Friday, February 21, 2014

A Truly Random “Random 5 Friday”

It’s Friday, so I’m joining Nancy of A Rural Journal for Random 5 Friday.

When I told my editor at the newspaper about my sledding adventure, he asked me to write a first-person account of it for this week’s paper. We rarely do anything like that, but he thought it would be fun for readers.
If you’d like to read the article, you can click HERE.

Last week when it was snowing, I went to English Park, which is along the Staunton River in Altavista and found these ducks.

Back at the house, I found these tracks in the snow outside Larry’s shop. Can you tell what animal they belong to?

I was at the newspaper office on Wednesday, working at my desk. My cell phone was in my pocket. Suddenly, the phone sounded a shrill and very loud alarm. Simultaneously, my co-workers’ cell phones did the same thing.
It was an AMBER alert. A little girl in another part of Virginia had gone missing.
Thankfully, the little girl was found in less than an hour after the alert went out.
The alarm may frighten you the first time you hear it, but I’m so glad such alerts are in place to help.

I’m reading another mystery/thriller by John Sandford. It’s called Rough Country and features a character named Virgil Flowers. It’s very well-written and a great read, too.
But as I’m reading it, I’m also studying the structure and how the mystery flows. I hope such study will help my own writing as I tackle the mystery writing process.

I am taking next week off from blogging. I need some time for rejuvenation. I will be back on March 3. Blessings to all of you, dear readers!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

An old passion comes to life

I couldn’t sit still. I kept moving around in my chair. My legs were shaking. Every couple of minutes I got up and paced. My heart rate had gone up—I could tell.

What was I so nervous about? Was it a situation at work? Was I trying to stare down a compulsion? Was it a panic attack?
No. It was a basketball game.

I don’t think I’ve ever written on this blog about the obsession that I once had about basketball, specifically college basketball. It wasn’t an OCD obsession. It didn’t adversely affect my life. It was more of a passion. I haven’t indulged in it for a long time, but Tuesday night, I did.

I had a passion for college basketball, especially ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) games, especially University of Virginia games.
It started when I was in high school. I remember watching my first NCAA championship game in 1979: Indiana State versus Michigan State, Larry Bird versus Magic Johnson. I was pulling for Indiana State. Even though Michigan State prevailed, I was hooked.
I soon discovered UVA basketball, when Ralph Sampson joined the team during the 1979-1980 season. Sampson, Jeff Lamp, Jeff Jones, Ricky Stokes, Lee Raker—those were among the names I followed every Saturday afternoon, watching the games on TV.
I knew who most of the starting players were on all eight teams in the ACC. I knew who all the coaches were. I read the sports pages and even kept a scrapbook of clippings about Virginia basketball.
I loved the constant action of basketball, the finesse, the beauty of the basketball swooshing through the net, the skills required.
When I watched the games, I was totally immersed. I called out to the players, encouraging them. I cheered, I yelled, I pounded on the floor.
My family put up with me.

When I was a student at UVA from 1981-83, I attended a game at University Hall every chance I got.
During my first year, a guy I had met at a party called me up one late afternoon to see if I’d like to watch that night’s game on TV with him. I politely declined, telling him I had a ticket to the game and would be there in person.
My suitemates were astounded that I would turn down a “date” to go to a basketball game. I was astounded that they thought I would give up the chance to be there.
No worries. The guy called later and said he’d scored a ticket, so we attended the game together.

As I got older, I got busier with adult responsibilities and didn’t keep up with the game.
Right now, I can’t name five players on the UVA team. I can’t even name all the teams in the ACC anymore.
But Tuesday night, I watched the game between Virginia and one of its archrivals, Virginia Tech.
Virginia is having a very good year—the best since the early 1980s, when I was such a fan. I finished up at work earlier than usual for a Tuesday night, so I came home and turned on the game.
It was a nail biter. Virginia Tech made Virginia work for the win, but my team won: 57-53.
And I was almost as excited as I was when I was a teenager. Go, ‘Hoos!
I think more games are in my near future.

And on a side note, the win was particularly sweet because I live with a Virginia Hokie. Yes, Larry is a Hokie. But I claim victory tonight.

What passion from your past do you still hold on to?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Looking back: Josephine

I have found that even though I’m not actively working on my memoir, memories and remembrances from the past come to me and want to be told. So I’m making them little stories to share.

Today’s post is about Josephine, my great-aunt and the doll that she gave me.

Aunt Josephine was my father’s aunt, so my great-aunt. She was my paternal grandmother’s youngest sister. The photo below is one taken of my great-grandparents and their daughters. Aunt Josephine is the little girl on the right on the front row. My grandmother is on the back row, second from the left.
There were brothers in the family, too—quite a large family—but none are in this photo.

My grandmother died when I was 4 years old, so I don’t remember much about her. Two of her sisters, Josephine and Ida, who is standing beside Josephine in the photo, were like surrogate grandmothers to me growing up.
I didn’t think of them as that when I was little. It was only when I was an adult did I realize how they played that grandmotherly role with me.
Aunt Josephine played another important role in my life. She had been the one to introduce my parents to each other. She was the youth leader at my mother’s church in the 1940s, and she thought she and her nephew would get along.

Aunt Josephine was fascinating to me. She loved antiques and collected a lot of things. Her husband built a little building beside their house for her to store her treasures.
Her house was so different from mine. It was full of stuff. There seemed to be no order to anything.
Sometimes Aunt Josephine’s mood would be low. She looked greatly fatigued, like she could barely move, and her eyes looked sunken in.
I remember her visiting our house one hot, summer day. She looked drained and sad. But she sat down at our piano and played lovely tunes by ear.
I understand now that the way she kept her house and her low moods may have pointed to depression. At the time, it just seemed like that was the way she was.

One day, for some reason, she gave me a doll she had found somewhere in her treasure hunts. I was little enough to still be playing with dolls, and I liked this doll’s pretty face and what was then long golden hair.
I held on to the doll, and some years ago, after I had had her in storage for a long time, I decided to refurbish her a bit.
All of the photos of Josephine the doll in this post are "after" the changes.

One side of her head was bald where her wig was halfway off, and the hair itself smelled moldy. So I tore off the wig and gave her a good bath.
I bought a bag of doll hair. It was in individual ringlets. I hot-glued each one to her head, giving her a head full of dark hair.

Why dark hair? Because Aunt Josephine had had dark hair before it turned white, and I wanted to name my doll Josephine.
I added a pair of glasses because I liked the look.
The dress she has on in these photos is an old baby dress—one of mine, I think. And she’s wearing my baby shoes.
I would like to dress her in clothes that look like a girl would wear around the turn of the 20th century. Someday I will.

For now, she sits in a rocking chair that was mine as a child. And she reminds me of Aunt Josephine.

Do you or did you have any relatives that fascinated you?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Random 5 Friday: Adventures in the snow

Happy Friday, and Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you are all doing well.
I’m joining Nancy of A Rural Journal in Random 5 Friday, a very fun meme. To join in the fun, go HERE.

Our upper driveway as the snow fell on Thursday.

Virginia got snow! Altavista got snow!
I’ve written before how I love snow, so Wednesday and Thursday were exciting for me. We haven’t had this much snow in about four years. We got around 10 inches, maybe a bit more since it snowed again all afternoon Thursday. Lots of other parts of Virginia got more.
It started snowing Wednesday afternoon and snowed all night into Thursday morning, plus Thursday afternoon.

Looking down our street.

Looking up our street.

I have marveled at the beauty of the snow, especially how it looked on the trees and branches of bare shrubs.

Looking out the window on the side yard.

Each branch made beautiful by the snow. 

I have not been sledding in years. In fact, I don’t remember going sledding since I was a teenager. But Thursday, we got out a sled and a snowboard, and Larry and I packed a good path in the side yard. Then I went flying!
Adventure is my word this year, but foolhardy is not. I knew I couldn’t stand on the snowboard, so I sat on it.
Larry wouldn't try it. He said he didn't want to break something. But he pushed me and took photos. And laughed with me.

Me taking a break. I am soaking wet. 

This photo is a little blurry, but you can still see I'm having a great adventure!

I didn’t know I had so much laughter and yelling—the joyful kind—in me. I laughed, yelled, squealed, and had a fabulous time sliding down the hill and falling into the snow.
After one fall, I just rolled over on my back and lay in the snow, looking up at the sky. It was turning gray, getting ready for more weather. The branches of the trees were stark against the sky. And I was content.


For Valentine’s Day, Larry and I are going to eat tonight at Main Street Café and Coffee, a restaurant in Altavista where we often enjoy lunch. They don’t normally serve dinner, but they are having a special Valentine’s dinner featuring tastes of Italy. We’re looking forward to a nice evening.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

It’s a Snow Cat

If the weather forecasters are correct, there’s snow coming to Virginia, including Altavista, today and tomorrow. Finally, we are supposed to get a storm from the south, which brings more snow than the little “clippers” we’ve been getting.
I haven’t made any snowmen this year—not enough snow. But I thought I’d be brave and show you a snow creature that I built almost five years ago, in March 2009.
We had an unexpectedly deep snow. I worked for a state agency then, and we closed for the day. So I got to get out and play in the snow.
I carefully created a Snow Cat.

Larry looked at it and asked, “Why did you make a Snow Squirrel?”
“It’s a cat,” I said.
“It’s a squirrel,” he said.

Can you believe that we still have this discussion whenever it snows?
I say it was a Snow Cat. He says it was a Snow Squirrel.

Have you made a snowman, or another kind of snow creature, lately?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Looking back: The little red chair

When I was a small child, my paternal grandfather lived about a mile away from us.
One day he walked up to our house carrying a little red chair that had been in his family. He wanted my father and his children to have it.

I was the youngest and the only daughter, so I ended up making the chair my own.
When I was growing up, I kept it sitting in front of an old vanity that I had in my bedroom until I left home. I could sit on the chair and brush my hair and “primp.”
 I liked the story behind the chair. My grandfather, who was born in 1885, used it to learn to walk. Someone would turn over the chair so that it set steady on the floor, and my grandfather would push it across the floor.
Apparently, someone cut the legs down short so the chair could be used for this purpose.

You can see where the chair back and the top of the front legs are smoothed down from rubbing against the floor.

Granddaddy didn’t have an easy life when he was young. His father died when he was two years old, and his mother died when he was four. He had three older siblings. Apparently he lived with different relatives growing up, eventually living with his paternal grandmother.

Granddaddy in 1889, when he was four years old.

Granddaddy when he was a young man.

The chair has been painted red since I can remember. I don’t know why someone painted over the wood with thick red paint. Perhaps it was to brighten it up for children.

Now I keep the chair in either our den or living room. It’s currently sitting in the living room, providing a seat for a stuffed snowman that I’ll keep out a few more weeks.

I have an old doll that would probably look better on the chair than this stuffed snowman.

(Note: Do you think I should try to remove the red paint and show the original wood? Would that hurt the wood?)

I have other pieces of furniture plus other treasures that have been in my family a long time. I’m trying to record their stories so I don’t forget and so my nieces and nephews and other family members will know their meaning.
And I have so many family stories to record, including my father’s writings and letters he wrote his sister during World War II.
Not all my memories are good, but that’s the way life is. The good can be remembered, and the bad can be learned from.

Do you have any pieces of furniture that have been in your family for a long time?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Random 5 Friday: Down by the River

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had a good week. My thoughts go out to those who are in the middle of snow and ice and power outages.
It’s time for Random 5 Friday, a great meme started by Nancy of A Rural Journal. Click HERE to find more bloggers who have posted their Random 5!

The Staunton River at Altavista, Virginia. Seeing all these spots in the photo makes me think I need to clean my lens cover.

I was off from my newspaper job on Thursday, so Larry and I had lunch at a local café. I had the vegan four-bean chili—delicious! I failed to get a photo, though.
Then we went to English Park and enjoyed walking around and taking photos of the Staunton River. It has been a while since we’ve been down there. It’s always good to see what changes have occurred and to hear the sound of the water once again.

I like the look of the light in the trees surrounding Larry. The river is right beyond his feet.

We watched a bit of the Winter Olympics, including figure skating. I get a little nervous when I watch the skaters go into one of those high jumps where they spin in mid-air. I’m always wondering if they’ll land OK.
Even when the announcers sound disappointed in the performance, I think, Well, most people can’t do any of that on ice. Looks pretty good to me.

We enjoy watching the snowboarding, too. I’ve never been snowboarding. I’ve never even gone skiing. But it seems like flying through the air must be such an exhilarating feeling.
Wintergreen Resort is not that far from where we live. I’d like to try skiing sometime. It would such an adventure, and this year is about adventure. But I am rather clumsy, and I don’t want to deal with a broken bone. If I don’t go skiing, am I being practical or afraid—or both?
Do you ski or snowboard?

When you do creative endeavors such as writing, painting, drawing, crafting or photo editing, do you listen to music? If so, what kind?
I am experimenting with what works for me. I don’t listen to music when I’m doing editing work or journalism. But when I’m writing fiction or poetry, I often like to listen to music. Words get in the way, though. Any suggestions for some good instrumental music to listen to?

