9/24/08

Ah - Autumn!

My friend Mary LOVES Autumn. http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=200490683

She decorates her house, her website, EVERYTHING. She inspires me to enjoy the seasons more than I ever have. I personally am a Spring person as I love the new life, the new warmth and the promise of a season of fresh vegetables and greenery. Even with the extreme heat of the summer, I find summer a great season. Even the mosquitoes won't sway that opinion of the season.

As Autumn progresses and Winter threatens, we get spiders galore spinning their webs all around. The banana spiders http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nephila and all sorts of other spiders. The banana spiders spin webs much like the spider in Charlotte's Web spun. My mother has always been enamored with them and goes to great effort to move them to new places with a broom before I visit. I am enamored with NO spider unless it's on the bottom of someone's shoe!

There is another species of spider I have yet to identify, however, that has at least sparked compassion in me. In the evenings it spins a large web sometimes between several trees. It begins working just as the sun is setting. Then, very early in the morning, just as the sun is rising, if I go outside, I can find it carefully taking this web back up. How considerate of this creature. I have no desire to eliminate it as I have yet to get the ole web in the face which normally results in temporary dizziness and occasional fainting when I imagine the gargantuan creature crawling up my back which has been the experience with previous banana spider encounters.

Perhaps if the banana spiders learned to write like Charlotte did, I would give them more consideration. You know....they could write things like:...."This is a web stupid, don't walk through it" or "I will tell your fortune for $15,000" at which point I could invite the media to pay up and the next day it could write something like "yesterday you woke up and tomorrow you will wake up again". People like Oprah, Geraldo, maybe even Jerry Springer could bring their shows to my house and interview this spider and pay to have it respond with further writings such as "If you want your show to succeed, you must pay Robbi - one MIll...I mean ...ONE BILLION dollars!"

I could see the Springer edition now....

"Folks, we are the house of the famous fortune telling spider - here she is now spinning her newest fortune"...

"Little does little Spidey woman know, but her fella has been seen around the corner with a rather shiny and beautifully decorated black widow!"

Then the widow could come out and she and spidey woman could battle it out until Widow explains to spidey just what happens to a fella who messes with the widow at which point they both crack open the spidey champaigne bottle and laugh about how stupid the guy was after all! Oh , and Springer security would all be bitten by the widow before the show ends - thus changing the face of sensationalistic television forever.

All this fantasy digression began with my reflection of Mary's love of Autum!

I guess all in all I do appreciate and enjoy Autumn. Sometimes, when I am wearing my favorite turtle neck, I even appreciate winter! Christmas would not be Christmas if there was not at least a chill in the air. Plus, I have managed to finally locate myself to a part of the country where snow is almost non-existent much to my daughter's chagrine - only a child would love Nebraska-esque snowfalls!

So, enjoy the seasons as Mary tells me. Appreciate them for each new beginning the offer.

9/23/08

Vermin in the House!

As I got home yesterday evening, the tiny little baby rat was found! YAAAY for the McKenzies.

Our last experience with a wayward hamster resulted in a few holes in the wall, some carpet damage and the grief of a daughter who just KNEW this creature would come home to her. I have to say, of all the vermin species, rats make ideal pets. That sounds crazy, but they have manners, they use a litter box and they have little tiny personalities. Our Gizmo is now over three pounds and he LOVES to be held. He will not, however, run off or get into stuff if he gets out of his cage. He simply hangs out on top, standing up with his little tiny hands out when we walk by seeking some treat for his greatness. Then, he goes back into his cage and hides the treat in his ever growing pile of food/trash which gets dumped out about once a month. The dumping results in his sneezing, and wiping his eyes in disbelief and his throwing shavings all over the place while he frantically looks for the lost treasure. Then, he starts building the stash all over again. He munches on his treasure at night after we go to bed. That's so much quieter than those horrid wheels hamsters run in all night long.

Our vermin adventure began when Leiren was 9 years old. She wanted a hamster and ONLY wanted a hamster (note: a child who ONLY wants something learns early in life that if you say you ONLY want something, you can get things normally not offered, then you just add to the list later on). Her father relented and we took her to the local pet store. There in a cage in the front of the store were the hamsters. One particular fat gray hamster was more affectionate than the rest and Leiren set her heart on this little creature. It willingly got in her hand and the box they offered for transport and the store owner guaranteed me we had a male. I have since learned that one can quite easily tell the difference as the males of the species disgustingly display their massive ...er...."assets".

Leiren named our little creature Dexter and Dexter took up residence in the new cage in her room. Dexter would get out and play with her, climb on her and sleep in her lap while she watched television. We had Dexter about six days when Leiren came bounding from her room..."Guys, guys,....it's a MIRACLE...Dexter has babies!"

"What" her Dad responded...."someone is going to get sued!"

"Oh No Daddy - it's wonderful - come see"

He went into her room with her to discover eleven naked creatures that my daughter referred to as babies. They were writhing in the corner covered by the visibly proud Dexter. Leiren was thrilled beyond description. As the babies grew - and fast they did grow, they became the neighborhood attraction. Children came from all over seeking to play with them. They were fluffy yellow, gray and black - the teddy bear variety and they were quite adorable. It soon became evident however, that eleven half grown and one fully grown hamster in the same container designed for one was just too many. Many the evening we would open up the stop compartment to find them packed tightly together, sweating, panting and smiling at their comfy little lifestyle.

Leiren's friends would daily come and they would take out a few and play with them. Then, the new kid showed up. The new kid was somewhat afraid of the creatures but insisted on holding a few of them. As the little guys began to play with one another and seek out her pocket as they often did with Leiren, she went into a panic and ejected them from her lap...right into the floor. They were terrified by the reaction and scattered to all corners of the room. Leiren was able to retrieve one that evening and cried herself to sleep thinking the others were bound for certain death.

Her parents - we - on the other hand were at our breaking point and intent on delivering the rest to the petstore to make HIS problem since he had sold us a hamster who obviously had no moral character while residing in his store. The next day, the plan was implemented. First, Leiren called all her friends. SURE, it was o.k. for them to come to my house and play with vermin but not a single parent would allow the child to bring one home! Friends- ugh!

As we were rounding up the remaining nine babies, we discovered our cat Mystery had gotten in the house. Leiren was in the living room when Mystery showed up with a peculiar expression on his face. He was attempting to get her to let him out the back door when she realized the expression was the result of yellow fluffy ....something...in his mouth! Oh the drama....She screamed - literally screamed - I believe people in New York heard it. Mystery dropped the limp creature and it lay on its back, looking dismally wasted. I opened the back door and Mystery escaped before becoming a victim.

There was Leiren...sobbing...walking towards the little creature, still laying on it's back, mouth open, tongue hanging out...her head down, her hands at her side...falling to her knees (I swear I could hear background music from the Godfather playing at this point). She leaned over the little guy, tears rolling to the floor and appeared to be intent upon kissing him his last goodbye. As she reached him, he bounded to his feet and scurried under the couch. Who knew that a hamster could act! This hamster had fully convinced one and all, mostly the cat, that it was dead!

Leiren screamed again - "It's alive!" and I screamed louder "Get it out from under the couch!" We had to re-arrange the living room but we finally caught it. Examination revealed no open wounds, no death punctures, just a slobbery mess of a fluff ball. We bathed him and she put him back with his mother. He got a reprieve from delivery to the petstore.

Two weeks later, Dexter had another litter of babies - her carousing days still in full swing obviously. This time there were only five and we quickly removed them and delivered them to the petstore while we were purchasing a new cage for the renegade.

Dexter and the renegade lived about three years. They had peaceful lives, alone in each cage and enjoyed residing in the computer room - the designated residence after many a sleepless night from the wheels in the cage going round and round.

So, that was the beginning. As they passed into the history books of our family, we were able to resist vermin pets for a very long time. Then, Gizmo was "rescued" from a snakefood set up and now we have Forrest. Forrest was easy to name...as we were retrieving him from his box last night, Leiren kept saying "run Forrest run".

Vermin may not be the best of pets, but they are easy. At least the rats are. As I have already described, they entertain without truly annoying. They enjoy the occasional bit of attention but never demand it. And you can leave them alone for days on end provided they have ample food and water. So far, they are easier than cats or dogs.

9/22/08

Sweet 16

Good Monday world!

I know the entire world checks in here and reads about my small town life, so I just had to shout out there!

I had the thrill this weekend of going to Huntsville, Alabama to pick up my daughter. She has spent several weeks with her grandparents and was finally ready to come home. Coming home is bittersweet for her as she has friends there she had to leave behind. She has friends here too as well but it's sad when you leave even though you are always moving towards someone else. I wonder sometimes if we fail to realize most of our lives are moving "towards" and concentrate on what we may be "leaving".

I have a friend who has lost everything - E V E R Y T H I N G - to Ike including the little spot of land that he called home which is now gone due to erosion from the storm surge. So, even if he were able to rebuild, there is nothing currently to rebuild upon. Some say "too bad for picking a spot that is vulnerable" but all spots are vulnerable as anyone who has been through a tornado or an earthquake can testify. Our lives are fragile in the physical realm.

My daughter's request for her birthday was to attend the Dixie Reptile Show which was held at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. She found out about this show from her friend Scott who owns Pet Addicts in Huntsville, Alabama. http://www.pet-addicts.com/ He has a huge inventory of unique and ...er...interesting reptile species and he has been a great educator for her interest.

I wondered as we negotiated our trip home and the stop at the show how a reptile is actually shown. Do they have little snake collars and leashes with little rings in which you walk/slither them around? Do they teach them to sit, down, heel or come on command? Would I be given the opportunity to see those less practiced snakes rebel and refuse to follow one or the other commands. Then, how do you discipline them? Perhaps you yank their little necks with that choke collar like you would a disobedient dog? What part is actually the neck?

The owner of the Dixie Reptile show http://www.dixiereptileshow.com/ was sweet enough to give us free entrance for Leiren's birthday, so her negotiation strategy was strengthened by the fact that entrance would be free. More thoughts as I drove from Huntsville to Birmingham - do the lizards have a "category" for each class. Is there a Hunter Class, A Vegetarian Class (the class of preference). Perhaps there was a "beginner Lizard class" where all the tiny little lizards would hang out knowing only a few commands and be excused more politely when they messed up.

I had this vision of people wearing little belts with pockets full of tiny mice, crickets, worms, maybe some lettuce for those preferable vegetarian varieties and tossing the "rewards" to the reptiles as they performed according to plan. I have trained and shown dogs and horses my entire life, but I simply could not imagine what I would find when I got to this reptile show. How would one know a good "Python Specimen" from a poor one? What are the conformation requirements for the different species of lizards?...oh the questions.

We arrived at the show about 15 minutes after it "started". As we entered into the auditorium all my questions were answered. A "reptile show" is an exhibition/sale of different reptilian species by different breeders and handlers. (Ladies, these are not men by the way - those are snakes of an entirely different species - sorry to mislead)

There was table after table after table of reptiles - snakes in clear shallow bowls with clear lids stacked in some cases five or six high - lizards in the same situation - one crocodile looking creature (owners get offended by the use of the word "crocodile" by the way - they are called "Caymans" or something like that - they just look like crocodiles). To see this creature through the glass, I found exciting. To take him home - not so exciting. And there were PLENTY of attendees at this show. I believe the stats said 47 exhibitors and there was a crowd in front of each table.

