Sunday, July 31, 2005

Joycie's Garden: The First Feast

This afternoon Joycie and I went over to her garden and picked jalepenos, zuchini, lettuce and green beans, and then we dug up some new potatoes. We had us a feast!!!

I fried up some bacon, and sauted the green beans in a small bit of bacon grease with a little bacon, also. Little garlic. Mmmmmm mmmm.
Boiled new potatoes. Heaven.
BLT's with tons and tons of fresh, crunchy lettuce.
Yum yum yum, yum yum!

It was wonderful, all that fresh food. It tastes better picking it yourself, yes, indeed. And there's lots more to come. The corn is coming along great. Big pumpkins and watermelons. Tons of green tomatoes. We are really, really looking forward to the fresh sweet corn. This garden thing is great, and I love the time I'm spending with Joycie in her garden.

We also had fresh blueberries this weekend. There is a blueberry farm less than 2 miles from our home, and they have the most wonderful bushes... the berries are big and taste soooooo good. Joyce and I picked for a little more than 1 hour, and we got a bit over 20 lbs of berries! That was quick, and we picked on only 3 or 4 bushes. That is a lot of berries to a bush. It was a perfect blueberry picking experience! And they are only 89 cents per pound, which is a great price. The owner said they'd probably be picking through August, so we're going to go back often. We clean them (dry clean, not wash) and freeze them whole in bags, so they become like hard blueberry pellets. Take 'em out this Winter, all frozen and pour milk on with a little sugar, and it's Summer in your mouth! Blueberry daiquiris are pretty darn good, too.

And now we're heading over to my sister's because she called the berry girl (Joycie) to let her know she could pick more raspberries off her bushes. Kathy even dug up some starts for Joyce, so we could put in a patch here. I tried to grow raspberries when we first moved out here 20 years ago, but they didn't do very well. Too shady. Now we have the pond and have opened up quite a bit of the woods, so we have some sunny places. Joycie wants to put in a huge raspberry patch so we can make tons of jam. Sounds like a grand idea.

Another Case of WHAT Were You Thinking!

We live in a country setting. We've got 80 acres, all wooded, and live next to hundreds and hundreds of acres of wooded state-owned property. There are small pockets of private property peppered throughout, 20 acres here, 40 there, even 2 acres. Our road is a dirt road, but it's right off from a major road. Not super secluded or anything. The major road is actually a state highway, 2 lanes heading East and 2 West, with a turn lane in the middle, so it's a large road & it gets a lot of traffic.

Our road is a nice straight, beautiful shot off the highway. Lined with wild flowers and lots of trees. From the highway to our driveway is mostly a nice, graveled dirt surface. Past our driveway is a covered tube over a creek, and then the road not-so-gradually deteriorates into a two-tracker, then into just a dirt track. Years and years ago, it was a main road... back when the only thing driving on it was a horse and wagon. But now, it is most definitely not meant for mainstream travel. For some reason, though, that road, er, that two-tracker, just calls out to some folks. It calls, "hey, dummy, c'mon and try me." And they listen. They ignore the "No Outlet" sign. They listen, like this:

It's a beautiful Summer day, hot, but not too hot. Mid-afternoon, driving my big, white Envoy. 4-Wheel drive, you betcha. I'm a quite overweight woman around 30+ years of age (old enough to know better), and I've got my 5-year-old son with me. He is utterly adorable and has the biggest blue eyes in the world. My son and I have just come from the airport, where we've dropped off Daddy (who is leaving for a couple of months because he was called up for duty, as he's in the Navy). We're both feeling kinda sad, so I decide to do some muddin' just to cheer us up! Yeeha! What, that mud hole is no problem for me and my big SUV.

What in the hell was she thinking??!!! No cell phone and no money on her. Just her and her young son. And, as I was to discover, no one, I repeat NO ONE, she can call to help get her Envoy unstuck. She lives in a town nearby, and her in-laws live there, but she refused to call them. I think she thought they'd get angry with her. (Maybe it was their Envoy!) She hemmed and hawed, and just didn't know who to call. And here I sit with a Chevy pickup in the driveway. I think she thought if she stood there long enough, I'd pull her out. Ain't gonna happen, sweetie. I explained that both my husband and I decided long ago, after more than a couple of very bad experiences, never to pull anyone out of that mud hole again. Ever. I said our truck was new enough not to want to wreck it on pulling out every fool that walked up our driveway, no offense. My helpful young son mentioned our tractor, at which the young mother's eyes lit right up, but after darting the evil eye at my son, I explained to her that our tractor wasn't purchased for pulling out stuck vehicles either. I further explained that this decision was based not only on our desire to keep our property in fine condition, but also in light of today's litigious society, we just don't tow anyone. I also explained that my husband, who has to work a midnight shift, was currently sleeping, and I wasn't waking him.

I gave her a couple of suggestions as to who to finally call, and she eventually got a towing company to agree to pull her out. Not very many of them will handle an off-road call. I think it cost her a bundle, though. The guy told her minimum $85 and that was if she wasn't very far into the mud. I'm guessing it cost her about $200, because that foolish woman was way, way into that humongous mud hole. The tow truck driver had to wade through mud for sure, and dig into it to get to her undercarriage, because she had mud past her bumper.

One look at that mud hole, and I would have turned around. She should have. No phone and no money, and no one to call anyway, after a hot more than half-mile walk back to our house. Her son heard her tell the tow truck driver that they would start walking back to their vehicle and meet him there, and he became very upset. They were both dripping in muddy sweat when they came up to my door, and he didn't want to walk back... and I didn't blame him! We gave them a ride back to their Envoy, which was the least we could do. I have to admit, I felt so bad not helping her, especially with her husband in the Navy. But, after living here for about 20 years, not pulling anyone out is an unbreakable family rule.

I wish I had a buck for every person, drunk, stoned or just plain foolish, that's come up on my porch in their muddy footwear asking to use my phone.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Oh, Boys!

What a great week so far... Both Kev and I took this week off on vacation. We had planned to go camping (tent camping), but it has been so hot and muggy, we decided to bag that idea. Instead, we just stayed around home and did whatever the heck we wanted. It's been wonderful.

Wednesday afternoon, Sam and I went around and picked up 4 of his friends. Having five 10-year-old boys in my car at once was very entertaining. The boys get to talking and totally forget there's a parent in the vicinity. Entertaining and enlightening! I just love it when kids do that. What a great group of boys, too. I'm super pleased with Sam's choice of friends.

Kev had mowed the lawn and worked outside for just about every waking moment. That's his idea of a great vacation. He had set up the tent for the boys to sleep in (Sam's plan), and he had gotten out the bocce balls, set up the croquet set, put up the badminton net, and made sure the volleyball net was secure & ready to go. Sam didn't know he was going to do all that, and when we came up the driveway and Sam saw the badminton net all set up, & he got this great, big ol' smile on his face and looked at me. I said, "you have a great dad," and he said, "I know."

That afternoon, we took the boys swimming over to my sister's pool (a super nice in-ground pool). The boys LOVED it. They were all wrinkly by the time we convinced them to get out. We had a campfire that evening by the pond, and the boys (& Kev and later, Joycie), played touch football until they couldn't see the football any longer in the dark. Got them settled in the tent, where they lasted until about 3 am. Didn't think they'd go the whole night, and in fact, they were out there longer than I thought they'd be.

They got up around 9:30 am, and we all got around and headed into town. There's a pizza buffet in town that the kids like, so we went there for lunch. Don't think I'll ever get Kev in there again... the food isn't that good by his standards. I can hack it, once a year or so. I had to keep reminding him that it wasn't for him, it was for Sam. It's definitely a kid-oriented place. They have a small soft-serve ice cream buffet, too. And plenty of dessert pizzas. And a video arcade room. Boys were full and happy.

After lunch, the 8 of us, the 5 boys, Kev, Joycie & I, went to see the Egyptian exhibit at a small museum. The exhibit is on loan from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. There was provided a guided tour, and it was super. Learned a lot of interesting facts, which made seeing the items much more interesting. The boys were great, very well-behaved. They asked questions, sometimes silly questions that only 10-year-old boys may think to ask, but the group (for the most part) seemed happy to have the boys included. Our 5 boys were the only young people in our group of about 20 people, and I think almost all of the adults appreciated how well-behaved the boys were. I was very proud of them. After the tour, they went to look at some of the hands-on stuff that is a permanent feature of the museum, and they got a little loud for a bit there, but I threatened them heartily and they straightened right up. Good kids.

Sam and Kev delivered the boys all back to their homes, and Sam got home all happy and satisfied. He hugged and thanked me & his Dad so many times... he's still doing it every once in a while.

Before Sam and I went to pick all the boys up on Wednesday, we hit the dollar store in town and bought flashlights for each of the boys for the night in the tent. Black rubber flashlights with a large chrome piece on the handle. Shaped like a cartouche; I don't know what its purpose was, but it sure provided inspiration for me. I found a web site that would make a cartouche of your name, and I copied them out, printed them on card stock and made bookmarks for each of the boys. Then I got Kev to dig out his engraving tool set, and I engraved their names on the chrome piece of their flashlights... not very skillfully because those Egyptian hieroglyphics aren't easy to do! But the boys thought they were pretty cool.

It was a great time, one of the highlights of Sam's summer, that's for sure. But we discovered that 5 boys at once is difficult. Most of the games we had were set for only 4 people, and the other games, like volleyball, left it with uneven sides. Next time 3 friends only. Easier that way.

Yesterday was fun, too. I had 3 girlfriends over for the start of lunch and our first annual homes & gardens tour. We've talked about doing this for a couple of years, and finally got it planned. They all met here at our place, we had salad and a drink, then Joycie drove us to Carla's house. Carla & her husband have been renovating, putting on an addition to their home. Well, it's more like a palace now, as the addition is 4,000 sq. ft., which doubled the size of their home. Yes, it's big. It's not entirely finished, but it's beautiful. Carla has some great trees and flowers, too. Then we went to Debi's new home that her and her husband bought this year, where they've put in a gorgeous water garden. The pond is very large and has a 4-layer set of waterfalls and then another small waterfall at another location. The koi Debi has are large and beautiful, and the plants were awesome. Very beautiful. Makes me almost want to have one... but those ponds are so much work. Then we went to Renee's to see her beautiful water ponds (she has 3!) and gardens. Food and drinks at each home, and thank goodness Joycie was driving us! Finished up at our house with dessert (Better-Than-Sex cake, the chocolate version... yum) and coffee. Made plans to do it again next Summer.

And today, Sam and Kev are on their way to Comerica Park to watch the doubleheader Tiger games. Plans were to go to the evening game, all 4 of us, but Joycie and I just don't want to go... so the boys decided to do the doubleheader so they rushed around and got on the road. They probably won't make it to Detroit by 1 pm game time, but they won't miss much. I love watching Sam play baseball, but I can take or leave the Tigers. I'm looking forward to a nice quiet day, finishing the 5th Harry Potter book, so I can start the 6th one.

I never got around to reading the 5th one when it came out, so this week I started over with the 1st and am mostly through the 5th one now. Love these books! Joyce re-read the 4th and 5th recently, in preparation for the 6th, but she planned ahead and got all done with them before the 16th so she was set to go.

Joycie has plans to go to dinner and a movie with a friend, so I'll be home alone through the evening. I am looking forward to it! I don't get much time alone at home, so I enjoy those rare times when they happen. Just me and Harry Potter and hopefully one last piece of cake. Ahhh......

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Heat Wave, Ball Games & Best Friend Visit

There is so much about Summer that I love. I enjoy getting up in a comparative leisurely fashion in the mornings & letting the kids sleep in. No rushing around getting ready for school, not infrequently concluding in everyone mad as heck. Hopping in the car in 2 seconds and off you go... no coats, boots, mittens. Green, green, everywhere green. Hammock on the porch. Fireflies in the woods. Staying up late to watch TV. Less laundry. Well, that one is cancelled out by more dishes and clutter left by lazy children throughout the day. But, anyway, Summer is so much easier in many ways.

But... if only Summer wouldn't get so darn hot and muggy. Makes sitting at a ball game awful. And we've been doing a lot of that. Sam's team had the first Little League national qualifying tournament this past weekend, starting on Thursday evening, and since they lost that game, Friday, Saturday & Sunday. They won all 3 of those, so we had another game last night. Lost that one. It was a great season, though. Very proud of Sam, and his whole team. Great group of boys.

I wish they could have won, won, won. But I have to admit, my first thought, selfishly, was of relief at not having to sit through 2-3 hours of sauna any more... until next year.

But then, after the game, Sam was invited to play on a team for a tournament this weekend. He was so very excited. Today we bought new lawn chairs made of canvas and mesh material. The plan is that the mesh will breathe so our asses & backs aren't soaked by the end of the game. Anyway, it's nice to have a plan.

