Sunday, February 28, 2010

First Day Musings, Challenge Update

Three hats, two pair mittens, and one warm pair of socks. I am making progress! Of course, nothing has been washed yet. I am saving that chore for a sunny day in the spring so they can dry outside.
Looking back over the month, we have done fairly well with our "one small change" challenge. We continue to eat through the pantry, but had the opportunity to purchase 1/8 beef (Don still eats meat) and 20 pounds of home grown sausage. So, our grocery bill for the month was right at $170. That is still remarkable since we fed three people for part of the month.
Our commitment this coming month is to declutter and eliminate 100 items. Fortunately, this coincides with Melissa's, Virtuous Woman (see sidebar), Spring Cleaning 2010. Hopefully, this will give us a leg up on the project. Here at the door of the month, it seems overwhelming. However, like eating an elephant, only one bite at a time will get the job done!
What are your goals this coming month?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Empathetic Cat

Tiggie, the 19-year-old cat, bit through her tongue tonight. I think it was an empathetic, but misplaced, gesture. She actually had to have a stitch and it is still bleeding.

She is the first truly tongue-tied cat I have known.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Say "Ah!"
There is one thing that I fear -- the dentist. This is due, in part, to the fact that I had six teeth extracted as a teenager because my palette was too small (it is the only thing on my body that is). And Dr. Bryzowski nearly stood on my chest to do anything from pulling to filling to even checking my teeth. He always smelled like garlic and old shoes. Needless to say, all other dentists have had to overcome his legacy.
Now, however, I have a great one, mind you, but I still don't like having hands in my mouth. Anyone's hands. It is a violation of my space, thank you. Even when John was a babe I wouldn't let him put his hands near my mouth. Ick.
After sitting in the chair for a while this afternoon, I am home, heating pad on my jaw. Did you know that you can't cry, type, and hold a heating pad at the same time?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

No Weeds, Yet

What is there about a seed catalog, Farmer's Alamanc, and a foot of snow that makes anything green seem so possible??

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Rub a Dub Dub, A Goat in a Tub

The snow and ice are melting today. Maisey decided she needed a boat. (Shhhh.... don't tell her it has a hole in the side for the heater!)

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Mama's Fear

As soon as I got out of the car, I knew something was wrong. Mia was bleating with a desparation that mommas of every species understands. Something was wrong with the kids.

I slid across the yard, into the house, and changed into my barn clothes in a flash and headed to the barn. Mia was screaming, bleating, calling in the most heartbreaking manner. I couldn't walk fast enough. The snow was slush and I kept sliding one way and the next, all the while calling to her, "I'm coming, Mia!"

Everything bad was flashing through my mind; kids caught in the fence; kids missing (we have coyotes); kids drowned in the trough (they are too big now, but my heart wouldn't accept that fact).

As I crested the slope to the barn, I could see the problem.

Munk, all 20-inches and 5 pounds, and Copper, the yearling Dexter bull, were standing nose-to-nose. Mia let out a scream as Copper licked Munk spilling him head over teacups. Standing on the hay rack trough was Maisey, eager to avoid any bull licking, thank you very much.

I ran to the house for a camera, but when I got back to the barn, the kids were back with their momma and peace filled the yard. Both kids were none the worse for wear, however, Munk was sporting a true cowlick as he nestled his mother's bag for a comforting drink.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Be A Good Sport

Even I am embarrassed and ashamed of Evgeni Plushenko's behavior last night and how it continues today. His demeanor was no less than that of a petulant little boy who is used to getting his way.

The better man won. Not only in the Olympics, but also in what it means to be an Olympic athelete. It is not about technique alone. It is about civility, decency, and sportsmanship. Personally, Plushenko's behavior publicly demonstrates what I feel is wrong with many young people today. Everyone has to "feel good" about themselves. What is wrong with being second place? It should give one determination to work harder, but also be a validation of doing one's best.

Have you ever seen the Special Olympics? While the premise is that this program is for those with some kind of challenge, physical or mental, to me it demonstrates what is special about these competitors. They celebrate everyone's victory, but not against others, against themselves. Isn't that what competition should be? Us taking on ourselves?

Plushenko's actions in the past 24 hours demonstrates that he is nothing special. He is a machine, a technican, someone who can "do it", but is " not it." Shame on you, Evgeni Plushenko! You have forgotten, and worse, denigrated the Olympic creed:

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Shhhh....I have a crush...