There were vendors of food - crickets, worms, special diets and...er...mice and rats. We "rescued" a tiny rat baby and justified it with the fact that we bought Gizmo (our overweight, spoiled and lonely rat) a friend for $1.00. Unfortunately, he was tiny and we did not realize until JUST THIS MORNING that he could crawl through the wires of Gizmo's cage. Somewhere in our little bungalow is one very happy, very free...baby rat! Unfortunately, he could become cat food instead of the designated reptile food he was originally intended. Sometimes even the best of intentions are just not so well planned!

My daughter came out of the entire thing the proud owner of a Crested Gecko (and you too can have this wonderful addition to your household reptilian population for the outstandingly low price of $60.00). It was her birthday present for which funding had been set aside, so it's not a complete waste of money- there's a commercial playing in my head right now - gas to show -$30.00/cost to get in - free/Gecko- $60.00/cage purchased later - $60.00 - smile on daughter's face - priceless. At some point the "damage from escaped rat to carpet and upholstery - unknown at this time!" There was one person who had three tiny (the size of a dime each) geckos of some variety. OH- they were cute and they were cheap. He was honest however and confessed their wildness and the difficulty at keeping them contained - "but they are really fun to watch run across the ceiling after they get out" he said. Oh well...cute isn't always the best bet!

I think I have the only 16 year old female child who has her heart set on become a "herpiterarian/reptile breeder/expert" whatever that is. I always thought that you just referred to ANYONE who likes slithering creatures as "eww" but now I have to change my opinion. As we headed home with the lizard, previously acquired Rainbow Frog, previously acquired Albino Pacman Toad, previously acquired scorpion named Sushi (I refer to him as future Sushi for my Shoesie if I ever see him outside of his cage), I could only imagine what lies ahead. She has her heart set on a "pet snake" but fortunately, she respects her Daddy's morbid fear to the point she knows it could result in bodily harm of someone. Maybe we will see her in the next Britney Spears video tossing one of these creatures at the star while she writhes all over the stage (that would be writhing in fear, not dancing people).

I have raised my daughter so far to be a creature of independent thinking who has a sense of responsibility. I have raised her to try to be intelligent and she has spent HOUR upon HOUR researching each new addition before bringing it home. She knows exactly how to care for, nurture (is that a word that applies to reptiles?) and contain (That's a word for reptiles!) each of them. I personally shared her affection for the reptilian world years ago but never expected to have them in my home. There are those who e-mail and call her with their care questions from near and far as she has participated in forums and blogs that reveal the knowledge she has learned...if only she did the same with her math! She has become a part of a network of people and many are kind enough to take the time to educate her further regarding this or that species and it's "practicality" as far as owning it. There were many at the show who were thrilled to see her and I was...well...just a mom, hanging in the wings, watching her enjoy her world - a world she is beginning to explore that only includes me as mom- hanging in the wings.

Where does one mom go from this point? She's 16 and I am learning to let her be her own person. I am no longer her buddy- I am her Mom - guide - nurturer - supporter. My hope is that she always knows no matter where she goes, I will always be home. I gave up the hope of being "cool" the first time she talked back to me. So, you take what you can get.

Sweet 16 - is rather bittersweet for Mom.

9/16/08

My Morning Shower

So my friend has power in Houston as of last night. How quickly we forget how important that little detail in our lives is. Ike left a very horrific reminder for us all that we are no match for the forces of nature. However, God is there with us in the worst of times, holding our hands and walking us back towards the light.

I kept calling Mary last week giving her directions for preparations. I actually believed I had useful advice. My first realization that perhaps our worlds were different was when I told her "Mary, fill all your tubs, your washing machine, your sinks, pots and pans, you will need the water just to flush the toilet".

Her response was simply -"Robbi, I have a pool full of water, I think our toilets will get amply flushed!"

I had to laugh at myself. Where I live, if the power goes out, the water goes out. We have a well which provides unlimited and delicious cold spring water. I love our water! But, when we have storms and no power, we have no water!

My morning wake up is my shower. Where most people seek the comfort and power of caffeine to get them going, I head straight for the shower. If I can't get a shower, I don't really see the need to get up - going through the day feeling dirty, hair tangled and frizzy, not quite awake, not smelling like freshly lathered skin - it's just not the same the entire day.

One Sunday a month or so ago, we had a very early morning thunderstorm. This summer we have had very few storms and morning storms have been non-existent. We could hear the thunder and I said "Oh, I think I will just lay here a while and listen to the thunder...it's so nice to hear since it will bring rain" And rain it did bring - LOTS AND LOTS of rain.

It took a Category 3 hurricane to knock out Mary's power and keep it out. In our case, it took one little bolt of lightning from this storm I had welcomed so readily. I had briefly forgotten the reality of where and how I live and not dashed to get my shower before the impending lightning bolt. I KNEW it would happen, it always does - but in one brief flash - my entire day - was ...well...not even worth the effort.

After the power went out, I initially laid there listening to the rain on the tin roof - another melancholy sound. I actually enjoyed it but then I wanted to get going with my day. And still no power. Thank goodness for cell phones...I called the power company and they simply left a message that they were working on it. I am the last house on the line...this day did not look very good.

We laid in the bed a few more minutes. The storm left - no more thunder - but still no power. And OH THE RAIN. It just kept raining. It was a warm summer rain, and it was setting in for the rest of the day as best I could tell.

