Sunday, September 28, 2014

Back Yard Lizard

Yesterday I was in the back yard looking at all the butterflies and flowers, searching for signs of any subtle South Florida harbingers of a changing season, when I brushed against a bush with my arm and set off a commotion of movement.

I knew it had to be a lizard, and I hoped it was an unusual one.  It was - a Knight Anole.  Not a native species, but oh so beautiful anyway.  Here is his picture as he sat staring at me, trying to decide if he should run for it, look invisible or try to kill me:

Why he had his tongue out I don't know - maybe he was sticking it out at me.  I love his eyes.  They are inside little cones that protrude from his face - and the cones move up or down or side to side, taking the eyeball with them.  With our eyes, just the eyeball moves, not the skin around it. 

In the picture above the camera focused on the head so if you click on the picture to get a larger view, you will see his eyes much better.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Neko Can NOT Be Replaced

I just want to say that no pet of mine has ever been "replaced".  They have been and are all originals, just like people - no two are alike.  They all have unique personalities.  That said, after Neko passed, our remaining three cats, especially Buster, who was Neko's bud, were depressed.  They knew something had happened to Neko, and that he was gone.  Buster especially, who was trailed and harassed every night, in a brotherly way, by Neko, was lonely and sad.

So we hied ourselves to the local Humane Society, which, in Broward County, FL is a beautiful brand new facility, complete with gift shop. 

My husband and I went the rounds of the kittens to see who was available for adoption.  Of course, I can't go there without shedding tears for the older cats who are there.  My heart was comforted when, while waiting to see some kittens, a teenage girl fell in love with an older cat.  We watched as she cajoled her mother into letting her take that cat home.  Thank You, Lord, for one more creature in a loving home.  I was impressed with the girl, long hair to her waist, as she worked on her mother.  They appeared to almost be sisters and the young one looked to me like a girl who owns horses.  She just had that coltish, loves-the-outdoors, natural  look.  Perhaps I just have a good imagination - she got her cat.

Meanwhile, we looked at two sets of black and white kittens.  Why black and white?  In Neko's honor, perhaps - Mr. Tuxedo himself, as Neko always was.  The first set was skittish and too scared.  The second set was it.  They were playful and full of energy.  When the girl asked us which one we wanted, we couldn't decide because they were litter brothers and identical.  After I worked on my poor husband a bit ("we'll have FIVE cats - that's way over the official allowed number"), we decided to take them both.  

It was the right decision.  They are inseparable and they have conquered our grown cats.  Buster was adapted immediately, almost glad for the young energy.  Squeebles was the tough one.  He hissed and growled for over a week.  Now he plays with them, running all over the house making funny Maine Coon barking noises and butting heads with them.  He lets them steal his food.  Junior Beans is tolerating them as a necessary nuisance, and, as long as he has his favorite spots available, he is happy.  Albeit, sometimes he has to "reserve" those spaces early, by sitting in them way before the kittens think of it, and by this method, making sure he has his favorite resting places when he wants them.

Here are some pictures of the little darlings.  They are nothing like Neko in personality.  No angst, no Goth, no playing dice or trips for cigarettes.  They are wholesome family kitties, brothers, and very angst free.

One of them appears to have more white on their front paws and the other less white, so, for a while, that was their names.  We called them LW and MW, for short.  We have decided the Less White one is the less dominant one, and so I have christened him "Little Crow".  The dominant one is, "Jet", perhaps.  We are still figuring out the more dominant one's name.  

Are they not adorable?  They brought light into our lives after the darkness left by Neko's suffering.  

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Tribute For Neko

We've lost one of our family members.  We've had four cats for over 10 years - Neko and Buster who were natural companions, and Squeebles and Junior Beans who are best buds.  

Friday started the nightmare of Neko having what appeared to be mild local seizures.  He would meow loudly a couple of times, drool and stand in place.  This happened once Friday night and then again Saturday morning.

From that point on it was a roller coaster of stronger and more frequent seizures, trips to emergency vets who could find nothing wrong other than the seizures and Neko getting sicker.

Saturday he spent some time in my room lying on my chair as he usually did, looking like himself, when suddenly he would make funny gasping noises, fall off the chair to the floor and twitch uncontrollably, his body moving across the floor with his jerking movements.  One of our other cats, Squeebles, looked on in shock and backed away while Buster tried to approach him slowly and then spooked and ran away.  

