Thursday, December 31, 2009

Celebration of 2009

Wow, what a difference a year makes!

Looking back over the past year, I'm impressed by God's tenacity to keep me right where He wants me, despite my longing to be anywhere else but there in the center of His will. I've battled distrust of my Leader and wanting, at times, to sail out on my own. But I stuck with Him and He with me and here I am today on December 31 in a place I know He's called me and in a place where I am happy.

January came with a flurry with me nestled in my mountain home in Silver City, New Mexico as the bureau chief for the Silver City Sun-News, a job that I loved very much and that I miss, even to this day. It's also the month I received my dream dog of a German Shepherd (Skye) and the month I endured the flu by myself. I also spent a glorious weekend in Albuquerque with my three youngest siblings and we did many things, including a visit to the zoo.

I had major car issues in February and was without a vehicle for nearly three weeks while mine was being fixed. It was torture, I tell you! February was also the month that I chronicled the positive reasons why I loved living in New Mexico, despite the trouble I had some days on keeping that positive attitude.

March started the moments of financial difficulties that led to this post and my subsequent resignation from the Sun-News.

In April, I spent two weeks at Mom's house before I moved to Kentucky. It was there I learned to trust and trust again. It was a process that would inevitably last the entire summer.

May saw no posts from me. Not sure why.

In June I worked at a summer camp for kids and it really impacted me in many ways. The main impact - the desire to work in that capacity with my family, helping people, helping kids. I was in the middle of loving my summer with Josey and wrote this.

I visited the Grand Ole Opry in July and in doing so fulfilled a dream of mine. It was a night to remember for sure! I wrote a lot about "my" kids that month too.

In August I planned and executed Josey's birthday party and typed this in frustration one day when I didn't know what else to do. I was feeling trapped, worthless and desperately wanting to run.

I was on the beach in September for my birthday weekend and enjoyed my first official trip as a beach-er (if that's the word!)

In October, things started to change, for the good of course! I visited Austin the first weekend in October and wrote a blog about the many places I've lived and the way they've affected me.

November, I went on a final adventure with "my" kids and came home.

And here I am. Home on the ranch and loving it.

I'll be ringing in the New Year with some of my family tonight and thanking God for His faithfulness to me in the past 365 days.

I really miss this person...

....and I hear she misses me too.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Look at Holly, she's such a rancher-woman"

People who've never known me or my sisters as "farm girls" are surprised, I think, when they see us in that role. Or maybe they're not. Maybe they see us fitting in just fine.

For me, this work is normal. Different, yes, then my jobs as a reporter and in many ways (many!) I'm still learning and get frustrated when there's something I don't know.

But in the day-to-day backbreaking, time-consuming ranch work, I fit in comfortably and with ease.

My days on the ranch vary but always include feeding. Right now we're feeding 17 calves (they'll be shipped out soon), 6 horses, 5 sheep and 15 bulls. It consists of loading six bales of hay in the front-end loader of the tractor and delivering it to the respective pens. I also take my axe along to break the ice (sometimes about 4 inches thick) in all the water troughs.

Then, on days like today, I help drive up to two different pastures and feed cows there and check their waters.

On days like Monday I unload hay.

On days like last Thursday, I saddle up and help Daniel seperate two bulls and two calves off a herd of cattle.

On days like yesterday, I help pull, push and shove a sick bull up and help prop him up to walk him to a sheltered pen where he was injected with antibiotics and given a smorgasboard of food.

On nights like last night, I run down to the barn a couple times to check on him.


It's 11 p.m. and the hostess that I am, I've swept and mopped floors and cleaned the kitchen in my house, where three of our guests are staying. It makes me a bad hostess if I wake up my guests - a good hostess in that they'll wake up to a clean house.

Our family Christmas holiday started Christmas day (naturally) with the surprise-to-Katie arriveal of Lucas. The festivities continued with Emily, Enrique, and Kielea's arrival on Sunday, followed by John's arrival on Monday and our official Christmas gathering on Monday night.

It was pretty great, our whole Christmas Day.

Well, great in some ways. Not so much in others.

For one, I overlooked the leg of lamb in the freezer Sunday night so it wasn't really thawed in time for cooking. But cook it anyway we did! And it was ready 4.5 hours later.

Mom had to leave Sunday night to go get John who's truck was still in the shop. And Daniel left at 5:30 Monday morning to retrieve his major gift for Micah, 2.5 hours away.

So it was me in charge of receiving a semi-load of hay (eight 1-ton bales and 640 small bales) at 10 a.m. Monday.

Unloading it was a 4 hour effort that involved many people and lots of help.

In the middle of the hay, I ran up to the house and found out Mom was going to be 2 hours later getting home then she'd planned. So I made an executive chef's decision and we got the turkey and lamb cooking. Actually, Katie stuffed the turkey and was responsible for all things turkey and stuffing related.

Basically, we saved Christmas dinner.

We ate at 6 and gathered excitedly (adorned in ugly Christmas sweaters!) in the living room for gifts.

It was a perfect evening.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Expensive tie-out

Jada has been with me for four years and remains catastrophe-free.

I cannot say the same thing for Skye who has been with me for a year on January 14.

Katie, Evalyn and I drove up to the house last night about 11 and as soon as the headlights hit the tree where I'd left Skye tied out on her wire cable, I knew something was wrong.

Skye was nowhere to be seen.

Katie was talking about how she was going to take Evalyn inside and then come back for our bags. I had my door opened and was heading to the tree.

"I'm going to check on Skye then I'll be back to help," I was saying while walking.

I'd left the headlights on and after about ten steps, I saw the situation. Skye was hobbling on three legs, trying to come to me and yelping. I could see her right hind leg was bound in the wire cable and all I could see was red.

She was trying to come to me, yelping and screaming. I touched her head. She yelped louder and snapped at my hand.

"Katie!!" I yelled. "I need help!"

Pause the story.

Here's something about me: I don't handle injury well AT ALL. As a matter of fact, I want to run, flee the scene, let somebody else handle it and then tell me when everything is better. I don't want to see blood. I don't want to see flesh. I don't want to hear screaming and crying and yelping that I can't control.

But it was just Katie and I home. And I will say that Katie handles these things much better then I do.

For example, I approached Skye again, talking to her, and she was trying to get to me but every time she moved, it put more pressure on her leg and made her yelp so loud and crazy. I started backing up, waving my hands (because that's going to help?), and yelling at her, "Stop it! Just stop! STOP!"

"Holly," Katie said. "That's not going to help." Right. Of course, that's right. So I stopped yelling and got my head back in the game. I'm retarded sometimes. But I did just tell you that I DON'T handle these things well AT ALL.

She drove the vehicle over so we could see better. Skye had calmed down considerably and was laying down, leaning into me as much as she could. I was sitting beside her, petting her. Every time I moved, she moved and looked at me with her big brown eyes.

The wire cable wasn't just wound around her leg, it was knotted and twisted. Every time we touched it, she started screaming. Her foot was swollen about twice the normal size. We managed to get her unhooked from the cable and unhook the cable from the tree so she was free now, except for the binding on her leg.

Katie brought a pair of wirecutters and tried to cut the cable. Nothing.

We decided to put her in the vehicle and take her to the house. We drove down to the barn to get a bigger pair of wirecutters. We found some and went back to the house.

The big wirecutters?

Katie muttered a couple profanities as she clamped the cutters down the cable and nothing moved.

I was trying to not feel desperate.

I grabbed the phonebook and decided to call the emergency services of this particular vet I'd heard good things about.

The vet answered and told me to bring her in.

Katie said she'd go with me; I said no, stay with Evalyn.

The hour and 15 minute trip was ridiculous. It was 11:30 by the time I left. Every bump (and there are many!) and every crazy turn (again, many!) Skye yelped in the back and readjusted herself to keep her leg as still as possible.

The whole trip there, I saw NO WILDLIFE and that's amazing considering that when Katie and I had just driven the same road an hour earlier, we passed herds of elk, deer, coyotes and rabbits.

The end of this story is rather anticlimatic. I got to the vet at 12:45 (he was SO NICE!!), we got her inside and two wirecutters later for the vet and lots of grunting on his part, the cable was off her leg. She was really pissed that I put a muzzle on her and was very concerned about getting it off.

"She's not aggressive," I said. "But she did try to snap at me earlier."

"She knows she's in trouble," the vet said.

He examined her leg, (there was no exposed skin) said something about how her foot might fall off, and told the tech to take the muzzle off. As soon as the muzzle was off, she was nearly running circles in the room and jumping on me. He retracted his earlier comment about her foot falling off. She was obviously going to be fine.

Twenty minutes after we got there, we left.

And we passed an insane amount of night creatures on the way home. We got home at 2:45 and were safely in bed at 3 (after she ate a hearty dinner.)

This morning, she's fine. Back to her usual "high-strung" (as the vet tech called her) self and never, EVER!!!!, again will I use one of those stupid $20 tie-outs that ended up costing a little more then that by the time it ended up in 30 pieces on the floor of a vet exam room.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Man of the House

He's probably the only dog in New Mexico, maybe the United States, or even the world, who gets an apology whenever someone accidentally hurts him.
He's Zeb. He's old, he sleeps a lot, but he has been a part of our family for almost 11 years and he gets what he wants.
He was very angry and surprised tonight when, as he was sleeping in the living room, Elsie rocked own on his leg with the rocking chair.
He yelped and waddled over to lay in front of the couch, watching Elsie.
"Elsie, you hurt him!"
"I didn't mean to," she said.
"Go tell him you're sorry and make sure he's okay. Make sure you didn't break his leg!" said my little brother.
"You guys...."
"Elsie, you really hurt him and you need to make sure he's okay." That was my voice this time.
So she got up and went over to him, rubbed his head and told him she was sorry. He rested his head on her knee in forgiveness as she rubbed her hands on his legs to make sure he was okay.
Of course, he's fine.
And his trust in her must be restored. He's laying with his neck stuck under the rocking chair Elsie's sitting in again.
"Watch out for Zeb, Elsie," warned Micah. "He's under the rocking chair again."

Friday, December 11, 2009

As written 12/10/09

We lost power again Tuesday morning. Being on top of the mountain, we knew we'd be one of the last concerns of the power company as they scrambled to restore juice to populated areas - towns!

So we fueled up the oil lanterns, hauled in wood for the stove and ate dinner Tuesday night by the glow of the above-mentioned.

There are many conversations around our dinner table I wish we had record of. We cover topics from personality types (and thoroughly disect everyone's!) to dirty jokes to politics to Tiger Woods to the state of the media to sex to relationships to God to our past and on it goes. No topic is off-limits, even the ones I'd like to skirt around, like politics. I don't like discussing politics with my family.

The conversation started out light, each of us fixing our tacos and trying not to burn ourselves on the lamps. Then it seemed, in a matter of minutes, we were on this deep subject of life, of dreams, of past experiences, of places - each of us weighing in passionately with our opinions, the shadows and flames dancing across our faces, highlighting our animation.

We all spoke and we all listened. One person's opinion was not more important then another's thought at times one or two of us had to beg to maintain control of the floor.

"Please. Let me finish."

And we all hushed to let the speaker speak.

Then we all traded opinions and threw in our two-cents.

It went on for two hours. By the time we were finished, naturally ended by someone getting up to start cleaning the table and another moving away to throw wood on the fire, it was 9 p.m. and we all slowly retired to our respective places to sleep.

In the morning, over breakfast, we were still discussing, some of us having spent a portion of the night continuing our discussion in our own thoughts and dreams.

This is our family. We argue, we reason, we defend, we listen, we concede, we disagree, we joke and welaugh.

I wish you could be a fly on our wall at dinner time.

As written 12/10/09

"Mom and I got into a huge argument on our way home," I announced to my brothers and sisters when mom left the room.

Simultaneously, Katie said, "I knew something was up" and Micah said, "It was so stupid - like two little kids fighting."

A definition of cabin fever is irritability so what can I say? She started criticizing my driving, I told her I didn't appreciate it and even veered to the shoulder with a cool, "If you want to drive, drive!"

"It was just like a couple fighting," said one of our witnesses, Micah. "So stupid."

"I just leaned back and went to sleep," said witness #2, Elsie.

Admittedly I was laughing in the drak while we drove in silence post-argument. It was quite silly.

But we're made up now.

We left the mountain yesterday for a trip to Wal-Mart for supplies. Our county is in a state of emergency what with no power and all. School's been out, along with our power, for the last two days.

We have power today but who knows for how long.

As written 12/5/09

I'm trying to be the best ranch woman I can be. Many moments I feel helples and other moments I get pissed off. Then others, I'm just thankful.

I couldn't get the 4-wheeler OR snowmobile started today so I took off walking after I threw out the vengeful words, "WHATEVER. I'm walking to the barn."

That was a moment of being pissed off, because I absolutely despise it when machinery rebels against me. Perhaps because it reveals my true inadequacies at handling those situations.

"Why won't the tractor start?" I groaned yesterday, repeatedly turning the key, to no avail.

"The clutch," said my little sister. "Push it in."

Magic. That's what that clutch is.

I decided this afternoon to start the evening chore process early because I wanted to get it done before my brother came home. As a surprise, you know.

I decided to start with the biggest project, taking feed to cows about 3 miles from the headquarters. I loaded the feed up in the bucket of the tractor and set out, with my little brother following me on a 4-wheeler.

I'm not really sure what happened other then at the pasture on my way up to the troughs, the tractor quit working. Engine running, tires not moving.

We stared into the faces of five hungry bulls.

I dumped the minerals and slashed the bags of feed and left it there in the bucket of the tractor for them to eat.

If you haven't noticed, this is where the surprise starts going south.

For me, being a ranch woman means crying when you find dead livestock. So that's what I did when I discovered a young dead bull in one of the pens while we were feeding.

It was dark and I thought surely the black mound laying just inches from me was not dead - just sleeping.

Please, just be sleeping.

It personally hurts my feelings when the calves try to kick me when I'm trying to feed them. This hurt my feelings worse.

I swung a pick-ax through five inches of ice on a water trough so the bulls could drink. It's like one of the worst jobs ever, mostly because it's so exhausting, at least to me.

For me, being a ranch woman means that my house smells like cow poop because as soon as I come in, I strip my coat, coveralls, jeans, wool socks, boots and lay them all out in front of the stove to dry.

This is work, let me just say.

But at night, when we're all sitting around, eating, laughing, talking about business plans and dreams, playing games, discussing politics or the latest news, or talking about healing and the wounds of our past, I sit back and smile with pride. Really.

Pride because we've worked together to make it through another day. And pride because we never stop moving forward and laughing about it.

I'm the newest member to this team on the Mountain and I'm proud to be a part.

As written 12/3/09

I've been fairly good at keeping my written journal up to date but due to inclement weather and the lack of power for days at a time, I haven't had time to upload the entries...until now. So here it is, written 12/3/09:

I've been here 9 days and it feels like a lifetime. I catch myself sometimes wondering at this life I'm living now - the life of a mountain woman.

There are definite differences like the actual need to carry a knife with me at all times and creating a system where the wet clothes I take off are dry in time for me to put them back on.

I realized something tonight while I was doing the evening chores with my little sister. We had the six horses fed and hayed along with the 15 calves and we were in the process of driving hay to the feeder steer with the tractor when we passed Daniel and Katie on the snowmobile. They were loading the sleigh for their second run up the canyon to feed cows.

I waved and they waved back, our faces invisible thanks to goggles, scarves and hats. And it struck me, in those few moments between waving and me getting the tractor stuck on the fence, that not many siblings are living this life right now.

We made plans in the falling snow and 22 degree weather to watch a movie when we were all finished with the evening chores.

An hour and a half later, we were all safely back at mom's house, pulling off our hats, gloves, scarves, goggles, sweatshirts, undershirts, coveralls, jeans, wool socks and boots till we got to our dry layer of a long sleeved t-shirt and cotton pants tucked into our dry layer of wool socks.

We have this bundling up thing down pretty pat. To the point we're actually sweating in the precipiation and freezing temps.

My only regret is my sometimes lack of strength.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Manual Labor

We have 7 tons of hay stuck in the driveway and that's taken two days of our time and energy. Not to mention we have another winter storm coming tonight that's supposed to bring 3 to 5 more inches of snow, high winds and cold temperatures.

The hay's stuck on a trailer, jackknifed across the driveway about 4 miles from the house. It's been there since Sunday late afternoon. The trailer's stuck, the truck was stuck and so was the tractor but Mom and I managed to get the tractor unstuck when the ice melted. We also unhitched the trailer (with 7 tons of hay!) from the truck and got the truck unstuck too.

Sounds easy but the whole process took about 3 hours.

And, in the meantime, we hauled feed eight miles from the house to a pasture to feed cows at. We also have many, many cows, calves, bulls, horses and sheep at the house to feed and that whole process takes about 2 hours.

Let me just say, I am quite adept now at driving the tractor. And other pieces of equipment such as snowmobiles, four-wheelers, etc.

I have a post that I wrote the other night - I just need to tranpose it on here.

Good news for me - the shock collar I ordered for Skye came in today and I can't wait to shape her up! She ran 5.1 miles today. Bless her.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


She ran about 8 miles yesterday. In the snow. In 35 degrees. Across a (thankfully!) frozen pond (aka dirt tank).

And still today she's as wound up as she was yesterday morning. Will I ever find the end to this dog's energy?

It's irritating me today because I took her for a couple mile run and by run, I mean running between 18 and 21 miles per hour, and then I went down to the barn to let the horses out. I thought that since she'd ran that distance she'd be more tame around the horses and calves, who's she's hopefully learning to tolerate. Not so much.

So that's frustrating because I don't think I'll ever be able to trust her completely.

But then I think it's a matter of that thing exactly. Me trusting her.

Yesterday she ran after some cows. I was instantly sick. I was yelling at her and surprisingly, she came back. But I didn't even notice that - I was so focused on the fact that she'd run after them.

"You called her off," Daniel said. "That's great!"

You're right. I did. So when she ran up to me, very happy, I patted her and congratulated her.

But I still don't completely trust her.

Maybe it's because she ran away from me for 2 hours. I don't know. Maybe it's because I really love her and I don't want to lose her. But I want her to be good.

And she is good. She sits, lays down, stays, knows "get back", "go lay down", fetches like a dream, tracks the ball (and any other thing she wants), she alerts me when I need alerted, she crawls in my lap and bites my hand at night when she wants to be pet, she lays her ears back and looks at me with her big brown eyes and then I can't be mad or irritated anymore.

Yeah, I dedicated a whole blog post to Skye this morning. Significant when you consider everthing else that's been going on - things like being snowed in for a week now, maneuvering a snowmobile, operating a tractor to feed bulls in 6 degree snowy weather ...

Life is good.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Womenfolk

I have to wonder what some of these cowboys think when they arrive to work on the TP Ranch and are outnumbered by females.

And not just any girls. Girls who ride out with them in the mornings either on horseback or ATVs, girls who rope, vaccinate, ear notch and cut calves. Girls who help make judgement calls on what cows should stay, who should go. Girls who leave the barn at dusk to go have supper on the table by nightfall. Girls who are the first to get up and have breakfast ready and the first to leave to call cows. Girls who drive trucks and blow in horse's noses when there's nothing else to do. Girls who laugh and joke and think talking about farts and taking dumps in the woods is funny. Girls who aren't grossed out when all the cowboys take their shoes and socks off around the campfire to compare the ugliness (or prettiness) of their feet.
I think they must be a little shocked.
These are guys who are used to working alone, being alone for weeks at a time in the back country gathering cows. These are men who refer to us as "the womenfolk" and consistently say things like "yes, ma'am", "no, ma'am" and take their hats off when we shake their hands.
Sometimes I do want to say "Please stop calling me ma'am", especially when the culprit is 21 - obviously much younger then myself. But I keep my mouth shut and tamper the feminist side of me that slightly bristles when the word "womenfolk" is thrown around.
But, for the picture above, I found myself handing the camera to Dustin and saying, "Would you please take a picture of the womenfolk?"
He didn't mind.
I have a feeling this won't be my first New Mexico vernacular I pick up but I promised my mother today I would never (NEVER!) use the words she's using!
Give me two years and then we'll see.

Weekend Works

I got home on Tuesday and on Friday we started our second fall works - gathering cattle from three different pastures, bringing them to the house, seperating calves from their mommas, and working the calves who haven't been worked. We've got a cattle shipper on the way to haul the calves to the sale.

The weather's been fine for us all weekend, up into the 70's during the day, dropping between 10 and 20 at night. Today, though, it's snowing/sleeting/raining and I'm glad we gathered all day yesterday instead of today. Mom and I were on 4-wheelers the past two days. Our job was to go ahead of the riders (on horseback) and call the cattle using sirens attached to the ATVs that the cows are conditioned to come to. We'd ride in and out of canyons and into pastures, calling, calling, calling, until we'd gathered a pretty good herd. Then the riders would get there and with mom and I in front calling, the riders would push them from behind.

My hands are incredibly rough today and I realized it's probably only going to get worse from here! I've gotta be sure and keep lotion handy.

After today, I'm going to spend more time getting my house set up and all my stuff moved in. Right now, from about 6:30 a.m. to about 8 p.m., it's been crazy busy between the cattle works and cooking for everyone. Everyone being about 16-20 people for three hot meals a day.

It's my first weekend at home.

And I'm loving it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

One Thousand, Nine Hundred, Forty Four some odd miles

New Mexico and I are fighting right now.

This was supposed to be my "I'm home" blog post but since I find myself in the throes of this argument, I thought I'd incorporate both.

First of all, I am home. I'm sitting at a table in my house, a dog on either side of me and I still can't believe that I'm actually here.

I'm home. I like the sound of that permanence.

So why is New Mexico fighting with me? Because everything is harder here, including the trip yesterday to get here. Looking back, I can kind of laugh at all the things that annoyed me.

Things like one radio station in the bowels of west Texas and the fact my CD player doesn't work due to some uncontrollable shaking my car's doing.

Or the fact that a sign indicated a particular New Mexico town was 33 miles away, begging the question - why did it take us 50 minutes to get there GOING 80?!

Someone told me the trip was seven hours, or maybe I made that up. Regardless of the case, I thought the trip was seven hours, which would put us home at 3 p.m., I calculated.

We didn't get here till 7:15.

My attitude about this made me think that maybe I'm not such a good traveler anymore.

Then, we were so close and Katie, driving in front of me, blows by our turn onto the highway the ranch is on. I got on her tail, flashed my lights four different times, put on my blinker. No response.

And no cell phone service.

Twenty-five miles later, my phone blinked service.

"You missed our turn 25 miles back" was my text message.

She had shut her phone off because we had no service. I, of course, did not realize this.

Ten minutes later, she pulled over and I walked (marched) up to the window

"I don't know where we are," she said. "I can't find our turn."

"It was 35 miles back," I replied.

Her next question was why I didn't flash my lights, to which I told her I had.

"Do you want to get in front?" she asked.

"No, you're fine," I said. "You know where we are now; our turn should be right up here in Mayhill."

And it was. But it was about a 60 mile detour, which in New Mexico time, is about 1.5 hours.

I will confess to you that I arrived home cranky and irritable, which I did graciously inform everyone before I bit their heads off. But Mom apparently had warned everyone after a phone conversation we'd had.

PLUS, mom needed us to pick up groceries. I promptly informed her that the next time I'm on a big trip, please do not send me grocery shopping. Please.

In the middle of my argument with New Mexico, God, in all his creativity, made the sky magnificent and I felt peace in the midst of my inner turmoil.

There is nothing like a New Mexico sky at sunset. Talk about cotton candy clouds. I don't care where you live, there's nothing like the New Mexico skyline when the sun's going down, or up, or just hanging out.

I'm feeling blessed to be home and to be in my home. I have this incredible urge to nest and arrange my stuff, most of it I haven't seen since March. I was looking at my art and forgot I had such good taste. I can't wait to display all my books and pictures. I love the dogs following me around. I don't love Skye barking when I walk away from her.

I love the dream I'm sharing with my family right now and can't wait to get to work.

I am glad to be home.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Our Final Adventure

(the body of the blog post is below the pictures...Blogger wasn't cooperating with me and I was trying hard, really hard, to not be annoyed.)

We visited PetSmart and Josey got to see the animals they had there. A pale comparison to the zoo outing I wanted to take her on, but I settled for this.
Instead of the zoo, we went to Chuck-E-Cheese! And mostly, the thing about this picture I love the most are her pigtails. And her pony tail holders.
Josey and Riot snowmobiling
After Chuck-E-Cheese, we went to the park and Josey took this picture (and many others) of Skye and I.
The kids enjoyed walking the dogs.
Josey loves Jada.
Josey and I
She loves tractors and all things mobile.
Her cheese is frightening sometimes
My favorite picture of her ever.
She didn't know I took these

Scary cheese!

I really, really wanted Josey and I's final adventure before my move to be a trip to the zoo, a place she's never been. But unfortunately, her parents were not too agreeable on that plan, so we ended up at Chuck-E-Cheese instead.

We had a blast.

Three things I would like to point out: 1) that place is freakin' expensive, 2) Thursday afternoon at 1 p.m. is a perfect (PERFECT) time to go and 3) it's exhausting and adults tend to get cranky. Adults being me. Yes, I did indeed get cranky and a bit snappy at the children when we left. But when, in the Wal-Mart parking lot, Josey helped me out of my funk by saying, "Holly, could you put your phone up?" I was texting.

And I smiled, mainly because it's quite obvious she has a bossy nanny.

On the way home from our adventure, we stopped at a park to walk the dogs and play for a little bit before I dropped them off. This particular park is a favorite of mine in Draffenville and the kids really enjoyed it. Katie and I visited this same park two years ago exactly at this time of year. It was nice to revisit it.

When I dropped the kids off, Josey didn't want me to leave. She rarely struggles with me leaving but that day she did. I don't think she understood I was leaving for awhile but maybe I underestimate her ability to comprehend. I cried a little bit on the way home.

I will miss her...very much.
I've been talking about her a lot.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Winding Down

Things are winding down for me here in Western Kentucky and I'm finding myself anxious to get home.

Don't get me wrong ....

I will miss this place of familiarity, of friends, of "my kids" and our favorite spots - places like the dog park, the "kid park", and the houses of our playdates. I'll miss my roommate, who's the most successful roommate relationship I've ever had in my life outside of family. This recliner I'm sitting in now, where I've restarted many a day and rocked my sick body. I'll wish that I had the ability to help my best friend prepare for her unborn baby. I'll miss visiting her and doing nothing but laying on the couch in our PJs. I'll miss game nights and luncheons.

But I've never felt more sure of a decision.

For this reason, I'm excited. I'm anxious to just get there. I'm looking forward to the future. I know that I have direction and I can't wait for the first step, the first mile.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Seven Days

It's been a week since I woke up with a pesky sore throat and had a sinking feeling that I would be unable to stop the after-effects of this on my already inflamed joints and muscles.

Unfortunately, I was correct. So while the sore throat was gone in about two days, the damage had alredy been done.

And continues to be done.

Last night I dutifully consumed my Tylenol PM and went to bed at 12:30. An hour later I was awake. My legs, which usually torment me before I go to sleep, woke me up with restlessness and the intense need to move them. Just.move.them. But the feeling migrated to my shoulders, arms, neck and back.

From there, my body contorted itself into the fetal position, not of my own choosing. Repeatedly, again and again. Contract. Release. Contract. Release.

I thought about calling my mom. I was starting to feel desperate and didn't know what to do.

Instead, I contracted and released. Breathed. Contracted and released.

Finally, I fell asleep, exhausted. If I ever were to run a marathon, that is how I would imagine myself to feel.

Today has been difficult but managable. I took a 2-hour nap on the couch while the Cowboys tried to defend themselves against the Packers. But I woke up to my legs contracting ... and moving.

For that reason, I'm dreading tonight.
But praying.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Counting Dimes

Tonight I forgot the money value of a dime.

That's the embarrassing part of this disease - when it catches me off guard and leaves me scratching my head, thinking that a pile of ten dimes is ten cents while another part of my brain argues with me "something about that doesn't sound right." So I picked up the pile of ten dimes and counted them slowly into my palm, twice. "Wait, one dime is ten cents - ten dimes is a dollar." That makes perfect sense.

Tonight I let myself cry a few tears of frustration.

A friend visited me; a friend who shares the same disease I do. She's the same friend I was supposed to spend the day with riding horses in the woods yesterday, an old past-time of ours. It was going to be our going-away day before I leave. Instead, we spent the afternoon curled up on her couches watching episodes of NCIS because I was in too much pain to walk much less ride. I fell asleep for 45 minutes too. She cried a few tears with me tonight then we laughed, gossiped a little, ate enchiladas and laughed.

Tonight I got dizzy and ran into a couple of doors.
Tonight I left my cellphone downstairs but was too tired to go get it.
Tonight I got stressed and a fever ensued.
Tonight I put supper in the oven and forgot about it. It burned.

Not every night is like tonight; don't get the wrong idea.
Tonight is just one of those nights.
But, for all the bad, I'm thankful for all the good.

And choosing now to be blessed because, well, I am.

Even on nights like tonight.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Calming Center

If I had health insurance, I would be laying in a hospital bed right now, hopefully (blissfully) hooked up to morphine and other delicious narcotics that would have taken the edge off the pain I was in last night and this morning.

Instead, I laid in bed, writhing around, rating my pain as an 11 on a scale of one to 10. I couldn't lay in one position for too long for fear of getting stiff but moving hurt too much.

I hit a mental wall, where the physical pain was beginning to affect my mind. I started thinking things like, "What if it never stops?", "What if I can never get it under control?" Panic slowly started to seep into my cells.

Then I remembered - I'd watched a friend go into labor and manage her pain by using HypnoBabies. While I clearly was not giving birth, I wondered if I could manage my pain by those same techniques.

I turned on Pandora Casting Crowns radio, laid it on my pillow, and closed my eyes. I envisioned a "calming center" in my core, a rotating ball where, as I felt wave upon wave of pain, I would put it there and the pain would leave whatever part of my body it was plaguing.

At first, it was a struggle just to acknowledge my "calming center". I felt the pain still trying to take over but I consistently resisted the urge to panic until I methodically and calmly placed the pain in the ball.

Three hours later, I'd slept peacefully and woke up refreshed and nearly painfree.

Now, it is time for me to go lay down and try to sleep, purging my pain.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Blog of Change - which took several days to write and finish

I was contemplating today and rereading over some of my blog posts from April to now, mostly thinking about life and how it changes and the process through which that change evolves.

In the past six months I have lived a lot of life that I really wished I could have avoided but I'm thankful that I didnt.

The old adage goes, "What doesnt kill you will make you stronger" and isnt that the damn truth.

I thought I was being squeezed to death, really, the pressure was that heavy sometimes.

I cried in my bed and beat on some walls. Literally. I counted coins in my piggy bank and wondered why I was.

I resented my 'job'. I think it'd be fair to say I resented my life and the God who was directing it.

Or at least, trying to direct when I'd get out of the way.

I told him I didnt trust him. I couldnt find rest in him. I wondered what the purpose was and when I could be let in on the secret.

But all the while I knew there was a plan. I would catch glimpses of it every once in awhile, enough to keep me going, to encourage my faith, to stretch my assurance in Christ. Despite my late-night wonderings and pleading conversations with God, I could see him using me and that gave me an edge of peace.

Still, what was my purpose? What is my purpose? Surely I'm not the only one who asks that question and struggles with the answer. Whose lives am I effecting? Who am I reaching? Am I making a difference?

There has not been a grand entrance of an answer but a quiet knowing stillness. Trumpets didnt blast and horns didnt sound but there was a day when I knew it had shifted. A day when suddenly, it all started making sense

Now I'm beginning to see a small view of the picture he's been creating while I was waiting. I'm excited to know there has been a picture in the process and I'm excited to watch it unfold.

So here's my small view of the big picture, given to you.

I am (most likely) returning to New Mexico but in a much different capacity then when I was there before. I'm moving to my mom and stepdad's ranch on top of a mountain, the mountain I once said was too remote for me to live on at that particular time. But now, the time is right.

If it's possible to believe that moving to the middle of 32,000 acres is actually what God wants you to do to reach and minister to people, that's what I believe.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Trulio, I have a blog being written pretty much as we speak (even though it's taken like 4 days to compose) about the forthcoming changes but first, tonight, here is a continuation of this lesson in trust I've been actively learning since April now.

Skye ran away this afternoon. I had the front door open, I was cleaning the bathroom, her and Jada were coming and going, lounging around. Then she was gone.

First order of business - don't panic! She'll be back. Momentarily, even.

I whistled and called for about 15 minutes and still nothing. Many more moments passed. Nothing.

Here's what happened after that.

1) I had to DO something so I got in my car and drove down the road both ways, whistling.

2) Came back home. Nothing. Whistled/called.

3) Drove again. While driving, I interceded with God. I prayed but it was a very (bold!) prayer. He says to come with confidence and I did. Then I praised a little.

4). Went home. Nada

5) Laid on my bed and cried next to Jada for about two seconds.

6) Talked to Katie - she said, "have you called mom?". No. So I did. And cried a little. She assured me that Skye's nose would get her home.

7) I determined not to lay and cry. I was going to believe. I told God I trusted Him.

8) I sat on the porch, whistled, called. Prayed. Stared at the woods, expecting her to pop out, for me to hear her collar jingle.

I was thinking thoughts like, "How can I be so irresponsible?", "Am I really going to lose two dogs in a year's time?", "How will I explain this to everyone?", "I'm leaving this house in three days. What if she comes back here after I'm gone but I'm not here?", "Will somebody shoot her?", "I hope she hasnt killed anyone's livestock."

I picked up the blanket that was in my lap, walked over to my car, opened the door, hit the button to open the hatch back (I'm not entirely sure why), started walking to the back of my car, heard a jingle, looked up and here she comes down the driveway, straight to me.

I clung onto her collar, started crying, and sank into my seat in the car. Then, mechanically, I put her in my car, and walked into the house.

Once in the house, I proceeded to give myself a headache from excessive sobs and nearly caused myself to hyperventilate.

Why? I'm not entirely sure.

Maybe because I trusted and I was so overcome by His mercy on me when I saw my crazy, $6,000 dog jogging up the driveway, and I knew I was truly blessed.

I know not everyone will really understand because not every one has dogs that mean to them what mine mean to me. But basically, I told God, "Look, I can't handle this right now in my life and I need you to bring her back to me - for my sake, please.". I know my mom's prayer was somewhat similar for me.

It never ceases to amaze me that the "piddly" things in life, He cares about. Afterall, he did create her, he gave her the nose she uses for tracking, and her ability to annoy the piss out of me.

But he also did what I beseeched him to - kill the trail she was on and bring her blasted nose back to me.

I'm blessed.

And Skye has lost all of her off-leash priveleges...for a long time.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Friday, October 16, 2009


Change is here, folks. But consider this a tease because I'm not in the mental state right now to fill you in.

Do you have to be in a mental state to blog?

I do, yes. Most of the time my best blogs are born out of sleeplessness while I'm laying in bed. And right now there's too much going on around me to do the Blog of Change justice.

Stay tuned.

I will share with you, though, that my friend, Catlin who I talked about here, sat in a wheelchair for the first time yesterday. We were there to witness it and applause.

He made progress too in other ways - no more IVs, morphine drips, or a catheter. For the first time since his accident, he looked like himself.

He said he remembers the accident and then nothing till about Day 10. It's amazing how merciful the mind is.

A couple times, he went to tell me a story from those early days in the hospital and his mom said, "She was here, babe."

"Really, Holly? You were here?"


He shuffled to the bathroom and asked his mom to close the back of his gown. "I don't want to moon Holly," he said.

"Don't worry about it," she said. "You already have."

Some things from those early days probably shouldn't be discussed. It's like waking up the next day after a hellacious party and your friends trying to tell you what you did/said while you were intoxicated. Yeah, just be quiet. Please. Thank you.

Hopefully today he's being moved from the Round Wing Program at Vanderbilt to the rehabilitation hospital where he'll spend a minimum of five days. He's determined to make it out of there in five days. We'll see.

Expect the Blog of Change soon!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In Pieces

Sleep did come to me last night, in pieces. I slept for a little piece, then woke up when Katie came home. Then slept another little piece. And woke up when Evalyn started crying at 3 a.m. Then slept a little bit more until my alarm went off at 5.

Surprisingly, I feel alright this morning.

Is it okay to admit here that I had a small pity party for myself last night? When I say small, I think there were like two tears and then I scolded myself because, really, there's nothing to have a pity party over. The things I thought warranted feeling sorry for myself about are small pieces compared to the big picture of what God is doing right now.

Have I mentioned that God's doing big things? I feel like he's finally taking the pieces of the last six months of my life, the last year of my mom's and step-dad's, the last couple months of Katie's, and the many other people who are involved in this picture, and He's (finally) melding them together to create something fantabulous.

None of us are sure (in its entirety) what it's going to look like but we're okay with that (for the most part.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I used to be the noble kind of person who would tough through a headache, fight insomnia and refuse tylenol for a cold. I thought I was helping by keeping my body rid of such impurities.

Now I'm laying here, waiting for my pain meds to kick in, wondering how it's possible to go from no pain to twisting around in bed trying to find a comfortable position and when none can be found, actually thinking that it might be worth it to just cut my legs off.

Theyve been hurting me all day, anyway.

I'm not that brave anymore. I know that I better cut the pain off at the pass before it gets the better of me and renders me sleepless and nearly unable to move in the morning.

It's hard to explain to people sometimes - this migrating joint, muscle and bone pain. Some days, it's like menstrual cramps all day. Other days, I feel like I've ran a mile and climbed 84,000 flights of stairs. Sometimes it's a numbness in two fingers, other times it's a shooting pain in my left big toe. Most always, it's a dull, rolling, wave upon wave tide of hurting that most always is effecting my hips, knees, ankles, elbows, shoulders and my back. Last night I wished for a stretching machine, my back felt so tight and constrained.

I've been thinking lately - how long can one person go with dealing with constant pain before they just can't take it anymore? I don't know.

I'm gaining some relief tonight and I'm thankful. I need sleep to come quickly.

Knees, I'm not listening to you. Shhhhhh.......

Monday, October 12, 2009

This is going to be a blog of catching-up.

Tonight Riot pooped on the bathroom floor - a long line of pebbles.

"Riot, why did you poop on the bathroom floor?" I asked (calmly!)

"Because I couldnt find the potty," he said.

Hmm. That excuse didnt fly and I made him clean it up and sit in timeout. When I told his dad about it later, he said, "Well, at least it was in the right room."

I was exasperated.

The other night I thought Evalyn was dead. Katie left me to watch her and when I checked on her sleeping self and touched her arm, it was ghastly cool. I turned on the light and when she squinted and almost woke up, I shut it off and bolted, hoping I hadnt woke her up.

I hadnt and thankfully, she was alive.

While I dont believe in abuse of animals, tonight I spanked my sometimes-ruly German Shepherd when she dug a steak out of the trash (for the 2nd time) just as I turned my back on her. I promptly drug her to the trash and she had a come-to-Jesus- moment via my flip-flop. Really, she thought she was dying.

After that, I scolded her harshly and she scurried around the living room trying to find something to hide behind, looking at me with her chocolatey brown eyes that were indeed sorry for her actions.

Following her unorthodox obedience session, she hasnt left my side and is curled up on the floor beside my bed sound asleep. Apparently, discipline for dogs has the same effect it does on children. Maybe now her lumbering self will pay closer attention to me as the flip-flop relayed that I really do mean what I say.

The other dog, on the other hand, is a little touchy tonight and did not appreciate Riot or Josey jumping over my legs while I was sitting on the floor. She let me know by trying to nip the back of their legs as they jumped. She also didnt appreciate it when Katie came sliding in on my mattress earlier, rather abruptly. I mean, shes usually bitchy but tonight seems a little much.

In BIG NEWS, Josey ate her first ever steak dinner tonight. Thats right, folks, you read correctly. Josey ate three bites of steak, a baked potato, corn and a dinner roll. It took her nearly 1.5 hours of sitting at the dinner table to eat her first bite of steak but once she did, she realized she liked it and wanted to eat more. There was some gagging going on, even on the third bite, but I think it was more because shes not used to eating that texture. But let me just say, there was a lot of celebrating at our dinner table tonight!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

As mentioned in my last post, I have a lot of friends in a lot of places and nothing gives me more pleasure then being able to help and support them in their time of need.

One friend, who is more like a little brother to me, is one such person.

I met Catlin about three years ago when he dated the younger sister of my best friend, he was a junior in high school, if I remember right. He was different from the beginning, very unlike all the other teenagers who floated in and out of my life during that time. He was driven, had a purpose in life and more importantly, refused to be drawn into the small-town drama that surrounded the county where he was from. I can respect that in a person.

He broke up with the girl but we remained friends.

He joined the Army and accelerated through the training and ranks. He became the crew chief for black hawks in a special unit and was soon to start pilot training. He was sent to places like Africa and Afghanistan on missions he never really talked about.

He was a friend who was glad to see me when I came back to Kentucky - one of the few friends much younger then me who respected my life and didnt think I was too old to be cool to hang out with. He even danced with me at my best friend's preharvest festival and laughed the night away with all of us.

On Saturday, this strong, courageous friend of mine was in a motorcycle accident that broke his back and rendered him screaming and crying in a hospital bed.

Today I watched him struggle valiantly to rotate his legs, one at a time, slowly, for ten reps each. Slowly, he succeeded, one hand gripping his mother's, the other, Katie's. He breathed deeply with his eyes closed and at the end of each set of reps, his physical therapist said, "Now take a break" and Catlin exhaled and his whole body shook.

Next, the PT put one hand on the bottom of Catlin's foot and one hand under his knee. For ten reps, he lifted Catlin's leg up, then down.

"Higher," said Catlin through gritted teeth. "Hold it right there.".

"It burns but it feels so good," he moaned. At the end of ten reps each leg, his PT asked him to raise his leg himself. He did it. Twice each leg.

There was a murmur of excitement through the room and a shuffling of applause as we celebrated his efforts but tried not to break his concentration. He drank deeply after each exercise as if he'd just run the 9 miles he was accustomed to running every day.

Tomorrow he is supposed to stand for the first time in 9 days. Speaking through the pain meds today, he was confident he'll be able to.

We are all sure of it.

Katie and I left his room in the step-down unit today feeling very blessed that our friend is alive and relieved that his determination is shining through.

I feel blessed to be able to stand next to him and cheer him on.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Driving in Austin this past weekend and in small towns around Austin, I realized once again how expansive my backyard is. It spans thousands of miles and states.

Here I was, in Texas, driving by where Micah used to play baseball, the Dennys we always stopped at before our flights, the cafe I've eaten in too many times to count, the Movie Gallery and Dominoes pizza that kept us entertained, the church where dear friends are and where mom and my stepdad were married, the gas station we frequented on our way to church. Familiar highways and roads and landmarks.

It's been a little over two years since I was in the Texas Hill Country but it felt like yesterday, really.

While we were driving to the airport (a drive that brought back tons of memories!), I was impressed (again) with the feeling of being blessed.

Blessed that I have a church family in three different states.

Blessed that I have some of the most amazing, wonderful friends and that they're EVERYWHERE - literally. Right now, off the top of my head, I could visit friends in Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Ohio, various cities in Kentucky, Nashville, various towns in New Mexico and Texas, Washington State, Washington DC, Idaho, Atlanta, Indiana, Illinois, Alabama...

I consider myself blessed to have experienced the clear rivers in Idaho, the rain of Oregon, the humidity of Tennessee, the farmland of Illinois, the tablelands of Texas, the New Mexico mountains and sunsets, the historical beauty of the Capitol, the frozen wonderland of Minnesota and Wisconsin...

It used to bother me - the fact that I'm from nowhere and everywhere. That I don't have a hometown. That I don't have a graduating highschool class. That I don't have a church I was raised in. That I don't have a smalltown reputation. That I don't have the-place-I-grew-up place to take a future lover to in some effort of him knowing me better.

If I were to take my currently imaginary male friend to the place I grew up, we'd have to embark on a very long, cross country road trip.

But that doesn't sadden me anymore.

He would get to see the Clearwater River in Idaho where, as a teenager, I watched salmon jump from the river and saw moose and bear come to drink from it.

We would drive by an old farmhouse in a cornfield in Illinois where my little sister was born and my little brother broke his arm.

We'd visit houses in Minnesota that I helped roof and side.

We would visit a gopher field in Montana where I was impacted with the real realization and understanding that God is my Father.

I would take him to the edges of a compound in Texas where I witnessed men abusing their wives and remember my mother being called a Jezebel in front of an entire congregation.

We would visit a now-deserted campground in Kentucky where I learned to like beer and country dancing and riding horses for 8 hours a day just for the hell of it.

I'd take him to a farmhouse in Indiana where my youngest brother was born and where I watched Chuck Norris on TV.

We'd probably make a pit-stop in Wisconsin and visit my first college, the site of my first job, where I bought my first car, had my first crush.

Then we'd plunge south to New Mexico where I learned so much about myself and what I was really made of.

We'd drive by my family's old house in Kentucky where we learned to be normal and where we made mistakes in the process. I'd take him to my alma-mater and the barn I used to live in. He'd be introduced to all my friends.

Then Yellowstone where I remember as a kid, using the public bathrooms and locking up our food to keep it from the bears.

And Oregon, where, as a 9-year-old, I felt the arms of Jesus around me.

And Washington, where I experienced my first desire for a spiritual shepherd - and where I hand-quilted my first quilt.

There are so many unmentioned places. They all come rushing back in moments like this when I close my eyes.

And that's how I would take him to my hometown because my hometown is nowhere and everywhere.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Spend your delay in a bar and make friends

I left work yesterday just in time to make it to the airport for my 7:30 p.m. flight. Obtaining my boarding pass and making it through security was a breeze, despite a nagging thought in the back of my head that I'd forgotten something. But that nagging thought has been with me for the past three weeks so I don't really pay attention to it anymore.

When I went to my gate, I saw a big fat "DELAYED" sign over our departure time. I stood in line at the counter behind two very angry passengers who were pissed off that the airline hadn't called them to inform them of the delay. The man at the counter was calling in reinforcements when he saw me standing there.

"I'm going to help this lady," he told the two gentlemen in front of me. He motioned me to come up to the counter.

One of the guys was still mouthing off to him so the guy said, "Well, I'm sorry that we don't have extra planes."

I walked up to the counter and said, "I have an extra plane." It made him smile and that's what I was after. I mean, seriously, people, such is life when you're traveling. Lighten up.

He told me our plane was stuck in Baltimore and that it'd be like 8:45 by the time it landed in Nashville and about 9:10 when we took off. It was, at that time, 6:40.

I went and sat at the kiddie table, which was behind the airline counter. I had my newspaper and started reading.

But, on the other side of the partition, I could hear lots of yelling and Calm People trying to talk to Angry People. This was gonna get good.

I spotted a row of empty chairs that faced the customer airline counter and I made a beeline for them. I wasn't the only one. I sat with a group of five people who chose those seats for the same reason I had. Who knew I wasn't the only nosy one around?

So we spent the next 45 minutes or so laughing at the people who were so angry, talking about our travels, the weather, football, eavesdropping on the conversations taking place at the counter, until their flight was ready to take off. We said goodbye, like friends at airports do. They went on with their lives. I picked up my purse and went on with mine.

I decided I needed coffee. So I found a Starbucks and ordered my caramel machiato. On my way back to my gate, I saw the Louisville football game was playing at the bar at O'Charleys. My best friend was at that game so I decided to stop in and watch. You know, show my Kentucky pride. :)

The bartender told me it was a one-drink minimum to sit at the bar. Okay. That wouldn't be a problem.

"If you don't drink it, we will," said the middle-aged woman sitting two chairs to my left. We laughed.

There were four of us at the bar. Tyler, a soldier who just got back from Iraq and was heading home to see his parents for the first time since February. Jenn, an HR director for a company in Kansas City was headed to Austin to visit her brother. Logan, a 21-year-old who took full advantage of his drinking prowess as a 21-year-old, was headed home to Austin. And me.

We were all just trying to get there and we were all severely waylaid. And we all decided to make the most out of it.

And we did.

I actually left my purse, my phone, my coffee, and my drink with these people while I went to the bathroom. Tyler did the same. And then Jenn.

We talked about family, work, our futures, our hobbies. Jenn, being the oldest one, gave us advice. Tyler and I talked about our familie's ranches. Logan was drunk and funny.

We whittled down our waiting time till it was time to board and the bar was closing up. Jenn saved a seat for me on the plane. We sat together, had a couple drinks and made friends with the people around us. Dave, a sales guy from Austin, gave me his number and told me to text him. He reminded me again when we were getting our luggage.

Jenn grabbed her suitcase and disappeared with her husband. I walked away with her phone number and e-mail address and her encouragement that she may know a couple people who might be interested in giving me some freelance/contract work.

I'm not sure where Logan was. I think he passed out on the plane.

And Tyler's with his family on the ranch for the next four days.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Memory Foam AND Underwire

There's not many things I would go half-naked in public for.

But today when I tried on Victoria's Secret new Body Full Coverage MEMORY FOAM bra, the thought actually crossed my mind: "what a shame to hide one of mankind's most noteworthy creations under a shirt." And I actually considered just walking around in my bra the rest of the day just so that people (everyone!) could see and even feel, if they wanted to, the most wonderful thing that is now in my possession.

I mean, if I have to lug these things around all day, the least I deserve is the comfort and support of MEMORY FOAM.


There's a special jewel in someone's heavenly crown for a gift of this magnitude.

And, P.S.
The MEMORY FOAM bra also has under-wire.

Genius, I tell you. genius.

Conversations with The Nanny Children

Here's some snippets of conversations over the past couple days:

Josey to me from the backseat: "My dad has a knife."
Me: "Really?"
Josey: "Yeah. He said he's going to cut Riot's penis off."
Me: "Why is he going to do that?"
Josey: "My dad was upset. Riot peed in my backyard. My dad said if Riot peed in my backyard again, he was going to cut his penis off."

Last night at Cracker Barrel:
Waitress to Josey: "How old are you?"
Josey: "I'm FIVE!"
Waitress: "Are you in kindergarten?"
Josey: "Yes. I have a backyard."

At the laundrymat:
Me to Riot: "Stop scratching your butt!" (for the tenth time)
Riot: "But my butt hurts!"

At Cracker Barrel:
Josey (eating her FIRST bite of corn!): "This is making my tummy so proud."

Monday, September 28, 2009

I'm blogging from bed tonight. And from my phone, my Blackberry, my very trusted companion and lifeline to my world.

I'm back tonight from visiting "old" college friends who live in Louisville. This was a much-needed and long overdue visit, really! And honestly, I didn't want to leave. They're the kind of friends who, even though I hadn't seen them in like 1.5 or maybe 2 years, being with them was just normal and we pick up where we left off. That's a real gift.

And actually, I saw them last weekend too. :). They let me stay a night when I was driving home from my sister's baby shower in Ohio.

One thing I appreciate about them is that they like each other - and they're married! But I could totally tell that even with their ninth wedding anniversary approaching (I read the blanket, Devona!) they're still friends who joke and laugh and talk about football incessantly and say "I love you" when they hang up the phone. I was blessed being with them.

So tonight is about friends, about couples who love each other, and about peace. Because I really needed and loved the peace at their house.

Plus, I just really love their house. It's nearly 100 years old. When you walk in, you feel like you're being hugged by a century-old human being with wide baseboards, ornate trim, a parlor and a staircase with 14 stairs.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Friday, September 18, 2009


I feel like a silly college student again, trying to pull an all-nighter. Only this time I'm not silly. I'm not a college student and I have a much, much older body.

But still, I (basically) was up all. night. last night. all.night.

I told the Adults that I would watch Josey and Riot so they could go to a concert. They wanted the kids to spend the night with me but I had a meeting pronto this morning that I had to get ready for. Plus, packing and getting ready for a weekend trip. So I said spending the night wasn't going to work but the kids could stay and the Adults could pick them up on their way home.

I did not know that was going to be 4 a.m.

But I should've figured.

Riot fell asleep at 10:30 like a normal human being. I started gearing Josey up for bedtime but that word means n-o-t-h-i-n-g to her and she looked at me, half-confused.

Finally, at 1:30 a.m., I caved and plugged Spongebob in. She sat in a chair in front of the TV, I laid on the couch and tried to sleep. But I couldn't -not without either my pain meds or tylenol pm and I couldn't take either since I'd have to be driving to meet the Adults for the kid-trade-off.

There's nothing worse then being in pain (OH! my legs, my knees, my calves, my hip, my back!!!), and being oh, so tired and not being able to sleep or really even rest. Because every 90 minutes (at least) she'd come get me to put in a different movie.

At one point, I (a totally chill/not violent person!) wanted to hurl the DVD player out the window when it wouldn't play like TWELVE DVDs in a row. Seriously, work with me! Not even cussing helped.

By about 1:40, I became a not-nice person. She was laying on the couch, whining, fake-coughing, telling me she missed her mom and dad and honestly, I could've cared less. I tried to refrain from telling her that. Instead, I implemented a count-down system where, by the count of three, she better dry it up or she'd "have something to cry about." I'd get to 2 and she'd say, "Okay, I'm drying my tears." (trust me, she was really fine. this is one of her manipulation tools when things aren't going her way.) Next, we did some deep breathing and that worked.

Hour upon hour of Spongebob.

At 2:30, I made her come back on the couch and lay down.

At 3, she said, "Holly, what are you doing?"

I bit back. "I'm trying to sleep, Josey. That's what normal people do at 3 in the morning."

Her dad called at 3:15, said they were about 20 minutes away from our meeting point. I packed the kids up and we were at the gas station 10 minutes early.

She was still hours away from sleep.

I got home at 4 a.m., slept till 7:10 and have been at it ever since.

I'm surprised I'm still functioning. And there hasn't been a tearful meltdown yet.

That's probably coming at some point. Soon.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

How Weed Changed My Sunday

I love weed.

Or, at least I love the way it changed my day today.

Katie and I have been looking forward to today, Sunday, since last week when she text me and said there was a church about an hour away that she wanted to check out. Of course, I said I would go with her and so we've been waiting - waiting for today to come. We almost didn't embark on our Sunday adventure due to weariness both in body and soul but I left the decision up to Katie and she said, "I think I'd regret not going."

Boy, was she right.

So we arrive at afore-mentioned church at approximately 10:20 a.m., just in time for the 10:30 service and just after the 9:45 continental breakfast, which we'd joked about attending. Another reason why Katie chose this church was because of their slogan, "Our only dress code is please do." And just before we pulled into this church's parking lot we passed another church who's slogan read, "The church you've been looking for." If we only knew how true that was.

I got out of my car at the Weed Church (as it has been dubbed by muah) and smell something burning. Me, in my pea-brain-ness though, "I wonder what the hell is wrong with my car."

Ahem. Nothing.

I went over to Katie's side where she was getting Evalyn out of her carseat and she mumbled, "Do you smell that?"

"Um, yeah," I replied, glancing at my car's hood.

"It's weed," she said, hardly containing her smile.

"Oh, you're right, it is!"

And we both breathed deeply...and rapidly...and then deeply again.


(my mom's first comment was, "I don't want to know how you know how weed smells." I distinctly remember riding on tailgates through campgrounds and my friends trying to "point" out the smell of burning weed but I couldn't get the drift and by the time I knew what they were talking about the smell was gone and the only thing you could hear was me asking, "What?! Who's smoking pot? Where?" The other times I've been educated on the Burning Weed Smell is walking into my narcotic detective friend's office and him going, "Smell that weed?" Yeah.)

The smell at the Weed Church was not a passing whiff. It hung around and hung around and I kept looking in the car next to us and around us trying to find a happy person. None could be found.

"Do you want to leave?" I asked Katie.

No. She would rather wait until we were seated, until after the pastor had introduced himself, and the worship band was through their first song before she leaned over and whispered, "Let's go."

"Are you serious? Everyone's going to know we're gone!"

Yeah, she was serious. And I agreed.

I mean, it was terribly difficult to concentrate on anything, much less anything spiritual when all I could do was look around the room and wonder, "Who's high?"

"Instead of Where's Waldo," I whispered to Katie. "It's who's high?" Haha - okay, maybe it wasn't all that funny. :)

Katie and I have perfected our Church Escape Route.

I get an important phone call that takes me out of the service, out of the building and to my car. Katie gets worried and comes looking for me. And we're never to be seen again.

We migrated to the church next door - remember, the one with the slogan, "The church you've been looking for"? - and we sat through an amazing service with a sermon so rich and full of the power of the Holy Spirit. Wow. (I'll probably blog more about the sermon later when I've had time to digest some of it.)

And that's the story of how weed changed my Sunday - possibly, my life.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Gulf Shores '09

So, it's a little late for spring break and this beach trip was hardly reminiscent of any Spring Break most people usually take. But still, Gulf Shores '09 it was and will always be.

Basically, I've never taken a beach vacation in the summer time. One Christmas, our family went to Galveston Island but walks on the beach then included a lightweight jacket and definitely no swimming. Then in March one year I visited my best friend in North Carolina and while we enjoyed the beach, it just wasn't the same.

But this time, I swam in the ocean, got sunburned one day, enjoyed live music in open bungalow-style restaurants, had drinks paid for by rich Southern gentlemen and their ladies, and indulged in a late-night ocean swim sans some clothing. It was perfection.

I read a book that I've heard so much about but never read. "Their Eyes Were Watching God". I realized how old I am when I actually WANTED to read this book after realizing that many high school and college students this year are being forced to do so. But I loved the book, nonetheless. And managed not to drown it in the Gulf. The library would've been PISSED.

Other things came out of the trip:

- I want to start a book club with my friends
- my friend, Kim, "usually doesn't like crabs but..."
- we love to people watch. And one of our quotes of the day came from a heavily intoxicated old lady in a sundress who said to her companions, "when the waiter comes for our drinks, I want EVERYTHING!"
- I ate the finest meal I've had in a restaurant in a l-o-n-g time. It was stuffed flounder with New Orleans beans and rice. I mean, seriously - the best meal. It came from the Original Oyster House.

It was also during this trip I had to purchase my first prescription pain medicine for Lyme-related pain. That was slightly discouraging. My body simply could not handle the 10-hour drive down there and by the time we arrived on Friday, I felt numb and exhausted from being in so much pain for so long. The trip home was much more comfortable thanks to the meds.

So, the long and the short of it is, I love the ocean and I really didn't want to leave. What I didn't love so much was the tourism and all the people and stuff so I decided that paradise, really, would be a private island with a private beach and lots of mountains surrounding me.

A girl can dream, right?!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sick girl

Josey has been genuinely sick since Friday. And when I saw genuinely, I mean, it's not a bumped knee blown out of proportion or a pin-prick size red spot on a toe that deserves vet wrap and a band-aid. No, she's ran a fever since Friday and her legs hurt.

So today, for about five-and-a-half hours, I sat with her at her house. Mainly, we snuggled on the couch and slept. I got up at intervals to unload/reload the dishwasher, bring her sprite and cook scrambled eggs. But otherwise, we were planted on the couch. I left one time, when she was asleep, to go outside and talk to her mom and when I came in, Josey met me at the door.

"Holly, I was looking for you," she said.

We snuggled and napped some more.

Here's the proof:

Before I left, she said, "Holly, I'll miss you. Will you come pick me up tomorrow?"

Of course I will.

Friday, August 28, 2009


How many feel burdened, completely overwhelmed, stressed, exhausted, numb - raise your hand.

Mine is raised.

I told you a week or so ago that the past eight days had been emotional and rough. The eight days or so following that haven't been as bad but it's like the calm after the storm. Yeah, it's calm but there's a lot of clean-up and work to be done still.

Katie has her house, which was a huge answer to prayer. Then it was painting, laying new carpet, moving stuff in while at the same time, taking Ev to and from school, a doctor's appointment in Nashville, a yard sale on Saturday - all the while, with two babies underfoot. There have been times where we all have wanted to ... put socks in their mouths? Hire a babysitter? Give them away?

Exhaustion has turned to numbness, stress has morphed into a heavy object that just rides around on our backs, our good attitudes have run short and we've been bitchy at each other and the people around us.

But we are (stuck) in this together and we fight through.

That's the beauty of friends and family, right?

My Niece, the Communicator

Meet Evalyn - my absolutely spoiled-to-the-hilt niece who, despite the fact that no words come out of her mouth, keeps the household marching to her tune and lets everyone know the way things are (and aren't!) going to be.

The Stats:
Age: three years, two months, and 12 days old
Weight: 17-18 pounds
Height: not quite sure
Special factor: she has cerebral palsy
Education: two weeks, three days into preschool
Informal education: being a part of the Wise family for three years, two months and 12 days

Evalyn's wish is our command. And by 'our' I mean everyone who is in a ten-foot diameter of her at any given time. It could be her desire for you to look at her, to speak to her, to get away from her, to pick her up, hand her to her mom, come closer, walk further away....if she knows what she wants she's going to communicate it to you. Somehow, someway.

Her forms of communication vary but she's got a few commands through hand signals, tongue signals and noises that we all recognize.

Tongue out of the mouth/to the Side, Hands Partially Raised:
This is just a warning signal that she's getting irritated. She'll turn her head all the way to the left, stick her tongue out and start squawking. Usually, a change of position or acknowledging her will bring a smile and she'll be good.

Eyes wide/hands flung out, shaking/voice elevated
You're screwed if it gets to this point. She can go from zero to 60 in about, uh, two seconds. One minute she's fine, the next she is PISSED. Usually this is because you've had the audacity to a) leave her in her chair or 2) not responded to her signal of wanting attention. There will be no tears in this stage but even after you pick her up, there will be many sniffles (among the smiles!) to remind you that you should really always just listen to her the first time.

Evalyn loves to smile. That's her main form of communication when it comes to expressing her pleasure over something. Even when she's sad, if you talk to her and tell her good things, she will give you a teary-eyed smile.

Poochy Lip:
The poochy lip used to be for everything that she didn't like but with her other communicative signals, she reserves the poochy lip just for the most serious offenses that really hurt her feelings. Things like: when Mommy is trying to type on the computer while holding her with the other hand, when Mommy tries to do anything that doesn't involve 100% attention devoted to her. But mostly when she wants everyone in her vicinity to look at her, that's when she'll whip out the poochy lip. Who can resist that?!

Since she started school, Evalyn has taken to gut-wrenching laughter/near hysteria. And in true form, it mostly has to do when people get hurt (this is where her informal education comes into play!) Our closest friends aren't surprised at this recent development of Evalyn's humor - they all just look at us and say, "She has your dimented humor!" And it's true. Her teacher told us on Monday that one of the little kids grabbed the teacher's aide's foot and almost tripped her. No one else laughed but...Evalyn, who thought it was hilarious. And when we were sitting at the dinner table one night last week and Katie said "penis" you'd have thought she'd just told the funniest joke EVER. The funny part was that Evalyn was the only one who laughed at it but then when we started laughing because she was laughing, she just carried on. That moment was probably her most three-year-old moment yet.

Though words don't come out, Evalyn will concentrate so hard on forming her lips to make sounds come out when she's trying to tell us something. Usually, she does this when she's been away from one of us or when something important has happened. The last time she did this for me was yesterday when I had to pick her up from school because of a poochy lip episode that her teachers couldn't get her out of. By the time I got to the school, she was fine and she even started laughing when I put her in her carseat. On the way home, she told me her version of the story. But I still contend that she has every single teacher right where she wants them - in the vortex of her every whim. Basically, she just didn't want to be at school and figured the best way to get picked up was to poochy lip it the whole time until we were called. It worked.

Dirty Looks:
If there were a queen or a princess of dirty looks, Evalyn would be stiff competition. If you piss her off to the point that she deems it necessary you get a dirty look, I can only hope that you fall within her good graces soon. Boy, she'll wrinkle those eyebrows and cut her eyes over at you and then look away. You can feel your heart-hairs being singed.

Pre-falling out of bed cry:
Mind you, Evalyn is mostly immobile and I say "mostly" because for whatever reason, she can wriggle her way out of her bed and onto the bean bag by her bed. She never moves that much, I swear. Now she has a special cry she customized just for the moment where her legs are hanging over her six-inch high bed and she's ready to tumble to the bean bag but she wants you to run in and save her. She just developed that in the last week or so.

There isn't much this kid doesn't understand. She'll be throwing a huge fit while sitting in her chair or laying on the floor. AS SOON as you say, "Evaly, do you want me to pick you up?" she stops. I mean, STOPS. And if you ask her to, she'll hold her hands out to you.

So, those are, in some form or another, Evalyn's forms of communication. With all those, is there really a need for her to talk?

But after her third day of school, her teacher, teacher's aide and a classmate told Katie that Evalyn said, "Hi" that day at school.

A-mazing. I can't wait to hear more of that voice.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Big Helper!

Inbetween helping (learning how to do) laundry, Josey and I danced in the laundry room to songs like John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" and "Rosemary's Granddaugher". Her giggles and laughter were evident of her being thrilled over turning help-time into playtime too. Plus, what girl doesn't like to dance in the laundry room?

But then it was back to work:

She's been quite vocal tonight and in what I like to call "normal English" and not just her baby talk. I had to explain to her that we were going to "Katie's new house" and when we pulled in the driveway, she exclaimed from the backseat, "Wow, it's big! I wanna see everything!" When she walked through the house, she kept saying, "It smells so good in here!"
I let her help me paint a part of the wall and she held the tape while we taped off the kids' room. She went in one of the bedrooms and asked, "who sleeps here?" I said, "this is Katie's room."
"Where are you going to sleep?" she asked. I told her probably with Katie.
And then she looked at me and said, "Well, where's my room then?"
She ran to the back bedroom, spun a circle in the middle of the floor and yelled, "THIS is my room!!"
I love her.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Snuggle Bunnies

Today was a day I spent nannying Josey and Riot in-her-house, which I managed to survive mostly because we were busy, busy, busy planning, cleaning, baking cupcakes, decorating cupcakes, making Happy Birthday banners and twirling crepe paper for a two-year-old's birthday party. Otherwise, I'd have probably lost my mind. Being in their house for any length of time usually conjures up memories of being stuck there for hours on end and results in a clausterphobic (sp?) episode of get-me-out-of-here! But today I managed to avoid that.

My nanny task of the day was to plan and execute this birthday party for a little boy who just turned two - his mother is also a friend of mine so it was indeed a pleasure. Plus, it made me feel good to see Josey and Riot so excited about doing something fun for someone else. They even hid with party-blowers and yelled SURPRISE when Allan walked in the door. Pretty priceless - made my mama-like heart proud.

What did not make me proud was the fact that I only bought 10 stars for the Happy Birthday banner. I distinctly remember standing in the line at Wal-Mart counting down H-A-P-P-Y B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y on my fingers - only to come up three short?!

And then I was using the balloon pump on one of the balloons (which, really, is not worth the $2.75 it costs) and COULD NOT figure out why the balloon wasn't getting any I looked. And it had a hole in the end of it. Mind you, this was after about, oh, 45 seconds of me furiously pumping the balloon pump, which I ended up ditching anyway because I figured out I could manually blow up the balloons faster.

When Riot pooped and peed his pants today, I could pass it off to his mom. But when I asked him, "why did you do that?" He said, "Josey made me." The excuses this kid has are priceless!

My exhaustion was not clearly evident to me today until I went to town to pick up the birthday pizza I'd ordered. Okay, Dominoes is pretty much in the middle of town. I drove from one end of town to the very other end of town before I realized where I was and what I was doing and that I needed to backtrack. But even when I backtracked, I still overcompensated by a few streets and still did not end up where I needed to be. Finally, I did. There's this symptom of Lyme Disease called "forgetting where you're going and not knowing how to get there." Yeah, that was totally me. I'm just not sure how much of it was LD and how much of it was the fact my brain had pretty much shut down.

As it is trying to do now. I'm fully prepared to collapse onto my bed (where my heating pad is warmed up!) and sleep.

But first, a picture of Josey and I's snuggle bunny moment today. She's been a little clingy lately and loves it when I take pictures of us together on my phone. We sat on the couch for a few minutes this afternoon while we watched a movie and she (again) special-requested I "take a picture!" So I did. And here it is.