A Woman’s Best Friend

Commitment is hard. Like really hard. So when my brother and his dog moved out a few years ago, I was faced with a difficult decision.

Buy my own dog or live peacefully ever after?

I already knew dogs were a complete and total pain in the butt from my years of living with my bro and his pup. I even had all the joys of dog ownership – a running partner and a scare tactic when the Arm & Hammer reps came to the door – without any of the responsibilities – vet appointments, buying food. I only had to endure damage to my home – broken deck spindles, stained carpet, ruined couches, a yard caked with yellow grass marks… you get the idea.

But for as much as I complained about it, I found myself missing puppy companionship once my bro and his dog high-tailed it out of here. The home felt empty without paws dragging mud in, without slobber on my lap and without a dog curled up under the clothes in my closet.

To fill the void, I took a few trips to the humane society and fell in love with a new best friend. He was just a little pup. He was missing a canine, had a googly eye and, when he was really excited, he’d pee when he walked.

I had to have him.

Unfortunately, he was adopted before I had a chance to nab him, but he miraculously returned four months later (behavioral issues were with the owner, not the dog). It was meant to be. A match made in heaven. He was mine.

I grew up with family dogs, but this is the first time I’ve experienced having my very own pet that I got to name without arm wrestling siblings.  I named him Hines, after the greatest receiver of all time, Hines Ward.

Now don’t be fooled. Hines has a lot of great talents. He can chew bones like a champ, he’s super protective and he can spend a crazy amount of time in a deep slumber. But he can’t catch. He can’t even snag a full tortilla when it’s tossed directly at him.

Anyway, we recently celebrated our one year anniversary and not a day has gone by where I don’t find little blonde hairs poking out of my shirt. My patio door is caked with a film that resembles stained glass in a way. The back seat of my car is full of dog hair, and little rivers of drool stream down the rear windows from when he sticks his head out the windows. And the nose prints on my full-length mirror make me chuckle. It’s a sure sign he’s intimidated by his own reflection.

“Whatchoo lookin’ at?”

“This town ain’t big enough for the both of us.”


He hates baths, which of course I think is hilarious. And, as you might gather, he really hates the car wash. Any time we go through a drive-thru, its drool galore, even if we’re at the bank or getting coffee. Turns out that Pavlov guy was pretty spot on.

He follows me everywhere. He lies on my yoga mat when I curse Jillian and her fat-blasting techniques. The few times he’s allowed in my bed, it’s like he was designed to be tucked next to me. He stares at me while I’m on my computer. Eating. Getting dressed. Going to the bathroom. Showering. Cooking. Brushing my teeth. Clipping coupons. Putting my coat on. He is always there. And honestly, when he’s not, it’s really weird.

He gives me sad eyes when I leave for work. And the funny thing is, I actually feel guilty leaving. The poor guy has to lay on his cushy bed all day in peace and quiet and take a nap. He even helps himself to my couch, even though it’s forbidden. (I swear he has learned to avoid it at times I may return home). And he only gets about a third of his body weight in treats each month. He’s 90 pounds.

Anyone who has a dog understands. I have absolutely fallen in love, and the paw print on my heart so deep, it’s hard to imagine my life without him.

Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.


A Bittersweet Divorce

My parents are getting a divorce.

There. I said it.

It’s out in the open. The world knows our family is crumbling. And really, it’s okay. It’s probably for the better. Why polar opposites would ever join in holy matrimony is a total mystery anyway – or how they raised four very normal children for that matter. Maybe “normal” is a stretch but we’re decent. We’re like other people, until you realize most of the world is a little psychotic. So yes, we’ll just go with “normal” for now.

I’m in my late 20s so you’d think this wouldn’t be a big deal. And honestly, it’s not. And honestly, I’m lying. The process has barely begun and I’m learning a lot about myself, how much I value things I didn’t realize held a sacred place in my heart, and how deep tradition runs in my veins. I suppose it does with everyone – only I’ve been too ignorant to realize it. I’ve more so taken every single thing in my life for granted, believed I deserved it and had full faith it would all continue on forever and nothing would ever change.

