Jun 30, 2013


We just had the most relaxing vacation I have had in a very long time.  I went an entire week with sporadic cell phone coverage only when I was in a town, which was pretty sporadic itself.  I did not watch the news.  I did not even check the weather.  I did not wear makeup or even do my hair.  It was just wonderful.

I watched my children enjoy Southwestern Missouri.  I taught my boys how to read a map, which is a very important skill in these days of GPS's.  I begged the boys to take pictures of the barns on the way down but only one good picture turned out.  Next year they will be able to drive and I will do it myself.

The only shot we ended up with, but whatta shot!  Credit to Aaron, my youngest  baby.
I visited the cemetery, with the man who was my step-father growing up, while the kids went to the pool.  We had such a good time reminiscing about the vacations of my childhood.  I told him that, like him, I saw no point in leaving after the sun came up.  I sat on Paula's porch and watched eagles glide over the Butterball turkey farm houses across the field.  I helped a sweet boy who stopped to tell us the neighbor's cows were out round the cows back into the corral.

Only one thing bothered me, and I decided, finally, to confront it at last.  As fate would have it, my father lives about 10 miles from Paula now.  Tell me God didn't have a hand in that and I will laugh.  I called him on Paula's phone one morning, since mine didn't work, and surprised him.  I guess "surprised" is a bit of an understatement.  With the boys still asleep, I headed over for coffee and peace talks.

We sat and talked for several hours.  We re-hashed our entire lives.  I told him about the blog.  And when he started to apologize I stopped him and I told him that I had grown up a little bit.  I said that no matter what he did or didn't do I had always loved him and always would.  Then I asked him to forgive himself, because both of his children already had.  During this struggle I have learned that it is a simple lack of faith if we can believe that God forgives us but we fail to forgive ourselves.  Failing to forgive ourselves is to hold onto our hurt and guilt, and how can we have a clean slate if we do that?  We can't.    Following that thought, if we are forgiven by God, we have to forgive others the same way.  I warned him that when he read the blog he would no doubt read things that would hurt him, but just to know that this is a pattern in our family and the cycle had to be stopped.  He has had his own struggles with his own father, and just because he never talks about it doesn't mean that it isn't still there.  If I have anything to say about it, this cycle will stop with me, and that there would be a new blog post coming with the title of "Redeemed", and that it was for him.  

Then I went to get the boys and we spent the next couple of days with their Grampa.

I admit it took me 40 years, but I finally got there.  Nothing  worth having ever comes easy.

The Beautiful Redhead came down by herself, which left her mother a nervous wreck for many hours, but she made it just fine.  I got to spend some real quality time with her, which was probably the best thing about this vacation for me.  We slept in the same Victorian bed surrounded by crocheted bedspreads and pictures of us and Nana all around the room and talked long into the night, with the phenomenal full moon shining down on us through the window.

We drove the roads I love best in this world.

Liberty Drive in Southwest City Mo, with Bluebird Lane to the right ahead.  I couldn't remember which one was Harry's house and thankfully saw the mailbox of my first best friend's brother to ask directions.  It was right across the street, as it turned out.

Heading South into Noel, Mo., aka The Christmas City.  First-timers on this road think this is pretty

Then their faces crease in concern as we get closer.

At this point they often scrunch down in their seats and ask if this is a good idea.  I always just shrug and say that if it's not, scrunching down in their seats is probably not going to help much.  Muahahahha  
Some of them are under bluffs with the river beside us, it's where you will end up if you go over the "guard posts" on the left side of this picture.

We took a float trip, just the kids and I, and I watched the twins have more fun together than I have seen in years.  We had the river virtually to ourselves.  The sun was hot and the river was cold, and even though I forgot to pack the mustard the sandwiches tasted like heaven.  I was prepared for the river to be crowded with drunken, occasionally naked people.  I was pleasantly surprised.  There was a lot of trash in the water, though, and The Beautiful Redhead was outraged by this, as she should be.  People just don't have the respect they should have these days.  But if you want to take a float trip that is crowded with drunken, half naked people, you can probably find it on the weekends.  I chose the week day to avoid this as much as possible.  The twins were pretty disappointed, but we all know their day will come. ;)  At least I don't have to worry about them setting off without knowing how to maneuver a canoe.  If float trips are not your thing, I highly recommend Shadowlake Bar and Grill to people-watch as people come into the last leg of their trip.  Better entertainment simply cannot be found, take my word for this.  By that time they are tired, sometimes passed out, and many relationships have either been forged in steel forever or are about to come to an abrupt end, also forever.  Either way it's an experience no one will ever forget, least of all the people who are just sitting on the deck, enjoying a cold drink and taking it all in.

Us, the river rat version.  We sorely missed The Rock Star and his wonderful girlfriend.

And I got to stop at my beloved 43 bridge, where when I was little my dad and his friends used to go and shoot gar off the bridge.  This was not illegal, incidentally, at least at that time.  I checked!

Cowskin Public Access.  Why Cowskin?  No clue.  It's always just been 43 bridge to us.  I guess shooting gar off the bridge isn't the only thing people have done here.  heeheehee
From the riverbed.  It's low at this time.  Those are exposed rocks where you can get out of the water.  The sound those rocks being walked on make is a sound that is "home" to me.

Looking downriver.  It used to be bluffs like that all the way up.  I guess if you live long enough trees can grow anywhere, but it threw me off quite a bit for it  to look so very different.

I didn't get to see a lot of the people that I wanted to on this trip, but we will probably go back down this fall.  Time just got away from me.  But isn't that what vacations are for? I feel like I've been gone much more than a week.  It was quite a trip, all in all, but sooooo very worth it.

