Archives

Retiring Mr. Moosey

It’s done.  Miss Tillie, or Flynn’s Chantilly Lace, as she’s known on the roll books at the National Kennel Association, went to be with her maker, and is now standing at the screen door on the front gates of heaven, back straight, front paws resting on the screen, ears cocked and watching patiently, waiting–Tillies best closeup 2003waiting for her Daddy to come home.

Tillie was born September 24, 2002, and died today, August 25th at 3:35 a.m. fairly peacefully, with one last small seizure that she just refused to allow to get the better of her.  She quietly and in her ladylike way, watched her Mama and relaxed.

Day before yesterday, as I held her following one of the seizures that so racked her tiny body this last month, I heard an old Roger Miller tune named Old Friends that he wrote and used to sing with Willie Nelson and Ray Price.

It goes,

“Old Friends, pitching pennies in the park, playing croquet till it’s dark, old friends, old friends. Looking up to watch a bird, holding arms to climb a curb, old friends, old friends.

Lord, when all my work is done, bless my life and grant me one old friend, At least one Old Friend…(you can find it on youtube.com)

When my husband died back in 2002 and I was left all alone with a new job in a strange town, I took a trip back to Kansas City to pick up my furniture and travel with my son-in-law Robert’s help, in a rented truck down to my new house in Arlington, Texas. We stopped off on our way back to Texas in Ardmore, Oklahoma and picked up Miss Tillie from a retired vet who raised Maltese puppies.  The little marshmallow rode on my shoulder that day, all 6 inches of her–her safe haven from that day forward from any dangers that came our way.  She was by my side for many long hours of grief and adjusting to a new way of life.  She protected my home when it was broken into, comforted me when I totaled my Mustang.  Twice.  Years later, Tillie was there when I was laid off from my job.  Twice!

Tillie learned fast, listened well, and knew all of my secrets.  This little toy Maltese was my advisor and judge when I began dating again.  Meeting new people, each one her favorite, and helping me to choose the one I’d spend the rest of my life with. She nursed me through two surgeries, many sleepless nights, and kept me humble.  I was her Mama, and I knew I had her heart, but her devotion and attention always went to Vernon, her Daddy.  Every time he left town she would sit beside the garage door and pout for a day or two before she forgave me for letting him go.

Tillie has no worries.  She’s been the best friend a gal could have for just one month shy of 11 years.  And she’s going to be forever remembered as my “Old Friend.”  But we also retired Moosey today. If you know Miss Tillie, you know how much she adored and cherished her stuffed toy, Moosey.  So as of tonight, Moosey’s squeak went silent; he will party no more.  He said he’s just retiring to the top shelf in honor of his Old Friend, Miss Tillie.Tillie in Meeker CO 2005

The Hobbs Haunting Cat

My Calico Cat, Fa

My Calico Cat, Fa (Photo credit: Magic Ketchup)

I don’t even remember his name. I met him one chilly November morning in the billowing dust of Hobbs, New Mexico. The sunrises in Hobbs are so vivid, so memorable that I just hated missing one, so I was up pretty early. He jumped up onto the front porch of my new house, looked me in the eye and mouthed a word I didn’t quite hear. Slightly cross-eyed, a bit snooty, he really didn’t seem to care whether I said hello or not. Then he turned his back on me, flicked his saucy tail in disdain, nudged open the warped wooden screen door, and stalked into the living room.
We moved into the little pink stucco rental house the day after Thanksgiving. My fiancé Vernon had stacked a load of belongings against the living room wall, mostly clothes and photos piled into plastic tubs. He’d gone back to his apartment for another load while I unpacked my Mustang. I had my favorite things packed and labeled in an orderly fashion true to my picky tendencies, and climbed over the tubs and photo albums to place my boxes where they belonged.
Then I went in search of our Visitor. I found him patrolling the perimeter of both bedrooms, checking out the corners, the closets, invisible curiosities living in the carpet, our boxes, and the general disarray. His occasional “Ma‘am” made me wonder if he had left something–or someone–behind, last time he was here.
I reached down to pet the giant calico cat, fully expecting him to hiss or dart away from me. He leaned into me, stretching his long limbs until he reached nearly to my waist. I lifted him–but it was a struggle–and explained that he needed to wait for an invitation before invading my space in the future. I got the uncanny sensation that he understood every word I said and even understood my thoughts as he studied my expression. Topaz eyes should be outlawed. I ended up believing that he held a prior claim to the house somehow. After I was thoroughly hypnotized, he pushed away from my embrace. Then he flipped that long, bewitching tail at me as he leaped away and continued his search, purring and revving his engine.
We lived there for a little more than four months before moving to Texas. Often during that time, I would notice the creak of the wooden screen door as it closed, and knew that our Visitor had made another sneaky surveillance. Other than a few nervous starts when I caught the silent movement of his magnificent tail out of the corner of my eye, he was a welcome addition. I enjoyed his constructive criticism; shared more than a few heartfelt confidences with him…he never seemed shocked at anything I told him.
And the day I loaded the last of my things back into the red Mustang and swept out the house, ready for the landlord’s inspection so we could sign off and leave for Texas, my buddy slipped in one more time to say goodbye. He’d apparently been assigned proxy to do the final inspection.
There’s not much more to this story. It becomes difficult to convey to others how much the quiet company of a kindred feline spirit can mean to a thoughtful soul. I still haven’t remembered his name, but his constant protection and gentle companionship will never be forgotten.
I opened the door of the Mustang, sat down in the driver’s seat, and watched as the huge calico languidly strolled out to me. He looked back at the house, then back at me. How did he know? He loped back to the front door, pawed the screen a bit, and looked back at me. Weird. I actually took a moment and went back to sit down on the front steps, dust and all.
“What’s up, Sweetheart?” I asked him awkwardly. How do you explain goodbye to a cat? He turned around, leaned against me, called me Ma’am again.
“Cat got your tongue? Sorry. Couldn’t help myself, Fella.” His purr seemed louder than the hot rods that sometimes competed on our forgotten little street. In those last moments, the unspoken weight of his mysteriously transmitted thoughts settled on me with the uncanny realization that he was right. The fabric of both of our lives was changing. I’d no longer have my little sentinel, keeping his careful vigil, making sure I was safe. If only I had known that I was moving into a farmhouse inhabited by a gang of rodents that would steal my Chex mix. I might have taken him with me.
For some reason, he allowed me to bury my tear-stained face in his dusty fur for a few minutes. There were no words to say. He squealed a little squeak when my hug grew too restricting. Then he leaped to the ground and wandered off toward his own home, in search of his next big adventure. I smiled wistfully as I closed the Mustang door, and headed east, doing the same.

The Measuring Man’s Measuring Heaven Tonight

TRENT Smiling wheelchair

                      The Measuring Man’s

Measuring Heaven Tonight

 

 

 

Once in a while, even though you know a sad time is imminent, it sneaks up and slaps you in the face anyway. And it really doesn’t matter whether you know it’s coming or not–you’re not ready.

But as we all know, if you’ve lost someone personally, it’s yourself you feel sorry for, how much you’ll miss life without that cherished person. So I admit, I certainly don’t want to deprive or delay the joys of heaven for my son. But I just wasn’t through loving him yet.

Trent was a champion. He fought against the rigors of seizures which began when he was barely one year old. Cerebral palsy was diagnosed around the same time as the epilepsy, then mental retardation, then mirror movement disorder, at which point multiple disabilities began to fight for supremacy in his little life. Rather than those little discoveries of “oh, look, he’s crawling” or “how sweet, he just learned to climb” it was more a matter of “oh no, here comes another seizure.” Multiple doctor visits, multiple ER episodes, constant switching of medications to help him manage, the side effects from those a nightmare on their own…his life became a battle that he endured with the sweetest grace.

His favorite toy? His little brother Dalton, one year and 23 days younger and full of exuberance and love for Trent. Dalton learned from a very early age to nurture and care for his big brother, “Boo”. Boobers, as he became known to nurses and the kindest doctors, charmed every last one of them from his wheel chair.

The ravages of disease left him too weak to walk, so an attempt was made to strengthen his hipbones by inserting steel pins in surgery. Trent was left in a huge cast with a bar connecting his calves so that he could develop straight legs and a strengthened pelvis. This did not work.

His mode of ambulation was to sit on his knees on the floor, and either lean forward and sort of leap frog or scoot a few inches ahead, then repeat the process, or when tiring of that move he would lie down on his back, drawing up his knees and pushing with his feet, knees in the air, and “scoot” around the house. But to do this he had to look backwards, to see where his feet were shoving him, so he kept his neck arched to see where he was heading. If this sounds awkward to you, just don’t get in his way, he can get up to a pretty good speed when he wants to leave the room.

Noisy going’s on bothered him a bit, lots of company or a shoot-em up tv program, even a vacuum cleaner or other appliance would send Trent scooting off down the hall to find a quieter atmosphere. But we found to my delight one day that if you settle on CMT’s video’s and Shania Twain comes on, just the first few notes of “Any Man of Mine” will bring him scurrying back to the TV set as quickly as he can go!

I know, I know, I’m confusing past tense and present tense. He lost his battle with disease on New Years’ Eve, December 31, 2012, and was buried in Calhoun,  Georgia on January 4, 2013.   I guess that’s because my perspective isn’t temporal, it’s eternal. Trent’s not gone. He still exists. He’s actually sleeping according to Scripture, waiting to meet Jesus in the air when we are raptured out of here together. I know that. So he’s not a “was”. He’s an amazing young man who will get a special pass straight to Jesus’s arms because of all he’s endured in this life. The only one I feel sorry for tonight is me, since I have to wait for awhile right here.  That’s okay, Trent.  You go first, I’ll wait here till He comes, then we’re goin’ cloud-hopping all the way to heaven!

What Did You Do with Your Sister?

These are my best friends: Jack, Seth, Ivy, Jenni, and Shannon.  And this is one of their best performances–the Southwest Christian Church’s Christmas Pageant of 1979. They did an excellent job, once they understood what to do.  But the first day of practice we almost had a meltdown.  The teacher was coaching all the kids on where to stand on the risers, how to stand up straight and sing out, and so on.  She had to stop frequently to call down one or another who misbehaved, frowning and calling them by name.  I didn’t know most of the kids, but was watching the rehearsal with my fingers crossed–it was our first group effort and one of mine was terminally shy.

As Miss Jo corrected the miscreant one more time using that voice your Mom uses when she includes your middle name, I saw Shannon’s eyes well up and that big beautiful lower lip begin to tremble.  I didn’t understand what her problem was but her distress grew until she reached out for me with both arms.  I ran up to the stage and help out my arms, enfolding her and asking her what was wrong?  She almost burst into tears as she cried, “Why does Miss Jo keep yelling at me?”

I didn’t realize that one of the 12-year old boys cutting up on the top row of the bleachers was named Shannon also.  When I explained it to her, she said, “How did I get a BOY’S NAME???” about as irate as I had ever seen her.  Once we had that little problem explained away, the play went off without a hitch.

We weren’t always 5, you know.  One of the funniest days I can remember is when they were only 3–three kids, that is.  Jack, the oldest, was almost 3 years old, and his cohorts in crime, the twins Ivy and Seth (to the right of Jack in the photo) were 2.

They shared one bedroom, the twins in their little portacribs, Jack in a “big boys’ twin bed.  I had to keep on my toes as I picked my way through the toys strewn all over the little house we shared, as they had the run of the whole place.  One minute they were banging on all my best pots with spoons, marching in the band; next they were crawling along behind the sofa and recliner, one sock hanging out of the back waist of their pajama pants and the other held between their teeth.  Elephants on parade.  I was tickled at their antics as I put away laundry, picked up toys, stacked books back on the shelf.  Then I noticed that it had grown quiet.  I peeked around the corner and saw both boys, sitting quietly side by side and putting together lego’s to make a fort to protect their dinosaurs.

