Friday, January 29, 2016

We Love Lucy

How is it possible that the first month of 2016 is ending already?  It seems such a short while since the holidays.

Lucy doesn't seem to notice the passing time.  For her the days are measured by her routine activities.  Go outside first thing, eat breakfast, play for a while, then take a trip to the park to romp and play.  The rest of the day is spent snoozing with short periods of active play and the necessary trips outside.

Lucy has several places she chooses to snooze.  She snoozes more often than not in one of the several beds in the house.  There are two in the great room, there is one in my husband's study, and there are two in the den.  We still have Ellie's bed lying next to Lucy's.  Her crate is still set up in the doggy room and her food/water dishes remain in place.  While Lucy never goes inside Ellie's crate, she does drink from the water dish and sleep in the various beds.

Here she is in her own bed.  Like most dogs, she has a variety of sleeping postures.
Her favorite blue tug lies nearby.

 Other times she sleeps in Ellie's bed.
(You'll have to ask my husband why we bothered to have the beds personalized.)

 In spite of several days of temperatures well above freezing and a bit of rain, we still have a fair amount of icy snow on the ground.  However, all the roads are clear except for the non-paved ones and life is pretty much back to normal.  My mother used to say that when the snow continues to lie around, it's because there will be another one soon.  I'm hoping that is not true; that it's because the snow was so deep.

 Still enough snow to do some tracking if you've a mind to.

I will not wax political today except to leave you with this quote.  It's from Minnesota politician Walter H. Judd who worried about voter turnout in the early twentieth century:

"People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people.  Of course, that is not true.  Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote - a very different thing."



Wednesday, January 27, 2016


I turned on the television this morning to get some details on the Oregon shootout.  Should have known better.  Last night DJT said he won't participate in the next GOP debate.  So once again the man has totally dominated the media.  (I use his initials because I refuse to write his name.)

[NOTE:  If you are supporting this candidate, best you not read further.]

Veteran newsman Bob Shieffer has temporarily returned from retirement to cover the election this year.  He told a story that so well describes the GOP lead candidate.  He relates what he calls "the dead cat" maneuver.  That in a meeting, no matter what is being discussed and no matter how important it is, if someone throws a dead cat onto the table, that is where the conversation will focus. And so we have seen this process dozens of times during this Presidential campaign process, especially from DJT.  When the news dares to focus on anyone else, he throws a figurative dead cat onto the table to once again turn attention to him.  Such was his most recent decision not to participate in the next debate.  We've seen it so often.  And we will see it so many times again.  And yet the "media" cannot ignore the dead cat, no matter what else needs to be said.

So I have an idea.  How about we designate or form a television network specifically for this candidate?  That network could take over the 24/7 trash information about his campaign and his latest disgusting outrageous politically incorrect remarks.  That way, the other networks could try to regain some footing and report what is going on in our world.  Anyone who really wishes to hear this man can turn to the channel and watch.  The rest of us can be free from his rhetoric and posturing.

In fact, if he is really so rich, why not have him start the network?  If he believes we honestly care about one word he says, then he would have our undivided attention.

On a side note:  A GOP super PAC is spending massive amounts of money for ads in Iowa.  They supposedly "attack" Bernie Sanders as being "too liberal for Iowa"  because he wants health care for all, access to better education, closing tax loopholes enjoyed by Wall Street.  They have spent half a million dollars so far blasting the airwaves in Iowa as the countdown to caucus is in full swing.  (And so we give one more raspberry to SCOTUS for their Citizens United decision.)  Why, you might ask, is a GOP super PAC trying to convince Iowans of this candidate's liberal leaning?  Doesn't everyone already know that his stance is quite liberal?  Could it be that the GOP super PAC would prefer Sanders as the Democrat Candidate?  More importantly, should a super PAC from one party be allowed to air any kind of ads in the other party's primary?

I urge Iowans and all Americans to support the candidate of your choosing.  Just make certain you are choosing wisely.  Look beyond the promises and rhetoric.  Look at past behavior and actions.  Look for some substantive methods of financing the changes all of us want.  Yes, we want all of those things.  We even want world peace.  But these things are not easy and we need to elect the person most likely to be able to bring us toward meaningful change.  Not the person best able to stir up a crowd.

