Saturday, November 8, 2014


This has been an unprecedented length of time away from blogging. Tim is slated for surgery on December 3rd for his shoulder. He's on furlough and although he hasn't gotten his intended 'to-do list' ticked off to his satisfaction, it strikes me that in a way, this has been an answer to a personal prayer for me. Sounds awful doesn't it? I'm not glad in any way that Tim has hurt himself so badly, but the fact of it is that he is a busy man who does not stop. I am a woman looking to ~what?~ not stop altogether, but to make regular stops, to smell the roses, to think, to spend time with my husband, all of those things. I seem to notice a ticking clock that he is not aware of.

Now he has fallen off a ladder. In truth, it was a very small ladder, so small that it qualifies more as a step stool than a ladder. And he has hurt himself badly. Which has translated to this: there are a lot of things that Tim cannot do right now. He is ever resourceful and manages to keep busy with any number of small jobs, but he spends a lot more time a home. 

In that time together, we find ourselves studying each other once again. This morning, I ran my hand across his stubbly face and found myself thinking, 'How long has it been since I just looked into my husband's eyes?' 

Feels like forever. 

He's got another month off on his furlough, and then surgery, which will put him on another three months off. 

I'm looking forward to this time.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Rise and Fall of Tim

Tim got his furlough, and I'm so everlastingly glad. He'll be around more. We'll see more of each other. It'll give us a chance to see if we can live on one income, while still providing a safety net (he'll be called back to work before the end of the year).

He's all excited because it gives him a chance to focus on these renovations he's got going on at three different addresses.

Today was the first day of his furlough.

He celebrated in a big way. He fell off a ladder.

Answer: not sure yet. He won't go to the hospital.

Late Edit: Thanks, Anna for scaring Tim straight to ER. Looks like a rotator cuff tear. Pain pills (which I know that he won't take) and a sling (which he doesn't think he needs). 

Saturday, October 4, 2014


Tonight, I got home from work, and William was ready for bed. I got him in his dinosaur pajamas and he was hopping around all full of beans. I managed to get him tucked into bed with the promise of a story from his book of fairy tales, this time about Hansel and Gretel.

When I was done with that, he wanted another book, so he scampered out of his bed and over to his bookshelf and selected a book with multiple Disney characters and a winter theme. So I read about Lightning MacQueen inviting another car to go sliding in the snow, Wall-E thinks Eve looks like a beautiful snowman, Nemo and his friends talk about an underwater winter. Basically an advertisement for multiple Disney movies. But it was short. We got to the last page and 'Mater was singing "Let it tow, let it tow, let it tow..." I sang it with gusto, and William laughed out loud.

"That is not the way the song goes, Gwandma!" I was a little amazed. I couldn't see how he could have remembered singing "let it snow, let it snow, let it snow" from LAST Christmas. "How DOES it go, William?" I said, interested to find out what he remembered. He flung his arms outward and bellowed, "Let it GO, let it GOOOOOO...."


BTW, it did snow today, briefly. It is cold. Summer faded quickly into autumn, and winter's waiting impatiently to make her debut.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Special moment

Today was another busy day, but it does, for the first time, feel as if there is a glimmer of hope that we're turning a corner. I hope so. I really hope so. In any case, there were a lot less angry people today, which was a relief.

In any case, I was working away when a very elderly couple made their way to the register. Watching them, I saw right away that the woman had some serious cognitive loss, but her husband stood at her side and waited patiently as she tried to explain to me what she wanted. I asked my questions, and waited for her to answer them, which she was able to do.

I looked at the lady behind her, and saw no impatience on her face, so I continued to be patient with my customer. She couldn't remember how to swipe her credit card. She was puzzled at the buttons. All kind of small confusions, but we talked through it, and we got the job done. In the end, she fixed me with a look, and thanked me for being so patient with her. "Between the two of us, we got it figured out just fine!" I said.

When the lady behind them approached the counter, I started to say, "I want to thank YOU for your graciousness!" At the same time she said, "Thank you! That was just beautiful to watch."

We looked at each other, and smiled. That couple gave two people a special moment today.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

LIfe is for Learning

William is adjusting to a new schedule. Preschool lets out at 2. It's a little too late for a nap (unless you want him up extra late that night...), but that is contrasted against exhausted and dramatic meltdowns. Not a fun time to be in charge of William.

After several meltdowns at the playground, I'd had enough. "William," I said in a very no nonsense tone of voice, "it's time to go home. You need a nap."

The screaming became high pitched and prolonged. "Noooooooooooo!~ Don't WAAAAAAAAAANNTTT to take a nap." He stood there stamping his foot, his face perfectly illustrating a temper tantrum.

"Yes," I said very firmly. "Do we throw temper tantrums at the playground? *shook my head sadly* No, William, we do not. It is time to go home." He refused to come. I had a choice. I could have physically picked him up, but I know where his priorities are. I walked over to his bike and began to push it up the hill. He loves his bike, and he wasn't letting THAT out of his sight.

The screaming got closer and louder as he scooted up behind me. I snapped his helmet on, and I helped him attach his bat to the handle bars and off we went, William still screaming.

Once we got home, William made his way to the livingroom still sobbing. "I don't WANT to take a nap. I want to go to the playground..." and by the point, I'd simply given up trying to reason. He climbed up on the couch sobbing mightily, and kicked whilst I tried to get his shoes off. He lay down and nearly instantly, there was silence.

I left him sleep for 45 minutes, and he was a crank pot about being awakened. I tried to orchestrate his day around bedtime. He ate a big supper. After we cleaned up from supper, we watched a few Halloween music videos on you-tube.

William has 1001 books. Almost as soon as he was born, I bought a book of fairy tales, a beautiful book with gilt edged pages and rich and detailed illustrations. I never realized that William did not know the story of the three bears, and he studied the pictures agog with excitement. Goldilocks was finally asleep in baby bears bed when out of the window, William spied the three bears returning from their walk. "Oh NO!!" he exclaimed excitedly. And then he said, "Do we go into bears' houses? *shakes head sadly*" He answered himself. "No," he said. "We do NOT go into da bears' houses."

Life lessons are everywhere.

PS the little booger did not want to go to bed on time that night.

Friday, September 26, 2014

I studied the words closely, a little shocked. It has been so very long that I don't think on things much anymore. I think that everyone wants a perfect family, but not everyone is blessed with that.

When I posted about my friend's dying sister, I received this comment. "Beloved sister, what happened to your other brother and sister? Don't they meet your expectations?"

I could feel the cutting sarcasm from the e-mail. I wondered if it made "Anonymous" feel better to send it, vindicated maybe. I don't know. But what I do know is that when you've stepped away from an angry family, well, words like that lose a lot of sting. It simply ceases to matter.

Stepping away from an angry family is a tough decision, but in the end, it is the decision that I made. That decision has brought me peace. I am comfortable with my choices.

My answer to you, "Anonymous" is that in the end, what matters is love. I am loved. I'm glad that you are too. Live a good life.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Tim's company is having a slow time which is scheduled to pick up after the first of the year. They offered 'furloughs' to those who want to take it. Two month furloughs. There is no pay involved, but they will keep his health insurance up to date. Tim called me at break to ask what I thought.

This is what I thought. We have been working brutally hard, both of us. It feels like we never see each other, because we work different shifts. If he's not at work, or I'm not at work, we've got other work going on. I'm tired. I know he's tired. We've got two major rehabs going on, with a third one in the works. I said, "Take it Tim. Take a break. We'll be careful with money. We both need some together time."

I think that he was a little shocked at my quick answer. The goal has been right along for me to continue work, and for him to quit work and work at the houses full time. Two months will be a very good chance to see how close we are to that goal.

I am also very much looking forward to spending time with my husband.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


I meet hundreds of people in a day, one right after another. There is no time to talk, not really. Sometimes people recognize me and want to talk. "How's your daughter doing?" they will ask. And I will assure them that she's fine, but really, if I stopped to talk, the people standing in line behind would probably riot.

That's the way it is in this job. People stopping in to pick up a prescription on their lunch break, or before work, whatever, and they don't have time to wait. Unfortunately this is a transition time for my store. New people have been hired to replace the seasoned staff that left en masse, due to a conflict w/ corporate. So we are not as efficient as the staff we are replacing. There is a learning curve with the job, and we're all trying to negotiate that curve as best we can, but people are often angry and impatient.

I try to be as kind as I can, and as quick as I can, and once again, I realize the importance of a kind word. A customer was blasting me for the store's inefficiency. A very elderly man stood behind her watching in amazement. I apologized profusely. Repeatedly. But that is not what the woman wanted to hear. She wanted to vent her spleen, and so I let her, and then I moved on to the next customer.

