gravel road girl

Archive for the category “Random thoughts–really random”

Boots By the Side of the Road

Boots by the side of the road,

why are you here?

Here at the severe curve

where every driver must slow

nearly to not-moving.

Did they pause to set you out

for smell of foul feet?

Or bad behavior,

if that is possible for such

durable, salt of the earth

work wear.

Are you the last straw

of a bad day?

The finality of a job

never returned to?

I must think, though,

that you wait here,

doggedly loyal,

sure of your master’s return.

I applaud and admire you.

Good boots!

It all began. . .


It all began–or ended, as it were–with the chicken rapture.

Chicken rapture.

Yes, that’s what I said. See, we had some chickens–Rhode Island reds.rhode-island-red

We started with six, and to no fault of ours, by last spring (2015) we were down to three. Three chickens, one of which wasn’t laying. Or else they were taking turns not laying because I was getting two eggs every day, not three. Also, this was our second batch of chickens, and I was starting to get beyond the romanticism of chickens wandering the yard and me, with my basket, gathering fresh eggs every day.

Chickens are work. They poop–a lot. And if you let them “wander,” they tend to poop on your sidewalk. By your back door. Right where you want to walk, barefoot, to water your plants.

And, of course, they need lots of fresh water, and their pen needs cleaning regularly. It comes with the territory. I get that. I was just getting a little tired of the ‘territory’ for two measly eggs a day.

So on a beautiful April morning, Seth stepped out to catch the bus. I watched him wander over into the yard, peer at something, and turn back toward the house.

“Mom, you should come take a look at this.” Then he walked down the lane to the bus.

That’s all? Come take a look at this? Coming from a 14-year-old boy, you tread hesitantly with the expectation of making your 51-year-old self beat a speedy retreat.


Mangled animal?

Large, bizarre fungi?

I slipped on shoes and walked tentatively out in the yard.

What IS that?


Piles of feathers. Several piles of feathers scattered about the yard. Probably five distinct piles of feathers. Just feathers.

No chicken parts–feet, heads–nothing!

Now, some of you more savvy country folk are pointing fingers at marauding ‘coons. A feisty pack who saw an easy chicken dinner. I can just hear Ma Coon saying, “Clean them in the field. No need to bring the mess back here for me to clean up!” (Really, that is what a Ma Coon would say.)

But how did they leave all those feather piles and no other ‘remains?’Pretty incredible. So we are choosing the gentler version with a happier ending–chicken rapture. Snatched away, featherless, to the green and buggy pastures in the sky.

So you may be wondering (or not) why I started, “It all began. . .” Well, what does any craft-loving, too-many-projects-started-already woman do with a perfectly awesome chicken shed and no chickens? She turns her chicken shed into her Chick Shack!

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Isn’t it cute? Too cute to sit empty, that’s for sure! And so it began. . .

Half of the shed was for storage and half was for chickens. I kind of had my work cut out for me. . .


Enter my faithful helpers, Tess and Bonnie. Bonnie is the puppy, and she wasn’t much help, but she deserved to be in the picture. Let me just say, that what I THOUGHT would be a little elbow grease on my part and some minimal electrical work on my hubby’s part sort of turned into something bigger.

Suffice it to say, a year later we are nearing the end of the project, and I will say in my next post, in the words of Chip and Joanna Gaines, “Do you wanna see your fixer upper?”

“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding onto them.”            ~David Allen


Kick-in-the-butt Day

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Yesterday was a kick-in-the-butt day.

My mother would put it a little more delicately:

“Action precedes motivation”

Uggghhh! I hated it when she said that. Mostly because I knew she was right, and it was her round-about way of saying, “I don’t care if you don’t feel like it, get moving.”

I knew I would fall into this phase of post-homeschooling: I have all this time, so what’s the rush to get anything done? Which is a lie. I really don’t have “all this time.” But I do have more time than I did, and there is not quite the urgency in my life. And coming from parental genetics that dictate–if you can’t sleep get up and clean something (which is entirely true in my mom’s world)–it bothers me NOT to be productive.

Yesterday, slow-start Monday, found me still in my pjs at 9:00 with coffee in hand. Nothing wrong with that, people. I give myself those days sometimes. Young moms, I’m not talkin’ to you here; stay in your pjs ALL DAY if that’s what works. But, I’ve had too many of those lately, and I had no plan ahead of me. Something needed to change. . .


O.k., just to get myself started, I cleaned up a little clutter. As I was putting something away, I noticed the cupboard door was loose. Yep, I’d noticed that before. No tightening those screws. I either need different screws or a wood filler. A partial fix is better than not starting, right? I can’t really ignore a cupboard door leaning in my dining room, so this will be completed. . . soon.

Does anyone else’s master bedroom become the dumping ground for all things random? Mine is actually the stopping point for all memorabilia, all pictures, all ‘treasures’ from which we can’t quite part. Reason being 1) the attic access is in our room 2)my scrapbooking station is in our room. Now for whatever reason, I CANNOT bring myself to throw pictures away. If some of my childhood classmates happen to be reading this, yes, that MAY be one of your elementary photos you see! Why I’ve had them tucked away among my stash all these years, I don’t know. Someone please give me permission be done with them! I did tackle these piles. I did not throw away any pictures. . . yet.

These are not my piles. These are husband-piles. I don’t complain about my husbands caps because he doesn’t complain about my shoes. But, I will say, that I DO wear all of my shoes at some time during the year. He, on the other hand, does NOT wear all of these caps. Therefore, it is time for a ‘thinning’ of the caps. Old, ooolllldddd cleats (high school here, people) and hundreds of football cards–top shelf pushed to the back. Sorry, kids, they’re yours someday!

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What’s on your side of the bed? This is mine. At least five books started. But, you know, books are like food–it depends on what you’re in the mood for. But I gave myself a talking to and put four of them aside. I will finish the one that I started. . . last (2015) January.

FullSizeRender (5)I am really in the groove of kick-in-the-butt day! I headed outside to the garden. In the foreground you see the uncompleted clean-up; in the background you see the fruits of my blistered hands (and a really bad compost bin that’s going away this spring). O.k., not really–I didn’t work THAT hard! But I did get a good chunk of raking and hauling done!

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Finally, you have to do something lovely on days like this. Otherwise, there’s no motivation to have another one. So I pulled together some of my vintage pretties to freshen up the decor doldrums. Nothin’ like a bowl of smooth rocks and a couple of birch twigs to shout SPRING! Yeah, I like to keep it simple.

Yep, that was my kick-in-the-butt day. I was pretty pleased by the end of it. But pulling out of the station this morning, all I could say was. . .

“Action precedes motivation.”

~Elizabeth Gifford~

Lessons Learned: My Cellular Sabbatical

It was an interesting week without a cell phone.

Technically, I had a cell phone by Tuesday. But I looked at with disdain (and a small amount of fear being that I was entering the Dark Side by switching to an iPhone) until Sunday.

Honesty disclaimer: I did receive and reply to a few texts from my kids, and I used Google maps to find a greenhouse in Winterset on Saturday. Otherwise, it was a purely phone-free week.

So here are a few things I gleaned from my cellular sabbatical:

~It can be done! (Strike alarming chord!) And, actually, after a day or so of withdrawal, it was quite freeing and relaxing.

~Yes, I did have a bit of ‘technology withdrawal.’ For instance, I love my Soundhound app. It’s a wonderful little app that identifies the name and artist of songs playing on the radio. You just tap on it, it “listens” for a bit, and the title and musician pops up on your screen. There were a couple of times I reached for my phone and thought, “Whoops! Can’t do that! No phone.”

Google. Yeah, I really missed my Google. I Google a lot of things. A few weeks back I even sat in the parking lot of the grocery store and Googled this:


I Googled what kinds of toothpaste have screw top lids because I DESPISE flip top lids. I promise, there is no way to keep those from getting all gooped up. But, as I sat Googling toothpaste tops (because I didn’t think the store management would want me opening all the boxes to check for lids), I realized that I might have a bit of a Google-dependency.

That was the first realization that my phone wielded too much power in my life.

But Google is a great Bible study tool, and that’s where I missed it this week. I Google a lot of verses or Biblical definitions—very handy.

~But that brings me to the main realization of my week: we have become a lazy, non-thinking, non-planning society. O.k., “we” may be too broad a brush stroke. But I think it’s become too easy to let our smart phones do all of our thinking for us. I realized that, without my phone, my kids or hubby couldn’t call me and ask me to pick up milk or cheese or French onion dip (you know, staples of life). But before cell phones, we planned, we took stock of our needs, and then, if we forgot something, we got along without it.

What? Get along without something? Perhaps improvise? Perhaps plan better and communicate ahead of time? What crazy thoughts are these?


And what about math? (If you know me, you’re thinking, “Yes, Jen, what about math?”) I was without a calculator all week. No, I couldn’t even scrounge up a little, cheapy version in the junk drawer. Heaven forbid that I should figure tax out without an electronic device.  Add a short column of numbers on paper (carry the one. . .)? Figure out the percentage Seth got on a test? Yes, I actually had to use my brain and some basic math—which I surprisingly remembered—to get these answers. I know, I’m pathetic.

In my defense, let me just say, I rarely have to look up grammar, spelling, or vocabulary questions—just sayin.’

My point is, we have become so dependent on texts or MAYBE a quick phone call that we fail to plan ahead and communicate concisely. We’ve become so dependent on Google or Mapquest or Pinterest that we can’t (or simply don’t want to put forth the effort) to solve our own problems or come up with our own creative ideas. Most of us have become much too willing to relinquish our lives to the internet.

So here’s my plan going forward:

~Facebook will stay OFF my phone

~My phone will stay at home during ‘short errands.’

~My phone will stay in the office only to be checked in the morning and at noon. Late afternoons and evenings, I’m sure I’ll have it handy.

~I want to plan better, write more notes, and make more phone calls.

~Mostly, I want to stay aware of how much I use my phone and for what purposes and just try to keep my life a little simpler.

 “Stay low, stay quiet, keep it simple, don’t expect too much, enjoy what you have.”     ― Dean Koontz

Cellular Sabbatical

My cell phone met its demise Sunday morning.


Of course, it was my fault.

          –My hands were full of junk from the van.

          –I tucked it amongst all the stuff I was carrying, but. . .

