Monday, September 30, 2013

Tiny T 31 Days Lookin for Love (intro)

   Well, well... How exciting! Here we are on the cusp of October again, which means so much. So many fun rituals this month, so much raw beauty. This change of pace, this settling in of energies and shaking up of routines. I love it.

   Among the October festivities, Sweet Nester of course is hosting her fun and exponentially bigger-every-year link up about 31 Days of Change. We here at the Lazy W are participating! Are you?

   Perhaps you have already heard, but this year the topic is Tiny T. You know. This guy...

Tiny T has his own page now, did you see? Tiny T

   Tiny T is in need of some romance in his life, and his mind is made up. Love is on the front burner for him... All. Month. Long.

   So please make a point to join the fun! Visit daily to stay current on his romantic misadventures. Give Tiny T advice. Ask him questions. Share in his sharing. This will sometimes be an audience participation story, and your votes will somewhat determine his fate, day by day, all month long. You loved those choose-your-own-adventure books as a kid, right? And you always wish for stories to go a certain way when you read them, especially romances, right? Well this is your chance to indulge again. Call all your friends. Sway the vote in your direction if you must, so Tiny T does your bidding. Help him out! There may even be an episode dedication in it for YOU.

   Feel free to grab a Tiny T button to share, too. He worked really hard on it. He polished all of his gold rope for the photo, too. See how it shines like disco?

Cheers! Happy 31 Days of Change!

I Pity the Fool 
Who Doesn't Read this Series!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Prayer Requests

   Happy Sunday morning...I hope wherever you opened your eyes today was as beautiful and stimulating as what Handsome and I enjoyed here at the farm. The pond was a cool gray and thickly stacked with fog. The pastures were not quite frosted, but pale and dewy. The house was as fresh as the outdoors, having been aired out all of yesterday and all through the very still, quiet night, windows open to the first breaths of autumn. Our animals greeted us with contentment and affection. I could stay here* all day. Every day.

   However you honor this day, I would like to ask for your attention to a few important needs. Prayer requests of all varieties. I know that God has authority and power over all these things and that His love is more than enough. And as Red Dirt Kelly said last night, so succinctly, "People + Prayer= Power." We are urged to take our needs to Him. And it binds us together. And the act of doing it is comforting. And it yields miracles.

"And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." -Matthew 21:22

Please pray for healing for Sammye and Matt. And for all cancer patients and their hurting families.

Please pray for a swift, thrilling recovery from surgery for Judy.

Please pray for protection and peace of mind for everyone fighting the good fight, holding firm in their convictions and in love. 

Please pray for the health and vitality of family units everywhere, however unusual they seem from the outside. Pray for reconciliation between parents and children.

Please pray for addictions to be broken and conquered. 

Please pray for spiritual revival where it is needed most,which is in every human heart.

   This is a good day! God can cover all of your pain, all of your agony, all of your shortcomings with His powerful love and mercy. Let Him do it.


* it bears mentioning that when I tried typing "here," my device auto-corrected to "heal." This farm has indeed become quite a place of healing. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Horse Whisperer: a Book Review

   I am so excited! Tonight is our famous little Oklahoma book club's discussion dinner of The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans. True to our group's name, Dinner Club With a Reading Problem, a feast is planned. This time around our hostess is Amber and she has arranged a ranch-style dinner of cubed beef sandwiches and all the luscious trimmings. The rest of us ladies are bringing sides, desserts, and drinks. Last night I made Pioneer Woman's cilantro-jalapeno slaw, so it should be nice and flavorful by party time. Yum. I think Amber's theme is perfect for a story set mostly in the ranch-lands of Montana. Just perfect.

   I'll take photos tonight and share more about book club soon... For now, a quick book review.

   Sometimes I feel funny reviewing a piece of literature that is neither "classic" nor "new release," but this title deserves some praise anyway. And who knows? It could end up becoming a modern classic. To me, at least, that's how good it is.

   The Horse Whisperer is a complex and moving story told about believable characters whose lives all eventually revolve around one horse and his girl. Or one girl and her horse, however you look at it. Right at the start of the book, horse and rider together suffer a life-threatening accident and are forever changed. The events that precipitate had me hooked immediately. The stories are layered, and despite their beauty both in emotion and the senses, not without a lot of pain.

   Set primarily in the ranch-lands of Montana, a place I have never been except through the floriferous, enchanting descriptions written by Evans,  The Horse Whisperer is absolutely transporting. Evans uses the topography and unique gifts of the land there to convey several messages about the characters. And then he explores each character with really satisfying, but not exhausting, depth.
Two creeks ran through the Booker brothers' land and they gave the ranch its name, the Double Divide. They flowed from adjacent folds of the mountain front and in their first half mile they looked like twins. The ridge that ran between them here was low, at one point almost low enough for them to meet, but then it rose sharply in a rugged chain of interlocking bluffs, shouldering the creeks apart. Forced thus to seek their separate ways, they now became quite different.
   He lends the readers a glimpse of lifestyles we are unlikely to know ourselves, both the life of a fast-paced big-city editor and the grittier, more remote, but perhaps not so simple life of a full-time cowboy.

   Evans paints horses and horsemanship in the most honest and poetic light I have ever enjoyed. He illuminates the relationship between horse and man and leaves little room for doubt about what is at risk between the two, and what is available.
And though later he came pretending friendship, the alliance with man would ever be but fragile, for the fear he struck into their hearts was too deep to be dislodged.
   Then this...
"He's not going to look back if you don't," he said. "They're the most forgiving creatures God ever made." 
   The book offers romance, even passion and sex (making it unsuitable for young readers, although the horses may draw young readers in!), tumultuous parent-child struggles, questions about legacy and independence, survival, honesty, and of course healing. Redemption is huge in The Horse Whisperer. As the girl and horse who are so badly injured both begin to heal physically and emotionally, so do their attendant relationships. But nothing happens quite like I expected it to. The book is anything but formulaic. And I loved that. If you are able to successfully guess the ending without cheating, then you might be a psychic and should get your own television show.

If you aren't tempted yet by the story, then be tempted by the writing itself...
Some bounced back to dance in shimmering reflection on the ceiling, while the rest slanted through tot he bottom of the pool where it formed undulating patterns, like a colony of pale blue snakes that lived and died and were constantly reborn.
   A word of warning, and this goes beyond book-snobbery: The book is FAR DIFFERENT from the Robert Redford movie. They are two completely different experiences, as I am sure 100% of everyone who actually read the book will agree. I am not saying the movie is horrible... It is just not aligned with this book. It's more like, someone skimmed the book and threw in a few details just to hit a "similarities minimum." The ending is EXACTLY what most movie-watchers might expect or hope for. NOTHING like what the book throws at you. Which is an emotional sledgehammer.

   Okay, I hope you make time to read this book! Read it to open and cleanse old wounds. Read it to spark some hope for a hopeless situation. Read it to fantasize. Read it to broaden your cultural awareness. Read it to soak in poetry. Read it for fun.

   If you have already devoured The Horse Whisperer, what did you think? Spill your literary guts here!

   Now I must be on my way. I have an ice chest to pack, teeth to brush, and a clean t-shirt to slip on. Famous little Oklahoma book club awaits!

"No. But you see, Annie, where there's pain,
 there's still feeling.
 And where there's feeling, there's hope."




Thursday, September 26, 2013

Interim Autumn Decor

   Hello there... Despite temperatures nearing ninety degrees today, Oklahoma is firmly in the grip of autumn. Football fans have their weekends planned far in advance. High schools are enjoying homecoming festivities. Scarecrows have sprouted on so many grassy, hay-bedecked rural corners. All of that, AND two thirds of everyone's social media is full of pumpkin-spice latte updates.

   Other than cleaning out the summer gardens (mostly) and changing out just a speck of artwork downstairs, I have so far done very little in the way of autumnal nesting. Life is not only full every single day; the seasons here in Oklahoma are in that wonderful transition time. Cool mornings. Warm afternoons. Often downright cold nights. Then hot again. And while many plants are slipping into the elegant beauty of dormancy, just as many are still going strong, Still washing the farm with color and glossiness, life abundant.

   So to answer Mama Kat's  lively question about what we have done to celebrate the fist days of fall, I have only a few photos to share. For now. Next week may be a whole new story...

I love our cranberry red front door now even more than we first painted it.
Those dried corn stalks are cut from my garden. 
I consider them a consolation prize, because we only yielded 
three paltry ears of sweet corn from the entire bed this month.
That's more than ever before, but still... Lots to learn.
I think this front door area could use more oomph, 
maybe raise the corn stalks?
...but I still love the warm entry to our home.

This is our anniversary garden bench, the rusted metal treasure Handsome gave me over the summer.
It moves around the farm, but right now it is perched at our front door.
It's cushioned on one end with fun pillows, including the one from this love story,
and loaded on the other end with some potted flowers, an old pitchfork, and two watermelons.
I haven't purchased decorative pumpkins yet, y'all.
Free melons from the Lazy W garden with cool old stems and vines still attached suit me just fine.
And do you see what I mean about a blend of summer and fall plants?
I am crazy about sprinkling pansies in with everything else. Cabbages next.

Filled with sweet potato vine, vinca vine, some pansies, and a few old castoff junk items, 
this weathered old clay pot is my favorite.
It has nothing to do with the fact that my youngest daughter painted 
that blue "Welcome" sign years ago and my heart feels her bright smile every time I see it.

   So there you have my slow beginnings. My interim autumn decor. Thanks for visiting! I wish you could come to the Lazy W and sit on this bench and drink coffee with me. Or play with the llamas. Or scruff the buffalo. Or collect eggs then cook something fabulous with them and discuss great books. Or watch the sun set behind the pond and wait for bats and screech owls.

   Happy autumn, friends!

"Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
 fluttering from the autumn tree."
 ~Emily Bronte

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sour Cream Chicken Enchilada Casserole (aka Tex-mex Chicken Lasagna)

   Tonight for supper at the Lazy W... "Sour Cream Chicken Enchilada Casserole." Or maybe, how about this... "Tex Mex Chicken Lasagna."

   Either way, it is delicious and easy. The ingredients are pretty much just some leftover chicken, a few basic pantry ingredients and dairy products, and maybe some fresh hot peppers from your garden. The main inspiration for this recipe was a growing stack of broken corn tortillas in my fridge. I don't know why, but for a month or more I cannot seem to lay my hands on good corn tortillas. Weird.

   See what I mean? They come out of the dang package this way. You could say that the broken tortilla scandal has been putting a damper on our weekly Taco Tuesday fun. Have you ever tried to eat a fish taco from a limp, crumbly, noncommittal corn tortilla? Not easy.

   Anyway, if you have some leftover chicken, dysfunctional tortillas, and some other stuff and you'd like a nice, quick weeknight meal... Give this a try. Really filling and yummy!

What You Need:

  • Three pre-cooked chicken breasts. Either grilled or baked, whaevv, it's a texture or convenience choice. 
  • Olive oil, a few cloves of garlic, and a few fresh hot peppers. Maybe some onions if you're an onion person.
  • Basic spices: salt, pepper, nutmeg, garlic powder, cayenne, paprika, etc. You will see later, just seasoning the sauce to taste.
  • Two to three cups or more of shredded Tex-mex style cheeses. YOU KNOW YOU LOVE IT.
  • A short stack of broken up corn tortillas. I think flour would also be delicious, Decadent, in fact. What is already in your fridge? I am guessing I used about twelve.
  • A can of condensed cream-of-chicken soup.
  • One cup of sour cream.
  • Less than a cup of heavy cream. (Milk also works, but I am a heavy cream snob lately, which partially explains how my jeans have been fitting.)
  • I think that is probably it.
  • Okay.

What You Do:

  • Preheat your oven to about 350 degrees.
  • Shred or finely dice your cooked chicken. Your choice... It's just a texture thing.
  • In a saucepan that seems too big at first, saute some garlic and some chopped hot peppers. Again, it's a personal flavor thing, so your choice on exactly what or how much. I had some gorgeous habaneros and jalapenos ready to go, so I grabbed those and had some fun. Use olive oil and watch closely for burning garlic. And do NOT rub your eyes at any point during this process, like I did. Hey, if you like onions (we do not), add some diced onion to the party.
  • Now, in a big mixing bowl, add the softened, flavorful sauteed stuff to your tiny chicken pieces and also add an ungodly amount of shredded cheese. Any Tex-mex cheeses you groove. Stir it really well.

I kept thinking how other veggies, like mushroom and spinach would be great in this mix. 
And cilantro, tomatoes, etc. Yum! The possibilities are endless. AVACADO.
  • Okay.
  • Now, in that same sauce pan as earlier, to pick up the flavors, mix together the can of condensed soup, the sour cream, and the heavy cream. Season it all with nutmeg, salt and pepper, garlic powder, etc, to your liking. Maybe some cayenne? Or Paprika? Just heat it all through and whisk it to a smooth consistency. Taste and change as you like. 

  • The assembly is so much like lasagna. Use a 9 x 13 baking dish. Drizzle and spread a small amount of sauce over the bare pan, then arrange the broken tortillas into a flat layer. Then scoop some spicy chicken-cheese mixture over that and smooth it flat. Then evenly ladle some creamy, yummy sauce over that and repeat: Broken tortillas, chicken mix, sauce. The proportions I tried tonight were exactly enough for two layers.
  • Sprinkle a little extra cheese on top for good measure.
  • Bake in a hot oven for less than half an hour, really just until it is all hot and the cheese on top is bubbly.
   There you go! Easy, fast, and pretty economical, especially if you use leftovers. Served with salad, tortilla chips, and EXCELLENT salsa made by Junior, I got my Tex-mex food fix without driving to a restaurant or feeling like I overindulged. I mean, not too much...

   What is for dinner in your home tonight?

   Also, I had the best weekend and the best first half of the week, including a lunch date today with my eldest daughter. Lots of prayers being answered. 

   And on the blog front, in case you hadn't heard, the month of October is going to be lots of fun. Tiny T is searching for love, and we are having a little choose-your-own-adventure party right here to help him! 

   So excited. Check out the new Tiny T tab up at the top of this main page!

Have fun, be happy!

Monday, September 23, 2013

My Book Stack This Week

   Hello! Another busy week is chomping at the bit around here, and I'm so glad. Life. Is. Good.

   In between this thing and that, I'm enjoying lots of reading moments. In fact, Handsome has even found some reading material he grooves, proving that miracles do happen; and we have instituted a cool evening ritual of sitting in our fave outdoor chairs (his is a nice, wide hammock and mine is a nifty vintage aluminum chaise) and reading while the sun sets. We face the backlit vegetable garden and often have the llama girls watching us. This is WAAAAYYY better than vegging out in front of the TV! Last night Johnny Cash tried to kill me, but it's worth it. Johnny Cash is a gander who hates my ever-lovin guts. Sort of like how Mia hates my husband. It all comes out in the farm family wash.

   So anyway, here is what I'm reading to fill my brain and my soul...

   What's not pictured is a digital version of C.K. Chesterson's Orthodoxy. It's a short little volume, but I'm reading it slowly, taking too many notes and thinking too long. At this rate I will review it around Christmas. 

   Another book that's not pictured is The Horse Whisperer, which our famous little Oklahoma book club read recently. We are meeting Friday night to discuss it (and eat a fabulous ranch style dinner), so I'll post my review then.


   The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. My beekeeping mentor Maribeth loaned this to me a thousand years ago, but I understood it to be quite sad, a story about motherless girls. I kept it on the shelf until now. I finally feel strong enough to read it.

   The Art of Fiction by Ayn Rand. Maybe if I read this little book I will learn everything I need to know to make my idea for a novel come to fruition. 

   Zombactor by Sean Bingham. We became acquainted with this author at some local zombie-costume-art show events, and this book is the first in a trilogy he has written. Handsome has read and enjoyed them and offered to Sean my proofreading and reviewing services. (Stop laughing, Margi!) We'll see about that. But in the mean time, if you think I'm gonna pass up an opportunity to read and discuss books with my husband, you're crazy. Zombies it is.

   Keeping Bees by Green Guides and The Honeybee: A Guide for Beekeepers by V. R. Vickery. I have lots to learn, y'all. So dang much.

   The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall. Among all these titles, this is the one I can't put down. Really looking forward to giving it a proper review soon. It's a weird piece of modern fiction that changes perspective with every chapter. It has wildly fascinating characters, and I'm hooked against my will.

   And finally... The Rodale Herb Book. I am one-hundred percent infatuated with my little potagerie-style herb garden this year, and I am starving for more information and ideas of how to improve it. I dream big dreams for Lazy W herb production and propagation, and so, as with the bees, I have plenty to learn.


   So that's it! What are you reading?

   Wishing all of our friends and loved ones, near and far, a spectacular week. The season is shifting. Prayers are being answered. Love reigns supreme.

"Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them."
-Lemony Snickett

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Senses Inventory: Moonglow

   At around 3 this morning I woke with a peculiar restlessness and decided to do some reading to train my thoughts and lull my body back to sleep. Tip-toeing past the west-facing hallway windows of our upstairs hallway, Moonglow stopped me in my tracks. It was spectacular and nearly brought me to tears. Happy, amazed tears. So before doing any reading, I stole down the carpeted stairs and slipped outside in my navy blue cotton kimono for a Senses Inventory.

Startling silver light, this enchanted moon glow, washing over every shape in the farm. Stars as clear and glittering as they've ever been, arranged on that expansive black sky into secret patterns, coded messages about love and faith and promises. I definitely feel them looking at me in this private moment of reflection. Towering pine trees silhouetted in inky black against the sky, which is a deep grey there behind the forest, feathery and swirled before it turns the truest black for the stars. Shadows long and still, repeating the shapes of the basketball goal onto the driveway and a power pole onto the front lawn. I twist around toward our house, this place that has become such a wonderful refuge and oasis for us, and the big picture window is pouring out golden light, the only warmth of the scene. One lamp there burns like a thousand yellow candles. From there I look up, over the house and to the south, and see the distant moon. It is waning now, past its Harvest glory, and at this hour of night much smaller than how we saw it driving home, when it had loomed huge and heavy, and molten, over the hay meadows. The man in the moon grins. I notice the constellations again and marvel at the clarity of the sky.

Tree frogs singing. A screech owl calling out its hunger. Cheeps (baby chickens) twittering contentedly in that white Rose of Sharon bush. Crickets. So many beautiful, peaceful crickets. I can hear the interstate just a couple of miles away, and it's easy to imagine the ocean instead. I hear a mysterious rattling in the drying canna stalks behind me and think I had better get inside soon. How many screech owls are there? Now the buffalo chuffs at me through the bright darkness, inquiring at my purpose at this strange hour. I blow him a kiss. The geese whimper, and I can pick out Mia's voice among them.

I smell the smoky remnants of yesterday's little bonfire. There is not even the slightest breeze, so I can smell the chill. The dirt, the grass, the air, the shrubs... Everything smells cold and fresh. Clean, expectant. I smell my husband on me, my own shampooed hair, and if I breathe deeply... A trace of skunk spray.

Cold, rough concrete beneath my bare feet. A stray flower stalk there, too. The cold woven metal strips of the garden bench where I'm sitting and cool, smooth watermelons (temporary autumn decorations) to my left. So much cold, clean, refreshing air. Silver air. My cotton kimono is needed, and the generous sleeve openings allow in so much cold that the skin on my ribs and stomach seizes up slightly. I cross one leg over the other and feel another rushing chill.

I taste almost nothing, just that sweet blankness of water. I've so far resisted the temptation of a midnight snack.

I think about how wonderful it would be to sleep outdoors in all of this intricate, saturated beauty. No bugs, even. I remember similar nights from the past, both special family camping trips and average bedtimes when I taught the girls to observe their sensations, thoughts, and feelings and release them into the night sky to get sleepy. We called it "Sparkling," and it worked every time. I hear the oceanic interstate hum again and remember childhood in southeastern Oklahoma, and I wish to hear a train like then. I must learn more constellations. Thinking just lightly about marriage, friendships, romance. About how incredibly good and rich this life is. How loving people can be.

After attending a wedding last night, and after soaking up this sensual midnight paradise, I feel deeply romantic. Swooning, even... Drunk on the details of the night. I miss my children of course; I do almost constantly. But for the first time in a very long time, I feel content and peaceful about that particular pain. I feel more joy for them than anything else as well as perfect, steady faith that everything is ok. I feel dangerously relaxed on this metal garden bench.

   My midnight reverie was brought to an abrupt end by some scampering, nervous noises in the flower bed. My eyes had grown heavy again, and  my spirit was light again. I used the last scrap of energy in my body to move back inside the house. Although every window had been open, allowing the night's cold to visit our rooms, the front door threshold bathed me in warmth. I felt good and safe. Held. 

My Cup Overfloweth

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Missed Opportunity

   Our friend Marci required a little medical attention today, and I sat with her at the hospital. It was actually great fun (for me) chatting with her in a private room ahead of time, uninterrupted and easy, especially considering her truly fabulous wardrobe of a papery cotton tie-back gown and a blue hair net. I mean, she is usually decked out in adorable clothes, heels, great makeup and styled hair, and enviable "statement" type necklaces. This? Not normal. But the crazy thing is that she continued on with her normal confidence. LOL I tried so dang hard not to giggle. I can only hope to be this pretty while awaiting surgery, but still. So funny.

   Have you ever carried on a fairly weighty conversation with a friend while she is dressed this way? Hysterical. No matter the topic... I couldn't take a single solitary word seriously. She was very animated, gesturing with her arms in all of their IV-riddled glory. She bobbed her hair-net head while relaying really serious-sounding general facts. In fact, I have no clue what we even discussed. But I do have two priceless cell phone photos of her in this memorable state.

   Anyway, when Marci was finally wheeled off for what turned out to be a VERY long surgery, she entrusted the care of her smart phone to me.

   Did you catch that? Not just a cell phone. Her smart phone. Her portal to the world as she knows it. In particular... Facebook.

   I know.

   In order to curb my obvious and understandable cravings to wreck Marci's social media life while she rode the warm waves of anesthesia, I had to plug her phone in far across the room and distract myself with a new novel and a huge diet coke. It worked. 

   By the way, I just started The Lonely Polygamist and can't put it down. Anyway.

   Time flew past, as did a luscious midday thunderstorm, and eventually Marci returned all sewn up and just as giggly and chatty as before surgery. (The anesthesia was still at high tide, for sure.) I texted her loved ones a message of success. I updated my Facebook status accordingly and realized OH NO!!! I TOTALLY FORGOT! Dang it. I sat with my regret over missing this rare opportunity and just watched sullenly as the slender piece of glass and metal technology changed hands from me back to her.

   A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Squandered for the sake of good manners.

   So I think I'll now write all the things I wish I had done with Marci's smartphone. Care to join me?

I should have posted that she was leaving the white collar world forever in pursuit of Etsy fame. Marci is a great painter and revels in creative activity. But she's also a talented worker and fixture at the Commish. It could have caused turbulence.

I should have randomly chosen one of her Facebook friends and fastidiously "liked" and commented on every one of that person's photos, comments, updates, etc. Every dang detail, for as long as I could stand it. Have you had someone do this to your Facebook? It's funny. For like, a minute.

I should have sent friend requests on her behalf to a hundred random people, with private messages attached. The weirder the selection, the better.

Then unfriended actual friends, also with private messages attached. Ouch.

I should have "liked" a ton of inappropriate pages for her. Then commented publicly on them all. Especially lingerie models and such. Or known liberals.

I should have flooded her Facebook feed with disjointed haiku and bad song lyrics. And then asked her friends for advice on random life issues. 

I should have posted that she was abandoning Candy Crush Saga forever. But that would have been an OBVIOUS hack.

I should have done lots of liberal-politics supporting stuff. Especially gun control and unschooling.

I should have made fake status updates about the wrong appendage being fixed. That's not NEARLY as bad as a pregnancy joke.

And finally... I REALLY should have posted that gown & hair net photo and made it her profile pic. You're welcome, Marci.

   Have you ever been viciously hacked by a friend? What happened, and how mad were you? What would you LOVE to do as a prank to your friend's Facebook?

  Rest up Marci. I know you're hurting. I'll be here if you need me but wishing desperately I'd taken this fun opportunity.

With friends like this...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Today in First Grade

   I spent my Tuesday subbing in a local first grade classroom, and now, having cooked dinner and changed into yoga pants and a tank top, I have *just enough* energy left to share nine short stories. Thank goodness the animal chores and housework were super light today. It's funny how I can work all day at the farm and not feel this particular level of exhaustion, even on six mile running days. There is nothing quite like twenty-four seven year olds to sap the marrow from your bones. I mean, they're WONDERFUL and everything... But wow. 

   Okay. Nine little stories.

1.) A little boy in the hallway rushed up to me, examined me with curiosity, and said, "I like your hair. It's kind of... Yellow." He spoke these words with both conviction and authority. I wanted to say, "hey there buddy! According to L'oreal this is extra-light-ash-blonde! Not YELLOW." But that seemed excessive. So I let it slide. Yellow it is.

2.)  At 8:35 this morning, a certain little girl asked whether it was lunchtime yet. When lunchtime finally rolled around, she was asking when do we get to go home. Poor baby. I wanted to give her hugs and protein and a vitamin. Then bake her cookies. And more hugs.

3.)  I had recess duty today, and this adorable little boy showed me his black-with-red-swoosh Nikes, explaining they were cheetah shoes. I paid him the appropriate amount of awe and admiration, then he spent the rest of recess running fast to prove the cheetah moniker. 

4.)  Also at recess, a fragile little girl watching a cartwheel exhibition caught a tennis shoe to the face. She cried so I held her. She climbed up into my lap and whimpered if I stopped rocking. So we rocked and whispered until she very nearly fell asleep. I didn't want recess to ever end.

5.)  While holding my injured first grade angel, I noticed that at least half of the kids on the playground were playing a really aggressive and organized game of Zombies. By that, as surely you've already guessed, I mean that a bunch of kids were human and a bunch of kids were zombies. There was much chasing and fake (thank heavens) arm biting, and some incredible acting to indicate a change from human to zombie. I was impressed. Has the zombie craze gone too far? Who am I to judge?

6.)  Have you ever noticed that kids this age, at least some of them, need to be in physical contact with some other person at all times? 

7.)  Speaking of physical contact... At some point during the day, a couple of otherwise sweet and precious girls tried to give me a baby cricket. And I almost died. They couldn't possibly know this, but I have a deep and paralyzing fear of jumpy things like frogs and crickets. Also cows, but that's another story. NOT shrieking, fainting, or starting a fist fight with these two girls took more self control than I thought I had. So cheers to me. I came home and cuddled my buffalo for comfort.

8.)  Early in the day, I heard lots of "aww you're the best sub EVER, Mrs. Reed! Will you come back and see us tomorrow??" Then as the hours ground away at our souls, it was more like, "oh man, you're not gonna be here again tomorrow, ARE YOU... Mrs. Reed?" Ouch. And no.

9.)  Finally, to take the cake, my favorite heart warmer... A really cute little boy marched up to me with a crumpled sheet of paper and announced, "I'm gonna read this to you because I can read!!" Amen.

   So that was my Tuesday subbing first grade! I love the way these days widen my view of children, of people in general, and also how they bubble up my heart. I hope y'all had a great day too. I'm now curling up with a good book and some very, very hot salsa that SHOULD have won first prize at the state fair. See you on the flip side.

There are worse things than being yellow-headed.

Monday, September 16, 2013

You Gotta Take Care of Each Other

   Life is magical for so many reasons. My heart is throbbing from happiness lately, so much that I have a hard time shutting up about it. But I do have one story to share with you in particular. Pull up a chair and grab some coffee or sweet tea. This should only take a couple of minutes, and I wish I could give you a hug afterward.


    Last Saturday, as we do on so many Saturday mornings, Handsome and I embarked on a garage-and-estate-sale treasure hunt. We drove many miles across this beautiful Oklahoma countryside, picking through other families' boxes of castoff toys and books, threadbare clothes, dinged furniture, and myriad collectibles. We spent most of our quarters and wrinkly dollar bills and filled our pickup with so much fun stuff, chatting and laughing all the way. I love these days. We both do.

   As the Noon hour approached, we were winding down. A list of chores awaited us at the farm, and the climbing sun was elbowing through the morning's autumnal crispness. Handsome suggested stopping at one more house, a sale he had tried after work on Friday. It would prove to offer us the smallest purchase but the deepest impressions.

   We parked on a grassy shoulder and walked across this narrow road, downhill toward the property's deeply shaded yard. The shade was so deep that my vision needed to adjust and my skin flushed cool despite the warming day. On both sides of the curved driveway stood calm, colorful gardens, each one decorated with folksy painted art. Lots of cracked pane windows, half rotted wooden chairs, and hog panels framed and dressed in wild flower vines. A really ecclectic, happily accessorized piece of heaven. Everything smelled sweet, and from behind an umbrella-topped table where two ladies were taking money, jazz music reached out to us out like tendrils into the peaceful Saturday air. It was this great mix of Oklahoma and Louisiana, and I could feel Handsome grooving it right along with me.

