Saturday, February 17, 2018

Into the Night With Me - In Memory of CP Commander Paul Bauer

In Chicago this week, we lost a well-loved and respected police Commander, Paul Bauer, to a criminal's bullet.  His colleagues were helpless to stop it, but they are there now to honor him.  When going into battle soldiers know who has their back. In Law Enforcement, it is much the same. But in the day to day life, we often find out who is around us that would take that literal bullet for us.

Growing up my big brother was my protector. If you've read my first two books you know our story well. He was my best friend and guide despite the age difference.  I still thank him for when he sent the "live toad in a gift box" to the snooty girl down the block that made fun of me for wearing hand-me-downs and home sewed clothes because my Mom chose to be a full-time mom rather than return to the workforce as a Deputy Sheriff for Multnomah County when they adopted the two of us late in life.

When Mom died, and Dad briefly checked out emotionally, my beloved brother off in Submarine Service, I left home young, having started college at age 14, fleeing not simply because I was fleeing, but that the absence was the only argument I had at 14 to employ against the losses in my life. I was alone until I was not, then a pregnancy in college and my daughter's subsequent adoption made me realize I needed family around me again, even if not related by blood. So there were friends, and there were toasts and tears and healing as I got past the sound that goodbyes made.
When I graduated and was accepted into flight training to become a pilot I had much the same support system. Our Crew Chief, who often looked at us like something on the bottom of his shoe, honestly was our biggest fan, but using Crew Chief etiquette wasn't allowed to show it. Crew Chiefs were like that, finding the occupation of keeping their emotion steeled against the worst so captivating, that they had no other emotion available. He wasn't scared, but thinking everyone under his charge was such an idiot that we would never see another sunrise, he remained firm in his resolve that what was to be was predestined.   The ground crew was won over by homemade chocolate chip cookies even if they weren't quite sure what to make of the first female Commander in the unit.  My copilots became family, even the one that used to spray the whole cockpit down with Lysol because he was a germaphobe which followed with me puking into his flight bag due to a late night out and a fighter pilot breakfast (you'll have to google that, this is a family-friendly blog).

We'd launch, whether we were ready or not, listening to the sounds of the ground crew (clear on 2) with that listening attention that meant we were ready to go out and confront whatever those words meant. In the distance, a knot of men, moving with deliberate movement, offering a wave as we taxied out, their roles unclear as the wind amped up a slow vibration in the air, but their support unwavering,

But later in life, when my flying was behind me except for the occasional inverted romp in an aerobatic Decathlon, my support system was not so structured. There were friends I thought I could rely on that disappeared like smoke when there were clouds on the horizon. There were those that wanted to be friends simply to build their fan base. And there were those that were like the walls of my house - quiet, not always saying anything, but always there to keep me warm and safe.

My team at work has always been a constant. I've worked with gruff curmudgeons who held evidence in their giant paws of hands like the most tender of playthings even as they busied themselves with matters of life and death that brooked no delay. And I've worked with the young probies, so bursting with ambition and testosterone that they always upheld a state of lively satisfaction no matter the amount of deeply questioned bloodshed.

I've been covered in gore, and I've been shot at, ending my day wet, tired, and stiff in every joint, with that momentary hallucination of vision that comes to the insanely exhausted, where like a drowning man reviews his life, I realized that not only did I not find the smoking gun, I left the coffee pot on this morning.
But I always had my support system.

Today, I'm management- more likely to be felled by a paper cut than a bullet. My team still visits, but in doing so I'm "Ma'am" not  "L.B" as I'm high up at Secret Squirrel Central and no longer a field investigator. Times change, time slows. But I do know that there are those around me I can count on, both personally and professionally, in that enlightened compression that dwells upon the approach of a storm.

Yet, on those nights I'm stuck in a hotel room, the bed linen cold and soundless under my hand, clinging softly to that hand in the quiet air as breathing vaporizes in the faint light as I wait for the phone to ring, I'm aware of something.
I still have those that watch my back, even if they are only friends and family, strong in my life, even if their numbers are as a shadow is larger than the object that casts it. They are there in those mornings where the red dawn crests in the sharp light as if beyond the horizon lay hell not heaven. They are there in those soft nights, where ice cubes tinkle and the air carries on it only the scent of mint and soft lemon verbena perfume as small children chase fireflies in the yard.

As I return from my travels, the taxi taking me from the airport, the old bungalows of Chicago pass by the window in grays and browns, lighter than dust and laid lightly upon the earth, as if one good hard rain would wash them away, I smile. I am simply another suit and a laptop, trying to make a little difference in an insane world, where those that work for me, risk their lives for what is right and good. This is not the life I planned, and it is not the life I imagined, but it is the only life I want, here with those who would walk into the night with me. - L.B. Johnson

Friday, February 16, 2018

Prayers for Crystal

Many of you may have heard the news story of the young Texan Special Education Teacher, wife, and mother of five that got both strains of this season's flu, that turned into pneumonia, sepsis and a serious MRSA infection (it's resistant to many antibiotics).  WFAA-TV has coverage. Crystal Whitley got a flu shot early on as she just had a baby and wanted to be healthy and strong to care for all of her children.

But she ended up on life support.  She has turned a corner towards recovery, her feeding tube removed and her being able to walk a few steps but she is not out of danger and all prayers are welcome as she continues what will be a lengthy hospital stay. We've been praying for her as we have friends and family in her area and have the permission of one of her loved ones to post this fundraiser which is on her Facebook page that one of them is maintaining with updates.

Please consider buying a T-shirt to help her family with some of the medical expenses.  Even as working parents it will be more than they can handle.  I plan on donating more when I get my next royalty check - normally all my book sales go to the animal rescues, but some months, there are families in need that also get a check s I cover the dog's monthly sponsorships with my own funds.  That's part of being a community, as you all are to me.

The link to purchase is below in pink.


Thank you for your continued kindness.

The Johnson Family and Abby T. Lab

And in Today's News. . . .


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Thankful Thursday

Today, while dreaming of warmer days to come, we're taking part a challenge from Hailey and Zaphod's Mom over at

which was to list 3 things every day she is grateful for, we are going to join the blog hop of
For Thankful Thursday.

The month is half over so here is our daily "thankful for" items.  I'm going to list just two per day since I'm late getting started on this, but feel free to add your own.

1. Being married to my best friend
2. Abby the Rescue Lab
3. Our 102-year-old Bungalow
4.  Faith and forgiveness
5.  My church family
6.  Our pastor (having a pastor that can do a muppet impression during Bible Study is a find).
7.  Daily conversations with my 97-year-old Dad
8.  A daughter that grew up safe and happy with her adoptive parents
9.  Memories of cookouts with my late brother and Barkley (hey bro - where did the marshmallows go?)
10. Listening to my husband play the violin
11. Salt Water Taffy from Bruce's Candy Kitchen in Cannon Beach
12. A job that pays well with a nice boss.
13. Friends and family that love me just as I am.
14. My 2007 truck  that's reliable with no car payment
15. A big recliner to read all of my books in
16. Watching it snow
17. Homemade bread
18. The physical ability to workout every week, even when I don't want to
19. Single Malt Scotch
20. Pancakes, backgammon, and dominoes Saturdays
21. Macaroni and Cheese
22. My acupuncturist
23. A quiet neighborhood with nice neighbors
24. Being a guest author at a book club
25. A hot bath before bed
26. Our dog walkers, Jan, Lou, and Jane
27. Bible study mornings
28. The Piano Guys - Love their Music and being a guest producer on one of their videos
29. Central air and heat (a lot of homes in the village do not have)
30. A husband that doesn't snore (he just occasionally dreams he's a tractor)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Postcards from Paris Blog Hop

Abby Lab here. My fella Frankie Furter and I have jetted off to Paris with our fur-ends to celebrate Valentine's Day in the most romantic city on earth. The Postcards from Paris blog hop is hosted by Arty, Jakey, and Rosie at:

and


Our paw-rents told us to write so we did. I couldn't find a postcard so I did an old-fashioned letter.
But it has a special STAMP!~

Frankie and I are standing in front of the Louvre art museum.
I liked seeing the Mona Lisa with Frankie Furter at the art museum, but I think she would have smiled more if she had a dog.


Monday, February 12, 2018

Monday Morning Moochers

After the storm, Monday morning dawns serene and beautiful.
Hey lady, where's my peanuts!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sunday Eats - Home Ec Memories

How many of you that visit here remember seeing or taking  home economic classes in school in 70's and early 80's? After that it became gender neutral "bachelor living" where one learned how to make dip out of Velveeta and use Velcro. (I had to figure out Southern biscuits with peppered bacon gravy on my own).

The whole "home economics" idea, which in my day was only for female students, was not intended to make women a slave to the kitchen but rather came about from a change in how women shopped for their family.  Before the 19th century, except for the most privileged of the wealthy, women were producers of household items, including food and clothing, rather than consumers. So the early home economics classes focused on education for purchasing decisions, as well as health and hygiene in the home. What actual knowledge was imparted was often  limited  though, by school budgets and the quality of the teachers.  I have friends of my same age group that learned nothing more than how to make things out of hamburger and cans  Not in my home ec class. We learned to make things the way generations ago did.
I had the grand dame of home economic teachers, Miss Heidenreich. She was in her sixties, never married. She was sparsely thin and about 7 feet tall but perhaps that was just my recollection in 7th grade.  At first, we were all sort of afraid of her, she was so tall, straight and stern, she just loomed at the front of the classroom, there in a grey dress.  But then we watched, at least I did, as she moved as she talked, gathering raw materials of food or cloth, coordinating the efforts.  Then, when she demonstrated the finished product of what she wanted us to do, the look in her sparkling blue eyes was one of not just joy, but quiet triumph.

I recognized a bit of that.  Most of us were lucky in that we were raised by Mom's themselves raised in the 40's and 50's when money was tight and things were made to last. My Mom came through lean times in the Depression, her Dad killed in a logging accident, with no insurance, leaving a widow and three kids to feed. My grandma somehow got my Mom through college, unheard of in that day, wherein Mom got a job that paid enough to put her two younger brothers through, while Grandma worked full time as well.  She and my grandma both then, learned to work with that same efficiency of movement,  that might be considered detached would you not recognize it as simply being the beautiful efficiency of machinery.
My grandmother would not even recognize a grocery store of today and my Mom would be appalled at the quick and cheap clothing made that falls apart within a few months of wear.  She made all of her and my clothes herself, except for jeans and T-shirts, my sweaters hand knitted as well as an assortment of scarves and winter hats.  There was also an assortment of 70's crocheted vests that looked to be more for hanging a houseplant, than for wear, but that was the fashion.  Those clothes did not wear out but were cleaned, pressed and handed down to a younger cousin (except for that one dress that ended up with a bicycle tire track up the back, and no, don't ask).

If an item of wear, needed repair, Mom knew how to do it.  I, however, wasn't too keen on learning.

You see, I liked to cook, because, I like to eat.  I'd spend hours with my Mom, helping prepare the meal, if only to set the table while I watched her work. To me, cooking was like playing with the chemistry set, how fun to see how things are formed, how ingredients interact and take on whole other forms, and even better if you can eat the results.   But I had no interest in sewing, crocheting or knitting, making decorative pillows or embroidering a tea towel. I'd rather be out in the shop with my Dad or playing with model trains or control line aircraft. To say that I discovered that if you don't FEED your Betsy Wetsy Doll, she doesn't wet, gives you some idea of my mindset with "girl stuff".
I did make a valiant effort to knit a winter neck scarf for my Dad. But that was just because I loved him.  After several months, ripping inferior work out and starting over again, and again, I had a piece only 3 x 5 inches square.  I gave up, knitted the edges together and it became a tube dress for someone's Barbie.

Let's just say I was not too excited about Home Ec. that first year, though I respected my teacher as I was taught to.  I just kept quiet and sewed my silly pink apron with my name embroidered on the pocket.  I did buttons and hems, though I got a D in "snaps" just because I was obstinate.  I learned how to darn a sock.  I sort of giggled at that, as in my home you said "darn" instead of "damn".  Actually "damn" would have been the more appropriate word to what I did to those socks.

But Miss Heidenreich taught us all of the basics. Unlike other classes, we weren't learning how to make casseroles with soup or 101 ways to use canned Crescent Rolls. The cooking was not anything out of a can, and there were some things we learned to make that were not very popular with us.  What 8th grader wants to make and eat stewed prunes or unseasoned boiled chicken for meat and broth.  What about brownies and pizza? But later, many years later, caring for the elderly, such things came in useful.  I could cook for restricted diets, I could make bread, I could make a white sauce instead of an expensive can of cream soup. I could make a variety of economical dishes with just a bit of meat or eggs or beans for protein.  I could make a cake missing key ingredients, butter, milk or eggs. (but not all three, that is known as a hockey puck).
Miss Heidenreicht would watch constantly, bright but insulate, letting us make our way, only stepping in when flames were involved, or there was a need to staunch blood.  But she was not popular with all the students as she was a stern task-masker, expecting you to work hard, to listen and to apply what she had taught you. She taught like my parents taught, but not all kids had the benefit of that experience.

She frowned on idleness and those girls that wore jeans to school, instead of neat slacks or dresses.  She dressed plainly, her dresses unadorned but for a bit of lace or a small necklace of pearls, the fabric starched into submission.  But she was not unkind, not even batting an eye when one jean-clad girl came in with green hair from a "let's add some ash blond highlights at home" disaster, only offering her extra praise for her strudel to keep her from crying.  Based on Miss Heidenreich's age, I only understood as an adult, what hardships she may have seen as a  young woman, Depression-era families sometimes starving, only the strong, resourceful and skilled surviving and thriving. It made me think differently of her home economics class, and what I came away from it with.

She was my teacher just that first year, retired and replaced by Mrs. Potter, of whom I have no real memory but for a friendly smile and the "Dante's Nine Circles of Hems".  By Ninth Grade, I'd learned enough, I thought and put in a bid to take Auto Shop instead of Home Ec.  That was met with a resounding slam of a car door.

I made my case, I knew how to make dinner, I needed to know how to change my oil and pack a wheel bearing. I was told I needed to take the "girl" classes. Shop class was only for boys.  I was told I was stubborn, I believe the term "as a mule" was heard (to which I pointed out to the administrators that unlike a horse, a mule is too intelligent to break its leg for glory running in a brief, pointless circle).  I was shot down, though there was one female friend and classmate, now an engineer, like her father, who won out and got to attend the agriculture class where she castrated a calf in a moment which gave me hope for the next generation.
So I dutifully sewed my outfits, made taffy and tarts and finally in the last sprint for independence, opted out of most of my courses, taking them at the local college, going full time in the summer.I wasn't old enough to drive but I made it there by bike and by bus or Dad's trusty steed.  I was indeed the only college freshman in a "training bra" (don't get me started on how that term started, it's not like you train them for tricks or anything "Sit",  Stay!", though getting older, they do know "roll over").

My days of home ec were over.  At the time I was happy for that, yet now, I wish I'd paid more attention, as more skills of prepping and preparing as well as knowledge and the economies of the kitchen would have served me well as I entered my 20's and 30's.

This Sunday morning, I'll be lighting the fire of a 70-year-old stove that's DIY maintenance and upkeep. The house will be cold, extra blankets used at night instead of bumping up the heat.  As the stove puts heat into the back of the house, activity picks up as if propelled by the increasing warmth. After worship, prayer and thanks, there will be a plumbing project to finish, bread to be baked, and somewhere, a sock or two that needs damning.  Outside, branches scrape and rasp against the house, the frost on the window a portent to how cold it can be for the unprepared, as winter light lay upon the ground like a pale scrap of starched grey cloth.
But like many things in homes I've lived in before, I could afford to pay to have someone do all of this, buy all this. But I choose not to. I and my family would rather do more for ourselves, with minimal help from others, putting our money into tangibles which will keep us housed and safe, where days of struggle to survive, of sparse broken meals, do not threaten.  I  find such great satisfaction in saying "I made this"  or "I saved this much",  making something out of nothing, building not a house, but a home with pieces of the past, carefully mended, and always treasured
I look at all the blogs out there, many on my sidebar, of men and women, resourceful people, who have learned how to grow, store, can and prepare healthy meals for themselves or their family; manage land, tend a farm, some with help of other family members, some completely on their own, even as they teach these skills to others. Their skills aren't limited to the kitchen but include the field and the workbench. I have learned a lot from them, to add to what skills I grew up with.
Taking care of your family, your needs and safety, with no handouts and your own resources and skills is something to be admired.  All are things I wish were still stressed in school now.  Those that learn themselves, the men and women that do so and then pass on that knowledge to others, give me hope for the future.  I do think Miss Heidenreich would be proud.

Sunday Selfie - A Barkley Memory

The loveseat and the pillows - Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Flower Friday FAIL

We were going to post some flowers for
 Miss Rosy at


Where Rosie lives has all sorts of 
pretty flowers popping up!
But there are no flowers to see!
Nope, they're not under the snow either
I'll go fluff up the snow so the
 flowers can bloom if they want to
Wow, it's deep in the back of the yard.
Mr. Bun - are you under your bush condo?
Insert theme song from Jaws here.
The snow is no match for my mandibles of death!
Well, there were no flowers
but there was lots of FUN!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

On Being a Stray - A Story from Small Town Roads

All of my writing seems to involve a pet, this one Clyde a lab mix rescue adopted by the main character. a young female rookie police officer in a small farm town (not based on me, I've always been federal and in huge cities though my Mom used to be a Deputy Sheriff).

I hope this brings a few smiles - LB
This book won first place for Fiction - Religous Theme - at the International Reader's Favorite Book Award. 

For anyone new here:  Book description as follows:


Let go of the life you wanted to get the one that you were meant for.

