Cupcake and Sugar and Cold!

Cupcake and Sugar and Cold!

cupcake and sugar

Cupcake and Sugar and Cold!- Fun Features

Sugar: I don't see it, do you see it?
Cupcake: I don't see it either, but I can smell it.
Sugar: I know there's a crumb here somewhere, so let's keep looking.
Dick and Sugar
Wow, you know it's cold when Dick went to take Sugar out, he had to wear a golf shirt, a sweater, a heavy sweatshirt & a jacket…plus Sugar didn't even want to budge. Smart dog!

A Girl’s Guide to Changing a Tire

A Girl’s Guide to Changing a Tire

My sister Donna Sue…She didn't live long enough, but she loved every moment she lived.
My sister Donna Sue…She didn't live long enough, but she loved every moment she lived.

A Girl's Guide to Changing a Tire

Funny how something like a word, a gesture, or a phrase can trigger a thought that opens a floodgate of memories. I recently heard a Southern Mama advise her daughter to take auto mechanics in school because every woman should know how to fix her own car, then she should look helpless enough to have a man fix it for her. This advice brought memories of my sister Donna and a trip we once took together.

When this story came to mind, and I pulled the manuscript I wrote about my sister Donna from the unpublished book graveyard and decided to rewrite it. Some stories never grow old and like memories, they become sweeter with time.  It will be a while before this story makes it to market, but for now, please join me as I stroll down memory land and tell of this fun adventure.

Donna got a job the minute she turned sixteen, and the job she got was one of a roller-skating car hop at the Stewart’s Root Beer Stand on Route 17. She wore white shorts and whizzed back and forth balancing trays of root beer mugs, burgers and fries. Did I mention that these were short shorts? Very short shorts! Donna made more money in tips than the Branch Manager of the local bank…and by now you can guess what she did with all that money…yep, bought a car.  Not just a car, but a serious Chick car, a two-tone Chevy, that was sleek, shiny and sexy. It was a car that got attention – everybody’s attention! This is the sister I have to live with. Donna doesn't just look great in short shorts; she’s got plenty of pocket money and drives one of the hottest cars in town.

Then Donna got married. It’s tough to pinpoint exactly when and where things changed, but at the time we decided to drive to Western Pennsylvania for a visit with our parents, she was behind the wheel of a Volkswagen Beetle. A car with seats that felt as if they were made of cast iron; a car that chortled, choked, spit and sputtered before it finally came to life.  The coolest chick in town was now driving a rattletrap on the verge of death.  Instead of chrome edged skirts and a rocket-blast muffler, this car came with two kids in the back seat. But then who was I to complain, I was a city girl and didn’t even own a car. (No one in Manhattan owned a car, not because you couldn’t afford the car, but because you couldn’t afford the parking.) Anyway, I jump in and off we go…me, Donna, an assortment of tote bags, Little Charlie, her 4 year old son and Debbie who was two at the time.

“I thought maybe you’d leave the kids with Charlie,” I said, referring to Donna’s husband.

“Are you kidding?” she answered, “What makes you think he’d watch them?”

It was a rhetorical question, because I already knew the answer…Charlie was an egotistical idiot who had a nose the size of a state, but saw himself as a heartthrob. On weekends he was the guitarist in a group who played gigs in third rate clubs with low end budgets. I’ve learned, and unfortunately so did Donna, that a few brain-dead groupies actually did see ‘Durante-Nose' as a star. In addition to the nose and ego which were comparable in size, Charlie was also crabby and short tempered with the kids…but enough about him, let’s get back to the trip.

We ‘d traveled about 40 miles down the New Jersey Turnpike when it happened for the first time. Thump, thump, thump. “Oh crap,” Donna said, “I’ve got a flat tire.” We pulled to the side of the road to check and sure enough, it was a flat tire. A long-time car fanatic, Donna could not only change her own tire, she could change her oil and tell you the precise cause of a noise only she heard. Me, forget it. I can change my nail polish and that’s about the extent of it. Had it been a summer day, she likely would have changed that tire herself…but it was November…the coldest November on record. It was well after nine o’clock at night, pitch dark, and the wind was blowing with a vengeance. The Volkswagen, in addition to its other faults had a heater that at maximum power breezed out whiffs of lukewarm air, which is why we’d bundled ourselves in layers of sweaters, fat puffy parkas, hats and boots.

Now it is a well-known fact that truck drivers never stop to help a guy change a tire…however a gal, well that’s another story. But given the dark, and our Pillsbury Dough Boy parkas, anyone driving by would have a hard time distinguishing whether we were male or female. “I’m gonna have to change it myself,” Donna said.

