Friday, March 26, 2010

A Hat Hunt

Sometimes it’s the little every day mundane things in life that are exciting. Something as simple as giving the dog a bath, pulling weeds, or trying to find an extra wide brimmed straw hat to cover your P.E. teacher husband's slightly larger than “normal” nose. It’s these little life moments that can turn into an adventure.

There’s no secret about it, Danny was blessed with a nose a little larger than average. He knows it. I know it. We all “nose" it. Despite the nose, Danny is a very handsome guy.  In fact, I think if his nose was perfect he would look too pretty…and make me feel less than worthy. Anyway on with the story…

Danny spends the majority of his day outside. Being a fair skinned P.E. teacher, he liberally applies the sun block and wears a hat when outside. Despite his sun blocking efforts, Danny’s poor little nose always seems to soak up the UVs.

This past Tuesday, I was off of work. As usual, Danny arrived home fairly late. He was tired and hungry from a long day of teaching and track practice. Danny’s usual routine is to shower, eat, and then promptly go to bed, as he has to wake up at an ungodly hour. Tuesday was different. Danny was on a mission, a mission to spend some quality time with his wife, and a mission to save his life (from skin cancer that is).

The hat hunt started with a trip to Lowes. Now when I say “extra large wide brimmed straw hat”, I’m not just talking about any old fishing/Australian outback hat. Danny wants a hat like an old Italian lady wears in her garden or a hat that Asian farmers are often depicted wearing. He wants extremely wide brimmed. Lowes was a natural choice for Danny, because they have a garden section.

When we arrived at Lowes, Danny promptly asked the garden section cashier if they had any straw hats. With a questioning eye, she said she didn’t think so. Unconvinced, we headed inside to further investigate. We looked by the gloves, the umbrellas, and the garden gnomes. No luck. Danny asked another person. She positively said no and told us to check Michaels. I think she may have thought I wanted to make an Easter hat or one of those crafty mop dolls with the little straw hats on it. I told Danny Michaels will not have what you are looking for.

We exited Lowes and I eyed World Market. I always call World Market, Cost Plus, as that is its former name.  They have changed the company name to put more emphasis on the “World Market.” My friend Christina said this is because they want to seem more “worldly.” I have to agree.

Since World Market has gone worldly, it seemed like a good idea to speed walk across the parking lot and take a gander. World Market is one of those stores that you go into with the intent of buying one item and come out with a handful of random imported goods that somehow seem necessary for your life to go on. No straw hats. However we did purchase some Columbian coffee, as Danny pointed out that we were getting low, as well as some mini, all natural, dried chorizo that we ate on the way back to the car. The “natural” chorizo had the eerily similar taste of a Slim Jim.

Danny decided Wal-Mart would be a good stop. I try to avoid Wal-Mart, especially the one on Sisk Road as much as possible. However I had to agree, Wal-Mart was bound to have a wide brimmed straw hat. We entered through the garden section, to avoid the smell and sounds of people eating a late dinner at McDonalds. We headed to the “boating/fishing” section. Over the tops of the isles I saw a straw hat. Like the McDonalds arches, I thought we were golden. My hopes were shattered when we saw that the brim was puny.

Surprisingly a Wal-Mart employee asked if we needed help. He pointed us back to boating/fishing or to somewhere by the fitting rooms. No such luck by the fitting rooms either. Of course by this time Danny had to use the restroom, and I was forced to wait by the McDonalds.

Next stop: Home Depot. I told Danny that if Lowes didn’t have them, Home Depot wouldn’t. Danny won, as it is his battle to fight. Once again we entered the garden section. We headed straight to the garden person and asked/begged for a straw hat. The young man looked perplexed, a little bit excited even. He said, “I don’t think so…we should…if we did I would wear one…that would be ‘B.A.’” Danny later said it took him a while to figure out what “B.A.” stood for. We discussed how it stood for “bad ass” and that he should probably know that just because you use the initials for something in the workplace when talking to a customer, it doesn’t make it professional. B.A. isn’t a good substitute for “bad ass.” Even though we had this discussion, I was glad he said it, so that we could have the discussion…

So the young man took us around to ask a young lady if they stocked them. The young lady told Danny he should go to Party City. Danny then tried to assure her it was not for a costume or a joke, but a serious life/death matter. Still not understanding, the young man then suggested saying it was Danny’s birthday and going to Chevys. We politely giggled, even though they did not understand the matter at hand.

