Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ice Skating on Frozen Pond

Emerson asked three times if we could go ice skating. I finally replied that after he finished math, the rest of school and I had graded his test, we could go. I wondered when the last time was that we went ice skating. We came to the conclusion that it was winter 2003-04 when we last had several consecutive below-freezing nights for the pond to become solid. We came close many times, but warm days between colder ones would halt the freezing process. As warm as this winter has been--until this week--it's hard to believe the pond is a block of ice. It's like someone pressed a button last weekend and its 'instant winter.' By the looks of the skates that Emerson retrieved from the barn, the boys' feet were much smaller then. Emerson's feet have grown into wearing my size 6 skates and I resorted to wearing the size 8 pair that Spencer previously wore and could not squeeze into today.

We got ready to go. With Jack in tow (he still needed to be on a rope after his injuries over a week ago) and Sweet Pea tagging along, we headed down to the pond. It had a had thin layer of dusty snow left from Sunday night skimming the surface, but it was otherwise smooth and welcoming. Winter doesn't feel quite right to me if I don't go ice skating at least once. Emerson was obviously excited and I'll admit that I was, too.

We tied Jack to a nearby tree. Emerson and I changed from our winter boots into our skates. I shoved a sock into the toe of each of my skates to make them fit better, but quickly learned that my foot wouldn't fit, so I wore the extra sock instead. We were ready but Sweet Pea had beaten us to it. We went down the edge of the pond to step onto the ice. Push, glide…push, glide…push, glide...fall (Emerson - I lucked out). Do it again. Emerson had clearly improved simply by being older and was quickly zipping around the pond. We went around several times holding hands. We twirled. Emerson sat down and made two snow angels. I skated backwards for a while and showed Emerson how to push, glide backwards. We went skated together some more. We explored the ducks frozen straw bale home on the far end. We peered into the PVC pipe that regulates the flow of the pond, noting that 2 1/2 feet below the surface it was cracked. I recalled how to 'Shoot the Duck' and told Emerson how to crouch down while gliding and stick one leg out in front. He could do it; I gave a pathetic attempt and fell over. I remembered that when I did that the first time, I was just a year older than Emerson is now. I recalled how when I was even younger, my family lived in Mt. Clemens, Michigan and we went ice skating on a nearby frozen river (or was it a lake?).

We got tired and left the pond. When we got back inside the house, I made hot cocoa with snowman marshmallows. I bought two bags after Christmas and wished I'd bought more. We cooked up an idea to have a couple friends over for an ice skating party, I hope they can come.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Goodbye Donald

Yesterday Emerson found the lifeless body of Donald, our long-time reptilian friend, in the aquarium in his room. He quickly brought Donald's body to me, and with tears in his eyes, he was barely able to tell me Donald had died. Donald was a small Eastern Painted turtle that was given to Spencer in the late spring of 1993, not long after his third birthday when we lived at (and Scott was employed by) Piedmont College (Demorest, GA). His full name was Donald Duck; named by Spencer for the Disney character he was fond of then. Donald ate food from your hand and had Personality. During his almost 14 years of living with us he was well traveled; he moved from Georgia to South Carolina, from South Carolina to Maine, from Maine back to South Carolina and from South Carolina to Virginia, always sitting in the front seat of the moving van beside my husband. When Scott retold this story to the boys, he said that Donald was always good company though he never said much. Scott then recalled another story (thankfully his long-term memory is better than mine), reminding us how we originally kept Donald in a big clear glass bowl on the kitchen table. Donald frequently escaped and would be found crawling somewhere on the floor until we finally bought an aquarium.

We held a memorial service for Donald; we lit a candle and read turtle poems and this one by Thich Nhat Hanh before we cremated his little turtle body in the woodstove:

Peace is every step.
The shining red sun is my heart.
Each flower smiles with me,
How green, how fresh all that grows.
How cool the wind blows.
Peace is every step.
It turns the endless path to joy.

This morning Emerson spread the ashes under the hydrangea bushes.
[We didn't have a good photo of Donald; this Eastern Painted turtle photo is borrowed from Seltrut Inc.]

Saturday, January 27, 2007

How's Your Driveway?

Living in Floyd in the winter, particularly after a storm, it's not uncommon to start a conversation with "How's your driveway?" Why it's practically the same thing as "How are you?" It may sound odd, but it's true. Today our driveway is looking good, it's warmed up to 60 degrees after a few rather chilly winter days and the last of the ice has melted. In other words, I can park the car at the bottom of the hill without fear of how we're going to make it back up.

Three years ago our driveway was covered with ice at least an inch thick, more in some places; we walked up and down the driveway hill using a sled to bring home groceries for four weeks—twice. During one of those endless stretches of life living in Floyd County, I fell and broke my arm. It happened in the morning on the way to the car to take my husband to the Dr. to get an x-ray on what turned out to be his severely sprained ankle—the result of falling on the ice the previous night. We were a mess. The boys were scared; they both had a deer-in-the-headlights-look on their face. Here were their parents--both on the ground, their father was in a sled wearing only one boot and had crutches by his side, while their mother was writhing and clutching her arm with an obvious protrusion at the wrist where nothing should be. I learned two lessons that day, I know that I am fallible and ice can take me down.

Not long after that thrilling experience, we learned of and purchased a pair of YakTrax for every family member. We wear this necessary piece of winter equipment as needed. Until that moment in mid-February, I looked at ice as I did in my younger days, it was fun to slide on and was used for ice skating. Since that winter I have had a slight paranoia of ice. Things change, people change, and circumstances change. Last year, for the first time, I found myself coveting a house on the edge of U.S. Highway 221, just so our driveway would be short, made of asphalt--and easily accessible. Winter is not over, not by a long shot, but today my driveway is ice-free and a cause for minor celebration. Yippee!

[Photo of the icy driveway taken two days ago here.]

Friday, January 26, 2007

Friday's Feast

If you could take lessons to learn any musical instrument, which would you want to learn?

My husband plays acoustic guitar and ukulele. I've considered learning an instrument, but I've always told people when they ask what I play, that I play the calculator. My husband would be thrilled if I'd learn to play the drums. Last year I considered playing the tin pipe.
Have you ever mistaken a person for someone else? Yes, more than once but can't recall who or when right now.

On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being highest, how well do you keep secrets? I'd say I'm a 9 1/2.

Main Course

What's the closest you've ever been to a dangerous animal? Not very close.

When was the last time you lost your patience?

You're kidding, right?! Let's see, this is Friday, I believe it was last Saturday. Wow--nearly a whole week!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Thursday 13 #2

I've been looking forward to this post since last week.

1. One month from today I'll be 44 1/2. We celebrate half-birthdays at our house, nothing fancy and no presents--but we note the day.
2. One month from yesterday, Emerson will be 11 1/2. He made a comment this past year that our next double-number birthdays will be when he's 22 and I'm...he paused to count and I jumped in...older! We both wish the next 11 years would take their time--no rush. [Self- photo of Emerson through his plasma globe.]

3. We are having beautiful snow flurries. On Monday we had our first Snow, rather, Ice Day.

4. Jack, our oldest Border Collie, is beginning to heal. He had disappeared, then reappeared injured from a fight with who-knows-what. A trip to the Vet occurred on Ice Day.

5. Here's a picture of my driveway this morning from my upstairs office window. It melted some yesterday, but the driveway is still so icy that my husband barely got the van up the hill last night on the second attempt. He was just several feet from the top when the van began to slide. I yelled for Spencer to run up the hill to help push and just as Spencer had made it there, Scott was able to get the van to the top--with wheels furiously spinning. This driveway/hill/luge run is always a source for two or three heart-pounding experiences every winter.

6. Last weekend we watched the Saints and the Patriots lose, despite how vigorously we rooted for them. I was decked out in the Pat's red and blue, complete with red metallic beads and red & white dangly 70's hoop earrings dug out of an old jewelry box. I forgot I had them--a relic from another life. Now that they've been found, I'll have to wear them once in a while. Sorry, no picture of me in my supportive spouse role.

7. Scott made the best guacamole for the football games, we wonder how much avocados will cost in a few weeks. Because of the freeze in California, I bought no less than 24# of oranges this week. I was hoping they'd last but since we have a large supply, everyone is eating extra and they are going quicker than expected. We use two oranges in our fruit smoothie for breakfast.

8. Our smoothie recipe: One banana, one apple, two oranges, sm. handful of frozen fruit (we use our own blueberries), 2 scoops of whey protein powder, 8 oz. of liquid (2 oz pure cranberry juice and 6 oz. water), 2 T of org. flax oil and/or 2 T ground gold flax seed. Blend well, serves two. Delicious and nutritious!

9. And the winner is...the 79th Academy Awards will be presented a month from today on February 25th. My husband and I love to watch good movies; back in the year we dated (okay, it was only four months), in the year we lived together (while engaged) and in the year we were married and immediately pregnant, we saw every movie nominated for Best Picture in a theatre. Many years later we think we've done well if we've seen one nominated movie in a theatre. We didn't do so hot this year, we've seen one nominated movie and we rented it last week. Little Miss Sunshine was poignant in moments and laugh out loud funny. This is my favorite movie for actors, story, cinema photography and music. What's yours?

10. I went to Target this past week after taking our client to his appointment. I love Target; having spent my high school and college years in Minnesota where Target originated, I had my first Target card at age 18. This year I've vowed to not put a dime on the card, I will buy only what we need and write a check. I did this for the second time this year on Tuesday.

11. That brings me to a word that makes most people cringe: budget. I am a self-professed Budget Queen. A former mortgage broker, I have drawn countless budgets for others as well as myself. 2007 is the year of the Strict Budget at my house. We are on a mission to pay off our consumer debt accumulated from a home addition (04) and three not-so-good business years (04-06) which followed three great years. Almost through the first month and making progress. One month closer to being debt-free (not including mortgage loans). Are you on a budget? Working to be debt-free?

12. For a few years, I've collected miniature chairs, or as my family calls them, "Little People Chairs." They make me smile. My husband says we have more chairs for little people than we do for regular people. This red one sits on the windowsill in my office.

13. My husband just called, we were talking about what to have for dinner. We are on the Fat Flush Plan until Super Bowl Sunday, it's a nutritional lifestyle more than it is a diet. My husband lost 50# during the first half of 2005 on this plan and has kept most of it off. When his jeans get tight or we've been particularly decadent, we get back on the plan for a week or two.

My last Thursday 13 post. The Thursday 13 site.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

State of the Union

Did you watch President Bush's annual State of the Union address last night? My husband and I began to watch, but I quickly lost attention and looked up occasionally from what I was reading while I continued to listen. We were both waiting for the Democrat's response, to see what freshman Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) would say in rebuttal. We thought the Senator was blunt and to the point, he certainly did not mince words. We liked what he said. When he was done I found myself thinking, "This guy should run for President." We turned off the tv and the lamp in our family room to go up to bed and before we made it to the stairs, my husband said "Maybe he should run for President." I told him I had just had the same thought, great minds think alike. Wonder if anyone else shared our thoughts. What did you think?

This Morning

This picture was taken this morning off our kitchen deck facing east around 7:30 a.m. I had a couple others that were more colorful, but if you look closely in the blue area about a quarter of the way in from the left side, you'll see a faint white dot. That's the moon. The apple tree dominates the right side, from afar its branches always remind me of lace for some reason.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Poor Jack

Poor Jack, he's our 9 year-old Border Collie that came with our farm when we bought it six years ago. This morning I asked my husband and sons when they last saw him, none of us remembered seeing him since last Friday, not even to eat. Jack doesn't like to be watched when he eats, he'll wait until he's alone. My sons went out looking for Jack to no avail. We went back to working on putting away Christmas (see post below) when my husband went outside to get rid of some tree remnants. There was Jack! He came out from under the house where Emerson had looked, but Jack must have been in further than usual and out of sight. Jack looked awful, like death warmed over. I called the boys and both went to say hello and to see what was wrong with him. Spencer, who worked part-time for a Vet last summer, was the first to notice that Jack had a gash on upper leg near his chest. We all noticed that something was wrong with his head; his fur was sticking up and matted and his right ear didn't look good. Scott called the Vet and they said to bring him in right away. My husband and sons took Jack to the Vet, driving on questionable roads on this Ice Day.

Jack spent the day at the Vet's office. Sharon, the Vet, surmised that Jack had been in a fight with gashes on his head and his right ear shredded. That was also why he had disappeared, when dogs are hurt they keep to themselves. She stitched the gashes and stapled and stitched his ear. They called mid-afternoon to say we could come and pick him up. They put a collar around his head so that he can't bite or lick his wounds. He looks pitiful. I tried to take his picture of his current status but he looked away every time. Poor dog, he didn't want his picture taken when he looks and feels miserable. I don't blame him. Jack is on antibiotics for the next 10 days and pain pills the size of a quarter. The Vet said the big pills taste good and he'll chew them.

