Wednesday, July 17, 2019

On Special Moments

For those occasional lousy days, followed by bad hair, bad breath mornings, when your furry best friend lets you know you are absolutely the most beautiful, important thing in the world.

I miss you Barkley - and those special moments.
But I'm so happy to have Laraelie Lab and Abby the Rescue Lab waiting for me while I shopped for groceries after work (their Dad was home on a house project and got a photo of her looking for my truck until I rolled in).

Friday, July 12, 2019

Friday Funnies

I had a busy couple of work days and husband is out of town, so I had to do all of the dog feeding and wrangling solo, so for tonight just some smiles.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Memories of Barkley - Threads of Fancy

I put up a post about this Etsy business run by a dear friend of a long time female pilot friend. But I had to repost after I got my handcrafted stuffed dog from her.
Photos from Jeannie's Etsy Shop (click on picture to enlarge)

My friend Dot whose husband married us, and who has been a long time pilot friend, told me about a roommate she had when she was a young woman. She showed up at her apartment one night with "Jeannie, you know how I wasn't going to Awesome Costume Ball tonight because I had to work a double shift? Work suddenly realized how much overtime I've already worked this week and let me go for the day... But I have no costume, so I just came to see you, and say hi before you have fun!"

Her roommate's response was to make her friend a meal, take a piece of string to Dot, and then turn a bolt of fabric into a rocking grunge fairy outfit.  Off the top of her head, with a pattern she designed. In a few hours. Just because Jeannie wanted Dot to be able to hang out with friends, too. These days, she's using that incredible imagination and awesome skill set to make the most amazing stuffed animals you didn't think could exist.

I got mine in the mail today, and even though I didn't tell her what kind of dog Barkley was, or what color, she totally nailed it.  I felt like Barkley was looking down on her and directing her hands and it just made me cry (but in a happy way, remembering all the good times).

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

On Recollection

Abby Lab Here - Mom is out on a book tour for her new book but she wanted to post a chapter from her fourth book  Gold Winner for Fiction in the Reader's Favorite International Book Award. "SmallTown Roads."

The most effective way to destroy people is to deny 
and obliterate their own understanding of their history.
George Orwell

He notices them in the city, old vacant houses, bearing the form of the formerly beautiful.  He notices them in the country, old empty barns, the houses of which watched over them, also long abandoned. The barns drew him the most, some mystery there in their silent lofts, where among the beams and rough-hewn boards, life from venerable times was lived according to venerable ways, never to be seen again.

There are many reasons such places are abandoned, foreclosure, death, yet they remain vacant, remain fallow, someone's dreams perhaps tied up in probate or simply discarded, no one wishing to assume the burden of that which will take some care to make whole. He only stops to look, then drives down the road to home, an older place but kept in meticulous repair, the house warm, the walls adorned with only a few photos of the past, framed copies of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

A young woman walks out to the curb, where renters moving out next door left a few bags of trash.  Laying next to them were two large pieces of cast iron cookware.  She takes a closer look, both were high-end brands, neither purchased cheaply.  Both looked unused but for the thick rust covering both.  The house empty and staying that way, she picks them up and takes them home to examine and clean. Once the rust is removed, the pans oiled and properly seasoned, they look as if new,  these pieces that should last a lifetime. Someone simply did not know how to care for what they had and casually discarded them.
Out at the rural airfield, a man who still wears his youth in his eyes, arrives for a local flight. He notices, off in the distance, tires flat, grass growing up into the wheel pants, there sits an old tailwheel airplane.  The paint hasn't seen a wash or polish in years, the once bright hues that flaunted their color against the sky like a cry of challenge, now laying mute upon the grass  The engine, which once fired up with life, growing louder and louder as the entire aircraft trembled like a racehorse waiting to run, lay quiet, but for the rustle of birds who have built a nest in the intake.  He wonders what it would cost to buy it, to get it flying again.

So many things that go unnoticed until they are gone.  Some lie barren, covered in days until they no longer shine, forgotten.  Other things, capture the eye of someone, be it a house, a piece of machinery, a person, an entire manner of living, which for that one individual, possesses a life all of its own.  It is that missing piece of our history, that forbidden apple whose taste could open up the pathway to heaven, or cast one from all that is accepted.  Yet, they can not resist, like the fruit of the Tree in the Garden of Good and Evil, such things being fraught with the possibility of the undiscovered.

A man sits alone in a house that still shows the remains of the recent past amongst the modern updates,the 70's retro hunters blaze of orange touching some things like a flame, shag carpeting stamped flat there in the trails of silent children. It is quiet now, two children and two wives preceding him in death, his remaining child flying in as often as she can, calling every night before he goes to sleep.  The TV is off, the windows open, the curtains breathing in and out with the soft exhalation of the evening.  It is a night for memories or passages, those moments within us, that by our history, our remembrances, release us from the shadows, our soul freed there at that moment that makes certain silences more clear than any words that can be uttered.

In another home, that's seen a hundred years come and go, a young man in a blue button-down shirt sits in a chair, surrounded by books and antiques. Each piece was carefully picked from the flotsam and jetsam of estate sales, carefully cleaned and placed in the room alone but for muscle and sweat.  The room looks no different than if the time was a hundred years ago, but for a small flat screen TV, dusty in the corner.  The safe holds a small collection of rare and unique firearms, some dating back to the Civil War.

Some people are born out of their due place, fate casting them too soon or too late, but they only look ahead, even as they bear a yearning for a place they knew not.  On the shelf is a picture of a woman, not a young woman, except for the eyes, the blaze of her hair.  He looks at the photo, tracing the leather of the spine of his book, with hands that remember. 
A woman works in a basement, putting up boxes away from the moisture, water had crept in during recent storms.  In watching her work, you would think her a young girl.  Only in the harsh light from the window, do you know she is not. She look down at her hands and her forearms, the scar on her palm where she took a fall out of a tree, the rough-edged dimple on her arm, where bone forced its way through, her form no match for someone that outweighed her by a hundred pounds, someone who felt that since he possessed something, it was his right to break it.

There's other scars you can't see, the small bite shaped mark of a biopsy, the small shiny serrations on belly flesh, proud marks of the skin's burden as it carries another to live.  Would she erase or airbrush them away if she could?  No, she's descended from immigrants and warriors; for her, life is simply a battle fought, the scars simply marking the skirmishes won.

She is moving some boxes and hanging bags, military uniforms and gear, worn by grandfathers and beyond, men who are now only dust and courage. There is a new box to add to these, for which she must make room. She opens the box, carefully packed up just a week ago to be shipped, the uniform items carefully shrouded and laid to rest within. She touches the items, and even in their stillness, comes a moment of real and profound intimacy with the one who once wore them, unexpected and lasting, as is often our glimpse of truth. They will be carefully packed again to protect them and stored with those uniforms of generations past. She leaves space on the shelf for another future box, for there will be one more, and probably soon.

At the bottom of the package, carefully wrapped in bubble wrap, in a lone toy soldier, that had been unearthed in the garden one Spring, years after the battle for world dominion with two flame hair children and their troops had ceased. The touch of its small battered form brought back the scent of the earth in their back yard, the shade of the apple tree that sheltered them, the warmth of the sun, times when they could ask Mom and Dad most anything and they'd tell them the truth.
Was this little figurine simply a forgotten toy or was he buried in some forgotten childhood military honor?  She could not remember, but like anything long lost, he spoke to her, of why we remember things and why they are important.

With that remembrance, with the lessons of the past, we can live safer and smarter. We can make decisions based on what we learned the hard way, about the truth, about individuals, about intentions, those deceits and traps that lay like spider webs for the naive or the unwary.