I love doing research. I love learning new things and making connections between what I learned yesterday and what I’m learning today.
The research I’m doing for my novel is fun. I have a lot to do, but it’s so interesting, it doesn’t seem like work.

What do you love to research?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Adventure: Novel

I haven’t been this enthusiastic about a writing project for a long time.
I’m writing a novel, a mystery novel.
I’ve been writing for most of my life. I wrote stories when I was a child and continued to write fiction in college and graduate school.
I took a creative writing class while in graduate school, and I kept turning in short stories. The instructor kept telling me that she couldn’t hear my voice in the writing.
At the time, I didn’t know what she was talking about. I just gave up. I wrote some poems and turned those in. My instructor said, “I’m finally hearing your voice.”
So I just kept on writing poetry. I never tried writing fiction again.
Through the years, I developed a love for writing nonfiction: essays, opinion pieces, biography and memoir.
Sometimes I thought about writing fiction, but I didn’t read a lot of fiction. And I believe that we should write what we enjoy reading. The only fiction I enjoyed was the mystery/thriller.
I thought I couldn’t write one of those. It would be too hard. I would have to do too much research. I didn’t have a voice. No, I couldn’t write one of those.
Sometimes I played around with some ideas in my head—I never wrote any of it down. And I quickly pushed the thoughts aside.
No, I couldn’t write a mystery/thriller.
The thing is, I haven’t written steadily for a long time. I’ve worked on blog posts, of course, and for the newspaper. But I haven’t touched my memoir in a while. I felt stuck. I wanted to write more, but nothing appealed to me.
I told myself I needed to develop more discipline. I needed to push myself and eventually I’d like what I was doing.
Look at those last words I wrote, about developing discipline and pushing myself. Do they depress anyone else? They sure depress me.
I let the joy of writing get away from me.
Recently, I was lying in bed, unable to sleep. I started thinking about a character who wanted to solve a mystery. I started adding details. I started writing in my head.
I got excited. I wanted to write.
And I did. And I had a ball.
I don’t know what I’m doing. I have a lot to learn about putting together a mystery novel. I have a lot of research to do. But the learning and the research are not going to get in the way of the writing. I’ll be writing away amid the learning.
My word for this year is adventure. I started an editing business in January. My latest adventure is starting a novel. And I’m having so much fun!

Chase Bird said if I write a novel, the main character has to have a cat. Preferably a gray Tabby.

P.S. When I told Larry I was writing a novel, he said, “I’ve been telling you for 15 years that you needed to write one.”

If you decided to write a book, what kind of book would it be? Or if you’re already writing one, what kind is it?

Monday, February 3, 2014

My collection

I recently cleaned out my basket of bookmarks and sifted through them, remembering where they came from, remembering some that I had forgotten I had.
I don’t collect many different things. I suppose it’s no surprise that the thing that I collect most is closely connected to one of my favorite activities: reading.
I’ve been collecting bookmarks for most of my adult life. I don’t know when I started or when I decided that I was formally collecting them.
But I’ve ended up with over 40 bookmarks.
I probably collected most of them in the 1980s and 1990s. Some I bought myself. The rest were gifts from thoughtful friends.
I find that I have a few that I use more than others. Some I’m afraid of bending too much. Some I’m afraid of losing. But I think all of them have been used at some time.
Note: These photos are not very good. I had a hard time with the lighting and focus. But you'll get the idea.

My pile of bookmarks.

Being a cat person, I have a number of cat themed bookmarks.

The kitty third from the left looks so much like our Sam.

I bought this one at a wine festival I attended a couple of years ago. I love how her tail makes part of the clip.

I bought this one on a trip to Tennessee.

A former co-worker gave this to me when I left the health department over six years ago.

A good friend from grad school sent me this bookmark years ago. It’s one of my favorites.

Reading may not make me look beautiful, but it makes life beautiful.

The Cat Woman and Book Woman bookmarks below describe me perfectly, don’t you think?

Yes, I am a Cat Woman.
Yes, I am a Book Woman.

I have bought some bookmarks because I just thought they were pretty.

I love the light through the blue and green glass.

Some of my bookmarks have messages on them.

A friend gave this to me one Easter.
I like this advice.

Some bookmarks are just fun.

Curious George! 

I keep my bookmarks in a basket on top of the bookcase in the den.

I bought some blank bookmark cards. I’m going to try to make some of my own.

Do you collect anything? If so, what do you collect?