Bella Rum

Life on the Pasture

Category: Family

In-Store Credit at Lowe’s

My other niece, Debra, visited Crystal on Saturday. H and I went over to visit with her for a while. You may remember that I mentioned how her husband Jeff died in a motorcycle accident a couple of months ago. He was a contractor and spent a lot of money at Lowe’s. He sometimes paid cash. He must have returned something without the receipt because she found an in-store credit card for $60.

He was in the process of building a new workshop on their property when he died. It was almost completed, but not quite, and it was something that was bothering her. She wanted very much to finish it to make sure all of his tools were secured. She has two adult sons who will use them so she isn’t selling them. She decided to use the in-store credit.

She took it to Lowe’s and tried to use it. The associate told her she could not use the store credit without Jeff’s driver’s license number. She explained that she did not have his driver’s license because the police officer had taken it from Jeff’s wallet when he died in an accident.

Sorry, no store credit.

Then she asked for the manager. This continued for a bit, and she finally left.

She eventually found Jeff’s driver’s license number in some paperwork at home and returned to Lowe’s. She asked for the manager, telling the associate that she would only tell this story one more time. They eventually agreed to give her the $60. Lowe’s must believe there’s a band of fraudulent widows going around stealing in-store credit cards.


Revisiting Crystal’s Water Issue

Last week I wrote about Crystal’s rain/flood issue. She thought it was a downspout problem, but H thought it was coming from her neighbor’s backyard, possibly the above ground pool? When Crystal saw her neighbors in their front yard, she approached them and asked if they could give her any insight about it since they’d been there for years. She asked if it had been a long-time issue, if the sellers of her house had ever tried to remedy the problem, etc.

I guess it would help to explain that the street slopes downward. Crystal’s neighbor’s house is on higher ground than hers, and the neighbor on the other side of him is even higher, and we all know that water flows downhill. After blaming the issue on the neighbor on the other side of him, saying that his entire backyard used to flood because of their runoff, he told Crystal that he had installed a French drain (a corrugated tube that runs underground). Essentially, he redirected all the water from the other neighbor’s yard to the grassy area between his driveway and Crystal’s driveway. Since his driveway is higher, guess where the water goes?

So the problem is not coming from the downspout, but rather the neighbor’s backyard. H did a few things to improve the situation… at least for now. Cleaning Crystal’s culvert was the first thing because all that mud and water and yuck runs into it, but it doesn’t all run out. You don’t want all that water from his backyard to back up because it can’t get through the culvert. He’s going to put gravel at the openings to inhibit the growth of grass, etc.

Things seemed to improve during the last rain, but I’m sure it will be an ongoing maintenance issue. If we get a serious gully washer, and the problem persist, H will run a French drain from the neighbor’s backyard to Crystal’s culvert, which is what the neighbor should have done to begin with. The water now makes a trench along side his driveway and washes over Crystal’s driveway. Not the best situation for either of them.

Oh, the pleasures of home ownership.

You Know Your Life is Boring when…

Life is boring when the most exciting thing you have to write about is the opening of a Publix in your neighborhood. Martin’s sold their stores in the area, and Publix moved in. (spellcheck is changing the X to a C in Publix). Every time.

So we checked it out yesterday. Yes, this is a second paragraph on the Publix experience. (spellcheck and the X in Publix have reached a compromise. spellcheck will stop harassing the X if it can underline the entire word in red) The parking lot was packed and the store was humming with eager customers and friendly employees. You couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a free sample. Gotta love an opening. Even though Publix inhabits the old Martin’s store, there is not a whisper of Martin’s ghost rambling around. Everything is brand spankin’ new. Everything is freshly painted, the floors shine like a mirror, and never-used carts abound. Some things were kind of pricy: asparagus $4.99 a pound, and ‘not’ organic bananas 55¢ a pound. I don’t usually pay more than $2.99 a pound for asparagus, though sometimes it’s higher, but not 5 bucks. Loved the color scheme: shades of soft browns, like creamy coffee. It was an atmosphere conducive to spending a lot of time and money. I bought two 30-ounce jars of Hellman’s mayo for $3.00, buy-one-get-one free, and they gave me a pretty reusable bag. As of yet, I have not checked out the new Wegmans. Big times ahead. OMG Spellcheck is unhappy with Wegmans, too. Wegmans is a store name that has no apostrophe, like Marshalls. Why do apostrophes get no respect anymore?

Crystal texted me today that water had washed across her driveway, taking a lot of the gravel with it. Her sidewalk was covered in mud and gravel that used to be in the driveway. We had rain Wednesday and a little yesterday, but not slanting, pour-down, frog-drowning rain. We’ve had this much rain before, and she didn’t have a problem. She thought she needed downspout extensions for the gutters to redirect the water. H said that would be fine, but that’s not what caused this mess. He thinks her neighbor’s – not the crazy woman who won’t cut her grass, but the couple on the other side – above ground pool may have something to do with it. Not sure but worth investigating. There was a trench of water running from their side of the backyard fence all the way to Crystal’s gravel driveway in the front. When we were leaving Crystal’s last night, we saw the husband walking around the backyard. Checking out the pool? Who knows? Crystal will talk to them this weekend. At least these neighbors have shown no signs of mental instability. That’s always a plus.


Crazy Neighbor, Salt Kills, Roofers

Crystal called last night and said, “Someone is over there cutting the grass with a push mower.” Why they waited until it was almost dark, I don’t know.

A push mower? Not a self-propelled mower? That yard needs a Bush Hog. That grass is way too tall for a regular mower, and it has a pretty steep ravine. When Crystal took a closer look (we need to loan her our binoculars :)), she realized it was a woman who was pushing the mower. Her husband must be fed up with this ridiculous and unnecessary nuisance.  She started cutting the backyard first. By the time she got to the front yard, she either punked out from exhaustion, ran out of gas, it was too dark to see what she was doing, or – and this is just a wild guess – the mower broke. So now her neighbors have to look at a half-finished front yard until she returns to finish the job. That must be attractive.

I made the most delicious macaroni salad (forget any low-carb diet). I put all the usual suspects in it: onion, red bell pepper, pickles, tomatoes. But I also put a handful of shredded sharp cheddar and ham (chopped in little cubes) in it. I took some to Crystal. She called and said, “The macaroni salad was delicious, but you have to stop using so much salt.” I have no reasonable argument here.

The roofers are returning today. They had to replace some of the decking (plywood) under the shingles. I hope they’re doing a good job. I hate to get anything done that I don’t understand. If I don’t know anything about it, I can’t judge whether it’s a good or bad job until it rains, and sometimes it takes a couple of years to know if it’s going to last. After you do all your homework, I guess that’s where trust comes in.

The refrigerator is making funny noises again. Not too bad yet, but it will get worse. Trust me. H says we are never getting the ice dispenser in the door again. I agree.


The Neighbor from Hell

Crystal lives in a nice neighborhood (And friendly. I’ve met more of her neighbors than mine). Everyone takes care of their yards and the exterior of their homes. There is no HOA. There are smaller, one-story houses like Crystal’s house, and larger, two-story houses. An attractive, one-story brick house is next-door to Crystal’s house. At a cursory glance, other than having a few crepe myrtles in need of pruning, it looked fine the day Crystal first looked at her house and made an offer. The grass was a normal height, and it didn’t draw any particular attention to itself.

A few weeks later, you couldn’t say the same. Things started to grow, and grow… Thigh-high grass now covers the front yard, all kinds of weeds are growing around and into the crepe myrtles, and a huge vine is threatening to block a drainage culvert on Crystal’s property. As the church lady would say, “It’s disgraceful.” And it is vacant.

Crystal walked down to the neighbors on the other side of the offending house and introduced herself. She asked if they knew who owned it. Boy, did she get an earful. His frustration obvious, the husband gave especially colorful details of run-ins he and other neighbors had had with the woman who owns it. I loved Crystal’s description of the husband, “Down to earth.” LOL There were a series of “discussions” with the owner: first asking her to cut the grass, then more agitated and direct conversations, and finally, after she kicked one neighbor off her property, the man stood in the middle of the street and screamed, “Cut your grass.” She apparently hates and has problems with all her surrounding neighbors. So the house sits and slowly rots. I’m not a psychiatrist, but I’m pretty sure she’s enjoying this. Who would allow an investment like that to decay? My nonprofessional opinion? A nut case.

The story goes that she got married and abandoned the house. Well, not at first. She moved to another part of town after her marriage. Her new husband wanted her to sell it, but she wanted to keep it “just in case” she ever needed a “backup plan.” During the first year, someone came every couple of weeks during the summer to cut the grass. After that it was every month or two, and now someone comes about twice a year to check on things. This has continued for seven years.

Crystal called the county. An inspector came by on Thursday. Crystal was at work, but we just happened to be there. H was digging up an ugly crabapple tree in Crystal’s front yard. The inspector said that the County’s criterion for acceptable grass growth is one-foot. He put a “warning” on the front door to cut the grass, and told H to tell Crystal to call in one week, and they will cut it. He also said that she could call them anytime it reaches one foot and they will cut it. I know her. She will be out there measuring it with a ruler. I’m sure they will bill the homeowner for this maintenance. The neighbor on he other side of the house told Crystal that the county put a lean on her door once. He assumed it was because she hadn’t paid for pervious grass cuttings.

The neighbor told Crystal that a tree from her yard fell in their backyard and their Homeowner’s Ins. had to pay for the damage. He said there’s still a huge gap in her fence that she has never repaired, and the weeds are hip-deep back there. Nature is reclaiming it. The inspector said he was only allowed to go as far as the front yard. He could not look at or do anything about the backyard, which means Crystal will have to deal with the vines growing through her fence. We have a robust real estate market here. Houses in that price range are snapped up as soon as they hit the market. Crystal’s neighbor told her that the guy who owned her house went next-door and cut the grass before he put the house on the market.

Who’s Cracking Me Up, Conversation with H, Step Away from the Arugula, Etcetera

Who’s Cracking Me Up?

Wednesday night, I saw only a bit of an interview on 360º with Hillary. I was too tired to watch and kept falling asleep. The only thing I remember is Anderson Cooper mentioning the comment former President George W. Bush reportedly made after Trump’s inauguration speech: “That was some weird shit.”

There’s a man who knows how to put a fine point on it.

Conversation with H

Me ~ (as we’re driving by a place called Wayne’s Feed Store) I used to date a guy named Wayne. He told me his father was a lawyer, but I found out that he worked in a feed store. Why would he lie about that?

H ~ To impress you.

Me ~ Once upon a time, I really was worth impressing.

H ~ You still are.

That’s the part where I swooned!

Step Away from the Arugula

I’ve fallen in love with arugula. Like most everyone, I’ve eaten it many times in salads, but I didn’t appreciate its full potential because of the thousands of other mixed greens it was associating with. I recently tried Panera Bread’s Tomato Mozzarella Flatbread Sandwich. It has arugula in it and it’s delicious. Everything would have been all well and good if I’d stopped at that.

Because I couldn’t get enough arugula, I then bought one of those big plastic boxes of it at Kroger, the size that would feed a small village, and I got some flat bread (fewer calories and carbs than regular bread). I pulled out the panini maker, and started making my version of Panera’s sandwich at home. Healthy. Right? Then I moved on to making arugula salads with tomatoes and a light vinaigrette dressing. Even healthier, right?

I admit I went round the bend on this. I take blood thinners, and I knew arugula had vitamin K (K enhances clotting), but I figured I was fine. I mean it’s not as if I was eating tons of kale or spinach, which are very high in vitamin K. Yesterday, my INR (a laboratory measurement of how long it takes blood to form a clot) indicated that my blood was a little too thick. I confessed that I’d been bingeing on arugula. I felt like I was confessing to gargling with controlled substances, or eating a whole mixing bowl of brownie batter. They told me to back off the arugula, and get my INR checked again in a couple of weeks instead of the usual month.

It’s a good thing I found out before I went grocery shopping. Another big box of it would have found its way into my cart. Death by Arugula! That sounds like a great title for a book.


Yesterday, while Crystal was at work, we went to her house so H could assemble her new bar chairs. He did all the work while I listened to my book and tried to talk to him occasionally, but he pretty much ignored me. He doesn’t like for me to talk to him when he’s busy or concentrating. Imagine that.

Nice, huh?

The Canada geese are back. They make a pretty sight at dusk as they circle around the pasture in formation and come to earth just in time to tuck themselves in for the night. We were at Crystal’s – about a mile from here – the other night when they flew over her house on the way to our house. Cool. There’s a for sale sign on the horse farm. It’s only for six acres, but which six acres is what I’d like to know. Hope it isn’t the pasture. Nothing is forever. Don’t you hate that?

Do you think Canada geese can read?








I talked to my sister this morning. She was sitting in her garage with the door up, and trying to catch a breeze. They’ve lost power, of course. Who knows when they will flip a switch and see light or feel cool air again? But they are fine and have sustained only minimal damage to their house: part of the roof over the lanai was damaged. They did receive 100 MPH winds so they feel very lucky on that count. Their street is under water, but it stopped at the end of their driveway. How courteous of it.

After watching my sister and brother-in-law trying to choose between evacuation and sheltering in place and finally choosing to stay in their home, I have more understanding of how difficult it is for people to make that decision. You are sometimes forced to choose between two bad choices. Determining which is the least bad is stressful and difficult. I wanted them to evacuate, and I was very concerned when they decided to stay. I’m just thankful they are okay and still in good spirits. I know their spirits will wane with the stress of each day without power, but they are remarkably sporting at the moment. I think a lot of that comes from awareness that they are more fortunate than many others. As we finished our conversation, she was going back into the house to put some of their food on ice.

Harbor Freight gives you a choice of several gifts when you make a purchase. My sister had chosen a small flashlight. When she went to bed last night, the wind was blowing, and the room was completely black because of the boards my brother-in-law had put over the windows. She put the flashlight on her nightstand. She said it was comforting. When she woke this morning, it was still going strong.

A Nice Evening

We’re trying to get back to normal. The out-of-town people have left my niece’s house, but my sister and her husband are still here. They are staying at Crystal’s house. My sister and I have had the strangest estrangement for years, neither of us ever talking about it, her trying to avoid me, and me trying to get her to see me, talk to me, etc. Picture her as the cat with the claws and me as the puppy that wants to play. I keep trying and she keeps swatting. She must think I can’t get the hint, but I do. I just won’t stop trying.

On Friday morning, Crystal told her that she wanted to have a cookout on Saturday night, and that she wanted us to be there. I was hesitant at first, but Crystal said that my sister had agreed to it. So. I said I’d make some potato salad and deviled eggs because who can remain irritated while eating potato salad and deviled eggs? My other niece who lost her husband came with her two adult sons.

It was perfect weather if I’ve ever seen it. It was in the seventies and a little cloudy so the sun wasn’t baking us. H grilled the best hamburgers he’s ever cooked in his life. They were delicious. Everyone was calm and relaxed. My sister even had a glass of wine. I got to talk to my niece’s sons. I haven’t seen them in a while. I told them they had spoken beautifully about their father at the funeral. The oldest one is closing on a new house tomorrow, but he and his wife are going to stay a couple of weeks with my niece until they paint and do a few other things in their new house. That will be great for my niece, and the new house is only five miles from her. She will have them for support.

I took a gift for my sister. When Dad was in the nursing home and I drove 140 miles roundtrip every day for about four months, Dad asked my brother to buy a watch for me. It was a beautiful, expensive, gold watch. Really, if you want someone to pick something out for you, you want it to be my brother. Mr. excess guy. I think the watch/gift annoyed my sister. I know it did because she talked about it… many times. The funny thing is that I don’t wear jewelry except costume on rare occasions. I’ve never worn the watch. Not once. It was still in the original box. I never even had the links removed to fit me. I bought a new battery for it, and put it in a gift bag and took it to her. She almost cried when she opened it. I told her that she loves gold jewelry and I never wear jewelry and that she should enjoy it in good health. That right there softened her up. Crystal says I’m a suck-up. LOL

But really, I don’t care about the watch. It would only sit in the box forever. I like things like the old cuspidor H found in Dad’s basement, or the brass nameplate from the Chesapeake Bay deadrise Dad built back in the day, or my mother’s clock. That’s the stuff that gets my motor racing, and she’s not very interested in it. We’re all different. And that’s good. She doesn’t have to fight me for the jewels, and I don’t have to fight her for the junk. Believe me, there’s more junk than jewels. 🙂

Saturday night was one of the most pleasant nights I ever remember. Everyone was content; even my niece with her loss seemed calm and peaceful for the moment. At one point, she told me she didn’t think she could handle anymore love. She felt surrounded by it, and she was. We stopped by Crystal’s last night for a few minutes, and my sister told me that she had really enjoyed that evening, that it was perfect.

We’ll see how this goes, but it feels good.


I woke at 2:00 a.m. and started thinking of Jeff. The funeral was yesterday, and I’ve never been to a more inspiring one, or one with such an eclectic group. There were people from every walk of life, every background, and every economic level and every color.

It was standing room only, and when the pastor told those who were standing they could go to the overflow room and listen and watch comfortably through the windows, no one moved. I’ve never been to such a big funeral. You would have thought a famous person had died.

I’ve never seen so many motorcycles in one place either. The photo shows only a portion of them. It was really something when they roared into the cemetery. And I’ve never seen so many black bandanas on bald heads. The attire at this funeral was t-shirts, simple button-down shirts, and jeans. A lot of bikers and working people attended. When we went to the reception, I noticed that all the coat-and-tie set lost their coats and ties before going inside to eat. At the graveside service, the pastor assured the bikers that all pastors were not sissies, and some even admired a Harley once in a while.

It’s always interesting when you learn things about a person at their funeral that you didn’t know when they were alive. There were so many testimonials to Jeff’s life. So many people felt the need to speak, and all of them were eloquent and revelatory. The pastor even read a letter from one man who did not know Jeff. He wrote about how he had seen Jeff that morning at church, and had seen him before at church, but had never met him. I think Jeff’s bad-boy appearance was a little intimidating. I used to say that he didn’t look like the kind of guy you’d want to meet in a dark alley. This guy said he saw Jeff walk over to his elderly father, take both his hands and lift them up, and exclaim how happy he was to see him. When Jeff left, he asked his father who that man was. His dad said, “A nice man who always talks to me.” Then the man heard about a member of his church dying in an accident. He went on Facebook and was shocked that it was the same man who had spoken so animatedly that morning with his dad. He said he had to write the letter so Jeff’s family would know he had been kind to his father that morning and apparently many other times.

An elderly man with a long, white beard hobbled to the front. With difficulty, he made his way up the one or two steps to the lectern. He told us that he was homeless. He said that Jeff would pick him up every morning and take him to breakfast, and he gave him a job. He said that Jeff’s life was about purpose. He said he loved Jeff because he helped him, but didn’t pity him.

A former convict talked about how Jeff would pick him up at the jail and take him to work every morning. He said that when he was released, Jeff gave him a permanent job, and then he told how Jeff kicked him out into the world a few years later, telling him that it was time for him to start his own business, that he could do it now. When his business faltered at one point, Jeff told him that was how business was. You have lows and highs. Jeff’s construction business had faltered after the 2008 crash. This man said he loved him and his whole family for what they’d done for him.

An elegantly dressed, older woman talked about Jeff as her “carpenter” and how sweet he was to her, saying how much she would miss him.

Another conservatively dressed man who attended the same church talked about how Jeff was, ” by far, the coolest member” of their church. He talked about how he came to church on his Harley and how he rocked the bald-head look and the though-guy look, but he also said that Jeff gave him a man-hug (air in between and vigorous patting on the back) every time he saw him. He  talked about how excited Jeff got when he told him about a school that was being built in Columbia. Jeff told him that this kind of project was right up his alley. He said Jeff came back the next day and gave him $1000 dollars, and now the school has electricity. A thousand dollars was a lot for Jeff. They were not wealthy. They were not poor. They worked hard and lived within their means.

I was so impressed with how many people Jeff helped in his short life. His hand extended around the world to people who would never know this hammer-swinging, bald-headed, tattooed, muscle-bound man. I was even more impressed with how much he was loved. I’ve never seen so many weeping men. One speech after another revealed his kindness, awareness and mercy. We live in such a loud world now. It was reassuring to be reminded that in some quarters, the quiet, unheralded work for our fellow-man continues, and that you cannot judge who is doing this work by their appearance.

Note: Those motorcycle riders gave a bag of money to my niece because they heard that Jeff did not have life insurance.

Can it be?

Time is fleeting. Betcha never heard that one. It’s August! Can that be true? The second half of August? Where did the summer of 2017 go? I can see you’re scratching your head and wondering the same thing.

We’re still busy doing little, finishing-type things at Crystal’s house: hanging a few more pictures, hanging curtains and new blinds, installing new towel racks and toilet paper holders, etc. It’s been a lot of fun. H wants to do a couple of things in her yard: take down a trashy crabapple tree, dig out two overgrown and irreparably misshapen shrubs that are inhibiting two perfectly good shrubs from doing their best. She did not ask him to do this, and honestly, it probably wouldn’t have occurred to her. She doesn’t know that much about gardening, but H can’t ignore it.

She hung her bird feeders, and finds herself in an ongoing battle with the squirrels. She’s like H in this way. He has a couple of squirrel-proof feeders, but he always seems to keep one that isn’t. I suspect it’s because he secretly relishes the ongoing battle of wits with the rodents. He’s still coming up with new tactics or devising some gadget or method that he thinks will defeat them. He doesn’t seem to realize that he has a life that includes all sorts of pursuits, demands and interests, but the squirrels have only one thing to think about all day and night: how to outwit that crazy guy who keeps running out of the house, clapping his hands and screaming.

We ate at Crystal’s the other night. H grilled burgers, and we ate on the deck. I finally stayed home yesterday and cleaned my house. Believe me, it needed it. Today I’m doing laundry and dusting and fertilizing my potted plants and flowers.

Out back on the patio, it feels like the beginning of the beginning of fall. I can smell it. I need to settle down with a book back there. The mornings are sweet. The birds sing their hearts out, and there’s plenty of shade. These late August days go quickly. Before you know it, it will be fall.

Seize the day.