Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I (still) Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone

Today I've had like 5 calls from prior difficult customers, or as I like to call them, "ex" customers.  And they're not getting through.  They will never get through.  It made me feel the need to say something; it's a sore subject with me.  Why don't you ever see these signs around anymore that say "We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone"?  Is it the fear of reprisal? Acusations of discrimation?

How about, sometimes, we just hate you, as a customer, because you're nasty.  This should not surprise you--you're the one doing it.

Why is this such a hard concept?  I help run our family business, and over the years, yes, we have definitely run across people who have put themselves (by sheer force of mean personality, complainyness, and rudeness) squarely on the List of people we Refuse to Work With.  Ever.  This means that, if they call, I won't answer.  If they email, I won't answer.  If they send a carrier pigeon, I will train it to do tricks and keep it locked under the stairs.  Am I clear? I will NOT do business with them. 

Aside from that, if they hate us so much, WHY would they call/email back again, this year, to place an order?  Haven't we disappointed them enough already?  Are they gluttons for punishment?  Have they forgotten what they said/wrote to me last time we interacted?  Do they think I don't have caller ID?  Baffling.

By the way, I keep notes on everything, people, so:  Be. Nice. 

But, why is it that I can't just say it?  Ok, here's the deal.  If you are someone who has called and screamed at me, cursed at me, given me a condescending lecture, hung up on me, written me an-ever-so-carefully-crafted nasty email, or said "We are taking our business elsewhere in the future, and we are going to tell everyone we know how much we hate you!", then why, why, WHY DO YOU KEEP CALLING ME BACK???

Here's what happens.  My phone rings, and if I mistakenly somehow end up on the phone with one of these horrid people, who I've vowed I will never be forced to do business with again, I look like this:
Awww, crap.  It's...YOU

Hello...again.   But the whole time, I'm thinking really? Are you serious?!? How can you possibly keep calling and leaving messages that you'd "appreciate a call back"?? Flip back through your mental notes and check...is there any reason that you can recall, why I might not want to ever speak to you again? Yeah, I thought you might remember that. 

So, what's the appropriate response? Never call them back and let them just think (at worst) that we have terrible phone service/email response time and they should shop elsewhere?  Answer and tell them we don't have this, or that, or that, or ANYthing they might want; and we have no dates open on the schedule.  We're booked straight through everysingledate until December 2019. 

WHY can't I just answer, and when they say who they are, I'd love to say, "Oh, hi (rude person), thanks for calling, but after reviewing the disturbing notes from our last transaction with you, I find that we are unable to make you happy in any way.  We don't want to disappoint you further, as we always seem to do, so, yeah, thanks for calling, but we can't take care of you.  Please don't call back, ever.  Goodbye." 

What's wrong with that? Are they going to call the Family Business Vendor Police and tell them to call me and force me to take this person's money?  Write the BBB? ("they won't sell to me!")  Put it on Yelp (now there's a fun crowd...)?  What??  Is this against some law somewhere?  ("You have to take everyone's money and any amount of nastiness they want to dish out, ALL the time, forever.  And, you should probably always apologize for everything.")  The customer is not always right.  Sometimes, they're just a jerk, and there's no help for them, but that doesn't mean I have to subject myself to their horrid behavior.  It's like volunteering for a beating.  Umm, no.

I always wonder, do they do this with everyone?  I'm not that special, I'm certainly not difficult on the phone, and I'm not even that fun to yell at, so maybe this is just how they deal with every vendor they meet.  Which makes me think, if this is how they deal with everyone, is it working?? Is this why they feel like it's OK to spew this kind of nasty all over me, every time, because I will somehow cave in and kiss their ass and continue to put up with their BS, and then thank them for their business?  Really?

Maybe someone needs to point out that, although you may believe that the "squeaky wheel gets the grease", unfortunately, around here, the squeaky wheel gets....replaced.  With a newer, friendlier, less-squeaky wheel, if you get my drift.

Still...why can't I just answer when these people call, and say, "Hi, remember me?  You cursed and yelled at me last time.  Yeah...it's me; same girl.  So, in light of that---"  *SLAM*  and just hang up.  Oh wait, I keep forgetting that phones no longer give you the satisfaction of hanging UP on someone, right in their ear.  You have to touch the screen.  That is SO not gratifying.  Plus, sometimes, you don't know if they're really gone...and there's that fear that they will hear what you say after you think you hung up (not that I *say* anything...)  I just love the old b-a-n-g that a good old-fashioned phone would give you when you were really mad.  Remember?

