Thursday, January 31, 2019

Sending Warmer(er) Thoughts

Abby Lab here - it's day 2 of the Polar Vortex here in Chiberia. Yesterday it was Minus 23 when Mom got up and today it was Minus 21. With 20+ mph winds that made the wind chill down in the minus 50's.  Brrrr

I don't get to go sniff in the backyard as I won't come in when called. So I have been leaving pee-mail in the front yard where Dad lets me out with a leash.  Our walk is just from the back porch to the end of the driveway and back.  I'll do my business there and then we run back into the house for a treat.

Dad took time off from work to help Mom out.   She teleworked today wearing about 87 layers of clothes  I just napped and collected funny weather things.  Smile!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Teaching My Fingers to Fight

Blessed be the Lord, my strength, who teaches my hands to war, 
and my fingers to fight.
 - Psalms 1:44

For the family of Leonard Zickler.

On  a trip home to my hometown, before his death, I took my big brother to breakfast one morning while Dad was at the doctor. Not feeling so good after chemo, he went only to please his little sister. Before we dug into our plates we prayed. As we bowed our heads, the entrance door opened with a waft of cold air and the murmur of pouring rain. I looked up and noticed the people at the next table were not looking at the door, but rather, at our table, as if our actions were unknown to them

My brother and I were adopted and although not related by blood my family shaped me in ways I'd not have known otherwise.  We grew up in a small logging town, a community both inside, and outside of the church.  I was raised with the values of my parents, meals taken as a whole family, said around the table, with Grace always being spoken before we began.

When I go back to my hometown now, we still eat at that table; we still sit in the same pew in church. There's comfort there in that community of saints and sinners. As we pray, I glance at my Dad, who has lived a life of total love, service, and honor, sensing how his heart will soon fail him. It's a strong heart, a good heart, but it is failing him more each day. He sees me looking at him and puts his hand on mine as we bow our head in the silence that is not silence but is innumerable.

Is that fair? Yet, he's had almost seven decades more than his first daughter, born in extraordinary perfection, simply too early and too small, the awful perfect prayer of his firstborn, who breathed only days, my mom rendered barren from the travail of the birth. Yet from that death came life, adopting children no one wanted, and soon the table was filled, with small hands, small hearts and much laughter. 

Had my parents closed off their hearts in that original loss, that table would have been silent. Although I’ve already lost my Mom, who died when I was in college, my Stepmom of 28 years, a baby of my own, my first husband, my brother, and soon Dad, they leave me with love and forgiveness, just as my heavenly Father does.

I've certainly had to ask for that forgiveness in my talks with God. For I talk to Him regularly, in the woods, when the light has a weary quality to it, like a backwater pool of light lying low, winter's light is crisp, clean, illuminating everything so clearly.  The words are less than wishes and more than regrets, and even if I didn't state them out loud, I could hear them with my breathing as they gathered within the intent of breath and came forth in a rush of cold air, invisible words going up to an invisible God.

Sometimes He and I talk as I'm standing in the middle of a scene of dark desolation and crime scene tape, black bag in my hand, red smeared on my boots, as bold as if painted on a door frame, a sign, that for tonight, I was to be spared.  Perhaps this one time I did not save His sparrow which He perhaps neglected to mark, but I am here to reconcile the remains. It's just talking, but it's still a prayer; prayer being more than the order of words, the conscious calling of the mind that is speaking, or the sound of the voice praying. I do not expect to hear anything back, the communication between us tongued with fire beyond the blaze that is dying next to me. But it's comforting, words spoken into the void, penitence, and belief, as all around hope is falling into embers. He may not respond, but He is there, Never and Always.

So I do not care if someone looks at me oddly if I bow my head. I only smile when someone says, how can you do that with all that you've seen, the pain and harm that man can inflict on one another?

But I can, for I have come to realize that the same God that seemed to sit silently while hearts ceased beating, also blew life into everyone else around me that I love deeply, now shaping their strong hands and putting the spark in their vision. So it is, I don't clench my hands in anger in all that I've witnessed, have borne, but simply give thanks. God writes death on all our hearts, just as he writes life, our story penned as much by our actions as His creation, our heart a journal that only we keep, its entries scribed by both man and God, it's ending as much as a mystery as we are.

I, for one, am thankful for the words.

This year will be five years since my brother passed, the few precious things he left me, on the shelves with other treasured things where I can see them when I wake up each morning.  Small, simple things - powerful things

With my morning meal, I will say a prayer, of thanks for that and many things. For my brother and his brave heart. For those that prayed for me over the years, even when I didn't deserve it. For forgiveness of sin, for those, we have lost and may soon lose, for the blessing of the one that loves me, even in my imperfections.

Bless us oh Lord for these thy gifts. . . .

