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.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Way It Is: Once a Bearcat, Always a Bearcat

Daily Forum column for 5-19-11

I always thought that "Once a Bearcat, always a Bearcat" saying they say was a little cliche and well, corny, but apparently they, whoever "they" are, were really on to something.

With a deep love for my alma mater and proud supporter of those fierce and feisty kitty cats, that saying just sounded like a bit of a no brainer. Of course I'll be a Bearcat forever, what else would I be? A Griffon? I don't think so, but I won't even begin to open that can of worms.

As a fairly recent member of the Northwest alumni, maybe I just hadn't had a chance for that well-known saying to sink in, until a recent luncheon.

As it were, my grandmother came to town, as she so often does to visit her "favorite, oldest granddaughter;" but this time, she brought a friend.

Driving Miss Daisy, and her friend, from here to there around Maryville, we began making small talk as we waited at the South Main stop light — you know that light that takes an eternity to change.

Come to find out, grandma's companion, a frail woman who wore her life's stories along her smile lines, was a fellow Bearcat.

As we drove along, the memories came flooding back to her 70-something memory.

This woman, who claimed that she had not been on campus since the 1950s, could still pinpoint the exact window of her dorm room in Roberta Hall — but it wasn't Roberta back then.

She recalled living in Kansas City at the time of the infamous explosion of the then women's residence hall that killed Roberta Steel in April of 1951, and her moving to town, where she rented a single bedroom of a house on Fourth Street — the house is still standing.

With a newfound sense of pride for the campus I once called home, that I so often take for granted, we continued our journey on the time-machine through campus.

Several things had changed since my fellow alumna's last visit.

As she struggled to recall what it looked like in her day, facing the newly-constructed Hudson and Perrin Halls, she was quick to point out the exact location where her husband had proposed to her more than 60 years ago. Thankfully, it had not been replaced with a concrete structure and though a light pole remained, I highly doubt it was the same light pole he used to steady himself before taking a knee.

Turns out, we Bearcat women both found our significant others as a student and shared many of the same experiences though decades that separated our adventures. Many of her family members also share the Bearcat pride and even hold small marks on the history that is the Northwest.

While the Administration Building "looks just the way it did back then," the bell tower was non-existent in her memory.

We continued around the loop, each sharing memories and reminiscing.

Come to find out, we had a sorority rivalry in the making. I never thought, as a proud member of Northwest's Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, that I would get into scuffle as to who the better women were with an 77-year-old member of Alpha Sigma Alpha. I'm not sure we decided who won that argument — the football field distracted us.

As I was forced to leave my new friend and head back to the confine that is a reporter’s desk, I couldn't help but think "Once a Bearcat, always a Bearcat," and I let out a whispered "B-E-A-R...."

–Megan Tilk is a reporter and weekly columnist for the Mary ville Daily Forum. She can be reached at or follow her columns at

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Way It Is: Glitter, Glitz and Potty Breaks

Daily Forum column for 5-12-11.

We'd prepared for months, but following four years of experience, I knew that no amount of practice would help me fully know what to expect.

I'm a dance instructor, part-time, and know full well to expect the unexpected when it comes to recitals.

More than 100 children of all ages, sparkly costumes, loud music, sugar and a whole lot of waiting. It's a recipe for disaster.

My older, more experienced children left me with little to worry about other than making sure their costumes weren't tucked into their tights or that they had the right shoes on — or that they had their shoes on. Sometimes I wonder where their thoughts go.

It's the little ones that never cease to amaze me.

Good rehearsals lead to...

My final run through with said little one — a 4-year-old blonde named Allison, with a streak of independence — worried me.

They say that good rehearsals lead to bad performances and Miss Allison and I had just had a wonderful stage rehearsal together.

For her tumbling routine, she hopped like a bunny, rolled like a log, did the crab walk and even did the "big-girl" somersaults, all by herself.

Our next meeting added a bit of pressure.

Complete with a full costume — the glittery, pink kind — Miss Allison was to perform her routine on stage, with a smaller version of a audience, during dress rehearsal.

Now during practice, Miss Allison had a tendency to force poor Miss Megan, being me, into performing all requested dance moves with no regard to my age or physical ability.

"Miss Megan, you do it," she would giggle. And together, we would get to all fours and crab walk across the studio.

I was completely mortified that she would make such a request during the actual recital performance. Did I mention, in front of an audience of 200 people?

On with the show-

The night of Miss Allison's stage debut began as most dance recitals I know tend to.... mass chaos.

Dance moms chased half-naked children around the dressing room in an attempt to outfit them with the itchy, glittery tutus. Dads and grandparents wandered aimlessly looking for the best spot to perch the family video camera.

Back stage, Miss Allison and I exchanged our "good luck gifts" and I prepped her with the classic warning I got more than 20 years ago from my instructor.

"Now, Miss Allison, if our shoe falls off on stage what do we do," I asked?

"Oh well, keep on dancing," she replied.

"And if we forget to do that last somersault, what do we do?"

"Oh well, keep on dancing."

This kid was good.

I took her hand and lead her back stage.

As the audience applauded the group before us and I reminded Miss Allison that we were next, out came the unexpected.
"Miss Megan, I have to potty!"

Needless to say, we cut her performance a bit short — one less log roll here, two less cartwheels there — it was then, on with the show.

–Megan Tilk is a reporter and weekly columnist for the Mary ville Daily Forum. She can be reached at or follow her columns at

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Way It Is: Splish, Splash we gave him a bath

Daily Forum Column for 5-5-11

We’d put it off long enough. Not only did he itch constantly, but he was starting to smell well, like a dog.

