Look Out For the Rats

Shannon Kernaghan Look-Out-for-the-Rats-400 Look Out For the Rats Belongings Childhood Comedy Family Fun Gifts Humor Lifestyle Memories parents Pets and Animals

I discovered a few rats downtown, and last weekend I brought three of them home with me. They’re not real rats (or married people who pocket their wedding rings when going for a drink after work), but art rats.

A nearby gallery recently held a one-year anniversary and celebrated by selling donated art to raise money for the artist-run shows.

The gallery showcased a roomful of rodent-themed pieces designed from paint, ceramics, wire and needlepoint.

I’m not overly welcoming towards rats, unless they’re the cartoon or stuffed animal variety. But I do like to support our determined artists.

It takes exceptional people to bare themselves for public critique. And it takes courage to enter a creative field when there’s no guarantee of gain or glory. But try they must.

Besides, how many rat sculptures can you create and give to your mother before she stops accepting deliveries? Good thing we have our galleries.

It’s an indisputable fact – artists create because they must.

Why such admiration? Because I’m a left-brain thinker and can’t draw a convincing stick figure. I don’t even have a consistent signature when signing my name to the back of my ID and credit cards. 

My first artistic foray most likely involved Popsicle sticks, gold glitter and glue that ended up everywhere except the target. Years later, my high school dalliance with textiles resulted in a crooked gingham apron that only a mother – the same one with rat ornaments lining her curio cabinet – could love.

I appreciate those who pilot a potter’s wheel or wield a welding rod. For that reason, I’ll continue to collect and cherish their creations.

Will I end up with a Banksy Girl with Balloon piece that sold for $1.4 million even though it was partially shredded at auction? Who cares. I buy art because I like it.

For our wedding, my sister gave us a sculpted piece, a weird little monster named Theobold who wears a turtleneck and holds a cup in his gnarly monster grip. I’m happy to say that the marriage has fared the storms of time better than Theobold.

Although I try to be careful, poor Theobold has been broken on four or five occasions. Last summer he fell off a ledge while I read in a chair several feet away.

Luckily, I’ve retained good gluing skills from kindergarten. As for any financial appreciation over the years, Theobold has too many missing pieces to ever increase in value, but I’ll never say good-bye to him.

Please, no one send me a Rodin sculpture for my next birthday – if my monster is jumping off his ledge, just imagine the trouble The Thinker will get into.

Hang on . . . now my new clay rats are starting to eye me with suspicion. Better buy more glue.

Audio story backing track
Mind and Eye Journey
by
Emily Sprague

Hands Off The Pooch!

Shannon Kernaghan Hands-off-my-pooch-400 Hands Off The Pooch! Challenge Childhood children Comedy Culture Family Fun Health Humor Lifestyle Love Memoir parents Relationship Sex

My husband has begun an annoying habit while we relax in bed: he plays with my stomach as if it’s bread dough.

“Stop it!” I yell and slap at his pawing hand. ”This isn’t Silly Putty!”

Although I’ve never been pregnant, I can empathize when people reach out to rub a woman’s  rotund stomach. Those people envision a beautiful growing baby and are drawn to it, the same way they’re attracted to a puppy or kitten.

Conversely, those pregnant women see a groping hand reaching towards them and they’ve never felt so territorial.

Men must endure similar attention. I’m referring to men who’ve shaved their heads to a downy fuzz.

My hand trembles with desire to sweep my palm across all that fuzz. Now it’s tough to concentrate on what the guy is saying. Downy. Alluring. Must touch.  

There’s nothing sexual about it. If anything, my psyche is probably reconnecting with my youth where I played with my Ken doll, the kind with the peach-fuzz head. Sure, Barbie had great golden locks, but Ken’s head was something special.

Let’s shelve my downy head hang-up and get back to pregnant women. Lately great emphasis is placed on the prenatal experience. Parents don’t simply talk to their unborn babies but also read to them and play selected music.

Embryologists say that the ear is the first organ to develop, that it becomes functional after only eighteen weeks and baby listens actively from twenty-four weeks on.Speaking, reading and singing to a baby before birth is said to enhance its ability to distinguish sounds after birth. Some scientists believe that babies understand what’s being said around them.

I find that hard to believe. If babies understand from an early age, why is it such a struggle to toilet train them or teach them why they can’t throw Daddy’s keys into the toilet? For keys, they have no problem with the flush.

