Saturday, October 04, 2008

Winnebago Journey--Our Lemon is Almost Gone. Chapter Eight

I know I said I wouldn't post any more about the Winnebago, but the nightmare just seems to drag on and on.

We finally signed all the paperwork, and so did Winnebago, McClain's, and Freightliner. The Winnebago is paid off, the account is closed, and they want to take possession.

Fine with us. There is just the little matter of removing our washer/dryer.

If you have never seen an RV washer/dryer, it is just about the size of a dishwasher, and runs the wash cycle and then the dry cycle all in one front-loading unit. It weighs about, oh, seems like about a thousand pounds, if you are trying to move it by yourself.

In the Winnebago, the cabinet and connections for the washer/dryer are in the same little cubbyhole as the toilet--a space about three feet by three feet. In order to put clothes into the washer, one must sit on the toilet. In order to remove the washer, one must either pull the washer from its cabinet into one's lap while sitting on the toilet, turn sideways, and deposit it onto the floor of the bathroom, or take out the toilet, or have help from a strong man.

Or maybe have a crane.

Suffice it to say that Wick can't/doesn't want to move it by himself. So we made it a condition of final delivery that they send someone, or a couple of men, to pull out the washer and put it into our fifth wheel travel trailer.

They have promised three different dates so far, and haven't come yet.

Right now, they are saying they will be here Monday.

I'm not holding my breath.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Winnebago: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers. " Chapter 7

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." This line is from Henry VI, part 2, by William Shakespeare.
Of course, Will never heard of Winnebago. But this line should have rung in my head like a great bell, the instant we started talking about hiring a lawyer.
In our naivte, we thought that any reasonable person who heard our story would agree that we had a grievance.
We wrote a letter to Winnebago, chronicling our woes, and asked that the purchase contract be rescinded.
Winnebago refused.
We contacted McClain's RV, with the same request.
McClain's refused.

So we went to talk to a lawyer.
Finding a lawyer who handles this type of case was a journey in itself. Most lawyers we talked to were not interested once they found out that there were no excessive damages in the offing. They are more interested in handling cases on contingency, and taking a third or more of the settlement.

We finally found a lawyer who would listen to our story. His immediate response was that we had a solid case.
He said he has never lost a case against Winnebago.
He told us that it would probably cost around $15,000, maybe as much as $20,000.
He was only interested in clients who would commit to going the distance, no matter what.

We talked.
We prayed.
We asked advice from family and friends.

We hired the lawyer, and he filed a suit against Winnebago, McClain's, Freightliner, and the extended warranty company, Coach-Net.

We waited.
And waited.
And waited.

It's been two years and ten months since we started this journey through the legal system.

Some years ago I read a novel, Bleak House, by Charles Dickens. Bleak House is the story of a lawsuit filed in London. The suit wended its way through the British legal system for many years. When it was finally settled, the whole estate which was the subject of the lawsuit had been consumed by legal fees.

I can now identify with the characters in Bleak House.

This case had consumed our time, our energy, and our resources. We have nothing left.

We are in the process of negotiating a settlement which offers neither fairness nor justice.

We are settling for less than we want, less than we deserve, less than we can really afford to lose, because of the amount of money that has been sucked up by the lawyers, the mediator (also a lawyer), and the cost of keeping the Winnebago at least minimally functional.

We are out of patience, and out of money.

The proposal states that we will not reveal the conditions of the settlement by any means, whether by telling others, writing a book, e-mailing, or blogging.

So this will be my last entry about Winnebago.

Let me finish with an admonition: learn from our misfortunes and our mistakes.

Now I have to think of something else to blog about.

I'm sure something will occur to me eventually.

Maybe the fifth wheel travel trailer we are considering...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Winnebago: That's Not Cool. Chapter Six

The last trip we took in the Winnebago Journey was mid-June, during a drought, in blazing hot weather. We went to Lake Texoma to camp with his brothers and families. When I opened the refrigerator door to fix lunch, we realized that the refrigerator had stopped working.

We drove to Sherman, to North Texas RV, to see if they could fix it. They thought they could. As it turned out, they couldn't.

We made three trips over there, and each time they thought they had it fixed. Wick finally figured out that the fan was not working. So he went to Wal-mart, bought a couple of clip-on fans, and rigged them up to keep the refrigerator working at least temporarily.

Mid-week, the inverter blew out. It took out most of the electrical and electronic equipment, including the microwave, both tvs, the radio sitting on the dash (the one we had to use because the built-in dash radio never worked right, even after being replaced), and the sleep number mattress.

We said to ourselves, well, it could be worse. At least we have insurance through First Extended.

Wrong. Well....we did pay for the coverage. It was in force. But the company refused to pay. Their representative promised to come look at the Winnebago, if we would take it to an "authorized service center"--so we took it to Tyler RV, the closest "authorized" service center to our lake home.

It sat there for over two months, and the representative never arrived. When we called, we were told repeatedly, "He'll be there next week."

Finally, we were notified that the claim had been denied, since the Extended Warranty rep said he thought the damage had been caused by a lightning strike, and we should file a claim with our auto insurance company.

Lightning. In the middle of a drought. There had not been a cloud as big as my hand in months.

A couple of years earlier, lightning struck our pickup. It was quite noticeable. Loud. And scary. It blew out the tires, cracked the windshield, and left a big burn mark on the truck and on the ground, as well as blowing out the electrical system. We knew when it struck, even though we were not actually in the truck at the time.

And we were living in the RV. I think we would have noticed, if lightning had struck the Winnebago.

Our auto insurance company said there was no sign of lightning striking. The man at Tyler RV said he couldn't find any sign of a lightning strike. So we told Extended Warranty. They finally sent someone to actually look at the Winnebago.

He said there was no sign of lightning striking. He was their guy, and he told them they were wrong.

They still refused to pay.

So, when we talked to our attorney, we asked him to add Extended Warranty to the lawsuit.

We had to pay for having the tvs, the microwave, and the refrigerator fixed ourselves.

Because the Winnebago sat on the Tyler RV lot for more than two months, we had to rent an apartment. We live too far from our teaching jobs to commute, and the Winnebago was still at Tyler RV, waiting for someone from Extended Warranty to look at it and make a decision.

The furniture in an RV is pretty much built in. When you move in, you bring your clothes, your cooking utensils, and food, and you are pretty much set. Unlike moving into an apartment.

Renting an apartment involved signing a year-long lease.
And buying furniture.
A bed.
A washer and dryer.

So...there we were, still paying a thousand dollars a month for a Winnebago that was immobile, plus rent on an apartment,and furniture we didn't really want or need when we eventually moved back into the RV.

We bought a Winnebago so we could travel.

But whenever we actually traveled, something broke. Every time.

