Low, but lucky

I’ve been a bit low lately and reached out to a friend for a bit of company. When I’d first mentioned that I was stressed and needed to get out of the flat, I imagined that we’d meet up for a wee walk somewhere so that I had a bit of human interaction.

What I didn’t expect was that we’d spend eight hours together chatting, walking, and eating. But that’s what our visit turned out to be. And it was just what I needed.

Yep, last Saturday I made my way to Edinburgh to meet with Adrian, who took me on a fantastic walk through the Penicuik House Estate. There was something so wonderful about walking through the wooded estate, looking over Midlothian as we trekked across the sodden and muddy ground with his dog, Holly.

Of course, poor Adrian got to listen to me moan a bit about my life’s stresses, and he got to hear a bit about things that have led to my current state of stress and woe, so it might not have been as enjoyable for him. But he tolerated me—and even cooked me dinner and drove me back to the train station when we were done walking.

So, yes. I’ve been a bit low lately. But I keep finding all of these wonderful reminders about all of the wonderful people who are out there supporting me. I am a lucky woman because I have friends. And with luck and friendship, I’m sure this low mood will give way to a high mood soon enough.

Summer holidays

I don’t know if it’s fair to say that I’ve been on my summer holidays, since I’ve been an unemployed student for the last year+, but calling this past week my summer holidays is a great excuse to share a bit of Cliff Richard, so there you go!

Anyhow, if you’re still with me after that, I’ll tell you a bit about the last part of my holiday week. But I’ll start with a quick recap of the first part of the week: I went to the Scottish Poetry Library, I bought a new phone, I spent my spare change, and I went to the Hermitage in Perth.

So, now it’s time to bore you with the rest of my holidays! (Of course, it was anything but boring for me!)

On Sunday, I hopped on the train to Inverness to visit some friends in the Highlands. I was met at the station by Emma and her children before being whisked away to a little village a few miles away where David was waiting for us.

Sunday saw us visiting Urquhart Castle along the shores of Loch Ness before heading back to the house for a nice meal of roast lamb’s leg (jealous, Mom?) and a late-night chatting and visiting session.

On Monday, we loaded the rig for a long (but fun!) day that saw us driving along a single track road to Oldshoremore on the West Coast where we frolicked on the beach for a bit, before heading to Loch-Something-Or-Other for a bit of ice cream. To round out the day, we stopped off at Ullapool for fish-n-chips before stopping at the Corrieshalloch Gorge which was oh-so-amazing that I can’t even find the words to describe it!

Needless to say, after all of that activity it was an early night last night and a lazy day today. Yes, it was a short visit, but we managed to pack a lot of fun into those 48 hours! And it also must be said that I had a lovely time, that my hosts were fantastic, and that I have truly been emotionally energised by the entire trip!

And now, I’m settled in my flat, curled up in my PJs, and looking forward to an early night because tomorrow will be a busy day. After all, my holidays are now over so it’s time this unemployed bum gets a job!

%%wppa%% %%slide=37%%

Escaping to the hermitage

Sometimes I wonder if I could become a reluctant hermit, living in my own little hermitage, hiding away from society, and sulking away my life one day at a time. But, thankfully, I have just enough of a desire for company to save myself from myself!

To make sure I didn’t spend my entire week’s holiday alone, I sent a message out to my friends on Facebook letting them know that I was up for activities. And one of my friends, John, quickly sent me a message to arrange a trip to Perthshire to see—of all things!—the Hermitage!

When it was first suggested, I had to Google the place. But, apparently, it’s quite a popular destination for hikes and picnics and stuff. Of course, one destination wasn’t enough for us, so we also visited the Pitlochry Power Station and Fish Ladder, took a wee wander through Pitlochry, and stopped at a couple of whisky distilleries. Not bad for a day’s activities!

And as he was kind enough to suggest the activity—and do the driving—I thought it was only fair that I provided a nice picnic lunch for the two of us. So, I whipped up some pasta salad (with salami—yum!) and a few sandwiches, cleaned some grapes, and grabbed a bag of crisps.

And now, it’s time to bore you with photos from my day! (Honestly, it was just so lovely that I wanted to let you see it!)

%%wppa%% %%slide=36%%

Of course, John wasn’t the only one to answer my call for activities, so tomorrow morning I will make my way up north to the Highlands of Scotland for a couple of days. Yay!

A poetic starter

Since I turned in my dissertation draft yesterday, I’ve decided that I am going to take a week’s holiday to rest and unwind before I have to start working on edits for the final version. So, in between now and July 31, I am on holiday! Which basically just means I’m going to go and do fun things for the next week.

And that started today with a trip to Edinburgh.

Way back in May, my cousin Rita was in Scotland as part of a tour group and we spent a day in Edinburgh together. Only two of the things on her list of ‘things to see’ weren’t open (or planted) that day. So I promised her I would return on her behalf. And I decided to start my holidays by following through with that promise!

The first stop was the Scottish Poetry Library. Rita is a librarian, and had been excited about the idea of seeing the place. I don’t know if I would have gone without her prompting, but I’m glad I did because it’s always fun (and educational!) to do new things.

If I’m completely honest, I’m not really ‘into’ poetry, but there are a few poems and poets that I like—mostly because they make me giggle. (Yes, Shel Silverstein—I’m talking about you!) So, today’s goal was to randomly(ish) find something I liked. To do that, I picked out books the piqued my interest—either by their title or typeset—then I flicked through them.

And just as I was about to give up, I tried one last book and I finally found what I was looking for! I know it’s short, but it made me smile very much, and that’s what poetry should do!

A Cat Called Slumber
by Adrian Mitchell (found in ‘Blue Coffee’, pg 63)

In the middle of the night appears
My day-shy tabby with collapsable ears
And I stroke her ears so those ears collapse
And she purrs to say that she loves me, perhaps…

After the library, I wandered over to Princes Street Gardens to have a look at the Floral Clock which was being planted when Rita was visiting. But, I’m pleased to say, it was fully planted—and fully working—when I arrived today. Apparently, the theme is London 2012.

Anyhow, it was a successful trip into the city. And the weather was fabulous which just added to the enjoyment of the day. In fact, the weather was so fabulous that I left the house without an umbrella or a jacket and didn’t regret it once! And better than that, it was so fabulous that I bought an ice cream and sat in the gardens for a spell before catching the train home. Bliss!

I wonder what the rest of my holiday week will hold …

A door to nature

Over the past few months, I have realised just how much I miss having my very own front door; a door that I can open up to the great outdoors.

You see, for most of my life I’ve lived in detached, single-family homes. Homes where external doors opened to nature—not a stair case that led you down a flight (or more!) of stairs to yet another door. For most of my life, I’ve been able to walk out my front door and sit down on the porch or in the garden and soak in the sun. I could sit there sipping my coffee in the mornings—or my cocktail in the evenings—whilst surrounded by Mother Nature’s design.

But now, I only have windows to open to nature. If I want to sit outside and enjoy my morning coffee, I have to walk down several flights of stairs. And even then, I don’t have a private garden; I’d have to sit on the front steps of my building.

It is actually a hard adjustment to make. Much harder than I would have thought. In fact, I think that not having that easy access to nature has added to my feelings of gloom at times. I mean, there is something that lifts my spirits when I’m outside and when I’m feeling low and can’t find the energy to go into town, I miss out on the fresh air nature would provide. Certainly, I don’t think that a door to nature is the cure for all that ails me, but I do think that it would help. At least a little bit.

This realisation has led me to the decision that, if I find a job and get to stay on in Scotland, I will need to find a new place to live. Somewhere with a private garden. Somewhere with a door that takes me directly to nature. Somewhere that I can sit outside and relax after a hard day’s work—or cool down after a long run. Now, I just need to find a job so that I can start looking for a new flat!

Yes, a door to nature. That’s what I want. And a job.

Sunny days

The sun is shining brightly in Scotland today. And I am so thankful for it because it’s made me realise how happy I am right now.

Yes, I admit that I spend a couple of tearful days cooped up at home feeling sorry for myself. But even as I did that, I was well-aware that life is mostly good these days.

In fact, despite the anniversary-related tears and a couple of days last week that were filled with literal rain, it’s been a pretty sunshine-and-happiness couple of weeks.

I know it may not last. I know that life’s challenges may bring me more tears and that Mother Nature may bring me more rain. But for today, I’m happy; for today, it’s sunny.

