Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Another way of seeing

In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.
― Bertrand Russell

This is a small story about a small change in perspective.
It was a Tuesday night, and I had worked late. After work, Larry and I went to a little diner in town for supper.

This is the kind of diner that still offers service to people who drive up and wait in their cars for the server to come outside and take their order.
It serves food like hot dogs, hamburgers, Westerns, chuck wagons, fried bologna sandwiches and breakfast all day.
Seating inside is limited: there are five booths and a counter with stools lined up in front of it. On the counter are napkin holders and condiments and a covered cake plate with the cake of the day inside.
When one particular server works, everyone finds out what I ordered, just as I find out what they ordered because she calls out the food from her written ticket as she moves towards the kitchen behind the counter: “Two hots and a fry.” Or “Egg plate over medium with toast.”
Larry and I like eating there.
On this particular Tuesday night, I ordered two hot dogs (I’m eating meat again for now) and Larry ordered a country ham plate.
I saw another couple come in and sit at the counter, but I didn’t take note of what they ordered. I did notice her cool tennis shoes with gold sequins on them. Maybe not something I could necessarily pull off, but they looked good on her.
Then I heard them ordering something else.
“We saw you carrying one by and thought that looked good,” the woman said. “We’ll eat it here.”
A few minutes later, the server brought her and her companion a takeout bag along with two unwrapped hot dogs topped with chili.
“Oh, this is so good,” she said. “We’ve been looking for good hot dogs.”
“Well, now you know where to find them,” the server said. “Where are y’all from?”
“Atlanta. He’s working up here,” she said, pointing to the man.
A moment later, the woman looked up and said, “This is amazing.”
Amazing? Really? I thought about the hot dogs I’d just eaten. Mustard, onions, relish. The mustard tasted like it had horseradish in it. The onions tasted fresh and hot.
I had eaten them automatically, without much appreciation. I was tired and hungry and just wanted to get the meal over with and go home.
But those hot dogs had been good, I thought. Delicious, in fact. So tasty and satisfying after a long day.
Yes, they were amazing.

Has your perspective changed lately about something you’ve been taking for granted?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tuesday Muse: A moment

A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.
― Eudora Welty

I’m joining Nancy of A Rural Journal for Tuesday Muse.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Barbara and the importance of encouraging words

"Blue Sky and Autumn Leaves"

When I was growing up, my best friends were twins who lived two miles from me. Their parents farmed, too, and ran a store.
We visited back and forth. We mostly played outdoors, making up games. Often, when I was visiting them, we played board games like Monopoly and Life under the trees in their front yard. Their mother, Barbara, would pop a grocery-sized paper bag full of popcorn and bring it out to us to eat as we played.
Even when I was a child, Barbara talked with me like she cared what I had to say. She seemed eager to hear about what I was doing and thinking.
When I grew up and moved away, she was one of the people that I always wanted to see when I visited my parents in the old community.
Barbara died this past week. She was 84 years old.
I haven’t seen Barbara a lot in the past years, but whenever I did, we caught up on our lives and she showed me that same kind, listening ear.
Three years ago, when I had been working at my newspaper job for less than a year, I received a card from Barbara. She had seen my work in The Union Star, a sister paper of the newspaper that I work for.
Here is part of what she wrote to me:

“For some time I have been seeing your name in “The Union Star” and wondered if it could be “our” Tina. Then (my daughter) told me you were at the Supervisors’ meeting and it answered my question. . . . I just wanted you to know how happy I am for you as I know you always wanted to be a journalist. I can remember a lot of years ago, and I don’t know where we were, but you said how very much you liked putting words together. . . . I just had to tell you how very proud I am of you.”

I felt so encouraged by her words. I was surprised that she had remembered something I had said so long ago. I was so pleased that she was proud of me.
That is what I will remember about Barbara: her kind and encouraging ways and words.
We all need people in our lives who are interested in what we’re doing, who listen to us, who encourage us in what we want to do.
Barbara was one of those people in my life.
When my father died over 16 years ago, I received a sympathy card from Barbara and her husband. In that card, she wrote, “The world is a better place for having (your father) for a little while.”
The world is a better place for having you, Barbara, too.

Who is someone in your life who has been especially encouraging to you?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Autumn colors and other randoms: Random 5 Friday

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you’ve had a good week and are looking forward to a great weekend!
I’m joining in with Random 5 Friday with Nancy of A Rural Journal. Follow the link to Nancy’s blog to find other bloggers sharing their randoms!

