Saturday, May 29, 2010

Regroup or Regrowth

One of the things I really enjoy on my walks with Sammy is just simply observing the differences in the surroundings as we travel pretty much the same areas -just occasionally walk a little farther some days.

This time of year especially it is just beautiful to watch how the woodlands around my home change from month to month and now, even now sometimes, the changes seem evident day by day.

This sight on one of our recent walks really reminded me, quite vividly, of how the forests keep regrouping, revitalizing and growing all the time but we don't see it until suddenly, the colors change and there's this bright, light green on the tips of the hemlock branches to indicate what's been taking place right before our eyes and yet, sight unseen.
Seeing the new growth on the hemlocks down along the road in Peale reminded me of something else - a bit different -and that's hair growth.

For myself, I have been on a bit of a kick to let my hair grow and as such, I haven't had it cut in over a year now. (Sorry -no photos of that are available. LOL You'll have to take my word for it but it's quite a drastic change for me to have hair that is now shoulder-length and which I often can pull back and pin it up on the back and top of my head now. I'm still not sure if I will keep it growing as I haven't had long hair in many, many years. Normally, as soon as it starts to grow out a little bit, even to the back of my neck, I'm calling my hairdresser friend and going to get it cut and a new perm then too. Normally. Just not going by the normal this time, this year.

Now my ex-husband -well he hasn't had his hair cut since September of 1993 -when he quit drinking so he now sports a ponytail, usually pulled up and wedged under one of his many baseball caps he loves to wear. However, the many years he has maintained that habit of always wearing a baseball cap, although it hasn't affected the length of his hair and its ability to grow, it has taken a bit of a toll on the top of his head as his once slightly receding hairline now is back quite a ways leaving him more than a bit on the bald side on top.

At the rate he's losing his hair on top, I'm thinking he might want to consider trying a special hair growth shampoo to keep the hair growing back on the top of his bald pate now!

For that matter, my son as well as my son-in-law too might want to look into that kind of stuff cause the both tend to wear a cap of some kind all the time too and even though they don't believe me, won't listen to me, I read this someplace a long, long time ago that continual wearing of a hat -for men -if they have a bit of a tendency towards that receding hairline, will cause the hair to fall out and the line recedes then faster than it otherwise would.

Just a little bit of some words of wisdom there, ya know!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rocket Science!

Phew! What a night!

I've mentioned on occasions in the past about my grandchildren -Maya and Kurt -and some of their little quirks and/or obsessions and I know too I've mentioned from time to time about the meltdowns that can -and do -occur, often at the drop of a hat.

Once in a while, when one -or both of them -happens to have a meltdown, we can actually figure out what caused it and sometimes, we can find a relatively easy way to redirect the child, calming the fire before it gets out of control completely.

But most of the time, with a massive meltdown such as the one we experienced tonight with Kurtis, you might just as well ask me what I know about rocket science or have me tell you the history behind a Bluetooth headset and what I know about those topics would be about the same as what I could possibly tell you happened that caused this meltdown tonight!

He was tired -that much we knew and usually when he is overtired and launches into a meltdown, after a little bit of fussing, we can generally appease him with a sippy cup of milk or some other little treat. Yes, it's a form of bribery but when your eardrums are under assault for anything over a half-hour of the crying, kicking and screaming -trust me, you too would resort to bribery of the highest caliber too!

With Maya and her occasional meltdowns, we usually can get to the bottom easier simply because her speech patterns are much better than Kurt's.

And sometimes with Kurt, if we can get him to calm enough that we can get him to say a couple words, we can work from there to try to figure out the root cause.

But tonight -no luck with him in the speech department as all he would do was scream and if we asked him to calm down and use his words, any attempt he made at that all came back at us as pure jibberish.

What worries both Mandy and I when he gets this worked up and can't or won't try to use his words, is that there is always a remote possibility that something may trip a trigger in his mind and he could regress and lose the vocabulary he has built up by this time.

And that is something that we -all of us here -along with his therapists, have worked way too long and hard to get him to being able to communicate much of the time with us now and the last things we'd want to do is to start all over back at square one all over again!

It took us close to an hour tonight to finally get him quiet enough that he finally laid down on the sofa, clutching his Bear-Bear (a big furry pillow that looks like a big old teddy bear and is his main "comfort" item) before he finally closed his eyes long enough for the sleep to take over and he was then able to be safely picked up and taken up to his bed!

After this one tonight, I really hope he sleeps long and very soundly tonight and when he wakes up in the morning, none of this will even remain in his memory just as I'm hoping I'll be able to relax and go to sleep and forget this happened too!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Puppy Power at its Finest!

I know, I've been blogging a lot lately and much of it has revolved around my almost daily and usually fairly long walks too with my dog, Sammy.

I've been doing this walking with him since December now -at the request from my family doctor that I take up some form of exercise along with trying to keep tabs on my cholesterol and sugar intake as well.

The act of actually dieting is not something I do very well with to be perfectly honest. It goes totally against my grain in that it would necessitate -for me anyway -fixing separate meals for the two little grandkids here and for the rest of the family and that is something I wouldn't do when my kids were growing up and trying to dictate menus to me and I sure don't want to ingrain that type eating habits in Kurtis and Maya either. They can pick up enough quirkiness all on their own and sure don't need me to reinforce what I consider to be bad eating habits at the table.

Last week, when I was at the doctor's and weighed in there, I saw that my actions -mainly being to push myself away from the table faster than before plus the walks with the dog -had resulted in my having lost 15 pounds since December. Not fantastic weight loss but decent enough and nice too in that I did it without any kind of substances like noxycut or any other diet substitutes either! I was pretty proud of that accomplishment then, for sure.

However, yesterday -after Sam and I had put in another fairly long walk amounting to over 3 miles on that one -I weighed myself and to my very pleasant surprise, I have now dropped yet another five pounds! Yay, yay me and Yippy Skippy!

Since the weather is becoming a lot warmer -obviously -with summer just around the corner now, I'm thinking I might lose even more weight and a bit easier too -just by sweating it off as Sam and I go out walking in the hot sun!

Which reminds me now -time for us to get ready and go for our walk today too.

The News -Today.

There's been a lot happening around here, in this household, around the area too where I live -some good stuff, some mediocre and unfortunately too, some that is extremely sad.

The good news is that the step-granddaughter has been accepted to attend Penn Tech - a school in Williamsport, PA that I believe is also affiliated with Penn State. I'm still in a bit of a state of shock that she was accepted seeing as her academic track record in high school hasn't always been of the best grade variety but I'm hoping she will -by the time she begins attending classes next January -have seen the error of her study ways and will put reading up high on her "to do" list.

With that upcoming pursuit of higher education, she's now applying for any work she can possibly find in this area. Unfortunately, this is not exactly a mecca of employment opportunities -for those who have higher educations, loads of other experience or those fresh out of the confines of high school either. I am hoping she finds something though -and quickly too -perhaps the local Walmart or even McDonalds or some other fast food place might consider hiring her and thus enable her to put a few coins aside to purchase some of the necessities of college life.

One of the things she's talked about wanting to get -and I agree that something along the computer line would be a bit of a necessary item -is a small laptop computer, one that is pretty inexpensive, etc. I happened on this site the other day and I'm thinking an Acer Aspire -such as this one -might be just the ticket for her. But, if push comes to shove and she's lacking on money when the time comes to leave for school, she could probably make do with the old desktop computer I had prior to purchasing this one. It's old, yes but it was still functioning -just slow and it does have some word processing software already installed in it -like Word and Excel and things along those lines, so it would be okay I think as a last choice item perhaps.

Around the house there have been a few other changes too -one being that the son-in-law has moved out. The relationship between him and my daughter has been in bad shape for quite some time now and if it is ever to be repaired in any way at all, the best thing for both of them is distance now. I am not an advocate for divorce -unless a relationship has deteriorated to a point of absolutely no return or if there is a whole lot of domestic abuse, emotional abuse and the like. But sometimes, separation is a darned good thing as it can -if used properly -allow both parties time to think, to regroup, to breathe -and that is how I view this for them. Then, if it appears that reconciliation is not to be in their cards, they will have had the time needed to begin rebuilding and hopefully, counseling too that will enable that to come about in the best manner possible for each of them as well as for the children involved too.

Our neighborhood received some very sad news yesterday too. The grandson of an elderly neighbor who lives about 5 houses away from me was killed the other day in a motorcycle accident. I knew his mother and her siblings from the time they were just little children and then, back in the 80s I also worked with this young man's mother at the truckstop where I waitressed and she was a cook there. So I knew his Dad then from that place as well as his paternal grandparents and his aunt was also one of the home health nurses who checked on me every week while I was receiving chemo 7 years ago. Knowing the family -on both sides -fairly well, I can only imagine the loss they are feeling now. I know how I would feel if it were me trying to cope with the loss of my son or one of my girls or a grandchild and I know I would be completely devastated by any such event. My heart -and my prayers -go out to all the members of his immediate as well as his extended family.

So, on that note, just a little admonishment then here -please whatever you do, be safe. Travel safely, drive safely, live your life as safely as is possible. And be sure to hug those closest to you every chance you get as we never know, do we, if and when we will have that opportunity to do that again. Life truly is very fleeting, isn't it?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Anticipation and Excitement Ahead!

Although I am not what one could term as being super active in my church or some groups and committees there, I do try to help out wherever and whenever I possibly can.

One thing that I am though is the Chairperson of our Social Ministry Committee and I do like the various things that group is responsible for providing for the parish.

