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adventures in adulthood

adventures in adulthood

Axe Hoarder

My long game is genius.  


It all began a year and a half ago when we moved into our new house.  You see, I love to garden and grow edibles.  There is something magical about going out into your own backyard to harvest dinner.


It’s also sort of a Hansen thing.  My Mama Addie sacrificed lawn space along her driveway to sow precious seeds.  My parents have always had a garden.  I don’t ever remember coming in for lunch in the summers.  We grazed along the bean poles and climbed high in our huge cherry tree to get the ripest berries.  I’m sure my mom bribed us to come in for PB&J sandwiches so we wouldn’t break our necks, but it’s nostalgia, I can remember whatever I want to remember, so there.


My parents now have what you could classify as a small family farm.  Fruit trees and berry bushes are fenced off to keep those rascally deer away.  They live on a hill and don’t have any flat space so my dad poured cement steps into the side of a hill to create ample growing space.  Whenever we visit in the summer, we go home with a trunkload of veggies.  Like I said, magical.


As soon as we moved into our home, I bought a composter right away.  For the last 18 months I meticulously saved all compostable material.  Sometimes this meant scooping things out of the garbage and yelling at the rule breaker who was wasting precious dirt making material.  Composting is not easy.  It also makes you a slightly crazy hippie.


The first fall we lived here, we took out 13 trees because gardens need light and also, I don’t want to live in a tropical rainforest.  My skin needs that vitamin D and so do those veggies (Do they?  I think they need the sun for photosynthesis but is it vitamin D too?  I don’t know and I’m too lazy to google right now.)


The next step took us all last Summer.  The people that lived here before us apparently loved a good plant sale and deposited their bargain hunting finds into every single inch of dirt space.  We ripped everything out of the back garden because most of it was overgrown and untamed.  Plus, it just seemed easier to start with a blank slate.  I’m sure there were beautiful flowers back there but I’m not a flower expert so it all had to go.  


My goal for last Fall was to get the raised beds built and filled so all we would be responsible for this Spring was planting.  This obviously did not happen because procrastination also lives in our house with us.  That and we discovered so many addicting shows to binge watch.  Game of Thrones and Dr. Who are higher on the list, sorry garden.  Also the issue of an enormous ant hill took us weeks to overcome.  Life can’t always go as you plan, am I right?


All of this long game took me to yesterday.  Tim and I built the beds on the weekend and put them back into the garden.  Then we saw the problem.  The beds sat all wonky and uneven and looked like complete trash.  We may suffer from extreme procrastination, but we will not tolerate un-level, un-precise crap  We decided then that a tiller was necessary so I happily jaunted off to Home Depot to rent one.  Secretly, I was psyched to wield this dangerous power tool.  That, of course, didn’t stop me from groaning and complaining about the hassle of picking it up and all the hard work it would schedule.  Tim rolled his eyes.  He saw through my facade and told me to have fun as he drove off to work.  He knew I would.  I did.  And it was AAAAAAAwesome!


My first roadblock of the day presented itself as a huge stump the tiller could not attack.  I needed to go back to Home Depot for the big guns.  And by big guns, I mean an axe.  I needed to hack that stump into the depths of hell if my garden beds had any chance of laying level.  Nobody wants crooked garden beds.  That axe was necessary.


So I drove back to my beloved Home Depot.  I knew exactly the aisle I needed because six months previously I had wandered the entire store looking for a “weed popper.”  Tim’s dad helped us with our sprinkler system and with ripping out the back garden.  We first encountered that evil ant hill then so he sent me to the store to get a remedy, oh and also he said we needed a “weed popper.”  I had no idea that this was not the official term.  I guess the Pell family has their own language.  “Herkin” is included in their familial language too and I’d never heard of that one before either.  I deduced it to be an adjective, being the synonym of enormous, but I digress.  After getting several confused looks from the store employees, I finally figured out that a “weed popper” was a tool that gets dandelions out of your lawn.  I still don’t know what the official name for that is because I am a Pell and those things are weed poppers. Forever and ever, amen.