We got in the car defeated. It was getting late. Danny said that if we hurried, we could make it to Bass Pro shop before closing. I sighed. He sighed. We sighed together. That was enough hat hunting for the night. I then told him that when he does find a straw hat to his liking, save the receipt, because it’s a tax write off. We drove home in defeat, our bellies full of questionable chorizo, and our hearts lacking a victory in the hat hunt.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Coordinating Castle

At the ripe age of about 8, my mom and I decided it was time to redecorate my room. We picked a fabulously colorful quilt to decorate the room around. My new white furniture, (which I still have) came courtesy of my grandma’s discount for working at the late furniture store Breuners. When I actually kept my room clean, it looked amazing. The only thing it was missing was a tiny chandelier and a window seat. My mom, a wonderfully talented artist, decided to paint a castle picture to complete the décor.

My mother’s artistic skills are not limited to one medium. She can paint, draw, sculpt, collage, etc. She produces many fine art pieces, but also has some whimsical pieces. The castle painting definitely falls into the whimsy category.

The castle painting is a water color. What makes it so fantastic is the way she used the water colors with such precision. Water colors tend to bleed into each other, except when my mom works her magic. She can make water colors bleed where she wants and vice versa. The tiny bricks and stones are individually filled with vibrant colors that coordinate with my quilt.

When my imagination was at its fullest, I would picture myself living in the castle…wandering the gardens…and unlocking the swirly iron gate with an old skeleton key. I imagined behind the gate was a sort of Secret Garden: a movie/book that I loved when I was little.

As I got older and my tastes for girly things changed, I redecorated my room again. The castle was loaned to my brother’s best friend’s mom. It hung proudly over their fireplace during my teenage years. The castle was replaced with posters of my favorite band and bulletin boards overflowing with pictures of my friends.

Once again, my tastes changed. Danny and I got married at a young age. I needed inexpensive, better yet, free art to hang on the walls of my tiny apartment. The castle painting was back in my life. It hung over my old green hand-me-down couch that was gifted to me from my mother. All my college aged visitors asked me where I got my fabulous art from…once I told them it was free, they were even more envious. The castle painting always received a lot of praise, perhaps it opened up its admirer’s imaginations the way it did mine. The castle painting made the tiny apartment feel like home.

The castle painting is one of those pictures, that when looked at, you will find something new. After owning the painting again, I discovered that my mom forgot to paint one of the fence posts. All of them are brown except a single forgotten white post. The people tending to the garden are unrecognizable however, the lady bending over pruning the rose bushes happens to be Eleanor Roosevelt. My mom used a picture of her gardening in a magazine as inspiration. Recently I noticed the curtains in the blue building to the side of the towers are white with red polka dots. Perhaps this had an early influence on my polka dot obsessed self.

The castle painting now hangs proudly above my bed. I feel comforted when I look at the white fence post and Eleanor Roosevelt. I think of my crazy imagination when I look past the iron gate into the secret garden, and I smile when I think about my talented mother who lovingly created a lasting memory for me, all for sake of my new bedroom décor.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Two Charlies, Dopey, and a Ten Year Old

As a child, my parents would take us to Huntington Lake every couple of summers for vacation. They would rent a cabin. We would go fishing, with those tiny little marshmallow-looking baits. I liked the hot pink ones. We would roast marshmallows (not power bait) with dirty sticks we found in the woods…and it was okay because we were camping. We would ride horses and walk funny for the rest of the day. I always looked forward to it.

I had a special horse that I got to ride almost every time we went. My brother’s horse was the sibling of my horse. Their names were something like Red or Red Charlie…and Brown Charlie something. Obviously, I forget.

Those horses were beautiful and gentle. Not being raised in a barn, I did not grow up riding horses. Naturally, the horse tour guide picked out well trained horses for us kiddos. I never felt scared riding Brown Charlie. There was a mutual understanding that he would take care of me, and I would pet his long mane.

The last summer we went back to Huntington Lake, I got a different horse. The two horses were not around. I am not sure what happened to  Red Charlie and Brown Charlie. I imagine they died. Perhaps for the stories sake, I’ll say they were adopted by a kind Dutch rancher.

The new horse was white. I don’t recall this horse’s name either, but I will call him Dopey. Dopey was picked again, by a horse trainer. Dopey didn’t look me in the eyes. We did not have a mutual understanding. I was older, so the mutual understanding wasn’t necessary. I was a big girl (perhaps ten) and wasn’t going to act like a sissy.

