1800's Farmhouse where I grew up

Monday, February 28, 2011

Tapestry of my Life

Whenever I rode my bike down to my best friend Debbie's house as a kid, her mom invariably answered the door, yelled, "Debbie!", then returned to whatever chore was at hand.  There were delicious days in February or March when she made donuts on Fasnacht Day, or days the aromas of homemade spaghetti sauce wafted through the entire house. Just thinking of her cooking skills makes me wonder when Fasnacht Day falls this year!
Invariably, though, she was seated in their family room working on her current project, a masterpiece in the form of a quilt. All the beds in their house had them, and I fell in love with the colors, patterns, and homey feel of the bedding she created. They were amazing. 
Since that time I was given my first quilt, one made from the remnants of wardrobes worn by the Mennonite family who owned our farm before us. It covered my bed through high school, and went to college with me, where it was carefully folded at the end of my bed.  After college my love and appreciation of quilts continued as I purchased factory made replicas, that didn't have the heart and soul of the handmade ones Debbie's mom created. She was an artist.
I had the great fortune to have a very special family move in next to us when my children were small. They became our best friends. One of the greatest gifts given to me by my friend Susan was the gift of quilting. She taught me the basics, took me to her favorite quilt supply stores, and had me envisioning original patterns I wanted to create for the beds of my own children.
My not-so-nimble fingers worked until they ached stitching fabric scraps into colorful quilts, made with blood, sweat, and tears....literally.  I believe there is a small blood stain on my daughter's quilt where the needle pricked my finger. As they have grown, the quilts have been moved from beds to quilt racks, to closets, depending on the current color scheme of their respective bedrooms. Now that I have artistic control of their rooms once again, the quilts have resurfaced. It bothers me not the least that they are not currently in use.  I know that, as the years go by and my hands can no longer create these works of beauty, that my children each have their own special quilt. Made by Mum, and stitched with love to survive generations of use.
I have been contemplating taking up my needle and thread again, as I have come across unfinished blocks and half done pieces that beckon to me.  On display in my family room are three of four blocks that cry out to be joined together. For now, they will need to yell a little louder though, because I like the effect they have as unfinished pieces.

Up close and personal. Design stitched by another quilter, and given to me in a quilt block exchange. Four of us made four blocks each, keeping one of our own and exchanging the others, thanks to my quilt mentor Susan.

The block at the right was my design and handiwork.           
SOMEDAY they will all be united, but for today,
I will enjoy the uniqueness of each individual square.

A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Hills Are Alive

My most recent visit with Mom was spent as it usually is....with time to talk, hold hands, give her a snack, and SING.  Music soothes and helps pass the time productively. Sue was a real fan of musicals, and one of our family favorites was The Sound of Music.  My sister Lynn was blessed with a gift for piano, and accompanied an amazing number of sing alongs in our house.
Yesterday, as I was quietly singing my repertoire of songs (sounding just like Julie Andrews, minus the British accent of course), I was elated when Mom actually seemed to try to sing along.  Sometimes I get a few humming sounds from her, but in this case, a musical word escaped her. It was wonderful.
As kids we loved that musical. We loved it so much that one summer we enlisted all of our neighborhood friends to participate in putting on the first ever Pennwood Play. The cast of about seven guys and girls spent days (weeks?) practicing until we were ready for our opening night (afternoon).  The details of the production are a little fuzzy, but I remember insisting I have the part of Lisel.  I have no idea who played which other part, or parts, as seven actors didn't stretch very far when there were so many characters. I do remember arguments, frustration, and fun! It is my hope that, after reading this, the other participants will remind me of what I have forgotten.
It was the first and last play our little group put on. For obvious logistical reasons, and the fact that we always had to return to school in the fall, the curtain went down on our show. The fact that we returned to school only put things on hold until school let out again for vacation, though. The long summers spent together always led to one imaginative escapade or another.   It was a good group, and I still think of them all fondly.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Friday, February 25, 2011

