Monday, January 28, 2013

Chapter 2: Parenting without safety devices and improper use of puppets

This is the second entry in my memoir. Read the first chapter here.

Some people, upon the opening of a business, do things like throw a party, cut some tape with giant scissors or frame the first dollar bill that they earn. My parents unwittingly marked that first year of their business with both the Centennial celebration of Colorado and its most deadly flood in recorded history. While Mom and Dad were busy renting horses to tourists, the Big Thompson Canyon flood swept through the mountains just east of Estes Park and claimed 144 lives. 1976 marked the end for those unfortunate souls, and pain and suffering for their friends and families, just as it signified the beginning of my family's journey. I like to see it as finding the light in a dark situation and not as an omen for disaster.

We lived in a tiny cabin built into the mountain, situated right next to the stable. My sister and I had our own bedroom, complete with Mickey Mouse toddler beds. My parents slept on an old iron bed in the living room. The living room doubled as a bunkhouse bedroom, as the two staff members (or Wranglers) also slept there. And no, my parents weren't hippies accustomed to communal living; they were Catholics accustomed to large families due to the Catholic fact that birth control is the work of Satan... or something like that.

I fear to ask how my parents managed running a business for the public with two toddlers in tow. Most parents of two toddlers can hardly find time for a shower, much less can they manage 28 head of horses, a new business, a biyearly move, two dogs and 8 llamas. Okay, so there were no llamas and obviously my sister and I were exemplary children, but it still seems like quite a feat. Not to mention that my folks did all of this while catering to the vacationing general public. It is a little known fact that IQ's are instantly lowered when a person grasps the keys to their rental car. As someone who once discovered that she was driving the wrong way on a one way street, and decided that shorts and cowboys boots are an awesome combination, I am a shining example of how vacationing can make a moderately intelligent person turn into an unconscious moron. Add small, screaming people (I'm not talking about Joe Pesci) following you everywhere and demanding things like Food and Water and 99 cent toys priced at $5.99, and it is total brain meltdown time. This is why you should never expect friendly service when you visit a tourist town at the end of the season. All the locals are done answering idiotic questions like, "When do the elk parade down mainstreet?" and "Are you a REAL cowboy???". They are over driving behind people who suddenly slam on their brakes because there is a chipmunk eating a peanut on the side of the road. (Those people often have TEXAS printed on their license plates. True story.)

Yet, my parents pioneered forward and embraced the idiotic general public. They added to the chaos by providing the same people who think flip flops are proper barnyard attire with 1,000 pound horses shod in iron shoes. Even more amazing, my parents did this (with two babies in tow!!!!) without the modern conveniences of today. Conveniences like baby monitors that enable humans to have a tiny bit of freedom from the house arrest that is being a parent to young children. There were no baby monitors in 1976, and they certainly didn't have the ones or you could watch precious junior sleeping in their crib. According to my memory of listening to the poetic crooning of CW McCall on 8 track , CB's were the popular form of communication in the 70's. I have a mental picture of my sister picking up a CB duct taped to Mickey's ears on her bed, pressing the button and saying, "breaker breaker one nine, this is golden child 1. Do you copy? We have a soggy diaper situation and bitches want some Cheerios. Over N Out."

That probably never happened, Jessi hardly ever uses foul language.

Despite the odds, and thanks to a grain bin that locked... and a horse trailer that locked... and leadropes could clip onto toddler sized belt loops... and natural born Ninja skills.... my sister and I survived the first summer in Estes Park. My parents had accomplished their goal and by September, they headed back to Iowa to winter the horses on affordable pasture.