If you have extra time in your busy day, why not buy a device that allows you to hear, record and e-mail your unborn baby’s heartbeat and hiccups.

Here’s one ad I found online: “Listen to these sounds with the baby’s father, siblings or friends. You will also hear the nutrients passing through the placenta.”

I wouldn’t be too keen to share sounds from my placenta; once that child is born, we’ll be treated to enough sounds. My device of choice would be ear plugs.

My own mother was busy with four children before I arrived. Little concern went towards my in utero experience. I’m thankful enough that Mom didn’t smoke, slam shooters or play with hallucinogens while she was pregnant.

As for my non-pregnant pooch, I’ve created a new rule in our household: I’ll let my sweetheart squeeze my belly if he shaves his head and lets me stroke his fuzz. Now that’ll be a Friday night tale to tell the non-kids. 

audio song The Nexxus Riddum
by
Konrad Old Money

A Wooden Leg Does Not a Pirate Make

Shannon Kernaghan wooden-leg-400 A Wooden Leg Does Not a Pirate Make Challenge Challenges Childhood Family Farming Humor Lifestyle Memoir Pirates

In 1978 President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the first Sunday in September after Labor Day as National Grandparents’ Day. The idea originated from a woman in West Virginia whose motivation was to persuade grandchildren to listen and learn from the wisdom of their grandparents.

This special day reminds me to appreciate my own family tree. Take my grandfather, a hard-working and good-natured farmer. He had a wooden leg, the result of a war injury. As a farmer, dealing with a missing limb must have been a daily challenge although my mother says she never heard him complain.

Today, prosthetics are made of lightweight polymer and flexible titanium capable of increasing agility and mobility. None of that innovation was available for my grandfather’s leg: his was a heavy and unwieldy contraption held in place by a bulky harness and shoulder strap. Although it had a knee hinge, the mechanism didn’t always work unless my grandpa gave it a couple of hard thumps. He told my mom that the knocks were to show it who was boss. Grandpa also swore this leg had a mind of its own.

Correction: Mom said he did complain one day when he started to limp and couldn’t put any weight on the prosthetic. Climbing in and out of his tractor produced a stabbing pain at the place his thigh joined with the artificial leg.

Sitting on the side of his bed at night, he told my grandma that he was glad the day was over, that he’d have to see a doctor about his sore leg . . . until he unstrapped the harness. Lodged in the leg’s socket was a ring of keys.

“Hey, I’ve been looking for these all day!” and he started to laugh. His pain was from several jabbing keys! It never occurred to him to take off his prosthesis and check. “Too busy,” he told Grandma, caught up in his laughter.

One of the advantages of a wooden leg, he bragged, was that it would save his life if he ever fell into deep water. His theory was tested while canoeing with a friend. When the boat capsized, the leg floated but it didn’t help my grandfather – he was trapped below the water’s surface while the leg bobbed above! The true lifesaver was his friend who dragged him to shore. Since that day, the leg became known as “Troublemaker.”

Even after Grandpa passed away, the artificial leg continued to cause trouble. My mom was enlisted to bring it home from the hospital. But what was she supposed to do with it? She decided to phone the Salvation Army and the charity agreed to pick it up. An entire week went by.

While waiting, nobody wanted Troublemaker in their bedroom (I was scared of it!) so Mom propped it inside the front hall closet behind our coats. When Grandma phoned to say she was driving in from the country for a visit, Mom called the Salvation Army again and explained the situation.

“Please,” I overheard her imploring conversation, “I don’t want my mother to see his leg, it’ll be too painful for her!” Still no truck.

An hour before my grandma arrived, a driver picked up the leg and my mom could relax.

Her relief was short-lived, however, when days later someone from The War Amps phoned to inquire about the prosthesis. He wasn’t happy to hear that she’d given it away and informed Mom that it had been “on loan” for all those years.

“You want it back?”

“If it’s not returned by the end of the month,” he said, “you’ll be charged its full price.” That leg might have been low-tech and well-used, but it was still expensive.

With a quavering voice, Mom called the Salvation Army and explained that now she needed the leg back. She had to make more inquiry calls the following week and explain the story each time. Finally, a woman answered and said, “Oh, YOU’RE the leg woman. We got it, we found your leg!”

The same driver returned to our door and plopped the limb, now missing its sock and shoe, onto our WELCOME mat.

