Elvis’s Mom

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When we first moved into our neighborhood, many years ago, we would often see a lady either walking through our yard or along the street yelling “Elvis.”  Elvis was a black lab retriever mix with spots of gray.  Lila, our dog, is beginning to turn a little gray around her mouth and has longer legs than Elvis, but she is starting to make me feel like our neighbor, Elvis’s mom, who moved away a long time ago.  

The other day, when we brought Lila home from the kennel, and when we were about to grab ahold of her by her collar, she took off running in a southerly direction.  I grabbed her leash, headed in that direction, calling her name every so often, but I didn’t get a response.  I headed home to find that a different neighbor, who recognized Lila, and who lives in a northerly direction, brought her back to our house.

Today, a little storm was brewing, so I delayed our walk.  I brushed Lila before letting her back in the house.  Just as I was going to open the door, she took off running in a southerly direction again.  I yelled to her, as sweetly as I could, in my sudden bad mood, but it didn’t coax her back, as usual.  This time, since I was home by myself, I went on with my chores and hoped someone would come knocking or calling.

About 15 minutes later, our phone rang.

“Are you missing a dog?” the lady asked.

“Yes, she got away from me,” I said. 

“We have her here.  She’s so friendly.  We gave her some water.”

“Thank you.  Where are you?”

The lady gave me her address, which is not very far from the southerly direction Lila headed.

“I’ll be right over.”  I grabbed Lila’s leash and drove to the neighbor’s house, because the raindrops were getting quite large.  I wondered why Lila kept running away lately.  It is a common trend for her, which lessened the last couple of years.  Maybe she misses her three mile walks.  Since it’s been warm with high humidity, we whittled our walks down to a mile.  If only Lila could understand the risks of heat stroke. When it’s cooler out, Lila likes to sit under the ash tree in our front yard and is the neighborhood greeter.  She might be missing the delivery people and mailman who all give her treats.  Maybe she misses our friends who used to come over.  Not many other visitors have been stopping by, because of the pandemic. 

When I got closer to the address, I spotted Lila in the neighbor’s front yard on a leash.  The nice lady was there waiting with Lila.  A little poodle watched from behind the glass storm door, jumping and wagging its tail. Congratulations 2020 High School Graduate signs spotted the yard.

“Thank you.  Thank you,” I said.  Lila jumped up high and acted like she hadn’t seen me in months!  The lady unhooked her from their leash, and I got Lila hooked on mine.  

Lila has been getting us to socialize with our many nice neighbors.  I can’t help but feel like Elvis’s mom whenever I run around the neighborhood in search of our girl. Maybe we were meant to keep up with that silly neighborhood tradition that Elvis created.

No matter what was meant to be, have you ever met a dog named Elvis? 🙂

A Book Review: “Where the Crawdads Sing”

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Kya, also known as “Swamp Girl,” is the main character in Where the Crawdads Sing, which was written by Delia Owens.  The story takes place in a coastal town in North Carolina.  The author does a good job of taking you through the scenes.  It’s as if you are right beside Kya, experiencing her sorrows and triumphs, along with the beauty of the swamp.

One disappointing thing after another happen to Kya, starting when she is very young.  Kya shows us how strong her spirit is and she forges ahead to learn how to take care of herself.  One can’t help but feel a connection to the character and want her life to turn around.  Besides taking care of herself, she learns all she can about the swamp around her.  Kya’s journey helps us learn about birds, mushrooms, insects, tides, sands, shells, and grasses that surround her.

This book is a mystery and flips back and forth from 1952 to 1969, until the years catch up and continue on years after.  The town’s old time favorite quarterback, Chase Andrews, is found dead, and the sheriff and his crew work to figure out what happened.

As much as I enjoyed this book, I thought it started off slowly.  The pace quickly picked up about a quarter of the way through.  The closer I got to the ending, the more I wanted to keep reading!  If you like mysteries and are looking for a book that ends up being a page turner, read Where the Crawdads Sing.  You will not be disappointed.

Art is What You Make it!

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Buttons were calling me. Button artwork showed up on Pinterest, and I saved it. Fancy buttons, from grandmas gone by, revealed themselves to me. While searching for measuring tape in an old sewing basket, a decorative button appeared, from a Great Great Grandma. When looking for a sewing tool in another spot, impressive buttons from yet another Grandma showed up. My own buttons, the ones that come with a newly-purchased piece of clothing, piled up in a drawer, reminded me of their whereabouts.

Wouldn’t it be cool if I could combine a bunch of buttons from the grandmas and give it to my granddaughter for a birthday present? Here’s how I made that happen.

Directions:

  • Draw a paper heart, like we made in elementary school, where you fold the paper in half and cut it with scissors.  My paper heart was approximately 7 inches x 7 inches.
  • Open and center the paper heart onto a piece of Aida cloth, and trace the shape with a sewing marker.
  • Contact any other grandmothers to ask for buttons to add to the piece.
  • Collect buttons and store in one place.
  • Get more buttons at a craft store.
  • Arrange buttons on cloth to get an idea of how the piece might look (optional).
  • Sew buttons on one-by-one.
  • Start at the bottom and work along the right edge. Fill in middle as you go. Continue to go around the edge of the rest of the heart.
  • Sew buttons to fill in so cloth does not show through, as best as possible, if you like.
  • When complete, hand wash with laundry detergent and warm water making sure to rub off any marks.
  • Remove excess water by placing piece between bath towels.
  • Let air dry overnight by setting on a dry towel.
  • Iron wrinkles out the next day, using the cotton setting.
  • Frame in regular or shadow box frame.  The shadow box I purchased was 8 inches x 8 inches.

On the designs I saw on Pinterest, the buttons lay flat.  My design has buttons popping out all over the place, but I like how it looks.  Art is what you make it!

Those old buttons took on a shine I didn’t know they had, after I washed them clean. To finish, I wrote a note to my granddaughter, and placed it on the back of the frame. The note described how the heart is “filled with grandma love” and explained where the buttons came from.  I let her know “I mixed a little bit of the old with a little bit of the new.”

I hope my granddaughter will cherish and feel the love that went into this piece.  🙂

As the sun colors flowers, so does art color life. ~John Lubbock

Dear to Our Hearts

Dad and Me
Dad and Me

“Grandma, why do you have so many black combs?” 

“I just do,” I said in my nicest grandmotherly voice.  I made a snap decision to not explain why I had so many combs, so I changed the subject.  “I keep them in this junk drawer.”

“What’s a junk drawer?”

“It’s a place where we put things that don’t have anywhere else to go,” I said.  That seemed to be a good enough explanation.  The little guy was off to explore something else.

When I combed my grandson’s hair earlier that day, I thought about my dad, because it was Dad’s comb I used.  Wouldn’t it be great if you could be here, and maybe leave us another comb? You would love this little guy, I thought, as I tidied up the little one’s hair.  Several times when my father came over to our house with my mother, when our kids were little, he accidentally left one of his combs.  Dad bought them by the bagful.  Dad liked to build towers and other such things with the kids, and somehow the combs slipped out of his pocket and onto the floor.  I never noticed the combs until after my mom and dad left.  I stored them in the junk drawer.  It looks like I forgot to give them back to Dad the next time they came for a visit.

Sometimes, even to this day, little black combs show up out of nowhere.  The other day, when I was organizing a basket of odds and ends, one appeared.  Another time, I noticed one in the street, which made me think of Dad.  Seeing it felt like a good sign, but I decided to leave it stay where it was.  It looks like I get combs from heaven, instead of pennies.

When the little guy gets bigger, and if he’s still curious about the combs, maybe I can tell him this story.  I’ll also let him know that not everything in a junk drawer is junk.  A junk drawer can hold something dear to our hearts.

Old as she was, she still missed her daddy sometimes. ~Gloria Naylor

Showered with Lots of Love

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The breeze was a little strong at times, even though the day was sunny and bright.  The hand-crafted white tissue paper flowers that decorated the signs and table in the front yard got tossed about.  We jumped in shock when a few of the polka-dotted balloons popped, which happened when they hit a sharp corner of a sign.  We had to keep an eye on things to keep stuff from blowing away.  

When I first accepted the fact that my daughter’s bridal shower wasn’t going to happen the way we originally planned, I felt disappointed.  I like tradition.  The old plan was to get together inside to share a meal, talk and laugh a lot with family and friends, play a silly game, and watch the future bride open her gifts.  The new plan was the guests would drive by, wave, drop off their gift, watch the future bride and groom open it, get a treat bag and be on their way.  That’s what I envisioned because that’s how the invitation read.  But when the day arrived, things turned out differently.  