                                                                                               SLAM!  Yep.  Satisfying.

Maybe we could start our own version of Yelp, where vendors can go online, post this person's phone number, name, address, and photo, and WE get to write whatever horror story we have about THEM.  Like, sort of a warning system for other vendors.  Hey, this lady's a nutjob.  Do not work with her.  Isn't that what customers (yelpers? whatever) do on Yelp? (whiny voice): "I hate this place.  The fries were soggy, and my waitress's fingernails were the wrong color, and my ice tea had too much ice in it."  Terrible ratings, here you go.    gahhhh!

Someone should make up a ring-back tone or something, which would sound like the old hang-up 'slam' that we used to get out of a good old-fashioned hard plastic phone.  In the meantime, I'll be over here, screening calls and laughing like a mad scientist when they finally give up.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

We Don't Have That, Either

(I wrote this post at the height of my cake decorating days, probably 2011, when I was searching for what should have been a very simple item--a baseboard for a heavy baby shower cake)
Flashback to December 2011:
So, today's like the blizzardy-est (yes, I make up words) road conditions ever, but I had a cake delivery to do, AND I needed to find something call 'foamcore board', so I was out driving in it. I actually need it right now, today, for a cake for this weekend, but that's beside the point, since I didn't find it.
This stuff is like the Holy Grail of cake boards, and about as hard find

Michael's used to have what I need, like a good craft store should, but they quit carrying it, without telling me why, but everyone (and by everyone, I mean, other cake people I've asked) keeps saying I can find it at "Duh...Lowe's or Home Depot". So I called Lowe's and asked the lady who answered. She looked it up and said yes, it's in their lumber department, and they have 100 sheets. It was on my way back from delivering today's cake in the blizzard, so I swung (slid) into Lowe's and slipped and skidded my way inside.

After wandering around for way.too.long in the lumber department, which always annoys me (the wandering, not the lumber department) I finally found a guy wearing the official Lowe's apparel.

Me: Do you have foamcore board?

Guy: Do we have what?

Me: Foamcore. It's 1/2" white board, not wood, with like a hard foam inside, and it's coated with polypropylene plastic-y stuff.  The lady on the phone said you have 100 sheets of it in stock.  I need to find it, please.

Guy: We have 100 big sheets of styrofoam in the lumber yard.

Me: No, not styrofoam. It's like a craft product.  It's called foamcore board, but it's not wood; it shouldn't be with lumber. 

Guy: I cannot even picture what you're describing to me right now.

Me: If you have kids and they do science projects, this is the stuff that would be the back board they use.

Guy: I'm still lost.
Me:  Didn't you ever do a science fair project..?

At this point a short annoyed-looking woman employee walks up.

Her: What are you looking for?

Me: 1/2" white foamcore board.

Her: I don't know what you're talking about. What are you using it for?

Me: I use it as a baseboard underneath wedding cakes--

Her: --Oh, you won't find anything here for food.

Me: It's not for food; it gets covered and used underneath the cake for support and---

Her: --If it's for food, you're at the wrong place.

(like I've somehow stumbled into a store without realizing it's not a freaking baking warehouse.  Yes, I KNOW).

Me: I buy stuff here all the TIME that's not for food, but aside from that, I still need to--

Her: We don't have it.

Me: But someone told me that you--

Her: We don't have that either.

Wow.  It's like she's not even listening anymore.

Me: Well, I'm sure GLAD I came in here in a blizzard, anyway.

Guy: Oh. Yeah, drive careful out there.

Me: Thanks. It was great just trying to get here. In the blizzard.

