Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Stills

This week's theme for Sunday Stills is:
"Why aren't you playing with me.  Get off the darn computer and play with me!"
Lick, lick, clank, lick, clunk, lick, lick...

Clickedy, clickedy, clickedy, clickedy....

PS...I have no idea why blogger underlines things that aren't links?  Anyone know?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Gratuitous Cuteness

The kids had a pretty good week settling back into the school routine. James loves his teachers. He had a bump in the road on Tuesday, but worked it out.
Pearl is still deciding about her week. High school is a pretty big shift from middle school. Friends in classes or not, nice teachers, boring teachers, teachers who really need to be doing something else and amazing teachers---all just part of the real world lessons she needs to have.
Tom is taking only 5 classes this year at school. He decided to take English online through Texas Tech "because I can", and he already had last hour off because he's a senior. Believe it or not, it's time to start applying to colleges.

All in all, it was a pretty smooth week for me as their mom. The first week of school has, in past years, been a booger. Luckily, Lee was here to help me. His company used to hold their yearly, week-long meeting, the exact same week as school starting. Any drama surrounding school fell squarely to me. Not anymore. Phew!

The picture choice was just one of pure cuteness. I found it while looking for another picture and couldn't resist. It is James with our first batch of chicks in October of 2004. That means our hens will soon be 5 years old and James will soon be 11.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Feeling a Bit Droopy

Drooping Flowers (1) by joeysplanting.
I should be glad that the kids are back in school. I'm not real sure their being in school or not, has anything to do with my feeling droopy.

I normally do very well with things that are out of my control. Lately, I've been letting negative stuff into my head and allowing it to swim around for days at a time. All of it, every bit, is out of my control. Why isn't my Serenity Prayer working?

Here's a quick run down of stuff that I'm letting incapacitate me. Make me want to lay on the couch and watch mindless television all day.
1. Another bloggers wife died recently. I followed their progress for several months. I was sad when she finally succumbed to her cancer. Was that what got me down? No, it was the fact that he went on a weekend bike trip just a few days after the funeral and left his 4 grieving children with family. He then proceeded to get in a horrible bike wreck, tumbled 20 feet down a rocky embankment, and then blogged about it. His poor kids! What if he'd been badly injured, or worse.
Then, he left them again to go to accept an award with LiveStrong for raising the most money for them this year---again, without his kids. Surely they start school soon. Surely they need their father to help them with this process.
Why do I care? Can I do anything about this? No, the only thing I can do is quit reading his blog. I've done that now. I don't know him or his situation. Maybe he's an amazing dad and he's just not blogging about his kids right now. His blog, after all, is about biking. (sigh)

2. Two kids, Tom's age, killed themselves last Saturday. Really that should be all I need or want to know about it. For some reason I'm obsessed with the fact that details aren't being released. It shouldn't matter--they're both dead. It's just so senseless and why didn't anyone see any warning signs? I can't imagine in my wildest nightmares, what their parents are going through. Maybe that's why it's bugging me. The same thing happens when there are kids killed from our town in car accidents.

3. Tom is a Senior this year. That means he'll be going to college this time next year. I'm so proud of him. I can see he's getting his wings under him and will be able to fly the nest next year. I kind of like him a little bit and so am feeling a bit sad about the whole thing.

4. James is struggling with some stuff right now. I promised I wouldn't blog about specifics, and so I won't. There are some things I can help him with, and the rest he has to work on himself. My problem is, I don't know where the line is there. Am I helping too much? Is he relying on me too much?

5. I've given up my time at the farm. The benign condition I have (costochondritis) is harmless, but painful. Any extra stress I put on the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in my sternum, causes me to be in pain for days. Farm work causes stress on all those things. What now? It's the one thing that was mine. The one thing that I looked forward to every week.

The first four items are 'mom' related. I see that.
I just can't seem to find a place in the middle of all these feelings where I can breathe. Things that need to be done, aren't getting done. Then there's the guilt of not getting things done.

Many of you reading this will say, "you're depressed, get help". I know what depression is and this isn't there yet. I'm just having to remind myself that I can lean on God when my ability to work the Serenity Prayer is failing. Honestly, there is just some sad stuff happening around me right now and it will fade. Depression is when you don't think things will get better. I know they will, I just have to ride this out.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Where Did the Summer Go?

Wasn't it just June 4th a few weeks ago?
Technically, it was 11 weeks and few days ago.
Our summer was filled with church camps, Sea World Camp, sports camps and our last minute trip to Washington D.C. Believe it or not, we aren't what would be considered a busy family in the summer. Some folks have camps for their kids every week of the summer. Each kid did two camps this year.
James, sporting a shorter head of hair and an inch or so over last years height. He is now a 5th grader and got lucky--he has his 3 best buddies in his class. His teacher rocks the house, or so I've been told. The thing that thrills me about her, is that she teaches the kids to study. She runs a tight ship, but the kids love her.
I don't know how it's possible, but Pearl is a Freshman. She's confident in her ability to make it a great school year. She's really missed being with her extended list of friends every day. She's a treasure. Someone I'd definitely want to be friends with if I were in school.
This goofy kid is my Senior this year. I asked Tom, "Please, please give me a big 'I'm a Senior' smile" This is what I got. Goofy is my favorite emotion of his lately. He seems to be finding his place on this planet and I'm proud of him.
I felt a little Boo-Hoo this morning after he and Pearl drove away to school. I can not believe that this is his last year at home. Very soon we'll be sending in college applications. In the next few weeks we'll be visiting the two colleges in Texas that he is interested in. He's already been to one out of state college a couple times.

So, another school year has begun. I'll pray for patience and open ears for me and Lee; and drive and happiness for the kids.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My Heart Hurts

There's not a picture to go with the sadness I feel.

I won't mention names for reasons of privacy.  Yesterday, through the speed of Facebook, we found out two kids in our small town killed themselves.  It was a murder/suicide really, but splitting hairs at this point is futile.

They were in a car accident last November.  He sustained a brain injury, she walked away.
He spent 8 months in a renowned treatment center in Houston, trying to get back to the way he used to be.  In June, they sent him home.  They'd done all they could.  He continued physical therapy, but it was clear he'd never be the same again.  Wheelchair bound and unable to care for himself.
His girlfriend, never wavered from being supportive.  She visited him as much as possible in Houston.  Once he came home, I'm assuming she spent as much time with him as possible.

Obviously, I have no idea what had been on their minds the last several months.  I do know that they are dead today.

He would have graduated last year.  She, this year.  My son, Tom, knew her.  He didn't really want to talk about it yesterday, but I told him that I'd be here if he wanted to talk.  

More than anything, I'm thinking about the kids parents.  The boy's father was died of an aortic aneurysm 2 years ago.  Now it is just his mom and his big sister to somehow carry on.  The girl, I don't know anything about her family, but wonder how you wake up the next day and carry on.

I don't have any wise words or deep thoughts about any of this.  I just know that I feel crushed for everyone involved.  I hope my kids understand that I always have ears open for anything that might be on their hearts or in their heads.  Nothing is too difficult that we can't get through it together.  

Please pray for the families and our community. 

