Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dog Lovers?

I ask you: which do you think is more loveable, a fluffy, affectionate couch-potato Pomeranian like Frankie, or a bug-eyed, hyperactive Boston terrier named Oreo? The question arises because Jeana is answering questions from her readers, and stated that she is selective about the dogs she loves; she loves her own Golden retriever, Emma, and has a soft spot for dachshunds (we had one when she was growing up), and even loves her brother's Boston terrier. I have read the post three times, and still find no mention of my Frankie, who is hands down the most lovable, adorable dog on earth.
Now I am asking you, my readers, to vote.
All three of you.
And you know who you are.

Monday, December 10, 2007

How Long Has It Been Since You Cleaned That Hat?

Papaw, my father-in-law, wears a silver gray Stetson. He has been wearing it for several years, indoors and out, dress-up or casual, going out to dinner or working on his car. I told my husband that the hat needed cleaning. His first suggestion was to just buy a new hat.
A Stetson is not a casual purchase; it's an investment.
And Papaw likes his hat. He doesn't really want a new one.
So I suggested that we get the hat cleaned.
Wick said if I could find a place to get it cleaned, he would take it.
So I called Cavender's and asked, "Do you clean hats?"
The guy who answered said, "We sure as h#!! do, darlin'!"
I said well great, how long would it take?
He said, "We can do it in five minutes!"
I said now before you make any promises, you need to know that my father-in-law has been wearing this hat for several years, and it is pretty dirty.
He said, " If ol' Joe can't clean that hat in five minutes, I'll kick his @$$!"
I said okay, we'll bring it right over.

Now Papaw is quite attached to his hat. And he also has a little trouble hearing. So when I told him we were taking his hat to be cleaned, I'm not sure he understood. Or maybe we did it so fast he didn't have time to object. Wick and his brother took off with the hat, and my sister-in-law went to take a shower and do her hair before we went out to eat, leaving me to entertain Papaw.

We talked about his new place (assisted living), the cute nurse who bring him a banana and a glass of milk before he goes to bed at night, the one who helps him shower, and other assorted topics. Suddenly he put his hand on his head, and said, "Where's my hat?"

I reminded him that the guys had taken it to be cleaned. He said oh yeah, I forgot.

When the guys got back, they didn't have the hat. I asked where it was, and Wick said, "Joe said that's more than a five-minute job."
I said, so is Joe going to get his @$$ kicked?
Papaw said, "Who's gettin' his @$$ kicked? I want to see that!"
Then he said, "Where's my hat?"

We went out to eat while the hat was being cleaned.

I was not surprised that it was more than a five-minute job, since Papaw had frequently handled this pale gray Stetson when his hands were greasy up to the elbows from working on his car.

Several times during dinner he asked where his hat was, and each time when we reminded him it was being cleaned, he asked, "Well how long is it going to take?"

I didn't know, but I was pretty sure it was going to be more than five minutes.

When we got ready to leave the restaurant, he started looking for his hat again. The guys took us back to the house and went to get the hat.

When they brought it back, Wick said, "Joe says he didn't quite get it clean, but if we'll bring it back more often, he thinks he can get it cleaner."

Papaw examined every inch of his Stetson when Wick handed it to him, and then said, "Well I'll be d@**, I didn't know it was that dirty! It looks brand new, don't it?"

It might not look brand new, but it certainly looks better than it did before.

However, I still wish I could have seen Joe's face when he decided that hat was not a five-minute job.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Back by Popular Demand

In response to overwhelming demand (at least three people have e-mailed me!) I am back. Now and then my blogging mind seems to go blank, and I just can't think of anything to write about. I still don't have anything important to say, but then again, a great many of my posts have been about not much of anything, so this one won't be that unusual.
School has been in session for 11 weeks, so second report cards will be due next week. We started school with a new administrative staff, and there has been an adjustment period--every principal has his own system, and it takes a while to learn all the different expectations. The students are responding well to the new discipline program, which makes my life a lot easier. And our new principal is trying to improve morale by recognizing the efforts made by our teachers and staff to improve student learning.
Our low carb efforts have been rewarded by stabilized blood sugar levels, and both of us have lost a few pounds, so that's all good.
Thanksgiving is coming soon, so I've been thinking about all our blessings, and all that we have to be thankful for. I'm planning a Thanksgiving post next week. Won't you join me and post about the blessings in your life?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Catching My Breath

Since we returned from our cruise, I have had a bout with low blood sugar, a summer cold, a sinus infection, bronchitis, laringitis, and incipient pneumonia.
Praise God that we live in the age of antibiotics; otherwise, as my darling husband pointed out, I would be dead by now.
For some reason, no matter what kind of illness I start out with, it eventually goes to my lungs, resulting in acute bronchitis, or pneumonia, or both.
Just lucky, I guess.
Fortunately, my doctor takes any respiratory problem I have quite seriously, and gets aggressive with antibiotics, cough meds, pain killers, and so forth and so on. He know that for me, waiting to see what develops is just not an option.
In addition to coughing incessantly until I feel as if I have broken a rib or two, blowing my nose until it's so raw the skin starts peeling off, and wheezing so loudly I can be heard in the next room, my brain turns to mush. All I want to do is sleep.
Thinking is out of the question.
I'm so glad I had my response t o Jeana's question about blogging comments drafted ahead of time.
It only took me about 45 minutes to figure out how to post it, working, as I was, through a codeine fog.
Fortunately, it's summertime, and I don't really have to make good sense until August 2oth, when I have to go back to work.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bloggy Commenting

Jeana posted an open invitation to talk about commenting on blogs, and I couldn't resist putting in my two cents.

I feel certain that my post will not be exactly what she had in mind, since I am thinking in terms of literary theory, interpreting literature and literary criticism. Some might argue that blog posts are not literature, but I feel that in our age of electronic communication, internet blogs qualify as a form of literature; in fact, blogging seems to be overtaking traditional publishing in both volume and content.

For many years, the interpretation of literature was based on the idea of figuring out what the author, the writer, meant. This process involved close reading of the text, exploration of the multiple meanings of the words used, and then extended to examination of the author's life to put the piece of writing in context.

However, as literary theory evolved during the twentieth century, the deconstructionist view began to take over. According to the deconstructionist view, the author is not necessarily the only or even the best source for discovering the true meaning of the text. The reader brings his/her own life experiences to the interpretation of the writer's work, and the reader's interpretation is considered as valid as the author's interpretation.

For most published authors, writing was a sort of one-sided conversation. The writer "speaks" through his written works, and retains possession of the original work, as well as the authority to reinterpret his/her meaning in response to literary critics. The "conversation" might take place over a long period of months or years, as each writer contributed to the exchange.

Now, with the advent of blogging, the author can receive almost immediate feedback, finding out how others interpret his/her work while the ideas are still fresh in the author's mind.

If you are a regular reader of blogs and their comments, you already know that people can take totally opposing views on what the blogger "really" meant. The blogger may or may not try to interpret the original intent of the post, may respond to the comments, close the comments, or delete comments that seem inappropriate. Those who comment can create their own posts, linking back to the original source, thus keeping the conversational connections intact. Others may then comment, or post in response, and so the conversation continues until everyone is satisfied--or exhausted.

I enjoy the comments almost as much, if not more than, the original posts. The exchange of ideas is so fresh, so immediate, and so often takes the readers in unexpected directions, possibly unimagined by the original poster.

The down side of comments is that some people feel entitled to browbeat the blogger into changing his or her position, by arguing the issue, or by personal attacks.

As my grandmother used to say, if you can't say anything nice, maybe you shouldn't say anything at all.

I don't mean that it is wrong or rude to disagree; I'm just saying, let's try to express ourselves civilly and kindly.

We are all entitled to our own opinions, but if we can't have civil discourse, ...
well, if we can't be civil, I'll close my comments ;)

Jeana's take on bloggy responses focuses on the issue of manners. I chose to focus on the conversational aspects of blogs and responses. What's your take? Be sure to link your response through Jeana's Mr. Linky.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

WFMW--e-mailing grandkids

Like many grandparents, we don't get to see or spend as much time with our grandchildren as we would like. We work. They are busy. And too young as yet to really participate in a lengthy telephone conversation.
After just a few sentences, they are off to other activities.
So we e-mail. Each child has his or her own e-mail address. I write an open-ended question (one which requires more than a yes/no answer).
Sometimes that day, or the next day, or a week later, I receive a response. Sometimes they ask me a question. Or I come up with another question based on their answers.
Sometimes I write a short paragraph, to which they respond with questions or comments.
I enjoy hearing from them, and letting them know that they are on my mind and in my prayers.
They like knowing that an adult is willing to take the time to keep the "conversation" going.
It only takes a little time, and doesn't put them on the spot to reply immediately, as a telephone call or visit does.
Like most kids, they love to use the computer, and love getting e-mail.
And it keeps us involved in each other's lives.
And that works for me.

Running Aground on the Carb Reef

On Monday I posted about our cruise vacation, and all the wonderful, marvelous, delicious food served on the ship.
We had decided before the trip to throw caution to the winds, and eat like there was no tomorrow. When tomorrow got here, we started paying the price for that orgy of carbohydrates.

Ohh how we payed.

Blood sugar dropped.
Heads hurt.
Bones ached.
Energy was nearly zero.
We felt just awful.

We started Monday morning just fine, with all those carbs still floating around in our blood stream. We reviewed our dietary plan for the week, made a shopping list, and went to the grocery store. Unfortunately, I drank two cups of coffee, but didn't eat any breakfast.
Our shopping trip included a stop at Home Depot, so it was past noon when we got to Wal-mart.
By 1:30, it had been more than 15 hours since I had eaten.
As I pushed the shopping cart along one of the outside aisles, I noticed that everything was looking sort of blurry.
Then I started to feel dizzy.
I was sure I was goingto pass out.
How embarrassing would that be, to fall to the floor in the middle of the Wal-mart?
Luckily, there was a little bench nearby, so I sat down, put my head between my knees as best I could, considering the load of carbs I was still carrying in my bloated tummy, and wiped the clammy sweat from my face.
Was I ever paying a price for all that yummy, luscious food.
Somehow, it seemed so unfair.
I mean, 5 had already decided to reform.
I was busy buying all kinds of low carb, healthy foods, getting back on plan, and yet I was having to suffer withdrawals for the carb revels on the ship.
Isn't my repentance enough?
Why do I have to suffer like this, just when I am back on the right track?
Fortunately, just as I was about to drown in a pool of self-pity and sweat, dear husband came to the rescue.
He knew that my blood sugar had bottomed out.
He also knew that sugar would temporarily stave off the symptoms, but in a few minutes I would be crashing again.
So he did what any low carb savvy husband would do:
He popped the top on a can of Vienna sausages.
Stabbing one with his pocket knife, he offered it to me.
Now at that moment, I truly thought that if I ate anything, either I would not be able to swallow it, or it would come right back up again.
But I felt so lousy I was desperate.
So I opened my mouth.
I chewed.
I swallowed.
I began to feel as if I might not actually fall off the bench onto the floor.
And when I got home, as soon as I put away the groceries and ate more protein, I got busy posting recipes on my low carb recipe blog.
I'm still not feeling good enough to make anything very elaborate, but at least I am thinking about it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Cruising Along

Wick & I just returned from a 7 day cruise with Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas. We have sailed on this ship four times. She is not the largest cruise ship, but has the most repeat cruisers of any of Royal Caribbean's ships, due to the wonderful service and friendly staff.

Sadly, this will be our last cruise on the Rhapsody. She is being sent to Australia for several months, then will be reconditioned, and sent to Asia.

One of the things we like about the Rhapsody is the size. With about 2500 passengers, it is possible to get acquainted with other passengers, and to feel a part of the shipboard community.
On this cruise, we traveled with a family group, 15 other cruisers related to us by birth or marriage. We enjoyed their company, and shared many meals, on board activities, and excursions.

If you have never taken a cruise, be prepared for a whole new world of experience. For us, it is a week of feeling like royalty. Someone else cooks, serves and cleans up after 5 course gourmet meals, including lobster, escargot, prime rib, shrimp, and the most luscious desserts I have ever dreamed of. Someone else makes up the bed, cleans the shower, puts out clean towels, and picks up the wet washcloth I dropped in the shower. Someone else plans the daily activities, serves an endless stream of drinks with chunks of fruit and little umbrellas, and washes up the glasses afterward.

The biggest decision on a day at sea is which of a half dozen appetizers to order, or whether to read in a deck chair on the promenade deck, or in the solarium.

It's a week of luxury, of being pampered and cosseted, of being made to feel that life is truly just a bowl of cherries---piled high with whipped cream.

Try it. I think you'll like it.

Blog Reader Project survey!

Please, please, pretty please, take this survey! I'd like to get to know you better!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Meredith's post about lids reminded me of the loss of lids for my favorite Corning ware casserole dishes, which I received as a wedding gift.
The dishes themselves were that very sturdy, nearly indestructible stuff that goes from freezer to oven to microwave to dishwasher with nary a problem. The lids, however...
The lids were just glass.
They chipped easily.
They broke almost as easily.
So by the time I had been married about 20 years or so, I still had the dishes, but only one lid.
One Sunday afternoon, my dear daughter-in-law and I went shopping at a nearby outlet mall, where there was a Corning outlet. We were accompanied by two year old Pie.
Pie was very patient with us as we shopped store after store.
When we got to the Corning outlet, I looked at replacement lids, but couldn't decide on which sizes I needed. So we decided to go home and look at the dishes, just to be sure.
When we got back to my house and unbuckled Pie from her car seat, she ran ahead of us into the house, jabbering incomprehensibly.
I followed her, curious to see what she was up to.
She went directly into the kitchen, opened the lower cabinet door where I kept the Corning dishes, and yanked the stack that needed lids right out of the cabinet.
Onto the floor.
Onto the ceramic tile floor.
Shattering all but one of the dishes.
Despite their apparent sturdiness, they could not survive a two year old, or a tile floor.
I guess I didn't need those lids after all.

Monday went to the dogs

Yesterday, instead of cooking supper, I was lazy, and picked up a box of fried chicken at Brookshire's, as well as a pound of fried chicken livers, one of my husband's favorites. I sliced up a cantaloupe and some tomatoes fresh from our neighbor's garden, and baked some potatoes.
A pretty decent dinner, I thought.
Apparently, son's Boston terrier thought so too.
We currently have our own Pom, Frankie, as well as Gracie the pug and Oreo the Boston terrier (son's dogs) in residence. Frankie, being particular about what he will eat, rarely begs for table food. Gracie, being somewhat on the plump side, has never offered to climb up on the supper table. It had never occurred to me that Oreo, in addition to being a persistent beggar, would actually assault anything left on the table and swallow it whole.
At least until last night.
I got sidetracked before I finished putting everything away after supper. The bowl of chicken livers, a couple of chicken wings, and half a stick of butter in its dish were still on the table.
I went outside, leaving the dogs inside.
Now I don't know for sure that Oreo was the one responsible.
Nor do I know for sure that she actually devoured all that food.
But when I came back in, the butter dish was on the floor.
The bowl of chicken livers was empty.
The fried chicken wings were gone.
I'm talking gone.
As in not even crumbs left behind.
Frankie had his head between his paws. Never looked up.
Gracie looked at me with her melting brown eyes, as if pleading innocent.
Oreo was laying on the couch, and when I tried to scoot her over so I could sit down, she groaned.
None of them confessed, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they shared the bounty of our leftovers that I had planned to have for lunch today.
And judging from what came out during her late night walk, a great deal more than dry dog food went into Oreo at some point.
Not that I am accusing her.
I'm just saying.

Saturday, June 30, 2007


For those of you who may not have noticed, it's been raining in Texas.
A lot of rain.
So much rain that a lot of people have lost their homes, and a few have lost their lives.
Here at our place, it has rained almost every day this summer.
Last summer, we had a drought, which lasted almost 15 months. Our lake was so low that we couldn't get our boat out of the boat house for several months. We could walk across our cove to the neighbors' on dry land.
But then it started raining.
And it rained.
And rained.
And rained.
I love rainy days. But after a while, I begin to yearn for a few sunny days.
Yesterday and today were bright and sunny, with a mild breeze, and moderate temperatures. We really enjoyed the beautiful blue Texas sky, and sat outside for a long time yesterday, just enjoying being able to sit outside.
Then it rained.
For about an hour.
Which is to be expected, lately.
But we were also trying to smoke a brisket, in preparation for the family visit we are expecting during this week of the 4th of July.
So as soon as the rain slacked off, husband went out to stir the fire and add some wood to keep the brisket cooking.
Then my cell phone rang, and it was him, telling me to come out and look at the rainbow.
Oh my goodness.
The most vivid rainbow I have ever seen. The colors were not washed out and filmy, like watercolors, but very bright and glowing.
Then I noticed a second rainbow arching above the first.
Two rainbows at once, arching over our lake.
For the first time in my life, I could actually see the end of the rainbow, where it touched the water. It really looked as if we could have taken the boat out and sailed right into the end of that glorious prismatic rainbow.
All this rain over the past days and weeks has us joking about needing to build an ark, or wondering if we will meet Noah, and thinking about the forty days and forty nights of rain, when all living things on earth were drowned, except for those inside the ark.
After the clouds and rain ended, God made a covenant with the earth:

12 God said, "This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations;
13 I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.
14 "It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud,
15 and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh.
16 "When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth."
Genesis 9: 12-16

An everlasting covenant.
A promise for all generations of human kind.
And there was the sign of that covenant, arching over my head.
I looked along the shore line, and saw our neighbors out on their docks, looking at the rainbow as well.
I guess this is the treasure we found, at the end of the rainbow--not a pot of gold, but a community, a way of life, a place to live.
Highlighted by God's bow in the clouds.

