Pollen & freckles – it must be Spring

The tension is palpable. Can you feel it? Settling down over us like a suffocating canopy of goo.

I’m talking about pine pollen.

Every year those giant telephone poles that surround my hearth and home, get together to plot this revolution. Boasting an impressive and nearly unlimited arsenal of tiny, green allergy bombs, they quietly gather strength and then…Pow! Explode with menacing force.

This is a familiar concept for me.

No. Not because I’m a military brat. No. Not because the Ft. Bragg re-landscaping committee regularly rattles my windows and glassware.

I understand the sudden emergence of a powerful enemy invasion because I am a redhead.

To be more concise, I am a redhead with freckles.

Like those complacent trees, my pert nose and shoulders, arms and legs – actually every exposed body part – bides its time through the slumbering winter. Contained by wool sweaters and zero milligrams of natural Vitamin D, my raging case of summer spots fades away like a beautiful sunset.

I may not be the tallest or the shortest gal in town. I’m surely not the richest or the poorest, or the most talented chick on the block.

But I guarantee you that I hold the unofficial land speed record for the fastest freckles.

Give me ten minutes in broad daylight and I’ll score a solid 10,000 hits of pure concentrated melanin magic. Give me ten hours of prolonged exposure and my personal points of light easily rival Carl Sagan’s starry universe – that is, billions upon billions.

Unfortunately along with a propensity for spots, I inherited the strong geek gene that runs strong in my family and do nerdy things, like quote Sagan. I also opted for a minor in biology during my college years . In itself this didn’t seem like such a bad decision but through that pursuit I amassed a mental library of all manner of unsavory botanical and bodily functions.

To wit, freckles are actually physical evidence of a life and death battle at the cellular level to protect its fragile DNA contents from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

Picture a tiny beach umbrella shading a microscopic nucleic picnic basket. And you just thought they were cute.

In an ostentatious display of consolidated power, the pine pollen horde has absolutely nothing over this freckled redhead.

Laura Douglass writes for the Seven Lakes Times where this column originally appeared.

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It’s good to be green

It’s feeling like a yellow kind of day.

You know, reasonably calm with a tolerable risk factor. Safe enough to venture out for groceries but probably not a particularly good morning for an intrusive TSA pat down.

But I’m in the minority on this whole color-coded threat level thing. According to critics, the federal government developed an alert program that was vague and easily manipulated for political gain. Really? Umm….How surprising?

So while the policy wonks are busy plotting out a new and improved way to scare everyone – but the actual terrorists – with another equally corruptible source of ambiguous information, I’m feeling kind of yellow because I think they were on to something there.

Walt Disney told me so.

Okay, so it wasn’t the man himself, cryogenically speaking, but his minions at Mission: Space.

One of Epcot’s newer attractions down in Orlando, this centrifugal-based thrill ride is so wild they had to opt in a two-toned system of delivery. Orange or green: it’s up to you.

Queuing up in the orange line will guarantee a stomach-churning 2.5G moon landing adventure while less hardy souls, like me, enjoy a similar experience and get to keep their lunch too. Think I’m exaggerating? Name another amusement park ride that includes its own permanent and not-so-discrete barf bag dispenser?

Yep, you called it: I kept one as a souvenir – unfilled, of course.   

But I say kudos to old Walt because ‘green versus orange’ is genius.

Imagine the possibilities? Green and orange highway lanes, green and orange restaurant menus, green and orange television shows?

It would also be great for marital harmony.

Arriving home Darling Hubby sees a green flag flying and knows the kids have finished their homework, the dog is pre-walked, and dinner is on the table. I’m guessing that green flag will last for many years from disuse.

Instead, arriving home to a tattered orange flag flying, he would intuitively take the only safe course of action. “Honey, have I told you lately how beautiful you look in those bunny slippers? So, where should we go for dinner, dear?”

And green versus orange would be useful in social settings. Like a grown-up version of the Red Light Green Light game, or perhaps a giant mood ring [that isn’t stuck on mottled blue-ish black all the time], our daily choice of attire could offer fair warning.

Actually, yellow really isn’t on my color wheel anyway. Hello, green!

Laura Douglass writes for the Seven Lakes Times where this column originally appeared.

Dog in – cat out: just another day manning the front door

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, there lived a beautiful princess. Each night she would fluff her pillow and close her eyes, content that a full eight hours of blissful slumber was just a quiet breath away.

Alright, so maybe beautiful is bit of a stretch. But the rest is true – well, except for that princess part.

And while our fair princess….err, maiden did find her knight in shining armor and is busy living happily after all – her beauty sleep has faltered and unraveled like an old spool of thread.

Sharing a castle with a king, two kids, three cats and one questionably-bred ‘Labrador underachiever,’ you can understand why fitful has replaced blissful and my quiet repose to snoring tempos.

10:00 pm: I announce last call at the door. You see, manning the door is my actual fulltime occupation; this journalism slash mothering-thing is just a sideline.

A typical mammal exchange occurs as the dog takes flight down the steps, one kitty comes in, one goes out and the third stands fast on the threshold. I wait for some discernible sway either for or aft but she rewards my patience by simply squatting down: immoveable, sphinx-style.

Some people have lion statuary to impress guests at their door: I have rotund unemployed housecats.

11:00 pm: Bedtime or, rather, lay down and stare at the ceiling time commences.

12:00 am: I finally drift off and sleep like a baby. You know, I wake up every two hours.

2:00 am: A gentle nudge breaks up my reverie – and, apparently, my propensity to snore. Blearily I roll over and squelch a desire to reciprocate Darling Hubby’s tender touch with a punch.

3:00 am: Nudge, rinse repeat.

4:00 am: Nudge, rinse repeat.

6:00 am: No alarm is necessary. The sun is up and so are the critters.

Meow, meow. Lick, scratch. MEOW!

Allow me to translate, “Are you awake? Look, it’s morning! I guess I’ll get started fixing my fur. Hey, since you’re up now, how about making me breakfast?”

If I could sleep through ten hours of perfectly good daylight every day, maybe I’d be a morning person too.

Eyes still closed, I stumble off to another hard day at the office – open the door, close the door. Dog in, dog out. Cat in, cat out, cat confused.

I need a raise.

Laura Douglass writes for the Seven Lakes Times  where this column originally appeared.

Battling the Red Menace

For a furry red monster, Elmo sure has been busy.

First his duet with a not-so-modestly clad pop princess was pulled off the air. According to the songbird’s hubby, Elmo’s World was not brought to you by the letter D or the number 34.

Clearly annoyed at being censored, Elmo dodged the press and headed south to Florida to blow off a little steam. Dropping by a local guitar shop, things only got worse for America’s favorite three-year-old when he was attacked by a not-so-balanced fellow customer.

Throwing down his white gloves, Elmo busted open a can of Muppet-style whoop ass and sent his hapless harasser to the hospital. Coming to a store near you this Christmas season, the toy everyone will be talking about, ‘Tackle Me Elmo.’

Lucky for me, I have a good relationship with the fuzzy guy: except for that one bad episode.

‘Twas the night before a normal day in a regular week in a typical year in the Douglass domicile. The tikes were tucked in tight and all was quiet and dark.

2:00 am – Mmrrr, hummmm, bip. Mmrr, hummmm, bip.

I give! Tossing covers aside and ranting like a mad woman under my breath, I staggered off to investigate. Nope, it wasn’t the kids, the cats, the dog, or Darling Hubby making the strange noises.

Cautiously I made my way down the hall and waded into the primary-colored plastic jungle that had once been a living room. On my hands and knees amid the clutter, I finally found the source.

Face-to-face with a boggle-eyed beast, I was shocked by his deep and menacing voice, calling out ever…so…slowly.

“Dooo yooouu waaannnt too plaaaaay wiiith Eellllmmoo?”

Stricken with terror [yes, I’ve seen way too many slasher films], I froze. It’s embarrassing to admit but I really was scared for a second. Since when did Elmo slip from a helium-high giggle to a baritone range growl?

Gaining my composure, I considered whether a ritual exorcism was warranted. But we were running low on garlic and holy water that week – and it was the middle of the night – so instead I snatched the offending puffball by one leg and quickly emptied his battery compartment.

Man vs Elmo? Muppet wins.

Mom vs. Elmo? No contest!

La-la, la-la

La-la, la-la

Mommy’s World

Mommy loves her beauty sleep and her pillow too. That’s why Elmo’s through.

Laura Douglass writes for the Seven Lakes Times where this column originally appeared.

Emu on the lam

Sometimes I’ll go an entire day and nothing remarkable will happen. Zip, zero, zilch. And another day an emu will show up in the yard.

Okay, you got me. That only happened once.

A known softie and none-to-proud owner of about three pets too many, I was a bit skeptical: especially since I just recently resigned as ‘patron saint of homeless animals in need of veterinary attention,’ in favor of my new role, ‘chief executive goddess of the food bowl.’

My first instinct was that my neighbor was pulling my leg, trying to put one over the press. After all, I’m educated. I know about natural emu migration patterns [read: there aren’t any].

A llama on the loose? That I would have believed. A ferret on the fly, sure, it could happen. But an emu?

Here in the Sandhills we’ve got plenty of woods out back but this isn’t exactly The Outback. There may be steaks on the barbie and coldies in the fridge but this isn’t the bush. And at the Douglass station, we have a Jackaroo but no joeys, a bitzer but no dingoes.

So I was quite shocked to find myself nose-to-beak with this odd Australian interloper.

