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!”

Hollywood, Here I DON’T Come!

Shannon Kernaghan Star_Hollywood-Here-I-DONT-Come_Kernaghan Hollywood, Here I DON’T Come! Adventure Career Challenge Fun Humor Lifestyle Memoir

 

I know why I’m not a Hollywood celebrity – I don’t have “star drive,” that necessary trait for a person to succeed on the stage or screen. I also lack another key factor: talent.

Sure, I’ve made my lukewarm forays into the world of acting. Years ago, I took a few script reading and improv courses. And while living on the west coast, I did extra work in a dozen series and several movies.

When I read about an audition for a local filmmaker, I blew the dust off my skimpy acting resume. Although no pay was involved, the challenge sounded like fun and I scheduled an appointment to read at a nearby hotel.

After memorizing my lines, I skipped to that audition. But reading lines at your mirror doesn’t compare with doing the scene across from a stranger. When it was my turn to read, the script sounded completely foreign in my ears. I stammered and stumbled.

If bungling my lines wasn’t bad enough, my confidence plummeted when the director suggested I try again. “But this time,” he said, “don’t move around so much, and try to be more . . . quiet.”

“More quiet, okay, sure,” I said, wearing an idiot grin. What really went through my mind was, “What did I just do, flail my arms and shout?” At that surreal point, all I could focus on was remembering my lines and staring at the adorable scriptwriter, the one who read the other character’s lines. In the story, I was supposed to be his mother.

“I WISH I had a son as cute as you,” I thought, and then realized I’d spoken aloud as the group started laughing. Laughing is too strong; make that awkward chuckling. Not only was I a bad actor, I felt like Mrs. Robinson, surrounded by a crew young enough to be my children.

Surprise, surprise, I didn’t get the part. I couldn’t even give away my gratis acting services.

While leaving the hotel, I had a flashback: I was doing extra work at a rundown movie set in Vancouver. After pulling off a shapeless dress three sizes too large from wardrobe, I sighed at the end of a long night. The actors and crew were cranky, the bag lunches were stale, and someone yelled at me during a take when my shoes made scrunching noises on the dirty floor. Plus, I wanted to tell the actor playing an FBI agent to stop mumbling and speak up!

The highlight of the shoot was when a camera fell and knocked a man unconscious. I remember thinking, “This two-bit series will NEVER get off the ground. What a dump.”

That two-bit series? The X-Files, listed as one of the longest-running science fiction series at 12 seasons. Turns out the mumbling agent Mulder was played by David Duchovny and I was in the pilot with him.

The truth is out there: I’m a bad actor. Time to shelve my dreams of a Hollywood star and stick to writing, where I can invent my own characters and flail my arms until the cows come home. Or shout until I’m blue in the face. Pick a cliché and I’ll be there. With bells on.

Confessions of a List-oholic

Shannon Kernaghan Confessions-of-list-400 Confessions of a List-oholic Adventure Challenge Humor Lifestyle Relationship Travel

 

I envy my husband. He lives a list-free existence. Paul never makes a to-do list and has no plans to start. Me? He calls me a “list junky.”

For appointments and meetings, that info goes straight to my phone calendar, which is the logical use of current technology. But if you open my purse, you’ll find three old-school lists on three scraps of paper held together with a paper clip. The first is titled TODAY, the second TOMORROW and the third MISC. for those tasks in need of future attention, somewhere between this week and the next century.

Lists are like maps, guideposts to chart my daily course. When we leave the house for errands, I know exactly what’s required to make my life manageable. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, so lists are no replacement for setting goals. (Note to self: add “Set Goals” to MISC. list.)

If I have a dozen tasks on my current list, I take pleasure in crossing off each one as it’s completed. It doesn’t matter if I finish everything, as long as I know what I could be doing if I end up in a mall or various parts of the city.

At the start of each day, I re-write a new TODAY list, bumping unfinished chores onto it and jotting down fresh tasks.

Here’s one benefit to this routine: nothing is forgotten when we travel. “Wow, you remembered my lucky hat!” Paul will say. I’ll smile and shrug, knowing that I owe my organized life to a 99-cent pen and a few pieces of recycled paper.

I’m also a list mentor. I convinced my husband’s friend that life becomes more productive and less stressful with a list. He followed my advice and awoke the next morning to a reminder on his cell’s calendar: PHONE BILL. Then he spent the next hour trying to recall which Bill he was supposed to phone – he works with three!) and why was he supposed to call this Bill? It wasn’t until late afternoon that he remembered: PAY THE PHONE BILL! At least he tried. Hey, good list making takes practice.

Maybe some people should continue to limp along through their list-free worlds, accepting missed appointments and undelivered dry-cleaning. Apparently they’re happy, even if they forget to mail that Welcome New Baby card before the child begins college.

