I went road-trippin’ to White Sulphur Springs, Montana, this weekend to have a little quality time with the sistahs before they get too old and brittle to have fun. It’s the big 5-0 for them next month … oh, wait was I not supposed to say that? Well, I’ll keep their weight a secret.

Because I don’t know it.

Along the way I saw weirdness that wasn’t me — and it wasn’t even the sistahs — it was just random stuff, and me without a camera in hand to record it.

Weird-a-moment #1: The four of us who had gathered for the celebration were on the way to a horse auction because, well, who doesn’t want to go see horses, and we stopped at a rest area because, well, that’s the down side of staying hydrated. As we drove into the very busy parking area we saw a couple from out of state unloading a couple of chickens from their car. To take them for a little stretch of the legs and scratching in the dirt and grass. On leashes.

Chickens on leashes.

I had pet chickens as a kid, but by comparison, mine were feathered creatures of the wild that merely panhandled for food in my yard. I was, apparently lucky not to be attacked and eaten by those savage, uncivilized fowls.

Chickens on leashes. It was awesome, actually.

Weird-a-moment #2: On the way home, neither drunk nor hungover, I stopped for lunch. No, that’s definitely not the weird part. While I was standing at my car door juggling food and drink and keys to get the door unlocked, I noticed a movement out of the corner of my eye and pretty quickly it registered that the movement was (a) odd, and (b) aimed straight at my head, so I ducked in that graceful way that clearly indicates you’re freaking out a little bit around the edges because it’s a large bug.

Despite the creepy almost-got-a-bug-in-the-face mini-panic, I immediately realized that there was a not-quite-rightness about the offending bug, so I whipped my head around and saw that the weird bug was a wasp/hornet/bee of a buzzing bug and it was struggling to carry the limp carcass of a yellow butterfly. At least I’m pretty sure it was a limp carcass, though I would entertain an argument for the bee acting as mercy flight for a badly injured butterfly vs. car victim.

I suspect the bee was not trying to get me, but rather was struggling so hard to stay aflight that it couldn’t fathom going round me, though I’d just stepped into it’s path.

I was normal by comparison for the weekend @ pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com


I’m definitely going to keep him.

Oddly, I have two posts in a row about my husband … I’ve been too busy with the roof and the other outside stuff to slow down, but this is just too, too, well, see for yourself:

I had to race home early from work yesterday with a malady of GI tract proportions.

John and Cooper met me happily at the door exclaiming their excitement that I’d come home early, but I rushed past them to through my purse, keys and papers on the floor, saying “I’m sick, bring a garbage bag to the bathroom!”

And he showed up to empty garbage from the pale, and put a clean liner in it and set it within reach in front of me, and asked if I needed anything more and left me to my misery, all with the efficiency of a nurse.

Later, as I flumped into bed and burrowed under the covers, I put in a request for Gatorade and ginger ale, both requiring a trip to the store.

I fell asleep.

He went hell-on-wheels shopping for mega-groceries.

When I woke up later he brought me a Gatorade and listed off a few more things he’d purchased — comfort foods to help comfort me in my hour(s) of intestinal distress/dead-asleepness.

I wandered out to the kitchen later to see heaped on the counter: the largest container of Gatorade mix available outside of the commercial wholesale marketplace, a 2-liter diet ginger ale, a 12-pack of regular ginger ale, a bag of triple-chocolate cookies, a bag of mint Oreos (“sorry, they didn’t have them in double-stuff”), bananas, two boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios (we tried to buy them on sale at Walmart Saturday, but somehow they didn’t make it home with us, I was terribly disappointed, but not anymore), string cheese (“and look,” he said, “it’s Cheesehead cheese.”), four Ramen noodle packs, five apples (because that’s his rule), tropical fruit trail mix and Cheddar Jalapeno Cheetos.

At the time, I just smiled, which was more than I thought I had in me.

But this morning, as I was telling the story to a co-worker, I imagined John rushing through the store, grabbing every comfort food he could imagine me, or him, wanting, worrying about whether I would want regular or diet ginger ale and searching the aisle frantically for both, and being so obviously torn between buying good for me foods and all the not-so-good for me foods that I like. … Honestly, though, two bags of cookies and spicy hot Cheetos for a person in intestinal agony? I laughed so hard I cried.

My guts won’t be right enough for Cheddar Jalapeno Cheetos for a while, but by-gawd, I got ’em.

And a few cookies didn’t kill me none at all today at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

(Author’s note: I’m pretty sure the problem was too many days of mild dehydration = total dehydration and a core system meltdown. Is it totally weird to not like water?)

Author’s note: Readers of delicate sensibilities and refined social graces, who have obviously wandered here by mistake, should read forth only with courage intact and the understanding that there is no shame in turning away.

I was sitting in the office alone last night, typing away at the computer, when the fast food dinner kicked in, causing a wee bit of gastric activity. It was not of a degree that could be considered gastric distress in any way. My digestive tract simply required a little, shall we say, ventilation of accumulated pressure. Also, the released non-fuel gastric fumes were not, shall we say, of a quantity or a quality that suggested I needed to retire to another room for over-the-counter pharmaceutical attention nor for, shall we say, an expulsion of detrimental solid matter.

Right after I allowed, shall we say, the biological pressure-release valve to kick in, John walked into the office to, I assumed, work at his computer. Whilst this would place him on the side of the office space which is in the direction that my biological pressure-release valve faces, I was confident that given the relatively benign nature of the gastric fumes, the size of the space, the fact that he would be seated facing away from said valve and toward a separate fresh air intake portal (commonly called a doorway, FYI), we would encounter no problems.

He did not got to his desk to sit down.

In a, shall we say, quirk of fate, he approached me from behind, leaned over to place a kiss on the top of my head and gently hug me. He paused briefly to look at my screen, repeated the kiss and hug, then, as he turned to leave the room, said sweetly; “I forgive you.”

Yeah-wha–? “What?” I said, eloquently, as my mind broke from its work-related revery. “You forgive me?”

Yeah, for farting on me.” Wha–I?

No way,” I countered. “I farted before you even walked in here, so I guess I’ll have to forgive you for interrupting my private gastric moment.”

Men, acting like he’s never hiked his leg and, shall we say, let one rip while we’re confined in a car in the dead of winter when you don’t want to have to roll the windows down.

Of all the nerve at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

We replaced our front door last weekend, the short, non-holiday weekend. We had planned on it taking two days because of the repairs to water-damaged wood around said entrance. It took three days – with a blanket stapled over the door opening for the two thankfully-good-weather nights we spent sans door.

Even after three days, we only had the door in place – not completely sealed, no trim, no latch and no window.

It also didn’t close really well. The upper corner on the latch side was rubbing hard, but try as we might – and judging by the hellacious arguing involved, we were trying very hard – we couldn’t get the door to sit squarely in our cobbled-together, uneven, exceedingly rough rough-opening. Go figure.

In the end, we decided that this door fit better than the previous door (which we also installed and which also stuck in the same corner. Whatever). I figured I could use a rasp to shave off some of the offending wood.

All troubles aside, after three days we were satisfied we had a real door that blocked the elements and the flies (with many thanks to the makers of plastic sheeting and duct tape for the temporary window, which wasn’t classy but was impervious to flying pests).

Over the week we got the exterior sealant, the door latch and and the window in, and we even did all this before the big storm hit with high winds and driving rain, so there was that saving grace, too. Or it was dumb luck – I’ll take it either way – but I’m still calling it grace.

This weekend, I intended to seal the space between the jamb and studs with spray foam insulation and put up the interior and exterior trim boards. Having a plan was probably ill-advised, the best laid plans being all blah blah blah and making the gods laugh and all.

Turns out I didn’t have white paint for the exterior trim. The holiday weekend prevented purchase of more and my damn guiding morals kept me from breaking into the store, but no big deal, I got the boards primed, and I could spend the rest of the allotted construction time getting the interior just right. Uh-huh. “Lol,” the gods said.