The leaves don’t seem to want to change color this fall. We still have a lot of green left on the trees, and a lot of the leaves that have fallen are brown. Here are some photos I took last Sunday around the house.

I saw my orthopedic doctor this week, and he turned me loose. He said the break in my foot was 100 percent healed in some areas. It’s still not healed completely at the edge, but it will heal, he said.
I can wear any shoe I want now as long as it doesn’t hurt. And my activities aren’t limited in any way. Just watch for pain, he said.
I asked him how to avoid breaking it again, and he said to avoid turning my foot on the side and falling.
Well, yeah.
We laughed about it, and I clarified by asking how could I avoid another stress fracture, because this break probably started as a stress fracture.
He said weight was the big issue there.
I’m working on it.

Larry, Chase Bird and I have been adjusting to Chase’s new freedom to roam the house at will. The boy can leap small buildings, I’m pretty sure. We’ve had to get him down from places that he’s not supposed to be, but usually all we have to say is his name, and he gets down.
He also appears and disappears quickly. Sometimes the only way we find him is to shake the treat bag, which usually brings him running.
On Thursday, I was off work and Larry and I went out to lunch. I went to the car first. When Larry came out, he said he couldn’t find Chase but figured he was under one of the chairs in the living room, where he likes to sleep.
When we got home, we heard a faint meow. Poor Chase Bird had gotten shut into the coat closet when Larry reached in to get his jacket. We apologized profusely.

Chase Bird doesn't have e time for photos. He's too busy.

I usually go to bed at night before Larry. Nearly every night, Chase comes and sits on the foot of the bed when I lie down. He stays there most of the night, getting up when I get up in the morning. Larry says he’s guarding me. I think it’s very sweet.

Two months from today is Christmas. Where did this year go? I’ve already seen some Christmas decorations in a little shop in town. I’m not quite ready to start thinking about all the decorating, shopping and general stress I seem to create around the holidays.
I’m thinking of creating a holiday season bucket list like Debbie at It’s All About Purple did for autumn. It looks like she’s having a lot of fun working on that list!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sometimes you need comfort food and good company

We didn’t talk much on the ride down the highway to Gretna, a town about 12 miles south of Altavista.
Earlier that day, we had heard from the vet’s office: Sam’s ashes had been returned from the pet crematory. So we had picked up the small, cedar box, gone home and sat together for a while.
We knew we needed to get out of the house, so Larry suggested we go for an early dinner at C & E’s Restaurant.
This restaurant serves Southern, country cooking and includes a buffet. Mashed potatoes with butter, macaroni and cheese, pinto beans, stewed tomatoes, green beans, fried chicken, baked chicken, cornbread—comfort food.
I figured Larry needed comfort food. And I did, too.
So we drove to Gretna and entered the restaurant, quiet before the dinner rush. Soon we had our plates piled with the good food.

A side note: I was raised in the South and in the country, just one county north of where Larry was raised. But there’s a dish that I had never heard of until I met Larry and learned about C & E’s: pig’s feet.
Larry grew up eating pig’s feet occasionally, and he loves them. The only place we know of that serves them is C & E’s, on Fridays.

So last Friday, Larry got his bowl of pig’s feet. He put vinegar on them.

As we started eating, the man who had seated us returned to the table.
“I noticed that you were eating pig’s feet,” he said to Larry. “Have you ever tried them deep fried?”
Larry hadn’t, so the man described how good they were breaded, then deep fried for a few minutes. It gave them a different taste, he said.
“Would you like me to fry you up some?” he asked.
Larry said sure, so the man went back to the kitchen. A few minutes later he returned with a basket of the fried pig’s feet.

Larry thought they were delicious. The man seemed so pleased with Larry’s review and so interested in food, I had to ask him about it.
“It sounds like you enjoy food. Do you love to cook?”
“Well, it’s one of my loves,” he said, laughing.
We chatted for a few minutes. We learned that his family runs the restaurant. He’s an electronics engineer by trade, he said, and has a business in Atlanta, but when he comes home to Virginia, he puts on an apron and helps out at the restaurant.
He talked about fixing turkeys for takeout for Thanksgiving and a little about the process he goes through to get them ready for cooking. He talked about the taste of deep fried turkeys, something Larry and I have never tried.
We had a nice visit with him. And good food.
As Larry and I left the restaurant, we were both smiling.
We had eaten our comfort food. And we had enjoyed good company.