Family Heirlooms

A few weeks ago a cousin was moving from one apartment to another, and found the pitcher and serving bowl pictured here among his stored belongings. He e-mailed me to tell me he was bringing them to me.
The serving bowl belonged to my daddy's mother. She passed away when my daddy was still a kid, so I never knew her. I have seen only one picture of her. My daddy said she was a tiny woman, with rich auburn hair. One of his most vivid memories was of her brushing her hair at night, as she prepared for bed, hair so long that she could have sat on it.
My aunt Ruth has told me that Grandma Lee was a sweet and gentle woman, who sang as she worked in her home, who gave birth to twelve children, and who worked hard to take care of her family.
Aunt Ruth also gave me Grandma Lee's cornbread dressing recipe, which I make for my children and grandchildren during the holidays.
I like to imagine her making that dressing, and serving it in that bowl.
The pitcher, on the left, was my husband's great-grandmother's. It is a lemonade pitcher. A hundred years ago, she may have served lemonade in it on a hot summer day.
These are the only tangible bits we have left of these two women's lives--two women without whom neither my husband nor I would exist.
What else do we have of them? Memories. Family stories. A heritage of faith in God and love of family, a tradition of building and maintaining family ties.
Without these bits of china, we would still have those memories and family traditions. The pieces themselves have little, if any, intrinsic value, but when our little cabin is finished, they will have a place of honor, to remind us ever day of those who lived before us.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Growing up Reading

Melodee got me to thinking about books I read as a child.
My daddy didn't get to finish school, but he strongly believed in reading as the key to self-education. My mama took us to the library weekly, even though it was across town, and not very convenient. My incentive to learn to write my name was to get my own library card.
However, the librarian had some kind of silly rule about kids only being allowed to check out books from the kids' section, and only five at a time.
And I could read a bushel basket of books every week. In fact, we took a bushel basket with us every week, to carry the books we checked out. Mama said I could check out however many books I wanted, but I had to read everything I checked out, and everything had to go back the next week.
So I read.
I read everything.
Cereal boxes.
Old textbooks that had belonged to my mama's older brothers when they were in elementary school.
And my ambition was to read every book in the library.
I have no idea where I got such an idea, but at least I was systematic about it.
I started in the children's section, with the A's, as in Alcott, Louisa May.
I read Little Women, Little Men, Jo's Boys.
I read An Old Fashioned Girl, Eight Cousins, Rose in Bloom.
Under the Lilacs.
Jack and Jill.
I had no idea when I began that Miss Alcott had written so many books. I would check out two, and then the next week, some that had not been on the shelf before would appear, and I would check those out. I enjoyed Little Women and Little Men, Eight Cousins, and Rose in Bloom. The rest I just read obsessively, wanting to move on to the next author.

When I finally got to the L's I discovered Andre Lang's fairy tale books:
The Green Book of Fairy Tales.
The Crimson Book of Fairy Tales.
The Blue Book of Fairy Tales.
and so forth.

In the W's I discovered Leonora Mattingly Webber's Beany Malone series, fourteen in number, if I remember correctly. I loved series books, when I found an author I liked. Of course, if it was an author I didn't like, slogging through the whole set was just drudgery, but you know, I had set out to read every book in the library, and for the love of books, I just gritted my teeth and kept reading, even if I didn't like it.

So every week my mama took us to the library, and we checked out a bushel basket of books. I read all my books by about Tuesday, and then read everything everyone else had checked out too.
When school started, and we were issued our textbooks for the year, I went home and read them. All of them. Cover to cover. Even the credits pages.
If my grandmother left a Grace Livingston Hill Christian romance laying around, I read it.
When I went to Aunt Ruth's, I read the novels she ordered from her book club.
I found another set of novels in mama's closet, and read

The Turquoise by Anya Seton, Petticoat Surgeon - by Bertha Van Hoosen, The Light Heart by Elswyth Thane, Love Is Eternal by Irving Stone, and

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I don't claim I understood them all, but I read them, and enjoyed them, and wanted more.
At Aunt Holmsie's house I discovered the Oz books, which enthralled me. I was so excited about them that I actually went out of order in my read-everything-in-the library crusade, and skipped from Alcott to Baum. Of course, I then had to go back and read all the volumes in between, but oh it was worth it, to spend a few weeks with Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow. And Ozma, Princess of Oz--oh, my word!
I read insatiably, voraciously. I needed to read like I needed to breathe.

I'm sure there were weeks when mama had other things she would rather do. Dragging her own four kids, plus whoever else in the neighborhood wanted to go along, couldn't have been fun sometimes. But she kept taking us, and letting us read anything we wanted to read.

Daddy questioned us about what we read, and taught me the difference between fiction and nonfiction when I was reading Smoky The Cow Horse by Will James.

Did I read some inappropriate books? Probably. Did I understand everything I read? No. Did I read some trash? Again, probably. Did it hurt me? I don't think so. Books let my imagination soar, taught me about the importance of choosing the right word in the right place, and became the basis for interminable conversations at the dinner table.

What do you read?
And why?

Monday, June 25, 2007

What a Riot!

Back in the olden days, when our kids were little, we camped at Lake Texoma frequently. Our favorite area was Burns Run. Nowadays, that area is for day use only, and strictly monitored. Back then, it was pretty much a free-for-all, no specific camp spots marked out, just set up camp wherever.
One Easter weekend, along with about 15 other families of our relatives and friends, we set up camp in a big circle, so that we had a common area for cooking, visiting, and playing games. All around us were other family groups, and, as the weekend went on, large numbers of college age kids, many of whom were engaging in somewhat (ahem) questionable behavior.
By Sunday afternoon, every possible spot was occupied, and the area between our camp site and the water was a solid mass of scantily clad young adults, drinking, shouting, and generally disrupting the quiet of our trip.
Not that we were exactly silent.
We had a bunch of little kids, mostly cousins who were as close as siblings, running around with water guns shooting at each other and everyone else.
A bunch of women, mostly mamas and grandmas, chattering, laughing, and yelling at the kids with the water guns.
A gang of guys, brothers, cousins, friends, talking in their deep voices, playing horseshoes, and generally filling in any quiet moments with their laughter.
Suddenly in the middle of the horseshoe game, a guy with no shirt, long tangled hair, and a handcuff dangling from his wrist, burst into the middle of the horseshoe pitch, begging for someone to hide him.
As he ran through our campsite, we saw uniformed men pursuing him, headed for our campsite.
Suddenly our guys were yelling at us to pack up, throw everything into any available pickup, because we were going home now.
I started throwing our stuff into the pickup, but at the same time, questioning Wick as to what was going on.
He pointed down the slope toward the water, and said, "Those kids are trying to turn over a patrol car, because the officers were trying to arrest that guy that just ran through here with handcuffs on him."
I had hold of Jeana, and handed her to her nanaw as I jumped up onto the bumper of the truck to look for Scott.
I called out, "Has anyone seen Scott and Clint (his cousin)?"
No one knew where they were, except to say "They were right here just a minute ago."
Swiftly my eyes scanned our campsite, but I couldn't see either of the boys.
Suddenly Wick gestured down the slope, as he yelled the boys' names.
I turned, and caught sight of a white-blond shock of hair bobbing around in the middle of the developing riot.
Wick raced down the hill to grab the boys, tucking one under each arm, and hauling them back up the hill.
By this time, we were all packed, and forming up a caravan to leave the camp area.
Unfortunately we were not the only ones trying to escape trouble. We found ourselves in the middle of a huge traffic jam on a narrow winding road out of the park area.
We spent more than an hour idling our engines, walking back and forth from one vehicle to another, trying to gather more information, and wondering why it was taking so long to get out of the area.
Finally, we found out.
The highway patrol had barricaded the road, and set up a check point. They were searching each car and truck, looking for the young man with the handcuffs.
It was like a train wreck--nobody wanted to be there, nobody really wanted to be involved, and yet there we were, captive observers. As we crept slowly toward the check point, suddenly there was a disturbance. People yelling. Running.
And highway patrolmen with handguns and shotguns drawn.
Not exactly the ending we had hoped for our pleasant family camp out.
But material for a family story we have laughed about for over thirty years, the time we went camping, and it was a real riot.

