Friday, January 30, 2009

Interesting Icicles

Take a look at this.

Not too strange, you say?

I'm standing right beneath a telephone line,
looking straight up, with the clouds up above me.

Isn't it strang
e that the icicles formed off to the side inside of straight down?

Guess whose o
bservant little eyes discovered this. I would never have thought to look up at the phone line.

The Answer

A couple of people got it right when they said something encrusted with ice. Here
are a couple more shots of it.

I'm not sure what kind of tree this
is from, but it's some kind of seed pod.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Can You Guess What This Is?

I always wanted to do one of these! Can you guess what this close-up is of? I'll show the whole picture soon.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ice and Snow Storm, 2009

We really have b
een fortunate! We had 21 straight hours of frozen precipitation!

started with sleet and freezing rain, then switched to snow, then went back to several hours of only freezing rain, to be followed by several hours of snow. I was just starting to drift off to sleep at about 2 a.m. when our electricity went out. Within one hour it was back on again.

Thomas and I lay a
wake listening to the eerie popping and cracking and crashing of ice-covered tree limbs and branches breaking and falling in the neighborhood. At 6 a.m. Thomas started to get up, and just as he did the electricity went off again. It was off a little longer this time, but not too long. We simply went back to sleep and waited for it to come back on.

The sun on the ice is beautiful, but look at how those branches are bowing.

Ice-covered sweet gum balls.

Assessing the damage: This is whe
re a large branch from one of our maples came off.

Perhaps this is it here, where it landed on our fence.

Perhaps this is it here, where it landed on our roof.

This is my foot as I set it lightly on
top of the snow-covered ice.

This is my foot as I step down
into the crusty snow.

And this is my foot when it finally touches gr

My stone bench in the front yard.

Along the creek on the easement.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Learning To Have A Different Perspective On Our Options

Beth at Nutwood Junction recently did a post on Boredom that reminded me of something I wanted to write about. (She also subtitled her blog "A Place Where Boredom Is Not An Option!", which is way cool.) I can't remember ever complaining of being bored when I was a child, although I probably did -- most kids do. And I'm sure I did feel bored from time to time, but I honestly can't remember being bored, and I know there could have been no excuse for my being bored.

I was a reader, and an imaginative child who could play for hours by myself. I made up stories and wrote them down, along with complete generational histories of all the main characters. I loved paper dolls and had a large family of them, and they lived quite interesting lives. I remember learning to embroider one winter. I learned to play guitar another time. I had dogs and cats, horses at my disposal, and plenty of land to roam over with cliffs, caves, grapevines, sandbanks, trees to climb and rail fences to walk. I had lots of family around, and on Sunday afternoons there was usually a big Sunday dinner, culminating in everyone sitting around playing their instruments and singing. I grew up in a family where the grown ups would play with the kids -- outside on a Summer afternoon were badminton, kick the can, or tag -- and inside when the weather was bad were "Going To California", "Riddle Me, Riddle Me Ree" or "Telephone". I could talk on the phone for hours to my friends if I wanted to, and if I was craving companionship I'd have them over. And when there was no one to play with, then I played by myself or read.

Yes, I did live mostly in my own head, and I still do, until I make myself venture out. Eler Beth is very good at making me venture out of myself. Most of the time Andrew can occupy himself if there are no other options that appeal to him, and sometimes prefers solitude. But Eler Beth takes more after Thomas in that she much prefers others around her, 95% of the time, and she wants to be up and doing. But the main difference between her and Thomas in that regard is that Thomas doesn't require someone else to be there to entertain him, and she really has to be made to do something on her own when there are no other options. She'll suffer from cabin fever much more quickly than the rest of us. I hope that as she matures, she will also decide that boredom is not an option in her world, and learn to make the most of whatever she has to work with, even when she's faced with an unwanted, boring, or challenging task.

When we started classes back after the first of the year she was a little difficult. Yes, my little darling can get a typical almost-teen attitude with me sometimes. (Her bad tempers come in short spurts, though, and, like a Summer storm over the ocean, they usually blow themselves out pretty quickly.) But for a few days in a row she really fought against getting back into the routine of schoolwork, and I was beginning to lose the tenacious hold I'd had on my own temper.

One day right before lunch, I started to receive some attitude. She reported her woes to me over and over and over. The weather is horrible, I haven't been able to get outside for days, school is so boring, I don't know why I have to learn all this, you just don't understand, you don't know how hard it is for me to have to sit here and read this, you had it easy when you were a kid, you lived on a farm -- (I interrupt to say, I didn't live on a farm, I lived in the country) -- you lived in the country, you could go outside and do stuff whenever you wanted, Mamaw let you go wherever you wanted to by yourself, I just have a little bit of woods out back to play in, you had lots of woods to play in, you could go walking whenever you wanted, and so on.

I had breathed deeply, counted to ten, gone about my business in the kitchen, giving her time to vent, when all of a sudden -- no, not all of a sudden, we were on the third or fourth run-through -- I had had enough. I slammed down whatever I had in my hand, marched into the living room where she was supposed to be doing her reading, and actually shook my finger at her. "Listen here! You live in a nice house, in a nice neighborhood, with plenty to eat, parents who love you, ALL KINDS of games and toys, computers, books to read, pets, and friends to play with. When the weather's nice you can go outside and ride your bike around the neighborhood or play in your own yard and, yes, even in that little bit of woods by the creek. Do you know that there are kids in other countries who not only don't have any of those things, but can't go outside their front door -- if they have a door -- without fear of being shot or blown up? Don't you think they'd love to have what you have, to have the opportunity to be a little bit bored from time to time? Now you just think about that!"

I turned and marched back into the kitchen. She never said another word about being bored, and when I checked on her in a few minutes she was reading quietly, and she did the rest of her lessons that day without complaint. But when I first went back into the kitchen the first thought that came to my mind was, "Oh my goodness, did I just use the "Starving Kids In China" argument?!?

But it must have worked, because I haven't heard any of those complaints since that day. Sometimes it's good to step back and take a look at what we have instead of worrying about, or complaining about, or whining about what we don't have. It's okay to vent our frustrations when we need to, especially in a safe environment, like with a Mom who really does understand and who'll let you get it off your chest. But if it looks like you've gotten your perspective a little out of kilter, and if you're on your way toward wallowing in self-pity, don't be surprised if Mom firmly straightens you out!

And sometimes Mom firmly straightens herself out. In my previous entry I wrote a bit about losing money in our IRAs and 401k. It's a worry, especially when retirement isn't that far away. But in the grand scheme of things, we are not so bad off, and at any moment things could be so much worse. So I'll vent my frustration once in a while, and get over it. But if I ever start woe-is-me'ing too much, or complaining of being "bored" with what I have, someone please remind me about the starving kids in "wherever", okay? And thank you, my friends, for providing a safe environment for me to vent whenever I need to.

A Brief Respite

We had a taste of spring-like weather today. The sun shone all day long and the temperature got up to 58°. But around midnight the temps are supposed to start dropping and we may see some snow and/or ice by morning. Two hours north of us the wind chill is only 19° right now.

I showed Eler Beth everyone's notes of sympathy today, and she was very appreciative of them. She asked me to say "thank you." She told me she was glad I'd written about it, because she didn't feel like she could write about it in her blog. She really has handled it very well and is proud of herself for that. It took a few days for her to show her grief by crying, but she did. Today it was so pretty outside, and she cried for a minute or two (so did I, actually) when we were outside with the dogs, because if Fancy had been there she and Eler Beth would have raced around the back yard. But enough of that.

I made spinach lasagna tonight, just on the spur of the moment. I must have been craving some comfort food; all I know is I was wanting some pasta and ricotta cheese, so spinach lasagna it was. It's funny because I made a crockpot clam chowder for lunch because I went to bed last night thinking how good clam chowder would be, and clam chowder and lasagna don't really sound like two things one would have a craving for within the same 24 hours, do they?

Well, nothing much going on here really. I'm starting to get in the mood to do some seasonal cleaning. The kids don't seem to share my mood, though. Thomas is looking forward to fishing weather, and Andrew and Eler Beth want to go snow boarding. They haven't been yet this year.

Thomas and I reviewed the quarterly reports from our IRAs and 401k yesterday, and it wasn't good. We re-distributed a few things to try to lower some risk, but I'm not sure we'll make much difference. Thomas said he doesn't care if nothing grows right now, but he's getting tired of losing more than half of what he's contributing to his 401k every quarter. We can move things back the way they were anytime we want to, so I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Well, I don't have any special plans this weekend. Two weekends ago I took Eler Beth and one of her friends to see "Bedtime Story" with Adam Sandler. It was typical Sandler, silly, but with one or two actual funny parts where I laughed. The girls enjoyed it, and it was clean, but I wouldn't normally have spent money to see it. A while back I took Eler Beth to see "Bolt" and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, and before that I took her and another friend to see "Beverly Hills Chihuahua", and it was actually cute -- much better than I thought it would be. But I need to go see a grown up movie, you know, so I think I'll take Thomas to see "Gran Torino" one night soon. It has been a long time since we've been to a movie together, just the two of us.

I hope everyone has a good weekend with mild weather!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What A Day!

Well, from just before noon we were glued to the TV. Since Eler Beth is doing American History this six weeks, I decided that watching the inauguration would be her lesson for the day. And, amazingly, apart from the usual points of discussion one would expect when watching a Presidential Inauguration, we learned a lot of interesting, rather off-topic things as well.

For instance, the bayonets on the rifles carried by the Revolutionary War-costumed men in the parade caught my daughter's eye and she had questions about those. She had forgotten that Thomas has a bayonet, so we had to get that out and examine it and do some research on when they were first used and how they were used. Rather grim, perhaps, but history, nonetheless.

The Presidential Limousine didn't look like she thought a limousine should look ("There are only four doors!", said the girl who once won a trip to Pizza Hut in a stretch limousine with at least six doors, and enough room for 20 classmates to sit.). So we looked up the different types of limousines and discussed how "limousine" is a style and not a specific make of vehicle. And by the way, that was a 2009 GM/Cadillac limousine and is the first not to carry a specific model name. I recognized the emblem as being Cadillac, but had never seen that body style before either. We learned a lot about limousines today!

Then she wondered if there were any fish in the reflecting pool in front of the Washington Monument (and if so, can you fish there? Ha! She's her Daddy's girl, all right!). We found out how the pool is in very bad shape, along with most of that area, and often doesn't reflect anything because of algae and goose droppings.

Yes, it has been an historic day in more ways than one.

Monday, January 19, 2009


We lost one of our dogs Saturday evening. Eler Beth's fox terrier, Fancy, died. She had been doing poorly for about a week now, and I figured she was nearing the end. She suddenly started losing weight. She was 13 years old, so she'd lived a nice, long life, and more than six of those years she'd lived as the favorite dog and soul-mate of my little girl.

Fancy had belonged to a friend of Thomas' who lives on a huge farm in Kentucky. Thomas and Eler Beth had gone to visit one day and to look for fossils in his hills where they wash down after a good rain. Fancy took a "fancy" to Eler Beth and vice versa; she followed Eler Beth around the whole time they were there and wouldn't have anything to do with anyone else. Jim (our friend) said to Thomas, "Looks like you've got a new dog." Thomas said, no, he couldn't take Jim's dog from him, and Jim said, yes he could and that she apparently was Eler Beth's dog and he just insisted we take her. He wouldn't let Thomas pay for her, even though Jim had bought her from a Fiest breeder in Virginia.

Later that summer she bred with another fox terrier and we got four pups out of her -- Scout, my very intelligent and loyal boy; Little Bit, the girl Eler Beth bonded with and kept; and another boy and girl that we gave to Jim.

We'll miss her, and our beagle Heidi will miss her. Fancy and Heidi were very close and even shared a dog house. But I don't think she was in pain. She was alert and loving up to the end; she just wanted to sleep all the time. Eler Beth is handling it very well, and I'm very proud of her.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Great Movie

Thomas and I watched "His Girl Friday" this afternoon with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. It had been a while since I'd seen it, and I'd forgotton how much I love it. It's one of THE best comedies of its time, with fast and furious dialogue. The Burt Reynolds and Kathleen Turner movie "Switching Channels", a remake of HGF, was good, but I have to say I prefer "His Girl Friday. I wish I could have at some time seen the play "Front Page" that both are based on. Ralph Bellamy and Christopher Reeve both did a great job with the character of Bruce Baldwin.

But in HGF the timing and setting are so brilliant -- the bloodthirsty, anything-for-the-story reporters, the corrupt and bumbling elected officials, and that wonderful character played by Billy Gilbert who saves the day in the end -- "If I told my wife! . . . Whoooo!" And
"His Girl Friday" has to have one of the best comedic lines delivered by a supporting actor -- "When I came to, I was running down 34th Street!" Classic!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Leigh likes to take some of the word verifications that some of us have set for our commenters and give them definitions. For instance this one she decided means "Happy New Year" in Capcha. Some of them strike me as funny and sounding like they should be a real word, too.

I just commented on someone's blog and the word verification was "wirid". I think that sounds like a word for something that is just so very odd that it goes beyond mere "weird". And the very next blog I read provided the picture to go along with the definition. Thank you Martha, for that very "wirid" picture of the giant tooth.

It's Already The Sixth!?

I actually visited and commented on 26 blogs this evening. It is rainy and chilly and gloomy today, and there is a chance of some snow showers tonight. I have a cat sitting on my chest, purring, with his nose tucked under my chin. So I haven't any right to complain have I? Life is good as long as you have a cat on your chest, right?

Haven't felt much like writing here lately, but it'll come back to me I'm sure. All are well in my family. Thomas is working hard and back to a regular schedule following the topsy turvy of the holidays. Eler Beth is s l o w l y getting back into the swing of a regular schedule (but I may not have any hair left by the end of the week!). Andrew is having a hard time finding a decent part-time job to help pay his school expenses, but he's hanging in there, and we're not forsaking him. And I am here. Eler Beth is very proud of her new genuine pearls (that she didn't think she was getting until she was 13), and Andrew is very appreciative of his new data phone (unlimited texting and internet -- what more could a 19-year-old want!). My mother is well; my brother is fine, but has another surgery coming up soon; my sister P.J. was just given the local tax prep office to manage; my other sisters are fine; our young friends whose mother committed suicide have had a hard few months, but are hanging in there.

Don't you just love Dave Guard's voice singing that first song on my playlist? It sounds like whiskey sliding over ice, doesn't it?

I have a video for everyone to watch. This is Uncle Jay doing a wrap up of the year's news. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

My Goal

My goal for 2009 is to be as purely and deliriously happy as the guys and gal on Discovery Channel's Mythbusters! They have just TOO MUCH FUN.