My hunt for the weed popper gave me a thorough knowledge of the store layout.  I also remembered that shovels and axes lived in the same aisle as weed poppers, a few blocks away from the ant killer granules.  So when I walked into the store yesterday, I didn’t even need to pause for my eyes to adjust to the inside light.  I gave the nice greeter/front door helper/enabler a smile.  My strut said, “Nope, don’t need your guidance.  I know exactly where I am going.  I am going to the freaking axe aisle because I am going to axe some shit up when I get home.  And I know how, too.  I know everything there is to know about axes. Axe Expert is on my business card.”


Confidence oozed out of my pores.  I began to glisten with badassery.


I sharply pivoted down what turned out to be the wrong aisle.  I was one off, so sue me.  To cover for my error and to maintain an unruffled pace, I continued down that lawn mower aisle and took the back way to the axe home.


My self-assuredness waned when I saw there were 50 different axe options.  Do I want a wood handle (hickory or cedar)or a fiberglass?  Straight or curved grip?  Double or single bit?  I mentally crossed off the 500 pound titanium axe because it was out of my price range and I needed to work out a few more months in the gym before that purchase seemed prudent.  Luckily, nobody witnessed my hemming and hawing.  (I know, because I side glanced enough times to make sure.)  So I grabbed the best one, a 3.5 pound single bit with a straight, fiberglass handle, and headed to the cashier.


Nobody tells you what carrying an axe does for your self confidence.  


Let me pause for a second for some necessary history.  Previously, I’d been having a rough couple weeks.  One hour I would be up then I spend the next day and a half, down.  Sleepy, irritable and fuzzy had been the default, even when a reprieve would enter in for a few hours.  My average demeaner slipped into a dimmer level each progressing day.  I did not see any light at the end of the of the stuffy, dark tunnel, until I picked up that axe.


As I walked to the front of the store, I gripped my shiny new tool down at my side.  (Don’t worry, I didn’t throw it over my shoulder like a lumberjack, I’m not a total idiot.)  I pride marched past a few other customers straight to the self-checkout lane.  (Self checkout lanes were made for people like me.  If I don’t have to talk to anybody extra, I will always choose that option.)  I was a little tempted to flaunt my purchase to the cashier and other customers in line, but I know my weaknesses.  And one of them is oversharing. In this instance, I would have probably explained my entire store experience, long game gardening plan AND axe knowledge incompetency so I chose to remain aloof.  I had to keep up appearances.


And so then I drove home to hack shit up like a total badass.  


Nevermind the fact that I realized halfway through my stump slicing that my axe was dull.  Do you even have to sharpen these things when they are new?  They must be like knives right?  You don’t have to sharpen razor blades when you pull them out of the box.  (I just googled it.  Yep, I should have picked up a file and other sharpening tools.  This explains all the trouble I had with that offensive stump.  Apparently, my prized tool was “dangerous and ineffective” but whatever, we are losing focus.)


This whole experience made me realize I may become an axe hoarder.  Whenever I’m feeling down, or fudgy, or if I feel fat, or if I’m questioning my parenting strategies or life accomplishments, etc., all I need to do to feel better is to march down the axe aisle and make a purchase.  That will bring back to the light for sure.  But what am I going to do with all those axes?  Do you think there is a Pinterest page for axe art?  Maybe I can make an axe wreath.  Or incorporate some wood palettes to make an axe rocking chair or an axe fountain.  The possibilities are endless. Also,  I am not a waster so I will definitely find ways to make all these new axes useful.  Please don’t judge me when you go through my belongings after I’m old and gray and have died.  Just think of my collection of four million axes as my gift to you.  Really, I’m just bestowing badassery onto you.  You’re welcome.