At last Thursday evening's game, my best friend, Sandy, and her husband were there with us. They stayed the night with us and left for home (Texas) the next day. Sam was pretty happy to have more fans, especially Aunt Sandy. It was too bad his team lost that game... and they could have won, but it was one of those off nights for them. By the end of the game, close to 9 pm (including a 35-minute delay while the other team and tournament "officials" debated a finer point of Little League rules... ugh... which resulted in the other team's runner on 1st being officially called out, which had absolutely no bearing on the outcome of the game), anyway... there we all were at 9 pm, starving for dinner. Sam cheered up at the prospect of dinner at Red Lobster.

Red Lobster. It's funny, I haven't been there in ages and ages. Years. So many, I don't remember the last time we were there. Some people love it, and some hate it. I'm here to tell ya, the one we went to was excellent. The server was just about the nicest, prettiest and most competent server we've ever had. The food was good. The beer battered perch was excellent. Yum yum.

We were walking into it, and I mentioned that it was years since we'd been, and my wonderful hubby, o he the master of timing, declares, "that's because last time we were here the place stunk and the food was crap." Hmmm...

So with those words ringing in our ears, a portent of a dinner doomed, in we went. Maybe that's why our experience was so wonderful. We were all expecting crap, and instead, lovely ice cold beer, lovely perch brought to our table by a lovely young woman! Oh, sound the harps, please, it was heaven. Take that, Kevin-the-Doomsayer.

During dinner, Brian (Sandy's hubby), remarked that Bisquick had a recipe on the box for the cheesy biscuits like Red Lobster makes, and that one of his favorite things was sausage gravy over those biscuits. The universe was in alignment for sure. I had sausage at home purchased for the express purpose of making sausage gravy and biscuits for breakfast the morning of their visit. And I always have Bisquick in the pantry. Breakfast was darn good.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Ahhh... That's Better

I have The Best Husband In The World!

Once again, this is about coffee. Kev is working midnights this week, so I was up getting ready for work while the kiddos slept and Kev not yet home. Just me and Reilly up and about. Since I got up a tad bit late, I wasn't exactly rushing around, but not lollygagging either. Without really meaning to, I left the house without making any coffee. Not good.

By the time I got into work, a small headache had begun. Probably psychosomatic, but there, nonetheless.

My doll of a husband got out of work about the time I was getting into work, and he went to a local coffee shop and bought me one of the largest, most lusciously excellent cups of coffee I've ever had. With a triple shot of espresso. Yum. And he delivered it to my door. (Well, I had to go out to the parking lot and get it from him, since he can't enter my workplace. No unescorted visitors allowed.)

I feel so much better now.

And now that I think of it, the headache was probably from all the wine last night. We had some friends over yesterday evening, John and Canice. They are in town househunting, finally moving back to the States from Hong Kong. We're happy they'll be in our neck of the woods again! Yay!!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Independence Day

Like most other true-blue Americans, we celebrated the 4th of July yesterday. Coz Saturdays are made for partying.

My brother, sister-in-law and nephew came up for the weekend, and parked their motorhome by the river at Mom & Dad's.
Perfect weather... hot in the sun, wonderful in the shade.
We had us a nice barbeque.

Janet got a teensy bit testy with the photographer.

But then her grandson, Rogan, got her smiling again.

Susan told a story to Grampa, & she proved
she inherited her story-telling skills from her papa.

Jimmy flexed some muscles & shot a grin for us.

We did us some four-wheelin' and golf cart ridin'.
Sam parked his under the apple tree.

Then the sun started to go down behind my brother, Jim.

So we had us a nice campfire.

Yep, those are recliners for Mom & Dad. Jim brought 'em up.
He threw 'em on the trailer with their 4-wheelers.
Bet that was an interesting sight on the highway.

When it got darker out, Bob brought out the sparklers.

The kids had a blast, and it got smokey as all git out.

Once the smoke cleared, Bob set off some fireworks for us.

My family knows how to have a good time!

Double Play All American Weekend!

Yesterday on my drive home from the office, I was listening to one of the oldies stations on the radio. They were playing the first of two Neil Diamond songs.

Written by Neil Diamond

Baby loves me
Yes, yes she does
Ah, the girl's outta sight, yeah
Says she loves me
Yes, yes she does
Gonna show me tonight, yeah

She got the way to move me, Cherry
She got the way to groove me
She got the way to move me
She got the way to groove me

Tell your mamma, girl, I can't stay long
We got things we gotta catch up on
Mmmm, you know
You know what I'm sayin'
Can't stand still while the music is playin'

Y'ain't got no right
No, no you don't
Ah, to be so exciting
Won't need bright lights
No, no we won't
Gonna make our own lighting

She got the way to move me, Cherry
She got the way to groove me
She got the way to move me
She got the way to groove me

No, we won't tell a soul where we gone to
Girl, we do whatever we want to
Ah, I love the way that you do me
Cherry, babe, you really get to me

She got the way to move me, Cherry
She got the way to groove me
She got the way to move me
She got the way to groove me

1966 Tallyrand Music, Inc.

Written by Neil Diamond

Cracklin' Rosie, get on board
We're gonna ride till there ain't no more to go
Taking it slow
Lord, don't you know
Have me a time with a poor man's lady

Hitchin' on a twilight train
Ain't nothing there that I care to take along
Maybe a song
To sing when I want
Don't need to say please to no man for a happy tune

Oh, I love my Rosie child
She got the way to make me happy
You and me, we go in style
Cracklin' Rosie you're a store-bought woman
You make me sing like a guitar hummin'
So hang on to me, girl
Our song keeps runnin' on

Play it now
Play it now
Play it now, my baby

Cracklin' Rosie, make me a smile
God if it lasts for an hour, that's all right
We got all night
To set the world right
Find us a dream that don't asks no questions, yeah

Oh, I love my Rosie child
You got the way to make me happy
You and me, we go in style
Cracklin' Rosie, you're a store-bought woman
You make me sing like a guitar hummin'
So hang on to me, girl
Our song keeps runnin' on

Play it now
Play it now
Play it now, my baby

Cracklin' Rosie, make me a smile
God if it lasts for an hour, that's all right
We got all night
To set the world right
Find us a dream that don't asks no questions, yeah

1970 Prophet Music, Inc.

Brought back some g-o-o-o-o-d memories, boy. 1972, I was 12 and completely in love with Neil. I know it was 1972 because that was the year the "Hot August Night" album came out & my sister, JoAnne, bought it. I shared a bedroom with my sister, Kathy, and at the time we had bunk beds set up as bunk beds. I had the lower bunk, and I pinned a photo of Neil from a magazine to the bottom of the top bunk. I'd lay in my bed and play that album over and over and over, while dreamily staring at that lucious hunk, Neil. Remember "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon"?? He was singing to me. Me, personally.

But then later he went all Barry Manilow-ish and I totally got over him.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Books = Large Vocabulary

I love to read books. I always have. One of my earliest memories is of reading a book, sitting on the carpet under the dining room table reading a book.

Back in that day (early 60's), around here, preschools weren't commonplace, and a kid's first school experience was simply Kindergarten. I could read before I went into Kindergarten, and that was unusual. I was the only kid that could read in my K. class. It's probably because I was the youngest of 5 kids, and my whole family loves to read books. Well, read anything, really, not just books. I also remember a "family game" we used to play that was in the HUGE 2-book set World Enclopedia dictionary... sitting around on a Sunday afternoon playing difficult word games with an excessive spirit of competition. I remember it as fun and exciting.

Back then, and perhaps in our rural setting... I don't know if this is unusual or commonplace for 1965... but anyway, Kindergarten seemed to be the place where kids were taught their ABC's. I remember being frustrated about having to wait for other kids to say the letter, and then later in 1st Grade, figure out the word. I'm sure I was all "just read it already, it's Dick and Jane for chrissake." Patience has never been my strongpoint.

Now, of course, your child is expected to know many things before entering Kindergarten, and that includes ABC's. Ability to read is pretty much expected, as well.

I also remember in 3rd Grade we had this reading unit that consisted of a few display cases with color-coded cards. You would take the next item (on a card or cards, can't recall), read the story and then take a comprehension test. I zipped through those colors and was at purple when most kids were still struggling with the first color (yellow, I think). The more colors you advanced to, the less cards were available. Purple was 12th grade/college level.