Back to the sugar mines. I still have no idea what I'm going to use for this cake that I'm working on today.
2013 update: Here's the cake I was working on. As you can see, it turned out fine. Judging from the way the ribbon trim looks, I'd guess I built a base using too-thin 1/4" foamcore from Walmart, and some strategically-placed, hot-glued 'feet' under it for support, with the ribbon to hid the mess.
Thanks for nothing, Lowe's.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I'll Have an Iced Tea, Please--My "Wild" Bachelorette Party Story

I met Shane when I was 17.  We got engaged when I was just over 20.  For our story's purpose, I will note that way back then, still, the drinking age was 21.  I'd had a good long upbringing in a solid Christian household where you did NOT drink. Not to say that I *didn't* drink, but as teenagers in small-town 1980's America went, I didn't drink much at all

In highschool I was kind of the designated driver for most of the, um, less-than-admittable-to-parents outings that I and my friends went on.  I was the one who was always going, "Like, oh my gosh, you guys!  We are, like, totally going to get BUSTED!!"  We did all kinds of dumb stuff together, even so.  Now that I'm a parent, I shudder to think...but I digress.

Anyhoo, even though I did occasionally knock back a wine cooler or whatever (or two, if I was feeling Really Wild and Van Halen was playing on the tape deck), I was pretty much against doing anything illegal.  Ever.  (I still am, come to think of it).

My idea of aWild Night, circa 1988

Remember these guys? Yeah, they definitely helped up the image...

So when Shane's parents, the nicest, sweetest, most law-abiding people you could ever hope to be related to, decided with two of my future sisters-in-law that it would be fun to take me to a small local bar, where they knew the owner AND the band, for a "bachelorette party" (and I use the term very, very loosely), I was instantly...I don't know...indignant.  Mortified to the depth of my fairly shallow Protestant soul.
Me:  Ohhhh no.  You guys!!  We are NOT going to a bar!  Pick something else.  I'm not going to a bar. I'm not OLD enough!

Them:  It will be fun, and we know the owner; we just want to go listen to the band.  You're coming.

Me:  No way.  I'm not.  You can't make me... I'll tell them I'm not old enough!  I'll tell them you forced me to come.  We'll get kicked out! You'll be in trouble! We'll all go to jail!

Them:  Shut up, Stef.  Just come with us.  We promise, we won't get you in trouble.  Just don't say anything; you'll be fine.  It's just some music, and it happens to be in a bar.  Come on.

This went on back and forth for quite a while, until eventually I realized I sort of had no choice.  And I was starting to look like a total prude.

Me:  Fine.  I'll go, but I will not have fun. I won't tell them I'm underage, but I will not drink any alcohol, and that's that. (seriously? I was this straight?) 

So we got there, and I was totally sweating it, walking in, like I must have a big "AGE 20" stamped on my forehead.  Ohmigosh, they're going to card me...I know they're going to card me.  We're all going to jail.  I look terrible in orange!  (Them:  Shut up, Stef). 

We walked right in.  Said hi to the owner, who knew my inlaws and didn't even blink at me.  I bet I looked like...I don't even know what I looked like, but I was so nervous I probably already looked drunk, bumping into stuff, apologizing, etc.  Like I'd never been out in public.  Dork.  They were like, sit down, Stef...Maybe the owner just figured I was that weird relative they just take out now and then, you know, like a field trip or something.

So I sat down with them, and they're all like normal people in a bar, laughing, listening to music, enjoying themselves.  It seemed SO loud, and so dark.  I felt like a peasant from the Middle Ages suddenly dropped off at a new-age rock concert.  It was a small country bar in the middle of nowhere, but I was just sure it was a den of iniquity, and I might never recover.  I yelled at them, "I'm NOT drinking!  I can't believe you guys made me do this!  We are SO going to jail!!"  Them:  "Shut up, Stef."

I sat back (probably actually crossed my arms), convinced that I could survive this and not go to jail forever and end up living in a van down by the river, if I could just get past the part where the waitress takes the drink orders.  No alcohol.

The owner came around to take our orders, and started chatting with my in-laws.  I'm totally freaking out inside, but trying to look all cool, like, yeah, I do this all the time.  I'm totally over 21.  Be cool.  But I am NOT ordering any alcohol.  At least I won't go to jail for THAT.  She takes all their orders, everyone's yelling over the loud music.  I'm thinking she's going to turn to me now and say, "Why are you here? You don't look old enough," but instead she just yells (over the super-loud, country music):

"What can I getcha?"

Me:  (yelling) "I'll just have iced tea, please."  Ha.  See? No alcohol for me.

Her:  "Long Island??"