The elderly man approached the counter, and leaned forward, making eye contact, and said with a faint accent, "You do a good job. You remember that. You do a good job, and this is NOT your fault." I've always known this, but once again, I realized the importance of kindness. I patted his hand and said, "Thank you. Sometimes it is good to be reminded." He said no more, but we completed the transaction and he went on his way.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Time of Their Lives.

Still very busy here. It is a pivotal time to be coming on board with the company. It is sometimes stressful, always busy, but as always, when you work with the public, there are stories.

I saw two women waiting for their prescription. Turns out they were picking up for their sister. She had a number of prescriptions, but when I set them all on the counter, the two sisters put their heads together and said, "No..." and "No..." and "Doesn't need this one..." etc. etc. There was a lot of emotion that I wasn't quite understanding, but of all of the prescriptions, they found the powerful pain killers, and that is what they wanted.

One of the sisters stared at me and asked, "You're Debby, right..." and I stared right back at the vaguely familiar face and in the lines, I recognized an old friend. I greeted her warmly, and her eyes began to fill up. Her sister was dying. They had just found out that very morning. She had weeks to live. Her maintenance prescriptions were no longer necessary. Her sister was dying.

I was at a loss of what to say. I never know what to say in times like that. My eyes got teary too, and I could only say, "Oh, I am so terribly, terribly sorry!"

She smiled through all those tears, and she said, "We're going to the beach. We're headed out this very day. My brothers and sisters are already down there waiting for us. She wants very badly to go, and we couldn't think of a single reason to tell her no."

I told my friend that I was so glad that she was able to have this time with her sister. "I hope that you all have the time of your lives," and she assured me that this was the plan.

Later, restocking the medications back in the quiet storage area, I took a moment to pray for them, all of them, and I cried a little too. It is a marvelous gift to have such a close knit family that you wanted nothing more than to spend your final days surrounded by them, immersed in the love of your family.

Then I took a moment to pray to God for my own beloved sister.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


Tim was spending some quality time with William while Brianna and I were both at work. When I came home from work, William was very excited. When he gets excited, he tends to talk a blue streak. When he gets VERY excited, you can hardly keep up with him. He wanted to tell me all about Spooky-Eeky, and he babbled on about a scar on a head, and a scary face, and suddenly he dropped to all fours, made big eyes and started turning his head back and forth slowly, blabbing away.

I watched him, incredulously. "Spooky-Eeky?" I said, trying to get a handle on what he was talking about. 

"Yes!" he answered. 

"Who told you about THAT?" I asked. Tim is not a scary movie person, or a scary story person, or a scary anything person, but sure as anything, William, still on all fours with his back up in the air, his eyes wide and his head turning back and forth slowly, said excitedly, "Yep. I go wif grandpa and I see Spooky-Eeky, and he is very scary..." 

Boy. This did not sound like Tim, but I yelled for him anyway. He came into the living room. "He's talking about Spooky-Eeky, and saying YOU took him to see him. What the heck is he talking about? What the heck is he doing?" and between us, William stood there on all fours with his back arched and his head slowly turning back and forth with his eyes bugging out of his head. 

Tim stared in total amazement listening to William babble on, his words running all together in his excitement. "Where on earth did you take him?" I demanded, and Tim said, "Well we went to Lowes...." His eyes got big and he burst out laughing.

"You know what he's doing?" he asked me, laughing loudly. 

"No, not a clue," I said.

And William continued to talk, his head turning back and forth, his arched back, on all fours.

Tim said, "They have their Halloween displays up. They had a skull that lit up and laughed, and a witch, giant pumpkins. William's favorite was a giant black cat with an arched back. He had great big wide eyes and his head moved back and forth." 

"William," I asked, "are you a cat?" 

And William answered, "Yes. I am a cat, and my name is Spooky-Eeky..."

Sunday, August 24, 2014


There has not been a lot of time for writing. I'm busy, but enjoying meeting people. I'm beginning to realize that I was probably dealing with depression for the last year. It's one of those things that you scarcely realize how deep and black the pit was until you begin to climb out of it.

In any case, I have enjoyed interacting with people again. Since I deal with names, I recognize many of them, and look up to see faces that I haven't seen in years. I've met four of my old teachers from high school. A professor from college. She told me that she still goes to the library to read my column, which came as a surprise to me, given our history.

A middle aged man was picking up a prescription for a woman. He was a plain faced working man, tall and pleasant. I mistakenly assumed that he was picking up for his wife, and referred to him as Mr. -----. He quickly said, "Oh. I'm not Mr. -----. I'd give anything if I was." He got a confused look on his face and said, "Well. I guess that I mean that I'd give anything if she was Mrs. xxxx. (providing what was evidently his own name). A little surprised at the turn of events, I said, "Well, have you asked her?" and he said, "Oh, yes." He sighed. He said, "It's complicated." I patted his arm in a comforting way when I gave him his package. "Good luck to you," I said. And I continued putting packages away. wondering about a man who is not afraid to confess his love to a total stranger in a crowded pharmacy. That's sweet.

I met the mother of a girl that I played with in elementary school and she remembered me as soon as I said my little girl name. My childhood friend from all those years ago just became a grandmother for the first time.

An extremely elderly couple came slowly through the store, she a tiny thing hunched over her walker, her husband tall and very thin, standing ramrod straight behind her. She stopped frequently to greet people, to tell a small child how beautiful she was. He smiled and listened as if he never got tired of seeing the world through her eyes. And by the time they reached the counter, I loved them already. Retrieving their prescriptions and chatting with the two of them, I rang them up, and handed the bag to the gentleman. "Would you mind carrying the bag for milady?" They both laughed out loud and he answered, "I think that's why she keeps me around."

I've met grumpy people. Angry people. Sick people. Relatives. Friends. Readers. I talked to them all, and tried to send everyone off with a good word. And in those small interactions, repeated one right after another, for 8 hours, 9 hours, 10 hours, even 12 hours, I feel like I am rediscovering something about myself that I'd forgotten.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014



I'm treading water at a furious pace, but so far am keeping my nose above the surface. Yay me!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Checking in

New job going well. I'm currently working 50 hours a week, dividing my time between two jobs (one full time, one part time), taking on-line courses in my off time. I have commuted an hour and a half to training and and hour and a half back from training twice in the last two weeks.

I've been busy. Not a lot of time for writing, but things are great.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Ghost Stories

My little town is having a Civil War historical event. There soldiers in costumes. There is (erg) a reenactment of a civil war amputation. Apparently, that is a big draw. There is historically accurate music from the era. All sorts of stuff going on.

I am part of the 'ghost walk'. We'll be speaking from different sites in town. I'm speaking from the site of the former Fifth St cemetery, which was the official town cemetery for forty years, until everyone was dug up and moved to the new cemetery up on the hill. 

That old cemetery is behind my house. I love looking up this sort of material. It is fun. 

Here is the story that I will tell:

Up until the year 1823, Warren had no official cemetery. Graves were simply scattered up and down the river bank. An acre was donated from the Jackson farm, but the graves were usually unmarked, or marked by primitive monuments that sadly lacked permanence.

This means that a great many graves were ‘lost’, including the grave of Warren’s very first settler, John Gilson who died in 1811.

When his widow, Patience Gilson died at age 70, on April 4th of 1823, she was buried near the river in a hurriedly cleared gravesite. However, this time, the city of Warren made the decision to purchase two lots in the area of what is now East and 5th St. At the time, if you can imagine it, this was considered ‘remote’ and ‘rural’ and distant enough from the few settlers scattered along the bank of the Conewango river to not cause a problem for them.

A work bee was held and a number of citizens came to help enlarge the clearing from Mrs. Gilson’s new grave, and to create the municipal cemetery.

One of those workers was a high spirited man named Eli Granger. He called ‘dibs’ on a peaceful grave site beneath a hickory tree with a sweet glimpse of the peaceful river rolling by. “This is my spot,” he laughed repeatedly. “This is where you bury me,” he called out to other workers. He went so far as to charge Judge Hackney and Zachariah Eddy, two other of the local citizenry, to insure that he was buried in ‘his’ spot. Within the matter of a few weeks he had drowned in the Conewango Creek. His sad friends ensured that he was buried in ‘his’ spot. He was the first to be buried in the cemetery.

The story of the second person to be buried in the cemetery is no less riveting. Caleb Wallace was murdered. Jacob Hook was a local business man, the owner of vast expanses of timber and 5 sawmills along the Allegheny River. Now Jacob was having a rough week, on the receiving end of multiple lawsuits, including one in which he was accused of lying on the stand. A very ruthless man with a very questionable character. But he was also very wealthy.

One of the lawsuits brought against him was by an employee who accused Mr. Hook of not paying his wages. Both men were convinced that their position was right. A deputy was sent with a warrant for Jacob Hook’s arrest, but Mr. Hook arrogantly refused to accompany the deputy, saying that he’d been into Warren every single day that week, and that the law would simply have to wait until the following week.