...on Evan Lysacek. If ever a man was pretty while figure skating, he is. There is just something about his graceful, sinuous arms and legs as he skates, jumps, and spins that makes my heart pitter patter.

.... and on Shaun White. He has the hair I should have been born with. Sigh. And the most beautiful smile!

... and a girl crush on Lindsey Vonn. That gal has courage and the most open smile!

.... and Apolo Ohno. He is so humble and calm. How can he be that way and skate so fast??

Do the Olympics just make you want to shout, "I AM AN AMERICAN AND DARN PROUD OF IT!" ?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Catch That Car!

Last week, before John left, we ran out for errands and dinner. When we got home, it was snowing and we had a little sleet.

Now, understand, I drive a Forester, so I wasn't too concerned about the condition of the driveway or parking my car. Heck, you just put the transmission in low and she'll pull about any hill. So, we pulled up, I put on the parking brake, shut her down, and we got out.

And watched the car slide down the driveway....

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Well, Blow Me Down!

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

Christina Rossetti

Should the wind ever stop blowing, it will be a miracle along the lines of loaves and fishes. However, until then, we are learning to tie on our hats, securely close the outer doors, and leave nothing outside that we don't want to fetch.

Probably the most poignant thing is watching the birds struggle to get to the feeders. We are under siege from blue jays, cardinals, phoebes, house wrens, and chicadees. They struggle to reach the feeder and then to hold on before being swept off by the wind. Finally, they give up and go to the snow to collect a little dinner before flying off to shelter.

Even the cats are disinterested in hunting right now. They are staying balled up on the porch, following the sun as it travels from the front porch to the side before slipping behind the mountain. Tiggie, the 19-year-old cat, has discovered that she can fit just in the crook of Annabelle's (the Pyrennes) tummy and legs if she wiggles down just right. I wish I could catch a quick shot of them sleeping, but they leap up, almost ashamed of being a peaceable kingdom of dog and cat sharing body heat. They adamantly refuse to come indoors, preferring the porch or the shed to the over heated kitchen.

Today at work, after a week off because of extreme weather, my office mates and I agreed to change our door art to spring time wreaths. Holding hope in the sympathetic magic of like drawing like, flowers, birds, and butterflies now fill our office doors. If nothing else, we have brought spring indoors and have planted a little seed of hope for warmer days. Or, we have confirmed that humanities faculty are indeed a little off plumb. Your choice.

In the meantime, I tie on my boggin, layer long johns, sweat pants, insulated bibs, long-sleeved shirt, sweatshirt, insulated jacket and gloves, go out to the barn with the goats and sit in the sun which surfs between the clouds. And I dream of bees making cleansing flights and honey.

Added at 6:39 p.m.: I know why I have been cross about all the snow. My feet have been really cold. Ends up one pair of boots had a hole in 'em I didn't notice until my feet were noticably wet. So, I put on a pair of my son's (with thinsulate and two pairs of socks). Warm! I love winter and snow again!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Three-Year-Old Wisdom

Joshua looked out the window this morning and turned to his Mother and announced: "Look Momma! It is a window wonderland!"

Ah, to see this snow as a three-year-old!

Stay warm!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Reminds Me of '93

The weather this year has been really interesting here in the Northwestern NC mountains. We have had more snow this year than in the last five combined. We've missed more school than we have since probably the blizzard of 1993.

That was the first year I spent in this house. We'd bought it in August and my brother and I had worked like mad to get the house ready for occupancy. We installed windows, redid the floors, ran plumbing and electricity (there had been none until now) and put the porch back on the house. By some miracle, we were able to move in on Thanksgiving weekend.

Winter was wonderful; we had very little snow and things were going on swimmingly, as they say. I was commuting to Appalachian State to finish my undergraduate degree, the children were doing well in school, and our farm was growing with chickens, cows, horses, and rabbits. Until March 1993.

A little snowfall was forecasted, so we weren't too worried. We had feed, hay, and plenty of food, so we didn't make a special grocery run. We'd be fine. Until the snow came. And came. And came. Until it was more than three feet deep. Overnight. Classes were canceled and everything was shutting down. We were stuck!

My husband was the only pharmacist in the county and, as luck would have it, he was needed in town. But, there was no way of his getting there. So, the county ambulance came to get him. It got stuck in the snowbank a half mile from the house. They walked in, had a cuppa, and called for help. The fire deparment sent a first response truck. They slid off the road and into the field by the ambulance. Both of the fire fighters walked in, had a cuppa, and called for help. The Department of Transportation came out. They slid next to the fire truck, walked up, had a cuppa, and called for help. By this time it was getting dark, the power was out, and I had six extra men staying the night.

After a dinner of pinto beans and mashed potatoes, they bedded down in the living room and dining room floors, while the rest of us piled in the master bedroom and waited for daylight.

At dawn, we heard a terrible racket. It was the local tow truck barrelling down the road. Tommy stopped in front of the house, honked his horn, and all the men tumbled out with a hot cuppa and ham biscuit, climbed on the wrecker and off they went. A short time later, all the vehicles were out and back on the road. My husband? He was in the wrecker. He may have been born at night, but it wasn't last night!

We spent the next week without power or a grown man. It was just me and the children here on the farm without power. We cooked on the grill, heated with Kero-sun heaters, and played games, worked puzzles, and read. It was the best week of my life.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Airman's Creed

I am an American Airman.
I am a warrior.
I have answered my nation’s call.
I am an American Airman.

My mission is to fly, fight, and win.
I am faithful to a proud heritage,
A tradition of honor,
And a legacy of valor.

I am an American Airman,
Guardian of freedom and justice,
My nation’s sword and shield,
Its sentry and avenger.
I defend my country with my life.
I am an American Airman:
Wingman, leader, warrior.
I will never leave an Airman behind,
I will never falter,
And I will not fail.

I am proud of you, John. Be safe. Keep your head down. Come home soon.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

First Day Musings

"If you realized the power of your thoughts, you would never have a negative one." Peace Pilgrim

I have to confess. I am experiementing on my classes. Now, make no mistake. They are a wonderful, bright, talented bunch of young men and women. I adore them and consider it an honor to work with them for 16 weeks. The experiement is: I am telling them just that -- it is my honor to work with them. And, would you believe, they are working harder, coming more prepared, and excelling in their work? I fear, when the semester ends, that I will have a "come-to-the-President" meeting to explain why there are so many A grades in my classes.

But, think about it for a minute.

How many times in an educational environment, okay, any environment, have these young folks been told they are bright, capable, talented, and a pleasure to be with? I'm a Mom; I know how it goes. Pick up your shoes, do your homework, get off the phone, you're late... it goes on and on. But, what if we took the time to tell our children (or our husbands) how wonderful they are or how lucky we are to be with them? How would they react?

Interesting concept, isn't it?

Proverbs 18:21 says: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. "

In other words, what you say, your attitude, inform not only your perception of the world, but other's perceptions of themselves and you as well. If you feed a child junk food, they will be unhealthy. Growth is stunted, well-being compromised, intellect is damaged. Praise, positive thoughts, are like eating from a health food store. It feeds the soul, mind, and heart. It grows a strong, well-adjusted person.

There have been classes that were toxic. One was just a few years ago. One student had a nasty attitude and was negative. In two weeks time, the entire class was mimicking this person. It was a miserable semester. Fortunately, the student did not return to my class the next semester while the others did. The difference was noticable even to them. So we discussed what had happened and I told them to always be mindful of how one person can change an entire group, if the group will allow it. However, it was their choice. Hopefully, it is a lesson they will carry with them.

What are your thoughts this week? Are you positive or negative? Do you praise or criticize? Do you encourage others?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Mom Was Right

Long ago and far away, we lived on another farm on the other side of the county. My current farm is nestled up against the mountains and is surrounded on all sides by these wonderful land masses. However, the other was on the continental divide and, as such, was along the edge of the range just before it "fell off" to the "flatlands" below.

I loved the old house; a creek ran by it, just under my kitchen windows, and the spring house was still useable. Springs were around, under, and through the property. The land itself ran up a hollow and to an old log house far into the woods. Had it been for sale, it would have been my forever home. But the most interesting thing, by far, was how the springs seemed to "draw" the lightening to house in a storm.

We had been outside feeding late one afternoon, when a storm came running on the hollow quicker than a jack rabbit being chased by hounds.

"To the house!" I shouted to the children. "Now!"

Past experience taught that we'd be in the midst of a terrible storm within minutes, especially if there were lightening. We ran to the house and I settled the children down with a snack while I started dinner and washed up my milking supplies.

Crash! The lightening and rain started shooting around the house like fire crackers. The children screamed; I screamed; the dog crawled under the kitchen table. This continued for another three to four minutes and then, suddenly, stopped. The sky cleared and all was calm. Or so it seemed.

A few minutes later, the phone rang. My husband answered it, only to be knocked to the ground as the lightening ran into the line and out the receiver. The lights went out and the children began to scream: "Mama! Get him off! Mom! Dad's on me! Mom! Dad's dead!"

"No, I'm not," he whispered. "But, I need you to come here, please."

I felt my way to the living room, asking for directions from him as I stumbled. After what seemed like an hour, I found him. There was a definite smell of smoke and singed hair.

"Feel my arm," he whispered, his voice shaking, "I think the lightening blew my hand off."

This was definitely not the thing to say in a dark room with four children under ten. The screaming started again: "Mom! Where's Dad's hand? Mom! I think I feel it! Mom!!!"

Slowly, I ran my hand down his singed arm, taking a deep breath as I got to the wrist. The hand was still there. Just burned.

"We need help," I said. "The phone is out. I'll run to the fire department and get someone to come."

And off I ran in the driving rain and lightening, which had begun anew following the last lightening strike.

When I arrived at the fire department, a training session underway with 30 participants eagerly listening to their presenter. I flung the door open and gasped, "My husband has been struck by lightening! He's burned!"

In unison, they jumped up, ran to their cars, and followed me the five miles home.

In the meantime...

My husband realized he needed a, er, change of trousers and shorts. He'd gone to the bathroom, stripped off his soiled clothes and was trying to clean up a little while waiting for us to return. And we did. All 31 of us, thirty with bright, shining flashlights all aimed at waist level.

My husband came out of the bathroom, nekked from the waist down, and 30 flashlights shone on his, ummm, short comings. Bless his heart, he's been dead ten years now, but I can still see his face when he realized he was in the "light."

Mom was right. Never answer the phone in a lightening storm. No good can come of it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

One Small Change Update, Feb. Goals

This month our challenge was to use the dryer less. We did. I only resorted to it four times this month and that was as a result of my own poor planning. I can't wait to see our utility bill.

For our "eating through the pantry" challenge, we spent a grand total of $70.71! We are so pleased! Hooray for us!

This month our commitments are:

One Small Change: We resolve to reduce our heat one more degree. This will put us at a balmy 65-degrees.

We will also continue our "eating through the pantry" challenge. By the way, did you know that you can really, truly eat beans five days in five different ways?

The Santa Train pieces should increase by at least four items.

Looks like an ambitious month, doesn't it?

What are your challenges this coming month?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"I Drive a Sub!"

A former student has returned from National Guard boot camp and came by to tell this story.

As a reservist, the young man is now attending college and working part-time for a local sandwich shop. Understand, he has learned to operate some of the most powerful weapons in the world and, at the tender age of 20, is still sufficiently optimistic to see the humor in the fact that he is able to use these weapons and the only part-time employment he can find is making sandwiches.

After the second day of work, he asked his supervisor for a name tag.

"You have to earn it," the supervisor replied.

"What? How do you earn a name tag?"

"Well, you just do. Look, just because you can drive an 18-wheeler doesn't mean you just get a CDL. You still have to take the test and earn it," the supervisor responded.

"Look," the young man answered. "I'm driving a 12" sub and a toaster. I don't think it is the same thing."

He's looking for a job again.

Me? I find myself giggling every time I think about it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Month of Love

February. The time of year that we are closer to spring than winter. The time of year when we are pouring over seed catalogs and making our lists and checking them twice. The time of year our thoughts turn to love.

February is one of my favorite months. Maybe because it has the courage to be shorter than the other months, proving that it doesn't need no stinking 30 days to be complete. Oh no. Not February. It is complete with 28 days, with an occassional 29 thrown in from time-to-time.

Its flower is a violet, my most favorite flower on the planet. It qualities include faithfulness and modesty. The colours associated with it are purple and violet. Again, my favorite colours as they represent not only royalty (I am a woman -- hence, queen of my domain) and spirituality.

This is the time of promise and possibilities. The weeds are not in the garden yet; every row is straight, well-tended, and fruitful. The sun is always shining and every day is perfect.

Welcome, February!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Now THIS is the life...

This is Wookie.
Do you see where he is?
See Wookie sleep.
See him start to melt from total ectasy.
See the pillow?
Wookie melts to the floor with stunning regularity.
This is the life.