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Washington, D.C. trip

We decided to torture the kids by taking them to Washington DC for our family trip this year.  It was hot and humid and we walked 423 miles, but they did great.  I think they all had parts and pieces that they really enjoyed.  
Thankfully, Pearl remembered her camera.  I thought Lee had ours, and he thought I had it.  What he did bring was a new Flip video camera.  We have hours of fascinating video of us going up and down the escalators to the Metro subway, us eating, us walking, and a few hours of us looking at stuff.  What's wonderful about video is that he caught us laughing.  Laughing about nothing and everything.  The pictures below were all taken by Pearl, unless she's the subject in them.  
Union Station, the first night we were there.  We're staying in Arlington, and so took the subway just about everywhere.  I can't brag enough about their 'train' system.  Clean, easy to use, and safe.  It's a tourist's delight!
Capitol Building  
Supreme Court
Welcome to our newest Supreme Court Justice, Sotomayor.
World War II statue honoring the Marine Corps.  
This one means a lot to me because my dad fought in WW II as a Marine.  He fought in the Pacific.  He had to shoot a woman holding a grenade in order to save his fellow soldiers.  None of the other men could do it.  It messed him up.  
Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Amazing and beautiful and humbling. 
 Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred-sixty five days a year. 
 Snow, sleet, wind, rain, hail, heat and humidity, no matter.  
Every 30 minutes during the winter.  Every 15 minutes during the hottest part of the summer.
Mr. Leopard taking a break after dragging his lunch into a tree to protect it from lions and hyenas.
Smithsonian Natural History museum
Julia Child's actual kitchen. 
Julia rocked before Emeril was even out of diapers. 
Smithsonian American History museum
Thank goodness we don't need these anymore.
Smithsonian American History museum
Pearl and a friend waiting for a train.  My favorite picture out of all of them. :)
Smithsonian American History museum
A new little girl has moved into the house next door at the "Suburbia" exhibit in the American History museum.  James welcomes her. :)
The only photo of the three of them together.  Fake smiles and all.  George Washington could use a nice polo shirt.  Wonder what size he'd wear?
Only photo of me and Lee.  Real smiles.  George could still use a shirt, but being the father of our nation, I guess he can wear what he wants. Or not.
Insider tip extraordinaire! 
The third floor of the Hirshhorn museum and sculpture garden has 5 leather sofas to sit on.  SSssoooooo nice to get off the tired dogs and chill in the air conditioning.  It also has a great view of the Mall.
Smithsonian's newest addition--National Museum of the American Indian.  Beautiful, inside and out.  The entire building has meaning.  The picture above represents the canyon walls of the American west.  Wonderful exhibits!  Worth the visit, for sure.

There were 180+ pictures taken.  This is just a snippet.
People ask what we saw, so here's the rundown.
Union Station
Holocaust Museum
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Smithsonians: Hirshhorn, American Indian, American History, and Natural History
Many of the monuments were seen by Lee, Pearl and Tom.  James and I were tuckered out.
White House tour
Capitol building
Arlington Cemetery
The Aquarium

We rode many miles on the Metro, probably traveled miles on escalators going up and down out of the Metro stations, we ate good food, and managed to keep smiles on our faces for most of the trip.  
I know we all had our favorite things. What I'm most proud of is that we all did a pretty good job of not making the others miserable if we were doing something we didn't really want to be doing.  

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Insult to Injury

Just two posts ago, I was debating the entire garden idea.  I have had very little success here in Texas since arriving 20 years ago.

This week, I pulled up the rest of the plants and dug up my sweet potatoes.  Thankfully, they did well.  I got about 10 lbs.  The one spaghetti squash I got, turned out not to be ripe enough to eat.  It also had a very large larvae of some sort in the seedy part.  I was willing to overlook it, but the part we all eat wasn't ready.

While looking over the plants that I'd pulled up, I noticed something strange about the root systems on just about every plant.  Root Knot!  Caused by a nematode.  You can find the long version of what that is, here.  
What it means is probably the death of my vegetable gardening for at least a year.  Root knot nematode is nearly impossible to get rid of.  One of the ways to 'suppress' them is to kill your soil.  Cover all the beds with clear or black plastic and just bake it.  Everything dies---good and bad.  Ultimately, the nematodes come back.  They wander off and live in your yard until there is something yummy planted back in your garden.  

My plants had absolutely no chance this summer with the RKN, the heat and the lack of rain.  I suppose that should make me feel better in a weird sort of way.  It wasn't my fault. 
The trouble is, I was really looking forward to giving a winter garden a chance.  I'm pretty sure that is unwise.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sunday Stills

The theme for this week's 

The Elements

Traditionally, there are four elements. Earth, Fire, Water, and Air.

Often, a fifth element is added--metal.

I only have one picture that has two elements plainly captured.  The rest have just one.  

Water shows up in two forms.

With fire, I was just plain reaching. ;)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

To Garden or Not To Garden....

...That is the Question.

Ever since moving to Texas from Missouri in the Fall of 1989, I've had a desire to grow things.  It was a hobby encouraged by my dad at a very young age.  We had a small plot--about 25 x 25.  We worked manure into the soil every spring and things just grew.  When the plants started to get a little tired by midsummer, they'd get a boost with compost tea or manure tea.  We had so many vegetables that my parents began canning.

When Lee and I moved to Houston, the summer after getting married, I spent a great deal of money on putting together a raised bed.  The Piney woods made the native soil far too acidic to garden.  Long, story short---I failed miserably.  Extreme heat and humidity made for diseased and pest ridden plants. I was able to grow some very healthy weeds though.

We moved to the Austin area in December of '92.  Because I had a sweet baby Thomas to tend to, my need to garden was absent.  I was still stinging from years of failure in Houston.  Along came Pearl and then James.  Still no garden, and I was just fine with that .  In August of 2001, we moved to where we now live.  Four acres, mostly pasture, but plenty of room for me to try my hand at gardening again.  

The weather seemed a little less predictable here, than in Houston, but drier.  No more mold and fungus and blight to deal with.  Mother nature just laughed at me.  I have amended soil, mulched, composted, used chemicals, gone organic, watered by hand, used the sprinkler system, on and on.  I have done everything right.  What has become painfully clear to me, is that unless it rains on a regular basis, my garden will not do well.  My well water is just too hard for most everything I grow.  The temperatures have also become an issue.  On Monday, we will have had 50 days of 100+* heat since early May.  It has become the new normal.  It's not even shocking anymore.  We are also nearly 30 inches behind in 'average' rainfall since our drought began in September 2007.

This summer I have gotten little/no fruit or veggies out of my garden, despite much tender loving care.  Some plants have simply been pulled up because I was just watering greenery. Now things are so shocked by the drought and continued heat, they've just given up.  So have I.  I was out this morning pulling weeds, watermelon, and flowers. 
So far my harvest or expected harvest based on the health of the plant is:
1 spaghetti squash
a dozen tomatoes
no watermelon
no acorn squash
half dozen potatoes
2 dozen peas (not enough for one meal)
no carrots
no beets
no pumpkins
1 bell pepper

The things that are doing well:
Sweet potatoes 
Weeds, lot of weeds.  

Based on the many years that I've been at this, and the success I've had, it may be time to hang up the summer garden for me.  It seems that the weather pattern for the Edwards plateau during the summer is changing.  Or maybe it was this way all along, and rain during the summer with milder temperatures was just a fluke.

Instead of joy I feel defeat.  I can't imagine growing food for a living.  The stakes are far higher than any game in Vegas.  Thank goodness for farmers that stick it out.  For me, I'm just about to be a 'winter only' gardener.  I have far better success.  Did I just say that outloud?  Knock on wood!

PS...the beautiful watermelon at the top was all squishy inside and never turned pink.  Overwatering?  Doesn't matter, we didn't get to eat it or any of its brothers or sisters.

Friday, August 7, 2009

We May Have Changed a Bit

This isn't a very good picture.  It's actually a picture of a picture.  

Yesterday was our 21st anniversary.  We had an amazing dinner at our favorite restaurant, Roy's, earlier in the week.  It's a once a year sort of place, but is well worth it! 

Last year, we were on an airplane headed to Seattle with the kids.

Lee was pretty brave in marrying me.  We came from very different sorts of families.  His was stable, his parents had been married for 35+ years (celebrated their 50th in 2002), and he'd gotten support in just about any venture he was interested in.  Mine, on the other hand, was unstable from the get-go.  I don't know whether my mom was ever happy.  She wasn't depressed, but just always seemed as though she'd rather be doing something else with a different group of people.  My dad was manic depressive and an alcoholic.  Boy did we put the fun in dysfunctional.  

One thing I think young people forget, is you aren't just marrying the person you choose, you are marrying their family as well.  You are marrying their drama and the drama of their family.  If I had been Lee's parents, I would have been lighting candles and sacrificing animals to keep him from marrying me.  
I hadn't finished college and soon had to drop out of school to support myself.  My parents divorced when I was 19 and I needed a place to live.  I wasn't encouraged to live with either one of them to say the least.  I also came into our relationship with the burden of caring for my mentally ill, physically ill,  and jobless father.  I didn't live with him, but he no longer had anyone in the world but me.  He was in and out of the hospital and finally had to enter a nursing home.  All this before Lee ever proposed marriage.  He was out of his mind!  "Run, Forrest, Run!".  

Here we are 21 years later.  He's had many hurdles to jump in our marriage.  He has taught me that the only successful marriage is one in which both partners are willing to compromise.  It cannot flourish until both parties are willing to come to the middle on every important issue.  It cannot flourish unless both parties are happy with the compromise.  One cannot win over the other.  He had to teach me that.  In my house, you fought to win.  It shouldn't be a struggle.  We agreed on so many important things (spending habits, basic beliefs about humanity, church, saving habits), that he chose to overlook my family drama and marry me anyway.  

He won me over to a better way of looking at life.  One in which there is hope and compromise.  We still have our arguments, but we work them out.  We work to uphold each other.  No one wins at the expense of the other.  It has never been, and will never be, "My way or the highway."  I am always heard and always respected.

Thank you, Lee.  For marrying me.  For being patient.  For teaching me that marriage can be a place of happiness and strength.  For showing me that there can be no true balance if one of us wins and one of us looses.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Why I Don't Have a Pet Lion

Because cats are mental.

This morning after the dogs went out, Lucky came in.  I wasn't quite ready to be awake, so I crawled back under the covers. Lucky climbed right up after me, snuggled in beside me and lay his head in the crook of my arm.  Since it wasn't cold outside, I chose to think that he really wanted to be with me.  Cats have a way of making you feel like you've won the lottery if they hang out with you.  I did all the appropriate scratching of his chin, tugged gently on the scruff of his neck, let him rub his face across my fingernails, and all the other things cats like.  He was, after all, royalty in my presence.  I'd better do the job right.  I watched his tail for signs of discontent.  None shown. My cat really likes me! 

About 20 minutes after this lovefest began, my arm started to go numb. He was laying on the main artery in my armpit.  I simply wanted to move to one side, so that I could get some relief.  I would continue my duties as stooge to the king once feeling returned to my arm and hand. My reward----he bit me!  Not once, but 3 times! He didn't break the skin, but he was clearly annoyed with my slacking off on my duties.  I pulled a sheet up between us to stop further beatings from my king kitty.  When I pulled the sheet back down, he hissed at me and did his best cat king growl.  I decided that his proximity to my face warranted his booting off my bed in short order.  He landed on the floor and gave me the "What'd I do?" look.  I dethroned the king.

He does this with Pearl quite often.  She'll tell me about it like it's no big thing.  He never breaks the skin.  I just want to know what's going on in his head.  His tail never gives any warning.  The tail is the gold standard on cat emotion! In short, I believe that cats are mental.  That is why I don't own a lion.  Something about a lion giving me a few warning bites makes me a little wary.  

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Musings of Color Theory

Today, I went through our old school supplies to see what we still need.
Every year, I vow to send last years surplus with the kids to school in the coming year.  Every year, I buy them new stuff. There's something wonderful about brand new crayons and markers and pencils.

One of the things I came across today, was the "bag of markers".  It represents at least two years worth of markers, if not more.  As I was going through them to see what still worked, I began to sort them into color families.  I then began to wonder why there were so few blues and so many purples and greens.  

I have several theories.
1.  Blue is often cited as many children's favorite color.  Maybe they use it more to color in basic items like houses and cars. 

2. Blue is the color of the sky.  The sky is big, thus coloring in the sky in pictures takes up lots of marker ink.

3. Green befuddled me.  I really like green, but that's just me.  Green is used in the coloring of grass and trees.  I would think those things would take up a lot of ink.

4. Purple.  I don't know one person who lists purple as their favorite color.  Although, there is a store at the Riverwalk in San Antonio that carries only purple items.  Somebody must like it.  I hardly ever use purple unless I'm coloring in flowers.  Flowers aren't very big, and so don't take much ink.

None of my theories take into account the loose/lost lid theory.  Simply put, ink dries up when the lid is missing.  

Obviously, this has no scientific basis, whatsoever.  I suppose it could.  Maybe there is someone out there right now, writing a Masters thesis on why some markers get used more than others.  If not, there should be.  I'd sleep better tonight knowing why the blue markers are so few in number.

Notice, I used blue as my font color.  A shout-out to my favorite color.