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, June 29, 2011

Cowgirl V: Rainy Days and Rainbows


rainy day

The rain this morning seemed somehow to reflect my somber mood.  Just have a case of the blahs the past couple of days.  We just returned from our trip to Alabama to see my mom and sister.  We brought my mom’s two beloved cats with us because she will soon be moving to a special unit due to the Alzheimer’s Disease.   The cats are old and confused too.  I can’t help it!  When I see them, I feel a little sad.  They are  isolated in a spare room until they hopefully acclimate to their new home which includes two cat friendly dogs!  Actually, the female cat has always been somewhat antisocial, and hides out.  The friendly orange tabby, Chester,  just lays on the daybed.  Poor thing, he seems so confused and sad.  The only option besides traveling to Arkansas with me, was euthanasia, and I just couldn’t do it.  Not many people want to adopt a senior animal, and Tuscaloosa is overrun with homeless pets due to the recent tornado. 


The rubble to the left of the Hobby Lobby store was Big Lots.  It was flattened.  What amazed me was that the major hospital in the city was missed by a few feet.  Cars in the parking lot were damaged, but the hospital miraculously was unscathed.



I knew it was going to be bad, but nothing can prepare you for the devastation of a tornado.  Tuscaloosa, is slowly cleaning up the mess, but where do you take all the  junk?




Despite all the devastation all around, Tuscaloosa is a nice town with the beautiful  Black Warrior River meandering through it. Fortunately, my sister’s neighborhood was not damaged at all.  We brought home some of the bounty of her beautiful garden.



We had squash for dinner last night!   This is the squash from her garden!  Perhaps I’ll post my mother-in-law’s recipe for her amazing, delicious squash casserole soon!  Yes, I will!




These red potatoes,  boiled and seasoned with just a little butter, salt and freshly ground pepper were delicious! 




Despite everything, we had a wonderful visit with my sister and her family.  The grandkids swam in her neighbor’s pool, and my daughter and her cousin were able to reconnect and had a great time catching up!  My 7 year old grandson met his cousin for the first time and they were inseparable.  They speculated that being cousins was so great, they might become great friends too!




We drove to Birmingham one evening for some great barbecue, and got to see my niece’s lovely new house.  On the drive there, my husband spied a beautiful double rainbow in the sky.  It reminded me that mourning may last for season, but joy will come in the morning. 

This is the rainbow we saw while driving to Birmingham.




Just feeling a little blue, but families truly are forever!  Little Emma Rose in my arms is turning one year old tomorrow and we will be celebrating at the Purple Cow restaurant.  I suspect Emma will be having some purple vanilla ice cream with her cake!  Happy Birthday, Emma!



Sunday, June 26, 2011

C: Birthdays

I’ve used this picture before.  It is a favorite of mine, V and me at age four.  I am using it again because it has a picture in the background of my birthday cake.   This is the only picture I can recall of any of my numerous birthday parties (Mother where were you and the camera?):


V and I are to the right of the photo, V forward in the darker dress, me over to the right edge of the photo in white.  My little brother (now the big-time lawyer) is to the left edge, at age two.

You will notice that we were all dressed up.  That’s the way birthday parties were “back in the day.”  They aren’t pictured, but you can bet that my mother and the other mothers who were there were not in jeans, either.  Everyone dressed for special days back then.

Back to the cake: It was a Circus Cake, complete with carousel top and plastic circus animals on it.  I know without asking that my mother purchased this cake from Kohler’s Bakery.  It, really, was the only bakery in town for birthday cakes.  This was the day before in-store bakeries.  We all went to Kohler’s for our special occasion cakes, as well as the occasional cream horn.

Besides a Kohler’s cake, another obligatory element of birthday parties was Hawaiian punch.  hawaiian punch Back then it only came in the original red recipe in  great big cans, like this one.  And we only got this sweet-sweet treat (loaded with red dye) at children’s parties.  It was served universally at birthday parties and school parties, such as Valentine’s Day.

You will see from my picture that we had the birthday noise makers.  I don’t see hats, but they were usual.

Birthday parties back then were fairly simple affairs lasting, maybe two hours at the most. You would have the “gathering period,” where everyone arrived, each with a wrapped package to put on the pile.  Then there might be a game or two: Pin the tail on the donkey was a favorite.  The donkey picture was taped to the wall.  Each child was given a numbered tail with tape, and blindfolded.  He or she was then spun around pin the tail by the hostess mother, and pointed in the right direction to pin his/her tail on the picture.  The closest to the correct tail position won some sort of little prize.

After games, birthday girl got to open gifts, after which cake, vanilla ice cream and Hawaiian punch were served on colorful paper plates  and the party dissipated.

I was thinking, as I mulled over these memories, that with my own son and, later, with my nieces and nephews and friends’ kids, our birthday parties became more and more elaborate.  For one thing, they became bigger.  See from the picture, my guests were limited to five in addition to me and my brother.  I have seen (and hosted) parties with whole class enrollments.  Yikes! 

And the party activities became more elaborate.  It is as if we had to have some central (big) activity around which to center the party, instead of just centering it around the honoree: Horseback riding parties (I’ve done ‘em); parties with clown entertainment (done this, too); Chuck E. Cheez….not just the cake-and-ice cream gathering that were once so prevalent. 

But then I thought about one “flash” birthday party my mother allowed in our Meadowcliff home.  Truthfully, I think it may have been  my brother’s birthday, not mine, but it made an impression on me, for sure.

There was a man who called himself “Cactus Vick.”  He dressed as a cowboy and he was connected in some way (announcer, maybe?) with one of the local television stations.  He could be hired to host birthday parties, and—here was the hook—he had a little four-horse merry-go-round that he pulled behind his truck! 


Yessiree, my mama hired Cactus Vick for one of our birthday parties, and he pulled that little merry-go-round right up into our driveway.  We thought that was just the bomb!  Every kid in our city knew who Cactus Vick was and children who got him for their parties were the envy of all others. 

I can remember discussions about when someone was “too old” to have a birthday party, and I knew girls who were given money instead of a party--$1 per year seemed the going rate, so a girl who relieved her parents of hosting a tenth birthday party could look to score $10, which was big money back then.

My family never did that, but I did transition from the regular birthday party to the “bunking party.”  (We never called them “sleepovers” or “slumber parties”), and this became the norm for celebrating birthdays in those pre-teen and early-teen years.  V and I had and attended many bunking parties over the years and, having thrown them for my son, I can tell you:  Cactus Vick would have been worth his money several times over  if you could avoid the expense and sleepless night caused by these sleepovers.

I don’t know why I woke up thinking about birthday parties!  I now tend to want any birthday of mine to go off in a very low-key way (now that there is not enough room for the correct number of candles).  But, for some reason I did start thinking about pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and Hawaiian punch.

I’d love to hear your birthday memories…C

Friday, June 24, 2011

C: Bright Spots – If Ya Gotta Do It, This is The Way.

bright spotYes, there are bright spots in the dismal terrain of broken families in which I work.  As I work to help clients manage the dissolution of their families, normally I am in an acutely adversarial role.  This is required because the parties are so polarized from hurt that they are unable to be collaborative.  I understand that.  Been there, done that myself.

Often where children are involved I see parents so blinded by tblindheir pain and their own rejection issues that seeing the best interests of the  kids is impossible.  Many is the time I have had clients tell me, “I want him to have every other weekend, PERIOD.  It’s best for the kids…”  Yeah, right.  It’s best for the kids to see Dad four days a month?  No, it’s a great way for you to jab back at him for his hurt to you and to have some control in this life of yours that has spun out of control.

But, they are sincere most of the time, I have come to understand.  Pain colors perception in such odd ways.

But recently I was involved in a settlement meeting that was almost a pleasure to attend.  I say “almost” because divorce is never a pleasure, especially where there are children involved.

The participants, Mark and Colleen, are both well-educated professionals.  Mark makes an astronomical amount of money; Colleen has a respected profession without so much monetary return.  They are parents to two sons, ages 4 and 6.  They had been separated over a year before either sought legal counsel. 

Incredibly, they had worked out caring for these kids without any visible hitch. Colleen had taken a spacious apartment, suitable for the kids and just minutes away from the marital home where Mark remained.  When she moved out, her children (then three and five) rolled into the new digs without nary a wrinkle.  For over a year they had been splitting the time with the children, fifty-fifty, and had continued to make decisions about the kids, throw birthday parties together, attend the five-year-old’s kindergarten meetings together and so forth. 

When Colleen came to see me some months ago, she insisted that she have joint custody with Mark (something I rarely recommend because it rarely works).  When she told me how the last year has gone, I agreed to give it a shot.

We met the other day, Mark and his attorney coming to sit across the settlement table from Colleen and me.  A few minutes into the meeting, I could see why the joint custody would work.

We never discussed the whys of their break up, but I could see that there parents arguing was still hurt on both sides.  Both of them agreed that the move out of the house was so that there would never be any arguing in front of the kids.  They say they stuck to that, determined that the children not see hostility between them.  I believe they did that.  It is a breath of fresh air.

Mark, was testy because I was asking for support from him for Colleen so that her standard of living for these kids would not be so glaringly disparate from his.  He felt that she had moved out, she should not share in “his” money.

Not wanting to rock the boat that had sailed so steadily before attorneys entered the picture, I was easy in my approach.  Still, I could not let Colleen walk away with a financial agreement that would impoverish her, despite her willingness to give in.  I had to assert on her behalf.

courtroom At one point, it seemed we could not reach a deal,  “Well, we’re at an impasse,” Mark said.  “What happens now?”

My answer, to which his legal counsel nodded agreement, was: “We go to court.  Without an agreement on this, it all has to be on the table.  The Court will not order joint custody unless both parties come asking for it in evidence of your ability to cooperatively parent.  We can’t request it without a fair settlement of the issues which affect your little boys—like their mother’s ability to provide a home for them.”

This sobering thought brought his attention back to his children.  He retreated.  Each time voices were raised (always over money) and it seemed we were stuck, someone would mention the kids, and both parties would immediately calm and move back in their chairs.  The kids kept them centered and focused on their ultimate goal—good parenting.

As the process continued we lawyers learned the trick.  Each time we broached the possibility that the kids might be pulled into the fray in some way or that the Court would rule that one have custody, both parties would retreat—not necessarily to give in on the issue, but at least to regroup, to rethink, to find a solution.  It was clear to me that these parents were hyperfocused on their children and how this split could be managed to impact the boys the least. It was as if anything which touched the boys’ welfare was sacred ground.  These parents will, I believe—I hope-- be forever united in their goal of dong the very best for their children.lawyers cooperating

We reached a settlement that I believe is fair and will work to the kids’ best interests.

I’ve tried to analyze what makes this couple so unique, why we were able to work things out as well as we did, and why they were so amazingly attuned to  their children’s interests.  I’ve come up with a few factors that distinguish them from the average case:

  1. These two seem secure within themselves.  They are both accomplished and confident in their chosen profession fields.  We did not have to battle some of the problems that insecurities cause.  It didn’t hurt that they were both extremely intelligent.
  2. There had been over a year for them to get some of the emotional venting out of their systems.  Neither had felt the need for an immediate divorce, and this gave time for them to get into a successful separation routine and for emotions to calm down.
  3. They both had willing lawyers.  I can’t emphasize the importance of this factor enough.  If the other side had brought a lawyer who was combative or wanting to be sure he and his client “wins,” then we would have been sunk.  A lawyer can whip those old emotions back up in a client in an instant.  Thankfully, both attorneys were able to see our clients’ ultimate goal and help them achieve it.  We lawyers can be real stinkers sometimes.

lawyer joke

I am not deceived.  In fact, those of you who have read this blog much know that I am quite the cynic.  I believe this couple will have rockiness ahead, because that is the nature of dealing with an ex. 

