Sunday, December 30, 2018

Sunday Black and White - Moving Days

A Chapter From The Book of Barkley  (Outskirts Press, Available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble online)

CHAPTER 15 – Moving Days

The car was packed, and the moving truck was already on its way.  I’d been selected for a position in a Midwest city, one with the potential for promotion over time.  The house here was selling, at a huge loss given the market, but at least it had a buyer.

Things are changing; my Stepmom’s diagnosis of cancer, Dad's talk of moving in with me after she's gone, something he swore he'd never do.  I found a little ranch house in that Midwestern city I am moving to, bigger than I would have bought for myself, but a lot less fancy and still much smaller than this house. It will provide him with his own rooms, and bath, with an entrance without steps for him.

The house stands empty. Only a few folks have been inside, a few neighbors, my parents, a couple of friends and a few dates, none of whom seemed to like dogs, which was becoming more important. We're better off moving on, even alone, I tell Barkley, there’s a big world out there with lots of things to do and people to meet.

He's only three years old.  I wonder if he will miss this place.

Barkley and I made one last trek around the neighborhood and the woods behind before we left for the first leg of our journey. The moving truck had another stop to make so we would have time to travel and catch up. So many trips we'd made around these blocks.  Barkley sniffed everything, pointing to the occasional piece of trash or blowing leaf, as I steered him toward the common area to do his business, rather than on someone's lawn.  He, of course, would only lift his leg, and then continue on, for Barkley was always looking for something, a bright picture window, a family seated in front of it at the dining room, enjoying dinner. He'd then dash over to their lawn and squat to do the rest of his business, all right in front of their dinner.  Kids squealed and giggled, adults, shot me looks that were daggers, as I would wave an apology.  Then, I'd go clean up the pile, scolding him yet again, as we walked off, my cheeks blazing with embarrassment, his head held up proudly with a "that was the biggest one yet!"

We took one last walk out into the openly wooded area that runs for a half mile behind this new development, back to a little pond where he first learned to swim.  Tonight, I stood at the crest of the rise of sand and dirt that made up the lip of this water-filled bowl.  Man-made or nature made; it was hard to tell, for the perfect shape of the pond.  But given the location, it was probably man-made. The moon cleaved the pale waste that was the sky, the sun having left like low tide, leaving this place in the shadow, just the form of a red-haired woman and the dark grieving of the earth.

I looked down and saw it, the pale abandoned nest of a Canadian goose; the goslings long having been hatched if the eggs survived both rising waters and predators. I pictured the water moving, like slow waves, but it was as still as I.  We both seemingly waited for something, an act of fate, of destiny, the irrevocable sentence of time that's passed or perhaps, an invitation.

I wondered if I came back in ten years if this place would still be here? Or would it be plowed into yet another row of Monopoly houses, another neighborhood of lives and love, fights and frustration and unborn children who can't wait to grow up so they can leave this place, then wish desperately that they could return?

They say you cannot go home again, and perhaps as far as a childhood home, that is true. But what of the memories of other places we hold firm in our mind's eye? Some of them we have a name for, our elementary school, the river where we dove as far out as we could into the dark water, a place where church bells rang. In the Book of Genesis, all were drawn out of the waters of chaos by its name, "God called the dry land Earth." Sometimes, the incredibly complex can be summed up in one word.  I read in a story that the Inuit Indians have one such word to bring to conceivable life the fear and the awe that possesses them when they see across the ice, the approach of a polar bear.  Some things have no words at all, their form remembered only in the etchings of tears.

But of those places, both named and unnamed, there are places you are drawn back to, years later, praying they are not changed, and knowing it will not be so.

I hope in ten years Barkley and I can come back here, if only to wave at the house in which I raised him to adulthood, as to an old friend.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

In Dog Beers I've Just Had One - Holiday Season Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping in an oncoming winter storm before New Years is never fun.  But with my husband being in charge of spiders, dead possums in the yard, and home repairs, the grocery shopping is my weekly chore.  I HAVE learned some things, however.