A line from an old poem keeps ringing in my mind.
"Oh Lord, help us and save us."

Monday, January 25, 2016

And Now the Calm

We still have plenty of snow lying around.  But we're finally enjoying some above-freezing temperatures so we can expect a big meltdown.  Our roads will remain icy for days yet so we don't plan to leave the community for a while.

The birds don't seem to have minded the snow and they surely have appreciated the water we have available.  We have a heated water dish for the sub-freezing weather and the birds really flock to it.  We also have several brush piles deeper in the woods to provide shelter for the birds.  (And some smaller animals, I am sure.)  And some birds actually use the bird boxes for temporary shelter in the winter.

Tufted Titmouse before the snow blew furiously.

The first blast of snow left little on the trees despite the depth on the ground.  It started with sleet and the snow came down in fine flakes rather than big fluffy ones.  So the snow initially fell off the tree limbs.  I'm sure the winds also played a factor.

The snow we got on Saturday night after a very brief respite, was the fluffy kind we are more accustomed to.

 You have to love the bright red of the cardinals in the snow

The little wren appreciated the snow cleared from the deck railing.

We are expecting temperatures in the 40s today and tomorrow and that should really help with clearing the roads.  We are hoping it won't freeze again overnight because we are expecting rain later tomorrow.  So fingers crossed that the warmer temperatures hold.

Schools are still having "Virtual School" days and those will continue for some even after the bricks-and-mortar school days return.  Some rural roads will not be safe for school buses long after school resumes.  The children living there will continue their work on laptops, tablets, or "blizzard bags."

And we are beginning to finish leftovers, pork roast and turkey.  When that's gone we have plenty of food in the freezer and pantry.  So we are weathering the storm quite well.  And are grateful for that.

Thoughts go out to those who are still struggling in the massive weather system.

Friday, January 22, 2016

We Love Lucy

They said it was going to be a big one.  And it is.  Freezing rain began to fall as we went to bed last night and this morning we woke to find six inches of snow.  And the storm continues dumping more snow.  No need to even think of going anywhere you cannot walk.  Predictions are for ten more inches.  And temperatures well below freezing.  But we are prepared for it so I'm trying my best to relax and enjoy the fire.

The best thing I can say about this winter storm is that it displaced politics from the "news."

Lucy enjoys the snow but only for brief periods of time.
Unlike us, she does not remember Wisconsin winters.

 She takes off running like a puppy.
We worry about her doing Golden zoomies at her age.
But she did enjoy her romp.

It will be several days before we will be able to leave the community.  Our roads will be plowed, but the ice and snow will linger on the steep curves, making for treacherous driving.

Our county schools have prepared as well.  All middle school and high school students have laptops or tablets and will have work assigned.  The elementary school children have "blizzard bags" they previously took home.  So all students will have work to do at home and these will count as "virtual" school days and not "snow" days.  It seems to be a win-win all around.  The students do not have to make up the day and it gives them something meaningful to work on.  Students who have Internet access will send their completed work to their teachers.  Those without Internet connection and the elementary school students will bring the completed assignments on the first day back to school.

We are hoping that the predictions are wrong and that the snow will end sooner with less accumulation.  We have enough, thank you very much.

Our quote is a familiar one by Percy Bysshe Shelley:

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
     Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
     And, by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
     Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
     Be through my lips to unawakened earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O, wind,
     If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

I know it is early to be dreaming of Spring.  But it is late January and the next month is short February and then it's March and Spring.  Right?



Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Hope It Misses Us

We always knew we wanted to retire in the NC mountains.  Every year we came down to look at land and every year we found the prices increasing.  So we bought some land in Haywood County several years before we planned to retire.  As we visited the area more often, it dawned on us that our land was above 4500 feet in elevation.  And in the NC mountains, elevation at that level mean more frequent and heavier snows.  Having spent 20 years in WI, we were ready to leave the snow behind.  So we sold the land in Haywood County and built in Transylvania County at an elevation of 3200 feet.  A place that would get some snow, but not often and not heavy.

