This morning, I cried as I watched Good Morning America. The story was about a little boy, just two years old, who had been in a terrible car accident. Click the link if you missed the story. Though mostly the tears were out of happiness because the story has a happy ending, they were also tears of understanding for the parents of that little guy and for some of what they had to endure in the hours immediately after the accident. And one thing that Dr. Richard Besser said, which prompted this post, was that two things (besides the obvious pain-staking work by incredible doctors) saved that boy's life: his car seat and the rescue workers who kept his head and neck secure.
In 2004, my husband, my two daughters and I had just experienced a fun-filled day at an outdoor concert. Later that day, we were in a fatal car accident. A driver with a blood alcohol content of over twice the legal limit smashed into our Jeep. That driver and two of his three passengers were killed.
My girls were 7 and 4 years old. According to Michigan law at the time, Lilienne was still required to be in a car seat, but Genevieve no longer needed one. But guidelines suggested otherwise, and so we still used one for her as well. Aside from Genevieve's broken arm, the girls did not suffer serious injuries. Police officers at the scene said the car seats made a difference. Rescue workers arrived at the scene within minutes. They were efficient, calm, and caring. They were also cautious and thorough. Both Genevieve and I ended up strapped to boards. Poor G was on hers for nearly 7 hours, but I appreciate the concern that the paramedics took to make sure she did not suffer a neck or spinal injury. The 7 hours were very long for her, but short compared to a lifetime of paralysis.
So sometimes, I get a little mushy and dramatic. But I know that it is thanks to car seats and rescue workers that I have two beautiful and wonderful reasons to be thankful and joyous this holiday season.
My Grandma was a hairdresser. She had a salon in her home, but we never called it a salon; it was always called the beauty shop--lowercase. It didn't even have a proper name. Her customers were mainly little blue-haired old ladies. At least that is how I remember them. These ladies showered Grandma with gifts during the holidays. Most of them were hand made: doilies, strange beaded window hangings, lots of plastic canvas, and crocheted toilet paper covers. The other thing she got a lot of was Avon. And my favorite of her Avon gifts was this cute snow couple. Grandma used to complain about the blinking lights, but I would always turn them on when I got to her house. Finally she decided to give them to me and now they have a rightful place in my home, blinking merrily in the living room at Christmas time.
I also think of Grandma at Christmas because she made the best Christmas cookies. She cut them in big Christmas tree shapes and sprinkled them lightly with green sugar. And I always got to take home any that were left after our holiday gathering at her house. The dough for the cookies is very hard to mix up when all the flour is added, but even after she no longer had the strength to mix them, she would make Grandpa do that part so I could still have cookies. Now, my girls and I use her recipe and have made our own tradition of baking Grandma's cookies on Christmas Eve.
Kaleidoscope is an annual publication by the Michigan Reading Association. Every school in Michigan can submit one piece of student writing for Kaleidoscope each year. Students who are included in the anthology are invited to attend a Young Authors Luncheon during the Michigan Reading Association annual conference. There is always an author that gives a presentation to the young writers. In the words of Martha Stewart, It's a good thing!
Because the girls' school district wasn't sending any writings for publication, I began sending them myself about five years ago. The girls submit their writing every other year, when the conference takes place in Grand Rapids. They love the opportunity to listen to a published author. I also take them to the Author's Garden, an area in the conference exhibit hall where authors are scheduled to sign books. And in the past, I have taken G to other sessions--one where she had the opportunity to do some creative writing led by author Wendy Mass. I have as much fun immersing them in the world of readers and writers as they have experiencing it. Here are their submissions for this year:
Sunset by Lili Pink and yellow dance across the sky orange lets its color shine purple peeks over the mountain tops red dashes from side to side in a streaking blur the sun slips away under the Earth darkness comes and with it, the moon.
The Beach by Genevieve The sand shines like a million diamonds in the early morning sun, The water glints, saving us all from the blistering days of summer, Boats are drawn to it like bees to honey, My beach
Volleyball matches so intense it's like our own little Olympics, Tanning on the shores for hours, Turning a lovely shade of cherry red if you forget the sunscreen, The days are long, hot, and sticky The only way to survive is the clear blue water of the beach Fighting heat like a soldier in a deadly war.
The nights are short, Spent by the flickering flames of a campfire, Listening to the melody of the season Stars poke out one by one, timid, as if the sun could come Back and wash them away in its golden light
The leaves begin to alter, Trading in their lively green color for crimson, gold, and ginger, The summer is gone, But the magic of the beach is only stifled for a small amount of time, Hibernating over the winter like a lethargic bear, Preparing itself for the next year.
If there is one thing the staff at my school does right, it is feeding each other! Ok, we do a lot of other things right too, but we have a tradition that in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas break, we have staff luncheons on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Each team signs up for a day and then plans the menu for what they will bring. Along with our 4 grade level teams, we have the related arts team, the office staff, and the parapro team. That makes seven days of not having to think about what to pack for lunch...it's awesome!
I didn't realize that my easy crock pot Triple Chocolate Mess had become such an expected tradition. But last week, the gym teacher mentioned in passing that he was already looking forward to it. And when I posted on facebook this morning that it was cooking in two crock pots, I got several comments from anticipating staff members. I also got comments from other friends wondering what the heck I was making. So, here is the recipe for you, friends. Happy cooking, but most of all, I hope it makes happy memories for you!!
Triple Chocolate Mess 1 cake mix 1 instant pudding mix Mix these dry mixes together in large bowl. 4 eggs 1c. water 3/4c. vegetable oil 1 pint sour cream Mix these wet ingredients in smaller bowl until smooth. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix well. Stir in 6oz. chocolate chips. Put mixture in greased crock pot and cook on low for 6 hours. You can cook at a higher temp for less time, but it can tend to burn on the bottom if you do. I also layer paper towels under the lid and change them from time to time to soak up condensation that make it soggy if it drops back down.
Tonight Lili asked me to put sponge rollers in her hair. My mom used to put my hair up in sponge rollers at least once a week when I was a kid. I loved the feel of her hands combing through my hair, even if she pulled a little when my face started turning back toward the tv. I hope Lili remembers it fondly one day as well.
When I was a kid, it was great fun for me, my sister, and my brother to change the Noel train to a Leon train. It drove my grandma crazy, but I think my grandpa (Leon) loved it. :) Now the Noel train is at my house and my girls continue the changing of the train tradition.
Normally, I don't remember my dreams. But after visiting the dentist today and being told I clench and grind my teeth, and the streak of dreams I have had lately, I am beginning to think that I am working out my stress at night.
When I do dream, I tend to remember the ones that happen because of a change in my schedule. I am always afraid that I am going to miss important events--the first day of school after a long break, important meetings that I have, that sort of thing. This week, being a holiday week, was a strange one to keep straight in terms of schedules. I had work on Monday and Tuesday. The girls were scheduled to have school Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday--with Wed being an early dismissal day. Months ago I had decided that I would not be getting up today to take them to school for only a partial day. As it turned out, G ended up with a dental appointment at 7:30 this morning and I had one at 10:30. I also had to deliver G to a friend's house in the afternoon.
On Monday night, I dreamed that I bustled through the day, realizing at the end that, although I had taken G to her appointment, I had missed my own. On Tuesday, as I ran through in my hand what I needed to do the next couple of days, I was glad that I had just dreamed my error. Then I had a moment of panic that I missed taking Lili to dance class. Realizing it was only Tuesday, I breathed a sigh of relief that dance class is Wednesday and I had not missed it.
Today, all the appointments were kept with no problems. I even got to enjoy taking G out to breakfast and visiting with my baby brother. After a busy morning and early afternoon, I was ready to snuggle in for the evening.
While I took a little nap, Lili cleaned up the kitchen with the ulterior motive of wanting to make mini-surprise-cupcakes in the new Xpress Read Set Go machine from Nana. We were enjoying our little cooking time together and were sitting in the living room waiting for a batch to finish cooking. Lili mentioned to me that she had a weird dream last night. I was about to ask her to tell me about it when my stream of consciousness started talking to me. It went something like this: "You had a strange dream the other night too. Isn't it great that you didn't forget any of your appointments? Yep, you are truly a great mom. Even that panic attack about forgetting dance last night was a false...Hey, did you forget that dance is tonight? The last time you looked at the clock it was 5:44. You know dance starts at 6:00, right?"
While I was fairly eloquent in my head, all that would come out of my mouth was, "Lili! Dance!" Her eyes got wide, she scrambled to get dressed, couldn't find her shoes, and we had to wait for a batch of cupcakes to finish cooking. But we were only 10 minutes late. Yep, I'm still a great mom! But now that I have to remember where 4 people are supposed to be and when they are supposed to be there, maybe I need a better system. Otherwise, I'm going to have some restless, dream-filled sleep and less than healthy teeth!
The despised and detested MEAP begins today. This is the state level test for Michigan,designed to torture children in grades 3 through 8, as well as their teachers.
So this morning, I was dropping Genevieve and Lilienne at Papa and Nama's house. They hang out there for about 25 minutes before walking to school. As they were getting out, I wished them good luck on the MEAP. Then I proceeded to give them a little motherly advice: Take your time. Reread the passages if you need to. Use your test taking strategies.
Genevieve's reply: OMG, mom, you're such a teacher!
Today we had to put down our Besa Cat. Our family has had many pets from cats and dogs to rabbits, sheep, goats, even a baby raccoon that was orphaned in a storm; and yes, that infamous flying squirrel. But Besa was by far the oldest pet we have had and putting her down was a difficult decision.
Besa was a gift, given to me in my first year of teaching by an 8th grader named Brent. I had another cat, Paco, die that year and was quite upset about the loss. Brent, wanting to make me feel better, gave me a sweet little striped kitten. I named her Besa, Spanish for kiss, because she loved to kiss me by licking under my nose. I was the only person she would do this to, and it was a habit that lasted her whole life. Seventeen years. I think that is pretty old for a cat.
Besa, like most cats, had some funny quirks. She was not a cuddly cat. She did not often curl up on a lap. But she showed her affection in other ways. While I was the only one she would "kiss," she rubbed up against anyone who would come into the house, marking all of us and any guests as part of her "family."
Besa kept the other two cats, Pumpkin and Josie, alive. When we sometimes forgot to check food and water levels, Besa was the one who would follow anyone around the house meowing until one of us replenished the supply. One time the basement flooded and Besa told us about that too! It was a running joke when Besa started following us quite vocally, getting under feet, to ask, "What's the matter, Besa? Did Timmy fall down the well again?" In the last couple of years, I guess she got a little tired of waiting for us to fill the water dish. She took to spending most of her time on the kitchen counter. Then when anyone went into the kitchen, they would just turn on the faucet for her. But having a cat living on the counter meant I had to keep it picked up a bit. She made a bed one time out of a package of dinner rolls and another time out of a box of clementines.
Besa was a sweet and unique cat. She was a good cat. In the end, she was not much more than skin over bones, even though she ate constantly. She injured a back leg in a trip off the kitchen counter. Her hair was falling out. I know that she was suffering and I am thankful that she is suffering no longer.
RIP, Besa. Find Paco and Whitey in cat heaven. Romp in a field of catnip. We will miss you.
My husband grew up with all kinds of animals in and around his house. From those infamous flying squirrels to ferrets to baby skunks to farm animals like goats, chickens, and pigs. So I should have realized that animals would factor quite heavily into our lives together as well.
And we have had many animals, but this post is about rabbits. I was able to avoid rabbits for several years. We had one when Genevieve was very little, but it lived outside and escaped. After Lili came along and was big enough to talk, getting rabbits was something the girls brought up over and over.
After Jeff's brother moved to the west end of the UP, Jeff began to make a visit to a big annual animal sale every spring in Bruce Crossing. It is where he bought our first peacocks. Jeff noticed that for a couple of years, there were no rabbits at the sale, so he came up with a plan. He purchased $80 worth of rabbits and took them to the sale to make a tidy profit. The problem was that everyone else had the same plan that year. He couldn't give the rabbits away, so $80 worth of rabbits came back home.
As he arrived home on a weekday before I was home from work, he decided to set the rabbits free. This began a many-year challenge of ridding the yard of rabbits. The rabbits ate all my flowers, they destroyed the foundation of the barn, and the concrete floor of the barn cracked and collapsed after they burrowed under it. So we managed to capture and get rid of most of the adults. But a few lingered, so every couple of months, we'd spend a few days netting babies.
At one point, we seemed to have them under control, but we must have had 40 rabbits in cages. The cages were in two areas inside the barn, on the wall outside the barn, and inside the chicken coop. In the winter when the waters would freeze, it would take the girls and I over an hour to take care of them. And when we began to spend much of our summers on the houseboat, it was a pain to have to run home to take care of the rabbits. That was when we loaded up a bunch and sold them at the Trufant flea market. Since then we have also given many away through free cycle.
In the last couple years we haven't had much problem with rabbits. Someone once must have confused our house for a rabbit sanctuary and dropping off two cute lop-eared rabbits was the worst we had to endure. I captured the tamest one and gave it to a student but the other one has been hanging around for about two years. As of late, Floppy has found a tipped mate. And this leads to our latest baby catching necessity. When Lili and I got home from school, he had three in a Rubbermaid tote. Then I tried to help and we caught one. But Jeff is a pretty intrepid rabbit hunter all on his own. I took Lili to dance tonight and we come home to find that we now have 7 baby rabbits in the house. Lili is in heaven. She has named each one and claimed them all as her own.
Here's Lili with the first three babies.
The little tan one is her favorite.
Two in the upper left corner, three in the lower left corner, one each in the right corners.
Lili will have all sorts of fun loving them up while they are little. But as they grow, she'll spend less and less time with them. That won't stop her from crying and fussing when it is time to get rid of them. Luckily (for her) Floppy and Tippy seem to be working on the next batch already!
I am going to preface this post by saying, my husband is a wonderful man. He is so smart and can figure out how to do just about anything. This is a great thing when our budget has shrunk, money is tight, and things often break or stop working around the house.
The down side is that whenever he tells me how long it is going to take to fix something, it always ends up taking longer. I have learned that whatever time frame he tells me, I have to...add a day. Let me share a couple of examples.
Two weekends ago, I was away in Detroit at a reading conference. I left on Thursday night and did not return home until Monday evening. Jeff had to take the girls to school on Friday morning and on Friday afternoon, he had to attend Genevieve's last volleyball practice but the rest of the weekend he had free to work on the plumbing in the house, as the girls would be staying with Nama and Papa.
His plan for the house was to install two new water heaters and a new rust remover, and to replumb the entire house. Our well water is very iron-y and our old rust remover stopped working several years ago. This caused iron build-up inside all the pipes. It was so bad that at times there wasn't enough pressure through the water heater to even make it kick on. Ice cold showers might wake me up in the morning, but they don't make me a ray of sunshine to be around!
He said he could have the job all done by the time I got home on Monday. Now, to me, having the job done means that everything looks the same as it did before I left. Apparently, he and I have differing definitions. On my way home Monday, he called from G's volleyball game and said, "Ignore the mess. It's going to take me one more day to clean stuff up." Yep, that's right, add a day!
Again, I will sing his praises and say hallelujah for water. Hot water. With pressure to run out the sink and shower at the same time. However, he had also hoped during that weekend to replace the pump in the well. There wasn't time for that, so it got put on the to-do list.
At the beginning of last week he asked me if I wanted him to replace the pump this week on Wednesday or Thursday. I had to work Monday through Thursday, so I asked him how long it would take. He very confidently said, "It should only take me a couple of hours. I can get it done while you are at work." Scenarios began flashing through my mind and I told him I wanted him to do it Thursday. Any guesses why? That's right, I had to work Thursday but not Friday. By adding a day, I knew that the day after he started the work, I'd be out of water because he wouldn't be done yet. I didn't want that day to be a day I had to get ready for work.
So, you may be asking yourself, did she underestimate her husband? Surely he was able to change the pump in a day. Well friends, I am writing this blog post from the office in my dad's house. I spent the night here last night (Thursday night) because...he wasn't done yet.
To be fair, Jeff ran into many obstacles in his quest to install a new pump. I won't go into them here. I will say that when he finally does finish, I know the water will work fantastically. But I will continue to stand by my motto that whenever he tells me how long a job will take, I add a day.
I woke slowly, feeling a strange sensation that incorporated itself into my dream. The dream was soon gone, but the sensation of little tiny feet starting on my right shoulder and scampering down the right side of my body, continued. At my ankle, the feet seemed to push off, like a diver off a diving board. After the third time, I realized that it was not a dream. I sat bolt-upright while my heart began to pound out a war song.
Sitting perfectly still in the inky darkness, not daring to breathe, I listened. I could tell my husband was sound asleep. To my left, I heard the sweet snuffles and grunts of my three-month-old daughter, her night movements causing her wooden cradle to creak reassuringly. And then from the far end of our long rectangular bedroom, I heard the noise I’d been dreading. Scritch-scritch-scratch. I knew it was not one of our two house cats. I slowly reached to the floor for the Maglight, which I kept by the bed in order to check on the baby in the night without waking her with a room light. With the heft of cold metal in my hand, I clicked the button and shone the light toward the sound. The beam rested on a small animal with huge eyes. He froze in the light and for a second, we stared at each other.
At this point I was still amazingly calm. But I could afford to be. I knew my fearless protector husband would rush to my aide in the face of this ferocious beast. Keeping the light trained on the creature, I reached over and shook my would-be hero. He sat up in bed, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and looked to the end of the room. At this point my husband had the gall to say, “It’s just a flying squirrel. He can’t hurt you. Go back to sleep,” and promptly flopped his head back down on his pillow in an effort to take his own advice. A vain effort, I might add. “What are you talking about?” I hissed. My blood was beginning a slow simmer, but I didn’t want to wake the baby. “I am NOT going back to sleep and neither are you until you catch that thing! What if it gets into the cradle? You need to get up and catch it now!!”
With a resigned sigh, my husband hauled himself out of bed. He inched slowly down the length of the room making some strange chirping-kissing-clicking noise. “Quit goofing around and catch that thing!” I hissed. This must have scared the squirrel, as he moved for the first time since the flashlight beam hit him. The squirrel scampered up the side of the room and disappeared into the closet. My husband, clad only in his boxers, with a T-shirt doubling as a net in his hands, dove in after it. Now as far as closets go, mine isn’t much of one. It is very long—probably ten feet, but not very deep. It has no doors and is really more like an alcove than a closet. When my husband went in after it, the squirrel must have decided its best escape route was up. Suddenly I saw the rodent climbing up my clothes and then it was running along the top of the clothes, like they were some above-ground railroad to freedom. Did I mention that my closet is parallel to the bed? It is, and by this time, the squirrel had stopped directly across from my head and turned to look at me.
Between us, in the middle of the room, was the baby in the cradle. Keeping my eyes trained on the squirrel, I scrambled off the bed and to the cradle. I realized I was repeating “not on the baby” like a mantra. As fast as lightning, I snatched the baby from her cradle and dove back into my bed. I put the pillow in front of us like a shield. “Jeff, it’s going to jump!” I screamed, no longer concerned about the peaceful slumber of my first born. As my husband wrestled his way out of the bottom of the closet, the creature tensed. It crouched. It waited. I swear it squinted. Then it leapt straight at me. It glided through the air, its fur webbing stretched out, giving it the appearance of a kite with a head. I screamed and at the last second, the squirrel veered right and landed on the window sill, not two feet from my head.
From this point, the squirrel gave another spring and landed on my shoulder. As I hoarsely squealed “Getitgetitgetitgetitgetitgetitgetitgetitgetitgetit!” with my eyes shut tight and my body protecting the baby, it seemed to find joy in its original trick of scampering down the side of my body and launching itself off my feet. With this launch, the squirrel landed on the side of the baby cradle. As my husband inched toward it from one side Besa came ambling from the other direction to investigate with an inquisitive ‘meow.’ Besa is a fair mouser, so I had high hopes that she would end this nightmare. But Besa walked to the cradle, touched noses with the squirrel and then turned and left the bedroom. What a traitor!
Bonding with the cat seemed to make the squirrel even bolder, as if he’d been personally welcomed into the fold. The squirrel eluded my husband and yet again made its circuit around the room and down my body, while I huddled under the covers wondering if I was some sort of squirrel magnet. This circuit, however, turned out to be its last, as my husband was finally successful in dropping his T-shirt net on the defeated squirrel. I let out a sigh of relief and asked my husband what he was going to do with it. I relaxed back into bed as my husband took the squirrel downstairs, saying he’d take care of it.
The next morning, I should not have been surprised to find the squirrel in a cage. I had assumed that ‘taking care of it’ would involve an end to the squirrel. I should have known that ‘taking care of it’ to my husband meant providing it with food and shelter!
Word of the humane treatment my husband provided must have spread somehow. After this incident we became over-run with flying squirrels. Luckily they kept to the attic where my husband set up a live trap. Each time he caught one in the live trap, he added it to a big cage that he kept in the bath tub. (Luckily we have two bathrooms! This tub has seen its share of adventures—even a bear once. But that is a story for a different blog post!)
Once this tub-cage had over 30 flying squirrels taking up residence, it seemed we must have caught them all. We could no longer hear their scratching or chirping coming from the walls and attic. So my husband loaded the cage into his truck and relocated them 10 hours away, releasing them into his brother’s barn in the Upper Peninsula. That has been 13 years ago and we still get the occasional squirrel, like the one in the last post. But thankfully they haven’t come back in the numbers with which they began!
“Pumpkin, were you a naughty kitty today?” I asked my cat as I passed by her on my way to the living room. It seemed strange that she was standing in the corner under the china cabinet in the dining room, as if she were serving a punishment for some indiscretion. Heading back through to the kitchen, I noticed that Pumpkin was joined by another of my three cats. “One cat in the corner is just funny. Two cats in the corner is a little suspicious, you two,” I said to the cats.
A sinking feeling came over me as I remembered another time all three cats were congregated in this spot. That time, they had chased a mouse up the wall where it cowered and clung, hoping to avoid being dinner. Already shuddering with revulsion, I found a flashlight and courageously approached the china cabinet. My fear and loathing of mice is well known in the household. Whenever one makes an appearance, I can be found in some lofty perch as my youngest and most compassionate daughter, Lili, bravely catches the wayward creature in hopes of making a pet out of it.
“What is it, mom?” Lili asked.
I ignored her question as I began to yell. “Where’s the phone? Find the phone! Call your dad! Get in the bathroom! HURRY UP!” By the time I had finished my rant, the older daughter had pushed the cell phone into my hand and taken her own look behind the china cabinet.
As I was making my way to lock myself in the bathroom, she called out, “Geez, mom, quit flipping out. It’s just a little flying squirrel.”
“Eww, eww, eww!” was my only reply as I slammed and locked the door. I speed-dialed my husband. He answered, and not having time for pleasantries, I blurted, “How long before you are home?” I’m sure I put the fear of God into him that someone was lying broken and bloody on the kitchen floor, but once I made him understand that there was a squirrel in the house, he knew better than to be upset with me about sounding so panicked. This wasn't our first squirrel run-in. He assured me that he was close to home and I would not be eaten alive before he got there.
I hung up the phone and opened the door a crack to make sure the girls were not being infested with rabies. The sight that met my eyes would have been hilarious if I did not have such a phobia about small, furry, rodent type creatures. Both girls were shrieking with delight. The squirrel wasn't making any noise, but I’m sure that if it had been, the shrieks would not have been of delight.
By the time, my husband got home, the girls must have worn the squirrel right out because he had no trouble snagging the bedraggled creature in an old towel. My family has no sympathy for my phobia, however, and the squirrel was transferred to a cage for Lili to keep as her pet of the week.
I can very distinctly remember my 8th grade year. My best friend and I were inseparable. We had been best friends since 5th grade. We dressed alike when we could. We had pet nicknames for each other. We listed the boys we liked in initials running the length of our folders and notebooks surrounded by arrow-stabbed hearts. We had our own table of friends in the lunch room. We had teachers wrapped around our little fingers. We had dreams too. Even though this was before the time of "Friends," that urbane group of chic, beautiful people, living together and hanging out in a coffee shop in New York City, this was how my bff and I envisioned our grown-up lives...maybe with a little Sex in the City thrown in. I knew even then that I wanted to be a teacher, but that could fit the dream, I figured. They had to have teachers in New York! But as often happens, my bff and I drifted apart in high school. There was no drama or angst involved. It seems now it was as gradual as the seasons and it crept up on us like dusk to children called inside too soon on a summer night. My dreams stayed with me, even after the best friend was gone. I wanted to escape the mundane town in which I resided. You couldn't even call it a small town; its legal description is village. I still felt the city calling me. In college, my thoughts of living on the east coast were resurrected for an inkling when I dreamed that Mr. Right, graduating as I was a sophomore, would beg me to transfer schools and come with him. While I imagined he was Mr. Right, it turned out I was just Miss Right Now. Picking myself up and dusting myself off, it was cities in the south that called to me next. Minoring in Spanish, working in the summers with migrant children, and eyeing an opportunity to student teach in Texas, I began making different plans. Once again, I found my plans changing. This time it was due to boredom and ennui, which happily led to a forever love. At any point along this journey, if anyone had told me I would be blissfully married to the man who truly is my Mr. Right, I would have laughed until I was blue in the face. These days I do laugh until I am blue in the face...because our life together is joyous and funny and just plain awesome. So welcome to the blog of our life stories. Welcome to the joy and the pain and the children and the animals and the mess of a yard and the white house behind the red farm gate that we affectionately call The Compound.