I got the wood shaved down until the door fit well enough, and figured I would finish it after we got done sealing the jamb etc. – on the off chance that things would shift around.

We applied the spray foam insulation, without a huge mess … until it swelled considerably more than we figured, thus making a mess on the pristine door and jamb, both of which would now need to be sanded down and re-primered. And as awesomely crappy as that sounds, it wasn’t as bad as the fact that the foam that squirted out into the open air dried first, creating a seal, but the stuff between the jamb and studs kept swelling just enough that the door got wedged shut.

Aaargh! Let’s just pretend that that is what I said.

So, before the foam completely cured, I used a knife and long screw driver to rip it out. More mess, yes.

However, this is where we get to a cool part of the story, an unprecedented stroke of good fortune. I ripped and tore at the foam only on the latch side until the jamb was free, and before tearing into the other side, I opened and closed the door only to find that it worked smoothly – like a door installed by someone who knows what they’re doing. That smooth.

It was a miracle, and the best kind of miracle: It didn’t come free and clear. There was work and anguish. There will be more work, probably more anguish. It all makes the door working properly seem that much sweeter.

And if “Miracle of the Single-wide Mansion” status doesn’t make you feel good, there’s an entry from the “could’ve been worse” department messaged to me by a friend whose husband manages a ranch south of our place:

“The last hired man (the one that went to jail) redid the door in the trailer they were living in here. He put the door in upside down and then spray-foamed it shut. … [He] had ‘carpenter’ on his resume.”

I still don’t have the trim boards up, but …

hell, yeah, I’ll accept “awesomer by comparison” status at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

Sometimes I love writing my column. This week I wrote about Go Topless Day. Yes, it’s pretty much about what you think it is. And boobs. I got to write “boob” in the newspaper as if it’s a professional term to be wielded with a straight face.

Not only that, but I also found out about this crazy, UFO-based religion, Raelism … which advocates Go Topless Day … because it’s totally logical that women running around topless is intrinsically linked to alien visitation. Extraterrestrials are only coming here for the boobs. Remember that.

I hope the NSA doesn’t catalog my search history.

They’ll be all, like, WTF? at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

Every family has sayings, those bits of wisdom, wit or bafflement drug out to provide color commentary on life’s moments.

The other evening John and I barbecued T-bones and served them up with baked potatoes and salad with cucumber sauce and a side of fresh strawberries. As I settled back in my secondhand chair in my dilapidated little single-wide mansion, I heard my dad’s voice: “Ahhh. I wonder what the poor people are eating tonight?”

Tonight, it’s fajitas at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

Remember when I said this is The Year of Living Give-A-Shitly? It’s still hit and miss, but I do have some successes.

In May I did the 30-Day Ab Challenge and, sure, I had to substitute almost all crunches for the situps because my chiropractor assures me that the best thing to come of me doing sit-ups is that he will be able to make payments on a new pickup truck. Point taken, man. But I really did do 20 sit-ups, 305 crunches, 65 leg raises and 120 seconds of plank in the last exercise session. It was amazingly possible. And, yes, I did feel pretty awesome. Pretty exhausted by Day 30, but awesome, and I had a four-out-of-the-six pack — a huge step up from the pony keg I had been sporting for a while.

June was going to be the month of the 30-Day Booty Challenge, but by Day 12 my thigh muscles had bulked up so much they’d grown out of two pairs of pants. That was bad. Bad, bad, bad. I quit and spent my time doing outside work … and then spent a few weeks of July rehabbing my back, but that’s another story for a day when we’re talking about things other than success. Note to self, though: Just because a full tank of gas in the riding lawn mower lasts three hours, that doesn’t mean I should mow for three straight hours. Weird, right?

Despite the days of handicap, I’ve gotten boat-loads of spraying, mowing and weed-eating done. I’m still behind. We don’t have a functioning tractor this summer and that significantly ups the weed total, and my frustration level. I slog on … whilst trying not to do things in a way that will injure myself, which means, no hyper-focusing allowed. That’s not frustrating at all … ahem, but not all bad things came of the little stint of stupid back rehabbing.

The gist of that story is:

I was standing out in the yard one day, admiring the view, with hands on hips, elbows and shoulders out wide and feet braced shoulder-width apart. Suddenly, I was very aware of my body and I thought this: How long has it been since I stood around in this Wonder Woman pose?

I’m profound like that sometimes.

And, too, it’s actually a really good posture for my back. The posture not only keeps me from slouching, but it also puts me in a very balanced position with my shoulders back and spine stretched erect. I stood like that a lot about a hundred years ago in the days after I first injured my back. It felt good. I don’t know why I stopped doing it so much, other than that I started working indoors more, with lots of people around, and you get bumped a lot when you take up lots of space like that. People just don’t respect the Wonder Woman like they should.

Two days after my profound thought, the universe — through the unlikely conduit of Netflix’s automatically generated suggestion list — recommended I watch a TEDTalk video of a presentation by social psychologist Ann Cuddy on her research into the real value of what she calls the power pose. It’s 21 minutes long, but worth every minute of your time whether you’re a man or woman … or both … or neither. No one’s excluded.

My take away is to stand like Wonder Woman for two minutes every day for a while. We’ll see what comes of it, though if nothing else, my back will appreciate it.

I feel awesomer already at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

John was walking toward me down the hallway of our single-wide mansion and he did a double take look out the window then said with a weird tone: “Come look at this.”

And this is what we saw:

A bullsnake climbing our 6-foot tall fence.

A bullsnake climbing our 6-foot tall fence.

a 5-1/2-foot long bull snake at the top of our 6-foot fence … headed toward the house. Yeah, that’s not freaky at all.

Endlessly fascinated with nature in its boundless creepiness (as well as its beauty and power and blah blah blah, insert your own descriptive here), I recorded as much as possible with my trusty auto-zoom camera … which didn’t always work that great.

Of course, the bull snake wasn’t happy with the audience, so he turned around and headed toward the shop at the other end of the fence line. Like that was going to get rid of me.

It managed to loop back on itself without falling off.

It managed to loop back on itself without falling off.

And, really, I thought this was the coolest thing to see this bull snake maneuvering itself on that thin wire, in perfect balance.

And, really, I thought this was the coolest thing to see this bull snake maneuvering itself on that thin wire, in perfect balance.

When the snake got to the shop, it didn’t lower its head once. It knew what it wanted: Up.

And up it went.

And up it went — about 3 feet up to the top of the roof of John’s shop.

And this series of photos shows the coolest thing that snake did -- redefining upward mobility.

This series of photos shows the actual coolest thing that snake did — redefining upward mobility.

Very little of its body was still pushing from the wire fence.

Very little of its body was still pushing from the wire fence.

Very little of the snake was actually on the roof when it finally let go of the fence. This is just the first of those photos that is actually in focus.

And very little of its body was actually gripping the roof when it finally let go of the fence.

You can almost hear it grunting.

You can almost hear it grunting.

Cool, quiet concentration.

Cool, quiet concentration in the face of hard labor.

This is the view from inside the house, through the window screen. The snake rested here for quite a while.

This is the view from inside the house, through the window screen. The snake rested here for quite a while.

Then the snake headed over the peak of the roof.

Then it headed over the peak of the roof …

to grab hold of the one branch i left within reach of the roof when I was up there trimming tree limbs. the week before.

to grab hold of the one tree limb I left within reach of the roof when I was up there trimming limbs — just the week before. And, yes, I’m glad I had NOT seen this first.

At this point, the bull snake was cleary on a mission.

At this point, the bull snake was clearly on a mission …

snaking its way up the limb. (Pardon the pun.)

snaking its way up the limb. (Pardon the pun.)

If you enlarge the next photo, you might be able to figure out exactly why a snake would climb a tree.

Can you spy with your little eye the foes both lurking in the leaves?

Can you spy with your little eye the two foes lurking among the leaves?

Yes, the bull snake was in the tree to hunt bird nests for a snack of eggs, or perhaps helpless hatchlings. That’s a robin sitting in the tree, softly chirp. chirp. chirp. chirping. Beware the snake in the tree.


