While in Arkansas today, Greg and I seized the opportunity to try a new restaurant for a late lunch. Using Siri on my iPhone, who is ever so helpful, we came up with 15 choices for lunch, in the Bentonville area. The proximity of Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas means there are razorback hog symbols and shops everywhere. We chose Whole Hog Cafe, in the spirit of first things and in support of UA’s feisty mascot.
You know you are in for a treat when you enter an eating establishment and the tantalizing aromas make your stomach growl. Another hint of goodness to come was the huge assortment of trophies on display, many with golden pigs atop them. Whole Hog Cafe has won many awards for their barbecue.
Whole Hog Cafe specializes in smoked ribs and meats such as brisket, pulled pork and pulled chicken. We settled on the pulled pork sandwiches, which came with a side of coleslaw. The atmosphere was casual with rolls of paper towels on the tables. Also present was a six pack-style holder with six different types of homemade barbecue sauce.
I decided to be adventurous and sample several before making my selection. There were sweet sauces with molasses, spicy sauces with a kick and a couple with vinegar as one of the main ingredients. I chose #6, the Mustard & Vinegar sauce, touted as an old south favorite. It was great with my pulled pork and something I had not had before.
My sandwich was delicious, the pulled pork tender and flavorful. I didn’t care as much for the coleslaw, which wasn’t sweet at all, but that was personal preference. I ate most of it anyway! I’m not one to shy away from trying a new food, or a familiar food prepared in a new way. A bonus for me was sitting next to huge windows with a beautiful view of leafy trees and an expanse of green grass. Well that, and walking out with a homemade chocolate brownie. Overall, I had a great experience at Whole Hog Cafe, and I would eat there again.
Although I am familiar with the story of Guardians of the Galaxy, I have not seen this popular movie until this evening. It has been recommended to me multiple times and I have heard high praise for the film. Plus, these characters connect to the Avengers storyline, making it a must see for me, as I have seen all the movies around this franchise. Tonight, I thoroughly enjoyed a romp with a band of misfits through the galaxy.
Guardians of the Galaxy stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan and the voices of Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper. The sci-fi adventure film was directed by James Gunn, who was also a co-writer. Guardians of the Galaxy is rated PG-13, for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and some language, and has a run time of 2 hours and 1 minute.
Peter Quill (Pratt) a Terran from Earth, is on the run as he fulfills the role of self proclaimed outlaw and Star Lord. A mysterious orb becomes the center of a plot of deceit, theft, capital gain and weapon of destruction, and Peter finds himself in possession of it. Suddenly, everyone wants the orb. Peter’s mentor/business partner/adopted family member, Yondu (Rooker) wants it for his own profit. On a Kree warship, powerful Ronan (Pace) seeks to obtain the orb so that he can trade it to Thanos (Josh Brolin, uncredited) in exchange for the destruction of Xandar. Ronan sends Thanos’ angry, adopted daughters Nebula (Gillan) and Gamora (Saldana) out after Peter to seize the orb.
On the planet of Xandar, Peter encounters Gamora, who attempts to take the orb by force. Seeing the scuffle, Rocket the Raccoon (voice of Cooper), a genetically modified raccoon who can speak, and Groot (voice of Diesel), a tall tree like being who can only say “I am Groot”, realize there is a bounty on Peter’s head and attempt to seize him. All end up arrested and taken to prison. No worries. Rocket is an expert at breaking out of prisons…22 so far. Enlisting the aid of Drax the Destroyer (Bautista), who has a vendetta against Ronan for killing his family, the five unlikely comrades break free and set off to sell the orb.
The crew of misfits and rebels forms an uneasy bond, learning to work together and trust one another as each hopes to get rid of the orb and profit from it and take his or her revenge on Ronan. In a lawless region of space called Nowhere, the group at last finds out what the orb is…an Infinity Stone, one of the most powerful and dangerous objects in the universe. Ronan arrives, with Nebula, to claim the orb as well, and battles ensue that take the combatants from Nowhere to Xandar. In the fight to possess the Infinity Stone, and determine the fate of the entire universe, the group, dubbed the Guardians of the Galaxy, discover who they are, what gifts they have, and how to join together to become an invincible team.
This was a fun film, with rollicking action and familiar actors from The Hobbit, Doctor Who and Jurassic World taking on new roles. The story and characters do connect with the Avengers films, so it was important to watch, for continuity. Most of all, I appreciated the films surprise hidden gems, found in touching moments, humorous one-liners, and the characters’ development during their individual and combined journeys. I love movies with transformation as the central theme and Guardians of the Galaxy has that element of transformation woven throughout the action and humor. Each of the Guardians discovers who they are, as they travel among the stars and battle for the orb, what gifts they have to offer, and how to best work together to create a team that is strong and flexible and allows each to shine.
I look forward to a sequel, for the film ends with the words “The Guardians of the Galaxy will return” and to the integration of this series of movies with the Avengers. And, as always in a movie, it was good to be reminded that the past doesn’t dictate the future, and that we all have beautiful gifts to share, sometimes born from pain, and sometimes born from desperation, and sometimes, waiting within to be discovered. This film gets a big thumbs up from me.
Today’s journey was all about celebrating my great-nephew, Kaleb, who turned four this past week. Family members gathered at my niece’s home in Oklahoma to share and play, eat a delicious Minecraft cake and sing Happy Birthday.
The birthday boy was allowed to choose the theme of his party, and what activities to enjoy today. He played with cousins, hid so well from me during a game of hide-and-seek that I seriously couldn’t find him (he squeezed behind boxes beneath the guest room bed!) and enjoyed Kentucky Fried Chicken for lunch and an evening run through Sonic.
This is an amazing child. He may have just started preschool, but he’s an old soul in a young body. He understands things, way beyond his years, and he’s a great conversationalist, making me laugh with his grasp of words and concepts. Kaleb is a deep thinker and I love having him curled up on my lap, listening while he shares his bright and unique perspective on the world.
Kaleb loves the color blue, playing video games, watching movies, playing with his cousins and Mickey Mouse. He has an infectious smile and engaging manner that makes him extremely easy to be around. This boy is friendly and smart, curious and playful, and he loves to give hugs and kisses.
Kaleb and I have a very special relationship. Our souls recognized each other, from the moment I held him as a baby and we have continued to delight in each as he grows. My priority today has been to spend time with Kaleb, focus on Kaleb, do whatever he has wanted to do. Part of our special weekend is for me to spend the night. I will sleep with Kaleb in his room so we can whisper and tell stories, and fall asleep holding hands.
This boy is precious to me and I look forward to watching him grow and learn, and do whatever he sets his mind to do. Happy birthday, Kaleb! I love you!
This is one of those quirky holidays that would not have caught my attention a year ago. However, since I’ve become a Whovian, a fan of the British TV series, Doctor Who, I would now have to join the 11th Doctor in saying, “Bow ties are cool!”
Long before Matt Smith’s Doctor made wearing a bow tie fun, people have seen this neck embellishment as a statement of class and sophistication. According to the National Bow Tie Day website, the bow tie dates back to the 17th century, in Croatia. Here mercenaries would use neck wear that resembled scarves to bind the collars of their shirts. These neck scarves were called cravats. They were adapted by upper class French citizens, who had the reputation of being highly influential in the fashion world at that time. The cravats evolved into today’s neck wear: the bow ties and neckties.
Here are some fun facts about bow ties:
• Mississippi is the number one state in which men are most likely to wear a bow tie.
• in the past two years, bow tie sales have outnumbered necktie sales. (Doctor Who influence perhaps?)
• 78% of all bow ties produced are pre-tied, versus self-tie.
• Because…only 1% of men know how to correctly tie a bow tie.
• New Year’s Eve is the number one day to sport a bow tie, followed by Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and National Bow Tie Day.
Many famous men and fictional characters are known for wearing bow ties, including Charlie Chaplin, Dr. Seuss, Winston Churchill, Dracula, James Bond, Humphrey Bogart, Orville Redenbacher, Pharrell Williams, Thomas Edison, Stan Laurel, Charles Osgood, George Will, Indiana Jones, Donald Duck and those famous Chippendales, to name a few. Black is by far the most popular color of choice for bow ties, with pink a surprising favorite, especially during wedding and prom season.
