Thursday, December 31, 2009

I've given up

Looks like iMac and Blogger are incompatible. Every time I try to load a photo, both Safari and Firefox are "not responding".
I can't get anyone from Blogger to answer a question and the same goes for several iMac forums.

Blogging without pictures just doesn't appeal to me. The whole point of using this medium for writing down my thoughts, was so there could be a photographic record of it.

Oh well. I'll see if iMac and Wordpress work together, although I really don't like the Wordpress layout.

~~~~~~~~~Update for my own mental files:
I opened a Wordpress blog. Pictures will not load there either. Must be an issue with iPhoto.
I tried moving pictures into the Desktop and then onto the blog---same thing happens.
Lee is suggesting that we reload iPhoto---Whatever that entails. I'm crossing my fingers.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Testing, Testing, 1 2 3....

It's just me. I cannot get Blogger to upload pictures today.
I checked with their "issues" thingy and it isn't listed as a problem.
I've tried logging out. I've tried shutting my computer down and restarting.
I even began to wonder if it was the camera that was the problem, but subbed pictures from the old camera and they won't load either.

It has to be Blogger.
I'm doing this post to see if it will even post words. No need to respond in any way. are having the same issue. Then you can respond and make me feel heaps better.

Christmas Tradition

We have many traditions at our house.
We always go to church. Instead of being a standard worship service, it reminds me more of campfire at camp. The evening starts with silly and fun songs and readings. It finishes up with more sacred stories and hymns. Those things are sandwiched in by prayers. After all, you have to invite God to come and give thanks at the end for a wonderful time together. Mostly, thanks for the gift of Jesus.
Like most good churches, food follows closely on the heels of the Christmas Eve service. Snacks really. Christmas cookies and chocolates and cheese balls and dips of all ethnicities, and tiny meatballs, and crackers and the token veggie tray. The veggie tray makes it all okay. Somehow it cancels out the artery clogging other stuff. For drinks we have a long tradition, started by a dearly departed member, of banana punch or hot apple cider. Or, it you're like me---have some of both.

The next morning we torture our kids with the reading of the Christmas story out of the Bible and a prayer to give thanks for the ridiculous number of blessings that we have at our house. We are, indeed, blessed beyond measure.
Lately, my sister Jean, has been able to join us for the Christmas festivities. She lives in Portland for most of the year; and so having her here four Christmases in a row has been a rare treat!
The unwrapping frenzy commences. Lee and I had high hopes when we just had Tom, that we'd unwrap each present individually and everyone else would watch and 'ooo and ahhh'. Once we had three kids, that pretty much went out the window. The kids are properly grateful, but at a much faster pace.

Lunch is when we eat. No one can wait until dinner time to eat Grandma Cox's homemade butterhorn rolls or pumpkin pie. What seems to be setting up itself as Christmas tradition is the addition of beef as the main dish. A rib roast. We buy meat from one of those grocery stores (Randalls) that gives deep discounts on things if you carry one of their "member" cards. Rib roast would be out of the question, otherwise.
Beef climbed the ladder over turkey and ham quite easily. We have ham many times during the year, and so it isn't so special. Turkey............lets just say that after Thanksgiving I don't want to eat turkey again until next Thanksgiving.

Lastly, I have a personal tradition that the family doesn't really know about. It isn't something that's up in their faces like say, cookies or watching the movie, Elf.

I got this book called The Family Christmas Book in 1993.
Here's what it says on the inside cover:
"Keep this family Christmas Book
Faithfully through the years,
Record your Christmas memories,
The love and the good cheer.

When twenty-five years have come and gone
Won't it be a pleasure,
To have this book to cherish
As your special Christmas treasure."

Each year, as I'm putting away the decorations, I fill out the book regarding that years events.
Christmas (year)________
We gathered at (address)________
Those who joined us in the cheer________
Special events of the holiday season_________
Memories of the past year___________
Christmas card we sent this year__________

Not every year was there a special picture taken. Not every year was there a special event. Not every year did someone join us. Not every year was there a Christmas letter or a Christmas card (gasp!!).
What did happen every year was memories. I won't say they were all cheery, but goodness knows we done some living and been incredibly blessed since 1993.