This went over like the proverbial lead balloon, and the deputy came back to Warren to form a posse and headed out once again to forcibly remove Jacob Hook from his home. Jacob Hook decided he wasn’t going, and the posse laid siege to his house. Jacob Hook booby trapped his front door with a loaded musket set to go off when the door opened. Young Caleb Wallace was the unfortunate young man. He was almost immediately dead when the musket ball pierced his chest.

Caleb Wallace aged 28 joined Eli Granger in 5th St cemetery, the second person to be buried in the new municipal cemetery, joining Eli Granger. 

Jacob Hook turned himself into authorities the next day. Because the posse was not formed legally, he got away with murder. The prosecuting attorney was so very critical of the verdict that one of the jurors hung himself.

Of course there was a third person to be buried in the cemetery, and a fourth, and so on and so on and so on. It is the way of life. Each person who was buried in this cemetery had their own story. Unfortunately, due to the poor record keeping, we don’t have an accurate count of people buried here. There generally were no monuments, so the graves were poorly marked.

The cemetery was moved to the present day Oakland cemetery in 1863. Well. They tried. But with no monuments, no records, well…

Be it sufficient to say that there is a house behind Water St that required some repair. When the section of old basement wall was pulled away, the remains of a very old grave were discovered behind it. I’ve no doubt that there are others. Step carefully, my friends, lest your careless feet stir up something more than dust."

I think the story turned out very well, and I am proud of it. I have my long black skirt and my shawl. I have my kerosene lamp. The telling starts at 9 PM. I hope it doesn't rain, but the thunder rattling across the sky will lend a certain mystery to the old stories told by lamp light. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Finding my footing

Cara is now in Afghanistan. After a rough start, I am pretty much settled in with the new reality. Not exactly comfortable with it. I am not sure how to describe it, but it is what it is. The fact that four days after she got there, the airport she flew into was attacked by militants was a big shock. She blithely reported back that it was 'nothing to worry about', and that five of the militants had been killed. 3 days after that there was a suicide bombing on a military outpost. Once again, upsetting to me, 'nothing to worry about' to her. There have been stories of begging women, and the story of a bedraggled and thin little girl who begged Cara to be allowed to shine her shoes made me cry for days. These things affect Cara, I think, but she also realizes that the best that she can do is to help educate the women who will (hopefully) go into this hard place and begin to change it. 

I have been quietly coming to grips with this, and have had two very amazing God moments that have provided me with great comfort. 

Not so comforting are the people who rally around me and say, "Have faith. He will bring Cara safely home." I just smile and try not to reply because my answer would be, "You know, Christian men and women have died over there. No matter how hard a mother prays, that is not a guarantee that God will bring my girl back to me." It makes it sound as if God exists to do our bidding, or worse yet, if something were to happen, I could take it to heart that it was MY fault for not praying with enough faith. I'm impatient with that thinking. I have not felt that amount of irk since the days of cancer when well meaning people would tell me to have faith and God would heal me. I try very hard to keep still and love the people who care enough to try to comfort me and ease my mind. 

Meet Maki. Now Mack. Picture above is from an NPR report (

Cara adopted him after going to play with some of the animals there. He will be coming home in a week. The story of their meeting is as follows: Adoption is currently pending for Mack (Maki).  We met early this morning, had a chat about potentially becoming a family, and seemed to come to a mutual agreement.  Mack made a bee line for me when I walked in the door, and cried when I walked out of the cattery.  He should be home with his new kitty mom by next Saturday.  After falling in love with the big galug, I was informed that Mack had recently been on an NPR post.  He is the orange cat featured in the slide show.

I am not sure why this news is such a comfort to me, but it is. 

Oh, and PS: I have a new job that offers me a very exciting opportunity to learn a new trade and become nationally certified. On their dime. To have someone see something in you that warrants such an offer is pretty validating and I am more grateful than words can say. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hard to swallow.

So, Cara has less than 96 hours in country. Really, I've been being pretty brave about it. Praying. Leaving it in God's hands. Etc. etc. I told someone it's like putting on a 'faith face' and praying like crazy that at some point your heart will fall in line.

Been doing okay. Not great. I get those moments where my wheels wobble, but so far I've managed to keep that to myself. Well. Except for when I got sharp with Tim because he wanted to talk about business stuff,  and I. Want. To. Have. This. Precious. Time. With. Cara. I have no choice but to work right now and that is hard, but I can only keep on keeping on, and when I get home, I want to savor every bit of the time we do have. The business stuff can wait for four freaking days. But Tim needs to be told stuff like this. It never occurs to him if I don't tell him. It's just his nature. He is a good man, but the emotional stuff will remain (always) a great mystery to him.

But really, I think that I've done a pretty good job about keeping any fears to myself, other than the night I got sharp tongued with my poor husband.

Today, it hit me. I'm not going to be able to send her letters. I had this idea. Letters were an integral part of it. Sending a letter to Kabul is going to be between $40 and $86.

There's e-mail. And there's e-cards. But no letters.

For some reason that is killing me.

If anybody out there knows how to accomplish this cheaper, I'd surely be interested in talking to you.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

July 4th.

We had a busy July 4th weekend. Parade on Friday (video put together by Les Vanderhoof), and then Dylan and Brittani pulled in that night.

We decided to have a bonfire, and Cara said, "Would Tim be mad if we got a couple six packs of beer?"

I was surprised by the question. "No," I answered. "Why would he be?" Tim is a teetotaler but we have always had wine at the holidays, etc.

Dylan got a look of shock on his face. "Well," he said, "things have certainly changed around here!"

I said, "What? What are you talking about? He doesn't care if you have a beer."

And Dylan said, "That is NOT what you said when I asked."

"What? When did you ask about beer?"

And Dylan said, "I was 16, I think."

It felt good to sit by a fire and laugh with my kids.

It felt so good, well, don't you know, we did the exact same thing the next night at my sister's house, surrounded by nieces and nephews. Plus there were fireworks.

It was a great weekend, and I am sorry it is over.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Bush Babe

Stop on over to my friend BB's place. She could use an encouraging word.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Today we walked down to put in a shelf for a tenant. We blabbed for a while, and then came back up the street. We admired Angela's garden, and we looked for Mr. M, but he wasn't front porch sitting today. He's usually good for a friendly chat. An elderly, very thin man was sitting on HIS front porch though, and we called out a cheery hello even as I pointed a plant out on the other side of the street. "Tim," I said, "I'd like to have some of this at our house," even as Tim mused, "I think we had that stuff around the lamp post at the brick house, but it did not come back this year." Just chit chatting and walking along.

Suddenly, I heard, "Tim! Hey, Tim!" and we turned around to see the elderly man had come off front porch. Now these are interesting people, and I know that the woman herself has approached us about doing work for us. She likes to interior decorate. I had told her, "Well, really, we don't need a lot of interior decorating in a rental unit. The tenants do that for themselves, but thank you," and she headed back across the street to that neat as a pin front porch.

We stopped as the man approached us. He had noticed that we could use some weeding help. We could, actually. It's been so gosh darn rainy and between working at work, and taking care of William, and working at the brick house, well...sometimes things like weeding get moved down on the priority list. Turns out that he's been asking for work from Tim quite regularly.

Tim said, cautiously, "How much will you be charging us?" and the man mused and said, "$10? I just need something to stay busy." I imagine that Tim wanted to kick my tail when I said, "No. We'll pay you $20." It's hot and humid, and that's a considerable amount of work for $10. A couple hours, easy. Fair's fair.

So the man accompanied us home. Tim did not want him to use power tools, fearful of his frailty, and the possibility of injury, but the man went to work with a spade and a hoe. I took him out a tall glass of ice water, and I could see that he was winded. "Hey," I said, "you know, if it is too hot this afternoon, you don't have to do this right now. You can come back." He decided to do that and told me that he'd be back tomorrow. "Are you home all day?" he asked, and I said, "No, but you can do the work any time you want. I don't have to be here."  I gave him the $20.

Tim didn't say anything, but I could see that he would have done it differently. I watched the man carefully bag up the yard waste, and return the tools to the back porch. He went off down the street.

Tim and I are two very blessed people. Being generous is important to us, so the $20 is not a big deal, not really. This man will either come back or he won't. It is as simple as that. Either way, we will soon discover what his true character is.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pointless Post

How long ago was it, that I wrote about this day? 5 years? It does not seem possible. In those five years, I have gotten to know the woman in the little red truck somewhat better. I worked with her sister, I go to the same church that they all do now. I enjoyed lunch with their mother. That is life in a small town.