          –I committed the cardinal sin: not having my phone in its protective case.

The infamous protective case: always put on your seatbelt, always wear a helmet, and ALWAYS have a case on your phone!

The infamous protective case: always put on your seatbelt, always wear a helmet, and ALWAYS have a case on your phone!

It slid silkily from my grasp and landed beautifully face-down on the cement. And, I’m sure some of you have been there, I gingerly picked it up and peeked at it as if, by some miracle, it could still be intact.

I thought this was hilarious! Yes, I tried turning my phone on and off, too.

I thought this was hilarious! Yes, I tried turning my phone on and off, too.

No. No, there would be no miraculous healing of this cell phone.

I actually found it slightly humorous when, as I tried to restart it, it gave some faint glimmers and twinkles and beeps. The little start light in the upper, left corner wavered on and off like some weak heartbeat. It almost reminded me of a sort of flattened and dying R2D2. And then, it just stopped. My little Samsung 3GS was no more.

I’m not trying to be melodramatic here, but it’s a strange feeling to step into the day without a cell phone. It was both very freeing and a bit unsettling. The thought of absolutely not being able to send and receive texts made me giddy and worried at the same time. It’s that joyous feeling of being free of all responsibility.

“Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t reply. My phone is smashed, so I didn’t get your text.”

~and fear ~

“Mom, why didn’t you call me? I sent you a text!”

So far, so good.

And then there’s the inability to check and respond to emails in an instant. I’m not really sure this has bothered me, but it’s just been a retraining.


See, here’s what I’ve been thinking these past few days without my cell phone. I, and we as an American people (lump yourself in there if the shoe fits), have become like so many trained lab rats.

Shocking, I know. That’s probably not what you expected me to say.

But that cell phone has become the proverbial bit of cheese. It chimes; we check it. It vibrates; we look. It lights up; we do the under-the-table-glance. We can’t NOT look.

Anytime we have a spare moment—and even when we don’t—we pick up our phones and do a quick check of–


–Really, is there anything there so urgent that it can’t wait? We’ve trained others in our lives to expect instant answers. And now we are on the hamster wheel and can’t get off.

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–Actually, I don’t think there is a “quick check” of Facebook, is there? There’s always some enticing headline: A Man on a Cruise Asked a Woman Why She was Traveling Alone, and Her Answer Will Astound You!” or “21 of the Worst Engagement Photographs!” Come on, click on it, you know you want to. . . . Or there’s the embarrassing picture of a friend that is just DYING for one of your witty comments. And then you just need to scroll through to see how much of other peoples’ lives you’ve been missing (while wasting 20 minutes of your own). For the record: I deleted Facebook from my phone a few weeks back simply because the above statements would be true of me. That is shamefully embarrassing to admit.


–Has anybody messaged me? Did I reply to all of my messages? Are there dates on any messages that I need to put on my electric calendar so that I can get an electric reminder of my busy life?


–Better check the calendar, too. Sync it with the school and church calendar, plug in all the sports, music, and dance. Wow! There are two whole days empty next month! Now that’s something to brag about.


–Now by this time, if you aren’t already overwhelmed with the busyness of your own life and the “wonderfulness” (via Facebook) of everyone else’s lives, sure, go ahead and check out Pinterest. Look at all the ooey-gooey treats other people are hoping to make. Stare in painful awe of the muscle-twerking workouts other people hope to implement. Sigh heavily at the decorating projects friends may, at that very moment, be accomplishing. And then, with virtual head held high, post noble Pins of your own that you found under the “Quote” topic. Ah, hopefully that will inspire someone. . . .

There you go! Something to think about all day long. . .

There you go! Something to think about all day long. . .

Now, of course, I say this knowing that I, above all, am most guilty. It’s been in the past month or so that I’ve had this sickening realization of how much time I spend on my phone.

~How often was I checking something on my phone while someone was talking to me?

~How often was I needing to attend to home duties but instead was checking my phone?

~How much time did I spend in the Word or prayer compared to time spent on my phone?

~How many letters or notes of encouragement have I written or actual PHONE CALLS have I made instead of a text or email?

And as I recognize this lack of phone-discipline (I think this should be a new term inducted into Webster’s dictionary), I recognize other areas of my life that could use some discipline. What’s the cause-effect here? Which one is the chicken and which one is the egg? Not sure it matters. What matters is that I make some changes.

Now back to my smashed phone.

I decided on Sunday—after the tragedy– that I would take a week long sabbatical from any cellular device. You say, “Well, that’s easy. Your phone is smashed.” But, if you know my husband at all, you know he was on the hunt for the best phone deal like a pack a hounds on a fox. So, at this moment, my new phone is on the kitchen counter waiting to be charged to life. (And then the agonizing, humiliating process of learning a new phone begins.) But, no, it’s going to stay silent until Sunday.


So, until then, you can reach me via Facebook or email. (Sorry, I just don’t think I can swear-off the computer this week, too). Or, send a note, stop by for coffee—the porch furniture is out—or call our home phone and chat. I promise, I won’t check my phone even once.

           ~Only time will tell if it was time well spent.~

Let it snow, let it snow. . . well, you know

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Yay! We had our first official snowfall this past week!