I even had a perception that everyone had what I had – a really great, tightly knit, near-perfect family – and shared my same feelings toward it. I mean, its family. It doesn’t get any better. But oddly, when I start opening up to people, everyone had a story of their own: a crazy uncle, a brother in jail, severe problems with bipolar disorder, alcoholism, divorce, schizophrenia – and I wasn’t even hanging out at a psych ward. These are coworkers, friends, and extended family. By the sounds of it, my family’s situation is not rare. We’re not even the exception. We’re the rule, and there are millions right alongside us, looking us in the eye, shrugging their shoulders and saying “it’ll all be okay.”

And it will, because it has to. But it doesn’t stop me from staring at the train wreck and the path it bulldozes in its derailment as I numbly stand in the wake and nauseously stare at its effects in shock. In pain. In absolute confusion.

What now?

Great question.

I think through this all, the toughest thing is breaking traditions. Until this year, I had done the same thing every holiday for the last 28 years.  We always always always have a family celebration, where we do family things, talk about family stuff, drink family drinks, spend family time together and exchange laughter… with family. The whole family.

Well, turns out that got torn apart pretty hard this year, and I’m dumbfounded every time someone asks me what my plan is.

“So what are your plans for Thanksgiving?”

[Blank Stare] “Um, not sure,” I say like a bonehead.

Plan? Let’s put it this way, even if I had two stoves, my plans would still all be on the back burners. When you start having to “plan” events that have been automatic your entire life, it’s perplexing. It’s something I’ve never experienced and I feel like a pre-schooler trying to give directions to her own home.

And again, a few weeks later.

“What are you doing for Christmas?”

Shit, I don’t know. Is often my first thought, though I feel like it wouldn’t be very festive to vocalize. So I don’t. Instead, I fumble through and change the subject, which I hear I’ve gotten pretty good at.

I guess this is that plot-altering chapter in my life, the point where I spend the rest of the book trying to figure out a way for it all to make sense. And I’m sure one day it will. I suppose – as with anything – the change, the adjustment period, is probably the most difficult. And I’ve learned that change can be a good thing.

Realistically, this isn’t a tragic novel. It’s a non-fiction lesson. Maybe the true tragedy would have been watching Mom and Dad continue on with a loveless marriage that was draining the life out of each of them. And, in all honesty, I’m looking forward to hearing about their future ventures separately. My parents. Dating. Now that will be interesting.

Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.

I Shoulda Been A Grandma

I sent my mother off to WE Fest last night. I instructed her to be careful, warning that people die there every year. I also requested she not take drinks from strangers — an act that’s right up her alley.

They peeled off, headed for the country fest and I smiled. Me, advising my mother, to be careful. Similar to Toby Keith song, “I should have been a cowboy,” I’m feeling like I should have been a grandma.

What other 20-something gets a hoot out of knitting, loves baking pies with homemade crust, and has formed a club to play cards the same night each week?

No, I’m not feeling old. I’m nowhere near retirement, I don’t attend SilverSneakers and I haven’t been looking into what an AARP membership can do for me. I haven’t resorted to dentures, and while my knees still hurt from the marathon I ran in May, my hips still seem to be holding up okay.

But it occurred to me the other week, when sending a few songs to a wise-crack co-worker of mine, that I think I was born in the wrong decade. Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” – is it not a classic? And, because she’s going to see her family in September, the Happenings’ “I’ll See You in September.”

Hey, it seemed pertinent.

She had never heard it.

“You listen to older music than my parents,” she remarked. There it was again – one more person pointing to the fact that I’m a matured woman in a young person’s body.

I wasn’t offended. This was not the first time I had been called a grandma. When I turned down an evening of “clubbing it up” to go bowling, I was called a grandma. When I showed up to a potluck with the best molasses cookies anyone has ever tasted, I was called a grandma.

I don’t deny that performing a single download on my Mac is a struggle, or that I have very little interest in getting a smart phone. In fact, I’ve debated going back in time to a landline and would probably have a rotary phone, just for the hell of it. Quiz me on anything pop culture – I promise I won’t know a single answer. The funny thing is, it upsets the people around me much more than it upsets me.