With a fresh college degree in Criminal Justice, young Rachel Raines is looking for a place to hide a heart full of loss, and a quieter police patrol than Chicago. The bequest of her late aunt's house seems like the perfect opportunity for both if she can survive the gigantic spiders, creaky plumbing, and inevitable challenges of being the rookie on a small town force.  It's a place unlike any she has lived in - a tiny rural town with no coffee baristas and one single restaurant that has a giant cow perched on the roof.

Sometimes God has other plans for us.

Down the street, her aunt's best friend, Evelyn Ahlgren, marks the passing of seasons and neighbors, long mired in her loneliness as a widow. When the young woman with scars of her own befriends her, they strike up an unlikely friendship across generations that just might help them both heal with a little help from heaven above.

Chapter 11

Clyde was doing pretty well, having only chewed up one pair of shoes, after which he gave me that doggie look that would seem to say, well, if you didn’t want it chewed up, you shouldn’t have left it on the floor.

I hadn’t done anything on the job that would cause me to be injured or fired, though there was one day this week I was worried.

I was on patrol by myself for the first time after assisting the elementary school as an extra crossing guard when classes ended. It didn’t take long to cover the whole town. There was Main Street, on which there was the family-owned supermarket. There was the beauty salon, which I’d braved post-academy to find out they had a couple of stylists there that knew all the latest haircuts, not just styles for the grandmothers. Plus I learned more about what was going on in this town than on any police scanner, as few events or inappropriate actions were missed by these women, and the information was always passed around. Note to self, if I’m going to buy wine to take to  my friend Evelyn’s for dinner, don’t buy it in town, I could just hear them now, “Look there’s Officer Raines—she bought a bottle of wine last year as well.”

There was an ice cream place, closed until summer, a tiny chiropractor’s office, the bank, the diner, and a little place you could walk in and buy a big piece of pizza by the slice. There was the liquor store which had never been robbed, and there were the shuttered remnants of the only realtor in town.

The second block of Main Street had the post office, an office of an attorney, another chiropractor’s office, and several shuttered small businesses with “for lease” signs in the window. One was a neat and brightly painted business that just had the words “hot dogs” on a sign that looked like it was from the 1970s in that carefully-maintained but long-shuttered building. There are probably some stories there. I’ll have to ask Evelyn next time we share a meal.

Between the two sections was the town square. It sat in the middle of a big roundabout which was about as close to gambling as you’d find in this place. Cars come in from six different directions, as the town was laid out almost like a star. You’re supposed to yield to the cars already in the roundabout but everyone cheats, darting in when there was barely enough room like it was that old retro video game Frogger. My mom used to play that silly game, and every time I entered the intersection in the police car, I’d hear the music from it in my head.

That spot had a lot of fender benders and resultant tickets for failure to yield. I think I now know why this little town had two chiropractors and an attorney.

I’d survived another trip through it, so I headed on down toward the train tracks, near which the only local pub sits. On the other side of the tracks stood our police station and an old railroad station that had been converted into a small museum. That road got a fair bit of traffic as it goes on down south toward the Catholic Church, behind which is a small neighborhood with some families with children. Beyond that, there is a drugstore, a small doctor’s office, an auto repair shop, a gas station, and then you’re in the open country.

As I got to the four-way stop, looking into the neighborhood, I saw an arm waving and turned to see what was up. There were some children that looked to be young siblings who frantically waved when they saw the police car. This neighborhood had several families with children and just as many dogs. The first time I got a barking dog complaint when out with my training officer, I pulled up to the address in question to find the only non-barking dog on the street.

The children were still waving when I came to a stop and got out. I noted no one was injured, but they were pretty worked up about something as their mom watched with concern from the porch.

“Please, please help, our dog got away! The gate was open. We called for him; he always comes if you call, but he must be too far away to hear!”

Just as I’m a sucker for those looks from Clyde; I couldn’t ignore the plaintive plea of a child. They were all so cute in their winter gear.

I said, “What’s your dog’s name?” The oldest little boy said, “Walter.”

Walter?

So I did what any other self-respecting law officer would do. I immediately got in the squad car, turned on the lights, and over the speaker called out, “Walter, come here boy! Good dog, Walter. Come here, Walter, good dog.”

You could probably hear that a mile away.

People started coming out of their houses, laughing at me, but a minute later here came this little white puffball of a dog racing toward the kids. I tipped my hat to them and drove away as soon as all were safely inside their fenced yard.

I understand, now that I’ve got a dog, how easy it is to get attached. Hopefully, when news of that got back to the station I would not get in trouble for the unusual use of the vehicle’s equipment but, as I know how we all are with kids and dogs, I’m sure I would just be teased a little bit.