The Austere, Part 3

The family painted the hotel’s cinderblock walls creamy off white. Its gloss threw strange reflections and shadows onto the ground. They replaced the shingle roof with metal, painted the lightest tan. It shined like gold in the sunlight. Josten told everyone that the Egyptian Pyramids had been shined to a gloss and had gold foil put on the peak, just like their hotel.

Annie and Tom smiled at each other, then Tom sat down to look Josten in the eye. “My grandmother was from Ethiopia, do you know where that is?” Josten’s eyes grew large. “Is it in Egypt?” Tom smiled and said it was next to Egypt, “with just as long of a history. Coffee came from Ethiopia.” Josten said he liked the Pyramids better than coffee. Then he wanted to see a picture of Tom’s grandmother, which made him sad. “I want her to be Egyptian.”

They named the puppy Pharoah. Before long, he was just called Ro. Konan’s scratches healed and he forgot them. And tho the puppy did not limp, Josten always worried he had hurt Ro permanently.

Since they had a dog, and since Tom removed carpeting as it got damaged, and since they had a section of open grass lawn in the back, Annie and Tom allowed their visitors’ dogs and cats.

Then they put the animal shelter on speed-dial, because people began dumping unwanted cats and dogs in their parking lot. Konan fell in love with a litter of kittens and bawled when the animal truck pulled in. The family assembled.

“Pharaoh is not used to cats. He will think the kittens are prey, Konan.” Konan threatened to kill Ro. Annie took a deep breath and tried again. “We already decided to keep Pharaoh. He is in our family, now. Family should love each other. That means we don’t hurt each other!” Aaron glared at his sister and stepped in. “Those kittens of yours sure are cute.”

The animal control officer shifted their feet and stared out the door. Aaron picked up one of the kittens, which complained at being lifted. Konan jumped up and tried to grab the kitten back. “Gentle! Be gentle, Ko. Grabbing a little one like this could really hurt it. See how I am holding it carefully?” Konan began crying again but kept his eyes on Aaron and the kitten. Then he gathered the rest of the kittens in his arms and cried on them. Outside the lobby, Pharaoh yelped at being left out of the family meeting.

Annie pulled the officer aside and asked how many cats they had now. “Any adult cats that are used to dealing with a dog?” The officer turned wide eyes on Annie. “You would need to come to the shelter. We get new animals every day.” Annie nodded and turned to her brother. “Let’s do that, you and me. We can take Pharaoh and find a cat who gets along with him.”

“Nooo!” Wailed Konan. Tom finally picked him – and one of the kittens -up and hugged him. Them. The kitten hissed. Aaron looked upset, too, so Annie tried to hug him. Annie suggested again that they visit the shelter to get an adult cat. Aaron wanted to keep all of the kittens, and Tom suggested keeping one. Josten had left the room and sat with Ro, watching everything thru the big plate glass window.

Animal Control sighed. “Truth is, our shelter is full. Maybe you could keep the kittens for a week. I will be back for them if we have space.” They looked at Annie and Tom and said quietly, “Kittens are hard to care for. The children may be tired of them by then, or may have a favourite.” The adults looked at each other and nodded. “One week, see you then,” Annie confirmed. Tom wrote Animal Control on their big desk calendar. Konan hugged Tom tightly, and gradually fell asleep.

The Austere, Part 2

Aaron showed up from work one evening with a puppy the size of one of the children’s shoes. “Kids need a dog. Especially with all these strangers around.”

As the children cuddled it, Annie threw her washrag down onto the check-in counter. “We have enough on our hands right now. You going to raise this dog?” The younger boy shrieked as the puppy scratched his arm. The older boy threw the puppy onto the floor. “Maybe help raise these boys, too,” Aaron said and picked up the younger boy. “Show me your scratch.”

The boy wriggled out of his grip and ran away. The older boy swung at Aaron and missed. “All right, fair enough. You boys don’t even know me hardly at all, do you?” The child glared, furious, then suddenly stared down at the whimpering puppy with a look of terrible guilt. “That dog didn’t know he hurt brother.” Aaron nodded. “That’s true.” The man and child stood for another quiet moment. “It is a baby dog. Does not have good coordination yet. He could hurt you again and not mean it.”

The child ran after his brother with a confused glance over his shoulder. Annie and her brother looked at each other. “That dog better be a girl. I am already outnumbered 4 to 1, here.” Aaron picked it up and checked. “Nope.”

Near the lobby door was a patch of weedy river rocks where there had been grass or flowers. Tom pulled them all out to find gravel at the bottom. He filled it with garden soil and planted kitchen herbs. Annie was dubious about plants that did not grow taller than houses but enjoyed watching the herbs grow. Some even had flowers. The younger boy, Konan, grabbed mint leaves and rubbed them on his clothes. “I would smell like candy!” Tom put a dish of peppermints on the check-in counter.

Inspectors from the county arrived one day. Tom handed them his resume of work from kitchens all over, but they shook their heads. “We just need to see the kitchen.” They left an hour later, having checked every wire, gas line and knob. “Even the lights,” Tom added. “They checked the light sockets and the switches.” But now they had paperwork approving the site to serve food.

The dining area was another story. Those inspectors came a week and a half later, one day before Tom’s application expired. Tom had built tables and Annie and the boys scrounged chairs from every antique store and thrift shop in a ten mile radius. She and Josten painted them to match. Then they painted fun things on them; dogs, pine trees, peppermints, faces, but Annie said no guns. Josten turned his guns into trees.

But when Annie got up the next morning, all the chairs had been painted one color again. And they peeled. Josten cried and said he had not meant to ruin the chairs. Annie sat on one. “It is still a chair. It is fine.”

Josten came home from school two weeks later with a painting of trees, to find Annie and Tom yelling at each other. He stared at the two of them as their voices rang thru their hotel apartment. Finally he screamed at the top of his lungs, took a deep breath as Annie and Tom stared at him in amazement, and screamed again. Konan hid behind his brother, whispering “bat cat pumpkin mat” to himself over and over. The four of them grew silent for a few minutes.

“Right.” Tom said. “I guess yelling is not a good family habit.” Annie said. After a few more moments, Josten held out his painting without looking at anyone, his breathing still rapid. Annie reached for it and he snatched it back, then turned and handed it to Konan. “I painted this for you.”

The Austere, Part One

Annie and her brother inherited a hotel. Sixty cinder block rooms with a lobby and a parking lot. Her brother immediately quit his roommate situation and moved into the room furthest from check in.

A season passed before Annie and her husband, unable to secure loans to improve the site, moved in as well. They sold their house and turned four rooms closest to check in into their new home.

Moving themselves and their two foster children into it immediately got them a visit and a warning from childcare services. “These are children, not laborers.” Annie assured the social worker – and the children – that school would remain the children’s primary occupation. Tom built bookshelves in the lobby and set up a table for the children in easy sight of the check in desk.

Annie put the hotel laundry to good use and washed every polyester curtain with hot water and extra baking soda. Televisions got stolen from rooms and were not replaced. Tom hung Annie’s paintings over the spots where televisions had hung. Some of the paintings got stolen, too, so Annie painted on the walls themselves. “See if they can steal THAT,” she laughed, and Tom and the kids laughed too.

The older boy painted his bedroom wall, pictures of guns and airplanes and cartoon dogs formed by a series of U shapes with a tail. “Look, Mom! A kid at school showed me how to draw dogs.” Annie and Tom exchanged one glance and then Tom said he should learn to draw cats, too. The boy stared at his work with new intrigue, and it was nightfall before the parents realised he had called Annie “Mom”.

There was a grass lawn behind the hotel, Annie planted two rows of tiny pine saplings all along the far side to give neighbors more privacy. They grew fast and tall but borers killed half of them before Annie realised. She cut down the sick ones and thinned the rest, planted poplars in between them. They grew fast, too.

Carpet got ruined and Tom stripped it out. He bought Berber area rugs and brown floor paint. And he learned to repair the air conditioners and heaters built into each room. He cleaned the defunct hotel kitchen and tried to get the gas stove working again.

“Annie, what if I quit Pancake Parlor and start serving meals here?” Annie thought, and nodded. “What would you need?”

Autumn Equinox, or Mabon 21 September 2019

This holiday really is a Southerner’s favorite. Sure, the South loves Christmas enough to put their tree up in July, but nothing makes South happier than cooler weather. If my social media feed is any indication, anticipation of this event begins after the first hot day in May.

What is this holiday, besides a lead up to Halloween? It is our second harvest festival. Apples, grapes, gourds and nuts are ripe. Time to make jam, pickles, wine, and roast pumpkin seeds. The grain mills that were busy after Lammas have churned out flour, so it is a great time for baking pies. The Horn of Plenty spills over. People who turned their Lammas grain into beer can spill over too. #tipsy So you have both products of the first harvest, and the second harvest’s crops. Quite the cornucopia.

The Horn of Plenty was Amalthea’s horn, the goat who suckled baby Zeus when Rhea hid him from his power-crazed, baby-eating father Cronus. Zeus blessed the horn so that it would always provide food for its owner. It was later gifted to Heracles after he fought with the ocean naiad Achelous over, of course, the love of a woman. It is hard to say if Greeks enjoyed fighting more or less than they enjoyed love. But goats undeniably filled an important role in their agriculture, and I understand that our football season has also begun. #fightfightfight

At Mabon as at Oestara, daylight and nighttime hours are equal. The dust of summer is damped down by leaves and heavier dew. It can be fun to have a bonfire or enjoy lighted candles. Wiccans love to cut an apple laterally and show their children the star shape that the seed pods make. Persimmon seeds get cracked open to see if they have a “spoon” shape. I do not remember what that signifies, but people like to see it.

Metaphyisically, take a look at the projects you are working on. Can you finish any of them in a day? Can you finish them in the six weeks before Samhain? Look and those you have completed, simply to enjoy the accomplishment. In a fast-paced world, it is easy to forget what we have gotten done.

When I was a child, Autumn was a months-long season. Now, Autumn is disappearing into the heat of Global Warming and its effect of Climate Change and its mild temperatures occur briefly. Summer’s heat lingers, or the polar vortex gets pushed south and brings early frost or rain at really bad times. If nothing else compels you to act to fight Climate Change, maybe you would be motivated to Save Autumn?

Save My Home?

We attended a developer’s meeting on Monday about a new home building project next to us. I see that the city’s plan to expand the roads (2040) would work well with this development. By “work well” I mean it would save the city time and expense.

My idea would ALSO save both mine and my neighbor’s home. Can I get a thumb’s up? I do not want our homes destroyed!

I hope we can point out to the city of Murfreesboro this simple, easy solution. The new home development will need roads, the city needs this road expansion. This idea of mine would take out a major curve in the proposed road and leave the surrounding homes intact.

Problem is, the director of city planning would not hear this idea. At least not on the first meeting, which one of my neighbors had arranged. The Director ordered him to leave.

Let me say again: this is a simple, easy, faster, less expensive solution to what would otherwise be a long, painful, expensive project for the city. Good all around!

But we need this to get heard!

I need advice? How to communicate as a homeowner and individual, with the city department that holds the fate of my home in its grip? I hear bulldozers in my sleep. The dread is indescribable.

I know that engineers are sensible and logical folk. I need to approach or communicate with them in a way that makes this solution of mine obvious. Because it is!

My suggestion to put the proposed road thru the new development is good for the city and its planners, less expensive, and causes the least harm and destruction to my neighborhood and home. Surely that should go over well?

Advice is welcome! Help me save my home? ❤️

Over and Done?

I dreamed this morning that the house on this property we purchased had not been included in the sale, after all. I was furious, looking at the papers and maps that showed the house’s footprint as blank on a shaded area map.

I complained to everyone. Almost everyone was sympathetic. Then I began to think. I needed a lawyer. I talked to people about lawyers. I looked up information on real estate processes. I talked to more friends, who remained outraged on my behalf.

A cold feeling had settled into my stomach at the start of the dream. As I walked in the dream world town, searching for a law office and a real estate records office, the cold feeling eased. I consulted with friends who said that what happened could not be legal. I felt better.

Then I remembered something from the real world: my real estate agent was a friend of mine. She would not have allowed me to sign bad paperwork.

In reality, my friend SOLD a house for me. She had not helped my purchase Stone Glades, where I now live. In the dream, these events combined.

