Friday, December 12, 2014

A Christmas Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

This picture says perhaps more than a 1000 words....When you view it, you are viewing a very intimate place in my life and in the history of my life......More than just a sweet pup curled up under the Christmas Tree on a cloudy December morning.....To understand it, in part, you must look closer....Much closer....And in doing so, you might just see a bit deep into my heart. So, if you are willing to look, I will start you off with a few guided glimpses......

The nativity scene you see on the table is our First Nativity, started 44 years ago when we were newly married, pieces added (and some, beyond repair, taken away) thru the years.....I have over 40 Nativity scenes  thruout my house at Christmas. Several from foreign countries, including Israel and Mexico and Switzerland;  several whimsical (a "dog" nativity, a "s'mores" nativity, a "snowman" nativity...); many that were gifts from friends and family and preschoolers.  I love decorating for Christmas with nativity scenes.  I think my Mom endeared me to them.  Tho she had only one, it was the centerpiece of Christmas in her home.   

When I was a child, Santa Claus scared the Dickens (pun intended) out of me......He "knew" things about me that I was embarrassed to reveal....He knew that I sucked my thumb, even tho I tried, in vain, to stop......And he informed me (via letters from the North Pole) that, should I continue to suck my thumb, I would not receive a Bride Doll for Christmas.  It wasn't so much the thought of not getting Bride-y that broke my heart.  It was the fact that I had this "character flaw" of seeking comfort in such a babyish manner......If I couldn't stop the thumbsucking, how in the World would I be able to be a grownup someday?

And, to top it off, this stranger, whom I barely knew, was aware of my shortcoming.....
When I  had my own home, I did not celebrate Santa....I wanted no part of him and his voyeurism and wiretapping...

Until I met Bruce Kotowitch.....

When I was 50 years old.

And  now I Believe......  If ever there was a Santa, it is Bruce....When it is not the Christmas Season, Bruce is Professor of Vocal Music at Lorus University in Dubuque Iowa.  His powerful baritone voice resonates in his speech; his body towers over most of us; his face says "yes" in its very demeanor.  He is one of the kindest, most caring and pleasant people I know. To be in the same room with him is truly food for your soul. I think that Bruce embodies the type of person that Santa Claus tries to bring forth.  And he overlooks my shortcomings and loves me anyway....

Bruce considers his role as Santa each December one of foremost importance and pays meticulous attention to detail. 

 His Santa suit is authentic right down to his red one-piece long underwear.  The trousers were tailored to fit a size 60 waist.  His belt buckles (he has several) were custom made of finest brass from artisans in eastern Tennessee.  His sleigh bells, beautifully tuned, are made by the same metallurgists who created the bells for the Anheuser Busch Clydesdales.  Bruce wears white eyelashes.  And his beard and mustache are real human hair.

Bruce makes sure that he is well-educated in the realm of toys and most-requested items that children ask for each year.  I do not believe that I have ever seen any child afraid or even Suspicious of Bruce-as-Santa. A bit awed, certainly.....overwhelmed by the bigness of body and spirit.....but never afraid. 

When you see him, you, too, will Believe.  I believe in all that Christmas is again, and my heart and soul slow down to incorporate its meaning.....Maybe he will come visit your home some year......

      Ah.....More about this picture.....The dulcimer hanging on the wall was made by us. By me and husband, Rob.  Many years ago, when the children were young, we visited Silver Dollar City in Branson Missouri for a vacation.  While there, I was intrigued by the beauty and sound of the dulcimers made by one of the artists.  I discovered, much to all our surprise, that I could, indeed, play the instrument, with very little instruction. Perhaps it was some of my Appalachian ancestors harkening in my ears.....For whatever reason, I became almost obsessed with the instrument, and would have stayed at that booth all day, had the children not been tugging at my sleeve. 

So, at Rob's encouragement, I ordered a "dulcimer kit" from these folks, and received it in the mail only a couple of days after we returned home. Soon I would have my very own dulcimer and be able to play those mountain tunes as my ancestors had in the hills of Tennessee.

Turns out, instead of buying a couple of pieces of wood shaped like a dulcimer that we just glued together, what we got in the mail was a box of boards!

Boards.  Several shapes and sizes.  And instructions.  I thought about crying.  But Dear Rob, as he has so many times in these 43+ years, assured me that, together, he and I could do this.  We would make this dulcimer, even though it meant many hours of careful and tedious work. 

And so, we began, one night soon after, to make some sense of the dulcimer directions to create one of my dearest treasures.

The Treasure of it, lies not only in its physical beauty, but in the memories it gave us as it came to be....

We would put the children to bed and make tea and sit at our dining room table, working on it--together--one step at a time. The process was ponderous and  painstaking and some evenings, imperceptible. I learned to admire Rob's patience.  He learned to admire my technological skills. Each night we would finish one more step towards completion, stopping to let the glue dry or wet the boards to curve into the proper shapes.

Finally, it was time to make the sound holes.  I was so eager to hear it sound, that I was content to cut simple circles into the body of the instrument. But Rob asked me what I Really wanted, if I wasn't in such a hurry.  I admitted that I loved the hummingbirds carved into one I saw in a picture book......He carved with his pocketknife, two perfect hummingbirds each facing the fret, with leaves and vines woodburned beside them. There is no other dulcimer as fine as this one we made together.

Keep looking at this picture, and you will see the quilts...on the floor, on the wall, on the chairs.....All made by me, at one time or another. A comfort in many ways, for the body, for the eye....for the pup.  I truly believe that quilts that have been sewn by loved ones have pieces of that person stitched into their core.  And the magic of it is that someone took Time out of their life just to bring this art into existence for its recipient.  Never underestimate the power of even the simplest of quilts.

The Christmas Tree doesn't reveal all its beauty in this picture.  It's ornamentation is a culmination of 44 Christmases, having begun in a tiny apartment in South Jersey, boxed and moved to several states and endured babies and toddlers and clumsy adolescents. Some of the ornaments are exquisite.  Made by my mother in times gone by.  Some are little handprints, little footprints, old pinecones, school pictures, vacation souvenirs, gifts from friends long passed on, plastic trumpets, baby angels, icicles, strands of old glass beads.....And then, there's the Star.

You should be able to see a bit of the Star in this picture.  It, too is 44 years old.  Made by two kids who strung popcorn and wrapped glue-y yarn around balloons and pulled ribbons thru pinecones that first Christmas they were married.  The star was carefully cut out of a cardboard box, then covered with aluminum foil.  A holder was fashioned on the back of it to loop over the top branch of the tree. We signed it, and dated it, and said we would Always use this star to put on top of each tree, each year.....

Some years I am tempted to purchase a fancy, lighted-up star to grace our tree, but I always remember those two young folks who made Christmas together, even when their budget would not allow the tinsel and shiny decorations.  And we smile and weep a bit, and Rob stands on a chair and puts the cardboardandfoil Star more year.......

Of course, the picture would probably not have held your interest were it not for that sableandsnow Collie puppy resting at the base of the tree.  He is 8 months old.  Our 4th Collie to live with us, with huge shoes to fill......His name is Tartanside A Spirit of Courage, and we call him Curtis.  His name is inspired by the Bible verse from 2Timothy 1:7 "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and of courage."

He is, as Anice Terhune said of Lad, the Dearest Dog!  And I  believe that he, too, in the years to come, will make his place in the hearts of many more than just mine.  For Collies were meant to be shared in this world.  They were bred to love and teach wisdom and bring great joy.  I guess you could say that Collies and Christmas bring the same Message.  Hopefully, we can continue to spread that Word, and, in everything we do and say, we can keep Christmas all year long.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Baby Has a Will

I remember when my children began to walk and talk.  Then they began to suspect that I did not know Everything.  They would walk away from me and learn new things from other sources.

Sometimes they did not come to me directly when called.

Sometimes they had Different Opinions than mine.

And they began to realize that they were separate from me.......

They were given car keys, new clothes, allowance money, and options for Freedom and Independence. 

And they messed up.  Royally.  Only to be reconciled back to Us, and forgiven and released again to try once more these wings of growth.  They pushed and they failed and they progressed. 

And we loved them.  We loved them with Complete Abandon and Joy.  We loved beyond the mistakes and the setbacks.  We were building a lifelong relationship, and everyone involved knew that it was of ultimate importance.

This month, our Collie Puppy, Curtis has discovered a broader world.  Most of the care and positive  reinforcement I have lavished upon him for the past 5 months has been for naught. 

Curtis is now seven months old.  The age when many young pups get relinquished to the local dog pound.  He has forgotten everything I have ever taught him.  He makes me doubt that I have used the proper methods for education and building a relationship.......

My Spirit of Courage has a mind of his own, and doesn't come when called anymore.  He cannot be trusted off leash from the house to the car. 

Curtis has forgotten what "sit!" is supposed to mean.  He jumps up on people.  He put his teeth on me when I was grooming him.  He ducks his head and wiggles out of the way when I reach for his collar.

Somedays he delights me in his increase of understanding and his focus on me. Somedays I cannot get him to leave my side and disconnect. 

Other days, he roams the room, looking for Something to do.  Rings the bell to go out, paws at the door to come in. Pokes the cats with his nose. Steals the socks out of my shoes.

People tell me that I will love him again in a few years.....I love him now!  I love his independence and his courage to explore new worlds. I love his keen mind and his attitude of importance. I love his gangly body and his clumsy gait.  I love the way he looks at me. And I love the warmth of his sweet back nestled up against mine.

I love what he is right now, and know that we will both survive the changes.  I love who he will be someday......For I can see the Future, and both of us are brave enough to go forward.

November 11. A Day that Will Live in Infamy.......



Lonnnnnnng years ago on this day, my Puzzle Piece was born.  My Ying to my Yang.....The Most Important Part of me.....The Biggest Challenge in my Life.......The person I love the most and hate the most......The Best Teacher in the World.....

Yeh......It was Long before I ever saw the light of day myself, but, truly, in a hotel in downtown Nowata Oklahoma, Robert Bailey came into this world. Accompanying him was a love of music, cats, chocolate, techno gear, bicycles, and order.......

I met this person when he was a youngster of 23.  I was 18.  Our draw was immediate. He thought I was beautiful and funny.  I thought he was handsome and wise.

I have watched him grow and change and stay the same.  He has patiently waited on me to discover myself and morph into me as well. 
I don't have many things to write about this person.   No real explanation except to confess that he is so much a part of me, I cannot "distance" myself from the "him" and the "me" of it.  Things I say about him I really say about me.  The two of us truly have become the "we," and we carry each other thru this life of ours.
We have cake to eat. And coffee to drink.  And music to listen to. 
I am so grateful for being able to share my life with person.  I hope he has the Happiest of Days today. 


Monday, November 3, 2014

November 2nd: The Story of Emily's Coming into this World.....

I was 20.  He was 25.  No one on this Planet was more wanted, desired, eagerly awaited than our child.  We had been married almost a year when the new life started within me.  Valentine's Day. 

Due date in early November.  November 5th.  Election Day.  I sent in my absentee ballot so as not to miss voting in my first Presidential Election. 

On Halloween, Rob and I painted appliance boxes and wore them......We were disguised as a washer and dryer.....Covering my tummy, and wearing masks, no one even Guessed it was us.  In fact, the friend dressed as Santa was suspected to be me....

That week, we drove in from our apartment in New Jersey to the Philadelphia Naval Hospital for a weekly pre-natal checkup.  I had experienced no complications at all during my pregnancy.  No morning sickness, no fatigue, no mood swings, no pain, not even any Braxton Hicks.  This morning, however, I insisted to the doctor that right under my ribcage was the baby's head.  I told him that whenever I bent over I was concerned about "breaking his neck."

"No, that is Definitely a butt," he told us.  But just to make sure, he would schedule me for an x-ray. This was a Longgggg time ago (yes, Emily, you ARE at Middle Age now....), before the routine ultra-sounds and other such fancy tests for concerned mommies.

When I saw the x-ray, my first reaction was, "What's Wrong with his head?"  The baby was definitely a breech presentation, his head not tucked and positioned downward, but rather UP and looking out (if you know Emily, you would be laughing right now. She has Never tucked her head nor sat quietly).  The head was not rounded, but rather had a bit of a "point" on the back.

"Oh, that is not a problem," the doctor assured me. "And you should have no problem with delivery."

In "those" days, 2/3 of breech babies were actually delivered. Now, all of them are Caesarean Section.

All Saints Day was upon us.  We had our one bedroom apartment all set and ready for the newborn.  The hall closet held the changing table and all his clothes.  Our bedroom housed the crib, complete with colorful mobile and new-fangled bumper guards.  Playtex bottles were clean and ready in case I needed supplements for breast feeding (not many moms breastfed in those days).  We had a high chair, an infant seat, cloth diapers, and a baby bathtub.

The phone rang that afternoon in our apartment.  Doctor Brannon was on the line, asking me to come in the next day, and asked that I bring my husband with me.  They wanted to "look" at his head. 

"Dr. Brannon," I told him, "my husband's head is as round as an orange.  What is going on?"
It seems that the physicians at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital had sent the x-rays all over Philadelphia.  To Children's Hospital, the first hospital devoted exclusively to the care of children.  Ranked #1 Children's Hospital in the nation (where they performed miraculous feats like separated conjoined twins and curing childhood cancers).  To Temple University Hospital, one of the premier medical centers in America......And no one had seen a head like this before.

Their conclusion......Probably the brain was protruding out of the back soft spot in the baby's head. The Occipital Fontanelle.  Up until this time, we only knew about the Frontal Fontanelle, but learned this day that there are actually two...One in front, a smaller one in back.

"We do not want to subject the baby's brain to any undue pressure, Mrs. Bailey.  So we have scheduled you for a Caesarean Section  on November 5th."

I was 20.  Up until now, I had lead a charmed and protected life.  I had been carefully and gently raised and indulged, and no "bad things" had ever happened to me. Now Life was presenting us with a dramatic and impossible canyon to traverse. I hung up the phone, held my swollen abdomen, and wept bitterly.  Never before had I worked so diligently for something, only to have it fail so miserably. 

My husband held me close and let the tears of sorrow and fear flow freely.  Then he tilted my face up to his and told me, "You have declared all your life your love of God and your reliance on Him.  Now is the Time to put that faith into practice.  We will go through this together, and trust that He has the Best in store for us."

Sometimes I really hate Rob for his wisdom.

So, what does a girl do when Life hits her between the eyes......She shops.....

We went to Fields Department Store (this before the era of WalMart).  We bought a new camera.  We bought groceries and root beer. 

Home again. Took pictures of my expanding tummy with me standing next to our avocado plant we had grown from a seed.  It was taller than I was, but not as wide......

We propped ourselves up on pillows in the bed with a "fun plate" between us-----salami, cheese, crackers----and poured ourselves a root beer.  The TV was airing a movie starring John Wayne (Rob's favorite actor) and Shirley Temple (my favorite actress).

So we watched the movie and happily ate our snacks.

At one point, while Shirley Temple is running down the walkway in pretty hat and gown, I notice that my "bulge" is becoming quite hard and turgid.

No pain.  Not even any discomfort.  The tenor is singing "Oh Genevieve," and we consume more root beer.

My abdomen returns to "normal," and, then, curiously, it hardens again several minutes later.

I mention this to Rob, and he whips out his left hand with the watch on it, places his right hand on my baby bump, and looks concerned.

After several repetitions of this "hardening/relaxing," he announces that we are "going to the hospital." Demands that I get dressed and out the door immediately.

I lumber to the bathroom, assuring him that this, is, in fact, NOT labor, just some weird game the Baby is playing.  I find a pair of pants that still stretch over my middle, cover it with a voluminous shirt (no tight maternity clothes back then), and obediently descend the stairs to the car. 

Rob is speeding.  It is midnight, and not much traffic on the White Horse Pike heading into Philly. He is driving with one hand on the steering wheel, one hand on my paunch.   Now we are on the Walt Whitman Bridge, crossing the Delaware River, and flashing red and blue lights pull us over.

Rob jumps out of the car, goes over to the policeman and tells him, "She's having contractions, and they are 5 minutes apart.  I am going to the Naval Hospital.  You can get in front of me or in back of me"  (Never before or since has my diplomatic husband been so assertive and demanding).

The policeman, answering with a panicked voice, tells this soontobe new father, "Oh......Oh.....Oh........Okay.......," and careens his patrol car to our front, setting off alarms and bells from the toll booth, escorting us down Broad Street in Philadelphia to the emergency entrance of the hospital. 

I am laughing.  Holding my solid tummy and laughing.  "Rob!  This is so cool!  We can tell the Baby about this when he is 10 years old!"

Rob, knuckles white on the steering wheel, eyes peering straight ahead, "Toni, are you in complete control?"

Swirling into the parking lot of the ER, I am assisted up the ramp, and swept into an exam room, don a backless gown, and instructed to lie down on a gurney. 

"My husband made me come here," I inform the nurse whose head has disappeared underneath the sheet covering me.  "I don't think there is really anything to rush on about."

She emerges calmly from the foot of the gurney.  "Hunny, you are dilated 8 centimeters."

I am assigned a room, taken thru the proper pre-op procedures, and am told to lie down and wait for the doctor to arrive (he too, driving in from New Jersey, across the WW Bridge). 

It was only when I lay down that I began to experience some discomfort.  Back then, labor and delivery were  "controlled" activities orchestrated only by the doctors and their nurses.  It was unheard of to allow a laboring mother to walk around.  So, I began my "practiced" Lamaze Breathing to power thru the contractions.  The attending nurse told me that I should stop breathing like that because I could "hyperventilate."  She then examined me and announced that I was in transition......And I knew that my breathing was right on track with my body. 

There were 8 babies born in that hospital that night.  Women screaming and wailing all up and down the hall.  The Lamaze Breathing technique kept me sane and comfortable and focused. I was the first Lamaze patient to ever be admitted in that hospital, and the nurses were amazed at my "Little Southern Composure." 

Because it was an emergency C-section, I was awake during delivery.  It felt and sounded like someone was cutting stiff cardboard when they made the incision. 

A girl!  Not an 8-pound boy, but a 7pound, 13 ounce GIRL! 

"Emily Ellen Bailey!" I screamed.  "Let me see her!  Let me see her head!" 

"Her head is just fine," the doctor informed me, and then I slept.

Emily's head was just fine.  My theory is that her skull had been molded in utero from so much "looking around."  By day 3, it had rounded out nicely into the pretty roundness of a
C-Section baby.

Rob got a parking ticket.  Emily was jaundiced. My long hair was matted and tangled, and the delivery nurse came over to my ward and combed it out for me.  

According to my mother, Emily wasn't as pretty as her babies, but her assessment of her head was the same as the doctors. "There aint nuthin in the World wrong with that baby," she affirmed. 

And she was right. 

Happy Birthday, Em. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Training....Training Anything...Crossover Trainers...The Positive and The Negative

FIRST of all, Hawks are my favorite animal. They are everything that I would like to be. Fierce. Wild. Free. Exquisite. Well-thought-out. Determined. Accurate.
I saw this video, and I truly did not think anything was out of the ordinary regarding training. Of course, I have never seen the "other" methods of training raptors, nor have I ever gone to a rodeo....BOTH factions would probably get me arrested....sigh.....
Learning the science of positive reinforcement, you don't run the risk of  possible detrimental side effects such as:

Escape avoidance behavior
Increased aggression
Generalized fear of the environment
Loss of trust

The animal trained in negative reinforcement will only work at the level necessary to avoid the negative stimulus.
The animal trained with positive reinforcement will look forward to the training sessions and will be more creative and attentive.

..Didja ever go to to Hot Springs when you were a kid and play the Tic Tac Toe games with the chickens in the arcade glass boxes? The chickens Always beat me at that game....durn chickens--I was Such a gambler even at age 8....But Fascinated at the animals' expertise....
 So, over 50 years ago, they were being trained by positive reinforcement...(ever tried to put a choke chain on a CHICKEN?!).

Remember how it was in school?  The teacher that made us  feel smart and safe and creative had us wanting to be there and learn?  ...Now remember all those teachers that scared us  and how we  only did enough to stay out of trouble and never ever offered any more.

Right...sigh...we "grow" thru adversity, but we Learn with the Positive. So, sometimes, "stress" is a Good Thang, stretching our "borders" and awareness---but it should always be done with love and patience and with lots of allotted timespace to learn.  There is Good in both the Positive and the Negative.....
I cite this example:  When our Kathryn was a little girl and wanted some ketchup to go with her fries at McDonalds....I told her to go to the counter and get it.  "Well....." she told me, "I'm...shy...

"Kathryn, I don't WANT any ketchup. I don't use it on MY fries. If you want some, you'll have to go get it." (meanest Mommy in the world....The WHOLE world)

So, she trucked her liddle blonde head up to the counter, blue eyes barely seeing over the top, and waited and Waited until someone saw her and asked what she wanted.
Came back to our table, with a glowing, triUMphant smile...."Mom! I got my own ketchup!"
"I knew you would," I told her matteroffactly and with great restraint....Our baby had grown a few inches before our very eyes.
She was stressed....unhappy, in fact...but NOT so much that she could not Recover and Learn....
Years later, when this child was in Nursing College....she would report in about various achievements she'd reached during the week, telling me, "Mom! I got my own ketchup!" It has become a catch phrase in our household.....
ANYway, all this is to say, I believe that ALL very good trainers are actually "cross-over" trainers....We have gone the route of choke chains and jerking and snapping, and have discovered that there is a kinder, more effective, more enjoyable Way.
If you ONLY use Positive methods ALL the time (with dogs, at least), then I don't believe that you are very real. Frustration HAS to be a factor some of the time---or you are Waaaaay too perfect to be my friend! :-)  And even my Very Sweetest, Kindest Collie needs a bit of "cometoJesus" every once in a while. But that does NOT mean that one needs to put a prong collar on a Collie or slap and scream and kick.Or teach retrieve with an ear pinch.

Over the years the training techniques have changed--certainly lots of new and wonderful tools have been added to the trainer's toolbox, but the fundamentals have not changed.  Good trainers in 1981  sent clear messages to dogs which included  lead pops--these were taught as fast. light literal pops--not punishing jerks and lots of verbal praise, though not too much food at that time.  The signature style of this kind of training was  a happy voice no matter what the hands were doing.  Timing was the most critical element in  trainer-dog communication.  The emergence of clicker training which I learned in 2011 was huge--it enables the trainer to communicate with a dog  efficiently and quickly. 
Most trainers who started when I did assimilated the new stuff as it came along and edited the tool box on the fly--most of us who grew up this way are eclectic, not based in a single method.  I edit my toolbox ALL the time! At this point, I have actually thrown out my clicker! Yep! I use the one "in my mouth." A wonderful tip from FS teacher Michele Pouliot. 
She ALSO suggests that we keep our treats out of sight, hidden in our pockets, even taking time to dig them out. Once you have clicked, and the dog understands that click means treat, you don't have to be quick! to get the treat to him.....Interesting concept. Makes for Wonderful attention.  "Clean training," she calls it. 

Most tools are perfectly reasonable if applied correctly with the right owner-dog combo, but none work for all dogs all the time.   Ever raised a kid?!  Methods that worked for first daughter did Nothing to help out #2....When you think you have it all sewed up in a neat little package, the planet will send you something completetly different!  One thing that I think that God and the Universe do not like is complacency.....
While you can and have to train some animals as this hawk is trained as dolphins and killer whales are trained, dogs are more resilient and also more defiant sometimes than the hawk is.  I can Definitely say that James was more defiant than a dang hawk! :-)  Prosper, not so much...but in his own way, he does that "passive/assertive" thang... I don't know how many times in and out of class I have seen dogs thumb their noses at their owners and choose to ignore what the owner was doing or saying.  At this point I'm going to add some compulsion to the training--something like a come-for recall onlead where the dog gets a pull  if he fails to respond to the recall command.    OR, as Prosper loves to do.....PEE before he turns around to come to me....arrrrruuuuughhhhh!!!! Durn boydawgs.... I would also be using a negative verbal to mark a missed command....I say "Wrong" very sadly, and turn around. 

 I am a lot happier training with positive, understanding methods. With communicating with the dog instead of dictating. I love being a team and joining up with my dog.
What I have learned  is that one should not rush training....even if it means WE are getting older day by day! Eventually, the Bond between human and dog will begin to explode, and the dog will realize that Teamwork is the Most fun of all. Assuring the dog that YOU have his back, that YOU can be trusted to fulfill his every need, that YOU will take care of each situation. THIS is the most important element of any training. can take That into the ring with you.... Every. Single. Time!.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sixty Two years ago

And, now, it will tell you the story of The Day I Was Born........

Memphis Tennessee.  Early cold morning, snow falling.  My mother had had a couple of false alarms, and wasnt quite sure that this was, in fact, THE Time.  Besides, it was Early, and like most all the Jasper wimmen, Early Morning is an almost insurmountable challenge. 

My Daddy was not taking any chances this time ( after all, it was their third child), and insisted that they were, in fact, going to the neighborhood hospital. 

He scurried my mother out to the car, in the snow, only to find that the tire on his 1950 Chevy was flat.  

We are talking dark ages here, folks.  There was no InstaAir to plump up the tire.  Not even a Spare tire in the trunk.  His only option was to get out the hand pump and pump up the tire.  Manually.  Like a bicycle pump. 

So he did!  He knelt down and began to air up that flat.  In the cold morning snow.

My mother, waiting for her knight in shining armor to slay this dragon, did what any Southern born princess would do.  

She laughed.  She jumped up and down, her turgid belly rolling like Santy Claus, and clapped her hands and Laughed.  

And as the snow blew and the tire filled with air, my father doubled over in severe abdominal pain, exactly coinciding with his wife's labor pain. His appendix later ruptured and he nearly died, but not this day.  That is another story.

They arrived at the hospital in plenty of time. It was Morning, remember......I was not born until after 4 that afternoon. My father consumed an entire bottle of Paragoric (a camphorated tincture of opium, commonly used to treat belly aches, available overthecounter in those days), and staved off the appendix rupture for a few more months.  He also endured taunts from his friends about "sympathy labor." 

I was quite ugly when I was born.  Dark, ruddy skin and exploding straight Black hair.  My eight-year-old sister looked upon me in horror and asked my proud father, "you mean we waited all this time for....for....This?!"

Quickly her mothering instincts kicked in, and I became a Permanent Appendage upon her right hip.  I did not walk alone until I was nearly two.  Beloved and confirmed and doted upon by my older sister and brother, I grew up believing that Life was beautiful and everyone loved me. 

As the third and final child, my parents raised me with the idea that I would outgrow any unacceptable behaviors, and my siblings just thought I was plain fun.

It is a True Miracle that I am not more annoying than I am....

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Mornings At Seven

My old dog
Lies on the rug beside my bed
A SableandSnow tapestry

He is close to me as he can be nowdays.
His legs no longer allowing him access to my bed.

Softly, his legs run in silent rhythm in dream fields of cats and sheep.
He sleeps the sleep of old dogs
And dreams the dreams of young pups.

He carries the memories of me as a younger woman.
I remember the strong and fluid moves of a dog in his prime.
Together we grow older, and our slowing down is an opportunity to Reflect.

I stir under my bedcovers.
His royal head lifts to meet my eyes.
Then drops again between his paws
Neither of us are ready to emerge from the cocoon of sleep and rest.

My bare feet touch the floor beside him.
He rolls to his back, legs askew, whole face smiling.
"What are we gonna do today?" he asks with Joy and Delight at my attention.

I stand, creakily, reach for my robe.

And the slippers under his paws.

Yoga-stretch to stroke his redgold head.

He, too, struggles to arise, old hips uncooperative and unpredictable.

It is no longer a race for the door.  I win every time now.
I leave him behind  to convince his muscles to perform again for him another day.

And my heart remembers a flying Collie.