Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Be Careful Who Your Housesitter is!

Don't ever let a Jayhawk be your housesitter/petsitter if you are a Wildcat fan!

All right, maybe that's a little harsh, but today after getting home from our fab trip in Europe, I began finding all sorts of KU garbage around our house . . . eventually I came to find that somewhere in our house are hidden 52 Jayhawk cards, along with some extra trinkets - so far we have found a KU pen, chapstick, and three Christmas ornaments. As of Wednesday night, we have only found about 20 cards . . . Aubrey thinks we may never find them all, and I tend to agree with her.

The way I figure it, however, if I deduct $10 for every card and $20 per trinket, she will owe me money for taking care of the dogs. Sounds fair, doesn't it?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Oh Holy Night

On this most holy of nights, the luminarias burn brightly at the Norton house. Sometimes the weather cooperates, and when it does, it is beautiful. No pictures does the sight justice.

After church, we come home, open our books, and gather around the Christmas tree.

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Santa's Tracks

When I was in the seventh grade, we had to write a story about our family's Christmas traditions. One student in the class wrote about his family's tradition of putting flour on a cookie sheet and placing it in front of the fireplace. Then when Santa came down the chimney, he would step in the cookie sheet and leave his footprint. When I heard that story, I told myself I would remember to do that when I had children.

Fast forward about 20 years. Once Kenneth was old enough to understand, we began to put the flour in front of the fireplace. Every year, Santa would leave his footprint in the flour. We would then mix plaster of Paris and make a cast of the footprint. Now we have a number of plaster casts of Santa's footprint in the basement.

The biggest challenge we always had was keeping the dogs out of the flour. One year we weren't very successful . . .

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Eve

When I was young, I lived next door to the Simsons. Although they were Jewish, they always had a Christmas tree. On Christmas Eve, the children would receive a book, hoping that they would read it in the morning and let the parents sleep. I thought that would be a good idea, so when our children were little, they received a book every Christmas Eve. It is fun shopping for books for little ones - not so much once they get older . . . but it is a great tradition.

From the Simsons, I learned about my favorite book - The Phantom Tollbooth - and several others. Our children still expect to receive a book on Christmas Eve, and as little ones, it always seemed to do the trick. They always stayed in their rooms until 7:00 a.m., and they claim the books are the reason!

Some years, they would stay in the same room on Christmas Eve. I wish I knew which book they were reading here . . . looks interesting.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Matching PJ's

For some reason, matching pajamas on Christmas morning seems to be a big deal. We only had matching pajamas one year, but it was fun . . . Karen had a matching nightgown, too, but declined to be photographed!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Life Needs Pocket Protectors

Sometimes we find ourselves mired in stress. That stress comes out in many ways. I thought Diana put it well when she said (after finishing two long papers), "My Life Needs Pocket Protectors."

I thought it was a great description of ways to express stress. Hang in there, Di!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Kenneth's First Christmas

Kenneth was 10 months old on his first Christmas, and although he didn't know what was going on, he knew he loved the presents. That never changed!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Pageants

In 1988, I decided it would be fun to have a neighborhood Christmas Pageant. I talked with the parents on the cul-de-sac, all who thought it would be fun, and began the planning. The first year, the kids came over to make their costumes . . . the kings made crowns, the shepherds made shepherds crooks . . . even Diana at age two was able to glue cotton balls on a paper bag to make a sheep's outfit. Then we produced a little pageant, complete with songs and some solos for the older students.

The first few years, Trevor and Eric were the readers; after that others took over. We also learned a number of songs, but the favorite was Feliz Navidad. After the pageant, we all went caroling in the neighborhood and then came back to one of the houses for a soup supper. We did this for about eight years, and they are some of my favorite memories of Christmas.

Kelli and Diana loved to be the angels!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Lights

There are Christmas Lights:

And then there are Christmas Lights:

Guess which house is ours?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Interesting Mail Deliveries

This week has been an interesting one. First I received a letter from a friend from whom I haven't heard in a long time. It was a wonderful Christmas gift.

Then I received a letter from Kenneth. Not particularly unusual, except that the return address was from his apartment in LA - and he hasn't been there since June. It was clearly a Hallmark card . . . so I opened it with curiosity. Inside was the Mother's Day card he had written last May. The stamp wasn't even cancelled . . . it was as if it has been hiding in the mailbox all this time only to show itself on December 8.

I have always been one to defend the post office. They handle an incredible amount of mail with amazing accuracy and efficiency. Yet I always wonder what the story of letters such as this one is . . . did it get put in a bag and left there until someone found it? Did it go to the bottom of a box and get stuck there? Has it been in a post office truck and gone around the United States before it found its way to me? I will never know, but I am glad to know my son really did put the card in the mail.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Since for many years, KSU went to a bowl game around Christmas, we collected many Christmas items that are K-State oriented. Soon we had enough for a little Christmas arrangement. I have added a little to it, but we always enjoy our purple corner!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pearl Harbor Day

As my parents' generation ages, fewer and fewer people remember Pearl Harbor Day. I suspect that day was to my parents what September 11, 2001, is to my children's generation; or the assassination of President Kennedy was to mine. For some events, a person remembers exactly what they were doing that day. Pearl Harbor was one of those.

Don and I visited the memorial in Hawaii when we went there in 1979. The thought that many of those soldiers' remains are still in the sunken ships sobered all who were there. I was still relatively young when I visited and did not have children yet. I suspect my reaction would be even more somber if I were to visit again. All of those young lives gone to waste. Such a sad event.

I am grateful for that generation of men and women who entered into World War II without thought of anything but fighting for our freedom. They were indeed the greatest generation.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Dogs, dogs, and dogs

My family definitely has a love for animals, particularly dogs. My grandmother, Brooks, was always picking up stray dogs and taking them to her farm. Both of my uncles and my mother were the same way. My brother, sister and I do the same thing, though thankfully I haven't picked up many strays lately (the last was a cute little retriever for whom we found a home). Anyway, I come by my love for dogs naturally.

When we got Chaco and Gus, I discovered how much easier it was to have two dogs (rather than one). So when Gus died, we got two more cock-a-poos, Sepia and Babs. They are good dogs! And they tolerate the other dogs we bring to the house when we are dog sitting, working out, or having company. This weekend was especially active, as Bella was here all last week, Patty Sue was here on Friday, and then . . . Schotze (shot z) was here Saturday night.

I love cock-a-poos . . . they have a sweet temperament, they don't shed, and they are cute. But now that I have met Schotze, I may have to reconsider and add a West Highland Terrier when one of my two passes on. Schotze was the cutest thing . . . she had big dark eyes just like our Chaco dog, she has the same "heft" as Patty Sue, and her personality was so cute. I just loved that little dog.

Now don't mistake my love for Schotze as a replacement for my own two. I love them dearly! But my eyes have been opened to the possibility of "changing it up" once it is time to add a puppy to the mix! And a West Highland Terrier will certainly be up for consideration!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Poem About Christmas Lights

Deck the trees with Christmas lights,
Fa la la la la la la la la
Make sure they are working right,
Fa la la la la la la la la
Part of one string isn't beaming,
Fa la la la la la la la la
And that's why we now are screaming,
Fa la la la la la la la la.

Check each bulb to find the bad one,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
Push and pull . . . I am the mad one,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
When the problem can't be found,
Fa la la la la la la la la,
I want to throw them on the ground,
Fa la la la la la la la la.

Finally we decide to leave them,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
Add more lights, we might deceive them,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
After all it still is pretty,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
As we decorate our city,
Fa la la la la la la la la.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bella, the Helper

Bella has joined our household during the day, and she has really grown up. So now she is able to help with the housework.

Here she is helping to change the sheets on the bed.

