126 – Can’t believe it’s been a month!

So much going on of late… An old, old friend came to visit the first week of June, unexpectedly, but most welcome. We had just come back from watching one of my favorite people in the world graduate, Vivyan Sauls, niece extraordinaire. Got to see my sis for the first time since a quick visit in March, and Viv’s older sister, Elizabeth for the first time in five years. It was totally awesome to hug her neck and talk, as well.

Annette (at right, with me in one of the hunting buggies), who was part of a couple that were very close with me and the ex-, looked amazing, hadn’t aged a day… Hadn’t seen her since I was super-heavy, and had spoken to AnnetteAndMeher a couple times since the divorce, but hadn’t actually seen her. It was really awesome to see her and talk to her. Some things don’t change–old friendships that you can take up without missing a beat are pretty danged awesome.

Also got to see daughter Kelsey, husband Brian and both kids for nearly a week. It was an awful lot of fun having a little one to play with, and Tyler got a chance to play with the owner’s grandson, slip-and-sliding an afternoon away.

Writing is booming right along, as well. The print and Kindle versions of my second book of the summer, “She’s Thinking Out Loud,” are live on Amazon.com. Haven’t got a ton of response to it yet, but haven’t had near the marketing time that I had with “This Little Pig.” It’s also of much more local interest, as the vast majority is my op-ed columns written for The Fort Stockton Pioneer.

Am 4,000 words into the sequel to Pig, “Flak Be Nimble.” Synopsis: Flak’s been asked to be maid of honor at her college roommate Cynthia’s wedding to the heir to a West Texas homestead. She accepts with pleasure, as well as taking on teaching a summer class on small town law enforcement at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, so she can stay in the area while Cyn and her soon-husband honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta.  But Flak first has to puzzle out why her oldest friend, who should be blissfully happy, is instead scared to death. Before long, bodies with a peculiar symbol etched on each one begin to show up everywhere, from unmarked graves in what outsiders believe are the barren wastelands of the High Chihuahuan Desert to extremely public places in the small towns scattered a day’s hard ride apart. None of it seems to make sense. But the body count just keeps getting higher, and that will not stand. Not where Flak’s concerned, anyway.

I’ve signed up for Camp Nanowrimo, shooting for 3,000 words a day… I’d really like to have a first draft done by the end of the month of July – I wrote Pig in 30 days, should be able to get FBN drafted in that amount of time. We’ll see.

I’ve also lost 31 pounds in the last 90 days. Deliberately. Shooting to lose about 40 more by the end of the year. 🙂 It’s been a good spring and summer so far.

91 – awful busy for a grandma

The pictures you end up with in your head are funny, no? OK, here’s a test. When you hear the word “grandma,” what’s the picture in your head?

Yeah, mine too. Grandma was kind of an old bat, bluntly. My apologies to any of my cousins who read this, but the woman had only two children–both daughters–and my mother was clearly not her favorite.

All that aside, she was pretty much the classic grandma picture otherwise, white-haired, slightly stooped, almost blind, almost deaf, long retired by the time I have any memory of her. Sewed clothes for all her grandkids, although the colors and patterns she chose for the material kinda proved out the “almost blind” part of the equation.  The only ones I remember were a pair of plaid pants and a red naugahyde poncho for winter. Like Coca-Cola red, shiny and very plastic. Some memories never fade.

However, we just found out that Kelsey is pregnant with her second, the ultrasound is actually today. She’s excited, as is the dad, and that’s always nice to hear. When she told us the news, Tyler (first and so far favorite grandchild. :)) got on the phone and said, “Gamma!” and then went on to talk about something he did that day. So I know I am a grandma… and about to be a grandma again.

But as I sit here writing this, I’m waiting on the sun to come up so I can go run. Don’t want to trip over a skunk or something worse in the dark. Made it two running miles and one walking one on Tuesday night, hoping to do better this morning. Had to move it to first thing in the morning because a) I’m working for a company that’s headquartered in Nevada and no one is around until 9am Texas time, and b) it’s so much cooler first thing. Days are still getting up in the 90s and there will probably be a few more 100-degree days before summer breathes its last gasp here on the ranch…

mamaI am also still pretty much working two jobs–I’ll be training my replacement at the paper, so I promised I’d go over and be there Tuesday/Wednesday next week to show her the ropes for her first paper. So two more nights away from my husband, two hour drive each way.

None of these things fits in with the “grandma” picture, and it makes me wonder what Tyler and his little sister- or brother-to-be will remember about their grandma.  One thing I I learned from Mama (and from Grandma, bless her heart) is that every grandchild of mine WILL believe they’re my favorite. Even I have to lie to’em.

The picture is my mother–because that love is the one that I remember best. And her birthday (and last grandchild’s birthday) was August 17. And I know her grandchildren remember her that way, too, with all the love in the world. And that love is the kind of love I want my grandchildren to know–they already have it from their pretty incredible mom. I want them to have it from me, too.

The sun is up, and now I’m going to go run. Because grandmas do that now. And blog. And work. And love with all their hearts.

88 – counting my blessings saturday (CMBS)

OK, I was wrong, I can write both places. :0) Early on a Saturday morning, I am counting up the things that make me blissful… blessings, if you will:

  1. Just heard from son John yesterday that his next assignment is going to be to Malmstrom AFB, Montana–only a few hours from my best friend, Barb, who lives in Columbia Falls. John has been at Ramstein AFB, Germany, with a short six-month deployment to Kuwait, since 2012. We haven’t seen him since we put him on the plane for basic training two years ago. Barb’s son Ray is also stationed at Malmstrom with his wife and two kids, and oddly enough was also stationed at Ramstein, but he and Johnny have yet to meet.  Barb will be making sure to check in on our baby boy, though he may not know that yet.
  2. Daughter/soldier Kelsey’s leg surgery went well, which I can tell because she is posting pictures on Facebook of the stitched-up incision with commentary and exclamation points. This makes me very happy.
  3. TexasHannonsJohn AND Kelsey, along with favorite grandchild, one Mr. Tyler James, will be home for Thanksgiving, if the good Lord’s willing and the creeks don’t rise. Also planning to be there right now are our whole extended Texas family, Corey’s brother Patrick, wife Bobbi (my sister from another mister), daughter Savannah with grandchild Olivia, whom we have yet to meet, and daughter Sara, and they’re all coming from Kingsville. Meeting them at the ranch for Thanksgiving will be their soldier/daughter, our niece Hailé Hannon, who’s driving in from Fort Huachuca, Arizona. You can see all of us in the picture here, taken in 2011. John and Kels are at far left and far right respectively, and Tyler was, at that time, Kelsey’s baby bump.  The back row left to right is Patrick, Hailé, and Sara, with her arm around Kels. Savannah and I are in the center, and Corey and Bobbi are up front. Can’t wait to see ’em!
  4. More on the “me” side than the “us” side, I had an amazing first week at my new job as managing editor of the Alpine Avalanche. All the training and mentorship from my old boss, Hank Hargrave, who now owns and publishes The Normangee Star in central Texas, came back with a rush.  Absolutely love my new boss who, unfortunately, is interim publisher–when they hire a new publisher, she will go back to headquarters and her real life, and that will be a sad day for us–she and I make a great management team, and the new publisher will have some big shoes to fill. She’s already been here 11 weeks, with at least a few more to go, and I know she’s ready to go home.
  5. Last, but certainly not least, I get to see my gorgeous husband today for the first time in a week. It’s an interesting arrangement….I think everyone but me knew that I was going to have to get a job and get off the ranch more. But, if you had told me a year ago that I’d be living two hours away from my husband and only seeing him on weekends, I’d have asked you what you were smoking. Oddly enough, though, I think it just might work.  He and I, we’re working people. It’s who we are, more than what we do. And with us apart during the week, we can fully commit to working our jobs, not worry if I’m getting up early and not seeing him in the morning, or he’s working late and not seeing me until 7 or 8 at night. Don’t get me wrong… I miss him a lot.  But there are benefits to living apart–I kept my eating under control this week, 1300 calories or less a day, every day this week. (living with a foodie has its hazards.) I went after work and ran laps around the park three different days. I went out to one of the Viva Big Bend festival venues last night and took pictures without worrying about whether Corey was missing me… It’s like having all the benefits of being single and career-focused, but you’ve got a permanent date every weekend and somebody to kiss on New Year’s Eve.

