Archive by Author | mary

54 Things

1517264052506-1522098042At my age you might have thought birthdays wouldn’t be very important.  Not so.  I love my birthday week.  Yup – a whole week.

People ask you what you want for your birthday the way they ask how you are.  You are supposed to say fine – not tell them how you really are.  For the birthday question, I’m not sure what you’re supposed to say.  People say “nothing or not much or I have everything I want.”

I am not one of those people.

So in case you were considering asking – and even if you weren’t – I made a list of 54 things I would like for my 54th birthday.

A new president,  A new government, a whole-house humidifier, easy open packages that are easy to open, and tea with my old aunt JC.

A magic spell allowing dogs to live forever, a California abalone pearl, a wheelbarrow in a free bookstore, and enough food for everybody. All the time.

Lunch with my high school biology teacher, Mr. Perpich.  Mr. Perpich rocks.

For my border collie Mark and I to get out of novice class have fun this sheepdog trial season.

A home for every dog, lilacs that bloom longer than a week, a published novel, grandchildren (not to be delivered before march), and an MP3 player with songs already loaded – from my head.

One of those dinner where you can invite 12 people living or dead.

The concert version of one of those dinners were you can invite 12 people living or dead.  Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Waylon Jenning, John Denver, Prince, Cat Stevens, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jim Morrison, James Taylor, Wendy Waldman, Bonnie Raitt, Van Morrison, Jimmy Buffett,….Ok.  I know I’m over and I could keep going.  What does it say about me that most of them are gone?

Northern lights.

A second published novel, Leonard Peltiers freedom, 4 healthy 2018 lambs (girls please), and a garden that weeds itself.

Someone who can clean my house without actually having to come to my house.

World peace and a brown sugar cupcake with salted caramel butter cream frosting from Grace and Shelleys.

Elimination of the phrase “reach out”. I think this is actually possible given the “me too” movement.


A pony for every kid, the cure for cancer, time travel back to May of 2006, and a week of flat water for paddleboarding.

A mirror or glasses that shows you what a person really looks like.  On the inside.

For every single person to have a chance to stand at the edge of the ocean.

A visit with Alicia (bestie from Ohio), a tri colored border collie named Charlotte, the solution to global warming, and front row seats to James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt.

A flash mob singing Joy to the World.  The bullfrog one.

More time travel – Santa Cruz California the summer I was 17.

Coffee with Eddy (Spanish brother) and his wife Carla, a dog for every home, and free ice cream on Sundays.  Served by Willy Nelson.

A train trip with my mom.

The chance to snorkel with humpback whales and hike the Dingle Way in Ireland.

A roof over everybody’s head.  And let’s build that wall.  Around the redwoods.  And Glacier National Park.

A road trip without a destination.

Another trip around the sun.

Feeding People


Anyone who knows me knows I like to feed people.

Except for Rollo who thinks I sometimes take food to friend’s homes in case I get hungry while I’m there. Valid point.

It’s more than that though.  I like feeding friends, but I also want to feed people I don’t know.

I could donate to food shelf or something similar but I want to do it myself.  I want to make the food and I want to SERVE it to somebody.

Sing it to me Bobby D!

I don’t think service is always about food and I think Bob agrees with me.  Maybe your presence is service.  Trust is service.  If you can’t cook maybe listening, forgiveness or compassion would work.  Gratitude. Simple kindness.

I like food so I mostly stick with that – hoping I’ll get to join in for a bite?

I tried a project a few years back. I wanted to surprise random people – strangers – with food…but it gets weird. People get embarrassed – or afraid or something and sometimes those people is me. Maybe I overthought it.

How would I know who needs or wants to be fed or helped?

Can’t decide by appearance.   If so, I would be the one getting handed a warm blanket, a pair of socks (wool please) and a cup of soup! I might look a tad homeless at times.  What with my uncombed hair, dirty clothes, and that one pair of crocs.  They are two different colors.  I lost leftie kayaking in the river and then rightie kayaking in the ocean. The survivors were perfectly good shoes.  Why not wear them? Seriously. People stop me to point out I have two different shoes on.  Thanks folks.

Anyhoo.  Back to the issue.  How do you know who needs something?  They probably aren’t going to tell you.

The other problem is what if you make a mistake?  True stories here.

Rollo and I stopped for some guys that were out of gas on a freeway ramp.  We drove them to the station and filled up their gas can for them.  We felt like pretty good citizens. We decided to have lunch at that same exit stop.  45 minutes later guess who we passed “out of gas” again a few miles down the freeway?

My mom gave a lady standing on the side of the road some cash.  Tried to chat her up and asked how she had gotten herself in such a spot.  Said lady replied she just bought a brand new car and wanted help with the payments.

What if someone uses cash you give them for drugs?  or smokes? or ? What if they refuse your food? How do you know?

I dunno. You don’t. I decided to just go for it. Take a chance.

A few Christmases ago I baked up some cookies and put them in cute little Santa bags.  My sister and I took them to the Mall of America intending to give them to total strangers…

…who thought we were trying to poison them.  I guess.  Some ran away like we were trying to get them to join our cult and drink the magic Kool-Aid.  Some took the cookies Minnesota-nice-polite-like and hurried off (probably to the nearest trash can) looking over their shoulder at us.

I haven’t tried serving anybody again until last week.  I struck up a conversation with a young mom ahead of me in line at an Asian food place.  The typical.  “Have you been here? No, you? No.  Hope you enjoy.  Have a nice day. ”

I got up to the cashier and young mom had bought my lunch.  I did glance down to see if my shoes matched. And then I was SO grateful. The cashier, however, was somewhat confused.

The sesame chicken was way overdone and dry and you could have chipped a tooth on the wontons, but it was the best lunch I’ve eaten in a long time.  I’d been served.  I caught her eye and waved.  Her smile was bigger than mine.  Could it feel so good to give that I’d served her too?

After crunching my way through the wontons, my lunch partner spotted a young man she knew in the same food line.  She went over to talk to him. My chance to test the theory.   I snuck up to the register. “Pssst I want to pay it forward” The cashier was now totally mystified but I didn’t have time to explain the whole book/movie thing.

I paid and made a get away – around the corner a bit so we could watch.  Hungry lunch guy spun around looking for whoever paid for his pork fried rice and egg rolls and wontons (careful kid) and kung pao chicken and hot and sour soup.  The look on his face was amazing.  Better than having my own lunch paid for. Service squared?

C’mon people.

I don’t have a message. I have no Kool-Aid.  I don’t want to hug you. I just want to hand you a homemade cookie or a ham and cheese sandwich or buy you a cup of coffee.  Or so really crispy wontons.

Take them. Take a chance. Serve somebody.








Not Pictured…

…me sitting on my butt in a feed tub with a string of green lights around my neck.

Has everyone see the cool Extreme Shepherding video? If not, here ya go.


The Welsh shepherds had a general, an electrician, LED master, LOTs of good dogs, skads of sheep and, apparently, cases of batteries. Maybe a bartender too.

They call themselves the BAA-STUDS.  I think the BAA-STUDS should have included a “don’t try this at home” disclaimer.  But they didn’t.  So of course I did.  Try it at home.

I wasn’t expecting anything near as spectacular as what they did.  I only had one dog (Mark), four sheep, three packs of batteries, and a santa suit. No bar or bartender.  Not even a drop of eggnog was used in the filming.  Just hoping for a funny picture or two.

Things were off to a Baaaa-d start when I tried to install batteries in the LED light strings.  I didn’t have a tiny screwdriver so I used the tip of a tiny pair of scissors.  Really sharp scissors.

I put on a band aid and went to the barn to figure out how to attach lights to sheep.  Mytle was wearing a coat already so I tacked the lights on with needle and thread.  I can’t sew but thought it would hold up for a short photo shoot.  I wrapped elastic bandage around Diane’s neck, up between her front legs and around her body and wove lights under that.  Sort of a lite up Zombie, ghost of Christmas past look – but again it only needed to last a bit. Here she is.


Two more to go.

I had little bits of Velcro on some on the strands of lights so I thought I could drape it around the sheep and attach it back to itself.  The next sheep isn’t exactly shepherd friendly so I draped the lights around my neck and used a leg crook to catch her.

Said crook “latches” on the leg so the sheep can’t pull out of it.  Handy.  Unless you let go of the crook.  Then you have freaked out sheep bouncing off the walls with a crook on her leg. I got ahold of her but she didn’t stop.  She beat me in the shins with the attached crook and jumped and bucked and tried to wipe me off on the walls.   I “flew through the air with the greatest of ease” saying un-Christmas-like words.  I’m pretty sure I made the full eight seconds before I landed on my butt in a feed tub still wearing the green lights.  (NOT PICTURED)

I still didn’t let her go.  After we caught our breath, I wrapped the lights around her neck.  She got up.  I didn’t.

For quite awhile.  And when I did, it wasn’t pretty.  I leaned on a hay bale for a long time but I now had three light-decorated sheep blinking away.  Only Norman was left and he was starting to un-decorate Diane – so I forged ahead,  But first I took a picture of the offender.

Here she is.


I tried to bend over to wrap Norman’s Velcro lights around him and found out bending was a baa-d idea.  So I sort of dropped-threw the lights at him and they stuck!

Finished product.  Four decorated sheep happily munched hay while I limped inside for my Santa cape, Mark, 800 mg of Ibuprofen and the camera. When I got back Diane the Christmas zombie was almost completely unwrapped and thought her lights were chasing her.  Rollo had also arrived and helped rescue her.   I thought he might be the voice of reason when I suggested we (ok he) take the lights off all of them and we forget the whole photo deal.  He only offered to take the pictures.

It didn’t go well.  I can’t imagine why.  I don’t know if the sheep were more scared of me in a red cape, their own lights bouncing on their backs or a border collie wearing a light-up collar chasing them.  In the dark.  We got minimal blurry footage that will NOT BE PICTURED here.  Myrtle finally took off running.  Into the fence.  This can clearly be heard on the video right before more un-Christmas like language and then silence while we waited to see if she would get up.  She did.  Her lights remained on the fence.

This is the last picture – traumatized sheep inside- me in my cape, hyped up green-collared Mark and good old Norman the red-fleeced “reindeer” saying good night and Merry Christmas.  Remember don’t try this at home.


Cupcakes, songs, and agility sheep

I feel a little tense?  Does anyone else feel it? It’s sort of normal for Rollo and I to get tired and stressed at this time of the year as the paving season comes to an end.  We call it November. Borrowing from Merle Haggard’s “If we make it through December”

If we make it through November, everything’s going to be alright I know.

It’s the longest month of paving and I shiver when I see those dump trucks roll.

and roll. and roll and roll.

But this year seems worse.  I can’t think of a reason why….Can you?   Hmmm.  curious.

Anyway.  I think we need cupcakes.  All of us. Obviously I can’t get them to ALL of you, but I’m going to start with a few people.  Like throwing that ONE starfish back in the sea.  Start where you’re at – do what you can.  Here is your virtual brown sugar cupcake.  Buttercream frosting glazed with Rebel Queen honey and sprinked with sea salt.  Feel better?


I thought we needed music too.  “What The World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love” was a possible choice.  Think we might need more than love though.

How about the New Seekers? I can’t teach anybody to sing, but I love their outfits.  Click to hear them.  Plus they mention honey bees, so why not.


I’d like to see the world for once
All standing hand in hand
And hear them echo through the hills
For peace throughout the land

And a laugh.  I said recently I would never have goats – because they are “naughty”.  They get out of fences and stuff.  But this happened her this morning. Looks like they were practicing all night, but I don’t think they are going to make it as agility sheep.


One. More. Week.

Tired of politics?  Me too.  I tried posting a photo a day on Facebook to blot all the campaign stuff out – cats and dogs and flowers and stuff.   It didn’t really work.  I can’t unsee some of this stuff.

This is the nastiest election ever, we hear.  But, is it really that different from past elections?  Some of the horrible things the candidates are doing and saying…well, they HAVE happened before.

I have no T.V. but every time I turn on the radio someone is YELLING. Wasn’t there a candidate that once “lost the presidency” for screaming?  There was.  I looked it up. There’s a T.V. show called “How to Lose the Presidency?” Maybe I need a T.V. after all.  I watched some episodes on

Here’s that losing scream.


Then there’s Al Gore kissing HIS OWN WIFE. One can only assume she was consenting.


Can you believe there was once an actual sitting president that was a hater?


Nothing else to say.  Godspeed to all of you as we journey through the next week.

Happy Halloween – WARNING: content may be offensive to some viewers

I like to dress the dogs up for Halloween.  I know they probably don’t like it.  Frank probably doesnt’ mind much – he will do pretty much anything – except come when you call him.  Oh, and no nail trims please.  I do lots of stuff for them and I don’t like some of it all that much either.  Mostly yelling COME HERE, scooping poop, and fishing disgusting things out of Frank’s mouth.  So they owe me, right?

Here is the Halloween picture from years back.


Zack, Nimble and Angus probably didn’t like dressing up either, but they all survived a bit longer.  Just until they were 16 or 17 years old.  They only had to endure for a minute while I took the picture….and the hour it took to get them dressed and posed.  All for my entertainment. PETA didn’t catch me that time.

This year with a new generation of dogs, I thought it would go just as well.  Not so much.  Either I am not the dog trainer or not the photographer I used to be.  Or Frank and Mark aren’t as patient as the eye rolling angel, the bitchy witch and the devil were.

We call Frank (among many other names) Lion Heart so it was easy to decided he would be a lion.  Mark would be a sheep.  Wolf in sheep’s clothes.  Lion lays down with the lamb.  All good, right?

I could have ordered both costumes online, but I didn’t want to spend 50 bucks for a photo op.  So instead I went to the craft store with a handful of coupons and got some faux fur.  I can’t sew a button on but why let that stop me?

It only took 3-4 hours of cutting and sticky Velcro.  The “lamb wool” shed so much it looked like it snowed in the kitchen.  (Thank god the honey project was downstairs.) Each dog had to try their costume on a few times during costruction for fitting.  Mark was skeptical, but Frank actually climbed in his dog bed in his partially compete lion suit and tried to nap.



Friday afternoon was warm and sunny.  Perfect for their Halloween photo shoot.

Wolf in sheep’s clothes didn’t like his costume.  Or was so embarrassed he wouldn’t look at the camera.


Apparently Frank DID like the costume – quite a bit.


What?  You said lay down with the sheep right?


No one seems to be having fun – but they all humored me.  And it was just for a minute.

Thanks boys. Happy Halloween – your my treat every day!



593 or 296


Facebook annoys me by reminding me how many days since I last posted on my author page.

A lot ok?

It’s partially because I started bypassing the author page and posting my blog posts direct to my personal Facebook page.  It’s partly that I hate to even have both personal and author pages and a blog.  But now I do.  And there are blog subscribers that aren’t on Facebook and pictures and stories that are on one Facebook page and not the other and it’s just a big mess that I don’t want to have to bother to fix.

I also don’t like to be told what to do.  So stop shaming me, Facebook.

593 days, ok! Don’t judge. 296 for the blog.  So that’s more realistic.  But I HATE the word blog.  What else to call it…the writin’ place?  Place of musings?  I sort of like that.

Where to start after taking that long off? With a boring explanation?  See top of page- got that covered. With the 68 drafts I have stored here at the Place of Musings? Some of them are almost finished but aren’t  good and some are incoherent ramblings I’m not sure I even wrote.

How about where I left off – which was in the midst of a travelogue on last winters road trip(s).  I doubt anyone cared that much then and less now.  But I have to get it down. To sum up and promise to write regularly now (fingers crossed behind back) I’m going to go to Jimmy Buffett.  I like his writing.  In the beginning of his book “A Pirate Looks at 50”, he sums up his life using a format from Catholic school where the students had to report what they did over summer in 400 words or less.

I grew up Catholic too.  Please forgive me …it has been 593 or 296 days… oh no that’s confession something else.

I’m no where near the writer Jimmy is so it might take me less or way more than 400 words to sum up what’s happened since Jan 4th 2016 -When I was RV camping in the rain on the coast of California and bravely declaring IM STAYING.  Here goes…The last 296 days in 400 words or less.

Changed our minds.  Not staying. Left the next morning. Mud slide closes Hwy one on way to LA.  Go around. Park RV in storage.   Fly LAX to MSP.   My beloved station wagon in Florida gets totaled–hitting both a Mercedes and Bentley. Go big or go home girls!  Bring different car to Florida/visit.  Back to MN.  Rollo buys cars and trucks to replenish his collection-too many to remember 1975 Jeep, 1979 Scout (oh wait I bought that one)  We taste some Minnesota winter. Get small breed  puppy I said I’d never have cause I don’t like little dogs.  Fly back to LA with puppy under first class seat.  Pick up RV and come home via my beloved California Coast and across Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and South Dakota. Camp in some of the most beautiful boondock sites on the planet.  Rollo diagnosed with rotator cuff/biceps injury.  Put off surgery till 2016 paving season ends. Get new bees. Paving season starts. Obsess over bigger dog. Consider trying different breed.  Disregard.  Obsess about border collies.  Get second dog-border collie of course. Fall in love with little dog.  I take herding lessons.  Rollo works really hard. Vacation in Montana and Idaho. Fence pasture.  Get sheep. Harvest honey…. whew.

That’s 199 words.  But I’m caught up.  For now.


Fate of the Rebel Queen


The reign of the rebel queen has ended.  Too short, but sweet.

We started beekeeping last summer.  Without much success in that our single hive died out over the winter. What was successful was a pretty nice honey harvest.  We had some help from a “bee guy” who brought a shiny stainless steel separator and spun the honey out of the comb in about 10 minutes.  It went into a really nice clean bucket with a filtered spigot. Easy breezy $450 plus shipping. I don’t know if that includes the bucket.

This spring we decided to try again. We attended the University of Minnesota Bee Lab.  This was the first classroom Rollo has been in since 1983.  He sat in the front row this time. He even asked a question.

“Being this is a honey beekeeping conference, why is there no honey out on the coffee/snack bar?”

The man has priorities.

We learned a lot. We learned how to hive a new package.  That’s what they call moving about 4000 angry bees from a screen box  into the hive.  We learned how to release their queen – she travels in a separate “first class” small screen cage.    We heard about feeding, and box rotation, mites, and wintering in 3 deep hives.  This system allows for more honey left over winter to feed the bees = We learned our bees probably died of starvation while we feasted on honey.

We decided to try it.  We picked up two packages in Hackensack Mn.  8000 angry bees rode home in the bathroom of the RV.

Once home,  we prepared to hive the packages. Spritzing them with a sugar water solution is supposed to appease them. This makes sense to me being quite appeased by sugar myself.  Rollo spritzed, shook and dumped his 4000 bees into the first hive.  About 1000 were flying around when he oh-so-carefully lowered the virgin queen’s cage deep into the hive.  She is supposed to STEP out with dignity and elegance to greet her subjects, then spend a few days decorating the new digs before making her mating flight. Rollo very carefully pulled back the screen door of her cage, having been warned it could snap back and behead her. We waited a split second….and she  shot out of the little cage and flew straight up out of the hive. And away, we guessed.  Our mouths hung open for a minute – oops forgot the sugar water part.

My turn.  I DRENCHED my queen and floated her out into her subjects.  Not graceful and dignified, but she sure didn’t fly away and thankfully she didn’t drown either.

Not knowing what else to do, we closed both hives and went to have some whiskey and talk about getting a new queen.

We were advised to wait a few days.  She might make it back to the hive, but probably not.  She might be found on the ground nearby with a cluster of bees surrounding her, but probably not.  Watch for eggs in the hive for a few days just to be sure she’s gone, we were told,  then order a new queen.

Within a week, eggs appeared in the Hive of the Rebel Queen, as we had christened it.   More eggs than in MY hive….of the soggy queen.  In fact, the Rebel outperformed the other lady all summer. She was first to need a second brood box, and a third.  Her’s was the only hive to need the queen separator and the honey boxes.  She achieved all of this  with benign neglect on our part as summer got busier.  We checked semi-regularly to be sure there was enough nectar and pollen and eggs and baby bees. But we didn’t remember our lessons about box rotation….or mites.  We checked for mites once.  None. Checked the boxes last week…and the Rebel Queen was gone.  Some of her loyal subjects lay dead around the outside of the hive.  Outrage. I assumed the mosquito spraying helicopter killed them. But I checked the surviving box and the mite load was high…We can’t be sure so I am going to assume she saw a mite or two and decided to move on.

I want to believe the Rebel Queen still flies. Somewhere.

The good news (I thought) was that she left behind her liquid gold treasure. Now to harvest it.

“Well,” said Pooh,

“what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”

~ A.A. Milne Winnie the Pooh


I was Pooh with 13 frames of honey in a wheelbarrow ready to start extracting. By hand.

I have spent the last two days scratching wax out of the frames with a fork, metal spatula and my fingers.  Then straining it though jelly strainer bags or cheesecloth tied and nailed to the cabinets to suspend it over bowls, buckets and jars.


Here is what I learned.

1.Honey is sticky. I am sticky.  The floor is sticky. Wax flecks are stuck to everything.

2.  I am clumsy. Clumsy and sticky means wax gets in the honey.

3. $450 plus shipping is not really that bad.

4. The moment Pooh talks about?  The nameless one before you start eating or separating the honey?

That’s the best part. But still…

I offer you Rebel Queen Honey.  I don’t think I can sell it because

A. You couldn’t afford. If I added up the cost of 8000 angry bees, hives and other paraphernalia, trip to Hackensack, bee class, jars, cheesecloth and two days with my feet stuck to the floor…trust me you couldn’t afford it.

B. I don’t have a license -or even know if I need one.

But I can take a donation towards a separator. However, you will have to sign a release that you will not hold me responsible for…anything.  Although I filtered it, Rebel Queen honey is not guaranteed to be free of wax bits, bee parts, swear words, or sudden urges to fly away.

happy campers?


2016 arrived about halfway through our epic roadie. Truth be told, things didnt seem all that epic at that point. Honest. I don’t want to be one of those blogger/facebook folks who make everything look like roses and ice cream all the time…while secretly feeling stabby.
The weather seemed to be against us – we hadn’t had running water in the camper yet. WiFi service was spotty (shriek) and we didnt manage to even stay up till midnight in Phoenix.
Of course, we weren’t at work and we were traveling with our alleged best friends. But still. We were considering escape..cutting the trip short.

At the breakfast buffet on New Years morning in Phoenix (over rubbery eggs) I struck up conversation with a neighboring table of Ohioans. We talked about travels of course. The gentleman told me Mount Rushmore was on his bucket list. He wanted to know if I had been there. Yes. And if I thought it was “worth it”. Um. no. But I didn’t say that. I didn’t say anything right away. I didn’t want to get into why I don’t like Rushmore and I didn’t want to squash this guys dream trip on New Year’s Day.
I figured, being from Ohio, ya know..maybe he had low expectations. But as we talked more about travel I learned his family had been to New Zealand, Antartica, Alaska…big bucket stuff…. and Hawaii.
Hawaii…one of my dream places…esp on this day in the coldishness. After a string of coldish days. So I asked more. Was it worth it?
“I’m pretty sure God lives there” is what he told me.
The epic adventure continued that day. We didn’t bail out or escape that day. We headed for Joshua Tree National Park, but never got past the first visitor center. Not feeling it. Then on to L.A. Although I only saw a small sliver of it (so far) I am quite sure God does not live there. He should visit more though. Maybe things would improve.
We were tired. We didnt even have dinner that night. Rain was predicted for almost the whole week on the coast. Escape plans abounded on arrival to our campsite on the Pacific. Drive the RV back to MN. Drive the RV back to Florida. 40 hours of driving….? please no. Leave it here (as planned) and leave early. Drive it to Idaho and leave with friends. Leave it here and fly to Mexico (my idea) Sell it here in California.
Set it on fire. Perhaps with my best friend and his no-Wifi Ipad inside.
None of that seemed quite right. So we had a nice walk and a nice lunch and saw some seals.  That night,  I woke up at 3 a.m. (usual) really wanting to stay. Negative ions from the ocean must have seeped into my soul and the noise of the OCEAN 50 feet from my pillow chased all the crap out of my head…replacing it with a loud voice (maybe god lives in California) saying SNAP OUT OF IT.
Both of us have had past “travel companions” who were whiney gloomy types. We are NOT those people. We have raincoats. IMO Wifi is not always a good thing, but they have it at coffee shops. And, when the rain comes we will at least have running water.
I’m staying.