Still high on my axe purchase, I went grocery shopping at Costco.  I don’t even need to tell you how bad this combination is.  Included in my brimming cart: the 6 things on my list, plus 27 more packages of “family size” snacks, and a 15lb bag of lemons.  


What the eff am I going to do with all those lemons?  I don’t even know, nor do I care right now.  One thing I do know, is that I am in no way making homemade lemonade.  I’ve tried that already and it’s hard.  Maybe I’ll just put them on display in a pretty bowl so when visitors come they will realize I am actually an adult.  Okay – let’s be real – we hardly ever have visitors beside the neighborhood kids, but at least those hooligans will have a renewed respect for me.  A bowl of fresh lemons is a magic elixir.  So is buying an axe.  

Moral of the story: Do what you gotta do to get your badassery back, even if it means hacking up fresh lemons with a new, dull axe.

Axe Hoarder 3


Axe Hoarder 2

Nailed it. Or axed it, whichever you prefer.


adventures in adulthood, parenting

The Numbering System

Dear Boys,


Dad and I have a confession to make.  We’ve numbered your gifts this year.  Yes, as in we have predetermined what gift you will open first, second, third, etc.  We loved doing this so much, it will most likely happen every year after this one.  Sorry, not sorry.  Dad and I fully know that this is neurotic and some day you may be telling your therapist about our obsessive-compulsivity to order and control.  At the very least, you will probably be sitting around a table in a bar with your buddies, exchanging stories about how weird your parents were and how they completely traumatized you on your childhood Christmases.  You’re welcome for the hilarious conversation material.  Your friends will love your endearing, broken selves more as a result.  Like I said before, you are welcome.  


It will be a few years yet before you realize that most other parents just let their kids open up gifts all willy nilly, in any old order.  Ridiculous and unsavory, those other parents.


Just so you know, Dad and I did have a 20 minute conversation where we considered the pros and cons of the numbering system.  But Dad had already created a Christmas spreadsheet to track the financials and to make sure the presents equaled up between the two of you in money, size and number terms.  I had already gone to Costco and bought a lifetime supply of the same exact wrapping paper because there cannot be presents under our tree with different prints or varied colored wrappers.  Uniformity is close to holiness for me.  Dad agrees.  And of course, there is the issue of some presents needing to be opened before others because one gift will give away another.  See? We had already jumped into this OCD cavern.  There was no use in pretending our heads stuck out breathing normalized air.  We were in deep and the darkness welcomed us.


The only con in our discussion being the issue of traumatizing you, which really, we already knew was going to happen, numbering system or not.  So the predetermined present order won out.  And I have to tell you, it was so much fun.  Cue: maniacal laughing.  There were numerous things to consider.  We wanted to start out with an exciting present, mix in the boring stuff like clothes and underwear and toothbrushes.  We thought about your reaction to receiving each one and we couldn’t lose your attention with the opening of socks so we mixed in the fun items.  Of course, like the crescendo at the end of a song, we saved the best gift for last.  That one labeled with the final number.  We split apart certain gifts so we would have more to wrap and you would have more to open.  Christmas morning needs to last as long as possible.


Back in the day, Dad used to make me artful and sentimental mixed cds.  I know you don’t know what these are, but stay with me here; they were kind of like creating a playlist on Spotify, but instead you burned them onto this round plastic thing that you put into your car’s cd player.  Well, not burned in the sense you think of, well, nevermind, this example is horrible.  All of a sudden I’m realizing your mixed cd schema is nonexistent so I am going to have to ditch this description, sorry.  Just know that Dad has a lot of practice putting the exact right order to things.  You don’t put all the upbeat songs all clumped together.  You have to mix in the slower, ballad-y ones.  It’s good for your psyche, just trust me.  He was a master at these magical mixed cds and now we have used these skills to create the best possible order for your presents.  


