Friday, November 28, 2014

Snow at the Peaks

We had read online that there was four inches of snow up on the mountain. We didn’t have any snow in Altavista Thursday morning as we started west toward the Peaks of Otter, but as the road started to climb in Bedford County, we began to see patches of snow. And we could see snow on Sharp Top Mountain in the distance.
By the time we got to the Peaks of Otter Lodge, it was clear that for the second year in a row, we were going to have Thanksgiving dinner in a snow-covered natural setting.
You probably know by now that Larry and I love snow. When we visited Mountain Lake in Giles County last Thanksgiving, we were thrilled to find snow.
This year, the forecast for snow caused us a little concern because if it got too heavy, the Park Service would close the Blue Ridge Parkway, and dinner would be canceled.
We made it safely to the lodge, though, and enjoyed a beautiful buffet of roasted turkey, cornbread and apple stuffing, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, and so many other meats and side dishes.
It seems that now Larry and I have started a tradition: we must eat Thanksgiving dinner where there’s snow.
 Once we parked the truck, I got out my camera and started taking photos. We slowly walked to the lodge as I stopped again and again to try to capture the beauty around us.
This is the first photo I took of Sharp Top.

When we turned back around a few minutes later, clouds were rolling in.

 There seemed to be at least four inches of snow resting on the ground around the guest lodgings.

This is a view of Abbott Lake behind the lodge.

These red buds were a pretty contrast to the brown of the weeds and the white snow.

 Snow on trees—one of the loveliest ways snow decorates nature.

Another view of Sharp Top.

More views of the lake.

They already had their Christmas decorations up. A large tree stood in the lobby.

I especially liked these decorations because of the bears included.

Our table had a good view of the lake. A small tabletop tree stood beside the table. I took this photo with my phone against the light, so it's not a great shot. But I liked the rustic decorations.

Once we sat down to eat, facing the lake, the sun broke through the clouds and shined directly into Larry’s eyes. So we quickly adjusted our seating at the table. You never know when nature will change.
No, I didn’t get any photos of the food. But it was delicious. And I ate a lot. The first thing I did when I got home was to change into sweatpants. My nice dress slacks seemed to have gotten tighter just since that morning. Wonder what caused that?

Monday, November 24, 2014


I'm obviously very thankful for this little critter. He's lounging in front of the gas logs.

This time of year, my thoughts, like many others’, turn to the things that I’m thankful for. I could give you a list of what I’m thankful for. But I thought instead I would tell you a story about a little adventure Larry and I had yesterday.

We went to Lynchburg to do some shopping and decided to eat lunch at a Japanese restaurant we haven’t tried before.
We’ve both had Japanese food before, and Larry loves sushi, but compared to what we were served and the way we were served Sunday, we got more of the “real” food we were looking for.

As we walked through the dining room towards our seat, I saw a lot of people using chopsticks and eating dishes I didn’t recognize.
Then the host left us with menus plus a paper sushi menu with pencils.
What were we supposed to do with these?

The waiter, a very nice young man who looked like he probably attended one of the local colleges, appeared to take our drink orders. I decided to be straight-forward.
“We’ve never been here before,” I said. “What do we do with these little menus?”
The waiter said we would order any sushi by filling out the paper menu. Everything else would be ordered off the other menu.

So Larry and I looked over the menus. We didn’t recognize a lot of the dishes. We laughed at our own confusion. Then I remembered I had my phone. I Googled a few things on the menu to find out what they were. For example, I learned that sashimi is raw meat or fish thinly sliced.

Larry wanted sushi with salmon, and I wanted a vegetarian roll with cream cheese, avocado, and cucumber. We filled out our papers. Then we decided on the main dishes: teriyaki steak and shrimp for Larry, vegetable tempura for me.

The service was so nice. We got our sushi and rolls, then onion soup, which I had never had but found delicious. A green salad followed with a dressing that tasted good even though we didn’t know what kind it was.
When the main meal came, it was on a tray, with a bamboo mat covering the bottom. It was a multitude of food.
I loved the dishes—the small ones for the sauces, the soup spoon perfectly shaped, the pretty plates.
No, I didn’t get any photos. I was concentrating on the food and atmosphere, but now I wish I had snapped a few.
I wanted to try the chopsticks and took them out of the wrapper. I couldn’t figure out at first that I was supposed to pull them apart (don’t laugh). I fiddled with them a little, but I couldn’t seem to get the hang of it.
Larry brought his chopsticks home and practiced this afternoon. I think he wants to go back soon for more food.

So why is this something to be particularly thankful for? I spent time with my husband, we ate good food, and we had fun experiencing something new. We might have been a bit embarrassed by our lack of knowledge, but we just joked about it and had a good time.

These little adventures—these moments of life—they mean so much to me nowadays. I no longer wait for the perfect time to have the perfect day. Any day can be made an adventure, don’t you think?

Blessings to all of you, and if you celebrate Thanksgiving, have a wonderful holiday!

Note: This week, instead of posting on Thursday, I’ll post on Friday.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A good day

A good day is not the one where the exciting things happen.

A good day for me is a quiet one, with some work, some reading. My husband is doing his own good things, but we come together for a meal and a walk, and always, talk.

That is the start of a guest post that I wrote for Shirley Hershey Showalter, writer and memoirist and blogger friend. I have learned so much from Shirley as she considers how to make a good life. I treasure her quiet wisdom.
Shirley is exploring what makes “a good day.” Everyone probably has a different idea of what a good day is. She invited me to share my version of a good day.

Shirley is the author of Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World. It is a lovely memoir about growing up in a Mennonite community in Pennsylvania and learning to connect the way she grew up with the “big life” she wanted to live. I put this book on my Christmas list last year, and it is now a treasured addition to my bookshelves.

I invite you to read the guest post HERE and consider what makes up a good day for you. And read more about Shirley and check out her book. You will not be disappointed!

What ingredients are part of a good day for you?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sharing our secrets

Our second batch of leaves awaiting town pickup.

So many more leaves left to fall.

Somehow, I let my blog anniversary pass without remark. Nov. 14 was my third “blogiversary.” The time has flown by for me. I really have a hard time grasping that I’ve been a part of this blog community for so long.

Before I wrote my first blog post on Nov. 14, 2011, I had never shared a lot about my mental health with others.
As I began posting on the blog, as much as I wanted to be as open as possible about OCD and depression, it was difficult for me to decide what to share and what not to share, and how to express myself.
I had spent a good portion of my life hiding my OCD. Occasionally, I shared with a friend that I had OCD, but I never offered details about what that meant for me in my daily life.
I was a little more open about my depression because that seemed to be a bit more acceptable to others, but, again, I shared few details with others.

I have become more comfortable writing about how OCD and depression fit into my life and how I deal with them. I am more comfortable sharing how I live my life while “bringing along” these mental illnesses.

Recently, I discovered that talking about OCD with another person—speaking about it instead of writing about it—is a whole different experience for me.
As I was talking with this person, I felt more self-conscious about revealing the details about OCD than when I write about them.
Just speaking out loud about OCD jarred me. I heard the words coming out of my mouth, giving explanations about obsessions and compulsions, and I thought, “This disorder is weird. What is this person going to think?

The experience was a positive one, and I’m glad I talked about OCD. Each person I talk to, each person who reads my posts, may learn a bit more, may understand this “weird” disorder a little more.
And if the person is experiencing OCD symptoms, then maybe he or she can be encouraged to get treatment.
I was reminded that sharing such secrets—which we could argue shouldn’t be secrets because having OCD is nothing to be ashamed of—with others isn’t easy.
We have the right to privacy. There is nothing wrong with keeping close to our hearts things we don’t want to or need to share with others.
But for me, sharing my secrets can help show others they are not alone.

Have you ever found relief in revealing a secret?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Looking out the window

One morning in late October, Chase Bird and I shared some time looking out the window that overlooks the driveway and side yard.
Chase Bird is Chief of Lookout Activities in the Barbour home.
We saw squirrels and birds going about their morning activities.
Here’s Chase Bird in position.

We thought the squirrels were showing off a little bit just for him.

I was surprised to see a robin this late in the year.

We liked this little brown bird, but I couldn’t tell Chase Bird what kind it was. Anyone know?

Despite his name, Chase Bird doesn’t chase birds. He’s an indoors only kitty. And I keep telling him, “Birds are our friends.”
He nods and smiles a little. And goes back to look out the window.

What have you seen out your window lately?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Feeling strong physically and mentally

Last week, I “graduated” from physical therapy I was having for a pinched nerve in my neck. I didn’t receive a diploma, but I received a cool T-shirt that says “Physical Therapy Brings Motion to Life” and a sheaf of papers showing me the different exercises I need to continue to do on my own.
More important than any diploma is the strength that I found in physical therapy.

Darius, Katie, and Kyle made up my  PT team.

Different people in my family and in Larry’s family have, over the years, given physical therapy a bad name. In my opinion, they haven’t seemed to take it seriously and have seemed to view it as something to get through—to go through the motions—before what was really desired could happen: surgery.
I was determined that I was not going to have that attitude.
Surgery is sometimes needed. It’s sometimes the best option. But if other, less invasive, options are possibly in the end just as effective, why not try them and give them our best shot?
My orthopedic doctor was very clear with me about my options and even wrote out a list: medication, physical therapy, epidurals, surgery. He circled medication and physical therapy and said we would start with those.
I pointed to the word surgery on the paper and told him I had no plans for that.
“Work hard in therapy, OK?” he said.
And I did. I have done the stretching exercises at home and the movement exercises at PT, lifting weights, pulling on resistance bands, lying on my stomach while I lifted my affected arm over and over.
And I received so much encouragement from the staff at the rehab center. They had such positive attitudes. They challenged me physically and celebrated with me as I became stronger.
And I saw how they treated other patients. Sometimes I could see pain in the faces of people as they struggled to get better. The therapists and assistants were partners in that journey.
At the end of each PT session, I used the cervical traction machine. It was in a room off the main area where most of the therapy was done.
As I lay on the table and had my head pulled away from my neck (sounds painful, but it actually felt good), I could hear sounds from the main room. I heard therapists and assistants asking other patients how they were, expressing sympathy, setting out plans, counting out exercises, encouraging them.
What a positive place to be, I thought.
I still have pain. It got worse after I stopped taking prescription NSAIDS. But it’s not as bad as it was. And my muscles in and around my shoulders and neck are getting stronger. I know more about how my posture affects how I feel.
I had a talk with the main physical therapist on my last day, and we discussed future options. He assured me that I could get better.

That helped strengthen my belief that I have a lot of control in my recovery. There is a lot I can do to get better. And isn’t that true with anything in life, physical, mental, and emotional? We don’t have control over everything, but we can do our best with what we do have control over.

Now I’m going to work on my strength at the Altavista YMCA, where Larry and I are members. My plan is to go over today after I finish at the newspaper office and sort out which machines will work the right muscles. I also have elastic bands to work with at home.
And I am going to get even stronger.

In what ways are you trying to get stronger?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


On Friday, Nov. 7, eleven years ago, Larry and I went to the Campbell County courthouse and got married. The past eleven years have been the best of my life.
Larry and I had planned on a small church wedding. But the arrangements began to seem complicated, and we started thinking more about what we really wanted: to be married.
A few months before our planned wedding in January 2004, I moved my furniture and most of my things into Larry’s house. But Waddles and I still lived in Rustburg.
One day, while I was over at Larry’s house, he asked, “Would you ever want to elope?”
I was surprised, but we talked about it and decided that the best course to take was to get married at the courthouse by the judge so our close family could be there.
Six weeks later, we got married.
That morning, after I got dressed and ready to go, my brothers and mother and I gathered to drive to the courthouse. One of my brothers was a volunteer EMT at the time, and he had brought one of the ambulances to Rustburg to pick up some things for a fundraiser.
He suggested ferrying me up to the courthouse in the emergency vehicle. He didn’t run the lights, though—that was against the code.
So Larry, standing outside the courthouse with his parents and daughter, saw me arrive in an ambulance. Unfortunately, we didn’t get pictures of that.
We went up to the third floor to the circuit court, and Judge Samuel Johnston performed the wedding.
He said he was glad to have a happy task to do since he had presided over a testy divorce earlier that week.
Years later, the now-retired Judge Johnston wrote a book, and I interviewed him about it for the newspaper. I told him that he had married my husband and me.
“Did it stick?” he asked.
“Yes, sir, it stuck,” I said.

Happy Anniversary, dear Larry! 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Deer in the road

Fall colors: red leaves and blue sky.

It’s that time of year again when driving, especially at night, makes me a little nervous because of concern over deer in the road.
Deer are plentiful in our area year-round. They often visit our yard, and we see them in other places in the neighborhood. We enjoy their presence.

This is a poor photograph, but it's one I took through the window at night in September. The deer set off the motion lights in the yard. If I open the door to go out and try for a better photo, they run.

But the big fear is that we’ll hit one while driving.
According to the Virginia DMV, most deer-related accidents in Virginia occur in the fall months, October through December.
I was part of those statistics five years ago, in December 2009.
I was driving back to Altavista from Forest, which is in Bedford County, a neighboring county. The back roads I took were curvy and sometimes narrow, but the route cut miles off the trip and provided lovely views.
It was about 10:30 in the morning. I had seen a deer standing in a yard as I passed, so I had a fresh reminder of their presence. I was just tooling along, under the speed limit. I wasn’t listening to the radio. I wasn’t eating. I was just driving.
And it still happened.
My car hit something as I came around a curve. I saw a deer flashing away from my car. The hood of my car was crumpled.
I was shocked, but I managed to find a place to pull over. A kind couple turned their pickup around and came to check on me. We looked at my car. Deer hair covered the hood. Everything in the front seemed pushed towards the front seats. It was a mess.
The couple stayed with me until the state trooper arrived. Then Larry arrived.
He said as he walked up to my car, the trooper turned to him and said, “She’s all right. But I think she’s more upset about the deer than the car.”
“That would be right,” Larry said to him.
And I was upset. I felt terrible that I had hit the deer. Apparently it had jumped a fence and then tried to clear the road. The trooper speculated that hunters were out with dogs, running the deer.
I was lucky. I wasn’t hurt and my car, though heavily damaged, wasn’t totaled. I was especially nervous driving for a while, but that settled down.
What I kept thinking was, I did everything I could to avoid an accident. I wasn’t speeding. I wasn’t distracted. And I still hit a deer.
That notion that we can do everything “right” and still have trouble is sobering, and not an easy one to accept when you have an uneasy relationship with uncertainty, as I do.
After the crash, my boss gave me some little whistle-like gadgets to put on the front fender. They are supposed to help prevent deer from running out in front of your car. I don’t know if they actually work, but I was willing to try them, and they’re still on my car.
And that idea that bad things can happen anytime? I have to accept it. I have to get used to it. All I can do is my best to drive carefully. That’s all any of us can do.

Do you see wildlife near the highways where you live?