Hooray for Sheep!

The sheep are back!

I live in a rural community that contracts with a sheep herder to bring his flock every spring and have them chomp down the weeds covering the surrounding fields and hillsides. I’d been waiting and watching for a couple months now and figured maybe they just weren’t coming this year. It was a disappointing thought. Not only do the sheep help with fire prevention, they also clear lots of trails that are overgrown and potentially camouflage snakes—those sneaky devils.

So it’s no surprise that a spontaneous “HOORAY!” popped out of my mouth when I spotted the sheep herder’s trailer parked out in a field this week. “HOORAY!” I squealed. “Thank you, sheep herder! Thank you, sheep!” I couldn’t actually see the woolly crowd, but I knew they were out there somewhere snacking away on dry grasses, and I was so relieved.

Surprisingly relieved, in fact.

And it made me realize I feel the same way with a handful of folks in my life–people who help clear out the weeds in my thinking and chase away any snakes of worry. It is definitely a relief to know those “sheep” are out there, ready and willing to show up if things get out of hand.

Two-legged or four-legged, Hooray for sheep, indeed!

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Bottom-Shelf Books

As I strolled the aisles of the library last week, keeping an eye out for fun fonts and titles, I realized I’d been totally ignoring the books on the bottom shelves. So I stopped, bent in half, and squinted at the tiny print on the spines far, far away. Nope. Not happening. Then I straightened back up and resumed my eye-level searching.

But I felt bad for those poor bottom-shelf books, constantly overlooked, passed by day after day.
I know the feeling, you guys…sigh…

But then–I swear!–one of them winked at me.

Hmmm…interesting.

Maybe those bottom-shelf books don’t have it so bad after all.

For example, they don’t have a bunch of grimy hands grabbing at them. Plus, they’re not stuck in someone’s stinky car for days on end. Their pages aren’t being dog-eared, their covers aren’t getting coffee stains, and their spines aren’t cracking away from overuse. If you think about it, those bottom-shelf books have it made! They’re really just on vacation, kicking back, enjoying loads of free time with their neighbors. No wonder that little guy winked at me!

Besides, they know eventually new books will arrive and everyone will shift right…and shift right…and shift right…until one day, just like that, a bottom-shelf book becomes a top-shelf book, and all those days of lounging in anonymity are over.

So enjoy it while you can, amigo.

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wink

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Good Morning, Birds

TWEET!TWEET!TWEET!TWEET!

The sun is barely up.
Just peeking through actually.

TWEET!TWEET!TWEET!TWEET!

What’s the rush, birds? What’s the rush?

TWEET!TWEET!TWEET!TWEET!

The windows are closed.
The walls aren’t paper thin.
How can your little mouths be so loud?

TWEET!TWEET!TWEET!TWEET!

Fine.

TWEET!TWEET!TWEET!TWEET!

I said Fine!
FINE!FINE!FINE!FINE!
I’m up, okay?
I’m up!
I’M UP!I’M UP!I’M UP!I’M UP!
Are you happy now? Are you happy?

Hello?

Birds?
Hello?

Gone.
Of course.

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Good morning, birds.
See you tomorrow.

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Pool Days

. . . The view from stop #1

Fridays are pool days. I currently have eight pools and four spas that I clean on Fridays (office job the rest of the week). It makes for a busy day, but I love it.

Some weeks, it’s beautiful and sunny. Some weeks, I’m freezing my tail off. Some weeks, the pools are a mess. Some weeks, they’re crystal clear. Some weeks, I find a dead gopher in the skimmer basket. Some weeks, it’s a frog swimming around in there. Some weeks, nobody’s home. Some weeks, everybody’s home—and in the mood to chat. You just never know. I get in the car and head out Friday morning with no idea of how the day will go, and it cracks me up that that’s a big part of why I love it. Because, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m a planner at heart. I love jotting down a To-Do list to get the day started. And I love crossing stuff off as it’s finished. “Woo-Hoo! Look at me go!”

But pool days have changed me.