By the end, Neko was seizing almost constantly and my husband took him to be put to sleep - we had looked online for information and nothing was promising.  I couldn't stand to watch him flailing around, sleeping peacefully one moment and the next flung to the floor, his legs, neck and face jerking and throwing him around.  

Unfortunately, the vet thought phenobarbitol would help and instead of euthanizing Neko,  gave hubby those pills to give Neko.  Neko ate some tuna with the phenobarbitol as prescribed, but it did not improve things.  The whole night Neko stayed under our bed, meowing loudly every 20 minutes or so and drooling, his eyes dilated.  

Finally, by the morning, hubby took him back to the vet to put him to sleep.  He had suffered enough.  He didn't know who we were, where he was.  It seemed he was hallucinating.  When he would get spooked, his skinny black tail would always puff up to about 3 times it's size, and that is how it looked now constantly.  

At the vet's they gave him some gas to calm him down, and then the final needle.  And peace returned both to Neko and to our hearts, although we will never forget him.

About 13 years ago, when my daughter was in college, she wanted to sneak a kitten into her dorm.  She felt lonely and we knew if she was discovered we would take the cat.  So we went to the local Humane Society and we were put in a separate room.  They brought a tiny black and white kitten in with huge eyes who wouldn't stop meowing and rubbing on us.  That was Neko, needy from the start.  We brought him home because he seemed so desperate to be loved.  He had kennel cough and we gave him his medicine and loved his needy little self.  

My daughter took him to college with her, driving him in her car.  He became used to traveling with her.  He was a hyper kitty and kept her entertained, in addition to being a great hunter who kept the local roach population down for her.   Of course, the kitten was discovered and had to come live with us.  We had an aging beagle and a cockatoo, so what was a cat added to the mix?  We became attached to Neko until my daughter moved to an apartment  and could take him back.  My husband drove Neko back to Jacksonville, where my daughter was living, Neko riding on his shoulders the whole way, meowing and digging his claws in nervously every now and then.  Missing Neko, we went to the Humane Society and brought home another kitten who became Buster, our king kitty.  At some point, I forget the reason why, Neko returned to live with us.  We now had 2 kitties and they became companions to each other.

I always called Neko our "Goth" kitty because he was never satisfied.  He was jealous of the other cats we subsequently acquired.  If we called one of them by name, Neko would come anyway hoping for rubbies or food or both.  He made eye contact and meowed demandingly a lot.  If my hubby came to give me a hug, Neko would demand to be petted, too, meowing loudly until he got what he wanted.  

Neko also resented the other cats.  Although he and Buster were friends, Neko remembered the halcyon days of being the only cat in the house, and never got over having to concede rubbies and attention to any other cat.  

As we acquired Squeebles and Junior Beans, both of whom Neko despised and snuck up on to smack as the opportunity presented itself, Neko became more and more the plotter of revenge.  

Hubby liked to make up stories about the cats, giving them human characteristics.  He said Neko smoked too much and paced at night nervously, chain smoking and planning the demise of his competition, the other cats (except Buster).   At other times he said Neko would take a bus to Hialeah to get Cuban coffee and play dominoes.  Neko was decidedly angsty, bemoaning loudly the existence of the other cats in the household that took away from what should have been his attention and love.

If you spoke to him, he always spoke back, making eye contact.  He was also a real steak and beef lover.  When hubby would make steaks, the smell of the meat cooking would make Neko run to either of us and demand our attention, meowing loudly as if to say, "I want some!!"  One time I made pork chops and while we were eating, Neko ran to the kitchen, jumped up on the counter and grabbed one for himself.  All of a sudden we saw him run past us to the bedroom, his skinny light body dragging a pork chop half his size awkwardly.  My husband had to run to catch him before he took his booty under our bed and we couldn't get to him.  Somehow the smell of spoiling pork chop bone isn't what I want under my bed.  

Neko could be mellow, too.  His favorite thing was to jump up on my desk when I'm working on my computer.  He would then carefully pick his way over to my lap where he would lay his head down on my chest, curl up and purr.  My job was to pet him and breath on his head and give him little kisses.  

Another thing he loved to do was to race ahead of me no matter where I was going in the house, practically cut me off, run in front of me and skid on the floor mats.  Then he would stop and crouch and stare at me as if we were playing and I should chase him, which I sometimes did.  He literally bounced off the side of a wall if he had to make a tight turn.  

Neko was a black and white tuxedo kitty - always dressed up and ready for a party.  I like to believe that he is with his Maker now, as someday I'll be - and we'll be together again.  Perhaps he's bounding around somewhere or laying with the warm sun on his fur.  I'm sure that instead of being stuck to just one word, "meow", he will now have a whole vocabulary and can express himself as he always tried to do.

