Thursday, December 27, 2007

Getting ready for next year

A baker's dozen of unpublished posts rambling in my head and two months later, we're fast approaching the end of the year. This seems to happen with increasing regularity.

The Christmas rush and pressure is over--all except thank-you notes, which will be written and mailed within a week. We don't usually put away Christmas decorations and take down our tree until we're knee deep into January (three years ago we left the tree up with the lights on it until Valentine's Day), though my husband and I had a discussion just yesterday about doing it earlier and getting on with our lives.
Heck, yesterday when we were shopping for items needed for our new 'individual' moving in Saturday 12/29, I bought a drawer organizer for my perpetually sloppy sock and underwear drawer. I 'organize' it every January and it lasts for two weeks. I must mean business if I'm buying gadgets to help me be--and stay--more organized. Shoot, it's not even 2008 yet.

It crossed my mind that I should post before and after photos, but I'll stick with the tiny photo borrowed from Creative Commons. You get the idea.

Here's a post on sorting your socks (or not) by a professional organizer with a good tip for people with ADD.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Struggling 'blogger' surfaces...

to write another day. That would be me. I start, get on a roll and stop. Repeat. Why? I don't know. Part of it is my frenetic life but I'll spare you the details (some of which make it into a post here and there), yet don't we all have crazy lives? Some are crazier than others.

Part of my lack of blogging is that I expect too much of myself. Yes, darn high expectations get me every time. I think I need to write a wonderful essay for each and every post. Some bloggers do, some don't. Some write a thought in a few sentences, perhaps add a photo and that is a daily post. That doesn't seem right for me. If you've read any of my previous posts you'll see that I struggle with brevity. Some writers get their point across in a sentence whereas I take a paragraph--or two. I wanted 'to learn brevity' in '07 and have exactly 71 days left. No rush, no pressure. As farmers say, maybe next year.

Another 'issue' I have with blogging is that it's called a blog, for Pete's sake (where did that expression come from and who was Pete?). What is a blog? You probably know that it's a hybrid blend of the words web and log, but to say you're a 'blogger' means what, really? Every time I've said 'I blog,' what I would rather say is, "I write short essays that I post online even if only twenty-nine people--on a good day--read it." But that sounds pretentious and it's a mouthful.

Every time I get on a roll and start to think that I might be a blogger, that I have potential, I allow my crazy wife-mom-of-two-sons-full-time-foster-care-provider life to take over. The Critic in my head stands up and crankily shouts, "What the hell are you doing trying to write?" The critic continues, though I wish it would shut up, "You should clean the house, make dinner, do your paperwork or drive A to Z." Writing usually takes last priority, thus I can't possibly be a writer. Writers make writing a top priority and always find time to write. Whole books have been written on that subject.

My last issue with blogging (I really don't like that word), is I've come to believe that I need to do it under my own name instead of hiding behind my vices. Dark Chocolate and Red Wine is a title I like, but I don't write exclusively about either of them. The Lisa Kae Van Meter Perry site is too long to say, search or find even if it is my full name. Lisa Perry doesn't fully describe me. LisaKVPerry might work. Scott's Wife might even work, since half of Floyd knows me as such. Imagine finally 'making it' one day and being introduced at a conference or on a talk show...and our next presenter/guest is Scott's Wife!

Stay tuned.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Wisdom from Tea

What is it with some tea companies? They smartly impart snippets of wisdom, or just darn good quotes or thoughts on tea bag labels (Yogi Tea) and underneath bottle caps. It always gives me something to ponder and sometimes makes me smile which is probably the point. In the last two weeks, thanks to Honest Tea, I've enjoyed the refreshing Sublime Mate (pronounced mah' tay). It is organic yerba mate flavored with organic lime juice and organic ginger syrup. As the label says it's just "a tad sweet". It tastes oh, so good on an oh, so hot day. Recent quotes gleaned from the bottle caps:

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." - Winston Churchill

"He who wonders discovers that this in itself is wonder." - M.C. Escher

"The only thing worse than watching a bad movie is being in one." - Elvis Presley

Honest Tea comes in several delightful flavors, and is sure to please while giving you something to consider. An added bonus, the company is committed to social responsibility and is Fair Trade Certified. Nice. Sure beats Lipton, owned by "multi-local multinational" Unilever. I'm sure Unilever does some good in this day and age where it's "PC" to do so, but they also have a page on their site that addresses chemicals found in everyday products. No thanks.

[Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.]

Thursday, August 09, 2007

On a hot day...


...it's good to think about snow for a couple minutes, but this isn't a meditation exercise. This was taken just down the road from our farm in Floyd County on Sunday, April 15. The day was crisp and innocent (although it was usually "Tax Day", so not entirely easy on the mind), and none us knew then what would happen the next day. But on this one day, we celebrated what was most likely the last snowfall since we were then knee-deep into Spring.

[Emerson took the picture of the cows, I took the top one.]

Friday, July 20, 2007

A 'B' or Not a 'B', That's the Question

A new blog fan said he "appreciated my commentary on political issues" and encouraged me to continue. They had home schooled four kids all the way through (hear my wild applause), so I had to reply. I thanked him for his kind words and said that he was right, I do wonder if anyone reads my "blatherings" (borrowed from Scott) and worse, it ticks me off that it matters to me. They now have three kids in college. Kudos to them. He said I should run for the School Board. My first thought was "That's a good one," followed by "Hmmm."

To be a member of the School Board it seems you need to be a Floyd native or highly credentialed. I am neither. It would be my hope that the board listens to parents and takes into consideration issues that they discuss. For instance: Why does Floyd County have a strict grading scale? I've heard the board wanted to set high standards and that parents have tried to address this question at board meetings for several years. The topic comes up often in local school discussions. Of the several people I've talked to, only one person likes the scale (her child is near perfect) and I won't print her name. The rest of us think it punishes students since it impacts their GPA. Others have accepted it. If you aren't familiar with the grading scale, here it is: A - 95-100, B - 88-94, C - 80-87 and so on. None of the surrounding counties have a similar scale. In Riner and Blacksburg, a 92 is an A and an 87 is a B.

The school administration will tell you that prospective colleges read the grading scale on the bottom of a graduate's transcript. Do they? On a Floyd County High School report card, you'll need high-powered reading glasses to see the grading scale at the very bottom of the page.

When Spencer graduates and receives his transcript, it will have numerous A's, a few B's and one C (to date). But if you read the fine print, you'll see the B's would have been A's and the C would have been a B in Montgomery County. When he applies to college, will his transcript be treated the same as someone from another county or do they set aside the Floyd County applicants and recalculate what their grades and GPA would have been had they gone to school elsewhere?

[Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.]

Friday, July 13, 2007

Ice Coffee-Tea

Probably not coming soon to a Starbucks or Republic of Tea near you...I bring you a new summer beverage. Perfect for a hot day, it is Ice Coffee-Tea. What? We've all had Ice Coffee or Ice Tea, but bet you haven't had Ice Coffee-Tea unless you made it yourself, by accident, like I did. It's easy. Simply make a pot of tea in your coffee maker. Pick out your favorite tea bags and pour in the water. Forget to empty the coffee beans from making coffee the day before. Turn the coffee maker on. Discover half-way through a full pot of tea what you did. Choose to be stubborn and not pour it down the sink and start over, but to drink it instead--over ice and with a bit of stevia or honey added for a touch of sweetness. Mmmm, delicious. Think I'll make it again, the next time I forget to check the coffee filter holder thingy.
[Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.]