Here she is helping vacuum the cardboard pieces.

She hasn't learned to pick up her toys yet, but that's next!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Best Sweet Potatoes Ever

Our family loves sweet potatoes - baked with butter; in wedges; plain; or in souffle. But at Thanksgiving, we make them the way Don's Grandma Nelly cooked them . . . in a casserole with lots of brown sugar, butter, and marshmallows. That is until this year. Diana sent me a recipe for some sweet potatoes that sounded delicious - so I decided to forego Grandma Nelly potatoes for these. The recipe is officially called Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Pecan and Marshmallow Streusel. It is from Tyler Florence from the show Food 911. Good stuff!

In a 400 oven, prick the sweet potatoes, put on a cookie sheet and bake them until soft. (The recipe said 45 minutes, but I still had to put mine in the microwave . . . with a turkey and everything else in the oven, they didn't cook in 45 minutes - of course they were huge, so maybe that's why!) Once they are cooked, let them cool a bit, then slit and push the ends together so they open up - much like a twice-baked potato.

Using the following:

3/4 c. unsalted butter - room temperature
3/4 c. light brown sugar
3/4 c. flour (because of a review on the recipe, I decreased the flour to 1/2 cup . . . but I don't think the extra 1/4 c. would have made a difference.)
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
1 c. toasted pecan pieces (make sure to toast them - makes a big difference)
1 c. miniature marshmallows

In a large bowl, mix butter, brown sugar, and flour until it is crumbly looking. Add remaining ingredients and fold together to combine.

Stuff the potatoes with the streusel topping and return to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly.

Man, oh man. Good, good, good! So good that we are saying good-bye to Grandma Nelly's sweet potatoes. These are definitely on our permanent Thanksgiving dinner list!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

More Thanksgiving

So here is what the table looked like just before we ate. On the buffet were two of the dishes . . . the pumpkin au gratin (that I reheated in the microwave and then forgot to serve . . . ) and to its left persimmon pudding. The persimmon pudding is more like a cake served with a decadent lemon sauce (lots of butter and sugar with lemon - yum). It is a family recipe from my dad's side of the family . . . I don't know the history, but I have always imagined that it was an English recipe.

Tomorrow I will put up the recipe for the sweet potatoes. Diana had sent it to me from an internet website . . . and I will never have any other kind of sweet potatoes again. They were fabulous!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Decor

I don't consider myself artistic, especially when it comes to decorating. Although I can set nice tables, they never have that "wow" look. So that's why I am so pleased with what I did for Thanksgiving this year. Unfortunately, neither of my kids were here to see it. So I will let pictures tell the story!

I used branches from some pear trees for the centerpiece - they are unusually red this year with big berries on them. A few mums from the garden added some yellow and white color. Then some leaves from the tree strewn on the table with votive candles and the place mats that Diana and Don picked out two years ago completed the look.

Last year Kenneth and Melinda gave us the beautiful glass cylinder with the candle. So I cut some Nandina berries and put them in the bottom. Cutting some branches from the sugar maple in the backyard and putting them in a glass jar balanced out the Nandinas.

Although it may not seem fancy to you, it is a miracle for me! More pictures tomorrow!

An Attitude of Gratitude

In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, there was an article about the health advantages of having an attitude of gratitude. They are significant.

When I started at the School, Mrs. Garvey subtly talked about gratefulness and enjoying the gifts we have, no matter what they are. She modeled having an attitude of gratitude, and eventually I got it. I am not as good at it as she is, but I try very hard.

God has greatly blessed Don and me - we both had wonderful parents, we both have worked in good jobs, we have great friends, we have terrific children. I continue to marvel at God's greatness and am grateful for all that He has given to us.

I hope for all of my family and friends a most blessed Thanksgiving! I am grateful you are a part of my life.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Done, Done, Done!

290 pages. 103,500 words.

My book is done. Well, sort of done. There's still a lot of work to do. And I still think of things that I left out. But it has been delivered to two people to read, edit, and critique.

Now I just have to find pictures, read and make corrections myself, and decide if I have left anything out!

Looking forward to getting this one published. A School Like No Other. Be looking for it in the spring.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fall, Not So Frondly Speaking

The weather has been spectacular this year, but that didn't keep the leaves from covering our lawn the last few weeks. We have some huge trees, and I love them . . . except for now.

We have a particularly big tree in the backyard . . . a bald cypress. It is a lovely tree except this time of year. That's when its fronds fall and cover the yard. They aren't too hard to pick up - they stick together pretty well . . . except only about 80% of them can be raked. The rest stick to the grass and won't be picked up. Or worse yet, they stick to Babs or Sepia and end up on the family room or bedroom carpet. Sometimes our house looks just like the yard outside!

Today we made our second pass over the backyard. We filled three large bags with nothing but cypress fronds. Then I looked up to the top of the tree . . . and there are still many more to fall. So I guess I better get used to having fronds follow the dogs into the house, because they are going to be with us for awhile.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Six years ago late tonight my mom passed away. In what was the most surreal time of my life, I watched my mom leave this world. The experience still haunts me.

What I have learned since then is that death comes in many ways, and no one has the same experience. Since Mom was lucid until the end, we didn't see it coming. A nurse's aid who came to the house that day said it would happen within 12 hours . . . but I am not sure any of us believed her. The aide was very young . . . and Mom certainly seemed all right. But she was right - Mom was gone within about 11 hours.

One thing about mothers . . . they worry. After Kenneth was born, Mom told me, "Once a mother, always a worry." And she worried about us until she passed. At 4 a.m., six years ago this morning, Mom needed something, and we were out of it. I suggested that Isabel, the home health nurse, and I go to Wal Mart. The only way Mom would let us go was if we would take a ball bat with us in case we were attacked. So Isabel, the ball bat, and I got into the car and headed to Wal Mart. We were fine, of course, but that's not the point. Mom was worried about us . . . until she died.

Mom loved her family. She loved her husband, she loved her kids and she loved her grandkids. I have missed her every day she has been gone. Thanks, Mom, for all you did for me and for my family. And thanks for worrying about me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Autumn is Falling

I love certain aspects of autumn. Usually we don't have a lot of wind. The weather is cool in the mornings, warming up through the day. The mums bloom spectacularly. The leaves on the trees turn all sorts of colors, shining brightly in the sunlight.

But those leaves . . . they surely make a mess on my lawn. Raking leaves is just not my favorite activity. We have a beautiful maple tree in the front yard that I love . . . except for the first few weeks in November. Then all those gorgeous leaves that keep us cool in the summer have to be bagged or composted in the garden. Since most of the leaves don't fall until after daylight savings time has gone away, Don doesn't get home before dark to take care of them. So guess who gets to?

Today, the neighbors had mown their lawns so my leaf-infested yard really stood out. Since it was going to rain, I went out to pull as many of the leaves as I could onto the driveway so that Don and I could bag them tonight. Amazingly, that was pretty easy to do. One more good wind, and the leaves will be off the trees, and the leaf raking will be done for the year!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hunger Games

The November book assigned by my book club is The Hunger Games. I wasn't looking forward to reading it, as I am not a science fiction lover. As I started to read it, I thought I couldn't get through it. The premise was too awful; the action was too intense for this Pollyanna.

I found that I would read a few pages in a chapter, and then I would have to put it down. But I couldn't put it down for long, because I had to find out what happened. Finally, in order to make sure I could finish it, I read the last two pages, just to see if anyone I cared about survived. Either way, it would help me be ready to accept whatever happened.

So I finished the book Sunday morning. And now I can't quit thinking about it. I don't know whether I want to get the second book or not. I am almost afraid to . . . but I am afraid not to. I suspect that I will get both the second and third books and read them the same way . . . and if it is too intense read the last few pages to give me a hint as to what will happen.

