Friday, August 19, 2016

National Photography Day

Saluting Kim Ayres and his fellow photographers 
who capture life's most interesting moments.  

Who knew there were perks?   :)
 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Visitor

People are creatures of habit.  People with pets are creatures of that pet's habits.  I could set my watch by Bou's time table of life.  Come in from work with Hubby, he'd greet me like I'd been gone for a month.  But if I sat down after that, he'd come lift my hand with his head until I got up and fed him.  The evening joke was my asking, "You need to go out?"  Bou's reply would be to lay down on his bed.  Yet as soon as I sat on the couch and got comfortable, he'd approach with that Elvis grin of his to let me know he wanted to go out.  When he was done, he'd literally body slam the front door so I'd let him in.

Hubby used to say Bou trained me. 

One part of the nightly ritual was what happened when Bou went out.  He'd stand on the top step, survey his kingdom, then go down the steps.  We live in the country and are surrounded by fields.  Fields often filled with deer.  Yet Bou was never interested in chasing them.  Every evening he'd go out and 5 minutes later I'd hear a bark.  Not one of warning.  Or danger.  Or annoyance.  And every time I went out to see what was going on, there she was.

A Doe, standing in the field, just looking at Bou.  And Bou, looking at her.  Wagging his tail.

After a while, it appeared they were friends.  While other deer would scatter at the sound of Bou's voice, she would always stand still, look at him for a moment, then saunter off.  Never running.  Just strolling.  When she had fawns, she didn't rush them on at the sound of his baritone.  No, she and the kids stood there until Bou wagged his tail, then they moved on.  This wasn't a one time thing...she's come back for a couple of years now.  There's a hedgerow* at the end of the field where she has her fawns each year, where they'll be safely hidden.  More than once I'd witnessed Bou lie in the front yard, waiting to see her before wandering off to do his business.

It's been almost a week since Bou crossed the rainbow bridge.  Hubby was mowing the lawn yesterday (our 36th anniversary) and when he came inside, he was quiet.  I thought it was because of how many times he had to pass where we laid Bou to rest out back, which borders a field.  (Remember, we have 5 acres in the country).  After showering, Hubby said, "Come with me.  I need to show you something."

We hopped on the golf cart and headed toward "that spot".  I thought maybe he'd marked it as a way of dealing with the loss...after all Bou did go to work with him every day.  As we approached he said, "Bou's had a visitor".

My heart dropped.  All I could think of was coyotes had come and disturbed the grave.  My eyes searched for signs of digging, but there were none.  Then my eyes followed where Hubby was pointing.  In a dainty line around Bou's final resting place were a set of deer tracks.  The size of a doe's.  The trail walked all the way around the spot and never over it.

"There are no other tracks," Hubby offered, pointing out the patches of dirt in the surrounding area.  Just here, then back into the field."

It seems we're not the only ones who miss the ol' boy.   




*Hedgerows, for you city slickers, are those blocks of trees or brush you see down the middle of a field which serve as a wind break to protect crops.  The one above is a small block of trees at the end of the field.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

Dear Angry Woman on our doorstep.


I understand your disappointment when you arrived with your two teens at my husband's business, only to discover it was closed.   Through the window, I saw your expression of shock turn to anger.  Yes, the Shop was suppose to be open by that hour.  Anyone else might've huffed a little or called to leave a message.  You did not.

My empathy ended the moment you sent your son to our front door.

If it was up to me, no one would've come to the door.  But Hubby wanted me to be fair, to explain the closure was temporary and he'd be back to normal hours tomorrow, even if he didn't feel normal. Plus having just gotten out of the shower, he wasn't fully dressed and I was.

I opened the door to find a young man with an earnest and hopeful expression.  I softly asked if I could help him.  His answer was, "I saw the sign on the door and all.  But can't you just open up for an hour?"

I replied in a calm, slow manner, because honestly, I didn't have much strength left in me after the morning we'd experienced.  I politely replied, "No, I'm sorry.  He's sick.  There's nothing I can do for you." 

Junior stared at me, as if I hadn't heard his demand in the form of a question.  Then he turned to look at a woman who I assume was his mother.  Great, I thought.  Mom will talk him through it.  Great teaching moment on how we can't always have what we want.

Mom glared up at me and screeched, "We drove three hours to get here!"

I hadn't slept well in two nights.  I was emotionally exhausted.  Hubby had thrown his back out the day before and so he had my problems plus one.  Again, in a voice soft and weary I repeated, "I'm sorry.  He's sick.  There's nothing that I can do for you."

