Posted by: morrowsl | April 24, 2019

These Little Wonders

I think I have been rushing Spring almost since the last of the New Year revelry died down. I am in no hurry for summer to arrive with its hot dry days and breezeless nights. Instead, I have been anxiously awaiting the first green leaves in the canopies around our house and the fresh scent of new blossoms in our flowerbeds.

Winter seemed to want to hang around this year. We would get a warming trend that was almost, but not quite, spring. Then a front would blow in and we were plunging back into almost freezing nights. I would take the walls off the coop in the morning only to hang them back up in the late afternoon. It seemed I would never get to take down the tarps. And forget a good power washing!

When we finally did start the warm up, there was a rush to get so much done. We needed to protect our garden with a good gate. Then we needed to supplement our garden soil with something to help break up the clay soil. The spot for the meadow had to be sited and scraped and seeded. The compost bin had to be relocated. The tractor needed repair.

The list has been endless.

To add misery to the mix, Mother Nature has been on a watering kick. As soon as the temperatures started coming up, our Spring weather pattern emerged. Dark green, deep red, and bright magenta on the radar are a North Texan’s signal colors for heavy rainfall, severe storms, and large hail. The entrance to the chicken run floods. Ruts appear in the driveway. Water stands in all the depressions. Standing water means the incessant buzz of mosquitos. West Nile. Malaria. Armageddon!
I appreciate the fullness of our little lake. But I’m not so sure we need to meet our peak annual rainfall in one season.

In between, we have managed to get some much-needed work completed. The garden has been planted for about a month. The beds around the chicken run are filling up. The meadow and butterfly gardens are sprouting. We’ve had to mow twice already.
I try to get outside first thing most mornings. I walk the porch from end to end, moving things that the wind, or nightly four-footed visitors, relocates. I check for signs that last year’s perennial additions are emerging. I watch to make sure nothing is being dug up or eaten or otherwise destroyed.

A few weeks ago, in the middle of a warm up that wasn’t really all that warm, I spotted a frog, or possibly a toad, warming itself in the bright sunshine. The wind was biting cold and incessant. But, in the sheltered spots, the sun was warm enough. I watched for a good while, just to see if he (or she) would move on. Not only did it not climb back down from its little perch, it never even shifted!
Just before I went back inside for the day, I checked and found the limb abandoned.

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Initially, I though it was a flower bud.

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It never moved an inch.

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I think it may have been snoozing.

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And it had a grip the wind couldn’t budge.

I do hope I see my little friend in the flowerbeds again.

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Posted by: morrowsl | April 24, 2019

Road Trip to Spring

About this time last year, as our mother was moving through the final weeks of her journey here on the big blue ball, I decided that, whatever was coming, my sister and I would some day have time to meander and play again. We had always included Mom in such events, taking her to see the bluebonnets in bloom or to eat a juicy burger at a stop along the road, strolling through garden centers and nurseries or combing the aisles of antique stores.
But I knew Mom wasn’t going to be with us when we went the next time.

I made a point to make sure there would be a next time.

Thankfully, we recently got a rare overnight trip south and a good friend to join us. It was an adventure filled with shenanigans and laughter. Very much the sort of thing I imagined when Sister and I were sitting at Mom’s kitchen table in her little apartment making notes about pills and water intake and output while the world spun around without us.

There is nothing like a sick room to make you long to be outdoors.

And nothing quite like springtime in Texas to make you happy you’re not sick!

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B is the driver and Nira the navigator. I, for once, just get to ride!

Our destination was the Spring native plant sale at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. We would shop on Saturday as non-members. So we drove down on Friday and spent the night in Buda.
None of us are fans to I35 with its ugly roadside piles of junk and perennial construction. So we opted for the slower pace of US67. This ribbon of asphalt has been as much a part of Sister’s and my life as is our family name. It was the highway that led to our grandparents’ little house on the Brazos River. And later to our parents’ house on Lake Whitney. As teens we took fishing and camping trips to the banks of that river and lake. It is as familiar as the veins in the back of my hand. Eventually we’d leave US67 for smaller roads we were less familiar with and towns we’d only heard names of but had never visited.

Our lunch stop on the trip down was in Hico. I’d heard of it from a co-worker years ago, but wasn’t ready for just how cool this little spot really is!

We shopped a bit (too expensive!) and ate lunch outdoors on a huge slab of stone near a little log house. The day was sunny and cool, with a bit of a breeze. Perfect!

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B and Nira, enjoying the sunshine.

On the road again and heading for our hotel in Buda. We saw so much we wanted to stop and explore, but we’d already spent so much time just making the halfway point.

