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.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fridays are Golden

Our dogs seemed to enjoy the rain when we lived in Wisconsin. Perhaps it was the urban setting with our manicured lawn and huge maple trees that sheltered them from the heavy rain. Perhaps it was because they could run freely in the rain all over the large lawn, hiding under bushes and playing chase. Who knows? But for whatever reason the girls do NOT like the rain here. And rain we have had. Steady rain. More than four inches of rain. Rain falling all week long.
Lucy patrols the house to see if it is still raining.
Yep. It's falling on the deck.

Then she went to the dining room window to look out.
Funny, it's raining on this side of the house too.

Along with the rain, we had gusts of high wind. In fact, the wind blew one of the bird feeders off the deck. My husband retrieved it and was preparing to take it back outside. It provided a bit of diversion for Lucy.
I've never seen one of these close up. Interesting!

She watches as my husband hangs the bird feeder and checks the rain gauge.
He is crazy to go out there when he doesn't have to!

The girls stand on the front porch watching the rain.
Lucy is almost singing, "Rain, rain, go away."

Ellie looks out and then back at me.
Is it almost time for dinner?

Boredom sets in and Ellie decides to practice holding multiple tennis balls in her mouth. She can hold three at once, but rarely does so. Most of the time she is carrying two at a time.

See? There's plenty of room for another.

Go ahead with the silly tennis ball thing, Ellie. Just make sure to wake me up when it's dinnertime.

As we approach another weekend, let's continue to remember our men and women in uniform and make this a week of honoring. Reflect on what they are doing and how they are living. Watch the memorials of the very young men and women who are losing their lives every week. Our thoughts go out to their families and loved ones.
---------------Enjoy your weekend wherever you are. Don't forget your pledge last week! We are not going to let the upcoming holidays stress us this year. Holidays are for love and family and everything else is superficial.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Who'da Thought It Would Last This Long?

My husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary this weekend. We were married in 1971. Two very different people certainly didn't seem destined to enjoy such a long, happy, and successful marriage.

We were both "children of the 60s," having graduated high school and attended college in the soaring 60s. I spent the 60s attending hootenannies, learning to play the guitar, marching in protest rallies and listening to the music. My husband spent the 60s studying and planning his future. How many other physicians do you know who have an AB undergrad degree with Honors in English? Wisely taking sufficient science for his pre-med, he felt this might be his last chance to read and enjoy English. He thinks things through like that.

He was always (and still is) a planner. Not just a planner, he follows through on the plans. I'm more of a dreamer, since you don't really have to follow through on them.

He was a Roman Catholic and deeply religious. I was raised Southern Baptist, but at the time was more agnostic than anything else. Our marriage began as a compromise which pleased the two of us but didn't go over so well with the families. My family was not terribly happy that we were married in the Catholic Cathedral with a priest officiating. His family was not terribly happy that I was Protestant and that we were not having a mass with the ceremony.

The day was beautiful with bright sunshine and fall color. Here father and daughter prepare to enter the cathedral. No one would suspect that a rare illness would take his life less than 6 years after our wedding.

The happy couple immediately after the ceremony.

For so many years of our marriage, we managed to buy each other the identical anniversary card. This year I was determined not to repeat that, so I purchased a "dear husband" card. But this particular card caught my eye and I almost changed my mind and bought it instead. Not surprisingly, it was the same card my husband gave me. Perhaps it explains why we are still together after all these years.
She says: I think we're lost.
He says: We're not lost.
She says: We should stop and ask for directions.
He says: I'm NOT stopping to ask for directions.

She says: Dear God, Give me strength.
He says: Lord, Give me patience.


I must confess that after looking at the wedding photographs, I said to myself, "Look at that young and slim bride! It can't possibly have been 38 years ago!!!"
Then I looked in the mirror and the reflection said to me, "Oh, yes Carolyn. It definitely has been that long."

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fridays are Golden

The Golden Girls are in love with their new beds. They do not pay any attention to the names embroidered on them (did anyone really think that mattered?) and plop in them whenever we are in the den. In the past, both dogs loved to lie under the pigeon hole in my husband's desk when he was sitting there. Not any more...they go straight to their new beds.

Ellie almost always has at least one tennis ball with her. She carries them in her mouth as she "talks" with me. She also like to take charge of the blue tug toy and decide when they will have a battle over it.

The beds are quite spacious. Each of our girls is normal-sized for a female Golden Retriever and while Ellie looks much bigger they both weigh about 65 pounds.

We did not replace the beds in the great room. Because the floors are hardwood, they use these beds most of the time. They do lie in the floor when the sun is shining on them. Almost all the time Lucy climbs in the bed Ellie is using.

No matter the sleeping position, Lucy manages to find a way to fit herself in the bed.

And if there isn't any room to fit herself? Lucy is quite content to snuggle in and use Ellie as a soft pillow.

As we approach the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, take this weekend to veg out like our Goldens. Reflect on what is REALLY important and don't let the rest of it make you anxious. This should be a time of love and joy, not stress. Make a promise that you will NOT give in to the madness but will actually enjoy the upcoming holidays, whichever ones you celebrate.

Our thoughts go out to the victims and families and loved ones of the recent incident at Fort Hood. Such senseless violence with such dire consequences.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Annual Divide

Several weeks ago our community garden club held its fall Great Divide. The gardeners re-pot all the divided plants every fall and offer them to neighbors. In the past, the plants were free. Unfortunately too many people came early and took far too many than the allowed two per family. As a result there weren't many choices for those of us who came to the event at the proper time. This year the club decided to charge a small fee for each plant and you wouldn't believe how much difference that made. These "freeloaders" were reluctant to pay a few dollars for a 25-dollar plant! It almost makes me wonder whether they actually planted their freebies in the past. It makes me sad to think they didn't.

Plants that deer aren't supposed to like are always a high priority around here. The club had a nice selection of deer "resistant" plants, but made it clear there is no such thing as a deer proof plant. (We found that out last year when the deer stripped our rhododendron buds.)

All of the artists selling their wares actually live in our little community. Gourd art is a really big hobby here and I am always amazed at the results. (I wish I'd taken a close-up of the turkey in the upper left.)

One of my favorites was this cut-out of autumn leaves.

We have several artists who carve decoys.

And quite a number of talented painters.

The divide always has a section for free glass. Anyone can drop off or pick up a vase or two.

We bought several beautiful fall-blooming plants. The girls were quite interested in them.

Lucy is our "sight" dog and she doesn't miss a thing in sight. Ellie is our "scent" dog and she catches all the smells. She is totally absorbed in this plant. I hope she will like it as much when it is planted.

If there was an election in your area yesterday, I hope you got out and voted. Further, I hope your candidate won.