Unsuspecting Tourist. Howdy Malaysia!

KL Day 2So let’s see. On day one (snuck in a link to it there) of my chronical of the Unsuspecting Tourist, aka me, we got right up to the point where we were about three hours from take-off. My bags were packed. All of the animals were settled and we had a solid plan in place for their care for the next 12 days. I was FINALLY starting to relax and just look forward to participating with Jim in our own episode of the Amazing Race. (Yeah, we pretended. Wouldn’t you?)

It was at this very point that I heard the little chime that tells me I have a text message. How nice! Someone sending a note wishing me a happy, safe vacation. I have the best friends and family!

Huh? Oh no. This was no wish-you-well text. This was a your-whole-trip-is-blowing-up text.

“Sally has the flu.”

This is the part where I had an out of body experience in which I saw our epic vacation waving goodbye to us as it faded away into a fine mist. Sally is our dog sitter. You know…for that collective 800 pounds of dog I mentioned in my previous post? Jim and I just stared at each other in disbelief.

Ok. Breathe. Breathe. (Yes, I did chant this to myself)

Just when it seemed all hope might be lost, I remembered that, hey, I am really good in an emergency. You have a crisis? I’m your gal. I have odd moments of clarity in the most unlikely situations.

My panic addled brain suddenly remembered my trusted veterinarian/dear friend telling me that one of their vet techs was a great pet sitter. OF COURSE! Just call in a pinch hitter. In rapid fire fashion, texts were sent, calls were made, plane tickets from Tulsa to Houston were bumped, and BAM, we found ourselves introducing a new pet sitter to our herd of dogs.

She only needed to survive a night or two until Sally felt well enough to take over. Despite looking a bit startled by the herd of canines greeting her, and despite the mind-boggling instructions being rattled off by two slightly crazed tourist wannabes, Sky, our shiny new pet sitter, assured us that she was up to the challenge.

We left her with something like eight pages of instructions and phone numbers for Sally and any and every one we felt could help her out.

Ok. Not-so-small bump in the road handled. To the airport! GO! GO! GO!

Slightly delayed, but still in good form to catch our international flight, Jim and I made the first leg of our journey from Tulsa to Houston. One small step on a trip to Malaysia, one giant leap for the trip that very nearly didn’t happen.

We collected Jim’s 12 year old nephew, Jean-Yves, from his grandparents and headed through security…where Jim was immediately frisked and scrutinized because the bag that Jean-Yves was carrying tested positive for some sort of explosive or something. Yeah, they don’t pat down the adorable minor child…they go straight for the guardian who likely forced said minor to carry that bag. My theory is that Jim’s father rubbed a little gun powder on the bag and stood just outside security barely suppressing tears born of laughter.

Once they determined that the Xbox One Jean-Yves received for Christmas was indeed an Xbox One and not a weapon of mass destruction, we lined up to board the flight that would take us to Dubai for a brief layover before a connecting flight to Kuala Lumpur.

Sounds simple until you realize that the first leg of that journey takes more than 16 hours and the “shorter” flight to Malaysia takes about six hours. I would like to tell you that we traveled in the first class lap of luxury…or even the relative comfort of business class…but no. It was economy all the way, baby. Have you priced those first class tickets? Yikes!

It was a humongous plane. You know, the double-decker kind that makes you wonder how this hulking thing can possibly get off the ground, let alone carry you safely over an entire ocean? Yeah, I don’t focus on that stuff too much, but don’t you know that Orville and Wilbur would be high fiving each other for hours if they could see this feat?

We settled into our seats and, with a little time on my hands, I decided to give the Sky Mall catalog a gander. You know the magazine. It’s filled with stuff you can purchase…clever, fancy stuff that you can ONLY find in Sky Mall.

For example, there is Fit Desk. This is basically a laptop desk attached to a stationary bicycle. Yes, you too can sweat and prepare for that huge presentation in one calorie burning session.

john lemonOr how about the glow in the dark toilet seat? No more excuses for poor aim! And there’s the Micro Kickboard Luggage that combines carry on convenience with play yard fun. Just flip down the handy scooter on the back of the suitcase and hop on! Look out granny, I’ve got a plane to catch!

By the time I got to the “John Lemon Scented T-shirt” I decided it might be time to find a new diversion. Ahhh…inflight entertainment. Movies, television shows, music! Perfect.

While most people on the flight found some way to sleep a number of the hours away, I managed to watch three movies and 19 episodes of Two Broke Girls. You know…rich girl loses everything, meets spunky streetwise girl, moves in, gets waitressing job, AND they start a gourmet cupcake business while exchanging nonstop witty repartee? Got it? Any questions about season three?

Dubai pepsiSo finally, after hurtling through space and time, beaming up with Scotty, and, I’m fairly certain, at least one alien abduction, we landed in Dubai with about three hours to kill. Our to-do list included, in order of priority, bathroom, snacks, finding our gate, and people watching. That last one might have actually been tops on my list…well…after bathroom. But OH the people watching! We were certainly not in Oklahoma any longer.

Our stop in Dubai was the start of my curiosity about Muslim culture and confusion over the different clothing involved. I quickly realized how very naive I am about different cultures and customs. Such a deal…a vacation, an education, and a soft drink that looked and tasted like Pepsi…but I’m still not entirely sure that it was.

Ok, one more six- hour hop, skip, and a jump and we landed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Time to check in with our friends at customs and head off on our who-cares-about-Waldo, where-the-heck-are-Jim-and-Nancy adventure.

Explain to me why I always feel guilty when facing authority? I really have led a fairly crime-free life, yet I get the jitters every time I have to pass through customs. Maybe that time when I was five and I accidentally took a balloon from the grocery store without paying for it will come back to haunt me? My mom made me take it back in the store to pay for it, but still…

Sweat beaded on my forehead as they scanned the fingerprints on my index fingers. The agent studied my passport…looked at his computer…read the report about the nearly stolen balloon…and let me enter Malaysia anyway. Whew. That. Was. Close.

Jim’s brother Jeremy was right there waiting and we safely delivered Jean-Yves into his waiting arms. Responsible escorts no more, let the vacation begin!

KL wrong sideFirst jet-lagged impressions of Kuala Lumpur:

  • Wrong side of the road! WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD! Oh. Never mind.
  • Palm trees grow there like maple trees and oak trees grow here. Forests of palm trees.
  • You think America is a melting pot? Have you been to Malaysia?
  • Motorcycles and scooters swarm through heavy traffic like gnats. Traffic laws apparently do not apply to two-wheeled vehicles. Eeek.
  • Roads in Malaysia are as intense as the streets of New York only take those streets in New York and tie them into knots that make no sense whatsoever. There you go.
  • A lot of the architecture in Malaysia is amazing.
  • So many people.
  • Sidewalks in Malaysia = an extreme sport (or are non-existent).
  • The view from the 17th floor of the Embassy View Apartments on Jalan Ampang (that means Ampang Street…see how much I learned?) can only be described as a postcard. Couples on House Hunters International would take this apartment on the view alone before even noticing the open floor plan and the four beds/four baths.
  • A shower never felt so damn good (this after that 32 total hours of travel time…you can only re-apply deodorant so many times before you just turn into the creepy smelly woman).

The rest of day one/two (they melded together at some point) is a bit of a blur. I know we settled into a nice room in the apartment. I know I got to put on clean underwear (TMI?). I know a nap was involved somewhere. I know the Xbox One we risked life and limb and body cavity search to bring home was immediately fried by plugging it into the wrong converter. Twelve year old boys LOVE it when their dads accidentally do that (Don’t worry…Jer later fixed it. Happy 12 year old). I believe we took a trip downtown to see some sights and have some dinner. I think. I’m pretty sure. I do have photo proof, if not conscious memory.

And the news from the home front? In the time it took us to get from Tulsa to Kuala Lumpur, Sally the dog sitter’s Tamiflu kicked in and she felt good enough to head out to Tails You Win Farm to keep the dogs company. All was well in KL…all was well in Mounds. Now we just needed to figure out how to exchange our nights for days so we could actually stay awake long enough to experience Malaysia.

(Hint…we succeeded! There will be more…)

KL night  KL towers

The Unsuspecting Tourist

plane to KL 2So…what would you do if you found out that you had two weeks to prepare for a 12 day international vacation? What would you do if you were ME and you found out you had two weeks to prepare for a 12 day international vacation? ME! The one who lives on an E-I-E-I-O farm with a herd of animals that like to eat once or twice a day…every day.

Well, Jim’s prediction for my reaction to his wildly generous Christmas gift was that I would say, “Wow. Oh f*ck. Wow.”

So yes, I opened a gift on Christmas day and inside I found a travel itinerary for a 12 day tour of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with side trips to Langkawi, Malaysia, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, both in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

WOW!