   Having made one purchase here the day before, my husband knew of a few things he hoped to reconsider, so he proceeded to hunt. I had no problem following my thrifting nose to the colorful pottery, the used paints, the tall, beaten wooden shutters that remind me so strongly of New Orleans, and much more. Really, of course, I shared all of this woman's taste in junk and craved to buy almost everything. But I had been shopping all morning and wanted to show some cash restraint. That's part of the fun, after all, being discerning. Saying no can be as much fun as saying yes. Or at least it makes saying yes more fun when it happens.

   I did see one accent pillow that was flat-out irresistible. The bright yellow floral fabric made my 1970s-child heart skip a beat. It was tightly stuffed, quilted, in perfect condition, and fresh smelling. Not a hint of mildew of smoke or anything. For one single solitary dollar, this pillow was officially going home with me. No matter that nothing in either my house or the Apartment has these colors already. I mean, sort of my fave green velvet chair. Sort of.

See? Isn't it great? 
I love this green and yellow 1970's print.
But this story is not about the pillow.
   As I was trading four smudged quarters for this one glorious little pillow, a thin, energetic woman perhaps in her late sixties welcomed my questions about her gardens. A terrycloth sun visor was keeping her cropped white hair at bay. She touched my arms with silky soft hands, spoke closely to me, and smiled with her entire face while she described her gardens. Which plants she had cultivated, which ones were volunteers, etc. What I wanted most was to know more about the gardens, anyway. I was thrilled.

   At some point Handsome slid up beside me and listened too. This slight, bright little woman was by then talking a lot more about the myriad construction projects in her gardens than about the flora and fauna. We had found several things we both wanted to try and duplicate at the farm, so we were happy to listen. She was describing with great affection how much work her husband had been putting into their little paradise.

   "One time he built a bird cage there on that arbor, and once I bought this wooden swing from Ace Hardware and he decided it needed a better awning, so he built that. Then I wanted it out of that shade, so he moved it for me. He put up all those split-rail fences, too."

   On and on she went, and there was no mistaking the pride and appreciation in her sweet, clear voice. You know that warm, comfortable feeling of a highly personalized garden? It is even lovelier, I've found, when more than one person has invested passion and energy into it. Her gardens had that glow. That loving welcome.

   I found myself looking around for her husband, thinking that surely someone so devoted to her every construction whim wouldn't be far from her side on such a pretty day. She continued boasting of his woodworking skills and generous nature. Handsome wrapped his hand around mine, and we both stood shocked when our spontaneous hostess revealed that her husband had passed away one year ago. My throat seized up.

   Her face fell just slightly at this admission, not like it was news to her, but more like his physical absence was just a sad formality. A disappointment and even a nuisance in the midst of so much loving energy. Because, clearly, he was all around her still. He was in every garden she touched and in every word she spoke. It almost felt like she was looking for him, too.

   Neither of us dared interrupt her. Have you seen The Princess Bride, when the little boy is so enrapt by his grandfather's story that he eventually won't say a word to stop its telling? We needed her to continue telling her love story.

   They had been married for 35 years when he died. They had both been married before, multiple times, but had finally found compatibility and happiness with each other. She told us about how they met, their flirtations, their dating. She grinned and blushed. With unscripted sentences, she unfolded to two strangers a precious chapter of her life. I swear she looked younger and younger as she did so.

   They raised a family, some children his, some theirs. He was one of the designing engineers for the AWAC plane here at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma, and she worked on base as well. They rented their first house from a black family here, in a decade when that didn't happen much, and that family's minister married them too. Also something that wouldn't have happened much then, and she was obviously delighted to have that joyful piece of history in her heart. She said they all became close friends, something about whether they were black, white, purple, or polka-dotted! Her laughter. So full and sweet.

   She described the chain of events that led them from that first rented house to this sprawling wooded property. I could easily imagine the newness of the place before she and her husband infused it with their mutual passion. She talked about their children, now adults, and the perspective they have on their parents' marriage. She recounted with a lot of sadness how her husband was so ill a few years ago when that first big tornado swept this part of the state clean. They had to take shelter with neighbors, but his medicines and oxygen tanks were so difficult to manage. They immediately had their own large tornado shelter installed, but he never used it. When the storms were so bad this May, he was already gone. She filled it with neighbors and pets instead. Her disappointment was palpable.

   The stories were gentle and many, and Handsome and I took turns squeezing each other's hands and either weeping or laughing.

   Then without asking, our new friend took my available hand and Handsome's available hand, forming between the three of us a little circle. She looked us straight in the eyes, alternately, and said, You gotta take care of each other. I cannot remember this woman's name now, a week later, but I remember the urgency and warmth in her face when she said this. Her blue eyes absolutely sparkled, and not just from her sprouting tears.


   A friend of ours is getting married this evening. Each of our parents are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversaries next month. Another set of friends is approaching their first adversary soon. Still more nearly share our own July anniversary, almost to the day. I can't help but marvel at the power of a well invested union. Friendship, service to each other, devotion, admiration, romance, just all if it. A happy marriage can be the most profound expression of God's power and love, in my opinion. So much love for others can pour out of it.
   Mitzi and Brian, we wish you all the best! We wish you a magical wedding Saturday and then far more than 35 happy years together. We wish you every blessing, every joy, every thrill that a union like this can bring. Whatever you cultivate together, whether it's a garden like theirs or any other masterpiece you both love, may it surround you and comfort you both with proof of each other's passion.







Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Miracle of One Effort

   Goofing around in the flower beds this afternoon, I noticed something that just floored me. It brought me to my knees, emotionally, to match my gardening posture. Surely I've noticed it before, but never quite like this. Have you?

   All of these bright pink, beautiful zinnia blooms...

     ...are growing from one stem. 
One thick, sturdy, well rooted green stem.

  This plant is branching and reaching for air and sunshine, webbing itself elegantly and casually in a singular effort for LIFE. In just a few square inches of earth, with access to only about half a day of sunshine and the occasional splash of well water or rain, these blooms have been power-housing their way through the summer.

   They provide beauty, calm, and ease. I don't think there is a more self-sufficient flower in the universe; nor do I think there is a more prolific one.

   This time of year a stroll past any clump of zinnias
will yield you cups and cups of dried seed-heads, 
perfect for storing until next season.

   This has surely caught my attention before, but today it brought me to tears. Good tears... Grateful, hopeful tears. How wonderful to have proof that in nature so much can come from one tiny thing going really, simply, masterfully well!

   Yes, the skeptic in me pipes up and says  that surely back in March I scattered dozens of other zinnia seeds that did not germinate and grow. The skeptic would have me believe that the numbers are not in my favor. But you know what? Those seeds, had they grown, would have been crowded out anyway. Or eaten by my chickens. This one happy plant is all this little corner of dirt really needed, and it is more than enough. It is spreading all over the sidewalk.

   From a single seed, slender and wispy,
comes all of this beauty.


   I know we all get deeply discouraged by trying so hard in life. We fight passionately for our beliefs, and we defend our rights or the rights of others. We struggle with finances and stewardship. We test our most precious relationships and endure that same testing and analysis from others. I know we all grow weary, worse than weary, and sometimes think it's just not worth the effort. The failures seem so numerous and the successes so few by comparison. It wears us down, and it hurts.

   When I was crouched today down on the sidewalk, pulling weeds, and this thick singular stem grinned quietly at me from behind those flowers, it hit me. Just one seed.

   Suddenly all the many ways I have been feeling inadequate melted away. Just as strong and clear as the Worry Door vision I had a year and a week ago.. my heart sensed that despite all the times my efforts seem to fail or simply fade away unnoticed... when the conditions are right, great things will spring from one effort.

   In that moment I felt legitimate excitement imagining all the things that might come to fruition when that one thing, that one special effort, finally germinates and takes root in my life.


   I'm about halfway through Chesterson's Orthodoxy right now, and this passage seems perfect for the moment:

The grass is signalling to me with all its fingers at once; the crowded stars seemed bent upon being understood. The sun would make me see him if he rose a thousand times. The recurrences of the universe rose to the maddening rhythm of an incarnation, and I began to see an idea.

   I happen to think that anything we need to know can be found in nature. Any message meant for us is there.


   For my husband, who is working so hard at the Commish and is leading a team unlike any that place has ever seen, I am so proud of you. What are you are doing matters a great deal to people far beyond what we generally understand. Keep doing it. Keep fighting for what is right, and maintain that confidence that no matter where your path leads, you are respected and loved. You make me so proud and inspire me constantly to just do better. In everything. (Yes I totally said that mentally in a Jack Nicholson voice...)

   For my children, I wish I could give you the world. Everything I do have is yours, and anything I can muster beyond that I am happy to see you use and enjoy. My heart wants to give you far more than material things, though, and I am so excited to sense that those days are returning to us.

   For my friends, Marci, Jen, Melissa, Steph... Who each seem to be facing heart aches that can only be solved by Love, faith and hope, be happy! Because Love, faith and hope are the most powerful forces in the Universe. You are not powerless because you lack solutions. You are so incredibly powerful because you have surrendered to exactly What will make everything new and beautiful again. Faith, not fear.

And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: 
for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed,
ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place;
and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 
~Matthew 17:20

   So, friends, if you find yourself slipping into that thought pattern where you lament past failures or indulge in frustration or even anger over constant, repeating, painful rejection... Think of the dozens of zinnia seeds that fell to the ground for nothing, except maybe a chicken's meal. Then remember that just ONE SEED became all that was needed. Do not give up. Do not stop trying. You are enough, and what you seem to lack is available through prayer and believing. Keep doing every single thing you believe to be good and right. Continue on a path of Love and just ignore all evidence that would have you think Love isn't the answer. THAT is the lie.

"Believe in the Possibility of Everything."

Monday, September 9, 2013

Shadows and Light

   Over this past month my babies have become, once again and more than ever, less babies and more young women. Now sixteen and eighteen, they are both squarely in a chapter of transition away from girlhood. Happily, I must admit, they seem ready for it all to progress.

   When I stop and dwell on it for very long, the plain facts of this part of life overwhelm me with grief. Had someone told me five years ago that we would still be enduring this now, I might not have been able to bear it. If you ask Handsome, he would say certainly not. Instead, life came at us, as it thankfully does for everyone, just one day and one moment at a time. And our joys have far outnumbered even our deepest sorrows.
"If only you could make now last forever."  Frank said on one of those nights while they lay on their backs watching a huge half-moon roar up out of the dark shoulders of the mountain. Frank was eleven and not by nature a philosopher. They had all lain still, thinking about this for a while. Somewhere, a long way off, a coyote called. "I guess that's all forever is," his father replied. "Just one long trail of nows. And I guess all you can do is try and live one now at a time without getting too worked up about the last now or the next now." 
   In fact, the miracle here, even ahead of the biggest ones for which we still pray, the most sublime grace we enjoy... Is that in the exact space of that dark thought of grief over this temporary separation, perhaps just a half a heartbeat after it, we feel so much intense joy and see so much blinding, dazzling light that not gobbling up life is the unnatural thing. Love is all around us and between us, still. The plain facts of life that would have us crumble in pain instead become the debris. That's how powerful Love is.

   My girls are such beautiful creatures, in every way. One is an artist and one a writer, both stunningly talented and skilled beyond their years. One loves music and running; the other loves cooking and books. Both are easy friends and loyal ones. Both are so loving, so fierce and wonderful in their own myriad ways. And both love animals, which is why Handsome and I started this place almost six years ago.
Two creeks ran through the Booker brothers' land, and they gave the ranch its name, the Double Divide. They flowed from adjacent folds of the mountain front and in their first half mile they looked like twins. The ridge that ran between them here was low, at one point almost low enough for them to meet, but then it rose sharply in an interlocking chain of rugged bluffs, shouldering the creeks apart. Forced thus to seek their separate ways, they now became quite different.
   Although they surely do not realize it, my girls are with me constantly. They are in my thoughts so steadily that despite their physical absence I feel them strongly all over the farm. I feel their shadows, of course, as all mothers do... The memory of their terrifyingly small, vulnerable bodies, all elbows and skull, inside my young belly. Their trusting mouths nursing. Their sweet velvet cheeks, flushed from the sun or clean from a vanilla scented bubble bath, pressing against my face for cuddles. Long, skinny arms squeezing me hard at bedtime, begging for "just one more chapter Momma?" And then those basketball legs that wore tights and ruffled socks to church, uniform skirts to school, and jeans on our weekend trips to Alan's Buffalo Mountain. So yes, of course their shadows linger and warm up the peripherals here. For this Handsome and I are so thankful.

This was taken November, 2006. The girls are so fun here, so healthy and free spirited.
We were at Alan's Buffalo Mountain, where we spent so much time before we bought our own place.
The girls were "riding" the two stubbornest donkey ever to NOT walk the face of this earth.

This is 2002. We were all at GW Exotic Animal Refuge, where we visited frequently,
and on this day we got lucky enough to bottle feed some brand spankin' new tiger cubs.
The girls were just little sweet cubs themselves.

Pretty sisters having fun at a summertime track meet, 2009.
I clearly remember thinking on this day that they seemed so grown and yet so tender still. 
I felt a little fear of them, alternating with perfect union, just the three of us under the bleachers.

   But their futures are with me, too. And those ideas are what meander excitedly through my imagination like strands of light. Dispelling the darkness that keeps trying to close in on us. Already we see evidence that prayers are being answered, and of course we know that believing in those answers is the evidence we really need, first of all. Celebrating the gift in advance is what makes it so sweet.

"But you see Annie, where there's pain, there's still feeling and where there's feeling there's hope." He fixed the last cable. "There you go." He turned to face her and they looked each other in the eye. "Thanks" said Annie quietly. "Ma'am, it's my pleasure, Don't let her turn you away."  

   Thank you for your birthday wishes for my girls! I have nothing but good things to report for either of them and only the best hopes and dreams for them of course. Thank you for your prayers along the way; we really are okay, and I continue to trust and believe that they are, too. Thank you for your encouragement and wise words, those of you who have been brave enough to offer it when needed. 

   Life is good, no matter what. Love is powerful. Prayer works, even if it takes much MUCH longer than you expect. Cultivate your joy and trust Him.

Happiest Birthdays Ever to My Sweet Girls,
My Shadows and My Light

The three quotes mentioned above were taken from The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans. The parallels and echoes to my own life were uncanny.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Room for Improvement

   Here is a quick list of things I wish I did better. Things I'm working at improving. Weaknesses that need strength-training. Sources of occasional embarrassment. And some pain.

1. Telling great jokes. Or even mediocre ones. It's just horrible.

2. Delivering high-fives. Mine are enthusiastic, but somehow they just don't connect too well. It makes for lots of awkward moments.

3. Typing. Also general editing.

4. Returning library books on time. Or at all. This new electronic borrowing system should save me a lot of money. The Oklahoma metropolitan public library system may grow to regret it when they notice a dip in revenues.

5. Keeping my feet pretty. Between running, gardening and animal-tending practically barefoot, and not being willing to fork over a million bucks for a "real" pedicure, it's definitely an area where I could improve!

6. Thawing our entree meats on a perfect schedule. So. Dang. Mystifying.

7. Demonstrating my deepest love to a few certain people who probably cannot fathom my feelings for them. I am constantly bubbling with the emotion, but when I consider breathing it out, I choke on either the words or the act. I'm so terrified it will be not enough, or maybe too much. 


8. Typing. And mastering brevity with my ideas.

9. Growing parsley. Apparently a girl can grow either parsley or basil, not both.

10. Praying for my "enemies," just those relationships in life that deliver the rub, the discomfort and trial. I know by now that the people aren't really my enemies, but I have a ways to go still in praying for them with genuine love.

11. Typing. And caring about typing.

12. Keeping the beautiful Apartment clean and organized.

13. Not over-eating. Or at least not hating my choices. And drinking more water, less Diet Coke.

14. Finishing one project or book before diving into three more.

15. Acting out the faith that keeps me breathing every day.

   What about you? Do you want to be better at any of this stuff? What else is on your list? 

Let's Not Grow Stale,
And Let's Get Really Good 
At High Fives!!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Inviting You to a Gardening Q & A

   Let's talk for a while about gardening. I wish you and I could sit tonight outside under the black Oklahoma sky, count the stars, and listen to the locusts and coyotes. I would love to quietly trade with you our best gardening secrets and wishes, mistakes and triumphs.

   If you are a gardener like me, though, your have more joy than knowledge and more questions than answers. Much more. I could write a book containing nothing but questions about gardening. Theory, design, science, history, poetry, spirituality, economics... There is so much worth knowing. You could never ever learn it all!

I would introduce you to some of my most colorful friends.

   That's okay, to be full of questions. Because I have a friend who is writing a book with answers. It is all about gardening for people like me, people roughly my age who are more rookie than seasoned veteran.

   You have met her here before, when I interviewed her and she photographed me. It was just back in July, called Knowing Dee.  And I hope by now you have become another devoted reader at her lovely blog, Red Dirt Ramblings.

   With her book in the final publication stages and due to release this coming February, Dee has opened a Facebook page called the 20/30 Something Garden Guide.

There, she fosters a warm, welcoming spot where no comment or question is ignored, despite her busy schedule. She is encouraging, informative, and also generous with mouth watering garden photography. I strongly encourage you to click "like" on her book's Facebook page and join the fun!

This is a cell phone photo I snapped while enjoying 
a completely overwhelming view of Dee's garden 
about 40 minutes north of the fam.
I inhaled the beauty that evening and have been inspired every since my visit, 
but I sure want to visit again when I can take notes and, yes, better photos.

   In addition to following this great page, will you please jot down some of your own gardening questions and share them? Hey, the more we ask the more we learn. And maybe we all can think of different questions and learn even more.

   Thanks, friends! I hope your Labor Day weekend has been luscious. Garden on.

"Knowing is Half the Battle."
~GI Joe


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...