It was time for King Ace's royal bathing.

As the 90-pound lug sunbathed, spread eagle, in the sunlight that entered the living room, he was completely oblivious as to what was about to take place.

After tracking down our rain gear, my galoshes, a beach towel and two kinds of soap it was time for the inevitable.

"Ace, let's go outside," my other half chirped with his best excited voice.

Expecting a walk in the park or a chance to frolic in the yard, Ace nearly knocked me down as he barreled out to the garage.

Greeted with the sight of a garden hose and our rain gear, he was left a bit disappointed and so it was off to the races.

My male counterpart took off to the right while l made a mad dash past the garden shed. Stumbling over Stella the Shih-Tzu, who was unaware of the circumstances but found the game of chase quite fun, I narrowly missed the fresh pile of dog crap.

Around the tree, through my flower garden, into the neighbors' yard and back around for more went Ace.

Once my dog catching assistant had a firm hold on one very unhappy pooch, I started the hose.

Luckily the weather allowed us to complete this task — which had been performed indoors all winter — outside.

Figuring the best bet not to get wet would be controlling the hose, I left the scrubbing, sudsing and all that was involved with keeping a wet, miniature horse in place to my assistant.

As he removed his hand to reach for the soap, it was clear that a heavy duty, garbage bag may have been a better choice for rain gear. Ace shook, and enough water to flood Mozingo Lake sailed through the air.

Left momentarily stunned, Ace took advantage of a few seconds to flee. Luckily for us, he came equipped with a built in handle.

"Gotcha!" I hollered.

Snatching him back to the outdoor bathtub by a hind leg and his tail, we continued scrubbing.

Ending up across the yard from where our adventure began, with two sopping wet tennis shoes and a new swimming pool by way of a runaway garden hose, he got a good rubbing with the beach towel before we turned him loose.

Head up, hind down, he raced to the front of the house, back to the back yard, around the shed and under the patio furniture — knocking over a lounge chair.

Before the full sentence could even leave my mouth...
Ace, you need to go inside before you get..."

He was rolling, head first, down the grassy hill, kicking up chunks of grass and dried leaves as he went.

Rolling, snorting, rubbing and rooting across the yard, his wet fur acting as a sponge, he had managed to collect a coat full of grass clippings within seconds.

Realizing the lasers of death coming from my eyeballs didn't mean I wanted to play too, he plopped down as if nothing had happened.

The tips of his tucked ears that flapped in the breeze in conjunction with the sappy look on his face said "I didn't see anything, did you?"

Brushing him off and shooing him back indoors, our focus turned to the little one cowering under the picnic table.

"Bath time, Stella."

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Way It Is: Is it normal to be this crazy?

Column for 4/28/11.

Is it normal to be this crazy?

We probably resembled a herd of cattle being driven across the vast Great Plains.
I had warned my other half that a few extra deep breaths may be required to get through this particular day, but after four years of living with me, he already knew my family was crazy.
Packed in the car like sardines, we travelled a little over an hour to the predetermined family picnic site for Easter.
All 10 of my closest family members, luckily we left the six dogs at home, descended upon Reiman Gardens. Lugging the bag of fried chicken and pizza — we have a few picky eaters — through the welcome center and to a few picnic tables, the feast began.
The other poor souls visiting the gardens that day were out a place to eat, my family had taken over and was not ashamed to do so.
My family is crazy.
When all the bones were picked clean and nothing was left of the pizza but a few pieces of uneaten crust, it was time for the tour.
Beginning in the butterfly sanctuary, the aunt and cousin were up-to-date on all the rules that went along with visiting the fluttery creatures. Conveying those rules was where things got a little sketchy.
The most important rule of removing coats and jackets began to circulate through our group, which appeared a little preoccupied at all there was to see at this particular location.
After three or four trips to the coat rack, our herd packed the entry area of the butterfly house. As the frail older woman began a verbal rundown of the rest of the rules — and there sure are a lot to see a bunch of butterflies — I caught the criminal of our family red-handed.
"Dad! You were supposed to take your coat off," I scolded.
Mom rolled her eyes and made an attempt to find a new walking partner, dad scrambled to hide the fact he had missed out on the golden rule.
It was too late to exit the sealed entryway and hang his fleece jacket on the hook. So he did what any man would do and began quickly, and ever so stealthily, zipping every pocket closed and zipping up the jacket until his neck disappeared.
My family is crazy.
We entered the butterfly house and somehow, not a single butterfly managed to escape.
As we all began to find a place to take it all in, I began to hear whistling.
What butterfly whistles, I thought to myself.
Then I found it. My kid brother, who is in all reality an adult now, decided that if held the palm of his hand out and whistled, maybe a butterfly would land on it.
My family is crazy.
After leaving the butterflies, we'd probably done enough damage, we headed to tour the acres upon acres of the garden.
Grandpa quickly wondered to examine the gazebo structures. Mom was observed nose deep in blooms and the rest of us kept watch that Grandma didn't stray too far away.
"Get out of the fountain, you're going to get us kicked out," I hollered at the kid brother.
Our tour guide, my cousin with the map, gave up all hope of keeping the group organized as my parents found it fun to argue about Magnolia varieties.

I can only help but wonder, is it normal to be this crazy?

–Megan Tilk is a reporter and weekly columnist for the Mary­ville Daily Forum. She can be reached at or follow her columns at