Category Archives: family

Quarantine Follies

We have been isolated and quarantined for 12 days now, and the world around us continues to get weirder and weirder. The dog killed a squirrel in the yard two days ago. We are running out of bread and meat and potatoes thanks to hoarders, and we may need to find alternatives to toilet paper. But as long as we have love, not unlike the dog and cat in the illustration above, we will be alright.

One has to wonder, though, what they are using all that toilet paper for, those hoarders who are apparently eating it in massive quantities to give them more fiber in their diet.

Or, maybe, they know something about the virus that we don’t. Maybe it causes loose bowels and the toilet-paper-consuming condition of Montezuma’s Revenge.

Or maybe there are lots of toilet-paper mummies now roaming the nights looking for pretty girls who resemble dead Egyptian princesses?

Oh, NO!!!!

But with the virus lurking out there, waiting to pounce on me and my weak, diabetes-ravaged immune system, there are some good things about being home-bound and fortified with solitude. For one thing, the girl who had to go see the nurse during that last substitute-teaching job I had did not turn out to have Coronavirus. In fact, it is now past the date by more than two weeks that I would’ve come down with the type of flu she did test positive for. So I don’t have that either.

This is not the girl with the virus. This is a random picture from Twitter.

Since the four of us are basically confined to our rooms for the majority of the day, it is a great time for reading in the nude. I benefit from that because I have psoriasis in places that itch less if kept dry, naked, and in front of the fan, but aren’t exactly safe for public places. And I don’t even have to offend my family with my naked self to do it. I am also pretty sure you are grateful that I didn’t use my own picture to illustrate this goofy notion.

… And by that I mean, of course, a picture of me reading naked.

We have done things together as a family too. Making masked visits to the grocery store or Walmart only to find there is still no toilet paper is one. Using up the gingerbread house kit that didn’t get used at Christmas is another.

And, of course, eating the gingerbread house was also something we did together. The Princess and Number Two Son both ate lion’s shares in order to save me from being weak and eating too much of it myself with my miserable diabetes. I say, “miserable diabetes” not because it is out of control and making me ill or susceptible to comas, but because I get to eat less of things like gingerbread houses, and that makes me miserable.

But the evil, moron, criminal president says that too much quarantine time will make us kill ourselves. So, he intends to end our time in isolation by Easter. We have to go out of the house, spend more money that could end up in his pockets, and get back to work to make the economy stronger so he can be re-elected on a strong economy. Even if we have to sacrifice our lives to the virus to do it. After all, what’s more important? Staying alive longer? Or helping an evil, moron, criminal president get re-elected?

2 Comments

Filed under angry rant, being alone, compassion, family, feeling sorry for myself, gingerbread, good books, goofy thoughts, humor, Paffooney

Art Day with Gingerbread

The Coronavirus Isolation has put a lot of new limitations on our lives. But, I happened to have an unused Gingerbread House kit. So, for Art Day, the Princess and I decided to put it all together with supplies we already had on hand. Here, then, is the Beyer Family Gingerbread House 2020.

The unopened kit that was just sitting in storage.
The surprise inside was that the house was already assembled with concrete-like frosting before we even opened it. This is the first Gingerbread House that we have done without having to use tape and Elmer’s Glue.
The Princess decided the box did not make a good hat, but the smell inside it was worth the experiment.
Most of the supplies were old and not creamy enough for easy spreading.
Some of the frosting went on dry and chunky. But some of the piping frosting was the opposite, more runny than a marathon. Mmm… bad pun.

But, it wasn’t a total disaster. We can use our inherent craftiness to rescue it at least a little bit from total wicked-witch-housiness. Though I am sure Hansel and Gretel would still eat it.

And the other side was a little better.
And, as always, the leftovers are edible, though not diabetes-friendly.
Now, all that’s is left to do is have the artists eat the artwork in very small bites over a lot of time.

Leave a comment

Filed under art my Grandpa loved, artwork, family, gingerbread, homely art, humor, photo paffoonies

Dear Daddy, Don’t Die!

Two weeks ago I let my car drift too near the curb of the street. I hit a curb-corner at the edge of a driveway and something there punctured the passenger-side tire. It was a financial setback. I had to buy a new tire.

But what it really cost me, was the confidence of all three of my children that I can still take care of myself. They were united in threatening to take away my driver’s license and treat me like an invalid.

It was a bit of an over-reaction to what actually happened. But God has it in for me. The challenges to my continued survival seem to never stop coming. At this writing I have six incurable diseases. Diabetes, hypertension, COPD, arthritis, psoriasis, and an enlarged prostate. On top of that, I am a cancer survivor. Skin cancer, 1983. My father has Parkinson’s and it is severely slowing him down. It is also a disease I am beginning to show symptoms of. God hasn’t killed me yet, but not for a lack of trying.