Of course, the last two pages in The Hunger Games were not what I thought they were, and it ended much differently than I had thought. So it is no guarantee . . . but it made it possible for me to finish it.

I can't wait for book club tonight. Should be a very interesting discussion!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Don and I are enamored of Alaska. The scenery, the snow, the changing weather, the wildlife. What is there not to love? I am glad I don't have to endure the darkness of the winter, but it intrigues me, and I wouldn't mind spending a month or two there just to experience it.

Every day, we check several Alaskan webcams, just to see what is going on up there. Earlier this month I went to the TAT cam in Talkeetna and saw this:

I had been watching this webcam for the fall colors and always missed them. Somehow, on this day though, the sun was perfectly placed. It's a good thing I caught the picture, because the next day, this is what it looked like:

Isn't it true what they say about timing?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


When our children were babies, one of the first things we wanted to do was to get them baptized. In order to do so, we had to meet with the priest about the ceremony. During the meeting, the priest emphasized that a child's baptism birthday is as important as their regular birthday, as the baptism marks the person as "Christ's own forever." We received a candle to light every year, and thanks to our children's godparents, Kristen and Greg Hart and Kathy Gunter Davis, that day was always remembered as important to our family.

On November 2, 1986, Diana was baptized by our new Deacon, Hal Dick, who at 80- years old decided to pursue the deaconate. I will never forget as he was pouring the water on her head, he began to laugh. Afterwards I asked him why, and he said that Diana was looking up at him and smiling. He thought she was so cute, he had to laugh. She wore my sister Katie's baptismal gown, and at all of six weeks, she was as happy as could be. Diana was the only baby Hal ever baptized, and we have always been grateful that she was the one child who was able to be baptized by him.

Today is also Eric Hart's baptism birthday. We won't be lighting a candle for Eric or Diana today, but I hope they remember this day as an important one in their life - one that reminds them that no matter what, God will not abandon them and will watch over them always. Happy Baptism Birthday!

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Halloween Recipe

Last year, Don heard about a pumpkin souffle that sounded good. So I made it. It was really good, but very fattening - we ate way too much of it last year and decided that it should be a side dish rather than a main dish.

I took it to our church's tailgate potluck this noon and it was quite the hit! With 2.5 cups of Gruyere and 2.5 cups of Emmental cheeses, cream and French bread, how could it miss! All of that goes into a pumpkin and cooks for 1.5 hours. When it is done, it makes a very fun presentation and a delicious side to another entree.

I think it tastes like a very fancy grilled cheese sandwich, unless too much pumpkin gets into a bite. The cheese is somewhat stringy, but with the pumpkin mixed in with it, it tends not to be as gooey. It's hard to scrape the sides of the pumpkin without putting a hole in it (through which all the liquid would then leak), so we probably left a lot of good meat inside . . . but by the time we were done, there's wasn't much cheese left to mix with the pumpkin.

I can provide the recipe, if anyone is interested . . . it would make a very good side at Thanksgiving.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

My Dad

Ten years ago this Halloween my brother, my sister, and I all got the call every kid dreads . . . our dad had passed away. Unexpectedly.

Don's mom had just passed 8 days earlier and we had just gotten back to work, when Dad died. It seems like yesterday.

Dad was the one who made sure we had varied interests. I played golf at age 8 - not many of my friends did. We went bowling, he taught us to fly fish, he took us on pack trips, he taught us to love the ocean. He was the original Disneyland Dad.

He also had a really good ear for music. He loved to play the guitar and sang some of the craziest songs - The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night, for example. But one song he sang was my favorite . . . Eidelweiss, from The Sound of Music. After he died, I couldn't hear the song without tearing up . . . which is why last Thursday when Oprah had the original Sound of Music cast on her show and they showed a clip of Julie Andrews singing Eidelweiss with the real Maria Von Trapp I bawled like a baby. Glad no one called me at that time.

I can't believe it has been ten years. I miss Dad every day. But I am grateful that he gave us a love of the outdoors, of music, of life. Thanks, Dad.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Car Intrigue II

So, in the last episode, Chuck had negotiated his way to Richfield, Utah, where he found a Motel 6 that he could stay in Sunday night. The poor car had been towed to the dealership right next door and was awaiting its fate. Chuck arrived at the dealership early the next morning, the car was pulled into the mechanic's bay, and promptly died. Completely. Dead. No life. Ruh Roh.

What to do now? Chuck is 4 hours from Las Vegas, more than that from Denver, with a car full of his son-in-law's and daughter's stuff . . . but there were still options. He could catch a Grayhound bus to Las Vegas that night, Enterprise car rental would drive a car to him and then he could drive down to Las Vegas, Karen could drive Diana's car to him and fly home from Denver . . .

Then Chuck's wife, Linda, suggested something. She had known people who would ferry cars for dealers, so she suggested that he ask the dealer if he needed a car to be driven to St. George or to Vegas. Well, as a matter of fact he did. First he thought he needed one to go to St. George, but then he remembered . . . he needed a Lincoln Towncar driven to Las Vegas that day for an auction the next day.

So fast forward a few hours and envision Chuck driving a fancy Lincoln Towncar to Vegas. All he needed to show the dealer was that he had a driver's license and insurance. The dealer did ask Chuck if he was going to steal the car . . . Chuck's response was, "My reputation is worth more than your car." The dealer told him to drive safely and sent him on his way.

So Chuck is now in Vegas, enjoying the gambling life until his plane brings him back to Wichita on Friday. Then he will drive Diana's car to Richfield, get Kenneth's and Melinda's stuff, and head on to Los Angeles, which was the original plan. (Of course, Diana's car, when being checked out, needed a new battery! Can you imagine if we hadn't checked that and Chuck had gotten stranded again?)

I think Chuck gets the Best Guy in America award right now.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Car Intrigue

Cars and technology - can't live with them, can't live without them. (By the way, that applies to men - or women - too).

We knew the good old red Intrigue was getting old - 1998, 150,000 miles. But we thought it had a little more life in it, so Kenneth took it to LA. Our thinking was that if it got run into or wrecked, at least we won't have lost much. Last summer, Kenneth and Melinda drove it to Wichita, and they were going to drive it back to LA after they got home from Hong Kong. It didn't work that way, so Friday, Melinda's dad started out for LA.

The day before he left, I drove it to gas it up, go through the car wash, and make sure it was working all right. Sure enough, the a/c wasn't working. $166 later, a fixed part, and new freon, it was good as new. So off Chuck went. Until he got somewhere between Grand Junction, Colorado, and Richfield, Utah. Out in the middle of virtually nowhere, the car decided to give up the ghost. It was about 8:00 p.m., Chuck was at a deserted rest stop, and the car was dead. Thank goodness he is resourceful . . . managed to borrow a cell phone, convinced one of the maintenance workers at the rest stop to drive 40 miles to get a wrecker . . . and late that night, the car ended up at an Oldsmobile dealer in Richfield. Chuck holed up in the Motel 6 next door until the dealership opened up the next morning. Stay tuned . . .

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Tomato-Eating Dog

For the last few days, I have noticed Sepia hanging around the garden. I suspected what he was doing, but I didn't know for sure.

Today, I got confirmation. I found him sitting next to the garden, chowing down on a red, ripe tomato. I didn't even know he liked tomatoes!

I have since determined that he picks them off the vines. I caught him scouting through the garden, trying to find a red one. I am going to have to do a better job of picking tomatoes. As the season ends, however, we are getting some beautiful tomatoes . . . and they are tasty! If only this could last a little longer, and I can keep the dog from eating them!