Before I could offer the reason for Hubby's illness, she screamed at me sarcastically, "Yeah, I bet you're sorry!"  As she stormed off, she began punching a number into the phone in her hand.

Junior looked from her to me.  I shook my head sadly and simply closed the door.

Hubby heard it all.  He was shocked, but told me to let it go.

Fifteen minutes later the Shop phone rang and Hubby answered it.  While the vehicle was gone, he figured it might be the family trying to reason with him, since I was useless.  It was Dad.  In an incredulous voice, he shared that his wife and children had come to make a purchase, but he'd been told the Shop was closed.  Tears in his eyes, Hubby calmly explained that while he knew the man's family was upset at their "wasted" trip,  we'd just had to put down our wonderful Lab of 12.5 years and he was simply too distraught and distracted to be in the Shop.  (The one where the dog went to work with him, every day).  Hubby added, "We'd literally just come in from burying that dog out back when they arrived."

Dad replied with a sarcastic sneer, "You're closed because your dog died?"

Ah, the Compassionate Family.

Hubby tried to apologize again, saying he hoped the family would come back another day so he could set the daughter up properly.  He got a grunt in reply.  I'm sure "Dad" thought he could talk some sense into Hubby.

Today Hubby asked me to help send an e-mail reply....to the woman who'd been so angry at our door.  I had to read it twice, then take a deep breath.  Not only did she proclaim her disappointment after traveling 2 hours (hmm, told me 3) she was furious that no one had thought to change the message on the answering machine.  Because she had called and the hours were listed.  The sign on the door didn't matter to her...we should've changed the message on the machine.  The kicker was, "And that lady at the door was so rude to us!"  (Um, that would be me.  The one who'd cried so hard she could barely speak above a whisper).

She'd sent the e-mail five minutes after leaving our driveway.  I have a feeling she thought we'd see it and change our minds.

Hubby took the high road.  He apologized, adding that we'd lost our beloved dog of 12.5 years and had been burying him not 5 minutes before they arrived.  That had taken a toll.  He's a better person than me.  I know "Dad" probably shared his call with Mom, and they both rolled their eyes.  Hubby added he hoped they would return so he could help the girl.

That's why I love him.  In the face of ignorance, he can let it roll off him.  Me?  My reply would've been different.

"Dear Angry Lady,

I'm sorry, but we just received your e-mail, 24 hours later.  Unlike most Americans, we do not have a cell phone in our hand 24/7.  When you arrived at the Shop, we had just laid to rest the best buddy man could have.  It appears you were fortunate enough to have children.  We were not.  Therefore that DOG was a member of our family.  He went everywhere with us.  His manners were impeccable and he charmed everyone he came in contact with.  The fact that he became ill so suddenly and the only "cure" was to let him go, was heartbreaking. 

We literally had just come into the house after burying our boy out back, next to his Dad, Smokey.  Now that's two former "co-workers" my husband has lost and whom he must pass every morning on his way in to work.  My husband, by the way,  threw out his back the day before.  So he had pain piled on top of pain.  And as we made our way to the house, he asked me to go turn the Shop sign to "Closed", so no one would wait for him.  I decided to add the sign taped to the front door, in case the one in the window was missed.  It took everything in me to write it out and honestly, a three year old could've done a better job with printing.  Changing the answering machine message never even entered my mind.

So when you sent your child to my front door, I started not to answer.  Hubby was just out of the shower and since I can't do his job, I didn't want to have to explain that and disappoint someone.  But Hubby wants his customers to be happy, so he asked me to answer the door.  For the record, I did that for him.  Not for you.   Had I known what was coming, I would've walked away and pretended I couldn't hear him...because I was crying.

But I wiped my tears and tried.  Granted, I was not enthusiastic.  But I was not rude.  Rude would've been to offer a verbal reply when you screeched at me...and oh boy, did I ever want to.  What kind of Mother offers up that kind of example when their child doesn't get his way?  I feel sorry for you.  Which is why I did what my loving husband asked and opened the door to you.  To explain.  Even when you didn't want to listen because it wasn't what you wanted to hear.  I feel sorry for you twice.  It's obvious that "Dad" the caller has no compassion either.  Sneering at someone who opens up about their loss while apologizing for inconvenience caused to you is not a man.  I hope your children will find some example of compassion in their young lives before they become demanding.

In closing, kindly remember.  Life is filled with surprises.  Some good, some bad.  We will be disappointed some days and victorious on others.  I hope you find some fulfillment in your choices.  I have.

