The Possum and the Pliers: a true fairytale

He was born in the wrong century.

He'd rather operate a table saw than a computer.  

He collects tools like people collect coins or vintage labels.

He can make anything... including moon boots out of duct tape.

He can fix anything. Well....almost anything......

Which brings me to a story.


Copyright 2011 Ms. Fish

Once in time, in the arid land of honeybees and industry, there lived a man called Possum.

Possum grew from a young boy who loved to play with tools into a man who loved to play with tools. Now, with thick peppery hair, bronzed muscular limbs from years of swimming, and hands strong enough to open even the stubbornest pickle jar, Possum had grown increasingly attractive with age.

He had grown in other ways too, such as his ability to purchase tools, and his ability to diagnose and treat his own physical ailments. Without having taken a single class in physiology, pathophysiology, diagnostic reasoning, or disease processes, Possum could intuitively identify what was wrong with him AND what to do to fix it, which usually involved taking mega-doses of Vitamin C.

One morning three weeks ago, Possum awoke to a find a surprising discovery: a giant gumball lodged in his right cheek. After a thorough investigation using one of my personal favorite tools (his tongue), Possum discovered there wasn't a gumball in his cheek after all, but rather an uncomfortable balloooning of buccal tissues sporting the color of a pomegranate and the pain of a hornet's sting. It wasn't long before his teeth, head, neck, jaw, and gums were throbbing with rebellious messages of something gone awry.

With his trusty diagnostic acumen and little time for a dental consultation, Possum announced a remedy for his self-declared infection. "I'll just periodically rinse my mouth with hot hot hot water and rinse / burn away the nasty little bugs. Oh... and I'll take some Vitamin C."

It worked. The pain and swelling subsided, biding him some time.

One week later, when Possum now had time to visit the dentist, he went to confirm his hypothesis. The dentist agreed. There was a fiery abscess, puddling with infection, secondary to a cracked tooth. The offending molar would need to come out. An appointment was made to return in one week for the procedure.

"It's $250 to get my tooth pulled," Possum lamented to me that night over chicken cordon bleu, which he was struggling to chew. "Plus, it's another $1800 to get an implant and a crown."

I could tell this news was weighing heavily on Possum. He hated spending money for healthcare, and especially hated spending money we didn't have. But, in this case, we had no choice. Right? Right.....unless you are Dr. Possible Possum.

He awoke the next morning with a plan.

A plan that involved his beloved tools. A plan that involved tools, tenacity and torture. A plan that completely freaked me out.

"I'm going to pull my own tooth," Possum stoically announced. "It will save us a lot of money."

"You can't do that," I protested. "What if.... what if.... what if...." I couldn't even think clearly enough to refute this silly idea. Any rationale thoughts I had were starting to be muffled by the auditory hallucinations of crunching bone pulsating against my ear drum.

A few nights later, after Otto and Andy left for a movie night with friends, Possum and I started watching Against a Crooked Sky (just kidding....neither of us remember which movie it was). After awhile, Possum got up and walked out of the house. Soon, he came back in from the garage tool warehouse and quietly bee-lined to the bathroom.  Just like the dentist who coyly slides his barbaric bayonets, chisels, forceps and syringes up the side of a patient's face so they won't faint see, Possum hid whatever he had from my view.

"What are you doing?" I yelled into the bathroom a few minutes later, not sure I wanted to know the answer.

"Just going to pull out my tooth," he said as nonchalantly as if he were ordering a pizza.

I sat. And listened. And waited. And waited. I didn't hear a peep. Not a single whimper.

"Honey..... are you ok?" I called out.

"Yef...doin' feen." he mumbled.

"Well....make a noise once in awhile.... moan or something," I requested.

The sound of the silence was deafening. I didn't like it.

I couldn't imagine pulling my own tooth. Without any painkiller. And certainly without squawking like an axed chicken. For me, the quietness was synonymous with Possum passed out on the floor, crimson streams of blood splattered on the walls and dripping from his hands; his fingers clutching a pair of pliers with a naughty chunk of enameled calcium balanced between the metal prongs.

Sorry to be so dramatic....but that is exactly what I envisioned. I had serious concerns about walking into the bathroom and finding my husband sprawled out onto the floor. Dead. From pain. I didn't dare go peek. I had contracted a bad case of the heebie jeebies. (I'm a nurse practitioner?????)

After 30 minutes of punctilious prying and twisting, Possum emerged, looking quite disheartened. I quickly surmised this was either from intense pain or something worse: failure.

"Well...?" I asked.

He had loosened the tooth, but couldn't get a strong enough hold to extract it. Who would have guessed that construction pliers don't have the right teeth to grip a tooth.