I learned a lot about bow ties today. They are considered an essential fashion accessory for men. And popular among women as well who wish to make a bold fashion statement. An ideal bow tie for me would be a small plaid one, in my Scottish clan’s tartan colors. I’ll have to check into purchasing one. Because, bow ties are cool!
I’ve been looking forward, with joyful anticipation, to creating a lovely display with this old red box. I brought it home a couple of weeks ago, from Derby, KS, a gift from my sweet cousins. I spied the box in my aunt’s garden shed and fell in love. My cousin Greg encouraged my sisters and me to take whatever we could use or would enjoy, as tokens of love from his mother, Annie. Spurred on by his generosity, I continued to look and found stacks of terra cotta flower pots, which fit perfectly within the wooden box.
My beautiful aunt loved to garden. It was a hobby that we shared. I cherish the items I’ve brought home from her house, yard and shed that I can use or repurpose in my own garden. It makes me think of Aunt Annie, and brings me joy. I hope she strolls with me, as I putter in my garden, and smiles.
This evening I took time to pick up pansies, in yellow and orange, and a couple of small, rust colored mums. This cool weather is triggering fall fever in me. Although I’m waiting until September to bring out my crates of autumn decor, I couldn’t resist creating my first fall arrangement tonight.
I’ll redo the rest of the front deck next month. Tonight the red box rests on one of the wooden benches, the yellow, orange and rust colored blooms hinting at what’s to come. I love the natural look of the terra cotta pots, in varying sizes, nestled within. I foresee many delightful uses ahead for this simple wooden box with the fading red paint. The contents within may change, with the seasons and according to my whims, but this box may never leave my deck. I think Aunt Annie approves.
It didn’t take long to figure out that today is National Dog Day. My newsfeed on Facebook is full of cute dog pics and expressions of love and appreciation for the furry babies in our lives. Looking up the holiday, I discovered that this national day was founded in 2004 by pet and family lifestyle expert and animal advocate, Colleen Paige. Celebrated annually, always on August 26, National Dog Day is meant to elevate this most loyal of companions and also bring awareness to the plight of countless dogs that are currently in shelters, and are in need of a loving home.
It may seem funny, for me to post about this holiday today, since I don’t own a dog. I have eight granddogs. And a family of cats. (No worries…National Cat Day is October 29). However, I used to have a dog, until old age took her from me in 2007. I’ve thought about her a lot today. And interestingly, she came to mind last night, before I knew that today was National Dog Day. I read an article, before going to bed, that suggests when pets pass, their energies, their spirits, remain nearby, continuing as our faithful pets. And instantly, she was in my thoughts.
Payton came into my life by way of my older daughter, Elissa, who was enchanted by a litter of 8 week old puppies at a horse show. She carried one of the pups around all day, and convinced her dad, through a pleading phone call, to let her bring the female puppy home. Before we headed home, Adriel carried over another pup from the litter, and we let the puppies play together. I immediately noticed that the second puppy, another little female, was much more curious than her sister, more active, and definitely more vocal. I had read that curiosity and playfulness were good signs of intelligence. Elissa carried home that little live wire instead, and named her Payton.
According to the vet, Payton was a Rott/Lab/Chow mix. She looked like a Rottweiler, with the webbed toes of a Labrador Retriever and the black spotted tongue and dense undercoat of a Chow. He laughed over her constant vocalizations, and called her a “talking Rott”. It was a characteristic of hers that would remain with her throughout her life. And then he gave me the best advice that I could have received about this active pup. He told me to keep her in the house….yes, this puppy who was small enough to carry around now, but who would grow to weigh about 80 pounds…allow her to be a house dog. He said leaving her alone in a fenced in yard, or worse yet, chaining her up, would make her unsociable. He also explained that this fur ball was a working dog. She needed tasks to do and needed to have specific jobs to perform, to be happiest and healthiest.
We listened well, and took his advice to heart. Payton was ever after an indoor dog, who never once had an accident in the house. Elissa took her to the stables with her everyday, where she “helped” with daily chores, such as watching the horses and following Elissa from stall to stall as she mucked them out. She attended horse shows, watching her girl ride and perform, alerted by the music that it was time to head to the arena. At home she sorted laundry, carrying socks or washcloths to the washing machine for me, or picked up trash, tossing empty soda boxes or pet food containers into the trash. She babysat whatever kitten Adriel had, and sat patiently observing as Nate played the piano or guitar. I affectionately called her my Big Nose Girl and the kids called her Little Sister. She became, by way of constant interaction with her family, the smartest dog I ever had. After Elissa married and moved away from home, Payton was undeniably my dog. My girl.