Red Sky at Morning

The old mariner's rhyme about Red Sky at Morning, Sailors take Warning . . . warns of incoming storms. I know we are supposed to have big winds today and changing weather, but if this morning's absolutely exquisite red sunrise is any indication, we should be in for a BIG weather change. The meteorologists aren't predicting a hum-dinger - for which I am glad - but I do love sunrises like the one we had this morning. The only bad thing . . . I didn't have my camera with me.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Wild Backyard

I don't think of Wichita, Kansas, as a haven for wildlife, but I have been amazed at the different wildlife we have had visit us.

Many years ago, when I fed birds, I would randomly find our bird feeder opened up. One night we looked out to find raccoons in our backyard. I think raccoons are cool, except with dogs, they probably aren't the best animals to have around. So I dispensed with feeding the birds.

We also find opossums in the backyard. Sepia used to find them and drag them around the yard while they played dead. He is too old to do that - I think - but if he finds them, he sure barks at them a lot. He has a special bark that tells me he has found one, and I try to get him inside before he terrorizes it. Although opossums are ugly, they don't hurt anything, so I see no point in causing them grief.

Last spring, Don looked outside to see a fox standing on our deck. I never saw it but two days later, Susan saw it in her backyard eating a rabbit. I wish it would stick around - we have too many rabbits, and although they are cute, I don't like the knee surgery that goes with a dog having too much fun chasing bunnies!

Finally, today as we drove in a hawk was sitting on the Gaskill's fence. We have had hawks before, but they usually appear in the winter when small birds are gathered around feeders. I haven't seen one at this time of year. I remember when owls used to perch nearby, but I haven't heard them recently, so I will just have to take the hawk.

Anyway, I think it is fun to have different wildlife in our yard. It makes it interesting to look outside just to see what we might find.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

It's a Small World

Have you ever been far away and had a chance encounter with someone you know? This has happened to me numerous times. When I was in high school, I went on a trip to nine countries in Europe. Standing in the flea market in Greece, a young man from Texas came up to several of us. We began talking, and he said something about visiting a small town in the mountains of New Mexico. I knew the answer when I said, "What was the name of the town?" "Tererro," he answered. Turns out he was friends of the Noel family, and when we were 8 years old, his family rented the cabin two doors up and we all played kick-the-can for hours.

Several years ago, Don, Diana and I went to New York with our Middle School. We walked into an Italian restaurant in Little Italy to find a Garden City, Kansas, architect, Vince Mancini, with whom Don works, sitting there. This kind of thing seems to happen a lot!

Just today, I received an email from Diana entitled, "Guess what just happened to me?" Uh-oh, I thought. Not to worry. She was sitting in a library in Madrid, when a young woman came over and asked if she was Diana Norton. Diana immediately recognized her as Natalie, the sister of her Independent School friend, Alison Shellito.

I love the Disneyland ride, It's a Small World, because it is so true. Encounters like these are living proof!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chai Tea Lattes

Is it possible to be addicted to a Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks? If so, I am. I love them!!!

Since I am on Weight Watchers, and the chai tea lattes pack a powerful 4 points, I have been trying to reserve them for Sundays only. But sometimes it is agony! Just driving by a Starbucks gets the anticipation going . . .

I have tried making my own sugar-free ones at home. I have purchased sugar-free powdered chai tea mix. I have purchased the Tazo concentrate. I even have a milk frother. But none of my own concoctions live up to the $3.81 Grande version that I can buy less than a mile away.

Will power. I am having to invoke incredible will power. Because I don't anticipate getting rid of the addiction until I find a 12-step program for Chai Tea Latte addiction.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lightning Bugs?

We saw this on Friday night in Manhattan. Weren't quite sure what to think of all of the lightning bugs.

Oh, forgive me. They aren't lightning bugs at all. This is Madness in Manhattan when they turned off all of the lights and the kids began flashing their cell phones. It was a fun sight!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Go 'Cats!

This says it all!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Comfort Foods

For some, comfort food means mac & cheese, meatloaf, or mashed potatoes. For me, it means Green Chile stew.

Yesterday, I got a hankering for green chile stew. Could be because I didn't want to go to the store, I had ground beef on hand that needed to be used, and I had green chiles in the garden that needed to be picked. So I roasted the chiles - was worried they would be really hot, but they were perfect - and made myself a pot of green chile. As a new twist, I added the remaining corn from our grilled corn-on-the-cob from last week's tailgate . . . made for a very yummy dish!

In another twist, I served Don's over a baked potato. He loved it! In the interest of saving Weight Watcher's points, I ate mine straight up. So good! And I made it myself!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Animal Blessing

Today at church we had our animal blessing. Most churches perform this service the first weekend in October, but this worked better for St. Stephen's, so we held the service today. We almost had Babs and Sepia wear their KSU outfits, but I didn't think that would work very well, so they just wore themselves!

It is always a crazy service, and today was just as crazy as ever. Babs barked at every dog that went by . . . and when we sat behind the rabbit in the rabbit cage, she paid quite a bit of attention! I was glad we didn't have a catastrophe with that one.

We didn't have the blessing part until after the service was over. At that time, I pulled my stuffed Willie the Wildcat out and took him with me. Since our priest is a Nebraska fan, he smiled as I brought Willie for healing and a blessing. We're hoping this translates to a win on Thursday night against the 'Hawks! Go 'Cats!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

An Awesome New Saying

Today I was talking to my sister-in-law, Jerri. We were discussing the agony of sitting through horrible football games, most notably those of the New Mexico Lobos, but could have applied to the KSU game Thursday night. She said, "I would rather have been skunk watching."

Perfect! Now whenever I don't want to do something, I am going to say, "I would rather be skunk watching." Since I find skunks to be pretty entertaining (if I am far enough away), skunk watching isn't actually a horrible thing. But I certainly think her saying is a great way to say, "I don't want to do the other thing I was supposed to do."

So now it is time for me to pay bills. I would rather be skunk watching!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Oh, Man!

Why do I do it to myself? Pump myself up with the thought that our football team could possibly win a game that I know in my heart we probably can't. Cautiously optimistic. The "I don't expect to win but we should at least play them closely" approach. But even that style leads to terrific disappointment, especially when we play so badly!

It's not that I mind losing to a better team - clearly, Nebraska was the better team. But I dislike their coach so much, it is hard for me to stomach losing to him. Oh well . . . let it go, Karen, let it go.

That being said, we did have a great time at the tailgate, and the weather was about as perfect as it could be. The stadium was rocking and rolling - the students turned out in style! We sat near some nice Nebraska fans and behind one rude, foul-mouthed K-State fan. Thank goodness he shut up, because I think one of us might have asked for him to be removed if he didn't knock it off. I hate it when our own fans act like that!

Anyway, it was a disappointing evening, but we knew this year was going to be up and down. We are still K-State Proud . . . and anxiously anticipating a good game next Thursday. Go 'Cats!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

K-State Proud

Don had a meeting in Manhappenin' this morning, so I tagged along. Afterwards, we went to Varney's to look at all of the new merchandise . . . and there was a lot of it. They are definitely ready for Thursday! We decided we needed a few things for ourselves. Enjoy!!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Bella, the Mechanic

I thought I had seen everything when it came to dogs. I had . . . until today.

For some unknown reason, my car has begun to leak coolant. Yesterday I had a low coolant light, so before we went to McDonald's today, Don was going to fill my coolant tank. We put Babs and Sepster in the car, leaving Bella in the house while Don mixed the coolant. (Otherwise, if we had put her in the car, too, she would terrorize the others!) Because my car is so old, the hood will no longer stay open on its own. Therefore, when it was time to fill the reservoir, Bella and I went to the garage to help. Bella was running around the cars (she knew McDonald's was coming up) while I held the hood up.