I knew that her husband had been diagnosed with cancer earlier this spring, but they are such a cheerful couple, and it seemed like one of those cancers that was inconvenient perhaps, but highly treatable. I thought that it was nothing.

Tonight in a facebook post, I saw that he was in surgery. "I must have missed something," I commented. "I didn't know. Prayers!" Just a few minutes ago, I saw the words. "Jim is a very sick man and has a tough battle ahead. I love my guy."

I messaged her, and prayed for the two of them and their family. Outside the rain hisses against the street and the house. The thunder rumbles and the lightning flashes and I am reminded again that life comes with no guarantees. Sometimes the lightning strikes.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

This sucks.

I may have spent the best $2.00 of my life today. We had to stop by one of the rentals to grab some drywall tools, and I happened to see a yard sale across the street. Tim said, "Go ahead over there and see if they have anything we need." At about the same time, my eyes fell upon a bright green vacuum sweeper. We use these at work, for quick pickups, and they are great. I figured with all the hardwood floors, it would come in handy. The $2.00 price tag made it simply irresistable.

So I bought it, and set it in the front seat of the truck and thought no more about it. I spent the day at the brick house stripping wallpaper, scraping up tile floors, and basically doing what needed doing as Tim and Bill, our hired guy worked hard mudding drywall and planning out the kitchen (we picked up the custom cabinets today).

We got home, and Tim grabbed the vacuum out of the truck and brought it in. William saw it and said, "What you got for me, Grampa? You buy a little vacuum for me?" It made me laugh. I plugged it in and let him vacuum the bathroom. When I took it to get some spots he missed, he began to cry. "It is MY little green vacuum, Gramma!" I gave it back and set him to work in the hall. When he reached the end of his cord, I unplugged it, and he howled some more. He's vacuumed the kitchen. He's vacuumed the hall. He's vacuumed the livingroom twice, and just now decided he needs to vacuum the library.

It's kind of like having a roomba.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Wedding

As usual, LOTS going on here. So very much. More later as things unfold, maybe. Hopefully? Dunno.

It's a full week after the wedding, and the wedding was beautiful. The weather was beautiful. The ceremony was beautiful. The bride was beautiful. The...well...okay. Maybe I'm a little biased here. But it was a sweet ceremony.

Brittani and Dylan picked this trellis out, and we bought it for them as their wedding gift. We all liked the idea that such an integral part to the wedding will become a part of their home.

The best man is on the right. It is Brittani's brother Adam. Dylan and Adam were best friends. Dylan happened to meet his sister. He liked her a lot, but chose not to get involved because he was afraid it would wreck a friendship if it did not work out. As part of the wedding toast, Adam remembered when Dylan finally came to him and said, "Listen. Dude, would it be a problem if I dated your sister?" Adam's response was, "Dylan...we are going to pretend that we did not have this conversation." The fellow on the right is Jim, my sister Anna's boy. There are a ton of stories that I could tell you about this guy.

Brittani and her two flower girls (her nieces). One of them came down the aisle carrying a sign that said, "Here comes the Bride" On the way up the aisle, the sign was turned. It read, "...and they lived happily ever after..." So cute!

A better look at that beautiful smile and the eyes that my son promised to fall in love with again every single day of his life.

Brianna and William, who was the ring bearer and did a pretty good job of it. I promised him a party with cake if he helped Dylan and 'Aunt Bwitt-nee'. Which is probably why he got up front with his little pillow and began to say, "Where Aunt Bwitt-nee???" Several times. Insistantly. Because he was a little worried that she was going to screw up that whole cake thing for him.

More of the cute signage.

Saying their vows. The groom promised to rub her feet at the end of a long day, and to always laugh at her jokes even if they were the only two people in a crowded room laughing. She promised to watch football with him, and to always cheer for his team, even though they both knew that the team would lose. The ceremony was unabashedly romantic, and sweetly funny all at the same time, which perfectly reflected the nature of the bride and groom.

They are pronounced man and wife.

It is a terrible shot but a great party. With cake, just like I promised William.

It was such a happy weekend that I hated to see it end. The newlyweds are returning from their honeymoon to Bermuda right this very minute. They snorkeled shipwrecks and cliff dived. They came through the Bermuda Triangle on Friday the 13th under a full moon, and the groom thought that was about the funniest thing ever!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Super Hero bites the Dust

So, today at school there was super hero day, and William helped craft himself a red cape with a "w" on the back of it. "Super William" enjoyed that cape something awful and spent the day leaping tall building blocks with a single bound, being 'bwave'. He kept a eye peeled for anyone who might need 'wescued', and like all the best super heroes, he used the potty.

After work, William had supper with me, and he still had on his red cape with the big W on the back. He wore it to the brick house to do some work.

I shoveled for a time, but it was not long before Super William was pretty upset with the black flies outside, and so we came indoors. As I worked on some wallpaper removal, he noticed a spider web and began to get emotional about it.

I tried to appeal to him from a whimsical standpoint. "Do you see the very busy spider in that web?" He said, "No. The spider is hiding. It is going to get me." I assured him that it would not. He assured me that it would. Finally, from atop my ladder, I said, "Super heroes don't cry about spiders!" in an incredulous voice.

I looked down at him as he pondered this in a considering sort of way. He looked up at me and said very matter of factly, "I don't want to wear my cape anymore. I don't like it."

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A day that would make a preacher swear...

What a day. What a DAY! WHAT a daaaaaaaaaaay.

It started out with that subpoena I received last night. I went to the district magistrate's office, as per the instructions. The lady there said, "Well, we sent these out with the wrong address. You're supposed to be at the court house, sorry about that," and went on talking to the other woman.
I really try not to be grumpy, but I hopped back into my car and hightailed it over to the courthouse, and there was a sure and certain grumpiness starting.

I walked into the courthouse which is a huge building, with no idea where I was supposed to be. Luckily, I met the sheriff who gave me good instructions. I got to where I was supposed to be just in the nick of time and discovered that a friend was handling things. "Laurie," I said, "I hate to be a whiner, but I am not happy about this. I received this when I got home from work last night at 6 pm, and that is pretty short notice." Her eyebrows went up and she said, "Well, that is going to be discussed..."

Much to my surprise, it WAS handled and promptly. The police looked at it and took responsibility for their end of it (incorrect phone number was from their dispatch) and the delay in getting it to me was because they had tried to contact me by phone for a week before breaking down and bringing it to my house.

I had called the police on a fight next door that spilled out into the street. A ball bat was being wielded and there was much screaming and swearing. The young man has been in trouble for most of his life, w/ 3 arrests on 9 counts since the beginning of 2014. This time around, he stole money from a girl's hand, took off running, w/ the girl and her boyfriend in hot pursuit. He threatened them with brass knuckles. They returned to their car and called the police, which is when the second debacle happened, with the young man's twin brother getting involved. That is when I called the police. I explained to them that I was not a very good witness and could only testify to the screaming and swearing and the sound of that ball bat thumping and thumping. I did not think it prudent to go outside and investigate.

After all of that, turns out that the public defender had just found out that he had this case just yesterday and needed more time to prepare, so it was continued. I probably will not be called again, which is just fine with me since the whole thing was a waste of my time, really.

I went to work.

Dashed out to pick up my altered dress. Tried it on w/o a full length mirror, since I met her at the firehall where she was working. It felt big, but she assured me that it looked nice. I got home and looked at myself in a full length mirror and cried. I called her, got her answering machine, and resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to spend more money to buy another dress. In what has to be the quickest shopping expedition for a mother of the groom dress, I picked out a dress in the wedding colors and hied back home. In the meantime, the seamstress had called, asking me to return. I did. She made the alterations on the spot, bless her heart. I was correct. She forgotten two seams which were still marked, but unsewn. Now I have two dresses. If it's not raining, it's pouring.

Thrown into that is a gift card that gives you a balance when you call the customer line, but tells you that you have a 0 balance when you try to use it at the store (which is deucedly embarrassing), well, today was about as aggravating a day as you can have.

I got home to discover that my sister had been and gone, and I wanted to sit down and have a cry. If ever was a day when I needed to have a pleasant visit with my sister, well, today was it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


I guess that it just flummoxes me a little bit. I came home from work to discover that I have been subpoenaed. In a case that is being heard tomorrow. At 9 AM.

I'm scrambling around trying to call bosses at home to let them know. Seems like only fair that they should give you a little bit of advance notice on stuff like that.

Monday, June 2, 2014

On death and dying...

My friend was a very private person. When she knew that she was dying, she began to matter of factly set her affairs in order. She sold a rental property to a man that she had come to admire, talking to Tim as he walked briskly up and down the street tending to his own rental properties. She sold her house at an extremely low price, a gift almost, despite the protestations from both Tim and I. She assured us that she had no need of the money and that in the end, it was ridiculous to consider such things. She was dying after all. She would not live long enough to spend the money.

