Saturday, October 29, 2011

Becoming Part of the Collective

I grew up a city girl. Right in Des Moines, Iowa. South side. Lincoln High School, 1986. Imagine my surprise when I started dating Rob, a country boy, through and through. He only lived 20 miles from my house in Des Moines, but parts of the culture were thousands of miles away. 

I have to say that the biggest adjustment was the "one finger wave." You know the wave, when you're driving down a country road and someone passes you and they lift one finger off of the steering wheel and wave it at you, like some sort of secret farmer greeting? Well when someone would wave at Rob and me as we were driving near his house and Rob would wave back, I'd ask, "who was that?" To which his response, 95% of the time, was "I don't know. A neighbor." So being the suspicious city girl I was, I'd ask, "If you don't know who it is for sure, why are you waving at them? Don't they teach you in the country that you're not supposed to talk to strangers?"

Usually he would laugh at me and not answer, but apparently one day he had enough of my questioning, and he said, "Geez, Barb! He was just being friendly! Just waving! It's just ONE finger! That's all! Why do you have a problem with that?" 

To which I answered as honestly as any true south side girl would answer; "Because, Rob! I grew up on the south side of Des Moines and THIS (showing my index finger) isn't the finger we waved at people when we were driving!"

Oh, yeah. Giving the finger. Flipping the bird. South side salute. Flipping someone off. Iowa State Bird. 

Rob found the humor it it, and I realized that I should stop asking him who these "friendly" strangers were. We reached an unspoken agreement. That was the first phase of my journey into becoming part of the collective. 

That was in 1989 and it wasn't until 1995 that we moved to rural Altoona, just a quarter mile east of where Rob grew up. It's still mostly the same neighbors who wave one finger. The ones who don't are usually the ones who thought it would be "fun" to live in the country, but were then surprised when large farm implements would occasionally knock over your mailbox and sometimes you would wake up to wayward livestock in your yard eating your beautifully manicured grass. They are the ones who almost run off of the road when they see a little girl walking her calf down the path from her grandpa's house to her house, getting the calf used to walking on a halter. The ones who only stop ONCE to talk to you when they see you returning home after a day of working in the hog barn. The ones who need to move back to town.

I've slowly adjusted to country living after living in town for over 25 years. If I have to stay overnight at my parents' house for some reason, I am up all night wondering what all those noises are. I took to country living much easier than Lisa Douglas (Eva Gabor on Green Acres), but I'd like to think I'm not as countrified as Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies. (okay, maybe sometimes I am.)

I still lock the doors when I'm home alone, and I make sure the doors are all locked at night. I mean seriously, didn't you read "In Cold Blood?" That all took place in the country, on a farm! On the other hand, I get the mail in my pajamas, sit on the patio and have coffee in my robe, and mow the yard in my bikini top; all things I would NEVER do in town. Not even when I looked good when I DID live in town. 

I've learned to drive the tractor, I've mucked out pig pens, I've helped build fence. I've ear-tagged cattle and pigs, helped give shots and clip needle teeth on piglets, and I've handed piglets and the scalpel to Rob when he's castrated the boars. (as piglets, of course) 

Our girls have done all of these things, too. They have grown up doing these things, they don't know any different. But we also dress up and go to the Civic Center for a show, we've dined out at 801 Grand, we've rubbed elbows at the governor's inaugural ball, and we've even shopped at fancier stores than Target or Wal-Mart. I DO know how to act in public, it's just that most times, I choose not to.

So I guess if you asked me today if I was a city girl or a country girl I'd tell you I was a country girl. So far I haven't live in the country as long as I lived in town, but slowly I've become a farmer's wife and prefer living here to the hub-bub of the city. I've got a long way to go before I am truly a farm girl or a country girl, but slowly I am becoming a part of the collective.

I've even been known to raise my index finger while driving to greet a passing motorist or neighbor. But sometimes, depending on the neighbor and depending on how slowly they were driving their farm implement in front of me, as soon as they can't see me, I switch back and wave another finger in their direction. Some habits die hard.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

You're HOW Old?

Today I was at my mom's house doing some odd jobs around the yard while the guys from S & H Gutter replaced four sections of gutter and downspout on mom's house and garage. One guy I knew was several years younger than I, but the other one was harder to figure. He could be older than I am. He could be younger than I am. My mom thought he looked like a guy who went to school with my older brother, who is 6 years older than I am. So I figured I have to ask. Here's how that conversation went:

Me: "So did you guys graduate from Lincoln?"
Matt: "Yeah, in 1995."
Gary: "Yeah, a long, long, LONG time ago. I'm pretty old."
Me: "Okay, but what year did you graduate?"
Gary: "1987."
(dead silence as I fold my arms across my chest) 
Me: "So what you're saying, Gary, is that anyone who graduated in 1987 is pretty old, so anyone who graduated prior to 1987 is REALLY old?"
(Gary looking petrified because I think it hit him that maybe I might be at LEAST that old, if not older)
Me: "So I must be REALLY old then, because I graduated in 1986."

It was absolutely amazing how quickly someone can get back to work even though he has just stuck his foot in his mouth.

It's all good though, they were nice guys, so I didn't give them the hairy eyeball or anything. I was out there working my ass off, at least, if not harder, than they were, so I felt pretty good about myself.

