April 26, 2009

Life Takes a Turn

I'm borrowing a title from one of my Mom's last posts on her blog, because its an appropriate title, and as you all know, I'm rotten at titles.

Life takes a turn. I think life takes lots of turns on its journey. For us, its taken many in our short 7 years together. It will have been 7 years since we married, 7 years on July 6. Hard to believe.

OK, here's the scoop.

After several weeks of frustratingly slow freight, and it not picking up enough to make a significant difference, we started looking at the big picture.

Under the micro-scope what we're doing didn't make sense any more. We're over here at Steve's for two reasons, because we get home frequently and because we like hauling cattle in the fall and spring. In the in-between times we haul a reefer for him, and we don't mind doing that. That's when we get the home time every week, a day or two here and there. But when you get down to the naked facts, they are these:

1. his rates are down, not keeping up, and not high enough for the limited miles. We're only making $1.22 a mile right now.

2. cattle aren't moving this year. It's so bad that even the cow haulers who refuse to pull a reefer....they're pulling reefers out of desperation for work.

We got to considering our options, and came down to three.

1. stay put, grit our teeth, cinch our change purse strings and bare with it

2. change to another company that a friend works with

3. buy another hopper and go back to doing that

We pretty much ruled out option two. Brandon gets good home time and a better rate, but Malcolm just didn't get a good feeling about it, and I told him to go with his gut feeling.

So it was stay or go with the hopper. And he's been pulling his hair out over it for days and days. We talked about it allot, trying to decide, because they both had their sacrifices. In a list of pros and cons though, the hopper was the clear choice.

If we go pull our hopper we loose:
1. a repetitive, redundant route that gets boring quick

2. frequent home time

we gain:
1. working with a broker we really enjoyed working with

2. going somewhere different every trip

3. traveling all over the country

4. being able to stop in Tennessee to see family more than once a year

5. doing what has turned out to be our favorite form of trucking so far. We've missed it since we left it last September.

6. less frequent home time, but when we get it its at a predicted time and for a set length. We take a week off, instead of having a day and a half during which you don't feel like you can start anything because they might call at any moment and want you to leave on a trip.

7. working with people in small towns, who are friendly, happy to see you, unlike these corporate warehouse personnel where your just the 300th truck they've had to unload that day.

And mostly, like I mentioned, we really really really liked hauling our hopper last summer.
Its been my favorite type of trucking, Malcolm's too, and to be honest, we've regretted leaving it since last fall.

So, last week while we were home we made a decision on several trailers we've been looking at, and bought a 2007 Wilson. Its in Iowa. When we get home we have a few days to get things together, do some things to the truck, and then we'll leave Saturday to go get our trailer. And Malcolm's already talked to our broker, Mark, and we've got a load lined up already. We'll get our trailer on Sunday and I think on Monday morning we're loading just north of there and going to western Washington to a pet food plant we delivered too several times.

You know how it feels to make a decision and then wonder if you did the right thing? It eats us up.

I find it rather ironic that our first load is going to the very place that we have mentioned "remember going to" the most in the past weeks as we tried to decide what to do. How weird is that?

And then here we are on our last trip to California with Steve, expecting to unload and then spend a day or so in Salinas reloading. Malcolm was stressing over only having a couple days at most to get things together at home before leaving. Then this afternoon, while we waited to get unloaded, one of the guys at the office called and wanted us to switch trailers with another driver that's already loaded in Salinas and head back. So, here we are, rolling back east towards Billings after less than 24 hours in California. We'll be there Monday evening instead of Wednesday as expected, and now we have practically the whole week to get ready to go.

The post office said they'll hold our mail a month, Mark said he'd get us home every 4 weeks, our neighbors always offer to watch the house for us, and I now use a cordless clipper so I can cut Ella's hair outside in the grass and the fur can fly without getting the truck a mess. Every things falling into place.

Things aren't moving as fast in the hopper business as they were, but Mark said he can get us more work than we're doing now, and that's enough. We're both excited about going back to it. So we're setting our sights on new horizons, literally. If your going to miss hearing about yet another trip to Yuma, AZ to load produce, I'm sorry. Personally, I'm looking forward to having different places to write about!

Our new hopper waiting for us in Iowa.

Still Alice

I finished reading Still Alice today. Meagan said she was excited that I was reading it. Her book group read it last month. I'm curious what she experienced during her reading. I wonder how much she remembers about Granny.

Have you read this book? I think its fairly new. Maybe not, but I'd not heard of it till Meagan had it on her blog. I chose to read it because she recommended it. And then I read what it was about and I wanted to read it. Still Alice is the story of a woman who finds out at the age of 50 that she has Early Onset Alzheimer's disease. It is the story of her struggle and losses with the disease. And it is told from her perspective. Reading Still Alice, I was touched and terrified.

I was touched because the story was touching. It reached into me and touched emotions. I laughed a little, teared up a number of times, and got angry.

Deep down in my gut it terrified me. I feel disturbed. It re-awakened questions I haven't thought of for a long time, primarily, what if I have those genes? I can't remember how old I was, or what was going on in my life at the time that Granny started loosing herself. And I refer to it in that manner now because Alice in the book referred to it as loosing herself, and it truly was like that. I don't have distinct memories of when Granny first got sick. And when she was really bad, I wonder if we didn't go around much, because I don't remember details about that either. I was in high school when she didn't know who I was anymore, and I was in college when her body died. In reality, I don't even remember mourning much when she died. Honestly, she had died years before. The funeral I went to was for the body of a person I didn't know, a person who didn't know any of us. She was a stranger. I was sad of course, but the raw emotion of loosing a close relative wasn't there. I had lost her years before.