One thing we as the Social Ministry group provides is a service to new parents within our church so it keeps us waiting for new birth announcements. This group is then responsible for the provision of two full meals to be delivered to the family of the new baby on the day the mother and baby come home from the hospital and then again, on their second day home from the hospital.

Recently, at our last meeting, it was decided that we would set up menus to be used as a standard for these meals and that we would break the menu up so that one person will fix the main dish, a second will provide a salad and rolls or bread and the third, will take care of fixing a dessert. We also set up a standard menu for the first day consisting of lasagne, salad and bread and a dessert. The second day's menu is for the person cooking the main entre to choose a meal with either chicken or ham and then the other items being fixed somewhat accordingly then.

Sometime next month, we will get a chance to put this new plan into effect as a young couple from our church are awaiting the birth of their first child -a boy -due in mid-June. The grandmother of this new baby is also our church organist and it will be the first grandchild for her and her husband as well as the first great-grandchild for the grandfather' Mom too. So, you can just imagine I bet the anticipation level at their homes waiting for this blessed event.

I have to recruit people to fix the items for the Day 2 menu and have them ready to do their thing as soon as we hear that the baby has arrived and getting this part set up shouldn't be that difficult as most everyone will jump at the chance for an excuse to go see a new baby and to extend congratulations to the parents, grandparents and great-grandma as will be the case here.

However, it just dawned on me the other day that I am the one responsible to prepare the lasagne for the first day meal and I also have a big day of my own coming up on June 14th too -a trip to Pittsburgh where I have not just one but three doctor appointments all lined up to take place that day. Plus, after those appointments, the likelihood that I will be having surgery very shortly thereafter is also looming on my horizon so I am just worried now that this baby may decide to pick be born just before I have those three appointments and that he and his Mama will come home that day -or worse, that he will arrive while I am in the hospital having or just recovering from major surgery.

In the event either of these situations comes to pass, I'm thinking now that I better get things set up so if I am not here, unable to do what I am slated to do or to get the word out to the others on the committee, that I have someone lined up to take my place and see to it -in my absence -that these meals all get prepared and delivered in a timely fashion.

This is something fairly new that we are doing in our church and I remember when Maya was born, as well as Kurtis too, that on those occasions, someone from this committee brought us a full meal for the entire family the day Mandy came home with Maya and the next day -same with Kurtis -and what a blessing it was not to have to worry about trying to get them both settled in adequately and trying to fix supper for the rest of the family at the same time -and keep in mind, that was a blessing to me and I wasn't even the new mother!!!

Just think for new parents -first-timers especially -how much appreciated it would be to have your meal delivered on those two days -both of which are really a huge, huge adjustment time for the new parents.

I love this program and what it offers to the family and also, the joy it brings to those of us in charge of preparing these meals for them too!

Cleaned Up -Nicely!

For years and years many people around here used the old coal stripping cuts as their own personal junk yard. And not just the stripping cuts but also, the area along side of the roads to two nearby areas here - Cooper Two and Peale - became massive dumping spots too. All of that made for a combination of a massive eyesore as well as dangerous areas to be near from the different type of garbage people through out -anything, as the old saying goes, "from soup to nuts." These areas held all kinds of things people threw out -furniture, appliances of the large and small varieties, clothing, kitchen garbage, old batteries, probably just about anything and everything except maybe Ferrari parts it probably would be safe to say could be found in these dumps.

Thankfully, over the years there has been a tremendous effort put forth to curbing the dumping of trash randomly -along the roadside or back in the huge chasms in the earth left behind by coal stripping operations.

I don't know exactly when the reclamation began of the area out along Cooper Two Road which runs a little north and easterly from my house but in filling in the former mining operations there, the mountainside now has contours to it as close as possible to what it was looked like, many years ago.

Here's a current view though of the mountain side that has recently been part of a reclamation job here. This is looking out from near the top of Cooper Two mountainside and across to the mountains on the backside of Peale -the ghost town here.

And in this photo, along Peale Road -which used to have garbage brought down here and just dumped right along the road and which littered the banks of the road for about a mile at least - this is a view looking down from the road into the gully and swampy area well below along the Moravian Run -better known in this area as the Sulfur Creek -that when I was a kid, you would never have been able to see the trees, the stream, the swampy area that is there for all the garbage that once was strewn along here.
These are just a couple pictures I have taken on my walks with Sammy using my newly acquired camera to replace the one that got broken -on one of our walks -about 5-6 weeks ago now. It doesn't have massive power with respect to the zoom feature but hopefully, it will bring some of the things I see on my walks into a better perspective for you to see as you travel along with Sammy and with me.

Here's a picture though that really has me a bit baffled. I'm far from an expert at the vegetation that grows out in the woods here but the other day, I saw this flower blooming near a little run out along Cooper Two and I don't recall ever having seen a flower like this before. Got any idea what it might be?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sharing the Good Finds!

Yesterday, at the yard sale Mandy spied, and where she got some great buys for the kids, she also found something else for sale too.

A nice bottle of "skin silkening body lotion" made for Victoria's Secret was available. She gave it the sniff test and it became one of her purchases too then.

The name of the fragrance - "Romantic Wish."

Today, Mandy had work, Bill had left and was up at his garage, presumably working and Maya was at Mandy's best friend's place (Jenn-Jenn's) where she'd spent the night last night.

That left just me and Kurtis -spending the day and lots of quality time together. He's been quite good for me -playing nicely, watching tv (Disney channel) for the bulk of the day.

Late this afternoon though, shortly after I'd just changed him, he came to me and said he needed clean clothes. Now he rarely comes and makes a request like that. Most of the time, when you try to get him to go get changed -mainly cause he may be a trifle odorific ya know -he doesn't want to be bothered, and gets a bit perturbed then if we insist he get clean drawers, at the very least.

I could see his jeans pant legs were a bit wet but nothing else, so I figured he might have been out in the kitchen and had been messing around with the cat's water dish -one of his favorite things to mess with and to use then to make a mess!

So I told him no, he didn't need to get clean clothes just because he'd slopped a bit of water on his pant legs. I did notice there was some white stuff on his pant legs but really didn't give it all that much thought at the time.

Then I noticed there was a fragrant scent wafting about the room that I couldn't quite place but when I looked over towards the couch and from there, my eyes wandered to my chair -the blue recliner -I saw this white substance on the chair and smeared on the floor by the couch too.

Hmmm. What the heck?

About that time I also saw this bottle that had until he got hold of it held that "Romantic Wish" body lotion his Mom had purchased just yesterday!

Yeah -almost the entire bottle of it -spread on the edge of my chair seat and even more, in this big circle on the floor.

Okay it's like this now. We do have hardwood floors here. Granted they are badly in need of refinishing but I'm wondering if that lotion strategically placed on the floor and now, wiped up, if it were spread out would it maybe have made the floors glisten and shine or would it just have created a good holding zone of sorts for the fragrance?

He even went and got some paper towels to try to help me clean this up too. Now, that was sweet of him, don't you agree?

And I'm wondering now too if Maya was about this age or maybe a bit younger (but not much) when she took a fancy to redecorating the walls in the living room almost on a daily basis for a long time with her favorite makers.

Which would I rather deal with?

Truthfully, the lotion cleaned up much easier and faster than it was then to scrub the marker paintings off all the walls -daily!

And the house -all smelly like a big Romantic Wish -much nicer than Pinesol or Mr. Clean I think.

Subscriptions, Followings and Other Things!

It's not my blogging anniversary yet -although it is coming up a few months from now -in September -it will mark four years since I first began this blogging adventure.

Little did I know when I started with my very first post here how much fun this would be -or how much work and time it can take too!

I've been thinking about my blog along with all the others I subscribe to via my reader or follow and how much I enjoy reading others posts. In conjunction with that, I've decided between now and September I'm going to try to point out various blogs I either subscribe to or follow (sometimes I have actually managed to have a blogger on my reader via a subscription and also, have that same blogger listed under the blogs I follow too so some of you folks will show up twice then when you post something new.)

Anyway, trying to figure out who to put in my own little spotlight first or what order to follow to do this, is no easy task.

Why? Well because I have 221 blogs showing on my subscription list and another 171 blogs on the Blogs I Follow list! That's a whole lot of reading there folks! I dread that someday I will open my reader and see that every single blogger whose work I either subscribe to or follow might just have each posted something on the very same day! Boy, I would be forever trying to clean my reader out if that ever happened!

But anyway, I'm going to begin with the first three bloggers I started out reading and try then, in some fair way without offending any of my lovely blogger friends, to spotlight each and every one of you over the next couple of months. Sound fair? Gosh, I hope so cause I'd really like to tell everyone to come read each and every one of these fellow bloggers posts and maybe you'd like to subscribe or follow them too that way -from my introducing you to my friends.

So -to get started, I'm not sure which blogger I "met" first here. It was either Barb at Skittles Place or else it was Paige at Paradise Valley 2.... Hell's Mountain! However, I can say this much with great certainty that Barb is the first -and thus far only -fellow blogger I have talked to on the phone and yes, even met in person too! And from that first meeting almost four years ago, they've stuck by me, posting, commenting and learning about me, my family -the kids and grandkids -and endured a whole lot of ranting over the past 3.5 years from me too!

I've met people from virtually all walks of life and from all corners of the world via blogging. From British Columbia to Ontario to England, Norway, The Phillipines, Australia -just to name a few foreign elements and I've met some really terrific people via those travels in cyberspace too!
(I should maybe someday try to make a survey to see if I follow a blogger from every state of the union too perhaps -just out of sheer curiosity ya know.)

But round about three years back it probably was when I picked up a couple more bloggers who have stayed with me -and I, with them -for this time period. There's Mary Anne -up on an island off British Columbia, known to many other bloggers as Smalltown RN and her blog at A Place I Call Home, Berni who used to be called Vic Grace but can be found at Cariboo Ponderer's Pot of Gold, Debo Blue out in Arizona who blogs at A Blue State of Mind but you won't find riches of the monetary kind at Bernie's nor will you find a blue person in Debo either -just good words, excellent friends, all the way! Then there's this guy -Gene at Turning the Pages of Life and I think Gene was probably the first male blogger I "met" early on, or back in the good old days. Little did I know back then but after getting to know Gene, it sort of became a bit of a family affair when I was introduced to his brother, Jeff and his place -Running With Scissors! Neither Gene nor Jeff is what one would call a prolific blogger but they do, when they post, put out some interesting stuff and quite often they operate via their blogs just the same way that one could expect of two brothers -with a lot of harassment and gentle -or sometimes not so that way -ribbing and teasing. Anyway -I consider it a bit of a bonus that via Gene, I gained Jeff too!

Want a good laugh? Check out these blogs if you will. Sandee at Comedy Plus almost always posts a joke or a cartoon almost every day. If you like humor that is often more than a bit off the wall, sometimes really edgy, raw, but written well and you can't find friendlier bloggers anywhere than from the folks who write these blogs: Jim at Suldog, Jocelyn at O Mighty Crisis , Patois who pens Whee! All The Way Home or maybe you'd enjoy too Magazine Man -a genuine magazine editor of a very well-known publication at that who can be found at Somewhere on the Mast! I honestly can't remember now how or where I found Suldog or Jocelyn or Patois either but Magazine Man -him I found via a recommendation by Suldog and I thank Jim every time I read one of MM's posts!

Then there's a few other friends too who I relish their words -Maggie Mae for example of Nuts in May comes to me from her home in Bristol, England to tell me about her children and grandchildren, shows me beautiful photos around her home and of late, has been receiving lots and lots of prayers for a return to good health after having been diagnosed with cancer last fall and spending the last six-seven months or so dealing with chemotherapy.

Then there's this guy -who travels all over the world it seems, at times, talks a lot about his dogs and cat, makes my mouth water frequently too when he posts about various restaurants and dishes he's had to eat there and I'm always happy to get to see the places where Rick Rockhill -the Palm Springs Savant takes me! If I remember correctly, I think Rick found my blog and began commenting and then, I picked his blog up on my subscription list from there.

Another traveler whose blog never ceases to amaze me -the photos this man posts are absolutely fantastic -and sometimes, after seeing pictures around his area up in Norway I think if I ever had the chance to meet Rune and if he took me around his home area in person, I might even be able to recognize or at least remember having seen these things from his posts at Visual Norway!

Want a little intellectual or political stimulus? Here's a couple others I'd highly recommend too for a bit of this, a lot of that: Jim Burnett -a reporter at the Miami Times Herald and his blog Burnettiquette often promotes some really newsworthy discussions as do Margaret and Helen, a couple of fiesty senior citizens and the blog goes by that name or perhaps you'd like to read the thoughts of Dave -an attorney in Atlanta who puts a lot of interesting stuff in his posts here at Rather Than Working.

The last blogger I'm going to recommend here today is this lady -known to many as Technobabe -and you'll have to go read her blog to learn why she calls herself that at Technobabe's Adventures.

There is one other blogger whose writings I've followed for probably the past three years now too -maybe a bit more, I'm just not sure there -but that would be Terri, Terri who until recently wrote the blog Terri, Terri, Quite Contrary. I'm not going to highlight her url because she recently disbanded posting on that site. She has made some decisions to continue writing but under another name, url, etc., and out of respect for her and her right to a bit of privacy, I don't feel it would be fair for me to point you to her place at this time. I'm just happy that she's still around, still writing away though!

Now- I've given you a whole lot of reading to do and that assignment, should you care to accept it, will no doubt keep you very, very busy!

But I hope too if you go visit these folks -and the other blogger friends of mine that I will be talking about in the months ahead -that you will gain from their knowledge, their thoughts, writings, and just in general, enjoy their overall attitudes too towards the people who stop by to read, say hello and get to know them.

Trust me when I tell you this - I'm quite certain you won't be disappointed -not in the least by what you will find at any of these above mentioned places.


Shopping Fun!

Yesterday, Mandy had scheduled an appointment to have her hair done -highlights, probably a little trim, the whole nine yards. She was due to be at the hairdresser's place at 9 a.m. but life sort of intercepted -or got in the way -whatever, you call it as you see it.

She went to leave only to find her car locked and the keys -well heck, they were there, in the darned car.

And her other set of keys? In Bill's pocket, on their way to Philipsburg as he'd already left for work by then.

So, she set out to try to find someone to help her get the car unlocked but no success in that so, off we went then to Philipsburg so she could retrieve her spare set from Bill.

Along the way to and fro though, some neat things happened for both of us. We acquired a new gas grill and she got some super fantastic buys on some clothes for the kids!

And would you believe it but no barcode scanners were involved in any of these transactions!

As we drove up the road from our house, we discovered our neighbor and good friend, Cindy, was have a "moving sale" as she and her husband are selling their house and moving elsewhere, sometime this summer after he retires. Hate to see them leave as they've been very nice neighbors and good friends to us since they moved here a few years ago.

One of the things we spied that Cindy had near the road was a nice gas grill for sale. And considering that Thursday nite when I was in the process of grilling some fish for supper, our grill almost went up completely in flames, the timing here couldn't have been better. We slowed down and Mandy called out to Cindy to inquire how much she wanted for the grill and when she said $30, we told her to put a "Sold" sign on that puppy and that we'd pick it up on our way back from town!

After getting the other set of keys, we started back towards home but Mandy spied a couple of yard sale signs and decided we needed to stop and check at least one of these out.

Darned good move there too as she left with two bags of clothes that included five pair of jeans for Maya of the brand that fit her really nicely -for a buck a pair -and those particular jeans retail for a minimum of $15 per pair! Plus she got a couple shirts and sweaters for Maya along with three pair of shoes too -two pair for Maya and a new pair of sneaks for Kurtis. At a quarter a pair for the shoes, how could one possibly go wrong there!

Back to our street, we completed the grill transaction and then, had fun trying to figure out how to get the grill from Cindy's house to ours. Lucky for us but another friend, Lois, happened along in her pickup truck and said no problem, that we could load it on her truck and she would deliver it to our door step.

Well, we got it loaded up okay but then I began to think how the heck are we gonna get it unloaded, down through the yard, remove the old grill off the deck and get this one up there? I happened to see Cindy's neighbor, Kevin, was home so I said something to her about getting Kev to come down and unload it and get things re-situated for us then and Cindy said she'd go over and tell Kev we needed his help.

By the time we got to my place and were standing around discussing things, here came Kevin to the rescue. He unloaded the grill with a bit of help from another neighbor (Joan) and got the old one off the deck and they got the new item up there in no time at all!

Don't you just love a happy ending like that though? Actually, don't you just love it when you know you have good friends and neighbors who are willing -and able -to lend a big hand for a couple of minutes of their time too?

Kev is a good friend of my son's and they have been fast friends since childhood. He's like having a second son to me if the truth be told. When my son joined the Army back in 1993 and after he was sent overseas to Germany, he knew that I was good friends with his buddy Kev and one time, in one of his letters, he asked me if I had put Kevin's name on the deed to the property as I think he was kind of worried that Kevin would be replacing him for me! No, not quite son, but it was a bit of a close race there. (Just joking -no one could ever replace my son even though there have been a few times when thoughts like that may have flown in and out -quickly -in my mind, when my son managed to pull some bonehead stunts now and again! LOL

I thought too I'd share a picture here with you today. This is the first picture I took yesterday with my NEW lovely little camera!

Somehow, I just thought it really fitting that the first picture I took with the new camera would be of my walking companion, our sweet little Sammy! Kurtis just strolled by and glanced at the picture, saying to me "Look at that silly little puppy!" (And isn't it just amazing how the little guy is stringing so many sentences together too considering a year ago at this time, he had only maybe 15 or 20 words, at most, in his vocabulary?)

Exciting times I'm living in these days, for sure. And with the summer ahead, filled I'm sure with lots and lots more yard sales and many walks, fun adventures with my kids and the grandkids, things are really looking great to me!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Great Delivery!

I got a surprise last week in the mail when a special person sent me a VISA gift card for a pretty good sized amount that I could spend on whatever my little pea-picking heart could find in that price range.

My first thoughts on how to use this gift was to think about replacing the camera I'd had, that I really loved and enjoyed using too and which I'd dropped on the ground one day while walking Sammy!

I thought about that all last weekend. Really, I did.

I worried and stewed over this -wondering if maybe this was a really selfish thing for me to buy another camera for my own personal pleasure, ya know.

With all the other stressors in this household, within the family lately, if I were prone to acne, by this time, I'd have been in dire need of acne treatments for sure!

But then, late Monday night -actually early Tuesday morning -I made my decision and ordered a camera of the same make and model as the one my kids and I had purchased back in January and which we gave to Mandy for her birthday. It was a gift just in time for her to take with her on her trip to Nevada in March when she went out to visit with her Dad for about 4 days.

The only difference between her camera and mine is the color. Hers is sort of a sage green whereas mine is a bright, bold royal blue!

I figured because it had taken about 10 days for Mandy's camera to arrive that mine might get here sometime at the latter part of next week.

But today -I got a really great surprise when the UPS guy showed up at the house with this nice little package for me and the return address on the box said KODAK!

And I knew then, my camera was here and after only three days too!

Now that was a great delivery in more ways that one. Add to the speed of service plus the fact that the sale price on mine was even $20 less than what we'd paid for Mandy's camera, all my feelings and worries about this being a selfish gift from me to me, ya know, totally evaporated as I ripped into the box, got my pretty little new camera out and dropped the battery as well as the memory card from my old camera into it!

And then -in case any of you, my readers, are wondering about this -I also attached the wrist band to it so I can carry it, use it, and not worry about Sam jerking on his leash and my losing my grip on the camera and it falling to the ground and breaking like the other one did!

Good advice there to use that little contraption and I tried it out then this afternoon as I took Sam for a nice long walk!

Incorrect Mathematics!

A while back -oh, a couple of months or so -Mandy acquired this little pedometer via Avon products.

When I got started walking Sammy usually at least once a day I decided to commandeer this little gadget and nook it on my jeans or shorts to try to measure from it exactly -or at least close to that -how far we were walking on any given day.

I can now tell you it is a little over a quarter of a mile from my house down to the water/sewage treatment building at the end of this road. The walk older grandson, Alex, and I made down to Peale during which we traipsed around up in the woods where the old Peale Park and swimming pool had once been -which that pedometer said was a total distance of 4.9 miles, round trip. Sounds fairly reasonable to me.

Although, truthfully, it seemed to be much further than what the old legsand feet were saying to me.

Yesterday, Sam and I walked out the dirt road to Cooper Two where the tipple and mines used to be in operation. The pedometer registered that we had walked 2.18 miles on that venture.

Today, I walked that distance and then some -as we continued on up the hill to the Y in the road and we went off to the right, up the hill till we came to the clearing that separates Cooper Two from Route 53 as you enter within that viewpoint. We had to have walked at a mile further than we did yesterday and yet, when we got home, the pedometer said for our efforts today, we'd only covered 1.78 miles!

Now how can that be anyway?

This is not ultra high level math here. Not rocket science. Sure isn't any thing like doing lsat prep stuff either.

I'll tell you what this is though -in my opinion! It's a ripoff!

This really irks me too because I've been trying to increase my walks whenever possible, covering just a bit more distance when I can and it's really disheartening to KNOW that you walked a whole lot more than before and the darned little thing says NO. You didn't even go near as far as before!

Oh well, guess it's still better than nothing for the time being, isn't it?

And I could always hop in the jeep, drive over that area we walked and check the mileage that way -just for my own sense of satisfaction, if for nothing else!

Doesn't quite give Curves and their merchandise a rounding recommendation though, does it?

Shall We Visit?

The other night, while playing around on Facebook, I don't recall exactly how the conversation began but my niece made a comment to the effect that since it's been close to a year now since we've seen her and her three children that she was wishing we'd come visit her.

I made a comment back to her that if she really wanted to see us, we might just be able to arrange a trip to her place and, if she has room, we could even come Sunday, June 13th and leave on Monday, June 14th.

I'm pretty sure she thought I was just joking around when I said that. But the thing is, an overnight trip to her place on those dates could happen and actually, it would be great for us too if it would happen that way.

Why? Well because she lives a little over an hour's drive north of Pittsburgh and if we were to be able to go camp out at her place that Sunday night, it would save us having to get up, rise and shine and be on the road from here to Pittsburgh that Monday morning at dark 0-thirty, ya know!

I told her she'd best be careful what she wishes for cause it might just happen and then I think it registered with her that there was the potential for us to show up there and camp out for the night. I don't think Mandy has talked to her and explained why we might be in that vicinity as yet but anyway, she kind of recanted at first and then said, "Oh, what the heck! It's been so long since I've seen you guys, that we could work something out."

Angie, honey-girl, if you read my blog and if you're serious, have the time and a little extra space where we could curl up and sleep, it would be great to be able to use that trip as an excuse for a little visit then too. But only if you can handle us!!!

Now, that has me wondering if she has door chimes that we could ring on our arrival and announce ourselves to her?

Wouldn't that be a hoot though if she did and if we showed up totally unannounced then too?

On second thought, that might not be the very best idea either, would it?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Little Success -Better Than No Success!

I know I've done lots of posts lately about me and my little dog -good old Sammy -and our walks together, haven't I?

Do you remember though why I started this routine with him?

It's not just to get him out of the house and avoiding accidents that mean extra clean-ups -although that has some bearing on our walks. But it's also a means to give me some very badly needed exercise which is something I've been really, really, REALLY lax about getting for a long, long time now.

It's also because, in conjunction with that exercise my family doctor had told me back in December that I needed to pay a lot more attention to what I eat and thus, try to keep my cholesterol down as well as my blood sugar levels.

She suggested dieting.

And to me, dieting is a really dirty word!

Why? Well mainly because I can never seem to find any diets that work -or at least that I can possibly adhere to and then give them half a chance of working, ya know.

I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that I found some spectacular diet that was easy to work with and that I've lost oodles and oodles of pounds now from following it. Nope. Because I haven't done all that much with respect to the actual "dieting" thing except I have tried to cut back on the amounts I eat and also, to try to avoid desserts, cookies, cakes, pies and other snack type foods that I would have an urge to overeat those things.

My walks around town with Sammy pulling me this way and that way, trying to jerk my arm out of the socket too at times it has seemed, have been the main tool though I have been relying on and I consider this to be pretty darned good -for me anyway -because I have lost 15 pounds now since mid-December -which works out to roughly three pounds a month!

Nothing stellar but it's been slow loss and rather steady too and I'm happy with those numbers as well.

Plus, I have really been enjoying the fresh air, seeing the sights around the village, out in the woods, exploring the nearby ghost town with my older grandson (Alex) one afternoon and yes, even picking up a friendly tick along the way who apparently wanted to hitch-hike up to civilization using my body as his conveyance too!

I'd recommend this method to anyone who is able to walk -whether it be fast, power walking or slow, easy-going strolls - or anything in between -as the nicest way to shed a few pounds of fat!

Revamping Schedules

I know I've mentioned -several times now -that I will be having surgery sometime in the future and that I will also have to travel down to Pittsburgh -again -to have it done.

It's been really wild and hectic around here what with phone calls to my local OB/GYN (no-obviously my issues are not pregnancy related and no, I'm not reading anything like prenatal vitamins reviews -although with all that's going on, I might need to study up on taking some regular vitamins just to keep moving, ya know) and trying to get things all lined up with the doctors I will have to see in Pittsburgh has been a big, big concern for me lately.

I had an appointment scheduled for next Friday -the 28th -with the first surgeon I'd seen -like for the past 3 plus years - for a follow-up appointment but then, I got an appointment with the surgeon I need to see about the hernia repair and it was set for Monday, June 14th at 3 p.m. So this got me to thinking -what if my first doctor would consider dropping is normal protocol, which is that he only sees patients on Fridays, to consider cutting me a break and seeing me maybe on Monday June 14th.

So I called his office, talked to the Scheduler Person there and explained the situation to her, emphasizing that we were trying to find a way to consolidate appointments to save time -and gas/wear and tear too on the old car, etc -and could he allow me this, just this one time.

Later that day, the scheduler called me back, said she had discussed this with him and yes, he would do that so she gave me an appointment then for that Monday at 1:30 p.m.

The nice thing here is that his office and the new surgeon's office are about three (3) blocks apart so that would be within walking distance and we wouldn't then have to worry about moving the car, getting yet another parking spot, etc.

Feeling just a tad on the lucky side for having been able to get two appointments on the same day, close to each other, etc., I then called my local doctor who was supposed to be contacting the OB/GYN doctor she has links to in Pittsburgh and told her what I'd been able to arrange.

I asked her then if maybe she could wheedle a third appointment -with the OB/GYN doc -on the same date and at a time that would coordinate then too with the other appointments.

It must be my lucky week or maybe there's something about working on having a "threesome" perhaps -but she was able to get me an appointment with that third doctor I need to see on the same date then at 10:30 a.m.

I'm not crazy about having an appointment at 10:30 a.m. and having to get up at Oh Dark Thirty ya know to leave here by 7:30 and arrive there by 10:30 but heck, it sure is better than making two or even three separate trips, isn't it?

Score one -or would it be three -for me!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fun Reruns!

Some days, the meltdowns around here can be quite the sight to behold.

Some of them can be so super frustrating as you work to try to redirect the child, try to get some breathing room for yourself as well as for the child.

Some days, you win and others -well those you just try not to remember.

I didn't go to sleep till around 5:30 this morning -in the recliner again -which often seems to offer the most comfort for my back, especially when the day is like today -cold, rainy and miserable -all of which tends to fire up the old arthritis in my lower back.

I didn't hear Mandy getting Maya ready for school this morning so things must have been going fairly smoothly at that point in time. But I woke up briefly after she came back in the house from getting Maya on her special bus that she rides and overheard Mandy telling Bill that she'd just had a meltdown when it came time to board the bus.

I dozed off again but when I woke up a little later I asked Mandy what had happened pertaining to her meltdown and she said that yesterday, Maya's class had all gone on a field trip and that in doing so, the whole class had ridden on one of the big, regular school buses so now, this morning, at the very last minute of course, Maya had decided that she didn't want to ride the little bus anymore, beginning today, and had gone into a meltdown then -in the rain too -about this. Mandy said she was having a hissy fit big time, claiming she should ride the big bus with the other kids and that she wasn't afraid to ride the big bus either.

It took some doing but finally Mandy got her on the bus -telling her it was too late to change buses for the rest of this year but come next year, when she goes to first grade, she can ride the big bus then.

Mandy wasn't too pleased with the scene this morning but after she finished telling me about it all, I had to snicker to myself a bit.

It all reminded me of how when my kids were growing up and when they really, really frustrated me, I used to tell them that my biggest wish, my prayer really, was that someday they would each marry and have children and that their children would do the same to them as they were doing then to me.

I hesitated very briefly but then decided to live dangerously and made a comment to Mandy.

"Isn't is just so much fun to argue with yourself, to revisit your past this way?"

And with that, Mandy flipped me off and I figured it was time to go sit down and savor the moment.

Deja vu! A darned nice thing at times, you know!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Things I Learned-Found-Enjoyed-Love!

It was a pretty busy weekend here in these old Pennsylvania Hills! No, I didn't have any more "fun" rides in the back of an ambulance (thank goodness) but it was a really good weekend overall.

Saturday afternoon I spent at our church, helping the women's group from church serve at a Golden Wedding Celebration for a couple from our parish -Tom and Marlene Kirk. Marlene grew up down the street from me and Tom is from a nearby little village -Kylertown -but they now have a gorgeous (and huge too) new home up on top of the hill, across the road from the Lutheran Church Cemetery.

It was fun helping out to keep the food table stocked up and all but even more fun for me was seeing people I hadn't seen in ages -like Russ Hummel -whose wife I met when I first moved back to Pennsylvania and she was working then at the local state employment office. Thanks to Pauline's help back then, I was able to better cope or contend with some of the contemptible employees in that office who seemed to like nothing better than to bedevil those of us who were signing up then for unemployment benefits. It was through that chance meeting there that led to general conversation between Pauline and myself that I learned she and her husband were best of friends with my late cousin, Jay and his ex-wife, Janice! Fast forward a bit to the 80s when I was waitressing at the truckstop in Snow Shoe and Russ and Pauline would often stop in for supper on my shift so I got to know both of them that way. Unfortunately, Pauline was unable to attend yesterday as she was recovering from a go-round of pneumonia. Hope she's soon up and around, feeling much, much better!

I got to meet a distant cousin of mine too -who happens to be married to a sister of Tom -one half of the anniversary celebrants. This cousin lived in Morrisdale -across the road from my Dad's family homestead -but was enough older than me that I never really knew him. I did however, along with my cousin Ruth Ann, often play with his younger brother, David, when I would go up to spend a day or so at my Dad's family home with my Uncle Arch and his family and my Aunt Mike. I haven't seen David Swales in absolutely eons and eons -at least 50 years, if not more -and had no idea where he is these days so I introduced myself to his older brother, Matt, explained who I am (that we are distant cousins, etc.) and learned that David now lives in Manassas, VA! Maybe the next time Mandy and the kids and I venture south to visit with my cousin Bea and her Mom in Burke, Va, I'll remember this and see if I can perhaps give David a call and see if he even remembers me from those playtimes a long, long time ago!

One other nice thing -for me -yesterday was having a chance to see an old, old friend from my school days -Gracie Coble! Gracie was a year ahead of me in school and all through high school, she had dated Billy Gurbal, Marlene's oldest younger brother. Bill was also a year older than me and since the family lived four doors down the street from us, I had grown up with Bill. Heck of nice guy he was too. Anyway, Gracie and Bill had married, had a son (Brock) and when Brock was about three months old, Bill died as a result of an automobile accident. I've seen Gracie on a few occasions over the years since Bill's death but the last time I saw her was 2 or maybe 3 years ago over Labor Day weekend, when she was here for the big old Cooper Picnic -an annual affair of St. Severin's Catholic Church out in Drifting. Gracie had remarried a few years after Bill died and had two sons to her second husband but is now, once again, a widow. She's still the same as ever though -like Bill was -Gracie is pure and simple, just very good people as that expression goes.

But the event that I think really topped everything for me yesterday was when I was talking out in the hallway at church to a lady who, for some reason or other just looked familiar to me (but really, she wasn't) but anyway, in talking with her, I asked her where she was from. She said she is from Greensburg, PA now but that she had grown up in Monroeville, PA.

Judging by her appearance I figured she was probably about the age of at least one of my cousins who also had grown up in Monroeville back in the early 50s. But in further conversation along that line, she didn't recall ever knowing anyone from there with the surname of Eld -my Mom's family line, ya know. But she started to rattle off some streets in Monroeville where she had lived and one of them was Beatty Road. I mentioned that my oldest cousin and her husband had owned a home on Beatty Road back in the 60s so she asked what their names are and I told her -Howard and Nancy Lang.

To my surprise, she then said "Oh, I graduated from high school with Howard Lang!"

Really! I couldn't believe this at first so I began to describe a bit about Howard to ascertain we were on the same page, talking about the same person -and decided that yes, we were both talking about my cousin Nancy's husband, Howard, all right!

Talk about a small world, huh? What are the odds that I would meet someone at an anniverary party at our church, out here in the middle of nowhere, who had graduated from high school with a guy my cousin married?

When I came home, I hope you know I had to call my cousin Nancy and tell her and Howard about having met this lady! They were as amazed by this as I was! And I was really glad I had called and talked to them too as it enabled me to get a bit caught up on the things in their life, their children, grandchildren, Nancy's siblings as well and to share other family news with them at the same time too.

Sunday morning, Mandy and I managed to get up early enough to be able to get ready and make it out to church -which some Sundays is almost next to impossible for us to just get up in time to do that and it seems too that any time I have any kind of problems -my body/system being uncooperative with me -it always seems to take place on Sunday! But this marked two Sundays in a row that we were able to get to church together -and hey, the roof on the church didn't fall in either -so I guess it's safe to try to make it three in a row then next week, isn't it?

After church, I had to drop Mandy off down in Winburne, at Jackson's Bar (where she works) as today, they were having their annual "Walk for Wishes" event -a fund-raiser the bar sponsors to benefit the Make A Wish Foundation. Mandy was taking part in the walk -a whopping five-mile walk to boot -and she had raised $100 from the individuals who were supporting her. She said when she got home that the walkers raised over $2,000 today from the walk.

You know, I have to say this too now but I am really very proud of this little bar and their support of the Make A Wish Foundation. The management there -yes, you Deb -and the crew, really do push the fund raising activities as much as is humanly possible and the bar patrons really do come through and in a big way too, to support these things and then, through that, the Make A Wish Foundation! Last year, the bar's efforts netted a $15,000 contribution to the Foundation and I think that is absolutely fantastic -also really incredible -that a little bar in a little itty-bitty back-in-the-boondocks tavern can draw that much support from their clientele to be able to give a donation that size to this very worthy cause!

Gotta definitely give a big, big "Thumbs Up" to Deb and the crew at Jackson's Bar!

After that, I stopped to visit briefly with my son and from there, on to the local grocery store to pick up a few things I needed for supper today and also, of course, to get the Sunday paper -mainly so I would have the Sunday crossword puzzle to play with then at some point today!

Came home and fixed macaroni salad, baked beans, deviled eggs, a jello fruit salad, baked brownies and also, an angel food cake and sliced fresh strawberries so we could have angel food strawberry shortcake for our dessert after dinner today. Did up the hamburger patties too so when the son-in-law got home from fixing the gas tank on Mandy's car (FINALLY -got that fixed) that all would be ready then for him to take over and grill the burgers and hot dogs.

My older daughter (Carrie), her fiance (Robert) and my older grandson -my "prince" Alex -were coming up for supper and my son (Clayton), his girlfriend (Betty) and her daughter were also coming here for supper plus the step-granddaughter (Katie) and her boyfriend (Simon) as well as the step-grandson (Shane) were all here too! So we had quite a crowd for supper this evening. All went quite well there -plenty of food with not a ton of leftovers -my kind of meal that is! Plus we had a whole lot of fun too -a good time for sure! (And, surprisingly enough, not much in the way of sibling squabbling between Maya and Kurtis either which really was VERY nice and made things even more enjoyable.)

One thing though that was quite comical was when Shane came out to me in the kitchen and was holding in his hand a piece of cooked meat.

"Here," he said, "I found this piece of steak in between the cushions of the sofa in the living room.

Well, everyone who was sitting around the dining room table, chit-chatting at the time as I was finishing getting supper ready, totally cracked up and started harassing me about what on earth would a piece of steak be doing in between the couch cushions anyway?

I looked at the item in Shane's hand and laughed telling him for openers, it wasn't a piece of steak but rather was a little bit of a pork chop that had been on the dinner table Saturday night and was left over. Instead of leaving it wrapped in the fridge, I took it out earlier today and gave it to Sammy -the dog -as a little bit of a treat.

Now, here's the problem -or the reason (you take your pick if it was a problem or simply a reason) why the meat ended up between the couch cushions.

Sometimes, when Sammy gets a special treat, he likes to take it into the living room, and his favorite place to sit and gnaw on things -like this -is on the sofa. Not that I appreciate his doing that and we've been trying to reprimand him and break him of that habit, but to no avail. However, the rest of the family -Carrie, Clate and others -aren't aware of some of Sam's not so nice little tricks -like that! So I did get a whole lot of ribbing then the rest of the day about people wondering what else they might find between the couch cushions here too, ya know!

So that pretty much covers my weekend during which time I met a distant cousin, met someone from over 100 miles from here who had graduated from high school with the husband of a cousin of mine, saw some other good old friends and from having had a chunk of meat retrieved from between the cushions on our couch here, learned it's always best to watch to see where Sammy has gone with his occasional little treats!

But for me, the nicest thing about the weekend was talking to my cousin, Nancy, last night and having her tell me that she reads my blog from time to time and that, in doing so, she had happened to have read the post I did on Mother's Day in which I wrote about my Grandma and the relationship she had with all six of her children. Nancy was kind enough to tell me she thought that piece was beautiful and also, true. Said it reminded her of a lot of stuff about her Dad, my Mom and our other aunts and uncles, as well as our Grandmother.

That was the best thing anyone could possibly have said to me!

Thanks Nancy, for the good words and I'll be thinking about you, worrying too that everything this week -and in the weeks ahead -all work out for the best because, just because, I love you!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Snap, Snap, Pop and Crackled!

It's been well over a month now since the day I was walking Sammy, camera in hand, and, as I stopped to snap a picture, Sammy jerked hard on the leash causing me to lose my grip on my camera. The camera then fell to the ground, landing on the dirt along side the road and since it seemed to be what I would call a "soft fall" as I bent down to pick it up I was hoping that no damage had been done to my trusty little Kodak.

Unfortunately, because when this happened and the camera hit the ground, the lens was out, open, and of course, what with old Murphy and his law ya know, that's the side that then had hit the ground. And sadly, damage had occurred then too as the lens was jammed, slighly cockeyed, immovable to get it to extend out or to retract back into the camera body.

I was sick when I saw what had happened. I've been trying to locate a place, locally -or fairly local to me -like maybe in State College or perhaps as far away as Altoona -where I might be able to get someone to look at my camera and tell me if it can be repaired and if so, would it be priced reasonably enough with enough of a guarantee then too that the camera would work again the way it had before this little accident.

Lots of folks have told me that in today's throw-away society and mentality, when problems or accidents occur, the least expensive route is often to just replace the item and not even bother checking on getting things repaired.

Recently, I was given a gift -a Visa gift certificate -and this has had me doing a little searching online for digital cameras -trying to find the best camera for the best price.

I really liked the camera I had but I also like the camera that my son, older daughter and I had bought back in January for younger daughter's birthday present. They are almost identical units but I think my camera had 8 pixels and my daughter's has 10 or 12 pixels -don't remember those numbers exactly right now. Things like pixels and what zoom power a camera has are just numbers to me because I really am not that knowledgeable about digital cameras -or any camera for that matter -and so don't understand fully then the value of having whatever of these features on a camera.

All I wanted when I bought the camera I had -which cost me $149 two years ago in December when I purchased it -was a nice little camera to use to take pictures mainly of my family, especially the grandkids and that I could then download those pictures right away to files on my computer! That this particular camera also had a video feature was just an added bonus to my way of thinking. And when I found the camera we purchased for Mandy for only $100 and it had the same basic features but with a higher pixel count and I think a little bigger zoom power too, I was happy because, knowing how much I had been enjoying my camera, I figured Mandy would appreciate that and then some too.

I've been searching online for the best prices now on a camera as much like mine or the one we gave to Mandy with the ease of operation that both of these units have (had, in my camera's instance) available and now I'm getting really confused. I've seen camera's like mine listing for anywhere from $109 to $129 -as opposed to the $149 I had paid for mine. I've seen some other cameras similar to mine and to Mandy's priced as low as $79 too!

How do I determine then which is the best unit for me to purchase? The cameras I have been looking at are all made by Kodak -haven't looked at any of the other brands simply because I guess I've always truly been a fan of having "Kodak moments" I suppose. So how do I figure out which unit, which model, is the best for me to get to replace my pretty little red camera which was an M853 and Mandy's camera I think is an M340 or something like that number? (She has it with her at the moment so I can't pick it up to check the model number there.)

No matter what I select, what fancy features it may contain, I'm never going to be using this camera for other than just quick shots, no fancy set-ups, nothing along a "professional" line of use cause I don't have a natural talent for photography, a good eye type thing ya know.

I just want one that will give me the most for my money and the same amount of enjoyment I had experienced with the one I had before.

Any suggestions? And, any explanations too on the various features and how to compare them would be much appreciated as well.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Shared Excitement

Wednesday mornings, I am the one who puts the finishing touches on Kurtis before he leaves to go to his preschool program. Mandy leaves for work between 10:30 and 10:45 a.m. and she usually has Kurtis at least semi-dressed with all that is left for me then is to locate his shoes, get them on him and then, find his coat and backpack too so all is at ready when the van pulls up in front of the house to pick him up.

Today at least was one of the above described days.

But prior to donning his shoes and jacket, we had a visitor, of sorts, to the house.

We received a delivery of fuel oil and boy, you just can't imagine what a thrill that is.

Okay -it was a bit of a thrill for me because now, for a while anyway, we will have oil to heat our hot water without having to worry about who was going to have to be the party to take the big can up to the truckstop and get 5 gallons of oil so we would be able to have that hot water for showers, bathes, washing dishes and the like.

But this delivery was also a big thrill for Kurtis and not just for him but also for Sammy too.

I wasn't really awake enough I guess at the time when the delivery truck arrived to think about grabbing the camera to get a picture. Naw, didn't think about how cute that might have looked in a photograph of Sammy perched on the back of the loveseat, Kurtis standing on the loveseat beside him and both of them with their noses practically glued to the window as they each watched the delivery guy dump 100 gallons of fuel oil into our tank in the basement.

Kurtis was actually quiet as he watched -intent on seeing what the guy was doing whereas Sammy's viewing was far from quiet as his barks punctured the air, as if he was asking the guy "Hey! You! What are you doing there? Why are you, someone I don't know, this close to my home, my perch, my people, anyway?"

What made this moment even more special as I watched this play out was that the delivery guy would reach up and tap on the window at Kurtis (a move that also impelled Sam to bark a bit more but what the heck.) The guy was playing with Kurtis although they had this big bay window in between them and no words were exchanged, but you could tell too that Kurtis was responding to him with lots of smiles cause he sure was giggling away.

When the delivery guy came to the door to give me our ticket and bill, I commented to him that was quite the audience he'd had there, wasn't it?

And he remarked then about how he enjoyed "playing" with Kurtis, seeing how excited the little guy was over this whole deal. He said "The little one is so cute I just couldn't help but not pay attention to him and the dog -well, he's just mean."

I laughed at that description of Sammy and told him when delivery people come here and Sam goes nuts, barking and barking, we usually then refer to him as "Sid Vicious" instead of "Sweet Sammy" although, he is actually an extremely friendly little dog. Just has a whole lot of bark going on there."

Meanwhile, Sammy had appeared by my side as I was talking to the guy and I told him all he'd have to do is brush up against him and Sammy would then consider him a friend for life!

Watchdog -well yes, in a way Sam is that. He's noisy and does definitely announce someone's arrival.

Guard dog though? Nope, not in the least!

He's kind of like old Duffy -the dog I had when I was in my teens and who we used to joke would probably have led any intruders to where the key to the house was hidden and then, given a grand tour of the place to show anything that could possibly have been of the least bit of value before escorting the bad people out!

And ya know what? That's exactly the kind of dog I'd rather have instead of the kind that you have to be fearful that someone visiting may make an unexpected move or one that the dog interprets incorrectly and then you could have a law suit on your hands and worse than that, possibly a good friend or small child perhaps, injured.

Yep! Give me a friendly little mutt like Sammy any day of the week.

But sometimes I do think a muzzle might possibly help the ear drums too.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Confession Time!

Tonight, Mandy and I did something we don't very often have a chance to do.

We went out together -down to the place where she works -and had a bit of "quality" time together. She drank Ginger ale (as she was my designated driver) and I had a chance then to imbibe a bit -not much, but a little anyway -and tossed back a few brewskis while joking around with a couple of the regulars at that bar.

It was fun -the most important part there of this little trip. It was -for Mandy -also maybe a bit cathartic too as we talked openly between ourselves of issues -good ones, bad ones, semi-in-between things as well of lots and lots of things.

But most of all, we laughed and we laughed long and hard at some of this serious stuff then -just to try to clear our heads, to clear that smoggy air we've both been held hostage to at home of late.

We came home and she went to bed while I went to check on my e-mail and write a few responses that were needed there as well.

It was in doing that -checking my e-mail and writing response notes that I came across an e-mail I'd received a little earlier this evening from a cousin of my Mom's -one of her first cousins who is one that I know fairly well.

And it was his message tonight that brought me down a peg -more than a peg or two actually -from the celebratory mood we'd been in when we arrived back home.

Seems that while we were out, a brother of the cousin who had e-mailed me tonight -had passed away.

So I had to compose a note to e-mail to all the rest of our extended family -to the few first cousins of my Mom's still left -this passing now takes that number down to five from the original 39 grandchildren of my great-grandparents. Sad to see those numbers dwindling down you know.

And in thinking of this particular cousin, it reminded me that he was the one of our extended family who, one year, showed up at our family reunion wearing a baseball hat that said "Old Fart" and his wife came wearing a similar hat but her's said "Old Fart's Wife" and it was that couple -that cousin and his wife -who were responsible (although I don't think they ever knew this) for showing my kids that yes, there Grandmother's family could be and often were, people who truly loved a good time, lots and lots of laughter and practical jokes and also, who enjoyed Bingo too!

Before that particular reunion, my kids were kind of thinking that this was maybe the dullest group of people they'd ever met cause they often didn't understand many of the old family stories and the jokes that emanated from them -I wouldn't have either probably if I hadn't had the good fortune to have grown up with my grandparents and thus, through them, had known almost all of my great-aunts and uncles and their children and grandkids too on that side of my family tree.

And so then tonight as I am getting ready to go to bed, to sleep -I'm thinking of this cousin -Carl Andrew Bengston -and what a hoot he often could be. How great his wit was as he would pick and jab -all in good humor -at his siblings and also, at other cousins -of varying degrees if he knew them well enough to know their little weak spot here and there. Nothing mean -just good clean humor and fun!

And I thank him for having worn those hats to that reunion about two decades ago which opened my kids eyes to show them what a crazy, often really zany, family they were born into and in which they actually did belong!

Carl -I'm wishing you well now in the rest of your journey as you make your way to a huge reunion of our ancestors somewhere in the great beyond and here's hoping once there, you find a great seat at a big old Bingo table then, with the caller giving only the best letters and numbers and that Aunt Esther is there to greet you too, to lead you around to everyone there, seated and playing cards or bingo -wearing crazy hats, pulling pranks again too on each other and that you have rest, no pain, winning hands, lots of laughter there -much as what you knew from those folks way back when -in the "good old days!'

In memory of a cousin -Carl Andrew Bengston -whose quick smile, silly giggle, love of teasing family members, playing bingo and wearing goofy hats made him easily one of the best cousin in the extended family of which my children, my grandkids, are a part of.

Peace to you, Carl and Godspeed you on that last journey home. You will be missed, greatly!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Thoughts of Mothers, Past and Present

My oldest cousin -Nancy -of my Mom's side of my family -and I were talking on the phone oh, about a month of so ago about lots of things. About our family though, mostly and things that stand out in our memory.

She asked me "What do your think, what comes to your mind, when you think of Grandma?"

And, my answer -immediate it was too -"OLD!"

Because to both of us that really was how Grandma always seemed to be. Old.

I giggled a bit then and told Nancy that the sad part of seeing her that way in our mind's eyes was that when I was born, my Grandma was then a year younger than I am today! And, when Nancy came into the family as the first grandchild, Grandma was then only 55 years old -a real spring chicken and yet from photos from those days, she was "OLD" even then, in appearance anyway.

But then, what would one expect of a woman who, born in 1880, who went to work as a maid in 1894, working for some wealthy family up in the Pennsylvania oil town of Warren, PA. Of a woman who married at 21, had the first of six children at 22 and the last child when she was 43 years old! And in between those children, somewhere probably it is suspected between child number 3 and 4, she also had a miscarriage too -which when she mentioned this to my Mom many years later, also was a baby that, had she carried it full term most likely would not have survived back then as it would have had spina bifida.

Grandma worked until she got married at the age of 21 -first in Warren and then, somehow made her way to Olean, NY -which is where she met my Grandfather and when they married, they came back here -to this little village where his parents lived, where he had grown up after he and his parents and four of siblings had landed when they came here from Sweden.

This is not to say that Grandma didn't work though after she married. Nope, not at all because she did work, every day and grueling work it was too the labor of carrying for children, a husband, washing clothes by hand, scrubbing out dirty, really filthy dirty work clothes of a coal miner and ironing everything that was laundered too. Just to wash the clothes meant she had to haul bucket after bucket of water to the kitchen and then, boil it on top of an old coal cook stove in order to wash their meager belongings.

Grandma always ran a very tight ship too -a place for everything and everything in its place. She accumulated only things she felt could someday be reused -unless it was a pretty dish or cup or vase that she received occasionally. But clothing was saved and recycled -always. If it couldn't be salvaged and cut down into clothing for a child, it was saved and cut eventually into pieces and made up in one of the many, many quilts she put together in her lifetime.

She cooked. She baked -breads of various types from plain white Swedish Kakas to the Limpa Rye my Grandpa loved and she was great at making delicious rolls, coffee breads and the yummiest of cinnamon-nut sticky buns too! Pies came out in a flash under her deft hands and the rolling pin and there again, the best lemon meringue pies or rhubarb cream, apple, cherry, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry too -whatever was in season and on hand to be picked for free! But the lemon pies and the rhubarb are the ones she made that I remember the very best as, like my Grandpa, those two were my absolute favorites. (I suppose if any of my cousins would happen to read this, they might be cringing at the thought of the rhubarb pie but dang, I loved it and I'm longing for some of that stuff -as well as some freshly cooked rhubarb sauce too -right now, as I write this. (Why is it that some of the things we remember best come intertwined with our taste buds too or is that just me?)

One of Grandma's favorite dishes to fix -and this one I KNOW would get a loud groan from my cousin Barb -was the Prune Whip she frequently made for a dessert. I don't have the recipe for this dish -have never found it in any of Grandma's cookbooks (I think she maybe had 2 that were of the printed variety, compared to me with two large shelves in the dining room plus space on the shelf above my computer that are all loaded with cookbooks, large and small. Not that they do me all that much good either, I might add.) But anyway, the Prune whip consisted of cooked prunes -now that's was an easy thing to figure there, wasn't it -plus tapioca pudding and into the tapioca pudding, she mixed in something that was white and fluffy -airy - sort of like whipped cream, but not -and it was dished out on top of the cooked prunes for serving. I, unlike cousin Barb, also loved this stuff too! Wish I could find a recipe for it someplace maybe in the cards Grandma had on which she had copied this or that other recipes but I'm thinking this dish may have been something she had in her memory file and one that she never bothered to copy down on paper to leave behind -sort of her legacy thing ya know.

Grandma could sew too -boy, could she ever! She made clothes for herself, for her family, from the start and her sewing prowess was something for which she was known too here, among the neighbors in this village and also, in some of the other little coal mining towns in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia where the family lived back in the "good old days." One lady who used to live down the street from us here told me that Grandma could be shown a picture of a dress in a magazine or catalogue, take a person's measurements and from those bits of information, she could draw her own pattern, cut and piece together a dress that was a replica of the item she'd been shown. She could do tailoring too and was very precise in her workmanship when it came to sewing. She took in sewing -alterations as well as "made from scratch" requests often during her lifetime and also, when the family moved about from one little coal mining town to another in the western part of this state and to West Virginia, she even took in extra work doing laundry in her home for others -that combined with my Grandpa's meager coal miner's wages, allowed them to not live but at least exist.

It was a hard life, that much is for sure so it's no doggone wonder her face was worn and weather-beaten and her body, no longer that of the very shapely, very pretty woman she was when she and Grandpa married. Grandma could be a bit on the stern side at times -children seen, not so much heard but that too often could be attributed to some health issues she had too that noise and turmoil exacerbated.

But as I think back too I remember a woman, a little bit shorter than I am, full-breasted of a woman of that era who had six children, no time for special diets and exercise, just lots and lots of hard work and then, more of that, and a very round, soft stomach -the combination of those two things made for the most comfortable spot in the house where a small child could lay their head and find sweet rest.

And providing that was something she was, at the end of the day, very good at doing too.

It was while seated in her lap that I was first introduced to the Bible and she read to me, passages most every night before I knew how to read, before I went to bed and made sure I learned, early on, those bedtime prayers as well.

Not that Grandma didn't have a sense of humor cause at times she did but usually, she had so many things on her plate that she was involved with -crocheting doilies, fancy little things for little dolls every now and again, sewing stuff for me, for other grandchildren or doing the preparations for yet another quilt, her fingers, her hands were rarely ever still.

Every Sunday afternoon, without fail, she would take a seat in the sunporch here, pen and paper in hand and would write a letter to the five of her children who lived away from here. (My Mom being the only one who probably never received a letter from her as Mom and I always lived with her parents.) Each of her letters invariably began the same way. "Dear son or daughter, spouse's name and family, It's another dreary Sunday afternoon here..." It wasn't until years after her death though that someone -one of my cousins I believe -remarked about how every letter they ever got from her ALWAYS began in the same way and that person wanted to know then why it was that every Sunday here was always dreary? Did it rain every Sunday, ya know?

She waited anxiously at every holiday till her oldest son and his family would arrive here safely from their drive here from the Pittsburgh area. If she had a favorite, one might think it was him because I don't think he ever missed coming here for Christmas, Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and Thanksgiving and at least one weekend darned near every month too. His visits here also often involved a lot of hard physical labor too as he was the one who was really a "jack of all trades" and he could do carpentry, plumbing, wiring, masonry -you name it, I don't think there was anything he couldn't do and he did them all quite well too! His kids grew up a bit resentful though of the fact that their Dad insisted the family all come here, to as he would always put it "Go Home" as this house was always "Home" to him whereas the beautiful place he built from the basement up by himself was referred to merely as his "house." There was never a time when he and his wife and their five children showed up here but what they didn't begin unloading their care by toting in bag after bag of groceries -like they had gone to the store and bought a full grocery order and then, brought every last bit of it here to share with his parents, his sister and niece. Now you tell me if that wasn't the ultimate in giving by a son to his parents!

My younger uncle and his family didn't get here all that often -maybe once or twice a year -but we would always make sure to do a visit to his place up in northwestern PA -just below Erie -in the late summer so my grandparents could admire my uncle's garden and the prowess he exhibited in that. And we always returned home with loads of fresh vegetables then that Mom and Grandma would add to the vegetables reaped from the large garden we also always had and all would be canned then to make sure we had more than enough food to last us until the next gardening season. That uncle -the only one of the family to go to college -was a school teacher. He had four children and he too, like the oldest son, built his home himself. As a school teacher though, back in the 40s, 50s and 60s when wages for teachers were really lousy, in order to support his family, he ALWAYS had a second, sometimes I think a third job. From spring through fall, he mowed the grounds at the local country club and I don't remember what he did for added income during the winter months, but I'm quite sure he had some other source of income then too. Grandma had a major soft spot in her heart for him because of the pride she held for his academic abilities as he was considered -along with my Mom -as being the brightest of the family. (My uncle was valedictorian of his high school class; my Mom was salutatorian of her class.)

The middle son now -he was the business man of the bunch! Had his own establishment in Maryland -a roller skating rink! And how proud she was of him and his ability to interact with the public, to be able to run his own business and do it well too! He was a master craftsman able to do all kinds of carpentry, building furniture at times, wiring his rink for sound -truly, for sound as he set up speakers and such, wired it all together -and he also was a ham radio fan, having his own radio but he never finished all the qualifiers to get a license as a ham operator.

As children, my cousins and I also tended to think of him as the fun uncle, the crazy one, the jokester but as I got older my Mom commented to me that he was fun, yes but he was the "loud" one whereas the younger uncle was the one who really had the great wit and could say things that were really hilarious. Minor differences there in the approach each one had to humor is all that was as they were both such a hoot to be around.

My older aunt -the firstborn -was the epitome of the devoted daughter and she and the oldest of my uncles were both cut from that same piece of cloth in that respect. Not that my other uncles or my younger aunt wouldn't have done -and often did -whatever they could to help, assist in any way possible my grandparents or my Mom and me too -but my aunt and her husband were also always doing something for Grandma to make her life easier, nicer, prettier in any way they could possibly afford.

Now my Mom and my younger aunt -well there was a bit of a can of worms, you could say.

My Mom was 14 when her baby sister was born and apparently, from the get-go, the aunt was the fair-haired child, the catered-to one! She could do no wrong and my Mom always felt that she was the one who could do no right!

This aunt lived the farthest away from home -first up in Niagara Falls, NY then around 1959 or 1960, she and her husband moved to California -to the Los Angeles area. This aunt rarely remembered anyone's birthday -even Grandma's -or if she did remember that, odds are the card would arrive a week to two weeks late. Mother's Day was nothing special in her book either and occasionally she would send a card, rarer still perhaps a present. Letters from her was also scarce -far and few in between you know but yet, and I don't think I'm being unfair in saying this, Grandma never complained about the laxity in her youngest child compared to the other five. Anything she did was -yes- always wonderful; just fine and dandy!

And my Mom - in many ways I have to say Grandma didn't always appreciate so many of the things Mom did for her and Grandpa much less the sacrifice she made in dedicating her own life to caring for them as well as for me. Sure there were times, early on when I was a baby, a toddler, when Mom could work as a registered nurse and take whatever shift was offered because she had child care right here, with no worries, for me. That is until when I was around 3-4 years old and Grandma had a slight stroke and couldn't always tend to my needs the way she normally would have done. Then, as my grandparents aged more, Grandpa's mind went on a permanent vacation with what then was called "Hardening of the Arteries" but today could be considered either Alzheimer's or just plain old Dementia. Caring for both her parents during their last years was a long, hard, very difficult task for my Mom but one from which she never shirked either. She was like her mother also a very talented seamstress too -meticulous in her stitchings. So meticulous that one could perhaps say she was a bit over the edge, a tiny bit on the obsessive compulsive side about each stitch, each seam had to be perfectly formed or she would rip things out and start all over again. (No, I am no where near the caliber my Mom and Grandma were with sewing, nor with embroidery either (on Grandma's part more so that my Mom's. But I try and that's about all I can do there without running the risk of going insane and thus not enjoying the art of the embroidery.)

It about drove me nuts when as a single parent, things around this old house would break down and my income was far from enough to get many of the things fixed the way they should have been done. Why was it I asked an aunt of mine -the one who had been married to the younger of my uncles -that Mom was a single parent and things broke down here, needed repaired, replaced and she was always low on funds too but always managed to find a way to get those thing fixed somehow. It was then that my aunt told me I was forgetting something -that my Mom had three brothers, each who were very talented in many areas -carpentry, plumbing, masonry and such -and Mom would ask them about what was needed to do this, that or the other and they would lay it out for her, telling her what materials to get, drawing diagrams even at times on how to go about doing a particular job so that way, she could do many of the repair jobs around the house herself and not have to lay out an arm and a leg to have someone else come in and fix things for her. And if it was a job they couldn't give her instructions for how to fix something, one of the brothers would come home and they would work together -my Mom and whichever brother -then to get things back in running order!

That's something I'll never have the ability to do like my Mom did -as I know zilch about those aspects. I know what a hammer and nails look like but which to use for a particular job or how to use a saw to cut things -totally out of my league. Same thing applies to other do-it-yourself stuff too. Just way out of my realm! Maybe, had someone shown me some of the tricks of the trade a long time ago I could have learned how to do some of those things but then too, it was never really something on my own particular radar screen either, no real interest in learning those things I guess.

But whatever the great traits were that my Grandma -and my Mom -had as well as the little quirks each of these women -mother and daughter -may have had too, the things that could at times make them (my Mom in particular) more than a bit contankerous to contend with, they were both very intelligent, very hard-working, very strong of body, mind and of faith as well, women each of their own particular generation.

As a registered nurse, my Mom often was called upon by friends, neighbors to do small things for these folks -maybe someone needed stitches removed -call my Mom; others maybe needed someone to give them an injection at times -call my Mom. It was the injections thing though that always bothered me the most as people -many of them around here -would say that no one could give a shot and you wouldn't feel a thing, she had such a gentle touch they would say, as my Mom could. And that was something I was high on the list of non-believers of that talent of hers. If I needed a shot for whatever ailed me and the doctor ALWAYS would give her a prescription that involved those blasted needles instead of the pills my friends would have been given -it would take both my grandparents and my Mom to hold me down on the sofa so she could hit my behind with that damned needle. My thoughts about this were more to the point that she liked to use my butt for target practice! In retrospect, I know now she was right -as usual -that the reason it hurt when she gave me an injection was because I always did a tremendous job of tensing up every single possible muscle in my body when she would try to shoot me with that dreaded needle! That's what I told my kids when they were growing up, I use that same line of logic today too with Maya and Kurtis as much as it is possible to use logic like that with them and for the most part, my kids -thankfully -were much easier for doctors and nurses then to have to deal with if ever they needed anything like that!

And now -I've written the equivalent here of probably bordering on two, maybe even three chapters if I were to write a book about my Mom, about my Grandma in particular and things they did, things they enjoyed maybe but mostly, things they endured.

Every year, on Mother's Day especially, I remember my Grandmother perhaps more than I do my Mom but that is mainly because when Grandma died, she was buried on Mother's Day of 1963 -at the age of 82 years and six months.

I think more and more now I believe most every day though about my Mom and it will be 31 years come October since she died -of cancer -of which illness we didn't know she had until a week, a mere seven days, before it claimed her.

And I think too of how, if only she had gone to the doctor, had tests done, perhaps, things could have been different and she would have been around much longer to enjoy and appreciate the three beautiful grandchildren she had. How proud she would have been to watch each of them grow, to see what beautiful young women the girls have become, to relish the crazy, zany sense of humor my son, her only grandson, has too! And such a handsome young man he is as well. She would be awed I'm sure and but for her own stubbornness, all those thought thus became that of wishful thinking.

I wish she could have seen my oldest grandson as a newborn and seen, as my Dad's family and I saw, the strong resemblance that baby had to my Dad, to my Dad's baby sister and to his mother as well. How she would have adored Maya and Kurtis too if she'd only been here to see them now. How frustrated she probably would get in trying to cajole them out of their meltdowns too, I'm sure but I'll lay odds, she'd have figured out a way to pick her battles with them and maybe win more of those fights too in the end than Mandy and I do these days!

I wish -and yes I know -wish in one hand and do something else in the other and see which fills up first -is of course, wishful thinking. What is done is done and can not be undone in that respect.

But, if anyone reading this gets one thing out of this piece now and if that one bit happens to be to go get regular check-ups, keep abreast of physical issues and complaints and try to find ways to fix them, rather than let them ride until it is too late then I'll have accomplished something.

If one member of someone's family gets a mammeogram, or a colonoscopy or has other tests done that show a problem and it is then treated and hopefully fixed, then it will eliminate at least for a while, someone's family having an empty place at the family table.

If this helps just one person be around to see the sweet face of a new grandchild or even if they're really fortunate, a great-grandchild too -to experience the joy of an occasion like that, then my words here have not been put here in vain.

Please think about these things and please do see about getting the checkups, the treatments, maybe even full cures ya know, and enable you to be a part of your family for as long as is possible because you know, it is really, really important to them, those members of your family to whom you may mean the absolute world.

With love, respect and remembrance of my Grandma -Ellen Amelia Johnson Eld -and my Mom, Hazel Verna Eld Hill.

I still miss both of you very much on this Mother's Day and every single day of the year too!