Tag Archives: love

The Security Breach at Breakfast

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The Security Breach at Breakfast

There was a time not so long ago that the avoidance of national and world news by my sister, Kim, was viewed by me as bordering on irresponsible. I would ask her opinions on a crisis, mass murder, or natural disaster and she would respond with, “I have no idea what you are talking about and I don’t want to know. So, shut up.” Recently, I have started to envy her ability to close herself off from the world that seems to be unraveling. It seems to be open season on human beings killing one another has had me considering looking for real estate under one of the secluded rocks she likes to hide under. The world is a scary place.

One would think that with all the headlines screaming violence, I would be extra vigilant in protecting myself, my family, and my home from the volatile world. In many ways I am. I have educated myself on gun and personal safety and I have obtained my Conceal and Carry permit. I have purchased a firearm I am comfortable carrying, handling, and shooting. While traveling, I try to be aware of my surroundings and not put myself in vulnerable situations. But Sunday morning, when a homeless young man showed up on my porch asking for a drink of water, my heart overrode my brain and I invited him inside for breakfast.

He couldn’t have been more than 20 and he had a heavy pack and a long road ahead of him. It wasn’t just hot; it was MISSOURI sticky-sweaty-humid-as-hell hot. When I went outside and handed him a couple bottles of water he was very grateful and thankful for my offering and as I watched this kid turn back toward the highway, it never crossed my mind that this shaggy-haired tattooed kid with more than one piercing was a serial killer or an axe murder. All I saw was a kid who probably needed something in his belly and so I called after him, “Hey, are you hungry?”

After offering him a seat at the table, I made him a plate of biscuits and gravy, something to drink, salt and pepper, etc. His only request was a napkin which he placed in his lap. While he ate, I asked him where he was headed and if he had any family in the area. I didn’t want to pry. It was obvious this kid had a story, but it isn’t my story to tell. He ate. He said very little.

Things really got interesting when I went to the bedroom to give my husband, Kevin, a heads that I was feeding a wayward stranger breakfast. He was not overcome by the warm fuzzy feeling of helping out our fellow man. In fact, I believe the emotion I identified reflected in Kevin at that moment was: completely pissed off. We had a rare and heated exchange in whisper voices:

Kevin: What in the hell were you thinking?

Me: I don’t know. What was I supposed to do, let him starve?

Kevin: NOT invite him inside the house would be a reasonable thing to do.

Me: I had to invite him in so he could eat biscuits and gravy.

Kevin: You know better!!! I can’t believe you.

Me: ….

 

In all my arguments with Kevin I end up sounding like a toddler, especially when confined to whispers. It is hard to really sell a good point in ‘whisper voice’. Kevin went into full protector mode talking briefly with the young man and seeing him on his way, all the while keeping our .38 in his pocket. He made sure the kid made his way down the highway and proceeded with the following: Complete perimeter check, locked and secured all doors, reviewed the security modus operandi with the kids for locking cars and doors, emphasizing the point that someone had breached security protocol and so we were all going to have to be EXTRA vigilant for the next few weeks (followed by an accusing stare at me for my reckless behavior).

I went about my day justifying in my own mind what I failed to articulate to my husband. Later that afternoon, I asked if he was still angry at me for inviting a potential murderer, terrorist, puppy kicker inside for breakfast. He assured me he was not mad, but I had to promise not to do it again. I was compelled to try and justify my actions and I probably should have just made my promise and kept my mouth shut.

Me: Kevin, I traveled thousands of miles around the world to feed hungry children in Africa! Do you think I could just let a kid starve on my front porch?

Kevin: Of course not, you invite him in and feed him biscuits and gravy. We will see what a good idea it is when he comes back and kills us in our sleep and steals all our shit.

Me: …..heavy sigh.

Kevin is right the world is a scary place and I could have very well invited danger into our home. I appreciate his ability to protect us and keep us safe. I do hope that in some small fashion he finds a way to appreciate the innate flaw in me that allows my heart override my head in some situations. The truth is, I am so caught up in my own crazy life I neglect so many opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others. My focus has gotten so blurred that it has become easier to see only what I don’t have and I have become blind and complacent to the abundance of my blessings. I hear the news, read the headlines, and I become consumed by all the things that separate us. I needed a reminder of the one thing we have in common; at the end of the day, we are all just human beings.

heartPerhaps the good Lord sent that young man to my door to remind me that I need to look for opportunities to lift up others around me. Perhaps, it was God himself coming to the door as a scruffy homeless kid to see if I would give him a drink or turn him away. Truly If nothing else, I can rest easy knowing that had I been chopped up by the biscuit eating guest, I would probably go to heaven (the way I am quick to anger, cuss like a sailor, struggle with envy and pride and occasional slothfulness I need all the help I can get)….AND if it was God testing us, I fed him biscuits and gravy and Kevin covertly held a gun on him while he ate them (I am still winning). We make a great team– I can try and save the world and he can try to save me from the world…and myself…and coyotes….and spiders…and BigFoot… I think this text he sent me says it all:

murder

FAKEBooking-Mastering the Art of Omission

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My mom asked me three questions, when I was 16 years old, to which I answered honestly. Subsequently, this left her standing in the kitchen sobbing into a dishtowel.   Her response ultimately being, “Why can’t you just lie like other teenagers?” Okay…that went well. I should have used my filter. The greater part of my adult life has been trying to tame the wily beast that is my tongue. Sometimes I am able to remain silent, at least in the time it takes to reformulate more socially acceptable responses. Most of the time, this requires the firm use of my teeth on aforementioned tongue and walking away, but progress is progress. With all of my attempts to be authentic without the use of blunt force emotional assault, I sometimes still lose the battle. War is hell and my tongue hurts.