Jun 25, 2013


When my mother died, The Rock Star was 14.

My mother had an old Jeep Cherokee that she had purposely kept for the Rock Star and then his sister to drive.  It was very thoughtful of her to even think of it, considering what she was going through at the time.  She had time to look ahead with her illness, but she was always one to look ahead.

So when the Rock Star turned 16 and got his license, he already had a reliable vehicle that cost very little to insure.  That Jeep Cherokee lasted through him and The Beautiful Redhead both.  It finally met it's maker after it hit a deer, and we were all very sad.

The last few years I've been looking ahead myself, wondering what in the world I would do for the boys to have something to drive.
How would I ever afford to buy them a vehicle in addition to shoes and jeans?  The shoes and jeans for 2 teenage boys are very expensive, in case you don't know.  Savings is hard to add to, when you are buying shoes and jeans every time you turn around.   It's always like "JEANS & SHOES! SHOES & JEANS! MORE JEANS!! NEED SHOES AGAIN!!" in my head for the last couple of years.

What would happen? I wondered this for years, putting back what little I could spare and hoping for a miracle.

As usual, the miracle came from my most wonderful of all step-mothers, the one I kept!   Her name is Paula, and she called me up a few weeks ago and said that she had "happened to run into a girl who had to sell her car that night, for $300", so of course she at least had to go look at it.

After she looked at it she brought her husband to look at it.  He drove it, looked it over,  and gave Paula the high sign to buy it right then and there.

It's a 1994 Dodge (Red) Caravan.  It had a few dents, needed a new bumper, had high mileage, but ran perfectly.  Paula's husband now (thank you again, God for her finding such a wonderful man) pulled out the dents, replaced the bumper, did body work, painted it, put some pin striping on it (silver), redid the carpet and headliner, and as if that wasn't miracle enough, changed all the fluids and replaced all the filters.

I don't know how to say how much this means to me.  For the past several weeks we have had excited, giddy conversations about how it's coming.  Titles and plates and proof of insurance have kept the mailmen busy as they flew from one end of Missouri to the other, and it will be ready when we get down there.  This is a big SURPRISE for the twins, who are convinced they will never be able to have a car at all.  Why would they think that?  Well, because their mother uses reality as a teacher every chance she gets, and has been taking them around to car lots and letting them get a load of how much cars and more importantly, trucks, actually cost.

Paula was going to tell them on the phone, so excited was she that she had not only found a vehicle, but could afford to buy it!!  Her exact words were "Well, I didn't want get it without saying anything, but I"ve never been able to do anything for them and they never ask for anything.  YOU never ask for anything, and I thought it was too good a deal to pass up."

I said "Oh, no, I'm not going to say a word.  This will be your present to them for their 16th birthday, and you will get to surprise them with it when we come down."

She just said "Ooooooohhhh." And I knew she was remembering my mother's Jeep and The Rock Star and Beautiful Redhead's first car. How wonderful is it to through years with the same people and know that there are things they do not have to be told.  To know that you don't have to explain anything because they were there.  They remember it too, and know all the angles, ins, outs, in short, everything.  That's one of the reasons why I think we quit making new friends at a certain point in life: because we just don't want to put the energy into trying to explain all that stuff.  It's exhausting to even think about past the age of about 35, and some of that stuff cannot BE explained in any way that would make sense unless you were there. You know what I mean?  I truly do not know who I would be without this angel, who came to me as a step-mother but stayed on as one of the dearest, best friends I have ever had.  She isn't really old enough to be my mother and we have always had the best relationship.  She is, simply put, worth everything any of us ever went through to get to her.  I never count the costs when it comes to Paula. She is worth it all.  Everything else just fades into the background, compared to her. If I had to live my life without my mother it was a great comfort, to both of us, to know that I would still have Paula.  And that my children would still have Paula.  She has saved us more times than she even knows,  just by being there for us.

Ever since then we have both been so excited we have been floating around like, I don't know, the job rate is down to 3% and America is no longer dependent on foreign oil because we finally just used our own or something!  I mean, we are EXCITED!!!   VERY EXCITED!!!

Our only 2nd thoughts were vocalized by Paula.  "You don't think they will be disappointed that it's a van, do you?" I was quiet.  This thought had occurred to me about the same time as she asked it. I've been embarrassed by my kids turning up their noses at presents before, but not since they were very small.  I would die of mortification if this happened, with Paula, with this miracle.   I thought about it.  I thought about 2 boys who only have learned the hard way that they only have their mother to depend on, who know the value of a dollar, who have to be wondering if they will EVER get a car.  And I said "I don't think so.  I don't think so at all.  I think they will be thrilled to death to have anything at all and with all you guys have done to it, it's a lot better than 'anything at all'".  I admit, also in the back of my mind, I was thinking that if they didn't like it I would take it and they could drive my car.  At this point I was so excited that I would have been very happy to have a van again.

Just a few more days to go and we will surprise the twins with a great first car that their mother can afford insurance on!  It's like a miracle, you guys!!!

"I have an early birthday present for you guys.  The only thing is you have to share it."
She handed them each a key with their name on it.

The light is beginning to dawn on them.
They had to take the keys and figure out which car the key worked on.
Aaron just had the goofiest smile on his face and he kept saying "This is really nice, I'm not gonna lie."  Andy kept saying "We're gonna be hauling everybody!"

