Friday, December 25, 2009

Fridays are Golden


Our first artificial Christmas tree works just fine for us. The star atop the tree was made by our son when he was in kindergarten. It has always been on the tree, but never as a tree topper.

The tree is just fine, and this has been a wonderful Christmas morning. We are so grateful for our many blessings, far too numerous to count.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Finally, a Royal Flush

Tuesday, December 22...a day that will stay in our minds for a long, long while. That was the day that Arnold FINALLY delivered on his promise to see us first thing in the morning. That was the day we could finally run water in our drains rather than pouring it our over the deck like great-grandma used to do. After four days of flushing only when necessary, and we really mean NECESSARY, we can use our bathrooms. Have you ever spent four days without a shower? What an event that was for both of us.

The injured player is making phenomenal progress. Our kids are on the way home for Christmas. Simply put...we are happy as a couple of chickadees.

And the fortunes of sunshine give us as much uplift and color as this sweet Pileated Woodpecker seeking a bite to eat.

The snow is melting although there is still plenty lying around. Exhaustion has given way to extreme happiness that we are doing as well as we are. Life indeed is beautiful.
Thank you all for your supportive comments and thoughts. We have so much to be grateful for and we are definitely counting each blessing we have.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Good Luck and Bad Luck

I knew exactly what it was Saturday morning when I came back from walking the dogs. There's no other sound just like it and few sounds more sickening. Nevertheless, I put my boots back on and tramped through the foot-deep snow to the space underneath the house where the sewage lift pump resides.

Amazing, isn't it? You know what the sound is; you know its origin; you hear it get louder as you approach the space; and yet you are still hoping that somehow, someway it's something else. Nope, it was the sewage pump alarm. Traipsing back upstairs to the garage to turn off the breaker to stop the alarming, I noticed the breaker to the pump was tripped.

Hey...maybe that's it. Just a tripped breaker. That could be it, couldn't it? So I flipped the breaker to "off" and then to "on" at which time it immediately tripped again. So much for hopeful thinking. Oh, did I mention it was on Saturday morning with a foot of snow on the ground (and on the roads)? I gathered my courage, smiled faintly and told my husband that we had a little problem. I sounded a little less calm than the folks who said, "Houston, we have a problem."

The details you can imagine. All service folks were snowed in. One service finally made it out to us on Sunday afternoon, but did not have a new pump on his truck. He promised to get a pump and come back today.

So, for two full days (and working on a third) we have not run any water down any drains since they are all connected to the pump station, and we are flushing VERY sparingly. I feel like the old pioneer woman, running a little water in a basin to "wash up," then pouring it off the deck onto the back yard. Our neighbors have offered to allow us to shower in their homes and while it sounds so tempting, one of us can't leave the house and the other would never be so selfish as to take advantage of a shower. (But give me one more day and see how charitable I still am.)

So yet another stoke of totally unexpected bad luck. Our daughter asked if we had any idea which Deity we might have angered so we could try to make amends. But in the scope of the world's problems, ours are small and insignificant. We're still smiling and laughing since the other alternative is to cry.

We are more fortunate than the thousands here in western NC who are still without power. At least we do have access to hot's just that we can't pour any of it down the drain. We have plenty of food and two dishwasher drawers. I've started washing plates as we use them so at least we don't have to use the good china. Would you believe we don't have a paper/plastic plate in the house?

And I totally believed Arnold (the plumber) who assured me that as soon as the vans were running and he found a pump he would be at my house. After all, it's only 11:00, and I know he will fix everything. It's only 11:00 so I'm sure he is getting things ready. After all, it's only 11:00, right? After he is finished, I'll clean the dishes and tonight I'll have a hot soak with the jets surging. Because Arnold just didn't look like the type to disappoint me.

Meanwhile I have two lovely dogs to cheer my up. And today we have a Purple Finch visiting us in the bright sunshine. The birds are flocking to the feeders as the snow has covered a lot of their natural food.

I finally assembled our little artificial tree and it's not such a bad little tree after all. So life is good. And it's only a little after 11:00.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Fridays are Even More Golden

With a big "Thank You" to the powers that be, and an even bigger "Thank You" for all your kind words and thoughts, we are all safely home. The emergency over, we are looking to a rather long but complete recovery. The girls love their pet sitter, but they are delighted to have the whole family together again.

