Rhonda's A 'Muse'-ing Rambles

Life and Times of a Busy Woman

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Pumpkins & Ponderings

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on October 28, 2010

These are a couple of pumpkins from my [late] pumpkin patch. Although not quite all the way ripe, we are picking a couple of them to use; one pie pumpkin of 13 pounds and one Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin of 17 pounds. Tonight I cleaned out the pie pumpkin and made a pie and a loaf of pumpkin bread. The pie is heavenly, and my hubby said it was possibly the best one he’s ever had. Yum! The bread will wait until the AM for tasting.

I’ve been ‘pond’ering my Koi pond lately and all of the visits from nature I’ve had. It has been a strange year following behind two terrible years of drought. I often sit on my porch and just watch the beautiful Gold & White fish swirl in the waters while the small waterfall plashes it’s noise to me. A Mockingbird loves to come sit on the rock falls and lean into the spray for his drink of water. Often, I’ll be reading a book and won’t know he’s there until the water flow is interrupted.
Other visitors are not quite so welcome to my peaceful refuge, such as the largest Tarantula I’ve ever seen, the largest Scorpion I’ve seen in Texas, and of course, my famous visitor that took up residence for a couple of months – the rattlesnake. Yes, I have pictures of them all, but I usually limit them to two pics per post, so you won’t see them this time.

My Koi pond draws other things as well, those not quite so welcome. My chickens have been attacked repeatedly and then my fish in the pond. Finally, an Oppossum came onto my porch and wasn’t going to leave. Who knew the things were so stubborn and nasty? Once he was dispatched, I thought my problems were temporarily solved, but the problems continued with missing eggs, pannicked chickens and finally, my largest, prettiest fish was killed while I was gone this weekend. Wasn’t it nice of my husband to retrieve the mangled body and put it in the freezer for when I got home? The night before last, I was sitting on the porch reading and enjoying the night air, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a shadow move by. Thinking it was one of the feral cats, I kept my eyes glued to the book until I was drawn to look up at the pond. There was a huge raccoon sticking his nose in the pond. THEN he turned, came over to my lap warmer and brushed it aside so he could sniff my fuzzy pick house shopes. I said ‘Hey!’ and he jumped up and quickly waddled away. He’ll be back, I’m sure and I’ll have to start the war of trapping & somehow removing this coon.

I work out in nature all the time, especially lately, and I expect to see nature going about it’s business out there, but for the past 3-4 months, nature has been sending some nasty pests to my resting area on the front porch of my house. Maybe if I move my spot and make it less appealing then nature will take it’s course elsewhere? Nah…..

Posted in Daily Life, My gardens | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Crime in the Suburbs

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on August 9, 2010

It’s sad when an Instructor for Personal Protection In & Out of the home – gets robbed. Today, I am the victim and it hurts. A bunch. While I was shopping at a local discount store, I was robbed. My wallet was lifted sometime between the time I paid for my soft drink to the time I got to the register to check out. I am sure it happened there in that 45 minute time slot because I HAD the wallet, and used it, in the store.

Yes, I did all the things you are supposed to do – went back and checked all the spots I had been to. Talked to clerks and managers. Nobody had ‘found it’ – in the off chance I had dropped it – nor had anybody dumped it outside the store [do you know how many trash cans, etc they have in the parking lot?] Whether the manager will check the store security videos remains to be seen.

I called the police to report this – and find they are having an extraordinary day of like crimes, theft and vandalism in discount stores. The officer was very polite, but of course he knows they won’t recover it. He went through all the steps, though, including getting my credit card number in case they find it or activity on it. I have a case number, but it’s almost worthless.

What should you do if you are such a victim? Well, first thing is make a list of all that was in the stolen bag/item. Write down when and where you last touched the item and used the things inside. Contact the store manager[s] and police. Check every spot you have been to and search under/between/behind any items you may have touched. Remember unusual events that may have happened [in this case, a young male ‘bumped me’ by accident]

Then start making calls. First off – the Credit card company[ies]. I was fortunate in that I only have ONE credit card and I contacted them within an hour of the incident happening. Damage can still be done in that amount of time as most credit cards do not require signature or ID for purchases under $25. And the secret ‘code’ for verification – is printed on the card itself. With the police report, tho’, and my quick reporting, any charges made today can be disputed and removed from the account. It will take time and effort.

Meanwhile, what more can you do? It will escalate from here for me because I have a lot of accounts that automatically draft on my card – such as my internet service. Now I will have to contact my auto draft accounts – when I get the new credit card – and sign new papers, etc to get my drafts changed.

