Friday, August 29, 2008

A milestone for Cliff's sister

Rena, Cliff's sister, has had her share of trying times this year. She's been through a divorce that wasn't in her plans; she moved from Wisconsin to Missouri; and she went to school to study for her GED. Oh, and she got a job immediately after moving. She's been a busy gal.

She took the GED test almost three weeks ago, and has been on pins and needles, hoping she passed, yet afraid she hadn't.

Today we got the good news: She passed! At the age of almost fifty-nine, she's officially equal to a high school graduate. Her brother, my husband Cliff, was forty-eight when he reached that milestone.

Of course, a celebration was required; so we went to the Mexican restaurant at Lexington . (Cliff has that silly expression because I caught him in mid-chew.)

Rena's next plans? She hopes to get a better job, now that she has her certificate. And she has signed up for a beginner's motorcycle class because...

She wants to buy a motorcycle!

You just can't keep some folks down.

A delightful storm

This year, Mother Nature has been quite generous with precipitation... up until August. This month, the whole world simply dried up. I've been watering my baby Norway Spruce trees, as well as the lilac bush and the burning bush I recently bought. No worries about grass; we haven't planted any back here yet. Oh, there's the clover/orchard grass mix that was here when this was a pasture, but with all the traffic that's involved with building and moving, that's pretty well shot.

Yesterday all day long, the weather-guessers excitedly blathered on about possible heavy storms. When we're going through a dry spell, I tend to block all that out, because I just don't believe the forecasts.

Along toward evening, though, distant thunder grew closer and raindrops started falling. My dog, scared of storms, cowered behind my chair, and I settled in to enjoy the storm. Then the electricity went out. Now let's face it, there isn't much you can do in such a case to keep yourself busy. At my house, you can't even flush the bathroom stool more than once, because we're on a well, and an electric pump brings water to the house.

I remembered my Blackout Buddy, which supplies me with light and a radio in such emergencies. Trouble is, I never listen to the radio, and couldn't find a station I liked. I remembered Cliff talking about a show he listens to at work on his MP3 player: Delilah. But I didn't know what station to look for; so I called him on the cell phone, at work, to see where it's found on the dial. Turns out it was KUDL, a soft-rock station.

I don't know when I've enjoyed a storm so much. Just me and my frightened dog in the safe cocoon of home which has, of late, become my favorite place to be.

The power was out for an unusually long time, and I went to bed sometime after nine, still with no lights.

We got three quarters of an inch of much-needed rain.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Rebates, and why I dislike them

When we were ready to move to our mobile home in July, I needed to buy an electric dryer and a portable dishwasher. My sister-in-law, who was moving into our old house, wanted a new electric stove and a portable dishwasher.

We headed to Sears and found a wonderful sale: Purchase one appliance, get a 10 percent rebate; purchase two appliances, receive 20 percent; purchase three or more, the rebate increases to 30 percent. Of course, this all had to be charged on a Sears card.

Between us, we were purchasing four appliances. I agreed to put all those on my Sears charge so we could get 30 percent back. My share would be $189.00 and Rena's would be $309. She paid me cash for her purchases that very day, so there were no problems there.

I read the instructions on the rebate form and sent the receipts in. About a month later, I received a rebate check of $59.99... which was ten percent of the price of my dryer. That's it.

I called the rebate center (obviously stationed in India) and was informed I had only circled one item on the two receipts. I was supposed to circle all items that went toward the rebate.

I won't bore you with the rest of the details, but it involved two faxed letters that had to be written just so, and another month of waiting.

Today I got the remainder of our rebate, so alls well that ends well. But I think I'll avoid rebates from now on.

Friday, August 22, 2008

I've just been through a divorce

No, not MY divorce. My husband's sister had to travel 700 miles to Antigo, Wisconsin, to finalize the divorce from her husband. She didn't want to make that trip alone, so I volunteered to go with her. I don't drive, so I was no help at all with that. But at least I helped keep her awake on that grueling road trip.

I will say that northern Iowa and Wisconsin are quite lovely. I can also tell you that I hope never to see the place again; it will forever hold unhappy memories for me. I saw my sister-in-law unsuccessfully fight tears in court, at the end of a twenty-eight-year-long marriage.

That's the water tower in the town where the divorce took place.

That's Rena, bravely heading into court. When I look at this picture, it makes me glad I went along; she looks so alone.

Rena spent a lot of time behind this door.

I loved this picture. The words say, "When tongue and pen alike are free, Safe from all foes dwells liberty."

And this is the courtroom. I didn't dare try taking a picture when the actual proceedings were going on, but you can see Rena and her ex-husband's lawyer getting ready for the event.

It didn't take long, really. Not much longer than many marriage ceremonies.

I have to say I feel more emotion now, reliving the whole thing, than I did watching it.

I hate divorce.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Nice day for a morning ride.

I've not ridden my horse as often, this summer, as I normally do. Sometimes Blue will stand at the spot in the pasture that's nearest to the house and look at me, and it makes me wonder if he thinks I don't love him any more.

Once temperatures get in the eighties, it's uncomfortably warm. After all, most of the places I ride are in full sun.

So morning is the time to ride. However, I have such an established morning routine, it gives me no time to ride before the sun is beating down with a vengeance.

Yesterday I told Cliff I was going to skip our morning walk and use that time to ride. I need the walk, and I miss it; but I'm tired of putting my horse at the bottom of my list of priorities. I was in need of seclusion, so I headed toward the Missouri River bottoms, my favorite haunt.

Cliff and I have been noticing lots of egrets lately, running with herds of cattle and horses. I spotted one on my way to the river road, but didn't think to take a picture, so I googled one from the Internet. I did remember, once I was home, to look up some information, and found out these are Cattle Egrets, and are relatively newcomers to this country. Recently we've see flocks consisting of dozens of the herons, interspersed among the cows; after reading about them on several websites, I now assume they were migrating toward some warmer climate.

That railroad worker was beside the track where Blue and I cross, spraying weeds. Upon seeing him ahead, I wondered how Blue would take to passing beside such an unusual sight and sound, but he wasn't bothered by it at all. Once across, I turned back and took this picture.

Every time I ride by this dead tree near the river, it catches my eye. It's just so white, in contrast to the grapevine-laden, living trees around it.

I seldom ride more than ninety minutes these days; my aging bones nag me if I'm on the horse too long. But even in that short length of time, I can feel myself rejuvenated; I'm thankful to have a good-natured horse to ride, and so many secluded places to ride.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

the alphabet meme

I'll soon be traveling to Wisconsin with my sister-in-law; she's going to (finally) get her divorce, and didn't want to go alone. Oh, and there's a hot tub in my near future. So I should have plenty to blog about before long. But right now, things are going along in the same vein as they have been for most of the summer. We're making progress on our place: sometime next week our back porch and deck should be finished. And I'm still watching hummingbirds.

So, I saw this meme over at Average Jane's place and decided to tag myself.

A. Attached or single? Married
B. Best friend? My husband
C. Cake or pie? fruit pie, warm with ice cream. Or my sister's home-made lemon pie.

D. Day of choice? any day I wake up and find myself alive and able to function
E. Essential item? a computer
F. Favorite color? a certain shade of blue (like the sky at it's bluest)
G. Gummy bears or worms? Eww, I'll pass on both.
H. Hometown? My parents moved a lot, and I lived in Iowa for the first years of my life. But I claim Eagleville, Missouri, and Kansas City as my home towns.
I. Indulgence? The hot tub that should show up here this week
J. January or July? July
K. Kids? two
L. Life isn’t complete without? my husband, a dog, a horse
M. Marriage date? June 16, 1966
N. Number of brothers & sisters? One brother, now deceased; one sister
O. Oranges or apples? apples
P. Phobias? I've never had a drivers license because I'm afraid to drive
Q. Quotes? "It's gonna be a good day, Tater."
R. Reasons to smile? waking up in the morning. If I started to list all my reasons to smile, they'd take up this whole entry and then some. I am blessed.
S. Season of choice? spring
T. Tag seven peeps! Nope; do it if you like.
U. Unknown fact about me? I've been blogging for five years; how could there be any unknown fact about me?
V. Vegetable? potatoes
W. Worst habits? procrastination
X. X-ray or ultrasound? X-ray
Y. Your favorite food? pizza, Kentucky Fried Chicken (if all the KFC's around here weren't so dirty).
Z. Zodiac sign? Cancer

Thursday, August 14, 2008

My friends, the hummingbirds

I've never really paid attention to hummingbirds until we moved out here in the peaceful, quiet pasture. Now that I can't see my neighbors so well, I needed something to watch. I bought a ten-dollar hummingbird feeder and found that if you hang it, they will come.

The feeder in these pictures is not a ten-dollar feeder. It's a tiny plastic one that cost 75 cents at Walmart. But for some reason, the birds seem to prefer it. So it keeps me busy filling it, because it holds less than 1/2 cup.

I didn't use zoom on these shots, and I didn't crop to make the hummingbird look closer than he was. I really was that close. They've gotten used to me, and if I'm very still, they don't mind my watching them. I was about five feet from this little guy, snapping away.

Oh, he'd see me and dart away, but then he'd return.

And finally I was able to get a picture of him with his beak in the sugar-water.

Now that I have quite a crowd of the little suckers, I'm learning that they aren't all that nice to one another. They fight over the feeders more than they drink from them! Hopefully one day I'll have the patience to stand there and get pictures of them fighting.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I love living in the country

Yes, I complain sometimes about druggie neighbors and lazy neighbors and loud neighbors, but I love where we live. And those neighbors? They give me something about which to feel holier-than-thou and superior. As Kris Kristofferson once wrote, "Everybody's gotta have somebody to look down on."

At 4 PM yesterday, Sadie and I went back to my cabin in the woods to spend the night.

Cliff's been mowing various areas of the pasture lately; when I saw these flowers grouped at the edge of a cavern during a walk, I said, "Did you leave those growing because they're so pretty?"

"No," he answered. "I left them because I didn't want to kill myself on the tractor."

Oh. There for a minute I thought I was getting a glimpse of Cliff's romantic nature.

The yard of my cabin, such as it is, is pretty weedy this year. That's OK, I have a lawn mower at the cabin.

Here it is. Hey, it isn't a big yard!

This is the path in front of the cabin that leads down into one of our deep, deep hollers. It's usually more worn than this; most years I ride Blue down the path quite a bit. Cliff's been so busy with our move that he hasn't had time to mow the stinging nettle that is so prevalent in the woods, and I don't like to make my horse suffer from itch-weed.

I do believe a seedling oak of some sort managed to grow in my unused path! I'm going to wait for a rain, then dig it up and bring it back here. It'll be neat to have something in my new yard that came from "back at the cabin".

I'm pretty sure that delicate viney plant on the right is poison ivy. Possibly due to my dark complexion, poison ivy has never affected me. As a teenager at camp, I used to pick it and rub it on myself to show off to the other kids. Then I read somewhere that you can go for years being able to touch the stuff, and suddenly one day it can get you. So I no longer handle it deliberately. Besides, Cliff is terribly allergic to it, and I'd hate to bring it home to him on my skin.

Sadie and I enjoyed hot dogs and marshmallows. While it was daylight, I read a book and Sadie explored the woods. We were in bed on my inflated air mattress by 9 o'clock, and slept through until 5 A.M. The moon was almost as bright as the sun when we had turned in, but this morning a thick fog made it difficult to get back to the house without running into electric fence. Thank goodness I had a flashlight.

I often wonder what my readers think about a woman of my age playing house in the woods with only a dog for company. Most ladies I've talked to say they'd be scared to death back there.

I guess I'm just weird.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Scenes from Sunday's ride

Never have I seen more perfect weather for a motorcycle ride.

The clouds were breath-taking.

Missouri's rolling countryside was as verdant as though it were June, rather than August.

We took the long way home, and twice our blacktop turned to gravel. We turned around both times; a Honda Gold Wing doesn't do well on gravel.

Heading toward home, I began to wonder if we were going to get wet, but soon the sky became clear again.

Near Jamesport, home of an Amish settlement, we met this buggy filled with teenagers out for a Sunday afternoon ride. The driver of the rig, seeing I was taking his picture, put an imaginary camera to his face and clicked. Hey, I don't mind having my picture taken, even with an imaginary camera.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pictures from our motorcycle ride

Cliff and I took advantage of our perfect weather to go for a long ride on our Gold Wing. In Missouri, any trip that doesn't involve an Interstate highway is scenic, and I fully enjoyed this very familiar route up 13 highway to Bethany, where one of my family reunions was being held.

This mural celebrates the fact that J.C. Penny was born in Hamilton, Missouri.

This is the grand old courthouse in Gallatin. Jesse James once robbed the Gallatin Bank.

This is the tiny, almost-dead town of Coffee, Missouri. Cliff and I lived two miles from here with our children during the winter of 1974-75. It didn't take us long to move back to familiar territory.

Bethany was our destination, and we arrived less than two hours after leaving home.

That nursing home was my mom's last residence before she passed away.