Suddenly, out of the clear blue, Bella jumped up under the hood of the car, her paws holding onto the radiator and her back paws on the bumper. To say I was surprised is an understatement. I don't know what possessed her to jump up - maybe she just wanted to see what makes a car run!

Friday, October 1, 2010

That Dog!

Sepia: That Dog! She's back.
Babs: And we can't escape. Now she jumps on the bed with us, too!
Sepia: Did you see what she was doing this morning?
Babs: I couldn't believe it. She was writhing about on her back, squirming all over the bed and barking.
Sepia: She nearly knocked me off the bed, she was squirming so much!
Babs: Then she lay down and tore up a toilet paper roll.
Sepia: Thank goodness we went to McDonalds . . . except we had to take refuge in the front seat.
Babs: She kept jumping in the rear end, staring at drivers behind us. Did you see that lady in the car that kept trying to talk to her? "Oh you are so cute," she said. Blah, blah, blah.
Sepia: And then when the Dog Lady had her arm across the seats, That Dog kept putting her head on the Dog Lady's shoulder . . . she thought she looked so cute.
Babs: At least she likes to be outside. Remember when we used to chase squirrels and rabbits? That was so much fun . . .
Sepia: Yeah, you were the squirrel master! Oh the olden days . . .

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A terrorist in our midst

Well, not exactly, but I am sure Babs, Sepia, and the rabbits think so. This is worse than the velociraptor, I think! Bella came to visit.

She quickly dispensed with all of the rabbits in the yard, but their scent is everywhere. So she went searching, which eventually led to her finding a way of getting under the deck. After I quit panicking because I couldn't find her, I tried to close up the holes. After three attempts with the easy holes, she finally quit shoving aside the railroad ties to get under. And she went in search of a new entry point.

I honestly thought she couldn't get under the deck anywhere else, but this dog is anything but a slow thinker! First she tried under the stairs, so I blocked that. Took me three tries to get it so she couldn't go around, through, or over my barriers.

Then she found an even smaller way in. First I put the green pot there, thinking she couldn't move it. Joke on me.
Then I wedged the green pot in, thinking she couldn't move it. Second joke on me.
Then I put a brick down next to the pot. Now she is looking for a new way to get under the deck. Sort of like a terrorist, no? Always looking for the next way to foil the authorities. Or maybe she is just a teenager!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


How does one commemorate a hole-in-one, or, better yet, two holes-in-one? After my sister, Katie, got one hole-in-one Diana found a wooden #1 with a hole for the "special" ball, but I didn't buy it. But when Katie got her second one 28 days later, I had to get it. I engraved it with the two dates and sent it off. I think it is a rather cool trophy, so I wanted to share it with you.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Independence Day?

And that was what we saw coming towards us at the start of the Kansas State - University of Central Florida game. What an amazing storm cloud! Many have likened it to the movie Independence Day. The lightning was coming straight down, the clouds were moving straight at us . . . we got to the RV just in time for the rain to come down in torrents - for about 30 minutes . . . and then it was over. We went back into the stadium, the sun came out, the game started . . . and that was that! Too bad the game wasn't as awesome as the beginning - but we won, so we left happy!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fort Riley Day

Saturday morning was Ft. Riley Day at the football game. Honoring our military with cannons and a march of soldiers 800 strong made for a very touching beginning of the game. In honor of the day, Babs and Sepia went to the groomers, and Sepster came home sporting his camo.

The celebration for our soldiers was particularly good this year - though I always get choked up at patriotic celebrations. During the pregame, the soldiers shot not only several rounds of ammo from machine guns, they also shot the Howitzers a number of times. Poor dogs . . . I had given Babs her anxiety medicine, so she weathered the first round all right. Unfortunately because of a weather delay (more about that tomorrow), the game didn't end until after her medicine had worn off. They shot the cannons after the game . . . and they shot them and shot them . . . I could have sworn there were at least 50 shots. Babs was not happy, Sepia was scared, and Bella didn't know what to think. Good news was the shooting finally stopped, and we got there not long after . . .

Saturday, September 25, 2010

TV Preview Week

This week is the time for all of the new television series to premiere - as well as the continuation of last spring's cliffhangers (we all need to thank the show, Dallas, for the cliffhanger). Anyway, I was looking forward to finding out what happened on NCIS and the Mentalist, and they did not disappoint. I also liked Hawaii 5-0, but that's the only new show I watched.

Thursday night was the continuation of Big Bang Theory, and I must admit, I am now hooked! Tonight's show was hilarious, but I won't reveal any plot lines since one of my European-based children will not be able to see it for a year. Sheldon was funny tonight, but Howard stole the show. Sorry, Di. You missed a good one!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rose Hips

Two years ago we went to the Pecos to attend a wedding. The trees hadn't started turning colors, but my goodness, the rose hips had. At first, I thought they were some sort of new berries about which I hadn't known before. Upon further examination, however, I realized they were rose hips on the Woods' Roses. Pictures of them are in my wildflower guide, but I have attached them here so you can enjoy their gorgeous color!

Views for Dumper Don

Lucky Don. He always gets the opportunity to dump the gray and black-water tanks for the Willie. Last week when we stopped, however, at least he had a beautiful sunset to watch! Our sunrises and sunsets this week have frequently been just like this. Although they don't make up for the lousy weather, they come close! And they surely help make Dumper Don's dumper duty more pleasant!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Phaugnicks - 2nd part

The English language is particularly difficult, in that we have so many spellings for the same sound. When I began teaching from the Open Court reading series, I learned that the sound of "n" could be spelled n, kn, or gn. I learned that the long O sound could be spelled o, ow, oe, oa, o-e, and probably a lot more. Most sounds in our language have more than one spelling - though the sounds made for an "m" can only be spelled "m". It amazed me that first graders could learn all of the spellings . . . and then use them!

Sometimes I think texters have it right. r u redy? Makes sense to me. Wht r u thnkng? I get it. We seem to waste a lot of effort on vowels. But I don't think text speak will make things better. The golfer couldn't distinguish between four and FORE!, the dieter might confuse waist and waste . . . all sorts of problems could come up.

So until we find a better way, I will stick with phonics . . . and spelling.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


One of the big mysteries of education is how to teach children to read. We have made great progress since I began teaching, but we have a long ways to go. There are a few things, however, I know for sure:

1. Reading to children gives them a boost. They learn to love stories, their vocabulary increases, and they are introduced to a variety of information and situations through books.
2. Children must learn phonics.

Phonics? Why phonics?

I have always believed in phonics, and it became abundantly clear how necessary they are with my own friends. Those of us who learned to read with phonics could decipher words and spell well; those who learned to read by sight learned to read, but it was harder and they frequently struggled with spelling.

The handicap we place on children if they don't have phonics was accentuated to me when I was a Girl Scout Leader. We had a little troop of darling girls, all in the first grade. Two of the little ones were in a program that did not teach phonics - the others were in schools with strong phonics programs. One day, in turn, each girl would read a sentence from a story. One of the girls who did not have phonics came to the word "hope." She had never seen the word, so we asked her to sound it out. Blank stare. So Coni, the other leader, said, "What sound does 'H' make?" Blank stare. The darling little one had no concept of how to attack the word. We, of course, told her, but the point is, she had no strategies, other than memorization, for deciphering words.

By learning phonics, at least students can make an educated guess of what a word is. Without them, it is just a guess. And sometimes the spellings still aren't accurate - such as fawnix - but you knew what I meant, didn't you?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Where's Fall?

I know, I know . . . Fall doesn't arrive until Wednesday. And although we didn't reach the record high of 99, set in 1980 - which was the hottest summer I have ever known - it was still 94, which is plenty warm. And the fact that it wasn't a record doesn't make it any easier to weather days like last Saturday and today. I have never been a fan of hot weather, and this year is no exception. Along with the heat and the humidity, today we had 30+ mph winds. AAGH! I hate the wind, and a hot wind is just that much worse.

A number of years ago, a friend of ours said that Kansas weather comes in extremes - it is extremely hot, extremely cold, extremely windy, extremely rainy, extremely snowy, extremely icy . . . you get the picture. And unfortunately, he is right. Last week we even had extreme hail. See what it did to one of the greens in west Wichita? My brother, Bart, is now using this picture as an example to the golf courses he insures as to the reason they carry hail insurance for their greens! Divots, anyone?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Reflections on Arrowhead

We have just returned from the Kansas State-Iowa State football game that was played at Arrowhead in Kansas City. We had not been to a KSU game in Arrowhead, though there have been several, so since Don had to be in KC for a seminar, we decided to go.

Since it was an early morning game, we left for the stadium at 6:00 a.m. and arrived just before the gates opened at 7:00. Uh-oh. We were in the Iowa State lot. Between the parking lot attendances who didn't know what they were doing, and a GPS who didn't know what she was doing, we ended up with a bunch of Cyclones. Luckily, I had my handy-dandy parking instructions and with a little help we ended up in the right place. Soon a group of Don's friends and their RV showed up, too, and we had ourselves a little party.

Going into Arrowhead, we all got searched. The female line took so long that Don thought he had missed me and I had gone on without him. Of course, when I got through the line, I spent five minutes looking for him . . . and when he got to the seats and saw I wasn't there . . . second uh-oh of the day. (or maybe the third, since a driver threw him that special digit when we were in road construction and Don was driving a little over the center line.)

Before the game started, we saw a little fight below us. Three people had to go to timeout for the first quarter . . . now you think this would be young people, but no - it was two men our age and one spunky, obnoxious young girl. Did not bode well for the game, though luckily, we had no more incidents.

The one thing I will remember was how hot it was. Now I know it wasn't as bad as the Iowa game several years ago, and it wasn't as bad as some of the games we went to when Michael Bishop was our quarterback . . . but it was hot. And when the Arrowhead concessionaires ran out of water, well that wasn't good. By the time we returned to the rv, all I wanted to do was stay in the air conditioning. By the time we got home, both Don and I felt better, but we had forgotten how hot it can get!!!

The good news is that, although it was ugly, we did win the game! A win is a win is a win!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Velociraptor

Remember the Velociraptor from Jurassic Park? How it walked around, breathing heavily and stalking anything that moved? Its breath on the window of the cooler as it looked for its prey?

Well, we have a Velociraptor living at our house. Her name is Babs. Every time she goes outside, she heads toward the area where the baby bunnies are nesting. We have put a fence around the area so that she can't get to them, but that doesn't keep her from walking around the fence, breathing deeply and sniffing, hoping to find a helpless bunny.

Imagine the mama rabbit sitting on her nest. A black four-legged animal, three times her size, walks up to the see-through fence, breathing heavily, snuffling in the grass, trying to get a scent. The mama's heart must be racing, she is totally alert ready to flee . . . the fear she must have as the Velociraptor walks around the fence, trying to find a way in. Suddenly she hears the Dog Lady say something and clap her hands . . . and the Velociraptor disappears. She can relax for awhile, until the Velociraptor reappears!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wuthering Heights

Better late than never, I guess, but I finally finished Wuthering Heights. I had read it in eighth grade, but I don't recall much about it. Now I know why.

I don't understand how this is a great love story. Diana's take is that it is a story of self-loathing. That may be, but I would classify it as a story of an abusive personality. For many, the passionate love he had for Catherine apparently excuses his brutality - but not with me. I don't define love in terms of power, control, and abuse. It was nearly all I could do to read about Heathcliff and the damage he did to the people around him.

Perhaps I cannot call Wuthering Heights a love story because even now we continue to see violence in the form of stalking, kidnapping, and murder, all committed due to "love gone bad." Today the people who do these things end up in jail . . . but Heathcliff was allowed to terrorize his family until he died. That's not love.

Certainly the writing is beautiful - oh that I could write that well. The plot is intriguing - I did enjoy the way Emily Bronte intertwined the story between Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights, using dual narrators, and naming her characters similarly. There is a lot to love about the book - just not "the love".

Monday, September 13, 2010

Natural Nature

Those of you who know me know that I love nature. One reason I developed my flower guide is because I wanted to educate others about the beautiful wildflowers in northern New Mexico. I love to watch the water in the stream, the wind in the trees, the animals in the forest. Listening to the birds, observing the hummingbirds, delighting in the shapes of the clouds - all make me happy.

I love nature except when she gets ugly. And to me, the ugly part of nature is the part where animals die - either naturally or because other animals have caused it. Now don't get me wrong - I come from a family of hunters, and I definitely understand hunting, but I could never do it myself. When a squirrel runs in front of my car, I screech my brakes to avoid it. The one time I hit a squirrel - it ran right under my car as I was driving at 35 mph on Woodlawn - still upsets me. When I find a dead animal - even a mouse - I get "oogy".

So when my own dogs cause a problem, it is even more upsetting. My dogs love to chase the rabbits. One time Sepia caught one and triumphantly brought it back to me, throwing it at my feet as I was getting ready to go to work. Sepia didn't quite understand the blood-curdling scream, but Don did . . . and very quickly said rabbit disappeared from the family room, never to be seen again! Babs used to catch birds to much the same reaction. But the last few years, the dogs have slowed down, and we haven't had much of a problem. Until yesterday.

I had noticed that Babs kept getting into the thick bushes underneath the magnolia tree, but she never seemed to find anything. Yesterday, Don was working in the backyard when he heard the unmistakable sound of screeching baby bunnies. He went over to the tree, and there was Babs, scrunched down on the ground. He pulled her out and sure enough, in her mouth was a baby bunny. Babs was not about to let it go, but after a few minutes, Don extracted the now lifeless bunny. Gratefully, I was not around to witness this. But Babs has been relegated to a leash until the rest of the baby bunnies can get out of the nest.

Now don't get me wrong. The bunnies are a pain in the neck . . . they eat my garden and torment my dogs. But I don't want to be associated with their demise - if an owl gets them, that's nature. If a cat gets them, that's nature. But Babs and Sepia - well, they can't get them. So they will be walking with me on a leash in the backyard until the baby bunnies can become bigger bunnies, and I won't have to deal with murder on my watch!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Keys and more keys!

Car keys can be elusive, especially when they hide at the bottom of my big, purple purse! But not as elusive as two sets of friends have found theirs to be.

Last weekend, one set of friends met their grown children for the weekend. Coming home from breakfast, the son drove the parents' car while the parents drove the car that had the car seats and grandchildren. Later that day, when our friend went to get his car, he asked his wife where the keys were. That's when they realized that their keys were in their son's pocket - halfway back to Colorado. Luckily, they had a second set that we managed to get to them by meeting them half-way home (they borrowed a car to get that far!) They had to turn around and go back to pick up their car, but at least they didn't have to pay a locksmith or try to find a way to maneuver cars during the work week!

Yesterday another unnamed friend was in the mountains. He and his wife got out of their car to view the panorama. He had pulled his key partially out of the ignition so that it wouldn't beep at him, but he didn't lock the door. Unbeknownst to him, his car has an auto-lock: if the key is not in the ignition and the car is left unlocked, after a certain amount of time, the car automatically locks itself. Unfortunately, his car did this . . . and they were miles from anywhere. Onstar didn't work in the area, so he and his wife walked 3 or 4 miles to a resort where luckily, there were people. They hitched a ride back to their hotel, and today they are waiting for the locksmith, to the tune of over $250.00. When I asked if anyone could meet them part way, they said that their second key is also locked in the car. So they are waiting. At least they are in a beautiful area . . .

Now I find myself hoping these things don't happen in threes, because we could be next! The moral of the story: keep your keys on you at all times!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Special Birthdays!

One of the fun parts of last weekend's tailgate party was that it was also CJ's birthday. So I had to try to find some ways to make the weekend particularly special. First, we had the requisite card and gift certificate for a present. Second, we had the Dillon's cake, complete with purple powercat and decorator icing. Third, we had to do something during the game to add a little fun and "specialness."

To end the day, we went to Leonardville to eat at Nelson's Landing, the restaurant owned by Jordy Nelson's family. I highly recommend the food - we all loved it! As CJ was leaving the RV, he was serenaded with my most awesome version of Happy Birthday! Hope you enjoyed the day, CJ.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Norton Way to Eat Ribs

The first year we served ribs at the tailgate, they were yummy, delicious - but oh so messy. Don's dad was with us, and he commented that it would have been nice to have had gloves on so that his hands wouldn't be sticky the whole game. Make a suggestion to an engineer son, and voila! A new way to eat ribs.

Now when people come to rib day, they have to suit up for the event. We have food quality vinyl gloves ready for the using so that after the ribs are gone, the tailgater just takes off the gloves, uses a baby wipe to clean the face, and goes on with the remainder of the meal. Hassle free ribs! UM, good. Just ask Jon!

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Sure Sign of Fall

I have been ready for last Saturday since December. The first football game of the year. The first tailgate of the year. Harley Day. UCLA. What's there not to be excited about?

I was especially delighted because my brother, Bart, his wife Jerri, and their 18-year-old-on- Sunday son, CJ, were there as well as Trevor, Shelly and their two yung'uns. They even brought their own Harley in the form of a purple and pink Princess bike with training wheels! (You can just see the back wheel of the "Harley" in this picture.) Adorable! Bella made her first foray into tailgating and did amazingly well. By the time Dereck and Jon (Kenneth's DU friends), several other college kids, and the host of regulars finished eating, we were down to three ribs left. Perfect!

On a cloudless day that began cool, warmed to just a little toasty, and then cooled back down, we got to see a fabulous football game that thankfully ended with the good guys winning! It was a good game - closely played, sometimes in doubt, some spectacular plays. Watching Daniel Thomas, a possible Heisman contender, was especially gratifying since he showed up on the national stage in a big way! It is going to be a great Wildcat year!!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Goodbye, Julie

Death is never easy. Although I can rationalize, theorize, and hypothesize about it, my brain might be able to understand it, but my heart can't. Especially when it is someone who dies way too young!

Yesterday another of my friends was taken away at the too-young age of 52. Julie Keeling was Diana's dance teacher, but she was more than that to our family. We met her when she was in high school because her sister was my close friend, and we watched her become the very successful entrepreneur that she was.

The first year she started her dance business was the same year we started the school. We needed to add a better physical education component to our program that could be done within the limited confines of our former nursing home. Aerobics and dance was the perfect answer, and since I knew Julie, I called her. Luckily, she was willing to help. The students always looked forward to her class, as Julie had the ability to make it appealing even to the young men in the school. And for at least two or three days a week, our students had a good workout.

By the time Kenneth and Diana were born, Julie was well on her way to becoming one of the most popular dance teachers in town. Naturally, when Diana was in kindergarten, I enrolled her in dance. She loved it because Julie made it fun and interesting. I don't know that the girls noticed the painstaking efforts Julie made to make sure every student was on the front line at some time during every dance of a recital. I don't know that they noticed how she labored over the costumes, making sure she had the perfect one for every dance. I don't know that they noticed her creativity with her dances. But the parents did.

Our city will miss Julie Keeling. She was a bright spot in the dancing world, and she gave many children an opportunity to experience dance in a positive fashion. The way she valued each and every student will not be forgotten, and her legacy as one of the best dance teachers in Wichita will live on.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Smell of Fall

Chiles roasting over an open fire,
Smells like Nuevo Mexico . . .

One of my favorite aromas is that of green chile roasting. I remember coming home from school in September while my mom would be roasting chile for any number of New Mexican dishes. Once I left New Mexico, I didn't know I missed the smell until I began to grow my own chiles. Then when Johnson's Garden Center started offering Hatch green chile, and they would roast them for the buyer, I began to buy them there. Some days I would just go over and stand near the roaster to get my "chile high."

This year my brother brought me a whole gunny sack full of chile. So I have been madly roasting them on our outdoor grill. And it smells so fine!!

Wild Things

Whenever I go to the cabin, I never know what kind of wild things I am going to see. Haven't seen a bear, mountain lion, or bobcat, though I have heard of them all in the canyon this year . . . BUT . . . I did see some interesting animals that I haven't seen around our cabin before.

The first animals I saw were three grouse . . . we have seen grouse at other cabins but never at our cabin. They walked by the back door, and Babs was pretty intent on watching them. By the time I got the camera, they were way up the hill, but thanks to Don's new camera, I was able to zoom to get a decent shot of them. They are well-disguised, so look carefully!
Then, on Sunday, Don was behind the barn looking at the firewood. Suddenly out of one of the empty 5 gallon cans jumped a gray feral cat. I had seen her about a mile from the cabin beginning in early May, but I didn't know she had made it to our place. After Don figured out what happened, he looked in the can and saw the following:

No, I didn't bring them home with me . . . Babs and Sepster would not have been happy! They seem to have been born late in the season, so I don't know if they will make it, but I am hoping - they will certainly keep down the mice population around our house!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Are you ready for some football?

I can't wait! This Saturday is the first K-State home game. And since it is Harley Day, it is also Rib Day! What a great combination!

I love home football games and the requisite tailgating. I thought Don was crazy when he suggested we get an RV for tailgating, but it has been great! We have made many close friends with whom we have shared some great wins and some very sad losses. But we have mostly just shared in the fun!

So Go 'Cats - and let's have a great year!

Thursday, August 26, 2010


It is time for the fireweed to be absolutely gorgeous in the mountains. With its pink flowers and red stems, it is a stunning presence in the cool atmosphere of 7500 feet above sea level.
Until I worked on my Common Wildflowers of Northern New Mexico booklet, I didn't know what this plant was. I had seen it in Alaska, but I didn't realize we had it in New Mexico. Perhaps because I haven't spent much time in the mountains in late July and August, I didn't see much of it. But it is very prolific in the Pecos . . . so enjoy it when you see it!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I Love My _____ Life

Yesterday while in the doctor's waiting room, I picked up a Redbook magazine. One of the features in it is a column entitled I Love My ____ Life. They ask celebrities to fill in the blank and write about it. In this case it was Trisha Yearwood, and she said she loves her dogs' lives . . . which would also work for me, because our dogs have it pretty cushy.

But then I decided that I really love my kids' lives. They have grown up loving to learn, and their extraordinary education has fostered it! This love and wonder of learning has led them to do such interesting things - travel to India, Laos, Vietnam, Brazil, Europe, and Hong Kong; eat chicken feet, fetal duck, and eel; study in other countries such as Spain and the UK; as well as enjoy the many wonderful sights in the US. They read fascinating books - biographies of Ronald Reagan, War and Peace, Atlas Shrugged, and many others. They talk about politics and economics, religions and beliefs, sports and health. And they have fun with their many friends.

This generation connects with each other differently from the way we connect with our friends, but it is in some ways better. They keep track of each other, and although they may not talk frequently, they certainly do chat! I have been thrilled to watch the world through their eyes, and although I am sure my parents thought the same thing about our lives, I love my kids' lives.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Surprises are the Best

I have been planning it for several weeks. Since Diana leaves for Madrid on the day before her birthday, I decided to have a surprise birthday party for her. Then, when I realized that Kenneth and Melinda would be here at the same time . . . and that some of their friends would be in Kansas, I decided to expand the guest list and make it a surprise birthday/bon voyage (though Kenneth and Melinda knew about Di's surprise). Since both of them are going to be gone for awhile, I thought it would be nice to add family and godparents . . . and what do you know? We had a great party!

My kids' friends, our family, and our friends are the best! We had people drive down from Kansas City and Manhattan, up from Oklahoma City, over from Dodge City - and even fly from Krakow (though she really came to visit her family and just happened to be here at the right time). Victoria, Jon, Erica, and Dereck fabricated a story about why they were in Wichita, and as a result, we had them over for breakfast before the surprise! Aubrey, Lynn, Rob, and Pam decorated with beautiful yellow and red flowers, Spanish-looking paper, and candles. Melinda baked two DELICIOUS chocolate cakes!

All of the kids got to see family members and friends they hadn't seen in awhile. We are so blessed with the people in our lives! We are grateful for all of the people who support us and our kids in our endeavors. They are what make our lives special!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Molly and Me

Well, my family is coming home today. I hope they missed me. But the Dog Lady keeps telling me that I have gotten into some bad habits . . . even though she really did try to keep me from it. She says I turned into a teenager last Tuesday, and since then, I have started doing some things that I hadn't done before. Like chewing. I didn't chew anything - except cardboard - until last Tuesday when I found the ladder with leather on it. They quickly put the ladder elsewhere, so I found the pillows on the couch in the basement. They moved them, too, before I could do anything. And then they moved their drums and anything else they thought I might like. I haven't chewed anything since, but I would if I could.

I have also learned to jump on the bed and on the couch. They would have me get down, but when their old ones were allowed to be there, how fair was that? And I have seen those pictures of Molly on the refrigerator . . . if she was allowed on the couch, why not me, too? I think they gave up. One day, the two old ones were sleeping in the lounge chair downstairs, so I just joined them. She didn't get a picture before the black one got down, but I heard her say it was pretty cute.

She took several pictures of me on the couch. See how cute I am? Compare me with Molly (though the Dog Lady couldn't figure out how to make the picture go the right way . . . so Molly's is a little weird!) I wonder what will happen when I go home and try to jump on the blue and white couch. The Dog Lady says Audi will not be happy. The Dog Lady has said something about a pop can with rocks in it - she said she didn't think I was going to like it!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bella's Last Song

Bella has been anxiously awaiting the arrival of her family. In honor of their return, she has created one more song, to the same Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda camp song. Enjoy:

Hello Susan, Hello Rick(ly),
Two weeks has gone rather quickly,
So the Nortons aren't too bad,
But I know that when I see you I'll be glad.

When I am chasing, the Norton's bunny,
They just think I'm very funny,
But I've learned to jump on the bed,
And it didn't matter what the Lady said!

Please come home, oh Rick and Susan,
Please come home, this is confusin'
Sit, stay, heel . . . and then she says I'm dead,
Is that really what she said?

Please come home, I miss my family,
Hurry home, how far can you be?
I can't wait for you
To see how big I've grown,
I think you should have known.

Don't come home with a Kangaroo,
I don't know what I would do,
Mother, Father, don't make me worry,
Get on that plane and come and see me in a hurry!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Raindrops Are Falling on My Head

Has it ever occurred to you how many songs talk about rain? Raindrops Are Falling on My Head; It Feels Like Raindrops; If All of the Raindrops Were Lemon Drops and Gum Drops; even Purple Rain. Then there's Singing in the Rain; Rudolph the Red-Nosed Rain. . . oh wait . . . that doesn't work. Anyway, rain seems to be a popular subject for songwriters. And for good reason!

Last night it began to rain in Wichita. After 17 days of grueling heat, the soothing sounds of a slow, beautiful rain were the most welcome sounds around! When we awakened this morning, it was as if the world had had a bath - which it had. The crispy-critter lawns were coming back to life; the birds were frolicking in the bird bath; the trees were soaking up the moisture like a piece of bread in a bowl of milk. By 7:30, we had had about 1.5 inches - beautiful rain.

But there is always the "How do I get the dogs to go out in the rain?" The old things don't seem to mind - they just go do their business and come back in. But Bella is another story . . . she wasn't quite sure what was coming out of the sky, and although she likes water, I don't know that she has seen it coming from above. She was tentative at first - step out, step in. Step out, step in. Eventually, however, she really got into it and didn't hesitate to do her normal "wabbit wun" through the asparagus. When she came back in (through the garage, mind you) she was extra frisky as she shook off the extra moisture. It calmed her down, however, and now she is as mellow as could be. Ahhh, the healing effects of a beautiful rain.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bella's Song

Today on CBS's Sunday Morning show, Bill Geist had a segment about camp letters . . . letters that children would write after their first day at camp. It was accompanied by the Alan Sherman song, Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda . . .

Well, it got me to thinking about what song Bella would write to her family after going to Camp Norton . . . so here it is, to the Alan Sherman tune, in Bella language:

Hello Mommy, Hello Daddy,
Why'd you leave me, with this red "fatty"
And the black one's really mean,
Staying with the Nortons doesn't seem too keen;

They keep driving in the car,
Getting dog bones, not too far,
Going walking, learning heeling,
Mother, Father, Gads! my little brain is reeling.

Take me home, oh Rick and Susan,
Take me home, it's not amusin'
All we do is sleep, and eat, and play
We do it every day . . .

Take me home, I miss my dog door,
Take me home, the Neighbs are a bore,
And get this: The dog bowl doesn't tip,
So all I do is sip . . .

Hello Family, it's your Doggy,
I am very, very soggy,
From chasing sprinklers, Hunting "wabbits,"
Mother, Father, Hope you like all my new habits!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Musings from Bella part IV

The Dog Lady thinks 5:50 a.m. on a Saturday morning is too early, so she needs to be glad that after I went outside I went back into my kennel for about 20 minutes before I couldn't stand it anymore. The Dog Man got up with me, but by 7:00 we were all taking a walk. It is cooler this morning - 76 degrees felt like 50! It was really nice, and I did a very good job of heeling. But once I got home, I was wired and ready to go . . . the black dog and the red dog didn't know what hit them.

We went to the arches place again, and the Dog Lady sat in the back seat with me. The black dog and the red dog sat in her seat, though the red dog decided he wanted to sit on the console. Who made him king? Anyway, I was very good in the back seat, and I even sat some of the time.

You should see me now, sporting my new collar. I have grown so much that my puppy collar is too thin for me, and the Dog People thought I needed a thicker one that wouldn't cut my skin. Luckily they had a pretty purple one already at their house. It has some words on it - something about Kansas State University. I don't know why they have them "on hand" . . . they must really like purple. Anyway, I look very cute in my new collar. They told me if my people don't like it, they don't have to keep it, but I think I remember that my people like purple too!

Yesterday, I overheard the Dog Lady say that the time was going fast and she was going to miss me when I went home. She says I keep things lively around her house. I don't know how much more lively it could get here. Didi came home, Joey and his mother stopped for the night, it was hotter than you can believe, there was a small tornado in Manhattan that hit Anderson Hall . . . it has been a barrel of fun.

Jarred is going to come home today to mow, and then, since he has to work late and be at the pool in the morning, he is going to stay with me tonight . . . at least that what the Dog Lady said. But I will be back with the Dog People tomorrow.

I thought you might like a picture of me, keeping watch on the stairs. I am very scary!