Witch of the West


My husband helped me with this project I saw in Martha Stewart’s Halloween magazine issue.

My original plan did not include Sparring Partner helping me because that always means a simple project will turn into a production of epic proportion, which invariably turns into me hating my husband for 24 hours. Don’t feel too bad for him as the feeling is usually reciprocated.

I am the kind of person who likes to start projects with only the vaguest of plans. I like to work from a picture or from an idea. SP wants dimensions, weights and formulas. If I want a board cut for a project, I will hold my index fingers out in front of me and say, “I need it to be yay-big.” He will then ask, “Is that 18 or 24 inches? Do you want a 2×4 or 2×6? Does the wood need to be treated? Do you want me to router the ends?” And then I get pissy. Read my mind, man!!

I felt I could tackle this project myself. Except I needed his help going to the home store and picking out a sheet of plywood. Oh, and he didn’t think a jigsaw would do as nice of a job as a rotory saw even though we had access to at least three jigsaws but not one rotory, so he had to pick one out and it requires special bits. He also declared that using conduit and conduit straps was not good enough; he would MAKE the brackets. I’m surprised he didn’t demand that he get to cut down the trees to make the plywood and press it out himself calculating the tensile strength necessary to withstand the autumn prairie winds…

I was adamant that I would use the saw. I didn’t want to have to depend on when he was willing to put aside his own projects to help me with mine. However, after I broke the third bit before making it even a tenth of the way around the template for the witch, I knew I’d have to hand over the new toy. He completed the rest of the witch and the cat using a single bit.

I had the kids help me apply the black paint with rollers. They thought that was fun at first, but black seemed to suck that excitement right out of them. Plus Aitch tripped and fell into the dirt with the wet roller and then proceeded to roll that onto the witch and then back into the tray of paint and to the witch again. I didn’t care but for Doodicus, who takes after his dad, complained how she was ruining it and the bickering and whining was too much. They soon threw down their rollers and went back inside the house.

SP made the brackets as promised, and I wish I could explain his ingenious design, but it would require me to use words like jig, sled, and channeling and really, what does it matter? The end result was fabulous and way better than conduit brackets.

The witch and the cat are now in the side yard. I still have a few minor touches to add, like a broom, lantern and some lighting, but considering I’d never thought I’d get this far, especially before the first of October, I’m pretty happy with how it looks now.

I Remember Eight Ball

A couple years after I was born, my parents decided to add onto the farmhouse. Strangely, it was not because they were looking for more bedrooms (there were 2 1/2 to be split between five children and my parents (someday I’ll explain the "half" bedroom)) and not because they wanted another bathroom (did I mention of the five children, four were girls and there was another girl on the way?). It was because they needed room for STUFF.

The room is probably 15×20, maybe a tad bigger, and it was built with a concrete slab floor. My parents, who were – frugal – decided against any kind of typical flooring so the concrete was simply painted pink. They put dark wood paneling on the walls and hung wagon-wheel light "chandeliers" in the room. They are still there, if you doubt me, but now the floor was painted grey sometime in the last decade. Into this room, what we all grew up referring to as the Play Room, went the record player stereo as big as a buffet, the sewing machine, a liquor bar and table set made entirely out of wooden barrels, and a pool table.

I never really appreciated the fact that we had our very own regulation sized pool table growing up. When classmates were invited over, they were often torn between riding horses or playing pool. Often the pool table won out as it was something they only saw in the town’s bar, and only adults were allowed to use the table and its equipment.

My dad taught me how to play, and by taught I mean he showed me which end of the cue stick was up, the difference between the cue ball, stripes and solids; and understanding the term "kitchen" as it referred to billiards, which may explain why I don’t bother with the more common concept of kitchen when used in relationship to cooking and baking. I knew enough about pool to make me dangerous.

After I dropped out of my sophomore year at college (academic probation sounds a bit harsh), I soon found the job teaching ballroom dance lessons in Lincoln. Within a few months, I was transferred to Wichita to teach at a studio there. I was an obvious choice, being single and whose parents felt I was throwing my life away, to take over an open position.

My employer bunked me up with a fellow instructor who lived in a studio apartment. I can’t even remember where I must have slept or if there had been a kitchen or bathroom, I can only remember vividly the couple who lived next door in a studio of the exact same size but had been converted it into a gleaming white and brass-accented disco parlor. It was my introduction to a gay men life-style in the ohmygodwhoknewyoucoulddosomuchwithslipcoversandpaint kind of way. I actually bought my very first car from them: a Dodge Duster with a slant six for $600. By-the-by, that car is rusting into a pile of bolts in a field on my parents’ farm as we speak.

Since we worked an odd shift at the dance studio (1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.), we would all go out after work and practice dancing something other than the waltz or foxtrot. However, since I wasn’t as an experienced dancer as the others, I would end up at a side table watching the others obnoxiously take up the entire space of the club’s dance floor to perform a flashy west-coast swing or cha-cha. I didn’t want to appear too pathetic in my solitude, so I would often meander into the secluded areas of the club that housed the pool tables. I would find one that wasn’t being used and plug 50 cents into the slots and play a game.

I liked having something to concentrate on without having to make attempts to socialize. It was a type of zen for me even though music from the 80s was pounding and the rainbow lights were strobing, but a girl playing pool by herself apparently draws attention, especially if she’s not too bad with a stick. A guy would walk over from a neighboring table and put a couple quarters on the pool table’s rail, a signal that he wanted to play a match. Their leering, cocky smiles were always wiped off their faces once I broke (a term referred to the act of "breaking" up the racked balls by shooting the cue ball into the entire set with the intent of scattering the balls evenly across the table’s surface).

Playing pool was my go to form of escape. After Wichita, I was transferred to Omaha to supervise, and then back to Lincoln to do the same at the very studio I got my start. In Lincoln, I tired of the nightclubs and eventually would find myself at Big John’s Billiards. It was during one of these times when I was playing pool with a girlfriend, that a couple young college guys came over and offered to play partners (guy-girl vs. guy-girl). It was from that meeting that my partner, Paul, eventually became my boyfriend. He was a champion billiard player through university, and he took my raw talent and buffed off the hard edges and made me into not just a "good" player; but "excellent".

He even bought me my first cue stick. You know, the kind that screws together with the nylon wrapped handle and maple shaft, and my very own cue case, personalized. He taught me that setting my drink or cigarette on the table’s edge or smacking my cue stick on the table in frustration was poor form and frankly, quite douchey. He taught me masse’, banking, playing safe, and how to run the table, all billiards terms that make me feel quite smart when I use them.

I was Paul’s pool protege. If it hadn’t been him, I wouldn’t have taken gold in the Cornhusker State Games (Women’s Billiards) (second bracket, but let’s not talk about that…). I would not have played on the city’s pool leagues. I would not have had personalized plates on my Dodge Neon that said "BLLRDS". I would not have understood how insulting the seemingly innocuous observation, "You’re pretty good…for a girl" would be because the thing is, I’m pretty good, girl or no. And I would not have met my husband. Oh, yes. I can thank my ex-boyfriend, Paul, for that as well.

My pool case is in the basement among the spiders and dust and dead japanese beetles. While I played in a league where we live now, it was run by a moron who didn’t know his backside from a bumper, and I refused to play again after the first year. Then I had Doodicus, and my bar-days were over. Very, very rarely now, if my husband and I find ourselves out on the town and there’s a table, we’ll play a game. I still can run the table.

How Do You Answer These Questions

I had yet another downer of an ending post drafted before I deleted it all. Instead I put to you these questions I had last night from Doodicus:

"I hate school. Why do I have to go?"

"What difference does it make if I get Fs and Ds instead of As and Bs?"

Please, don’t respond with "So you can go to a good college and get a great job!" because if we’re already struggling beyond words to get him through the fifth grade, you can bet the farm he has absolutely no desire at this point and time to look forward to another four years of higher education if we’re even able to get through these next seven. "A great college…" is no incentive here.

Also? The flute lessons are absolutely off the table, but you may have already figured that out.


The transition from a private Catholic school system to a public school has neither been as bad as I had imagined or as good. I would be delusional to think that this would have gone picture perfect, but I would be a pessimist if I thought it was going to be rough.

The week before school started, I sent an email to his homeroom teacher introducing Doodicus. It wasn’t a formal 504 Plan with a list of accomadations, but it wasn’t a hey! my kid is perfect! you shouldn’t have any problems! kind of letter, either.

I recently decided that instead of him keeping a devoted notebook for each and every subject, which was not only the teacher’s preference but Sparring Partner’s as well (and one we tried first), he is to keep all of his subjects’ notes on divided ruled paper in what we refer to as The Case. I bought a set of 8 dividers that have pockets on both sides (Avery brand and they are AWESOME), which I labeled in order of his class schedule, and then put in several sheets of ruled paper with the reinformed sides for note-taking.

While the down-side to this system will be that when the teachers want the kids to turn in their notes, he will have to open the D-rings and hand over the loose papers instead of a notebook, AND that if he loses the binder he loses everything (which nearly makes me nauseous just thinkintg about it), the disadvantages to the other system (one notebook to each subject) are not as easy for me to accept. He was bringing home the wrong note-book to use to study tests or not bringing them home at all, or if he did bring them home the night before a test, he had nothing written in them and by then it was too late. The other issue I discovered is that while each notebook was labeled with the subject, all of them that I brought home after my meeting with his teachers last night had notes in them from at least two different subjects. His notes consisted of a few words at the top of the page and the rest a series of doodles. Then a couple blank pages, more doodles, then a page with a definition or two written on them and usually from a different class. There’s no way they would ever be effective for studying. Sorry, but I tried it their way, it’s time to try mine.

After the meeting with his teachers yesterday, which I initiated, I cleaned out Dood’s desk. Chaotic doesn’t even begin to describe what I encountered. Aside from the mess, we found three pieces of homework that were due today so I brought them home. When I showed Dood, he went into a full-on meltdown, yelling how he never gets any free time. He can’t seem to understand that if he gave himself less "free-time" at school (not using the study hall periods or the after school access to the study center effectively) then he would have more time at home to do what he wants.

Last night was also suppose to be the parent’s meeting with the music store to talk about the band, orchestra and rentals, which Dood really wanted to go to as he is interested in learning to play the flute. The meeting was at 6:00 and it was nearly that time, an hour after we arrived home, that he had finally stopped yelling at me and got to work. There was no way I was going to be able to take him to the meeting, have supper, and still get homework done by bedtime. I never said a word about the meeting until after he was done for the night (not done with homework, mind you, but it was bedtime), at which time we had to break the news that we just couldn’t add band to our schedule.

He of course broke down into a fresh wave of tears, this time in grief instead of rage, and I felt like an absolute shit for taking that away from him. We could only promise him that we would consider the option next year, but that just made me feel worse to know that he would have to wait a whole year to try something he wanted to do now. I tried to make him understand that it wasn’t a punishment, but that we just don’t want to have these fights every night over what needs to be done first before he can just chill out with a video game, or watch TV, or play with his sister. Getting him to practice an instrument was just another battle I personally do not feel up to taking when I am so battered from the ones now. That’s probably why I still so badly want to say yes, because the reason I’m saying no feels entirely selfish.

My Brain is a Nice Place to Visit, But I Wouldn’t Want to Live There.

My son has on different occasions asked me whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable. I tell him that’s a great question and that he should ask his science teacher.

But now I’m curious so I google it. A tomato is categorized with the cucumbers, pumpkins and peppers so it’s a vegetable, right? Nope. Technically, it’s a fruit. They are all fruits. If a bloom creates the end result and it has seeds (whether they are edible or not), it’s a fruit. That means cabbage and lettuce leaves and potato and carrot roots are actually vegetables, but scientifically (!) they aren’t either. Vegetable is a culinary term, not a scientific category.

Not confusing at all.

This leads me to a post I saw on Facebook about Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention (which, as my husband pointed out, has the most unfortunate acronym…), and the whole "mom-in-chief" thing as compared to Ann Romney’s speech and the "love so deep only a mother can fathom it". Sparring Partner announced they had both played the Mom Card. The continuing smack down of women-on-women continues without the short nighties and the feather pillows.

But now I’m curious so I googled it.

Who DID play the Mom Card the most?

Mom – 5
Mother – 5
Dad – 7
Father – 3
Parent – 5

Total: 25

Mom – 2
Mother – 6
Dad – 5
Father – 3
Parent – 4

Total: 20

It was interesting, but not necessarily revealing. Trivia I’ll forget by the end of the day. But, hey, why not take it a step further… I found Hillary R. Clinton’s transcript from the DNC in 1996 (before the Mommy Feuds and the War on Women):

Mom – 1
Mother – 6
Dad – 1
Father – 1
Parent – 19

Total: 28

And then I went one step further. "FAMILY / FAMILIES"

AR – 4
MO – 13
HRC – 21

So now YOU tell ME: are the presidential candidates’ wives fruits or vegetables?

Do You Smell That Smell?

Maybe it’s because I deal with the subject nearly every day, but I find it fascinating what others have for costs associated with healthcare, whether they are out of state of out of the country. I’m such a cynic though, that I know "free" healthcare isn’t actually free. We pay a hefty premium to have "free" vaccinations. Some countries pay incredibly high taxes for "free" health related services (see previous post and comments).

In the U.S., our healthcare’s system is amok. Personally, I blame Medicare. Not necessarily the program, but the system which controls it (the government through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services), because if they determine a doctor’s visit is payable at $ .25 on the dollar, who do you think gets to make up for the other $ .75?? Providers jack up the price to make up for the growing Medicare population; CMS lowers what they pay again; providers raise their prices again. Something has got to give.

** SEGWAY **

This weekend I went clothes shopping with my son. I survived. Amen and The. End (oh, but there’s so much more!). I rewarded him for his patience by taking him to Toys R Us and as I strolled along the aisles, a woman with PERFECT hair (which my husband and I have dubbed Politician Wife Hair or more accurately, Helmet Hair), I felt envy. She didn’t have to wear her matchstick, cropped pants and little kitten heels. She didn’t have to press her immaculate blouse or airbrush on her make-up, but she did and then walked into what is certainly a Hell on Earth by not only looking good, but she smelled nice, too.

She breezed by me as she followed an staff employee, which made her the only adult there not being dragged from aisle to aisle by a cooing, sticky, whiny, commandeering kid, and her expensive perfume wafted past. I couldn’t entirely hate her because it was a nice scent that didn’t make my throat seize up and gag. Unlike my MIL’s Channel No. 5 that she must not be able to even smell because flies drop in her presence. Or maybe she thinks that since she hasn’t bathed in a couple of days, she’d better double-down on its use. Seriously, the woman uses so much, that if she joins us for dinner, I cannot taste my food. I taste No. 5, and for the record, it does not taste good.

Anyway, back to the Politician’s Wife. I took some care with my appearance, but I began to think that maybe the extra step of putting on a dab of perfume was the proverbial cherry. I normally top off with a healthy dollop of whip cream (my ass is thanking me). This morning I applied a light spritz, bearing in mind that my office is small and patients tend to be more sensitive to odors post-procedure, and headed out the door. I now feel conspicuous; like I’m trying too hard. On the other hand, I feel a touch more "worldly", too.

The Cost of Vaccinations. Literally.

Did you know that medical providers are one of the last bastion against transparent pricing? Somewhere along the line, they decided their patients shouldn’t "shop" for care, and I guess there’s a logic to that as the idea of their doctor being the least expensive might read "poor quality and service". Even when we were uninsured, I didn’t make phone calls to different clinics to see who had the least expensive office visits. Our pediatrician was Dr. Kidd before I lost my insurance; it was Dr. Kidd after.

Our insurance through the Evil Hospital did not cover vaccinations. We took Doodicus to the clinic his pediatrican referred us to that was funded by the state. We paid a palsy "copay" ($20 maybe?) and for almost nine years, all shots were administered by them. Our current insurance now covers vaccinations 100% and with that coverage, the clinic prefers we take the kids back to Dr. Kidd, which is totally understandable.

In July, I took Aitch in for her well-baby check which included five vaccinations. I paid the office visit co-pay of $30 and never gave it another thought until I received my Explanation of Benefits from the insurance company. I wish I could play the game, "Guess How Much It Cost?!" through my blog, but obviously I can’t, unless you’re willing to spread this post out for the next couple of weeks and no one has time for that level of shenanigans, right?

Aitch’s exam, five vaccinations, and the administration of the vaccines came to a grand total of $1,000*. The specific breakdown (I’ve included the codes for you medically-inclined) follows:

99392 – $152. This was for Dr. Kidd to tell me that Aitch is perfect.
90461 – $100. This was for the nurse to poke my kid in the thighs with a pointy object and make her cry.
90670 – $205. Prevnar 13 vaccine (pneumococcal)
90716 – $125. Varicella vaccine (chix pox and boosters)
90707 – $78. Measles, mumps and rubella vaccine
90713 – $48. Polio vaccine
90700 – $52. DTaP vaccine (diptheria, tetanus, and pertussis)

Now let’s play a game. What does it cost in your area for vaccinations?

* This is for a provider in a rural-based community in the middle of the Prairies.