Lost and Found

I woke this morning to find a pair of freshly washed and mated socks in the middle of my bed. They were not there when I fell asleep last night.  After stretching and grumbling at my 5 AM wake up call, I finally sat up enough to notice I had left my sock drawer open a few inches last night.  The two year old cat I still call Kitten had brought me the foot warming present as I slept.
She is not the first four legged family member to bring presents.  I was grateful that it was only socks this time, knowing our outdoor cats have, on occasion, brought home something feathered or furry. I am not a fan of those types of presents, and have been known to hit some high pitched squeals at the sight of them.
Our neighbor's retriever once brought home an entire leg bone from a deer it had found in the woods. Thankfully it couldn't pass through the door with a catch that long.
A long ago neighbor, who was a few houses up the road from our farm, had a retriever also. Ours were of the golden variety, but they had a very large black Labrador named Rudy.  He was not allowed to roam the neighborhood by himself, but always seemed to find a way around that rule, showing up at our paddock for a scratch behind the ears.  I soon learned his favorite game was keep away. He picked up something he wasn't supposed to have, and we attempted to get it back.
On one of my then fiance's visits before we were married, Rudy showed up just as John was packing to head home again.  The trunk was open, and his gym bag was still on the driveway. That not so helpful dog said hello, grabbed a sneaker, and took off for home. Now you wouldn't think such a big dog could move so fast, but my quarter miler fiance had a truly difficult time catching up with the dog. Eventually her was able to run him down and snag his sneaker. It's hard to be mad at a dog who appears to be laughing when you scold him.
The ironic thing about owning a retriever...they never retrieve what you want them to!  Somehow, though, they always manage to steal your heart.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Two Wheeling Two: Training Wheels are for Babies

Living on an unpaved country road, the kids on the block had free reign of the stretch from one end of the road to the other. What traffic came our way was purely from neighbors, who knew to watch out for renegade bikers....of the elementary variety.  The kids would tool up and down the road, braking hard to cause the back wheel to slide sideways, spraying anyone standing too close with bits of gravel.  When the cloud of dust that erupted from the skidding tire blew away, proud faces appeared through the dust.
My son and his buddies would spend hours riding up and down, making pit stops at the house offering the best drinks or ice pops.  Not to be outdone, my then 3 year old daughter, trailed behind, keeping pace as best she could on her pink Strawberry Shortcake bike, complete with training wheels.  As a Christmas gift the previous year, she was out riding in the driveway even before the pile of wrapping paper had all been dealt with.  It was her pride and joy, and at three, the training wheels allowed her to ride like a "big kid" on her bike.
One afternoon, while attempting to keep up with her brother, Katie's back wheel became suspended over a pothole, held aloft by the wheel in front and the trainers in the back. I can still picture her frantically pumping her legs as hard as she could, the back wheel spinning uselessly over the hole. With tears already forming in her eyes, she dismounted to pull her bike from the hated pothole. Rather than taking off once again to follow her brother, however, she came to the house instead.
Her teary eyed little face insisted she was a big girl now and didn't need the training wheels anymore.  My husband and I looked at each other, deciding to give her the chance to prove herself. What was the worst that could happen?  The training wheels were as easy to put back on as they were to take off, so off they came, and much to our surprise, our three year old took off down the driveway, and never looked back. Her sense of balance was amazing. We never had to run behind helping, encouraging, or balancing her little form on the speeding bike, as we had with our son before her.
Katie was a natural. Her athleticism on that little pink bike, at such a young age, was a precursor for future endeavors that were shining moments in her athletic career.  Training wheels, after all, were for babies, and at three she was the most confident thing I had ever seen on wheels.  That's my girl!
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Two Wheeling

Back in the day (as my son would say) there were no video games, only 5 working channels on our television, and no malls to hang out in.  What we did have, however, was bikes.  On those lazy summer days with "nothing" to do, we could disappear for hours, biking from one friends house to the next, or exploring the neighborhood woods.  We definitely created our own fun and adventures, minus the sound effects and animation demanded by today's quick thumbed game players.
The summer my mom's twin arrived with her own twins in tow, my sisters, my best friend Debbie, and I became enamoured with the cousins we never had the chance to see or spend time with. They were from Texas, and we weren't. Their plans to move to Colorado gave us the brilliant idea to plan a bike trip across country for the next summer. We each had a wide-tired Schwinn, no gears, no bells, no whistles. Those bikes moved on pure leg power, up hill and down.  Biking cross country? No sweat.
After the departure of our cousins, we began a daily workout on our bikes and made travel plans. God Bless my parents for allowing us to gather information, brochures, and maps for our proposed route, all through snail mail no less. They never discouraged us or said it couldn't be done. Ah the wisdom of parents who let you learn those life lessons on your own.
The summer months passed and school began again. We each became involved in school and other activities, and the thoughts of a bike trip to Colorado were soon forgotten. The lesson hasn't been, though, and I have tried to take to heart the idea of not being a dream killer, and allowing others to work through their personal plans and ideas. Eventually we all reach our goal, or change the game plan on our own. In the end then, no matter the outcome, we can all consider ourselves successful.
Here's to better weather and doing some two wheeling.
A warm country hug to all.
Lisa <3

Monday, February 21, 2011


After all the snow "storms" we have had this winter, today's inch-an-hour snow fall has them all beat.  I declared spring as having arrived last week, so this spring snow won't be around long. The warmer temps will melt it into oblivion before March even arrives.
The snow (white) on my mind today, though, actually isn't the stuff falling outside, but the animated character and her 7 cronies I first learned to love as a child.  In the advent of all the Disney movies coming out on VHS back in the 1980s, my Mom began a collection for her grandchildren, thrilled herself at the prospect of sharing these classic stories with them. My now-grown children have wonderful memories of watching movies with Gram, and inherited many pieces of her collection over the years, as she saw fit.
Yesterday something drew me to my grandfather's slant top writing desk, where I keep many of Mom's papers and mementos. After shuffling through pictures that, on their own, caused me to smile in remembrance, I came across a tiny slip of paper in Mom's handwriting.  The paper wasn't more than 1 1/2" by 2 1/2", yet had all the names of my aunts and uncles scribbled on it , as well as my mom's name.  Next to each name was an assigned character, matching personality traits of each of the seven siblings with a dwarf, all of whom have gained popularity since they were first envisioned by Disney in the 1930s.
This find is priceless to me, as since that time, we have lost two very special members of that group, who undoubtedly marched to school together with their own version of "It's off to school we go".  The fact that the list is in good condition and handwritten by Mom, well that just makes it all the more meaningful.  I can almost picture her watching the movie with my children, jotting down the names of her beloved brothers and sisters, and giggling to herself as she assinged each  their new moniker.  Of course, there is a distinct possibility that, as children, the seven of them had already jokingly dubbed each with the name best fitting their personality and characteristics.
However it happened, I am happy to hold a piece of family history, which I will pass on to my own children.
All seven siblings are so very precious to me, as family, and the memories we share, are everything.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Friday, February 18, 2011

I'll Meet You Half Way

Compromise is essential to good relationships, and to making things work in many circumstances. Meeting half way allows both parties to get part of what they want, and this usually makes for a good situation.
Tomorrow I will meet my daughter half way. There is no argument, nothing we disagree on, we're just a little too far apart for a day trip, so meeting half way allows us to spend the day together.  She drives, I drive, and we connect in the middle.
We have been doing this for many years now, since her last two years in college when she had a car to get places. Well, it was actually her brother's car, but if she got to it first it was definitely fair game! The fact that he slept in most weekends made things easier. Getting up early, Kate would "steal" the car and hit the road to meet me for brunch or lunch, and the necessary shopping mother and daughter tend to do when they miss each other and need to be together.
There are several favorite eateries, restaurants where we can either eat cheaply, or order smartly and linger over hot tea to talk and enjoy each other's company.  On past trips we have met to find that special outfit for some social event, or to step out in for a new season.  Since spring arrived here at 3PM yesterday (Lisa's 2011 calendar), I am sure we will find something one of us just "has to have" to welcome warmer weather.  There is joy for both of us in helping each other find just what we need. Women bond while shopping, something most men will never understand.
So, tomorrow morning I will be on the road again, splitting the distance between our homes, so mother and daughter can stay connected.  The time together is priceless, necessary, and a blast!  I will miss her again the minute she gets back on the highway heading in the opposite direction, but I know we will have a girl's day again....the sooner the better.
She is my family, and family is everything.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I Believe...

... in God, miracles, faith, unconditional love from pets, that chocolate soothes the soul, friends are gifts, antiques hold memories, flowers speak of emotions, apologies mend hearts, singing lets you soar, candles compliment aging faces, angels exist, sunshine warms you to your core, teddy bears hold secrets, kisses heal boo-boos, nature brings calm, rainbows still hold promises, art lets us express ourselves freely, walks invigorate, baking brings comfort, road trips are necessary, touch heals, the power of expression in word, music and prayer transcend time, and that family is everything.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3
Happy Birthday Karen!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Spring Fever

There's no doubt I have the fever...  Either the cabin variety or simple spring fever. In either case, I have found myself delirious, throwing open windows because the high surpassed 45 degrees. This was the same temperature that signaled winter only 3 months ago. When it occurs in February, though, it feels so much warmer.
One of the symptoms of spring fever is the urge to clean away the winter grime. My windows would beg to be windexed if only they could talk.  Febreeze no longer does the job fresh spring air can do on well used pillows and cushions.  The biweekly baths our Masha Bear received in the warm months is long overdue, although she is smugly enjoying the winter ban on doggy baths.
Looking out at the deck, now only partially covered with snow, the grill beckons, and I nearly smack my lips at the thought of firing her up to BBQ for the first time.  I am also seriously considering cultivating a new garden patch in the back yard; small enough to handle, but large enough to produce enough veggies to actually eat. On the farm where I grew up, we had a well fertilized garden from the manure we had to dump some place.  The fringe benefits were delicious.
Most importantly, I am craving a long walk on the country roads I know so well, where I "write" as I walk, and become completely engrossed with my thoughts.  There's a book I need to finish writing, so it's time to hit the pavement to find new ideas, and the sanity I seem to lose each winter.  The calendar says spring comes next month. My "fever" has it arriving about 3 PM tomorrow.  I plan to ignore the forecast for snow next Tuesday, and welcome an early spring.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3
Happy Birthday Anina

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The New Normal

We have established that things have changed in our household, with aging parents needing the attention once reserved for babies and toddlers.  It is the new norm and we are slowly adjusting to the responsibilities of parenting our parents and ensuring they are safe, well taken care of, and above all else...loved.
Mom was cough-less today, a good sign that her pneumonia is on the run from the antibiotics now coursing through her frail body. My father-in-law has retained enough short term memory to realize he is home now, and not at the hospital any longer.  For this I give thanks.
Normal now consists of running from work to our perspective parents each day, missing dinner together.  My husband and I carve out an hour... tops ...to reconnect each day, to share stories, and to check schedules for the next day. It is no doubt trying, but a necessity at this time.  I am glad we are in a position to be the parents. For this I give thanks.
I am tireder ( is that really a word?) than ever, and crave a full night's sleep without calls from hospital nurses, nursing home staff, or my fast fingered father-in-law, who once called 15 times in 12 minutes. On those occasions the answering machine and voicemail are my best friends. Ah, technology! For this I give thanks.
For all who have reversed roles and are parenting their parents, I give thanks, for it is a thankless job...we wouldn't quit for the world.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Monday, February 14, 2011

With Everything Changing...

Nothing stays the same.  It is a fact of living and of life. There is a comfort in the old, the familiar, the tried and true.  We cling to traditions, customs, and our heritage for holidays and throughout the year.  It is in these things and the people we share them with that we tend to be our most content. Change signals our fear centers, demanding attention be paid to the moments that send our hearts racing. At these times I have visions of the robot from the old TV show, Lost in Space, chanting, "Danger! Danger Will Robinson!",  as his slinky-like arms thrashed at the air. Our bodies send a rush of adrenalin and kick into high gear to absorb and deal with something new.  Remember those nervous first days of school, or the interview that meant everything?  How about the excitement of preparing for a new baby, or getting a call that you are a grandparent. All wonderful, scary, stressful, and ever changing affirmations of life.
This past week, change came banging at our door.  My father-in-law began experiencing mini-strokes that left him confused and literally unable to find words to express himself.  The once eloquent man, who still loves to "hold court", telling stories few could even hope to beat, has changed forever.  Brain synapses no longer connect the way they have in the past, leaving catalogued information trapped behind speech centers that cannot open the flood gates to let the ideas flow freely.  We have all had moments of being unable to remember a word, or to describe what we want to.  The word or phrase eventually comes to us, and we laugh that we couldn't remember it in the first place.  A stroke, on the other hand, steals the ability on a permanent level, if not immediately, then over the course of repeated instances of stroke.
The fear and sadness that comes in knowing what is happening is all too real.  I have had years of experience in dealing with these symptoms in my mom. Although not from stroke, the aphasia that occurs along with Alzheimer's is just as real, and I know it all too well. 
My husband is struggling to understand and accept the changes that are just beginning to occur with his father's current condition. My advice? Enjoy the moments you share together, you will remember them even if he doesn't.  Don't rush through the end of his life, take the time to savor and treasure the days or minutes of clarity, of laughter and love that will soon be a memory.  Write down family history and stories he can share, before the opportunity is gone. Finally, find the humor in life, and tell his story to future generations. Even the one where he thought he was being discharged from the Marines, and set about packing socks, a radio, and flashlights wearing only his PJ top, fur hat, red socks..... and skivvies.  
In telling their stories, and in remembering, our loved ones live on forever. In our hearts and in our minds
.... until we lose it ourselves. *wink wink*
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Friday, February 11, 2011


Mom has pneumonia.
Father in law is in the hospital with mini strokes.
Enough said for today.
Prayers please!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Count Down!

I am counting down the days for many things right now, but the one my soul needs to hope for and focus on is Mother's Day at the beach with my daughter...my best friend.  Two years ago we took a chance and headed for the Jersey shore on Mother's day weekend, with the hopes for good weather, but needing only each other's company and a distinct change of scenery.  Count Down....Road Trip!
Kate made the CD so we had tunes on the road. I packed movies, snacks, drinks, and bathing suits...just in case.  ( I will always be her Mum, even if we are bbfs!) There is a thrill in hitting the road when plans are not set in stone, and you certainly can't ask for better company.  The miles pass in what seems like minutes rather than hours. Leaving bright and early, we race the sun to the water's edge, anticipating the heady feel of THE BEACH.
As we cross the last bridge between us and our destination, the distinct fishy/salty/sea smell hits us right in the face.  Inhaling deeply we become impatient for the feel of sand between our toes, and the fresh wind in our hair.  Sounds of the nearby boardwalk, already alive with preseason activity greets our ears.  Boardwalk pizza!  The dinner menu is non-negotiable.
On that special weekend two years ago, as luck would have it, the first day of weather was unseasonably warm and sunny.  Light breezes kept us from feeling the sun toasting our fresh from winter skin.  After a long mountain winter, the tingly feel of too much sun on our shoulders was more life affirming than painful. It was our awakening to summer after a long winter's nap.
That first day was heaven sent. Though the daylight hours were still short, it was jam packed with all things beachy. Jars of sea shells and sea glass stand as a testament to that weekend, newly found treasures I still display at home.  The imprints of our winter weary bodies remained in the sand into the next day, when the weather returned to normal (drizzle), allowing us time for movies, girl talk, and serious catching up time. 
This year calls for another get away.  A road trip extraordinaire, where we can return saying what happens at the beach, stays at the beach. Except for the memories, which stay in our hearts all year, until the planning begins again.
Count down.... Kate will let me know how many days!
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Double Whammy

I continue to be a squeaky wheel regarding my mother's care at the nursing home, and as promised, went over several heads to get some answers. Hopefully they will be forth coming tomorrow. Meanwhile, I am considering contacting the ombudsman, a word I never thought I would use in this lifetime!
As Mom deteriorates due to her condition, my husband and I are also dealing with his father, who suffered a mini stroke and heart attack last September.  A definite double whammy. Always a demanding man, he has taken full advantage of the attention he has received due to his condition. There is some slurred speech and a definite lack of short term memory, which accounts for the 50 phone calls we can get from him in a single day, no matter what the hour. The was a record high of 15 calls in 12 minutes one day.  Then there was the night he called consistently between midnight and about 3 AM.  At work I felt as if I had been at a sleepover...you know the kind you don't actually SLEEP at as a kid, and then stumble through the next day. I am beginning to cringe now at the sound of the phone ringing. 
I am also reminding myself, that, maybe not today, but someday this and other events will be the stories I tell that will cause us to laugh as we remember.  Unfortunately, that day is not today. Keep us in your prayers.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Squeaky Wheel

