Saturday, December 31, 2011

New year greeted by new man

This was a fun story I did in honor of NYE. 

Fred Green poses with a photo of himself before he was able to shed 200 pounds. Photo by MEGAN TILK
















One of the more popular New Year’s resolutions — losing weight — can also be one of the more challenging.

For Boonville resident Fred Green, losing weight became a necessity. At just 34 years old, Green weighed 400 pounds.

Aside from the constant fatigue, he suffered from epileptic seizures, often one a day.

“I ate a lot of the wrong stuff,” Green said. “I ate what a lot of people eat: chips, Little Debbies, cookies, candy, soda.”

His lunches often consisted of a hamburger or two, and chips. At home he took comfort in floury pastas and breads.

Green said he knew it was time to change when his cousin, who weighed a bit more, died of a sudden heart attack in September of 2009.

"That was my wake-up call that I needed to make a lifestyle change before I got too old,” Green said. “So I started working out and changed my diet.”

Scrapping the fries for carrots and the burgers for turkey, he also began working out at the local YMCA daily.

“I looked at it as a challenge,” he said. “I used to have a 12-minute mile or more. Now I’m down to an 8-minute mile.”

With a lot of running, a few abdominal and cardiovascular workouts and some healthy eating habits, Green now stands proudly at 200 pounds. Fitting both of his legs into one leg of his old sweatpants, Green could be deemed the local Jared Fogel, Subway Restaurant’s weight loss success story.

His co-workers say he’s better than that.

“Jared just lost weight,” said Unlimited Opportunities Case Manager Misty Vizcarralagos. “Fred’s done that and made his medical condition virtually disappear. He’s amazing.”

Not only did he reach his goal weight and accomplish his goal of driving but he’s also found employment and is taking online college courses, feats he once couldn’t imagine.

Now an administrative assistant to the case management department at Unlimited Opportunites, Green continues to set goals for himself. While continuing his diet and exercise is near the top of his list, Green also hopes to finish school and one day be a case manager himself.

Green’s last reported seizure occurred nearly 10 months ago, about the same time he hit his goal weight.

“It’s quite liberating,” Green said of his experience. “There’s times where I wonder how I even woke up and got along.”

Once deemed medically ineligible to drive due to his epilepsy, Green now owns his own car.

“I’ve known Fred since I worked with him in 2009,” Vizcarralagos said. “He had a lot of potential but was very shy. I think he was maybe afraid of the unknown but I think at one point he just woke up and decided that was enough. He’s made a complete transformation.”

Since Fred has reached his goals, he's chosen to make education and advocacy his 2012 resolution.

“My resolution is to inform and influence others to live healthier and educate them through what I did and what they can do,” he said. “I want to encourage others to lose weight and live healthy.”

Though he admits there were times he struggled, he’s also found ways to cope.

“There are going to be times where you work out all month and only lose three or four pounds,” he said. “That’s normal. Every one plateaus at some point but you can’t judge your progress just by the scale.

“You’re going to get cravings and if you do, don’t deny yourself, because the craving gets stronger and when you eventually give in, I find that you tend to over indulge, so moderation is okay.”

Looking forward to another healthy year, Green said he will continue his routine at the YMCA and share his experiences and motivation with others.

“Every doctor is stunned,” he said. “I like that feeling. Eventually, it got to a point where going to the gym was fun. It’s like recess to a kid for me. It feels great.”

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Christmas fit for the Griswolds

Some of the 11 people we had filling our apartment.
Daily News column for Dec. 30.

A Christmas fit for the Griswolds


Decorations, lights and the sounds of Christmas movies filled our tiny apartment. Each saucer was in its proper place, vegetables were stacked neatly on a tray and even the dog's hair bow was clipped in the exact center of her head. It looked as though I had planned a perfect Christmas.

For the first time in my family's history, we would not be celebrating at Grandma and Grandpa's house, but five hours from their home, in my apartment, which I share with my male counterpart and our two dogs.

Feeling the pressure to live up to Christmases past, I aimed for the best, a Christmas even Clark Griswold would be proud of.

After spraying a quick mist of peppermint scented spray through the apartment, I stood waiting, ready to greet my guests — all 9 of them, and one dog.

It was perfect — until the phone rang.

"What do you mean you're on I-70," I shouted into my iPhone.

Somehow, my family had let the one vehicle without a GPS unit take the lead, and they were more than a bit off course.

I had given specific directions prior to their departure from the hotel. "You go right down … through town, take a left on … , and a right on … " It was that easy.

What my mother heard was "take a right on … and travel west on the interstate."

Once their course was righted, my hopes for a perfect Christmas were restored.

That is until my aunt, uncle and two cousins showed up. They were the first guests to arrive, luckily without an RV. But as they plopped their boxes, bags and coats and dove into the vegetable dip, my hysteria kicked in.

Before I could place their coats on the rack or add their gifts to the Jenga-like stack under the tree, the others arrived.

Gifts overflowed into the hallway, Grandpa tripped over a dog and The Man started drinking before dinner. Things had gone awry in a hurry.

As I scrambled to serve up some soup with what dignity I had left, another dog scared Grandma by jumping into her lap unexpectedly and broke her wine glass.

A few hours later, boxes everywhere, wrapping paper strung from room to room, the smell of burnt soup throughout, my hopes for a perfect Christmas were gone like the bottles of rum and wine that littered the counter.

Instead, we were living a Christmas to remember.

The scramble to purchase a plunger at midnight is something that I will choose to forget.

—Megan Tilk is a reporter who also writes a weekly column for the Boonville Daily News. She can be reached at bdnmegan@gmail.com or through her blog: megantilk.blogspot.com.

Colonel Butter and the war of knives

 Daily News Column for Dec. 23.

Colonel Butter and the war of knives


We had so much aluminum foil covering our kitchen counter, we could have picked up HBO for free. But, instead, we used it to keep our holiday treats from sticking together.

Somewhat of a tradition in my family is homemade Christmas treats involving several pounds of powdered sugar, peanut butter and butter. No, heart problems are not a family tradition.

Now living in Missouri, five hours away from my family in Iowa, the job of assistant chef fell onto my male counterpart.

"Can you hand me a knife?" The Man asked, already covered head-to-toe in melted chocolate.

Men.

Knowing that my kitchen contains several types of knives, all of which I know how to use, I needed him to be more specific.

"What kind of knife?" I asked.

"A regular one," he said, still unhelpful.

Already frustrated with my assistant's inability to properly identify kitchen utensils as my mother would so easily be able to do, I continued.

"A butter knife or a steak knife?" I asked, holding up some options.

"The regular one, not a steak knife," he said with an eye roll and a snort.

In my little world, there is no such thing as a regular knife, and his sarcasm and slight display of disgust were just as irritating as his lack of knife knowledge.

"Yeah, that's a butter knife," I said snorting back.

At this point, it was clear, the war was on. Now calling it a "table knife" instead of a "regular knife," The Man was taking a new tactic.

Holding my ground, I continued to try and prove myself right — which, of course, I was.

"I've called this a butter knife my entire life, and I've used it to butter your toast and crescent rolls," I argued. "And I've never, in the past five years, heard you call it a table knife."

Snort.

Realizing neither of us would back down, it was time to call in reinforcements. After a quick flick of the laptop lid and some auto focusing by way of webcam, my mother was now there to help, even though she remained in Iowa.

Holding the knife just a foot from the computer screen, I took another shot at the stubborn Southerner.

"Mom, what do you call this?" I asked already knowing the answer.

"A knife," she replied. Oh. Dear. God.

