Monday, December 31, 2012

Look What The Wind Blew In

I know it's a stretch, but see those two dark blobs? That's them!
Flutter flutter, scratch scratch.

What's that?

It's morning at Padre Island National Seashore and I'm making the bed in our motorhome. That involves me climbing up on the mattress on my knees and crawling around like a 1-year-old to tuck in the sheets and stow the pillows overhead. And I hear "flutter flutter, scratch scratch.

What is it?

I sit back on my legs and look around.  And listen. There it goes again. Flutter flutter scratch scratch. I turn toward the sound. The window.

I think something's come lose in the window beside the bed. We had fierce winds all night that rocked Otto like a baby in a cradle. So it's possible something's come loose. 

I scootch over to the window to investigate and there!  I see two shadows inside the shade. Two M-shaped shadows. AND THEY MOVE!  SCRATCH SCRATCH SCRATCH.

BATS! BATS! Two bats took shelter from last night's storm by hiding inside our  windows that crank open and close like awnings. 

I inch closer and, nearly trembling, raise the shade a smidgeon and one of them LOOKS RIGHT AT ME. But, thank God, he's BEHIND the screen, and I think he's scared.

SCRATCH SCRATCH SCRATCH. He and his buddy disappear. Where did they go? OH, the window is open, just a hair. They must have flown out. I raise the shades all the way and crank the window open wide. Yep, I think they're gone.

Except now it's dusk, about nine hours after our first bat adventure and Allen cranks out the windows again, to get some air, and FLUTTER FLUTTER SCRATCH SCRATCH. They're still here!

But this time, he SEES them fly away, into the dark, AWAY from our motorhome.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

It's Always About Jacob

This looks exactly like Jacob's painful snack.
Jacob ate a Portuguese Man-O-War.

Yes, my 9-year-old standard poodle ate the little venomous, jelly fish-like creature and he's now shaking his head violently and slobbering massively. Bluish goo drips from his front teeth.

And there's nothing I can do about it.

We are about a mile from the motorhome, walking the beach and there is no one around. No one. The beach is empty, except for me, Allen, our other standard Joshua and poor pain-racked Jacob. 

Why is is always Jacob?

So far, Jacob has survived a New Mexican tussle with tumbleweed, which scratched his cornea (he had lunged into the brush after some animal and the tumbleweed attached itself to his face); food poisoning after eating God knows what on a long walk through the woods in Alabama; a traumatic toe injury on Padre Island National Seashore while trying to rustle a ghost crab from its den (he dug into the sand with such fury, that when he hit a piece of concrete, he snapped a toenail off) and the worst -- something he did absolutely nothing to cause -- cancer, which we got rid of when we had one of his left rear toes removed.

Now this. And we knew it was bound to happen.

At times, the Padre Island National Seashore beach serves up hundreds of small dead or dying Portuguese Man-O-War. We warn Jacob constantly "Don't eat that" but today we weren't watching and he did and now his mouth hurts from the stinging tentacles and we can do nothing about it but pity him.

We already know the consequences. A few years ago, when Jacob first tried to snarf up one of the gooey things, we asked a park ranger how safe it was. Well, he told us, he won't die, but his mouth sure will hurt for a while.

So, poor Jacob. He shakes and spits. It's 25 minutes until we finally reach an outdoor hose (at a fish cleaning station here on the island) and I wash out his mouth. He's grateful. I can tell. He slurps and slurps and slurps the fresh water.

And now the head shaking ends. Jacob crisis over. For now.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Answers to Unspoken Prayers

Ethan and Mahira

I miss Christmas.

I don't know what I was thinking when I agreed to be away from home on the holidays.

No problem, I thought. Our far-flung families commonly celebrate this exciting time without us. So it's often just us. And we don't make a fuss for just us. Much of our fuss is church related. We go to church and celebrate the birth of Jesus, who is the center of our lives.

I didn't realize until today that the other stuff we do at Christmas rounds out my heart. We visit with friends, break bread together, play games.  I miss being a part of that friendship fold. 

I feel so alone.  I'm here at the beach, in the warmth of Padre Island National Seashore. And I am lonely.

And then there's a knock at our motorhome door.

"Hello? Is this a good time to drop by?"

The greeting is from a family we just met. Our RVs are similar, so they've stopped by to see how we manage to live inside such a small space. They stay and chat; we chat some more. Their kids, Ethan and Mahira, stay long after their mom and dad leave because, well, we're busy, playing iPad games, talking about books, exchanging life stories.

Then Joan stops in. We've just met Joan. She's 80 years old and traveling across country in a pick-up truck towing a trailer by herself (well, she has two dogs.)

She's stopped by for cocktails. And because we don't drink, she's brought her own as well as a tray of cheese and crackers. 

It's now crowded inside our little RV. But no one notices. Because we're laughing, playing games, nibbling on h'ors deuvers. It's (almost) like a family get-together, celebrating Christmas.

I'll be so bold as to say Jesus felt my heart breaking and brought good people to surround me, to help me heal. And the ones he chose were a family of Jews and an elderly agnostic. 

They came to me on Christmas, extending the gift of friendship. Thank you. Thank you.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

For the Birds

Not sure what kind of birds these are. Someone suggested female crackles. OK.

Our water heater leaks.

I'm sitting in the sun, next to our motorhome on Padre Island National Seashore, and I see drip, drip, drip. Water from our leaky hot water heater dribbles off the bottom edge of our motorhome, creating a widening dark spot on the pavement. It annoys me. Precious water. Evaporating. Exasperating. Dry campers understand this.

Suddenly, WOOSH. Birds, about 20 of them, descend on my leak. HA! They flutter about, muscling  for the best spot to bathe or drink.  And then they're off. Except for two. I'll call then Dad and Son.

Son hops over to the drip and hops up, like he's on a trampoline, slurping each drip. Drip, hop, slurp. Drip, hop, slurp. Exhausting to watch. Drip, hop, slurp.

Dad pushes Son aside. "Watch me!" He tilts his head back, opens his beak and catches the drip.

Drip, drink, drip, drink. Son, typical Son, ignores Dad. Instead, he siphons water from a small puddle.

Satiated, Dad flutters off.

Son repositions himself under the drip, tilts his head back. Drip, drink. Drip, drink.

I hope Dad's watching.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

In The Eye of the Beholder

In addition to being beautiful (wink wink), these fake flowers are  functional. I store chains in the pot.
I like my outdoor carpet, a plastic woven extension of our living space here on Padre Island National Seashore.

It's homey. I set up our chairs on that carpet, and often include a little table between them. It creates the allusion of an outdoor living room, an inviting space for friends to stop by. But few do.

Maybe because the room is not pretty. You see, it's windy down here on Padre Island, and because the carpet turns magical at times, lifting in the breeze, we anchor it down. With ugly stuff. A tool chest, a wheel. Just ugly stuff. I hate ugly stuff.

So my girlfriends Sage and Vickie and I hit the thrift store circuit, looking for a potted posie that's not too tacky to subplant the hardware. Nothing flowery, I tell my friends. Just greenery. Maybe a plastic philodendron.

And then I see it. A pot of colorful pretties. A pot designed to be looked down on. Something I can put on the edge of my caret and when I walk over to it, I can look down and see pretty. Not ugly.

But it's fake flowers. Lots of them. It might be tacky. Maybe I can't see the tacky? So I ask Sage and I ask Vickie: "Is this tacky?"

Silly me. They see I see "pretty." Neither wants to hurt my feelings. They bobble their heads and offer consolation coos. I'm thinking, "They see tacky."  I buy the pot anyway. It's only $3. I can toss it out. Later. If at some time I see tacky.

But for now, it's sitting on the edge of my outdoor carpet. Attracting little yellow butterflies and little orange ones, too. And maybe a new friend or two will stop by to appreciate them, too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Colonel and Allen in Corbin, KY

Back in the day, Kentucky Fried Chicken served finger lickin' good food. Remember the spicy, sweet cole slaw and the warm, peppery gravy? 

A dozen or more years ago, the fast food chain cooled the heat, saying the hot stuff just wasn't family friendly. That's when we stopped eating there. Without the bite, it was boring.

So we are excited tonight because we're hungry and we see road signs for Sander's Cafe in Corbin, KY, the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The signs promise we can eat at the original cafe, the very place Col. Sanders transformed an already popular southern treat, fried chicken, into a national pleasure with a secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices. 

Maybe, just maybe, we hope, we can order the original cole slaw (I'll buy a quart!) and  savor the bite of the original gravy.

We pull off the highway and drive for a while. Then, there it is. A neon sign. Sander's Cafe. Suspiciously, it glows in the shadows of a modern KFC marquee. You know the one. The bucket with the colonel's face.

We park. Go in. Rats. It's not a cafe at all. It's a KFC franchise connected to a little museum featuring the life of Col. Sanders and his famous fare.

When we order,  I ask if the food is the Colonel's original recipe. The teen behind the counter wrinkles her nose. "Huh?" Then she mumbles and shrugs.  "I dunno." At least that's what I think she said.

We order anyway. The chicken was good and greasy. But the cole slaw? Awful. The mashed potatoes and gravy? Nondescript.

We'd feel cheated, but thanks to the museum we can honestly say "goodbye ho-hum." It's a charming little place that takes us back into yesterday, which is where we intended to go anyway. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Thanksgiving Gotcha

Our friends even made place cards for our holiday meal.
Good friends. We have such good friends.

It's Wednesday and we're inside Otto (our motorhome) in a Walmart parking lot in Elizabethtown, KY. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and all has gone according to plan.

My husband, Allen, and I will spend Thanksgiving together, in this parking spot at  Walmart, where we will enjoy chicken salad and cranberry sauce as our holiday feast.

Like I said, it's all according to plan. We schemed to do this, telling very few people, and especially avoiding holiday conversation with the friends we visited earlier this week (Betty and family) and those we will visit on Friday (Bob and Kathy).

Because we want to avoid imposing on anyone's holiday, we're hush hush, sitting in this Walmart parking lot, according to plan.

Then, I get an email: "Allen & Nancy, Call Bob when you get this." So we do. And Bob asks forthright: "Are you planning on spending Thanksgiving in a Walmart parking lot?"

With that one question, he dashes all our planning, all our scheming, all our good intentions. We can obfuscate no longer. And we cannot lie.

So we end up blessed -- BLESSED -- as Thanksgiving guests No. 12 and 13 with Bob and Kathy's family.

We have such good friends. Such good intuitive friends.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Finding Kindness in the Appliance Department

I'm in the Charleston (WV) Sears with my friend Betty because her 40-year-old stove (a cook top) died last night. We need a new one. Thanksgiving is a few days away.

Earlier today  we found a few for $1,000. We don't have $1,000. Then, Sears  promised us one in stock for $350.  Yowser! We're  renewed. Happy. Thinking about turkey.

So we're in Sears, explaining our high hopes to sales associate Suzanne. We explain why our hopes rise high. She checks her computer, and pops our bubbles. The only one in stock costs $1,000.

We still don't don't have $1,000. Our holiday plans begin to shatter. 

The news gutts Betty. "Well Happy *******  Thanksgiving," she grumbles and walks away. 

I try to distract Suzanne (she's just the messenger), but she hears Betty and frowns. I await her parry; instead, she gives her heart. "Don't get your hopes up (again), but let's try something," she said, pointing to a pile of boxed-up merchandise waiting to be shelved.

She digs through the pile, slides boxes around, tips some up on end. No luck.  No cook top. But this time, it's OK. We feel good because Suzanne has joined our holiday rescue.

She gives us what she can, a big red bow (pictured above), which finds more smiles for us.
We leave Sears with lifted hearts, talking about Suzanne, not about that darn stove. We talk about how we want to tell Sears what a nice person she is. About how she is what a sales person should be.

About how thankful we are for the Suzanne distraction, even though we still have no stove. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Portraits of Mom

My hubby Allen, new hubby Steve, new bride Maggie and then there's the oh-so-happy me

We are our moms. Sometimes inside, but mostly out.

My niece is getting married and I am on my way to help her dress. It's an important thing we do for our kids. And, no, Maggie is not my kid, but she has my heart, the way I had my mom's heart. It just happens.

So I am on my way to help this little girl/turned woman I love slither into a wedding dress with yards and yards of ribbons and sashes. We're late; the wedding is in 20 minutes. So when I arrive at the house of her soon-to-be inlaws, I hesitate properly for pleasantries and introductions. Shake hands, nod,  then ask loudly "WHERE IS SHE?"

"Down here, Aunt Nan!" That's my GREAT-niece Abby, the Maid of Honor, dressed in royal purple and a swath of pink in her upturned blond hair. "DOWN HERE!"

I rush down the hall, turn the corner and blurt "Where?" I pan the small room FILLED with too many people and a large nearly wall-sized mirror.

"Here, Aunt Nan." That's my niece, the bride, talking. The beautiful woman I just nanoseconds ago mistook for my sister, HER mother.

Wow. She looks like her mother, back in the day.  My niece (like her mother)  is a tall beautiful woman with a dynamite smile she hides too often, sharp cheekbones, which today turn crimson without Cover Girl, and perfect eyes, with deep expansive lids that carry color effusively.

At second glance, I see inside, and she is all my Maggie, with tenacity for a  brilliant future and compassion teaming with love for so many people, including her soon to-be-husband, her children (two of whom  jockey today to be near her)  and, I am so honored, touched and grateful to say, for me.

I look at her mirrored image and then see mine, my mother (her grandmother), right in that room with us.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Calm, Cool Texas

I love Texas. And we're finally here. But we're crammed in a traffic jam, backed up on Interstate 10 from Rose City  to Beaumont.

I check the Web and learn that hours ago, a truck overturned carrying hazardous material. So the fire department closed a part of this main Texas thoroughfare for cleanup.

So we're stuck. With thousands of others. Oh, we're moving. But not much. We inch, then sit.

I look around. Hmmm. No one appears angry or even irritable. No frustrated horn blasts. No yelling, cursing. No fist shaking at God.  People behave, well, cordially. This is Texas. So laid back.

Oh, look. A few  hot-rodders scramble past us on the shoulder. Ha! They gain a five-car advantage. An ambulance scoots by, using that same space. Everyone edges over, courteously.  A Texan being born?

Finally, after nearly three hours,  we and thousands of others funnel to freedom down the little Magnolia Street exit, which leads us to our 10 p.m. fast-food dinner.

A lady next to me in line stands with her arms relaxed, reading the menu. She's with two teen girls, who cuddle, giggling, over a freezer case.

"Were you on the highway?" I ask.

"Oh, yes," the lady clicks her tongue, tucks her chin and looks at me over her glasses. "We came to Beaumont for a prom dress. Well, that store's sure closed by now. And I'm not doing this again tomorrow. She'll shop in Lake Charles."

"Well, how's she taking it?" I asked. Then thought, silly me. I know the answer. A missed prom-dress opportunity? Pure meltdown.

"Not well at all," the lady clucked.

I look at the teens again, straining to find that angst, that teenage prom-dress drama. But, they look calm.

Just like all those drivers.

I love Texas.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

More Than Just Cardboard Cutouts

We're at Cherokee Campground in Helena AL, and I'm struggling to multitask.

I hope no one is watching.

My two dogs zig-zag in front of me, braiding their leashes with the bag of trash I'm trying to carry.

They stop to sniff, their leashes go slack, the bag of trash is freed.

When we continue our walk, I hold the trash bag higher in one hand this time and their leashes together in the other. We look silly. I hope no one is watching.

But look. There. A man. It's dark. Yet still, he waves. Oh gee, he's waving at me? Why?

Oh wait. HA! It's not a man. It's one of those stupid cutouts, those painted-back silhouettes  people stick next to their mailbox, or on the side of their garage.

I don't see the need. In fact, I think it's quite, well impertinent. Startling me, unnecessarily. Making me think someone is watching me. To what end?

I walk by the wooden form, dump my trash and we head back to the motorhome for the night. We sleep.

The next morning, we head out for our morning walk down to the lake to see the geese, explore the campground. 
And immediately I see another stupid cut-out.  It's a cat, chasing a squirrel, along a bench.

It's kind of cute. Very well done. I smile.

We turn the corner. And look!  Goose cutouts mingling with real geese. And there's more. Bears, cubs, horses, dogs, more cats, squirrels, women, men, a whole community of shadow dwellers.

As we walk, we see them everywhere, silently going about their lives, chasing each other, watering their flowers, watching us.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Wind Rocks Our World

We're complaining because it's windy and cold.

We left a balmy Syracuse winter to escape to the Teas coastline. To get there,  we're driving through disastrously cold and windy weather in southern Ohio and Kentucky.

Our 24-foot motorhome rocks back and forth violently as we crawl down the highway, going 44 mph. We're pummeled, whammed repeatedly by menacing wind gusts. Still, we inch along. Because the coast of Texas beckons.

And, as we inch, we complain, and cover ourselves in three, four layers of balmy-weather clothes  because we failed to pack the stuff that stands up to winter.

And we complain, as we pump $5.19-a-gallon propane into our tank so we can crank up the inside heater so we won't become ice cubes.

And we complain as we walk our dogs in the wind and the snow and the horrible cold. Oh, how we pity us.

Our phone rings, and it's our neighbors from back home. Worried about us. Are we OK? (Yes.) Did we hear the news?

No ... What news?

Less than 150 miles to our east, while we were complaining, a tornado was killing people, destroying communities. Tearing families a apart. I just read about a 2-year-old, found barely alive in a field, who is now critical in a local hospital. Her parents and siblings dead. Killed by that tornado.

All that death. All that destruction. How pitiful our complaints.