And that means smiles and laughter and picnics in the park. (Picnics overlooking a cemetery near the castle, but cemeteries can be places for smiles, laughter, and picnics, too.)

Yay! for sunny days!

Out of place

As I walked into town this afternoon, I noticed a dandelion growing in a wall along the pavement. It was sticking out brightly against the grey stone as if to say ‘Hello! I’m here! I belong!’ even though it wasn’t really meant to be there; even though it risked someone removing it or spraying it with deadly chemicals.

And, as sometimes happens when I see things that I wasn’t expecting to see, this little out of place flower (weed?) got me thinking a bit about my own life.

You might recall last week’s post about my struggles to keep it together. Well, without getting into too many details, part of those struggles stemmed from my tenuous future here in Scotland. You see, much like the dandelion, I’m trying to put down roots somewhere that isn’t my natural home. I’m trying to put down roots and live a life of joy, but I’m doing it with the constant fear that someone will walk along and pluck me out and toss me aside—like a weed growing where it doesn’t belong.

Yes, I know—it’s a really cornball analogy. But I hope you get the point.

(And I’m trying not to think about the analogy where the dandelion (me) causes the wall (Scotland) to weaken and crumble because of the foreign matter edging in (immigration). No, let’s not think about that analogy!)

Anyhow, I am still worried. I am still struggling with the fears of an uncertain future and I am still trying to figure out what my next steps will be. But whilst I’m worrying, I’m also trying to find solutions. And I’m trying to be gentle with myself, recognising that even if all of my worries and fears play out to completion, it just means that I have an opportunity to start over again—whether I want to or not.

So, I am still feeling a bit down and stressed and overwhelmed, but a little less than I did last week. Yes, I am surviving. And with luck, my friend the dandelion will survive, too!

Summer is near

Summer is near. Very, very, near. And that’s awesome because it means that my jacket is getting a break from service.

And it means that I get to spend lazy evenings sitting on the patio with friends whilst we barbeque burgers and sausages (and drink beer and cider) whilst listening to the kids running around the garden.

And it means spending lazy afternoons sitting around at a friend’s mum’s place eating more burgers and sipping on glasses of juice.

And, sadly, it also means my arms have turned ever-so-slightly pink. But that’s OK because summer is near.

Did you hear that? Summer is near! Summer is near! Yay, yay, yay for summer!!

Random thoughts: Simple pleasures

Random thoughts—Week 3: List 31 simple pleasures; pick one and write about it.

Last year I was challenged to write a list of 30 things that made me smile and I imagine that this list may include a few duplicates, but I will try to keep those to a minimum.

  1. Finding coins as I’m walking down the road
  2. Unexpected postcards (heck, even expected postcards!)
  3. Lunch with friends
  4. Internet chats and phone calls with my nieces and nephews
  5. Dirty Martinis
  6. Seeing children skipping down the road
  7. Skipping down the road (yes, even as a full-grown woman, I do that sometimes!)
  8. Hearing a favourite song on the radio
  9. Watching a favourite movie on television
  10. Long soaks in a hot bath
  11. Finding my favourite [whatever] on sale
  12. Smells that rekindle a happy memory
  13. Running
  14. A well-cooked steak (that would be medium-rare, thank you!)
  15. Riding on carousels
  16. Playing on swing sets
  17. The feeling of the sun on my face
  18. Flirtatious encounters with cute boys (even when I know I’ll never see them again)
  19. A quiet night in with some jazz, red wine, candle light, and a good book
  20. Sleeping in on a Saturday morning after a long week at work (or school)
  21. Finding a ‘new’ vintage handbag that I love—and can afford!
  22. Watching (and listening to) a massive rain storm—complete with thunder and lightning
  23. Seeing my friends happy and giddy with excitement
  24. Waking up dreading going to work, only to realise it’s the weekend
  25. Walking barefoot in the grass or on a sandy beach
  26. Gravy style popcorn
  27. Picnics in the park
  28. Finishing a craft project
  29. Weekend city breaks to fantastic places
  30. Finding an out-of-the-way pub that sells great beer—but that no one knows about!
  31. Hugs and kisses from family and friends

Now, I know that I’m meant to write about just one of these things, but it would seem that I had a fantastic opportunity to combine a few in one. So, here’s a wee story about something that happened when I was in Cambridge this weekend:

I woke up early to go for a run on Saturday (No 13). And after the run, I had a bit of time to waste waiting for my running partner (who’d gone off for a longer trek!). So, as I waited, I found myself (literally) skipping (No 7) over to the playground where I plopped myself down on a swing (No 16). And as I swung, I noticed some shiny things on the ground below. Sure enough, those shiny things were coins—33 pence worth of them (No 1)!

Of course, the weekend also included Nos: 3, 12, 17, 23, 29, 30, and 31. And loads of other simple pleasures that didn’t make the list.

Oh! And be sure to check out Rebecca’s blog to see what she wrote for her topic this week!

Getting better

For a few days now, I’ve been feeling the dreaded claws of illness tightening their grip on my immune system. In fact, by yesterday I wondered if illness was winning, as I found myself suffering on the couch with a fever of 39.1°c (102+° f) and a niggly headache. But—12 hours of sleep later—today I seem to be winning.

I am still fighting off whatever this may be, and am still hoping that it doesn’t develop into a full-on cold (or other illness). But at least I’m feeling better today that I did yesterday.

Of course, being a tad ill has not helped me to get over the down in the dumps feelings I’ve been dealing with since New Year’s Day, but at least it’s not made it worse. In fact, in some ways it’s made me feel better because I get to sit around and sulk in my pyjamas without feeling bad about it!

And, in an effort to get over (or stave off) being sick, I’ve gotten myself some supplies: Crisps and dip and cookies and orange juice and fresh fruits and veggies. Oh, and some pretty daffodils to look at. Or at least I hope they’ll be pretty once they bloom.

So, now I’m just sitting on the couch eating yummy food, hydrating lots and lots, watching whatever looks interesting on iPlayer, and swirling. I hope by the end of the weekend I’ll have not only finally won the battle of this cold, but that I manage to win the battle of the sadness, too!

The dark days

The dark days of winter are upon us. Oh yes, they really are. Even more so here in Scotland compared to my (only slightly) lower-latitude homeland. But those nine degrees don’t make a difference when you’re in the deep dark of winter.

But this post isn’t about the darkness—it’s about food!

You see, my friend The Improbable Farmer has taken up a challenge. And since I enjoy a bit of a challenge—especially one that fits my views—I decided I’d give it a shot, too. (Yeah, I’m such a copy-cat!)

And so, I will be taking part in the 5th Annual Dark Days Challenge.

So, you may not know this about me, but I’ve long been a bit of a hippy-granola-freak. In fact, Paul and I were avid supporters of our local Co-Op and worked hard to source foods (and other goods) locally. We even grew our own food and made our own cleaning supplies. Oh! And we had a compost heap and everything! (He made me promise not to knit underwear for the kids we were adopting though. And I begrudgingly agreed—with my fingers crossed behind my back.)

But, yes, I am a wanna-be-hippy. And maybe I’ll take some time to talk about my views on sustainable living and the whole reduce-reuse-recycle thing from time-to-time. Oh—Wait!—I’m kinda getting ready to do that right now!

[Sorry, I seem to have digressed, so let me get back on topic …]

The challenge sounds rather simple—but I expect it will be a bit difficult, or it wouldn’t be called a challenge. The idea is that I will cook one meal a week that is made from SOLE foods (sustainable, organic, local, ethical). Local is often described as being within 100 miles, though the challenge allows for 150 miles because of the winter growing seasons. That said, I live on a small (by American standards) island and I don’t really know the geography well enough to know how many miles away something is. So, I will aim for UK-sourced goods, giving priority to Scotland and the regions closest to Stirling.

I hope that this challenge helps me learn more about the foods produced here in the Central Belt, but also that it helps to remind me of the importance of eating local. Not just for the environmental impacts, but for the economical ones, too. Oh! And maybe it will help to wake up my culinary creativity which seems to have taken a bit of a long nap.

I’m jumping on the bandwagon nearly three weeks late, but since it’s really about reminding myself about the importance of eating local, the dates are arbitrary. I’m sure it will be interesting, especially since I don’t really know all of the local farms and brands and shops, but there’s no better way to learn than a challenge!

So I guess that tomorrow I’ll stop by the Stirling Farmers’ Market and the local deli to see what they have on hand to help me succeed. Wish me luck! (And join along if you want!)