"Mom, what kind of knife?" I pried.

Before the words were even out of her mouth, the victory dance had already commenced in our living room. Two against one. It was, in fact, a butter knife, and so it was settled.

Not so fast.

The Man has a mom, too. Another Southerner. And so the war continued.

When her answer of "table knife" came from the depths of the worldwide Web, it was clear this battle wouldn't be easy.

We decided to leave it up to our co-workers, only to be further irritated with answers of "dinner knife" and "just a plain knife."

Call it a truce, if you will, but this girl is an Iowan, and we butter our bread with butter knives.

*Take the Daily News' online poll and let Megan know what you call such a knife.*

Friday, December 16, 2011

A rock, a stick and a stone

 BDN Column for 12-16-11

I couldn't have made his Christmas shopping experience any easier.

As if the emails upon emails of high resolution photographs, website links and price comparisons weren't enough of a hint, I had even verified the payment and delivery methods of several locations, also included in the emails.

So when I got the, "besides jewelry, what do you want for Christmas," text message, I was a little peeved to say the least.

It was in fact, 11 days until the big, happy holiday and it was obvious that after weeks of hints and "help," that The Man hadn't even started shopping — or contemplated the idea of shopping. It was also apparent that he didn't find my hints very helpful. Bummer.

Not one to give up, I found another way to convey my wish for something round and shiny.

"A rock on a stick," I replied. After all, it wasn't jewelry but still painted a pretty good picture of what I was after — so long as the stick is round and the rock shiny. I'm not very subtle.

Not willing to play into my game he threatened me with no gifts at all.

Knowing that I would most likely not receive a ring coupled with the number of emails containing earring and necklace options in his email, I helped him out a bit.

"How about a stone? To replace the one you broke," I texted.

While I was trying to remain humorous and light, the fact still remained that my kitchen was short one rectangular baking stone, even though  I can't blame the poor guy for trying.

It was one of those rare occurrences, women like me have to take advantage of. The kind that only happen during a solar eclipse, NASA launch or when you're deathly ill.

A few days back, The Man decided to cook supper for me.

Filling my plate with yummy pasta, I was about to grab a few slices of garlic bread fresh out of the oven, when pop! My baking stone and what was left of the garlic bread went sailing through the kitchen.

With so little counter space in our new apartment, The Man had done what I find myself doing so often, using the stove for storage. Except this particular time, he forgot to turn the pasta burner off before placing the stone on the stove to cool.

And that was the last of my chances for a stone, a rock or a stick.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Way It Is: Dreams of underwear heaven shattered

BDN Column for 12-8

"How would you even wear something like that," The Man asked, scratching his head.
While his question was valid, coming from the opposite sex, it didn't detour his attention, which was solely focused on The Angels on our TV screen.

It was time for the annual Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, and I had been excited for weeks.

Though there really is no answer for his question — because all women know that only The Angels can wear the complete ensembles — us average types can and do actually wear the basics.

So there I sat, just as enthralled as The Man, in my oversized sweats and hoodie with my bowl of ice cream.

Hey, just because The Angels don't eat, it doesn't mean I can't enjoy fine food when I see it.

"You know, I used to think I could be a Victoria's Secret model," I said to The Man between bites.

His raised eyebrow told me I could continue.

"But then I met ice cream, Diet Coke and a bit of a desk job."

The ice cream dripping from my nose made it clear that I thought I was funny. The Man looked on in disgust — or maybe embarrassment — either way, I wasn't getting any closer to being a model or funny.

I continued watching, and making my Christmas wish list for the Secret's Santa, but I couldn't help but wonder what my life would be like had my childhood dreams of the runway came true.

Not only would my dad have died of a heart attack after seeing his only daughter in undies with wings, but my poor dogs would have probably starved nearly to death right alongside me. Who else would give them their daily helping of table scraps if I were living off nothing but egg powder and water?

Being on stage with my arms and legs showing wasn't an issue. I grew up taking dance lessons. There was probably a time or two I flaunted a favorite dance costume up and down the hallway of our house.

So how's the list look so far? Eating nothing? Debatable. Modeling sparkly costumes? Check. Next stop? Those shoes!

Being a farm kid, the only thing I used a high heel for was to drive thumb tacks into my bedroom walls to hold up posters and photos. Not sure I even realized you could wear them and actually walk around.

The Man has already accused me of having "baby giraffe syndrome" the few times I've braved one or two inch heels. I'd look like a monkey on stilts if I had to wear those cute but extremely high Angel stilettos.

With two of the three major Victoria's Secret model qualifications a bust, I finished off my ice cream and popped in a movie.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Black Friday's Missouri Man Snake

BDN Column for 12-1-11

The fog was slowly lifting. The soft glow of our newly installed Christmas tree twinkled through the room. Thanksgiving was in full swing and while I was still trying to regroup from the food coma I had so happily put myself under, someone else in my house was fully awake and beginning to bounce off the walls.

It was clear that everyone's annual afternoon nap was nearing an end and we began to wonder if my male counterpart had consumed a bit too much of this year's "special" frozen fruit drink.

"Walmart's sale starts at 10 p.m." The Man announced with that sense of excitement generally reserved for 5-year-olds on Christmas day. It was only 5 p.m. The dog show was over, the leftovers were secured in the fridge and I had been awakened from my nap. Rude.

"Are you coming? I'm going to get some awesome blue rays," he said, still giddy. Quickly shattering the poor kids hopes and dreams for his first Black Friday experience in a big city, I announced that I was going back to sleep.

"Wake me up when it's time to leave," I said already snuggled up on the couch with our Shih Tzu. With nothing better to do for the next five hours, The Man attempted to nap himself. By my calculations — granted I was nodding in and out of ham induced semi-conscienceness — he lasted maybe 30 minutes before bouncing again.

The next thing I knew, I was being shoved and it was 9:15 p.m.

His excitement truly mounting, The Man made a final glance over our DVD collection before dragging my drowsy butt out the door. I wasn't going to admit my excitement. We'd done the whole Black Friday thing before, but on a much smaller scale and honestly, I was over it. Kohls, Target, Best Buy or even a mall weren't available to us in years past, but this year they were all within just a few short miles.

As we rounded the corner to the nearest Walmart, whatever little bit of excitement I had and all 500 ounces of his flew right out of our sunroof.

"Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas any more," was the only smartalic thing I could come up with. Cars, trucks, SUVs and even an RV filled every parking spot, cart stall and curb. It was apparent that we certainly wouldn't be doing our holiday shopping from the comforts of our old, small-town store again this year.

It would be a battle to the death.

Making a b-line through the front doors, past the jolly greeter and nearly knocking over the tweens with headphones, he drug me straight to the DVD crates. It was as if he had instinctual GPS. Crammed in between aisles of peanut butter and beer were the plastic wrapped displays of $9 movies and The Man was already drooling.

With dejavu of that time I was accidentally knocked away from the safety of Mom's hand at the state fair as I child, I jumped to the belt loop method. But it was no use.

Even though I was no longer a child, there were just too many people and The Man had only one thing on his mind — and it wasn't the safety of his fare lady.

My Man had morphed into some type of snake and after scooping up a shopping basket, he slithered between the traffic jam of carts I'm certain was left by soccer moms as a diversion and made his way through the sea of confused dads to the front of the display. Seeking safety, I parked myself against a frozen food cooler and pretended to send text messages while secretly photographing the moves of the native Missouri Man Snake.

Nearly 30 minutes later, The Man immerged from the depths.

