Monday, September 24, 2007

Those left behind stay close

For each National Guardsman who is being deployed, there are family members left behind.

Chastity Rhoades of Marland, leader of the Guard's Family Readiness Group, and co-leader Brenda VanZandt of Osage County are working to make the next year or so as easy as possible for the spouses and children.

"When my husband was deployed five years ago, I was alone in Alva with nobody for me to talk to," Rhoades said. "I bonded more with the girls in Ponca City."

Her husband Michael went with the active Army in 1991 and in 2002 deployed with the Bravo Company from Alva.

"We have 100 women to get to know during this deployment," she said. "They all have their own perspective — the wives' perspectives, the mothers' perspectives and the children's perspectives."

It is often something their non-military friends can't identify with.

"Our friends who are not military can't really understand. They can feel for you, but they can't feel IT," VanZandt said.

Rhoades said the majority of the women in this group are young, newly married or they've moved up their wedding dates.

"We have several guys who are going to miss their child's birth," she said.

The Family Readiness Group is set up to provide support and information.

"A lot of women will need help with legal, financial and insurance issues," Rhoades said.

The FRG is trying to get a website built which would provide information as well as a social network for families which are scattered over a wide geographic area.

"We had one last time my husband deployed," Rhoades said. "If you woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't sleep, you could probably find someone online."

VanZandt said they also are setting up a phone network to check on all the families from time to time.

"We are finding different ways of helping everyone, especially the young marrieds who are a long way from their families, so we can be self-sufficient while the guys are gone," VanZandt said.

She said they plan to get together every quarter to vent about their problems.

They also are working with the children's schools and setting up a buddy system for the children.

Since the Guardsmen come from a wide area, VanZandt said they are trying to make everyone feel at home during the deployment.

"We have so many people who are just here with us through the deployment," she said. "We want them to feel welcome."

Several businesses have helped create that welcome, she said, providing contributions of merchandise or service.

Among those who have opened their arms to the Guardsmen and their families are Ponca City Ice Co., Ponca City Discount Foods, Walgreen's, ConocoPhillips, Quality Water, Wheel Sport, Albertson's Distribution Center, Dorsetts in Tonkawa, Osage Trading Post, TPI Staffing, Tonkawa Indian Tribe, Terry and Shirley Pugh and Steve Struble of Joblink.

Many of these businesses and individuals have contributed items for care packages for the troops or postage for mailing packages. Others have provided goods and services to those preparing for deployment.

"A lot of times people's patriotism has gotten to me," Rhoades said. "People will come up to us if Michael is in his uniform and will offer to pay for our meal."

VanZandt said her husband Kelly often finds merchants offering him pop or some other small kindness.

Even with the work they are doing for other families, Rhoades and VanZandt know they will have a hard adjustment when their husbands deploy.

"Kelly is honestly my best friend in the whole world," VanZandt said.

Both women said the hours after their children are in bed are when they and their husbands were able to talk about their days and just cut up.

"That's when my story time is," VanZandt said. "That's when I tell him everything that happened during the day."

Rhoades said this time will be different for her and their children.

"Communications will be better than last time. I went five weeks without hearing from Michael," Rhoades said.

VanZandt, who is from a military family, said her husband's family and hers "pull up together real tight."

Rhoades plans to get an extra clock during this deployment which will be set on "Daddy Time" so the children will know what time it is there.

Both the Rhoades and the VanZandts have blended families. The Rhoades' children are Shane Kimbrell, 16, Jaymie Rhoades, 13, and Randie Rhoades, 10.

The VanZandts' children are Ciara VanZandt, 22, Brittany Garner, 17, Chelsea VanZandt, 16, Sierra Garner-VanZandt, 13, Cheyenne VanZandt, 9, and Chelsee Garner-VanZandt, 9.

Ready to Deploy

Army National Guardsmen assigned to the First Battalion of the 1-179th Infantry Company, affiliated with the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, are packing up and preparing to deploy on a mission in Iraq.

The men and women will be at home with their families and at their jobs for the next three weeks to prepare for the year or more they may be gone, then will head to Norman where they will have their good-bye ceremony Oct. 18.

