Monday, December 20, 2010

Taking it Easy

Well folks, I'm going be as relaxed as Snoopy this Christmas.  Family is coming so I'm going to take a blogging break for two weeks or so.  I'll be checking your blogs and will enjoy hearing how you are doing.

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, make this year end a time of joy and peace.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Fridays are Golden

Ellie loved her soft stuffed toys.  She played and played with them.  Her favorite by far was a little yellow duck which she carried around wherever she went.  She would keep it next to her and took it from room to room.  The following photograph is the last one of Ellie and her beloved little duck.  That Christmas she discovered that soft toys always have a weak spot.  She quickly destroyed the soft toys she got for Christmas that year.  Then she systematically destroyed every single soft toy she had.  It was probably her best Christmas ever and she was so proud of herself.  Other than the occasional gift from friends, no stuffed toys have been around since then.

Ellie and the little yellow duck.

Fast forward to 2010.  We have a variety of little stuffed toys that were often left in stockings.  They aren't good enough for real decorations, so we put them in and on an antique chair we have.  They are there not so much for display, but because we'd prefer not to have anyone sit in the chair.

A Lucy van Pelt doll had been sitting on the top of the chair.  The other day I noticed she had fallen off and told myself that I needed to pick her up when I came back into the room.  That was the last I thought of Lucy.

Lucy had been sitting on top next to the reindeer.

Shortly thereafter, my husband went to his study.  There sat Ellie, happily chewing the muff off the Christmas Lucy!  She must have picked her up and couldn't believe her good fortune.  Someone had left her a soft toy at last!  I do so wish we had a picture of Ellie enjoying her unexpected treat.  My husband said she did not look at all guilty, so she apparently had no idea the toy in the floor wasn't meant for her.  He took the toy away and put it up.

Here's what poor Lucy looked like.  Ellie had just begun.  She had pulled off the muff and was working on the stuffing.  In hindsight, we probably should have let her enjoy herself and destroy the whole thing.

But she seems happy enough with the blue tug.

For those of you who celebrate Christmas this will be an exciting week.  In reading various blogs this month I am struck with the fact that some people are excited silly about decorating and celebrating.  Others, many of whom have suffered losses this year, feel almost guilty because they haven't caught the "Christmas Spirit."  They haven't done much decorating and feel bad that they haven't.  To these blogger buddies, I say, "THAT'S FINE!  You don't have to decorate.  Christmas isn't about decorations."  Someone once said "It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air."  And I believe that is true.  Sometime during the season, you will indeed feel Christmas in your heart...and that's what it's all about.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Always Check the Box

Regular readers may recall that Christmas last year was far from normal at our house.  We had a player who sustained major injuries in early December before the tree was up.

During our thirty-nine-year marriage, a live Christmas Tree always graced our home.  Always a big large as the room would allow.  Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without a huge tree.  We found out last year that isn't actually true.  Because I could not obtain and decorate a large tree by myself, I purchased a seven-foot artificial tree and decorated it.  And you know what?  It wasn't such a bad little tree as Linus would have said.

As nice as the tree was, I never dreamed my husband would suggest that we get a larger artificial tree for this year.  This from the man who loved going out to the tree farm, selecting the perfect tree and spending hours decorating it.  I was delighted, since I remembered the awful un-decorating process...the way the room looked when the tree was finally out the door and the struggle to get the tree on top of the SUV to take it to the lake.  And the mess all over the floor and on the porch and down the steps.

So this year, my husband ordered a tree in a box.

The tree sat in the box for several weeks.

We decided to decorate the tree on Friday, December 3.  We moved all the furniture and opened the box.  The metal tree stand looked "funny."  It would not open.  Closer examination revealed that the tree stand was not only broken, it was warped.  The opening was oval.  Just as you can't put a square peg in a round hole, you cannot put a round pole in an oval one.

There was a disclaimer with the tree advising us to call the manufacturer, not the store from which the tree was purchased.  I called them.  I waited and waited and waited until I finally reached a human voice.
Did you send in the warranty card?
No, I just now opened the box.
Send us the warranty card and we will send a new stand.
No, your warranty does not depend upon whether or not I have sent the card.  Perhaps I could speak with your supervisor.

The supervisor agreed that honoring the warranty did not depend upon sending the card.
Can you give me the UPC number on the box?
After much scrambling I found the number and gave it to her.
We will send you a new stand.  You will get it in 7-10 days.
Seven to ten days?  Can't you get it here sooner than that?
Not unless you pay an additional $90.00 for shipping.
Ninety dollars?  I should pay another ninety dollars to obtain a replacement for your faulty product?
Well, otherwise you can wait the week to ten days.
Perhaps I could speak with your supervisor.

The supervisor confirmed that no one in the company could waive the ninety-dollar charge.  I told him I would not pay another ninety dollars and asked that they send the new stand.  I asked if he could give me a tracking number.  He explained that it wouldn't be available until Monday and I should call then.  They would use my telephone number to find the tracking information.
[TIME SPENT ON PHONE:  about 40 minutes.]

We decided to put the smaller tree in the empty space until the new stand arrived.  At least we would have a lighted Christmas Tree there and wouldn't have to rearrange the furniture again.

I called on Monday, provided the appropriate history of my problem and asked for a tracking number.
I'll need some more information.
I was told you could use my telephone number.  Can't you just pull up the information on the computer?
I don't have a computer.
You answer the customer service line and you don't have a computer?
I take it down on paper and take it to the supervisor who can look it up.  I'll call you back.

She calls me back to say they have no record of my call on Friday, so we complete the process again.  When I called to check for a tracking number on Tuesday, we WENT THROUGH THE SAME PROCESS AGAIN!!!

On Thursday we came home to find that UPS had delivered the tree stand.  We put up the tree on Friday and it looks lovely.  On  Saturday, UPS delivered another tree stand.  Since I talked with five different people, I'm wondering just how many tree stands we might receive.

Here's the tree, up and decorated.  You'll need to click to see much of anything.

One thing I learned from this experience.  ALWAYS check any boxes you receive WHEN you receive them.  Also, just because a company doesn't appear to have a clue about customer service, they may actually come through for you.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What a Variety

Purple Finch, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Chickadee, Goldfinch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Pileated Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Junco, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Cardinal, and Pine Siskin.  We have seen all these birds this morning.  What a treat!  Well, except for the Pine Siskins.  A week after we put the Niger and cracked sunflower seed feeders back up, the irruptive Pine Siskins returned in huge numbers.  So we took down everything except for the black sunflower and suet.  We still have a few, but they can't congregate as well on the sunflower feeder since there are fewer feeding stations and no platform.  At least the other birds have a chance to get to eat.

Like most areas of the country, we are having MUCH colder than normal temperatures.  Normally we don't have a problem with the water freezing, but today we've gone out on a regular basis to break the ice so the birds can get a drink.  They are really packing away the food and it's such a joy to see so many birds coming back and forth.  The trees are filled with birds waiting their turns.

No matter how common they are, Cardinals are delightful, especially in winter.

I drew the following names for the "Pay It Forward" blogger project.  They are Elora, Pat, and Tara Dharma.  I'll send each of them a handmade item within a year.  They, in turn will send handmade items to three of their blog readers within a year.  It's a nice way to "connect" with others in the blog world.

Stay safe and warm out there!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fridays are Golden

I've decided to change the header often this month to show you some of my favorite Christmas decorations.  My husband gave me this Santa with dolls many years ago.  At the time and in our circumstances then, it was quite an extravant gift.  The detail is amazing and every time I look at it, I am reminded of those days when money was so tight.  It makes me realize once again that we had just as much fun and joy at Christmas back then as we do now.  Love and family make the season...not money or status.

If you watch the weather reports you know that the Southeast is in a deep freeze.  Our temperatures have been twenty-five degrees below normal for this time of year.  It's rare to awaken to ten degree weather around here.

The Golden Girls think the weather is just about perfect.  They love their walks in the cold morning air and are full of energy when they are outside.  When they come back in, they are content to lie around and snooze.

Lucy has just plopped down, once again pushing Ellie under the chair.  She looks so innocent, doesn't she?

Lucy sometimes curls up like a little puppy.  When she is like that she looks more like a one-year-old than the five-year-old that she reallly is.

Both dogs love their plush beds.

Lucy always manages to look relaxed and comfortable.

The Christmas season brings happiness and sorrow even to non-Christians.  We remember those loved ones we have lost and grieve anew for them.  There are so many reminders of them mixed in with our memories of Christmas.  The preparations and planning often overtake us and we may begin to dread the approaching holiday with so many things left to do.

We often become so caught up in the stress of the season that we lose our happiness for a while.  Hawthorne said it well:
"Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued is always just beyond your grasp but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."

And so you need to sit down quietly away from the stress of planning the perfect Christmas.  Take yourself away from all those things.  They truly are not important.  Then, perhaps happiness like the butterfly might alight upon you.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Daughter the Fisherman

When we moved back to North Carolina, we laughed when people complained about the "bitter cold."  While we did bring our heavy dog-walking gear, we rarely wear more than a jacket.  Right now we are having cold weather by most standards.  It was 10 degrees this morning!

There is a big difference in how people in NC react to cold weather when compared to the reaction of the people who live in Wisconsin.  We lived there for twenty years and our daughter still lives in the Milwaukee area.  In Wisconsin, people simply bundle up and go about their work and play.

I must admit, however, that our daughter takes this to a different level.  She loves to fish.  Even in cold and snowy weather.  Last Saturday she and her fishing buddy braved the cold and snow to fish in Lake Michigan.  As you can see in the following photograph, not even the weather-immune Wisconsinites braved the cold and snow at the lakefront.  That is, except for my fishing daughter.

The photographs were taken by my daughter using her cell phone.  You may need to click to enlarge to see the snowflakes falling all around.

Shores of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee

Seems her persistence paid off.  She landed a very large Brown Trout.  She said it was pretty amazing.  One minute she was cold and miserable, almost ready to pack it in.  The next minute she landed her big trout and suddenly everything was fine once again.

She and her buddy are purely catch and release fishermen.  So there was little time for pictures.  She did persuade him to hold it for a moment before they released it.

Now that's a nice fish!

There will be fewer and fewer fishing days ahead.  The lakefront will freeze and the fish will go far too deep to catch.  No need to fish in the cold and snow if you know for certain the fish will not be biting.  As the inland lakes freeze over, the ice fishermen will pull their huts out and watch a small hole in the ice.  But they are a different breed from most fishermen.

You may note (and some make take offense) that I used the phrase fisherMAN rather than fisherWOMAN.  That's because I do not see the need for making every word we use gender neutral.  I resent the imlication that using the term "fellow man" is somehow demeaning to me as a woman.  But that is purely a personal prejudice of mine and I realize it is an important issue to others.

So whatever you call daughter knows how to fish and is willing to brave the elements in order to do so. rock!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Blogger Pass It On

Last year I was accepted by Donna (here) for a "Pay It Forward" challenge.  She received a handmade gift from Ruthie (here) and agreed to pass along handmade items to three blog readers.  Last week I received a gorgeous necklace from Donna, so it's my turn to meet my challenge.

 Thanks, Donna

My challenge is to repay this kindness by selecting three blog readers and sending each of them a handmade item within the next year.  Each recipient will agree to provide a handmade item to three of his or her blog readers within a year of receiving my gift.  The basis of "pay it forward" is that we do not pay BACK a favor; rather we do a kindness for someone else.

I fully understand that you are overwhelmed by the holidays, thinking of all the things you must accomplish in the next few weeks.  So you might be reluctant to add even one more thing to your responsibilities.  However, keep this in do not do anything until you receive my handmade gift and that may be as long as a year from now.  Once you receive the gift, select three of your readers who want to participate.  You have a year to fulfill your agreement.  So this is not something you will have to do anytime soon.  Finally, if circumstances prevent you from paying it forward everyone will understand.

I was delighted to receive the gift from Donna.  It is just lovely.  Most of all, I like the fact that the gift makes a connection between the two of us, so that we are not just individuals in cyberspace.  We are real people and this exchange is the next best thing to meeting a fellow blogger in person.

So if you would like to receive a handmade gift from me, and will pay it forward to three other bloggers, then mention in the comment section that you would like to participate.  Assuming that I receive more than three names, I will put everyone's name in a hat and do a drawing.  I'll post the three names next Monday.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Fridays are Golden

Our Ellie loves tennis balls better than any other toy.  Even when she was a little puppy, she loved to bat them back and forth.  When we are in the den, Ellie often has two tennis balls in her mouth.  She can, in fact, hold three of them but seldom does.  I suspect they do not fit as comfortably as two.  She picks them up with amazing ease.

She will hold the two balls until she decides to snooze.

Moving to another area she takes the tennis balls with her.

Resting beneath my husband's desk with her two tennis balls.

Lucy seems to know that Ellie can do something she cannot.  She tries and tries to hold two tennis balls.  She will push them around the floor for several minutes and occasionally she can get two of them placed in her mouth at the same time.  But as soon as she starts to walk with them, she will drop them.  She repeats this process several times a day, but her mouth just doesn't seem to hold them.

So what?  I don't need to hold two balls at once.  Besides, I've got more tennis balls than you do anyway.

The water levels are still high around here, but the sun is shining and we are enjoying the crisp clear air.  December is upon us and we will start decorating today.  I've already put some Christmas CDs in my car and I'm beginning to feel the spirit of the season.

I leave you with a quote from Marcel Proust:
"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom."

I hope you have people around you who make you happy.  I hope your soul blossoms.  More importantly...I hope you are someone who makes other people happy.  Try to be a charming gardener this week.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Almost Ten Inches

Perhaps the most frequently asked question in Transylvania County the past few days has been, "How much rain did we get?"  I can speak only for our house...we got almost ten inches in a thirty-six-hour period.  That's a lot of rain.

Rain is quite unpredictable in the mountains.  Other areas of our community received six inches of rain.  The county had widespread flooding with several roads closed due to high water.  The French Broad Basin flooded fields and roads and isn't expected to crest until this evening.

The rain stopped during the night last night and today is sunny although quite chilly for our area.  On a clear day after a heavy rain, we always go visit waterfalls.  Because of the flooding and treacherous trails, we did not do any hiking.  Fortunately Looking Glass Falls is right off a highway overlook with no muddy trails to contend with.

There was lots of water, but we have actually seen the falls with greater volume.

The water crashes into the basin below.

A beautiful sight indeed.
All three photographs were taken by my husband.

The rain eliminated the deficit for the year and we are very happy the trees will get a good drink before winter.  But it was a lot of rain in a very short period of time.  Always complaining, aren't we?  We get rain and then complain because it wasn't spaced out to our satisfaction.

I've mentioned before that our dogs do not like the rain.  I will add that we do not like having to dry off two wet Golden Retrievers everytime they come inside.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Rather Unusual Vase

One of the best things about living in the NC mountains, is that I am surrounding by an amazing variety of artists.  Something about the mountains seems to draw authors, sculptors, photographer, painters, potters, and artisans of all types.

I cannot tell you how much I admire the work of these wonderful people.  I was born completely lacking a single artistic gene.  My most dreaded childhood memories were those days when the teacher said (to everyone else's delight),  "Now class.  You may take out your paper and crayons and draw anything you wish."  I hated that.  I never knew what to draw and worse yet, I knew that whatever I DID draw wouldn't look right.  And I wanted so badly to be artistic.  So even though (or perhaps because) I lack the talent, I am blessed with an overabundance of art appreciation.

We purchase a lot of NC pottery.  Each new purchase is my instant favorite.  Our most recent purchase is an unusual vase.  I don't know the process, but during the potting and firing, pictures are drawn onto the clay and some parts are cut out, creating a beautiful effect.  The areas that appear black in the photograph are actually areas that are cut out.  The bottom of the vase has a wonderful finish and the entire piece begs to be touched.

On this side the children play "Ring-around-the-Rosy."

A fiddler and a banjo player are on the other side.

Between them a dog romps through the woods.

I have given some thought to taking pottery classes.  I have strong hands and I always did love to play in the mud.  I'm told that softening the clay is as therapeutic as kneading bread dough.  Who knows?  I know I could never learn to paint or sketch, and I don't have the words to write anything meaningful.  But I just might be able to shape a bit of clay into something useful.  After all, I learned how to knit, didn't I?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fridays are Golden

So what do you do after a big Thanksgiving feast?  Well, at our house we snooze in our recliners while pretending to watch football on television.  No company; just the two of us but we had a 12-pound turkey with all the trimmings.  Fortunately my husband loves the Thanksgiving turkey and will happily eat turkey and turkey sandwiches until the bird is picked clean.

Ellie and Lucy don't even pretend to watch the ball games.  They are content to snooze all evening.

Actually, we're not so sleepy...we're depressed.  All those wonderful smells and we got only dog food.

Remember all those things you thought about yesterday as you gave thanks for your blessings?  Think of all of them again today, and tomorrow, and every other day of the year.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Little Gift Makes a Big Difference

We have a lot of Thanksgiving decorations and this has become my favorite.  It isn't the most expensive or the most attractive but it is my favorite.  The history of this little figurine makes it important.

The Outer Banks of North Carolina has always been a special place for us.  In fact, my husband told me we were going to the Outer Banks for our honeymoon.  The wedding announcement in the newspapers said, "after a trip to the Outer Banks, the couple will reside..."  So I packed sweats and sneakers appropriate for being at the beach in early November.  Imagine my surprise when we headed north.  My husband had arranged a week in Colonial Williamsburg.  Nice surprise, but I wasn't exactly the best dressed person around.  But I digress.

For the first 10 years of our marriage, we took trips to the Outer Banks to celebrate our anniversary.  We stayed at the same motel, ate in the same restaurants, spent endless hours at the National Seashore and evenings fishing on the pier.  We didn't have much money back then, and limited vacation time but the off-season rates allowed us to continue the yearly trips.  After the children were born, we left them with their grandparents while we enjoyed our time alone at the beach.

When we began to earn more and finally had a few more nickels to rub together, we planned more elaborate vacations and family vacations with the kids.  As a result, we hadn't been to the Outer Banks for more than 25 years.  Last fall we decided to go there again.  We were appalled to find that the charming quiet areas were overrun with large colorful beach houses.  There were houses on land that we had known to be inlets in years past.  The only things that resembled our memories were the National Seashore and the lighthouses (and actually one of the lighthouses had been moved further inland).

But the beach was deserted and we knew we would have fun, even in the rain and chill.  And then it happened.  I got food poisoning!  The first time in my life.  And I was as sick as I had ever been.  No fancy restaurants...just ginger ale and crackers.  I felt terrible physically and I felt terrible emotionally that I had ruined our trip already marred by the weather and the changed atmosphere.

One afternoon while I was resting, my husband went out to look at some of the shops.  When he came back, he had a box for me.  Inside was this sweet little figurine, "The 1st Lady of Pie."  For a few minutes I actually felt better.

So that's why this is now my favorite Thanksgiving decoration.  She was the best thing about the trip.  When I look at her I forget all about the disappointment about the growth, the rain and the cold and reflect on the early years when we went to the Outer Banks.  But try as I may, even looking at the 1st Lady, I cannot forget those days of misery following the food poisoning.

Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving decoration?  One that you always put on display even if you don't bring out all the other stuff?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Maybe There's a Hole in my Bucket List

A friend of mine recently hiked to the top of a tall mountain.  One of those all-day hikes to a lodge at the top.  Dinner and breakfast at the lodge and then a box lunch for your hikes during the day or back down the mountain.  There are no roads to the lodge; only trails.  Food and all supplies are brought to the lodge by llamas.  There is no electricity in the spartan "cabins" and guests must bring their own towels and washcloths.  I'm not at all surprised that this is something my friend would do.  It's something I would like to do as well.  But I admit I was a bit surprised when she told me the hike was on her "bucket list."  My surprise was not that this hike was on the list, but that my friend had a bucket list at all.

You see...I've never had a bucket list.  It never occurred to me that I should have one, even after the successful movie was made.  As I have talked with other friends, I find that many of them do indeed have bucket lists and delightfully cross off the events one-by-one.  Now that I've become more aware of bucket lists, I find them often in sidebars of blogs.  Click on the icons and you can read their bucket lists.

Bucket is not my bucket.  It's from Wikipedia.  My mop bucket is far more attractive.

Should the lack of a bucket list concern me?  Or the fact that I have no desire to develop one?  Does this mean my life is stagnant and I have nothing more to look forward to?

