Southern Inhospitality

The struggle of being a former New Yorker/Washingtonian/Arizonan in an excessively friendly southern state is all too real.

One of the hardest things about being a transplant in the south is the challenging adjustment of having to talk to people.

Especially extraordinarily friendly people, because they make me feel like a sorry excuse of an ill-mannered human being.

For someone naturally reserved, such unexpected conversations with enthusiastic random strangers can be grounds for a full-blown anxiety attack.

On an exceptionally good day, I can plaster on my most natural fake smile.

Then I cross my fingers, in hopes that my face won’t actually freeze that way.

Especially if I am unintentionally bearing teeth.

When I’m out walking around my neighborhood and people go beyond the perfunctory wave and vocalize their greeting, or worse, initiate a conversation?

What am I supposed to do then?

The obvious answer, of course, is to make a run for it.

I go outside to throw away the trash in my pjs in broad daylight and the neighbor twelve houses down to the left with the terrifying horse-sized Scottish Deerhound smiles and starts waving a little too enthusiastically.

My typical instinct is to discreetly crouch down and scuttle away like the stealthy ninja that I am.

Suddenly, my brain is rapidly firing off panic signals.

Crap! You made eye contact! What were you thinking?

“How ya doing? Nice day out, don’t ya think?”

Great. Now the neighbor wants to make conversation while you’re standing outside like a fool in your Hello Kitty pajamas!

“A shame about that field being plowed down for another housing development, ain’t it? Where all them cows gonna go now?”

Might as well be standing outside naked. Maybe that’d be less awkward.

Must. Get. Out.

Quick! Excuse yourself! Get out of there NOW!

The last time I had been caught off guard by a neighbor, I managed to back out of there after a record time of 1 minute and 28 seconds.

By pleading a bathroom emergency.

Classy, I know.

But it was the best I could do after my overactive brain presented the pitiful excuse on a silver platter.

Yet once again, my brain is tasked with conjuring up “logical” excuses while my neighbor continues on with his riveting monologue about cows.

I’ve narrowed down my choices.

I have to go because:

a) Dinner is almost ready, and I need to go turn the oven off

b) The house is now on fire because dinner has been in the oven 5 minutes too long

c) The kids are beating each other within inches of their lives with Nerf swords

d) All of the above

While all of these seem like perfectly rational justifications, I naturally go with the most plausible one.

The house is on fire.

Not seeing the thick gray smoke?

Really?

Well, gotta go! See ya later!

~Happy Friday, friends! I’m sure all my fellow introverts out there can relate to this one all too well. Have a fantastic weekend!~

I made eye contact, and now it's all over. This must be the end.

I made eye contact, and now it’s all over. This must be the end.

(Southern Inhospitality originally appeared on Comically Quirky on 8/6/15)

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Gardening in Gnome Man’s Land

Who would’ve thought I’d moved to No Man’s Land to become a farmer?

I certainly didn’t see it coming.

My garden gnome would probably agree, too.

But he doubles as a bird bath, so what does he know?

Gnomes are thought to be symbols of good luck.

And, as protectors, they’re meant to watch over crops and ensure a bountiful harvest.

But I have to wonder if my gnome has gone into hibernation.

Or passed out drunk.

Every time I go outside to water my plants, I get eaten alive by fire ants or chased around the yard by kite-sized dragonflies.

But that doesn’t stop my determination.

Not even a bit.

Now, I don’t particularly have a green thumb.

But I do like living things.

And I also like green things.

Particularly if they’re useful. 

Especially if they’re edible.

Sure, I may be a bit rough around the edges…

But I can be very caring and nurturing.

I want things to grow and thrive.

Unless they’re prickly weeds.

Or hairy spiders.

Anyway…

Last year for my birthday, I begged for my very own veggie garden.

Seriously.

It was an experiment of sorts.

I knew nothing then.

I know slightly less nothing now

But this year, I am so ready.

In fact, last year’s oregano and parsley plants are still going strong!

In spite of unintentional neglect.

Meaning there may have been a month (or three) when I had completely forgotten to water them.

In my defense, it’s been a very hectic year.

Last year, we started with two strawberry plants, along with some cucumbers and tomatoes.

The tomatoes and cucumbers each yielded respectable levels of output.

And the strawberries?

They lasted six days.

Apparently, the adorable rabbits needed them more than we did.

This time around, I opted for a different variety of herbs.

Unfortunately, you can’t plant vodka.

Or Prozac.

So, I bought some lavender for my frazzled nerves.

And peppermint.

And purple basil.

Purple!

Green is great and all…

But diversity is a great thing.

In retrospect, I probably could’ve used an aloe vera plant for my gazillion bug bites.