Foes clearly marked for the visually challenged.

Foes clearly marked for the visually challenged.

It was trying to lure the snake to the wrong part of the tree. And it worked. At first.

You can't see the robin, but it's luring the snake down the wrong path -- kind of an ironic twist of fate, biblically speaking, and if you've ever seen the Disney cartoon of "Robinhood." Not that those two stories are related, I was just ... what were we talking about?

Here it is again, luring the snake down the wrong path — kind of an ironic twist of fate for the snake, biblically speaking, and if you’ve ever seen the Disney cartoon of “Robinhood.” Not that those two stories are related, I was just … what were we talking about?

Maybe I'll try another limb of this branch of the tree, snake says.

“Maybe I’ll try another limb of this branch of the tree,” snake said.

And he's searching.

And it was searching.

And he's searching ...

And was searching …

and it's searching.

and searching.

Wait a minute, I think that fucking bird has been leading me on, snake said.

And … “Wait a minute,” snake said, “I think that fucking bird has been leading me on.”

Screw you, Red Breast, I'm going down another branch, going with my gut, following my instincts, and there ain't nothing you can do about it.

“Screw you, Red Breast, I’m going down another branch, going with my gut, following my instincts, and there ain’t nothing you can do about it.”

And snake was right. Robin Red Breast's fluttering attack was no deterent for the symbol of evil.

And snake was right. Robin Red Breast’s fluttering attack was no deterrent for the scaly skinned symbol of evil.

And so snake traveled his own road, closely watched by a worried robin.

And so snake travelled its own road, closely watched by a worried robin.

And when that road turned out to be a dead end, snake casually turned around, telling the robin that it had meant to do that.

And when that road turned out to be a dead end, snake casually turned around, telling the robin “I meant to do that.”

Aw, but look how happy it looks to have found a proper "tree branch highway" to more lucrative hunting grounds.

Aw, but look how happy snake looks to have found a proper tree branch “highway” to more lucrative hunting grounds.

And it's whistling a merry tune.

And it whistled a merry tune.

And it's slowing down.

And then it slowed down.

And it's stopping.

And it stopped.

And it's thinking blondie with the camera is a bit freaky and obsession with the picture taking.

And it thought that blondie with the camera looked a bit freaky and obsessive with the picture taking.

Ultimtely, I manage to do what the robin couldn't, scare the snake away. I was not surprised that I had this effect on the snake, I repell humans daily, with less effort. It's a gift.

Ultimately, I managed to do what the robin couldn’t: scare the snake away. I was not surprised that I had this effect on the snake. I repel humans daily, with less effort. It’s a gift.

I left the snake alone for a while, to do the thing its nature was compelling it to do: hunt. eat. hiss in peace. That was altruistic of me, er, um, plus it was time for my own supper so that worked out alright for both of us, though not the robin so much, and for that I’m sorry that Nature is cruel. I’m also thankful that I had chicken fajitas for supper and not robin hatchlings. I hope the chicken wasn’t a cousin, that would be a lot of tragedy for one family in a day.

I did see the snake once more.

It was on a branch known to house a robin nest.

It was on a branch known to house a robin nest.

It looked content.

It looked content.

The robin was nowhere to be found at: pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

I really admire people who keep their house, shop, space of whatever kind, clean. I really do. Those people are my heroes. I wish I were more like them, but every time I think of cleaning my house I think: “Meh … what’s the point? It just gets dirty again.”

I like to think that part of my problem is that my house is old, so even when I clean it, it doesn’t really look clean because it’s so worn. Plus, it’s both little and full of the 20-plus years of accumulation from two people who are into more things than they have time for — along with books and movies. We put everything away, but the first time we take something out, the place looks unkempt again. AND we don’t have a porch, sidewalk or other non-dirt-grass-hay-gravel surface to walk on before coming in the front door, which opens directly into the living room.