So she continues to look, sometimes seeing the past in front of her, in pieces found years after they were laid there, the answers beneath her hands, under a mantle of dirt and time. She sees them sometimes late at night, out of the corner of her eye. Perhaps it's just fatigue, perhaps an awareness of more than these moments here, now but there at the edge of her vision, she senses those moving moments of lives that went before. People who valued freedom over power, truth over political correctness, people unafraid to ask "why" or "how". People just like her, full of fear and pride and arrogance, courage and love, the knowledge of suffering and foreshadowing of their own death, saying no to death, for generation after generation, knowing that can't stop it, but damned if they won't go out trying.
She sometimes look into unseeing eyes, wondering if at that moment of their passing, the questions were answered, or if perhaps more compassionately, they had forgotten the asking of them. But there is only scent and whispers, there in that cold landscape, speaking, murmuring across time, the questions they can no longer seek, but she can give voice to, with a simple but solemn, signature at the bottom of a page.

The items put away, she returns to a table of tools, a place to work and repair, form and craft, as she finds something soothing in fixing and finding answers in that which is broken, even as she restores its use.

The young man in the button-down shirt picks up an old violin, worth more than all of his other possessions combined, even as appearance alone might label it, in unknowing eyes, as yard sale material.  The notes reach out to the depths of the dwelling, penetrating the darkness, laden with the awe and enigma that can be borne on the strings of remembering men. From the shadows, a woman smiles.
These people may all be strangers or they may be bound by blood, bond or friendship.  But they do share one thing; an understanding that life bears with it the remnants of the past.  They can call it baggage or call it wisdom. They can cover it, shed it, walk away from it, forget it ever happened and forget its lessons.  But as they destroy that history, they destroy themselves.

Better they can preserve it, for what it was, those moments, those things that made them what they are. They can treat it all as something shameful, or they can speak or write of it, in a tone that would be a shout of triumph were the words on a keyboard capable of speech.  They can live their lives, old before their time, for the burden of the past, or they can live sufficient, complete, desiring as the young do, not to be bound, but only to love, to query and scrutinize uncontested, left alone with their freedoms. 

It is the future.  It is the past.  An elderly man sits in a chair, surrounded by books and antiques.  The room has not changed in the last fifty years.  On the shelf is a picture of a flame-haired4r woman. He slowly rises and walks towards it, joints stiff with pain, his form cleaving the space she once passed through.  He passes a shelf, a book bound with leather, an old revolver, a small vase, his glance touching what her eyes had lost. He picks up the photo and realizes that some things, even if not present, are never truly gone, fixed and held in the annealing ash that is our history.

As the night descends upon him unchecked, he stands and looks hard at everything.
L.B. Johnson

Monday, July 8, 2019

Thoughts on Growing Old - From Abby's friend Simba who was 15 when these photos were taken.

“It`s not how old you are, it`s how you are old.”  
―  Jules Renard
"Those who love deeply, never grow old.  They may die of old age, but they die young."
--Ben Franklin
"If your heart has peace, nothing can disturb you."
--Dalai Lama
"There's a treat in your pocket-- I know it."
Simba the Golden Retriever.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Larelei the Rescue Lab update.

Just a photo of our newest rescue Lab. She's six years old. She'd lived in a really bad puppy mill for six years  (small enclosures, one lightbulb in an old shed, no outside time, litter after litter of puppies). She LOVES running in the yard, but loves Abby's collection of stuffed squeaky animals, she treats them like puppies. This is "Aunt Bee" one of a collection of squeaky bees in a plush beehive from

We miss Barkley every day but Abby (Abby Normal) and Larelei (Lara Croft) dogs have healed our hearts.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Atomic Coffee - Memories of Independence

One thing I brought back from my childhood home before it was recently sold was the last of the piece of my Mom's favorite dishes which were from the '50s, the Franciscan Atomic Starburst Sputnik dinnerware. It's pretty beat up and I so wish I had one of the coffee mugs as every time I picture my Mom I picture there in the kitchen in the morning, drinking out of that cup  I found a reproduction online and bought it. Sitting home this morning on Independence Day, it brought back how much I missed my Mom when I first moved out on my own. So for tonight - a Chapter from my second book.
Chapter 11 – Leaving the Nest (From Saving Grace - A Story of Adoption Outskirts Press 2015)
One of the rites of passage into adulthood in my generation, outside of the coveted driver’s license, was getting your first apartment. It seems most of us couldn’t wait to have our own place, even if it was bereft of any furniture not normally seen on the patio, or any other creature comfort.

For some it might be during or after college, for some it might be after college or the military, but there is no getting past the memory: that first taste of independence was like your first significant kiss. It seems like years ago though it’s not, yet you can still remember the taste, how you felt; like a match burning without a source of ignition, waiting for something to set alight. >When Allen was finally stationed at a submarine base on the same coast as me, I flew a small Piper airplane to see him after getting directions to his base housing. I was still working on building the required hours for my single engine airplane commercial rating. I missed him, feeling like only half of myself when he wasn’t around. >Allen’s place was easy to pick out among the identical battleship-gray dwellings, a tale I’ve told many times, his being the only one with the For Sale by Owner sign and a herd of pink plastic flamingos around it.
That wasn’t his first place though. I remember Allen’s first apartment post high school graduation while he was working at Montgomery Ward Auto Center. It was a two bedroom place that he shared with a couple of buddies. The carpet was this horrid shag that was less “clean and fresh” and more the chip and hamburger crumbles equivalent of a body farm. Their decor consisted of a couple of chairs and a display made of what appeared to be every imported beer they’d drunk since graduation, the bottles carefully dried and set up against the wall in some sort of artistic display of German expressionism.

Being the solitary type, my first place was a tiny apartment on the fifth floor in an old brick building. There were no elevators, but it was in a clean, safe neighborhood with lots of parking. Too bad I could no longer afford a car. But it was near the bus line, I had a bike, and my best friend had a car if I got stuck.
My furniture consisted of a beanbag chair, a couple of lawn chairs, and a bed. I’d have friends over, and the older ones would bring wine. But these weren’t the alcohol-fueled parties of my peers or even my brother’s buddies. We’d bring books and we’d discuss history and science, both fiction and non-fiction. I’d make coffee for the younger crowd, and we’d banter about Calvin and Hobbes long before they were a cartoon. Those were good evenings, as we gently sipped on a drink in a serious, almost celibate way as the conversations went late into the night. There was nothing better.

Until I got homesick.  
The first couple of months were grand, staying up as late as I wanted (well, late, given I was going to school and working thirty hours a week), leaving my books lying all over the place without the family dog using them as chew toys. I could have pizza for breakfast, Bologna sandwiches for lunch, and more pizza for dinner (if an apple is in the room, that counts as your serving of fruit for the day). I could play the radio as loud as my neighbors would allow, which was generally louder than what parents would permitif you’re living in a building that’s mostly full of young people, at least on the fifth floor.

But when you trudge up five flights of stairs to come home, there’s no one there with a snack who says, “So, what have you been up to?” As kids, that was the best part of the day, coming home to a mom who gave up a great career just to be there to make sure we were fed, loved, and educated. We used to rush in from play like stampeding cattle, poured a glass of milk, and sat down to cookies or whatever she made (which during her cancer treatment was often just frosting between graham crackers, all she had the strength for, though she’d brightly tint the frosting just for us).  

We’d chatter away until the sugar buzz wore off, get a big hug, and go tend to our chores.  

As I walked into that first apartment, greeted only by mute dust bunnies, I realized I missed all that. I missed dinner as a family around the table, the saying of grace as we held hands. I even missed Dad admonishing me as I trailed in dirt when I brought in a fresh load of firewood, yet always making sure I was safely in my bed at night; a quiet closing of my door against the noise in the living room, his feet a thick whisper in the hallway as my eyes closed in safety and peace.

I missed my mom.
But there was so much to do now that I didn’t have a lot of time for reminiscing. Not only did I have a full load of college classes, there was still my job at the airport pumping gas when I wasn’t in school. The weather seemed to be one of two choices: desert hot or a dark chill that pelted my skin and hands with sleet like little daggers of ice, the wind so strong that the flame from a departing F-4 fighter jet shed away like fiery streamers as I stood and watched and yearned.

Then there was the other job at the local funeral home chain where I worked weekends, which I had through high school. That job was ideal for a student. It was their rural location, without a funeral director on nights and weekends unless called, and it paid more than minimum wage.

I had few responsibilities unless a body was brought in or a family stopped by due to a sudden death. In both cases I knew what to do, and aside from some light housekeeping and an occasional invoice to process, the rest of the twelve-hour shift was mine to do schoolwork. I learned how to dress and act like a grown-up. I learned how to make really good coffee. I learned how to say “I’m sorry for your loss,” and truly feel it. I learned what “closed casket” often really means.
For both Allen and me, having our own place without “Mom!” was an eye-opener. Laundry, I discovered, did not magically do itself; and as many times as I stood in front of the refrigerator, it never spit out a meal like a food replicator on a galaxy class starship.

And between rent, food, bus fare, tuition, and books, there was no money for much else. I applied for student loans but was always turned down with “your family income is too high.” I tried to explain my dad was not paying for my college, I was. We were raised where you either put yourself through college, as Mom and Dad did, or you joined the military. Once you were eighteen, you were on your own financially.

It sounds harsh, but my parents grew up in the first Great Depression, my mom the offspring of generations of Scandinavian seafarers. My great uncle was a captain of his own ship, the Marie Bakke; other relatives less well known yet not forgotten, even if quietly tapping their bones together at the bottom of a cold sea. 

Dad grew up dirt-poor, getting through college with ROTC and a full-time job on campus.

But like our parents and grandparents before us, we were expected to make our own way; and the last time I was turned down for a student loan, I looked at the lady who said I didn’t qualify and said, “Have you ever eaten an oatmeal sandwich"> Being a young adult had its perks, but a high standard of living wasn’t one of them. But I learned a lot during that time. How to fix what little I owned (duct tape was a repair); how a slow cooker from the Salvation Army could make meals for the freezer for a week for less than the cost of some blue boxes of pasta; how filling bra cups up with cotton and wrapping them around your head does make a good set of ear protection when the neighbor on the other side of the thin wall has an all-night date with that was either an overly sexed blonde or a wolverine (hard to tell with the noise).

It taught me about working so hard that when the shift was over I’d lie down on a hard floor in a back room and sleep, unable to stand on my feet long enough to get to a bunk. It taught me about the riotous joy in the smallest of things: the taste of rich soup, the sweet wine of both freedom and communion, the tender kiss of support from the ones that see you through all of the battles.
A lifetime later my brother and I would still both lie on opposite sides of the country, in simple beds in simple houses. Mine was a hundred years old, Allen’s not much newer. He had no home computer; I had a phone the size of a boat anchor whose only app was the “ringing” one. None of our dishes matched, and there were more books than any other single type of item in either of our homes. As we both lay quietly before sleep, we listened to the wind, to the sound of the wood of the houses around us, a wood that neither bends nor moans. The wood itself was still, as are bones that quiet when the reflexes of earthly compulsions have expended themselves.

Hard times and lean times are only forever if you believe they are. If you refuse to, they are simply brief glances in which, for a moment without measure or context, will lie in your sights the portent of all that you think you cannot bear but will, there between the darkness and the light.  - LBJ

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

When Lighting Fireworks, Be Considerate to the Neighborhood pets.

My dogs go crazy with fireworks.  Normally we go to a friend's farm in Illinois to get away from the noise but they are in the middle of harvest due to the weird weather so company is not a good idea.  So we're toughing it out in the city where fireworks go on for 4 days straight, illegal loud ones the police do nothing about. If we're not at my friend's farm, I usually go to a hotel near the airport where there are no fireworks (being shot at more than once, I don't like the fireworks either). But I don't want to leave Larelei alone with just Dad.  We'll get through this, even if it means noise canceling headsets.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Game of Bones

I woke up this morning to The Game of Thrones Red Wedding Scene - as done by a Labrador Retriever (Larelei is crated during the night)

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Dog Daze of Summer

Today was our first really "hot" day out after a June that included temps down in the low 40's.  Time to see if Larelei will like the kiddy pool.  Abby Lab will not set a paw into it.
Look Larelei, Dad has your pool filled up.
And you can fetch your ball from it.
Look, Dad is standing like a flamingo Larelei.
I'd rather play fetch!

That was fun Dad, move that
big pink water dish and
let's throw it again.