"What happened to your basket," I asked seeing him cradling a large assortment of movies. "It got in the way, so I ditched it. Check out the cool movies I got," he doted. Amateur.

Luckily, he had slithered fast enough to finish his shopping with time to spare before I showed him how the pros do it. And we moved on — to our place as customers number 132 and 133 in the line outside of Kohls.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Will you vaccum me?

I was ill, which is no unordinary occurrence; sinus infections are hereditary in my family. (Thanks Mom.)
Feeling miserable at work and looking for a bit of virtual comfort via text message, I reached out to my male counterpart.
"I still feel awful," I whined. "I think I'm allergic to our apartment."
Having fought "the crud" for several weeks now - around the same time we moved into the interesting culture that is apartment living - I felt it was a somewhat realistic correlation.
Expecting to receive the closest thing to a bouquet of roses one can send on a smart phone, The Man's response was anything but.
"Maybe we need to vacuum more often," he stated — like that made me feel any better.
Using his response as a bit of self promotion in the realm of marriage material, as I so often do, I changed tactics.
"Nope, I think it just means that it's time for us to get married and buy a house," I replied with high hopes of quickly leaving the multi-family dwelling lifestyle behind.
"Yeah, that's exactly what I said. 'Will you vacuum me?'" The Man so smartly text messaged back.
OK Buck-o, two can play at this game.
"Yes!" I typed with the enthusiasm I expect to have on the day the "real" question FINALLY comes. "But you'll end up with suction hickeys for sure."
Though I had lost the marriage discussion battle, as usual, I had won the war on sarcasm.
Realizing I was going to find no moral support or any of the warm fuzzy feelings one hopes to find from another when allergy medications and hot tea just don't cut it, I gave up and called Mom. It was her fault I was sick anyway.
Letting a few days pass, I made another attempt at matrimonial bait.
With a caption that contained bribery, innocence and love, I addressed a crystal clear high-resolution photo of the ring of my dreams to Santa himself.
After all, I got a vacuum last Christmas.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thankful for the pork chop coma


I was planted firmly in the center of our couch and wasn't moving. It wasn't that I didn't want to move, I couldn't.
Trying out a new recipe consisting of heart-stopping, fried pork chops with a honey glaze and real mashed potatoes — as opposed to those flakes from a box — I had stuffed myself beyond happy.
It's the little things in life.
Good food holds a special place in my heart — and along my waistline. But it's OK when the food is worth it.
This time of year is my favorite time of year, and not just because the songs or turkey say so. It's my favorite time of year for many reasons — the main one being food.
The pork chop coma I had placed myself under was just the precursor to what's to come, and I can't wait for the days of ham hangovers, turkey tremors and stuffing siestas. I can smell it now.
It's no wonder this is the happiest time of year. It's the only time one can eat for two (or maybe three,) nap the afternoon away and go back for seconds without judgement.
Now don't think I'm all about food. There are many things I am thankful for.
I have the two cutest fur babies who never judge my cooking, even if it comes from the floor, a male counterpart who eats my cooking and a kitchen to cook in.
OK so maybe I do have a bit of a fetish for food. On to other things — for real this time.
This year has given me more things to be thankful for than I ever imagined I would have.
It started a lot like the last few years, living the dream with The Man and our dogs. Our families were close and for the first few months, all seemed as normal as could be.
Boy did our year change in a hurry.
I sit here now wondering where the last three months have gone.
In Beverly Hillbilly fashion, we managed to move all our worldly possessions more than 200 miles from all we had known. In a matter of days we were unpacked and onto a whole new life in our tiny apartment in Columbia, Mo.
Without the help of family, no matter how crazy, I'm certain our television would be in millions of tiny pieces and our mattress still lodged in the stairwell.
Thank goodness for extra muscle and a case of beer.
Monday night television is another of life's little joys I am truly thankful for.
Had we broken the television this would be another story.
Sparky's Homemade Ice Cream, the iPhone, GPS when I need to find my way home and a good pair of shoes will never let me down.
My list goes on and on, like: a good mechanic, Google, fried pickles on a summer night, DVR and the ability to change the channel whenever Jersey Shore comes on.
But most of all I'm thankful for those who still believe in freedom of the press, those who read their local newspaper, soldiers over seas defending those freedoms, the loyalty of my family, friends and readers and let us not forget, Grandma's pumpkin pie.

—Megan Tilk is a reporter who also writes a weekly column for the Boonville Daily News. She can be reached at bdnmegan@gmail.com or through her blog: megantilk.blogspot.com.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Confessions of a worry-wart

Watching my male counterpart wrangle, and all but hog tie, our 90-pound pooch into submission prior to administering several drops of medicated ear treatment, I began to feel a bit horrified for any children we may (or may not) someday have.
Seeing my big, fur baby undergo a bit of routine ear maintenance left me covering my eyes and squealing like — a girl.
This is the exact reason why I leave any nail trimming, teeth cleaning and routine grooming to The Man.
When it comes to picking up the occasional vomit or acting as their human pooper scooper – I’m your go-to girl. Just don’t ask me to handle a task that, if under the right circumstances, could leave either of my fur babies injured.
Like I said, feel sorry for any future children coming our way.
Straddling the large and in-charge mutt, King Ace, The Man continued with the drops and massaging as grunts of delight told me the big lug — the dog, not The Man — was feeling better.
Had I tried to pin Ace down and administer medications myself, two lamps, an end table and a fish tank would have been replaced afterward. Much like when I try to give him baths in the bathtub.
With all of our family photos and a half a can of Diet Coke thrown from the ottoman, I would have been left holding the container of ear cream, now half empty and coating my arms.
Things with our "little one" aren’t any easier – though pinning her down sure might be.
Requiring a daily grooming, so her bow sits just right on top of her head, our Shih Tzu might as well be our child.
Though I would have trimmed her hair short, leaving the poof and bow behind, The Man insists his baby girl look like, a girl.
"If we cut off her pony tail she'll look like every other Shih Tzu," he whines. "And you can't ever tell if they're a boy or a girl that way."
As if the Mizzou doggie shirt and sparkly pink collar weren't enough of a dead give-away. Yet another reason to feel sorry for our possible offspring.
I've got to admit though, we've got a pretty good system with the dogs; and "they" say dogs just train you for children.
I handle the grooming, loving and worrying, while he handles the discipline, trimming and anything involving a q-tip, cotton ball, scissors or a prescription.
It works the same with children. Right?
Megan Tilk is a reporter and weekly columnist for the Boonville Daily News. She can be reached at bdnmegan@gmail.com or through her blog: megantilk.blogspot.com.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Way It Is: Mace, not to be confused with Maize

First OFFICIAL Boonville Daily News column.
I'M BACK!!!!!


Pink or black? Or did I want polka dots?
Rhinestoned was not an option, so I went with pink.
After my first brief but alarming encounter with the more nocturnal, big-city inhabitants, I was instructed to buy Mace.
Mace, the spray; not the stuff that grows in fields — that's maize. But I think I'd have a lot more fun slinging a fistful of hard, yellow kernels at the face of an oncoming assailant, though it would probably be less effective.
So there I stood, bewildered, in the aisle of some low-budget office supply store contemplating pepper spray canisters. Yes, an office supply store carried Mace — yet another sign the spray is a necessity.
The sprays were similar in make and ingredients, each being a combination of habanero pepper oil, the leg of a blue poison dart frog and something similar to the venom found in cobras, that when sprayed into the eyes of said bad guys, is promised to induce crying, sneezing and begging for their mothers.
Though the ingredients and expectations were the same, the canister color choices and size options made my shopping excursion a bit difficult.
"What's the pink one say to you," I asked the unsuspecting clerk, "Hey, I'm a girly girl, attack me, or yes, it's pink but I know how to use it."
The clerk's eye roll and gum bubble said she either didn't care or thought I was nuts.
This small-town girl had officially found herself doing the second thing she said she'd never do in life, right after completing the first — which was move to a big city — and that's buying Mace.
Since an ear of corn wouldn't fit in my purse, I went with the more compact option, a small tube of the pepper spray that connects to my key ring.
And hey, if the flip top, push button, pull trigger method of fire doesn't work I've got a bunch of small, pointed metal objects connected to the other end that I'm sure will do some damage.
Who says you can't take the girl off the farm?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hello Boonville!




Wrote this to introduce myself to Boonville. I find it funny I found myself another Ville to write in. Hope it treats me as great as Maryville did. Keep your eye to my blog and www.boonvilledailynews.com because The Way It Is is back!


Is this heaven? No, it's ... Boonville?
While I can say from 18 years of first-hand experience that Iowa truly is heaven — and please don't hold that against me — I'm convinced that if there were such a place in Missouri, I think Boonville would most likely be it.
Born and raised among the corn fields and rolling hills of the Heartland, this Iowa girl headed south for big-city opportunities — in Maryville, Mo.
Yeah, yeah, I know, Maryville is not a big city but coming from a town where four-legged creatures outnumbered those with two, Maryville was huge.
Stop lights, multiple traffic lanes and a Walmart were a sight for sore eyes.
A few years of city life, a college degree and a big-girl job later, I was uprooted and found myself in a two-bedroom apartment in Columbia. I blame the boyfriend.
For the first few weeks, I often found myself asking silly questions.
"Parking meters? What the heck do you do with those?"
While I did actually know what a parking meter was, the fact that the parking meters came with optional EZ Pay cards was mind baffling.
"Leashes? We really have to put the dogs on leashes now?"
And the worst realization, "$5 for a beer?!?!"
Shopping in boutiques, protesters, curbside jazz musicians and those pesky meter maids all took a bit of getting used to, but I have to admit it was all kind of fun.
So when I found myself interviewing for a reporter job at a small paper in Boonville — much like the one I came from — I could only breathe a sigh of relief, and fresh farm air.
The historic homes and businesses, unique charm and complete lack of hustle and bustle won me over in seconds.
Now, rear-end parked firmly at my new reporters desk, I look forward to exploring the great unknown of Boonville.
Thank goodness parking is free.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Breaking up is hard to do - My FINAL Daily Forum column

** Photo was taken at our new place!**


This is my farewell column for the Daily Forum - Thanks for reading and please continue to follow my blog as I will try to keep posting columns there. Thanks


Breaking up is hard to do


It's not you, it's me. I love you, but I'm not "in love" with you — which is why I am saying goodbye.

To you, my loyal weekly readers I must say goodbye.

While I love your followings, laughs, criticism and support, it's time that I must move on with my life.

This may feel a bit like a bad break up, but there are plenty of other columnists in the sea— or online. And hey, I'm on Facebook.

As my male counterpart, our two fur babies and I move several hours away, I can't help but feel a little bit of my heart break.

Coming to Maryville for the first time — more than six years ago — was a thrill. To see supermarkets and grocery chains, stoplights and even a turning lane was like that time I thought the quarterback of the football team was waving at me — that kind of "hold the phone" exciting.

Turns out the quarterback was actually waving at the skinny blonde behind me, but at least my excitement for Maryville never faded.

Like any relationship, I fell in love with various traits. The Nodaway County Fair, Northwest homecomings, Bearcat football, Mozingo Lake, rodeos, Pagliais pizza and the infamous Spoofhound!

I tolerated the not so great traits like annual ice storms, hail storms and 3 p.m. traffic on South Main.

Through the years we've grown together.

For Maryville, championships were won, roads constructed, buildings demolished and rebuilt. Heck, I almost camped out in the parking lot of Taco Bell prior to their grand opening.

For me, I became a college graduate, started my career and met the man of my dreams — who happens to be a townie.

And while breaking up is hard to do and this one may have been inevitable - Maryville and you, my readers, will hold a special place in my memories and my heart.

Whether you have simply read my musings each week, picked up my inquisitive phone calls, been on the opposite side of my camera or even attended one of my many attempts at teaching a dance class — YOU have forever touched my life.

Thousands of you: readers, acquaintances, friends, colleagues, and strangers — you make Maryville great.

And so while it may be one of the worst break up lines in history — I'll say it again. It's not you, it's me — and it's true.

So with one last chance, I say goodbye and best wishes to you. To my readers: I thank you for your support of such a great, local paper. To my colleagues: I really thank you for your patience and being tolerant of my many questions, phone calls, e-mails and every photo I had to willingly or unwillingly take of you. To the students of MDA: thank you for being such good listeners and bearing with some of my more wild ideas. Always remember to "point your whole foot" and "no flamingos!!!"

It has been a pleasure to have such a great relationship with all of you and I will miss you very much.

But hey, we can still be friends. Right?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Forget Packing, I'm going shopping.

Daily Forum column for 9-15.

"How can two people have so much stuff?" I yelled out over the top of a mountain made from cardboard boxes.

My male counterpart had nearly boxed me into our bedroom and left no escape, which I think he did on purpose.

After nearly five years under the roof of our house, along with our two furry additions, our little family is in fact, moving.

In the weeks leading up to the search for our next dwelling I had made some demands.

Although I'm sure they were muted by the sounds of helmet clashing coming from our television, I tried real hard to set some ground rules.

"Our new place has to have more kitchen storage," I demanded.

The grunt I received from The Man told me he at least knew I was in the same room.

"And a bigger bathroom," I begged.

Another grunt.

Had I mentioned a larger room for our pool table or maybe a wider patio for the grill I'm sure he would have been the one sifting through the classifieds, scoping out websites and making phone calls. Instead, I was left to sift through hundreds of listings.

After multiple rejections due to vacancy issues, space or the fact that we have a miniature horse posing as a dog living with us, our list of options had been narrowed to one.

The downside?

Our new home, or should I say apartment, will be considerably smaller.

We're talking no more basement, or pool table. No more eat-in kitchen, or grill even. It's more of a store the pots and pans in the oven when it's not in use, kind of small.

With just a few weeks to pack up our life, the chaos most call moving began.

"What do you even use that for?" became a commonly used phrase, along with, "I was wondering where that went."

While our new place is thankfully a bit bigger than my college dorm room, I continuously remind The Man — who by the way is a keep every pair of shoes, even if the soles have holes, type of guy — that we will never be able to fit five years worth of our stuff into a two-bedroom apartment.

I lived in an apartment once. I even spent two years living the dorm room life, so I'm convinced that somewhere along the way I must have lost my mind to be leaving our house behind.

"What am I going to do with my crock pots," I'd whine. "You mean we're going to have to put our shoes in the same closet?"

My short depression was halted by a quick but ingenious realization. Moving not only meant that we would be living in a new place, but that we would "need" new furnishings.

"Forget packing, I'm going shopping," I blurted out as I dropped the box of kitchen gadgets at The Man's feet and stormed out the door.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Gone like the mullet in my school photograph


Daily Forum column for 9-8-11.

I've heard tales and even witnessed first-hand what aging can do to a person.

More recently I'm feeling what age can do to a person, and quite frankly it sucks.

The joint aches and pains, sore muscles and stiff back I can learn to live with. But events that occurred last week hurt deeper than any cream can reach.

