Friday, December 31, 2010

Goals for the new year...

One of my goals for the upcoming year is to be able to sell more of my writing.
I have been on vacation this week, and have spent a lot of time writing, thinking about writing, planning writing. There has been guilt involved... I should have cleaned the laundry room, reorganized the kitchen cabinets, done something more tangible. On this, the last day of '10, I was feeling that perhaps I had wasted some precious days.

Then I went to the mailbox. And there were two nice checks from articles I have sold.
And you know what? It made me feel like maybe my time was not wasted after all.

When I was in my teens it was my fantasy to have words I written or photographs I had taken published. Now that happens on a fairly regular basis. It boggles my mind to think of all of the dreams of mine that have come true. I can hardly wait to see what will happen next!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rushing days...

The last few days of 2010 are rushing past me. This photo seemed a good illustration for how I feel as the year wraps up. The past, to the left, is a rippled, glossy memory. The future, to the right, is awash in possibilities. There will be rocks to navigate, to be sure, but mostly there is brightness and excitement and beauty. I always happily anticipate what the coming year will hold.

Monday, December 27, 2010

In and out...

Inside? Warm and toasty.


High winds, low temperatures and buckets of snow. We have about 14 inches of snow so far, and it is still coming down. The wind has caused lots of drifting, in spots my back yard has snow over my knees, in other spots the ground is bare.
I put a ham in the oven first thing this morning so that if we lose power later in the day we'll have good dinner all prepared. We have shoveled and our sweet friend plowed the driveway for us, but the roads are bad and we are glad to be safe and cozy inside.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Funny and satisfied...

This Partridge Rock pullet is sitting on a bird feeder 5 or more feet off the ground. It is off the deck just outside my kitchen window. She has eschewed the cozy nest box in the coop, lined with warm straw. Instead she comes here every other day and lays a perfect egg. In the cold open. This causes me to laugh, and really, the egg delivery just outside my kitchen is rather convenient!
We are expecting the seasons first blizzard. The snow began about an hour ago. We should get between 10 and 16 inches of snow. We made some preparations for this event... mostly involving the animals.
Today I cleaned out the chicken coop. As I write this 13 chickens are roosting in a clean, insulated coop. Their heated wate-er provides 3 gallons of clean, fresh, WARM water. Their feeder dispenses 5 lbs. of high quality layer feed. At 4 AM on the dot a light will come on in their coop, providing them the number of hours a light they need each day to produce eggs.
The pet snake that belongs to my daughter escaped from its tank in July. She was missing in action until the first Monday in December, when she showed up in my kitchen. She was dehydrated and wounded, but alive. By tonight she has shed her old skin, become re-hydrated, and eaten. I think she will be fine.
In the spring our pet rabbit, Clara, began to roam in our big fenced back yard. Each night she would return to her cage in the garage. After a few months she eschewed her cage. I doubted her ability to avoid predators and survive, but survive she did. And she was so HAPPY! Leaping about the yard, joy on four fuzzy feet.
Every morning I put fresh food and water out in the yard for her. Ever since the first cold weather of fall began, I have worried about the bunny. I have agonized over the decision to bring her in or leave her at large during the winter. My worry increased when I heard about the blizzard. We have had a few small snows, and the bunny has been fine, but I wasn't sure how she would survive in deep snow.
This morning I woke from a dream in which I found the bunny outside in a particular spot. In the dream I scooped her up and put her in her cage and brought her inside for the rest of the winter. And she LET ME. Mostly since spring she has not allowed physical contact.
So, when I got up this morning I looked at the place I dreamed the bunny would be. There she was! And she let me pet her, and she let me pick her up. She shivered in my arms. It was 14 degrees outside. I put her in her cage and brought her inside. Tonight when I go to bed I will know she is safe, fed, watered and warm.
There is a cat living in our garage. I call him "Oscar." He is a very dark grey tabby. He rarely lets me see him, though every morning I provide him with a bowl of warm water and one of kitty crunchies from the grocery store. He lives in our garage every winter, keeping any bird seed stealing rodents at bay. We don't know where he came from, but he obviously thinks this is home. Today I used a big Styrofoam cooler to make him a cozy spot to sleep. I taped the lid on, then used a sharp knife to cut a little entrance in. I stuffed in a lot of straw and put it in the garage loft where the cat hangs out.
As the snow falls I know that the chickens are warm in their coop. The cat we don't have has a full belly and a cozy place to sleep. The rabbit is warm, fed and safe. The snake is OK. And the dogs are full-bellied snoring by the fire or on us, their favorite humans. Life is funny and I am satisfied that all the animals under my care are safe and warm as the blizzard whirls in.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Waiting for Christmas...