Our hostesses parked their cars in the church parking lot across the street, so the street would stay clear for the big parade!  Funny though, because the first guests to arrive were three of the bridesmaids.  They drove by our house a few times, and we were wondering what they were doing.  We waved each time.  Where were they going?  This is not how a parade works!  They ended up parking in the lot too.  It was a welcome sight to see them walk over to stay and chat the entire time.

My friend Dianne parked in the lot too.  The hostesses started to worry if we should have more food, if people were going to stay and chat.  When I asked Dianne, she said, “No, it’s a drive-by shower.  People aren’t expecting anything.”  So I took her advice.  To be hospitable, I grabbed the big tray of cupcakes we had on hand, and offered those.  Plus, each invitee received a little treat bag filled with different chocolate sweets and a juice pouch. 

The guests who didn’t park across the way, got out and stayed close to their cars or stayed in their cars and kept a safe distance.  It was getting towards the end of our one-hour parade, and I wondered about a few cousins who hadn’t shown up yet.  The pièce de résistance was when a Jeep rode by all decorated in white streamers.  Six beautiful cousins were waving with arms all over the place and smiling their biggest smiles.  A song of “Here Comes the Bride” wafted towards us.  One cousin held a sign that said “Always and Forever.”  🙂

After the parade, the grandmothers, mothers, a dad, aunts, an uncle, sisters, a cousin, and the future Mr. and Mrs. sat outside at the picnic table to have a lunch of wraps, fruit, chips, banana bread, and cupcakes.  A delivery man driving a FedEx truck waved and smiled at us, happy to see people celebrating.  Later, a smaller group went inside to watch the future bride and groom open their presents.  Katie and Mike were showered with lots of love that day.  

The drive-by turned out better than I ever expected.  I missed having everyone together in the same place at the same time, but we were fortunate to see many smiling faces that we haven’t seen for so long!

Do you think the drive-by party might become a new tradition?

When a Person Befriends a Butterfly…

20200605_0937102926044448160217428.jpgEastern Tiger Swallowtail

This morning, I had a craving for a specialty coffee.  I quickly ordered the Americano on the app on my phone.  When I was in the garage, getting ready to get in the car, I saw a beautiful butterfly.  She looked like she was stuck in the window pane.  My little blow of breath on her wings confirmed she was still alive.  A stick was close by.  I gently nudged her and tried to get her to climb on board.  

“Come on little butterfly, climb on the stick,” I said.  “I won’t hurt you.  I won’t try to hurt you,” I corrected myself.  I talked in that high pitched voice that only butterflies appreciate!  After a few minutes, she went on the stick.  She seemed a little dazed.  I wondered if she was exhausted from trying to get through the screen or possibly I woke her from a nap.  She held on tight, as I took her outside and set her and the stick with the potted geraniums.  

Off I went to pick up my mobile order.  When I got home, the butterfly was still sitting with the geraniums.  The sun was shining on her open wings.  I hoped she wasn’t getting too warm, but then I thought the sun would do her some good.  I went over to our little patch of milkweed and wondered if she would like some.  The leaves were so big, I didn’t want to take any part of it away.  Besides, it’s caterpillars that feast on those.  It’d be better if she tried to find her own food, I decided.  I traipsed back to the butterfly, and my shadow must have given her a fright.  Maybe she waited for me to show me how she could fly.  Up and up she went and floated away on a breeze.

It must be a lucky day, when a person befriends a butterfly.  I hope she gets some good nectar.

May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun
And find your shoulder to light on,
To bring you luck, happiness and riches
Today, tomorrow and beyond.  ~
Irish Blessing

How to Almost Make a Buck

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Here’s a picture of all the different types of metals that can be recycled.  If you have a bunch of old metal curtain rods, an old sump pump, a rusty pair of scissors, extension cords, an old steel Christmas tree stand, used-up batteries, and about 50 other pounds of metals, you can take it over to the metal recycling place in your neighborhood. I decided to go to such a place with my husband last weekend.  After we got there, we got a big cart, where we placed the items, and got in line.  There were about six people ahead of us, with matching carts.  Some were wearing masks, but it didn’t seem necessary since we were mostly outside and the warehouse was completely open with fresh air flowing through.  Plus, the carts were at least six feet long.

If we had a pound or two of more metal, we might have made an entire dollar!  We ended up with 99 cents. 🙂

Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.  ~Benjamin Franklin

The Big Commotion

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Lila, our dog, has the habit of sticking around the kitchen during cleanup, in case scraps of any sort of morsel end up on the floor.  Lila doesn’t like to see anything get wasted and polishes it up immediately.  One Sunday, a few months ago, my daughter and son-in-law offered to tidy up after dinner.  Papa and I went into the family room with our grandson to connect wooden toy train tracks.  From the kitchen, we could hear conversing but couldn’t make out the words.

As the three of us were concentrating on getting train cars in line, a large bang came from the direction of the kitchen.  The three of us looked at each other trying to imagine what the noise could have been.  It was a noise we’ve never heard.  It was much more than the sound of a drinking glass shattering on the floor. Loud laughter and a small squeal came from the same direction.  I got up to see what was the matter.  When I got to the scene of the commotion, I discovered that Lila’s dog tag clasp had gotten attached to one of the brackets in the dishwasher.  She must have gotten spooked when she noticed she couldn’t move very easily and tried to run away.  When she attempted to run, the entire bottom rack of the dishwasher went along with her.  I went over to Lila, who was in the dining room by that time and unhooked her collar to free her.  Lila’s tail was down and stuck between her legs letting us know her very sad mood.  Amazingly, even though the entire rack was full, not one dish broke, and all living beings were left unharmed.  Ever since that day, Lila has never put her nose or collar inside the dishwasher again.

That’s not to say she hasn’t been tempted to lick some plates.  Sometimes she will walk by the dishwasher, when I’m loading it, with her eyes suspiciously looking in the direction of the dishes.  She decides against licking any plates.  Obviously, Lila doesn’t want to experience the big commotion again.

No matter how often I chided her before that day, she would never stop licking those plates.  Now, when I’m loading the dishwasher, I give her a little nod to remind her about what happened the time her collar got stuck to the bracket.

It wasn’t the best way to train our dog, but it seemed to have worked.  Do you have any stories of how you accidentally trained your dog to do or not do something? 

A dog can express more with his tail in seconds than his owner can
express with his tongue in hours.
~Author Unknown

A Book Review: “The Valley of Secrets”

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Never did I think there would be a day when all the libraries would be closed. 😦   Thankfully, about a month ago, my daughter texted to see if I could find a book for her.  The book could have been in a number of places in our house.  I rummaged around and couldn’t find it, but I did find a few books that looked interesting.  I pulled them out to add to my pile of books to read.  At the time, I thought, This is perfect.  Why not read some of the books that have been hiding away, especially now that the libraries are closed. 

One of the books I happened upon is called The Valley of Secrets, which was written by Charmian Hussey.  It’s a fictional story for teens.  What attracted me to the book was the title, because I thought it sounded scary, and the beautiful illustrations on the cover.  The book was illustrated by Christopher Crump.  The detailed artwork is not only on the cover but can be found at the beginning and end of each chapter.  One thing I enjoyed about this book was I could tell the author took her time crafting this tale.  The writing is very descriptive and gives us much to learn about the Amazon, even though most of the story takes place in the Cornish countryside of England. 

When I first started reading the book, I was sad to learn the main character, Stephen Lansbury, is an orphan and has no friends.  Stephen has a journey, from London to Cornwall, after he learns his great uncle died.  Stephen was surprised to discover he had a living relative.  How sad Stephen did not get to know his uncle when he was alive!  The great uncle left his estate to Stephen.  Stephen is allowed to keep the estate as long as he does not make any changes.  

Mysterious things happen after Stephen finds his way to his new living quarters.  The large estate is surrounded by a fence.  Stephen arrives to find the gate unlocked.  Upon his return from the grocery store one day, the gate is locked, even though Stephen didn’t lock it before he left.  The woman at the grocery store didn’t know Stephen’s great uncle passed away.  Stephen senses the lady is a gossip and doesn’t tell her anything about the whereabouts of his uncle.

Other puzzling things happen.  Stephen feels like he’s being watched.  I wished Stephen would have made a friend or had more human contact.  (I think this was because I was sheltering-at-home.)  It took the turn of many pages before a friend came on the scene.  Before he made a new friend, Stephen spent time reading his great uncle’s journals and exploring the outdoors.  As a teenage boy, it’s no wonder it took him a long while to tour the upstairs of the estate, which I longed to see!

If you are looking for a leisurely read, try The Valley of Secrets.  It’s “An ambitious blend of fantasy, mystery, and ecological adventure” according to the School Library Journal.  People who are interested in the Amazon, the environment, and England would enjoy this book. 

I’m off to read the next book in my to-read pile.  Have you read any good books lately?

Quarantine Hair

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How weird to hear the land line ring.  Land line telephone calls have gone down at our house since the pandemic arrived.  Solicitors have not been bugging us like they normally do.  The ring woke me up from a snooze, then the recording from the answering machine kicked in.  The years since I’ve changed that recording has got to be in the double digits.  After my recorded spiel was done, an actual person’s voice was talking on the line and being recorded.  It was Trish!  Trish is the lady who cuts my hair.  I haven’t seen Trish since February.  Since we have been getting together every six to eight weeks for the last 10 years, I found myself missing our fun chats and chuckles.  

“Hello, hello, it’s me,” I said in a very excited voice, after I hurriedly picked up the receiver.  It was so nice to hear Trish’s voice!  A couple of hours before, our governor announced that he was going to lift the stay-at-home order.  When I heard salons could open back up, I checked my latest text to Trish because I was wondering if it would be okay to give her a call, but her text said she would call her clients after she got the okay to open.  Trish let me know I was the fifth person on her list because I pre-booked an appointment.  Luckily, I got an appointment on the first day that she’s allowed to start cutting hair again.  We are to wear masks and are not supposed to stay in the waiting room.  We are to sit in our cars until we get a call or text letting us know it’s okay to go in. 

I feel very lucky to have found Trish.  Curly hair can be unruly, but Trish knows how to shape it perfectly.  That’s why I’ve been following her around for so long.  I can think back to a lot of very weird haircuts I’ve had in the past.  One time, my head looked like it was in the shape of an evergreen tree.  

Trish and I met at a salon, where I continued to get my haircut by her for a couple of years.  One day the salon called to let me know Trish quit and asked if I would like to re-scheduled with someone else.  I immediately asked if they knew Trish’s contact information, but they wouldn’t give me any details.  I let them know that I did not want to re-schedule with someone else, and I quietly hung up the phone.  I felt frantic and wondered if I would have to go back to my evergreen tree look.  I didn’t have her cell phone number then.  I eventually found her on Facebook and sent her a message.  She told me she wanted to let me know at my last appointment that she was leaving, but there were no times where we were not within earshot of someone.  I followed her over to the new salon.  Now she has her own business, and she always lets her clients know what’s going on.

Since it’s been so long since I got a haircut, I was starting to worry I’d have to cut my own.  I have a set of scissors that are stored away with the clippers.  The years since I’ve bought the clippers is well into double digits.  The instructions indicate that the clippers should be oiled, so I should probably do that!  Our children got some homemade haircuts when they were in elementary school.  The girls didn’t seem to mind their haircuts with the scissors.  Our oldest daughter’s hair wasn’t too hard to cut because it’s curly and she kept it long.  If it wasn’t even, a person couldn’t tell.  It curled brilliantly to hide any flaws.  Our second daughter has straight hair, with a little bit of a wave.  It took me days to cut her hair.  Whenever she moved a different way, it looked like her hair was uneven.  I’d say, “Wait a minute,” and I grabbed those scissors and tried to even it out.  Luckily, I didn’t get too carried away – she never ended up with a pixie cut.  Our youngest son did not care for the clippers at all.  He often had the fear that I was going to cut his ear off.  He might have gotten two or three haircuts from me back in those days.  None of us could handle this fear, which ended up with me taking him to the barber.  Recently, my husband asked for a haircut.  The clippers are still working, though it is working rather loudly, probably because it needs to be oiled.  No barber shops are open, so how could I refuse?

These personal experiences with hair helped me to realize how important hair stylists and barbers really are.  Especially now, with my quarantine hair.  I’m looking forward to getting a little piece of my normal life back by going to see Trish.  This quarantine hair is thankful too.  Also, I know we will have a fun chat and some chuckles.

Life is an endless struggle full of frustrations and challenges,
but eventually you find a hair stylist you like.
  ~Author Unknown