And the worst part of the credit card deal – I file tax returns electronically; which requires me to pay a fee on line in advance. This goes to my ONE credit card [I only use it for business]. Which was stolen. And I have 4 tax returns to process tonight, which I can’t – not until I get a new card and settle with the company that recieves my payments. Now, I can just mail the returns to clients, have them sign and mail the returns to the government – then wait for their refunds. And wait. And wait. Instead of the normal approx. 10 days, it will take them weeks, maybe months to get their refunds.

If I miss a vendor, I could find myself without internet access, utilities, cell phone service, postage, on-line orders and more – delayed or denied. And what does this do to my credit while I hash out the disputes?

Let’s go on from there. Driver’s license [with a very blurry dark photo] AND Social Security card are gone too. Sure, with a little time – they are easy to replace. But now, I’m set up for a perfect shot at identity theft – they have it all!

Not to mention the cash. Although the amount is over my $500 deductible for Home Owner’s insurance, the insurance company only pays up to $500 of missing cash. How the heck did I not ever see that? So, lost money. I NEVER carry that much cash, but had just recently cashed a large check so I could dole out some money to hubby, son and my petty cash/change drawer for a class I have coming up this weekend.

Sure, the money loss hurts a lot – but what really hurts is that I feel violated – and probably will continue to have to deal with this for weeks to come. I’ve helped a few of my clients ‘recover’ after such an incident, and hardly ever does it come out well.

Another thought here too that was tossed out to me. Our police force is somewhat reduced today because all extra officers have been called in to help with our President’s visit. Does the extraordinary day of crime happen in a lot of places where Political or Royal giants are in attendance? Are criminals capitalizing on our areas Presidential visit, knowing that police response time could be delayed? How many people have you seen speed up on the highway when they see an officer or two is busy writing citations? Yep, while the cat’s away, the mice will play. Not mice – RATS.

Posted in Daily Life | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Two Beautiful Women

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on August 1, 2010

Where has the time gone? Seems like it was almost yesterday that we were celebrating the fourth of July, our Independence Day. Another thing that happened on the 4th – that is the day that my mom died in 2001. I like to say she went out with a bang, and yes, there was a big bang in my heart when I lost my best friend.

I often wear, in the summer, a scarf Kaftan that one of mom’s very best friends made for her. Wearing this Kaftan, I feel the memories of two beautiful women. The maker of the Kaftan was a lady I like to think of as my second mom. Her name was May Riley, formerly of London, England and married to a US soldier. I first remember her when our families met in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in about 1965. She and my mom became very good friends and that friendship lasted, and grew, until first my mom died and a couple years later, dear May died as well.

The fabric of the Kaftan tells the story of two very different women. One side, the black pattern often seen in Persian and Arab type rugs – very proper, universal and staid. The fabric, a cotton poly blend – sturdy I would say, but comfortable. This is the side I think of as May. She, like the color, pattern and fabric was very British proper, sturdy and dependable. On the other side, the fabric chosen for my mom’s side is a bright green Paisley pattern of a silky material – full of color to match my mom’s green eyes and swirls that show a classy edge.

Each time I look at the two sides of this beatiful Kaftan, I see my mom and May. I know the love May spent in choosing the fabrics and hand sewing the garment for her great friend. I feel the arms of two beautiful women, friends for life, wrapping around me each time I wear this. I will never forget my two beautiful moms, both taking their places now as Angels in Heaven and watching over me. Tonite, I think I will let these two beautiful women hug me to sleep and bless my dreams with sweet memories of them.

Posted in Middle Eastern Stories | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

US Declaration of Independence

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on July 2, 2010

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
hen in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

— John Hancock

Posted in Heros & Guns | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Home for a week

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on June 23, 2010

What a wonderful, busy month this June has been. I started off the first week with a guest visit from CJ West as he started his virtual launch tour for the book, The End of Marking Time. Next, I flew off [by plane] to Colorado and drove up into the mountains to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. While there, I attended the International Hunter Education Association convention and awards luncheon. At the luncheon, I received the award for International Hunter Education Instructor of the Year, sponsored by Federal Premium Ammunition. Does it look like I am having fun? [Thank you Heidi Rao of TPWD for providing this picture]

After five days in Colorado, I flew back home, unpacked, repacked and in about 12 hours found myself on another plane, along with my son, bound for my home state of Missouri. There I had a sad reunion with my father who currently resides in a well staffed, clean and caring VA home. He is not doing well as his Dementia and Parkinson’s disease leads him to the final sunset of his life. So hard and so sad to visit. I will never take my son there again – this is not the Grandpa he remembers and shared so many fun summers with.

