Category Archives: Off The Cuff

Christmas Tree Traditons

Before my parents divorced when I was 12, our Christmas traditions centered around the Christmas tree. Dad, my sister Lacy and I always tromped through the snow in the mountains of our ranch to cut down the ideal silver-tip fir tree. We were a staunch No Fake Trees, Don’t You Dare Buy One From Town kind of family.

After my parents split, we still had the real-live tree tradition, but we three no longer searched the forest for hours looking for Mom’s perfect tree. During college one year, on the rare holiday when Lacy and I were in the same place, we tagged along with Dad to trim a couple horses. On the way home, we stopped the pickup and hacked down a fir by the side of the road. We’re not the kind of family that lets tradition get in the way of efficiency – or legality, for that matter.

Another year, my aunt and uncle were visiting from Oregon. On Christmas Eve, my dad took them to town, where they shopped, ate dinner, and swiped a discarded Douglas fir from a Dumpster. My first thought wasn’t “Oh, how embarrassing – my father Dumpster dove for a Christmas tree!” but “Wow, that is way too close to a store-bought tree.” What can I say? My parents raised me right.

Half the fun of hunting for our own tree (in the mountains, not trash cans) was debating the symmetry, height, and fullness of each potential tree. The other half of the fun was a proud refusal to purchase a Christmas tree permit. I’m sure this goes back to some self-sufficient, rural (backwoods, perhaps?) mindset of my dad’s. Or maybe it’s just more fun to feel like you’re getting away with something – the same theory that propelled Dad to teach us girls to sneak into the county fair, rodeos, and concerts. Paying admission was like admitting defeat.

Sometimes, we’d take a friend’s used permit and tie it around the trunk of our freshly cut Christmas tree. That way, if someone saw it from afar, they’d assume it was bought and paid for. Did you also know that at a rodeo, you can take an ink pen, color the design on your friend’s admission stamp, quickly press the back of their hand to your own, and forge your own admission stamp?

Did you know we are a bunch of mooches? If you invite us over for Christmas dinner, I guarantee Dad will eat all the lemon meringue pie and I will drink all the mulled wine. My aunt and uncle will wash and dry all the dishes. They’re pushy like that.

In high school, Mom and I got creative one year and had a themed tree. We used only blue and silver decorations. It was nice; very Martha-Stewart-meets-Walmart, heavy on the Walmart.

During a different holiday season in high school, Dad was too depressed to help me decorate. I had to set up a tall live Christmas tree by myself, which is extremely difficult. I cried a lot, and not just because the tree ended up crooked after dozens of adjustments of the screws in the metal base.

These days, we still have a decorated tree in the living room each year, its branches filled with ornaments made when we girls were in the single-digit years. The fun is I never know exactly what kind of tree it is until I drive home on Christmas Eve; sometimes it’s a thick, bushy Douglas fir, one year it was a Charlie Brown type, one year it was plastic and lit up in psychedelic colors.

Instead of a tree, Mom and I had a Christmas poinsettia one year. We stacked our gifts around it, propped an “Our First Christmas”ornament against the flowerpot, and laughed ourselves sick.

 

 This is Mom screwing my head back on after another gathering of our weird family.  Note the cowoy hat ornament.  It served the first part of its useful life hanging from the rearview mirror of my  Dodge Neon, wafting a pleasant fragrance throughout the cab.  Yes, we decorate with used air fresheners.  Is that tacky?  I don’t think that’s tacky.

Here’s me and my best friend, Casey, sitting in front of her parents’ tree and holding (of course) a wooden bowl over our heads.  I wish I could explain…an inside joke, bad instructions from our parents, an impending indoor hail storm…but I have no idea what prompted this pose.

I like how Casey is cowering on the corner of the couch, trying to blend into the furniture and out of the picture. Boy, Uncle Jerry and I are sure proud of our gifts we received at the White Elephant party! We do like our vino.

 

Dad's sure happy with his White Elephant gift. It's just what every 60+ year old ex-rancher wants: a Shape-Mate. Go buy one for the aging cowboy on your list today.

