Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why Not in Summer?

There is an extra day this year.  I have no problem with that.  But why get the extra day in February?*  In the dead of winter.  And why does Leap Year coincide with our Presidential Election year?  Goodness knows we already have enough days for the primary BS rhetoric.  We surely don't need an exta one!

This calendar sat on my desk through my working years.  Now I keep it as a reminder.  Not of the days going by, but how glad I am to be retired.

You likely know that we have leap year because our solar year is a bit longer than 365 days.  In fact, the solar year is 365 days, 6 hours and 26 seconds.  So every four years we add an additional day to make up for the difference.  With few exceptions, years that are evenly divisible by 4 will be a leap year and have 366 days.  During those years February will have 29 days, the 29th being known as "Leap Day."

The extra day every four years doesn't quite satisfy the difference between the solar year and the Gregorian calender we use.  Therefore, we do not have leap year in most century years.  In fact, only one in four century years has the additional leap day.  The year 2000 had a leap day, but the year 1700 did not.  Neither did the years 1800 or 1900.  And the year 2100 will not have a leap day.  A simple way to remember it is that if the century year is not evenly divisible by 400, it will not be a leap year.  (Simpler still is to forget about it because one is not likely to remember two century years.)

So here's to Leap Day!  Happy birthday to all those born on February 29!  You have beaten the odds.  (The odds for having a Leap Day birthday are 1:1,461)

As for me, I'd much rather have Leap Day in the summer.  And definitely during non-election years.

*The extra day is added to February to keep the vernal equinox on or around March 21.  Were the vernal equinox date changed it would affect the date of Easter.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Church at the End of the Road

We never tire of riding through the mountains, taking roads we have passed without knowing where they lead.  We don't use a GPS but we have never gotten hopelessly lost.

We always look for country churches on our drives and we always find some.  More often than not the church is called a "baptist" church.  I put the word in quotes because there is no true definition of a baptist church.  There is an organization called the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and many churches do belong to it.  In recent years, many churches have dropped out of the SBC because of its continued doctrine that homosexuality is sinful and the church leaders must be males.  Even within the SBC individual churches are pretty much autonomous.

Many, if not most of the country baptist churches in the mountains are truly autonomous and do not belong to any specific organization.  In fact, there is nothing to prohibit anyone from forming a church and calling it a baptist church.

Almost all of the different baptist churches do have certain beliefs in common:
  • There is no infant baptism.  Baptism is conducted only when the person has achieved an age of accountability and professes faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
  • The baptism is by total immersion.  Many churches have a baptistry pool but some still baptize in local streams and lakes.
  • Life begins at conception, thus abortion is the taking of a life.
  • God planned for marriage to be between one man and one woman with a life-long committment to that marriage.  Homosexuality is not an acceptable lifestyle.
  • Each person has a soul and is totally responsible for it and for accounting to God after death.
  • Alcohol should not be taken as a beverage.
  • The church governance is male.
  • Communion is not held at each service (in fact it may be only four or five times per year).  Communion is symbolic and not the true body and blood of Christ.
  • Prayer is directed solely to God the Trinity.  There is no intercession or communion of saints.
One of our drives led us through beautiful hills and farms.  And at the end of the road was a lovely white Baptist church.  It was Blue Ridge Baptist Church, established in 1836.  I grew up attending the baptist church and the services then were exactly as they are today:  Sunday School at 10:00, Sunday Worship Service (also known as "preaching") at 11:00, Sunday evening services at 6:30, and Wednesday evening services at 6:30.

Most baptist churches remain locked except when there are services.  One does not typically enter the church for private prayer and worship.

Writer John Grisham once wrote:  "I grew up in a very small, close-knit Southern Baptist family where everything was off-limits.  So I couldn't wait to get to college and have some fun.  And I did for the first two years.  And I regret it a lot, because my grades were in terrible shape."

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fridays are Golden

This week has once again brought unusual weather.  We have had almost record-breaking highs for the past two days.  I feel a bit guilty about enjoying it so much.  Even the wind feels mild.

Many of my posts seem to include the inactive Golden Girls.  They do sleep a lot, but they also get plenty of exercise.  Our streets are pretty much straight up or straight down.  We keep them on lead during their walks and the hills give them a workout.  They must walk up and down without the momentum of running and they must walk at the desired speed of the pack leader.

Several times a week we take them to places where they can run free and off-lead.  While they enjoy their walks on leash, they really love to run free.

Lucy gives it her all.  She is definitely a sprinter.

Ellie is usually paces herself, but this day she sprinted right along with Lucy.

Come on, Mom.  Can't you keep up?