Yesterday was a blurrrrrrrr...with interrupted sleep setting me up for a long day, and then finding my mother was sick at the nursing home.  And when I say finding, I should actually say TELLING the nursing home she was sick.  Requests for help when one eye was "glued" shut by mucus (sorry, I know that is grosse!) were not heeded quickly enough in my book. Informing the staff that a wet cough had also developed was initially ignored also.  Thankfully, I have learned over the past five years to go over the heads of staff who are not on the ball. And I am good at it.
I wasn't home from the nursing home even an hour when I received a call from the on duty nurse. The doctor had been contacted and Mom was prescribed, and had already been given, the first mega-dose of a Z pack. Apparently I had made myself heard. The squeaky wheel.....
This squeaky wheel got a little louder today, when a staff member who had spent the entire day on Mom's wing was unaware if she still had the wet cough from yesterday. She does.  I heard it a half dozen times while I was with her, and once when we were only three feet away from the unaware nurse.  Seriously how is his possible? 
Since the day Mom was placed in the nursing home I have worried that no one could take care of her as well as I would.  My standards were strict, and my resolve steadfast that she would get the best care.  Knowing I am unable to affect change when I am there only an hour or so a day is frustrating.  Getting a call from the administrator though, means I am being heard, even if change is slow to trickle down to the hands that actually care for Mom.  They are also the ones who show affection and socialize with the clients. It doesn't help that those with the most hands-on care receive the smallest pay for their efforts. 
Why? Our society is misguided. We pay athletes millions of dollars, yet those entrusted with the care of parents who brought us into the world make poverty level wages. I don't have a solution, but I do intend to continue being a squeaky wheel.
Cover your ears!
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super...Sleepy Sunday

I have made it a date each week to visit with my mother after church on Sundays.  It is not the only day I go, but it is a constant for both of us. The service helps center me of late, and I am able to approach the situation at the nursing home in a better frame of mind.  At times my feet are heavy as I climb the stairs to her third floor room.  Too frequently it takes a conscious effort to press the access button to enter the floor, knowing my senses will be assailed with the sights, sounds, and sadly, odors of the old and infirm.  It is heart wrenching, and I am human. There are days I find I just can't do it.
Today, however, I filled my lungs with fresh air, and burst through the doors... smile on my face... and greeted the many residents I passed. I was rewarded with returned smiles and brief comments. Some may even have recognized me from my many visits.  The truly sad thing is that, for some, I may be one of the few non-staff that they see and have contact with on any given day.  God Bless the volunteers who visit, who read to them, or sing like my friend Barbara.  It is not only the aged residents who are blessed by these people, but the families as well.  To know that on those days that emotionally or logistically it is impossible to visit, others have stepped up and filled the gap, giving myself and the other families a day without guilt. A day knowing someone else cares.  A day to regroup and find a new way to deal with the grief and heartache, so that the next time I can open that door and step through once again.
Mom has taken to closing her eyes in my presence a great deal in the past few months. I believe she retreats from emotion, hiding from her own pain and confusion. I know this because I have never known my mom as well as I do now. This month is her 5 year anniversary at the nursing home. It is also OUR anniversary, when mother became child and child became mother. We have bonded in a totally new and unique way, and I now understand her on a level no one else does.  When her eyes close and a tear runs from beneath her closed lids, I know her pain, and let her retreat to sleep, where I pray to God her dreams are clear and vital, and where she walks and speaks and knows she is loved.  It was a sleepy Sunday today, so Lord hear my prayer.
On a lighter note, it is also Super Sunday, the day of the clash between AFC and NFC in the big bowl game.  Since my love of the Eagles was as much a birthright as my maiden name, their loss in the playoffs means I am not totally invested in the outcome of tonight's game.  In Pennsylvania it is impossible to be BOTH an Eagles fan and a Steelers fan. So, let's go Packers!
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Little Girl's Hero

My post the other day spoke of our most recent four legged addition to our family. She is loved and loves us right back. Masha was not, however, the first in this role. When my children were a very young 1 and 4, we spent an afternoon at the local animal shelter, "just looking". We anticipated getting a dog before moving into our new home, which was a bit far from town. With the hopes of finding a kid friendly, patient, housebroken golden retriever (yeah right!), we crossed our fingers on the way there.
Much to our surprise, we found exactly what we wanted, and just looking became an full fledged adoption process. The people who had brought the dog in were still at the shelter, and thrilled to the idea of a young family adopting her. They even offered to pay for the adoption. It was a right-place-at-the-right-time, meant-to-be kind of experience.  The kid friendly, patient, and housebroken golden retriever bonded with us all immediately.  As the kids pulled her ears, climbed on and over her, and hugged the breath right out of her, she responded with a wagging tail and ear to ear licks with a very wet tongue.
Our trip home was eye opening to her real personality, however. The kid friendly, patient, and housebroken golden retriever had a more serious side.....she was also very protective! Sitting in my lap, all 60 some pounds of her, she reacted with growls and barking as we passed pedestrians that she felt were just too close to her new families car.  Each time she sent warning barks in the walkers direction, I giggled, then she licked my face, and felt compelled to repeat the performance.  It was a fun ride home, and we knew there was no turning back. Tiger, now renamed Tigger, was home. She was family.
After moving to our new home in the country, Tigger had the opportunity to prove herself 100 times over. There is one day, though, that none of us, especially my daughter, will never forget. A neighborhood dog, who had a reputation for not being very nice, was running free. Unbeknownst to us, this happened while my kids were playing outside.  Thankfully Tigger was also in our yard.  As the questionable canine attempted to approach Katie, Tigger placed herself between the other dog and my daughter. Her behavior was instinctive, changing direction and body placement, countering the dog's movements. The commotion warned both us and the trespassing dog, that she would not allow it to get any closer.  In the end,Tigger scared off the other dog, and prevented what could have been a truly bad situation. Katie talks of that day still, and no doubt will for a very long time.
Sadly, Katie was the one to return home from school one day to find Tigger laying motionless in the living room. Tigger had passed on, and lay still guarding the front door. Our precious friend had been with us 12 years, and had more than earned her keep. She earned our love, our respect, and our devotion even as she became ill in her later years. Amazingly, she had also been the hero of one very grateful young girl.
In our hearts we believe, all dogs go to heaven.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Unconditional Love

It has been years since rain soaked snow has frozen solid enough to hold my weight without cracking.  I didn't set out to test its strength today, but to give our Rottie a chance to relieve herself.  Stepping out the back door onto a sheet of ice didn't bode well initially. Masha sprawled a bit like Bambi on ice, each leg pointing out in a different direction like spokes on a wheel.  After she regained her footing, we managed to make our way across the yard atop the frozen snow.
A fairly large dog at 120 pounds, I sadly have quite a few more than Masha.  Much to my chagrin, retracing our steps, where I thought the snow proved strong and would continue to hold us, was literally our downfall.  I went through first, surprisingly sinking all the way to my knees. When did we get THAT much snow?!  My poor pup, faithful no matter what, followed on my heels and subsequently sunk all the way to her hips.  I had to break the ice crust around each of her legs so that she could gain some footing on the snow beneath.
Needless to say, we hightailed it for the house, as the snow was already melting inside my sneakers. She is now stretched out by my feet (im)patiently and faithfully waiting for her master to arrive home and walk her normal route, which is already packed down and much safer than the slippery slopes of our back yard.  Even there she has proven herself several times over, however. My husband and I have each fallen on ice, only to find Masha immediately laying down on the cold ice by our sides, refusing to move until we were able to get back on our feet.  She has allowed us to steady ourselves on her as well, which is quite heroic for a dog with bad hips.
Our dog is adopted, yet she displays unconditional love for all of us. Even, or maybe especially, for our daughter's beloved Dontey.  From the day Masha met him, she has chosen to sit by his side at family gatherings, and slept at his feet as he dozed on the couch.  It is amazing to watch the bond they have. More importantly, to feel the love she has for each of us.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bears...Oh My!

My kids loved to camp when they were growing up, if you can count a tent in the backyard and access to a toilet in the house camping. I have a friend who camps in a mobile camper that probably cost more than my original house. If that counts, then so does back yard camping!
I specifically remember one warm summer night when my husband and I decided our kids were old enough to stay outside by themselves for the first time.  The tent was put up a mere 5 feet from the driveway, and 15 feet from the kitchen door.  We left them with sleeping bags, pillows, flashlights, and the necessary snacks and drinks that would insure they didn't need to return to the house until morning. Riiiiight
As darkness fell, my littlest scaredy-kid returned to the house several times to use the bathroom.  After hearing "noises", she was definitely spooked. Since the tent the kids were using belonged to my husband as a kid, logic therefore followed that he should be the one to camp out with his children to ease their fears. My reasoning made sense to me, and being a good sport, John dragged another pillow outside, stretching out with the kids for the night.  To this day we still argue over whether his feet stuck out at the bottom of the tiny tent.  We all have different memories of that night, and although they are slightly different, we agree it was memorable.
At some point John and the kids all fell asleep, and I was able to go to bed myself. My sleep time was interrupted, though, feeling more like a nap than a good nights sleep. Squeals coming from the tent reached my ears....and those squeals were coming from my husband.  After hearing noises outside the tent, John had sat up, straining to hear what might be beyond the flimsy wall of fabric. When he finally peered through the flaps, the large head of a bear was a foot away, staring right at him.
Heart racing, the bear began licking his face, before he had a chance to move.   It happened in a split second, and it was at this point John realized the bear was actually the largest dog he had ever seen.  It was a grizzly looking black New Foundland, that we later learned belonged to yet another neighbor, living a country block in the opposite direction of our dear friend Chloe, the diabetic pig. His name was Mickey.

After that night, Mickey returned frequently for visits.  To a dog, people laying on the ground outside, who squealed when they saw him. must have been great fun.  Mickey also had a friend he often brought with him. His friend was a second New Foundland, this one blond, who would accompany him on the trek to our home.  These dogs were enormous, generally unkempt, but also two of the most friendly canines I have ever met, aside from golden retrievers.  We all remember them fondly, and like Chloe, miss the pleasure of greeting them after they worked so hard to come see us.
Here's to the wonderful memories kids and dogs....and pigs... can bring.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Feathered Friends

It's the kind of day not fit for man nor beast, as the most recent storm rolls though, with another icier mess on its tail.  Somehow I lucked out and my husband shoveled this time, going so far as to tell me to relax. (At least I THINK that was my husband?!)  We then stayed in and watched a few old TV movies about natural disasters, including one about a shift in the polarity of Earth, causing Miami to reach absolute zero.  Far fetched yes, but the scenery had nothing on what I can see from my own back door.
The recent string of storms caused me to buy some bird seed for my feathered friends in the back yard.  They have provided me with some comical moments watching not only their antics, but the excited response from my two feline would-be hunters watching from the windows.  Scruffy, named for the mess she was when she first sprinted across out front porch as a stray, talks to the birds as though they might answer.  The now 2 1/2 year old I still call Kitten, crouches so as not to be seen by the birds, and then jumps at the window as the fly past.  It is quite a game of cat and....well bird, for them.  Cat and mouse is an outdoor sport for spring and summer.
In watching the birds, I was excited myself to see a red headed woodpecker, not five feet from my kitchen window.  The markings were beautiful.  A pair of cardinals seemed to play tag, with only one feasting at a time, while the other looked on from the oak tree above.  My favorite were the sparrows, though, who seemed to have their own version of a bunny hop going on.  The forward and backward jumps freed seeds that had been covered by the still falling snow. I am curious to see how they handle the ice encrusted snow tomorrow, that will make the deck a skating rink for birds.
I have fed the birds during the winter months for quite a long time. My mom had a love for birds, and with it a good deal of knowledge of their species and habits. She taught me, in some respects, how to care for them in the winter, although tossing seed out the back door really wasn't very difficult. 
Both Mom and I each had unexpected guests, who also enjoyed a free meal, coming back frequently. On the farm our usual uninvited guest was a one legged rooster, who had been run off by the more spry two legged chickens at a neighboring farm. It wasn't that we took pity on him, it's just that the chickens were more successful in chasing him away than we were. He stuck around for several years. 
Here in the mountains, we have had squirrels, chipmunks, opossum, skunks, deer, and of course.... a diabetic Vietnamese Pot Bellied Pig named Chloe.  What were you expecting?!  Chloe lived a country block away, but would make her way to our house across a creek and through the woods. She came to visit my children who oohed and aahed over her, and undoubtedly to find the waiting snack that wasn't on her low carb diet.  Thankfully, her home phone number was on her pretty pink collar.
We also have had surprise visits from other, much larger animals, but that's a story for another time.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3