You can now find me writing here...

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Miss Nancy Pants Simmons, The Dog Who Didn't Wear Pants

Spring 2007 - October 4, 2015

She chose us in the fall of 2007. We had been in Emporia just over a year and the hubby came back in the house just after leaving from work one morning. "There's a pup on the front step. You should call the pound."

He said later that he never expected me to call the pound, of course. She was thin and sick. I took her to the vet who said he'd give her everything he had for parasites, and if she was still alive the following week, we should bring her back in for her puppy vaccinations.

Thus began our life with Nancy (named after Nancy Drew, of course) the German Shepherd who probably would have been better suited to life on a sheep farm, but instead became a member of our family. Though many never saw her best side, she grew sweet and lovable, and was the best rug a cold foot could ask for on a winter's day.

It's almost hard to remember the days we struggled with her health's up and downs, those chewing-up-things days of puppy-hood, the stuffed animals she would carry around and sleep with until one day we'd find them with all their stuffing removed. We figured out her quirks, however, her food sensitivities and that her anxieties were diminished when she could count her people and know they we were all corralled for the night. 

She count us constantly with a nose-nudge. She'd circle the room and if everyone was in place, she'd relax in the middle of the floor, happy and content. Should a kid be missing, however, gone for a night at a friend's house or such, she'd circle the room again and again and pester me. Once I understood that she was simply trying to alert me to the fact that someone was missing, we got along better. Maybe I learned to reassure her. Maybe she learned, after some time, that they did come back eventually. Family always does.

Nancy was a very smart dog, smarter than we usually gave her credit for. We often praised her for her beauty, rarely for her brains. But we loved her and she loved us back in that way that only dogs do. Even when we were exasperated with her. Even when I lamented at all the hair she left on the floor. 

In the last couple of years, we've commented often at how calm our pup has grown. At 8 and a half years old, we figured she was entering her golden years. She'd become--finally--a delight to take on walks. Every morning she'd make the trek with hubby and I, sometimes with a kid or two, as well. She actually smiled when she saw us crawl out of bed at o'dark-thirty. She waited patiently by the door for us to get ourselves in gear to go.

Our Miss Nancy fell asleep by the door one last time on Sunday evening. It was a shock. I have been mentally preparing myself for the demise of my little dog (age 18 in people years). I knew Nancy wouldn't enjoy quite such longevity, but I didn't imagine the end coming so soon.

I've spent four days now listening for the click-clack of the toenails across our linoleum floor. It's strangely quiet in our house. When I close my eyes at night, though, I still hear her. The contented sigh as she drops to the floor at the foot of our bed. The midnight wandering when she changes sleeping locations or worse, gets one of us up for a bathroom break. There's a hole here, a lack of presence that is loud and still a bit startling. There are Nancy claw marks on the bathroom door, the bedroom door. She was never a dog who needed help getting in or out of a room. And when I fixed breakfast this morning, a stray Nancy hair drifted through my field of vision, landing on the black stove top.

I wonder how long before there comes a day when her absence is not noticed.


Nancy stories...

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Meeting the Future

doing a victory song and dance after installing a "self-healing" shield on my 
new camera (aka smart phone) 

"I've got military grade technology on my phone."

Daughter Evie: 

"You realize you had military grade technology the first time you bought duck tape, right?"

A favorite image from my new camera... I can communicate with people on it, as well.

I am now carrying a computer in my pocket that far supersedes the very first bulky desktop I purchased a quarter of a century ago. In computing power, it likely supersedes anything I have ever owned. And honestly speaking, you'll rarely find it in my pocket. I carry a bag pretty much full time now in order to create a little buffer zone between the device and my body. I'm still weird about stuff like that. I'm the woman, after all, who refuses to have a microwave oven in my kitchen.

I'm not a Luddite by any stretch of the word... I was cutting edge, once... the only person I knew for years who had a computer at home, online before the web was world-wide. But with the pace of things changing so rapidly, keeping up became less important than so many other options for spending my money. I grew comfortable, I guess. Having kids drew my eye away from the sparkle of technology for a while. 

I find myself thinking about my grandmother's kitchen, she is a constant presence in my memories of growing up... soft in her hugs, quiet in her speaking. She liked grits for breakfast, which I found horribly bland, but she never complained when I sprinkled them with sugar. She served Tang drink mix in those metallic cups. She had stacks of Ellery Queen Mystery magazines around her bed. I read the stories in them when I slept over, feeling very adult and sophisticated. Grandma loved to travel and she collected rocks everywhere she went. They sat in rows on a shelf in her hallway, each one perched atop a card that detailed date and location collected.  

I have a memory of sitting at Grandma's table, peppering her with questions.

Did cars exist when you were a kid?

The Model T, in fact, was first available to the public in 1908, the year of her birth.

How about airplanes? Did people fly?

The Wright brothers first flew five years earlier, in fact, and were distant cousins on her mother's side.

Grandma Skaggs was from the south, and in my child's mind, that meant there was a good chance she knew something, first person, about slavery.

Oh my, she laughed. That was a long time before me. But she went on to tell me they had a housekeeper when she was a little girl who had been born a slave.

At age 7, I could not imagine that in my lifetime I would ever see the kinds of changes my grandmother had witnessed. How awesome the world must have been for her after so many years of seeing things shiny and new. I had few models of reference for futuristic technology. I had not yet been introduced to science fiction at that point. 

Grandma had a portable electronic typewriter. It was tucked into a neat little blue and white case with a handle. It was the most modern thing in our family that had any value, as far as I could tell. (My mother got her first microwave oven when I was 7, as well. I created lightening--that was pretty cool--when I baked a tray of biscuits.) 

Grandma's typewriter looked like luggage, and it took my mind to places I did not know I could travel. With the sun to my back at Grandma's kitchen table, I would roll a piece of paper onto the carriage and dance in my chair as that little machine hummed. It jumped each time I punched a key, filling my mind and my fingertips with stories to be written.

At age 45, I'm on a road trip with my daughter, age 19. She's driving. I'm busy being fascinated by the fact that I can pull up a map on my camera (aka smart phone) and our vehicle becomes a moving blue dot on the map. "Google," I say, "Take us to..." and I proceed to read the address, our destination, off a slip of paper she has tucked into her purse.

My arm rests on the paper atlas that is always, ALWAYS tucked between the front seats in our car. I am telling my daughter that it's only a matter of time before I will be able to zoom in and view our vehicle in real time. "I'll be able to wave at myself," I say, resisting the urge to roll down the window and grin up at the sky at that moment, cheesing for some satellite camera that must exist.

"I can't believe that you, of all people, are actually talking to your phone," my daughter says.

It's true. I resisted communications upgrade for a long time. I was never much fond of the telephone, except perhaps during that brief period of late grade school through junior high, when I discovered that it connected me, a country kid, to my friends in the city. We shared a party line with my grandma, uncle, and cousins down the road for many years. What a luxury when the line became our own. I remember stretching the phone cord as far as it would go, curling up in the stack of clean laundry, and talking with my friends Kristy, Missy, Yvette, or Condi, for hours on end.

I've carried flip phones until they were obsolete.

"I'm having trouble making calls," I explain to the service provider.

"That's because we no longer support that technology," he kindly explains. "How long have you had that phone?"

Grandpa Sam, grandparent on the other side of my family, had the same black rotary phone my entire life. Even as a child, I would have told you the thing was antiquated and bulky. I sometimes had to make calls on it while waiting at Grandpa's house after piano lessons. The receiver was so heavy, I had to use both hands.

Now I think that even Captain Picard, who I fell in love with in my twenties, would be impressed by my new communication device. It takes lovely pictures, which is fortunate, as my 9-year-old digital camera (a gift, already used) began the march toward slow death sometime last year.

Grandma and I once had a conversation (I was nearing 30, by then) about the fads she'd seen come and go. "Those computers," she declared with heavy skepticism. She assured me they would pass, as well. 

Grandma was slowing down by then, her frailty often leading us to believe that she paid attention less to what was going on. I remembered, though, that she had always been a quiet one, and that when seated at the kitchen table, peppering her with questions, you could get even Grandma to tell a story.

I tell my daughter about plugging my computer into a phone line for the first time. I was nineteen, just her age. "Can you imagine," I say, "Having lived this long without the internet? Without text messaging? Without the whole world at your fingertips?"

She tells me to stop staring at my phone, lift my eyes, and look at the world around me as we drive by. I don't have to see it from a satellite picture, just because one is available to me. It's here in real time. See -- there's a grocery store, a restaurant, a round-about -- all identifiable even without Google's tidy labels on the image on my phone. 

I slip the computer back in my pocket, and the future meets us, still.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

If it's all bad, maybe you should take a look in the mirror...

I just went to the website of a local store that I really like. I like them because the employees are all so attentive! They are friendly and helpful. They have gone out of the way for me several times and helped me problem-solve when I've been working on projects that are a little out of my zone of expertise.

So I was shocked to find the reviews of the store were filled with comments about rude staff and slow service. I had to stop and ask myself... are we even talking about the same place?

My theory is that there are a couple of things going on here.

  1. People don't tend to give credit when they are satisfied. I know I have been guilty of this myself. If a business makes me happy, I pay them back with repeat visits and I like to think that I recommend my friends go there, but I can't say I ever take the time to go write a positive review on their website. If something happens to me at a store that makes me angry, however, I hang on to it for years. I not only avoid return visits, I tell the story of how lousy the service was. And though it happened 7 or 8 years ago, I probably tell the story like it happened yesterday.

  1. I truly believe that you get what you put out there. If you are impatient and angry, it bounces right off whomever you are dealing with and comes right back at you. I think people are generally kind and helpful, and I believe that it probably has a lot to do with the fact that I generally try to be a kind and helpful person. It doesn't always work. There are people whose attitudes continue to baffle me, but for the most part, I encounter people every day who are pleasant to deal with.

I really think it's just that simple. Smile, and the whole world smiles with you. Cry and  you cry alone.

Now I'm off to write a couple of positive reviews... and I'm going to try to keep this in mind. Return visits AND acknowledgement for a job well done. It only takes a minute.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Another birthday near...

I was surprised today when I saw that my Facebook profile said I was 44 years old. I have been calling myself 45 since 2015 began. It's easier to remember when I roll my age forward with the year. Birthdays aren't what they used to be and it is not because I avoid them. I don't mourn my youth (I do sometimes mourn a smoother, more youthful complexion). I get a kick out of the silver that is beginning to show up in my black hair. I am growing my own sparklies... how cool is that?

When I was a kid, my birthday marked the end of the school year, the beginning of summer. It used to make me sad that it was too late to have a party at school, except for one year when a teacher had the bright idea that all the summer birthdays celebrate with cupcakes in early May. It wasn't quite the same, and my mother more than made up for the lack of a school party at home. My birthday often coincided with a volleyball net strung cross the driveway, neighbors and friends invited for homemade ice cream, Mom's angel food cake and lawn chairs set up round the yard.

I guess I've long associated my birthday with big gatherings of people, though with my kids we've developed more intimate, family centered celebrations. For the last four years I've been celebrating as part of Dirty Kanza weekend, where the farmers market I manage hosts its biggest fundraiser of the year, and 1,000+ bicyclists from all over the United States and beyond gather for a 200 mile ride through the Flint Hills. This year my birthday falls at the end of the festivities and I've told my family I want to sleep in, stay at home, and have little to nothing on the agenda.

Meanwhile, I'm going to settle in and adjust to the fact that I really am only 44 years old for ten more days. Forty-four has been a very good year, but I'm pretty sure 45 is going to be better. I've been practicing for five months now, after all, and the trial-run has been promising.

My 2nd Birthday... before I grew my own sparklies. And that's the family dog, Poochie.
I don't know why those two photos are connected in my files. I can only assume they were taken on the same day.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

With a Year's Worth of Stuff Bottled Up Inside My Head

So it is just over a year since I have attempted to blog here. Just over a year since I have given myself the power and freedom to just dump whatever it is, inside my head, out on the page. I thought I would blog about writing here, or about unschooling my three children here... and perhaps I have, occasionally, with various degrees of success. I have never had much success in dividing my life into spheres. The writing me, the mom me, the farmers market manager me, the me that is attempting to help publish books for others... it's all just me, really.

I am who I am.

And I've long stopped apologizing for my varied interests and focuses. You hear that, ME? I'm not going to say I am sorry any more. It's not a lack of focus, an inability to commit, or a fear of failure (or success!) I love writing. I wouldn't give up the last 19 years of holding motherhood as my primary "job" for anything. I absolutely love the way that my work as farmers market manager has given me roots in this community and has helped me to feel more at home. I get a kick out of formatting books for publication (and I'm pretty darned good at it). I'm not a half-bad editor either... except for my own work. (I suck at editing my own work.)

I am a creative being, who adores the orderly nature and power of a spreadsheet.

Is that weird? Well so be it. That's who I am.

This evening, I went to a reading of Notable Kansas Authors at the William Allen White Library on ESU's campus. Notable Authors include my good friend, Cheryl Unruh, and my friend and co-author (Green Bike), Kevin Rabas. I almost didn't go, because I've been in a stay-at-home frame of mind, of late, but I talked myself into going at the last minute because I have never been let down by the experience of listening to story tellers. Notable authors also include the prolific, Max McCoy and Jim Hoy, both of whom I have very much enjoyed listening to in the past.

Sure enough, The event was barely getting started as my mind started collecting ideas and inspirations. Why am I not writing? I asked (inside my head). Okay, I mean, I am writing (novel-in-progress, 3rd draft) but why am I not writing this... and this... and this... and this?

Oh, if only there were more hours in the day.

I've got enough projects to keep me busy through the sundown of my life.

There's plenty to share... inside my head, there's no need to hide it.

If I know it makes my heart smile, I shall say YES!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014


Sometimes I really miss the person who had time to devote to blogging all that was inside her head. Sometimes when I feel I have the time these days, I just sit and stare at the screen. Then I turn the computer off and go to bed.

At the same time, I'm happy to be busy and outside of my head more than I used to be. I think I needed the space away from myself. I think I needed the break from my own inner thoughts and obsessions.

Somewhere there is a balance between the two.

Someday I will find it.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

18 Years of Parenting

She didn't come with a set of instructions. We just sort of muddled through, picking up the details we needed to know along the way, understanding that we would make mistakes and need forgiving.

She was my first close-encounter with my very own kind of miracle. The fact of her existence, evidence of my creative power, took my breath away. Then came the mind-boggling comprehension that she was mine, yet not mine at all.

I began to understand, quite early, how quickly this was all going to happen. The years rolling one right onto another, how effortlessly she grew from a baby to one who toddles to one who speaks and dreams and continues to alter the course of our daily rituals. I'd never been more content to simply observe, to drop everything I was and become for someone else, for however long she needed me, and then I would become again.

So here we are on the first day of year 18, with all its legal significance. She can vote. She can sign her own health forms. She can serve on a jury. She can maintain her finances privately if she so desires. And while I have no worries that she is capable, I have had moments of anxiety. Have I prepared her? Was there something big and profound I was suppose to have passed along by now that maybe I have forgotten?

Yet, it is a day like any other. A day we will continue to evolve in our relationship, she and I. A day we will continue to celebrate, both individually and together. A day when we will look back on where we've been, and look forward to all there is still before us.

Today I have been a mother for 18 years.

She continues to amaze me.