Ellie stands still to sniff the wonderful scents in the air.

Both dogs are much slower as we walk back to the car.

We always take fresh water and a bowl.

Back home they relax and reflect on the day.

When you choose to have larger dogs, you must commit yourself to providing exercise for them.  Not only are they more calm, it keeps their weight where it should be.  We do everything we can do to keep our girls healthy.  They give us so much pleasure and happiness.

Marcel Proust once said:
Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.

I would add that the same is true of our pets.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Good Neighbor

We have lost a good neighbor.  She was one of the first neighbors to welcome us into the community.  She loved dogs and we would often pass each other while walking our dogs.  We couldn't walk together because her little Toby did not like our Golden Girls.

Not long after we moved here several weeks went by without my seeing her.  When I saw her again she was extremely pale.  She knew that I was a nurse and she told me she had just completed another round of chemo.  She had multiple myleoma.

She was a talented artist and teacher and established an AP art program during her thirty years of teaching art.  She belonged to an artist co-op and showed and sold her work.

This is a card she painted for my husband when he was the injured player.
Inside she wrote that she hoped he would be on his feet the way he wanted to be;  hence the big shoes on the whimsical duck.  The water color is painted on scrap and glued in place.

She was one of the most upbeat people I have known.  Deeply religious and not afraid to die she didn't want to go any sooner than she had to.  So she endured treatment after treatment; complication after complication.  She would keep me posted on the latest experimental protocol her oncologist had found.  She always found something to laugh about no matter how bad the treatment or the complication.  When she died she was working on a book of cartoons about her experiences as a cancer patient.  She found humor even in dealing with cancer.

She appreciated and thoroughly enjoyed every respite she received from the wicked disease.  When she was too weak to walk two blocks, she walked one.  When she was too weak to do the shopping she went to the grocery store with her husband and sat at the coffee kiosk while he did the shopping.  She fell in love with her iPad because it allowed her to do things so much more easily when she wasn't feeling well.  Like me, she read a lot and often gave me recommendations for new books to read.

During her good periods she volunteered at a local charity that provides food, clothing and other services to people in need.  She was active in her church work.  Whenever someone in our neighborhood was not feeling well, she would appear at the door with her delicious date bread, a smile and a prayer.

Recently she developed kidney failure, not uncommon for people with multiple myeloma.  Having exhausted all other treatment options she decided that twelve years living with this disease was long enough.  She decided not to undergo dialysis and she died peacefully surrounded by her family.

 This was her smile.  Genuine and always there.

Godspeed, dear Julie.  I will miss you.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hosting Knit-Wits

The knitting group was organized long before we moved into our neighborhood.  The month after we moved in, one of my neighbors told me about the group and invited me to join.  I told her I didn't know how to knit.  She laughed and said there was way more to the group than knitting.  "We don't call ourselves Knit-wits for nothing," she laughed.

I decided then and there that just as I would never attend a book club meeting without reading the book, I wasn't joining a knitting group unless I learned to knit.  So...I went down to our local knit shop and bought some inexpensive yarn, a pair of knitting needles and a book about knitting.  I found some really good Web videos of various stitches and before the next meeting I was knitting a scarf, albeit a very simple one.

The knitting bug bit me and I began more complex patterns and different types of yarns and needles.  And so I became a knitter.  I especially enjoy when I am hosting the group.

Today was my turn to host the group.  I made a buttermilk pound cake.  I served it with lemon curd, fresh blueberries, and whipped cream.  For the chocolate lovers I made a dozen chocolate cupcakes.  For the light eaters I made sugar cookies.

The cake has already been cut!
(Thanks to my husband for making certain it tastes good enough to serve.)

Our group spends far more time chatting than knitting.  There were thirteen of us this afternoon so you can imagine there were several simultaneous conversations.  The conversations turn to a single focus only when we are showing our current work.  One woman is making an adorable baby sweater with little teddy-bear buttons.  Another is doing an applique.  I just love seeing what everyone is doing.

Unfortunately I cannot show you my current work-in-progress.  I'm knitting it for someone else and the recipient often reads my blog.  I will simply say the yarn is 100% silk and it feels wonderful in my fingers as I knit.  So I will show you one of the few things I have knitted for myself.

It's an alpaca shawl,  This photograph shows only one of the six diamonds that make the scarf.  The scalloped ends were very interesting, added when the body of the scarf is completed.  The wool is soft and very warm.

The best things about the Knit-wit group are that we socialize and enjoy each other's company.  We all join in to bless the prayer shawls, we discuss books, movies and television, children and grandchildren.  The more experienced help the novices.  We have a couple of knitters who love the challenge of a tangle of yarn and might spend most of the meeting working on a tangle someone brought.  It is quite fine to come to the group with no project in process.  We have only one rule.  WE WILL NOT DISCUSS  POLITICS.  We choose to remain good friends so we have politics-free gatherings..