So we were paying for a vehicle that was stationary.

I have to say, I quite resented paying that much every month to live in roughly 300 square feet of space, unable to use the Winnebago for what we bought it for---traveling.

We had the refrigerator fixed, and the tvs, and the microwave. The water heater still was only working intermittently. The rest, we decided, we could live without.

We are still living without those things, nearly three years later, because all our money had gone to pay our lawyer.

And that is the next chapter in our saga.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Winnebago: A Not So Happy New Year. Chapter Five

During the Christmas holidays, we visited family. We spent New Year's Eve at our niece's house, parked in her driveway. New Year's morning, we started home.

We got about two miles. We were stranded on the service road of a busy highway.

There is no service facility open on New Year's Day.

The next day, we got someone to bring us a new belt. It didn't fit.

The right size belt was not available in Texas. It had to be shipped from Oklahoma. For five days, we were stranded.

By August, we were feeling optimistic enough to make a trip to Oklahoma City.

We didn't even make it to Ardmore. The closest place that had a tow truck big enough to haul a Winnebago was in Oklahoma City.

We had planned to camp at Lake Thunderbird with Wick's brother and his wife. And we had picked up their teen age grandson, so he could go with us to meet them at the lake.

In addition to a teenager, we also had our Pomeranian, Frankie.

Once the Winnebago was hooked up to the tow truck, which took more than an hour, we piled into the little Jeep we had been towing, and started to follow the tow truck. Less than 30 minutes later, the transmission fell out of the Jeep.

So we all piled into the cab of the tow truck. Wick sat in the passenger seat, and Frankie, the boy, and I wedged ourselves on the edge of the sleeper.

Wick's brother agreed to meet us at a highway intersection near a Wal-mart. Unfortunately, the trucker couldn't get off the highway to take us up to the Wal-mart. He pulled over onto a vee between the highway and another highway that was merging with it.

We had thrown a few things into a couple of Wal-mart bags, such as our meds, and a change of clothes. We had to cross a couple of lanes, climb a fence, cross an access road, and walk about a quarter of a mile to get to the Wal-mart. Suddenly, it occurred to us that we could not take Frankie into the Wal-mart.

Looking further down the pavement shimmering in the August heat, we saw a Lowe's lumberyard. We headed there. I collapsed onto a handy folding chair, and Wick went in search of cold water. We poured some over Frankie, who was panting heavily, drank some, then poured the rest over our heads.

Finally, Wick's brother arrived, just in time to prevent his grandson from expiring of embarrassment.

The Winnebago was towed to Freightliner. We expected it to be fixed within a few days.

Thirteen days later, we were still at Wick's brother's house. Fortunately, we are a close family, and get along well. But thirteen days is a long time to have company, and I am sure they were relieved when we finally were able to pick up the Winnebago.

The mechanic at Freightliner told us that it was overfilled with oil, which had spewed out all over the engine, and that the radiator had just water, no coolant. We were nonplussed. After some discussion, we concluded that these problems must have occurred while the Winnebago was at McClain's being repaired.

Our next step was to find a lawyer.

Winnebago: Waiting for Service. Chapter 4

We bought our Winnebago Journey from McClain's in November.

By June, we had accumulated a list of nine items that needed attention. We called for a service appointment, and were told that it would take about a week to fix everything. Since we were planning a cruise, we set up the appointment for the week we would be gone.

What with the cruise, and a couple of days' travel time, we got back ten days later.

Nothing had been done.


The service manager at McClain's offered us a parking spot so that we could stay in the RV at night, while they worked on it during the day.

None of the items were major--things like a radio that had never worked, a water heater that sometimes worked and sometimes didn't, the energy control panel that burned up, and an air conditioner vent that was broken when the Winnebago was delivered.

The service manager had no excuse for why the work was not done while we were gone.

Most of the items were finally fixed, a week later, but they never did fix the radio. McClain's ordered a new one, but had it shipped to us. Wick took out the old one and installed the new one. It still didn't work right.

All the money we paid for a Winnebago, and the radio never worked right. We had to put a little one on the dash and plug it in.

Winnebago: It Was All Downhill. Chapter 3

Having replaced the out-of-round tire, and solved the problem of the Schraeder valve, we thought we had taken care of any lurking problems. We planned a trip with two of Wick's brothers and their wives to Colorado, Mount Rushmore, and Yellowstone.

The first few days were delightful. The weather was good, for the most part, and we always enjoy our trips with Wick's brothers. Other than a rainstorm the night we were in Amarillo, parked on the Wal-mart parking lot, the first few days were uneventful.

As we left Estes Park, we were enjoying the sunny day, and the breathtaking views on the mountain roads winding through the high peaks. Suddenly, the dash instruments went out.

We were barreling down a mountain road with no instruments.

Wick couldn't even tell if the engine was running, or if he had brakes. Winnebagos have air brakes, and if they are not working, maneuvering on a steep mountain road can be deadly. Wick radioed to his brothers, explaining the situation; since they were ahead of us, we were hoping they could find a safe place for us to pull over.

Finally, a wide, fairly flat area on the side of the road promised a safe place to coast to a stop.

My sisters-in-law and I stood on the side of the road, half-crying with relief, while the guys tried to locate the source of the problem.

The trouble-shooting ran into a couple of hours, still with no resolution. We decided to drive on to our next stop, driving slowly, hoping for the best.

We were many miles from a service center, and having an RV towed through the Rocky Mountains is strictly a last resort. We made it to the next campground, where the guys kept searching for the problem.

Finally, after four days, Wick was able to find the problem and repair it. A wire had shorted out in the engine compartment.

Our confidence in the Winnebago was dwindling. When we bought this "industry standard", with the "best service record in the industry", we did not anticipate being put in danger of crashing down a mountainside.

Fortunately, our next breakdown, just six months later, was at least in a safer place.

Winnebago: "Industry Standard"? That's a hot one. Chapter 2

The out-of-round tire was only the beginning of our RV troubles.
We live in Texas. It gets hot here pretty much year 'round. So air conditioner problems are huge for us. When the dash air went out inn the Winnebago Journey, we found it most uncomfortable to drive anywhere in it. The "house" air simply couldn't keep up when we were going down the road.

So we made a trip to the Winnebago dealership for repairs. Now when we were buying the Winnebago Journey, we were careful to specify that we would be living in the Winnebago. Full-time. Not just on vacations. So we asked if full-time RVers get preferential treatment when problems arise. The salesman assured us that we would always go to the top of the list, head of the line, and usually get through within one day.

We spent the day at Freightliner, while they searched for a Schraeder valve. I have no idea what a Schraeder valve is, but apparently it is necessary for the operation of the dash air.