I know all of those issues don’t help, but deep down I suspect that even if I had a big, beautiful, new house with a lovely tile walkway leading to front door and mud room where I can dump my cruddy shoes, I’d want a live-in maid because I’d be thinking: “Clean house? Meh … .”

So when a friend said to me about her own house yesterday: ” … not when I have a heap of dirty dishes sitting there, just one or two days’ worth … ,” I didn’t think anything of it. That line just jumped back into my consciousness today, though, and I could’ve cried over the simple, beautiful honesty of it. Of course, I laughed instead.

It has occurred to me that that comment is a good standard by which people can interact with me. If that is something you might say to me, feel free to drop by any time. If not, please call ahead, preferably making an appointment for later in the week.

I don’t love people less because they’re clean; it just makes for a more relaxing time together if they’re not worried about a stack of dirty dishes crashing off the counter, and if I’m not distracted by the crunchy sound of their feet shifting across the gravel on my floor.

If yer feet ain’t stickin’, the floor don’t need cleanin’ at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com


I really should have a category called “TMI” or “Chica! Have some dignity, don’t share everything.” That said, cover your ears and plug up your eyes, cuz you know what’s coming: a crass moment of over sharing.

It sounds like the beginning of joke that ends with a punchline like “So, the doctor says you’re gonna die,” but I’m coming right out to say it: I got this rash [insert laugh track here].

Seriously, a little rash on my face beside my nose. Yes, right there, cuddled up next to the most eye-catching feature of my face. I had the rash once before 7-8 years ago and–of course–just threw out the really expensive tube of antibiotic I had to use for it way back when. The antibiotic only came in a roughly one-gelatinous-pound tube that cost about a third of a paycheck, and then I only had to use one micro-smidgen of it to rid myself of the face oogy, so my big investment just sat there on the shelf, deteriorating way past its warranty. That’s when I tossed it … and two months later is when I needed it again. Damn you, Irony.

Anyway, just like last time, I rushed right in to the emergency room … in a pink tutu singing the star spangled banner while I juggled three plates with my feet. Get real.

I decided to work on fixing it myself (and stick with me here because you do not know where this is going).

I tried washing the speck of rash thoroughly three times a day. It got a little worse.

Tried over-the-counter anti-biotic for a few days. Got worse.

Thought about it maybe being a bacterial imbalance issue (don’t ask me why I went there, you really don’t want that information), so I tried ph neutralizing with a saline rinse. Kept progressing.

And a boric acid rinse. Ditto. (I’m telling you, do not ask me how I know these things.)

And then ph changing with bigger guns: vinegar. Got much worse (wups).

Now with the reddish, bumpy patch about the area of a dime–with disturbing hints of the larger-patch-to-be, I decided to screw the ph angle and try fighting bad bacteria with good bacteria, so (and don’t judge me) I dabbed a few grains of acidophilus on the area. Of course, it got w–wait a minute, it got better.

It got better? Yes, it got better! Now don’t that beat all.

The only obvious course of action, then, was to really slather that stuff on there. The problem was, though, that for this remedy to work I needed to slather a powdery white substance around my nose. And leave it there.

I looked like I’d taken a header into someone’s heaping stash of cocaine. Not really a daytime look. Y’know?

So there I was, every night for a few weeks, quietly, nonchalantly, kind of sneakily, going to bed after John with a large swath of my face slathered down with a white slurry of acidophilus.

It was not pretty. I did not feel sexy. But the rash made me feel the same way too, with some of those “oh, hell, don’t touch me there” overtones.

Though I am healed by the magical powers of acidophilus powder, I am not a doctor and this is way off label use of this product–plus, it is not recommended for use by anyone who is having a new friend of the expecting-sex nature over for a sleepover, or anyone who would like to meet that kind of friend during the treatment period–so I’ll just say, do not use this to fix anything, even acne.

I will just throw this out there into the wind:  If anyone knows someone with one of those swanky spas where they do seaweed wraps and mud baths, tell them they’re missing out on this: acidophilus slurry soaks. I would totally pay someone to let me soak in a tub of this stuff.

Y’know, if it was fresh at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

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