And now, as I seriously consider purchasing a Buick Regal, people are laughing directly to my face and have been calling me “Grandma Stoneburner”. The odd thing is, I think it fits me well. Deal with it, you little rascals!

Bye bye, so long, farewell….

Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.

10 years. Seemingly gone at the drop of a hat.

My 10 year reunion is this year. 10 years. It feels like 5 minutes. Clear as day are memories of times when my biggest concerns were simple: how big of a cookie could I get mom to buy me at the Paynesville bakery, how much time would my brother and I have to snorkel at the lake, and how many more weeks did I have to drag my clubs to kids summer golf?

Now, my focus is set on paying off my mortgage, accelerating my career, saving for retirement and preventing wrinkles.  When did all this happen?

They say life is like a roll of toilet paper – the closer to the end you get, the faster it goes. From my experience, it’s true. I know, I know – people constantly proclaim that “time flies”. But really, when did it become late July? Did my younger brother really just turn 26 years old? And when did they start letting teenage-looking kids into local drinking establishments?

I digress. While I have the time, here is a reflection of some of the high points over the last 10 years…. In no particular order. Or maybe they are in order.  Whatever – here goes.

1.)    Traveled abroad to the Bahamas, Italy and Greece. It’s scary, nerve wracking and exhausting, but the memories are irreplaceable!

2.)    Ran a full marathon without dying.

3.)    Purchased a home, started a garden and adopted my very own dog.

4.)    Made it to Heinz Field for a game with my Pops. (Go Steelers!) Also traveled with him to see the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

5.)    Left a very decent job for a more challenging position with IRONCLAD Marketing. (ow.ly/n86jx )

6.)    Became an auntie of three and witnessed my brother in a parenting role.

7.)    Learned not only to love my freckles, muscular legs and “different” personality, but to embrace all three.

8.)    Climbed the Half Dome in Yosemite National Park without dying.

9.)     Saw some great performers in concert including Eric Clapton, Cheryl Crow, Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson, Maroon 5, Sugar Ray, Matchbox 20, Foo Fighters, Martin Sexton, Billy Joel & Elton John, Miranda Lambert and The Newsboys.

10.)  Was included in a Scheels commercial. (http://goo.gl/nu5fc)

11.) Biked 100 miles in one day for the MS Bike Ride. Then rode 75 miles the next day without dying.

Here’s to attempting to one-up myself in the next 10 years. Hopefully without dying.

I’ll close with a little excerpt on time: At every instant of every day, you are making a choice of how you spend your time. You have a very limited amount of time, making it extremely valuable. You can’t do everything you consider doing, or everything others demand of you. You establish your real priorities in life by your choices of how you allocate your time. Whenever you spend time on mindless activities, or meeting someone else’s demands (that don’t further your own life purpose), you have chosen your priorities — but have you chosen well? You have enough time for anything in the world, so long as it ranks high enough among your priorities. How effectively will you be spending your time today?

Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.

Define “runner”

How do you define a runner?

Is it their gear? Their 10K time? Is it judged by the furthest distance run, or the number of races completed? Or, can only the ones who flirt with being addicted be considered a true runner? You know – those who love it, have a compiled list of personal records and talk about running 24/7? What about the folks who grudgingly do it because they “should”?

I’ve always “run.” I used to race my brothers down to the mailbox during the summers, because it was the only thing we had to do all day. I used to “run” away from home when my parents ticked me off as a kid. Then I’d “run” home when it got dark out. In more recent times, I’ve become very good at “running” away from making decisions and discussing politics.

In all seriousness, I bought a personal trainer in the form of a German Shepherd/ Rottweiler mix and decided to train for my first marathon. But even though the Fargo Marathon is less than a week away, I still don’t feel like a runner. As I rub my sore knees, pick at my blisters and evaluate my black toes from running over 380 miles in the last 16 weeks, it has been really hard to determine whether I’m getting stronger or just falling apart. And honestly, even though I have my eyes set on 26.2, the ultimate event for a runner, I feel like calling myself a runner is a bit of a scam.

