Thursday, April 21, 2016

Cheap Toilet Paper

Personally, I hate it.  I find I use twice as much of the inexpensive stuff...but that's just me, and this is not a "tale" (see what I did there?) about my own personal likes and dislikes.

This is a story about cheap toilet paper and the impact it might have on others.

Roger routinely volunteers to serve our community in our church's food pantry.  Every now and then....I help.

While there are certain guidelines set for the disbursement of food from our pantry, having to prove income or need is not one.  If Roger and I got in a situation where we needed food, our pantry would provide it.  You do have to have some ID and documentation of a residence, but even this gets difficult at times as we have had people come in that are living in their vehicles.  Another guideline is that you can only visit our pantry once a calendar quarter.  We do provide a list of other pantries and other resources that can be utilized in the interim.

Our grocery bag are stuffed with jello, rice, pasta and sauce, pancake mix and syrup, tuna, vienna sausage, cans of vegetables, soup, crackers, powdered milk, peanut butter, and jelly.  It isn't a lot but it is something.

Recently, a church member ran across a really good deal on toilet paper and bought it up and brought it to the pantry.  Four roll packages of cheap single ply toilet paper in plain black and white wrappers unadorned with cuddly bears or bunnies.  It was shelved in plain view of the door to the reception area of our pantry.

Someone asked "could I maybe have one of those packages of toilet paper?"  Of course.  You would have thought we had handed over the keys to a Piggly Wiggly!  The appreciation was so great that we began to pack a 4 roll bundle in each grocery bag.

We rarely hear much about the food in the bag but that toilet paper is a star!  Maybe it is because we are unique in our gifting of it.  Who knows?  All I know is that it has been so often mentioned and so appreciated that groups in our church have made it their mission to keep our pantry stocked with TP.  We have also expanded and started to have some feminine hygiene products and baby diapers.

It made me stop and think.  We are all aware of the inconvenience of finding an empty spindle in the bathroom and having to call for help.  But, can you imagine if you knew you just didn't have all?

I began to realize that we need to look at the whole person and how sometimes it is the simplest of things that is most often overlooked.

I also dug a little deeper and thought about much we might not consider other people (even family) until they are not around any longer.  It is at that point we would be deeply grateful for even a cheap toilet paper version of them if only we could have them back to fix what was broken, right what was wrong, and say what needs to be said.

Our considerate treatment of others might just be THEIR cheap toilet paper, deeply missed but  much appreciated when it shows up.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Let Me Hear You Bark Like a Dog....or....Stupid Hurts.

You will never be able to say that I will not make fun of myself. Part of the reason for that is sometimes I crack myself up. I think I can be really funny at times and at other times I'm so stupid it's funny.

I stuck my toe in the water today and mentioned an incident that happened a while ago and several of you have private messaged me and wanted the skinny on the story so I shall write and publish for you all. Mostly because I always feel that it is a good thing to provide a public service announcement when you can. So read on.

I've mentioned loads of times that there was a prolonged period when my husband lived and worked in Kansas City. Most of the time he came home briefly on weekends but there were times when it just didn't work out for us. It was usually during his absence that all things crappy in nature chose to happen around the house. If you have read "The Dog Chronicles" you know that Vaulting Veronica would usually pull her disappearing act while Roger was away. Leaving me to climb fences and search neighborhoods to retrieve her. But that story belongs to a different day.

I am absolutely a rabid animal lover. I can't stand the thought of someone neglecting or hurting an animal. In fact, there are people who think I need some form of intervention concerning my treatment of my dogs. I firmly believe that the more like a person you treat them, the more like a person they become. And I have proof of this in Jessie the Wonder Dog (RIP) so no arguments please.

That being said, one of our rescue dogs, Betty was and is a terrible barker. Most of her problem stems from the fact that she is absolutely terrified of all humans but Roger and I. So if there are other people in our house, she barks. If there are other people next door, she barks. The squirrel in the tree makes her bark.  Thunder in North Dakota makes her bark.  If she hears a mouse fart on the next street....well, you get the picture.

