Friday, November 29, 2013

Snow and some randoms

Happy Friday, everyone! Nancy, of A Rural Journal, started a meme called Random 5 Friday, and I’m hooked. Even though Nancy is on a break, I still find it fun to share random facts with you each Friday.

Larry and I enjoyed Thanksgiving at Mountain Lake in Giles County, Virginia. If it wasn’t the best Thanksgiving ever, it was close to the top. We had a wonderful time.

The closer we got to the top of the mountain, the more snow there was.

It snowed in Altavista on Wednesday, but not for long, and it didn’t stick. Up at Mountain Lake, there was snow! Larry and I are like kids when it comes to snow—we love it. We were so excited to walk around and enjoy the soft crunch of the white stuff underneath our feet.

It wasn't deep, but it was snow.

The barn with a background of trees glittering in the sun at the top of the mountain.

We had a fabulous meal. There was a full array of food on the buffet, and a man stood at the carving station, ready to slice off turkey or roast beef, or both.
I had turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, a green salad, and butternut squash.

Yes, I cleaned my plate.

They had a lot more selections, including cornbread stuffing (which Larry said was the best stuffing he had ever eaten) and pecan stuffing, but that’s what I ate.
We had two baskets of different breads on our table, with honey butter and a cranberry relish to spread on them.
The dessert table was lovely, but by the time I got to dessert, I could only eat a small lemon cake.
We both ate too much, but we did manage to stop before we were miserably stuffed.

We went by the gift shop and bought a pottery ornament shaped like Virginia with the name Mountain Lake Lodge on it. This is the second time we’ve been there, and we’ve had a wonderful time each visit. I wanted something to commemorate this visit.

At a fenced off lookout near the Mountain Lake Lodge.

I find being in the mountains restful for my soul. That’s the only way I can say it: my soul feels at peace when I look across the blue mountains.

I’ll share more photos next week. I probably went overboard with the picture taking, but I wanted to capture every piece of beauty I saw.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I give thanks

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who celebrate! I hope you enjoy time with family and friends and make new, warm memories.
And to all my readers: I am thankful for you.

“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”
― Cynthia Ozick


I give thanks for Larry.
I give thanks for Chase Bird.
I give thanks for my mother and Larry’s mother and the rest of our family.

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Leaves and pine needles caught in the fence around the raised bed garden.

I give thanks for the familiar pieces of life.
I give thanks for the new and surprising.

I give thanks for the animals and trees and flowers and skies.

Trees at sunset. November 9, 2013.

I give thanks that I have a home.
I give thanks that I always have plenty to eat.
I give thanks for clean water and clean air.
I give thanks that I have access to good health care.

I give thanks for books and words and color and light.
I give thanks for my blogland friends.

I give thanks to God for all that He has given.

“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.”

― Meister Eckhart

Monday, November 25, 2013

Counting blessings on a walk

Thanksgiving is this week in the U.S., and I find it’s a good time to remember the blessings I have.
I try to count my blessings every night before I go to sleep, but I think it’s good for me—perhaps for all of us—to take the time to really think about what we’re thankful for.
I am chiefly thankful for Larry and my family, which includes our Chase Bird.
Today’s post focuses on blessings that I thought about as I walked around my yard on Sunday, enjoying the sunshine and taking photos of things that caught my eye.
It was a cold day, only getting into the 30s, with a breeze blowing. Before going out, I put on a coat and a knit cap and slipped on my gloves.
I was thankful that I had warm outerwear to put on to protect me from the elements. I was thankful for the gloves that Larry gave me a year or two ago.
They keep my hands warm, but if I have to take photos, the mitten-like top folds back and my fingers are free.

I was thankful that we had such beautiful trees in our yard and that their shapes were fully visible to admire and photograph.

I was thankful for Larry’s hard work in getting up the many leaves that fall from those trees. This is one batch down by the street, waiting for pickup by the town. Such town services are another thing to be thankful for.

I was thankful that I found a few acorns. There aren’t many this year, but I hope the squirrels and deer are able to find the ones that are there.

I also found half a nut in the yard with the insides gone. Larry thought it was a hickory nut. I hope it fed an animal a good meal.

I was thankful for the blue sky behind the trees. Fall is a time with so much less humidity than during the summer, and I love seeing the true blue of the sky.

I was thankful that I had the ability to walk around. I was thankful that I had a camera to capture some of the beauty. And I was thankful that I had a warm home to return to.

When you go for a walk, what blessings do you see?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Randoms and the changing of the season

It’s Friday, so it’s time for another Random 5 Friday, a fun meme started by Nancy at A Rural Journal.

Fall seems to be rapidly turning into winter. The trees are almost bare here, though there are still a few leaves hanging on.
I am fascinated with the shapes of trees underneath the leaves that cover them during much of the year. I enjoy the stark look and the clear silhouettes of the smaller branches against the sky.

A tree in our neighborhood that I admire.

Is it my imagination or do the fall-into-winter sunsets seem to happen more quickly than sunsets during the summer?
It seems like there is a small window of time to enjoy the pretty show of colors. Maybe this will help me appreciate them all the more.

Sunset photo taken from the car as we drove to Roanoke this week

Another sign of the changing season: Christmas lights! Larry and I drove through a dark, rural area one evening this week, and I was surprised at the number of houses that were decorated for Christmas.
It’s still a little early for me to want to decorate for Christmas, but seeing those lights brighten the darkness was nice.

I am steadily getting ready for my freelance editing work. I’m moving towards officially starting after the first of the year. I’ll share more details as I get things in place. I’m so excited!

Though I haven’t yet done any Christmas shopping, I have managed to get Larry to suggest a couple of things he’d like as a gift. That’s an accomplishment. Usually it’s difficult for me to pull any such information out of him. He says I don’t need to give him anything.
Christmas is not about exchanging gifts. But opening up some special gifts on Christmas morning is a ritual that I look forward to.
We sit together by the tree, with Christmas music playing on the stereo. And there’s usually a cat around waiting impatiently for an empty box to become available.

Christmas 2007. Thunder Cat watches as Sam settles into a gift box. Both cats have since gone over the Rainbow Bridge, but we think of them everyday.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Music from the past

Last week while I was down in the basement organizing, I found some things I thought I had lost forever.
I thought I had lost my first piano book and the program from my first piano recital. But I found both.

When I was a little girl, I started picking out tunes on our Kurtzmann upright piano. I remember playing “Jesus Loves Me.”
Surprisingly, my mother discouraged my playing. She didn’t want me to play by ear. She wanted me to play by note. She herself could play by ear, but she hadn’t taken lessons long enough to learn a lot and regretted that.
I remember waiting until she went outside to do something like hang out the laundry. I’d run to the piano and plink out a song until she came back in. I thought I was doing this in secret. I found out years later that she, of course, heard me but didn’t say anything.
She talked with a local piano teacher. I was 5 years old, and this teacher usually waited to begin lessons once a child started school. But she said she’d see what I could learn.
So I started lessons. And I kept taking them until I was 12, when I started organ lessons for a year.

I had to write out the letters for each of the notes. 

My teacher wrote her instructions for me right on the book. A circle meant to practice the piece. She marked through it once it was played well enough to move on.

I had to memorize this one. I also had to memorize my piece for the recital.

A week shy of my sixth birthday, I played in my first recital. I played a song called “Voice of My Heart.” I don’t have that sheet music anymore, but I can still play a little of it by ear.
I did a Google search but couldn’t find the song. I don’t know the composer or anything about it.

Me on our front porch before we left the house for the recital. I remember I hated having to wear socks with sandals.

Some of the songs the other piano students played that evening in May 1969 were these:

“Hi Lili Hilo”
“Gentle On My Mind”
“Love Is Blue”
“Clair de Lune”
Mozart’s “Concerto in C Major”
“Beach Ball Boogie”
“Star Dust”
“Alice Blue Gown”

Lovely music from the past. I’m so glad I found a reminder.

Do you play a musical instrument? Which ones?

Monday, November 18, 2013

My space to create

I’ve been busy putting together a space to create visual art.
I already have a writing space. In a room off our den, I have my desk, computer, scanner and printer set up, and that’s where I write and process photos. It’s where I’ll do my editing work.
I’m not a visual artist, so why do I need a space to create such art?
A wonderful thing happened over the last several months, even longer. I read a lot of blogs. A lot of you create art and crafts and do so beautifully. I love seeing what you have created, and I admire and appreciate you sharing your work.
It has inspired me. And deep inside, that part of me that has always wanted to create with paint and paper and other art supplies woke up after a long nap.
I’ve never had any confidence in my artistic ability. I’ve taken only one art class in my life. I figured I had no gift for it, so why bother?
I’ve done some work with collages, but it was hit and miss. I had fun, but again, lack of confidence made me think I was wasting my time.
I’ve thought about my relationship with words. I love words. I love putting them together, working with them on paper or on the screen, making them fit together to mean something.
I rarely sit down and write something exactly the way I want it to sound. I nearly always have to work over it.
I’ve practiced writing for most of my life. With practice, it has gotten better.
And I love the process. I don’t worry if I can’t get the words down just right immediately. I trust in the process. I trust that the right words, the right order, will come.
I’ve learned that the creating process itself is just as important, sometimes more important, than the finished product.
So why not apply that same attitude toward visual art?
I decided I wanted to try. I had been browsing through a book I have about collages, and I wanted to go deeper.
I also decided that I needed a designated space for it.
Larry has a workshop in a building behind our house. He has all his tools and his workbench out there. He creates things with wood. He loves being in his workshop.
I already had sort of a space in the basement, but it had gradually gathered other stuff on top and around it.
So I rearranged, dusted, swept and cleaned. It was hard for me to get started. My OCD didn’t want to face the task of cleaning. I was afraid I would turn it into a compulsive ritual. But I did just fine.
And I made myself a studio. Here are the results.

These two drawer units hold my sewing, cross stitch, crochet and jewelry making supplies.

On the left is a sewing box/basket that I received when I was a little girl. On the right is a needlework bag that my mother made when I was a little girl.

On the left is my basket of embroidery thread. On the right is a bag that I usually use for cross stitch projects.

Over the years, I’ve collected leftover thread from various projects in this basket. I love seeing all the colors available.

The round table is my main work area. I’ve had this table for about 25 years. I bought it from a friend in Bowling Green, Ohio, as she was preparing to move. I think I paid about $10 for it. It has withstood many moves. The surface withstands just about everything I do to it.

On top of the work table, I have a vase that I filled with beads. I love the different colors in the clear container. Next to it is a measuring tape that a friend gave me. It has a cat on the front. When you pull the tail, you find that it’s the end of the tape measure.

In this photo, you can see my sewing machine covered up. Next to it are two drawer units on wheels where I keep my art supplies—paint, clay, colored pens, colored pencils, stickers, and paper—lots of paper. On the far right is a bookcase where I keep my art and craft books, including books on crochet, needlework and making mandalas. I can roll out the unit next to it to reach the books. On top of the bookcase is a photo of Larry and some keepsakes.

This is a container that holds my adhesives, including my glue gun.

This container holds my cutting tools and my paint brushes. In the front left side, in front of the brushes, you can see a little box with a collage on top. A friend made it and gave it to me many years ago.

This vase that holds the brushes is one that my mother made in ceramics class. It’s dated February 1970.

I’m keeping my small collection of buttons in this blue and white dish that a friend gave to me years ago.

I have a camp table that I bought when I was health educator and needed something to carry with me to health fairs. It’s now a place where I can cut material or paper. The basket/tray on top is where I’m keeping my templates and fragile papers until I find a container for them. I’m also keeping my rulers and cutting board on this table.

So thus ends my tour. I’m excited about working in this space.
Next step? Organizing my writing workspace the way I want it. I’m continuing to work towards my freelance editing business. I have an appointment with our CPA this week to talk taxes.

Do you have a space where you do whatever work you’re passionate about?

Friday, November 15, 2013

A blog anniversary and other randoms

View at Mountain Lake, Virginia, November 2003.

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had a good week and are looking forward to a good weekend.
As I’ve done for many months, I’m sharing my randoms on a Friday post. Nancy of A Rural Journal started many of us on this journey. Though the meme Random 5 Friday is suspended now, I still like to share random facts and bits with you.

Thursday was my two year blog anniversary. Is that blogiversary? Blogoversary? Bloganniversary?
Whatever, I am blessed to have spent two years writing about my life and sharing with you. And I am blessed to have connected with such wonderful readers and commenters and other bloggers. Thank you for your part in this!

Earlier this fall, Tanya at Around Roanoke . . . A Daily Photo Blog posted photos from a visit to Mountain Lake, Virginia.
I loved seeing them. Larry and I went to Mountain Lake for our honeymoon 10 years ago.
In one of her posts about Mountain Lake, Tanya shared a link to information about the Thanksgiving buffet at the resort.
That got me thinking about a visit back to Mountain Lake. I discussed it with Larry, and we decided to do something different this year for Thanksgiving. We made reservations and are looking forward to traveling to Mountain Lake and enjoying their Thanksgiving buffet and the beautiful sights.
Click here for more information about this resort in Giles County, Virginia.
Thank you, Tanya, for inspiring me to consider something different this year!

Sunrise view from our cabin's deck, Mountain Lake, Virginia, November 2003.

We have big oak trees in our front yard and woods border our backyard. So we usually have lots of squirrels running around our yard.
This fall, we’re not seeing many. I think it’s because the trees have yielded very few acorns. Normally, there are so many acorns, we walk with trepidation over the driveway and yard at this point in the year, trying not to fall as they roll under our feet.
We haven’t seen as many deer in the yard either. They eat acorns, too, so I don’t know if there’s a connection or not.
Larry usually rakes the acorns and piles them behind the shop, making a kind of buffet for the animals. Not this year.
I’m sorry that the food supply seems to be so poor for the critters this year, and I hope they can find a good source nearby.
I found this handout about things to consider before feeding wildlife. It gave me pause.

Squirrel in our yard, summer 2013.

Our indoor critter, Chase Bird, is a delight. He’s such a sweet cat. I know you’re tired of me writing that, but he is.
He has taken to sitting on top of our chairs when we are in the den watching TV or reading. I usually sit in a recliner that I’ve had for years. He sits on top of the chair, near my head. Sometimes I can hear him purring.

Chase Bird hanging out on top of the recliner.

Last weekend, as we shopped in a big box store, Larry and I strolled through the Christmas decorations aisles. We even bought some paper and bows. It’s the closest I’ve gotten to Christmas so far.
I usually hold off on listening to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. It’s a self-imposed, arbitrary rule of mine. But this year, I may break my own rule. I love the music of the season.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

And I cooked again

Yes, I cooked. Not just in the microwave, which I do quite often. I cooked on a regular stove.
Over the past weekend, I fixed a simple vegetarian pasta dish. It tasted good. Even Larry, who says he’s a carnivore, not an omnivore, liked it and asked for seconds.

It probably sounds ridiculous that a 50 year old person is happy about cooking a simple dish on the stove.
I’ve written about why I don’t cook very often before. If you’ve read about my OCD obsession with stoves, you know that I have had a really hard time in the past cooking on a conventional stove.
Most of my problems with the stove are in the past. This is the way it was:
It was all wrapped up in the obsessions I had about safety. I worried that I was going to leave the stove on and cause a fire, which would hurt or kill my family.
So when the cooking was done, I compulsively turned the stove off and then on again, off, then on again, over and over. I stared at the stove, trying to convince myself that it was really off.
And then there were the contamination fears. I worried that I wouldn’t clean up after the food preparation, and errant crumbs and spills would draw ants and bugs and mice. And then there would be more contamination.
So I compulsively cleaned, wiping the counter over and over, eyeing it from every angle to make sure it was clean.
It was easier to just not cook.

I eventually learned that my compulsive acts did nothing to help me. OCD is tricky like that. Nothing calms the uncertainty for long before more compulsions have to be done.
The real way to break the OCD is to NOT give in to the compulsions, but rather, deal with the anxiety in other ways.
What worked for me was to leave the scene and get busy doing something else. Or I sometimes focused on the anxiety itself.
Whatever I did, I could not indulge in compulsions. In other words, once I turned off the stove, I had to walk away. I couldn’t check it. I couldn’t turn the knob to “make sure” it was off. Likewise, once I cleaned the counter—one pass over with disinfectant and water—I had to leave it.

My OCD has been better over the past several months. And I started thinking about cooking again. Larry and I eat out a lot. Both of us need to eat healthier. I decided that the best way for us to do that was to eat at home more and eat homemade food.
So I cooked Saturday night. I decided I could do it with a minimum of anxiety. And if I did get anxious, I had the tools to push through it.
I turned on the stove, cooked, and then I turned off the stove. I had a little bit of doubt. Then I turned away from the stove. I did OK.
I don’t think I’ll ever love to cook. It’s just not something I want to do a lot of. But if I can cook a healthy meal and feed my husband and myself at home, then I have accomplished something.

Have you cooked anything good lately?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Leaves and light

I have enjoyed trees so much this fall.
The leaves on the trees. The shape of the branches as they empty themselves of this year’s leaves.
But mostly I’ve enjoyed the way the colorful leaves reflect the light. Even brown or rust-colored leaves take on a glow when the sunshine hits them a certain way.