Although the attempt was unsuccessful, two things came out of this experience:

  1. I gained a new respect and attraction for my husband. It reinforced what a brave, manly, tough, resourceful hunk my man is. Once I settled down, and my shivers de-shivered and the blood washed away in my mind, I'm telling you...the idea of my man pulling out his own tooth....for us...was pretty darn sexy!!!!
  2. We discovered a tool the toolman doesn't have.... just in time for Father's Day.

The next day, I texted Mr. Fish at work, and thanked him for being willing to go through all that to save us money. I said, "You're awesome possum."

And that's how he got the name Possum.

And that's how I came to love him [and his dwindling tooth count] even more.

And that's how we are in the process of living happily ever after.

The End


Vocabulary Word of the Day
punctilious: extremely attentive, demanding, careful


Winds of Change

Weather has been weird all over the world.

Here on the home front, the blowing winds of change are kicking up a small dust storm in my soul. But a storm isn't always a disaster. It can produce positive re-arrangements, alternative solutions, and beautiful rainbows.

Not that you are the kind of person to hold a glass to the wall, but let's just say that IF you were to spy and listen through the walls of my home over the last couple of weeks, you would have heard

a) moaning (and you might have blushed until you realized the noises were from eating my bacon chocolate bar)
b) conversations like this:

# 1
Daisy: Did Otto tell you he wants to call it quits with so and so (his gal pal)?
Me: No

Daisy: Did Andy tell you that he kind of likes so and so?
Me: No

Daisy: Did Andy tell you that he got to go in the secret underground tunnels at school?
Me: No

Daisy: Did Otto tell you that he thinks you are the coolest mom in the world... way better than Carol Brady on the Brady Bunch?
Me: No

Ok...I'm just kidding about that last one.

Did you notice, though, what is happening here? Can you sense the winds a shifting?

In the olden days (and by 'olden' here I mean 6 months ago), waaaaayy back when Otto and Andy were in their mid-sixteens, they gradually stopped telling me much of anything, unless it had to do with homemade roll requests or the need for cash.

"But Ms. Fish," an astute observer might say, "it sounds  to me like they still don't tell you much of anything....  What is the change? Where are the shifts?"

Ah ha....!

Notice the boys ARE confiding to Daisy -- in a meaningful "I trust you with secrets and I want your advice" best-friends kind of way.

That is the distinction and a significant change. That is the rainbow.

rainbow cake photo credit: house of origin

photo credit: cookin' cowgirl

(Side note: should I be concerned that I think about rainbows in terms of food?)


While thick in the throes of tempestuous adolescent angst, burgeoning self-awareness and hormone-punched growth, I am coming to terms with the fact that my motherly role as a confidante is fungible for the moment. In my twin's case, they are taking the expected teen-age detour on the highway of confessions, admissions, depositions and assertions. 

Oh sure.....I would love for them to spill the beans to me about every detail of their action-packed lives. Both of my older two children did and I loved the close bond that we have always shared. But I feel great solace and satisfaction that Otto and Andy's pit stop on their conversational detour is Daisy, the big sister. Instead of teasing her about boys, they are asking her about girls.

Daisy loves it too. One day, during one of our talks, nestled between the posts of my bed, Daisy shared with me the genuine happiness she feels that her brothers talk to her as a respected equal, sharing all the puzzle pieces of their lives and asking for advice on clothes, hair gel, dating and school. She feels a new level of closeness to them. It wasn't too long ago that Sean shared with me the same joy when Daisy did likewise to him. Sibling rivalry revelry. Thrills me.

It's a sign of our times. It's a sign that my kids are growing up. It's a sign of the inevitable shifting winds of family life.

As for me and my soul, I know that when these winds calm down and the young adulthood dust settles, Otto and Andy will once again seek me out for comfort, wisdom, advice, and scones. Always scones.

In the meantime, I love the bond that is developing between my children. I hope that never blows away.

Keep swimming,
Ms Fish

PS: Please feel free to offer your feelings on teen-age shut-outs, sibling relationships, or anything else that swirls your dust.


Vocabulary Word of the Day (somewhere in above post):
Something that is exchangeable or substitutable

If you identify the word, try incorporating it into a blog comment to me. Just for funsies.


Don't Read This....You've Got Things to Do!

Well-behaved women seldom make history. 

At least that is what car bumpers teach: the ones with bumper stickers that quote Laurel Thatcher Ulrich from her book of the same title which I'm reading right now for book club. I had big hopes to love it and learn the secrets to making waves while still being a genteel lady and respectable mother. But it has been a little hard for me to slog through.

Probably because

a) my sister got me playing Words with Friends which is rudely distracting
b) my brain is blitzing (see the Twitter Trap: excellent article)
c) the world is ending tomorrow and I need to MAKE history, not just READ about it

_____________________ * ___________________

I have mixed feelings about the world ending on Saturday (at least the Rapture part).

On the one hand, it's nice to know plans in advance. (True, I totally dig surprises, just not when they have to do with death). It's also nice to know that my family will all be dying together, preventing the need for mourning and wailing and gnashing of teeth and the inevitable fight (and guilt) with the funeral home about not buying the casket for my hubby with air-conditioning and automated air freshening.

The biggest benefit, the one that I'm already in rapture about------ the rapture before the Rapture--------- is that I won't have to pay back my student loans which are supposed to begin in June. Boy, I planned that well.  I could just kiss Harold Camping for giving me the evidence I need to tell the loan people to take a [final enjoyable] hike. Now, I have a batch of unspoken-for funds that I can use to help in my final hours eating cheesecake, twinkies, dr. pepper, guacamole, bacon chocolate, bacon cookies, bacon pizza and bacon.

However, the impending END is not all foofaraw and gluttony. There are drawbacks and downfalls. What about the unfinished business? I was just learning about becoming a misbehaved woman and making history. I was working up to the moment of setting a goal to start thinking about becoming more interesting, friendly, successful, and philanthropic before my lights dim. I've been planning a saddleback jeans comeback in 2013. I was going to get back on track to have my annoying personality flaws ironed out in 12 years. My new New's Year slogan and bumper sticker design is in the works to say: QUIRK-FREE in 2023

Besides unfinished business, the idea of the world ending conjures up a few regrets. My biggest one is that Mr Fish and I didn't think of this. EarthBound Pets is a purchased service that ensures your pets are taken care of by those not risen in the Rapture (all those agreeing to take care of the pets are atheists). I just kick myself that we didn't start this business. What a philanthropic gesture. Not to mention, business is booming. We would be rich enough to eat hormone-free, organic, free-range, grass fed bacon from stress-free, sunbathed and spa-treated happy pigs every single minute we have left.

By the way, if you are thinking "well shucks.... I better get me one of those plans for my little Poofy Poo Poodle-oo," you are plum out of luck. With unprecedented email volume, they have more business than they can handle. Hate to sound cold, but your pets may have to fend for themselves or live with your ex. (Haha! did you notice what I did there?)

Yes, there are definitely pros and cons to the world ending soon.

Since this may be my final post, I want the record to be known to the cats, crows and miscreants left behind: I love my God, family and religion more than anything in this world. As long as I have those, I'll be in heaven wherever I am, even earth. Amen.

In rapture,
ms fish

____________________ * ____________________

PS: Just in case.....heaven forbid (or heaven allows), there turns out to be some miscalculation and we still find ourselves here with mortgage payments and meals to cook,  I'm starting a new blog feature.

The Words with Friends game, along with my friend Lexi Annie O, have inspired me to improve my vocabulary. That way, when I do arrive at the pearly gates, I can impress Peter and defend my life's choices with bigger fancier words.

So, starting today and in each subsequent blog post, I will incorporate an uncommon (in my world) vocabulary word. If you want (or are bored since you can go back to procrastinating if the world doesn't end), try and pick out that word.

____________________ * ____________________

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Although I am having fun with the apocalyptic concept here, this post is not intended to mock or poke fun of good Christian (or non-Christian) people and their sincere beliefs. I want to be respectful of all people and faiths and allow them to worship how they may. I personally believe that there will be a second coming of Christ, which will be glorious, though the day is unknown. I am actually looking forward to it, though my mixed feelings will still apply.

 ____________________ * ____________________

Today's word [somewhere in this post] means:  
a fuss over a trivial matter


Graduation Week Top Twenty

There are few things in my life that top last week.

You could send me to Paris for a month or Seychelles for three and it couldn't be any more delightful than the week I just spent in the dim of the Wasatch and Timpanogas mountains, with lukewarm spring weather and Skittle-colored tulips sprinkled around the city like jimmies on a cupcake. (Let's experiment... send me to Paris and then I'll let you know for sure which is better.)

All of my siblings were together. That hasn't happened since Nicholas Cage made a decent movie. We just kept celebrating one thing after another after another and the good times kept rollin'.... rollin' like a river.