I guess I view “runners” as smooth operating, well-lubricated machines with a fast pace and a stride to my three. I feel more like a rusty old tanker set at sea for no particular reason.

Case in point: My loving boyfriend witnessed a heart wrenching sob-fest following my first 20-mile run. I had hoped to finish 20 miles in 3 hours that day – a pace that would have been just short of a miracle for me. I pushed through the door to my home and pulled myself – with my arms – to the top of the stairs. Utterly exhausted and altogether disappointed with my performance, I collapsed, covered my face and started crying.

It wasn’t exactly a “shining moment.”

And there stood the guy who has helped motivate and encourage me in my trek. Dumbfounded, he listened as I shook my head tried to convince him I couldn’t do it.

It was a rough week. But looking back, that feeling of doubt was reoccurring. Week after week, starting at 14 miles, I’d complete the run, and honestly, whole-heartedly believe that if I had to run another mile I would not have been able. But the next week, I would.

Now almost all that doubt is behind me. Let me say, I never thought I could look at a route for a marathon and say, “eh, I can do that,” when in previous years just looking at it made me dizzy. Now, as I nervously wait for race day, I’m so excited it’s intoxicating.

I have a few thoughts on training for my first marathon, which I, God willing, will finish on May 18. Hopefully readers will either find them funny, inspirational or completely nuts.

1.) People have asked whether I’ll do more than one, to which, in the initial weeks of training, my response was “no way, doing it once, crossing it off the bucket list and that’ll be it.”

Truth be told, a lot of people have really good reasons for running a marathon. Like therapy, or a true love of the sport. Maybe weight loss or getting over some hump in their lives. I had no reason other than to prove to myself I could do it. But after I got going, it was a free pass to eat whatever I wanted. Then I realized that provided I finish, I will have one-up’d both of my brothers. In other words, I’ll be making history.

People say marathons are addicting, and I can definitely see why. Continually pushing yourself to the limit is an awesome feeling. That being said, I plan to cross “run a marathon” off my bucket list, add it to my repertoire and try to limit my bragging. Time will tell if I run another.

2.) I’ve tallied the miles I will have run by the time the marathon is completed. When/if I cross the finish line, I’ll have run 414.2 miles.  This means I’m currently 92% done with the whole fiasco and, interestingly enough, the actual marathon is a whopping 6.3% of the process. That’s kind of incredible, isn’t it? Also, I did this same calculation in week 10 and was not happy with the numbers at all, felt 95% hopeless and 100% wanted to quit.

3.) As you could imagine, Saturday mornings after the marathon will feel like Sunday afternoons after a Super Bowl. Elite runners wouldn’t understand, but the time put forth to this is incredible. In the 3rd hour of one of my runs, I imagined spending this much time on triathlon training. Or even to something like piano lessons, sewing, or photography. This much dedication to one thing would do a lot for anyone.

 4.) It’s really hard not to sound like you’re bragging. And, whether or not you try, talking about running is extremely hard to keep to a minimum. I’ll admit, when I’ve been out and about the hours following a long run, I want to tell complete strangers what I did that day. I’ve been tempted to share details of a long run with a server at a restaurant, a barista, a gas station attendant, even innocent bystanders on the sidewalk.

“Hey blue shirt guy! I RAN 18 MILES TODAY!!!! What have YOU done??”

Would that have been totally inappropriate?

This journey has been amazing. People aren’t wrong when they say a running a marathon is a fine line between a mental game and an athletic achievement. I’ll never forget the routes I’ve taken, the cold mornings I somehow got the strength to run the route, the things I’ve seen along the way and the way I amazed myself every week. I would encourage anyone to start running for whatever reason they can find.

Best of luck to runners this Saturday – whether or not you feel like one.

Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.

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A More Colorful Kind of Love

It’s Valentine’s Day again and I’m still wondering whether we’ll ever do away with this silly holiday.