Dopey was fine. We went up the mountain with no problems. Despite this, my heart was racing. I squeezed onto the handle so tight, my hands ached. I tried to reassure myself: my parents and my older brother were there, plus the horse guide. It would be okay.

We reached the top of the mountain and stopped the horses for a small break/ vista moment. To my left was the edge of the mountain. It was a long way down. To my right were boulders and more trees. I looked back and there was a horse behind me… it was close, a little too close. Suddenly I was thrown off the horse. By the grace of God, I landed between Dopey and the edge of the mountain. I started crying. No longer pretending to be a big girl, everyone rushed to my side to make sure I was okay. I was fine, more emotionally scarred than anything. The horse behind Dopey nipped his butt, and Dopey did not appreciate that.

After the scuffle we had to get back down to the bottom of the mountain. I assumed I would be walking. This was fine by me. Instead, I received a lecture from my father and the horse trainer that went something like, “When you fall off a horse, you have to get back on and ride again.” I may have been ten, but I thought this saying was a metaphor for other hiccups in life. How funny that I literally had to get back on the horse and ride again.

Dopey and a slightly bruised little girl made it down the mountain, with no more scuffles. When I got off I said I wouldn’t ride a horse again. Yet I have. I rode a galloping horse on the beaches of Pismo and a gentle white horse in Pine Crest. I even thought about riding a pony at Almond Blossom a few weekends ago…but I decided to spare the pony.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


The little old lady who lived in the house before us was a gardener. She kept the yard up exquisitely. During escrow, I would drive by and look at the house…out of pure excitement, and see the 70 something old lady mowing the lawn, with her big straw hat on. The back yard was even more immaculate than the front. Neatly trimmed trees lined the fences all the way around to create a sense of privacy, soft clover cushioned the tree roots underneath. The koi pond was clear as day, no algae (no fish either because her cleaning secret was chlorine). The lawn looked like something out of Better Homes and Gardens. There was one plant that the old lady could not tame…in this pristine manicured garden she could not tame Jumanji.

Jumanji is not the actual name of this plant. My mother in law thought it was Elephant Ear, and although the leaves are the size of an elephant's ear, it is actually called a Split Leaf something or other. Jumanji is a tropical plant. Why the little old lady decided to plant Jumanji is a mystery. Everything about the yard was so neat, sort of English gardenish… Okay, I’ll admit I don’t know a lot about gardening, but it really does look out of place. Perhaps Jumanji preceded the little old lady? She probably tried to tame it, but soon realized like the Siegfried and Roy tiger… no one tames Jumanji.

The plant is nick named Jumanji for the movie, Jumanji, with Robin Williams. The movie is about a jungle safari board game that comes to life and the problems that result. The plant is similar to the creepy vines that take over the whole house and try capturing the little children and squeezing them to death. Our Jumanji has a root that grows, not in the soil like a normal plant, but half way down the side of our house on the cement. One day I will be in the back yard and almost out of nowhere another root will be creeping its way toward our house, attempting a takeover.

Every now and then, Danny and I attempt to restore the yard to its former glory. We get out the trimmers and hack away at Jumanji. Within a week the plant will look like it has never been trimmed.

During the spring/summer months, Jumanji blossoms. Its flowers are not delicate, beautiful, or sweet smelling. Instead they are phallus like, and ooze a yellow puss looking liquid that smells like pollen smothered with sour milk. If I am pruning the plant at this time, I always wear gloves….the ooze will probably mutate me into some crazy X Men character.

So Jumanji stays. It is more powerful than pruning shears and at times creates a child like fear in me. The only time when I feel a sense of victory over Jumanji, is when Tayler and Butch are let outside and immediately mark their territory on the jungle plant.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

More Ripon Adventures

When the weather is nice, I ride my bike on my days off. I’m lucky enough to live by a fantastic little bike trail. I like to take the back way through the pretty houses by the golf course, and then ride through Mavis Stouffer Park. I then pop out the back gate of the park. I ride around to the front entrance of the Ripon side of the Ripon Recreation Area.

When entering the recreation area there is a sign that says “Ripon Recreation Area Stanislaus River Parks.” It is operated and maintained by the city of Ripon. On the side is says “US Army Corps of Engineers” I guess they help guide the city of Ripon in their maintenance? Underneath the sign is a little memorial for a police officer whose death was accidental. He died while patrolling the area on an ATV.

Past the signs to the left, are some trails that lead to a nice little beach area by the river. There are also two port-a-potties. I have never used these port-a-potties, but they look nice enough from the outside.