“Hey lady,” he said. “Tell the owner to make up his mind about his body parts!” and he turned on his heel.

My grandfather would have laughed if he knew about the commotion caused by his wooden leg. “See? he’d say. “I told you Troublemaker had a mind of its own!”

Audio story backing track
“Papa Hammond”
by Urban Pastiche from Sony Sound Series

Dad Wins ‘Best in Show’

Shannon Kernaghan Leon-boat-photo-e1548017023153 Dad Wins 'Best in Show' Childhood Family Memories parents Relationship

It’s that time again, the third Sunday in June when we tip our ball caps to the good fathers in our lives. I treat this day with plenty of respect, which is easy to do because I had a great dad.

Bottomless patience. That was one attribute that made him wonderful. While other dads shouted at their kids for denting cars or coming home late, my pop rarely lost his temper.

Take the time he bought a boat so we could cruise the river or enjoy a dozen rides on the lake during our weeks at a rental cottage.

Once, while my dad was tying our boat to the pier after one of those excursions, my brother dropped his glasses into the water. They quickly disappeared through the murk.

Some fathers would have yelled at their son’s carelessness. Not my dad. He donned a pair of goggles and dove once, twice, five times through gasoline rainbows until he found Randall’s horned rims on the lake bottom. That’s how Dad took care of business, without finger pointing or threatening words, and without expecting big thanks.

On another occasion it was my turn to test his endurance. I entered our teacup Chihuahua, Mini, in a local dog show. When Dad and I rolled into the parking lot, there were no cars, only a notice on the building’s door: DOG SHOW MOVED. The new address was a 45-minute drive.

On his day off – only one each week – Dad could have said, “Oh well, try again next time.” But he didn’t. We sped across town through pouring rain and hurried inside with Mini, who wasn’t overly excited about imminent fame, fortune or Best in Show.

Unfortunately, we were too late and I missed my turn in the ring. Tears streamed down my face as I stood in a crowd of milling people and their pooches. Again, my dad could have been annoyed for wasting his afternoon. All he said was, “Let’s get a hot dog from the canteen before we leave. They look like good ones.”

And that was it, all part of being a father and spending time with his children, supporting their dreams.

Remember to cherish your own dad, whether he’s near or far. To all the patient dads on Father’s Day, I raise my hot dog to you.

And for the record, Mini could have won that Best in Show trophy. At least that’s what I’ve told myself since age thirteen.

*Note* music backing track is Airport Lounge by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Stop Confusing Your Pumpkins

Shannon Kernaghan Stop-Confusing-Your-Pumpkin-451 Stop Confusing Your Pumpkins Childhood Culture Family Food Friendship Humor Parties Risk

I can’t understand the rationale behind applying special Halloween make-up and then dunking your head in a tub of communal water, all for the prize of grabbing an apple. I need more incentive.

When I was a kid, apples were not my friend on Halloween. People who handed out chocolate bars? Now those were folks forever etched in my heart. The larger the bar, the more respect they wielded in the neighborhood.

Besides apples shunned by us sugar-loving kids, pumpkins are also given a bad rap on October 31. Sure, they’re respected over Thanksgiving when they sacrifice their lives for our pumpkin pies, but come Halloween we develop short memories. Instead of revering them, we cut, scoop and hack away, defacing pumpkins into leering jack-o’-lanterns. Then, we let them shrivel to unrecognizable pulps before tossing them into a compost bin or the next trash pick-up. Talk about ‘dissing an innocent gourd.

Know who else gets a bad rap? Teenagers. The rumor that floated through school at Halloween was the same every year: “Look out for those AWFUL teenagers! As soon as they spot you walking with a full bag, they’ll steal your candy!”

Sure, teenagers are notorious for egging windows and trimming trees with toilet tissue, but not all of them are evil. During one childhood Halloween, I almost made it home after a fruitful trick-or-treating mission. After saying goodbye to my friends, I looked over my shoulder for those awful teenagers. I was a mere six doors from home when the unthinkable happened: my bag of treats – weighed down by apples – tore and spilled my candy onto the street! Horrified, I ran home crying.

Before I could explain the tear-choked tragedy to my mother, our doorbell rang.

“Gee, that’s a grown-up looking trick-or-treater,” Mom said after peering through the window. She opened the door to one of those awful teenagers. He’d taken off his jacket and gathered my candy. Since he watched me run home, he followed.