Gone With the Wind

As I said in my last post, during the early years of our marriage, when we camped, we slept in a tent.
Which was an improvement over sleeping on the ground.
Or on a concrete picnic table.
or on a wobbly Army surplus cot, which I had to share with my baby sister or brother.
Wick and I both grew up richer in family and love than money, and for entertainment, our families camped out. We continued to camp out, because we enjoyed being with our families, and wanted our kids to grow up with similar memories to ours.
As if we didn't get enough of tent camping at Toledo Bend, we continued to tent camp.
Admittedly, we would have preferred a nicer accomodation, but hey, the tent was available.
And free, since we were borrowing it from his parents, who had moved up to a small camp trailer, with one real bed, and one that folded up against the ceiling when not in use.
We lived within fifteen minutes of Lake Texoma, which at the time allowed free camping.
And on our budget, free was good.
So as I was saying, we went camping with our kids and parents and siblings and their kids and whoever else wanted to go. It often rained, but since we all had some form of shelter, we didn't let that stop us.
One evening as we were settling in for the night, my brother-in-law mentioned that it looked like it might rain. We glanced up, noticed the rising wind, and the streaks of lightning in the distance, and agreed.
Wick compensated for the threat of rain by tying the tent down more securely. Since the tent pegs had a tendency to come unstaked when it rained, he tied a couple of the tent lines to the bumper of our baby blue Volkswagen.
We settled the kids for the night, sat around our campfire and talked and sang until we were falling asleep, and then joined the kids in the tent.
About two hours later, we were awakened from a sound sleep by the rising wind, hard rain, and lightning striking much too close for comfort.
I reached out to grab Wick's hand in the inky darkness, and asked him if everything was okay. His voice, calm and low enough not to rouse the sleeping babies, reassured me that everything was fine.
I let my head fall back onto the pillow, listening to the gale winds flapping the tent vigorously. Suddenly, chaos.
The tent essentially turned wrong side out, turing our cots over, and scattering our possesions to the elements. Wick grabbed me just as Scott grabbed my leg, crying that the rain was getting his face wet. I shouted, "Where is Jeana?"
Over the roaring winds and rain, I heard her little voice crying for her daddy.
I could hear her.
But I couldn't find her.
My heart jumped up in my throat, choking off my breathing, as I started pawing through the stuff that our tent had vomited out, searching for my baby girl.
Wick too was searching, digging, throwing things right and left.
Finally, we found her, on the ground, under one of the cots, with another cot crossways on top of the first cot.
We hugged both of them close and started laughing, standing out in the pouring rain and howling wind.
Then Wick bundled us into the VW with whatever blankets he salvaged from the disaster, adn we slept the rest of the night in the car.
Next morning, we discovered that we were not the only ones who had slept in their cars, and that at least one family had utterly abandoned us and gone to find a dry motel room.
The tent was still tied to the bumper of the Volkswagen, rather the worse for wear and tear.
By the next camping season, Wick had managed to come up with a cute little cover for the bed of his pickup, so that we were no longer tent camping, but camper camping.
It's an ill wind that blows no good.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Our First Family Vacation

Katherine at Raising Five
reminded me of our first family vacation. When we married, Wick was working construction. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of working for a construction company, I offer the following information:
1. Yes, the pay per hour sounds great.
2. Except that you have no benefits.
3. No insurance.
4. No sick leave.
5. And no paid vacation.
6. And when the job ends, you are out of work.

So, all the time you are working, you bring home a nice check, but you had better be filling your pantry and freezer, and saving up for the intervals between one job ending and the next beginning.
We had two babies in less than 3 years, and moved about 13 times. When I was pregnant with #2 (daughter Jeana), we finally settled down in a small Texas town, and Wick went to work at a foundry. Now if there is anything worse than working construction in the summer in Texas, where outdoor temperatures may reach 110 in the shade, it is working in a foundry. Imagine handling molten aluminum at a temperature of 2,000 degrees. In Texas. In the summertime. Sometimes for 10-12 hours a day.
And if there is anything Wick hates, it is being hot.
But he is and always has been committed to providing for his family, so he did what he felt he had to do.
After a year, he got a week's paid vacation. We were so excited! A week off, and he still got paid! Some of his buddies at work were planning a fishing trip, and invited him. He said only if the babies and I could go too. They agreed to provide all the food, if I did the cooking.
So off we went, with our babies and our German Shepherd Wolf packed up in our station wagon, with a tent and ice chests and suitcases and playpens and cots and fishing poles and bait boxes and cups and plates and pots and pans, and about a cajillion diapers. Have I mentioned we had two babies?
When we got to the lake, on the border between Texas and Louisiana, the guys said they had reserved a camping spot right on the water, with lots of shade, and close to the restrooms and office. It looked lovely when we arrived, in the middle of the night, to set up our tents and get the babies ready for bed. In the rain.
The next morning, I discovered that there was not a level spot as big as a card table in the whole place. The card table, which was my outdoor kitchen, had to be propped against a tree to keep it from falling over. When I started frying bacon and sausage, there was about two inches of grease on one side of the skillet, and none on the other side, because the Coleman camp stove was so unlevel.
I have to give the guys credit: we ate great. They brought all kinds of good stuff, like steaks and pork chops, stuff that we usually couldn't afford. I actually enjoyed cooking for them. They were very grateful and complimentary, no matter what I concocted, and helped with the cleanup after each meal, hauling water to wash dishes, heating water on the Coleman stove, and washing up.
Fortunately for me, the office/store/restroom area provided a clean place to bathe the babies, a small stock of canned goods and milk if we ran low on something, and wonder of wonders, a paperback library. Every morning the babies and I went to the showers to get cleaned up, rinsed out clothes, and picked out something for mama to read during afternoon nap times.
They guys fished. Every day. All the time.
The only problem was that they didn't catch anything.
But they had a great time fishing.
Oh. I forgot to mention that it rained.
Every day.
Every blooming day.
Now this may not have occurred to you, and it had not occurred to me, that when you are staying in a tent, on a slope, and it rains every day, the tent starts to fill up with mud. The mud flows downhill, into the tent, across the tent floor, and accumulates against the downhill wall. Six to eight inches deep. Inside the tent.
And although you can wash clothes in the nice clean shower house, and hang them inside the tent, they don't get dry.
They never dry.
They start to mildew.
And so did the babies and I.
Heat rash.
Diaper rash.
Mosquito bits.
Here we are, on our first paid vacation in three years.
With two babies.
And a German Shepherd, with a tail as thick as a cable, and paws the size of saucers, and ticks as big as grapes from all the bushes he has been running through, and probably carrying about 5 pounds of mud at all times, because honestly, how do you keep a German Shepherd clean, when it rains EVERY DAY?
I thought I was bearing up well, until the last day before we were planning to leave. That day it rained all day long. No letup. I spent the whole day in the tent, with its muddy floor, and the muddy dog, and the babies who had by this time a major case of diaper rash because, have I mentioned, IT RAINED THE WHOLE WEEK?
So when the guys came in for lunch, I took Wick aside, and as nicely as possible explained to him that I had had all of the fishing camp fun I could stand for this year, and we were down to our last set of clean dry clothes, and if something didn't happen soon I was going out of my ever loving mind, and he, in the goodness of his heart, told the guys he was not going fishing with them that night, because his wife was going crazy.
He helped me bathe the babies and we all put on our last set of clean dry clothes, and he took us to town for dinner.
I don't remember where we ate, or what we ate. What I do remember is that he gave up his last fishing opportunity to take me somewhere clean, cool, and dry, and entertained me for two hours with stories of the size of the mosquitoes, the thickness of the mud, the lost lures, the hung-up hooks, and the big fish that got away.
When we got back, the guys were waiting to show us the fish they caught.
The only fish that were caught the whole trip.
And my darling missed out, because he took us to town for supper.
I felt just awful.
And so very thankful that I had married such a man.
He never complained, just laughed at the irony of it all.
And two days later went back to work in the foundry.
Love is patient and kind, and does not seek its own satisfaction. I'm sure he would much rather have been fishing with his buddies that last night. I' m also certain that going back to work in that foundry was not his first choice of how to spend his time, but he did it anyway.

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8Love never fails.
I Corinthians 13:4-8

When we married, along with the usual vows for better or worse, in sickness and in health, the minister read these verses. I had no idea at the time how well these verses described the man I was marrying.

Even on vacation.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Cabin of Our Dreams

My husband and I are building a cabin at our lake place in East Texas. This is where we plan to retire, so we are thinking ahead, including some modifications such as 36" wide doors, so that even if we become less nimble as we age, we can continue to live here for as long as possible.
We are also paying for the costs as we go along, spending what we can afford each month, so that when it is finished, we won't owe anything on it. Wick is doing most of the work himself, with help from our son Scott, who is devoting a lot of his summer to working on the cabin.
In our campaign to save money as we build, we decided to avail ourselves of the refurbished appliances at a small appliance store in a Dallas suburb.
The owner's son is a former student of Wick's, from when he was teaching shop classes some years ago. The father and son have been very good to us, searching out appropriate appliances, and reconditioning them.
So far, we have bought a wall oven, a dish washer, and an ice maker from them, at a total cost of approximately $500. In addition, we lucked out and found a cook top for $15 at a local church rummage sale--and it not only matches the wall oven, it actually works!
Since we are going for a rustic look, we are not overly concerned with buying the flashiest or most currently stylish materials. Most of the money has gone into the structural integrity of the cabin, for a sturdy foundation, strong beams, appropriate wiring. Cost saving materials include corrugated metal, weathered wood, recycled cabinets, and shopping clearance or surplus sales.
We want a sturdy, low maintenance home, economical to heat and cool, and easy to keep clean. The downstairs is about the size of a one bedroom apartment--bedroom, bath/laundry room, and a combined kitchen/living area. The upstairs is one big open room, with a bath, for the use of our children and grandchildren. They will be encouraged to furnish and decorate the space to suit their needs and tastes.
The staircase is enclosed, with a door downstairs. This enables us to heat and cool only the downstairs, when no one else is visiting, and also provides a rainy-day play area for the grandchildren, insulated from the downstairs area where adults may be trying to have a quiet conversation or take a nap.
Roughly 1200 square feet, it will not be the large, spacious, palatial house many people dream of. It will, however, be a refuge for us as we age, a welcoming space for our family to gather, and we hope it will provide the backdrop for many precious memories over the years.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Daughter Jeana recently posted about a short conversation we had about when she was a kid. This past weekend I had the opportunity to have conversations with all our kids and grandkids, as the 15 of us spent a weekend together.

Me: A-man, isn't that a lot of gum?
A-man: (as he reels off about a yard of bubble gum, and wads it into his mouth) Nope. I don't think so.

Less than five minutes later I saw him spitting it into the trash can. I asked why.
A-man, grinning: All the flavor was gone.

Playing Monopoly with Lolly and Big D--
Me: Is this a hard game to play?
Lolly: No, only if you have trouble counting money.
Big D: I want to sell this! (waving a title to one of the properties) Who wants to buy it? I need some money!
Me: How much?
Big D: Oh, um, just, only about five hundred eleven and twenty dollars.

Pie (age 15): But why can't I get on the computer? I was only on it about 4 and a half hours yesterday! This is borrrrrrrrrrrrrrring! Why do I have to spend time with family?
Me: Come sit here in my lap in the rocking chair.
Pie is tall, athletic, a premier soccer player, and still Mimi's baby girl. She sat, I rocked, and we talked. Five minutes later, she was talking about the possibility of bringing a friend and spending a few days with us at our lake place. We rocked and talked for fifteen or twenty minutes, as I savored these moments of holding her close again.

Lolly, Sunshine, and Buddy spent considerable time with us at the card table, learning to play Pitch. Pitch is a card game intensely and competitively played by my husband's family, but I have never known anyone else who plays it. Learning to play Pitch was part of growing up for our kids, and being allowed to play with the "grownups" was a rite of passage. Sunshine and Katoushka jumped right in, and show promise. Buddy, who is wonderful at playing with and entertaining the younger ones with endless patience, gave up quickly on the card game, and I think went fishing in the rain. He did teach me to play War, and beat me utterly.

Conversations with our adult children ranged from serious to silly, staying up until 3 a.m. one night just talking, in between cooking, cleaning up, playing cards and board games, listening to the girls play the piano, telling family stories, and celebrating being a family.

In Jeana's post, she asks how I could "stand to listen to me go on and on like that? Didn't you just want to scream?"

No, I never wanted to scream. The sound of my child's voice....the sounds of my grandchildren's voices...knowing that they still want to talk to me....that's music to my ears--and to my heart.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Passing On--My Grandmother and Granddaddy

writing about saying goodby to Grandma Victor got me to thinking about my grandmother. She married my granddaddy when she was eighteen. They lost their first baby, Billy Conner, at birth, and even in her last days of life she grieved for that lost child, and said that her papa was wrong not to let her see and hold him. He thought it would make it easier for her, but she felt it made it harder.
After Billy Conner came the twins, Jimmie Mack and Grady Jack. Then a few years later, my mama, Patsy Jane. My granddaddy was only 28 when he died of pneumonia, leaving my grandmother with three small children to raise on her own.
Her love for him lasted all her days. She wanted to be sure that we knew him, knew the kind of person he was, and she often told us stories about him. When the twins were born, one slept in the bed with her, and the other slept on a pallet with granddaddy, to keep the babies warm. He was a farmer, and at noon she would hang a white towel on the porch railing to let him know it was time to come in from the field for dinner. After dinner, while she cleaned up the kitchen, he figured out how to rock the babies to sleep.
He nailed a piece of wood across the front of the porch swing so that the babies couldn't fall out. Then he tied a rope from the swing to the churn handle. As he churned the butter, the swing would rock the babies to sleep.
When they were a little older, he built a box and attached it to his cultivator. After dinner, he would put the babies in the box and as he worked the field, they would fall asleep. He would signal to Grandmother and she would come to get the sleeping babies and carry them back to the house.
Grandmother was a handsome, independent woman, and had men admirers over the years. I asked her once why she never remarried. I will never forget her reply.
She said that there would never be anyone else like Grady. No other man could be to her what he was. And it would not be fair to marry a man who would always feel like second best.

As her days wound to a close, she talked about him often. She told me that he came to see her, sitting on the edge of her bed, holding her hand, and talking about their future. She said that he promised to come to get her and take her home.

I often wonder about that last night. Did she see him? Did he come and take her hand to help her get home to Heaven?

I like to think that he did.

Monday, June 11, 2007

My Blogging Story

Chili wants to know, and since I am a big fan of Chili's, I'm going to answer her questions.

How did you start blogging?

Daughter Jeana introduced me to blogging when she started her blog,

I had never heard of blogging. But you know if my little girl is doing it, then by golly I am going to read it. So I did. And she introduced me to other bloggers. And then she started pestering me to start a blog. So I did. As an English teacher, writing of any kind interests me. I hadn't been doing much writing for a long time, and starting a blog seemed like a good way to get myself to write more often.

Did you intend to be a blog w/a big following? If so, how did you go about it?

No, I never thought much about who would read it, other than my daughter, and maybe a few other family members. If I knew how to be a "blog with a following," believe you me I would do it. Having people comment on what I write is such a huge rush! It's even better than getting something published, because people respond immediately and personally.

What do you hope to achieve or accomplish with your blog? Have you been successful? If not, do you have a plan to achieve those goals?

My goals....hmmm... Mostly my goal was to preserve some of our family stories, experiences, humorous incidents, for our grandchildren. We are a family of story tellers, but when someone passes, that person's stories are often muddled or forgotten. I hope to preserve some of their stories here, so that years from now our grandchildren and their grandchildren can read about my granddaddy and what a kind person he was, and about Wick's cousin who drove a tractor through Highland Park late one night, and the time Wick and I had a date and his car blew up on the way.....
You know....all those stories that all families have.

Has the focus of your blog changed since you started blogging? How?

No. Stuff just keeps happening, and I keep writing about it. I still have a bunch of stories to tell, one of these days. I do hope I am getting better as a writer.

What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you started?

I wish I had chosen a shorter, easier name for my blog. jeana is actually responsible for the title. She said it was so descriptive of how I think.
I wish I was better organized.

Do you make money with your blog?

I wish!

Does your immediate or extended family know about your blog? If so, do they read it? If not, why?

Yes, they know about it. A few read it. If they don't, it's probably because they are not particularly tech-savvy. My mother would probably read it, if she used a computer.
My husband reads our daughter's faithfully. He reads mine if I insist.

What two pieces of advice would you give to a new blogger?

1. Get a copy of Blogging for Dummies. My daughter-in-law got me a copy, and it was very helpful.
2. Write regularly. Read regularly. Leave comments. Become active in the blogging community. New friends, great advice (sometimes), lots of laughs, and sometimes very thought provoking--that's what blogging is for me.

Now, go to Chili's and read about other people's bloggy adventures.

Zebras and rhinos and ostriches, OH MY!

Last week daughter Jeana invited us to join her and her family for a couple of days of their vacation, which we were very excited about. I mean, really, how many people's kids actually *want* them to come along on vacation! We were delighted to accept, especially since it was the day on which they were going to Fossil Rim exotic animal park.

If you have never been to one of these places, it's sort of like a zoo, except that instead of the animals being in cages, they are running loose, and you drive your car through the park to see the animals. When you buy your tickets, you have the opportunity of also buying a bag of food pellets (they look like pressed cardboard, and smell vaguely like graham crackers--they taste awful--and yes, we did taste them).

As you drive through the park, you can entice many of the animals to come right up to the car, by offering them these pellets. Apparently they taste better to the animals than they do to humans.

Since there were too many of us for one car, we took two, and divided the kids between us. The girls rode with us, and we followed the car with the boys in it. A good deal of our time was taken up with the kids waving, shouting, and squealing at each other from one car to the other. This was a show in itself.

One of our first encounters was with a large ostrich. Ostriches tiptoe like giant, fluffy, feather dusters in toe-shoes. Their long, muscular legs are a sharp contrast to their dainty steps, like ballerinas on pointe.

This ostrich stood right by the road, exacting a toll from each car that passed. The girls told us to put the pellets in the groove of the window, and the ostrich would take the food from there. The girls were right.
The huge bird pecked the food from the window groove, bit by bit, and then looked for more. I reached into the paper bag for more food, but the ostrich was too impatient to wait for me to deposit it in the window groove. He stuck his whole head through the window, his huge shiny eyes intent on the bag of feed, and his huge hard bill much too close to my face.
When I reacted by screeching, waving my hands wildly about my head, and making shooing sounds, the little girls in the back seat dissolved into giggles.

Knowing that we had a couple more hours of animals to feed, we reluctantly left him waiting for the next car, and drove on.

We saw many kinds of small deer, antelope, kudu, gazelles. Many would come quite close to the car, waiting for us to throw a handful of food, which they eagerly lipped from the grass. Lolly worried about them getting bugs in their food, but as Katoushka pointed out, they probably eat a lot of bugs on the grass when no people are around to feed them.

One highlight of our drive was the giraffes. I had never seen these tall, graceful animals so close before. One, a baby, was probably only about six and a half feet tall, and was very curious about us, bending his long neck to peer at us through his amazingly long and thick eyelashes. They remind me of sunflowers, on long, slender stems.

Another was the zebra, who ate food pellets out of my husband's hand, and allowed him to pet his soft nose, just like a horse.
Just twenty feet before we saw the sign that said, "Warning. Do not feed zebras by hand. They bite."

About half way through our trip, we stopped at the gift shop/picnic area for lunch under the shade trees. Since we forgot paper plates, napkins, or paper towels, we had to make our sandwiches on our palms, and eat the chips directly from the bag.

For Big D, I think the highlight of our lunch was the grapes. He had been hungry for fruit the night before, and asked if he could eat some. Jeana told him no, the grapes were for our picnic. He asked if he could have some strawberries. Jeana said no, those are to put on Katie's birthday cake. And the bananas were for breakfast. Finally he sighed dramatically, and asked, "Is there any fruit here that I can actually eat?"

A-man, our budding naturalist, told us many facts about the various animals we had seen. Near the picnic area there were large open-air cages of birds, which were fascinating. We ate a leisurely lunch, looked at the birds in the cages and the ones flying free around the picnic tables, and toured the gift shop, which was filled with all kinds of stuff, ranging from hugely expensive wood carvings and decorated ostrich eggs to games that promised to add to our knowledge of the animals in the park. I looked at the walking sticks, and seriously considered buying one, which I thought was eminently sensible, considering my past history.

However, I just couldn't convince myself to spend that much money for what was, after all, basically a big stick.

Since we had to be back in our home town in time to pick up Frankie the Pomeranian, we had to take leave of our babies at that point, and finish the drive alone. We left the remains of our feed bag with them, so that they would have more to offer to the other animals they might encounter. We did not anticipate that either the ostrich from the beginning of our trip, or a close relative, would be waiting for us around the bend.

He was standing in the middle of the road, wings spread to make himself look even larger than he was already. The road is too narrow to drive around him, so we a crawl.....and finally had to stop, because the ostrich clearly had the right of way.

He held his head high, making eye contact through the windshield, and obviously waiting for us to offer some food. Wick and I looked at each other and shrugged. We didn't have any food. So we sat there, waiting for him to move.

He didn't.

He bobbed his head up and down.
He examined each headlight.
He inspected the front bumper.
He looked over every inch of the hood, the windshield, and the wiper blades.
He made the kinds of noises a large, impatient bird makes when people don't cooperate by paying their toll of food pellets.
He did not move out of the road.

We had been warned not to honk at the animals, so we couldn't honk.
We couldn't drive around.
We couldn't take another road, since there was only the one.
We waited.
And waited.

Finally, I rolled down my window and waved my hand gingerly at the ostrich.
Who assumed that I must be offering food, finally.
He stuck not only his head but his whole impossibly long neck through the window.
My previous squawking was nothing to the panicked gestures with which I tried to shoo this bird out. Finally he stepped back and allowed us to pass.

As we drove past, I could see him staring us down, and muttering to himself about people who trick birds by making them think food is being offered, and then stiffing them.

That's the first time I have ever been given the bird by a bird.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Chicken Sheriff

After I wrote about our neighbor's free-ranging chickens, I decided it was time to call in reinforcements.
I called the city where we receive our mail. I was referred to the police department.
I called the police department.
I was referred to the sheriff's office.
I called the sheriff's office.
I was put on hold.
I was transferred to another person.
I was put on hold again.
I was transferred.
Finally, someone agreed to listen to my grievance about the chickens who peck, squack, cluck, crow, and poop indiscriminately all over our neighborhood.
That person said she was not the right person to handle my problem, but she would absolutely take a message and give it to the person who *is* the right person, and she would be sure to have him call me as soon as possible. At that point, I asked if she would llike to give him my phone number. She laughed lightly and said of course, that might be helpful, just in case he, you know, wanted to call me back.
I carried my cell phone around in my hand for the next three hours, convinced that he would be calling any time now.
He didn't call.
The next day, I put on shorts with pockets, so I could carry my cell phone around, just in case he called.
He didn't call.
Five days later, when we were nearly two hundred miles from home, spending a couple of days with daughter and her family, and I had pretty much forgotten about the sheriff, he called.
I had put him so far out of my mind that I couldn't remember for a minute what it was I had called about. You know how it is...chickens out of sight, chickens out of mind.
Finally, my brain kicked in, and I explained my problem. He sighed faintly, and asked where we live.
I started explaining.
When you live on a lake, you don't just give your address. You have to explain where your house is, relative to the town where you get mail, and describe where the section is that you live in, and where your neighbor lives relative to where you live.
But as soon as I launched into my explanation, he said," I think I know who you are talking about."
I said, oh, have you had dealings with him in the past?
Another sigh, not so faint this time.
"uhm...yes, ma'am. We know your neighbor. Quite well."
This is not a good sign.
After I reiterated that I have nothing personally against chickens, but I don't want them wandering around my place, pooping and crowing, he sighed heavily.
"Well, ma'am..... there is a leash law for dogs, and a pen restriction for pigs, but chickens....chickens, now.....there just isn't a law about them."
No leash law for chickens.
Who knew?
So after this discouraging comment, I thought for a few seconds, and then asked what would happen if I ... um.... sort of accidentally shot them or ran over them with the lawn mower.
He sighed.
Then he said, "It just don't seem fair, somehow, but if you destroy the man's chickens, he...well...he has rights to his property and livestock, you know."

The long and short of this story is that he doesn't have to keep his chickens penned, but if I do something that results in diminishing the chickenn population on *my* place, the said neighbor could file charges against *me*.

At this point I sighed.

I thanked the sheriff for his "help" and hung up.

And started this post.

Anybody have a bird dog I could borrow for a few nights?

Friday, June 01, 2007

A Day in the Life....

6:30 a.m. Make coffee and watch the sun coming up through the trees.
7:30 Pick up the paper from the road, drink coffee, let the dogs out, and watch the squirrels chasing each other from tree to tree.
8:00 Start frying bacon. Mix up pancake batter. Drink another cup of coffee while making pancakes.
8:30 Cook eggs to order as each sleepy boy stumbles through the door. Clean the griddle, fry some sausage, butter the pancakes as they come off the griddle onto the plate.
9:30 Empty the coffee pot, wash the last of the breakfast dishes, and cheer on Frankie as he chases chickens out of the yard.
10:00 Start the first of four loads of laundry, make up the beds, and wash up all the glasses left setting around in the yard, in the cabin where the guys are working, and the table tops.
11:30 Start second load of laundry. Strip the only bed which has not been changed this week, sort remaining laundry, fold clean laundry from the dryer.
12:00 Fix lunch for the little boys, wash dishes, have a diet coke with lots of ice, move another load of laundry from the washer to the dryer.
12:30 Fill the dogs' water bowls, clean up the remains of the second seating for lunch, start new grocery list, hang up wet towels.
1:00 Go out to the cabin to admire all that the guys have accomplished today, including walls around the staircase, and discuss various options for wall covering/paint/wallpaper/corrugated metal/barn wood. Start another load of laundry, and put away the dry load.
1:30 Check on the boys, who are either swimming, pulling drift wood out of the lake to build a fire later, or seining for minnows. Hang up wet towels.
2:00 Read and answer e-mail, clear the junk e-mail, and read Jeana's blog. Hang up wet towels.
3:00 Take a nap because my head aches.
6:00 Get up from nap to find that son is already grilling hamburgers for supper; slice tomatoes and onions; set out condiments and buns so the little guys can make their own burgers.
7:00 Wash up from supper. Sit out in the yard, watching the sun go down, the ducks paddling along the shore, the boys swimming, and drinking a wine cooler (me--not the little guys). Make up the bed I stripped earlier, with clean sheets. Fold and put away the last load of laundry, except for what is still drying in the dryer.
8:30 Realize that Gracie the pug has rolled in something dead, thus giving rise to an appalling odor, and the necessity for an immediate bath.
Watch the guys set out in the boat on their search for a crappie hole, hoping to have enough on their stringer to have a fish fry tomorrow.
10:00 Clean up the kitchen after the dog's bath. Spray deodorizer throughout the RV. Hang up wet towels--again. Sit outside for a little while, watching the moon rise and counting the stars.
10:30 Post to my blog, let the dogs out for the last time, take a deep breath of cool air scented with wild honeysuckle, and thank God we are home for the summer.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Chickened Out

We have a neighbor who is somewhat (putting it politely) eccentric.
First clue: He has a horse in his yard.
In his front yard.
Now I have nothing personally against horses. I used to ride my uncle's horses, and have always agreed with Will Rogers, who said, "Something about the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man."
A horse in the front yard?
Oh people.
He fenced his front yard with wire, put an old bathtub out there for the horse to drink out of, and then wound yellow "caution" tape around the rickety fence. The horse has eaten every single blade of green, and has tromped the dirt down into the ground. He seems to spend most of his time trying without success to reach the blades of grass waving tantalizingly just out of his reach on the other side of the fence.
Occasionally, the poor horse is tethered on the other side of the road, where he gobbles great mouthfuls of weeds as fast as ever he can, meanwhile watching anxiously lest he be returned to solitary confinement in the front yard pen.

Next clue to our neighbor's eccentricity: Chickens.
Not only chickens.
In the name of all that is fowl, what a mess.
He has a kind of pen, with a huge banner that says, "Fresh eggs for sale."
But obviously the pen has containment issues.
Because the chickens are wandering all over the neighborhood.

They scratch at the grass and dirt.
They peck at the flowers.
They squawk.
They cluck.
They poop.
They crow.
At all hours of the day and night.

They wander down the middle of the road, regardless of cars, golf carts, or bicycles.

Most of them have lost their tail feathers, due to the local free-ranging dogs, who chase them and bark at them incessantly, but don't ever seem to reduce the population.

Frankie, our Pomeranian, spends a considerable amount of time chasing them, but never manages to catch any. The ducks don't play fair--they run into the water, knowing that Frankie can't swim.

I told my husband if he would kill and clean them, I would make chicken and dumplings. He said he would rather pay four dollars for a chicken already cleaned, than to have to scald and pluck one.

If you have any ideas about chicken repellents, please let me know.

Because, you know, I am chickened out.

Monday, May 28, 2007


Last spring, a mama duck built her nest on our boat, up under the cover, so her nest was cozy and dry, and safe for her unborn ducklings. We checked the nest every weekend when we came home, counting the eggs, feeding the mama duck with stale bread, and waiting anxiously for the eggs to hatch. Wick wouldn't clean up the boat, or remove the cover, let alone take the boat out, because he didn't want to disturb the nesting process.
We waited patiently for the eggs to hatch.
And waited.
And waited.
And waited.
One weekend, the mama duck was nowhere to be seen. Her nest was abandoned. The eggs had not hatched, and were beginning to smell. The boat was full of feathers, bread crumbs, and duck poop.
But no babies.
How disappointing.
One of my favorite spring sights is watching the mama ducks swim by, followed by a wake of baby ducklings, quacking and swimming along in the reeds along the shore. We were really looking forward to those eggs hatching.

This year, Wick said if a mama duck tried to build her nest on the boat again,we would have duck eggs for breakfast.

No ducks have nested on our boat this year. We are the ones nesting. We gave up our apartment the last day of school. We have been bringing a load of stuff every weekend for weeks, and now it is all here. It's all still packed up, boxed up, stacked up, and I can't find anything, but it is all here. Scott is spending the week here, and he and his daddy had all sorts of plans for what they were going to accomplish this week.
So far, we have entertained my brother and his family with smoked brisket, potato salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw, raw veggies and dip, and my sister-in-law's orange-pineapple cake; had hamburgers with our neighbors and their kids and grandkids; fished from the dock; replaced the cigarette lighter in the boat so that we can plug in a fish light for night fishing; taken some great naps; and enjoyed the fact that on Sunday night we did not have to pack up and go back to the city, to work on Monday morning.
Like the mama duck, my "eggs" (working on the cabin) have not hatched. But we are certainly enjoying just being.
Being here.
Being home.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Falling Again

Last Friday I fell off the curb.

Skinned both knees.

Twisted my ankle.

I guess since the concussion, my balance and depth perception are still not quite what they should be.

At least I didn't tear holes in the knees of my pants.

Why is it that when we fall in public, we feel so embarrassed we won't admit we are hurt? Our school's dean of instruction happened to be standing nearby and ran to help me. A young man, a student, helped me get back on my feet. Both of them wanted to help me back into the building, carry my things, get me a drink of water. But I kept saying, oh no, I'm fine--even though obviously I was *not* fine. My knees hurt. My ankle was swelling rapidly. I had to lean on someone to get to the car when Wick came to pick me up. But I just would not admit that anything was wrong.

Don't we do the same thing to God? I know I do. I get depressed, sad, angry, and I won't ask for His help. I want to do it all by myself. His hand is outstretched, and I push it aside. Sometimes, He just takes hold anyway; He takes charge, straightens everything out, puts me back on my feet again when I am strong enough. And I am so thankful that He is always there. Like my friends who saw me fall, He may be laughing, but He is still helping me up, dusting me off, and carrying my burdens.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Taking the Fall

I haven't blogged in six weeks. But for once, I have a good reason. I think.

10 March--Wick and I were at our lake place, where we are building a cabin. I remember getting up that morning, dressing, going from the RV to the cabin. That's the last thing I remember, until I was on my back, looking up at a bright light, and wondering where I was and what happened.

In between, apparently, I somehow fell in the cabin. Wick, who had gone out into the yard for something, heard a loud sound as if I had dropped something. He went back into the cabin and found me face down on a pile of wood, bleeding, and incoherent. He called 991, the EMTs arrived, put me on a helicopter, and flew me to the emergency room some 15 miles away.

My first time in a helicopter, and I don't remember it. Sheeesh.

By the time my brain was functioning again, daughter Jeana had already driven 3 hours to get to my stretcher side, the ER people had x-rayed and cat scanned, and my first visual image was of Wick looking at me upside down. He was standing at my head, and to me he looked up side down, and pretty blurry.

They told me that among other things I told the EMTs that it was 1977, that I was 33, and insisted that Wick must remember to pick Jeana up from band practice--it has been quite some time since Jeana was in the high school band, since her eldest child is in fifth grade.

Jeana gently cleaned up the dried blood, held my hand, and offered to take me home with her for a few days, fearing that her daddy would get engrossed in what he was working on in the cabin and forget to take care of me. He was unwilling to let me out of his sight, so I didn't go, and it's a good thing, as it turns out. From looking like an alien, as Jeana described me, I went to looking like .... ummmm......well, like Rocky when he climbed out of the ring calling "Adrian!"
I kept saying, "I can't see. Cut me, Mick...I can't see!"

My eyes were swollen shut, the knot on my head covered most of my forehead, my whole face was black and blue, as well as a badly bruised arm and hand, and I had stitches in my nose. At least the hairline fracture didn't show. If I had gone home with Jeana, the kids would have had to lead me around by the hand, since I couldn't see. Wick hovered like a hen with a single chick, making sure I took my meds, that I ate, even if it was only soup, and frequently thanking God that it was no worse than a bad concussion.

In the five weeks since my fall, I have been having memory problems, balance and coordination, and a killer headache. But the knot is beginning to shrink, most of the bruising is improved, and I am back at work.

And now, at last, I am blogging again.

If you missed me, now you know where I have been.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Another Blog

Since I am so good at keeping up with this blog, (not) I have started a second blog: Low Carb Recipes and More.
Wick and I have been low carbing off and on for quite a while, and I have quite a collection of recipes to share. So please visit, and feel free to copy any posted recipe, and let me know what you think of it.

Family Wedding

My parents were married for over 40 years. After Daddy passed away, Mother seemed content to live alone--although she was seldom alone for long. With four married children and 12 grandchildren, who keep having great-grandbabies, it seemed that there was always somebody around.
We are a large, close-knit family, and we call, e-mail, and get together frequently, so most everybody knows what is going on with everybody else. That's why, when "Grandma" acquired an admirer, the news spread fast.
We were not at all surprised that a man found her beautiful, charming, sweet, giving, unselfish, and excellent company. After all, we all felt the same. Whether we call her Mother, Mama, Mom, Grandma, we love her like nobody else. However, we were all, I think, immediately interested in how this man would change her life--and ours.
She had always said that while it might be nice to have a friend to do things with, she was not interested in getting married again. She didn't want someone to come between her and her family. And what man would be willing to accommodate the controlled chaos generated by all these kids, grand kids, and babies?
This man.
He would.
He's a gentle, loving man, a strong Christian, and he appreciates what and who she is, because he has known her as a friend for many years. He still has a little trouble keeping up with who is married to whom, whose child is whose, and where we all live and work. But he is trying.
Yes, her life is changing. She will be leaving the house where she has lived for more than forty years.
And so will ours. Our family has grown too large to gather in any one's house now, and we will have to figure out where we can get together for holidays and birthdays.
She may not always be available to us, because they will be doing things together. It's going to be an adjustment for all of us.
But what a blessing for all of us. Mother has a new life partner, a husband with whom to share all that life offers.
We, her children, have a new step-father, with a kind and loving heart big enough for all of us. The babies love him too.
Dawson has already informed us that as soon as they get married, he will be calling him "Pa".

Thanks be to God, the Father of us all.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Crochet Therapy

A Works for Me Wednesday tip.

I love to crochet. I find it calming, centering, soothing. I taught myself when I was a child, by looking at the pictures in one of those "how to" books. I have crocehted baby blankets and clothes for my own children, neices and nephews, caps, purses, vests, all kinds of things. Recently I read about the Prayer Shawl Ministry, and although I have not formally participated, I have appropriated the idea behind it.
As I crochet, I envision the person for whom I am making the article.
Before Christmas, I made scarves and shawls for all my girls. As I crocheted, I kept a picture of the person in my mind. With each stitch, I prayed for that person. I prayed for inner peace, for God's mercy and grace, I thanked Him for that person and all that she has meant in my life, and for everyone she loves.
I prayed that as she wore the scarf, she would find love in her heart for everyone she met.
I prayed that I would be a better mother, grandmother, aunt, sister, friend to her.
I prayed that I would be used in her life.
I thanked God for her.
I lifted her up for God's blessing.

I can't say how they for whom I crocheted have felt wearing these gifts of prayer.

I can say that I have been blessed in more ways than I can express by all those hours of prayer for these ones that I love.

Don't know how to knit or crochet? Wal-mart has a book to teach yourself, easy enough for anyone who can read and look at pictures.

Works for me.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Things I've Been Mulling Over

Mulling. Isn't that a great word? Not necessarily thinking, but ... oh, say considering, meditating on, wondering about ....

1. Why do we have to work five days, and only get 2 days for relaxation? I wish it were the other way around, don't you?

2. Would anyone find, or look for, or having looked and found, actually read a blog about low carb recipes?

3. Why does my daughter think that when she confesses something on her blog I am not going to read it, when she knows that I read every word she writes?

4. What did I ever do to be so blessed, in family, in friends, in my job, and in my marriage?

5.How can it already be almost Lent? I mean, Ash Wednesday is *next week*, y'all, and I have not given any thought at all to what I am going to do for those 40 days, during which I usually try to have more conversations with God, which actually means listening more than I talk, which is what I tend to do (keep talking instead of listening, I mean), because sometimes I don't want to hear what He is telling me.

6. Could I have gotten any more words into that last sentence without taking a breath?

7. How much longer is it going to be before we have some springtime weather?

Well, I guess that is enough of my random thoughts for now.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Romancing the Flame

Today is a "Works for Me Wednesday" tip, and co-incidentally Valentine's Day

Today is Valentine's Day. TV, newspapers, magazines, flyers, posters, billboards all urge us to spend lots of money (that we don't really have) to show how much we love that special someone.
Is money what it takes to say I love you?
Not really.
Oh, yeah, if you have the money, the jewelry, the dinner out, the huge box of chocolates, or the Vermont Teddy bear are all nice.
But if you don't, that does not mean the romance is gone.

Here's how to romance your darling on a non-existent budget.

First, put all the little people to bed.

Second, take a warm shower (together, if so inclined...if not, not).

Third, have warm towels (take them fresh from the dryer) for your beloved.

Fourth, clean pajamas, nightie, robe (if you have little ones who may pop out of bed).

Fifth, spread a cozy quilt on the floor and pile up plenty of pillows.

Next, light a cluster of candles, of various heights, if you don't have a fireplace.

Pour a drink for each of you--in my case, diet Coke with plenty of ice works even better than vintage wine.

Set out a small plate of cheese, a few chocolates (snag them from your school age kiddies' Valentine goodies), a bunch of grapes, a handful of crackers, some shelled nuts.

Lie on the pillows, gaze into the flames, hold each other gently, and talk.

Talk about all the stuff you used to talk about before you had kids. Remind each other why you fell in love, and why you have stayed together. Flirt. Touch. Kiss. Talk. Kiss some more.

What happens next is up to your imagination, your inclination, and your population of little folks.

No matter how long you have been married, no matter how many children you have, no matter how tired you are, keep the flame alive. Romance the one you love. Act as if you are still in that starry-eyed first stage of romantic love. And you will discover that you still are.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Works for me.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Teacher Training, revisited

It has been brought to my attention that although I titled my last post "Teacher Training," I didn't really talk about the training--just the getting there, and about the school where it was held.
So...for those of you who really want to know about the *training* it is.

I spent a whole day of my life learning how to read compositions written by students with Limited English Proficiency.
I learned that the compositions must be classified as Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, or Advanced High, and I learned how to do that.
I also discovered that I will have to take a test on line to prove that I was actually paying attention, and did indeed learn how to do these things.

It's always been a point of interest, confusion, and irritation, that when teachers are being told how to teach, we get a lot of demands for student centered learning. Interactive learning. Hands on learning. Learning activities to appeal to all kinds of learners, not only the visual/auditory, but also the kinesthetic/tactile, the musically talented, the mathematically inclined, etc. etc. etc.

When teachers are being taught how to teach, what do we get?
Sit there in your chair (sometimes without even a desktop space on which to prop a notepad) and listen while the overhead projector flashes slides of the handout we have in our hands, which reproduces the often fuzzy slides in type so tiny even a gnat would have trouble reading them without a magnifying glass.

I love to be read to.
I love hearing stories read or told aloud.

I hate having a set of slides read to me, if I already have a copy of the slides in my hand, and they are also posted on an overhead screen.

I get tired.
My back hurts.
I get bored.
I get thirsty.
I get hungry.
I get sleepy.
I get cranky.

All the ailments my students complain of during a 45 minute class, with at least three different planned activities, I suffer for 6-8 hours, while sitting and listening.

Fortunately, I don't have to ask for a restroom pass. I just get up and go when I feel inspired to do so, or when my sitter gets numb, or my feet go to sleep.

Usually we are allowed to bring in a drink. Rarely, we are offered some kind of stale snack, or a cup of lukewarm coffee with that powdered cream substitute gunk that reminds me of spackling.

If we are offered real food, that tastes good, that is a training to remember and recommend to friends.

Sometimes the room is cold. Sometimes it is hot and sweaty. Almost always, the chairs are hard and uncomfortable. Seldom do we find a pencil sharpener. So I dress in layers and bring a shawl. Unfortunately, although it is always possible to put on more clothing, it is not always possible to take off enough to be comfortable.

I bring several pencils, pens, and highlighters, as well as my own writing tablet, aspirin, Sucrets, bottled water, gum, and mints, as well as a brown bag lunch, just in case there is no cafeteria. In fact, I have a big tote bag that goes with me to training. Sometimes, I wish I had one of those carts on wheels, with a handle, sort of like a rolling suitcase, because I haul so much stuff with me. I've never quite worked up the nerve to bring a pillow, but have often wished I had one.

Always, I leave feeling cheated somehow. I don't mind being required to go for training. I know that I always have room to grow as a teacher. Occasionally I learn something that gets me excited, and I can't wait to get back to my classroom and my kids and share it with them. I understand why we are required to go to training.

But please, please teach the teachers the way you want us to teach our students.