Is There Really Life After Childbirth?

Dear Family,

I realize that I haven’t sent a Christmas letter out since the multiple choice fiasco 20 years ago, but I just want to prepare you for this week’s events.

First of all, it is important to remember what the holidays are about.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are meant to be times of retrospection and acknowledgement of the importance of family and tradition.  It is not a time to be expecting good food and fun gifts.  Although that happens occasionally, this is not one of those years.

While I am looking forward to having everyone over for food and festivities, I don’t want you to be too disappointed.  Things haven’t gone too well this year.  The couch will be covered with piles of dirty clothes scattered amidst stacks of clean clothes.  It is up to you to pick where you want to sit.  The reason the 30 year old TV from upstairs (you know, the one we thought was so big back then) is sitting on a couple of chairs in the living room is that a bulb blew out on the big screen TV we usually watch the football games on.  We have ordered a new bulb and it should be here eventually.  They guaranteed delivery in time for the holidays (we finally read the fine print…they mean Groundhog’s Day).

I didn’t have time to take the dogs in for their holiday makeover.  I managed to shave the back end of one of them, but the other one still looks like a dust mop with static electricity overload.  Try not to step on her.

I tried a new recipe this year for your fudge.  Orange dreamsicle fudge does not taste like the original dreamsicle bars.  I don’t care what they tell you.  Fudge should be chocolate.  Maybe next year.  Remember, it’s the thought that counts.  I don’t think I’ll have time to wrap your gifts either.  That’s not such a big deal, really, it’s kind of a waste to wrap up IOU’s anyway.  In fact, I don’t really have time to write the IOU, so I’ll just tell you now.  IOU a Christmas present.  Maybe next year.  Remember, it’s the thought that counts.   We did manage to get the tree decorated…sort of.  Most of the lights are on, we haven’t put any ornaments on it yet.  The beautiful star with 12 lights that sits on top blew a fuse a couple of nights ago.  It’s still up there, taunting me.  I’m getting better at ignoring it.

All in all, it should be a fun night anyway.  We might sing some Christmas carols.  I’m hoping this cough will have cleared up by then.  Maybe we’ll just watch the dog walk around attracting dustballs.  Or we could always give each other pretend presents.  After all it is the thought that counts.  Excuse me, I have to go now, I have A LOT of thinking to do.

Who doesn’t love a cute kitten or schnitzel with noodles?  I don’t even know what a schnitzel is, but if it’s got noodles with it, it can’t be all bad.  While Mary Poppins can belt out a tune of her favorite things, I’m stuck with writing about mine on a blog.  Trust me; the world will thank me later.  My list of favorite things is always changing, but it features items every bit as diverse as Miss P’s and I’m thinking someone really talented could turn it into a big hit musical too.  Well, perhaps not.  But, you might want to try some of them and who knows, they could be your favorite things, too!

My current list of favorites seems to have a common thread involving money.  I was a big-time cheap skate before the current economy, so I’m already in the “Let’s see how much money we can save” mode.  In fact, one of them (theoretically) even makes money, so I figure the more I shop, the more I save make.  Let’s start with that, just to get in the mood. is a web site that gives you a rebate on a percentage of your shopping.  As long as you buy from an online store affiliated with them (and connect to the store through their web site), you are really getting paid to shop!  There’s a link on the right hand side of my blog that takes you there (and gives me credit if you sign up) that explains in much better detail than I can.  I have been using this for several months (I wanted to make sure it worked before I shared with my friends) and it gives you better rebates than, a site I previously used.  Some of my favorite online stores are part of BigCrumbs, including eBay,, Chadwicks, Target, etc.  I don’t think I’ve ever made it through the entire list, but trust me, I don’t buy anything online until I’ve checked BigCrumbs to see if they offer a refund percentage.  All you need is a PayPal account (those are free), a BigCrumbs ID (free again), and a love for online shopping (technically this is free, too).  You don’t even have to like saving money, it just does that for you automatically.  By the time I get free shipping and 6% cash back from, the price is usually lower than WalMart prices and I don’t have to mingle with the….um….other people shopping there.  I’ve saved a ton, just not having to go to the doctor’s office after every trip.  So, really, I guess this covers a couple of favorites, BigCrumbs and  Really I don’t leave home without them!

Another favorite shopping site (alas, it’s not on BC), is  Signing up is a bit more challenging than most websites, but truly worth the effort.  IF you complete your profile, which includes entering all of your measurements and style preferences, you can get free shipping BOTH ways.  That’s like having the mall come to your house!  It took some time to get all my measurements in (don’t cheat or it doesn’t work), but once that was complete, it was all fun from there.  They tell you your body shape (one of these, M-Y-S-H-A-P-E, isn’t that cute?) and then give you your own store of styles that look good on you AND, get this, actually fit!  I was a bit doubtful on my first order (also got %15 off of it), but I figured free shipping would make it worth a trial.  I ordered jeans, a blouse, a skirt, and a jacket.  The jeans fit…I kid you not!  I actually get compliments when I wear them.  Ends up, I kept them all.  I did some checking and could not find the same items at a cheaper price anywhere else online.  Best investment of body measurement time I ever did.  Now, if I could get them to do shoes (they do purses and jewelry), I could spend all my time saving money😀


There’s nothing that wakes you up before your first morning cup of coffee quite like walking past a news stand on your way to work and seeing your son’s picture on the front page under the banner ‘STAYING IN TULSA JAIL’.  Luckily, he was wearing his uniform and sitting at his desk as the booking Sargent at the jail so I wasn’t too concerned.  I did get several emails from friends commenting on how nicely he had ‘turned out’.  Needless to say, it was one of those days that made motherhood worth its weight in Valium.

Which, of course, led me to reminising about my rules for raising children.  I’ve received many requests for those rules and thought it only fair to share them with the world.  So, without further ado, my top five rules for raising good kids.  P.S.  I can’t guarantee that these will work on girls, since I was blessed with boys  (see memoirs Chapter 1).

1. Tell them it is against the law for children under 16 to order filet mignon in a restaurant.  This may not actually assist in their “goodness”, but it will help with the financing of bribes for good behaviour, etc.

2. Tell them it is against the law to marry until they have graduated from college.   This allows them time to mature a bit before choosing their mate and actually helps them to find someone with a degree and a good chance of being able to support them after they graduate.  This leads to a sub-rule.

2.a.  If they pick a great girl, tell them that they have to stay married, because you will be keeping her if they ever split up.

3.  Make them pay for their own car insurance.  That ensures that they will have to pay when their rates go up because of tickets, accidents, etc.  

4. Tell them you don’t do bail money.  This, however, can backfire should you ever require bail assistance from them in the future.

5. Pray daily that God will help you do whatever it takes to raise them right and get through the day without having to kill any of them.  OK.  Looking back, this is probably the only rule that actually works.

First, I must apologize to our neighbors.  I’m sure most of them remember how I spent the second week of our arrival to the neighborhood calling to apologize for our first week.  It just keeps getting better.

This noise was even worse than the giant gerbil escapade…this time somebody was screaming.  Once Bob & I determined that it wasn’t either one of us, I ventured a peak out the door to the deck.  All I could see were legs and tails.  It was a huge ball of dog, dog, and still unidentified critter.  There was a pause in the commotion and I finally recognized raccoon parts.  Next to two big dogs, it appeared to be quite small and I inadvertently yelled, “They’re killing a baby raccoon.”  So, I take full responsibility for the fracas that followed (well almost full responsibility).

Crazy Bob (yes, he gets his nickname back) and I ran out on the deck.  I was hoping to distract the two big dogs by yelling “Treat, treat!”, a ploy that usually works, but doesn’t provide much of a distraction to this frenzied crowd.  It DID however, get Wolfey’s attention.  He is a Pomeranian, complete with short dog syndrome, that causes him to hurl himself at cars and at dogs much larger than he is, in an attempt to impress girl dogs and allpeople.   Now we have 3 dogs and a raccoon.  I did manage to get Wolfey back and to throw him back in the house.

By now the dog-dog-raccoon ball has rolled down the stairs and back behind the table and chairs into a corner.  At this point, Crazy Bob decides to intervene.  He climbs over the chairs into the middle and starts reaching for the raccoon!  I’m yelling “DO NOT PICK UP THAT RACCOON, HE WILL BITE YOU!”  Have I mentioned that Bob is naked?  I thought not.  I asked him later if he realized that he had rushed outside with nary a stitch of clothing and he admitted that he had not realized that fact until I pointed it out to him.  About this time, the raccoon rolls free of the dogs and would have escaped, if he hadn’t run into Bob’s leg.  So, he bites it.   The dogs catch up with the raccoon.  Bob hobbles indoors for…I’m not sure why he went inside, but when I followed him a few minutes later, he was sitting at the computer looking up information on rabies.

By now, the screaming is much louder…I’m pretty sure I may have been a part of it.  There is nothing that sounds so awful as a creature fighting for his life.  I make one last charge at the dogs hoping they will pause for just a second, but instead they take off into the night with their new prize.  

I admit defeat and head into the house to check on Bob.  Now I find him wearing shorts and boots and holding a flashlight and a shovel.   This is just getting weirder.  He says, “Raccoons carry rabies.”  I say, “Yes, Bob, that’s why I told you not to get bitten.”  He says, “I have to get the raccoon away from the dogs.”  And out into the wilderness he charges.

The next few minutes are filled with crashing, thrashing, and an occasional curse word.  Pretty soon Magic, the smartest dog in the bunch, returns for her treat.   I decide that I just can’t take it anymore and go inside for first aid supplies.  About that time, Bob returns from wrestling the raccoon away from Cody.  The raccoon has not survived the night’s activities.  Cody is royally ticked off that Bob stole his rightfully won prize.  Magic wants her treat and Wolfey is miffed that, once again, we won’t let him play with the big dogs.

Ah, but the night is young.  We now begin an hour’s worth of phone calls trying to find out what to do with a dead raccoon and a wounded husband.   Hospital emergency rooms refuse to give medical advice over the phone.  I didn’t want medical advice.  I wanted to know what to do with a dead raccoon.  They didn’t know (or care too much).  I finally called the emergency vet who advised us to keep the raccoon cool (not frozen) and hand him off to our vet in the morning.   The lady was very helpful and also told us to get in touch with our county animal control office.

Well, we live in Pawnee County.  We don’t even get a Pawnee County phone book.  (We only recently got DSL).  So it is morning before we can talk to anyone at the Pawnee County Health Department (there is no animal control office).  She informs us (now this is priceless), that the guy who has been calling to inspect our bakery shop is the guy we need to contact about the dead raccoon.  Is that handy or what?  We need our shop inspected.  We have a dead raccoon in the refrigerator AND the same guy handles both!  Things are looking up.

OK.  Bob delivers the ‘cool’ raccoon to our vet who shipped it off for rabies testing.  We’ll know in a week if the raccoon (or Bob) has rabies.  Cody and Magic have no visible wounds and are up to date on all shots.   Wolfey has convinced himself that he could have taken the raccoon and BOTH dogs if I hadn’t intervened.  All’s well that ends well.

Did I mention that it wasn’t a baby raccoon after all?

Here are some pictures of the beautiful home Bob built for our two outside dogs, Cody and Magic (see previous stories!) As you can see, he did a fantastic job and we even stained it, so that they could proudly cower together during storms, burglaries, and random attacks by wild predators.

The second row, however, is how the doghouse looks AFTER a giant mutant gerbil tried to use it as his hiding place.

It sounded like what I imagine the Normandy Invasion sounded like, so we hurried out to investigate. Obviously, the dogs had lost a precious playmate under the house, so Bob tipped the house up and the little rascal took off. The playmate (Bob’s description is ‘….a rat with a tufted tail…it looked exactly like a giant gerbil!’) escaped this time, but apparently did not learn from his mistakes. Either that or we serve the best dog food in the county!
A couple of nights later, the invasion began again. This time Bob tilted the house in a different direction and the critter made a bee-line straight into Magic’s waiting jaws.

I’m thinking the next house will have to be made of bricks.

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I’m thinking I’ve spent 72% of my life in a car.  First it was T-ball, wrestling, soccer.  In high school we toured the state for football games, band competitions, soccer.  College was more of the same, from one end of Highway 51 (OSU) to the other (NSU) and points in between (TU).  I thought the 20 minute drive to work for 20 years was quite a commute until we moved to the lake and I had a 30 minute drive to work.   Well, you have to amuse yourself somehow.  Here are some of the skies I noticed along the way.  I hope you enjoy the view!

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Well, I was in the middle of my spring cleaning one August and suddenly I had this WONDERFUL idea.  I so often get wonderful ideas while I am spring cleaning which is why I am usually doing it in August.  Actually that was pretty early that year considering I haven’t done my spring cleaning for 2006 yet.  But I digress. 

I was dusting my plate collection in August of 1998 and reading the back of each plate to see when and where I got it.  The thought occurred to me that when I die, my children and grandchildren might not get the significance of this collection.  (Now that I am updating this in 2008, I am certain they won’t get it, since the entire collection is still packed in boxes in the attic from the 2003 move to the lake.  My New Year’s Resolutions always include unpacking and hanging my plate collection.  Maybe 2009 is the year!  But I seem to be digressing again.  That happens so often anymore.)

So I decided (back in 1998 ) that I needed to write down things that I would like for my children and grandchildren to remember about me.  I actually did write this down, but it is woefully out of date.  Since everyone and his dog is writing a book today (2008, and yes, there are dog memoir books out there!  What am I talking about?  My animals have their own blog now.), I thought I might attempt to bring it up to speed and put it on my blog.  Now who would have thought in 1998 that I would be blogging this in 2008?  Back then, I was impressed that it was even in the computer.  Lucky for me that I printed a copy off, because the original file is still sitting on a hard drive somewhere and I can only hope that it is not a hard drive that is being investigated by the FBI and tied to some serial killer in Whatchamahatchee, USA.  Now, however, instead of being on a hard drive in a dump somewhere, it will be posted to the World Wide Web and everyone and his dog (who apparently can read and write) will see it.  Now, where was I?

Oh yes, I was writing things I want my family to remember about me.  Oh yes, plates.  When I was about 11 or 12 and growing up in the Center of the Universe (heretofore referred to as Olustee), our preacher and his wife, John and Ruth McLaren had a collection of all 50 state plates.  I really loved John and Ruth (and had a crush on a couple of their grandsons at one time or another) and I thought that plate collection was the coolest thing I had ever seen.  I dreamed of traveling the world gathering plates from exotic locales and proudly displaying them on my own wall someday, so that my children and grandchildren could see what a cosmopolitan, sophisticated well-traveled woman their grandmother was.  OK.  At that time, I just thought it was cool and I wanted one of my own.  Well, Ruth had several duplicates so she gave her extras to me (they are marked 1965 with her name on the back of the plates) and the official Marilyn Brown State Plate Collection was born.

I think I zoomed up to 10 plates at one time.  There just wasn’t much opportunity to run up to Connecticut in the 60s and pick up a plate.  Time marched on, as time always does, I got busy doing really important things (I’m sure some of them will turn up on this blog at some point…you’ll just have to keep checking back).  I never got around to completing my collection.  But I never forgot it.  John and Ruth moved on and some years later she died.  We went to Stratford (OK, not Connecticut, no wait, that’s Stanford) to see John and he very kindly gave me what was left of Ruth’s collection.  He had put it in storage and a bunch of kids had broken some of them, but he gave me the rest.

I proceeded to drag that box around with me for several moves (does this sound familiar?  Check out the bedroom furniture and rocking chair stories).  When I moved back to Oklahoma with three squalling baby boys (but weren’t they adorable?), I decided I wanted to finish my plate collection.  It became kind of symbolic.  I had just realized that many of my goals were not going to be reached (you know, the Donna Reed/Father Knows Best/Happily Ever After thing), but by George, I could finish a stinking plate collection!

I dug out the box, glued the plates together that could be salvaged and made a list of the ones that I needed to replace.  If memory serves me right (ha ha, like that would happen), there were about 20 missing plates.  I bought one here and there, but still had about 12 of them missing by 1984.  My sister-in-law, Karen, on a trip to Kentucky, found a store in Missouri that had all 50 plates.  She gave me a call and was able to round up the missing ones and tote them home for me. 

Since then, I’ve added a couple of extra plates (Mona’s 1976 plate, one from Las Vegas, and one from Canada), but the real treasures are the ones that the kids brought me on their international travels.  They seem to get around more than I do, so they have added Ukraine, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and even Soo Bak Do to my collection (Joel got that one for me when he took first place in the Nationals, WTG Joel!).

So, there you have it.  The story of Marilyn’s Great State/International Plate Collection.  Once I get them out of the moving boxes and actually hanging on the wall, they will once again represent the fulfillment of a childhood goal.  I’d like to think that reaching that goal helped me to reach some others…like finishing college, raising 3 sons to be successful “people” (even though one of them spends every night in jail!), and updating my memoirs.  Wow!  Now maybe I should go do some spring cleaning just to see what that might lead to!