However, they are a head start ahead of most others in keeping those children central and as the most important part of this process.   Regardless of their marital status, these parents will together face events with these kids from now on.  There will be school and sporting events, graduations, weddings, grandkids….they are forever tied to one another to some extent.  Best to recognize that those children who were so important to them while they were together should still be the most important things to them both.

families forever

I commend them and just wanted you out there to know:  It can be done.  C.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cowgirl V: Welcome Summer and Chasing the Wild Horses of Sable Island


Summertime is here


Hello, first day of summer!  You are welcomed as a long lost friend.  I love your blue skies, fragrant flowers, fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables, and—SUNSHINE!  After a long, dreary Spring, I look forward to the end of the school year.  I work at a public high school, so I really cherish having  time to putter around the house tending to long neglected chores, working in my garden, visiting friends –I love it all!  If only I could get to the beach!!!  It’s not in the cards this year!  Maybe a little trip to the hills of northern Arkansas if I’m lucky!


the beach


I did a little shopping today—scored a couple of  bargains at T. J. Maxx—I bought some Sketcher slip on shoes and sparkly starfish earrings—it must have something to do with my wistful longing for the beach!!!

  I ran a few errands in preparation for my trip to Alabama later this week to visit my mother.  She will be moving soon to a dementia unit where she will get more individualized care as the Alzheimer’s Disease progresses.  My oldest daughter and her family will go with us to visit Grandma, so my sister is going to be deluged with house visitors!  We will make some time for fun!


T. J. Maxx


I stumbled upon a great site earlier this evening that I wanted to share.  I found it via http://www.quintessenceblog.com.  The June 20th post features the Samuel Owen Gallery in Greenwich, CT. and their current exhibit of Romanian photographer, Roberto Dutesco.  For 14 years, Dutesco has been photographing the wild horses of Sable Island off the coast of Nova Scotia.  The exhibit is:  Chasing the Wild by Roberto Dutesco  I hope some (ALL) of you will take the time to follow the link and watch the short video because it is so beautiful and amazing! 

map showing sable island


Just look at these AWESOME photographs!


two horses at sable island



wild horses of sable island by roberto dutesco


Hubby got some new lenses for his camera for Father’s Day!  I’m sending him over to Belgian Meadows farm (where son got married almost two years ago), to photograph the magnificent horses there!  They may not be Dutesco photographs of the wild horses of Sable Island, but they will be amazing to me!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

C: Lessons from Girl Scouts

girl-scouts-logo I was a Brownie and then, for one year only, a Girl Scout.  I remember saluting and saying the Girl Scout “Promise” and our motto:

Be Prepared.

Prepared for what?  Truthfully, that question never crossed my young mind back when I was saying these words in unison with my sister scouts.  Five decades later, I know:

Be Prepared for Curves Life is Certain to Throw You.

This motto came to my mind while I was at an informal gathering of friends recently—all women.  One of them told me her story, words tumbling out of her mouth so that I could not get a word in edgewise; I could tell the words were pushed out by pain.  I know, from experienwomen talkingce, of her need to have someone else listen.  She is not my client but she found out I am a  lawyer and felt compelled to tell me.  I was riveted:

Jon and Mary did it all right.  They were correct to the Nth degree.  Jon’s parents were Missionaries.  He grew up in the mission fields of eastern Europe, dedicated to Christ, as were his parents.  His parents are off the field now, working in their mission’s home office not too far from Mary’s home town.

Mary was the daughter of a devout and respected clergyman.  Because of this she found herself at the same Christian university as Jon, where they met.

Jon and Mary grew to know and love each other as friends.  As fellow believers, they agreed to wait to have sex until after their marriage vows.  They stuck to it.  They also waited until both had their nursing degrees.  All was in place for the perfect wedding and, to follow, the perfect marriage, the perfect life.

Surrounded on both sides by loving and supportive families, they began their careers, working in the same children’s hospital and, while they did not work directly together, they had similar schedules.  They purchased a house. They found a church and did meaningful work there.  Bliss settled over them like a blessing. 

In 2009 Jon secretly arranged with Mary’s boss for her to have a week off in the winter.  At Christmas he announced his surprise: A weeklong trip in January to Hawaii for which he had saved on the side.  He had even ordered up a new bathing suit and clothes for Mary.  She had very little hawaii notice—it was wondrous. 

Hawaii was everything that Jon planned for.  They had the time of their lives, seeing sights, soaking up sun and enjoying one another.  Mary was amazed by the romance of Jon’s gesture, and it deepened her love for him, giving her even more faith that he loved her above all else.

