Tuesday, December 31, 2013

one last look

We briefly talked about doing a Christmas letter again this year. I did look through my pictures to remind myself of what all happened, was quite shocked, and then never got back to the computer to make that happen. So I'm limiting myself to one photo for each month and recapping 2013.

a day of freezing rain where we were amazed at the number of cardinals that bombarded our back porch and dog pen
 February - Bobby Retired!

March - a new quilting/sewing machine! :) Happy, Happy, Happy!

April - my nephew and niece were saved and baptized! :)
May - first visit to the Confederate section of Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, and the opening of Garner's War Memorial
June - our first ever dolphin tour, a mini-vacation with family, and an 80th birthday party for the matriach of the Bob Bryan clan. A very happy but busy month!
July- The church's annual Family Fun Fest was rained out, family toured the Garner War Memorial and searched for names of family & friends in stone
August - despite Mason having two broken bones and the chicken pox, Monica's family came to visit for a few days.

September - and there was the never ending garden and chicken business throughout the year. Grapes always come in around August/September, depending on the weather.

October - 4th place (see the pink ribbon?) in the beginner's category at the NC State Fair!
November - pecans, heavy duty Christmas practice for the kids' program, and plans for Christmas kick into high gear
December - Christmas program, family, family, family, sickness
I'm so thankful for how God has blessed us in 2013!

Monday, December 30, 2013

a childhood food

My husband does not prefer green peas (what my family calls English peas). I happen to like them, especially with mashed potatoes. After being sick on the medicine the Urgent Care Clinic provided, my parents immediately started making bland foods in hopes of getting something in me so I could take yet another round of meds (yeah, rah). Mom had been in and asked if I would try some mashed potatoes and peas, and I nodded yes (no voice on my part and no hearing aids in on her part...a really interesting combination the last 24 hours at home and only my nieces were getting my hand signals and my nephew made squeaking noises every time I tried to talk). Bobby came in a littler late to check on me, and with a bit of confusion and concern on his face, told me they were making a plate that had mashed potatoes and peas on it, that everyone thought I had asked for it, and they were mixing the food together.
At this point, I actually laughed. (Well, at much laughing as I could do without a voice.) When I told him that was how I ate them as a child (I made a well like people do for gravy and filled it with peas), he started laughing, too. I don't think I've had those two items like that since high school, and it was kind of nice to have someone remember something like that about me from my past. Living in an area away from family, those tidbits of information are often filed away and forgotten. And suddenly I was surrounded by people who knew those things, who were stepping in and taking charge, and I could be sick and rest. It was a nice change. And of course, it prompted Bobby to ask if that was how they tricked me into eating green peas in the first place. I almost hated to tell him that was my unique concoction. After all their effort, I hated to send word to Mom I thought pototoes was all I could handle at the moment.
Perhaps I'll have to serve that as two of our veggies during a 2014 meal. But I think I'll abstain from giving him smashed tator tots on a hamburger.  I think he'll draw the line on that one. :)

a bit unusual Christmas

I have to confess, I was expecting the normal hand-drawn Christmas card from my niece this year. Imagine my surprise when I opened the card, and read "In Memory". Yeah. For whatever reason, she took two Gideon donation cards from church, scribbled out the inside, and wrote our name on the blanks inside. I'm assuming she doesn't know what "In Memory" means, and that she liked the picture on the front. For whatever reason, she was quite pleased with it, and I can honestly say I've never received a Christmas card like it. It's now in my drawer of momentos.

While Bobby's wheelchair was a work in progress, one of the things we attempted to do was send pictures of the broken parts to Orthopedic Services, in hopes they could possibly order the parts before everything shut down for the holidays. (Which turned out to be a big failure.)  This might sound like no big deal, but my parents's house has no internet service, and most people struggle to get adequate cell phone bars around the hills of Smith Lake. When we go there, we literally are getting away from it all. So we head to Jacks (a restaurant similar to Hardees or McDonalds) which has a free WiFi. Keep in mind I'm driving, Bobby's chair is somewhat tied down with restraints, and we're going up and down hills in a vehicle that has zero-resistant steering (meaning you touch the wheel, it veers). It also bears mentioning that my husband has ridden with another person driving a total of three times (and two of them were not pleasant) in 32 years because of his disability. So to say that things were tense in that van was a little bit of understatement. Long story short, I got my hand popped when I let go of the wheel to steady his chair as it was rearing up in one of my "jack-rabbit starts" (I actually accelerated to get up a hill.) 

So imagine my surprise when we get a present from my niece only. And it's a toilet paper roll with a face drawn on it.
 Me: I assume that's my picture on this toilet paper roll?
Carly: That's not a toilet paper roll and yes it's you.
Bobby: What is it?
Carly: Your wife beating stick. So when she grabs your chair you can hit her with that.

And if that's not enough, there's a message on the backside:
Somehow I don't think I'm forgiven for feeding her rabbit this summer, yet. And then I saw this tube at the Christmas tree for my brother. So obviously I'm not the only one getting a stick to be beaten with, AND theirs is bigger. But I was wrong. They got a hand-drawn poster-sized Christmas picture.

I'm so glad I got her underwear.
P.S. Before you start posting reprimands, underwear was not the only thing we gave her. :)
But I must say, when I got sick Christmas night and was running a fever of 102.3 (which almost NEVER happens...my temp runs down, never up), she was constantly checking to see "if I was going to make it" and occasionally just wanted to pat my head. Our Christmas was far from dull.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

brithday celebrations with the "youngest"

Growing up, I was blessed with many siblings in cousins on both sides of my family. I don't ever remember not having someone my age to play with at family gatherings; it was more an issue of who to play with or finding someone I knew the best.
That's not the case for my nieces and nephew. My oldest nieces are in college. My nephew is 13, my other niece is 9. They also have lived very far apart all their lives, so most holidays they don't see each other. With my birthday coming immediately before Christmas, my birthday has become something of a "tradition" to be celebrated with the two younger ones (because they live near my parents who we are visiting at the time).  Carly has taken it upon herself the last two years to "plan" birthday parties for everyone. She discusses it with her Mom or my mother, and designates who is buying, baking what. She doesn't always get what she wants (like last year for my 40th when she just KNEW I wanted a fancy cake with purple and pink sparklies and my sister bought me a cookie cake instead with Peanuts characters...she was quite amazed to find out I loved chocolate chip cookies and even more surprised to find those some cartoon characters on a wall in my house when she visited this summer....yes, Mom does know some things!), but she does her best. So this year we played "Pin the Tail on the Donkey (more like Aunt Monica, Carly, and Mason played), and had a pinata (which only the two kids hit and she was the only one scrambling for the candy...yeah, we adults are boring that way), but there were a few other interesting things as well:

1. The decor...I don't think I would have pictured myself as a zebra kind of girl, but that's what we had: zebra plates and matching table cloth (which of course matched her shirt):  
2. The cake: Mom had a variant on her traditional home-made cake with chocolate icing. For years, I was convinced it was a caramel icing, and was quite surprised when I started helping cook and discovered it was: peanut butter. I think Mom was relieved and pleased that I not only remembered that but suggested it when she asked. It's both easy and delicious. It was also Carly's first time having one of my childhood favorites, and I don't think she was impressed. At all.
3. Game time...several people in my family are big Monopoly players. This year I bought and tried out Monopoly Empires (because it claims to be a faster version of the game and my younger sister and I share a mutual dislike of really long games), and we brought it to AL with us. We discovered something new and disturbing...when a child has never had to play games with other children...they don't know how to lose. She pouted, she cried, she cried with BIG crocodile tears, and Uncle Bobby and Aunt Monica and her Mom hardened their mean old Grinch hearts and "stole" her favorite billboard tiles and "made" her lose the game. And to make it even worse? It happened again the next day with different players.  Life's not fair. Get used to it. I sound so much like my mother!

The craziest part of the first evening was when I told her she needed to clean the table before we put the game down, as I didn't want Uncle Bobby's Christmas present to get messed up. She immediately put that hand on her hip, looked at me with a frown and said "How can you afford this?"  We all looked at each other in surprise. One of us asked her what she meant. She shook her head incredulously and said "Y'all are just poor farmers. You can't afford this."  It was all we could do not laugh. Owning chickens does NOT make us farmers, and we are certainly not classified as poor. I guess since we don't have smart phones, a Wii, an XBox, and ipad, nor cable (and I told her she needed to send me a different list when she requested a Kindle Fire for Christmas...that was not in our budget), and we eat the eggs from our chickens and have our own garden...in her mind we are very poor.  Perspective is truly everything!
But when all is said and done: I love the time we have together and wouldn't trade it for anything in the world


Saturday, December 28, 2013

a week ago today

One week ago today we headed out for Nashville, TN to see the Moffitt clan (Bobby's youngest sister and her family) for a day or two before heading on to be with my family. En route Bobby's chair refused to be budged from its lock-down position. At all. If you've ever lived with a disability and needed assistance, you know that holidays are NOT the time to have an equipment malfunction. No one is open, and if they are, you're almost always going be charge holiday time when it comes to the labor portion of the repair bill. Mechanics do have families, too, you know.  Thankfully for us, they happen to be in my family.
We arrived in TN to find a friend of Susan's there, and Matt and David (my bro-in-law), began dismantling the back of Bobby's chair in order to leverage the chair into an upward position so we could ease it out of the lock. It took a while, but they were not only successful in getting him inside and settled, but also in strapping the wheelchair back together enough so Bobby could drive the chair in and out of entrances without getting stuck. They also moved my chair into the driver's position, allowing me to drive the four hours the next day to AL.  When my brother and brother-in-law removed the casing to see if it was weldable, this was what they found:
See the missing chunks in the long pieces on top...so not supposed to be there. Turns out I was right...Bobby's bolt underneath was not loose at all. But he was right as well...due to the breaks and cracks (which aren't seen in this photo) the entired battery carriage underneath (which is what the bolt is connected to) was lowered a good inch and a half, posing the problem. On my birthday (the 23rd), they managed to secure the chair back in place with heavy duty strapping with locks, and on their off day, Christmas Eve, the spent several hours repairing the broken pieces enough that the chair could once again be used in the driver's position and we can get back to the wheelchair repair place this next week and found out what our options are.

I'm so thankful for Matt, David, Jamie and Andy for their tireless efforts and sacrificial spirit in helping us get through one of our many hurdles this holiday season. I honestly don't know what we'd do without family.

Monday, December 16, 2013

a pain in the neck

Yesterday a good friend had a spell during church. We still don't know what happened, but it scared a good number of us. We could tell she was starting to improve, was getting better (starting to argue with us), but I was very concerned about her slurred speech. I've never been so thankful that our church is blessed with so many nurses! When we finally ruled out sugar issues, one of the nurses agreed with me that she needed to head to the local CVS minute clinic and get her blood pressure checked. My friend told us it would no longer be low because we were all being a pain in the neck and driving it up. Being the kind, considerate person that I am, I told her we could also be a pain in the butt if we needed to be. Thankfully she laughed.

There's nothing I hate more than being sick and having an audience. I had a migraine once that triggered other problems and resulted in at rip to the ER. An extended family member came over to "help out" and I remember wishing she would just go away and let me throw up in peace. When she started talking about an ambulance (I was sick; not dying!), I really wanted her to leave.

I remember those feelings all too well. And so there's a part of me inside that always waffles about demanding someone see a doctor or seek treatment. And yet, there are times, like yesterday, when someone does not comprehend the seriousness of the situation. Did my friend know it wasn't her sugar? Yes. And we listened to her, even if we were still concerned. But she couldn't see her face, couldn't see the slurred speech and vacant eyes. We could. And as we saw the spark come back and the speech slowly improved, we could semi-relax. In moments like those, I'd rather be a pain and do the right thing for someone's health tha be overly sensitive to someone's feeling and wind up visiting the hospital or attending a funeral.

As my husband once told me early on in our marriage, compassion is not my spiritual gift. And that's okay. I'll gladly be a pain in the neck if it means helping someone out. :)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

politely rude

Monday night we attended a political function. I'm not a huge fan of political events. There always seems to be an excessive amount of posturing, extreme positions, and lots of bandwagoning. Political events in the rural areas are a little bit nicer as everyone talks to everyone, and people actually talk about things other than politics. Unfortunately, this one was in Raleigh.

Despite the location, most of the people were very friendly, even though neither Bobby nor I are adept at talking to strangers or working a crowd. The room was small (wheelchairs are a lot easier to manuever in open spaces) and people seemed to hover near the drinks, making it impossible to get to anything without interrupting a conversation (it was like watching one of those animals shows that sets up a camera near the watering hole), and I was more than a bit baffled when two of the classiest dressed ladies in the room, fixed their plates, then stood in the middle of the buffet line, one on each side, to eat and talk. I can honestly say I've never seen anything like it. Maybe they were trying to meet everyone, but I found it quite rude.

On the flip side, we did meet several people who were very nice, met one person I've had a lot of respect for (the pastor who kept his cool during the very heated amendment debate at Meredith College), and had the chance to chat with both the candidate and his wife. I know a lot of people would find it strange to type that. After all, isn't that what you go to a political event for - to meet the candidates? Yes and no. Usually you go to hear more than one talk (think a pep rally where all the coaches spout off their opinions), and often event at a "meet the candidate" event, outsiders seldom actually meet the candidate. I don't know if it's because we don't worry about being "in the know" with the right people, or if Bobby's chair make people uncomfortable, but often we're passed by or given a cursory glance. I guess that's one of these reasons I was so impressed with Gov. McCrory. On two seperate occasions (that were not meet-n-greet sessions), he went out of his way to talk with every single person in a wheelchair. One of those events was in inclement weather, and he sent his staff on inside to get out of the rain while he stayed behind to chat.  I probably should ask more questions about policies and such, but I find that people who treat my husband with the respect he deserves tend to treat their staffers and their constituents the same way. I think the way we treat other people reveals our character much more than our stated positions or theological viewpoints ever can.

And while there are two men running for Hagan's senate seat that I philosophically agree with, I was very impressed with Mark Harris and his willingness to small chat with a couple he didn't know, and didn't seem the least bit embarrassed to be seen talking to a man in a wheelchair. While we should expect that of a pastor, you'd be amazed at the number of pastors who are intimidated or uncomfortable doing that.

If there was any discomfort, it was on my part. While chatting with one of the organizers, he asked how we had heard about the event. When I told him it was via e-mail, he looked a little shocked. He then laughed and said, "E-mail.  Do you know, I checked my son's e-mail the other day and he had 652 messages?  I got on to him about it, and he laughed at me and said, "Dad, get with the program. No one uses e-mail. It's all social media."  And with that, our conversation was over. He made his way onto the next person, and I was left to muse how I can hear that from nieces and not be offended, but from a man my own age, it irritates me more than a little.  It shouldn't matter what forum communication is in, but people are important. Period. And yet, the man was not intending to be rude. He was polite, even if he was telling us we weren't up to speed and out of place.

I will never be a social butterfly, and that's okay. But I do hope I'm always gracious and kind. (And I do struggle with those two things.) Perhaps that was my reminder of the week to treat others the way I want to be treated, and to always be edifying with my speech. I guess that's a lesson for all of us.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

two up; one down

Earlier this fall I bought three books to give one of my nieces for Christmas. (Before you gasp in horror, this is for one of the nieces who enjoys reading as much as I do.) Two of the books were based on recommendations from World Magazine. One of them I haven't finished and I'm quite appalled by it (I won't be gifting it); the other, Letters to a Young Progressive, I actually enjoyed reading and am happy to gift it.

The third book I picked up out of curiosity in a Christian bookstore. A college friend of mine works in Afghanistan, and has for the last 13 or so years, and several of my high school classmates have spent time serving with our military in Afghanistan. Needless to say, their viewpoints and experiences are very different. It has taken me a while to work through the book, but In the Land of Blue Burqas has to be one of the best Christian non-fiction books I have read in a very long time. So many times I interrupted Bobby's reading to share a passage with him, and I have repeatedly found myself thinking on passages of Scripture and thinking back to George W. Bush's autobiography where he talked about how the Bible's influences on our society and our lives are profound. Reading this book has made me appreciate my faith on a deeper level, as well as forced a new appreciation for how dramatically worldviews alter society.

So if you're looking for a graduation gift next spring, especially if that graduate is heading toward a secular university, Letters to a Young Progressive, written by a M.Adams, a UNC-W professor, will make an awesome gift.  But if you're wanting to read to be enlightened, entertained, revived, and challenged, then I highly recommend Kate McCord (not her real name)'s In the Land of Blue Burqas. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

non-Mom status

The first time I worked with small kids, ever, was the summer after I turned 18. I volunteered to be an assistant to an older woman as she taught the 3&4 year olds for Vacation Bible School. I was excited. Monday rolled around, and about 2pm (VBS started at 6pm), Mom got a phone call that Mrs. Evie was sick, and I'd need to take the class. Her daughter was dropping all the supplies, ready to go, at the church and would have everything ready for me. Did I mention I had never really worked with small children before?

I had three 3year old boys, all by myself. After the night was over, I told my Mom how impossible it was to teach the lesson. They were ON the table, UNDER the table, sitting BACKWARDS in their chairs, EATING their crayons, coloring the TABLE, the CHAIR, and asking me five questions (and almost none of them related to the lesson) for every one sentence. In short, it was chaos. My Mom looked at me like I was crazy, and laughed. "Well, that's three year olds," she said. "You have to keep things short, active, and teach them what to do. They're learning." And the rest of the week, I watched Mrs. Evie in action, made mental notes, learned a LOT, and secretly wondered if those kids didn't have springs hidden in their shoes and bottoms.

Fast forward ten years, and I'm working with other women my age, all Moms, on a church Christmas play. We walk into the classroom (where shepherds are whacking each other upside the head with their crooks, slamming stuffed sheep at each other, as well as using them as projectiles) and a mother catches a flying stuffed sheep with one hand, grabs a crook with another, shakes her head and asks, "Whose dumb idea was this?"  All the Moms rolled their eyes, shook their heads, while I gingerly raised my hand. They all laughed, but I got the message, innocent though it might have been. A mother would have known better.

Fast forward another 10+ years to this past Sunday. The kids' Christmas program talked about cookies and hot chocolate, and at every practice my cast talked about how awesome it would be if they could have REAL cookies and hot chocolate to eat during the play OR to have a cast party after the play. Since our church has the play on Sunday morning, there was no way I was suggesting we have a junk food party AFTER church when they're supposed to be eating lunch, and there was no way I was going to organize lunch for 35 kids, plus parents and visiting grandparents, etc. After some discussion with Bobby, we (with some parents' help) threw a breakfast cast party BEFORE church. No cookies, but we did have hot chocolate (or hot cocoa, depending on what your family calls it), sausage balls, mini muffins, and mini chocolate and powdered donuts. (I learned my lesson about serving Krispy Kreme donuts to kids right before a play around the same time as paragraph number two...NOT a good idea.) By the time I got to church (late for adult choir practice, but still 20 minutes before the  kids were supposed to be there), I had a small bevy outside the classroom door ecstatic. I had left the unopened packages at the church the night before, and they had already seen some of what was in store and were STOKED. And of course the boys were delighted because a mother had already informed her daughter she was NOT to eat a powdered donut, and the little girl was confiding they were her favorite. I watched as Mom after Mom walked in with little girls decked out in super fancy dresses and saw the Mom's faces contort in horror that we were having powdered donuts and hot chocolate. Not one parent said a rude or derisive word, but deep down, I knew: A mom would have known better.

The good thing? After 20+ years, I could actually laugh a little about it Sunday morning, and make a mental note (powdered donuts for active events, not dress-up events). The four summers we served as host parents to three foster children from Belarus were eye-opening, life changers for me. I grew to understand and appreciate a small bit of what my Mom friends face on a daily basis. I gained a small sliver of knowledge in how to better pray for my friends, of the emotional and mental toil that being a Mom takes. And yet, there are things that I will never grasp, will never fully understand, and I'm slowly coming to grips with that, and that it's okay. Those four summers made a small bridge between the uphill pastures we females all walk. I can never enter into their pastures, nor they into mine, but we can now meet on the bridge that spans the stream separating our lives. I can hear their burdens and understand a little bit, not just observe them from a distance with a slanted perspective.

That was one of the mental images I had in mind when I started this blog several years ago. That's why my blog site address is burdenbearer: I listen to the burdens my friends carry and try to help, though never fully understanding because my burdens are so very different. And I don't mean burden in a negative way; it's more the literature connotation of one's lot in life. I always thought I would explain the title, but it never seemed appropriate, until now.

So the next time a friend needs me to help carry a load, I'll gladly come and enjoy a chance to be with a little one. And now I'll know to bring powdered donuts. :)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas book #3

Another book I read several years ago, but it's also one of those books that never quite leaves you. Grisham's main characters attempt to do what so many of us adults have longed to do at one point or another: skip Christmas. The whole book is hysterically funny, and the ending is pathetic and yet heartwarming, but it also made me evaluate how pointless so many of our the holiday traditions truly are. Ever since reading this book, it's made me want to boycott the things that aren't truly important (and several of those things I can't because those traditions are so important to other family members), and yet has also helped me realize that I too have traditions that are sentimental to me but have no intrinsic value.  If you're looking for a fun read, like the Best Christmas Pageant Ever, this is one that will have you laughing out loud, and yet thinking about its contents for weeks afterward.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Christmas book #2

Singer's book is different from most run-of-the mill Christian books. While a work of fiction, it addresses some of the political issues surrounding the holidays, but has a very unexpected ending. Some of the stereotypes in the characters bothered me early in the book, but as the story unfolded, I had to admit that I could identify several people who could adequately be the person the story's character was based upon. (So maybe it's not so much stereotyped after all!)
This book is one that leaves you thinking and pondering many issues, from the fine line between freedom of religion and government-sanctioned religion to the age-old debate of when to obey government or what prinicples and doctrines are truly worth fighting about. This book would be an awesome read for any group that loves intense discussions.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas book #1

I read this book as a teenager, and I have read it several times since then. It is, in my not-so-humble opinion, one of the best Christmas books on the market. I like this story so much that I even considered its play version as a script for a Christmas play at church. After reading the copyright requirements of the play, I decided it wasn't the best match for our church. But that doesn't stop me from ranking this as my all-time favorite Christmas book, and I think it should be a must read for anyone who teaches Sunday school.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

a good kind of crazy

Wednesday night we took an internet sabbatical as I began sanding down the floors in the study (meaning we couldn't get to the computer), restaining the wood, and then putting on a sealer. (It was quite funny being in Lowe's on Black Friday purchasing polyerathaune and Liquid Plummer while everyone was buying gifts and Christmas decorations.) This morning we headed to Staples to see about getting a rubber mat to place under the plastic floor cover we had (the plastic allowed dirt to get underneath and simply ground it in the floor), but they only had door mat type things. The salesman suggested getting expensive shelf liner to try, but Bobby decided we'd go with the doormat instead. I'm pleased with the space it covers, and if we can get one end to finish uncurling, I think (hope) we're going to be very happy with it. My goal is to sweep/vaccumm there every night (or at least every other morning?) in hopes of keep the floor in a better condition. But judging by the amount of wheel tracks on the rug already (as opposed to lining the edge of the plastic floor protector), I think we may have made a very wise choice.

AND we learned that they now make stain wipes. :) Think baby wipes coated in wood stain. I tried one last night in our bedroom on a section where the shower chair rubs the the stain away, and the color not only matched perfectly, but it also went on easily and was dry by this morning. We're hoping to do the other two spots tonight and Monday morning. (We have to work around usage times in those areas!)  For a small spot, this was definitely the way to go. SOOOO much easier than messing with a can, brush, and wipe rags!

I know this isn't how most people spend the holidays, but for us, it was perfect timing to do a job that sorely needed to be done. I didn't think to take before pictures (but just imagine a circle in front of the desk where my chair, his chair had worn through the varnish and into the wood, as well as pock marks), but if I can get my camera batteries charged I'll try to take after pictures. It made for a crazy few days, but it was well worth it!  And to top it off, Bobby got his Christmas present early, and we now have a wireless router in the house. :) I still don't have everything set up, but we're getting there!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


A few days ago one of my aunts posted something on Facebook about how holidays were very hard times for many people, and we didn't need to forget about those people. And as I thought about the struggles they were facing (she's out of work due to health issues and working on getting disability, Uncle Don lost his job at the mines, her daughter has been diagnosed with MS, four years ago at this time her mother was murdered by a nephew on drugs, etc) I couldn't help but think about the number of people who are grieving during this holiday season when everyone around them is rejoicing.

I have so much to be thankful for. I have been blessed in so many ways. And yet I recognize there are those, while just as blessed and loved by God, are deeply hurting when everyone around them is festive and ecstatic.

A friend of mine recently wrote a post on that subject: When Sorrow Begets Gratitude. A young girl left a comment, stating how she found nothing to be grateful for in the unexpected death of her brother. And I think that's the rub. So often the pain overrides the joy, the hurt is so great that we only see the dark forrest surrounding us instead of the beauty of each indvidual tree. Some of those hurts take time to heal. We don't use our broken bones until they're mended, and a broken heart is not that much different.

We're called to weep with those who are weeping. That's not always easy to do. But I am thankful that Christ said his very purpose in coming was to help those who are hurting. And while I rejoice in that this morning, I'm also petitioning for those who feel as if help and comfort are very far away. I'm praying that as their minds and hearts calculate the hurts in their hearts, that God's Spirit will comfort, and help them to remember and count the blessings, however small they may be, that they will have small glimmers of hope to grab onto, that even if the blessings don't currently outweigh the bad, that they'll at least be enough to stop the tears and give a pause to the crushing anguish.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Most Saturdays we get a 15-30 minute from two of our great-nephews. They're about 3 and 4. Today they "discovered" the telephone (yes, we still have a land line) that is in plain sight on the kitchen bar. They've walked by it multiple times, but maybe it was too close but yet still too high from their eye level. But for whatever reason, they saw it today, were greatly puzzled, and wanted to know "What is that?"

Within five minutes of that conversation, the telephone rang, which it has never done in their presence before. Their eyes got very big, and widened even larger when I picked up the receiver and said "hello."  And then things got a little interesting. It was for Bobby, who had been playing in the toy room and was trapped there by all the toys scattered around his chair. I asked our pastor to wait a minute, told the four year old "Do NOT touch that" and left the room knowing he most likely would. Within the few seconds it took to scoot toys and Bobby to head toward another room, they not only had the phone, but were talking to our pastor and HUNG UP! For some bizarre reason, he stayed on the phone a few more seconds and it didn't disconnect. Thankfully!

So then they headed to the study where Bobby was, and I could hear the questions: Is that a phone, too? Are you talking to someone Uncle Bobby? and I'm in the other room trying not to laugh. I finally corralled them back into the living room, but I fear our playtime got a little loud, making it next to impossible to hear. But they walked by both phones a few times the rest of the time with their little heads cocked to the side, as if trying to figure out this strange contraption that had a funny coiled tube attached to it. I had never really considered the fact that our landline phones are obsolete and a bizarre antique to today's young kids.

It's official. I am ancient and I'm not quite 41 yet. (And I can smile while typing that!)

Friday, November 22, 2013

not quite an epic failure

I ventured out on a limb this afternoon and tried to make fudge for tomorrow's now-not coming company. I've never been very successful with fudge. Today's batch was one of the two I've made that solidified correctly (it didn't break the bowl and it's not too soft).
But it's still not Aunt Pat's fudge. Every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, Aunt Pat made fudge with walnuts. I love my Mom and Aunt Linda, but nothing held a candle to Aunt Pat's fudge. It was heavenly.
She died during my second year overseas, and I miss her hugs and smile and...yes...her fudge. It seems so trivial, but it's always like there's a tiny something missing. 
But I do have her recipe now, so hopefully in a few weeks I will bravely stand in front of the stove and attempt yet again one of the foods that my memory holds high on a pedestal.
Meanwhile, I've still got a little cleaning left to do.

Monday, November 4, 2013

my cup overflows

Tuesday is election day for Wake County.  Even though two of my precincts will be closed tomorrow (only my Garner city residents are voting, what we'd call "Garner proper" back home), I'm still very thankful to work with a group of people who care about the voting process and are willing to put aside party differences and opinions for a day and a half to ensure who have a totally fair election.  While I'm not crazy about the long hours (we get up at 4am so I can head out the door 6am and I won't be home until around 9pm tomorrow night, provided we don't head to Waffle House for supper then), it is nice being able to work four times a year at something I think is important AND get paid for it.

Monday marked the day that 15 years ago a certain someone asked me to marry him.  And I must say, Part III of this life has been quite wonderful. I love and appreciate him more now than I did then, and I would have never dreamed that was possible.

And...I love my church family. We are a family. We're not perfect, we don't always see eye to eye or like everything each other does, but we ARE family. These last two weeks I've been amazed and awed at how well we work as a body, how people are gladly willing to pitch in and do things when and as they can, from the youngest to the oldest. And the most awesome thing?  We can only do that because of the One who has changed us by His love.

I'm still in shock that it's November, so I haven't started my thankful list, though I have thought about it. Maybe one day this week I'll get around to posting it on the side of my blog. But until then, I hope you're rejoicing with me in the One whose "mercies endure forever."

Happy Tuesday/election day!


Not too long ago I learned about this thing called miniature cows.  I've teased Bobby that if he wants cows, then that's what we'll get. The reality is, the last thing I need or want is something else to take care of, and I do think he's right that the cost of the animal upkeep probably would cost more than you'd make in sale price. But we got to see some of the miniature Herefords during the competitions at the state fair.
 The above photo is of a Momma cow. The girl was having a very hard time getting it to go where she needed it to be (the cow wanted its calf and OUT of the ring!) and the judge behind her had to give her a hand.  I have a hard enough time maneuvering Buster's 57 pounds. I can't imagine having to herd or corral an animal that weighed 250. (And if you've never been around real cows, this full grown miniature heifer is 1/2 of the size of what a normal cow would be.) I think miniature's grow to be about 36" tall.
 This is a calf. Don't you just love their size?
 The judge walking among the calves, checking out their legs and body formation.
And the pair division, where you had both the Momma and the calf up for judging.
It seems like the first time I read about miniature cows they said they give about 1/4 of the meat of a normal cow. But I would think they wouldn't eat as much as a normal cow, either. Of course, you still have to pay for fencing, a barn, medicine, etc. I'm thinking a field trip to a farm in Wake Forrest is a good idea, at least just to see how much work is involved.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

our new excitement

When my sister-in-law was in high school, a boy once commented that the most exciting thing happening at Susan's house was when the family went to the porch to watch turtles cross the road. While my in-laws have never watched turtles cross the road, it's true there's not a lot of city excitement happening in or around the farm.

Our latest entertainment at our house has been: squirrels. Buster has finally discovered them, and at least once a day we see him freeze, creep forward like a cat, and then breaks into one of his "you're going to die because I'm throwing all 57 pounds of me in your direction at 150 mph" runs. The squirrels have learned to look before leaping, and flatten themselves against the ground even if they don't see anything around. But if they see him, it's an all out race.  Today Buster tried a new move and cut one off as it reached the pine trees by the pond. Except pine straw and screeching stops don't work too well, so he went sliding as the squirrel went around the opposite side of the tree and up. And then he does what any good dog does: he marks every single tree the squirrel visited. I'm thinking I may need to wash all the pecans before I start shelling this year.

I don't have time to download/upload pictures this morning, but maybe tomorrow I can actually saw you his "prize" that he shared with us from the one race he did win. :/ 

Happy Free Candy Day! :)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

difference of opinion

A few weeks ago the News and Observer ran an article by a designer about the proper way to decorate your bookcases.  Included were two pictures, a before and after, (I think on the web you have to click on a thumbnail to get the before shot), and I like the BEFORE picture better.  Maybe that says I don't have good taste, but I just think that picture looks overdone and cluttered. That big vase on the right side? It's too big to be up there. It's almost touching the ceiling. And that picture from straddling the two cases? That's a collapse waiting to happen the first time a person starts to exercise or a wheelchair drives by at 45mph trying to get to the phone. And that bust sticking out in front? That belongs between the bookcase and the wall, and those pictures on the floor need to be hung somewhere or stashed inside a shelf. I put things on the floor because I don't have time to get to them. Trust me. That's not an artistic statement.

Granted, I don't think the before picture looks great. It does look bare. And I'm not opposed to have momentos or gadgets on a bookshelf. I have stuffed animals and ceramics and super cool bookends on ours (and for the record, our bookshelves in one room looked very cluttered because of too many books and need of cleaning time, but that's a different matter all together). I totally agree with the concept that it's okay to put other things besides books on a bookshelf, and decorative things give a focal point. But this designer went over the top the other way. She has more decorative stuff with books added to them, and there's no symmetry or unity (other than popping whiteness) in anything she's done.

And yes, a month later, this article still rankles. So maybe I'm boring. Maybe I'm too simplistic. But I'd choose that first before photo any day (except I would slide my books to the ends of the shelves and not leave them smack dab in the center). But I suppose at the end of the day, that's what makes a person's home theirs: they can organize the bookshelves however they desire.

Monday, October 28, 2013

unexpected blessing

I expect kids to act like kids. There will be times when they get upset, have hurt feelings, don't want to participate, argue over who is going to sit where. They are people, just with pint-sized problems, though to them those problems are bigger than the world.

But there are times when something happens, and it almost takes my breath away.

Last night as the kids were practicing Christmas music before church, we were in a different seating arrangment (again). One of my little precious ones was most concerned that we weren't going to have enough chairs. There's at least one natural administrator in every group; they worry about the schedule, what we're doing next, and then after that, and will next Sunday be the same format, and with a suggestion or two about how they would organize things. :) (Yes, children after my own heart!) So as I'm trying to assure my precious worry-wort that we still have three empty chairs and there are more stacked in the corner that we can pull out if we need them, we resume practice. And in the midst of a key change and reminding them of the words and missing a few notes on the piano, four more walk in the room. Without missing a beat, two boys from the 1st-3rd class jump up and start working together to unstack chairs. Then one of my smiley, wiggly 4th-6th grade boys gets up, and helps them out. Yes, my heart swelled, in a good way.

There's nothing that thrills me more than for any of our youngsters to rise to the occasion and show compassion, servanthood leadership, and wisdom. I saw it many years ago in the class we just promoted to the teen group, and I was excited to see a new group of little leaders stepping into place. Wes Mincy, Josh McLean and Jessica Reese will always have a very special place in my heart, but Gabe Ansley, Brandon Wells, and Jacob McLean just made them scoot over a little bit. In one swoop and silent action, three little boys reminded me that people and their feelings are more important than any job I could ever do. Teaching and playing with the kids always blesses and teaches me in ways I never dream, but when something springs forth naturally, I get a whiff of that sweet smell God smells when his children please him. And it's pleasing indeed.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Last Thanksgiving my 9 year old niece introduced me to a catapault game on her Mom's ipad. It was quite intriguing, and a bit fun, though I had to ask for help quite a bit. When we went home later in January, they (my niece and nephew) were flabbergasted that I didn't get an ipad for Christmas "because I needed one so I could play that rock game".  This weekend while driving the 2 hours from my parents' house to the Huntsville area for the wedding, my niece again had the ipad, and taught me how to play Angry Birds, as well as showing me a few of her many other games. She still doesn't understand why I don't have an ipad.

The reality is, I don't see a need for one at this point.  Other than the two cool games she has on her computer, I can't sense that my life would be all that more advanced by yet another gadget to keep charged or keep up with. And the reality is, I don't have time to get hooked on any more games. I tend to keep myself busier than I need to be.

And the same goes for an iphone. I seldom text, and we tend to use our cell phones just for emergencies or when traveling. I can't see all the advantages on paying so much more for a smart phone when my "dumb phone" (as my nephew calls it) does everything I need it to do. There may come a day when I get one and wonder how on earth I ever lived without it. But I'm trying to simplify my life, not add more gadgets to it (which seems to be difficult in this day and age).

Maybe I've officially crossed the threshold into "old age".  Last summer when I responded to my nephew's question of "Why don't you have a flat screen TV?" with "Because this one still works fine." he didn't even bat an eye. It was almost like he expected that answer.

I really don't have an aversion to these luxury items. Sometimes we do talk about getting one or two items, but the reality is, at this point we neither need nor desire them. I'd much rather spend that money on a two or three day vacation or keep my $15 a month cell phone bill and spend the remainder of that excess on something fun or needed.

A kindle on the other hand...considering all the books we have on hand (and I'm frantically trying to read and sort into keep/toss piles), that might actually become a necessity. You know, they save space. ;)  That might not remain a luxury item.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

strange tastes

Yesterday at the fair they were advertising the Krispy Kreme cheeseburgers in several different places. Evidently the new thing this year is bacon added. My mind still refuses to even attempt to wrap itself around the concept of two distinct flavors merging into one. I know longer feel my stomach tighten when I see it or hear it, but it still has no appeal to me. So imagine my surprise when I scrolled through my blog reader, only to see that one of the recipe blogs has this listed as their recipe of the day. These twins normally post things like soups, healthy stuff, cakes, gourmet breads, etc. So it was quite a bit out of their normal category.  But I still have no desire to try it, whether I make it myself or pay an astronomical amount at the fair.

But I did eat something tonight that twenty years ago I thought was disgusting. One of my healthy-eating friends did something unthinkable that evening...she smeared peanut butter on top of her apple slice. She offered me a bite, which I refused (politely, I hope!).  Several years later I tried it, and it wasn't much to my liking. But for some reason this year I tried it again. Maybe it was listening to Dad talk about his doctor telling him two graham crackers with peanut butter was the perfect mid-day snack for a diabetic; maybe it was the hunger I always feel when I start trying to eat healthy again and a plain apple not appearing too appealing. Whatever it was, I tried it again and actually liked it.

Tonight I did the unthinkable. For once, my husband actually said YES when I suggested we stop and get ice cream on the way home from church, and I sighed and said "Or we can be healthy and go home and eat an apple with peanut butter."  (Yes, I definitely need my head examined!)  He thought that was the craziest thing he'd ever heard, so we came home and he had his first taste it. I don't think he was all that impressed, but he did ask for a second bite a few minutes later. So it must not have been too bad.

I don't think I'll every try a donut cheeseburger. I prefer to keep those two tastes separate. But if you ever need something to dress up an apple and you don't want a sugary caramel sauce, peanut butter makes a great substitute.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

and the fair starts today!

This is it! The front of my first ever NC State Fair Quilt!
I was SO excited the week before I started sewing through the sky panels to find Bernina World of Sewing sold material that transitioned from dark to light. (They also have it green and yellow and oranges..sound like a cool way to make a quilt that looks like crayons!)
So if you go to the fair, which starts today, now you know what to look for! :)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

medical overload

This past week my Dad has several strange "episodes" that prompted in a visit to the doctor. There's a large possibility that the arthritis in his shoulder has spread to the chest (which other than pain would actually be a good thing). He's waiting to be scheduled for a stress test and is still experiencing rapid heart rates in the meantime.

His only living sister, my Aunt Pat, will be seeing a pulmonary dr tomorrow around noon to discuss a mass in her lung and other issues.

The wedding we're going to this weekend? The bride's grandmother (my aunt and my Mom's only sister) had a heart procedure today. After being at the hospital for 12 hours, they are now leaving, knowing that she has 6 blockages, two of them at 90%, and will have a bypass Monday morning. At this point it's anyone's guess whether or not she'll feel up to attending the wedding. Meanwhile her daughter is having health issues, as is her son-in-law and other granddaughter.

My cousin Rachel got AWESOME news today when her surgeon told her he never wanted to see her again and her oncologist said no more visits for four months. She now officially has her UAB "Breast Cancer Survivor" certificate (yes, the nurses actually gave her one), though she still has a some surgeries ahead of her.

And I spent the day at the hospital with my friend Mary. Her procedure went well, she received some news she didn't want to hear, but also some good news and some okay news. I'm praying she won't be as sore tomorrow as the doctor feared.

My husband spend the morning at the eye doctor with my mother-in-law, who is being treated with shots to the eyeball for macular degeneration.

I think we've hit our quota on medical stuff. And I didn't even list many of my church friends and family who are hurting/suffering.  I'm resting tonight in the fact that we know the Great Physician. His healing may not come in the form we want or the time frame we want, but I can rest assured in His competence. And that is comforting indeed.

Monday, October 14, 2013

on this Monday...

My cousin gets married this weekend! It still seems like yesterday I was waiting to hear the news that she was safely born and her Mom (who is my first cousin and 2 months older than me) was doing well. I'm happy and excited for her, though it does seem strange to watch this generation transition into adulthood.

Sometimes I think one of the downsides to being childless is that time slips away faster. Our lives are marked by the seasons and gardening/animal responsibilities, which simply rotate, and not by the changes of sports categories and divisions and homework levels. I think as you live the growth of the child, the passage of time seems a little more real (or surreal) than just merely observing from the sidelines. Though I'm certain if I called her parents today, they would be wondering where time has gone as well.

This isn't turning out to be the trip I had hoped. I had thought with Bobby retired we would be able to take some extra time and do some sight-seeing in Northern Alabama and maybe visit his sister, but it's not working out that way. And that's actually okay. I'll enjoy the time I do have with family (even if my 10 year old niece is bemoaning my arrival a few days early...she'll have to clean her room!) and we're hoping we might even get to see my nephew play in a basketball game.

So on today's agenda is finishing a cowgirl costume for my niece, wrapping Mom's birthday present (which I'll miss yet again next month) and a wedding present, tackling laundry, and repairing netting on the chicken pen. It's going to be a very full and busy week, but one that I'm looking forward to very, very much.

Friday, October 11, 2013

gross alert

I know most of you prefer a heads up whenever I post something gross, so consider this your warning. Buster's bite marks are healing. They've quit sagging and have healed enough that we've let him back out in the yard.

Obviously there's negatives whenever something(s) come in your yard and destroy half your flock and attack your dog, but there's been a few positives, too. Buster is still skittish about things, but he has become very much an alert guard dog. The smallest change in our neighborhood brings about excessive barking and growling, and we've seen his hair go up on end more times than we care to see. Last night he barked for an hour, and we could never find or see anything. This morning he barked at a van parked outside the neighbor's gate, and barked for another five minutes as it went up to the house (a repairman). He's quit barking, but he's still watching. And when a friend brought their tiny dog to the house, Buster was most unhappy, even when they finally put their dog back in their truck. I hate that he's scared and suspicious of everything, but I'm also thankful he's alerting us now anytime there's something out of the ordinary taking place.

Now to just put the pen back in some semblance of order!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

happy, happy, happy!

I told Bobby I felt like the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and it was time to start dancing.
He reminded me that it was overcast, the only birds we'd seen were crows in the pecan trees, and he'd never felt like breaking out dancing, even before his wheelchair days.
But that's okay, honey. I've got enough excitement for the two of us. :)

This afternoon, I made a delivery to the Education Building at the NC State Fair.

The idea started three years ago when I saw this newly released fabric and made fun of it on Facebook.

A friend (Carroll Burt) dared me to buy some and make a quilt with it. She said I could display it at the fair. I laughingly declined. But then Bernina World of Sewing sponsored a bus trip to a huge quilt fair in Virginia, and I went. THREE different vendors had almost all of the animals in the Backyard Bandits series. Did I mention we rode a bus there, and had at least five hours to browse/shop?

And I started this quilt, and gave up. Too many mistakes, too many quilting things I simply didn't know. It sat halfway finished in a rocking chair.

And then in January, my sewing machine died (during a quilting class of all things). And thanks to Wish Upon A Quilt loaning me a machine to finish the class, I was hooked. Imagine my surprise when a month later they had a sale and my dearest husband said YES!  I finished the above quilt on my Janome machine, and seeing all the crazy animals and thinking about Carol's dare got my creative juices flowing again. After I finished the senior quilts in May, I scheemed and thought and planned, and had my husband help me with my math and double check everything, and we created our own pattern. :) (As opposed to "Seiko's Garden", the pattern above, which I still love.)

So in June of this year, I started "Front Porch View".  It's actually the animals I see out our BACK porch windows, but Front Porch just sounded better.

When I dropped off the quilt to be tagged this morning, the women were more excited about the back than they were the front. I think they were having the same reaction to the front fabric as I did the first time I saw it.

But I'm not going to post the front of the quilt until the fair actually starts on the 17th. But I will post it then, just so you'll know what to look for when you go. :)  It's not fancy. It's not the prettiest quilting in the world (it's wild animal tracks!). But it's mine and I've been working on it for four and a half months now and it's FINISHED!

And to think it all started because of an advertisement for 'possum fabric.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

something is wrong with this picture

Today was Buster's follow-up appointment at the vet.
He's feeling a lot better, meaning he's sitting and laying down without too much protest, and last night he even pawed/grabbed at my feet when I tried to come inside. A BIG change from 6 nights ago when he refused to lay down and whimpered all night.
I'm thankful he's feeling better.
But in the process of taking him to get his open wounds checked, I was scratched in three places, while at the vet trying to hold him he threw his head back into my nose (which is still throbbing an hour later), and then he peed on me before we left. Nice doggy.
It wasn't the same doctor we saw Monday, and he had a different take on the quarantine/rabies possibility issue. All said and done, we may be taking down his prison gates this evening.
Now if we can just survive ten more days of trying to get his meds in him, I can relax.
This whole ordeal has been absolutely crazy.

Friday, October 4, 2013

steady rains

...for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. ~ Matthew 5:45

The last two weeks I have been very bothered/baffled/flabbergasted/disgusted by the amount of postings and comments I've seen on social media from other Christians. Enough so that I've seriously considering taking a fast from Facebook and Twitter just to keep my head in place.  I don't want to be a friend of Job and start telling them how wrong their theology is when they're down and out. But I also don't like having such insane thoughts running around in my head all day. 

Example A: My sister is very sick from the chemo and is already losing her hair after the second treatment, but we know she is going to overcome this because she is a dedicated Christian. 
Say WHAT? Where do people get the idea that just because we are saved we are protected from dying? Yes, there are stories in the Bible where God grants people more time (or even brought Lazarus back from the dead), but there are many more stories where God in His sovereignty chose to deliver from earth's chains by death.

Example B: Psychiatry is fake medicine. People need to recognize that Jesus is the only answer.

This one is not a direct quote, but I saw it from several people, expressed in many ways, after the Navy Yard shooting. And I always wonder if that person goes to the doctor for an infection and accepts the meds offered without having bloodwork done. If so, they're treating actual symptoms and not a "real" disease, just what they doctor assumes they have. And contrary to what people think they know, psychiatrists actually have medical degrees, actually do bloodwork on their patients, require brain scans, as well as clinical evaluations and counseling sessions.

Until one has personally witnessed how mental illness destroys families, even Christian families, a person will never understand how devastating this is. I can't tell you how many suicides have happened because:
a) they didn't believe they had a mental illness because that can't happen to Christians,
b) a pastor tried Biblical counseling before finally recognizing he was dealing with something medical and not spiritual and that in the process had endangered that entire family,
c)shunning/lack of support from the church family.

I personally know of three very solid Christians who suffered with mental illness to the point they took their lives. And a nearby town, Clayton, had a man, a Christian who attended a conservative, Bible-believing church, who quit taking his meds because he was dealing with his illness via prayer and Bible study. His family in CA had not heard from him in several years. He married here, had a child, and when that child was several years old, he brutally murdered her. A Christian SBI agent said it was one of the most horrific and disturbing crime scenes he had ever investigated. The father told the agents "the voices in my head told me to". 

My husband, after his car wreck that left him paralyzed, had a few people who actually told him they knew God would heal him because he was a "true Christian".  When God chose to not physically heal Bobby, they cut him off. Obviously, he didn't have enough faith. I clump those families in the same category as people who do not believe Christians cannot have mental illnesses. They mean well, but their theology is out-of-whack and off-base.

And when I read these posts, I have a roller coaster of emotions. Sometimes I get angry. Other times, I fight the memories and tears all day long. A few days it prompts me to pray for friends and family members. But it also takes me back to the Word. I think of the Hebrew boys and their words to the king, that God would deliver them, but if He chose not to, he was still the greatest God. And of Job in midst of his trials, "Even if He slays me..."  Even if no one understands and makes mocking and hurtful comments, even if I have to take that midnight phone call to pray with a relative as they bear the anguish that never ends of yet another relative valiantly fighting mental illness, of their child not knowing when they walk in the door from school whether or not Mom will have a gun to their head that day or will be singing praise songs, or that the cancer has spread, EVEN IF...it doesn't mean God's love for me is any less, His plan for me subpar, or my faith has floundered. It simply means I have an unseen hand guiding me through it all.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

If I only had garage doors....

Sunday there was the tiniest of blurbs in the paper about a German company that makes garage door covers. I had seen a few of these online a few years ago and found them hysterical. Not only does this company sell garage door covers, but they also sell door coverings and fake window decals/wall art as well. One day when I have money to spend and have garage doors, I am so going to do this.

If you have 15-20 minutes to spare one day and want some laughs, check this site out! :)

Monday, September 30, 2013

high alert

Last night I pulled in the driveway after church and saw a pile of feathers outside the small hen house. NOT a good sign. And the more I looked, the worse it got. Most of the carnage was outside the dog's fence line, but there was one bird inside the fence line, which made me yell at him. Of course, he brought the dead chicken to me. I could only see the bantam rooster and three hens inside the large hen house, so I thought we'd had lost 2/3 of the flock. Once I realized the fence was still working, I knew there was no way Buster could have killed them.

This morning, the main rooster and two white hens showed up, so we only lost 1/2 of the birds. The big rooster is hurt, but I think he'll heal.

What we didn't realize until this morning is that Buster is hurt.

After a visit the vet, I got to spend the afternoon taking apart his pen and closing off the back porch, as he is now in quarantine there for the next 9 days. We return to the vet Saturday to see how his bite wounds are healing. Evidently he jumped on top of/or cornered one of the animals (the vet seems to think it was a pack of dogs), as all his injuries are underneath him.

He's still scared, a little skittish of people, and for Buster, is calm. We'll see how things go in the morning when I have to wash his wounds.

This was not how I planned to spend my day, but I'm thankful Bobby is retired now and was able to drive us to the vet (I don't think Buster could have climbed up in my car) and did a morning inspection of the carnage so I knew whether or not my night-time assessment was correct. Thankfully there wasn't too many surprises in store for us.

I guess the rest of this week I'll be working on re-inforcing the hen house. On days like this, I'm don't think animals are worth the trouble and heartache.

OH...and after four days of no phone service and internet (thank you DOT mowers for cutting the weeds/trees on the side of the road, but must you always mow down the phone boxes on our road?), we finally had service returned a little before 7pm tonight. That was a very positive note to end on.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

tick, tick, tick

One week from tomorrow.
Five blocks, a border, and the binding.
Eight days.
Five days, if I take into consideration a friend is coming over to teach me how to do binding the right way next Tuesday.
I've watched the youtube videos. I've had a friend show me how before. But my binding corners still come out crooked.
And I'm starting to get very, very nervous.
I know I'm not an expert quilter. I know every spot of my quilt that will cause a quilter's eyebrows to gather or spike. And I'm okay with that. I am still a beginner, after all.
I just want this quilt to be done, satisfactory (is satisfactorily a word? It doesn't sound right.), and safely delivered the day after elections are over.
Then I can breathe. I can rest, knowing that this challenge from a friend and to myself are over.
I will tell this voice in the back of my head to SHUT UP!
I am not even going to think about a quilt for next year's fair, even if I did go and photograph my okra plants last week with a crazy idea for a state fair quilt.
Now I just have to decide whether or not to post a picture of the quilt before it is finished, or wait until it's actually hanging up at the fair. (Provided they deem it show-worthy!)
Even more to the moment, I need to decide whether to quilt a full moon or crescent moon on one of the last five blocks. I think I've already figured out the sun.
I can see the finish line!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

heat frenzied thoughts

There's nothing like feeling hot while cutting grass, especially while weed-eating or using a push mower. All kinds of crazy thoughts run through your mind, like downsizing to a house with a tiny yard, a town home that only has enough room in the yard for a tiny "city" garden (what my Mom in law calls container gardening) and a patio, or an apartment complex that's super nice and has its own laundromat and swimming pool, both indoor and outdoors. 

Don't get me wrong. I love our fruit and nut trees, our garden, our chickens and pond (and sometimes I even love my crazy dog). But when I'm hot and tired and the work seems endless, it can be more than a bit overwhelming. And during these times, thoughts of adding another animal or produce/fruit bearing thing is paramount with insanity.

And as each year passes, I'm slowly starting to comprehend with a small ounce of compassion the old people who mourn on television that they've lost everything they've ever worked for. When you sweat and bleed, fuss and fume over your house and yard for twenty plus years, the phrase "I've invested my whole life in it" makes a little more sense.  I still think it's wrong to have your heart so heavily invested in material objects that you're in the depth of despair should you lose them, but it would seem like a lot of work done for nothing should we suddenly move or lose the property.

And with that said, I'm headed back outside to cut grass.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Last night I closed up the hen houses as it was getting dark, grabbed the eggs, and immediately felt something squishy. I looked to make sure there wasn't a frog or something in the nesting box. Nope. It was an egg...without a shell. If you can see the egg on the right (with the dirt), that's the egg that has a shell-less membrane. So I've been online trying to figure out a) why and b) what to do about it.
We've had this happen once before, and the problem seemed to take care of itself. I'm hoping that will be the case this time, but if we get another one in the next few days I'll have to start adjusting their feed.  On the upside, our egg count was up today, which was very good indeed.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Step One: Wash the grapes and pull off any remaining stems.

Step Two: 5 cups of grapes to 1.5 cups of water. Simmer.

Step Three: Smush their guts out and strain into a jar.

 Which leaves you with juice.

Step Four: Dump the guts.

Step Five: Make jelly.

Monday, September 9, 2013

up and running

This was supposed to be my slow and quiet week where I happily worked on a quilt to submit to the State Fair. Have you ever noticed how "supposed to be" almost never happens? And I'm actually okay with that. I can type that now at 10:39am on a Monday morning. By 9pm Saturday night of this same week I might not be so optimistic.

So if I don't find thirty minutes in my schedule this week to download/upload photos and write, here's what I WOULD write about (just in case I don't make it back to my "calm" spot).

Monday - grapes & the jelly making process
Tuesday - pawpaw trees and my dumb dog
Wednesday - yardwork
Thursday - Syria
Friday - I'm officially an old fogey - my disgust with feminism's new definition of rape

Meanwhile I'm trying to get some housework done before heading into Raleigh for an afternoon of elections training. I'm not ready for it be this time of year again, but it's here, with October's municipal elections around the corner. Could 2013 slow down just a little bit please?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


I married into a farming family. My father-in-law was a firm believer that if you were going to plant something in your yard, it better be practical (i.e. food producing). When we got married, he gifted our yard with six pecan trees. When we planted apples trees and pear trees (though one turned out to be ornamental), he nodded his approval. After we planted an oak, maple, and sycamore, he scowled and asked me if I was trying to be in Better Homes & Garden magazine. When I laughed and told him no, I just wanted a few shade trees without fruit or nuts under them, he smiled and said "That's good, then."

A few years ago we planted different flowering trees and shrubs along one of our property lines. My husband laughingly asked me how many of them were going to be edible. After they were planted, my brother-in-law asked the same thing. At my laughing answer of "none", he smiled and shook his head and said "Daddy wouldn't approve."  Several of those plants didn't survive. This weekend we replaced five of the eight that needed replacing: two flowering bushes, two blueberry bushes, and one fig tree. I guess we should have planted food-producing stuff all along.

We still have an apple tree to replace this fall.  I joked about getting one while we were at the farmer's market getting everything else, but the tree was quite tall and realistically wouldn't fit in Bobby's van. Maybe one day this week I can borrow a pickup and go back and get it. And the idea of getting two pawpaw trees is still floating around in the back of my head.

Having all this planted means more to cut around, but I think in a few years we're going to be very happy with the result. I've mulched the plants twice in the last year and a half, but putting mulch out is the same as telling the chickens "Here's a treat! Come and scratch through it and make a mess!" because that's what they do every single time. I would love to have a stone wall about hip high that runs about 2-3 ft behind all the plants, but that's not in our budget. If it weren't for the cement and digging a trench and leveling it with sand before starting the wall, I think that would be a project I'd tackle myself. But something about the thought of working with cement stops me short (which is probably a good thing).

So here's to hoping that in another year I can post a picture of nice-looking trees and shrubs!

Monday, September 2, 2013


Eight years ago I signed my life away and had two five minute surgeries that radically changed my life. Even though I could see almost perfectly the moment I opened my eyes in the morning, it still took a year to overcome the 24 year habit of reaching for my glasses first thing in the morning. The doctors told me before and after the procedure that at some point in my forties I would need reading glasses, and if I wanted to, they could then re-do the procedure on one eye so I could use that eye as reading glasses. That thought did not appeal to me then, and still doesn't now.

What did shock me was a few months ago when the words in a book were blurry that weren't blurry the day before. Yes, I was tired. I blinked. I washed my face. I used my eyedrops. Still a bit fuzzy. I started to put the book away and realized that the further away I held the book, the better I could see it (which is the total opposite of how I started out needing glasses). When my eye doctor told me I would need reading glasses in my forties, I was thinking MID-forties, not 40.5.  That's just too early!  But after several months of holding books far away, making my arms tired, and leaning back from the computer while I type, I finally broke down and bought some reading glasses at Target last week.

I had always laughed at the half-size glasses people wore, or the fact that they wore them way down on their nose.

But now I totally get it. I refused to buy such silly looking things like those above. I got normal glasses that aren't thick and black like my grandpa wore. And after a week of having them, I wish I had gone for the ridiculous looking ones above. If Bobby comes in to ask me something or I need to look at something on the news, the moment I look away from the book everything looks blurry. Not good. I even took them to church Wed night to see how that went. I could read my Bible much better, but I got so tired of putting them on and taking them off that I didn't even bother with them today.  This week I have my regular check-up with the eye doctor, and I'm curious what he'll say if I don't even mention reading glasses to him.

I'm beginning to appreciate the statement that shocked and horrified us a few years ago when a doctor said it to my husband : "Yes, getting old sucks."
(And I'm thankful my mother doesn't read my blog because she would be most mortified that I repeated/typed that.)

Friday, August 30, 2013

how not to clean the porch

Before my parents and sister came a few weeks ago, I began the arduous job of cleaning a very nasty back porch. Between spiders and rain residue, it was a mess. I was pleased with the progress I was making:
 And after.
And then the crazy happened. I was outsmarted by my dog. He had been coming up, going side to side, then leaving. Then he came up and just sat down after I petted him. So I kept working, not thinking anything about it, until I reached for the paper towels and they were gone.

My own dog paper-towelled my yard.
And that was the end of cleaning off the porch.