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fridays are Golden

Like many other places, the mountains have seen quite a variety of weather patterns this week.  Much of the week has been cloudy with rain or mist much of the time.

Lucy looks out at the rain.

 While Ellie just lies there thinking.

 Ellie always makes this play-bow before going down the stairs to be groomed.

 Two beds side by side but two dogs side by side in one bed.

 On sunny days we went for long walks.
Lucy chooses a soft pillow on which to rest afterwards.

February is speeding by.  Today is my son's birthday.  His wife surprised him.  She asked me for the recipe of the chocolate pound cake my son always requested for his birthday when he lived at home.  She doesn't often bake, but she followed the directions to perfection and baked the cake, made the icing, and decorated it.  My son was impressed and somehow I got thanked as well though I did no more than share the recipe.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DEAR SON!

I am seething with anger about some of the political rhetoric of the past week.  I had written two lengthy paragraphs in this post and then I remembered that Fridays are supposed to be golden.  So I will hold my piece, at least for today.

Our thought for the week comes from Trappist monk, Thomas Merton.

"The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all living beings which are all part of one another and all involved with one another." 

We are all interdependent, folks.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

For KB, For K, For The Runner, and for R

She has severe disease of the spine and has endured many major surgeries.  Despite the constant pain, she rides her bicycle through harsh trails high in the Rockies.  She pushes herself and the spine disease does not define her life.  She has my own deep admiration.  She may be the most courageous woman I know.

She is an amazing photographer and her blog brings us unbelievable photographs of the Rocky Mountains.  She has placed trail cameras in the mountains and has shown us such wonderful photographs and videos of lions and bobcats and bears.  My personal favorite is a video of a Black Bear, coming briefly from her den, full of sleep and moving slowly, then retreating to the den for a longer sleep.  She has shown us the beauty of mountain sunrise and evening sunset.  She has shown us the wonder of Aspen groves in autumn.  She has shown us the beautiful wildflowers and birds native to the area.  She is KB and she rolls though the Rockies.

Her companion is a chocolate Labrador Retriever.  The Lab is K and K romps through the Rockies.  K is more than a companion.  She is KB's soul-mate dog.  Her heart dog.  While KB is riding, K has her back.  She romps along with KB as she rolls through areas filled with Elk, Mountain Lions, Bobcats, Bears, and Coyotes and all the other wild animals living in the Front Range in Colorado.  And at elevations above 8,000 miles, there is a lot of wildlife.  Through KB's trail cameras and mountain biking we are privy to much of it.

K has had her share of medical problems herself.  Yet her devotion to KB never wanes.  Right now K is facing the fight of her life.  She was recently diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her left front leg.  Preparing K for surgery to remove part of the bone, the veterinarian found that the cancer had already spread to another bone in her leg.  The surgery was canceled and treatment was begun with stererotactic radiation and chemotherapy.  Her next round of chemo will be on Friday.

The prognosis is questionable.  Yet KB is determined that K will not be defined by the osteosarcoma.  Just as KB lives her life well, she allows K to live her own life well.  KB does limit the duration of K's outings so she often rolls along the trails without her heart dog.

This is a photograph that will bind bloggers together to hope for strength for K.

Photo from DK and the Thundering Herd who organized this effort.  (here)

In addition to K, KB's household includes her human soul-mate (The Runner) and a beautiful and playful male black Labrador (R).  R tends to accompany the Runner just as K accompanies KB.

So why this post?  I am joining many other bloggers to ask you to pause for a minute and think about KB and her wonderful dog K.  If you have religious beliefs, please pray for them.  If you have no diety then please send positive thoughts for these brave and unbelievably courageous humans and canines.  Visit them at KB's blog (here) and let them know that we are pulling for them.  I also advise you to look at the archives to see some of the most outstanding photographs you can imagine.

So, on the Valentine's Day:


Monday, February 13, 2012

Winter Sky

Snow fell on many areas in western NC.  We did not get any snow and I don't mind at all.   We got some cold weather with strong winds at times.  This morning dawned beautiful, cold and calm.  Not long after sunrise, I noticed a series of clouds in the sky that looked almost like giant contrails.  The remainder of the sky was cloudless and (of course) Carolina Blue.  Here is the view from our deck this morning.