Her barking was contagious. She would start, then Veronica would join in and finally poor old Max would be unable to contain himself and would add his voice to the chorus. They were driving me crazy and I was scared to death that I was going to be cited by the city for disturbing the peace.

So.......I decided to try the bark collar on them hoping to bring their incessant barking under control. I bought one of those that only transmit when the dog barks, strapped it on Betty, she barked, jumped about 2 feet off the ground, flew sideways and shut up! YAY!!!! I left the collar on her for a couple of days and then removed it. She would be good for a while but eventually would need another lesson in vocal control.

One extremely boring weekend when I was home alone I decided to change the battery in the bark collar because it was no longer having the desired effect.

As I unscrewed the little compartment that housed the battery, the unit beeped. Hmmmmm, maybe the battery wasn't dead after all. Now I've already told you that I am often too stupid to function and I'm sure you know where this story is headed. I'm standing in my kitchen with this bark collar in my hand and it occurs to me "How do I know that these even work?" "What if it really hurts the dog?"  The literature says it is 100% HUMANE, it really?  No one is here for me to talk to about this enigma so scientifically I owe it to myself and my dogs to learn the true nature of this instrument.

The box on the collar has 2 small metal points about an inch and a quarter apart. Confidently, I pressed those two small points to my throat and vocalized my best imitation of a big dog bark.  

My vocal cords seized completely up, tears ran both down my cheeks and my legs,  and I could swear I felt my heart stop and restart. People, I have never had anything hurt so bad in my life - it was a genuine pity that I didn't have a nice thick coat of fur to somewhat diminish the sensation because right on bare skin was the equivalent of dropping your hair dryer in the tub with you.

Those things may be HUMANE - but apparently not for the individuals who make up the root of that word.

When my vision cleared and I could speak again, I called my husband and told him what I had done. He must have been really busy because he immediately got this strangled sound and said "Let me call you back."
I think it may have taken him some time to recover his composure which was lost from laughing so hard.because it took a bit for him to call me back.

Well, it didn't take long for that story to get around the family and then one Thanksgiving they all had to get the collar out and try it for themselves. They passed that collar from person to person, each one barking in turn and being AMAZED that it hurt like hell.  My daughter (ever cautious) was having difficulty making a good bark and kept saying "I don't feel anything."  It was at that point one of her brothers leaned over and gave a hearty WOOF - she felt it.

I sure wish I could have had a video camera that night with everyone sitting around barking............I would be fabuloso wealthy now and could send my dogs for anti-bark therapy.

And now for your public service announcement: Children don't try this at home....that dog (collar) will bite you....

Sunday, April 17, 2016

What Works?

 I can talk about this issue until I am blue in the face and get little response.  And I can't figure out why.  

If I were to show you this picture and say "these poor abandoned puppies need your help" my post would get liked and shared and people would fall out of the woodwork to help. 

In my county alone there are almost 650 children of all ages, all genders, all ethnic groups drifting along in foster care.  On the other end of the spectrum there are approximately 100 available foster homes for these kids.  DO THE MATH!!!

Is it any wonder that the available homes and families are experiencing extreme emotional "burnout".  Can you imagine having 6 foster children in your home and getting a call EVERY DAY asking if you can take a child.  These people are running on empty with very little help.  How frustrating this must be to WANT to help so badly and just know that you have reached the breaking point.

There are single children and sibling groups entering foster care DAILY.  They are all different but they share a common experience.  Through no fault of their own they are "homeless."  By homeless I mean they have been removed from the only home they have known where there were one or two adults who were supposed to be responsible for them.  Adults who should have been making sure they were clean, fed, rested, talked to, cared for, and motivated.  Loved.  Exactly what did these kids do to deserve the life they are living.  Nothing.  Not.One.Damn.Thing.  Unfortunately, because we are talking about human children, I can't show you actual faces or tell you the actual horror stories they have endured.
Their "privacy" is protected.  They are nameless, faceless little balls of clay who are being molded for a lifetime by what life is throwing at them today.  Some of them already have a sickening feeling that adults can't be trusted.  Can't be depended on.  Are hurtful, selfish, and in some cases in real crisis themselves.  They cannot take care of themselves, much less a child.


