To Leap or Fall Flat with Guido

So, I'm reading this book "Leap," by Sara Davidson.  It's all about answering the question "What will we do with the rest of our lives?"  My buddy, Ellen, lent it to me saying "I'm still not sure what I think about it...It might be depressing...But I thought about you because she's a writer who went through a phase where she couldn't write.  But I don't know..."


I took it to the hair salon.  There, beneath the dryer, I forswore People to read Leap.

So far it sounds like life's a bitch and then you die. Sometimes you find meaning and purpose but sometimes you just drop dead. I haven't finished the book yet, so maybe the "Happy Ending" is coming. You know me, I want "The Answer" and this book is all about the process and finding your own answer.

Davidson interviews quite a few famous people, like Carly Simon, and considers moving to Costa Rica and living in a compound along with some of her other aging friends.

Then there are the people she interviews who have a plan and work it- only to drop dead.

I'm reading the part about sex and aging just as my pretty, young, hairdresser walks by.  "Figured out the rest of your life yet?" she asks.

I smile weakly thinking, just you wait...

I'm reading about sex and aging.  A guy risks sex with his wife after a heart attack, each time telling her goodbye just before the "golden moment" because it's worth the risk.  A group of women find other women to help them find their "sacred spot." The author tries learning to tango as a way to find physical closeness.

I sink down into my chair and feel hopeless.  Ellen was right.  This book is depressing.

It's not just the aging thing.  It's life.  We have so much riding on it, so many high expectations.  Aging sounds like the let down you sometimes feel on Christmas afternoon, after the presents are all opened.  Someone's always singing "The party's over..."

I think I'll write my own book on life and getting old. 

I don't know famous people, but I know lots of old guys.  Here's what I'd say...

There's no Fairy Godmother...Instead, you get grandchildren and dessert.  Deal with it.

To quote Grandma Alice, "Life ain't hard, honey.  You make it hard."

My friends aren't moving to South America with me. 

We're buying an old motel and fixing it up.  We each get a room of our own.

And we'll hire a gorgeous couple, Guido and Ursula, to take care of us. Ursula will do the things we don't want a man doing, the personal, icky stuff, while Guido does the heavy lifting- like carrying us outside to our rocking chairs.

Sure, I know Medicare covers the cost of a battery-operated wheelchair, but it doesn't smell as good as Guido.

If I'm not demented, I'm saying all the stuff I don't say now and pretending it's because I'm nuts.  I want to be like the little man who looked up at me after I returned to the nursing home from vacation and said "My God! You got old!"

And if I am truly demented or have Alzheimer's- No one's allowed to speak to me as if I'm a toddler.  Furthermore, if I think Ursula's my mother, Ursula has to go along with it. 

If I think Guido's the Prince of....Well, you get my drift. If I say we live on an alien space ship, no one's allowed to disabuse me of the notion. 

I hate when well-meaning staff or relatives try to tell one of my old guys we're not on the old home place and their mother's really dead. It breaks their heart.

Life's too short to die with a broken heart.



Nursing Home Tuesday- Choking to Death on Red Tape



She is referred to me because she cries a lot.

I've seen her around the nursing home where I consult one day a week. She shuffles slowly, mumbling to herself, occasionally asking "Where do I go?"

The third time I saw her, wandering and lost, tears coursing down her cheeks, I asked about her.  "She's got Alzheimer's and she thinks her husband's left her for another woman," I was told.

The next time I saw her crying I went up and asked if I could help. "Oh, no. I'm alright," she said softly and slowly walked away.

Finally, they referred her to me. "But not really," they said. "We want your nurse to give her meds. We don't think she would remember anything long enough for therapy to help her."

I met her husband. And the kids. No one is leaving. They love her.

So I spent 3 weeks trying to track her down so I could evaluate her.  Today I finally caught up with her as she shuffled slowly down a hallway, searching for her room.

And guess what?

She knows exactly what is going on- or at least she did today. Of course, that changes day-to-day, moment-to-moment with Alzheimer's patients.  Sometimes they are right there with you, at least in the early to middle stages.

Maggie is in the most horrible stage of Alzheimer's.  She knows she is slowly losing her mind. 

Her husband isn't leaving her.  Her children aren't going anywhere.  It's Maggie who is leaving.

She sits in her armchair on her half of the room, her white hair hanging loose around her bony shoulders, wringing her hands.

"I wish I could die," she sobbed.  "I can go along for 2 or 3 days, taking care of myself and then...it's all gone."

"I used to take care of people. I used to have everything in its place and now..."

Maggie tells me she'd rather be dead than be a burden.

I look into her eyes and consider lying. It would be so easy to say some soft platitude that would carry her past this phase, into the lost woods of nothingness. But when I stare into her gray eyes I realize Maggie is too smart for this, too aware and too honest for well-intentioned lies.

"There are medications that will help," I hear my coward self say.

"But for how long?" Maggie whispers.

Don't you dare lie to her! I tell myself.

"I don't know," I answer. "It's very scary, losing your memories, isn't it?"

She is crying softly, nodding. "Yes."

Beneath her grief, there is something else.  Maggie is accustomed to being needed.  Here, in the nursing home, she is warehoused, a body sentenced to wait for death.

You know what the hell of it is? I could easily help Maggie.

I could get any one of the friendly aides to let Maggie "help" them, like she used to do for the families around town...But the State won't allow it. They say it is an abuse.

The ladies who have folded towels, cared for children, cooked and cleaned for a lifetime, who have valued their ability to care for their families, are sentenced to sitting around waiting to die because allowing them to clean is deemed "demeaning."

Isn't telling them this just another form of abuse?

These women don't want to bat balloons around in activity therapy, or sing stupid kindergarten songs, or paint pictures. They want their lives back.

When Alzheimer's patients use their hands, it coaxes flagging memories forward. It delays the process- I truly believe this and the research supports it. Having purpose and meaning promotes self-worth. It restores dignity.

We let the demented woman who went to Juliard play the piano. She has lost the capacity for speech but she can play brilliantly.

Still, we won't let the other ladies "help" because it's an "abuse."

Well the Piano Lady's free entertainment. Could we not make the case that playing the piano is exploitation of this poor woman's talent?

Give me a freaking break!

Damn it!

Thank God there are people where I work who will listen and try to find ways around a rigid system that means well but sucks the life out of all of us.


Okay, done ranting. Thanks for listening.




Mementos From Memorial Day...




The dogs viewed the Memorial Day festivities from the safety of their backyard sanctuary.  Inside, a fierce game of Mexican Train Dominoes broke out.




Oh yeah, it was a real wild weekend...


Strawberry Rocket Science


It was a lovely day for picking strawberries...Ellen and her husband, Jim, joined Mert and me at the strawberry patch.





We all gathered baskets and baskets full of plump, ripe berries...


The next day, once we'd washed and topped them all, it was time to make jam.

Ellen graciously agreed to shepherd Mert and me through making our first batch of jam. I made the mistake of telling the social workers at the nursing home that I was leaving early to go learn this new skill.

They looked at me with blank, disbelieving stares which I took to mean "What kind of dummy can't make jam?"  They're good ole country gals, so I mistakenly assumed they knew how to make jelly in their sleep. (Talk about stereotyping!)

"Well, I know," I said. "It's not rocket science but..."

"Oh no," one said, heading me off. "I can't do it. It's not as easy as you think."

"No it isn't," agreed the other. "I don't even try."

I left thinking, hmmm...really?  Making preserves is hard? I mean, don't you just add some stuff that makes it gel and do something with boiling water so you don't kill people? (Not killing people is the tricky part, I figured.)

Then I mulled over a few things Ellen had said to me the day before-

"Don't wash them til the day of," she'd said. "They'll get soft. We don't want them too soft."

"The jars and the lids need to be hot." Actually, she probably said just the lids but we did everything.

We sanitized the counter.  In fact, we removed everything from my kitchen counter just in case making jelly involved needing an area as large as a surgical suite and just as clean.

Ellen arrived, inspected everything and said, "Boil water."

Just like when you're birthin' babies.

"Not that much!" she said, when I pulled out a stock pot. "Just enough for the lids."

She felt the lids, seemed to confirm something to herself and then said, "Go on and boil it anyway."

We mashed berries until our arms were about to fall off only to have Ellen peer into the bowl with a troubled expression. "Hmm," she murmured. "I don't know about that juice. There sure is a lot of it." 

We measured exactly. We timed things. We scurried around like the anxious virgins we were, hurrying to do her bidding  and worrying about "the juice factor," until Ellen finally had to laugh at us and calm us down.

And then, suddenly, like magic, it was all over. 

Nine little jars sat on the counter, slowly "popping" as their little tops sucked in and sealed.



Last night's supper- biscuits, butter and strawberry preserves.


Thank you, Ellen!



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Where is my Weekend?


Where did the weekend go? Up, up and away it seems.

Oh well. Time marches on and the garden sure shows it.  The snow peas have a few tiny pods.


And one of the tomato plants is an "early bloomer."


And I still have no idea what this four-petaled flower is...


Or whose poop this is...


Ah, the sweet mysteries of country life.


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The Ranchette Reunion

The Ranchettes arrived bearing gifts...


How could we go wrong with new "Doublicious" Butterscotch Krimpets?

And while I had great, far-flung aspirations for our weekend, there just wasn't enough time to cover everything. Besides, home was far too full of unexplored mysteries.

After the musket ball discovery in the garden


we began the Big Explore in the woods.


Rattlesnake Flower

Lady Slipper

Lady Slipper

Pointed Blue-eyed Grass

Pointed Blue-eyed Grass

And a couple of flowers we just couldn't identify, even with the book and Google.

But I learned the bird nesting over the back door is a Phoebe.

And we did see some of the local scenery.


Including the view from Joe's deck...


We reminisced with the Ranchettes' standard drink of choice, daiquiris, the first night but moved on to Mojitos for Saturday.

It was a lovely, lovely afternoon- We planted seedlings in the garden, sipped our drinks and...unlike our former, much younger, selves...

I'm ashamed to report...

We were in bed and asleep by 10 p.m.


And we'd only had 2 Mojitos a piece.

All too soon, it was over and they were on their way back north.



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Great Musket Balls O Fire!


Look what I found in the garden!


It's a musket ball, isn't it? I Googled musket ball images and they look just like it.


It was in the garden bed by the old walnut tree that had to be cut down.



That's the other side.

I was planting flowers and waiting for the Ranchettes to arrive for our big Reunion weekend.  I hope they're not lost...

In the meantime, out of the ashes of the old fire pit come the lilies and the gardenia.  It's amazing.




It's fun turning the Uglies into Greeners.

The pond is full of Peeps- future "Knee Deeps" the local nickname for Bull Frogs because of the sound they make. "Knee deep, knee deep."




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What to Do, What to Do...


Tomorrow's the big day.  The Ranchette Reunion begins tomorrow around dark-thirty...Too late to make the scene at in Floyd. They'll be sick of riding in a car anyway...That gives me Saturday and Saturday night to give them a good taste of Franklin and Floyd Counties.

Help! Where to go, What to do?

I know we'll have to go see Joe's puppies.  Betsy One is already talking about how she really shouldn't get another dog but...



puppies are just sooo cute!  Half Blue Tick Hound, half Yellow Lab...and the sweetest dog in the known Universe to boot.

Maybe we'll drop by the White Lightnin' Museum.

Maybe we'll wander around Floyd.

But surely I'm overlooking something unusual and wonderful...any ideas?


A Day Without Music is Like...


I realized something a few weeks ago. I'd somehow managed to almost banish music from my day-to-day world.  Music- once the most important connection I had to my inner self. I sang. I wrote songs. I always had a song in my head, if not on my stereo.

If I needed to know what I was really worrying about, or celebrating, or needing, I had only to stop and focus in on the tune I'd been humming mindlessly. It was always the key to my unconscious.

Somehow I'd let it go and quit listening.

I couldn't figure out why my creativity wasn't flowing. I use music as a way to relax my mind. If I'm filling my head with worries and to-do lists, how can I expect to invent new stories?

Lucky Pennies sent me a thank you for wishing her a happy birthday. In her note she said she'd read my profile and thought I had good taste in music. That was my big wake up call.

It was time to update and plug in the new i-Pod.


Here's a bit of what I've been listening to-


Steve Earle and Allison Moorer- Days Aren't Long Enough

Foy Vance- Be With Me

Jesus Jackson- Running on Sunshine

Front Porch String Band- Hearts Against the Wind

Crowded House-Better Be Home Soon

Kasey Chambers- On a Bad Day

Patty Griffin- Heavenly Day

Brandi Carlisle- Josephine

Kelly Willis- Don't Come the Cowboy With Me

Grey Eye Glances- One Day Soon



The Ranchettes Ride Again


Back in the day we were wild things...The Girls of the Rubber Rose Ranch. Betsy, the blonde on the left, was my bff before the phrase was even coined. We met when we were 5 and were best friends through thick and thin.

Later, in college, we all moved into a huge apartment above a print shop and became the Ranchettes. Betsy and The Other Betsy (second from the right) trained horses and I sang country music in bars and VFWs, so the ranch theme seemed appropriate.

We made frozen daiquiris for all our important celebrations and drank champagne whenever someone broke our hearts.

Then, after college, we scattered to follow our separate paths.

The picture above was taken at one of our early reunions.

It was right after Betsy's baby was born. The rest of us were single and amazed that one of the Ranchettes could produce a living human being. It meant one of us at least had grown up.

I was clearly in awe.


And Betsy seemed so...different and yet...the same...


Over the years we have grown up...But this weekend, up at the cabin, the two Betsys are coming for another reunion. This will be the first time in years we've all been together without kids and families and other interferences.

The world is our oyster.

We could cause serious trouble.

We might go into Floyd Saturday night and dance. We might ride horses again with one of my neighbors. We might even meet the moonshiner. You just never know with us.

The last time I saw Betsy we went to South Philly to see The Night Watchman (Okay, so The Youngest Unnamed One wanted to go and we were along for the ride. But it must be said, we had listened to his music and we did like him...especially without Rage Against the Machine)

Anyway, we were not having a tame evening. In fact- let's just say it took a lot of physical therapy and other medical rehab before Betsy was able to walk again without a bad limp.

A broken kneecap is nothing to sneeze at.

But then, we were in South Philly. Around there, a busted leg is just the price of doing business.

(Still, I promised her this time I'd do whatever it took to make sure nothing bad happened.)

So see, we Ranchettes take our reunions seriously. We're not lightweights.

We're women. We're probably low on estrogen. And we're still dangerous.

Southwest Virginians, consider yourselves warned...

rubber rose ranch2


Hooligans' Shenanigans on Mother's Day


The Hoolies are at it again. This time they've been playing with the camera.



This was on my computer this morning...followed by a homemade breakfast, then a movie "Baby Mama," and finally a fancy, French dinner at a local bistro. 

My favorite snippets from the day...

The sound of loud, boy voices coming from behind The Youngest's bedroom door after the Eldest realized he'd failed to bring dress shoes or pants and they were about to be late... Youngest "Stop throwing my clothes on the floor!" Then a scuffle and "If you do that again I'm going to punch you in the mouth!"

When I walk into the room The Eldest is struggling to fit into pants and shoes two sizes too small and the Youngest is yelling "I don't care if it is a Goodwill suit- it's disrespectful and if you do it again I will punch you!"

I am laughing because I haven't heard this sort of interchange in at few years and it brings back memories. It also seems to break the tension as now they think I'm the one losing it.

I offer to change into something less dressy and when I do, I say "There, do I look worse now?"

"Oh, thanks, Mom," the Eldest says. "You're saying we look bad!"

I assure them that isn't what I meant. I only meant, do I look more casual?

"Yeah, you look older."


The Eldest tries to extricate foot from mouth by saying, "Mom, you know what I mean!" And I do.



At the restaurant the Youngest says-

"Well, when the guy said beet and vegetable soup, I didn't think he meant beet soup with vegetables in it. I thought there might be a few pieces of cut up beets floating around in the vegetable soup, not this bright red stuff!"

The Eldest says "Hey, this is pomegranate-glazed chicken and I just remembered something. I think in 6th grade I was reading a book to the class and the teacher had a pomegranate cut open on her desk and it made my eyes water.  I think I'm allergic to it...No, I don't want to swap with you. I'm just telling you so that if we wind up in the emergency room, you should take pictures of my face swelling up."

"Are you on drugs?" I demand.

A few moments later he says, "I feel weird, kind of dizzy."

"You are on drugs, aren't you?!"

"No my thermostat is just momentarily off..."

He doesn't die or swell up and we make it to dessert...

"No, Mom, he did not say apple, bacon and chocolate chip ice cream.  He said apple and bacon ice cream and then chocolate chip ice cream."

Moments later- "Eww! What's this in my...Hey-there's bacon in with the chocolate chips!"

"Mom, imagine this...You're eating chocolate chip ice cream and suddenly you taste something that's the consistency of a fettuccini noodle! That was what the bacon was like in that ice cream!"

"Apple bacon chocolate chip ice cream," the Youngest muses. "Why does that even exist? I mean, what were they thinking? Well, they've got all the major food groups in there- meat, dairy, vegetables..."

"What vegetable?"

"Uh," he says..."apple?"

"You mean because it was green?" I ask.

The Eldest tries to rescue him. "Vanilla," he says. "It's a bean."

"And sugar," The Youngest adds, attempting to redeem himself.

This from the child whose first words were "Candy, believe it!" 

We escape into the early evening just as the sky opens up, drenching us thoroughly as we dart across the lot to the car.

"Well it can't get any worse," the Eldest says with a sigh.

I should've warned him never to say that...

When we get home we're briefly locked out in the downpour. Once inside, still laughing, we are rehashing the entire fiasco when the Youngest suddenly begins sniffing and moving.  "What stinks?" he demands, eyeing the big dog suspiciously. "Oh, God! It's the Goodwill Coat!"

He peels out of the offending jacket.  "This doesn't do well when it's wet," he informs us.

"Maybe they took it off him when they exhumed him," I say.


Well, I'm just saying...

It was a fabulous Mother's Day and I wouldn't trade a thing for it!




Cabin Life in the Green, Green Hills


I drove up to check on the cabin after Thursday night's storms.  While the kitchen fireplace was a bit waterlogged, everything else was fine.  Everything in the garden seemed to have grown a few inches in the span of only 5 days.



The rose I transplanted from home is beginning to bloom and one of the tomato plants has baby 'maters already.


Up the hill, Shannon's puppies were just beginning to open their eyes when I stopped by to see how his new house is coming along.062

As always, the view was awesome...




And tomorrow the Unnamed Ones are promising me breakfast in bed.  This hasn't happened since their elementary school days.  Hmmm...adolescent/college boys who routinely sleep 'til noon making Mom breakfast in bed?!


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There's Always Someone Out There...Watching

Maybe it's not the ghost of a moonshiner or a Confederate soldier haunting the land around the old cabin.

Maybe there really is someone out there watching...

Maybe now I know who it is...

Check this.