 

Dad and my oldest sister, Sara, demonstrating how to properly use the hands-free devices for their cell phones. Maybe they just shouldn't drive.

 

Mom, Sara, Lacy, me and Dad at my college graduation.

 

My stepmom, Susan, and my dad. She aged so much better than he did, don't you think?

 

Dad loooooves to put on a mask, casually sit down on the sofa next to me when I'm not paying attention, and scare the bejeebers out of me when I turn and look at his face. Notice how my mouth is screaming, but my body language says "I'm bored." He pulls pranks a lot. We get used to them.

 

Dad likes to tell people that I raised him through the divorce. I'm not sure I want to take the credit for this.

Well, I’ll find out what this year’s Christmas tree is like, plus see Dad’s new mask/snack food shoved in his facial openings, in a week and a half!  I’m pretty stoked.  I just hope Uncle Jerry brings more wine. 

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Do You Ever….?

Do you ever apply makeup in the glow of artificial lights in your basement bathroom, look at your face in the rearview mirror of your pickup on the way to work, and think “Now that is the definition of too much bronzer”?

Do you ever hear a barking dog mixed with the song on your vehicle’s radio and freak out, thinking your brakes are screeching and about to go out and you will not be able to stop at the light on 5th Street, and you will be killed in a 4-car pileup?

Do you ever listen to the song Rock ‘N Roll Heart and wish you were a stoner, just because it seems like more fun to smoke a joint and bob your head along with the beat?

Do you ever ask your interview subjects for upcoming articles to pose so it looks like they’re resting their hand on a barn 500 feet away, purely for your own amusement?  His wife and I got the biggest kick out of this shot.

See how Mitch loves his barn so much, he affectionately and possessively rests his hand atop it? hehehehehe.....

 Do you ever wear huge, dangly earrings and turn your head really fast when someone calls your name, just so you can feel your earrings hit you on the side of the face?

If you did, would you EVER admit it?

Do you ever wonder how your boyfriend continually thinks of new, sweet things to say when he sees you in a skirt, such as “Wow, and I thought I had the whitest legs in North Fork”?

Do you ever eat Chex cereal out of a coffee cup with a scoop of peanut butter on the side?

Do you ever wish everyone would leave you alone, then feel unloved when your phone doesn’t ring?

Do you ever sit on your porch step in the evening, smoke a cigar, and pretend you’re Mark Twain?

Do you seriously wonder why your phone doesn’t ring?

All right, that’s enough lettin’ my crazy flag fly for today.  Trust me, there’ll be more.  Oh, boy, will there be more.  I specialize in crazy 🙂

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More Things I Get Confused

Believe it or not, I have found more things to add to this list since its original posting.  Confusion: It’s not a trend.  It’s a lifestyle.

Adrian, put down your coffee before you read this.  We don’t want you to spill/spit all over your computer, clean clothes, kitchen table, Liz’s textbooks, or Liz.

More Things I Get Confused:

Capital punishment and affirmative action.  I can’t say for sure why I get these two mixed up.  I only know I was rather alarmed a few years ago when I read about legislators pushing for increasing affirmative action in the workplace. 

Tim Allen and Tim Robbins.  One is married to Susan Sarandon, one is hysterically funny.  Both are hysterically funny?  I’m pretty sure only one is married to Susan Sarandon….

The 700 Club and the Mile High Club.  I googled the 700 Club today, and now I feel like I need to go to confession and say a few dozen Hail Marys.

FX and FOX.  One is a Republican news channel, the other is….a movie channel?  Reruns from the ’70s?  24/7 Buffy the Vampire Slayer? 

Horns and antlers.  Which one does an elk have?  An antelope?  A whitetail?  A moose?  A bighorn sheep?  A plain ol’ blacktail buck?  If I never know the answer, does it really matter? 

Jim Carey and Jim Young.  Just kidding!  I totally know that I’m dating Jim Carey.

Every male country singer since 2003.  Except Josh Turner, because he is an upstanding citizen who writes and sings about faith, family, and good old-fashioned clean fun.  Actually, it’s mainly because he’s hotter than a grease fire on a propane stove.

Jimmy Buffet and Warren Buffet.  You can imagine my surprise when I read an entire article about Warren Buffet and thought My goodness, the man is a financial and wealth-building genius, but they completely left out his stellar music career!  What talent!  What diversity!  What am I thinking!  This is WARREN not JIMMY!

Body lotion and body wash.  This only happened once, but it made for a very confusing swimming experience.  Our supposed “body lotion” (I accidentally dragged my best friend into the confusion) began foaming up when exposed to the ocean water during a beachfront vacation.  This was the same day we picked teams for a family-and-friends football game on the sand, and they counted me and Casey as one person.

Abraham and Abram.  Oh, no wait – they were the same person.

Graduating “cum laude” and graduating regularly.  I graduated in Chico State’s class of 2008 cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in AgBusiness, but I don’t know what exactly it means.  Should I say “I graduated cum laude from Chico State”?  Or, “I graduated with a cum laude degree”?  Or, “I graduated from Chico State with a degree in AgBusiness, cum laude”?  I don’t even know where to put it in a sentence! 

I get irritated with myself sometimes for being so confused so much of the time.  But at least I’m dating a movie star.

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Things That I Get Confused

I have been living as an independent, pay-my-own-bills, buy-my-own-groceries, do-my-own-laundry, call-home-and-cry-once-a-week kind of person since I was 17.  I moved to Texas by myself at age 21, I start my own colts, change flat tires and and wrestle wild steers into submission on ridge tops with no assistance (except my rope, my horse, Tilly, Tilly’s rope, Tilly’s horse, and Tilly’s expert advice and encouragement).  Despite these practical accomplishments, not to mention my 3.8 collegiate GPA and graduating cum laude, I’ve heard a rumor that I’m an airhead.  I don’t get it.

Things That I Get Confused:

The movie titles The Ringer and The Rounders When someone quotes a line from one, I’m liable to attribute it to the other and laugh in a confused manner.

Jokes that are: told while I’m drinking/standing too far from the joke teller/dirty/about chipmunks.  This will not prevent me from laughing enthusiastically; only the vacant look in my eyes will tell you I have no idea what’s going on.

Rachel Bilson and Rachel McAdams.  Surely I’m not the only one!

The accelerator and the brake pedal.  It’s a terrible feeling to drive down the street in town, go to pick up speed, press a pedal, and slowly lurch to a near-stop.  I always think Oh, bleep!  My pickup’s broken!  My pickup’s broken!  I’m going to have to take it to the shop and spend hundreds of dollars that I don’t have to get it repaired, because I depend upon it for transportation to my job, which I need to pay rent and buy groceries!  Oh, bleep!  Equally intense is the relief that I merely stepped on the wrong pedal.  That almost makes up for the embarrassment.

The time I’m supposed to be at work and the time I’m supposed to leave for work.  I always forget to calculate for town traffic, stop lights, distance from my house, running back to the house from my pickup because I forgot my sunglasses, parking my pickup and walking to the school office, running back to my pickup because I forgot my whistle, etc.  I seriously need to give myself 30 minutes to get upstairs from my basement room each morning. 

South.  I have a pretty good handle on east, as I am up and going every morning before the sun.  If I physically observe the sun arising from a horizon, I immediately peg that direction as east for the remainder of the day.  After about 4 o’clock PM, west is pretty easy to detect, and north is toward Owyhee, so actually I should be able to derive south using the process of elimination.  Ah ha! 

Ty VN quote: “Jolyn’s always confused, so that doesn’t count.”  He may have a valid point.  I’m not sure what it is, but I really think the man has a valid point.

