Tuesday, June 29

In It For The Long Haul.

Yes, the header photograph is my car.

I purchased it new in Texas during December of 1999. I was taken by all the safety features, seeing as how my beautiful forest green Grand Am was totaled on the freeway about 7:30 am while carrying my children--and a neighbor child--to school.

Just days earlier, the family had suffered another tragic loss. Our German Shepherd, Sasha, was put to sleep after being part of our family for more than 13 years. We all cried and cried for days.

But within a couple of days after I brought the Saturn home, the girls' father met me at the kitchen door in the garage, hands behind him and a sheepish grin spreading uncontrollably across his face. When he brought his hands in front and displayed a five pound black and white pekingese, I met my current companion, Mr. Blue, for the first time.

He rode with me in my new Saturn to Puppy Kindergarten twice weekly for two months. The emergency brake still shows the teeth marks from a very anxious, teething Elijah Blue. I was anxious too. It was trying at times to juggle parenting two young girls and a demanding corporate job with training a new pup. But Elijah Blue and I came to an understanding eventually and he graduated with honors.

Once his training was complete, he'd occasionally ride with me across town to visit my friend the nurse or to watch the city-girl play tennis. When we had tournaments out of town, he'd travel two hours or more and stay with us at a hotel. The staff generally thought him to be too small to qualify for a pet fee.

The Saturn has carried other precious cargo as well. The city girl daughter's cello fit nicely in the trunk throughout her Philharmonic Orchestra endeavors--as did 250 Ipaqs for a client (when they were the hottest thing on the market). And more recently, I dismantled the Bowflex and moved it to my new digs in that car.

Blue had his longest ride ever when we traveled from Texas to Virginia in 2002. I really thought that two day trip would have broken his desire to "ride." I put his pillow in the back seat and stopped periodically at rest stops to walk him. Looking back, I think he was just happy to be with someone he knew loved and cared for him. He and I had a two-day road trip. And even after all that traveling, he still gets bouncy excited if I mention the word "ride."

The Saturn may not be the prettiest thing on the road, but it still gets me where I'm going. Through our 11 year relationship, we have both learned to communicate our needs to one another. The Saturn sometimes hesitates and expels a thick cloud of blue white smoke when it needs a little attention. I, in turn, do not cast a wandering eye on younger pretty cars. I appreciate the relationship--the understanding we have for one another. I know I have something in my worn little blue Saturn.

Just today, I loaded a wooden bench from Pop and Momo's house into the back seat. Pop cast a doubting gaze when I first suggested it would fit. I tried to explain to him that same bench he just repaired had originally fit in the back seat, along with one child, when I had first purchased it in Buffalo Gap, Texas years ago.

Needless to say, the bench fit--and I brought it home to my townhouse.

The car may be aging--as well as the dog--but both have a tremendous amount of good in them yet. They may well be my most prized possessions!

Tuesday, June 22

Wednesday, June 2

Faster and Faster

Life is moving swiftly on... (view from my living room window--very early A.M.)

I'm adjusting to a lifestyle that is so completely opposite from the past eight years of my life...
But time waits for no one, right?

Elijah Blue is doing well. I have found these wonderful treats called Good Bites that contain glucosamine and chondroitin that are supposed to help his aging joints so he can climb the stairs at bedtime more easily. They seem to be working out--he doesn't need near as much coaxing.

I am tired. Too many hours this past week at at my war memorial job (it is the sesaon). More later...

Saturday, May 29

Sometimes Its Just a Question of Character

I just finished catching the tail-end of The Story of Us. Every time I see this movie, it gets me. Marriage is hard work. The payoff is excellent if the necessary commitment--by both parties--is realized.

I see married couples everyday all day at my job. It's very easy to distinguish those who have put in the work and those who have not. It makes my day to hear the happiness in the voices of those who have taken the time to strengthen and maintain their relationship, long term. Like I said, marriage is hard work.

I didn't leave the kingdom on a whim. I tormented with the decision for some time. I attended marriage counseling, solo. But just two weeks after I had left, I began to get reports from neighbors--three, in fact--letting me know that JB had began seeing someone else on a consistent and regular basis.

I don't begrudge him for this. I just wish he had been honest. No, really--I expected him to be honest.

But his actions are just the confirmation I suspected would validate my decision to leave.

Tuesday, May 18

Everything Old Is New Again

I am six weeks in my new place. The city-girl and I are getting more acclimated every day.

Blue has settled back into a leash routine. Thank goodness he is a Puppy Kindergarten graduate (10 years ago!). I take him out about 6:00 or 6:30 am each morning. One of the nice things about living in the city is no one takes notice of a middle aged woman walking a dog wearing a bathrobe decorated with dancing demons at the crack of dawn. The majority of my neighbors are night owls so I believe I'm safe!

I make coffee before Blue and I go out the door. By the time we make a lap around all the oak trees and I gather up his morning business in a Target bag, deposit it in the dumpster at the end of the lot and race back to our living space, it's done. I can smell the Folgers when I open the front door.

We are establishing a routine.

I am adjusting to a smaller kitchen and have learned--begrudgingly--that I really don't need all those cake and muffins pans. But my daily cooking and baking has made this new space smell like home.

Lina is loving the deep window sills!

She has developed a morning routine of her own which involves watching playful squirrels off the back patio. We have 3 or 4 that are quite brazen and go nose-to-nose with her at the patio doors in the living room. Her tail twitches and she squeaks until she can stand it no more. Then she stretches her full length up the door like a ferret. This always makes the squirrels run away scared.

I am still sorting things and have a new found wardrobe via the divorce diet. Back in my size 8s, it's like getting a new wardrobe! How great is it that I have a new wardrobe and haven't had to spend a dime?

My large plants are spending time with Momo and Pop until I find more permanent homes for them.
I have far too many plants here at the new place already and am forced to pick and choose. This is a difficult task, but I am getting there. The back patio area is shaded and I have planted pansies and I am considering a few bleeding hearts.

More photos to come, I promise. I'm still arranging and rearranging as I settle in to my new place.

Side note: I am attending BlogHer in August. Are you??

Monday, February 15

Sanity Is Madness Put to Good Uses

A slight break in precipitation has Blue back on his morning routine. Out the east stoop he goes before daylight. He journey makes a complete circle around the house and he deposits himself at the kitchen porch on the west side. He barks to mark his arrival.

When I opened the door to let him in before dawn, I noticed these very long icicles. I stepped out in the chill wrapped tight in my bathrobe to get this photograph.

Usually, we race to his treat jar. The jar marked "Blue's Treats" holds something magical to him. I fill it with bite-size shredded wheat. The vet suggested this as a healthy alternative and it works just fine for Blue.

He's almost completely blind so I have to talk him through a snack so he won't take off a finger.

Lina perches in a central point to wait on daylight. She waits--sometimes patiently--for me to refill her food dish.

When I go for coffee after daylight, Lina has already been sprayed once or twice with my plant mister for sneaking on the counter for a better look at the birds.

Once Blue gets his treat, he settles in for his morning nap in my bedroom.
If he's not quick enough, Lina will grab the pillow before him.

Armed with coffee, I continue studying for tomorrow's test.

I do my studying while taking calls for Crisis Line.
Sometimes I get a lot of calls, other mornings are quieter.

Once the sun is up, Lina settles in front of the patio doors to watch for birds.

Her tail twitches and she meows as the birds swoop in and carry off the dogfood.

After a job interview at 10 am this morning, it started snowing again.

The city-girl was in the next county at college so I phoned her
and suggested she head this way before things got any worse.

It's a long way up to the top of the drive,
but it sure beats shoveling and breaking up ice
to get your car out! We're all getting our exercise, for sure.

The snow is pretty on these tree branches right off my back deck.
It makes the them look a bit like lightning bolts.

But this stuff is down-right scary!

Note: "Sanity is madness put to good uses" is actually a quote by George Santayana.

Sunday, February 14

Is it really better to have loved and lost?

This is a musical doll I bought for the city-girl daughter
the first Valentine's Day without her father.

I love the innocence on her face and the song she plays: Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime.
I have memories of watching Dean Martin sing that on his variety show. My greatest memory is of a young man calling me on the phone when I was in the sixth grade and singing it to me. That was back in the day of extension phones and I had two sisters. I did right by the fellow, though. He was never identified to my two sisters, who teased me mercilessly nonetheless.

I still remember Valentine's Day the first year JB and I were married. He came home from work and handed me a dozen roses and a card. I'll never forget the way he had signed it:
your worse nightmare,
your husband.

Interesting, isn't it? That was when he always told me how marrying me was his greatest accomplishment. Nowadays, he tells me it was his biggest mistake--over and over and over again.

More often that not, he doesn't speak to me at all. But I actually prefer the silent treatment to the angry outbursts.

Our relationship has deteriorated steadily within the past year, so the best either of us could hope for this Valentine's Day is the absence of the other.

Thursday, February 11

A Smooth Start

The alarm startled me at 5:15 am, but I sprung up and bypassed the comforting warmth of my slippers in the rush to silence it’s squawking. Blue raised his head, looked at me and breathed a long, audible sigh. It was even too early for him. Mother Nature’s effort to wear us down with the artic temperatures and continual snow was working.

I prefer rising early. Pop has ingrained the benefits of staring your day early, as well as the fear that the day can get away from you. I step into the shower and feel the warmth of the running water on my skin. Lathering my hair, I can’t help but hear the howling wind outside and the rattling of my old house in resistance. I begin dreading the end of my shower before my hair is even rinsed. I’m too familiar with the rush of air when the shower curtain is pulled aside that chills my wet skin. Just dry off fast, I tell myself. Grab the fleece bathrobe. Tie it up tight.

I can hear the coffeemaker reach the final sputtering stretch as I enter my bedroom to snatch the pink Revlon hairdryer. The view outside stops me as I reach for the boar bristle brush on the dresser. I watch the tree limbs sway like outstretched arms performing a ceremonial dance. The force of the wind lifts the snow and tosses it momentarily before sending it spiraling back to the frozen ground erasing the footprints of the previous week.

Tuesday, February 9

Living in a Freezer

When the last round of snow hit, I pulled on my boots and climbed up the driveway. I decided it wise to retrieve the second snow shovel before it became buried until spring. I knew we'd need it before the day was out.

A neighbor brought their tractor over and plowed the driveway. Once the sun came out, I gathered my best garden digging shovel to break up the melting ice and toss it aside. After clearing five to six feet of the driveway, I crawled into the Saturn to gauge my progress. After about fours hours of alternating these two tasks, I was finally able to make it to the top of the driveway.

I actually embraced civilization yesterday and was able to venture out. The city-girl and I carpooled because her Mustang is still covered.

Our schedules worked so that we could both attend classes--something that hasn't happened since last Thursday. Aware of the new bout of storms coming, I left the car at the cattleguard at when we returned home yesterday at dusk. She and I maneuvered the uneven terrain of the driveway with it's layers of ice and snow.

The ground cracked and popped under our feet as we carried our books, purses and the few groceries we had picked up on the way home.

This is where the Saturn sits today.
I hiked up the drive in 28 degree weather early this
morning to check the road conditions.

If only I were a teenager with no responsibilities or fears of injury,
I'd spend the day sleigh-riding...

Friday, February 5

Snow Daze

The gargoyle on the back deck, caught in the fallout from the last week's snowstorm seems to echo my sentiments exactly. If he could speak, I'd imagine he'd emit a cry similar to that of Dan Ackroyd in the coneheads when he caught his daughter making out with an Earthling--you know, Dan Ackroyd and Jane Curtain?. I was hoping to put in an audio clip, but was once more reminded that the world has moved forward and now Coneheads could mean a band.

The first snow covered my car.
It took two days to dig it out and
five days before I was able to venture out into civilization.

I busied myself with studies,
cooking enormous pots of soup and

digging paths for grateful short-legged dogs.

Just as the last traces of snow were sinking into the earth
(and melting and seeping into the basement, I might add),
we got snowstorm number two.

The gods smiled upon on us this go 'round, though
Sensing our aching backs from the first round of shoveling,
they made this a very dry snow.

More tunnels for grateful short-legged dogs...
more sweeping water down the drain in the basement...
more soup!

This time, I was able to venture out in just three days. Progress!

But poor Blue is sighing more these days as he is
no longer free to run far and wide each morning
nor enjoy the privacy to which he's grown accustomed.

And it's snowing again...

Saturday, January 23

Farmers Anonymous

Hello. My name is Mizmell and I’m a farmer.

It all started rather innocently just before finals in December. I was a wee bit stressed over the thought of exam essays and needed a slight diversion. I began with a small farm and planted crops that were ready to harvest in24 hours. This was the beginning of my morning ritual which involved harvesting and then planting as I had my morning coffee and cigarette.

But as the reward coins accumulated, I begin to look at ways to enhance my farm. I grew embarrassed by the covered tent—-the only shelter for my imagined self—-and sought ways to stockpile coins so I might be upgraded to a cottage. I analyzed crops by cost, maturity and coins yielded to achieve my new housing goal. Once I achieved a cottage though, I wanted a farm house. Now that I have a farm house, I want a manor--but it’s an awful lot of coins…

So I turned my focus to experience points. With the completion of each level, I calculated how many experience points to the next. I sought new avenues for gathering experience points.

I get several phones calls daily from a local “farmer.” This farmer is related to me. She shares her secrets for yielding more coins and experience points, as well as predictions for the challenges ahead. She has even offered her neighbors, if I’m interested.

With more neighbors, come more benefits-- but also more obligations! You fertilize their crops, feed their chickens and receive more experience points. I shamefully accepted two. After that the horror of my addiction became glaringly apparent and I have declined all further offers.

I have increased the size of my farm, so I can plant more, yield more, buy more and advance through the levels. But the larger area requires my attention twice a day, so I have also added farming to the end of my day and spend 15 or 20 minutes each night right before bed. I bought a tractor, then a seeder and a harvester. These new additions to my farm allowed me to do 4 plots at a time, rather than one at a time. I have become so efficient, twice a day isn’t really a big deal.

It was only after the change from once a day to twice daily farming, that I came to grips with the fact that I needed more neighbors to get the Mighty Plantation. I checked my friends list to see who I could perhaps sway. I sent out invitations and picked up a few. I even found a few old friends I hadn’t seen or spoke with for more than 30 years—but they were farmers, like me. I sent a request. They accepted and we became neighbors. Only one accepted with a polite email inquiry and well wishes.

Just yesterday, I got the Mighty Plantation. I’ve since planted more crops and purchased a hot rod tractor that allows me to plow 6 plots at a time. If I choose high-yield short-term crops, I’ll probably be able to stockpile quite a few coins. I still have my eye on that Manor.

Friday, January 8

A Real Decent Fine Boy

When Elvis appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, his host made a point of telling the audience that he was a "real decent fine boy." If Elvis had lived, he'd be 75 today.

In honor of the King, I'm making a large pot of Elvis Presley's Homemade Vegetable soup. Rumor has it that Elvis wasn't the healthiest eater by a long shot. No need to worry, though. Even real decent fine boys can do with a little tweaking.
Momo did the honors for Elvis' soup and has tweaked this recipe to make it very healthy and very tasty. I promise there will be no yucky separation or fat on the top like some vegetable soup recipes. Give it a shot. It's delish!

EP's Homemade Vegetable Soup

1 large can tomatoes
2 pounds LEAN stew meat
1 cup chopped bell pepper
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
5 pieces garlic
2 boxes frozen mixed vegetables
2 cups diced Russet potatoes
2 cans cream style corn
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp salt
2 tbsp black pepper

Cook meat, onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic and tomatoes in large stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add mixed vegetables and cook another half hour. Then mix in corn, potatoes, ketchup, salt and pepper.
Cook 30 minutes longer or until potatoes are tender. Serve.