To paint the picture, high school graduation came with the first symptoms of aging.

Realizing I would soon be out on my own was a thrill, until living on my own meant paying bills, cooking my own meals and doing my own laundry. Ouch.

The symptoms worsened with college graduation.

No more could I stay up all night eating pizza and watching recorded seasons of Grey's Anatomy.

I probably wouldn't be able to go to a real job in sweatpants and flip flops and no more would my Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights be spent at the local watering holes. That one hurt deep into the muscles.

Granted, I still made attempts to cling to what youth I had left, and made an occasional appearance at the local Pub, until last week that is.

Slowly waking with the annual morning aches, a phone call jolted me before I could even begin to sip my morning coffee. It wouldn't even be needed after that.

"I just heard that the Pub collapsed," said the voice on the other end.

In denial and being the inquisitive type that I am I blurted out a, "what do you mean collapsed?"

Indeed, one of the few landmark Maryville taverns of my youth had collapsed.

The one and only bar in town where I didn't feel a bit too old or out of place to have a good time — you know, seeing as I'm aging a bit — was gone.

All gone.

Gone like my days of cheerleading uniforms, glitter eyeshadow and Pixie Stix with Cherry Coke.

Gone like the mullet in my school photograph and songs on tape.

A heap of rubble and a few remaining walls containing the stories and vague memories of celebrations past are all that's left.

And while, like myself, the walls that remain are a bit aged and weaker than before I can only hope that the Pub is the only part of me that collapses these days. I'm too young for that.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Those who believe winning isn't everything are on a losing team


They were losing, and not just losing, but losing big time.

It was the first Friday night football game of the season and I had chosen the wrong team to watch.

Being the big Bearcat football fan that I am, I've learned a thing or two during the last few seasons like being on the winning team really is more fun, and those who believe winning isn't everything are on a losing team.

My high school days, all of them, were spent as a cheerleader for a losing team.

Trying to remain "spirited" while my team and best friends were literally getting their hind ends handed to them became sort of an art.

"No, we can't do the 'Go, Fight, Win Cheer,' because we're not going, fighting or winning," I'd remind the other girls.

Now that I'm a bit older, I realize how lucky we were that our fans had refrained from throwing the remains of their chili dogs at us as we pranced, clapped and yelled our way through a 42-0 loss.

For some reason, year after year, I'd put the purple and black cheerleading uniform of my high school back on and hope for a win — yes, A win, I'm a realist.

Granted, cheerleading was really the only option in the way of high school activities. For less athletic girls like me, volleyball was not an option.

As my other half puts it, I suffer from "baby giraffe syndrome." All arms and legs.

As the helpless, teenaged girls pranced, clapped and yelled at their silent stands Friday night I could only watch in horror.

"I sure hope I wasn't like that. Those girls really should be doing something productive, like bringing me a hot dog, slurpie or even a foam finger."

Genius!

Just think of how different taking a devastating loss would be if Friday night football included served snacks and entertainment.

Let's see, watch the quarterback take another sack or watch as Timmy and Tommy use their foam fingers as light sabers to defeat the evil Darth Vader and take a tumble down the bleachers?

Decisions, decisions.

Once the score becomes obviously clear of a loss the cheerleaders would put aside any further embarrassment on their part and bust out the goods.

Heck, they could make selling hot dogs a cheerleading experience. No one said they have to yell, "get your hot dogs here." They're clever girls, they'll come up with something.

Maybe for every 10 coneys sold the girls could do a back flip.

Realizing I may not be the only cheerleader-type to suffer from a lack of athleticism, combined with the weight of carrying dozens of hot dogs and a set of bleachers, I put my ideas to rest and went home, a sore loser.

Good thing the Bearcats start their season this week.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Singin' the column writin' blues


Column for 8-25


Writing a weekly column, while extremely entertaining, can also be a bit difficult at times.

Do I write about surviving a week's vacation with my entire family on the shores of one very small lake?

While there were a few minor arguments and the dogs only ran off three or four times, it just doesn't seem worthy of an entire column.

What about my family's homemade ice cream social?

Picture my 70-something great uncle, who is a bit like the Tasmanian Devil, hopped up on sugary toppings monitoring three canisters of churning yumminess.

Still, not sure it's quite column-worthy.

My only sibling moving away to college leaving my mom and dad with nothing to do but, well, call us?

Ehhh. I'll give them a break this week — they've suffered enough.

How about the area's most recent encounter with Mother Nature?

Riding out the storm, in the dark, under my reporter's desk would probably make for some humorous reading, but it's just not quite as fun to mock myself.

A column on my male counterpart riding out the storm in the cab of his truck, with our terrified Shih-Tzu, would have taken the cake for this week, had I been there. Darn the luck.

Living for 28 hours off a generator, thats sole purpose was to keep the fish tanks circulating and not providing any real electricity for us, is really no laughing matter.

We won’t even begin to go into life without Facebook, YouTube and Gmail.

So what's next?

What about partaking in a night golf tournament with my other half?

Glow in the dark golf balls, metal rods and motorized carts on a large, open area. What's not to like?

Unfortunately, lightning called off that adventure before anything really humorous could take place. I didn't even get the chance to "accidentally" send the ball sailing toward The Man's cart.

And what am I to write about when the dogs are on their best behavior?

It was a bit of a challenge to corral nearly 100 pounds of four-legged fur balls through PetCo, but no one was tackled, licked or even slobbered on. Boring.

I suppose that just leaves politics or maybe even earthquakes, but where's the fun in that?

So here I am, still without a topic to write my weekly column on.

What is a girl to do?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Let the fur fly - or float!


Our 90-pound Labra-mutt has a jumping-phobia.

"What's the deal," I asked as dozens of other hounds bounded, splashed and doggie-paddled their way past.

It was a pool party for dogs and our big lug had turned into a poolside lump.

Perfectly happy trotting just thigh-high near the baby end of the local swimming hole with the designer dogs, it was the diving Dachshund that sent my male counterpart over the edge.

Grabbing the leash, The Man had decided today was the day he would cure Ace's fear of jumping into the water.

It's not that Ace doesn't like to swim, once he inches his way in step-by-step, he's practically a furry fish. Jumping in and out of the back of a truck for a car ride? Piece of cake. Jumping into a pool or lake? Not so much.

"Come on Ace, it's easy," he said patting the water near the three-foot ledge. "Look that dog did it, so did that one."

While not the most graceful of doggie belly-flops, the other dogs were schooling Ace in pool parties 101.

Holding a treat as far over the water as his arm could reach, The Man pleaded with Ace to jump in.

Still dry, I begged Ace not to make us look like the over-protective parents sending their child to an advanced pool party with arm floaters and an inner tube.

After a few questionable flops for treats he was beginning to show progress.

As a few designer dogs paddled their way past, showing their bravery, it was time to take it up a notch.

I waded in just above the knees, throwing all concern for my work attire aside.

Nose to nose with my stubborn King Ace, we sized each other up.

"OK Ace, let's do this," I said, hands on my hips 'cause I meant it.

Pulling a few treats from my pocket, I slapped my thighs and in my best doggie-mommy voice gave him a, "come here boy. You can do it. Come to Momma."

Whoosh! Kuuuurrr plunk!

Within a split second his nose was pushed firmly on my tush, tail wagging under water.

"He did it!" I shouted, flinging my arms, and water, into the sky.

Ignoring all the new friends he could be making, Ace's entire focus was on my butt.

Jump in, get a treat, climb out. And so it went, until the treats were gone.

Losing interest in my rear end, he hopped out and jogged across dry land to the zero-depth entry side of the pool.


----------------------


"Get it Stella," The Man said pointing to a floating stick.

While the Labra-mutt King Ace explored the shoreline, our Shih-Tzu was taking on water, literally.

After water toys and sticks failed to entice Ace to make the jump into the lake, we turned our focus to stubborn Stella.

Not one to let a good stick get away, she flung her little 9-pound body into the water.

The pony-tail on top of her head the only thing dry, she carried the stick up the rocks and dropped it in front of The Man.

We had found our water dog.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Life is good - Until the dog asks for a beer

Column for 8-3

I'm convinced my dogs think they're human, and according to my male counterpart, "Why shouldn't they?"

"The dog has higher thread count sheets than we do," The Man said, slowly rubbing his cheek along the edge of our spare bed.

Around our house, which is occupied a majority of the time by those of the four-legged variety, there are two things that get replaced more often than in the average American household — you know, the homes with 2.5 kids and an SUV — and that's vaccum cleaners and bedding.

Along a wall in our basement sits a memorial to all the Hoovers, Dirt Devils and Eurekas that bit the dust, or in our case, bit more dog hair than they could chew.

Our spare bedroom closet contains a two-foot-tall stack of bed sheets. Though technically queen-sized, with the help of a nearly 90-pound mutt, they have been wallered on, worn thin, stretched out and so covered in hair that no guest to our home is allowed to see them.

Yes, his royal highness canine, King Ace, is too good — or spoiled — to have a dog bed. He stretches himself out, spread eagle, on our spare bed, where he spends a majority of the day, pillows and all.

It's a rough life.

"Come on Ace," I said patting The Man's empty side of the bed. Morning snuggle fests were our little secret.

That is until our sheets — the high thread-count kind — started showing signs of retirement. Adding them to the pile of "dog blankets," I bought replacements — unfortunately with a lower thread count — and pleaded the fifth when The Man asked.

"Hi Ace," said the bubbly secretary at our local vet.

Not one to be rude, he exchanged greetings as he propped his front legs on the tall counter and stood there — the way local farmers do while conversing about the weather.

Our other dog, the ShihTzu, who I'm also convinced thinks she's human, makes stops at her beautician more often than the average man hits the barber shop.
The two are very polite when it comes to family dinners. Seated alongside the family, they'll often shake your hand and wait until your finished before leaving the room. Aren't they considerate?

Like The Man, they enjoy the chairs in our home most when they are reclined. And their water slightly chilled.

While they remain completely and utterly spoiled rotten and human-like, I won't be concerned as long they don't ask me to change the channel or hand them a beer.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Impatience is my virtue

Daily Forum Column for 7-28


He had to repeat the question, and to make matters worse he added, "No Megan, I'm asking you," prior to the repeat to make sure I was focused. Apparently, I can get off topic and lose attention quite easily.

That day was four years ago, and while four years may not seem like a very long time to spend dedicated to another individual, in the grand scheme of my life, its nearly an eternity.

Our four year anniversary gave me a chance to reflect on life, not to mention it was a great excuse for a lunch date with my male counterpart.

When the lunch date was over and I was back at my desk, I took a second to look back at the crazy, fun ride that is our life.

Reviewing the past four years, I realized the only thing constant — was him.

I've known for a majority of my life now that I'm a pretty impatient person. What woman isn't?

We're talking the kind of impatience that makes me give gifts a day early simply because I can't wait another day. Impatience that helps me swipe my debit card for that pair of shoes, since I don't want to wait for them to go on sale.

I'm even a reporter because I'm impatient. I can't wait for today's news in tomorrow's paper. I need to know now.

Not only am I impatient, I think it's safe to say I'm driven to see what's next. I suppose that has something to do with being impatient.

While some people take more than the allotted four years to complete college, I was impatient. I got out in less than four.

Since I've been old enough to drive, I haven't even managed to keep the same car for four years. In fact, I've had four different cars. In the past four years, I've lived in two different locations and held three different jobs.

When it comes to styles, forget about it. Curly, straight, long, short, blonde and dark, I can't even keep the same hair style for four months, let alone four years.

I'm sure you're beginning to wonder how I've kept the same guy around for four years now, aren't you?

Well, I'm not sure what the answer to that is, but he must be one patient guy to put up with my impatience.

While patience may be his virtue, my impatience has left for some memorable stories in our four-year adventure.

During his two-month internship, thousands of miles away, I got impatient and hopped on a plane.

That dog we talked about owning one day, turned into two furballs consuming the majority of our bed each night.

Those projects around our home have been checked off the list, even if the bathroom got painted yellow when he was hoping for blue.

And while my impatience may not always lead me to the best conclusions, I'm sure glad I found a patient man to keep me around. Not to mention one who is patient while Ioften publicly humiliate him in this very column each week.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pin the tail on the donkey

Daily Forum Column for 7-21


It's been years since I've babysat a child, and there's a reason why.


After a few summers of missed naps, temper tantrums and terrible twos I opted for a job flipping burgers and swore off children altogether.


Now, nearly 10 years later, I find myself in a room full of youngsters three nights a week. Insanity lead me to a part-time job as a dance instructor.


I'm not sure if it's that I only see them for an hour at a time or if it's that they can't put their sticky paws all over my stuff but either way, children have made their way back into my life.


"Catch me!" yelled the tiny, blond torpedo whose sites were set on my face.


Trying not to drown either of us or the toddlers in their inner tubes nearby quickly became the goal of the day.


I had been suckered by a four-year-old girl.


The events leading up to our day at the local swimming pool went something like this (keep in mind it was a Tuesday):


Girl: "Miss Megan, when can I come to your house and see your puppies?"


Me: "How about Friday? We could even go to the pool." (This was when I realized I had backed myself into a corner.)


Girl: "When's Friday?"


At this point her mother interjected and in classic motherly fashion reminded her that she had learned her days of the week in

preschool and the two began to perform a crazy song and dance.


Though the girl's calendar didn't follow the typical pattern at first, she eventually got it and realized that Friday was just three days away.


Come Friday morning, I had a text message from the mother saying that one very excited little girl had remembered it was Friday and was already packing her swimsuit.


Not one to disappoint, especially a four-year-old, I dug up my suit and beach towel.


Just a few hours later, there was a car seat in my Jeep, a large duffel bag of children's accessories in my living room and a bubbly blond chasing my terrified dogs through the house.


I was officially babysitting once again.


Once the dogs had been pulled from underneath the couch and were assured that they would be tortured no more, us girls headed to the pool.


For me, the pool going process is simple. Find a spot to perch and bask in the warm sun. When it gets hot, get in the water.


The pool going process with a four-year-old is a bit more complex.


It's a bit like pin the tail on the donkey, with a moving donkey.


She wiggled out of her sundress and sandals and darted toward the kiddie pool before I had even found the sunblock in her bag.


One arm floater attached, the pursuit was on to secure the other floater, both of which were just as quickly removed and tossed aside. Four-year-olds don't want arm floaters, they just complicate the cannon ball process.


The next few hours were spent jumping, swimming, or floundering rather, and terrifying the life out of poor Miss Megan. And she plans to do it again next week.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Juggling could be fun


The day started with a BANG.

It was the kind of bang that even made our 90-pound dog, who was more like a sleeping Grizzly Bear at that point, spring into my lap and ask “what the heck was that?”

Our 9-pound pooch quivered with fear safely perched on the face of my male counterpart.

For a brief moment, it was silent while our minds tried to comprehend exactly what had happened.
It was only July 3 and way too early in the morning for fireworks of that nature.

“Holy crap! Lightning,” the man finally muttered. “It was close.”

Close, was an understatement. The way the light filled the room, coupled with the rafter shaking boom, I thought aliens were invading and had chosen to beam up my house.

Once I made sure my shorts were clean it was time to see what was up.

We hadn’t lost electricity, the house wasn’t on fire and the backyard tree was still standing. Phew.
Just when we thought we had escaped with our lives, I grabbed my computer for a quick check of the weather.

Crap. The Internet was down, maybe we hadn’t gotten off so lucky.

The man decided to handle the situation and did what he does best. Stare down the blinking box, scratch his head and unplug it.

Once the box was rebooted, still no Internet.

Panic ensued as we tested all other electronic devices. The kind of panic that makes you question your existence. That, how will I live without Facebook, YouTube and email kind of panic.

No satellite television either, crap.

That’s when the man began to panic. No ESPN, no football re-runs, no watching Bear Gryllis eat maggots to survive in the Amazon, what was he to do?

I grabbed the phone and made the several, annoyingly automated phone calls to our Internet and satellite providers.

Three days. Three days was the soonest their technicians could arrive. Three days we would be without our links to the outside world. It was after all, a holiday weekend.

With nothing to do but have a conversation with me, or sulk, the man chose the latter.

Sitting in the middle of the living room floor, facing the blank screen on his beloved flat screen TV, he hopelessly clicked the remote, jiggled wires and sulked some more.

Our close encounter with the lightning kind, had officially wiped out our Internet modem, satellite receiver and the man’s precious surround sound receiver.

After a game of thumb war for choice of DVD, that I obviously lost, I contemplated learning a new hobby or maybe even freshening up on my housekeeping skills to pass the time.

Less than a split second later, I realized the choices I had so stupidly laid out for myself and settled on juggling. Juggling could be fun.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Way It Is: Benjamin Franklin, eat your heart out

Daily Forum column for 6-30.


Electricity has its perks.

Without it, I wouldn't have light or blistering hot appliances for which I use to get ready in the mornings. My male counterpart would have to do my laundry by hand. Our pampered pooches wouldn't have the luxury of napping the day away in a climate controlled environment.

So when a tornadic thunderstorm roared through our town, knocking out power, we did the most logical thing possible in such a situation. We freaked out.

Within minutes we were using our flash lights to monitor the battery-operated thermostat as the temperature in our house began to rise.

"It's so hot in here," whined the already sweaty man of the house.

Our Shih Tzu princess Stella, cowering with fear, refused to leave my lap only adding to my heat-related problem.

"The fish tank!"

I reminded Mr. Steamy that his precious, saltwater tank inhabitants could also suffer as a result of the outage.

As Stella and I found our storm watching spot in the middle of the living room floor, armed with a flashlight and an already dying cell phone, we watched as neighborhood tree limbs whizzed by at NASCAR speeds.

Oblivious to what life would be like without electricity and cell phones, we thumb-wrestled for use of the car charger.

Mr. Steamy walked laps performing his manly duties of monitoring the home while assuring his fishy friends that they would "be OK."

Two hours and two phone calls to our electric company later, I began to fear for his sanity.

Not so long ago, when an ice storm knocked out the town's power for almost a week we lost nearly all of our freshwater fish when temperatures in our home took a dip.

Visualizing his most recent collection of not-your-average-goldfish buddies belly up was heartbreaking.

With nothing to do but wait, we retired for what would be a warm and dark night of sleep.
Whoosh!

As my brain slowly began to comprehend exactly what was going on and my eyes adjusted, I realized the electricity had come back on.

Turning to alert Mr. Steamy, I found that he had already sprang from the bed and was nose to the glass.

"Everyone's alive and OK," he assured me.

"It's 3 a.m.," I reminded him.

With his spirits lifted, he coaxed me out of bed to perform a complete home assessment of the storm damage.

Shuffling into the kitchen, I completed my womanly task of resetting the microwave clock and went back to bed.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Way It Is: Lessons from YouTube


With my kid brother preparing for his first year of college, I'm convinced my parents are already suffering the effects of ENS. Empty Nest Syndrome.

"What's your schedule look like for Father's Day," my mother asked during one of our daily phone conversations.

I had plans to get some work done in the office and a few things around the house, but things quickly changed.

"Well, your dad and I bought a boat and plan to take it out for the first time on Sunday," Mom pronounced.

A boat? What? They'd gone 25 years with my brother and I begging them to get a boat. We move out and poof, they buy a boat.

I quickly cleared my calendar of any activities for Sunday afternoon and pulled my swimsuit from the jaws of The Laundry Monster.

"I can't wait for you to see it," Mom chirped on one of our next phone conversations. "I learned that it needed deoxidized, and you should see it now."

Realizing that my parents knew next to nothing about boat ownership prior to buying their first boat, I began to fear for my safety on said Father's Day adventure.

"Your dad has been a nervous wreck, so he's doing a ton of research online and reading magazines and books," she said, trying to be reassuring.

When the big day finally arrived, Dad had managed to launch the boat with little help from the kid brother, who left his cell phone on the dock causing a minor catastrophe.

As my male counterpart and I neared the lake we were greeted with the site of my absentminded sibling skidding across the water as his tube wavered behind the boat.

Guess Dad got his revenge.

We boarded the boat for hours of water fun before deciding to head home.

"Who's gonna steer the boat while I back the trailer down," Dad asked?

Steer the boat? What did he mean steer the boat?

Mom reminded him that in his moment of nervousness, he had failed to allow any of us to drive the boat.

Luckily, my male counterpart had spent an entire summer driving boats a few years back and quickly volunteered.

Tightening the straps of my life jacket, I bravely asked, "Does Dad know what he's doing with the trailer?"
Mom's reply?

"Sure, he's watched a ton of YouTube videos."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Avoiding "The Laundry Monster"

Daily Forum column for 6-17

I've never really feared the monsters lurking in my closet or the boogie man in the basement — one quick flick of the light switch and those guys are history.

It's the multicolored mammoth made of cotton and polyester that makes my skin curl.

Around my home, its name is The Laundry Monster, and every two to three weeks it decides to take a nap near my washing machine.

About the time my male counterpart runs out of clean socks, the monster really starts to roar.
Fearing for my life, I take refuge in the empty closet.

When I was little, I never had to fear The Laundry Monster. My dad took care of that.

Having what my family considers borderline OCD for doing laundry, I lucked out and never saw that on my chore list.

As a college student, I helped feed my dad's obsession and made sure to bring home my dirty laundry on the weekends.

Now that I'm older and Dad is more than 100 miles away, I face The Laundry Monster with nothing more than basket and some fabric softener, or just run and hide until my disgruntled, sock-less roommate takes over.

I can do laundry. I know that whites require hot water and that a laundry sack is God's gift to delicates. It's The Laundry Monster's request to be folded, hung and put away that does me in.

Several weeks ago I decided to take down The Laundry Monster in celebratory fashion. With satellite radio blaring through the house, I piled the contents of four or so clean laundry baskets onto my freshly vacuumed, living room floor.

With plenty of space to sort and "get jiggy" while I completed the tedious task, I singlehandedly defeated the monster.

A few weeks later, the demon once again showed its ugly head.

"Let's have a laundry party," I pronounced, making it sound way more fun than I knew it would be.

Halfway through the pile, my partner jumped ship and retreated to the closet. I gathered up the remains and shoved them back in the laundry basket for another day. Round 2 went to The Laundry Monster.