The Guardsmen then leave for Fort Bliss on Oct. 24 for training before shipping out.

Many of those who will be leaving are young men, barely out of their teens. Others are veterans of other deployments who have shared some of their experiences with their comrades during this preparation time.

They will be leaving behind brides, new babies, girlfriends, dying parents and all the other pieces of their civilian lives. And as they clean their weapons and pack equipment for their mission, they look forward to serving their country.

Luke Garrison, who just turned 23, works for First Baptist Church in Ponca City.

He will be leaving behind his wife Mary-Beth and their 7-month-old daughter Abigail Love. But unlike others in his unit, he's taking a large portion of his family with him.

Garrison's twin brother, Ben, and their 20-year-old brother Levi will be with him.

"It's not often you can take half your family to Iraq," Luke said. "We are leaving our parents and sister behind, and we tried to talk our sister into going."

Their mother is proud of them, Luke said, though not excited about their leaving.

"It is important to us to keep the three of us together," Ben Garrison said. "They were going to split us into three platoons, but our captain came through for us and kept us together."

The Guardsmen started hearing rumors of the deployment about the first of the year, Luke Garrison said.

"We were notified before our last annual training period in July," he said.

Once all the packing is completed today, the unit will be ready to pick up and go next month.

At least they'll be ready physically. They have the next three weeks to prepare emotionally with their families and to put things in order at their jobs.

"We'll be talking a lot and getting our finances in order," Luke Garrison said of the preparations he will make with his wife and other family members.

"There is nothing easy about leaving for a year," he said. "But it is our job. It's part of why we signed up. We do this so people back here can stay here and do their jobs and live free."

Ben, his twin, has worked as Tonkawa police officer for just under a year.

"I graduated from my CLEET training the day before we left for training," he said.

Ben has a girlfriend, Kali, who he has dated for about a year.

"They are all scared," Ben Garrison said. "Nobody wants to be left behind. It's harder to be the passenger than the driver where you are in control. At least we will know what we are doing and will have some control over our situation."

Youngest brother Levi was pulled out of college at the University of Central Oklahoma for this deployment. He had not yet declared a major, but said he was leaning toward public relations and politics. He has maintained a 3.7 grade point average and is a member of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.

"It's neat that we are finally getting to go overseas," he said. "We all stand together on the war. We'd much rather fight it over there than over here."

Levi, who said he is currently single, said he loves the unit.

"My brothers and many of my best friends are in the unit. We're a big family," he said.

When it comes to their own family, the brothers all said they are tight-knit.

"We like to spoil Luke's baby girl with our riches," Levi said.

"He has a baby that looks like she should be on the Gerber baby food jar," Ben said.

Luke Garrison said all three of the brothers are "Mama's Boys." The entire family are members of First Baptist Church of Ponca City, where the brothers, all baritones, sang the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" on July 4 while wearing their dress uniforms.

"The whole family is musical," Luke said. "We kept getting criticism from the kitchen and the bathroom about not being on pitch while we practiced."

Ben said the church recognizes troops each year.

"It's nice we have a church to back us," he said. "We have people who stop us and tell us they have us in their daily prayers."


Each guardsman has a different story to tell.

Robert Smotherman, 34, is from Idabel in southeast Oklahoma.

He and his wife Lisa have five children — Ashley, Bailey, Nick, Jessica and Logan, ranging in age from 8 to almost 16.

"My daughter is almost 16. She thinks she's going to get to drive my truck while I am gone," Smotherman said.

Smotherman was deployed last year in Operation Enduring Freedom.

He was deployed for 15 months, with three months in Mississippi training and 12 months in Afghanistan. He returned in late April.

"I volunteered to go to Iraq after returning from Afghanistan," he said. "I had signed up for another six years. I figured the Army owned me and I might as well give them what they were paying for."

Smotherman said it was easier for him and for his family to make the choice to go.

"It is not as stressful for them that I'll be gone for 12 months. The stress for them will be in knowing Dad is going to Iraq and might not come back.

He spent six months in Kabul working in S3 operations.

"My last six months I was in Kandahar as a police trainer," he said. "I'm also a state-certified police officer in Oklahoma. We were picked to train Afghan police."

Smotherman joined this National Guard unit less than two weeks ago.

"I've never been with these guys before, so this is time for us to get to know each other and get comfortable. These guys have been training with each other for the last few months and I just got here Sept. 11."

This is Smotherman's third deployment, he said.

"I was in Egypt for six months in 2002 and 2003," he said.

"The National Guard needs all the capable people they can get to go," he said. "We're going to go and be there until we are done."

He said his fellow guardsmen are 100 percent dedicated and eager to get their training before their mission.

"We are doing what the country has asked us to do, and that's fight this war," Smotherman said.


Specialist Bobby Evans, 21, has been with the unit for more than a year.

He is a newlywed who married his wife Lacie on Aug. 13, the one-year anniversary of their first date.

"We don't have kids yet, but we're working on that before the deployment," he said.

In his civilian life, he works at Rent-A-Center in Ponca City.

"This is my first combat deployment, but I did go down to work during Hurricane Katrina," he said.

"I wouldn't want to be anywhere else," he said of the unit. "We have a huge relationship outside of our training. It gives our wives people to hang out with.

Evans said he is planning to make a career of his military service.

"Our mission is so open, our training has been open. We are ready for anything that may come up there," he said. "That goes to our leadership. I wouldn't have gotten as good training if the trainers hadn't all been veterans."

Evans is another who calls himself a "Mama's boy."

"I've been watching my sister grow up. She's 14. We are seven years and 12 hours apart to the minute," he said. "We were both born on Dec. 23 at 5:13. I was a.m. and she was p.m."

They usually go out to dinner to celebrate their birthday together.

"It's not a huge birthday, but Christmas is always nice. It's kind of our day."

He said the main thing he will concentrate on during the next three weeks is hanging out with his wife, family and friends as much as possible.


Leaving family and friends behind will be hard for all of those who are being deployed, but for Michael Semler of Drumright it will be a bit tougher.

"My father has cancer. They just switched his chemo," the 22-year-old said. "He and my old sergeant found out about the same time that they both have cancer."

Semler joined the National Guard when he was a junior in high school.

"I went to basic training that summer and went back to school for my senior year. I broke my wrist two days before I was supposed to return for training, so I got to enjoy some of that summer."

He has been married to his wife Jennifer since July 7. The couple has a son, Caden, who just turned a year old.

"We named him Caden Michael after my dad," he said.

"My aunt died a couple of years ago of cancer. She was 40. My dad is just 42," he said.

"I listen to country music a lot and they have all these kid and dad songs that are so sad."

Semler said he tries not to think about it too much as he prepares for the mission ahead.

"I haven't gotten too many details. All I know is we're going over there somewhere. I've heard 30 different rumors."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Just thought I'd mention this...

I've been invited to sing in Carnegie Hall in January.

More details as they become available.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Thank-You to Tech

Tech, I want to thank you for your series of articles on diabetes. If not for you providing me with the best information I've ever seen on diabetes, I might not have been as persistent about getting a doctor's appointment last week. And if not for that, I would not know my blood sugar levels.

I'd mentioned that my previous doctor was less than forthcoming with information about diabetes and diabetes care. He never ran an A1C test on me -- just a fasting blood level test.

You mentioned your A1C level: "My last A1C result was 7.2%, which is a drop from my first test when my A1C was a whopping and deadly 8.4%."

When I read that the first time, I thought "Oh good, there's hope. Maybe mine won't be that bad and I can do like Tech and lower it."

Well. Today I got the typed results of my tests. I think it's a wonder that I lived long enough to go to the doctor.

My HBA1C was 10.8. Just reading that makes me feel woozy. Her hand-written note says "Extremely high. Need to watch sugars and carbs and increase exercise."

My blood pressure remains extremely high, although I have seen a decrease since last week, when I started a new BP med and Liptor combo drug. I believe the drug is the source of my paralyzing and debilitating leg cramps over the weekend, but she insisted Monday that I continue taking it. She also ordered calcium and vitamin D and some CO-Q10 to help with the cramps. I'm also pushing the water.

Tech, there's no doubt that if your 8.4 was a deadly level, my 10.8 was deadly, resurrected and deadly again. You are my example for getting serious and DEALING with it, not just ignoring it and pretending I can substitute a donut for orange juice and oatmeal. No, they are not equivalents!

So I thank you, for all the good information you've provided, and for the good examples you've set for behavior modification. If I put together all the pieces -- diet modification, exercise and medication, maybe I can pull myself together to last a little while longer. And if not, I have to start making some serious planning in accordance with my previous post. (Wouldn't hurt to get those things lined up for good measure anyway.)

I told you you had a future as a diabetes educator!

Monday, September 17, 2007

What's a little death among friends?

Note: This is some idle ramblings of my brain about the subject of death. Seems like I've experienced a lot of it, and, well, the issue has come up a few more times in the past week or so. And since it's been brought to my mind again, it's generated some thoughts. I don't want to be insensitive to any of my friends about the losses they have experienced -- that certainly is not my intention. Simply a few observations about the subject.


One of my best friends from childhood has been left with the task of being the chief planner of her mother-in-law's memorial service this weekend. As with most families, there's the one who takes on the bulk of such responsibilities, mostly because nobody else is up to handling the details of securing a church, a minister, music and flowers. But the big thing they really are not up to handling is the cremation or burial of the deceased's body.

Long ago, when we were in the eighth grade, my friend and I formed a pact, which we still honor. Whichever of us survives the death of the first will be responsible for this job. I just learned that she's bequeathed her responsibilities for this pact to her children, should she predecease me. I, unfortunately, have no one to stand in my stead should I go first. Sorry about that, friend. But then that's why you have your children and husband, to take my place if it is necessary.

I'm not trying to be flip about this. I know it may sound like I am. But for my friend and me, death is just a phase of life.

I kind of imagine my friend going through the rituals of death the way they were performed in "Fried Green Tomatoes" -- the closing of the curtains, the stopping of the clock, the covering of the mirrors in the house. Old fashioned rituals, surely filled with superstition. Still, I find a little comfort in those kind of rituals that people used to be more involved in, like having a wake in the parlor. It's just the kind of thing she would know how to do. Certainly more real than the way most people die today, in a bed that doesn't belong to them, in which countless others also will die.

My friend and I understand a lot of the same things about death.

Our losses started young. We lost friends while we were in school. And when we were 21, we both lost our fathers the same summer, about a month apart. And we both were thrown into active duty, having to step up to do the funeral planning so others could grieve and avoid the trauma of coffin shopping and lining up singers. She also was involved in the funerals of grandparents.

Another friend, also as close as a blood sister, lost her mother when she was 15 years old. In my opinion, that's too young to assume funeral duty. Too much to ask of someone of such tender years whose whole life was ripped apart one stupid night.

I have to give her some leeway because of that trauma. It happened when she was young and basically left alone in the world.

The other night, I got an e-mail from her, obviously upset because we had not had the chance to have a conversation while she was in the U.S. briefly. She had some medical issues she had hoped to discuss with a friend "since I have no family (close or otherwise) to talk to."

Well, that stings me some. The fact is, she's married and has two sons. Granted, they are not the people she would or should turn to for some "girl talk," but they definitely do count as family, I would think. I'm not trying to play "one-upsmanship" here, but it was like she's forgotten that I really have no one. No family, no spouse, no children. I just wish her wording had been a bit more thoughtful perhaps.

And I'm sorry we didn't have a chance to talk, too. No matter who's lost how many loved ones, the truth is we've all seen enough losses to know that we need to love and protect the relationships we have.

One of my dear older friends from my previous church home contacted me over the weekend while her daughter and son-in-law were at her home. She wanted to ask me to put together a slide show of her life to be shown at her memorial service, as I had done for her husband. She ran down a list of everything she has planned -- she's paid for the cremation and is writing her obituary and now has me lined up for the slide show.

I know she's done all this planning and preparation to spare her daughter from having to do it from a distance when the time comes, but there's a little part of me that feels like she's depriving her daughter of something. Yes, it's painful to think about, especially when the person is still living, but in some ways I think funeral planning is a rite of passage.

It's not as cool as going to the prom -- but on the other hand it's vastly more meaningful. You don't get a corsage, but you get something better. It's your last opportunity to honor someone you love and cherish. And it's an experience which really pulls out every ounce of compassion inside you.

One other thing I've observed. There are two kinds of people at funeral times: There are rocks, and there are rivers. And we need them both. The rocks are the ones who can encapsulate their emotions long enough to get through the work. They are the ones who handle the details no one else can face. You can see in their faces that they are grief-stricken and heavy laden, but they save their tears for private times, usually late at night, when they have done their work and are bone-tired. Since they don't show their emotions while they're dealing with their responsibility, they are often seen as stoic and hard-hearted.

The Rivers, on the other hand, are the ones who take the lead emotionally, pouring out sorrow not only for themselves, but for the ones who can't do it then. They are the ones who will grab you and cry with you or for you until you're both soaked and snotty faced. You can also count on them to have the jumbo box of Kleenex.

Yes, we really need both kinds of people, and we need to lean on each other whichever kind we are. Depending on circumstances, we may play one role at one time and another at a different time.

I know which of my friends are rocks and which are rivers. When I do my own planning, I'll know who I want to do what, knowing which role they will play. I just want them to know that whichever part they play, it's OK with me, because I love them for who they are. And I know they will do their part well.

Lame, lame am I

If I were a horse, they would shoot me.

Last week when I saw the doctor, she put me on a new blood pressure medicine which contains Lipitor -- a two-for-one shot.

I took it for several days and then Friday night I woke up about 3 a.m. (I guess that would really be Saturday morning) with a leg cramp in my left leg. I whined and cried until I could get out of bed and try to stretch it out. I woke up again hourse later just fine.

Or so I thought.

I went out and pushed the lawnmower around a little in the back yard after I got off work Saturday afternoon. On one lap, I was all the way at the back of the lot, by the alley, when I got a killer cramp in my right leg. I could not move. I could barely stand. I could barely keep my grip on the mower handles to hold myself upright.

I feared falling, throwing up, falling, having the dog across the alley bark at me, falling, being found dead on the ground.

It took at least 20 minutes before I could put my foot flat enough to do the Frankenstein walk back to the back door. The walk took about that long, too.

Here it is Monday afternoon and I still feel like someone hit me in the back of my leg with a baseball bat. You should see the size of my calf where the muscle refuses to relax! I've called my doctor's office and left a message on the nurse's line to report it and asked for a call back (at 8 this morning.)

And I've declined to take my doses for Sunday and Monday until I can get checked out. Leg pain is a serious side effect of Lipitor. I took the drug separately for several years without much trouble, but I think that's not the case this time.

Stay tuned to this station for updates of General Hospital!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Why no photos of my house?

This is why. I've been here a month now, and the unpacking is just not getting done. My time at home has been so limited, I simply haven't had the time and/or energy for this job. Things went pretty well at first, while I was desperately looking for my laptop and my camera. Since I found those, the work has come to a screeching halt.

How do you like the box that says "This end up"?

(Clicky biggie)

An epiphany or two

I'm going to post this here, since so many of my co-bloggers have sort of given up the other blog we share. That's how much I want you guys to think about some of these things with me, OK?

So here goes:

New inspiration

I finally was able to go see a doctor today (Well, I guess now it's yesterday since it's after midnight.) I think it's been well over four years since I was able to see a doctor because of the lack of insurance. My new coverage just recently kicked in.

For once, I was pleased to see the number on the scale. It confirms that I've lost 14 pounds since we started this project together. If you think of all that has happened in that time, I count that as a good achievement.

You know what was great about this doctor's visit? No nagging about my weight! Yes, I need to lose more weight. I'd personally like to lose 35 pounds now. That is certainly a goal that can be accomplished, and with dedication, it wouldn't take long.

But in addition to not being nagged, my new doctor planted a new thought in my mind. Perhaps it's because my new doc is a woman, but when she talked to me, she had a whole new perspective that I've never gotten from a male doctor. (It also could be my age. Now that I'm past the 50-year-old benchmark, it could be that I'm in some golden-age group where health care is routinely handled differently.)

OK, so for whatever reason, it was the approach that has made all the difference to me with this consultation. Take the emphasis off the weight itself as THE PROBLEM. Instead, let's talk about it from the other side.

"We need to work on getting your blood pressure back under control," New Doctor said. "There comes a time in our lives when we need to start letting go of some of the things that stress us out so we can focus on the things that make our lives worth living."

READ THAT AGAIN. And a third time, for good measure!

It was an epiphany for me. Here's someone approximately my age, or in the ballpark, who is a medical professional, and she's giving me permission to slow down and stop killing myself. I don't have to keep running so hard any more to justify myself professionally or personally.

We talked quite a bit about taking life easier, downshifting to a slower pace and improving the quality of life.

We talked quite a bit about the fact that my dad died at 56 -- just four years older than I am right now. My brother died at 42. My mom lived to 74 -- which may seem like a good age, but consider the lineage on her side of my family... most all of the relatives on that side lived into their late 90s, except my mother and her sister. One great-aunt lived to 101.

I told the doctor that if I averaged it all, I probably could count on making it to 60, followed by a scared little laugh. Unfortunately I'm thinking that might have too much the ring of truth to it.

"We none of us get out of this alive," she said. "The trick is to make these years as good for ourselves as we can."

READ THAT AGAIN. And a third time, for good measure.

"It's time to slow down and enjoy the pleasures of eating better, of drinking better. To build a support network of friends and enjoy a slower pace of life. To GET BETTER SLEEP."

I emphasized the part about getting better sleep and what a key component this is in keeping our hearts healthy.

I have sleep apnea, but I am very stubborn and refuse to use my CPAP machine. Why? Because the doggone tubing easily comes apart during the night and blows pressurized air in my eye or my ear. Yeah duh. There are better tubing systems out there that are far more comfortable. I have tons of friends who have used them and speak with amazement about how much better they sleep when they use their machines -- how much more rested they are when they can actually BREATHE at night.

OK, so my brother died of sleep apnea and/or heart failure; my dad had a heart attack, my mom died of congestive heart failure. Gee, unless I'm hit by a bus or something, I can kind of see what's going to take me out, too.

New Doctor wants to repeat my sleep study to see what stage my apnea is at and what my settings should be on my machine, and we're going to look at finding some better equipment, something I can use comfortably, that will improve the quality of my sleep and maybe extend my life. What a concept!

And -- this is important -- she looked in my nose. Imagine that, a doctor looking at a patient's ability to breathe! She jumped back a bit and said "No wonder you have such a hard time breathing through that little nose!" Apparently it's quite the mess in there and isn't serving me very well. I asked if she could get me some rhinoplasty because I've always wanted a nose job. She quite seriously said that might be something we need to look at, because I'm not getting enough air through this defective part. Thanks for your genetic contribution, Grandpa Smith! She also prescribed a nasal spray to open up the little space I do have inside my noggin.

Before I left, they did an EKG, drew blood, and had me pee in a cup. They are going to take a good look at the labwork and the EKG and have me come back in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, she's put me on a new drug for my blood pressure which includes a dose of Lipitor for cholesterol, so I don't have to take more pills. Lipitor works wonders for me in controlling my cholesterol, so I'm glad to have that component back. I hope the blood pressure shows great improvement over this time.

I suspect, that with her help and compassion, I'll be showing some improvements all around before long. I think all of us do better physically when we think there's someone who cares about how we're doing. And that includes the weight issue.

After all, it's not the weight itself that we should be concerned about. It's what it does to our bodies, our quality of life, that matters. I think we've approached things backwards for a long time. We've turned weight into a shame matter instead of a quality of life issue.

This is what I want to change, for whatever time I happen to have left. It's time for me to slow down, let go of the stressors and love the life I've been given! And at 52, a Quarter Pounder and fries just isn't loving enough.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

A weird sighting

I was washing the dishes this afternoon and lazily looking out the window when something caught my eye, about a foot above the ground. Something hovering there that I could not make sense of. I stared for quite a while to see if it would move on, and it didn't. It stayed in about the same spot, just hanging there.

I put on my favorite ugly slippers and went outside to see if it responded to me being near it, and discovered it was a dried up leaf, hanging stem-down in the air. There was no wind, but I believe gravity must still be working, everywhere but in that spot, apparently.

There is nothing above it -- no tree limbs or power lines above that spot. I could't see any natural reason for this leaf to be hanging there like this. I still haven't figured it out. But here's a photo or two, just so you can see my floating leaf for yourself.

Good Saturday Morning to You!

It's here! This is MY day!

There is a particular kind of day that I wait for every year. Sometimes I call it "state fair weather" -- my Oklahoma friends will know what that means.

It's that first day, usually in September, which heralds in the end of the blistering summer and the beginning of my favorite season, which is fall. Oh, in our heads we know it's still "summer," at least by the calendar, but we know the change is coming, and we welcome it with open arms. Sure, it means that just a short time from now we'll be complaining about cold weather, but for me, this is respite season.

It's early (for me) this Saturday morning. I let myself sleep in until about 7:30 when I could stand it no more. I was hearing raindrops falling against my bedroom windows and I could here the "ping" of the drops on the window air conditioner in the adjacent dining room.

I got out of bed, made my bed and put on my favorite ugly slippers. Then I realized that it was a little too cool and toddled in to the living room to turn off that air conditioner.

Now I am enjoying the view out my dining room windows, which overlook my back yard, all green and wet and looking thankful for the drink. Best of all is watching the streams of water running down the storm windows which seem to be a permanent fixture on the windows of most of my rooms.

Today I have to myself, so I will have the time to look around and notice those things, finally. I want to get more familiar with this house today -- give it a good cleaning, see if there are windows I can open a little today so I can enjoy the smell of the rain as well as the sound and sight of it. I want to see if the air is as cool as my eyes are telling me. Not cold, just a few notches down the thermometer from what we've been living with.

I'm in no hurry today. It's one of the rare times when I could have slept until noon or so if I wanted to.

This is just about the time to start thinking of planting some mums. I have a huge back yard (huge being relative, of course.) I'd love to start developing a landscaping design.

On Labor Day I set out to mow it. My great plan was to use the new rotary mower I had bought the night before. Eco-friendly, non-gas mower to reduce my carbon footprint, you know. I got it put together even with a drop-by visit from the Jehovah's Witnesses. They didn't stay long since I was working on my project. I think they might have thought I was going to ask them to help.

So as I was testing out my new machine, the neighbor across the street came over with his gas-powered mower, fired it up and started mowing my yard. Granted, I probably did look like I was having a stroke, but still, I felt a mix of gratitude with a dose of being cheated out of my plan. He was a good neighbor and saved me from myself, but also stepped on my dream a little without even knowing it.

Now that the yard has been cut, though, I am hoping to take a stab at keeping it maintained with the rotary mower. Maybe just a little every day -- a swish and swipe at the lawn, just to keep it under control. I still have the belief that I can do it and it will be good for me as well as the environment. Then again, there's that other small voice saying "Crazy girl, you know you can't do this when it's hot next summer! Get a mower now while they are on sale!" Maybe a riding mower, with a padded seat... just to make quick work of the job?

Eh, for now, I'm content to look out the window and watch the rain. The birds have come out of their hiding places now and are settled on the wires looking around for their breakfast, so the rain has definitely slowed down. Maybe I'll take my cue from them, pull on my jeans* and a T-shirt and go look for some breakfast. Maybe I'll amble over to the farmer's market at the Pioneer Woman and see what they've got this morning. I hope they're gathered today despite the rain. They would just be opening up about now.

Later I'll put on some piano music and see what the house wants me most to do today. I'll let you know what it tells me.

And later, I'll share some more stories.

*About the jeans... I am down to one pair that fits without sliding off. I've finally sorted through them all and set aside the ones that are too big. Today would be a good day to buy a couple of pairs to replace the ones I'm sick of fighting with.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I've Gone to the Dogs!

And so has the city's Ambucs pool!
This evening my little town had the Dog Daze of Summer Swim for the city pooches! Yeah, I get paid to hang out at the swimming pool, wading in the shallow end while wearing a skirt and blouse, taking pictures of the puppies large and small while they play. Here's a sampling: