Monday, March 31, 2014

Jackson...Plucky Pucking

Jackson, ready to learn hockey
My great-nephew, Jackson is an active little boy...not quite five years old.  I wrote a post about his big sister, Abby, and how she is active in Girl Scouts (as a Daisy), and so my last post for this month will be about Jackson and his desire to play hockey. 

Jackson without his hockey gear.

When I heard that Jackson wanted to play hockey, I thought it would be short lived.  He was only four and did not know how to skate.  His father was active in tennis, swimming and baseball in high school and his mother was in marching band...none considered contact sports.  But they decided to let Jackson try.  First was to learn to ice skate.  I am going to use pictures to show his progress.  Isn't he a cute little guy?  He was one of the smallest skaters on the ice.  I was also impressed at how older boys...maybe middle school age or early high school age...were there to help the younger ones.

During Jackson's first couple of lessons he had a few
falls where these older boys would encourage him to continue.

Sometimes it took more than one buddy to encourage him.
Jackson did not give up and was soon standing and taking steps on the ice...I call it ice walking. Jackson almost gliding  It took a few more lessons before he was actually gliding.  He has now advanced to the next level, and just a couple of weeks began skating with a hockey stick.
  Here is a slide show.  There are a few ups and downs...but he is a determined little guy.
Jackson's older sister, Abby, often went to the ice rink to watch.  It was not long before Abby wanted to join in the fun.  So, here are a few pictures of Abby learning to ice skate.  She just might get to earn an ice skating badge for Girl Scouts.
  I am so proud of Jackson and Abby.  They show determination and spunk.  Most of all...they have fun.  But, deep down...this auntie hopes they follow in their parents' footsteps and decide that while hockey is fun...swimming, tennis or golf is a bit safer.  But in the mean time Bobby Orr! (or if you are a Chicago Hawks out Patrick Sharp)
Abby (before she got a new helmet), and Jackson

Sunday, March 30, 2014

My Rant

I was going to write a post about my little nephew, Jackson, until I read one of the comments on my post from yesterday.  Jackson, I will write about you tomorrow, but right now I have to voice some dismay.

The first comment I read on my post was from someone (I will not write his name) who felt I needed a lesson in the Bible.  There were quotes from the Bible identified with chapter and verse...I guess assuming that I would not recognize or know where these quotes were from.  The words "Unsaved Believer" were like a mantra throughout his whole message.  He asked me to follow his blog but, instead, I chose to delete his offensive comment.

I don't find it offensive that his faith appears to be deep or that he appears to be a Christian.  The offense was that his blog must have flags out that will automatically send this generic comment to any blog post that differs with what he considers being a Christian.  Probably the name Cuyamungue Institute tripped that flag.  This is so sad, and I was just going to overlook it, but I felt that this person trespassed on my blog and without reading the post or reading what Cuyamungue Institute is, felt that he had the right to assume that my lifestyle was one of a nonbeliever....and in need of being saved.

Maybe I am assuming too much, but I usually don't get so riled about this.  I don't mind if anyone wants to disagree and have a discussion about differences...but this was just a lazy way of him telling me that his way...his beliefs were the only way.  Grrrr.... 

I was so relieved when I realized that he was not a member of the Slice of Life.   I have felt that all the comments I have received have been supportive and positive.  I hope mine have been too.  I believe that this was a type of spam...but this guy has a blog (which I did check) and calls himself an evangelist. 

As I write this my anger comes and goes...but is growing again.  Part of me feels I need to state that my values probably come from my Methodist background and a family that was extremely active in church.  But then I think....why does that matter?   I try my best to be a decent person.  I don't believe in war.  I believe in sharing what I have with those in need.  (The Quaker part of the family comes out a lot too)  I believe service to others is more important than collecting wealth.  None of this has to do with whether I am a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan, Agnostic, Atheist or any other religion or non-religion. 

And to this man who felt entitled to assume I need to follow his religion, because I happen to be part of  an institution like Cuyamungue....maybe you need to read a little about it and then we could discuss it.  We have people from all walks of life who participate...we are not a religion, but those who have a strong faith (in whatever religion) often find that the method strengthens their beliefs.  I use this method to get in touch with my inner untangle all those zero in on what my inner self knows is right for me.

Enough said...I could rant forever.  I hate that I had to do this so near the end of a wonderful month of reading the posts of so many talented and interesting writers.  But...this is called the Slice of Life...and this happened to be a slice that was simmering on the back burner where I put it...not allowing me to ignore here it is.  And then maybe.....he was concerned that my post mentioned casinos...... (beginning of another rant....stop...let it be.)   Counting to 10....taking deep breaths....counting....breathing....publish.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Rae Uncovers Our Dirty Laundry

Sunset on the Land
One of the blogs I read today reminded me of another Rae story.  This one not so funny...but still deserves writing.  Every June, Rae, Stephanie and I travel to New Mexico for the annual board meeting for Cuyamungue Institute.  We are instructors of the Cuyamungue Method and also offer workshops during the summer. We are also board members.  Cuyamungue Institute is located just north of Santa Fe.  Our 280 acres are within the Pojoaque Pueblo, and we strive to keep the Land pure, clean, open for the wild life indigenous to that area.

Road to Cuyamungue Institute

One summer was quite busy for us.  We conducted a four day introductory workshop and within a week had to have all preparation for an International Gathering where we had members from Europe, Israel, South America and Canada meet.  As I write this I realize that there is too much stuff I want to say about Cuyamungue Institute and the story is getting lost.  So I will put a link to the site for now, and later write a few posts about this beautiful land and practice. Cuyamungue Institute

Back to the story.  Usually, after a workshop the three of us head down to Cities of Gold or Buffalo Thunder casinos and have some fun.  We often find a room at either place, eat at a restaurant, and have a welcoming hot shower.  The institute has showers...but we are careful with water use there, and we share showers the comfort level is not real high.

After this workshop we knew that we had little down time before preparing for the gathering.  We decided to do our laundry at Jake's Dirty Shorts, which was near the Pojoaque Supermarket.  I also wanted to buy some Corelle dinner ware for the gathering because we did not have enough plates for everyone.  Plus, they stacked easily, were compact, easy to store compared to the heavy pottery sets we had. 

 Rae and Stephanie resting in the Student Building

Our plan was that Rae would do the laundry while Stephanie and I drove to Espanola to get the Coreelle ware.  (It was easier to drive the ten miles to Espanola than to the other side of Santa Fe where we could buy the dinner ware.)  Stephanie and I helped Rae carry the laundry inside Jake's Dirty Shorts.  We helped sort and fill washers and got them started.  Rae had her book, ready to just relax while we headed to Espanola. 

Road construction slowed us a bit, but we made it to Espanola in good time, got the sets of Corelle ware and headed back.  It was not our fault that as we passed The Big Rock Casino it beckoned us to stop.  (Those who know Rae know that she loves to play the slots...and this was way back when Ohio had no we always spent a little time playing when we were in New Mexico)  But The Big Rock Casino was insistent that Stephanie and I go in and play the change we had from our purchase.  Not much, but just come in and try.
Big Rock Casino

The car, hearing the call, turned into the parking lot and we found ourselves inside.  We only stayed ten minutes.  We did not lose any money...we won a little.  Checking the time, we knew we had to get back as the clothes were probably dried and Rae would be waiting for us.  We promised each other that we would take Rae to a casino that evening. 

Walking into Jakes' Dirty Shorts we found Rae looking panicked.  She had a cart with a mountain of wet clothes beside her as she was trying to fold some dry clothes on a table.  "Where the (choice word) have you been?  These people in here are so (choice words) possessive with the machines and don't want to share with a stranger.  I was lucky to get this (explicative) cart so I could pile the clothes somewhere hoping to get a (#*%#) dryer.  Every time a (choice word) dryer was free some (choice word) jerk would grab it.  (Choice word) I did not even have time for a cigarette or get to read my (#%#*#) book."

Stephanie and I looked at each other.  Do we dare tell her?  No, better push our way to a dryers and get Rae out of there quickly.

"You went to the (choice words) casino, didn't you!"  Rae must have seen our guilty looks...well, we were really trying not  to laugh.  "You left me in this (more choice words) hot laundry mat,  working like a (choice words) dog, sweat dripping down my back while you played!" 

Did I dare say that it was her idea...that she could have a quiet morning, reading her book, while doing the laundry.  We told her to sit outside...have a smoke and we would finish the laundry.  We still had not admitted our detour to the had only been ten minutes.  Soon, Rae had returned, grumbling as she helped fold.  I was, again, biting my lips to prevent my inappropriate laughing.  Rae saw my shoulders shaking and face turning red.  "It's not (choice words) funny, Jackie,"  she said.

I made a short slide show Cuyamungue Institute.

We did make it up to Rae.  We took her to the Cities of Gold Casino and let her play on our meager winnings from the Big Rock.  Then we had a nice meal at the Sopapilla Factory before heading back to The Land.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Andy the Alligator

This small alligator watched from a distance. 
It had a leaf on its face.
While visiting Rae in Florida for Thanksgiving, we also were treated to tickets for Disney World from a friend of hers that used to be one of the Mickey and Minnie characters.  We stayed at our friend, Charlotte's house because she lives closer to Disney World.  She also lives on a canal with all sorts of wildlife. 

First thing in the morning I was sitting on the porch with my camera ready to get some good turtle, bird and maybe an alligator pictures.  Rae is reading and drinking coffee.  I am reading and checking the canal between paragraphs.  At times Rae would say, "There goes an alligator, Jackie," and I would grab my camera and begin snapping.  None of the pictures looked good.  Alligators look like floating logs unless you can get close enough or have a good zoom lens. 

"If you want a closer look, call for Andy," she said.  Charlotte's neighbor had named one of the alligators that patrolled that part of the canal...and it would often swim over (with the promise of a treat).  I know it is illegal to feed the alligators...I really know that.  So, I put on my self righteous face and refused.  It is just wrong!
This turtle had no fear of Andy.

This turtle left when Andy arrived.


A few minutes later I heard someone yelling, "AAANNDDY...AANNDY!"  It was Charlotte's neighbor, "Joe".  I stepped outside to the deck, camera in hand.  This was so wrong...but...oh my...look!  Two little bumps in the water were getting closer and larger...soon they became eyes and soon an alligator's form emerged from the water...tail slowly waving in the water, guiding it toward the deck.  By this time "Joe" was on the deck next to me.  "Heard you wanted a picture of Andy," he said.  He had a string with a piece of chicken tied to it.


Snap, Snap, what if it is illegal...these are great shots!  By this time, Ray, Rae and Charlotte had joined us.  Ray had his camera and we both snapped and took a few videos, too.  There was a bag of marshmallows on the table.  I threw a few out for Andy.  Any guilt I felt was overshadowed by my selfish desire to get some good pictures.  Oh...look...a turtle is joining Andy!  Snap, Snap, Snap! 

Andy is ready for his treat.

I have scattered a few pictures of Andy and the turtle throughout this post.  I decided to write this because it was another example of someone naming a wild animal....and yes, Andy is a wild animal.  My guilt has now returned...that was just not right...but I wonder...would I do it again....and I justify it by comparing it to feeding my squirrels and birds. 

Here is a short video of Andy.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Gettiing Squirrelly

Yesterday I wrote about Pet Names and listed a number of names of my many pets...past and present.  That post was really a lot longer because I began writing each pet's story and then started in on some of the wild animals that visit us.  So today, I think I will just focus on a couple of the squirrels that visit us everyday.

We have MANY squirrels living in our trees.  I love watching them as they swing from branch to branch reminding me of monkeys.  In the spring the young ones play chasing games, spiraling up trees, and changing directions with the chaser now being chased.  They always bring a smile to my face.

This winter was a rough one for all of us...the Weather Channel named my city, Toledo, as number one in cities with the worst winter.  Every morning as I put out peanuts and seeds for the squirrels and birds I worried that some may not survive.  They seemed to appreciate the heated bird bath and I intend to get another one next year.  It was a joy to see the animals braving the bitter cold days to partake in the food.

Wyatt hiding a peanut

Throughout this time, two squirrels received names.  One we call Estee which started as 'Short Tail'...ST for short...and then evolved to the name Estee.  I think that the tail must have been frostbitten...just the tip.  It was hanging off for a few days and must have fallen off.  Estee is doing fine, tail just a bit short but seems to not hurt any activity.
The other squirrel we call Wyatt because he/she is 'brave, courageous and bold'.  Little Wyatt will continue to nibble on the peanuts and supervise me while I am outside filling the bird feeders and filling the birdbaths.  (And I must not forget feeding Monk, the stray cat.)   For those of you who are not familiar with the 'brave, courageous and bold' quote...check out this You Tube of the song.  If you are familiar...check it out anyway and take a short trip down memory lane.  Wyatt Earp Theme Song 1958 .

Wyatt watching me

Wyatt eating a peanut
The calendar says it is spring...the temperature dares to challenge...but this morning the squirrels were out...doing their acrobatic show for me...and there was Wyatt...supervising the whole event.  Here is a short video of Wyatt eating a peanut. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pet Names

This morning I awoke to the vigorous pecking of our neighborhood woodpecker.  We call him Ace.  In my foggy morning mind, I asked Ray why we chose Ace for its name.  "Alarm Clock," he said. "AC for short." 


That got me thinking of other animal and pet names that have been part of my life.  Of course, there was Tom...the tom cat.  That was the first.  Next, Sunshine the gray kitty who brought so much sunshine in our lives when we first moved out to the country.  She greeted us when we moved to the old farm house where we lived while building our own house....and brought lots of sunshine to our lives and a few kittens, too. 

There were the typical names of Blackie, Brownie and Frisky for the two beagles and collie.  We had to find a new home for Blackie and Brownie because they chased Mr. Walker's sheep.  My sister and I were so distraught that our neighbor got us a collie puppy.  I remember naming him...we got in a circle and called out different names...he ran to the one who said 'Frisky.'  I was only four at this time, so don't know who said Frisky...but I think it was my sister.

I remember Frisky traveled with us to time.  He had a bad habit of chasing cars, and so while in the car he would follow each car we drove by going the opposite way.  Not only would he follow them with his head he would say "errrrrrrrrrrrrrrr RUF"  for each car.  The RUF was like a soft bark that would be accented with each car.  If there were three cars close together, Frisky would go, "errrrrrrrrrrr RUF RUF RUF!"  It was a long seven hour drive....but I never heard my father raise his voice. 

Mr. Walker might have felt guilty about us giving our beagles away because a couple of years later while I was playing in his barn, I found a litter of kittens.  He told me I could take the litter and the mother home.  Maxine (my mother) said that Mr. Walker just wanted to get rid of those kittens knowing that the mother would return to the barn once they were weaned. (I hate that term 'get rid' when in reality it is finding a new home.) She was right...Mama Kitty soon left, and we had the task of finding homes for four kittens.  We kept the black one which I named Black Beauty.  I will have to write a post about Black Beauty as he has a good story to tell.

We rescued a sparrow and named it Spatzee.  We had a chicken named Peppy Peppy, Chicken or Cat and a rabbit named Happy.  Linda rescued a couple of opossums...but I don't remember their names.  I found a box turtle and printed the name John (after my favorite Beatle) in silver paint on its shell and let it go only to find it months later with just bits of the silver paint remaining.

Black Beauty died a couple of years after we moved to Toledo.  Now we lived in the city, so the next kitty we got was an inside cat...a Siamese named Bangkok.  Our neighbor always called him Bancroft after a nearby street.  There are a few stories about Bangee that I will have to tell in later posts.

Later in my life my uncle bought me a mare and her colt.  I named the colt, Swede, after my uncle.  Other pets...Jeopardy was the runt of a litter of Siamese kittens and not supposed to live...thus the name...she lived to be 13.  Of course, Little Nimbus got her name because she looked like a storm cloud with swirls of gray, white and salmon colored long hair.  There were lots of other pets, but I better stop here for now.

What are the names of your pets and why were they named those names?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

BEE Serious

Have you ever been handed a job...a challenge that sends fear to every cell of your body...a fear that expectations by others will prove to be empty and the imposter, you, will be found out?  This happened to me when I began teaching 8th grade English...many, many years ago.  The 7th grade teacher, Mrs. Bester, was strict. no nonsense, and old school.  She scared the bejeebies out of me when I first met her. 

This is the only picture I could find of Ceora and it had to be this
large or the quality would be even worse.

Our first encounter was when I borrowed the coffeepot from the teachers' lounge to use for a parent meeting one evening.  How did I know that Mrs. Bester would arrive at school the next day earlier than normal (I was always the first to arrive)...and while walking down the long hall to my room I heard her voice shouting, "Who took the coffeepot!!!"  I was shaking, sweat was dripping down my back.  Timidly, I carried the coffeepot to the lounge, expressed my apology and scuttled to my room.

Later that year Mrs. Bester shot me a stern eye during a teachers' meeting.  "I'll never forgive you, Jackie." she said.  I am sure I turned white and wondered what I had done...or was she still upset about the coffeepot.  She continued, "I was in the basement last night and saw a spider on the wall and was ready to swat it...and I remembered hearing you say how you couldn't kill important they are.  So I just looked at that spider and told it how lucky it was."

That was when our friendship began.  I learned a lot from Ceora, even though our teaching styles were so different.  She loved the students and went to every game...girls and boys.  Her pride was her Spelling Bee Teams.  Her teams almost always took 1st, 2nd and 3rd places at the county spelling bee.  She would begin grooming spellers beginning in the 5th grade.  It was amazing.  It was remarkable. And after so many years of being was expected.

One year, before Thanksgiving, Ceora called me.  She had been diagnosed with cancer and the prognosis was not good.  She would not be able to coach the Spelling Bee Team. (She had already been coaching them...but knew she could not continue.)  She asked me to take over the task.  "Of course, I will," flowed out of my mouth before thought could stop those words.  We talked a little more about her treatments and how she was going to finish the school year and then move to Savannah to be with her daughter.

I hung up the phone.  Panic hit me.  Spelling was never my strong subject.  I always kept a dictionary nearby.  But I was stuck...and the thoughts of breaking the winning streak haunted me daily. 

Fortunately, I knew the spellers....some of them were my students.  They already had the practice structure from Mrs. Bester.  They each had that small book of spelling words...would write definitions for each word...and would spend every spare moment drilling each other.  I hoped to continue the practice routine but knew that no matter how hard I tried...I was still not Mrs. Bester. 

At the county meet my heart sank when one of our key spellers went down on a word she knew, but spelled too fast, putting an ending on it.  I had faith in the spellers, but feared they were putting pressure on themselves because we were all wanting to win...for Mrs. Bester and did not want to disappoint her.  At the end of the bee we were all smiles.  We won the county and we also took 2nd and 3rd place. 

The picture in upper right is Lori when she won the 8th grade and overall County Spelling Bee.
 Sorry these pictures are so grainy...the one is from the yearbook.  I just wanted to put
 a picture of Lori on this post.  The young man standing next
to Lori is Brian Strohacker.  He won the 6th grade.

I could end this here...but the winner of the county spelling bee, Lori Glock qualified to participate at the Ohio State Fawcett Center district spelling bee.  If she won that she would qualify to participate at the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.  Many of the team joined me to cheer and support Lori.  If you have never been to a spelling bee...know that it can be tense and nerve wracking.  There were only four spellers left. Lori was one of them.  She stood at the microphone, listened to the word.  The look on her face told me that she did not recognize the word.  She asked to have the word repeated.  I did not recognize the word either.  One of the students, Molly, poked me and said, "They are not pronouncing it right."  But by that time, Lori had spelled the word and I heard the "ding" of the bell signaling that she was incorrect.

What do I do?  I hate confrontations...but I found myself walking to the judges' table and challenging the pronunciation.  The judges were kind, but I could tell that they really did not want to play the tape to listen to the word again...but they did...and YES, the word was mispronounced.  So, Lori returned and got another word. 

Soon there were just two left.  Lori and someone else.  I can't even remember if it was a boy or girl.  Lori missed her word...the other speller missed it too.  This went on for a number of rounds.  The anticipation was as thick as Heinz Ketchup.  And then...Lori missed....and the other speller got it right.  Drat!  I was so proud of Lori but hoped that she would not be disappointed in herself.  She should feel so proud to make it to the last two spellers.

We all hugged Lori and congratulated her.  I asked her if she was okay with the results because we could not be prouder.  Her reply was, "Oh yes. Now I don't have to study any more.  And second place gets a color television!"  And I thought...hmmmm....that makes a lot of sense.  How refreshing to see this genuine positive response. What 8th grader would rather study spelling words for another month instead of getting a color television?

We found the nearest phone (this was long before the days of cell phones) and called Mrs. Bester.  It was amazing.  It was remarkable.  We had not only continued the winning streak for the county...we also had a great experience at the district.  I can take little credit for the success.   Mrs. Bester set the foundation for these students.  The students put the time and effort in learning the words.  I guess I was the glue that kind of held things together.  I am glad I said, "Of course," when I got that call from Ceora.

Monday, March 24, 2014

O C Dasterdly Deeds

While reading my step-daughter's post It's the Little Things I was again reminded of my friend, Rae.  You might remember some of the former posts...or Rae Stories.  Rae has a mild case of OCD.  She is not like the TV character, Monk, where she cannot function normally.  But there is just enough OC in her that makes her a bit entertaining.  Let me explain.

Rae was the principal at our middle school.  I was the guidance counselor. Sid was the school secretary.  Each morning Rae would arrive with coffee cup in hand.  She stopped by the workshop and had a morning smoke with the custodians.  She would ask for suggestions on what needed to be done for the day, then ask about their families and then she would head to her office.  Each morning, Rae, Sid and I would meet to plan the day.

What Rae did not know was that Sid and I had 'rearranged' Rae's office each day before she arrived.  We would not do much...most people would not even fact Rae did not notice.  That was what made it so funny (well, at least to Sid and me).  We would make things 'uneven' in her office.  The pictures might be off...just a hair.  Her pens that had been aligned so carefully on her desk would be turned ever so slightly.  One of her green folders might be found between her blue ones.  Paper work stacked at right angles might have one rebellious sheet with an askance look on its face daring Rae to notice it.  The keyboard would angle just a bit to the right (or left) and the computer monitor would be a fraction cockeyed. 

It was a challenge for Sid and me to 'rearrange' so that the average person would not notice...and vary the items that were 'rearranged' each day.  Our fun began when Rae walked in and our morning meeting would begin.  The whole time we would be chatting Rae would be straightening everything that was out of place.  Sid and I would always look at each other...smiles on our faces.  I am sure we looked quite guilty, but Rae was so focused on the discussion that she seemed unaware that she was having to put things back in order. 

After months of doing this (not every day) we finally broke down and told Rae.  She was busy putting things in order, all the while talking about the day.  She finally noticed our faces...we could contain ourselves no longer.  We all had a good laugh.  What a fun office we had.  Thanks, Valerie for bringing back a fun memory.

After writing this, I look at my desk and wonder what Rae would think.  So I took a before and after picture.  The first is just how I saw it...the second is how Rae would probably have it.
Note: Desk on left is an example of a creative mind.   Desk on right has closed the plastic drawer, put scissors in the proper place, and there is an attempt at putting things in order...even though Rae would still cringe at the notebooks forming an unsteady pile.  But this desk is also an example of a creative mind...the clutter has been removed opening avenues to create.

Not much difference my eyes.  Rae would not be pleased with the lame attempt at making things even on the right.  She probably would like the desk on the left only because it seems more balanced...but still too messy.  The pencil on the right desk would really bother her.  While putting my desk in order, I did find the missing keys to our cottage in Illinois. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Where There's a Will There's a Way

Ruth with a favorite treat
My  mother's first cousin, Ruth, has posted three stories on this blog.  They are stories about my grandparents' lives when they immigrated from Sweden.  I will always treasure these stories and am so grateful she was willing to share with us. 

It has been a difficult year for Ruth.  Her husband, Joe, died on November 1, 2013.  He was buried at the Keokuk, Iowa National Cemetery on November 3, 2013.  This would have been their 65th wedding anniversary.  There are many stories about Ruth and Joe, but I will let her share them when she chooses.  This winter the Polar Vortex did not spare Keokuk from the icy, cold and snowy weather.  Ruth was not able to visit Joe's gravesite until last week when spring made travel possible.

Keokuk, Iowa National Cemetery (a small part)

It would have been a painfully lonely and sad winter if Ruth had not gained a friend.  Ruth's son, Mark and daughter-in-law, Marie, suggested that Ruth get a kitty.  Ruth named this kitty, in "where there is a will there is a way."  She was going to 'will' herself to get through her matter how difficult. 
A Purrrrrrfect Fit

I am going to use Ruth's own words to introduce us to Willie.  It is another example at how a pet can be that needed link of love to help us through hard times.

"I would like you to meet Willie.  He is such a loving kitty.  He makes up with every one.  He is on his condo he got for Christmas from Mark and Marie.  He has a lot of toys but one special toy we play fetch with.  The first time I threw it across the living room, he brought it back to me and we have been playing fetch several times a day ever since.
Just hanging out
  It's really good exercise for both of us, especially for me when it goes under the davenport or other pieces of furniture.  I have to get the flashlight and get down on my hands a knees and look for it.  Then I have to use a yard stick to fish it out.  

Now I say "a" special toy.  He has misplaced several and I just purchased three more packages (3/pkg.) that may last for a while.  He likes to hide them. 

Did you call me?

Most everyone has never heard of a cat playing fetch.  He is a sweetie and so much company for me to help me get through some rough days yet.  I miss Joe so very much.  Having Willie helps me through those rough days.  I didn't realize how much company and companionship they bring to those who have lost a loved one.

My favorite footstool to watch my cartoons
Using her IPad, Ruth took pictures and sent them to me.  I like her captions...she is quite a witty woman.  Thanks, Ruth, for letting me share Willie on our blog.  He is a special kitty.  I am so glad he has come into your life.

Save some for me

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Flood of Memories

Here is another Rae story.  I happened to have a chat with her today.  She lives in Florida now, so we try to talk a couple times a week.  She has been having chemo treatments for over three years now, and I applaud her positive attitude and love of life.

This story takes place many years ago.  Rae had purchased a condo and decided to wall paper the bathrooms herself.  She told me she chose a small floral pattern that should not be difficult to match at the seams. Having never tackled such a task, she asked me to help.  I was 'experienced' because I had helped my mother apply her butterfly wallpaper in her bath.  I told Rae I would help, but not until after 10:00.  I wanted to ease into the morning, knowing the rest of the day would be busy.

When I poked my head in her upstairs bathroom I found she had already begun.  Rolls of  pre-pasted wall covering were leaning against the hall wall.  I tried not to gasp as I stepped in to assess her progress. 

"I started on the wall behind the bathtub first, but decided to work behind the door now." she proudly said. 

"But, you need to start from one corner and work around the room,"  I replied, hoping that she had enough paper to correct her mistake.  She was right...the pattern was small and intricate, but would not make it easier to match at the seams like she had thought.

We pulled the off the paper from behind the door leaving a sticky mess.   We began working our way from one corner, around another...and then came to the toilet.  When I had helped my mother, we had only done three sides of her bathroom and only the top half.  I had never tried to paper behind a toilet and this one was giving me a challenging smile. 

This part of the job required patience.  If you know Rae...patience is not her forte.  I am not much better when it comes to jobs like this.  I cut out part of the wallpaper to fit the pipes behind the toilet.  We applied wrinkled.  Again, more paper, more cutting, applying...and wrinkles!  Rae was grumbling...(she is OCD about things matching). 

"Let me try!"  she muttered.  "We need more room behind the toilet.  I will hold the tank back and you slap on the paper." 

Something told me this was not a good idea...but I was so frustrated that I backed away.  Rae pulled the tank back.  I held the paper against the wall, pressing to prevent wrinkles when I felt a spray of water on my shirt.  We both jumped back, slipping on the water gushing from the cracked toilet tank. 
Rae ripped off the lid and grabbed the small plastic tube that was shooting a small arc of water.  She directed it to the tub, seeming unaware that water was flowing from the rest of the tank.  The flow would slow down and then the toilet would flush again. 

I emptied the linen closet of all towels trying to sop up the water, but the toilet kept flushing water onto the floor and now into the hallway.  Choice words were spouting from Rae.  "Turn off the (choice word) water!" 

If you know me, I tend to find humor at these times.  Rae saw no humor.  I tried to choke off the laughter while trying to turn the water valve.  The valve would not budge.  Water was now flowing down the stairs.  "(choice words), Jackie.  Hold this tube and let me turn it off!."  I could not understand why she thought shooting that small stream of water was helping, when the rest of the tank was becoming a mini Niagara Falls...but I took the tube while she tried the valve.  No luck.

Kevin and his mom, Rae at my wedding.
(Ray and I got married in our school...but that is another story.)

"I will call Kevin." I said.  Rae's son did not live too far away, and he should be able to turn the valve.  When I called, he asked if we had a wrench.  It is amazing the comments people make when not in the middle of the flood.  "Just get over here!" was my panicked answer.

Kevin was able to turn off the valve, but by the time he got to the condo the water had flowed down the stairs and was making a pool in the basement.  We spent the rest of the day trying to dry out the condo.  Neighbors saw all the activity and joined in, bringing fans and shop vacs.   By early evening we had done enough damage control and finally took a break in the dining area.  A few neighbors were still there.

"I haven't had a (choice word) cup off coffee all day," said Rae.  She opened the cabinet to get mugs for those wanting coffee and was greeted with a face full of water.  The mugs were full of water and had splashed into her face.  She turned toward us.  I was biting my cheeks, it was not the time for humor.  I heard a small giggle that was gaining strength. 

"It's not (choice word) funny, Jackie," said Rae....water dripping from her who could not laugh at that!!!

Fortunately,  this did not hurt our friendship.  She hired someone to finish papering the bathroom and things were good...until one day, while in the bathroom I gave the paper a closer inspection.  The small, intricate floral pattern was actually upside down...and when looked at with my head turned on end I found that the pattern was a silhouette of tiny unclothed people.  Oh tell Rae...or not to tell...
Ray and Rae

Rae and I

Friday, March 21, 2014

And the Winner Is.........

Any of you who read my post yesterday knows that our dear little kitty, Nimbus, died at the age of 22.  She had lived through all of her nine lives and more, so I was not surprised when her health declined quickly.  As a tribute to Nimbus I had a contest on Facebook.  This is the third contest I have created and for  some reason the contests make me happy.  This one was to guess the name of my first pet.  The winners gets a simple prize mailed to them...and it is just a fun thing to do.   The answer to the contest can be found on my blog today my story will reveal the name.

I have always had a pet of some sort.  I was fortunate that my parents (especially my father) allowed me to have the various animals (that would need a home) I would bring home.  The wild animals were to stay outside just in case they wanted to return to their natural homes.  You might want to read about one unique pet, Peppy, Peppy, Chicken or Cat?  But today is about my first pet.

We lived in the city until I was almost three, so this is an early memory.  Our neighborhood gang was playing in the backyard near the alley and spot a big, orange cat.
This is not Tom...I can't find a picture of him.  I Googled
orange cats to get pictures.
I remember being on the fringe of all this because I was so small.  I watched the big kids go after the cat, and the cat just stood there.  My sister...who was five, managed to pick up this cat and carry it home.  I think now that this cat must have been some laid back cat as she could barely hold it high enough to not drag.  She had a strong grip right under his arms, lifted him high, but he stretched almost to her height.

My father comes outside to join in the excitement when he sees the cat.  He rescues it from Linda's tired arms.  I could hear its purr as it relaxed.  "You brought home a Tom Cat," he said.

I was astounded!  I knew my Daddy was smart...but how did he know the cat's name!   So...that is how Tom got his name.  Tom moved out to the country with us and loved hanging out in the barn knowing he was welcome inside the house at his command.  He also had a visit to the vet to make sure he was healthy and would not contribute to the population of cats.  No matter...he still ruled his kingdom of cats in the barn.
Tom could have been Morris the Finicky Cat...
at least in looks...because he was not finicky.

So...who won the contest?  Shawnda!  (She guessed the name, Thomas.) Thanks to all of you who participated in the contest.  It brightened my day.  There were so many good guesses, I decided to randomly pick a name for a second place prize.  So...Becky (former first grade teacher...not my niece Becky) will receive a prize too!  If you did not win this worry...there will me more contests to come.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

RIP Little Nimbus

I can't write anymore today......our little 22 year old Nimbus died yesterday.
I took Nimbus for a 'trim' and someone gave
her a "lion cut"...It was horrid, but I
think Nimbus liked it.

Licking her chops after a snack.

Her favorite place to nap...unless she was on my lap.
One of my favorite pictures of Nimbus

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Christmas Past and Presents :-)

It may seem strange to be writing about Christmas stockings in March, but this will make sense at the end.  Every Christmas we would pack the car and drive seven and a half hours to Iowa to visit my grandparents.  (When we moved to Ohio the drive was over nine hours.)  Santa always seemed to know that we would not be home for Christmas and he came to our house early...but he saved our stocking gifts for Iowa.  What a smart man!

My sister and I could view our stockings from the stairs as we would rush to see what treasures Santa had left us.  With age I learned the truth that my grandparents and aunt were the ones who filled the stockings.  That made the stockings even more special because the items inside were chosen with love....sometimes homemade toys, paint sets, books and socks.

My sister (Linda) and I have continued this tradition (like most families) even though her children have grown and have families of their own.  So some years, there may only be four our five stockings...all belonging to adults...but the fun is finding treasures for them. 

One year while packing my car to head to Linda's for Christmas (a good five hour drive) I realized I had forgotten to get stocking stuffers!  Panic!  I did a quick search in my closets and found some fake eye balls,  slimy wormy things and big ugly bugs.  This was in a box of Halloween prizes I had had for creative writing.  It was that year that Raunchy Santa showed up at their house.  Raunchy Santa was Santa's cousin who tried to help Santa...but many of his gifts were on the edge of inappropriate.  One year Uncle Frank gave me Pooping Moose toys...where the moose would poop brown jelly beans.  The kids loved those.

Adults would get cheap tabloid newspapers...not The Enquirer or The Sun News...those were much too authentic.  No...the kinds of tabloids Raunchy Santa left were the ones with a picture of a giant ant poking its head through a kitchen window.  A woman would be backing away in fright.  Or it might have a man, rifle in his arms, with his foot atop a humongous bumble bee...posing for his trophy picture.  Christmas afternoon was spent sharing and laughing at the unbelievable articles. 

So...what does this have to do with the month of March?  Today may be the last day this winter that I will use my favorite stocking stuffer gift from this Christmas.  While we were putting treasures in the stockings, Linda pulled out some earmuffs.

"Who should get these, you or Ray?" she asked.  She started to put them into Ray's stocking, but changed her mind.  Thank goodness!  I have worn these every  morning as I feed and water the animals and birds.  Those earmuffs made it possible to stay outside longer.  As long as my ears stayed warm...I felt warm all over.  Thank you, mean Santa.
Ray is glad Santa left the earmuffs for me.
He thinks he looks silly.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Great 'Scout'!

 Abby, my great-niece, is at the Daisy level in Girl Scouts.  That means that she has just begun.  I wonder if she will follow in her grandmother's footsteps in working through the ranks, earning enough badges and earning her Curved Bar Rank?  Abby is off to a great start, participating in all sorts of activities and selling 163 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies. 
Abby in blue on right at Lions Club meeting
honoring Girl Scouts  and Boy Scouts

I hope Abby does not follow in her great-aunt's  path of having it 'suggested' that 'maybe Girl Scouts was not right for her.  Yes, I was asked to 'leave' the Girl Scouts, or some might say 'kicked out.'  But let me explain...and then I will get back to Abby.
Abby is at the Culture Fest put on by the Girl Scouts.  She is
at the Argentina booth celebrating Mardi Gras.

Abby holding Passport of Stamps at Culture Fest

I was a Tag-Along in my sister's (Linda) Girl Scout Troop.  I was allowed to tag along when my mother helped with quite special...I watched her troop do all sorts of activities. They camped, hiked, rode horses, roller and ice skated, visited historical places, did service and community work, visited planetariums and kept the girls busy.  I could not wait to become a Brownie Girl Scout.

In Brownies we learned to make potholders and placemats.  In Scouts we continued to make potholders and placemats.  During one of the meetings, my friend Toni Good and I rebelled.  I am sure we were quite obnoxious...ruining our own potholders, complaining that it was 'boring'...we wanted to be camping...making our 'home in the woods'...riding horses...anything but making another stupid potholder.  I kind of feel sorry now for the leaders as I am sure they were doing their best...but adding two unruly girls in the mix could cause a mutiny.  So that evening my mother received a call suggesting that maybe their daughter would be more suited for the Marines. (Maybe not the Marines...but definitely not the Girl Scouts.)  Toni's parents received the same call.  We were 'fortunate' that we had one last chance...we had already paid to go on the camping we were on probation until then. 

Abby is learning to sign her name.  What fun activities!

I will make this short...camping was fun...but sneaking out after 'lights out', sticking our heads under the tent flaps and making scary sounds was more fun.  Then a trip to the creek...and we were not the only two...there was one more.  How we were caught...I don't remember...maybe we had a bad reputation by then.  We failed our probation and our parents decided to remove us from Girl Scouts. My sister was mortified.  I was relieved...and I am sure my parents were too.  I am sure they were tired of my complaining.  I don't think it hurt either of us.  Toni is now an editor at a large university and I am a retired teacher and guidance counselor.

Abby writing a card.

But back to Abby.  I hope her troop continues to do interesting activities.  She proudly wears her Daisy vest and looks forward to the meetings and other events.  Scouting is a positive experience for her and I hope she moves through the ranks as my sister did.  I have sprinkled a few pictures of Abby throughout this as I intended this to be more about her.  Looks like I will have to do another post and not get off topic.  But for now...Go Abby!  I am so proud of you.  Your scout leader is giving you so many opportunities to learn about and experience the world.  Oh...and next year, Ray and I will order two boxes each of Samoas, Trefoils and Lemonades...and put in a couple of boxes of Tag-alongs for me.  Ray has already eaten this years cookies.