Monday, June 22, 2015

Find a Penny, Pick it Up

I found a quarter on the road the other day as I was finishing up my run. That brings my total change found to 62 cents over the past couple weeks.

Yes, I am one of those people who pick up change wherever I find it. Parking lot, sidewalk, coin return slots, heads up, tails up... it doesn't matter, if I see it, I'll pick it up.

'Cuz you never know, you know?

Well, that's not really the reason why.

Dear Abby calls them “pennies from heaven.” The Queen Mother used to say “Oh, your father's been here.”

It started when I was a little girl maybe five or six years old. Every summer we'd drive to Valliant, Oklahoma, to visit my paternal grandmother. Gramma Ava. That was our family vacation for the year.

It was a long, long drive from our little hometown in Eastern Iowa to that little hometown in South Eastern Oklahoma. Especially back in the days before everything was four-lane highways with 65-mph speed limits. Dad was always on the lookout for road-side attractions and rest areas to break up the monotony.

All the gas stations down south had some sort of home-spun attention getter – a pen of deer, a pond, a cave, rock collections, a forest observation tower – or they could give you directions to something spectacular just up the road. These were a lot easier to find when you had to take the narrow, curvy two-lane roads through all the small towns. And I do mean all the small towns.

One time we pulled off into an unremarkable little rest area to stretch. They refer to them as “primitive” rest areas now. There was a gravel lot, picnic tables, trees, an outhouse or two. Absolutely nothing to entice a bored little girl to climb out of her nest in the backseat of a Ford LTD land barge. I was cozy, enjoying my books and snacks, curled up on the floor, resting my head on the warm hump formed by the transmission bisecting the car.

Why would I get out for a gravel parking lot or (shudder) an outhouse?

I wasn't budging, and neither was the Queen Mother.

“Hey, look at this,” Dad called from the other side of the small parking lot. “Here's a penny. And another. And an....”

He never finished “other” because I was out of that car so fast I nearly ripped the door off its hinges.

I found a penny! And another. And another.

Pretty soon my excited squeals coaxed the Queen Mother out of the car.

She started finding pennies too! And nickels and dimes! There were so many coins my pudgy little hands couldn't hold them all, so I gave them to Dad for safe keeping.

That's when Mom realized Dad was taking the change from me with one hand and tossing it on the ground in the other direction when I wasn't looking.

I'm not sure how long this went on. Just long enough to get the road kinks worked out. Long enough for us to get over our reservations about using the honest-to-goodness wooden outhouses. Long enough to settle us down until the next road-side stop.

Long enough to convince a little girl she was rich.

I was hooked. Others might turn up their noses at a penny on the sidewalk, but I knew better.

“Dad's been here,” I would say.

Right after Dad's funeral, when Mom and I were cross-eyed from writing thank you notes, we decided to take a day trip to get away from everything. We planned to get a real lunch at a real restaurant, a break from the sympathy casseroles filling the fridge.

This was when I had my first migraine. When I found out that Red Lobster didn't serve (at that time) anything other than seafood. And that I really, really don't like seafood.

And then, in the parking lot, I found a penny.

“Your Dad's been here,” Mom said.

So I like to attribute my recent windfall of found change to Dad. It is Father's Day, after all.

“Dad's been here,” Mom would say.

And I feel like I've really dropped the ball in taking care of Mom lately. She's slipping further and further away, and there's nothing I can do. So maybe this is Dad's way of letting me know he's watching over her, too.

Dad's been here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Driver's (dr)Ed

The Little Prince has turned 14, so the kingdom is all in an uproar as we wrestle with the most important of questions:

Who is going to teach him how to drive?

In theory, none of us can officially teach him how to drive, because the state has mandated that only licensed professionals (who have paid the state for their license) can teach driving.

In reality, no one wants their kid to be the one who hops in the driver's ed car and doesn't know where the key goes.

In practicality, this is kind of like cleaning your house before the cleaning service comes. Except in this case the state says it is illegal for you to clean your own house. (Now there's a law I could get behind.)

I'm not saying that parents should be solely responsible for teaching their kids to drive. I know – and regularly rant – about all the morons out there with a driver's license who: A. Shouldn't have a license; B. Shouldn't be allowed to drive; 3. Shouldn't be allowed to teach anyone else how to drive; and D. Should stay out of my way.

And I'm not saying that I'm a perfect driver, because while I'm closer than most, none of us are perfect.

And that's the cause of the civil disturbance in the castle. Each of the licensed drivers in our household has their own set of … disqualifiers.

So I asked The Little Prince who he wanted to teach him to drive.

The Princess answered for him (as is the right of the older sister): “Not Dad, because he yells.”

“I DON'T YELL!” The King yelled from the other room. “I INSTRUCT.”

“LOUDLY,” The Princess added. “It made me nervous.”

I do not speak loudly or sharply. I use my calm, “inside” voice, so as not to unnerve the driver. I've watched the wildlife videos. I know what happens when you startle the animals. Nothing good can come from startling a twitchy teenage driver.

I do, however, press both feet firmly against an imaginary brake pedal as well as stiff-arming the dashboard and/or ceiling to brace for potential impact. Apparently this is not considered reassuring or calming behavior.

“And you run red lights,” The Prince said looking pointedly at me.

In my defense, I really, really thought I saw the light turn green. Imagine my surprise when I pulled into the intersection and noticed no one else was moving. But hey! There was no cross traffic, and we'd been sitting there For. Ev. Er. And the light was going to turn green... eventually.

Speaking of which, it totally does NOT count as running a red light if it was yellow when you entered the intersection. Or when you intended to enter the intersection. Or when you didn't realize there was a stop light there.

So now we've narrowed the potential teacher list down to The Princess. Both she and The Prince (in a rare instance of agreement) think she is the most qualified. I have to admit that despite having just over two years of driving experience herself – or maybe because of it – she probably is the most law-abiding, technically accurate driver in the family.

Which also makes her the most annoying driver.

Like when she comes to a complete stop at a stop sign for the recommended three seconds.

Three. Whole. Seconds.

One Miss-ahhhh-sipp-i.

Two Miss-ahhhh-sipp-i.

Three Miss-ahhain't nobody got time for thi-sipp-i!

So in the end, The Little Prince will probably learn to drive the way he learned to play drums and guitar, and to skateboard: the internet and video games.

He's already aced Grand Theft Auto.

How much different can real driving be?

Friday, June 12, 2015

ROLF-ing While Folf-ing

It's summertime, and that means the return of disc golf.

In most places disc golf is a relaxing, fun, somewhat competitive game college-age boys play while drinking beer. In our household it's a ruthlessly competitive, high scoring excuse to fire off one-liners and quite possibly knock family members unconscious with errant frisbee throws.

Alternately known as “frisbee golf,” or “disc golf” by those who actually know how to throw a disc/frisbee, The Prince decided to call it “folf.” Because “dolf” just sounds ridiculous.

The Princess kicked off our first outing of the season in full-on fashion police mode, announcing that “if he doesn't have to wear a shirt” – pointing at a group of college-age boys – “then I don't have to wear a shirt either.”

I explained that part of the reason an attractive 17-year-old girl does have to wear a shirt is because of college-age boys who don't wear shirts. And that while we were at it, perhaps she would like to put on a pair of baggy-saggy sweatpants and shapeless sweatshirt.

We teed off on the first hole with our usual lack of style and distance, but showed unusual grace and etiquette in remaining behind whoever was throwing. We've learned the hard way that while there are no guarantees in folf, behind the thrower is the safest place to be. There, or in sitting in the parked car, but that gets hot.

The Princess has been charting the pollen count with a growing pile of tissue since the snow melted, so I wasn't surprised to hear a loud “AHHHHHH-PPFFFFTTTHTHH!” in the middle of the first tree, bush and weed-strewn fareway.

What followed did surprise me: “MOMMMYYYYY! A BUG TRIED TO KISS ME!”

I was also surprised by the full-on body tackle she nearly leveled me with, apparently expecting some post-tramatic, bug-kiss comfort. I was just happy it was a bug that tried to kiss her and not one of the bro tank, cargo shorts-wearing college boys.

After shooting quadruple bogey, reverse albatross, flying filberts on the par 3 hole, we set off for the next tee. This is where we decended into our usual chaos. The hole-by-hole highlights:

Hole 2
Not only did we hit our first trees, but I managed to land my disc in the middle of the road.
P&P: “You gotta play it where it lies, Mom!”
Me: “They really should warn motorists when we play.”

Hole 3
A thought occurred to me as I tried to hack my way through a solid wall of gnats...
Me: “You know what we need?”
Princess: “Margaritas in a can!” (she said as she kicked an empty can off the trail)
Prince: “Folf shoes!"
Me: “Bug spray!”

Hole 4
The Prince tried a new throwing technique which did, indeed, improve the distance thrown but did nothing to improve his accuracy. Thus he launched drive from the deep weeds in the ditch on the far side of the road into a patch of deep weeds on the opposite side of the fareway... a patch of deep weeds separating us from a roaming pack of college-age boys.
Princess: “The first rule in looking for a disc: Go back 20 feet.”
Me, keeping an eye on the college boys: “The first rule in looking for a disc: Keep college-age boys 20 feet away from my daughter.”

While searching for the Hole 5 Tee
Princess: “That guy who took the road less traveled.... How does he know it made all the difference?”
Who knew folf could be so filisophical?

Hole 5:
The Prince launched a “thumber” straight and true across the deep valley, up the hill and onto the lip of the fareway. The Princess' disc sailed straight and true 10 feet away from the tee and into the woods.
Princess: “How to throw farther than Me: Step one, throw the frisbee.”
However, her short throw did made it somewhat easier to track her disc in the “deep nature.”
Princess: “It smells like allergies. I took ag classes. I know.”

While searching for the Hole 6 Tee
Prince: “I found the Hole 6 basket!”
Me: “We could walk back and try to find the tee.”
P & P: “Or we could move on to the 7th tee.” Majority rules.

Hole 7
Prince: (While warming up) “I hope frisbee golf is a TV sport.”
Me: “I really don't...”
Princess: “If you don't hurry up and throw that frisbee, I'm gonna throw you!”
Me: “Hmmm, maybe reality TV.”
Once againg the Prince's “thumb drive” sailed down the fareway. The Princess? Not so much.
Princess: “Ugh. My frisbee is in this big pile of nature. Look at me! I'm taking the road less traveled by.”

Hole 8
The Prince continued to dominate, and it started to annoy his sister.
Princess: “It starts out and looks like it's going places. It's up in the air... it's going... but then it's like, 'Wow. Five feet'.”

Hole 9
Prince: “Aww man, 9 has that big grass thing you have to throw over.”
Princess, nodding knowingly: “The sea of allergies.”
Me: “Should I try to go around the obstacle and loose the frisbee in the grass, or try to go over the obstacle and loose the frisbee in the grass?”
P&P: “Just throw it!”

In the end the Prince and I both managed to clear the sea of grass, but the Princess' disc took a nasty hook and headed into the forest. While searching she announced...
Princess:“A plant peed on me!” I have no explanation, but there was something icky on her leg.

Between the bug-kiss and the plant-pee (and loosing terribly to The Prince) we decided to call it quits after the front nine (or eight, as the case may be). But rest assured once the swelling from the bug bites has gone down and the allergies are under control we'll be back at it.

You've been warned.