Saturday, May 31, 2008

Blogging

I want to thank the two ladies who picked me for their 'Five Top Blog List'. Stevie and Lavinia, that was very sweet, and I am touched. I'm not going to pick my own five top blogs, because I simply could not. I am currently touching base with about 15 of them on a daily basis, and love them all for entirely different reasons.
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I write. I write alot. I'm always tapping out something, whether it be a column, or a short story submission, or a blog entry. I look around and I see things, and they catch my imagination and voila...I'm writing it down. I love life, and I love people. What I love best about blogging is that it has reinforced what I've always, always felt. Each one of us in this world are leading a life. No matter how ordinary we think we are, we are all learning lessons, we are all experiencing things, we are all living lives that are extraordinary in unique ways. The Horseshoeing House Wife and Painted Promise are led into extraordinary opportunities by their big hearts, Bush Babe and Jeanie, and Alice (oh dear...Alice is not on my blog role? I am remiss) are from Australia, and are hilarious as they live their lives from day to day, learning and sharing candidly. Scotty is there as well, observing the world, writing poetry. Another poet, David M.
has introduced me to my own poetic nature. Alison's spirit amazes me. Her adventures in motherhood tickle me, and make me remember when mine were small. Exploring parenthood from a father's point of view is Hal. There's Mike from Megaloi who's always thinking about something. There's Mike from Ifs of Og, whose sudden departure from the world of blogging has his legion of internet stalkers quite concerned. Eamon's story of traveling through Vietnam, A Long Way to Ha Long Bay had me howling. Lavinia Ladyslipper and Stevie Wren live quietly elegant and ladylike lives. I've always had a hankering to live that sort of life, not the slightest idea how one achieves it. So I galumph through my days wearing my work boots, and happy anyways, because I can read about it. Pencil Writer and Mary are probably most like me. Except that Mary is writing a book. The Brummie makes me laugh, she and Hubs and their little dog Sam.
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So those are my little circle of friends. Every morning I get up, spend about an hour at my computer with my coffee, getting glimpses into the lives of people that I'll probably never meet. I find things we have in common. I find differences. I find humor. Tears. Wisdom. The whole gamut. Blogging reinforces what I've always felt to be true...that each of our lives is a paragraph. As our lives connect and intersect with the lives of others, our paragraphs become part of a larger chapter. If you are living your life rightly, your chapter will be a lengthy one, as you mingle with folks along the way. Ultimately, all of those chapters feed into the neverending saga of life.
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Each of our ordinary lives is extraordinary,
meant to be lived, treasured, endured, used.
Some people take the time to write it down.
I'm glad for that.
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I'll bet Jeanie is not glad that she taught me to link.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Living in Bear Country.

There seems to be some misunderstandings about bears. We do not have ill natured grizzly bears here. They don't stand on their rear feet roaring aggressively and shaking their heads before running at you full tilt to separate your head from your torso. Forget about the bear in Jeremiah Johnson. Our bears are black bears. Fairly quiet. Attacks are extremely rare. They come in for food. A couple years ago, during a dry summer, they were more of a nuisance than usual, but we did not stay inside watching nervously, guns drawn. In fact, really, we deal with the bears much like we deal with the neighbor's dumb ass dog. I'm pretty sure that the 'dumb ass' is straight from his owners. They make no attempt to train him. He spends a lot of time in our yard. We spend a lot of time saying, "Winston! GO HOME!" We don't call the bears 'Winston', but we do tell them to GO HOME! This is one of my newspaper columns recounting one night that we had fun with bears.
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I have been the mother of teenagers for 12 years now. When one of them leaves the teenager years, there's always been others right behind that one. I don't mind teenagers, for the most part. Except for the sarcasm. And the temper tantrums. The high drama is not so fun. The whole sigh-and-eye-roll-routine makes me mad. The challenging can get on your nerves. The fact that they know everything grates, too. It makes you wonder how you muddled through life before they were part of it. I'm pretty eclectic in my musical tastes, but rap makes me angry, always generates a parental lecture. Other than that, however, I really do like being around teenagers.

Cara is the last teenager. She's actually a pretty easy kid to get along with, when her eyes are not rolling and she is not heaving dramatic sighs, and being a sarcastic know-it-all. She doesn't like rap either, which greatly reduces the stress level in the house. She does not favor me in looks, lucky girl, but there is one trait that we share. We are both kind of oblivious. I actually think that Cara might be more oblivious than me. Once, our truck suddenly burst into flames in our driveway. Tim was dashing around trying to put it out, dashing in to call the fire department, and then racing back out to move the rest of the fleet out of danger. The firetrucks arrived. The fire was being fought. My mother had heard the whole thing over the scanner, called the house all in a panic. The conversation was reported as going something like this: Mom: "Cara, is that you? What's going on? What vehicle is on fire? Is everyone all right?" Cara: "Nothing's on fire." Mom: "Cara, it was on the scanner." Cara: "Here?" Mom: "Look out your bedroom window, Cara. Are there fire trucks there?" Cara: "(Gasp!) Um, hey, Gramma, I gotta go, okay?"
When that kid is in her room, AKA "Cara-Land", she misses a lot.

Last week, we witnessed yet another example of this. Tim and I were in bed. I was stretched out, in that wonderful half asleep, half awake state. In my fog, I heard the garbage cans. My mind registered this as 'Cara taking out the garbage.' Moments later, I heard the back door. I registered this as 'Cara coming inside.' What did not register logically was the pounding and crashing on the back deck and the baying of a dog gone crazy. I leapt up, grabbing for my robe in the dark. Tim was doing the same thing on HIS side of the bed. (Why it did not occur to either one of us to turn on a light is beyond me.) I was yelling, "Cara, Cara! Are you all right, what happened?" As I flew to the top of the stairs, she was standing at the bottom, looking up in amazement. "What?", she asked. "Did you just take the trash out?" She answered that she did not, she was watching 'CSI', and the dog wanted out, so she let him. Mind you, the dog is still roaring and carrying on like crazy from the back yard. I said, "Cara, I think the bear is in the back yard." Full of teenager know-it-allness, she sarcastically says to me, "There's no bear out there. The dog barks all the time. He's just stupid." To prove her point, she storms out the back door to yell at the dog.
All this before I could get the belt tied on my bathrobe.