I woke feeling grim and anxious, ready to continue work on this. I need a house to live in! . Then I remembered that the dream had been fiction.

The lesson I draw is that the terrible situation waned as I consulted with friends and worked to fix it. It was not pleasant but it was definitely improvement.

Not Just Dates

Friend of mine posted about needing to date people who were excited to be with him. Enthusiasm on both sides is necessary to success in a relationship.

This important advice is true of friendships, too. I spent about two years chasing a group of friends. They invited me in at first, and we were all happy together.

I began to realize, they called each other. They did not call me. But they included me. So it was ok, right?

And they made decisions without me. But included me. Perhaps as an afterthought, but still. I got to be there. I did what I was good at, listening actively, offering empathy, joining in on problem solving discussions, sharing my own issues, taking and offering advice.

And they were such cool people! Smart and talented and fun, and they cared about each other and me. They would drunk text each other and laugh about it later. They made lunch dates. Lunch an hour away from me, during work.

I tried to play catch up, calling each of them and leaving messages. Somehow those messages did not get thru? Or did I need an answer? My message had not been clear…why had I called? They would look at each other blankly when I asked why someone had not returned my calls.

It was very confusing, I could not understand what I was doing wrong.

My wake up came when one of the group landed in the emergency room. Almost a month passed before I found out. “Yeah, you were not there” one said, when I exclaimed that I had not known and was sorry she had been ill. “Who was it that called me when it happened? Is there a call list?” I asked, and was not answered.

Eventually the group fell apart, and my bitterness probably contributed. The thing is, not one of these friends intended to hurt me or leave me out. There was no vicious campaign behind my back.

They were enthusiastic about each other and did not realize they had neglected one of their invitees. And there was nothing compelling enough about their friendship towards me that made it a surmountable problem.

It took awhile to gain that wisdom. I am glad to have learned it. Because now I have friends who really are genuinely excited to know me, and I feel the same towards them.

Let your weird light shine, so your fellow weirdos can find you! Silly but true words.


My bug-drowning bucket disappeared; I expect it is full of nails in Chris’ shop, now. So there I am in my garden, staring at Asian marmorated stink bugs as they mate on the tomatoes they ruined.

I am not going to let these little horrors survive. They do not deserve to have my tomatoes or squash! …but what to use?

The recycle bin is the first place to check. Most things in the bin are containers, very useful, designed for my hand to hold. And right on top is a laundry soap bottle! The lip is scoop shaped, and the cap is a tiny bucket. Not only is this easier to hold, its smaller size makes it easier to move around my tangled tomato vines.

A few drops of soap and a cup of water go in, and then I am scooping marmorated monsters, many of whom were in the process of making MORE little marmorated monsters. They go into the cup, the cup goes into the bottle, shake a couple times and the bugs disappear into the bottle’s soapy water.

Which means tomorrow I should have more ripe and fewer ruined tomatoes. Yum!

Be Real

The author of one of the best children’s books ever written, a story about a bat and birds that also teaches children about bats and birds, wrote another book. It was about fake creatures she made up, a story about those fake creatures that taught children about the fake creatures.

Why do we do this? No child needs to learn details about fake creatures without being explicitly told that they are fake.

The third book was about a real kind of snake, but no one cared. The format worked for the first book. And that book is still a bestseller, because it is just that wonderful.

Mis-education is just lying. Tell me something real and interesting, and then tell me something fake so you can laugh and mock? This is bad management. Do you want bad kids? That is one way to do it.

Of course you do not want bad children. We want children to do well. We want to do well. Be real about what you want.

Why I Am Not a White Supremacist

10. Uniforms bore me.
9. Pokemon Go takes up too much of my time.
8. Key & Peele
7. It limits my dancing partner options.
6. Limitations are boring.
5. Cheese cannot be my only source of joy. I need those tropical cuisines.
4. Neal DeGrasse Tyson
3. White people invented itchy wool. Brown people invented cotton and silk.
2. Tiki torches just don’t move me to hate people.
1. When I go outside, sunlight literally burns my skin.
The Sun. Burns. Me.
Literally, sunlight, which is everywhere, burns me, which is white (with speckles). There is no way my people are superior if we cannot safely handle the most ubiquitous thing besides air.
The end.