Friday, December 19, 2014

Behold a Horse


I'm getting ready to make the four hour drive home, after I get a nap as the day started in the wee hours.  So for tonight, a Chapter from the Book of Barkley.  For those of you who have read, reviewed and shared the book with other dog lovers,  my deepest thanks.

CHAPTER 4 – Behold a Horse

Barkley soon settled into the routine of my little household, although those first couple of weeks of getting up during the night to take him outside, sometimes more than once, was wearing on me.  I knew that soon though, he’d be able to sleep through the night.

When I went to bed tonight, after a busy week, I was hoping that tonight would be one of those nights.

Severe thunderstorms had been stalking the area.  After listening to the old fashioned stereo for a while, I went to bed, leaving it on, noticing the light on the console near the bed but deciding just to roll over and sleep.  About two o'clock in the morning, the power went out, and then came back on immediately. Then there was a small click sound, the drawer with the CD in it opening and closing, played on the cold air. The sound, unusual in my sleep, brought me up from a deep slumber, but just barely.  As the ground shook and the sky boomed, the bedroom windows lit up with lightning. My eyes still closed, I was not yet aware of where I was, the sleep still lingering. Then a deep voice filled the room.

“And I heard as it were

the noise of thunder

One of the four beasts saying come and see

and I saw

And behold a white horse”

From my somnolent state all I could think was “It's GOD, and He sounds just like Johnny Cash!”

Some voices just stay with you, for you to recall in an instant, a memory.

But the voices we really remember come with memories of more than the TV set, but times and places in our lives. One such memory was a favorite science teacher in high school, his voice competing with the clatter and clink of glass, the hoarse cough of the Bunsen burners and the animated chatter of aspiring geeks, his voice a calm direction among chaos, as we attempted to blow the whole experiment up.

Being teens, we tended to ignore him. Yet it was his voice I heard, years later, exhausted from two jobs and college, poring over books that I read not so much in that I wanted to read them, but knew that I must.  For I was too aware that I must somehow absorb the words in these brief evening hours, measuring the turning pages against the fleeing strokes of irreversible time, ticking with the measured precision of that library clock.

It's not just voices you remember, it is sounds.

I remember Christmas Eve as a small child. I'd sleep on a folding cot that was placed next to my big brother’s bed. Mom would tuck us both in while Dad went to "do some last minute chores" (probably cursing up a storm during the assembly of the Barbie Dream House). We'd lie there in the dark, my brother, from his grown up bed, speaking to his little sister in that soft whisper of childhood, under the glow of big 1960s Christmas lights outside the window. We'd left cookies and milk out for Santa though Dad suggested he'd prefer pretzels and a beer. Then we tried to stay awake as long as we could, hoping to hear Santa’s arrival.

The clock ticked later and later, the house quiet. "Do you hear it?" Big Bro would quietly exclaim.  But the clattering sound we heard was not reindeer on the roof, but the dog's toenails on the hardwood floor as she patrolled the hall, checking on her two legged pups.

So many sounds we remember. I remember the sound of bat meeting ball as I played with him out in the yard. The CRACK as aerodynamics and physics greet one another, the ball just a spherical dream of speed heading out into the trees as the dog raced to recover it before we did.  I remember the sound of the piano, as I practiced hour after hour as a child. Beethoven, Bach, Debussy. The sounds of the music filled the house, filling me, the opening chords of Rhapsody in Blue awakening something in me I was too naïve to articulate.

I remember the sound of taps played at a funeral of someone I cherished, the wreckage of duty crashing on the ears of those who are left. But it was a sound that fell without lasting damage for we were raised to be fighters, stronger than wreckage, taller than fear. Honor the fallen and continue the fight.

The thunderstorms tonight still fill the sky with their own sound show. The stereo turned off, I hear the click of Barkley's little puppy toenails on the hardwood floor of the hall, a steadily measured sound, as strangely comforting as a clock.  He settles down on his little bed by mine, happily able to sleep through the night without going outside and happy to be free of the crate.

I look at a folded flag there atop the dresser; I listen to a house that has been empty for such a long while.

I almost wish he'd wake me to go out just so I could hold him for a moment. But with a smile, I roll over and go back to sleep.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

On Girl's Night Out, a Scarf, and Band-aids to the Soul

Thank you everyone for the comments and emails.  We found out about Dad about a week ago.  I wasn't sure whether to share or keep it  private.  There's been a lot of heartache here this year, and adding to it at the holiday time wasn't something I would want (oh great-- it's  that HOTR lady - what's next? Locust and petulance?)  But Dad would appreciate the prayers and so I shared.

He's ready to go to his reward, we just want him to go on his own terms, in his home, Bible by his side, remote in his hand and his favorite team winning the touchdown. Till then, my cousin Liz, his grandchildren and I, will do all we can to keep him happy and comfortable.  He has insurance for a nursing home.  I'm not putting him there.  He needs full time nursing care and he's getting it in all his waking hours, but he will step over that threshold from his own home, surrounded by memories of my Mom and my brother and his first child, the sister I never met, as long as I can physically sign a check.

But it's not been easy with him so far away and the trips back and forth out West and words have not been easy to lay down here regularly while I process the news. So many of my friends are going through similar things with their own aging parents, so we can only share each other's burden.

But, with my husband on the road, and I working in Indy this week, I did get a big moment of brightness tonight as we moved Girl's Day out to Girls' Night Out. I could have some company with Tam as she and I hit the Irish Pub after I got off work. 
The typewriter was so cool and we both thought of Roberta and took pictures (she has the coolest collection of antique typewriters).

Neither of us were starving. Tam had the soup and I ordered the Pub Mac and Cheese (with bacon!) which I ate about 1/4 of and took the rest home for a couple of meals (it was really  yummy, and the service was awesome, I just wasn't hungry).
While we were there she passed on this. It was a gift from one of my readers, delivered through Marco and then Tam.  It was from a Colonel in the military with one of our Allies serving in Afghanistan.  It had been delivered some time ago, but with my brother's death and taking care of Dad, she'd not been able to get it to me til tonight. Actually --it was very fitting that I got it late, as I really needed this touch of friendship tonight
It was a genuine Pashmina Scarf from Afghanistan, from a well known market stall, handmade by Afghan children providing them with gainful employment and a chance to learn the trade.  This scarf is a symbol of the good works that NATO was active in while in Afghanistan, for in any place where there is strife there are people, simply trying to improve the lives of those they tend do. 

The picture, with the point and shoot, and harsh light of the crash pad, which we headed to after our dinner excursion, does not  begin to do it justice.  It's extremely beautiful and flows like water through the hands, like tears of joy.

Before Tam had to head home, there was pats for Abby Normal and the chit chat that old friends fall into (interspersed with the occasional volley of snark and bad puns), while I laid that scarf carefully to rest next to a silk scarf my Mom gave me when I first came home with "I think I want to be a pilot".

What is it about things from the past that evoke such responses? A piece of fabric, a photo, an article of clothing worn to a special event, a particular meal, things that carry with them the sheer impossible quality of perfection that has not been achieved since. Things that somehow trigger in us a response, of wanting to go back to that time and place when you were safe and all was well. But even as you try and recapture it, it eludes you, caught in a point in your mind between immobility and motion, the taste of empty air, the color of wind

 On a recent morning, stopping in to see a friend who was building an aircraft in his hangar,  I had one of those moments. It was an old turboprop lumbering down the taxiway with all of the grace of a water buffalo. It wasn't the aircraft that caught my eye, it being one of those planes that carries neither speed nor sleek beauty but rather serves as the embodiment of inertia overcome by sufficient horsepower. No, it was the smell of jet fuel that took me back, to years of pushing the limits, not really caring if I came home,  only that the work was done, without my breaking beyond re-use, something I was trusted with.
Until one day, while my heart was beating despite being broken, unseen beneath starched white cotton, my aircraft made a decided effort to kill me. It was not the "well, I'll make a weird sound and flash some red lights at you and see what you do", an aircraft's equivalent of the Wicked Witch of the North cackling "Care for a little FIRE, scarecrow?"  No, it was a severe vibration that shook the yoke right out of my hand as we accelerated through 180 knots on the initial climb, as unknown to me, a piece of my elevator had departed the fix.

In that moment, as I heard the silent groaning of the earth below, I thought "I do not wish to die", and I fought back--in that moment of slow and quiet amazement that can come at the edge of sound, finding in myself a renewed desire to live, recognizing the extent and depth of that desire, to draw another breath, and share that rush of breath one shares with a beloved friend.

Today was one of those days.  I needed that reminder.
For I have been reminded this year, from personal notes written by people that have sent books to be autographed, from bloggers, from my friends who just happen to be bloggers, from virtual strangers--like the amazing person that sent this scarf, of one very important thing.   For if it sometimes seem that  I am alone, my message disregarded,  I'm not and it isn't, not really.

There are many of you here that have made my life a better place, quietly, and without fanfare. The snippets of words telling me what my stories have meant to you, the hand written notes, the photos, the sharing of my biggest joy this year and the one thing I'm more proud of than about anything I've done-- because it was the one thing I thought I couldn't do--The Book of Barkley.  Here among the craters of my biggest losses, and the trepidation that is the perception of the failure of one's dream--author, not just blogger--have been the people that supported that dream and shared it.  They may not be large in number when you look at my readership as a whole, but they are a tremendous, healing balm to those wounds that a lifetime can lay down, and a single year can reopen.

Love - Brigid

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Night off - just got home from work after taking care of Dad for a few days last week. Dad had an x- ray due to some digestive issues. He's got a large mass in his colon which they checked out further. With his age, another cancer a few years ago, and heart issues, surgery is not an option for him and he refuses any other treatment.

He's comfortable, Such tumors usually don't cause a lot of pain. He's happy the Seahawks won (I know, I know, but he's my Dad) and my dear cousin Liz (the pretty blond with the horse and the mountain home from this summer that Dad loves like a daughter) and her big fluffy dogs will stay with him through the New Year until I can get back.

No need to leave a comment - but prayers for his well being are appreciated. He might have a few more months, it might be tomorrow-- we really don't know. He's almost 95 and has outlived two wives and two children and he's said he's ready to join them, though he takes his meds, curses Football teams from back East,  does his daily physical therapy and beats his full time home health nurses I got for him so he doesn't have to go into a "home", in cribbage--daily.  Badly.  (he's a wicked cribbage player).  Who knows.   His  sister got Lymphoma at 92 and was told she had 6 months and lived 4 more years. God is good--we'll stick with His plan.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Bit of Shakespeare - and a classic firearm

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our English dead. In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:

But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;

Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;

Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon;
let the brow o'erwhelm it
.
As fearfully as doth a galled rock

-William Shakespeare - King Henry V

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Warmth of Readiness


As the moon first knocks at the window she slices bread into thick pages to be placed in the toaster, cracking eggs into a bowl, dinner a simple omelet and tea.The house is quiet, her man off buying some wood to craft furniture.

Outside, the world is quiet, the four walls around her corralling her in, even as she is free to leave. There is still much to do, clothes fresh from the drier to be hung up, the remnants of her supper to be put away for morning. On the floor, a black lab twitches in her sleep, swimming against the impending night.

Outside, somewhere far in the distance a coyote howls. She looks out into the darkness, into the ancient and inscrutable face of the night, seeing nothing, knowing that does not mean nothing is there. The light faded, the wind brisk, the flow of the outside lights, small incandescent intervals of safety around the house, challenging anyone to come near.


Her chores completed, she turns on some music and sits by the fire, the lights off, the curtains open so she can keep her eye on her world. She's not afraid of the dark, not with her firearm and her courage, a mother bear who will defend to the death her home and her life. Behind her, a small lamp stammers its light, the shadows tossed upon land on which glaciers once slowly roared. From the distance she can hear the sonorous waves of sound from the woods, floating out to her, the cry of an owl, the yip of a predator. The sound builds, merging with the sounds inside the house, a soft laugh, a bit of a song, a resonance both subdued and rich, rising and retreating like a harmonic tide.

In a vase, a single flower, small and delicate, watered by hand, carrying its scent into the home. Water here this time of year is as rare and precious as love. When it falls, it falls in huge drops that seep into bare skin, wetting the formally barren ground, soaking in deep with the weight of an astonishing gift.


She looks delicate, but she is not, having seen both the drops of water and drops of blood that fall on the foreheads of the innocent. She is not unaware of the dangers that being a woman alone can pose, predators seeking defenseless prey, even in small, quiet towns.

But she can live no other way, hope laying on her, like snow on the ground, the conviction of unshakable faith of what she lives for and what she will fight for. She is aware of the weight of her weapon on her, feeling herself rushing back in time, without anything in her now that was born of seeing the world as it lay, not the vain imagining some wished upon it.

She touches the steel of the small pistol that sits in the pocket of her robe, resting against hips which have borne more than regret. It lay under her fingertips with the warmth of readiness.

- Brigid

Friday, December 12, 2014

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like. . .


my pants aren't going to fit in another two weeks.

Chocolate peppermint pie - recipe in comments.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Little Retro Christmas

Yes, 3 bucks at a yard sale in a small village.  
And they threw in the color wheel.
I think I need to decorate the place up a bit for Christmas before it gets dark and Partner is home.
There--a little 60's Christmas cheer in a 1916 Mission Bungalow.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Landing Party Pizza

I had grand plans for a three course meal, some time alone with my husband to start the week out. Then he got called out of state on business because someone broke something and the bat phone rang.

 The week started so well, but  I knew I shouldn't have worn the red shirt. (For those of you who grew up on a desert island and never watched Star Trek, the Red Shirt is  uniform of choice for the phaser-cannon fodder taken out quickly in the plot line to alert viewers to danger.)

Yes, I was part of landing party Kirk, Spock, Dr. McCoy and the Dead Guy, better known as Ensign Ricky in the red shirt. I started out thinking I was going to save the planet and I ended up as the smoking boots behind the giant paper mache boulder.

So when I finally arrived home, not only was I tired, and a bit beat up mentally, I was HUNGRY, and realized there wasn't a whole lot in the fridge as I'd just been to visit my Dad and hadn't stocked up.

OK, what can I make without braving the pre-Christmas grocery store crowds?  I have leftover cooked chicken I can thaw, the usual veggies, flour, cheese, some jarred and canned things.  Pizza!! But not your traditional pizza.  White, not red pizza, with creamy garlic sauce and chicken and fresh veggies, herbs and two kinds of cheese.
It starts with homemade easy pizza dough.

Once the dough was assembled, it was topped with garlic sauce (recipe below), leftover baked chicken, olives, chopped sweet onion, a jar of sun dried tomatoes (drained), crushed red pepper and some Italian seasoning, then sprinkled with a couple of handfuls of mozzarella and cheddar. 

After a couple of days of protein bars and fruit, this was heaven and it made enough to feed 2 or 3 very hungry people.  Partner will be glad I was only 1 hungry person as there will be leftovers for him when he lands back home..
Pizza Dough 
Ingredients:

2 and 1/4 teaspoons of  traditional rise yeast
1 teaspoon of organic sugar
1 cup of warm water (110 degrees - use a thermometer - it really matters!)
2 and 1/2 cups of flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In bread bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in the warm water. Let it stand, out of any drafts, until creamy - about 10 minutes.
2. Stir in the salt, oil and flour. add the flour a bit at a time. stir the dough until smooth and elastic-y. let it rest for 5 minutes.
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat and roll out with your hands and then use a rolling pin. once desired thickness is achieved.  Place dough on to a pizza pan and top with whatever toppings you like. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes (keep your eye on it at about 12 mins) and remove when pizza is golden brown. Let the pizza sit for 5 minutes before cutting into it (this is the Hardest step!)
Garlic Sauce
Peel six cloves of roasted garlic and mince (or use equivalent of jarred minced garlic). Saute in 1 Tablespoon butter  in a sauce pan for a couple of minutes on medium heat.  Whisk in:
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup half and half or whipping cream 
A  Tablespoon or two of cream cheese (more will make the sauce thicker)
Reduce heat to medium low.  Sift 2 Tablespoons flour over milk mixture, whisking constantly (to avoid lumps).  Add in two pinches of ground thyme and one of ground black pepper and a dash of garlic salt, and continue to gently whisk.  When stating to thicken, remove from heat and add 1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan and stir until cheese is melted.

Spoon sauce on crust, top with toppings and bake as directed above. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Girl Talk at the Range

So Miss D., what say you and I buy this (in perfect barn fresh condition), paint it florscent orange with Lucas painted on the side and let mechanics pay us to shoot it with a bunch of large black weapons. As your husband, novelist Peter Grant would say, "we'd "make a bloody fortune!"

My gal friends aren't typical. We don't watch girlyvision, we have more tools than shoes, and we love our guns, our firearms, our airplanes and our men (not necessarily in that order). But then again my Bridal party was Tam, Roberta X, Midwest Chick and Miss D - one of the bridesmaids wearing a kilt and their gift to the bride and groom was a WHOLE bunch of .223.

I walked out of the Twilight movie (well, maybe I got asked to leave because I kept saying "Roll That Beautiful Bean Footage"  a bit too loud every time the wolves talked in a human voice, lips moving. And I've seen none of the popular female shows on TV. I actually saw my first bit of "Sex in the City" (well, the 90 seconds I could stand before involuntary muscle reflexes got me safely back to "Top Gear") 5 years after it debuted.

Do women really have conversations like that?

I sure don't. For example I had a long chat with a gal friend recently and not once in the conversation did Blahnik shoes, facials or male models come up.

In essense it went somewhat like this. (I will refer to us as HOTR Gal 1 and 2.)

HOTR Gal 1: ". . . tracing shorts". . . .(insert longwinded wiring speak here) . . ."Triumph?

"HOTR Gal 2: " Triumph! As in, electrical system made by Lucas, prince of dimness and the reason why brits like warm beer.

"HOTR Gal 1: "Cool!' Whereupon we proceed to launch into a discussion of the Lucas "Replacement Wiring Harness Smoke Kit" (supplied supposedly to Lucas factory technicians as a trouble-shooting and repair aid for the rectification of chronic electrical problems on a plethora of British cars and from where, if used wrong, the expression "gone up in smoke" came from).


HOTR Gal 1: "Back to the biplane idea. Have you seen the Hatz bantam? Beautiful, light-sport, comes with blueprints and files for your nearest CNC lathe... the blueprints even come in AutoCAD!

HOTR Gal 2: "mmmm. AutoCAD. . . maybe a hint that a CNC lathe is an appropriate anniversary or Valentine's gift?"

See? Not one mention of cosmopolitans, shoes, fashion, metrosexuals, Twilight or housekeeping tips. (Well, there was some brief chat about homebrewed beer, an attack by a Ninja Shower Squeegee and why long stroke is better for torque even if you are more limited on revs with more reciprocating motion.)

Probably why we don't have our own TV show.

Enjoy your day, whatever you get up to.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Question From the Law Abiding

Why is it people don't demand I turn in my vehicle because someone else  made the bad choice to drive drunk outside of the law and kill an innocent?

But the same people want me to turn in my gun because someone else made the bad choice to use one outside of the law to kill an innocent.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Canon Fodder - Tis the Season

Mom, Dad! I heard a noise!  Maybe it's Santa Paws arriving early!
You just stepped on the squeaky storm trooper Abby.  Go back to sleep.
Sleeping past 5 a.m. What a concept!
Where the blog happens. But today - just breakfast with Partner. 
More syrup please on my silver dollar pancakes.
It's not Sunday without pancakes and bacon
It's just a nice day to stay in with the TV off.
We need to find a place to hand up the new Dog Tail coat hooks.  But first a walk with Abby.
All around the village, little signs of Christmas.


Look Mom - it's Santa Paws!
Sorry Abby - It's just the Abominable Snowman
We've passed the house with the Blair Witch Birdhouses. . . so any second now.
Right on time.  Let's head back and make a pizza and then put up the Christmas Tree.
A Sunday during the holidays is a wonderful thing.

Where'd Abby go?
The Force meets the Abominable De-Squeaker as Abby tries to bite his head off.
The light is almost gone, the house darkens.
But Mom - he Friended me on Facebook.