And then I saw the departure date: January 7. The upcoming one.

Oh f*ck!

My brain immediately came up with 43,107 reasons why I could not possibly leave the country in two weeks.

And then I looked at the travel guides detailing our destinations. Back to WOW.

Yep…you nailed it, Jim.

So let me admit right here and now that I am not necessarily the most spontaneous person in the world when it comes to travel. We have dogs. Lots of dogs. We have a borderline cameo on Animal Planet Hoarders number of dogs (disclaimer: lots of foster dogs…that do find great homes…this keeps us out of the headlines and still in the “good guys” column).

We also have horses, pigs, donkeys, a mule, and one very unintelligent ram.  It takes a village for us to just leave town for a long weekend. Twelve days? Out of the country? Um…yes, I may have been screaming on the inside, and a little on the outside, just thinking of the logistics.

Oh, and I co-own a business with a friend that I would like to keep as a friend. There’s that.

But Jim had been planning, apparently for months. And this was not a randomly selected destination. Jim’s brother lives/works in KL (that’s what all of us savvy travelers call Kuala Lumpur) and we were going to serve as escorts for his 12 year old son who was returning home after spending the holidays in Houston with his grandparents and mom.

Let me just say here that we also got to take a great trip to Thailand a few years ago while serving as escorts for Jim’s nephew. Of course this kid has made these trips enough that he could likely navigate just about any airport in his sleep, but yes, we played the part of the responsible adults. As a side note, I will volunteer to escort this kid well into his adulthood as long as Jim’s brother keeps landing in exotic destinations. To the point that he has to spoon feed me oatmeal on the plane. Yes I will.

In reality, Jim really had things well planned. He had cleared our travel dates with my dear, wonderful business partner. He had booked our pet sitter. He had looked into getting a different pet sitter to care for the barn animals so that our doggy pet sitter would not be overwhelmed.

Our passports were current thanks to Jim’s five day birthday celebration in Los Cabos, Mexico, this past July. (We planned that one for six months. We planned that one to death.)

Ok. So a trip to the other side of the world in two weeks. Go with it Nancy. Relax. Just be excited. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. Who wouldn’t jump at this chance?

Oh how I wish I could have followed all of that grand advice. But in reality, I might have been a wee bit panicky about the whole thing. Just a wee bit.

The date approached and I prepared. Thanks to that five-day Mexico trip I actually had the clothes I needed for our warm weather destinations. No stress on the packing front.

The house sitters were ready to roll. No stress there.

The travel plans were in place. I didn’t have to contribute a single thing. Just show up and get on the plane, Nervous Nancy.

As our departure date approached, I started to embrace the adventure. How many people from Mounds, Oklahoma get to hang out in a high rise apartment in KL? How many get to go to a lovely beach resort on the island of Langkawi? And then how many get to top it off with a whirlwind 24-hour tour of Dubai?

Not many, bordering on none. Most likely none.

In hindsight I think it was wise of Jim to only allow me two weeks to get my head around this trip. Who knows what dark places my brain might have traveled with too much time to overanalyze every last detail. Obviously, since it is now January 20, 2015, we all realize the trip happened and I survived. In fact, I not only survived, Jim and I had a great time…that I have yet to write about.

windowYou see, we responsibly decided that I should not write about the trip while we were actually ON said trip because of the line of burglars that would surely form at our front gate if the world realized we were away. You know, those burglars who are willing to break into a house with about 800 collective pounds of dog waiting inside the doors and windows.

I honestly didn’t believe that home invasion was a likely threat. Plus, I have to imagine that burglars would be pretty discouraged, after braving all of those dogs, to find that the thing of greatest value inside this house was my collection of had-to-have-it gorgeous skeins of yarn that I bought with no clue what I would make out of them. They were just too pretty to pass up. Is there much call for baby alpaca wool yarn on the black market?

Anyhow, for the security and sanity of our house sitters, we wisely opted to not advertise the fact that we were far, far away. Very grown up of us, right? I know.  Now I just have to decipher all of my scrawled notes that I faithfully wrote in my journal each day of the trip so I can share the journey here.

It is possible that I need to check in with my grade school teachers to see where we went so very, very wrong with my handwriting lessons. I can’t decide if it says we flew on a plane or chewed on a cane. Bear with me. I swear I will decode it and get to the good part…that would be the actual trip.

KL balcony 2And in parting, you know that quote “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry?” Yeah, well, on departure day…mere hours before we were going to leave on our well planned vacation…we got word that our dog sitter had just been diagnosed with the flu.

Now THAT proved to be a great way to get the old blood pressure pumping. Ahhh…but I’ll save the rest for future tales. Stick with me…it gets really good. Bon voyage!

The Every Day is a Holiday Tree

Every day is a holiday tree
Small beacon
A surprise in the holiday night.
A bright reminder
in a pitch black landscape.
There to inspire wonder
that a Christmas tree
can glow in the middle of nowhere.
Now left to light the night
for as long as it will.
A perfect reminder that every day
is a day for celebration.

This is a follow up to my post, My Perfectly Imperfect Christmas. I had several people message me that they wanted to see a photo of the little magic tree so I put Jim to work to capture the image…tricky in the dark. The photo is zoomed in…the tree is actually just a little blue glow to the naked eye. I love it. It will stay there as long as those little lights care to glow…and as long as the horses, donkeys and mule will leave it alone! So far, so good. Merry every day!

My Perfectly Imperfect Christmas

Christmas treeWhen I look out into my back pasture right now, I struggle to see anything that is particularly beautiful. The landscape is dormant and basically monochromatic. The days have been gray and devoid of the sunlight that I desperately crave. I think the weatherman reported that we have seen only three sunny days since Thanksgiving. ACK!

This is the landscape that ushered in the holidays. A bunch of blah. Add to this the fact that everything I have ever really know to be “the holidays” has changed. Of course it has changed. My family has changed over the years.

That family in the grainy old photos has grown up. I’ve been through a parade of Christmas photo hairstyles. The 80s were particularly poofy.

My grandparents, parents, and oldest sister are gone now. Spouses joined the family, then some left. My nieces and nephews grew up to form families of their own. Adorable great nephews and an angelic little great niece entered the picture to breathe new life into the wonder-of-Christmas years.

But for me…well…every Christmas is still compared to the old family routine. For a good portion of my life, Christmas was blissfully predictable. There was a big dinner with extended family at Mom and Dad’s house on Christmas Eve. Then it was a Christmas morning of fun, laughter, excess, and time spent together. It was day of jolly elfin magic and early morning gifts followed by a brunch featuring all of our favorite, decadent breakfast foods (so much bacon, so very much bacon). Kids snacked on surgery treats from stockings while adults likely enjoyed some spiked beverages that somehow made it into the breakfast category (you add tomato juice or orange juice and voila!).

And it happened like that every year. For years and years. The routine held steady. And then, bam!  It all changed.

Now, I’m not turning into a pouting child here, well, ok, maybe I am. I have a tad bit of trouble with change. But I have really been working on going with the flow. Creating new traditions. Finding my own special in the most special of holidays. I’ve also really started celebrating the heck out of Halloween. I’m all about the holiday that allows…nay, requires you to dress up as someone else.

But I digress.

Christmas is still about family, and celebrating together. It is. The routine has just changed. It just all looks different now. And I have to embrace different.

Last year, I embraced it by hiring a company to cover our house in lights. It was the first Christmas without my dad and the third without my mom. I needed some holiday sparkle and magic. It was nice. The house looked wonderful and welcomed me home every night. My spirits were lifted.

And it was expensive.

This year, we decided that hiring the lighting guys again was a bit like mixing money in with the hay we throw to the donkeys. We’ll do our own lights, we said. We’ll light the place right up. I had my doubts. The holidays tend to sneak up on us.

We’re often the people at the Christmas tree lot at the eleventh hour. Jim actually prefers to do his shopping on the day before Christmas. Every year we say we’re going to get cards out…and…well…did you get yours? No? Hmm.

So it was shaping up to be a pouting kind of Christmas. I was trying to get in the spirit, but the spirit was apparently flying around someone else’s house and skipping right over me. Bah humbug.

And then it happened. My little Christmas miracle.

Christmas treeI came home one night to my dark, decidedly un-Christmassy house. Bah. I unlocked the door and stepped into my living room where there was no sparkly festive tree. Hum. I looked out the back window and…hey, wait. Way out there in the pitch black version of the photo above (here, another copy so you don’t have to go all scroll crazy…now picture it all dark), was a little, blue, glowing tree. Bug, stand down! Stand down! I believe we have some Christmas happening out there!

Yes, somehow, way out in the middle of a pasture, where there is no electricity, there was a solo, tiny, perfect tree glowing blue. I am fairly sure that my horses and donkeys did not pull off this Christmas magic. Jim feigned ignorance, and though the hogs are pretty clever, I’m still betting that the only other human who lives out here deserves the holiday high five for turning my frown upside down.