Massive and tragically unattractive, the head-high creature was more velociraptor than raven. Perched on bony stilts, he delicately picked his way across pine straw and gravel, concealing an uncanny ability to spin and outrun just about anything else afoot – man or beast.

Have you ever seen a dinosaur walk? I haven’t either. And neither has any paleontologist worth his pedigree so when those lofty PhDs study fossilized tracks, they look to the humble three-toed emu for inspiration. Seriously, it’s not hard to see the resemblance. Pop in a few banana-size teeth, tack on a reptilian tale and lose a few feathers, deposit a bigger brain –nah, you can probably skip that – and you’ve got emusaurus Seven Lakus.

After visiting with the impromptu block party, our camera-shy new neighbor ambled deep into the woods when the television news arrived – I guess he wasn’t ready for his close up. Farewell, my friend.

Laura Douglass writes for the Seven Lakes Times where this column originally appeared.

And the wall came tumbling down

A consummate professional, I’ve spent the morning working from my home office in standard business attire: barefoot.

So it’s not exactly the sensible pumps of my feminist forbearers but the dog doesn’t seem to mind – or the cat on my lap, for that matter. It’s just another routine day in front of the flickering screen on my journey to carpal tunnel city. But my view has changed. Today I can see my refrigerator!

No, that’s wrong. What I actually see is a sea of magnets battening down a colorful plethora of snips of paper with artistic renderings of armed stick people, courtesy of the pirate, and gooey, glittery homemade cards, courtesy of the princess. Somewhere hiding stealth underneath this mishmash of parental pride hums the fridge.

Not that I’m complaining. A week ago my desk overlooked a blank wall.

Remember the scene in Fried Green Tomatoes when Evelyn took a sledgehammer to her wall? All the while yelling to her gobsmacked husband that she couldn’t breathe and that what the house needed was more air. It was kind of like that.

Well, not really.

I decided to knock a hole in my house too, I just didn’t get to do the deed personally: Harry did it. He built my house twenty years ago, so who better to tear it down I figured? Or at least an eight-foot load-bearing part of it anyway.

Like Evelyn, now I can breathe. And see my fridge, it turns out, from my desk – that being the slab of wood which occasionally serves its less than primary purpose as a dining room table.

Unfortunately this little renovation project also means my in-box is full of drywall dust and the remaining walls could double as spackled paintball targets, which are actually an improvement over my cabinetry. Like my totally tubular Valley Girl impersonation and the Lover Boy cassette stashed in the Mommy-van, these Almond Joy-colored euro gems are straight out of the 80’s.

But I have a plan.        

Once Harry sands and seams what’s left of the wall, I have rustic Quaker-style cabinet doors set in timeless maple on the way, courtesy of Carey.

Of course, you know what this means? It’ll be ‘hari kari’ in the Douglass kitchen for awhile. Guess I’d better order takeout – again.

Laura Douglass writes for the Seven Lakes Times where this column originally appeared.

Cat days of summer?

While enjoying a cup of afternoon tea and contemplating the three fur rugs splayed across my sunny, front porch, I can’t help but recall a line from the movie, Biloxi Blues.

“It’s like Africa hot. Tarzan couldn’t take this kind of hot.”

Neither can felines, apparently. With their preternaturally flexible spines curved into Yogi-master positions and twelve paws outstretched to catch any feeble breeze, dog days these are surely not. In fact, said resident dog, blessed with a few more chromosomes and at least a passing nod to intentional breeding, is smart enough to stay indoors. Honing her God-given talent as chief shedder-in-residence, Biscuit carefully circles around, drops, and sculpts her body pancake flat for maximum cool tile exposure. Hours are spent in this fashion: utterly inert.

So here we are on day four or maybe its day five of our sweltering heat wave, I’m staring at my lifeless pets and can’t help but wonder how my newest neighbor is fairing. A lovely sixteen-year old English rose visiting for the next few weeks, I can only assume she has wilted and is busily plotting her hasty escape back to foggy London.

You see, I have the good fortune of having Brits next door. Good beer and hot curries are the norm on this end of the block but the best part is the slew of slang from across the pond. Those aren’t cats, they’re mogs. Instead of backsides, my kids have bums: in place of friends, they have mates. And the pirate and the princess don’t play in the yard anymore, now they ask to go out “in the garden.”

Darling Hubby has found he’s partial to English cursing – which is an elevated art form unto itself – but I’m rather fond of those lovely tidbits, right and fancy. As in ‘Right, so you fancy a pint at Dugans?’ And since it was ninety and nearly the Fourth of July, it seemed only proper that I put down my tea, step over the moggies, add petrol to the Mommy-van, and head out with my English neighbors to raise a toast to independence in an Irish pub in an American town modeled after a Scottish village. Cheers!

Laura Douglass writes for the Seven Lakes Times  where this column originally appeared.