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Lazy Day

Because I’d been up late Wednesday night, I slept in a bit on Thursday.

My heart was still hurting from the book I’d finished.

I took my time getting out of bed and hung out with the dogs all morning.  It was a beautiful day, and I should have gone to the pool, but mentally, I wasn’t into it.  I needed a bit of solitude.

I took a nap in my chair even though I’d slept late.  I was so tired.

Being sad will do that for you.

When I woke up, it was early afternoon.  The dogs were eager to get some fresh air.

I had been procrastinating my workout but was not about to give in and not do it, so I got dressed.

Untitled

Just as I was about to get started, my phone rang.  A guy I’d called yesterday was on his way to take a look at my house.  We want to fix our gutters and get a door for our screened in porch.

The workout did not want to happen, y’all.

I persevered, though, and got it in after he left.

Day 72 – Done!

Then, I began preparing dinner for the hubby.  This is one of his new favorite dishes.

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It’s a bit of a pain to put together, which is why I don’t make it that often.

The rest of my evening was chill as I blogged and watched television.

Sometimes, you just need a lazy day.

In my case, it’s been a summer of lazy days, but who’s judging (it better not be you!). 🙂

When a Book Makes You Cry

Do you remember the first book that made you cry?

I do.

It was Message in a Bottle, by Nicholas Sparks.  I read it when my family lived in Coral Springs.  My children were in elementary school, and I remember sitting up late one night in our front living room.  I was the only one awake.  The rest of the house was dark except for the small corner of the room where I’d set up shop for the evening.

Y’all, I had, to that point, read hundreds of books.  I was a voracious reader in my youth; the stories took me away from the angst of teenage-dom.

Up to that point, I’d been quite stoic.

Well, maybe the reason why I hadn’t cried was because I’d never met a writer who could break my heart the way that Sparks did with that book.

Oh, how I sobbed when I read the ending, quietly of course because keeping the kids asleep was kind of important.

I’m just going to be honest with you.

I don’t like watching movies or reading books that make me cry.  I don’t like the headache I get afterward, but I especially don’t like having my feelings trod upon.

That’s why I don’t watch movies or read books about animals . . . especially dogs (except that I did see Benji when I was a kid and whew, what an emotional roller coaster ride that was!).

A few years ago, I happened upon The Honest Truth, by Dan Gemeinhart.  I read it during summer break and cried as I sat at my kitchen table with that book in my hand.  I loved it so much that I read it aloud to my classes that year . . . and the year after . . . and the year after.

Every single time I read it to a class, I cried in exactly the same places even though I knew what was going to happen.

That’s a lot of crying.

Dan has such a way with words; his characters’ voices are childlike but so easy to connect with no matter the age of the reader.

I’m a member of Pernille Ripp’s Facebook group, where someone recently mentioned something about another book Dan had written, Good Dog.

He’s actually written four books (how have I not known this?).  Good Dog is his most recent novel.

I read a summary of the book on Amazon, and I had a little chat with myself.

“Don’t you dare buy this book.  You know you’re gonna cry.”

“Be quiet.  I need to read this so I can tell my students about it.”

“You don’t need this book in your classroom.  You already have books that your students love.”  (I think this may have been the Mr.’s voice arguing with me.  Ha!)

“But I don’t have this book, written by this author.  I know it’s gonna be good.”

“That may be true, but you don’t have to be in the know about every book.  Stop trying to be tough.”

“La la la la la.  I no hear you.”

Add to cart.

Purchase.

Done.

I couldn’t take my own advice.

The Mr. receives emails of all of the purchases on our Prime account, and he walked in from work saying, “What in the world are you doing?”

He knows me so well.

The book arrived a few days later.

Aubie and Molly’s collars in the background

Good Dog is the story of Brodie, a dog who has just died and is stuck between death and Forever.

Yeah.  That should have been enough to make me tuck my own tail and run.

Even that picture on the cover.

Sigh.

I prepared myself mentally, armed myself with Kleenex, and sat down to begin reading . .

The first two sentences made me cry.

I knew it was going to be a hard, hard read.

I read about Brodie getting used to where he wakes up, acquiring words in the process – words that, as a living dog, he did not possess.

Although it was told in short, simple sentences, this part of the book – the opening chapter – held me captive.

Brodie meets other dogs who explain what’s happened to him.  He can’t remember anything at first; memories come back to him very slowly.  However, what becomes clear fairly quickly is that he has to return to Before, where he was alive and with his boy.

Oh my gosh.  His boy.  Y’all, this part made me think of Rooster and his connection with Gambit.

Gambit never left Rooster’s side when Rooster lived at home.  Rooster was his person.  Fortunately, we still have Gambit with us, so that’s where the similarity to the story ends.

Mostly, what I thought of Molly, who you know I’m still grieving for.

This book, and the story of Brodie going back to find his boy, who he senses is in danger, made me smile in some parts, because Dan was wise enough to know that his readers would need some comedic relief to balance out the heavy stuff, and it made me hold my breath in other places.

It’s a book that made me root so hard for Brodie and the fur babies helping him, feel sorry for the bad dogs trying to stop him, and hope for some sort of happy ending that I knew wouldn’t be there because y’all, Brodie is dead.

Sigh.

I stayed up really late Wednesday night to finish the book because I knew that I would need a few hours of sleep afterward – the emotional price too steep for this tender heart.

The last chapter of the book completely broke my heart, and I tried really hard to cry quietly so I wouldn’t wake the Mr., who was sleeping in the other room.

I thought of Molly, and how I wish I could hug her one more time.  I wondered if she, like Brodie, had a hard time letting go of her person.

Now, don’t be thinking that I’m all emo and need medication.  I’m fine.  Really.  I just have my moments when remembering is so very hard and the missing is so very painful.

You can’t go almost eleven years with a breathing soul and not feel something when that bundle of happy is wrenched away.

Herein is the power of books – even books that make you cry.

Yes, there’s hurting and a whole lot of tears and big, puffy eyes.

There’s anger at the unfair twists and turns and the ugly parts where the bad is happening.

There’s even disappointment when things don’t turn out like you want them to.

A good book, one that makes you cry, should imitate life.  It should get you in your feelings and hurt you where you’re vulnerable.

That’s when the healing can happen.  Sometimes, when we can’t find the right words to match our sadness, a book comes along that does exactly that.

That is why I made myself read this book, even though I knew I’d be doing the ugly cry the entire way through . . .

Until the wee hours of the morning . . .

With a certain fur baby on my mind.

I love you Molly.  You were a good dog (most of the time), and I will never forget you.

“You.  Me.  Together.  Always.”

Comfort Food

Do you remember me posting about getting an Instant Pot for Christmas?  I’m sure that I’ve written about a few things I’ve made in it, but I can’t remember – that’s how sporadic my blogging has been.

Ok, so my Instant Pot – it’s an appliance that I grow to love more and more each time I use it.

On Monday, I made a new recipe in it, and it was simply magical.

I follow Megan Gilmore on Instagram and Facebook (she’s Detoxinista).  She’s coming out with an Instant Pot recipe book in October.  I’ve already pre-ordered it because her recipes are very easy and don’t require a lot of ingredients.

She posted the Instant Pot Vegan Mac n’ Cheese recipe on her blog, and after seeing her little video on Instagram, I knew I had to try it.

The only real prep for it was soaking the cashews, but that’s even something that can be done quickly with boiling water if time is an issue.  It wasn’t for me since I’m on summer break.

I followed the directions exactly.  I knew it was going to be tasty when I licked the spoon after pouring the “cheese” sauce into the pot.

Now, I’ll admit that I’ve made a few vegan mac and cheese recipes.  They’re usually pretty good.  I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I lifted the lid.

Here’s what I saw.

When I stirred it, I could hear the creaminess.  You know what I’m talking about.

I finished by adding the water at the end, which was very necessary to get the pasta off of the bottom of the pot and down from the sides.

Oh word, y’all, but when I tasted it, it reminded me of the comfort food I loved when I was a child.