But, the property did come with one 'requirement': To pay it forward.

We did come up with a plan to do just that. Women's issues, environmental issues, and education was very close to her heart, and we have plans.

We bought that house, and as big a blessing as it was to us, she assured us that it was a blessing to her as well. She went forthrightly about her business of disassembling her life, rehoming a dog with issues to the dog whisperer who had wrought the magic touch that transformed him into a good dog. A ceremony in church was held to honor that 'adoption'. Everyone there knew that it was as much about the woman as it was her dog. She was dying. She knew it. We knew it. This was the public admission of it.

Yesterday, we were up and down the street. That house bought from our friend is being gutted and rewired and put back together again. We have two tenants that switched apartments in another building, and we were taking care of small projects there. We were pulling a power washer up the street and talked to a another friend who happened to need a power washer. We made plans to lend her ours. The day unfolded in small chores, with plants to be planted and weeds to be whacked.

In the middle of that sweaty busy-ness, I saw a lady I'd met only a couple of times before. I had a bad feeling when she stopped. "Is it Joan?" I asked. And she smiled. Yes. But she assured me that it had been wonderful, that Joan had spent the day quietly, but that her eyes continually popped open and she would exclaim, "OH!!!" in a delighted voice. No more than that. But the expression on her face, the joy and delight! Those delighted discoveries lasted all day. The three people closest to her remained at her side for the weekend. Finally, they left to shower. Within minutes, alone, she passed quickly, in a business like manner. She died as she lived, guarding her privacy.

I am glad that my friend had such a beautiful passing. I am glad that her day was joyful. I am glad that she lived by her own rules up until the very last breath.

Godspeed, my friend.

Saturday, May 31, 2014


I was driving home from working on the brick house, my mind whirring away on this thing and that thing, like it does. I glimpsed a young girl in her front yard, trying to do cartwheels, being encouraged by a dapper elderly gentleman with white hair and a mustache, who had his hands up over his head and was standing sideways, evidently deep in explanation. She tried again, but it was more like a somersault.

That first cartwheel is scary stuff, a leap of faith, an act of courage, and you could see that she was not happy with her effort as she got to her feet. Grandpa's hands remained in the air, his feet spread, his mouth moving. And then he flipped a perfect cartwheel right there in the yard. The evening sun shone on his white head as he continued in earnest conversation with the child, who watched intently.

It was so unexpected that I laughed out loud.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Story Time

I had a request for a story, and so I went to the classroom shelf to look at the books. We settled on "Suppose You Meet a Dinosaur", which kept the kids well and truly entertained with its rhyming story line "Your shopping cart begins to spin and dings the dino on the shin. She roars a terrifying roar, What do you tell the dinosaur?" Since this is a book on manners, the proper answer is (of course) "I'm sorry."

As I flipped through the books, though, I came to an old one: 'Make Way for Ducklings'. I remembered being seated on a mat for a story time long ago, hearing a teacher reading that story to us. For a woman with a memory like a sieve, I remembered distinctly that I was already familiar with the story having heard Captain Kangaroo reading it. The memory was so clear to me, Captain Kangaroo's quiet voice reading Robert McCloskey's gentle story.

Strange, isn't it? I held that book for a moment, caressing the Caldecott medal embossed on the front and I remembered distinctly what it was like to be five.

My nostalgic moment did not last long. It couldn't. I was surrounded by five year olds who wanted to hear about meeting a dinosaur in a grocery store. I shelved that old book, and I sat down on a mat, and once again, it was story time.
In the end, I guess that I am left with one thing that I know for sure: That there are those in this world who will be drawn to chaos. I don't know why. I don't understand the draw. In the end, though, it is true: they will be drawn to chaos.

No matter how hard you try to save them from this chaos, it cannot be done. The siren song of it is irresistible to them, and like a moth to a flame, they go to it with their eyes wide open. You might well feel that your heart overflows with love for them, but in the end, they will choose what they will choose, and the closer they get to the chaos, the stronger the current. It becomes stronger than your love. Stronger than reason. Stronger than anything really. The thundering of it drowns out your words, threatens to sweep you up as well.

Finally, in the end, it is you that makes the choice: are YOU drawn to the chaos? Will you be swept away too?

I ponder these things in the dark, and quietly, finally, I let go.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Husband comes home from his mother's, clutching an old wooden wall lamp with a very dated water stained shade. I make a disparaging remark to which he replies: "I made this in woodshop," and he turns the lamp this way and that studying the work of his long ago self.

I think of all the things that I hang onto solely for sentimental reasons, things that I am fond of for nothing more than nostalgia, and I wonder, yet again, if I will ever learn to keep my big stupid mouth closed.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cara's news

Cara put a post up on her Facebook: It isn't possible to tell each of you on a first hand basis, but I would like to formally announce my next position. I will be leaving in July to work at the American University of Afghanistan on a one year contract. I will be teaching three sections of first year seminar courses and directing the residence life program. More importantly, I will be working at the only higher education institution in the country that serves women. I look forward to meeting these remarkable students and do understand the dangerous aspects of this work.

She was at home this weekend, and it was a pleasant weekend. We've been having some difficulty communicating lately, but this weekend, once again, we were able to just sit and talk. This has been such a relief to me, I cannot tell you. There is most certainly relief on Cara's part that she has a job, and a good one. There is also, most certainly, an excitement to think that she will be advocating for women in a place where that advocacy is sorely need.

I study her as she talks, and I feel pride, mingled with concern, the gamut of emotions that mothers have felt since the dawn of time. I know that the biggest change happens when people DARE. Cara dares.

Her courage outstrips my own, and I rush along madly behind her, trying to catch up.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Family Bonds

Families bonds can be strong or fragile. I'm not sure what makes them that way.

I've been thinking a lot about that lately. I am not sure what it is that makes my own bonds with my children feel tentative and fragile. I know that I love them.

They are adults now. Cara graduated with her master's degree. Her dream job will take her to Kabul, Afghanistan, but she has a other more certain options that will keep her closer to home.

I have learned to be silent. I remember after Dylan graduated college, recruiters came around to the college, offering huge money to be part of the rebuild in Iraq. It was the time of the public beheadings, and after researching the under reported civilian casualties, I am ashamed to say that I pleaded with him not to go. I also cried. He did not go. Sometimes he talks about that, and the shame comes again. It was not my decision.

This time, mindful of the past, I say one thing to Cara: "You do realize that this is a job that will make you a target of the Taliban?" She tells me about armored vehicles and armed guards. This does not make me feel better, but I say nothing more. It is not my choice and the strongest family bonds will stretch, even to Afghanistan.

Dylan gets married in a few weeks. Family ties have stretched wide to welcome a new member, a lovely woman. I find myself tongue tied and uncertain sometimes, excited about their life and plans, afraid to step too far into unless I be seen as meddling or troublesome.

I have two large pots outside, right now, planted with ferns and white calla lilies, one for each side of the trellis we bought for a wedding present, the one that they will take their vows under. I like the idea that this will go home with them, and for years afterwards, they can look out into their expansive backyard and see it, and remember their special day. The lilies can go on either side of the front porch maybe, or at each side of the garage doors. I don't know.

But I study the shoots every day, willing them to grow faster, and taller. They've only got a month to become flowers. I hope they'll be blooming by then, because I need them to carry a message to my children, to silently whisper: "I love you. I wish every good thing for you."

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mrs Spit.

I have read along with Mrs. Spit for years now. I don't remember how or why I ended up on her blog, but I know that my friend is brave and strong and smart as hell. She is practical. She has a good heart. She also is a truly excellent writer.

It has been a busy time here and I have not had a lot of time to be on the computer. The weather has changed, and I am able to be outside, and there is a William to be entertained and company coming, and thing led to another and...

Last night, after a long well spent week at work, I sat down to a quiet moment with the computer. I clicked on Mrs. Spit's blog, and I began to read, and found myself thinking, 'Whoa. Wait. What?' in complete stupefaction.

My brave, strong, smart as hell, practical, good hearted friend has just found out that she has MS.

Wander over there and encourage her, okay? Maybe you can find the words that I cannot.

Friday, May 9, 2014

And along came a spider...

William and I were at the local dollar store to buy a pile of bouncing, prism-like balls which have rainbow lights inside. I use them at work to keep kids moving and active and throwing. They are tremendously helpful for gross motor skills. So are rolls of brightly colored crepe. I tear off ribbons of them and kids run around the gym screaming and watching their 'flags' flutter out behind them. The local dollar store is a very useful place.

In any case, William was walking with me talking about his plan for macaroni and cheese for supper when suddenly he stopped dead. He saw a very large spider. Huge. Now William has quite a love/hate relationship with spiders. He has masses of toy spiders that he loves. I try to point out how interesting spiders are, and we have read Eric Carle's 'The Very Busy Spider' at least 519 times. We admire any spider webs that we come across, but the fact is, the boy does not like them.