Two months after their return, Mary’s pregnancy was confirmed.  They were to have a child the following September.  They learned it was a girl and, after much prayer for just the right name, they settled on Abigail, a woman of God.  They decided that their daughter would be called “Abby.” 

In June Jon left Mary to take a week long mission trip in Haiti with theirlove letter church.  He e mailed her every day—long, loving e mails about how he missed her, loved her, and each one contained a special message for little unborn Abby for Mom to read aloud to her.  His homecoming was as intense for them both as if he had been gone a year instead of a week.

The very next month, July, Mary noticed Jon’s quiet.  It worried her but she chalked it up to baby expectation anxiety.  She had some of that herself.

The first week in August Jon came in with a strained look on his face.  He sat down at the table where Mary was already seated.

Mary, I’ve met someone else.  I’m sorry—I don’t really want to discuss this because my mind is made up—I am in love with this other person.  You must know that I have not been happy for a long time now.  I’m moving out.  In fact, I’m moving right now.  You can have everything here—I just need my clothes.”

This was so quick that Mary had no time to process what was being said.  Surely she had misunderstood, but Jon had left, going into the bedroom leaving her there in shock.  She could hear him moving around, obviously gathering things to take with him.  The panic rose as she realized what was happening.

There ensued a scene.  Mary, full of emotion, begged Jon, reminding him of Abby, pleading with him to reconsider.  He refused.  Cold.  The next thing she knew, he was gone.

As it turned out, he had fallen in love with another nurse, a young, twenty-two year old.  Jon and Mary were ten years older.  She was married, too, without children.   She had already started  divorce proceedings.  Jon thought it would be a comfort to Mary to know that this new woman was excited about helping Jon parent little Abby when she came, sure (she assured him) that she could love her like her own.  No comfort to Mary.

Jon learned that he could not get a divorce with a baby on the way.  It made no difference, he moved right into his new love’s apartment.  He would not return Mary’s calls, dealing with her only through e mail and only in order to take care of joint debts. 

When it came time for the baby, he was notified by Mary’s sister, who was also her labor coach, since Jon was missing.  He called to say he was in the hospital parking lot, wheres daddy awaiting word of the birth.  He did not want to be in the waiting room with Mary’s family—or his, for that matter.  His family had united to try to convince Jon that he was making a mistake.  This, too, was to no avail.

At Abby’s birth, Jon saw her a few minutes, held her and left.  He never asked to see her until they went to court for the first time in November.  At that hearing, Jon not only demanded visitation rights, his lawyer raked Mary over the coals as Jon sat there smugly.  Mary had changed jobs, not wanting to work in the same hospital with Jon and his honey.  Her new job paid her slightly less money, but it offered her very flexible and fewer hours.  She felt she needed this since she was now a single parent.

The hearing was a disappointment to them both.  Jon did not get unsupervised visitation with this tiny baby whom he did not know and he was ordered not to have this child around his girlfriend until the divorce was final.

Mary was disappointed that she received the standard amount of child support, no alimony and only $200 per month toward their $1200.00 house payment.  The judge had done the math and figured out that Mary could make it with this much money—although barely—pointing out that she had made a decision to cut her pay, and he did not feel Jon should have to pick up that slack.  Huh?

Move forward to May, when we had our conversation.  Jon has seen the baby twice at his parents’ house, preferring to wait until the divorce is final, when he can marry his girlfriend and she can help take care of the baby on visitation weekends.  He knows the Court will let him have the baby around her after their marriage.  suitcase child

Mary is in shock at the thought of sending her little one off for “visitation,” especially into the care of a woman whom she does not know and who has been the cause of so much pain.  It is something she never saw coming for her child or her life.

Mary is finding that her budget was so conservative that she is barely making ends meet.  Her in-laws have graciously stepped in to provide her a cell phone on their account to spare her that bill, at least.  She talked about how supportive they are and that they will not meet the new girlfriend, “until they have to when their son marries her.”  What?  Why then?  Sorry, I don’t think the relationship should be countenanced, but I digress into my own opinion.

Mary is in the process of trying to decide if she should look for a job with more money, although it will mean far less time with the baby she must now raise mostly by herself.

And Jon?  He’s living the good life.  He is paying child support, which is far less than would come out of his pocket for this child if he were in the household, plus $200 per month.  He’s living with his honey, sharing her apartment rent, and probably socking money back.  He’s pushing for the house to be sold so that he can force the payment of his share of theirbe-prepared-510 small equity.  And he will be successful.

So Mary is contemplating a move.  On her own.  Finding a place she can afford and which is appropriate to raise little Abby.

She talked to me obsessively because she is scared.  I can tell.  She has good reason. This is nothing like the picture of the life she had formulated in her mind and which she had every reason to expect, given her planning and the care in which she conducted herself.

What hurts her most are two things:

  • Jon’s allegations of his long, miserable life with her.  “It’s not true,” she kept telling me.  “I KNOW he and I were happy.  He is lying.”   and
  • The fact that Jon does not care—even one whit—about the hardships she must now endure.  “This isn’t the Jon I know.  He had a soft heart.”  She is learning that when their heads turn, they feel nothing but contempt for the one left behind—contemptuous of anything that might get in the way of what they want. 

I know she’s right.  I hear it all the time.  I’ve heard it in my own case.  Men who find lovers suddenly “remember” all the unhappiness no one else knew about for years.  Men who find lovers suddenly despise the one they leave behind.

So, I ask: What does one do to protect one’s marriage?  The truth is that no one has any control—whatsoever—over the choices that another makes.   And you can never predict another person’s choices.  Mark it down.

Be prepared.

I feel for her, but I believe she will be fine ultimately.  She is young and attractive.  She will find someone else.  She’s afraid of that comfort, too, and asked me where I think she went wrong this time.

You didn’t,” I replied.  “And, no, you can’t protect yourself against another betrayal. be prepared badge You can only have your feet on solid ground in case it happens again.  Just be prepared…”

So, I repeat:

Be prepared.

Uncertainty is the only certainty there is., and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security. 

John Allen Paulos

- C  (for cynic?)

Monday, June 13, 2011

C: To Everything There is a Season…

summersun Summer is most definitely here.  With the turn of the season, my tastes in food turn, too.

We tend toward the meat-heavy in this household, I’m afraid.  Through three-quarters of the year my homemade vegetable soup is chocked-full of vegetables, but there are plenty of chunks of beef in it as well.

Now that summer is here, however, we’re tending toward the vegetarian-style, without meat.  There seems to be something about oppressive heat that turns one’s fancy away from red meat—at least in this household.  When the fall crisp hits, we’ll be returning to stews and pot roasts, I can tell you; but for now summer tastes run toward foods like:iced tea

Sweet iced tea.  Lots of it.  With lemon, please.  Occasionally you will find a slice of lime or sprig of mint in mine, but usually it’s lemon.

Fewer sodas and more lemonade—even the sugar-free Crystal light kind.  Just seems to be more hydrating.  Needless to say, our consumption of water goes up considerably.

Tuna salad—”Tunafish,” as I grew up calling this, as in “I’ll have a tunafish sandwich.”  Sometimes I mound it up on a “salad plate.”   I like mine with real mayonnaise (no Miracle Whip), very finely chopped celery and DILL pickle relish.  I love sweet pickles, but not in my tuna salad.

Chicken salad.  Truthfully, I like it made with canned chicken or with leftover cooked chicken, either way, although the two do taste different.  Again, I like mayonnaise and celery, but I prefer capers in my chicken salad.  Occasionally I’ll go a little exotic and pimiento cheese add some curry powder.

And I tend to want cool pimiento cheese sandwiches instead of grilled cheese sandwiches, like in the winter.

Melons, melons, and more melons.  I love watermelon and I’m crazy for cantaloupes and honeydews, although I have trouble picking really good honey dews.  For the cantaloupes and the honeydews, I like to cut them up into a melon salad and sprinkle with lime juice, leaving lime slices scattered throughout.  So refreshing! 

Do you salt your melon?  I don’t usually, but I can see the attraction…

watermelon melonsalad

In fact, I love fruit in the summer—berries, crisp chopped apples, peaches…ummmm.

Cottage cheese.  I love this always, but in summertime I crave it.  Icottagecheese like the “regular” large curd, if given the choice, but I will eat the lowfat, and usually buy that unless I’m feeling like I deserve a treat. 

I like cottage cheese alone or with fruit. It seems so right to mound this creamy stuff up on a “salad plate” (see above) with, say, a little scoop of tuna salad and a little dish of melon mix. This can all look pretty fancy with some lettuce scattered on the plate and maybe an olive or two—on a toothpick if you want to get really fancy!

wedge salad Wedges of iceberg with bleu cheese crumbles, bleu cheese dressing and maybe a few bacon bits sprinkled across.  (No tomatoes, please—see below)  Mmmmm.  In fact, all green, leafy salads sound good to me in the summer, especially topped with a piece of poached salmon.

I could go on and on with summertime favorites.  I’d like to hear yours…

And before any of you say anything about the fact that I’ve omitted garden-fresh sliced tomatoes or cucumbers in vinegar with onions (some of my mother’s favorites), let me say that I’m picky.  Those things are not to my liking.  Weird, I know.  I grew up watching my parents and my siblings enjoy these, but never learned to like them.

tomatoes cucumbers

I’m actually looking forward to the summer, heat or no.  It seems a bit less frenetic, although I don’t really know that it’s true.  But I like the longer days and the evenings on my porches and, of course, all that wonderful summertime food!  C

Saturday, June 11, 2011

C: Fauna

meatloaf I was walking down my drive way yesterday from MIL’s home to my own.  It is a good walk.  We are within “sight” distance, but still it takes me a fair few minutes to make the trek.  Let me put it this way:  she’s almost to one end of my 11 acres; I’m almost to the other end.
MIL had fed me with one of my favorite comfort  meals: meatloaf and English peas.  She knows I love the little Le Sueur peas.    Ummmmmmm.  (No, I did not snap this picture, but it sure looks like her meatloaf!)
As I walked, I spied my neighbor, Midlife Countrygirl, out doing her usual gardening.  I’ve written about Mary before, and all her industry.  My hat is off to this woman.  She cans, she gardens, she mows, she keeps upsuperwoman her pool, her house is spotless…SuperWoman if ever there was one. 
One of the things I love about talking to Mary is that she brings me up to speed on what’s happening in the area. 
You know we’ve got a bear out here.” Mary told me.  Truth be told, we all know we have bears out here—that is not news.  The state record black bear was shot by a hunter not a quarter mile from my home about five years ago.  No, Mary wasn’t advising me that bears live out here; what she was saying is that there is a bear “around” that can be spotted by humans…not a good sign.
Apparently, there is a sow and two cubs who have been spotted right near homes just up the road from us.  They are seen mostly early morning and bear have been seen several times.  I don’t mind the thought of bears—like it, actually, that I live where there is a diversity of wild fauna, but habituated bears unnerve me.  I think they are dangerous—they should be shy of us, not coming intentionally among us.
Mary went on to say that our neighbor up the road had come out upon this Mama bear in the yard and that it growled at her, putting her back inside her house pronto.  Again…not good.
Mary also gave me the comforting (not!) news that she and her husband had heard something “breathing” in my woods across my meadow from her home.  It had caused her cat to listen and raise its fuzzed tail in alarm.  Again…not good.  Gave me the shivers, as my eyes followed her pointing finger to my woods.  Creepy.  Who knows what’s watching us from the forest’s edge?
I have yet to actually see a bear out here, although V’s daughter, M saw one on the side of the road one day maybe ten years ago.  But we did hear a cougar one night—my granny would have called it a “panther.”  My husband and I were sitting out on our porch one fall night not long after we had moved into this house.  At that time, the woods to the back of our house were even thicker than now and unoccupied by humans.  They are extremely dark at night because they are so thick.  They rise up to blanket a high ridge which is part of the beginning of the foothills that eventually come into the Ozark Mountains.  There is a lot of forest for hundreds of miles to our west,cougar including a lot of National Forest. 
As my husband and I enjoyed the fall cool, a hair-raising, loud scream filled the woods.  Twice.  At the time we had our enormous Alaskan Malamute, Shadow, who was never afraid of anything.  Except that night.  He literally bounded up on the porch between us. 
There was absolutely no mistaking what we heard.  All my life I have heard my kinfolk talk about “panther screams” and how they sound like a woman’s scream only ear-splitting.  We knew it when we heard it.
My husband called the Game and Fish Commission the next day to talk about what we had heard.  He was told there are no cougars in our area.  They lied, hopefully to keep hunters from looking for them.
Not long after that, the cougar was spotted by our neighbor on his way to work about 5 in the morning.  The cat was slinking across our road, just a quarter mile beyond us up the ridge, disappearing into the early-morning woods.  Mary has seen one.  And a few months after we heard it, the newspaper carried a photograph of one, captured by a hunter’s tree-mounted caDSCN1311mera not far from our house.
I’m thankful for Chili and continue to maintain that a large dog (at least  one) is important to have if you’re going to live in the country.  While I know that Chili is no match for a bear fight, I also know that no bear is going to bother coming about where a large dog is raising a ruckus.
(Doesn’t Chili look like he’s in a police lineup in this picture?)
There’s just a little double-sided feeling at news of the bears.  On the one hand, it brings a little trepidation, and I won’t be traipsing off afoot to MIL’s after dark, for sure.  On the other hand, it’s kind of exhilarating to live in an area that is still a bit “wild.”  C.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

