Friday, May 31, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

I don't know how 2013 is passing by so quickly.  Yet here we are on the cusp of June!  We have enjoyed a week of wonderful weather and our only complaint is about the pollen.
Our neighbors had a gathering for Memorial Day.  Just before dinner was served, she announced, "I hope you all like Mexican."  I glanced at my husband who did not change expression.  You see, in general he HATES Mexican food.  But he batted not an eyelash, rolled not an eye and graciously followed everyone to the table with a smile on his face.  Fortunately our neighbor served do-it-yourself carnitas so he found several things to enjoy.
The Golden Girls do not enjoy the heat of the summer days, but they love the cool breezy mornings and the late evenings.  Like small children, they go to bed during daylight hours right now.  Bedtime for dogs is 9:00 and believe me, they don't mind one bit.  When we come in after our last time outside, the girls head straight downstairs to their crates.
Among the various commands we find important, the command "wait" is near the top of the list.  Wait simply means, "Stop what you are doing.  I'm going to give you another command and you need to listen for it."  When we were training them we used this command to make certain they never went outside the door before we did and that they never jumped out of the car until we give permission or started across the street without a command.  We no longer have to say the word for doors and cars and streets, so we practice at other times.
I took them outside and asked them to wait at the top of the stairs.  They especially hate to wait just before heading out for some fun.  And that makes it a perfect time to practice.
We use the word, "release" to signify that they no longer need to follow the command, whether it's sit, stay, go to your mat, or whatever.  We use this word rather than OK or all right because it isn't often said by mistake.
Waiting at the top of the stairs.

 I did nothing more than aim the camera and Ellie immediately sat although I did not tell her to.
It's difficult to get candid shots of her.

 Lucy takes a moment to decide where to go next.

Ellie smells something beneath a plant. 

 Move, Ellie.  You need to really get in there if you want of find something.

When they come inside, they bring pine straw, pieces of mulch, and flower blossoms in their long hair.  You gotta really love your dogs to put up with all that.  And we do.

The quote for the week comes from one of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver:

"Empathy is really the opposite of meanness.  It's the capacity to understand that every war is both won and lost.  And that someone else's pain is as meaningful as your own."

So in times of stress, remember that you are not the only one in pain.  And that the pain of others is just as meaningful as your own pain.  So reach out to others in empathy.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Breathing in a Small Town

I love living in a small town.  As John Mellencamp sang, "I can breathe in a small town."  I grew up in a small town and now we are retired in a small town.  And I love it.
After the Memorial Day service, Brevard kicks off our largest street festival.  The White Squirrel Festival includes all you might expect, races, vendors, food and music.  The festival includes a White Squirrel Derby in which children race their cars down jailhouse hill.  A separate race is held for merchants who build some very fancy cars.
The crowds begin to gather early.

The coolest little camper you can imagine.  Sets up in minutes and is light enough to be towed by a car.  Called the "Go," it is versatile and fun.  You can read more here

The Courthouse

And the ubiquitous (and scary) white squirrel.

The real white squirrel, a variant of the gray squirrel.  A pair of them were released more than 50 years ago.  They now they make up 40% of the squirrels within the town limits.

White Squirrels, waterfalls, mountains and bikes, that's our small town.

After Memorial Day our small town welcomes the return of the tourists.  And for most of the summer our roads are crowded and downtown is very busy.  The summer camps are filled with young people enjoying the mountains.  We will have festivals all summer, but none capture the excitement of the first and biggest one.  White Squirrel Festival is synonymous with summer fun.

I love living in a small town!

Monday, May 27, 2013

More Than a Picnic

Today is Memorial Day.  For people who are working, it is a much-welcome three-day weekend.  For children it is time to head to the swimming pools and parks.  For many, it will be a day filled with activities and fun, culminating in a picnic this evening.
In the United States, Memorial Day is a day set aside for remembering all those who died while in service to our country.  Known as "Decoration Day" in the past, it was originally for remembering the Civil War dead.  Now it is for remembering those who died in all wars.
In our little town, Memorial Day competes with the White Squirrel Festival, Brevard's largest street festival.  However, for those willing to arise a little earlier, we mark Memorial Day much the same as other cities and towns.  Marching to the county courthouse, veterans carry flags to fly and wreaths to set at the memorials to the fallen.  Only when this service is ended does the White Squirrel Festival begin.
The small cannon in on the courthouse lawn.

Wreaths at the monument
So on this Memorial Day, stop and reflect on what it means to give one's life for country.  And think of those who have lost loved ones and had their lives altered forever.  Spend several minutes giving thanks for those brave men and women.
As President William Jefferson Clinton said,
"There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured with what is right with America."
Now, you may grab your hot dog or chicken and enjoy the day.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

Can you believe it?  We're at the last weekend in May?  And as we celebrate Memorial Day, we also unofficially welcome summer.

We have had stormy weather and lots more rain this week.  No surprise that parts of Transylvania Country are considered rain forests.  And as we have these minor weather patterns our thoughts still go out to those in devastated Oklahoma.
Surprisingly enough, this time Ellie has most of the bed.
But Lucy still maintains the upper paw.

Such a sweet face...

And Ellie deep in thought...

I told you I couldn't stop taking pictures of the Biltmore Gardens

As we approach this Memorial Day, let us pause and remember those who have helped make our country great by their sacrifices.

Trappist monk, Thomas Merton provides this week's quote:

"The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another."


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

We Are All Sooners

How can we turn our minds away from the tragic consequences of the tornadoes in Oklahoma?  We cannot and we should not.  Please give to the charitable organizations that are helping these suffering people, many of whom have lost pets, loved ones, and all their material possessions.
Photographs by Reuters
Moore, OK

The two US Senators from Oklahoma are Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn.  It is of interest that both of these men repeated voted AGAINST funding disaster aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy.  Both opposed increasing any funding for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency).  In the interest of honesty, I must shamefully admit that our representatives voted against the aid as well.  Yes, we whose eastern border is the Atlantic Ocean.

Right now we all need to put politics aside.  There are people in great need.  We are all Americans, and this week we are all Sooners.  Do as much as you can to help.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Titmouse Cleans House

Among the advantages of living in the woods, watching birds do what birds do is one of the best.  We have several bird houses throughout the woods and always enjoy seeing them occupied.  One nesting box in particular seems to appeal to several different types of birds.  In previous years this house has been rented by chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, and titmice.  And many times, a pair of birds will spend a couple of days building a nest in this house, only to decide they don't care for it after all.  Since we never know the stage of nest-building, we do not clean out the house during the summer.  We let the birds do that.
The other day, a Tufted Titmouse decided the house was to her liking.  She spent quite a while removing the old nesting materials.

What a mess!

I can't believe they left all this stuff in here.

This is getting harder and harder.

And there is still more inside.

Oh, forget it!  I'm tired of these fixer-uppers!

So the little titmouse abandoned the idea of nesting in this house.  At least she did some good housecleaning for the next bird who has an inclination to use it.

Don't you just love watching the birds?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

Our lot slopes so that our deck is on the second story at the back of the house.  We are eye level with the forest and the birds and the girls just love being out there.  Oh, the sounds and smells.
Ellie is trying to figure out where the hummingbird went.

She feels a bit foolish.

Proof that the dogs do not always share a single  bed.

But more often than not they do, thanks to Lucy.
I'm ever so glad we live so near the Biltmore Estate.  There is so much to see and do.  We go over there several times a month and love to see the changing gardens and walk the trails.  Oh, and get a scoop of ice cream.
Yet another shot at the Biltmore azaleas.

The quote for this week is about kindness.  Our vitriolic Congress seems to be lacking in kindness, courtesy and compassion.  So all of us need to pick up the slack.

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama said:

"Be kind whenever possible." He added, "It is always possible."

Be kind to those you meet, even if you don't even like them.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Still Fresh and Beautiful

Delivered on Saturday.  Still gorgeous this morning.


Monday, May 13, 2013

I'm Glad We Are Neighbors

While I worry excessively about NC politics and our emphasis on our right to establish our own State religion, I take a little bit of comfort from our neighbor to the South.  No, not really.
This week former Congressman and SC Governor Mark Sanford will be seated again as a member of the US House of Representatives.  Although he was censured by SC government Sanford managed to complete his term as governor despite a scandal of huge proportions.  In 2009 he went "missing" from the government, his location unknown to his security guards, his closest staff members and friends and even to his wife.  No one knew where he was and SC was left without a governor for a week.  The Governor simply disappeared.  He initially said he had gone hiking on the Appalachian Trail, but then a reporter saw him getting off an airplane from Argentina.  When the truth finally emerged, Sanford admitted he had traveled to Argentina to visit his mistress.  He did not apologize, but stated that the woman was his "soul mate."  He was found to have used State funds for the travel expenses and was forced to repay the State.  His recent run for Congress was dismissed by his own party who refused to fund his campaign.  His wife divorced him after the affair and he is now engaged to his soul mate.  (Jokes abound that Sanford will request a seat on the foreign affairs committee.)
Our neighbors to the South also reject many accepted scientific facts.  Recently a fourth-grade "science" quiz was posted on the Internet.  (The test was confirmed by Snopes to be true.)  It is very important for you to know that this test is not from a SC public school.  It was given in a private non-demoninational Christian school.  The school is known for its excellent academics in math and begins teaching Latin in fourth grade.  And there is no mandate for teaching evolution or any other scientific facts in private institutions.  Send your children there if you share their beliefs and don't send them if you don't.
The father of this student was blown away when his daughter brought home her science test.  She had made 100%.  He would not name the school but indicated his daughter would not be attending after the end of this year.
If you cannot read the answers, click on the photographs


The school teaches "Young Earth Creationism" as the basis for all science classes.  I do believe these children might have some difficulty in college-level science courses.  Unless, of course they attend certain colleges who also follow these teachings.  And the students will be well-prepared for SC politics.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

The rains have stopped for a while and the streams are reducing their swells.  Most roads are open again except for those with rock slides.  Our weather is still very labile but today is beautiful and for that we are indeed thankful.
I thought I would share another couple of photographs from the Biltmore Estate.  I just cannot stop taking pictures when we are there.
Some of the tulips in the walled garden.

Wisteria, looking more like the deep South than NC.

The dog photographs once again show Lucy's version of sharing.
I just take most of the bed.  Ellie can have what's leftover.

Somehow Ellie doesn't seem to mind being pushed under the chair.
This week's quote about sharing is from The Buddha:
"Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened.  Happiness never decreased by being shared."
So share the happiness this week.  However much you have.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Words Not Needed

Imagine that:  .22 caliber rifles designed and marketed specifically for children.  Petite in size but equally deadly.  Just ask the mom and dad of the Kentucky child who shot and killed his little sister.  It was his own gun, a Crickett, given as a birthday gift.  The birthday boy is five.  His sister was two.
In pink for your little girl

His  first rifle

With all the extras

Monday, May 6, 2013

Something to Smile About

Imagine the harbor is your bathtub.  And imagine your little boats and toys in the tub along with your little rubber ducky.  That's the conception of Dutch artist Florentijin who designed a giant rubber ducky to send to harbors around the world to bring messages of peace and harmony.  The following photographs are from the AP.

Rubber Ducky in the Hong Kong Harbor

The ducky is fifty-four feet high

What a sight it must be

Appropriately named "Spreading Joy Around the World," the sculpture has continued its journey for a couple of years.  How can it not make you smile?  Art comes in many forms and I just love this one.

The ubiquitous little yellow ducky has also found its home in many upscale bed and breakfasts.  Along with the luxurious soaps and sponges, the rubber ducky often sits right alongside on the shelf over the large deep bathtub.

We need rubber duckies here in Western NC right now.  Our already soaked earth received more than four inches of rain this weekend.  The rivers are already out of their banks, flooding fields and closing highways.  And we are under flood warnings until Wednesday.  Today dawned bright and sunny, giving us hope that the rains are finished for awhile.  The farmers are suffering so we hope things will dry out soon.  On a purely selfish note:  I want my fresh strawberries to be large and sweet next month.  It may not happen with so much moisture and mold.  Oh well, there will always be fresh tomatoes won't there?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

I won't even mention the weather except to say the weekend will be even worse.  Ugh!!!

Our daughter sent a doggie toy to the girls.  It's shaped like a bowling pin and is covered with the same material as tennis balls.  So one would assume that Ellie would go right for it.  Not only did she not go for it, she tried her best to avoid it.

Lucy sticks the toy toward Ellie's face.
Nothing doing; Ellie turns away

Lucy picks up the toy.
Ellie watches but is disinterested.

Lucy takes the toy to her bed to check it out.

"Everybody knows that tennis balls should be genuine.
No fake stuff for me."

And so May is here.  But spring seems to be hiding somewhere.  Farmers are late getting crops in the water-soaked soil.  Rivers are very high with heavy rains predicted tomorrow and Sunday.  On a positive note, we didn't get any snow like they did in Arkansas!

Today's quote is from The Buddha:

Peace comes from within.  Do not seek it without."

This weekend our thoughts turn those in harm's way.  Those affected by the wildfires in the West, those dealing with the aftermath of the Boston bombing, those with severe weather, those injured and the loved ones of those who died in the Bangladesh garment factory collapse, the injured and dead in Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and all those on our planet who suffer.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mountain Girl Perfume

We drove over to the Biltmore Estate again today to see the tulips.  The day was overcast, but no problem.  We go over a couple of times most months anyway and it was nice to get out and walk on the trails there.

We saw tulips.  Lots and lots of tulips

And the azalea gardens were near peak.  Only a bit of sun could have made them more beautiful

But I was drawn to a large shrub that grows wild all over the NC mountains and Piedmont.  I haven't seen one for a while.

Calycanthus floridus

We had these shrubs growing in our woods when I was a child.  My mother told me they were sweet bubbies.  (OK, she actually called them sweet boobies.)  She said that she and her six sisters would gather them in the summer and put them inside their bras to use as perfume, so apparently the legend of their use is actually true.  (Vanilla was the winter perfume.)

Known as Carolina allspice, sweet shrub, sweet shade as well as sweet bubby bush, (and probably many other names) all parts of this plant are fragrant.  The leaves, the flowers, and the stems.  You can smell a sweet shrub bush from quite a distance when it is blooming.  Seeing and smelling the plant made me think of my mother and our childhood summer activities when we played outdoors from morning until dinner and then went back out and played in the twilight.  Games that are probably not known to today's children; "Ghosts in the graveyard," "Ain't no bears out tonight," "Kick the can," "Freeze tag," and so many more.

A word of caution about sweet shrub:  don't be fooled by the name Carolina allspice.  It is NOT the allspice used for flavoring; in fact many parts of the plant are poisonous if ingested.

My husband laughed that of all the wondrous flowers and trees at the Biltmore, I should have taken a picture of this rather plain looking shrub.  Let him laugh.  I plan to buy at least one for him to plant.