As I’ve ranted about in previous blogs, this day forces men to show their love in the form of a $100 flower arrangement (which in many cases still isn’t “enough”).  Couples desperately make reservations and fight crowds to eat an expensive meal at fancy restaurant.  And many-a-single ladies cry themselves to sleep because “nobody loves them”.

How romantic.

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day? I challenge you to switch it up a bit and show a little love a different way this year. Shovel just a little too far to your neighbor’s side. Pick up an extra cup of coffee for a co-worker. Pay for the random stranger behind you in the drive-thru (not that you’d go through a drive-thru on such a sacred holiday). Or, avoid fighting crowds and put that cash towards something a bit more meaningful. If you haven’t heard about Giving Hearts Day, I urge you to look into that.

That’s the kind of love we could use more of.

Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.

Exercise Your Heart

Sundays must be designated as kid day at Family Wellness. They’re everywhere. Little boys and girls run around inside the facility – finding anything to make it their playground. They bounce on Bosu balls, mimic parents and other adults in their exercises, and get creative with stretchy bands.

I’ve only come to notice this in the last two weeks. Given my slight fear of young children, I took a few minutes to admire from afar during my workout tonight.

As I was stretching, I watched a pro-like child take on his chubby friend in a game of one-on-one basketball.  Neither of them could have been a day over seven years old, but their “ballin” skills were much more in tune than mine. That’s not saying much, but wow. One of the boys was clearly more skilled in the sport, but completely unwilling to go easy on his friend. Seriously – no mercy there. The kid looked like he was destined to be a pro athlete.  I laughed out loud several times watching their mismatched game. It was seriously great.

Another gal trotted around in some of the trendiest little boots I’ve ever seen. She was everywhere – bouncing on the balls, playing with her brother and literally sledding on the sliding pads. When she saw me, she got her hopes up. “Are you going to use this!?” she asked, hoping for a sledding partner. Maybe I should have taken her up on it. Instead I smiled and said, “nope, that’s all yours for now.”  Then she intently watched me do box jumps and pulled up a box of her size to join in the workout. So cute.

Next I noticed a young boy on the track, sprinting a half a loop ahead of his dad and then finding a spot to sit and wait for his dad to catch up. Then he’d repeat it. His “All Star” jersey said it all. His skinny little legs pretty much blurred when he ran.

By this point, I probably sound enough like a creeper. I don’t generally go to the gym to stare at kids. But it might be true that I took a little extra time to observe the kids this time around. I couldn’t help but watch them in their youth learning, playing, growing and laughing. I found myself thinking of my adorable niece and handsome nephew as I watched these kids enjoy an average Sunday with their family. They really are amazing.

Unfortunately, my thoughts wandered to the fear that has overcome parents, teachers and families all over the country since last Friday’s occurrence at Sandy Hook or, sadly, the void settling in for some of the more unfortunate families. How can such a blessing be gone so quickly without reason? And how does a person, a parent, a sibling ever begin to overcome such a shocking tragedy?

I can’t imagine the heartache this group of parents is dealing with as they face their first Christmas without a crucial member of their family. It’s absolutely unfair, heart wrenching and completely asinine.

But I suppose it serves as a reminder that our next moment, next day, next week is never guaranteed. What better reason to give a few extra hugs, say “I love you” one time too many (if that’s possible), say a few extra prayers, and, in the words of Ghandi, be the change you wish to see in the world.

Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously. 

The latest approach from a season sufferer

I hate winter. Really I do. And I’m not the only one who hates it. Face it, winter can be a huge inconvenience. It’s like a giant corn cob stuck up your rear. Super uncomfortable, hard, and a total pain in the butt.  And, when you think it’s about to wither away, it gets nudged up just a tish further. A royal, lingering pain. And any Northerner who doesn’t agree is either a snowbird, or totally nuts.

Great attitude, huh? Welcome to North Da-Cold-ah.