So boys, please consider the bigger picture here.  I know that you are flipping out with excitement right now.  Counting down the days and setting your alarm for 4 a.m. on the Big Morning.  I know you are excited to rip into these carefully numbered packages, but hang on for a second.  Dad and my neuroticism is a prime exhibit of the saying, “It’s better to give, than to receive.”  Really, it is.  You may not understand this until you have kids though, or at least when you are in the position to give to someone whom you love more than the entire world.  Someone with no means to give anything back to you.  That’s where the real joy comes in.  


Dad and I scoured the Amazon reviews and looked into all corners of the internet, in order to make sure each gift was perfect for you.  We recorded each of these onto a spreadsheet, then wrapped them in monochromatic wrapping paper and labeled them lovingly with numbers.  All of this because we receive so much joy out of giving you these gems.  We want to stall in this moment of giving so we extend the process with spreadsheets and labels and numbers.  Think of your excitement level right now, then multiply it by a million, or a billion.  That number doesn’t even come close to our level; it’s like an ant crawling around on a hillside of apatasauruses.  I don’t know if you’ll fully understand our weirdness and that’s okay.  I just hope you’ll come to discover that the pure joy is found not when you fill up with things, but when you empty out for someone else.  And when you find that moment, sit there a while.  Enjoy it, even if it means processing it through spreadsheets.


Receiving gifts is great fun, but giving them, oh my gosh, so much better.  Especially when you add in order and control with a side of crazy.

Love, Mom

adventures in adulthood, Tim

Healthy Messes

Tim and I embarked on a new health adventure.  We have been attempting to add weight lifting into our workout routine.  Now, while I am quite proud of the fact that we have stuck to this for more than two weeks in a row, we are definitely the people who the Gym Rats talk about with their buddies at Happy Hour.  Of course, this is where they drink healthy smoothies that are a funky green color instead of beer, which might actually be called Sad Hour.  We are the weird ones giving certain machines confused looks and staring at our phones while googling “how to do a hammer strength lat pull.”  

More than once we had to humble ourselves and ask for help.  Of course we vetted our prospective teachers by how ripped they appeared.  One of our educators was a smiley lady in her late 40’s.  She regularly does these crazy moves like standing on a dumbbell and balancing, while lifting another weight.  Normally I would conclude that she was probably as confounded as we were, but she had muscles in her legs I never even knew existed.  She had to know what she was doing.  After talking with her a little bit, I found out that she even followed some of the same trainers we follow online.  Muscles? Check.  Gleaning techniques from reputable websites?  Check.  Nice and probably won’t laugh at us?  Check.  She made the cut and we got to ask her about the perfect form for a dead lift.

At one point, I even had a nice older gentlemen come up to me to give unheeded advice.  He told me to widen my stance, “because you’ll get a lot more out of the reps that way.”  Basically, he meant to say, “I’m really sorry you don’t know anything about lifting weights and you look completely ridiculous.  I’ll try to help prevent you from looking like a bona fide idiot, but there’s not much that can be done with your muck.” Instead, he was nice about it.  I was grateful.

This brings me to another point.  Did you know that going to the gym is some sort of secret society?  I didn’t before, but now I’m sure of it.  There is even a secret language, with words like sets, skullcrusher, Smith machine, reps, and so many other things that sound entirely foreign.  In a few months, I’ll probably be able to put down “speaks a second language” on my resume.  

Since we live in a small town, we end up running into people we know lifting heavy things up and putting them down.  We see our neighbors in the weight room, parents who have kids in our kids’ classes frequent the space and we even see some of the same faces at the grocery store.  I’m on the PTSA board with another mom who has the most fantastic delts, biceps and triceps.  I try to spy on her workouts because she must be doing everything right with those arms of hers.  Don’t worry, I don’t stare too much and it’s not THAT weird because I actually know her and talk to her.  On second thought, I might be weird, but she still associates with me. For now at least.  If we are both done with the workout at the same time, we sometimes sit and chat for a few minutes and drink the really bad coffee they serve at the front desk.  The unfortunate part about actually knowing people at the gym is I have to attempt to comb my hair and try not to wear the same smelly shirt three days in a row.  

Tim and I bumble about, but dangit we are determined.  We may or may not have pipe dreams of getting totally jacked, but that would require eliminating our weekly cheat meal that usually turns in to four full days of cheat eating.  We can’t all be perfect.

We may have gone a little beyond our limit because this morning Tim rolled out of bed and whimpered, “Oh, Babe, I think you are going to have to check out my groin.”



“…Wait, are you serious?  You aren’t talking about…”  I was half thinking this was some new form of wooing he was trying out.

“No, Babe, get your mind out of the gutter, I think I have a hernia.”

I spent half the morning googling “symptoms of a hernia.”  After the forty-ninth site, okay, I only looked at two, the light-headedness came and I could feel myself starting to black out.  I threw the computer over to Tim and told him to do his own damn research.  I could not handle this information anymore.  WebMd is not for the weary.

I got some fresh air, uninhibited by medical terms and internal anatomy vocab.  My blood pressure regained some oomph, but I still had my head between my legs, praying my knees wouldn’t buckle when I got up.  I was still immobile when I heard Tim frantically yell from the upstairs bathroom, “Babe!  Come here.  I NEED YOU.”  

I had regained five percent of my composure so I snapped back into the doting nurse wife, but as I bounded up the stairs, my pace slowed.  There was the potential I could be walking into a bathroom with Tim knee-deep in blood and guts.  I imagined gooey red stuff all over the floor and counters, pouring out of unknown wounds.  Internal organs half in Tim’s body and half out.  I could not deal with that.  Someone more qualified, and less faint needed to be here, but I was the only other adult around.  I was his only hope for survival.  So I sucked up my queasiness and continued into the horror scene that was our bathroom.

I tiptoed around the corner and peered in.  A breath of relief deflated my body.  No blood, no organs slipping down the walls.  Tim would live.  Thank.  The.  Lord.  His face, however told a different story.  Drenched in panic and fear, he sat there trying to feel around for parts of his intestines bulging out of his groin/abdominal area.  “I can’t even figure out where it is!!  This is where my hernia was last time, but now the pain is here AND here.  AND HERE!  What if it’s a tumor?  Or cancer.  What am I going to do?  That is it, I’m done.  I am going to die!  I DON”T WANT TO EFFING DIE YET.”

Half listening to his rant, my mind shifted to all the possible diagnoses.  I began to picture punctured spleens and severed livers.  The stars came back, my knees weakened and a cold sweat erupted over my entire body.  My vision clouded as I lay down on the unbloodied floor with my feet up in the air.  Deep breaths, focus, stay conscious!

Please stop right now to imagine the picture.  

My husband, injured and in pain, trying to diagnose himself and thoroughly freaking out.  He’s throwing around terms like surgery, tumors and DEATH.  He can’t figure out exactly where the pain is or where on his body he should be investigating.  Reason and logic have died slow deaths and withered down the bathtub drain.  I can’t hear even him anymore because my skin has turned pallid and gray.  I am sprawled out on the linoleum, propping my feet up on the bathtub.  I incoherently mutter and try to avoid another fainting accident.  That is just one more thing we can’t afford to add to this glorious scene.  I was a mess, Tim was losing his mind.  When were the adults coming to help us?  

We were an absolute freaking jumble.  I don’t think there is help for us.  Ever.

So, obviously, we did not show our faces at the gym today.  Both of us managed to regain some sort of composure.  A miracle, I know. Tim called his doctor and we are hoping an actual grownup educated in a medical school will diagnose it as just a pulled muscle and not a weird thing bulging out of a place it should not.  It’s probably a good thing we are not medically responsible for anyone because that would mean me laying in a corner passed out and Tim spouting off random fatal discoveries.


This going to the gym thing sure is scary.  And really, quite gruesome.  Be careful out there.