At that point in the day, I did something...something only a die hard countrygirl would do...something my yankee husband initially said was insane. I stripped down, grabbed the soap, the shampoo and conditioner and I headed for the back deck! I WOULD get my shower. (sidebar - the back deck faces NOTHING but 50 acres of timberland - no human eyes were injured during the back deck shower event)

I stepped out onto that deck and felt that warm rain all over me. Well, first I realized that warm rain under clothes isn't really warm naked. But I was in it now and I was not going to admit that it was not so warm. It only took my husband a few minutes to cave in to the idea and head out there himself. Again - no humans were blinded from this event.

He realized quickly that - yes - I was lying when I said "come on out, the water's warm" and he began lathering himself up as fast as he could. Before I could explain to him that the rain water was softer than our well water, he already had himself looking like a soap bubble chia pet/human. We laughed, washed each others backs and just jumped around on the deck growing more hysterical as the event passed. The dogs ran under the house, the cats were hiding from the rain and I would imagine any other beast or fowl was heading for cover - from the view.

That soft rain water did not want to let the soap rinse and we stood out there until we were shriveled, shivering raisin people! Well...he would have to shrivel A LOT to be a raisin person, but he was all wrinkly. As cold as it was, we were still there, still laughing and still having the time of our lives! And it just kept raining -just for us.

We finally finished our duck-like showers and went back inside to towel off at the back door. The power was STILL not on and we were hungry. So we dried ourselves as best we could, got dressed and headed for Hardee's to see if they had power. That is the first time in YEARS I have gone out without styling my hair and it was liberating!

Hardees did indeed have electricity and we ate our biscuits and gravy and continued laughing about our morning showers. We stayed in near hysterics through the entire meal, drawing many a glance from on-lookers.

It was about four more hours before our power came on but we didn't care anymore. We were clean lean survival machines. We had conquered the morning shower challenge and were ready to take on whatever else the day held for us! I loved that morning shower and will cherish it forever. The next time I hear distant thunder I will... run like crazy to get into the shower before it gets there! Yes, I loved the shower, but it's value serves best as a memory - a very sweet memory!

9/12/08

Strange Happenings.

Yesterday I went home, quickly changed my shoes and attempted to get my evening walk completed before the distant clouds arrived. As I was rounding the corner of the back gate, I ran into around eight deer milling around the gate. We all froze- me, the dogs, the deer...just stood there. They looked angry with me for interrupting their little gathering, unwilling to budge. So I started wondering "do deer get rabies and is it possible that all of them can have rabies at the same time...will I be able to beat the dogs to the house!"

Apparently, they were wondering "does she have a gun or could we take her!" Apparently the gun theory won out and they bounded off quite quickly once they managed to get all turned in the same direction. At that point the dogs unfroze and began muffled woofing - sort of confused as to whether or not pursue or just be thankful they were not pounded by the tiny hooves of eight deer.

Strange events happen when storms approach and huge Ike is in the gulf heading towards Texas. I am prayerful for those in his path but completely fascinated by how he is effecting even our area which is probably a thousand or more miles away?

This morning we have birds that usually we never see and they all wanted to sing at the same time. It was almost noisy as I fed - the birds competing for the highest volume and the mocking birds annoyingly attempting to imitate each and every one of them. The horses were standing calmly in the barn and didn't attempt to make a move on the dog dishes as I fed the dogs and cats.

We have two cats who will try to ambush the front door when storms are on the horizon and they were there as was another one who has been donated to us sometime during the last few week. Unlike most donations, this cat is very tame and very domineering - insisting continually to be let into the house. I see him mostly from behind as my husband is once again tossing him out the back door. HOW he can slide between our feet is a complete mystery. This morning, as I was doing my "keep the cats out of the door while you are leaving jig" which is normally followed by my "don't let the dogs get muddy slobber on you" weave to the car, this one cat managed to NEARLY pasy my swinging feet and purse. I quickly closed the door and caught his foot - he screamed, hissed and growled until my slow reflexes realized I had to re-open the door. It just wasn't that simple either. The other two cats had already figured out I had to open the door and were poised to make their move the minute they saw an opportunistic crack. So, I had to once again do the "jig" and shuttle them away before releasing the screaming feline. Perhaps this time, he will be less reluctant to insist on where he belongs. We are re-arming our vinegar filled water bottles for future lessons for him. Side note...vinegar filled water guns work will with behavior therapy on many species - horses, dogs, cats...children...

I finally made it to the car still clean, unscarred by angry cats and poop free from all the new birds flying over. That's a victorious way to start the rest of my day.

As I drove down the hill on our little dirt road, I saw the tiniest little armadillo moving into the road. They do not normally get out after daylight so I was surprised. Instead of releasing a string of four letter words I have been saving for his huge cousin on our estate, I actually managed to be considerate of him in his state of stupidity. So, I drove up next to him - yes - next to him - his little wet funky looking nose was getting all dirty on the road and he was just looking at me and I said "you better get out of the road little guy or you will soon be dead - RUN - RUN - RUN"

The little armadillo looked up at me with his beedy, personality-less eyes and...screamed the loudest scream just before he took off for the ditch. I laughed and said again "RUN- RUN - RUN" and he screamed again, this time not losing his pace. I don't particularly like armadillos since the great tomato destroy invasion of the summer of 2008 but I'll have to give it to him- he made me laugh.

It's 7:30 a.m. as I write this and I have the entire rest of this day to observe all the strange happenings from the storm. I just wish my friends in Texas had the same observation point as I do.

9/11/08

Yesterday

Yesterday was the day we were to get BJ our cat spayed. I had her at the vet right before they opened the doors. I noticed a little old lady standing at the door so I unloaded BJ in her carrier and decided to wait with this lady.

