Turtleneck Crab

Do you have a neck? Do you wear a particular article of clothing that is useful but not quite fashionable? Did your parents have a strong belief in the usefulness of that piece of clothing and put you in it at a young age? And finally, despite the fact that you know nothing about fashion and have a nagging sense that this must be how questionable things get passed down from one generation to the next, did you dress your own children in that particular article of clothing? My answer to all these questions is yes. How about you? 

This questionable article of clothing is the turtleneck. It is a simple, thin layer of cloth but due to its preservative properties, it has kept decades of wind, sun and assorted elements off my delicate neck skin leaving it sort of untouched, yet saggy and wrinkly.  Like used crepe paper covering a helping of Jello. 

I’ve worn a turtleneck for as long as I can remember – even when it was Halloween and for two years in a row, I tried to pass as a magical fairy princessMy mom had me wear one under my costume because, well, it was October in northern Wisconsin and despite the addition of a sequined tiara, there was not going to be enough magic to make me a fairy or a princess.   

My husband doesn’t think too much about his neck yet he too wore a turtleneck before he had a chance to develop his sense of fashion. Now, our moms didn’t know each other when they gave birth to us four days apart in the summer of 1968, but I like to think they shared the same dream that their new babies would grow up and find someone who also wears gold turtlenecks. And hugs animals.  

My husband and I realize that no matter the question, a turtleneck is not always the answer, but we put our own children in them anyway. Maybe we did it because of our hardy midwestern upbringing or our lack of style with a sense of duty (if it’s winter, you wear a turtleneck) or because we had an inkling that one day one of our preteen daughters would be searching for something positive to say about my appearance and come up with “but mom, you have such a nice neck.” 

Exhibit 1: How did we expect our son to play basketball in a turtleneck? 
Exhibit 2: If this day at preschool ended with a ride on an actual reindeer to the North Pole, then our daughter was dressed appropriately.   
Exhibit 3:  It was cold enough to put our other daughter in a turtleneck so shouldn’t she also be wearing full-length pants and something on her feet?

To this day, all of our kids say they hate turtlenecks – they are too constricting, they feel too squeezy, they get too hot if they wear them. I understand their resistance but also want them to think about the future. Without the help of a turtleneck, what will their necks look like in 30 years? No one in our family seems to care. And no one in our family continues to wear one except me. How about you?

Crab on The Move

All 5 people in our family moved to a new place in 2019. Amidst all the chaos, I hope I did more than just shuffle stuff around but sometimes I wonder.

I am a professional mover. I know you might be thinking that every day I get up and go to an actual moving company, put on a dark blue shirt with my name stitched on the pocket, pack boxes, load and unload a semi-trailer and figure out what to do with the 534 boxes and several thousand sheets of packing paper I have just used on a job. But I don’t always leave my house to do my work and I have never earned a dollar for any of it. Still, I consider myself a professional. How else can I explain that I move objects, people, pets, food and even invisible things and have never lost any of them? Sure, sometimes I break or misplace something but because I am a professional, I have good insurance and a robust reimbursement policy. 

         I didn’t start out as a professional mover or even plan to become one. It just sort of happened over time, a by-product of accumulation of years of marriage, kids, pets, empty picture frames that I’m sure I will use one day, books on “birthing from within,” decorative pillows and cans of anchovies.  All these people and all this stuff have places to go: school, the vet for a follow up leptospirosis vaccine, a place on the living room wall, a dusty shelf, a corner on the couch or a precise spot in the pantry in a row of canned goods organized by height. Someone has to get them where they need to be. That someone is me.

         Work starts the minute I wake up when I move myself out of bed and into the bathroom. I try to be grateful that I can move from place to place independently, but there are times when I don’t appreciate moving as much as I should. Like when I go to the muscle works class at the gym and force myself to move my muscles against resistance because being mid-life and post-menopausal has certain effects which make it much harder to move the two ends of my waistband toward each other. Having a reward for this type of work is key, so I move chocolate into my mouth. 

         Early on in my career as a professional mover, I thought I would only have to move myself but once I got good at it, others noticed. My husband was so impressed that after four years of marriage he expected me to move a baby into the world. I guess I did a good job because I moved two more babies after six and ten years of marriage.  These are the kinds of moves you swear you will neverdo again but then you get rather attached to the contents and want to see what the next one will be like. Moving babies created the greatest challenge of my career: breastfeeding.  No amount of on-the-job training prepared me to move milk from my breast, which had become the size and hardness of a cantaloupe, into my baby’s mouth which would suddenly appear to shrink to the size of a pin head every time my nipple went near it. No amount of chocolate helped.

         Babies aside, most of my work is mundane and very repetitive. I move dishes into the dish washer, a toothbrush into my mouth, legs into pants, clothes out of the washer and into the dryer, a dog leash onto and off of my dog’s collar or snow from the sidewalk onto a giant pile next to the driveway. But once in a while I pay extra attention to what I’m doing because I might be making a move I will never make again. Like when I finally bought that red, 5-quart Kitchen Aid stand mixer and moved it from its box onto my kitchen counter, the mundane seemed miraculous and I experienced a kind of joy I didn’t know moving could bring.

         It’s usually easy for me to understand my job as a professional mover, yet there are times every day when I am perplexed by the moves my fingers (even my fingers can be movers!) do to make things appear and disappear. I type words onto a computer screen and they end up as an email in someone’s inbox. I tap on tiny letter tiles on my phone and they end up as my husband’s turn in a digital crossword puzzle game. Or I stick a tiny piece of plastic into my computer and then I have something called an IMG in a 2014 picture file. How does any of that happen? Maybe I have a tiny moving assistant who grabs the message or tile or picture, checks all the possible places they could go and then moves them to the correct location – just like if my neighbor had a baby and I baked cookies and out of all the houses on the block, I managed to move them to the right house.   

         Even when I understand my work, some moves just don’t go as planned. I moved a ¾ guitar into my house when one of my daughters was eight. She played it for a while but then the ¾ guitar sat in a closet for about five years before her younger sister decided she wanted to play it. They tried to tune it using a ukulele and an electronic piano which had also sat unused for about five years. One sister insisted the other was tone deaf but they kept trying to tune the ¾ guitar anyway, tightening the strings until one popped off. I moved the ¾ guitar to the music shop intending to use the freed-up space for our full-sized son who had moved in for winter break. But then the music shop called and said that even though there was five-year’s worth of un-moved finger grease, dust, and general gunk on the metal strings, the guitar could be restrung and played again. So even though my work usually doesn’t cost me a thing, I paid $27.14 for new strings and moved that ¾ guitar backinto the house.   

         Every once in a while, I think I’ll take a day off or get a new job. But the reality is that every day is moving day and there is a lot of work to be done. If you have any moves in your future, be they big or small, I wish you the best of luck. 

New Kid – Two Crabs Meet

My husband and I are both 51. We were kind of shocked when we realized that we have now known each other for 42 years, but that’s what can happen when you meet your future spouse on the playground in 4thgrade. 

P. S. A few details of this story are made up. These pictures, however, are completely factual.

If you’ve ever moved to a new town and had a first day at a new school, then you know what a big deal it is to be the “new kid.” It’s an even bigger deal when that new school is in a new town of 1,100 people because, as my mom used to say, “everyone and their brother” knows who you are. 

 I was that kid on my first day of first grade at Shell Lake Elementary School. But in the summer of 1977, the rumors started to fly in our tiny town about another new kid who would join our 4thgrade class. What we knew was that he was tall for nine-years-old, had a good tan from playing Little League baseball in Yankton, South Dakota all summer, and most amazingly, he had already kissed a girl. We couldn’t believe a new kid could bring that kind of excitement and sophistication to Shell Lake, Wisconsin. The first day of 4thgrade did not disappoint. Pat Quenan was everything he was rumored to be.

 The love bug flew just as easily as those summer rumors and it seemed that by lunch time on that first day all twenty-two 4thgrade girls, including me, had a crush on the new kid. I surveyed my chances. Even though I matched his tan skin melanocyte for melanocyte, I was rather round and wore large, plastic framed glasses. I hoped the cute, little gold stick-on butterfly I sometimes wore in the right corner of the right lens might entice him, but I was pretty sure he’d prefer a girl with 20/20 vision.  

I worked up my nerve to make a move for the new kid during after-lunch-recess and waited impatiently to be released outside as the lunch ladies inspected my lunch tray for any stray morsels. Out on the playground, I bypassed the boys I usually played with and avoided the girl who occasionally picked up a garter snake and chased me with it. When I spotted the new kid standing alone on the blacktop, I took a few steps toward him. But as soon I saw a sea of swooning nine-year-old girls also herding in his direction, I got that sinking feeling that I should have just stayed inside with the lunch ladies and picked at my tray. 

 I back-tracked off the blacktop toward a dusty field that was partially-rimmed with a partially-collapsing chain link back-stop fence.  The boys I had bypassed were already there and arguing about which game we should play that first recess of 4thgrade. Suddenly, over their shouts and possibly from over near the monkey-bars, the news broke: Jolene Harmon, with her perfect vision, liked the new kid. It was over. There was no way any of us, especially me, could compete with the most popular girl in the class – if not the most popular girl in the whole school. 

Since my chance of landing Pat Quenan had reached zero, I picked up a red, rock-hard playground ball that had rolled my direction and headed onto the field to do something I knew I was good at: kick hard and run fast down a base path that was covered in patchy grass. Then, to my surprise, and to the obliviousness of the boys who were now knee-deep in another argument about which team had to take the girl, the new kid came over and asked to play.  The arguing stopped and we carefully factored in that because he had baseball experience, he could probably run bases and throw as well as the rest of us, plus we were already short a fielder anyway. We decided the new kid could play.  

Welcome to Crabwise!

Hi! My name is Lisa, and like you, I was born. Specifically, I was born on June 29th which means my Zodiac sign is Cancer. I don’t know much about my sign­ except for what my Gemini-Cancer-cusp sister tells me and that the Cancer sign is represented by a crab. I appreciate the crab not so much for its “crabbiness” (although I can definitely be crabby) but for its ability to skitter through life sideways and easily backwards, carefully balancing a house on its back and using its pincers to hold onto things – even the things it should probably drop. 

What I didn’t learn from my sister or a Zodiac chart is that most crabs constantly scan their surroundings (with immoveable eyeballs on moveable eye-stalks!) and when they sense something is awry in their environment, they close their “eyes,” scurry back to their burrow and dive for cover into the sand. It’s comforting to know there are other creatures who live like that. 

So, if you ended up at this blog because you were looking for more information on crabs or wanted to learn how to classify crustaceans, my apologies, because you won’t find that here. Honestly, I don’t even enjoy eating shellfish or any seafood for that matter. Instead, what you will find here at Crabwise are stories. These stories (most of which are true and a few of which are made up) are from and about my life, which admittedly, is not a particularly glamorous one. Don’t let that deter you from giving Crabwise a try. 

I hope that no matter your Zodiac sign, your interest in crabs (the ocean-faring or astrological kind), or your burrowing tendencies, you will find a something at Crabwise that you’ll enjoy. Maybe, like the pincers my crab friends and I have in common, something will reach out and grab you, but won’t really hurt. I invite you to come on over to Crabwise, read, and return for more stories whenever you like!