Oh, well.

Maybe next time.

I was on a roll, though, and decided we also needed a tree.

And so a tree we did get.

A tree named Bob.

Yeah, you read that right.

Bob is named in honor of a generous Home Depot employee.

Nobody could find a price on the lone little Redbud tree that I so desperately wanted.

The checkout line was starting to snake all the way around the garden department.

So, Bob sent us off with a wave and a “Merry Christmas!”

Who says Christmas cheer can’t last all year?

Oh, but I wish I had remembered to ring the specially-designated bell for great service.

The only time I ever think about doing that is when I use self-checkout.

How funny would that be?

Besides, who doesn’t deserve a pat on the back for a job well done?

Maybe next time, I will remember.

And I will ring it.

For Bob, not myself.

No matter how awesome of a job I’d just done scanning and bagging my own crap.

But getting back to Bob the Tree.

My mom has taken a liking to calling our new tree Bob Hope.

After all, we really do seem to need all the hope…and help…we can possibly get.

Hope.

It sounds so promising.

So prosperous.

Plus, Bob Hope was a humorous centenarian.

A centenarian, for goodness sake!

Yeah, the guy was clearly on to something.

~Happy weekend, friends! As Bob Hope once said, “A sense of humor is good for you. Have you ever heard of a laughing hyena with heartburn?”~

Meet Bob. He's the coolest little tree in town.

Meet Bob. He’s the coolest little tree in town.

Windy with a Chance of Hail and Tornadoes

Butterflies, dragonflies, mosquitos…

Oh, my!

Well, t’is the season, after all.

Trees and grass are finally springing back to life in all their springy green glory.

Bright, aromatic flowers are in full, allergy-inducing bloom.

Colossal bugs are buzzing around, draining blood from unsuspecting victims like stealthy vampires.

Oh, but let’s not forget the sunshine and warm gentle breezes!

On second thought, scratch that last one.

The sun has been making itself scarce, as forecasts of endless storms take center stage.

And the so-called breezes have been anything but gentle lately.

With wind gusts fast enough to outpace the Roadrunner, gentle is definitely not the right word.

Oh, and I recently discovered that my efforts to recycle are clearly for naught.

Earlier this week, I caught some of my recycled goods blowing right back out of the recycling bin, rapidly drifting down the street like engineless aircraft.

Straight into a massive puddle of swamp.

Which means my attempt at recycling had astoundingly resulted in littering.

Littering!

And let’s not forget about that corn dog box I encountered several days later, crushed in the middle of the road.

I’m 99.9% certain that the box in question originated from my household.

Or more specifically, my recycling bin.

My stupid, stupid recycling bin that refuses to keep its lid on.

I accidentally found myself being an accomplice to littering yet again just the other day, when the designated litter bag blew right out the open car window and into a field of cows less than a mile from our house.

Oh, the irony. 

So much for saving the environment.

Anyway…

Here’s a funny story to take the spotlight off of myself:

Years ago, I had these really cool environmental license plates on my car. 

One day, a passenger (who shall remain nameless) had the audacity to toss trash out my window. 

Seriously.

Littering from a car boasting environmental pride.

Not cool.

I couldn’t sleep for days afterward.

Which isn’t surprising, when you consider I’ve actually been known to chase after my airborne trash.

But there is a time and place for everything.

Besides, I couldn’t imagine running after my rubbish among herds of cattle- namely Longhorns and bulls- being a wise decision.

I must say, I’ve lived in states with some rather erratic weather over the years, but never before have I experienced extremes like this.

Good thing we’ve got a handy weather alert radio to scare the crap out of us at all times of the night.

It typically starts with a Severe Thunderstorm Warning.

After a matter of minutes, a Tornado Watch follows.

An hour later, it escalates to a full-blown Tornado Warning.

Meanwhile, unforecasted hail the size of baseballs pounds against the windows and roof like an onslaught of rocks launched out of cannons.

The neighbor’s trash cans tumble downhill before flipping completely upside down.

Trash littered her front yard.

(Ha! Looks like I’m not the only one accidentally littering, after all.)

The next day, my younger son and I went out back to play football in our mud pit of a yard.

Because, you know, it wasn’t raining at that particular moment.

With the wind still blowing, one of our decorative pink flamingos and the watering can just had to get in on the action.

The watering can actually caught the football as they both flew through the air from different areas of the backyard and landed together in the grass.

Phenomenal catch, watering can!

It’s safe to say that the weather here in No Man’s Land is anything but predictable.

But, hey, we have the benefit of experiencing all four seasons…

Typically, all in the course of a single week.

Take this past Christmas, for instance. 

It was a record 76 degrees that day.

Three days later, snow coated the ground.

How exciting, right?

Well, I suppose there is a reason we’ve got a well-stocked storage closet under the staircase that doubles as a storm shelter.

On the bright side, the abundant clouds in the sky make for some magical masterpieces each time the sun rises and sets.

Always, always a silver lining!

~Happy Friday, friends! If you’re amused by my weather-related chaos, be sure to also check out Sunny with a Chance of Tsunamis. Have a fantastic weekend!~

Our watering can getting in on the action by catching a football.

Our watering can getting in on the action by catching a football.

Land Ho! Oh, Whoa!

Holy crap, Batman!

My two-year anniversary in No Man’s Land is just days away!

So, in honor of having survived long enough to reach this milestone…

20 Things I Kinda, Sorta Like About No Man’s Land

  1. I get to play a riveting game of Guess the Farm Animal every time I leave the house. (FYI, I still suck at this game. Horses, donkeys…is there really that big a difference?)
  2. Moving to a new place has meant getting out of a rut, trying new things, and perhaps most importantly, has also given me a much-needed push in a new direction toward achieving my goals. (This blog was, after all, inspired and created from all the ensuing mayhem.)
  3. I really like my new house. (As my younger son put it, more room to make more mess!)
  4. Mysteriously intriguing sunrises and sunsets. (I’m starting to appreciate all those cloudy days.)
  5. My boys have gotten to experience real snow (and snow days!) and build snowmen for the first time in their lives. (Yeah. Seriously.)
  6. There’s a terrific selection of restaurants that are NOT steakhouses, so this vegetarian probably won’t die of starvation. (Woo hoo!)
  7. The school system out here is a major improvement, with happy teachers and better funding. (A true win-win.)
  8. Bright, happy sunflowers blooming everywhere. Prior to coming out here, I hadn’t even realized they’re actually wildflowers. (Sad but true.)
  9. Moving here with all the stresses and challenges of not knowing where exactly we would live, where the boys would go to school… In retrospect, that’s insane! (Or maybe insanely brave…)
  10. Spring, summer, fall, winter…There are all four seasons! Granted, sometimes they can all be experienced in the course of a week, but after years of being in a desert, this is exciting. (Leaves changing color! Snow! Flowers blooming!)
  11. In addition to cows, this place has goats. And everyone knows that indiscriminate eaters such as goats can be useful in maintaining a clean house. (Note to self- grab goat from nearby field on drive home today.)
  12. The bipolar weather is far from boring. (Tornadoes, earthquakes, and hail! Oh my!)
  13. Cornfields, hay barrels, and wheat fields. (It’s like being in another world.)
  14. I’ve grown to like these horizontal traffic lights out here. (And now I think all those “normal” vertical ones look weird.)
  15. The roads are awesomely bad. Pothole-laden roads make for an exciting adventure every time. (I’ve lost track of how many times my car has become airborne and almost sailed over a field of cows.)
  16. Meeting awesome new people I wouldn’t have met otherwise if I hadn’t moved here. (Always a good thing.)
  17. Redbud trees. The first sign of spring, with their intense purple flowers. (I want one.)
  18. Bastard Cabbage. (The implications themselves are not actually funny at all, but the name always makes me giggle, as I envision how that…interesting (?) name might’ve come about.)
  19. It’s funny to watch farm machinery hauling ass on highways, passing all the slower-moving sedans and SUVs. (Irony at its finest.)
  20. Change can be a good thing, and what might initially seem like a negative thing may actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise. (Having a sense of humor and making the best out of a situation can really go a long way.)

~Happy Thursday, everyone! It’s true: sometimes change isn’t such a horrible thing. So embrace it, and always look for the silver lining.~

Looks welcoming enough, right? (Ha! Run while you still can!)

Looks welcoming enough, right? (Ha! Run while you still can!)

Happy Happy Joy Joy!

Holy guacamole!

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of Comically Quirky!

Let me tell ya, releasing that very first post was both exhilarating and nauseating.

And terrifying.

Yeah, definitely terrifying.

Would anybody actually read it?

Would they like it?

Or worse… Would people really read it?

And judge me? Or hate me?

Oh, the horror!

I’d never been so terrified in my  life.

And yet…

It was a huge step forward.

My bff Muriel deserves a shout out here for her role in all this. With her persistent encouragement and a gentle nudge forward, I proceeded with this venture.

Sure, it took me a while to actually take the leap…But I finally did it!

Muriel urged me to quit complaining about cows and cornfields and do something more productive.

And so I began writing about my humorous experiences as a transplant to No Man’s Land.

No Man’s Land deserves a bit of gratitude for creating a period of unsettling change that brought with it a plethora of insanely offbeat experiences, which clearly continue to inspire this blog.

Huge thanks to my Facebook buddies, who were among the very first to know about this venture and read my blog. They have been and still are the most amazing supporters. (Yeah, you guys know who you are. And just know that I love you all for it!) Thanks for having faith in me and being my support.

Speaking of support…my mom, husband, and even my boys have all been amazing support and encouragement for my writing. I am honored to have such wonderful people in my life.

And…a special shout out to Evil Squirrel, who was one of my very first followers. Well, outside of immediate family and coworkers who had faced the threat of either reading my blog or being disowned.

So yeah, someone who had actually chosen to read my blog with his own free will- that’s huge. Here’s to unicorns, my friend!

Writing has always been my strength and my passion, and I plan to continue to use my naturally warped and twisted tendencies to brighten the day for others through humor.

Please be sure to check out The Journey to No Man’s Land, my very first post that kicked off all this insanity.

~Thanks to all my followers and fellow bloggers, family and friends. You guys rock!~

What better way to celebrate Comically Quirky's anniversary than with Ren and Stimpy's Happy Happy Joy Joy song!

What better way to celebrate Comically Quirky’s anniversary than with Ren and Stimpy’s Happy Happy Joy Joy song!

A No Man’s Land Anniversary

In honor of my one and a half year anniversary of living in No Man’s Land, here’s a brief update on my progression of half-assed assimilation:

  • I still don’t eat meat. I’ve been a vegetarian for far too long, and having real live cows, horses, and donkeys as neighbors has only reinforced my beliefs a hundred times over.
  • I still don’t care for the horribly maintained country roads. It may well be a smoother ride meandering through town on a three-legged donkey than chancing some of the brain-rattling roads out here.
  • I still don’t like country music. I prefer to surround myself with things that actually make me happy. Depressing music that could easily coerce me into a dark corner to slit my wrists with a corkscrew on a cold and cloudy day? Ha! Like I don’t already have enough problems.
  • I still don’t like the eerie sound of tornado sirens. Or actual tornadoes. They’re a rather terrifying phenomenon that I can live without.
  • I still can’t believe the official state animal is not a skunk. I mean, seriously. Even a million tons of the state flower (whatever the heck that even  is) wouldn’t be enough to mask the breathtaking aroma of one of those suckers.

Okay, so none of this technically qualifies as progress, per se.

Wait a second!

There is a silver lining!

I recently surprised even myself by correctly identifying a lone donkey among a herd of cows.

This is huge. Just ask my realtor.

When my husband and I first came out house-hunting, I had mistaken a donkey for a horse in a nearby field.

To which my realtor responded, “Well, bless your heart!”

Which reminds me- I still don’t care for that phrase.

Don’t think for a moment I don’t “get” that sarcastic and condescending undertone just because I’m a New Yorker/Washingtonian/Arizonan.

Now if all y’all will excuse me, I reckon I need to find me one of them there donkeys and go down yonder.

(Hey, you have to at least give a girl credit for trying!)

Pretty sure this is a donkey...

Pretty sure this is a donkey…

The Journey to No Man’s Land

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson really whacked the nail on the head with that one, didn’t he? The mere experience of relocating to No Man’s Land is indeed a journey.  A journey that conjures up images of the treacherous voyage to Hell!

An unexpected job transfer has my family packing up and moving to a place with cows and cornfields, without the knowledge of where exactly we would live or even where the boys would go to school. We did manage to book a hotel for one week, so that’s a promising start.

Traveling as a family is notoriously dangerous territory, especially at the airport. We’re all hauling hefty carry-on bags, while I’m also loaded down with a large purse that could easily fit a small whale, and the zipper is about to bust right off the jam-packed suitcase.

When it’s time to check in the baggage, it’s discovered our suitcase is 15 pounds over the 50 pound weight limit. Paying $75 in overage fees? Not going to happen.

After 20 minutes of chaotic rearranging, the 9 year old now totes around a 45 pound carry-on of coloring books, shoes, bras, superhero action figures, underwear, crayons, and other random goodness.

Our sulking preteen child, hauling a backpack crammed with his nine pairs of Converse shoes and six electronic devices, sets of the metal detector.

A TSA agent glances at him, gives him a once-over with the wand, and sends him on through.

Guess which bag gets flagged in the x-ray scanner for search? That’s right, the 9 year old’s backpack with Batman and all the underwear.

“Is this your bag, sweetie?” the TSA agent asks. Seven different times. You know, because there’s the possibility it’s actually daddy’s bag, loaded with cocaine and explosives.