We had dinner and a swim and some hoots in the hot tub (big enough for a party of twenty) then showered and settled in for a good sleep. That lasted until 2:00am when we were all awake and trying not to disturb each other.

Three Gray Hairs on a spree!

On with the TV and a three-hour movie to lull us back to sleep. Worked like a charm for me. I woke to an empty room and daylight streaming in the window. B had gone down to look for my glasses (misplaced, but found in short order) and they’d brought me coffee. I could travel like this ALL the time!

The skies were threatening and we knew it could end up a washout, but Nira had the forethought to get us all rain ponchos at the dollar store and we were determined.
We checked out of our hotel paradise and made our way back up MoPac to LaCrosse. Of course I drove into the parking lot from the wrong direction. And of course the skies darkened as soon as we stepped from the car. But we bought our tickets and pulled our little wagon along the walkway lined with so many healthy native plants.

I wanted one of everything!

Nira, who we’ve known since High School, is a master gardener and madly successful at pretty much everything she attempts. She has utilized every square inch of her back yard and patio already, so her buying was limited to only those things she’d have space for.
Sister wanted trees. But a few perennials found their way into her box as well.
I didn’t buy one of everything after all, since the sale includes succulents and I always manage to kill them with overwatering. But I did find a box full of natives to add to my beds.

Shopping done, it was time to explore! The rain held off, giving us a good hour to walk and ooh and ahh our way through seventy-five percent of the space.

Having been before, I had a couple of “favorite” spots to check. On my last trip, I don’t recall nearly as many bluebonnets and tons more butterflies. So the gardens are as diverse and changing here as they are most anywhere. Quite a lot has been added since my last trip more than three years ago. And it looks like quite a lot is yet to come. I am thinking this means I’ll have to go back in another two or three years, just to see!

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This is the door leading out of a restroom shelter. It looks entirely different from the last time I took this same image. But just as lovely.

All too soon, the skies darkened and the wind picked up, signaling us to load our purchases and head north again. Sure enough, we no sooner got in the car than the rain began to pour. The radar for the area showed us driving out of the deluge about a third of the way home. So, we settled in and made the most of it. A quick jaunt into Saturday morning Austin traffic to make us grateful for our time among the flowers and for Lady Bird’s vision of beauty all around. If you live in Texas or are planning a visit, I highly suggest you put the Wildflower Center on your agenda. You will not be disappointed.

Eventually, B spied a sign along the road boasting the best pie in all of Texas.

Challenge accepted!!

We found the Florence Diner on Main Street in Florence, Texas, easily enough. The town is a tiny pin dot on the map and the diner is just about the only thing there. The waitress was really friendly. But her news, not so much. The pie used to be the best in Texas. Now, with new ownership, the pie is store bought instead of homemade. And the choices were limited to two. B opted for cherry. She also order the stuffed avocado (avocado half stuffed with chicken salad), while Nira ordered a chicken salad plate and I got the chicken fried steak sandwich (which, according to the sign inside the restaurant, was also the best in Texas). I happen to be a CFS sandwich snob, so I was curious about this.

While I hesitate to dis a restaurant in a small town, I do have to say that not much about what was said held true. If store bought cherry pie and a greasy CFS is the best Texas has to offer, we need to move to someplace else.

FAST!!

I think the pictures tell the tale.

Back on the road, the storms had moved east and the skies were clean and fresh. We saw field after field of wildflowers that surely looked like carpets of color from a higher vantage point.

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If only that bush hadn’t photobombed.

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Somewhere between where we’d been and where we were going.

Finally back on home turf, we unloaded our treasures and agreed we’d go back again. There’s another sale in the fall!

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A bit damp, but damn happy!

Posted by: morrowsl | January 30, 2019

Building a Good Human

When I was unpacking the last of the totes we’d moved to Remote from the city house, I found the remnants of a building project. To raise money to send our son to the Boy Scout Jamboree one year, Mike had helped Marc make Wren and Bluebird houses to sell. I have no idea how many they made. Or if the sales covered the costs. Or if they made enough profit to pay for the trip. I do know everyone in our family had one or two. My parents and Mike’s had several. And the last of them ended up in our garage to be moved to Remote all these years later.

My son joined the Cub Scouts while in grade school and somehow landed in the company of a great group of boys under strong leadership. The troop was well supported by one of the local churches. The parents, and especially the fathers, were dedicated to guiding these boys, but also to letting them navigate the twists and turns and obstacles of growing up at their own pace and in their own manner. My husband eventually became involved, as did I to a smaller degree.

Our son went on to become an Eagle Scout. All of the effort and time and money and joy and frustrations that went into the progression from Cub to Eagle have been repaid in spades. He became a fireman and has grown his career into a life-long dedication to helping his community and standing with his brothers in the department.

Those early lessons haven’t left him. He still loves the outdoors. Is still willing to try almost anything at least once. As a boy, he threw caution to the wind in exchange for the adrenaline rush of going faster or higher. His first extreme injury required stitches, to his forehead. The scar is still there. As is the scar from a split chin that cost him a baby tooth. He has had knee surgery on both knees from soccer injuries. He once came home from batting practice with a chipped tooth, but no split lip. He told me he did that because he was smiling at the baseball. I’m sure there are other stories I don’t know.
Thankfully, the adrenaline dependence has been tempered slightly with age. I suspect running into burning buildings or rushing to save someone’s life may be enough of a rush these days.

He is raising two daughters. Twins. There was never a question he would have kids eventually. The only real question was, would he raise his girls in the same manner as his boys, should he have the choice. We’ll never know. When they realized they were getting twins, it was decided that those would be their only two children, regardless.

I have watched my son as a father and I am exceedingly proud of how he handles it. His daughters have been taught from the very beginning to be loving and fair, but also strong and brave. As toddlers, they were taken outdoors in their snowsuits to slide down icy slopes. They learned to swim, then spent as many days in water over their heads as summer could offer. They started playing soccer as soon as they could join a league. They are still on the same outdoor team, still the only girls on the team, still in the boy league.
And they are on a competition team in Jiu Jitsu. They love to fish. And play in the dirt.
At the same time, they recently got their ears pierced. They love wearing pretty dresses and fancy shoes. They are just about old enough to learn to cook. They already know how to wash dishes. They draw pictures of hearts and flowers. They love butterflies.

If you had told me, thirty-odd years ago, that the boy I was raising would some day have twin daughters, I would probably have laughed and possibly have even snorted. When I looked down the road my son was running, all I could see was a never-ending list of medical bills and scars.

It’s good to know I was wrong on that one.

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Birdhouse built by Marc and Mike.

Posted by: morrowsl | January 27, 2019

From My Window, Revisited

I started this blog, my first, as a means of chronicling the events and happenings in and around my home in the city. We lived in the same house for over thirty years. Our three kids and one niece followed each other through the schools in our neighborhood. We had the same neighbors, at least across the street and on one side. We shopped at the local Tom Thumb, at both its original and new locations. Everything we needed was, literally, within two miles of that house. And it was oftentimes so incredibly boring!

The interstate flew by our back yard. We were touched by crime, repeatedly. We were code violators because we had a car parked in our driveway, behind the house, out of view, that the city inspector assumed didn’t run. Our street was about a quarter mile long and just so happened to be wide and flat and perfect for topping out your maximum speed.

Every year or two, we would abandon the city for the sanctity of our family farm. It was a long drive. Sometimes we drove directly there and sometimes we tacked on some sightseeing to break the monotony of a drive we could do in our sleep. After the kids were gone, we started taking trips to the coast. Escapism at its finest.

Eventually, Mike’s work caused a relocation, for him. I stayed in the house in the city. I worked for awhile, but abandoned employment to help take care of our grandson. I drove down to San Antonio when Mike was living there. And to Oklahoma City as well. He made the drive, weekly, from whichever city he was living in. We were both living bachelor lives with married benefits and issues.  Two dwellings with utilities. Two grocery bills. Too much distance to correct the mistake when it’s discovered something got left behind and you’re already 100 miles away.  Too much distance between him in a crisply cool apartment and me in a house with a broken air conditioner.

I got into the habit of waking up well before daylight and cleaning the house. There were times when the vacuum cleaner would be running at 4:00am and the washing machine well after midnight.
He got into the habit of doing his own dishes and laundry.

It seems that all of those events occurred a lifetime ago.

Living, as we now do, well away from the city and practically in each other’s pockets, we’ve been forced to adjust. On the upside, we can go about our days outside without the constant thrum of the interstate bellowing in our ears. I can wear my pajamas to walk down to feed the chickens or sit on my porch.  He can turn the shop television all the way up without worry the neighbors will call the cops. We don’t even know when the trash has been picked up or the mail dropped off.
On the downside, anything we need – gas, groceries, dinner cooked by someone else, feed, medicine, friends or family – requires a drive of ten to ninety minutes. We can’t hear the civil defense sirens. In case of emergencies, we have us, and possibly Captain Neighbor Boy and/or Director Neighbor Girl, depending on the day and/or time of day.

