Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Exploring my new spot

Day two at my new job. I'm loving it. I love the people. I love the surroundings.

So today I set out to see what kind of trails were around for running.

There were quite a few! Very secluded, very scenic dirt roads.....I'm loving it!

I wasn't the only person out and about. It seemed as if several of us, human and animals alike, were taking advantage of the break in rainy, too-warm-for-January weather.

The most amazing site was 3 bluebirds flitting around the meadow beside the building in which I work.

So I'll be out there again tomorrow.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Winter. Interrupted.

Since June 2006, my daughters, son and I have been rabid geocachers. What is geocaching? It is hiking with a purpose.
It is just perfect for people who love to hike but have run out of local hiking spots. Or have run out of ideas. is the place to go for all the information you could possibly want about geocaching.
So for this beautiful spring, I mean, winter day, my daughters, grandson and I went geocaching. To geocache, you need to have a GPS. Last summer, I lost mine. Which was devastating when we went to Maine, I thought. But to the kids, was a blessing.
There are different categories of geocaching: mystery, envelope, earthcaches........ From our trip to Maine to our visit last year to Virginia, geocaching has allowed us to explore some non-traditional spots and to learn a little abit about the local environment.

Friday, January 22, 2010

My Jar of Good Wishes

When I arrived to our weekly adviser meeting this morning, I was greeted by the smell of some wonderful food. I should have expected this because food is the way we celebrate most everything in our college.

But I was surprised. It was wonderful. I work with some of the best cooks and bakers at the University. Fresh fruit and Dunkin Donuts coffee just added to it!
I knew this was going to be a rough day and tomorrow isn't going to be any easier. Goodbyes are always hard. Goodbyes are especially hard when you love the place you are leaving. But changes are inevitable and people move on.
Yet I started crying when I left home this morning. My coworkers have been part of my life for years. I know this is work. I know I get paid for what I do. It is only work. It is only work. I spend 40 hours a week interacting with, depending on, communicating with my coworkers. Like it or not, we are part of a family - we make up our own type of family.
One person in particular, with whom I've developed an unexpected bond I am really going to miss. I don't know how I am ever going to say goodbye to her. She is someone who has every reason to say 'screw-you' to the world. She has been through so much. And we've become very close. She has unexpectedly brought me to tears with her funny stories.
So I said I wouldn't read the notes in the jar. I said I would save them and just know that there were all good thoughts and memories in there. I would cherish the stones that symbolized the lives that I had touched (that had touched me!)
I read them. Every single tear stained one of them. There are no words. I love these people.
I don't know how to say goodbye.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

All the creatures were sleeping . . .

. . . Except for me. I can not sleep. This, too, is Mother Nature's fault (thanks mom!).

It has been springlike here in central PA. We've gone from bitter cold to deceptively bright and warm. I think we are sliding back into winter is cool enough to have a fire in the woodstove but warm enough that I'm sweating like the proverbial pig in my flannel nightie.

I can't find a reading light so I can't read. I have TV on while I'm at the computer but nothing is interesting. I suspect that much of the reason for my sleeplessness is due to the anticipation of beginning a new job. Kind of new, it is the same counseling work but with a different population of students, in a different part of campus, using different modes of delivery.

This change is exciting for me--kind of a low risk change. I will miss my coworkers although we still work at the same place but I won't be near them physically. I'll be moving into an environment from which I received very positive vibes during every communication with them. It is a move that I've been playing cat and mouse with for a couple years. So I am so looking forward to joining that team.
But what is amazing to me is the reaction I've received from my current coworkers. A couple of them have told me how much they are going to miss me. And I believe them. I've always figured that my job there has been kind of a one-way street. I've taken so much from all of my coworkers. I've learned so much and they've affected my life in so many positive ways. But I don't see why anyone would miss me.
I'm kind of non-descript and this is true. Just stating the facts. I am extremely laidback and am more of a whole picture kind of person rather than a detail type of person. My thought is how I/we affect others in the grand scheme of life and I don't fret about too much small stuff. Which really drives some people nuts. I wish I could deal with details - but the nitty gritty drives me batty, confuses me, and makes me nervous.

I can't figure out why I will be missed. Maybe it is my stories. I usually have some interesting stories about things happening on One Old Goat farm. Or about my adventures in chasing a dream for which I haven't ironed out the details. Or maybe it is the eggs I bring in as gifts from my chickens for which I can not take money but will gratefully accept a cup of coffee.

I don't know why one friend says my leaving the unit is heartbreaking for her. She is so much more worldly and intelligent than me and I must bore her to death. San Antonio was the trip of a lifetime for me and she travels regularly to Europe and beyond.
I don't know why these people don't understand that it is I who will be lacking from not being with them. They have given me so much: knowledge, friendship, support, a shoulder, the best work environment ever. That there is nothing I wouldn't do for any one of them. That they have contributed to my belief in my own self. That when my marriage was falling to pieces around me, knowing that I would be with my work family for most of the week, was what kept me from who knows what.

Family is so much more than blood relation. I am so lucky to call these co-workers family.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My cool ride......

This is what I drive. Really. Isn't this what you would expect a mom with 5 kids to drive?

Ok - it is what I drive when my Trailblazer is out of commission. But I would love it to be mine. However, my husband chooses our vehicles and when he finds a vehicle, 3 things are always true:

It will be cheap (no more than $2000);

It will be old;

It will have some unique, idiosyncracy that will prevent anyone from
ever stealing it, i.e. having only 1 door (the tailgate) open from the outside, having to touch a wire to a metal part for the horn to beep, having to take the key out of the lock and then back in to get the vehicle to start.

Over the years, we have had some interesting vehicles: the batmobile, which my economical mind refused to drive - it was a monstrous black Oldsmobile; the Toyota Tercel, which was actually a nice car until my husband fixed it. After that when the car was started, we simply appeared in a cloud of smoke. I've had a Ford Explorer that required me to stop, turn on the 4 wheel drive and then back up at least 4 feet to engage it. And many, many others.

I have no part in the chosing. I only pay for the gas, watch the different fluid levels to make sure that things are changed when they should, watch for gauges that may be rising into the redzone, and keep an eye out for smoke.
At my house, vehicles are instruments of control. It is a way in which my husband thinks he can keep me in check. He knows that I do not make unnecessary trips into town, that I hate gas guzzlers, that the thought of filling up my gas tank for as much money as I could feed my family for a month just kills me. He also knows that I have absolutely no qualms in hopping on my bike and biking the 17.3 miles into work. I'm sure if it wasn't for the kids, I would be on my own.

Anyhow, I think it is very interesting how we choose our vehicles. The other day as I was leaving work, I watched several middle-aged men, dressed in suits, with shiny black shoes, the requisite black briefcase, and slicked-back, side-parted hair hop into their minivans. Their minivans with the HV, OBX, HI, AS, etc., stickers slapped on the back end (of the van, not them). I wonder how many of these guys would have guessed 20 or 30 years ago that they would actually purchase a mom-van or a SUV? My husband bought me a red minivan - it was actually a decent vehicle, relatively good on gas, and very, very convenient for transporting our young family. But still, I HATED that van! Hated it. It drove the way my life seemed to be moving: slow, smooth, reliable.

But back to the present: my husband surprised me with a 2003 Chevy Trailblazer. In really good shape. He was so happy to surprise me and I sure was surprised! Surprised that the darn four wheel drive didn't work - got that fixed and it needed something else, got that fixed and then it was in the garage for another week while we waited for the installation of a catalylic (sp) converter. For the nearly 4 weeks we've owned it. we've been able to drive it for a little more than a week. I felt way more bad for my husband (who was trying to provide something safe for the kids and me) than I did about being homebound for so long. And besides, I had the jeep to drive.

If someone had to describe me, I think they would agree that my old, old Ford Explorer with the goat poop, sleeping bag, tent, assorted tools in the back fitted me more than my shiny nearly new Trailblazer. Even the name - Explorer - fit me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 are messing with my mind

Dear Mother Nature,

Would you please, please, PLEASE turn the weather dial back to winter!?? My body is responding to the sunshine and I'm connecting to feelings of long ago of going from winter to spring. I'm reliving some of those times in my life that are so, so sweet, they hurt. I enjoy those feelings when it is truly winter into spring, but not these lies!
I know you--you'll lead me to believe that spring is right around the corner with its budding trees and flowers. I'll start believing you only to be slapped in the face with sub-zero temperatures, frigid wind, and mountains of snow.