I have the love of a good husband.  I had the love of a good dog.  That's what counts in life.


Sincerely,

The rude woman at the door whose heart was breaking but who tried to be kind anyhow."

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Sometimes Life Sucks

Today was hard.  

This morning we had to put our buddy Boudreaux to sleep.  Which accounts for the headline.

If you're not a dog or pet person, kindly walk away in silence.  I won't be responsible for what I say to the first person who offers, "Hey, it was just a dog."

Nope, he was my buddy and Hubby's work partner.  And today we are hurting.

Bou was almost 12 and a half years old...which is old for a Lab as big as he was.  But he'd started having "spells" recently, where he would stumble, then fall over.  It would take an hour to recover, but then he'd be fine for a couple of weeks.  This morning was different. And we knew when we left the house for the Vet how the story would probably end.  Worst part...it was a "sub" Vet, as ours was on vacation in Florida.  I bet his staff called him to share the news.  He felt bad when we called last night and he couldn't help us out.

We did the right thing.  I hate suffering.  But the tears are hard.  And they'll be with us for a little while.  We had Bou and his Dad Smokey for a long time....between the two of them, there's been a chocolate lab grinning at us and wanting to go on rides for 17 years.

So if I'm quiet for a while, it's okay.  Everyone adjusts their own way.  On their own time.  Thanks for just being there and listening.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Amazing...Gracie

It's hotter than hell here and I'm not talking about politics.  (I will NOT be discussing politics today).  This morning began oddly, in a rather depressing way.  This hot weather has half my head and one ear clogged up: happens when I go from hot to cold and back again.   I haven't even read the news yet.  I'm almost afraid to.

This morning I turned on the water in the tub, got in and the water....quit.  It happened the other day to Hubby when he was in the shower, but he said after a few minutes it came back to life.  Living in the country with a pump and well, you're use to the occasional hiccup.  This morning, the water didn't come back on.  I didn't want to wake Hubby, as he has a horrible ear infection, is on antibiotics and not sleeping well.  Then again, I didn't want to be the reason the pump burned up if this was something else.  I dried off, got dressed and checked the breakers.  Nothing flipped.  But something was wrong.  So I tiptoed into the bedroom, stood near the bed and quietly called his name.  That only startled him awake.  I'm glad he didn't come out reflexively swinging.  He drug himself out of bed, went outside, checked the pump and went into his shop for tools.  I came outside to see if I could help.  He was shaking his head.  

Yep, the pump had kicked back on.  He put in a call to his friend the plumber to make it work.  A man with an ear infection doesn't need to stand on his head to fix a pump.

I got to work and was told a co-worker's wife had dropped dead at work yesterday.  She didn't feel good, went to the restroom, came out having trouble breathing and was soon gone.  Although I didn't know her well, we went to school together.  She's only 2 years older than I am.  

Another co-worker came by and asked me if I'd heard a local restaurant had caught on fire.  The same one Hubby and I were talking about Sunday, musing if we should wait another day because Sunday was a country buffet.  Odd for a seafood restaurant, but probably smart business wise.  He suggested we go eat there on our anniversary this year, which is next month.  It's where we went to eat the night he proposed to me.

I just checked a newspaper.  The restaurant burned to the ground.

Sort of in a "three strikes and you're out" mood, I jumped when the sound for a text rang out on my phone.  It was my brother.  The one who rarely answers texts and only contacts you if necessary.  I took a deep breath.  I realized I was wincing as I opened the text.

"It's official!  And heeeeere we go again.  lol."

Attached was a photo of him, his wife, my nephew...and the baby girl they've been working to adopt.  They took her home when she was 3 days old under an agreement with the mother.  When they'd adopted my nephew, he'd been one day old.  This year he turns 17.  Now, after the usual legal mumbo jumbo, the almost 5 month old "Elizabeth Grace" is now a part of our family.

I am the oldest.  My brother is the youngest.  We have an 8 year age difference.  There's now a 16 year age difference between my niece and nephew.  Fortunately, bro and I have the same sense of humor... and hope.  You see, my brother turned 50 in May.  Even after doing the math, they decided that baby deserved the life they can provide for her.  Lucky baby.  

Last week I bought a t-shirt for the baby for Christmas.  She won't be able to use it for another year or so, size wise, but the sentiment was too funny to pass up.  It reads, "My Daddy says I can't date until I'm 30."

Okay, so I didn't buy it for her so much as to pick on my brother.  When she is 30, he'll be 80.  That's funny.

Welcome to the family, Gracie!  You were the spot of joy this day needed.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Southern Discomfort

It's an understatement to say the U.S. is going through a difficult time right now.  I've always believed that there is more good than evil in the world.  I'm not going to say the heightened agitation between law enforcement and it's citizens doesn't exist. Yet I'm not going to get pulled into a "them" vs. "us" mentality which accomplishes nothing. I still smile and speak to strangers, no matter their race or occupation.  After all, it doesn't take anything to be kind.

Yesterday, that smile got wiped off my face momentarily when I was thrown into a situation like I've never encountered.

As the Line Dance class finished and began leaving, one of the younger women came into my office.  Very hesitantly she said, "I think you should know there are a couple of cars outside the fence with some young men in them.  They're just....sitting there."

If you've ever worked with senior citizens you know they have two responses to young strangers just hanging around: (a) viewing them as a threat while clutching purses and scurrying to the car or (b) marching up to the individuals to demand an explanation while commanding them to get on their way.  Honestly, their Plan B scares me the most.  Coming from a generation raised to listen to their elders, they are not prepared to be ignored or scorned.  Or worse. 

I casually walked outside with the woman, mostly to reassure the pair of women hovering anxiously by the door.  I watched them get in their cars and called out a friendly, "Have a good day!" loud enough for our uninvited guests to hear.  Because now there were three vehicles and four guys glaring at me.  I went back inside to advise the remaining women I'd walk out with them...mostly so Plan B didn't get put into play.  My presence made the women act normally, even though the men scowled.  I stayed there until each car made it's way out the drive.  Why?  Because our center is surrounded by a fence with one way in...and the same way out.  The men, while parked outside the fence, had chosen spots on either side of the driveway.  The way they looked at each car clearly showed an attempt to intimidate the drivers.  As the last car passed, I heard them laugh.

In the past, I would've called out, "Can I help you guys?"  Obviously not senior citizens, there was no reason for them to be there.  Yesterday, I did not.  Because, as much as I hate it, the world is not a nice place right now.  Too many people are angry about too many things.  As the guys surrounded one vehicle to bob up and down to music which had some pretty vulgar lyrics, I went inside without a word.

About five minutes later, I went out the back door to put something in my car.  I noticed one of my seniors had yet again manipulated the chain on our parking row, pulling one section toward the ground in order to step over it rather than walk down to the entryway.  As I tugged it back in place, the music was turned up louder, this song worse than the first.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw three of the men turn towards me as they screamed in unison, "Kill that bitch!  Kill that bitch!"

Sigh.

One of the first things I learned from law enforcement friends is when NOT to engage.  Pretending I hadn't heard them, I simply turned and calmly walked at a normal pace back into the building.  They wanted a reaction. I wasn't gonna play.

Back in my office, I glanced out the window, which gives me a semi-obstructed view of the front gate/drive.  Two of the men were now marching back and forth across the driveway, pointing at the building.  One kept pulling his shirt up over his head, then down.  Repeat and march.  Their expressions reminded me of a kid smiling as he pulled wings off of flies.  My inner voice, the one my law enforcement pals always said to listen to, was clearing it's throat.  I know, I huffed back at it.  I needed to at least tell my Dept. Head what was going on, even though I was safely locked away in my building.  In the past I would've simply asked what they needed, then politely advised them to move along.  But I didn't.  I hesitated.  Not because I was white and they were black.

Because I didn't want to cause trouble.

My center is the only truly integrated one in our system and we jokingly refer to ourselves as the United Nations: black, white, British, Irish and Scottish.  (We use to have Cuban and Filipino, but God needed them back).  Our center was built in 1956 as a school for black kids; a monument on the front lawn testifies to such. I've even got a photo of the original school posted on the hall bulletin board. My seniors have lived through WWII, the Civil Rights movement and worse.  We've learned from each other, had discussions on how to make life better.  The bottom line is, no matter what they've faced in life,  all have come to the same conclusion:we're in this together, so we need to work together.  I agree.

No, I hesitated because, for better or worse, I feared asking a Deputy to join us might be like adding a match to gun powder.  Six officers cover a shift, meaning only one would be driving into a dead end to confront four guys with an attitude.  

There's too much anger in our world right now.  Though purposely taunted,  I had the the choice of refusing to respond.  I called my Dept. Head and calmly related what had been going on for the past 20 minutes.  He was shocked.  I heard concern in his voice.  He chose to call our contact at the Sheriff's Department. 