I also remember in 4th Grade, our teacher would occasionally separate us into girls on one side of the room and boys on the other and then let us take turns using an adjective to describe the other side. It was "anything goes" except, of course cuss words and dirty stuff. (Mrs. P. was pretty smart with that move... she probably got sick and tired of the girls vs. boys crap, and we all loved those adjective wars. We all usually ended up laughing, but of course, my memory of it is of fun because the girls totally ruled.) Anyway, did I mention the dictionary game my family played? I could come up with some truly excellent adjectives for boys, like uncouth, hideous, vulgar, ludicrous, moronic, grotesque, loathsome, repugnant, repulsive... I impressed Mrs. P. and the girls! The boys not so much. But it must have been pretty difficult to shoot a comeback to a girl that just called you a loathsome, repugnant imbecile. Huh? Duh.

I still love to read, but mostly find myself reading blogs on a quick break at work while wolfing down a yogurt or a sandwich, or late at night at home trying to unwind and semi-watch whatever ballgame is on the TV. I haven't read, er, finished, a real book in several weeks... months?. I have a huge stack just waiting for me. Many of which have been put there by Joyce. And the new Harry Potter is coming out soon, but I haven't even read the 5th book yet. Joycie gave me a book for Mother's Day last year and this year (The Bonesetter's Daughter and Mangoes & Quince, respectively), and I've started both but not finished them. I love it that she gives me books as gifts. And it isn't that I'm not captivated or interested in reading the whole book, I just get interrupted. Busy with so many other things, work and ball games and housework and gardening and grocery shopping and laundry and family events...

Many of the blogs I read have on their sidebar, "books I've read recently" or "book I'm currently reading." If I did that, it'd be pretty darn static. Some of the blogs have book recommendations that have greatly enlarged my books-to-read list (which I've mentioned on a previous post).

Like a few other things in my life right now (e.g. golf, canning peaches, pottery), I find myself categorizing reading books as something I'll have time for when I retire. What the heck!

At least my kids are avid readers. My 16-year-old daughter is usually reading 2 books at a time. She always has a book going. My 10-year-old son usually is reading a book, almost always just one, but he may finish it and wait a day or 2 before starting the next book, now that it's summertime. I've been buying books for the kids all their lives. Love those book flyers the teachers send home. We have a great used book store in town. In the summertime, the kids will want to stop at garage sales to check out the books for sale. Our library has a huge used book sale each year (as a fund raiser, and they have tons of donated books for sale). There is a church in town that also has a huge used book sale each year. And we have a Barnes and Noble now, just in the past oh, 5 years or so. My kids LOVE to go to B&N. Love that bargain book section. We have a lot of books at home. Lots and lots.

Both Joyce and Sam have excellent vocabularies. It has also helped that the same 2 people that greatly influenced me into becoming a lover of books have been taking care of our kids (while we go to work) since Joycie and Sam were infants... my mom and dad. I heard once that children raised by their grandparents tend to be more mature for their age than average, as well as more articulate (greater vocabulary) and are comfortable around adults, conversing with adults more easily than their peers. I believe it. My kids are living proof. Their teachers and other adults have often commented on their maturity and ease of communication with adults even as youngsters. Joyce was always at the top of her class in elementary school for reading, as Sam is now.

When Sam was in 1st Grade, his teacher would read aloud to the class the Junie B. Jones books. Those are such great books, for kids & for the adults reading them aloud to the kids, too, because there is always some little bit of humor that goes over the kids' heads but adults can get a nice little snicker out of it. Sam's teacher, Mrs. B., would tell me how she'd read one of those parts aloud, and Sam would be the only child in the class to bust out with a bark of laughter. So it'd be her and Sam chuckling, and the other kids would look at Sam like, "what the hell?"

That's it, from now on, I'm going to make more time for books in my life. To hell with the laundry. Well, just as soon as 2nd quarter close is done...

Friday, July 01, 2005

And speaking of family...

My best friend, Sandy, and her husband are in town (they live in Texas). Sandy was born and raised here, and her folks still live here in the summer months (they winter in South Texas). Sandy has 2 brothers and 2 sisters. The whole family is coming into town, from all over the U.S., to spend the weekend together and celebrate their mom and dad's wedding anniversary... I think it's their 54th or something. Up there, anyway.

Yesterday, we were invited over to have dinner at Sandy's mom and dad's, along with everyone who's arrived so far. Sandy's mom is a really good cook, and she makes the most excellent pies!

Her rhubarb pie was sooooooo good, and the berry (blueberry & raspberry) pie had Joycie wanting to go back this morning just to get another piece. I've been ordered to get the recipe. I've explained that getting a pie recipe doesn't mean it's going to be the same. Pie making is an art, not a skill. And Anne is an artist, no doubt about it!

I just love Sandy's family. Just one more thing, of many, about my best friend that makes her so wonderful and lovable.

A group of persons sharing common ancestry...


I did a little search on the 'net for phrases and quotes, & found a few good ones.

If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don't be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning 'Good morning' at total strangers.
--Maya Angelou

The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life.
--Richard Bach

Good family life is never an accident but always an achievement by those who share it.
--James H S Bossard

When I talk about "family" I freely admit that first to my mind is my side of the family, i.e., my folks and my siblings and their spouses and my nieces and nephews. We live closer to them, and basically, we are closer to them, more like them than we are my husband's side of the family. I recently said that we have a great family, and I was talking about my side of the family. And Kev is well and truly part of the family. I feel that he is more like my side than his side. For a lot of reasons, all good. Not that his family is not good, just different. Town dwellers mostly, for one. Big time smokers and drinkers for another. Not that we don't enjoy getting good and sloshed now and then, coz we sure do.

On Kev's side are his dad and step-mother and a half-brother (same dad) locally. And tons and tons of aunts, uncles and cousins on his dad's side. He has a sister, brother-in-law and 2 nieces that live in Nevada, who we saw this past week because they were in town for a rare visit. And most definitely the inspiration for this post.

Last time we heard from his sister was about 2 years ago or more. She called and I answered the phone upstairs. She wanted to speak with Kev (er... not me), and during the switch from the phone in my hand to the one Kev picked up, we disconnected her. It was a new phone and he hit the off button instead of the talk button, and I clicked off thinking he was connected. We didn't have her recent phone number and she never called back. This week was the first he has spoken to her since that time. She does keep in touch with their dad. It's odd. We used to send Christmas gifts and cards, but quite a few years ago, she stopped. Took me a couple of years, but then I stopped, too. Kevin and his sister will never be close. They're just too different from one another. She's more like her mother in some ways, though she seems to have a great relationship with her 2 teenage daughters, both of whom seem very nice young women. But she is somewhat like her mom, in a way I find I can't describe. Kevin's mother I can describe. She's awful. Which brings me to my most favorite quote I found today:

Having children makes you no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.
--Michael Levine

No truer words on parenthood were ever uttered. Kev's mother is awful. Oh, I said that already, didn't I. Anyway, it's worth repeating.

Last time Kev spoke with his mother was when Sam was born, around early November of 1994 and shortly after. We sent photos and then Christmas gifts, and left messages on her answering machine. She never responded. For a reason or reasons we apparently are never meant to know, she decided to cut him out of her life. How a mother with a son as utterly good and fine as Kevin could make that decision is so far beyond my realm of understanding as to make it completely and absolutely incomprehensible.

Not only that, she simultaneously cut out of her life her beautiful, wonderful 6-year-old granddaughter and newborn grandson.

Like I said, she is awful. Her abandonment of the relationship with us early on caused Joycie some concern, but she did eventually quit asking why gramma from Arizona doesn't like her anymore. We have since had very frank discussions about it. Should the woman ever reach out to us, well, I'd rather cut off her hand than have it ever touch my family again and cause such hurt. And we don't miss her. Kev says she was difficult all his life, and sadly, good riddance. Our kids have 2 sets of loving grandparents, and that's more than a lot of kids get. She's left no big hole in our lives. I am just vindictive enough to want her to know that.

His sister still has contact with their mother. Not one word about their mother was mentioned during the visit this week. Not. One. Word.

Kev and his sister also have a half-brother (they share the mother), and he has a son. They both were living in Arizona, near their mother, last we knew. I suppose due to that proximity, the half-brother must have sided with the mother because we never hear from him, either. We have never met Kevin's nephew, but not by our choice.

That's why I say Kev is more like my side of the family. There's nothing in the world you can do - ever - to be cut out of my family. Oh, you could do some rotten stuff that would bring wrath and a good chewin' out down on your head, but you would never, ever be outside of the family. And you wouldn't want to be there, anyway, because in our family, you always have someone that loves you. No matter what.