Earlier this week we had the kind of snow that is typical for us.  We awoke to see a dusting of snow with a bit more to come.

The sun was not up yet.

 Same area by one o'clock that afternoon

 Now that's my kind of snow.  But several times a year, more in some years than others, we get deeper snows.  The deepest snowfall in the town of Brevard was 17 inches.  Since our community is a thousand feet higher in elevation than Brevard, the deepest snow was likely much deeper.  But in the scheme of things (think states in the Rocky Mountains or the Mid-west) that's not a lot of snow.

One year we had a surprise snowstorm in mid-March.  I had a friend visiting from WI.  Her flight home was delayed two days by snow here in NC, not in WI.  No sitting on the deck as we had planned.  But we did enjoy watching the birds in the snow.

The little goldfinch sat atop several inches of snow on the rail.

We are under a winter storm advisory with predictions for snow this afternoon and for the next few days.  If the predicted pattern continues we will be under a winter storm warning later this evening.  In WI, a prediction of five inches of snow means very little.  Happens all the time and in fact, is considered a small snowstorm.  But here in Brevard, five inches of snow will bring things to a halt.  And especially in our community with our streets winding uphill or downhill and heavily shaded, a five-inch snowstorm means we won't leave the community for a while.

Our pantry and freezer are well stocked.  We have plenty of propane for the generator and fireplaces.  We have good books to read and wine to drink.  Maybe a bit more snow might not be so bad after all.  But it would be nice to see the temperatures rise a bit.

 Lucy is oblivious to the weather as long as she has her pillows.
Yes, she has a new one.

Hope your Wednesday is a good one, whatever your weather.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Still Not There Yet

Judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.  Such was the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr.  That someday his little children would not be judged by the color of their skin.   And we are indeed moving toward achieving that dream.  But we are not there yet.

And so we all must persevere.  For the sake of our country.  Our nation is in danger today because of increasingly harsh rhetoric that seems to equate "political correctness" with equality for all.  And to suggest disdain for both.  We cannot let our apathy and inaction allow the dreams of so many before us to fade away.  Hold on to that dream.

In the words of Martin Luther King himself:  "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter."

Friday, January 15, 2016

We Love Lucy

Even as a puppy Lucy never cared much for toys.  She loved playing with Ellie.  And she still loves playing with the blue tug.  And she likes tennis balls, although not nearly as much as Ellie did.  Ellie frequently carried two tennis balls in her mouth at once.  Try as she might, Lucy could never achieve that feat.  And try she did.  Interestingly enough, after Ellie died Lucy stopped trying to pick up two tennis balls.

We have several "puzzle" toys in which we put treats.  When Ellie was here, Lucy would follow behind as Ellie got the snacks out.  Lucy was prepared and would spring and snatch the treat.  And that would continue with Ellie getting perhaps a fifth of the treats while doing all the work.  Lucy does not want to  try to get the treats herself.  She is a very smart dog and could easily get the treats herself but she is not interested.

She loves to try to catch tennis balls.  I emphasize the word "try" because she rarely catches one.  Her timing is way off and she goes up into the air opening her mouth the instant we throw the ball.  She is landing when the ball gets there so she hardly ever catches one.  She does not think the "retriever" part of Golden Retriever applies to her.  So we have a dozen or so balls to toss since she doesn't bring them back.

She gathers a few balls when she is tired of the game.  She puts them around her and lies down among them.

Don't even think of throwing me another ball.

I've played with you long enough.

Like millions of others across the country, we did not win the huge Powerball lottery although we did indeed have a ticket.  Strange that we never buy a ticket, even when the jackpot is  millions of dollars.  But somehow I warmed to the dream of being a billionaire, setting up a foundation and giving the money away to causes we deem worthy.