The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

The clouds---the only birds that never sleep.
Victor Hugo

Friday, February 10, 2012

Fridays are Golden

Yesterday, for the first time in a month, our high temperature was actually below "normal."  While we have truly enjoyed the mild weather, we are ready for more seasonal temperatures.  I only hope the awakening flora can fall asleep again.

For this Friday, more photographs of the Golden Girls slumbering after a long run.

Ooh! Looks as if Lucy has only one eye.

 Never mind.  It's Ellie's paw where Lucy is resting her head.

 Lucy!  Why do you have to lie all over Ellie?
Because I am the princess.
Besides, she could move if she wanted to.

 At least this time only Lucy's head is on Ellie.

I know that there are people who do not care for dogs, especially not dogs who live inside the house, and most especially not dogs inside the house who shed long golden hair.  But I cannot imagine our lives without dogs.  Even when we are really old, we will have at least one dog.  The dog might have to be smaller to accomodate our decreased mobility, but we will adapt to a little dog just as we hope to adapt to advancing age.

Our Golden Girls add so much humor, love, and joy to our lives.
As Samuel Butler said,
"All animals except man, know that the principal business of life is to enjoy it."

And of dogs, Mark Twain wrote,
"I love a dog.  He does nothing for political reasons." 


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Monday, February 6, 2012

But It's Way Too Early

Daisy spends all her time outside along with several other pottery friends.  Even she is amazed.  But she doesn't seem at all concerned.  In fact, that is Daisy's most endearing feature.  No matter what the weather and no matter what the mood she still looks up at me with her happy friendly smile.

Why is Daisy amazed?  Because we have had too long a spell of above-normal temperatures.  While Daisy cannot be fooled by the weather, some of my favorite plants can.

Daisy makes me smile no matter what mood I am in.

The Lenten Roses are several weeks early around here.

We planted camellias knowing full well that we are on the cusp of their growing area.  Some years we see gorgeous blossoms and some years we see buds that get cold, turn brown, and drop off.  This week is far too soon for the camellias to have a chance.

 This bud is ready to burst forth.

 The limbs are heavy and full of buds.

 And we have some open blossoms!

So I will enjoy our flowers albeit a little early and I suspect for a shorter while.  The lengthy warm weather is a minor inconvenience to my plants.  It can be devastating to farmers and their fields and orchards.  Apple trees may blossom out only to be killed by a heavy freeze.  So, as much I have really enjoyed the warmer weather, we really need to get back to normal temperatures.  And soon.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fridays are Golden

It's February.  It feels more like April around here.  We have thoroughly enjoyed the mild sunny days, but I fear they may have consequences.  Far too many plants are waking up from winter's sleep.  We really need our normal weather back or we might not have apples and peaches this year.

The Golden Girls have enjoyed our trips to run and play off lead.  When we return, they are content to nap and snooze in the sun.

Several times a day Ellie will bring tennis balls from the den.  I usually see them and take them back to the den.  Occasionallly I don't notice that she has tennis balls.

Here she is with Lucy using her as a pillow.  She holds on to her tennis balls.

 Ellie knows she is not supposed to bring tennis balls here.  So she will never look me directly in the eye when I catch her.

I wish all phases of life were as wonderful and fulfilling as our days with our two favorite dogs.  Alas, that is not true.  Every day we are bombarded with revelations that concern us.

It seems that everything in the US has become polarizing and political, even one of our favorite charities.  With ever-changing explanations the organization tries to soften the blow it has given to women everywhere, especially the uninsured.  The blow is not huge in and of itself.  The message it sends is of far greater importance.  The explanations  haven't worked for me and I have decided that I will no longer contribute to an organization that changes its practice for political reasons.  I will call my friends whom I have always sponsored in the race for the cure to tell them that I will no longer give any money to the organization.  Sorry, I know the organization does good things but so do many others who are now more worthy of my contributions.  I am not advocating that everyone do the same, but it is a small message that I feel the need to send.  [Late entry:  The organization has reversed its decision.  For me the reversal is too late.  The damage has been done and cannot be undone.  More politics, i.e., "if we lose money with this decision we will rescind it.  Sort of try to forget all the responses we made publically these past three days.  And please continue to give us money even though we have proven we can be bought."]

The 2012 election rhetoric is nasty and filled with words spoken out of context.  The Supreme Court of the United States has allowed so much more money to be poured into the candidate coffers that we are sure to have an election bought by the very rich unless we all become active.  Every one of us is obligated to find the truth and not react to one-liners.

Politics during election years and politics that now infects a worthy charitable organization both remind me of a quote from one of my favorite people, Maya Angelou.  We would all be wise to reflect on what she has said:

"There's a world of difference between truth and facts.  Facts can obscure truth."


Wednesday, February 1, 2012