Please, Mother, bring winter back. It is true that I have been complaining about the miserable weather but I'm just afraid that if we have springtime in the winter, what are we going to have in the summer?
It is true - I love springtime at Penn State but can you just hold off until April? Or even March?
Thanks Mom,
Your daughter-the old goat

Monday, January 18, 2010

What a difference a day (or a week) makes!

From 0 to 52 in a week! From ice to mud...... This time last week, it was so cold that I didn't even want to step outside to get wood off the porch. This time last week, it was so bitterly cold that I had to bring the wash in to thaw. This time last week, the kids were fighting with each other because they were so tired of being in the house and there was just nothing to do. But this weekend, it was Spring!!!
And the kids played baseball, we enjoyed sweet-smelling clothing hung out--and dried--on the line! The chickens played in what was left of the forsythia bushes and they rattled about in the leaves. Snowball almost smiled because he didn't have to contend with ice in his water before I could get out there and replace it.
Dolly was just plain happy!
And life was good on One Old Goat farm.
This glimpse of spring was just what this old soul needed!

Friday, January 15, 2010

And my day doesn't compare

This is where a friend of mine used to live and where members of her family remain - totally unknown is whether they are alive or not.

I retract my blog of self-pity yesterday. I know nothing.

Please, please help. Whether it is a prayer or positive thoughts, or a hug of friendship or a shoulder to lean on, or even some money.

Please help.

Love you Marie . . . .

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Good. Bye.

How do I feel? I feel like crawling into a hole, deep, deep into a hole and covering up with dirt so that I am warm, and it is quiet, and I can sleep for a very long time.

Depression is back.

I'm so very tired. I know when I get home, nothing will be done. Dishes will be dirty, there will be things scattered all over the house, the woodstove likely will be out.

I can't stop crying. I don't want to talk but my job is talking.

I just want to go home and cuddle with my dog with the blankets over my head and just sleep. But that won't happen.

Sometimes my life just sucks. But everyone's life does sometimes.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

So not farm related.......

I picked up an interesting book at the library last week: Ghosts by James Van Praagh. I'll admit, I do like a good ghost story and mysteries but my reading leans a little more to stories written by Fannie Flagg, books about our food supply, gardening, sustainability, but definitely not books like this.

It was an interesting book. Very interesting. Recently I had an experience that, looking back, I'm amazed I made it through intact. Thinking back at the people involved and the situation, I truly believe that I had a run-in with a psychic vampire.

That seems so dramatic but when I read Van Praagh's description of a psychic vampire and his/her affect on the receiver, I am nearly positive that I was experiencing the losing end of such a being. I look back on some of the notes I kept during this time period. And I wrote that I felt empty, hopeless, ambitionless, irritable, scared,......just to name a few. When I was required to communicate with this individual, I instantly felt that life force drain from me. Seriously. It was a horrible situation. And the fact that I was at the precipice of depression, didn't help and was probably a direct result of this relationship.

I wonder how miserable this person must be. Because not only was she spewing negatively to all who surrounded her but she must have been drowning in it.

I want to be the opposite - instead of spreading anger and negative vibes all over the place, I hope that I spread at least a little positive juju. I try to remember to smile at people and to look at them. I try to treat others the way I would want them to treat my kids.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

An interesting life or end of my rope

I can't figure out which.

I have some very good friends. On Friday, at the suggestion of a friend of a friend, we spent 45 minutes in the tropical climate of a campus greenhouse. What a wonderful way to spend the cold, crappy day before the first week of classes and all the resulting craziness!

I'm trying to reconnect to that half hour. I feel like I can't handle one more thing.


Friday, January 8, 2010

And miles to go before I sleep

Whose woods are these I think I know
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there's some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening - Robert Frost

During my run today, I think I grasped what Robert Frost may have been feeling when he wrote Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. It is kind of how I felt today on my run at lunchtime. It was a beautiful day for a run. The students haven't returned from break, the frigid air kept most of the resolutionist runners off the trails, and all was quiet.

This is why I run. Well, one of the reasons. But it is why I prefer to run on trails. Today I was alone. Alone on the trails surrounding campus, alone with my thoughts. I should be the most mellow person ever with all of the relaxing activities I have picked up and swapped with old, stressful activities.

Instead of having a drink or two after dinner, playing the piano is so much more rewarding. I've become better and better. It is so satisfying learning not only how to play a dulcimer but about its history. Instead of having a drink or two and then falling asleep - unrestfully - I'm doing things. I'm playing board games with my kids. We are talking. Talking!

I do not drink to become drunk. I don't like to be drunk. I drink because it numbs me enough that my mind rests and that I can fall asleep. But one drink, or two, I find that life is so much better, my sleep is so much deeper, my enjoyment, motivation, and execution of running is so much stronger.

But yet, to maintain this feeling, I have so much longer to run.

And miles to go before I sleep.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Welcome to my little farm . . .

This is the first place I visit every morning. I love early morning before everyone is awake and before the rumble of trucks can be heard as they descend the first of the Seven Mountains.

When it is super cold and windy out like it has been for the past week or so and when the fire in the stove has died down, it is really difficult to crawl out from under the blankets on the sofa.

Yes, I sleep on the sofa. First of all, I'm a bit paranoid and from the sofa, I can view everything: the wood stove, the front and back doors, the stairway. But I digress.

In the mornings, waaaay before it is time for the kids to get up and get ready for school, I'll sneak out from under my blankets real quick. I'll turn on the coffee pot, run to the bathroom, and then hurry back to the sofa before my chihuahua, Tipper, even knows I'm gone. The other dogs don't even bother: they can sense when I'm getting up to take care of business and when I am really getting up. Until they know I'm planning to head outside, they stay curled up and fast asleep.

When I can hear that the coffee pot is done - which isn't difficult because it is THE noisiest coffee pot in the world, I'll zip out again, grab a cuppa, and then hurry back to catch the weather on TV. In the winter time, there is always a good chance of a 2 hour delay for our school district.

As frigidly cold as it has been and as crazy windy as it gets (I swear, you can feel winter blow in during October and back in April), I can't wait to just get my outside chores over with. But it never fails. Once I get outside and get moving, I can stay outside forever. I have a system to my chores: first feed and open the door on the chicken house, then give Snowball a treat. After that it is yams for the horses, goats, and Dolly Llama. Each of my four-legged friends gets two treats. After that, I put out hay, do the poop-scooping boogey, give everyone fresh water, and then I'm done.

Interspersed with all of this are several trips to put the chihuahuas back in the house because when it is cold, they only go out for a few minutes. I make at least two trips back to the house to referee fights amongst the kids and to encourage my youngest son to please, please, PLEASE, get totally ready for school before playing with his tec decs.

I don't know how I woke up before I had my little farm. I've always been a morning person and before kids would often be done with my daily run by 6:30 am. Going out so early in the day and being able to greet the rising sun with a purpose, is so calming for me. And a great way to begin my day.

So that is me, One Old Goat, and my little farm.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Weather to write about the weather again, or not

You'd think I'd have a little more to write about than the weather..... But seriously, here in central PA, complaining about the weather is a very popular hobby. In other parts of the country, folks may greet each other with a 'hello, how are you' but here it is always 'hot/cold enough for ya?'. Closer to spring, the Harley-Davidson shop on the way home will show the countdown to spring on a marquee outside. When I was a kid, on the first day of spring I would put away my winter jacket and begin wearing my spring jacket. It didn't matter if there was a foot of snow - which in the snowbelt, was very likely.

Seen here, Snowball is in a trance envisioning the start of spring. He, too, would switch to a Spring coat on March 21st.

But the past couple of days has been bitter. Clover and Snowball have grown their winter coat as have the goats. Dolly Llama is as furry as always so she's nice and toasty. Actually she seems to prefer the cold weather and many times will sleep outside her llama hut which she shares with the goats.

Several schools were closed because of the subzero temps. I can remember a time when I was living in the snowbelt, in Warren, PA, and the bank for which I was a teller closed because it was so frigid outside. Now the places in which I grew up rarely--hardly ever-- closed down because of the snow. We were just used to it. But the cold was another thing. At least a school closure because of snow allowed us to go out sledding - but school closure because of intense cold. . . well there was nothing to do but stay inside under the blankets and wait for it to warm up!

But yet, even though it is the 6th of January, there are still signs of the life to come:

my prolific parsley still is green, even underneath the snow;

And the evergreens are ever green;

And my chickens are laying eggs.

So although I will most definitely welcome a few more degrees on the thermometer when it comes even if it means some of that white stuff falling from the skies, I know that underneath the cold, hard winter ground - life is stirring. Soon it will be rain season and then I'll complain about that.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Music soothes the not-so-savage beasts

I received an Apple Creek mountain dulcimer for Christmas. Every since a person to whom I was briefly married and I spent the better part of a weekend making and selling funnel cakes stationed across from a dulcimer player, I've been totally enchanted with the instrument. Since I realized that dulcimer playing was going to be a reality for me, so many new words have entered my vocabulary: psaltery, a noter and droner, plucking, ionion/draconion tuning (not really draconion but I can't remember what other terms are used). I've also made my first recording. Okay, so it was just a short voice note on my blackberry that I've shared with my daughter and my parents, and it included a few swear words, the song Angels from the Realms of Glory was recognizable.

I'm hooked. I love the dulcimer. I love the people I've met in a Mountain Dulcimer online club. I love the thought that I'm actually playing a stringed instrument and that I can tune it. I've found that since setting aside time each day or nearly each day, to play the piano and understanding my mountain dulcimer, I am much more relaxed and much more pleasant to be around. My husband still does NOT like to hear my play - any instrument - but the kids do. My 12 year old daughter who is quickly moving into the teen years says that I am awesome. My other 12 year old daughter who seems to be further away from the teen years thinks it is great and she loves to play her trumpet. My 10 year old son says he just loves to hear real music in the house.

What more is there to ask for? Oh well, that music would tame my beasts, my canine beasts, but instead, it seems to help them rev up for their nighttime races!

My Apple Creek Mountain Dulcimer

Sunday, January 3, 2010

It's chili inside!

The wind is still howling and blowing outside (and a little inside, too). So I have a big pot of chili on the stove and two beautiful loaves of wheat bread that I just pulled from the oven. It is too cold to do anything - there isn't snow for sledding because it is too cold to snow. Walking out on the porch for wood requires fighting hurricane-force winds. Trying to pull the storm down shut against the wind requires herculean strength.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A wild time was had by all . . .

As you can see, we heartily welcomed the new year. The North will never be the same!
Zoom and Bingo appear to be the only living things moving - except for me, behind the camera without a coat;
Jingle, the cat, hiding from the kids and dogs under the tree;

baby Phoenix sleeping with his pal, Punxatawney Phil; and

Zoom - just plain tuckered out from all the festivities!

Driving home tonight, however, gave me a new respect for our PenDot workers, four-wheeled drive, and nerves of steel (not)! Leaving my brother's home before the storm that is expected to leave at least 8 inches of additional snow, I anticipated wet roads and perhaps some flurries. What I encountered were blinding snow, snow covered really snow covered roads, and limited visibility. Of course all of this was midway through the trip through some Pennsylvania's deepest national forest. It was beautiful - really beautiful! But wintertime in the snowbelt is no time to be driving by yourself with four of your children and your grandchild. We met maybe 5 cars during the nearly 2 hours it took to drive through the forested hills of PA. I'm used to driving on crappy roads - growing up in the snowbelt taught me that. I know how to handle situations but nature and slippery roads don't fight fair. It was incredibly irresponsible of me to drive at night through such conditions.
But we made it. We are home, the fire in the woodstove is roaring. I've enjoyed a couple beers and am wishing that I could get out my dulcimer and play a bit but since the kids are all sprawled out across the living room floor to stay warm, I guess I'll be satisfied to play on the computer, enjoy the tree, and hope that eventually I'll be able to sleep.
Goodnight, all!

A torrid love affair

 I've written about the ducks quite a bit. It's a little like Peyton Place around here I think. A couple of months ago, the male d...