Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Your Smile for the Day

I just have to share this video from my father in law (who does the singing and the violin) of a song to accompany cleaning up the dog yard (and for the record, it was hazel nut husks he was tossing outside with the shovel, but the song cracked me up)

He and my mother in law transport and foster Schipperke dogs.

One Poop Over the Line.


Saturday, January 18, 2020

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Line Up

How many of you use a clothesline?  The crash pad I lived in after I sold my house and prior to my marriage had a washer/dryer built into a little closet but at home, a line is used, in the winter, set up across the laundry area. Yes, the clothes are a little stiffer and they often need the touch up of an iron, but it's surprising how much energy that drier uses.

I lived in a subdivision once and clotheslines weren't allowed, as only hooligans and hillbillies use them, you know. You couldn't even hang a beach towel off of your porch or paint your front door the color you wanted. I quickly moved away from the Stepford Subdivision, never to return.

A washer is a must.  Even as much as I love old machinery I have no desire to run my clothes through a wringer like Grandma Gullikson.  But to pull in a big batch of sheets from the line, kissed by the sun with the warm scent of summer on them, there is no fabric softener scent that can match that. There's something quietly satisfying about taking things that are dirty, the clothing of the people you love, and rendering them clean, a ritual of care that feminists would probably vilify me for actually liking. But holding the clothing of someone you love, something that bears their scent, their labors, and then carefully getting it ready for them to wear again, has an intimacy of its own.
Growing up, we always had a dryer, the avocado green Maytag one. But in the spring and summer, Mom always hung the clothes outside  I have vivid memories of those days. I would help gather the clothes in, that being one of my set chores. For we had assigned chores as children, daily ones that had to be done without fussing if we hoped to get an allowance to buy us a bit of candy on Saturday. No chores, no allowance, that became obvious early. We were given things to do that were in the scope of our abilities and some that were beyond, with supervision only when necessary, so that we would learn, painfully if we didn't listen, but learn nonetheless.

The clothes would hang, with the linens, dresses and dress shirts, the modest nightwear, the men's briefs and big "Granny panties" that we wore, ones that did not peak out of low slung jeans but only the Sears Catalog. There was our Sunday best, to be appropriately scratchy for young ones in the pew to squirm around as Father Erickson talked of Genesis and Exodus and fathers therein who dared talk face to face with God.
On laundry day when the clothes were off the line inside and sorted, Mom would set up the ironing board in front of the TV.  There she would watch As the World Turns, The Secret Storm or Guiding Light while she ironed and I put together the puzzles that fascinated me, Big bro, off at school. Dad still has, to this day, a jigsaw puzzle of bears on the coffee table that was purchased for Big Bro, not that it stopped me from putting it together time and time again until the edges were worn.

While I played, Mom would iron everything, including the sheets, from the hand-embroidered ones of the '50s to the harvest gold striped ones from the late '60s and '70s. She'd use a wine bottle that had a cap that allowed for water to be sprinkled out in lieu of a steam iron as if subtly blessing the sheets. There was almost a zen-like ritual to it, much as I feel when I reload, a series of defined movements, done in proper order with the right amount of physical force and the elements that comprise the process.
Then she would get the after school snack out and dinner prepped, giving her just enough time to freshen up and make a martini to greet my Dad at the door when he got home. Lest you think my Mom a demure Mrs. Cleaver type, prior to adopting us, when she wasn't doing laundry she was the County Sheriff.  College-educated when most women didn't get past high school, Mom could kick keester and take names, help pluck out a drowning victim from the river and deal with the trauma that was rape, domestic violence and abuse. 

I'm sure she missed the challenges, but after 18 years as an LEO, she found greater satisfaction in maintaining order in a house of redheads and occasionally fishing someone's toy out of the toilet. Everything she did, she did with care and attention to detail, even after she got so sick, her days filled with weariness and, I suspect, pain.
I still remember the days when Mom washed my stuffed animals and carefully hung them up by the ears on the clothesline, giving each one a little kiss and a pat while I watched to make sure they were OK. One of them had no eyes, and little fur, he being loved so hard, but she very carefully hung him up by the ears with a special kiss.  I thought he had disappeared, but when she was in her last days, and I was leaping into adulthood, she put him away where I'd find him again when I was grown, and remember those days.

I remember her as well, dealing with Big Bro's and Dad's filthy and smelly fishing garb, simply smiling a patient smile and handling them as delicately as vestments.  She worked away, a patient smile on her face, the birds on the lines and in the trees,  singing a hymn of praise as she labored for love.

While the clothes fluttered on the summer line like the last valiant leaves of the year, we'd run and play.  If we fell down, we got up, if we skinned a knee, we washed it off with the hose, running in and out of the hanging sheets, bright red heads flashing in and through them like birds. We did so with a zest for breathing that is wrung out of most people by the time they're 40, playing as if we were eternal and in that moment, we were, there in the open clean air, away from the walls of dust and shadow and sickness.
We played hide and seek and cowboy and Indians. We stalked squirrels and each other with nothing more than a plastic weapon and iron courage.  Our games had elements of make-believe, of magic and superpowers, soldier, secret agents, and spies. But we weren't so sheltered from the world that we were unaware that to be careless with the tools and talents we were given, was to meet up with a beast that, though lightly slumbering, sleeps with breath tainted with blood. As we grew, we watched as deer fell in the woods under our guns, a firearm is more than a toy to play cops and robbers with, but the means of putting food on the table, a means to protect, one that came with heavy responsibility.

We understood early one, that some things do NOT wash out.

The clothesline eventually came down. I don't recall when actually. It was about the time Big Bro went off to the Navy, to submarine school.  I wanted to go with him, we did everything together, but I had a  few years of school left. All I could do was stand there as a line that no longer held his shirts stood like a barren flag pole and the vehicle in which we'd had so many adventures, drove off towards his future.  I watched as long and as hard as I could, thinking that old blue panel van would turn around.  But the red tail lights just got further away and closer and closer together until my last memory was a small single spot of red that made my eyes weep as if I had dared to stare into the sun.
Things change, processes evolve, how we live and where we live. But some things, the good things, can continue and I don't care if they are considered "tacky" or "old fashioned", they are a ritual of love that goes beyond blood and care that goes beyond the obligation.  Like my clothesline. The clothes are different, there's more t-shirts than dresses, a lot of khaki and navy and black. Some of the shirts have pictures, some just have big letters on them. There's the plaid flannel nighty for when it's really cold but most of the underthings, if made of paper, not fabric, wouldn't be big enough to start a fire with. Styles change, but some rituals don't.

As I hang up a button-down dress shirt, I think back to those days of my childhood, as my Mom did the same things for those she loved. As I work, I talk face to face with God as He helps me with the biggest puzzles of all.  As the wind flutters through the fabric, around me come the sound of birds, perched on lines of their own, rejoicing without fail, their ceaseless, silver voices singing as if they are eternal, and for this moment may very well be. - LBJ

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Sounds Like a Fair Trade

Having an email address open to the public since it's tied to my author blog, I get a LOT of junk mail. Most I just delete as even Abby Lab found them incredulous

Occasionally, I read the more humorous ones.  I never respond.  But this one was just so blatantly BAD, not even trying to be clever to lure me into giving them my bank info or social security number so I can get my foreign lottery winnings or mystery inheritance from the relative I didn't know I had.


Help me bank transfer 2.5 million dollars.  I will give you 30%.


Great!  And I will loan you my talking elephant (fluent in Farsi, English, and Mandarin Chinese).  You can rent him out to parties for entertainment and keep 30%.

I didn't hear back.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Not of This World

Abby Lab here. It was a quiet Saturday morning.  Mom was taking pictures of foodables in the dining room, while Lorelei was sleeping after her playtime. Suddenly a bright LIGHT appeared, and a strange creature was left in its place.

It's not of this world, I think it's a Martian.

It was tall, with one big eye and red spindly legs.  Its skin was Red Planet Red.  It didn't leave, staying in the room eyeing us ominously and in silence.  Mom said the mother ship must have gone out in the recyclable bin.
I'm starting to get a little spooked.

First there was the big silver thing that showed up in the utility room.  Mom said it's only a "Gar-Bage can" with a lid, so I don't go "dumpster diving" again (I didn't - I was just examining that York Peppermint Patty wrapper to ensure it couldn't be recycled).

Then the scary Martian shows up right in the middle of the dining room

Would it ever go away?

Mom, being smart, learned to communicate with it. And it communicated back.
Dad got the message and took it to the basement.

I'm going to keep an eye on things STRANGE things are happening around here as Mom and Dad get the house and basement organized as Dad finishing the rest of the drywall repair/painting in the master bathroom.

Mom! Mom! The Garbage Can gave birth!!

Friday, January 3, 2020

Frosty the Snowman

I said I was sorry.

You remember the lyrics from Frosty the Snowman?

Thumpity thump thump
Thumpity thump-thump
Look at Frosty go.

Were finishing dinner in the next room enjoying a glass of wine when from the living room we hear.

Thumpity thump thump
Thumpity thump-thump

Lorelei's big "tail of doom" is whacking the wood baseboard of the couch as she's fiercely wagging, happy about something.  She's on the floor with the Frosty Plush Christmas decoration in her mouth, swiped off the table with the aluminum Christmas tree on it and running with it!

Look at Frosty go!  Quick get it!
After a brief chase, Frosty was rescued with only minor tooth damage to his felt hat.  I think we had a second glass of wine.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

New Year Smiles

Hoping all of you had a wonderful Holiday season and hoping you will all have a great New Year.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

New Years Reflections - Falling Up

As kids it seems we tumbled to the ground on a regular basis, the knees on our jeans mended with these iron-on patches that never quite matched the denim. Such repairs weren't a sign that our parents were thrifty and wouldn't buy us new pants, it was an unspoken badge of courage that we could wear out our pants faster than our Mom could take us to the store. Score one for the team!

We grow up and seem determined never to fall again. But we do

I was walking along, heading back to the truck from a farm field where we'd all been scouting out a spot to put up a  deer blind for bow season. I don't hunt for sport. I hunt for food, the venison donated to those in the community who need meat and provisions, taking older deer that probably won't survive the winter, given the overpopulation of deer in parts of the upper Midwest, leaving the younger ones to learn and grow.

We were moving pretty quickly and I was rambling on about something or other and the last thing I remember seeing was a crack of the yellow sky and I went down. I hit the ground, inhaling the scent of Tinks and dirt, the sky falling away."Are you OK?" from our friend Mark, leaning over me in concern. I'd managed to catch my foot on a piece of corn infrastructure and went down, face first, not even time to put my arms out. Think farmland mammogram.

"No problem", I said as I got back up, not wanting to let on that it was all I could do not to cry. I laughed and brushed the dirt off my nose and continued on as if I'd meant to do that.

What else do you do? Falling is never easy. Sometimes you have to practice. Like learning to ride a bike.The wobbly start on training wheels, then finally free form freedom, and the inevitable resultant crash.

When I was in my 20's falling got a little more serious. I liked to head up tall mountains on my time off. Understand now, I played no part in any overly difficult assents, anything requiring any serious mountaineering skill. Technical hikes at best. I did my excursions with a ragtag bunch of hikers and outdoors people rounded up from the local airport where I flight instructed. We were young, and we were fearless still, for some reason drawn to each other and drawn upward. The treks were amateur, but we looked on them as daringly anarchistic ripostes to the militaristic expeditions we'd all read about. Fueled with youth and trusting the God that hopefully looks after children and idiots, we simply roped ourselves together and headed uphill.

In some sense, all things wish to ascend, evolution to a higher form, people of God, towards a higher spirit. Ancient civilizations honored the high places because they sensed they were the homes of the Gods. For us, it was just an awareness of a promise, of something we couldn't explain, a chance if just for a few hours to be above all the decisions we were facing, poised on the edge of adulthood. So we hiked and if we found a steep face of rock in our way to the next trail, we climbed, and in rising up to the home of the ancient spirits, there was more than a metaphor; there was a means of discovery.

It was on of these climbs that we met an older gentleman, an ordained minister, one who shared his faith more by deed than by the spoken word and who joined us for a day or two. Frank believed that all things came from grace. But grace comes from hard work as well as trust, and trust is learned on the mountains. One morning at 8,000 feet on the side of Mt. Rainier he produced a Bible and a small flask of whiskey. Cutting off a chuck of week-old bread with a vintage hunting knife he conducted the most moving Mass I ever expect to attend. He left behind the knife and a memory of what articulate grace in the face of stone-hard reality really means, an important picture for a group of young adults.

We all went our separate ways after that trip, though we still talked regularly. But as we got older it seemed we bragged more of successes and shared less the stories of failed adventure. Was it because we were just loathed to admit it, or was it we were trying less, settling down into quiet suburban lives of mowing the lawn every week and doing what made others happy, not what made us happy. If we mentioned climbing or going up and hanging upsidedown in an airplane, G forces be damned, the spouses would say, no, that's dangerous, stay home and cut the lawn. So we did, we mowed, we carpooled and we gave up on those days when the distance between security and death was only a measure of feet.

I was no different, ending up on a small farm, married. I'd watch the cattle be born, and then we'd feed them, watching them live their lives in tame oppression, never roaming far. Sometimes after a strong storm, a whole section of fence would go down. but the cattle would stay in, content to be where it was familiar and food was plentiful. We'd watch them grow fatter and softer and tamer until one day it came time to cull. And we'd judge and point and with a dispassionate nod of the head, some of them would head off in the truck, never to return.

There are many good things about that life. There was steadiness to it, living each day on an even flat plane of daily chores. But there was something to be said for those repeated motions that reminded us of what our fathers toiled for. Nature was the biggest unknown. There were years we cut hay between squalls. There were floods and drought, illness and blood. There were days of cold desolation, miles from the nearest convenience, and other days where Cardinals flew around me, hovering in the air about my shoulders like a colorful sweater as I worked in the garden

But my life now has more balance. I've shed the cattle but not the love of the farm or the land, for a subdivision life lost it's appeal pretty quickly. I still occasionally get to rappel in somewhere where I can bring home knee scrapes that would make the neighbor kids proud. I have fields when I need them, and friends who are never hesitant to pick up a firearm and head out with me for the adventure that will always live in us.

Sometimes you will fall. But don't let it stop you. Dust yourself off and climb up that mountain and wake to dawn scented with promise, the stars immortal in the sky. What is ahead is unknown, you can treat it with fear, dreading that feeling as the ground falls away, the tiny rocks clammering down like the first throw of dirt on a pine box. Or you can treat it as a perceived feast, like a wafer on the tongue. A leap of faith for all you believe in, a willful jump into a place free of time and regret, where all the names and the faces of those you love surround you, as below you, the wild things that call to you, run on ahead of soundless guns.

It's your choice. Stay in the safety of the jeep or get out and wrestle the giant Anaconda. There are no guarantees. Just as in climbing, the negligible distance between your hand and the wall may be inches. Those are inches that seem like miles as your eyes look at the chasm and sense the impending slide down into despair or death if you give up. But there are other sorts of distances, other sorts of helplessness that lead to worse things than death.

I'm not sure why I thought of all of these things. Perhaps its the work of the last few weeks. Perhaps it was the thought of the placid cattle wandering off to their own doom, as I lined myself up with other bovines to board a plane to see my 99-year-old Dad before Christmas.  I don't always know when I will return, and always, if I will return. I have many answers about how life ends, but my own will be a mystery. When I last view that yellow sliver of sky, I expect it to be a complete surprise.

In the meantime, I'll listen and I learn, following the compass of the heart's hard turning, and the brain's slow learning, what paths to take and why. And I'll watch out for that ninja corn.

Friday, December 27, 2019

I'll take my Squirrels Decaffeinated Please

With temps in Chicago that hit 60 yesterday, I think every squirrel in the nearby Metropark was running around the neighborhood chasing each other like it was Spring.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas!

It's hard to believe but this is the 9th Christmas my husband and I have had as a couple.  The first was memorable.  I had a tumble on ice while walking Barkley and tore my meniscus.  After two days on his recliner with frozen peas on my knee while he cooked for me he drove Barkley and me all the way back to Indy and stayed with me for the surgery to remove what they could (it was NOT fixable). 
Being whacked out on pain pills I probably wasn't much of a Christmas date, but he stayed with me til I could get around by myself to physical therapy.  At that point I thought, OK, he's a keeper.  Two years later we were married.

As much as we can both travel for work we always spend Christmas together.  Each post of the day brings me back fun memories, as we make more.

Typically there is something for me from "Santa" that's made in his workshop that also serves as our walk out basement. Santa, in turn, gets homemade biscuits and bacon gravy.

Inside of this antique phone, my husband installed a walkie talkie.  When I dial any number on the dial, HIS walkie talkie in his shop will chirp letting him know I'm calling.  Then I can press the button on the receiver and talk to him.  It also charges with a USB.  This will work much better in letting him know I need help with something in the house than the usual method called "I can't find my phone, I'll just yell his name until he hears me. . ."

We both get stockings. . .
Mine is a tactical one.  This year, among its contents, was a flashlight and a tactical spork   SCORE.

There is the usual candy for us both (I think Santa gets kickbacks from my periodontist)

And maybe a little journal or two.
Captains Log Day 43 - Vacuumed more dog hair
Captains Log Day 52 - Still more Dog Hair

And general silliness.

Everyone needs another thumb drive.
Or a Darth Vadar magnet (caution choking hazard)

Of course, there are the yearly slippers and PJ's and a bottle of my husband's favorite Bourbon but the rest of the wrapped gifts were things we both wanted. 

I asked for a purse with lots of pockets inside filled with cash.

My husband came through.  It is handmade, a custom order with tons of pockets inside and out as well as a light to find stuff.  From bestsellerleather at Etsy. 
 And it had bags of cash

One can never have too many T-shirts.



Or steak knives.

I believe in having enough bath products for the zombie apocalypse.
As well as provisions for a proper tea. (From "Brits" store in Lawrence Kansas.  Their online service is wonderful, and we've bought from them for years - thanks to Vic MD who introduced us).
And from my inlaws - some winter clothing and a game for summer.   I can only imagine what's going to happen when we play this with two Labrador Retrievers around. :-)
All in all, before I sign off - I have to say it was a wonderful Christmas.  Merry Christmas to all my friends and family.