It paired well, in my Minion bowl, with my Riesling.

I’m a fancy Redneck, y’all.  What can I say.

Relaxed

Last Friday, I did a rare thing and met my friend, Cinda, for coffee.

It all started when I posted something on Facebook, and she commented and said that we needed to get together.

Cinda is absolutely precious to me.  I’ve mentioned her many, many times over the last eight years.  She started out as my teaching mentor, and a friendship grew.  She’s simply amazing.  Anyone who knows her loves her.

She also happens to be super busy, both with work and family, so the opportunity to sit with her for a spell greatly appealed to me.

I suggested Starbucks, but she had another idea – a local coffee shop in the heart of Podunk, USA.  The actual town that I live in is rather small, although it does have several traffic lights, which is more than what I had growing up.

I’d never heard of the place, so I looked it up beforehand to see what they offered besides coffee because, y’all, I’ve never grown up.  I just cannot stomach the smell or taste of it.

They had teas on their menu and something called a shrub.  A bit of research told me that a shrub is a fruit concoction that’s made by letting fruit sit in vinegar overnight.  It’s often served with club soda and, perhaps, a simple syrup.

Well, I was down for that.

I was a bit surprised by how adorable this little place was.

There were large picture windows when you walked in and a lovely area of seating.  The guy who helped us (I think it was the owner) was extremely kind and patiently explained what he used to make the shrub.  I’m very particular about sweeteners and such – nothing artificial for me!

He only had one shrub available that day – strawberry – so I ordered that.  Cinda treated me (thanks, Friend!).  She got the Almond Joy coffee, if I remember correctly.

Man, but I was really wishing I liked coffee!

Now, I’m used to places serving up drinks in disposable cups.  Not here, though.  We got real mugs for our drinks.

This redneck girl was feeling a little high class, even if I was wearing flowered shorts and a pink shirt that said “Life is good.”

Ahem.

We sat down to catch up, and y’all, I was in heaven.

That strawberry shrub was exactly what you’d picture having at the end of a summer day.  It was fresh, sweet, and light.  Oh my word – so divine!

I loved hearing what my friend had been up to and her plans for the fall.  She’s so inspiring – the way she gives of herself without reservation.  She’s a people magnet, genuine to the core.  She once spent six weeks in my classroom teaching a unit that she videoed for her national CRISS certification.  Watching her bond with my students and creating lesson plans with her taught me how to be a better educator.  I want to be a better person when I’m around her.

She asked about my family, and I brought her up to speed.

We changed topics about as many times as I change shoes on any given work morning – a lot.  We couldn’t help ourselves.

Squirrel.

Ha!

At one point in our conversation, she said, “You look the most relaxed I’ve ever seen you.” (or something to this effect)

We had just been talking about teaching and the stress involved with it.  You might remember the ungodly hours I put in my first three or four years in this profession.  It was ridiculous how hard I worked.

I don’t remember wearing a face that reflected any type of relaxation in those early years.

I laughingly told her that what she was seeing was the face of a teacher in the middle of summer break.

It always takes me a week or two to come down off of the high of the school year – to sleep off the fatigue that envelopes me ten months of the year.  Say what you will about teachers having Christmas and Spring breaks off.  That time off does little to replenish a tired teacher.

With the summer break, I am able to indulge in a bit of self care.  For me, that’s involves a lot of naps, daily workouts when I want, not when my schedule dictates, and page-turning afternoons while sitting poolside (or rather in the pool).

Hello, bicep.  Thanks for finally making an appearance.

We have less than a month until we report back for duty.  It’s always hard to go back because the workload is incredibly heavy and the stress factor is intense.

The secret, as I told Cinda last Friday, is balance.  It took me years and years to find balance in my life.  Now, I prioritize better and leave as much as I can at work.

So, with just a few weeks left of summer, I’m doing my best to not think ahead . . . too much, that is.

I’m taking all of the naps without any apologies (don’t call or text between 4 and 5pm unless you are in my brood).

I’m also going to visit that coffee shop to taste more of their shrubs.

A Nostalgic Hodgepodge

I haven’t participated in the Hodgepodge for awhile, so I thought I’d give it a go this week.   If you’re new to my blog, welcome!  If you’ve been here before, hello again!  Thanks for stopping by, y’all!

1.  What’s something in your house you’d like to get rid of but can’t?

I want to get rid of a futon that’s taking up a LOT of space in a spare bedroom, but I can’t because nobody wants to pay what I’m asking.  It’s actually much better quality than what you’ll find in many stores, so I’m going to be stubborn and hold my ground.  I figure that it will sell eventually.

2.  When is the last time you experienced a sense of nostalgia? Elaborate.

When the Mr. and I go to our neighborhood’s pool, I’m frequently reminded of when my children were toddlers.   We lived in Miami when they were little, and I took them to the pool twice a day, just to wear them out.  This was where both of the kids learned to swim – Rooster caught on before he was two years old!  Whenever I see littles at the pool, my heart does a little lurch, and I’m swept back in time to those exhausting, yet fun, days.

3.  You’re only allowed three apps on your smart phone or tablet…which three do you keep?

The pressure of this question is giving me a touch of anxiety!!!!  What the heck, Jo?  Ha!

I guess I’d have to keep my email because seriously, though, how would I function without it.

I’d also keep a GPS app because I am the queen of getting lost.

The third app I’d keep would have to be Safari because I can browse all the things with a web page.

Ha!  How’s that for being smart?

4.  July 11th is National Blueberry Muffin Day. Who knew? Do you like blueberry muffins? If you were going to have a muffin would blueberry be your choice? What’s the last thing you baked?

Yeah, no blueberries for me, thank you very much.  If it’s a super food, I’m not having anything to do with it.

If I was going to eat muffins, I’d probably choose the Vegan Chocolate Chip Muffins recipe I cooked up a couple of weeks ago.

Y’all, I just discovered this gal, and so far, the recipes I’ve tried have been spot on!

The last thing I baked were her Soft and Chewy Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies.

You’d never know that these don’t have eggs or any other dairy product in them!  I’ll be working those off later today – and every day.

5.  What’s the biggest way you’ve changed since you were a child? In what way are you still the same?

The biggest way I’ve changed is that I’ve grown more comfortable in my own skin.  Am I still self conscious?  Yes.  Do I mind that I’m a bit odd and march to the beat of my own drum?  Nope.

One way that I’m the same is that I am still extremely shy and introverted.  That surprises people who know me, but you guys, I don’t do crowds very well.  I’m not your party girl either.  Please don’t make me introduce myself to new people (except my students, where oddly enough I’m not shy).  I don’t know that I’ll ever outgrow these things about myself.

6.  My Random Thought

Ok, so I posted about this on Facebook yesterday, but I’m going to write about it here as well.

Why is it that when I go out looking my rattiest, I run into people I know?

Take Monday, for instance.

I had a hard time getting going.  My back was bothering me a lot and honestly, the longer that summer break goes on, the later I sleep in.  Don’t judge; I wake up at 4am during the school year, so I pay my dues on the front end.

I threw on some clothes to work out in.  I knew that there might be a possibility that I’d need to go to the store, but I pushed on.

I have a pair of twenty year old, khaki stretch shorts.  The drawstring has been AWOL for years now.

They are comfortable though, and I usually wear them when I’m doing yard work.

The Mr. loathes these shorts.  He has often told me to expect them to go missing one day . . . that they aren’t fit to be seen in.

I put on one of my favorite Hogwarts Running Clubs tech shirts from a race I did last year.  It’s pink, as you can see from the picture below.

Oh yeah, and my hair.  Can we discuss the fact that I was wearing it in the easiest way possible?  Messy buns and headbands are my thang, y’all.

It’s summer, after all.

So, after I finished sweating it up, I thought to myself, “Do I change, or do I leave these clothes on.”

Laziness won out.  I wasn’t going to be too long, after all.

I forgot that I live in Podunk, USA, where you can’t even run to the gas station without seeing someone you know.

I walked in and sure enough, I ran into one of the store managers – a drop dead gorgeous girl and the wife of someone the Mr. works with.  I’d met her a month or so ago.  Oh, hello, please excuse my nastiness, I wanted to say.

Sigh.

Then, in the produce section, I spied a young lady from my church.  I think she’s Rooster’s age and, like the other gal I’d seen, gorgeous.

I kept my head down, but we ran into each other again, and I knew it would be rude to ignore her.  I covered my brow and mumbled an apologetic hello.  I actually told her that I was hoping that she wouldn’t notice me because I wasn’t exactly dressed for the public eye.

Sigh.

So when I got home, I posted my warning to all of my Facebook friends that one should never wear ratty clothes out in public.  Ever.

The Mr. got home, caught up on social media (including my post), and came out long enough to say, “Really?  You just had to wear those?”  Sigh.

So on Tuesday, I figured I’d be way smarter.

I dressed in my Nike workout shorts, Nike tank top, and matching socks with ASICs shoes.  Heck, even my headband had the Nike emblem.  I could have been a model, minus the magazine-cover-worthy face and great makeup and hair, for them.

I’m holding up one finger because I only had one repeat left in my cardio workout.

I worked out, sweating prettily of course (you know I’m being sarcastic, right?), and ran out to our health food store to pick up a few items.

Guess what.

I didn’t see a single person I knew.

Oh no, because at that earlier time (I’d actually gotten out of bed before 9), it was only the older people who were shopping.

Not one person, y’all.

I told the hubby about this when he came home for lunch.  His response?  “You should look nice every time you leave the house.”

Sigh.

Forget random thought – you got a random story.

Have a great day!

Weekending with Auburnchick

How do you do the weekends?

Do you clean the house from top to bottom, your to-do list a mile long, or do you sleep in and take things as you go?

The Mr. and I spent many years running our kiddos to soccer practices and games, so it probably won’t surprise you to know that we have scaled back our activities as empty nesters.

On Saturday, we stayed at home – my choice – because there were two World Cup games on.  The Mr. headed to the gym after the first game, and I turned on my Beach Body Roku app and completed my Saturday workout.

The Mr. ran to the grocery store to pick up a few necessities, which I put away while we watched the afternoon soccer game.

I had been eying a recipe on my Instagram feed that I wanted to try.  These are Vegan Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies.

They paired nicely with the Off Dry Riesling that I’d purchased during our recent trip to Napa.  This was the first bottle of wine I’d opened since receiving my order.

I think we spent part of the evening, after dinner at Chili’s, catching up on DVR’d shows  We have a couple of series that we enjoy watching together.

While the TV was running, I did some knitting, resuming work on the Lace Sampler that I started last year.

Later, the Mr. went into his man cave to watch other stuff, and I finished up Arrow.  When the summer began, I had sixteen episodes to watch.  Yeah.  That’s pretty bad, eh?

Oh my heart.  Why can’t superheros have happy endings?

On Sunday, I got up a little earlier intent on going for a walk; however, the weather wasn’t cooperating, so I did a Country Heat video instead.

I’ve really got to work on my moves.  I love line dancing, but my coordination needs some help.

It was a deceptively great workout and made me sweat a lot!  Thank goodness I clean up well.  The Mr. and I headed to church to hear our new pastor preach for the first time.

Afterward, we ran to Sam’s to get more dog food because we had used up every last bit the day before.  I was so pleased when I ran into Julia, a former student of mine.  She graduated three or four years ago and will forever be one of my favorite kiddos.  We share the same last name, so we had often joked that she was one of my daughters.  I’d recently thought of her and wondered what she’d been up to.  Our accidental meeting was certainly orchestrated by God.  ❤

When we got home, the Mr. and I spent a couple of hours with the dogs before heading to one of our happy places – our neighborhood pool.

Oh word, but it was hot and steamy!  Hello July!

I finished a book while we were there.

This is the first book in the series and one I’d had an eye on in my classroom for a few years.  The concept of the book is that when kids turn sixteen, they have an operation to turn them pretty.  The Uglies and Pretties live in different towns; there’s a lot of commentary on how society judges its members based on superficial appearances.  The main character meets a friend who opens her eyes to a whole new world – one that challenges her to think differently.

This was a fairly quick read – a bit superficial in character development – but not bad.  I started the second novel in the series that evening.

Sunday wound up being even more relaxing than Saturday.  We really did not do much.  The Mr. grilled out, and I ate a veggie burger I dug out of the freezer.

We’re real exciting, y’all.  Bet that you can’t wait to hang out with us sometime!

Stubborn to the Core

I have a t-shirt that says “Never give up.”

It’s a motto that has defined much of my life . . . in big things and little things.

Take the case of my lawn mower.

After nursing a hurt back for almost two weeks and not getting a whole lot done (besides TV watching, gentle working out, and knitting), I decided to scoop dog poop (such a gross reality of my life, y’all), fire up the lawn mower, and take care of the back yard.  We use our riding mower for the front.

It was not the smartest decisions on many levels.

I got the mower started up on the first try.

Go me.

After cutting the grass on the side of my house, where the riding mower doesn’t fit very well, I headed to the back yard.  I made one trip around the perimeter of the yard and headed down the back of the house, along the bricked side.

Then, the mower got caught and completely shut off.  When I looked down, I realized that the starter cord, which is a little long, had wrapped itself around my outdoor faucet.  Because I had not noticed but had kept pushing the mower, the starter cord got pulled, shutting off the engine.

That’s when the trouble began.

Despite my best efforts, I could not get the mower to start up again.

I cranked it several times, checking the cord every now and then.

Nada.

I primed the engine and cranked it again.

Nothing.  The engine didn’t even turn over.

Dang.

I walked to the garage and got out my tools – a flat ended screwdriver and a set of pliers.  I knew what was wrong.  The starter line had gotten loosened up.  It needed tightening.

Y’all, that is a task easier said than done.  Just removing the line from the mower is a huge pain because you have to squeeze the black part, which has prongs that stick out, to push it through the metal piece that serves much like a sewing machine threader.

I pushed the cord up and tightened it.

I thought.

Then, I put everything back together and expected the machine to start.

It didn’t.

I tried a few more times before giving up.

Yes.  I was so mad that I gave up.

I rolled the mower to the driveway and decided to try to crank it again, on more level ground.  This time, I heard the engine turn over, so I tried and tried and tried.  It never cranked fully though.

Dirty word alert:  I was pissed.

And I’d managed to mess up two fingers.  I had a blister near the thumb joint on my left hand and had lifted the corner of the nail on my middle finger on my right hand during one of my attempts to crank the engine.  It bled like nobody’s business.

I rolled the mower into the garage, sweating something fierce and angry as all get out.

I was also sporting two band aids.

The Mr. came home for lunch shortly after I stomped into the kitchen, and I immediately told him my sob story and begged him to start the mower.

All before he’d had a chance to eat.

He couldn’t get the job done either and began complaining about having to buy a new mower – about not putting more money into this one (we’d spent a small fortune last summer getting it fixed up).

Ugh.

He went inside to eat, and y’all, I just could not let it go.

Remember my t-shirt saying?

I need another shirt that says “Stubborn to the core” because that’s what I am.

I was determined not to let that mower beat me for good.  After a quick google search (I even had to google what the starter cord was called), I found a tidbit that made me think.

Tools in hand, I went back to the garage, took apart the starter line, shortened the gap between the end, which has a hook, and this black thing (which I’d forgotten screws on – thank you, Google), and then hooked everything back up.

Then, I said a prayer and tried to crank the engine.

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It worked!

The first time.

I went back inside triumphantly and told the Mr. about my victory, informing him how fortunate he is to have a talented wife like me.

Ahem.

Of course, it had started raining, so I couldn’t finish mowing that day, but I did get back to the task at hand the next day.

Word to the wise, be it a human or a machine:  Never underestimate me.

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