I heard a shriek. A very loud shriek for a girl who prides herself on her level headedness. The back door slammmed so hard that the vibration rattled the stairs that I was coming down. Cara was standing there with her eyes bugging out of her head shrieking over and over and over again, "MOM! MOM! MOM!" Nothing else. "Just "MOM! MOM! MOM!" Tim and I both tried to find out what was going on, finally gave up and went out the back door to assess the situation ourselves, not knowing whether we coming up against man or beast. And there it was. A long legged, lean looking bear standing in our backyard. Buck, the amazing wonder dog, was racing circles around him, puzzled by the fact that, unlike all other bears he'd encountered, this one was standing nonchalantly looking back at him instead of running for the woods. I yelled at the bear, and at that point, he did amble to the brush, maybe 50 yards from the house, and sat down, waiting no doubt, for the hubbub to die down, and for his chance to tear into the bags of trash that he'd pulled from the trash cans.

Well, that left us in a quandry. The bear wasn't budging, and the trash was not picking itself up and moving to a secure area. Finally, we decided that the bear was not behaving aggressively. We got lawn bags, and went off the porch to gather up the scattered trash bags, while watching Mr. Bear closely with a spotlight. He was, in turn, closely watching the dog (instead of us) which was okay, too. I told Tim a couple times that I thought that I saw a second bear down there, farther behind the star of the show, a little to the right. Cara thought so too. But Tim, who has a bit of know-it-all streak himself, impatiently told us that we saw nothing. We took the trash and locked it over night in a stripped car destined for North's wrecking yard. Dummy me walked right past my bird feeders on the way back. My eyes were on the spotlighted bear and my crazed dog. I called the dog off, and he reluctantly came back, shooting reproachful looks at me and confused, frustrated looks at the bear still sitting on his butt in the brush. We went into the house, got the dog settled, and went back to bed.

It was not five minutes before it all started again. Tim grabbed the spotlight, shone it out the back window and said, "Well, your birdfeeders are toast! Man, that is one huge bear..." I was not there to hear the rest. One of those bird feeders had sentimental value. I tore out the back door yelling "Get now, go on, leave them alone..." and was rewarded by the immediate view of the backside of a bear making for the woods. Pressing my advantage, I dashed off the deck, grabbed my prized birdfeeder from the ground, and unwired the other one before it registered that the bear leaving the yard was not the same long legged beast that had ambled to the brush by the zucchini bed. This bear was bigger and heavier, more matching Cara's description ("biggest brute of a black bear I ever saw...like a furry Volkswagon on legs....") Clutching my rescued bird feeders to my chest, I turned to see the first bear still patiently sitting in the brush, waiting for the hubbub to die down.

The birdfeeders were saved, and no animals or people were wounded in the making of this drama (although I did break a nail). Cara learned that just sometimes parents can know where-of they speak. Tim learned that when the oblivious claim to see shadows in the dark in the brush they are not always full of beans. We learned that cool-as-a-cucumber-Cara can lose her cool completely. Buck learned that not all woodland creatures acknowlege his position as lord and ruler of the back yard. The bears apparently learned that there are quieter places to visit in the neighborhood, because they haven't been back, either one of them.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tempus Fugit

Friday, we are celebrating my sister's 50th birthday.
How did we get to be middle aged?
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Saturday one of the daughters I'm not related to is getting married.
How do they grow up so quickly?
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Sunday is Cara's baccalaureate ceremony.
It hardly seems possible my youngest is graduating high school.
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Gees. Tempus is certainly fugit-ing around here.
Anyone know how to slow things down?

Birds


I love birds. I feed them, all year around, although I know

that I shouldn't feed them in the summer.

The feeders attract bears.
I just love to watch them though.
This has been a very exciting spring.




In addition to the chickadees (nature's comedians)
and the nuthatches (nature's acrobats)



We have an abundance of housefinches.


Goldfinches by the scores


And coming in the driveway, I saw a baltimore oriole in the lilac bushes out front.

The indigo buntings seem to be hanging around the tall hedges in the side yard.

Maybe one of the nests there belong to them.



Rowdy bluejays



Cardinals.

And I watch all these colors darting back and forth. There is so much discussion in my backwoods area about color, what with Obama running for the democratic ticket. This area is pretty homogenus, and bigotry is common, especially among folks who have never been anywhere else. Why should it surprise us that the same God who created birds in all different colors should create His people in different colors? Why does this bother anyone?

And I've noticed that the birds all get along.

Just a comment.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Local News

This is big news in our town. This was today's front page story. I think these bears are just (sing it with me here), "Moving on up, to the east side. To a DE-lux apartment in the skyyyyyy...."
Well.
*cough* (ahem)
Anyways.
The news.

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A local black bear family apparently decided to make its Memorial Day travel plans a day later than most folks.Residents on Connecticut Avenue and Alexander Avevnue woke up Tuesday to discover that a pack of bruins – a mother and four cubs – had ventured out of the woods and meandered through the neighborhood, eventually finding their way in a tree above a swimming pool.There the bears stayed, the mother sprawled over a large branch, the cubs investigating the foliage higher up in the tree while a crowd of spectators with binoculars and cameras gathered below.Pennsylvania Game Commission officers were called in to supervise the situation.The bears seemed to be in no hurry to leave.“We’ve been here watching them all morning,” a unidentified woman said from her spot along Connecticut. “(The Game Commission officers) are trying to push them (to the east) back into the woods. But the bears seem to have other ideas.”The uninvited guests finally disembarked their morning hangout spot around 1 p.m. They ambled into the yard next door, then quickly scrambled back up another tree while Game Commissioner officers kept a close eye on them.According to Cheryl Miles, a resident of the neighborhood, the bear family finally vacated the area by late Tuesday afternoon.

Philosopher

Not everyone appreciates a philosopher.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What a Day

Did you ever know anyone who slipped?
Fell flat on her rear end?
In a swamp?
While holding a $300. mosquito trap?
Twisted the same stupid ankle that she's been twisting since she first twisted it in January?
Got to her feet, checking for damage
and
relieved at finding no damage to body or equipment
thought,
with a sinking feeling,
"Jeesh! Don't tell me I stepped in crap..."
only
to check the bottom of her shoes and discover
she had slipped on a FROG!!!!!

ACK! GAK! ARRRRRRRGH!
Do you know anybody that's happened to?


Well. Now you do.


Lilacs



Yesterday was a busy day. I hauled my indoor plants to the back deck, and set up the deck furniture. It looks very nice.
I also helped with firewood.
Weeded my strawberries.
Cleaned my ornamental pond.
The small frog living there had a nice visit with me. I carefully set him aside while I cleaned, so that he would not be injured, and then set him back where I found him when I was done. He watched me rake for awhile and then *plop* he was back into the water.
I took a look at the blueberry bushes. Blooming.
The apple trees. Blooming.
Noticed that my potatoes are coming up.
Azalea, peonies, rhododendrons, heavy with buds.
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And when I was done with my work, I took a few moments to smell the lilacs.


My photograhic skills are minimal,
so you cannot, unfortunately, see what I see.
Unfortunately, you can't smell the rich scent,
or hear the drunken bumble bees lurching about their business.
Feel the wind blowing in a rain storm.
The sun on my face.
The joy in my heart.
I wish you could.
I wish I had the words so that you could.
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At the end of the day, Tim and I ate grilled hamburgers on the back deck and watched the nuthatches, chickadees, goldfinches and indigo buntings fly in and out to the bird feeder.
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Memorial Day was very memorable.
Can anyone's life be richer than my own?

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Good Earth


In these days of rising fuel prices, we are glad that we have Bertha. Bertha is a Danish woodboiler, and she is hot. She lives down in the basement. Given a choice between me and Bertha, Tim would have to stop and think about it. I keep him warm at night.
Bertha keeps him warm day and night.
It's work to heat with wood. This morning started with a trip down to our woods to collect the windfalls from this past fall and winter. One of the downed trees was a hickory, which burns a good long time, but is some heavy, heavy wood.
We got nearly a truck load when the tire exploded.
Tim had run over the stumps of some underbrush he had chopped back. These stumps were small, but they destroyed the tire.
"Damn," I thought.
He calmly got out of the truck, surveyed the damage and said, "Well. I was afraid of that. I was trying to watch." He doesn't get excited about things. He rarely curses.
We got the truck up to the woodshed, and split and stacked what we had loaded.
It's a start.

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I spend the day outside weeding my strawberry patch.

Looks like I'll have a lot of strawberries.

I wander over to the blueberry bushes.

Looks like we will have plenty of those as well.

I go take a look at our apple trees.

They've even got blossoms. I did not expect that.

They are young trees.

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I've got a small garden going. It's all we need. It will be just Tim and I next winter.

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I keep hearing all these dire warnings of where our economy is headed. It brings me great satisfaction to think that once Tim gets our venison this fall, our land will have fed us and warmed us.

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How fortunate we are. I worry for people in cities.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Stranger

We had a picnic today. My nephew Tom was home from Virginia. It's the first time that he's been home in two years. He is a ex-Marine. Our family is a lot like the Mideast. We have our extremists, and our angry religious leaders, divisions, 'sides' and land mines all over the place, so I understand his absence. Heck. I live here, and I keep my distance from the more angry sects.
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When I got the chance, I told Tom how much it meant to his sisters to have him home. I told him how wonderful it was to see him. He looked around and said, "I feel like a stranger."
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I understood this too, being a stranger myself. I rubbed his shaved head and said, "Tommy. You are our stranger, and you are much loved."
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I don't understand what petty grievances anyone in this broken family could find more important than making sure our children are loved and welcomed.
The blood of assholes flows in my veins, friends.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Just Can't Get Over It

Wade found three puppies tied out in the desert and brought them home.
Mikey blogged it.
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I'm really glad I don't live near Mikey, and not just because of the whole rattlesnake thing.
I can't resist puppies (even if they are in Australia).
But Mikey's pictures really shocked me stupid.
Look again.
Mikey's strays:

Now, take a look at this:
My dog:

(Buck is neutered. Never been in Arizona. Just saying.)

Again, her dogs


Isn't that uncanny?

Perfect match.

Right down to the eyes.

Isn't that freaky?

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Jeanie should have never taught me to link.

This is so kewl.

I'll stop.

I promise.



Lee Becomes a Church-goer


Lee's in his 80s. He's old fashioned. In the summer time, when I'm putting down Bti to kill mosquito larva, if I'm in his area, he'll follow me around with his golf cart. He lifted my backpack sprayer once. It weighs about 50 or 60 pounds fully loaded. Lee was outraged. He feels strongly that this job is too much for a woman.

It doesn't offend me.

I know there is nothing condescending about his attitude.

It springs from concern,

from a time when a man's job was to take care of his woman.

He doesn't know any other way.

I don't see any reason to be taking on the job of teaching him.

He is what he is.

I am what I am.

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Lee and his wife Jean, hold down the other end of our church pew on Sunday. Our family used to take up quite a bit more room in the pew, but the kids have grown up, and left one by one. And now Cara has changed churches, so it's just us. Lee is probably one of the most profound people I know. He knows the Bible inside and out, and he knows it in a way that comes from not only reading it, but from really thinking about what he's read, really applying what he's read about and thought about to what he sees happening around him, so when Lee says something like, "You know, I been thinking about chickens..." I stop what I'm doing and prepare my heart to listen, because Lee is going to say something marvelous.
And he always does.

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Lee makes no secret of the fact that he was a hellraiser in his younger days. This still grieves him some. Lee is still, for all of his reading and praying, a man who is rough around the edges. That roughness just serves to bring his theology into even sharper, clearer focus.

The contrast is kind of shocking sometimes.

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Once Lee told us how he came to be a church-goer. He was a wild boy whose Mama dragged him to our church every Sunday while he was growing up. When he got to be a young man, he simply quit going. He married Jean in our church, and the when the kids began to come, Jean brought them to church every Sunday.
Lee stayed home.

It wasn't that he didn't believe in God.

He did.

He just really did not like church.

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One day, the preacher pulled up in the driveway and walked into the garage where Lee was working. The preacher tells him that the church needs a Sunday school superintendent, and that God has put Lee square into to the preacher's mind. Lee looked right back at him, and says, in his direct way, "Well, I believe that you're not thinking right. I'm not a church goer. You need to look for someone else to be your Sunday school superintendent." The preacher tried, in vain, to convince Lee of God's vision.
Lee held to his opinion.
The preacher headed back to the car.