Below is a picture of Neko from just before this weekend.  I am so glad I took that picture, not knowing at the time it would be his last.

 Such a sweet face.  He loved to roll on the floor on his back, purring and waiting for a belly rub.

A closeup showing his little black dot.


Something we saw a lot - Neko talking, in mid-Meow.  He was very vocal.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Looking for Organic

I've become convinced by articles I read, one of which is a daily email from Dr. Mercola, that our regular food sources are compromised by the following:

  • Meat - unsanitary and inhumane living conditions which problem is "solved" by giving the animals  lots of antibiotics and growth hormone additives, not to mention feeding them genetically modified corn and soy.
  • Vegetables - grown with genetically modified seeds.  The plants are sprayed with Roundup, a poison called Glyosphate, that kills everything but the plant itself.  The plant also absorbs lots of Roundup, so in addition to being genetically modified, it is filled with poison.  In addition, plants are sprayed with insecticides, which are absorbed by the plant.
  • Dairy - Milk, Cheese, Butter, half & half, ets.  The cows are given growth hormone and fed GM (genetically modified), glyosphate filled food and antibiotics.  All this is leached into the milk.
  • Bread - Most breads are processed foods extraordinaire.  The wheat used to make the bread has been bred over the last 40 years into a much tougher variety than the wheat of the mid 20th century.  This wheat is the cause of much of the growing epidemic of gluten sensitivity, in my opinion. In addition, one of the major ingredients in every loaf of bread (as well as all processed foods) is sugar in its' many forms.  
The American today eats more sugar daily than in any time in the past.  It is an additive in all processed foods. While manufacturers have responded to the cry to get rid of modified sugars such as "high fructose corn syrup", sugar is still a major ingredient in foods one would not imagine, such as soups, salad dressings, and other items that don't seem to taste sweet at all.  It is thought that this epidemic of over-sugar is what is leading to another burgeoning disease, Alzheimers, also called Type 3 diabetes.  Now if the other information above hasn't scared you, this should.  Who wants to get Alzheimers, raise  your hand......

I could go on, but I've covered our major food groups.  When you shop in the grocery store, even in the outside aisles, avoiding processed foods, you are buying the contaminated items above.

The flip side of this coin is Organic.  While you will find "all natural" on lots of products,  which marketing gimmick means nothing, only a "Certified Organic" label is your alert that the item is safe to eat.

Since I live in South Florida, I should be able to find organic replacements for all the food groups above, and I can; however, only if price is no obstacle.  There are several independent markets for vegetables in my area in addition to the Whole Foods grocery store.

However, I do not want to spend my life savings on my weekly grocery bill.  It is bad enough that the prices for regular poisoned foods are through the roof, but Organic is priced out of the ball park in many cases.

For vegetables, there is a list of the "dirty dozen", which are those vegetables that are grown with the most pesticides, but this does not address the problem of GM and glyosphate. Many people decide to avoid the "dirty dozen", and buy regular for all the rest of their produce.  Corn is not on the list for the "dirty dozen", and I believe that is one of the chief GM products, full of glyosphate, so avoiding just the "dirty dozen" doesn't do much to protect your food.

For about 10 years now I have had "Irritable Bowel Syndrome", which has now ratcheted up to occasional bouts of "Diverticulitis".  I avoid processed foods from the center isles, like a good girl,  but that doesn't seem to have helped my condition.  

So I began my quest to find organic and not spend a mint.  So far I have been unsuccessful.  I plan on growing my own vegetables this upcoming winter, which is growing season for South Florida.  Summer is way too tropical for growing vegetables in the back yard.  Too much rain, the sun is far too hot when it shines, high humidity - all these, according to everything I have read, kill off vegetables unless you use tons of insecticides and anti-fungals, which betrays the purpose for growing in your back yard to begin with.

A few weeks ago, I looked online for the farmer's markets in my area and found 2 so far that are year round.  One is actually inside a strip mall and has been there awhile and the other is part of a plant nursery and feed store.

I went to both on consecutive weeks.  The farmer's market, called Southwest Ranches Farmer's Market   is best so far, although more expensive than Stiles', because they have the most organic produce.  The other in the strip mall, called Stiles Farmer's Market has fabulous prices, but I have no idea how the items are grown, or where.  If you read the comments for Stiles you will see that the prices are very cheap, but I'm looking for organic and there were only 2 items of organic produce when I shopped there.

Next I went to an actual store advertising low prices, Nutrition Smart.   While their web site looks impressive, the store itself is not.  I went to the Pembroke Pines location, which does not sell meat.  A big part of my shopping is trying to locate decently priced safe meats, so this was important to me.  The selection of vegetables was limited and priced similarly to Whole Foods, which has a much bigger selection.

I crossed off Stiles because, in spite of the great prices, almost nothing was organic.  I thought at first that Southwest Ranches Farmer's Market was too expensive, but it is cheaper than Whole Foods, and has a nice selection of produce.

I crossed off Nutrition Smart because in comparison with Whole Foods, I spent more money, not less for similar items, and I would always have to make an additional trip to buy meat.

For convenience, Whole Foods wins so far.  We don't have a Trader Joe's in the area yet, but one is coming.  They are supposedly well known for inexpensive items and organic choices.

I have to be SO careful when in Whole Foods because I am not good at sticking to a list.   But those days must come to an end.  One of my favorite items at Whole Foods is their Broccoli Slaw.  A large container is $4.99.  Very expensive when I could buy broccoli heads and process the stems myself.  The slaw also contains carrots, which could also be processed by me for less.

However, I work full time and am 58 years old.  This figures into my calculations.  I am tired when I get home and very often don't have the energy to cook something complicated from scratch.  Usually I try to make something that will last a few days as leftovers so that I don't have to cook every night.  In the past, and if I confess, sometimes still, I will just give up and get a rotisserie chicken from Publix (definitely not organic), or even worse, some Italian, Chinese or Cuban take out food.  These are all full of sugar/too many carbs, MSG and/or salt, in addition to knowing that no part of any of them is organic or non-GM.   There are so many more things I could do to cut costs if I didn't work (and I'd sure have a motivation for cutting those costs without my paycheck!!), however, that is not the case right now.  I must work, and so I spend more for food than I have to to make it easier on myself.

My husband, to compound the problem, is also a heavy meat eater.  He often goes on a modified Atkins diet to kick start weight loss because he is a type 2 diabetic and LOVES carbs, which make him fatter and are poison for his condition.  I don't buy potatoes or rice, so most meals consist of meat and a vegetables or two.  Actually, I just read that scientists believe some of our super processed foods are addictive because of the added sugar, modified fats and salt.  The super flavor becomes an addiction.  There are already books one can buy on carbohydrate addiction, and I can vouch for the craving for something with sugar in it.

In case anyone has been asleep for the past few months, the price of beef, pork and chicken is rising like crazy, and this is for the ordinary meat, not for organic.  Hence, organic is through the roof.  We stick mostly to hamburger since I can get a pound of grass fed, organic beef for $7.99.  Organic chicken is crazy expensive.

So here is the bottom line so far in my quest.

Whole Foods is the best place to shop for meat, if you can afford it.  The Southwest Farmer's market is good for produce, but since the prices aren't that different from Whole Foods, I prefer to make one stop - at Whole Foods.

I stick to hamburger unless there is a sale on other meat or fish or chicken.  I serve less meat and more vegetables, which include salads and cooked veggies.  I buy Ezekiel bread which is expensive, but healthy and no added sugar.  I buy lots of organic eggs.  Eggs can be hard boiled for snacks and lunch, as well as cooked for dinner with veggies added, and organic cheese.  I buy organic cheeses for snacks and sandwiches and organic bacon when it is on sale.  I stay away from expensive meat cuts, organic chicken (unless on sale).

I buy organic half and half for our coffee.  I still buy regular peanut butter, since I haven't found one that I like in the organic area - and my husband is the major peanut butter eater.  I have to remedy this, since regular peanut butter is too full of sugar.

I do not save money at all.  Period.  I spend more than I want to for groceries, and the prices go up all the time.  At our age, my husband with type 2 diabetes, and I are ripe for the effects of poisoned food to really take it's toll.  I am aware of this all the time, perhaps too much.

A part of me wants to just throw up my hands and buy at Publix, which has a few organic choices, and take the physical consequences.  After all, we all have to die sometime.  It is hard to believe that the vegetables I look at in a regular grocery store are full of glyosphate, are GM and probably full of pesticides.

It is also part of my nature to be skeptic about the organic things I buy.  How do I know they are truly organic?  The truth is I don't.  I am trusting that the place where I shop is honest.  I think that a place like Whole Foods is more likely to be honest since they are so prominent and well known.  I wouldn't put it past many local places to put "organic" stickers on their produce when it isn't organic at all.  And there is no way for me to know this unless I know the grower personally and have seen his methods.