After confirmation that bag does in fact belong to the child in question, a search ensues.

Out comes underwear of every size, shape, and color.

Out come Batman, Hulk, and Captain America.

Out comes a dog-eared comic book with what appears to be teeth marks at the top left corner.

A shoe flies out, along with a handful of sea shells.

As the bewildered TSA agent continues rummaging through the bag, the child grabs his Hulk and Captain America action figures and engages them in a disturbingly intense battle, complete with self-generated sound effects. Hopefully from the mouth and not from his other end.

Then he turns to the TSA agent and asks, “My daddy said we can’t say the word ‘bomb’ at the airport. Why can’t we say the word ‘bomb?’ Is it like a nuke?”

The TSA agent is now frantically searching the backpack, puzzled by the odd looking Minecraft toys- tiny swords and a small plastic box labeled TNT.

She pulls out her walkie talkie and quietly asks for “assistance.”

The child is sent back through the metal detector, and he asks one last time, “So, why can’t I say the word ‘bomb?’ Have you ever seen a real nuke?”

After my husband’s brief detainment by the TSA, we are permitted to board the plane.

With the security fiasco behind us, one might think the rest of the trip ought to be smooth.

The three hour flight is mostly uneventful, until we are close to our destination.

“Good evening, passengers. A severe storm is preventing us from landing at this time, so we’ll be circling briefly until conditions improve,” the flight captain announces.

And so we circle. And circle. And circle.

A full hour passes before the captain’s voice booms through the aircraft again, notifying us that the plane is running out of fuel.

There’s none of that “fasten your seat belts and prepare for landing” nonsense as the plane plunges from 30,000 feet onto the runway in record time. Of course, we land at an airport that’s not even our intended destination.

Maybe we should have hung out at the airport with the TSA, discussing bombs and having our bags searched just a tad more thoroughly.

The Death Tube eventually makes its final descent into No Man’s Land and we all hustle off the plane like a pack of feral beasts.

The entire family is hungry, tired, and disgruntled enough to use nukes on each other.

But hey, there’s only a 10 minute ride to the rental car depot and another 30 minute ride to the hotel. We can do this!

I should know better by now.

As we drag our beaten and overloaded suitcases outside, the shuttle pulls up. Between the confused look on the young gum-chomping driver’s face and her abrupt curb-hopping stop, my gut tells me we probably should have waited for the next shuttle.

U-turn after U-turn, we are clearly going in circles. The driver stops on the side of the road and stares blankly out the window. It could easily be her first day on the job, or perhaps her goal is to ensure the boys hate us for the rest of our lives for dragging them out to live in the middle of nowhere.

A passenger marches up to the front of the bus.

“Why don’t you just follow the signs that say, “Rental cars, this way?’ ”he snarls.

A lightbulb seems to go off in the brilliant girl’s head, and within five minutes, we arrive at the rental car depot.

We are off in a nondescript rental car shortly after, rocketing down the freeway with a GPS that doesn’t seem entirely convinced itself which way we need to go. It’s tempting to enable the off-road option so we can plow straight through yards, cornfields, and lakes to get to the hotel faster.

Perhaps we should have.

We find ourselves at a complete standstill on a backed up and construction-heavy freeway. I glance out the window and notice a 1,000 foot drop into oblivion on one side of the road, and a concrete barrier on the other.

A sudden sensation of crunching metal jolts me from my drifting thoughts. It takes a minute to realize we had been rear-ended, and the same jerk who hit us is now trying to push our rental car out of his way so he can keep going.

The kids are screaming, my husband is screaming…or was that just me?

The police finally show up, after passing us twice on an adjacent freeway and then getting stuck in traffic, but at least we are back on the road again.

We arrive at the hotel after midnight, only to discover that we’ve been deemed a no-show and the staff had rebooked our room. There’s only one room left, with a double bed and a pullout sofa.

We enter the room and flip the light switch.

Holy crap! Had this room recently been the scene of a horror movie or satanic sacrifice?  I’m far too exhausted to determine whether it’s actually Heinz ketchup or blood splattered all over the wall.

Well, this will have to be dealt with. Tomorrow. Or rather, later today.

The boys are already asleep on the lumpy double bed, so my husband and I wander downstairs to the restaurant.

Who am I kidding? We’re practically galloping to the hotel bar.

A few lackluster drinks later, we head back to the room. At least the boys are managing to get some rest.

No Man’s Land, it’s me, Quirky Girl. It sure doesn’t seem like you want me here any more than I want to be here. You’d best bring me a better day tomorrow, or be prepared to face the wrath of my 9 year old and his imaginary nukes.