Personally, I am worried about my own frequent bouts of stupidity more than anything else.

Sure, I have diabetes and not enough income to get insulin thanks to pharmaceutical profiteers (another term for blood-thirsty pirates) But I have learned since 2000 to battle it with proper diet. It has been working. And it still does.

But I can be stupid, too. I hate being left out of restaurant trips to SpringCreek Barbecue or Chili’s. But the temptations to eat myself into a coma is always there right in front of me. My wife always eats food that will kill me and even offers me some. (She is not trying to kill me for my money, though. She knows I am bankrupt. That’s why she has to pay for these little family outings that she invites me to. And there are no huge insurance checks in her future if the mashed potatoes get the better of me.)

Arthritis is hard to live with too. My kids worry that my gas-pedal knee will seize up when I am going 55, or my break-pedal leg will fail to move when I need it to when the inevitable Dallas-area killer grandma is driving beside me in the next lane in her black BMW, thinking seriously about how to kill me and make it look like my fault on the insurance claim. I learned long ago to drive with extreme defensiveness in Texas. But still I can be stupid too. Like when I don’t watch the lane’s squiggles and curves hawkishly like I didn’t do two Sunday nights ago.

So, I have to be less stupid for more of the time. If not… if I die on the road some god-forsaken night, my sons are going to kill me. Even if they have to dig me up again to do it.

6 Comments

Filed under family, feeling sorry for myself, health, humor, illness, Paffooney, psoriasis

Christmas Catalogs of the 60s

They came in the mail every November in the 1960’s. Particularly important was the Monkey Ward’s catalog because there was a Montgomery Ward Catalog Store in Belmond on Main Street. Mom and Dad could order, pay for, and pick up things there, particularly Christmas and birthday gifts. The four of us; my little brother, my two younger sisters, and I would argue about who would get to look at it next for hours at a time (the catalog, not the store… although the man who ran the store sold tropical fish in the back, so I could look at that for hours).

I, of course, dog-eared different pages than my sisters Nancy and Mary did. And David was eight years younger than me and was into baby toys, blocks, and books.

Nancy owned the three on the left.
I was nutty about model trains… and so was Dad.

I am amazed at how cheap things were back then compared to now. Of course, things were more easily destroyed because of the cheaper plastics and simpler ingredients and materials common in the 1960’s. So, it is truly amazing how many of those toys I still have. And how many survived me only to be destroyed by my own children.

And it often wasn’t enough to look at just the Monkey Ward’s catalog. (Grandpa Aldrich always called it “Monkey” instead of “Montgomery”, a pretty standard old-farmer joke in the 60’s). Grandpa and Grandma Aldrich always got a copy of the Sears catalog. And we would pour over that to find treasures that Monkey Ward’s didn’t have. That was inconvenient for Mom and Dad. The nearest Sears store was in Mason City, 50 miles northeast.

I was 10 years old in ’66.
Mary Poppins was a 60’s Disney hit.

Just the mention of Christmas catalogs of old when discussing with sisters flashes me back to the time when I was in grade school and Christmas time was all about being good for Santa because… well, toys.

And old Christmas catalogs still fascinate me. I love to look back through ten-year-old Mickey-eyes at a simpler, kinder time. Although, if I’m honest with myself, it probably wasn’t really any better than now. I just choose to believe that it was.

4 Comments

Filed under autobiography, Barbie and Ken, birthdays, family, humor, nostalgia, playing with toys, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Why Tuesday Was Icky for Mickey

This has been a terrible week. It takes a good deal of explanation to make clear what fundamentally went wrong. But the ignition of the raging fire of black-luck can be traced back to the explosion of the upstairs toilet that unexpectedly started a cascade of bad luck and rather icky events.

Yes, you heard me right, the toilet exploded, not with actual fire, but with an unexpected gusher of the household water supply that disrupted and defeated a simple toilet-repair procedure. And went on to mess up the rest of the week.

A vertical picture of my horizontal sunflower.

The problem was first apparent when the float broke off from the bar that is supposed to stop the water from flowing into the toilet when the tank is full. So, it began pumping water into the bathroom relentlessly through the overflowing tank. Three inches of water on the floor later, I noticed what was happening and cut off the water to the toilet at the shut-off valve. I then went to Lowe’s and bought a new refill stack (a really cheap plastic one because I am really cheap) and I planned on repairing that toilet the same way that I did twice before. Easy-peazy.

What I didn’t know before beginning the repair, (and would soon learn to my horror half-way through the job) was that the shut-off valve was secretly out to get me, and put into action its twenty-year-long plan for exacting rust-revenge right before it’s gruesome demise. I discovered as I removed the broken piece of plumbing that the broken piece of plumbing was the only thing actually holding back the gusher that became a geyser while I was trying to fix it. And of course, once I knew what the problem was (several gallons too late) I managed to jam the piece I was putting in with such gusto that not only could it not be put in place over the geyser, it was also jammed hard enough that it could not be removed.