Eventually "someone" intervenes....and a child starts a new journey.
This picture too is deceptive.  Most of these kids leave their "homes" will a few possessions in a trash sack.  When this happens, they have no idea where they are going.  Chances are they will not only be leaving people they know and  animals they enjoy, they will be leaving a school they've attended and friends they've developed.  If they have siblings, they are hoping that at the very least they won't lose that connection as well.  Worst of all.........they are terrified.  They are leaving...........for what? 

Ideally, they will find a soft place to land.  A place where there is kindness, patience, understanding and responsibility.  A place of love.

But, sometimes.....there is no such place available and they are forced to stay with a case worker in a place like this.  This would make ME feel better.  How about you?  Yeah, I didn't think so.  I'm sure this does little to alleviate the feelings of insecurity and fear.

What works in making people care enough to MOVE?  If you could replace the word dog with CHILD in this photo and put a child in that cage - would that tug at your heart strings?
We are not all CALLED to foster, but we are all called to CARE.  There are so many ways you can help that take little time and few resources.  Organizations in support of the foster care system are always looking for diapers, wipes, suitcases, backpacks, prepared meals for existing families, gift cards, and donations.  I truly believe that if everyone would just allow themselves to see the true face of the foster care crisis there would be nothing that could stop you from getting involved.

There is a lot being done on the front side of children in danger but the resources and help on the back end are woefully lacking.  The same government that protects these kids by making it possible to remove them from harmful situations also makes opening foster homes incredibly hard and time consuming.  Children are entering the system faster than homes can be provided for them.  What is the solution?

I urge you to seek out a local organization that works in support of foster care and ask what you can do to help.  You might be surprised at how very little it takes.  Involve your church,  your workplace, your friends, even organization that you are involved with outside of any of these other areas.  Hold a diaper drive, make a commitment to provide a foster family with one meal a week.  Attend the fundraisers that are held locally to raise money for foster care support.

This should be our goal - nothing but happy kids.  Not just those we know and love personally.  All of them.  Everywhere.  Everyday.  If you want to have a kinder gentler society you need to nurture those qualities in the young.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Crumbs in Your Keyboard?

As I sat down today to try to bring some order to my desk, I happened to look............really look

at my keyboard.  Well, that was eye opening to say the least.  I'm pretty careful around my computer, try to keep liquids and other damaging things away but that keyboard told a different story.

Honestly, it looked like I not only used it as a dinner plate, but might have done my hair and groomed a dog using it as a base of operation as well.


I'm oddly okay with the fact that some of the letters are worn off.  After all, I'm a student of Mrs. D and touch typing was mastered many decades ago.  But.....those crumbs...all that "stuff"!!

I was on a mission now.

I would remove all the random "yuckiness" from my keyboard.
I assembled my tools: 

(I hope you can read the caption on that photo)

I had quite a bit of success and feel a lot better about myself in general but the best part was what I discovered while I was in the process of just a little random clean out of my keyboard.
There on the back of my keyboard, never noticed before were two USB ports!  I have not yet been brave enough to face the potential disappointment that they don't work.  I am simply celebrating the fact that they are there and they just MIGHT work!

Someone very wise told me yesterday to always look for the blessing and the lesson in all things.  So here is the blessing in this for me.  If these ports, previously unknown to me, actually work I can free up some very tight cables from the back of my computer tower.

And the lesson?  The lesson is:  "sometimes when you take a moment to clear up some icky nasty stuff in your life,  you find a hidden blessing."


Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Unbroken Circle

As we continue to travel the rocky roads of life on this earthly planet, we lose things. Some of the things we lose are pieces of unnecessary baggage we've hauled and hung on to. Items that have just become too heavy to carry any longer....items we are better off dropping in a ditch lightening us and freeing us to move ever forward. We cast them aside along with the uncomfortable shoes we’ve navigated in.

 Unfortunately, as we shed those unwanted "things" there are also losses of a different nature. We begin to lose people and the holes that are left in our hearts will not be filled again in quite the same way. The circle of our life becomes smaller - link by link. We continue to close the gap by reaching for the next broken link and knitting it back into the bracelet that makes us whole - a complete circle. Complete..........but certainly not unbroken.

We are left here with our broken pieces and our memories of a time when what was lost to us was once so brightly colored and fresh that we forgot to appreciate and understand it would not always be so. And, we find ourselves there anyone who wants to know those stories, hear those memories, and see those mental pictures we still know how to paint.

Sometimes, we are aware of the loss of our loved ones........sometimes, we are not. And then, suddenly, we know and we are left with a million things unsaid and the hope that they truly knew they were loved. There is no loss that hurts less than another - not when we are speaking of family. Because, each passing life takes something from us as it goes. It takes the shared memories, the laughter, the tears, and the bond that a family shares no matter how strained it might have been at times.

 When you were once the child that everyone protected and looked after and you find yourself suddenly the oldest person left in your "circle" it is a sobering thought. You are now the big link in the chain and all the links that follow are small and fragile in your mind. Yours is now the only one that remains as a tie to the past, to the memories, and to the names on all those old black and white photographs. After one will know.
No one will know the importance of those "ugly" dark paper prints in antique frames that you hang on to. No one will understand that you spent a lot of time in a big iron framed bed gazing at that wheat field, that wolf in the snow, the dark ship in a troubled moonlit sea, or the beautiful church that evoked such feelings of peace. Sadly, all I have are the field and the ship prints. The church and the wolf are lost to me but the memory of them remains.

There is no one left who has the scent of Chamberlain's Hand Lotion burned into their nostrils and continues to wonder how something with the consistency of water could ever do a thing for chapped and dry hands. You are the only one who remembers watching work worn hands from doing other people’s laundry, pick carefully through a battered change purse at the variety store to come up with the exact amount to pay for that lotion.

No one remembers the game of Fox and Goose played with buttons (1 red for the fox and 15 white geese) from a big tin box played on a board drawn on a cardboard box. Or, sleeping next to a sweet large fluffy woman in a suffocating big old feather bed mattress and knowing there was no other place on earth you felt as safe. You are the only vessel that holds the story behind the ancient quilt you keep wrapped in a cover in your own closet. A quilt that is older than you are and like you working towards returning to the organic matter from which it sprang.

All of these memories I shared with my mother and my aunt and in secret listening events I knew they shared secrets between the two of them that would be forever unknown to me. They shared things as sisters. There were things they spoke of that I know as well, but I have no doubt there were a million threads in the fabric of their lives that were spoken of only between them or went unspoken because in their individual minds....they knew. Only the two of them truly knew the hardship of their young lives. I suspect I have a good idea but they lived it. They lived the poverty, the shame of being truly poor and having to wear clothes plucked out of missionary barrels at the local church, they lived the uncertainty of having a mother who was "frail" and therefore could not perform the duties mothers do for their kids. They endured the taunts and teasing of children who thought it funny to change the words of an old hymn to increase the shame of their family and another equally unfortunate tribe. Till the day they died I know "Rescue the Parishes - Pray for the Joneses" rang bitterly in their ears. You see....bullying was alive and well even in the 1920s and 1930s.
Marie Jones Immel, Lona Bell Jones, Rosalee Jones Glenn