Being a city gal, I may not have known how to change a tire, but I certainly knew how to get a tire changed. “Take off your coat,” I told Donna as I peeled my mine off. “And kids, you duck down on the floor.” Okay, now you’ve got the picture…here we are, tight jeans broadcasting the fact that we’re girls, hair blowing in the wind, no kids in sight, just two chicks looking helplessly at the flat tire. Bingo! Ten seconds later, an eighteen wheeler pulled up in back of us and changed the tire. Within five minutes we were on our way again.

We made it to Pennsylvania without another mishap and had the tire repaired before starting home. However…and this is a big however, Donna’s tires were as beat-up, banged-up and patched together as the Volkswagen. So on the way home, you guessed it…we got another flat. “Off with the coats,” I said and we went through the same drill. Seven seconds this time. Truckers, God Bless ‘em, they’ll always stop fora  gal in trouble. Minutes later we’re on the road again.

We get close to Union, which is where Donna lived and she suggests we stop and pick-up Charlie, who got crankier than usual when he thought Donna was off having fun. So we stop. Charlie, macho man that he was, took the wheel. Donna sat in the front and since we were only about twenty minutes from my drop off, I squeezed in back with the kids. We’re crossing the Pulaski Skyway when it happened for the third time…thump, thump, thump…

“What the hell….” Charlie says.

“It’s a flat tire,” Donna answers.

“You got a spare?”

She nods, “Thing is, we had a flat earlier, and I haven’t had time to get it fixed.”

“Are you telling me the spare is flat?”

When she simply nods, he lets go with a string of obscenities that ends in the question “What the $##%$#*&#$ am I supposed to do now?”

I say nothing. Donna says nothing. Little Charlie chirps, “I know how to fix it Daddy.”

Big Charlie of course ignores him.

“Daddy, I know how to fix it,” Little Charlie says repeatedly.

“Shut up!” his father snaps.

After several minutes of the boy insisting he knew how to fix the tire, Charlie grumbles, “Okay, how do I fix it?”

“JUST TAKE OFF YOUR COAT AND STAND OUTSIDE!”

Charlie Senior doesn't dignify this suggestion with an answer, he simply shakes his head, a disgusted look pulling at both sides of his mouth. “This kid is as stupid as the day is long….” he finally grumbles.

Donna and I say nothing, but inside we’ve got a whopping belly laugh going on!

The Green Side of the Mountain – Part 2

The Green Side of the Mountain – Part 2

Without roads, the coal had to be loaded onto barges and shipped down river

Many years have passed since I spent summer vacations in Coal Fork, West Virginia…and during those years a number of things happened.  Rita, the third sister, discovered she was unable to have children and adopted a little girl; a few years later Breast Cancer took her life and the child was sent to live with Ruth and Clifford.

The boys grew up and went off to college; two ultimately became teachers and the third a Pastor. Ruth, a woman who could see beauty in everything, lost her eyesight completely. Although her world was one of total darkness, she never stopped thanking Jesus for her many blessings.

When the work at the coal mines finally gave out, Uncle Clifford uprooted the remainder of the family and moved to Michigan where the three boys had settled and where he’d been able to find another job. Although Ruth couldn’t tell day from night, she continued to cook the family meals, bake pies and take care of eight grandbabies while her sons and daughters were at work.

My Mama told me homemade pies were simply a frozen Mrs. Smith’s Pie, popped into the oven and served warm. She also said to be sure the empty box is buried at the bottom of the trash bag…but that wasn’t how Ruth made hers. She used real flour and creamy butter.  She didn’t have to see the texture of the dough to know when it was perfect, she felt it. She could tell by smell which apples were sweet enough for the pie. Although her eyes were blind, her heart could see everything it held dear and when a lesser person might have given up, her Faith made her strong.

Years passed with Geri and Ruth’s families each going their own way. There was no longer a reason for us to go back to Coal Fork and Michigan wasn’t the place my Mama called home, so the sisters sent Christmas cards, called one another on their birthday and on two occasions Ruth’s family brought her to see Geri – first to New Jersey and then to Maryland…but the cousins who had been so close drifted apart. I remember the day my Mother received word that Ruth had passed away, she went into the bedroom, pulled the shade down and cried like a baby.  Although I’d not seen my cousins since childhood, I had the odd sensation that a chunk of my world had suddenly snapped off and floated into oblivion. Even then, I made no move to reach out and take back what was mine.

We toured the black tunnels of a coal mine, then stepped out into the sun for one last picture.