100 carts in the store and I will get the one with the front wheel that pirouettes like a ballerina on crack.

I always make a list.  Sometimes I remember to bring it with me.

Always eat something before shopping.  I once went on an empty stomach and came home as the proud owner of Aisle 5.

You can go to the store for "just" milk, and spend $125.

You know you need "me" time when a stroll down the detergent aisle feels like a spa day.

My husband once asked me to pick up some oil  There were like 87 different kinds.  I now know what men feel like in the Tampon aisle.

If someone is standing directly in front of the item I need I will pretend to look for something else before they move.
I  once lost my Step Mom in the store.  I was 53.  They gave me a balloon and paged her.

I do not object to telling the millennial who has 87 items in the Express Aisle "that I know all the lyrics to Frozen and I am NOT afraid to use them".

I have, on more than one occasion of many years, turned the Betty Crocker Upside Down Cake box in the aisle - upside down.

I realize that I get excited that I can now buy the unhealthy cereal my Mom usually didn't let us have.

Someday they will say about me "she died doing what she loved, carrying 87 plastic bags of groceries from the car to the house, rather than make 2 trips.".

That being said - happy to have survived and make it home for a cold one.

And frozen fish sticks - as I was tired out from all the shopping.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Riding With Thunder

Riding with Thunder


Hands grasping the reins of that fiery steed
an intake of breath, the sweat of pure need

With a rush of hot wind, the rustle of leaves
the sky cracks with thunder, a power she believes

Thundering hooves keeping danger at bay
on cold darkened trails, in the light of her day


The sound and the fury speaks of so many things
the why and the where of how freedom rings.
She knows without words, true meaning, and seeing
Of why she rides free, without fear in her being

The power of thunder rides with her each day
As she roams open land, a fighter, not prey.

© Brigid - Home on the Range 

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas

It was another geeky Christmas here at the Range. The silver 60's tree survived another year though we had to do some repair work to a few branches this year.  Fortunately, the weather in Chicagoland has been extra mild so we had an easy drive last night for the Christmas Candlelight service which is a few villages away.  Partner in Grime played the violin and sang a solo. We joined this church a little over a year ago and it's the first time he has performed.  As he started to play and sing, a  few jaws dropped - no one had heard him sing before and he's got quite the voice.  If I sing, cats gather on the porch so it's good he can cover for me during the hymns :-)

We got up extra early to open the packages before this mornings service. 
We could NOT find our stockings  - they went into a bin for safekeeping last winter.  We have so many bins in storage - always fun to look at new and old memories in them but we just weren't sure which one held the stockings (think of the last scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark).  So Santa had to improvise with the "stockings".


There were a couple of items that didn't get wrapped.  A bird bath for me, and a Bora edge guide for Partner.  Since he had asked for one, the 50 something inch box in the sun porch for the last month, didn't leave any mystery, though I was tempted to put a few marbles inside in case of shaking.
The bird bath was installed by the bird feeders.  Unfortunately, our neighbor's across the street have a cat that constantly comes over to attempt to kill the birds.  I've chased it off with the hose a few times when out watering the garden- I don't want it getting run over coming to the bird buffet and I don't want it killing the birds.  It's well fed by its owners. So Partner got me something a little more serious than the hose.
We had the stockings with candy and cookies and little tool things and our usual geeky gifts -
Midwest Chick got me hooked on this chocolate. (Tcho).

Steampunk cufflinks (the steampunk watch was from last year.)
Vintage vest and handmade leather bowtie.

The Tactical Chef Apron - every Millenial should have one! (I married one that actually knows how to use a can opener and makes a mean Cream Brulee' with a propane torch).
Handmade fun handkerchiefs.  It's an Etsy shop called Hankenstein - their handkerchiefs last for years and there's a ton of unique patterns.

I got an antique necklace and LOTS of Bend Goat Milk Soap and bulk milk bath (LOVE this stuff!)


A new game to learn!


It's not Christmas without new books - the Steam Tractor Encylopedia came from my Father in Law (True Blue Sam) and my Mother in Law for Partner.  The Kindle is the first one I've ever had.  I'm a big "dead tree" person but when I realized I spent $800 on books last year on Amazon it was time to do the Kindle. 

My gift from them was super cool - a Dr. Who satchel with shoulder strap!  (It's Bigger on the Inside!)
Of course, we both have to give each other new coffee cups (you know to add to the 87 we already have.)  Here's mine
With tea!
And his.



You know those little games at Cracker Barrel with pegs you have cross one another until there is only one left (if you are smart).  Partner surprised me with one (handmade out of wood) with something other than pegs. 

Abby Normal the Lab got some gifts too from us and from friends.


 Yup, she made a beeline for the beehive filled with squeaky bees.

The afternoon was spent playing board games including a new Cribbage Board.
As the roast cooks and we settle in to watch The Incredibles II (Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Roscoe!), I realize how lucky I am.  I have a snug, warm home, a husband that loves me dearly, and shares my love of the unique things in our world. Dad is still with us, each day with him a gift. Add to that my church family and I thank God every day for all He's given me.
Brigid

Monday, December 24, 2018

Abby Lab's Favorite Christmas Songs

Bark the Herald Angels Sing (For my Schipperke Foster Family Members)

Silent Night – While I Quietly Ate your New Italian Pumps

O Come All Ye – Well Yes, you have a Ball!!

Toys to the World – The Stuffies Rain

Away in The Crate – Because I ate Mom’s Shoes

We Three Kongs

Shepard’s Pie Carol (Beef!)

Angels We Have Herd on High (for our Border Collie Friends)

O, Holey Night, (I Chewed Through Your New Slipper!)

I Saw Mommy Kissing The Cat!

I'm Pooping in the House (Baby It's Cold Outside).

Sleigh Ride (Argghhhhh To the VET!)

Let It Snow (I've Shredded Your Couch Cushions!)

Do You Hear What I Hear? (No, You Can't Because Dogs Can Hear Four Times Better Than You).

Sunday, December 23, 2018

I Just Come Here for the Bacon

The last few days before Christmas. There's shopping in the big city.

No, the naked inflatable Santa in the tub is just WRONG. Blitzen is probably thinking of tweeting #Me Too as we speak.

Sorry, Abby Lab, you barf with just one rawhide treat but you'll get some nice homemade peanut butter biscuits under the tree.


Then there are the usual traditions - Santa at the PUB?

Santa and the Mrs. in one room with numerous kiddies, moms and prams, the other room literally wall to wall, standing room only, drunken football fans or revelers of some sort that apparently came in on the train.  With shouts of "shots and beers", the place was so crowded, the skinny blond "elf" couldn't even make her way through with food orders, and some of the Mom's, fueled up with Trader Joe's wine before arriving, got into shouting matches with the sports fans dropping the most F-bombs in front of junior, who just wants to ask Santa for an electronic device that cost more than our parents paid for our entire Christmas.

It just shouted out "fire code violation" and we left before ordering and drove back home.
But lunch at home can be as good as lunch in any pub.  A sandwich that anyone would approve of. (serves two)

Chicken Salad with Smoked Bacon and Dates
  • 1 cup chicken (cooked *cooled and diced)
  • 4 large packaged dates finely chopped (found in the raisin section of the store)
  • six - seven  pieces smoked bacon cooked and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cups pecans (optional)
  • a pinch of Penzey's Chinese Five Spice Powder (a mix of China cassia cinnamon, star anise, anise seed, ginger and cloves).
*to cook 3-4 chicken breasts for salad or sandwiches that doesn't dry out - cook whole breasts in a oven casserole dish in about 1/4 cup of water seasoned with a couple pinches of  dried  vegetable stock seasoning. Cover tightly with foil and cook at 350 degrees F.  for 35-40 minutes until the internal temperature is 165 F. (a food thermometer is always the way to go). Remove breasts from pan and allow to cool on a plate.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Spirit of Christmas


Let the high praises of God be in their mouth and a
two-edged sword in their hand
.
Psalm 149:6 (KJV)

After a fun day and a late evening practicing with the church Bell Choir for Christmas Day,  I'm getting some Christmas things done around the homestead while listening to Christmas music. Nothing involving Santa's and Grinches and Red Nosed anything, but traditional Christmas music as we sang in church. There are still a couple of them I can sing in Norwegian (but then the cats start to gather on the porch. . . )

I like a traditional Christmas. Not long ago, someone I knew professionally invited me over to their house for Christmas Eve and Day as I didn't really have any plans and I didn't have any family in that part of the country and being new on the job I didn't have leave or money to fly out West for the holidays. There was no music, the plastic tree was put up on Christmas Eve and the kid's presents were ripped open on Christmas Eve in a flurry of paper without as much as a thank you while the adults just had snacks and drank. Christmas day was non stop video games after more presents from Santa. No church, no Christmas Carols, no candles, no special dinner, nothing.

I appreciated the invite but it felt no more like Christmas than July 3rd.

So today, there is music, making more cookies for friends (the one's yesterday all evaporated) and getting some last minute cards prepared.

So which one do I send?

There is no more naughty and nice, EVERYONE is nice - the Politically Correct Christmas Card

DEAR ______ : Please accept with no implied or implicit obligation on your part, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the generally accepted in the calendar year 2018, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country or the only America in the Western Hemisphere and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishes. By accepting these greetings you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for herself or himself or others and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

Or do I just make my own, from the heart?  In memory of  Barkley.



Sunday, December 16, 2018

An Abby Normal Christmas Letter

Abby Normal the Lab here.  I know Mom doesn't blog about me like she did about Barkley but I am a big part of her and Partner in Grime's life since they adopted me from a high kill shelter 4 years ago. I was old and sick and had borne tons of puppies, and when I couldn't make money for my previous peeps they just got rid of me. After a 12-hour round trip car ride I had a new home and it's the best place EVER (BACON!!!!! Poofy Bed!!!!! Sleeping inside where it's warm!!!!!)
When Abby got her first dog bed at the crash pad!


Note the hypersonoc tail.

Today, Mom helped me get my Christmas Cards addressed today to the peeps of my pet friends over at The Book of Barkley Blog.

You know how some people put a letter in their Christmas card, telling others all that they did during the past year.

I was going to go that, but then I figured that would use a LOT Of paper, so I'm just going to put my letter to you all here - you know, so you know all of my activities and accomplishments in 2018.

So here goes:

Dear Blogville friend:

This year I played, left pee-mail and yard land mines, ate, slept, barked at the mailman, UPS man, Fed Ex Man and squirrels, had treats, squeaked my stuffies, begged for bacon, went on walkies, took a nap, rolled in the grass. attended Blogville activities,  played, left pee-mail and yard land mines, ate, slept, barked at the mailman, UPS man, Fed Ex Man and squirrels, had treats, squeaked my stuffies, begged for bacon, went on walkies, took a nap, rolled in the grass. attended Blogville activities, played, left pee-mail and yard land mines, ate, slept, barked at the mailman, UPS man, Fed Ex Man and squirrels, had treats, squeaked my stuffies, begged for bacon, went on walkies, took a nap, rolled in the grass. attended Blogville activities, played, left pee-mail and yard land mines, ate, slept, barked at the mailman, UPS man, Fed Ex Man and squirrels, had treats, squeaked my stuffies, begged for bacon, went on walkies, took a nap, rolled in the grass. attended Blogville activities, played, left pee-mail and yard land mines, ate, slept, barked at the mailman, UPS man, Fed Ex Man and squirrels, had treats, squeaked my stuffies, begged for bacon, went on walkies, took a nap, rolled in the grass. attended Blogville activities, played, left pee-mail and yard land mines, ate, slept, barked at the mailman, UPS man, Fed Ex Man and squirrels, had treats, squeaked my stuffies, begged for bacon, went on walkies, took a nap, rolled in the grass. attended Blogville activities, played, left pee-mail and yard land mines, ate, slept, barked at the mailman, UPS man, Fed Ex Man and squirrels, had treats, squeaked my stuffies, begged for bacon, went on walkies, took a nap, rolled in the grass. attended Blogville activities, played, left pee-mail and yard land mines, ate, slept, barked at the mailman, UPS man, Fed Ex Man and squirrels, had treats, squeaked my stuffies, begged for bacon, went on walkies, took a nap, rolled in the grass. attended Blogville activities, played, left pee-mail and yard land mines, ate, slept, barked at the mailman, UPS man, Fed Ex Man and squirrels, had treats, squeaked my stuffies, begged for bacon, went on walkies, took a nap, rolled in the grass. attended Blogville activities, played, left pee-mail and yard land mines, ate, slept, barked at the mailman, UPS man, Fed Ex Man and squirrels, had treats, squeaked my stuffies, begged for bacon, went on walkies, took a nap, rolled in the grass. attended Blogville activities, played, left pee-mail and yard land mines, ate, slept, barked at the mailman, UPS man, Fed Ex Man and squirrels, had treats, squeaked my stuffies, begged for bacon, went on walkies, took a nap, rolled in the grass. attended Blogville activities. played, left pee-mail and yard land mines, ate, slept, barked at the mailman, UPS man, Fed Ex Man and squirrels, had treats, squeaked my stuffies, begged for bacon, went on walkies, took a nap, rolled in the grass. attended Blogville activities,played, left pee-mail and yard land mines, ate, slept, barked at the mailman, UPS man, Fed Ex Man and squirrels, had treats, squeaked my stuffies, begged for bacon, went on walkies, took a nap, rolled in the grass. attended Blogville activities, played, left pee-mail and yard land mines, ate, slept, barked at the mailman, UPS man, Fed Ex Man and squirrels, had treats, squeaked my stuffies, begged for bacon, went on walkies, took a nap, rolled in the grass. attended Blogville activities, played, left pee-mail and yard land mines, ate, slept, barked at the mailman, UPS man, Fed Ex Man and squirrels, had treats, squeaked my stuffies, begged for bacon, went on walkies, took a nap, rolled in the grass. attended Blogville activities, and so on and so on and so on.

Yours truly,
Abby Normal the Lab

Friday, December 14, 2018

Into the Blue - For Mr. B.

It was a beautiful Fall day there back in the year before I married and moved, clear, almost cloudless, with just enough breeze to kick up a little whitecap on the lake at Eagle Creek. The water was a surprisingly clear blue, similar to much of the water I've seen in one of my favorite countries, Ireland. Barkley had stayed with friends for a couple of nights while some work was done on the Range and there were photos being taken today for the "virtual tour". So I drove into the city after work to bring him home, listening to him pant behind me like a demented air compressor on the drive West. Passing the large reservoir on 56th street, I thought, it would be a good day to be out on a boat, if many of the boats weren't already put up for the winter that will be tapping at our door early some morning. Calling with portents of the coming cold, a Jehovah's Witness of chilly repentance for summer frolic.

There is part of me that likes the winter, the part that likes to hole up and cook casual dinners for friends, watching it snow while I watch old movies, curled up with my dog on the couch. Mornings spent stalking an elusive whitetail, followed by an evening in front of the fire, lazing under a thick soft blanket with stories of the day and a couple fingers of Jameson's. But yet what I wanted today was just one more day of summer to get out on the water, with a boat. The free and clear call of running tides as the dawn breaks gray. A day to feel the sway and the splash, the kick of the wheel and the taut shake of the jib, the rhythm of the tasks that keep the wind in the sail, the choreography of brain and hands, wood and metal, that drive you towards the horizon.

During grad school, I lived on the West Coast and seemed to divide my quality time between the sky, the mountains or the water. A vagrant gypsy life of the spray of laughter and sorrow, salt water, salt tears. After I had Brigid Jr and handed her to her adoptive parents I sought solace in the blue, traveling from the waters of the womb to the waters of the wild, as far out into it as I could. Flying, hiking, sailing. Environments so different, yet so essentially the same.

There is probably a reason that many pilots are lovers of the outdoors, many owning boats. Boaters and pilots take great pride in their craft, and there is a sense of camaraderie amongst them, though they may not actively socialize when away from their favorite element. Many of my friends share this world and we all share one other thing, despite variances in gender, age or upbringing. We are people who just cannot thrive between clustered walls, walking asphalted trails to small offices, breathing in the fumes of yearning, working and dying earthbound, with nary a thought of the sky or the clouds or the sea. To stake us to a plot of earth, however shaded, safe and watered, is to watch us wither and die.
I lived for a time on a a tiny rented houseboat when I was a young student. Probably the best place I'd ever laid my head. The marina was small and I relished going to bed at night with the tremulous cadence of the water rocking me to sleep, the sounds of the cove, music to my empty heart. It was a quiet, sheltered place where no one locked their doors and people respected your things, and your privacy. Though I secretly smile when I think about the Simpsons' episode where Homer comes home with “Marge! Look at all this great stuff I found at the Marina. It was just sitting in some guy's boat !!"

In retrospect it was one of the more carefree times in my life, houseboat living between work and classes and flights with my students while tagging along with new friends and neighbors, one with a large Taiwanese ketch,; weekends of we pilots racing the locals up and down the waterways. The times were few and far between with our schedules, but the joy of those days still remains pooled in the backwaters of my mind, and I can take myself back there with just the sound of the wind filling a sail, testing it's seams.There is just something magical about the elements of water and sky, with their constant change in mood and shape, density and color. The great variances of their forms, like music, can either calm, uplift or excite; a power over the mind and thoughts of those who have the depth of soul to hear. But like the sky, the water too, has its dangers, its eddies, its currents. There are days where the whisper kiss of the wind turns into a whetted knife and you and your craft are simply a storm tossed play toy of the gods. As Sophocles's stated in Antigone: "Wonders are many, and none is more wonderful than man. This power spans the sea, even when it surges white before the gales of the south-wind, and makes a path under swells that threaten to engulf him".

I've seen that power, caught out in a unexpected storm, on wing or sail; where my tiny craft pitched and rolled in weighed indecision as to stay pointy end forward or not, debating as to which way was up and which way was down, into final blackness, while I frantically went through the motions of piloting it, hoping to at least get the opportunity for one last "%&#^" shouted for immortality before I left nothing but a splash of debris against the surface. It's a mistake you don't make twice, and when you size up your sky, assess your horizon, you think and remember. It's similar in many ways to climbing. It's easy to lose yourself in the drifting quiet, mesmerized by the tranquil stillness of the blue, the brilliance of the elements, and forget the strong, wild heart that beats beneath the lacy spray of white.

Like anything that tests you against Mother Nature, if you don't learn, you die. If you do learn, the danger becomes part of the attraction; not in a reckless fashion, but rather with the confidence you gain in knowing that you have choices and strengths. That with the right choices, whatever the sky, the ocean, the wild or life in general can throw at you, is not enough to destroy you, as you have the power that Sophocles wrote of, of man over the wind.

That is why after a few months of getting my Dad in assisted living, and getting his home ready for sale, times that were both emotionally and physically draining, I understand the draw of the sea or the sky.  One last turn to test my mettle before this long dark winter, to put my hand into it, leaving a wake trail behind me of all the worries and want and desire, to wash my mind free of all but the grip of my hands on the wheel, the clouds anchored above, guided by the flutter of wind against fabric.