More later.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sadie: a high-energy dog

My dog, Sadie, has far too much energy to have ended up in the home of a couple of people in their sixties. Unfortunately, I'm deeply attached to her, so I make do.

I've never been able to turn her loose, because she's been off like a shot running around the neighborhood, once she's free. That would be OK in this country area, except my last dog died running across 224 highway. I don't think I could stand losing another dog that way.

So Sadie has been turned loose each day for our walk in the pasture, then confined either to the house, or on a tie-out in the yard.

Since we've moved back further from the road, though, I've been giving her a little more freedom: For instance, when I put her out to potty, I no longer hook the leash to her collar. I stand on the front porch and watch her, and she comes right back when she's done. When I take her to the tie-out, I've stopped hanging onto her collar for dear life because she's stopped her desperate runs for freedom.

Yesterday, each time I went outside I took her along, sans leash. She did great.

This morning she had a relapse. The minute I went outside with her, I could see she was in her "escape" mode. I no sooner got the words "Here, Sadie" out of my mouth than she was gone.

I should have remembered to have a Frisbee session with her, first thing, because on the days we don't walk and give her a chance to run, she's a mess. She's passionate about her Frisbee, and I can wear the edge off her energy that way.

All's well that ends well, and Sadie showed up back at home after about twenty minutes. I scolded her and she acted sufficiently contrite. I gave her five minutes to think about her sins and repent, then took her out for the Frisbee session she should have had earlier.

When we're done, I tell Sadie to take the Frisbee to the house, and she does so quite willingly.

I do believe Cliff has cleaned up the Gold Wing for a reason: It's perfect weather, and we'll ride today!

I'll throw in this picture of yesterday's sunrise at no extra cost. One can't get too many sunrises, you know.

Friday, August 08, 2008

What a wonderful world!

Cliff, his sister Rena, me and the two dogs walk every morning on our property; while there are drawbacks to where we walk (heavy dew that soaks our shoes if we wear them, for one thing). Because some of our paths through the wooded areas are fairly narrow and bordered by trees on either side, we encounter lots of cobwebs. I usually walk in front and break the webs... sometimes with a stick, sometimes with my body when I don't see the cobweb coming.

Before I broke through this one, I had to take a picture of it with the dew glistening on it.

I rode this morning; I arrived at our town's little park in time to see the sun coming up; I could tell it was going to be one of the most beautiful sunrises I'd ever seen.

Ah yes. The sunrise above the lake at the park.


As always, click on any picture to see it larger.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Things are shaping up around here.

Although August isn't the time for planting bushes, I decided to risk it by putting a little lilac bush next to the front porch.

Cliff has skirted the trailer now. It's looking SO much better.

I sure do enjoy our new front porch.

Cliff has the tiller nearby, working up the dirt next to our home.

This is how I wake up each morning, watching the hummingbirds feed as the sun rises. (Click on the picture to get a better look at the hummingbird.) That wind chime on the right is a souvenir of Colorado; it has Kokopeli on it. Loud clanging wind chimes annoy me, but mine is made of pewter and has a quite delicate sound.

This coming Friday the carpenter plans to start digging for our back porch and deck. I'm so excited!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Well, it's hot

My sister-in-law introduced us to "beer-butt chicken" yesterday. It's so named because you stick an open can of beer up the chicken's butt and then grill it. If the picture looks a bit cloudy, it's because I brought the camera out of my cool, cool house out into the hot, wet outdoors, causing it to steam over.

I haven't had much to say lately, I know. Not that I ever did have much to say; but that didn't stop me from saying it anyway. I've been enjoying all the comforts of my "new" home.

I lived over sixty-three years without air conditioning. For sixty of those years, I pooh-poohed the idea of having A/C. After all, my grandma got by just fine, canning and cooking and quilting through the hot Missouri summers. What a bunch of pansies people have become, I'd tell folks, with a sneer on my face.

Now I have a cool place, and I'm converted. With high temps nearing 100 and humidity so bad it feels like you'd do well to develop fins, I thank God every time I step into my cool, comfy house.

I now have a front porch, and I usually drink my first cup of morning coffee there, watching hummingbirds drink sugar-water from the feeder.

Sadie has been enjoying the porch with me; sometimes she lies down in front of the deck box, like below. Other times she'll set up camp on the bottom step.

I know it's hard to tell in this picture with Marvin's weeds in the background, but the Lombardy Poplars we planted in spring are as tall as I am now. Hard to believe they were only twigs last May.
Life is good here in the Missouri tropics.