Even the wild things are in sweet anticipation for the arrival of Christmas...

From my home to yours, wishing you all the beauty and wonder of the day.
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Snow and a sweet Christmas party...

When I went out with the dogs before dawn the ground was ground colored. An hour and a half later when I went out again the sky was thick with huge, fluffy flakes, falling slow as feathers and the ground was whiter than my poodle.
It snowed on and off all day.

This makes the dogs very bouncy.
We put in a very busy day at work, then had our Christmas party. It is always great fun, we all bring food and I must say, we can all cook. Tonight's menu had a mass of fabulous appetizers, followed by baked macaroni and cheese and some killer meatballs, as well as a huge assortment of fresh veggies. Dessert? The best cheesecake I have ever had.
Then there were gifts; the plan each year is that we draw names and just buy for the person on our list. But none of us can stand to leave a coworker out and we all get a little something for everyone on the crew. The gifts are wildly creative... this years collection went from wax lips and fun penny candy to vintage items, hand crafted items, fabulous jewelry and a wide variety of thoughtful things in between. People really put some thought and care into the gifts. I never fail to be moved by the obvious caring in that room.
When it was time to drive home the roads were wet with a greasy mixture of sleet and snow. I never went much over 30 mph, but Rachel and I sang Christmas favorites and watched the snow come down. Snow and treats and thoughtful sharing. Sweet.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Oh happy day....

After work my daughter and her friend and I geared up for that happiest of times... baking Christmas cookies. I have collected some very fun cookie cutters over the years, mostly from yard sales.

And I have looked for ages for a truely fabulous recipe. Tonight my daughter hit the jackpot on the internet and we baked the best cookies ever.
I went upstairs to do some wrapping and I could hear the sound of young voices laughing, and singing to the Christmas music that was playing. The air was infused with the scent of sugar and vanilla and yum. Oh! Oh happy day!

Saturday, December 18, 2010


I call this photo, "Got Squirrel?"
Every morning Lilly the very old boxer wakes up feeling exuberant. She is excited to cuddle a bit, then she is excited to go outside and see and smell what she missed while she was sleeping. She scopes for bushy tailed rodents and bits of suet dropped from the bird feeders. And after THAT? Breakfast! She spends all her time looking happily for the next good thing to happen. I need to be more like her. We all do. Got squirrel?"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I'll be Home For Christmas...

Chris and I found this old sled at a yard sale in July and brought it home. I took one look at it and saw it decorated with greens at Christmas and placed somewhere close enough to the door to make me smile when I came home each day.

Home. Home for Christmas. When I was a kid and heard that song, I could not digest the line, "If only in my dreams." Because if one were not home for Christmas, where would one be? I didn't realize that people packed up thier childhood memories and went on to create new ones. In my mind the now and the future we welded together and WOULD NOT CHANGE. I could not imagine a holiday without the chaos of five kids and a smelly dog in the house my father built. Could not fathom that we would not all gather at the country church on Christmas eve to hold a drippy white candle and sing Silent Night. I could not imagine a Christmas without my grandparents arriving with plastic laundry baskets filled to the brim with boxes wrapped in white tissue paper, my grandmothers perfect penmanship spelling out the gift recipients names on the face of the package. I could not imagine a holiday where car loads of aunts and laughing cousins didn't arrive and fill the house with noise and excitement. If I was not home where would I be?

In my wildest imagining I never realized that one day all that embodied Christmas to me as a child would be just that, a dream. A memory as sweet as a candy cane clutched in a sticky fist. I didn't know that I could create new dreams, new traditions. I didn't know that someday home would be somewhere other than the place where the 7 D's lived in the house in the trees. I didn't know it could get even sweeter.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Two chicks...

I have a bird feeder and heated bath on my deck for excellent bird watching from the kitchen.
Something larger than the average bird caught my eye this morning... a Partridge Rock pullet sharing breakfast with a chickadee!
In order to get to this feeder the pullet had to go a good distance from her coop, up 3 steps, over the deck, up on the deck rail. The chickadee didn't seem to mind sharing. Another example of my "everyone here must get along" rule in action!

Monday, December 13, 2010

750 Words, my latest addiction...

I read and enjoyed the book The Artist's Way. One of the exercises in the book was to write, longhand, 3 pages every morning. The idea is to kick start ones creative juices and unlock the flow of words rattling around in the writers head. I followed the advice of the author for about a week... but I hate writing long hand, my penmanship is illegible and my brain flows so much more nicely when I am tapping at the keys of my beloved computer. I tried doing the exercise in a word document, but it all became a bit unwieldy. Although I believed in the project, I didn't follow through.

Yesterday, while reading another blog, I stumbled upon
It was a EUREKA discovery, and I am totally jazzed about dedicating myself to writing 750 words (about 3 pages) every day. The website is set up so that there are some rewards to the writing... you can see when you reach your goal of 750 words, and you gain points for days you write, etc. And there is some accountability tossed in, too. Check it out, the website has delicious humor and is a nice place to poke around. I share this in hopes that some of my readers might care to join me, fingers dancing on the keyboard, writing, writing. Who knows where it will lead us?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Happy Birthday...

When I woke up before dawn this morning I was in a soft bed, covered with a feather duvet. I was curled up, hugging the back of this man. I have hugged this man in my sleep almost every night for TWENTY SIX years. And every morning one of my first thoughts is that of gratitude that he is there beside me, radiating the heat of one whose inner furnace burns extra bright.

This morning I took time to send thoughts of thanks to his mother, Vernice, whom I loved, and his father, Wally, whom (sadly) I never met. Because today is the day of this mans birth. And without him my life... well, I don't even want to think about where my life would be if I were not yoked to to him. He is my sun rising and setting, he is my moon and stars. He is my tides, my storms, my sunny days. I am never more complete than when we are together, and I am never alone when I know he is alive and on the planet.

My joys are amplified when I share them, my sorrows are softened by his presence. I am the most blessed of women... I married a very good man.

Happy Birthday Chris. I am grateful every day that I am able to spend it with you. Thank you, thank you for allowing me to be by your side as we walk this walk. It is my prayer that we will be together forever. You complete me.

Friday, December 10, 2010

And tonights project...

Decorating wreathes for gifts. There is one with a snowflake motif, one with vintage Santa figures, and one with angel dogs for a dog-rescuing friend. Tomorrow they get packed up and sent off. This was BIG FUN! I will be sending a little bit of Maine to three different states.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Party anxiety...

From my childhood until my late 20's I was very, VERY shy. Example: I was scared to go to restaurants, because I was afraid to talk to the waitstaff. Times have changed. At 50 I am a confident person. I am a public speaker, I deal with customers all day every day. I am just FINE. Fine, that is, until I get invited to a party where there will be strangers. That is an invitation to anxiety.

My husband sweetly asked me to join him at the Christmas gathering of a volunteer organization he belongs to. I, of course, agreed. And then I fretted and worried and stewed. Making conversation with strangers? AWKWARD. The party was at a local restaurant. There was to be an hour of "cocktails" followed by supper. Yet, there was no room to really mix and mingle and chat. I pushed out of my comfort level, made eye contact, shook hands, asked questions and chatted. All of this in cramped close quarters. I played the role, and soon found myself having (gasp!) fun. (Interesting aside: I was chatting with a lovely young mom. She told me that she, her husband and 11 year old son had just moved here this past summer. I asked her if they were settling in well. She said they were, then added, "My son just loves playing outside!" Upon hearing this I thought, "They must have moved from a city where the child could not play out of doors." She continued, "At home he couldn't go out much, what with the weather and the grizzlies." GRIZZLIES? "Where did you live?" I asked. "Kodiak." Bears? There is a parenting issue I had never encountered!!!)

I learned a new trick that I am going to remember. When at a gathering like this, I did (and will do in the future) this: find a very chatty person and sit with THEM. That very chatty person will engage others and ensure that conversation flows. When I am near a chatty person I can follow their lead and help the give and take to flow.

As a formerly shy person, I continue to learn coping tricks. This is a good one, so I share with my readers who might have similar "party anxiety."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Small things...

Sometimes I have a bad day. A day in which I feel overwhelmed, irritated and just plain old unhappy. OK, I'll admit it. I get crabby sometimes. The things that normally bring me joy lose their focus and their luster. The big picture is hazy with my discontent.

My remedy? I make myself focus on the small things, and be thankful. I take time as I wake to be grateful for the soft, warm bed, the snoring dogs, the good man beside me. I am mindful to be thankful for the sun rising, the hot shower, the simple clothes on my body. And I find, that as I am thankful for the "small" things (such as the lacy growth of ornamental grass, the smell of the morning air, my truck starting...) the big things come into focus, too. And before I know it the day and my concentration on all its small things sharpen my view and leave me feeling contented instead of crabby. The term "gratitude is an attitude" rings true to me.

There will be other bad days, but hopefully my method of remembering to be thankful for the wee puzzle pieces that make up my life will help guide me back on track. Small things... so many of them to be grateful for.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Piling loveliness...

The seasons first accumulating snow is here. The wind is rattling the old casement windows and sending spiraling funnels of white off the garage roof.
The snow makes the wild birds seem grateful for the seed and suet in the feeders.

The chickens are not amused. They refuse to go out in the snow, and stare balefully out the door when I check on them. They are snug and dry in their coop, but bored, I imagine, and seemingly pouty.

The dogs are gleeful with the change in venue. There is much bouncing and leaping and joy on swift legs. (Yes, the toy poodle is a very strange color. A dye job gone horribly wrong!)

Even Lilly, who will be 13 in February, gets in on the fun the airborne excitement.
After our frolic I toss a log on the fire, fix a cup of tea and we all pile up on the sofa. I work on writing assignments while the dogs snooze. Outside the loveliness continues to pile up.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sweet day...

So, I flew away, southward and home...
This sign always gives me a little thrill. It means I am almost there.

There where my "hideously unattractive" nieces are. There where the house I grew up in still welcomes me, where friends and family gather. Sister Donna and I visited the cemetary as the sun was setting to pay our respects to our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and others.

Back at the house we immersed ourselves in frosting and sugar and candy and the conversation flowed like syrup.

All the while sister Deb cooked for us, a feast of steak, mashed sweet potatoes, roasted vegetables and the most amazing salad made from baby spinach, fresh berries and candied pecans. The house was warm and cozy and welcoming and I was so happy to be there.

Every corner of my sisters home was filled with loveliness and light. We had such a sweet visit. I brought home a sticky ginger bread house and a pocket full of memories.

What home looked like...

I am going "home" today. This is the house I grew up in... built by my father. The family story was that he added a room every time my mom got pregnant. Since they had 5 kids, the house has a bit of sprawl to it! Now my sister and her family live here, in the house in the trees. And I get to visit. Today we will gather there and make ginger bread houses. We will celebrate niece Emily's birthday and we will laugh and talk. The house looks quite a bit different than it did when I was growing up, but I treasure the fact that I can still go there and be embraced by the memories of family history. I can sit on the hearth knowing that the bricks there were laid by my sweet father's capable hands. I know he would love to see us all there. The house feels like a hug from my parents. I am so lucky.
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The halls...

They are decked...
One of my favorite "decorations" are these figures that our daughter made in high school. An angel, Mary and baby Jesus. Made from fabric and wire with great care.

I got a little silly with the lights... but I rather like how they illuminate this corner of the dining room.

Our tree is JUST right size. For me. Husband and child find it disappointingly small.

This is the first thing one sees when entering our home. I change it with the seasons. Rachel helped me decorate it for Christmas, and I think we did a fine job.