While in Missouri, my son and I had many wonderful visits with family and friends. We have a large and mostly loving family and my son was depressed he wouldn’t have so many wonderful cousins to hang out with in Texas, but that’s not to say he doesn’t love the couple he has in Texas. Oh, and I won a little over $200 in a casino – can’t complain there!

So, then another rush flight home, this time with a 24 hour turnover before I needed to leave again. This time, it was to drive up to near West Texas and attend an NRA Training Counslor workshop. Now I am proud to say I have some new credentials, as well as a new hat to wear! [Literally and metaphorically]

Given a little time, I may actually catch up on some work this week before I hit the road again. I should already be working this week at a Boy Scout camp, but they are doing just fine without me and I have my tax business and writing obligations to catch up on. Plus a couple [eeek] past due bills to pay.

That’s it for tonight folks. I can’t wait to get my fingers busy with all the stories I need to record, books to review and interesting [to me] tidbits of life and living to share.

Posted in Dad & Family, Shooting sports | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

On the Road Again with Author CJ West

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on June 1, 2010

Today I hit the road for Colorado. I am going to the International Hunter Education Association’s annual convention held in Estes Park. In addition to the wonderful learning and networking experience, I will be receiving an award for being the National Hunter Education Instructor of the Year, presented by Federal Ammuntion/ATK.

Meanwhile, the important part of my post today is to introduce you to a wonderful new friend of mine, Author CJ West. On June 10th, his newest book, The End of Marking Time, will be released with a great launch event, contests and more to which links I have listed below his report from the road. It’s a great book – I’ve read it and will be posting a review here and on Amazon.com. Graciously, West has agreed to drop by and visit with us today and give us an update on his Virtual Tour and recent road trips. Please welcome CJ West!
Report from the Road

This year I toured New England—actually I’m still touring—to bring the skills of Randy Black to my readers in real life. I called the tour Who wants to be a hero? The idea was to make tour events so exciting that people would flock to them and have a great time when they arrived. An interesting byproduct is that the events are a lot more fun for me, too.

The kickoff event was a high performance driving class. We spent an hour in the classroom with Anthony Ricci from Advanced Driving & Security in North Kingstown, RI. He showed us some video and taught us several things about situation awareness as it relates to cars and driving. The audience was riveted. Next we went to the track and readers rode along while the professionals drove the slalom, the break-and-turn, and the obstacle course. Then the pros moved over and let my readers drive the retired police cars. Everyone had a fantastic time.

Here is the highlight of the event. [Click on the YouTube link when this directs you to the site] In this video, Anthony drives me through the obstacle course backwards at 40 mph. When we are through the course, he executes a J-turn and spins us around (at 50 mph) so we are driving forward again.

In bookstores I have been teaching Texas Hold ‘em. Everyone I’ve spoken to has loved the concept, but in practice it has been hit or miss. When people are excited about the lesson at a venue, I have a packed table and we have a lot of fun. Sometimes I think people wonder what poker has to do with books. Maybe they have flashbacks from being taken at Three Card Monte. Like all signings, some are busier than others.

Recently I hosted a private tour of Westport Rivers Winery, the setting for Sin & Vengeance and Sin & Vengeance the movie. This is always a great time. It’s the fourth venue on my tour that serves alcohol (something new this year and highly recommended). The tour is also very informative, which really captures what the tour is about: a fun learning experience. We had a great group and many were surprised at the great wines produced right here in New England.

The final big event will be held on July 24th. I’ll be partnering with The Wankinquaoh Rod & Gun Club and the GOAL Foundation to host Women on Target, a program to teach women to shoot a handgun, rifle, shotgun and bow. The course is an entire day and features safety instruction, lunch, and half a day on the range. The women will leave the club more comfortable around firearms and the daylong format really gives me a chance to get to know them.

The best things about the tour so far are the comments I get after the big events. Several people have been really surprised by how much fun they had at a book signing. I’ve made some new friends and had a great time along the way. A tour like this takes time to organize, but the experience has been well worth the effort. Pictures and videos are available on my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/cjwestfans.

On June 10th I’m hosting an event everyone can attend. Since The End of Marking Time is about a virtual jury, what could be more fitting than a virtual launch party? Drinking is allowed. The dress code is ultra flexible and it is going to be great fun. I hope you’ll join me on Facebook on June 10th.

To find the book, The End of Marking Time on Amazon, just click the title in this sentence and follow the link – it’s too easy not to try and a rewarding experience to read the book.

Posted in Heros & Guns, Writing | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Meet Author CJ West

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on May 31, 2010

Find The End Of Marking Time on Amazon
June 10th.

Go straight to your RSVP on the launch party event page.

Make your choice on the Facebook Group I pressed the Red/Green button.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Hit the Road, Jack…

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on May 30, 2010

Summer is almost upon us and it looks to be a busy one for me. No, contrary to my title line, I am not telling anybody to hit the road, just can’t get the song out of my head! I personally hit the road for Colorado on Wednesday, June 2nd. I plan to keep you updated on my various trips through this blog and entries on FaceBook.

Another friend of mine, Author CJ West, will be hitting the road too in June – starting with his virtual tour to launch the book, The End of Marking Time.

The End of Marking Time


On Wednesday, June 2nd, the same day I hit the road, CJ is stopping by here as a guest on my blog to give his Report from the Road. I’ll also be posting a review of this book here and on Amazon.com – I’m sure you will be wanting to read it! For a sneak preview of some of the events, you should visit his website at: http://www.22wb.com Be sure and click on the YouTube link to watch the high performance driving class with Anthony Ricci from Advanced Driving & Security. Now here is the question you have to ask yourself – Will I push the Red Button, or will I push the Green Button? I won’t tell until later in the week, but if you check out some of the pictures in CJ’s TEOMT photo contest, you may see a hint which way I am leaning.

Posted in Heros & Guns, Writing | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

An Herbal Insect Repellant

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on May 16, 2010

My Cat Mint Plants

Alarmingly, many people still use massive quantities of toxic chemicals to ward off bugs. Sometimes, maybe, chemicals do have their place – but on MY skin – or my children? I don’t think so. There are many differnt herbs that are easy to grow that can help you with this problem. Grab a basil leaf as you walk through the garden and rub it on [I particularly love the smell of lemon basil]. It doesn’t deter bees – they love it too, but will deter gnats, no-see-ums & mosquitos.

But by far one of the best unknowns you can try is the Catnip, or cat mint plant. It has many useful traits, including settling your stomach & a mild sleep aid [great for cranky kids!]. One of it’s best uses, however, is as a flying insect repellant – mainly mosquitos. The oil is the best part but takes some good time & work to accumulate. An easy, quick spray can be made by boiling two cups of water, turn off the heat and let the bubbles from the boil stop, then add about 2 oz of fresh leaves – or if you are counting them – about 20 leaves. Let leaves steep [never boil catmint as it loses its beneficial properties] as the water cools, strain the leaves out and poor into a clean, sterile spray bottle. You can also mix 1 oz of rubbing alcohol with a cup of solution. Use liberally and spray on exposed skin; be careful not to spray around the eye or mouth area, especially if you have added alcohol. The straight solution, sans additives, is generally not harmful if swallowed, but alway keep everything away from the eyes.

Oh, those leaves you strained out? They can be useful to place on the eyelids as a relaxant or on small scrapes and cuts, insect bites, etc to reduce itching and provide temporary relief.

Cat Mint plants are easy to grow and return year after year. If you don’t use them – you will actually have to cut them back and tame them. If you have cats, your own or a neighbors, it is best to plant them from seeds so that they can be firmly growing and not draw any felines. If you transplant them or buy them as seedlings, you may have a battle on your hands as the cats are truly drawn to this.

For love and opposite sex attraction, some say that drinking cat mint tea or rubbing a few sprigs on some of your hot spots [wrist, neck] could draw out that Leo that you have your eyes on. [I’ll let you decide if I am kidding here or not]

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Meet Author CJ West

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on May 14, 2010

As a prelude to his ‘Who Wants to Be a Hero?’ book tour, I thought I would give you a brief look at author CJ West. First, you should go visit his web site at http://www.22wb.com At this site, not only do you get a glimpse of the books he has crafted for our reading pleasure, you also get a treat in the video he has posted on a driving event with a professional driver – BACKWARDS through an obstacle course! Be sure to check out his Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/22westbooks

Some of the upcoming tour includes lessons in Texas Hold ’em Poker, talks and signings, and my personal fave – a day on the range learning to shoot! This is one author that believes in giving his audience a live feel for some of the action his hero goes through in the book. Not only do you get a wonderful feel for these well developed characters, you get to experience the action up close and personal.

Posted in Heros & Guns, Shooting sports, Writing | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »