September 2008


Just a note: I know the font here is all messed up and some of the spacing. It is one of those days in which the blog does not want to cooperate. I cannot change the spacing and do not know how to fix the font. It looks normal in my edit mode.

Suzanne from At Home with the Farmer’s Wife (which is definitely one of my VERY favorite blogs–I am going to say in my top three so the rest of you can assume you are one of the other two!) went on a little trip. Before she went, she said that if any of her readers wanted to e-mail her their address, she would send them a postcard, with the only catch that they had to post about it their own blog. OF COURSE I wanted to do this because I love her blog so much and would love to post about it!  So she sent me this:
I love it because it is pink, and because it has dogwoods on it. (Although it says “Arkansas” dogwood, I have to guess they are just the same as “Missouri” dogwoods.)  And don’t you love her handwriting? I might be a little weird about handwriting because my own is so illegible that I cannot read it myself about 75% of the time, so anyone with legible handwriting deserves my respect and admiration.
When she came back, she posted about her terrific trip which happened to be in the path of Hurricane Ike.  They camped in a condo and had to go out and eat every meal. Nothing like fried everything. Those posts made me hungry, and I think I gained weight just reading them! Then yesterday she posted something I had forgotten entirely, the winners of her “cheesy souvenir gifts.” I am sure I had totally put this out of my head because I never win anything. But I did! Right on her blog is a pretty little piece of paper in that lovely handwriting with my name on it. I was shocked. And I got my favorite of the cheesy gifts. (It’s pink.)

Thank you, Suzanne. Your blog really is one of my favorites, and you are the other person that has made me sort of like country music.

Please go visit Suzanne’s blog. You never know what you are going to find there. Recipes, project tutorials, adventure-logs, reminiscing, great stories… I cannot imagine anyone not loving it. This is my very favorite post from her blog, and among my favorites I have ever read.

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I’ve been Tagged

Brenda, from What’s Up Down South tagged me for this, and I thought there was room today, so I did it.  But first I have to tell you why to want to go visit her blog. You obviously want to see the answers she gave for this meme, but you also will like it because it chronicles life in Arkansas on the Mississipi Delta, and in a usually humorous, if not ranting way. She has a button on her sidebar that says, “Being a Crabby B!tch is Part of My Charm.” You have to love that! (At least I have to love it!)

In all the below lists, nothing is in any kind of order.

7 Things I Plan To Do Before I Die

1. Travel and see a LOT more of the world. A LOT more. I would say all or most of the world, but I do not think that is realistic. Most of Europe, definitely Australia, the Mediterranean, then the rest as I can.
2. Be the best mother on the planet when I visit my daughters if they have children. Cook and clean for them, stay up with the babies, etc. (And not interfere.)
3. See every state in the U.S. (I’ve only got 6 left, but they seem to be elusive to me.)

4. Go back to Bermuda and take a picture of a house in every single St*mpin’ Up! color.
5. Get my kids educated so they can have a decent life on their own.
6. Get my life list of birds (and flowers and bugs) started and go on at least one really cool birding vacation.
7. Have a fabulous milestone birthday in which I travel to some fun place with my favorite friends. Might be a big city. Might be something tropical, but somewhere fun. And hope at least two or three come. (Do I have more than two or three good girlfriends? Probably not!)
7 Things I Do Now

1. Exercise regularly.
2. Cook fantastic meals for my family. (MOST of the time.)
3. Church Treasurer.

4. St*mpin’ Up! Demonstrator.
5. Volunteer Art Teacher.
6. Active PTO committee person for my daughter’s school. We currently do not have officers, but I am in charge. I think they purposely did not elect any because they knew I would not accept “president.” Instead, they just let me be in charge.

7. Love my family.

7 Things I Can’t Do

1. Roll my tongue (copied from Brenda).

2. Run.
3. Have children. (This is not a bad thing. I have already got two great ones.)
4. Relax my brain.
5. Shop for anything without getting tired and frustrated. (Copied again from Brenda. I hate shopping and do not do it at all unless absolutely necessary.)

6. Tolerate whining. Definitely in kids (I have a a 4-year-old whiner), but especially in adults.
7. Find a way to get rid of some of my responsibilities. (Not for lack of trying.)

7 Things That Attract Me To The Opposite Sex

1. Extroverted personality. (I am a strong introvert, so I need someone to help me get out.)

2. Thoughtfulness.
3. Eyes.
4. Intelligence.
5. Liking me. I have a strong personality and am independent. (You might not think so after some of the things I have said about Prince Charming, huh?) The opposite sex has to appreciate that and like it, not be threatened by it. And also not see me as a parent because I am so strong. (There’s probably a whole post waiting to be written in answer to this question, but it is not so important to me since I have Prince Charming, the perfect husband.)

6. Compassion

7. Willingness to learn and grow with me.

7 Things That I Say Most Often

1. LOOK at Mommy!
2. What did Mommy say?
3. You did a GREAT job!

4. Please don’t interrrupt!

5. Would you like her to do that to you?
6. Bloody H*ll!
7. I love you!

7 Celebrities That I Admire (This one is difficult. I’m not into celebrities at all. OK, a few (or more than a few) of the cute male versions, but that’s not an admire sort of thing.)

1. Jackie O. I think she had a lot of issues, but she LOOKED SO GOOD!
2. Margaret Thatcher (copied from Brenda, and I have to agree. I often think about her being a female prime minister so many years ago. Plus she is just a “with it” lady.

3. Daniel Day-Lewis. He never plays the same type of role twice, and he becomes his character. His talent astounds me. (Much of the same can be said in my opinion for Kevin Spacey and Viggo Mortensen.)

4. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kurt Russell and Ted Nugent and any other famous types that buck the Hollywood system.

5. Mother Teresa. She had some of the best quotes I’ve seen anywhere, never mind the wonderful things she did with her life.

6. Dara Torres. What an amazing woman. She is 2 years younger than ME and just won an Olympic GOLD medal in swimming. Women are supposed to physically peak when? Something like 15? She is an inspiration.

7. Albert Einstein. The man was smart. A little wild in the hairdo, perhaps, but I love smart. And he said this: “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” (Of course this does not apply to any of my readers. I have actually been amazed at how different people in my blogworld are than people in my real world. But do see recommendation below!)

7 Favorite Foods (All but the last are homemade or home grown by me)

1. Pasta with Tomatoes and Shallots

2. Chicken Piccata
3. Tomatoes from the garden, just cut into wedges with some salt on them. OR garden tomatoes in Homemade Salsa.
4. Magedra. (A pile in this order: Rice, lentils, Napa cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, cheese, lemon sauce.)

5. Apple pie.

6. Homemade soup (Copying Brenda again.) I make soup weekly in cool weather. I have a good 8 months worth of excellent recipes I do yearly. We are actually having soup twice this week; I made my first pot of the season today. It is not really cool here yet, but my house is quite chilly.

7. Chips and dip. (Sue me.)

7 People Who Need To Do This

I don’t like to tag people because I have no idea if others want to do this or not. So I am not going to tag anyone. However, please do not hesistate to use this meme if it suits you!

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The Recommendation

If I were Authorblog and had a “Post of the Day,” This post by Lotus07 from Hypocrisy would be mine for today. It is funny and well-written, and so “me.” I think it will be a lot of “you,” too!

This post is in response to a prompt from Kelly at *Weekly Anamnesis.*  I like Kelly’s word prompts to help me think of something to write.  She is not picky about when someone uses a word.  It can be a word from previous weeks, which I have done before.  But today I am using “Realized” which is actually this week’s word. Anyone is welcome to use her prompts.  Just go there and follow the instructions. I love to see what different people write about the same word prompt.

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Ducky and Jennifer came into my life when I was six, I think. That would have made them four and three. (My brother was five, so we were all about a year apart in age.) Their father married my aunt, my mother’s sister. I do not remember being introduced. I do not remember wondering if I would like them or not. I only remember them being there.

The youngest specific memories I have of them was probably when I was seven. Ducky and my brother were in Kindergarten and in the same class at the local public school. I remember not having school one day, and I went to their Kindergarten. (We made snow ice cream that day.) I also remember going to their trailer when they both had chicken pox or measles. They were wearing socks on their hands and had on sunglasses. I never got any of the common childhood diseases, and my brother’s cases of them were mild, so I really could not empathize with their misery. I thought they were lucky to each have a pair of sunglasses. At that time I never realized how unlucky they were.

My aunt, Sue, who was Ducky and Jennifer’s stepmother lived with my family for a few months, or a year, or something before she met their father. I wanted to like her. She was nine years younger than my parents and quite worldly. But I did not like her.  She lived with us when I was six, and all I remember is her being loud and laughing loud and being the reason for the only time in my life I ever got my mouth washed out with soap. She was not a doting aunt. I think she actually did not spend much time at our house, but was out “hunting.” (That would be looking for men. I’ll leave it at that.)

When Sue inherited step daughters, I had two new cousins close to my age. I should have loved that, but it was rarely that much fun to be at their house. Although it was a little more fun for them to be at my house, I still liked spending time with cousins from my dad’s family better. There was always tension in the house when my mother’s family was together. Even at six and seven I realized the tension. Ducky and Jennifer and I played, and we got along most of the time, but the tension in the background never made it the most pleasant experience for me. And I will admit to not always being a very good cousin to them. Three is a crowd. Being the oldest, I  was in the position of power. I was not completely aware how this all played out, but I know that I was never the “3rd Girl Out.” One of them was always my buddy. Which one would change, but the other was often left out. Although I knew what was happening (or could at least understand it when not playing with them), I never realized how much it might hurt the one that was left out.

None of  us were “big” girls. I was tiny, and apparently they both were as well, for they got my old clothes. Or maybe by the time they got to Jennifer, the clothes did not really fit, but she had to wear them anyway. I do not know. I remember one of them saying once, “Hand me downs. Hand me downs. All we ever get to wear are hand me downs.” This bothered me. My parents were not rich; they were poor, but I never thought of my clothes as being something miserable. In fact, I loved some of them and hated passing them on. It  upset me so much that I begged my mother to not pass a dress to them that was my favorite. I have no idea what happened to that dress, but I think they did not get it. I never realized how horrible their life was and why they would say such a thing.

My family knew things were not good in Ducky and Jennifer’s house. We knew Sue was a tyrant. We knew Sue would make them weed their garden for hours on end as punishment. We knew that Sue would make them copy chapters out of religious books over and over as punishment. (Passages about children being obedient and respectful.) We knew that Sue was as bad or worse a person as she had always been. But we never realized just how bad. I remember driving places on many occasions when my parents would be talking about the situation and Jennifer and Ducky’s house. They said Sue “mentally” abused Jennifer and Ducky. They did not believe that there was physical abuse; we could see no evidence of it. I cannot count how many times both of my parents would say, “I wish mental abuse was easier to prove in court. Since there is no physical abuse, there is little we can do about this.” (And for the record, there were some ugly family dynamics going on here besides. Sue’s mother, my grandmother, was much like Sue, but in different ways. I plan to write about her someday. She held more power over my own parents, especially my mother, than I ever realized until years later. My parents getting involved in this when there was no hard evidence would have had devastating effects on our own family. It would have had devastating effects anyway, but it was not a risk they were willing to take when the outcome would likely be nothing.)

Ducky and Jennifer and I grew into teenagers getting along. We always mostly got along, but we got along more as we grew older. We were never best friends, though. The time spent together just was never that enjoyable for me because of the family tension. But my getting older did make me appreciate their plight a little more and realize that they were in no way in control of their own circumstances.

When I was seventeen the entire family was gathered at my grandmother’s house. It was summer, and the “foreign relatives,” who visited the United States about every three years, were there as well. Their children were about ten years younger than me, and although I loved them, when everyone was together, I hung out with Ducky and Jennifer. It was a typical time of family tension, but Ducky, Jennifer and I went to my grandmother’s bedroom to talk. We were teenage girls and had plenty to talk about. I had been attending a boarding school for high school. Ducky had spent her freshman year at the local high school. She wanted to call some people she knew from school, but both girls were terrified (my perspective) of using the phone without permission. I understood needing permission to make a long-distance phone call, but did not at all understand permission to call a friend for a few minutes. So I dialed the phone, and let her talk.  Apparently while on the phone, someone in the “adult quarters” wanted to make a phone call. I think it was my grandmother. She made a big scene about the phone having people on it. I really do not remember how it all went down, but Ducky and Jennifer were in big trouble, and I was the culprit as always. (Sue and my grandmother always considered goody-two-shoes me as a bad influence.) I do not remember a single word of censure that either my grandmother or Sue said, but I remember we were leaving, and things were very heated. My parents and brother and I were standing in front of my grandmother’s house, and some kind of bickering or nit-picking was going on, and I turned around and yelled at my grandmother and Sue collectively. I do not remember exactly what I said, but I know it had to do with how stupid they were and how I was tired of all the family tension and they needed to get over themselves, etc. I did not look at anyone else, but I am sure the rest of the witnesses were shocked and ashen. NO ONE confronted Sue and my grandmother. Oh, my dad did periodically,  but he tried to curb it for the sake of my mother. (Which I did not realize at the time.)

That was a wise move in many ways on my part, not the least of which meant that it would be five years before my family had anything at all to do with my grandmother or Sue’s family–other than Ducky and Jennifer. Sue would have prevented their contact with us, but the “foreign relatives” who were there made sure there was time that summer we spent together. And the next year Ducky, by a stroke of blessing from somewhere, attended the same boarding school that I did.

It was after the family blow-up that I learned all of those years there had been physical abuse–a lot of it–and things too horrible to imagine.  Sue was sly enough to make sure it was not visible, and both girls had been warned and bullied into keeping quiet. And apparently there had been questions before about it from places of authority, in which my father had even been involved, but it came to nothing. The things I learned will not be repeated here; they are the stories of Jennifer and Ducky to tell as they see fit. And as the years have unfolded, I have learned even more. There is just too much to learn, or remember, all at once.  And in the passing years, they have both become dear friends, among my dearest. And I regret some of my childish behavior toward them. My life was happy and good. When leaving the family gatherings that brought me emotional misery, I got to go home to a happy house with parents who treated me like a child should be treated; they did not. There is no way I could have understood their situation, but what is worse, I never realized how bad it was. If I had, if my parents had, I wonder what might have been different. I am quite sure my own behavior would have been different. But the question I ask myself it why was my behavior not different anyway? True compassion and kindness would have been evident whether or not I knew how bad their lives were. I was young, so some of that may possibly forgiven, but I definitely try to teach my children that there are lots of things in life we never realize.

Normally, I am a “shower girl.” Baths, for me, are not the way to get clean. However, they are relaxing more than almost anything, and I love taking a bath. (And will shower ahead of one if I think I am not “clean” enough.)

And what does this have to do with “smelly stuff?” I have pondered this connection for years. Why do I love baths so much?I believe there are lots of reasons, but a giant one has to do with the scents attached. I have all kinds of scents for my bath. This started when I was in my early 20’s and a Crabtree and Evelyn store opened in our mall. This place enchanted me, and not just a little. I immediately bought some “Spring Rain” milk bath for my mom. (Even then, I could not often splurge on myself… except for clothes and shoes.) She loved it. She became a “bath girl” for relaxation. Everyone in the family knew they could buy her the “Spring Rain” milk bath for any holiday and occasion, and it would be the perfect gift.

Then came Victoria’s Secret bath products (ohhhh, Honeysuckle!) and Bath and Body Works. My all-time favorite is/was Eucalyptus/Spearmint from Bath and Body Works (just recently available again), but I also have affairs with other scents. I am very much not faithful in that department. I have summer scents and winter scents and relaxing scents and energizing scents. I am a little bit picky about the type of scent, but I love many, many different ones. It is always a fun game to figure out which scent I will add to the bath each week.

There are other reasons I love baths. They are almost always on Friday night. My life is busy and stressful. (No, I do not “work” outside my home, but I work a LOT inside it, and I volunteer way too much occasionally outside it.) Fridays are the busiest days of all for me. OK, they are not. Wednesdays are worse because the whole day is AWAY from home letting the things at home pile up higher, and Fridays are at least mostly AT home, but they are extremely busy. So when Friday night comes, I have had it. I am exhausted and sometimes downright miserable. My body aches and my mind needs a break. The bath is just the thing. The warm water, the scents, the alone time, the opportunity to read, the time to just think… did I mention the alone time?

When Prince Charming came in to my life, he realized quickly how important this Friday night ritual was to me (and by extension, to him). Sometimes I just did not have the gumption to take a bath, and I think I it made him more miserable than me. When we married, he moved from 1000 miles away to my house. We had two bathrooms, the master bath and the upstairs bath. I always took my baths upstairs because I did not like taking them in the same place I took showers. Sometimes I would skip it because I was too lazy too tired to clean the tub. Prince Charming fixed that for me. He started cleaning the tub right after dinner. No excuses now!

sunset reflection in painting above "garden tub"

sunset reflection in painting above "garden tub"

When we moved to New Mexico, our new house had a “garden tub.” For a bath aficionado like me, this was delightful. Don’t be too envious, the name only meant that it was a larger tub–there were not jets in it or anything fancy–just bigger. BUT bigger is sometimes better, AND it was not in the same place as the shower. Heaven!

With children, the whole bath thing is even more important because as much as I love Chic and Chicklet, by Friday night, I am mostly finished with being a Mom, too. (Although I sometimes let them play in my bubbles for a few minutes before they go to bed… a VERY few minutes.) Prince Charming, being the Prince that he is, is quite in tune with things like this. He sees what my life is like (although some of it is self-inflicted, and he wishes I would not inflict it upon myself), and does whatever he can to make it better. Part of this is insisting I take my Friday night bath. (Prince Charming bought the bath pillow featured at the top of this post. He understands.) I stopped sharing this information with my friends because they either a) hated me for it or b) tried to seduce Prince Charming so they could have such luxuries themselves. EVERY woman I know wants Prince Charming to teach classes to their husbands. This makes Prince Charming quite uncomfortable. Apparently it is not cool for men to go around instructing other men on how to be the perfect husband.