The Freightliner rep told us that in all of Dallas, Ft. Worth, and surrounding metropolitan area, there was no Schraeder valve to be found. He assured us that just as soon as one was located, it would be sent to his store immediately, and he would call us.

We waited.
And waited.
And waited.

Finally, after about six weeks, we called McClain's RV, where we had bought the Winnebago. The service manager said he still had not located a Schraeder valve. Wick asked to speak to the owner, Mr. McClain.

The service manager assured us that he would find a Schraeder valve. We made an appointment. When we got there, he said he still had not located a Schraeder valve.

After a rather warm discussion, the service manager vowed that he would fix our air conditioner that day.

We waited.
And waited.
And waited.

Finally, just before closing time, he told us that the valve had been located and installed.

We asked where he finally found it.

He took it out of another Winnebago on his lot.

We felt for the owners of the other Winnebago, but were delighted that our problem had been fixed.

Or so we thought.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Winnebago: Journey Through Hell From Day One. Chapter One

Wick and I have been full-timing for about 8 years now. Full time RVers, to be more precise. We started out with an Alfa Gold, which was about 12 years old when we bought it.

Gold is the top of the line Alfa travel trailer. So even though it was an older model, it had some very nice features, such as a ceramic tile counter top, and a stackable washer and dryer. We sold our house, gave most of our furniture to our kids, and moved in.

Living in a 36 foot travel trailer is a big adjustment, after living in a three-bedroom, two bath brick home. You not only have to love your spouse, you also have to like him. There isn't room to get away and sulk, if you are unhappy about something. RV living requires the ability to talk things out, and come to a compromise quickly.

About 2 years into our RV life, we were staying at an RV park in southeast Oklahoma, which is next door to an RV dealer. One rainy Saturday, for lack of anything better to do, we went over to the RV dealer and walked through some fifth wheels. We were impressed with the improvements in features in the new RVs, compared to our older model.

A salesman began to shadow us, pointing out the various features of each model. We were most impressed with a Big Sky Montana, which had 8 ft. ceilings, lots of windows, even a skylight. The salesman insisted on making us a deal, including a trade-in on our Alfa. We agreed to see what he could come up with. But we went back to our Alfa thinking that there was no way he was going to come up with a suitable deal.

He did. It was such a good deal that we moved from the Alfa into the Big Sky that weekend.

For another couple of years, we were happy with our fifth wheel. Then we started looking at motor homes.

Motor homes are those huge, buslike vehicles you see going down the road, often pulling a "toad"--a towed car for use when the RV is parked. They have all kinds of gadgets and features that are usually unavailable in fifth wheels.

We went to a couple of RV shows. We researched on line. We talked to other RVers. We read RV message boards.

Our conclusion was that if we were going to make such an investment, we wanted to go with the best. Winnebago is the original, and advertises itself as "the industry standard", with the "best customer service record" in the industry.

We planned to pay off the RV before we retired, and then to travel at least half the year every year.

What a huge mistake.

From day one, this Winnebago Journey has been one problem after another.

We ordered the coach from the factory, with all the features exactly as we wanted. We were so excited that we could hardly wait for delivery.

The day we went to pick up the Winnebago Journey, we were told that one of McClain's qualified agents would demonstrate how everything worked.

"Qualified agent." Not hardly. This poor guy was almost as clueless as we were, having to look in the literature for instructions for almost everything we asked about. Wick is pretty good with mechanical issues, so we believed that he would be able to figure things out as we went along.

We immediately planned a trip to San Antonio, from Dallas. On the way, we discovered that one of the tires was out of round.

Someone drove that Winnebago Journey from the factory in Indiana to McClain's RV dealership in Alvarado, TX, with a tire out of round.

We should have seen that as the bad omen it was. It was just the beginning of our problems with McClain's, and Winnebago.

Overwhelmed and Underprepared

School starts officially tomorrow. Students will arrive, expecting teachers prepared to start teaching. Administrators will expect lesson plans, syllabi, course outlines, parent letters.

Friday morning, at approximately 10:03 a.m. Texas time (devastation has a way of making me notice the exact time of tragedies), I was told that I will have not two, but four preparations.

Four different preps.

Oh. my. word.

At that moment, I expected to be hiding in my portable classroom Monday morning, head in hands, wailing.

In my personal life, I am random and abstract. I may spend three days looking for a pet crochet hook, or a particular yarn, only to forget what pattern I was planning to use.

In my professional life, I am concrete. And sequential. I want to be prepared. I want to have everything lined up in rows, alphabetically organized. I have all my handouts stacked in order, square corners, aligned with the edge of the shelf.

None of this is going to happen by Monday morning.

As soon as I got the news about the four different preps, I called my niece Tara(, who is one of the most organized people I know, and began to sob into the telephone. She immediately grasped the enormity of my dilemma, and instructed me to come to her classroom during my lunch time.

It's a twenty minute drive, to another town, in a different school district, but I was desperate.

When I got there, she had all her class files up on her computer, ready to load onto my flash drive. She had made an appointment for me with her department chair, who was ready with another set of files, paper handouts, and books she was so generous to give me.

When I got back to my own school, two of the teachers I have just met this week offered similar kinds of help.

Tara helped me because we are family, and that is what family members do: we help each other in time of need. What a blessing it is to be part of a large, close-knit family.

He department chair and the two teachers at my school helped me out of the goodness of their hearts.

Like Blanche DuBois, I found myself depending on the kindness of strangers.

How grateful is my heart today.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Starting Over Again

Two years ago, Wick and I started teaching in Dallas ISD. He went to the lowest performing middle school in Dallas. I went to the lowest performing high school in Dallas. Not surprisingly, his middle school feeds into my high school.

We thought that we would stay in these jobs until we retire. I was wrong.

In Texas, educational effectiveness is measured by the TAKS test--the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. Wick's school achieved acceptable status this past year.

Unfortunately, after four years of low performance, my school suffered a drastic reconstruction.

All incoming ninth graders will be accepted. All sophomores and juniors will be sent to other high schools. Only seniors with no deficiencies in their graduation plans will be allowed to return and graduate.

Only a handful of teachers were retained. The vast majority, of which I am a member, were released from our contracts two weeks after school was out in June.

We were informed by voice mail of our fate. Suddenly, all the plans for the new school year melted away. We had to look for new jobs. Since we had no idea what was in store, none of us had requested transfers to other schools, so we had missed the prime season for transferring elsewhere.

We were eventually instructed to attend a job fair on July 31st. Just about 2 weeks from the first day to report for the new school year.

The job fair was a nightmare of noise, confusion, heat, and key people out of pocket. I interviewed with a number of schools, but received no firm offers.

Just as I was about to give up and go home, a principal called and asked me to come back to his table. He told me he wanted to offer me a job, but he couldn't unless a teacher was willing to move from English to French. She wasn't willing.

Several days later, he called again, saying he was now able to offer me a position. I had no idea what I would be teaching, but said yes, I wanted to work there.

Whenever Wick and I change jobs, we pray to be placed where God wants us to be. So I believe that this placement is where He means for me to be, at least for now.

I would like to think that I will be able to stay here, since everyone has been so supportive and welcoming. But if God moves me elsewhere, I will be content to go, since I know that He purposes good and not evil, and will use me to bless the children entrusted to my care.

I found out today that instead of teaching Advanced Placement seniors, as was planned at my former school, I will be teaching 3 sections of sophomore classes, and three sections of pre-AP sophomore classes.

I have 6 days in which to plan lessons, type up a syllabus, and prepare for my students.

I am sad for my former students, scattered to other schools.

I am sad for my friends, displaced as I was, some of whom still have not found permanent placement.

Struggling to learn the names, faces, and teaching assignments of a whole new staff.

Searching for one familiar face in a sea of strangers.

Praying for guidance as I meet new students next week.

Rejoicing that God has provided a place for me to use the gifts He has given me.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dinosaur Tracks

Our daughter Jeana(daystocome) and her family invited us to spend a couple of days with them during their vacation. She said the kids wanted to go to Glen Rose to see the dinosaur tracks.

We had never been there. Neither of us is fond of being hot, and we had visions of clambering around a bunch of rocks, probably on a small mountain, in the broiling sun of August in Texas. But we do love our grandbabies, and we love being with daughter and son-in-law, so we said, sure, of course, count us in.

What we didn't say to them, but did say to each other, was, "Well, we can't all go in one vehicle so we will take our car, and if it is just too unbearable hot, we'll be able to leave them there and go find some place air conditioned until they are done looking at dinosaur tracks."

Having paid the day use fee (very reasonably priced at $5 per adult, $3 for seniors), our first stop seemed to confirm my worst fears. We walked to a pile of rocks that gradually sloped down to a river bed, and a sign with a piece of pipe to look through pointed the way to the first set of tracks.

I slathered on my sunscreen, adjusted my sun visor, put on my sunglasses, and trecked over to the sign amid the rocks. I dutifully looked through the little piece of pipe to zero in on where the tracks were, exclaimed at how many and what varied sizes and types, and politely declined an invitation to get up close and personal by hiking down the rocks in the sun.

I sat on a big rock, chatted with other visitors to the spot, some of whom were from England and Australia, and waited for my darlings to return.

We visited another spot, almost interchangeable with the first, as far as I could tell. Again, I perched on a big rock, swigged water from my bottle, and visited with passing visitors until my family came back.

My dear son-in-law said he thought we should go back to the first place, set up our day camp, and go swimming.

Swimming? My ears perked up a bit, since cold water sounded like a great idea on that hot day.

We gathered up the ground blanket, coolers, food, chairs, and assorted paraphernalia for enjoying a day on the river, and hiked down the rocks. Scott found a level spot in the shade, and we unloaded our burdens.

When I saw where we had to hike down to get to the river, I almost backed out. Having suffered a concussion not so long ago, I was reluctant to take a chance on falling and banging my head again. But Wick and Scott went before and after me, guiding me to the easiest path, and steadying me on the steepest parts.

What awaited us was a sort of paradise. Plenty of shade, water shallow enough to wade in, dropping down to chest-deep at a rocky dam, with places to sit on the rocks, get into deeper water, or wade upstream to search for more dinosaur tracks.

Scott brought us watermelon, bottled water, and even our lunch sandwiches, so I wouldn't have to struggle back up the rocks. As the shade moved over the water, he brought down canvas chairs so we could sit in knee-deep water, in the shade of the overhanging trees, and watch the grandbabies swarming up and down the river, finding tracks, dragonflies, minnows, small perch that nibbled on bare toes, and a variety of flora and fauna.

Occasionally a cool burst of water flowed through the natural limestone dam, keeping us quite cool, despite the sun flashing on the slow-moving water.

Other groups came and went, lingering briefly, then moving on to other overlooks, constantly looking for bigger and better .... bigger and better what? I wondered as I lazily swirled the water with my feet, watching the little ones digging in the sand, or befriending other children who came to the river to dig in the sand and paddle in the water.

After all my apprehensions, it was one of the most perfect days of my life, surrounded by loved ones, enjoying the bounty of nature and the beauty of God's creation.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Frankie's Summer Adventure: The trilogy, part III

When I told our niece that we were planning to take Frankie to the vet to have his teeth cleaned, she asked if we would also take her kitten to be "fixed". I said sure, put him in the travel crate, and we'll be happy to take him along.
When we got to the vet, Frankie started his quivery routine--shaking, making little soft whimpering sounds deep in his throat, and poking me in the face with his wet nose. I told Wick to fill out the paperwork for the kitten and I would do it for Frankie.

The little girl behind the desk asked, What is the kitten's name?

Wick said, Beats the heck out of me. Call him Squirt.

She giggled, and then asked, boy or girl?

He said, Beats the heck out of me.

She giggled again, in disbelief. You don't know if it's a boy or a girl?

He said, Nope--it's not my cat.

Girl: What's he here for?

Wick: To be fixed.

Girl: Hmmm....well, okay, then I'll just put "Castorated", since that will work for a boy or a girl.

Me: (thinking) okay, first, that is not how castrated is pronounced or spelled, and second, the kitten can't be "castorated" if he is a she....but whatever.

The vet tech took Frankie and the kitten back to the other room, and we left.

When we came back in the afternoon, the vet tech brought out the kitten, and the conversation resumed.
Girl: Hey y'all, he's a she, so we "spaded" him.

Wick: Well, that's good that you didn't "castorate" her.

Vet tech: Who are you here for?

Me: Frankie the pom.

Vet tech: okay, I know where he is, I'll go get him.

He left. And he was gone....and gone....and gone.... and when he came back, he said: He won't let me take him out of the crate.

Wick: I'll get him.
He left. And he was gone...and gone...and gone...and finally the vet tech came back and said: he won't let him take him out of the crate either.

So I said: Oh, please--I'll go get him myself.

When I got there, the vet (a man) and the vet tech (also a man) and Wick (most definitely a man) were standing in front of the crate, and there was Frankie, backed up in the furtherest corner of the crate, doing a credible imitation of Cujo the rabid dog. Teeth bared, full throated growls, darting forward to snap at the three men, then retreating into the corner again.

The vet said: After all we have put him through today, getting his shots, being sedated, getting his teeth cleaned, I think he has had it with men.

I stepped forward, and in my lowest, sweetest, poor-baby voice, said: What's the matter, Frankie?

He lept into my arms, practically sobbing with relief. The vet tech said: He snapped at me.

Wick said: What's worse, he snapped at me!

I had Frankie cradled on my shoulder, like the fur baby he is, when Wick tried again to pet him--and he snapped at him again.

Once we paid all the fees, bundled up the kitten in her crate, and got back into the truck, Frankie wobbled over to Wick, sniffed deeply a couple of times, then licked his hand, as if to apologize for snapping at him.

Then he collapsed in my lap, fell fast asleep, and began to snore. Poor little guy, he had had a rough day, and the sedative still had not worn off.

We are back home now, after being on the road for the biggest part of the past three weeks, and Frankie has finally begun to relax. But he is still on his guard, afraid that his summer adventures are not yet behind him.

He is going to go berserk when we start moving back into the RV for the school year that begins next Monday.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Frankie's Summer Adventure: The trilogy, part II

After we picked Frankie up at Jamie's, we went to visit our niece and her family. We went out to eat, and took Frankie with us. Of course, he can't go into the restaurant, but he would rather go, and stay in the truck, than be left behind. And since we have a diesel truck, we can leave the engine running, and the air conditioner on, so Frankie doesn't get too hot. (our nephew was aghast--burning diesel at $4.65 a gallon, to air condition a dog!)

When we came back to the truck, Frankie was standing on his hind legs in the back seat, anxiously watching for us. When I opened the back door, he lept out and landed spread eagled on the pavement.

Splat! I heard him hit the pavement, heard the sharp click as his chin hit the ground and his teeth snapped together. All four legs were pointing in different directions. He didn't get up.

I snatched him up in my arms, and my niece, who just finished nursing school, began to feel for broken bones. She said, "I don't feel anything out of place," but Frankie was inert in my arms. My heart sank.

Wick said, "He's breathing. Put him down and see what he does."

He sort of scrambled up onto his feet, staggering around, and bent almost double, nose toward his flank. He tried to hike his leg, and fell over. We couldn't help but laugh as he wobbled around like a drunkard.

I snatched him up again, and again, the brand-new nurse felt for broken bones, and checked his eyes, ears, and mouth for blood. She said again, "Everything seems to be okay. Put him down."

He continued to stagger around, but he wasn't whining or panting excessively, so we put him back into the truck and went to niece's house.

When we got there, he attempted to jump out of the back seat again, but Wick was too fast for him, and caught him on the fly. When he put him down on the ground, I was relieved to see that he not only was walking straight, but had enough spunk to bark at Jen's Labrador retriever, Sophie, as he pranced up the walk to the door.

Was he concussed? Did he get the wind knocked out of him? Probably both. Even though he is a tiny fellow, even somewhat dainty in appearance, he's pretty tough. And he still thinks he is big enough to take on a Lab, even after being down for the count only moments before.

Little did he know what the next day would bring.

to be continued....

Frankie's Summer Adventures: The Trilogy, part I

Frankie, our pomeranian, has had an eventful summer. Unfortunately, he has not enjoyed all of it.

Coming to the lake, he enjoyed. He loves all the rich smells of a lakeside neighborhood: other dogs, cats, racoons, even snakes slithering through the grass. He loves to trot around at our heels as we go up and down the stairs while working on the cabin, up and down the hill to the boat dock, across the street to visit neighbors.

He loves going out in the boat, standing erect at the bow, sniffing the breeze, barking at passing boats and at people waving from their boat houses and docks.

He does not love being left behind when we go on a cruise.

My dear daughter-in-law Jamie volunteered to keep him during that week. She met me at a town half way between our homes. We had a quick lunch, and then Frankie got a treat, a drink of water, a chance to sniff the bushes near the parking lot, and then it was time to say goodbye.

I carried him to Jamie's car, put him on the back seat, petted him, and said to be good. Right up until I shut the door, he was still wagging his tail. But when I shut the door and started to walk away, he realized what was happening.

Y'all, it was like saying goodbye to a child. He put his paws on the window, pressed his nose to the glass, and seemed to be saying Don't leave me!

In addition to having to stay at Jamie's for a week, he had to share house room with Jamie's pug Gracie, and Boston terrier Oreo, an indignity which added insult to injured feelings. Frankie does not approve of people who keep dogs in the house.

Besides having to share attention and petting, he also had to -- gasp -- eat from the same bowl as Gracie and Oreo.

Frankie does not play well with others.

When we came to pick him up after the cruise, however, he seemed to be healthy, and delighted to see us. Luckily, he had no idea what was in store for him the next day.

to be continued...

Fourth of July 2008

Since we have had our lake place, our kids and grandkids have come to the lake for the 4th. This year, since we have a functional bathroom and kitchen, we extended the invitation to other family and friends.
What an enthusiastic response we got! On the Tuesday before the 4th, Wick's brother and his wife arrived, bringing their fifth wheel travel trailer, parking it in the yard.

On the Wednesday before the 4th, son Scott and his family arrived.

Then our niece and her family, with their Airstream trailer.

And our daughter and her family.

And son Ron and his wife.

And nephew Chip with his family.

And cousins Kim and Susan and Danny.

Thirty people. Wow. We had such a great time.

And the biggest surprise was that all the guys brought their tools, and set to work, finishing the back deck, putting up the joists for the deck roof, insulating the loft, putting up paneling, and they even cleaned up the mess when they were done.

In addition to all that work, we found time for swimming, fishing, going out in the boat, cooking, and best of all, eating.

Brisket. Ham. Roast chicken. Fresh squash, tomatoes, banana peppers, onions, and watermelon. Chips and dips, cookies, and home made cakes to celebrate a July birthday.

Fireworks on the boat dock, soaring into the night sky, bursting into sprays of bright colors, reflected like jewels in the dark water of the lake.

Rocking my sixteen year old granddaughter in my lap when she got her feelings hurt. Singing, telling family stories, remembering those who have passed from this world but not from our memories. Offering thanks before meals, holding hands in a circle.

Five days with family and friends. Counting our blessings. How much better could life get?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

"Stocking Up"

As part of my shopping to save strategies, I often check out blogs with a money saving theme. Some of the comments I have seen regarding couponing and the "drug store game" are critical of people who use coupons, or those who stock up.

The first group contends that couponing takes more time than it is worth. Daughter Jeana has figured out what her hourly "wage" for couponing is, by calculating what she saves weekly, compared to the time it takes to get read to shop. Her hourly rate is more than I make at my job. Of course, couponing is not a full-time job, but it certainly is worth doing, if one is a careful and thoughtful shopper. Besides, most of us can "walk and chew gum at the same time"--that is, we can watch t.v. or have a conversation while clipping coupons.
This group is often also critical of those who coupon, as if they are lower class for trying to save money. Statistically, more middle class, better educated people take advantage of coupons than do people in lower socio-economic groups. Even if I were rich, why should I not save my pennies? In fact, couponing may be one way many middle class families stay in the middle class.

Those who are critical of stocking up contend that one saves more money by making a list of only what is actually needed that week, and sticking to the list faithfully. Now, if you are one of those impulse shoppers who mindlessly throws stuff into your cart as you shop just because it is new, or because it is eye-level, or because it sounds good at that moment, then listing probably would help you stay on track with your spending.
However, those of us who faithfully try to match coupons with sales and items for which we receive ECBs or Register Rewards or rebates--we are shopping from a list, but our list includes not only what we may be out of this week, but also what we know we will need next week, or the next, or sometime in the future.

Stocking up, creating a stockpile of nonperishable items which you or your family uses regularly, is one of the best money-saving tips I can offer. If I let myself run out of toothpaste, toilet paper, shampoo, or body wash, I may have to pay regular price in order to have that product right now. But if I have faithfully shopped specials, rebates, and coupons, then I have the item in stock in my own pantry, cabinet, closet, or bin, purchased on sale, and often free by combining coupons and sales.

My mother-in-law and my own mother were both depression babies--that is, they grew up in a time when every penny had to count, and people had to rely on many strategies just to keep food on the table. One of their favorite sayings was

"Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do,
Or do without."

My MIL in particular was great at stockpiling. She had two of the largest freezers sold by Sears and Roebuck on her service porch. They both stayed full all the time, with the bounty of foods she found at great prices. She never paid full price for dried beans, flour, cornmeal, cake mix, meats and poultry, etc. She also stocked up on canned goods whenever they were on special, buying a case at a time of corn, peas, tomatoes, or green beans when they were ten cans for a dollar. When Wick and I married, he taught me the lessons he had learned from her.

I learned from my mother and grandmother too, about growing a garden and canning the produce. The summer I was expecting our second child, I canned all summer--squash, tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato relish, tomato juice, pickles, anything that could be put into a canning jar. Throughout the following year, if bad weather kept Wick from working on the construction site, we still had plenty of good food on the table.

Stocking up also means that in times of need, I have an abundance to share. When a baby is born, a new couple marries, someone takes an unexpected trip, a family has a financial crisis, I will have the wherewithal to create a basket of useful items at little or no cost.

I think God expects us to be good stewards of the bounty with which we are blessed in this country, and playing the "drug store game" and clipping coupons helps me to be a better steward.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Saving Money at CVS

Saving money at CVS has become one of my hobbies. Daughter Jeana (daystocome) piqued my interest, and then I discovered, where you can find weekly scenarios for saving lots of money.

Wick is fascinated with CVS sales and Extra Care Bucks (aka ECBs), and how much stuff I bring home, with so little out of pocket. ECBs can be spent like cash in any CVS. In order to get them, you will need to fill out a form at the store or on line, and get a loyalty card.

Yesterday I had a list, some coupons, about $7 in ECBs, and a $3 off $15 purchase coupon, so I was ready to prowl the aisles at our local CVS.

Here's what happened when I went to CVS yesterday:

1. I had a rain check from last month, when Soft Soap Spa body wash was $4.99, with $4.99 Extra care Bucks (ECBs), for 4 bottles. CVS was out every time I went in last month, so I got two rain checks, for a total of 8 bottles. (Their rain checks are available for any product they run a sale on, and do not expire.) Instead of the ECBs, which were for last month, I got 4 bottles of body wash for free, a 19.96 value.

2. I had a coupon for Tums 3 pack, plus ECBs equal to the purchase price--meaning I actually made money on that deal.

3. Same with Rolaids.

4. Tide $5.99, with $1 coupon, plus $2 ECBs on each, and I bought 2 bottles.

5. Aquafresh toothpaste, $2 ECBs, plus a $1 coupon, so I got overage (more in return than I spent) on that.

6. I had a $3 off $15 purchase coupon from CVS (sign up to receive e-mails from them), and my total of merchandise was over $15.

7. Allergy meds CVS brand, received ECBs equal to the purchase price.

8. Excedrin, received ECBs equal to purchase price of $1.99, plus had a $2 off coupon--in effect, they paid me to take the product home.

9. I bought bandaids on sale, even though I didn't have a coupon, because I was out of them, and didn't get them when they were an ECB item.

I walked out with a total of almost $45 in products, paid $11.76 out of pocket, and received $11.78 in ECBs to use next week, so I "made" two cents for shopping at CVS this week.

If you get serious about doing this, buy the Sunday paper in the double bundle (two papers for $2), and start clipping coupons (I learned that from Jeana). Usually the best deals will be a couple of weeks after the coupon comes out, so hang on to it. I have a little coupon file with dividers to keep things organized--a tab for health and beauty, a tab for paper goods, a tab for dairy, a tab for canned/frozen, etc. Keep it in your car, so you always have access to it when you are out and about.

Kroger will double coupons on certain days, so watch the sales, match the coupons with the sales, and shop on double coupon days.

One thing I have learned is that I can not be "brand loyal" if I want the best deals. Another thing is that we now get better quality stuff (brand name shampoos, toothpastes, and so forth) for less money than the generic. And by stocking up when stuff is free, I have an abundance to share with those in need.

On the moneysaving mom blog site, she has a CVS 101 and Walgreens 101, to help people get started, and to explain how each store's system works. Look in the left hand list of previous posts.

CVS, to me, is simpler than Walgreens; many of Walgreens' best deals involve rebates, which I am bad about filing and mailing for, but some people really like getting that check in the mail periodically. Or you can now have the rebates loaded onto your Walgreens saver card, to use like cash at any Walgreens store. They also have what they call Register Rewards, similar to the ECBs at CVS.

In addition to saving money, shopping this way has become a game. If I walk out with at least as much in ECBs as I walked into the store with, I feel as if I "won" this week. I'm no expert, but I am learning to play the game, save some money, and enjoy the process.

Also, learning to shop this way is a sort of dress rehearsal for retirement, when it will be even more vital to make every penny count.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Random Thoughts

Ok, yes, I know, if you have read my blog *at all*, you know that random thoughts is what we are all about, so okay now that I have cleared that up, on with the randomness.

Last weekend we went to the lake again. In fact, we were there for three days. Because we took Friday off. Just because we could. And our son Scott came too. I guess the three teachers all needed a mental health day.

and what a great day for mental health it was. The sun was shining. The breeze was mildly blowing. Temps in the lower 70's. Just a perfect spring day.

On Friday we did nesting sort of stuff. The guys hung insulation in the cabin, which is still under construction. Wick shampooed the carpet in the RV. I did laundry, and a little mending, and a little (very little) cooking.