Life is good, my chickens. Hope yours is too…

 

80 – untweetable

westtexassnowBack home again after a four-day trip to the Dallas environs to see my sis and family… it was pretty wonderful, as these things go… even enjoyed the eight-ish hour drive there and back.  We broke down and got me a lightly used Chevy Cruze, which is a lot more comfortable for me to drive than the honking huge dually that got us here to the ranch with the travel trailer in tow.  We also figured out that simply by driving the Cruze instead of the big truck to town twice a week, we will save enough in diesel costs to make the payment on the car. Seriously. The car gets 38 mpg hwy, the truck only 10 or 12. Plus diesel’s more expensive.

It’s been one of those amazing cool, wet weekends–as you can see by the picture, Saturday night began with a hailstorm (otherwise known as West Texas snow), and we had to scramble to get my car under cover.  Since then, it’s just been cool and cloudy.  Fine for us, since we don’t have any great need to throw a barbecue for us and the dog, and everyone else is… well, elsewhere. These late spring wet days are wonderful, though I could have done without the ice dropping on my head.

Been doing a lot of thinking on whether it’s worth it to go back to work.  It’s an oddly powerful position to be in, not having to work.  I’m not sure I’ve ever worked because I necessarily wanted to–the possibility of NOT working has seldom been an option.  That said, there is retirement for both of us to think about.  And, honestly… Corey loves it in this job so much that, for the first time since I’ve met him, he seems to feel he could work here until retirement himself.  So I really need to stay here, and that adds some interesting choices, and eliminates a lot of other ones… Lots to think about.

79 – timing changes

Ah… life changes things, you know.  Writing this in one of my favorite hotels in the world, a Hilton Garden Inn. They’re kind of the boutique version of the big Hiltons, surprisingly affordable, always beautifully clean, and have outstanding people working in every one I’ve ever been in.  And, if you use Hotels.com, even more affordable. Shameless plug, but it’s not like they’re actually giving me any money… Seriously, paid $65 a night (before tax) for two nights here, and Holiday Inn Express is charging $130 a weeknight just a few miles away. Silly buggers.

So–I’m on a flying trip up (over?) here to see my sis, niece, nephew and hubby just northeast of Dallas. It’s a work/school week for them, so it really is just a visit, but haven’t seen ’em in six months. We came whizzing through here on our way to South Texas back in October of last year, and before that, it had been nearly three years.

traffic...Been missing family… Had planned to be here next week, but they’ve got company in for the Memorial Day week so since I could, I just buzzed on up.  It was only about an eight-hour drive, the last two of which was all in the DFW Metroplex. I had forgotten there were this many people IN THE WORLD, much less trying to shove themselves into a few hundred square miles of geography.  Heavens to Murgatroyd…Trying to plan my way back to West Texas tomorrow morning, and there is a whole big blob of millions of these crazy buggers between me and West Texas that I have to either go around or go through….

Anyway, since I’m here this week instead of next, the hubby and I have been discussing him taking time off later in June to do some land hunting over around the old home front with me. In one week, there is Father’s Day, Cor’s birthday and our 5th anniversary… so we’ll just have to see.

For now… it’s 4 a.m., and the hotel insomnia has been written into submission.  Back to bed for a couple hours, then off to visit my sis for one more day…

59 – solitude, Sundays, serenity and pizza

oil change
changing her oil

Enjoying my Sunday morning peace, with husband, daughter and grandson snoozing away… it will be the only quiet in my day, unless I get a chance to crash for a bit this afternoon.  We’ve got a busy day planned – Kels plans to change the oil in her car up at her dad’s shop, as he’s got an oil change bay where she can walk under it instead of crawling under the car. While she’s doing that, her dad and I will be working on furniture–got one more end table to create, and an entertainment center.  If we have any lumber left over, we’ll probably make a bookcase. Love working at these things with my family.  All that’s missing is John… and he is missed!

But before we go up to the shop, we’re going to make some bread. This time, we’re going to split the recipe in half… Find the halved recipe here.  One half recipe will be done like we did it last time, for sandwich rolls.  When we’re mixing up the second half, though, we’re going to add Italian spices with a liberal hand.  Then we’re going to roll them out for pizza crusts, and if there’s enough left over, for a loaf of Italian herb bread… which makes the best garlic bread EVER.