I'm still searching, still looking for sales on organic items, still cutting back so that we don't eat so much, and we eat less meat.  I'm still looking for more farmer's markets.  There is a new one called Tree Hugger's Organic Farms, which looks very promising.   They are just starting up, so their produce is only sold at a weekly farmer's market, not at their own location.  That farmer's market is finished for the season and won't begin again until some time in October.

Today I'm baking my own gluten free bread in a bread machine.  I'm trying a recipe for the first time and have bought the ingredients, which will last for many more loaves, if this bread tastes good and I want to make it again.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Fountain Pens et al

I have not posted in forever.  I start to think about posting about something and then I think - nah.  Pretty dumb - I just need to DO IT.  

So.....on that note.  Yesterday I cleaned out the closet in my computer room/Beasley's cage room/girl hideout room.  I have a lot of stuff.  My sister knows.  I often say to myself when not wanting to spend money, "hey - why not shop my own house?"  This means opening up drawers or cabinets or closets and taking everything out and - hopefully - culling some things.  But the ultimate reward?  I pull out things I forgot I had and, since I'm the one who picked them out, I LOVE them.  It's like getting something new. 

So on to the closet in my room - the doors on this closet are old real wood lever doors that fold out.  I have my desk up against one of them, so only half the closet opens.  The half that didn't open?  Turns out there wasn't as much clutter on that side as I thought.  It was mostly just dusty and needed to be vacuumed.  I had some old framed family photos - primarily of me at various stages of growing up - that hung in my childhood home when I was a teen.  I look at them and can't believe they are as old as they are and, incidentally, I'm as old as I am.  But let's not go there.  I pulled the pictures out - they are now under our bed in our bedroom until I want to do something with them.  I don't like the frames - they are plain black wood (real wood) frames, but they are part of My Past, so I have to build up to getting rid of them and just keeping the photos.  Or not getting rid of them, whichever I eventually decide.  They are safely shoved under our bed until I am in a picture/frame/old photos mood.  

I also found Christmas wrapping paper that I forgot I had.  Every year I think I'm running out of paper and buy a few rolls.  Now those have all been moved to a different, more accessible closet.  I won't have to worry about Christmas paper for at least a couple of years.  That was all that was on the non-opening side of my closet.  The opening side was jam-packed.  I had shoes covered with dust that I will never wear.  Instant donations to Good Will.  I found bags of yarn in lots of colors, which was why I started digging through the mess anyway.  I wanted to try to make these from this web page that I saw linked on Facebook by this person whose blog I read every day and admire very much.

So once I finished getting rid of shoes, throwing out junk, vacuuming and straightening, I proceeded to gather some colorful yarn skeins in order to make the first heart.

However - major detour.  I found a basket that had some old wool skeins from my friend that passed away in 1998.  She was a very dear friend and a Christian mentor for me for many years and she had no children.  She left me all her books, many of which were from Bible College, all her old photos, her mother's photos, and her sewing supplies.  She rarely threw anything out and had many old colors of thread on wood spools.  Her books are from the 40's and 50's and her photos go all the way back to her childhood (she was born in 1921) and her mother's childhood.  How I love to look through those photos and old letters.  They are kept in her Lane hope chest from the early 1940's which is at the foot of our bed.  I went through everything in there when my sister was here last.  There is one letter to her mother as a young girl from an admirer who was spending the summer in Wyoming in 1910.  The letter is written in pencil and the envelope and stamp are still with it.  It details the young man's experience as a cow poke.  He was writing the letter by firelight.  Just holding that letter makes me picture so many of the Grace Livingston Hill characters.  The basket I had stashed in my closet also had writing utensils in it, which I had never paid attention to before.  There was an old fountain pen (not the cartridge kind) and pencil set, an old pocket knife, a set of children's wooden colored pencils still sharp and unused, a tin of Prang crayons, 2 replacement nibs for the fountain pen, and a Redipoint pen stamped with First Federal Savings bank, which is no longer in business.  I looked up the fountain pen on Ebay and found one just like it going for over $140. and the bidding wasn't over yet.  I won't be selling any of these items, but it was fun to identify them.  The fountain pen and pencil set was a Sheaffer from about 1945 or so.  Both the pen set and the pocket knife belonged to my friend's husband.  It was fascinating to find out that the pocket knife was an "Imperial" brand made in Rhode Island anywhere from 1946 to 1956.  There is actually a forum that published a document that determines, based on the look of the logo, what year any Imperial pocket knife was manufactured.  The logo carved in the base of the blade where it connects to the handle is called a "Tang Stamp".  Who knew?  This web site is all about fountain pens.   Here is a site that has scans of all the booklets that came with fountain pens from a wide spread of years.

The one thing I noticed was that every single item was Made in the USA.  The crayons, the pens, all of it.  How sad that most of what we buy nowadays is made somewhere else.  Here are some pictures of my "vintage" fountain pen and pencil set, etc.

The pencil still has lead in it.  The nib on the fountain pen is 14k gold.  The pen is filled by unscrewing the top cap and pulling it in and out while the pen is dipped in ink.  By the time I went to Catholic school, we still had to use fountain pens, but we used the cartridge kind.  Much easier!!

The 2 green boxes are from the extra nibs.  The boxes themselves are "vintage".  I couldn't believe there were web sites totally devoted to fountain pens, both past and present, and all their accouterments.  

This is the Imperial pocket knife.  It has gotten a LOT of wear and the blades were still sharp.  I found pictures of this for sale on Ebay also, but there were a couple of days left on the item, so I don't know what the final bid was. 

Somebody used these crayons as you can see below.  The tin is unique.   The crayons are called, "Crayonex". 

The Redipoint refillable pencil is above.  The top pulled off to expose an eraser.

Here are  the colored pencils.  I have a feeling these were for Bible marking during Bible college for my friend.


And finally, above are the extra nibs.  One is "firm fine" for "general writing" as it says on the box, and the other is "rigid fine" for "fine manifold", which I guess is a term for a nib capable of calligraphy.

Oh - and the whole reason for cleaning the closet to begin with?  The yarn.  Here is my attempt at one of the hearts.  It's ok, but it's not perfect.   I need to make a few more to practice and to get it perfect.

In the first picture, Squeebles, my Maine Coon kitty, is helpfully displaying my crochet heart.  If you look closely, I think his tongue is out.  I have no idea why, but he sometimes forgets that it's out and it looks quite comical.  I also included a little better picture of the heart.  

So there you have it.  My first post in a couple of months.  I hope - don't roll your eyes - to be writing more often.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Holiday Memories


It is this time of year when memories come lightly tip toeing.  There is a road that begins back in my childhood Christmases, and as I travel upon it, the faces of my father, mother and sisters each much younger than today, lit by holiday lights of years gone by, appear.  Laughter, meals, gifts, me silently sitting by the glowing tree, alone with it's splendor, soaking up the sounds of Christmas music, conversation, the smell of spicy and buttery cookies.  I've always, in the midst of the celebration, stolen away for a few moments to savor it all at it's apex, imprinting it upon my memory.

Best Christmas ever?  The year we had the Christmas eve blizzard.  We always went to Midnight Mass and that year we had to walk because the roads remained unplowed.  It was like magic, all five of us put on our winter wear and boots and out into the frozen air we went.  Christmas lights on the houses, the bulbs shining through layers of snow; the road disguised as a field or a lawn.  We walked down the center of the road through the pristine snow, leaving our footprints behind.  It must have been a foot and a half deep.  The wind wasn't blowing too much and our scarves covered our nose and mouth.  What an adventure it was for 9 year old me.  The snow muffled our voices and the silence was thick and glittery.  The beauty of Midnight Mass with the candles and the lovely ladies choir, the warmth inside the old gothic style church, the stained glass windows shining from inside dully.  Walking home I was barely able to stay awake and fell into bed as soon as I peeled off my outdoor things.  Oh - before I went to bed I had to put the baby Jesus into his manger - after all, it was really Christmas morning.
The road goes on through the years and into my own motherhood.  My daughter and
I, she in pajamas and a blanket, if it was cold, would venture forth in our car to look at Christmas light displays, all the while old English Christmas music wrapping itself around my ears and my heart.  Ashley singing with the chorus, "Salvator mundi natus est" in her high childish voice, not knowing what she is saying, but singing it with relish.
It is astounding to me, as it is to everyone who finds themselves having aged, that all these events are behind me.  My daughter is nearly 30 years old - how could that be?  Why - I'm really still a child myself!   My father is always somewhere in the midst of all my thoughts - how I miss him, how I remember his full throated laugh, his humor, his tall, handsome self. 
We are all really still children inside.  Our souls and spirits don't age, just these bodies, which is quite a shock.  After all, we imagine these bodies to be "us", don't we?  I look in the mirror - that's me, right?  Not really, just the eyes are the window to the soul.  Everything else passes away and we are left as children again, as youths again, with eternity, always-now to look forward to.   
Meanwhile, I'm going to turn on the Christmas lights, light a scented candle, and, cozy and comfy, go back in time and visit with all those lovely memories.  Perhaps, in this very room, my grandparents and my father are remembering with me.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Fun

This was the best Halloween in my neighborhood ever.  We have never gotten more than 3 or 4 kids in an entire evening, but this year I ran out of candy (I think my husband is disappointed - oh well).  I set myself up on the front porch (nice and warm outside in South Florida) and began reading the first book of the "Call the Midwife" series by the porch and Halloween lights.  I wish I could have taken pictures, but I didn't want to alarm any parents.  Even though I know I would have blanked out their faces, I just knew that taking pictures would make some people uncomfortable - so you'll have to use your imagination.

We had some middle school girls dressed as the "two dead red riding hoods".  I asked them if they were from a Steven King movie or something.  They had little red dresses on and blood drawn on as if coming from their mouths.  Kind of gross, but they were having the time of their life.  There were ninja boys, one boy with a white stocking over his face and a fake dress suit on - he didn't know what he was, but who cares?  Four teens came by, dressed normally - so I guessed that their costumes were "being normal".  There were children laughing and shrieking up and down the street, their parents hanging back and watching.  Many princesses, one angel, whom I asked, "how is it in heaven these days?" and she grinned and shrugged her shoulders and said, "I dunno."  One teen boy had a split soccer ball on his head - so being the smart person I am I said, "you are a soccer ball" to which he agreed.

My favorites of the night were the really little ones.  Mom came up carrying a little 2 year old girl in a ballerina outfit (shades of my own daughter's first Halloween costume that I made).  She was just looking around and taking everything in - the lights, being out at night, etc.  So sweet.  The best was a small 2 1/2 year old boy.  His mother and father were escorting him in a little yellow cart that looked like a car.  He rode in the cart with his candy.  I'm not sure what his costume was, but mom and dad instructed him to come get some candy.  Instead, he ran toward the 6 little blinking battery-operated pumpkins on the ground in front of the bushes that line my front porch area.  "Ba'y Punkins!" he said as he dropped down to get a look at them.  Mom and dad got him to leave the pumpkins and come get candy, which he did, but his interest in the baby pumpkins had not waned.  I asked him if he would like to bring one home with him and his parents made sure I meant it.  "Of course" I said.  His name was Mason and Mason ran back over to the pumpkins and tried to decide which one he wanted.  His dad helped him while the rest of the group they were with were yelling, "Mason, come ON".  Finally, he picked one brightly blinking pumpkin up and carried it with him to his little car.  I told him, "that pumpkin really likes you - look, he's blinking at you!" and Mason stopped to look closely at the baby pumpkin before he was hustled off for more trick or treating.

That was my very favorite.  This has been a very enjoyable Halloween - the best ever in all my years in Florida - and that's a lot.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Trip to Portland, Oregon

So - my husband and I went to Portland to visit our daughter.  We left Ft. Lauderdale airport on Thursday, October 17 in the early morning.  After a 6 hour flight (going to the west coast takes longer because of headwinds) to San Francisco and a 4 hour layover (which still wasn't enough time to leave the airport, see Fisherman's Wharf in San Fran and return to the airport - oh well) we continued on to Portland.  It was an hour and a half flight from San Francisco to Portland.  As we landed we could see Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helen's and Mt. Hood.

Above is Mt. St. Helens from Council Crest Park in Portland.

Above is Mt. Hood which is the nearest to Portland.

Above is Mt. Rainier from a roadside stop on the way to Cannon Beach, Or.

My daughter met us at the car rental place and we drove to Beaverton, a suburb of Portland to the southwest.

Portland is very hilly and the trees were all changing color.  There were brilliant reds, oranges and yellows.  It reminded me of upstate New York where I was born as far as scenery.  There are more pines in Portland, though.

Above shows all three mountains.  To the far left are Mt. St. Helens and Rainier.  To the right is Mt Hood - I think.......

Above is the overlook at Council Crest Park in Portland.  The mountains on the far right are first in front - Mt. St. Helens and  behind it, Rainier:

Above is the view showing Portland in the foreground, Mt. St. Helens and then Mt. Rainier.  Below are the signs telling about each mountain.