On Saturday we went to a street fair in Edom, called April in Edom. Because it was in Edom, and it is in April, see. There was a softball game between the coaches of two nearby towns. There were dogs, and babies, and the smell of kettle popcorn, and oh my word the samples. The samples, y'all. Little bites of chocolate toffee candy. Nibbles of sugar roated pecans. Tiny spoonfuls of raspberry honey, mocha honey, jalapeno honey. Teensy tastes of dips on little pretzel sticks, with names like fiesta chipotle, Mexican ranch, green onion and chive. We didn't even eat lunch--we were full of all those bits, bites, tastes, and nibbles.

Back at the lake, late in the long sunny evening, the guys grilled hamburgers that I pattied up, and Johnsonville beer Brats. If you have never tasted these brats, go right now and get you some, and grill them over charcoal, and you will taste one of the best brats you ever put in your mouth. Add some big baked potatoes loaded with sour cream, cheese, butter, and bacon bits (real bacon, now, not that fake stuff), a bowl of baked beans flavored with tomato, molasses, onion and a chunk of pork, and a big ol' platter of fresh sliced tomatoes, sweet onions, and crispy lettuce leaves, and you have a banquet. At least, we did.

We talked about building a fire, but after our tummies were full of good food, and our lungs full of fresh air, and our skins full of spring sunshine, we all fell asleep by 9:00, sleeping on freshly laundered sheets, dreaming of days just like that one.

Monday, March 17, 2008



Our last night at the lake, Wick and I were sitting in the cabin, looking out through the back glass wall, watching the sun go down, and talking about what is next on our list of stuff to do to get the cabin to the point that we can actually stay in it, instead of having to bring the RV whenever we come (could that sentence have been any longer?)
While we were talking about insulation and window units, he stood up to show me approximately where on the wall he was talking about, and discovered a bird's nest behind one of the insulation bats.
He pulled it down carefully, and we looked inside. There were five little eggs, about the size of jelly beans, pale pink mottled with a darker pink. Since the cabin has been closed in for almost a year, it had to be a last-year's nest, and an unsuccessful one at that.
I felt kind of sad for that little bird, working so hard to build a nest, and then finding that her eggs were duds.
On the other hand, I took it as a hopeful omen: we too are building a nest, in this little cabin on the water, and like the tiny eggs, some of our ideas are duds.
But also like the little bird, we keep working, tearing out, rebuilding, trying again to get it just right.
The Lord God knows every sparrow that flies, and He dresses the lilies of the field, and I know He is watching as we feather our little nest.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spring Break 2008

No, we are not at Padre Island, or on a cruise, or skiing. We are at home. Home is our cabin on the lake, where we are building a cabin.
So far this week, we have:
Sat on the dock.
Watched the ducks, geese, and swans.
Leisurely drank coffee and read the paper.
Been to town twice, to pick up groceries, go to CVS to catch the specials, and get a pickup load of insulation and a door for the bathroom.
Stayed up late watching movies on tv.
Slept late.
Sat in the cabin looking at our view of the boathouse, lake, trees and sky.
Swept the cabin twice, trying to get rid of the sawdust, dead ants, and dirt.
Put up some insulation.
Installed a door on the bathroom.
Washed all the sheets and towels.
Stood on the dock and watched the clouds dissipate and the sun peek through.
Enjoyed the extremes of Texas springtime, from freezing at night to shorts weather in the daytime, from fog and rain to bright sunshine.
Bemoaned the accumulation of dirt and grime on our boat over the winter.
Discovered that a wind storm carried off some shingles from our roof and a panel from the deck roof.
Chased the neighbor's chickens, shooing them back to their home.
Thanked God for this place and this time to be here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Love & Romance on Valentine's Day....and it didn't cost a dime

Valentine's Day is one day of the year that brings out the romantic in most of us. Some people get sucked into the merchandisers' push for us to buy buy buy stuff to prove our love. But one of the most romantic evenings in my memory didn't cost a dime--just a little effort.

DH met me at the door with a lingering hug and kiss, and told me to go take a warm bubble bath. When I got out, he wrapped me in a warm towel to dry off, and handed me a favorite nighty.

He led me back to the living room, where he had gathered and lit every candle in the house. A quilt was spread on the floor, with lots of pillows. Small saucers held cheese slices, crackers, grapes, and a handful of chocolates. Two wine glasses sparkled in the candlelight.

We lay on the quilt, eating cheese and crackers, talking about special times we have shared, hugging, kissing, reliving our courtship, and talking about future plans.

The quilt was one we had used many times, lying on sunny beaches or near campfires, watching the sun on the water or the moon making shadow pictures through the trees. This night was too cold to be outside, but the candlelight was a satisfactory substitute for sun or moonlight, and the piled up pillows felt wonderfully luxurious.

The cheese was ordinary cheddar. The crackers were saltines. The candles and the wine glasses we already had. No wine, just diet coke. We're easy to please, and not burdened with "sophisticated" palates.

Nothing was purchased just for this evening, and it couldn't really have been better.

Well. I guess I wouldn't turn down a few diamonds or rubies, a mink stole, or Godiva chocolates. But only if I could still have that evening. With that man.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Chicken x 3

Now that it is just me and my darlin at home, it's not quite as vital that we pinch ever penny, but we still try to be thrifty and good stewards of God's blessings. This has been on my mind lately, and got me to thinking about some of the things I discovered as a young wife and mother, SAHM before I ever heard that term, living on my darlin's hard work.

One of my money saving measures was trying to make sure I got the most out of our food dollars, and also trying to save cooking time so that I could spend more time with our kids. Chicken was one of my favorites, because there was so much I could do with it.

First, I boiled a whole chicken. Look for the largest you can find, because the proportion of meat to bone is in your favor with the larger birds. I put the chicken in my dutch oven, added enough water to cover the chicken, put in chopped carrots and onions, garlic, salt and pepper. Simmer until the meat starts falling off the bones. Put the chicken on a platter to drain and cool. Let the broth cool before you try to pour it up.

Bone the chicken. Put the bones back into the broth and simmer another 30 minutes to add flavor and calcium to your broth. Be sure to sieve out the bones when you pour up the broth.

Save the skin. Fry it in a hot skillet to render the fat. Use the fat for flavoring. The skin fries up very crisp, similar to pork rinds; a crunchy treat, but very rich, so be careful how much you let the little'uns eat.