Tyler and Grandpa headed to the shop
Tyler and Grandpa headed to the shop

After your first rise, punch the dough down and split into three pieces.  For the first one, just spray a loaf pan with cooking spray, shape the dough so it fits in the pan, cover it with plastic, and put it in a warm place to rise.  When it’s doubled in size, put it into a 425 degree oven on the top rack, and bake for 45 to 55 minutes.

The remaining two pieces should be rolled out to fit your pizza pan(s).  I usually make one rectangular, the size of my smallest cookie sheet, and then one round for my pizza pan.  If you want thinner crust, don’t let it rise again, just roll it out very thin and place on your pizza pan (which you’ve sprayed with cooking spray) and put into a 425 degree oven, on the top rack. Keep an eye on it after five minutes, and pull it out when the top is dry, but not brown. The bottom of the crust should be light brown.

pizza crusts
pizza crusts

For a thicker crust, you should allow it to rise after shaping, up to about a half-inch thick. The timing for baking the thicker crust is about 10 minutes.  Again, just bake it on the top rack until it’s dry on the top and light brown on the bottom. After the crusts have cooled, wrap them well in plastic wrap–you can store them in the refrigerator for up to a week, or the freezer if it’s going to be longer.

When you want garlic bread with your Italian meal, whether it’s pizza, spaghetti, fettucine alfredo, lasagna, whatever, take that loaf of herb bread out of the freezer or refrigerator and split it in half horizontally.  Mix together 4 tablespoons of softened butter, a couple of teaspoons of garlic powder and a quarter cup of ground Parmesan cheese. Spread the mixture on both sides of the split loaf, and broil until the buttered side is the desired brown. Broiling times vary from one stove to another, just keep an eye on it! Broilers are chancy, and will burn your bread in a hot minute if you’re not careful.

DSCN4841
Tyler chillin’ while his mama and grandma get some bread made.

I do love these moments before the day begins for everyone else… I hear a dove outside talking to her mate, and can hear it because we slept with the windows open last night.  It’s so nice to feel that safe again.  I’m off to get the bread going for the sandwich rolls, and will save the pizza dough for Kels to make. Will add pictures when we’re done… 😀

57 – getting to know Tyler

Tyler Webb has taken over our house and smiled his way into my heart.

ty-grandpa-4wheeling
Riding on the four-wheeler with Grandpa… very slowly… 🙂

He is two and a half years old, with all that entails, crying if you make him take a bath, ticked off if Mickey isn’t turned on fast enough for his liking, angelic when he’s asleep, and laughing the rest of the time.

His presence in her life has matured our daughter past anything I would have believed. She is patient with him, this girl who had no patience at all when I met her. She loves him more than she’s ever loved anyone, I think.  It shows with her every step, every word.

IMG_20140220_182602
Little boy with bucket–the opposite of a still-life…

And since Kelsey is a mom, and she calls ME mom, that would make me a grandma… and had you asked me four years ago if I wanted to be, I would have said, “No! Not yet! I’m not ready.” Babies acknowledge no limitations, so, ready or not, here he came into all our lives.

kels-ty-abandonedranchhouse
A beautiful  February day in West Texas…

They’re here for a while, staying with us on the ranch, though not long enough, and even the ginky moments will be treasured.

He’s a pretty awesome little boy.  So much joy in one tiny package that it breaks your heart and then heals it right up in the next breath. We haven’t seen enough of him, but that’s the military for you.  You learn to be grateful for any time you can get.

swordfight with Grandpa's tools
Sword fight with Grandpa’s tools.

The mom that he talks to about Cilfford the Big Red Dog and laughs with and has sword fights with, and that he runs to is a soldier and a single parent, and has made a life for the two of them where he’s safe, happy and cherished.  It shows.

If the Beatles were right and “All You Need is Love,” then this little boy has all he will ever need.

Pretty amazing for a grandma who was told 30 years ago that she would never have a child of her own.  The old ache is gone, the empty space is filled with laughter and a little boy’s voice saying, “Hey! Gam-maw!”  Got to go.