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I’m THAT kind of wild

It has come to my attention that people who read my blog posts might believe I am somewhat “wild.”  In reading back through recent posts, I noticed a few emerging themes, including but not limited to: 1) staying out until early morning, 2) drinking gin, and 3) shooting pool.  I can see how 1+2+3=a wild crazy party girl. 

I stay out until the alarm clark rings because, well, here in Nevada all the casinos and bars are open 24/7.  There is no last call and irritated bartender turning the lights on and asking everyone to clear out.  Plus, my friends are wild and difficult to escape from.

I’d like to say this in defense of my gin consumption: I only drink Tanqueray. 

Last Thursday, I met a girl friend in town to shoot pool.  Some Starr Valley cowboys showed up, so we all had a few adult beverages and played partners.  Christina went home early, so I migrated with the guys to the Silver Dollar.  Another buckaroo joined us, and we headed to The Horseshoe.

We had staked out some barstools and were chatting when the TS crew showed up.  Chase sat down next to me and said, “Jolyn, I thought you were such a nice girl – how did you end up in a strip club?”

“I’m not sure,” I replied, “but you should’ve seen the last girl.  She was way hotter than the one dancing now.”

I reached behind him to grab my cup of water from the bar.  Yes, water – I’m THAT kind of wild.

One Saturday, a girl friend and I met at 4 in the afternoon to chat about the Bible and how we should go about being Christian women.  At the conclusion of our informal lesson, she grabbed a box of Jell-o, a bottle of vodka, made two dozen Jell-o shots, and stuck them in the fridge while we went for a walk.

After our usual 5-mile jaunt, we sat down with spoons to eat our shots.  After 3 apiece, we looked at one another and said, “There’s no alcohol in these!  I feel nothing.  Sheesh.”

After three more, we looked up at each other, spoons paused in mid-bite.  “My head feels huge!  These definitely have booze in them.”

We polished off 18 Jell-o shots, slammed back a couple Washington Apples, ate some rice and tortilla chips, spent an hour changing into town clothes and doing our hair and makeup, and headed for the bar.  We ran into a crowd of our friends (all with nicely shaped cowboy hats, might I add) and enjoyed a drink while visiting.

Still mindful of our desire to live morally, we skipped out of the bar with our friends (they’re wild!  beware!) and headed for the G Bar basement, not at all the usual hangout.  They’d never find us there.

We played a few games of pool, sobered up, and drove home.  I was snuggled into bed when a friend texted me at 12:07 AM asking if I was at Stockmen’s; everyone else was, and the dancing was great.  I said I was showered, teeth brushed, jammie-clad and down for the count. 

In bed by midnight: I’m THAT kind of wild.

Some nights, I’m tipsy by the time I’m done making supper at home.  Other nights, I’m stone-cold sober and dancing until 3:30 AM.  You just can’t know.

I’m THAT kind of wild.

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Spring Break

During college, spring break meant hurrying through a Thursday afternoon mid-term exam and skipping school on Friday to start the party early.  I was either excited to go home and ride colts, or anticipating a relaxing week of working at a downtown Chico western wear store and suntanning every afternoon. 

As a substitute teacher, spring break means “Oh, bleep, a week of unpaid vacation.”  Once I reminded myself there was absolutely nothing I could do about that fact, I decided to write a stockpile of articles and set up interviews; conduct myself as a legit freelance writer for one solid week. 

A person has to be a little bad on spring break, though, so I began the week by partying until 4:00 AM.  For some reason, I had an unusually good streak of luck shooting pool – I sunk 4 balls in a row, including a combo.  Even though it was a really easy combo shot that a minimally trained poodle could’ve made, one of my guy friends saw my performance and refused to play me because I was “too good.” 

I protested, insisting it was a random streak of luck and not to worry; things would change and he’d beat me pretty easily.  I must’ve drank too much gin to make a persuasive argument, because he handed his cue stick off to another guy, who beat me.  All I can say is: I told you so.

Once I realized the folly of excessive partying (I was reminded by my inability to drink water, stand upright, walk, or eat until 3:00 PM the next day), I settled in to work.  I wrote 3 first drafts the first day, typed up a real estate description, emailed the home folks, secured 2 more story assignments from the local paper, interviewed a saddlemaker, and read part of Arnold Rojas’ These Were The Vaqueros to research an upcoming article. 

I also baked candy, cookies and granola bars.  I walked 8 miles one day – I walked with Tilly when she got off work, and again with Katie when she got off work.  I made a Mexican beef stew, shot pool last night (sober, I’d like to add), stacked firewood, and have watched more reruns of The Nanny, Everybody Loves Raymond, and That ’70s Show than should be legal.

I’m sort of wondering how I ever had time to work.  I thought I’d be inventing things to do to fill my days, but now I’m considering setting the clocks back at lunchtime so I can have more hours in the day.  My most pressing task is finding a store in Elko that sells the new Glamour magazine.  It’s out – I’ve seen it online!!!  I’m hooked on the dose of feminity, style, makeup advice and girl talk in between those covers, which greatly balances out the whole living-in-the-sagebrush-with-no-Victoria’s Secret-or-Sephora deal for me, and really irritated that it’s already April 7 and not a single store in this town has it on the shelf.  It’s like I live in a remote Northern Nevada desert town or something!

Today it is snowing.  It’s cozy in the house, though, and I’ve got second drafts to write and Don Williams playing on the radio.  I think I’m gonna make it.

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Mama and Me in A to the Z

I drove to Wickenburg, Arizona last weekend with a dual mission: to pick up a horse for a gal in Elko, and visit my mom.  I hadn’t seen my mom in nearly two years.

After I checked into the motel and while I waited for Mom to arrive, I fixed my hair and touched up my makeup.  I was first-date nervous for some reason.  Mom and I talked regularly, but so much had happened in nealry two years!  What should I talk about?  Which stories had I told her over the phone, and which ones had a huge impact on my life but I hadn’t mentioned?  Would she want to know my big-picture “this is what I think is the purpose of my life” thoughts, or would she ask if I’ve been eating my vegetables?

I brought a couple publications containing my articles to give her.  Would she be proud of me?  Last winter I was too broke to afford kerosene for the heater, and I ate oatmeal twice a day when I was between paychecks.  Did she think, “That’s my tough, determined girl,” or did she think, “She had a Bachelor’s Degree at age 21 with zero student loans debt.  Why can’t she get a real job?”

Mom didn’t tell me her judgment on my life during our visit.  Her only comment directed at the state of myself came when we hugged a long good-bye.  “You’re so little!” I exclaimed.  “I was just about to say the same thing about you!” she replied.  We laughed.

We slept in, hiked through the saguaro cactus, split entrees at dinner, ate fried ice cream and margarita key lime pie, checked out the Wickenburg museum, and played a fair amount of pool in a dive bar.  My mama is a pool shark; Arnold Palmer on the table and pool cue in hand, she will take your money.  Luckily for me, she just gave me a lot of useful advice. 

In the afternoons we lounged on the motel beds and watched reruns of “Friends” and “King of Queens.”  I was thinking how different our visits will be in several years, when I’m sleeping in the next room with a husband (preferably my own).  When I wake up cold in the middle of the night, I won’t accidentally grab Mom’s sweatshirt in the dark and wake up smelling like her laundry detergent.  It won’t be me and Mom road tripping at the same pace (“the family that pees together gets there faster”), she with her chai latte and me with my decaf afternoon coffee moseying through tourist trap shops in Prescott. 

Or, maybe our relationship won’t be so different in a decade.  I’m sure I’ll still be pestering her with questions: Did you get along with Grandpa Joe?  How did you know you were pregnant with me?  What was Yreka like when you were my age?  Was I a good baby?  Can you research my thyroid disease and tell me what I should eat to help my symptoms? 

And I’ll still want to hear the same stories: How did you get kicked out of Iowa again?  What was Southern California like when you were a kid?  Tell me about playing pool at the Fish Hook when your parents owned it. 

She’ll always be my mom.  The original expert on me.

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