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Third-party Bloomberg?

The political highlight today was not Hillary Clinton's new campaign theme music, but that Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, is now a former Republican and has officially declared himself to be an Independent. The scuttlebutt became how much money he has socked away in his piggy bank--$6 Billion Dollars--therefore it was reported he can afford to spend $1B (perhaps a bit less) on a presidential campaign. It was reported that Mayor Bloomberg wants to focus on being Mayor for the remainder of his term, an Independent Mayor mind you. Yet the Media went on trying to figure out if he ran, could he win? Or if he lost, from whom would he take votes?

Addressing the question of will he run, Bloomberg has name recognition from being Mayor of New York City since the election in 2001. Perhaps more people are familiar with the name Bloomberg from his financial business established twenty-six years ago, but it's more likely people recognize his name from the media. Like Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey, Michael Bloomberg is a media mogul with his own magazine, television program and radio show. He publishes books and has a very popular financial news website, Bloomberg.com. During my mortgage broker years, it was my favorite go-to site for daily financial news and still is.

As important as name recognition, it's vital that the candidate have very deep pockets and/or access to same. Suffice to say, Mr. Bloomberg will never worry if he can pay the mortgage or afford to take a vacation, $6 Billion should cover it. Most people with regular bank accounts could not run for the Oval Office. It doesn't matter that most of us with any sense would not care to run nor want the job.

So let's say that Bloomberg is going to run for President.

Taking a stroll down a painful memory lane, recall that Vice President Al Gore lost the 2000 election by 537 votes in Florida (one source checked said 543 votes). This was in spite of winning the popular vote with 537,179 more votes than the other guy. The irony is Gore lost the election by .10% of the very margin that he won the popular vote. For the record, I'm still not over it, but I somehow manage to get through the day.

Gore could have used another 544+ votes in Florida. Third party candidates in Florida, all 8 of them, received 138,027 total votes. The Socialist Workers party alone received 562 votes. As we learned, there were many extenuating circumstances; the significant number of disenfranchised voters, the fact that 12% of Florida Democrats voted for Bush, and the involvement of the U.S. Supreme Court. Yet the fact remains that third party candidates had an impact on the outcome of the election.

If Bloomberg runs he'll take votes from someone, though there is the off chance he could win. I certainly hope it's from the Republican candidate.

[Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.]

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rambling, Rambling, Rambling...

I went ahead and put a title in the space, knowing full well this may not be the one that I keep. David St. Lawrence and Colleen Redman's voices were in my head (at the same time--an interesting combination), telling me not to worry. "Just write and the title will form as you go," they said. But as I typed, after David and Colleen were gracious enough to quiet down, the lyrics to "Rawhide" popped into my brain. You know this song, sing along with me (just part of it, be a sport).
Rollin', rollin', rollin'
Though the streams are swollen
Keep them dogies rollin'
Rawhide!
Rain and wind and weather
Hell-bent for leather
Wishin' my gal was by my side.
All the things I'm missin',
Good vittles, love, and kissin',
Are waiting at the end of my ride

CHORUS
Move 'em on, head 'em up
Head 'em up, move 'em on
Move 'em on, head 'em up
Rawhide
Count 'em out, ride 'em in,
Ride 'em in, count 'em out,
Count 'em out, ride 'em in
Rawhide!

Okay. I feel better, you?

Monday, June 11, 2007

What the Hail?!

It is a beautiful late spring day in Floyd County and though it feels like summer, the Summer Solstice is still ten days away. A storm cloud approached, the trees swayed and leaves blew in the wind. The storm blew over so we continued with our outside chores; Scott mulching an asparagus bed and red raspberry patch, while I removed all traces of bindweed from a long row of flowers. We finished our chores just in time to come in before the next storm cloud approached.
This one meant business. The trees swayed, the sky darkened and...what the hail?! Yes, for the second time in a week, Floyd County received hail. For two or three minutes it hailed like a son of a gun, larger than pea-size hail bouncing off the deck and accumulating in corners. Then it was over. Like nothing ever happened.

The sun is back out and I need to stake a forlorn hollyhock lying on the ground.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Last Night's Dreams

My dreams usually don't make sense. As I've become older, I occasionally have a dream that isn't weird, but that's not the norm.

Last night Scott and I watched the movie The Field (1991) starring Richard Harris, who gives a superb performance. We saw the movie before but forgot that it has some disturbing scenes. It's a good movie so I won't ruin it if you want to see it again or for the first time.

Because of the movie, I went to bed with strange images floating through my brain. I told myself to forget them and have a good night's sleep. Sometimes it works.

These were the dreams I recall from last night.

Dream #1 - My family and some unidentified people were in a large room and were expecting an earthquake at any moment. Emerson was strapped to me with a belt--in front so I could hold on to him. Scott and Spencer were several feet away and others were milling about. We all got down on the floor, for some reason, when the quake began. The floor shook and rolled and we could see buildings move outside a window. Furniture slid back and forth but it wasn't disastrous. There was a break for thirty seconds when everything stopped. Then the quake began again, but this time it was the real deal. The floor buckled and cracked into a few large pieces and seemed to be falling into the floor below. Emerson and I were thrown across the room. I could see a building falling over outside the window. Then the dream ended.

Dream #2 - It was pouring rain and I was driving in what seemed to be slow motion on a divided four-lane highway. Coming in the other direction at top speed was a fire engine with lights flashing and sirens blaring, but it was an extra long engine, like tractor trailers you see on the highway that are basically two trucks. I could clearly read Philadelphia Fire Department on the door. Behind the engine was another extra long fire truck. They were approaching a corner in the highway but I knew that they didn't know about it and weren't going to make the turn. As the fire engine entered the corner it hydroplaned and the back slid out. I watched the driver turn the wheel and try to regain control. The vehicle slid into a road and driveway of another fire station. The fire engine crashed and I saw the driver fall out of his door. The passenger was stuck inside. Then the dream was over and I woke up.

Now I ask you, what good comes from dreams like these? They don't help me with my life. I've long called them anxiety dreams. The last couple days were stressful with a problem we had with our live-in client, but not that stressful and the movie wasn't that disturbing. Not enough to warrant experiencing an earthquake with my family and watching fire trucks crash. Nobody died or was killed and sometimes that happens in my dreams, so it could have been worse.

Emerson will be gone at camp for three weeks this summer, perhaps that's why I wanted him connected to me. Hopefully tonight's dreams will be peaceful and shed insight on my life (ha!).

Do you have 'anxiety dreams'?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Stuck in Spin

It's been a month since I've posted. Some blogger I am.

I have this crazy idea that I have to come up with the title first and this often stops me in my tracks. I always have thoughts swirling around in my mind. It would be better to get them out than let them tumble in an endless loop like an ADD word-filled washing machine stuck on spin cycle.

Can you post without a title? I haven't tried.

[Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.]

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Oh Relief, I'm off to LEAF!

Apologies for the Seussian post titles I've come up with lately, I'm so creative. More apologies for bad alliteration and heavy use of italics. I love the italic feature.

Scott & Emerson left for LEAF festival (Lake Eden Arts Festival) in Black Mountain, NC on Monday, May 7. I haven't seen my husband in three days, will be four when we get there. I'm aware that's not a vast expanse of time, but Scott and I are not good apart. We like being together. We're a real happily married couple, we're not faking. Now that's established, let's move on.
Scott has been teaching music workshops to kids ages K-6 all week and will perform at LEAF tomorrow night. Emerson, the boy in the hat, has hung out at the festival sight in the mornings and helped as needed while Scott taught. Last night Em spent the night with a new friend.

Spencer, who has promised to finish mowing the lawn before we leave (with a push mower--we're still old school at the Perry farm), will discreetly and overtly take notes on my driving habits on our way to join Scott and Emerson tomorrow before the performance. We'll then have LEAF festival weekend together, not to mention Mother's Day spent with my three guys.

Our client will spend the weekend with respite back-up worker and blogger extraordinaire, Colleen Redman, to whom we'll owe a debt of gratitude and greenbacks. Thank you, Colleen.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Golden 5th CD for Scott

Are you familiar with the term 'golden' birthday? I had never heard this term until we moved to Minnesota when I was in high school. It only happens during your first 28 to 31 years--this should give you a clue--as you celebrate the birthday age of your actual birth date. I was born on the 25th, so my golden birthday was when I turned 25.

My husband released his golden 5th CD on May 5 with a party at the Floyd Country Store. Just like you've heard stories that the best and most solid marriages often experience a slight 'snafu' during the wedding ceremony (ours did--Scott's mom lit our unity candle then quickly blew it out and my mom walked between us on her way back from lighting her candle--captured on video 18 years ago), CD release parties work the same way.

After a lengthy sound check and getting the mics to match the corresponding number on the sound board, guess what? No sound--right when Scott was ready to kick off the evening to the awaiting public. It was a full house--not quite like on Jamboree night, but close. Tom Ohmsen (owner of Flat 5 Studios in Salem) was present and saved the day. Thank you, Tom. He's used to multi-channel sound boards and fancy systems, he tweaked this and that, and took the levels to the max. He made it work so Scott and his crew of musicians could 'get by' and the evening began.

After a couple of frayed nerves (mine more than Scott's), it was a raging success. You missed a special evening if I didn't see you in attendance. Many people think they've heard Scott's repertoire a time or three before. You haven't heard what he played last night. He played new solo material off his new CD 8 Miles to Perryville as well as playing with two new groups that he now fronts. The first, Front Porch Swing (I love the word play, every time I say the name it makes me happy), features Bill Adams (dobro) and Bob Thomas (upright bass). They play country swing and old time rag, including songs like "Dream a Little Dream of Me." It turns out that my husband, the blues guy, can croon. The second group, New Dominion Ramblers, features Tom Ohmsen (mandolin) and Dylan Locke (upright bass) and they play an assortment of jazz and other good stuff. Scott is truly enjoying stretching himself and learning new material.

I may not be 100% accurate with the band genre, but I know what I like and my listening ears, dancing feet, swayin' hips and the rest of me had a heckuva time Saturday night.

Thank you to all the people who came out to support Scott. Thanks also to Amy Adams for videotaping the performances.

[Pictures were taken but haven't yet been uploaded. Soon!]

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Oh Swell, Time for Morels!

A couple days ago, Emerson and I took a stroll down to the pond to check out spring peepers and see how many newts he could collect, a very boy thing to do. On our way, a morel mushroom caught my eye.

We had just entered the woods, there were two mushrooms a few feet from the walking & driving path. Walking over to the mushroom to examine it closer, I stepped on another morel by accident. I told Emerson,"Don't move!" We looked around to see that we were in the middle of a mushroom patch.

Later, after we had confirmed with a mycology site and local mushroom expert, Karl Holliday (who was a tad miffed that he was second choice to the internet), that the morels were indeed morels, we picked and dried them. Ours look just like the morels in the photo above. Included the funny photo below after I found it searching through Creative Commons images.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Virginia Tech...Our Lives After

I was getting back to blogging before the Virginia Tech tragedy occurred. Then it felt like I'd been kicked in the gut, I didn't want to write. A week later I felt better, but it had all been said. Still, I needed to address it to continue.

We're painfully aware--and saturated from media exposure--of the incident at VT. Though we live a half-hour from Tech and were indirectly affected, it was too close to home. We realized we were only a degree or two away in separation. Spencer's high school band teacher was friends with Ryan Clark, the RA who died. She was interviewed on Talk of the Nation on NPR from her office during band class. Emerson's soccer coach is a Tech student, he called off practice and went home. We have friends who work at Tech and others who know professors who lost students in the tragedy. Another friend knows a State Trooper who analyzed the crime scene. My client had a dental appointment in Blacksburg the day after the tragedy, the dental practice lost two patients. We were sad and overwhelmed and went through the motions of every day life.Homes and businesses in Floyd, particularly in Christiansburg and Blacksburg, have displayed orange and maroon ribbons, flowers and signs saying "Our thoughts and prayers are with Virginia Tech." Cars have VT flags waving proudly from their windows in support, an activity usually reserved for fall football season. It's impossible to go anywhere without a reminder.

My husband had a gig at Tech last week for an awards dinner for the School of Engineering, it had been on the calendar for months. Emerson asked if he had to go. We explained rationally that everything would be fine. Scott said he'd call when he arrived on campus and would call again before he left. I found myself anxiously awaiting his call. I knew logically that everything was okay and I was so proud of him that he was playing music for people that needed to heal. Yet, I found myself watching the clock and waiting for the darn phone to ring. Finally, he called. We told him to have a great gig. He reported that he saw some students throwing a frisbee, a 'normal' scene for a college campus, it made him feel better.

We're getting back to our busy lives. We may talk about what happened when we bump into people, but we'd prefer to not bring it up and that it became a bad memory. We're still in a bit of shock and disbelief. This will be with us for a long time, I'm afraid.

[As the Tech tragedy unfolded, we lost power due to high winds throughout our area. We were without power for 48 hours. It caught us by surprise, AEP had recently cut down trees that surrounded the lines on our farm and all the way up our road (we're near the end) giving us a false sense of security. With a battery-operated radio (and kerosene lamps), we listened to the news conferences from Tech.]

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Oh, Those Ladybugs!


Oh, those ladybugs! They like white walls, they like to be warm and they swarm and collect by the hundreds. During the day they are everywhere; crawling up your coffee cup, landing on the rim of your glasses, the book you are reading, and on the table where you are paying bills. At night, they disappear--only to seemingly multiply and reappear the next day. They have infiltrated Floyd County, they have infiltrated my house. If you don't have them, then I must have your fair share. Feel free to come over and take some home by the bucket load.