So when I arrived home from work earlier this week, I was greeted to a man with a laundry basket. Never the sight you want to come home to after a long hard day at the office.

"Let me grab a bite to eat and I'll come help," I stated as he began to fold.

With the remains of my sandwich in hand, I peaked into the bedroom.

Excuse number two — "Since you've already got a handle on that, I'm going to vacuum real quick and then I'll come help."

After vacuuming the entire house, I peaked in again.

"I'm not sure what that spot is on the floor, I'm going to get the shampooer out."

A few hours and a spotless floor later, the laundry was folded.

"Don't think you got off that easy," my laundry maid stated. "Your stuff's in the basket."

There in the corner, The Laundry Monster let out a growl from a stack of my folded clothing left to be put away.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Way It Is: Embracing my hereditary randomness

Daily Forum Column for 6-9-11

My mother started it, so it's all her fault. As it usually is.

It's no secret to any person with a pulse, who knows me and has met my mother, that I am exactly like her. Exactly.

My own father, brother, grandmother and grandfather have confused us on the phone, and often in person.

So the other day, my mother started something that got me thinking.

There on Facebook, for the world to see, my mother created a post about being random. As in, a random person.

She blamed my kid brother for randomly telling her that she was "the most random person he knew."

Can't say I disagree with the kid. I'm actually kind of impressed that the kid who once refused to call Frosted Flakes anything but tiger flakes and actually thought he was Darth Vader a time or two, realized our mother's randomness on his own.

She is pretty random, but as I always referred to it as crazy.

My mother, who is by far the most organized person I know, is in fact the most random person I know.

I recall moments of confusion as a kid when my mother would so rudely barge into the bathroom during my relaxing shower to vent a frustration, or simply tell me something she had forgotten to before.

Conversations about our day could turn to stories about bodily gasses or the weird things people wear in an instant. Nothing is out of the ordinary when it comes to my mom.

But reflecting on her randomness has lead me to the conclusion that being random may just be hereditary, like Canavan's disease or going bald.

I've already inherited her dashingly good looks, ability to multi-task and love for pickles; why not her randomness too?

Often times I have been pegged goofy or unique for my abilities to verbalize a random thought at very quiet moments around the office.

Take for example my random outburst, to anyone who was listening, that "Oh, my, God! June 22 is National Onion Rings Day!" And with that, I went back to work.

Just the other day I caught myself committing a crime I had once charged her with and blamed on insanity.

As I barged in on my unsuspecting, male counterpart during his time in the shower to tell him what cool new thing our saltwater fish had done, it hit me. I'm just as random as my mother.

I fired off the talents of our new Nemo at warp speeds and darted out of the bathroom as quickly as I had entered. It was off to the next random thing on my to-do list.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Way It Is: A "what were we thinking" moment

Daily Forum Column for 6-2

You know those times when you stop and ask yourself "what was I thinking?" Well, this one was one of those times.

As the very excited, four-legged fur ball stood shaking on my chest, the lack of light entering the seams of our curtains told me it was early. Too early.

It was obvious that the bedroom intruder needed to go outside and realizing it was just 3 a.m., I couldn't help but wonder "what was I thinking?"

My other half and I had agreed to puppy-sit for his parents 1-year-old Shih Tzu — for an entire week.

As if the early morning intrusion wasn't enough, the little Shih chewed up a few living room fixtures, also while we were sleeping.

What were we thinking?

The next night went much the same with a few added moments of frustration as the little guy couldn't find his way onto our bed after jumping off, several times.

I was awakened, a final time, by the sound of the little guy getting a stern talking to from the other half.

"Bunker! That's bad!" he hollered from the living room.

After deciding one of them probably needed rescued, I reached for my glasses and went to assess the situation.

There was Bunker, tail wagging with excitement, holding a plastic, fish aquarium plant within his crooked little teeth, oblivious to the fact that he was being scolded.

I'm still not entirely sure where he found the aquarium greenery but it was dry, so the fish appeared to have escaped any major turmoil, this time.

What were we thinking?

"He never does that at home," his doggie mommy pronounced from her sunny Florida vacation spot.

As luck would have it, I remembered her also making mention of his favorite bed at one time or another. It was more like a thick, wool dish towel after his daily use had worn the stuffing to nothing, but a dog bed nonetheless.

Her stories of the bed involved Bunker dragging the thing into their bedroom and onto their bed each night. I could only hope the beloved wool scrap would allow us to get some sleep.

We already knew we were crazy for taking on what equaled a third dog inside our house, going out of the way to get the dog his bed hardly seemed nuts.

So the third night, with Bunker's bed placed firmly atop our comforter, the little guy snuggled in at my feet. Our Shih Tzu princess, Stella, decided it was finally safe to emerge from her hiding place underneath the bed and reclaim her spot near my pillow. Things were looking up.

With minimal, midnight intrusions and nothing strung across the living room floor, the doggie bed proved its worth.

We made it though the next few nights only to find a few socks and flip flops strung thought the house and
"Bunker! That's bad!" was only uttered another time or two.

The little guy was given a brush though and sprayed with a bit of Stella's pooch perfume — to cover the smell of slobber that he was covered in from a week's worth of canine capers — before being sent home to mom.

What were we thinking?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Way It Is: When it rains on your parade

Daily Forum column for 5-26

Nothing brings out the true colors of family more than an entire weekend of togetherness.
As typical, Midwest thunderstorms fell over southwest Iowa on the day of my kid brother's graduation reception, the women of my family sprang into action.

Communicating solely with what I believe to be a form of ESP that only women understand, Mom raced to rescue the tables and chairs with Dad in tow. Grandma made a run to the nearest dollar store for additional supplies while I quickly got to bossing around my other half. He's so handy sometimes.

With just hours remaining before the scheduled start of the party, the clan came to a heartbreaking consensus that the rental tent set up in the back yard would need to be moved.

After all, we didn't want Great Grandma trudging through what was now a swamp to get to the pasta bar.

So, after a call for reinforcements, a break in the weather and with the six family members present at the time, we each grabbed a support pole of the miniature circus tent.

While the family dogs found it fun to dodge in and out of plastic flaps, we marched in unison the way troops do after receiving orders.

Guiding the large white marquee around the lilacs and between the dog kennels, making sure Grandma didn't step in the rabbit hole, the men of the family "steered the bus" through the flower bed to the front of the house. Guess that's what we get for letting the men "drive."

My brother's friend was left nearly decapitated by a large bush and someone smelled of dog doo as we collectively released our grip.

The yard party that my mother had spent weeks weeding, planting and planning, would now be a garage party. Darn rain anyway.

We each had our own idea as to how the tent should be stationed near the garage entrance and the first of many family feuds ensued.

With raindrops beginning to fall, once again, the eight of us grabbed a pole and turned it lengthwise, then widthwise and back again.

Dad eventually won the battle and the support cables were staked in place just as a clap of thunder crackled over head.

Being the streamer master of the family, I began twisting the colored tissue while my other half used his height to secure them to the garage ceiling.

Within the hour the streamers nearly touched the ground, damp with the lingering humidity. Darn rain anyway.

Inside, my mother's friends took charge of the food. Giant pots of alfredo and marinara sauce bubbled on the stove while garlic bread nearly caught fire in the oven.

Grandma handed over the tongs and waved her white flag, retreating to the garage.

With just an hour to spare Dad and the brother fought over the single shower while my other half cracked open his first beer. Guess he'd earned that one after two days with my family.