Saturday, February 25, 2017

Poo-Poo Poppy

Griffin Henry (age 2) related his personal opinion of me. “YaYa mean!” 

I sighed.

“Don’t fall in the fire pit, little boy with the fluffly white hair and polyester shirt.” That was it; that’s what I had said to earn my grandson’s disdain. For that I was called names. 

I’m the YaYa. I’m the mean one. My husband (the Poppy) is the family celebrity. Of course, he’s the guy with endless supplies of Twix and Pepsi, the guy who lets the grandchildren run wild through our lives.

I walked into the office to find a phalanx of children taping away at an endless line of computers. They were playing something called “Animal Jam” or “AJ” in the vernacular. Poppy sat in the middle of the tapping frenzy, tossing chocolate kisses to grandchildren like a walrus trainer at Sea World. Shoulders had started hunch, spines to curve.

I shouted, “Okay, that’s it. Everybody outside. Get some vitamin D. Attempt to straighten your backbones. Go. Go.”

“Poo-poo, YaYa!” Griffin Henry said. Poo-poo. It’s the worst word he knows—so far.

Later, I discover the lot of them at the sand hill. They’d dug a giant hole, run a garden hose to it, and filled it to the brim with water. It was like a massive open strip mine. Kids blasted each other with water and mud. I estimated the cleanup would require two hours and a Shop Vac.

“Who said you could turn that water on?”

“Poppy!” they chorused. 

“Poo-poo, Poppy,” I muttered to myself.

My husband is the celebrity. He never says no, agrees with every wild scheme, finances every whim, and bribes with goodies. He’s the president cutting the fool on Buzz Feed. Me? I’m the libertarian saying, “Sure. Sure. You refused to wear your shoes, stepped on stinging thistles that you were warned about, and now what are YOU going to do about that?”

“YaYa mean!”

Recently, our fourteen grandchildren came pouring into our house saying, “Hi. Where’s Poppy?”

Sighing, I pointed and said, “In the office. Throw away your candy wrappers.” They stampeded. 

I went to find the Shop Vac.

Linda (Mean as a Snake) Zern

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


Because we killed God and bulldozed Heaven, it’s impossible to get someone to repair the engine on my eleven-year old grandson’s go-cart. And that is no joke.

Okay, okay. First things first. 

On the first day came the birthday go-cart: a great deal; on Craig’s list; needing a spark plug, and apparently, a total engine overhaul. When the groovy new but “gently used” go-cart showed signs of dead motor syndrome it was time to find someone with small engine savvy and a knack for saving the day.

On the second day, it became the search for the holy grail of reputable go-cart repair. It’s not a huge job. The motor is small. The spark plug is one. The seats are low, and the fun is real. Phone calls commenced. 

On the third day-ish, it was discovered that no one is willing to work on go-carts and not because they’re hard or frustrating or tricky . . . 

They won’t work on them because no one wants the legal liability inherent in repairing a vehicle designed to give maximum thrills while flipping over when they hit slightly mounded gopher holes. Crazy times.

I blame the ones that bulldozed Heaven. 

Without the promise of life after zits and middle age bulge and shingles and death (i.e. Heaven), people get weird about the here and the now. They want heavenly in a world where fire ants do the fire ant tango on babies. They want heaven in a world where dogs do bite, cats absolutely scratch, and the endings aren’t always happy. They want a place where nothing hurts, promises are kept, and everyone always does what they should. They want Heaven.

And what do they get? Sued. Because when the world doesn’t turn out cotton candy swirly goodness, people sue and sue and sue—to get even, to get “fair,” to get what they “deserve.” 

Which makes it tough to find someone willing to take on the liability of working on a recreational vehicle built of pipe cleaners and bread ties. Sure. They’re out there, the ones who love the engines more than they fear the legal angels of lawful retribution. Sure. They live in storage sheds in strange off-grid communities ruled by real live super heroes with their own secret identities: Master Legend; Google it.

Sherwood and Phillip found the go-cart repairman brushing his teeth in front of his storage shed in the hinterland of Orlando, who fixed the go-cart, who introduced them to another man, who is a super hero, patrolling the streets of greater Orlando on a motorized bicycle, ensuring truth, justice, and the American Way. Super heroes make the world righteous, and we love them for it. They’re not real, but don’t tell anyone, because they could get sued if the do-gooding goes awry. 

I blame the ones that bulldozed Heaven and then wanted heavenly returns on earthly dirt.

Linda (Go-Go) Zern 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


Pine trees are the mini-van of the tree world. There’s a million of ‘em, and they all look alike. 

Pine trees in the Florida woods are the woods, except when the swamp takes over. The woods are where my husband (Sherwood—yes it’s his first name) and I practice stuff: horseback riding, orienteering, GPS coordinate finding, search and rescue searching, community volunteering, and other words that end in ‘ing.’

We ride through swamps and cypress and live oaks and scrub brush and pine trees, lots and many pine trees.

On a recent training day, my husband and I were given the task of finding five points on a compass course while riding horses and staying married. I know I was excited. 

Our first challenge was to calculate our horses’ “pace” for one hundred feet. That’s when you count the steps the horse takes in one hundred feet. 

What I learned.

It’s easy to lose count in one hundred feet. Sherwood gets a funny look on his face when he’s counting. Tracker, the horse I was riding, is a bully. When your horse tries to kick another horse in the face it’s hard to keep track of the steps they take. It was a beautiful day to be outside.

We were encouraged to find “points of reference” to keep us on track. A point of reference is a stump, lump, or clump of something that DOES NOT MOVE that can serve as a focal point while you’re trying to count and ride a bucking horse. 

Fairly early in the course, I asked my partner/husband/teammate, “What focal point are you using?”

And he said (I kid you not), “That pine tree.”

I looked at the scrubby forest of one trillion jumbled pine trees and asked, “Seriously?” There might have been a tone. I confess; team morale took a bit of a hit at that point.

What I learned.

Engineers sometimes struggle with their describing words. It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. There are a lot of pine trees in Florida. There’s a learning curve to everything. Dr. Suess was right; some fish are red and some fish are blue, but not pine trees.

Linda (Lost and Found) Zern

*** Feet should read yards, but it sure felt like feet. 

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