My mom whispered that I should give him a reward for his kindness, so I surrendered several of my most-coveted chocolate bars.

From then, I wasn’t frightened by teenagers on Halloween. Instead, I’ve developed a fear of dentists because in addition to collecting candy, I garnered a few cavities that year.

If you’re still brave enough (read: crazy) to bob for apples at your Halloween party, insist on going first. The last contestants in line have a tough time breaking through the oil slick of grease paint on the water’s surface. And don’t invite me unless you plan to bob for something good, like diamonds or a plane ticket to Honolulu. For that I’ll smudge my make-up.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN to teenagers everywhere. I’m thrilled if you’re reading my post. That means you’re not out egging our car.

Audio backing track
“Old Salooner Blues”
by Midnite North

When Wooden Vultures Rule

Shannon Kernaghan Birthday-cake-400 When Wooden Vultures Rule Childhood Family Humor Memories Parties

Summer is a time to enjoy Farmer’s Markets, water sports and local festivals. It’s also a chance to celebrate an activity synonymous with fun – setting up your lawn ornaments.

While walking past a yard recently, I stopped and stared at wooden tulips, Little Bow Peep (her sheep hadn’t yet gone AWOL) and a menagerie of metal and stone critters:  a rooster, seagull, butterfly, cat, gopher and vulture. That’s right, a vulture. There was no mistaking that bald head and hunched neck. Who knew that carrion-eating birds are considered decorative? Perhaps it’s there to control the wooden gopher population.

The yard was cute and colorful, although I didn’t linger in case I was confused with a burglar casing the joint. I was in no mood to run from the plaster-cast hounds, had they been released.

Why my interest? I’m not from a family who owned garden gnomes enacting scenes of bucolic tranquility. Perhaps my mom saw steel rod construction as too much of a physical threat to her children. Even without obstacles, I managed to snap my collarbone, sprain an ankle and land on a board after climbing our fence. Luckily my nose broke that fall.

For summer threats, we already had plenty with an aboveground pool and rows of deadly raspberry bushes. Not deadly in the eating, but deadly in the thorns when you crashed your bike into them.

And there were the croquet hoops, the few always missed when packing up the game. One step through those nearly invisible wires and you found yourself close up and personal with the ground.

These are only a dusting of the hazards within the property line; I haven’t touched on our TV antenna anchored next to the house. Mom, did you know there’s a clear view of the entire city from the top of that tower?

I’m sure my mom figured there were easier ways for her kids to face injury. No need to sabotage them with majestic plaster deer and concrete toadstools when she could pull out the “big guns” once a year.

Her secret weapon? The birthday cake baked with coins and buttons. Back then, only the most devoted mothers bothered with this festive touch. Today, expect a visit from  Social Services if you empty the hardware drawer into your child’s cake mix. Oh . . . so THAT’S why I chew my food slowly.

As for celebrating your garden gnomes this coming winter, I’m sure there’s no law against it. But why bother? No one will see them under the snowdrifts. Wait a second . . . there’s always plastic Santa and his reindeer to pull down from the garage rafters.

Turns out lawn ornaments are fun year-round. Bring it on, Jack Frost . . . but don’t rush. I’m not ready to say good-bye to the wooden vulture.

Audio backing track
“Holy Tension Batman”
by Spazz Cardigan

My Beer is Child-Lite

Shannon Kernaghan Spy-on-Girl-4 My Beer is Child-Lite Beer Childhood Culture Family Lifestyle Pets and Animals Relationship

I don’t want children. My decision is not for physical or political reasons, or because I had a rotten childhood. It’s simply a personal decision.

I refer to myself as child-free. If I call myself child-less, it suggests I’m missing something, like a limb. On the contrary, I feel quite intact.

Well-meaning people have made what I consider dumb comments in regards to my choice. One woman said, “Don’t you want to leave behind a little piece of yourself?” She asked this while struggling to hold a red-faced squealing toddler in her arms.

“Not really,” I said as her son kicked her in the shins. Her face melded to a mix of grin and grimace.

I’m not geared for this kind of commitment. When Paul and I are out for coffee, I order a to-go cup, even if we plan to stay. What if I want to finish it later, or what if I want to leave? It’s obvious I’m not a fan of long-term leases or events that map out my future.

My biological clock must be set on perpetual snooze because countless women have told me there’s no turning off that shrill buzzer. But I’ve never heard mine. If I were a brand of beer, I’d be Child-Lite.

The other dumb comment I hear is, “Won’t you regret not having children when you’re old?” I liken this to being born with one eye and then asked if you miss the second. How do I know? Since I’ve never had the urge to reproduce, it’s tough to regret what I’ve yet to miss.

This subject of children comes down to choice and circumstances. Perhaps if Paul and I could put down deeper roots instead of always wanting to move or travel, I might have been more enthusiastic. And I’d probably be a decent mother, if the wonderful relationship I’ve shared with my own mom is any indication.

For example, I’d pass on sage advice to a son: “Don’t run with that stick. What are you trying to do, poke out your eye? You’ll miss that eye when you’re old!”

Or to a teenage daughter, “You need a bra under that top. It’s so transparent I can see what you’re thinking!” Um . . . perhaps I’m channeling my own mother here.

It’s easier to compare apples to apples. Or babies to cats. We had cats for years and I was absurdly maternal in regards to their well-being. I lost sleep, wept buckets and altered trip plans over our four-legged friends. Paul once chose a house “because the cats will love the screened-in porch and balcony!” But not everyone wants cats.

His comment is the most realistic yet: “If we have a kid, it’ll be the baby, the cat, and then me. I’ll come third!”

Is that an alarm clock I hear in the distance? Nope, it’s only the buzzer on my dryer. I might not have children, but I still have plenty of laundry.

So go forth and multiply. Or not.

Find Shannon’s books on Amazon

Shannon Kernaghan books-row-display-800 My Beer is Child-Lite Beer Childhood Culture Family Lifestyle Pets and Animals Relationship

Audio story music
“The Emperors Army”
by Jeremy Blake

Mother’s Day Guns & Ammo

Shannon Kernaghan Moms-gun-4 Mother’s Day Guns & Ammo Childhood Humor Relationship

With Mother’s Day this Sunday, all of you children – and you know who you are – should honor your mothers. If you don’t want to praise her with fancy dinners or gifts of perfume and jewelry, try a refreshing angle. Use the opportunity as a day of confession to bring you closer.

I’ve named this year the Mother’s Day Air Clearing Event. The process is simple and I’ll demonstrate with a practice run.

Start by phoning your mother. Better to unload your conscience from a distance than in person because your mom’s dropping jaw and arching eyebrows will become too distracting. If you must be in the same room, remove all guns, ammo, and projectiles from her reach.

Here goes. Mom? Remember when I was a teenager and told you those purple marks on my neck were burns from my curling iron? They weren’t. Oh, you already knew? Then this confession doesn’t count. Yes, mother, same reason I wore a turtleneck during that July heat wave. If it’s any consolation, he was a really cute lifeguard.

Mom? Remember when you found a dent in your car and I played dumb? Turns out my friend, Julie, accidentally bumped your door when she drove me home one night. She was too embarrassed to tell you and swore me to secrecy. You figured that much? True, Julie didn’t come around for a few weeks. You’re good! Apparently you DO have eyes in the back of your head.

Mom? Remember years ago how I said the dog made that stain on your white recliner? Well, it was me. I spilled a glass of grape juice and blamed Mini’s weak bladder. I might have blamed her bladder on a few spills, now that I think of it. I know, you’d just had it recovered. What was irresponsible, telling a lie or drinking grape juice on a white recliner? You’re right, both.

Isn’t this air clearing a fun way to spend Mother’s Day . . . Mom? Are you still there? Sounds like she hung up. I haven’t even made it to the part about the kitchen fire or the sunken canoe. The news of her stained chair must have been too much for her heart.

Maybe I’ll save the confessions and dazzle her with a handmade card and throw in some verse. Dear Mother: Roses are red, Violets are brown, For putting up with me as a teenager, You deserve a night on the town.

My gardening isn’t any better than my poetry, which is why my violets are brown.

I hope the stores are open tonight. In an emergency, it’s acceptable to buy a card packed with canned sentiments. Hallmark and Carlton are my heroes.

Along with my card, I’ll play it safe and give her a day-at-the-spa gift certificate. Or money. I still owe her for that dent in her car. Love you, Mom.

Find Shannon’s books on Amazon

Shannon Kernaghan books-row-display-800 Mother’s Day Guns & Ammo Childhood Humor Relationship

Audio story music
“Sand Castles”
by The Green Orbs