This spider was so large and so still, and it was, as I said, in the middle of the aisle of the store where a great many of his beloved toy spiders have come from, so I don't believe that initially he thought it was real. He walked right up to it and studied it, talking about 'the giant spider' in rapid fire 3 year old chatter. When he began to squat down to inspect it, it suddenly skittered away.

The shock of it nearly caused him to fall on his butt.

Wide eyed, he charged off down the aisle and around the corner, and I heard him saying shrilly, "Lady!!! LAAAADY!!! There is a vewwwwwwy giant spider!! Come ON!! Huwwy up!!!!!! You don't want to miss it!"

Bless her heart, the clerk could have ignored him, but she didn't. She acted as if there were nothing more important in this whole wide world than seeing a very giant spider.

William dragged her back and then pointed the spider out. Quicker than a wink, her sneakered foot shot out and STOMP! the spider was mush.

William was a little shocked by this, standing quite still. When he got his words back he said, "Poor little, vewwy giant spider..."

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Wave

Remember this woman?

I was driving to work this morning, and I stopped at the stop sign at the end of my street. I looked both ways and proceeded. My attention was caught by this woman, sitting on the bench I put there so long ago. I left a couple other gifts, small things, tokens really when I thought of it last fall, but there has been no interaction, no talking, no meeting. I think of her, and then quickly dart over and set a small gift on that bench, and dart back to my own home.

I never thought about it really, and I am ashamed to admit that over the winter, there was no sneaking over to her house, not at all. I continued to see her throughout our long cold winter, sitting on that bench, smoking. She always looks lost in her thoughts.

Today, though, as I drove through the intersection between our two houses, I saw her sitting there, smoking. This time, though, she looked straight at me, and smiled. She waved. I waved back.

Seems like a small thing, but really, it made my day.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Singing a different tune.

William loves to sing. His favorite tune is the Darth Vader theme. Although it has no words, he lustily sings out 'Da da da DA da da da da DAAAA!' It took me a bit to figure it out. It's so repetitive and he was so precise. It never varied. I figured he was trying to sing something. It made me laugh out loud when I finally recognized it. For the record, he also does Chewbacca, a "3CPO", and R2D2 imitations.

So every day we sing. He amazes me with his memory. His current favorite song is 'I've Been Working On The Railroad'. We sing it in the car, and we really belt it out. He really enjoys it, and as soon as we sing it through once, he asks to sing it again.

I caught myself singing with him in the grocery store the other day. Not loud, not like we sing in the car, but he asked to sing, and I absentmindedly sang with him as I picked out fresh fruit.

I realized that a couple people were smiling at me. I was a little surprised to find myself smiling back. I wasn't embarrassed.

I wasn't embarrassed.

For as long as I remember, I've been embarrassed about one thing or another. I've come to accept my extreme self consciousness as just how I am. But I was 56 years old and a couple days ago, I got caught singing in the local Aldi's, and I did not feel embarrassed.

I'm not sure why.

You know, I don't remember singing with my kids. I wish that I had.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Stalking wild food

This weekend, we were able to try a new food. My friend's son had gotten a bear during last fall's hunting season. He had it made into sausage. He gave us a pound of breakfast sausage, and a pound each of Italian and something labeled 'hot'.

The breakfast sausage was a part of a lazy Sunday morning breakfast, along with eggs and toast and orange juice. Brianna was the only one who liked it.

I was a little worried about lunch, but the meat was thawed so I had no choice but to cook it. I just put the two rolls of hot and Italian sausage into a crock pot, and covered them with onions, peppers, garlic, and portabella mushrooms. We went out and took a long walk with Dylan and Brittani trying to tire their dog Maggie out before they made the five hour drive back home. William went in a stroller.

It was a nice walk, and we strolled around the Barley home daydreaming about what could be done with a place like that. We talked as we walked, and it was fun.

When we got home, I whipped up a tossed salad to go with a leftover seafood pasta salad from the bridal shower. I also cooked up some fusilli with garlic and chile. I took the bear sausage out of the crock pot, cut it into slices and smothered everything with the peppers, onions and mushrooms.

The breakfast sausage had been a disappointment, but the Italian sausage was a hit, really quite good with all the vegetables. Tim and Brianna finished it off for lunch today while I was at work.

I'm not finished with my 'wild food' adventure. My sister brought me a bag of leeks. Right now, I've got a pot of potato leek soup simmering.


Dylan and Brittani came for the weekend, bringing my granddog, Maggie. She is a golden retriever mix with a beautifully patient face. The unforeseen benefit to her presence was that Paddy, the cat in heat, took one look, doubled in size, made haste to the basement and was not seen for the rest of the weekend, except for her middle of the night visits. She would snuggle in close to me sandwiching my hand between two paws, resting her face against my fingers. There was no yowling and squalling and feline pornographic behavior during the bridal shower, which was nice. The fact that we also did not have to worry about her making a break for the door every time it opened during that busy weekend, well, that was good news too.

After everyone headed back to where they now belong, the house descended into quiet once again. I waited patiently for Paddy to re-emerge from the basement. Except that she didn't.

Brianna came inside holding my cat saying, "Hey. You know that mean bobtail cat next door?"

We are not even sure when this happened.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


When I got Paddy-Paws, I wanted a female cat, for her temperament. I was told Paddy was a she, and so I took her. (I can't tell until the ~ er ~ difference is obvious...) I got her home and then read that like 97% of orange cats are male. Pondering it, I realized that all the orange cats I knew were male. I was grateful that I'd selected a non-gender-specific name.

Someone pointed out to me that the difference should now be fairly obvious, and that if Paddy IS actually a male, he's missing some rather prominent proof of that.

Hm. Again, was was grateful that I'd selected a non-gender-specific name. Since I wanted a female to begin with, it wasn't exactly something I was going to waste time fretting over.

I'm having a small bridal shower for Brittani this weekend. Guess who now has a cat in heat?

Monday, April 21, 2014

William Pulls a Fast One

Today is Tim's birthday. His birthday gift was planned and paid for some time back. I wanted him to have fly fishing lessons. This is something he has always wanted to do. So what with all the holiday stuff going on, his actual birthday, while not overlooked, wasn't exactly celebrated. We work different shifts. I told him happy birthday this morning before work, and I repeated it when he called on break. William, listening to all this, said, "Let me tell grandpa 'happy birthday' too."

This was my first mistake. I put the phone on speaker and handed it to him. He shouted into it, "Happy birthday, grampa!!! We maked you a cake!!!!"

Grandpa said, "You did?!!!" in kind of a surprised voice. Actually, I was kind of surprised too. Because we hadn't. Grandpa is trying to avoid sweets. So is grandma. So. There was no cake made. Then grandpa said, "Make me a round cake with coconut on it."

So we did.

And when his mother got home from work, William said, "We baking a cake for grampa and me."

The little sly-boots.

Monday, April 7, 2014


On the last post, Bob stopped by to say that Hal had put up a post too. I've been following Hal for a lot of years now. Disremember how many, but, I enjoy reading the thoughts of a hardworking person who loves his family like nothing else in this world.

Hal's blog had gone kind of quiet for a while. I knew that he was dabbling around in his music again and I was pleased to see this

Bob, thanks for letting me know, Hal thanks for letting us know what you're up to. I look around me and am inspired by all the things that I see my blogmates doing. Mary Paddock is writing and publishing. Bush Babe is up to greatness with the gals at Outback Papparazzi. Jeanie's dabbling in stand-up comedy. Bob himself is a weekly columnist in addition to everything else.

You all are darned inspirational, know it?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Purple Scarf

Yesterday, I went through the dresser, getting rid of old things that I don't wear, or that are worn out, etc. I pulled out a bright purple scarf, all gauzy and shot through with swirls of gold, and it made me smile. The first time I saw it, I thought of the word 'magic', and yesterday, I thought the word again.

"When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple". The words to that poem popped into my mind, even though I am not yet an old woman, even though I have never worn the purple scarf.

I drape it over my long sleeved black tee-shirt, and I study my reflection in the mirror. The effect was quite good, and I waffled a little, whether to keep it or throw it away, because really, I never wear bright colors, and for the first time it occurs to me to wonder why. And then it suddenly pops into my head that the voice that I have been listening to all these years is not my own.

I return to the task of sorting and discarding. I leave the scarf across my shoulders and I think about that.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Thank Melinda

I've been shamed into posting. I ran into Melinda in the grocery store. She is so very sweet. She is the mother of Cara's 'first husband'. The two of them were in grade school together, and Cole came home and told his parents that he was going to marry Cara. Cara told me very matter-of-factly that she was going to marry Cole. I laughed, but it surprised me that the two of them were very determined to marry for a couple years. They are still good friends, even though they are past their college years. So Melinda and I exchanged news of our children, and she commented that she really missed my blog.

Life has been busy here, full and active and rife with a ton of unbloggable stories. That's not necessarily bad. It's not necessarily good. It's just a whole lotta stuff that is not my story to tell.

I've also been sick for about six weeks, and that has made life challenging. I've been dragging, and really struggling to get the things done that I need to get done. Respiratory problems, almost like asthma, interrupted my sleep, and my wheezing and coughing kept Tim awake, shaming me into moving to the sofa where I could sit upright. I also broke out in enormous hives that were so severe I was waiting for my doctor one morning, my face and lips horribly swollen. Even after the cortisone treatments, the hives did not go away completely, and flared up regularly for a month. Benedryl only made matters worse. I also had an especially awful bout of gastro in the middle of all of the other stuff, one that lasted close to a week.

It was obvious that I was allergic to something, but it was very difficult to guess what. I suspected a food allergy, perhaps to a food additive. I got this idea that perhaps what I needed to do was simplify my diet, eat more whole foods. I wanted a Magic Bullet , but they were pricey, and you know me...I decided to ask for one for my birthday. In May.

I happened to be online, when a message popped up. A seller was advertising a Magic Bullet. He'd received it as a gift, didn't use it. He was offering it on the online garage sale site for $30, still in the original box. I usually am not quick enough to make these purchases, but I quickly replied to tell him that I'd take it. He told me I was first, and could have it. I asked him where he lived and it turns out he's our new neighbor. He lives about a half block down the street. I shrugged on my coat, and out the door I went. I'm sure it was the quickest sale the site ever had. 15 min after the post went up, I was walking home with my new toy.

I'm actually amazed at the results. I make two smoothies a day, which provide me with a minimum of 8 servings of fruits and vegetables. I felt so much better so very quickly it was a little shocking. I haven't had hives since I started this (I'm finishing my second week). The respiratory symptoms have subsided completely. I haven't intentionally become a vegetarian, but my diet has changed dramatically.

I knew that I felt better, lots better, but I'm a cautious person by nature. I was surprised to see my cheeks were rosy. At my dentist appointment, the hygienist said, "Wow. You look great! What are you doing?" I told her I was juicing. She said, "Your hair is great and your complexion is glowing. You really do look great!" I was a little amazed that other people can see what I can feel.

I'm not sure whether it's the fruits and vegetables, or the extra hydration or a combination of all of it, but it is a big relief to be feeling back to my old self again.

So that's a part of what's going on.

I also fell out of bed last night. I woke up, uncurled myself from Tim and went to roll over and get out of bed. Unfortunately, (too late) I realized that Tim was not in the middle of the bed. He was scootched way over on my side. I rolled over not realizing that I was already on the edge of the bed. I hit the floor, sent the bedside table sliding, and the pile of books on it, along with the miscellaneous other necessities went flying everywhere. What a commotion! Poor Paddy-Paws was sleeping at my feet. He went sailing off the bed with me, and I saw him streaking from the room like someone had tied a firecracker to his tail, poor cat-let. I sprawled there totally shocked. Tim slept through the entire thing.

So that's it, really. William and I spend a great deal of time making a great deal of memories. We go to the playground every single day we're not getting snow or rain. Winter has dragged on forever here, and we are due for yet more snow tonight.

Aren't you all glad that Melinda guilted me into posting? You might have missed all this.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

This and That

I sit here with a little boy carefully *erping* his cookies into a garbage can. I wipe his little mouth. He's pretty laid back about the whole thing. He's watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates on television.

I see that Fred Phelps has died. It's something that I've always wondered about; what does God do with people like him?

I'm reading a lot of comments. A lot of people want to go and picket his funeral. A lot of people are glad and celebrating. A lot of people are calling for his passing to be ignored since the church thrived on publicity. There are funny cartoons. Sarcastic comments.

I don't know. I look at the pale little boy sitting on the couch, and it makes me glad to know that when he grows up, he won't know who Fred Phelps is. It makes me sad to know that when he grows up, there will be others who are just as hateful.

It is the first day of spring, and once again it is snowing. Will this winter EVER end?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Nice Weekend

Planning for Dylan and Brittani's wedding has kicked into high gear. Dylan found the song for their first dance:

The plans for the rehearsal dinner are complete, and ready to be paid for, just as soon as we receive the final tally.

Our wedding gift is the trellis that they have chosen to speak their vows beneath. They will be able to transport that back home for their large and beautiful backyard. I have two stone look pots for ferns and calla lilies. My big fear is timing, that I will plant the bulbs too early or too late. I really want our small part in their big day to be perfect.

This weekend I discovered that I have a very special talent. I am good with a sledge hammer. I was breaking concrete like a woman afire. We're going to remove it from a house and bring it home to make a broken stone patio outside our bedroom french doors.

That was not the end of the surprises. We got home to discover that Cara had called. She's been away. She went to Wisconsin for some interviews. She came back and left for Disneyland, supervising some kids from college. "Are you back from Florida?" I asked. "Yes," she replied. "What are you doing?" "Nothing much, just catching up on laundry." She said, "Well, here's the deal. I'm going to need you to empty out the washer." She was on her way home with two weeks of laundry. It was wonderful to have her home, even for 24 hours. The end is in sight. Her comps are done, and she's finishing up the last two classes for her graduate degree.

It's a marvelously soul satisfying thing to watch your children becoming themselves.

Friday, March 14, 2014


It was a beautiful day today. Leaving school, William begged to go to the playground across the street. "Please, PLLLLEEEEEAAAASE Gramma, just for a liddy bit." Yeah. Okay. So we went to the playground, just like you all knew that we would. I said to him firmly, "When it is time to go, it's time to go. I don't want any tantrums. Deal?" "Okay, Gramma," the little critter lied, running off to examine the climbing wall.

William ran, and screamed and climbed and swung, and slid and bounced. We listened to the church bells. After 45 minutes, I told him that we would have to go, and that we'd go to the playground again tomorrow. He had a meltdown. Just like you all knew that he would.

In a very no-nonsense way, I said, "That's enough now," and I buckled him into his car seat. He stopped screaming, but he was still whining when we got to the store. I unbuckled him, and took him back out. He resumed his fit. I told him to stop. He did. Temporarily. Once we were actually inside the store, it all started again.

I got down on one knee and looked him square in the eye. "William," I said. "We went to the playground. We had fun. Now it is time for groceries. You are going to stop this tantrum this very minute, or I will have to give you a pop on the butt. Do you understand me?" He stared into my eyes intently for a few seconds and then said, "Okay, gramma." I said, "Nicely done, sir. Now do you want macaroni and cheese for supper?" And he said, "Macaroni and cheese!!! Yay!!!"

When we got home, he was delighted to find that his wobot had returned from outer space. Today he figured out how to argue with it. He talks about "my school" The wobot says "My school" and he says, "No it MY school, etc. etc. etc. He was beside himself with joy. They argued all night long. Blessedly, although things got pretty heated, there was no screaming.

Life is good.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


William discovered that his little computerized robot has a wonderful feature: It records him and plays it back.

"Hi, wobot!" (robot answers, "Hi wobot.") Small boy giggles hysterically, and it was funny to watch him practically ROFL as they say.

Soon that developed into "This is little cat." ("This is little cat.") Hysterical giggles. "This gramma's clock." ("This gramma's clock.") "This gramma's kitchen." (Ditto.) This 'nuther one gramma's clock." and so on and so on and so on. Every time the robot spoke, William would burst into hysterical laughter. This went on for hours, and he was the happiest kid you ever heard, laughing and laughing and laughing.

Two days later: he has discovered that if he screams at it, it screams back. That seems to be even funnier. He's howling with laughter, and 'wobot' has become the best friend he's ever had. 'Wobot' and he are inseparable. At bedtime it is taken away and he is desperately unhappy about this.

Gramma's a fairly patient woman, but yesterday she woke up with a headache so violent that turning her head made her really, really sick. It's been going around, but I thought that I'd missed it. I came to the couch in the middle of the night and lay very very still. I was too sick to take aspirin. I woke up to one small boy holding his beloved 'wobot' and screaming in his little 'wobot' face. He laughed and laughed and laughed. Feeling like the party pooper of the century, I said, "William, please don't scream anymore."

Bless his little cotton socks, he tried. He'd whisper for a couple of exchanges but unable to contain himself, he soon was screaming in the robot's face again. It went on all day. Even after my head finally stopped, and my stomach settled, he was still screaming. If the robot was taken away, he screamed even louder. He was given time-outs. He screamed.

This morning, I woke up and felt much better. Not 100%, but definately better. Good enough to go to school, but I knew that it would be a rough day. I said to Brianna, "You know, if that robot comes up missing today when we come back home, it would not be a bad thing."

We got home tonight and the very first thing that William did was head off looking for his wobot. Bless her heart Brianna has hidden it very well. We told him that the robot has taken a trip to outer space and that he will be back tomorrow night.

The little stinker is pretty upset about that. I feel sort of guilty about it. But sane.

Monday, March 10, 2014


Today was a beautiful day. William and I left preschool. His mother was at work so we had a stretch of time to fill.

We went to the library, and for the first time William rode his birthday bike. He was thrilled.

The problem is that William does not yet peddle, despite repeated attempts to teach him how to move his little feet on the peddles. Calling attention to his feet caused him to slam on his coaster brakes since he seems to peddle backward. Grandma was awkwardly leaning on one side, keeping one hand on the handlebars, and using that to push Mr. I-Do-Not-Peddle. Slamming on his coaster brakes was not cool.

I finally gave up on teaching him how to peddle and just pushed him along. We met a couple walking and they were charmed by his huge grin. "I riding my bike," he proclaimed, waving. I said, "You know, this little bike rider isn't getting much of a workout."

After our trip to the library, he came home and helped me put together a crockpot of soup, adding the corn, the chopped peppers, chopped onions, beans and tomatoes. He continued to chatter away as he worked. He heard the train whistle from across town and said, "Listen, Gramma! That train say hi to me."
Once the soup was assembled and in the crockpot for tomorrow's meal, we sat down and ate our supper. He ate his ravioli with a hearty appetite, asking for seconds. I had yogurt for supper and he had a few bites of that as well.

I cleaned the kitchen and did the dishes while he played with playdough, and we sang the alphabet, and made letters with playdough strips.

Such a simple little day, but when we picked up his mother, he was excited about all of it and couldn't wait to tell her. It's easy to forget, isn't it? You can make a memorable day for a child and never spend a dime. Ironically, you can make a memorable day for grandma for the same low price.

I'm glad we got outside today. They are calling for 5-8 inches of snow to begin tomorrow afternoon. Visibility will be poor because the winds will be powerful. I'm sick of winter, luckily, William and I have a nice pot of soup all put together.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Paddy Cat

Last night, I woke up suddenly and in the dark, right there at my side, I was shocked to see, in the glow of the gas heater, a rounded shape bobbing stealthily right at the side of my bed.

I have pretty good reflexes for a woman of my age. I immediately leapt for the opposite side of the bed and nearly fell over the edge.

Turns out that Paddy has become acquainted with a leftover helium balloon from William's party. It has lost enough helium so that the string dangles enticingly on the floor. He's been happily toting it around the house all morning.

Friday, March 7, 2014


After what seemed like 11 years of bitter cold alternating with a snow storm before switching back to bitter cold (let's hear it for polar vortexes ~ or vortices ~ the temperature today reached the 50s. Perked me right up!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I love this book.

My newest favorite kid's book.

Friday, February 21, 2014


It has been a rough winter here in my neck of the woods. Bitterly cold for days at a time. Any warm up at all seemed to bring with it huge amounts of snowfall. It almost came as a relief when temperatures started to fall again. Almost.

Wednesday afternoon, I had to go out at lunch time, and when I walked out the door, a warm breeze hit me. There were birds singing. The sky was dark, heavy with approaching rain. I stopped. It felt like spring, and my response to it was an almost visceral joy. We are going into our third day of moderate temperatures, and the rain has melted off a lot of ice. I had to wade to my car after work last night, through about 4 inches of water that was not there when I parked the car that morning. All these inconveniences seem minor after the long winter.

Other breaking news: William watched grandpa carrying in his new crossbow, and began to jump up and down yelling, "Grandpa bought a new gun! Yay for grandpa!" Grandpa had a very good week. He also bought a 1982 GMC truck. The truck is nearly completely original. William began to yell, "Grandpa bought a new truck. Yay for grandpa!" Watching the response again, I turned to Tim to ask, "Did you teach him to do this?" Tim assures me he did not, that William cannot help being a little boy who gets excited about trucks and guns.

William has turned three this week. He is active and lively, and will have a pirate themed birthday party with two of his cousins and a little girl from school. We will make eye patches and 'lights' and they will go looking for 'buried' treasure, and have a family supper afterwards.

The longer that his mother lives here, the more talking we are able to do. With that talking comes healing, for me, mostly. I've grieved over her for a long time now, and it has been difficult to watch her struggle through the years and not feel as if you have, as a mother, failed her somehow. Of all the things in the world that I could fail at, failing as a mother is the biggest shame of my life. But as we talk, she looks at me quizzically. She doesn't understand my grief. She doesn't think her life is my fault. She points out that I tried to warn her about this, or about that, that I tried to be a good mother, that I did the things that a good mother should do.

The seasons are changing. My little corner of the world begins to thaw. And for the first time, since that girl was 14, something is thawing inside of me too. The dark days grow brighter. A life current begins, once again, to flow inside, warming me.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Jewelry Class

My family was a difficult family. It was not a healthy place to grow up in for the most part. That is not to say that I did not take good lessons away from it. I am a hard worker because of them. I suppose that there are other things. It strikes me as a little sad that I can't think of them right this moment.

Last night at my jewelry making class, I was not happy with the results. I kept studying the work of others, and trying to figure out what it was. Their earrings seemed gracefully shaped, and mine just seemed...well...not graceful. I couldn't put it into words, but what popped into my head is that I was working too hard on my pieces. The others just gave theirs a simple bend or twist, and there was grace. Me? I was using multiple tools to try achieve symetry and the perfect arch. The metal seemed tense and overworked, as ridiculous as this sounds.

Someone said, "You judge yourself too harshly," and patted my arm.

I looked at my earrings and said, "Sometimes I do, maybe, but this time, it's simply a matter of finding the beauty in the work of others. You all have a good eye. "

The masseuse looked at me and said, "You know, once when I was in school, we were given a few minutes to list the attributes of the person sitting on our left and then to our right. Nobody knew what the teacher was going to make us do with those words, whether we would have to read them aloud in front of everyone, or give them to our neighbors, or what. When the teacher called 'Time!' she told us to read the words on the paper and realize that we had described ourselves.

Yes. I have heard this before. The sound of my mother's voice popped into my head: "If there is something that you hate about someone, you need to take a good look at yourself, because it's something you don't like about yourself." Which translated to this: It was not possible to work anything out, because no matter what you said, it was not her were describing yourself and your problems.

On the school bus, we said it another way. "I know I am, but what are you?" repeated over and over and over again." No way to stop it except to fall silent, to let it alone.

I looked around the table at the women. I realize that during the course of the class, I'd complimented them all, sincerely, about one thing or another. 'I know you are, but what am I?'. It had never dawned on me that these words could be applied positively.

After they left, I slid the table back behind the sofa and took the chairs back to the kitchen. I worked slowly, wondering.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

For Emily

A long time ago, I wrote a post about a young girl. I was worried about her on her wedding day, and I was worried about about her in all the subsequent days of that marriage.

This is Em today, in her own words.

I am very proud of this girl.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Happy Days

It's been a long time, hasn't it? Summing it up: Yes, I did get the capuccino machine. Yes, it works perfectly. Yes, I'm drinking a cup right this very minute.

Life is good. Hectic but good. Brianna and William live here now, and I am grateful to have our big house. They live upstairs, have adjoining bedrooms, and their own bathroom, which allows four people to live under the same roof and have their own space too. Tim and I see this as an opportunity. It has its rough spots, but mostly, it works in an imperfect 'that's how life goes' sort of way.

William's cheerful little presence makes quite a difference. He goes to school now and likes this very much. He always wants to tell us about his day. Example of a conversation with his grandpa: "I go gym, and bumpa noggin ona waaaaaall, and then I bumpa noggin ona dooooooor..." all the while shaking his head sadly. One night his mother was out, and I was putting him to bed, and he said, "Sit with me a liddy while," and so I did. I sat with him in his little room decorated with dinosaurs, and we watched The Aristocats for a bit as I rubbed his back. He kept looking over his shoulder and smiling. I finally said, "What's so funny, Mister Twister?" and he said, "I happy, Grandma." Everything is working out more smoothly than any of us expected, with a lot of positives.

The weather here has been quite cold. It's only 3 degrees out there this morning. I'm working every day, but otherwise, I just lay low. I cannot wait until spring, which is 41 days away (but who's counting?!)

Only 120 days until Dylan and Brittani get married!

Less than 90 days until Cara graduates with her master's degree!

12 days until William's 3rd birthday.

In between all those days, there will be Tim's 57th birthday, my 57th birthday, and our 16th anniversary. So many things to celebrate in the next 4 months. Life is good.