As I looked more and more into the issue, I have found dozens of Websites about bucket lists.  Perhaps the most extensive one is this one.  On many of these sites, you can read the bucket lists of other people and even follow them as they cross off the items.  You can "join" some of the sites and publish your own list and chart your progress.  The sites will even help you create a bucket list.  Excuse me, but isn't there a little bit of a problem if you can't create your own list of things you want to do?

Do I have goals in life?  Yes, I do.  Are there places I want to visit?  Yes there are.  But none of them are so important that I feel compelled to do them before I die.  I can die just as easily without those experiences.  In short, is there anything I can think of that would come to my mind in my last hours on earth to which I would say, "Gee, if I'd only done (insert item from bucket list)."  I simply cannot come up with a single thing.

I should provide a disclaimer that I have never been a keeper of lists.  When I was working, my life was consumed with lists and I couldn't have survived without them.  Now that I'm retired I manage to maintain a grocery list, and I do write appointments on a calendar, but I don't have any other lists.  Not even a bird list.  But I still know if a bird is a "lifer" because I know I've never seen it before.  My husband, on the other had, keeps a regular office desk "day-at-a-glance" calendar.  He tucks notes on his dresser and reminders on his bathroom mirror.  But even he does not have a bucket list.

Perhaps it's because we are physically and financially able to do most everything we really want to do.  And we do make plans.  One of our plans is to drive the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway, but it's not sufficiently important for a bucket list.

I think perhaps I have taken the bucket list further than it was meant to go.  Perhaps it's more of a "want-to-do-sometime" list than "things I want to do before I kick the bucket." YOU have a bucket list?  If so, is it ranked from most to least important?  Do you share it with other people?  And most important of all...Do I need to worry because I don't have one?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Fridays are Golden

Hard to believe it's Friday again already.  And November is more than half over.  Next week we Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving Day, one of my favorite holidays.  Not any more stressful than you allow it to be, it is a day for eating, relaxing, and giving thanks.

Lucy and Ellie practice the "relaxing" part.  As usual, Lucy has plopped on Ellie and taken most of the bed, gradually shoving Ellie under the chair.

Now at least Ellie has the bed, but what a price.  Lucy is using her for a soft pillow.

If you have read a newspaper this week you are no doubt surprised at what we Americans seem to think constitutes "news."  We seem to have lost our common sense, paying undeserved attention to such superficial things as who wins on "Dancing with the Stars," or whether that person was fairly chosen.  It's even getting political.  There is more interest in the details of the upcoming Royal Wedding than there is in our economy or the suffering of our fellow human beings.  We are following the wrong things, folks.  And we are praising the wrong actions.

I don't often wax religious for several reasons.  But this is my blog and so I can drift in whatever direction I so desire.  I grew up Southern Baptist and consequently I know the Holy Bible through and through.  Why, in fifth grade I won the Bible Sword Drill competition and I attended church camp every summer.  In spite of my Baptist background, I converted to Catholicism when my older child was a toddler.  Now, why would I do that?  Very simple.  I wasn't all that religious a Baptist despite my thrice-weekly meetings at church.  My husband, on the other hand was a devout Roman Catholic.  And feeling that religious experience is good for children no matter what, if any, religion they choose to embrace in the future, I became a Catholic.  That said; do I believe and follow all the tenets of the Catholic Church, and believe all the dogma?  Not by a long shot.  Neither did I believe and follow all the teachings of the Baptist Church.  Truth be told...there is only one church I can totally embrace.  That would be the Eternal and Truthful Church of NCMountainwoman.  And I must be the sole member, because you might have even one idea that differs from mine.

In watching the things we are focusing upon these days, I have often thought of one of my favorite Bible verses.  Doesn't matter if you read or believe the Bible.  These words from St. Paul ring true.  Read them, and follow them.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report;  if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Let's hope we can turn away from all the things that distract us from the truth and think on these things.


Now look at that!  That NCmountainwoman has done gone to preaching and meddling.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Three Years Now and No Arrest

[The following post is an annual update to honor the memory of a wonderful couple.]

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 western 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 animal, she became a veterinarian, rather unusual for her time.  Her continued quest for knowledge led her to take courses in forestry, icythyology, and she loved and studied all things living.  She would later give up her veterninary practice to take college-level science courses full time.

The lived in Montana and in New York, but their  passion was for western North Carolina where they always intended to retire.  The couple were true 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 parts 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, and every flower along the trail.

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

Both photographs from the Transylvania Times

She was an 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.  The continued to hike together...she in her 80s and he almost 80.  They hiked at least once a week.  If the sun came up, they went hiking.

Their last Christas card.

On October 21, 2007 they went for a hike in Pisgah National Forest.  Their son who lived out of State was concerned when he didn't hear from them.  He contacted neighbors who also were concerned that they had not returned.  The son called the local police.

The car was found near a trail head here in Transylvania County.  On November 9, 2007, her body was found near the trail.  Telephone records showed that she had made a "911" call from her cell phone on October 21 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.  Her husband John was still missing.

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

While no arrests have been made, evidence links the senseless killing of this wonderful and devoted couple to Gary Michael Hilton.  Hilton pleaded guilty to an equally senseless murder of 24-year-old Meredith Emerson in Georgia.  Under the terms of a plea bargain he was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 30 years.  At the present time he is awaiting trial in Florida for the murder of Cheryl Dunlap, a 46-year-old nurse.  When that trial is completed, the NC Attorney General will determine whether or not to file a case against Hilton on behalf of the Bryants.

This post is not about Gary Michael Hilton.  It's not even about justice.  There is no justice here.  There can be no 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 after three years we still grieve for them.  They left the world better than they found it.  Let's all take a lesson from John and Irene Bryant.  Live your life to the fullest and give back to nature and to humankind.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fridays are Golden

We have been blessed this week with beautiful sunny days.  Temperatures have been at near-record highs and the skies have truly been Carolina blue.  Time to run and play!

Lucy sprints until she is out of breath.  Ellie paces herself and could go on forever.

At the top of the dam, Lucy just decides to take off towards me.  Ellie can't seem to figure out what makes her take off all of a sudden.

The woods in back are always a good place to sniff those wonderful smells of the creatures who have passed by.

Lucy takes a moment to decide which way to go.

Ellie checks out the bench made from the trunk of a fallen tree.
It's been a grand week and while we need rain, I was happy to see such great weather.

My mother has one remaining sibling.  My Aunt Ruby is 83 years old and I call her at least once a week.  She is extremely conservative so we never discuss politics.  Well, I never talk politics...Aunt Ruby talks a lot.  She does not like President Obama (we're just not ready for a black President and besides that he wasn't even born here).  She is certain the health care reform will mean her untimely demise.  "I sure hope I don't have to go to the hospital for anything.  One of those death panels might decide I'm not worth saving."

My Aunt Ruby considers herself to be well informed since she listens to the radio and watches the "news" every evening.  Unfortunately, Aunt Ruby never exposes herself to any truly objective news sources...she has a steady diet of the conservative viewpoint with which she is in total agreement.  While I never verbally disagree with her (for heaven's sake...she is 83) I think she knows that I don't always share her political opinions.

Last time I talked with her she said, "Wait.  I want to get this paper."  After a short while she came back on the phone.  Then she said to me that the "news" reported that President Obama spent more than 200 MILLION dollars a day on his recent trip to India, China, Korea, and Indonesia.  He took an entourage of 3,000 people with him.  Forty US planes were in the air and 30 warships in the waters.  "Here we are suffering and he is spending our tax dollars like that," she said.

Aunt Ruby had been so anxious to impress me, she had actually written down all those numbers.  When I told Aunt Ruby those "facts" were not accurate, she said, "Well, they HAVE to be.  I heard it on several different programs.  They couldn't all be wrong."

Well, Aunt Ruby, yes they can.  "Someone" says this or that, then "someone else" repeats this or that, and it goes around the circles of her "news" programs.  My advice to Aunt Ruby (who would never follow it even if I actually told her) is to keep an open mind and get information from more than one tightly-knit group.  So many voters this year believe something to be true.  Why?  Because that's what they believe.

Here I am again waxing political, but we Americans cannot take for fact everything we see on television or hear on the radio, or read in a newspaper.  That applies to both liberals and conservatives.  If all you hear is Rachel Maddow and Keith Olberman, or all you hear is Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh then your views are likely jaundiced.  Keep an open mind and look at all sides.  At the very least, recognize that what you are watching or listening to is indeed biased one way or the other.

Buddha said it best:
Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.  Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many....
After observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Pumpkins Are Back

My husband came in to make the announcement.  "The pumpkin people are back."  I had lamented the fact that the place where the pumpkins stood every year had been purchased and was an unsightly detail shop.  The people who had previously owned the space have opened up a little coffee shop near us.  And they continued the annual practice of having the pumpkin people wave as people traveled US 276 through the mountains.

They are a bit different this year.  Always a male and female before, it seems to be two guys this year.  Well, either that or she has quite a growth of "lip hair."  Before I could get a picture, we had heavy wind and a few of the pumkins shifted on their legs.  But no matter, I am happy to see them once again smiling and waving.

Hello everyone!

They don't seem to mind at all that they have lost the gorgeous mountain view.  Perhaps that's because it was behind them and they never got to see it anyway.

It's mid-week again so quickly.  Sometimes we feel as if we are simply passing time, or watching time pass us.  This sign expresses it well.

As Lewis Carroll said, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there."

For many years I hated that phrase because it was invariably used in those annual Strategic Planning sessions I had to endure.  It seems one cannot go through that tedious process without hearing it at least once, and usually more often than once.  Since retirement, I've come to like the phrase once again.  So often we get in the car without a particular destination.  Simply driving through the beautiful countryside is destination enough.  When we do that, almost any road will take us there.

To wax philosophical, life is not about getting there.  Life is about enjoying where you are.  As some wise person observed (this is from one of my favorite tee shirts), THE JOURNEY IS THE DESTINATION.

BTW:  Whoever said the Pine Siskins would not be irruptive in our area got it all wrong.  They came in such huge numbers and were throwing birdseed all over the place and totally disrupting our other birds.  So we brought in all the feeders except for the suet.  Too bad for the cardinals and the finches, but we still have our chickadees, nuthatches, wrens, titmice and woodpeckers.  We'll put the feeders back out this weekend.  One or two Pine Siskins are cute.  Dozens of them are not.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I'll Miss the Craft Fairs

We recently went to a small outdoor craft fair.  It's likely the last of the outdoor fairs this year.  I do so enjoy them.  We will have plenty of indoor fairs, but they just aren't the same.  I love walking outside, mingling with the other customers and talking with the artists.  Some of the work shows great creativity while others are a bit mundane.  I stand in awe of some of them because they are so beautiful.  I stand in awe of others because they are so tacky.

Gourds are popular and we even have a guild of gourd artists in the area.

There's no end to what can be done with rebar.

Old shovels become works of art.  I liked this wolf and the other animal figures, but I must admit I didn't care too much for the Jesus on a shovel.

The slogan is, "What you see is what I saw"  Use of many different woods in different patterns.

A complex work looks at the forest.  It was a very large piece.

There's always lots of stained glass.  Stained glass panels, ornaments, even night lights.

Some of them are just lovely.

I continue to be amazed at the talent of these people.  At this craft fair, most of them cannot devote full time to their art.  They work regular jobs and do the crafts in spare time.  That makes it all the more amazing to me.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fridays are Golden

I started to take some pictures of the girls in the den.  Ellie wanted me to play with her and was in no mood to pose for a picture.

Ellie glares at me with evil eyes.

She really looks vicious here, but in reality I caught her in mid-yawn.

Little angel Lucy is snoozing in comfort.

She is not at all interested in me or my camera.

I couldn't leave you with an evil picture of Ellie.  This is more like her, although she still wants me to play.

We are definitely changing seasons here.  Cold and frosty mornings greet us and the sun takes its own good time rising over the mountains.  When we lived in Wisconsin, I dreaded the November mornings.  I didn't mind the cold and snow, the worst of it was the long number of gray days.  Here, we don't worry about a dreary day or two because we know the sun will be bright before long.

The following phrase is carved on one of our tables.  I don't know the origin, but it is one of my favorites:

The secret to life is to enjoy the passage of time.

How true that is.  Far too often we lament the passage of time.  Our children grow up, the seasons change and we get older.  For some reason we always regret time's passing.  Instead we should embrace and enjoy it.

So enjoy the passage of time as we move back to Standard Time this weekend.  Think of those who are less fortunate than we are and don't get caught up in your own misery.  Enjoy the passage of time.