I am still the early riser. I still enjoy getting my chores done early in the day.
Mike has taken retirement to a new level, starting his days at midday or later.
I can no longer run the vacuum or washing machine before noon or after 10:00pm.
He never wanted to be a farmer, but now owns two tractors and several implements.
We have had to learn how to live together again. From sleeping in a smaller bed to sharing a larger bathroom. I have had to start cooking again. He has given up boxed dinners. We both get a lot more exercise than we once did. We could both use a lot more.

I remember telling someone, well before we had this place, that I wanted to be like my grandma. My dad’s parents built a small house on a hill above the Brazos River when my grandpa retired. They had a garden and orchard. They fished the river for catfish and crappie. They only came into the city for doctor’s appointments or family visits.
Once, while visiting my grandparents at their house on the river, I heard the back screen door slap open, then closed, and peeked out the window just in time to see my grandma hoist her dress up over her back, run her hands down the back of her underwear, and scratch her butt with complete abandon.

I doubt I’ll start wearing house dresses. And I probably wouldn’t scratch so recklessly.  But the very idea that I could makes me exceedingly happy.

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Posted by: morrowsl | January 20, 2019

Maggie’s Baby Boy

doc, phoebe, jackie, melvin, uk, rua, raymond, uk, pete, robert e, maggie, jack, erlene, john brown

Uncle Doc is the handsome one squatted down in the front row.

Earlier this month, our family lost the last of my father’s siblings. Uncle Doc, the best of the storytellers and family historian, left us to go surveying the streets of Heaven. I am sure he will discover there are no metes and bounds in the Master’s domain. But first, I hope he spends a few minutes twirling Aunt Evelyn around in the clouds and a few more besting his brothers at Forty-Two.

Daddy came from a big family and most of his siblings stayed in the area where they’d been raised. As a result, we all grew up “spitting distance” from each. Interstate 35S, coming out of Dallas, divides the communities of DeSoto and Lancaster. Three of my uncles settled in Lancaster, as did one of my aunts for a time. Daddy and Uncle Doc chose DeSoto. The remaining siblings were scattered. Some in deep south Texas. Some in Ft. Worth. One in Cedar Hill.

My parents (back row, second and third from the left) with the aunts and uncles at Grandma and Grandpa Ragland’s 50th Wedding Anniversary.

Twice a year, everyone met at our grandparents’ house near the ghost town of Kimball Bend, where Highway 67 crosses the Brazos River. In its day, Kimball Bend was a river crossing on the Chisholm Trail. To us, it was simply Grandma and Grandpa’s or, more directly, Newman’s Camp.
Every summer, we got together for a family reunion and Grandpa Ragland’s birthday. We parked along the road leading to a hilltop across the little valley from Grandma’s house. Under huge live oaks, we ate and napped and chased each other through the limestone dust. If we were lucky, one of the uncles would take us fishing. Or we’d go down to the river to swim.
Every Christmas Eve, we crammed into the little two-bedroom house Grandpa had built, for gift exchanges and singing carols and making my Grandma’s eyes shine. We were closer than a lot of families, but had no idea not everyone spent this much time together. My cousins were among my first, and closest, friends. And, sometimes, my worst enemies.

Uncle Doc and Aunt Evelyn’s house was maybe a quarter mile from ours. Like Daddy, Uncle Doc had his own business. All the kids went to school together. We had the same teachers and friends in the same groups. Every October, Mom and Aunt Evelyn took us to the State Fair of Texas.

state fair - 1965 - belinda, cindy, sheree, judy, greg
I grew up thinking my Aunt Evelyn’s tuna salad was the best in all the land. And fearing the hairbrush she kept in the glove box of her car!
For as much time as I spent in his house, I knew very little of my Uncle Doc because, also like his brother, he worked some long hours keeping a roof over his family’s head. I was an adult before I fully appreciated his unique spot in our family and his incredible memory for the details of his life at the tail end of a life-long love affair.
After we’d lost my grandparents, but while most of their children were still alive, we resurrected the tradition of our summer family reunion.  The aunts would cook amazing food.  The uncles would make sure somebody brought a table for dominoes. I’ve never been exactly sure where my own joy resided, but I suspect it was somewhere between Aunt Evelyn’s strawberry cake and standing behind my Daddy while he “played a round.”

1997 Domino game Uncle Pete, Uncle Doc (back to camera), Uncle Kent, and Uncle James.

the boys

L to R: Raymond, Jack, Doc, James, Pete, Paul

As time would have it, we started losing my uncles shortly after Daddy died. I don’t think I ever considered that a mess of siblings born within years of each other would also leave in the same fashion. I do find it amazing that, in spite of going to war, none of them died in battle. And, with the exception of two aunts, they all lived well into old age.
Losing the others only made Uncle Doc, and his memories, even more precious.

