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.