Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

V: Fields of Daffodils





Every year I eagerly await the arrival of Spring with it’s warmer temperatures.  I bask in the days of sunshine, so welcome after the long grey winter. The  budding flowers and  the promise of May, my favorite month of the year!

  “C” recently wrote about her family’s visit to the Wye Mountain Daffodil Festival, and a little ditty posted on Facebook by our blogging friend, Tess Kincaid, of www.willowmanor.blogspot.com, inspired me to post about my family’s recent visit to Wye Mountain also.  You might want to visit Tess’ blog sometime—she is a published poet with a new book coming out!  She is also a movie buff and  lives in a haunted house,  which I find most intriguing!!!

The little nursery rhyme she quoted is one most of us are probably familiar with.  I thought it’s origins were English, but Google research indicated that it was written by none other than the renowned American author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, of The Scarlett Letter fame!   


Daffy down dilly
















Our visit to the daffodil festival was on a particularly windy day—hope the old saying concerning March “In like a lion, out like a lamb” bears out as April nears!





Eldest daughter  has two sons with birthdays back to back so she decided that a family visit to nearby Wye Mountain would be a perfect photo opportunity AND we could celebrate both boys birthdays with a little party.





Eldest daughter with her sweet girls in the photo below.





Youngest daughter with her toddler son.  He was an infant when they brought him to Wye Mt. last year! 





Last, but not least-- my only son with his lovely bride!



I’ll end with a photo of the whole family!  Eldest daughter is so right—our family is our greatest earthly treasure!   There are many trials to be endured as we walk through life, and lots of families are under immense strain, but some days you just need to walk through fields of daffodils!!!



Little girls playing – reminds me of when “C” and I were young! 



I love Wye Mountain and it’s surrounding rural communities and natural beauty.   It is only about 40 minutes from our home in central Arkansas and nearby is the  community of Little Italy where my grandmother taught the immigrant women how to can and preserve food at the local Catholic Church when she traveled as County Extension Agent during the mid to late 1930’s.  Remote Little Italy has a checkered past—perhaps I’ll write about it some day!

So does your family have a tradition where you gather together every year to create memories?  We’d love to know!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

C: Is Whimsy a Waste?

Workahol I am self-employed, true enough.  You might think this means I have all kinds of discretionary time.  I guess it depends on how you define “discretionary.”  I feel like I have very little, really.

Last weekend, for example, I worked both days.  No one said I had to do this.  It isn’t that I have a burning desire to work seven days a week.  No, I just knew what needed doing and went in.  Same with going into the office very early or staying late.

Yesterday (Friday), my brother suggested we go out to lunch together.cafe outside   We seldom do that, ending up eating at the desk 9 out of 10 work days (usually something bad for us, although we’re trying to pack healthier choices now).  I was tempted to go.  I had no afternoon appointments and the weather is so fine right now that I knew we could probably score a table out in spring. Still, I was nagged.  Shouldn’t I stay and get just one more thing done?  He and I had a serious discussion about being workaholics who fidget through times when we should be relaxing. 

Ironically, it was my brother who ended the discussion by taking a phone call that took his attention away from lunch.  He wound up sending his assistant for a Rally Burger to eat at the desk.  I skipped altogether.

Yes, I know this is unhealthy on so many levels.

Now, let’s switch scenarios

At home I have eleven acres to tend.  Even when we lived in a subdivision we were not lawn keepers—no “Yard of the Month” sign in ours.  Right now I have winter deadfall that needs picking up and putting on the burn pile so that we can mow the acreage more easily.  I want a few raised beds in the back yard, both for vegetables and for some flowers.  The front door needs painting.  The only time I have for any of this is the weekend.  Last weekend was taken up by family activities and rain.  This weekend is perfect for doing this kind of work.

DSCN1361 So, what did I do?  Here’s my day:  Sister called to say that she and my two nieces were taking Mom to see the daffodils on Wye Mountain, where there is a daffodil festival each year (I’ve never been).  It’s about 45 minutes away.  I told her I’d meet them there.  MIL was invited and opted out.

