Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanks




I am so thankful for everything that I have! I have nothing to be unhappy about - I have a healthy, mostly happy family. Great kids and a grandson. A kind husband. Parents with whom I love to spend time. Brothers and their families. I have a horse, a llama, 3 goats, 4 chickens, 3 dogs, and many cats. I feel loved by all of them.

What do I have to be unhappy about? I suppose I could be, and I often am. Until I remember all the good that surrounds me. I think that one thing that I have and I often overlook, is my health. I am strong, very strong. I'm able to toss hay bales, cart gallons of water, dig a post hole, put up a fence, build a goathouse. Recently, I had the opportunity to really appreciate my health. This time last week, I was in incredible pain due to muscle spasms in my neck. I couldn't turn my head, I couldn't lift my arms. I had to recruit my family to care for my animals while I lay on the couch having taken muscle relaxers and ibuprofen for my neck.

Luckily I had the good sense to go see the doctor and get some medicine to help relax the muscles and it cleared up after a few days. And it feels so good to be functional again.

I'm lucky that I grew up with a love of reading. Although physically, I may never go to all the countries I would like to visit: Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Ireland; I can visit via books.

I'm thankful for the moral compass that I grew up with. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could never intentionally hurt another living creature.

I'm thankful for the music I can listen to while I'm working. Thankful for all the amazing musical artists that have lived and written music that moves my soul.

I'm thankful for so many, many things.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Some cute knitty markers

Check out this site:
http://www.nauticalknitter.com/2008/11/24/thanks-for-asking-snowman-stitch-markers/#comment-3821
I sure could have used these markers last night working on my first pair of mittens. You can have a chance to win them too! Just leave a comment on this post on her blog (1 entry in the hat of names);
Put a link to that post on your blog, myspace, facebook, whatever, so others can find the contest post (another entry);
Leave another comment on her blog telling her where you put the link (another entry)!

The winner will be announced on December 1st-

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Another Memory


Another Christmas memory . . .
When my oldest daughter and son were young, my Aunt Carol and Uncle Joe always hired Santa, his wife, and elves to come visit their home and surprise all of the kids. Now Santa and his crew usually were (in their regular lives) friends of my cousin Mark. They were the family of a band member in the band that Mark had worked.
And they were fun in a wild and crazy way.
And this was over 20 years ago back when we all didn’t have common sense that we are expected to have these days.

The kids, my mom and dad, aunt and uncle, and the rest of us ALWAYS had such a good time! Santa Claus ho-ho-hoed to the kids’ delight, they were truly in a festive spirit when they came to visit. I can remember the kids squealing when they heard the jing-jing-jingle of the bells as Santa et al came prancing down the street. And after they entered, all the treats of the Christmas season suddenly appeared!

Even as an adult, I had never seen so many cookies. I vaguely remember baking some of them to bring but I think my aunt and mom made nearly all of them. There were cookies and candies of all sorts, coffee, and soda, and juice! Aunt Carol and my mom, her sister and her best friend, always were dressed head to toe in Christmas clothes! The two of them would flit back and forth from the kitchen to the living room making sure that cookie plates were full and drinks weren’t being spilled while my father and uncle sat in chairs observing all the activity. My dad sat grumpily, my uncle participated fully.

I’ll never forget all of the laughter! Even though my uncle has been gone for nearly 15 years, I can still hear his laugh. And I’ll never forget my aunt’s laugh – she and my mom laugh alike – never just a chuckle, but a full belly laugh!

We were all nice and cozy in the dead of winter smack in the middle of the snowbelt. My aunt and uncle didn’t have a very large house so we were all kind of jammed together in the living room among smells of cinnamon, coffee, cigarettes, and . . . . booze!

Mr. and Mrs. Claus – Santa and his wife – were sloshed! No wonder the jolly old elf was so jolly! He had half a tank full! I had always wondered what it was that made Mrs. Claus giggle so much! Now the elves were NOT drunk – they were just pleasant little elves and smelled of peppermint and hot chocolate. Don’t get me wrong, the Claus clan was obnoxiously drunk – they were just merrily drunk (I guess you would have to be to deal with THAT many kids in such close quarters!). They were truly Claus-esque! They made each child feel that the trip had been made especially for him or her! And plastered or not, they were the Clauses and gave their entire selves over to being the Clauses for the entire afternoon (even when they snuck outside for a smoke, they hid so no child would see them).

That’s another Christmas that I hadn’t thought about in a while. Last night I woke up again in a panic that I would have too little, too late for Christmas. But so far, as I poke around in the recesses of my memory, all I’ve been able to come up with in respect to memorable holidays are experiences with people – not with things! I’m hoping that putting these memories on record will help me to avoid a Christmas depression and refocus the meaning of the season. At my house in addition to celebrating Christmas, my kids and I welcome the winter solstice. This is turning out to be a nice tradition in which we honor nature and the cycle of life by offering food and treats to the animals, by being aware of the change of the season, and being thankful for all that nature has to offer.

In spite of the cold and darkness (or perhaps because of it), our celebration has a definite intimate feel to it. We started last Winter Solstice by burning a Yule log or otherwise know as a dura flame log from the grocery store. The kids made peanutbutter and seed pinecones for the birds, they sliced apples for the deer, and we popped popcorn. We recited a poem and enjoyed being out in the night under the star-studded cloudless night. When we came in, we warmed ourselves with hot chocolate and cookies.

Again, the kids don’t talk about the gifts they received last year – I doubt they can remember what they got – but they’ve all reminisced about celebrating the solstice.






Christmas memories




I always have trouble mustering up the Christmas spirit. The year, I suspect, will be more difficult than most.


My favorite Aunt Carol died of cancer in June; I've lost several of my animals; I am faced with the stonecold hard fact that my parents are getting older and one, or both, may not be around for many more Christmases.


So to help remind me of the happy times and of all the blessings I have, I'm going to write about some of the Christmases I remember.


Enjoy!


The most memorable Christmas for me was after my husband left me, our 7 yr old daughter, and 3 yr old son. We lived in a small town in the snowbelt at the time and even with all the snow, it didn't seem like Christmas. I felt so bad for my kids - they were hurting and so was I. My son, Ryan, didn't say a word about presents, Santa, or Christmas that year. He had none of the excitement that most all kids have around that time of year. Christmas eve, my soon-to-be ex-father in law stopped to pick us up for a party (I was, and remain to be, on good terms with my in-laws) and when we were walking out of the house, amid the heavy snowfall and wind, we could hear the sound of bells jingling. Under the shine of the streetlight, we saw the most realistic Santa Claus! and he said ho-ho-ho to the kids. Another heavy whoosh of the wind and blinding snow, and Santa was gone. It was truly magical. It was just what we needed - some magic. And what could have been the worst Christmas ever, really turned out to be one of the best.And Ryan, who is now 21, STILL believes in Santa!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It snowed!!!!!






It snowed yesterday!






Fortunately I was home - well, not really fortunate - I was home because my neck/shoulder had cramped up on me and I was in much pain.






But it was amazing - at noon, I took Clover out to graze and by 3:30 when my youngest got off the bus, the ground was covered with snow! We couldn't wait to take the dogs outside! It is so much fun to see Max, Sebastian, and Bear frollick in the first snow of the season.






Sebastian just can't contain himself. He jumps and runs, chases snowflakes, chases Max. Even old Bear was feeling frisky in the brisk air! I can't say that the goats were overly impressed. Bucky sulked in his pen, cuddled under a layer of straw; Bella and Tommy peeked out of their goat house. The chickens didn't seem fazed at all - they simply stood in their yard and pecked at the bread I had given them.





I just love the magic of the first snowfall. I feel this way EVERY first snowfall but by the end of January, I am way less impressed with it. By that time, I've reached a high level of cabin fever.




Friday, November 14, 2008

Good friends
















Sebastian is my mammoth yellow labrador retriever. He is also the goofiest, nicest dog I have ever met!










He has this odd habit of sleeping on his back. It doesn't matter if there is already a body there or not.



He loves cats. He loves to cuddle with his pal Dirt, the cat.
He loves to explore with his pals Max and Bear.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Committed......

Not what you think.

Committed to running, to eating healthy, to not drinking, to thinking peacefully. There have been several times this week when I was so close to not putting on my shoes and hitting the trails. I'm glad I didnt' give in. I would have missed Tuesday evening's run in an old town I used to live in.

I would have missed meeting a nice couple out walking their dogs the other morning.

I would have missed that last smell of autumn before the winter's snow cover it all. I would have missed the look of sheer joy and love on Sebastian's face as he was running with me.

When I run, my mind drifts off in all sorts of directions: sometimes I'm in the Swiss Alps skiing, sometimes I'm out on the warm sandy beaches of North Carolina, sometimes I'm relaxing at a beautiful country bed & breakfast in Maine.

When I'm out running, I solve all the world's problems and sometimes I solve my own. I love running because it is just me and my thoughts -- well, sometimes it is one of my dogs, too and sometimes my daughter runs with me.

I relive my life on my runs. I play the 'what-if' game: what if I had gone on to veterinary school? what if I had applied myself in high school? what if I hadn't married so young or so often? I usually conclude that I am quite satisfied with the way my life has turned out so far. I've got the best kids ever, I have a great husband, and I have my little farm.


Life is good.


Running makes it even better.

Good-bye Jolly Llama


Good-bye Jolly Llama


I’ll miss you.


My male llama Jolly, who has been down for a little over a month, died yesterday. Jolly was injured when he tried to romance his pal, Dolly. Dolly kicked him and apparently injured his spine. The thing about a llama is they are very stoic, very brave. I never knew if Jolly was in pain aside from the few times he would grind his teeth. There is some comfort in knowing that I did everything I could for him. We gave him painkillers to help him feel better, steroids in hopes to build up his strength by counteracting the inflammation around his spinal cord, eye drops when his eyes became infected. He actually was acting as if he felt better. He was able to drink from a bucket if I held up his head, he had a good appetite, but no matter how hard we tried, he couldn’t get up on his feet.

Jolly died on the side of the hill in his pasture. His mate Dolly was with him as was his arch nemesis, Bucky. I recall the other night having a feeling that Jolly was preparing to die. Dolly was sleeping by him which is very unusual. The dogs made a point of walking down to see him. His eyes cleared up and seemed to actually see me.

The next few days will be difficult: Dolly will mourn his death. According to others who have lost animals, it is a good idea to let the body in the area so that he can be mourned in a way that is appropriate for his mate. I will mourn his death. It has been a long time – over a month – since Jolly has been able to stand and give me kisses or follow me down the hill. Over the past several months, we’ve lost a goat, a baby llama, and a chicken. I thought my kids would have a more difficult time but they seem to understand and to go on. They are able to say good-bye but then focus on the animals we have left.

I’m sure in a few days, the pain will subside and I won’t feel like I’m missing something when I go out in the morning and in the evening to see the animals. I hope that wherever Jolly is now; he is running with his baby Sunflower and munching on clover. In tribute, Bear, Sebastian, and Max all went down to where he was lying next to the fence, lifted their legs and peed. I'm not kidding.
The 3 legged salute.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

This little horse



And yet another merry chase begins my weekend.


This morning I went out to feed the crew. Morning chores usually just consist of feeding, watering, hellos and have a good days. But as I'm filling up the chicken's feed dish, who trots up to wish me a good morning but Bella and Tommy! My heart sunk as I realized that the gate to the goat and horse pen hung wide open and Clover was nowhere that I could see.


Now I know both gates were latched when I came out to check last night. But at that time, it didn't matter - Clover was gone. I woke up my husband who had just fallen asleep after working the 3rd shift at a local food plant. I tried to think like a horse - but honestly, having only been a horse owner for a little over a month, I wasn't quite sure if I was thinking like a horse or simply a human trying to think like a horse.


Some things I knew: Clover is afraid to cross the creek. She doesn't like the sound of cars. She doesn't like the sound of her feet on pavement. Knowing these things limited the area in which we would need to search. My husband set off to search the fields across the street and down the road. I went down to her favorite clover munching spots. No Clover. No piles of poop to indicate that she had been there. I roamed the neighbors fields and yards looking suspicious, I'm sure, with my jeans tucked in my barn boots and a severe case of bedhead, and holding a halter and lead. Just further evidence I'm sure, to my neighbors, that I'm more than a little eccentric!


I searched the woods stopping every so often because I was sure that I heard her footsteps or a whinny. I met up with my husband and he hadn't had any luck either. My son, who is such a worrier, came out and searched the yard again. You wouldn't think you would have to look so hard for a horse (who loses a horse?) but her coat matches the colors of autumn and she truly is not very big.


Well, one of the worst things about getting older has been my loss of hearing. I looked at my cell phone and noticed a missed call. Our neighbors had found Clover! It sends chills up my spine to think that she was found next to a major highway but she was safe. Not only did the neighbors find her, but they fed her and put her in a clean stall and then called around until they found my phone number.


How do you thank people for doing something like that? I think, by returning the favor. By doing something for someone else. True, they are horse people and they understand the love of a horse, but they made such an effort in tracking me down. I know there is so much in the news of all the bad things, all the bad people in this world but it seems that I only run into the good people. I have always thought of myself as being somewhat jaded, but I truly have a hard time believing that there are as many bad people in this world as the media would have us think.
Anyway . . . I'm so thankful and so fortunate that this latest farm fiasco ended well. I think the experience will just remind me a little more of how kind the human spirit truly is.

Friday, November 7, 2008

I need to run . . . .



I feel like I've been run over by a train! Just tired: my activity level has changed so much over the past year. After running the Marine Corp Marathon in October and not being respectful of my body's need for recovery, I wasn't really able to run for a few months. I've just not gotten back in the groove. I know if I just get out there, just put on my shoes and get out the door, I'll run. Running makes me feel so good. I think that is one of the most tragic things about human nature: we avoid - fervently- the very things that make us happy.
I love, love, love to run! It makes me feel good, it makes my systems work the way they should. When I run, I just naturally eat right. I am pleasant. Last Christmas my oldest son Ryan gave me a necklace with a runner on it. I do not take it off. It is a constant reminder of what I love. What I love about running is that it is such a clean sport. It is my body doing what it is made to do. I don't hurt the earth, I take nothing from it. It gives me time to think and to enjoy nature. I am foolish for not running now when I can. While my body is strong and healthy.
There is a strong line of type 2 diabetes in my family. Running helps me avoid that. Running keeps me out of the category of invisible middle-aged women. There's nothing wrong with that - I rather enjoy being non-descript and unidentifiable. But running makes me part of another group which is ageless and cultureless. Running gives an introvert like me the opportunity to be part of a larger group in a safe way. I can choose to carry on a conversation with a running mate or I can choose to run alone.
Running makes me special. How self-indulgent is that? I kind of like it. There are really quite many women my age who are runners but in casual conversation, I seem like an anomaly. Maybe I'm an inspiration to other middle-aged women, that they can do this too! Maybe some of the younger women look at me and see that you don't have to rock away your twilight years.
My daughter is a runner. I'm so very, very proud of her. She runs semi-regularly even being a single mother of a nearly 2 year old son. She ran her first half-marathon last March and called me crying with pride. With running no matter how crappy your day is, if you run - it has been a success. And oh, what an esteem booster! Finishing a race, or finishing the runs that you've planned is like giving birth: no one can do it for you.
One of my greatest races was the 2007 Arts Festival race. All of my kids ran in the race and at the time, my oldest son Ryan was running on his own although he didn't participate in the race. It was so neat to run with my daughter and then watch my youngest daughters and son participate in the kids' race. I look forward to the day that my grandson can run, too!
So why is it that I haven't been running for over 3 weeks?! Excuses, laziness, I don't know. There for awhile I was snacking - quite heavily - at night and nothing takes my motivation away like eating before bed. I've decided to stop that - mainly because I don't like to feed my body nasty stuff when it is cold outside and because I don't like that I've not been doing the things I like to do, like running.
So tomorrow morning after I feed the goats, chickens, and llamas, I'll put on my running shoes and go for a run. My dogs won't be too happy - it's hunting season and I run through the woods. Sebastian looks too much like a deer to take him with me.
Tomorrow I'll run and Sunday I'll run. And hopefully I'll keep on running. Everyday until I can't do it anymore.




Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A fun new blog!

Check this blog out - http://thesecretisinthesauce.blogspot.com

I added a quick link in my sidebar. It looks like some good reading!

Happy Election Day!


Happy Election Day!


Here in Pennsylvania it sure doesn’t feel like November – more like winter sliding into spring. With the clock set back to end Daylight Savings Time, it LOOKS like it should be brisk and chilly. But it is actually warm and sunny. Well, not so much today but it was yesterday when I began this post.


Today is Election Day. The act of voting is important to me but I’m afraid that the intricacies of the candidates remain a mystery to me. Honestly, it is not important to me. I am not happy with the two choices. Choosing from two people who I know nothing about really, except what is shared via the media, to rule this country, to keep us safe is ludicrous to me. It is kind of like spitting into the ocean. What I would like to know about them are things that to me, demonstrate what kind of a person s/he really is. What does Barak Obama do when no one is looking? Is John McCain a boxer or briefs kind of guy? What kind of socks does Sarah Palin wear with her blue jeans – seriously, she can’t really like wearing those stuffy suits! What is Joe Biden’s favorite snack?


I do vote – EVERY election. Because it wasn’t all that long ago that women and people of color weren’t given that opportunity. Even when I think it doesn’t matter and that I don’t care, I’m basically disregarding the sacrifices that were made by those who fought for those rights. People like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Ida B. Wells, who risked everything so that we could have the right to vote.


I just wish it was done differently. I wish we could pick a team. A presidential duo from a list representing all areas of the country. It just seems to me that although we will be electing a newbie as president, he will be welcomed in to the fold by ‘seasoned’ governmental veterans. People who may have had the best intentions when elected but once ‘part of the team’ were swayed and influenced by those who served before. How can a handful of new elects change the mindset of a governing body that has beliefs and behaviors so firmly entrenched in their existence?


I can wish, I can hope, and I can - and did - vote. I believe in magic and hope that whoever is put into office, can stay true to their promise and promote real and positive change.