Sure there’s a general outline to the day, but nothing is set in stone since I don’t know what I’ll find at each stop, whether it be people or problems or neither or both. If it’s people, I’ve learned to not be in a hurry; if they want to talk, let’s talk. They might chat about the weather or they might sigh about in-laws visiting or they might feel safe to share about an alcoholic husband to an unbiased ear. So how can I be in a hurry?

Sometimes there are actual pool problems–green water is never good, for example. I’ve learned that’s when it’s good to take a deep breath and look around. More often than not, I’ll see something amazing and beautiful and way bigger than me, and I’m so grateful to be outside enjoying it. Meanwhile, the problem eventually gets figured out.

Some weeks I’m finished by 1:00pm. Some weeks I have to finish up on Saturday. You just never know. But what I do know is that this silly little job is a gift. Sweeping steps and scooping out leaves and gliding a pole through the water all day, somehow resets my compass to something simpler.
Breathe.
Look around.
Be present.
And be grateful.

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Woo-Hoo! Look at us go!

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This is a Good One

A couple years ago I read a post that suggested keeping a mason jar of memory notes throughout the year of fun things and amazing things and even difficult things that happened along the way. Then at the end of the year, dump out the jar and read through them as kind of a sweet salute to the year gone by. So I did that for 2020, and I liked it so much that I did it again for 2021. Notes about fishing and writing and health and friends and whatever else all went into the jar. But I kind of started to fizzle out around fall. I got lazy about jotting stuff down even though it only took a couple of seconds, because I subconsciously started doubting whether or not the things on the notes were actually noteworthy–and if so, wouldn’t I remember them anyway? Fewer and fewer notes went in the jar as the year wound down, but there was still a healthy pile of little papers when I dumped them out this morning.

Want to know which one was my favorite?

January 12, 2021: “Luke asking me, ‘Did you see the sunrise?'”

I had not seen the sunrise that day, but my then-17-year-old son had, and apparently, it was a good one. So good, in fact, that he hoped I’d gotten a glimpse of it, too. And I remember smiling secretly and thinking, “How many teenage boys care about the sunrise?” I was so grateful to know that he was one of them, and my mom heart was so big and happy right then.

Of course, I had forgotten all about that whole thing until I read the eight words on that little note this morning. At the time, I’m sure I figured I’d remember it…definitely…for sure. But I’m so glad my mom heart nudged me to write it down. “This is a good one,” it whispered. “You don’t want to forget this one.”

Because we can’t remember it all. We just can’t. So, friends, let’s take notes. Let’s grab a mason jar or a fun bowl or Tupperware container, and let’s fill them slowly day by day with all the things that whisper to your heart, “This is a good one.”

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Happy New Year.

Three Minutes

I took this picture a few weeks ago. My cheesy camera phone doesn’t do it justice, but I love this shot. I love it because the sky was so blue and because the sun was so warm and because three minutes earlier I was actually down in that layer of fog. I was waiting at an intersection where cross-traffic doesn’t stop, and I needed to turn left, crossing one lane and merging onto the other, with about 10 feet of visibility. So I sat at the stop sign and waited. I turned off the radio and rolled down the windows and listened. I looked back and forth and back and forth, and I waited and listened some more. Finally, I took a deep breath: Okay, Lord, here we go! Then I hit the gas and made it safely onto the road without incident. (Thank You!)

Three minutes later I was taking that picture of blue sky and warm sunshine just above that thick layer of fog.

And that seems worth noting somehow.
Moments before, I could hardly see a thing, then just like that, it was all crystal clear.

So…maybe the crystal clear parts only happen after we travel through the fog for awhile. Not blindly racing through them, throwing caution to the wind, but waiting and listening and moving forward when it’s time to move forward.

Or something like that.

Either way, it’s a good reminder that even on foggy days, the sun’s still there.

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Go get ’em! 😉

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THEY SAY

“They say you shouldn’t do that.”

“Do what?”

“Use your blog posts in a book.”

“Why not?”

“Because why would people pay for a book if they can read your blog for free?”

“Okaaay…but…realistically…how many people see your blog?”

(pause)

“Yeah…OK…Good point.”

My friend, BP (for whom this blog was created), wanted a book. She wanted to turn real-live pages with her very own hands. I tried to talk her out of it by explaining the rules about blogging and books, but she more or less said that was poppycock and I had no comeback after that.