How much do you remember Meagan? Until recently I didn't realize that you had such different memories than I did. I didn't know 4 1/2 years could make that much difference in perspective. Do you remember her before she was sick, when she was sick?

Of the person with Alzheimer's, what I mostly remember is not her, but what her disease did to those around her, mostly my Dad and aunt and uncle, and my Papaw. They made the choice not to put Granny in a home. They took care of her themselves and hired a nurse when it was time. The disease that stole their mother from them one memory at a time drained their energy and youth. They always looked tired to me. And Papaw, who for the longest time seemed in denial, who insisted to Granny that she did remember. He was slower to accept things for how they were, and I think a little resentful at first of having the nurse coming to their house, and then later oh so grateful and relieved when she showed up, when he could escape for a little while to go sit in the kitchen of Dad's restaurant and get away.

I remember mostly stories I think, stories told of what happened, like my saint of a grandmother cussing. She never cussed. And when she still worked at the restaurant, or at least tried to help out, one of the ladies that worked there told me that Granny had seen me in the parking lot and told her "That girl out there sure is pretty" and the lady told Granny "That's your grand-daughter." Looking back, I wonder at the ladies intelligence in telling me that. I didn't need to know that my granny didn't recognize me. But at the same time, I'm glad she did. Its nice to know my Granny thought I was pretty, even when she didn't know me.
I guess my actual memories of her are of when she first started loosing herself, and then it skips everything in the middle and goes to when she was bed ridden, couldn't communicate, and wouldn't eat. I was old enough to remember. Maybe the disease stole my memories of that time as well as hers.

Why the book terrified me...
...because of the what ifs.

What if I have the genes?
What if I wake up one day and turn over and there's a stranger laying in bed next to me?
What if I sit down with a book, and find that I can't follow the story and have to re-read pages and passages and still can't finish the book?
What if one day I go to the grocery store and can't find my way home?
What if....

I know I shouldn't' be worried about it. My approach used to be that the family suffered more than the patient. That though they were loosing themselves, at least once the disease was well on its path of destruction the person didn't know it. At least I would be oblivious that something was wrong. But I was wrong.
I didn't consider that it can take years before your so far lost that you don't know anyone, and in the mean time you have these nagging thoughts in the back of your head reminding you that you've just made a mistake, that you've lost another piece of information. You might live with that for years. And I never considered the terror of living in a world of people you don't know, how frightening it must be to have people in your home, asking you things, requiring you to do things, and insisting on things, and you don't even know who they are.

And then I think, maybe it would be even worse to not have those strangers, the ones that you don't know, but that are there everyday, and that even though you don't know who they are, you can tell they care about you and that they are kind. What happens to people who don't have children. What happens to me if I get this disease, and Malcolm is ill too or already gone. Who takes care of me? Do I get tied down in a chair in some government funded nursing home somewhere? I know that's a totally depressing, self-absorbed, morbid thought. But I think about that sometimes.

That's why the book terrified me. Because there are a lot of real fears and threats in it for me. I agree with Alice. I'd rather have cancer, something that I could fight, something that I had a chance of winning against, even if it is slim. If I have to get something, I'd rather have something that's not a garunteed loosing battle.

I don't know if I'll get Alzheimer's or not. I hope not. I don't know what my chances are, but I seem to have always felt that they were high, considering Granny having it. I think I've had this niggling thought in the back of my head for years that I'll have it one day. I'm not going to sit around worrying over it, planning for it, thinking about that day. I guess if I get it, I'll deal with it then. But reading Still Alice was an opening of my eyes, a reminder that each day is to be used to its fullest. And though I may not remember what I do with them, who I knew, or even who I was, others will.

If I loose myself one day, I want others to have me still in their memories. And I want those memories to be worth holding on to for them.

I don't remember Granny much during the years she was sick with Alzheimer's. I remember my Granny fixing me bowls of frozen strawberries and peaches with sugar, Sunday dinner at her house after church, how she loved red, Christmas, and me. I remember climbing the apple tree in her yard, even though Papaw didn't like it, and her telling him to let us do it. I remember her gigantic pink rose bush, jumping on the bed in the guest room, spending the night at her house, riding in the car with her to the store, watching Wheel of Fortune and Dallas with them at night, and sitting on the porch with her watching cars go by swinging on the metal glider. My mind is full of memories of her, my Granny. She was a saint and one of my hero's. She still is.

April 24, 2009

Another Week

Another week has come and gone. After arriving home Sunday afternoon, we were left to sit there till this evening with no work, nothing to do. Well, I found things to do, and so did Malcolm. I'm referring to work...nothing to do for work. How very frustrating. We will have ran a whopping two whole trips this month! Yikes!

In a nut shell it was a great week. Take out the worry over work, which ate up a lot of energy, it really was a great week. We worked on some projects, got a few things done, and enjoyed being home.

It was sunny, bright, and WARM all week! We had temperatures in the 70's for three days! It was majic!

Wednesday we ran to Missoula on an errand with a friend. Not that we got excited about a road trip (cause you know we never go on road trips) but we don't go to western Montana that often, and it was fun having the visiting time on the trip over and back. We left at 5:00 in the morning, laughed and talked all the way there, and then got home around 6:00 or so, spending the trip back napping, reading, and looking out the window.

Thursday we knew ahead of time we were leaving on Friday so we got some things done. It was cloudy and chilly.

This morning we woke up to temps in the 20's and two inches of SNOW! Great! Ok, so it was a little dissappointing, but it melted by noon and dryed out quickly, and as of 6:00 this evening it was in the low 50's and sunny. I can live with that. Talk about a weird day! Snow and ice this morning, and this afternoon the people down the road from us were mowing their grass.
It was nice while we were home, and even though its supposed to be cold all weekend, we'll be gone anyway. At least it was warm and sunny for our time at home.

Change is in the air, and I don't mean the weather. I'll keep you in suspense till later.

April 18, 2009

Glitz and no Glamor

Hollywood, California, Tinsel Town, home of glitz and glamor, at least for some. It's always interesting to drive this section of US 101 through the Hollywood area. I think maybe what interests me most is that though I've never been really into celebrities, I catch myself craning my neck every time to see what I can see. I'd have thought I wouldn't be interested, but apparently I didn't know myself that well. Or maybe its just that its a curiosity thing. I always wonder if anyone "special" is passing us on the highway as we cruise along at 55mph, not that I'd recognize anyone!

A few miles north, actually about 45 or so miles north, is Oxnard where we spent the evening Friday reloading. Then Saturday morning we drove another 115 miles or so north to Santa Maria. The drive between Oxnard and Santa Maria drives right on the coast part of the way. So at 7:00 Saturday morning I was cruising along with the window's cracked admiring the Pacific Ocean and the lack of cars, and the DOT set up doing random inspections on the side of the road. Hmm...too bad they were preoccupied with another truck. I sure wanted to visit with them first thing on a Saturday morning! Felt bad for the sucker they had pulled in.

We loaded at Dole in Santa Maria. While Malcolm was waiting on his paperwork, he watched the workers in the field harvesting strawberries. There were acres and acres and acres of strawberry fields all the way from Oxnard to Santa Maria and the same can be said for up around Salinas too. In Oxnard the air even smelled like strawberries.
All hand picked. For some reason I hadn't realized they were still picking berries by hand, but when you stop and think about it, which I did, it makes sense. After all, the berries ripen at intervals, so you couldn't just run a machine over them and have the green ones plucked with the red.
Talk about back breaking work! Can you imagine picking all those acres and acres of berries by hand? But there they are, spread out among the rows with their boxes, filling them as quickly as they can. They fill a box and then run, literally, to the truck to drop it off and grab another. Then run back to the field to pick some more.
So, Malcolm, having watched this running back and forth, and thinking about the work involved, asked the guy at the counter, "How much do they get payed for picking?" And the answer is, &1.50 a box. No wonder they run! They have to fill a lot of boxes in a day! The guy behind the counter told Malcolm an average picker can do $80 to $120 a day, and a good picker can make about $200.
Ok, maybe your not the fruit type. These people are harvesting some type of lettuce. Slashed with a big knife from the plant, placed in boxes, and sealed up right there in the field. Then its trucked to a cooler where they cool it to an appropriate temperature and stick it on a truck. We've had to wait before for it to come from the field. They'd have nearly all our product on except for one pallet of something, and we'd have to wait for the truck to come in from the field and then for it to cool.
I'd like to think its washed at some point too, but maybe that really doesn't happen till it gets to my kitchen. I've seen with my own eyes the heads of lettuce and cabbage being sealed in boxes there in the field. Just look at the picture and you'll see too. There are conveyors off both sides of the truck. People walk along with the truck down the rows, slashing lettuce, tossing it on the conveyor, and then the boxes come off the back I think. So organized and it seems to work like a well oiled machine. But still so labor intensive for these modern times. In a way I'm glad its still hand picked that way. It gives someone a job if for no other reason. On the other hand....no wonder its so expensive to eat fruits and fresh veggies. I bought a flat of strawberries at a roadside stand before we left Santa Maria. Maybe I'll freeze them all, but I'm thinking I might like to make some jam too when I get home.

Box Elder Creek

Add torrential rain to four feet of melting snow, and you can pretty much figure out what's going to happen to Box Elder Creek.

The creek winds its way peacefully through the section of the ranch where Malcolm and I lived, the place where Rachelle still lives. At the crossings its pretty much ankle deep. Rachelle, Justine and I went "swimming" in it last summer. You had to lay down on your belly to be "submerged" and even then our backs were exposed to the air a good part of the time. Even after normal amounts of rain, we drive the four-wheelers and tractors across it at will.

Box Elder has a violent history though. Last May when we had that late snowstorm and it melted off in a day and half, the water level came up fast, just past the fence line in the picture below. Even though the water had receded in this picture, it's still pretty swollen compared to its normal state.
And in years past, before Malcolm's family owned this land, the creek came up so high that if flooded the barns and houses. That's high when you consider that it is at least 400 yards away from the buildings. This is the old ranch house. It sits in Rachelle's back yard. There are water stains on the old wallpaper that are nearly shoulder high. And during one flood, the water was half way up the living room windows in Rachelle's house. So the risk is known. But its only happened a couple times in the last half century.

Rachelle sent these pictures to us last night. This is the Box Elder as of yesterday. Its lapping the edge of the road, less than 150 yards from her house and the other buildings. They uploaded really small, so I've enlarged them, which made them a bit fuzzy. But you can still get the effect. In this picture, the green garage and Rachelle's house can be seen just beyond the rising creek. Under the creek is a hayfield, fence, and several large brush piles, all of which are no where to be seen.

And should you have stood in our front yard when we lived at the ranch, you would have seen this. The dirt road, a pretty hay field, a bluff on the other side of the creek, and the hills beyond. Notice you can't see the creek. You could have heard it, but not seen it looking this direction.

In the next picture, its hard to see, but the house we lived in is that white blob at the base of the hill, and the field you see in the picture above, is under water. In the ranch's history, our house has never flooded. I guess that's the planned retreat for Rachelle and the Darling Poodles, should the need arise!

And in this picture it doesn't look too dramatic, but let me fill in the details for you. This is another creek crossing. You have to drive down a pretty steep hill to get to the creek. At this creek crossing, the precious owners had installed a trolley on a cable so they could cross the creek when it flooded in order to feed cattle, etc. When crossing the creek on the trolley, your normally suspended several feet above the water. If you were to cross now, you'd be in the water. I'm not good at estimating measurement, but I feel safe in saying that its at least 9-10 feet deep, easily more. I know for sure its well over my head, and normally its little more than knee deep.
Don't know what's to come in the days ahead. They're still calving, still knee deep in mud, still have snow left to melt off...there are a lot of "stills." This is just one more head ache to add to the others. I'm desperately hoping that the water stops where its at, and comes no further. At least then the worst damage will be some fences needing repaired, and maybe the creek crossings needing cleaned up and leveled again. That sounds a lot less tiring than cleaning up a flooded house. I've done that, on a small scale. But even on a small scale, it is not a fun job, and it's kind of traumatic for the resident. I was the resident...I should know!

April 17, 2009

Favorites on Friday

Sitting in traffic on our way out of LA and towards Oxnard to pick up another part of our load. We have 9 (NINE) pickups this time! This is NOT the time to be driving north on US 101 out of LA, just for the record. On a Friday afternoon, I think the enture population of Los Angelas and surrounding areas are trying to go north on US 101, or east on I-15 to Las Vegas. No one stays in LA for the weekend, I'm convinced.

So sitting in traffic, watching people in their cars, checking out buildings, Hollywood, the Scientology Celebrity Center (ok...whatever), and Universal City and lots of other stuff go by, I'm snacking on one of my favorite snacks.

I can't find it at Wal-Mart, but I did finally find it at Albertson's a couple weeks ago. Look for these - Sunmaid Vanilla Yogurt Cranberries. Its like eating candy!

April 16, 2009

Fair Weather Friend

In all my resentment and ill feelings towards California, I have finally found something to appreciate about this state. Its warm, sunny, and there isn't any snow accept while you cross into it on occasion.

Yes, I abandoned my beloved Montana. Call me a fair weather friend if you like. I awoke to a dusting of snow on the ground and cold temperatures, and decided, "I don't think so. Forget this! I'm going south!"

Ok, thats not exactly how it happened. We got a call on Tuesday letting us know they had a load for us leaving Wednesday morning. I did wake up to ground dusted in snow and cold weather, and we drove through territory that had several inches, talked to drivers heading east that informed us they were requiring snow chains over Norris Hill, and saw on the internet that Idaho and Nevada were a wintry mess.

So, being as how we'd been home nearly 2 weeks, both had severe cases of spring fever, and were a tad bit cranky with the weather....we drove 43 miles out of route to avoid Norris Hill, chaining up, and blowing snow. Ended up getting better fuel mileage than normally, and were on dry roads all the way to Nevada. AND....by the time we got to Idaho the sun was shining, and Nevada had thawed out.

So, a small tussle with Montana winter again, but I broke loose and fled to warmer weather. Its 8:00 in the morning here is Santa Clara and already 51 degrees. I could easily see me basking in 70 degree weather or higher by noon. And tomorrow we deliver the second half of our load in Los Angelas. Bet we reload down there around Yuma, and while I've had my fill of going there for one year, I could bet money that it will be even warmer still. Shoot, I might even get to wear my flip flops...I brought them just in case.

Tell you what, if I wouldn't get gauked at, I'd be highly tempted to bring along my laun chair and set up "beach keeping" in the truck stop parking lot. But I don't relish the kind of attention that would bring, not to mention that it wouldn't smell too pleasant either trying to get a tan in that location.

I have had my fill of winter. Give me the sun beating down wilting all my flowers, wind drying out my skin, and dust dust dust covering everything. Oh, for summer to arrive! Dont' get me wrong. I'll rejoice and be giddy as a school girl when the first snow flies next fall, but for now...I think I can speak for most all Montana residents (at least the ones I know)....we don't want to see another flake fall!

April 14, 2009

A Hint of Spring

Yesterday was bee-autiful! Absolutly gorgeous, which was wierd because when we woke up it was overcast and the wind was blowing. I thought for sure it was going to be another cold, cloudy day. But by noon it had cleared and I swear it nearly hit 70. I drove home from the fabric store with the window down. Of course there were nasty dark blue storm clouds north of us, and I watched rain bands in the sky as I drove. It was pretty, but also pretty forboding. We had sprinkles, gusty winds at intervals, and its started to cool off in the evening.

While I was outside with the girls, I noticed this!

This is some kind of bush near my back porch. I can't identify it, but would you look at those buds!!!! Its covered in them. So, "Yes, Virginia, there is a springtime!" Ok, I know thats not the line, but it fits so much better for my circumstances! I even found two tiny dandilions in the yard out by the shed. Holy cow! Its Springtime!

Sunday we visited a driver friend of ours. He has draft horses and restores old wagons. He's working on a sheep herders wagon right now and Malcolm wanted to see it, so we went to their house and I visited the guys wife and their two yearling colts while he and Malcolm talked wagons. In conversation, Malcolm discovered that Doug needed a piece welded off of his training cart, so they loaded it onto his trailer, drove it to our house, and Malcolm welded it off for him. Doug said that he'll teach me to drive a team sometime. I'm pumped over that. I've wanted to learn to drive for years! I'm holding him to that promise.

After they left, and we ate, we went next door to visit the neighbors and thank them again for their help during my little "incident" last week. We had a nice long visit and while we were there, I noticed she had daffodils blooming, iris starting to sprout, and tulips too I think! She has a lovely garden that she keeps safe by having yards and yards and yards of electric fence all over the place. Deer are our biggest gardening enemies around here. They've nearly eaten all our grass in the back yard, though what they left is turning greener every day! (Go Spring! Go!)
This little guy and his girlfriend have apparently set up house under our roof. I was keeping it secret from Malcolm, afraid that they would be ousted from their loft appartment. He discovered them on his own, but I think he's letting them stay. They perch up there all day on the roof, and every morning without fail, the little guy is sitting on my bird feeding station fussing at me for being lazy and not getting the feeders rehung. I have to take them in at night (another deer issue) and he doesn't like it that I keep it breakfast waiting.
We apparently had a skunk visit two nights ago. I took the girls out around 10:00pm and, wow, the odor hit me like a wall! I was worried that he was still out there so I rushed the girls through their business and back inside. In the morning I noticed that the birdseed bell (its a suet thing that neither the birds nor deer have cared anything about all winter) was half eaten. Apparently Mr. Skunk took a liking too it. Thats the only conclusion I can come to. And then this morning I had about 15 Pinyon Jays out there feasting on all the suet. Apparently Montana birds do not care a whit for suet because I've tryed about three different types, including the home made stuff my mom's birds devour. I figure if the song birds arn't going to eat it, I'll let the jays have it just to get rid of it. They are kind of neat. They are the size of a small crow, but they are a bluish gray color. I didn't get a picture of them, but you can see what they look like here.
And today its cold, cloudy, windy, and we're expecting some snow tonight. So much for Spring!
My girls were playing upstairs while I was working on something, and I had to take their picture. They were piled in one of my library chairs having an old fashioned wrestling match. Carlie and Ella love to rough house around.
Paris gets in on it some, but for the most part she thinks they are way too immature for her to play with that way. She prefers a good game of chase or keep away.
Maybe she doesn't like rough and tumble because she doesn't have any teeth to fight back with.
I discovered a couple days ago that she's lost almost all of her top teeth now. She has the two canines, and then just two of her front teeth. Unfortunatly they are apparently loose. They wiggle a little. So she'll probably be an old gummer, at the ripe age of two and a half!
(FYI: my fingers not dirty in that picture. My finger had a tussle with a pair of needle nose plyers the other day. I didn't realize it was in the picture until I'd put the camera away, and Paris was tired of having her dental disadvantage displayed to the world, so I decided to let it go. Sorry for exposing you to the ugliness of her teeth and my finger all in one.)

April 11, 2009

In Your Opinion...

I made a few of these a couple years ago as Christmas gifts. They are bookmarks made of beads and wire. I enjoy making them, but don't have anything to do with them. I mean a person only needs so many bookmarks, no matter how much they read!

I was thinking of maybe putting them on ETSY, which is a website where you can sell hand made goods. What do you think? What I need to know from you is if you think I should do that, and also how much I should charge? I'm not sure.

The wire swirls go in the book, and the beads decorate the spine of the book when its closed.

Let me know what you think, and in the mean time here are a few pictures of the ones I have already made.

April 10, 2009

Visiting and Relaxing

Deer in downtown Red Lodge, MT.

I love being home. Mind you, don't mind being gone from home for work. Driving is fun and I get to see lots of places I'd never have gotten to otherwise. But on a day like this its great to be home. Its nearly 60 degrees outside, the sun is shining, the wind isn't blowing, and its just beautiful. And it's a huge plus that the meadowlarks are singing up a storm today. I'm inside and I can still hear them through the windows. I love the meadowlarks.
Visiting and Relaxing is what I've been doing these past few days.
Malcolm got home Tuesday evening in time to have dinner with Laura and I. We had a good time visiting and touring, but I know now how to advise my visitors, and that would be to tell them to wait to visit till May or June. Apparently Montana tourist season doesn't start till then, and many of the things we had hoped to see were closed, even in Billings. However, it was still fun to drive around, and I scoped some things out to go back and do with Malcolm, like drive down US 212 in the Jeep through the mountains this summer when it will be warm enough to take the top of the Jeep and all that. Sounds like fun and I can't wait.
This is what we did for three days.

Sunday we got up early and drove to Baker. Malcolm needed some parts to work on a tractor or something (I'm not sure. I just know he needed parts that I brought him.) It was strange that the ground was snow free, except for patches, all the way to Baker and even somewhat south of there. But it was not snow free at the ranch. They were still knee deep in it, except for where they had cleared it away. In those places they were knee deep in mud. We slopped around in the mud with them as they tagged some calves, and moved things around. Got to watch Malcolm's Dad pull a calf that just didn't want to come into the world fast enough, and Laura and I took a ride on the snowmobile.

Sunset over the ranch in Baker, MT.

Monday we slept in, then drove into Billings. Originally we had intended to go see the Pictograph Caves but the road out there was closed. We also wanted to go see the Western Heritage Center but it was closed till Thursday as they were setting up new exhibits, and the Moss Mansion was closed on Monday's. Perfect! So what we ended up doing was walking around the small shopping district of downtown Billings, visiting a very pretty Catholic Church (it was open and so we went in), eating lunch at a little place downtown, and then went to the River Walk area. Afterwards we swung by the grocery store and picked up some chicken, asparagus, zucchini, and squash as well as the fixings for strawberry shortcake, and then went home for an early evening of summertime food on the grill, relaxing, and a few minutes of riding the four-wheeler around the pasture.

Tuesday we drove to Red Lodge, MT where we shopped the cute little stores on Main Street, walked through the Art Guild, had lunch at Bridge Creek (Salmon Wrap and Orange Poppy seed Cole Slaw - YUMMY!), and then drove the 15 miles of US212 that were open, stopping along the way to take a few pictures, play in the snow, build a little snowman, and goof off. Let me tell you, its not easy to hike downhill through 5 inches of snow in "street shoes" without getting your feet wet. I had better luck than Laura. We were trying to get to a creek, but we abandoned that project without going all the way down. We were out there on 212 for probably an hour or more, and maybe saw three cars, and one hiker who stopped to take our picture for us. I'm sure they all thought we were crazy, but who cares.
Rush hour in Montana!
You can't read the sign but it says "Road Not Maintained Beyond This Point - Hazardous Conditions May Exhist - Avalanches, Rock Slides, Sudden Severe Storms." Apparently 212 crosses a mountain thats over 10,000 feet in elevation. I have GOT to go on that drive!
Tuesday night at home we grilled steaks and potatoes with Malcolm, relaxed and went to bed for some good sleep. We were all tired. And then Wednesday morning, after a rushed breakfast, we took Laura to the airport, getting her there with three whole minutes to spare. They practically carried her to the plane. Sorry Laura. Like you said, "Thankfully its a small airport."

Just been catching up on stuff the past two days. Malcolm's on his way home from an errand and I've been baking some cookies because when he gets home, we're going to the neighbors to say "thanks" one more time for saving me from falling apart in my "event" last Thursday. Cant' beleive its been an entire week already! That just occurred to me!
Malcolm's not said much of anything about it, nor has he been out there untangling the mess. I told him to let me know when he's ready to tackle it so I can help. He's not saying.

Don't know when we're returning to work. He talked to the office this morning and they said maybe this weekend, but things have been slow this week. We'll have to wait and see. In the mean time, I'm enjoying some spring weather (ignoring the fact that it was cold yesterday and even threw some snow showers at us) and being home. Hope you all get to do the same this weekend. And Happy Easter!

April 4, 2009

Coping With My Homemade Disaster

I can officially say that I had one of the worst days of my entire life on Thursday. My morning blogging with my Chai tea and all that....yeah....that was the high light. It went downhill from there, way down hill.

After I chatted with you here, I got myself fixed up for a day of shopping, put the girls in their kennel, filled the bird bath, and went to the garage to start the Jeep to warm up. And that's where the whole day just went to you know where.

See those sleepers? They used to be up on blocks, elevated about a foot and a half off the ground, and you could walk between them. I've seen Malcolm start the Jeep and pickup before by pressing the clutch with his hand and turning the ignition. He does it so he doesn't have to get in, when he's working on them or warming them up, etc. So I thought, "Hey, why not?" because I was going back out to hang up a birdfeeder. (I bring them in at night to prevent being robbed by the deer.) That method of starting the vehicles works great. Just be sure if you should ever decide to try it....well you better make sure that the stupid thing is out of gear!
At this point, I'm able to look back and see the bright side, like I didn't get killed, the damage is minor (depending on whose perspective you take), it could have gone on through the tool box and then the wall, it could have been in reverse and gone into the 200 gallon fuel tanks....see, there are lots of worse possibilities. And also, I finally got to meet the neighbors, though not exactly how I had pictured it occuring. When it comes down to it, I was being plain lazy, and I payed the price. I think maybe the sleepers are ok. I was terrified that I had ruined Malcolm's project. The Jeep...well....the right headlight is pushed in about an inch, there is a 2 inch tear in the canvas top where the one sleeper was leaning on it, and I think its a little out of alignment now. Thats all I can tell for now until Malcolm gets home to inspect it.

I was frozen in horror when I first realized what was happening. Then I was able to jump on the Jeep and yank if out of gear, but not before the damage was done. I don't think I've shaken that badly in a long time. I was trembling for hours afterwards. The Jeep was stuck, because the one sleeper was using it for a support. I went next door, hoping Mr. Thomas was home. Malcolm's visited with him several times across the fence as they were working outside. He wasn't home, but his wife, bless her heart, was outside in the driveway when I walked up. She said, "You must be Sarah!" and I said, "yes" and broke down right then and there. She was comforting, concerned, and just what I needed. She walked back with me, checked it out, and though she couldn't help me, obviously, she did call the guy that lives behind us and left him a message asking him to come see if he could help me when he got off of work. Then she took me back to her house and we visited for a bit, talked gardening, birds, and Montana.

Needless to say....I did NOT go anywhere. Even if I could have I'd not have opted to do so. I was sick most of the day. Finally around 2:00 I could take it no more. I had to see if there was something I could do. So I went to the shop, and after a close inspection, figured I could jack up the one sleeper enough that I might could free the Jeep. It took some finagaling, but I did manage to get it jacked up and mostly stabalized so it wouldn't fall further. And I was able to free the Jeep. That evening Keith and his wife came down and he looked the Jeep over for me and gave his go ahead to drive it. They were super nice, sympathetic, and offered help anytime we needed it.

In short, it was an aweful aweful aweful day. But I discovered that I'm not completly helpless (I knew this anyway, but I was proud of my use of the jack, having never used it before. Watching your dad and husband work on things can come in handy as it turns out. I'd seen them do stuff with it, and was able to figure things out based on that.) And I also discovered that I have great neighbors, who probably think they have a complete idiot next door, but still...they're nice! At least it ended on a good note.

Friday I gave my errand running a second try. It went better. I actually got out of the garage that time. I hit the fabric store, the book store, and (as a last minute add on) the automotive store running an errand for Malcolm, who at this point still didn't know about my experience. I was waiting to tell him till he got home, since he was tired, stressed, and didn't need more on his mind. Besides, there wasn't anything he could do and it would just make him worry. I did not go to Kohls. I neglected to go there because I had planned on buying shoes, clothes, several things...but after my little demolition project, I was thinking maybe I better not spend money. I kind of blew my allowance on body work and a paint job for the Jeep. And by the time I finished at the fabric store, I just wanted to go home and start my projects anyway.
I was up till 1:00 last night because I just couldn't put my work down. Plus I'd had like 6 glasses of iced tea....bad idea for an evening drink. Apparently it has just enough caffeine to keep me going a long time. The girls finally gave up on me, after a couple hours of whining and standing under my feet trying to tell me it was bed time, and went to bed without me, Paris in the laundry basket downstairs, Carlie Jean upstairs in the library chair, and Ella in the doggy bed at my feet. It took a while, and two phone calls to Mom, but I got it done, all by myself (mostly). Take a look.
I spent my childhook watching Mom sew everything from dolls to our clothes to home decorating. She even had a sewing business for a while. I remember her customers coming over. I never took an interest, and now that I am interested, she's 2000 miles away. But again, I wasn't interested in sewing back then, but aparently all those years of watching her do it paid off, because I was able to figure things out, and found that memories of what I'd seen and heard helped a lot.
Today, I cleaned, ran more errands for Malcolm, did some baking, and another sewing project. I've been using this ironing board since before I met Malcolm, and its had the same cheapy cover on it for its entire life. The padding was shot, the cover was stained, and I was sick of it. I'd considered buying a new one, but they cost more than I thought they should and they wern't even pretty. Mind you, I'm not sure that "prettyness" is a requirment for ironing boards covers, but I figured maybe if it was pretty, I'd get it out more often and iron instead of letting Malcolm's shirts pile up on the counter. I hate ironing. Anyhow...so I made a new cover. There were some instructions in my farmgirl book, and I used them for the most part, winging some of it, and voila....my new ironing board cover.
So, despite my homemade destruction project, I ended my three days on a good note, and was fairly productive during them. I'm not sure that it will make up for what all I tore up, but I feel better anyway. I feel creative, capable, and connected with my Mom and Grandma because as it turns out, I can sew too.
I'm to pick up Laura at the airport here in a couple of hours. We're going to the ranch for the day tomorrow. Malcolm needed some things, and they wanted us to come over for a visit. It will be fun to see everyone, to see Malcolm, and to see the snow (apparently they got another 4 inches last night and its been snowing again today.)
As a side note....
I went ahead and told Malcolm about the "incident" this morning. Figured that since I was going over there, I'd tell him instead of shocking him in front of everyone. He was worried about the Jeep more than the sleepers which was not what I expected. He obviously was less than thrilled, but he took it very well, and it was a relief to get the telling of it done. With that done, now I can start to fully recover and clean up.
Hope you all have a great weekend, what's left of it, and I'll try not to kill Laura and I on the road tomorrow. I say that because in my errands today I drove the wrong way down a one way street, nearly ran someone off the road, and nearly had two other fender benders. Apparently I wasn't meant to be behind the wheel today. Its been a bad week for me and the Jeep. I think thats an understatment. At least tomorrow is the beginning of a new week, so maybe the curse will be lifted.

I just had to throw this one in too. Paris, my forever comforter. She was a great support Thursday. Today she decided that the cotton batting scraps from my ironing board project made an excellent blanket to lay on and enjoy her chewy.

April 2, 2009

This Morning

Looky oh look, look, look!

Its me, really me, online....at home! Yep, thats me sitting at my dining room table, sipping a cup of steaming Oregon Chai Tea and checking my new internet connection.

I thought, on a whim, that I might try something this morning. It wasn't in my "schedule" that I had mentally formulated last night, and now, since my whim worked, my "schedule" has fallen all to pieces. You see, right now I'm supposed to be finishing up getting ready, and leaving to go shop for some fabric, look for some shoes, and see if I can find the Khols department store that is supposedly in Billings that I didnt' know about! (I'm really pumped over that, but I'll tell you why in a bit.)

But first I saw my laptop laying on the table and thought...."Hmm...I wonder..."

Our cell phones don't work at home, unless we stand right in the dining room window. So I started to wonder if my Verizon wireless internet, which doesn't work out in the driveway from the truck, would work here. I thought I'd try it and what do you know? I've got one and a half bars of sidnal. This of course means that everything is really slow (I've been downloading that picture for 5 minutes now) and also that I loose signal and get disconnected (three times now). But hey, beggars can't be choosers, right? I'm just thrilled that I'm online.

Malcolm left last night for Baker and got there around 11:00 or so. I have a confession. Though sad to see him go and wishing I was going too, I was secretly looking forward to almost three whole days just me all by myself. You know...eat what I want for dinner, watch what I want on TV, stay up as late as I want, go to bed as early as I want, I want, I want, I want....without having to consider what someone else might want to do, because thats what you do when your married.

Know what? All those possibilities lost their charm about an hour after he left. I started missing him and didn't enjoy having the whole bed to myself nearly as much as I thougth I would, and wishing that he was here or I was there. I still plan to get a lot done and have fun these three days just by myself, but they have lost quite a bit of their appeal. I'd rather have the day to myself, and have him come in from his shop around 6:00 for dinner as usual.

Before I go, a note on my search for Khols Department Store.

You see, I had lots of options for shopping in Chattanooga. And I'm a hard person to shop for, even I have trouble. I have the hardest time finding anything I like, anything! And so its been even harder here in Billings, where there are basically three department stores: JC Penny, Dillards, and Herbergers (sp? I'd look it up but I'm afraid to open too many windows and loose signal from overwhelming it!). Then I saw a bill board or something for Kohls and it was like, "NO WAY!" So I looked it up and supposedly there is one out on the west end of King Ave somewhere, and I have to find it. I had just developed an appreciation for Kohls shortly before I moved away from Chattanooga. I actually on occasion had pretty good shoping luck there. SO....thats part of my plan for today, because I'm in desperate need of shoes, black and now brown. In fact I've had half a wardrobe all winter that I couldn't wear becuase I had no black shoes and couldnt' find any I liked (fashion leaves a lot to be desired lately in my humble oppinion). And now here we are on the doorstep of summer and I need brown and black summer shoes, or I'm going to have the same problem. And I know we're on the doorstep of summer, despite recent evidence! I just know it! I know it! (do NOT burst my bubble here!)

Speaking of summer....there's no snow here. It melted in a few short days. So I get a beautiful look out my windows of....brown grass, brown pastures, brown...everything! But honestly, I'm liking brown a whole lot better than white right now, and I'm betting, just betting, that it's going to be green sometime soon...say within the next three months or so! You watch and see!

Ok...being greatful for the internet connection, I'm going to sincerely try not to complain....but this is freakin' SLOW! And I'm afraid to get up and go do something while I wait because I made the mistake earlier of going to retreive my cup of chai from the kitchen counter. Apparently I am part of the connection to the internet, because it disconnected while I was gone. (not complaining, not complaining, not complaining....being greatful)

April 1, 2009

Deck the Halls.....Fa LaLaLaLa

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful....

Dashing through the snow, in a 475 horse power KW T600.....

Merry Christmas Everyone!!!!

No wait....April Fools! Its not Christmas, I was just kidding. But it sure does look and feel like it! All I need is some holly and egg nog, and I'll be all set!

The first day of April is not shaping up to be a good one for us! It started out this morning around midnight or a little later when Malcolm was driving up US93 out of Nevada and into Idaho. I'd been laying awake in back, desperatly trying to go to sleep....for the past 4 hours, with little luck. I'd finally started to drift off a little when I heard very clearly, "Oh S***, Oh S***, Oh S***, HOLD ON" And then felt the truck fish tailing and the anti roll device hissing air.....needless to say the chance of sleep was long gone. He'd nearly rear ended another truck while driving on icy roads. But alls well that ends well, right?

We switched drivers at the fuel stop an hour later. I'd given up on sleep, and he was tired. So off I go into the wild's of Idaho, my favorite drive. US 20 to Id 87 to US287 up through the Madison Valley to Bozeman and the interstate. Given that US20 has a section of bad frost heeves, Malcolm was awake when I had to slow down after being blinded by a passing snow plow that through a ton of snow into the air and wind and created a white out. No biggy, a common occurance when dealing with snow plows. You just slow down, try to drive straight, and hope there's no one stopped in front of you. Then when it clears you re-accelerate...or try to. Only when your on a sheet of ice, it doesn't work. You spin out instead and start to fish tail, which you really don't want to do in a truck with a trailer. I don't normally have that problem on ice, but I was on the phone with Dad and I accelerated a little too quickly, which caused the problem. Anyway, after scarring Malcolm, Dad, myself, and the truck behind us, Malcolm decided to just go ahead and get up since sleep was evading him, and all thoughts of it were now gone with that little event. We switched drivers.
And then pulling out of the parking area, we spun out again and the traction control device kicked in, which apparently was all that was needed to blow an air valve thats been leaking for a few days now. We were limping our way home with it because we ordered the part last week, but apparently its the only one in the entire country and had to be shipped in from somewhere in Pennsylvania. Anyway, so the valve finally gives up and the trucks dumping all its air. We're loosing air pressure fast. No air pressure means the brakes lock up and your truck doesn't move....at all, until its fixed. So Malcolm's mashing on the accelerator because as long as we're moving fast, its keeping air pressure up. If we slow down, brake, coast down hill...stuff like that, we start dumping air and the alarm goes off....get the picture. So here we are 100 miles from Billings and home. Two tired, sleepless drivers in a frozen winter wonderland in a truck that wants a vacation in the shop driving over the speed limit in a truck that the DOT would not be happy to see on the road right now....yep...its been a great first day of April. Just for the record we don't normally have these problems, and our truck is in inpeccable order and shape. We always get compliments from DOT about what good condition our truck is in. So don't think we're bad, irresponsible drivers. We're just pressing our luck this one time cause we're so close to home and Malcolm's got to get to Baker tonight.
So as you can see, April's not getting off to a great start for us.

Hopefully things will look up for us in a couple of hours. As soon as we get to Billings, drop this trailer, take the truck to Kenworth to be worked on and get an overhead done, and get home to pack, Malcolm's got to leave for Baker. He's going over to the ranch for a few days to help his Dad dig out all the snow from the corrals and stuff. Its so deep that the snow in the yard is level with their deck and the tops of the fences. He'll be there a few days probably.

My friend Laura arrives from Nashville on Saturday night. We'll not get to go to Yellowstone as planned. The roads down there are closed after this last storm. But we might go part way there to Red Lodge which is supposed to be a neat town to visit. And I guess maybe we have some snow still. Maybe we'll build a snow man. Honestly I don't know what we'll end up doing, but I'll be sure to tell you all about it when I get back.
One thing I am going to do while I'm home is look into getting internet at the house. Its starting to bug me not being able to email, blog, or look things up. Especially since all my creative juices are flowing lately. I have like a million crafty ideas, but I need to do some research on materials, etc. and can't while I'm home which is the only time that I can craft....so its frustrating! Maybe I'll get hooked up at home and you'll hear from me sooner than we think.
But until then, I'll be gone a few days and I hope you won't forget me. Have a great first week of April.
April....it sounds so Springy! I'm sincerely hoping that it lives up to its reputation of being Spring-like! I know March lived up to its reputation. It came in like a lamb for us, but it definatly left like a roaring, enraged, starved, blood thirsty lion! I'm not sorry to say goodbye to March this year!
Happy Spring Everyone!