The best news is, it's old enough that they can actually see the motor, ergo they can also learn how to FIX the motor!
Paula, being an angel herself, found and married another angel who also happens to know everything there is to know about cars and motors.
Aaron, Paula, Tom, Andy

Jun 22, 2013

Goddess of Hellfire Melts......

I am very strong.  Take my word for this.  

At my job, it is my task to keep people from coming in the door unless they have a good reason to.
This means that I am always the one when a salesman comes in the door to stop him, tell him if he has something he wants to leave that will be fine, and give him a name and number to call next time.  This is on the off chance that anyone will see the poor salesman.  Some of these sales men drive for over 2 hours without an appointment or even a good idea of what we do.  It does not put them an intelligent light.  Some just see us and stop and ask.  It is one of the mysteries of life to me why they waste so much time and gas.  The only reason I have ever been able to come up with is "expense accounts".  I think they are pretty much a total waste, but then I don't run a business.  I just admit or turn away people who show up.

I have heard it all, and learned to navigate the waters.  I can anticipate the next angle they will come at me from.  When people ask what my job description is, the most often answer is "Goddess of Hellfire".  Few people, even salesmen, have the chutzpah to counter that, let me tell you.  I've gotten really good at it, over the years.  That's why I was ready when I saw a profusely sweating man, dirty guy missing some teeth headed in my door one day, I was ready.

I stood strong, ready to tell him we did not want whatever he was selling.  Fresh fruit, knock off designer fragrances, solvents or paint. No. No. No and NO.  I girded myself to hear what he had to say.  My first thought was that this was a meth head.  He did look the part.  I chastised myself for being "prejudiced" and waited to see what he was going to pull out and show me.

I learned a little something about myself as soon as he opened his mouth.

He said " a"

And the Goddess of Hellfire melted like a marshmallow.  Yes.  You read that correctly.  Apparently even if you are lost truck driver, sweating profusely at 8:30 am, dirty, missing teeth and looking like a meth-head, I will still be kind to you if you stutter.  I guess that is just the way I am. I turned from a warrior with a sword into a melted marshmallow right there before that poor man's eyes.

I can't help it.  I know I can't.  I patiently listened to him tell me what I already knew, without interruption.  It took a very uncomfortably long time for him to do this.   He had pulled up and was coming in to check in instead of waiting in his truck for our forklift operator to come to him.  It took what seemed like a very, very long time for him to get out his sentence.  But I knew not to interrupt (from reading it somewhere) and so I waited, praying for this man the whole time, feeling about 2 inches tall.  He was just a hard working truck driver who had a schedule to meet.

I can't tell you how badly I felt about my preconceived notions.  Don't get me wrong, had he turned out to be a salesman that "just saw us on the road and stopped" I could have put the armor back on and sent him on his way.  But I think I would have been nicer, because he stuttered, and for some reason that just fills me with empathy.

I guess "prejudice" can work both ways, and neither one of them have anything to do with "fairness".

Something to think about.  Are you prejudiced?  And if so, is that good or bad?  Is there anything you can do about that or are you destined to melt like a marshmallow or grow armor for no logical reason?  Like me? 

Jun 21, 2013

Things I Don't Want To Forget.....

We are road tripping to South Missouri today.  Here is something that I wanted to jot down from last week though, just so I don't forget.

The twins' best friend, the boy who I call my 4th son, recently got his driver's license.

He came over very pumped because his step dad had let him drive his truck.  The boys all wanted to go "riding around".  I said that would be fine.  I watched them excitedly climb into the truck and thought how much easier this gets, as a parent.  When my first son got to be this age I think my soul physically left my body to follow him.  I could feel it.  I was so worried and conscious of his being "gone", "out there alone".....what if something happened?  What if he needed me and I wasn't there?  What if I wasn't even thinking of him and therefore missed the psychic warnings all mother's can receive?  I went through hell, but had only myself to blame.  I don't know why I worried so much, certainly no because my oldest son warranted it.  I think all mother's do it, at least with the first one.  We can't help it.  That's just the way it is.

I smiled, sighed, and felt no worry what-so-ever, thinking how much easier this was now, and went in the house to find my book. 

Five minutes later the boys were back, looking dejected.

"What's the matter boys?" I asked.

Fourth son replied "Well, we wanted to go to McDonald's, but there isn't enough gas in the truck and I'm afraid we'll run it out of gas."

They all looked very sad.

"Hmm.  Well, you want to take my car?" I asked.  Their faces all lit up, and my own son's eyes got big.
"You would let us do that???" My youngest baby said, incredulously.  I thought how sad it was to see my own children be so surprised that I would offer this.  I thought about how I wanted to change that.  It's like I got on a certain track, with 4 children, where all the rules were written in stone and now I only had 2 left at home.  My last two, who would never dream that their mean mom would let them take the car.  It broke my heart, and I really don't expect anyone who is not a mother to understand that.  I can't explain it any better either.  Maybe it's time to let that "everything equal" thing slide a little.  Yes.  It felt like time.  It felt right, and it was really such a small thing.

"Well, yeah!  You've got your license, don't you?" I said.

They all jumped up, in joy, I do believe, and then Fourth son asked "How much gas do you have in your car"?  How quickly they learn, I thought, and couldn't help but laugh.  It was a great question, and he had already learned to look ahead and make sure he was prepared.

I laughed and said "Plenty!  And don't worry, I'm fully insured.  Be careful, but don't worry."

"I got insurance on me too, Melinda!" Fourth son exclaimed, on his way to the car with the keys in his hand.  He has always been like a little old man.  Of all the boy's friends, it was always him that would just sit down and start talking to you like an equal.  He is very polite and very open, not intimidated like so many adolescents are.  The first time I ever asked him what kind of bike I should get for the boys he sat down and told me what kind and why, and reminded me of my grandfather talking about Chevrolet cars.  We've been friends ever since!  

They all thanked me and climbed into the car.

There followed a period of adjusting seats, rolling down windows, and most importantly of all, radio selection.  They were very excited.  I think they were seeing their future's rolling out before their eyes, just like I was while I watched them.  My babies are taking the car, and I am not having a heart attack, I thought.  It was surreal, but I knew it was really happening.

I watched them as they carefully pulled out, all the windows down, every boy with one arm out their respective windows.  The car picked up speed, but not too much, and the volume came up, but not too much, and away they went.  Just 3 young men out on the town, seeing what's up and who's out and about.

I thought again how much easier this has gotten.  This time I'm ready.  The first time it sent me into panic and tears.  I tried very hard to hold those years back, to somehow make time stand still.  I failed at that, and did a lot of kicking and screaming and protesting, to no avail.

Now I have given up fights I can't win and learned to go with the flow.  I don't expect it to ever be pain free, but it does get easier.  Practice always makes perfect, if you do it enough.  Letting go can be just as hard as holding on, it's all in the timing.  I think I've finally got it down.

Jun 20, 2013

Vacation! I Need A Vacation!!

As of Friday, I am off for a week's vacation.

Our vacation, like most of my vacations growing up, will consist of going to Southern Missouri and visiting with family & friends.  We didn't go last year and it's just about to kill us all!

This whole upcoming week will be spent drinking tea, floating down rivers, doing Silver Dollar City one day, cook-outs, and............there are a couple of important birthday celebrations we are going to celebrate.

The Beautiful Redhead recently turned 21, so we have some straight up partying to do on that score!  Plus the twins will turn 16 this summer.  That is a very important birthday, perhaps the best EVER, as The Beautiful Redhead has sadly learned.  We have had many conversations about how life is never as good as when you can finally DRIVE.  Nothing really compares to that, we have found.  What do you think?

Stay tuned for what I can capture on my camera and get blogged, because we are going to be at the mercy of free wi-fi for my laptop, as we are going to the country.  The real country, where wi-fi is not pervasive as of yet.  
One thing I want to do for sure is get pictures of all the barns we pass on the way.  The same barns I have passed and re passed all my whole long life, making this (at least) annual trip.  Slowly the barns are disappearing and being replaced with metal ones, when they are replaced at all.  So sad, to see barns falling down.  On the other hand, it's a fitting description of America and our culture.  Pay attention, people, it's happening all around us, all the time.

Anyway, we are off.  I myself am even going to try to avoid the news for a whole week.  I doubt I will make it, but I'm going to do my very best.  You can go ahead and watch and worry about it for me.  Just for a week.  Deal?  I promise not to turn into a zombie during my time off.

As for now, I have to make my lists.  Pack.  Make arrangements for the dogs.  They are going to get their own vacation this year, because I couldn't deal with imagining them thinking we had died, or worse, just left them, for a week.  I know that is probably pathetic.  However, I considered it, and I would rather be considered pathetic than have my dogs think we would ever just leave them.  Even though we are, indeed going to do just that.  I guess I could also be considered a hypocrite.  What parent can't???  It made me crazy wondering what they would think if some just showed up to feed them twice a day and they didn't know where we were or if we would come back.  It is entirely possible that they wouldn't think anything, I tell myself.  But in this case my heart handily beat my head, hands down.  So the dogs will spend vacation with their own mom and brother.

Are you taking a vacation this summer?  Will it involve running water and good music?  We can't live without it.  Years ago I during a conversation about how pretty the rivers and creeks were in south Missouri, as compared to north Missouri, because of all the rocks, the twins dubbed the river there The Rock Bottom River.  We thought that was hysterically funny.  It is rock bottomed, as is every body of running water in that area, and I'm sure it has seen a few "rock bottom" moments, mostly to do with float trips, so we just call it that now. Many is the relationship that has hit the rocks during a float trip. True story!  In fact, a float trip is a good way to judge your suitability for each other in tense situations, not to mention how well you work together as a team.   It may say Elk River on the map, but my kids know it as The Rock Bottom River.  Oh, and if you are a people watcher, you can be happy on the river ALL. DAY. LONG.

Soon we will be off, and taking time off.  Time off from the news in order to sit and discuss things that matter on more personal levels.  Spending time with family, floating, looking at rocks, sitting with our feet in running water while we drink sweet tea and laugh helplessly, mostly at ourselves.  Old memories will be aired and new ones will be made.

Visiting the cemetery, where I almost always find a sad new surprise, then down to 43 bridge, where I always feel bad if I drive by without stopping.  We will drive under the bluffs of Noel, something that always freaks people who've never been there OUT!  I can't even tell you how many times I've tried to prepare people for this, only to be told that they have seen "bluffs" before. Like it's no big deal.  By the time the bluffs are over us the same people are scrunching down in their seat asking if this is really safe.  I just shrug.  I would not have ever sworn it is "safe", mostly because that would depend on some lawyers interpretation or definition of "safe".  What, in this life, is really safe?  *shrugs*  Good question!  Or the times I've been assured by first-timers that they have seen "chicken houses" before and then if we arrive at night they thing the chicken houses are an airport because of the lights and the "chicken houses" being as long as a football field.  Good times!  Good times!!  They thought they had seen bluffs and chicken houses before, but they hadn't REALLY see bluffs and chicken houses before until they came to the southwest corner of Missouri, where it meets Oklahoma and Arkansas.  Red dirt roads and seed ticks, we will take it all in.   I can already feel the tension lessening in my shoulders.

I need a vacation.  I will report as I am able, but plan to take a lot of pictures.  It's getting hard to get us all together at the same time anymore.  My children are in the process of making their own lives.  The nerve of them!! ;)  It's a process we are growing into.  Priorities are a very important part of life, make sure yours bring you only joy.

Spend your time only on what is truly important to you, and you will have a happy life, always.

Jun 18, 2013

Spring Has Sprung!

It's been such a strange year weather-wise in 2013.  It's been great, don't get me wrong, but the way I figure it we are about 2 months behind.

So now that it's June and is finally warming up, we are experience spring at last!
I got a great deal on these bulbs about 2 years ago.  This spring I was moved to finally put them in the dirt.  They had begat more baby bulbs while lying on my kitchen floor in all that time.  They FINALLY bloomed.  Well, 4 of them did.
Not only have we been dealing with bird nests and trying to save their eggs, but everywhere we look nowadays animals are either making babies or raising them.  Usually we go through this in late April or early May.  This year things are running a bit behind.  The eggs I put into the wren house have not been kicked out, that I can tell, as of yet.  Still don't know what will happen there, but hey, we did what we could.  Mother Nature is what she is.

At work we recently had a Blue Heeler dog show up.  It was a female. She kept to herself, very much so.  At first we thought someone had just inadvertently brought her to town, but that turned out not to be the case.  She stuck around, so what could we do but feed her?  It stared with the crusts of sandwiches at breaks and dinner.  She still wasn't exactly cozying up to anyone, but they are really smart dogs, and we wondered if she hadn't been lost from the sale barn.  Couple days after that, she had some pups under a pile of aluminum in the yard.  This changed things, and in the best possible way. Sometimes when the world looks darkest if you will look down at what is right in front of you, good things are going on, too.  The trick is to notice them.  After she had those pups, everybody upped their offerings of scraps, dog food, farm eggs to mix with the food, milk, you name it.  Keep in mind that there are exactly 7 females who work at my place of business.  Of course we were involved, the one primarily outside being the nurturing presence that got the dog tamed down to be petted, but mostly I am talking about men here.

All I can say is that sweet little dog could not possibly have been dumped out, full of babies, in a better place.  Within 10 days of her having the pups, she was tamed enough to be petted, at least by the nurturing lady outside.  She would flinch when any hand was raised, and stayed clear of any man, but she knew what time feeding time was and allowed the woman to pet her.  We concluded she had not only been dumped full of puppies, but been beaten. By a man.  Whether this is true or not cannot be known, but we felt we "knew" them with our women's hearts.  At any rate, one of the men who lives on a farm offered to take the dog and pups home until we could give the pups (and maybe the dog, still not sure) away.  He was strongly urged by his own wife's heart in this, and in this way females always come through for each other. Especially when there are babies to consider. ;D

Add to that the fact that in a very short time we would have several (6 as it turned out--3 girls, 3 boys,) pups running around a busy parking lot with semi's traveling around.  We did not want any squished pups, however unwanted or unplanned they may have been.  Then add to that the fact that we had a mess of bunnies born around that same time, several of which we are pretty sure added to the new mother's diet.  We told ourselves that that is the way of Mother Nature, and indeed it is.  Still, something had to be done.  No way we were taking those babies or their poor mother to the humane society. No one was getting rid of these dogs unless it was one of us, and nobody wanted that to happen.. On that we were agreed.  I haven't seen so many people agree on anything so readily for a very long while.

It took the nurturing woman to get the dog into the kennel for transport, and the dog trusted the woman to bring out the pups.  Reports are that they are settling right in out in the country.  The pups eyes are open, they are crawling everywhere, and we have yet to start guessing what the other half of the equation is, not that we really care.  Those pups are fat and happy, fuzzy and sweet as all pups are, and we are currently collecting money for their first round of shots.  If you happen to live in the area and would like a free 1/2 blue heeler pup is about 6 weeks, leave a comment or send me a message and I do believe I can hook you up.  Mama is black shot through with some white.  Papa was a rolling stone, and we are quite sure he won't be showing up to fight for custody..

3 black, 3 brown w/ black markings

Work is not the same without the dog.  We miss the dog, but we do have a bunch of baby bunnies that run around in the yard about every time you come in or out the front door.  It's really fun, not just for us but every one who comes in says "Do you know you have some baby rabbits out there?"  Do we ever!  We saved their lives!  They don't know enough to be afraid of us.  But then I don't think they have anything to be afraid of, with us, either.  Are they ignorant or solid judges of character?  You decide.

"Hey! Did you know you had a bunny out there?"

I am very proud to work where I do with the people that I do, all in all.  We know how to take a little hope and run it around the edges of a bunch of scrap pieces, good for nothing in and of themselves.  When all the pieces come together in the end, though, it is very beautiful thing that lasts a very long time. 

Jun 15, 2013

Summer Reading. No Regrets.

Some of the great books I have found LATELY for little to nothing at second hand stores.  Books are one of the best buys you will ever find.  I am always amazed at what people are willing to part with when it comes to books.  I think it's the quantity rather than the quality that the prices are based on, and Lord knows there are many who a) do not read and b) do not have what it takes to painstakingly go through a bunch of books when someone dies.  There are so many things to go through when a person dies that I can see where it would tempting, if one did not read, to just box the whole mess up and take it to the Good Will store.  Which is where I come in, and am very rarely disappointed.  I hate to say it, but I am glad some people don't read for purely selfish reasons.

