Friday, February 26, 2010

Fridays are Golden

If Lucy were a human, she would be a little diva. Not in the sense of an opera singer, but with the colloquial definition of a female who considers herself more important than others. Lucy prances rather than walks, especially if others are watching. She expects the softest bed, the warmest sunbeam and the most comfortable spot around. She expects to get her food first, and to be the first to get her leash when it's time for a walk. If someone is petting Ellie, Lucy gets up and pushes herself in front.

Lucy also loves pillows and creates them if none exist.

We often take off our shoes and Lucy sees this as a definite advantage. The soft foot makes a perfect pillow.

If the shoes are lying around, Lucy uses them for pillows. (I often have to vacuum dog hair from shoes.) She never chews them or picks them up...just uses them for pillows.

Her favorite pillow, however, is Ellie. In this picture Lucy is not using her as a pillow, but once again is totally concerned with her own comfort, not matter what the discomfort to someone else.

Mom! She's got her feet and paws all over my face!"
Oh Ellie, you know that you need to handle this for yourself. Just get up or growl and put her in her place. But it's for you to do. I won't interfere.

I have no idea what she's talking about, Mom. I wouldn't do anything to disturb Ellie. I'm just here to keep her warm.

Hopefully no snow this weekend, but high winds and certainly more trees coming down. While we complain about our unusual weather, we recognize that so many others are in much worse shape. Our thoughts remain with those who are really suffering, not those of us who are simply whining.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

More Than We Wanted

Throughout our marriage, we always knew we wanted to spend our retirement years in the mountains of North Carolina. Not surprising since both of us grew up in the mountains.

For more than five years, we visited various areas trying to decide just where we wanted to live. Recognizing the dramatic increase in property values every year, we decided to purchase land, aware that if we decided not to use it we could sell it easily. The land was at an elevation of 4500 feet...a lovely spot along Plott Creek in Haywood County. It had great views.

We continued our search and as we survived those Wisconsin winters we began to realize that our land would get much more snow than we wanted. We began to look in Brevard and found our retirement spot. A gated community about nine miles from downtown and with an elevation of 3000 feet. Elevation is everything in the mountains when you are talking about snowfall. Our community would get one or two snowfalls per year and the moderate weather would melt most of it in a day or so. And if we had a yen to see snow, a short drive further up the mountains would provide us with plenty of the it.

So we built our home and for three years we enjoyed the sparse snow. Then came the winter of 2009. It all started on Friday before Christmas and has continued on a weekly basis ever since. The roads get clear, but the ground remains covered.

When I photographed this little Tufted Titmouse last week, I thought that would be the last snow we might see. Oh, I was wrong.

This morning we are under a severe weather advisory and more snow is expected for the next three days! From the looks of the bird activity at the feeders, they believe the snow is going to come. While we are prepared for snow with plenty of food and a generator, I am not a happy camper. The injured player who loves nothing more than shoveling and working outdoors is vastly improved, but it's pretty hard to shovel while using a cane. So I get into a nasty mood bemoaning the fact that I didn't leave Wisconsin to deal with this. But I plug along and the shoveling makes me feel refreshed. There's such a great satisfaction in seeing the driveway cleared. It's akin to seeing the windows sparkling clean (something I haven't actually observed for some time). I'm hoping that this snow stuff is not a new pattern and that we won't see this much snow next year.
Oh, what happened to our land on Plott Creek? We sold it after a few years and turned a tidy profit. For once, our timing was good.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Misunderstood After All These Years

Until last December, neighboring Buncombe County invited various Protestant ministers to offer prayer at the beginning of the County Commissioner meetings. The County Attorney advised the group that a Federal judge has recently ruled that a similar policy in another NC county represented an illegal governmental establishment of religion because the prayers were all Christian in nature.

The attorney advised that the commissioners not invite clergy and if they wanted to continue prayers they should be led by the commissioners themselves and should not use language specific to one religion.

A huge outburst resulted. Most of the outspoken people protested loudly against a "generic" prayer. A flurry of letters to the editor of the local newspaper indicated that since "most" of the Buncombe County residents are Christian, it shouldn't matter if they invoke the name of Jesus Christ in the prayers at a public government meeting. Others insisted that there is "one true and living God manifested through our Lord Jesus Christ" and that any prayer not so directed is not a prayer. "There can't be a generic prayer since there is not a generic God."

Perhaps my favorite reasoning was the echo of similar concerns here in our county when the issue came up about school board meetings. One of the members insisted the prayers did not favor one religion...that they represented ALL religions...Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and even Episcopal. However, she failed to explain how "in Jesus name we pray" represented Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, or other non-Christian religions or even atheists or agnosics for that matter.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I have belonged to the ACLU for many, many years.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fridays are Golden

I know I repeat myself, but we got hit with yet another snowstorm last week. The roads are clear again, but we have a significant snow cover on the ground. And that's quite unusual for our area.

The Golden Girls generally do not care much for the snow. Especially the snow we've had recently. With the ice cover they sometimes walk on top of the snow and then suddenly their paws will break through so they don't like it.

Here they wait patiently for me to take them outside to play.

Lucy is tentative and takes very careful steps.

Ellie runs with abandon and seemed to enjoy the snow.

Mom, have we had enough fun yet? Can we go back inside?

Ellie was lying in the center of this bed, but that didn't stop Lucy from squeezing in.
Today is bright and sunny. After some colder than normal temperatures we are expecting highs in the 40s! Won't that be something? This morning I heard the woodpeckers drumming and several birds singing. We have ever increasing amounts of daylight every week. Spring is truly on the way.
Have a wonderful weekend. It is said that "Fortunate are they who know how to be satisfied." May we all strive to be among those fortunate and recognize just how lucky we really are.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

At the Birdfeeders

One of the best things about a house in the woods is that the birdfeeders on the deck are near the trees and attract a wide variety of birds. The birds have been especially entertaining this winter with our near-record snowfall and cold temperatures. I have to refill the feeders at least once a day.

A Purple Finch sits patiently waiting for the crowds to clear at the feeders.

A couple of female Purple Finches share the remaining sunflower seeds with a goldfinch.

As the feeder swings in the wind it becomes apparent that there are actually three females with the goldfinch.

Meanwhile, the large male still sits on his perch watching all the action.

The goldfinch appears to be saying something. Perhaps it's about the snow.

The Purple Finch adds his two cents.

A Tufted Titmouse decides to get a bite.

The action has been fast and furious at all of our birdfeeders and at the water. Every morning the birds sit in the trees waiting for me to hang the feeders and pour the fresh water.

I got an email from Newsweek this morning. They want me back and are offering 88% discount if I subscribe. After continually subscribing to Newsweek for many many years, I canceled my subscription a couple of years ago when they hired Karl Rove to write commentaries. When I called to cancel, I listed the reason in two words, "Karl Rove." I may not be able to hit the "mute" quickly enough to avoid him on television, but I wasn't about to pay money for a magazine subscription and get angry every single week. No thanks, Newsweek, I've done quite well without you. But I do wonder how in the world you got my email address...

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Century of Basketball

I love watching sports, especially college basketball and professional football. I haven't said much about the UNC TarHeels this season. Truth is, there isn't much to say. Plagued by injuries and other unseen forces, this team just doesn't seem to be able to pull it together. It has been a pretty miserable year for the coaches, the players, and the fans.

One bright UNC basketball spot happened last Friday when 70 former basketball player (ages 21-89) came together in Chapel Hill for a celebration of 100 years of Carolina basketball. The players were assigned to age groups and played for several minutes each.

[Photographs from the Tarheel Blue and Raleigh News and Observer]

Legendary Coach Dean Smith was honored yet again. Such a fine coach and a fine human being.

The players gathered 'round when 89 year-old bobby Gersten (he'll be 90 in August) beat out 83 year-old Nemo Nearman on the opening jump. Gersten still plays pick up games every summer at Brant Lake Camp in the Adirondacks.

Nemo Nearman (age 83) says he was glad they were divided by era. He allows he's not in shape to play those 60 year-olds.

The game ended with a score of 71-70, but no one cared about those numbers. It was a night of fun and memories with walk-ons playing alongside starters. Men who played for the college before I was born (and that, dear reader, was a LONG time ago) and men who graduated last year took turns playing for the crowds.
On Saturday, the current TarHeel team managed to defeat NC State to escape the cellar of the Atlantic Coast Conference. It made the team so happy to provide this victory in time for the banquet they attended with the alumni players.
I wasn't going to mention this...but we got dumped on with yet another snow storm early this morning. I am not at all happy about it. My friend across the street came back last night from a 2-week+ vacation on the sunny Mexican Gulf. She called me this morning and mentioned how beautiful everything looks in the snow. I may have to march across the street and smack her!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fridays are Golden

Our dogs often share the same bed despite the fact that there are beds for each one. The instigator of this togetherness is always Lucy. It is never Ellie who goes over to lie next to Lucy but she doesn't object when Lucy lies next to (or on) her. Lucy explains her system:

Well, first you find out where Ellie is. Then you go over to that bed and nose around as if you aren't really interested. You sort of look around and then sit on the edge of the bed. You might have to wriggle your butt a bit in order to fit.

You sit there for a minute or two as if lying down is the last thing on your mind. Too bad I don't know how to hum or whistle because that's what I would do to show my disinterest.

Next, you begin to turn around in Ellie's direction. You look out the window as if you are watching something outdoors.

The next step takes a lot of practice. You simply plop down with no real idea how you will end up. This is a temporary move.

Once settled, you can feel free to move and use Ellie as a pillow. It may look simple, but then I have lots of practice.

Another Friday, another prediction for snow! We moved away from Wisconsin to be rid of the winter snow. Of course we are better prepared than some of the deep south states who are likely to get snowed in. What a strange winter.
Wherever you are and whatever your weather, enjoy the weekend with those you love. Take time for yourself and also give some time to others.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

And Then the Sun Came Out

Despite a day of rain the icicles on the trees remained and continued to grow. The following morning we finally saw the sun. What a beautiful sight after so many gray and dreary wet and snowy days.