Lee and I have been blessed since the moment we met in 1986.
I hope this book will bring back happy memories for my family for many, many years to come.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Can You Say, Aaaawwww?

Three years ago we added to our menagerie. Mandy, our big Cattle dog/Shepherd cross got a new little sister. I did not set out to get a female. In fact, I was dead set against it. Even spayed females tend to have "Alpha Dog" issues.
My decision to give into the female cuteness you see below, later came to fruition. Smokie and Mandy, did indeed go through about 6 months of making me wonder if I was going to have to get rid of one before one of them died of fighting injuries. Neither one would back down.
They will still occasionally have a fight, but it is no longer a constant worry.

That's not really why I'm posting. I was just looking through old pictures and remembering when we brought home the little fatty you see below. Smokie.
I've never known what it is about the Christmas tree, but a dog or cat has always laid underneath it. Never upsetting the tree, but just napping.
It's important to remember that while the dogs aren't allowed on the sofa, there's nothing in the rules that states that dogs can't be on a person that's on the sofa. Splitting hairs is the name of the game. The kids know how to get around the rules as well as the dogs. :)

Smokie proved her worth very early. Besides being a champion squirrel chaser and hole digger, she is able to prewash the dishes with the best of them. She's our way of 'going green'. Think of how much water we save by not prewashing them in the sink.
She learned early that it was just easier to get in among the toys instead of getting them all out. She was very thoughtful that way. No mess for us to clean up.

Mandy showing off a new circus trick with Smokie.
"Look mom, I can fit her whole head in my mouth!"

Again with the technicality of being on a person and not on the sofa. I think here they are stretching that idea a bit, but it was so darn cute. I'm sure they both were aware of it before Smokie ended up in this position. In fact, at this age, she was too small to get up on the sofa by herself. By the looks of it, she wasn't too worried about me discovering her.
She still lays like this today--head tucked in under your chin.
So, gratuitous cuteness is over. Smokie is now a big part of our daily smiles and laughter. She is a funny dog with quirks just like the rest of us. She's deathly afraid of the vacuum cleaner, trash bags and when humans sneeze. She's not afraid of much else.
She still chases squirrels and digs the occasional hole.
She rarely gets called by her real name.
Smokie Jo, Smokachino, Mochachino, MoMo, La, LaLa, Poodle, Smoshie, Heyyougetouttathetrash, Smoochie.......

What nicknames do you have for your animals? Why is there no rhyme or reason to nicknames with pets? I guess because they can't slap us upside the head and tell us to cut it out.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I Couldn't Help Myself

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Love-Hate-Love Relationship

Not a good photo, I know.
This picture is forever adhered to the glass it is behind, because I keep on my bathroom counter. Warm, humid conditions are not particularly the best for pictures.
There are three tiny frames with pictures of our kids from our first trip to San Diego, in December of 2000.
Oh, how we love San Diego!
This is Tom and Pearl on the Skyfari aerial tram over the San Diego Zoo. Lee was able to capture a moment between them. A moment in which Tom said something or did something that absolutely tickled Pearl to the point of explosive laughter. He was good at that with both her and little brother, James.

Tom and Pearl were great friends for many years. Loved to play with just each other.

When they reached the mid-elementary school years, that changed. Sibling rivalry kicked in and they could barely be in the same room together. I used to tell people, "They can't breath the same air." I didn't have that rivalry with my siblings and neither did Lee. Our siblings are much older than us; making us almost 'only' children. Neither one of us understood how our kids could dislike each other so much. The only thing that united them was their love of their baby brother, James. They were both good to him, but never to each other.

That was the status quo at our house for years. They would have moments where they were peaceful with one another, but mostly they just avoided each other like the plague. Really, he more than she. Tom just thought Pearl was too silly and too random to be related to him.

Last year, things changed. He was a Junior in high school and she in 8th grade. I have no idea what happened, but delighted in it. They could finally breathe the same air!
Now that they are both in high school, I fully expected them to revert to their old ways. Pick, pick, pick. I am thrilled to report that they seem closer than ever. They laugh, they share inside jokes, they tease, and are generally pretty thoughtful to one another. He offers her rides back and forth to school. She worries that he's having trouble with Kay (his girlfriend) if he's particularly grumpy. They text one another, they sneak one another's cell phones and text each other's friends. If one were to leave their Facebook page open, woe to that person! Their 'status' might read something outrageous. The same goes for instant messaging on Facebook.