With kitchen stools to protect the injured player, the Golden Girls come as close as they can to get some affection and give support.

Lucy quickly established herself under the footrest of the recliner. She considers this her own little den.

I don't care so much for these light-weight covers. Would you put the quilt back?

Thanks, I'll lie here and make certain everyone is safe.
Yes, Lucy. I can see how alert and protective you are.

And lookee here! It's snowing! Dang...I was FINALLY going to get my hair cut today!

So we approach a rather different Christmas this year. For the first time we will have an artificial tree which is still in a box in the garage. Too many gifts were ordered Online. But you know what? After an unbelievable year of surprising and totally unexpected health problems we are all just fine. We look forward to having our children home and it will be (as always) the best Christmas ever. And the daylight hours begin to increase on Tuesday morning!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Family Emergency

Just when you think everything is going fine...well, you know the rest. At any rate we have a family emergency that is going to require much of my time. So I will have to take a blogging break for a while.

I would ask each of you to communicate with the Deity of your choice and ask that things go well for us. If you have no Deity, then we would appreciate positive thoughts. Rest assured that the emergency is not life-threatening.

I'll try to read your blogs as time (and Wi-Fi access) allow and I will be thinking of you and feeling the good vibes coming from you. Bless you all as you give thoughts for us.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fridays are Golden

We finally had a respite from the rain. A good opportunity to do some outdoor holiday decorating. The Golden Girls are delighted when we are with them in the front yard and they can be off lead. During colder weather we don't spend a lot of time sitting in the yard, so they usually walk through on their way to a walk and don't get to investigate anything.

Lucy investigates the sleds on the front porch. My husband's childhood Flexible Flyers are decorated with red bows. Both the short one and the long one were obviously much used and much loved. We hung a pair of ice skates on them in Wisconsin, but that seems a bit out of place here in NC. Given their ages they qualify as antiques. (How scary is that?)

Ellie is always more careful investigating new things. She approaches more cautiously. Lucy is already bored with the sleds since they don't do anything for her, so she turns away to await the next adventure.

Ellie catches the scent of some animal who passed by during the night. She is quite attuned to smells and we call her our scent hound.

In a rare moment of quiet, Lucy sits and smiles for the camera. Lucy is very active and retains a lot of puppy qualities. Sometimes that is really cute; sometimes not so cute. She's four years old now and apparently has no plan to grow up.

As we prepare to go indoors, Lucy turns and smiles as if to say, "Oh, don't you just love the holidays!"

Oh, yes dear Lucy. We do indeed love the holidays...the religious and the secular. We love the decorations, the music, the food, and the warm glowing holiday feelings.

I hope that you will enjoy whatever holiday you celebrate this month. Keep in mind that there are many opportunities for you to help those in need both here and abroad. I hope you will take advantage of them and give as much as you can.

Have a wondeful weekend and don't stress out. It will all get done so take a little time each day to sit with the beverage of your choice and just contemplate upon how fortunate you are. And enjoy that holiday feeling.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Bright Spot in a Grey Day

I like rain. I like misty mornings with the fog rolling in. I love the mountains shrouded with fog, and fog lying in the valleys with mountains rising above. Surprising then, that I don't like grey days...days in which there is no obvious mist or fog, no rain...just grey skies completely filled with clouds.

Monday was such a day. There were several factors that made the day more grey than the color outside. It was the last day of November and I got that familiar "gut feeling" that I should be further along with holiday preparations. That afternoon I had to drive downtown to the dentist for a crown prep. When I got home I finished the remaining pages of a really good book. For some reason that puts me in a funk for a short while.

So I was sitting on the sofa, sipping my tea. I sighed and looked out the window. I saw a bright flash of red. It was my friend Mr. Cardinal. (With few exceptions, all the male cardinals are named Mr. Cardinal around here.)

Hello there, Mr. Cardinal. You are a lovely sight to see this afternoon.

Well hello right back, Lady.

It's so nice to see you looking so cheerful on such a dreary day. How's the missus?
I take it you haven't seen her yet. She's over on that tree all puffed up for some reason. You know how they are.

