"We're all just fragile threads, but what a tapestry we make." – Jerry Ellis

Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

The Story of Merle, From Barn Kitty to King of the Castle In His Own Mind

Merlin sleeping

Late last summer, Tyler asked “Can I get a barn kitty from Katie’s Grandma’s house?”  Being the practical Mom that I am, I answered a resounding, no, absolutely not.  In a few short weeks, the girls would be back in school, Tyler away at college, and all animal maintenance on my shoulders.  Where would it sleep? We already had a cat, albeit one that rarely made an appearance amongst humans, but a cat and two dogs were enough.  Why would I want another critter to care for?

“Well, look at him,” he said, flashing me a picture of Katie with a tiny runt of a kitty sitting on her shoulder like a bedraggled parrot.  It was not a handsome kitty.

Merlin the parrot

I rolled my eyes.  “The answer is still no,” I said, shaking my head at the homely kitten, although I had to admit it was a charming pose.  My mind moved onto other things.

That night as I tried to sleep, I couldn’t stop thinking about that kitten.  In that single pic, the posture of that scruffy little face stuck in my head.  My logical self told me I was crazy for even entertaining the notion of having another animal living here, even if it was just until Tyler lived somewhere that would allow him to have a cat.  Probably just a year, I reasoned.  And what if we saved the little runt of a kitten from the barn kitty life, and gave him a loving home…

Have I mentioned I watched a lot of animal cartoons growing up?

The next morning, I texted Tyler from work.  “When do you need an answer about the cat?” And so it began.  I’ll spare you the details of the text conversations between the kids, my husband and me.  To sum, there was a tiny bit of resistance, lots of debate and all kinds of mushy words of how a deprived little kitty needed a home.  I should mention there was not a shred of logic.

In the hours that followed, you would have thought we’d been expecting a newborn baby.  We batted around names, with Tyler having the final say, and decided he’d be called Merlin.  We went to the pet store for new toys and treats, more kitty litter and a separate litter box, kitten food and the much-needed kitty door for Tyler’s room.  As they rang up the purchases, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d somehow been bamboozled.  I have always been too big a softie when it comes to furry creatures with big, round eyes. Sucker.

We spent the evening waiting for Katie to come back from her Grandma’s with the new kitty.  As we have other pets, and he had been mostly living outside and had yet to be examined by a vet, we met him outside in the garage.  He was so skinny and tiny!

 

Despite his puny appearance, he had an obvious curiosity about everything going on, and was so trusting and friendly.

Until I put him in the sink.

He had some jumpy little fleas on him, and we had an aged bottle of flea shampoo upstairs, so I figured why not?  This pitiable little kitten went from curious to a terrified lump of fur in a matter of seconds.  I thought I’d killed the poor thing from the shock as he went completely limp.  There was no fight in him, but as soon as we got him in the towel he had completely forgiven me. Little did I know at the time that dog flea shampoo can be toxic to cats, or I really would have thought I had killed him.

Not surprisingly, he ended up spending the night in Tyler’s room, not the garage.  After a trip to the vet first thing in the morning, it was determined he had quite a few health issues besides just fleas.  We ended up with anti-worm medication, eye drops for his runny eye and, of course, they did a flea treatment.  He wasn’t healthy enough for his first round of vaccinations.

Velma, our other cat, did not have much use for him, which ended up being a good thing since he had his health woes to overcome before we wanted them to meet.  Chester and Grendel were their nosy selves, but took to him better than I thought they would.  Of course, he was usually in someone’s arms or lap, so he was gradually introduced.  Early on, he showed those two he wasn’t afraid of them by leaping down right in the middle of the two of them while they had been looking at him like a pack of hungry hyenas.  It may have been in that very moment that he decided he was one of the boys, an honorary dog in his own right.

Tyler was like a new father to his pet.  It was only a week before he had to head back to school, and he spent as much time with him as he could.  My favorite memory from that week, though, was when Tyler told me, “All he wants to do is play in the middle of the night, and all I want to do is sleep”.  He also had a hard time leaving him, even if it was to go out with friends.  I told him welcome to Parenthood Lite.

Summer wound down, the kids all went back to school, and I found myself with a kitten who thought he was a dog, following me from room to room, bringing me his toys and looking for me in the morning for his daily spoon of soft food.  In fact, the daily spoon is the one thing he and Velma can agree on, and I often wake in the morning to find two cats roaming around looking for me to get up and get them their treat.

It’s been about six months since he’s wormed (literally) his way into our household, and I can’t believe it had ever been a question of “Mom, can we keep him?”  While he still battles with his runny eye, an issue I imagine he’ll deal with most of the time, he’s grown to be a spunky, curious, and affectionate cat.