Here are some of the meals you can create from chicken:
1. Dumplings with chicken.
2. rice with chicken. For a creamy casserole, add white sauce or canned mushroom/chicken/celery soup, green peas, and top with grated cheese.
3. chicken salad. Use white meat for company, dark meat for family. Add lots of chopped celery, onion, grated carrot for color, and mayonnaise or Miracle Whip.
4. chicken enchiladas. Use sour cream in the filling.
5. chicken soup. Just add noodles to the broth.
6. salad with chicken bits. Green salad with purple onion rings, cherry tomatoes, and your favorite dressing.
7. chicken spaghetti. Depending on the amount of sauce, cheese, and pasta, this can be stretched quite a bit if unexpected company arrives.
8. noodles with chicken. Buttered noodles --yum! Add a little parsley for color.
9. chicken stew. Like beef stew, but with chicken.
10. shanghai chicken--just add chinese style vegetables and chinese noodles, with rice and soy sauce.
11. chicken wontons--wrap a bit of chopped chicken, a little chopped mushroom and onion and chopped water chestnuts in wonton wraps and fry.
12. chicken rangoon--wrap a bit of chicken and a blob of cream cheese in a wonton wrapper and fry.
From one large chicken, I could make at least three of these recipes, plus having broth left over for other purposes. Freeze the broth in ice cube trays, then put the cubes in a heavy duty freezer container so that you can take out as many or as few as you need for a recipe. Since the broth is pre-seasoned, it will add great flavor to rice, noodles, potatoes, and vegetables.

If your raw chicken has liver inside of it, save the livers to make rumaki--chicken livers wrapped with bacon strips, broiled until the bacon is crisp.
Or make fried livers and gizzards with cream gravy.
Y'all will have to excuse me now; suddenly I'm starving.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Heartbeat of the House

When I was a very little girl, my daddy brought home a clock for my mama. It was a chiming mantel clock, about a foot and a half tall, with wide carved "wings" around the clock face, and a gilded pendulum swinging back and forth behind a little glass door that had curlycue designs in gold leaf.
In a house with four children, there are few quiet moments, but occasionally in a lull in the chaos the tick-tock-tick of the clock could be heard. The chime sounded once one the half-hour, and chimed the time on the hour. It was so much a part of our home that we rarely noticed it except when it ran down. It had to be wound every eight days. Daddy wound the clock on Sunday nights, setting the hands carefully, and dusting the heavily carved case. No one else ever touched the clock.
The chimes sounded day and night, and during the night, if I woke up, the clock told me if it was middle of the night, or nearly time to get up. If for some reason it wound down and stopped, I had trouble getting back to sleep.

When I married and left home, my darlin husband bought a chiming clock for our house. It wasn't an antique, but it did have a swinging pendulum, and it chimed on the hour and half hour, and its tick-tock-tick measured our nights and days, keeping me company when I was up late rocking a sick baby, and tracking the minutes when one of our teenagers was late coming home.

When our house burned, the clock was one of the things we lost. We replaced it with a pendulum clock that hangs on the wall. Since we currently live in our RV, the clock is in storage. I miss the ticking and the chiming.

When our little cabin is finished, when we are retired and living there, one of the first things I plan to do is hang the clock, and set our home's heart ticking again.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Are You Smarter than a Four Year Old?

Jeana recently posted about a conversation with her eldest child, which left her feeling somewhat at a loss. It reminded me of a similar conversation some years ago--same child, talking to my husband (Pepaw)
There had been a severe wind storm just a few days before, and my husband, trying to find conversational ground with his four-year-old grandchild, asked:
What did you think about that big wind storm the other night? Were you scared?

K: Actually, Pepaw, it was a vortex. A vortex in the air. Like when you let the water out of the bathtub.

Baffled at this point, Pepaw encouraged her to continue.

K: When you let the water out of the bath tub, it swirls around as it goes down the drain. If you are here, it goes clock wise. If you are in Australia, it goes counter clockwise. The storm last night was like that, only in the air, not in water.

My husband then noticed a large poster on the wall, with an illustration of an ant. He pointed it out, and asked her if she knew why the ant had such a big tummy.

K: Actually, Pepaw, that is the ant's thorax.
She proceeded to give him a brief dissertation on the other parts of the ant, its habits, what it eats.

I don't remember how Pepaw disengaged himself from the conversation, but I do remember his aside to me:
If she is this smart now, we won't even be able to talk to her by the time she is twelve.

After reading Jeana's post, I think I agree with him. Why would either of us think ourselves capable of explaining anything to her?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Tending to My Knitting

I taught myself to knit from a book many years ago, while expecting my first child. Somehow, it seemed like a good idea--quiet, relaxing, productive. I made two afghans during those nine months, and decided that crochet is more my cup of tea. I gave up knitting until just recently, when I decided to relearn it.
I taught myself to crochet from a book. I taught myself to embroider from a book. I learned to bake bread from a book. These and many other home making skills were once handed down generation to generation, the elder teaching the younger, but as we have become more and more industrialized, and fewer and fewer mothers stay home with their young children, the experience of learning from observation has become less the rule and more the exception.

Where did I get the idea that these skills were important? I remember quite vividly reading Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousins, in which a guardian uncle who has inherited a half-grown girl child, expounds on the simple skills, crafts, and arts that are dying out, no longer valued by society. Remember, Alcott was writing some 150 years ago, and things haven't gotten better in this area since then.

Somehow I was inspired to learn these "homely" tasks. I wanted to be a good wife and mother in the traditional mold. I was blessed to be able to stay at home with my children until the youngest, Jeana, started school. During those years, we always had some kind of project going, whether it was sewing, cutting and pasting, cooking, embroidery, making curtains, whatever skill I was struggling to acquire at the time.
How much easier, if I had been living close enough to my mother or grandmother to ask questions. They did me the great favor of handing on to me many projects begun by my great-grandmother, unfinished after her death, and I used them as guidelines and inspirations, but how I yearned for a model, a mentor, to guide me.

It has been so long ago that when I had my first child, breast feeding not only was not "in style", but was actively discouraged by many doctors, on the grounds that so few women were successful.
Why were they unsuccessful? After all, women had been breastfeeding for thousands of years, and most had been successful, so why were women in 1971 so lacking? It finally dawned on me. We had no models. Not a single person I knew was choosing to breast feed. I had only seen women breastfeeding in books on natural childbirth. I struggled mightily, encouraged only by my husband. How I would have valued a teacher to guide me.

All this rambling is to the past few years I have realized my dream of passing my "homely" skills on to another generation; I have the opportunity to be for my grandchildren a model and a teacher. Some of them are taking to it quickly and easily. Some are struggling. And some are just more interested in other skills, such as soccer. And that's okay too.

When Katushka calls or e-mails with a question about her knitting or crocheting...when daughterJeana mentions in her blog ( Diversifying Your Stockpile) that she is crocheting and that I taught her how...I once more have that sense of connecting across the years, across the generations, with all those women who came before, who made quilts to warm their families and stretch their budget, who knitted warm socks for their husbands who were going off to war, who baked bread and made their meals "from scratch" every day (must have been a mighty big sack of scratch, to feed all those young'uns).

And that connection feels good.