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In Lee's words, "Well, all of a sudden there was a flash of light! The loudest boom you ever heard! Knocked me right down. My ears were ringing, and I was sitting on the ground, looking up at a big hole in my garage roof. I couldn't figure it out at all. Lightning had struck my garage and blown the cupola clear off the top of it. The preacher came running back in, and I looked at him and said, 'You know, I've been thinking. I'll be your Sunday school superintendent.'
I've been coming to church ever since."

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The entire church rocked with laughter. We just howled. When the laughter began to subside, Karen, our present Sunday school superintendent piped up from the back, in her sweet ladylike voice, "Well lucky for me, when I was asked, I just said yes."

The laughter started again.

Friday, May 23, 2008

God is in the Details


A strange thing has happened to me. I'm feeling a little lost. Our church is doing great things: building another church, growing. I don't feel like I'm growing. There is the inevitable conflict that comes with change. Our church is divided, and both sides feel that God has spoken directly to them, so the words get increasingly sharp. People speak plainly once they know that God is on their side.

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Last night I went out into the woods to think a minute.

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Redlefty writes a blog called 'Megaloi'. He looks for great things from God. He makes me think. I
like that about him. I've been thinking a lot lately. Today, mostly what I'm thinking about is this
irony. In the midst of the cacophony that is life, where I find God is in the little things.
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I never fail to find God in the details.

I never fail to find this comforting.

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I also wonder this.

When the new church is done,

when we have all the extra space in our pews

will there still be room for me?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Birthday

Tim is a worker. Serious. Always doing something productive. This is probably one of our biggest issues. I write. Sometimes I get paid to write. So you'll see me sitting at the computer. Sometimes I'm blogging. Sometimes I'm writing. But to me, it's productive time. I really think, deep down, that Tim is convinced it's a sin to enjoy yourself. I've been trying to help him overcome this mindset for 10 years today.
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We had a heck of a argument over the weekend. He works his 40 hours at work, and then he spends about 15-20 hours a week on home rehab on a rental. Saturday night, we had a wedding to go to. The son of a friend was getting married, and I was looking very forward to it. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, Tim was very tired from working all day. He wouldn't dance. He didn't talk. I wanted to hang loose and have a good time. Tim wanted to go home. We ended up leaving early, and I was disappointed.
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Tim comes from a fundamentalist family. Wesley Methodists do not drink. They do not dance. His mother's never worn a pair of slacks in her life. His father is a preacher. They are a very sober, straightlaced pair. And they begat my husband. After 10 years of marriage, I'm again explaining to him that I'm not going to hell for a wine cooler, and he isn't going to hell because he dances with his wife, and we're not going to hell if we talk and laugh and enjoy time with our friends. On the contrary, it will seem like hell if we don't.
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And like all big differences, this one cast a pall that lasted for a couple days, mostly due to the fact that Tim is quiet and doesn't talk a lot.
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Yesterday was my birthday. I worked all day, and I was cold and wet by the time that I got home. Tim gets home before I do. He baked salmon. cooked asparagus and made salad. He'd bought a bottle of wine, the first he'd ever bought in his life. He'd picked romantic music for the stereo. There were candles on the table and flowers too. He met me at the door dressed in black pants with a white shirt, looking very waiter-ish. and said, "Will there be one for dinner tonight?"
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It was fun. A lot of fun.
I did something I've never done before.
I slept with my waiter.
That was fun too.
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Tim doesn't talk a lot, but I'm sure glad he listens.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Awww!

Tim was cutting a windfall for firewood. Suddenly, he was in the back door calling for us to get
our cameras, and to keep the dog in. I thought perhaps he'd seen the first bear of the season (for
us, anyways) but no. It was something even more deer.


Probably no older than 24 hours.

Look at those sweet eyes.

Size comparison: about the size of an American football.


Tim almost missed it.

Can you see why?


The Wizard of Oz

Tim and I are disagreeing right now, and I could not sleep.
It'll pass, but is it just me, or can men be damn annoying?
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I came downstairs at 3 AM to find an e-mail from Jeanie. After reading Hal's birthday greeting, she noticed the obvious: I did not know how to link. She took it upon herself to try to teach me, brave (but foolish) woman.
She gave me method A, which she called the hard way.
Followed by method B, the easy way.
(Most people wouldn't have even given me method A, Jeanie. FYI.)
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Guess which one I tried first?
Yep.
And when my blog disappeared, I just about had a heart attack.
Is it just me or can computers be damn annoying?
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This started a flurry of activity, e-mails flying.
We figured it out.
Well. She figured it out.
Jeanie thinks we should go in baby steps.
She's probably right.
But I think that I have this linking thing down pat.
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Is it just Jeanie?
Or am I damn annoying?
Thanks Jeanie!
You're my hero.
I know you're in Australia, but can you fix Tim?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Hal has a Birthday

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If you can't party with the big dogs, stay on the porch.
Happy Birthday, Hal!
Add your own best wishes at Hal's blog

Sunday, May 18, 2008

We are family...

Let's play a game. It's called 'Where's Stacey?'
It's a lot like 'Where's Waldo' except in this case,
everyone's wearing the same clothing!
Makes it harder.
She's there.
I found her, even before Tim did.
And then I cried. Because I'm a sap like that.

This is Stacey.

We were the only ones calling her that.

Tim is playing a different game now.

He likes it.

He's also darn good at it.

The man can shoot.


Stacey took me out for Mother's Day.

Mexican Food.

MMMMMmmm.

I love Mexican food.

Then the old folks headed north.

The soldier headed south.

Even though we headed in different directions,

we're sharing the journey.

Life's funny like that.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Isn't she lovely....



I've always thought that my children were beautiful. Maternal bias maybe. Dunno. But today Cara was getting ready for her senior prom. It's hard to believe that this is the last one, but it's true. Usually Cara gathers all her stuff and goes to one or another of her friends' house to get ready. This year, she surprised me. She wanted mother-daughter time. She asked for it. She kept saying, "Isn't it a little sad that this is my last prom?" I eyed her over top of my coffee and said, "What? I don't get a break until I cry?" We both laughed.

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We picked up her boutonniere for Jamie, her 'date'. They've been part of the same circle of friends for several years. Nothing serious there, except for the time they got caught eating their lunch in the rafters of the auditorium a few years back. Got detention for that.

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Our second stop was to pick up a corsage for Johnna who's going 'stag'. Cara remembered going stag to prom one year. She was the only one without flowers, and that made her cry, even though she didn't think it bothered her. So she bought flowers for Johnna.

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We went the the beauty parlor for her updo. It was a half hour job, but when she got up, she was thrilled with her hair.

And then to look for shoes for her dress...she'd gotten blisters the previous night, walking in heels from Severence Hall in Cleveland to Little Italy supper. We found a sparkly rhinestone pair with straps set differently so that they did not rub her blisters. I even bought a pair of shoes for myself, to go with the black pants and white blouse I was wearing to a wedding. She went to the Bon-Ton to have her make up done. I had to keep blinking. She just looked so...what? Not like Cara? No. She looked like Cara. But a different Cara. Glamour Cara. By the time we got home, we were running late. Jamie was due in less than an hour. She shrugged on her red dress, fancy earrings, and the transformation was complete. And even though I thought she was always lovely, I can't stop staring now.

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It wasn't just me. Jamie looked a little startled when she walked into the room.

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Pictures tomorrow. I've got to get dressed for a wedding. Jamie and Cara have left for dinner, but my mind keeps sneaking peaks.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Marriage is funny

At his 25th wedding anniversary party, a man took a look at his wife and jokingly said, "Honey, 25 years ago we had a cheap rented house and a cheap car, slept on a sofa bed, and watched a 19-inch black-and-white TV, but I got to sleep every night with a hot 25-year-old blonde. Now we have an $800,000 home, a $45,000 car, a nice bed, and a plasma screen TV, but I'm sleeping with a 50-year-old woman. It seems to me that you are not holding up your side of things."
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His wife, being a very reasonable woman with a sense of humor that could hold its own, told him to go out and find a hot 25-year-old blonde and she would make sure that he would once again be living in a cheap rented house, driving a cheap car, sleeping on a sofa bed, and watching a 19-inch black-and-white TV...if he was lucky.
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I like couples who can laugh.
One of my dearest friends has a license plate that reads:
'My next husband will be normal'.
Her husband bought it for her.
They've been married nearly 25 years.
I can't wait for that party.
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Thursday, May 15, 2008

No! No! No!

To clear up any confusion from last night's post, let me explain that my little family is not in dire financial straits, trying to get money from outside agencies. Although Tim's company is on shaky ground, they've been able to make payroll each week, although insurance was briefly canceled until they paid the premium. This affected us not at all.
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We are applying for financial aid. Here in the US of A, these are the steps involved in applying for college:
Step 1: Your child selects the college. All colleges in the running provide you with a big packet of information, and you look at the numbers and breathe "Dear heavens! Prices have skyrocketed. How in the heck do people afford to send their children to college." Shortly after that, colleges begin offering you money off to attend their colleges. This helps. You pick the college that offers the biggest 'bang' (educationally speaking) for the buck.
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Colleges continue to call and write wanting to know what college you've picked and why. My answer: "All you need to know is that she will not be attending yours." No particular reason for this, other than they are spending lots of money to 'court' my daughter, when really, they could use that money wisely, and provide a cheaper education. Allbright College is still calling, weeks after being told that Cara will attend college elsewhere. They are also very high priced. Coincidence? I don't think so.
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Step 2: You begin applying for grants, loans, scholarships. This is where we are at now. Cara is independent and does most of this herself, but every form requires parental financial disclosures. The government applications annoy me. The government knows what we make, how we spent it, etc. Why do we have to duplicate?
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We are on step 2, which is always annoying. Each step leads us inexorably to the final step...this fall, we will pack Cara's little car, follow in our own loaded car, and unload boxes of stuff in her college dorm room. And then we will come back home. Alone.
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*sniffle*
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After thinking about it, step 2 is not quite so awful as the final step.
I'm shushing.
Back to the paperwork.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Paperwork

animal
more cat pictures

I suppose that this would not be considered applying for financial aid.
Jeesh.
I hate paperwork.
Plus the paperpushers would probably deduct for poor grammar.
Sucky spelling.
Totally overlook the cuteness factor.

Lucky

I saw a couple fighting in public.
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I get mad sometimes. So does Tim. Sometimes we yell. We're not perfect. Sometimes I look at the man that God sent to me and cast a glance heavenward, moaning, "God what were you thinking?" He's quiet, and spends a great deal of time thinking. Me? I can be quiet, but mostly, I find everyone and everything has a story, and am always anxious to hear it.
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My ex-husband had very definate ideas on what kind of person I should be. I never met that standard, mind you. Not pretty enough, skinny enough, smart enough, not enough. He was always pissed about something and he would yell. He would back me into a corner with his yelling, and continue to yell until the spittle was flying. He had to stop hitting. It cost a lot of money to put my front teeth back where they'd always been.
I was quiet in those days.
It did me no good to talk, and my own story was so impossible that I couldn't be interested in anyone else's story.
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You can see why I had such reservations about marrying Tim. Like Humpty Dumpty, I was struggling to put things back together again after my divorce. But we have moved through nearly 10 years, more or less peacefully.
He's learned to talk more.
I've learned to speak less.
Well.
Sometimes.
***********************
I watch this couple fighting in public, going at it, hammer and tongs. I flinch at their ugly words. Neither of them were giving an inch. I watch them get in their car and drive to hell. And for a moment, in a parking lot, I allow myself to ponder 'what if?'
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Oh, Christ, I am the luckiest person I know.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Catching up on e-mails...

You all are going to think that I'm crazy doing yet another post. I'm still catching up on e-mails, and laughed myself stupid over this one. Too funny not to share. Mine never pulled this one, but oh, don't they all just have their moments? Best to laugh...wringing their necks is still not an option in most civilized countries.
Enjoy.
This mother's story is called 'Chapstick'.
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We had this great 10-year-old cat named Jack who just recently died. Jack was a great cat, and the kids would carry him around and sit on him and nothing ever bothered him. He used to hang out and nap all day long on the mat in our bathroom.We have three kids, and at the time of this story, they were 4 years old, 3 years old, and 1 year old. The middle one is Eli. Eli really loved Chapstick. LOVED it. He kept asking to use my Chapstick and then would lose it. Finally one day I showed him where I keep my Chapstick and explained he could use it whenever he wanted to, but he needed to put it right back in the bathroom drawer after he finished.
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That year on Mother's Day, we were having the typical rush-around and trying to get ready for church, with everyone crying and carrying on. My two boys were fighting over the toy in the cereal box. I was trying to nurse my little one at the same time I was putting on my make-up. Everything was a mess, and everyone had long forgotten that this was a wonderful day to honor me and the amazing job that is motherhood. We finally had the older one and the baby loaded in the car and I was looking for Eli. I searched everywhere and I finally went into the bathroom. There was Eli. He was applying my Chapstick very carefully to Jack's ... rear end. Eli looked right into my eyes and said, "Chapped." Now if you have a cat, you know that he is right -- their little bottoms do look pretty chapped. And, frankly, Jack didn't seem to mind. The only question to ask at that point was whether it was the FIRST time Eli had done that to the cat's behind or the hundredth!?!
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And THAT is my favorite Mother's Day moment ever because it reminds us that no matter how hard we try to civilize these glorious little creatures, there will always be that day when you realize they've been using your Chapstick on the cat's butt.

Uncle Herman

Uncle Herman's birthday is tomorrow. He will be 90. Uncle Herman and Aunt Anna are two of the best people I know. They've never had a TV. They live in a small house with a stone fireplace that Uncle Herman built himself. Wood is their only source of heat. Aunt Anna cans the produce that they grow in their own garden. Aunt Anna quilts. When you call Uncle Herman in the middle of the day, it's not a sure bet that you'll get him...he's often out on his tractor. Although he uses a cane, Uncle Herman can wheel that tractor around like nobody's business. He built an outside wood fired brick oven on his brother Harold's farm. It can hold 25 loaves of bread. This is where the family reunions are held each summer, and Uncle Herman patiently teaches anyone willing to learn how to heat and bake in it. He tells you that he won't be around forever, but he believes in Jesus, and the prospect of dying doesn't faze him at all.
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Uncle Herman is a very religious person, but even still, at 90, you get a glimpse of the wild man he was. He came courting Anna on a motorcycle, and he flew his own plane. He crashed his last one, and still laughs when he tells you that story. Anna won't let him fly any more, but he has the big old wooden prop in the barn even still. He's quick to say that he loves you. He has a PT cruiser. Tim found it for him, called him, and after waffling about the price, Uncle Herman bought the car of his dreams, a very rare demonstration of self indulgence.
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Want to know what I love best about Uncle Herman? When he began to have trouble walking, he matter of factly went out and tied a loose knot in a sassafras sapling. Later, when walking had become even more difficult, Uncle Herman went out and cut the three year sapling down. The knot that he tied was perfect for his hand grip. He harvested his cane. You don't hear him bitch and moan. He takes life as it comes. This winter, he took a bad fall. He broke his pelvis. Uncle Herman had to go to a nursing home. They made him wear Depends. It must have been a huge indignity for a man in full possession of his faculties. I know that he missed Anna's cooking. I know that he was lonely. But he patiently waited while he mended, not one complaint passing his lips, and when they finally let him up to walk, he took off like a rocket.
He didn't stop walking until they sent him home.
****************
The last time we were at their house, I watched Tim work at his uncle's side.
Uncle Herman's fingers are stiff. Some car repairs are beyond him.
They chuckle and talk.
I realize that the two of them are a lot alike.
I get a glimpse of what Tim will be.
And, in my soul, I'm thank God that I am Mrs. Tim.

Mother's Day

I'm not a big fan of Hallmark holidays. I don't get all hyped up about Mother's Day. The kids did, however. I got dinner out at a Mexican restaurant. This was from Stacey when we were down in South Carolina for her graduation. It was fun to watch her study the menu in confusion and repeat, "I just feel so stupid, but I can't decide what I want..." I watched her a while longer and said, "So, Stacey, how long has it been since you actually had to choose?" Long pause as she stared at me, realization slowly dawning. She'd not grappled with choices of any kind for 9 weeks.
*********************
Brianna called. She and her Mike both have jobs in Florida. That was probably the best gift of the day. She sounded happy, but not manic. Practical, planning for the future. Mike's dad and stepmother have done work with the homeless and the downtrodden. The father is a retired police officer, and Mike is talking about joining the police force there. Once again, I find myself feeling hopeful that perhaps this story will have a happy ending after all.
**********************
Tim and I went down to the local store to get pictures from our trip printed. We bought frames for the pictures, and will give them out as gifts. I came back home to find that we had missed our Mike. He left a big pot of flowers and a card on the table. Mike usually hands Stacey money and lets her do the shopping. I love my big pot of flowers, but what I love most is that quiet Mike thought to do this without prompting. That tickled me. He called later, and he and Tim had a long chat on this and that. I like to listen to them. They are definately two peas in a pod.
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I walked in and out of the kitchen several times before I noticed the new cappuccino machine on the counter. That Cara can keep a secret. She bought it while we were gone. Absence must really make the heart grow fonder, because the child that never comes out of her room, Miss Surley, she-who-cannot-speak-politely, the unhelpful one, cleaned house while we were gone. Folded laundry. Made a pasta for supper when we got home. She may have missed us. I don't know. Kind of hard to tell. Just the clean house and prepared dinner was gift enough for me. However, the cappuccino machine...ooh. "If Dylan calls you, just thank him for it as well. He's busy, and he's going to feel like crap when he realizes he forgot Mother's Day. I thought of all the nice things he's done for me, and I figured even if he doesn't want to go halves on the coffee maker, I owe him." Well. That was nice. She DOES notice these things. I'm starting to get a notion that the sweet level headed teenager we'd had right up to the beginning of her senior year is lurking somewhere close by waiting to step back out into the light.
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That was my Mother's Day. I'm not really a big fan of Hallmark holidays, but I really am a big fan of my kids. My day was just wonderful. I hope yours was too.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tag! I'm It.

Susan, over at the Painted Promise Ranch (www.paintedpromiseranch.blogspot.com) tagged me before I left. So here I go:

What was I doing 10 years ago?

Oh, my gosh, that is so easy. I was having a hissy bird fit. Tim and I were due to get married, and I'd decided that I must have taken leave of my senses. I was in a panic, because I decided that I was a woman that men fall for in a really big way, but only for a really short time. I just knew for a fact that even though he was was dead certain that I was the woman of his dreams, he'd change his mind. So really, the only logical thing to do was to change mine first. Only I was afraid to tell him that I'd changed my mind. Ten years ago, I was a basket case. Ten years later, I'm glad that I never quite figured out how to tell him that I didn't want to get married.

What are five things on your 'to-do' list?

Disappointingly, I don't have a to do list.
I figure that life comes up just as you are meant to live it.
I've got goals:

I want to live to be a hundred.
I want a 50th wedding anniversary.
I want to write a book.
I want to see my children settled happily.
I want to be remembered for good.

What is my favorite snack?

Cottage cheese with peaches. Vanilla yogurt. Dark chocolate. Pistachios. Oranges. Asparagus. Avocados. Artichokes. Popcorn. Heck. I don't know. I'm indecisive that way.

What would I do if I had a billion dollars?

I'd travel. I'd be looking for ways to help people. Especially kids. Since having a billion dollars doesn't seem real likely, I don't spend a lot of time figuring out how to spend it, so my plans are kind of sketchy. If I suddenly fall into a billion dollars, I'll be giving it some very careful attention, though.

Places I've lived.

New York - Fredonia, Watertown
Pennsylvania - Irvine, Youngsville, Warren, Starbrick, Scandia
Missouri - Ft. Leonardwood
Texas - San Antonio
Seoul, Korea
Hawaii - Honolulu
Virginia - Alexandria
Maryland - Baltimore, Gaithersburg
Michigan - Midland

Bad Habits.

I bite my nails.
I really talk down to myself. Serious self esteem issues.
I cuss. I'm not an angry person, but I am careless in my speech sometimes.

Jobs that I've had.

Gads. Keypunch operator. Soldier. Mom. Writer. Customer service rep. Snack bar manager. Waitress. Cashier. Right now I'm the county mosquito/West Nile Virus Coordinator. Basically, I trap mosquitoes. Teach. I'm a Episcopal Layminister, which means nothing now that I go to a Methodist Church. I apprenticed as a midwife for a short period of time in Michigan, until they told me that I had to remove the Dukakis bumper sticker from my Honda Accord. I figured that if they were that narrow minded, the whole thing was bound to derail at some point over some other issue, so I just left, with the bumper sticker intact. Jack of all trades. Master of none. I've enjoyed almost all of my jobs, except the whole customer service gig. Surprisingly, the pissed off customers were not the problem. I was pretty good at that part. The supervisors were a constant pain in my nether regions.

I'll tag anyone who wants to answer the questions. Go!

Happy Mother's Day, everyone.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Graduation

It was strange to be back on an Army post again. My stride quite naturally fell into step with the distant cadences called, and most surprisingly, as previously reported, I was blabbing away (this isn't surprising, of course), and suddenly my arm automatically began a salute as an officer approached. I was able to turn it into a bra strap adjustment, and saved myself. Tim was itching for a chance to fire an M-16. He had tons of questions about it, and I found bits and pieces of data running to the front of my mind: "The M-16 is a hand held, shoulder fired, gas fed, air cooled weapon...." I found that military training is a lot like riding a bike. You don't forget how to be a soldier. Most amusing was seeing 'my fatigues' as part of a military history display. Mine were solid green, tucked in shirt, rank on collar, black web belt. By the time I left, 7 years later, we had BDU's. Camouflage, overshirt. Baggy. Sloppy.
*********************
Family Day did not begin until 9, but we wanted to be in the front. We wanted to see Stacey. So we got there at 7:45. On the way over, we passed a company of new recruits marching in the heat in full battlegear. They looked tired, hot, scared, and hopeless. I'm sure that we would have seen the same look on Stacey's face just a few weeks ago, had we been able to see her.
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We visited with another family, while we sat in the bleachers waiting for the ceremony. The DiMaggios from Boston. Their son/grandson/nephew, Carmine, was in the same unit. The DiMaggios were pleased as all hell that Carmine would not be going to Iraq. Since Stacey was telling us that she expected to go, we were a little interested in how Carmine got this little 'perk'. "Well, his recruiter told him that the Army had their quota filled for the next three years. He's safe for three years. After that, they'll send him, but he's done after three years." I knew from personal experience, recruiters will lie like rugs until you sign all the paperwork. I couldn't stand to burst their bubble. They seemed like awfully nice people, but we did exchange e-mail addresses, because I sure as heck want to see how this story plays out.
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The festivities began with an 'insurgent vehicle' driving on to the field, amidst explosions and colored smoke bombs. Ominous rock music blared over loudspeakers. Suddenly, our troops burst on to the field and began firing weapons with blanks. We were assured that our children, these soldiers assure success in the war on terrorism. People cheered and stomped their feet up and down on the bleachers. Man, it was a great day to be a patriot.
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I felt like I was the only one in the whole crowd to have this one thought flash through my mind: "This is not real."
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Am I proud of Stacey? Oh, yes. All of them. They all worked so hard. But in the hot sun at Fort Jackson, watching the graduation of Company F, First Battalion, 34th Infantry, saluting my country's flag, awash in my own memories, caught up in the throngs of the cheering patriots, all the 'Hoo-ah!', I felt a little sick. Now I've got a kid in it. Now it's personal. And I felt afraid. And my own military training came in handy yet again, because my fear did not show.

I'm baaaaaaack!

Bags to unpack, phone calls to return, messages to respond to, laundry to do, but I am back.
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I saw a road killed bob cat in West Virginia, veins of black coal ribboning through the mountainsides exposed when a path was blasted through them for the highway. I saw an woman who must have been 70 or 80 years old waitressing at a small mountain restaurant, and I wondered why, but she seemed happy as could be. A southern granny walking with her grandaughter shocked me when she spit a stream of tobacco juice. I smelled jasmine again, and heard myself talking southern with another elderly lady working in a a little dollar store. (Some bimbo left her sunglasses at home, not being used to summer sun yet). I used to live in the south, and had a southern accent, lost it after living life as a yankee, and then, to my surprise, heard myself say 'faaaaahr' for 'fire'. Tim shot an M-16 and missed once out of ten shots. He threw a hand grenade three times and hit his target three times. He enjoyed playing Army very much. His twisted back (scoliosis) never allowed him to enlist, but I think that he would have liked it very much. I discovered that as I passed an officer, still, after nearly 20 years out, my arm still started up to salute before I caught myself and adjusted my bra strap instead.
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Stacey was glad basic was done, we had a great time, lots to do, lots to say. It was a nice trip. Will write more later.
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PS...I hate not being able to center my posts. Blogspot, if you're listening, this stinks.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

I'm up at the crack of dawn, and as soon as I heist myself from this chair, I will be off and running. I've got 13 traps to pull, bugs to sort and count, and samples to ship to Harrisburg. I've also got two classes on trees to teach. Yesterday, I worked from 7 til 6. My job is not usually this frantically paced, but I'm trying to get all my work done because we are going to Fort Jackson, SC to see Stacey graduate from boot camp. We will have 48 hours with her before she heads off to Fort Gordon, GA for her advanced training.
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It's strange, this getting only the smallest chance to be with your child. Brianna's 36 hours. When Dylan made it home from Allentown for Easter, we had a three day weekend. He was back out the door and heading home before the dishes were cleared from Easter dinner. Mike works shift work, so we get our glimpses of him when he stops in as he's passing by for whatever reason. It's so exciting to see them, and then, just as quickly as they came, they are gone again.
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I wonder sometimes if we managed to use our time with them wisely. Do they leave knowing they are loved? Do they know how much the 'old' folks look forward to these visits? I also find myself thinking about the exasperating child we do see on a daily basis. The one that won't help around the house unless she is made to. The one that will not speak in a civil tone, unless she is made to. My sister says she once heard that teenagers are so perfectly awful so you won't cry so hard when they move away. I guess it's true. Cara's chomping at the bit to head off to college, I'm just about ready for it to happen. And when she's gone, I'll sit in the empty house and wonder. And wait for the next visit home.
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I will be gone from the computer for a few days, celebrating with one of the country's newest soldiers.

Monday, May 5, 2008

No Time

Computer tip:

funny dog pictures
see more dog pictures


I didn't know you could buy Alpo on e-bay....

Friday, May 2, 2008

Misty Water Color Memories...

I should feel ashamed.
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It's been such a week. I'm just weary. I'm working this weekend. It's not such a big deal. I'm making up time. Tim and I are going away at the end of the week to see Stacy's graduation from boot camp. We'll have three days before she leaves for her AIT in Georgia. But I'm dragging, and I'm tired, and I've not had my special coffee for a week. The stressers of the last month, a big project at work, difficult people, personal griefs rising up to bite me in the ass yet again...it goes on, it goes on, it goes on.
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Well today was my day. I think that I crashed and burned. I came home late, pooped, pissed, overwhelmed. Tim said, "I need your help." Cara said, "Please go out for coffee with me." And I looked at two of the people that I love best of all, and I said, "No." I said, "I hardly ever ask for time to myself. I want to be alone."
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Amazingly, here I sit. Alone. I was over at Brummie Blogs and saw her new favorite thing, and began to download music of my own. I am eclectic in my musical tastes, and I've spent an enjoyable evening listening to music that once meant a great deal to me. I hear it again, and am transported to other times. Other places. Faces pop into my mind. Memories sad and glad and long gone. And I see again that my life is a work in progress. I see where I've been, where I'm headed, not at all sure where I'll end up. (At least in a figurative sense. I'm pretty sure where I'll wind up literally...I'll grow old on a mountain in Pennsylvania.) So the physical blends with the spiritual, what was blends with what is and it all becomes a swirling miasma of life.
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We cannot guess how we touch the lives of others. I think about a being a child riding in my parents' car, making myself small in the backseat, listening to my father bellowing obscenities, my mother crying, and I looked out the window and I saw a woman on the front porch of her house, shaking rugs. And that glimpse raised in me such a hungering to know what the lives of others were like. She never knew it. She never realized what a child had glimpsed that day. I still think of her sometimes. Or the hippie hitch hiker who caught a glimpse of child's joyless ride to hell. My homeward bound school bus sat at the stop sign waiting for traffic, and I looked at him standing there with his long hair blowing wildly. As if he sensed he was being watched, he looked up, directly at me, and gave me the clenched fist salute that symbolized 'power to the people'. After a hesitation, I raised my fist back, and he smiled. My bus pulled out. I still wonder where he is sometimes. I remember once a man walking by me suddenly stared so intently that it frightened me. I gazed back unsure what to say. And he said, "You have the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen." Do my eyes pop into his thoughts sometimes, all these years later, just as my rug shaking woman and the hitch hiking hippie pop into mine? I don't know what it all means, other than we all impact others, in great ways, in small ways. My life swirls into the lives of others, their lives swirl into mine, and suddenly, one woman sitting at a computer finds that the tension is beginning to ease from her bones, her mind is beginning to clear, her spirits begin to raise.
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I am so glad for tonight. Tomorrow, I will work. I will help Tim. I'll go out to coffee with Cara. But tonight, tonight, I'm listening to music, breathing deeply of my years, wrapping myself in the comfort of memories being examined and held up to the light for the first time in a long, long time.
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Aaaaah, God! life is rich and it is wondrous...

Well, I Never!

I never had five straight Mondays in a row before.
I've never gone without my morning cup for a week straight before.
Coincidence?
I don't think so.
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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Disgrace

I heard it on the radio today driving to work. One of the officers of a local youth organization was arrested, under suspicion of taking money from the same organization. I was dumbstruck. I was an officer in the same organization. I don't mind helping anybody, but the meetings were basically two groups of parents at war. I bowed out of that pretty quickly.
Life is just too short.
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I know the woman. She's very active in many organizations, known for her unflagging devotion to the cause, known for her untiring works, known for her love of the kids. Everyone called her 'Mama'. All of that is lost. No matter what she does from this point on, people will remember her for stealing from the kids.
Stealing a lot from the kids.
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What does a person think when they are taking money that is not theirs?
What does a person think when they are molesting a child?
Behaving hatefully?
How do they justify this in their mind?
I just don't 'get it'.
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I think about what motivates me. I know that I love people. I know that I love God. I know this one thing for sure. Although I am not perfect, my goal is always to behave honorably, regardless of the situation. I'm not afraid of going to hell. When I die though, I'd like people to remember good about me.
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I pray on the way to work. For her. For her kids.
I pray for myself, too: 'Please God, let me never fall short.'

On fire

We've had some dry weather here as we move into summer. There was a bad brush fire on the hill where I grew up. It started on my uncle's property. He explained it to my sister in law: "I was playing computer games, and I kept thinking I smelled something burning, but I thought it was just me..."
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I would have gotten up from the computer even faster if I thought it was me burning.
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I guess I'm a little weird like that.