A Tribute to My Precious Husband of Forty-eight Years … by Maribeth Shanley

I recently read an article about a woman and her wedding that she canceled.

The bride wanted a lavish wedding.  It was a very big deal for her to enter her marriage with the obligatory fairytale celebration.  Once she finalized her plan, she figured the cost.  Although she desperately wanted her elaborate wedding, she realized she could not afford the event.  So she did something she thought was clever.  She sent out invitations with one stipulation.  She asked each attendee to pay $1,500.00 to attend her wedding.

As I read this article, I considered her request absurd and self-indulgent.  I thought, Perhaps if she weren’t so greedy and asked for a donation vs. a wedding gift, she may have been pleased with the outcome.  She would have at least been able to offset her cost a little bit.  I also thought about Bob’s and my wedding.

As I learned forty-eight years ago this Sept. 5th, it isn’t the actual wedding ceremony that matters.  Instead, what does matter are the years of marriage after the ceremony.

Young disco Bob and me       Young Bob

I was twenty-two when I met Bob. I met him the very first night after moving from my parent’s home in New Jersey to Washington, D.C.   I planned to work for the Federal Government for one year, then enter a program where the Government would send me overseas to work.  I wanted to relocate to Brussels, Belgium.  Although at twenty-two, I was unaware of my behind-the-scenes’ reason, I now realize I wanted, no, I needed to move as far away from my parents as I possibly could.  I needed to find out who I was and what I was capable of accomplishing.  I was never a prisoner of my past.  I absolutely refused to become a prisoner of something I had no control over.  I was me, not him.  I always looked forward and dwelled in the sunshine of life.  That was what I chose for myself!  My father lived in a dark, dingy, corrupt world all by himself.  I lived in another world, my own world I created, then, with Bob, we created.  My father tried to destroy me, but I called his bluff and became independent, happy and married to the most incredible man on this planet.  Oh, I never made it to Brussels.  However, with Bob, I did indeed move as far away as I possibly could from my parents and my childhood.

I was the oldest girl of six offspring.  For as long as I could remember, my parents promised me a big wedding.  That never happened.  Instead, and because I embraced my freedom with far too much eagerness, my parents turned their backs on me. I married a man who, at age eighteen, married a young girl with whom a pregnancy had occurred. Doing the right thing, Bob married the young girl.  That marriage ended in divorce not too long after.

I was raised in the Catholic Church, yes, the one that is populated by pedophiles. I was molested from the age of six until I can’t recall when, not by a priest, but, by a man, who intended to become a priest. After spending a short time in a seminary, the man returned home to marry the woman he met before leaving for the seminary. That man was my father. The woman was my mother.

When I announced that I would marry Bob, it was a given that, to stay in good graces with my parents, we would marry in the Catholic Church. However, the sinful Catholic Church was also the most judgmental of all organized religions as it banned marriage between a Catholic and a divorced person. However, in 1970, there was a loop-hole.

If Bob renounced his daughter, in the eyes of the Church, his marriage would be considered annulled, thus canceling out his marriage.  Bob was willing to do that for me. He wanted to marry me. At the time, we had no idea what was to happen only a month later. However, I refused to cave into what I considered a despicable request.  I was not about to start my marriage with cruelty.  I considered it cruel to label Bob’s daughter as a bastard daughter, thus, we announced to my parents that we would not marry in what I considered the obnoxious Catholic Church.  Instead, our ceremony would take place in a Unitarian Church.  That church’s pastor would perform the ceremony.  That was the end of my big wedding.

Bob and Me on Wedding Day

Nonetheless, we invited my parents. They did come to our wedding but intentionally dressed in casual old clothes. They were there for one reason only.  They wanted to see if I would follow through on marrying outside of the Catholic Church. I suspect they hoped that their presence would intimidate me into backing out of the ceremony and walking away from Bob.  They, especially my father, were extreme arrogant individuals who had no business getting married in the first place.  More, they were so inadequate as individuals, they should never, ever have had children, let alone, six children.

Hoping they would come to celebrate our marriage, Bob and I bought corsages for them, and my grandmother, who accompanied my parents.  However, my parents refused to accept the corsages.  Instead, they were hostile toward the pastor who offered the flowers to them.  Also,  they had so brainwashed my younger sister, Colleen, with disparaging words about what I was doing and the mortal sin I was committing, that, in the middle of the ceremony, Colleen had to rush out of the Church. She left because she needed to throw up.

I wanted a white dress for my wedding but knew neither Bob nor I could afford a wedding dress.  I was resigned to accepting a more humble wedding when my older brother stepped in.  He had just received a settlement from a former employer, so he offered to pay for my wedding dress.  Additionally, Danny walked me down the aisle. Later, we had a small reception held at Danny’s apartment.  Two ironies occurred after we married.

The first irony took place on the evening Bob, and I returned from our honeymoon which we spent camping in a farmer’s pasture in West Virginia where we spent several previous weekends caving, i.e., spelunking, in the wild caves of West Virginia.  That evening, Bob’s father called to tell Bob that, due to child abuse, his daughter, Kim, had been removed from her mother’s home.  Not only was she removed, but Bob’s father put pressure on Bob to fly out to California where Kim, her mother and mother’s boyfriend lived, to bring Kim back to the Washington D.C. area and his new marriage.

When Bob and I were to be married, we decided that we did not want children. That decision was more my decision than his.  Years later I learned that my decision resulted from the trauma I endured at the hands of my father.  Without realizing, I suffered from PTSD which haunted me into my forties for what my father did to me.   However, knowing Kim’s situation, I didn’t tell Bob not to go to California, thus, one month after marrying Bob, I became a mother of a seven-year-old, who, and resulting from suffering abuse was a very difficult child to raise.   We would learn later that Kim was deaf in one ear resulting from being struck by the boyfriend using his beer bottle on the side of her deaf ear.

The second irony occurred in April of the following year.  My younger sister, Colleen, who had flunked out of college, decided to marry a young man she met at college.  She would have the wedding denied me.  Several months earlier, my father, a U.S. Naval officer, had been reassigned to the Pentagon just across the Potomac River from  Washington D.C.  My parents were now living in one of the suburbs.

Bob, Kim and I were visiting my parent’s new home that evening during which wedding plans were discussed.  Colleen and my parents asked me to be Colleen’s Maid of Honor. No one considered my feelings; but, that was normal in my family.  However, I was so hurt, that I did express my feelings as I also refused to play a part in her wedding.  Bob, Kim and I attended the wedding.  However, we did not engage with my parents as we, my parents, Bob and I were in the midst of a cold war that lasted for several years.

There’s also a third irony that followed.  I am one of six siblings.  I am the only off-spring for whom a wedding was not paid for by my parents.  They did, in fact, foot the bill for each of their five children, including both boys.  Ironically, all five of my siblings have divorced the spouse the ceremony celebrated and, except for one brother, remarried. On the other hand, I am still married to and very much in love with my first and only husband, Bob.

On September 5th, Bob and I will celebrate our 48th Wedding Anniversary.  That’s not only an event.  Instead,  it’s also a genuinely joyous affair.  Bob and I are not only husband and wife, but we’re best of friends and have been each other’s cheerleaders for all forty-eight years.  Those forty-eight years annulled the manner in which our marriage began.  We know what is important and what is not important.

No wedding, regardless of the lavishness or expense, can compare to the solid bonds that we have formed over all these years.  Forming those bonds, however, comes with a solid dedication to the love we first felt for one another.  That dedication requires lots of work as we worked through the tough times.  We did the work, and now we are about to celebrate the result of that work.  We both hope there are many more years to enjoy with each other as we grow old, wrinkled, and slower physically and mentally.  It’s not only a feat to celebrate 48 years together; it’s a glorious feat.

Young me on Bob's bike

Someone recently commented to me, “Wait until Bob is around constantly, you will get sick of him.” My dogged answer:  Bob and I have not only been married for forty-eight years but, during those forty-eight years, we’ve done everything together.  When Bob goes to car races or car shows, I go too. When Bob began riding a motorcycle, I not only rode on the back but, I purchased a motorcycle so we could fully enjoy our adventures together.  Bob has always accompanied me as we did things I like to do.  That includes everything except shopping.  Ha, ha, I go by myself, but, Bob is with me even then.  He never complains about anything I buy for myself.  As I am for Bob, he’s a true friend and my most loyal supporter.   Several weeks ago, I spotted and purchased a plaque that resonated with me.  It reads, “When I first saw you, I knew an adventure was about to begin.”

❤…  HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, BOB …

Life with you has been a magnificent adventure.  You are my one and only hero!

 

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Filed under Maribeth Shanley, writing

The Jaguar of Our Dreams and the Car Hire Company of Our Nightmares by Sherrie Hansen

You might be wondering how we ended up driving a loaded Jaguar e-Pace SUV around Scotland in the first place, given as we are folks of average means and thrifty habits. The short answer is that we were given a free upgrade – in part because we’d been waiting for the smaller car we’d ordered for three hours. We hadn’t slept or showered for more than 24 hours. We’d also been forced to buy an expensive insurance policy that cost almost as much as the car rental itself, even though our USAA Credit Card covers accident insurance on our rental cars no matter where in the world we happen to be. Long story short, I think the car hire associate felt sorry for us and decided to throw us a bone.

Scot - Jag

I have to admit that we got a bit spoiled in the Jaguar. The seats were plush and comfortable, the ride was smooth. It had a back-up mirror that responded to the cars movements to direct you with curved lines. The GPS was very helpful in finding our way around. It was an amazing car.

Scot - Rocky Road

When we hit a sharp rock along the side of the road on our second day on the Isle of Lewis and ended up with a seriously flat tire in the middle of nowhere, we assumed we could get the tire changed and be on our way. But the impact of hitting the rock, which more or less bounced us against a ridge of razor sharp rocks and back again, was a hugs gash in the rear passenger side tire and a cracked wheel rim on the front passenger side tire.

We were pretty shook up, and not knowing exactly what had happened, prayed our way to the nearest sign of civilization, about three miles down the road. The tire held out until we  turned into the driveway and drove across the cattle guard, when it went completely flat. The place we found ourselves at looked to be a Scottish version of Outward Bound. We were immediately greeted and offered help in changing the tire. Only one problem – there was no spare and the patch kit the car hire company had provided was woefully inadequate. (An associate later told us they remove the spare tires on their luxury cars because they are afraid someone might steal them.)

Scot - Scaladale

From there began a long, frustrating day of repeatedly calling the car hire company’s help line, waiting, and when no help came and no one called back, calling them again. Repeat. And repeat. With no means of transportation, we had to cancel our lunch reservations at North Harbour Bistro. Thank goodness for the kind and very helpful staff at Scaladale Youth Center – Mark and I obviously aren’t in danger of starving to death, but I can’t imagine what would have become of us if we’d had to wait for more than 7 hours along the side of the road with no water, shade, or bathroom facilities.

Scot - Harris viewIn the end, our car hire company told us we would have to find our own way back to Glasgow (over 200 miles and a three hour ferry ride away), where we MIGHT be given a replacement car. So much for the fancy-schmancy insurance policy with promises of roadside assistance and replacement vehicles they’d forced us to buy. This was not a good time. We were hungry, frustrated and completely lacking in any kind of faith in the car company. 

Scot - Harris mountains

But possessing a good dose of Midwest ingenuity, we started calling around to local garages and car hire companies and found ourselves a little Peugeot in Stornoway that we could have for 24 hours while we sorted things out. We hitched a ride into town with a staff member at the end of his work day. He regaled us with stories of life on a remote island while we drove hurriedly home so he could change and go out into the peat bogs and cut peat – free fuel for all willing to go to the work of cutting, hauling and stacking the bricks. He was doing this for his mother, who needed enough to make it through two winters, as he and his fiancé were going to be married and take a year long honeymoon. We were so impressed by this man!

The car hire office was already closed by the time we arrived to pick up our “new” car (they’d left the keys under the seat and parked it on the street). The effects of our delicious breakfast had long since faded, so we had some dinner and headed back to our B&B, which was an hour away, in Uig. On our way back toward the place where we got stranded, we saw a tow truck with “our” Jaguar on his bed – almost 10 hours after our incident with the rock.

Scot - Uig B

We’d lost a whole day of our much anticipated time on Lewis and Harris. The next morning was also spent trying to find a rental car that we could use for the remainder of our trip. There were no car hires on the Isle of Skye where we were scheduled to get off the ferry on the next leg of our trip, and our ferry left from Tarbert, on the Isle of Harris, on the opposite end of the island from Stornoway. The biggest obstacle was that the car hire companies on the Isles of Lewis and Harris only rent cars for use on the island.

Scot - Harris house

It seemed like an impossible situation until a young man whose sister lived in Glasgow said that we could take their company’s car off the island and get it to his sister at the end of our trip so she would get it back to them. We had to pay an extra fee, but it was worth every penny not to have to cancel our reservations or become foot passengers hobbling along with our luggage, trying to find a bus or train that led to Glasgow. Best of all, our faith in people was restored and then some as we dealt with the kind locals from Lewis and Harris. These folks really went out of their way to help us!

Scot - Scalpay food

The day started getting better almost immediately. We made it to the wonderful restaurant on Scalpay for lunch and I had the chance to visit the official Harris Tweed outlet store to buy fabric as planned.

Scot - Harris Tweed

Mark scored an empty blue gin bottle from the Isle of Harris Distillery to use as a water bottle at home, just like they had at North Harbour Bistro. Afterwards, we walked off a little of our delectable lunch at Luskentyre Beach.

Scot - L Beach

The white sands and tropical-looking blue waters were amazing, while the Belted Galway cows grazing along the shores kept things quintessentially Scotland. 

Scot - cow

After another trip back to Stornoway to switch out our little Peugeot for the even littler Honda Jazz we would use to make our way back to Glasgow, we were off to see the Standing Stones by sunset one last time, and enjoy our comfortable B&B before catching the ferry in the morning.    

Scot - Honda

And you know what? Our little Honda did just fine! It was definitely not luxurious like the Jaguar, but it was great for navigating the narrow roads to the beach. It sat comfortably, and all of our luggage fit, between the boot and the backseat!

Scot - narrow roadsAll’s well that ends well? We’re still fighting with the original car rental company over what we should and should not be required to pay for the short-lived pleasure of driving their Jaguar, but we saw everything we really wanted to on Lewis and Harris, and, we ended up on the right ferry (reservations required) at the right time to the right place. We loved the Isles of Lewis and Harris – the people, first, the Callanish stones second, and my fabric treasures third. And let us not forget Mark’s empty gin bottle – a found treasure that we love, mostly because we got it for free.

Scot - Gin bottle

Because luxuries like Jaguars are nice, but life’s simple pleasures are the best.

Scot - Kilmartin sheep 

Stay tuned for more adventure on the Isle of Skye, and in Loch Carron, setting of Golden Rod, the mountains and gardens of Applecross, Fort William, and the ancient sites of Kilmartin Glen.

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Filed under photographs, Scotland, Sherrie Hansen, Travel

Lewis Trees and Harris Tweeds – the Scottish Travelog Goes On… by Sherrie Hansen

We planned to stay on the Isles of Lewis and Harris for 4 nights because it coincided with the relaxing mid-point of our recent trip to Scotland. My husband says once I get away from home and business, it takes me a week to relax, and that a week before we head home, I start to get tense again, thinking about what’s waiting for me. When we go on a three week vacation, it’s the middle week that’s golden.

Scot- Keeper's House

My midge-bite covered body was looking forward to rest and relaxation on Lewis and Harris. The islands are only 14 miles wide and 100 miles long, so we felt sure four days would not only give us time to see all the sites but to spend some time chilling on Uig Beach, near the Keepers House where we were staying.

Scot - Uig beach

I couldn’t wait to see the mysterious, now famous Callanish Standing Stones seen in Outlander.

Scot - Callendish stones

The seas were calm on our three hour ferry ride from Ullapool to Stornoway and our expectations were high.

Scot - Ferry

We drove our rental car off the ferry to find a sweet downtown area surrounded by a wandering park topped with a beautiful castle. We settled into a little restaurant with a creative menu (I had chips – big English-style French fries – topped with gourmet mac and cheese topped with the most wonderful, melt-in-your-mouth roast beef ever. Yum!)  A few doors down, we found a shop filled with thousand of yards of wool Harris tweed remnants at reasonable prices. I left with a lovely assortment.

Scot - Stornoway food

We set off for the castle at the top of the hill, surrounded by lovely old trees, with a great view of the sailboats lining the harbor. The story, or so we were told, is that a man bought the Isles of Lewis and Harris with ill-gained proceeds from smuggling drugs, only to have his wife refuse to move to the Islands because there were no trees.

Scot - Stornoway Castle

She reconsidered only after he planted a small forest and built her a castle. And a beautiful castle it was!

Scot - Stornoway castle ceiling

We left Stornoway to meander toward out B&B on the other side of the island, thinking, “How long could it take to drive 25 miles?” More than an hour of narrow, windy, twisting, single track roads later, we arrived to a warm welcome from a cute pair of lambs, checked into our spacious room with a view, and set off to explore Uig Beach.

Scot - Uig sheep

The fog was already setting in – or had it ever lifted? – giving the treeless peat fields, hills and dales an atmospheric glow as the sun crested and slowly sank toward the west.

Scot - Uig fog

The next morning, after a delicious, made-to-order breakfast at Uig Sands Hotel, we drove north along the Western shore to Callanish Stones, which turned out to be laid out in the shape of a cross.

Scot - Uig stones

I took a lot of photos even though the skies were foggy and grey, and later, more photos with a blue, sunny sky, and later still, with the sun setting behind the stones. Walking amongst the stones was so magical that I didn’t want to leave.

Scot - Uig sunset stones

We were back in the Jaguar, driving toward the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, an open-air museum with restored blackhouses – long stone cottages with thatched roofs, and Dun Carloway, the remnant of a stone broch (small tower) that’s roughly 2000 years old, when we saw a church with a parking lot full of cars. According to the sign, the service had just started, so we decided to go on in and found ourselves in the midst of a very unique worship service.

Scot - Uig blackhouses

Unbeknownst to us, the Free Church of Scotland has no adornments (stained glass, paintings, crosses) and no musical instruments. The songs are chanted psalms and the women wear hats. I fit right in, and the people were very welcoming, but I missed the lively music and aesthetics of our church services.

Scot - Lewis fence

That afternoon, after more than a good bit of hiking up to the tower house (and back down again) and down to the sea behind the blackhouse village (and back up again), we arrived at the very northern tip of the island, or the Butt of Lewis, where we found a beautiful lighthouse and cliffs covered with hundreds of pink flowers and thousands of sea birds.

Scot - Lewis flowers

We finished off the day with a delicious meal at Uig Sands Hotel, where the chef treated us to house-smoked salmon delicacies and more. We chatted with guests from England, Germany and the Netherlands over dinner. It was all very relaxing and enjoyable. I’m glad I didn’t know what awaited us the next day!

Scot - Uig sands

Our plan was to drive over the bridge from Harris to explore the small island of Scalpay and its red and white striped Eilean Glas lighthouse on the island’s eastern cliffs. We had made reservations months earlier for Scalpay’s famous North Harbour Bistro, which we were told was THE place for a tasty and memorable meal, followed by a visit to award-winning Luskentyre Beach with its white sands and blue waters.

Scot - Harris beach

But as fate would have it, our plans were meant to be broken – as were our poor rental car’s tires and wheel rims. I’ll post the next installment – The Jaguar of Our Dreams and the Car Hire Company from Our Worst Nightmare – in a few days.

Thanks for coming along on the next jaunt of our journey.

Scot - Uig sheep single

You can learn more about Sherrie and her Wildflowers of Scotland novels at https://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/.

Wildflowers - Stripes

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Filed under photographs, Scotland, Sherrie Hansen, Travel

Summer: Where did it go? by John E. Stack

After a pretty rough school year, I was looking forward to getting some things done around the house. During the school year, I had to learn a new subject area, Social Studies. As much as history does not change, I really do not remember something I studied 20/45+ years ago (college second time and high school). Anyway, most of my normal free-time during the school year did not exist. I even had very difficult time feeding my reading addiction.
Last summer, I was able to undertake a bedroom/bathroom renovation (still haven’t found the right bathroom light fixture). But, I didn’t get the bedroom furniture refinished or the shower door replaced. Those were on my list for this summer. I also wanted to build a couple of new cabinets for the bathroom.
After taking a few weeks for relaxation/vacation, I planned to get things done. We spent a week up in the mountains of North Carolina, visited Chattanooga, Tennessee and a quick day trip to Helen, Georgia.
While in Chattanooga, we visited this beautiful place called Ruby Falls. After waiting in line or a couple of hours, we took a elevator one hundred and twenty-some feet down into the earth. We walked for about forty-five minutes through a maze of tunnels to discover an underground waterfall. It was highlighted by various colored lights but was absolutely beautiful. It was well worth the time and trouble.
On the day before we were to leave to come home, we visited a small mountain town of Helen, Georgia, where we decided to go tubing. The water level was a little low, but we went anyway. About half way through, we got stuck on a rock. Before we could get dislodged we were hit by a large group of adults. Allie was shot out of her tube in into the river. I went in after her but luckily another set of tubers grabbed her and held on to her until I got there. She was okay, just a little shaken.  Walking back down the river to where my wife anchored our tubes, a rock rolled under my foot and down I went. Now, if I were a much smaller guy, I would probably have been okay. Needless to say, I’m not and my foot jammed into the river bed. Ended up with a broken little toe, a broken big toe and a boot. I’m just glad it was the last day of vacation and not the first.
That pretty much destroyed my work schedule. Since then, along with a few weeks of healing, I have been able to refinish all the bedroom furniture and replace the shower door. I may even get to complete one of the cabinets before school starts back in a couple of days.  May be I’ll post some pics when I get it done.

Oh yeah.  In regards to my habitual reading, I’ve completed at least three eBooks and  6 hardbacks.  Even though my foot is not fully healed, life is good.

 

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Olivia’s Sweet Adventure and Cody’s Almost Rescue Adventure at the Zoo.

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Great Day Versus…

When I wake up and start my day and everything just follows along in a neutral way and nothing out of the ordinary happens, it just becomes another day, for which I’m grateful. If something doesn’t go well for enough of the day, I might classify it as a bad day. Or, if a lot of things do go well, it’s a good day. Do you judge your days like that? Do you even think about it?

The reason I ask is yesterday was a great day for me, and as I expressed it out loud to some friends, I was surprised, and I wanted to know why. I guess I don’t take time to analyze each day, one way or another, I just live it and go on. Does that make sense?

But for some reason, I felt it was important to tell my friends I was having a great day. I felt that I should let them know that great days happen. Maybe they had only had ordinary days or not so good days lately. Or perhaps they might have had a couple bad days even. They hadn’t said so, but I wanted to plant a “great day seed.” I have the feeling you may be convinced I’m bonkers. So now, I guess I need to explain what makes up a good or great day versus one not so good or bad, at least for me.

As I thought about it, I decided that generally my days are good days, not bad or great. I get a lot of satisfaction out of finishing projects and setting goals for myself, and I enjoy trying to do something or say something nice or inspiring to/for someone each day. I guess that gives me a sense of purpose and self-worth.

Lately, I’ve been battling with a seller over a merchandise return and refund that started in May. All I wanted to do was return the items and get a refund. Things were complicated by the fact that I was dealing with a foreign company and shipping dealt with customs and taxes. I had paid for the items through a mediator, who was trying to help me, but it was all online and somewhat confusing. I guess that issue weighed me down more than I realized. So when I was dealing with another company with online back orders and discontinued items, I thought more complications and disappointment were on their way.

Yesterday, the day started with an email stating all was settled with the foreign company,  items were returned and I was getting my refund. Another email informed me that the items I thought were back ordered and discontinued might not be and had shipped. I was a bit confused by that email, but the mailman arrived moments later and all items I’d ordered were in the package. I could hardly believe it. Oh, joy!

To top it off, a package arrived from a friend I hadn’t seen or spoken with for some time. He had called two nights ago saying it was on its way, but wouldn’t tell me what it was. It was a porcelain bell with delicate painted flowers and my name on it. He’d seen it and was reminded of me and decided to send it to me. I was so touched when I saw it.

Then to top it off, I was preparing to go to my monthly luncheon with three friends and when I offered to drive, one of the gals said she’d already planned to drive and would pick me up. We all spent a couple of hours relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. What’s not great about that?! So I shared my “great day” news with my friends and decided to share it with you, too, dear readers. A great day doesn’t have to be a spectacular or phenomenal or supernatural occasion, at least not for me. Just a day in which things go right and friends are strong. How’s your day?

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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YOU WERE BORN TO RIDE! By Maribeth Shanley

This past week, I made a hard, terrible, but necessary mistake. I sold my Harley Davidson motorcycle. For the first time in thirty three years, I am now without a bike.

After three decades of owning and riding a motorcycle, I decided it was time to quit riding my own. The decision wasn’t an easy one; however, at the time, I felt it was my only alternative.

I began riding a motorcycle in 1985. My husband, Bob, arranged with our local Harley dealer to deliver the bike to our garage while I was out of town on business. I vividly remember that day.

I arrived home earlier than expected and noticed that Bob was not at home. I parked my car in the driveway, pulled my keys out of the ignition and got out. We had a side door to the garage which I unlocked and walked through. My eyes were immediately drawn to bright light at the back of the garage. The light, hanging from one of the garage door ceiling rails illuminated a shiny royal blue motorcycle. The next thing I noticed was the logo on the side of the tank. In scroll, it read Harley Davidson. I gasped as my heart skipped several beats.

Bob and I had talked many times about me riding my own motorcycle. The idea of doing that was inspired by a small framed dark-haired woman on her rootbeer brown motorcycle several bikes in front of us as we participated in a dealership Sunday ride.

While sitting on the back of Bob’s bike, I noticed her. She looked like poetry in motion with her hair tied in a ponytail and wrapped with a long, white silk scarf, both of which were dancing in the wind. As I watched, I leaned forward and pointed her out to Bob. He acknowledged her as I whispered, “I want to do that.”

When we stopped for lunch, we talked to her, and she encouraged me to buy a motorcycle. Bob and I began discussing that option immediately upon arriving at home. On Sundays, when we weren’t riding with a group, I’d ride on the back of Bob’s bike down to the Opryland parking lot in Nashville where we lived. There, I would practice riding Bob’s bike. Once I began to feel comfortable on his bike, Bob and I talked in earnest about what I would purchase. We decided that I should buy a less expensive Japanese motorcycle so I could determine that I did indeed want to ride on the front. If I did, I could then move up to a Harley Davidson.

When I walked through that garage door and saw the name, Harley Davidson, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I stood in that doorway for several minutes when I realized that, if I stayed, I would ruin the surprise for Bob. So, I immediately turned around, locked the door and got back in my car. I drove around for about an hour before pulling back into the driveway. I kept my secret for several years.

That first motorcycle was a Sportster 883 which I kept for one year. At the time, Harley had a trade-in deal on 883’s, and that deal was specifically targeting women riders. If an owner of an 883 traded in her bike after one year, she could recoup her original price paid as long as she traded it for a larger bike. After that first year, I was ready for a larger motorcycle, so I took advantage of that deal and purchased a Super Glide.

That year was the same year Harley introduced the beautiful Heritage model. The original Heritage paint scheme was royal blue with a cream white insert on both sides of the tank where the brand name appeared. The Heritage was considerably more expensive, so, instead, I immediately had my Super Glide repainted to match the Heritage.  Since my second bike, I have owned eight motorcycles, including two choppers, one which was a hard-tail, i.e., no suspension. I rode that chopper all the way from Nashville, TN along the winding road of the Blue Ridge Parkway to Myrtle Beach, SC for Spring Bike Week. When we returned home after riding through the mountains of Georgia, our friend Rick told me that I made him a bunch of money. He had wagered a bet with several other male riders. Rick believed I would ride the entire way and never complain. The other males bet I would complain about the rough ride, especially over bumps in the road. I never did complain. I also never asked to stop before everyone else was ready to stop.

As you read this, you’re probably asking yourself; it sounds like Maribeth loves to ride. So, why on earth did she sell her motorcycle? It’s called allowing my brain to play with my head.

About ten years ago, while in Myrtle Beach, I had a bad accident on my first chopper. Bob, Rick and his fiancé, Cindy, and I were returning to Myrtle Beach after a day trip to Charleston, SC. That morning, we stopped for breakfast as it began to rain. Once we were ready to climb back on our bikes, Bob came over to me and asked, “Can we skip this ride today and do it another day this week?” He had a bad feeling in the pit of his belly about the ride. I didn’t want to wait, so Bob ignored the premonition, and we rode the two hours to Charleston. On the way back to Myrtle Beach that late afternoon, Bob’s intuition played itself out.

On all our rides, Bob was the Road Captain (leader). I would always ride just behind him but in the traditional and safer staggered position. Rick with Cindy on the back of his bike rode behind me also in a staggered position. I was riding along the side of the highway and close to the shoulder when we reached the crest of a small rise in the road and began to descend to the back side of that crest. I saw a dog off to the side and ready to run out into the highway, right in front of me. I checked both of my mirrors, used my signal and began to drift over into the left lane to avoid the dog. I over-reacted as I found myself riding on the small traction of the median shoulder. I definitely wanted to avoid riding in the grassy area of the median which I knew would provide no traction. Again, I assessed my situation and began to slow down. I looked ahead and knew where I would get back on the road. However, I suddenly realized I was about to ride through a deep semi-truck tire track trench in the median. That Spring had been an unusually wet Spring in the Southeast. The truck, I imagined, had left the tire depression after leaving the road, coming to a halt at the bottom of the dip in the median.

As I spotted the depression, in my head I spoke a few expletives and held my breath. Once I was on the other side, I thought, I’ll be fine now. So I returned to concentrating on the road ahead when, suddenly, my handlebars began to vibrate violently. What the hell is happening, I asked. Then, This shouldn’t be happening, my mind screamed.

Next, I felt my bike veering to the left deeper into the median. I knew I was about to crash. The next thing I recall was staring down at the pavement and realizing I was lying, face down on the road, the same road upon which trucks loaded down with pine trees and headed to the paper mill in Georgetown traveled.

I jumped up off the road and quickly walked over to my beautiful bike lying in two pieces in the middle of the median. My handlebars were lying inches away from the bike. I realized that vibrating was my handlebars separating from the bike frame. My god! I was riding my bike while my handlebars were no longer attached to the bike. I was holding them in mid-air!

Soon I was surrounded by Bob, Rick, and Cindy. I said to Bob, “My handlebars came apart.” From that moment, everything began happening quickly.

A wildlife warden traveling on the other side of the highway stopped to help as did a truck with two males and one woman which stopped on our side of the highway. I was pretty banged up.

After several minutes, the warden offered to drive me to the Georgetown hospital about twenty minutes north. Bob agreed and asked Cindy to go with me. I wasn’t given a choice. However, because I didn’t know the man who was going to drive Cindy and me to the hospital, as he opened the passenger door of his truck, I looked him in the eyes and said, “You better not touch either of us. If you do, you will be sorry you did.” He responded, “No ma’am, I would never do that. I just want to get you to the hospital in case you have a bad injury.” It turned out that he was a very nice man who did exactly what he said he intended to do.

As we began to drive off, we heard a gunshot. Later we found out that the dog was a stray. It did in fact cross over the road to the median. The two men and one woman were going to take it home with them. They explained to Bob and Rick that area was an area where people frequently dropped off their unwanted dogs. As the three tried to corral the dog, he ran back out onto the highway only to be hit by a car. The gunshot was a mercy shot. The dog was so badly mangled but still alive when one of the truck males, took out his rifle and put down the dog. When I heard the story later, I felt horrible. I felt my over-reaction had caused this poor dog his life.

Fast forward to this year, 2018.

When Bob and I decided to cash in two 401-K plans to buy a house we could retire to, we finally settled on returning to Myrtle Beach. We had spent 29 previous springs riding to Myrtle Beach for Spring Bike Week and a few additional rides in the fall to attend the Fall Bike Week. It seemed like a natural place for us to retire. We both love the beach which gave us the feeling that we were on a never-ending vacation. Plus, Myrtle Beach isn’t that far from the mountains which we also love. So, Myrtle Beach is where we purchased our last house and now live.

So, what does moving to Myrtle Beach have to do with my selling my motorcycle, especially given that this is where two bike rallies take place each year? Being bike owners, Myrtle Beach seemed the perfect place to retire.

Two years ago, however, I made several trips down to Charleston. It was the year my dog, Pooker, was dying of diabetes. Bob was still employed but working from an office in our home. A specialist practiced in Charleston. She was trying to keep Pooker alive while giving him a comfortable existence. Pooker and I rode down to Charleston at least once each week for three months. The first time we made the trip, I tried to recognize the spot on the highway where I had crashed. I don’t know if it were the sadness of Pooker’s condition, coupled with reliving the crash each time I would drive by that spot where that poor dog died that began playing with my mind. However, I began to think that it might be time to stop riding solo. Too, when there are no rallies in progress, the tourists who travel to Myrtle Beach are dangerous drivers. Add to that mixture that Myrtle Beach is a prime retirement destination. I may be seventy years old, but, I’m a young seventy-year-old woman. I don’t look or act like I am seventy. Neither does Bob look or act like he is seventy-four. However, the bulk of the other retired people in the area look and, worse, act like old people. Worse still, they drive like old people. I began thinking; I don’t want to die on my bike.

Add to that entire stew that I’m in the middle of putting together an anthology of short stories as my next publication. For that anthology, I wrote a ghost story about a young female rider who dies while riding her motorcycle. She is hit by an older woman who turned left, hitting the young woman who she failed to see.

Over the years, I have had premonitions and, if I ignored them, they would happen. Thus, all these ghosts began stirring in my mind causing me to experience an exaggerated fear of riding my motorcycle.

So, last week, I called the local Harley Dealer and talked to the general manager about buying my bike. He asked me what I would take for it. I gave him a figure $1,000 more than I thought I would get. I knew the bike; a Harley Davidson Cross Bones was a sought after bike because, for one, it had an old school look to it, and two, it was only made for two years. I not only broke even, but I made an additional $500.

The morning I took it for my last ride, my mind kept telling me, This is a big mistake. For the first time since my mind began playing tricks on me, I thoroughly enjoyed riding my bike. The morning was a pleasant one. When I arrived at the dealer, the Manager came out to greet me. I told him about my second thoughts. He said, “You can change your mind.” He then began to tell me that the next year’s model will be out in a few weeks making my bike a year older than it was at present. He also began to show me the newer, 2018 models and all the dramatic improvements made over the ten years I owned the Cross Bones
.
The moral of this story is that I have come to recognize that although a premonition, it was not a fateful forewarning. I am not ready to quit riding. I’ve been sad since I sold my bike, but, I’m now also hopeful. Too, my wonderful husband, Bob told me, “Look, I’ve watched you work wonders with the budget. You should make a plan to save up half the cost of the bike, buy it and then pay it off as quickly as possible.” That’s exactly what I am going to do.

By next Spring, I will be on a 2018 Black Fat Boy Harley Davidson. I will take a short respite from riding on the front. I will have to learn to ride on the back where I will not be in control. Yikes! But, I also tell myself, You can do this. Besides, it’s only a few short months, and several of them will be winter months. Go for it, Maribeth.

You were born to ride!

Note:  As I wrote this, I found a photo of my first non-Harley motorcycle.  I owned three American Iron Horse bikes.  The first, this beauty, was called the Outlaw.  My second and third AI were the two choppers.  Of all my motorcycles, this one is by far the most beautiful.  It was also the most radical!
Outlaw

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It’s Midnight in Minnesota but it’s Daybreak in Denmark – by Sherrie Hansen

Daybreak – Chapter 1

Anders Westerlund flipped over a packet of cucumber seeds and read out loud, “Plant after all danger of frost has passed.”

Even in April, daybreak in Danemark was a chilly affair. Jensen kept insisting that the Copenhagen winter they’d just experienced was mild compared to what she was used to in Minnesota, but there was still a good chance that the tender new shoots poking up from the ground could freeze before spring actually arrived.

Anders wished he had more time, but the brutal fact was, he did not. If he could just coax some summer flowers into blooming and get the garden greened up before he had to go, he would feel better about leaving Jensen. He wanted to do as much as he could to make her transition easy.

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Another gust of cold air swirled around his neck, then wormed its way under his collar to chill his shoulder blades. According to the Danish Meteorological Institute, the average date of the last frost was the 18th of April. To be absolutely sure, they recommended waiting until May 7th. But it had been a warmer than usual spring, and Anders was feeling lucky.

Why he felt so optimistic was beyond him. Everything in his life was uncertain, and at least one of the drastic changes about to unfold was not welcome. The only thing he knew for sure was that he was not going to be around when it was time to reap his harvest.

He planted one hill of cucumbers, one of eggplant, and another with one of Jensen’s favorites – zucchini squash, each at the base of their own trellis. He liked his vegetables planted amidst his flowers. There was no room in his tiny yard for a separate vegetable garden with long, well-spaced rows like Jensen’s sister-in-law had in America. Here in Danemark, every inch of land was precious and put to good use.

He moved to the south side of the house and dug in a row of corn just far enough out from the foundation so it would catch the rain. He tucked a few delicate, curly leafed basil that he’d seeded in the house into a window box with some geraniums and planted his fledgling tomato starts in a basket with multiple openings that was designed to hang over the fence.

Daffodils.jpg

He’d put in the lettuce, potatoes, beets, carrots, kale, red cabbage, dill, broccoli and radishes almost two weeks ago, the day after the Christiansens had come. He hoped he had not seemed rude when he had ignored Jensen’s parents so soon after they had arrived, but the growing season was short in Danemark. If you did not work the ground as soon as the frost was out, your garden would not amount to much. Besides, when houseguests stayed for almost a month, you could not put your entire life on hold for the duration of their visit.

With Jensen expecting, and everything else that was going on, he was glad his onions, peas and spinach had been planted on schedule. He had not expected Jensen to help. With a belly so big she could hardly tie her own shoelaces, her only form of exercise was waddling around the neighborhood on their nightly walks. He loved pampering her, and doing for her so she could rest as much as possible. If he had not had so many things to get done at work before the baby came, he would gladly have driven her and her parents to Als.

The important thing was that Jensen would be here to water and weed the garden once he was gone. At least, he hoped so. It brought him joy to imagine Jensen picking the peas, digging out the potatoes, and enjoying a good spinach salad when the time came, especially since he would not be around to do it.

He swallowed his frustrations, straightened his back and thrust his shovel into the ground between two clusters of late-blooming tulips. The crab-apples were in full bloom and each time the wind blew, a smattering of petals wafted down around him.

Flower - Crab Apple

 

Springtime. New life. Daybreak. His favorite time of day and his most cherished time of the year – although he had to admit that being snuggled up with Jensen over the course of this year’s long, icy winter had done much to improve his opinion of cold weather.

Even with spring well underway, the nights were cool enough to cuddle under Jensen’s quilts. But the days were warm enough to ride bicycle and work in his garden. Life was good – had been good, during their honeymoon period. Now, changes were in the wind.

Jensen and he were going to be parents together. He was so excited for the baby to arrive he could hardly bear it.

Everything would be perfect if he didn’t have to leave.

Daybreak in Denmark (3)

His cell phone jingled in his pocket. Probably Jensen. She knew his schedule, knew he wouldn’t have left for work yet. He flipped the top open and found Bjorn on the line.

They exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes before Bjorn asked the question that was on both of their minds.

“Have you made a decision yet?”

“Decision?” Anders made a clucking noise with his tongue and moved out of the way of a honey bee that was honing in on his tulips. “The only decision they gave me was Greenland or the Faroe Islands. I was given no choice about moving.”

“You could find another job. You could take early retirement. You could move to America.”

“None of these things are options, Bjorn. At least, not at this time. You’ve read the newspapers.”

“An occasional news bite on Facebook or Twitter.”

“The Euro is nearly worthless. The world’s economy is in shambles. My retirement funds have suffered greatly. I am blessed to have a job that pays me well. With a new baby on the way…”

“I get it,” Bjorn said.

Anders held his breath. He knew that Bjorn had mixed feelings about being displaced as his only child. He did not want to argue with Bjorn when he was halfway across the world. A good fight was not nearly as satisfying when you could not hug each other at the end of the fray.

“Have you told Jensen yet?”

Anders truly believed that Bjorn loved Jensen. Still, adjusting to having a new step-mother and all the changes that came along with her had been difficult for his son. He knew that. So when Anders heard a tinge of gloating in his son’s voice, he understood. Bjorn was still disappointed that he and Jensen had not settled in Minnesota, and somehow, the knowledge that he would soon be one of two offspring rankled on him.

Anders stabbed his shovel into the ground. “I will tell Jensen soon. And I will soften the blows by giving her a choice – she can stay here in Danemark, watch over the house and tend the garden while I am gone, or return to America to be with her family.”

“Good luck with that one,” Bjorn said.

“The situation is far from ideal. She will have to adapt.”

“So when are you going to tell her?”

“Tonight when she returns from Als. It has to be soon. My boss wanted me to leave next week, but I have told him I will not go until the baby is born.”

“Jensen’s not going to be happy.”

“Believe me, I am well aware of that fact. I did not want to cast a pall of sadness over her parent’s entire visit, but I am sure that telling her now, when her parents are still here to comfort her, is a good thing to do.”

“I hope you’re right. If it was me, and someone was going to hit me with some bad news, I wouldn’t want anybody around to watch the fireworks.”

“Jensen has very much respect for her parents. Perhaps they will even agree to delay their flight home and stay longer so they can help Jensen with the baby when she comes. She is very close to them. Having them here to help her consider her choices will make her feel much better. I am sure of it.”

Except that he was not. These days, he was not sure about anything.

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Daybreak is available as a paperback now. The Kindle version should be available any day.

If you want to read Night and Day to hear how the story begins, click here.

Night and Day (1)

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West to Inverness, then Off to Ullapool by Sherrie Hansen

It was like 2007 all over again. Not wanting to deal with “big city” traffic, congestion and parking hassles, we drove through Inverness as quickly as possible and retreated to the Scottish countryside, this time, on a farm high in the hills overlooking the Moray Firth. After learning how much there is to see and do in any given area on our previous trips, we tried our best to stay at least two nights in the same place. It’s far more relaxing not to have to pack up and move every single day.

Scot - sunset 2

Our countryside view was amazing. The next day, we headed away from Inverness toward the small town of Beauly. There were several wonderful shops in Beauly, a bank where we were able to exchange more dollars for pounds, a nice restaurant where we enjoyed a high tea, and a great fish and chips place.

Scot - Chanonry Point

From Beauly, we went on two nice drives – the first took us to the narrow end of the Moray First, across a bridge and up the other side. We had a lovely hike along the coast at Chanonry Point, where we missed seeing seals but found a lighthouse and wild roses and Queen Anne’s lace blooming along the rocky beaches.

Scot - lighthouse

A few miles further down the road, we found a small National Trust property that had a delightful garden and a thatched roof house that was the home of Scottish local hero, Hugh Miller.

Scot - hugh's house

His story was fascinating and we related to it on several levels. He believed in Creation and had an extensive collection of fossils.

Scot - Hugh

From there, we headed south through a shady mountain pass to Loch Ness. Once again, Urquhart Castle was closed by the time we got there, so we took a few photos from a distance, watched for signs of Nessie rippling in the blue waters and drove home along the shore.

Scot - Loch Ness

Our B&B for those two nights just west of Inverness was on the first floor of a new house, with a private entry and a very comfortable bed. The sunsets both nights were beautiful, but the midges were starting to bite and came out at sunset. I did a dance as I walked through the grass, snapping and moving and snapping and moving, hopefully fast enough to avoid having a midge land on me.

Scot - Beualy B&B

The next day, we set out to see my Scottish friend, Ang, in Balintore, a seaside village north of Inverness. The fog seems to settle in each night, and it hadn’t yet lifted as we walked along the shoreline, talking. Two years ago, Ang used the word “atmospheric” to describe the misty air hugging the sea, and I will forever think of the word when I encounter foggy landscapes. We exchanged treasures and good conversation – a definite highlight of the trip!

Scot - Ang beach

After lunch, we left the east coast of Scotland and were off  to Ullapool, on the west, when we decided to detour down to another Historic Trust property. As Trust members, we love seeing these properties “for free”.

Scot - inver rhodies

I’ve heard from many people that they’re always amazed at how much we managed to see in one short day. What they may not realize is that everything is so close – the most we drove in a day was 100 miles. It’s also daylight from 4:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m, so if you get up at a decent hour, you can do a lot before dark.

Scot - Invereray

This is one of those days that we stretched things a little too far. Everything would have been fine except that we reached Inverewe Garden about 5:30 p.m. Last entrance was 6 p.m., but the gates to the garden were open until 8 p.m., so we had plenty of time to explore. The sky was blue, but there wasn’t a breeze to be found, and the midges surrounded me in swarms.

Scot - Inver wisteria

Dense forests were crisscrossed with mazes of paths and steps that wound through rhododendrons, bamboo and perennial gardens and eventually, out to the sea. Before long, I was swatting and itching and breaking out in blistering welts. But it was so beautiful, and we got in for free, and…

Scot - inver flowers

The only solution was to walk faster and faster. If I was capable of running up and down rickety, stone stairways that didn’t have handrails, I would have. What can I say? I’m glad we saw the gardens – they were lovely, but I’m not sure the itching and oozing I went through for the next week was worth it.

 

Scot - Ullapool

The sun started to set on our way to Ullapool, and we arrived just in time to see sunbeams shining over the harbor. We found our room at the top of an extremely steep hill overlooking Morefield Brae.  What a beautiful setting! But alas, as we climbed out of the car, our host warned up to enter quickly and close the doors behind us because the midges were really biting.

Scot - Ullapool B&B

Great. While we settled in, our hosts at the Fair Morn B&B found a restaurant with openings for 8:45 p.m. We were seated in a conservatory facing out to the garden and left to choose from a wonderful menu. All was well until we started to notice we were itching even more than we had been earlier. Then we noticed a small window open at the top of the wall. Suddenly, we were caught in a swarm of midges. But the time we caught the eye of our waiter and asked to be reseated in another room, the damage was done.

Scot - skye castle

In the morning, we headed north along the brae and into the mountains where we were treated to castle ruins, sheep grazing, red deer running along the hilltops, and altogether amazing scenery.

Scot - Lochinver house

We stumbled on a craft fair and a pie place at Lochinver and then took a narrow winding road to Achmelvich Beach with its white sands and aquamarine waters. When I heard about the beaches in Scotland, I assumed it would be like California in January, with crisp temperatures and cold winds even though it would have the appearance of being summery. But the day was perfect for beach-going, in the mid 80s, and we had a picnic with the meat and fruit pies we’d nabbed at the pie place in Lochinver.

Scot - Uig beach

By that time, however, I felt like I had a beacon on my back that said “Bug Bait.” There were bugs in the sand, and bugs in the rocks – but unlike midges, these were big, and could be seen, and felt, and they seemed to be going for my eyes, and anywhere my midge bites were oozing and itching. Yikes! I don’t mean to sound negative, but it was not exactly a relaxing day at the beach.

Scot -ullapool house

We ended the day back in Ullapool, where we ate at an upscale fresh seafood shack and found a handmade woolen treasure at a local craft shop. I walked as fast as I could everywhere we went to fend off the midges who were waiting to land. They seemed to get sneakier as time went by, burrowing under my clothes and biting my back and thighs, under my hair and hat. Nothing dissuaded them.

Scot - Ullapool harbor 

I had a hard time sleeping that night because I was so hot and itchy, but there’s always a bright side… We had a delicious Scottish breakfast to look forward to and a forecast of calm seas for our three hour ferry ride to the Isle of Lewis and Harris. And someone told me that there were no midges on Lewis or Harris because there was always a good breeze blowing. Music to my ears…

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Oh Really!! Revisited by John E. Stack

Hi again, last month I wrote about some issues within the foster care system.  This month, I still find my self irritated, and I wanted to make a clarification.  I will start with the clarification first.  I made a statement that it costs the state around $1500 per month per child that is in foster care.  That is a true statement.

What might be misleading is people believing that the foster parents get this money.  We do not.  We do get a monthly stipend to help provide for the children that we have.  For newborn babies up to toddlers around 4 (it maybe older), foster parents receive less than $500 per month to buy clothing, diapers, wipes, and formula if they use over what WIC provides. Most months we are in the red.   We do not get paid to get up three or four times a night when the baby wakes up crying, we don’t get paid for colic, or taking time off work for doctor appointments.

I am thankful for social programs like WIC (Women, Infants and Children) and it may have different names in different states.  We normally have children who need special formulas.  WIC usually allows 8 – 10 cans per month.  One of our recent children needed a formula and the cost is $39 per can or around $390 per month.   Our daughter was on a formula that cost $49.95 per can and she went through a can every two days.  Thank you WIC because who can pay over $700 a month for formula.

What does it cost birth parents? (Remember, they are usually the reason their child is in foster care).  They get supervised visitation from 1 to 4 times a week at government expense.  They do not have to help provide for their child, not even diapers.  Some have to get counseling, take classes, get a diploma, get their license, get a job.  They do not have to get drug counseling, or parenting classes.

Why do we do foster parenting when there are so many problems with the system?  We look at this as a ministry.  We believe that this is a job that God wanted us to do and has provided us with the means to do so.  Most of the time it is hard work, but the blessings we receive make it worthwhile.

Sorry for the rant, but sometime you just have to get stuff out of your system. My wife had a mom ask how much we got paid to take care of the kids that were placed in foster care.  When my wife told her what we were paid, she could hardly believe it.  She had been told that we got several thousand a month.  Only in a perfect world…maybe there would be no need for foster parents.  What a concept.

Okay, off my rant.  Who knows what next month might hold in store.  May you be blessed in all you do.

 

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

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Neighbors – These Days

I live in a deed restricted community of about 200 houses about 35 miles north of Tampa, FL, in the $100,000 to $200,000 range, built around 1990. The yearly fee we homeowners pay is partly used for a landscaping company’s grooming around several ponds and for maintenance of our two electrical entrance signage areas. Our fees are also supposed to go for any legal action needed to collect any tardy or non-paid yearly dues. A couple years ago our homeowners’ board and members voted to resurface a portion of road that had gotten too badly potholed, added a beautiful fountain in one of the larger ponds, planted crepe myrtle trees in some common areas, etc. We used to receive a newsletter each month letting us all know what the board had been up to since the last one and I always volunteered to deliver that newsletter on my street.

Unfortunately, our most active board member moved away and for some reason the board lost its oomph and kind of fell apart. Now we get a newsletter once a year along with a yearly member’s meeting. Enforcement of the bylaws that kept our neighborhood looking nice, like lawns mowed and edged, trees and bushes trimmed, houses painted and roofs cleaned of algae, etc., have gotten lax and rentals have been allowed.

What’s happened is big companies or small groups of people like the “flippers” you see on TV are buying up houses and renting them to people who have no direct interest in this community. There is a county law that disallows cars to park on the street or on the lawns, for instance. The renters don’t care, so they do it anyway. And many renters are not taking care of the properties they live in. Those of us who have purchased homes here risk becoming “bad” neighbors if we say something. Many of us old timers are concerned about lower property values. Our homes are already almost thirty years old and many of us have remodeled insides and re-sodded outsides in order to maintain healthy values.

Directly next door to me is a group of unrelated people living in a single family dwelling in what they term a “blended family.” The problem is, I don’t see the same people all the time coming or going and there are multiple cars parked in the street at night, which is not allowed. When these people first arrived, I went over and introduced myself and I got first names of some of them, but no full names. They were very vague. I told them if they needed anything or needed help in any way, I’d be glad to do what I could. Most neighbors on my street know one-another, so this secretive behavior from them confused me.

This “family’s” house is on a corner, so the front and one side are very visible. The property was immaculate when they moved in and since then it has gone very quickly downhill. They don’t mow the lawn, edge it, take any care of the lawn, trees, bushes, and have left bright white sandbags left over from hurricane Irma outside along my side of their house along with a kayak (strictly a no-no according to our by-laws). I tried to tell them nicely, but they don’t care and they ignore all the rules.

Finally at the request of some of my other neighbors, I resorted to reporting them to the homeowners’ association board so a letter of encouragement could be sent to them. I had given them a copy of the by-laws when they moved in since they told me they had not seen them. The president of the board told me to just call our county code enforcement office. What used to be handled by the board is now expected to be handled by the citizenry of the neighborhood. I was concerned about retribution problems, but I waited until I saw mold appearing on the outside of their sunroom and the grass was two feet high and I saw a rat. It was time I did something.

Luckily the county was swift in acting and the people mowed today and a truck came and cut up all the dead tree branches and cleaned up the flower beds these neighbors let die from lack of water and care. So it took almost a year for these people to realize that they had some rules they had to follow or else fines would have to be paid. I’m just praying it doesn’t take that long for them to mow and clean up again.

I spent $3,000 on new sod just two years ago and I have a monthly service that keeps it healthy. I also have a regular man who mows my lawn, and edges and blows the grass off the street. I really don’t want these neighbor’s weeds to spread into my yard. Other homeowners feel the same way. I can’t understand why people don’t want to live in a neighborhood that looks nice. The whole neighborhood used to be really friendly, too. Now many of the long time neighbors are not happy with the renters and that causes tensions.

Anyone have a suggestion or solution? I’d really like to hear!!! The most logical is to forbid rentals, but I don’t think that’s possible.

 

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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