Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Curiosity... Interest... Obligation... Infatuation... Love... Obsession... ADDICTION... Help!

Who knew something so seemingly harmless, so ridiculously simple, could actually be the Devil's playground disguised as a web site called Pinterest!

I feel it is my duty to inform you so that you won't get snared in the same terrible trap.

It all started a couple of weeks ago when I found a photo of a really cute vintage camper trailer. It was so cute and pink and cute! The photo came from a blogger who used Pinterest and out of mere curiosity I clicked on it. It took me to a whole lot more photos of cute camper trailers. Because I thought it was an interesting way for someone to collect photos I decided to start my own Pinterest board of cute vintage camper trailers. Later I was checking my email and noticed there were several messages from Facebook friends who were now "Following" me on Pinterest, so I felt obligated to follow them back.

Then a friend who saw the photos on my Facebook page, said she found Pinterest to be highly addictive. So keeping that in mind I decided I should probably steer clear of the thing since I am by nature, easily addicted to worthless internet past-times. 

Just a couple of examples: 

In 2008 I became a Farmville-holic and it took me almost 2 years til I dried out, then suffered post-farmdom depression worrying that all of my cows had starved to death. 

In 2011 I became addicted to Cityville which luckily for me I was able to escape from in under 6 months. I had to quit when I realized all I could think about was building hotels and whether or not I would get my casino running before the expiration date.

As for Sim's Social, it didn't last more than a month when I got bored with sleeping, cleaning, using the toilet, sleeping, cleaning, using the toilet and fixing things that kept breaking down. Too much like real life and I need an escape from that.

But Pinterest isn't a game, luring you in by appealing to your competitive nature, no this is much more sinister! This thing uses creativity, dreams and delicious chocolate fudge recipes to capture you.

I was doing pretty good with just the few photos of cute camper trailers but that changed a couple of days ago with one innocent little peek at a fudge brownie recipe that I saw posted on someones blog. As my mouth watered at the sight of the smooth and shiny rich brown icing, I clicked and up popped a really cool recipe site called Foodgawker. I started copying off the wonderful recipes but thought about the beautiful food photos and how little colored ink I had left in my printer. "Hmmm", I thought innocently of course, "How could I get easy access to these photos?" Then I remembered the little "Pin It" button that was right below my browser in the left hand corner. It teased me, that cute little globe with a tiny two word command! "Come on, Pin it!" It called from the corner of my left eye. "It's so simple, Pin it!" It continued to beckon me. 

My brain knew better but for some reason the mouse in my right hand had a mind of it's own and four hours, 12 boards, 110 pins and 23 likes later, I realized the laundry was still wet in the washing machine, I hadn't had lunch and it was 3 O'clock in the afternoon. 

That didn't stop me, however, I quickly tossed the wet clothes into the dryer, grabbed a banana and a spoonful of peanut butter, put Rocky out to pee, (thank goodness he was asleep beside me the whole time), and was quickly back to my new infatuation to search for more photos of pink Farmall tractors, miniature donkeys and flea market finds. 

When my Big Guy came home at 5:30 that evening and asked what we were having for supper, I hated to leave the fun I was having but knowing I had promised him that morning we would have pork chops, I hurried to prepare the chops for pan frying, tossed 2 big baked 'taters in the microwave and heated up a can of pork 'n beans. Then I remembered that he had wanted pie ala'mode for dessert and since I had been, "huh-hum" preoccupied a little and hadn't made a delicious home made pie, I pulled out the "emergency" Mrs. Smith's Apple that had been in the freezer for about a year and placed it into the oven. I rationalized that the ice cream I would smother it with would make up for the fact it had freezer burn. Then I went back to my pinning.

Soon supper was ready and I was trying to decide whether to start a new Pin Board with the photo I found of Gerard Butler as King Leonidas in the movie 300, but the title "Guy's who melt my butter" just didn't seem appropriate and some things are better left in the back of your mind.

After supper when Big Guy asked how my day had gone, I told him about the wonderful new site I had found that allowed me to save favorite recipe's, photos of things to dream about and even crafty ideas that might come in handy later. I think he realized I was more focused on the computer screen and left me to my new found love while he searched the TV channels for something to watch. The next thing I knew, it was 11 O'clock PM and he was telling me goodnight and heading for bed. At this time I was up to 19 boards, 264 pins and 53 likes.

I hadn't realized that obsession had set in until today when I woke up and my first thought was, "I wonder if I should break down my Pinterest boards into categories like placing "Critters" into Big Critters and Little Critters or Creepy Critters and Cute Critters!".

Knowing the next step would be addiction, I couldn't allow myself another one, so here was my solution. I poured 2 cups of milk in a small pan, dumped in a box of chocolate jello pudding and stirred for 10 minutes which gave me time to clear my head. While waiting for the pudding to cool, I gave my FooFoo doggies baths and I even gave Rocky one too. Then after they were dried and combed out, I sat down to my computer along with a bowl of chocolate pudding and started to write this blog. 

Now I will finish this blog and will use self control to only spend a total of 30 minutes each day on Pinterest. I'll time it with my Blackberry. I know I can do this, I know I can, and I'm even rethinking the idea of including that photo of Gerard Butler but under the title, "Guys who don't hold a candle to my Big Guy".



Friday, February 24, 2012

Just Another Day in Paradise

I had actually planned to use today's blog to write about something else, but plan's changed shortly after I poured my second cup of coffee.

I started out my morning as usual, Rocky "the chihuahua" alarm at 6am (much better than last weeks 4am for four straight mornings), downed 4 ounces of orange juice while listening to the news and weather report that is thankfully better for our area than the blustery winds we dealt with yesterday, and with the first cup of coffee in hand, I kiss my Big Guy who hurries out the door.

Then I begin to check my emails.

Luckily there are only a few messages, the first one from Groupon, offering me $5 off if I buy a self teeth whitening kit or a giant floor pillow that is supposed to relax you, (over 640 bought and limited quantity available). I consider the teeth whitening kit for just a second but definitely pass on the relaxing floor pillow since I know three furry reasons why that would not relax me.

Another email was an E-Bay survey tempting me to take just a few minutes and fill it out for a chance to win $500 in online merchandise or an iPad3. Call me a sucker but I did it. It only took about 5 minutes and I'm sure they will give me the $500 for the online merchandise when they have pity on me and see that I answered question #5 that read: "In the past year, how many of these retail stores have you bought clothing, shoes, handbags, scarves, hats, wigs and other personal items from?" and I checked Other and wrote in Salvation Army.

The last email was a rejection from the third children's book illustrator I had written to last night and I wrote him back thanking him for being so prompt with his rejection, then I begin reading my Facebook wall noting my second oldest daughter was recovering nicely from yesterday's Lasik Eye surgery. I'm hopeful there won't be anymore posts about the possibility of having her eyeballs blasted from her head, discussions about being "pro-flap", having eyelids flipped inside out or anymore arguments with her older brother about who made the best choice of corrective eye surgery and who is the biggest sissy while comparing painful eye drop usage.

After saying a morning prayer for a friend who is struggling with her weight loss, for the safety of my older daughter and her hubby so that they won't get stuck in bad weather at the Chicago airport while on their trip to Las Vegas, (of which right now I am extremely envious) and for another friend who is also traveling today, I finally poured that second cup of morning magic and was collecting my thoughts when I looked over just in time to see Rocky squat on the living room carpet. Knowing that you don't pick him up while he is in full stream, (I learned that a few weeks ago, read my blogs), I exhaled and when he finished, I marked the spot with one of Chrissy's doggie toys. For those of you who haven't read my other blogs, Chrissy is my Big Guy's spoiled rotten Maltese.

Chrissy's toys are usually scattered across the living room floor and she carefully walks around checking them throughout the day, trying to decide which one needs to be chewed on next and after making her selection, she runs off with it to her hideout behind my big overstuffed chair in the corner. I'm normally not happy with that fact but today having a small stuffed butterfly within arms length, that is missing both eyeballs and part of an antenna, came in handy.

With Lil' Green Machine in hand, I begin the process of cleaning the pee spot which by now had sunk deep into my carpet's fibers. A little pre-spot is somewhat helpful since the smell of sucking up pure doggie urine doesn't bode well with my early morning sinus. Now that I'm down on my hands and knees and close enough to see, (I'm really blind even with my glasses on), I notice there is another suspicious spot that will need cleaning. After scrubbing carpet until my carpel tunel wrists are screaming at me for relief, I go to pour out the stinky, filthy solution that I have collected in the Lil' Green Machine tank and rinse it down the drain with steaming hot water, only to discover that there is no hot water.

As I said, yesterday we had a very blustery day and I'm certain that the high winds had blown out the pilot light on our hot water tank.

I opened up the door to the hot water tank and sitting on the floor close to the tank I looked in through the tiny window to see that there was no flame, so I turned the knob from on to off. Then I decided maybe I should  look for directions on how to relight the pilot. I started to notice that there were plenty of "Warning" and "Danger" messages which did not make me feel at all comfortable with the situation. 

The tank was called a SmartWater Tank and I was praying it was a lot smarter than me as I tried to decipher the directions. 

The first thing I read of course is to turn down the heat adjustment before turning the tank off. Any second now I knew I would be would be blown to smithereens along with my three poor little furry comrades. Yep, my Big Guy would come home and find a big burnt out crater in the ground where our home used to stand, and the firemen would be handing him a small vile of soot labeled, female human remains.

I held my breath and prayed as I turned the adjuster all the way down and to my relief I was still alive. As I read further, there were more warning messages, they really weren't taking any chances with the dummy reading this. 

I'm not sure where that "Inner Door" was, but I didn't remove anything!

I finally figured out the sequence of turning knobs and pushing down buttons until the pilot was successfully lit once more.

But something was missing. When I left the hot water tank and returned to the kitchen to retrieve my cup of coffee that was now ice cold, I couldn't find my glasses. I remembered I had taken them off so I could read the hot water tank. My glasses are for nearsightedness only and I'm too cheap to get bifocals but see pretty well to read without them. I kept looking in all the normal places where I would lay them, but they weren't there. I scoured every room and was careful that I didn't step on them in case they were dropped. Then I noticed that Rocky was asleep on his pillow, my wonder dog Cookie had been following me around as if expecting me to give her something, but Chrissy was no where in sight. 

When Chrissy doesn't come when called, which is what happened next, that means she is doing something she shouldn't be doing and usually knows she shouldn't be doing it!

Sure enough, I peek behind my big overstuffed chair in the corner of the living room only to find that giant termite, cleverly disguised as a mop, happily gnawing away on an ear piece of my glasses. 

Thankfully it wasn't too bad. What few teeth-marks that she managed to inflict would be hidden behind my ear and besides, after all of the Facebook postings I have read these past few weeks between my children discussing their Lasik, PRK and other corrective eye surgery lingo, this might be something I should consider myself. And who knows, after my surgery, I may even plan a trip to Las Vegas!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chapter Two "Farm of My Dreams" Goodbye Gus's Garden

August was almost over and the hot Kansas sun proved that the month had lived up to every bit of it's infamous reputation. The climbing rose that I had planted just two months earlier was flourishing and had covered the entire side of an eight foot section of the garden fence. Despite the heat, each rose seemed so perfect; each flower a soft, peachy-pink, perfect paradigm. As I walked through what was left of the Bee Balm; very scant and almost replaced completely now by a few leaning bare stems, I reached down and picked up a small, hand painted wood sign that read: Here Lies Our Beloved Gus, July 16th, 2002.

Gus was a mini lop rabbit. He had been an Easter Bunny gift and when the family that he had been gifted to grew tired of caring for him after 5 years, they offered him to my Pre-school. Gus had been a great gardening partner. He spent his days providing my garden with fertilizer and the children in my care with much laughter. 

When Gus passed away from a combination of heat stroke and old age, we buried him under the thick Bee Balm where he had spent much of his summers sleeping. I was teased terribly before old Gus came along. My husband and children called me "Bunny Killer" due to my past bad luck with a few rabbits. I had a rabbit once that was eaten by a big dog, a rabbit that ate noxious weed and died, a rabbit that choked to death on hairballs, one that drowned in it's own water bowl and there was the one that I left in his cage, too close to the central air unit, but I don't like to think about him. Gus had been proof that I didn't really kill bunnies; at least not all of them.

"I guess the new owners won't need this." I held up the sign to my Big Guy, who had just come out to help.

"I hope they don't dig in that corner! Maybe we should take them with us." I proposed. Gus wasn't the only creature buried under the Bee Balm, he was in the company of another rabbit, a fan-tail goldfish, a world record size salamander, two gerbils and a rather large box turtle. We had a regular Pet Cemetary in that corner of the garden.

"And where would we put them?" my Big Guy said raising both eyebrows.

"You have a point. I guess we'll just have to hope the new owners like lots of Bee Balm."

Bee Balm was a favorite flower of mine and regardless of it's somewhat intrusive nature, I welcomed it back each year. I used it as a lovely backdrop in that corner of our vegetable garden. Our vegetable garden flanked the north side of our back yard patio and connected by border gardens surrounding the patio, to a larger flower garden that traveled along the entire back of our house. Our back yard was framed with a six foot tall privacy fence and was bordered with even more gardens. I loved gardening. I grew just about everything in that back yard. One of my favorite garden spots was under the Cottonwood tree in the southwest corner. That's where I grew herbs and strawberries. For quite a while, I couldn't understand why all of my strawberries kept disappearing until we caught Riley's chihuahua, Rocky, eating them one day.

I continued to walk through the garden picking up stone fairies, colorful windmills, gazing balls and other whimsies that had adorned it over the years. When I had an armful I would hand them over to Big Guy who would look at each one as if seeing them for the first time, chuckle and then whisk them away to the garage to be packed.

When Big Guy returned for another armful, we began a reminiscent journey that included stories of fences being moved multiple times and digging up two of the four Mutant Ninja Turtles one early spring while re-mulching the garden. Together we laughed until I cried.

I cried because even though I had dreamed of leaving this home someday for one in the country, we weren't leaving for that reason. We didn't have a new home to go to. In fact, we didn't even have a home to go to, period. But we had prayed for it to sell quickly and God had definitely heard our prayer.

A whirlwind of change had happened since I had seen my little Green Valley farmstead just three years earlier. When it was decided that the Green Valley home needed too much work, we had continued looking at more homes in the country and thought we had finally found it, a perfect piece of heaven about twenty miles north of town. The owners weren't in a hurry and wanted to wait until Spring, this worked out well since we would still need to sell our home and not have two house payments.

Feeling rather confident that the sale would go through, I made plans to close my Pre-school by the end of the school season and started to tell the parents so they could also make plans. The Pre-school that I had operated out of our walk-out basement for nearly twelve years, had a wonderful program with teachers that alternated morning and afternoon shifts. Our curriculum included teaching the children all of the fifty states, basic math and even some basic Spanish language. We kept a regular schedule and had a great group of kids ages three, four and a few that had already turned five. All of our children seemed happy and healthy and we had very little problems if any at all. We were one big happy Pre-school!

You can imagine the surprise when just a few weeks before my Pre-school was to close, we got a phone call from the mother of one of our three year olds, accusing us of injuring them. I should have seen it coming since she had started to ask strange questions shortly after I told her I would be closing the Pre-school. First she had asked me whether we had insurance in case of accidents, then the next day she wondered if our video camera taped the Pre-school every day. Without realizing what she was up to, I told her that our video recorder had been broken for quite some time and we just used the camera to monitor from the kitchen, and of course we had good insurance.

The next thing we knew, a lawyer had sent a threatening letter to us and to our Pre-school's insurance company, suing for three quarters of a million dollars. When it is your word against that of a hysterically crying mother accusing you of causing injury to her small helpless child, it's very hard to prove your innocence and you need a good lawyer.

All of the savings that was to be used on our new home in the country, went to pay our lawyer a retainer. Then to make things even worse, my Big Guy came home a few days later with a pink slip, his government job had lost their bid and he had been laid off. Since I had just closed my Pre-school, we had no income.

A month went by and after finally taking the only job he could find that paid well enough to support us, Big Guy left home to be an over the road truck driver. Soon I found work too. I did whatever I could to deal with lawyers, insurance people and debt that was beginning to pile up on us. Dave Ramsey is right, you need at least three months of income saved in order to survive a month without any income. Finally, after three months, I recieved notice that the Pre-school's Insurance lawyers had settled out of court for just twelve hundred dollars, the amount the family who was suing had owed their attorney. The lawsuit had been dropped, we had lost our entire savings, were still a month behind on of our bills and worst of all, we only saw each other for a day and a night once every two weeks or more. But we still had our home and Riley.

All of the older children were grown and living their own lives, some far away and some with-in a days drive. Since Riley was the only one still living at home during this time, the two of us did our best without my Big Guy but he was missing so many things that we were used to sharing. Finally he decided it was too difficult being away from us and quit his truck driving job. Almost immediately he found another job, in fact he found two jobs and worked both night and day.

Then because my Big Guy was determined to do better, he applied for a job that came open with the City and got it. By that time I had a fairly good paying property management job and soon we started talking about our dreams for a home in the country again. Even though we knew it would take time to start saving for it, the light at the end of our tunnel begin to shine brighter.

But things weren't going to be that simple. As we were climbing back out of our financial hole and had even found a way to make extra income to save for Riley's college by starting an amusement business, our mortgage company sent us a letter that said our payments were going to almost double.

Later that same week I lost my wonderful job. My boss just came into my office and with absolutely no warning or any reason given, he told me I was being "let go". I was crushed and of course demanded to know why but he just said that I should accept it and I had ten minutes to clear out. I have my theories as to why, but have never been able to prove them. The company I worked for seemed to be skimming money off of the accounts that were meant to be used for the properties improvements. They would have me write out checks to cover their personal vacation and partying expenses and then ask me to code them as "employee training". I had just questioned this for the second time a few days before I was "let go" and was told not to worry about it but I did worry since I felt I would be held responsible and this property was under a government program. But like I said, I really didn't have any proof.

I went home that night and tearfully told my Big Guy what had happened and after we brain stormed a while on how to make up for my lost income and higher mortgage payments, we reached the only decision we felt could get us caught up with our debt and that was to sell our home, so we did.

Saying goodbye was much harder than I thought it would be. Not so much to the house as it was to our memories there. The house itself had always seemed like a money pit. It started with the discovery of massive termite damage shortly after we moved in, a very good lesson in the importance of hiring a home inspector before you buy! Thirty thousand dollars in repairs later, our original seventy thousand dollar purchase had now become a one hundred thousand dollar investment.

The upstairs toilet was possessed. It would never finish flushing and in the late night hours, when you were trying to sleep, it would come to life and torture you with gurgling and sputtering sounds. Just as you couldn't take another second and got out of bed to go and jiggle the handle, the thing would stop as if to taunt you. And before you ask why we didn't put in new parts, we did! I finally had my revenge after ten years when we were financially able to replace it. I wanted so badly to take it out in the yard and throw a sledge hammer at it, but a friend convinced me to donate it to charity although I couldn't understand why he would want to give a demonic toilet to someone in need.

There were other problems with this house that continued to plague us financially, and just as we fixed one thing, something else always took it's place, but the memories we had made together in our garden had been teaching opportunities about life. They had strengthened us and cemented us together as a family. I think nature does that.

Once while planting a new row of snap-dragons to replace the ones that had died the year before, Riley asked me a startling question. "Mom, when I grow up, will you be dead?"

She was only five at the time and I wasn't sure of what to say so I tried to answer her question with a question; I learned that from her father.

"Well what do you think?" I asked her back.

"When I'm a mom will you be dead?" she countered my question with another question.

I laughed at this point and thought about how she had also learned that from her father and then reminded her that my mother was still alive and that hopefully someday, her children would be calling me grandma too.

When Riley was about 12, she decided to plant every different type of pepper she could find. We had an abundance of cherry tomatoes that year and she even learned how to make salsa. She bought the canning jars and even designed her own labels that said, "Riley's Red Hot Salsa", with a tagline that read, "made fresh from the garden". Everyone she gave a jar of her salsa to, loved it, but Riley was such a picky eater, she never even ate her own salsa!

Besides a large assortment of peppers and cherry tomatoes, this garden that engulfed our back yard, was home to a huge variety of perennials, annuals and two very tall pampas grass that grew on each side of the entrance to the patio. Almost like Mafia guards that frisked you with their long grass blades each time you passed between them, by the end of Summer these two giants reached a height of at least twelve feet.

One year we built a small red barn behind the vegetable garden in the northeast corner. On each side of the back of the barn, we added a doggie door. It became a small dog kennel for our two Bassett Hounds. Big Guy had a male named Bullwinkle and I had a female named BillieJo. Eventually, nature took over and a perfect litter of eight puppies were born. Riley learned first hand about babies being born since she had the opportunity to help with the births. We had such fun memories of floppy eared Bassett Hound's running all over the back yard, our grandchildren carrying them everywhere.

But now the Bassetts were gone, there were no more peppers to pick, Riley was living with her oldest sister in another city and in just a few moments we would be leaving our home of the past thirteen years; thirteen years of birthday parties, holidays, back yard barbecues and retrieving baseballs thrown over the fence. For thirteen years this had been a place our children could come back to, had brought our grandchildren to and affectionately said, "Mom, we're coming home!". I wondered where they would call home now.

As I picked up the final piece of yard art, a small grinning frog holding a sign that read, "I Eat What Bugs Me!", and scanned the garden from my perspective to make certain nothing was missed, I said goodbye to memories of small, impish children running through sprinklers on hot Summer afternoons, of rabbits grazing on blades of grass and cats chasing squirrels along the fence tops. I said goodbye to the tire swing and the giant cottonwood tree from which it hung and goodbye to the picket fence I had my poor Big Guy move three times before I finally decided I liked it best in it's original location.

"Do you think we'll find it?" I asked as my Big Guy took the frog from my hand.

"Find what?" he said, cocking his head to the side.

Looking into the eyes of the man that I had once promised to share my life with through better or worse, I said, "Will we find a way to make our dreams come true?"

"We will, I know we will? he assured me and together we went on our way.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." JEREMIAH 29:11 NIV

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I Write out of Love!

This may seem like I'm picking on my youngest daughter, Riley, who will soon turn 21, and my other 4 children are just honorable mentions, but if it wasn't for the delightful altercation, (yes I did just describe the word altercation with the word delightful), that I had with Riley on the phone yesterday, I probably wouldn't have thought to write about this at all.

I had finally finished 2 stories from the children's book series I have been working on for almost 15 years and couldn't wait to get feedback from Riley of whose childhood these stories were inspired by. I emailed her the stories earlier in the day with instructions for her to read them to her 8 year old twin nephews whom she is staying with at this time.

Then I took a break from writing and attempted to acquire a sugar high while watching a great old episode of Bonanza. I thought I would get warmed up for Valentine's Day since I hadn't had a chocolate fix in a while (all this blogging causes butt-lag and a plethora of snacking so I had to turn to dry Corn Chex for a few weeks!).

While downing a mini Snickers bar, 2 dark chocolate kisses and a handful of smarties, and falling in love with Hoss Cartwright all over again due to his tender moment where he tries to reject the advances a lovelorn girl who thinks he wants to marry her and it will never work because she is engaged to someone else who brought her there as a mail order bride and now wants to kill Hoss... am I losing you? 

Anyway, as I was enjoying Hoss and my sugar high, "Moon River" began playing on my Blackberry, that's Riley's ringtone. I almost spilled my cherry kool-aid while quickly reaching across the side table to answer her.

"Mom!", I hear her sweet sounding voice in my ear and immediately respond.

"Did you read them? What do you think? Did you read them to the twins? Well, what do you think?" I couldn't wait to hear her response.

At first she sounded tired and I thought maybe she hadn't read them yet but quietly she told me that she had.

"Mom, I don't like them. They make me look stupid and they aren't accurate either. Can you please change them?" her voice was quiet, soft and pleading with me. 

"Change them!" I tried to remain calm and not raise my voice, "Change them how?", I asked.

"I don't know!" Riley moaned slightly, "Maybe just change the name of the book to someone else's or make it all about Ryan!" 

She was instantly adamant that I not connect her name in any way to these stories and was even suggesting I make them about her brother, Ryan, instead of her. She repeated again that the stories were not true and they made her look stupid.

"Riley, they are fiction, and fiction isn't supposed to be real!" I countered.

"But you're using my name, my dog's name and even my friends name and if you are telling lies about me and my life, I don't like it." she countered back, still sounding somewhat amicable.

"Honey, these stories are only "based" on your childhood and your character, if I wrote true stories of the things you really did, I would have to re-title the book, "My Experience's Living with the Spawn of Satan", and somehow I don't think it would make a very good children's book series even if a lot of mothers could probably relate."

"At least it wouldn't be lies that will make me look stupid!" she said. And then came the threats; these are usually added as a desperate attempt to sway ones decision when all niceness and logic has failed. "Mom," she said, still with a sweet but now somewhat nefarious tone, " You will be sorry! I can leave comments on your blog that will destroy you!"

"Go right ahead," I told her, "At least you will have shown some interest in something I have written!"

We must have argued back and fourth in this manner for nearly a half an hour until she finally said, in a somewhat amplified voice, she had to go grocery shopping. Realizing Bonanza had ended and I missed finding out how Hoss resolved his woman problem, I told her in a somewhat higher amplified voice, that I had to start supper for her father, who had just came home from work.

"Goodbye then!" Riley said in the same amplified voice, at which I said the same back at her in my higher amplified voice, and we both hung up.

Big Guy had only caught the end of the vocal fracas and thought it better not to get too involved even though I spent the entire evening detailing every word that had been said in the conversation with our daughter. He just kept assuring me that I should stand my ground and not worry about Riley's fears.

Still feeling I needed more support than what he had offered, I asked two of my closest friends for their perception about the controversy between me and Riley. Both read the stories and took my side which helped shore up my defense, so I held out hope for a restful night's sleep.

But It was still hard for me to sleep last night and not because I was agonizing over Riley's attack on my stories. It was because her dog Rocky, was having a difficult time breathing again. He has contracted a bad cold and in between his wheezing, are sniffles and an occasional cough.

So not being able to sleep due to worry over Rocky, I laid there thinking of Riley and how much I enjoy having her in my life. I went over everything about her that I loved, which made me begin to think of my other 4 children and how much I loved them too.

I have been blessed by 5 beautiful lives and all with their own special characteristics. Each one of them has brought me happiness, caused me to laugh almost uncontrollably at times, inspired me and given me comfort. Of course there have also been times of disappointment, worry and even great sadness but that just comes with the territory of love.

I hope someday to be able to write all of their stories, and they will be true, albeit coming from a mother who is terribly biased. But for now, I will listen to my heart and write what I choose with conviction, the things that come to me, whether fact or fiction. (I think that rhymed!)

I will continue to borrow the wonderful characteristics from those I love, because I believe there is honor in doing so. But, just for the sake of those involved, I will add this proclamation to any story that is deemed fiction and I am even naming it after my youngest daughter.

Riley's Rule of Fiction

To anyone who thinks they recognize their-selves in this story, whether by name, characteristic or subject matter, please keep an open mind and remember that YOU are not the only person on this earth, (population of 7,022,030,038 people according to the Worldometer at 12 noon today) that has a great name, has done funny or interesting stuff and might even have a dog named Rocky. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Big Black Hairy Valentine

When I first met my Big Guy, I had no idea he had a sidekick named JD; a Bouvier Des Flandres dog.

Now JD wasn't someone I would've immediately taken a liking to, but after a few days of being around him, he eventually grew on me and stole my heart almost in the same way that my Big Guy did.

JD was the largest dog I had ever met. He could stand on his hind legs and place his front paws over each of my shoulders and waltz with me across the kitchen floor, which we did often. He could walk right up to the dining room table and snatch a goodie off of your plate, swallowing so quickly, you hardly had time to react. With his mild and laid back personality and the way he would stare at you with those big brown eyes so innocently, it was difficult to be angry at him.

I honestly think I fell in love with this big smelly dog before I actually fell in love with my Big...ok I won't say it...wonderful Guy.

I had just gone through a divorce from my first husband who was also the father of my three young children, and the last thing I was thinking about at this time was another relationship, but Big Guy and I had become friends at college and our talent for winning in billiard tournaments kept us in close contact of one another.

One day Big Guy came to me and asked if I could keep JD for the next semester. He was leaving to attend another college and because they required all new unmarried students to live in the dorms for the first semester, he could not take JD with him. Being that I had a house with a yard and seemed to get along so well with his dog, he chose me for the job. I had no idea what I was in for.

JD got along great with the kids, almost too great. At night I would find myself constantly shuffling him out of their beds and back to the folded up blanket I had placed on the kitchen floor. I wasn't too keen about allowing my children to sleep with hairy animals. One morning, however, I woke to a cold, wet nose in my face. I screamed, JD barked and the kids came running into my room. Upon seeing JD laying next to me in bed, three little heads bobbed up and down and three little fingers shook in disapproval. Of course they never believed me and went on strike from eating breakfast until I finally allowed him to at least take turns sleeping on their bedroom floors.

Every weekend I would get a phone call from Big Guy, but not to talk to me of course, he would ask to talk to his dog. Although at first I thought it pretty silly, JD seemed to like it. When placing the phone close to JD's ear, he would get excited and make a very strange sound, kind of a long, drawn out, muffled groan. Then I could hear the same sound coming from the voice at the other end of the phone and I was beginning to understand the relationship between this dog, this man and my three young children; all needed parental guidance.

It was a clever trick on Big Guy's part I have to say, because as the phone calls continued over the months to come, I found myself having more conversation with him and him having less with JD. A year later we were married.

After moving several times and adding one more child, "Little Guy", to our family, we had now moved back to the town where it had all started. Big Guy planned to take a new job with a construction crew there but as luck would have it, that didn't pan out. He ended up driving back and fourth to his old job almost two hours away, so eventually he decided to stay with a friend and only come home on the weekends.

Our new home was a very large but very decrepit 1890 Victorian. It had two winding staircase; one at the front foyer and one in back off of the kitchen. The floors creaked, the doors rattled and at night it could get down right spooky. But we had our secret weapon to keep us safe from any monsters under the bed or worry of boogey men trying to get in; we had our big black hairy friend, JD.

Each night he charged up the stairs following after our small herd of children and then patrolled every room as they were tucked in to bed before he settled down to sleep. Each morning he greeted us with tail wagging and a big sloppy, doggie breath lick of the tongue across the face.
JD became Psychologist to my oldest daughter Maryanne. If she needed to talk to someone, she would sit with him on top of his dog house forever, telling him all of her problems. My oldest son, Robby, had figured out how to hold onto his leash and have JD pull him down the sidewalk on his skates and Miranda, my second daughter, would dress him in people clothes, always insisting he liked it. Even our Little Guy had found out he could hide in JD's dog house and JD wouldn't give him up when we were searching for him.

Every June we cut JD's very thick five inch long hair down to about an inch of his skin. Not only was it much cooler for him in the hot midwest Summer heat but we didn't have as much trouble removing the sand burrs that seemed to find him no matter where he went and he went everywhere.

Then one cold winter day, I noticed JD shivering and realized his hair had not grown back. In the almost eleven winter seasons that I had known him, this was the first time his hair was not long and thick. 

We made a decision to keep him inside more on cold days which seemed to work, but there were a few times when he would do a magic act and slip outside un-noticed, then later we would find him pawing at the door to get back in.

If only I could have known how our "Houdini" dog was able to do it, maybe I could have kept him from making his escape the one time that mattered the most.

It was Christmas Day when all of the family had come together for a big celebration, and JD, once again, had slipped out of the house un-noticed. This time he did not come back, in fact, Big Guy and my oldest daughter went to look for him. They found him almost right away, in the alley behind our home. He had gotten into the neighbors trash and helped himself to his own Christmas dinner which consisted of engulfing an entire turkey carcus, including the large black, plastic trash bag it was tied up in. 

We took him to the local vet to have his stomach pumped, but afterward when the vet continued to examine him, he did not have the best news. JD was old, more than thirteen years. The vet was surprised to see he had lived this long since large breed dogs don't usually make it much past age ten. And now he was telling us that there had been damage to JD's kidneys and other vital organs. It would cost a fortune to try and save his kidneys and in a dog his age, well, the vet recommended we take him home and give him some medicine he prescribed that would help him be comfortable.

JD tried hard to make a come back. He struggled to climb the winding stairs that took him to his night time route of patrolling, and some mornings we would still wake to his sloppy face licks but they were becoming fewer and fewer each day. 

The days turned into weeks and the weeks went by fast, which finally brought us to the morning of February 14th. The older kids had gone to school and Little Guy was busy playing in the family room. I had moved JD's bed to the kitchen near the back stairs a few days earlier. It had been almost two days now since he had touched his food and hardly a drop of water. He didn't leave his bed and barely even moved but when you spoke to him or sat near him and stroked what was left of his once thick, long black hair, his tail would wag with approval and his soft brown eyes showed he was grateful.

My Big Guy was expected home to a romantic Valentine Dinner that evening, cooked by me and chaperoned by one teenager, two preteens and a toddler.

I busied myself as usual with the household tasks; cleaning up the poptart crumbs left behind on the kitchen counter, unloading the laundry left in the wash the night before and checking on JD and Little Guy each time I passed by them. 

A friend called and I was talking to her while taking a load of clean towels up the back stairs. I had just reached the linen closet, when I heard a loud thump followed by a whimper. In a panic, I told my friend I had to go and dropping the phone into the laundry basket that had now fallen from my arms, I turned to go back down the stairs. I could see JD struggling, with his head on the last step. I hurried to reach him and sitting on the floor, carefully lifting his head into my lap, I asked him why he had tried to follow me up the stairs. Then holding his head between both hands, looking into his big brown eyes, I knew. JD was saying goodbye.

I pleaded with him not to go, not now, not on this day. I told that big black hairy lug that he couldn't leave us like this, that we weren't prepared, that I wasn't ready!

But as I watched the last billow of his chest and felt his head become lifeless in my hands, all I could do was remain there with him on the floor, sobbing with uncontrollable grief.

That night after my Big Guy came home, we buried JD under the giant Oak tree in the back yard. Six hearts were left broken that Valentine's day; there was no celebrating for any of us.

I was once asked by a total stranger, "If you only had moments left to live, how would you want to spend those moments?", and of course I had answered the way most people probably do, I said I would want to spend them with those who loved me, and now I realize, thanks to a big black hairy dog, what a blessing that would truly be and I smile when I remember a time when I once woke to a cold, wet nose in my face.

Friday, February 10, 2012

My Oldest Daughter's Greatest Prize

Maryanne, with deep set, dark brown eyes and a smile that can be seen a mile away!

Always fun-loving and ready to share in her happiness whatever it might be.

She makes it a priority in her life; lighting a fire that will spark much joy in the lives of others.
But all fire's eventually burn out and Maryanne has had to re-light many times.

I wanted to write this today since Maryanne made it on a nation-wide television show last night; a special show that ended up bringing tears to the eyes of so many. She was a contestant on the popular game show, Wheel of Fortune. And this particular show, totally unrehearsed and unexpectedly, gave her an incredible gift.

Her husband, Andy, who is in the Army and had been deployed to Afghanistan for the past year, was presented to her at the end of the show; a complete surprise. Maryanne had been waiting for him to come home and only knew that it would be soon. She had hoped to surprise him by winning something wonderful that she could share and yes, she did win some very nice things including a trip to Las Vegas. But it was Andy who was able to turn the table and surprise her, which for him, is very un-characteristic.

We were fortunate to have been there for the taping when it all happened and everyone was crying, yes everyone, tears of joy for Maryanne. Then last night when it finally aired on tv, we had our own small "Wheel Watching" party and everyone in the room was also crying.

I cried again too, and still cry with every new youtube posting. I cry because I know that my daughter was so blissfully happy; that having Andy back safely from a war that she knew could have easily stolen him away forever, was her greatest reward of all. 

I also knew that there had been struggles in her life, more struggles than a young woman her age would ever be expected to have to go through, but she did. And because she made it through all of them, I couldn't be prouder of her. 

Congratulations, Maryanne, for a job well done!

And just in case you missed it...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tongue Tied and Twisted TV Talk

What a day! Wake up with dog at 5am; he can't breath and I can't sleep because I can hear him wheezing. I hold him close and reassure him until he can finally calm down enough to go back to sleep. His doggie asthma has come back full force now that he has aged and it's always worse in the early morning hours.

I can't go back to sleep now, so I join my Big Guy who has put on the coffee water. We discuss the day ahead of us and before I know it he's off to his city work and I'm trying to find something decent to wear to my TV interview. It's not what you think.

My oldest daughter is a contestant on Wheel of Fortune!

Just say that to a complete stranger while standing in the long line at the post office and even someone who looks like they've been sucking on a pickle all day will light up like an incandescent bulb. In fact, they did!

As an avid Wheel Watcher for nearly 30 years now, having your daughter become a contestant is almost as good as you being one yourself. I am a card carrying, puzzle solving, verb and consonant seeking freak and I'm proud of it! 

I used to watch this show religiously back when it was on three times in one day and even though one was a repeat, I still watched it. Our family watched it every night at supper time and I even wrote a story about that experience, (kinda' hokey though so I may or may not share it with you), and our children grew up addicted just like me. Ok, maybe they aren't all addicted like me but at least one of them turned out alright and she proved it by being on the show. 

My Big Guy and I flew to California in January to watch the show be taped. It was a wonderful, life changing, (well maybe not life changing), fun experience that I can't tell you anymore about until after the show airs tomorrow night. 

But I can tell you to watch it to find out what happens, and I can tell you it is a very special show and that they have never done a show like this one ever before!

So I picked out something decent enough to wear on the evening news where thousands of people would tune in to watch me look ridiculous and women I don't even know could criticize my lack of hairdo and make-up skills. We had agreed to meet at my little shop since meeting at our home with three little fur-balls running amuck, barking and begging for attention just wouldn't have worked out. Luckily the reporter was running late since I am always running late and I still managed to get there before her. She wanted to set-up in the actual shop area so she could have a background, which made me a little nervous. But she picked the area with the best assortment of stuff and kept complimenting the small rose bouquet that was on a shelf behind the chair she had me sit in. If you happen to notice it when you see me on the news tonight and would like to purchase it for your sweetheart for Valentines Day, it's $5.50, a real bargain and there is still time to ship if purchased before Saturday.

How did the interview go, you ask? I babbled! I babbled and babbled and then when she asked me another question I think I babbled some more! I don't know what came over me but I couldn't seem to concentrate. I couldn't remember the things that I had practiced to say while I was taking my shower this morning. I had rehearsed all of the smart and intellectual words I would use to describe my daughters exciting blessing. I had practiced looking proud motherly in my mirror for almost an hour and I even carefully checked in between my teeth to make sure there wasn't any broccoli remnants left from last nights supper. 

When the reporter finally said she thought it was a take and seemed happy with everything, I just kept trying to remember what I had said that was at all coherent.

So that was my morning and everything since has been a blur, and until I actually see the news at ten, I'm not even certain that any of it really happened. Guess I'll watch when my Big Guy pinches me and I wake up from this dream!

"I'm a Wheel Watcher, I'm a Wheel Watcher; you can be one too..."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My Accidental Fun Shop

Ok, so I spilled the beans about my little shop in my last post. It is an accidental shop; didn't mean for it to happen it just did.

It was July of 2010 and we needed some place to park our trailers and trucks for our amusement business. We had been begging space off of friends, using semi truck parking lots and just about any place we could find. Our home didn't have enough parking space for the trailers.

I knew of this place that had storage units for rent and a nice large parking lot. It just happened to be in a great location by a popular retail shopping area. A friend parked 2 of his DJ trailers in the parking lot and all he had to do was rent a small storage unit, so I asked if we could do the same. I was told the only rental unit they had available was in a huge old building, once known as the Bus Barn. I remembered a crafty, artsy lady who I had hired for Face Painting a couple of years earlier, once had a shop there. 

Her shop had been a pretty interesting place with lots of collectibles, an assortment of weird stuff, some antiques and all kinds of paintings that she had done on windows and just about anything else. The few times I was there, I looked for antiques but noticed the good stuff became less and the junk became more with each returning visit. Eventually her hoarding of junk got out of control and you couldn't even walk through the place. People stopped going in and she finally had an auction which sadly did not bode well for her.

It sounded crazy renting this termite chewed, decrepit old building just to be able to park a couple of trailers in front of but we were becoming pretty desperate and thought the logos on our trailers parked out front would bring free advertising, so we rented it. Then the place sat fairly empty, housing only a few tubs of games, additional electrical cords and our pink cotton candy cart.

A few days later, while paying the household bills, I stopped to ponder the amount of money we had spent on two large storage units we had been renting for the past 5 years. When I added it up, I realized why we had not been able to afford to take a cruise or any other fun vacation for a while, (great excuse since we've never taken a cruise and up to this point have only had one vacation that didn't involve a tent or fishing pole, or both). Then I made a huge decision to clean out those storage units and start saving that money. I mean really, after 5 years no one could even remember half of the contents anyway!

I started with big items first; all kinds of furniture, a barely used Coleman travel refrigerator still in it's box, (remember, no vacations), a folding golf club carrier, assorted shelves and many other useful, semi-useful and totally worthless items. 

I took some good photos and posted some of the items on Craigslist. With-in days I had sold several. One person met me in the Target parking lot to buy the travel fridge, another met me at Walmart for one of my two brand new sump pumps, (no I don't know why we had two brand new sump pumps still in the boxes; I don't know why we had one!), another person met me in the library parking lot to buy a pair of old white, milk glass lamps and a woman even met me in the school parking lot of a carnival we were working with our amusement business, to pick up two metal bathroom shelves. 

I only accepted cash for these things and made certain our meetings were in well lit, public places, but when it came to selling the really big items, like the furniture, I wasn't thrilled with the idea of having strangers meet me out at our storage units since they were in a fairly secluded area. I asked, (begged and finally food bribed) my Big Guy to help and together we started bringing things to our little, decrepit, shop. In a week, we had cleaned out one storage unit and the shop was full of furniture and lots of tubs and boxes stacked everywhere. 

My good friend Holly came by the shop one day, and upon entering she gasped. "Where in the world did you get all of this stuff?"

She was walking through the stacks of assorted items that I had placed neatly in groups about the room.

"Oh, just a few things I've picked up here and there." I joked and then started to explain that most of the items had been blessed upon me due to the passing of several family members, children leaving the nest and an ex-husband who never came back to claim his Elvis collection. I didn't want her to think I was a hoarder but looking around the room, I could see how one would start to think that.

Many of these items and furniture were from the house we had lived in for over 13 years and sold 6 years earlier. We went from nearly 3000 square feet of living space down to our small, temporary home of under 900 square feet. That stuff had to go somewhere so storage it was.

I had actually broken my own rule of paying for storage on something that could be replaced. Years earlier, when a friend had asked for help in selling a beautiful, barely used but almost 2 year old washer and dryer, I vowed I would never lose money like she had. She had moved with-in a month or two of purchasing her beautiful new set and since the duplex she was now renting already had a perfectly good washer and dryer, her thought was to save her nice new set for later. Later hadn't come and in fact, she was already halfway through another years lease in this duplex. Frustrated when she realized she had paid more on the storage than she had for the washer and dryer originally, she decided to sell the set to try and recover some of her loss and stop paying for storage.


Upon noticing that Rocky was standing in the middle of the carpet and no longer curled up asleep next to me on the sofa, almost dropping the laptop on Cookie's head and tripping over Chrissy who had also hopped un-noticed by me onto the floor, I reached for the now squatting chihuahua, already in full stream ahead. Lifting him into the air which just propelled the pee in the manor of someone holding a fire hose that was out of control, I ran with him to the kitchen tile just a few feet away. Once there, I held him as he continued to relieve what I think to be at least a gallon of pee. How in the world can something this small contain that much liquid? This is why my home always smells Pine Sol clean!

Now back to where ever I was!

As Holly helped look through the items, picking up one thing or another and exclaiming how wonderful each thing was, she suggested something that I had been trying to decide myself.

"Why don't you open up a little thrift shop and sell all of this stuff right here?" 

"Well, I have been thinking about it but don't even know where to begin." I told her, holding up one of 32 different stuffed monkeys from a box belonging to my youngest daughter. "And then if it became a thrift shop, I would have to go get more stuff and I'm not sure I want to keep buying more stuff!" 

Truth was, I loved buying stuff, it was giving the stuff up that I didn't know I could cope with. Already as I had started sifting through the boxes and tubs that chronicled the lives of so many in our family, I had my "keep" pile and it was growing by leaps and stuffed monkeys. I would pull out an ugly, slightly chipped dish and remember that my grandparents used it to eat from whenever they didn't have company. A tub full of old stainless steel flatware brought back memories of the welfare poor childhood I had grown up in. A box of Home Beautiful magazines from the 1990's were making my clearing of things much harder. I wanted to look through every old article like, "How to make you're bathroom grow by planting wallpaper borders with huge floral designs and matching shower curtain, towels and toothbrush holder.", that you could purchase all at K-Mart. These were the days before Martha went to the big house. 

"You could really make this place fun by renting booths to artists so they can sell their work!" Holly suggested with a sweet smile. Holly, herself an artist, had a good idea even if it might have come with a somewhat personal aspiration. I told her I liked the idea of renting booths and later that evening I tossed it around with my Big Guy who seemed happy about it even though I think he only heard half of what I was talking about. (Hint: If you want a man to really listen to you, don't talk to him while the Undertaker is putting the whoop on Chris Jericho! Google WWE Smackdown and you'll know what I'm talking about.) 

That night I went to my computer, googled thrift shops, antique booths and images of what I envisioned my shop to look like.

The next day, armed with some cute ideas of how to set up booths, I gathered up items that seemed to match and these are a few photos of what eventually transpired. 

I am happy to say that with a lot of good photos, a couple of great friends and ton's of elbo grease, the Little Apple Trade Company was born.

More on this fun place later...at least I'll try if I'm not passed out from inhaling Pine Sol all day!

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Versatile Blogger Award

Thank you Paulette, for writing such a fun blog, with wonderful thrifty findings and your mention throughout about the importance of family. I am really enjoying your blog, Cheerful Thrifty Door, (readers please go check it out) and thank you whole-heartily for nominating my blog for the Versatile Blogger Award.

The Versatile Blogger Award rules: 
  • You should pass the award on to 15 recently discovered blogs and let the bloggers know that they have been nominated. (Being new to blogging, I will do my best.)
  • Share seven things about yourself. (Easy, Peasy!)
  • Thank the award giver and link back to their blog. (Most definitely!)
  • Place the icon of The Versatile Blogger Award somewhere on your blog page. (Got it!)
Seven Things About Myself:
  1. I have a thing about the number 7; born on seventh day; seventh month; at seven o'clock; weighed 7lbs & 7oz and many more reasons why.
  2. Was married at the age of 15, the first time around, and am still friends with my ex.
  3. Proud to say I have 8 wonderful grandchildren and am hoping for a bunch more, (hint to my youngest 2 children that they aren't getting any younger but I will die soon and they will have to live with the fact that they have both deprived me of more wonderful grandchildren for the rest of their lives).
  4. I can be very dramatic when I want something, (see third thing above).
  5. I made up for being only 5'2" by marrying my Big Guy who is 6'6", (at least he was until he started shrinking; more on that later).
  6. I always wanted to be a Ballerina but my older sister told me they had fat legs and mine were too scrawny.
  7. I actually have a little shop that I haven't even posted about on my blog yet; it sells everything from Shabby Chic type home decor to anything that someone might think to be a treasure.

Now for the wonderful Blogs that I have chosen to pass this award onto:

I do everything in sevens, so please visit these seven wonderful blogs that I have found to nominate. They have a variety of interest that I hope you will enjoy as much as I have.