Me:  "Yeah, sure.  Long Island, Lipton...whatever you have."

Her:  "Gotcha. Be right back, y'all."


I had no earthly idea what a Long Island Iced Tea was. I was trying to be such a puritan, and instead I ordered the strongest drink I'd ever had.  The look on my face when I took the first sip was probably priceless. 

Oh. My. Gosh.  And of course, my inlaws thought it was hilarious...still do.

Ahh, innocence.

This was so NOT Lipton!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Good Trade--Memoir of an Ex-Wedding Cake Decorator

(Warning: this one's long--but if you're here, you know that already. You can skim down to a condensed list of pros and cons.  Way, way down...)

I've been thinking a lot during this, my first summer back to my real life after 12 years of amping up and up and up in the wedding industry, and then pulling the e-brake on the hectic-ness.  I've mentally made a note (well, very often it's out loud) most days when I find myself doing something so...not...what I was doing everysimilarday for the last 5 summers.  It's accumulated to where I thought I should write it all down, so here goes.

My kids are pretty much tired of me saying "Oh my gosh, you guys.  Do you realize we are at the beach?? On a Friday!?" They're like "Ummm yeah, we know.  You mentioned that already."  We.get.it.

If you haven't worked in the wedding industry, you may not know the youhavenolife part that vendors deal with, every weekend during wedding season, year after year.  No. Life.  Also, this means that my family had no life while I was busy long hours every weekday, and sometimes 20 hour shifts on crazy weekends.  No, I can't drive for the field tripNo, we can't go to the beach, or the mall, or the the fair, or the library for your homework assigment books that you HAVE to read before tomorrow.  No I can't go camping this weekend... maybe October?  Seriously, beach? Once per summer.  North Idaho Fair? Um, not in the last 4 years.  (It's this week, by the way, and we are SO going.  Like, opening day, 11 a.m., we're all over it.)

And our property, the 5 acres of roses, perennials, pond garden, and 5,000 square foot vegetable garden that once were lovely? Forget it.  As a cake decorator, my butt was locked in a sealed box of a kitchen while summer (my favorite, beloved summer) was something that went on "out there".  Without me.  Every year.  I did get outside once a week at home, to mow the grass...the rest of the time I just watched as it all slid into a Yard Disaster Area.  I had a lady ask me recently, "Hey, I saw your husband's truck parked (at our house) the other day.  Did you guys just move there?  That's cool. I didn't think anyone lived there lately".  And I was like..."Uh, no.  We've been there 13 years".   Awkward. 

Having closed the bakery, shut off the phone and website, I rolled up my sleeves and went home.  We planted the garden and (to my constant amazement) were able to turn a field of weeds back into this:
My kids don't even remember a time when we HAD a garden
It's funny how you forget the simple pleasures of an everyday life at an everyday pace.  I have time to sit on the back deck or the porch swing and eat lunch with a book, hang laundry outside to dry, and wash dishes (yes, after each meal. I know, right?). I know every plant in the garden, what's ripening, and when it will be ready to pick.  We are eating fresh entire meals from the garden now--last night everything on Shane's dinner plate, we grew ourselves.  Every Bite.  Awesome.

And the canning! Canning?! I can't remember the last time I had time to preserve food, and I love it.  I finally found a recipe for pickles that taste like Klausens, only better.  See?  This one's going in The Book (the only thing we can think of to call the cookbook so far).

I've had time to work on the cookbook project, which started out being for my kids as a graduation/now you're a grownup gift, but suddenly everyone we know wants a copy (that's cool, it will be pretty awesome). 

I'm finishing knitting a sweater for Shane and one for me (both have been half-done for 3 years or more.  Each.)  And a scarf.  I'm almost done with a cross-stitch that I started about 8 years ago.  For perspective, a sweater can take me a couple of days sometimes, and cross-stitches are usually a seasonal or yearly project. 

I have time to mend stuff as needed, before we forget that we own it--instead of leaving that sad pile of broken spaghetti straps and missing buttons clothes that you can't give to Goodwill (you can't donate that; it's ripped) but you also can't use it as a cleaning rag (are you kidding? This is from Victoria's Secret!!)

I have time to vacuum and sweep now, just because, anytime it needs it, not just that quick Saturday-night-before-our-only-day-off-ohmigosh sweep, so you don't wake up on your only possible day off and spend it looking at dust bunny colonies under the entertainment center, large enough to run up their own long-distance phone bills and demand equal rights. 

I know...it all sounds so...mundane.  But there's something so homey and satisfying and, I don't know, well-managed, about having time, just pure, simple TIME, to do a little chore that's needed, right when the need arises; to be creative in your own kitchen and make a gourmet wonderful dinner (and yes, dessert, but so far--no cake) for my family, who, needless to say, love all of it.  That alone has made it so rewarding.  Eventually, I will make us a cake, but not yet.  Soon, though...

Now, instead of getting up at 5 a.m. and leaving quietly without waking anyone up, to go to the bakery for the next 16 hours...I get up around the crack of, oh, 7-8:30, have coffee with Shane, work at my desk running our business (which I have always helped him run, along with my cake business--and which in itself has always been an every-day job), then grab a basket and head out to the garden to see what's ripe, gather eggs (I love my chickies!), and hang out some laundry.

Now I can enjoy going to my daughter's volleyball and basketball games (every one, AND be a driver for field trips), without having to mentally silently calculate what time I have to go to work tomorrow because I gave up 3 hours today (5 a.m.? 4? ahmagash!!).

To those who ask, how can you just give up cakes? That was your *passion*, I have to say, no, it wasn't.  It was one of my passions.  But when one thing takes over and you trade every other interest in your life for it, then you have no time for any of the other joys in life.  Maybe some people can go through life, having never lived the regular days or taken time to do All The Things with their spouse and kids, in pursuit of--what? exactly?--Recognition? Money?  Fame? WTH? I didn't want to be old and remembering...yeah, that one wedding.  Now THAT was a great weekend.  Really?  And yes, I get it--why didn't you just, you know, hire help?!?  Kneejerk solution.  Then I'd have to make more cakes, to afford the help.  And the free interns? Are you serious? Can you say training your own competition?

If you are skimming through this thinking criminy, woman, do you have to talk so MUCH? Here's a condensed version of what I "gave up" and things I have always loved, that I do now, instead.

Doing now:                                                          Instead of:
Creative cooking for family                                      Baking for strangers
Gardening and preserving                                         Decorating cakes for strangers
Taking kids to the beach                                            Meeting for cake consults and tasting
Shopping for clothes                                                    Shopping for bakery supplies
Going to the beach                                                         Decorating more cakes
Cleaning my house, every day                                 Cleaning a bakery, every day
Yard maintenance                                                         Commuting to work in airless bakery
Knitting, cross-stitching, quilting                       Filling, crumbcoating, and frosting cakes
Painting, crocheting                                                      Decorating even more cakes
Driving to camp for the weekend                       Driving to three venues to set up cakes
Camping                                                                             Wedding set up
Reading in the hammock on a Friday               Wondering how to finish 4 wedding cakes
Working on a cookbook for my kids                      Working on wedding cake sketches
Planning a medicinal herb garden                   Planning a photo shoot for xyz magazine
Dodging bees in the garden                             Dodging bride/momzillas (you know who you are)
Writing a blog                                                      Writing cake contracts/estimates/invoices
Answering the phone for one business         Answering phone/email for 2 businesses
Perusing the internet for...whatever           Perusing the internet for cake trends/colors
Having kid sleepovers                                                  Wishing I could sleep    
Wondering what to make for dinner             Wondering who's taking my place in the biz
Not caring who knows me                                      Networking to keep my name Out There
Sleeping IN on Saturday                                              Napping on a bean bag on bakery floor
Sitting in the hot tub watching it rain           Standing in February rain outside a venue
Meeting friends for lunch                           Meeting venders for business brainstorming
Meeting friends for dinner and drinks                   Setting up bridal festivals and events
Sitting in the garden with Shane at sunset            Texting Shane from bakery at 11 p.m.
Riding 4-wheelers with Shane and the kids    Driving home, window down (yay, wind!)
Going to bed, on time, tired and happy     Bed at 1:30 a.m., exhausted, alarm set for 5

See? Good. Trade.
There you have it.  I loved cakes, and brides, and weddings, and my vendor friends (miss them the most, aside from the car), don't get me wrong.  But it became ALL I was doing, so it had to go.