 

There is a place I still struggle to remain authentic and that place is on social medial. It is a fine balance between sharing too much (which I often do) and cutting loose without abandon with every shitty thing happening in my life. Teetering on the virtual tightrope between TMI and Debbie Downer all the while trying to avoid getting to sucked into the dark abyss of ‘my shit is perfect’; the struggle is real and my shit is far from perfect.

 

My newsfeed is alive and well with posts ranging from folks’ fun-filled summer vacations; good times spent with great friends, the proud moments of sports parents and last but not least, the selfies. I have posted numerous times in each of these categories. How authentic are my posts? How well does the life I portray on Facebook reflect the life I actually live?? Not even close. I am living a lie, virtually.

 

Classic examples of my Facebook Omissions:

sophi fist day

Fact: Sophi’s first day of her junior year.

Omission: She was totally Pi$$ed that I asked her to take this picture because she was running late. She was not very nice about it and I wasn’t very nice back.   It was an ugly exchange.

Patch

Fact: Hanging out with Patch, the new horse on the farm.

Omission: I was supposed to be on a run, but I stopped and played with Patch, because I am out of shape and I was dog-ass tired of running.

 

cornhole

Fact: Sophi got out of the shower and played corn hole in her towel. Things like this really do happen in our home.

Omission: I can’t beat Sophi at corn hole and it makes me crazy. I can’t beat Kevin either. I can beat Riley, but she doesn’t count. She is horrible.

magic12

Fact: Kevin coaching his Magic girls in a rare moment of spirited coaching in response to the team not playing well at all.

Omission: Briley, the center, hurt her back early in the tournament and with her mom’s permission I gave her some muscle relaxers. Kevin hurt his back last week and took the same kind of muscle relaxers and was groggy and couldn’t stay awake for a couple of days. Yeah..maybe that is why Briley was having trouble getting up and down the court. Ooops!

 

I think there is a part of my life that I vehemently try to hide on Facebook.   If I had to put a label on it, think it would be vulnerability. What parts of my life can I reveal and not be judged by my Facebook community as a shitty mom or crazy wife or horrible person (I have been called all three).

There is nothing virtual about my reality.

 

I am blessed with good kids and they are basically happy and healthy, but they drive me bat-shit crazy sometimes. They fight. They can be hateful as junkyard dogs to me and each other. I push Sophi too hard, haven’t pushed Evan hard enough and Riley has basically co-parented herself, so there is that.

 

My house stays clean for exactly 2.3 seconds and then the chaos erupts. The cute little dog, Piper, whom is adored and treated like a baby, won’t pee in the grass if it is wet.   She sneaks into the kitchen and pees in the floor. I cover for her and tell Kevin she is sorry. She is not sorry.

 

Kevin really is the mild-mannered, cool-headed voice of reason in the family. He did say he wouldn’t love me if I lost both of my arms, because I wouldn’t be much good to him. I am pretty sure he was kidding though; sort of kidding.

 

I can’t take a selfie that is worth posting. If I try, it takes me 37 tries and by the time I get one that is halfway decent, the moment has passed. Actually, my selfie ship has passed. Perhaps, being a woman of a certain age, I don’t feel compelled to see my mug daily on a newsfeed. Honestly, I don’t want to. I require a lot of makeup, low-lighting, and numerous filters to pull it off. I have a scar on my chin, crow’s feet, and ain’t nobody want to be looking at all that (see the horse picture above…I am the one on the left). I am not that cool and I know it—affirmations through comments be damned.

 

I am flawed. I am not the matriarch of the Sunshine Family. Sometimes I am sad, scared, and stressed. My kids aren’t beauty queens, top athletes or anything extraordinary, but they are unequivocally loved. Our home is filled with more laughter than tears, but laundry is more abundant than either. There always seems to be more wants than money, more things that need to be done than there is time and more places to go than gas in the cars. We sing, we dance, we wrestle, and we laugh. I love to share the moments of my life, but the life I share is often a watered down version of the real thing. The watered down version is never as good as the real thing. Live your life—love your life—no filter.

 

The Epic Tirade Over Bleepin’ Wet Socks

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The Epic Tirade Over Bleepin’ Wet Socks

Every once in a while, I completely flip my $hit. I have scaled down my grand meltdowns and while I have no specific data to back up my bold claim, I am confident the number of Richter scale measurable come-a-parts has been on the steady decline over the last several years. I am uncertain of the reasoning behind the lengthening of my fuse and the rounding out my sharp edges. Perhaps arriving in the fourth decade of my existence has brought about a shift in the hormonal tide.  It may be attributed to a heightened awareness of the struggles of those around me and a growing appreciation for mankind. Truth be told, it is most likely that I just don’t care enough to work myself up into an emotional lather… well that and I am slightly medicated.

 

The push to take ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ to a new level hasn’t always been easy. Laundry thrown haphazardly next to the hamper on most days is met with a sigh and a quick deposit into the receptacle. Other days, I can just ignore it. There are those days, however, when I feel the adrenaline surge through my veins, and I have visions of lighting the whole damn pile on fire and walking away. I have found that visual imagery helps alleviate my stress and seems a viable imaginative alternative to a verbal assault on my family and/or acts of arson. I am learning to self-soothe, which I am counting as a sign of progress.

 

Nothing seems to validate all of my hard work, like witnessing a colossal screaming crazy rant of another. While staying at the historic (and haunted-another story) Congress Hotel in Chicago my husband, Kevin and I were audible witness to the tyrannical verbal hurricane of a neighboring guest. As we were leaving our room late one evening, we were halted in our tracks (okay we stopped and eavesdropped outside the door) of a man who was coming completely undone, specifically because his socks were wet.

