The Mystery of the Clankety Clank Under My Hood

 

In the panhandle of Texas the weather is notorious for being unpredictable. Last month, in November, we had four tornadoes come through our area. And over Thanksgiving just a few days after the tornadoes, we had a major ice storm. And today, two weeks before Santa Claus takes flight, it’s predicted to be 72 degrees.  One might say Mother Nature definitely has some mood swings around these parts.

I didn’t drive my little yellow vehicle La-La during Thanksgiving break, the ice storm, or several days afterward. It sat in the nice, warm garage and took a break while I drove a different vehicle that traverses better on our roads. Icy roads that in time turn into slushy roads, that in time turn into muddy roads that go to and from our house.

Now La-La is a good vehicle. She was penned La-La last year by EK after a short stent with the dreaded Tele-Tubbies. La-La being the yellow Tele-Tubby. My vehicle is almost 15 years old, has nearly 200,000 miles on her, and has journeyed with me many miles and memories.

So when I decided to crank her over the other day, I wasn’t terribly surprised to hear a  noise. Something like a clankety clank, GRRRRRR, RAWRRRRR, clack-clack, PHHHHTHTTTTHTTT. I immediately thought our cat Rocky muffin, who lives mostly in the garage,  was toast. I knew she must’ve gotten under the hood and that was the end of her. But since there wasn’t any blood and guts hitting the windshield I dismissed that idea and replaced it with the possibility of a broken belt (being an under-the-hood expert and all). I checked the clock, noted I was running late, and put her in reverse and left anyway. I’d worry about the broken belt when I found myself on the side of the road, but as long as La La rolls, then roll we shall.

The next time I cranked La-La over, the racket was gone and I didn’t notice it again until the next day when I got out of my car to check the mailbox that sits beside the highway about a mile away from the house. This time she released a long series of clack-clacks.

I arrived home and got out of the car and noticed a leather strap lying on the ground where she had been parked. I thought this had probably come from under my hood, although I’ve never seen brown leather automotive belts (being an under-the-hood expert and all).

Nevertheless, I had a mystery on my hands. The case of the clankety clank, GRRRRR, RAWRRRRRR, clack-clack, PHHHHTHTHTTTTTHTT noise under the hood. When J-Dub came home, we put our sleuths hats on and popped the hood. What we discovered  wasn’t Rocky Muffin in bits and pieces. Nor was it a broken belt.

It was a rat’s nest.

A literal rat’s nest.

A gigantic, well constructed, literal rat’s nest perching right up on the intake manifold or something (being an under-the-hood expert and all).

 

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After the initial shock and further inspection, I assume this was a pack rat, because of the plethora of packings that had also been carted under my  hood. Namely, lots of leather straps. Leather straps that made the clankety clank, GRRRRR, RAWRRRRRR, clack-clack, PHHHHTHTHTTTTTHTT noise under the hood. Leather straps that we soon discovered had been chewed right off J-Dub’s saddles that are also stored in the garage. Tie strings, stirrup hobbles,  pretty laces that hold saddle conchos in place. Chewed right off by a sorry no good piece of dirt shyster.

 

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Plus there was at least a cup full of  bird seed and cat food that he’s storing for his long, cold winter. Not to mention a very big stick. Most likely the one he used to fight off the cat Rocky Muffin, who apparently is not doing her job AT ALL. I’ve decided she must have just made peace with this large rat,sat back and watched him as he carried off her salmon flavored kibble.

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Now J-Dub has an expression he uses when talking about any body or anything who is a  sorry no good piece of dirt shyster. Anybody or anything that chews up his saddles.

A Rat Bastard.

In this case, it is very fitting. After discovering his chewed up saddle, J-Dub has declared war against the Rat Bastard.

The Rat Bastard is as good as dead.

We’re still debating what to do about the cat. For now, her salmon flavored rations have been cut until her work performance improves. Living with rats is not acceptable behavior for sure.

The only good news is that the clankety clank, GRRRRR, RAWRRRRRR, clack-clack, PHHHHTHTHTTTTTHTT mystery is solved and La La is purring like a kitten once again.

Responsibility/Chore/To-do Charts for Preschoolers–A Pinterest WIN

 

It seems I have a love/hate relationship with Pinterest. Anyone else?

I love all the “stuff” it offers, the great ideas, the pictures of beautiful places, the words of wisdom it imparts. Like this one:
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One of my favorites.

But I hate all the other”stuff” about it. The pressure it exerts to be the perfect, cutesy mom and do all the perfect, cutesy crafts; the outfits that look adorable and amazing on the model but will never look like that on me; the guilt I feel because it sucks my life right into it’s Pinteresty little claws and leaves me wondering where my day has gone and if I’ve fed my kid.

But today I’m feeling the love kind of day for Pinterest.

Today I have an Ode to Pinterest. A very short Ode.

(clears throat)
Pinterest, oh Pinterest,  how I adore thee
After 973 failed experiments
,
One finally worked
Yippee!

I attempted a chore chart for my pre-schooler.  Technically a chore chart, but casually called a to-do list because that really sounds so much more grown up.

You see my biggest fear, my greatest ambition, my strongest drive as a mom is simply not to screw my kid up. That’s all I want. Really. I just want her to grow to be a well-adjusted, responsible, kind human “bean” that does a little bit of good in this world and casts a little light in a dark place. Is that too much to ask?

I’m trying my hardest to keep her from being an ingrate. An entitled, rude, spoiled rotten brat. Uh…it’s not really going so good some days.

It seems simple doesn’t it?  Give her lots of love, boost her self-esteem, teach her manners and responsibility, don’t spoil her. Blah, blah, blah. I’ve read all the articles.

On Pinterest.

But it’s so much harder than that. Because this little human that I’m trying so desperately not to screw up, has a mind and a will of her own. And because there comes a time that your smart little girl who you’ve praised her entire life for being so smart turns into a little argumentative know-it-all in pigtails because she really believes she KNOWS IT ALL. And whose fault is that?  (All heads turn toward me).

Just trying to build her up and not tear her down and what have I created?

So that’s when I have to take a deep breath and just keep on keeping on.

Side note: to all you parents of teenagers out there—-I really don’t need to hear the “oh you just wait. These are the easy years. It only gets harder” crap. That’s not exactly words of encouragement, in case you didn’t know.

Now onto the chore chart/to-do list.
I stumbled across it on Pinterest and thought I’d give it a try.  Today was our first day with it and it worked beautifully! It was almost a game. A wonderful thing I tell ya.

Responsibility Chart/To-Do for Preschoolers
Responsibility Chart/To-Do for Preschoolers

I used this person’s idea

but instead of using a clipboard, I used a cutting mat because it’s what was here at the moment I got this wild hair.

I found the picture cards here
http://www.homeschoolcreations.net/2015/03/preschool-chore-charts-2/

These are awesome and have lots and lots of options for all age kids.

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We went through looking and reading all the pictures and then I put four on her chart (not the four in the picture because I decided to take a pic after the fact and those just happened to be the four I grabbed.

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She carried her chart around with her keeping track of her to-do’s (wished I’d gotten a picture of that), moving them to the DONE column as she finished. She was so proud. We added four more and she worked so hard to complete those too.

It was so fun, I think I’ll make myself one and I’m not even kidding. There’s just something about seeing those colored pictures and moving them to the DONE side that’s better than crossing out a to-do list, and I do despise a to-do list.

The most fun was the “pick up 25 things card”.  There are always things out of place around here. Hair ties. Markers. Books. We made it a little race to see who could get 25 things put away first.

I used velcro for our chart, and the velcro kept peeling off the laminated cards so I’ll probably have to add a little super glue. I think using magnets on a cookie sheet would also work really well.

I’m going to adjust ours and use it three times a day. Once for her morning routine, once for her chores, and once for her bedtime routine.

Hopefully the eagerness on her part will continue and the consistency on my part will as well. Let me know if you try this, how it works out.

 

 

 

Holy Moly! Where Has the Time Gone?

It’s been three months since I’ve blogged. I am partly ashamed and partly surprised. I can’t believe it has been that long and at the same time I can’t believe I have neglected this little corner of my world so badly. I have never ever gone this long before. Needless to say, it has been a busy, hectic summer.
So what in the world has been going on with me?

I have not fallen off the ends of the earth, although I do have a new address. We made a move in the middle of June back home to the wide open spaces, glorious sunsets, and scalding hot summers of the Texas Panhandle. We had an enjoyable couple of years in Ruidoso, got more than spoiled with God’s beauty and mild temperatures, but it was just time to come home.

Boy, was moving a chore. Neither J-Dub nor myself recalled the move to New Mexico as trying, aggravating or long processed as the move back. It took quite a few trips and quite a lot of grit to get it done, but we finally arrived in one piece. After that heinous ordeal, and after searching for a solid four weeks for the iron, I decided that we had too much stuff. I mean, really. I read a little book called “The Magic Art of Tidying Up” and with that new knowledge I have released a lot of my possessions in a serious act of purging. I still have a ways to go, but I at least feel like I have a good handle on it, although we still can not park in the garage yet. All in due time my pretty, all in due time.

What else has happened? In order of events, here’s a quick run through.

1. I joined Stitch Fix! I was so excited to get my first fix, and had every intention of blogging about it, but then I saw the pictures. ACK! EEK! Couldn’t do it, but maybe next time, which is coming up very soon.

2. I spent way too much time and frustration attempting to get my Texas Driver’s License. I will never let it go again. No matter what. I am convinced the government makes things so difficult, that it is easier to just be an outlaw.
Angel the Kid.
Kinda has a nice ring to it.
Or not.

3. We inherited three ducks.

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The only thing I’ve learned about ducks….they’re not chickens.
And that’s pretty much all I have to say about that.

4. EK is as beautiful, smart, funny, and wonderful as ever. She’s had a summer full of growth. She’s learned how to tell a pretty mean knock-knock joke. She attended a Princess dance camp and was left by herself for the first time with “strangers”, and loved it and wanted to go back. She is getting braver all the time, not peeking out from behind her momma’s skirts as much as before. She went to VBS at church and loved it! She’s been riding horses with her daddy and I couldn’t be prouder of all that she is and all she is accomplishing.

5. I took a job. I think. There’s a bit of hang up with some paperwork, but I think it’s okay to announce it. It’s part-time at the Alternative School working with at-risk teen mothers in the homebound program. Yeah, it’s going to be so different from anything I’ve ever done. If emotions were candy, they would be a bag of Skittles. I have an emotion of every color surrounding this new adventure. Both professionally and personally. I can hardly wrap my mind around the change that this will bring in both me and our family dynamic. As we speak, I am officially finishing up my last week as a SAHM. In everything there is a season, and with the end of one, there is a process of grief for me. It was a good run and I am so thankful and blessed to have had the opportunity to spend these last three years with EK. There is so much I’m going to miss, but I won’t think about that now, I’ll think about that tomorrow.

Well sweet friends, the sun has set, the cicadas are humming and the world is peaceful here. Before I began blogging tonight, I had just finished a really great book “Eleanor and Park”, and I’m itching to open another one up before it gets too terribly late. It felt really good to write to you. I’ve missed it.

Until next time,
Angel

When Motherhood Becomes a Battle…….the Side I Choose


We danced in the rain, arms outstretched, face upwards.

We water-colored and crayon colored.

We cooked and sang.

We kicked a soccer ball and practiced writing the letter S.

We read books and looked for hidden objects in the pictures.

There are a million things my mind tells me I should be doing. Like packing to move 400? miles away. And cleaning the house. And fulfilling commitments that I promised I would do. I should be doing laundry and keeping a more daily skin regimen and I should not be eating icing from the can with a spoon.

I sneak in my “Me” moments, (which are not “Me” moments at all, but just the stuff you have to do to keep life running) at times when I can. I try so hard to balance the attention I give her with the other things that need my attention. Am I harming her more than helping, I can’t help but wonder. Will she turn into one of those entitled, selfish brats that I read so many articles about because of my “overparenting”?

Those are the things my mind tells me. And my heart tells me that sticky fingers do indeed wash and wearing the same jeans two days in a row is not the end of the world. That knowing she is loved and cared for is truly more important, isn’t it?  Isn’t it the most important? My heart tells me this time with my daughter is short; shorter than I realize. I have friends posting graduation pictures of their children on social media, and I count the years remaining. Fifteen. I actually count those years more often than I should. Fifteen years until I can have an uninterrupted conversation with my husband. Fifteen years until I can sleep late again. Fifteen years until I can go to the bathroom without someone barging in. Actually, I have way less than fifteen, I know.

Motherhood is such a battle at times. Your heart battles your mind. Your shoulds battle your should nots. Your selfishness battles your self-sacrifice.

Some days I wish it were easier. I wish that I could be assured that everything I’m doing is right and good and that this little person is going to grow up with fond memories of family and fun and me. That she will possess responsibility, integrity, morals, and high standards. That she will grow up self-sufficient and independent, yet never act arrogant nor pretentious. That she will grow up and know love, and be able to show love to others. I choose to give her my time and my attention. I choose to help her know she is important and she matters. Only time will tell if I’m doing it all wrong.

We picked a fluffy dandelion and she asked me what I wish for. I looked into her deep brown eyes and said I already have everything I could ever need. I wish for her wishes to come true. She looked around the yard and saw her purple chair and said she wishes for a purple chair.

Perhaps we both already have everything we need.

That’s what I hope.
Visit Angel’s profile on Pinterest.

His Eyes Are on the Lilacs, And I Know He Cares For Me!

We left the arid, drought drenched plains of the Texas panhandle at the beginning of 2013 and moved to the majestic mountains of New Mexico.

It was nothing short of a complete leap of faith. There was not a job bringing us here. There was very little family here to support us. It was a dream of J-Dub’s to live here and so we shut our eyes and leapt knowing that “the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest”. Amen? Whithersoever. Doesn’t the old KJV just say it good sometimes?

Beauty surrounds us here. Snow capped mountain tops, fields of flowers, tall pines, rolling streams, abundant wild life. That first spring of 2013 arrived and I was awed by the sight of the lilac bushes that surrounded our property.  And I do mean surrounded. They are monstrous bushes, standing well over 10 feet tall and lined up in a row, bumping into each other.  I was so anticipating the arrival of all these purple bursts of flowers, that I blogged about it here.  Yet, I was left disappointed when a late freeze blasted the buds. The next spring, once again, those tiny purple buds appeared and I held my breath only to be disappointed once again when Old Man Winter blew his icy breath on them.

Earlier this year, JDub and I made a very difficult decision that it would be the best fit for our family if we returned home. Yes, to that arid drought drenched Texas Panhandle. We must wait until school is finished, so this will be our last Spring time here. Of course, I started a list of things I would miss about this place. Of course on that list is all the things that make is so beautiful.

Right before Easter, the many lilac bushes once again showed their promise, but I didn’t hold my breath. We drove back to Texas for the Easter break and my last thoughts as we pulled out of the driveway and I gazed upon the massive bushes were, “oh well. If they do bloom, they’ll be spent by the time we return.” No faith. No faith at all on my part. Sometimes prior disappointments squash it, don’t they? We don’t want to be disappointed again. In people. In circumstances. Instead we prepare ourselves for it not to happen instead of looking toward it. Where is our hope? We replace our hope with “realism”.

But lo and behold, when we pulled back in several days later,  I was met with an awesome welcoming! Those purple (and one bush of white) lilacs were in bloom and greeting me. They were happy, I could tell it. Every blossom oozed happiness. I was overjoyed! I began laughing and whooping and clapping before I ever got out of the car.

The past several weeks the bushes have bloomed and bloomed. Their aromas have washed over me filling me with memories and pleasure. We have brought some inside and placed them in Mason jars.  Now, I’m sad to say they are at the end of their blooming season.

But I’m so glad I got to experience them, this last spring I have to live here.

It’s God you know. Of  course it is. He has a way of caring about what we care about, even little things like lilacs, which I dare to argue aren’t little things.

Now that I’m a parent, I kind of, sort of, in my very limited human capacity understand the graciousness of God a teeny tiny bit more. My little girl is the apple of my eye and I long to lavish things upon her. Just for her enjoyment. Just for the sheer reason that it will make her happy. And of course I’m reminded of Matthew 7:11 that tell us,

“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”

Isn’t that an awesome thing? All we have to do is ask and then believe. He knows what we need even before we ask. He wants to give to us. He is not one that holds back, in fact he GAVE his one and only son that whosoever believeth in Him shall have everlasting Life. John 3:16

He GAVE the ultimate gift. Our God is a gracious giver. He will give us what we need.

Phillipians 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in Christ Jesus.

Why do we worry about our needs when we can call upon the God of the World, the Creator of all, the one who tells the lilacs when and where to bloom to help us?

Is there something you are consumed with? Are you worrying about a detail of this life?

Read again Matthew 25-32 and be reassured.  “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing,  yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.

Friends, I am preaching to myself! Since deciding to move back to our hometown, J-Dub and I have experienced quite a few roadblocks. We have worried. We have fretted. We have doubted. I have wondered if God is going to come through. But I can tell you, when I think about my past and I think about the things He has done, and I read the promises from His word, I can affirmatively answer that Yes, he will come through. He has yet to let me down.

It’s the original work of Satan, to lie to us and to make us doubt God’s word. Recognize it as such. When Adam and Eve were in the garden, wasn’t that the words of the Serpent? He began with “Did God really say………” He planted enough doubt in Eve’s heart that she sinned.

Yet we are told that the promises of God are Yes and Amen. We are told that those who believe in Him will not be made ashamed. Look and see that the Lord is good. He will come through for you. He will come through for me.

So open your arms and receive my friends.

Be blessed!
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On This Day a Year Ago……

On this day a year ago, we lost my grandmother on my dad’s side. She was a beautiful lady who just happened to be born on my daughter’s birthday 94 years earlier. She left this world at age 96.

Because we lived a good distance apart, I don’t have a vast amount of memories of her, but the ones I have I hold near and dear. I have blogged about her before here. As a testament to her greatness are her children. I truly have never seen children love their mother so much. I have heard others, and have been guilty myself, of complaining about our moms. I have seen children growing frustrated with their aging parents and speaking harshly at times. But not my grannie’s kids. They loved her, doted on her, spoiled her rotten up until her last days. We can only hope to be as lucky in love.

I remember when I heard about her passing. We had known it was near, but one can never quite prepare themselves for the grief that comes. To be very honest, I was surprised at myself for my emotion that followed, but it was an emotion that I had never felt before. I don’t even know if I have the words to convey it. But it wasn’t just loss. It wasn’t just sadness. It wasn’t an empty feeling. It was a realization instead. A deep realization, that if the world follows natural laws, all the people who came before you will leave before you. Of course logically I know this, but she was my last grandparent remaining. My father had already died, and I realized that now my mother only remains.

I experienced a deep understanding that I am one living person left of being an orphan. I know it sounds ridiculous. An adult orphan. But my last grandparent dying made me realize that my mom is all that’s left of the people who, because of them, I exist.

Maybe no one else knows this feeling or maybe I’m just terrible at explaining it, but it’s what I know.

But anyway, time marches on, there’s nothing we can do about lost time or lost loved ones but to keep on living and remembering them.

The only thing that stays the same is everything changes. We as believers however, have a hope because of our savior that one day we will meet again in our eternal home where there is no sadness and there are no tears. Until then, we carry on.grannie woods

Rocker Re-Do

I am a porch sitter.  I come from a long line of porch sitters. It’s a simple pleasure of mine.

Porch sitting has become a thing of the past.  Heck, porches are becoming a thing of the past.  I adore an older model home for many reasons, but one of them being they usually come with a great porch. New homes just don’t have porches anymore. People spend their time indoors in front of the boob tube and under the air-conditioning and porches no longer serve the purpose for which they were designed: a place to cool off and visit with neighbors.

Several years back, before I married, I lived in an old, small house with a great porch for sitting. I put up a porch swing and wrapped the chains with garlands of fake daisies. I put out a few flowering pots of geraniums. But I needed a rocker. I had my heart set on a Cracker Barrel rocking chair so my dad bought one for me.

I put it on the porch and sat outside every day watching the traffic flow up and down the busy Somerville street. People would honk and wave and occasionally stop and visit with me. Then I was in my early twenties, much too young to be acting so old wouldn’t you say? But I’ve got an old soul, always have.

One morning I opened my front door and walked over to sit in my favorite Cracker Barrel rocker only to almost end up with my butt on the ground. It was gone! My rocker was gone! Someone had stolen my awesome rocking chair right off my front porch during the night!

I remember the awful feelings I experienced. Shock initially. Then anger of course right off the bat. Man, I was mad. Then I was sad; my chair was gone. Then dumbfounded, in awe that someone would do that. Then came a sense of fear. That someone possessing harmful intent inside of their heart was that close to my house, three steps from the inside where I slept peacefully the night before. Finally, came a terrible feeling of violation.

My dad was just as mad. He said he hopes whoever stole my rocker gets a splinter in their butt!

So he bought me another rocking chair from the Cracker Barrel. I was determined to keep this one from getting stolen, although I didn’t know how save dragging it into the house every night. A friend of mine came over with a small solution. He tied something of a chained cord of some sort (kinda like a bicycle chain) around the leg of it and drilled it into the concrete of the porch. He said it really wasn’t much of a deterrent, if someone wanted to cut the cord, they would,  but at least it would keep an honest man honest. The next thieves would have to work a  little bit at it if they planned on stealing my rocker.

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My dad holding my baby niece Zoie in my rocking chair circa 2002.

It worked, because I still have that second rocker. Unfortunately it has gotten some age on it. It’s not as glossy and freshly varnished as in the above picture. It has sat uncovered for a few years. The wind, rain, and snow has taken their toll on it. My dog Drew Miller used it as the legs and arms as a chew toy when he was a pup. It still serves its purpose but it doesn’t seem to have much pride in itself anymore. I needed to fix that.

Today, I took to working on that old rocker. I didn’t want to completely refinish it, that’s just a little bit too much work for me these days, but I just wanted to  give it a new look, make it better than it was. So EK and I found some paint in the paint closet; a nice robin’s egg blue and started slapping it on there. No priming. No sanding. No elbow grease. Just slap, slap, slap.

It was blue I tell you—and bright blue to boot!

Emma Kate working away. You can see how worn it had become by its arm.
Emma Kate working away. You can see how worn it had become by its arm.

After we slapped some paint on, it didn’t look that great. The wood was too worn and weathered to make a sleek look. There was several spots of  brown from the wood showing through that just wasn’t soaking up the paint.  I decided to just go with it. Make it a bit cowgirl rustic.

I went to JDub’s collection of spray paints and found a couple different browns and began spraying them on just willy nilly. Finally, I grabbed some fine sand paper and just scruffed it up a bit.

I wish I had a good before and after. It certainly isn’t as beautiful as it was when it was new, I certainly didn’t refinish it the right way, but it’s got character and I love it!

Here’s to happy porch sitting!

My new-old rocker.
My new-old rocker.

Sunday Dinner

There are not many memories in my mental Rolodex that cause me to feel as warm and fuzzy as the memories of Sunday dinner (dinner meaning lunch here) at my mother’s mother, Grannie Silcott’s, house. The menu didn’t vary much. It mostly consisted of roast, potatoes, corn, and green beans. There was leeway at times with an additional hot roll or carrots or a salad, but there was always the top 4–roast, potatoes, corn, and green beans. Grannie S. would put the roast in the oven in the morning before she struggled into her stockings and applied a little rouge on her cheeks and off we’d hustle to Central Baptist Church for Sunday school and church.

You see I spent almost every weekend of my early childhood with my Grannie Silcott. She was widowed and now that I look back on it, I suspect she was lonesome. She was my safe place. She had a cozy home that was predictable and routine, not at all like my own. We would sit together on Saturday nights in her little TV room and watch Golden Girls followed by 227, and Cagney and Lacey. Then we’d head off to bed together.  We would recite “another day, another dollar” even though neither of us had made a cent while she rubbed some awful smelling ointment on her knees for her arthritis. Then she’d lay down, pull up the covers, and roll away from me. I would ask her to snuggle me, but she wouldn’t.  “You snuggle me,” she’d answer. So I’d wiggle myself up to her back and bury my nose until I grew used to the smell of that awful arthritis ointment and fall asleep.

She’d always rise early and have the roast on before I was up. We’d recite “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” before preparing ourselves for church where we sat about seven rows from the back.

At the end of each Baptist sermon, the preacher would have an altar call.

“With every head bowed and every eye closed,” he’d begin his prayer for the lost souls.  I knew this was the time. I’d peek up at Grannie and she’d be gathering her purse, and with every head bowed and every eye closed, we’d sneak out the back door.  We had a roast in the oven!

She wasn’t one to try to teach me how to cook; I was more of an inconvenience so she’d let me watch and at least I got to use the electric can opener to open the cans of green beans and corn.  And setting the table. What kid doesn’t grow up having to set the table? I’d set her colorful Fiesta dishes around the old round table and always have to ask which side to put the fork on. I still don’t know the answer to that. We’d drag in some extra chairs from the living area and just as the potatoes were being mashed, the rest of the family would begin arriving. Cousins, aunts, and uncles. Grannie would be putting the food on the table as everyone was making their way to a chair. Then a day of fun and family would commence, with everyone talking at once.

It was in my early teenage years, after my mom and dad had separated, that Sunday dinner held a new purpose. My dad had left Pampa and moved back to Tahlequah. It was the time before cell phones and social media. Back when it cost money to call long distance. Grannie Silcott had upgraded from a rotary phone to a cordless that set on the desk in her kitchen. Just like clock work, every Sunday around 12:30 the phone would ring and it would be my dad calling to talk. Of course it interrupted our meal, but he knew it was the only time he absolutely knew he could catch us there together and could talk to me and my sister. I remember his voice on the phone, making jokes about what we were eating. “Let me guess,” he’d say. “I bet you’re having roast, potatoes, green beans and corn.”Most of the time he was right, but some times I got to tell him he forgot the rolls or the carrots or salad.  He’d tell me he wished he was there. I always thought he meant because of the meal, but now, many years later, I understand it wasn’t the meal he was missing.

After Grannie Silcott died in 2004, the Sunday dinners died with her. We don’t get together as a family much anymore. Of course, there’s the big dinners: Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter. And of course we always try to celebrate birthdays but it isn’t like it used to be.

In the past two and half years that me and J-Dub moved away from Pampa, I have come to understand the importance of family. Of memories. Of cousins and aunts and uncles. Of Sunday dinners.  It takes just a little absence of family to begin to realize that it’s because of them we live and breathe.

Our world moves so fast. Our lives are complicated. We’re too involved in keeping our kids schedules cram packed that we often can’t sit down for a meal with extended family without an excuse like a wedding or a funeral. I want my kids to have the memories that I cherish. The love that was shown by my grandmother each and every week putting a hot meal on the table for all her kids. I want my kids to have some traditions they recall fondly when they’re grown.

So today I did it. I put a roast in the oven before I struggled— not into my stockings—- but into my skinny jeans for church this morning.  I applied a little blush to my cheeks and hustled out the door. We returned to a house smelling like Grannie Silcott’s on Sundays. It wasn’t exactly the same. It wasn’t even remotely the same. There were more differences than similarities between my Sunday dinner and hers, but it’s a start. One that I hope to continue.

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This is my Grannie Silcott and Pop. Taken before I was born, as I never remember her hair any shade of color except gray. She was 69 when I was born and was old all my life.

Fowl, Reptiles, and Worthless Mammals

Instead of Spring Fever, I have contracted a bad case of Chicken Fever (this is not to be mistaken with Bird Flu). It has been brought on by pictures, videos and reports of friends and family getting some new spring chicks.

If you didn’t know, my flock of fowl came to a bitter end a couple months ago after losing the last 2 to a raccoon. It was heartbreaking.

Today I decided “it’s Easter time, it’s springtime, I’m going to the feed store and picking out some baby chicks”. This was  completely an impulsive idea since our family is in a state of transition and because we’re not exactly set up for a new brood of babies, but I let the impulsivity settle in and I set about preparing for some new chicks. My husband built me a nice mobile chicken coop a few months back that I could use to easily keep them safe and warm, so I decided to get busy. My first order of business was to walk through some high grass and drag it to another part of the yard.

Now friends, I consider myself a brave person for the most part. That is, as long as I keep both feet on the ground. I really don’t care for deep water, and I’d rather not participate in anything that involves jumping from a cliff so I’ll just politely decline. But you know, the everyday things don’t too much bother me. I’m not afraid of spiders or storms or Friday the 13ths. Despite my courage with these things, there is still one thing that will make me scream out loud and pee down my leg a little and that is a snake in the grass. Or one in the road. Or the pasture or even a cage for that matter. They just give me the eebie jeebies. It goes back to Genesis where God says to the serpent “You will crawl on your belly and strike at their heels and they will pee down their legs” or something close to that.

I’ve had my fair share of snake experiences, more than I care to count.  I’ve even had one of those real scary snakes shake their tail at me and I’m telling you what……there is nothing that can make your heart quicken like hearing that sound.  Living in the country in Texas taught me how to differentiate between the “safe” bull snakes and the poisonous rattlers but no matter the kind, I still don’t like them.

We have a big backyard here in New Mexico, full of big trees and unkept grasses. It’s a bit wildernessy and wild with sticks and rocks and a creek that butts up to it. It’s a great place for our three dogs to run and live like dogs.  “Worthless” dogs as my husband would call them, because you see J-Dub believes animals should have a job or serve a purpose (like a horse, a cow, a pack mule, a chicken) and these dogs are nothing more than pets. Mostly he’s joking. Mostly. But it wouldn’t hurt if they could do a little something to earn their keep around here.

Now in this big backyard, just this spring, I have seen no less than FOUR SNAKES!!! FOUR! Granted, they’re nothing like the big bull snakes that hung out with me in Texas, they’re just little old grass snakes, but they’re snakes just the same. They crawl on their bellies and give me the shivers.

The other day, our little dog Ozzie and our middle-sized dog Grace were bothering a snake in the yard and EK and I wanted to spend the day outside without worrying about a snake, so I got a big shot of bravery and decided I would remove the snake from the yard. It was coiled up good so I got a shovel and scooped that little serpent up. I held that shovel out away from my body as far as I could and I fast walked to the fence to chunk it over. But Grace, the cow dog, was too nosey and jumped up to see what I was carrying and the snake slithered off my shovel and into the tall grass. So much for my bravery. Watching that sucker slither off, made me turn and run in the other direction. I’ve had enough of that good deed.

Today after getting my wild new chicken whim,  I attempted to drag the heavy mobile chicken coop to a different part of the yard. I pulled out my back and only managed to get it out of its deep ruts about 1/2 inch when I noticed that Ozzie was interested in something in the grass. He kept sticking his nose in and jumping back a little. Grace ran over, nosey as always, and I called her back just to see what would happen. Ozzie stuck his nose in and out quickly a couple of times before he dove in hard and pulled out a snake and began shaking and biting and I’ll be dadgummed if he didn’t kill that snake right then and there.

His worth just about quadrupled in my book. I think I’ll keep this one around. My little snake killer.

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And I’ll keep this one because he’ll defend his turf and take on anything that dares threaten his people. He’s fought porcupines, raccoons, skunks, and even those fearsome possums–you know, the ones that play dead.

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And this one? She’s still got a lot of earning her keep to do. But she’ll love you to death and is sewn together out of 100% obedience and loyalty. I guess we’ll keep her too.

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Needless to say friends, with the excitement of the morning, I didn’t get a chicken coop moved. Nor did I get any chicks today. I think pulling out my back cured my chicken fever…for a while anyway.

And the Earth Renews

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Glory, glory to this early spring day!

Although I woke from a very restless sleep, my body groaning under the weight of its 40 years: hips and hamstrings, neck and knees, the outside world renews me. I’m so glad my 3-year-old wanted to dress and head directly outside, despite my opposition.

The birds are so happy today and why shouldn’t they be? They are announcing the coming of a glorious day.

The earth is wet from either a heavy dew or a light rain and it doesn’t take long for Emma’s shoes to grow wet all the way to her pale pink socks, as she frolics and plays.  The sun is warming the world ever so slowly, removing the chill, granting the warmth.

There is an earthy smell of rebirth in the air. The wind carries it on its breath. Nothing can keep quiet. Nothing can be still, for this day is indeed worth shouting about. The whole of nature is trumpeting the coming of spring!

So I sit with the small pleasure of life: coffee, front porches, pen and paper, and wet tennis shoes. I watch the world in all its activity. My little black cat pounces and climbs, pausing on occasion to stare at something unseen to me, and switch her tail in eager anticipation. And then, as if it couldn’t get any better, the icing on the cake—–a “butterfly”, as my daughter calls them dances by.  She’s black with yellow rimmed wings. She too heard the call of nature, felt the breezes, heard the birds, smelled the dampness of the earth and yet, knowing her days were short, came out to play.

Apple trees are in bloom, lilac bushes are in bud.  I say to them, “careful, careful, not too soon. Have patience”. But surely they know better than I.

My senses take it all in. My soul exhales the dregs of winter. Truly nature is where we find rest yet energy, calmness yet revitalization, serenity yet pulse. A place of reprieve, of lessons, of growth, of birth.

“The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created spring.~~Bernard Williams

Glory, Glory to this early spring day!!