So I’m breaking the rules.

I created a book with some old, some revised, and some new posts. So if you’re like BP and you’d rather turn pages than scroll incessantly, this is your lucky day!

Click Here to view BIG POLLY: Goody Two-Shoes Sold Here! on Amazon.
Part pep talk, part nonsense–because balance is good.

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Rules are meant to be broken, right?

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Death in the Pot

pot

I’m not the greatest cook.

I’m not the worst, but I’m definitely not the best.  I tend to overcook things and I’m not terribly creative.  I don’t get a lot of complaints about what I put on the table, but I also don’t get a lot of requests for seconds.  But I read something the other day that made me feel a little better about my culinary skills.

In chapter 4 of the book of 2 Kings, a servant is told to make a big pot of stew for Elisha and the prophets.  The servant “went out into the fields to gather herbs and found a wild vine and picked as many of its gourds as his garment could hold.” (4:39)  The servant came back to the house, cut up the ingredients, and cooked them into a stew.  “The stew was poured out for the men, but as they began to eat it, they cried out, ‘Man of God, there is death in the pot!’ And they could not eat it.” (4:40)

I am thankful to say I have never heard anything I’ve served referred to as “death in the pot”.  Granted, someone may have been thinking it, but the words were never actually spoken.

Death in the pot.

It sounds like a great dish for a potluck:
“What did you bring, Steph?”

“Death in the Pot.”

“Ooh, yummy!”

Or it could be a catchy title for a cooking competition:
“Come join us for our annual ‘Death in the Pot Chili Cook-Off!’  Winner takes all–and we do mean all!”

We could start a whole new series of dishes…
Death in the Pot
Plague in a Pan
Pneumonia in a Bowl
Mumps on a Plate

The key, of course, is for us to title it before someone else does.

“What is this?”

“Death in the Pot.”

“Oh come on, it’s not THAT bad.”  They may even ask for seconds just to be encouraging.

“I’d love some more!”

(We start to serve)

“Oh no, no…just half that much is plenty.  Actually, how about a quarter?  I mean…I don’t want to hog it all.”

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So here’s a shout out to that servant way back all those years ago.  Herbs and gourds–what did they expect?  But at least he tried.

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Typhoid in a Tureen.

Ooh, yummy!

Taco Bell Guys

I don’t really like Taco Bell.

The food kind of all tastes the same, the ground beef has no texture, and the nacho cheese seems to be flavored with a hint of throw-up. Even so, every once in awhile, I want one of their simple, basic bean burritos: beans, cheese, tangy sauce, and a sprinkling of onions wrapped up in a soft flour tortilla. A couple times a year I get a craving that only Taco Bell can satisfy, so I hit the drive-thru.

The first couple bites are glorious. That familiar, comforting flavor all warm and cozy, and I think, This is delicious! Why don’t I do this more often? Then about 2/3 of the way through I start to get full, but I keep eating (of course). By the time the whole thing is gone, the gluteny tortilla has expanded to twice its size in my stomach and the tangy sauce has left a bitter residue on my tongue. I’m stuffed and a little sick. Oh yeah, I think, this is why I don’t do this more often. And yet I already know I’ll be back in a few months.

A similar pattern seems to follow with guys.

I’ll call up a former boyfriend who is now just a guy friend and invite him to coffee or lunch or maybe a little hike. To be clear, it’s not a booty call. It’s a hang-out-with-a-guy call, because hanging out with guys is different than hanging out with girls. I think women feel the need to put on a happy face and take care of each other, which sounds nice but isn’t always relaxing. Guys simply have different rules for hanging out. There are fewer expectations, and it just feels easier. And every once in awhile I get a craving for that simplicity, so I’ll send out a text to say Hi. And he’ll say Hi and How are things? And we’ll go back and forth and agree to coffee on Saturday.

“See you then.”
“Looking forward to it.”

Saturday arrives. We sit down with cozy cups of coffee warming our hands, and I’m happy. It feels so nice to be sitting across from a familiar, friendly face. And I think, This is great! Why don’t I do this more often?

Then he starts to talk about his job and how busy he is and how everyone he works with is a moron. His roof needs repairs, his truck broke down last week, his new dog keeps running off, and his family is driving him crazy. And in a very short time, clarity reminds me: Oh yeah, this is why I don’t do this more often.

Yet somehow I know in a few months, I’ll probably be right back here. I’ll shoot a guy friend a text and throw out an invite. Just like the craving for those refried beans and melty cheese at Taco Bell, I’ll get a craving for hanging out in the familiar company of a guy friend. Because even though he’s not perfect, I know he’d be there to help me if I ever really needed it. There’s something wonderfully reassuring about that. Something warm and cozy that I like to be reminded of face-to-face from time to time.

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But not too often. 🙂

Off the Hook

I’ve been fishing a lot lately.

I’m not good at it, but I go anyway. I decided I wanted to spend more time at our local lake this year, and fishing seemed like a good way to do it. I’ve never been much of a fisher, but when I’ve gone in the past, someone was always around to choose the right bait and set up my pole for me. But this year I’m flying solo. I have no doubt I’m using the wrong lures and tying the wrong knots and even going to the wrong places, but against all odds, every once in a while I actually catch something. I play it cool when it happens, but I admit it makes me happy…very very happy.

Something I realized quite quickly after catching my first fish this year, however, was that I’d never actually unhooked a fish by myself. So as I reeled in the little bass, I began to wonder, “Uh oh…now what?” I pulled him from the water and as he hung from my line, I reached for the hook stuck in his mouth. He jumped of course, so I jumped of course and secretly hoped no one was watching. Then I laid him on the shore, still attached to my line, and crouched down next to him and said, “I’m sorry.” I really did. Very quietly I said, “I’m so sorry. I bet that really hurts. But I’m gonna take the hook out now, okay? Just be still. Be still.” Then I grabbed the hook without actually touching the fish, continuing to tell him over and over that I was sorry and I’d get him back in the water as fast as I could. And you know, he just laid there on his side, breathing calmly, with his big eye looking up at me doubfully: You have no idea what you’re doing, do you? No, I really don’t. I’m sorry.

Thankfully the hook came out fairly quickly. Then I took a deep breath before reaching down and picking him up with both hands to set him gently in the water so he could swim away…far far away.

Then I cast my line again.

You might think I’d have been traumatized by that first “unhooking”. Or you might think I’d be so moved by my own heartfelt apology that I’d vow never to tempt another innocent fish with a hook concealed in something strongly resembling a tiny yummy fish. You might think that, but I cast my line nevertheless. Whizzzz…ploink! And like I said, every once in a while I catch something. Each time I lay the little fish down and whisper soothing words of encouragement as I wriggle the hook out of his mouth to set him free.

But not all the fish are soothed by my apologies and pep talks. Some of them flop around and around and I can’t get a hand on them. The first fish I saw do this actually flopped around so much he managed to unhook himself and flop back into the water without me ever touching him. It was great! But I figured he got lucky and it would probably never happen again. Believe it or not, though, I’ve seen it happen two more times! Out of about 12 catches, three of them jumped around so much that they got themselves free. The other 9 or so I unhooked and set back in the water.

So that got me thinking…

Apparently, we have two choices.
We can fight and fight and fight until we get what we want.
Or we can chill out and let someone help us get what we want.

So which is better?
Independent warrior or easygoing pragmatist?
Depends on the day, I suppose.

I have to say, though, I do appreciate it when those Zen fish agree to lie still on the sand as I hunch over them nervously. Because as I go through that process over and over, I’m getting better at removing hooks. I’m getting better at holding fish without either of us jumping. And I’m getting better at being brave–not that a 9-inch fish is terrifying, but you know what I mean. My point is that if all the fish flopped and flopped and made it back to the water by themselves, I wouldn’t get to learn anything. Granted, my hands would be a lot less stinky, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be as much fun.

I know my independent warrior instinct tends to want to run the show: I can do it; just let me handle it.
But if allowing someone else to lend a hand means they get to learn something or get to practice something or get to be brave about something, maybe stepping back and letting them help isn’t such a bad idea.

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Whizzzz…ploink!

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