Chubby Digit Sundays

In Joplin, Missouri, we know tornadoes…and ice storms. Last week we had our third in the last 6 years.

The evening was cold and wet. It had been drizzling for the past ten hours and maintaining a steady temperature between 30 and 32 degrees. We were sitting in the living room interacting with our multitudinous digital devices when we heard a great crash.

“Whu THA?!” Chandler our two-year-old daughter says when she hears a sound she can’t identify.

Someone needs to investigate. The deck was so icy that Nicole didn’t want to walk out onto it, so she went upstairs, out onto the balcony, and observed verifiable truth that guardian angels directly influence women’s driving. If they didn’t, well, you know…

chubbyShe had taken my SUV on a brief errand earlier in the day before it was too bad to drive and had parked it where she typically does her vehicle. After getting out, she reconsidered and moved the car over one parking space. The loud crash we had heard was the sound of two 25 foot ice laden sections of our beloved river birch trees falling precisely where Nicole had parked it before being prompted by the heavens to scoot it over a bit. It was so close, in fact, that the driver’s side door was pinned by the bent smaller branches.

The drizzling continued through most of the night. We awoke that Sunday morning with the glorious sun a-shining. It looked like the land of Narnia while in the midst of its perpetual state of winter. The deck was covered in ice and the birch branches were bent within two or three feet of the deck and looked like they would snap at any moment.

I looked over at my vehicle and noticed a slight, unnatural bend in the 70 foot sycamore just beyond it. Precarious was the word that came to mind. Between the fallen branches, and the ones weighed down by ice, there was no way I could move my car, but move it I must! I now knew my mission for the day. Let Operation Yukon Rescue begin!

First, Nicole and I decided it would be a good idea to try to lighten the load on the trees by melting some of the ice, thus giving the Yukon safe passage to the East. There are multiple ways to melt ice, and Nicole suggested spraying water on the branches with the hose, which had worked for her before. After locating a hose at the barn that wasn’t frozen, setting it up, ramming an oscillating sprinkler into the ground at an awkward angle, and turning the water on, Nicole and I sat back and watched.

“Is it melting the ice?” Nicole asked.

“I can’t tell,” I responded. “It’s pretty darn cold outside, you know. It might just be freezing on the branches, thus worsening the situation.” (That’s a retrospective paraphrase of my response, but the intent is accurate.)

We waited longer.

Now we weren’t just cold, but the introduction of water had created mud in the flower bed, and Nicole had gotten sprayed in the face twice by the sprinkler as she tried to set it up properly. What?! It was her idea, so I figured it would be best for her to attempt to execute it!

“CRACK!” went the section of the tree we were trying to salvage.

“Abort! Abort!” I ran to the faucet and turned off the sprinkler. It seemed we were indeed making the situation worse. Time for Plan B.

“Fire usually melts ice,” I thought. “And there is a fire pit on our deck. Why don’t I start a fire in the fire pit on the deck and see if it melts some ice off of the trees?” Sometimes we initially overlook the obvious.

Do you know what it’s like to fear triggering an avalanche? I do now! I spent half of the afternoon treading lightly on the ice covered deck, constantly tense as the entire canopy above me seemed as if it could collapse at any moment. Any time the breeze picked up, the branches above would crack and I would run for cover. If I were a smoker, I would have chain smoked all afternoon just to ease the tension.

Did I mention that it was cold?

I can handle working outside in the cold. I’m pretty rugged, you know. A friend of the elements, you might even say. I do have a weak spot, though…my Achilles heel in chilly climes. You get the point.

While the rest of my body remains quite warm, my fingers, regardless of how thick the gloves, pretty quickly get cold. I blow warm air into my gloves, shake my hands, stick them under my arm pits, (which does absolutely nothing!) anything I can think of to get Jack Frost to stop nipping at my, um, fingers. Nothing works! And shortly after they get cold, they just plum start to hurt. That’s when I typically throw in the towel. It’s why I’ve often mentioned that I wish I had chubby digits. A friend with whom I work outside has, well, chubbier digits than I. His fingers never get cold! I’ll be doing all the above mentioned things to warm mine up, and Captain Chubby Digits over there isn’t even wearing gloves!

I really wouldn’t want them all the time, though. I like the appearance of my fingers just fine. But it would be nice to have them on occasion. I’ll have to sit down with Santa next year and see what he can do.

I finally got the frozen logs burning well (after the 4th attempt) and set out to release my Yukon from its cage of icy limbs. I began with hand tools because both the kids were taking a nap, but soon reached a point where something more powerful was necessary.

The kids were up now, so I went down to the barn and grabbed the big daddy…the largest chain saw on the property…the Echo CS-600P. It had a new chain on it so it cut through the trees like butter. It was a little overkill, I suppose; but sometimes you gotta take control (or something along those lines). Anyway, it was one of the more enjoyable aspects of the afternoon.

I cut up the branches and dragged them into the grass, all the while glancing above me to make sure I wasn’t about to be crushed by falling branches. The car didn’t have a scratch. Thank you, Nicole’s automotive guardian angel!

We maneuvered my car out from under all of the trees, and by the time the evening was upon us, I had three roaring fire pits on the deck. The next morning, things were slightly better and by the following day, the sun was out and the ice falling off of the trees sounded like you were in a hail storm. No more major branches broke, fortunately, and although there was a good bit of cleanup after it was all over, it was not disastrous.

Hopefully we’re done with ice storms for a while, though.


The Citrus Broadside

Sometimes life broadsides us. We’re going along, minding our own business, and out of nowhere something hits us…hard. The effects may be out of our control, but we get to decide how we respond.

Last week was decision time for this guy.

Nicole and I have been married for six and a half years. Prior to that, we were together for a year and a half. I’d say our relationship has been “strong to quite strong”, just like Gaylord Focker’s portfolio in Meet the Parents. Needless to say, we know each other pretty well…or so I thought.

It was late evening, and I had just taken my shower and the kids were in bed. It had been a rough day of work for me, and I don’t think Nicole had worked at all, because she had just been taking care of the kids…you know, like Romney’s wife. I went to the fridge to grab a nice cold Corona, then proceeded to reach into the fruit drawer for a lime. We were down to one, which Nicole had picked up at the grocery store the previous day.

I immediately noticed that the lime seemed, well…dense. I dismissed it and focused on the task at hand. First, I grabbed a bottle opener and um, opened the bottle. Then I grabbed a knife, because you need a knife to cut a slice of lime, so you can squeeze the delicious drops of green citrus magic into the ice cold Corona. Then you proceed to shove the lime slice into the bottle, and if it’s a really good lime, you’ll squirt some juice all the way up to your face and end up with some pieces of lime pulp on your finger that you can lick off before the first swig.

It really is my vacation beer of choice. And when I’m not on vacation, it makes me think of vacation. Whether the millions they have spent on marketing has worked like a charm on me, or it’s the ten trips to all-inclusive resorts all over the Mediterranean where the Corona flows like wine, I don’t really care. I just know that I associate an ice cold Corona with a plump juicy lime with the beach. I like the beach. I like it a lot.

I held the lime down firmly on the kitchen counter and started to cut into it. The rind felt like leather and seemed to go on for an eternity. I don’t think I hit the pulp until I got to the inner quarter inch of the lime. I proceeded to make the second cut and noticed the veins popping out of the back of my cutting hand. This was hard work!

I then grabbed the lime slice between my thumb and index finger, held it aloft over the mouth of the bottle and began to squeeze. I do believe it was the first time in my entire life that I have tried to squeeze lime juice out of a slice of lime and failed completely. Thinking it might perhaps be me, (I am getting older, I suppose) I squeezed harder. Absolutely nothing came out. Visions of grabbing the nutcracker to try to extract even a drop came to mind. I gave up and disappointedly shoved the lime slice into the beer, fearing for a brief moment that it might actually start absorbing the Corona.

I then set the bottle down and turned my attention toward the rest of the lime. I picked it up and gave it a good squeeze. It didn’t budge! This lime was hard as a rock! “Who in the world would purchase a lime like this?!” I asked myself.

I looked over and Nicole was sitting at the bar. “Honey,” I said, no doubt with a look of consternation on my face. “Do you know how to pick out a good lime?” I waited for her response.

“No, I don’t,” she replied, as if it were of no importance.

“You…pardon?” I was not quite sure what to say in response. “You do realize that this lime is inedi.., um, it has no juice at all!”

“How do you do it?” was apparently the best response she could think of.

“You squeeze it! If it’s soft, it’s good. If it’s hard as a frickin’ golf ball, you put it back! Oh, and if it has a lot of brown on it, it’s no good either.”

(I’m sure there’s an “i” before “e” except after “c” type way to remember how to purchase a ripe lime, but if there is, I don’t know it.)

I walked out of the kitchen, Corona sans hint of citrus in hand, and nothing more was said of the matter that evening.

The next day, I had plenty of time to think about what had transpired. Maybe I was being too hard on Nicole. I mean, everybody has to learn how to pick out a proper lime at some point. I guess her time was yesterday. The load was feeling lighter.

On my way home that evening, I pulled into Food 4 Less and grabbed 2 supple, juicy limes. It’s not often in marriage that 66 cents can more than remedy an issue. I guess we’re pretty fortunate. Just please keep us in your prayers as we work through this. I think we will, and that we’ll be stronger as a result. It just takes time. You know.