gifts and others get nothing.  Thanks everyone!