Supposedly they are a beneficial insect, if we could just get them to go back outside. Certainly they came from that direction, right? Meanwhile, I do as a friend suggested. I vacuum the dead ladybug bodies and let the ones that are alive, live to crawl another day.

To read more about the wonderful MALB (Multicolored Asian Lady Beetles) go here.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Time Management & Rachael Ray

In the last two weeks--can't believe it's been almost that long since I've posted, again--there has been much going on. I attended two more meetings (three including one today--an all day required meeting) and written a Quarterly Report (for Medicaid) for my job. I'm struggling with time management or the lack thereof. I had bought a book called Getting Things Done by David Allen (think that's the author), but guess what--the Seller said it was shipped, but never notified me that they had credited my account. I never received the book. I bought folders to begin a system to get myself organized and ready to begin new things.

My husband's music store, The Pickin' Porch, is mentioned (complete with a photo of an interior wall, street and website address!) in an article in the April issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine about The Crooked Road (Virginia's Heritage Music Trail). The article begins with Floyd--our little town is in the media yet again.

I have blog posts swirling in my head, one nature-related post has been scratched down in a notebook so I don't forget. As of tomorrow, I'm done with the big meetings and reports for at least another quarter. I can get back to my "normal" life, whatever normal is! I can begin blogging again and sow the peas and spinach in my garden, if it's not too late.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Another Roll Call

The anniversary of the war came and went a few days ago. I called our Congressman, Rick Boucher (D-VA), and expressed my concern over the continuing war and asked that he vote against new funds and deployment out of Iraq with a set date.
When the war began, Spencer (the oldest son) had just turned 13. He was a young teen with lighthearted hopes and dreams. He recently celebrated his 17th birthday. I never would have dreamed that this ugly war would have been going on four years later...with no real end in sight. The war has subtly, and quite boldly, colored his thoughts, his dreams, his future.

Attached to the war is a mountain of debt for our country to climb as years go by. Spencer, and his younger brother, Emerson, their friends and others they will never know from their generation--and quite likely their children's generation--will work towards conquering that debt and dealing with the aftermath of war.

I walked into the family room just in time to catch the roll call on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS. Thank goodness we don't catch the program every day as it never fails to bring tears to my eyes. Beneath the photo of a deceased soldier is their name, age, rank, the division of the Armed Services and the name of the town the person was from. Tonight I learned that someone named Emerson lost his life. Not my son, but someone else's. It's not a name you see every day, it caught me by surprise and made me catch my breath. Tonight I learned that two men who were 39 and 41 years of age recently died in Iraq. I don't know what hurts more; learning that a young kid of just 19 died in the war or the adult near my age who died and probably left behind a wife and children.

Why is this war now in Year 5? When will we collectively rise up and scream "Enough!"?

[Photos courtesy of Creative Commons.]

Middle of the Night


The last three weeks I've been awake in the middle of the night. Not my favorite time of day. The first week was due to my sons' illness, but the last two were my fault. Even if you're just plain done with a stupid head cold, that nagging cough grabs you before dawn. The middle of the night might be useful to me if I could drag myself out of bed, but I always will myself back to sleep. Sometimes it works quickly and other times I meander through recent scenes and dark alleys of my life, though I try to focus on Nothing. At some point I consider that I should jot down my thoughts or go to the computer to pound the keyboard. I effortlessly come up with good stuff at 3:50 a.m. Numerous witty and insightful essays have been written in my head before I wake up for good--when they disappear.

[VanGogh's Starry Night courtesy of Creative Commons.]

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Spring has Sprung!


Yes indeed, today is the Vernal Equinox. The first day of Spring.

No matter what weather we have in the next few weeks, we have turned a corner and the winter of 06-07 is officially behind us. It wasn't a bad winter though it had its moments. We often wondered during December and way into January, if we'd have any winter. When winter arrived late, it brought with it cold, ice and power outages. Yippee.

But here we are, two-thirds through March and it's a fresh, new season. Hallelujah!

[Forsythia photo courtesty of Creative Commons until I can borrow my son's camera while mine is being repaired. We have our own forsythia to photograph, but this works for now.]

Saturday, March 17, 2007

St. Patrick's Day and more

March hasn't been so hot for my writing process, but it's been great for being sick. Spencer caught the flu when I returned from Georgia, then Emerson followed with a cold and 103.7 degree fever for three nights accompanied by lingering congestion and cough. I succumbed to a cold after taking care of them. Somehow Scott managed to stay healthy, despite my waking him up at night when hacking and reaching for yet another delicious cough drop. Our client is healthy, his bedroom is downstairs and he has less exposure to our germs. Today we've turned the corner, I feel almost healthy.

St. Patrick's Day is a national holiday in my mind, we all wore green today and I didn't have to ask. Scott arrived home from work with a Guinness for us to quaff with the homemade pizza he made. I love St. Patrick's Day because I believe I have an Irish soul. I'm 100% German (my great-greats hail from Germany), but as my husband the history buff tells me, long before the land was Germany it was occupied by Celts. This works for me. The local PBS station and IFC (Independent Film Channel) played Irish themed shows; we taped "Visions of Ireland" for the next time I need an Ireland "fix," and a great movie starring Richard Harris, "The Field". We considered going out to celebrate the holiday, but with snow flurries on and off all day, we chose to stay inside and keep warm.

While eating pizza, we cheered on VCU (Virginia Commonwealth) in the NCAA tourney, but no upset last night. Tomorrow we'll see how UVA and VT do, whether they'll advance or not. We enjoy watching sports, but we're selective. We like football, the NCAA basketball tournament, the Tour de France, and the Olympics. My family is from Indiana, so we have a long history of attending or watching The Indy 500. The last 20 years we've watched during the annual Memorial weekend relative-a-thon.

I make no promises, but I'll get back on the productive blogging track I was on earlier this year. I'm expecting the book Getting Things Done in the mail any day. We'll talk about that subject in future posts.

[St. Patrick at Croagh Patrick, driving the snakes out of Ireland. Photo by Pat O'Connor.]

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

My Oldest is 17!

Spencer William was 17 years old today. As birthdays go, his was low-key though we saw a movie yesterday afternoon (taking him out of school at lunch). Emerson, our client and I saw Bridge to Terabithia, and Scott and Spencer saw Wild Hogs. Spencer had no special requests for the cake, the meal or for presents--quite a change from when he was just 7 or 11, or even 15, so I made the same chocolate cream cheese bunny cake that he's had since he was three years old. It was still a hit. Spencer is ready to begin taking driver's ed through an online class. Then, hold your breath, his parents will teach behind-the-wheel. We had to get permission from the school to home school driver's ed since Spencer now attends public school. He missed driver's ed because he enrolled the spring semester of his Sophomore year--after it was taught fall semester. On Friday we're taking his birthday checks and opening a checking account for him. I meant to do this last year--where did that year go?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Billy Joel and Family, Too

It's been a week since my last post. I was on a roll then faltered in late February. Sometimes life is like that; you move forward at a quick pace only to realize that you need a breather now and then.

I celebrated March 1--the first day of the new month I was looking forward to--by attending a Billy Joel concert in Atlanta with my sister. It wasn't planned that way, but my sister called the week before to say she'd won free tickets on a radio station to the concert. Believe it or not, I turned her down when she offered me the ticket. I didn't think I could get away; I had a work-related meeting on March 2 and wondered how my busy husband could juggle taking care of our client with giving guitar lessons at his music store. It was my husband who said "You're going, you need a break," and called back my sister to say his wife would take that ticket after all. He is a smart guy, I'm so glad I married him. When I mentioned the concert to my program manager, she said "You'd turn down a Billy Joel concert for a stupid meeting?" What meeting?

I drove to Georgia with Emerson along for company. We drove through heavy fog and rain, but safely arrived at my sister's home. The concert was that night and it was outstanding. I haven't been to a concert in two decades, but from my foggy memory this was up there with the best. He played most all of his hits; I forgot how many Billy Joel tunes I had known, listened and danced to over the years. There were even a few that I didn't know like "Vienna" from 1971 (when I was all of nine years old). Emerson, now 11 1/2, had no clue who Billy Joel was and asked about him. I couldn't describe him nor his music, just that he had 30 hit songs. Emerson had never heard of him since they don't play much Billy Joel on NPR. When I want to hear something more upbeat, I turn the dial to 98.7 (Simon). Their motto is We Play Everything, except they've never played a Billy Joel song now that I'm thinking about it, so they aren't really playing everything, are they? They play a mix of popular hits from the 60's through today and put together a random shuffle of songs you'd never hear anywhere else. The songs that you forgot you used to like; songs from your high school and college days, and when the boys were toddlers, and all the years in between and since. But no Billy Joel.

Emerson and I had a lazy Friday in Georgia with my sister (his Aunt Laura) going out to lunch at my brother-in-law Steve's restaurant and a low-key night at home having dinner with my niece and nephews. Emerson had big fun playing hide-and-seek and other games with his cousins who are still the age that they enjoy playing games. This isn't to say that Emerson's older brother, Spencer, is a big poop at almost-17, but it is true that he has moved beyond playing hide-and-seek. It happens.

On Saturday, we woke up to a rooster's crow. My sister and brother-in-law live in a new subdivision in Gainesville, but their property has a farm (of sorts) behind them. The guy keeps cows and several roosters; apparently one of the roosters was kicked out of the rooster clan and now resides in my sister's back yard. Hearing the crow reminded me of our beloved rooster, Fox, who died last May and lived on our farm for three years. After a while you tune out early morning crowing as it becomes something your brain accepts as normal and you sleep until the alarm clock turns on. This day, the rooster's crow was a natural wake-up call. Emerson and I got ready to leave as my sister and her family got ready to drop off my nephews at their Tae Kwan Do class.

It was a brief visit and we were ready to get home. The drive was uneventful, we had great weather, and Floyd County's hills never looked so good--not to mention my husband's handsome face.

[Sorry, I blew it. Didn't take pictures the entire trip. Billy Joel photo courtesy of: http://pomomusings.com/2007/03/02/billy-joel-at-atlantas-philips-arena/]

Monday, February 26, 2007

A Fresh Start (recovering from February)

Last week I personally declared that March 1 is a new start. It feels good just to think about it. Things were going smoothly and positive changes were made--then February came along. I usually go with the flow, at least most of the time, but these particular stresses accumulated. I became weary, melancholy, and uninspired. Yuck.

It began when our almost 14 year-old pet turtle died on January 28. True, this didn't happen in February, but close enough. A couple of us at our house have grieved for Donald, myself included. This was on the heels of our oldest Border Collie, Jack, getting injured which required surgery. He was kept inside and endured ten days of large antibiotic pills.

On Thursday, February 1, I received a frantic phone call from the home office of my former mortgage company. At 10:30 a.m. they said that I had to send via my dusty files to them via overnight courier that afternoon for an audit the following Monday. Sure. Take into consideration: 1. I hadn't closed a loan in over six months and had closed my business before Thanksgiving; 2. I brought the files home the night before after being told two days earlier to possibly expect an audit in the next month; and 3. FedEx picks up at 2:30 pm in Floyd. The day was a whirlwind of Stress with a capital S. When I came back home that night (with mush brain and zero energy), we discovered our client's bedroom door ajar and his parakeet cage opened upside down on the floor. Apparently, our outdoor cat snuck in when we left, there was nothing left of the keet but a couple of yellow feathers.

On Friday, February 2, I received a frantic email: Where's this? Where's that? This loan doesn't have X. I replied that I didn't have those items. They didn't give me time to review the files nor did they indicate any urgency when they first called on Monday. They asked for documents that were not needed in previous audits. It didn't sound good; I was mentally swirling around in the mortgage world and worrying about an audit for my now defunct business. I had a new job (since last June), but I found myself concerned about mortgage loans again.

That was how February began, it continued from there.

Last Thursday, February 22, my son's beloved blue parakeet, Birdy, died of natural causes. It was most likely from getting too cold during the ice storm on Tuesday, February 13th which left us without power until the evening on Friday, February 16th.

Between the 1st and the 22nd we lost more animals. Our comical duck trio 'disappeared' one by one when the pond froze solid in late January. There were two drakes and one hen, then a few days later just one drake and one hen, then soon thereafter only the lone black hen. She held her own for another week until, she, too, disappeared. We tried to pen them up at night in the old hen house to protect them, but it didn't work. The door flew open in the brisk winter wind and they escaped twice.

I've mentioned the power outage. When the electricity occasionally goes out all is calm and peaceful in the house, there is no appliance humming. This time there was constant production during daylight hours to generate heat and/or light. It was cold. It was so cold that the water in cat's dish in the mudroom was frozen Friday morning. It was warmer in the kitchen, when the kerosene heater came on Friday night the digital thermometer registered 43 degrees. That was the warmest room in the house.

It's a fact that we had the most memorable Valentine's Day in our family's history; the holiday fell during the outage. We ate an Indian dinner prepared by lamp light and afterwards huddled around the wood stove, reading together by the same lamp. We heard a loud crack--thinking it was another tree breaking from the weight of the ice--when the encased hearth mirror fell in large pieces to the floor. This caused the lamp to fall, it landed on the rug and my husband quickly picked it up. Miraculously, the lamp did not break and nothing caught on fire.

When the power came back on Friday evening February 16th we were jubilant and exhausted by having been so cold. We were grateful it was only for three days. When we had a brief storm of freezing rain last night, we filled up the bath tub and a couple pans just in case. We all said the same thing, "I hope the power stays on." No desire to repeat that experience any time soon.

I haven't called to ask about the audit. I'm not in the mortgage business any more; the mortgage broker life is behind me for good.

There were some highlights this month, we had friends over last Friday night and have enjoyed a couple of warmer days in the upper 50's since the outage. Jack has healed and our remaining pets appear to be fine. But overall, February has left me anticipating March in a big way and eager for a fresh, new start.

How is your year going? Any setbacks and/or progress made?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Thursday 13 #6

1. I just clicked off on a open window and all my tabs closed--including my draft of this post. I was on #10! I hadn't hit "Save as Draft" anywhere along the way. Aaaargh!

2. February has been one lesson after another and full of lovely experiences. On Thursday, March 1, I am giving myself a fresh start. I'll develop a new, good habit and lose a less desirable one.

3. Less than one month to the first day of Spring--on March 20th.

4. Tomorrow night two friends are coming over for dinner, first time we've had anyone over in who-knows-how-long. We are celebrating the birthday of one of them.

5. The 79th annual Academy Awards are on Sunday. This past week husband and I enjoyed watching The Goodbye Girl (1977) on AMC with Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason. Dreyfuss won for Best Actor and was the youngest in this category (then age 29--which means he's almost 60!), until Adrien Brody won in 2002 for The Pianist, he was a few months younger.

6. We heard on the radio this morning that Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) is 75 years young today. My husband and I said "75?!" at the same time, then both remarked that we're getting older.

7. My half-birthday is this Sunday, I'll be 44 1/2. We don't celebrate half-birthdays, but we acknowledge them. It's a reminder to make progress with your life because time is fleeting and passing by

8. There is an unintentional 'numbers or age theme' running through this post.

9. Last week we lost power for 68+ hours in the ice storm. Previous record was 57 hours from Hurricane Jeanne in September 2004. It was cold enough in our mudroom to freeze the cat's water in the dish. When power came back on in the kitchen, the digital thermostat registered 43. Brrr. The kitchen is located in the half of the house with a wood stove.

10. My TT post last week was delayed until after comments were closed thanks to the power outage.

11. Listen to the song Big Chief by Professor Longhair, it's often played for Mardi Gras. You'll find yourself doing the chair boogie. A better song by the same guy, is Going to the Mardi Gras. My husband dug it out of his collection to play for us Tuesday night, but I can't find a listenable link.

12. I'm trying to resurrect an almost dead jade plant. Apparently I didn't water it much the last few months, but the family is fed three squares every darn day (four or five meals for Spencer, the nearly 17 year-old son).

13. Whew! Made it to the end. Only took me two hours+. The second post went by quickly compared to the first draft. Want to begin upgrading and changing my blog site, but still in the thinking stage. Just learned that TT is retiring until someone else purchases the rights. Another lesson learned! Have a great week.

Thursday 13 site.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Less is More

An old familiar saying is 'less is more'. We don't usually arrive at this gem until we're older and wiser. We age every day, when wisdom occurs is up to you. I didn't appreciate this until several years ago. Ever since, we've been trying to pare back and learn a new habit.

Old friends of ours have a One-in, One-out rule that works for them. When they buy something new, an old version must go--no exceptions. This can be a 'no brainer', when you buy a new stove to replace an old one (that was going to cost as much to repair as to buy new). You need one, the old model goes out the door when the new one is delivered (unless a charity picks it up later, but it still leaves your house). Try as we might, in general, this rule does not work for us.

What works is having an occasional 'purge' (or moving every two years). Here's an example. We buy good, used books at LaPointe's Used Books in Floyd or online through half.com or AbeBooks.com. We seldom purchase new. We read and accumulate, resulting in overflowing stacks of books on shelves and beside the bed. The stacks tip over so we take a large box--or two or three--to LaPointe's where we earn credit in exchange for the books. We are paring down to our favorite, most essential books that we can not live without, the books we truly want to pack and move yet again when we are ready to sell the farm. The 'purge' (rhymes with surge) works with clothes, bathroom drawers and so forth. Until then, we're learning less really is more.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

To Rise Above

I had an experience yesterday that left me foaming at the mouth and conjuring the many ways I could react in my defense to the person who caused these feelings.

I took deep breaths, I drank a beer (it was early evening), I walked in quick paces around the house trying to rid myself of negative energy. I talked to my husband and shared my thoughts with him about what I wanted to say and do. He understood. But he also knew, as I did, that I should take the high road. The other person did not, but I would.

I poured myself a hot bath and grabbed a magazine to read. After sharing more wisecrack remarks with my husband, I got in the tub to sulk and soak. I took a couple more deep breaths, the hot water felt soothing.

I hadn't been in the tub for a minute when it happened. The perfect response, "Thank you." Yes, thank you! I felt light and happy. I sat up straight. The anger was gone as quickly as it had consumed me, I couldn't believe it. I mentally thanked the person for giving me an energy boost to clean the house and for this lovely experience to rise above. Through the closed bathroom door I shouted to my husband that I was happy again. I took another deep breath and exhaled. I felt peaceful. A lesson learned and a moment of Zen. Someone had been rude and mean-spirited to me and I rose above it. Wahoo!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Thursday 13 #5

1. We lost power Tuesday night at 10:30 pm after it had been blinking for two hours (ice storm).

2. My husband and sons made Bittersweet Chocolate Pancakes with Roasted Pear Butter and Maple Pear Syrup for Valentine's breakfast, thanks to a stove with gas burners. We also gave each other bars of dark chocolate (naturally). I'm writing from my husband's music store in town where we seldom lose electricity.

3. The electricity is due to come back on by Friday night.

4. Last night we huddled around the woodstove at home, wearing hats and our warmest Pjs, with blankets thrown over us and reading by the light of the Aladdin kerosene lamp on the hearth. We heard a loud crack, different from a tree snapping under the weight of ice, followed by the encased hearth mirror falling in pieces and causing the kerosene lamp to also fall and land on the rug. It was like watching a small ball of fire fall in slow motion, my husband quickly picked up the lamp--amazingly still in one piece--and put it aside. The rug did not catch fire, we were fortunate. After that we decided to have another sip of red wine, I believe it was merlot. We laughed nervously; this was a Valentine's Day we'll never forget.

5. Ice storms are deceptively beautiful; everything is transformed into the appearance of sparkling cut glass. Our deck furniture, house and cars have shiny icicle fringes along edges. Trees and bushes particularly, but even ordinary objects such as grass, barbed wire fence and sign posts are turned into glittering works of art.

6. Using a battery powered radio, I briefly listened to the news this a.m. Is anyone concerned about Iran? It hasn't been resolved whether President Bush is sending more troops to Iraq, yet the news is abuzz with eerily similar discussions on Iran to those of Iraq, now four years ago.

7. Four years ago feels like it could be ten. I had turned 40, my husband wasn't yet 40 and our sons were almost 13 and 7 1/2. We were in a different phase of our lives raising sons who were still boys. We hadn't yet built our addition nor started down the path to become Foster Care Providers.

8. In years past, I've started tomato plants from seeds on February 15. My target this year is March 1.

9. A month ago today we had a new record high of 67 degrees in nearby Blackburg, but believe it only reached 65 here in Floyd. Was that really just a month ago?

10. It's now Saturday 2/17. I went to the gym with my client yesterday so he could work and I could shower. Hot water never felt so good, it was very cold in the house Thursday night and sleep was hard to find.
11. Our power came back on at 6:44 pm last night for a new record of 68+ hours without power. Our previous record was 57 hours when remnants of Hurricane Jeanne passed through in September 2004. Emerson and I did the jig of joy and promptly went throughout the house turning up the heat to unfreeze water pipes. Luckily, none of our pipes burst.

12. If it wasn't for being so darned cold, we would have enjoyed the power break as we have in the past. The absence of electrical humming from appliances allows the house to be truly quiet and peaceful. My good friend Laura lives off the grid and therefore never experiences the magic and thrill of a power outage.

13. I'll finish The Poisonwood Bible today, I just have the last two short chapters to read. I'm sorry to come to the end of this book, but I've got good ones waiting in my stack beside the bed.

My Thursday 13 #4.
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Monday, February 12, 2007

Don't Hesitate

I ran across this quote today in the back of a magazine. Let this be food for thought.
"There are many persons ready to do what is right because in their hearts they know it is right. But they hesitate, waiting for the other fellow to make the first move - and he, in turn, waits for you." - Marian Anderson (1897-1993), African American Opera Singer
Whatever your current interest in activism may be and how you choose to champion your cause, Ms. Anderson reminds us to get started. Stand up, speak out, mail a letter, send an email, write a check to support your cause in an amount you can afford. Your voice, your action matters. You are not alone. We are not alone. Don't hesitate.

[Photo of Marian Anderson by Richard Avedon, 1955.]

Friday, February 09, 2007

$2.9 Trillion Dollars

On Monday of this week, President Bush unveiled a four-volume, 2,500 page, $2.9 trillion dollar budget for the U.S. Government. My initial thought was to the environment, "How many copies are printed? What a waste of paper; they must recycle since it's the government." I repeated the $2.9 trillion dollar figure in my head.

How much is 2.9 trillion dollars? Round it up to 3 to make it easier. $3,000,000,000,000.00. Twelve zeroes to the left of the decimal point. A trillion is a million million dollars. In Jim Loy's article, A Trillion Dollars, he states "It will take me more than 30 years to count (out loud) to one billion and more than 30,000 years to count to one trillion." In other words, 2.9 trillion is a number too high to count and hard to comprehend. My desk calculator only goes to twelve digits--as high as 300 million. It, too, can not compute a trillion dollars.

Of the immense sum, $145.2 billion goes to war, mostly for Iraq and Afghanistan (from October 1) with another $99.6 billion dollars for the remainder of the current fiscal year (to September 30). This is a humdinger of a total. $244.8 billion dollars spent on war for 12 months or $20,400,000,000.00 per month. As you turn a new calendar page, another $20.4 billion of taxpayer dollars goes goodbye. If we collectively decided enough was enough, could we save it and apply it to debt or redirect how the $245 billion dollars was spent?

Mr. David Leonhardt suggests a few ideas in his New York Times article "What $1.2 Trillion Can Buy", he writes:

"Treating heart disease and diabetes, would probably cost about $50 billion a year. The remaining 9/11 Commission recommendations — held up in Congress partly because of their cost — might cost somewhat less. Universal preschool would be $35 billion. In Afghanistan, $10 billion could make a real difference. At the National Cancer Institute, annual budget is about $6 billion." Earlier he mentions that more money could be contributed to the reconstruction of New Orleans.

The President's budget is part of a five year plan to have a balanced budget by 2012. He assumes we'll quit spending money in Iraq (hopefully he's right this time) and various other expenditures. But I ask, can you take five years to balance your family budget or would that land you in Bankruptcy and/or Divorce Court? At our house, if we can't afford something we don't buy it. Sure, we've made plenty of mistakes over the years. When we purchased items on credit, the end result is a future bill that must be paid. We've learned our lesson and work to eliminate our consumer debt, but how about the government? Can it wait to reduce its debt? Can we really afford the war?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Thursday 13 #4

1. Just came back from ice skating with Emerson, this pond has a fresh 2-3" of powdery snow on top. We skated through it--like ski skating. I made Emerson a cup of hot cocoa and warmed up chai tea for myself that I'd made earlier.

2. Our Muscovy duck's (hen) final appearance was on Monday. Since the pond has been frozen solid we went from having a duck trio to, sadly, none. We miss them. We tried to shut the ducks in the barn hen house two nights but the mini door blew open in the wind. If we're going to have more poultry, we have to make sure the hen house is safe and secure.

3. Yesterday was a Snow Day, the third (?) for Floyd County schools. I made another creative pot of homemade soup, this one was so good I wrote down the recipe. Some of my creations never make it to an index card.

4. A week ago today I was in a dither organizing mortgage loan files from the first six months of 2006 for an audit this past Monday. It wasn't pretty. I haven't heard from the lender, nor do I care to, really. I passed two previous audits without problems and I have a different life now as a Foster Care Provider.

5. I took our client to the pet store last Friday to replace the parakeet that bit the dust the night before (at the end of an already crappy day). Things are back to usual. Our client is going home tomorrow for the weekend. We are all--client and us--looking forward to the break.

6. I'm making homemade macaroni and cheese tonight. I also made it for dinner the evening of my first Thursday 13 on January 18. Perhaps I should post the recipe.

7. Scott, my husband, got his confirmation from the May LEAF festival this past week. He's been hired for four days of entertainment, we' are excited.

8. I balanced my checkbook this morning. Yesterday I entered information from our DirecTV and State Farm insurance accounts into mycheckfree.com, now I can pay more bills online. I find it to be a time saver and like choosing what day bills get paid.

9. I'm reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. She had a speaking engagement in Floyd last year but I wasn't able to attend. I don't know how to use underline in Blogger, another thing to learn. I have a stack of books by my bed to read that is more than a foot tall.

10. I read a tip this past week to help us bloggers avoid aching backs and shoulders. Think "earlobes, shoulders, hips." They should be in alignment from top to bottom--or lobe to hip.
11. I made two homemade cards this week, one for an anniversary, the other for an upcoming birthday. Once in a while I feel like creating cards and have a big time doing it. Happy Valentine's Day everyone.

12. It's been so cold this past week. We heat with wood and electric. Our January electric bill was 25% higher than last year--and half of January was warm. Apparently AEP (Appalachian Electric Power) had a significant rate increase last fall, they surely needed more of my hard earned money.

13. Check out Colleen Redman's site, she's been a 13er for a long-time and blogging for even longer. She is also a fellow Floydian and discovered Floyd before we did.

The Thursday 13 site here.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Snow Day Soup

Before we went to bed last night school was cancelled for Floyd County. We received 3" of snow (it mostly covered the ground) followed by a glazing of fine hail. I called the Vet this a.m. to reschedule another day to take out Jack's stitches. I knew (from previous harrowing experiences) that the minivan would not make it across the hilly 1.5 mile dirt road we lived off of before hitting the cleared main paved road. Hubby had taken the 4-wheel drive Jeep into town to get to his store.

I took this picture of lamb's ear in the front garden bed, still decidedly green, a little bit of snow won't phase it. Recall that it was just three weeks ago on January 15th that we had a record high, then there were several hollyhocks a foot tall. Poor, confused flowers. Truth is the weather (climate?) was confused. No matter how good a 65 degree day feels in mid-January, it is just plain wrong for our neck of the woods.

The photo to the right is the top of a small table on the deck, the design reminded me of a Zen or Chinese symbol.

Here's the recipe for tonight's meal: Snow Day Soup.
1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
2 15.5 oz. cans of black beans, well drained
2 carrots, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 10 oz. package of frozen spinach (could also use collards or kale w/rib removed)
Garlic, minced - to taste
3 c. water

I would have also added frozen or canned corn and a sweet potato (diced) but happened to be out of both. I thought about cooking one large chicken breast, dicing it, and adding in place of the beans. We're making cornbread to serve with the soup tonight. What are you having for dinner?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Taming of the Shrew

This is not what you're thinking, it's not about the play by Shakespeare. This is about a real, live shrew in our house. Emerson thought at first that it was "a fat mouse," as he put it. It was under our kitchen cabinet this afternoon where we had a mouse a few months ago. We finally got that one out and relocated it to the great outdoors. Emerson removed the trim from under the cabinet and thought he could get it. The mouse that turned out to be a shrew, ran out the other side around Emerson and along the edge of the kitchen. It disappeared under the dishwasher into a hole we never knew existed. Emerson proceeded to dismantle the bottom front of the dishwasher revealing the secret hideout full of wires, but no shrew. He had truly disappeared. Apparently other mice or similar critters had been here before the shrew, from what was visible on the floor underneath. When Emerson tells his story tonight, Scott will probably say "That's life living in the country," as he said before a time or two.

In the last 6 1/2 years of living in our Floyd County farmhouse, we've experienced and shared our living space with numerous critters--not including pets. In separate incidences we've had three black snakes, not poisonous and thankfully a foot or less in length, otherwise neither my husband nor myself would be alive to share this story with you because we would have died from fright. They were found by walking downstairs or around a corner and there it was on the floor--appeared out of nowhere, but somewhere. Then someone, probably one of our sons (it sure wasn't me), had to relocate the snake to a new home outside. We have a house rule: all animals (not our pets) deserve to live, but they must live outside. This includes wasps. Yes, wasps. They find holes in a couple screens in the summer--or this past warm December--and find a way inside. Then we usually get the wasp to crawl onto a piece of paper and then quickly run it outside. We think Emerson is a Wasp Whisperer as he can pick them up by their wings and not get stung. It makes me nervous to watch him though I know the worst that can happen is that he'll be stung, but he loves it. I wonder, does he do it because he is able or because he knows it makes me nervous?

Last year my husband and I were drifting off to sleep. Actually, I was drifting, he was asleep. I heard scurrying sounds in the walls over my head, as I had for several weeks. I figured it was mice and no big deal. I chalked it up, as we always to do, to living in the country and continued to drift. I then heard a definite "ping." No longer drifting, instantly awake. What the heck was that? I laid there determining what the ping was and where it came from, figuring it must have been the ceiling fan. Before I could figure out what it was, I began to hear a whirring noise. It sounded like it came closer then went away, repeatedly. I barely peeked out from under my pillow and I let my eyes adjust to the dark, it took a few seconds. I could see a shape flying around in circles around the fan and knew it was a bat. (We had a similar experience several years ago when we lived in Maine and a bat was in Spencer's bedroom, he was then 6. We heard a scared little boy voice calling, "Papa, Mama, there's something in my room!"). I woke up Scott who couldn't believe he had to get up and relocate a bat outside. He grabbed a bath towel to trap it and threw it. He missed. He missed again. The bat, now disturbed, abandoned its circular pattern and flew helter-skelter all over the room. I stayed under the covers with them pulled up tight to my neck. I offered support and encouragement, "Honey, get it! Don't kill it!" Scott swung the towel again and the bat got stuck inside. Whew. He grabbed his parcel and went downstairs, opened the front door and opened the towel outside. Another critter successfully relocated.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

President Bush Said...

Yesterday President Bush attended a Democratic congressional retreat in Williamsburg, Virginia, the first he attended since 2001. In last night's news on NPR, it was reported that President Bush said the war in Iraq is "sapping our soul." This quote struck me; it resonated with my strong personal feelings opposing the war in Iraq. I actually agreed with him--and that surprised me. Yet it didn't sound like something he would say unless it was, perhaps, coming from a religious perspective. If the President truly believes the war is sapping our soul, how could he possibly commit 21,500 more troops to Iraq? Could there be a glimmer of hope that he is waking up, or is it more likely that he said something to appease the crowd of Democrats? The soul-sapping war will begin its fifth year in just six weeks.

Read the article which mentions the quote: Bush Puts 'ic' Back in 'Democrat Party' (s).

Saturday, February 03, 2007

In a Floyd Five Minutes

Perhaps other areas of the country experience similar oddities with the time space continuum, but Floyd is semi-regionally- famous for ours. If you tell someone you'll be meet them in a Floyd Five Minutes, what you're really saying is that you'll show up slightly late or be as much as 45 minutes to an hour behind the arranged time. It's loosey-goosey and expected from certain factions within the Floyd community, who shall remain nameless. It used to drive my husband and I completely nuts when we moved to Floyd going on eight years ago, but over the years we've relaxed and occasionally use the Floyd Five Minutes principle ourselves. My husband went to the reopening of the newly renovated Floyd Country Store last night to attend the Friday Night Jamboree. He mentioned that he wanted to say hi to some people and then he'd leave, but he thought about it for a second and then said he'd probably be there for a Floyd Five Minutes. I laughed and said I'd see him when he got home in an hour or so, but who's counting?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Friday's Feast #2

Appetizer
What was one of the fashion fads when you were a teenager?

In my pre-teen years, I vividly recall hip-hugging bell bottom pants called Palazzo pants. I had two pair; one was light pink and other other was a pale aqua blue. I thought I was really cool whenever I wore them. In my teenage years which was during the late 70's, some of the styles were similar to what you see today. I read a great quote, but forget the source (darn it), if you remember the fad the first time around then you're too old to wear it the second time! I think of that quote whenever I see someone my age (mid-40's) who is trying to look like she's still 16.

Soup

Name one thing you think people assume about you when they first meet you.


Oh, I don't like this one. For years I was a mortgage broker and I began avoiding people in public because they almost always wanted to ask me a question about interest rates or talk about a possible loan scenario they had in mind. They assumed I wanted to talk shop everywhere I went, even at a festival, but I didn't. I felt like I was losing the real me and was being replaced by 'the mortgage broker'. I have no idea what people might assume about me now that I'm not in the business, but I hope they find me to be friendlier and happier than I used to be.

Salad
On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being highest, how hard do you work?

I over analyze everything; when it comes to scales I break it down into halves. This is a general question and depends on the subject. I tend to do things in phases in terms of applying myself a full 110% to then relaxing and giving 75% (or so) and back again. I switched to percentages but you get the idea.

Main Course
If you were given a free 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl to sell anything you currently own, what would you advertise?


There is nothing I own that I'd want to advertise. I'd use my thirty seconds to promote world peace. I'd ask governments to redirect money spent on every war in the world to worthwhile causes that improved peoples lives.

Dessert
Fill in the blank: I love to ________ when it is _________.


I love to take a hot bath when it's cold outside, it always feels luxurious.