One of the things I’ve learned as I live with depression is to enjoy the beauty in life. To notice even the small things that can give so much joy—if we just take a moment to see them, not just glance over them.
Carrying around a camera--or thinking about taking pictures--is one of the best ways I've found to help me pay attention. 
I’ve been looking at trees all my life. I’m living through my 51st autumn. But the older I get, the more I realize that a big part of contentment is enjoying the moment, savoring the beauty, and being grateful for it all.
It’s part of my therapy.

What bit of beauty have you enjoyed lately?

Monday, November 11, 2013

My father was a veteran

On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan bombed Hawaii, and the U.S. declared war on Japan. So after that, the draft was for six months after the war ended. In February 1942, they lowered to age to 20 years, which caught me.
“In March 1942, I went to see a draft board member and asked him whether to start a crop. He said he saw no reason not to, and if they did, to just ask for time to get my crop in.
“On July 25, 1942, I got my notice to be examined on Aug. 12. I went to the draft board and asked for a two month delay and was refused. The draft board chairman said, ‘You will be getting $50 a month. You can hire someone to do it for you.’
“On Aug. 12, 1942, I was examined, passed and was sworn in the U.S. Army the same day. This was done in Roanoke, Virginia.”

“My birthday present on July 1, 1944 was going under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California and seeing the U.S.A. the last time for one and a half years.

--from my father’s writings

My father and his mother.

My father served in the Pacific Theater during World War II. He was a medic. He served from 1942 until 1945.
In 1942, he left behind his farming, his family and his life in rural Central Virginia to answer the call from Uncle Sam.
He saw parts of the country and the world that he would never have visited otherwise. He saw horror and pain. He made lifelong friends. He came home and was forever grateful for being able to come home.

Today on Veterans Day, we honor all veterans. We take a day to thank those who served their country.
There will be programs and ceremonies to formally honor veterans. I’ll attend one in my town.
But I also remember my father’s service. He has been gone for many years, but I still have his words, his memories, his thoughts about his time in the Army. I hold them dear.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Falling leaves and random thoughts

Nancy at A Rural Journal has suspended the Random 5 Friday meme for now, but I can’t get out of the habit of sharing randoms on Friday. Nancy is sharing her Random 5 on her blog today, too, so be sure and visit her!

Leaves in the driveway.

Leaves in the yard.

Leaves on top of the car.

We have leaves. So many leaves. Something told the trees to let ‘em loose, and down they came and keep on coming. Larry has been busy blowing them to the curb for town pickup, but they are quickly replaced in the yard. It’s a weeks-long chore.

Sweet Larry gave me flowers for our anniversary. I usually have Thursdays off, but I had to go in during the afternoon to do an assignment. He had the flowers sent to the office so I’d be surprised when I went in. Ten years equals 10 red roses and two pink ones to make a dozen.

Notice the cat calendar beside the flowers? Every Christmas, Larry gives me the tabletop calendar that you “flip” halfway through the year. It features lovely photos of cats and tidbits, observations and quotes about felines.
I keep it on top of the filing cabinet in my office so I can look over from my work and see a pretty cat photo. I love it.

It was on such a calendar that I first found this quote: "You will always be lucky if you know how to make friends with strange cats." (I’ve seen the source listed as anonymous and as Colonial proverb.)
I don’t know how lucky Larry and I are, but strange cats just seem to like us.
Thursday evening, Larry and I went to a local restaurant for our anniversary dinner. It’s the same restaurant where we saw a stray peacock back in the spring.
This time, a pretty gray and white cat walked up as we waited outside for the restaurant to open. She lay down on Larry’s feet, and then she came over to me and rubbed against my legs. I reached down to pet her, and she immediately jumped up with her front paws against my leg. I think she wanted me to pick her up.
The hostess told us she just showed up this week. I don’t know if she’s wandered permanently from home or what, but I worried about her being in a busy parking lot. It’s just not the time for us to bring home another cat, but I hope this little one will be OK.

Considering my OCD used to manifest itself through extreme hand washing and fear of germs, it’s nothing short of a miracle—and I don’t use that word lightly—that I’m able to have a cat and make friends with new animals.
The love of my cats helped bring me out of a lot of my OCD fears. I am forever grateful for them.

Chase Bird in a bag.