Mt Hood from Council Crest Park.

Me, my daughter and James, her boyfriend.

Ashley trying to touch Mt. St. Helens for me so I could make a trick picture - it didn't work.

Above is Ashley "touching" Mt. St. Helens.

My beautiful daughter - it's very hard living so far from her!!

A shop on Cannon Beach.

Above is a rose at the famous rose gardens in Portland. More roses below.

Above is in the city of Portland.

The tree right outside our hotel in Beaverton.

More roses and beautiful trees at the rose gardens.

I love seeds and dried pods - I collect them and display them in baskets.  I don't know what tree this came from - but I had to bring some home - beautiful.

My daughter being serious.

Sun and shadow on the grass at Council Crest Park.

A Woolly Bear caterpillar!!  My daughter yelled at me for picking it up thinking it might sting.  Since I got it to crawl on me and never touched it's body - only it's "feet", I was fine.  I don't think it stings anyway - I've picked them up before.

A street in Beaverton where Ashley lives.  Sigh.  Beautiful.  I have to remind myself that Portland gets LOTS of rain and clouds - but they sure weren't around when we visited.  It couldn't have been nicer or more beautiful.

Last - Cannon Beach.  Pictures below - I'd never been to the Pacific Ocean - and now I can say I have.

My toes in the Pacific Ocean - CCCCCOLD!!!!

Cutest hubby ever.

Tillamook Rock lighthouse - uninhabited.  Read it's history - WOW!!   Tillamook Rock Lighthouse.

Cannon Beach main street one way.

Cannon Beach main street in the other direction.

Man against the Pacific Ocean.

 Haystack Rock - Cannon Beach. 

After this we spent one more day.  We went to Powell's (below is not my picture - it is from

Powell's is very unusual.  Do not think it is just a bigger Barnes & Noble.  It is in an older city building and has multiple floors.  Some of the floors step down into other rooms, while some are somewhat slanting.  The building doesn't appear that old, yet some of the floors are slanty.  The inside has books located by subject in different "rooms" - the Purple room has history, while the Red room has books on art.  There are knick-knacks, t-shirts, calendars, stuffed animals, Christmas ornaments - and the piece de resistance for me - used books.  Yes - in every area there are new books on the subject at hand - AND used ones.  Now - do not think "used" as in dog-eared paperbacks.  Think antique, think 1800's, think - wow!  I don't think I made it to the "rare book room", but I can look on line, thanking God for the internet.

We also visited the downtown Portland Sunday market on the Willamette river (which I don't pronounce right.)  I say it like WILL-amet.  It's Will -A-mit.  I also have to stop myself from saying "Or-e-GON, instead of OR-e-gun.  It marks me as a newbie, an outsider.  We bought my daughter some pottery mugs - she loves clay pottery and has taken a class in it.  I told her to send to me the things she has made (that she doesn't like) - I'd rather have them than some unknown mug.  

After that it was goodbyes,  which are always very painful for me, so I just hurry through them - give quick hugs and try to drive away as fast as possible.  This is followed by hours of tears at the airport as we wait for our flight.  Once we hit San Francisco again, I wasn't crying over missing my daughter, but over having to wait another 3 hours for a flight that left San Fran at 11:10pm, but is really 2:10am our time.  By the time we landed in Ft. Lauderdale at 7:30am (4:30am Pacific time - a 5  1/2 hour flight), both my husband and I were zombies.  We made it home.  Barely.  Then my husband fell asleep and I slept for a few hours.  I then woke up, vacuumed, emptied the luggage and did laundry, made sure the whole house was straightened and clean, and cooked bacon and eggs for dinner.  All this while hubby slept.

I thought - "I'm all set to return to work tomorrow", and went to bed early at 8:00pm.  I slept like a log, had a billion dreams, and when I woke up to go to work on 10/22, I could not completely wake up no matter what I did.  My husband made me coffee, some of which I drank, but it did no good.  I kept falling back asleep in my chair and felt drugged.  I finally sent a text message to my co-workers that I'd not make it back to work that day -  I could not stay awake - and proceeded to go back to bed and sleep like a bear in hibernation until 1pm.  After that I still felt wobbly and tired.  Very weird.  Why didn't I feel like this upon arriving home after being awake and active for 24 hours?  Don't know - but the house is clean, the laundry is done, and I will make it back to normal tomorrow......

Oh - and we DID see a Stellar's Jay - below is not our picture, because we only saw it for a second, but here is a photo of one by Stephen Ting: