Minutes and Seconds
Updated: 19 min 56 sec ago
I got a mysterious email from my husband this morning.
“FYI- The starlings are no longer in the water tower,” the message states. “I repeat, the starlings have left the water tower. That is all.”
As you’ve probably guessed, there’s a bit of a backstory here. First, I have to explain the water tower. You see, there’s one in my yard.
It’s not a real water tower – it’s more like a lawn decoration. A rather large one. Back when my youngest son Matthew was little, he was fascinated by water towers and rather annoyed that the city of Avoca didn’t have one. He would point them out everywhere we went.
As he started to outgrow that habit, we kept it up, always with a bit of teasing.
“Wow, look at that, Matthew! This town has TWO water towers! Too bad we can’t have one at home.”
And no one on else can do the ‘you guys are jerks’ look like a perturbed 10-year-old. Having fun at his expense a couple years later, my husband Eric decided to build Matt a water tower using a 55-gallon drum. He welded legs onto the thing and painted it, having me letter “Welcome to Avoca” on the front. The fact that all of this was happening just days before our daughter’s graduation party was irrelevant. To Eric, anyway. Recognizing the exhaustion that comes with swimming upstream against him, I found it easier to pick up a paintbrush.
We unveiled the project one morning as Matt wandered outside. Eric had set it up on the lawn, and when a 12-year-old Matt walked out the backdoor, he couldn’t help but notice it. He gave us a glare and mumbled something about us being jerks.
So, the water tower still exists. It’s moved around the yard a few times, and once had an Avoca native’s ashes sprinkled under it (that’s a whole ‘nother story). Currently, it is in the side yard by the driveway. Underneath, Eric and I put in landscaping bricks and planted strawberries.
Despite the evil weather this spring, the plants were growing well. Then I wandered over to look at them last week and noticed there seemed to be an inordinate amount of bird, uh, waste in the center of the strawberry patch. While pondering the oddness of that discovery, I was rudely squawked at by a starling who seemed quite perturbed to see me so close to the tower.
Since I was killing time waiting for Eric to shingle around vents before he’d let me back up on the roof (yet another story for another day), I obligingly moved away and watched the loud little chirpy. As I stood by, the bird landed on the railing of the tower and squawked a bit more.
And a bunch of tiny chirps answered her, and a crop of little heads peeked out. You have to get underneath and look up to see it, but the original opening of the barrel is still there. Mommy starling built a nest in my water tower, and the whole gang is dropping bird bombs on my strawberries.
So, ethically, do you plug up the hole? No! The babies would die. Sure, they’re annoying poopy starlings, but they’re babies. So my master plan was to wait a bit longer until they start flying, then go bang on the sides of the tower until they get a headache and leave.
Eric was more impatient. He said he doesn‘t like starlings because they don’t make pretty noise and they’re mean to other birds. He said he was going to evict them or plug the hole. He’s mean.
So, after I got to work today, I got the mysterious email. Even more so if you are aware he actually left for work about 15 minutes before I did today.
Right now I’m going to assume something bad happened during the storm last night, because I’m trying to give my husband the benefit of the doubt.
I’ll let you know how this turns out. Maybe by then I'll find a darned photo of the water tower, which I just spent a silly amount of time looking for.
I’ve always known that my house has a bit of a past, but it took a tree falling on it to get my curiosity flowing. Maybe that’s because the incident led to pulling the carpet out of the dining room in a round-about way.
During the April ice storm, a tree fell on the dormer of the house, cracking the ceiling of the dining room below. It then proceeded to tumble to the main roof, dragging facia and soffet along for the ride and popping holes in the roof as it went.
So, not too bad of a list of stuff to fix, right? Fix ceiling, replace facia and reshingle roof. Tada!
It’s hard to roof when it either snows or rains for 6 weeks straight. And then there was the whole navigation of the insurance system, which I find nerve-wrecking. Especially since when they want money from me, I get an envelope with a window in it and have to pony up cash. It doesn’t work the same way when they’re supposed to give you money.
We had to rip down the dining room ceiling to see if the rafters above were cracked. As it turns out, that particular part of the house was insulated with something my husband referred to as vermiculite. It is messy, dusty and basically rains down from above when you pull out the ceiling. Which totally trashed the carpeting.
We headed for a home improvement store, and while my husband looked at boring things like insulation and drywall, I checked out vinyl flooring. My intention was to put a wood pattern in the dining room. I put off making a decision about the flooring, but just because we were busy getting sheet rock and shingles and other weird things.
Then I took a close look at the floor that had been hiding under the carpet. Oh my. They need to be refinished, but the floors in my house are hardwood. As far as I can tell, they are oak. And original.
My house used to be Bondin Township Schoolhouse No. 43 in Murray County. The school was moved to its current site in Avoca in 1955. I did a bit of quick research, and according to paperwork I found in the Murray County Historical Society Museum, the township made the decision to build the schoolhouse in March of 1880. Assuming it was built within a reasonably short time after that decision was made, this means my house is roughly 133 years old.
The floors will not be perfect when they are refinished. There will be a few spots where boards were replaced over the years. To me, that just makes them more interesting.
I’ve always known the house used to be a school and knew roughly where it was located. We’ve lived there for almost 18 years, and I don’t know why it has never occurred to me to look more into its history. But if it took a cantankerous tree during a terrible storm to make me look into it, then I have to appreciate that crazy storm.
Now all my husband and I need to do is learn how to refinish a hardwood floor. After building new walls, putting up ceilings, roofing and doing all the other crazy things we’ve done to the place since we moved in, how hard can it be?
Well, maybe I'm not ready for the honest answer to that just yet. But I'm sure it will be fine.
Recently, two of my kids headed home to join me on a trip to Sioux Falls, SD. My daughter Maggie left Rochester with her 17-month-old daughter and stopped in Tracy to pick up her brother Nick, all so we could go watch their little brother Matt’s band Some Peoples Kids open for the group Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.
While I absolutely love the fact that my kids are so supportive of each other, it also caused the usual chaos and mayhem I associate with having all three of them in the same place.
This time, however, it was my wardrobe that caused the problem.
“Don’t you have anything besides Mom clothes?” Maggie asked, digging through my closet.
Um…. No. I guess I don’t. Maybe because I’ve been a Mom for almost 28 years. When I answered, she didn’t like the response.
“I’m a mom, but I still have clothes that don’t scream it,” she said. “I am so taking you shopping.”
She then proceeded to pick out an outfit for me, by trial and error, trying to find something that made me look… younger? Skinnier? Less mom?
Since my wardrobe basically covers work clothes and jeans and t-shirts, that was quite a challenge. I ended up in black capris pants, a black blouse and a pink belt I bought in a moment of silliness. I was allowed to wear my favorite tennies, but only because they are ‘cool’ DCs that the youngest kid talked me into buying from him when he worked at a shoe store. As it turns out, he used that to sell them to other “old ladies,” who thought they might be a little loud, telling them his mom had a pair.
During the process of Maggie trying to ‘cool’ me up a bit, my son Nick just sat there rolling his eyes, then gratefully bolted for the garage when his dad showed up.
Later, on the way to the club, Maggie asked Nick if she looked like she was trying too hard to look like a teenager trying to look like a grown-up.
“You look like an extra from ‘Scooby Doo,’” he replied.
I almost stomped on the brakes.
“And you let her dress me?” I yelled.
I’m not sure why, but I’ve been listening to the Beatles a lot lately. I think it’s because a phrase from the song “Let it Be” popped into my head early this week, and while perusing some files, I brought the album up on youtube for a little background music.
My husband is not a Beatles fan, so I rarely listen to them at home. My mother was (and still is) a fan, so I grew up with this stuff. I didn’t’ realize how many of their songs I can sing from beginning to end. Odd.
Speaking of my mom, just days away from Easter I’ve been seeing notices about a bunch of egg hunts, and they make my smile. I can’t think of an Easter egg hunt without thinking of my folks. Not because of hunts they staged for me and my brothers, but because a few years ago my youngest son hid eggs for his grandparents to find. My mom had mentioned that she had never hunted eggs as a child, so Matthew bought some eggs and loaded them with jelly beans and other goodies. Nice kid.
A sight I will never forget was watching Mom and Dad sprint from opposite sides of the lawn toward a bird bath that contained a blue plastic egg, racing to see who could get to it first. I don’t know when I’ve ever laughed so hard. They were swiping eggs from each other’s baskets when the other one wasn’t looking, and later on, my mom took all of her favorite candy from my dad’s eggs. He gave her a suspicious look when he spotted her sitting close to his basket chatting with the kids, then cautiously checked an egg.
She just gave him an innocent look.
I sent a few goodies to my granddaughter Layla, just because it’s fun to get a package in the mail. A few hours after it arrived in Rochester, my daughter posted a video of Layla zooming around the house on a major sugar rush after eating a Peep. “Thanks a lot, Mom,” Maggie says as her hyped up 15-month-old flings herself around the room.
No problem, honey.
Have a great Easter, everyone, with plenty of smiles.
I’ve always said one of the hardest parts about being a parent is not laughing at inappropriate moments.
Like when a 4-year-old walks into your kitchen, opens the cupboard where you keep the cake pans and pulls out a Batman cape (much to your bafflement), then expects you to take him seriously when he yells, “I’m Mattman” and flies around the house. Or when your 3-year-old hands you his brother’s mismatched tippy cup parts and says, “Something is completely out of control here.” Or when your young daughter calmly explains to you that God makes rocks and stuff out of wood he just has lying around in his garage like Dad.
Yep, good stuff.
Now my husband Eric and I have the luxury of laughing to our heart’s content, especially at our daughter, who is battling her own stubborn and darling baby girl.
Maggie messaged me yesterday to tell me Layla was not speaking to her. Given the fact that Layla is 15 months old, this was not a real shocker. But apparently it’s deeper than that.
Layla was mad. Very mad. Mommy took away her bottles. Time to adjust to tippy cups. Every time Maggie would give Layla a tippy cup, my sweet little granddaughter would let out a mighty roar and pitch it down the basement stairs.
I asked why she was in such a hurry to wean the baby off a bottle. Apparently the pediatrician said babies can damage their gums if they stay on a bottle. I am so glad I didn’t know this back when my kids were little. I’m lucky I didn’t do irreversible damage in my ignorance. (Yes, that was sarcasm.)
Then Maggie told me dealing with Layla’s unhappiness (as the kid screams bloody murder in the background) is part of the ‘parenting journey.’
My reaction, of course, was to laugh my butt off. Then tell Maggie’s dad, who promptly called her to laugh at her. It’s our reward for not laughing at inappropriate moments.
Life is about balance, I think. For instance, I can deal with reading through multiple project cost summaries regarding the district building a new school as long as I have Molly Hatchet totally jamming on my headphones. Or the soundtrack from Evita, a few tunes from Neil Diamond… whatever. I have eclectic tastes and moods when it comes to music.
Sometimes life is about karma, like when you go to a high school reunion and discover the snotty rich girl who made your life miserable in school because you were kindergarten buddies with her current boyfriend is now a thrice-divorced chubby woman whose disdain of people all of her life has gotten her just what she deserves.
And sometimes life just wraps around nicely, like in the case of my Uncle Bill. He put a story up on Facebook the other day that made me smile. He said when he got his very first job, with his first paycheck he bought a Milky Way candy bar and “chowed it down.”
Coming from a family with seven kids, I can imagine what a special treat it must have been.
Last week, Uncle Bill got his last paycheck. He is officially retired, and in a month, his wife will retire. Then the two are running away from home together. Literally. They are moving out of the United States.
When he got that last paycheck, Uncle Bill stopped in at a convenience store and bought himself a Milky Way candy Bar. He wrote that he doesn’t care for them anymore, so he handed it to a nearby youngster, then enjoyed the sight of the happy kid chowing down.
I love that story. I remember buying a 45 record when I got my first paycheck. I’m relatively sure that won’t be possible when I retire.
I haven’t seen my Uncle Bill in years – he moved to Las Vegas a few years back, and I didn’t see him last time I was there. Family is funny. Mine is large and a bit intermarried – my father’s older brother is married to my mother’s older sister. At one point, another brother was married to another sister, but that didn’t work out.
When Uncle Bill’s daughter Heather was born, I was a teenager. Somehow, I think because she was a pretty shy little girl, I ended up being her babysitter whenever the couple went out. They would come pick me up and I’d stay with my little cousin while they did whatever. When I got old enough, I’d drive to their apartment in Little Canada, sometimes staying for a day or two if it didn’t interfere with school. Heather was my little buddy, and when her brother Nathan was born I stayed with her for a couple days while her mom was in the hospital. I helped my aunt out other times, giving her a break from a colicky baby.
On my wedding day, Heather was about four years old, and I remember how much she loved my dress. As I stood in the reception line, she stuck pretty close, reaching out to touch it often. I’d look down and she’d be petting my dress with her little hand, all bright-eyed and shy smiles.
When it was time for my new husband and me to leave, I picked Heather up and hugged her, telling her I wouldn’t see her for awhile. It’s tough to explain the concept of becoming a Navy wife to a little girl, though, and all she understood was that I wasn’t going to come over to play with her anymore. She cried, and I did too.
I never saw her again. My uncle and his wife divorced, Eric and I moved around the country for a decade, and by the time we moved back to Minnesota… well, I didn’t even know where she lived. When I first hooked up with Uncle Bill on Facebook, I asked him about the kids, but I don’t think he ever answered that question.
Hmmm… I hadn’t really thought about that until just now. I guess you have karma, balance and sometimes just life.
Hopefully, at the end of the important junctures there are candy bars, no matter who does the chowing down.
It seems lately that not a day goes by without us hearing about another piece of legislature that has been introduced. The bills are often a mumbo-jumbo mess of legalese, recited by rambling politicians who try to explain why their bill is so important by stating why the opposition is against it.
I recently came across a piece of legislation the authors claim is to protect older Minnesotans from wire transfer fraud. A great idea, if the bill itself wasn’t a toothless piece of fluff.
Senior citizens are often the target of scams for a variety of reasons. According to conversations I have had over the years with law enforcement personnel who handle scam cases, seniors can be particularly vulnerable because they don’t always understand the latest technology, or what it is capable of. A cop friend told me once that the seniors of today come from a generation of people who were taught to respect authority, and the importance of communication by telephone was serious stuff. There are other factors, but in the long run, seniors can be more susceptible to scams.
The grandchild scam is a prime example. A grandparent gets a call from a ‘grandchild’ asking for monetary help because they are in trouble – in a foreign country arrested and threatened with jail, pulled over by a cop far from home, scared and alone in a bad place. The ‘kid’ begs the grandparent not to tell mom or dad, or some such nonsense. Then the kid asks for money to be wired.
It works often enough that scammers are still using it.
So politicians decided to tighten up wire fraud regulations, for no real reason but to appease AARP, as far as I can tell. Like I said, the bill has no real teeth and certainly won’t slow down your average scammer.
The new bill requires wire transfer companies to confirm that the location provided by the sender is where the money ends up. It provides more authority to the Department of Commerce to protect consumers by increasing penalties. It requires companies to provide a confirmation of money sent and who picked up the transaction. And it allows the sender to put on a ‘Do not send’ list to prevent repeated transfers.
Because it all seemed like a bunch of wordy nonsense to me – I could see the big old holes in all of the theories – I ran the bill past a detective I have known for years. He’s dealt with scammers who are brilliant, scammers that are complete morons and everything in between.
His response, paraphrased slightly on my part and delightfully sarcastic on his, pretty much sums it up:
1.) The bad guy will now tell grandma/grandpa their favorite grandchild was arrested in Point A but is being held at Point B; “Send the money to Point B.”
2.) Increased penalties? You sort of have to catch and prosecute somebody first.
3.) “Yes, we're confirming that Clint Eastwood or John Wayne or M. Mouse, etc picked up the $5,000 today in Bogata, Columbia.” Just like with TracFones - you need a name to buy service but it doesn't have to be a real name or your actual name.
4.) Yes, please put me on the no call list because bad guys get those lists in the mail and follow them to the letter of the law!
Good thing those politicians are working hard on solving meaningful problems. (Wow, I really need a sarcasm font.)
Maybe next time the donkeys and elephants want to solve crime problems, they’ll consider making it a bad thing to get busted for committing a crime. They’ll consider that use of actual prison sentences and not just threats might actually be a deterrent. They’ll realize slaps on the wrist really don’t hurt after the repeat offenders’ wrists have become numb from constant smacking. Getting caught committing crime should be a bad thing, right? Not just a chance for free schooling, legal knowledge and opportunities that your average blue collar worker can’t have.
Maybe someone ought to tell them that to get tough on crime, you actually have to get tough with the criminals.
They say you’re only as old as you feel, which means it isn’t about how old you look. But what about how you see?
I picked up my first pair of bifocals yesterday, which means… well, that my eyes are getting as old as the rest of me, I guess. But I’m OK with it. I’m not one of those people who obsess about my age, because it has been apparent to me since I was a kid that there are advantages to aging.
Take note, I did not say ‘to growing up,’ because I’m avoiding that at all costs.
But the aging thing, a process that starts at birth, has so far been a pretty cool deal. I started out bald and toothless and will probably end up that way barring any unforeseen accidents, but the journey from beginning to end has been interesting. Maybe because it’s all about learning.
We start learning from the instant we’re born. We learn to roll over, crawl, walk and run. We learn about empathy, love and humor. We also learn about sarcasm, which is pretty cool. Sure, bad things happen and we have to learn about pain, sorrow and anger, and we also learn that some people are jerks, but then we’ve got that sarcasm thing to fall back on.
So getting older is more of a blessing than a curse. Without getting older, there are certain things that couldn’t happen, like the beauty of falling in love and getting married, the joy of having kids and the awesome wondrous magic of having them leave.
Sure, there are trade-offs. I never battled weight until I hit my 30s. I creak, snap, crackle and pop these days. I’m more apt to nap than party once the sun goes down. And then there’s the whole bifocal thing.
But all in all, if getting a new pair of specs is the cost of getting older, I’ll take the grandbaby, the ability to leave for a weekend without getting a sitter, the better financial comfort, the ease of cooking for two… all of it, over being forever young.
So I guess I’m only as old as I see. And with the proper head tilting to accommodate the progressive lenses in my new shades, I can see everything!