Going down the bike trail is fun. There is a decline down to the river, so I get to coast on my bike. I go past a tree that is blooming. It smells like a combination of B.O., onions, and cheap perfume. Once the decline is done, the grasslands fade and I come into a wooded area.

To my right of the wooded area is the underside of the freeway bridge that goes over the Stanislaus River. It is blocked off with a small barbed wire fence. There is some graffiti there, so I doubt the fence helps that much. The freeway bridge is green. There are multiple pillars holding up the bridge and the cars and people who cross over it. Even though the bridge isn’t some majestic golden gate-esque bridge, I sort of like it. If I squint my eyes, the pillars blend in with the tree trunks of the wooded area. There are some little trails going under the bridge, which seem adventuresome. Of course it is well shaded; I always think if there were any homeless people in Ripon, this would be a nice bridge to sleep under. If bridges are their sleeping preference…

To my left are more trails that lead to the river. There is a squirrel in the tree right next to me. There are multiple squirrels out today. The squirrels like to play a game of chicken with me. They run out in front of my bike and test my swerving/braking skills.

Up ahead is the bike bridge. It is green like the freeway bridge. But it is delicate compared to the freeway bridge. I much prefer the bike bridge because I can stop and gaze at the river as long as I want. The river is pretty high right now. In the summer I can see the bottom. In the summer, I also usually see young adults floating down the river on pool floaties, drinking beer.

From my vantage point if I look toward the Salida side of the river, I can see some blue tarps. It looks like someone has set up camp. I’m sure this is illegal. The Salida side is farm land, plus it says somewhere no overnight camping. Whoever set up camp was smart to do so on the Salida side. The Ripon police would surely arrest the campers right away. I’m not even sure if Salida has its own police force.

I’ve seen this compound, the past couple times I’ve crossed the river. I think maybe a homeless family might be staying here. It’s not like a regular camping set up. It’s well hidden in the trees. If the leaves were out, I wouldn’t even be able to see the hint of blue tarp. I think I notice it because I cross the bridge nearly every day. Even when it’s been raining the raised tarps are still there. Maybe it’s not a homeless family. Maybe it’s a boy scout. If it were a homeless family they could sleep under the bridge. Then again they would have to be on the Ripon side…

Once I get to the Salida side it gets pretty ugly. It used to be okay. To the left used to be almond orchards. Through the chain linked fence sunflowers would grow. A couple months ago, Danny and I were driving by and I noticed the orchard had been cut down. I was being goofy and yelled “TREE DOWN, TREE DOWN!” Now all the trees are lying on their sides. There is a sign advertising orchard removal. I wonder what will replace the orchard. Perhaps housing developers will take it over. I hope not. Maybe a new orchard will be planted. That would be the best. I think orchards are pretty. Well that would be second best, a field of wild flowers first.

To my right is more freeway. It’s rather loud as there are no trees to soften the noise. There is trash stuck in the chain link fence. The vehicles are traveling much faster than the 15 mph bikes are allowed to travel on the path. I don’t think I’ve ever reached that speed.

Once I get to the end of the path, there is a dead end road next to the Hammet exit. Truckers will park here at night to get some rest. There is a half full bag of toilet paper sitting on the side on the gravel. The entrance to what once was the orchard is there. It says no trespassing.

When I turn around it’s always more difficult of a ride. The wind blows from the west and makes my pedaling slow. Once I get back to the bridge I get excited. During the summer some of the trees shed cotton like substance. Maybe oak trees? I’m not sure. I remember learning about them on a field trip in elementary school that we took to Caswell state park. They are the same trees. The cotton like substance reminds me of winter in the summer. It sprinkles down like delicate snowflakes.

Today I saw a couple on bikes exiting a gate from the Salida side. The man had on a flannel and had a long beard. The lady had on an old letterman’s jacket. They had a baby carrier with them with no baby. The carrier had a lot of what looked like blankets in it. They had a dog, that I surely thought would chase after me on my bike, but didn’t. We exchanged smiles and hellos, as most people who are on bikes do. I think they may be the couple who are staying at the compound. I have never seen people leave the Salida side, unless it’s been farmers. Whether they are homeless or not, I like them. They have a good dog, the like bikes, and they smiled at me.

Once I get to the end of the bridge going back to Ripon, the steepest decline awaits. Some people walk their bikes down it. I don’t. I try and go as fast as I can. During the summer the cool wind feels amazing. I may actually be going 15 mph at this point. Myself, my bike, and my basket go as fast as a beach cruiser with a basket can go. I’m sure I look goofy with a big grin on my face, but I can’t help that I love the Ripon Recreation Area.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

And the Lion shall lay down with the Lamb

Periodically Danny and I will be lounging around, cuddling with the dogs, and I’ll say to Danny, “I don’t want these dogs to die.” I go on to talk about how devastated I will be. I love my dogs very much. They are crazy, but I wouldn’t mind having my crazy dogs around forever.

When I was little I would always turn to my mom for biblical advice. Of course of utmost importance was whether or not my pets would go to heaven. She always told me she thought so, because the bible says, “And the Lion shall lay down with the lamb.” Butch and Tayler kind of look like the dog version of a lion and a lamb. Plus Disney made a movie, All Dogs go to Heaven, and Disney never lies.

It turns out the actual verse in the New International Version is from Isaiah 11:6 “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, and the calf and the lion and the yearling together…” I understand that this is more of a picture of the peacefulness of heaven, but I’m happy that it mentions a wolf, because they are so closely related to dogs.

I’m no theologian, but I’m sure this verse doesn’t promise my puppies will go to heaven. If there is a dog heaven, they certainly deserve entry though. They aren’t the most well behaved dogs in the world, but they are full of love. Tayler loves everyone. He is always a willing cuddler for even strangers. Butch is similar. Butch is too big to sit on someone’s lap, but he will come over and rest his head on your leg if you need puppy love or not. 1 Corinthians 14:13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

My thoughts about dogs going heaven, made me wonder about bugs. Bugs are animals too. I wonder if they will go to heaven. I can handle most bugs. Spiders, ants, and beetles are fine, as long as the ants stay out of my kitchen. But I don’t think flies should be allowed in heaven. I hope God doesn’t want them in heaven either.

My image of heaven includes my dogs. It also includes my long gone Himalayan, crossed- eyed, cat, Big Bird, along with my recently passed, sweet black cat Daisy. My Border Collie Lady, who died way too soon, would be there as well. My angora rabbit Rosie should go to heaven. My rodents Stinky the mouse and Squiggles the hamster should go to heaven too, except God will have to tell Squiggles she can’t bite me anymore. The turtle Fredericka, who we still don’t know if it was a boy or a girl, will be there. The frog Larry and toad Lawrence both caught at Livermore Lab by my dad, are heaven worthy. All the rollie pollies that I kept in jars under my bed when I was 5 should go too. Their death was my fault, because I didn’t punch enough holes in their little terrariums. There are others pets we had that should get a pass too.

Presently, all I can do is take my dogs on a walk and try not to feed them too many table scraps. My image of heaven could be way off. Maybe the only animal allowed in heaven will be flies. That seems more like a description of hell though. Tonight I will say a prayer for my pups entry into heaven and for long healthy lives. It may be silly, but in my heart, I really think they will be there.

Monday, March 1, 2010


To become a true Riponite, one must be Dutch and somehow be related to someone who owns one of the almond orchards. There are tall blonde people all over this town. The other way to become a Riponite is to emulate true Riponians. Because I am neither Dutch, nor tall and blonde, I will have to go with the second option.

This past weekend was the annual Almond Blossom Festival: The perfect opportunity to fully assimilate. Almond Blossom is the town’s treasure, it celebrates almonds: Ripon's bread and butter. Although the festival is really no different than any other festival, I wouldn’t dare say that to a true Riponite…as they think it is the best thing since…well, almond butter.

While visiting with my friend Casandra, (a second class Riponite) I was looking at the Ripon Record which was completely devoted to the festival. I saw a picture of the Almond Blossom Queen and the princesses. It hit me right then and there that becoming Queen of the Almonds was the best way to gain my Ripon glory. As we looked at the Almond Blossom schedule of events, I planned the best way steal her glory and take the crown.

First I must start out by pronouncing Almond as Amond. True Riponians say “amond”. Some people say that once the almonds are knocked out of the tree, it “knocks” the “L” out of the word almond…thus creating amond. Although I think this is rather silly, I tried to say amond all weekend as loudly as possible so people would think I was Dutch.

Casie then suggested that I change my last name to Van derLehr. Many well known Dutch people of Ripon have last names starting with Van. We tested out Van Lehr, but it didn’t pack enough punch. So we went with Van derLehr. I refused to talk to anyone unless they called me by my new name, Jessica Van derLehr.

My Almond Blossom schedule (printed in the Ripon Record) told me that I would have to get up early and go to the pancake breakfast Saturday morning. Danny went with me, which was good because he is tall and blonde (although not Dutch). The breakfast was fairly good for being made for a massive amount of people. The eggs were pretty gross, but I ate them anyway to get my protein. Casie had promised me bacon, so I was disappointed when ham showed up on my plate. The pancakes were delicious though. I am not really a fan of maple syrup so I was pleased that each pancake came with a pat of butter. At first I loudly protested the syrup, because of the Olympics and our rivalry with Canada going on. Then Casie made the suggestion that the syrup could be from the sap of an almond tree. So I pretended to enjoy it.

Next was the diaper derby. We had two friends with little boys who were planning on entering them in the race. These babies are not Dutch, so I had to keep my cheering to a minimum. The derby was held in the Ripon High School gym. I have never been in this gym, as I grew up in Manteca, but it was nice enough. Danny was excited because they had wrestling mats out for the babies to crawl on. We later saw a baby dressed in a wrestling singlet, which made Danny very excited. The MC of the diaper derby took her job very seriously. She said that she had never missed the Almond Blossom Festival since she had been alive, besides 1970 something when her daughter was born on the weekend of the festival. I decided this is why the participants must be under a year old, unless they turn one during the Almond blossom festival. She must have wanted the diaper derby victory bad. Unfortunately my little friends did not win the derby, probably because I didn’t cheer loud enough.

Danny conducted an informal survey of the top 6 diaper derby participants’ mothers. He found out that all of the babies were very close to turning one or had turned that weekend. Interesting. We decided that when we have children, we will have to time the birth so that the baby will turn one the weekend of Almond Blossom. Danny is a PE teacher/ trainer, so he will definitely get our baby in tip top derby shape. Surely being mother to a diaper derby legend, will help is my quest for Riponization.

Next it was time for the parade. Danny got to push little Ryan in his stroller, so he was happy. Once we got to Main Street, we found a nice little area to sit. The rain clouds were rolling in, but Dave (Casie’s father in law), assured me that for some reason it never rains on Ripon’s parade. Pam (Casie's mother in law), said it is because there are a lot of God fearing people in the town of Ripon. I have to agree, as there are churches on every corner. The parade was fairly boring, but I pretended to be excited. I spotted the Queen of Almonds, whom had horrible pageant waving form. She moved her hand too quickly, I showed everyone how a true queen should wave and they agreed. Later we saw an almond shuttle cart…this is what is used to take the almonds back to the almond huller. The cart got a lot of applause from the Riponians. I took notes, for a possible Almond Blossom quiz later on.

After an afternoon nap, it was time to go back out and soak in all things Almond Blossom. We went to the fair section, where there are rides, knick knacks, and deep fried treats. We mostly concentrated on the deep fried treat section. We consumed cinnamon sugar donuts, pepper steak sandwiches, and of course a fancy funnel cake. A fancy funnel cake has strawberries, powdered sugar, whipped cream, Bavarian cream, and chocolate all atop of a crispy fried funnel cake. When Danny and I decide to not eat healthy, we go all out.

As I was scarfing down my pepper steak sandwich, I saw the queen and princesses walking around with their little tiaras and their fancy prom dresses. I thought I could totally do that. Except at the moment I felt that with one of those dresses on me, I would look more like a deep fried Twinkie than Almond Blossom royalty.

Every Saturday evening of Almond Blossom, there is a dance at the community center. It is put on by the Quarterback Club. Basically, it’s a Ripon High School reunion. I have never been, but to be a true Riponite I must attend. The Ripon Record said that the Almond Blossom Queen would be there. I decided I could start dancing by her. Perhaps knock her with my Bavarian cream filled hips?  The crown would fall off her head and conveniently fall onto mine. The plan couldn’t fail.

Well the plan did fail. My friend Melisa happened to have her birthday party on what was supposed to be my Ms Almond Blossom transformation. I couldn’t back out of Melisa’s party. I ended up having a great night at Melisa’s, it was probably more fun that having to wear a prom dress and smile all day. Besides I’ll never be tall and blonde, say amonds, or be a Van derLehr. I do however, like almonds. We even use almond butter instead of peanut butter. I also don’t get allergies when all the blossoms are out like most people. I live here and I love it. And I’m pretty sure that's what being a true Riponite is all about. Besides once baby Van derLehr takes the diaper derby, I’m sure we’ll be the envy of all Ripon.