Monday, January 28, 2019

Snow Walkies

With the extra foot of snow we got overnight and the low temps, we took Abby on her walk down our alley, not the street, as due to its narrowness with tiny garages  that exit to the alley on both sides it's fairly sheltered from the wind and has little traffic, as most of the tiny garages are full of "stuff" and people park on the street. We have the only two car garage that faces the street on our block but that's because our house was built on two lots, and the garage was added sometime after the home was built in 1915.

This morning, as we headed down the alley and reached the next block over, turning to head back home, at the Irish Pub there, the owner was out with a snowblower clearing away the snow.

Abby was totally fascinated by the machine and as the man proceeded down the sidewalk with it she cocked her head as if to say. . . .

"That dog he is walking is the weirdest one I've ever seen!"

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Road Warriors - Winter Driving Safety

We've got an arctic air mass stalking the upper Midwest and the HIGH this coming Wednesday is supposed to be MINUS 12.  It's time to think about commuting to work or to the store in weather like that.

Think about your drive home today. The sun might be shining, but what will the weather be like when you come home from work? What if your car slides or is forced off the road due to another driver that leaves the scene. There you are, stuck in a ditch or broke down in an isolated area as the temperature inside your vehicle slides quickly to zero or below?

More times than you know, after a strong and unexpected storm, people have died on their way home, having left offices in light coats to covered parking garages, expecting a quick drive home to their snug garage. They are just going from covered parking to covered parking. Who needs gloves or a thick coat or other things? And they died.

Being outdoors in the winter, how you gear yourself is crucial. You have to dress for it, layering the clothes, making sure you keep dry at all costs. My Mom would tell us to keep our hats on as we'd lose 90% of our heat through our head. I'd be a smart alec and say "so Mom, I can go naked and wear a hat and I'll only be 10% colder".

It's not 90% but she was close. Even though my Arctic weight Carhart has a great hood that snaps in front of the neck, I still have a scarf for additional protection around the exposed areas. You can lose over 50 percent of your body heat from an unprotected head and even more if your neck, wrists and ankles aren't insulated well, for those areas of the body have very little insulating fat and thus are good radiators of heat. If you don't cover your head well, because of the blood circulation in it, much of it close to the surface, can cause you to lose heat quickly. The brain is quite susceptible to cold.

You want to avoid overheating as well. If you sweat into your clothes, that damp will decrease the insulation quality of the fabric and as the sweat evaporates, your body cools. If you start getting sweaty, open your jacket up a bit, or remove an inner layer of clothing or take off your gloves for just a minute. Hands, like the head can really dissipate the heat.

Do take gear for outdoor activities, even a day hike when the temps are in the 30's or 40's. If you have room and are going to be in the woods, pack up tightly a heavy, down-lined sleeping bag. Ensure the down remains dry. At least take an extra jacket, hat, gloves, and a blanket. If outdoors and you don't have a sleeping bag you can make one out of some parachute cloth, which is easy to pack and nature's own dry filler, pine needles, moss, leaves (make sure it's dry), placing the dry filler between two layers of the cloth.

But what about those less obvious treks, that trip to the store, that drive home from the lab or a night out on the town. That small trendy coat is going to seem pretty meager if you end up stuck, and unable to run your car's engine to heat the vehicle.

I always tried to carry a small survival bag in the car or in the truck when I know I am going to be out in isolated areas, or after dark anywhere. You don't need enough to stock or arm an entire platoon, just enough for basic protection from the elements and nutrition for a night or two. Pack it in a small bag, or a box.  This week, each of our cars has a well rolled up sleeping bag that's good to down to minus 30.  They were a bit pricey but they are part of our "the house lost power for days" supplies, which thankfully we have yet to use.

Also, as a second generation LEO, I'm going to tell you another bit of advice.  If you are broken down and someone stops to offer to help, do NOT roll the window down.  Have them call Law Enforcement.  Not to be an alarmist but a dear friend of mine got stuck one winter night, and the kindly fellow that offered to take her to safety assaulted and beat her, leaving her in the ditch for dead. Not everyone that may offer aid if you are stranded, especially women, is a good Samaritan. Women are often victims of those they trust. If the person offers help, have them call the Highway Patrol, Sheriff or local police. and stay near you until they arrive. But if your life is not in immediate danger, stay in your vehicle, with the window rolled up, until that help arrives. If a lone car pulls up with flashing lights, but no markings, or makings and no uniform, ladies, ask the officer for their ID before you roll down that window. Look at it closely. They won't mind one bit, and would hope their wives or children of driving age do the same.

Now for assembling a basic, compact, easy to store winter kit.
What NOT to put in the kit is easy.

I think you can get along without a Margherita (alcohol is not the beverage of choice if you are conserving body heat), a snow globe (just look out the window), a DVD, or your lip gloss.

Hearing protection? Well, gentlemen, that depends who you are stuck in the ditch with (I told you to stop and ask for directions ).

