Stumped!

I must be part Amish. The English would have rented a stump grinder or other motorized technology their loose morals allow them to operate. Not me. Because I am righteous, fearless of hard work, and also unwilling to part with my money, I did it old school.

Weeks ago I documented the pioneer spirit with which I chopped down our dead maple tree. The plan was to replace that tree with a new one. The plan was not to wait so long to do it, but we hearty woodsmen have to roll with the punches.

The first step was removing the stump. After six weeks’ meditation on the subject, I decided the way to do this without spending money was just to dig the thing out. I was under no illusions about how difficult it would be to dig up a tree stump.

Yeah, I may have been under some illusions about the difficulty. Illusions can become a burden to the psyche. They’re tricky little bastards, and so are tree trunks. Tree trunks can mutate into philosophical quagmires.

I got my shovel and dug around the stump, and I got my ax and hacked off roots, and this all went well for about 10 minutes. I’m not saying I stopped after 10 minutes; it’s just that the digging and hacking grew tiresome. I persisted, because I’ve never been one to surrender to the reality of a situation without a fight.

My tree stump spiritual adviser.

Big Man came out to help after an hour, at which point I was ready to accept advice from a four-year-old. Being a man of action, most of his ideas involved more digging and hacking. Since a preschooler’s digging and hacking can quickly become unfocused, we hit upon a new plan. We got some wedges and split the stump in its hole. Amazingly, this kind of worked.

Having mostly cleared the hole, it remained to locate and new tree. It can be handy having a garden you abandoned when children stole your free time. In this forsaken spot, a sapling had sprouted where it had no business. Its leaves look Maple-ish, but I can’t prove its pedigree – it’s my first week as an arborist. I guess we’ll find out.

Plants grow best in my garden when I let them fend for themselves.

Maybe we’ll find out. We might have killed it in transit. Its roots were twined in the neglected chicken wire surrounding the neglected fence around the neglected garden. Some of its thicker roots were casualties of our tug-o-war with the chicken wire.

Dead or alive, we dropped it in the hole. We added all three shovelfuls of fertilizer our composting barrel has produced from eight years’ worth of vegetable contributions. Then, we filled in the dirt and gave our new baby a long drink of water.

Possibly a Maple; possibly a tall weed; possibly dead.

If we planted a dead tree, we’ll just try again. We have all kinds of little ones growing where they don’t belong. We’ll keep trying until we get one to prosper or the rest of our yard looks civilized. Either way, it’s a win.

The result of all this hard work on my delicate blogger’s thumb.

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Conversations with my wife: My itchy ear

While I’m getting ready to leave for work my wife notices me poking around in my ear with my finger.

WIFE: What’s wrong with you?

ME: I got an itch inside my ear.

WIFE: Oh, that means good news in coming?

ME: (Staring at her in disbelief) What?

WIFE: When your ear itches it means good news is coming.

ME: Says who?

WIFE: I don’t know. The people who keep track of this stuff. It’s just a thing.

ME: I’ve never heard of it.

WIFE: (Shrugs and looks at me like it’s not her fault I’m an uneducated yokel)

ME: Are you just an old wife, making up a tale?

WIFE: I didn’t make it up. It’s a thing.

ME: (Walking toward the door) Okay, I’ll be on the look-out for good news then.

WIFE: (Following me to the door) Wait. Which ear is it?

ME: (Poking my finger into my ear) The right one.

WIFE: (Screwing up her face like she’s concentrating on getting the facts straight) Oooooh! In that case it might be bad news.

ME: Great!

WIFE: Well, have a good day at work.

ME: I’ll do my best, now that I don’t know if I’m about to strike it rich or fall to my death.

WIFE: I mean, that’s pretty much the same as any other day, right?

In case you’re wondering, it turned out to be good news: my ear eventually stopped itching.

Checking for good news

“Tell us doctor, do you see good news or bad behind the wax? We need this data for our scientific study.”

After years of writing, I finally have a story to die for

If you’ve visited before, you may know that I have self-published a few books. When you self-publish enough books, you get noticed. Some authors get noticed by readers, but I find that I get noticed much more often by aggressive marketers, trying to sell me their publishing platforms. These platforms usually come at a high price for very little useful platform, so I disregard the advertisements.

When this marketing piece appeared in my mailbox, I assumed it was from a fly-by-night, vanity press that had bought my name from a mailing list in the hope I possess three important characteristics:

  1. I am ignorant of publishing scams.
  2. I harbor dreams of penning the autobiography of my quietly fascinating life.
  3. I do not know what the word fascinating means.

Before tossing the piece into the recycle bin, I turned it over to make note of the name of the publishing company trying to take advantage of my feeble-minded sense of self-importance.

That’s when it hit me. Publishing companies, even the shady ones, don’t have Memory Gardens in their names nearly so much as cemeteries do.

I am not being recruited by a shady publisher, but by a shady plot in a peaceful meadow. They’re not trying to sell me a two-bit book layout for my memoirs; they’re trying to sell me a hole to bury my carcass.

This is disturbing, because nowadays these marketers know more about you than you do. Last year, AARP was all over my 50th birthday like flies on sheet cake. What does Memory Gardens know about me that puts me on the same prospect list with Great Depression Babies? Should I take heart that it’s addressed to me OR whomever took up residence in my death trap of a home after my demise?

I guess the best thing is to find the humor in it, of which there is plenty. I do enjoy the Resolutions theme: A new year is a time for resolutions. Why don’t you resolve to die this year?

I also like the appeal to the control freak: By planning your final arrangements in advance, you can still tell everybody what to do even after you’re dead. After all, you wouldn’t want them to grieve in any way but the one that suits your departed ego.

But the best laugh is reserved for the smallest print:

“Our sincerest condolences if this was received during a time of mourning.” In other words, “We hope we’re not too late, but if the next of kin need to throw something together right away, we are such considerate people, and by the way, we still do have plots available.”

Having considered all this, I’ve decided I’m not writing my autobiography or resolving to die this year. I’m hoping to keep my story to myself for a while longer.

 

Don’t call me a hero. I’m just a guy who touched feet so future generations could live fuller lives.

The trouble with major research universities is somebody there is always trying to do research. All this intellectual curiosity can get annoying, but when you live in the shadow of the behemoth you get its shade cast upon you sometimes.

Most people can avoid getting caught in the net of the research study, but most people are not married to my wife. The only thing she likes more than making herself into a guinea pig for the discoveries of tomorrow is making her husband into a guinea pig for whatever human subject experimentation is going on today.

The latest thing she leapt to sign us up for is a study on reflexology. Reflexology, as it applies to us, is the application of pressure to the feet. As explained to us, different areas in the foot correspond to areas within the greater body, and by massaging these foot areas, relief can be applied to the rest of the body. Whether this is true, I don’t know, but I’m just a guinea pig; it’s not my job to draw conclusions.

We are just a couple of weeks into our study, but I have already learned two important things. I learned how to, in my amateurish way, apply reflexology pressure to feet. I also learned, although I probably already had this info tucked somewhere in the back of my mind, that I am in no danger of ever contracting a foot fetish.

Why can’t feet stay this cute and soft, with Piggies who still say “Wee, wee, wee!” all the way home?

It turns out I’m not so high on feet.

My training began with getting reflexology applied to my own feet, which was fine, but I’d just as soon have a back rub. Next, I had to work on the feet of somebody I’d just met. I don’t even really like to hug people I just met, so whipping out the foot lube and going to town all over their little piggies was a tad unsettling.

But I got through it.

You’re welcome, Science.

Now, I just have to manhandle my wife’s feet on a regular basis. Though I dearly love all of her appendages, I have to say, there are other parts of her where I would more enthusiastically plant the flag of scientific enlightenment.

I’m just not into feet. I don’t even care for my own feet. Yes, they are extremely useful to me in my everyday doings, but they are not cute or cuddly, or even gritty handsome in a backwoods kind of way. My feet are homely workhorses, which is why I grew them as far from my eyes as I could.

The only pair of feet I can truly say I love to touch are those soft, pudgy, still babylike ones at the ground end of Big Man. They have yet to develop the harsh gangliness of his older brothers’ feet. For a year or two more, his feet will be a pleasure to touch.

Too bad he’s not signed up for the reflexology study.