july's 12 in '12


2012 july 12in12
July's 12 in '12

This is my July 12 in '12 collage. As I wrote here, for the remainder of the year I am journaling each month in picture. This picture is loaded with signficant and meaningful stuff irrespective of how insignificant it looks. 

1. St. Francis of Assisi is one of the great mentors in my life. I read something in late June that sparked a desire to re-read some of the things I've read on this great man. I wanted to rekindle some of the truths that I learned from him. In July I re-read these books.

2 and 11. These pictures are from Deborah's 13th birthday. I officially have 3 teenage daughters.

3. Hannah found this kitten near 7-11. It was meowing and she looked down at her feet to discover him there. She brought him home and nursed him back to health. This picture was taken after we had him over a week. He was tiny and had already filled out by the time this picture was taken. It is pitiful that something so small was all alone in the world. Hannah named him Haze and was diligent caring for him. He temporarily softened her heart and since we were desperate for Hannah's heart to be softened, it was a no-brainer that we keep him. He was much work though -- I think he was blind and he meowed nearly constantly. Hannah soon tired of the job and I took him to the Humane Society where I figure he found a good home. But for the short time he was with us, he touched us with his helplessness and his ability to soften a young girl's heart.

4. In June I went to a seminar and heard the benefits of giving up grain products. I checked some Paleo lifestyle books out at the library and on July 1 started eating the way a Paleo enthusiast would. It has now been 36 days of having no junk food, no fake food and no wheat products. Bonus, I lost several pounds in July.

5. This picture of Hannah was taken a few days before going into PChAD. In this picture, although it's a fine picture, the subtleties of her expression reveal her hardness of heart.

6. I love summer and I love my little container vegetable garden.

7. While in PChAD, Hannah resumed her former love for painting. She painted four pieces while there. It blessed my socks off to see her embracing a former love. It's probably been a year since we've seen this side of her.

8. Deborah has had nearly two good months of not cutting. However in July she had a huge upset and she cut again. I'll be sharing some big news on that front very soon.

9. Casanova!, what a cool cat. One day I came home for lunch and found him on top of the cabinet. I couldn't be mad, it was too cute. However, when I came home in the late afternoon, the cow, which was a gift from Stephanie, was shattered on the floor. Casanova was still on top of the cabinet.

10. This is the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission (AADAC) sign that hung outside of Hannah's safe house for the PChAD program.

11. Here's Deborah with her 13th birthday cake.

12. This isn't just a silly vain picture of my hand. There's some significance here. When Hannah's behaviour started getting erratic and volatile, I read her diaries to try to determine the extent of her drug problem. One thing I read in her diary was how she hates her fingernails and wished they were prettier. I realized that was something I could help her with. I have never tended to my nails with affection, but when I read that I decided I'd begin to stock our home with nail supplies and offer to keep her nails manicured. And I have. As a byproduct of this commitment, my own nails have gotten lots of babying too. This is the first time I've ever worn red fingernail polish. I feel eccentric.

offended hannah

Hannah is a sensitive child in many aspects. She's much smaller than Rachael and people think of Rachael as much older than her when actually there's only 13 months between them.

One of Gordon's brothers is a bit insensitive. He has offended or embarrassed Hannah on a few occasions. Yesterday Gordon and the girls went to pick up Beppe who would be spending two nights with us. When they got to her house Gordon's brother Brian was there. The girls wanted to sit in the car while they waited, but Beppe wasn't quite ready so she insisted they come in.

Within minutes of walking in the door, Brian brusquely asked Hannah how come she was so much shorter than Rachael.

Hannah declared with no hesitation, "That was offensive and I think you're rude."

He apologized in his sort of way. I think they have a better understanding of each other now.


you can do it trooper


Seven-year-old Rachael and her buddy Trooper.

Rachael, Hannah, Deborah and I spent a month with Stacie five years ago. Rachael was 7, Hannah 6. Stacie and Jimmy had just spent some pretty pennies on an underground electric fence to keep their Golden Retriever, Trooper, home. It was newly installed when we visited.

My girls are doggy lovers and thought it was great to be around all these sweet dogs that wandered around the neighborhood. They also thought it was so cool that the dogs roamed free -- something they'd never seen before. It's a quiet street and they soon became accustomed to all the dogs, calling them by name and going for walks with them. All of them but Trooper. Poor Trooper had this new fence that kept him from leaving the yard.

Rachael and Hannah understood the concept of the fence to a degree, but they also thought if they were with Trooper it was okay for him to be out of the yard. One day Jimmy discovered why the fence wasn't keeping Trooper in like it was supposed to. He walked around the house and found Rachael and Hannah squatted in the street with doggy treats. As Trooper's collar beeped its warning not to get closer, Rachael and Hannah pleaded with him, "Come on Trooper. You can do it, Boy." Then when he made the shock-filled little jump over the underground fence they rewarded him with doggy treats, lots of affection, and "Atta Boy, Trooper. Good Boy."

After having spent a small fortune on this fence, Uncle Jimmy wasn't impressed. I talked to the girls and they begrudgingly stopped begging Trooper to jump the fence.

Now Trooper is the only dog on the road that doesn't roam free. However, he isn't lonely. The other dogs join him in his front yard and porch. It's just too cute.


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gone postal

(Stacie's house sits just beyond the trees.)

My sister Stacie, for the second year in a row, did not receive her Christmas card from me. 

Stacie lives in the Appalachian Mountains on a lovely hilly lane that cul-de-sacs three houses beyond her. A couple years ago, she had a mailman that was clearly dealing with some pent-up anger. He drove furiously down the road never slowing down for the several neighborhood dogs that snooze lazily on the quiet road. These dogs are truly neighborhood dogs. Everyone calls them by name, feeds them if they're at their house at doggy meal time, pets them, and looks out for them.

(Several months ago Stacie's next door neighbor got a new beagle pup. They wanted to teach their new pup to stay home so they put him on a really long leash so he could have lots of freedom, be part of the tight-knit canine community but still be grounded to home base. Stacie came home one day to find the little Beagle catching some zzzzz's in the middle of the road. He was still on his leash tethered to the owner's porch. Can you picture the cuteness?)

I got terribly off track telling that, but it sort of helps my real story about the mail-delivery guy. Another side note: My mailman is the best mailman in the world. His real name is Don, but my kids started calling him Mr Berry because once he gave them some berries. They were very little so and were convinced that Mr Berry was his real name. Anyway, Don calls my dogs and my children by their names. Actually he calls Deborah Lizzybeth. He was our mailman when I was pregnant with her and at that time we called her Lizzybeth. Don still does. And he always gives Lucy and Bear treats if they are out front when he comes by. You can imagine why I think Don is such a good mailman.

Back to Stacie's Mad Mailman... He drove too fast for her quiet neighborhood where the dogs are free to roam and be neighborly. Stacie noticed a number of times that the mailman had no regard for the dogs. If it were just that, she probably wouldn't have approached him, but there were other things too. Once she received a parcel that didn't fit in the mailbox. Mad Mailman just threw it in her yard for the neighborhood dogs to chew on. But the real clincher happened on garbage day when the guy at the end of the lane hadn't removed his empty garbage cans from the road. Unfortunately Mad Mailman couldn't get to the mailbox for the cans.

Stacie watched from her porch as Mad Mailman went partially postal. He got out of his car swearing and kicking. He picked the blankety-blank-blank garbage cans up and hurled them down the ravine. Stacie wasn't impressed, but then again, Mad Mailman had never impressed her.

She went out in the road and stood expecting Mad Mailman to stop. He drove toward her angrily and she feared that he might run over her. She waved her arms so he'd stop. He came to an angry halt and Stacie asked him, and I quote, "Why can't you be a nice mailman?"

He got all belligerent on her and took off. Stacie wasn't through discussing the matter. She grabbed the door around the open window and hung on as he started to roar off. She hung on and ran with the car as long as she could pleading with him to "just be nice." He didn't stop.

She phoned his supervisor and reported her observations and personal experience. Mad Mailman wasn't her mailman for a while. When he came back to her route, he drove a little slower but gave her dirty looks.

Do you think there's any connection between Mad Mailman and my Christmas card not getting to her two years in a row?



Rachael in grade 4. Her teacher began a language arts lesson by asking who could define a period. Rachael knew because we'd had the talk. She bravely raised her hand and when called on said, "It's when you become a woman because now you bleed every month and can have babies."

Mrs Hetland replied without any hesitation, "Actually, it's a dot at the end of a sentence."

birth abroad

Children born to American citizens are American citizens. But if "Birth Abroad" isn't filed, their citizenship isn't proven, therefore worth nothing. I've been getting these sort of affairs in order. Yesterday the girls' "Birth Abroad" certificates came in the mail. They're snazzy birth certificates that look like they should be announcing a considerable award. These impressive-looking certificates have been on the console table in the hall for the past 24 hours.

Tonight Deborah was helping me tidy when she came across these certificates. "Hey what are these award winning certificates?," she asked.

"Those show that you're American citizens," I answered.

Hannah, who'd seen the certificates yesterday, poked her head around the corner. Looking as if she missed some of these papers' significance, asked slowly and seriously, "We're award-winning American citizens?"

holy christopher

A Calgary story... It was a Sunday evening and we were going out to eat before church. However, we let time get away from us as we discussed where to eat. Gordon wanted one place, I wanted another and Stephanie wanted another. Time passed and it was pretty much too late to have a meal before going to church. We were getting to the place of agreeing to skip church so we could eat more leisurely.

Christopher wanted to go to church. With his holiest 6-year-old tone he said, "I don't care where we eat, I just wanna learn about God."

To this day, when we are being indecisive about something, one of us may drone, "I don't care where we eat, I just wanna learn about God."


chocolates for breakfast

As I wrote Lexie's lingerie experience, I remembered my own embarrassing lingerie story. It's not as good as Lexie's but it happened when I was young, stupid, and profoundly easily embarrassed.

My mother-in-law had given me a lovely pair of soft pink silk pajamas for Christmas. They were a little big so my sister-in-law, Brenda, and I went to Ft Smith to exchange them. They were from an a lovely little lingerie store called Chocolates for Breakfast. Sweet, eh?

It turned out that Chocolates for Breakfast was quite the happening place. There were a number of people there, even men.

That I was in this store with men was more than I was comfortable with. It was a very tasteful store, but there was this small section of "marital aids." I didn't know what I was looking at because I didn't know what "marital aids" were. I recall holding a leopard looking piece of fur wondering what it was. Brenda, older and worldly-wise, educated me, the country bumpkin, that it was for the man to wear. I may or may not have screamed as I threw it.

I wanted to look around, but honestly, I felt dirty looking at underwear and such in the presence of men. I wondered between the racks of undies as discreetly as I knew how. I stopped occasionally and touched things to give the impression I was comfortable. Unfortunately, my efforts to look at ease and comfortable were successful.

A saleslady came up to me and boldly told me I was looking in the wrong size. She looked at my boobs and then, I promise I am telling the truth, grabbed both boobs like they were oranges and told me what size I needed.

I felt incredibly violated and humiliated.

lexie's lingerie

I have a friend, let's call her Lexie. She's about my size (size 6/7). Bwa-haha. Actually she shops in "above average" stores. Last week was her husband's birthday. I guess she has a tradition of buying herself lingerie on his birthday. She's of a modest persuasion and hates actually going into a store to buy underwear, much less lingerie. But she does,- evidently every year for her hubby's birthday. She discreetly chooses something, tries it on, and tries to pay for it without being noticed.

Last week she went through this ordeal and turned beet-red as she relayed her embarrassing experience to me.

She picked out the lingerie that she wanted and tried it on. It fit. She was relieved not to have to go back to that section of the store. She got in line to pay. The lady being checked out ahead of her was buying sexy nighties too. She was a large lady and didn't mind the mental imagery games that talking about the purchase would provide. She spoke openly about how this piece was for her boyfriend but that it would be a few days before she saw him. She got the opinions of those around her: Should she or should she not send a picture of herself in this nightie to him via email. Would that be cruel since he couldn't have her for a few days? Ugh.

Evidently this loosened up the atmosphere at the register. Lexie laid her lingerie choice on the desk. The lady opposite her yelled, "Wooohooo, is someone gonna have a good time tonight!!" Lexie about died as the clerk held up her sexy piece for everyone to see. As she held it up she loudly asked, "Are you gonna get some black pumps too?" Without waiting for Lexie's response (thankfully), she went on to loudly tell Lexie how good this nightie was going to look on her.

Lexie very near died right there. But she was able to whisper, "You're embarrassing me." The lady became apologetic telling Lexie she was a beautiful woman who had nothing to be ashamed of. The ladies began to boast about how good they felt about themselves and Lexie said she wanted to say, "Look, I don't want to be a member of your 'Proud to be Fat Club.'"


what says love

These are some answers from 4-8 year old kids asked to define love. There's some good insight here.

When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too.

Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.

Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.

Love is what makes you smile when you're tired.

Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him to make sure the taste is OK.

Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss.

Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.

Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.

During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore.

My mommy loves me more than anybody. You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.

Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.

Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.

Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.

I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.

When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.

Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn't think it's gross.

And a few from closer to home:

- When Gordon was in grade 5 or 6 he had a pair of purple plaid pants that he loved. A drop of bleach hit them turning them white in that little dot. With a marker, Gordon's mother colored that spot purple every time she washed those pants.

- When I was little and sick, I had to sit in a vaporizer mist. I sat in Daddy's lap and he sat in the mist with me because it scared me.

- Once I got really sick at the hospital at night. Mama came to the hospital and as she was running in she dropped her keys. She couldn't find them immediately so she just kept running. I was more important than her keys. I found out about it when a man who witnessed it brought the keys to my room.

- Once when Gordon's family was on a camping trip things went from bad to worse to worser. After a couple days of rain, Gordon's dad told everyone to get in the car. He packed them up by himself in the rain while everyone else got to sit in the dry car.

- Gordon feels loved when I touch him during an argument.

- Hannah feels loved when I sew for her.

- Rachael feels loved when she know she deserves a bigger discipline than she gets.

- Deborah feels loved when she gets taken on dates.

war eagle

Last night I was cleaning out my purse and came across the last of my U.S. money from my trip south.

When I went I had a small wad of traveler's cheques. About 1 1/2 weeks before I came back home, I used the last one. I had a Visa and a bank card with me,  but the spending money was used up.

When I gave the cashier lady my last $50 traveler's cheque, she gave me $2.83 in change. For some reason I got terribly tickled right there. Stephanie was beside me and I showed her my wealth and said, "This has to do me till I get back to Canada." I laughed at my remark till I couldn't hardly stand myself.

The next day Stephanie and I headed out to the middle of nowhere to a gigantic craft sale called War Eagle. It's really really big, but Stephanie and I didn't know just how big it was. We drove and drove sure we had the wrong directions. Then seriously in the middle of nowhere we came to this huge mass of tents, cars, parking directors and the like. We surely weren't expecting such a big deal. We had assumed that the place we were going would be closer to civilization and ATMs. We were mildly stressed by the overwhelm of being so much farther from home than we anticipated, the huge crowd, no money, and getting there just an hour before closing time.

We quickly shot through tents trying to see as much as we could before it closed. War Eagle was amazing, way too amazing for one hour. 

We were starving too. There was roasted corn-on-the-cob and I wanted one. I was shocked to learn one ear of corn was $4. I don't remember what Stephanie was thinking about getting, but it didn't matter. She had $1 in cash. I still had my $2.83.

Once we saw our money wouldn't buy us anything and confirmed that the concessions didn't take bank cards I said, "Well, if we pool our money, maybe we can buy a tootsie roll."

We were in and out of Arkansas's biggest craft sale in 43 minutes.


Stephanie and I were looking at panties at the store. I picked up a set of five thongs that had phrases on them. One pair said "kiss me," another said "love me," etc. I pretended that I was buying them for Stephanie. She said, "I don't do panties with messages." When I asked why she said, "Well, if my panties are on that's where they're staying. If they're off, well, that's the message."


to the bank

Have you ever been broke and gone to the bank for help? The experience is hard on the self-esteem. I remember once I was collecting door prizes for an event and a loan officer at my local bank had agreed to donate. So I went to the bank to collect the promised donation. I sat in the waiting area and watched as the loan officer (let's call him Tom) went to the secretary and saw my name on his appointment list. He put on his most professional look and came to me with an outstretched arm. He escorted me into his office and I got the feeling he thought he was about to save my soul. He motioned for me to sit and as he got comfortably situated behind the big mahogany desk, he put on his most sympathetic, compassionate face and said, "Valerie, what can I do for you today?"

I realized at that moment that he thought I was there for financial help. I stammered a bit but finally said, "I'm here for a door prize." He remembered, jumped up and said, "Well slap my face. I forgot all about that."

It seems loan officers come in two flavors: arrogant asses or syrupy saps. My Tom was a syrupy sap. But I've heard some pretty good stories about arrogant asses acting as if they're lending their personal money.

I think we can all identify with the humiliation of being young and desperately in need of the bank's assistant, whether buying the first house or car, or borrowing to pay off the baby.

When Michael (my brother) and Lawana were just starting out they went to the bank and unfortunately got an arrogant ass for a loan officer. (We'll call him Alan). After some discussion, Alan left the office then came back and said, "Mr Callahan, are you aware that your bank balance is 15 cents?"

Michael is well versed in turning a horrible and humiliating situation into a comic show. Assuming Alan would enjoy a laugh as well, Michael said, "Do you mean to tell me we've not gained 1 cent in interest?" The loan officer didn't get the joke. Michael turned to Lawana and said, "Lawana, I think we should get our money and take it somewhere where it'll work for us."

motherly lucy

I love my sweet dogs very much. Lucy is a beloved Basset Hound cross and has a most wonderful disposition. She's never had puppies, but certainly would have been a great mother.

Hannah recently bought an expensive ($35) fake dog. It's a Rottweiler puppy that "breaths." It is realistic looking, rolled up in a little ball sleeping, steadily breathing. She named him Hoot.

Hoot has a little bed that he sleeps in on Hannah's bed. On Hoot's first day here, Hannah put him to bed on her bed. Later when she went to check on him, he was gone. She mildly panicked afraid the real dogs had destroyed him. (The dogs have destroyed their share of toys.)

She got on her knees to look under the bed as that is Lucy's "private place". There was Lucy and Hoot. Motherly Lucy had Hoot in a protected spot by her chest lovingly licking him.

pregnant thoughts

Stephanie recently told me about some of her unrealistic desires and expectations prior to Roman's arrival. I was amused by these as I did the exact same thing with every single pregnancy. I got grandiose ideas of things that had to be done before I could possibly have a baby. Before Stephanie's birth I had to wallpaper above the kitchen cupboards. So at 41 weeks pregnant (she came at 42 weeks) I lumbered up and down the kitchen counters wallpapering.

I was so tickled to learn that others, Stephanie namely, got these same weird ways of thinking during the last days of pregnancy.

For one, Stephanie insisted that her back yard be fenced before Roman came. She fretted and spoke openly about this need. Her father-in-law saw the obvious flaw and eloquently suggested that Roman wouldn't be playing in the backyard for a while.

Another thing that Stephanie insisted on was looking good for delivery. This tickled me too, as I rolled my hair and put on makeup before I went to the hospital for Stephanie and Christopher's births.

Stephanie told me about getting a new hair cut "for delivery." Post-birth she saw how silly this was. She said, "I don't know what I was thinking. I guess I thought he was going to come out and say 'Wow, are you ever cute!'"

mangy doll

When my sister Diane was little, she had a doll that she carried everywhere with her. The doll was quite ugly and was missing clumps of hair. Once a mangy dog appeared on the scene and my Uncle Corkey observed aloud, "That dog looks like Diane's doll."


electric windows

Tonight in the car I absentmindedly rolled up Rachael's window while her arm was hanging out. After apologies, I chuckled at a long-ago memory.

Diane and Herbie had just gotten their first car with electric windows. Jeff was very young, I'm guessing about four. Once he had his head hanging out the window when Herbie rolled the window up, trapping Jeff''s head. After freeing Jeff's head, Jeff sat back and mused aloud, "That's what I don't like about these cars. You never know when the windows are gonna go up."


a little rachael funny

In Arkansas Stephanie reminded me of a Rachael moment I'd forgotten.

Rachael was about three and Hannah was two. Gordon rebuked Hannah for something and Rachael got terribly defensive. After Rachael chided Gordon for correcting Hannah, Gordon explained that teaching Hannah to do right was his job as a parent.

Rachael responded confidently, "Well you're not Jesus!"



Why do Baptist not believe in having sex standing up? Because it may lead to dancing.

Perhaps you have to come from a background like mine to truly appreciate that joke. As a child I was taught that dancing was a HUGE sin. On prom nights, the Baptists put on alternate parties to keep the kids from dancing and sex. The two were ridiculously connected. Preachers preached, Sunday School teachers taught, parents lectured that dancing was wrong, really really wrong. Therefore dancing and sex were one and the same to my young mind. I've heard folks say they were married before they knew that dancing wasn't foreplay.

In Arkansas this past visit it came up how radical we were on this topic. Michael, my brother piped up with, "Imagine my surprise when I went to my first dance and didn't get sex."



My last several days consisted of traveling. From Arkansas to North Carolina with my sister Stacie and from there I left with a new (newer) car that I brought to Edmonton. A total of 3100 miles. Arkansas was still green, just beginning to turn colors. Here are some snapshots of the country between North Carolina and home. It was a beautiful drive; very diverse and something new every day.




 The mountains of Tennessee and Kentucky.

Since I was traveling west, I got to watch the sun set every day on a different kind of terrain. It was beautiful each day.

Alberta and Saskatchewan Prairies. When I first moved to Canada I thought they were ugly and lonely looking. I've grown to love them.
Within twenty miles of crossing into Canada I drove into a light snow and 23 degrees F.
Looks colder than the other pictures, eh?
I went through Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. It was a nice experience.


a hannah note

I found another note, this one from sweet Hannah. She wrote: "Dear Mom, I bet your having a good time. And I bet romy boy looks so cute. Here's some things that I want: some chapter books, some Arcensa candy and a big kiss when you get home. Don't forget lipgloss. its time to go. Love ya'll. Bye Mom, SMOOCH, Sincerely Hannah"

Hannah has phoned me more than the others. I sure love hearing her sweet voice. She has lots of stories to tell when we talk. Speaking of stories, the first Sunday I was here, Hannah broke her arm. Yep, at church, doing back flips. She jokes that it's my fault because if I'd been there I wouldn't have let her do flips at church.

Some guy made this astute observation that makes me smile. He said he grew up in an era where everything was the kid's fault and his kids are growing up in an era where everything is the parent's fault.