31 December 2012

New Year's Eve

I intended to post something over the Christmas season, but once again life got in the way and here it is, New Year’s Eve.

Christmas was happy at our house. With three adult children, I am learning to lower my expectations. Christmas isn’t what it used to be. No more Santa, no more making our secret gifts for each other (the kids voted that down a couple of years ago), no more going to Christmas Eve service with the whole family (this year only one of the kids went along – one had to work and one didn’t want to go.)

The gifts are a bit more complicated, too. All my kids work hard, but like much of America, they’re all broke. Gifts are appreciated. Money is appreciated even more. But like most of America, we are broke as well, so while we gave both gifts and money, neither was as much as we’d have liked it to be. I have to say, though, the gifts my kids give now are phenomenal. No more pasta necklaces or cardboard scenes (not that those weren’t adorable – but let’s be real, what do you do with them??). Now they give gift cards and yummy smelling candles and colorful scarves and sweaters and favorite videos. They give adult gifts.

We also do adult things. We go out to lunch, go shopping, go skiing. We have adult conversations about education, goals, and even religion and politics – but only in small doses, as I raised my kids to be independent thinkers, and we don’t always agree on even the most passionate of subjects. And that’s ok.

All my kids were home this year. One lives here, one goes to school in New York and one lives and works in Arizona. There will come a day when they won’t all come home for Christmas. In fact, as we sat having Christmas dinner this year, I thanked them all for being there and I noted that we never know if we’ll all be together the next year. Life happens. One or more of them could have new families by then. Or they might choose to go somewhere with friends. Plus, life is fleeting and unexpected. I have a local friend who passed away on Christmas Day at the age of 43, leaving behind two middle-school aged kids and a husband. We never know when it will be our time to go.

This morning I wrote in my journal about the New Year’s Resolutions I’d like to make. I made two lists – one of things I know I need to change about my life, and a second of things I’d like to change, but that I might not need to change. Perhaps only a change of attitude is needed, rather than a new plan of action. Perhaps instead of looking for a new job, I need to do a better job at the one I already have. Perhaps instead of giving up on the book I’m working on, I need to put more time and thought into why I’m not happy with the direction it’s going.

I’m thankful that we can start over on any day of the year. I’m going to start fresh tomorrow and maybe I’ll do great things. Or maybe I’ll just keep doing O.K. things, but with a better attitude. Or maybe I’ll start next week. Or next month. Or when the snow melts.

Copyright © 2012 - Paulla Estes

05 December 2012

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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24 November 2012

Dinner will be ready when...

... the smoke alarm goes off.

Ever heard that one?

We did. Literally and figuratively.

It was one of those moments that was surreal. We were all seating ourselves around the table for Thanksgiving. Thankfully, we have a country kitchen, so our table is in full view of any cooking going on.

Thankfully because, as we were getting seated and my husband was carving the ham (yes, you read that right - we do ham on Thanksgiving, not turkey), my daughter said, "Is that supposed to be on fire?"

We looked at her. She was looking at the oven. Suspiciously. We could see past the glass that, indeed, there were flames.

I had put the sweet potato casserole (topped with marshmallows) on broil. I was only going to leave it in for like, 30 seconds, but... yeah. I forgot about it.

So as we opened the oven, smoke billowed out and we all saw the blackened marshmallows.

"Oh no!" I said, "Do you think it can be sav--"

"NO," said my husband. Don't even go there."

And at about that time, the smoke alarm down the hall went off. Understand we have the Queen Mother of all smoke alarms. It was here when we moved in - hard wired into the house. Suffice it to say, it is DAMN loud.

The noise was deafening, the cats scattered, and we flipped out, trying to stop the smoke AND the alarm at the same time. Chaos ensued.

My husband took the former casserole out into the garage and put it on a flattened pizza box. This photo makes it look silver, but you get the idea.

Thankfully, I had bought two of everything because I really wasn't sure how much to make, so we whipped together another casserole and delayed dinner by only about 15 minutes.

And of all the times we've tested our smoke alarm, I've truly wondered if it really worked. You know, does it only make that horrid screech when we push the button, or will it let us know if the house ever goes up in flames?

Now we know. And yay for that!

Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving!

Copyright © 2012 - Paulla Estes

14 November 2012


My husband just informed me that although it is only the middle of November, we have used 1/4 of the fire bricks we bought for the winter.

Yeah, the fire bricks are new for us this year. We bought the equivalent of two cords, and we also bought a cord of firewood, just in case we really hated the bricks.

I don't know what to do with that information, so my plan is to ignore it and pretend I never heard him say it.

Copyright © 2012 - Paulla Estes

03 November 2012

Make it Stop

If I have to hear one more political ad on TV or get one more politically related phone call or see one more sign or... God forbid... see one more annoying post on Facebook from a person I LIKED before this election season (all political affiliations included, mind you)... I will...

well, I'm not sure what I will do, but it will be bad.

Consider yourself fairly warned.

Copyright © 2012 - Paulla Estes

23 October 2012

Road Trip

This is a bit outdated. We took a trip to upstate New York two weeks ago and this is what the Massachusetts Turnpike looked like THEN.

It was gorgeous. And it stayed that way until about three days ago, when we had a big rain storm, and all the pretty leaves were smacked off the trees.

Now, for the most part, only the oak leaves are left on the trees. They are a dull yellowish-brown and a far cry from the color for which New England is known. They stay around as long as possible, dragging out the raking season so that it blends right into snow-shoveling season.

I'm not a huge fan of oak trees. Unless you want to chop them up and put them into my wood stove or make furniture out of them. They're great for that!

Copyright © 2012 - Paulla Estes

10 October 2012


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26 September 2012

Checking in

I've been sorely neglecting my writing - not only on this blog, but in other areas, as well. The reason is because much like everyone else in the country, life has thrown us a few curve balls and I am now working more to pay the price of... living.

The last couple of years I worked as a substitute teacher, but I found it to be frustrating. The pay was ok and I love the kids, but the inconsistent nature of it just about drove me mad.

It was hard to wake up in the morning not knowing if I was going to work on a given day. It seemed that if I got up and got ready, just in case a job came in, there would be nothing. But if I slept in, of course I got a call.

It was impossible to have a regular schedule, let alone a regular budget. Planning doctor visits or other such appointments was maddening because there would be no jobs on the day preceeding the appointment, but two or three on the day I couldn't work.

Lastly, it was lonely. Though I spent my days surrounded by people - fun kids, kind teachers and hilarious high schoolers - each day was different. It was nearly impossible to build relationships of any kind. I might get a three-day job and really connect with the kids and the fellow teachers, and then not be back at that school again for six weeks.

All that to say, subbing is now my back-up job. Now I am a dog-walker and a babysitter. I had no idea both pay so well - much better than subbing! I have one consistent job where I see the same kids every day, another once-a-week job with an adorable little girl, and I walk a 4-month-old puppy who is an absolute sweetheart.

Sure, there will be school holidays when I'm not working, but it was that way with subbing, too. And I'm sure the dog walking won't be quite as fun in January as it is now, but it will force me to exercise. Right now, this is good. I have a consistent schedule, a workable budget, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel with those pesky debts.

Best of all - I am outside a good deal of the time, either walking the dog or walking kids here and there, not to mention driving a lot. I'm getting a wonderful view of the fall foliage each and every day, rather than sitting in a classroom with no windows, or windows that only face a field or playground.

But I'm busy and always on the go, which leaves little time for writing. So now I've scheduled in time to write. We'll see how that works out...

Copyright © 2012 - Paulla Estes

18 September 2012

Beginning Fall Colors

Earlier this week...

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06 September 2012

Labor Day Weekend

Over the weekend, we had my father-in-law's boat, so we made good use of it - just the two of us! (Who said the empty nest is a bad thing?)

Oh, and to clarify, we have one child who came back home, but she is working full time and we rarely see her.

Remember the blue moon last week? This was the last of it, the next morning.

Many, many fish were caught over the weekend, but this is the one and only in which I participated. I held the net, so it counts.

A mama loon and her baby.

Enjoying some sunshine...

But... keeping my toes away from this scary guy!

The eagle show was amazing. Two bald eagles really seemed to be performing for us, flying back and forth over our boat, landing on the tops of trees at water's edge, and diving for fish. I'm only sad that I packed the wrong lens for such photography. But you get the idea.

If you look REALLY hard, you can see a speck of an eagle in the background.

The second day was a bit chillier than the first. Mainly because of the wind.

But the fishing was still good!

More of the eagles...

Hard to tell here - it's eating a fish it just scooped out of the lake.

Perched for our viewing pleasure!

And my trusty water chauffeur who made the weekend absolutely lovely!

Isn't he cute? :)

Copyright © 2012 - Paulla Estes

28 August 2012

It's That Time of Year

We packed up and drove our youngest daughter to college in New York.

(This was temporary - we didn't drive the whole way like that!)

The drive there was uneventful, the dorm move-in smooth, and her roommate is lovely. We got there on a Wednesday and were told to leave campus (and town) by noon on Friday. But we've never been great at following directions. We stayed til Sunday.

No worries, we stayed in a hotel and stayed out of her way, for the most part. We visited with local friends, took her shopping, and on the last day, took her to church (as one friend said, we wanted to make sure she went at least once).

And I'm glad we broke the rules. She was still very wound up and nervous on Friday. It would have been a painful goodbye... for all of us. But by Sunday, she had found a little group of friends and was feeling good about it all. She even said on Sunday morning, "Mom, this already feels like home." It was much easier to drive away after hearing those words!

The only glitch? The air conditioner in our car went out while we were there, so it was a long, HOT drive home. It was in the 90s when we left, so the first half of the trip was uncomfortable, to say the least. But we survived. Now we are home, the car is in the shop, our daughter is happy in New York and it is in the 60s and raining in Maine. I guess you could say it's the way life should be. :)

Copyright © 2012 - Paulla Estes

19 August 2012


It's a bit skimpy this year.

We planted our garden in early May, nearly a month earlier than usual. We thought ~ "Oh, the harvest we'll have!" Yet, it's been disappointing. It's been a bit wetter than normal, but not like a few years ago when we got NO sun until August. We've had plenty of sunshine and still - the tomatoes are puny and few.

Next year I think I'm going to finally do what I always SAY I'm going to do - buy a share at a local organic farm. Our yard/soil has always been the black hole of death, so why do we keep pouring money, time, and water into something that yields so little?

"Because it's fun," says my husband.

Yeah. Woo hoo.

Copyright © 2012 - Paulla Estes

18 August 2012


Last week we celebrated ~

Notice what the shirt says? Yeah, I didn't even plan that.

The next night, we went out to Texas Roadhouse for steaks, and after two margaritas, he gladly got on the birthday saddle and yelled "Yeehaw!"

I'm not allowed to post THAT photo.

Copyright © 2012 - Paulla Estes

15 August 2012

Fishing Spider

It's hard to tell from the photo how big this spider actually is.

We saw it at the lake, along with several of its only slightly smaller friends. It was frighteningly big. The leg span was at least three inches.

Thankfully, we only saw these guys at water's edge, on the rocks, and under the dock. Of course after seeing them, I no longer visited the dock at night, but at least they weren't in the cottage.

I don't know why it is, but just looking at this photo once more causes a very distinct physical reaction in me. Goose bumps, shuddering, and that feeling of panic.

No, I'm not ashamed to admit I'm terrified of spiders. I wish I wasn't and I think it's stupid, but well... there it is.

Copyright © 2012 - Paulla Estes

07 August 2012

Vacation's End

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04 August 2012


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03 August 2012


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02 August 2012


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01 August 2012

On the Lake


... and Evening.