Yesterday, Tom and Pearl got out of school early because of final exams. I offered to take them shopping for Christmas presents. What a delightful time for me! The time we spent, just the three of us, was Christmas present enough for me. We ate, we laughed, we shopped and no one whined. They even went in together on a Christmas present for James. Instead of splitting the cost, 50/50, Tom insisted on paying more. "I have a job, you don't."

They are such good kids! I am so proud of who they are becoming as young adults.
One thing they do when they are both on Facebook is comment on one another's status'.
She'll say something that is far out or random. Instead of balking at her silliness like he used to do, he'll reply,
her reply is,
"Go to college".

It's a joke between them. I know they both know that it won't be so funny next year when he really goes to college. I know they'll miss each other. What makes me happy is that technology will enable them to continue their relationship. Something that couldn't happen a generation ago. Now he'll know right away if he needs to come home and beat up any boy that breaks Pearl's heart.

They've come full circle.
Love to hate to love again.
Parenting has to be the most glorious, gosh-awful, magnificent job on the planet. I wouldn't miss a minute of it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What Is It, Wednesday

Along the same lines as Macro Monday, I've started "What is It, Wednesday?"
The trick is, to take a picture of something so close, that what it is, isn't readily apparent.
Enough commas in that last sentence?

I digress.
So, my picture(s) for today are posted.
Unfortunately, I am not a blogger megastar and cannot give away prizes to the first person that guesses what these are pictures of.
Yes, I just ended a sentence with a preposition. Today is not my finest day, grammatically. At least I still remember what a preposition is. Mrs. Smallridge, my most patient English teacher from high school, would have her red pen busy today.

Again, I digress.
These two pictures are directly related to one another, so don't be thrown off by their differing landscape.
They are the cause of my morning headaches.
Enough hints. Please guess and post your answer.
Your prize will be the joy you felt as a child when you guessed the answer before anyone else did.
If you are trying to think of something to post today, give this idea a try. Post your blog, along with your answer so folks can waste a bunch of time today jumping from blog to blog. It's not like you have Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa shopping to do.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Husband and Christmas

It's no secret that Christmas is not my favorite time of year.
Through no fault of her own, my mother hated Christmas, and we all knew it. My father didn't help with Christmas. He didn't know what we kids were getting until we opened the presents. He never addressed a Christmas card or baked a cookie.
Honestly, I don't know if he was any different from any other man of his generation. Heck, he was not all that different from many men of my generation.

My problem with Christmas is partly my upbringing, and mostly self made.
I put stress on myself to have the perfect Christmas.
Everyone must get exactly what they asked for--the 'big' present. No one should be disappointed. There should be an abundance of cookies and the perfect Christmas letter (not too perfect, not too whiny) in each card. I should attend and participate in all activities at church and in my personal life that pertain to Christmas. The tree should be decorated with reminders of our lives. Everyone should participate in the decorating---and be happy about it. I shouldn't want to hurry through the Christmas story on Christmas morning so the kids can open their gifts. Jesus is the reason for the season, after all. I should have a cheery disposition from Thanksgiving through January 5th. I should take down the tree and decorations and revel in the perfectness of another Christmas.

All that the list above involves is stress. You know why? Because it is IMPOSSIBLE. There is no such thing as a perfect Christmas. Any event that involves several people and gifts and priorities will never, ever, be perfect. Someone has to do the work--often alone. Someone will be disappointed.
Think back to any wedding, birthday party, or even family vacation that you've attended. Someone was unhappy. Someone was disappointed. Someone did not find the event to be uplifting. Someone was stressed.

So, I should give myself a break. I should give my family a break and not pass along my drama like my mother, unwittingly, did. I have a much, much better chance at it because of Lee.

He loves Christmas. He shops knowing that things will be returned. He addresses cards knowing that we may not receive a card in return. He bakes without caring about the mess. He puts up the tree knowing that our teenagers would rather be 1,000 other places. He reads the Christmas story out of the bible on Christmas morning, knowing that our kids aren't really listening. He doesn't volunteer for every Christmas function. He wraps presents until 2 am if that's what it takes.