So, here are the week's Top Twenty magical moments for me...... (not in chronological order)

Scoring a pair of Top Siders at Nordstrom Rack

Slopping up garlic hummus with warm baby-soft pita bread at Aristo's

Devouring homemade granola with strawberries and pancakes with buttermilk syrup on my brother's patio for breakfast

Being spoiled with an awesome Mother's Day dinner of my favs:  prepared, served and cleaned up by my kids and Mr. Fish.

Watching my mom enjoy her American food (such as the taco time crispy bean burrito) after eating sea creatures and donkey meat in China

Getting news that my brother passed his anesthesia boards and is officially a board certified anesthesiologist

Hearing that Andy, left behind in Hurricane, made the only and winning goal in Thursday's state play-off soccer game against Judge Memorial (last year's state champions).

Moving Daisy home from college for the summer

Taking in the smells [ooh ya] and sights of the breathtaking spring flowers at Temple Square and the homemade rolls at Lion House Pantry

Rocking out with with the whole fam + 1,500 other freakin' fanatics at the season's 1st Provo Rooftop Concert Series (featuring Paul Jacobsen and Fictionist). And visiting with  C Jane and Sarah Wiley (organizers of the event). Also you should know I couldn't really take my eyes off Jacob Jones. He hardly cracked a smile when 700 girls were screaming for him. That takes some real talent. When Fictionist gets on the cover of Rolling Stone, we will remember the night we saw them up close. It was great to soak up the balmy electric atmosphere, chomp on swedish fish, dart out of the way of crowd surfers, get confirmation from my sibs that we must all be getting old, and support my brother Justin, another one of the concert organizers and co-master of ceremonies.

photo credit: justin hackworth photography

the fictionist. photo credit: justin hackworth photography
jacob jones of fictionist. photo credit justin hackworth photography

Partying with fab four family and friends

fab four singing "Ain't Nothin' But a Dr."

melissa sings "fly" by hillary duff. jeremy accompanies on geetar
presenting each of our daughters with a butterfly necklace. now it's their time to fly.

Getting pedicures and facials with my sisters, mom and daughter

Receiving a J. Crew leather satchel [big enough to hide 3 lbs of hot tamales] from the sibs;  a string of genuine high-grade pearls and an iPad from my parents; and a Vosques bacon-chocolate candy bar from my supersis... she knows me WELL!!

Staying up till 2 am playing guitars and singing covers of the Bodine's, Head and the Heart, Lucinda Williams and Magnetic Fields, plus Hackworth originals: Holly, Peppy Peppito, and Silly Shoes and a Sundress. (Fictionist? what's the big deal. you oughta see our concert). Then all sleeping over in the same room like we did on Christmas eve as kids and waking up to presents from China!

photo credit: amy hackworth

S I X    P O I N T    F I V E
Having most of the family go to Heber to watch Andy's high school state quarter-finals soccer match against Wasatch.

Having over 40 family members and friends at the graduation (thanks so much!)

Speaking at graduation [and controlling my tears]

either the dean is enjoying my speech or she just realized I'm almost finished

Surprising my mom and dad about being a convocation speaker. They didn't find out until they read the program.

T H R E E   P O I N T   F I V E
Getting to bask in the company of my awesome parents after not seeing them for 8 months.

Talking for an hour to our missionary son on Mother's Day and hearing him laugh.

Getting hooded. Finally.

we did it together. the best friends a girl could ask for

we are smart and can model too!

aunt donna and cousins: crystal and sharlee

cousin gardner and daisy

aunt shauna and uncle kaey and cousins: gavin, andrew, rebecca

the handsome hackworth men

justin and amy

jordan and janna

my brothers: jeremy and jordan

we almost always get along

three generations. my grandmas are smiling from heaven

love mr fish


my one and only daisy

double docs: both graduates from the university of utah

the women of the hackworth

four hackworth siblings all earned three stripes on the regalia sleeves

mr fish thinks of the possibilities now that i am no longer in school

jeremy and girlfriend carisa

my family and good friend, jeff donovan. we missed andy and sean

half of our chilluns

dnp program director: dianne fuller

my capstone chair: mardie clayton

And  the   N U M B E R   O N E   M O S T   M E M O R A B L E    M O M E N T {drum roll please}

Freaking out when my sister from Virginia surprised me {!!!!!!!} by casually sauntering up the sidewalk outside Kingsbury Hall before the graduation ceremony. The little turkey said she couldn't come.

genuine joy

"look everybody... my SISTER is HERE!!!!!"

Thanks to my papa and his new fancy camera for taking all these incredible pictures. I am unflinchingly grateful for photographs which become my memory....."a way of holding onto the things I love, the things I am, and the things I never want to lose."  - the wonder years

And thanks to my family and my dear fab friends. FOR ALL OF IT!!


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