Copyright © 2012 - Paulla Estes

27 July 2012


It's been a long week.

We've had commitments most nights this week, and my husband worked over 60 hours. There was also a flurry of doctor appointments and paperwork that was suddenly due for our two daughters, regarding college.

This morning I awoke at 5:45, and my husband had already left for work. We've hardly seen each other at all lately.

I went downstairs and found an envelope on the kitchen table with my name on it, in his handwriting. It was odd - it didn't look like a card, but more like a business envelope. I was a little worried. Was this regarding something I probably forgot to do or worse, forgot to pay? Was he mad at me? He doesn't get mad often, or ever, really. But one never knows.

So I opened the envelope and it WAS a card.

It was a very romantic card. And when I opened it, it said, "Happy DWM."

DWM stands for "day we met." We met 21 years ago today, and to date, my husband has never forgotten. Even years ago when he was deployed with the Navy to the Persian Gulf, and even two years ago when I was at the Grand Canyon with our children. He sent a card on the trip with our youngest daughter, and she made sure to give it to me on the 27th.

So you can imagine my SHOCK when I opened the card and then in horror, looked up at the calendar. I had TOTALLY forgotten. I've never been as good about remembering it as he has, but I've never just outright forgotten.

So I did what any self-respecting girl would do. I cried.

While no one is perfect and at times we have our differences, it's things like that that make this guy the best guy in the world. To me, anyway. :)

Copyright © 2012 - Paulla Estes

25 July 2012

First Elephant

When I turned 25-years-old, I was married, pregnant with my second child, and living in Monterey, California. On that very day, I went to try one of 99 keys to see if I would win a 1967 Ford Mustang (I had won a key a few weeks earlier).

I knew I had to win since the drawing was on my birthday AND because I was born in 1967. It was fate! It was destiny! It was written in the stars! When my turn came up, thankfully no other key holders had yet won. I got into the bright red car, turned the key, and nothing happened.

Other than that, it was a good day.

Today, my oldest child is turning 25. (Yes, I started young, you do the math). 25 on the 25th - magical!

He is in Flagstaff, Arizona, at a teacher training conference. He finished his Master's Degree this spring and landed a wonderful job at a private school in the Phoenix area. He's a smarty who will be teaching History and Latin to middle schoolers.

But it's important to paint the true picture of his nature. (Evil grin).

When this boy was three-years-old, he had a friend over and they watched a video of The Jungle Book. If you remember the part when the elephants march through the jungle, imagine two three-year-old boys lining up and marching around our living room. It was all fine and good and until the friend got in front of my son, to which my son exclaimed, "HEY! I want to be first elephant!" And then he knocked the kid out of the way.

No, it wasn't nice, but it was also hilarious. He has never been able to shake the title of "first elephant" among family members.

A couple of years later, when he was about five, a little boy in the neighborhood knocked on our door to see if my son could play. My son opened the door and said, "You know, I don't HAVE to play with you." Lo and behold, the kid stayed, anyway.

It gets worse. In kindergarten, he called a teacher fat, and in the lunchroom, he threw ketchup at the wall. He was a miniature terrorist. And honestly, I did not teach him to behave this way. (Though at the time I was sure everyone believed I sat home at night thinking up ways to encourage him to shock the entire town.)

I won't talk about the time he got in a fight with a very rude and nasty little boy across the street who happened to have two prosthetic legs from the knees down. At one point during the fight, one of the legs came off, and my son proceeded to pick it up and hit the kid with it. Yes, he is still proud to admit that he hit a kid with his own leg.

Oh wait, I just talked about it, didn't I?

Thankfully, he grew out of those naughty little boy years. Also thankfully, to date he has not hit anyone else with a prosthetic leg... that I know of. In fact, those behaviors were not the norm at all. He was a delightful little guy with a gift for gab. Now he's a delightful BIG guy with a gift for gab.