So here is what happens… after dinner, I blog for a few minutes quickly finish up whatever urgent business needs my attention. (Mind you, cleaning up the kitchen and dinner table would never be part of what I do here. I NEVER do that unless Prince Charming is out of town. I cook; he cleans up. I do not leave a huge mess, but whatever mess there is, he takes care of it. Except Saturday evening dinner and all day Sunday when he cooks AND cleans up. NOW ladies, into which of the categories in the previous paragraph do you fall?) So while I am blogging completing some important task, Prince Charming is cleaning my garden tub. He lets me know when it is finished, and in a few minutes I go upstairs to an aromatherapy haven. He lights a candle (or candles) for me that smell yummy. He leaves out the appropriate amount of towels (three) for me. And if at any time during the evening I balk for any reason, he almost forcibly makes me go take a bath.

Now is the time when most women would be leary; I know I was. “What does he want for all of these romantic gestures?” “What kinds of acrobatics am I going to have to perform when I get to bed?” “Is this bath worth it?” Well, the answer is that this is a “no strings attached” bath. Every week. It is my time. No kids, no phone calls (unless I really want to talk to someone), no husband, nothing but me and my scented paradise and the books/magazines that I choose.

I would never have time to read were it not for my bath time.

I would never have time to read were it not for my bath time.

Oh, WAIT… I almost forgot. There is more. He brings me water (because that is what I like to drink) and any confections of my choice. Periodically, it might be a leftover dessert item we have, but more often it is Godiva chocolates (hand-picked by Prince Charming–he loves to get seasonal truffles) or Nutella* on graham crackers. And if I run out of something or need something at any time during my bath, I ungracefully pound rap gently on the floor of the tub three times, and he comes running (not kidding) to see what I need.

* [Are you familiar with Nutella?  Find it.  Try it.  Love it.]

For the record, he says he does all this for himself as much as me, because my life is so busy and stressful, and this little break is beneficial necessary for my mental health state of well-being. This is probably true. In fact, I am pretty sure it is true.

But what is hedoing other than being on call for my every whim while I take my luxurious bath each Friday night? (It lasts 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Sometimes I even have to add extra hot water.  Hmmm…. maybe I should have him keeping hot water ready on the stove! JUST KIDDING!) I really do not care what he is doing. (The kids are in bed, by the way.) For all I know, he is surfing the internet’s p*rn sites, having an internet affair managing his fantasy football team/league or reading himself. (He does seem in a hurry to get me to the tub!) It does not matter to me. I trust him. And this is one of the best gifts he gives to me. (ONE of them. There will be other posts about other reasons he is Prince Charming.)

Sunset through lace curtain over "garden tub"

sunset through lace curtain over "garden tub"

To be honest, I think this whole thing is probably almost as good for him as it is me. No one wants to live with an uptight, stressed out witch partner. He makes sure I am not. And he gets his “strings.” Maybe not on Friday night (but maybe), but definitely more frequently than if I did not have this weekly relax/recharge time alone.

I have to be honest and tell you I never thought I would post a rainbow picture for Sky Watch Friday. Rainbows are spectacular, but from my perspective really difficult to capture in a way that shows anything about how wonderful they were. And I am not saying these pictures captured what it was really like, but I like them anyway.

click on photo to enlarge

click on photo to enlarge

During “monsoon season” here in the desert southwestern United States, we have lots of rainbows, and this year there were even more because the season (which is still going for some crazy reason) has been much longer than usual and the frequency of clouds and light rain more than usual.  But although there are a lot, they are fleeting. The rain is so isolated and sparse, that rainbows seem to last not long at all. Often I do not even get a picture, let alone have time for it to be a good one.

But this rainbow was unusual. It was a “full rainbow” covering 180 degrees. Those have been rare in my life. And it lasted a long time. I decided to drive for a better view, and got one somewhat better, but my lens wouldn’t even capture the entire thing. But the EXPERIENCE was the wonderful part. I watched it change for a good thirty minutes. I was just getting ready to pack up and head home when I realized how low the sun was in the sky. So I stayed for a spectacular sunset as well. (I am not showing you the sunset because I do not like to put too many pictures up for SWF, and I will be needing archives when this monsoon seaon ever ends!)

click on photo to enlarge

click on photo to enlarge

May your weekend be as brilliant as my rainbow!

To see LOTS more terrific sky pictures,  head to the SkyWatch blog hosted by Tom, Sandy , Imac and Klaus.

 

It is time for some awards. I love awards for two reasons. My FAVORITE thing about them is passing them on because I love so. many. blogs, and I like to share that with others. The other thing I really like is hearing the nice things other bloggers said to me when they gave each award to me. Who doesn’t like that? But for me, it is strange, because I HATE attention in real life. HATE. IT. I hated my wedding showers and my baby showers. I just do not like being the center of attention. But it seems that when a computer is in the middle, it is fine with me.

My apologies to the people who gave me these awards that it has taken so long to get this post together. That is part of my charm… RIGHT? Also my heartfelt thanks to all who gave me these awards. I cannot tell you how these surprises (every single one has been a surprise) make me smile.

And before I get to the actual awards, I will remind you of “Louise’s Award Policy.”

-I am changing the rules, so you can, too!
-If you receive an award from me, it is up to you what to do with it. I do not notify people in comments that they have received an award, therefore they may never even know they got one! I tend to nominate people on a much higher plane than myself, so it is often likely they do not even read my blog. SOOOO, if you happen upon an award from me, you can take it or leave it, display it or not display it, pass it on or not, acknowledge it or not.
-If you have received the same award from someone else, see the above rule. No one is making you take this.
-If you have received an award from me before, see the rule two above this.

The Award I begin with is the one I got the longest ago from Antigoni’s Diary. But let me tell you why I like HER blog! She lives in Greece, and she has fabulous ocean pictures! OK, there is a lot more to her blog than that, but those two qualifications would win me over without the rest. (The rest is fabulous, mind you, but I’m just sayin’…)

Here is who I am passing this award to:

Quintino at … lenses and vision… for amazing photography. Amazing.

John Theberge at Maine Nature Photos.  Flowers, bugs, scenery. All excellently shot.

Marvin at Nature in the Ozarks. Marvin does not “do” awards, but I cannot help it. His posts are amazing and so educational.

Yrsa and Chrome3D at 4 Seasons in Southern Finland. I love the photography in this blog and the subjects which they choose to photograph.  Chrome3D has his own blog which is not into awards, so this one might not be, either, but again, I cannot help myself.  I want YOU to know about this blog!

Woman in a Window. This woman is an excellent writer. She creates imagery that makes a story larger than life, but it still feels like real life. She talks about real life, but in an incredibly eloquent manner.  Definitely. worth. reading.

David at Authorblog. David will probably not believe I am giving him this award because in my comments more often than not I jokingly make fun of his wit. This is a blog I read before I began blogging myself. It is the blog that let me to SkyWatch Friday, which is how I found (directly or in a round-about way) most of the other nearly 200 blogs I read.  This is a “brilliant” blog because it is so multi-faceted.  He is an excellent photographer (and traveler, so we see many things). He has ludicrous news stories. He writes limericks. He devotes a post every day to other bloggers. The list goes on.

And finally, Jennifer at Thursday Drive. Another amazing, poetic writer.  She writes about life and things beyond life. She is the reason I joined the blososphere.

The next award is from The Fish Whisperer from Picture This Digital Photography. This guy is so nice to me! And his blog is incredible. I love his photography, and he lives in Fiji. That is so completely foreign to me, but it has water, and water is VERY GOOD, so I love HIS blog, too!

Then I got the same award from Denise at An English Girl Rambles and also from The Fishing Guy. I love Denise’s blog because there is some excellent photography and commentary and actually, I like the same thing about The Fishing Guy. And I have already told you about the whole country music thing with The Fishing Guy.

 

Below are the people/blogs who get the above three awards.  If you get one, you can claim any or all (or, of course, none).  And to be honest, if you are reading this, I want to pass it on to you because you are not likely to be reading this unless I have read your blog, therefore I like your blog.  But there are still a few for which I will make special mention (because it suits me at the moment):

Morgan at Stumble, Survive, Smile. This is a very new blog from a very open and honest girl about life. She knows how to write about it, and I love reading it. There is just something about reading honest, heartfelt writing about life that is so appealing.

TBNIL at Traveling, but Not in Love. This guy makes me laugh. Not all his posts are funny, but most have a humorous side to them, and he knows how to make it that way. If we were to meet in real life, I am sure we would have very little in common.  He is much younger than me and his lifestyle is completely different (mine is pretty boring in comparison), but he is just fun to read.  REALLY fun. EXTRA fun. Go read! (And if you comment, check back in the comments for his worth-reading replies.)

Rich at Championable. A raw look at life. His posts are short, but powerful. Often funny, but often not. But there is always a funny element in the sign-off…  Even you…

Deirdre at ReluctantFarmChik.  OK, I JUST gave her an award, but I LOVE her.  I LOVE her blog! It is still new, but it is getting even better with every post. She is funny. She is worth being in your reader! (And if you have not been there yet, you must go to hear about Prince FARMING.)

Mrs. Chili at The Blue Door. I found Mrs. Chili by reading her comments on other blogs. I LOVED her comments. She was always sensible.  Always sincere. Her blog is the same way. She covers a lot of territory as her life covers a lot of territory, but she is a genuinely wonderful person who writes an open, honest, sometimes controversial post. But she is not a controversial person, so even those posts come out pleasantly, even if I happen to be in the other corner from her! Mrs. Chili is a wonderful, remarkable woman.  (And it doesn’t hurt that she has 2 red-headed daughters!)

I was making a list so I could do this post, and there are ten more blogs on my list, but I know if I list too many (may have already), no one will take the time to check them out.  I really hope you do, because they wouldn’t be up here if I did not really believe they are worth it.

And again, if I were to list all the ones that I can say, “I love your blog” to, it would I am sure be anyone reading this. I read yours because I LOVE IT!

This post is in response to a prompt from Kelly at *Weekly Anamnesis.*  I like Kelly’s word prompts to help me think of something to write.  She is not picky about when someone uses a word.  It can be a word from previous weeks, which I have done before.  But today I am using “Smelly” which is actually this week’s word. Anyone is welcome to use her prompts.  Just go there and follow the instructions. I love to see what different people write about the same word prompt.

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click photo to enlarge

click photo to enlarge

When I first saw Kelly’s word this week, I thought of several things about which I could write.  I have an incredible sense of smell.  The problem was which thing relating to smell should I address?  I had several ideas, but was not sure I wanted to go down those paths.  Then I thought of another post I have been wanting to do for a long time, and it involves “smelly stuff.”  I had it planned for last Friday.  But last Friday was not a good day for me.  Fridays are always busy–probably my busiest day (which is why my usual Friday post has been sporadic since school started), but last Friday was the worst yet.  So no post about smelly stuff.  No post at all. And that post will have to wait because for ME (not you, but this is my blog), that is a Friday-specific post.  I will try again next week.

So that left me with what should I write about for Kelly’s prompt?  I still cannot really decide, so I will just tell you a few things about me and my wonderful sense of smell.

Having an acute sense of smell, as you can imagine (or know if you have one, too), is not always good.  In fact, sometimes it is very, very bad.

Like the time I was on a six-hour flight to Iceland a week after having my wisdom teeth pulled.  I was still a little sick from the anesthesia.  (Anesthesia and me are not the best of friends, although I would suffer through the effects of it every dental appointment if allowed.)  I am pretty sure this was after I learned to be afraid of flying, and the flight was more than a little bumpy.  It was bumpy enough that my ginger ale was sloshing over the side of the cup. 

Icelandair in earlier days (I do not know about now) was a wonderful airline, except that it was crowded.  They would cram six seat across when most planes would have five.  And I think cram four rows where most airlines had three.  Something like that.  On this particular flight, there was not an empty seat, and there were a bunch of demanding people on board.  I do not remember where they were from.  All I remember is that they were continually making demands from the flight attendants, who were bouncing around bringing them this and that.  My ginger ale was gone, and I had politely asked for more.  They forgot about me in the mess.  (I LOVE Icelandair flight attendants; it was not them that was the problem.) 

In addition to this, I was in a middle seat.  I would never get a middle seat now.  NEVER.  But then it could not be helped.  On one side of me was someone who should have purchased two seats.  I had about half of my seat available for my use.  (A six-hour flight, mind you.) And on the other side of me was a girl who was smelly. She was thin, and we could have shared some space, but I know she had not showered or bathed in more than a week.  (Or maybe she had just finished a marathon and had neglected cleaning up.) Remember my queasy stomach?  This was not a good time to have a good sense of smell. 

Waiting for more ginger ale, I sat and sat and sat and watched things bump and slosh. My nausea increased.  I turned the air full force on me in hopes of relieving some of the sickness, but to no avail. Finally, I realized I had no choice but to make my way to a lavatory. This was long before “September 11,” and the line for the lavatory was at least 15 people long.  Knowing I was good at holding back throwing up, I was still uneasy about the line.  I took the bag in the seat pocket in front of me with me. 

Time was irrelevant as I stood in that line. I have no idea how long I was there. I only remember focusing on things other than how I felt. I actually felt the smallest bit better after getting away from the smelly girl, but things had gotten too far before I left.  When I made it to the lavatory, I threw up.  I was proud for not doing it in the aisle-way (which would have caused a chain-reaction if anyone near were anything like me), but I had never done that on a plane before. 

Feeling enough better to survive, I returned to my seat, climbed over the sleeping, smelly girl and sat on the half of my seat that was left due to the very large sleeping man next to me. Unfortunately, I never sleep on planes.  I wish I could, but sleep always eludes me. As I sat down, the flight attendant brought my ginger ale. The rest of the flight would be better…

When women are pregnant, often their sense of smell heightens. For me, I knew every time I was pregnant before any test would show it (other than a blood test) by the things I smelled. It is no wonder women get morning round-the-clock sickness those first weeks (16 weeks for me) of pregnancy. Every time I remember smelling cows when I knew the nearest ones were several miles away.

But having a keen sense of smell has some benefits. I can smell my roses when I am coming up the street from someone else’s house. When visiting my family in Missouri in May, I can smell the honeysuckle hundreds of yards away.  What an intoxicating scent that one is! Scents I love can completely change the course of my day.  My days are stressful, but the right candle, my favorite perfume, the bread baking in the oven, rain or a million other beautiful smells can nearly make me forget my stress.

Hopefully, this Friday will clue you into my “smelly stuff” post.  It really is not about “smelly stuff,” but that plays a part which is why I was going to use it with this prompt.  It will be a fun one when I get to it.  It has something to do with Prince Charming, so be on the lookout.  (I am pretty much duty bound to get that done this week now, am I not?)

click photo to enlarge

click photo to enlarge

All summer I have been threatening “boring” (crystal clear and deep blue every day) skies.  The time is about here.  We are still getting a little cloudy afternoon activity, but not every day, and it seems to not be creating the spectacular sunsets.  This one is from a couple of weeks ago.  It is one that happened when I was home alone again and drove to get better pictures.  There were many more colorful, but this one was on the drive, and I just liked the subtle color and the way the clouds seemed to be coming down to touch the earth.

To see LOTS more terrific sky pictures,  head to the SkyWatch blog hosted by Tom, Sandy , Imac and Klaus.

click photo to enlarge

click photo to enlarge

This is a meme for which Craver Vii tagged me.  He said I did not have to do it, but I decided I would. Some people think I am not the type to like memes (because I think a lot of people do not like them), but I like some of them.  Probably because it is just a chance to ramble about myself, but there were a couple of things I have wanted to talk about anyway in this meme. 

Craver Vii’s post on this is here.  (Go check it out and tell him Congratulations.  When linking I just noticed that he’s going to be a Grandpa!)  And he got the meme from here

These are the meme rules:

  1. Write about 5 specific ways blogging has affected you, either positively or negatively.
  2. Link back to the person who tagged you.
  3. Link back to the parent post, so she can track the meme.
  4. Tag a few friends or five, or none at all.
  5. Post these rules– or just have fun breaking them.

I like those rules because like with awards (I will get to the ones that I have not acknowledged yet early next week, I promise!), I will make up my own rules and you may do the same if you decide to participate.    I am actually going to follow all these rules since they are so lax!  As for tagging, I am tagging anyone who wants to do this.  If you think this would make a good post for you, please do it! 

OK, without further preliminary rambling:

.5 Ways Blogging Has Affected My Life

  1. Country Music.  I was raised on Country Music.  I never heard anything other than Country and Country Gospel until I was probably in 7th grade at school.  Wait, that is not true.  I heard other types of music in earlier years when I was in the carpool on the way to and from school, but I never liked the drivers and therefore never bothered to care about what was on their radios.  I mostly remember the talk radio which bored me to tears as an elementry school student.  But my parents listened to Country Music.  I liked it because I knew nothing else, but I never loved it.  When I was introduced to other music (Rock, then Classical, then Celtic and others), I put Country Music behind me forever, at least I thought.  I did not save one single 45, cassette or anything else.  I threw it all in the trash and moved on.  I came to loathe Country Music.  I liked almost anything except for Country Music. (OK, I never really cared for rap or super heavy metal, but most anything else I could tolerate.)  I liked Mountain Music and Bluegrass, but not Country.  Enter blogging.  Obviously lots of blogs have music on them.  And a lot of times I do not really like it because to me it detracts from the photography or writing.  Not always (definitely not always–sometimes it adds), but often.  But there are two blogs I frequent with Country Music on them.  One is Fishing Guy and the other is At Home With the Farmer’s  Wife.  I have decided that not only can I tolerate the Country Music on their blogs, but I kind of like it.  I am not really sure why.  I think it probably has to do with the other content on their blogs.  They depict things that I long for–usually country scenes or country life.  I would have never believed that blogging for three months would make me like Country Music.  No evils smirks from Thursday Drive and ReluctantFarmChick, please!  (I am not rushing to iTunes to download any, but my taste for music is being altered.) (And I hope Prince Charming wants to stay married after he reads this.)
  2. My love for photography has increased since blogging.  I have loved photography for a long time, but not like I do now.  Now I remember to take my camera with me almost all of the time.  Now I take way more pictures than I ever have because I “just might” be able to use them in a post someday!  The critics may disagree, but I think I am already taking better pictures.  Or many more OF the pictures are good (better percentage).  Or maybe I am just taking so many pictures that I have to have more good ones.  Then there is the whole “lens envy” thing.  I am not a covetous person, but when I see wildlife shots and bird shots like are found at A “Focus” In the Wild  (whose music I love, by the way) and Virtua Gallery and bug shots like at Nature in the Ozarks and Lisa’s Chaos, I want more and bigger and different lenses.  It is going to be an ongoing problem, I can tell.
  3. The community of the blogosphere is amazing to me.  I would have never guessed that in such a short time there would be people in so many places I would be happy to meet.  I love traveling, and though finances do not allow me to travel as much as I would like, both Prince Charming and I do not hesistate to travel when possible.  There are people in so many places of the world that I would not hesistate to look up if we were traveling near them.  I would love to name everyone here that is intriguing to me and I would like to someday meet, but I would be here linking for a week.  I will just name three that are in very different places:  Maria in Greece, Chrome 3D in Finland and Fish Whisperer in Fiji.  I love the connections I have made with all of you who read this.
  4. My girls, ages 4 and 6, know quite a bit about blogging and have taken even more notice than before of the beauty around them because I am taking more pictures.  One day Chic saw her picture on the computer screen and asked, “Did you blog about me?”  I loved that.  One week in church on the screen with texts on it there was a pretty picture of the sky and Chic said, “That would make a great SkyWatch photo!”  Both Chicklet and Chic are continually pointing out the beauty around me.  This morning Chicklet noticed the pale moon setting over the volcanoes, and just five minutes ago Chic bounded out of her bedroom to tell us, “The moon is beautiful.”  It was.  It is coming up as a yellow giant orb over the mountains.
  5. The last way I will mention that blogging has affected me is that I am more sleep-deprived than I have ever been.  I need a lot of sleep.  I never get enough sleep. But it is worse now.  There is always “just one more” blog to read in my Google reader or “just ten more” SkyWatch’s at which to look.   Or “just three more” comments needing response.  I cannot believe how late I stay up to do this sometimes.  (Neither can Prince Charming.) 

There you have it.  How has blogging affected your life?  Good or bad?  Let me know in the comments, or do your own post!

This post is in response to a prompt from Kelly at *Weekly Anamnesis.*  I like Kelly’s word prompts to help me think of something to write.  She is not picky about when someone uses a word.  It can be an old word, which I have used before.  But today I am using “Smoke” which is actually this week’s word. Anyone is welcome to use her prompts.  Just go there and follow the instructions. I love to see what different people write about the same word prompt.

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June 18, 1980. 

No photo. I made this with stamping supplies.

My mother and I had spent the day “hauling Jo.”  That is what my mother used to call it. 

When I was less than a year old, my parents moved from a rented house in the country to a tiny rented house in the city. It was in the not-so-nice part of the city, but in 1966, it wasn’t that bad.  Very soon after moving they met their across-the-street neighbors, Jo and Roy.  They were a childless couple that were old enough to be my grandparents.  Their house had been in the country when they had built it who-knows-how-many-years ago, and it was the nicest house in the area.  They were also the nicest people.  They became family to us.  Jo made every single birthday cake of mine from age 1 through age 30.  (And for my brother through his 29th birthday.)  We moved away when I was six, but always kept contact with Jo and Roy.  Roy passed away in my late elementary school years, and after that my mother “took care of” Jo.  Jo never learned to drive, so my mother took her to the grocery store and the beauty parlor and to lunch every week.  Every. single. week.  That is what “hauling Jo” was.  It was not a negative thing; that was just the way my mother phrased things sometimes. 

So it being summer, I had gone along on the weekly excursion.  It is possible my brother was with us, but I do not remember him at all in this story.  And I did not always go on these outings with my mother, but my 15th birthday had been the previous week, so I went if for no other reason than to return the plate on which my cake had been and give Jo special thanks for it.

The day had a specific routine.  We would go to Jo’s house (still in the same place as my childhood) and chat with her for a while. Then we would take her to the beauty shop and leave her for about 1-1/2 hours while my mother and I ran other errands.  We would return to pick up Jo and go to lunch.  We always ate at a cafeteria in town.  We always sat at the same table.  Then it was off to the grocery store.  This was the part I liked the least because grocery stores were always so cold.  Groceries packed in, we would take Jo home and unload the groceries for her, then help her put them away.  Then more chatting.  This second chatting session could last for HOURS if we did not find a way to excuse ourselves.  Jo had not had the happiest of lives, and she was lonely and old now, and she loved to talk. 

On this day, I do not remember how long we stayed, but I remember it being a long time.  And I remember the phone ringing.  It was the old kind that really “rang” and had a dial on it.  It rang several times.  She never answered it.  She was talking with us, and she had no reason to think the phone ringing was more important than the time she was spending with us. 

We finally headed home.  It probably pleased my mother we were so late because it left no time for her to make dinner.  She hated cooking and pretty much all things domestic.  We would be eating out that night.

As we drove south toward home (about a 25-minute drive), we were nearing the edge of the “big” city when we saw a giant plume of coal black smoke towering ahead of us.  It looked as if it were in the next town, which is where we lived, though our house was not “in” town.  I remember wondering what could be burning to create such a tall pillar of smoke and so black.  We drove on, probably trying to decide where we would go to eat when my dad got home.

As we got near to where we lived, the smoke was still a giant ahead of us, but it was clear it was not in our neighborhood.  We still wondered about it, but not enough to be concerned.  As we got to our driveway, we saw a lot of cars parked in our yard.  We saw people outside the cars milling around and talking to one another.  That seemed strange.  Very strange.  We wondered if something was wrong.  Mom carefully maneuvered the car to where to in front of the garage and got out.  My grandmother, who had an unattractive flare for drama, raced up to the car as my mother opened her door.  She wanted to know if we were OK.  Why wouldn’t we be?  I am sure I was rolling my eyes where no one could see me.  She then chastised my mother because we had spent so much time at Jo’s and complained that she had “called and called” but no one at Jo’s answered the phone.

Then everyone was there at once.  To me it was only confusion, but they wanted to greet us to tell us the news before we heard it on “the news.”  That plume of smoke we had seen was a local manufacturing facility.  It was the place that my father had worked since 1969 and in which he had purchased ownership not long after that.  That smoke was coming from a company, OUR company.  It was our lifeblood. It was burning, and by the looks of it, there was not going to be anything left.

I remember going inside to watch television.  The news coverage was unbelievable.  (Really, it was like news coverage usually is.  Dramatic.  Maybe my grandmother should have been a journalist.)  The news was saying that there were poisonous chemicals being burned and released into the air and that people should evacuate.  I had grown up with this company.  I remember being four-years-old and sitting in a corner of the then small manufacturing floor while my dad worked because there was too much to do for him to go home, and my mother was working at the hospital as a nurse.  I knew there were no poisonous chemicals.  Then I saw my dad on television.  He looked like I had never seen him before.  He was shaken.  My dad was strong.  He was never shaken.  I heard the words “total loss.”  I heard the word “rebuild.” 

My mother politely thanked everyone for coming, but sent them home.  We had to go find my dad.  He needed us.  My dramatic grandmother said she should drive because my mother was too excited to do so herself.  Thankfully, my mother declined. 

When we got there, the smoke was not the giant plume anymore, but it would be days before it was all gone.  There were giant steel beams lying in twisted heaps on the cement floor.  The destruction was complete.  I do not think I had ever been so afraid in my life.  When I was little, our family was poor. We were no longer poor, but we certainly were not “rich,” either.  I was 15.  I was supposed to go away to a parochial boarding school that fall.  I knew right then that it may not happen.  My father’s business was completely gone.  Only twisted metal and some smoke remained.  How could he afford to send me to school?  And we were getting ready to move.  Would we still be able to afford the house with ten acres? 

Before that summer I remember seeing my dad cry one time–when his mother died.  When we got home that night (I do not even remember what we ate for dinner, if we ate at all), my dad cried.  If I had been frightened before, I REALLY was then.  As horrible as all this was for me, I could not imagine how much worse for him.  He was only part-owner of the business, but it was his life.  It was OUR life.  He had been the one who worked day and night to build it to its present success.  It was all gone.  Up in smoke.

I spent the rest of that summer in a motor home parked on a concrete pad at the site of the fire while they were rebuilding.  The office staff had moved into the offices of another building, but someone had to answer the phone at the building site.  My dad said I would do it. I had “worked” for the company almost as long as I could remember.  And most of it had been gratis, as was this, so I did not mind.  There were no speakers or intercom systems, so when someone had a call, I had to trudge through the debris and building to find people.  Being a somewhat prissy Girly Girl, I was always wearing clothes fit for an office, not a building site.  The heels probably were not a good idea.  There was an IBM electric typewriter in the motor home.  I found my mother’s old high school typing book and taught myself to type that summer.  That turned out to be a mistake because in typing class that autumn (at the boarding school), I had a manual typewriter.  Though I eventually got to 93 words per minute on the manual, I cried in private the first two weeks at school because after using the electric, it was so painful to push the pinky keys on the manual.

By summer’s end, there was a place in the new building for the office staff, so I was no longer needed.  My uncle (another owner of the company) gave me $100 for my working there all summer.  I was shocked. And elated.  I used it carefully to buy my wardrobe for the next school year.  No one has ever made $100 stretch any further!

Today when I see smoke, I am transported immediately back to that day.  But it is rare to see such black smoke.  More frequently I see brown smoke.  That is a sickening site as well, because it usually means a house is burning.  I have seen that three times since living here fore six years.  When it is white smoke, the water has gotten most of the fire out.  But no matter what color the smoke, when I see it, my heart freezes, then it aches for the people whose lives the smoke is affecting.

“Our” fire turned out OK.  Not one person was killed or injured in the fire. The company had another plant, and they had saved most of the molds.  They did not miss one shipment of goods while waiting for the new plant to be built.  They built a bigger and better facility.  Every time I see smoke, I hope that the people involved have as good an ending to the tragedy as we had.

 
click on photo to enlarge
click on photo to enlarge

This is part of the Sandia Mountains.  In yesterday’s post, I referred to them as being in the picture, and several people said something to me about them. Hence, this post.  It is one I have been meaning to do, but if you read here regularly, you realize that meaning to do a post has nothing to do with that actually getting it into the computer.

So why are they called the “Sandia Mountains?”  Well, the origin is somewhat interesting.  When we were house hunting here, our realtor explained it to us.  Although she was wonderful and had my complete trust, I had to look it up to be certain the story was true.  It was.  Apparently “Sandia” is the Spanish word for “watermelon.”  That seems to be a bit of an odd name for a mountain range, unless you have been here at sunset, looking at the mountains.  At sunset the mountains turn watermelon pink, and they are quite beautiful.  It does not happen every day.  A lot of it depends on the clouds or lack of clouds, but the watermelon color does come often, and it is quite a treat.

The top picture was taken at sunset from my back yard. (Sorry for all the house tops.  That is where I most commonly am when I see sunrises and sunsets.)  It was an incredible sunset, and there was even a rainbow in it for a while.  (Not shown.)  The picture is definitely worth enlarging.

The following picture was taken during the same sunset as this.

click photo to enlarge

click photo to enlarge

When I see this view of the Sandias, I see all the glittering windows in the city.  It reminds me of a story I heard as a child about a boy who longingly looked over the valley at a house with golden windows and wished he could live in such a house.  One day he visited, and found that the house did not have golden windows, but was shown a house that did.  It was his own.  One version of the story is here if you want to read it.  I do not know why, but I have always loved that story.  I did not really relate to it because I never remember envying anyone else’s house, even as a child.  (Even though we were poor!)  Whatever the reason, I loved the story, and I still do.  And now, since living in this place with enchanted skies, I have illustrations for it.  The picture is definitely worth enlarging.

click photo to enlarge

click photo to enlarge

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