Each year I try to be positive about it…. “Maybe this year won’t be so bad,” I think, and, actually every few years, it isn’t. For example, last year was a dream come true.  A campfire was comfortably had on my birthday in January.  Without a coat or shoveling, I was able to play 2-on-2 driveway basketball in mid-December. A winter where I ice skated three miles across the lake without having to dodge any snow drifts. I think temps dropped below zero three times. It was perfect.

Sadly, a “winter” like that may never roll around again.

Each winter, I take a trial and error approach, trying something in efforts to lessen the misery .  A few years ago, I got an autostart in my car that’s terrible in the winter. This way, when I got stuck, the car was at least warm.

The year after that, I bought my first pairs of non-kid boots. This made shoveling and digging my car out way less painful than shoveling and digging my car out in tennies.

The next year I found a really big boyfriend who can do amazing things with a grain shovel, like clear my entire sidewalk in the time it takes me to clear one step. The ROI on this one is insurmountable.

Last year, there was no need to medicate. Seeing grass in February was a cure in itself. However, I kept the guy around as a safety mechanism.

Each of my plans to “make it better” have worked to some extent, but it’s a new winter, and I’ve decided I need to make an honest effort to find something I actually love about the winter, besides burying  myself under blankets and complaining.

SIDENOTE: I do love downhill skiing, but considering the landfill is the only piece of land in within a hundred miles that remotely resembles a slope, it’s kind of out of the question unless a lot of traveling is involved. And, not to sound like a ski-snob, but sometimes I think the landfill might be better worth my time.

So I purchased a few things at garage sales in the off season to make this winter less agonizing. Although I’m really not looking forward to using them (they all require me to go outside in below-freezing weather), I’m trying to keep a good attitude.

First, I bought my first pair of comfortable ice skates for $10. I’ve been borrowing skates, or scrounging up an ancient pair from the basement of my parents’ home, but it generally results in sore or bleeding ankles for the next week. When all is said and done, it’s not that much fun.

I also purchased a new pair of cross country skis for $12 and some odd cents (they were supposed to be $14 but I literally was scraping the ash tray in my car to round up enough change). I’d like to say I’m excited to use them, but it’s basically like running in the snow/cold/ice, only with more crap to haul along with you. Again, just trying to keep a good attitude here… I’ve also considered that these skis may become my main means of transportation given I have about as much control maneuvering my Mazda3 on ice as I would in an inner tube.

Let’s see what you’ve got, winter.

Finally, for the low cost of one dollar, I purchased a one-piece snowsuit. It’s a little snug, somewhat short and definitely old, but I’m (possibly overly) excited to wear it on every occasion where it’s semi appropriate. It’s bound to make people laugh, or at least smile.

I’m just hoping it’s contagious.

Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.

One man’s treasure is another woman’s nightmare

When’s the last time you acted like a kid? I don’t mean allowing a spurt of immaturity get the best of you or clumsily knocking over a cup chocolate milk. Dig a little deeper. When did you last go back in time and try to do something you did frequently in your earlier years? I’m talking rounding up every single blanket in the house and spending an afternoon propping them on the dining room chairs to create a fort in the living room. The ultimate fort – one where the height of the roof is equally important as the secret passwords to enter into Never-Never-Land and gain access to the stash of fruit snacks. I’m talking spending an entire winter morning building the largest snowman you were capable of building, and then crying when it melted that afternoon. I’m talking about believing in Santa, imaginary friends, afternoon naps, and pinkie swearing. Being a kid once again.

I recently got together with my younger brother.  Since he moved out of the basement of my home just three months ago, we’ve seen much less of each other. We both agree its better this way. Truth be told, I miss him a little. Some days. Not every day. And to clarify, I miss him, not living with him.

Anyway, I went over to his home with hopes of creating another one of our famous adventures. I imagined taking our road bikes out for a spin – perhaps swinging by the humane society to check out a St. Bernard that had stolen my heart. We might stop somewhere and have a beer, or purchase a croquet set at a garage sale. You know – a mid-twenties adventure.

Instead, Tom proposed we cruise around some nearby trails on his mountain bikes.

Mountain bikes? Mountain bikes are for off-roading. Hence the “mountain bike” title. AKA: Not my road bike, not my style. However, like any other situation in our lives, his excitement trumped my distaste for an activity, and before I knew it, we were taking off to trail ride.

It was like rewinding 15 years to our childhood when we’d take our “Huffy” and “Murray” bikes to the local parks and cause ruckus.  Generally racing the family dog, we’d bike as fast as possible until reaching our destination – even though we had already been there four times that day.

Telling of the fun we were about to have, he led us to a park with narrow pathways, hills and a forest full of other thrilling things like poison ivy and sudden drop offs into the Red. Pavement, concrete, road signs – non existent.

“You can go whatever direction you want,” he yelled back at me as I desperately tried to keep up. I was in an unfamiliar forest in a part of town I had never been. If I lost him, I’m not sure how we’d reconnect – a small detail he never has seemed to care about. Eventually the hick version of Tony Hawk let me lead

“Watch out for the more narrow paths – there’s probably poison ivy in here,” he warned.

Imagining how productive the following week of work would be if I were to contract an itchy rash, I realized there was no way to avoid the leaves that surrounded the tight paths.

What the heck. I didn’t take time to perform a risk assessment when I was young. Why was I so concerned now? Maybe taking a day off to itch my legs and scratch my tail feathers would be good for me.  Caught in my daydream, I quickly came up on two trees – ironically located about a handlebars’ distance apart. Slamming on my brakes, it became clear that I was a little late on the draw. Letting go of the handlebars, I desperately reached for the trees, as an alternative way of stopping. Unfortunately, this meant my hands came off the brakes, and I nearly dislocated my shoulders. I hung at the top of a hill for a few moments and somehow managed to stay on my bike – which, need I remind you, I didn’t want to ride in the first place. Suddenly a soft bush of poison ivy seemed like a good way to opt out of this regrettable ride.

My brother just chuckled as he watched me struggle, then warned that a steep hill was approaching.  His only cautioning word was “faster!”

So I sped up, hit loose dirt, and completely biffed it. Laying on the ground spitting out dirt, I confirmed that this was not my ideal way of spending time on a Saturday – or any other day for that matter. Not only was I somewhat embarrassed, but I was also frustrated that he expected me continue. My fun factor was not overly heightened, but I pressed on.

Finally, he promised one more “highlight” of the trip and we’d be done.

Oh. Joy.

My hopes were not high was we approached “the best part.”

“Ready?” He said. “Let’s go!” He gracefully glided across a foot-wide suspended plank that straddled a 6-foot deep gorge.  I gracefully slammed on my breaks and came to a stop inches short of it.

“Come on,” he said, looking back.

Yeah. I’m going to trust the kid who has fallen 12 feet out of a tree, nearly sawed his hand off, face planted while doing a BMX bike stunt leading to a bloody face and a bad concussion, and nearly drowned in a pool when he was 2-years-old and still managed to survive.

I don’t have that kind of luck.

Evaluating the dangers, I stared at the plank. I could definitely sprain an ankle or break a leg if I didn’t make it all the way across. However, the likelihood of dying was low.  It could potentially hurt my reproductive organs if I landed really hard on top of my bike, or become paralyzed if I landed on my head.  Taking a different route would just be easier, especially considering nine times out of 10, I would start across, panic and fail. Still, I had an overwhelming urge to prove myself wrong.

Tom began offering to help me across. Ignoring him, I stood in front of the board and contemplated. I try to do one thing every day that scares me, and with daily routines, it isn’t everyday you get that chance.

I began backing up, coaching myself – just don’t panic half way across. I ultimately decided that if I can bike a white line flawlessly for miles on my road bike, I could handle a foot-wide, 8-foot span of danger.

He watched as I passed over the board. I think I shocked myself by making it across. I must admit, it felt pretty good… kinda like being a kid again.

Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.


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Oh, for the love of Cleanup Week!

I’m sure you’ve noticed, but in case you haven’t, this week is Fargo’s Annual Holiday O’ Genius.  If you don’t know what I’m referring to, feel free to stop reading – this blog will be of zilch interest.