Always curious, but after hearing the old saying about curiosity killing cats, Merlin stays back a safe distance.

merlin-the-lap-kitty.jpg

Despite my best efforts to not get too attached to him (he’s Tyler’s cat after all) I find myself completely in love with this mangy little guy.  He still hasn’t mastered the ability to actually meow, instead making a sort of chirping sound.  (Hmm, a cat that thinks he’s a dog and sounds like a bird.  Perhaps he really does have an identity crisis.) He greets me when I get home from work, is always looking for a snuggle, and constantly finds ways to endear himself to me. I hate to admit it, but most of the recent photos on my phone are of Merlin and I can’t go to the store without bringing him some sort of toy or treat home.  At some point I became Crazy Cat Lady and the notion is unsettling.  I thought that only happened to empty nesters.

merlin-on-my-shoulder.jpg

He still has parrot tendencies. And helps me on the computer.

Merlin on keyboard

Here he gives me some writing advice while warming himself on the keyboard

If you were to ask him (and he could talk—I’m not that crazy yet), I believe he would tell you he’s King of the Castle here at the house.  There may be a dog or cat around here that would disagree with his assessment, but I doubt they’d do anything about it.

Velma and Merlin

The kitties eventually called a truce. I wouldn’t say they’re the best of buddies, but a lap is still a lap, so they manage to get along enough to grab a nap on the blanket.

Regardless of who rules the roost, none can argue he’s injected some excitement into the quiet household, whether he’s playing the part of cat, dog or parrot.  Not too shabby for the runt-of-the-litter barn kitty he started off life as in the beginning.

(One of the Reasons) I Miss 80s TV

scarecrow_and_mrs_king

Recently, I’ve been re-watching an old favorite TV show of mine, Scarecrow and Mrs. King.  Anyone under age 40 probably doesn’t even remember it.  It was a spy-type of comedy that ran four seasons from 1983 to 1987 about an ordinary housewife, Amanda King, played by Kate Jackson (Sabrina of Charlie’s Angels for you 70s TV show fans) and Lee Stetson, aka Scarecrow, played by Bruce Boxleitner, a seasoned spy for “The Agency”.  Completely by accident, Amanda is recruited by Scarecrow to be a spy, albeit in a courier-type capacity at first.  Of course, eventually she becomes a key player in all types of Russian take-downs.  After all, who would believe an ordinary DC housewife would be a spy?

Can you begin to see what I miss?

The willing suspension of disbelief.

True confession:  I am not a big fan of Reality TV.  Sure, I watched American Idol (whatever happened to David Cook anyway?), love ghost hunting and true crime shows and all things HGTV, but the Writer’s Strike of 2007 ruined a lot of TV for us who didn’t mind believing premises that were, ahem, a little far-fetched.

In the 80s, shows that featured a good guys vs. bad guys storyline were everywhere.  In the 80s, it was easy to feature the Russians as the bad guy in every spy flick.  It was the Cold War!  We did not have a bunch of Russians protesting outside of a studio somewhere saying they are being misrepresented in American TV.  And it made life simpler.  We had pay phones instead of cell phones, typewriters instead of computers and crazy notions about impropriety.  It was the day of the cowboy in the white hat versus the villain in the black hat.  As I write that I realize that now even having colored hats is politically incorrect.  If I’ve offended, I apologize.

I hate the PC movement.  It’s probably because I am not a hateful person—either that, or I’m just an idiot.  If I had to be honest, I’d say that there were always certain characteristics that, growing up, I associated with the bad guy.  (No offense to the PC crowd who thinks it could be a bad “girl”, which could very well have its own innuendo.)  The person who was a liar, spiteful, a thief or was anti-American was not to be trusted.  So many stories today feature the person who is a liar, but for good reason; the meanie who was just misunderstood; the thief who just needed a break; or anti-American…because, gosh, we can’t think that we are better than anybody else—Americans are such an arrogant bunch.  But when I watched a show where the criminal happened to be a certain ethnicity or race, I didn’t relate the bad guy in the show to anybody who fell into the same demographic.  Maybe because I saw the show as…fiction.  Corn was a vegetable and thrown on dinner plates as such.  Who wants a show about real life? (Corn is a starch, only broccoli is a healthy vegetable. Throw out the green beans-they aren’t going to add years to your life. Mom vacuums on Tuesdays.  Stop perpetuating untruths!)

It’s not that I don’t appreciate nuances in storytelling where characters are deeper than what they seem.  I like watching movies and shows that stretch what I think I know.  I just miss the simple bad guy vs. good guy premise.  Throw in a little sexual tension (NOT rolling around in the bed after knowing each other a whole two hours), mystery and some comedy and I’m sold.  I’m simple like that.  So yeah, I miss 80s TV.  Magnum PI. Simon and Simon. Cagney and Lacey. Moonlighting. The A Team.  Somehow they had a way of having horrendous crimes, but didn’t seem so dark.  They were okay with throwing us couch potatoes a taste of the darkness of human nature—murder, rape, revenge—but making it seem like it was just another day at the office for our heroes.

There are a few shows out that are a great throwback to those times.  I love the show Castle, which just ended last year.  Who wouldn’t want to believe that a fiction crime writer would be part of a New York homicide detective team?  His theories on cases alone were entertaining.  Or Bones, where a Forensic Anthropologist would be on the front lines chasing down bad guys?  Now that I think about it, I think that show ended, too.  But when I watch shows like that, I can see myself thrown into the action.  Can’t you?  It’s fun.

And why I like TV.

Like Walter Mitty, I could be the hero.  Me, ordinary City employee and Mom, Amy.  I could save the day.  Be the unassuming hero in my ordinary town.  It’s fiction.  I’m okay with it.  In fact, I embrace it!  I am free to not associate any of the bad guys in the script because the story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in the production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.

I do miss my 80s TV.  Maybe it’s because I was just a kid, and things were simpler when I had that naiveté.    But it sure seemed like a lot more fun, and less of a statement.  So go check out shows from the 70s and 80s.  Relax, enjoy.  Don’t read into it too much.  You may find yourself slightly entertained.  And that, in today’s reality-heavy TV, is a gift within itself.  Enjoy.

 

Choosing Your Battles

cracked egg

The young mother cast a weary glance my way over the top of the squirmy toddler’s head.  She moved the bag of chips towards the back of the cart, just out of reach from those stretched-out fingers.  The little boy’s lip stuck out, but he didn’t shriek or cry.  I gave her a sympathetic smile as we passed and we went our separate ways in the grocery store.  I’d been there once.  Another Mom vs. Child battle won!

When the kids were little and I found myself exasperated with them, my husband would remind me to pick my battles.  It was hard.  I wanted them – expected them – to just behave how I wanted them to all the time simply because I was “The Mom”.  When they didn’t listen to my logic (good, sound, Mom-logic!) I felt like minor situations escalated from disagreement to battles to war in the space of a few short minutes.  The problem wasn’t a matter of me picking a battle.  The problem was that I thought three-year-olds would listen to reason.  Ha!

One of the things that I had to learn was that I didn’t have to win every battle to win the war.  Again, it was tough lesson.  I wanted to be right.  I wanted the kids to know I was right.  I wanted the kids to be little grown-ups in those tiny little bodies and see how I only had their best interest at heart.  The most selfish part of that equation was that I also didn’t want others to judge me as being a bad parent.  After all, if my kid had on a horrible, mis-matched outfit at pre-school it was obviously because I was the worst Mom ever, right?

There was a time in my life when I thought I’d just never be able to go in public again—especially restaurants and stores.  I suppose if that were true, I’d have a few more dollars in the bank account right now.  When I found out Erin was on the way, one of the first thoughts I had was, How in the world will I be able to keep track of three kids in the grocery store?  Someone’s gonna lose a finger…or an eye! 

When I look back now, especially when I see people in the store with their kids, I have a completely different take on toddlers and parents. I am quick to NOT judge, because I’ve been in their shoes.  I’ve had my exhausted kid scream about how much he hated me in the parking lot because we had to leave the dance party at the elementary school when it was getting late and his sisters were tired.  I’ve been the mom whispering through clenched teeth about how they were going to really “get it” when we got home if I got any more sass.  I have had to go to the store manager and alert them to the egg on the floor and apologize because my kid grabbed one out of the container and chucked it in two seconds when I opened it to check for cracked eggs.  Been there, done that.

All in all, my kids were actually pretty well-behaved youngsters in public.  It’s just that my memory doesn’t recall the times we peacefully strolled the aisles or sat at a restaurant.  I can even laugh a little bit at those battles won and lost.  Ultimately, we all won a little bit, because with one in college and two now in high school no one is throwing eggs at the grocery store and their clothes match quite well.  They even give me fashion advice.  I sometimes bribe my kids with promises of gum purchases to get them to go to the store with me now.

I can’t say I saw this mother with the chip-loving toddler and eyed her with envy.  Those years were not always easy, but I cherish them now.  We look back on those once-exasperating moments and laugh a little when the kids actually remember certain incidents and tell me what was going through their minds at the time.  Those years were a rite of passage in the journey of Motherhood, and now it’s definitely in a different stage, where our trips to Costco involve me trying to get out of the store without indulging in the frozen yogurt sundaes with the kids at the end of the trip—a battle rarely won.  And that’s a whole new war.

A Poem 50 Years in the Making

My brother turned 50 in April, and I decided to write him a poem for part of his present.  Don’t worry—I got him some tacky 50th Birthday gifts, too, to go along with this cheesy little ditty.

 

EPSON MFP image

Kevin and I many moons ago. Judging by our faces, I’m guessing they might have startled us with a squeaky duck or something else equally ominous.

 

I know an old, old geezer

His birthdays more than mine by far

His foolish youth I still remember

And how he built me my first car

 

Now I can’t get sentimental

That just wouldn’t fly

Cuz my older brother’s

Just not that kind of guy (in public, anyway)

 

The Three Stooges still can make him laugh

As can Smoky and the Bandit

Buford T. Justice chasing that black Trans Am all around

The point?  I’ll just never understand it

 

But there are many things about him

No one really knows but me

Like when we were kids at Grandma’s

We each had claimed a maple tree

 

His grew up a little taller

Its branches higher up the trunk

While mine housed the homemade swing

Played on ‘til the sun had sunk

 

Like most older brothers

He liked to aggravate

From pulling off my Barbie’s heads

To stealing goodies off my plate

 

I never will forget the time

He wiped boogers on my wall

His made up lyrics of victory

Ensuring I would squall

 

But there were times aplenty

Partners in crime were we

Sneaking peeks at our Christmas gifts

Before they appeared under the tree

EPSON MFP image

Easter around 1974

 

Growing up I idolized this goof

Wanting to be just like him

I even tried standing up to pee

Much to my mom’s chagrin

 

The music in his teenage years

Influenced me as well

.38 Special, ELO and Billy Squier

And of course, “Highway to Hell”

 

He still likes his fancy cars

And watching Cardinals on TV

He likes drinking nasty Natural Light

And plates with roast turkey

 

I’m glad I have a brother

Who taught me to be tough

A guy who likes to share his beer

And on the outside seems quite gruff

 

But you see I know another side

As sentimental as can be

And I hope that turning 50

Is an awesome memory

Happy Birthday, Kevin!

 

EPSON MFP image

Kevin and his kids around 2001. I like this picture of him because it shows him smiling.

More Thoughts on Bamboo Part 2 – Forget the Panda

potted bamboo

I never thought there would be a need for Part 2 of Bamboo Quest, but here I am, almost two years later and the battle between nature and woman continues.  I wrote a post that spring about my ongoing struggle with the bamboo I had planted based on the romantic notion of “The Fern and the Bamboo”.  I learned a tough lesson—don’t plan landscaping based on cheesy, albeit meaningful, poetic stories about nature.  You can read it here.

In the year between the first attempt at getting rid of it and now, it grew back.  The stalks themselves were not thicker—in fact, they got almost skinny-asparagus-looking, but there were many more of them.  I had spent hours digging up the stalks, presumably by the roots, to eradicate the bamboo from the side of the house.  Ironically, I believe that it actually helped aerate the remaining roots, because it spread up to the side of the house even faster, rounding the corner into the front landscaping.

Last summer, busy with Tyler’s graduation, not to mention completely frustrated with my inability to wipe it out, I just lived with it, trying in vain just to keep it contained to where it already had grown.  The best (or maybe the worst) thing about that side of the house is that I don’t really ever see it like I do the side next to the garage.  It’s times when I am cutting the grass or getting out the hose that I am reminded that I need to do something about that crazy bamboo.

Lilac

Must conquer bamboo before it strangles my Lilac Bush!

Late this winter, I started to plan what I was going to do about it.  I watched You Tube videos of people telling how they managed to get rid of that invasive plant.  One video I watched with a method I wanted to try was smothering it. The guy doing the video told of how he had left a piece of plywood on the ground and when he moved it a couple of days later, the bamboo had died.  I envisioned laying down thick, black plastic and putting gravel on top.  It seemed like a very do-able method, even if it involved a lot of gravel shoveling.  My fear was that this bionic plant would manage to pop right through the plastic anyway, and it’d be even harder to get to with the plastic barrier.  Another method, told to me by a friend who is actually a plant ecologist, was to cut it back close to the ground and pour full strength, concentrated weed killer in the stalks.  That seemed like an even better plan, and although I don’t like that it will be some time before I can plant anything there again if I sterilize the soil, I liked the idea of dousing it with the weed killer and spending the summer re-spraying as needed until it doesn’t come back.

So yesterday, I tackled the bamboo full force once again.  I prepared by going to Home Depot and buying the largest container of Round Up concentrate they sold as well as a long machete.  The machete purchase worried Darrell a bit.  Mostly because I think he thought I’d lose a digit or two—he knows me pretty well.  I had this idea of going all “Ghengis Kahn” on the bamboo, like a mighty warrior defending the homestead.  Instead, it was a pathetic version of sword-wielding with me slamming the machete into the toughened stalks and nicking them a tiny bit.  I could almost hear the bamboo laughing.  I changed my game plan after about a half hour of getting nowhere, and grabbed my little hacksaw that I use for cutting thicker branches when I’m pruning trees.  I’d grab a handful of bamboo, and saw at it like it was one large branch.  It went much quicker than individually cutting stalks and pulling them out, and left me with little stubs of bamboo sticking out of the ground.  With this method, at least when I was finished it looked like there had been some progress, even if it does grow back.  Rain was forecasted for the afternoon, so I hurriedly poured straight up Round Up concentrate directly on the stalks.  “Bottoms up,” I told the stalks.  I really hoped they were in a drinking mood.

Before - Right

Before

After - Right

After

This morning when I took a look, the remaining stubs had yellowed slightly, but didn’t look completely worse for wear.  I suppose only time will tell if it actually poisoned them completely.  I vowed to myself that I would make it a point to check on it throughout this season to see if there seems to be places where it’s getting its second…make that its third…wind.  Like any problem, hoping it will just go away on its own doesn’t work.  Again, another life lesson taught to me courtesy of yard work.  I never stop seeing metaphors for life in the yard and garden.

Before - Left

Before

After - Left

After

When I was finished, I saved a few stalks of the bamboo and put them in a pot.  I want to be able to be remind myself of how a seemingly small act like allowing something as innocent and seemingly beautiful as a slender stalk of bamboo into my space can turn out to have extreme repercussions that take a lot of work to remedy.  For now, that side along the house will remain minimal and barren, until the solution has run its course and I once again can plant something shade-loving (and much less invasive) there.  There is a bright side to this journey with the bamboo, though, in addition to those free life lessons it’s provided me.  Next winter, when it’s cold and nasty outside and I start getting the plant catalogs in the mail, I have a whole side of the house to design and plan.  Maybe a variety of Hostas or some native plants like False Indigos or Blue Lobuia.  And I’ll do my research in the plant section, not the poetry section.

Bags

In the Belly of the Whale (or Big Fish-depending on how literal you are)

Mug

When 2016 was just around the corner, I made a list of things I wanted to do in the new year. Not resolutions really, more like goals.  Like every year in recent years, I wanted to bring in more organization to our home and purge clutter, be healthier and train for another half marathon.  Oh yeah, and get a solid direction for this little blog.

Over a quarter of the way through the year, I’ve been organizing my office, training for the GO! Half Marathon, which I ran this past Sunday with my daughter, Erin, and trying to make healthier choices for meals (well, sorta).  What I’ve been avoiding like the plague is the direction of my blog.  You may have noticed this little hiatus as I noodled for a bit what it was I was going for in my posts.

Who was I writing for? How much family/personal info is too much? How often should I post? What’s my goal in this? Do I really have the talent/energy to actually work on it?

If you’ve ever blogged, I’m sure you can relate.  When I’ve read articles and books on blogging (probably my first mistake), generally they are geared towards people who want to earn money from a blog or have some area of expertise they’d like to share. Not really my audience.

I started looking at what type of person would be interested in my blog—this goofy, Midwest Mom’s take on people and events in my life—and got stuck.  And then self-doubt crept in.  As the weeks passed and I did nothing with the blog, I told myself I was only trying to gain perspective on where to go next, and these things take time. I continued reading other blogs that I feel are similar to mine and tried to define what it was about those posts that I enjoyed so much.  Like a flowery romance novel with unrequited longing that I devour, it’s the relatable -people thing that pulls me in.  I love reading other people’s life experiences and thinking, “Hey, that’s me!” Or “That was a brave thought to put out there.” Funny, because if you read about why I started my blog it’s one of my main points.

Still, I felt I needed to be more purposeful about what I was blogging about.  I posted nothing—I wrote them, but I never put them, or myself, out there.  I trashed them and I couldn’t finish them.  The Lighthearted Dragonfly seemed like a pointless, silly endeavor.

Shelving something that was at one time something that brought me tremendous joy and fueling of hope wasn’t easy.  I prayed about it, asked God what it was He wanted me to do. It went a little like this:

“Inspire others,” He whispered.  “In doing so, even if you don’t mention my name directly, you will glorify me.”

“I’m not good at that,” I told Him.  “People will think I’m pious and stereotype me as a squeaky clean Christian.”

At this point I picture God just shaking his head.  “So what?”

“Well, I won’t get followers and I won’t get to write posts about hilarious and dirty misunderstood lyrics.”  (I think God would roll his eyes here, because He knows how I much I love to laugh over mistaken lyrics.)

“Uh huh.”  I thought about it some more and why it would never work.  I hid away from the computer, and writing in general.  I applied for full time positions where I work part time now and didn’t get any offers.  I busied myself with marathon binging on “Criminal Minds” and ghost/paranormal shows.  I played lots of games on my phone during the time I used to work on the blog.  The couch became my ship sailing away from the very thing I felt I was led to do.

And despite the fact I thought I was getting away without doing the blog or any writing, I got a touch depressed.  It wasn’t a real fish belly I was in, but it was similar.  It was a prison of unproductive, wasted time, feeling purposeless and just standing by waiting for life to roll on by.  When someone would ask me about my blog, or writing in general, I felt embarrassed for having failed at it.  I would see pictures of dragonflies in odd places.  And this verse came up in my life, all over the place, again and again.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to proper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

I started thinking about Jonah (ironically, that story came up a few times, too.)  In no uncertain terms God had told him exactly what He wanted him to do.  If you remember the story, Jonah didn’t really feel up to the task, and tried to get away on a boat to hide from God.  It took ending up in the belly of a whale to get him to wake up and follow directions.  Was that what I was doing? Running from God’s plan for me?  I didn’t want to end up that way!

I started writing posts, again only half finishing them and never posting them, but with the idea that I needed to do this.  I’m not saying I’m in the same league as Jonah by any stretch, but in the smaller manuscript, God’s Plan for Amy—you may have heard of it—I think there may be a chapter about a little dragonfly blog.

So I’m getting off the couch and back up on that horse (yes, I really do like clichés in my imagery!)  I won’t pretend to know the big picture, but I hope that you will follow me and check out the blog now and then.  If you were a follower before, thank you for your patience; I’m still here!

I couldn’t end this post without giving a shout out to some of my fellow bloggers that have inspired me to do this thing again.   Almost all of them I’ve never met, I’ve just read their blogs and enjoy what they have to say.  A big thank you to them for showing me that writing about things you love—from life from the perspective of a young person finding her way, wonderful stories of families and genealogy, to the single dad going to seminary after serving as a Captain in the Air Force sharing his opinions and struggles.  Each one of them have made me want to continue doing something that can, at times, seem like a fruitless pursuit.  Please keep on writing!

Bloomin’ Flower           Moore Genealogy

The Baby Perks               Tali Norfalli

Captain’s Log               Rookie Notes

StoryShucker

(You may need to hold the CTRL key to get the links to open!)

For All Those Times When Spell Check is Unavailable

Graffiti--otherwise known as thought provoking reading on those eight-mile hikes

Graffiti–otherwise known as thought provoking reading on those eight-mile hikes

Found this on a bridge pier during a hike at the Katy Trail in St. Charles and couldn’t resist sharing.  It’s good to know that there are some conscientious graffiti artists that have their fellow cartoonists’ backs in the spell check department, even if it’s a bit of an admonishing tone. Spell check, Bro!

The Jokes on Me: Advice to My Younger Self

Do you remember when you were a kid—or even later when you thought you were no longer a kid—when you told yourself you were never going to do something the same way your parents did? Or have you ever declared the laughable, “I’ll never do such and such!”?

There’s a commercial for State Farm insurance out right now where the guy says “I’m never getting married,” and the next scene shows him getting hitched. The commercial continues along those same lines of “I’ll never” followed by a scene of him doing the very thing he was never going to do. It ends very sweetly with him snuggling with his wife and kids and admitting how he’ll “never let it go”. I laugh every time I see that commercial, because I think of some of the ideas and opinions I had when I was younger and how they’ve changed over the years.

While I can’t pinpoint all the reasons the when and why those opinions and “nevers” changed, I do think both life experience and maturity play a large role. If I were my 43-year-old self back when I was in my teens and early twenties, well, I just wouldn’t be the me I was meant to be today. So I’m glad I took the path I did, and I don’t have any huge regrets. But there are a few times when I wish I would have had more common sense back then, or at least been able to know a few things I know now. Although I probably wouldn’t have listened to my older self anyway, if there were a magical way to tell Young Amy a few things, I would have to at least give myself this list:

  • Wear sunscreen on your face, even if you don’t get sunburn. Yes, I know there was even a song out a few years back encouraging this, but I really wish I would have listened. I have spent a TON of money on dermatologists and skin care products to fade several huge patches on my face that have hyperpigmentation (dark spots).
  • Quit worrying about when your kids will ever sleep through the night or in their own room. It may seem like they’ll never do either one, but they will. Who ever heard of twenty-year olds that still sneak in bed with their parents when they have a bad dream? You can save your worrying for when they start driving. (Yikes!)
  • Don’t be afraid to take classes in school that are outside your major or what you think you like. Use that time in college to discover your interests and talents. Grown up life will be waiting for you soon enough—no need to rush those years.
  • Buy term life insurance when you’re young and healthy. Darrell and I did not do this when we were first married and instead bought mortgage insurance when we purchased our first house. What we paid for that insurance would have bought us at least a year or two of term life insurance. As it happened, we didn’t buy life insurance until after Darrell had a health condition, which makes the rates higher. Argh!
  • Take a tape measure with you to the furniture store. It never looks as big in the store as it does in your home. I also might add never furniture shop on a whim after having a margarita with dinner at the little Mexican place down the road from the furniture store.
  • Pay attention when your parents and grandparents tell you stories. You may think you’ve heard them a thousand times, but when they are no longer around for you to ask, it’ll make you sad when you don’t remember all the details or how the story went.
  • Practice for your piano lessons! Even if you don’t feel like it or you’re sick of playing scales.
  • Never utter the words, “My kids will never…” It is the quickest way to ensure their DNA will contain the exact genetic code to be a picky eater, nose picker, thumb sucker, etc.
  • Pay your credit card off each month. If you can’t afford to do so, you’re living beyond your means. Don’t get into credit card debt.
  • Choose to be around people that build you up, not make you be untrue to who you are. Being negative and having a bad attitude do not make you cool. Don’t be afraid to move on.
  • Leave the perms for the professional stylists to do. The same came be said for messing around with hair dye colors when you don’t know what you’re doing.
  • Take every opportunity to travel and explore new places.
  • Blame your hormones, not your loved ones. When something irrationally upsets you, realize it’s probably just PMS, shut your mouth and go to bed early. Emphasis on shut your mouth. You’ll feel better in the morning. Trust me.

It’s definitely not an all-inclusive list; after all some things have to be experienced first-hand for us to learn and grow—a pair of oh-so-stylish Sally Jesse Raphael-style eyeglasses comes to mind. The funny thing is, this list is far from being unique to just me. (Well, maybe the hair dye incident of 1985.) Regrets serve no good purpose, but what would YOU tell your young self? How would it affect the YOU of today?

PS Today is my blog’s one year anniversary!

My Tribute to Misbehaving Dogs

Grendel

Grendel

Chester

Chester

Last week, Erin and I took our crazy dogs to the vet to get their Bordatella vaccine for the kennel. I love these dogs, I really do, but when they are together and excited/nervous about something they morph into two lunkheads who completely tune out my voice. I’m glad the Dog Whisperer lives in California so I don’t have to worry about accidentally running into him at the park. Chester and Grendel have a lot to learn about being in the calm-submissive state Cesar Millan teaches people to work towards in their dogs.

Personally, I don’t think Chester (the Beagle) has ever forgotten that after one particular visit to the vet, he came home with a cone on his head, missing a dew claw and a certain other part of his anatomy I won’t mention by name. He has not forgiven the people at Harvester Animal Clinic, and has made it his quest in life to make every subsequent trip there miserable for all involved. See Chester in Action. Sure, he looks like a cute, roly poly Beagle, but inside Beelzebub awaits, complete with throaty growls and clawing.

Dogs chilling on a stop during their walk

Dogs chilling on a stop during their walk

My dear husband is ever faithful in taking them for nice, long walks that manage to work out some of that pent up energy. We have a large, fenced backyard for them to run around in, but it just doesn’t compare to exploring the great big world at the park. I, as a runner, have often thought it’d be great to have a four-legged running partner, but when I’ve tried it before it was a lot of tangled leashes and near-miss face plants. As a result, Darrell ends up taking those two on walks while my friend and running partner, Amy, and I run in the park. Over this past weekend, we had beautiful, sixty degree weather—uncommon for January in Missouri—and took them out to the trail in Woodlands Sports Park. They had not been out to take a park walk for about two months, so just getting the leashes out got them wound up.

We're on a walk!  As you can see by their faces, they get a little excited in the beginning of a walk and try to one-up each other.

We’re on a walk! As you can see by their faces, they get a little excited in the beginning of a walk and try to one-up each other.

Have you ever heard a Beagle’s bark? Bark is a term I use loosely to describe the sound Chester makes. It sounds more like a pig stuck in a barbed-wire fence trying to yodel. On the other hand, Grendel, the larger lab mix, has a squeaky little bark that really does sound like the honk a goose makes. The combination of the two is slightly more pleasant than nails on a chalkboard, and the volume is ear-splitting. This sound is repeated when we A.) Harness them up. B.) Get them to the car. C.) Arrive at the park and get them out of the car and D.) Encounter any other living creature on the path (but mostly when it’s other dogs). Once we get about two miles in, they are a little better, but they always seem to get their second wind. I am more exhausted when we take the dogs for three mile walks than when I do a ten-mile training run.

After a walk on a hot day, we get a little peace and quiet from two tired pups.

After a walk on a hot day, we get a little peace and quiet from two tired pups.

All of that being said, one would wonder why on Earth these two smelly, shedding, mess-making and obnoxious creatures bring so much joy into my life.

This is what happens when the guinea pig's Timothy Hay is not secured and we dare to leave the house.

This is what happens when the guinea pig’s Timothy Hay is not secured and we dare to leave the house.

My dogs, ill-behaved as they can be, are also a tremendous example of unconditional love. Even when I am sick, sad, stinky or grumpy, they want to be in the same room where I am—usually the closer the better. When I pull into the driveway, their little faces are there in the front window, greeting me with happy tails wagging. They wag their tales when I sing the goofy little songs I make up about them—even when the lyrics are not very flattering to them. They know exactly when I’m cold, and snuggle up to me. And they absolutely NEVER, EVER complain about my cooking.

      Grendel

So yes, those two yapping, anxious pups, who have the ability to make my blood pressure jump and my patience reach its end, also bring me the gift of peace. When I rub a round, plump dog-belly or scratch behind floppy ears I am reminded to slow down and enjoy the comforts of home. I watch them playing in the backyard with an old stick and remember joy can be found in simplicity. I see the two of them curled up snoozing and I’m reminded that a little nap is good for the spirit. And I know that I don’t ever return to an empty house—I always come home.

Snoozing Buddies

Snoozing Buddies

Amy’s Favorite Things

This past week Oprah Winfrey announced seventy-two items that she absolutely loves on her 2014 Favorite Things list. As only Oprah can get away with (and still be seen as the woman who can relate so well to her fans) many of the items are beyond the reach of the average person’s budget. Like dog beds that are in the price range of $445-$710 (hypoallergenic, of course—in case it’s your dog with the allergy problem instead of you). She does have some less expensive items on her list, like her book What I Know For Sure; it’s only $25.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hater. I’d put my own book, if I had one, on my Favorite Things list, too! I actually admire Oprah Winfrey and find her to be a classy gal who has had to endure, among other things, the media’s morbid fascination with her weight. Still, I couldn’t help but see her favorite things and think that I had at least ten favorite things that everyday, practical people could actually buy for themselves or a loved one without having to finance them through a two-years-same-as-cash deal. Besides, I always wanted to write my own version of Rodgers and Hammersteins’ My Favorite Things from the Sound of Music. I even invite you to sing my list if it puts you in a cheerful mood.

In no particular order:

 Costco Chocolate Chip Cookies. For the record, I can’t remember a cookie I didn’t like, but chocolate chip has to be my favorite. Emily and Erin do a great job whipping up homemade cookies from scratch, as does my mother-in-law, but if it’s going to be store bought I love the chocolate chip cookies from Costco. For one, they’re big, so I can get away with saying I only ate one cookie. They are soft and have those big, chunky chocolate chips in them. They never last very long at our house.

Holiday Printed Paper Towels. Simple? Yes. But some reason I love to pick up a roll of Bounty at Halloween or Christmas with the cute little holiday designs on them. Sometimes I have to settle for just getting the printed napkins, but either way they both make wiping countertop messes more fun somehow. It’s the little things…

 60-Second Instant Nail Color. I don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to painting my nails. This product lets me paint my nails and get on with life sooner without the risk of smudged polish. Of course, a gel manicure from the salon is even easier, but when I’m going to do them myself, quick-dry is the way to go. Plus, it’s a bargain compared to Oprah’s nail colors on her list—a set of nine polishes for $144. Although hers are vegan. (Why does nail polish need to be vegan? Who eats nail polish?)

Speaking of non-vegan…

Wurstmarkt. Wait, you say…a sausage supper made the list? Let me tell you, this is no ordinary church dinner. Held the first Saturday in November at Immanuel Church for over 70 years now, this meal is one you can write home about. As I’ve mentioned before, my home church is located in Ferguson, Missouri, where a lot of unrest has taken place. There was talk of cancelling the event this year due to the protests, but they ended up holding it anyway. Attendance was down from years past, but the important thing was that they carried on. The sausage, the mashed potatoes, the pie…yes, Wurstmarkt definitely makes the list.

My Nike Running hat. I bought this hat several years ago and it makes running in the cold possible for me. It’s just a plain, black hat made from lightweight, moisture wicking material—definitely not sexy, but it keeps my ears warm and holds the heat in by my noggin. Last December we ran the Hot Chocolate 5K run in a “feels like” temperature in the single digits. Between the little hand warmer packets I stuck in my gloves and my hat, I stayed warm the whole time. Can’t run without my hat in these Missouri winters.

My Keurig K-Cup Brewer. For years I saw these at Bed, Bath and Beyond and thought they were ridiculously wasteful. Then I got one for Christmas two years ago. As the only coffee drinker in the house, it’s perfect for me, because generally I only drink a cup in the morning and sometimes one in the afternoon. I love that there are tons of flavors to pick from. My favorite seasonal one is the Pumpkin Spice. When I top the coffee with some whipped cream, a squirt of caramel sundae sauce and cinnamon sugar I can close my eyes and actually pretend I’m at a Starbucks. Blissful!

Nike Structure 16 running shoes. I discovered these little gems about two years ago after coming off a foot injury that sidelined me almost two years. I am an over-pronator with a high arch, but thanks to these shoes, I was able to run and train for four half-marathons without re-injuring myself. This is coming from the person who tried cortisone shots, as well as prescription and non-prescription orthotics. They’ve since retired the Nike Structure 16, and have moved on to the newer generation, the Nike Structure 17; I give both these models the credit for allowing me to continue running. These are probably one of my more expensive “favs”, but in the long run are definitely cheaper than doctor office visits and being in pain.

My crockpot. Insert your brand/size crockpot here, but I think crockpots are God’s gift to busy families. There’s nothing like the feeling of putting your roast and veggies together in the morning and being greeted with its delicious aroma when you get home from work. All you have to do is take out the cooked food and it’s chow time. It’s like a little magic genie makes dinner for me when I’m not home. Also good for cooking up chili and soups, the crockpot is the absentee chef’s best friend. What’s not to love?

My tablet. I have a middle-of-the-road Samsung Galaxy. It is awesome. Before that, I had one of the first generations of the Nook offered by Barnes & Noble, which is an unfair comparison. I liked reading on that device, although the screen was not lit and you could only read BN book formats on it, but on my newer tablet I have apps for both Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble, so I can read either format on it. Plus it’s color. And I can play Candy Crush on it and actually see the little candies on the screen, which is much harder to do on my phone (an LG Optimus that I also enjoy).

Air Wick/Glade room freshening candles. Oprah’s list had a four-pack of holiday candles for $240. Let me offer you a more affordable option. Go to the air freshener aisle at Target or Wal-Mart and pick up either Air Wick or Glade candles. Offered in seasonal scents, they burn cleanly, last for hours and are quite the bargain at a couple bucks apiece. If you’re like me and love the scent of lemon no matter what time of year it is, you can get them on clearance after the season is over and have scented candles on the cheap. Get a little crazy and mix it up—burn pumpkin candles in April and cranberry ones in August.

So that’s it, ten of my favorite things. My list may never be printed in my own magazine or talked about on the radio, but I won’t go broke enjoying these finer things in life. There were several other favorites I had to cut, like gel pens and office supplies to narrow it down to only ten items, but I humbly realized that I’m not Oprah, so I don’t get to have 72. I also don’t have Oprah’s clout to save you 10% when you use the “DRAGONFLY” discount code. If money remains an obstacle, remember there’s always the free favorite things in which we can all agree, beginning with raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.

 

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