Here's what I would carry for trips about town - just the basics, not heavy, and it doesn't take up much space. For starters, already in the vehicle is bottled waters and protein bars, a heavy wool blanket, a small shovel, flares in the glove box, a map, cell phone charger that will run off the vehicle's power supply, a trash bag and a small first aid kit (throw some surgical tubing in the first aid kit, it can be used for a tourniquet, transferring water from a catch and is generally more useful than straps). Also are a couple of plumber candles with matches in the glove box which can be burned for warmthThose things stay year round.

Now time for the winter kit or the kit that goes on any trip away from developed areas. Swiss Army knife, food high in in fat/protein and carbs, water for at least 3 days, a metal container to melt snow, waterproof matches (in a waterproof container), a backup lighter, a compass, waterproof ground cloth and cover, flashlight, 60 hour emergency candle, water purification tablets, something to signal for help (a mirror to augment the flares), an extra warm shirt or jacket and an extra warm blanket. (I throw that sleeping bag alongside as well). Also, a bright colored warm hat to wear and something else bright colored to wear or hang from an antenna. Warm, waterproof boots, gloves, tape, string and hand sanitizer. Why? Cleanliness will keep you from risking dehydration with an upset tummy, sanitizer can also disinfect a wound and be used in starting a fire. This is in addition to the box of Kleenex and wet naps I usually have in the car.

click to enlarge

It sounds like a ton of stuff but you can put it all in a medium sized box or small duffel bag in the trunk. Better yet, if you are traveling solo, space permitting, have it in the vehicle with you so you don't have to get out into the elements to set up for warmth until help arrives. Stay with your vehicle, attaching a bright piece of cloth to an antenna for visibility. Don't try and walk out if can you help it. People have done that and been found frozen stiff only a 1/4 mile away from their vehicle after getting disoriented in the snow.

Simple advice. Small, useful things you likely already have around the house. Gather them up. Know how to use them. They may one day save your life, so you can get home safely and in need of proper refreshment.

And save the frosty things for when you get home.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Brian's Thankful Tursday

Today, while dreaming of much warmer days to come, we're taking part a challenge from Hailey and Zaphod's Mom at a post she did last year 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 almost 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 98-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 (OK there is that whole furlough thing, but I have a great Christian 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 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 (who is treating me for free during the furlough in exchange for homemade Lefse - he's from El Salvador and loves this Scandinavian flatbread made out of potatoes, a little flour and cream).
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 some of their videos (they are fans of my books)
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)
31. God's Grace

Monday, January 21, 2019

Barkley Memories - That First Trip to PetsMart

Mom - I need more squeaky toys.  You leave, you're gone for days and you come home all tired out, without any squeaky toys.

I remember that day, my fiance (now husband)  was visiting me in Indiana and we had a few errands that needed to be run before our Fall wedding.

First a stop at the BigBox store for some cleaning stuff ("hey look - the WalMart Brand of foaming bathroom cleaner with "Scrubbing Bubba") and a trip to the UPS store to pick up all my mail.

Then off to PetsMart.  We'd not been to one before.  He had another groomer that was co-located with his doggie daycare, and most of the time when I needed something, I'd order it online.

But here we were, on our first trip.

 I wasn't sure how Barkley would do, as he hates tile floors, but once he saw all the toys and the smells and the other dogs, he just charged right in pulling his "Dad" like some sort of Nantucket Sleigh Ride.
Look! People!
Hmmm, giant tub of dog Cheetos or the chewy snacks. Can I have both?
I think we need the "Beware of Dog" sign to intimidate that wimpy mixed breed terrier next door.
Oh look, it's dog adoption day!  I'm so lucky to have a home, I hope some folks will take these dogs home today and give them treats.

From the distance came the sound of several squeaky toys going off in a single round and the rest of the pictures were just "dog shape blur"

He did behave himself at the check stand while his treats, a new leash and a  $1.99 sale toy were bagged up. (The duck was on sale apparently due to a pneumothorax.)

See Barkley - you behaved so you get a toy of your own.

squeek squeek squeek squeek squeek squeeky squeekkkkkkkkkkk!!!! OK, that's enough toy for now Barkley.
You can have my duck when you pry it out of my cold, cold jaws.

Yes, I think everyone had fun! (look carefully at the sticker on my shirt)

So many good memories Barkley while you were with us, and so many new ones to be made with our Miss Abby.
Look Mom - I got a scarf from the PetSmart groomer that matches my squeaky elephant! 

Don't I look adorable?

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Walkies Play by Play

Dad, I think you forgot my evening walk (insert Elvis
Face here).
Did you hear me?  Walkies.  It's Walkies time!
Abby, you have to wait, I'm putting the leftover foodables away with Mom.

And that's more important than walkies?

Color me Sad.
Wait, Dad's getting his coat on!
And he just put a treat in his pocket for when I go potty.  Yay!!