As I walked towards the porch, she noticed me and said “I am here first because I am on my way to Ft Rucker (a military base about 20 miles away) and I just need heartworm medication for my dog” in a thick german accent.

Her accent got my full attention when her appearance had already peaked my curiosity. She was quite elderly, a little bent, heavily wrinkled with thin white hair. She was adorable!

“Oh, I see you have a cat – a black cat – I used to have a black cat. I called her Tarbaby – we lived up north and I could get by with it there” she began telling me.

**
Flashback….

1971 – I am laying in a hospital bed, my nine year old body wracked in pain. I was afraid, hurting, lonely. In between hallucinations from the opium doses, the other painkillers kept me in somewhat of a fog while the doctors performed test after test to try to discover why my body was shutting down. It was not until the doctors from Mayo arrived on the scene several months later that they discovered the tumor on my kidney and began working towards healing me. In the meantime, I was a little girl away from my family, in a place that was cold and seemingly sterile.

My first “roommate” was a young black teenager. Her family filled the room to capacity all hours of the day and night where my family was taxed with work and other children to care for or the flu season prevented them from visiting for fear of infecting me. Her Uncle had a grey beard and mustache and his favorite place to sit was at the foot of my bed.

I don’t remember if the movie “Song of the South” came out before or after I knew this uncle but he was the one who sat there day in and day out telling me story after story in a most animated fashion of a world I had never visited. His tellings made me giggle and forget the loneliness. HE was the one who first told me the story of Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox and the Tarbaby. I never thought of it as a racist term. I have such endearing memories of that story and that man whose name I still don’t remember. When my roommate was well, I cried for two days because her family left with her and I loved having them around.

**
Coming back to now but relishing the memory she already sparked…

“I also had a black named Sheba” she went on to tell me.

“Oh, this is BJ, her name was Black Jack but then we discovered she was Black Jackee and our daughter didn’t like that, so she’s simply BJ” I told her.

“I came here early to be first in line. You understand. I am moving to Florida and traveling and I need heartworm medications for my dog. I had him some but something happened to it so I need to get some more” she continued.

“Yes,” I responded “it’s important that you….”

“So I am going to be first so that I can get his medications, then we are going to Ft. Rucker” she interrupted.

As I was analyzing the tone of our conversation, the Office Manager approached and unlocked the door.

“I was here first and this nice young lady is going to wait on me because I need heartworm medications for my dog” she began as the Manager opened the door.

“Oh yes” I said “she has misplaced her dog’s meds and she is on her way out of town. I have no hurry, BJ and I can wait here while you assist her” I told the Manager wanting to clarify that I understood the frailty of the situation evolving.

“Well,” the manager said “How big is your do…..”

“You see, I bought the medication but I have misplaced it” she continued

“Yes Ma’am” the manager tried to insert “I must know how big your dog is before…” and I could see the light coming on. The Manager was realizing there could be a hearing situation impeding the communication process.

“HOW BIG IS YOUR DOG….I NEED TO KNOW SO…” she began

“Oh, I can see you are trying to talk loudly, it’s no use…I’m completely deaf but I just want the heartworm medications for my dog because I can’t find the stuff I bought previously” our lady continued now clearly stating what had already become obvious to all parties in the room.

At this point, I had to hide my giggles. You see…I do two things very well – talk and watch people. I prefer the first, then I find the second equally rewarding at times.

The Office Manager gave the “wait right here” hand signal and went into the storeroom, returning with two boxes. One of the boxes was brown, the other green.

“I really do not know why you are holding two different boxes, I only need one kind for my dog” our lady said.

Frustrated the Office Manager quietly responded “well, I was thinking you would see that one is for small dogs and one is for large dogs and point to the right one” but she didn’t get very far with it before it all began again.

“I need to be first in line….” And the story continued.

In walks Dr. Jones – our town veterinarian ..

“OH, Dr. Jones!” our lady said. “I need heartworm medication for my dog,” and she began all over again explaining to Dr. Jones.

This indicated to all in the room that Dr. Jones knew this lady and the Office Manager quickly asked him “What is her name?”

“It’s Betch, Bosch, Baush…something like that” and they began rifling through the index files attempting to find whatever information they may have had stored for the lady’s dogs, desperately now needing to know the size of the dog.

“You know, he’s just a little dog but he needs his medication” she said – and there it was! BINGO! They knew the size and began getting the correct meds together for her.

Just as quickly it all began again “I was here first and I need..” and off they went.

Dr. Jones quickly retrieved ONE YEAR’S WORTH of the medications as the lady had asked at the same time realizing the Office Manager had located the correct file card. Indeed, the lady had only two days before purchased another year’s worth of medication.

“I see you already bought some but you said you misplaced…if you find it, it will still be good…” he was telling her.

“I already bought some but I can’t find it. When I find it, I will bring it back.” She interrupted.

“You see…there are laws…it’s prescription…we can’t take it ba…..” he was attempting to explain to her.

“I will just bring it back if I find it, I won’t need it all”…she interrupted again.

“Very well” he surrendered “just bring it back, we can figure out something” he said, this time knowing she hadn’t a clue he was even talking.

He then noticed me, in my full state of entertainment and proceeded to get BJ moved to the back and explain to me when I could return. Shucks! I had to leave and missed the ending but I was hearing them trying to figure out how to explain the price to her as I left. They had written it down but she kept asking them just the same. I am sure they got it all worked out –I just missed HOW they did it.

So…last night I remembered this encounter and wondered. We go to school 12 or more years – at least most of us do. They teach us important stuff like diagramming sentences, long division, who shot Abe Lincoln – you know – stuff we will use the entire rest of our lives. We know that if we make it through those years when all that stuff matters, we will enter into the years when we can no longer hear or see but they don’t teach us about that.

What if….just what if…they taught us brail and sign language? Then, as we reach our elder years or encounter those who have, we can immediately merge our communications to the level at which we are not drawing, shouting, waving our arms but are actually using the secondary language we learned in school? It’s only a thought.

It would probably be just as fun to watch the conversation as it is to hear it.

9/9/08

Friendship

This is a reprint of something I once put somewhere else. I was talking to a friend today about this topic. Her comment was profound. ..."if all else fails, go to the instruction manual...the Bible" She is so right:

Friendship is something easily offered. Friends, however, real ones are hard to come by and true treasures.

An exploration of self:

The Bible says, "A man that hath friends must show himself friendly" (Prov. 18: 24). - I am often withdrawn and quiet.

Some are too distant to form friendships.

There is great value in friendship. "Two are better than one," wrote the wise man (Eccl. 4: 9). - I often prefer to take something on by myself.

A true friend will stand by, even in times of trouble. "A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity," the Bible says (Prov. 17: 17). - I want to be this person because I have friends who are ALREADY this person.

To the converse, the Bible speaks of false friends when it warns, "Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint" (Prov. 25: 19).

There are some people that are not desired to be friends. For instance, "Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go" (Prov. 22: 24).

A true friend will tell us when we are wrong. Hear the Bible, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful" (Prov. 27: 6).

Genuine friends must be cherished and not forsaken (Prov. 27: 10).

Jesus is the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn. 3: 16; 1: 14). Yet, Jesus offers man his friendship. Jesus said, "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you" (Jn. 15: 14).

Jesus is the ultimate friend of man. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Jn. 15: 13). Jesus tasted death for every man and shed his blood for the remission of man's sins (Heb. 2: 9; Matt. 26: 28).

Life can be a cruel experience. I am forever grateful to have found friends who are willing to experience it with me and work at minimizing the pains when they come my way. Those friends, are gemstones that shine brightly in my heart. Look past the rough edges, the blur of judgment for whatever reason, and you may just find the most valuable gem in your life in someone you least deserve.

No one matches the perfection Jesus represents to the world. But I have a few friends, just a very few, who come pretty close! I am glad they opened their hearts to me. I would have missed a lot otherwise.

9/5/08

Is this Life?

The synchronization of their movements revealed years of life together. As they pulled into the parking lot, he parked the car and got out. He walked around to the passenger side, opened the door and helped her get to her feet. They then hobbled into the restaurant together.

They got in line and waited. He had to go to the restroom and advised her what he wanted and how quickly he would be back. We were behind them.

I watched.

He was back before she even got to the cashier. They got their order and then went to their table. Oh how slowly they moved but they didn’t notice the sighs and motions of those who had to wait.

I watched.

I was drawn to them and could not take my eyes off them. She was the tiniest creature I have seen in some time and he too was quite feeble in his movement. When he left to get the condiments, straws and napkins from the counter, she seemed nothing short of bewildered. When he returned, she seemed nothing short of content.

I watched.

They ate slowly and conversed. They seemed completely caught up in their world oblivious to any outsiders milling about the restaurant. They were quite elderly and nature had betrayed what appeared to be youthful minds. They observed each other with unconditional love and adoration.

I watched.

As he left again to go to the restroom, her bewildered expression returned. She seemed so tiny, frail and lost in that huge chair. She seemed terrified of the world around her.

I watched.

He returned again to the table. She relaxed and continued eating. He occasionally dabbed her chin with a napkin and she smiled appreciatively at his attention. They ate, they talked, they laughed. They were two people terribly in love, a body of one when they were together.

Separately, they were two individuals who seemed too weak to even be in such a setting.

I watched.

They rose from their chairs. She cleaned the table, wiped it with a napkin and he took the tray to the garbage as she followed. They left the restaurant and he opened the car door and assisted her as she sat down. He hobbled to the driver’s side, got in and oh so slowly backed away from his spot and left the parking lot.

I imagined they were holding hands as I watched them smiling at one another as they disappeared into the distance.

“Is this life?” I asked my husband who was already annoyed with the fact that I continually stared at this beautiful old couple.

“What?” he obliviously answered.

“This – here and now – us – not so young – not so old – just here?” I said to him. He didn’t get it. He hadn’t stared, his manners insisted he not do so.

“Do we live for now and grieve the yesterdays lost or do we live for then and applaud the tomorrows?” I asked him. Still he didn’t get it. I didn’t get it but I oh so wanted to.

I had witnessed what had to be the greatest love two people can experience. This old couple had become one. Together, they functioned. Separately, they became frail, bewildered, confused and lost. This was no charade. It was beautiful. This was real life, our elder years reminding us of what should be important in our early or middle years.

I wish I could watch them all over again. I wish I could see and replay all their moves so when I get there with my husband and partner in life, I have it as perfect as they demonstrated. I don’t want a charade – a life of pretending, wishing, drama upon drama about that which is not real. I want what they have. I eon't want to grow old and be feeble alone. I want to grow old and be strong together with my husband provided we both make that journey. Either way, here and now, I want to start that journey because what they had …was perfection!

I want to be watched.

The Turkey Hunt

They sat behind the old stump on the hill. They were waiting for the flock of wild turkeys to show up. They had been there since before daylight. He had been watching that flock for the last two months and knew their schedule completely.

For creatures with a brain the size of a marble, turkeys are proficient dodgers during hunting season. You get one chance and you just can’t blow it.