I looked and sure enough, there sat Mrs. Cardinal. And "puffed up" was certainly an appropriate description. She was disinclined to talk so I simply watched.

Suddenly a wind gust blew her topknot in the air.

She looked almost like a cockatiel for a second or two.

She seemed a bit startled by the wind's effect, but she didn't move from the branch upon which she sat.

Then she looked right at me.
Well, Lady. Do you understand why I'm not so pleased with the hair thing? The old man just doesn't get it. It's enough to make any woman huffy.

Yes, Mrs. Cardinal, I do understand. I know exactly what you mean. If it helps, I think you are still lovely. Thanks for dropping by.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Disgusting Beyond My Words

We have become accustomed to non-news reporting and "breaking" news. We have become accustomed to hearing distorted versions of every political action, depending on which "news" network we watch.

It has been said by many experts that in our present media frenzied "reporting" there's no way a man in a wheelchair would be elected President of the United States. As for Abraham Lincoln? The "media" would forget his dramatic words and report these things:

Somehow we learn to take it all in stride...the bumper stickers that warn us we are "baby killers" if we support a woman's choice to make a dreadful decision; the ones that indicate that if we don't believe (insert favorite) then we're unAmerican, that every kid in the house is an honor student that you'll take their guns when you pry them from their cold, dead fingers. I am extremely tolerant about bumper stickers. I laugh at many of them even when I disagree with what they might say. After all...clever is clever. And while I may not agree with the bumper stickers, it seldom affects my feelings about the person. There is room for all opinions.

One can learn a great deal about another person by the bumper stickers on the car. My husband and I laughed a lot during the last election. One of us would point out a neighbor's car and the other one say, "Now, THAT's a big surprise." And we would laugh. We are friends with all kinds of people and as long as they don't say something racial or anti-gay, we can tolerate their views as only one part of their personality.

But there has recently appeared a bumper sticker that is far worse than any I've ever seen or imagined. You will likely see this one as it spreads into your area:

One the surface, this looks like yet another political/religious bumper sticker. Well...far from it.
Here is the Psalm and verse to which the bumper sticker refers:

Let his days be few; and let another take his office.

So what's so bad about that? How is it much different from the "Impeach Bush" signs? It's much worse because of the next verse. It is not specifically referenced, but when you read one verse of a Psalm, you automatically read the next one. Here is the next verse:

Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.

The reference to this verse can be ordered on a tee shirt or coffee mug in addition to the bumper sticker. Can you imagine drinking your morning coffee in a mug that asks prayers for the death of any person...much less the President of the United States?

Usually a person who "let's go" and doesn't dwell on things that upset me, I find this bumper sticker makes my blood boil every time I see it. I don't have words to describe the feelings I have, but I can tell you that if someone drove into my driveway sporting this bumper sticker I would likely tell them they are not welcome in my home.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Fridays are Golden

Don't think for one minute we are lying here because we are so full of turkey and all the trimmings. Actually we are on a hunger strike because Mom and Dad never give us any people food. Okay, we get a few carrot chips when Mom makes salad, but that's all. Mom won't even let us in the kitchen when she's cooking so we don't get to compete in the five-second rule around here.

Today the wonderful smells started early in the day and continued. We were certain that with all this food, there would be a little bit to spare for the dogs. But once again, we were totally neglected so we're just going to show them. Hunger strikes for us!!!

WAIT A MINUTE!!! Dad's in our room. C'mon. Plain old dog food is better than nothing. Maybe this hunger strike thing isn't such a good idea after all.

The girls watch excitedly as Dad "prepares" dinner. Yep. It's dry dog food (aka kibble). Three times a week the girls have a special treat...a teaspoonful of olive oil. They love it!

Each girl keeps an eye on her respective dish. Unlike the beds which are open to the first comer, each dog has her own dish and while the contents are identical, there is no interchange between them.

Lucy digs in immediately. Hunger strike forgotten, she wolfs down her dinner in less than a minute.

Ellie also goes at it. Most Golden Retrievers have little or no satiety center. They will continue to eat as long as you continue to feed them. There's no leaving dog food in a dish for the dog to eat at will. That's one reason you may encounter a lot of over-weight Golden Retrievers. They can become obese on dog food if it's given without restriction.

Some dog owners feel that we are too restrictive with our dogs. What's the harm in a piece of turkey with gravy once a year? There is NO HARM, but we don't see all that much benefit either. The dogs do not expect any table food so they don't really miss it. And...they are so ritualistic that it would take weeks to get over even one feeding of yummy people food. They would hang around the kitchen every evening thinking the miracle just might recur. I must admit, we wouldn't have to worry about a hunger strike with those two. Each day they eat both meals as if they are their first and last.

Don't worry mom, this is tongue lickin' good.

One thing about our dogs...they are always willing to take a snooze even if they didn't have a big Thanksgiving dinner.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day. Today marks the "official" beginning of the holiday shopping season. Keep in mind that our health, our loved ones, our love for one another is far more important than any physical gift. It's about the spirit, no matter which holidays you will celebrate. For those of you who actually like the crowds...take a deep breath and head back out to the stores today. I know you already made at least one round of the stores.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tacky Turkey

My husband and I both love Thanksgiving. We decorate the house on November 1. As is the case with most of our furnishings, we have some things that are quite tasteful. We also have some things others might consider tacky. We have never been slaves to the trends and brand names of the moment. We surround ourselves with things we like. Whenever we purchase any new item for the house there are two criteria: 1) do you like it and want to see it every day; and 2) can you afford to pay cash for it. We never consider what others might think.

One of our more tacky holiday decorations is a large stuffed turkey. He sits on a very old chair that belonged to my husband's great aunt. An unmarried woman, independent in a time when women were not usually so, she owned a hat shoppe in New York City in the early 1900s. She traveled unchaperoned to Europe to order goods for the shoppe. She used this chair in her shoppe to display various hats of the day. Actually, the chair is a bit eclectic, but then again, so was Great Aunt Catherine and so is our house. So we love the chair and give Tom (what else would you name a big stuffed turkey?) a royal throne for a month.

As Tom sits there with his goofy look, we know he is thankful he's not a real turkey. We're having a small turkey since we're not having guests. We always buy an organic, grain fed, antibiotic free, happy farm turkey. The turkey lived a great life right up until the minute they killed him for our Thanksgiving Dinner.
Be grateful for your blessings in life. There are more than you think.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Two Wonderful People Still Remembered

[Without any apology from the writer, this is a repeat of a post done last November. It will be repeated every November as long as this blog continues. The subject means that much to me.]

They met on a blind date and took an instant liking to each other. Much of their courtship consisted of hiking in the mountains of North Carolina. She was three years his senior, a fact that brought many laughs in years to come. They were married in 1949.

He became a lawyer. A lover of animals, she became a veterinarian, rather unusual for her time. Her continued quest for knowlege led her to take courses in forestry, icythyology, and she studied all things living. She would later give up her veterinary practice to take college-level courses in science full time.

They lived in Montana and in New York, but their love was for Western North Carolina where they always intended to retire. The couple were passionate lovers of the outdoors. When their children grew up they traveled extensively, hiking some of the most rugged mountains in the world. They always stayed in hostels or inexpensive lodging because, as he said, "You meet so many more interesting people that way."

When they were in their 50s, he hiked the entire Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia. She joined him for much of the hike and they celebrated with champagne at the end of the trail. Other hikers were delighted with her ability to identify every tree, every bush, every flower along the trail.

In 1990 they moved to the North Carolina mountains they loved so much.

She was a avid gardener and an award-winning quilter. Their passion was hiking, especially the lesser known trails in Pisgah National Forest. They were stewards of the land, purchasing land in their community and donating it to be a nature preserve.

After 58 years of marriage they were deeply committed to one another. They continued to hike together...she in her 80s, he almost 80 at least once a week. If the sun came up, they went hiking.

In 2007 they were found to be missing. Their car was found near a trail head here in Transylvania County. In November, 2007 her body was found near the trail. Telephone records showed that she had made a "911" call from her cell phone but the signal was insufficient to relay beyond the tower. Their bank card was used in nearby Tennessee. Irene Bryant had died of blunt force trauma to the head and her husband John was still missing.

In February 2008 the remains of John Bryant were discovered near on a forest service road in upstate Georgia. He had been shot in the head.

