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LJ Idol: Follow the Butterflies…..

[This is a re-post of an entry written for LJ Idol week 15 – preoccupied.]

My husband says I have butterflies in my head. It’s not meant as an insult, it’s said with fondness in his voice and is a reference to my ability, or rather, my lack of an ability to pay attention.

It’s not ADD or ADHD, and in fact I always did well in school and paid attention to most of my classes as I was generally interested in most of them. It’s more that I seem to have too many interesting things to look at, read, listen to, and do.

I’m a housewife, but my house is usually an organized mess of chaos. Tim and I know where things are…for the most part. Every once in a while I’ll get this grand idea to organize something and I’ll start on it and feel the excitement blooming as I come up with a plan….and then I’ll spy a cookbook I haven’t looked through yet, or I’ll decide to check my email. Email leads to Facebook, Livejournal, Twitter, Google Reader, Pinterest, and Sink into Your Eyes. If the story is good on SIYE, there’s an entire afternoon GONE.

And let’s not forget my Kindle. Last week, one of my favoured chick-lit authors released her latest spy/suspense novel and I immediately downloaded it and spent most of the afternoon reading it. I’m also in the process of re-reading the entire Pratchett library, and sometimes I’ll stop just until the kettle boils to read a bit and wind up spending hours and retuning to a cold kettle!

My brain doesn’t stop. I used to use some Guster lyrics on the front page of my LJ years ago and I never knew how perfect they fit me until recently — I’m the center of attention in the walls inside my head / and no one will ever know it if I keep my mouth shut tight — Boy, does that ring true. Even while I’m doing the washing up, my brain is thinking, thinking, thinking. Dreaming up ideas for stories (that never get written), imagining what I would do if I had a bigger kitchen, planning out the redecoration of the upstairs, dreaming about having children, creating new designs for felt crafts….anything and everything goes on in my head.

You know what the say about the best laid plans and all, right? Every week, on Monday morning (sometimes afternoon) I say to myself “this week will be different”. I tell myself that I will get on top of the laundry, including putting it away, I will keep the kitchen clean and do the dishes daily, I will tackle the big pile of mending that’s been waiting for “a few spare minutes”, and I might even get a head start on preparing the spare room for my guests, the first of which arrives in April.

Each week I fail. I spend so much time thinking about what I planned on doing with my week, that I wind up not doing any of it.

So here I sit, Monday afternoon. It’s a new week. What am I going to do with it?

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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LJ Idol: Puppy Love

[this is a re-post of an entry previously posted to my LJ for LJ Idol Week 14’s prompt was “twitterpaited”.]

I’ve always disliked dogs. Dislike feels like it’s too weak of a word, but hate is too strong, so let’s say I strongly disliked dogs. Maybe a large dog tried to jump on me when I was little, maybe a dog bit me, maybe it was just their loud bark or being growled at, but I have never liked dogs and have always been scared of large dogs.

Until the day I met my in-laws dog, Ebony. Ebby was a large, black Alsatian who weighed more than me and was taller than me if she was up on her hind legs and by all means I should have been afraid of her…but she was soft as butter. I was nervous the day Tim took me over to meet his parents and their dog because I knew I didn’t like dogs, and I was worried that this would come out, or that Ebby would somehow be able to sense my fear and do something. Ebby was a beauty. She softly nudged my hand with her nose and wanted me to pet her between her ears, and then she laid down on the floor next to the chair I was sitting in as if to say “right, you’ll do”.

I spent many afternoons walking Ebby with my mother-in-law. Sometimes with Tim or my sister-in-law, but often it was just the two of us walking around the farmer’s fields in the village with Ebby. My mother-in-law didn’t use a lead with Ebby, as Ebby would always respond to commands and never acted up. She even permitted the school children who called her a “wolf” to fuss her and would always sniff the dogs we walked past, but rarely barked at them, even if they barked at her first!

A few months after I moved, my in-laws went away on a holiday and didn’t take the dog with them. My sister-in-law was staying behind, but she would be at work during the day and they didn’t want to leave Ebby alone all day, so I was asked if I could take care of her. I would need to go over to their house mid-morning to let Ebby out, bring her back to our house, take her on her afternoon walk, and then bring her back home. I was nervous. What if the dog didn’t respond to my commands? What if she ran away from me? What if she snapped at another dog, a child, or me?

I didn’t have to worry. Ebby and I walked down to the end of our street and all I had to say to her was “wait” and she stopped before going into the street. I told her “sit”, and her bottom went to the ground. “Go on, girl” was her signal that it was okay to cross the street, and “are you a thirsty dog?” gave her permission to jump into the beck (US: stream) and have a drink and a swim if the water was deep enough. We would go around the fields and the village church and Ebby was always by my side as soon as I called her to me. She followed me around he house all day, trying to squeeze herself into the small rooms until it was time for her afternoon walk, and her return home. Once we got home, she would flop herself onto the living room rug and be content until my sister-in-law came home to feed her dinner.

Many days my mother-in-law’s visit would be announced by Ebby nudging the front door open if it was ajar. I would turn around from washing my dishes and there she was a full five minutes ahead of my mother-in-law because all you had to say to her was “go to Tim’s” and she would start walking over to our house.

I fell in love with the big black dog and would often offer to take Ebby on her walks to give my mother-in-law a break. Evenings spent with my in-laws always included the dog. She would walk around from person-to-person getting petted and fussed over before settling herself in a corner.

Sadly, Ebby is no longer with us. A few months ago the vet found lumps in her leg that turned out to be cancerous and Ebby was put down a few days after Christmas. We were all saddened by the news and I sobbed into Tim because we had just seen Ebby two days before at the family Christmas celebration and we all thought she was okay.

My in-laws have a new dog. She also is a German Shepherd, but her colouring is different and her manner is different to that of Ebby. Bonny (the new dog) is two-years-old and hasn’t had much training from her old owners, so she sometimes scares me when she tries to jump at me or bark, but I am willing to try to get to know Bonny for Ebby’s sake. If I could fall in love with Ebby, surely I can give Bonny a chance.

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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LJ Idol Re-Post: Building Trains

[I got a lot of good feedback on this post both from people reading it through therealljidol and my friends in the garden railway world. I thought it was worth a re-post.]

For Christmas last year, my husband gave his little brother a thin, narrow length of steel (it looked like a ruler), a sheet of brass, a steel cylinder, some rods of assorted length, width, and shape, and a set of plastic couplings (“choppers”). He would have given me the same, but I joined the party a little later on. We gave the same gift to a friend of ours, and my husband had some for himself. We are going to make steam trains for the garden railway*.

Now, I’m a crafty person. I love beading, sewing, and scrapbooking. I used to have a (pink) toolbox and I could fix basic things around the home. I think the most complicated thing I did on my own was fixing the toilet at my mom’s house. But stepping into my husband’s workshop put me in a whole new world.

In 2009, my husband finished renovating the small brick building to the side of our house that had formerly seen life as a washing house and an outdoor loo. I helped him install two long workbenches down either side and hang a wall of shelves in the alcove that once held a toilet. Entering the workshop, your nose was assaulted with smells – the pine of the shelving, the white paint from the walls, the dampness of the building, the metallic smell of butane mixing in with the sharp bite of methylated spirit. A small heater hummed in the corner, and the room was punctuated with bursts of lighting from the three clip-on lights scattered around the room.

The workshop had a narrow aisle between the two work benches, but somehow we managed to fit three people into it. In front of me was the bench that was used for putting things together and Tim had screwed down a large, heavy clamp. The bench behind me held all of the workshop appliances – an angle grinder, a tall drill, and the lathe. Under both benches were shelves holding all sorts of delights – smaller clamps, delicate pliers, oil to grease the machines to keep it going, and various bits and lumps of metal waiting to be made into something.

I was given a set of safety instructions for using the workshop that included the following: Always wear boots and goggles, take off your rings, take off your necklace, and tie your hair back and tuck it into your collar. My eyes grew wide with fear as Tim began to tell me stories he had heard of people getting hair stuck in the turning lathe, or getting a necklace snagged and it strangling them. This was a piece of machinery to be feared. I wasn’t looking forward to using it.

We each have our own plastic box labelled with the name of our eventual loco and where we can keep all our bits and pieces separate. I have named my loco “Orion”, as a dedication to my father. The boxes contained the Christmas present pieces and were just waiting to be cut, drilled, soldered, and bent into shape.

The first thing we had to do was make the base for the engine, called the frames. The frame makes a box that everything will sit on top of or be attached to. Making the frames involved taking the bits of steel that looked like a ruler and sawing them down to size. Then came the painstaking task of filing down the rough edges to make both sides even….but don’t file down too far or you will have to start at the beginning again. It took me a half hour to saw through the metal, and just as long to file the cut side, and I had to do it for four sides. There also are some holes you need to drill in the pieces, as well as filing away a notch, but I hadn’t gotten that far yet before I wound up in the hospital and had surgery on my arm, which left me out of the workshop for a while. My husband and his brother have completed their frames, and moved on to the next part.

My husband and his brother were attempting to cut the wheel blanks one day over the Summer and had agreed to cut everyone’s since it was taking them ages just to saw one. They admitted defeat after two hours and only three wheels to show for it, so Tim rang a friend of his who offered to cut them for us in his workshop.

Of course, having the wheel blanks doesn’t mean we have wheels. They need to be turned on the lathe to be shaped into a train wheel. Unfortunately, our lathe broke while my brother-in-law was working on his own, so we have had to stop production while we search for a new fuse for it.

Even after we have the wheels done, we will all be a long way away from having a finished product. We have to make all the fiddly bits that go into a model steam train. Loads of terms that I don’t understand now, but I’m sure I’ll become familiar with them as we build our engines. Things like a boiler, lubricator, and regulator are all foreign words to me. The only piece of our engines we will be buying pre-made are the pressure gauges. Everything else will be handmade.

We still have a pile of tin, brass, and steel in the workshop, but I’ve got my eye on the end result. Here’s the instructions we will be following just to give you an idea of everything that needs to be done: http://trains.de.jardin.free.fr/minidampf/brazil_uk/contents.html

We all started work on our engines in early 2011. Maybe one of us will get one finished in 2012!


*Just in case you were wondering, yes, we have a railway in our garden. We model in 16mm to the foot and have models of narrow gauge trains, so our track is 32mm wide. We have small steam trains that usually run off Butane or meths, with a few adventurous souls making tiny coal-fired engines. If you’re interested in finding out more, you can check out the Association of 16mm Narrow Gauge Modellers here: http://www.16mm.org.uk

[This has been an entry for therealljidol Week 12 – Some Assembly Required]

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog.]

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White…February?

We haven’t had any snow all Winter, despite the massive warnings in mid-October that it was going to be a “hard winter” with “snow as early as November”. Granted, it has snowed in other areas of the UK, particularly Scotland, but this weekend was the first time it snowed over pretty much the entire country. When I woke up on Saturday to see the light dusting of snow, I laughed as I thought that was all we were going to get. The hard frost on Saturday morning was thicker than the snow. However, we received more Saturday night into Sunday. As far as I can tell, it started around 8PM or so, it was still snowing when we went to bed, but it had stopped when I woke up around 4AM and looked outside. There wasn’t much by my standards – only about 5cm total in our garden – but it was enough to grind the county to a halt.

As a Northeastern US girl, I’m used to snow. It’s not Winter unless we’ve been dumped on with a foot or more of snow, so it always amuses me how badly most of the UK handles the slightest amount of snow. Busses get cancelled (good thing it was Sunday), local shops are shut, and people can’t seem to understand the idea of shovelling their driveway and clearing the snow off the roof before trying to move their cars. My first Winter here as a visitor, it snowed. It was November 2008 and it was something like the first time parts of the UK had seen snow in over 20 years. I decided to walk down to the Co-op in the next village over, and I was amazed at the state of some of the vehicles on the road. People had barely cleared off their windscreens of snow, let alone the rest of the car. Since then, it has snowed pretty regularly each Winter, with at least one snow “storm”. You would think people would have learned and remembered how to handle it from one year to the next.

If Tim has off work, snow for us is just a reason to get out the snow plow for the garden railway. Fortunately, this was Tim’s scheduled Sunday off. We invited our friends Helen and Mark over to help — well, Mark was outside with Tim, and Helen and I stayed warm inside and chatted over a cup of tea. Our snow plow seems to be allergic to the camera though, because every time I aimed a camera at it, it decided to derail, but I still managed to pull off one nice image:


It took Tim 4 tanks of gas to get the lower circuit done (one tank is good for a 20-30 minute run). Our upper circuit goes into a cutting about 4 inches deep, and the cutting was completely full of snow so we decided to only open the lower circuit. We might have gotten the plow around, but it would have made the cutting unstable and probably would have caused an “avalanche” (at 16mm to the foot that’s what it would have looked like). Plus, the upper circuit has two level crossings across our front walkway, and most of that snow had been compacted down by our boots so it would have been a struggle to move!



Mark used an end of train marker from Austria as a temporary stop sign to indicate that the line off to the left (what line?) was currently closed.


The platform at Horncastle. We actually have 5 tracks here, but only cleared the one for use.


Running the first train completely around the service.

While stating “England doesn’t get snow” might have been an accurate statement 5, 10 years ago, I think these photos prove that is no longer true*!

[This post has been cross-posted to my LJ as my entry for this week’s The Real LJ Idol topic: Current Events.]

*Not something I say, but something a friend said she was told by a friend.

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog.]

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LJ Idol Week 11 Re-post: Blocks of Wood and Marbles

The Week 11 Topic for LJ Idol was an open topic, and I chose to go back and pick one of my unfinished entries for a different topic, Sticks and Stones, that I decided against using. I am really pleased with this post, and even though I was stuck in “Tribe Redemption” from the week before, I still scored pretty high on this entry. Remember, if you want to read other people’s entries or vote on the current week, you can go to the LiveJournal Community .

I was an imaginative child. I would make up worlds inside my head, sometimes writing them down on paper, other times just playing in the world inside my head. Each Summer I would go and spend a week visiting my aunt and uncle at their home in Central Pennsylvania. I loved being a “big girl” and not needing my parents for a week.

My Uncle bought the house in the mid-70s and “invited” his parents and two sisters to live in it with him – his older unmarried sister, and his youngest sister who would later get married and become my mom. I always loved sleeping in my mom’s old bedroom because I never knew what kind of treasure from her past I might find hidden in a drawer or in the closet.

It was a large Cape Cod style house with two bedrooms on the ground floor and two bedrooms on the top floor with a full bathroom on each floor. The ground floor also had a large living room, dining room, and the kitchen. A basement ran the full length of the house and it had been divided in half – half of the basement was left unfinished and had been my pappy’s workshop, and the other half was a family room.

Along one side of the family room was a long bar with tall stools. My pappy used to mix drinks behind it, and there were still containers of stirring sticks on top of the mini fridge. Under the bar was a long cabinet that used to hold glasses and trays. The cabinet became the storage area for all of the board games my family had collected — some were from my mom’s childhood, others were purchased new as nieces and nephews got older and needed games to play with. Many were purchased for me.

My favourite games were the games that had lots of pieces to them. The banks from the game Piggy Bank, the triangular shaped Triominos, dice, pick -up sticks, tinker toys, etc. One in particular I don’t even know if it had a name or was just blocks to play with, but it was blocks with different coloured rectangles and triangles on them – red, green, yellow, and blue. There were no instructions. While digging through the cabinet I found an old game my aunt simply called “Milkman”, consisting of some milk floats (delivery cars) and bottles of milk. I also loved playing Chinese Checkers almost as much as I loved playing with the marbles it came with and I would spend hours organizing the marbles and colour-coordinating each side of the board.

If I didn’t play in the basement, then I was upstairs in the sewing room pulling out buttons, ribbons, bobbins, and fabric scraps to make art projects with (I am quite embarrassed to say that there are still two of my creations hanging in my mom’s old bedroom 25 years later). Sometimes I also played in what we always called “the back room” – the second bedroom on the ground floor that had a mustard yellow sofa and some of the games we played more frequently. The back room often times became a school room for playing school or a store if I wanted to play store. My aunt was always willing to play with me and would even keep things from year to year so the box I pretended was a cash register was always there. We usually raided some of the game boxes for money.

When I visited, I was always there for a week. My visits would always include at least one day trip to some place local such as the Land of Little Ponies or Hersheypark and a picnic at Kiwanis Lake. I would also help my aunt with her grocery shopping and housework. We didn’t have a clothesline at my parent’s house, so I loved pegging out the clothing and watching it blow in the wind. My aunt also always let me do the dusting and watering of her plants, but there were always some tasks she either didn’t need my help with, or things I couldn’t do.

I would be sent to play on my own. I always had a choice – the sewing room, the back room, or the basement, unless my uncle had a puzzle on display on the ping pong table. If the table was empty, I almost always picked the basement.

The first thing I always did was get out the coloured blocks. Spread out across the full length of the bar, these blocks would become the base of my village. I used the marbles for people, and I made a swimming pool by putting a bunch of seashells in a circle. The deep end was marked off with a piece of ribbon. The piggy banks from the piggy bank game were coralled into a farmyard fenced off with stirring sticks, the milk man trucks were placed around on the “streets”, and I played town.

I would play with my made up village for the entire week. I always hated the last day of my visit when I had to take everything down and put it away, but I knew I could play with it the following year. As I grew up, my village evolved from a village with farms and a community pool, to separate houses with backyard pools, to city scenarios with row houses.

I probably made my last village when I was around 11 or 12, but I know if I went into my aunt’s basement today all of the pieces would still be there waiting for me to create something.

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog.]

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LJ Idol Week 6 Re-Post: Peanut Butter Jelly Time

LJ Idol’s week 6 prompt was “food memory”. My entry didn’t score very high, but scored high enough to keep me in the competition.

I stopped eating peanut butter when I was six. I went from absolutely loving peanut butter and eating peanut butter and jelly (UK: jam) sandwiches nearly every day to refusing to have them at all. No matter if my mom tempted me with my favourite flavour of jelly (strawberry preserve so it had the bits in it), cut the bread into a cute shape, put the peanut butter on a stick of celery for ants on a log…. nothing. I refused to eat it.

This can create a problem when you’re a kid, especially growing up in the US, where PB&J is the quintessential lunch food for a child. Everyone eats it (unless you’re allergic to peanuts), and most parents don’t mind having their child’s friends over because they know all they need to give them for lunch is a good old peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Grape jelly, of course, was the usual, with strawberry being a treat. Some people put bananas on their sandwiches, or a thick, gooey, sugary substance called marshmallow fluff…but not me. I absolutely HATED peanut butter.

When I was little, I had a best friend. She was the same age as me and our parents met through their friends who did not have any children of their own. Their friends introduced our parents because they knew each couple had a little girl around the same age. I was exactly 2 months older than the other girl, almost to the day. She and I did everything together. We took swimming lessons together, our parents took the other one with them when they went to McDonald’s, and we even went away with each other’s families for overnight trips. At the young age of 3 or 4, we were inseparable.

Every day I played over at my friend’s house, her mom would serve us each half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

In the early 80s, wholesale bulk shops like SAM’s club and Costco were becoming famous for opening their doors to the public after previously being restaurant-only shops. People flocked to the wholesale clubs and had no idea what to do because the items were so large. My dad one time purchased a box of 1,000 paper-wrapped straws that my mom and I still find remnants of in the back of the cutlery drawer at her house. People purchased food in bulk – huge bottles of vegetable oil, herbs and spices by the pound, tea bags in boxes bigger than your head…and giant aluminium tins of Skippy peanut butter.

The massive tin was about as wide as a dinner plate, and probably a foot or more in height. I couldn’t begin to tell you how much peanut butter was in the tin, but I am sure it would have been put to good use in a school cafeteria, and not in someone’s house.

My mom was more sensible and continued to buy her peanut butter (Peter Pan brand) in regular sized jars. My friend’s mom…. not so much. She and her husband fully embraced the bulk buying, and their purchase included a giant tin of peanut butter, because well, she knew her daughter and her daughter’s friends liked peanut butter, so why not?

It was around this time that I started refusing peanut butter. I told my mom I didn’t like it, and she just couldn’t figure out why until she was standing in her friend’s (my friend’s mom) kitchen one day and her friend was making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for her daughter and me. My mom watched as she peeled back a thin layer of plastic wrap (UK: cling film) and was repulsed by the stale stench of peanut butter that greeted her nose.

After that, my mom stopped offering me peanut butter sandwiches.

I didn’t start eating peanut butter again until I was in my 20s and had gone vegetarian and needed a source of protein. I’m still not a huge fan of it, and the fact that the US brands aren’t available here in the UK doesn’t bother me one bit.

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this via the email subscription, please click on the link to go directly to the entry on my site to comment as the email address used to send the posts does not accept replies.]

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LJ Idol Week 3 Re-Post

Here’s what I entered in for week 3 of LJ Idol, which ranked in the top 5 for my “tribe”. Our prompt for week 3 was coprolite. Coprolite is defined as fossilized dung, so anything relating to poop seemed to be fair game for the contestants.

When the site manager handed me the can of Old Dutch Cleanser, I knew they had run out of tasks to give me. I was thirteen and participating in a program called Mission at the Eastward (or MATE as we referred to it as. Nothing funnier than telling people you were “going to MATE”). MATE was a program in Maine where groups of people would come in over the Summer months, live in the dormitories at the University of Maine Farmington, and help repair the homes of the people in the area who sustained damage over the Winter. Sometimes we also would be sent out to help Wilton Affordable Housing (like council housing here in the UK) with some of their projects if we had a lot of volunteers.

That week I worked on several sites because I wasn’t quite strong enough to do some of the building tasks, so myself and the other young teenagers were all given lighter tasks. We were usually sent to the sites that were near completion to go in and assist with painting or with cleaning up. I spent a lot of time that week trimming blackberry bushes, sweeping floors, and panting.

With four of us working on these tasks, it didn’t take long before we were shuttled over to a new project. The new project was renovating a home that had sustained lots of Winter damage. We started out in the garage, a very weak wooden structure next to the house. We were emptying the garage out and then the building would be torn down to make way for a newer, sturdier garage. Our group numbers increased, and by the end of the day the garage was empty and ready for demolition.

We really enjoyed it and dubbed ourselves the “demolition crew”. We made light work of the kitchen, ripping out the cabinets and counter tops to make way for new ones and once again, ran out of work. We were sent upstairs to take a look at the state of the bathroom. The bathroom was extremely dirty, but underneath all that grime was a gorgeous claw footed bathtub that was going to be saved and restored to it’s former beauty. When I was handed the can of Dutch, I knew this would be my project for the day.

I started by pouring drain cleaner down the drain. Once the drain was clear, I felt it would be easier to clean. It took an entire bottle of Mister Plumber to deal with the years worth of clogs. After I was satisfied the drain was clean, I devised a plan for cleaning it.

Old Dutch Cleanser was a granulated powder style cleanser, similar to Comet. You sprinkled it on, added some water to make a paste, and let it sit for a few minutes and then scrubbed it off. Given the state of the bathtub, I knew it was going to take quite a while, but I was going to give it my all. Donning rubber gloves that went up to my elbows (I was small for my age), I went to work.

Boy, did I work. I finally decided it was going to be easier to get the corners of the bathtub clean if I climbed inside of it. Working on the other side of the wall was my friend, Rocco. He was trying to remove the sheet rock to gain access to the plumbing behind it. All of a sudden, the entire wall gave way and collapsed into the bathroom. The bathtub was now full of tiny round mouse droppings…and I was covered in it.

The mouse droppings were everywhere. They covered my legs, my arms, and I had plenty stuck in my hair, too. Fortunately, the droppings were hardened from the years it had spent between the walls and there was no sign of the rodent. Unfortunately, I was a thirteen-year-old girl who had just recently discovered fashion, make-up, and boys. The older boy I had a crush on was working in the next room over and when he head my scream, came in to see what was wrong.

I bolted. I ran past both my crush and my friend, down the stairs and out the door where one of the adults managed to stop me. He went and got his wife, who helped me get as much of the droppings out of my hair as we could. When we returned to our dorms for the day I think I washed my hair at least three times to try to get the dirty feeling off of me. I’m pretty sure everything I had been wearing that day went straight into the garbage.

Despite all this, I was determined to finish my project. I didn’t want any of the mouse droppings to land on me again, so I wore a trash bag over my clothing and borrowed a hat. By quitting time, I had that bathtub gleaming.

On our last day, we always had a bit of a party. Each site group would put on a skit, we would look at a slide show of photos taken during the week (this was pre-digital!), and we would have an awards ceremony. Everyone received an award, no matter how silly. You could give an award to anyone you wanted for whatever reason. The man who got locked out of his car at one of the sites received a coat hanger and a piece of cardboard with “lock picking kit” written on it. The man who hit a deer received a block of wood with one of those things designed to deter deer mounted on top. The woman in charge of cooking for the week was presented with a set of cutlery glued to a plate ringed with dry macaroni. One of the teenage boys was given a roll of duct tape. Things like that. Nothing that would mean anything to anyone else, and nothing that cost too much money. And me? I was given a canister of Old Dutch cleanser.

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.

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LJ Idol Week One Re-Post

I started participating in a writing competition on Livejournal called LJ Idol. A friend of mine had participated in past years, and it looked like fun. Our first week’s topic was “When you pray, move your feet”. Below is my entry for LJ Idol. I landed about 11th in my tribe overall in terms of voting. If you’re interested in voting, you can check the LJ Idol page each week.

We crossed the border into Mexico and were greeted by dirty, sweaty men. The road we were driving on was not paved, there were no lines on the road, no rest stops, and no conveniences. The first night, we slept on the floor of a church. I can still remember the girls not wanting to be separated from the boys, so the girls slept on the stage and the boys in the orchestra pit below us. My friend Alison and I woke up screaming at 3 in the morning because a cockroach was crawling near us. Alison’s boyfriend woke up and smashed the roach inches away from my sleeping boyfriend’s head. The next morning we continued on to our “dormitory”. There were two long rooms set up for us – one for boys, and one for girls. The mattresses were worn and dirty and we were all glad we had brought sleeping bags to sleep in so we wouldn’t have to lay directly on the mattresses. We couldn’t drink the water out of the tap, instead we had to purchase 5 gallon drums of water from the grocery store. This water also had to be used for washing, brushing our teeth, and cooking. Some of us braved using the water from the outside tap to wash ourselves, but most of us relied on a baby wipe wipe down each morning and evening. The toilets flushed, but you couldn’t put any toilet paper down them, so each stall had a large black bin for it that we were responsible for emptying daily. When we turned out the lights at night, all the bugs would come out and crawl all over the floor, walls, and ceilings. You soon learned to sleep wearing your sneakers in case you needed a nighttime trip to the bathroom. This was to be our home while we were there.

Our job while we were there was to provide bible school to some of the local children, and to assist with building houses. On our first morning teaching we met our children for the week – girls barely older than 8 taking care of babies, boys with dirty clothes on, babies who looked like they were in desperate need of a bath or a clean diaper. None of the children wore shoes. There was an old, hard, leather ball outside that served as a football, basketball, soccer ball, volleyball, and kickball. Pregnant teenagers younger than ourselves sat at tables inside the classroom waiting for us. The one thought running through my head was how on earth are we going to teach them?.

My Spanish was non-existent. I studied German, a language which was helpful when I travelled in Europe the previous Spring, but completely useless South of the border. The children did not speak English. I had a piece of paper my boyfriend had made me with some Spanish phrases on it and I had him translate some of the songs I was to teach into Spanish for me so at least the children would know what they were singing about.

It was a mess. The children didn’t understand me, and even though I had a paper full of helpful phrases, nothing prepared me for being left alone in a room with 20 children. I tried teaching them a song I had translated into Spanish with very little luck, so I started singing “Jesus Loves Me” instead. To my surprise, the children knew the tune and they taught me the Spanish words – Jesu, Mi Amo. I tried again with another translated song, this one with movements. I soon had the group all singing and dancing. I gave up on my translated songs and started singing to them in English, and some of the older children taught me some of the songs they knew in Spanish.

My friends outside weren’t having any luck, either. The worn ball that the church had barely had any air in it, and it was so hard it was too heavy to kick. One of the boys finally returned to our dormitories and came back with a ball he had brought with him for our own leisure. The faces of the children lit up at the sight of the black and white ball and were soon showing off their skills. At the end of the week, we left the new ball behind.

The group sent out to work on construction sites met similar problems. Even the people in our group who claimed fluency in Spanish and passed their AP exams with flying colours were having problems following along as they didn’t learn those kinds of words in their lessons. Armed with a battered dictionary and lots of hand gestures, they soon figured out what the foreman wanted them to do.

That evening we headed back to our dorms, exhausted from our day of teaching and building. We still managed to sit around outside in the small courtyard between the dorms to talk about our day. Someone got out a guitar, and we built a campfire and all sang and danced in the warm glow. Despite a horrible beginning to our week, we were sure we would be able to make a difference by the end of the week. That week, we learned that being a Christian was more than just praying on your knees to God each Sunday. It was the work you did with your hands, voice, and feet that also counted.

[This has been an entry for The Real LJ Idol.]

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users can comment directly on Facebook.]

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