Iowa was selected as our (mostly)permanent location for many reasons other than affordability, there were about 30 reasons. I was related to most of them. Growing up around family was one of the greatest privileges of my childhood. I was surrounded by the loving arms of wonderful grandparents, aunts and uncles. I was fortunate enough to have celebrated the births of many of my first cousins, and their subsequent birthdays in the years to follow. (I love birthdays!) A lot of my family cooked, sang, danced, cheated at cards, enjoyed cheap beer and strong martinis. Most of them masterfully maneuvered a stick shift, too (not necessarily in that order). Unlike many transplanted Americans, I still look forward to getting together with my extended family because it is full of my favorite types of people: intelligent, caring, attractive, and funny. Those rumors in town were true, my family was full of awesome.
Most people live life the normal easy way. Not my parents, they found the alternate route. When they established their Iowa farmstead, Lick Creek Farm, in 1976, they did not chose land full of convenient things. They didn't buy a property with useful stuff, like a garage or a barn...or a driveway.... or a house. They didn't even chose a location with electricity or water. And a phone line? Phsssh! Those were for fancy "city folk". What my parents did, with two babies in tow, was construct a house. They temporarily moved us (plus dogs!) into their parents' house. First we lived with my mom's parents, then my dad's. While I'm assuming that meant some free babysitting services, I'm certain that my parents were eager to have their own place. My young, apparently insane energetic folks shouldered the majority of the construction work. They carved a long, winding gravel driveway into a thicket of maple, oak and elm trees and at the end, they built a custom home with a walkout basement. Okay, so all it consisted of was a walk out basement, but in the Midwest, basement houses are totally a thing. Yet even there, on that wooded Iowa building site, the essence of Colorado was present. My dad created a giant fireplace made from Colorado stones that were hand selected and transported to Iowa via horse trailer. My dad even hand crafted all of the kitchen cabinets and doors (all three of them!) out of knotty pine, echoing every cabin that ever existed in Colorado in the 1970's. Just like the cabin that we rented in Colorado, the basement house had one bedroom which my sister and I shared. My parents slept on pull-out couch in the living room.
We lived in that little basement house nestled into 400 acres of land for six years. It was there, in that flat roofed house, that I learned how to tie my shoes, sing my ABC's and make disgusting little cakes in an easy bake oven. It was there, in that cozy home with its southern facing sliding glass doors, that my crayons melted into the carpeting from the intense rays of the sun, thus causing me to melt in a puddle of tears into the very same carpet. It was there, in that living room with the Southwestern patterned, crayon stained carpeting, that I watched classic television, like Captain Kangaroo, The Brady Bunch and Hollywood Squares. It was also there, in that house with a fireplace crafted from stone, that I developed a traumatizing fear of puppets, specifically the Madame puppet from Hollywood Squares.
All too often my mother or father would be sitting in the living room, on the orange and brown plaid couch that they still own, and one would call to me in a sweet, sing song voice, "Joooooohi! Come in here! I have something to shoooooooow you!" I, with my tiny white pigtails and blue eyes wide with excitement, would bound around the corner of my room to see what treasure they were revealing to my precious child soul. It was that fucking puppet, Madame, with her jutting wooden chin, her hideous, distorted nose and those horrible, horrible evil eyes. As soon as I laid eyes upon that monstrosity made of wood, I would scream bloody murder, cry and run from the room. Then my parents would laugh. They would laugh so hard that tears of joy sprang from their eyes. Their enormous cackles could be heard over the shrieks from my tiny preschool mouth; their glee at my horror could not be contained. This torture continued for years, yet every time, I fell for the sweet way that my parents sung my name and I eagerly ran to their beck and call. I don't know if this made them cruel, or me a trusting fool. I don't know if the vision of terrifying an innocent child is like a movie reel that they play back in their head for entertainment or perhaps, guilt; but I'm certain that it is an experience that will be remembered by little old me when their decaying, aged, geriatric bodies are in my tender, loving care.
While my brain retains only the utmost important things from this period of time, like the fact that I could make better soap bubbles in the tub than my sister, other, harsh and critical things were happening to my parents. Things like the Iowa blizzard of 1977. Over a 24 hours period, thirty inches of snow fell. My parents were snowed in, trapped with two toddlers who probably demanded an unending supply of snacks, and no phone or means of escape. Lick Creek Farm was surrounded by Shimek State Forest, which was ideal for privacy and recreation. What the remote location was not ideal for was the cutting edge technology of rotary phones or top priority to the county snow plows. The phone company refused to run a phone line down a rural country road without a second residence, and the snow plows had more highly populated areas to service (like roads where six whole people lived). So the snow fell and horses needed to be fed and no one could contact my parents. Then panic, the kind known only to mothers, kicked in and my Dad's mother dialed my uncle and asked him and his wife to PLEASE check on my family. I'm sure she imagined the four of us stranded in the desolate woods, without proper food reserves or childcare items, with no way to drive to town and obtain supplies. Unable to drive in, my aunt and uncle donned snowshoes and set out on a three mile trek to our house. They arrived bearing red noses, cold fingers and the most important provision on Earth, beer.
My mom didn't drink beer.
That first winter on Lick Creek Farm, my parents struggled to make ends meet. I was almost two and my priority was picking out names for all of the feral barn cats and attempting to ensnare them so that I could hold them close and love them properly (petting them hard with my teeth gritted). Oh kitty kitty, please don't go! I'll eat you up; I love you so!  The seasonal summer business that they loved so much was simply not providing them with adequate income to get through the off season. Even without the necessity of car seats, jogger strollers and 1,235 safety approved items that today's parents are required to buy for babies and tots, my sister and I were still two additional mouths to feed and the bills were stacking up.
Speaking of the lack of car seats in the simpler times of the 70's... I distinctly remember riding in the truck as a child, gloriously unconfined. I stood on the bench seat of the truck next my dad. I used my knees as shock absorbers, as I bounced along the gravel roads and enjoyed being able to see the actual landscape, rather than just gazing at the endless sky that hovered above the burgundy dashboard. Then a stop sign appeared and the safety restraints of 1977 jolted into action; a giant man arm unfolded like the stop sign of a school bus and sprang out in front of my tiny, child body. You know, for security. That man arm often swung at me with more force than required to stop a 24 pound pixie child from flying through the windshield, but it kept me safe and moderately free of head injury. Sometimes, if I was sleepy, I simply curled up onto a warm coat and fell asleep on the floorboard of the truck, which granted at least one dog a treasured pass to sit on the seat.
But my sister, the dogs and I did not only require food and proper safety devices. No. We also required clothing.Well, not the dogs... but I personally needed a multitude of pink lacy dresses that I insisted on wearing with my cowboy boots. I think Jessi wore sensible child size leisure suits, denim trousers with patches on the knees and floor length gowns made from old quilts and pillowcases, but I'm not entirely certain. All of these expenses, including 28 horses to feed, property to maintain and a considerable farm payment (400 acres!), made it necessary for both my parents to take second jobs in the winter months. My mother commuted 30 minutes on gravel roads to schlep boots and hats at a Western Store and my dad started up a demolition business with my mom's brother. Even with the extra income, and savings on Jessi's and the dogs' clothing, they were still failing financially.

Then sometime that spring, just after I turned two, I quietly wandered into the horse pen that was adjacent to my grandparents' back yard. I was kicked in the head by an irritated, but thankfully unshod mare. Any typos, tense issues and grammatical errors found here are certainly all due to that trauma. So is the giant scar on my head. So is most of my twenties...

I recovered and the following summer, there was an opportunity to obtain a lease at a second stable in Estes Park. Excited by the prospect of an increased income and new riding trails, my parents purchased 10 additional horses and two ponies, which brought their equine herd to a total of 40 head. It was a fairly successful summer living in our little leased cabin built into the slope of Giant Track mountain and renting horses to tourists. After inhaling clean mountain air, Ponderosa Pine and happiness for five months, we returned back to Iowa for the winter. A friend of my parents parked his fifth wheel on the property, officially making Lick Creek Farm a place with two residences, and we got a phone.
Relief was sure to follow.

Friday, January 25, 2013

We ain't no delicate flowers, hombre.

Ahhhh. Girls' Night Out: No men. No dirty kitchen. Lots of dirty language. NO MEN.

I sort of had three last week. It was all for the safety of my husband best.

Occasionally there are days, weeks, when I'm feeling particularly... challenging... and instead of inflicting my fiery injustice upon my family, I simply leave the house. It's my special
"rehab". Sometimes I wonder aimlessly through Target, blissfully child free. I linger in the home decorating isles. I buy laundry soap without having to answer 678 questions, bribe someone to stay seated or sweetly ask them to PLEASE NOT STOP DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE CART. I take an extra moment look at books... or shoes. Sometimes I go to yoga and attempt to feel Zen while I try to ignore the people wearing loose shorts and the hairy man next to me that jams his crusty foot in my face during a supine twist. And other times I share drinks, stories and laughs with my girlfriends. This is my favorite way to blow off steam and regain a mild sense of decorum. No matter what the process, the end result is the same. I come home a slightly less crazy version of my former self. But only marginally functional, because totally sane equals boring in my book.

The last time I left the house alone it was to participate in a tequila soaked whitebread Mexican funeral themed ladies only  night. All the gals were German-blonde or Scottish-redheaded and we all showed up at a Mexican restaurant wearing black. It was like a Stepford Wives funeral march while eating chalupas and talking about dicks.

We did not appear to be the most diverse group on the planet.

But we love all kinds!

*Okay, maybe not ALL kinds. Like, the homophobic guy with the watermelon sweater and the skin tone to match. We didn't love him.

After we were finished eating, we moved from our booth to the bar, so as to air ourselves out and smear our dainty grace and peaceful demeanor all over the other unsuspecting patrons in the restaurant. I think my single friends may have wanted to mingle with the opposite sex.

There were four seats between Ole' Watermelon Sweater and an attractive man to his right. There were five of us. After Sarah told him that we were spies, then amended that to "I mean, day care providers and preschool teachers", the attractive man kindly offered to move down so as to accommodate all of our demure group. Then he said, I don't know if you'll want to sit by me because I'm different. I answered, "You really have no idea how "different" we are." He looked at all the blond and red hair and seemed confused. I think he was referring to the fact that he was one of the four black people that lives in Ft. Collins and not a quirky personality.

Later, after the conversation was flowing and our magical, delicate laughter filled the room (we are a group full of brayers and snorters, people. And the volume is up to 11), he walked over to Sarah and I and asked how he could join our group. He begged. He pleaded. He immediately said that he could pretend to be gay, so as not to be a threat.

Sarah said, "Let me see your shoes."

He stuck out a foot clad in mediocre shoes.

I said, "Oh honey. That's gonna need a little work."

He asked if they should be pointy, to which Sarah responded, "They should be Italian."

I solemnly nodded in complete agreement.

Sarah looked him up and down and informed him that he was doing well with his bling, giving him the impression that things were looking up.

Then he asked if he should lisp.

I shook my head, "That's not necessary. Unless it makes you feel better." I said.

Sarah said, "Some of my gay friends do. Some don't." I nodded in agreement.

He looked sincerely shocked and said, "You really have gay friends?"

We were both like, "Duh."

Then he said, "I'll do anything to convince you that I can do this, just to hang out with you ladies."

I pointed down the bar and said, "Awesome. I'm going to need you to go hit on that guy."

And that my friends, is how you get rid of overzealous, unwelcome participants in your girls night out while maintaining dignity and grace. My single friends should probably stop hanging out with me. I'm chasing away their prey potential suitors... but man, do I feel better.

Peace, Love and Rehab,

Thursday, January 24, 2013

This Is Our "Normal"

My husband and I have an interesting relationship. While I am on a one woman mission to "help" him fix all of his faults, he is a firm believer in enabling all my bad habits. He basically pours me a glass of wine while I criticize his drinking.

Last night Brock and I were snuggled together on the couch watching a movie. There was a scene where the frustrated husband was yelling at his wife. She stood there silently crying as he went on a rampage.

I turned to Brock and said, "There is no way that I would stand there silently and take you yelling at me like that."

Brock said, "I know. My head would be rammed up the fireplace flu."

I looked at the fireplace, then back at the shape and size of his head, and said, "Yep."

Then I said, "Honestly, throwing hissy fits really isn't your style. "

He said, " I'm way too tired to find the energy to yell and scream like that."
Then he continued, "Besides, it's such a turn off to see people lose their cool like that."

I cocked my head to the side and asked, "Then why the hell did you marry me?"

Brock said, "That's different. You're a woman. I expect women to do things like that. Most men are idiots and you all have to put up with a lot of crap."

I nodded solemnly, "It's true. And if we're not yelling at you, then we're probably bottling up rage and silently planning on killing you in your sleep."

He said,"Exactly. I'd rather you just get it out of your system so we can move on."

I said, " Good call."

After the movie , we headed to the bedroom for my favorite activity of the day: sleep. I walked around the corner and came within two inches of smacking my head into the heavy armoire door that stood open in my path. The same door that my wonderful husband he has taken to leaving open. EVERY SINGLE TIME that he uses it.

In my typical style of "constructive ridicule"*, I said, "Are you serious? Are you freaking moron? Get over here and close damn door! If you don't stop this shit I'm going to have to start beating you more often!"

*Thank you, Rachel, for sharing that term with me. It made my day.

Brock giggled like a school girl, climbed over the bed and quickly slammed the door. As he scrambled back to his side of the bed, he said, "You can't even catch me!"

In my mind, at that moment in time, nothing would have been more satisfying than the firm smack of my hand against his greying noggin. I allowed myself a moment to fantasize about the way my palm would sound against his skull. Instead, I chose to playfully swiped at his giant man head and pulled up short just at the end, missing him by half an inch, so as not to seem like a cruel hearted ice queen.

Instead taking my lack of contact at face value, which was mercy on my end, he chose to mock my bad aim. That is when I sprinted over the bed, and using my catlike refelxes, firmly whacked him on the head.

Then I laughed like Dr. Evil and felt like my day was complete.

We kissed, said our "I love yous" and drifted into dreamland. Brock and I both slept soundly last night, firmly implanted in our roles of "confrontational, irritated asshole" and "mocking, irritating enabler". Why fix something that isn't really broken?

Peace, Love and Mawiage,

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Twas a cold night in January...

Twas a cold night in January, when all through her home
Everything was irritating her, even the gnome.
The house was in shambles, the kids were both whiny
One dog smelled of skunk, the other was slimy.
The odor of the cat was certainly wrong.
Her husband sat idly, one hand on his schlong.
It was too cold to flee, zero degrees was a bummer
It was pitch black by five, she much preferred summer.

She glared at his face, so simple, so blissful
She considered pulling his hair, fist full by fist full.
The children were screaming, fighting over toys
The cat just kept licking, she abhorred the noise
The dogs wanted out, then back in again
The barking, the scratching, the ice was growing thin.
The TV was on, the commercials were blaring
Her skin prickled slightly, her patience was wearing.

Her stomach was bloated, her back was so sore
She was hungry, she was tired, she wanted a S'more.
No, she needed salty and crunchy... and liquor.
What she really needed was SILENCE... and so so much quicker
Her head started aching, she truly felt shitty.
Her jeans felt tiny, her face was all zitty.
She herded the kids into bed, keeping them safe
Her husband still was unknowing, she hated his face.
She watched the TV, in attempts to unwind
The men were all stupid, she still felt unkind.

To bed, she submitted, tomorrow love she would channel.
Her day was finally over, she welcomed her flannel.
The night was too short, she didn't feel rested.
She awoke to demands, her patience already tested,
She rose from her cocoon, sweaty and grumpy
She looked quite a fright, pasty and dumpy.
Her belly was bulging, her back felt like trash
Somehow in the night, four pounds had attached
She turned on the news, people are lame
She felt the urge to kill them, or just gently maim.

Coffee, and silence, and more sleep would be neat
Or, maybe, some Advil and a pack full of heat.
Then the cat started licking, the children were screaming
Her husband was standing, apparently dreaming
The dogs started whining, everything was overwhelming
She handled it gracefully, with chocolate and yelling.
Her husband clued in. He kept a safe distance
Her kids demanded more food, and the dogs were still listless.
Outside was frozen, to cold to breathe.
She was trapped with her rage, her husband wanted to leave.
He made a smart move, and fled the house to safety
His butt cheeks were clenched, his movement was hasty

Something was wrong, her energy was zapped.
She felt no love in her heart, her patience was tapped.
She wondered why she felt so damned hateful
And also so fat, and so tired and ungrateful
She felt soulless, huge and vaguely homicidal
She picked up the paper and saw an ad for Midol
Suddenly a thought clicked in her brain
How long has passed since the last time she felt drained?
She rode her broom to the calendar,  there she read as she hovered.
Sure enough, 23 days, the mystery uncovered.
A visitor was coming, of course! Her mind was so hazy
It was that messy old bastard, who made her feel crazy.
A Pamprin she swallowed, her calm she would keep
Her guest said, "Fuck You! I'll be here all week!"

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Meme for 2012- This is how I watch football.

Red from Doesn't Speak Klingon posted this meme that she originally got from Mommy Wants Vodka.

Both of these women have wonderful blogs that you should be reading.

Today is Saturday and we are "watching" the Broncos play. That means that I made fudge and am spending the afternoon on my computer. I normally don't do memes but I like new experiences... most of the time.

Hold me.

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?
I got a tan in March from natural sunlight, hiked in Muir Woods-complete with leprechauns, used Instagram, went to New York City and was almost killed by a garbage truck, visited New Jersey, and I illustrated a children's book. I also made a delicious pumpkin cheesecake.


2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Sort of, but not completely. And sort of, but not really.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My cousin had a precious baby boy. It was so wonderful to hold him. It was even better to be able to hand him back to her and know that I was going to get a full night's sleep.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My grandfather joined my grandmother in heaven in July.

5. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
Money and my horses.

6. What countries did you visit?
Brock and I accidentally ate at a Denny's and apparently time-warped back to the deep south in 1989. So, to answer the question, none.

7. What date from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
October 24. My friend Bridget lost her 10 year old daughter Avery in a car crash.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
It is a tie between the day that I had every piece of laundry in my house washed and when I illustrated a book.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Making it anywhere on time (except for girls' night out- I'm always early for that).

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
My pride was injured on a regular basis, but I'm accustomed to that. I was the unfortunate recipient of both the stomach flu and the regular "Death Plague" flu. At least my friends still loved (love) me.


11. What was the best thing you bought?

These fabulous inlaid cowboy boots.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
We are pretty much all a bunch of assholes with a few shining moments. We should always celebrate the shining moments... and the laughter... and getting through the day with our sanity intact.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Anyone who took another person's life and the media after all of it, particularly Sandy Hook. Between the presidential election and Sandy Hook, most of facebook was awful.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgage and bills. Woohoo!

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Going to San Fransisco to visit my best friend in March and shooooeeeeeesssss.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?
Goyte's "Somebody that I used to know" and LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem"

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? peaceful.
ii. thinner or fatter? older.
iii. richer or poorer? richer in love and friendship.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
I pretty much did exactly what I wanted to do. That's how I roll.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Repeating myself.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
In my house, with a fever, my family, our awesome babysitter and my pajamas.

21. What do you feel you missed out on in 2012?
Not seeing enough of New York when I was there.

22. Did you fall in love in 2012?
Yes. I love the show Nashville mad hard.

23. How many one-night stands?

Hahahahahahahaaaaa.....aaaaaaahhhh..... hahahaha. None.

24. What was your favorite TV program?
See 22. I still love Modern Family, Castle,Whitney, and So You Think You Can Dance.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Hate is a waste of time. I simply just hope that certain people die in a fiery plane crash. Just kidding...

sort of...

26. What was the best book you read?
It was a toss up between Tina Fey's Bossypants and Jenny Lawson's Let's Pretend This Never Happened.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Pandora radio on my phone.

28. What did you want and get?
New living room chairs (sorry, Eleanor).


Where is 29? I don't know.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?
.Hmmmm.... nothing outstanding is coming to mind. Pretty much anything that we left the house without children to watch was phenomenal. The most watched movie of 2012 was Cars 2. Thank you for that, my precious children.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I left the house ALL DAY. Brock surprised me with a spa day where I had a facial, a massage and a pedicure. Then I did lunch and a little shopping with Sarah, then came home to cake and dinner with my boys. It was lovely. I was (am) 37. Unfortunately, I spent the entire year believing that I was 38. Meh.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

I'm satisfied. Winning the lottery or the HGTV Dream Home would have been awesome, but all is fine.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?
Boho chic with a touch of multiple personality disorder.

34. What kept you sane?

Exercise, gardening, my friends, booze, laughter.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
It's hard to fancy someone when you don't personally KNOW them. I find many entertaining when I watch them through that nifty, newfangled television contraption. It is easy to imagine that I would like someone based on what they portray themselves to be, but quite frankly, they are actors. Aren't they PAID to ACT? 

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
I'll spare you my political frustrations and just say that I firmly believe that "less" government is "more".

37. Who did you miss?
My family in Iowa. I missed my bff in CA, Erin in NJ and Sarah in IA. I missed my horses, Gus and Prince and I always miss my Grandma Rose (she's been gone for 11 and a half years)

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Sarah and Jen.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012:
So many. SO SO MANY. You'll have to buy the book. *winky face* (I still have to write the book. That could be problemy.)

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
"Hey Ho" ?

I don't know. I don't speak in song lyrics. Mostly because I'm just not that good of a listener. 
"The rest of the meme says I should tag some people but isn't the point of a meme that anyone who likes it copies it? Yeah. That." ~Red

Friday, January 11, 2013

It was a cold, dark winter night....

She was almost finished with the dinner dishes. It had only been three of them tonight. She hated it when he wasn't home for dinner. It was one of those frosty, pitch black nights in January. She wasn't a fan of January. It was a month full of bullshit resolutions, post holiday exhaustion and hideously cold weather. Everyone attempted to forget the massive debt they incurred by public Facebook announcements that boasted how they were going to lose 20 pounds "this year". She knew that they would be the same people that were soon to be best friends with their couches; parked there eating a pint of chocolate ice cream while watching The Biggest Loser.

The ring of her cell phone made her jump. She was edgy. She expected the call and looked at her phone in anticipation. It was that familiar number. She exhaled and answered it.
"I'm close. Meet me in 20 minutes in the shopping complex east of Mason," said the voice on the other line.

She glanced nervously at her children playing on the floor in front of her. She would need to bring them along. This was not ideal in any way. "Okay," she said. "What are you driving?"

"A white Mercedes. We'll be there. Don't forget to bring the money."