The reason my husband doesn’t need to make lists? “I’m no fool,” he says, “I have YOU to make them for me.” (Note to self: be more spontaneous!)

I’m Not a Patient Patient

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I admire my current doctor and her no-nonsense approach to my body when I haul it into her clinic for my annual check. Her quiet inspection is appreciated because any gasps, giggles or “hmms” would make me nervous.

Despite scheduling an appointment weeks in advance, I’m tolerant of the required wait time. As for the magazines, some are outdated and dog-eared.

While taking furtive glances at other long faces who share my delay, I contemplate the person who assigned the phrase “waiting room.” He/she is a genius because never did two words better describe both process and surroundings. This same brain obviously invented the word “patient,” as in who you are and how you must behave while waiting.

My only objection involves the patient gown. Did I say gown? Paper towel is more accurate. In the past, it was tough enough to sit shivering in a shapeless, backless cotton smock. At some point the shift was made to paper, which is not surprising in our budget-crunching society.

“Take everything off and use that to cover up,” the doctor’s assistant said before she closed the door.

“Cover up with what?” But she was gone and it was just me and my square of paper, neatly folded on the end of the examining table. This wasn’t a gown, this was a large serviette. I was to cover up and maintain a shred of naked dignity. When I tried to arrange myself underneath, I felt like a paper cut-out doll. And if I didn’t stay still, my serviette would slip to the floor.

Although the instruction was to take everything off, I drew the line at socks and glasses.  What if the fire alarm suddenly rings? I’ll need socks to keep my feet warm and glasses to see where I’m running. Anyone gripping a flammable paper towel should stay away from direct flames.

And knock on wood that my doctor doesn’t find anything wrong with me. On second thought, don’t bother knocking on wood. During your next doctor’s visit, you’ll be wearing a tree in the form of a paper towel. Gently rub a corner of it for the same superstitious results.

As for those vintage magazines in the waiting room, I have a suggestion: convert them into cover-ups. They’d be thicker than the cover-ups I’ve been given. More importantly, patients will have something to read while they endure that second near-naked wait for the doctor to arrive.

Did you know that Trump won the US election? Good thing I went for a check-up!

This Valentine’s Day, Oh Poo!

Shannon Kernaghan valentines-oh-poo This Valentine’s Day, Oh Poo! Adventure Challenge Culture Dating Humor Lifestyle Memories Relationship Sex

 

If you trace the origins of Valentine’s Day, you won’t find a pretty picture. One legend claims that a Roman priest named Valentine was executed on February 14, 269 AD, for marrying couples against the advice of Emperor Claudius II. He figured single men were more enthusiastic about fighting his battles than family men. Somehow this grim tale resulted in heart-shaped cards, chocolates, red roses and candlelit dinners on February 14.

Humans are hopeless romantics, considering all the quaint love-infused traditions. Many I heard as a child. For example, if you twist the stem of an apple, you can predict the last name of your future love interest. Each rotation represents one letter of the alphabet. My search for sweethearts was restricted because the apple stems generally broke off at the letter D or E. I wonder how many eligible Xangs, Youngs and Zedenkas I overlooked in my quest for romance.

Another example features birds: if a robin flies over your head on Valentine’s Day, you’ll marry a sailor. Finding a sailor in my prairie city was no simple feat. If sailor was a misprint for tailor or wholesaler, my chances might have improved. The maddening catch with traditions is that they’re tough to apply universally.

Continuing with the legend, if a sparrow flies overhead, you’ll marry a poor man but you’ll be happy. Based on personal experience, poor men are always plentiful, no matter where you live. So are sparrows. Erect a birdhouse in your backyard and see what stakes a claim first, yellow canaries or sparrows.

But if a goldfinch flies overhead on Valentine’s Day, you’ll marry a millionaire. The legend doesn’t expand on whether you’ll be happy with your millionaire. Apparently hooking up with one is reward enough. Since I don’t know what a goldfinch looks like, that sweet bird of opportunity might have flown past without my knowledge.

Now, let’s say you’ve met Mr. or Ms. Right and you’re ready to start a family. How many children will you have? Go back to that dubious apple, the one missing its stem. Cut it in half and count the seeds. If nothing else, I know why we’re statistically producing 2½ children in each household. All of this apple-dividing is giving us fractional kids.

Despite the strange legends, Valentine’s Day holds a special place in my heart and funny bone. It was February and I was staying in a hotel for a work project in Prince Albert, Sask. Waiting next to me at the elevator was a cute young man. When the door opened, we walked in together and pressed our floor numbers. Simultaneously, we glanced down at fresh dog doo in the corner.

“Did you do that?” he asked.

“No, I’d remember that.” He eventually convinced me to go out with him. And the rest is history.

I wonder if there’s a romantic legend about discovering your sweetheart over dog poop.  If not, I should start one. It worked for me because a few years later I said, “I doo!”

My Resolution? Avoid Clichés Like the Plague

Shannon Kernaghan Cliches400 My Resolution? Avoid Clichés Like the Plague Culture Drinking Friendship Humor Lifestyle Memoir New Years Parties Relationship

It’s now or never. There’s no better time than the present to make a New Year’s resolution. This will take nerves of steel but for my 2018 pledge, I resolve to cut back on my use of clichés, those tired expressions worn thin through the years.

I don’t know how many clichés I utter because I can’t see the forest for the trees. But it’s a pain in the neck to give up what’s familiar, like throwing out a pair of comfy old shoes. Speaking of footwear, if the shoe fits, I’m talking to you. You’re in the service industry, the ones bringing home the bacon who tell me to “have a nice day.” News flash: your advice falls on deaf ears since I’m determined to have a nice day, even if it kills me.

Don’t get all bent out of shape because I’m equally guilty of using platitudes. “You too, have a good one,” I answer, as if I really give a hoot.

Starting in 2018, let’s all get with the program. Just once I’d like to hear, “Thanks for buying something. Your purchase guarantees my job for another shift.” To that bit of honesty I’ll reply, “You’re a breath of fresh air. That’s why they pay you the big bucks.”

Now I have two resolutions for 2018: avoid clichés like the plague AND be more honest with people. We don’t have to see eye to eye across the board, as long as we’re on the same page. For example, I’ll welcome a serving person who answers, “How am I today? I’m up to my neck in alligators!”

“Then take a load off and fill me in,” I’ll say. “I’m all ears, but make it snappy. I’ve got people to see and places to . . . uh-oh, there I go again.” These New Year’s promises are murder, tougher than teaching old dogs new tricks.

The next time you hand me my purchase and tell me to have a nice day, give me a little wink. That’ll be our secret code, which means you’d rather be home watching HBO. While you’re standing there, give me two winks if anything is about to go on sale. I know, I can’t buy happiness and I should save for a rainy day, but a penny saved is a penny earned, no matter how I slice it.

Happy New Year!

Stop Confusing Your Pumpkins

Shannon Kernaghan halloween_17-400 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.

You Throw Salt, I’ll Knock on Wood

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Friday the 13th is one unlucky day for women. A study in the American Journal of Psychiatry revealed that women have a higher than 60% risk of dying in traffic accidents on Friday the 13th compared with other Fridays. For men, bless their less superstitious stars, Friday the 13th is just another day, with a mere 2% risk of not making it past midnight.

If you have an irrational fear of Friday the 13th, add this title to your playlist: paraskevidekatriaphobia. A milder condition is triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number 13. If you suffer from both, throw a few grains of salt over your left shoulder. Next, crawl back into bed, on the right side if you’re SUPER superstitious.

I wonder if there’s a condition for fear of long and unpronounceable fears. If so, I’ve got dibs on that one.

Friday the 13th doesn’t make me anxious, although I understand the obsession. All of the focus spent worrying about events that could happen and attempts that might fail is distracting. Take my quirks: I can bash out work on the computer when left alone. But if anyone watches over my shoulder, I start to think about the keys and suddenly I make mistakes and forget how to type.

Same goes for playing piano. I spent years tickling the plastics in the privacy of my family home. Since I performed in only a handful of compulsory recitals, no one besides my piano teacher watched me play. And the old dear, in her early hundreds, regularly dozed off mid-song, so her attention didn’t count for much.

The problem resurfaced every June, that traumatic month when I took my Royal Conservatory of Music exam. Before this intimidating stranger, I had mere minutes to showcase a year’s worth of practicing and memorizing.

While waiting to hear my name called, my hands shook uncontrollably. When it was time to take my place at the bench, the keys looked foreign. I’d stare but middle C evaded me. When did I learn how to play piano? . . . Mommy!

I’d begin a song, race through a few bars to hurry the suffering, and then forget what notes came next. My song book would be retrieved and I’d lose points. Those countless hours spent memorizing music flew out the window faster than a Kardashian marriage.

To bolster my nerve, I should have brought along a lucky charm, like those athletes convinced they need their lucky underwear or let their beards grow. (Note to self: no more facial depilation before my next exam, which should be an eye exam so I can find those pesky whiskers.)

My present-day certainty? In an age of dwindling forests, it’s becoming harder to knock on wood for luck. Polymer laminates will never offer the same protective thrill.

Maybe Friday the 13th is unlucky for women because we spend too much time worrying about being unlucky. Calling all women: let’s ignore the calendar and stop being superstitious. But just in case I’m wrong, keep the salt shaker handy. And don’t break any mirrors.

What’s YOUR common or crazy superstition?

Copy That, Crispy Chicken Lady

Shannon Kernaghan blog-truck-driver-sep23-e1506294202863 Copy That, Crispy Chicken Lady Dating Drinking Food Humor Lifestyle Parties Sex Sex and Food Travel

 

Once upon a dance floor I partied late into the night, and I garnered the occasional nickname. Sometimes I was called Peaches, and for a brief period I was Sweet Thing or Honey Bunny. One guy called me Foxy Lady, which may or may not have been a compliment. Did he mean I was sly?

Except for those pet names given to me by males in search of a fruit salad, I didn’t have many lifelong labels. Why? Because the name Shannon doesn’t rhyme with anything besides Cannon, or sound interesting when shortened.

“Hey Shan, over here,” my friend would shout above the crowd. But I didn’t enjoy the abbreviation. Made me sound like a cleaning agent. “Try Shan for your pans to get the grease out!”

My husband Paul had a few of his own while growing up. When he introduced me to a group of old camping buddies, they immediately called him Pig Pen. I never asked why; I didn’t want to hear any dirty details.

I always figured I’d share my life with a dude called Brain (smart) or Duke (rich) or Moose (athletic), not Pig Pen. At least Paul had cleaned up by the time we met.

Now my nicknames have nothing to do with fruit or sweetness levels, proven when I walked into one of my favorite restaurants and took a seat. I wore sunglasses and a ball cap pulled low on my face, but that wasn’t enough camouflage.

“Hey, it’s the Crispy Chicken Lady!” called out the serving person. Crispy Chicken Lady – my new nickname. Great. I’m not sweet and fruity anymore, and gone is any sexual spin. I’m a daily special comprised of poultry and hot oil.

While I’m not one to give people a nickname, Paul refers to everyone he works with by a tag – from Boom Box (loud), Coconut (bald), Bullet-Proof (flies under the radar and avoids trouble), Titanium (beats me) to Top Shelf (self-named; the best brands of booze at the top of a bartender’s shelf).

What am I saying? I do have a nickname. My husband started calling me 2-J, my CB radio handle for when I have my “ears on.” The meaning? Won’t say, but at least it’s spicier than CCL (Crispy Chicken Lady).

“Pig Pen,” I called out last weekend, “come and move your pile of clothes and magazines. I can’t see the floor!”

A-ha! Pig Pen, the light just went on. Smarty Pants finally gets it.

Wait a second . . . poultry? . . . hot oil? . . . maybe I AM still hot, if I reach a little.

Where’s my cell? With all this talk of food, I need to order something. CCL over and out.

Catch the Wave!

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I like ladybugs as much as the next person. Finding one inside your home is said to be a sign of good luck. But I like a few of them, not a virtual infestation. Last fall, several dozen enjoyed free room and board in one of my bedrooms, all of them snoozing in the corners of my ceiling.

I’m not being fair about the free board part since my ladybugs didn’t eat a thing. That’s not to imply there’s nothing snack-worthy because I can fed a small nation with what falls off the kitchen counters.

With help from the Internet, I discovered these cute little Volkswagen-shaped insects are fascinating critters. The North Carolina College of Agriculture states that ladybugs, or Multicolored Asian Ladybeetles, were imported into the United States from Asia in the late 1970s. Since they feed on over 50 species of aphids, they’re a good bug to have around. I only WISH they ate human food. My kitchen floor would be much cleaner.

Ladybeetles – a rather emasculating title for the males – congregate twice a year, in spring and in fall when they gather to find shelter from the cold. In their native Asia, they’re drawn to light-colored limestone, which is why they choose my sunny west-facing room.

I’m no gardener, but I do appreciate the benefits of ladybugs in a vegetable and flower bed. Want to store your ladybugs for the winter and release them into your gardens and window boxes next spring? The N.C. College recommends that you make a bag out of cheesecloth, about the size of a half-gallon milk jug. Toss in some dried grass or wood chips.

After collecting the ladybugs with the edge of a funnel, gently drop them into the cheesecloth bag. Refrigerate, but don’t freeze or you’ll end up with Bugscicles. From now until spring, take them out of the fridge once or twice a month and let them warm up for a few hours. They’re hardy enough to withstand temperature fluctuations in nature although shouldn’t be left out too long as they’ll burn off their fat reserves and die.

When warmed and starting to crawl, mist them with a bit of water. To prevent chilling, make sure they’re dry before returning them to the fridge. I suggest using a monogrammed guest towel for best results.

When spring arrives, let them warm up again. Place the bag of bugs in your recliner and download a move, something like A Bug’s Life or Antz, before releasing them into your garden where they’ll make quick work of aphids and other pests.

For this year’s visit, I’ll launch an Airbnb for them, specifically an Airbug. Guests this quiet and low-maintenance, I want back year after year.

By the way, if you actually follow my recipe for preserving your bugs, I figure you’ve got too much free time. How about coming over and cleaning my kitchen floor!