Had we won I would not have given one cent to any of the Presidential candidates on either side.  Even if I had the billion.  This is the first election year in which I have not given money or volunteered even one hour for any candidate seeking any office.  Yes, I will vote.  I have often voted for candidates who lost but I have always voted.  I recall the 1980 election.  Our daughter was seven and becoming interested in government and politics.  Her class held a mock election.  She asked me who I voted for.  I told her I voted for John Anderson.  She laughed when I said that and replied, "That was silly.  He did not get a single vote in the whole second grade."  It was a good teachable moment.

Today's quotes are on the lighter side if you don't think too deeply about them.  The first is by author George Eliot:

"An election is coming.
Universal peace is declared,
And the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry."

The author of the second quote is unknown:
"There are always too many Democratic congressmen,
Too many Republican congressmen,
And never enough U.S. congressmen." 


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

More Than a Hound Dog

They may be able to find little more than their food and water dishes right now.  But the two new sheriff deputies in neighboring Henderson County will grow into their jobs.  The Sheriff's office has two ten-week-old bloodhound puppies who will be trained to assist the department in finding missing persons and/or to track suspects.

(Both pictures are courtesy photos from the Henderson County Sheriff's Office)

Just doesn't get more adorable than a puppy, does it?

The county has a STAR (Sheriff Teaching Abuse Resistance) program and the fifth graders in the program will submit names for the two little female puppies.  Winners will have an opportunity to meet the puppy  in person  in canine to meet the puppy he or she named.

Stories like this make me smile.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Lucky Kitty Times Two

July, 2013.  A rather scrawny calico kitten appeared at my son's house.  Feral cats being rare in their neighborhood, the kitten must belong to a neighbor so they ignored it, waiting for it to go on home.  The kitten persisted in hanging around.  Coming toward them when they left their cars for the house.  Lying down placidly in front of them.  It looked hungry and thirsty so they put out some food and water.  After a few days it seemed clear the kitten had no place to go or no idea how to get there.

They already had a cat.  A unique cat who didn't like anyone except for my son who adopted her when she was tiny.  She didn't care for my daughter-in-law and seemed to view her as competition for my son's attention.  Not an ideal situation in which to introduce another cat.  But what else was there to do?

They brought the cat in and took it to the veterinarian hoping to find an identification chip.  No such luck.  So they had the cat examined, given her shots and took her home.  Finally realizing no one was going to come to claim the cat, they decided to name her.  They chose the name Sybil, the name of their favorite Downton Abbey character.

Cute little kitten no one seemed to want.
This photograph was before they took her in.

 They slowly introduced Sybil to our son's other cat, Biko.  Biko was totally uninterested in Sybil.  Totally disdainful of the newcomer.  Not worth bothering about.  Well, except to eat that delicious kitty food.  And occasionally chase her away if she came too near.  But she did not attack the new kitty.

So the two cats led a relatively peaceful life.  Sybil was playful and totally believed she could turn Biko around.  That was never going to happen.  Biko was an old cat when Sybil came into the home.  And she was the very definition of curmudgeon even when younger.  She did not mellow with age.  When Biko died, Sybil was rather at a loss in spite of being dismissed by Biko for so long.  By that time, she had grown into a healthy beautiful cat.  No longer scrawny and dirty, but sleek and clean.

Last week my son sent me a photograph of Sybil sitting among the nutcrackers as if she were pretending to hide among them.
 Sybil among the nutcrackers

But lucky as she is, Sybil is not the most lucky cat around.  Not even in her own home.  The luckiest cat is a little impaired kitten my son and his wife adopted from the shelter.  The little kitten had several strikes against her.  She was tiny.  She was black.  But most of all, she had a neurological impairment that left her with poor motor function, tremors and a rambling gait.  She was almost certain to be euthanized.  So that's the little kitten my dear son and dear daughter-in-law selected.

The veterinarian explained that she had cerebellar dysfunction but that because she was so young, she might actually get better as she grew.  So Sybil had a companion.  They named her Rumble.  Now the little kitten has grown into a beautiful cat.  Her muscle tone has improved but she still has some tremor, more marked when she is excited.  And she still cannot jump and still has a somewhat rambling gait.  But she has learned to make accommodations for her disabilities and is a happy and energetic cat.

 You mean he didn't leave the shoe here for me to chew the laces?

Both of these kitten had a rough start in life.  But now both are very lucky to be loved and cared for in comfort.

Kudos to my son and daughter-in-law.  And to all of you out there who choose to adopt shelter animals.  You are special indeed.

Friday, January 8, 2016

We Love Lucy

What a difference a week makes.  Our weather has returned to normal temperatures, even a bit below normal.  Chilly winds are blowing.  And the lovely flowers we so admired have turned into a sad brown and fallen to the ground.  It is refreshing to once again see the icicles hanging from the rocks on the sides of the roads.  Only time will tell what longer term effects we will see from the most unusual weather patterns.

While we enjoyed our holiday decorations, I'm always happy to have the house back to normal.  Fortunately, "normal" to Lucy means her beds are exactly where they are supposed to be and we never move them.  She does not like change unless she initiates it.  She loves arranging her pillows.  We touch them only to vacuum them and I do that when she is outdoors with my husband.  She doesn't like anyone messing with her stuff I suppose.

She looks pensive.  But I know she is thinking about a nap.

She has turned her bee pillow over as she snuggles on a rainy day.
(Surely doesn't look like I ever vacuum it, does it?)

January brings the post-holiday blues for many people.  I'm not one of them.  Perhaps because we have never made a huge deal about the gifts.  It's far more about the fellowship, the food and drinks, and the traditions we have developed.

Today's quote comes from Vita Sackville-West.  She was an English poet, novelist and a garden designer.  Her gardens at Sissinghurst Castle continue to attract visitors.  Her personal life was a bit scandalous, having an open marriage (in the early 1900s) and multiple affairs with famous women, including Virginia Woolf.

"The shortest day has passed, and whatever nastiness of weather we may look forward to in January and February, at least we notice that the days are getting longer.  Minute by minute they lengthen out.  It takes some weeks before we become aware of the change.  It is imperceptible even as the growth of a child, as you watch it day by day, until the moment comes when with a start of delighted surprise we realize that we can stay out of doors in a
twilight lasting for another quarter of a precious hour." 

After the winter solstice I check the weather app daily to determine how many seconds of daylight we have achieved.  I love the lengthening of light even when it's imperceptible.  I do hope our return to normal weather will continue.  Our thoughts go out to those so severely affected by the storms and flooding.



Monday, January 4, 2016

Very Warm December

December 2015 proved to be one of the warmest Decembers on record here in western NC.  Day after day of temperatures more than 40 degrees above normal.  Nighttime lows higher than the normal high for the day.

We also had day after day of heavy rains.  More than 12 inches in one week.  It remained warm and there was flash flooding in many places.  Several roads were closed because of standing water.  All the fields and some houses along the French Broad River Basin were flooded.  But then the sun came out and the days felt just like spring.  We even got to 70 degrees!

I noticed our camellias were budding out so I clipped a few buds and put them inside, thinking I would save a couple of them before the inevitable frost.

How nice to have a flower in mid-winter

 To my surprise, the inevitable frost did not happen.  And so the camellias burst forth full blooms.  What a sight to behold.

 Such a strange sight on New Year's Day

No one is sure exactly what the effects will be for the spring flora.  Most say the fruit trees will not bear as well because they will not have had the required number of cold days.  The bulbs will be shorter stemmed and the tulips and daffodils will be only a few inches tall.  In the worst cast scenario, we could have a hard freeze prior to some colder weather.  It has not been sufficiently cold to bring the sap "down" so a hard freeze would be a death knell for some trees.

In truth, there is nothing we can do to change these events short-term.  So the best advice which I decided to follow is to sit back and enjoy the blossoms while they are here.  But there is also a bit of sadness when I realize the hellebores are done for the year.

Thank goodness our weather has returned to more seasonable temperatures.  That's a good start.  Now if it will just stay colder before a hard freeze...

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year

Here's hoping 2016 turns out to be the best year ever.  Happy New Year!!!

Many thanks for those who have read my posts in 2015.  May 2016 bring all of us a greater sense of community.

A quote from author Jean Vanier:
“One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn't as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing.”