 

HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO BLEEPIN’ TELL YOU TO WIPE UP THE BLEEPIN’ BATHROOM FLOOR WHEN YOU BLEEPIN’ GET OUT OF THE SHOWER?? YOU BLEEPIN’ LEFT WATER ALL OVER THE BLEEPIN’ FLOOR AND NOW MY BLEEPIN’ SOCKS ARE WET BECAUSE YOU ARE TOO BLEEPIN’ LAZY TO WIPE UP THE BLEEPIN WATER!! NOW I HAVE BLEEPIN’ WET SOCKS!!!! GET YOUR BLEEPIN’ ASS IN THERE AND WIPE UP THE BLEEPIN’ FLOOR!! AND DON’T USE A BLEEPIN’ CLEAN TOWEL EITHER. YOU USE A BLEEPIN’ DIRTY TOWEL!! THIS BETTER BE THE LAST BLEEPIN’ TIME I STEP IN BLEEPIN’ WATER AND GET MY BLEEPIN’ SOCKS WET!!!! DO YOU BLEEPIN’ HEAR ME?

 

Actually, Sir, the entire 14th floor heard you. That was some powerful rage over wet socks. I thought about tapping on the door and sharing my visual imagery techniques, but I figured he probably wasn’t to the receptive stage in his development and decided against it. Then my heart started to imagine the receiver of that powerful verbal pounding. Of course, I imagined a little lad of 8 or 9 standing there in his PJs with wet hair and big sorrowful eyes. I pushed that image out of my head, it was too much. I started leaning toward the battered and abused wife, but that wasn’t any better. I settled on the recipient being the madman’s adult unemployed sloth of a brother, who drank all his beer, sleeps on his couch, and is still favored by their mother. One thing I am sure of, he wasn’t berating himself for not wiping up the water in his bathroom floor.

 

I haven’t thrown too many sticks or stones around, but I have tossed some pretty harsh words at the people I love most in the world and I am pretty sure some of them left a mark and probably even a scar or two. The scars on the hearts of the people I love are permanent. I cannot erase them with a million apologies or cover them with platitudes. My only hope is that my moments of tenderness, my smiles and laughter, and unconditional love can patch the holes I may have made. Love can’t float with holes in it, but a good sturdy patch may be just the thing to keep it from going all the way under.   I can’t guarantee things will always be smooth sailing. I am 100% human and a continued work in progress.

 

If you ever find yourself standing in the bathroom with bleepin’ wet socks, remember somewhere I am standing in my own bathroom sitting fire to a pile of laundry in my mind. Life is too short. Be kind. Be real. Be careful what you scream in a hotel room…

A Fist Full of Poppies and a Heart Full of Shame

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hatSometimes I get tired, frustrated and homesick during my seemingly long stints away from my family, while traveling for work. May has been one of those months with a lot of travel and an equal amount of homesickness. Fortunately, the majority of my time working this month was spent in the Missouri Veterans Commission in their homes for veterans and it was here I met an old soldier. It was he who reminded me that I have no actual concept of what being tired, frustrated or homesick really is.

He sat close to the nurses’ station, where we were training the staff on how to use the electronic medication administration software. He was sitting in a wheelchair. He asked for a warm blanket, which a staff member tucked around his stooped shoulders. He thanked the young lady with sincere gratitude and then I overheard him reciting lines from the poem, The Golden Years: “I cannot see, I cannot pee, I cannot chew, I cannot screw, the golden years are here at last and the golden years can kiss my ass.” His laugh was infectious.

Later that day, I had returned to the nurses’ station to check on the progress with the electronic medication pass.   He was sitting in his wheelchair. His US Navy cap had fallen to the floor and I watched as he strained in vain to reach it. I excused myself from my trainees and retrieved it for him and returned it to its rightful place. He thanked me with the same gratitude he had expressed over the warm blanket. I said, “I believe it is you who deserves the thanks. Thank you for your service, Sir.” His skin was thin and nearly transparent beneath the bill of his cap, but his eyes were shining.

He told me he served in the US Navy during World War II. I shared with him that my grandpa had also fought in WWII, but that he had served in the Army. He smiled and said he wouldn’t hold that against him and once again—that laugh. He shared with me that he loved the men he served with, but many of the names he has forgotten; the faces he never will. He grew quiet and

Vernon Thomure WWII Veteran, Hero, and Awesome Grandpa

Vernon Thomure
WWII Veteran, Hero, and Awesome Grandpa

I thought maybe he had fallen asleep, but when he looked up, his shining eyes were filled with tears, and he continued, “There are some things I wish I could forget. Our ship was hit in April, 1945, and there was so much water and so much blood. It seemed like more blood than water, if you can believe that. We were in the middle of the ocean with a hole blown in the side of our ship. You would think there would have been more water, but it sure didn’t seem like it. I still see all that blood and all those faces of men who were my brothers.”

The tears had made their way down his cheeks and the lump in my throat occluded me from speaking, which was a blessing, because I couldn’t find words to fill the space between us. I tentatively reached out and covered his vein-streaked pale hand with mine. After a few moments, he looked up and said, “I am sorry, young lady. I didn’t mean to start crying.” I told him I didn’t mean to make him so sad. He smiled and said, “Some things are just sad. I think what would be even sadder is that if nobody remembered.”

Today I followed two 30-something men out of Wal-Mart and they were chatting and talking and a veteran with the Buddy Poppies was standing at the exit. He buddypoppolitely asked if they would like to make a donation. These men didn’t even acknowledge the veteran or his request. One gave him a sideways glance and then turned his head and they both kept talking and walking. I stuffed a few dollars into the donation can and accepted my Poppy, trying to reflect as much gratitude as I had seen in the eyes of an old soldier when he was given a warm blanket. I thanked him for his service and I headed to my car. Once in my car I placed the poppy on the seat beside me, along with the several others that have accumulated over the last several days. I tried to stamp down the anger I was feeling for the two men who had nothing to offer, even in the way of a thank you and I wondered how many times I had failed to recognize the sacrifices made on behalf of my freedom and my anger dissolved into shame.   Because there are things that are just sad, but what would be even sadder is that if nobody remembered…

In the spirit of the Golden Years Poem, I wrote a few lines for the guys that blew off the veteran at the store today:

He cannot see, he cannot pee, he cannot chew and he cannot screw,

But he is more of a man than either of you.