Now, several hours later, as I sit with the heating pad to my back and I've washed down some ibuprofen with my prune juice, I am thinking maybe I am REALLY old. Actually it was cranberry juice, but that didn't sound nearly as cool.

But seriously, it hit me yesterday that the two guys I hired to work Wednesdays and Saturdays are young enough to be my children. Really? They are very nice young men, so are they being polite because they were raised that way or because I'm considered their "elder?" Hm. It had better be that they were raised that way, because if they are treating me nice because I'm old I plan on beating them both with my cane.

I've had several "awakening" moments like this. There was the time when I suddenly realized that NOBODY was EVER again going to ask to see my driver's license when I bought alcohol. Although last year I was buying some cold medicine and the guy at Wal-Mart asked for my I.D. I handed it to him and said, "Yeah, I'm over 21. As a matter of fact, I'm as good as TWO 21 year olds!" He thought it was funny but not as funny as the woman in line behind me, who actually caught the joke. She asked how many months I had been 42. 

Then there was the time I walked past the bathroom mirror and wondered why in the hell my mother was in the bathroom with me. Seriously! When did I turn into my mother? 

Actually the most earth shattering came earlier this week as I read a friend's Facebook status. It was one of the funny ones where you use the first 10 friends on your friends list. This one was "In 5 Years." It was what jobs your friends would have in 5 years, most likely meant for someone in high school or college. 

My name fell under "drug dealer." One of the other options was "stripper." I jokingly said I didn't look like a drug dealer, then it hit me; at age 43, as I look in the mirror, I honest to goodness look more like a drug dealer than a stripper! 

Getting older sucks, but I guess it's better than the alternative.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A New Kind of Man

I have to say I was very sad to see Chaz go home from DWTS tonight, but it's not because I am going to miss his dancing. There were times he was atrocious. There were times he was awkward. There were times he looked scared to death. But in the end, he was always likeable. 

Everyone knows that is what brought him through this far in the competition. But Chaz wasn't in it for the competition. He put it well tonight by saying that he wanted to show America a new kind of man. He said if there had been someone like him on television when he was younger, his life would have been totally different. Well said, Chaz. 

I have to say that in his trepidation, his naturally humble attitude was able to shine through. I think there are a few male professional dancers on DWTS that could learn a lesson from Chaz. Just because you're good at something doesn't mean everything about you is perfect. A little bit of humble goes a long way. 

That being said, I don't think I've ever seen the rest of the couples swarm the dance floor and rally around the star who was going home quite like I watched tonight. I think Chaz opened the eyes of a lot of people during his time on DWTS. Some that might not have had the chance to meet someone who was transgendered in any other situation.

I hope Chaz's appearance on DWTS does change someone's life. I hope it validates someone's life. I hope it opens someone's eyes. Lord knows we all could use a little eye opening.

Everyone Needs an Outlet

I could not come up with anything clever for my blog title. All that came to mind was "I wonder what is the biggest voltage outlet?" You know, because this is going to be MY outlet. My outlet for spouting off, venting, ranting, raving and whatever else I need to do. So from what I could decipher online, a 240v outlet is the biggest outlet for a home. It's for bigger appliances. So I figure I need the biggest outlet there is, because, well, you understand. 

Today my biggest rant is that I have a co-worker who apparently couldn't find her ass with both hands. I got to work and there was a note asking if I had ordered windowed envelopes or if I had them stored elsewhere. So here's the deal. For the past two months, these envelopes have been stored in the bathroom, on top of a cabinet which is about eye level. And the box? Well I labeled it "windowed envelopes." Yeah, my bad. I should have done more. 

Work isn't the only place where I have issues with folks not finding things I've stored in plain sight. It happens at home, too. I am not even going to get into that part of it, because apparently I've blocked those specific memories out of my head so I can't give you a good one. But I promise when one happens, I will post it so everyone knows I'm telling the truth.

Speaking of looking for things, Roseanne Barr used to include in her stand-up routine that her husband and kids thought she knew where everything was. They'd ask her where this was or that was, like the uterus was a tracking device. I can't help but laugh when I hear this, because more than once that thought has gone through my mind. "Why would I know where THAT is? Do you think that the uterus is a tracking device?" I guess it isn't so much that I'm asked where things are that irritates me, it's when it is suddenly MY fault that said person does not know where said item is and cannot find it. Yep, that's what I do, I think up what you might look for next and I hide it from you. Or I sort the laundry and find your favorite item, and I drop it between the washer and dryer so it can't easily be seen. 

All that being said, last night I cleaned off the top of a cabinet where I keep photos and scrapbook items looking for the CD labels I printed last week. I must have worked for an hour before I walked through the living room and saw them in a shoebox where I had placed everything else having to do with those CDs. Oh well, I needed to clean and straighten up that cabinet anyway. And I found a project I've been working on for so many years and I can't even begin to tell you when I started it. They are foam Christmas ornaments with a space for school photos. I was going to do one for each of the school photos the girls have. Maybe I will get them finished in time to give to their children.  

I'm not perfect. Don't get me wrong. As a matter of fact, the least perfect thing about me is my fuse. It's too damn short.