A prediction of minimal flurries.

Thank goodness we can’t count on our weather forecasters to be accurate because we had big, fluffy flurries! Flurries that came down with an eagerness to please my snow-lovin’ heart! Large, friendly flurries! Not those pesky, sorry excuses for a first snowfall. No, this was put-on-the-Christmas-music snow.

Granted, it didn’t stick around. But there for a while it was a full-fledged snowfall.

I’ve been given the unofficial title of Snow Whisperer. I wear it proudly. I’m glad that when my friends look out and see snow, they think, “Doggoneit! Jen is praying again!”

You see, I (and others in my family who will remain nameless for their own protection against snow-haters) pray fervently and specifically for snow. When I say specifically, I mean that we pray for snow to arrive within a certain time frame (Thanksgiving week to–oh, maybe mid-February). We also pray for a couple of raging, everyone-stay-home, window-rattling blizzards. The kind that swirls drifts into window-high piles and fills the ditches with frosting-like sculptures.

I’ll admit that I’m usually a traditionalist–Christmas music waits until after Thanksgiving, as do the decorations. But this year has been different somehow. Everybody seems to be in the Christmas spirit a little earlier (or maybe that’s just my perception). Is it the short, three-week crunch between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year? Are we all getting a running start so we can breath a little easier as Christmas approaches?

A couple of things have put the jingle bell in my step earlier this year. First, I’m giving a little decorating and craft demo at my house tomorrow night for a group of women. Nothing like an audience to kick in the creative juices! So I’ll be sharing some ‘junking’ ideas as well as some seasonal craft and decorating projects. I’m kind of a procrastinating/give-me-a-deadline kind of person. So, of course, I pulled out all the crafty stops this week and did a little junk shopping in preparation for tomorrow night.

So for those of you in the junking/crafty vein, I’ve included a few pictures of what I’ve been up to.


O.k., let me explain, as I realize this doesn’t look like anything very interesting. This is a huge, metal tray my mom was going to sell at her garage sale this summer for 50 cents. Whoa, Nellie! I nab that off the table in a heartbeat! I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, but it just had “PROJECT” written all over it. And here it is–in process. I used Frog Tape to tape off the inner flat surface. (Make sure you always burnish your tape to get a good seal. There’s nothing more disappointing than peeling that tape off and finding the paint leaked underneath.) Then I applied three coats of chalkboard paint. I LOVE that stuff! I just think it’s so cool to paint stuff and be able to write on it. I know, I’m easily amazed. Once the paint dried, I used an Exact-o knife to cut around the inner edge where paint and tape meet. I don’t want any of the paint peeling off when I remove the tape. My final plan, then, is to drill two holes in the outer edge, thread it with some wide, satin red ribbon, and hang it in my mudroom with a cheery Christmas greeting. Sorry I haven’t gotten that far yet, but I’ll post some Christmas decoration pics.


This is my second vintage collage I’ve tried, and I think I’m getting the hang of it. Starting with a blank canvas, I use old magazines (I’m talking 1930’s) and vintage-look scrapbooking paper to cover the canvas. You just tear and modge-podge the paper onto the canvas. I try to find interesting old ads, line drawings, or clever pieces of headlines. Once the canvas is covered, brush a nice coat of Modge Podge over the whole thing and let it dry. After it’s completely dry, arrange your sticker letters–again, I try to place mine so specific pictures or words will be showing. Now you paint over the whole thing again with a thin coat of paint. Your newsprint should show through. Allow to dry. Your next coat is Glitter Paint. (I love glitter, and I love paint!) There are a gazillion colors of this at Michaels. Obviously, your glitter paint is going to match your base paint. I used red paint and red glitter paint. I suppose I could have also used silver, white, or gold glitter paint. You may want a couple coats of glitter paint depending on how sparkly you want it. (For those of you who are not fond of glitter, the glitter doesn’t come off the picture. So you won’t find this all over your house.) Once your glitter coats have dried–drum roll, please–peel off the stickers! How fun is that? And finally, I put one more coat of Modge Podge (or spray a clear coat) over it to give it a nice shine. I’ll finish mine off with a velvet ribbon hanger and find a fun spot for it soon.

For those of you who aren’t interested in the vintage collage but are drooling over the ornaments, those are a few of my junking finds from this past weekend. They’ll join all the rest of my shimmering, old ornaments on our Christmas tree or on one of my many mini-trees. I also bought a handsome-looking mirror that is bound for an elegant dressing of greenery, white ribbon, pine cones, and small, silver ornaments come December. Yes, I’ll post pictures.

And for my listening pleasure while I’ve been crafting, my two newest and favorite Christmas cd’s this year.

IMG_5899I’m kind of a Christmas music junkie. I’ve got so many cd’s I’m not sure I listen to all of them every year. Of course, I get stuck on my favorites and just play them over and over.

So what are the rest of you vintage-loving, junk repurposing, crafty people up to for Christmas this year? I’d love to see or hear about your ideas. Let me in on your favorite Christmas music, too.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering what my other bring-on-Christmas, jinglebells-on-my-shoes motivation is–kiddos coming home! My far-flung first born will be home on Dec. 23 (one of my “Lord, please don’t let it snow” days prayers) and nose-to-the-grindstone son #2 will be home a week before that. And then, for those precious days, I’ll pray for hillsides of snow to sled on, moments by the fire just for talking, and the good sense to just sit back, smile, and enjoy it all.

Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood. ~Andy Goldsworthy

Things I love. . .


A while back I posted “10 Daily Things I Hate.” Well, I’ve been thinking I really need to balance that out with my “10 Daily Things I Love” list.  I mean, I really don’t want you thinking I’m an ogre poking around all day for the things I hate. Generally, I like almost all parts of my day. So, with no further adieu. . .

10 DAILY THINGS I LOVE (in no particular order of importance)

1. Everyone coming home. When my kids were little, I used to call it the “witching hour”–you know that time when you’re trying to get supper, everyone is a little cranky because they’re hungry, and dad’s not in the door yet. Now, we can all still get a little cranky, but I’ve come to appreciate the time when everyone (who should be home) is through the door and safe at home. Bags, shoes, coats, keys, books, phones, and water bottles all land in some vicinity of the back door and trickle on into the kitchen. But that means we’re all home–happy, cranky, weary, or overwhelmed–we’re all home.

2. The first cup of coffee in the morning. If you’re not a coffee drinker, you just can’t know how lovely that warm mug is with just a dribble of cream. The creamy dark coffee smell wafting up. It’s wake-up in a cup–ahhhh. Brain is engaged, and I can now function on a minimal level.

3. My chair and the Word. I have a leather chair and ottoman (it’s not really “mine.” I let other people sit in it, too.) that I settle into with that first life-giving cup of coffee every morning. And always, beside that chair, is my Bible and journal. I might be reading through a certain book or working on a Bible study. Some mornings I fight the urge to put my head back and close my eyes. Some mornings I lose that fight. But other mornings I read a familiar passage that God speaks to me in a fresh way. He buoys my heart or convicts my spirit. He reminds me of my joys and prompts me to pray for the struggles of others. He reveals His character and affirms His promises. I’m thankful for that old chair and the great God who meets with me every day there.

4. Cats. Yep, my inside cat Marmalade and my outside kittens–Marty, Theo, and Libby. Cats are my de-stressors. I can’t NOT stop and pet a cat, scratch under its chin, pick it up and talk to it. They always listen with sympathetic looks (granted, they may just be begging for food, but I think they understand me.). And they’re great comic relief.

5. Laughing. I don’t know, maybe we’re just a weird, quirky family, but we laugh at the strangest things. All my kids have a great sense of humor, so there’s usually some off-hand comment or funny face that gets us started. Tess and I got the giggles during a college visit last week and almost had to leave the room. Hmmm, some people just never grow up. Lucky me!

6. Reading. I blame this on my mother. She trained us from an early age never to go anywhere without reading material. Granted, that was the glorious age before smart phones, internet, and Facebook. So you didn’t want to get stuck in a dentist office with only old Newsweeks to read. I usually have two books (and at least one magazine) handy for reading on-the-go. But I adore finally crawling into bed at night–no matter what time it is–and reading for ten minutes. It pushes all the other busyness out of my brain. I wander off into some other time and place and pretty soon. . . zzzzzz

7. Speaking of crawling into bed–I love getting into a made bed. If, for some reason, the bed didn’t get made in the morning, I will make it. I fluff up the big, square feather pillows, then put on the sleeping pillows. Ahhh, then I can fold back the covers, grab my book, crawl in, and just stretch out under nice, smooth sheets. It’s a good thing.

8. Outside. I just love outside. I think the world would be a better, happier place if everyone had to go outside for at least 15 minutes every day. Recess! We should have required adult recess! Maybe things would go more smoothly on Capitol Hill if everyone had to go outside and get their  hooley-ghoulies out for 15 minutes. Nancy Pelosi jumping rope, and John McCain getting in on a wicked game of dodge ball might just be the answers to our problems. But at the very least, I enjoy my daily jaunt out to the chicken coop and down to get the mail. My 15 minutes often meanders into a much longer recess.

9. Silence. Information, music, entertainment is often overrated. So, in one of my many commutes between home and Alleman or Polk City, I often drive in silence. Glorious noiselessness. Watching a massive red combine lumbering across acres of corn munching it down like some mechanical dinosaur is entertainment enough for me. Or sometimes it’s watching rifts of snow slither across the road like a chainmail snake. And it’s just quiet except for the hum of the combine or the rattle of the wind. . . silence.

10. Talking with my husband. Life is crazy sometimes. Well, often. But on most days my hubby makes a quick call just to “check in.” When I had four kids I was schooling at home, I think he was testing the waters–wondering what the “temperature” would be like by the time he walked through the door at 6:00. Exactly how crazy and stressed-out would I be by supper time? Life has mellowed a little bit, but he still calls to see how the day is going, should he stop at the store on the way home, or do we have anything going on tonight? And, hopefully by the day’s end, we squeeze in a little more conversation than that. But even at that, it’s nice to have that thoughtful pause in the middle of the day.

Thus, my by-far-not-exhaustive 10 Daily Things I Love list.

It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.  ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

Things I hate. . .

Tessa started an interesting conversation the other day.

She was making her lunch. Yes, that’s right. She was making her own lunch. No, I’m not super-mom; I don’t even attempt to be. My kids make their own lunches. That way if they don’t like it, they can complain to themselves.

Anyway. . .

She was slicing cheese for her sandwich (because I don’t buy presliced, prepackaged anything) and complaining about having to slice the cheese. . .

“I hate slicing cheese. In fact, this is one of the things on my list of ‘daily things I hate to do.'”

Daily things I hate to do? Really!

Oh. My. Word. I grabbed that like a wide receiver, tucked it my mental elbow, and ran for the endzone! I had a list of “10 daily things I hate to do” before she had the lid back on the mayo jar. So, here’s my list of “10 daily things I hate to do.” It is by no means exhaustive nor is it in any particular order.

1. Making myself go exercise. I can be dressed and have one shoe on and talk myself out of it. I mean really–just do it! Nike was right. And once I get out there or to the gym, I really don’t mind it. But I HATE talking myself into it everyday.

2. The gunk left in the sink trap. You know, the soggy Grape Nuts that somebody left there when he poured out the milk. The chunk of hamburger and bit of noodle from last night’s supper. How about melted cheese after someone ran hot water in the sink. It’s just lovely to pick that out of the slimey sink trap. Yeah, I’m probably revealing too much about my housekeeping skills.

3. Getting ready. Guys, ignore this because showering and checking your teeth in the mirror does not count as ‘getting ready.’ Shower, moisturize, brush, mousse, blow-dry, curl, foundation, liner, mascara, blush–THAT’S getting ready. And I didn’t even include the foray into the closet!

4. Thinking about supper. I have so many more things I’d rather think about. Please, someone just tell me what to fix and I’ll fix it. I don’t really mind the cooking; I hate the planning.

5. Making my bed. I guess just because it’s soooo daily. It’s not hard. And the only reason I make my bed every day is because I loathe getting into an unmade bed. I’m weird that way. I guess that would go onto my ’10 daily things I love’–getting into a made bed. But that might be another blog. . .

6. Cat hair. Cat-haters, don’t even go there with me. I love my big, fat, Garfield-impersonating orange cat. But I have never, in all my cat-owning years, had a cat with fur this dense, not long, dense. So, yes, tumbleweeds of orange fur often migrate across my wood floors. And I, with my handy-dandy Dust Buster, chase them around every day and suck them up. Thus, I maintain the appearance of a somewhat clean house.

7. Piles. Piles of clothes. Clean clothes. Dirty clothes. Piles of shoes right inside the door of our LARGE mudroom. Piles of paperwork. Piles of school work. Piles of paperwork for the school! Piles of tomatoes, apples, green beans, or corn–tis the season! Piles of clothes for the consignment store. Piles of stuff for Goodwill. Piles of recycling. You get the idea. . .

8. The Promotions Tab in my gmail account. Do you know what I’m talking about? They divided my email into three catagories: stuff I care about (Primary), stuff I don’t care about (Social–like who wants me to join Linkdin), and stuff that I still want to look at but is mostly a waste of my time (Promotional–Groupons, Younkers coupons, etc.) But because I’m kind of anal about keeping my email cleaned up, I sort of go over the top if I see 22 items in my PROMOTIONS tab. So I click through them and keep 1, maybe.

9. Chicken poop. I have seven chickens. Used to be eight–but that’s another story. Anyway, I try to gather eggs every day. In order to do that you have to go into the coop, thus walking on chicken poop. Usually I remember to put on my old gardening shoes, but even at that, you have chicken poop stuck on your shoes. And, as often happens to gardening people like myself, I get distracted going from the coop to the house–pull a few weeds, deadhead some flowers, whack some Japanese beetles off my roses. And, well, there I am, traipsing into my kitchen with chicken poop on my shoes. Doggoneit. Wipe up the floor. . .

10. Flossing. I only floss because I’ve had two root canals. Need I say more?

So there you have it–10 daily things I hate to do! Yeah, I know, First World Problems. . .

Stranger than Fiction

I got a little kick in the butt, per se.

A little proverbial biff on the back of the head.

Someone who reads my blog fairly faithfully (how was I suppose to know?) said he was a little disappointed in it. I laughed and asked if it was the quality or the quantity? It could be either, I know. He laughed, too, and said, “Quantity” and wondered when I was going to get another blog out there.

I’ve been wondering that myself, lately. Inspiration flits in and out before I have a chance to net it and filter it through my fingers. But this past week, we had an interesting occurrence at our house.

I guess you’d call it interesting.

Bizarre, perhaps. With moments verging on comical. Maybe even a little sad, in a way.

On a warm day this past week, my boys had just gotten home from swimming. Hearing the door, I looked out the upstairs window. I noticed there was a car–not our’s–in the drive and an elderly person was just sitting there behind the wheel. I went down and asked Ethan to go out and see what this gentleman needed. We sometimes get people looking for a ‘farmer friend.’ I just peered out the window. (I really like having tall, strong men to tend to things like this.)

As the old man got out, his car alarm went off, and it took Ethan a moment to stop the noise. But soon I saw the two of them headed toward the back of the house, and I stepped out the door to see what the man was needing. Here’s the beginning of the conversation–

Old man:We can’t talk out there [by his car]. The CIA has it all bugged and full of cameras. They’ve been after me for 28 years.

