Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Addled Her Brain

My earliest memories are of books and reading.  My parents were avid readers and took us to the library every week.  I also owned a lot of those "Little Golden" books.  I remember the "reading book" used in each of my elementary school classes.  Divided into reading groups, we always knew which group was faster and which one was slower.  The teacher gave the groups names such as redbirds/bluebirds or whatever but we always knew.  When I was in elementary school, reading was emphasized more than any other subject.  We really did learn the three Rs; reading (w)riting, and (a)rithmetic.  There was no mandate that diverted attention from the basics.  We even got grades for "citizenship."  [And yes, that was always my lowest grade and was always followed by a comment about my talking too much with my friends.]

When I was working full time (about 60 hours/week) I had little time to read for pleasure.  Now I usually have at least three books in process at all times; a novel, a non-fiction, and a biography.  Time for reading is one of the best things about retirement.

This usually hangs in the window of our library.  Given by a friend, she says, "She is too fond of books and it has addled her brain."

When we retired to the North Carolina mountains I set out to read more and more books by NC authors or set in North Carolina.  Our local bookstore assists me in my quest for NC books.  They recommended mystery books by Vicki Lane who lives in nearby Marshall (thanks Carol).  (You can find Vicki's blog here.  The blog connects to more information about her books.)

I started reading the mysteries and quickly became friends with Elizabeth Goodweather, her family and mountain friends.  There were four books in the "Elizabeth Goodweather Mysteries" and I read all four of them one after the other.  Here are the titles in order of publication:  Signs in the Blood, Art's Blood, Old Wounds, In a Dark Season.  Vicki Lane elaborated on the life of an endearing character from the Goodweather books and wrote The Day of Small Things.

Like Vicki's other readers, I have been looking forward to the latest Goodweather book due for publication in October of this year.  A couple of weeks ago, Vicki's blog post announced a drawing for the remaining galley proofs of her new book, Under the Skin.  Called the "Full Circle Farm Mystery" series by the publisher, this is the fifth book in the Goodweather mysteries.  Imagine my surprise when my name was one of the ones drawn!  The next week, the mail brought the new book to my home.

 And here it is.  Personalized and signed by the author herself.

I won't give away any of the plot, but it is brings a fitting closure to the stories of Elizabeth Goodweather.  While each of the books can surely stand alone, I much preferred reading them in sequence.  I do so enjoy reading a series of books and greeting old friends once again in the latest book.

I was so excited about winning the novel that I went right out and bought a lottery ticket.  Believe me, the book is way more a sure thing.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Incoming College Class

Each year Beloit College in Wisconsin prepares a snapshot of the incoming class (this year the Class of 2015).  The purpose of the list is to remind professors to review and revise their notes and references to make certain they are not outdated.  The list is always surprising and fun to read.  You can see the complete list here. 

Here are some of the mindset items in no particular order.


 - Ferris Bueller could have been their father

- The only significant labor disputes in their lifetimes have been in major league sports

- "Don't touch that dial"  they ask "what dial?"

- Say "Amazon" and the first thing they think of is not the river in South America

- Life has always been like a box of chocolates

- OJ Simpson has always been looking for the killers of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman

- Music has always been available via free downloads

- "Yadda, yadda, yadda" has always come in handy to make long stories short

- There have always been altar girls

- Refugees and prisoners have always been housed at Guantanamo

- They were 3 when Tickle Me Elmo was the hottest toy around and their parents might have battled for one

- The school's "blackboards" have never been black.

- Women have always been from Venus; men from Mars

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fridays are Golden

We love old cemeteries and there are plenty of them around here.  This is a very old community cemetery not far from our home.  This is a photograph of the older section.  Some of the graves are marked simply with a stone.  Others have crude carvings in the rock.

 We love to wander through the cemetery but the dogs are much more interested in the open grassy hill.  It is a perfect place to romp and play.

The play often begins with a little wrestling match.  These matches are very short-lived.  The open grass is too big a temptation.

As usual, Lucy starts out like a rocket.

 And this time Ellie also runs at break-neck speed.  Running on grass feels just great.

 Ellie stops for a moment and enjoys the light breeze.

 They are very tired by evening.  In this rare instance it appears that Ellie is actually using Lucy for a pillow for a change.  In truth, Ellie was there first and when Lucy plopped down she had no choice but to put her head and paw on Lucy.

Hundreds of thousands of our fellow inhabitants of this planet are in peril this weekend.  Natural disasters and man-made disasters threaten them.  Regardless of the reason, these people are in harm's way.  Spend a bit of time being thankful that you are safe and send positive thoughts to those who are not.

Hold on to your loved ones this weekend!!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Bare Facts

The gawkers outnumbered the protest participants by a huge margin.  The topless protest in Asheville drew an estimated two thousand people to downtown's Pack Square Park.  A relatively small number of topless women marched to the square along with a dozen or so men wearing bras or bikini tops.  They were not protesting to have laws changed, since neither Asheville nor North Carolina prohibits women from being topless in public.  The protest was re-designed to make women aware that they can go topless if they so desire and should feel comfortable doing so.  I did not go to Asheville for the protest but the local paper had some interesting photographs in its Online version.  The following photographs were taken from their Internet site.

The weather was obligingly warm.

 Men and women joined together.  Many of the men wore bras.

I highly suspect that these young men strongly support women going topless.

 Young and old alike participated.

 I think this photograph explains exactly why so many people were gathered.

The event went without incident.  A few frustrated tourists were angry that the large crowd forced a closing of some of the downtown streets.

There was an interesting email to one of the newspaper's columnists.  A man who described himself as elderly, said he planned to attend the gathering.  As he said, it will be like a flower show...some will be budding, some will be in full blossom, and some will be hanging baskets.

I have no idea whether or not this protest will change the minds of many women.  On a personal note, I have no problem with people going topless unless they are preparing and serving my food.  (I know that might not make sense, but that's how I feel.)  But I can assure you that I will not be going topless, given that I am more closely aligned with the hanging baskets than the others.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fridays are Golden

Finally.  We are having seasonal weather!  For us that means cooling down to the low 60s or even 50s during the evenings.  Awakening to a temperature of 64 is a vast improvement.  Everyone seems more active and that is certainly true of the Golden Girls.  We try to take them to places where they can run off leash through open areas.

We are all in the car and eager to go.

Invariably my husband opens the door and remembers one more thing he needs to do.
Mom, can't you make him hurry up?

As usual, Lucy hits the ground running the instant her leash is removed.

Ellie lopes along, having just as much fun without exhausting herself.

My husband and I typically stand about a hundred yards apart.  The dogs will run between us several times, just glad to be outside with us.  Then they lose interest in that and take off on their own.

We often enforce a "sit/stay" so Lucy can catch her breath.  She seems a bit bored by it all.

Lucy decides that if she is to remain still she might just as well lie down.

Faces full of smiles, the girls head back to the car.

UK female activists have infiltrated the minds of women in nearby Asheville.  On Sunday the participating women plan to show up at Asheville's Pack Square Park and bare their breasts, protesting the inequality that allows men to go topless while women are not allowed to do so.  According to the protest organizer, women might be uncomfortable doing this, "and that's part of the issue."

Interestingly enough, Asheville has no laws prohibiting bare-breasted women from appearing in public.  The statutes governing indecent exposure ban only the "external organs of sex or excretion."  According to an Asheville police spokesman that means only body parts below the waist.  The mammary glands would not be considered sex organs and thus the women will not be arrested.  To quote the spokesperson, "They can breast away.  It's not a crime."  Sort of takes away from the protest, doesn't it?    I will wait in breastless breathless anticipation to see what happens on Sunday afternoon.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Turkeys in the Grass

I am fascinated by wild turkeys and we are lucky to have many of them in our community.  Yesterday I started out our driveway and saw two turkey hens and at least a dozen or so poults.  They walked across the road.  I ran inside for my camera and got back in time to shoot a couple of rather poor photographs of a few of them before they disappeared into the woods on the other side of the road.

The wild turkey was thriving before America was explored.  Early in the sixteenth century explorers took wild turkeys from Mexico to Europe where they were successfully domesticated.  The domestic turkeys did so well that early English settlers brought them back to America.

In the nineteenth century turkeys were over-hunted and their habitat lost to settlers.  In the early twentieth century turkeys were eradicated in the north-eastern United States.  In the 1940s large re-stocking efforts put wild turkeys back.  Turkeys were captured in one area and re-introduced in another.  The turkeys thrived and are now found in every state except Alaska.

The females raise the poults with no help from the males.  Several females might live together and share the raising of the poults.

How lucky we are to see so many turkeys around our house.  they are fascinating to watch and delightful to listen to.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fridays are Golden

One of the best things about having more than one dog is the pleasure of watching them play together.  Our dogs play in the den, but they really love to play outside.  When they are taken off leash the first thing they do is have a little wrestling match.  No one wins or loses and no one is ever injured.  The wrestling match ends as quickly as it began.  Then the girls will run free at breakneck speed.  Here they are in action:

First thing...we need our leashes off please.

The match is over.  Just look at those smiles.

Moving forward in these troubled times, we need to be mindful of the needs of others.  As Mother Teresa so wisely said:
Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.

Let's all try to make others feel better and happier.  And I'm sure we will also feel better and happier for having done so.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Close off the Streets and Dance!

Many mountain towns have street dances primarily to entertain the tourists and encourage them to shop downtown in the evenings.  They are usually Fridays and Saturdays...a peak time for tourists.

Brevard has street dances and while tourists are certainly welcome, the participants are primarily year-round residents.  Some of the people are really dressed up while others are more casual.  Our street dancing is held on Tuesday evenings.  Many people come to dance and others bring their chairs to enjoy the music and watch.  Young and old, folks just grab a partner and wait for the music to begin.

The two people with the blue tee shirts at the center of the picture are volunteers who will teach the square dance steps to anyone who needs a little help.  You have to love the variation in age.  Folks in their "senior" years dancing right alongside much younger folks.

The children make their own little group.

The bluegrass band and square dance caller.  They have a jug for donations, the only pay they receive.

Winding up that ball of twine gets a little confusing, especially for the children.

This little sweetie saw my camera and yelled, "Me next.  Me next."  She was delighted to see herself in the digital display and and yelled to her Granpa to come and look.

Main street is blocked off at the Courthouse Square in the center of town.  No, the camera is not at an angle.  The streets are hilly in the mountains.

This little girl really put her heart and soul into the dancing.  And yes, all the children in the mountains are above average and have curly hair.

This old geezer  older gentleman was eating, drinking sweet tea, smoking cigarettes and occasionally watching the dancers.  He was short of breath so in between smokes, he put on his nasal canula for his oxygen.  He had a beautifully carved walking stick on the table.  I don't know if the man across the table from him is a relative or a caretaker.  I didn't dare try to get a better photograph.  Something about the older gentleman's behavior made me feel he wouldn't like it very much.

The street dancing will end all too soon as summer wanes.  Our public schools will start next Monday.  Who knows where the time goes?  In Brevard we have danced the summer away.

Monday, August 8, 2011


The alarms rang VERY loudly all over the house.  The dogs were frantic about the shrill high-pitched sound.

Our smoke detectors are wired together so that if one goes off it automatically triggers all of the other alarms.  Last Thursday morning we were getting ready to drive to the Biltmore Estate to view their current Tiffany exhibit.  The smoke detectors all alarmed.  I hurried all over the house to see if I could smell any smoke.  I found nothing and the alarms silenced as quickly as they had begun.  By checking all the warning lights, my husband could determine that it was the master bedroom alarm that started the alert.

All was quiet for several minutes and the dogs finally calmed down.  Then the alarms all sounded once again.  I took the dogs outside while my husband once again checked all over the house.  He found nothing and the alarm again stopped in less than a minute.

I checked the owner's manual and found no troubleshooting information on intermittent false alarms other than chirping with low batteries.  We knew the batteries were fine since we change them twice a year.  What on earth could be triggering the alarms?  We decided we should not leave the dogs in the house alone, so we canceled the dog walker and decided to stay home.

Once again the alarms all went off.  And once again, they stopped in less than a minute.  The bedroom alarm was the one to trigger the alarm in each instance.

I went Online to the Kidde Website.  One troubleshooting Q&A mentioned that the alarms might be triggered by dust particles.  "Blow out the smoke detectors each time you change the batteries."  I asked my husband if we ever did that and he replied that the user's manual said nothing about that.  We decided to give it a try so I got the vacuum and change the hose to "blow" rather than vacuum while my husband got the ladder.

He climbed onto the ladder and took down the smoke detector.  Expecting to see some dust I wisely pointed the vacuum hose away from me while we blew the dust out.

There was no dust.  But a HUGE BIG BLACK SPIDER was blown from the smoke detectors.  [True confessions here:  I HATE SPIDERS!  They are so creepy, sneaking up on a person.  And yes, I have an unreasonable fear of them.]

My husband stomped on the spider.  Unfortunately, he was wearing a pair of Keen's and the ridges did not make contact with the HUGE BIG BLACK SPIDER!  It was coming MY way!  Thank goodness I found sufficient courage to stomp it rather than run away.  [Don't send me comments about how useful spiders are...and that I should have captured it somehow and put it outside.  No way was I about the chance that HUGE BIG BLACK SPIDER might get away and stay inside our house.  And yes, I know there are probably other spiders living with us.  But unless I see one, I can forget that they are lurking around.]

So once more, my husband and I found ourselves in another Lucy/Desi moment.  After the snake incident (here) we decided that I will manage the snakes and he will manage the spiders.  Who would have thought a spider would set off a smoke detector? 

Photograph by Will Cook from the Carolina Nature Website.

We are thankful that the spider didn't choose the middle of the night to establish himself in the smoke detector.  Or worse, at a time when we were not home.  Should I write the company and have them list the fact that a spider might be the cause for the false alarms?  Nah.  No need to alarm people.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fridays are Golden

Impossible as it may seem, here we are ending the first week of August.  Around our house we are all in a bit of a funk.  The humans so worried about the direction in which our Congress is leading us (or failing to lead us), and the canines because it is way too hot to do much of anything outside.

Like much of the country we have had weather with temperatures much higher than normal and with several record-breaking high temperatures.  With the high humidity the misery index climbs every day.

The dogs get most of their exercise very early in the mornings.  My husband rises before dawn most days, and as soon as the daylight comes, he takes the Golden Girls out for a walk and a romp.  The girls just hang around the rest of the day, going out for potty breaks and coming right back inside.

Lucy is quite bored.  Nothing to do but watch the birds and mope.

Ellie is the same.  She just had an ice cube (hence the wet spot on the bed) and mopes along with Lucy.

We have been so discouraged by the actions of some of our "leaders" in Congress.  So much partisanship on both sides of the aisle, and so little respect for compromise.  I cannot recall a more dysfunctional Congress  whose members seem to have lost interest in the good of the Nation and our future.  The best I can do is to contact my Senators and Representative and express my views.  And to keep informed so I can make an informed decision for the next election.

And for the weekend I am going to follow the advice of Sophie.  At age ten, she wrote the following in a little book called, Always Have Three Friends and Never Eat a Bug:   Never give up or lose faith even if you don't really believe.
NOTE:  I just realized the book is called, "Always Have Three Friends and Never Eat a Fly."  (Sorry I wrote Bug)

I must admit that I really don't believe they can work together, but I will try very hard not to lose faith in our Congress.  Well, at least for this weekend.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Get the Water Where You Can, I Suppose

We have a birdbath mounted on our deck railing.  The birds need water, and we are delighted to see all the different birds coming there to drink, winter and summer.  We change the water several times a day in this hot weather so the water is always fresh.

A goldfinch at the water.

The other day, I saw a little chickadee getting water from the ant trap of the hummingbird feeder.  It had rained and the ant trap was full of water.  I have no idea why the chickadee chose the feeder rather than the birdbath.

 I think this is a juvenile who is just learning how to make it on its own.

Much to my surprise, a little titmouse did the very same thing just minutes later.

Sweet little titmouse.

I looked up from my book and saw a little goldfinch getting water from the same hummingbird feeder.  I was able to pick up my camera and get a few shots.

Upside down goldfinch. 


There was one great moment that I missed with the camera.  A hummingbird dive-bombed the goldfinch.  The goldfinch gave in immediately and I didn't get a photograph.  But I laughed out loud at the little fighter.  The hummingbird did not go to the feeder, but he wasn't about to allow the bigger birds to take it over.  I have no idea why three different birds would choose the water in the ant trap over the fresh water in the birdbath not three feet away.  I got up and checked to see if there were any seeds or insects in the trap.  Nope, there was nothing but water.  You figure.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Dark Clouds Rolling In

Among the many places that give me pleasure, one of them is in my very own neighborhood.  The view from this by-way is almost always a beautiful sight.

In the midst of the "heat wave," we have been having evening showers most days.  I went down to my favorite by-way to watch the dark clouds rolling in.

The Blue Ridge Mountains are truly blue, especially before a storm.

 The clouds begin to gather, turning everything darker.

More and more of the sky is covered.

I wanted to linger and watch the storm, but a big bolt of lightning made me change my mind.  It was too close for comfort so I headed home.

It now appears that Congress will pass a bill to keep our country from defaulting on its loans.  Created in the last hours before the deadline, it is not pleasant and leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.  But it is probably the best we will get.  When you see that one group is perfectly willing to divide the baby...well, you know what I mean.