Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Merry Larew Christmas!

Here I am on Christmas morning, drinking coffee and having cookies for breakfast while Vlad the Wonder Boy sleeps.  He's obviously still on college time.  I expect to see the whites of his eyes sometime around 2 p.m.  But I'm not complaining... after all, he's the one who went out into the wilderness and bagged us a Christmas tree on Sunday.

I went along for the ride and schlepped through the fields on my crutches just out of general principle.

Then began the whole process of getting the tree back to the car and getting it home.  We brought it into the house and got it set up in the stand without incident. (i.e. nobody broke any more limbs... on either the tree or ourselves.) 

We didn't get around to untying it, so it stood at attention in bondage for a few more days in our living room.

I finally released it from its bonds on Wednesday, but since the decorations are in the basement and I can't yet manage the basement stairs, it remains undecorated.  But we kinda like it that way.  We can just say we were going for that "natural" look this year... going green and all.

My sister, Meowyn, didn't even get that far... although her tree has a bit of flair, too....

We Larew girls know how to do Christmas up right!
(We are so getting underwear from Santa again this year.)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Each Night A Child Is Born: Mapgpie #45

I'm not a particularly religious person in the traditional sense.  So when it comes to Christmas, I celebrate the wonder of the child in all of us.  Willow's Magpie prompt this week brings to mind a poem by Unitarian minister and religious educator, Sophia Lyon Fahs.   What a wonderful way to honor children everywhere.

For so the children come
And so they have been coming.
Always in the same way they come—
Born of the seed of man and woman.
No angels herald their beginnings
No prophets predict their future courses
No wise men see a star to show
where the babe is that will save humankind
Yet each night a child is born is a holy night.
Fathers and mothers—sitting beside their children’s cribs—
feel glory in the sight of a new life beginning.
They ask where and how will the new life end—will it never end
Each night a child is born is a holy night—a time for singing
A time for wondering, a time for worshiping.
~Sophia Lyon Fahs

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Willow over at Life at Willow Manor  has been providing inspiration for bloggers with her photo prompts on a site called Magpie Tales.  Be sure to check out the other fabulous writers participating in Magpie Tales this holiday week.  You'll be glad you did! 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Two Years in the Making

Today marks the second anniversary of "How to Become a Cat Lady... Without the Cats."  Break out the party hats and noise makers!
Now, 239 posts and 239 followers later, how is the Cat Lady faring? Well, for one thing... my house is no less cluttered than it was two years ago.  Nor is my mind.  No big surprise there, though.  And there are still no cats in my house. 

When I started this enterprise, I was hoping to record some of my stories for family and friends.  What I didn't expect was to increase my circle of family and friends so significantly through the blog.  Now I have a network of people to check in with every day, who keep me entertained and amused.  When they're not providing levity, they provide ideas for contemplation, books to read, music to listen to, slumber parties and fancy balls to attend, as well as bourbon balls to eat.  Lively banter and inappropriate language bring giggles and guffaws... more than once causing me to choke or spew liquids out my nose.  It's just like hanging out with a whole mess of brothers and sisters. 

These people live anywhere from a half mile away to half way around the world.  Talk about expanding your horizons!  There are some that I check in with only occasionally and some that I hear from almost daily.  You know who you are!  (My blog roll will give you an idea of how many there are.)  And it's reassuring to receive an email from someone, inquiring after my health if I haven't posted in awhile. 

So thanks to you all!  My life is so much richer because of you!

* * * * * * * * * *

P.S.  For a good time, join the best circle of blogger friends out there... Tribal Blogs!  (That's where all the cool kids hang out.)
And while you're at it, stop by and wish Michael at Too Many Mornings a Happy Birthday!  He's having a party at his place today!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Pitter Patter of Little Feet

I swear I heard the pitter patter of little feet on my rooftop last night.  But isn't it a little too soon for Santa?  What could it be that woke me up in the middle of the night? 

At first I thought I was dreaming, but once I was fully awake I realized that there really was a sound coming through my ceiling!  Except that it actually sounded a little more like sawing wood.  Maybe I was still asleep after all.

Nope.  There it was again.  This time it sounded a little more like scampering.  Then a scraping noise.  Maybe Santa was trying to shovel some of the snow off my roof to deliver my well deserved gifts?

No... definitely sawing.  Guess I should have purchased a home with a real fireplace instead of a "decorative" one.  Then Santa wouldn't have to saw through the roof to get all those packages to me.

Wait a minute... I do recognize that sound.  Crap!  I've done this all before.* It's not Santa!  It's an evil squirrel come to chew through my electrical wires and burn my house down!

Well, now that we've figured that one out, I guess I'll just drift off peacefully back to sleep.... no worries...

Yeah... and a Merry Freakin' Christmas to you, too! 

*See The Mating Habits of Squirrels.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

'Tis the Season.... to be called Boom Boom.

There's more than one reason I'm known as Boom Boom in some circles.  Each holiday brings back memories of days gone by, when I narrowly eluded the local constabulary.  Although I've posted this before, it's always fun to look back and remember...

Good times!  Good times!
Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Of Snowflakes and Rosebuds: Magpie #44

When does childhood end and adulthood commence?  Perhaps it's when snow days become a source of angst instead of sheer joy.

In childhood a snow day means freedom!  Freedom to stay in your pajamas until late in the morning. Then it's into snowsuits and caps and mittens and boots to explore the world of wonder created by freshly fallen snow.  It's building snow caves and sliding down hills.  It's making snow angels and snowmen and catching snowflakes on your tongue.  It's shrieks of laughter as compact orbs of snow fly back and forth through the air.  It's the steaming hot cocoa with marshmallows that awaits you when you return to the warmth of your house.  A snow day is magical!

The magic begins to fade when snow days mean having to get up early and shovel so you can get to work in time.  Back breaking labor takes all the fun out of watching the snow fall.  It means brushing off the car and hoping the locks aren't frozen.  Turning the key in the ignition, praying the car actually starts.  And then edging the car through the snow covered streets, hoping you don't get stuck or slide into another intrepid traveler before you reach your destination.  It takes a special person to actually enjoy this kind of activity. 

But every once in awhile, a funny thing happens.  The planets align so that a snow day happens on a day off.  You have a chance to enjoy the beauty of the snowflakes from the comfort of your easy chair while enjoying that first cup of coffee of the day.  The world once again looks magical and it brings back memories of days gone by.... of sleds named Rosebud and the joy of childhood.  And life is good.

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Willow over at Life at Willow Manor  has been providing inspiration for bloggers with her photo prompts on a site called Magpie Tales.  Be sure to check out the other fabulous writers participating in Magpie Tales this week.  You'll be glad you did!

Friday, December 10, 2010

My Secret Admirer

Life is worth living again!  I have a secret admirer!  Imagine my surprise when I was going through my emails this morning and came to this one:

    Subject:     Hello
    Date:     December 10, 2010 10:41:54 AM EST
    To:     undisclosed recipients: ;

Hello, I am lucy
How are you? hope you are fine and in perfect condition of health. Please I went through your profile and i read it and took interest in it, please if you don't mind i will like you to accept my  
friendship request with you and for me to send my picture to you  remember that distance or colour did not mean but true love matters alot
  hope to hear from you soon, and I will be waiting for your mail because i have something VERY important to tell you.
Lots of love

Profile?  What profile?  Last I checked, I wasn't registered on any sites.

I must say, I'm flattered.  But I think poor lucy is sorely mistaken on a few items. (She obviously didn't read my mystery profile very closely.)  So, there are a few things I'd like to clarify and/or have lucy clarify:

1.  I am not currently in perfect condition of health.  I'm not anywhere near death's doorstep, but I'm far from perfect at the moment.

2. I'm a strong proponent of gay rights, including same sex marriage, but I don't usually go out with other women.

3. I'm not currently collecting pictures of people I don't know, although I appreciate your offer to send me your photo.

4. lucy, what exactly should I remember that distance and colour did not mean? 

5. While I'd like to believe that true love exists, I'm afraid your kind email is not a harbinger of true love for me.

6.  I've found that when people have something VERY important to tell me, it's usually bad news, so I'll pass on that as well.

So, thanks but no thanks, lucy.  Better luck with the next undisclosed recipient.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Worst Christmas Present Ever: A Belated Tribal Blogs Carnival

Okay, okay, so I missed the first Tribal Blogs Carnival.

The theme was "The Worst Christmas Gift Ever."  My post is late because I got so depressed from thinking about all those crappy Christmas gifts from years past, I couldn't bring myself to write about it.  (Not really, but I needed an excuse.)

When we were kids, my mom made all our clothes, including new outfits for Christmas.  That's fine when you're a little kid, (loved the flannel jammies,) but as you approach your teens it becomes a source of angst.  We really wanted the store-bought clothes all our friends had.  So one year my mom decided to cut labels out of other clothes to sew into ours to fool our friends.  Uh... yeah.  That's gonna work.  We never fully appreciated our mother's skill as a seamstress, although she really was good at it.  (Sorry, mom, wherever you are!)

But in all fairness, we weren't wizards when it came to buying gifts for our parents, either.  Our allowance just didn't stretch that far...  so my mom said we were only supposed to spend a dollar on each parent.  My dad had a drawer full of all the handkerchiefs we got him... I was always so proud when I managed to score some with an "L" for Larew on them.  Classy!  And mom had a drawer full of really tacky holiday pins that we found on the "Gifts for $1" table at the local department store.

As soon as we were old enough to write, we made "Wish Lists" for ourselves. After awhile, things on the Christmas lists were usually the ONLY gifts we got.  My mom told us if we didn't give her a wish list, we wouldn't get anything.  So the trick became putting enough things on the list so there would still be an element of surprise involved in opening the packages on Christmas morning.  (And we were smart enough to put our lists in numerical order to indicate which things we REALLY wanted, although the ponies never materialized.)  In later years, my mom would put in some actual surprises... gifts she's gathered from her world travels.

Finally, the year came when I didn't make a Christmas list.  (I was in my twenties at the time.) When mom kept pestering me, I just said in frustration, "I can't think of anything, just buy me underwear and some candles."  And my mom was true to her word.  As everyone else opened their gifts, I was the recipient of two items.  Cotton underwear two sizes too big and some candles.  Bummer! 
It was many years before I neglected to write out a complete Christmas list again!  But I had plenty of underwear to grow into in years to come.

  * * * * * *

Looking for a great gift this season?  How about a goat from Oxfam?  I just bought mine.  Go to to get yours today!  It's much better than underwear!  (While you're at it, be sure to visit Margaret at Nanny Goats in Panties for her special goat give-a-way!)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Will the Real Lisbeth Salander Please Stand Up?

 The Bloggerhood of the Traveling Book Blog Tour

Well, the Bloggerhood of the Traveling Book Blog Tour has finally reached my house.  So far we've traveled to that schizophrenic Unfinished Rambler/Unfinished Person's blog and to Quirkyloon's place where we got to pop the DDP bubbles of Quirky's thoughts (because she's kinda fizzy like that.)  Next stop will be up to visit our favorite Canucks, Nonamedufus and 00dozo.

But first, I'm supposed to regale you with my scintillating and perceptive review of our traveling book, The Girl Who Played With Fire by the late Stieg Larsson. In case you haven't already figured it out, this is the second book in the Millennium Trilogy, which consists of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest.  (You can see all three themes reflected in the cool BOTTB badge that Double 00 made for us.)

When I began the first novel in the trilogy, I was about a quarter of the way through before there was any mention of a girl with a tattoo.  Mikael F**king Blomkvist appeared to be the protagonist.  However, from that point on it was Lisbeth Salander, with her tattoo and piercings, that took center stage.  Quirky gave us her top "Lucky 13 Reasons Lisbeth Salander Rocks" and she's spot on with her assessment of this badass.

But who is Lisbeth Salander, really?

Throughout the three books in Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, we're given tantalizing glimpses into this mysterious character.  As each piece of the puzzle that is Lisbeth Salander comes together, it paints a picture which appalls and intrigues us at the same time.

Lisbeth is a brilliant young woman with an old soul.  She has learned to keep to herself for self preservation and rarely lets anyone into her personal space, either emotionally or by physical proximity.  She's learned not to trust people because she's been burned too many times.  But be careful... cross her and she'll burn you!  Lisbeth is a modern day Ubermensch, gaining almost mythic proportions as she hacks her way through the world, answering only to her own clearly defined moral compass.  She's also a master of disguise when needed, slipping through customs on a forged passport.  Rumor has it she looks something like this... only gnarlier:

So, do we admire Lisbeth or hate her?  I, for one, admire her.  She does all the things I wish I could do but am far too wimpy to ever attempt.  From book to book throughout the trilogy, it is Lisbeth's character that compels me to read further to find out what happens next.  Once you've started the series, you can't stop.. or at least I couldn't, but then I'm obsessive-compulsive like that.  And when you're done with the series, check out the movies.  Although they leave out some parts from the books, they're well worth the effort of reading the subtitles, (unless you are some kind of wizard who can understand Swedish.)

One thing for sure... Lisbeth Salander would never become a CatLady... either with or without the cats.  She's far too neat and travels light... something I'll never be able to accomplish in this lifetime.  *sigh*  But maybe I can still become a badass like Lisbeth by getting a dragon tattoo.  Nah... just like Quirky, I'm far too much of a wuss.  Oh, well.  Pass the popcorn and Dr Pepper, Quirks!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Coming Soon: The Bloggerhood of the Traveling Book Review

 The Bloggerhood of the Traveling Book

The Bloggerhood of the Traveling Book (BOTTB) has been collecting members over the past few months and now it's time to hear what those intrepid readers thought of the first book to travel, Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Played With Fire.  This coming week you'll be treated to five installments of The Bloggerhood of the Traveling Book Review.

Monday - Unfinished Person/formerly Unfinished Rambler
Tuesday - Quirkyloon
Wednesday - BoomBoomLarew
Thursday - NoNameDufus
Friday - 00dozo/Creator of the awesome BOTTB badge!

Watch for all the the reviews!  We promise not to spoil the ending by giving away too many hints.

(By the Way... the book is currently in the hands of Reforming Geek, fondly known as Reffie.  Be sure to keep tabs on her blog to see where it will journey next.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Word Verifications... Love 'Em or Hate 'Em

Word Verifications... a real pain in the wazoo, but at times they can also provide a source of amusement.  Occasionally Nonamedufus, aka Dufus, aka Nomie, shares his favorites, which inspired me to do the same. So, without further ado, I give you... 

Boom Boom's Guide to Word Verifications!

Perfect for the upcoming holiday season... a manger scene featuring Star Trek characters.
(But don't set yours out before Thanksgiving if you want to remain friends with Suldog.)

A droid who likes toga parties.
The Coen brother you like best.

 What you have to do when either your wife or wi fi isn't working properly.

Bacchanalian goddesses.
(My kind of people.)

and my favorite...

  Do I really have to explain this one?

So there you have it... real word verifications that I've collected over the past few weeks.  If you can't beat 'em.... enjoy 'em!  Just don't be a doohole!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Travels with Hanuman: A Magpie Tale

As I was sorting through my mother's belongings after her death, I came across a little medallion in a blue pouch.  It was a tiny brass image of Hanuman, the monkey king.  My mother had apparently picked it up when she was in India.  Wrapped up with it was a necklace made of misshapen pearls. 

My parents traveled a lot over the years after I left home.  They loved meeting people and welcomed many others into their home.  A string of foreign exchange students stayed with them and they visited each of their homes in return.  As they traveled around the world, my parents were showered with gifts from the people they met.  So many, that they were unable to keep them all.  Often they became gifts for their hosts on the next stop on their journey.

So what was special about the little Hanuman medallion that it was kept while other things were re-gifted?  And where did the necklace come from?  We were even more surprised when my Dad said he'd never seen the necklace before.  He remembered getting the medallion when they visited an old friend in India, but not the necklace.

Curiosity got hold of me and I looked up the story of Hanuman in the Ramayana.  He emerged as a selfless champion who served Rama, rescuing his wife Sita.  Later, Hanuman also saved the life of Lakshmana by bringing him a life-saving herb.  Hanuman never asked for anything in return, but Sita gifted him with a string of precious stones. 

When my mother died, my father received condolences from around the world from people whose lives my mother had touched.  The outpouring was incredible.  And then there was the necklace.  None of us know where it came from, but I like to imagine it was a gift from Sita, thanking my mother for the impact she had on others' lives.

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Willow over at Life at Willow Manor  has been providing inspiration for bloggers with her photo prompts on a site called Magpie Tales.  Be sure to check out the other fabulous writers participating in Magpie Tales this week.  You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dona Nobis Pacem

Two bloggers I admire, Nonamedufus and Suldog are participating in Blog Blast for Peace.  They inspired me to add my voice to the cause. 

There are many ways to promote peace in the world.  In my younger days, I wanted to make the grand gesture, going to rallies and shouting til I was hoarse.  But that wasn't me.  It always came off as being phony and not as heartfelt as I would like.  

These days I take a much quieter stance.  I've come to recognize that it's the small things that add up to make big change.  That's why I try to move the world toward a peaceful existence by the choices I make in my daily life.

Take, for example, my career path.  I choose to work with very young children.  It's not a flashy job and certainly not one that pays well.  However, over the years I've found I have some skills for making kids feel good about themselves, to feel confident and able to face the many challenges that await them as they grow older.  I let them know that we each have our own unique strengths and at the same time have things we can learn from other people.  I help them find their own voice so that they can use it to solve problems in a peaceful, generative way.  That's not to say I want them to become passive and complacent, though.  I want them to learn to speak up for themselves and for others when they see injustice. 

The other thing I try to do is to live simply.  Sure, it's tough living paycheck to paycheck and worrying that there won't be enough to make ends meet.  At the same time, I've learned to live with less and be grateful for what I have, trying to find abundance in all areas of my life.  I don't always succeed at this... in fact I can easily fall into a state of resentment and self-pity if I let myself.  But ultimately, that's counter productive.  It helps no one, least of all myself.  As the phrase goes, "Live simply so that others can simply live."  

Finally, when I think of the word "peace", I think of calm.  My life is often hectic and noisy.  I relish the moments I have when I can sit quietly and simply "be".  These weeks of enforced inactivity have been a gift in that way.   I know from experience that unless I'm in a state of peace, I can't be effective in promoting peace beyond myself. 

So there you have it... Boom Boom's recipe for a peaceful world.

(Peace symbol from

Monday, November 1, 2010

Klutz Update

My daily routine has been totally revamped since breaking my leg and becoming dependent upon the kindness of strangers friends.  Stuck in a recliner most of the day, I keep in touch with the world electronically rather than venturing out.  However, being away from my home and my "writing chair", I've found it difficult to keep up with my writing.  I had no idea my chair was so integral to my semi-creative process.  Or maybe it's just the difference between the quiet solitude of my house vs. a house with animals and actual people to talk to throughout the course of the day. 

Rather than lamenting my lack of creativity, though, I've been embracing the opportunity to spend time with these wonderful friends who have taken me into their home and attended to my every need. 
I find I laugh a lot more when around people and that aids in my recovery.

However, I did have a bit of a setback late last week when I visited the doctor for the first time since being discharged from the hospital.  Originally I had been told I'd be off my leg for four to six weeks, so imagine my dismay when they told me it would be another TEN weeks before I could put any weight on my leg.  What the.....?  I'll never get home again at this rate! 

But then, once I took a look at the x-rays, I began to understand.  I had imagined a neat little plate with some delicate screws holding my fibula together.  I had no idea it would actually look like this:

Yeah, there's the plate with the six delicate little screws, but what's with those great big long screws?  Who knew I was going to become the bionic woman?  Now... if only all that hardware actually made me able to leap tall buildings at a single bound...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Getting All Up In There

During my recent stay at the hospital, there were a lot of ups and downs.  Well... a lot of downs.

One of the things about being down and out to the point that you aren't allowed to get out of bed is the process of elimination.  Yeah, it's all fun and games, sitting around being waited on and veging on Vicodin, but sooner or later the inevitable is going to happen.  Sooner or later, you're going to need one of these...
I've never had the pleasure of using a bedpan before and I can assure you, I wasn't lamenting that fact.  I could have died a happy woman, having never used a bedpan.  I could hold it for a long time to avoid this indignity!  But, sadly, even my bladder of steel was not up to the task. 

So, after thinking about it for a long time, I pressed the call button for the nurse.  And waited... and waited... and waited.  Until who should appear, but a disinterested, young, male orderly.  Where the hell did this guy come from?  Up to this time, I'd been cared for in a speedy manner by a sympathetic cadre of female nurses and LPNs. But, I've never held someone's sex against them, so I requested a bedpan from this early-twenty-something guy who looked like he was hung over and only humoring me in order to get beer money.

With a sigh, this supposed angel of mercy left the room.  He returned a few minutes later and told me to roll over, reaching gingerly from a distance to set the bedpan next to my hip and telling me to press the call button when I was done.  What?  No instructions?  No encouragement?  This guy gets a zero for bedside manner. 

Now, after one has spent hours avoiding the necessary task, one becomes bloated to the point of not being able to complete the task.  (Never mind the fact that you're laying there picturing where all the excess liquid from the past 36 hours is actually going to land.)  Finally, after about a half hour of waiting, a very unsatisfying trickle emerges... only to go precisely where I was imagining it would probably go...

When the orderly returns he rolls his eyes as I inform him that not everything has hit the pan.  "You need a pink pad," is all he says.  He gets the requisite pad which serves to protect the bed from my ass, hands it to me and leaves.  What?  No expert installation of the pink pad? No offer of baby wipes?  No tender ministrations?  I realize my ass is not as young and firm as those he's probably used to seeing, but COME ON!  Give me a freakin' break!

Luckily, I never saw this fine specimen of a young man again. 

When I finally decided to try again, I was rewarded with a sweet, motherly LPN who was only about fifteen years my junior.  She gently helped me assume the proper position and gave words of encouragement.  And after some success, she returned to "neaten me up" with soft wipes.  Ah... to be cared for so gently and expertly!  I heart this woman!  Although, I nearly lost it when she asked...

"So... do you want me to get all up in there?  I like to keep my ladies clean!" 

Now, there's a woman who takes pride in her work!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

From Klutz to Bubble Woman

Great news!  My friend, Cherie (of the House of Evil where people who enter break limbs), offered to make me a suit out of bubble wrap to prevent further injuries.  Then I remember something I'd seen that would offer another way to protect myself as a bona fide klutz.....



Perfect!  Definitely the safest mode of ambulation for accident prone people such as myself.

Then again, maybe not....

Damn... it's always something!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Why I'll Never Become a Crash Test Dummy

 It's amazing what you find out about yourself by reading.  While sitting around with my leg propped up, I have plenty of time to catch up on that stack of books I've been meaning to read. 

I just finished Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers last night.  It's probably not something I would have picked up on my own, but my friend Nancy happened to have it when she was in the ER with me last Sunday and it turned out to be quite fascinating.  Basically it tells about the many ways cadavers are  used in science... from anatomy classes, to crash test dummies, to ballistics, to determining causes of plane crashes, to discovering new alternatives to cremation and embalming/burial. 

One of my favorite sections was about the use of cadavers in crash tests.  Seems there are certain things that the typical plastic crash test dummies can't measure.  So, occasionally, they've used actual cadavers or parts thereof in crash tests.  Whoa!  Now that would be a cool way to contribute to scientific inquiry!  Sadly, though, I'll never be able to will my body to be a crash test dummy.  It seems klutzes need not apply.  My broken bones would prevent my cadaver from being any use to the crash test laboratories.  Damn!  That would have been a great way to make a contribution! 

Then there was the chapter on alternatives to burial or cremation.  Strangely, I liked the idea of being flash frozen in liquid nitrogen and then bombarded with ultrasound to be broken up into little bits that could be used as fertilizer.  Cool!  (Literally & figuratively.)  I'd volunteer for that one!

So many things I just hadn't thought about before.  Guess this whole invalid thing is expanding my horizons! 

Now... what to read next?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Out...

After a few weeks of vegetating, I figured it was time to get back to living life to its fullest.  Following a wonderful walk in the woods with Vlad on Sunday afternoon, a friend invited me over for a wine & hot tub evening with a couple of women friends.  Sounded like a plan!  Off I went.

So, with glass of wine in hand I walked out onto the deck beneath the evening stars....

... and promptly missed a step in the dark.

The glass of wine went flying up into the air, I hit the deck (literally), the wine came splashing down on top of me, and I heard something pop... not a good sign.

It didn't look good, either.

So, smelling like a wino, I went for a little ride in the ambulance to the hospital.  I spent the night in the ER, went to x ray three times, was splinted four times before they got it right and was wheeled into surgery around 12 hours after arriving at the ER.

Luckily, my friend Nanodance followed the ambulance and kept me company for awhile.  She also left me with perfect reading for the hospital:

My friend Ann broke into my house, (setting off the alarm and having a lovely chat with the security people,) and raided my domicile for the necessities of life... clean underwear, toothbrush and computer.

My friends Heather, Emma and Cherie brought me contraband DP (the perfect thing for getting those important bodily functions moving again.)

So, here's the wrap-up of my fun evening out...

Diagnosis:  broken fibula and dislocated tibia.
Treatment:  plate and screws in fibula, yanking, pulling and splinting for tibia.
Length of hospital stay: 3 nights.
Recovery time:  4-6 weeks without putting any pressure on the leg, then physical therapy.
Fun Drugs: Vicodin and a blood thinner that I get to inject into my stomach every night for the next four weeks. EWWW!  (I'll need the Vicodin to get up the nerve to do that.)
Means of transportation:  old lady walker, using my leg with the torn ACL & MCL to try to hop around the home.  (Ann also went out and bought me a new leg brace and a raised toilet seat... just to make things easier... and to make me feel even more like an old lady.)
Recovery Location:  My dear friend Shamra's house. (Remember the chickens?) 

Good times!  Good times!  So glad I went back out amongst the living!

But, seriously... don't I have the most awesome friends ever?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Autumn Leaves

I love the fall.  There's something about the smell of leaves on a bright, crisp, sunny day.  Those days when a sweater feels good, but the sun can still warm you up enough to leave the sweater unbuttoned as you crunch through the leaves. 

Vlad was born in the fall 23 years ago on October 8th.  He was originally slated to arrive mid to late September, but showed up 2 1/2 weeks past my due date.  At the time I was beginning to think he was never coming out of there.  But, he finally did.  His first outing was to the pumpkin patch when he was about a week old.  I remember taking him in the Snugli and having a little old lady chastise me for not having a cap on his little head.  He had about three hairs at the time.  Now I can't drive past a pumpkin patch without thinking about that day. 

Vlad's coming home this afternoon and we're going to go for a walk at the Thousand Acre Swamp together.  It was his choice for how to celebrate his birthday.  We'll crunch through the leaves and enjoy each others' company.   With luck, we might spot a deer in the woods.  Then we'll come back to the house for some apple cider and talk about the past year and all that he's accomplished.

I can't think of a better way to spend a fall day!

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Willow over at Life at Willow Manor  has been providing inspiration for bloggers with her photo prompts on a site called Magpie Tales.  Be sure to check out the other fabulous writers participating in Magpie Tales this week.  You'll be glad you did! 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Burning the Midnight Oil: A Magpie Tale

Whatcha doin' grandpa? 

Just burning the midnight oil.

What do you mean?  It's not that late.  Why are you burning oil? 

It's just an expression we used to use when I was your age.  It means working late into the night.

But why oil?

Because before we had electricity, we used oil lamps in this old farmhouse.

Oh, you mean back in the olden days.

Yep, I guess so...

You really are old grandpa, aren't you?

Ah, my lovely, you have no idea.

Do you still have the oil lamp?

Sure do!  It's over in the cupboard.

Can we get it out?

You bet.


What, dear?

I like burning the midnight oil with you.

I can't think of anyone else I'd rather burn it with.  Come on now, let's tuck you into bed.  It's late.

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Willow over at Life at Willow Manor  has been providing inspiration for bloggers with her photo prompts on a site called Magpie Tales.  Be sure to check out the other fabulous writers participating in Magpie Tales this week.  You'll be glad you did!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Crawling Out of My Hole

Every once in awhile life throws me for a loop.  It's not any one thing, but a series of setbacks that puts me in a hole that becomes difficult to climb out of.

Within a 12 month period, I lost the job that I'd been immersed in for 15 years and that had become my identity, I went through all my savings before finding a new job, I lowered my standard of living so that the first time in 30 years I'm living paycheck to paycheck, I fell down my attic stairs and re-injured my knee, a bunch of stuff in my house started falling apart at the same time, (water coming through your living room ceiling is NOT a good thing,) my mom died and then as the icing on the cake, Hickory the Wonder Dog died. 

Despite all that, I was holding my own until late August.  Then with the approach of a new school year, I was reminded of the cumulative losses of the past year.  I suddenly felt alone and bereft.  It seemed like I lost my identity. Life became overwhelming.

I began isolating myself, managing to go to work but then coming home and sleeping a lot.  I stopped taking care of myself, stopped eating well and let the housework pile up.  I was essentially becoming a zombie.

I knew I'd been wallowing for too long when Jon Stewart came up with his Rally to Restore Sanity.  Sure, I know you're thinking, "Hey, CatLady, it's not always about YOU!", but it felt like a personal invitation to me at just the right time.  Plus, I started getting emails from Quirky and Jayne and Linda, asking where I was.  Finally, a lifeline back to sanity! 

So, this week I went to the grocery store to buy some vegetables instead of junk food, I got a haircut and I started seeing friends again.  I shuffled off to Buffalo to take Vlad to dinner and realized after I got home that I spent the entire day without any knee pain.  Amazing!  So, I must be getting better.  No more wallowing in self-pity... because that really is totally unbecoming.  I guess it's time to crawl out of my hole.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Lost: One mojo.  If found, please return to CatLadyLarew. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

It's The Bloggerhood of the Traveling Book!

Today is Quirky's birthday, so in order to honor her I'm having a contest!  Yes!  It's true!  Well, maybe not a contest, but it is time to move on to the next stage of

The Bloggerhood of the Traveling Book!

You see, Unfinished Person, (the blogger formerly known as Unfinished Rambler,) sent a copy of a book to Quirky, (still known as the Quirkyloon,) who then offered it to the first person who was foolish enough to send her their real address, who is me, your cat lady without the cats.  (That was starting to sound like all the begats in the Bible.)

 Guess what book it is?  Maybe you can tell by the little Amazon link to the left here.

But seriously.... as soon as I got the book, I went off the radar as I spent my blogging time reading an actual book instead of writing.... shocker!  I had just read the first installment of the trilogy while I was on vacation and was chomping at the bit to read the next one.  ( I was also chomping on lots of chips and downing them with Dr Pepper.)  So I spent ALL of last weekend (my usual blogging time) reading it... and having nightmares about all the creepy stuff that happens in the book.

Really makes you want to read it, right?  Well, you can either click on the little "Buy from" link and buy it yourself, earning me vast sums of money, or.....

You can be the first one to email me your real life, secret home address and I will pass along The Girl Who Played with Fire to you at no charge!  (Of course that means I know where you live and can come stalk you any time I please, but you should be ready with lots of plans for escaping me after reading the book.)  The lucky person who gets the book joins Unfinished Person, QuirkyLoon, and the CatLady as an official member of...

The Bloggerhood of the Traveling Book!  

Then as soon as you are done reading it, post it on your blog with all the begats to find another person foolish enough to give you their real life, secret home address to pass it along to. 

So that's it... a chance to get a free book!

I'm off to play with fire now...  because I know where at least one of you lives!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Thank You, Martha Glasgock!

This will be my last camping post and then I promise I'll shut up!
(at least until next summer)

One thing I forgot to mention about the whole camping thing.... I actually went to college to learn how to do this.  Yes, it's true.  Long, long ago, in a dorm room far, far away, I was sitting contemplating the nature of my existence and wondering how the hell I was ever going to graduate when I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life.

I'd already been in college for two years and the powers that be were requiring that I get serious and declare a major.  Back then, every female I knew was majoring in either Education or Nursing (with a few Sociology majors thrown in) and I didn't want to do the stereotypical female thing.  So, I sat down with the old college catalog and started flipping through the pages....

Anthropology... Art History... Biology... Business... Education... Mathematics... Nursing... Recreation... Sociology...

WAIT!  GO BACK!  What was that one in the R's?  Although I'd heard of this before, I thought it was only for the athletic types and that klutzes need not apply.  But look... you can take classes in camping and camp management.  WooHoo!  Arts and Crafts can't be far behind!  I'm saved! 

It wasn't all fun and games, though.  "Teaching of Games & Recreational Sports" was okay, but it was only offered at freakin' 7:30 in the morning and it was on the other side of the river!  Not fun in the winter for someone who was known previously for never scheduling (or at least never going to) any classes before noon.  And there was a lot about business administration, facilities management (everything you ever wanted to know about diatomaceous earth filters) and medical stuff pertaining to therapeutic recreation that stretched my brain in a lot of different directions.

Enter Martha Glasgock, PhD... the faculty member who taught all the camp-related courses.  She was a gnarly woman in her 50's who looked like she had spent way too much time in the sun and took the whole camping thing very seriously.  She didn't mess around and she rarely smiled.  There was no sloughing off in her classes if you wanted a passing (let alone a decent) grade.  And the final exam in her "Camp Management" class was actually going camping for a weekend.

It was here that Martha taught us about orienteering and how to bank a fire overnight so the coals would still be going in the morning.  We had to make our own tents out of tarps and rope, as well as dig our own pit toilets.  Our group designed the best pit toilet ever!  Over the requisite hole that we dug the requisite depth, we lashed together sticks to make a rather comfortable seat, complete with backrest, a post for storing the toilet paper, and a Reader's Digest hanging from a string on another post.  (Suitable for reading or using as spare toilet paper if need be.)

Then there was learning to cook with an actual Dutch oven.  This is a cast iron pot with a rimmed lid so you can set it in coals and pile additional coals on top in order to get the heat distributed evenly on all sides.  Our task was to bake a cake using the Dutch oven.  Sadly, this was the one thing that my group nearly failed, thanks to me.  But I ask you... who can resist eating the cake batter before you bake the cake?  Because we had less batter than we should have, our cake got a little burnt around the edges.  OOPS!  But since I had so many idiosyncratic credits built up from the pit toilet thing, people forgave me.  And I did listen carefully when Martha taught us how to use the coals to toast the perfect marshmallow.

So I passed "Smores 101" with flying colors, graduated from college and became the camper I am today.   Thank you, Martha Glasgock, PhD.  I bow to your awesomeness every time I return from a camping venture unscathed.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

You're So Brave

Everyone keeps telling me I'm "so brave" to go camping by myself.  Even some woman in the shower house at the campground approached me just to tell me how brave I was.  I don't get it.  Why is it that a single woman camping by herself stands out like a sore thumb? 

Geesh!  It's not like I'm going backpacking by myself in the Himalayas or anything like that.  It's car camping, for cryin' out loud!  (Which means I pack as much crap in the car as I can, including the air bed and comfy chairs and cooler full of delicious beverages.)  I happen to like camping and kayaking and I'm not going to wait until I have somebody to go with me... I could be waiting a long time and I don't want to miss out on living my life.

So, taking a cue from Quirky this week, I revised the lyrics to a classic by Carly Simon that keeps rattling around in my head.... 

You're So Brave 
You walked across the campground 
Like you were walking onto a yacht 
Your visor casually dipped below one eye 
Your kayak was apricot 
You had one oar in the water
As you watched yourself shove off
And dreamed that you’d be a camper
You’d be a camper, and

You're so brave
You probably think that camping is easy
You're so brave
I'll bet you think that camping is easy
Don't you? Don't you?

(Note tasteful apricot colored kayak) 

You started camping several years ago
When you were still quite naive
Well, you said that there might be some bears
But that you would never leave
Until you took out a tube of cool Ben Gay
And slathered it on me
I had dreams there were bears eating my leg,
Bears eating my leg, and

You're so brave

You probably think that camping is easy
You're so brave
I'll bet you think that camping is easy
Don't you? Don't you?

(Air bed and comfy chair hidden inside tent) 

Well, I hear you went up past Saratoga
To camp by a mountain vista
Then drove the beat up car to the Thousand Islands
To wave at Dufus in Canada
Well, you're where you should be all the time
And when you're not, you're home
Dreaming of more exotic trips with close friends
Exotic trips with close friends, and

You're so brave
You probably think that camping is easy
You're so brave
I'll bet you think that camping is easy
Don't you? Don't you?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Gone Camping

I'm off again, for another week of camping... this time with bears.  Thought I'd leave you with a blast from the past for while I'm away...

The Great Smoky Mountains (or The Second Worst Camping Trip Ever)

After reading about the worst camping trip ever, you may have thought I'd never again venture out into the wild.  However, I'm not exactly a quick study.  I eventually bought a tent and Coleman stove, thinking that with the proper equipment I could become a fearless mountain woman.  

With that goal in mind, my boyfriend (of the ill fated Colorado trip) and I set out for a getaway to the Great Smoky Mountains.  The trip down to the Smokies was highlighted by a car malfunction in Pittsburgh, but we'll save that story for another time.  

When finally we arrived at the Great Smoky Mountains visitor center, we were met with a graphic display of the terrors which native black bears could wreak upon unwary campers.  It listed warnings about what could happen if you encountered a bear, including a display of items mauled by bears, such as a metal container that had been ripped apart and showed the slashes left by claws. The list of precautions you could take to avoid being ripped to shreds by bears included such things as preparing and consuming all meals before dark and storing all food inside your car. The sign admonished you to NEVER store food in your tent unless you wanted the vicious bears in the neighborhood to slash open the side of your tent, maul you and steal your food. Needless to say, it didn't take much convincing for us to swear on our ancestors' graves that we would never even THINK about disobeying the rules of bear safety.

(Giving credit where credit is due:  Bear photo by Brian Wolitski)

We traveled on to the camping area where we were assigned a wonderful campsite.  To reach it you had to traverse a small stream and thus were beautifully isolated from the other campers in their large Winnebagos.  An idyllic scene, to be sure.  We happily set up camp, erecting the tent, blowing up air mattresses and proudly setting up the Coleman stove on the picnic table provided for our enjoyment.  We also laid out a neat pile of logs we had purchased and twigs we had gathered in the fire pit for later use.   Standing back and surveying our professionally appointed campsite, we were filled with pride!

Once we had set up camp, it was time for a rousing hike through the woods.  Our day packs were laden with the essentials;  sunscreen, water bottles and "gorp" for the trail.  We set off on a trail that led up to a fire tower.  It was a beautiful walk weaving through virgin forest and past a waterfall, with spring wildflowers in abundance.  Once we reached the fire tower, we climbed it to get a perfect view of the Smokies in all their splendor.  The clouds had settled over the peaks and dipped into the valleys, giving name to the mountains.  On the trek back down the mountain, we grew weary, so stopped at the waterfall to take off our hiking boots and dip our toes into the refreshing pool below.  

Later, back at camp, we prepared another delicious meal of, (you guessed it,) Kraft macaroni & cheese and canned green beans.  Our dinner was over before dusk settled into the valley.  The plates, silverware and pan were washed thoroughly and stowed back in the car, across the stream so that no aroma of cheese would remain to tempt any starving black bears.  As the sun dropped, so did the temperature, so after our campfire burned down to ciders and no longer provided warmth to our bodies, we retired.  Nothing feels so good as a sleeping bag floating on an air-mattress on a cold spring evening.  We talked for awhile about how wonderful the day was, how beautiful our camp site was and what a great job we had done of bear-proofing our camp site.

As the evening wore on, sleep once again eluded me.  After the initial warmth of the sleeping bag wore off, a chill set in and as I tensed up, my calves began to ache from all the hiking we had done.  I knew that I could either lay there thinking about it or get up and do something about it.  So I rummaged through my pack to find the first aid kit and pulled out a tube of Ben Gay.  Slathering it all over my legs left me even more chilled as the medication started working. After awhile, though, I began to warm up again and my muscles began to relax.

That is, until I realized my legs smelled like giant peppermint candies.  Yikes!  Did bears like peppermint?  Was that just the thing bears crave for late night snacks?  How was I to get the smell off of me?  The greasy formula of Ben Gay was not wiped off easily.  Plus, as luck would have it, my air mattress had lost all its air and there was nothing protecting me from the cold, rocky ground.  No matter how much I huffed and puffed, the air mattress could no longer be re-inflated.  Now I was wide awake, cold and miserable, waiting for the bears to come slash their enormous, razor-sharp claws through the tent, drag me from my sleeping bag and feast on my peppermint flavored legs.  What to do?  Should I go sleep in the car for the rest of the night?  Or better yet, in the cinder block bathroom up at the ranger station?  Either would be equally uncomfortable and it might mean coming face to face with a bear and being mauled on the way.  Better to stay put.  Could I possibly be any more uncomfortable and scared?  Not to mention the fact that I had failed to set out the pan with rocks in it to shake and scare off wild animals that came close. (Remembering how futile that plan was the last time I tried it.)  Another sleepless, fear-filled night of camping was upon me and yet somehow I made it until morning with my legs still intact.

Yes, once more a camping trip, (originally so full of hope and promise,) had gone horribly wrong.  Obviously the bears never got me, but the memory of the terror that struck my heart is still with me to this day.  Amazingly, I still love camping out... I just avoid places with bears, mountain lions or snakes.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dazed and Confused: A Magpie Tale

The fall left her dazed and confused. 

She tried to remember where she was and how she got there.  She thought it had something to do with gold.  But all she could see as she looked up was the rusted pipe protruding from the cellar wall. 

Her legs wouldn't move and her arms ached.  The years of cringing with suspicion had left her stiff and sore. 

The last thing she could remember was counting coins.  Shimmering gold coins that represented her life savings.  Coins that were kept safe in the cellar, away from the banks she mistrusted.   Must put them back in the cellar.  Away from prying eyes. 

Again she tried to rise.  To reach the pipe in the wall to pull herself up.  No use. 

Her family had told her she was being silly, that banks were safe.  But she had lived through the Depression.  She knew what she was talking about.  They were the ones being silly.

As she gazed at the pipe, she began to see herself in it, the rust and oxidation mirroring her own corrosion.  The corrosion that no one would see again because it was tucked away in the cellar.  Tucked away with the gold coins, now scattered about the floor.   Tucked away, safe and secure... where no one would find them.

* * * * * * * * *

Willow over at Life at Willow Manor  has been providing inspiration for bloggers with her photo prompts on a site called Magpie Tales.  Be sure to check out the other fabulous writers participating in Magpie Tales this week.  You'll be glad you did!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Secret Garden: A Magpie Tale

Summers long ago were a time of wonder.  Each morning we would go outside, waving good-bye to our mother and opening the gate to run with glee down to the lower back yard.  To anyone else, it looked like a run down bit of pasture, but to us it was where our world would transform into a land of fairy tale and adventure.  It was our own secret garden.  Magical things could happen there.

The tools of fantasy were simple... old scarves for the capes of kings and queens, a stick for a hero's sword, a basket to hold the mud pies to take to grandmother's house, an old watering can to nourish the magic beans we found in our garden.

Weeping willow branches hid us from the outside world and the creek became an ocean to be navigated, the little rise of sand a desert island.  Old, crumbling outbuildings became castles or dungeons.

Years later, I returned to this secret garden to share it with my son and was amazed by how small it was.  No longer the vast, wondrous world of my childhood but the run down bit of pasture it had always been to those without our imagination.  Yet, I can still picture the magic that happened there.  All I have to do is close my eyes and dream.

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Willow over at Life at Willow Manor  has been providing inspiration for bloggers with her photo prompts on a site called Magpie Tales.  Be sure to check out the other fabulous writers participating in Magpie Tales this week.  You'll be glad you did!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Fruit Stand: A Magpie Tale

It began as a simple camping trip with friends.  The day they left to return to town, I ventured into the local village to pick up a few supplies for my last night at the campground.  The fruit stand beckoned me with its hand written signs:  "Fresh Peaches" and "Sweet Corn."

After I pulled off the road, it seemed strange that there weren't many baskets of fruits and vegetables on the table.  Most of the tables were filled with root-bound flowers in old pots. A dilapidated building with a tin roof stood behind the sad array of produce.  Equally dilapidated and misshapen additions were attached to the sides, much like the pop-up campers back at the campground.  Chicken wire covered what was left of the windows.

As I selected a small basket of peaches, the old woman who came out of the even older building rattled off a litany of what other fruits and vegetables were available.  Look at the onions... no soft spots on those. The muslin dress, sprigged with tiny blue flowers, hung loosely on her. Tomatoes are nice and ripe... $2 a basket.  Both her hair and body were wiry and one of her front teeth was missing.  Nectarines are nice and sweet.  The remaining teeth reminded me of yellow and white sweetcorn.  We have fresh picked Silver Queen inside, $4 a dozen.  She kept talking as she transferred the peaches I selected to a brown paper bag.  Give the money to the boy. 

I turned and saw a slightly younger man I hadn't noticed before. Likely her son, if the matching dentition was anything to go by.  His hair was a dark blond and was cut unevenly.  The overalls he wore had large pockets to hold the bills and coins I handed to him.  He and his mother looked like they'd just stepped out of a Dorothea Lange photograph, while I felt like I'd just stepped into one. 

Fresh sweet corn inside.  Perhaps I could use a few ears of corn after all.  My son would enjoy that for dinner when I get home tomorrow night.  So, is your son camping with you?  He's working this week, but will be home tomorrow.  There's some summer squash over here... got both yellow and green.  No thank you, this will be plenty enough for tonight.  Kids these days don't get enough fresh air.  Yes, camping is great for kids.  The corn is inside the building.  Were you caught in that thunder storm last night?  Yeah, that was pretty wild!   How old is your son?  Twenty two.  Did you say he was camping with you?  She falls into step behind me as I move closer to the building.   

I wandered into the building after the young man.  There was even less inside than there was outside.  No corn in sight, but then it was hard to see anything in the gloom.  The boy will have to bring it out for you... it's in the back room.  Old fruit crates stack the walls as though they're the only thing holding them up.  So, you say you're camping by yourself?

As I sit on an old fruit crate, staring at the door in front of me, I wonder again how I came to be in such a predicament.  The lock stares back at me, the scratches that I've made on it mirroring the blood vessels in my eyes.  There's nothing to do but sit and wait.  The muslin dress, sprigged with tiny blue flowers, hangs loosely on me now.  It's getting hard to remember what I wore the day I stopped at the fruit stand so many months ago.  Loneliness does such strange things to people.

* * * * * * * *

Willow over at Life at Willow Manor  has been providing inspiration for bloggers with her photo prompts on a site called Magpie Tales.  Be sure to check out the other fabulous writers participating in Magpie Tales this week.  You'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Phantom Canyon: Reprise

Summer time means vacation time, so I'll be leaving you with a few oldies but (hopefully) goodies this week while I venture out into the woods of Upstate New York.  If I'm not back by Saturday, send help

Phantom Canyon (or The Worst Camping Trip Ever)

Back when I was fresh out of college, I moved to Colorado for a year with my boyfriend. (Who later became my husband and later still my ex-husband.)  While we were living there, my sister and brother came to visit us.  Being young and adventurous, we decided to go camping together up in Phantom Canyon.

Now, Phantom Canyon is exactly as it sounds.  Picture, if you will, a rock strewn dirt road clinging to the side of a mountain with a sheer drop on one side of the road.  There's room for only one car on the road at a time, so in the unlikely event you meet a car coming the other direction, one of you has to back up until you can find a spot wide enough to pass by each other.  There are no actual campsites, but rather a few sparsely scattered areas where you could pitch a tent.  (If you actually had one.)

Intrepid campers we were not.  We had three sleeping bags for the four of us and no tent.  My brother insisted he was hearty enough to use just a bed roll made up of a couple of old indian blankets we had around the house.  So, we packed the car (an old white BMW 2002) with the sleeping bags, bed roll, water jug, two boxes of Kraft macaroni & cheese and a pan to cook it in, a can of green beans, matches, a cooler of Dr Pepper and a bag of marshmallows.

We cheerfully set out on our journey on a warm, sunny day in early June.  The road up the canyon, as I indicated, is a tad bit treacherous without 4-wheel drive, but we were undaunted. We'd already made the drive up the canyon before several times, just not loaded down with four people and camping gear.  We hit bottom a few times, but this was to be expected.  After about 40 minutes, we saw a clearing that might accommodate our car and suffice for our campsite.

We parked the car off the side of the road and carted all the gear to the clearing.  Out came the sleeping bags, the bed roll, the water jug, the two boxes of Kraft macaroni & cheese and the pan to cook it in, the green beans, the matches, the cooler of Dr Pepper and the bag of marshmallows.  We started to set up camp and were quite happy with the location we found until we heard the buzzing of insects.  You name an insect, it was there.  Swarms of mosquitoes, gnats and some bees made our beautiful campsite uninhabitable.

So, we once again packed up the sleeping bags, the bed roll, the water jug, the two boxes of Kraft macaroni & cheese and the pan to cook it in, the green beans, the matches, the cooler of Dr Pepper and the bag of marshmallows.  Back into the car we squeezed, only to find that the car had overheated on the rough ride up the canyon and wouldn't start.  There was nothing to do but wait for the car to cool down.  By this time, the sun had warmed the air sufficiently to make the interior of the car rather warm.  In my great wisdom I decided it was the perfect time for a cool, refreshing Dr Pepper.  I proceeded to pop the top on the can, only to have it explode in a spray of amber colored, sticky droplets all over the inside of the car.  Everyone was drenched and screaming as the soda dripped back down off the ceiling.  Needless to say, I was not the most popular person at that moment.  We were now all hot, tired and sticky and the car still wouldn't start.

Forty-five minutes later, after we were all done glaring at each other, the car started and we were once again on our way.  We drove further up the canyon for about another 30 minutes until we came to another clearing.  To get to it you had to follow a steep path down from the road.   We started getting out all the equipment again.  Yes, the sleeping bags, the bed roll, the two boxes of Kraft macaroni & cheese and the pan to cook it in, the green beans, the matches, the cooler of Dr Pepper and the bag of marshmallows were carried down the steep hill.  The last thing to come down the hill was the jug of water, which my brother proceeded to drop about half way down.  The water came flying out of the jug and my sister started screaming at my brother because she needed the water for her contact lenses.  (Never mind the fact that our two boxes of Kraft macaroni & cheese were going to be a little crunchy to eat with no water to boil the macaroni.)

About the same time, one of us noticed that the steep path we'd been traversing up and down was covered with poison ivy.  Many expletives were invoked before we started talking civilly to each other again.  At long last, we had our camp set up.  We made a fire ring from rocks we gathered, started a fire with deadwood we found, laid out our sleeping bags and bed roll near the fire, and started to cook our evening meal.   There was just enough water left in the jug to make the macaroni & cheese, although it did taste a tad bit gritty from the dirt that clung to the opening of the water jug.

As night began to fall and we were roasting marshmallows over the fire, we began to contemplate the many wild animals that lived in Phantom Canyon, including small mountain lions.  We figured the rattlesnakes had all gone to their dens for the evening.  Nonetheless, we did discuss the merits of circling a rope around your sleeping bag to keep the snakes out. Whether that was an old wives' tale or whether it had actual merit was a moot point, as we didn't have any swell cowboy lariats anyway.  All the same, the more we thought about the mountain creatures and the darker and colder it got, the more nervous we became.

That's when we came up with the great idea of the rocks in the pan.  It seemed obvious to us that if we heard something approaching we could simply shake the rocks in the pan to make noise and scare away whatever it was.  Everyone agreed it was a brilliant plan.  So, we all snuggled down comfortably into our sleeping bags with the rock filled pan next to us and prepared for slumber.  Unfortunately, our sleeping bags weren't as warm as we anticipated and we all started to shiver.  About the same time, we became painfully aware of all the small rocks we were sleeping on top of.  The more uncomfortable we got, the more sleep eluded us.  Even the beautiful night sky failed to relax us.  Finally, we all covered our heads and tried our darnedest to fall asleep.

After what seemed like hours, a rustle began nearby.  The sound of sticks snapping came next as the creature neared.  Being cold and shivering and sure that whatever was out there meant to bite any exposed hand that came out of a sleeping bag, we all pretended to be asleep in the hope that someone else would be brave enough to shake the pan.  Two minutes passed, five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen. Still no hand was seen making the supreme sacrifice for the good of the group.  Twenty minutes later, someone ventured to whisper, "Are you awake?"  Immediately we knew that we were all cowards and had been avoiding being eaten alive by a mountain lion, all the while hoping that one of our camp mates would provide a tastier treat for the vicious creature.  (Yes, we really cared deeply about each other.)   Upon making a pact that we would all look out on the count of three, we were amazed to see that this time we all came through!  We had done it!  We had faced our fears and faced down the creature....  which, as it turned out, happened to be a steer.

Range cattle are very common in the mountains and it never occurred to us that the thing that was approaching could be a very large, but very docile creature rather than a blood thirsty devourer of humans.  The rest of the night was spent leaning up against an old stone wall and stoking the fire until the sun rose.  When the dawn finally arrived, no one spoke as we packed up the sleeping bags, the bed roll, the empty water jug, the pan minus the rocks, the empty cooler and the trash.  In fact, I don't think any of us spoke to each other again until about six hours after we finally arrived back home.

Rarely have I been so miserable while camping.  And I've never again gone camping with my sister and brother.  Go figure!
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