In short, he doesn't stress. He takes the good with the bad. He takes the whining with the laughter.

This year he has done 99.9% of the shopping. I am working on stocking stuffers and stressing (surprise!) over the one person I have to shop for---Lee. He doesn't want anything. Well, he wants some things, but nothing out of the ordinary. I can't think one thing that would make him think, "Wow, she really thinks I'm special." I so want him to think he's special. He does so much for me and our family. He's taken all the stress out of Christmas for me. I really think he hung the moon and want him to know it.
So, what do you get the man who has everything? I'm working on it.
I'm also working on not expecting too much out of this time of year. I'm working on finding that place in me that remembers that Christmas is ultimately the celebration of God's gift to us.
Not our gifts to others.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover

In Texas, we have a plethora of amazing wildflowers. Some years we get quite a show, and some years you'd never know we had wildflowers at all. It depends on rain and winter temperatures. The last couple years it has been extremely dry and mild.
What we do get, in spite of the weather, are the flowers that many consider to be weeds.
One such weed actually has 'weed' in its name. No mistaking this plant for anything else.

Frost Weed aka Verbesina virginica L.

It is one sad looking plant. It can grow quite tall (4 ft) and get leggy. The only reason I let them grow at all is that the butterflies and bees LOVE them.
In the fall of 2008 the monarchs came through on their way to Mexico. It was amazing. The patch of homely Frost Weed was covered in beautiful butterflies, refueling on their way south.
Another reason to keep it around is for the local honeybees. Last summer was so brutal that few plants bloomed for the bees to gather nectar. Frost Weed isn't the least bit worried about a little dry, hot weather.
The big surprise about this plant comes after the first frost. I always wondered why they called it Frost Weed, but assumed it was because the flowers were white.
Not so.
I found out the "why" of the name several winters ago. I was walking to the barn where my horse was stabled. I barely looked up because I was cold and underdressed. I glanced up as I opened the gate and looked out on the pasture.
"Whose trash can blew over?!"
The pasture was covered in what looked like shredded, white plastic bags.
I leaned over to pick some of it up and discovered it was ice!
It looked just like curly, Christmas candy.

On the stalk of every Frost Weed was this amazing bit of icy art. It turns out that as the plant dies, it sends its sap into the ground, much like a tree. When the ground and the surrounding air reach freezing, the sap and water ooze up the stalk of the plant. It then breaks open the stalk and begins spilling out. As it hits the frozen air, it curls and flakes.
They are called Frost flowers.

It's the most amazing show of natural beauty to me. Small and delicate. Most people never see it here in Texas, because the mornings warm up so quickly. If I didn't have hungry animals that eat at first light, I'd miss it to.
Just another tiny something that God has provided me, a nature lover, with. I have learned over the years to look up. To look down. To turn over rocks. The be quiet. To be patient. All those things provide me with another way to be closer to my God. It is said that God is in everything.
For me, God is especially in nature.
Even in homely plants and animals. I just have to get out of bed.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What a Pain!

Today is one of those days. A painful day. To understand it, you need a little anatomy lesson. The picture shows ribs (brown) and the cartilage aka, costostrenal joints (beige) that connects the ribs to the breastbone.
The condition I have is called Costochondritis.
It's harmless as far as doctors are concerned. It's an inflammation of the cartilage that connects bone to bone. 'Harmless', as in, "it won't kill you".
Seldom is there a cause, although, folks that have had their chests cracked open (heart patients) often will suffer with Costo for quite a while.
I went through a battery of tests to make sure something else wasn't wrong and the doctors finally diagnosed me by the process of elimination.

It is considered, by the medical community, to be a benign condition that causes a little discomfort. This 'discomfort' is one of the most common reasons folks visit the ER, thinking they are having a heart attack. It hurts like the dickens! It feels very much like a boxer hit me square in the chest.

The only things that will make it feel a bit better are, Advil, moist heat and rest. My family doctor said, "It will feel better if you quit living your life." We both laughed.