Evidence links the senseless killing of this wonderful and devoted couple to Gary Michael Hilton who pleaded guilty to an equally senseless murder of Meredith Emerson in Georgia.

This post is not about the killer. It's not even about justice. There can be no real justice for such heinous actions. This post is about two of my heroes...John and Irene Bryant.

They left behind a legacy of love. Love for each other, their children, their fellow man, and the future. Love of nature, love of the outdoors, and love of these wonderful North Carolina mountains. They are together once again, and for them we still grieve. They left the world better than they found it. Take a lesson from John and Irene Bryant. Live life to the fullest and give back to nature and humankind.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fridays are Golden

Sometimes the most fun can be found right in your own back yard. We call the woods behind our house the "back yard" although in truth it is forest. We had the underbrush cleared and made a few trails. One trail was already in place, made by the deer and other animals using our little creek. We had huge stones placed to serve as steps where the hill is steep, along with a handrail on the side to assist when the stones are icy or covered with wet leaves.

No matter how often we let our Golden Girls play in the backyard, they love it every single time. They sniff the wonderful smells and chase each other all through the laurel thickets. They sometimes wade in the little creek.

Ellie sprints to the edge of the creek. She knows not to go in the water without permission, so she stands and waits to see if this is her lucky day.

[All outdoor photos in this post were taken by my husband. Thanks, dear.]

Here is our little creek. We love hearing the trickle of the water running over the rocks and sometimes after heavy rains, we can hear the creek from our house.

The girls are extremely interested in something they have found (or smelled) under a couple of branches.

Ellie looks up, always aware of where we are and what we might expect of her. Lucy is likely to do her own thing regardless of where we are. She requires much more reinforcement training than Ellie.

Invariably one dog or the other instigates a jaw-biting contest or a chase.

Ellie sits to rest after a long chase.

Lucy rests in front of the two chairs we have in the wood. We have other seats made of fallen logs, but we have come to prefer the comfort of these even if they seem a bit out of place.

This is a photograph of Lucy's specific look when she has something in her mouth. It could be a rock, an acorn, a pine cone, or any number of things. She constantly picks up such things and then walks straight to us to let us know she has something in her mouth. She has not been called, but approaches in a submissive stance...tail down, head down and with a really goofy look on her face. She seems to think, "Drop it" means "Oh, they are going to open my mouth and stick their fingers in there to take away my rock."
We have no explanation for this weird behavior. My husband would like to think (and says) "Well she's just a puppy." That excuse doesn't work anymore. Lucy is FOUR

After quite a workout, the girls walk back to the house.

Once inside, they settle in to rest. Sometimes I wonder why we have two dog beds up here.

We are having a sunny day after several days of hard rain. I've got my Thanksgiving menu ready and we will surely enjoy the day. We will not have visitors, but my husband and I will do a turkey with all the trimings. We will reflect on how truly grateful we are to have our health and our mountain home, our children, and our Golden Girls.
As you approach this weekend...SLOW DOWN! It might be your last chance for a "normal" weekend for a while. Everything and everyone will try to make you frenzied from Thanksgiving day until the end of the year. Don't give in to the hassle. Focus on what is REALLY important in your life. Enjoy the season whichever one you celebrate.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

And These are Educated People?

When I was a little girl, I used to sit on my daddy's lap and he would read the newspaper to me. It was a special time and sometimes he would even let me have a sip of his coffee. I didn't like the coffee, but the sip seemed to add yet another bond to our early morning ritual. I didn't understand much of the newspaper until we got to the comics. They were wonderful times when I had my daddy all to myself.

Perhaps that is why I am addicted to printed newspapers. Oh, not for the news. I get my news from Newshour with Jim Lehrer. I read the newspaper to find out what is going on locally and to better understand the people among whom I live. We get two newspapers, the daily Asheville Citizen Times and our little bi-weekly Transylvania Times. The Asheville paper has comics...the old ones like Rex Morgan, MD, Snuffy Smith, and Mary Worth. (Yes, I admit I read all the comics.) The Brevard newspaper has no comics but the "Letters to the Editor" section usually provides many more laughs than any comics.

Leaning politically liberal in a very conservative section of the country, I often shake my head in disagreement and sometimes laugh at many of the articles. Usually it's because someone has a mandate from God which gives them far more understanding of the state of our nation than the experts to whom I listen. I felt as if nothing someone said could shock me.

But a front page article in yesterday's Asheville paper gave me a bigger jolt than my morning coffee. The article is about the Asheville Christian Academy. The 15 members of the Board of Directors and 148 members of the corporation held a special meeting to review the bylaws. Particularly the one that prohibits women from serving on the board.

The school is nondenominational, K4 through high school and has about 600 students. I fully endorse religious schools, except for those quickly established in the 50s and 60s to circumvent integration.

What is puzzling to me is the result of the meeting. The Board of Directors and members of the school's corporation voted overwhelmingly to let the bylaw stand. Women cannot serve on the Board of Directors.

Here are the reasons brought forth to justify the decision:

"A nurturing environment would keep women from making tough decisions."
"Men are more comfortable speaking to other men."
" Male leadership is mandatory in God's two most beloved institutions, church and family." [The bolding is mine.]

And perhaps my favorite quote:
"As education itself is in so many ways an extension of the home, it has seemed to us only appropriate that this model of male leadership be thankfully embraced by our school."

THANKFULLY EMBRACED!!! I wonder how the parents explain to their daughters that they should thankfully embrace the "fact" that God mandates that only men are leaders. I suppose she lets the boyfriend decide whether or not they will be sexually active. It's far too tough a decision for her to make. Oh, they must not forget to tell their daughters how difficult it will be for them to speak to men who are ever so much more comfortable speaking to other men. And how do they explain to their daughters about the male leadership model that is the proper one for the home?

I selected this photograph from the school's Website since it doesn't identify any of the students. They seem happy and I'm sure they are.
I know very little about the academics or arts or sports at this school. I do know that a school holding women is such a secondary place in society is not a school to which I would send my daughter or my son.
I can't help wondering how the parents and teachers explained the newspaper article to the children attending Asheville Christian Academy. The quotes are a matter of public record, so there's no arguing that the article distorts the comments. Will they bring out their Bibles to prove to the girls they must be subservient? Perhaps I'm making far too much of this vote to exclude women (especially the reasons for excluding them). Perhaps the parents are all very happy in such an environment.
But I'll bet Daddy explained the newspaper to his four-year-old daughter so many years ago more clearly than these parents. But then, perhaps not.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Birds Don't Seem To Mind

When we lived in the Milwaukee suburbs, rainy days were bleak indeed and I hated them. I drove more than 20 miles to work on three of the ugliest freeways you can imagine. Everything in my path was the same color of gray...the road, the sky, and the concrete barriers lining the freeway.

Even at home, the birds deserted us when it rained, searching for safer and drier areas. We had large trees the birds visited in the rain, but they were across the expansive lawn and the birds were not easily visible from our house.

Here in North Carolina, we live in the woods right alongside the birds. We have the added joy of watching them when it rains. We put squirrel baffles over most of our bird feeders and the birds seem to flock to these. They serve nicely as rain bubbles. The uncovered feeders also welcome a lot of visitors.

There is never a time in which we look out and fail to see a Tutfted Titmouse. We had several breeding pairs nesting in our boxes and woods and many of them are still around.

The rain seems to have flattened this guy's tuft, but he doesn't mind.

This little goldfinch was so puffed up I feared it might be ill. But I watched it for several minutes and it was fine...just a bit chilly in this photograph.

We seem to see our Red-bellied Woodpeckers more often this fall. Perhaps there are more of them around. I do know they had two broods of young this year.

And we have had White-breasted Nuthatches galore! Several breeding pairs shared our woods and delighted us with their antics.

Rain in North Carolina is ever so much better than rain in Wisconsin, especially in the fall. For one thing, NC has more sunny days than gray ones in the fall and winter. Rain and fog may last a short while and then out comes the sun. In WI, it stays gray FOREVER. The second wonderful thing about rain in NC is that it actually stays rain for the most part. There's hardly such as thing as winter rain in WI. In winter it's sleet at best making those gray ugly roads icy. At worst, it's 15 inches of snow!!!
In addition to watching the birds, I've been able to get some knitting done and read several books. Other than wet dogs and dirty dog towels, rain is welcome here.