Boing! Red flag! Whoa, Sally! I follow Old Man (O.M.) and Ethan to the back of the house.

O.M.: Now, if you’ll just listen to my story. I have a new theory of evolution. The core of the earth is cooling and it’s pulling away from the earth. . .

My detective instincts kick in. . .as does my Anne of Green Gables imagination. I closely observe his appearance: a day or two of stubble, light blue shirt with bolero string tie, two pens and reading glasses in his shirt pocket, shirt tucked in, belt, black polyester pants and black shoes. Tidy but well-worn clothing. No wedding ring. Eighty? Surely he’s an Alzheimers patient and someone is looking for him. I tune back in. . .

O.M.:. . .so I bought a house in California. And my neighbors accused me of being an atheist, a pedophile, a shoplifter. .

Me: Sir, do you have any family around here? Is there someone you’re looking for?

O.M.: No! No, I just need you to listen to my story. So, let’s see, where was I. So I was going to take some stuff over to my neighbor, and she called out here bathroom window to just come on in. See, they were trying to trick me. . .

Me (to Ethan): Uh, I need to go in the house a minute. You stay and listen to the story. (Ethan looks at me and smiles and nods at O.M.)

Thank goodness for Google! I find the Polk City police department number and give them a call. . .

Me: Uh, this isn’t an emergency. But this old guy just showed up at our house, and he’s talking really crazy. He thinks the CIA is after him, and he wants to tell us all about it.

Thad, another of my tall, strong men, takes the phone outside, and sneaking around the car, gives the officer the numbers on the license plate–from Pennsylvania! The plot thickens! The kind officer then tells me to try to keep the man at our house but don’t force him to stay. Yeah, right. From what I’ve heard of the story, he’s going to be here a while. I meander back outside and give Ethan a knowing look. He’s still nodding and smiling.

O.M.: . . .so I’ve been breeding fruit flies to prove my new theory of evolution.

Me: Sir, uh, how long do you think this story will take?

O.M.: Not long! Just maybe 10 minutes! Let me finish! Now, I had just come out of the men’s room when a young girl, probably 9 or 10, came up and said that the ladies room was locked. So I told her to go ahead and use the men’s and I would stand guard. But, see, they were trying to test me. They thought I was a pedophile. Then I asked a woman to go dancing with me. And, well, we got there and there was a hot tub! Well, that looked pretty good! So we just went skinny dipping. . .

Oh wow! Don’t really want to know where this story is going! Please, Lord, let that police officer show up soon! How long can it take to get out here from Polk City?

O.M.: So we just drank some screwdrivers. . .

Hurray! My Polk City man in blue comes striding to my rescue! I smile thankfully as O.M. takes a step back, his face becoming a bit flushed. . .

O.M.: (angry and raising his voice) You! Why are you here? I’m not talking to you! You’re with the CIA. I’m not telling you anything because you already know it!

Officer: No, sir. No, I don’t even know you. Can I see your license please?

O.M. actually gives the officer his license but continues to rant and accuse the officer of CIA spying. The officer calmly tries to defuse the situation but whispers into his nifty collar-level walkie-talkie-thingy, “Step it up.” Wow! This is becoming ‘a situation.’ He just called for back-up! The officer tries to convince the O.M. to come around to the front of the house, but O.M. insists that the CIA will hear everything, and he absolutely won’t come out. Back up arrives–Polk County Sheriff–and it happens to be a young man I know, small world! Now both of them are getting ‘the story.’ Yes, all of it, again, from the very beginning. I see surpressed smiles and knowing looks between the officers. Ethan and I slip away, but I wait within ear-shot. I want to hear how they convince this man that they’re not CIA informants.

Flash forward an hour: I now have three police vehicles blocking my driveway–Polk City Police, Polk County Sheriff, and Polk County Ranger. Quickly, my Anne of Green Gables thoughts go something like this: I sure hope no one drives by. . . Good grief! What’s going on at the Subras? Looks like it’s a drug bust or something–ranger’s there. . .hmmm, and they seemed like such a nice family. I would have never thought. . .

They have convinced O.M. to come back to his car. They’ve searched his car. They now know that he came by bus from Virginia and rented this car in Des Moines. He’s 88. I’ve come inside but continue to peer out and hear snatches of the continuing ‘story.’ He even produces documents about his testing with fruit flies.

I begin to wonder about this poor fellow. His ramblings sounded, to me, like snatches of memory from a lively and, well, interesting life. At times he sounded quite intelligent if not coherent. Was this the mind of a once highly educated man just simply worn out and lost in a maze of vibrant memories and meticulous details? Or was this a man who has always been bent on crazy? He said he was a WW II veteran. Had something happened there? He shared no memories of that. Was someone, anyone, looking for him or was he completely alone in the world?

Police: Sir, so do you have any family we can contact?

O.M.: No! I told you! I CAN’T have any family! The CIA won’t let me!

No answers. Any questions they posed to him, he always had some bizarre response. I peek out again. He’s been here an hour and a half. The ranger left and a man dressed in casual work clothes (I call him The Mediator) shows up. Also, a big, black labrador with a green collar circles and weaves in and out of the group of men. My thought: Must be the sheriff’s dog. He probably decided he needed to let the poor thing out of the car. I’m really surprised he doesn’t keep him on a lease. Yeah, now he’s up on the porch slobbering on my furniture.

I step out, shoo the very friendly dog off the porch, and coax him toward the men. I catch the sheriff’s eye and ask, “Is this your dog?” “No, we thought he was your’s.”

Great! I have a stray man and a stray dog at my house all in one day! The sheriff collars the dog, checks the tag, and finds a name and phone number. Perfect! He calls the owner to come retreive the dog. I laugh to myself, “That guy’s gonna totally freak out when he pulls up and sees three law enforcement vehicles!”

I suddenly realize I better call Tess before she turns onto our road and sees all the police cars in the drive. She is her mother’s daughter (Anne’s imagination), and she’ll run hysterically down the drive sobbing. Fortunately, we were able to avoid that scene, and she sneaks in the back way. As I filled her in on the strange-but-true details, we heard. . .

Mediator: (voice raised) We don’t want to hear anymore of your story! It’s interesting, and I’m sure someone would like to hear it. But you’re tresspassing and you need to get off this property!

O.M.: (very angry) Well, if they didn’t want to hear my story, they should have just told me to leave. . .

Really?! That’s all? Two hours and fifteen minutes later. Four law enforcement personnel. All I needed to do was ask him to leave? I was sure the police would find some report for a missing grandpa or a patient from a veterans hospital. He needed help, and God sent him across my path to help him, right?

No. Not at all. The officers did as much checking as they could. No missing person reports. He wasn’t violent. No weapons. No drugs. He rented the car, and he had money to get by on. They couldn’t hold him for anything. If he came back, I was to call 911, and they would arrest him for trespassing.

So what am I suppose to do with this blip on the radar screen of my simple life? There are no accidents. There are no coincidences. This is a two and a half-hour snapshot of a sad, perhaps lost, definitely crazy from this side of his world, old, man. Did God bring him down my driveway because this was the safest place for him to be at that point in time? I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll ever know. I guess it makes for an interesting blog post. . .maybe.

They all backed out the drive, and the officers followed the O.M. down the road. And the dog? Yeah, I don’t get the part about the dog either. . .

“We’re not in Iowa anymore, Toto. . .”

Ohhh–kayyy. . . what’s going on.

It’s July 30th.

I’m sitting here with the window open drinking hot chocolate! I might have to put the heavy comforter back on the bed tonight.

Isn’t it suppose to be sweltering? Shouldn’t my legs be sticking to this leather chair?

The dew point should be higher than the temperature. (o.k., I know nothing about weather, so I don’t even know if that is possible.) Moisture droplets should be condensing on us as we leave Walmart.

We’re all suppose to be sitting at the pool or the ballpark asking, “Hot enough for ya?” as our sunscreen melts and drips from our elbows. Children should be doing the hot-parking-lot boogie as they race barefoot to the car.

We should have gone through at least two 100-count boxes of those nasty neon-colored popsicles by now. None. Nada.

We are knocking on the door of August, for pete’s sake! Dog days and all of that!

O.k., I know you all think I’m a bit loopy for praying for snow this winter, but what’s my beef with the gorgeous fall-like weather? Why would I complain about 78 degrees and cloudy? Well, it’s like this. I’ve got things I need to get done in August. House cleaning that’s waaaaay past due. School planning and book ordering nipping at my heels. Speech contest ideas richocheting around my brain. A couple of books that are just chapters from being finished. Some painting projects that really shouldn’t be procrastinated any longer. Scrapbooks that must be started before my girl’s senior year begins, or I’ll be huffing and puffing to catch up. And, well, it’s just too stinkin’ nice to be inside doing all of this stuff!

I need that blistering heat to wilt my garden and my enthusiasm. I must say that the japanese beetles are doing a pretty good job of decimating parts of my garden. But, really, it’s looking quite lush for verging on August.
2013-07-30 09.41.53
The zinnias are celebrating like it’s a circus.

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Sunflowers loom well over my head.

2013-07-30 09.40.04 2013-07-30 09.43.33

Black-eyed susans stare up at me.

My tomatoes are just beginning to blush pink but are amazingly free of pests.

Thick, ferny carrot tops create hopes of a harvest waiting below ground.

2013-07-30 09.41.08                                           And, my favorite, nasturtiums, bend like ballerinas with the morning dew on them.

This is Iowa stomping into August? I don’t think so!

Where’s the hard-packed dirt? The mangle of weeds taunting me to go back inside and forget about my garden?

Where’s the prickly lawn where the only green patches are crab grass and clover?

I need that affirmation that says, “Alas, there is no more hope. The heat has you beat. Go back inside where it’s cool and you can accomplish something worthwhile!”

But, blast it all, it’s green, it’s cool, the weeds (of which there are many) come out with minor coaxing. I have no excuse. . .

So, I will ignore the dusty floors and set aside the paint chips for a more muggy, miserable day that is surely to come. Green beans are calling me, and I have yet to gather a vase of zinnias.

Come on, Toto, let’s go outside. . .

“Ah summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.”
–  Russel Baker


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