My view on a Friday afternoon, instead of a fridge full of un-iced cake tiers for tomorrow's 3-5 weddings, three Kitchenaid mixers full of icing, and a commercial sink full of dishes, is THIS:
It's not just once a summer anymore!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

"Fluh" is a Word

I love my brother Jesse.  We share an odd sense of humor, a love of cats, similar coloring, and a lot of years of a dorky hippie childhood.  Even though he lives at the opposite side of the country, we have managed to stay in touch and always pick up where we left off, and we always laugh a lot.  When he visits, our kids are like Whoa. He's like...you... except, he's a guy.  High praise indeed.  *wink*
We joke that we must share a brain, sometimes.  On his last visit, we were all randomly trying to remember the name of an Emilio Estevez movie, and someone blurted out the title, Young Guns.  We both absolutely simultaneously chimed in...."Did you see the size of that...CHICKEN?".  I haven't seen that movie in probably five years, and I've never watched it with him. We graduated high school from separate ends of the country, yet we both picked out the same exact line? 
People who haven't seen the movie totally didn't see the humor, but we thought we were hilarious. Maybe quoting movies is a symptom of growing up in the 80's, I don't know.
Sometimes we will just randomly text each other a song that's stuck in our head.  You know, just to share the love.  This spring I was remembering a shared joke about cooking with thyme (the herb), so I sent him this:
Me:  "If Iiiii could save tiiiiiiiime in a bottttttle"
He immediately wrote:  "Lol thanks! Lately I've been stuck with crappy 'Walk Like An Egyptian'.  Radio stations suck down here".
Me:  "Nooo!  Now I hear those big kettle drums!!!"
That's what siblings are for, right?
When I picked him up at the airport this summer for his visit, after not having seen him for a year and a half, my phone went off, with a text from Shane, and Jesse started reaching for his phone. Apparently we have picked out the exact same chime/ringtone for text messages. I know--not a big deal.  Unless you consider the fact that we have separate phone carriers, different phone brands, and the sound we picked out (from about a million choices) is a really odd sound that isn't normally used for text messaging alerts.  He was like... "Seriously? That's your ringtone?" High five.
One of my favorite things, though, is our joke about "Fluh".  We were talking about people who yakk nonstop on the phone without coming up for air. We all know them.  You don't really even need to participate, during these conversations, other than to let them know you haven't actually hung up every once in awhile. He had a girlfriend like this once, and he said she would talk for so long that he would just set the phone down on the couch while she talked, and do whatever he needed to do. Every once in awhile he would just pick up the phone and say uh-huh and put it back down. Then, to mix it up, he decided to just throw in random sounds. She never even noticed. So he would pick the phone up at random times, and say something like "Fluh," then set the phone back down. A few minutes later he would pick it back up and say "Schweagle," then, "Snarf".  I guess it was fine for her, because she just kept talking. 
Not surprising, they are no longer together...
We aren't ones to spend hours on the phone chatting, and even our texting is sometimes pretty brief, but sometimes I just need to touch base, so I'll text him a random word like "Fluh".  Sure enough, a few minutes later I'll get back: "Snarg", and that's all we need sometimes.  

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Is 2013 the Summer of Rampaging Bees?

What is it with the bees this year?
All of our house's eaves look like this
I tried to sit outside this morning.  On my own deck, which we pay for every month with hard-earned cash.  It's MY deck, right?  You'd think I could take a cup of coffee out and enjoy the shade and a breeze before it really gets hot, but no. And here's *why*:  This appears to be a "bad bee year", which old timers will tell you happens about every five years.  This means that if you go outside and sit, anywhere, (the deck, the lawn, the garden, the beach, the next county) forget it, because there are yellow jackets everywhere, doing this hover-type hang-around movement, and they specifically don't want your company.  If you persist and try to sit long enough, they will get all up in your grill like "Hey human, I need you to leave right now." Wrath of bee…isn't that the worst?  Aren't we all so totally afraid of bees? They're like a million times smaller than us, but we totally lose. It. when there's a bee nearby.  I'm always amazed that they are confident enough to know that if they zing all around us, we will freak completely out trying to get away from their little tiny butt, even if we're not allergic.
I already got stung once, because, silly me, I tried to stock up chicken food for my hens.  I plomped (yes, I make up words) a 50# bag of feed into the big storage bin by the chicken coop, and this hornet flew up out of nowhere, like: "WTH lady!? We're working here!" and stung me right on the top of the hand, which hurt more than I expected and then swelled up like a small balloon.  I marched up to the house, muttering and cursing bees,  got the wasp spray, and totally nuked the whole nest, plus shot down some more hornets who came home from wherever hornets go, too, which was pretty gratifying, but still…why do they HURT so much?  That was a month ago, and they're already building again, same spot. 
We went camping right after I got stung, and we kept watching as my knuckles gradually disappeared and the swelling spread over the whole top of my hand.  I had to take off my rings.  I couldn't see any veins on my hand.  Compared to my left hand, I looked at my puffy right hand and was all hey, it looks like I'm 3 years old again.   I also couldn't make a fist, which was weird; it felt like my hand would pop.  Annoying, but fortunately that was the extent of the reaction for me.  Everywhere we've been this summer (camp, the grocery store, the kayak rental place), I hear the same thing, "The bees are BAD this year."  It's pretty sad when I (who strongly dislike winter, though I live in winter country) am hoping for a hard winter, just so we might have fewer bees next year…
So today…like I was saying, I tried to sit outside with my coffee and laptop to balance a bank statement, but after swatting like 7 bees to death around my bare feet and nearly spilling my coffee and the computer onto the deck, I gave up and went inside.  The rest of the bees are still bopping into the glass door like, "Yeah, that's right.  Stay IN there, you. This is OUR space."  I've used up two cans of bee/wasp spray on them this year, and unless you're a really good shot, that means a whole lot of spraying randomly around and missing.  It's great when you hit one, though--they go down like "aghhh..I can't…move…hate you…aieee".  Then I always have that fear that I'll somehow still step on a dead bee and get stung anyway, sort of like a parting shot, so I'm always watching the deck for dead bees.  It makes the whole picture of summer in the garden a little less...lovely.
They seem to be everywhere this year--Shane got stung trying to move some stuff out of an old Ford that we are selling before it turns into a permanent part of the yard (it sort of already is, but now it's going away, bees and all).  They are all OVER that thing…inside the rim of the bed, the tubes of the contractor racking, behind the rearview mirrors. 
We also seem to have them inside my daughter's car mirrors.  If you bump into her rearview mirrors, you can actually hear an angry humming as they all try to scramble out.  It's fun to get in, close the windows, and then play with the electric mirror settings.  Hmm…maybe a little to the left…now to the right..oh, whoops, did I squash your house?  Bees come straggling out, waving their…antennae?.. like "WHAT? We're trying to watch DWTS here! Do you MIND?"
If I knew that they have a purpose, it would help.  Honey bees, yeah--they're awesome, and I plant things just for them.  But the yellow jackets and wasps…just, no.  I'm not feeling it.  Which reminds me, we're out of wasp spray.

Stay safe out there-

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Open letter to cyclists

Sometimes you just have to get stuff off your chest, so here I go.

If you're a cool, I'm riding my bike but I realize that I am a small piece of what is sharing this highway cyclist, then this isn't for you.

If you're one of the mountain bikers who we never see on the roads, this isn't for you.

If you're one of those cool road bikers who travel by bicycle everywhere and understand that the edge of the road, right of way strip, bike lanes, walking paths, and (yes, ahem) SEPARATE FREAKING BIKE TRAILS are there for you, just...you.  Then, this is also not for you.


If you are that total flipping rude nut job kind of cyclist who I watched try and play some crazy sort of reverse-highway-chicken, you-can't-pass-me game, with my husband while he was driving a dump truck AND towing a camper amounting to about 27,000 pounds of steel carefully along a narrow, 35 mph, curvy, mountainous, blind spot-inducing, nowhere-for-anyone-to-go road, then this is definitely for you.

I get it.  You own the freaking road.  But seriously, really, sweetheart...so do we.  So, in love, please, could you move over a scosh so people can at least have the option to attempt to pass you safely without killing you, us, and the oncoming drivers!?!! This woman actually made me scream in frustration.  I don't think I've ever seen anything so rude from a cyclist. 

Here's this woman riding down the MIDDLE, and I mean the M-I-D-D-L-E of our lane on this windy, narrow, blind corner, busy road, on her bike.  Pedaling along like whatever, I'm riding here.  And she totally can see (and no doubt hear) my husband's big red 2-ton diesel truck pulling a 30' camper come up behind her, with two cars also behind him.  We're all patiently following her, politely waiting for her to notice and inch over so we can try to get past and continue our day. Eventually we realize, after like 5 miles of random curves and straight stretches...it's not going to happen.  Does she remotely attempt to let traffic by, safely, so we can all share the road?  No.  She looks over her shoulder, speeds up her pedaling a little (really?), and stays right there in the middle of the lane.  She passes numerous places where she could safely have let us by.  She passes numerous places where she could have pedaled along beside the road entirely for a stretch.  She would probably have passed a complete bike rest stop without any attempt to move or let anyone by.

Finally the minivan behind me takes his life (and all of ours, and hers) in his hands and passes ALL THREE OF US, me, the 55' of truck and camper, AND the cyclist and goes flying off down the curvy narrow road, also narrowly missing my husband, who had catiously turned on his signal to pass the cyclist, only to suddenly find Mr. Minivan right next to the camper, forcing him to swerve the whole setup BACK into the lane behind this lady.  On her bike.  I helpfully honked at all of them, couldn't even help it.

I'm watching all this from two cars back.  And still, she cycled on.  In the middle of the lane.  With a giant Dodge growling right behind her, dragging 13.5 tons of metal.  She would NOT let us past. What if she'd crashed?  We'd have all driven right over her.  Stunning.  I wish I'd taken a picture of this lunatic, cycling along down the middle of the road with a truck, camper, car, and minivan all patiently winding around behind her. 

Finally there was a small gap with some visibility where my husband was able to take his and my daughter's life (and the cyclist's I suppose) in his hands and carefully drag the whole 55' of truck and trailer out in the oncoming lane and get past this woman.  She kept cycling right down the middle of the lane.

Is she blind? Deaf? Angry? Suicidal?     Can anyone seriously be THIS FLIPPING RUDE????

I'm behind them like, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW????"

I passed her as well, but my question is what. the. heck??  People, move OVER.  I'm not talking about, oh, any minute now, when it's safe, she'll give us some room.  I'm talking about someone acting like I'm totally within my rights to be here and I will literally stay in this lane right in front of you for the rest of this entire road if I feel like it because I am a biker, and I can be here if I feel like it, and today...I feel like it.  So screw you, all of you, in your cars, trying to drive.

As I passed her, I had to say to her (loudly enough for her to hear me), "WOW".  Couldn't help it.  And you know what? She flipped me off.  Nice.  Probably because she's been yelled at ALL DAY, but really, get a clue woman.  This road was one of the most dangerous places I can imagine cycling.  You couldn't pay me to ride a bike down this road.

I can totally see how road rage happens, because I'm a non-violent, polite, give everyone the benefit of the doubt kind of person, but this woman came close to having me stop the car and kick her off her bike myself.  Especially after flipping me off for being annoyed with her.

Hopefully she didn't cause any accidents on the rest of the 15 mile road out to the normal highways (with--what?-- scenic bike trails everywhere, clearly marked), because she was putting her own life in danger, along with everyone else on that road today.  I can only hope she had no choice, no car, no friends to drive her anywhere, no money for a cab, and it was a matter of life and death that she get down that road, right then.

I still can't believe it.  I've seen some rude cyclists, but this one topped them all.  Bar none. 

So as a public service message from drivers to bikers.  Please.  We get it.  You pay taxes and by golly you can bike wherever you freaking want and that's legal.  Whatever.  Do it wisely, is all I want to say.  We're all used to the fact that we have to slow down and try and squeeze past your elbows on narrow country roads here and there, and we try to ignore the fact that if we have the sun in our eyes or we glance for a split second away from the road, we could kill you there on your bike, and we'd have that on our conscience forever, but for the love of Pete please give us at least a chance to get PAST you, so we can ALL enjoy the drive.

Just in case you are a cyclist like this, and you write me a nasty-gram about how bikers are misunderstood and victimized, and the nitpickity details of the legality of cycling and rights of way, etc., be assured I will happily delete it.