The golden years don’t discriminate, and you can bet your ass

They show up without warning and they come on fast.

To you he may be an old man with poppy on a stem

But even for jerks like you, he would do it all again.

So enjoy your long weekend, your beer, and big toys

He knows what it takes to separate the men from the boys.

 

A Mother’s Day Wish List-Revised Edition

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A Mother’s Day Wish List-Revised Edition

As Mother’s Day approaches, I have been making a gift guide for my sweet children to utilize, in the event they want to borrow money from their father and purchase me a little sumthin’-sumthin’.   The following is the first edition of my Mother’s Day Wish List:

  1. Fitbit Fitness Band (in black)finch
  2. Converse Monochrome shoes-Size 8.5night vision googles
  3. Atticus Finch T-Shirt and the Preorder purchase of Harper Lee’s Novel Go Set a Watchman, to be released in July (the T-shirt will keep me happy until the book release).
  4. Yukon Night Vision Tracking Binoculars
  5. Conceal and Carry Compression Tank (in black)
  6. A very tiny monkey.

After reflecting on the likelihood of my Mother’s Day wish list ever coming to fruition, I decided to make some revisions. As I attempted to whittle the list down and refine the focus to practical customary wishes, it was apparent the list, while authentic, was not representative of the true spirit of Mother’s Day. I dug a little deeper and explored what my true wishes were for Mother’s Day. The following is the compilation of my revisions:

  1. For my oldest daughter, Riley, I hold these wishes for you. I wish you could embrace the amazing young woman you are and hold tight to the beauty of your soul. Each morning, when you wake and you look at your reflection in your mirror, I wish you no longer sought out your perceived imperfections, but instead focus on the gifts God has given you. My hope is that with each passing day, you will learn to love yourself. The many ways you guard you heart serves you well, when done so for the right reasons. Hearts are made to be broken and human beings rarely escape a life without some degree of heartbreak. A heart that has been broken beats on, but a life without love is just a beating heart. May you always know how much of love being your mom.                            Addendum: I wish you would someday in the future reconsider your decision to opt out of motherhood. I cannot be a Nana to a batch of rescued cats.
  2. For my son, Evan, these wishes are for you. Looking back on the long journey that has brought you to this moment, I wish you to know how very proud I am of you. I know that the things that are so easy for others were not so easy for you. I want you to know that the mistakes I made along the way were my attempts at helping you the only way I knew how. There were many people who might have given up on you, but that was never an option for me. It is my hope for you that you will remember to give more than you take, lift others up, treasure the little things, and don’t be afraid of failing. There is something great inside of you, Evan and I pray each day you have the courage to discover what it is, the resilience to carry on when you fail, and the graciousness to appreciate those who help you along the way. Don’t let a day go by without fully knowing how blessed I am that God chose you for my son. Addendum: I wish you would please stop teasing my sweet old Cooper. He is over 70 years old in people years!! Please be kind to my crabby geriatric furry friend.
  3. To my baby girl, Sophi, I wish these things for you. There will never be more minutes in an hour, more hours in day, more days in a week or more weeks in a year. I know of no other who crams more living in a space of time than you. It is my wish that you are able to make the most of each moment and give yourself some space to breathe. The only thing that ever gets in your way, Sophi, is you. It makes me proud that you are motivated to set the bar high, but don’t forget that you don’t have to be perfect. All that you have to do doesn’t have to be done today. It is my wish for you to find balance and understand that if you always stay true to God, yourself, and the people who love you, the life you make will be successful. You are forever and always my bonus baby.                                     Addendum: I wish you would PLEASE put the lids back on your makeup and quit leaving it all scattered on the bathroom counter!! And for the love of all that is holy, you only need ONE towel for a shower

kidsThe truth is the greatest gift is one I have already been given. It cannot be purchased at the store or ordered online. I have been blessed with the privilege of being a mother, and this is simply all I could ever want (except for a very tiny monkey, that would be freaking AWESOME)…and maybe the night vision goggles. Seriously, this nest is going to be empty someday. I really should start planning ahead.

Living the Simple Life Status Update…It’s Complicated

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Living the Simple Life Status Update…It’s Complicated

 

Whoever said living in the country is the ‘simple life’, obviously never lived in the country. Country living takes grit, resilience, and emotional fortitude. It has been just over two years since I said farewell to the city limits and embraced my tougher rural side. The transition has been filled with a multitude of learning opportunities for me and I am woman enough to disclose that I sometimes lack grit, resilience, and emotional fortitude. Sometimes, I am just an idiot.

My first faux pas was made with good intentions. Spirit is the resident matriarch horse on the farm. She is a beautiful Morgan Paint, which loosely translated for town folks means she is BIG and looks like Tonto’s horse from the Lone Ranger. Each morning before leaving for work, I would take Spirit an apple or handful of carrots. Her forelock (loosely translated—horse bangs) was always hanging in her eyes. My attempts to use my hairclips to pin it up out of her eyes didn’t go well. She lost every single one of my hairclips. I decided to give her a trim. Spirit ended up looking more like Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber than a beautiful horse. As it turns out, the forelock is important for keeping flies and other debris from irritating the horse’s eyes. Who knew horse bangs were more than a fashion statement??dumb

In addition to the acceptable grooming practices of horses, I have had my eyes open to other farm animal maintenance. If a baby calf gets stuck in her mama cow’s vagina, it is customary to hook chains to the calf and help pull it out. The boy cows don’t have it easy either. If you are unfortunate enough to be born a boy cow and you aren’t given immunity status to continue growing into a bull, a routine circumcision would be a welcome trade for what is in store. The little boy baby cows are rounded up and their little baby cow balls are cut off and tossed into a bucket. Chains in a vagina and a bucket of cow balls…all in a day’s work.

As luck would have it, I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of the farm. It is probably a good thing, because I am a little too emotionally high-strung to be of much use. One of the baby donkeys got stuck in the mud near the pond and drowned. All the Animal Planet viewing in the world did not prepare me for this travesty! While tuning into Animal Planet, I fully expect crocodiles to leap out of the water and snatch up little water buffalo, but this isn’t the Serengeti! We are smack in the middle of America’s heartland. Mother Nature’s bitch-slap is far reaching.

donkeyI don’t cut off baby cow balls or get near the vagina of a cow birthing her young, but I do have animal responsibilities on the farm. I am the caretaker of the barn-cats. Barn-cats are an integral part of country living and I do my part to make sure they are fed, warm, loved and cuddled. According to barn cat protocol, barn-cats are not to be named, as there is a high turnover among the resident barn-cats and thus, I have been advised not to get attached. I seldom follow sound advice (heavy sigh).

LuLubelle was one of the initial barn-cat residents and the beginning of my cat wrangling adventures. LuLubelle was born with a hole in her diaphragm, which resulted in her not being a candidate for spaying. Contrary to popular belief, her breathing difficulties did not eliminate her from lifting her tail for the first Tom Cat who came along. LuLubelle’s transgressions led to a small but robust barn-kitty boom. I had my hands full trying to keep up with finding homes for adoptable kittens, foster mothers for the shitty-kitty moms’ kittens, and keeping up with sterilization for the youngsters coming of age.

LuLubelle tired of the mother (and now grandmother) grind and headed off to take up residence in the solitude of a quiet, not so crowded, barn (this is what I tell myself anyway, because recognizing the fact that she may have been a late night snack for a coyote is just too horrible). Finally, all the kittens had homes, LuLubelle had moved to her retirement home, and our barn was home to one small kitten named, Yellow Cat. My work schedule had been rather hectic and I knew I had several months before Yellow Cat would be mature enough to have kittens, but evidentially some kitties mature faster than others…and now we were suddenly back up to six barn cats.

**WARNING: This is the point in the story, where things take a tragic turn and cat lovers and the squeamish should probably bail out now.**

I found yellow cat with her new brood in the hay manger in the barn. It was early morning and I was headed to work. The light in the barn was dim and she wasn’t really keen on me poking around. I could still see that several of the kittens weren’t cleaned well and I was worried that she was going to be a shitty-kitty mom. I gave her some words of encouragement and headed off to work. Returning that evening, I went out in the barn to check on her. I brought a flashlight so I could get a better look at how the situation was progressing and I was totally unprepared for what I was about to encounter. There were three kittens nursing and two seemingly piled beneath them. I started moving them around to get a better look and I saw what looked to be a placenta, which Yellow Cat should have gobbled down long before this point. Confused by the mangled ball of kittens, I reached in and picked one of the kittens up, and instead I hoisted up four tangled kittens. They were all still attached to one placenta and completely entangled in a web of umbilical cords.

The act of me picking up the intertwined kitten-placenta ball caused one kitten’s umbilical cord to pull off and I couldn’t control the bleeding. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to save that little guy, so I reluctantly turned my attention to the other three still mangled together. With hands shaking, I was able to tie off and cut the cord, freeing one kitten from the mass. The remaining two were in a pitiful predicament. It was obvious that the kittens had been tangled long before they were born. Their little legs had been cinched together with an umbilical cord so tightly and for so long, their little tiny paws hadn’t formed. There was just rotting dead tissue where little paws should have been.

One of the kittens was visibly smaller and looked as if it was already succumbing to the infection that was no doubt raging. I had to get them apart. I went plundering for medical supplies. Running back to the barn, I had discovered that the weaker kitten had died, but was still hopelessly tethered to its sibling. Using every ounce of courage I could muster, I carefully snipped the rotten leg off of the dead kitten. I surveyed the situation; I had one living kitten, which was not a part of the original tangled mess. I had one living kitten that I had been able to successfully free, two kittens that had not survived, and one kitten with a rotten leg, still attached to both the placenta and the severed rotten leg of its sibling. Kitten farming is REALLY hard.

kittySadly, even after a successful amputation and antibiotic therapy, little “Stumpy” kitten wasn’t strong enough to make it. I buried him in a sunglasses case under the tree near the barn, where yellow cat likes to sun herself in the afternoons. Sweetie and Dot are the surviving twin brothers of the ordeal and have grown into a handsome loving duo. Sweetie, Dot, and Yellow Cat have decided to leave barn-living behind. Mama and her two sons have moved into the garage, where my husband has built them a two story insulated and heated condominium. They often join us in the house and stretch out the furniture or curl up in a lap, before retiring to their kitty-condo.

It has been hard for me to convey the situation I encountered in the barn that day, even to my family. When I arrived at the house bloodied, panicked and carrying Stumpy still attached to the severed leg and nasty placenta, my family questioned my sanity (this is not the first time my sanity has come into question). Several days later, my daughter’s friend commented that her throat was hurting and my daughter replied, “Don’t tell my mom, she might cut off your head.”cattwins

I read somewhere that tough old farmers don’t cry, but I know better. This country way of living is still pretty new to me, but I have seen enough to know that tough old farmer also have the biggest hearts. I am not sure if having a big heart is a prerequisite for the job or rather something they acquire along the way. I assume if it is okay to sometimes cry in the barn, perhaps I have some farmer potential. It is probably better to look at my potential as a farmer more objectively and as my dad would tell me, “You aren’t tough enough to make a scab on farmer’s ass” and I am pretty certain he is absolutely, 100% correct.

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The Maddening Voice of Maggie the Nav-Hag

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The Maddening Voice of Maggie the Nav-Hag

Jeep1My Maggie is hard not to love, although sometimes she is hard for me to handle. She is strong, beautiful, and almost as much fun with her top on as she is with her top off. From the moment I saw her, I loved her. She is my Jeep and she is special.   Last week, my husband had a navigation system installed into Maggie. This brought about some changes. Not only can Mags and I find our way back from any adventures we may take, but now she can talk!

I have little patience for technical configurations which require a great deal of detail and/or time, so I hit the highlights. The only setup option I gave careful attention to was the voice selection. A female voice was the obvious choice. Maggie is a badass, but exclusively in the feminine sense. Listening to each accent and language choice, I settled on a soft voice with a pleasing British accent. (Please apply a soft female voice with a pleasing British accent to Maggie’s dialogue in the remainder of this story).

The next day, I decided to drive Maggie to work in St. Louis, a jaunt I usually reserve for the smaller economical and nameless Chevy Cruze.   I didn’t want to have to listen to Maggie’s directions the entire trip, so I dialed in just a short portion of the journey, so I could test out her new vocal capabilities. Just as I had anticipated, thing were off to a splendid start:

Maggie: In two miles, please turn left.

Me: Why thank you Maggie, you are very helpful.

Maggie: Please turn right and continue on this route for 26 miles.

Me:   You got it, Mags, whatever you say.

 

After her test run was complete, I settled in for the remainder of my drive to work. As I merged onto the four-lane highway, I set the cruise control to my customary 6 miles over the posted speed limit and hit the music shuffle on my phone. The music suddenly cutout and Maggie piped up in her pleasing British accent:

Maggie: You are over the speed limit.

Me: Excuse me, Maggie, did you say something.

 

Silence. I continue driving.

Maggie: You are exceeding the speed limit, please decrease your speed.

Me: Okay, Maggie. I appreciate your concern. Thank you.

 

I continue driving and several miles pass.

Maggie: You are over the speed limit.

Me: Seriously, Maggie, I know. It’s fine, really.

 

I turn the music up, reduce the cruise to 4 over the speed limit and continue driving. Surely she wouldn’t bitch at me for going four miles over the speed limit.

Maggie: You are over the speed limit.

Me: OMG, Maggie. You are really pissing me off. Shut up!!

 

Maggie: You are exceeding the speed limit. Please reduce your speed.

Me: I swear to God, Maggie, I am going to rip your throat out if you do not shut up!!!

 

I wasn’t familiar enough with the controls to reprogram her while I was driving, and so we continued down the highway; Maggie relentlessly nagging me about my speed in her soft voice with the pleasing British accent and me stubbornly refusing to comply with her polite suggestions. Eventually, I reverted to arguing with her in an unpleasant and hostile British accent:

 

Maggie: You are over the speed limit.

Me: And YOU, Maggie, are a daft cow.

Maggie: You are exceeding the speed limit. Please reduce your speed.

Me: Ahhhhhhh! Bloody hell!!!

 

After my trip with the Maggie the Nav-Hag, it occurred to me that I am the sort of person that might benefit had God thought to equip me with an automatic audible warning system. A backup system for when my mouth is over-riding my ass or my sound judgment system fails. Even the backup system probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference when I was younger. I am also pretty sure that it would not have been at all effective when I was in full ‘mama-bear’ mode NOTE: Mama Bear Mode is known as a state of being when one perceives that someone is being unfair or hurtful to one’s offspring, and mama-bear claws come out, fangs are bared and attack is imminent. However, I think I am at a certain age where it might compliment my developing restraint.FullSizeRender

There will always be situations which will try my patience and cause me to question the motives and authenticity of others. It seems that when human beings completely miss opportunities to positively impact the lives of others and go out of their way to tear individuals down, I find my checks and balances system failing. An internal audible warning system may be just what I need so save me from beating the proverbial dead horse; Maggie’s soothing voice in a pleasant British accent intervening in my head:

Maggie: You are exceeding the emotional limit. Please calm down.

Maggie: Your emotional reaction to his/her/their actions will not impact the current situation. Proceed with caution.

Maggie: Navigating the intentions of others is impossible. People have to be willing to change course.

Maggie: Please proceed to the route… stay the course… focus on the positive… repair the damage… be kind… be fair… be honest… be genuine… and SIT YOUR BLODDY ARSE DOWN AND BEHAVE!!

 

This really does seem like a novel idea to keep me in check. Perhaps if this was a standard feature we were all equipped with, life wouldn’t be quite so messy. I haven’t reprogrammed Maggie to keep her gob shut about my driving. It isn’t so bad having a reminder when I am not acting in my best interest or the interest of others. Besides, it is just a matter of time before Kevin Thurman, silences Maggie for good. He has two speeds, stop and fast; Ride or die, Mags. Ride or die.

Sleeping with Stella

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Sleeping with Stella

I am a chicken. I attribute this cowardice condition to the vastness of my imagination. Adulthood was supposed to equip me with rationale, logic, and grownup perspective. Yet, I am plagued by things that go bump in the night. Regularly, I find myself being chased home by wild coyotes when caught after sundown on an evening run. The shadows along the woods taunt me with the unseen creatures of the night. My dreams are often interrupted by screaming mountain lions, rabid wolves, and an occasional Sasquatch lurking just beyond the trees behind our house. My body rests, but my mind refuses.

It is a state of ridiculousness, which my effort at reason cannot move past. In contrast, there are things I should be afraid of, which I am not. My sincere trust in humanity as a whole could be considered a liability. Constantly on guard for the lone savage wolf stalking me as a walk on the trails cut through the woods, my guard is slack when it comes to my fellow bipedal homo-sapiens. Seldom am I aware of my surroundings, while walking in a dimly lit parking garage. The random stranger asking for directions doesn’t make me wary. My car is often unlocked and sometimes my keys can be found dangling in the ignition. My shopping cart is left unattended with my purse splayed open as I browse the aisles. Trust, even when it is soaking with carelessness, can be broken.

Two weeks ago, as I sparred with the ominous beasts in my dreams, someone was breaking into our vehicles parked in our driveway. We awoke to find that our cars had been ransacked. Unfamiliar hands had rummaged through our consoles, purses, and glove compartments, grabbing and carrying off miscellaneous personal possessions. In their wake they left us feeling vulnerable, empty, and violated. The emotion I wanted to boil to the surface and spill out of me was anger, but it wouldn’t come. As I stood and wondered what a thief was going to do with a purse that had my last name embroidered on it, there remained with me a stifling sense of sadness.

Many of the items taken have made their way back to us. Some have not. My purse was found along a gravel road not far from our house. My son’s driver’s license, college ID and bank card were found by an acquaintance as he was running in an area about six miles from where we live. A backpack was found along the highway along with two of my son’s college textbooks. There are several expensive textbooks, a wallet and some other items which are probably rotting in a ditch in some random location. There was little cash to be taken, but what little there was is gone.

The whole situation should have spurred a sense of fury in the audacity of brazen thievery. While it did springboard a campaign to ratchet up our security, it brought me around to a place I least expected. I found myself immersed in a sense of gratitude. Instead of being consumed by fury of the violation, I found myself focusing on the simple fact that these things were just that—things. Though thieves were among us, the “us” remained unscathed, intact, and well. While my sense of security was dented, the reminder to not hang on too tightly to those things which can be replaced and to hold dearly to those which cannot did not go unacknowledged.

There are so many things in my life that I will never get back. Never again will I hold my sleeping babies with their warm breath sweet on my cheek. There will never be another night of playing outdoors in my bare feet of summer and hearing my mom yell it is time to come inside. I will never get back those wilted dandelions offered up to me from the gap-tooth grinning face of a child who still thinks I am the entire world. Driving the back roads for hours with good friends, with nothing more to occupy our carefree hearts other than the next song playing on the radio are moments gone a lifetime ago. Gone are the days of sitting on the porch with my grandpa hanging on every word of the tales he would spin for me. I can’t go back to the first ‘I love you’ my husband spoke to me or feel the tears he cried as he held his newborn son. Time, it seems, is the real thief. But what time has stolen away hasn’t left holes in the fabric of my existence. What remains is a patchwork of memories being pieced together forming a quilt that is my life. No thief in the dark of night can take the treasures locked securely away in the depths of my heart.

The fear of coyotes, chupacabra, and Bigfoot has not abated. The cars are locked and so are the doors. My faith in mankind is, for the most part, still intact. Life is not meant to be lived instella the unrest of worry over things. Stella, is my little Smith & Wesson .38 and she provides me a sense of comfort. The world, after all, isn’t nearly as scary when I am sleeping with Stella.

 

 

I’ve Got Your Back!

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There is a special place in my heart for the folks in my life who volunteer to support me in times of trial or adversity. I have always had an inclination to let my mouth override my ass and it is always with gracious relief, when I would find someone with more physical fortitude than myself running interference for me. My best friend in middle school and high school was someone who I knew would protect me and in turn, she always knew I would be there for her. She was a badass. I was not a badass. Like once when we were at a party and I started mouthing a girl and the girl didn’t like it. My best friend, Cheri, just had to walk over and ask, “Is there a problem?” and then there was suddenly not a problem anymore. Another time we were cruising the streets of our small town and a girl called us “preps” and while we were stopped, she tried to punch Cheri through the open window of her car. This girl was much more accustomed to settling things with her fists than our little gang of accused ‘preps’, yet the challenge had been issued. Cheri stepped up and as her trusty sidekick, I was right there doing my part…I held her big hoop earrings while she taught this name-calling-prep-hater a lesson (which she did in impressive fashion). My role may seem small, but she could have lost a lobe or an entire ear, for that matter. Had I not been there the results could have been tragic.

As an adult, the role of my protector and back-haver has fallen squarely on the shoulders of my husband, Kevin. He once sensed my fury in a school meeting with my son’s principal and just as I was about to throw myself across the table and choke the life out of the little man, Kevin nonchalantly grabbed the waistband of my pants and kept me firmly anchored to my seat. He also saved my ass when I went toe-to-toe with a big giant idiot who was screaming kevinobscenities at a youth basketball tournament. Kevin has also managed to divert many a potential come-a-parts (that’s what they call it, when I react like a lunatic to situations). He does this by withholding information that he knows will make me crazy. Having my back is sometimes a great deal of work for Kevin.

It goes without saying, that I also always have Kevin’s back. It isn’t like he has big hoop earrings I can hold or any other needs in which my limited talents would come in handy. It is in the literal since that I always have Kevin’s back. His long 6-foot-7 inch walking stride puts me consistently about 20 paces behind him. At the mall, the ballgame, the parking lot at church, it is my husband’s back that I have. His steady unhurried pace appears effortless from the casual observer, but to the little wife trying to tail him, it is a frantic pace. Occasionally, he will glance over his shoulder to make sure I haven’t gotten misplaced or inadvertently swept down a drainage ditch. It is always, however, the same exchange when I finally catch up to him. He looks down at my wind-burnt cheeks and over my labored breathing he casually asks, “Where you been, woman?”