What she meant was, any movement or chore that causes you to use your pectoral muscles will aggravate the problem. Those muscles are connected to the ribs and cartilage. When they move, they pull on the already inflamed area.

This benign condition made me quit volunteering at my beloved, CSA farm. The work was too strenuous for that part of my body.
It also hurts to sneeze, blow my nose, breathe deeply, go up stairs, do laundry, vacuum, garden, and lay down. Anything that causes the ribcage to expand.
It also hurts today, just sitting at the computer.

The pain is supposed to come and go. It really is related to arthritis and I have flare-ups. I had a rough patch where it hurt every single day for about 3 months. When I went to get Lee, in Arizona, it calmed down. Maybe because I wasn't "living my life", I was sitting in a chair all day.

Today will be a "3 Advil at a time" day. I need to vacuum and it already hurts.

You know what gets me through? What makes me vacuum instead of sitting on the couch?
My friend, DD.
She has Reiters Syndrome. It's a close cousin of Rheumatoid arthritis. In other words, she's in pain every day. Does she sit on the couch when vacuuming or gardening needs to be done? No.
She gets on with her life. She lives with varying degrees of pain every day. She laughs and smiles and doesn't let it beat her down. She doesn't let it define who she is.
She has bad days when she takes it easy. She's had a few years to figure out when to push through the pain and when to listen to it.
I'm learning the same lesson, thanks to her guidance.
I've learned to live with my pain. I seldom mention it to family or friends. I just take a couple pills and move on. It really isn't something anyone can help me with. At my age, I'm not ready to start relying on other people to do the chores I have to do each day.

Today I vacuum. Advil, here I come.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Where, Oh Where Has My...

...bird feeder gone. Oh where, oh where could it be?

I used to have my bird feeder on the inside of the fence, as seen below. It was a long way from the nearest tree. I wanted to be able to see the birds up close and keep the squirrels from getting into it. Squirrels and dogs don't mix.
What I inadvertently did, was set a table for my local Cooper's Hawk. With no place to hide, the little birds were sitting ducks (no pun intended, as ducks and chickadees aren't related really) for the hawk.
I moved the feeder outside the fence, under the closest tree. I knew the squirrels and other critters could get to it, so I resigned myself to bringing the feeders in at night. I've seen a raccoon try to get seed out of the globe shaped feeder. While amusing for me, it was something I knew raccoon would take on as something to conquer. The squirrels had already taken to amusing me during the day with their battle to get seed out of the feeder.
With all wild animals, once there is a constant source of food located, they revisit the place daily/nightly.

The one time I forget to bring in the feeder, here's what I wake up to.
My shepherds crook is bent and one of my feeders is gone. I don't mean just down off the crook, I mean gone. It is no where around. Upon closer investigation, it looks like the deer have been cleaning up the ground under the feeder. What I suspect happened, was one of the big bucks got his antler stuck in the feeder while trying to knock seed out of it. By the looks of the hoof prints in the ground, he pulled and his antler wouldn't budge. He pulled harder and was only able to free himself when the crook bent.
The thing is, none of the bucks that come up daily for a handful of corn, have that feeder stuck to their head.

The kicker is, I have searched high and low on my place for the feeder. It is no where to be found. I can only guess that he carried it around for a bit, got tired of being teased by the other bucks for being so stupid as to get hung up in the thing, and shook it loose.

I was able to straighten the crook, with a little work. I moved it just inside the fence this time. I've given up on worrying about the critters that want food, and just hung up a platform feeder.
I can't be labeled a "species-ist". I feed all animals equally now. I'm even feeding the darn House Sparrows. Some battles just aren't worth fighting.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Gauntlet Has Been Thrown

My brother-in-law, JD, is my husband's big brother. I say that, so you'll know the where and why of the picture above.
Both men, on the surface seem a bit reserved. JD's wife and I were questioned by our friends when we began dating these men, "Why are you dating him? He's so stuffy and stuck-up. He never laughs."

What the friends didn't know, is that the guys laugh all the time. They are silly. They can quote Monty Python and break into song at a moments notice.
They have their serious side. It's what has enabled them to take such good care of their families and be counted on at work and church.
However, when the time is right, they are a riot. They're sneaky with their humor. It is often dry. Other times, it's just right up in your face.

Case in point:
Last week, I posted about Lee finding a sort of faux pas' in our local newspaper. Yesterday, I received the picture you see above, from JD.
He double-dog dared me to post about it. I am not one to ignore such a dare. I will not, however, require him to stick his tongue to a flag pole as payment for taking his dare. He is sending me this, instead.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

All I Want for Christmas

Okay, I'll be the first to admit that miniature horses are yard ornaments. But hey, we have a yard. A 4 acre yard.
We have always been a 'rescue' family. About half our pets have been rescues.
These miniature horses are no exception. In case Santa is reading, I am fawning over Caspian on page 1 and Alex on page 2. A single horse is a lonely horse. Two horses are better than one when humans aren't around to shower them with affection.
I know there is the little issue of having no fence around the property, but that can be taken care of. In the mean time......well, you know I'd figure it out. Maybe Kathy, next door could board them for a short time. How about Jennifer who boarded Luke for a while.
Santa? You listening?

This is Hope. She's a mare, which I'm not so excited about. But she sure is a looker. I'm thinking I could get over the fact that she's a mare, if one of the other boys isn't available.

PS....Liberty is an option, too. Again, a little mare, but........well. You know.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

But I Moved South for a Reason!

I grew up in Missouri.
Winter was fun until I started Jr. High.
Then I had to walk 1.5 miles to school---uphill, both ways.
Yes, I still appreciated the days off when it snowed a great deal. As I progressed through high school, I began to realize that snow days just meant I'd have double the homework when we got back to school.
At least I got to go back to bed........until one of my parents called to awaken me and tell me to shovel the walk and the driveway before they got home from work.

It got even less appealing when I moved out. Scraping the car windows before heading to work, scraping the windows again before heading home, scraping the windows before heading out for the night----all while freezing my backside off. Twenty-something young women are not known for wearing temperature appropriate clothing or shoes. I was no exception.

When Lee and I got married, we moved to Texas as soon as possible. I'll admit, the weather didn't play a very big role in our search for a new home. It only took one winter for us to realize how wonderful it was to celebrate Christmas in short-sleeves. Another couple winters and having a baby we didn't have to dress in 15 layers every time we left the house was just icing on the cake.

We, in central Texas, have just come through a brutal summer. Sixty-seven (not 68!) days above 100*. Nary a drop of rain, either.
You think I'd gather up the idea of snow and cold and just roll around in it. Take joy in it. Fling open the windows and welcome it in.
Nope, I'm sorry. Snow in December is just wrong in central Texas.
February, maybe.
December, No.
I'm not prepared physically or mentally. Where the heck is Fall??!!

The wind is licking out of the North at about 25 mph right now and it's 43*. The picture at the top says it's supposed to get to 52* today.
Not gonna happen.
What's worse, it's not supposed to get out of the 30's on Friday and SNOW.
My kids are giddy. They might get a snow day.
I am not. My kids might get a snow day.

What that means is, they'll want to go to the movies or the mall.
You see, in Austin, if it even hints at snow or ice, the city completely shuts down.
I'm not kidding.
An innth of an inch of snow and school is canceled. The mall, however, is not canceled. Neither is the movie theater.

Oh well, at least they're all big enough to dress themselves in 15 layers of clothing.
Me, I'm staying in with hot coffee and a Netflix. If the school buses aren't running, neither am I.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

We Missed Her Birthday

The other day, Lisa, over at Laughing Orca Ranch was asking if Pearl had created anything in honor of Thanksgiving. I told her no, but that she had been busy with another project.
She created a tiny version of my sister's dog, Lou. It was for Jean's birthday, which we missed because Lee and I were in Arizona dealing with his broken hip.
My only solace in missing my sister's birthday, was that James was the first person to call her to wish her a happy birthday, and that Pearl made her such a special present. You see, Jean is the artist in our family. Lee and I, neither one, can even draw stick figures properly. Jean appreciates the love and effort it took Pearl to recreate Lou. Jean knows it means so much more than any store bought present.
I know she had great fun with her friends here in Austin. We were finally able to take her out to eat for her birthday, and her present is coming from the rest of us, soon.
Happy (very) Belated Birthday, to my bestest big sister.