[Speaking of ethical, the photo with this story was taken from my sister’s blog without her permission, but with assumed consent.]

A modest proposal

Hey! Wanna know what I did today? (Of course you do!) Well, today I turned in my dissertation proposal for my Master of Letters in Media and Culture. And I’m pretty gosh-darned excited about it!

Of course, gale-force winds across Scotland (now being referred to as Hurricane Bowbag) means that I’ve only submitted my paper electronically, and will need to turn in the hard copy version tomorrow but, still, it’s done!

What’s that? You really want to know what my dissertation’s research question is? Well, since you asked with such excitement, I guess I can tell you! So, in big, headline font, here it is:

How do users of social media determine the legitimacy of news and information shared on Facebook?


Yeah, it’s going to be exciting doing the research on that one. (No, really it is!)

Anyhow, up next is an exam for my Media Economics class. I am decidedly less excited about that because, well, I don’t get this whole economics thing. (Help?)

But that can wait until tomorrow. For now, it’s back to my reward for finishing my proposal.

What’s that? Well, since you asked, that would be watching The Godfather Trilogy. Again. Because it’s awesome.

(Oh, and in case you found this post through a web search looking for a different modest proposal, you can find that one here: A Modest Proposal, by Jonathan Swift.)

Bit of a wander

Yesterday was a completely new experience for me: Walking through the English countryside. The walk was suggested by Paul’s cousin, Olwen, and I happily accepted the offer. Though if I’m honest, I didn’t really know what to expect for it! And I wasn’t really prepared for a walk either, having only brought a pair of running shoes and casual clothes with me for my trip to England. Always the trooper, I was going to make do with the clothing I’d brought, but as luck would have it, Olwen had an old pair of boots that fit me as well as a spare rucksack.

Olwen is a regular walker and got in touch with her friends, Ernie and Dennis, to join us for the day. They picked a route that they’ve all done in the past, and we headed out in the car from Billingham through Whitby and into Robin Hood’s Bay where the walk began. It was then a nine-mile walk on a disused rail bed that took us up to Ravenscar then back down the way to Robin Hood’s Bay again. It’s meant to go along the beach, but a high tide meant that we walked along the tops of the cliffs instead. It was a very train-oriented journey (despite the fact that we were on foot) which made me happy because it meant loads of great photos for Mom!

After the walk, we drove into Whitby for some fish and chips. I’d only been there once before—on the last English holiday Paul and I took a few weeks before he died—so it was a bit of a happy-sad part to the day, but I’m glad we went. A bonus to the trip was seeing a steam train!

Now, I wanted to keep this post fairly short, but I have to talk about the steam train so that’s not going to happen! You see, when we pulled into Whitby everyone decided to take a detour to the old train viaduct, because of my excitement over the old rail line. As we walked out on the viaduct, Ernie thought he saw what looked like steam from an old train so we waited and waited to see it come by, only we decided it must be smoke from a bonfire.

Then we noticed smoke on the other side, right near Whitby, and thought maybe that was a train. And we waited and waited but no train came. But still I smiled because it reminded me of a friend’s trip to Wales where she sat and watched the dolphins play, only to later realise they were just waves. Of course, she’d already had the thrill of enjoying the dolphins, so decided not to let the reality get her down. And that’s what today’s non-trains were to me—a bit of a letdown because there wasn’t a train, but a lot of smiles whilst I waited for the trains that never showed.

Then we started to walk back to the car and I stopped and insisted that I heard a train. Really, I did! So we waited a bit longer and sure enough, an old steam train came chugging around the corner and under the viaduct! Yay!!

But I’ve gone on and on, so I’ll stop now. But because I know that Mom would have loved to see the old trails, I took a great amount of photos on the route. And now she (and you!) can see what the day was like for me. I know it’s not quite the same as being there, but it’ll have to do!

Oh, one last thing: I promised my former foster daughter occasional YouTube videos, so here’s a quick one of the sea coming in at Robin Hood’s Bay at the end of our walk.

Home away from home away from home

Today I left my new home in Stirling to take a train journey to Billingham, England—Paul’s hometown and home to some of my in-laws. My sister-in-law, Liz, and niece, Rachel, met me at the train station to bring me to my English ‘weekend’ home.

When I got to the house, I was escorted to my room, which has been all done up for my arrival. But not only that, the night stand drawer has been filled with goodies for me—including my very own coffee mug for keeping in the kitchen downstairs, which means I no longer have to use a guest mug. (Yay!) And then, of course, we loaded back into the car with the dogs to head to Seaton Carew so that I could have fish-n-chips for dinner. Because no trip to Billingham is complete without a stop off at The Almighty Cod!

After enjoying our fish on the bench, we wandered down to the beach where the dogs chased balls into the sea whilst I collected shells to write a message in the sand. The sun was shining and the light breeze was just as you’d expect it. Later, walking back up the beach to the car park, I found sea glass for the first time ever—lots and lots of it! (I think a return visit for the sole purpose of finding more glass is in order!)

And now I’m back at the house, all cosy in my very own room, and feeling very much like this is my home away from the home that I live in now that I’m no longer home. (Did you follow that?*)

I’m down here in England for the next two+ weeks, with plans to return to Scotland the first weekend of September. I hope to be able to visit with all (or at least most) of the in-laws as well as train for my marathon and relax.

* My first home [hometown] is Cle Elum, Washington; my current home [or home away from home, and where my heart sings the loudest] is Scotland [Stirling, to be exact]; my home away from home when I’m already home away from home is Billingham, Paul’s hometown. Is that clearer?

The feathers

A couple of nights before we had services for Paul in England*, a woman I know told me a story about feathers. She said when angels pass by sometimes their feathers fall to the ground. And that our loved ones become our own angels when they die.**

Anyhow, when we arrived at the cemetery after the Mass, there was a feather teetering on the edge of grave. When I noticed it, I think my heart skipped a beat from the surprise of it. It made me smile inside—even though I was sobbing outside—because I knew that Paul was with me that day. His eldest sister noticed it, too, and bent to pick it up then handed it to me. She was just as pleased to see it there as I was, as she’d been there when the story was told. After the services, I placed the feather in my journal.

When I returned to my hometown, I stopped off at the cemetery there. And inside of the little flower box my Dad had made as a temporary grave marker, there was another feather. Again, it made me smile because I knew Paul was there with me. That feather found its way to my journal, too.

Over the past two years, I’ve been very aware of feathers. When I’ve had a hard day and notice a feather in an unlikely place, it brings me a bit of joy because it’s another reminder that Paul is here with me—in my heart and soul and in my memories. Sometimes, I find myself talking to Paul and asking him if I’m doing the right thing or to show me the way, and then I’ll see another feather.

Now, I know that Paul isn’t speaking to me through feathers (nor do I save them all!), but I also know that seeing them reminds me that Paul wants me to be happy and if the choices I’m making in my life will help toward that, then he thinks it’s the right thing (even if it’s not what he would do). And because the last year has been especially busy with big decisions (applying to school, quitting my job, leaving our home, and moving to Scotland) I’ve been asking for Paul’s guidance and approval more than ever.

When I found myself at the SeaTac airport, past security and on my way to Terminal S, I was surprised and very pleased to find a feather laying there at the landing between escalators. It brought such joy to my heart because it reminded me that I was making the right decisions and that Paul would want this for me. So I picked up the feather and continued through the airport; knowing that Paul was there with me.

I’m still trying to find my bearings and I know that it’s still early days, but I know that this is going to be a good move for me. I need to re-learn much about living in Scotland, but I already feel a bit more at ease with my world.

(And I really do promise that I won’t become that mad woman with a collection of hundreds and hundreds of feathers. That would be just silly! But I’m sure I’ll end up with a small handful by the time my journey is done.)

* I chose to have Paul’s cremated remains buried in both my hometown, next to my grandparents, and in his hometown in with his parents. I realise it seems strange, but knowing that I can visit him no matter which country I chose to live has given me a great sense of peace. (Also, the Catholic Church does allow this practice, so long as all remains are buried in consecrated grounds. If you wondered; as some have.)

** I actually don’t believe that our souls become angels, but I do believe that Paul is up there somewhere and that he is watching over me.

At the beach: A holiday recap

I suppose it’s time for a holiday recap, since my Washington Coast holiday is over. So, here goes!

Day 1: I arrived at Copalis Beach, Washington, where I was attending a fun-filled family reunion, with more than enough time to eat food and visit with loads of awesome Eberles. Because I was playing in the family golf tournament the next morning, I stayed sober and went to bed early. Because I was staying in my sister Jessica’s tent and everyone else was staying up late drinking, I didn’t actually sleep. But I suppose that’s OK because everyone was having fun.

Day 2: Up bright and early, I loaded up my niece Cassandra (13) who decided to golf with us at the last minute, then stopped off to pick up Celeste’s kids, Flik (14) and Haden (12) who had also signed up to golf. Once we got to the course, I learned that Cassandra had only played miniature golf. I also learned that Haden and Cassandra would be on my team with Cousin Jack. Yeah, by the 9th hole it was just me and Jack. Haden called his mom for a lift and Cassandra went and read a book. It was also at the 9th hole that my completely rubbish game turned to just a half-way rubbish game. [Flik’s team, for the record, won the tourney. And Flik won the ladies’ long drive competition. Yay Flik!]

After golf it was off to the Ocean Shores senior centre for a BBQ potluck with 100+ cousins. At some point, Daddy and I went out to map out a 10-mile run for me to do in the morning. Of course, after not getting a good night’s sleep the night before, I opted to crash on the couch at the cabin my folks and sister, Celeste, had rented instead of back at the camp site with Jessica and the cousins. It was another early night, but what a great night’s sleep it was!

Day 3: Yes folks, it’s 10-Mile Run day! Daddy got up early with me to take me up to the start line for my run. The weather was nice and cool and there was a nice foggy mist for the first nine miles, which made for a cool and enjoyable run. Even better was that Dad showed up on his trike around mile 3.5 with a bottle of water then paced me until mile six when he rode back to meet me at the finish with his car. I had originally hoped for a two-hour finish, but was very pleased to have finished in 1:46:44—about a 10.36 minute mile, which is great for a training run!

After my run (and shower) it was back to the senior centre for more BBQ and potluck followed by a photo scavenger hunt that my team won. I’ll spare you some of the carry-on that ensued to make that happen, but I will share with you the names of Team Awesome: Me; my awesome baby sister, Royann; my awesome niece, Flik; and my awesome cousins, Carson and Dylan. Oh yeah, we had a blast! (And did I mention that our team won? Well, we did!)

And after that fun, it was back to the main camp ground for a dinner BBQ and potluck with more visiting with cousins. Only this time, I was drinking. And one of the cousins was making martinis, so you know I was happy! (Thank you, Flik, for your idea that we sleep in the car that night instead of in the cold tent. I was far too drink-filled to crawl into a tent anyhow!)

Day 4: Yeah, one too many drinks the night before, so I was a bit slow for day 4. Still, I managed to make it through. Most folks were heading home, but my folks and Celeste had their cabin for one more night, so Uncle Mike (who’d ridden over with me) and I decided to stay one more night, too, pitching our tents in a site just down from the cabin. Oh, and my baby sister’s kids (Adrian, 12, and Brendan, 7) were left off with my folks, too.

Once camp was set, we walked to the beach to fly kites. Only, Uncle Mike had these massive, fancy kites with loads of lines to operate and I just wanted a little pretty thing on the end of a single string. Thankfully, Brendan let me use the kite he was flying, so that made me happy. And after kite flying ended, it was back to the folks’ cabin for pizza before heading to the tents for some much-needed sleep.

Day 5: It’s leaving day, which means packing up the rigs. Only all of the sudden I had two more passengers (Adrian and Brendan) who needed a ride home to their mom. And that meant figuring out how to get all of mine and Uncle Mike’s gear back, since the back seat was no longer an option. Luckily, the kids’ legs were short enough to use some of their floor board space, and the folks had a bit of space in their rig, too. (My golf clubs appreciated the lift!)

Once on the road, the kids and Uncle Mike napped whilst I drove. Then it was a quick(ish) stop at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Tacoma before giving the boys back to their mom. Then it was on to Cle Elum to where Uncle Mike loaded his stuff into his rig and drove off whilst I warmed up LittleGreen. After all, I knew that you really wanted to know about my holidays. (Yay!)

[I’ll post loads of photos later. In the mean time, here’s what you’re looking at for this story:
Day 1: Camp fire at Echoes of the Sea, Copalis Beach, Washington.
Day 2: My golf team, Team Awesome, with members Cassandra, Jack, Haden, and me. [Photo by my niece, Flik.]
Day 3: Me, at the five-mile mark of my 10-mile run. (It was more fun than my face may let on!) [Photo by my Dad, Roy.]
Day 4: Brendan flying the fun kite.
Day 5: Me, Daddy, Mommy, and Celeste in the face-in-hole cut out at the camp grounds. [Photo by The Jeanne.]

Schrodie lives!!

It was just before 4 a.m. when the screaming howls of cats outside my bedroom window woke me with a start. I ran toward the back door to rescue my cat, only on opening the door I heard the sounds of an animal running into the cedar trees. I called out for Schrodie, but she didn’t answer.

I panicked running back into the house to check for her. She wasn’t on the couch or on my bed. She didn’t come when I shook her food container.

I grabbed the flashlight and started walking toward the cedars—crying and shaking. As my light flashed on Schrodie’s collar and a trailing of fur along the edge of the trees, I broke down as I realised that my cat might just be gone.

My sister, Celeste, was with me for the weekend so I got her out of bed to assist in the search—she too had been awoken by the sounds of angry cats. And when we both realised that, yes, Schrodie was gone, I broke down on the pavement in a way that was oddly similar to my breakdown on hearing the news of Paul’s death.

Laying in bed, all I could think of was how horrible this place was and how awful the world would be without Schrodie. I was planning to one day bring her to Scotland with me and now I would never see her again. I kept thinking that maybe it wasn’t Schrodie—the fur seemed lighter than hers, but maybe it was just lighter because it was spread out on the dampened lawn.

Eventually, I started to think about how I would convince my sister that she needed to gather up the collar and the fur so that we could bury them with Paul. And I started to wonder how I would tell my foster daughter, who was at a friend’s house for the night. And I started to wonder how I would manage my last few weeks in this house without Schrodie.

Then—three hours later—a miracle happened. Schrodie came bounding into my room and pounced on my chest. She was alive! And was clever enough to know that if she bashed her head hard enough on the sensor-activated cat door (the activation unit is on her collar) she could gain entry into the house.

The house is filled with jubilation as we celebrate the fact that Schrodie, who is named for Erwin Schrodinger, was dead for three hours—but actually was alive. Alive!!!

Sadly, something died in the early hours this morning. But that something was trespassing so my cat had to defend our home. I just hope that something wasn’t a child’s beloved pet…

Oh! Another thought: Cat’s have nine lives, mine has eight left.

And just look at that cat! This photo was taken this morning. She’s loving the attention but I think she wonders what the big deal is…

Horsin’ around

Like many girls her age, my foster daughter is a horse freak. I mean, she gets really, really, really, excited about the idea of horses. Me? I’m not really into them so much. I mean, I like them and all, but I don’t get excited about them. I don’t think I ever did. (Cats are another matter, however.)

Anyhow, now that the weather is warming (Yay!) and the kid is getting ready to move on to her new, permanent home (mixed emotions!) I’ve realised that I need to show her the various horsey things I’ve been thinking about showing her for a while now.

So, two weeks ago on our way home from her last visit to my homeland, we finally stopped off at the Wild Horses Monument. It’s just past Vantage along I-90 and super easy to stop for a quick hike, but it seems that we’ve never had time, we didn’t have the proper footwear with us, or access was shut because of winter weather.

The day we stopped happened to be the day after I ran 13.1 miles, so my legs weren’t too happy about the last minute decision, but the look of excitement on the kid’s face made it worth it! She went running for the base of the hill at warp speed and if she could have managed that pace for the hike, she would have!

Once at the top, she had to touch and climb on each and every horse. It was great fun to watch her excitement—just as I’ve enjoyed watching the excitement with all of my nieces and nephews when I’ve taken them. I just never get bored of the hike and I know that it made that last drive from my homeland even more meaningful to her!

Then today we were going to go to the WSU Art Museum to watch the Summer Solstice String Quartet. But when I mentioned it the kid looked only mildly excited. So I asked if she’d like to go to the Appaloosa Horse Museum instead. Um, YES PLEASE!

When we got there, she was excited to watch the informational video about the horses whilst she drew a picture on the large sheet of butcher paper they had laid out. Then it was off to look at the other indoor exhibits before heading out back for galloping races and lassoing lessons with the other kids.

Sadly, there is a horse virus going around the region at the moment which means horses can’t travel around so she couldn’t see a real horse this trip. But she seemed pretty happy with the horse necklace I got her in the gift shop so that’s OK.

Anyhow, it’s weird to know that our time is coming to an end. But we both have places to go and happy futures waiting for us, so there are smiles despite the sadness. In the mean time, we have about a week to horse around a bit more. That’ll be fun…

Final blooms

We moved into our house on May 15, 2008. About a week later, all of the pink tulips planted along the front side began to bloom. They were truly lovely and we enjoyed bringing them in to adorn the mantle. That autumn, we planted loads of yellow and red tulips to go along with the rest. After all, I do love tulips! Then the following April, Paul and I watched excitedly as the tulips started to grow. In fact, the day before he died we remarked about how fun it would be to have tulips that we planted in the house.

It was about two weeks later when the first of the yellow tulips began to bloom, followed a couple of days later by the red. (The pink took another week or so.) And I cried and cried and cried because Paul never got to see our beautiful flowers bloom. Instead, they got to adorn his grave. Somehow, that just wasn’t the same.

When the flowers began to sprout through the melting snow last spring, my emotions got the better of me again. Only in addition to being sad that Paul couldn’t enjoy the flowers, I was sad that he wasn’t there to see the first sprouts, either.

And this year, it’s all happening again. Only this year, I’m also sad that I will never see them bloom again. I’m sad that I’m leaving behind not only these beautiful flowers we planted, but also the dreams and plans we had for the rest of the garden.

I can’t explain how hard it is to see the seasons changing without Paul here to enjoy it with me. I think there may be a little bit of guilt there though.

I know it sounds silly, but part of me is glad to be leaving this place because I think it will be easier to see the flowers bloom somewhere else—flowers that we didn’t plant together. But part of me will also be sad that Paul never did see our yellow and red tulips. The ones that will adorn his grave one last time this Memorial Day Weekend. I hope he likes them…

Ten things

Reminder: I’m moving servers later this week and will lose most of my subscriber information. Please click here for more information on re-subscribing! Now… on to the story!

It’s another list day. Yay!

Today’s list is 10 things I’ve not done in more than a year but that I am going to work hard at doing in the next 12 months. So here goes!

  1. Go for a bike ride (Last ride: Autumn 2008)
  2. Plant something (Last planting: Tulip and crocus bulbs in England; March 2010)
  3. Eat BBQ burgers and dogs (It’s been 2+ years which is too+ long!)
  4. Go to Scotland (Last trip: Feb/Mar 2010)
  5. Travel out of state to visit friends* (Last trip: October 2009)
  6. Go to a fair (Last fair: September 2006)
  7. Get a haircut (Last cut: February 2010**)
  8. Buy a fiction novel (Last purchase: April 2010)
  9. Go camping (Last trip: So long ago I can’t even remember!)
  10. Buy a new gadget***

And may I just say how difficult it was to create this list? At first I thought: Just 10 things? No problem! But the problem is that so many of the things I’ve not done in the past year+ are things that I have no intentions of ever doing again! I mean, it’s been more than a year since I last changed a tire, but I don’t plan on changing one in the next year. Nor do I plan on chopping fire wood or making a pinecone wreath.

How about you? Do you have a list of 10 things to share? And if so, how easy was it to create?

* As in to another state within the USA—not as in out of the states, which I’ve done as recently as December 2010.
** Yes, really. More than a year ago. That’s about normal for me. What do I care? It’s just hair.
*** OK, in fairness I bought an iPod Shuffle sometime last summer. But with gadgets, a month is like a year, so I’m really jonesin’, man!

Growing up

Well, it’s been a week since my foster daughter planted her fairy garden and I have to say I was sceptical as to if anything would grow. But it’s looking pretty good I think.

Oh! And my aunt and cousin will be here in a short while to visit for a few days. It seems that my awesome cousin has been accepted to WSU (starts this autumn) and they’re coming out to visit campus. I’m telling you this now so that if I’m remiss in my blogging duties (haven’t missed a day since January 28) you know it’s a happy thing and not an April thing.

The fairy’s new digs

My foster daughter got a fairy garden set for Christmas that included a little fairy cottage and toadstools for her to decorate along with loads of other sparkly and wonderful things to make the fairy’s home and surrounding garden a place of wonderment.

And on Sunday, she finally got around to opening the box.

She painted the things that needed painting then spread the soil into the flower-shaped container. After a considerable amount of time placing all of the gem-encrusted paths and other bits-and-bobs in just the right place, she finally planted the seeds in the two back quadrants. Then she watered it and spent the rest of Sunday adamant that she could already see something growing. (She was mistaken, as whist there were beans in the seed mix, they were not magical ones that sprouted in less than three hours.)

Monday and Tuesday she looked with excitement when she woke up then again when we returned home. And each day she was a little sad that there were no green sprouts.

But this morning when we woke, we noticed that the soil was bulging like crazy in the two sections she’d planted in. And on closer inspection, we could see that several of the seeds and beans were, in fact, beginning to sprout.

I suspect that the fairy will need to get out in the garden for some weeding in the next few days!

(Oh, and you can expect another photo or two of the growing process because the kid is adamant that this project will make for a good read on my blog and I think she’s right. I hope you agree!)

Springy

Today is the first day of spring, but despite the cluster of purple crocus sprouting up just outside my kitchen door, it doesn’t feel like spring. Still, the calendar insists it is, so I suppose spring has now officially sprung.

I’m kind of anti-spring these days, likely due to the memories leading up to Paul’s spring-time death. But, I am trying to be upbeat and positive. I suppose the positive thing about spring is that it’s just one season away from summer.

And summer is when my new future kicks into high gear as I pack my bags and return to Scotland.

So roll on spring—but roll quickly so that summer can come out to play!

At the end of the garden

I’ve been thinking about a poem for several days now and started on a draft this evening. I’m not completely happy with what I have so far, but I’ll get there. In the mean time, here’s the first draft for you to enjoy!

At the end of the garden
by Just Frances

At the end of the garden stands a humble tree
There are no leaves or fruits or berries
The bark is scratched and scabbed
Sap seep from its wounds

At the end of the garden a child sits under a tree
This is a place of escape and solitude
This is where thoughts are shared with God
This is where games are played and laughter echoes

At the end of the garden lovers lay under a tree
This is where kisses are stolen and hands are held
This is where promises are made and hearts flutter
This is where dreams are pondered and futures are made

At the end of the garden stands a magical tree
Its limbs are heavy with strength and courage
The bark is scarred with love and imagination
Joyful memories sprout from its roots

We forgot the camera

I almost never go into the upstairs of the house these days because the only things up there are two guest rooms and storage. But I’ve decided to bring the desk down from the small guest room for my foster daughter to use, so I went up this morning to measure it so that I know where to put it when it comes downstairs next weekend.

When I opened the top drawer I smiled as I saw a stack of drawings that my now 13-year-old niece has left behind. But when I un-folded one in particular, I laughed.

Here’s why:
A few months after Paul died, my niece and nephew came out to visit. It was my first time having company since his death and I knew it was going to be difficult. Thankfully, Flik and Haden understood how hard it would be for me and were not terribly uncomfortable when I was upset. I’m sure it was hard on them, too, since it was the first time they were in my home without their Uncle Paul around to tell them jokes and teach them to juggle.

One of the things we did was take a hike up Kamiak Butte. It was my first time tackling the hill without Paul. And once we got to the top, I took my first post-Paul ‘we forgot the tripod’ shot—something that was actually more difficult than I imagined it would be.

And I laughed at that specific picture because it was a ‘we forgot the camera’ drawing of the three of us at the top of the butte.

So now I have our tripod-less photo of the trip, a shot of the three of us that another hiker took, and a camera-less drawing that Flik did.

The art of rest

I am nearing the end of my second full day of proper rest. It’s really hard because I can’t allow myself to do even one simple task because that will lead me to another and another and another. Giving me a task is kind of like giving a mouse a cookie.

But whilst yesterday was a complete sit around day, causing me complete boredom, at least today I managed to mix it up a bit by soaking in the tub and creating a new online photo gallery for my drawings. (Yay!)

And I drew a new picture for the gallery, too. (Double Yay!!)

I know it’s not the best picture of a tree (could you tell it was a tree?) but it has actually inspired me to draw a detailed tree that will incorporate a poem I’m composing in my head.

One more day of total rest then I’m going to the office. I know work isn’t really rest, but it’s an office job so I’m going to cheat. It’s that or go completely bonkers. And being half bonkers is bad enough. I’m not quite ready for full-on insanity!

And I didn’t fall once…

Well, I’m back in America now. But not home. I’m still working on that. So, I’ll save the trials and tribulations of my homeward journey and instead just share yesterday’s super-happy day in Canada with you. (Yay!!)

The day started with a great night’s sleep—for the second night in a row. And it was only made better when I descended the stairs to be greeted by my friends once again. (I was even momentarily mistaken as Rebecca, which I think of as a great compliment!)

After breakfast, we loaded into the car and drove to the wine shop where us women folk bottled some wine whilst the boys popped into the local bike shop. When we finished, the boys drove the wine home and we girlies took a bit of a wander along the water.

Later in the afternoon, we loaded the car again then headed to Cypress Mountain to participate in the Lantern Ski. The last time I went skiing was with my friend, Roach (really), about 12 years ago, and it was down-hill, so I did find cross-country skiing a bit difficult. But, I am pleased to say, I didn’t fall ONE time. [Enter cheeky smile here.]

It was a fantastically-fun day. But a fantastically-long day, too. Which is why I’m posting this now, and not last night when I was too tired for a second cocktail, let alone playing on the computer! (Plus, my tail bone was very sore, since I didn’t fall once, and I just wanted to rest!)

So, those are the highlights from my last full day with great friends in Canada. This morning was a bit sad as I said my goodbyes, but knowing that I’d see everyone in the summer helped ease the tears of separation.

And then the travel trials began…

The highlights are that 1) it took twice as long to get to my foster daughter from Canada to where she was staying and 2) the roads over the mountain pass were too bad to continue after collecting her so we are crashing at the home of an old classmate who happens to live near(ish) the base of the pass.

We hope to continue our trek in the morning, and I promise to share the story when (if?) we make it home.

Twee tweety tenement

I was give a little bird house the other day by my foster daughter. She came home and rather unceremoniously handed it to me on her way to her room, whilst I was in the middle of a conversation with the woman who’d driven her home. So I set it down on a side table, finished my conversation, then went to check on the kid who was getting ready for bed.

Two days later, I notice the birdhouse sitting there. I picked it up and asked the kid to tell me what the deal was with the birdhouse.

She told me that she painted it special for me so that I can take it to Scotland with me next time and hang it in a tree. Then, I need to take photos of all the birds that come to visit it to send to her because she wants to know what Scottish birds look like.

So this is the way we do things I guess. When I leave the country, I am bound by duty to send photos of something to her. On my trip to England in September she wanted airplane photos and on my up-coming trip to Canada she wants pictures of my friends. And as I like to travel and take pictures, I’m totally OK with these requests!

But don’t be fooled. She always wants real presents—and real candy—from my travels. But she’s a sweetie, so I’m happy to oblige!

I have awesome neighbours!

I have awesome neighbours!

After last night’s blizzard I decided to work from home so that I didn’t have to deal with the roads.

But when things seemed to clear up by early afternoon, I decided I’d run into town with my foster daughter because she doesn’t have proper snow gear yet. (She had to wear my boots to shovel snow this morning.)

Only, the car wouldn’t start when I went out. And I live in a town of 650 people with no shops and no services. The neighbours across the way are gone for Thanksgiving. My dad is a four-hour drive away. And I neglected to renew my AAA membership after Paul died. (Opps!)

So I called Annie, our amazing town clerk. She promised a call back in five minutes. It wasn’t even that long until she called to say that Tim was on his way. Only, I don’t know Tim. But less than five minutes pass again and there’s Tim ready to fix my car.

It took about ½ an hour to get the car going. Tim worked with bare hands in the 10°F temperatures (that’s -11°C, if you wondered) then wouldn’t take anything for his trouble.

All the while, another neighbour was busy clearing snow from around my driveway with his tractor. After Tim left, that neighbour asked if he got everything cleared OK. And I, excitedly, said yes. After all, I’d not asked for this favour, he just came by to plough for me like he has for the past two winters.

And these are all different people than the ones who’ve watched my cat whilst I’m away or kept my lawn mowed since Paul died.

Yes, these things might happen in the big city, too, but I think they’re more common in a small town. These good people and their friendly “help your neighbour” attitude will be missed when I return to Scotland. But, then, I always found people to be kind and helpful there, too.

Yay! for awesome neighbours!!

It’s snow time!

The National Weather Service has announced a blizzard warning for the Palouse through tomorrow. And let me just say, I believe it! That’s a lot of snow falling from the skies!

After a slow drive home on the barely visible highway, I am treating myself to a nice cup of hot cocoa (with a touch of Baileys, of course).

They say it’s going to be another record breaker. Check out what a Palouse record-breaking snow looked like in 2008/09 on RyanCentric! (Just over 100 inches fell that year. Brrr…)

Yay! for snow and Yay! for hot cocoa with Baileys!

Clay play

As part of my on-going mission to relax and find a bit of silly joy in life, I broke open a box of coloured clay this evening. I didn’t do much with it today, but I’m inspired now and have a great idea for some fun time with my foster daughter this weekend.

I’m sure you’re totally excited to see what we might create so here’s a wee flower to tide you over until I have something more artistic to entertain you with. Yay!

 

“The Earth Laughs in Flowers”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Trees

Just for you, some pretty trees that I drew this evening. Yay!

Trees
by Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Gone fishin’

Back in July I was inspired by fish. It started as a general rambling, then turned to an actual plan for fishing on Labor Day Weekend. It was going to be great! Some friends from high school and I were all going to meet at our childhood fishin’ ponds and re-live our glory days. Soon, the fishing expedition grew as my friends planned to bring their kids. So I decided to bring my niece and nephew. And it was going to be fun.

Then I took a foster care placement and wondered if a fishing trip would still work. And I decided it would. So she was going to come, too. Then my friends all cancelled! So instead of being a fishing trip to remember my childhood, it became a fishing trip to build memories in the present-day childhoods of three amazing kids. (And memories for me and whilst I’m not a kid, I am pretty childish sometimes.)

Anyhow, we had a blast. Three fish were caught; none big enough for eating. One got tossed back; two became bait.

I forgot how fun fishing was. I may have to go again before all my new tackle rusts…

And look! Fun things for you!

%%wppa%%

%%slide=6%%

Oh, and be sure check out the little video my niece made below. I didn’t realize what she was doing at first, but it’s pretty good so I’m sharing it with you!

Hope you’ve all had a great Labor Day Weekend.

Beaming with pride

Around 4:30 this morning Schrodie really started to get on my nerves. She was zipping around the house like crazy; pounding on the wood floors like mad. It wasn’t long before she was in my room scuffling around in my shoes under the vanity. (OK, shoes are meant to be stored in the closet, so now you know I’m a slob.) In a moment of sleepy frustration, I threw the cat out of the room and shut the door then tried to get back to sleep.

But the cat sat out there, pushing her paw under the door trying to get back in. And I ignored her – until I started to hear noises under the bed. Noises that sounded like the cat was playing under the bed (a regular habit). But I put her out… right?

So I think to myself: “Is it possible that there’s a mouse in the house?” Then I realize there can’t be. I’ve not seen any evidence of mice. But then I start to remember it’s harvest season and that’s when the little field mice start to take shelter from the evil combines.

Well, I’m up now. Those noises are not going away and the cat is still desperate to be allowed back in my room. I open the door and in she bolts. She’s reaching her paws under the dresser. She’s trying to get behind the clothes hamper. She’s sniffing around the shoes under the vanity.

And I’m watching her – curious as to what she’s found. Another grasshopper? Another spider? A cricket or a beetle?

Then in happens – the tiniest little grey field mouse sticks its head out from behind the vanity. And the cat goes crazy all over again.

OK, she’s not made the kill yet, but for those who are familiar with Schrodie’s very non-cat-like ways, you’ll know that just the act of stalking a mouse is an advancement in her membership to the Feline Academy.

Here’s hoping my lovely cat has a nice, dead present for me when I return from work.

Go Schrodie, go!

Cutting the cord

I am cutting the cord. Or rather, I am cutting the cable. I’m not replacing cable with satellite and in my rural neck of the woods there is no such thing as aerial reception. So, basically, no more television for this gal!*

I’m more than a year late in doing this. Paul and I got cable a few months after moving into our new home for two reasons: 1) It was during the 2008 presidential campaign and I wanted to watch the debates and 2) my family was coming out for Thanksgiving and it would have caused problems if we couldn’t have the football game on during the day.

By the time spring rolled around, we decided it was time to get rid of the cable because we were spending too much time on the couch zoning out instead of talking to each other. So the decision was made that I would cancel it when I paid May’s bill. But Paul died before that happened and I didn’t have the energy to brush my teeth let alone call the cable company.

It was great having cable this past year. A real saving grace in some ways because it meant voices in an otherwise silent house. I could sit on the couch and zone out to whatever was on TV and not have to think about anything else. But now I find myself zoning out on shows that I’m not really interested in whilst neglecting my once-enjoyed hobbies and activities. I sit on the couch from the time I get home until I go to bed. That’s about four hours of mindless television and commercials “entertaining” me every night. And I’ve had enough!

So what will I do without TV?
I will start reading my ever-growing stack of great books and I will listen to my favorite CDs on the Bose. I will go out for walks and hikes and bike rides – after all, I live in an amazingly-beautiful area with loads of outdoor recreation opportunities. I will write. I will crochet and knit. I will sit outside in the evening sun and take in the sounds of nature. I will take time to cook nice meals and I will take the time to enjoy them at the table instead of wolfing my food down on the couch in front of the telly.

Certainly, it will be difficult getting used to not having an endless supply of rubbish programming spread out over nearly 50 channels, but once I remember how much I used to enjoy the simplicity of my own company, I’m sure I will be celebrating the severed cords!

As of the 1st of August, I will be cable-less. Stay tuned for a post about the insanity it causes me when I realize how boring life is without the time-sucking television vortex!

Of course, it hasn’t escaped my mind that I will be saving $49.67 each month. That’s $596.04 a year! Yep, that will be a nice little addition to my very meager savings account.

* I will continue to get my favorite shows on the Internet because I just can’t live without EastEnders. I’ve also subscribed to NetFlix so that I can watch old TV shows or movies from time-to-time. (I know that seems silly as I’m talking about cutting the cable, but I still want a little bit of entertainment.)

Chili cheese dogs

I love food. Expensive food, cheap food, homemade food, and overly-processed food-like substances. The last is a group that I don’t get to enjoy often, partly because having kidney disease means I need to watch my sodium intake and partly because I’m too cheap to buy a lot of processed food. (It really is cheaper, healthier, and quicker to cook from scratch!)

Sometimes I find myself thinking a particular “processed food meal” sounds good but then I realize that it’s not easy to justify when cooking for one. But when an old friend from high school posted on Facebook that he was making chili cheese dogs for dinner for his family, it got me thinking that I really, really wanted one, too.

Sadly, hotdogs are sold in packs of eight, as are hotdog buns. And I’m only going to eat one – maybe two – then I’m stuck with loads of extra dogs and buns. Oh, and the rest of a can of chili con carne, but at least that can be used for a lunch later in the week.

Because of my “eating for one” dilemma, I find myself taking advantage of times when there are people around to share food with. And since my 11-year-old nephew is here with me all week whilst attending a fun and adventuresome week of day camp at the university, I’m taking the opportunity to cook all of those wonderfully-delicious meals that I’ve longed for – and that every growing boy loves!

Tonight’s dinner? Those chili cheese dogs I’ve been thinking about for two weeks!

Tomorrow we’ll have a picnic dinner at the top of Kamiak Butte and Wednesday we’ll have tacos. We’ve not decided what to do for the rest of the week, but you can bet baked tofu, curried cous cous, and arugula with low-fat goats’ cheese won’t be on the menu!

It’s a good thing the kid’s only here for a week or I’d be running the risk of high blood pressure, kidney failure, and extreme weight gain!

Dining at Steptoe

For reasons unknown, I got an urge to finally take a trip up to the top of Steptoe Butte today. It was my first visit, which is a bit sad since it’s less than 16 miles round-trip from my front door to the top of the butte. Well, 16 miles if I take a short cut through the wheat and lentil fields. It’s closer to 25 miles if I stay on paved roads. But anyhow, it’s close.

Moments after having the idea I tried to talk myself into putting if off to the weekend so that I could make some homemade fried chicken and potato salad for a picnic lunch. But I knew I’d find a reason to not do it so made a vow to stop at the store and buy everything I needed for a picnic dinner instead.

So, store-bought picnic in tow, I swung by the house to change then headed up the hill.

It was very peaceful and relaxing. I sat there eating my dinner whilst looking out over the rolling hills of the Palouse and watched a few butterflies chase each other around the wild rose bushes.

I even found enjoyment in the fact that the top of the butte is covered with antennas. I suppose that as it’s the highest point in the area, it was deemed prime real estate for our modern-day communications needs. I wonder what insightful conversations Paul and I would have had about their placement…

They say that you can’t find amazing places to dine outside of the city, but I think my views this evening beat out anything you can see from the top of the Space Needle!

%%wppa%%

%%slide=2%%

A stitch in time

Well, I was meant to be starting my summer holidays this weekend but have decided to put them on hold. Which is a good thing because the weather certainly doesn’t realize it’s summer and there’s lot of work to be done at the office.

As part of my holiday preparedness, I planned to spruce up the house and tidy things away that really had no business being out and about. One of those items included an afghan that I’ve been working on for more than a year and a half. It’s a queen-sized ripple afghan that I’m stitching with all of my left-over bits of yarn from other projects.

Because it’s so large and needs to be spread out over my lap and legs whilst I’m working on it, I figured it could be put away for the summer. After all, with normal summer temperatures in the 80s and 90s, I wouldn’t want the project draped over me!

Thankfully, I never got around to tidying before my holiday plans were scrapped because with “summer” temperatures in the 40s, 50s, and, on a warm day, the 60s, I’ve decided that it’s time I break out my hook and get to stitching. I’m enjoying the extra warmth during this record-cold month of June.

Of course, since tomorrow is the first official day of summer, and since I’m now planning a busy week in the office instead of enjoying the great outdoors, and since I’m happily hooking away, the weather is going to spike and we’ll have record heat the rest of the year! It’s Sod’s Law…

Next attempt at holidays: An October trip to Auld Reekie. At least if it’s cold and rainy there, it’s to be expected.

Taming wild horses

For a few months now I’ve promised myself that I would finally tame the desire to hike to the top of the Wild Horses Monument which overlooks the Columbia River at Vantage. It’s a very short (but steep) hike that Paul and I took regularly on the drive between my home town of Cle Elum and our home on the Palouse.

Sometimes these “first time without Paul” experiences are really hard and I need to psyche myself up for it for several days – or even weeks. This was one of those treks for me. When I first thought I was ready, the road was closed for the winter, so it took a while longer before I could tackle it.

Today I found myself exiting the freeway at the last minute answering a strong desire to tame the horses. Being Memorial Day Weekend the car lot was filled with tourists and the hill was more crowded than I’d ever seen before. Luckily, I had my rugged hiking shoes in the trunk of the car so I was able to take the lesser-traveled and considerably-steeper trail to the top. Also by luck, I seemed to be the only one who knew that there were peaceful places to sit on the back side of the hill where the tourists neglected to visit.

It was an enjoyable hike – despite the people – and now that I’ve tamed the horses, I’ll be more likely to make regular stops once again. And each hike will be easier on the heart… and the legs as I continue to get back into shape!

Modern mowing

I’m not a patient person. When I know what I want, I want it now. So, after breaking out the vintage mower yesterday and deciding it was time for an upgrade, I couldn’t think of much more throughout the day. I wanted my new toy. I wanted it today. And I wanted it cheap.

So after work I took a trip to Moscow to pick up my new mower. It was about $10 more than what I’d found online, but once you add shipping costs, it was cheaper. Plus, I got it instantly and didn’t have to stalk the UPS man.

My awesome new Scott’s Classic push reel took about 15 minutes to set up and has several height settings (1-3″). I took her out for a spin once she was done and it was great! She’s lighter and quieter than the old one and because the blades are new she cuts the grass a lot easier.

I’m very excited about my new toy – partly because push reels are so much better for the lawn (and environment) but partly because it’s going to be a great workout for my entire body and I might have my athletic tone back by the end of summer if I keep the lawn trimmed.

Retro mowing

When Paul and I bought our house two years ago, we decided that we wanted to continue our “hippy-granola-freak” lifestyle in our yard care efforts. So, I picked up the old (and I mean old!) lawn mower from my folks’ house the weekend we moved. The next weekend we spent the whole day out in the yard – and met pretty much every neighbor because people kept stopping by to offer use of their gas-powered mowers. Some offered to have their kids come by on the riding mowers, too. It was difficult for people to believe that we really wanted to use the relic mower!

Paul would tell people: “I asked my wife for a multi-gym and this is what I got!”

Last year the old mower never got used. Instead, in the days after Paul died the neighbors all started to care for the lawn. Every week or so, someone would come around on their riding mower and just take care of it for me.

I decided that I really need (and sort of want) to take care of it on my own this year. Between being sick and the bad weather, however, it was difficult to get out and mow. Luckily, someone has come by three times in the past several weeks to mow for me.

The weather was nice today, however, so I took out my trusty mower and mowed a good-sized section of the front yard. And – wow! – it was hard work! I think that I’ll have to mow a little bit each evening to keep up on it – or buy a new mower that’s easier to use.

We’d spoke about purchasing a new push reel mower last spring, and I think that I certainly need to do it this year. So… I think I’m going to check out Tri-State (Idaho’s Most Interesting Store) this weekend and see about buying a new-fangled old fashion mower. It will still be environmentally friendly, but it will be a lot lighter and a lot easier to use.

Here’s a link to the sorts of things I’m looking at. I am, of course, happy to listen to recommendations for which push reel is best!

(And yes, I know I’m crazy. But then, so does everyone else!)

Child labor

I don’t know who decided that child labor was a bad thing. I mean, I had four children over for the weekend and I feel it would have been more abusive to not let them work! When they arrived Friday night, one of the first questions was what chores there were to be done. When they awoke Saturday morning, the boys asked eagerly for me to open the tool shed whilst the girls went straight for the weeding tools that I keep in the shop. It was fantastic to see how excited they all were to help me out in the yard all day! Then this morning, they nearly fought with each other over who was going to help make breakfast (yummy coffee cake).

Now, my flower beds are all weed-free and the yard has been nicely raked. They even put all the tools away when they were done with them!

I know that if I was their mom and this was their home, I probably wouldn’t get all the help, but I guess that it’s a fun treat to help someone else. And a really great treat to be called “Miss Frances” by two of the children. (The other two called me Aunt Frances, as to them, I am.)

The kids are all very excited about coming back to visit and help again, and it just makes me so happy to see how eager they are to be here. And I don’t think it’s just because they like playing with Schrodie or the fact that they always get to walk to town (on their own!) for ice cream when they’re here.

What a great weekend I’ve had!

Note: The adults were all very helpful and very wonderful, too. I was very lucky to have seven wonderful houseguests all weekend!

Miss you much

It’s been a year since Paul died; a year since I became Just Frances again. I made the drive to his grave in Cle Elum today to bring him some tulips from our yard. He would have loved to see how bright they are in the flower beds and I wish that he was here to admire them on our mantle.

My sister took some tulips up for him yesterday – similar colors to those I brought – and Paul’s family took tulips up to his grave in England. Tulips are my favorite flowers, so that’s what he seems to get now. I hope he doesn’t mind…

Paul, you are always in my heart and on my mind. I miss you much, but I don’t regret an ounce of this pain because it means I loved deeply and truly. I love ya, luv. xx

 Miss You Much
The Clumsy Lovers

I miss you much, but I don’t regret
I sense your touch, that hasn’t left me yet
You know a mournful ending don’t ruin a precious start
A painful parting don’t mean a bitter heart
 

And gracious your beauty
Goodness your soul

Everything’s changed, and you’re not here
But you keep climbing into my dreams somehow
Your voice is strange, but the words are clear
You’re saying “Love me now, love me now, love me now, love me now”
and I do… I do love you.

Tulips: Day 6

Well, the first petal dropped today so I suppose it’s time to toss these out and get some new ones. They topped out at 21″ tall and 16″ across. I’m sure you’ll be happy to know that I don’t plan to share a running commentary on my next batch of flowers… But I can’t promise that some random flowers won’t get another post all of their own in the future.

Total growth since Day 1: 5″

Great neighbors

When we bought our house, Paul and I really looked forward to tending to the garden. With a lot of nearly 10,000 square feet, we knew it would be a lot of work, but we didn’t care. That first spring and summer we were out almost every weekend and really made it beautiful.

Last spring, we drew up plans for some major garden projects in the back yard and spent some time in the front yard once the snow melted away. The week before Paul died, we spent a long (and enjoyable) day raking and weeding and mowing before enjoying a well-deserved picnic lunch under the cedar trees. The next weekend we planned more work. But God had plans for Paul that we were unaware of.

All last year, various neighbors kept the yard mowed for me. A couple came by to trim some trees, another couple came by to help remove piles of leafs. And I was ever-so-grateful. This year, I know that it’s time I get back out into the yard and start taking care of it myself. And I’ve been planning to do that for the last two weeks, only I got sick.

As I drove home this evening, I dreaded the thought of having to mow the lawn. As I rounded the corner of my street, I decided that (despite doctor’s rest orders) I should just suck it up and mow at least part of the thing tonight. But as I pulled into my drive, I saw that someone else already came by on their riding mower. I don’t know which wonderful neighbor to thank, but I’ll tell you what, it’s totally made my day!

I am still dreading the day I finally make it out to do work in the garden because I know it will just remind me that Paul isn’t there to help, but I’m kind of looking forward to getting my hands dirty. Maybe I’ll start slow by weeding the flower beds later this week. Then at least I won’t feel too guilty for picking some of the flowers to bring into the house.

Right! The main point of this entry is to exclaim:
I have amazingly wonderful neighbors and am very lucky to have them!

Tulips: Day 4

Day 4 and the tulips are really on the move now. They’re starting to have that casual look I love so much. Each flower has opened up a bit so you can see a bit more of the color variances, which is nice.

As the stems begin to curve a bit, I’m realizing that even though there may be growth, the tops of the flowers won’t necessarily extend as tall from the mantle – but I suppose that the distance bloom-to-bloom will show a bit of that. But anyhow… today’s measurements are 20″ tall and 13 1/2″ across. That’s an inch taller than yesterday and 2 1/2″ more across.

Total growth since Day 1: 4″

Tulips: Day 3

The tulips are starting to move a bit more now! Yay! This morning they were standing tall at 18″ and measured 9 1/2″ across but this evening they were proudly boasting 19″ in height and 11″ in width.

Total growth since Day 1: 3″

Tulips: Day 2

It’s the second day of the Tulip Dance and while they’re not dancing as much as some tulips I’ve seen, they are certainly on the move!

As of 9:30 this morning, they were standing at 17″ from the mantle and measured about 7″ from bloom-to-bloom (which means just the width between flowers, not leafs). By 8:15 this evening they were 17 3/4″ tall and 8 1/2″ across.

Total growth since Day 1: 1 3/4″

Tulips: Day 1

Tulips are my favorite flowers. I love how they are so simple that they can bring elegance to even the most basic of vessels. I love the way they seem to dance around after they’ve been placed in pretty vase; the way they reach and stretch and grow after they’ve been cut – as if to tell the world that they are strong and they will survive and adapt to their new environment.

For something so simple, they truly are so complex.

I enjoy watching tulips change, and like to sit and stare at them from time-to-time, remembering what they looked like yesterday or even earlier that very day. And I often wonder to myself just how much they grow with each day. It’s such a trivial thing, but I find pleasure in it and I wish that Paul was here to share in that silly little joy.

But since he’s not here, and I still find dancing tulips so much fun that I really want to share it with someone, I’ll use my narcissism-based blog to share it with everyone. (Come on, I know you care or you wouldn’t have made Just Frances your browser’s home page!)

To that, I present to you:

Tulips Day 1
Purchased at Safeway for about $4.00, these 10 stems of reddish-pink and yellow tulips were cut short because they will continue to grow all week long. Each day, I will photograph them and share new measurements. Moments after being placed in the vase and on the mantle, these measured 16″ from the mantle to the tallest bit of flower – in this case, that was one of the leafs.

Check back tomorrow to see how the tulip dance is going!!

Easter at Kamiak

I decided to spend Easter Sunday hiking Kamiak Butte. I wish you could have joined me, but as you couldn’t, I brought you along in my heart and soul instead.

I’ve taken photos of the hike to share with you, though I wish I could have shared the smells and sounds of the day as well. I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed my day out!

Happy Easter!

%%wppa%% %%slide=28%%