This was a memorable Snow Day. Hope the next one is uneventful.

[Emerson took the photo last summer when Jack had a better day.]

Snow, rather, Ice Day

On Thursday the 11th we had an inch of snow. That's right, one whole inch. Whoopee. It wasn't enough to have a bonafide Snow Day the following day and Spencer had to go to school. We both felt cheated. I grew up in Minnesota and I have fond memories of snow days, so I was pulling for the Snow Day as much as he was. I let Emerson quickly go sledding that Friday morning--before it melted--since it was the first real snow of the season.

Last night southwestern Virginia got our share of the storm that had dumped ice on Texas. It finally made its way here. Before it arrived, we went through the usual prep that we do for any winter storm. I took a hot bath and left the water in the tub (in case we lost power and needed water to flush). We brought in more wood for the woodstove to have dry wood. We filled up a couple of stockpots with water, again in case we lost power (the well and spring both run on electricity). We double checked flashlights, and last but not least, we parked the cars at the top of the drive (when covered with ice the driveway is not usable). We experienced hail, sleet, rain and ice, but no snow! It precipitated all day long but didn't leave us with much--just a mess. What do we have to do to get some snow, for pete's sake? The administration finally cancelled school late last night. This morning, Emerson went zipping at top speed down the luge run. Don't have a luge run at your house? Our dirt and gravel driveway is long and fairly steep, when covered with ice it becomes what we half-affectionately and half-frustratingly refer to as the luge run. Just part of life living in the country...in the Appalachians of southwest Virginia.

How did we use our snow day? Well, we put away Christmas. We Perry's leave our tree up much longer than most people. I always tell my husband that I want to get my money's worth, which is true (and we do), but the real reason is that I love to look at the tree decorated and lit with white lights, especially at night. We took down the tree today and the sunroom looks empty as it always does for the first few days afterwards, but since it's nearly February it was time. This picture is our former Christmas tree relocated to an area we're filling in on the edge of the woods.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Thursday 13

This is my first Thursday 13 post. I began blogging last year, but have been going strong with the New Year. Here goes...
1. Just learned of Divine Strake on NPR news, the name for a government project to remotely detonate a 700 ton nuclear bomb 30 feet under the ground above a tunnel. Why? They hope to find the "smallest proper nuclear yield necessary to destroy underground facilities while minimizing collateral damage." Divine Strake was originally scheduled for last June, now the date is indefinite. Just wondering, but doesn't a 700 ton nuclear bomb count as a WMD? Sorry to start my 13 list with a bomb, no pun intended.

2. I learned 13 new things about blogging this week, but most went over my head since I'm not technically 'with it'.

3. The recent cold weather means we've had the woodstove going for 48 hours, it's the first time in a while and it feels good.

4. Oh! Here's some good news. My husband, a blues musician, was given a contract this week for the Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF Fest) for a week of workshops and performances in early May. I'm so proud of him. Whoo-hoo!

5. I was going to introduce myself then recalled that you can read the 'About Me' sidebar and that will do it.

6. I feel like comfort food for dinner. After making a couple of weird (but delicious) homemade soups in the last week, I settled on homemade macaroni and cheese. I use William Wyatt's Grandmother Violet's recipe. We met Mr. Wyatt when we lived next door in Charleston SC several years ago, he was 75 years young and dealing with cancer. He used to make sweet potato pie often and always shared with us. He also made lima bean soup that had as much pepper in it as it did lima beans.

7. I'm more than half-way there on my first 13 list. (I know this is a cheat).

8. Emerson (younger son) got a 97.5% on his math test today. He was bummed because he thought he was going to get a 100, but it was an improvement over the last test.

9. We avoid reality TV shows, preferring a steady diet of football and PBS (except in July when I become a Tour de France fanatic). The one 'junk' show we watch with relish is American Idol. The last two nights were full of oddball people who could not sing. Why they think they can, is beyond me. It's awful to be judgemental so I try not to be, but I thought some of those people were going to show up in a dream and scare me.

10. Speaking of dreams, last night I had a beautiful one about my Grandma. She's 88, has Alzheimer's, and has lived in a nursing home since May 2005 when she fell and broke her hip. The dream took place perhaps 15-20 years ago and was just a slice of life. It was a warm memory upon waking of days gone by.

11. Last Saturday we took Spencer (older son) on his first college tour. Yesterday at school he attended an ACT/SAT Junior class meeting. He was to answer a short survey of what is important to you in a school. I saw his crumpled form on top of a stack of pamphlets, his second answer was "Good food." I guess that's important. We have a long way to go before he's ready.

12. Today has been my day off. I'm a foster care provider and my client goes to work every Thursday until late afternoon. The weather is drizzly and slippery today, so my husband called to say he'd take care of our client when he gets back (client is dropped off in town and I go to pick him up). They're now on the way home.

13. I made it, whew! Scott and Spencer celebrate birthdays on the 13th (August and March).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) to give Democrats' State of the Union Response

Senator Jim Webb, the newly elected Democrat from the Commonwealth of Virginia, will deliver the Democrats' response to the State of the Union speech delivered by President Bush on January 23. Go Jim Webb! Virginia has been in the political spotlight frequently the last few years with Democrats gaining top positions and media attention. Christmas came early last year, we stayed up until the wee hours on election night to learn what was happening. Sen. Webb defeated Republican Senator George Allen by the narrowest margin (.8%) in a race last November that wasn't decided until Allen conceded two days later. Webb's slim victory gave Democrats a 51-seat majority the control of the Senate; for Democrats, but most especially for Virginia Democrats, it was a big deal. Our guy did it! Virginia Democrats have been on a roll recently, recall that Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine was elected in 2005 after serving as Lt. Gov. under popular former Democratic Gov. Mark Warner. After Kaine's victory, he gave the 2006 Democratic response to Bush's annual message to Congress.

You might not have known...

Jim Webb's son is currently serving in Iraq. Sen. Webb wore a pair of his son's combat boots throughout the campaign and took them with him when he wasn't wearing them.

Sen. Webb is a former Republican who served as Navy secretary under President Ronald Reagan. In recent years he broke with his party, mainly due to disagreements with the Bush administration's policy on Iraq.

In September 2002, Webb published an opinion piece in the Washington Post entitled "Heading for Trouble; do We Really Want to Occupy Iraq for the Next 30 Years?" This was published before the Republican-controlled House approved the resolution giving Bush authority for military operations in Iraq.

Monday, January 15, 2007

...but Seriously

I began writing this post Thursday, January 11th, but life got in the way. In my work as Foster Care Provider, you never know what will happen. I was finishing my previous post when the phone rang, it was the substitute Case Worker (social worker) who had tried to visit my client at work. He usually works on Thursday, but last week it was preplanned for him to work on Friday. The Case Worker was on her way back from his employer and wanted to stop in for a 'surprise visit'. I'm not fond of surprise visits. Imagine your long-distance relatives calling to let you know they'll be at your house in fifteen minutes. Well, it's not quite that bad. You welcome their visit, but because you knew in advance you cleaned your house, right? Thankfully, I had vacuumed that morning, but areas of the house were, let's say, off-limits. Surprise visits come with this job; I experience one every other month from my Program Manager, but she gives clues to narrow it down to a few days. It's still a surprise but not 100%. The visit went well with the Case Worker. I met someone new (she has two kids and her oldest daughter is the same age as my oldest son) and my client enjoyed seeing someone whom he's known for many years.

Now let's get to my post. After a few lighthearted entries I am turning to my serious side, to my true nature. In fact, my 6th grade teacher, Mr. James Alexander, wrote in my end of year autograph book that I was "too serious." He had me pegged at age 11. My husband naturally jokes and teases people with ease and makes light of problems. Not me. I'm the sober, pensive, stern, and, some would say, humorless one. No! It can't be, yet it is. My husband and I are very yin-yang and good for each other; he makes me lighten up and relax, whereas I think I help him see the solemn side (and to live within a budget--which is truly a severe and weighty matter). [Thanks to Roget's New Millennium Thesaurus.]

The somber subject on my mind is the war in Iraq. It began March 19, 2003, almost four years ago and less than a week after (oldest son) Spencer's 13th birthday. Fast forward four years. Spencer is soon to be 17 and we as individuals, and as a nation, never dreamed that the war would be going strong--and picking up steam--four years later. On January 10th, President Bush addressed the nation, he stated that he wanted to commit another 21,000 troops to Iraq. If this comes to pass, by the time the troops arrive overseas, the war will be in its 5th year. If you disagree with sending more troops to Iraq, please take five minutes to speak out. Call or write an email or letter to your Congressperson or member of the U.S. Senate. Let them know your opinion. You can be in support of the troops who are over there without supporting the war and without supporting President Bush's plan to bring another 21,000 troops to Iraq. Like countless other families, I have a cousin currently stationed in Iraq and my husband, Scott, had a cousin stationed in Afghanistan a few years ago. Everyone knows somebody who is or has been stationed in Iraq or knows someone else who has family stationed in Iraq. The war in Iraq touches us all, as any long-term war does.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) support President Bush's plan, but I was thankful hear a strong dissenting opinion from Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committee.
“I am opposed to the escalation of American involvement in Iraq, including more U.S. troops. This is a dangerously wrong-headed strategy that will drive America deeper into an unwinnable swamp at a great cost. It is wrong to place American troops into the middle of Iraq’s civil war. It is not in America’s national interest to increase our troop presence in Iraq. The President’s strategy will cost more American lives, sink us deeper into the bog of Iraq making it more difficult to get out, cost billions of dollars more, further strain an American military that has already reached its breaking point, further diminish America’s standing in the Middle East, and continue to allow the Iraqis to walk away from their responsibilities. The fate of Iraq will be determined by the Iraqis—not the Americans. We have already given four years, thousands of lives, and hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to Iraq."
The photo was taken when Senator Hagel visited Nebraska troops in Iraq while leading a Congressional Delegation to the Middle East in November. (Pictured left to right) Lt. Col. Gary Krupa, USAF, Senator Hagel and Lt. Col. Stephen Graf, USAF.

To read the remainder of Sen. Hagel's statement, please go here.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

My Chocolove!

It should come as no surprise that I am a fan (some would say fanatic) of dark chocolate (recall the blog title?). It's not even Valentine's Day and I'm writing about chocolate although any day is a good day to write about--or better--to enjoy dark chocolate. At Christmas, my husband gave an exquisite bar of dark chocolate sprinkled throughout with chewy pieces of tangy, sweet crystallized ginger. He knows that I love dark chocolate. It's a family joke. I get dark chocolate bars for my birthday, for holidays (including Mother's Day) and sometimes for no reason at all. I usually savor them slowly, eating just one square or two, at a time. Then I carefully rewrap the bar in the gold or silver liner paper and put it away for another day when I need a pick-me-up or am feeling low on Vitamin Ch. I say "usually" because since I took the first bite of my Chocolove bar with crystallized ginger, it was an instant Wow! My new best friend. I graciously shared the bar with my husband since he had gifted it to me, but in my heart of hearts, I wasn't feeling very gracious and didn't want to share. I wanted to selfishly hog the whole thing. I ate half the bar in one sitting--and the other half the next night. I've bought two more bars since then, feeling a bit like Charlie from Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, only my golden ticket is the chocolate bar itself. If you like ginger, no, if you love ginger as I do, you will absolutely need to find a source for your new fix. I almost forgot to mention that the good people at Chocolove enclose a love poem inside every wrapper. How's that for incentive to make a purchase? You can expand your knowledge of poetry while the chocolate is melting on your tongue. Looking forward to a few squares of my chocolate bar tonight...from Floyd County.

[Disclaimer: This was an unpaid testimonial, however if they forced it on me I'd not hesitate to accept a box of chocolate bars as a thank-you.]

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The View

Just thought I'd share with you all a view from the pasture looking up towards the house, the stone structure you see in the distance up on the Rock of Cashel. My husband and I own a stone castle on a thousand-acres in South County Tipperary, Ireland. These are our sheep, aren't they beautiful? They're harder to take care of than chickens ever were, but we're still in the learning curve. With all this wool on hand, I'm learning to card and spin wool and to knit. Next year, everyone will receive an organic wool knit scarf for Christmas. That will be light to send (even if mailing overseas), my husband will be thrilled. He's been after me to choose lightweight gifts or convert to gift cards. We live just a half-mile from the nearest pub, after I'm done working in the garden and hubby's through playing some Celtic blues on his guitar, we often stroll to town for a pint (or two) of Guinness. Ah, life is good in Ireland. Come visit us, won't you? We keep telling our family that we have plenty of room for them to stay, and even more than one bathroom (since 2004) but we seldom have visitors. So you're invited.

Whoops, sorry folks, that was just my daydream. I was staring out the window when the sheep caught my eye. Don't want you to get the wrong idea. Try this picture instead taken a few minutes ago from my office window. Really. This is a 100 year-old Stayman Winesap apple tree, give or take a few years. And look! That pretty white layer on the tree, that's Snow. It's a natural phenomena that usually happens during the season known as Winter. Whether it's Global Warming, Climate Change, Climate Crisis (see should-have-been-President Al Gore's great documentary) or Mother Nature Being Downright Persnickety, we haven't had much winter to speak of this year. Three cold nights near Thanksgiving--already several holidays ago--that's been it so far. In fact, we've had five weeks of April, until today. I took this picture specifically to document that snow still falls in the winter month of January in the Appalachian mountains of southwestern Virginia.

Even in my Double-4th year I still find myself wishing for a Snow Day when it's been a while--or since last winter--that the snow fell. You know what I mean; a Snow Day filled with sledding, hot cocoa, a hot bath and a good book (in that order). But we have a problem since tomorrow happens to be the last half-day of the public school semester. Spencer (my son, see Healthy Cookies post) has two finals (Chemistry and Algebra II) and we'd rather he get them out of the way instead of having to take them next week. So as much as I long for a true Snow Day, I really don't want it tomorrow. Another time.

Where'd the sheep go? Don't worry. Here they are...all month long.
In May you'll enjoy photo's of our cattle along the Burren, in County Clare. Meanwhile, the snow is still falling, just not as vigorously as before. Using my imagination, from Floyd County....

Monday, January 08, 2007

Monday, Monday (or do-be-do-be-do)

A couple nights ago I saw the end of a show on PBS about Cass Elliot of The Mamas and The Papas, and so I have the song "Monday, Monday" drifting through my head. I don't know the words, but the melody is there. It's a beautiful blue, not-a-cloud-in-the-sky, breezy, chilly, Monday. In fact, it almost--but not quite--feels like winter. A great day for making homemade soup. It doesn't feel like April for a change. Maybe winter is on the way for a bit and we can have a fire in the wood stove tonight, we've had so few this winter.

Today I have an impromptu day off, not entirely impromptu as my husband, Scott, planned it last Friday, but impromptu in the sense that Monday's are usually a day we spend together working on a project. We clean and/or organize something before we relax and make supper together later in the day. This day was planned because he had errands to take care of and he's giving me a reward for recently writing a Quarterly Report (for Medicaid) for my foster care provider job. Thank-you notes from Christmas have been mailed and no other obligations need to be done at the moment. Relief.

My day off began after my husband left this morning, taking our client with him on his journey of errands. He called a while ago, to check-in, and asked what I'm doing with my day. Short of helping Emerson (our youngest son) with his math homework, I had to admit that I haven't accomplished any one great thing, but I have enjoyed myself. I've been straightening my office, I've read blogs and investigated OpenCourseWare Consortium where you can take a free class (not for credit) in a variety of subjects from MIT or UC-Berkeley, or even a class in Peace Studies at the Univ. of Notre Dame. Listen to podcasts of lectures from numerous universities at open culture . I'm contemplating what I'd like to do next and taking a college course doesn't sound half bad. I could take one to enrich my brain without any financial commitment (or term papers to write!). It could serve as a barometer to whether I wanted to go back to school or just liked the idea of expanding my horizons and learning something new (which I've always enjoyed).

This feeling that you have to get something done, something measurable to show for your time, is part of life living in the U.S. of A. You're not supposed to just sit and do nothing. Heaven forbid you "waste" your time and have little to show for it. It reminds me of something I read, I don't remember the source (but it could have been from a Buddhist publication), that went like this: "do. be. do-be-do-be-do." The last several weeks have been full of "do," now I aim to revel in "be" for the rest of the first month of 2007.

Before I exit to make a pot of homemade soup (chickpea vegetable noodle?), I wanted to leave you with the opening line to that song wandering through my head:

"Monday Monday, so good to me,
Monday morning', it was all I hoped it would be...."