The most amazing thing about Payton was that she self-taught herself to do so many things. Perhaps it was because we homeschooled, and Payton, always wanting to be a part of whatever was going on, spent her days learning too. She comprehended a large, spoken vocabulary. and we talked to her in a normal, everyday conversational way. She would listen attentively, head slightly cocked, and then let us know she understood. If I lined up an assortment of her toys, and asked for particular items, she could retrieve them for me and bring them to me, in correct order. She brought me my shoes and her leash when it was time for a walk, which was one of her favorite activities. Being such a big girl, I felt safe walking with her late at night. We explored our neighborhood in the quiet darkness, a shared bond between us. Those were precious times.
Payton taught herself a skill that I have never witnessed before in another dog. She learned to barter. If I had something she wanted, such as a sandwich, she would bring me something she thought I might want, such as the day’s mail. Placing the item carefully at my feet, she would point to the object she desired that I held, with that versatile nose of hers. And then gesture to the offered item, to see if we had a deal. Her bright, brown eyes would study me, and I know she was thinking, calculating, what to offer next if I didn’t go for the first offering. She often sat on my lap, not caring that she was so huge. And she loved to sit beside me on the couch, body upright, her front leg thrown around my shoulders. I had friends who used to stop by the house, just to watch Payton do her amazing activities.
I learned so much from that dog. Her love was unconditional and freely given. She was protective, without being mean, causing me to feel secure if someone I didn’t know knocked on the door. Payton answering the door always caused a stranger to back up a few steps. She delighted in the NOW. It was always NOW to her, so she lived without regrets of the past and without fear of the future. She enjoyed simple pleasures in life, such as falling snow and splashing through water puddles, enjoyed giving hugs, never failed to say good night. When I felt sad, or misunderstood, or alone, she knew, and she would come and sit between my knees, her back to me, and make a sound that was suspiciously close to “maa-maa”. I would wrap my arms around her and whisper in her silky ear, “Mama’s girl.”
She died of old age, curled up in the bathroom floor. I don’t easily cry. But I knew she would be leaving me that day, and I cried most of the day and long into the night, after she passed and Greg carried her from the house. I missed her. And I vowed not to replace her. There was a smudge, a Payton nose print, that remained on my living room window for 18 months after her death. She used to watch for the mailman from that window, eyes bright, ears alert, tail wagging. It was a game she played every day…bark at the intruder on the porch and make him go away. She knew there was no threat. It was a funny little joke to her. The sunlight would catch that smudge on the window and I’d touch it lightly, thinking of her, smiling over her antics, tearing up over her absence. I kept her collar and several of her favorite toys. I have them still. At last the day came when I could wipe that smear off the window, but she still occupies a special place in my heart.
The author of the article I read last night suggested that we continue to talk to our beloved fur babies after their deaths, as if they are still present, because, perhaps, just perhaps, they are. Payton often visits me in my dreams. I don’t dream about her. She visits me, moving with me from dream to dream throughout the night, a companion who accompanies and protects. As dawn approaches, she gives me a hug, and prepares to leave, tongue lolling out of her mouth, eyes bright with the promise to return. Today, on National Dog Day, I talked aloud to Payton, thanking her for being my faithful dog, thanking her for her love and companionship. I sat quietly, hands held out, calling her name, and felt the tingle of energy against my palms. Maybe it was my wishful thinking. Or maybe my Big Nose Girl was backing into my embrace, for a hug and a reminder that she will always be near. I whispered into her unseen ear, “Mama’s girl. I love you.”
My little Payton ornament, a gift from niece Ashley. This sits in my office. That’s Payton’s actual collar tag, which reads, “Not spoiled. Blessed.” This used to have a halo attached. Appropriately, it disappeared.
This evening the wonderful book club that I participate in finished our latest book. We first met late last fall, the six of us, and during this journey together, meeting every three weeks or so, we’ve completed two books.
As we read through Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now, we not only learned together but learned about each other. It was a trial time, of settling in to walk together, keeping pace with each other and building trust so that sharing could take place freely. That happened beautifully.
What I love about our book club is that we all have different backgrounds, different types of families, and even different first languages! We think our own thoughts, grew up with our unique sets of beliefs, have faced and walked through our own challenges. We bring that rich variety of differing perspectives freely and openly to the group, and share, united in our desire to learn and grow and journey well. There is no judgment, no condemnation, no correction. Just curiosity and love and encouragement.
We finished The Untethered Soul with interesting and thoughtful discussions around the last two chapters. This has been a life-changing book for me and it was a joy to read through it again, in the company of such an amazing group of women. I deeply appreciate each person’s input, questions, and honest stories of journeying through life, with the desire to free the heart and soul. How powerful it is to travel together.
We selected our next book, The Mastery of Love, by Don Miguel Ruiz. I have read other books by this author but not this one. I look forward to reading it and to the continuing journey with these dear souls.
I pulled a quote out of our upcoming book: “The quality of your communication depends on whether you tune your emotional body to love or to fear. If you know what love is and what fear is, you become aware of the way you communicate your dream to others, and you can choose to communicate with love.” I look forward to the next few months, as we communicate our dreams to each other.
I have been drawn repeatedly into the garden today. Early this morning, I strolled through before heading out for the office and then to Mt. Vernon for a closing. I spied a praying mantis immediately, who turned his head to peer back at me.
When I finished work late this afternoon, I returned to sit in the garden, surrounded by beauty and mild sunshine. I kicked off my shoes and settled back into a chair, watching bees and butterflies flitting from flower to flower. Life. Life filled my own little paradise, along with peace.
After a quick summertime dinner, I returned to the herb garden to snip sprigs of fresh lemon balm and mint. The unusually cool temps we are experiencing remind me that fall is approaching. I wanted a cup of hot herbal tea.
I used my tea mug with the little mesh strainer to prepare the tea. Filling the mug with steaming water, I let the lemon balm and mint leaves steep, covered, for about 10 minutes. A delicate lemony aroma filled the air and I looked forward to sipping the herbal tea out by a cozy little fire in the fire pit.
While I was waiting, I googled the health benefits of lemon balm tea. This member of the mint family is great for treating disorders of the digestive system and cleansing the liver. It has antioxidant properties as well. Lemon balm is most recognized for its calming effect, relieving stress and lowering anxiety. Although I wasn’t experiencing stress or anxiety, the light green tea was flavorful and soothing, and I felt very relaxed after drinkng a cup.
I lingered in the garden long after the sun set, sipping my lemon balm mint tea, watching the little crackling fire, listening to the droning song of the cicadas. The cool air carried the scent of herbs as they stirred just beyond the flickering firelight. What bliss. It feels like summer is slipping away, the shorter days signaling the trees to begin changing the colors of their leaves. It won’t be long until this garden shifts in response, but there is beauty present at every stage, during every season. I’ll enjoy every moment.
This restoration project has been another long one, primarily because I’d look at the overly exuberant ivy growing wild in the flower bed, and shake my head and walk away. I redid the other front flower bed in early June. But the tangle of ivy with its tough woody stems has merrily defied my puny efforts to remove it. I’ve kept four plants watered and alive on my deck for almost three months, with the intention of getting them into the ground, as I did their counterparts on the other side of the steps.
A few days ago, knowing I was at last making a supreme effort to get this last flower bed restored, Greg came to my rescue. Using a garden spade, he rapidly dug out the majority of the ivy, getting underneath the shallow root system. I am so grateful, or I would not be posting this particular blog post tonight. After two days of heavy rain, six inches of water, according to my rain gauge, I donned my oldest gardening clothes and sneakers this afternoon and determined that I would finish this project today.
The ivy is a hardy plant, I’ll give it that. My grandson Dayan and I planted one small sprig five years ago, and it took off, spreading until it choked out all other plants in the bed. The 2011 tornado and two years of drought and high summer temps did nothing to deter it. Instead, it thrived! I’ve learned a lot about gardening in the past few years, and this is a plant that does best as ground cover, or when you have an area that you want it to take over! At last today, after a few more minutes of Greg wielding a shovel, bare ground was revealed.
After diligently removing roots, which was an interesting game of tug of war, for the most part, I had a ready to plant bed. The rain made the soil dark and rich and easy to work. In a few moments, I had the four long-suffering plants tucked into the ground. They are not nearly as mature as their associates in the other front garden bed, but they will catch up. I know I will have to be watchful for new ivy shoots to appear, and remove them promptly.
A fresh layer of mulch, after a light watering, and the task was completed. It felt so incredibly good to step back and eye my work. At each end are dwarf ornamental grasses…Hamelin Dwarf Fountain Grass and Bronco Leatherleaf Sage. The Hamelin Grass in the left front garden has feathery spears. Next year, this resilient grass on this side will too. In between, as on the other side, are two yellow Stella de Oro Daylilies. Now that this bed is finished, I returned a couple of favorite rocks to the bed. And at the far end, rests a little terra cotta statue, or what remains of it, anyway. At one time, five years ago, it was a cute little rabbit. I found it today, buried beneath the mass of ivy, missing its ears and well worn and weathered. I considered chucking it into the trash bin. But I washed it off, and kept it. I like it. It reminds me of the story of the Velveteen Rabbit, who discovered, “…once you are real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand”. I understand. And I think my rabbit statue is beautiful.
After cleaning up my mess, and trust me, there was one, and before heading in to take a much needed shower, and trust me, it was a necessity, I tucked one more plant into the ground. Greg’s cousins bought a lovely Hydrangea, that was delivered to the cemetery for the graveside service for Greg’s dad. I have been keeping it healthy and watered on the front deck. Today, after much consideration about its new location, I planted it in the Hosta garden, since it needs very little sunlight, near Coral Bells. Interestingly, there is a rabbit statue there as well, although this one has its ears still. What a beautiful plant, and a beautiful reminder of Bob Moore. I will cherish this plant, and think of him, and the cousins, Mark, Pam, Linda and Tim, and their families, every time I look at it. What a gorgeous day, to do wonderfully restorative work, for me and for the garden. For this season, the planting is done. Now there is maintenance….and dreaming up new features and flower beds for next year. But first, I will enjoy the remainder of this season….and let my gardens and myself rest.
What a blessed journey today. As Joplin and the surrounding area was soaked with heavy rains, I enjoyed a morning snug within my house, working on an offer/counter offer on behalf of clients. As the storm clouds scurried off to the east, family arrived from Broken Arrow, OK. Work done for the day, the fun began!
I know some people have such difficult relationships within their families. I truly am blessed, and grateful, to have amazing family members. We enjoy spending time together, look forward to visits, support and encourage each other. We gather often, celebrate life, grieve together.
This afternoon my sister Debbie and nieces Ashley and Nicole arrived in the big blue pickup truck, bringing furniture for my other sister Linda, and a new friend! Craig and Debbie have been friends for years, having met online. They got the opportunity to meet in person for the first time Thursday. Craig and I have exchanged a couple of emails, so it was great to put a face with a name, and meet him too! He easily fit within our fun-loving, chatty group.
Mom joined us, and another new friend, Paula. I met Paula earlier this year, when I taught a blogging class. We are kindred souls. Paula is very intuitive and spiritually aware, and she graced us with her presence and her gifts today. What a great afternoon of sharing about life and our journeys, learning more about ourselves and each other, and encouraging one another along the way. I experienced some “aha” moments that I’m still pondering.
Before the Oklahoma gang headed home, we shared an early dinner at El Vaquero on Main Street. Greg joined us there. Food and drink and conversation flowed, bringing an end to our afternoon together. I so appreciate the fellow travelers who dare to journey with me. It is so valuable to have companions to share with, to explore with, to expand my heart, soul and horizons with.
“I am on a journey – with my work, my explorations, and a few sad stories. I travel with a suitcase full of outrageous blessings. I am on a quest for truth, beauty, and quiet joy. I am an artist, a writer, an explorer.” – Anonymous
I add to that – I am on a journey with a band of like hearted souls, a fellowship of courageous men and women and bright-eyed children. I am so grateful.