We got there about 11:30.  Yes the flowers were spectacular but, really, (sorry), after we snapped some photos, we were ready to go.  We decided to go for lunch.

As we sat at the restaurant, I got a hankering that I never get.  “I’m going to T J Maxx,”  I said.  I have not been in a couple of years, but V haunts its aisles religiously and comes out with some snap-bang-up bargains.  Boy, this suggestion perked up all the sets of ears around the table.  We endedT_J_-Maxx up meeting there.

We must have spent two and a half hours in that store.  We have combed every nook and cranny.  We found bargains: Mom got a crock in which to put her utensils on the kitchen counter and some bargain-basement-priced wash cloths.  Sister found shoes and a new pyrex measuring cup.  Her daughters got assorted items, including marked-down movies.  I ended up with a marvelous new pie plate.  I’ll get to that in a minute.

We loaded up our treasures, and I took Mom home, helping her stand her wooden spoons and spatulas in her new crock, admiring our purchase.

I stopped at Kroger to pick up a few groceries.  By the time I got home it was 5:00 p.m.  And now I’m feeling antsy—like I should have been doing things other than traipsing around two counties spending money.  Shouldn’t I have been picking up my grounds?  How about just going in to work to do the piles that are there on my desk?  In the end, I don’t have any progress to show for this—only a marvelous new pie plate and fun with the girls of the family.

I have calmed my nerves about this thing.  Deep down I know that I did the right thing.  We had amazing fun—especially at TJ Maxx.  I have to say that this is a woman’s store—totally—and no one can shop, gleaning through merchandise, like a bunch of females sans those dreary, impatient men!  All-in-all it was a wonderful, comforting day.  I think I did right.

But it feels like my whimsy is a waste…must fight this…polish pottery

Now, about the pie plate.  V is a treasured friend, as most of you know.  But sometimes she is a bad influence…take the gifts she has  begun to give me on  birthdays and Christmas: Polish Pottery and items that match them.  I LOOOVE this stuff, and she knows I won’t usually spring for it for myself.  So I get gifts of it from her.

The latest is this wonderful pie plate (which I think is not really the “Polish Pottery,” but it goes well with it:

  DSCN1373 Last week I baked a pumpkin pie in it (yes, I know it’s off-season), and I was absolutely amazed at how good it felt to see my beautiful pie in a beautiful pie plate.  I don’t think I’ve owned such a lovely pie plate before—having mostly pyrex and white ceramic and a couple metal pans.

So, as I strolled through TJ Maxx today, I spied this red plate for $5!!!!

DSCN1371   And my mind peeled right back to the pie in that lovely plate V gave me and how much better I loved my pie the other day since it was presented so beautifully.  What else could I do but snatch this one up and search the aisles for more, different ones?  Thankfully, this was the single one because I was in such a mood that I was easy prey for pie plates.

An apple pie is going this new one tonight and, because of V’s influence, I’m now dreaming of a large collection of beautiful pie plates.  Gone are pyrex and metal pie plates for me…see how she leads me astray?

So, what do you think?  Was my day productive, or was it a waste?  I know one thing, I am satisfiedly tired and relaxed.  I think that’s my answer. 

Hope you all have a restful weekend, too.  C

Thursday, March 17, 2011

C: The Meaning of a Dog’s Bark

dog doormat

My niece has two dogs, Ruby and Razzle.  They are both rescued dogs, having been adopted several months apart from the humane society as puppies.  Niece and her husband are a young couple with no children, so R and R are like their kids, cared for diligently and melded into their family.  When niece and husband are home, R and R are in the house with them, much like Chili is with me.

Niece reports a puzzlement about her dogs: when she and husband are watching television and a doorbell rings on the screen, both dogs instantly jump up and rush to the front door, barking raucously and clearly expecting some stranger to appear. 

Now, I know that this is a common occurrence.  My Chili, too, will sometimes respond to the doorbell rings on television.  But here’s thedog at door kicker about Ruby and Razzle:  They were adopted as small puppies from different litters, some months apart.  They have lived their whole lives, save a few first weeks, with niece—who has NEVER had a doorbell. 

No, Ruby and Razzle have never actually experienced a doorbell ringing in the home and a stranger appearing at the door.  The only doorbell ringing they have ever heard has been on television.

What do you think?  Did R and R pick this up from watching TV?  Did they reason that if the TV folks have people appear at the front door when the bell rings, the same could happen at their front door?

Sometimes I think dogs know more than we give them credit for.  I know my own dogs have always become very attuned to patterns in our lives.

When I had horses, my Shelties used to consider it their very serious “job” to accompany me to do the feeding.  They loved the specific duty of feeding time, for Shelties are working dogs and do love to have a job tosheltie_herding_AKC do.   This picture is not my Sheltie, but it’s what mine were bred to do.  I just know they would have relished this kind of work. 

So, come feeding time each day, the Shelties were especially attentive and, when I would move to the door, they would scramble to go with me, beating me to the door and running ahead to the feed barrels.  They would bark and bully my horses each feeding time—keeping the herd in line!  There were a few times when I would get out there and realize that Gus and Scout were in the fenced back yard, having been forgotten by me.  They would see me through the fence and both bark urgently, clearly horrified at the thought of missing out on doing their job. It was so bad that when this happened, I did not have the heart to carry on without them and would trudge back to let them out to join in the work.

During the day when it wasn’t feeding time at all, if I pulled on my muck boots or my barn coat, the Shelties were off like a flash to the barn, reading my signs of barn duty even off hours.  They clearly understood the phrase, “feed the horses,” and would respond to it even when I was addressing another person and not them…eavesdropping, as it were.

003 My current dog, Chili, has a routine: he stays outside during the day while I’m at work except as MIL lets him in at her house.  When I come home each evening, he comes into the house with me and stays through the night.  He has a bed on the floor in my bedroom.

When I watch television, relaxing after work each evening, he naps on the floor by my chair, heading for bed as I do.  I can say, “Well, it’s time for bed,” and off he’ll go to the bedroom even before I move. 

Last Saturday I worked all day at the office and then swung by to spend a couple of hours with my mother.  Mom and I ended up going out for dinner, so I was after eight o’clock getting home (I am such an early bird…this is approaching my bedtime!).

When I got home, I turned the television on, captivated by Tsunami footage.  Next thing I knew, I was being awakened by Chili’s emphatic pushing at my hand.  It was 11:30! (Unheard of for me!).  I had fallen asleep in the chair.  Chili was push, push, pushing at my hand with his nose.

Thinking he was so insistent because he needed to go out, I started to get up, expecting to turn to the right to go the the door, but no, that’s not what he had in mind.  Instead, he headed left toward the bedroom, pausing at the hallway to glance over his shoulder as if to say, “Time for bed, silly.” 

Clearly, Chili needed to hit the hay and wanted me in the bed, too.  When I turned off lights and came to the room, I found him already curled up and headed for la-la land.

And, of course, he has an English vocabulary that exceeds  just “Sit,” “Stay,” and “Bed.”  We have to spell T-R-E-A-T or he runs expectantly to the T-R-E-A-T cabinet (same was true of Scout).  We had a poodle once who eventually learned to actually spell B-A-T-H.  We could neither say nor spell that word if we were intending on bathing him, for he would disappear in  the house somewhere, and it might take an hour to find him.dog cartoon

I know, beyond doubt, that I anthropomorphize about my animals, but I really do believe they have a deeper understanding of things than we sometimes think. 

And that thing about Ruby and Razzle and the television doorbell: well, it’s really got me thinking!  C

Friday, March 11, 2011

C: The Cause of Vesuvius’ Eruption

trust fund Susan and John.  They had a charmed life; both had deep trust funds from old money.  They had grown up in the same country club, had fallen in love and married seventeen years earlier. 

Susan had a career as owner of a retail store.  She didn’t have to work and started this out of her passion, but still she made money.  She was a smart girl.  John had a successful career as an executive in a large locally-based company.

They had two sons, in the third and fifth grades.  John was on the private school board.  Susan was as involved as any mother could be in school and sporting activities.

John decided he wasn’t happy.  He came to see me to get out of the marriage.  He didn’t blame Susan.  He said, in fact, that she was a great person, a great mother, and did her best at all.  He just wanted out.  He confessed that the fault was his.  He had been through an affair and, while that woman was not someone he would leave his wife for, the single, swinging life was.  He simply did not want to be married.  Where was the fun in that? marriage-breakup-186

Money wasn’t an issue on either side.  There were no disputes over custody (Susan was the clear choice here).  They were going to be very “civil” about the whole thing, he said.   They just needed guidance from their respective lawyers.   Financial entanglements were complicated.  They needed help in deciding those kind of issues. 

Susan, of course, had her own attorney.  He and I crafted a temporary agreement for visitation and child support, no problems.  We set about the task of due diligence in determining the property matters.

Nearly eight months passed before we were ready to finalize things.  During that time Susan had sent word twice that she would welcome marital counseling and any attempt to piece her family back together.  My client declined.  I was aware that visitation was going well, with him picking the children up from and returning them to school.   He and Susan had little contact, seeing each other only in the midst of others, such as at school and sporting functions.

Actually, John was living it up.  He quit his job—why work when you don’t have to?  Besides, it interfered with taking the woman-of-the-moment out of town.

The day came when these two civilized folks needed to sit down with us lawyers to parcel up the pie.  We had decided on some of the issues, such as the fact that the house needed to be sold.  There were details to iron out.  It was expedient to do it together. 

mercedes John and I traveled in his plush Mercedes to her lawyer's office.  Niiiice!  During the ride we went over some of the issues we wanted, for example, the realtor John earnestly hoped would handle the sale of the house, we’ll call him “Jack Smith.”  John was afraid Susan would want someone else, but John felt that Jack was particularly suited to this property.  Client’s wishes were duly noted by me.

We were ushered into the conference room where the others awaited.  It was the first time I had met her, and she greeted John and me politely, conservatively dressed for an important meeting.  Her lawyer began:

Susan and I have been talking about the house.  We thought that the house might move quickly for a good price if we let someone like Jack Smith handle the listing.”

I opened my mouth and before I could get a word out, my client explodedvolcano_hawaii_kilauea_puu_oo like Mount Vesuvius, vicious in his tone.

That’s right, Susan!” He said, half rising from his chair, “Go ahead.  Just try to control this show like you have tried to control every aspect of my life.  You coming in here with all your preconceived ideas as to how this is going to go!!  Well, you’ve got another thing coming—I’ve been controlled by you for the last time.  If you think I’m going to agree to someone YOU pick for this job so that you can get something over on me, you’ve got another thing coming.”

You could have heard a pin drop.  Really, I was almost speechless.  I turned to him and said, “John, do you have a suggestion?”

Mary Jones,” he said archly.  “She handles high-end property all the time.  I want her.”  Whoever she was…first I knew anything about it.

Susan said that Ms. Jones would be just fine as a realtor.

And so it went.  As we tackled each issue, my client was hateful and rude.  He would spew venom each time he opened his mouth.  Really, he was a handful, arguing over the lawn furniture and piddling items that I knew did not matter to him.  He sprinkled the conversation with accusations: “Your cold selfishness ruined our marriage!” 


At each misbehavior I would chide him, instructing him to watch his tone and at times even grabbing his arm for emphasis.  He had moments of rage, with red face and half-rising from his chair.  It was so very odd.  From the beginning he had acknowledged that she was blameless; he was the one who had transgressed.  What was happening?

She responded either with quiet civility or not at all.  When he called her a b****h at one point he and I went to the room next door.  I told him I could no longer conduct the meeting with him acting like that.  He was to stay in this room, alone, with me moving back and forth between rooms, carrying suggestions.

And so it went for another hour or so.  We did, finally, hammer out a settlement.