I went back to work, wondering how in the world we fix this country.  A few minutes later, the men starting yelling at the top of their lungs and racing their car engines.  I sat at my desk.   I felt tears burn my eyes.  Not ones of fear but of frustration.  What the hell is wrong with people?

Taking a deep breath, I reminded myself  how many GOOD people I know.  How they vastly outnumber the four idiots outside my window who thought yelling at a short white woman made them big, powerful men.

The group revved their engines once more and were gone.  Ironically my fear for the Deputy's safety didn't pan out.  In fact, I waited an hour and never saw a Deputy.  Then again, maybe he'd driven by trying to locate our building, which is set back off the road, and they'd seen him, causing them to move along without a confrontation.  

If you'd told me 10 years ago I'd have to attend a mandatory training on "What to do in an active shooter situation", I would've suggested you see a doctor for your paranoia.  Instead that training reminded me that we do have a choice when thrown into an odd situation.  And sometimes non-confrontational silence is the best one. Some will view that as cowardice.  I see it as refusing to stoop to someone's level when they try to intimidate.  

So today I will continue to see the glass half full and believe most people are good.  It's my job to be vigilant and keep my seniors safe while they are at the Center to have fun.  Yesterday, as uncomfortable as it got, I did my job while keeping my dignity.  And everyone went home.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Country Commute

For almost 19 years, I've commuted 25 miles (one way) to work.  It started when we decided it would be easier to move closer to Hubby's business. It made more sense for me to go back and forth oncee a day instead of him running up and down the road the same distance 3-4 times daily.  Besides, we got the house of our dreams out in the country and eventually Hubby gained an even better perk: he relocated the business on our property.  His favorite thing to tell people is that I make him walk to work.  That was true until, prior to knee replacement surgery, I got him a golf cart for Christmas one year to make his backyard commute easier.  Now Bou (our 12 year old chocolate lab) has discovered the joys of riding shotgun on the golf cart.

To be honest, I like my commute.  In the peace of my car I am in control.  Well, to a point.  I get to pick the temperature, radio station and whether or not I sing along.  I've planned for holidays, made a million mental lists and discovered a thing or two about myself during moments of self imposed silence.  Oddly, the silence is never uncomfortable.  The other drivers sometimes.....

The joy of country commuting can be summed up by this morning's drive.  It's hot right now.  Like 101 in the shade today, which will make the heat index about 110.  (37 to 43C).  So life in the country moves early, while it's cool.

I wasn't a mile from home with a Bobcat gracefully crossed the road from woods to cornfield.  I haven't seen one in years and it was almost mesmerizing to watch that sleek cat glide through the air and slip into the corn.  Ever heard a bobcat?  They sound like a baby crying.  How do I know?  When I was still a "city slicker" I told Hubby I kept hearing a baby cry in the woods behind our house.  It was a mournful sound.  Who in their right mind would leave a kid alone in the woods, I'd demanded? He took one "listen" and smiled...which is how I learned that nugget of info.

Several miles down the road, a Great Blue Heron silently rose up and flew next to me, keeping pace as if we were commuting together.  Well, silent if you're inside a vehicle.  The first time one flew overhead when I was outside, a huge shadow appeared, accompanied by the sound of huge wings flapping....slowly.  For a moment, I thought a Teradactyl was looking for a place to land.  After a moment of sharing the same lane, the heron crossed over the hood, high enough that I wouldn't touch him, and sailed out of sight.  To this day the sight of one makes me smile.  Hubby once took a friend's young son hunting.  While Hubby usually makes sure kids know the right names for everything, he decided to see if the boy was paying attention, so he made up a name for the heron.  When they got back, Hubby told the boy to tell his dad what they'd seen.  "We saw a Long Necked Blue Goose!" the boy exclaimed in excitement.  To this day, when I see that heron, that's what I hear in my head.

Half way to work, I caught a Turkey off guard, making him stop in mid wobble to fly into a tree.  Turkeys are an ironic mix of talents: when the males strut their stuff, they are a magnificent display of puffed up pride and feathers.  When they "speak", not so impressive.  When they run, they resemble drunken cartoon characters being chased by Elmer Fudd.   But when the fly, they soar like eagles.

My commute becomes a chore 10 miles from work, where traffic increases and living animals have often become flattened question marks in the road.  However, I'd give a "10" to the two squirrels I encountered a mile from work.  Rather than do the suicidal I-going-this-way-no-that-way-no-back-from-where-I-came skittish dance, they gracefully skipped from one side of the road to the other.  I swear one of them looked back over his shoulder at me to see if I was impressed.

Wonder what I'll see on the way home?