I have practiced fast-walking and also taking bigger steps, but often my choice of footwear doesn’t sustain these practices for any distance and I am forced to revert to my regular short-people walking style. When we walk hand-in-hand, he is so much taller than me and walking so much faster, that I feel and probably look like, a child that has been misbehaving in the store and is being dragged outside to get an ass-whoppin. So, like a boat on the ocean, I set my course following the beacon that is my husband’s back and I plod along at my customary 20 paces.

It would be very much a part of my innate nature to resent this Mid-Eastern style of pedestrian hierarchy we have long adhered to, but I don’t. It has become part of who we are. There is an unexplained comfort in knowing that he is forging the way, much like he does in all aspect of our life. He is steady, strong, and I know that as long as I keep my eyes on beachhim, I am on the right track. It may seem like I am tagging along at his heels; a kite tail of little significance, but I know when I get to where I am going, he will be there—waiting. I know that I am a strong and capable person, but the bond I share with Kevin affords me a sense of security I don’t possess without him. I know he has my back and in warped kind of way, I have his. Should I ever look up and I am no longer able to see him leading the way, it is then I will know I am lost.

In Other News…I Didn’t Throat Punch Anyone Today

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In Other News…I Didn’t Throat Punch Anyone Today

It’s been one of those weeks. You know the kind. The kind that sucks all the life out of you and then sucker punches anything positive that comes along to attempt to resuscitate you. Nothing catastrophic occurred and I am usually a tad more resilient that the tone of this post suggests. I try to keep a firm grasp on perspective, but sometimes (and this could be completely hormonal) I let this stupid world chip away at my resolve. There are times, like this week, when I cave to my fragile state of being human and I just want to rage against some of the ridiculousness around me.

The truth is I am cranky. I am on the road this week for work and I miss my family. My new gig will take me away from the homestead for several days at a time. Usually, when things go smoothly at work, I can cope with the homesickness. When I baboon encounter work issues that leave me feeling like I have had a piranha gnawing on my fleshy backside all week, it tends to increase my longing for home.   This is actually a tad ironic, because I know that upon returning home after several days, my house will look like a troop of half-tamed baboons live there. Just the same, they are my troop of half-tamed baboons, so I can miss them if I want.

There may be more to my sour mood than I am willing to admit. I am not at all equipped to comfortably spend extended periods of time with myself. Dealing with people all day and then retreating to my hotel room, I am left with no domestic distractions to defuse my day. Instead of laughing at my kids or grappling with the laundry or following Kevin around, while chatting incessantly, I am left with just ME! To be completely honest, I am not really a good influence on myself. There resides in me an innately powerful imagination and when left unchecked it can go off the rails in a hurry.

Left to my own devices, I mentally start to rewrite parts of my days, with different endings than what actually happened. It is sort of like a lonely game I play ripped off from those books I had as a kid, where I could choose different outcomes for the characters based on what I wanted to happen. If I wanted Billy to find the hidden treasure, I would be directed to page 65. If I wanted Billy to get stuck in a pit of quick sand with little hope of rescue, I could turn to page 78–Twist-a-plot books or something along those lines.

My week in twist-a-plot:

Reality: A handful of people I have encountered this week have been resistant, negative, and demanding. I remained pleasant, professional, and accommodating as humanly possible, while mindfully funneling the tension from my face directly to my tightly clinched butt cheeks.

Twist-a-plot: I look at them and propose, “That is an excellent idea. Let me just reach into my bag and pull out my magic lamp and rub on it. I am sure that genie will appear any second and make all of this possible.” When no genie appears, I smile sweetly and say, “Looks like you’re shit out of luck.”

 

Reality:  After wrapping up a long and trying day, my boss says, “Are you okay? You look tired and you seemed to have lost weight. I can really tell in your face.” I give a half-hearted smile and reply, “I am fine. I am just tired.”

Twist-a-plot: I look up and reply, “Really? You can tell in my face that I have lost weight?! My face has never been fat! My ass is fat! My thighs are fat! Hell, even my freaking knees are fat, but I am dropping weight in my face! When was the last time you saw a weight-loss commercial with the hook line: ‘got stubbborn face fat…we can help’…..” Heavy sigh.

 

Reality: Random Facebook post shows up on my newsfeed regarding the potential of a specific kind of creative expression to offend certain people. In reality, I keep scrolling.

Twist-a-plot: I pop my knuckles, in that I-am-about-to-get-down-to-business-now kind of way and I type a comment: It is beyond me why so many people have to make a damn mountain out of every little mole hill. It is your choice to make this into something it clearly isn’t. There can be an argument that most of what people do or say can in some fashion potentially offend others. The least of these is passing close-minded judgments on others. Teach others to be tolerant by example…learn to laugh at yourself.

 

Reality: When FaceTiming with my family, my son, Evan, appears on the screen and I am so happy to see him. I say, “Hey, Bubby! How is your week?” He replies, “Good, but you better hurry home, the laundry is piling up fast around here.”

Twist-a-plot: Evan replies, “Hey, Mom! We sure do miss you. Don’t worry about things at home! We are keeping up with all the chores so you won’t have to come back to a huge mess.” Just as I smile and say goodnight, a large pterodactyl comes crashing through the window into my hotel room, lays a giant pterodactyl egg and collapses dead on the floor.

 

NOTE: I added the pterodactyl to the last twist-a-plot, because the idea that Evan would be a willing participant in an effort to forge through the household chores to spare me from having to do so, is so far-fetched, I felt the prehistoric bird was needed to add an element of believability to the scenario.

This is life. It’s okay to laugh, even when you are homesick for your half-tamed troop of baboons.