We still talk on the phone nearly every day and he's always got something to say or an opinion about something. Teaching is definitely the right profession for him, as he can share all his thoughts and opinions with the next generation. Wow, I just got scared after I wrote that.

I spoke with him a couple of hours ago during his lunch break at the teaching conference. He said one of the seminars today was on kids to try to derail teachers by asking leading questions, getting them off-topic, etc. He assured the entire group that he could handle that because HE was that kid, and that the last time he did that to a teacher was a few months ago - his last semester of grad school.

Yep. That's my boy.

Lastly, here is a recent photo of him doing grown up things at the Phoenix Comic-Con. Recognize the guy with him? Hint: 70's TV series about a big, green guy. Also noteworthy - my son is about 6 ft. tall, so this guy is HUGE.

Happy Birthday to my grown up, delightful son who has taught me way more than I taught him. You're a good egg. ;) Love, Mom

Copyright © 2012 - Paulla Estes

24 July 2012


This is a story about a squirrel we have been watching all summer. We have several bird feeders and a bowl of squirrel food in our back yard that we replenish regularly. There are five squirrels and three or four chipmunks that spend their days at our feeders, filling up and going back to hoard.

Across the street from us live three outdoor cats. They have made the neighborhood their own and there is one that travels regularly into our fenced back yard. Anywhere else in the yard, I say hello to the kitty and I am kind to her and call her by name. But inside the fence is off limits. Inside the fence, she gets yelled at and sprayed with the water hose.

I want our woodland creatures to be safe.

So this year, early in the spring, there appeared at our feeders a squirrel that was missing most of its tail.

At first, we said, "Aw, isn't it cute? What a little fighter! Maybe it got away from the neighbor's killer cats? We were rooting for this squirrel. And then one day, we had the chance to look at him a bit more closely.

Turns out the little guy is also missing part of his front left foot. Either that, or it's mangled; it's hard to tell from our vantage point at the window, or on the porch, about 20 feet away. We'd love to go inspect him up close, but for some odd reason, he won't allow it. :)

So we watch from the window (through the screen, thus the crappy photos) and we look for him each day, hoping he's still there. He always is.

Then one day we got an even better look at him. It turns out he's ALSO missing his BACK left foot. Yes really! The poor little guy is missing his tail and both feet on the left side, yet still he manages to hobble across the yard at a pretty good clip, and I've seen him scurry up a tree.

As I was taking these photos that day, he stood up and then leaned down to eat some sunflower seeds, at which point, he toppled over on his face. We all saw it and we didn't know whether to laugh or cry. He soon righted himself, shook himself off, and went on eating.

The other squirrels clearly accept him, which was a big concern of mine. Moreover, I've seen them sort of defer to him when he shows up at the bowl of food. While they often chase each other off or "guard" the food, they always show respect to the crippled squirrel.

Here is a photo of his left side where you can clearly see that he is missing his back foot. The front isn't as easy to see, but it's missing, too.

Squirrels don't live long in our area. Either they become lunch for a hungry eagle or fisher cat, or they are hit by cars. Some have even missed jumps and died from a too-far fall to the ground. And of course there are the neighborhood cats. Yet here is this crippled squirrel with a will to live, eating each day, running up trees, and doing squirrel things.

In reality, I know his days are numbered. They're all on borrowed time, so he's a walking (limping) miracle. I know there will come a day when we won't see him anymore. Until then, whenever I see him out there, I smile.

Copyright © 2012 - Paulla Estes

18 July 2012

Garden Shots

This summer my daughter and I have been working to make our yard and gardens a bit more... lovely. One of her jobs has been to decorate.

The photos below show some of the items she purchased, including the decorated stones and ceramic mushrooms.

A couple of days ago when I was out snapping photos, one of our many chipmunk friends was scurrying back and forth through the garden. The photo of the chipmunk next to the mushroom is real. He stopped there and looked right at me, as if to pose.

Copyright © 2012 - Paulla Estes