The only thing I could do was to shut off the water to the whole house. So, I went out to the spot by the front door where I remembered the shut-off valve to be. But where I thought I remembered the valve being, there was only a new bit of PVC pipe where the city had made changes to the old sewer lines two years ago. So, I began to panic. I don’t pay the water bill. My wife does. And she works at the Dungeon in her middle school’s basement where she can’t call out or get calls in. And I didn’t know the number to call to get help from the city. So, I went back upstairs to find something jammable to stuff in the geysering hole while number-two-son continued to hunt for the shut-off valve. I tried electrical tape and duck tape (though I didn’t actually have a duck to tape with it) and even considered briefly using one of my daughter’s many soaked socks that littered the bathroom floor (or rather, floated above it). As I went downstairs defeated, contemplating calling 911 for a drowning victim’s rescue, my son came in shouting that he had found the shut-off valve. It was under the replanted hedge that my wife moved two years ago.

So, we got the geyser stifled, and the rest of this week we have been living a comfort-free lifestyle with the water shut off while I have been contemplating my Joe-like ability to make bad things happen around me.

I have had to adapt as I work out how to undo the plumbing damage already done without being able to afford a real plumber, and attempt to prevent further damage from happening. And our luck with things like midnight bathroom runs by auto to the nearest all-night-Walmart-store restrooms, my daughter getting ready for school with limited wet resources, and even the car accident I had today between paragraphs two and three of this essay (no kidding… I had to run and pick up my son and got clipped by the car behind me going around the Walmart corner) has been Joe-Btfsplk-esque.

I have had a bad, bad, icky-Mickey week. But I did publish a book. And I got a fairly-funny essay out of the whole thing, though, sadly, every detail is truthfully accurate.

Leave a comment

Filed under family, feeling sorry for myself, foolishness, humor, Paffooney, writing humor

When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 30

Canto Thirty – Rage in the Clarke Name

Kyle Clarke came storming into the Zeffer house before either the sheriff’s deputy or Mrs. Philips could arrive.  He was angry to the point of curse words over what apparently had happened to Valerie.  He made Mrs. Zeffer and Ray repeat the story of how Ray found her three times before he even started calming down.  He made it clear he wanted the story from Ray, not Valerie.  Once he had learned she had been unconscious, he didn’t even want to hear her version of events.  He told her she would not be able to make sense of things until she was well rested and recovered.  He wanted Mrs. Philips, a registered nurse, to examine her before any other investigation took place.  Valerie could only imagine in horror what he suspected.

“Mrs. Philips!  We need you to examine little Valerie Clarke,” said Mrs. Zeffer as Mary’s mother arrived at the Zeffer home.  “She’s been attacked by someone.”

Mrs. Philips was very pale, and also seemed shaken.

“What is the matter, Mrs. Philips?” Kyle asked.  “You seem unwell.”

“My daughter Mary and her boyfriend Pidney Breslow are missing.  I’m afraid it has something to do with what happened to Valerie.”

“Oh, no!  We’ve phoned the sheriff already and he’s sending Deputy Harper from Belle City to investigate,” Kyle said in a concerned tone.

“Do you know what happened?” asked Mrs. Zeffer.

Ray was sitting on the bed in Bobby’s room next to Valerie who was already wearing the clothes Kyle had brought her.  Both of them looked at the adults standing just outside the bedroom doorway.  Valerie’s fear for what might’ve happened to Mary and Pid was overwhelming.  She leaned against Ray’s shoulder and began to cry softly.

“It was the strangest thing.  The three of them were all in our basement, reading some old book.  Then, suddenly there was a purple fog in the house.  It smelled so sweet it made me sick to my stomach.  It apparently knocked me out.  When I came to, I found my daughter Amy and her brother Jason were both sleeping on the floor.  They had been knocked out too.”

“And the kids were taken from your house?”  Kyle looked alarmed and upset.

“Yes, all we found were their clothes in the basement.  I have never seen anything so strange.  Whoever took them must have stripped them naked first.”

“Oh, you poor dear,” said Mrs. Zeffer, taking hold of Lady Philips’ shaking hands and guiding her to a chair in Bobby’s room.  “Sit here.  Let me get you some tea.”

“Was there any indication who might have done this terrible thing?” asked Kyle.

“I… I don’t know,” Mrs. Philips said as Mrs. Zeffer bustled out of the room to make tea.  “We found the empty clothes… and then you called asking me to come here and examine Valerie.”

“You should’ve said something then,” Kyle said.

“I… I just felt numb.  I told Jason to look after Amy and came right here to see what I could find out.”

“All right… um, Mrs. Philips… I called you over here to examine my daughter Valerie.  I was worried someone might have… well, she was found naked in the alley, unconscious.”