Sister and I spent an afternoon with Uncle Doc a week or so before he died.  He was in a story-telling mood and kept us laughing with all the antics of his brothers and sisters, their friends, and the time they spent together. Watching him, I realized that he looked more like Daddy than any of the other brothers had. They laughed in a similar fashion. They would both lift their eyebrows when trying to convince you that what you were hearing was the absolute truth. They both could talk almost non-stop, piling tale upon tale and creating a scene that became a living thing inside my head.

I will miss this man so much! He takes full chapters of my own history with him.

 

Posted by: morrowsl | January 10, 2019

Once Upon a December Day

And, just like THAT, the holidays have come and gone and it’s time to throw Christmas back in the closet!

What the hell?

Not that I’m actually complaining that it’s time to drag out the totes and pack up the breakables before Frio figures out where I’ve stashed his favorites and actually breaks a few more. It’s that I swear I just got all the totes put away and batteries replaced and gifts wrapped and floors swept.

And too, if thirty days have flown by so fast I barely had time to notice, it also means that I got zero time in the holiday. I’m not exactly sure what I did for thirty days that was much different from any other day. I suppose I need to recap and see what happened when I wasn’t looking.

Justin is a huge fan of apples, so we tend to always have them to hand. The problem is that he isn’t always in the mood to eat them, and they often get too soft. Luckily, he also loves apple butter and it’s really easy to make. Thanks to two enormous Honeycrisps, I had enough apple slices to fill the Instant Pot and ended up with a nice batch of butter in under an hour. Some for him, some for me, and some to give away.

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Linda, checking out the Big Pond

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B, checking out Capt. Neighbor Boy’s tree stand

This was our first year without Dad and Mom for the holidays. We talked about getting together and how we wanted, as a family, to deal with that. Jack and Linda solved the dilemma by hosting Thanksgiving dinner at their place. That left us to our own family gatherings for Christmas, but also left a hole where our Family White Elephant used to be. Sister said we needed to have a sleepover, under the tree. We picked a weekend in mid-December. B and Lee, Linda and Jack, Mike and me. There was supposed to be a meteor shower. It wasn’t bone cold out. We made Tex Mex. B brought a VHS player and videos from Mom and Dad’s place on Lake Whitney.
Having everyone here for a slow down weekend was just the right way to usher in the holidays. By the time they had all waved goodbye, I was ready to get Christmas cranked up. B helped with decorations, inside and out. Our immediate family event would be in January. So the only real “gathering” would be Christmas Eve and Day with Sheli and J.

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Sister making Mema’s fudge in her trusty deep-sided iron skillet

All that was needed was a quick trip to Sister’s to make some suet for the bird feeders and a couple of batches of Mom’s chocolate fudge. Bring it, Santa, I’ve got fat boy goodies!

In between, there were still daily chores to do and projects to complete while the weather held. We had some very fine days in December. So, why not work outside?

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My first ever tractor driving experience

The red tractor is in need of electrical help. The lane up to the house is very twisty and not at all conducive to large trucks with long trailers. So Lil’ Red had to be moved to a better spot for pick up. This afforded me an opportunity to “drive” a tractor for the first time. You can’t see it, but there’s a log chain between Lil’ Red and Big Blue. I just pretended I was following closely behind! Lil’ Red is my favorite of all the things we brought here from the Ohio farm. It is a reminder of that place and our family there.

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Gate support post – left

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Gate support post – right

Our garden space is fenced, but still needs gates to keep the deer and hogs out of it. Mike has been working on the first of two gates and is about ready to hang it. That required sinking and securing gate posts. We got them in, but then got rain. So cementing had to wait until after the weather cleared up again.

Mike built a compost bin our first year here and it’s about ready to dump onto the garden. I’ve filled it with all the debris from the chicken coop and run as well as kitchen scraps, leaves, and dead plants. Moving it will require a day of tractor work.
I’m not a huge fan of leaves all over the yard. But, with twenty-one acres of mostly woods, it’s impossible to keep the yard clear. I’ve opted to clear only the “lawn” areas, leaving the rest for the chickens and wild critters to use as they see fit. The chickens love to scratch through the layers for worms and bugs and seeds. The bunnies and such use them for cover and nesting.
The upside to having so many leaves is having plenty to add to the compost heap and for blanketing the garden soil. It took two full days with a bad run of weather in between, but the front lawn is mostly clear, the decks are leaf-free, and the garden has a mulch cover. In the process of covering the garden with leaves, I discovered that the rain on top of the deep tilling we did in late summer has left the soil VERY wet. I stepped into mud and sunk up to my ankles with the first wagon-load of leaves! Not sure how we’re getting the compost spread, but I’m thinking a flock of hens might be just the ticket.

Sister asked if I’d started ordering seeds. I haven’t. I know much of what I want to grow and I’ll start seeds in the greenhouse for sure. Right now, I’m just not quite ready to admit December is gone again and it’s time to start thinking of Spring.

Posted by: morrowsl | January 9, 2019

In His Deepest Dream, The Gypsy Flies

This year is nine days old and already it’s pummeled my heart to a bloody pulp.

And it’s not as if there wasn’t enough bludgeoning done already. We’ve been on a months-long losing streak that has taken my mother and my daughter-in-law’s dad. We said goodbye to Holly, our Siberian Husky. We lost half a flock of chickens.

Admittedly, the chickens are the least of our losses, mostly because they are chickens. A two dollar purchase, weeks of feeding and care that resulted in an egg every day or two. But I got attached. I named them. I diligently cleaned their coop daily.
And I ended up losing half of them in less than four months.

The dog was a bit more expensive, in terms of heart loss. Holly came to us as a short-term guest and just never left. By the end of her life, she and Mike were best friends. The decision to let her go was not easily reached. It was the only humane thing left to do.

My mother was a long-time traveler. Her health was amazingly good until it wasn’t. It was sort of like watching a battery being drained of power. Eventually, her ability to sustain life simply vanished and took her with it.

Ed had been up and down, health wise. He had some issues that were being treated. He had gains and losses. Success. And then failure. He was on a bit of an upswing and had been traveling, making memories and checking off bucket list items. Then he fell and broke his leg. He was here one day and gone the next.

I had come to terms with those losses and had given in to 2018. Okay, I said. You’ve done your damage and I realize it had to be. On New Year’s Eve, I went to bed begging 2019 to be a good year.

And then, the phone rings and the voice breaks and there’s another person’s life suspending in time. Mike jotted down the address and we made plans to visit the hospital.

His real name was Stephen Pomeroy. We never called him anything but Knucklehead. He was the oldest nephew of Mike’s work-wife, Sue, who has been one of our dearest friends our entire married life. When we met Sue, Stephen was just an event that hadn’t yet happened in his family. We knew him his entire life. All thirty-six years. It was not enough time. None of us was ready to let him go. Least of all Sue.

When I walked into his hospital room, I knew he was already gone. The machinery was keeping him breathing and warm. But his soul was perched at the closest exit point, ready to fly.
I stood there, looking into blue eyes that held no reflection. I remember thinking that he had to longest eyelashes of any man I’d ever known. And I hoped his little girl had those. I didn’t talk to him. There was no need. Anything I needed to say had been left too late. So I kissed my fingertips and touched his cheek and said a prayer for his soul as I left.

Even if we manage not to lose another person in 2019, it will still be a shit year.

Out on the Cosmic highway
There’s a bright white brilliance
Screaming across the black void.
He is a part of the Universe now.
And the earth is a much darker place.

Godspeed, Knucklehead. I will forever miss your laughter and the way you could charm a smile from the least likely face. It wasn’t always easy to love you, but love you I did. I can still see you doing handstands in the sand, knowing full well your ass didn’t belong over your head.

Until I see you again. And I will. Skibbitybo!

 

Posted by: morrowsl | December 2, 2018

It’s Hot Up In Here

My mother had the greenest thumb of anyone I knew, growing up. Every house we lived in had plants in all the corners and on most flat surfaces. Windows were adorned with ivies and violets. She didn’t care so much for the general bric-a-brac, but give her an empty flower pot and she’d have it filled and placed before you could turn around. Even her tiny apartment, the only place she ever lived that was truly and solely hers, had more than its share of potted plants. The little patio looked like a jungle most of the time. Outings and shopping trips usually included a stop at a local nursery “just to see what they’ve got.”
My mother loved a lot of things, but she loved plants and flowers most of all.

When the time came to clear out Mom’s apartment, my sister began “encouraging” plants my way. While she got our mother’s yen for planting and growing things, I ended up with a brown thumb. Most everything I plant has to be willing and able to survive on neglect and abuse. I parked the plants on the wrap-around porch and shot them with water if they began to look peaked.

And then, summer announced it was leaving town for the winter! I covered the plants with sheets on the cooler nights, but knew that was a temporary solution at best. Then Mike told me he’d spied a little greenhouse he wanted to investigate and, quite suddenly, we were ordering a more permanent solution to the plant overpopulation.