John and I rode silently down in the elevator.  When we were finally in the total privacy of his car, I turned to him and said, “What in the H was that about?”

He turned to me, his eyes glistening on the verge of tears.  “It’s the first time I’ve been that near to Susan since we split.  I cannot stand the reminder she is of what I have done to my family.”

There it was.  Guilt.  Eating him up.guilt_got-guilt-button

Do you want me to offer counseling,” I offered.  “You’re not divorced yet.  There’s no hurry.  It’s not too late.”

He sat up straighter, rejecting the suggestion out of hand, pulled himself up emotionally, and said with a much-changed tone:  “You know, I’m sorry—I have tried to rise above all this, but you have no idea what life with Susan was like.  I’m sorry that I could not get through this without letting my hurt over her selfishness come through.  It’ll be fine; we’re almost there…”

He had gone back into the lie he had created for himself.  Clearly he was living the playboy life he wanted to live, and he was going to pursue that, never mind the cost to his family, never mind the guilt.  As we talked, it became clear to me that all he really required in this matter was to avoid Susan.  If he could just avoid her, he could avoid really seeing things clearly.  He intended to do just that.

John is an extreme example of something I see all the time.  His example is so clear because all the other issues—the kids, the money—were not really issues.  Because there was no muddle from those subjects, the subject of guilt was particularly vivid, but I see it all the time.

The guilt and need for justification causes untrue accusation and irrational anger.

So, your human relations tip for the day: Don’t ever believe a cheater’s story about his/her spouse.  Guilt and need for juangry_man_SHNSstification will color everything they say.  They will come up with the most outlandish accusations and reasons to blame the other person.  The anger will look real because it is real. 

But the trick is this: It is really anger at one’s own self, and inability to look into one’s own eyes in the mirror.  The fabrications and unmerited anger are so that when one looks in the mirror one sees who one wants to see…not what is. 

All of us do this to some degree.  It just becomes magnified (as do a lot of things) when marriages break up.

I saw my client some years later.  He was genial, as always, and still single.  appeared to be happy as a lark.  The boys were growing up, he said, doing well.  He still saw them “often.”  He was living the life he wanted on all counts.  I didn’t ask about Susan, but he brought her up.  She was doing well, too, he had heard…he didn’t see her much at all.

I bet.…C

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

C: The Legend of Shadow

shadow Do all of you have “legendary” pets?  I certainly hope so.  We have many, in fact almost all of the pets we have owned over the years have their own legends.  But the one that stands out—the one about whom almost all my friends have memories—was our Alaskan Malamute, now gone from us for years; I forget how many, but more than five, I know.


He was a gift to us from V.  V and her family owned Shadow’s mother, Brenna.  When Brenna had her first litter, V called and offered.  We accepted and V and her family actually chose him from the litter for us.  He came to us as “Big Mac” because he was the largest of the bunch.  We looked him over and decided he just did not look like that name to us.  My son’s good friend came up with the perfect one: “Shadow.”

Shadow’s coloring was striking.  He was black and white, and his eyes were ice blue against the black eyeliner of his coat pattern with shadowy shades of wolf grey.  Perfect camouflage in shadowy woods.

We learned that his blue eyes disqualified him from registration.  Apparently it is fine for Siberian Huskies to have the blue eyes, but Malamutes must have brown.  We did not care.  Those blue eyes became his hallmark on a dog much, much larger than any Husky.  He was a beautiful, exotic-looking dog.  He was, to be truthful, arresting.  I have had more than one person tell me that his eyes frightened them.

But spooky eyes notwithstanding, Shadow was a true family dog.  Msketey son housetrained him in a manner we learned from the New Skete Monk’s book, The Art of Raising a Puppy (which I still heartily recommend).  Shadow was tethered to Son’s bed side for the night.  In the night, when the pup whimpered, Son would drop his hand down to give comfort.  If he  quieted, all was well.  If he didn’t, Son got up and took him outside.  It was a method that worked like a charm to manage two objectives: Shadow learned to be housebroken in lightning speed, catching on to the fact that all “business” was done outside.  And, equally important, this bonded him to our Son like superglue.  Son was his “boy,” and Shadow was at boy’s side everywhere.

Shadow grew to be huge.  We were always amazed when he would go to the vet and we were told he weighed only 85 or 90 pounds…he looked much bigger with his thick coat.  His head was broad as a bear’s.  He was a serious dog.

Some mornings Son and Shadow would appear at breakfast, with Son sleepily rubbing his eyes.  When I would ask why he was still sleepy, he was likely to say, “Shadow kept pushing me off the bed last night.”  They shared his twin bed, which was a bit narrow for a small boy and a huge dog.  But they made do.

When we moved to the country, Shadow was in his element. Until he was two years or so old, he had been in a fenced yard, but now he had the run of woods, and he had to deal with other country dogs who came our way.   He guarded our place with regal confidence.  Even large dogs who came down our driveway would turn on their heels and leave when Shadow strode out to face them.  He never chased them, never barked.  His gaze and his presence were enough to ward off any interlopers.

In fact, “noble” was an adjective I often heard used about him, and he had many mannerisms that seemed “noble,” indeed.  For example, Shadow would never eat in our presence (other than treats we handed him).  When we would fill his bowl with food, he would politely wait until we walked away or, if he was fed on the back porch, he would wait until we entered the house before beginning his meal.

The other thing that running free brought out in Shadow was howling.  After we moved to the country, we could hear him at night sending uphowling long, drawn-out wolf howls to the sky.  Our two Shelties loved this and would join in, all three dogs appearing to go into some kind of moon-worshipping trance.  But the Sheltie contribution was a yipping-yapping.  It could not compete with Shadow’s powerful, deep howls, lonesome and haunting.  Our neighbors through the woods would comment that they had heard a wolf howl in the night because it was just different from what the coyotes out here sang, and we would smile to think that Shadow’s howling had been so appreciated.

As much as the Shelties loved the howling sessions, those sessions died when Shadow died.  It seems the Shelties needed a leader to hold such concerts.

Shadow would also vocalize to us.  He would often greet us with a low woo-woo sound, a cross between a deep growl and soft howl.  Hard to describe here.  It, too, frightened those who were new to him, but we knew it for what it was: a loving salutation.

Shadow never bit a single person, but his presence was a powerful suggestion that manners ought to be minded. I never doubted that if he thought one of us was in trouble he would be quick to the rescue.  One time I was having our carpets cleaned.  I had put the little gate up to keep the two dogs in the kitchen with me off the carpet.  As I sat at the table, the carpet cleaning man came to the gate and said he would like to get water for his steam cleaner, lifting his leg and stepping over the gate as he spoke.

Shadow was instantly on his feet, teeth barred and hair on end.  He looked fierce and huge, and his blue eyes showed he meant business.  The carpet cleaner fairly leaped back across the gate. 

I praised and calmed Shadow and said to our intruder.  “I’ve got him, you can come in now.”

The carpet guy said, “Is he okay?”

He’s okay so long as I’m okay,” I answered.

I often wondered if Shadow knew something about this guy that I could not see.

So much did Shadow impact our lives that when my husband went wayward, he asked for only two photographs.  He wanted one of Son on his lap as a baby and this one of Shadow:

 shadow on porch

I still have them both…but I will send him copies.  It would be too harsh to deprive one of such mementos.  Now, I ask you: would you blithely go up on that porch with that dog standing there?

As I write this, I realize I could write chapter after chapter about Shadow.  Perhaps I’ll share more stories of him with you later, for he was unique and brought to our lives many wonderful tales.

I believe that a large, imposing dog is a necessity for anyone in the country, especially surrounded by woods as I am.  Now that I am single, I find I rely even more on my watchdog.  I have Chili now, my solitary sentinel, but he, too, is a fine and noble dog.  He seriously does his job of guardiDSCN1309ng me and, when I leave for work, standing guard over MIL.


With Shadow in our history, Chili has large paw  prints to fill, but he’s doing a great job.  I think he’s building legends of his own.  C.

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