"Of course," she said, as she felt her heart rate quicken.

She hung up the phone, pulled her blonde hair into a sensible ponytail, and looked at the clock. He was out tonight, drinking some beer with buddies; most of whom she had never met. She knew he wasn't coming back anytime soon. She attempted to shake off her nervousness and started the arduous process of getting her children into their shoes and jackets. They would simply have to come with her. Certainly not ideal, but she was adaptable and knew that they would be safe, as long as they were with her.

Twenty minutes later she turned her old black pickup, which was grimy with gravel dust, into the parking lot. She quickly scanned the vehicles and spotted a white car with headlights ablaze parked in the northwest corner. There were two people in the front seat. She had only expected one. A tiny alarm went off in her head. She carefully pulled her truck into the spot next to the white car and rolled down her window. Again, she glanced around the parking lot, this time for witnesses. The whole situation looked fishy and she was concerned that they were being watched.

"Hey," she said to the girl in the Mercedes. "Did you bring them? Thirty of them?" She nodded in acknowledgement to the young guy in the passenger seat. The back windows were tinted, so there was no way to know if any others were in the car.

"Yep." said the girl. "Did you bring the money?"

"Sure." She turned away from the white car and winked at her kids, who sat perfectly quiet in the backseat, just as she had instructed. She grabbed her purse and handed the money through the window as the girl gave her two brown bags in exchange. Her heart was racing.

"I hope no one is watching.  This looks suspicious," she said to the girl.

The girl laughed nervously and said, "I know."

She peeked into the bags and made a quick estimate.  It looked like thirty. She was simultaneously relieved and terrified.

This time she spoke to both people in the white car, "You guys should drop in sometime."

"Yeah! Let's barbecue when it warms up, said the girl.
"Sounds like a plan! See you soon. Have a good time at the birthday party!" she said brightly.

They said goodbye and she pulled her truck out of the Target parking lot. She turned up the volume on her CD player so that she could hear when it was time to make animal noises with the sing-a-long song that played, and she sang enthusiastically all the way home with the hope of keeping the tiniest one awake. He fell asleep one mile from the house.

She hurried through the nightime routine so that she could finally get to the part where she read the bedtime story to the kids. They read stories every night and it was possibly everyone's favorite part of the day. Yet,  that night's story was different.  It was special. Not because of any holiday or new toy. It was special because not only were their names printed in the book, hers was printed on the cover, right behind the title "illustrator".  It was a memorable night, indeed.

-This is a true story. And Brock was home at 8:20 because he has no idea how to properly partake in a guy's night out. I must teach him..... later.

The WINNER of the book that I illustrated, titled B. Thomas the Bear's Rocky Mountain Chocolate Adventure, is...... SARAH!!!! Congrats! You have pretty hair. I kind of want to sniff it.

Anyone who wants a copy for a mere $9.99 (you ALL had better buy a copy!), please contact the Estes Park Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory at 970-586-6601.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Who likes chocolate, bears and giveaways?

Holy guacamole, you guys, I've been a busy bee. I know it appears, by my lack of posting, that I have failed to write. That is not the case. I've been writing like a maniac. Still, after 28+ hours of writing over the last four day on my 2013 project, I do not yet have a post worthy of publishing. In the words of my friend when she was trying to pedal a bike while intoxicated, "This is HARD!"

So I took a break and watched The Bachelor. Wow. Just... wow. I think I burned some major brain cells on that. (And yes, I will watch it next week too, because apparently I like damaging my brain.) I also started reading yet another Nicholas Sparks book, because it seems that I like sobbing uncontrollably over fictional characters. Then it got worse. I was in my truck yesterday and I mindlessly started singing along with the radio. I soon realized that I knew all the words to One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful". I don't even know how that happened. In a vain attempt to pretend that didn't happen, I pushed play on my CD player and commenced with my singing along... with a frog... and the ABC song.

 It's official. I've lost my edge.

Now that I need to restore my self pride and reboot process of reasoning, I will offer a look back at my, ehem... accomplishments in the last four days.

  • I showered four times.
  • I made a mask out of egg, honey and avocado, smeared it on my face and frightened my children. It was magical.
  • I successfully removed the cat puke stain from my lacy white tank top.
  • I baked and consumed a delicious blackberry cobbler.
  • I went to a yoga class and didn't fall into a pathetic, post-flu heap on my mat (although my mat had been so dormant that contained a something that resembled a used cocoon... or an old spider nest).
  • At said yoga, I was required to fill out a questionnaire. One question was: What would you like to achieve with your yoga practice? My answer: World Peace.
  • I stopped myself from saying "Namaste, Motherfuckers" at the end of said yoga class.
  • I cleaned out the backseat of my pick up truck. It looked like five rabid squirrels, a wildebeest and a hungry coyote had been locked in there. I realized halfway through that I should have first donned a HazMat suit.
  • I scooped some pony poop. It's tiny and adorable, as poop goes. At least that is what I told Sarah when some of it fell from my boots onto her white carpet.
  • And lastly, my personal favorite, the book that I illustrated is now in print!
To celebrate, Brock and I drank a bottle of champagne and watched an old episode of Castle. I know what you are thinking- something like, MAN! Those two know how to PARTY.

Also, I'm giving a book away to one of you! All you have to do is follow me on Google or Facebook  and leave a comment here or on my facebook page. You'll get an extra entry for sharing this post on Facebook, Twitter or Google + (or whatever social media that you frequent, not including the bulletin board at your local salebarn).

The winner will be announced on Friday and the book will be shipped out soon, most likely with the items from my last giveaway which I hosted before Christmas (i.e. the time period before I became Typhoid Jo.) Sorry AC and Savvy. I'll make sure and surprise you with some extra goodies in your packaging- but not blackberry cobbler because I don't think that would ship very well.

The book is titled B. Thomas the Bear's Rocky Mountain Chocolate Adventure. It is an adorable little story for children, based on a true event that happened last summer in Estes Park, CO at a chocolate shop owned by some good friends of mine. My friend asked if I would be interested in illustrating the story and I said, "Hell yes!. "Bear" in mind that I had never, ever, in my life drawn a bear before."  I also hadn't been diligently practicing drawing since Art School. When I say "diligently", I mean "at all". I practiced a few bears then I called her back and said, "Can we make it about a horse stealing chocolate, rather than a bear? I've been drawing those since I was three!" She insisted that the story stay true to life so I buckled down, created my version of a curious yearling black bear named B. Thomas and cranked out the entire book in about two weeks. I am telling you all of this because I am terrified that people will be mean regarding my skills, or lack thereof back story always makes stuff more interesting.

    Ta daaa! My first book as a published illustrator!
If you are interested in buying one (or 20!) copies of the book, please call the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in Estes Park at 970-586-6601 and place your order. While you are buying your collector's item book, you can also purchase all the delectable goodies that B. Thomas loved so much, because unlike cobbler, chocolate does ship well! (Make sure and order some "Balls of Joy". Trust me. That is some serious yumminess.) 
$1.00 from the sale of each book will be donated to bear conservation and education programs.
Peace, Love and Beary Good Chocolate,


Friday, January 4, 2013

Chapter 1: The place where the clock ticks slower. No, I'm not talking about my head.

In truth, my life started with a bet. My dad's friend bet him that if I was born on his birthday, February 21, that he would pay all the hospital bills. Well, I was born on February 21. I don't know if this friend of my dad's actually paid for me to come into the world, but I think the point here is when I came into it, a man had to part with a lot of cash, a man had to part with a tiny bit of dignity and a determined and well-meaning woman did the majority of the work while experiencing severe pain. When you look at it this way, this innocent bet and the situation surrounding it, probably all created by the magic of liquor, has been a driving force in my entire life. Well played, God. Well played.

I grew up, mostly, in a sleepy little village in Iowa. Van Buren County is located in the heavily forested hills between the Des Moines River, an abundance of rich farmland and Amish country. People say that the clock ticks a little slower in Van Buren County. While I doubt that is a scientific fact, I will say that life there is fairly relaxed. For instance, if your car won't start, it is perfectly acceptable to drive your tractor into town. Oh, and no one uses turn signals. Ever. Also, you will know pretty much everyone in town. Even if you don't know them, they are pretty certain that they know you. It's their business. It's what they do. You can't step outside and fart without three people knowing about it and using it as a topic for coffee hour discussion at the local cafe. I know this because I worked as a waitress in that cafe when I was 19.

Growing up in such a small community in America's heartland had its good points. Being part of such a close-knit environment taught me a lot of skills that have formed me and helped me navigate my way through life. It also pushed me to master the art of the SBD (silent but deadly) fart.

The main area where rural Iowa educated me, besides in crops, hogs and deep fried pork tenderloins, was in the idea of accepting responsibility for my actions. In a tiny town, in a tiny school, your actions were being monitored by someone AT ALL TIMES. For example, if you pushed someone down in the cafeteria, you weren't a bully to be feared, you were THE asshole that everyone avoided while they simultaneously discussed that time you had head lice in the 4th grade. If you pulled out of the gas station without paying, your grandmother three states away would have heard about and called your mom before you even pulled into the driveway. Nothing holds a person accountable for their actions better than a party line and the town gossip. NOTHING. Well, except maybe a gun-owning father with the title to your vehicle and a voice conditioned to be heard over a stampede of cattle. You have to mind your manners in a small town because there simply aren't enough places to hide. Wasn't it a small town where Hillary Swank wasn't allowed to cry, Laura Ingalls was caught lying and Demi Moore was whoring around and forced to wear a big A on her chest? How do you feel, to this day, about Nellie Oleson? If I were a betting woman, I would wager that you are still not fond of her smug little mouth and those annoying ringlet pigtails.

I was a pixie of a child, nothing more than a giant pair of blue eyes settled into a mostly bald, extremely pale head. I'm told that I was quite charming, a story which seems factual to me, and also that I was a bit of a stinker, which I cannot confirm nor deny. I do know that I laughed while being spanked, keeping the spanker from using too much force because my tiny giggle was like the tinkering of one thousand bells being held by fairies riding unicorns over a double rainbow, thus filling the disciplinarian's heart with a profound love and devotion to the greater good. Or something like that.

A mere 14 months before me, my sister Jessi was born. While I was the equivalent of an Anemic Anime Albino, she was born with rolls of tubby squishiness, squinty black eyes and thick hair. It is no surprise that later in life, we were often mistaken for twins. While I grew to be an awkward, skinny, blue-eyed shy girl with skin so white that it almost appeared lavender in some lights, Jessi was always a foot taller than me, had curves,black eyes, a natural tendency to "run the show" and tanned like a Native American. But, you see, we both had long blond braids, wore jeans with boots and rode horses, so clearly, we were identical.

My parents were pioneers of sorts. When Jessi and I were wee tots, they sold their farm and went on a great adventure. The high school sweethearts turned entrepreneurs took their profit, loaded up two dogs and two babies into an RV and headed west, looking for a new place to start. After a long journey which includes unexpected guidance from someone that my mom refers to as "The Man on The Mountain" (it does sound more majestic than "some dude that sold used cars with your dad"), they landed in Estes Park, CO where they leased a livery stable at a quaint lodge. They simply needed to gather up enough horses and tack to provide the public with guided tours through Roosevelt National Forest, and that is just what they did... with two babies in tow. Easy Peasy, lemon squeezy. I'm sure that no one thought that they were crazy. Nope, not a soul.

Because land in Colorado, even in 1976, was extremely expensive in comparison to land in Southeast Iowa, my parents chose to rent the seasonally operated livery stable and to buy a farmstead in Iowa, thus providing the growing horse herd with affordable pasture and hay, and our family with a place to call home in the winter months. This meant that we moved from Iowa to Colorado every May, just about when the weather in Iowa started to get pleasant, and returned to Iowa every September, just before the skies turned concrete grey for six months and that wet winter chill settled into your bones for another long season of snow, ice and basketball. When I say "we" I mean my parents, my sister, myself, our two to three dogs, a few special stuffed animals and 28 horses. This bi-annual relocation became the norm for me. It is also, I tell myself, the reason that I rather enjoy a change of scenery and moved approximately 32.6 times in a ten year span that was also known as "my 20's". It is definitely the primary reason that I chose Colorado as my residence. In every one of those trips back to the Midwest in my youth, I was in tears because I had to leave my beloved mountains behind. I also prefer my air thin, so that I don't feel the need to chew before swallowing it. Still, as much as Colorado means to me, it is that tiny community in Iowa, with its rich black soil and honest, hardworking people, that my roots remain firmly planted. And yes, those roots are blond... and currently chemically treated.

Read Chapter 2 here...


Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year, Old Blog, Older Me, New Focus

I have a confession.

I'm boring the crap out of myself.

If I feel that way, I can't imagine how all of you must feel about me. This is where I should apologize, but I don't want to say "I'm sorry". Because that feels lame... and like I've submitted to something. Besides, submission really isn't my thing... ask anyone who knows me.

I've been thinking a lot about why this lackluster performance is happening. (The flu/parenthood/lack of sleep) After a lot of introspection and volleying thoughts in my head,(I blame the Presidential election) I have come to a conclusion. I'm trying too hard to grow- you know, as a human adult. (I just want someone to send me a certificate in the mail saying, "Johanna Kokjohn-Wagner has completed the work to earn her the privilege of being an actual grown-up" Then I can frame it and hang it on my wall. Later I can stand in the street and yell "Look MOM! LOOK DAD! I'm a grown up now!) I'm trying too hard to not turn my life, my very being, into a clown act for other people to laugh at. (I'm NOT a clown! I don't even LIKE clowns! Except Rodeo Clowns, I tend to like them...) I'm trying to take more responsibilities for my own actions; to be in the driver seat of my own life instead of hanging onto the "OH SHIT!" handles in a car someone else is navigating (over a cliff). I'm trying to be a motherfucking functioning person in society, people! All of this personal growth and accepting of responsibility is why, after many prayers, thought and some hard liquor, I have decided to blame Sarah and Erin for moving away and taking my sense of humor with them.

But seriously, I miss those women. They are some funny bitches and I feel like my glowing personality is enhanced by their presence. I love you both. Hard. I'm dull without you. Come visit me, please. We can all get together and blame our parents/spouses/the economy/the asshole driver in the roundabout/clowns for our screw ups. It'll be great!

After talking about this all with Sarah on the phone today, she helped me form a plan. HEY YOU GUYS! I HAVE AN ACTUAL PLAN! Don't worry, I'm sure I'll continue to write shit that will entertain you. Well, maybe not YOU, but someone. Most likely it will be someone that is a socially malfunctioning mental case who is not currently in the care of a health professional. I'm not judging. It's the Internet! All kinds are welcome here! But I digress...

So, Sarah+Johi+phone= making fun of people who wear fuzzy pj pants to the school drop off an exciting new direction for my blog. I'm going to be using 2013 to serve up some tasty and some probably-not-so-savory morsels of my past. I'll be writing about what makes me... me. I'll be digging up memories, memories that may or may not even be true, that helped create this hot mess of a glorious, not-clown-like person that calls herself Johi. I'll be sharing stories about how small and large events shaped me, changed my life or changed the life of another. It should be interesting. Hopefully, it will be entertaining. I'm pretty sure that it will be funny. I think it will keep me inspired to write. And maybe, just maybe, we will all learn a little something about ourselves. Gasp! Or maybe you'll feel sorry for me and offer me a job with flexible hours, an amazing salary and incredible benefits. Either way, I have a new found enthusiasm for this blog... and enthusiasm ends with 'asm'... and I like some other things that end in 'asm".

Like sarcasm.

What were you thinking?

So everyone buckle up, grab the "Oh SHIT!" handle and prepare yourself for a bumpy ride, because I'm driving this truck into uncharted territory.

To Be Continued.....