Of course I’m kind of anticipating the day when the lights end up wrapped around a very disgruntled mule, but for now, every evening, as night turns out the lights, I know I can search the pasture to find my perfect little tree shining away.

If this were the perfect Christmas story, I would go on to tell you that the little pasture tree inspired the most profound, heartfelt, joyous Christmas in the history of Nancy, but that would be a tad too Norman Rockwellesque for us.

christmas pigJim did put lights on the house and trimmed some trees in the front yard. I put my glowing pig on the front porch (because nothing says holidays like a glowing pig), and did manage to decorate a tree. Then Jim and I both got the real-deal flu. Not the “gee, I kind of feel like I have the flu” flu. THAT IS NOT THE FLU. The real flu makes itself VERY known. There’s no “kind of” about it.

So on the scale of Christmases that take tradition and tuck it in bed with Tamiflu and unlimited Sprite on the side, this one was an imperfect 10.

And still, my Christmas was special. Every single time I looked out into the night, I was reminded that even the most seemingly imperfect Christmas was perfect in its own way. Yes Nancy, there is a Santa Claus. He looks a lot like a pale, coughing Jim.

I’m keeping my little magic blue tree shining in the pasture until next December, at which point I am officially calling do-overs for Christmas. Seriously. Watch for that card in the mail. If I start now…

Oh and if I forgot to say it, Merry Christmas. I know I’m late, but feel free to apply it to the 2015 Christmas. Help a gal out. Put me way ahead of the merry game. Thanks. And, hey, Happy New Year, while we’re at it.

house lights 2014

Cooking the Thanksgiving Meal—Tails You Win Farm Style

Thanks HowieLet’s make one thing perfectly clear. I’m not much of a chef. My culinary skills are fairly limited (I can make mac and cheese…I can make one fabulous tomato bisque that a friend gave me baby-step-by-baby-step instructions for…I can make nachos). In fact, my idea of being a good cook is in knowing where to shop for really great carry-out (that I can then put in my own serving dish…you get the picture).

All that said, this fine year, I decided to cook our Thanksgiving meal. It’s just me, Jim and…oh, at last count with holiday guests…25 dogs and one wolfdog. Intimate, really.

We could have gone to enjoy a lovely meal at the home of some amazing friends. It would have been wonderful. These people know how to cook. They have a gourmet kitchen that makes me panic just a little when I simply stand in it. They have burners and ovens galore. They have a sink with a special faucet just for filling big pots with water.  (In my world the use for said “pot filler” would be to douse whatever fire I likely set…but WAIT…you don’t use water to put out a kitchen fire…so we can all see how that would go.)

Today, they will serve the perfect wine. They will have perfect hors d’oeurves. They will have feast beyond compare. They will follow it with an array of desserts that could make the cover of the holiday edition of Bon Appétit Magazine and their table presentation could grace the cover of Better Homes and Gardens, the holiday how-to edition. I know this. And they will pull it all off with effortless smiles to hide the hours of planning and work that went into the whole affair.

And it would have been a lovely, gluttonous experience.

But this year, with all of our doggy house guests (and my vision of the havoc they could wreak while we are away enjoying said lovely Thanksgiving gathering), and realizing that I have NEVER in my adult life just had my own stay-at-home-and-figure-it-out feast, I decided that Jim and I would have a Tails You Win Farm Thanksgiving.

Turkey, yams, mashed potatoes, gravy, and whatever other side dishes should happen. Yep. Doing it ourselves.

Stop laughing. Seriously. I have feelings.

For a week or so I have been planning.  I have been on Pinterest. I have Googled until my fingers are numb. I found that it’s a tad tricky to cook a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for two. Or so I now believe. Though I have nothing to compare it to. But I have SEEN people cook a huge Thanksgiving meal. (I’m usually in charge of salad and rolls. Hard to screw up salad and rolls.) Thanksgiving recipes are designed to feed the masses. Huh. Just another fun hurdle in my culinary pilgrimage. (Look! I even used a Thanksgiving word!)

Anywho, I gathered recipes, I bought a small turkey breast—all white meat, no scary sack of guts inside. The perfect size for Thanksgiving pour deux. I think that’s French for ‘Thanksgiving for two.’ Why I think I need to use French in describing a strictly American holiday, well, I blame the fact that I am channeling Julia Child.

Bright and early this morning, I awoke with dawn’s first blush, all excited to go start the preparations for our first, wonderful, stay-at-home Thanksgiving feast. The turkey breast was perfectly thawed in the refrigerator. Step one. Success!

I brought my little turkey breast out to “pat dry with paper towels and season.” As I set it out on a tray on the counter I SWEAR I heard the theme from jaws.

thanks groupDa dum.
Da dum.
Da-dum-da-dum-da-dum.

Rut Row.

And so they started circling. Their leader…the one with the incredible reach…nowhere in sight, but I could feel him lurking. Waiting. Watching for that one precious ‘distract the human with cute puppy antics’ opportunity.

OH HELL NO.

And THIS is why I will never score my own cooking show. Well, besides the issue about me not really having a clue what I’m doing in the kitchen.

I am fairly sure you cannot have a cooking show that involves lots of cussing, threats (albeit empty ones) to lurking canines, and the potential for including dog hair in the seasoning list. Nope, not even the dude on Hell’s Kitchen can rival my misuse of the English language and my mom’s old Betty Crocker cookbook on this day.

So now, the turkey breast, having been bathed in butter (because, like bacon, butter makes everything yummy) and properly seasoned (to the best of my knowledge), is tucked safely in our slow cooker (yes I am using a Crock-Pot to cook our turkey. Don’t judge. It’s going to be tender, juicy and wonderful. You will be BEGGING for my recipe which I can’t share because I kind of just tossed some random stuff in there that seemed like a good idea at 6:30 am).

thanks brookeAnd, in this lull between turkey prep and rest-of-the-stuff prep, I am sitting on a stool in the kitchen watching the Crock-Pot. Let’s change ‘watching’ to guarding. Yes, mimosa in hand (thank you Jim…again don’t judge…it’s made with orange juice therefore a perfectly logical beverage for 7:44 am on Thanksgiving morning) I am guarding my slow-cooking turkey breast.

Because you know they’re out there. Those little and not-so-little furry bastards are plotting. They are waiting for that one moment of distraction that will turn my perfect little Thanksgiving into a movie script that would most definitely include Chevy Chase in a starring role.

Thanks Kaine and CinderHuh. A movie script for a Thanksgiving story starring Chevy Chase and Kainan the wolf dog.

Might. Be. Worth. It.

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. Wish me luck either way.

Out of the Woods

Maria's tree

Artwork by Maria Wulf. Photo used with her permission.

A funny thing happened on the way to writing a new poem. For days a thought bounced around inside my mind. Words floated in and out, but it just wouldn’t come together. Then I saw a post by Maria Wulf featuring one of her wonderful, whimsical works of art. I think this piece was really a test of a new technique she was trying out, but the moment I saw it, I realized she had captured the thoughts that my mind could not bring to order. How wonderful it is to accidentally collaborate. And that little test masterpiece Maria created? It is now mine to cherish forever. Thanks Maria…let’s accidentally do it again sometime soon.

Here is Maria’s artwork as my mind interprets it…

Out of the Woods

Determined roots find purchase,
Defying ever-shifting soil and rock.
Branches reaching, constantly reaching
Though brush and thicket strive to thwart.
Not the tallest in the forest,
Perhaps not the most glorious crown,
But I am strong, I am supple.
I am tenacious,
I can bend without breaking.
I will dance in the wind.
I will offer shelter through the storm.
I will find my path to the sun.

This Day

20140710_192150I’m not writing about wolfdogs today. I’m not writing about dogs in general today. I’m not writing about donkeys, horses, mules, hogs, or even squirrels today.

Nope, I’m setting all of my favorite topics aside to write about 9/11. But it’s not what you think.

Of course this day holds meaning for me—for everyone worldwide. I remember this day clearly in 2001. I had just turned 40 years old and I never dreamed the country that seemed like such a safe place could be paralyzed by fear, even for just a moment. Of course, I’ll never forget that day.

Today, however, I’m actually writing about 9/11/2002. That was the day we all anticipated as a gloomy anniversary; a day to reflect on terrific loss and devastation. I might have gone down that path, if not for my co-worker at the time, Weltha Wood.

Weltha is a wonderful, bright, delightfully bohemian woman who proudly marches to the beat of her own drum. She has a beautiful smile and amazing eyes that capture your gaze and almost dare you to try to look away.  She can be a bit of a force when she wants to be. I have always enjoyed her very much.

On 9/11/2002, Weltha taught me a precious lesson. As I prepared to join a nation in somber remembrance, Weltha greeted the workday with one of her terrific smiles.

“Today,” she proclaimed, “is my birthday.” My heart sank a little for her at that moment.

“Oh…this must be so hard for you,” I responded thinking how terrible it would be to have your birthday overshadowed by such a terrible event.

“No,” she said shaking her head. “This day was my day long before terrorists tried to make it their day. I refuse to let them take my day. This is MY birthday.”

And as I let her words sink in, I realized how very right she was. I would not let evil control this beautiful day either.

So I returned Weltha’s smile with a genuine one of my own and wished her a very happy birthday. Now, each year on 9/11, the first thing I think about is Weltha’s birthday. I make a point to wish her a happy birthday every year, even though we haven’t worked together for over a decade. And every year she thanks me.

I wonder if she realizes she is the one who really gave me an incredible gift on her special day.

Today I will bow my head in silent remembrance, but only for a moment. The rest of this day I will hold my head high in celebration of life, liberty, and the fabulous birthday girl.

I won’t let them steal this day from me either, Weltha. Happy, happy birthday to you.

The Dragonfly

Dragonfly final I found you there
in an abandoned prison
a bleak end to an already too short existence.
No warden on duty
to expedite your execution.
No cycle of life fulfilled
no benefit from your demise.
You had surrendered to fate
without a struggle
your silken shackles undisturbed.
As I paused to capture your tortured beauty
I saw the slightest movement
one fragile leg waving
a tiny flicker of hope.
Gently, so carefully
I helped you from the trap.
Your legs, still strong, grasped my fingers
as I pulled away each binding thread
freeing your paper thin wings.
And then you tested the air
feeling freedom’s call
and fluttered away
circling me once
as if bugs can show gratitude.
And I know.
I know how you feel, if you feel.
I have friends who have done the same for me.

The Art Gallery

cloud art

I stop.
I see.
My breath catches
in awe.
My eyes, my mind, my soul
soar gently into the beautiful depths
of a masterpiece.
The colors
the texture
the play of light
coaxing my eyes
on a journey
allowing my imagination
room to play.
This is my gallery.
An ever-changing kaleidoscope
profound
always inspiring
then erased
by a gust of wind.
As unique and fleeting as a snowflake.
Technique no hand could ever replicate.
On tour for anyone willing
to stop.
To see.

Note: I admit it. I’m a cloud-gazer. The clouds that have graced our skyline this past spring and now into summer have been particularly amazing, or maybe it’s that I’m just allowing myself more freedom to notice. I hope others are stopping to enjoy these skyscapes…or perhaps I’m just the crazy lady, standing transfixed by her Jeep in the middle of the road. I sure hope not. This is an art exhibit no one should miss.

spring sky

That’s It. I’m Moving to Mexico.

multi

Yes. I really do this. No kidding.

I was chatting with a Facebook friend yesterday and by chatting I mean I was tapping out quick messages on my phone. I was also getting my daily dose of Fitbit inspired/obsessed exercise on the treadmill (Must get 14,000 steps. Must.)

Oh, and I was also watching a new episode of Orange is the New Black because…well…it’s the only time I can find to watch it. PLUS, it is my incentive to stay on the damn walk-to-nowhere machine for an hour. By the way, I always have blissfully mismatched exercise outfits because the shirt that goes with the shorts is always in the dirty clothes basket. Clash is the New Black in my world. Voila. I’m stylish.

Oh, and I also had my ever-present pad of paper in the little holder place on the treadmill so I could jot down “stuff.” You know…stuff that the stream of consciousness that is my brain comes up with here and there, willy-nilly. Grocery list. To-do list. Blog idea list. Stuff I need to buy for an upcoming vacation list. You know, the how-many-lists-can-you-fit-on-one-page list.

If this level of multitasking isn’t a recipe for potential disaster I’m not sure what is, but I manage to pull it off. There are tons of advertisements admonishing us for texting while driving. I do follow that rule. Texting at red lights doesn’t count. It doesn’t. Unless you sit there through the next green light and then you’re a whole new class of traffic hazard. There are no rules about texting while treadmilling. Yet. 

But I digress…and I do that a lot. Staying focused on just one task is hard. I will say it’s nearly impossible for me. Thankfully there were no labels for the bounce-from-task-to-task affliction when I was a kid. If I were a modern day whippersnapper, I just might be (likely would be) smacked with an attention deficit disorder label.

Don’t get me wrong here, I don’t mean to trivialize or make light of a disorder that many people and kids struggle with on a daily basis. I’m just saying that I’m pretty pleased as punch that these labels weren’t prevalent when I was a kid. I grew up in the era where they called me a master of multitasking. It was a good thing. It was something I listed on my fledgling resume along with meaningful stuff like “I’m a people person.”

Of course no one ever asked if I actually completed all of the multiple tasks I tackled at any given moment. The answer would have been no. I was (am) the queen of starting numerous fantastic projects and bouncing betwixt them in a frantic frenzy of good intention. Oh the fine line between multi-tasking and lack of focus. What a tangled web. Oh hey…Zentangles…I have friends doing those and they look like great fun…I’m going to start one…possibly while on the treadmill.

Huh…there is an infomercial for the Shark Rocket vacuum on television. That thing is amazing. Maybe I’ll order one. They showed it sucking up candy, pennies, cookies…

Oh. Cookies. That sounds good. But wait, it’s Toby’s birthday. I need a cake mix.

And milk. We’re out of milk.

Oh yeah! I want to remember to take my camera with me when I go to the store because I want to get a photo of that cute cow in the pasture up the road.

AURGH. There I go again.

Um. Now where was I?

Oh yeah. That multi-tasking gift/disorder. Sigh.

What it boils down to is that there are so many things I need to do (to fulfill my role as a productive, functioning adult), and so many things that I want to do (to fulfill my role as a fun-loving, creative, want-to-experience-everything-I-can human) that they all often collide in a frantic scramble of frustrated activity.

I know. I need to focus on one thing at a time, get it done, check it off the list, then move to the next thing. I need to manage my time. I need to break the big projects down into manageable steps, I need to…I need to…

Scoop dog poop, fill the bird feeders, spray the hay field to knock back the dang thistle that popped up, do laundry, finish tiling the bathroom shower, clean my car, change the sheets, work on the puppy training book I am determined to write, go to the store, think about making something/anything for dinner, make sure the foster puppy poops outside…where I need to scoop dog poop…EEEEEK!

And THIS is why people move to Mexico. It’s true. I watch House Hunters International religiously (DVRed episodes…while I’m getting ready in the mornings…I have my routine timed perfectly so that I’m drying my hair during commercials), and apparently there is some magic about moving to Central or South America to live near the beach that allows you to stop doing pretty much everything. Seriously.

Episode after episode will showcase a harried couple who just needs to slow down and many find the road to bliss leads south. Somehow, you move to the land of the Latin Americans and money must just grow on trees because everyone featured on the show magically gets to spend more time with their loved one(s), strolling on the beach, sitting on patios enjoying fruit that fell off of a nearby tree and rolled to rest at their feet. I’m sure it has NOTHING to do with it being a well-edited television show.

All of the HHI featured families that move south of the border do so to slow down. To focus on the things they want to do. They generally say something about working for a few hours at their laptop…by the pool…and then they’re off for the day, living the good life. None of them appear to be trillionaires. They all have budgets that make the real estate agents sigh and talk about compromise. Yet they all somehow end up blissfully happy, barefoot on the beach, strolling hand-in-hand with their dog frolicking in the waves.

That’s it. I may be moving to live on the beach in Mexico or perhaps South America. It all sounds so good. Judging from the multitude of property searches I’ve watched, it may be tricky to check all of the boxes on my wish list (room for a dozen or more dogs, six horses, a mule, six donkeys, two hogs, one less-than-bright sheep and all with an amazing view of the ocean—God save my poor realtor), but I’m optimistic.

Look. I’m relaxing already.

Now let’s see. I’ll need to brush up on my Spanish. I’ll need to clean out the attic and all of the closets; we can’t possibly take all of this stuff with us. I’ll need to get in bathing suit shape since I will wear one every single day, so that means treadmill time. Oh good, I can watch another episode of Orange is the New Black!

Of course I can’t move tomorrow, so I’d better scoop the yard…and the birds are out there glaring at me. Better get them fed. Wow, the dogs are shedding. I’ll need to vacuum. Wish I had that Shark I just saw on television.

And if we’re moving, we’ll need to sell this place, so I need to really get on that tiling project. Oh, I’ll need to doll up the old curb appeal. This is all going to make me very hungry and thirsty. Where is that grocery list? Oh yeah…on the treadmill. I need to get on the treadmill.

Now where was I?

Ayuadame! (Oh good! I do remember some Spanish!)