There are garage sales, there are discount stores and then there’s Fargo’s Cleanup Week.  Hook up the trailers and get the trucks running, because you never know what kinds of treasures you’ll find this week – all at the cost of loading it up and hauling it away. This week takes window shopping to a whole new level with the luxury of peering out your own car window.  It’s like Black Friday shopping – only no ridiculous hours, no lines, no slow cashiers and, for the most part, nobody to elbow in order to get to what you want – though it’s becoming so popular that it may be heading in that direction.

In past years, I’ve touched on Cleanup week Personalities. This year, I’ve taken it upon myself to write up a check list to be sure my fellow readers are prepared for the Week of Glory. Please, don’t hesitate to add to the list if you’re a curb shopper or boulevard packer.

1.) Run don’t walk.
First come first serve. The early bird gets the worm. The faster you move the more you get. Now get goin’!

2.)  Do not be deterred if your significant other is a naysayer. 
This type of person is what freebie hunters call a “wet blanket.”  Leave them behind – possibly for longer than just cleanup week.

3.)  Display it like you got it.
For the people putting items out on the curb: nobody wants to stop and dig through a pile of junk. Well… okay, a lot of people do, but if you’re looking for the excitement of watching someone else pick up your treasures, there’s a lot to be said for displaying your goods properly.

Why do you care if someone takes it? It’s flattering. Someone else dug through your garbage and got something they wanted. It’s something to be proud of.

When displaying, be sure to utilize the entire boulevard.  Set it up like you’re setting up your own personal store for an everything-must-go sale. For example, I set out some less-than-desired pieces of furniture last year. I had an ugly couch that swallowed your rear end (no matter how large), the ugliest window coverings in history, a broken shovel and ice scraper, a coffee table from 1977 with wheels, a tall glass pillar that my boyfriend claimed was filled with wine, and a faker-than-fake tree that I had shamelessly picked up earlier in the week. (The buyer’s remorse was too much to handle after seeing a less fake looking tree on another block.) So what did I do? I literally set up a living room in my yard, using the shovel to hold up the ugliest blinds in the world. You laugh, but all that was left on my curb at the end of the week was the broken ice scraper – which I was fine with. Turns out, ol’ Betsy had another year left in her.

Whatever you do, be sure to hold on to anything with value – particularly sentimental value.

4.)   Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you need it.
Before you put it in your car, think about whether the item it is an upgrade.  Debate why did the previous owner threw it out. Then, if you have room, load it up and if it turns out to be complete trash, throw it out on your own curb later that week. Welcome to the circle of junk. Not to be confused with Guns N’ Roses “Welcome to the Jungle” or the Lion King’s “Circle of Life”. It’s more like if the two had a child.

5.)    Be creative!
Go ahead and try fixing up an old dresser or putting some pizzazz into the used ice scraper you just picked up.

6.) Always a must
Brand new, in the package anything, all items that could constitute firewood, an decent looking grill, scrap metal (particularly precious metals such as copper, brass and aluminum), garbage cans (a garbage from a garbage), and anything you feel will add a unique, decorative touch to your home with a little sanding and painting, because sometimes one man’s junk is another woman’s dresser.

7.) Always a no
Mattresses, underwear, used toothbrushes, bath towels, burnt out bar lights, things that need “the impossible” fix (“This lawn mower looks great! It just needs tires, blades, a battery, and a motor!” or “this just needs gluing, duct tape, and a little reverse engineering.” ) Anything that relies on wishful thinking  should be left behind in order to keep Cleanup Week from becoming a project nightmare.

8.) Think small.
Parts you can get for something you already have is a score. A next-to-new filter for your vacuum, spark plug for your mower as well as slightly used light bulbs and bike tires are money in the bank.

9.) Don’t be fooled by presentations (see tip #3).
Often times, one man’s junk is another man’s… well, still junk.

Everyone’s cleanup week is different. Please share your cleanup week successes and failures, wins and losses, before and after photos, and horror stories – no matter how disgusting. Oh, and good luck!

Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic column about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.