Ch. One - Tandy Pomander

Written for Addie: 
The Amazing Adventures of Tandy Pomander


Chapter One

Ten-year-old Tandy slowly opened the door. As she pushed against the aged wood the creaking hinges complained loudly, as if they were annoyed at being disturbed. She pushed the towering door open just enough to slip into the darkened room. Carefully stepping over the threshold, the smell of dust and age instantly wrapped itself around her. As her eyes adjusted to the dim light, she noticed the windows were covered with thick, heavy drapes, which seemed to be fighting against the afternoon sunlight that was struggling to peek through them. The room was full of old, heavy furniture. Over-stuffed couches, an immense sideboard burdened with framed pictures and crystal vases, two book cases groaning under a load of large, dusty books, floor lamps with Tiffany shades, and a jumble of puffy chairs that looked like they would swallow you if you sat in them.  As she continued to take in her surroundings, she saw the old woman sitting in a chair at the far end of the room. 
“Come over here girl.” The old woman spoke sharply and with authority. It was not a request, but a command. “Hurry up.” Her voice was scratchy and sounded a little like the creaking door hinges. 
Focusing her attention on the woman, Tandy quickly crossed the room, walking over ancient rugs that smothered the floor. As she came closer to the woman she noticed her wreath of white hair and the deep wrinkles that cut across her face. She looked older than humanly possible and Tandy was reminded of the mummies she saw in her history books at school. Even the woman’s clothing was old. She wore a long-sleeved, high-necked, floor-length dress made of red and pink rose patterned fabric that tried to be cheery, but failed. Tandy wondered if she had entered a time machine when she came into the room and had come out in the days of the pioneers. Not wanting to get too close to the woman, she stopped a safe distance from her.
The woman held a carved wooden cane with a gold handle that glowed in what little light leaked though the gaps between the heavy curtains. Her bony fingers were wrapped around the handle and she tapped one of them impatiently on a carved figure of a dragon. “Took you long enough. Come closer. Let me take a look at you.”
The last thing Tandy wanted to do was stand any closer to this woman, but Uncle Horus said it was important she come to Dame Alabaster for her training. 
Tandy slowly approached the woman and was surprised, and frightened, when the old lady’s hand darted out and grabbed her arm with firmness and amazing speed—like a snake snatching its prey. 
Dame Alabaster roughly pulled Tandy so close to her wrinkled face that Tandy could smell peppermint on her breath. Sneering, Dame Alabaster stared into Tandy’s eyes. “So you are the one they all talk about.” 
Tandy wasn’t sure who “they all” were, or what “they all” were talking about, but as the old woman continued searching her brown eyes, Tandy felt as if her brain was starting to melt.
“Hmm, interesting,” Dame Alabaster finally said, and she released Tandy’s arm and pushed her away. “What do you have to say for yourself, girl?”
Certainly Tandy had been scared at first, and certainly this woman was somewhat terrifying, but Tandy suddenly refused to be frightened. She squared her shoulders and defiantly said, “I’m not ‘girl.’ My name is Tandy Pomander.”
For just a moment Tandy thought she saw a sparkle of amusement on Dame Alabaster’s face, but if she did, it was quickly replaced with a frown. “Don’t get cheeky with me, girl. I’d hate to destroy you before your career even gets started.” 
Tandy thought that, for the sake of her future as a forest fairy, she had better curb her tongue, “I’m sorry, Dame Alabaster.”
The tension in the room eased. “That’s better, Tandy.”  Dame Alabaster added emphasis to Tandy’s name to show her acceptance of the apology. 
“So you come from Bathgate? By the woods?”  Dame Alabaster asked, and Tandy gathered that her interview had started. 
“Yes, ma’am.”
“What gave you to believe you have forest magic?”
Tandy realized Dame Alabaster was not going to waste time on simple pleasant conversation; she was cutting right to the meat of the matter.
“I was hiking with my friends in the forest and heard the voices of the Leaf Sprites—Uncle Horus told me later they were Leaf Sprites. None of my friends heard them, and they all thought I was crazy when I told them I was hearing small, squeaky voices. I went back later on my own to see if I really was crazy, and I heard them again. They were talking about a pine tree that was sick and dying.”
Dame Alabaster’s face took on a serious look. “Did you try and talk to them?”
“No. I didn’t know what to do.”
“Good. No use upsetting the Mistress of the Leaf Sprites. She insists you get permission from her first before you address any of her subjects.” Dame Alabaster rolled her eyes. “If you ask me, she is a little too controlling.”
This was all so new to Tandy that she didn’t know how to respond. To be polite she simply acknowledged that she was listening. “Oh, okay.”
Quickly getting back to business, Dame Alabaster fired off the next question. “Any other hints as to who you might be?”
“Well, yeah, I guess. I was walking in the forest, and all of sudden I really wanted to climb a tree. I mean really climb a tree bad. I didn’t know why, I just had to. I climbed as far up as I could go, and when I looked out over the forest, I saw little twinkles of light through the leaves everywhere. The lights were all different colors, and they were bunched together by color. Like a big bunch of blue twinkling lights over here, and then a bunch of orange ones over there. It was so awesome that I forgot where I was and lost my balance, but I didn’t fall. I sort of ‘floated’ out of the tree and back onto the ground.”
“Have you told anyone else about this?”
“Just Uncle Horus. Who else would believe me?”
“Indeed,” Dame Alabaster replied. While still staring intently at Tandy, she began rubbing her finger across the brow of the golden dragon on her cane’s handle. Tandy could have sworn the dragon moved slightly under her finger. 
“The lights you saw, there are many forest kinsfolk you will need to learn about. They all emit different colored lights, and have many different customs and traditions. Seed Pixies are blue and don’t like to be looked at in the eyes. Grass Elfs are green, and if you don’t look at them in the eyes, they are offended and spit on your feet. Bark Imps shine orange and if you don’t bring gifts when you approach their leaders, they disappear and you won’t see them again for years.” She stopped and shook her head. “Bark Imps hold grudges better than any forest kinsfolk I have ever met.”
Tandy was overwhelmed and shocked by what Dame Alabaster was telling her. It had just been two weeks since she was having dinner with Uncle Horus at their small kitchen table and accidentally mentioned she had heard voices in the forest. Uncle Horus suddenly sat up very straight and asked her to repeat what she had said.
“What was that? Voices in the forest?”
Tandy immediately regretted what she had let slip. “Oh, it was nothing.”
But Uncle Horus was insistent. “It’s okay, Tan-dandy,” that was his pet name for her, “don’t be afraid. Just tell me honestly what happened.”
Tandy loved and trusted Uncle Horus. It had been just the two of them since her parents disappeared five years ago. So she took a deep breath and told him what she had heard in the forest, and was surprised when a large grin crossed his face. 
“Tan-dandy! That's wonderful!”
“Uncle Horus, are you making fun of me?”
“Oh, heavens no! Now I can tell you that you are descended from forest fairy folk!”
That had begun a very confusing and revealing time for Tandy. She learned that her mother had been a forest guardian and had strong forest magic. “Your mother would be so proud,” Uncle Horus happily exclaimed. 
As Tandy told Uncle Horus of her experience in the tree, he became very serious and told her she was most likely a Leaflet Forest Fairy, the most powerful of the human forest fairy folk, and that she needed to be trained by Dame Alabaster. 
All Tandy knew of the old lady was that she lived in a huge house on a hill outside of her town. No one had ever seen the woman, but there were legends of her stealing children and keeping them chained in her basement. Every time Tandy told Uncle Horus about the new “has to be true” horrible story about Dame Alabaster, he would just shake his head and reply, “She would never do such a thing. She is a divine creature.” Tandy had a hard time wondering why he had called this recluse of a woman a “divine creature,” but now she was beginning to understand why.
“She is the oldest of the forest guardians and supervises training of all humans who have forest magic,” Uncle Horus told Tandy. “You must have an interview with her.” 
And so here Tandy was, face to face and ready to be interviewed—and hopefully trained—by an elderly, “divine,” forest guardian who was full of forest magic. As the old woman named off the many forest folk that had lived, unknown, around mankind for thousands of years, she talked as easily as if she were reciting a grocery list.
“Watch out for Stone Brownies, because they put stickers in your socks if they think you are trying to steal their rocks. But Cloud Nymphs, now there is a pleasant race. Not much you can do to upset a Cloud Nymph.” Dame Alabaster paused as she looked at Tandy, who was open-mouthed and speechless. “What’s wrong with you, gir—Tandy? Were you arrogant enough to think humans and animals were the only living beings on this earth? Who else would take care of the forests? And I won’t even go into the desert or water folk.”
Finally able to find her voice, Tandy responded, “There are others?”
Dame Alabaster was growing tired of the conversation and was ready to dismiss Tandy for the day. “Of course, but for now you just need to learn about the forest folk. It’s obvious you are a Leaflet Forest Fairy, which means you have a lot to learn before you begin your life’s work.”
Life’s work?” Tandy exclaimed, shocked.
Huffing impatiently, Dame Alabaster replied, “Of course your whole life. What else are you going to be doing once you grow your wings?”
Tandy gasped. “WINGS?”

(To be continued.)

If Only

By proxy.

If only. 

Daughter One was here for the weekend. Megan came into town to watch Violet’s play, which was adorable. Violet was a perfect “Mouse #2,” and spent a great deal of her time on stage waving at the family that came to cheer her on. Aunt Megan came from Sparks because Violet wanted her there. Megan is a good aunt. 

Over the weekend there were a few laughs because the other daughters were around, and they are hilarious. We also included games of Quiddler, a couple mornings of scone baking, and Lauren spent one night. 

We had family here for dinner Sunday night, including Dustin and Tjaden (Megan’s stepson and his honey-love). 

Sunday evening, after everyone left, I could tell the sadness was starting to settle in on my girl. And this morning, as she was saying her goodbyes before she left for the airport, we hugged and the tears came for us both. 

What do you say to your daughter when she is hurting so badly? “I’m sorry” is so pathetic, but it is all I have. The thing I really want to do, but don’t have the ability to, is take the pain away from her. Hasn’t she suffered enough? Could I have a turn? Please?

From my office window I watched her drive away—alone. Alone is what she has now. In Sparks there are yoga classes and interactions with a few friends, and there are the step kids she loves. But at the end of the day she is left with Alone. Alone doesn’t keep you warm at night. 

Parents watch their kids take first steps, learn how to write and read, make soccer goals, receive awards, struggle with friends, get jobs, choose spouses, and just generally live life and grow in the process. But we also watch them face disappointment, hardships, trials, and in some cases, heart-wrenching grief. Just as we cannot steal their joy when good things happen, we can’t take their pain when life sucks for them—as much as we might want to…try to…hope to… 

Here is yet another thing that was buried in the fine print that I failed to notice when I signed the parenting contract: “No proxy work.”

"What If?"

I’m not a big proponent of wasting emotional energy on things I cannot change. I haven’t always been this way. When I was a young mother and didn’t know any better, I worried plenty. “What if a kid strays from the church, what will I do?” “What if one of the girls has to get a divorce?” “What if Jack loses his job?” “What if we have to move?” “What if one of our kids dies before we do?” “What if I get called to the nursery? Or Relief Society President? AGGHH!!” What if? What if? What if?

Well, guess what? Kids strayed from the church. One of the kids got a divorce. Jack changed jobs. We moved. We buried Jim. I served in the nursery plenty, and did a stint as a RS pres. Funny thing, my worrying about those things didn’t change the fact they happened, nor did the worry make me better or less prepared for them. 

I could “think” about them occasionally and adjust habits accordingly. “I will give family home evening/scriptures/family prayer more attention in hopes the girls will stay active in the church,” or, “I choose to believe in Jack. If he changes jobs, I know he will still take care of us,” or, “I’ll try and stay close to the Lord so if something hard happens, I will be able to stay on my feet.” And so on. 

But fretting over something that hasn’t happened, or may never happen, just seems like waste of energy to me. And throwing tantrums over something that has happened that I cannot change really seems like a squandering of brain power. 

Case in point, the riots over our new president-elect. 

I’m not here to say who I voted for. At this juncture it really doesn’t matter. The deal is done and cannot be changed. I hear of these riots and I think, “Seriously? Burning flags and yelling in the streets is going to cause Donald to say, ‘Oh, you’re not happy with me? Okay, I’ll step down and let Hillary be president instead.’”

What is wrong with people? 

The die is cast. The election is over. The votes have been counted. IT’S DONE. Now, what will we do from here? Continue to stomp our feet in the streets like a jilted toddler? Or try to be a good American and make a difference in our own communities? And if it’s to be President Trump, let’s appeal to a Higher Power to help influence our president to make good decisions. 

We have had great presidents in the past. We have had horrible presidents in the past. And guess what? We are still standing. America is a tough lady. She can take it. 

And what if, by some happy chance, Donald does a good job? It could happen. I have hope it could. Let’s give the guy the benefit of the doubt.

As a mom I hold on to hope. Never try and take hope away from me. I cling to it like Gorilla Glue. If you take hope away, I shrivel up and die. I have hope that everything is going to work out okay. Call me silly, “pie in the sky,” naive. I don't care. I will keep hope in my pocket. It’s how I keep getting out of bed in the morning. 

In my foolish little mind I think it will all be fine in the end. None of us were sent here to fail. Everyone has potential. Even if you can’t see a shred of it in them, trust me, it is there. And life experiences can reveal that potential as time moves on. So why worry? Why waste emotional energy on “What ifs”? I prefer to spend my energy on the Right Nows. Trust me….the Right Nows are taxing enough.

Nailed It

I wanted a new bedside table. I know that the husband would not appreciate my spending any $$ for a new bedside table, so I threw the Wayfair catalog away instead of continuing to look over the “bedroom furniture” section; and closed the tab on the “bedroom furniture” page on wayfair.com (I’m nothing if not thorough). It was time to get creative. 

When my parents died I inherited a 5’ wooden stepladder. To be fair there were other things they left me, not just a stepladder. It wasn’t, “Good bye, sweetheart. Here's an old stepladder to remember us by.” But this is a great stepladder. It’s old and covered with chipped paint—very shabby chic—flat out wonderful. So I had this idea to do a little deconstructing and transform it into a unique bedside table. I suppose I have spent too much time looking at HGTV and Pinterest boards. Add to that a chop saw from Tadd, and a nail gun from Amazon, and you have a crazy woman in the garage flanked by two sawhorses.

Fast forward a couple hours later, and add some old beat-up pieces of wood I had hiding in the recesses of the garage, and viola! bedside table. And I didn't even shoot myself in the hand with the nail gun, or cut off a finger! Now I just need to “age” the industrial clip-on light, and we have a sight fit for Vintage Road Show. 

Saturday I had Josh and Ryan here to help me put the yard to bed. I set them to work with a list and a small bit of guidance, and they crossed it all off in a couple hours. We broke partway for pizza, and then I let Josh drive the golf cart when it was time to take them home. I feel extremely blessed to have the Crippen family in my grasp. They are good, good boys with great, great parents. There is an awful lot of work done around here because of them. 

Because they are good workers, I ended up with a butt-load of junk. Enter my neighbor, Bruce, and his blessed truck. The boys packed it full, and Bruce drove me to the dump. I’ll tell you what, getting rid of a bunch of trash like that feels like losing 50 lbs. It’s a wonderful feeling. 

Tomorrow, Vine and Branches Music (aka Onna, Sherelda, and Sue’s music writing venture), is having a meeting to prepare for a presentation to a stake Relief Society presidency Thursday night. We have to sell them on our You Are Enough fireside. I’m pretty sure it’s an easy sell. We are amazing.

Then, later this month, we are participating in our ward’s Relief Society talent night. We will try and wow the audience with a new song and an already-written beauty. The thing is, this audience already loves us, so even if we threw a rotten piece of crap song at them, they would still think it was spectacular. Ah, the beauty of biased friends.

Senseless


“God does watch over us and does notice us, but it usually through someone else that He meets our needs.” 
         -President Spencer W. Kimball

The past few weeks have revealed to me the best in people.  During a period of ridiculous political shenanigans, I have been shielding from the insanity by the actions and words of pure souls. I’ve been the recipient of kindness, concern, hugs, treats, money, lunches, movie dates, phone calls, walks, listening ears, firm hugs, and genuine inquiries as to my well-being and that of my eldest daughter.

First of all, I have been so humbled by, and grateful for, the love that has been directed at Megan from her sisters. Oh sure, they love her, but the past few months have revealed a new level of sisterly affection. It assures me that when Jack and I move on to the Great Beyond, the girls will take care of each other and their families when needs arise. 

Then I need look no further than outside my door to see the friends who keep me and mine in their thoughts and prayers. And I know on Megan's end there are similar good people tending to her. An abundance of text messages, emails, voice mails, visits, and notes speak volumes to our aching hearts.


Yes, this world is a mess. Yes, there are many individuals who do bad things to others—and enjoy it—but in my little world there are no such demons. I am surrounded by the best of the best, in my own family, and in my extended family of acquaintances. One might say I am blessed—way beyond good sense. 

Gaming

Grandma’s Halloween Party came off without a hitch. Pin the Nose on the Pumpkin, Witch Hunt, Floating Ghost, Eyeball in the Spoon Relay, “Don’t Eat Frankenstein!”, Crystal Ball Candy Guessing Game, Double-Trouble Card Matching, Swamp Water and Evil Treats, and so on. In attendance we had a ladybug, Pikachu, monster, two witches, a skeleton, Princess Elena, Rey and Kylo Ren, and a stormtrooper. Today’s pop culture was well represented. 

When the party wrapped up, the stormtrooper, Kylo, Rey, and Pikachu asked to drive around the neighbor shooting bad guys. So we opened up the sun roof on faithful Mara the Sequoia, and the kids stood up in it and raked the neighborhood, freeing us from criminals, villains, and intergalactic delinquents. 

Today marks 36 years of wedded bliss with the Husband. Yes, 36 years ago he crossed his fingers and took the plunge with me. Gotta hand it to him for bravery. 

Gone With the Wind

Overturned toy and towel bins.
Tipped over trash can and the contents strewn all over the backyard.
Flipped over rubber mat that seals the crack where the pool cover meets the decking. 
Mangled aluminum frame for pop-up structure over the pool equipment.

These are the benefits of a good, stiff wind. Now I just hope my skirt doesn't fly up around my neck as I cross the parking lot into the church building.

I am back from another jaunt to Sparks. Our girl is so sad. What can be done? I have no idea. I just keep her in my prayers and make myself available for whenever she might need me. 

I have a personal philosophy for parenting adult children. I look at myself as an airplane (sorry for the analogy item choice given the current crappy thing going on in the family) just circling the airport. While I’m circling the kids are living their lives, making their choices, taking care of their loved ones. They don’t need me in the middle of their business. But if there is a problem—a need—then I land and do what I can to help. I do a lot of circling because our bunch is pretty self-sufficient. But lately I’ve been parked in Sparks, and though I'm sorry for the reason I am there, I’m so glad that I can be if daughter #1 needs me. 

While at daughter #1’s I watched The Great British Baking Show with her. I was inspired and bought Mary Barry’s Baking Bible. I’m not a total loser in the kitchen, but these English recipes with their odd size pans and gram measurements are kicking my butt. Three recipes. Three failures. I’m starting to lose my confidence. There is a reason we abdicated from the British Empire, and it all boils down to the metric system. 

Road Warrior

Pack my crap in the car. Fill up the tank. Head out.

Stop in Wendover at that Chevron station for bathroom and fill up. Avoid the one gas pump that won't take a debit card. Grab a 5 Hour Energy (pink lemonade ONLY) if absolutely necessary.

Onward. 

Stop in Elko at the Sinclair for bathroom break. Miss the step when coming out of the store and fall on the sidewalk.

Onward.

Stop in Winnemucca at the Flying J for gas and bathroom break. Drive through the McDonald's for a cheeseburger with bacon. 

Back on the road. 

Arrive in Sparks, hug the girl and pet her dogs. 

Each time I make the trip, this is pretty much the pattern. (Except for the falling. I only did that once. But in my defense I was looking at the big, new, yellow scratch and dent on the front bumper of my car and wondering just where in the heck I did that at? and if I really was the one responsible. Next thing I knew I was on the ground and some nice man was calling me "Ma'am" and asking me if I was alright as he pulled me up off the concrete.)

I'm spending a couple days out here with Daughter #1. People ask me how she is doing. I tell them the truth: crappy. She is sad and empty. Just as you would expect when someone loses their sweetheart. People ask how I'm doing. I tell them the truth: I've been better. I feel for my kid. 

We watch The Great British Baking Show while I am here. Actually, she watches The Great British Baking Show whether I'm here or not. It's her jam right now. It's wild times with baking judges Paul Hollywood and Mary Barry (real names, honest).

Last Sunday I took Addie, Claire, and Ruby for a walk in the park. We collected fuzzy weeds; gathered shattered glass pieces that looked like diamonds; discovered a rusted bolt; picked long, dried sticks; and saw two grasshoppers "hugging" in the middle of the path. We also ran into lil' Jack, Van, and Violet, who had found a snake and were anxious to take it home to their mother. (How'd that turn out, Whitney?)

Miles the dog just had his seventh birthday. Seventh... I am faced with the fact I still have a long way to go with him.  Charlie, on the other hand, has made himself a second home with Bruce and Maria across the street. He spies a small opening in their door and slips in to inspect their house, mop-lick the kitchen floor, have a snack, a drink of water, and a nap. No wonder he is in such a hurry to escape our house. 

Sadly, the pool is closed for the year. The leaves are turning. I am starting to collect wood for Forest the wood stove. Grandma's Halloween party is on the calendar. Thankfully mankind has not screwed up the earth enough to do away with the seasons. 

Oh, and Christmas will be in a couple weeks. 

High-Minded Thinking

I just realized something. I could nickname this blog "DUMD" (Dogs Under My Desk), but that doesn't make much sense. But Dogs Under My Bum would work: DUMB.

These are the important things I think about.

Dark Cloud

Sometimes I really hate Onna...

Well, I don't really "hate" her. Hate is a strong word. "Dislike" isn't really correct either. Maybe "annoyed" fits better. And the only time I am annoyed with her is when she insists we go for a walk when all I want to do is sit at home under a dark cloud.

You see I have realized the past few weeks have caught up with me. Since August 30th I've tried to be a positive player in Megan's life. That was my job. To try and add some kind of light to her life, even if it was a sliver of a glimmer. Not sure if I succeeded, but amid the dishes and loaves of bread, I tried to be "up." My heart is broken for my broken-hearted girl and I will do anything I can to help her.

But now that I am home and dismissed for the time being, I find a dark cloud hanging over my head. I keep telling myself Jim was just my son-in-law so I shouldn't be so affected—that belongs to his mother, kids, and wife—but he was part of our family, an important part, and now that part is missing. We all feel it.

I have a list of things I should be doing—clean the garage, spray the weeds with RoundUp, organize the Crippen boys to help me put the backyard to sleep, clean the oven, etc, etc—but I have no desire to do one dang thing around here. Am I lazy? Gosh, I hope not. I think it's just grief. It's weeks late, but I think it finally caught up with me.

Grief is a funny thing. It has hundreds of faces and you are never sure which face it will show you when it's your turn to host it. And as an unwelcome guest, it can also shift from one emotion to another in the blink of an eye, and with no warning. And then there are the triggers. A word. A picture. A sound. One never knows the Thing that will summon sad feelings.

In moments of productiveness I have managed to scratch out a few thank you cards in my less-than-legible handwriting (typing really is best for me), but after all that has been offered me, and all the acts of service that have come my direction, a "thank you" hardly seems adequate. Actually I have yet to find the perfect words to convey my appreciation. If I could put my words into body language, I would be slump-shouldered, with my hands hanging limply and helplessly at my side in complete surrender.

I penned a poem to tuck into thank you cards, and perhaps it will begin to explain—however inadequately—how I've felt:

In the blink of an eye everything slides,
And one simple phone call creates a divide.
The ground is shaken and hot pain prevails,
And needs do arise that tip our heart’s scales.

So in comes the calvary—here come our friends,
And the straight stab of hurt softens and bends.
Love stretches out and gathers the ache,
Holds us together so we crack but don’t break.

Yours are the arms that reached out in love,
To lift and to help like aid from Above.
Though we adjust to our new broken heart,
Your gift has kept us from falling apart.