I would have liked to do some walking around to see the magic, but the constant cracking of broken tree limbs kept me grounded. These photographs were taken from our deck.

The Tufted Titmouse pauses during feeding.

The Purple Finch sits on an icy branch.

Sunrise actually brought the dawn. We hadn't seen the sun for many days.

Finally...the sky is Carolina blue.

The ice has melted from the trees but the weather has turned unseasonably cold and we have high winds, certain to bring down more trees. It's a bit scary to drive the mountain roads, not knowing if you will encounter fallen trees around the next curve. Here's hoping for better weather across the country. Stay safe and warm.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Finches in the Icy Trees

We had freezing rain for more than twenty-four hours. Despite temperatures just above freezing, none of the ice melted and the icicles covering the trees grew longer and longer. Branches came crashing down, unable to bear the additional weight. Trees toppled over, broken or uprooted. The branches fell in the forest and none of them threatened our house.

The birds had little trouble managing in the ice-covered branches. We did see a few minor slips as they landed, but for the most part they didn't seem to mind.

Here are a few photographs of the goldfinches who were constantly flying to the birdfeeders.

This one took some seed to the tree and ate there. Not as efficient, but at least no one kept knocking it off the perch.

This one shows a bit more color. Another sign that spring will come.

The trees were full of birds waiting a turn and all the feeder stations were full for most of the day.

The sun did not make an appearance at all on Friday.

I stayed wet most of the day what with shoveling the driveway and the deck and taking the dogs outside. The snow was rather like a giant Slushy, ice and water and each shovel full was very heavy. When I look at the photographs, I appreciate the beauty of the icy trees. That's one benefit of looking back. It certainly didn't seem beautiful to me when I shoveled and walked dogs in the pouring rain and cold. I used a lot of "dog towels" that day. I'm trying to ignore the weather forecast which is predicting another round of snow and freezing rain for us tomorrow. I've had enough!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sometimes Saturdays are Golden

Another major winter storm descended upon us delivering snow, freezing rain, snow, freezing rain, etc., etc. Widespread power outages were expected and widespread power outages arrived and lingered all day. Everything is still coated in thick ice and loud cracks are heard throughout the forest as frozen limbs can no longer bear the weight. The ice thickly coated our Internet antenna and we had no reception...hence no Golden Friday post.

For the Golden Girls, the day was a bonanza as we spent most of it in the den. We have a generator that will run our house, but in the interest of conservation we turned off one of the heat pumps and settled ourselves in the den. The girls love that since they can freely romp and play there.

I have mentioned before that while we have a basket totally full of various toys, the dogs favorites are tennis balls and an old blue tug.

After yet another trip out in the freezing rain, the dry (but not yet groomed) dogs settled in to rest. Ellie chose to simply lie there holding a couple of tennis balls.

Lucy grabbed several tennis balls and put them in her bed.

You're not going to take this away from me, are you? I'll try not to have too much fun.

Lucy often rolls on the tennis balls for a quick massage.

A tennis ball on either side is better than one.

Sometimes a dog is just too tired to crawl all the way into bed for a nap.

But you can always count on a snuggle next to Ellie, even if there really isn't room for you. Just contort your body a little and you can make it.

This morning the sun is shining and the forest looks like a crystal cathedral. We will likely have more power outages and problems with fallen trees but we are as well prepared as one can be with a generator, good books, plenty of food and two wonderful Golden Girls to keep us amused and grounded.
Have a wonderful weekend, making the best of whatever awful weather you may be having. As you manage in bad circumstances, think of all the others who are in dire straits with no respite in their futures.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Noisy Nuthatches

Oh, is it February already? Guess I'd better keep my promise to resume the blog. Things are still quite hectic but all is well. What a spring it will be when everyone is back to whatever passes for normal.

Like most of North Carolina, we have had some severe weather with huge snow storms, freezing rain and ice. Unfortunately, we are expecting another episode for the weekend. The TarHeel basketball team can't seem to get it together so hopes are dim for a good year for them. Fortunately we have movies to watch and some really great books to read. How convenient that some of my favorite authors have come out with new books this winter. Right now I am mostly finished with Elizabeth Kostova's The Swan Thieves and it definitely proves her first book (The Historian) was not a "one-hit" wonder. A great plot with interesting characters and while totally different from her first book it is equally well-written and absolutely fascinating.

We have enjoyed watching the backyard birds eating us out of house and home. One of our most vocal birds this time of year is the White-breasted Nuthatch. Among our earliest nesters, they have already been searching houses and cavities. I don't recall these rituals so early, but clearly they are getting an early start this year.

The nuthatches checked out his very house last year and decided against it. I do hope they will use it this year but only time will tell.
I'm hoping to do more reading of your own blogs as we approach better times. I'll likely spend quite a few hours catching up because I truly am interested in finding out what's going on in your lives.
HEY! The sun is shining!