“Where’s Ivy, guys?” I asked.  They both shrugged and kept on building.  “Come on, where did she go?  Is she under the bed?” I asked as I looked around, behind the Fisher Price kitchen, beneath a stack of blankets—the giant’s mountain, I believe.    Seth looked at Jack.  Jack looked at Seth. They grinned in the funniest way.  I was starting to get worried, and ran through the house, calling Ivy’s name.  She didn’t answer.  Not in the bathroom.  Not in my room, not in the kitchen.  Okay, this wasn’t funny anymore.  I ran back into their bedroom, using my best ‘mama’s angry’ voice.  “Where is she?  Tell me right now.

 

Seth struggled to his feet, looked up at me smiling and walked over to the bottom drawer of the chest.

“Here,” he said as he led me over to the old maple chest where we kept their clothes.  He tugged on the bottom drawer but couldn’t budge it.  Thinking he had gotten a larger toy stuck in the way, I reached down to help him get the drawer open and found a quiet little mouse of a strawberry blonde, smiling up at me, not making a sound. She was curled up, fetal position on her side, althouogh she fit pretty well into the space. My heart stopped, eyes welling up, that mad-and-glad feeling you get.

“What are you doing?” I cried, lifting her out of the drawer, practically squeezing the life out of her, the relief a bit shaky in my voice.

“I’m a doll. Santa put me away till Christmas!”

And they wonder why we go gray.

SHIVERING IN THE SUNSHINE

MF

The daring spring sunshine felt like summer in full swing, even though it was only mid-February. And I ended up drenched and freezing. But I remember it as the most beautiful rainy day I’ve ever experienced.

We drove to Best Buy, and shopped a bit. Both of us were dressed in shorts and tank tops, it was so unseasonably hot outside. I had just moved to Fort Worth—Euless, actually, transferred by American to their headquarters. He came down from Kansas City to spend the weekend. We split our time between seeing the sights, house-hunting and drinking in the unbearable sweetness of being alone together.

Anyway, we couldn’t decide on a purchase, so we left. On the way to our car, the sky turned black within seconds and the Texas thunderstorms poured down upon us as we ran, laughing hysterically, to my red ‘99 Mustang. By the time we reached the car and dove inside, we were soaked—I remember I had the hiccups, I was laughing so hard, sticking out my tongue to catch the raindrops dripping from my nose.

We scrambled into the dry warmth of the car, shutting the rain outside, but the staccato beat was still almost deafening. So loud and nonstop. We couldn’t even see the car next to us, the raindrops were so close together.

He turned the key, and my Shrek soundtrack started playing again. It had been playing when we drove up to the store before. “My Beloved Monster and Me,” from the Shrek movie—which had just come out. In fact, we had just recently seen the movie and adored it. He gently brushed a dripping tendril of hair from my face, cupped my chin in his hand and said, “That’s got to be our song”—and kissed me. It sounds really hokey to say it, but at that moment, I got totally lost in his brown eyes. Time seemed to pause, as if there was a “rest” written into the minutes composed for that day. He was listening to the part where it says,

“She will always be the only thing
That comes between me and the awful sting
That comes from living in a world that’s so d___ mean.”

And we knew. We both just knew.

At the time, I laughed and asked how I was supposed to wear the coat with 4 sleeves. But I was touched to the very core of my being. Because I knew that he meant the world was waiting for us just around the bend. The endless stresses of raising teenagers had finally ended. We had completed our obligations of raising the last of 11 children, (5 of them mine, 6 of them his) and were on the threshold of beginning our lives together—that wonderful empty nest that parents work so hard to experience.

It’s been over ten years now since that day. The red Mustang is gone and I’m in Oklahoma now. That world that’s so mean? It actually delivered terminal cancer to our door within 2 months of that day. And he was gone 107 days later.

Yet every time it rains really hard. Every time I hear that song. Every time I’m stuck in a downpour, I remember. And it hurts. And it’s so bittersweet. And I cherish it every time I remember. Some things are just meant to hurt. And that’s okay.

Technology at Our House

My Toy Maltese, Miss Chantilly Lace—“Tillie” to a few of her closest friends—is a devoted old soul.  Next month she will turn 70 in dog years.  By the hesitancy in her eyes when I call her to jump onto my bed, or to dance a whirling jig on her hind legs for a chewy bacon treat like she used to, it’s evident that Father Time and aging are not being kind to her.  Her little knees ache at times, making her an excellent weather forecaster for those rainy days.  While she’s a bit slower to get going in the mornings, she still has spunk, making the rounds of her vast kingdom—my back yard—lecturing the squirrels, chasing any unidentified birds out of her territory and keeping it safe for her family.  Knowing Tillie is on the alert is a comfort and a blessing.

She loves me, has been deeply devoted to me since I purchased her as a puppy from a kindly retired veterinarian in Ardmore back in 2002.  Yet there’s a definite fickle streak in that tiny six pound body.  She will attach herself with wildly enthusiastic abandon to any visitor who comes through our front door.  Her captivating black marble eyes instantly charm, yet when sensing a new situation and not completely sure of her reception, she escalates her nervous habit  (we all have them, don’t we?).  In fact, the welcome mat at the entrance to my home says, “Beware: Dog cannot hold its Licker!”

There are those times when her lack of licker control can be a nuisance.  Yet she will always calm down, especially if you’re willing to perform an undercover operation.  Just cover your lap with one of our small fleece throws; then she immediately scoots under, settles in beside you, goes completely silent—and off to sleep.  Licker silenced.

But if you want to really see the blazing fast communications technology at our house, come around to the side gate.  Thomas Edison invented the telephone and the telegraph.  My Maltese created Tilliepathy.

Waiting for Daddy’s truck – in Colorado, 2005

I mean, just look!  The grass-worn path from our gate to the back door is getting deeper and deeper with use.  The instant Tillie sees her Daddy step out of his diesel F-250, she abandons her lookout post at the gate, makes a beeline for her doggy door, and meets him as his key turns in the lock.  Our Tilliepathy is pretty dependable; very appreciated; and a memory that I cherish, whether it kills the grass, tunnels through snow, or fills with seasonal rains…that’s love in action!

Simple Things – the Original Brunswick Stew Recipe (as far as I know)

***NOTE:  For all those who love to ciritize this simple home-grown version that I created, please see below for the ORIGINAL from the website)

When I was 15, we moved from Lexington, Ky to Atlanta, Ga.  (East Point, to be exact).  There used to be a chain of restaurants called Old Hickory House.  I don’t know if Brunswick Stew was their claim to fame, but it’s the most perfect food on the face of the earth, if you ask me.

Now, the restaurants don’t exist anymore, but the recipe lives on.  If you wanna read up on which states claim the recipe and who thinks it was first prepared in Brunswick, GA (vs Virginia), you can.  I  can list the link at the end of my recipe.  But back to my story:  I wanted to serve it to the local Ministerial Association Luncheon last year, so I searched and bribed and did a voodoo dance (just kidding) until I discovered the original recipe, or what I BELIEVE to be the original recipe.  I’m listing it for you here; if you think it’s wrong, don’t call me; just change it to suit yourself.

But I can guarantee that if you follow this recipe to the letter you will have the best one-dish meal that you will ever, ever eat.  And I’m not biased at all.  (What did we do to express ourselves before smiley faces and “lol’s”?)

GEORGIA  BRUNSWICK STEW
Yields 1 gallon   (I think it makes more but that’s what the recipe says)

FOR THE SAUCE:
In a 2 1/2 quart sauce pan, over low heat, melt:
1/4 cup of butter

ADD AND BLEND UNTIL SMOOTH:
3 1/2 cups Catsup
1/4 cups French’s Yellow Mustard
1/2 cup white vinegar

THEN ADD AND BLEND UNTIL SMOOTHER:
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 teaspoons coarse grind black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 oz. Liquid Smoke
2 oz. Worcestershire sauce
2 oz. Crystal hot sauce or 1 oz. Tabasco
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

TO THIS MIXTURE ADD:
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
Stir constantly, increase heat to simmer (DO NOT BOIL) for approximately 10 minutes. Makes about 7 cups of sauce.  Set aside, or simmer on low if you wanna really make it good.  It really intensifies the flavor if you have oldies playing on the radio, Elvis is preferred.

THEN THE STEW:
In a 2 gallon pot, melt:
1/4 lb of butter  (don’t complain, this is the healthy version)

ADD TO THE POT:
3 cups small diced potatoes
1 cup small diced onion
2 cans (14 1/2 oz. each) chicken broth
1 lb baked chicken (white and dark) (I cheated and used a rotisserie chicken)
8 to 10 oz. smoked pork  (and here I used part of a honey-baked ham, only ’cause it was in the freezer waiting for me)
Bring to a rolling boil, stirring until potatoes are near done.

WHEN THAT MIXTURE IS PERFECT AND YOU’RE TIRED OF ELVIS,  CHANGE THE STATION AND ADD:
1 (8 1/2 oz.) can early peas
2 cans (14 1/2 oz. each) stewed tomatoes (chop tomatoes, add liquid to the stew pot)
The prepared sauce (from above recipe)
1 16 oz. can of baby lima beans
1/4 cup Liquid Smoke
1 (14 to 15 oz.) can creamed corn
Slow simmer for 2 hours.  (I know it says 2 hours, but I found that I burned it if I cooked it this long–judge for yourself, mine took about 45 minutes.  When it’s done, it’s done.  You just can’t tamper with perfection)…

The Old Hickory House served either a small cup or a  large bowl of Brunswick Stew, in addition to a plate with BBQ sandwich, baked potato and BBQ Beans, and Cole slaw, or if you’re smart, you just save all that room for the Stew.

The link to the recipe that I thought seemed most authentic to my memory is:  http://www.officialguide.com/gistew.html  Y’all enjoy.  Come on back when you’re full……yes, it freezes well, although I don’t know why you’d want to.  Bye for now.  Always remember Whose you are.

**HERE IS A COPY OF THE ORIGINAL FROM THE WEBSITE:

Brunswick “Stewbilee”
The “Brunswick Rockin’ Stewbilee” is a cook-off between amateur and professional chefs who bring their culinary skills and secret recipes to compete for the coveted title of “Brunswick Stewmaster.” Fun-filled day for the entire family, Check back withwww.brunswickstewbilee.com for exact dates around Oct-Nov.

World Famous Brunswick Stew
stew


Brunswick “Stewbilee”

The “Brunswick Rockin’ Stewbilee” is a cook-off between amateur and professional chefs who bring their culinary skills and secret recipes to compete for the coveted title of “Brunswick Stewmaster.” Fun-filled day for the entire family, Check back withwww.brunswickstewbilee.com for exact dates around Oct-Nov.

First the sauce:
In a 2 quart sauce pan, over low heat, melt ¼ cup of butter then add:
1¾ cups Catsup
¼ cup French’s Yellow Mustard
¼ cup white vinegar

Blend until smooth, then add:
½ tablespoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
½ oz. Liquid Smoke
1 oz. Worcestershire Sauce
1 oz. Crystal Hot Sauce or ½ oz. Tabasco
½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Blend until smooth, then add:
¼ cup dark brown sugar
Stir constantly, increase heat to simmer (DO NOT BOIL) for approx. 10 minutes.
Makes approx. 3½ cups of sauce (set aside – to be added later).

Then The Stew:
In a 2 gallon pot, over low heat melt ¼ lb of butter then add:
3 cups small diced potatoes
1 cup small diced onion
2  14½ oz. cans of chicken broth
1 lb baked chicken (white and dark)
8-10 oz. smoked pork

Bring to a rolling boil, stirring until potatoes are near done, then add:
1 8½ oz. can early peas
2   14½ oz. cans stewed tomatoes – (chop tomatoes, add liquid to the stew pot)
The prepared sauce
1 16 oz. can of baby lima beans
¼ cup Liquid Smoke
1  14½ oz. can creamed corn
Slow simmer for 2 hours

Yields 1 gallon