Saturday, May 30, 2015



So May has been QUITE a month!  Our 18th Anniversary kicked things off, then an awesome backpacking overnight followed by a group camping trip.  Matt bought a new car, the new-to-us kind anyway, on the 13th.  We decided to go over our first budget because the car had such low mileage (only 40k!) and gets amazing gas mileage.  Something like 33-34 MPG. He drives 60 miles a day.  And it has AC.  With the incredible interest rate we got from Redstone, we will only pay back what amounts to less than a single payment more than we borrowed if we take the whole term to repay.  So we were okay with that whole thing financially speaking.  8 years ago this month, we paid cash for his Volvo and financed my Sedona-within 2 weeks of each other.  He needed a better commute car, we thought the Volvo would last a couple years (it was $1500) and we could look at our options then. hahaha!  Had we known it would live 8 more years (and it's still running!) we would have gotten the AC fixed.  It turned 20 this year.

On the 20th, I wrecked Nettlevan and while the insurance company is still out on what to do about the other guy because he contributed to the accident, they totalled out the van on the 27th and gave us a check.

Yesterday, the 29th, we sold Poppy.  To a family with young kids and a do it yourselfer dad who seemed very at ease with her quirks.  I think when the dust settles, I will probably have a good cry about that like I have about the van, but right now the timing could NOT have been better.

Between the insurance check and selling her and pulling some from savings AND the guy selling it coming down a chunk AND agreeing to replace the windshield, we can pay cash for the replacement van, which is another 2006 Kia Sedona.  I took it to Beth yesterday to look over before we agreed to buy it and she said, "Well, of COURSE it is (another Sedona)."  SHE, and I am not sure how I feel about this just yet, is the one who cast the deciding vote to total Nettlevan!  It was at a different repair place and everything, but small towns are so damn nosy.  She knew it was wrecked before the insurance company did.  She said it had so much wear, it wasn't worth putting money into bodywork when the engine might go.  Sad, but likely very true.  :(

The van checked out fine, it's in WAY better shape than poor Nettlevan was.  Everything that was going on with her isn't going on with this one.  And it has new tires-much nicer than I would ever have shelled out for. And over 100k miles less on the engine and has never hauled anything.

I drove it over 2 hours yesterday, never had an issue.  Right after the wreck when we were out running an errand, Matt came to a quick stop and I got so scared!  I was worried I was going to be a wimpy driver, but no.  It's exactly like Nettlevan inside, only much, much cleaner, grey instead of beige, and everything works. The power steering (Matt says it's a HUGE difference, but I did not actually notice it was out on Nettlevan unless I was parallel parking).

The middle seats both flip up, the console table extends back to the middle seats (ours DID until Jake climbed on it and broke the extending part the first WEEK after I bought it).  That timing belt tensioner noise does not happen when I crank it, there's no dent where I backed into the light pole at Judy's after mowing the grass.  The front end noise going over bumps does not happen because no one went airborne jumping some railroad tracks in this van and stretched the subframe bushings. So the front passenger tire isn't always out of alignment, either.  Hands off the wheel at 65 and it stayed straight on the road.  There's no long scrape on the side from where I was really sure I'd fit between 2 fences. The front end is not taped from where someone parked up on a rock curb and ripped the plastic shield thing in half backing off of it.  And...though I feel kind of bad about this being a point in its's not GOLD.  It's a sparkly glacier blue.

Before we dropped it back off to sign the papers, I set all the radio stations just like in Nettlevan and later I combed through that massive pile of things I had in the van and put what I really need in a paper bag to distribute when I pick her up Wednesday!

It's been a very emotional month and 4 Wednesdays in a row with major life changes. Well, for us anyway. We don't swap vehicles every few years or take on debt lightly. I would have kept that clunky van for years more if she'd lasted.  I feel right getting another one and happy that it should be around a long while yet-paid for and everything.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Got the news last night, Nettlevan has been declared a total loss.  Matt is going at lunch today to get the check for what's left of her value after the deductible.  Then he's going by after work to get the rest of our stuff out.  I will never see her again, or get to thank her for her years of taking us everywhere. Or say goodbye. I feel SO awful, for the van, for myself, for the other guy involved.  For our budget.

What bad timing and selling Poppy is no longer optional-I don't have any way to haul her now.  So she's leaving us.  Even the pasture-the reason I named our homeschool 'Northfield Academy'-is filling in with trees and disappearing.  If something happens to Kat or Jessie soon, I may just lose it altogether. Jake's graduated, Chan is set to in December. This chapter is closing and it was so beautiful, I don't want to turn the page.

I had intended to do a series of photos of the van over the years, but...I would rather just send my thanks out into the Universe, for 8 years of fun and adventures in all kinds of weather, for hauling around us and our friends and our dogs and our camping gear, for never getting stuck someplace scary, for getting us there and back again without fail thousands of times.  (Yes, I have seen the Bill Nye clip about the 'universe' but if I want to believe being grateful for something is worthwhile, I will.)

We went to the Smokies and Tellico Plains several times, the Outer Banks, Florida 6 times (2 of those were Disney trips!), Savannah twice, St, Louis, D.C, Oklahoma, drove the Blue Ridge Parkway end to end, 17 states, zillions of errands, and 19 camping trips with friends plus many, many family trips.

Thank you, old friend.  I loved it all.

The remnants of the van.  LOOK at all the sporks.  I may have a condition.  CD's for a CD player that stopped working 4 years ago, 2 umbrellas that I SWEAR were not actually IN the van-though I was aware of the beach umbrella.  Tape, Disney pins, the gate card for Fort Wilderness, 2 first aid kits, THREE different bundles of paracord, 7 flashlights, 6 containers of is a good thing I was forced to see my hoarding issues.  Hopefully I can mend my ways.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Point Two

Remember back when I found that article about 10 things you (the collective you) do to make yourself miserable?  Maybe that's not the exact wording, but the first point was 'ascribing intent' and it meant to automatically assume the other person's intentions-usually with a negative bent.  You were not cut off in traffic-it was clearly attempted murder.  Your friends actually hate you because they had lunch without you.

I have been really working on "Is this actually happening or am I being a crazy person?" and it's made a HUGE difference!

The second point was one I was sure did not apply to me, so I did not act on it, just put it in my back brain-burner a while.  It's basically saying your entire life has always been about you-so stop that (all the time anyway).  That makes sense-it's YOUR life.  And because-husband and three kids-I am not the center of my own Universe.

Then I started watching myself...and...I really am.  I know, I am blogging about myself thinking about myself and it's not really coming across that I can learn from that thought and be happier.  I am not going to blog third person, though I totally would use the royal 'we'.  We received our ridiculously bright purple female urination device (pee funnel!) last week and we declare it a success! No more squatting in the woods, woot woot.  So now if you see 'We Was Here!' peed into a snowbank along a'll know it was me! I mean us...hmmm.  That IS confusing,

The point is, it is totally human nature to hear someone share an experience or problem and then relate it to something you have been through.  It makes this thing called empathy and it's nice to have. Relating to others creates bonds, people like to know they are on familiar/common ground.  The thing is, I can come up with a related incident-and yammer about it-for nearly everything that comes along.

So please, IRL friends, I am trying to internalize and make it less the Esther Show and more Esther Can Be Quiet at Times.  I refuse to totally reform, it's how I have dealt with life for decades and I don't see a 180 anywhere in sight.  But over the next few months, I WILL be paying more attention and slowly making my way toward some middle ground in where I don't need to make it about me, I can just try to understand and offer support.

I can do this!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


We bought Nettlevan in 2007, I named her after a dragon character in Dragon rider called 'Nettlebrand, the Golden One'.

She recently flipped to 200,000 miles, all but 23k of those, I put on her.

On Wednesday the 20th, I was driving the kids and the Lackey kids to the lake for the day.  We were on a 2 lane backroad, I needed to get gas and had decided to wait until the upcoming intersection to fill up.

Up ahead, WAY up ahead, was a Dish network van.  It was slowing down, so I took my foot off the gas. There was a driveway to the right and a longer driveway (turned out to be a single lane County Road) to the left, both gravel.  I saw what I THOUGHT was him signaling right and decided instead of stopping, I would just pull on around him while he turned.  It was a long flat section, dashed line, no one coming.

At the last second, he turned left, too.  I smacked into the side panel doing about 15-20.  Barely dented his vehicle on the side panel, crushed the front passenger crumple zone on Nettlevan.  Quarter panel, headlight, wheel well, hood, bumper.

No one was hurt.

It did not deploy the airbags, no windows broke, no doors were damaged, it runs, AC works, nothing leaking.  The hood was too bent on the front corner to look at the engine, but it has breakaway engine mounts that in an impact are designed to drop the engine so it does not get pushed back into your lap.  That was not activated.  The check engine light did not even come on.

Amanda came and got the kids, so they got to play at the lake.  Dy brought them back, that was really nice how that part worked out at least.  I found myself thankful for so many things-not being far from home being up there.

I am SO hopeful they will fix her, but I expect since she's got 200k and she's nearing 10 years old that they will total her instead.  I think new body parts will be more than the three or four thousand she's likely only worth.  We JUST got Matt a newer car, I needed her around 2 more years before I can think about undertaking another car payment.  I can't get a decent family van for $4k.

I also hope, since the damage was minimal to their van and no equipment was damaged, that the Dish network does not go after me for anything more and the guy is as nice as he seemed and doesn't develop some spinal injury all of a sudden. They made him go right to the doctor for drug testing, so hopefully that will quickly rule out anything else.

So what happened was that his left rear light was totally out.  What I had seen as a right signal was him hesitating, unsure if he was at the right place or not. He had tapped the brake a couple of times, lighting up the whole right light housing and since the left light was out, I thought it was the turn signal.

I should have just stopped, but we were off for an adventure and I needed gas and I thought I could just scoot around and go on with our day.  No problem.

The adjuster should be in touch Friday and the car shop was pretty cheerful about their ability to fix her.  So, fingers crossed...


It's so weird, both the lightbulbs from the turn signal were intact and on the ground.
I told the body shop guy to reuse them AND that headlight I could clearly see in there.  Those things are 20 bucks!

Pretty minimal damage, I hope.  One of those side panels could cost 10 million dollars for all I know.

It's just so ugly!  I scratched myself up pretty good digging out broken chunks so nothing would blow out going down the road.
Just yesterday I was looking at my hood and put 'having hood repainted' at number 500 on my list of things to get paid for somehow.  I guess the Universe wanted those 3 rusty nicks gone sooner.

The girls played and sang a song about the horrific event.
It was mostly about the rain that seemed to be coming our way, but still.

My artsy endeavor, Nettlevan Towed.  :(

I am so sad, I love my van and I am so bummed a momentary bad decision and some bad luck ended up so so crappy.    

But tomorrow a good friend goes in for a bone marrow biopsy.  She's looking at things like chemo options and possible outcomes-not for a 10 year old van but for her 40 year old body and her husband and children.  I know it's small potatoes, this wreck, and that we were all unharmed and are well is something I could spend a little more time being grateful for.

 The unknown has so much power. 

I will update when I know more. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Few Random Things

Oh my goodness, the pollen! It's so thick that breathing is hard and that sickly sweet smell-why can't privet bloom every OTHER year?  Or never.  Jake announced he was moving to an inner city so he doesn't have to be exposed ever again.  I can't say I blame him.  He's decided to be a private investigator, which is fine with me, but then he asked for help finding out how to become one.  That's ummm...well, I think you should be able to find out how to be a PI in order to be a PI!  Without asking your mama, that is.

I discovered a thing this week called Body Glide that is made to keep skin from chafing during exercise, but if I put it on my heels, they don't do that 'barely rub' thing.  I think blisters may be a thing of the past!  I have to get bigger boots for my toes-they need lots of room.  That makes them loose on my heels no matter what I do.  I am actually a little excited-foot lube!  hahaha

Murphy Jones is finding his footing here.  He got COVERED in mud (likely Nia told him to do it) and had to have a bath.  He wanted RIGHT back out and I said no, so he pooped in Chan's room.  Lesson learned. That has been his only in-house potty, so I am not complaining-just learning that when Nia wants out after a bath it's to roll in the mud again while she's still wet enough to get even more dirty.  When Murph wants out, it may not be for such nefarious reasons.

He is a BUNDLE of energy, I recall a few weeks of Nia being a morning dog before her devotion to Jake led her down that slippery slope of staying up late and sleeping until 10.  He runs around like his butt is on fire and she growls from her bed.  He hops in his bed and tries to be quiet while his front legs are stomping up and down and his whole body shakes.  She snorts and rolls over and he FIRES out like a bullet and runs all around the room grabbing everything and dropping it.  Laundry and shoes and even rugs get grabbed and dropped during his circuit, giving the whole room a swirly off-kilter look.  We have nearly moved him to just the dogs toys being under cyclone attack, but the rug has this knobby needs badly to be chomped, really.  

Totally random things happening of late:

My Mother's Day card, Chandler calls me 'Mama Llama'
See how the middle llamaling has freckles?  

Katy arranged a tour of Curse, a Huntsville-based gaming company.
It looked a good bit like Katy's house!
In the top pic, the kids are looking at the real-time stat board for the company.  They get a LOT of traffic and have just rolled out Curse Voice for gamers to talk to one another.  It's independent of the game itself, so you don't lose contact info if you leave that particular game.

Of course we stopped by the Asian store!

Our usual pastry roll and yogurt drink.

We got Gina juice and dried squid to try this time  The juice was bitter and the squid was very oily/fishy.  I hated it!  The dogs LOVED it and so did Matt.

Various weather.  Taken over a 2 hour period.

No falls!

Got home and Murfer and Nia had dug little holes in the 2 gaps in my new rock/paver thing by the sidewalk.  Grrrrr!

Tomorrow is Lake Day 2.0 to make up for missing it a couple weeks ago when Birdie was sick.
Thursday I am going to look at the Cahaba lilies!

Spent MOST of today cleaning up/out my camper.  It's for sale and we had a guy pester the snot out of us to come see it and when the time came to come see it-he changed his mind about wanting one.  More Grrrrrr!  He did not even let us know, Matt finally called and his mail box was full, so he paged our number and dude called to see who we were!  Obviously NOT the right person for Poppy, but still-I bailed on a hike I really wanted to do today to get the camper cleaned up to sell and nada.  Disappointing.

Anyway, someone else wants to come see it next week, so maybe she will be the right one.  I got a better vibe from her e-mails anyway.  Keep your fingers crossed, Poppy really needs a family that will use her more, she's going to fall apart sitting out there only used a few nights a year.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

One L Lama, he's a priest, Two L llama, he's a beast.

Katy set up a tour of the alpaca farm over in Hampton Cove (there were 8 llamas as well) for Thursday.

There were around 100 alpacas, which was quite the sight to see.  I was amazed at how different all their faces looked, though I still don't think I would be able to keep up with 100 different names.

We walked around looking at them a while, then went into the yard area near her house and she showed the clipping process for shearing one.  All of  the animals are fiber animals and she uses the hair to make yarn and other items.  She teaches fiber classes and sells a small variety of items in her gift shop.  All I could think was how much never ending work it must be to care for that many 6 foot tall creatures-never mind the whole shearing, spinning, dyeing, weaving, teaching, selling aspect.  The kids set out their feed buckets before we left and we got to see them all close up again.

Wednesday night, the neighbors decided (after nearly 2 solid weeks of no rain) to burn down a few outbuildings and piles of trash.  They set 3 HUGE fires and then appear to have gone off for dinner or something, leaving a single kid in charge. Glad there is a paved road between us.

Speaking of neighbors, there is a family in Judy's house now.  Not sure if they are renting or bought it, we get told nothing.  They do scream at one another out in the yard, smoke non-stop, have several dogs (and no fence), like to spin out and make the gravel fly and go back and forth past our house instead of using their end of the road.  Also, they have company around the clock when they are home and 2 a.m. is just as good a time to scream in the yard and drive by really fast as any other time of day.  So, yay for neighbors.

Murphy Jones is healing up.  The theory is that he will eventually get some hair and we will know what he looks like.  Right now, he looks like a 20 pound scabby dust mop.  I can not believe people can neglect a dog to the point that he's an open sore from ears to toes.  He had over 100 ticks on his tiny body.  :(  

On to the farm:

After the tour, nearly everyone headed to Katy's to hang out.  I sent Jake and Chan home with  her and Ben and I, Kurt and Emma and Melanie and her Ben all loaded up to head out for an overnight backpacking trip.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Yahd Wurk

We have been busy in the yard lately and in doing so, we have been talking as if we ah from Selmuh. Or maybe like Yankees, I tend to sound like Katherine Hepburn at times.  We are in for tea at the moment and have agreed to break for an hour instead of a few minutes.  It's getting hot, so logic says to wait until it's even hotter to go back out. hahaha

The kids are so fun, Chan and Ben team up so well and Jake has applications out in three states, so he's practicing work ethic.  Today I gave him a list of things to find for our project and he spent half an hour looking for the last 2 items and came back and found them in a bucket on the porch where I asked him to look first thing.  He listed off all the places he'd looked and I said he had done a really good job of appearing very busy.  He said he was prepping for a real job.  I told him even Prince had to do his stint at the Five and Dime and reminisced about the time he (Prince) was busy doin somethin close to nothin, but different than the day before.  Jake said he was taking mental notes.

I went on to sing the 'raspberry beret' chorus (using the shovel handle for a microphone) and Ben yelled, "That's the Fred's Miracle Bread song!" Apparently it's a song about toast and not teens with crappy jobs and scanty clothes! I put Purple Rain in the queue, time to educate these kids.  I added both sequels, too. hehehehe

Here is a tiny collection things you should know about Prince.  His name is actually Prince.  He will be 57 this June 7th, he wrote the song Nothing Compares 2 U that Sinead O'Conner made famous.  He's 5'2.

We are working in the yard this week to accomplish 2 things-making the gate easier to get in and out of by replacing and extending the blocks we walk on to keep out of the mud that we made by walking on the grass and killing it (it was decided that was easier than moving the gate to match the sidewalk better) and adding more rabbit fencing to the field fence to keep one Miss Jellybean (a.k.a. Nia) from going on unauthorized jaunts.  A tighter yard will make me feel about 100% better, I worry about that so much, it's insane we have not done it already.  Just coming home with the fencing last night, I felt this little knot of tension slip loose and slide off.

We are in for the day!  8 large pavers in place in the front and all the rocks we were using have been moved to the outside edges to expand that spot and 100 feet of new fencing up.  More work waiting for Saturday, but it's a great start!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Smith Lake

Thursday night was supposed to be backpacking with friends, but the HUGE drop in temps from mid 60's to 41 had me rethinking that plan!  They ended up getting a campsite with power nearby and we went and hung out for the evening toasting things and chatting.

Making our fall travel plans!

Monkey See and Monkey Do over there taking photos.

I threw in a can of croissant thingies and we wrapped a few hot dogs before toasting, that was yummy! 

Friday, we went to the lake to FINALLY get Matt on a kayak.  He's so convinced he will love kayaking that he's already mentally purchased several.  I even dreamed the other night that he bought so much outdoor stuff (including a truck to haul the new trailer FULL of kayaks) that he had us making $1000 a month payments for the next 10 years!  hahaha  There was a 4-wheeler, some JetSkis and of course 6 kayaks with all the gear because-who doesn't need 6 kayaks?  hehehehe

See the log in the lower left?  See the baby beaver?

I dragged these three along behind my kayak a while.  THAT was WORK.

We met up with the Chan and Alex on their boats and all floated a while.

Chan has some trash in the back of her kayak.  She fished out plastic from the lake when she was out, every time.  Then put it in the dumpster!  Go, Chan!

Emma decided they could swim faster than they were being towed, so we abandoned them in the lake to make it on their own.

It took a while!

Emma and Ben and occasionally Alex spent a few hours making and revising 'boats' to float down the small creek.  Ben's design above held up the best.

See that brown bump straight in front of Matt's foot?  Baby beaver again!  It was eating sorrel.

Matt out again!

We had burgers, portabella mushrooms and hot dogs on the grill.

More boat revisions!

I tried a cheese stick/hot dog wrapped in dough.

Chan did dough, precooked bacon and a hot dog

Matt came along with a little packet of food stuffed in his dough pouch.

We toasted starburst-YUMMY
sour patch kids-a little gross and sticky
circus peanuts-like hot plastic

After everything was packed away and the sun was down, we hung out and chatted around the fire for a bit and Ben, Alex and Chan played.

Lovely relaxing couple of days!