As luck would have it, the weather and the builder’s schedule didn’t quite match, so I temporarily relocated all the plants to the guest bathroom in our mudroom.

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It doesn’t look like much, but trust me…

As solutions go, it worked reasonably well. I could turn the light off and on, simulating daylight. I could close the door and keep the cat from uprooting or eating everything. But this bathroom is my personal favorite, based on privacy and convenience. And Mike is rather fond of it as well. Not to mention it is the guest bath. So losing it was a bit more than an irritation.

The greenhouse builder directed us to build a foundation for the building, to keep the wood from sitting directly on the ground. Mike bought the lumber and we ordered decomposed granite. We sited the spot and he tilled up the ground to kill the weeds and make it easier to set the foundation.

Once the granite was dumped, Mike, Sister, and I spent an afternoon spreading about half of it, then Mike spent the next afternoon finishing up.

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Ready for construction.

We situated the greenhouse next to the garden, with the door opening in the direction of the pump house and water source. For now, it has no electricity. So no built-in humidifier or heater. I’m researching how greenhouses work when such things aren’t readily available.

The builder had a major delay on construction day, but eventually two young men showed up with a flat-bed trailer carrying a stack of pre-constructed walls and the various boxes of windows, window openers, screws, nuts, bolts, metal flashing, and their toolboxes. They hoisted the parts off the trailer and sort of snapped it all together. It was an interesting process to witness. Sort of like watching the crew in a yacht race with each man knowing when and how to add his particular piece and where to put it.

We ordered three automatic windows and the door comes with a window that can be opened or closed manually. The mechanism that opens the automatic windows is controlled by beeswax. The heat comes up and the wax expands. The heat goes down and the wax contracts. Really cool not needing electricity or a thermostat.

It took several hours to complete the construction and it was well dark by the time they finished up. So we left it to the following day to bring the plants out.

There will be adjustments, of course, to make sure nothing gets too hot while we’re still having sunny days or too cold when the weather turns. For now, everything is settling in.
Eventually, we’ll move the compost bin closer to the garden/greenhouse area. I have pavers to set for an entrance. Mike is building a storage shelf at the back for pots and soil and such. He also has copper tubing to hang so I can have hanging baskets. And the builder needs to ship the bungee cords used to hold the shade covers in place.

We have work to do between now and garden planting time. But getting seeds to start will be a lot easier.

For now, I just enjoy going out and checking the plants that are there already.

Posted by: morrowsl | October 29, 2018

Dia leat eile (God rest you)

I’ve said before that this will be a year recalled more for its losses than its gains.

A week ago today, my family suffered yet another blow. This one went soul deep. There were text messages, our usual form of communication when an alert goes out that isn’t quite an emergency, but needs to be delivered to multiple people quickly.

Then, on its heels, a call.

I could hear one side of the conversation from my perch at the top of the stairs. Coming down, my legs didn’t feel like they’d hold me all the way. Hearing Mike say, “He didn’t make it” and knowing the impact such a statement would have on so many.

His wife, my friend, my sister from another mister. His daughter, now a daughter of my house as well. His granddaughters, dual heartbeats that hold us all in the palms of their oh-so-young hands. My son. My husband. Myself.

In the hours that came after, we waited, because there was little else we could do. We talked every so often about him, recalling things we wanted to always remember. And some we wished to forget. His health had been precarious for some time. But there was always that sigh of relief when the issues were dealt with and he was back to himself.

There’d been some traveling lately. Long hours on the road to get to magnificent places longed for long before there was any possibility. Place names checked off the bucket list. Events experienced. Hours whiled away. Naps in dappled sunlight. The roar of two oceans. The majesty of mountains. Lighter than air balloons dotting the sky from all directions. Little girl magic in a laugh. Lying next to the one you’ve loved all your life with the sounds of silence all around. Cups of coffee sipped in solitude. Birdsong and cricket chirps and the lights of The Strip. Hugs from family and kisses goodbye.

If this is the year we have to let him go, I will always be thankful it is also the year they got to travel and make lasting memories.

He was far too young to die and the hole will never fill. Nothing we do as a group will ever feel the same.

Posted by: morrowsl | October 15, 2018

That Little Heartbeat At Your Feet

Even when you live a life that seems to sit somewhere between fast and faster, there are moments that freeze in time. Or, maybe because you live at breakneck speed, time tends to stop so you’ll at least remember something later on.

I remember our son brought his girlfriend’s mom’s new puppy to my workplace. He was literally giddy. From a small boy, he’d wanted a Husky. And this little girl fit every tick mark on his checklist. Heterochromia Iridis, or better said as one crystal blue eye and one dark brown eye. A white face set in dark grey and black with the outline of a Fleur-de-lis on her forehead. A cheerful disposition. A playful streak. And a fat puppy belly.

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She was a rescue dog in that they had recently lost a beloved Aussie and this little Husky was meant to be what rescued them from the heartbreak. They weren’t prepared for her high octane personality, however, and she shortly became a sibling to our future daughter-in-law’s Boxer Mix, Ladybug.

The new puppy was named Holly. She learned to jump on the bed and ride in the car. She tormented Ladybug. And cuddled up under her to sleep. And she figured out pretty fast that she was loved.

I remember the first time I walked her. Or rather, the first time she ran me. Our son’s townhouse had a short, but very steep driveway. She literally pulled me down it. How I kept my feet is a mystery to me, given my tendency to trip and stumble even on flat surfaces. I remember thinking at the time that sixteen of her would not only pull a sled from Anchorage to Nome without trouble, but might just refuse to stop till they’d reached the Chukchi Peninsula!


Eventually, the kids rented out the townhouse and moved in with us while they shopped for a house. Holly and Ladybug joined Dillon and Sally. Everywhere you stepped there was a dog. The foursome got along, for the most part. Although poor Dillon was well outnumbered by the three domineering females.

Time froze again when the kids married, bought a house, and started their family. Holly became a permanent member of our tribe. Sally passed away and Ladybug found a new home with an older couple. We lost two dogs and gained some floorspace.

Dillon and Holly got along very well and became lifelong buddies. He loved to lay under the glass table in the front room where he could watch the street. She loved to sit on the top of the car parked in the back driveway where she could see even more than he could. She oftentimes attempted to steal his spot under the table, but he never let her stay there long. They shared the ottoman and kept the backyard pockmarked with holes. They loved to go for grooming days and a shared kennel at our veterinarian’s hospital.

They both secretly hated Wilson, the cat.

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Eventually, Dillon left us as well and suddenly Holly was the only family dog. Not that she minded that one bit! She was a diva to her very soul and relished having all the attention and getting all the treats.
She and Mike became best friends. She disapproved of his travel and would lay at the front window, under Dillon’s glass table, watching for him on Friday evenings. When he was home they were almost inseparable. She would still acknowledge the kids when they came to visit and she tolerated our grandkids and other family. Never one to shy away from attention, she gave kisses for pets and treats.
But Mike was her favorite. She loved to lay on the ottoman and watch tv with her “boy”.

Age brought its limitations as well. She developed incontinence, like so many old ladies do, and with that a year-long urinary tract infection. Beating the infection meant taking medication for the rest of her life to keep the incontinence in check. We changed her diet and added supplements. She shed a few pounds but, all in all, she was healthy.

Retirement brought another series of frozen moments. We bought a house with some acreage and worried how to contain a city dog with a nose to sprint and just enough sass to ignore commands. We muddled over fencing and kennel space. In the end, we opted to harness her and use the leash when she was outside.

It worked so much better than we’d ever anticipated.

Holly’s days in our new home centered around eating, sleeping, and going out to fetch the mail. Since we couldn’t trust her, or the predatory animals that hunt in our woods, she wasn’t allowed outside alone. She spent time in the shop with her boy, but most days found her stretched out on the big rug, snoring. At noon, the two of them would make the walk down to the road to check the mailbox and allow her some toilet time. Then back to the house to eat and grab a nap. She had a dog’s life.

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We just passed the two-year anniversary of our move. In that short space of time, Holly’s health had declined rapidly. She developed arthritis and began to slow down considerably. We sought the same treatment for this newest malady as we had for her incontinence. We added two new meds and a new supplement to her daily round as well as drops to ease the stress of her arthritis pain. She tolerated being loaded in the van for the 90-minute ride to see her acupuncturist, then another 90-minute ride home. That worked for a couple of months, but it was easy to see that the ride was oftentimes countering the benefit of the treatments.

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Eventually, we knew we were coming to the end of the journey and that she would tell us when she was done.

She let us know early last week. On Friday, we gave her sedatives to eliminate the stress and pain of being loaded into the van. And the three of us took one last ride to town.

She was closing in on her thirteenth birthday. That’s quite an accomplishment for a big dog. She kept her willful spirit to the very end, refusing to be budged to go outside if she was comfy. She spent her last two years parked as close as she could get to her boy and still be comfortable. She set the schedule. And the pace. She owned us. As it should be.

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Godspeed, beautiful girl. Good dog!

 

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