What’s your favorite comfort food dish?

Monday, October 21, 2013

A movie, hope, a soaring bird and joy

Larry and I saw the movie “Gravity” this weekend. This post is not a review of the movie, and I won’t include any spoilers for those of you who haven’t seen the movie but want to see it.
I will say that it profoundly affected both of us.
We talked about it later. I asked Larry what he thought the meaning of the movie was. He thought about it and said, “Don’t lose hope.”
I agreed.
And, I added, my favorite line was when Sandra Bullock’s character said something to the effect that she may live or she may die, but either way, it was going to be one hell of a ride.
Her statement was a strong one, especially since she had, up to that point in the movie, been hiding from life, not quite wanting to die, not quite wanting to live.
This movie reminded me that whatever life handed me, I wanted to live with hope and joy. To live fully and die gracefully.

So that’s the movie part of this post. The soaring bird? I saw him on Sunday. I went out into the yard to get some photos. I haven’t meandered around like that in nature since we lost Sam almost two weeks ago.
The temperature was perfect, the sky was blue, the sun was bright. We still have a lot of green left on the trees, but I saw some changes in the leaves.
When I take photos, I try to remind myself to look up, look down, turn around and look behind me—see the different perspectives.
I looked up and saw a large bird sailing through the sky.
I lost sight of it, but then when I was filling up the bird bath, a shadow crossed over me. I looked up and saw the bird again. Then another.
I thought I was seeing a pair of hawks, though I realized later they were vultures.
I snapped photo after photo. I walked around with my neck bent backwards, focused on the sky, trying to follow the lovely path of these birds.

The birds, the sky, the sun, the trees—they are all so much bigger than me. Nature is so much bigger than me. God is so much bigger than me.
It all pooled together: the movie, the hope, the bird, the joy.
I wanted to cry from that joy.

What is something that has given you joy lately? And if you’ve seen “Gravity,” what did you think of it?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Random 5 Friday: Cooking and lost objects

I’m joining in with Random 5 Friday, the great meme hosted by Nancy of A Rural Journal. Follow the link and find other blogs participating.
First some photos from a recent early morning.

Saturday is Larry’s birthday. The gifts and cards have been bought and the cake has been ordered. On his birthday, we’re planning to go see the movie “Gravity.” It’s one he’s wanted to see. Then we’ll have a nice dinner out.
It has been a hard month, and I want him to have a nice, enjoyable day.

Yes, I ordered a birthday cake instead of making one. I’ve never made a cake from scratch, and I thought the bought one with decorations would be better than me making one from a mix.
It bothers me that I don’t like to cook. I keep thinking that I should like to cook, that I should cook even if I don’t like it. I wonder if I’m a cook who just hasn’t realized it yet.

Larry must be reading my mind because Thursday he returned from a trip to Sam’s with a package of three plain, black aprons. Aprons?
I have one that my mother made me many years ago. And I told Larry ages ago that I would try to make him one, but sewing seems to be another one of those things that my mother did beautifully but I can’t seem to understand.
I asked Larry what we were going to do with the aprons, and he said cook.
He cooks sometimes, mostly breakfast foods and pots of beans and spaghetti sauce. He does a great job.
Maybe his purchase of the plain black aprons is a nudge for me?

I discovered this week that my camera card reader that I use to download photos to my computer is gone. I keep it in a side pocket of my camera bag, but when I wanted to use it at work, it was gone. I’ve looked high and low at home and at work, to no avail.
It was a nice reader in a nice pouch to protect it. I am assuming that somewhere, sometime it fell out of the bag without me noticing.
I can download from my camera directly, but it’s a bit more complicated. I hate to lose things.

I had my regular dental check-up on Thursday. They found no problems. Actually, the dental hygienist told me I didn’t give her much work to do.
I tend to be rather religious about my teeth. For whatever reason—growing up without fluoride in the water, thin enamel, genetics—I’ve had a lot of dental work over the years.
I can’t say enough good things about my dentist, who I’ve been seeing for almost 28 years. It helps to have a dentist you can trust.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


   Thank you for listening to me while I work through changes.

Chase Bird

“All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.”
--Cecil Frances Alexander

When Larry and I got married almost 10 years ago, we formed a blended family. But not in the way the term “blended family” usually refers to.
Larry has a daughter, but she was already married and had two children when I married Larry. I didn’t have any children.
We blended our cats.
Larry had Thunder Cat and Sam. I had Waddles. Waddles and I moved into the house Larry already had in Altavista, and we became the happy family we had dreamed about.
Or not.
The cats didn’t get along. We should have known it wouldn’t be easy.
We really didn’t know what we were doing. We immediately introduced Waddles to Thunder and Sam—face to face in the same room. A lot hissing and growling ensued, as you can imagine.
We learned. Usually you have to gradually introduce cats to each other. It can take days—weeks—months before they will spend peaceful time together in the same room. Sometimes it never quite happens.
But eventually, it did happen with Waddles and her two new siblings. They could, for the most part, remain at peace with each other.
One of the happiest times I remember is when all five of us—Larry, me and the three cats—were together in the den, sitting around, hanging out, calm.
Sam was the last of our “original” cats. When she died last week, the group of cats that we started out with, which we formed our family with, was gone.

“O heavenly Father, protect and bless all things that have breath: guard them from all evil and let them sleep in peace.”
--Albert Schweitzer

In 2007, we added Chase Bird to the family. He was a stray that started living under one of the bushes in our front yard, and eventually we took him in and adopted him.
The other cats didn’t like him. He and Thunder Cat had a growling row one time. So we kept Chase in his own room. Larry put up a gate so that he could see what was going on, but we couldn’t let him out with the other cats.
We worked on introducing Chase to them. But as time went on, it seemed less workable because first Thunder Cat, then Waddles, got very sick and fragile.
Chase and Sam had more interaction, usually through the gate. But we were very careful about unsupervised meetings. Usually, if Chase was running around the house, it was because Sam was in a part of the house he couldn’t get to.

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened.”
--Anatole France

Now Chase Bird is the only cat we have. He has full run of the house. It has been an adjustment for all of us. We’ve had to get used to a cat that is young enough to jump up on kitchen counters and dresser tops and bathroom sinks. He is getting used to a freedom that he hasn’t known.
He is a blessing and a comfort. We are fortunate to have him.

But so many changes. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Leaf on leaf: Tuesday muse

"Leaf on leaf"

“Every blade in the field - Every leaf in the forest - lays down its life in its season as beautifully as it was taken up.”
― Henry David Thoreau

I’m joining Tuesday Muse with Nancy of A Rural Journal.

OCD Awareness Week 2013

Thank you, dear readers, for the sympathy and support you showed me this week after losing Sam.
I appreciated each message and each kindness. You reminded me that while most of us don’t know each other “in person,” we forge connections in this bloggy world that are important and strong.
It was a very difficult week for Larry and me. We are still in a daze. It all seems to have happened so fast.
Soon I will write more about what has been going on.
But right now it is easier to write about something different.

The week of Oct. 14-20 is International OCD Awareness Week, promoted by the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF).
I want to use this opportunity to bring awareness to an often-misunderstood disorder.

One of the IOCDF's social media signs.

I first exhibited symptoms of OCD when I was a young child, perhaps 7 or 8 years old. I was not diagnosed until I was 26 years old.
I counted compulsively, tried to pray constantly, asked forgiveness over and over, confessed to thoughts I might have had, washed my hands until my hands and wrists were red and raw. I spent an inordinate amount of time checking for things that might be dangerous to others. I read and reread schoolwork over and over.
I hid my symptoms the best I could. My parents thought I was being disobedient and contrary, wasting water, wasting time, not doing my schoolwork like I was supposed to, asking seemingly silly questions over and over.
Treatment, including medication, therapy and self-help have brought me a long way from the hellish days when OCD was a constant, strong force in my life.
There also seems to be more awareness about OCD among the general public.
But some that of that awareness oversimplifies this very serious disorder. OCD is not about being super-organized or neat.

I have written about the different manifestations of OCD that I’ve experienced. Below are links to some of those posts is you’d like to learn more about the way the disorder has affected me.

I hope you will also check out the website of the IOCDF for more information.

Besides me, have you ever known anyone with OCD?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Samantha Adair "Sam" Barbour

Our Sam died this morning.
I thought she was getting better. But her health deteriorated quickly Monday.
On this blog, I share much of what is important in my life, and you know that our cats are very important to Larry and me.
So many of you expressed concern about Sam as she went through her health issues over the last two weeks, and I want you to know that I have appreciated it.

I can’t write anymore now. I will be back as soon as I can.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Awareness: I have mental illnesses. I have a good life.

I had a good weekend. I spent time with Larry and my kitties. I read one great book and started another. I did some chores around the house. I took some photos. I did some organizing and planning on paper. I napped. I relaxed.
Yes, a good weekend.
I’m grateful for good times like this, for each new day that brings opportunities to be productive and enjoy those I love.
And I’m grateful that I can still enjoy the things in life that so many of you enjoy despite having mental illnesses.

This week (October 6-12) is Mental Illness Awareness Week, promoted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

I want to take this opportunity to speak out in support of others dealing with mental illness, whether they have a condition themselves or have family or friends with mental illness.

But it’s not the end of the world if you have a mental illness.
I recognize that there is a lot of stigma about mental illness. When I’ve told people that I have a mental illness, I haven’t always been met with understanding. I can sometimes see the unease in other people’s reactions. We as a society are not comfortable talking about mental illness.
I have depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, commonly known as OCD. My psychiatrist has also diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.
I used to think all those diagnoses made me a mess.
But I’m not a mess. I’m a woman who struggles sometimes—if you’ve been reading my blog, you know that.
But I also live a good life. I have a husband I adore; I have pets; I have a job I enjoy; I take opportunities to write, something I consider to be part of my purpose; I take photographs; I have good weekends and good weekdays.
Treatment has allowed me to bloom in many ways.
Just as I have been helped by treatment for mental illness, so can anyone with one of these disorders. Everyone responds differently, but I firmly believe that anyone can improve with the right treatment.
It’s not always easy. I have had to make adjustments in my life to allow for the anxiety and depression that sometimes interfere with my daily activities. I have to be mindful to take my medication, see my doctor, and do the other things I do for my mental health.

But life isn’t always easy for you either, is it? We all have obstacles, burdens, troubles. Some of mine happen to include mental illness.

I encourage you to learn more about mental illness by visiting the NAMI website. And remember to be thankful for the good days.

Have you ever witnessed stigma associated with mental illness?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Collections and randoms for Random 5 Friday

I’m joining in with Nancy of A Rural Journal for her Random 5 Friday meme, where, as she says, “you can share 5 random facts about you, your day, your pets, your kids, whatever!”

I’ve always liked jewelry, and through the years I’ve collected quite a bit of—surprise!—cat and other animal-themed jewelry.
Here are some photos of some my cat and paw jewelry. Just about every day, I wear a piece of jewelry showcasing my love of animals, cats in particular.

I also collect bookmarks. Yes, I am a bookworm, and I love all things book.
I keep the bookmarks stored in a basket on one of our bookcases. I enjoy using different ones, depending on the book I’m reading and my mood.
Do you collect anything?

I probably wouldn’t be any good at collecting something that I had to protect in the original box or behind a locked door. I like to use what I collect.

The company that owns the newspaper I work for held its annual editorial conference this week in Danville, a city about 45 minutes south of Altavista. Editors and reporters from about 15 papers gathered for a day of presentations and discussions.
It was fun to have the opportunity to talk with others in the same profession and exchange ideas.


Sam showed more improvement Thursday than she has all week. She walked around more and interacted with us like normal. Talk about happy—that’s what Larry and I were!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

On the road

Sam in 2011.

Sam seems to be on the road to recovery. She is still not as active as she was, but she is improving every day. She is not totally healed, but she is so much better than she was.
She has been through a lot: constipation, arthritis and body pain, infection. Our vet used the words “life threatening” on Saturday.
We were reminded that Sam is 17 years old this month, and that any illness in a kitty that old can be serious.

Our plucky girl didn’t give up. She bravely withstood repeated vet visits, needles, x-rays. She put up with the worried attention Larry and I gave her. Poor baby probably needs a vacation from us.
And Larry and I didn’t give up on her. We shed tears and paced the floor. We lost sleep and had a lot of worried conversations. We held on to hope that Sam would come back to us.
And we are grateful that she is on that road back.

I appreciate your comments and messages of concern you sent.
I haven’t missed writing a post, but I feel like I’ve been away for a long time because I haven’t been keeping up with YOU. I have missed you and hope to get back to the routine I enjoy so much—reading your blogs and catching a bit of what you’re doing in life.
I’ve not been following my regular routine lately because of all that has been going on. My emotions have been all over the place. I hope I’m on the road back, too.

Let’s start with the comments section: what’s one thing YOU have been up to lately?