Rewind two days….

“My Daddy, My Daddy…please let me go hunt some turkeys with you!” Leiren asked.

“Baby, turkey hunting is serious business, it’s for men and it’s not something a little girl would enjoy. We KILL the turkey!” he responded.

“I want to help you Daddy. I can help!” was her adamant response.

“No baby, I will be getting up before daylight, you won’t even know I left!” he replied.

“Oh Daddy…plleeeeeeeeeez let me go!”She was only four at the time and too young to understand the seriousness of this game.

Fast forward back….

He got up before daylight on the first day of turkey season. He put on his chamo’s and headed to the living room, tiptoeing so as not to disturb the sleeping child. Yet… there she was with her coat in one hand, her toy gun in the other. “So, how far up the hill do we go Daddy?” she asked.

“I tell you what, this is your ONE chance…you be quiet and you sit still and you can come with me. If you mess up, I send you straight home where you QUIETLY walk back down the hill to the house” was his response.

At that point he woke me up and explained they would be gone for a few minutes until she realized this was not her sport.

As daylight approached, he began skillfully stroking the wood of the turkey call. “wrawk wrawk wrawk” it played. “Wrawk Wrawk Wrawk Wrawk Wraaaawk”. Suddenly, they heard it “galobblelobblelobblelobbble” he answered. The game was on.

The old tom heard the call and answered. Her eyes widened and her face became nothing but teeth she was smiling so big. Her expression of awe of this man – her Daddy – encouraged him to continue instead of sending her home. Again – “wrawk wrawk wrawk wrawk wraaaawk” he called. “galobblelobblelobblelobbble” Tom answered only closer this time.

“Daddy – shoot it!” she ever so softly whispered. “ssshhhh baby – they can hear us…it’s still too far away!” he softly told her.

“do it again Daddy!”….”shhhhh baby – I will!”

He skillfully played the call several more times. She listened and peeped over the stump on occasion. She could see them now in the distance. She clasped her mouth tightly, resisting the urge to tell him again to shoot but gave the hand signal of a gun shooting. He tensed, this could be it!

This tom was massive- a trophy. He motioned to her to be still and quiet as they continued the game of calling him closer. He forgot about the child as each call rendered a response and a closer approach of the turkey. She watched in amazement at the ability of her Daddy to bring this wild creature so close with this magical instrument made out of wood.

The tom moved closer and closer…her body became frigid and she finally leaned into her Daddy “now Daddy, shoot him now” she whispered, barely audible.

“Baby, just a little closer and he’s ours” he told her.

Something happened and Tom hesitated. Did he know? Was he just cautious? Leiren tensed and squeezed her Daddy’s arm. She could tell by the look on his face that she was not allowed to speak but she was a mere child and patience was not her virtue. She HAD TO bring this game to a quick close.

Knowing that her Daddy was just a few feet within range, she quickly stood up and demanded “Git over here Turkey!” fully expecting the command to end the crisis.

The joy of being only four and directly disobeying an order is that the disobedience at certain times leaves stories to be forever told. Old Tom probably still recalls with great joy the time the call became a human’s voice and scared him away. My husband recalls the incident as one of his favorite days with his daughter. Now sixteen, she has learned to roll her eyes as he tells the story. I wonder if she were to go hunting with him today, would her patience be any better?

9/3/08

Dimentia

There was a time when the emergency room doctors called my Mother by her first name and the nurses treated her like royalty. This was because we virtually LIVED in that part of the hospital. It started with accident prone parents who passed on the accident gene to the children. You would think that the gene would discriminate or develop with age, but it just sort of randomly reveals itself.

The worst trips were those that involved the behavior of not one but two or more of the children at one time. For instance, there was the great "tamping rod toe squashing" of 1968. I didn't know the thing weighed a ton and I was in awe of my brother's ability to continually balance it on the tip. Sure, he told me to leave it alone while he went to the bathroom, but it just looked too easy! So, of course, when I not only could not balance it, but could not hold it up and it subsequently squashed my toe - flattened it like a pancake no less - my brother got the blame. I don't recall it hurting. I recall my Mother going into hysterics and ranting at my brother about responsibility (sure...he understood being a full TWO YEARS older than me at the time) and forcing me to hobble to the car - the front seat - yaaay.

When we got to the emergency room, it was the usual "Bettye - bring her to area 4" which Mother knew exactly the spot. I got this massive bandage, lots of attention and directions on dressing but I could see them giggling as I relayed the exact story - this was suburbia and most of them had never heard of a tamping rod. They didn't have beagles who were later transformed into beetle hounds! They didn't understand the need for constructing dog proof fencing. I think they got the most enjoyment out of Mother's embarrassment since she had been there only days before after breaking her own toe.

Hysterics for Mother had different levels. Hysterics from squashed toes were more of temper tantrums directed at whoever disrupted the lovely day and forced her to drop what she was doing to go to the emergency room....again. Hysterics from concussions were more like repeatedly reciting the hour of day to the supposed victim until we reached the emergency room. Hysterics from broken digits - usually her own- were more like ranting at Daddy about leaving something in the way...and JUST NOW I realize just how much like my Mother I may be!

There was the one time however, that hysterics for my Mother were REAL hysterics. It was the Chapman Avenue Neighborhood Tupperware Party of 1970. My sister was maybe two years old. My other sister - the evil one - was maybe four. I was old enough to remember ALL THE DETAILS of this short lived excursion. By short lived, I mean we did not make it past the front door.

As usual, mother was running late through no fault of her own. We didn't like wearing our matching outfits - especially me since I was in denial that the other two were any relation to me - well, the baby was still cool - so we rebelled, each dressing in what we wanted to wear. I don't recall the exact details but I think this involved the two year old wearing summer shorts and a winter sweater which appalled Mother to the point that she made us all go and change while tamping her foot and staring at the clock. Why don't mothers learn to start three hours ahead of time?

She finally got us dressed and organized/headed towards the door. She was dragging baby sister, evil sister in the midst of the drama and me already clearing the steps of the porch (someone mentioned "go" - that's all it ever took!) Somehow - and I completely blame this on evil sister - baby sister was still resisting this trip. Now...baby sister looked and behaved normally like a true living doll - so this rebellion was a new thing to Mother and to the rest of us actually. Whatever transpired next is still up for debate to this day but only because evil sister declares herself innocent. At some point, baby sister grabbed the framing of the door resisting exit - the side with hinges and ...someone....I'm not saying who...but someone evil....slammed the door too soon or just in time depending on just how EVIL this someone may have been!

Doing what any reactionary human being would do, baby sister...well...pulled and things came apart - not the door but digits. You would think with as many things as my Mother saw ever happen to individual digits in our household, this would have been another routine - blame the siblings- load the victim into the front seat, the villains into the backseat and go to the emergency room. But something...Mother swears it was guilt by HER OWN actions in closing the door - I say rage by the actions of the evil one ...snapped in Mother.

She grabbed baby sister and headed back into the house. Of course, I was cheated - "GO' either meant to the party or to the hospital - either way there was a trip involved. She saw the digits and began her short process towards dimentia. First she attempted to wrap them. At this point, I headed next door to get my brother who would know what to do. When we both got back she was on the phone but with who? We couldn't understand her but sister was sitting there rather calmly with her hand somewhere underneath a massive heap of towels.

Of course, brother immediately took a look at the digits and remarked at how cool the site was. This sent mother into deeper dimentia and she began what I recall as babbling on the phone. She slung the receiver my direction and I realized she was on the phone with Daddy. All I could tell him was someone evil chopped off the fingers in the door. He told me to go get the neighbor across the street and I followed orders but it was getting old running from one house to another when I had anticipated a trip. Meanwhile my brother was scraping souvenirs off the door frame - this too enabled the dimentia to grow even more profound.

I did manage to catch the neighbor before her exit to "The Party" and she came over only to find my mother blithering something about death and destruction still holding the phone. She managed to get enough information to realize that this time it was the doctor's office and quickly said "Betty has chopped off her baby's hand in the door and she needs you to meet her in the emergency room!" She began scrambling with my baby sister, my mother and they headed for the car - without us! Only an intelligent neighbor would ruin our trip!

All in all, sister lost a nail and a fingertip with no bone damage - duh - we were not surprised. Mother managed to compose herself at the direct orders of our neighbor and the rest of us got to help change the dressing - sort of like with my toe only baby was smaller and more fragile than I ever was. So, we enjoyed taking turns treating her like the real baby doll she was. The Neighborhood Party - of course - was ruined since the two main attendees were my mother and our neighbor!

It made for a good story just like the rest of the chaos in our world! When Daddy finally got home, we got to explain our Mother's mental breakdown which we found much more entertaining that the actual crisis and we glorified the heroic actions of our neighbor for taking the situation in her control. Unfortunately, as hard as we have pushed, the rest of our lives, we have not been able to force such a breakdown upon Mother again.

9/2/08

I Feel So Safe

My bulldogs are now over six months old. At nearly 55 pounds, they each appear to be the lifesavers I always dreamed of. We are beginning to enjoy our evening walks on the farm and seldom miss an adventure. Spin walks in front, Joe walks behind me. Brutus - their father - takes point and sounds the alarm unless Rocky sees something first.



So, last Thursday night, we discovered that our neighbor has moved his herd of cattle into the 90 acre field behind us. Something about cows I find entertaining. They are awkward, nosey, and sort of all sloppy at the same time. Thursday, they were settling in and grazing and checking out all the confines of their new area. One large black cow in particular caught my eye just as I caught hers. She was a huge old cow and grazing pretty close.


Somehow I was first to the fence and I looked at her as she looked up with weeds hanging out each side of her mouth. She froze in place, not bothering to finish or dispose of the weeds and she studied me as I studied her. Who would move first? Would we be friends? Just as these thoughts began to develop, Brutus saw her. The boys had fallen behind checking out some new smell on the ground a few yards back.



Brutus let out the first bark. It was a "should I run or should I stay" bark. He's got experience with horses hooves but it was clear he did not recognize this creature as a horse. I looked back to see what my boys would do - his sons - Diamond's sons - and they had frozen as well. I waited for their protective instincts to kick in. They are still my children but they are becoming my dogs!

Rocky began barking as if encouraging Brutus on. Rocky makes a great toadie for Brutus and usually serves well at keeping Brutus in situations that render him injured. This was no exception. As Rocky barked the boys jumped in unison. First they lunged our direction wanting to see what was up - even barking or woofing a bit. Then, with the second round from Brutus and Rocky - a round that became a temporary charge at this massive cow the boys took off. They ran as fast as they could, never looking back, never even glancing over their shoulder but racing neck in neck until they reached the house where they ran directly under my husband!

I could not contain myself. As I laughed, they ran faster until they disappeared from my site at which point my husband could see them and began laughing hysterically himself. Seeing two huge dogs run full speed for help is just too funny. By then, the cow took a step towards Brutus who realized Rocky was already hiding and Brutus made a calculated retreat.

Cows are such dangerous creatures! I suppose I could say the boys protected me by teaching me just how fast to run to the house in the event of any serious danger. It's o.k. though - I still get a good laugh out of it.