Lady Philips made a small strangling sound in her throat.  Valerie knew immediately what she must have thought had happened to Mary.

“I’m okay, Daddy.  I know for a fact that nobody did anything like that to me.”

“Valerie, princess, you were unconscious.  Somebody drugged you and stripped you naked.  We need to be certain what happened.”  Daddy Kyle was trying to be comforting and soothing, but there was a cold, desperate edge to his voice that actually scared Valerie.  She looked at Ray.  Ray’s eyes were frightened too.

“Your dad is right, Val.  You need to be checked.  Mrs. Philips is an RN, a professional nurse.  She’ll be able to tell.”

“Okay, Ray,” said Valerie’s dad coolly, “You should go help your mother in the kitchen.  Deputy Harper will be here soon.”

Ray reluctantly let go of Valerie and stood up.  “You know, sir, that I would never hurt your daughter.”

Kyle’s angry glare softened a bit.  “I… I do know that, son.  And believe me, I am grateful for the way you rescued her and brought her somewhere safe.  I’m on edge right now.  I don’t know what was done or who did it.  You know what I mean?”

“Of course.  If I were in your shoes, I’d be afraid for my daughter too.”

Ray nodded resolutely.  Then he went out of the room.

“I will examine her in private, Mr. Clarke.  I will be able to tell.  I have treated rape victims before.  I don’t have a kit with me, but I will know if one needs to be used… Only…”

“What?” Kyle asked.

“After we know, I am going to need you and Deputy Harper to find Mary.” Valerie’s dad was grim-faced, but he nodded his agreement.

Leave a comment

Filed under daughters, family, humor, novel, novel writing, Paffooney

Closing in on the Ending

Valerie is in this picture, as the squirrel.

I know this title sounds like a total bummer of a post written by a sixty-plus-year-old loser in poor health and totally obsessed with his own imminent mortality. And I know why you might think that based on the general trends you have observed in my reflections-on-life sorts of posts, especially if you actually do more than only look at the pictures in this goofy blog. But it is not the ending of me that I am obsessed about. It is the ending of a novel.

I wrote the first draft of When the Captain Came Calling in 1996, twenty-three years ago. And I knew then that it was not finished. And I thought, perhaps, that it would never be finished. It was a hard thing to write. And I knew from the writing of the novel Snow Babies that I could not write this book without writing directly about the suicide. Something like that can’t just happen to a major character in a series of novels in between what happens in novel one and the start of novel two. It has been a twenty-three-year struggle with a plot-knot that was almost impossible to untangle.

Valerie Clarke and her skateboard

You see, the most important character in the patchwork-quilt-book that is Snow Babies, is Valerie Clarke, a skateboarding thrasher of a girl from the 80’s based on a girl I taught in the 90’s and named after a classmate I had a hopeless crush on in the 60’s. And she could not have been the character I wrote about in that book without having survived the fact of the suicide in the previous book. But when I completed Snow Babies, the Captain still didn’t have the suicide in it. And believe me, writing about suicide is hard. It is something that has been a life-long hardship to explain and to deal with.

You see too, that suicide has been a thing I have had to deal with in real life. Ruben got himself killed in a car accident in a car-theft joy ride. Osvaldo took his own life with a gun after getting out of prison. J.J. got drunk and ran his pickup truck into a train. And they were kids I taught and learned about from talking to them about their lives. And two of them I loved like they were my own children because that’s how teachers do… And I have spent three whole days in emergency rooms and one terrible night in ERs with suicidal teens, two long conversations with kids over the telephone when I had to talk them out of hurting themselves, and I had no idea where they actually were. And I have talked to counselors at three different schools about suicidal things kids shared with me more times than I can count accurately. And some of those incidents I am listing are about family members. And my cousin’s son… Well, you can see how that kind of battle can make a suicide something hard to write about. Especially since all the scars it leaves makes you hyper-aware of how precious and fragile life really is.

But you see three, now that I have taken time out to cry a bit for having written that last horrible paragraph, that it is important, as a writer, to share your truth with the world in the best way you know how. And as the spirits of Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and Terry Pratchett nod knowingly from beyond, I can honestly say that the best way that I can deal with it is by writing comedy, making readers smile and laugh and feel good about enough good stuff to make up for the bad stuff that everybody faces… even suicide. And I have finally passed the test. I wrote the chapter about the suicide. I have written about Valerie’s recovery, and I am nearing the end of the book, my current Work In Progress, When the Captain Came Calling. A good story can heal the world, the way Oliver Twist did, or the way The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn did. And while the jury has not yet convened on this book of mine, and I can’t begin to compare my book to those, I don’t hate it now the way I did for the last twenty-two years. It is going to get finished. And then the whole world can ignore it the way they have all my other books.

7 Comments

Filed under autobiography, family, feeling sorry for myself, humor, novel, novel writing