C: Splurges

summertime It’s gettin’ summertime down here in the South—actually, I’m hearing that much of the nation is under a heat wave.  I am born-and-bred Southern, so I don’t know why it always seems to catch me by surprise each year, but it does.  Little car’s outside thermometer has twice this week  registered over 100 degrees F on the asphalt as I pulled out of the parking lot at the end of the day, although it cooled by at least ten degrees out here in the country.

I worked last Saturday and have worked loooong hours this week.  I have been tired, needless to say.  But the other day, as I pulled into MIL’s driveway after work, I realized that for the first time in several days I felt pretty good at the end of the day.  Maybe this is because I had just settled a difficult case in a way that I am convinced will be of benefit to the poor seven-year-old caught in the middle of his parents’ torment.  Or maybe it’s that common-cold/pink eye virus losing its potency.  Either way, I felt pretty good.

So, as MIL, son and I sat and chatted, I asked her out to dinner, intending on finding a seat at one of the local middle-of-the-road-cost restaurants that range up and down our highway.yayas logo

Nope,” MIL said, “We’re going to YaYa’s!”  (this is a splurge, indeed; a great treat).

She continued: "And I’m buying!” (Ooooooooo! Double treat! )

Son yaya'sopted out, choosing to go his own way.  His loss.  Off we went. 

YaYa’s EuroBistro is what we like to call our “neighborhood Bistro.”  It is, after all, only thirteen miles from our country home (believe me, there is nothing of substance any closer).

It’s a very nice restaurant with attentive, black-clad waiters who make you feel special.  The food is divine.  We love it (can you tell?), but it is not in the budget for frequent dining.

The pictures here are  of YaYa’s, sans customers

And, it was every bit as good as I had anticipated. We had a glass of wine each.  MIL had grilled Salmon with seafood raviolis.  I had rainbow trout (perfect!) with Yukon gold potatoes and long yayas2 green beans.

As I sat there, I thought about our splurge.  It was pricier than most dinners we have…certainly far more than what I fix myself at home.  I had planned only on, say, barbeque or Mexican food, which would have been far more “reasonable.”  But I think the uplifted spirits and the company was worth the extra Dollars.  (Especially since they were MIL’s dollars!)

I think that the value of the a splurge is not just the Dollars involved; it is also enhanced by the very fact that it is infrequent, limited by the budget as it is—perhaps if I ate at YaYa’s weekly, it wouldn’t feel so splurgey (?).   As it is, it feels special.

But it sure did feel good!  It will tide me over splurge-wise for a while.

Sometimes you just have to fit “splurge” into the budget…

Thanks, Immigrant Daughter! C

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