We spent the 4th of July with my in-laws. They live on a lake in northern Minnesota. We don’t actually go anywhere to see fireworks when we spend the 4th of July with them – we don’t have to because people set off fireworks all over the lake. Real fireworks that explode in the sky. Not that this is legal or anything (they’re not legal in Iowa or Minnesota)…but most people enjoy it, so no one complains. It’s really kind of neat to see fireworks going off all around you, reflecting off the lake…

The high point of the trip was…I bought myself a mandolin! I’ve always wanted one. Ever since I first heard Vivaldi’s Mandolin Concertos (when I was in middle school!) I’ve wanted to learn to play classical mandolin. And they’re really not all that expensive, so I don’t know why I never bought myself one before. (I considered buying one with the advance I got on my first book…I wanted to do something special with that money…but I ended up buying a ring to remember my first book sale instead.) But I was at this flea market in Minnesota (and I am the first person to tell you that a flea market is probably NOT the place to purchase a musical instrument)…and well, I saw a vendor selling guitars and mandolins…and the price was right, so I couldn’t resist. It’s not a great instrument, but it’s a nice starter instrument. I figure if I really get into this, I can do some research and get a nicer instrument later, when I know what I’m doing.

The low point of the trip was… the “fishing incident.” Let me start by saying I can take or leave fishing. It’s not something I ever get real excited about…but at the same time, I do enjoy being out on the lake. And there’s something relaxing about just sitting there, not talking, staring at your bobber as it, well…bobs around on top of the water. The only problem is sometimes a fish will come along and attach himself to your hook (or MY hook!), and even if you’re not exactly trying to catch a fish, you end up catching one (or more than one) anyway.

I don’t know a lot about fishing. I know that you put different stuff on the line to catch different kinds of fish. But I don’t know what stuff you’re supposed to use when. I don’t know how to change out most of the stuff. (And I don’t find it interesting enough to learn.)

I DO know how to bait my own hook, though. (Woo hoo!) I can put a worm on the hook and I can reach my hand into a bucket of fifty dead minnows, find the one or two live ones in there, grab one and spear it on the hook without killing it.

What I’m not so good at is taking the fish off the hook. When I was eleven, the neighbor boy across the street and I went fishing once. And God forbid we caught a fish (a slimy old bullhead, too! Yuck!). I don’t remember which of us caught it, but neither of us wanted to take it off the hook. I thought he should do it because (I really hate to admit this…) he was the boy…and he thought I should do it because I was a year older. We tried everything to get that fish to come loose all by itself (believe me, you don’t want to know what we tried). But nothing worked, so we ended up walking the mile and a half back to our houses with this poor fish dangling from the end of one of our poles. And of course, neither of our mothers was willing to take it off the hook for us, either. But eventually the retired guy who lived next door to me took it off for us. That was the only time this boy and I ever went fishing together!

I’ve tried to get better about taking fish off the hook since then. But I don’t get a lot of opportunities to practice. I did, however, manage to take two fish off the hook all by myself right before the “fishing incident.” (It’s important to mention that because my mother-in-law will never remember that part of it.) First I took a perch off (perch are easy…unless they swallow the hook…because they’re small enough that I can wrap my hand around them) and then I took a crappie off (this was a big deal because I have small hands, so I have a hard time getting my hand around a crappie…plus they’ve got sharp spiky things on top of their bodies that you have to hold down so you don’t get stabbed while you wrestle the hook from the stupid fish’s mouth).

All was well until the second crappie had to come and bite MY line. (Do these fish have it in for me??? Is that why they come around and bite MY line? Because they know I don’t like to take them off the hook?) I managed to get it up onto the pontoon boat, but I didn’t have to take it off the hook because it somehow shook itself free and landed on the floor of the boat. At the edge of the boat. Can you guess where this is going? I did try and kick it back, away from the edge, but well…I should’ve bent down and PICKED IT UP. Except I didn’t want to do that. So instead I let it flop around a couple of times until it was back in the water, swimming away.

My mother-in-law will NEVER let me live this down! She will tell everyone she knows for the next ten years that her daughter-in-law is afraid of fish! (The only people who did not give me crap for this are my children! So I guess I owe them. Of course, College Student was sitting right beside me at the front of the pontoon, and he didn’t make any move to reach down and grab the fish, either.)

The good news is the humiliation is fresh in my mind, so I can draw upon it when I need to know how my main character feels when he or she is being picked on. That which doesn’t kill us gives us something to write about, right?

I think I also feel a Toastmasters speech coming on…I’ll call it “Fishing with Dori.” I’ll have them all rolling on the floor!

Highs and Lows with the in-laws

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