Losing my mom's link in my family circle hurt like hell. I miss her everyday, but until yesterday there was still a piece of her here on earth to connect us. We had issues...oh my gosh did we have issues! I was never sure exactly what to do with mom. Did I hold her close? Should I keep her at arm's length? Was she ever proud of me? Why on earth did she do, say, or think that? A million questions every single day. Some answers I never got and that's okay. I know at the end of the day, she loved me regardless of anything else - I was her only one. Her only biological child, and yet, she loved all kids. But, she was not a person to "play" with you - she more or less treated kids like real people with all the expectations and disappointments that might go along with that. She had a well developed idea of what should be and often a "my way or the highway" approach to things. She was often times reticent and retiring, sometimes funny and witty, efficient, organized, and neat. For all their similarities, her sister was a completely different individual. She was outgoing, friendly, happy, personable and sexy as hell. She had a way of making everyone notice her and if you ever knew her, you never forgot her. It was this person my mother entrusted her young child to when mom was newly divorced and working in 2 different cafes trying to support me.

It was this woman, I spent a very long time in my life suspecting might possibly be my mother. I could well picture a scenario where I was a "love child" from a way too young love affair, taken in by an older sister but allowed to be half raised by her actual mother. I even proposed this possibility to my mom on numerous occasions. She always laughed…..she wasn’t offended….she found it hilarious. But, in her hilarity, I often times remained unconvinced that I was incorrect. In fanciful dreams of alternate reality my Aunt and I were much alike. I was a lot like her in my outgoing personality, my love of people and their stories, and my ability to relate to almost anyone. The fact that I share her crooked grin and those freckles in my youth, gives me a great deal of pleasure. And, she loved me. Told me so and showed it.

My Aunt Rose packed me on her hip walking through the dusty streets of a little Texas panhandle town. She took me everywhere she went, even smuggling me into the switchboard office of the telephone company where she worked nights as a telephone operator. 
She let me write and color in my baby book - she let me write and color in my grandmother's Bible. No piece of printed matter escaped my artistic talents. She never, ever forgot my birthday and she always sent me money. She listened to my secrets, she had great insight into “boy” problems and she NEVER EVER judged me. She was my mom on steroids, the person my mom might have been if she hadn't had to grow up much too fast. She was the person who was never 100% sure how to spell her own name....throughout my lifetime it has been Rosa Lee, Rosalee, Rosilee, Rose Lee, and finally I think she determined it was supposed to be Rosie Lee. Please remember that when she and my mother were born birth certificates weren't always done. My mom was able to make up her own birthday, place of birth and date of birth so she could become "official" with the government. I can only assume it was the same with Aunt Rose.

And now....I am left remembering sitting on the lap of an effervescent redhead as she spoke over and over the words to a poem that is imprinted in my mind. A poem others have said is dark and disturbing but only speaks of love and tenderness to me....maybe because I knew how much she loved me and wanted me to have that poem as my own. The poem was The Children's House by Longfellow and I can recite it to this day. I remember watching her for hours doing her makeup, fixing her hair and ironing her clothes. She never stepped out of the door without looking like a million dollars....ever. And she took the time to make sure she looked good and bless her heart for that.

Because as good as she looked on the surface, she was just as beautiful underneath. She had a heart for people and she had time for people. She had time to sit and linger over coffee and visit, she took time to write letters and send cards, she made people feel important. She gave all of herself she had to give to those she loved. I'm pretty sure there was nothing held back. She was a force of nature - a bright blooming rose in earth's garden.

The link that was my aunt in my chain is now gone as well.
I am left with a rapidly shrinking circle. I have my children and grandchildren and a very few scattered relatives that share my gene pool, but the forged circle of biological family grows ever smaller. But, as sad as I am to think about how small my bracelet is becoming -  I rejoice in the knowledge that one day that circle will be complete once again. All the little brutally pulled apart links will be welded whole again and I will sit in the circle of my loved ones in Heaven, once again part of the chain of family......the circle WILL be unbroken, by and by Lord, by and by..... for surely I know that some glad morning, I too....shall fly away.