It goes without saying that if you read, you probably always make yourself finish the book.  If these 2 things are true, you will also probably remember a book or two, hopefully not many, that you actually regret wasting the time to read.  There are few things worse than that experience, and the worst part is that you did it to yourself!  Hopefully you only wasted time and not money, but we've all picked up a book in desperation and gotten lured into a relationship for a few days with a loser and ended up with less respect for ourselves than we had before, haven't we?  I hate it when that happens!  It does not have to happen to you, either, I have come to show you the light.  So to speak.

This first one I have yet to find at a 2nd hand  store, but this is one of the best books I have ever read and it's also one of those that you can read repeatedly because you never get tired of it.  If you ever find this book, grab it right off, because it is a keeper.  The name is Peace Like  A River, the author is Lief Enger and the writing is pure magic, miracles included.  Take my word for it, this is a book that will never be forgotten once read.

Books are approx. $1 ea. for hardbacks, $.50 soft covers.  These I have picked up in the last few months.
I should say that I am a book person as opposed to a Kindle person.  Not that I wouldn't read a book on a Kindle, necessarily, just that it's not the same to me as holding that book in my hand.  Seeing evidence of tears, which pages have been turned down, any underlining, knowing that book has been held by someone's hands, especially if you know/knew that someone, or even if you don't.  That is as plain as I can put it. I'm just old school that way.  If you read, however you read, really makes no difference to me. I'm glad you read any way at all, but for me, it's books all the way.

Firefly Lane - Kristin Hannah which I already talked about here, and yes I have already read the sequel, Fly Away, and it is as good as I expected it to be.  She does not disappoint.  At least if you have ever been through grief, she doesn't. 

East of Eden - John Steinbeck   I know, right?  Someone got rid of this.  It should almost be a crime.  And if you have a soul, it already is.  More for me, is about all I have to say about this.  Thank you, you fool that got rid of this, thank you very much. ;)

Sweet Water Creek - Anne Rivers Siddons, this woman is 99% as precious as Joyce Carol Oates to me.  I have never read anything that I didn't like, but this one is very very special, and I think needs a sequel.  I think I may write her a letter begging for one.  You can't tell me Emily Parmenter hasn't haunted her too.  If you have ever read what Larry McMurtry wrote about Aurora Greenway in Terms of Endearment, he put it just exactly right.  He said she just wouldn't leave him alone, and I have read this story about 4 times before I bought it.  I wonder frequently about the rest of Emily's life.  I can only hope Emily haunts Anne like she does me.  This is a coming of age story with earthly magic, dophins and a dog named Elvis set in the deep South.

Product Details

The Known World, Edward P. Jones.  Pulitzer prize winning story about the South right after the Civil War, when minds started having to bend around the idea of "free" slaves.  Also, naturally set in the South, and a great representation of a world at odds with itself while it's life depends upon change. Change is never easy but always worth it.  If you are below the age of 40 I highly recommend that read everything you can get hold of about this time in our history.  You may be surprised at what you learn and how varied the stories are with love and loyalty, slavery nonwithstanding. At any rate, read everything you can get your hands on and make up your own mind.  In no way trust what you are being taught in "school" these days.  You may find yourself with a new and encompassing hobby, at the very least, where the history is written down in ink on paper, and cannot be changed or leave you with a message saying "this page has been removed*.  If you know what I mean. wink wink.

A Prayer For Owen Meanie, John Irving.  John Irving has long been one of my favorites, and I have loved everything he has ever written with the exception of the last one he wrote. I forget the name of it and I wouldn't even repeat it if I could, so bad was that load of PC crap that seemed to have no point.  But before that, he was always solid gold for me.  If you have seen the movies they have made of his books, do not think you know anything about the books.  By far my favorite one is the one below, though.  Yes, it's long.  Yes, it could have been shorter, but trust me, by the end of this book you will fighting with yourself to hurry and find out what happens while you are already sad that the story is almost over.  The only way you will be able to stand it is knowing you can read it AGAIN.  I have an old copy that the library got rid of.  It's in bad shape but I don't care.  Until I find this at a great price it's my copy, and after I replace it I will give it a decent send off, because it has earned it.

These are just a few, but they are all solid gold.
Have fun with your summer. We are about ready to go on vacation and there is a BIG SURPRISE coming to a few people I love very much.  That's all I can say but in a few weeks, all will be revealed.
Miracles really do happen every day, if you just recognize them.  Keep that in mind, my hopeful friends, keep that in mind.
And for heaven's sakes, READ something good this summer!

Jun 3, 2013

Second Hand Gold......

If you know me at all by now, you know that I am both sentimental and pragmatic.  One of the things I love to do the most is go to 2nd hand stores.  Whether I find anything or not, I always see things that take me back to my childhood.

When I was about 14 I was kept very busy babysitting.  It was the only job I could find in such a small town and it left my weeks mostly free.  Every Saturday night was taken up with babysitting for a few years, which was just as well as I had no other plans as of yet.  I saved up my money all summer, for a new comforter for my bed.  We did not go shopping often in my family.  We looked through the J C Penney catalog and ordered what we wanted far more often than driving anywhere. Going shopping, in our case, would be somewhere between 30 and 200 miles, and we didn't even drive 30 just to shop very often.  In that catalog that summer I found the comforter of my dreams.  
It cost $60, which at that time was a lot of money, but I could still afford it, and it had a rainbow on it, with pillow cases making the arch of the rainbow at the top.  This was a long, long time before the rainbow had been hijacked by any special interest groups, when the only meaning attached to a rainbow was God's promise to never flood the earth again.
Such innocent days they seem to have been, now.
I realize, that had someone made that comment to my mother at the time, she would have snorted in derision.  Only from this end of the spectrum could that make any sense.
It is some comfort that she did not live to see the mess we have made of this world today.
But I digress.
I ordered the rainbow comforter/pillow cases in twin size and waited for the UPS man to bring my reward!
He soon did and I had a comforter that would last me practically a lifetime.  I did not know this then, I just loved it!  I bought it with my own money, I picked it out, and I loved it!!
It lasted through high school, where I listened to Olivia Newton John being hopelessly devoted through Pat Benetar taunting someone to hit her with their best shot.  It lasted through college where we survived Devo and Madonna, and those horrible boy bands with make up and weird hair.  If Guns N Roses would not have come along I think I might not have even survived the 80's.  When I became a mother it came out of storage to become the most popular comforter in the house.
My children dubbed it "the White Blanky", and it was their favorite also.
It had been washed so many times by then that a lot of the stitching had come undone, leaving odd lumps of whatever it was filled with ( I was afraid to ask, even then).  All the washings had made it so soft, and if you straightened out the lumps it was still near perfect.
It had been a comfort to me when I was sick or had cramps, or was just cold or sad.
I always felt better if I could just get to my bed and snuggle under that comforter.  I laid under it when I heard the soundtrack to Saturday Night Live for the first time.  That's how long it's been around.
I never bought another comforter for my bed at home, either.  The rainbow comforter was it, for me, for life.
It was my children's favorite blanket for the exact same reasons, only for them it was already broken in, stained, and mended.
It was the one blanket they never had to feel bad if anything happened to.  They used it to make tents and wrapped up in it on the couch when they were sick, just like i had.
Through the years it was primarily claimed by The Beautiful Redhead, and she loved it just as much as her mother had.
So much, in fact, that she took it to college with her 3 years ago and still it survives.
I had to nag her for almost a month to send me a picture of it.
I had even begun to think that it had finally bitten the dust and she just couldn't bring herself to tell me.  NO!  CURSES!!  IT CANNOT BE TRUE!!!!
I think she just wanted to wash it first, though, because here is a picture she finally sent me today.

It's a testament to whoever made this item that it has survived in such good shape, no?
Sure, it's faded, but you will find no softer blanket on this earth.
Look at the care she took to try to get the filling into the places where it is supposed to go.
The White Blanky is truly one of us.  It holds our history.  ALL of it!
Plus, I spent $60 on it in 1978, so the yearly cost of it at this point in my life?
$1.76 per year!
Not to mention all the fun and comfort it has brought to us all.
It's a regular member of my family.
It could never be replaced.  There is just no way.
And the other day when I was in a thrift store, I can only hope you will be as floored as I was to find this, marked for $10.00.

It's yesterday once more.  For real!

Yes!  That is correct!!  It appears to be the exact same comforter, from what I can remember.  This one, however, is queen sized.  
Which is exactly the size I need now.
I talk about God winks all the time, but this was as good a one as I have ever gotten.
Now, whether this is a new one that someone got as a gift and just didn't like, or whether it has been packed away in someone's things for decades, and has just now been brought to light, I cannot say.  That is the beauty of 2nd hand stores.  Well, that and the fact that you get to make up lots of really good stories that "could" be true about the items you find there.  But sometimes you don't even need new stories because of the memories the item brings with it.  I looked at that quilt and I was again 14, embarrassed to even be seen with my mother, making an investment in my "future" when I would have "my own" apartment, house, place, and my mother would miss me so much and wish she had been nicer when she had the chance.  I remembered how often I cleaned and rearranged my room, because I pretended it was my own apartment and I only rented it from "those people" downstairs.  I could hear the wind in the trees outside the house I grew up in, the one where our windows were open all summer because we did not have central air.  The hardwood floors, and what a pain it was to wax them.  The clawfoot tub in the bathroom next to my room,  that helped me survive the hot nights when I refused to go downstairs into the air conditioning, which I spent instead in my own head, in my own room, with my cool comforter and big plans for someday.....when I grew up.  I am so glad I found the White Blanky again instead of the teenage attitude.  You could not pay me to relive those years, and God bless every parent who has survived them, too.
I can say that this one is stitched in the same pattern and seems to be filled with the same batting. And yes, I am still afraid to ask what that might be, but it washed up just fine.
I, having 2 black dogs now, and many other comforters and quilts, even put this back.
That's right.  I was going to leave it there rather than "waste" $10 on it, because that is how stern I am with myself when it comes to spending money these days.  I've truly come a long way in this area.
My other mother brought it up at the last minute before we left the thrift shop and said it was for me.
I was so happy you can see, it's on my bed now.
So the White Blanky has come full circle, and I will have my old comfort back, only in a better size and shape than I have had it for decades.  Just when I had gotten used to being without it, God recognizes my progress and rewards me with something that doesn't cost a lot but means the world to me.
Now I can face the next 34 years with the same comfort that got me through the last 34, if you believe such a thing could be true of some material assembled by (probably) 3rd world children.
  I already told her that when I die, she is to take the next White Blanky home with her.  She will have a lifetime of comfort from them, just like her mother did, all the days of her life.  And all because I ventured into a thrift shop one day, killing time before a doctor's appointment.
When the first one finally bites the dust, and can be mended no more, it will just be a matter of time.
I like this story best of all.
But if I find another Leo the Lion, I might actually have a heart attack!
The moral of the story is, when you see a thrift shop, GO IN!  You may not find anything new that tempts you at all, but the trip down memory lane you will never regret.  Never!

Jun 2, 2013

The Dark Side of Home Maintenance......

For a while now, I have heard the sound of wings in my dryer vent. This told me that I had a bird building a nest in my dryer vent, because I'm quick like that.

I pounded on the wall, turned the dryer on and looked out the window. It was a wren, which is one of my favorite little birds.  I have several birdhouses just for them hanging around the yard, and you would think any one of them with a brain would build their nest there.  Apparently we had a very desperate or possibly brain damaged wren this year.

Yesterday I kept finding Shadow sitting in the laundry room in front of the dryer, stock still, staring at the dryer with her head and ears cocked.  I could hear the bird wings at work in the dryer vent.  Occasionally she would go into a point, with her nose stuck between the dryer and the wall,  All day she kept her vigile, and I knew that it was time to kick the desperate or possibly brain damaged wren out.

I hate is when stuff like this happens.  Last year a brain damaged rabbit dug an nest in the yard and had a bunch of babies.  The dogs, being dogs, found them almost immediately.  We protected them as much as we could, but one by one the picked off the baby rabbits. In desperation, when there were just a few left, we drug their little bodies to the fence and pushed them on the other side and then put the dogs inside.  Our hope was that the mother would follow the smell.  Our mistake was in thinking any mother rabbit who could smell would miss the BIG DOG! TWO OF THEM! smell that has to be all over every inch of our backyard.  It was just my luck to run across Jack with the last baby rabbit in his mouth.  It was struggling valiantly and he refused to give it up.  But he did look very ashamed as he ate the last baby rabbit.  His eyes seemed to say "What?  I'm a dog.  Sorry, but I am a dog.  This is what dogs do, lady/"  It did help a little when I saw him do the same thing to a mouse later in the year, when it was getting cold and all the mice were heading inside for the winter.

So today my Oldest Baby and I drug out the ladder and he climbed up to the dryer vent.  The bird(s) never bothered us, which was strange, but a big relief to me.  It's hard enough to have your child on a ladder, even if he is taller than you, and have to worry about not only trashing a sweet little nest, but also your baby getting dived by angry birds.

Patiently he drug out lint, feathers, and soft grasses.  Presently he announced, "I've got an egg", and gently handed down a copper speckled egg into my palm.  It was much warmer than my body temperature, due to being in a dryer vent, and I worried that we had been baking the brain damaged wren's babies in their shells. Out came another egg, just as warm as the first.  While I was cupping them in my palm and wondering what in the world I was going to to with them, another dropped down, breaking on the ladder and revealing liquid yolk and white, with no beginnings of any baby that I could see.  I figured that either they were too warm to have ever gotten started or maybe (please God) they still had a chance.

With no other option at hand, I strolled over to one of the wren houses and plopped the first egg into the hole.  Nothing happened, all was quiet. So I plopped the other one in, adding a few possibly baked eggs to what I hoped would be several brothers and sisters in their own cozy shells with an attentive mother.  The mother, who I had either awakened or scared to death, took that chance to fly out without a word. This is odd for a wren.  They are very talkative little fellows and this one must have been frightened about to death! While they always seem to be on guard for enemies coming in to steal their eggs, I doubt it ever occurs to them to be on guard for MORE EGGS  to come through the door!  Isn't it cuckoo birds that hide their eggs in other nests?  Well, whatever will be, will be, I guess.

Back inside we scooted out the dryer, removed the........stuff that the vent is made from (silver duct of some kind, made out of a strong aluminum foil type of material) and cleaned out the rest of the lint and grasses out of the dryer vent.  We were very relieved that the wren had not remained in the protect her babies.  That is one nightmare farther than I care to go with 2 dogs in the house.  All we need is a bird flying around!!  That is about the time that the mother was back, trying to get in the now shut vent door flappy thing.  She was pretty determined, and at this time it was just a hole in the wall, so I taped over it.

Tomorrow we will figure out how to put it together again, but it's been quite a day and I'm caught up on laundry.  One thing stands out clearly in my mind, whether those eggs make any baby wrens or not, my dryer  will most assuredly run much better now. If I might make a suggestion, cleaning out your dryer vent should probably be done periodically. Like, at least every year or so. I won't tell you how many years it has been since I have attended to this, mostly because I don't think I ever really have before.  Many years ago, when this first happened, I had to teeter on the top most ladder rung in order to use a clothes pin to attach a little mitten, the size that would fit a 3 year old child, to it so the birds would smell human and steer clear. It worked for enough years that by the time we took it down today, one of those 3 year old children didn't even have to get on the top 3 rungs of that ladder and could reach in easily.  I keep forgetting how big these boys have gotten, even when I look at them and stand next to them every single day.

I have checked a few times under the wren house. There are no broken shells under it.  So far. My hope is that the mother wren with sense enough to make her nest in the house provided will have a few more babies than she originally thought.  If she does, and if she gets really tired trying to feed all those babies, perhaps there will be another wren willing to help with that. That is probably just a fantasy, I freely admit it, but I can dream, can't I?  It's a much better story than the where the brain damaged mother searches and searches until she becomes so depressed that she flies down to play with some cats and it's all over just like that.

Sigh........home maintenance can be dark sometimes.  

Next time I'm heading outside as soon as I hear bird wings in the vent or Shadow started stalking the dryer again, whichever comes first.