About four or five years ago I tracked down Rita Lou, the cousin named after the third sister. She’d moved to North Carolina as had one of her brothers. Rita Lou now had two married sons and grandbabies of her own! We spoke several times on the phone and then last summer when we were planning our annual trek to New Jersey, I called Rita Lou and asked if we could come by…just like her Mom she welcomed us with open arms. In fact, she arranged a reunion with all the cousins. Our caravan of cousins traveled to West Virginia, tracked through the places we’d known as children, visited with a few distant relations still living in the area, and then ventured off to tour one of the few still working coal mines. Seeing the cramped spaces those men worked in and feeling the damp chill of that dark underground hole brought back powerful memories of Clifford flashing a white toothed smile from a blackened face.

I learned a lot from Ruth and Clifford…but unfortunately I didn’t realize the value of what they taught me until it was too late to tell them. I used to believe they were poor, but now I realize it’s the rest of us who are poor. That family had everything they wanted in life, while most of us are still reaching for another gold ring.

Rest easy Ruth and Clifford, because your work on earth is done, and done well. And Aunt Ruth…when you see Geri, give her a hug from me and tell her I miss her more than words could every say.

There are a lot more stories to tell, but right now words seem meaningless…so I suppose I’ll just get to the point of this story. Tell the people you love just how much you love them…because like the old Coal Fork homestead, one day they may simply disappear and you'll be left with little more than memories…so make them sweet.

The Green Side of the Mountain – Part 2

On the Green Side of the Mountain – Part 1

West Virginia…where rivers wind their way through green mountains beneath a misty sky

We live in a world where plenty is the norm, where kids wear designer sneakers and carry the latest technology in their back pocket. We become agitated when our computer takes more than 29 seconds to boot. We text our friends, download a new movie and send out for sushi…but how often do we stop to consider how truly fortunate we are to have all this at our fingertips?

Oh, we read about brave and noble characters who have overcome life's toughest challenges, and we're touched by those stories. We even pass the book along to a friend, unless of course it's on our Kindle. For those of you who have read Jeanette Walls The Glass Castle you might think being poor means fly-by-night, irresponsible, down-on-my-luck circumstances that entitle a person or an entire family to behave badly…but I know better.

Two summers ago, my husband and I had a reunion with my cousins who I hadn’t seen for more years than I care tocount. Of course, we’d all changed…everyone was now married; all were parents, some grandparents. The men I knew as boys now had thinning hair and expanding waistlines, the girls who could at one time jump across the creek now had bad knees and carried pictures of grandbabies…but one thing had not changed…the entire family’s love for one another and for Our Heavenly Father.

We met in North Carolina and in a caravan of cousins we traveled back to West Virginia…along a stretch of road called Camel’s Creek, and then onto an old dirt road that runs through the hollow of two mountains until it reaches the scattering of houses that make up the tiny town of Coal Fork. We found the spot of their old homestead, but the house was long gone. Lost perhaps to time, intruders possibly, or coal mine speculators looking to make way for railroad tracks. It never was much of a house anyway – tiny according to today’s standards – but it was more of a home than any house I’ve ever seen.

My Mother, Geri, was born in Coal Fork, as was Ruth, her sister. They were two in a family of eleven siblings. Times were hard and the family didn’t have the luxury of living under one roof; once the girls were old enough, they were sent to live with relatives who needed house help, the boys became farm hands for neighbors. Despite what many might consider unbearable circumstances, the three girls – Ruth, Rita and Geri – remained close. Geri married a college boy from Charleston and moved to the city. Ruth married a young man she met at church and remained in Coal Fork. Rita…well, this story is about Ruth, so I’ll come back to Rita later.

Ruth and her new husband received one wedding gift – a wooden rolling pin. So with their meager possessions they moved into a tiny four room house that was wedged into the side of the coal mining mountain. Ruth carried her Bible in one hand and the rolling pin in the other. Did they own the house? No. Did they rent the house? No. In the little community of Coal Fork, there was no owning or renting; if a house stood empty and you had need of it…you were free to move in. Of course the house was little more than walls and a floor, there was no plumbing, no electricity, just a cast iron coal stove to be used for both cooking and heat.  But it was a house and it was free. It had a stretch of land suitable for some farming and a well that had a plentiful supply of cold clear water – water far better than anything you’ve ever tasted.

Ruth and Clifford raised their family in that little house. Within the first five years they had three boys and a few years later a little girl. Clifford worked in the coal mine. He and Ruth rose long before dawn, she poured a scuttle of coal into the stove and cooked breakfast as he pulled on the overalls he wore for work. At times his lunch bucket held little more than a piece of bread and jar of coffee, still the family never turned away a person in need of food. What they had, they shared. Clifford claimed he was one of the lucky ones, because when the mine laid men off, he kept his job. A job where he spent ten hours a day chiseling coal from the tunnel that curled into the belly of the mountain…his back hunched so his shoulders were level with his knees. When Clifford came trudging home at night, he was covered with the black of coal dust, the only skin to be seen was pale circles around his eyes where he’d worn miner’s goggles.

You’d think such a life of hardship would cause a family to be bitter, and if this were one of my novels it probably would go that way. But this story is real. It’s not a group of characters I’ve created in my mind, these are living breathing people whose love of one another and Faith in Jesus Christ influences me still today.

I look back on Coal Fork, with its dusty dirt road, dry creek bed and one-room general store and find some of my fondest childhood memories. I remember my Daddy cussing as his big car bounced in and out of ruts along the road. I remember having biscuits and gravy for breakfast, real honey thick with pieces of honeycomb, carrying a salt shaker with me and eating tomatoes fresh off the vine. I remember hunting dogs that curled against your leg like a lap dog and cousins who were forever playing pranks on one another. I remember Uncle Clifford’s wry sense of humor and Aunt Ruth’s patience as she turned a deaf ear to my Daddy cussing. I remember that before every meal the family thanked God for all they had, and if I was still awake when Ruth climbed into her bed, I could hear her whispered prayers asking for God’s forgiveness of my Daddy. I remember all of this because for many years we spent summer vacations in Coal Fork.

But of course, remembering these things can sometimes be the most wonderful part of this story…on Friday you’ll learn what happened to Ruth and Rita, the third sister.  You’ll also get to meet my cousins as they are today.

Sugar Goes to School

Sugar Goes to School

Sugar loves Janet her trainer and she loves the training treats.

Sugar loves Janet her trainer and she loves the training treats.

As everyone knows, I am a sucker for sugar, both the sweet stuff and the fluffly white tornado that is now a part of our family. We got Sugar when she was just 8 weeks old and she has been working on training us ever since.  So far, we haven't taught her anything but she has taught us that she is in control of the situation.

Sugar has become emotionally attached to one of my slippers – just the right one, not the left.  That puzzles me because I didn't think dogs knew their right from left. I can only imagine my right foot gives off some kind of wonderful musky odor. I've checked this on Google, but there are no case studies indicating a single foot attraction.

She's also eaten the welting off of the corner of the sofa in my office, plus a countless number of sticks, twigs and branches from the yard.  Three days ago she came upon a Palm branch that had fallen from a tree and for a while I thought she was also going to tackle that.  This dog seems to have lost sight of the fact that she is only 6 pounds!

Anyone interested in a game of ball. I'll take it and run, you try to catch me - OK?

Anyone interested in a game of ball. I'll take it and run, you try to catch me – OK?

Last week, we finally faced the hard truth… Sugar has to go to training class.

We registered her in the Pet Smart Puppy Training Class with high hopes for results. Here's what happened…

Sugar wagged her tail a lot. She made friends with a black and white puppy named Oreo. She wrapped the trainer around her little paw. She got a lot of training treats for a very little bit of performance. And, she pooped on the floor which sent her Daddy scurrying off for the clean-up bags and wipes.

Aaaarrrgh.

This first week was Sugar's introduction to socialization and listening. She did quite well on the socializiation, I have my doubts about the listening.  I hope this is not a harbinger of what is to come. Stay tuned…

It’s a Dog’s Life by Katie

It’s a Dog’s Life by Katie

This is me when I lived with my first people and my name was Princess

It's a Dog's Life by Katie – #fanfun

A lot of bad things can happen in a dog's life…I know, 'cause some of those things happened to me.  I guess I have always been what people call dog, because the first I remember of life is being in a box with three brothers and Dog Mom. Dog Mom let us suck on her spouts so we got warm milk. That was good, but it didn't last long.

Just when I got used to all that nice warm milk, two big people scooped me out of the box and started tickling my belly. That was okay, but then the man person jiggled me too hard and Dog Mom's warm milk came back out of my mouth. I figured they'd quick put me back in the box where I belonged, but they didn't.

I never got to see Mom Dog or any of my brothers again. The peoples took me to live with them. They said my name was Princess and put me in a cage with bars that I couldn't squeeze through. The people said that was my spot. It wasn't warm like my box. It was cold and lonely. There was no Dog Mom, no brothers. I cried and the more I remembered Dog Mom, the louder I cried.  People don't like when dog cries.

No more Dog Mom. No more warm milk. Just cage.  Pee inside cage was bad. Pee outside cage was bad. Peoples said dog supposed to pee in grass. If I understood grass, I would pee in it just to make people happy. I know soft fuzzy thing in room where peoples sit is not grass, because when I pee on fuzzy thing they make mad faces and I go back in cage. Peoples is hard for dog to understand. I want to be back in box with warm milk. Finally peoples take me to where sun is warm like Mom Dog and ground smells like brothers, I like smell of brothers so I pee. I think peoples are going to put me back in cage but they say “Good Girl,” and pat my head. I think this smell like brothers thing must be grass, so I poop too. The peoples are happy.

I not so happy. Even when I pee in grass, peoples go away and leave me in cage. When they come home, I bark to show how happy I am, but peoples act strange when I bark. “Shut that dog up!” the lady people shouts, so I bark more because I think she doesn't understand I am happy to see her. She yells louder and so I figure loud yell is people way of showing  glad to see me too. I am wrong about that. I am really missing Mom Dog, brothers and warm milk.

On day man people scoops me up and carts me off to place with many dogs in cages. He gives me to nice woman with hair like retriever and tells her, they're moving and can't take dog. At first I don't understand moving, but nice lady pets me and give me cookie so I figure not too bad. Man people never comes back. I am put in cage with pug who bares his teeth when I try to make friends. I quick learn this place not as good as peoples place. I really missing Mom Dog, brothers and warm milk.

Bad things happen in place with many dogs in cages. The nice lady says I am all full of tangles and fleas and ticks, I know the flea part is true because they bite my skin, so she cuts off almost all my hair and I look awful. The bad-tempered pug hogs the food, and I get so skinny my bones are almost poking through my shaved bare skin. Then, the awfulest thing ever happens, they take me into a cold room with bright lights and stick me with a needle. I fell asleep after that so I don't exactly what happened, but when I wake up I know I can't ever  have puppies and my stomach really  hurts.

Dogs do not keep good count of days, so I'm not knowing how many pass before more peoples come and take me from

This is me after I got rescued and named Katie

cage. Uh-oh, I start to worry this might be bad. I am so scared, I tremble and am much afraid will pee on lady who holds me. “Poor baby,” she says and holds me close to her. She is soft and warm, I feel her heartbeat and think for a moment I am back in my  box beside Dog Mom. “She's so sweet,” lady says to man person, “let's adopt her.” The man nods and starts scratching my ears. That feels good too.

The man calls new lady Bette. She calls him Dick. Sometimes I hear her call him other things too, but his name is Dick. The woman person Bette is still holding me close to her when the Dick man gives the lady with many dogs in cages some green paper. Then the Bette and Dick people leave and take me with them.  Already I am worried.

We are only in the car for a little while and Dick laughs and says, “I can't deal with a dog named Princess.” Now I'm more worried.

“So, we'll change her name,” Bette says and when I look I see she's got a Pupperoni in her hand. She breaks off a piece and gives it to me, suddenly I'm not so worried. People with a Pupperoni in their pocket can be trusted. She starts talking about one name and another but I don't know who she's talking about. She hands me another piece of Pupperoni and I am feeling good, good, good. “Katie!” she says, “Let's call the dog Katie!”

“Katie Lee Crosby,” Dick says, “Yeah that works.”

This is me relaxing by the pool

The Bette is scratching my ear and feeding me Pupperoni, but she's calling me Katie. I'm not knowing who this Katie dog is, but somehow they are thinking I am her. Even if I could talk, which as everyone knows dogs can't do, I'm not going to tell these people that I'm Princess. Whoever this Katie is, she's got it good, so if they think I'm her, fine with me.  I catch onto this quick so when we get to the new people house and she calls Katie, I come running!

These things happened a long time ago. Bette tells people I am special because I'm a rescue. I'm not sure what that means, but I can tell you this, my life is good now. I sleep in the people bed, I never get put in prison cage, I get lots of treats and when I look at her and lick my lips like I am really, really hungry, she gives me pieces of chicken and cookies.  Dick says I am spoiled, but then he reaches under the table and gives me pieces of his chicken too. We go for long walks and sometimes I even have play dates with Winston and Scooter, they're dogs like me. I can't run fast as I used to, because I got chubby from eating lots of treats, but I don't care. This is one good dog life….except sometimes I wonder what happened to Mom Dog and brothers. I sure do hope they got rescued by good people like me.

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