Sunday, April 28, 2013

Independence - Fading....

I have always been a pretty independent type of person. Well, I always thought of myself in that vein. However, no one could possibly beat my Mom for being independent I think -although perhaps that depends too on how one views it too.

I worked hard over the years. For many, many years I maintained two jobs almost all the time. And if I didn't have the second job, I was working at least 15-20 hours of overtime every week! I did that for a long time back in the days when I was living in Maryland, just outside the D.C. line and working in the district.

But I never had what one would call a really "good" job though -not one that, by itself, as my only form of income, paid all that well. However, with overtime work and/or a second job, I managed to support myself, my older daughter and my Mom too. We didn't have a fancy-schmancy apartment but did live in a very nice "garden" apartment, air-conditioned, balcony, dishwasher -the things that were nice accoutrements to have back in those days.

I even managed to buy a new car when my daughter was about 8 months old and that was a dream I'd had since I was a little kid -to have my own new car some day! Well, it too wasn't a big fancy deal either -just a pretty much stripped down Chevy Nova -but hey, I bought it new and I still remember the sticker price on it -new -too - $2,619! That included white wall tires, a heater and AM radio!

When I worked down in D.C., I really never had any difficulty in locating employment, at least not part time work -as I was pretty content to stay with the full time job I had as long as business was running pretty good and there was overtime work almost always available.

I didn't have money to go buy anything I pleased but I made enough to keep a decent roof over our heads, put food on the table, clothes on our backs and even once in a while, do things of a frivolous nature too -like a trip to the shore once in a while. Vacations, where one would go someplace ultra special weren't part of my lifestyle as my vacations each year were generally spent back here in this house for our family reunions every year.

It was, in essence, really a very simple life but I enjoyed it because I loved the company -and especially the people -where I worked and as a general rule, I looked forward to going to work every day mainly because the people I worked for and with made it a very interesting and fun atmosphere.

Then, my ex-husband and I decided that the D.C. lifestyle was not our cup of tea -mainly because the costs of housing was beginning to escalate and finding a place to buy was getting very difficult to do if you were looking for something relatively affordable. So we thought things over and decided we wanted to go live someplace in a quieter atmosphere. We considered moving to one of three places -either go whole hog and move to Arizona (Phoenix area -which I'm sure would have probably led to a rerun of the issues we didn't like about D.C), or moving to his home town in Illinois or else, moving to my hometown up here in Pennsylvania.

Okay -since you know I live in PA, in the house my grandparents built, now -without making rocket science out of any of this story, you know which place won out, don't you?

We moved here in August of 1972, rented a small apartment in a nearby town (Philipsburg) and lived there for about 6 months before we found a house for rent about 4 miles from my family home and we moved there. Lived in that house for about 19 months until the house we built was completed enough that we could move in there. That house, one of those package type units where they supply all the materials and you supply the labor -or, if necessary, contract some jobs out -was a small 3 bedroom ranch -nice enough but nothing outstanding. Just a nice little house.

We lived in that from 1974 until 1979 when a series of events in my life caused some major life changes. My husband and I split up; about 2 months after that, my Mom died and 2 weeks after her passing, the minister at the church I attended then (still do) transferred to another parish in southeastern PA. He was pretty much my shoulder to lean on -someone I could talk to and get reasonable good counsel from him and with him gone, along with my Mom -all I had left then were 3 children under the age of 12 (ages 12, 6 and 3), no full time job and a boatload of depression.

By February of 1980, I had found a full time job and had also moved from the house my ex and I built over to my family homestead. I worked full time as a casher or waitress at the nearby truckstop plus I had a fairly large and relatively productive route too as an Avonlady, going door to door, selling those products. That income plus child support and I made ends meet -barely -but at least we were never at risk of being homeless and I always managed to have food on the table for the kids and myself as well as generally keeping the cupboards pretty well stocked too. (I think with my Mom having lived through the Great Depression and always telling about how hard those times were, how the family scrimped and saved to have money for the bare necessities that it hammered home to me the idea of having well stocked cupboards at the very least!)

But I wanted more than work as a waitress and the shift work I had to take just to have a job -first, midnight shift, then the afternoon evening shift. I wanted something that didn't beat my body up -running and running and running -to keep up with the tables and customers, ya know -so I started applying for work in the State College area -location of Penn State University's main campus and that's the largest employer, pretty much, in the central Pennsylvania region. I applied for virtually every office type job I saw advertised or heard about or knew about and my experiences then should have been a warning sign to me when, after several years of applying for other than food service work, I decided well, I'll go to college and that will help my odds of finding a better job.

Little did I know that was actually, for me, the beginning of the end.

I worked full time at first during my 1st year at Penn State, then dropped down to a part-time job for the last 3 years of school. That, plus it being a 1 hour commute each way to school, trying to oversee clothing, food and a roof over our heads too for myself and my kids -two still at home in high school -was a bit of a rough process but I survived it and even made the Dean's List on three different occasions too.

After graduation, I lucked out and got hired by a non-profit agency in Baltimore where I worked Monday thru Friday, came back home to Pa Friday night and worked at the part time job I'd had durig my last 3 years in college -a 220 mile drive one-way on Friday and the same drive again back to Baltimore late Monday night and I kept that routine going for a year until things began to go south back on the home front where my two daughters, were sharing the family house and were taking care of the expenses on the place here while I worked in Baltimore. My son by that time was in the Army but my girls were both through school and working full time but also, apparently not seeing eye to eye with each other about the shared responsibilities around the house. So, back to PA I came!

And after that, I had one horrible time trying to find a full time job! I had several part time jobs -all the while, thankfully, still holding on to the one job I'd had through college years and after five long years, I finally got hired in a full time position.

The only problem with that was that it was back at the place I had been working as a shift manager when I decided to go to college. Yep! Same place, same position and same "career: field too -food services -which was the one type of employment I had wanted desperately to escape!

And that lasted for about 2 1/2 years when I finally could not take any more of the issues that the general manager was laying out as being my fault, my problem -till the last straw when he gave me a week off without pay for the way I had handled a situation one busy weekend and the cause of the situation I had been rammed into was caused directly by the manager and so, I quit and got hired at the local truckstop to home as a waitress, three nites a week on the graveyard shift. I ended up not working there as a waitress but as shift manager -again -and yes, another truck stop -and hated every bloody minute of the work at that place! Till by December of that year I was laid off due to the normal slowdown of business that hits trucking and food services both in January through February or March. And that began the rest of my downslide in employability.

A year later I was diagnosed with cancer, ended up on disability, four surgeries in a 7-year period, plus two herniated discs as well  (the 4th surgery was also for cancer but for a totally different type of cancer than the first was). I'm relatively speaking, fine now except some minor issues with arthritis in my knees and hip and some repercussions from time to time from the abdominal surgeries that are a pain in the dupa to deal with but, well -that's life!

So now, I find myself in a completely different predicament. My daughter and her two children who have been living here with me for the past 10 years -this has been the only home the two grandkids have ever know -are going to be moving out some time this summer, going to move down around the Harrisburg area, which is where my daughter's boyfriend lives and that leaves me here, alone in this house and not enough income to be self-supporting!

With a mortgage on the house -due to repairs and additional remodeling done after the place caught fire back in 1991 -plus utility bills that have increased GREATLY over the years -a whole lot faster than social security will ever increase -and I find myself no longer able to pay my own way!

There have been all kinds of ideas tossed around about how to allow me to stay in my own home well mine and the banks, but anyway -one of which was that my son could rent his house out and he and his girlfriend and her three boys could move in here with me. Sounds relatively viable bu something that ultimately scared the hell out of my son as his main worry was his sister would move out, then, find she either didn't like it in the Harrisburg area or couldn't manage there and decide to move back home and well, where would that put him and his family -plus the additional worries of finding a tenant who wouldn't wreck his house and who would also be timely in rent payment too!

As it currently stands, I am now going to look into the prospect of refinancing the homestead by way of a reverse mortgage.

And if you don't know what that is, I'm not going to explain it completely here mainly because I still don't know what all the little hoops and such are that one has to jump through in order to qualify for said mortgage. All I can say is that the bank or loan company will give you anywhere from 45% to 75% of the value of your home, you then pay off your mortgage, maintain the insurance and tax fees on the place but you then live there as long as you want/can with no mortgage payment overhead. And, when you die, the house is then sold -either to a family member who wants it then or an outside party! No, not exactly that simplistic, but that's the gist of it at any rate.

And at our family meeting today, my son was the only one who addressed the issue that is equally disturbing for me as the financial issues are and that's how am I going to be able to cope with the loss of my grandkids -without having them here with me, 24/7, ya know?

And I honestly don't know how I'll cope with their absence.

Sure there will be loads of time available to me then to do whatever I want to do -embroidery, knitting, sewing, reading, just watching tv -but he's wanting me to to try to become more of a "social butterfly" (in an old timer's way) once again. Yes, I have friends here -life long friends -but they all have family that they do things with -like shopping for one thing or going to various small events, etc. and they have someone to go with. I'm like a bump on a stump with no family to have join me to go to a movie or other little entertainment deals now and again. I gave up frequently the local pubs here about 10 years ago and have no desire to have that as my only form of outside entertainment again.

I used to be a pretty outgoing individual but over the past so many years of working at crap jobs with long, long hours that I have lost the ability to communicate well in that respect today. My phone rarely rings with someone on the other end just calling to tell me the latest news or a joke or some such other thing.

I have, in essence, become rather reclusive. No, not to the point of being agoraphobic -nothing quite that drastic -but more than a bit paranoid at times at how to regain friendships or make new ones today.

A few people think I should just sell the house and move to a senior citizen complex but that would mean leaving this little village and I've spent close to 60 years living here and to be honest, I like the scenery here fine and dandy!

I suppose to many none of this makes any sense -about wanting to stay in a big old house simply because, in my find, I still "feel" the presence in little ways here of my grandparents, my aunts/uncles long departed, my Mom, cousins and lots of old friendships that came and went through this place too!

I know one thing for sure, I don't want to be forced out and into a cracker box efficiency-type apartment and be alone there.

So, for now, my little dog Sammy and I will be here all by ourselves -just us and the tv and whatever crafting crap I can keep my mind focused on for any length of time.

I wish I could find a job -20-25 hours a week at most -which would allow me enough to manage to get by at least then. But seems like my employability track record is still following me around as I did have an interview back in November for a reasonably well-paying job (a major shock that was) and it even involved using my college major too. However, the one who ended up being hired -a 26-year-old single parent who has never even had any coursework in counseling type classes, much less a degree. (Her only coursework to date -accounting and an English class! And this for a job that requires a person be able to empathize with clients in distress and knows how to work with them, etc. So, now you go figure that type of employment theories out there because I sure can't!

I'm trying very hard, believe me, to maintain my sanity -which my kids will tell you is already shaky at best too -and I'd just like to go out eventually from the same house that was my first home many years ago too. I'd like to be able to do it with a bit of independence as well but that -well it remains to be seen I guess how well that aspect will play out over the next several months or hopefully years!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I Beg Your Pardon....

Well, after getting a lot off my chest with my last post here, (and if I offended anyone in the process -well, I'm sorry but I'm not sorry that I wrote what I did.) so guess it will just have to be left alone to stand for my beliefs -or at least a few of them anyway.

So now, off and on to yet another post where I get to express my ideas or feelings, beliefs, etc., etc., etc.

Tonight's topic is identity -names, particulars, ways to identify a person so you can and will (maybe if you are lucky) remember who they are the next time you meet.

For me, where this becomes a problem is in trying to keep straight which kid is which of my grandchildren's friends!  I'm not really around them all that frequently but even so, when they do show up here at our house, I then have problems keeping it straight if this is Jodi or Lori or Mauve or Destiny or Montana or who else, I don't know.

I have come to the conclusion that I need to have some kind of blank magnetic name tags that I can employ by maybe putting a strip of tape on the tag and writing the name of the individual in my presence at whatever given time so as to be able to remember that child's name if I need to address her during her play visit here. Kind of would help a bit to be able to call the child by it's given name as opposed to saying simply "Oh, hey you!" don't 'cha think?

I would of course, also have to request the child spell their name for me too so as to avoid any confrontations about how I had the name spelled on the tag -if I didn't realize that there are many new ways to say and spell various names too and get it wrong -wow, there's someone ready to have a hissy fit that you spelled or mispronounced their child's name in an incorrect fashion and the poor child is probably scarred for life now from that traumatic event. (If you don't want to run up against problems like that, then choose a name with a standard spelling to it in the first place as it avoids confusions.)

My view for today and I'm sticking to it!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Enough Already!!!

Sometimes, seeing some of the things that fly by and occasionally land, on my Facebook wall do totally appall me!

Maybe I'm still just a tad edgy after the events of the last week what with the bombing in Boston, the manhunt for the bombers, the explosion in Texas that leveled the better part of a small town and well, a myriad of other little things that, as my Grandma would say "Just get your commies."

To this day, I still don't know exactly what "Commies" are, when used in the context she applied them but I understood early on this basically meant it was something that really riled a person or got under your skin or "Got your goat" -which was another expression she also often used.

Like a lot of others, I'm on Facebook (as alluded to above) and when I see some of the things others post there, I wonder what their full logic is behind some of those statements.

Granted, I can see the illogical side when people often do have to have a drug test to get hired or to be eligible to stay on as an employee and yet, others can collect unemployment or even SS Disability, etc., or get food stamps and never get tested yet, maybe they might be some of the biggest druggies you can imagine. Doesn't seem fair, does it? But at the same time, one has to stop and think that perhaps that person who is getting what many believe to be wonderful benefits for free, or for not working, also has children at home that need those food stamps, or the unemployment check or social security to enable the family to have a roof over their heads. Disallowing benefits of this type because an individual may not seem to deserve it or is using that financial help in an inappropriate manner puts more than just the one person at risk but often, other family members as well. And does anyone, for a New York Minute really think to curb someone who is an addict -regardless of the type of substance -will stop using whatever if you curb any social supports? Not hardly!

Normally, when I see the posts along those lines -they seem innocuous enough at first glance (until you look beneath the surface and see beyond the one person) I usually look at them and see their point, not that I agree with it, but then, move on -no comment.

However, this evening there was one that read "Food Stamps should not be accepted at restaurants." And, for whatever reason I'm not really sure, but this one really rankled me -greatly!

Sure, from time to time, depending on my frame of mind and whether or not I am actively working on the idea of trying to quit smoking, I get a tad agitated over the commentary about what terrible people smokers must be. (Okay, so not those words, but if you've seen some of the blurbs that are conservative commentary about those of us who still continue to smoke, we must totally be the scum of the earth.) Anyway, sometimes, I'd like to take the person who posts something against smokers and tell that person that they should also be penalized for indulging in whatever their own particular sweet indulgence may be -whether it be stuffing one's self with high-fat content foods by the bucketful or impulse shopping to the point of way over-extending one's credit limits or whatever the little demon is that is on the shoulder of each one of us -and we all have at least one little demon sitting there, whether people care to admit that or not, 'fess up folks and admit that there's something there that you overindulge in or "abuse" from time to time.

Today though, when I read that comment about how people who are on food stamps should not be allowed to use them in a restaurant, that to me, was about the last straw!

How much colder and uncaring a society can we become when we would want to force people, just because they have food stamps to rely on for their daily bread, to almost make it mandatory then that they exist virtually on bread and water? Okay -perhaps that sounds a bit harsh but let me explain. For a lot of folks, I know, to go to a restaurant and eat out is considered a treat or a bit of a luxury. There are times when I can't really justify going to a restaurant, even one that has very reasonable prices, when most of the time I can fix the same foods at home and do it just as well too. But sometimes, it is nice to sit down and have a bite to eat, even if it is just a hamburger or hot dog, or a bowl of soup, knowing you didn't have to do anything to prepare that bite or spoonful and  you don't have to do anything in the way of clean-up after you eat either!

And, think of this too, there are people who could fix their own food, if they had the facility available to use to cook a meal -like a kitchen which most housing usually comes with a kitchen ya know, but if someone can't find a place to live, it's pretty hard then to have a kitchen manifest itself before that person just so they can fix a home-cooked meal and not go sit down in a restaurant and order even the barest of substances for a meal!

My thoughts on if they took away the ability of those who perhaps are in such straits or maybe, due to some type of medical issue, aren't physically capable of preparing a meal for themselves now too, and denied them the ability to get even the barest of necessities of food via a restaurant, that this would, to my mind, be criminal.

As I stated above, I don't normally toss my opinion out when I see the comments many put up there that are more than obviously along the conservative bent, but this one today, just set my teeth totally on edge! I commented and added that those who think along those lines most likely would like to see the government, in its infinite wisdom with doling out food stamps, also put out lists of foods -items or even by brand names (don't want the people to spend more than is necessary, ya know) that would be acceptable for purchasing with food stamps.

I just wish more people would try the adage of "Walk a mile in my shoes" and try being a bit more compassionate in their ideals and such. Sure there are those who do participate in a vicious cycle of welfare usage -but when people are born into that system and are raised in it, breaking free of that syndrome can be a difficult thing to do.

However, most people who receive food stamps and other government assistance programs are just like the majority of our society and would be hard workers, productive members, if they could actually do it!

Think about it this way too, someday, those among us who feel so smug about being so good and perfect -non-smokers, not obese, employed, home owners or tenants in their own apartment someplace, may just find themselves on the other side of the good, nice door -perhaps an illness that takes you down and you have to apply for Social Security disability but before you can get that, you have to deplete every last ounce of money you have to your name -and then some -and try then to return to living a relatively normal life on what you receive on disability payments. It's a far cry from what most of those who yell the loudest at those of us they feel are using their money unwisely generally have to come and go on. Just a little food for thought as things like that can happen -and do too -to any of us!

In the blink of an eye  -ya know -or except for the Grace of God, that could be me.

Before you go firing off your agreement by forwarding more of those statements -like or similar to those I've mentioned here -think about it and think who and how many are actually affected by what you are discerning as being something that is a waste of tax dollars -or your tax dollars to be specific -and if it were you in need or a helping hand for just yourself or your family, and people were making comments like those around you or about you, how would THAT then make you feel?

And don't be so smug as to say Well, I'd get a job or I'd work whatever number of jobs at any rate of pay to cover expenses, etc., for myself and family -perhaps you would -if you could! Not everyone can just waltz out and into an establishment and say "Here I am. Now where do I hang my coat and what do  you want me to do?" because there is only one Frank Costanza and to my knowledge, he's still just a fictional character on the Seinfeld show!

Moving on the Learning Curve

I marvel all the time as I watch how much Kurtis and Maya are learning -every day -something new and different comes my way from them. Just amazing how they are little sponges, soaking up all kinds of things on a constant basis.

What really gets me is how they learn things and you don't realize when they learned something much less how they picked this or that tidbit of knowledge up too. Sometimes, it's random stuff you can track back fairly quickly to what they learned on the TV a few minutes earlier but other times, it's so subtle you just can't ever seem to put your finger on it.

I think back to 10 years ago this summer when I was in the hospital recuperating from abdominal surgery to remove a malignant tumor and my older daughter and her son came to see me. The grandson was then almost 6 years old, just having finished kindergarten I believe. Anyway, they came in and my daughter informed me that Alex had a card he had made, just for me. It was a lovely little hand-drawn get-well card with flowers all over the inside -very cute, indeed. And I thanked him as well as complimented him on his prowess in drawing all those pretty flowers.

I remarked to him then that perhaps he too has a lot of artistic talents, like his Uncle Clate and who knows but maybe someday when he grows up he can be an artist.

His response floored both me and his mother and he stated, flatly, "No, Gram. I'm just going to be a paleontologist."

Hmmm. Really? What the heck is that?

Well, actually I knew what a paleontologist does, basically anyway, but I know darned well that when I was that same age I had never heard of that word!

Even at my ripe old age now, I find myself learning all kinds of new words -maybe not every day but frequently enough for me.

If you'd asked me about two-three months ago what an epiphone was, much less an epiphone Les Paul I know I couldn't have told you -other than figuring it must have something to do with music because I remember listening, as a kid, to songs done by Les Paul and Mary Ford and I remember he played a guitar too.

But now, I know and have a bit of an idea about how this -an epiphone -is quite the creme de la creme, apparently, in the music world!

Yep -learn something new every day and keep on doing that!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Little Absurdities

Funny thing, isn't it, how things happen that don't quite make sense -or at least not to some of us.

Take here, this morning, when I got up and walked into the dining room where I could see the dining room table had been moved, pushed back a good two foot of so towards the cabinet along the back wall.

I glanced down at all that extra floor space and the first thought that crossed my mind was that Sam must have had a watering accident this morning and Mandy had to push the table back to clean it up. I said this aloud and Maya just gave me a sort of strange look --of "Well, whatever, Gram," and went about her business.

Then I looked again and saw there were several pieces of paper also on the floor and that got me to thinking that no, Mandy wouldn't have cleaned up dog whiz and left papers laying around then too.Hmmm. Wonder who really moved this table?

So I asked Maya if she had pushed the table back and she replied that no, she hadn't done that but Kurtis had.

Say what? No way! I definitely knew that was a lie as that table is a big and very heavy unit and there is absolutely NO WAY Kurtis could have budged it an inch, much less 2 foot or so. So I asked Maya why on earth he would want to move the table and her reply to that was "Because he wanted to dance and needed more room."

Ah ha! I knew too that the last thing in the world Kurt would be interested in doing would be dancing but Maya -now there's a horse of a different color for sure as she spends hours with various videos playing on the computer as she tries to teach herself new moves in her "original" dance routines.

So I asked her if maybe she and Kurtis, together, had moved the table and yes, it turns out that was exactly what had happened. Because SHE wanted to dance!

See how smart I can be at times?

And see just how absurd the lies kids tell on each other can be at times too!

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Little Bit of Good Fortune....

One of my good friends here phoned me a couple days back and asked me if I still needed a new stove or perhaps, a refrigerator too.

Her question kind of floored me but then she said she remember a while back I had mentioned that we were looking for a stove as the one we had only had two burners that were working but, we lucked out about 18 months ago when my daughter came across one that some lady about 30 miles from here was giving away!

That stove works okay -for the most part. One burner is a bit tricky to keep it working all the time and it has no working clock/timer on it but otherwise, it's not bad and the price -free -was definitely right for our budget!

As to a refrigerator though, the one we have isn't all that old and it -knock on wood -has been chugging along for about 5 years now with no problems.

Then she told me why she was asking about this. Seems she just purchased a new refrigerator and a new stove for her house and was looking for someone who might need just such appliances to give these to someone in need.

When I mentioned the offer to my daughter, she said "Ask her if the stove has a clock and timer and if it does and they work, tell her we'll take it!"

And so, that's how I will be getting a new-to-me-new stove next Saturday!

And, my son will be acquiring a new-to-him-new refrigerator too as the one he currently has, he figures is probably at least 25 years old and he's worried that it may croak on him at some point in time when he can't find a decent, affordable refrigerator.

Isn't that how things usually happen though?

 But one thing is for sure, getting this stove -which I know will be in ace condition because I know how meticulous this friend is about her things -sure will save a lot of headaches of searching for another stove and definitely save a whole lot of money too, even if we were to shop for discount appliances online for either a stove or refrigerator, the prices of things like that would have me looking for a small business loan for sure!

Have you priced any of these things lately?

Holy Rip!

Hope this stove I'll be receiving and the refrigerator that is going to my son's give us both lots and lots of good days (years) of usage ahead!

Needles Working Again!

For the past 4-5 years now, I have been spending a whole lot of my free time -which is to say the bulk of my time, really -doing all kinds of embroidery stuff. Tablecloths, tabletoppers, pillow cases, tea towels and the like, along with even doing a couple of items that required framing.

Then, this winter, I switched off the embroidery stuff for a while -opting to do some reading for a change and also, some knitting and crochet work. The latter items there were for a specific event -the birth on February 1st of my step-great-granddaughter, little Miss Lola Rae.

Last summer, when we first learned there was going to be a baby arriving in January/February of this year, I broke out the knitting needles and yarn and made a little baby cardigan in a very pale blue -suitable for a little boy or girl and gave it to Katie prior to Lola's birth. Made me feel really good too when the first time Katie brought the baby down to the house, she had that little sweater on her!

Then I dug out a pattern I had used oh, 36 years ago when my youngest was just a baby and I had purchased some yarn in a very, very pale mint green. I loved the feel of this yarn -it felt kind of like a nice furry sort of eyelash yarn but wasn't that. I still haven't figured out how to describe it. But anyway, I proceeded to make a hooded cardigan out of some of that yarn for Lola along with a pair of baby booties. (Something else I hadn't made in many, many years!)

Then I put up the knitting needles and got out the crochet hook and made a crib blanket for her too. This was probably the easiest of the projects I did for Lola!

I read a couple more books too along the way and then about 3 weeks ago, I decided it was time to revert back to the embroidery again for a spell.

Over the past three weeks, I made an item that is completed as far as stitching goes but it is a sampler-type item that I finished the stitching on it -appropriately -on April 6th, which is my older daughter's birthday and this sampler was intended as a gift for her birthday. Now, to get over to Michael's and select a frame and matte for it and then, fight to get it stretched out so it is tight in the frame and give it to my daughter. It isn't a counted cross stitch sampler -just regular embroidery (stamped) and cross stitch and it says, "Daughter -Always on my mind, Forever in my heart." I showed it to her when she was here for a brief visit this past Saturday to get her thoughts on what type of frame should would like and what color she thinks would show it off best in the matte then too.

Since the 6th of April though, I've been back embroidering other things and thus far, finished a very pretty tabletopper in a bright red with stars and/or snowflakes on it -kind of a Scandinavian-type of Christmas design, finished one set of tea towels and have half of another set of tea towels done now too!

Tomorrow now, I will take a break from the embroidery for a day or so because I have a request from an old friend from my high school days to bake some Swedish Limpa Rye bread for her. She told me she would like to purchase 5 loaves of the bread if that is possible for me to make that many and it just so happens, a batch of that dough will generally yield 5 nice sized loaves of what we call around here
"Kaka" bread. Most of those who make Kaka bread here make the Swedish sweet white flat bread and although I do make that once in a while, my grandkids and the whole family really, now prefers the Rye kakas.

So, that will keep me busy most of the day tomorrow now.

The baking will net me enough money to invest in another large bag of the special rye flour I get for them -with a couple bucks leftover -enough to go buy a beer if I so desire but most likely that won't happen as I rarely venture out to any of the local pubs here any more.

Then it will be back to the embroidery as I am trying to finish as many of the kits as I have stashed away in the hopes of maybe this year, actually getting an Etsy account set up to display the needlecraft stuff and who knows, perhaps even sell a couple items here and there in the process then too!

I also found some websites last night too with instructions on how to take two or three plates and make a tiered serving dish by getting some candlestick holders or even coffee mugs to glue in place between the plates to make the tiers. A local lady had made one of these -a three-tier server -that was really pretty and she brought some type of finger sandwiches or cupcakes on it to my neighbor's daughter's wedding shower awhile back and when she went to leave and someone pointed out to her that she hadn't picked up the plate she had brought that food in on, she replied that we (the women of our church) could keep it as if she needed another one, she would get plates and just make one!

Well, the women of our church group were so taken by this tiered plate that we thought if we could get instructions on how to put one together, perhaps we could gather up some suitable plates and amke a couple of these things and then, sell them at our annual bazaar in November!

So, today when I was in town, I went to the Goodwill Store and checked out their dishes and such to see if I could find something that would work to make into a tiered plate and I came home with two large dinner plates with two matching salad plates along with to clear glass candlestick holders to use as the separators between the plates. I didn't realize it until I got the plates home and was washing them that they are made by Pfaltzgraff and the pattern is called "Perennials" a very pretty springy type pattern. I'm hoping to try my luck at putting these plates together with some kind of epoxy and see how they look.

Maybe, I'll even find time again to take some photographs and post them here too of my latest ventures into the wonderful world of crafts!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Living in the Dark Ages!

Boy, I guess I really am living in the dark ages when it comes to economics, housing costs and such!

I'm going through a bit of turmoil here -not knowing how in blazes to get something ironed out to assure I have a house to come to every day, ya know -and a friend of mine who several years ago moved down south (to the Carolinas) and I were corresponding via e-mail and she casually suggested I might want to consider selling my house here and moving down there.

So, she very kindly sent me some information about some real estate listings, thinking perhaps I might want to consider something or other along the lines of some of the properties shown in the online brochure.

All I can say is WOW!

First off, the listing is for highlands North Carolina real estate -which I gather is in/around Macon County -which apparently is in the mountain region of North Carolina. Okay -I'm lacking in knowledge here since the farthest south I've ever been -on the east coast -is to Camp A. P. Hill, Virginia -so my geographic knowledge of this is extremely limited.

But, I hate to burst my friend's bubble and the kind suggestions she had about my selling out here and moving there, but if I can't afford the place I am and have been living for the past 6 decades, I sure as heck can't afford to sell and move to some place where the least expensive unit runs around $80,000!

And, I also can't see how housing is priced as high as it is these days either for that matter.

My house here may be over 100 years old, but it's solidly built, that much is for sure. It may not be fancy and a decorator home, but it's still my home and I happen to love the old place. And what really gets me is why would I want to sell this old, but very stable house in a quaint little quiet village surrounded here by beautiful rolling hills and woods too -but this house is 1,360 square foot and many of the houses in this brochure are only around 1,000 square foot in size. Sheesh! I grump that I need more room here so how could I fit my somewhat meager belongings into that smaller amount of space then!

And pay, at the very minimum, almost three times as much for a house with 30 percent less (or thereabouts) space to it.

What really does drive the prices of housing up anyway? Is it the square footage, the landscape, the area, proximity to all kinds of conveniences, etc, better employment opportunities? I'm sorry but I have seen, even around here, houses that are old homes like mine, remodeled totally or some maybe just partially redone, that are equally attractive compared to the houses that are listed for $200,000 and up, up, up from that.

Sorry, but I guess I just don't grasp the inflation on the costs of housing today!

Seven Years!!!

A special day today in this household -for sure -as it just so happens to be Kurt's birthday!

My special little prince turned seven years old today.

This isn't the most recent picture I have of Kurtis but it's one that I like a lot and it was taken by Miss Maya, using her V-tech camera. She did all the "fancy-schmancy" stuff around the picture all by herself!

Tonight, he doesn't look anything like this as he's starting now to show the wear and tear from a birthday party with 8 other kids here, lots of pizza and chips and dip to eat plus some fancy cupcakes Mandy ordered at work from her boss's wife -who does a lot of special baking for people. She made cupcakes, some in yellow cake, the rest in chocolate (and I have to say these were the best and moistest cupcakes ever) then she frosted the yellow cakes with a thick, creamy chocolate icing and the chocolate ones with a really super-good peanut butter frosting. Some of the cupcakes had a little pirate flag on them while others had a little slip of candy made from the frosting, that was decorated a bit to look like a buccaneer or pirate.Anyway, the cupcakes were really cute and very, very good!

Kurtis has been pretty much overwhelmed though with presents -like two small remote controlled cars and a remote controlled helicopter too, a mock-up of the solar system that sits on a little light and illuminates the sky to reveal all the planets and constellations. (This was a really cool gift for him from his TSS, Miss Dawn, who knows how interested he is in the solar system and how much he can point to and rattle off what the items is, location in the sky and lots of trivia about many of these things in outer space. Incredible to me because at my advanced age, I am lucky if I can name most of the planets, much less to be able to identify them and give you any trivia information about any of those things and yet, here he is, just seven years old, and he knows all kinds of stuff now -already -about our solar system.

But the big -really big gift and a surprise to him too -was a three wheel big -along the lines of one that my son had when he was about Kurt's age -which the rider sits down very low to the ground, pedals like crazy and can also make this bike do spins and turns and such. Needless to say, when he saw this bike, he forgot all about the Ford Mustang Remote control car his Aunt Kathy got him and the Camero remote controlled car that I got him as well as the remote controlled helicopter he got from Aunt Carrie too! From that point on, he's been fascinated with this bike and trying to see how many stunts he can do with this thing!

Oh, and also -it's been a fairly calm day -all things considered -with only 2 or 3 minor meltdowns from kids other than those who reside here!

And, I only saw Maya once while Kurt was opening and raving about his birthday presents where she was counting how many presents he got today.

Maybe Maya is beginning to mature a bit now and not be quite as jealous of her brother as she has been. It's not been unusual for her to count his presents for a birthday or at Christmas and then, lock that information away in her mind until the next gift-bearing type rolls around again when she will whip out exact numbers of presents that she received and compare that number to how many she says Kurt received for the last holiday/gift time!

I spent the day though doing virtually nothing except embroidery work! Finished a pair of terry tea towels in a cute, dainty little floral design and earlier this week, I completed a tabletopper made with white stitching on a red cloth in a Scandinavian type of design kind of like a snowflake but not quite. Really pretty item -in my opinion anyway!

And now, I'm so tired and it's very early in the night too -like 9:00 p.m. -and about ready to fold up like an accordion and crash!

But not before I finish this with the best love and wishes to my sweet little Kurtis on his seventh birthday! Hope there are many, many more birthdays ahead for you, Kurtis, and that Grammy will be around to share the fun of those days with you for many years to come too!

Friday, April 12, 2013

This Year's Performance!

Spring brings a lot more in this region than grass turning greener and flowers beginning to pop up out of their winter sleeping spots!

At our school, each year for well over 10 years now, there is a play that has always been extremely well done, great youth performers and a fantastic director who presides over the entire production.

This year is no exception in the "great workmanship" department but it is also something entirely new too.

This year's musical was put together by two students at our school and one of the kids responsible for it just happens to be the niece of my son's girlfriend!

The name of this year's production is "Canteen" and it centers on entertainment centers of the war years with a big emphasis then on our veterans and the importance of those men and women who protect our freedoms in this land.

I have no idea whatsoever what type of equipment the Drama Club has available to use during these presentations. They may be improvising with older equipment but whatever it is they have, the people operating this stuff really do a great job and definitely deserve a lot of credit too -along with the performers -for their workmanship.

I've only missed a couple of their plays over the years but I can sure attest to never having been disappointed at any that I've been able to go see!

If you're in the vicinity of the West Branch Area High School this weekend and want to see and hear some great musical talent, go see the school play -runs Friday nite and Saturday nite too! You won't regret it, that's for sure!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

April Showers?

This morning I woke up to some nice warm weather. Sunshine too! A beautiful warm spring breeze as well.

My first thought was that finally, spring has arrived!

I was a bit energized by the warmth inside the house -without having to shell out oil and electricity for that -and outside too, as I even opened the window on the west side of the living room along with the kitchen door to allow for a little flow of cross-ventilation for the first time in 2013!

Now, dishes done, kitchen floor scrubbed and clean and Sam and I took a longer walk today too. For the occasion I even broke bad and dug out a pair of knee-knocker pants to show off my death white legs in all their ultra-shiny beauty! No jacket either as Sam and I set off to see the sights.

We took our normal route down the road, down to the end of the pavement and just across from the sewage plant (yes, that's one of the lovely things one can see when you stroll down the lane here.) At the sewage plant though, which is where we normally swing around and head back up the road to the house, today we veered off our beaten track and went up the old stripping road, up to the old railroad track, where the reclamation project took place and is pretty much completed now.

We walked along where the railroad trackage had once been, on the side of the hill behind my neighbors across the road from my place and got to see up close the work that had been done and the changes in the contours of the mountainside there. We walked up along the track close to 3/4 of a mile I would estimate to where the one mountain sort of just rolls into the side of the next mountain -a sight I've never seen before in all my years here and I just marvel at how perfectly beautiful it is where those points come together.

Now, back home, and watching the tv before the kids arrive home from school, I see by the bulletin across the bottom of the screen that this day that started out so nice and springy and warm, is about to have a severe turn around here shortly.

Severe thunderstorm warnings are up now for several counties to the west of ours as well as for Clearfield County -which is where I live. In addition to the severe thunderstorm warnings, they are cautioning also about heavy winds being possible at speeds up to 70 mph!

UGH! Now that forecast just put a dent in my nice springtime attitude.

Even though I do remember that April Showers bring May flowers and all of that good stuff, that doesn't mean I have to like it when the showers turn into electrical and high wind storms!

Some Really Nice News!

Last week, a young couple -friends of the family -who have been together for a number of years now (six years to be precise) posted on Facebook -on April Fool's Day -about their thoughts pertaining to each other, how much each enjoyed and appreciated the many things the other did and those posts were then followed by a picture of a woman's hand with a big old diamond on it!

At first, I think many of us -their friends -thought the ring photo was a part of an elaborate April Fool's joke -as they sometimes do like to prank people but then they clarified things that yes indeed, they were now engaged.

A couple days later, he posted some questions -as did the bride-to-be -asking about places around this region where they could hold the kind of wedding they wanted to have, which would entail an outdoor setting, preferably in/around an old barn.

And since they asked for information along those lines -and I only know one barn setting in this region -as well as suggestions about planning a reception, etc., etc., I thought maybe since they are living down in the state of North Carolina they might be interested in checking out this site which is about Raleigh wedding photography but which I thought might give them some ideas of things they could incorporate into planning their own very special day!

She's one of the prettiest young ladies I know and he is handsome as can be plus, they both have stellar personalities too. I'm really looking forward to whatever they decide to have as they begin the next phase of their relationship together, as man and wife!

Pretty Is....

Yesterday afternoon, Maya and I ended up having a long discussion about a lot of things -a pretty much "soup-to-nuts" kind of chat, as much as one can do that with a young girl who is 9 but thinks she's going on 18, at the least.

Not all the time, but some of the time, she seems to operate that way and yesterday was one of those days.

It started when she came home from school and she came out into the kitchen and just stood, quietly by the end of the kitchen island, with this little smile on her face. No words, just this smile.

I was in the process of trying to keep Kurtis on track to do his homework and to pay attention to what he needed to do, not just what he wanted to do so my mind was a tad distracted at first.

Then, I did a bit of a double-take as I noticed something different on Maya.

Hmmmm. She had lipstick on!

Not a really thick coating, but a thin, light coloring and having just come in from school, I was wondering then when and where she had applied this to her mouth.

So I asked her, "Where'd the lipstick come from, Maya?"

Got her standard answer to that - "I don't know."

What do you mean you don't know? If you don't know, who would? Did the lipstick fairy just casually flit down in school or on the bus and put that on your lips? Again, her response was "I don't know."

And she wonders how I know when she's lying to me!

We went round and round about this with my questions and her consistent response that she didn't know how this had happened.

I told her to go wash her face and especially her mouth, to get rid of that lipstick. An order that she didn't like at all and the tears began -the prelude to a potential meltdown  Defiant, oh yes, (she is that, for sure) and procrastinating about cleaning that off, arguing with me the whole while.

Finally, she did wash her face and did a pretty decent job of removing all traces of the color from her lips and I called to her to come out in the kitchen. I told her I wanted her to sit on one of the bar stools there and that I wanted to talk to  her.

The immediate reaction she had to that was that I was going to punish her and I quietly told her no, I just want to talk to you about some things while I am fixing supper. And I started off by reminding her of something that she knows full-well neither her mother or I like it when she lies to us and we would both appreciate it if she would be honest, to tell the truth.

"But then, I'll get in trouble, won't I?" she asked. I told her not near as much trouble as you'll end up in if you continue to lie!

I proceeded again then to ask her about the lipstick -where did she get it and when had she applied it. She then informed me that she had removed a tube of it from my shelf in the medicine cabinet and had put it on. (I still don't know exactly when she had done that part.)

So I asked her why she did that and her answer to that was "Because I wanted to look pretty." And as she said that, I could see the tears welling up in her eyes.

Taking her sweet little face into my hands, I looked into her eyes and (near tears myself then) I told her she didn't need anything at all to make herself look pretty as she was beautiful just the way she is!

Her expression changed then as she looked at me, a bit astonished and said "Am I really, Gram?"

Oh yes, baby, you most certainly are as you are the prettiest little girl ever! And I went on to explain to her that girls her age who mess around with make up and lipstick and such, don't make themselves look prettier because it is not appropriate for their age to do that. And even girls in their teens who pile on gobs of makeup don't really make themselves look prettier by doing that. If anything, it makes them look more on the lines of being ugly and not fresh and clean.

I added if she wanted to put something on her lips that she should just take a little chapstick or a clear lip gloss and put that on as it would protect her lips from getting all chapped and would give them a little bit of a glisten that is much prettier than using lipstick.

This morning, Mandy had a go-round with her too -not about lipstick -but about wearing flip-flops to school and Maya's reasoning there was because all the other girls were doing that and she just wanted to be like the rest of the girls!

And Mandy told her then pretty much the same as what I was trying to get across to her -to dress appropriately, and to not become just another face in the crowd, all the kids trying to look the same type thing, but to be an individual.

Don't know how well or how much of our lesson to her was actually absorbed but hopefully, a little of it may have registered.

And so it begins -she is still a couple years away from the beginning of the dreaded teenage years and already that need -the peer compatibility thing -is kicking in!

We don't refer to her as the "little diva" for nothing, ya know!

Monday, April 08, 2013

Hop aboard for a Good Ride!

I have friends -a couple who used to live up in this region -who have been residing for a little over 30 years now in the Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg region of Florida.

They've been after me ever since they moved down there to come visit them sometime. I'd really love to be able to do that -to go down there and much as I would dearly love to make the trip down there, I know too that just is never gonna be in the cards for me.


Because my finances just won't allow for me to travel that far!

However, know this couple the way I do, I can just envision that if I were to fly down there -or even take a train or a bus -they would be crazy enough to show up to pick me up using the limo service St Petersburg -or some other means such as that, to take me back to their fine abode!

Yeah, that would be just like them to pull a stunt like that, for sure!


Here it is, Monday morning -the start of another week of school for the kids and a lovely day outside too.

And for me, this week may be starting out looking nice and pretty and all that, and I may have weathered one small potential this morning for a meltdown with Miss Maya -see my post below this one for that story -it seems my body is still in a recuperative state!

This weekend, because of a little goof-up, Mandy made plans to take the kids and go visiting with some friends down south of us but hadn't received any notification about a wedding that was to take place at our church on Saturday. Now, since she is the sexton there, and she had already cleaned the church on Thursday, in preparation for Sunday's service, she was a bit in a panic as to how she could make her planned trip since the wedding would mean the church would have to be given a bit of a touch-up cleaning job -running the vacuum, checking that things were all in order, etc.

And so, that's how I came to volunteer then to go out Saturday evening and do that touch-up cleaning work for her.

And, overall, that was okay -things weren't in disarray and just had to run the vacuum a bit to make sure any little stragglers that may have been inadvertently left behind from attendees at the wedding were all scooped up and taken care of then.

What I didn't count on though is the vacuum cleaner that was recently purchased for use in the church.

Man oh man! Is that thing ever HEAVY! I don't know what brand it is -didn't pay any attention to that -but it is one really heavy piece of equipment, that much I can say for sure!

And as a result of vacuuming the carpet throughout the church, my right hand felt like it was going to develop blisters in that area between the thumb on one's index finger from trying to hold on to the handle of the vacuum and by the time I was finished, the muscles in my back, just barely below my ribs, were really stiff and sore too from trying to maneuver this equipment around!

Add to that, the electrical cord, which kept getting under foot on me and tripping me every doggone time I turned around -or so it seemed anyway!

And those sore muscles are still evident now today even after a day of rest and much sleep -such as I had yesterday when I just couldn't seem to wake up most of the day! (No, I don't think all of that sleepiness was just from running that vacuum but rather was because my son showed up here bright and early Sunday morning -like at 7 a.m. -and woke me up then -about 2 hours before I had planned on rising!)

But it does just go to show you how easy it is to do something that is a bit off one's beaten track -with respect to muscles required to be used -and how quickly one can end up more than a bit stiff and sore from the use of said muscles that rarely get put to work every day!

And, as one ages, those things happen a whole lot more frequently than ever before too, ya know!

Just saying that's my reasoning for the stiff and sore areas in my back and arms this morning. A little Icy Hot on those spots and hopefully, things will settle down and bounce back to normal in short order!

Alarm System Needed?

Well, good morning!

Sun is shining nice and bright here today. Temperatures are very comfortable too for early in the morning so things were looking to be the start of a good day for me and for the grandkids too as they were getting ready for school.

That is, until Miss Maya actually walked out the front door on her way to board the school bus.

She stepped out of the house and immediately came back in, with tears welling up in her eyes and the crying had already begun.


Because she missed the school bus!

Now, how in blazes did this happen anyway?

Maya is meticulous about clock watching -particularly in the morning so that she is out and at the bus stop usually at least 1-2 minutes before the bus even starts coming into view and up to the stop here.

I'm thinking what must have happened is that either our clocks have begun to run slow or some such thing like that or perhaps the bus driver's clock is a touch faster than ours -or maybe today, the driver didn't have kids waiting at a stop or two and therefore, was a trifle early arriving here.

What ever the reason though, I wasn't prepared for the catastrophe that ensued with Maya sobbing about having missed the bus. My kids, when they were that age, thought missing the bus was something to be celebrated, for sure.

I got to thinking about this though after I took Maya up to the school and dropped her off, as to how to avoid this ever happening again. (I know -fat chance of avoiding this kind of mishap with two kids who have a lot of school years still ahead of them, right?)

But, when I think about stuff in terms of what could possibly be done to avoid things, sometimes my mind does veer off a good bit to the illogical side of life, one could say, I suppose.

And I was thinking maybe if we had a sound system rigged up with a kaossilator rigged up to set off some programmed sound that would give us an audio alert that the bus had made the turn at the end of our street and was actually enroute up the road, heading towards the bus stop, that would be one way to eliminate the missed bus, wouldn't it?

Okay  a little bit impractical, I know -but what the heck can one say or do when you are grasping at straws to eliminate the potential that lies below the surface for a meltdown?

You do then just that -grasp for straws, for sure!

The View....

If, when I do my posting here, it seems I'm spending a lot of time writing about my view as I walk the mutt, it's because recently we had a big change put forth here in this little village.

And it amazes as well as entices me.

For as long as I can remember, the view from the front yard at my home has been to look up the hillside, across the road from my house, and near what is apparently the crest of that hill, all you could ever see was trees and a man-made landscape behind those trees.

This village came about via the coal mining industry a little over 100 years ago when the coal mining town of Peale -which was built in about 1884 -started to become defunct as the mines in Peale began o wear out and new mines were started a couple of miles just to the west of Peale then.

My great-grandparents (on my Mom's side) came here in the early 1880s -from Sweden. My great-grandfather came over in 1880 and my great-grandmother and the five children they had then, arrived in 1881 or 1882 -thereabouts.

When Great-grandpa arrived, he came to a little mining town in Lycoming County -called McIntyre and that's where he was working and living when my Great-grandmother and the children (3 of my great-uncles and my oldest great-aunt) came to join him. Their residence there lasted until October of 1884, at which time, the coal company moved the residents of McIntyre, by train, up to this new place in Clearfield/Centre Counties (it's partly in Clearfield County, partly in Centre County -with the Red Moshannon Creek being the line dividing the town county-wise.)

Then, in the 1890s, as the mines in Peale were closing down, my great-grandparents and the family -which by that time consisted of several more children -like 6 more additions for a total of 11 living children born to the family- then bought property in the adjacent town to Peale, known as Grassflat, and built what for the next 40-50 years was the family homestead you could say.

The landscape then when they built that house in the 1890s looked a bit different than it did by the time I was born and grew up here.

As long as I could remember when you looked across the road towards my Great-grandparents house, all you saw up behind their house were piles and piles of dirt, mounded high with a huge slash in the ground behind those big lumps and on the other side of that big slash, a very steep "high wall" which then all changed the original contour of the hillside in the town.

This was the remnants of a coal stripping operation which probably was a working site -I'm guessing -maybe in the early 40s, to the 50s here. I don't remember any heavy equipment working in this particular part of the stripping cut so that's why I think that's when the operation there took place.

So I grew up with that being the norm as far as the landscape on what would be the southeastern part of my view from my house.

On the northern side of town -there was another stripping cut too but that one, I remember when it came to be -but I don't recall the year, not the exact year anyway. Just that it probably was in the mid-to-late 50s and it really wasn't an operation that lasted all that long either so it must not have been a very good stripping site to have petered out fairly early on.

That site too changed the contours of that part of the village -so that on most every side, the residents had a strip mine cut within view, just beyond some trees that were left behind.

This past fall though the strip mine site on the north side of town was "reclaimed" thanks to the Mine Reclamation Act. Someone got the bid to come in and clear the woods there, bulldoze the piles and piles from the stripping cut and then, grade it back to what is supposed to have been the original contours of that mountainside.

By December or thereabouts, the same contractor came in and did the same thing to the stripping cut on the south-easterly side of town and the view from the front of my property was also changed then in an effort to make the mountainside look like its original contour over 110 years ago!

I went on a search and destroy mission here through pictures I have taken that might give a little more idea of what the landscape I was familiar with looked like just a few years ago and then, what it looks like now, since the reclamation has been done.

This photo below is at the intersection of Cooper Two Road and Clearfield Street -just down the street from my house. The center section there -between the Y in the two roads -no longer looks like this. This particular part of the hillside is an area that was strip mined I think in the late 50s and just behind the fir treetops in this photo, is what was left and had never been backfilled before this year.

This picture below here is basically the same view -just a little closer up to the area and this is what that intersection looks like now, since the reclamation is completed on that side of the town. 
This view, from Clearfield Street is a little higher up the hillside and shows a bit more of the mid-section of the hillside -which would be the area where the actual stripping took place and this was taken back when the reclamation work was an ongoing thing there this February.

This picture is of a 4-wheeler path that used to be near the top of Clearfield Street and was one of my son's favorite places to ride his bicycle when he was a kid and also, he once took me for a ride in his VW baja bug, up this path. It went almost straight up and trust me, when you ride up that in a little VW Bug, it almost feels like any time the bug is going to go upside down and then, slide down that hill on its roof! One of the things my son loved to do to me -for openers -and also, one of the things he kind of laments now is no longer there -having been bulldozed this winter and then, smoothed over to restore the old, pre-stripping, contours of that particular hillside.

I was hunting for pictures that might show a bit of the way the hillside on the southern exposure here used to look and how it looks now but can't locate any pictures that actually show very much as my little camera doesn't do all that well with taking snapshots from afar and expecting to show any real stuff that really shows the remnants of the old stripping cut. That hillside had grown up so much over the years into woods that pretty well hid the stripping piles that you can't make them out unless you know exactly where they were.

I'm trying to figure out a way now though to get some closer photos of that particular hillside now that it is almost completed and just having the finishing touches on smoothing the ground over. One area up the street from my house -about where that particular stripping cut began now has a very rolling contour to the hillside and is a beautiful sight to see!

What I'd really like to be able to do but doubt I can get the kind of shot I'd like is to show how the hillsides on both sides of the valley (or perhaps you could call it a gully) where I live and how the ground looks so pretty now without those big old mounds of leftovers from the stripping jobs.

Every time I walk Sammy and look over from one hillside to the other, it reminds me of how beautiful this area had to have been when my great-grandparents first came here and now, my grandkids can see if the way it should look -showing off the real beauty around this little area.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Coming Up?

Well, the weekend is over and what a nice, pleasant one it was too!

Beautiful weather with temps very comfortable and lots of lovely sunshine to help keep moods more than a bit sunny too!

It was sooooo nice that not once did I have to wear my heavy winter jacket when I took Sam out for his walks and I love that!

Of course, around these hills, at this time of year, it can always reverse course too sometimes and Mother Nature may decide to wallop us yet again with a bit of snow or ice and freezing temperatures but I sure hope she stays cool, calm and collected and doesn't pack one of those punches on us.

However, I had switched off from my regular winter jacket a few days back when it was more than a bit on the, shall we say, nippy side, and decided to try out a jacket that I got as a "hand-me-down" from a friend who had been cleaning her closet. It's a very nice jacket -a bit light-weight compared to my normal winter jacket but for me, it fits very tightly -actually too tight for my tastes and comfort. I like the fabric of it because it is totally wind and waterproof -kind of, I assume, like ski jackets maybe? But I can't for the life of me figure out how to fasten it at the neck for a very close fit there that keeps the wind from blowing through and freezing my ears!

That's also the biggest gripe I have too with my heavy winter coat as the hood on it is a bit on the loose side and to keep the furry trim from blowing around in my face, I have to wear a ski-type hat, pull the hood up and then, wrap a scarf around the neck to keep it all in place and not have the edge of the hood fall over and around my eyes!

The jacket bestowed on me is just the plain waterproof fabric, so it really doesn't provide the kind of comfort warmth I like but then too, if I can't figure out where to snap the various pieces on to the jacket itself, that does me no good at all then in the protection department for my ears either.

Oh well, here's hoping I won't be needing that much bundling up now with spring actually trying to show its lovely face.


Saturday, April 06, 2013

Today Is....

A Great Day!

The weather here is absolutely gorgeous -sunny, bright -grass is getting greener. The temperature is very nice too -still a bit to chilly for me to go outside without my jacket on, but didn't have to wear my mittens to keep my fingers from freezing, so that's a darned good thing, isn't it?

I'm in the midst of making Swedish Limpa Rye Bread -my favorite thing to bake! It's sitting in my my great big tupperware bowl, all covered up with wax paper, tea towels and a couple lap robe blankets cover it and doing its first rise now.

So while that is working -without my having to do any actual work with the bread dough -I took Simple Sammy for his first walk of the day.

I think he enjoyed the warmth and fresh air as much, maybe even more, as I did! He was zipping all over the place -from one side of the road to the other, sniffing away at the ground then, lifting his head and doing his strut walk as we went down the street towards Peale.

The nicest thing today about walking him is that Peale Road -where the pavement ends and the dirt road begins -is dry today so didn't have to watch every step along the way there for puddles and slippery, slimy mud as it has been most of this week.

When we passed the last residence along our street, the two men (father and son) who live in the trailer there were out in their backyard and had both their dogs out there too. They have a pair of "weiner dogs" -a male and female and I think King is actually Queen's son. Both dogs are very nice -well, they are with me and with Sammy -especially King. Queen pretty much just abides Sammy's sniffing and trying to be friends whereas King will always come running down to the road to greet Sammy.

They are so comical to watch though as both of them will crouch and look at each other in a rather mischievous way. King will do a little yip bark at Sam, then crouch and sniff some more and Sam just strains like crazy on his leash, wanting to be loose and able to really run, chase and frolic with King.

Today is a big day for one member of my family as today is my older daughter's birthday.

If my memory serves me correctly though, 46 years ago today, as I was reposing at Prince George's County Hospital in Landover, MD -waiting patiently (hah, that's a joke) for Carrie's arrival (which didn't happen until about 9:30 that night), I believe the weather was very different that day that it is today. Seems to me it was sort of misting, then spitting showers, then back to misting again and I know it was a lot cooler that day than it is today too. As a matter of fact, that entire spring consisted of a lot of cold and very rainy days.

When my daughter was two weeks old, my Mom, the baby and I came up to our home here in Pennsylvania and spent four weeks here then until I had to return to work and it seemed like every day we were here then it was cold and rainy and even a couple of days when it also snowed a bit too!

Last year, it seemed like it rained almost every single day in the month of May -and it was cold too last year. It was touch and go whether the lawncare company that takes care of our church cemetery grounds would be able to get to the cemetery and get the grass cut in time for the Memorial Day Services, what with all the rain coming down, day after day! Finally about 2 days before Memorial Day, the weather dried up enough that they were able then to get all the cutting done!

So, time now for me to check on my bread and get it sectioned out, make the small "kakas" and place them in cake pans then to rise for about another hour and then, pop them in the oven and get them baked. (Kakas, for anyone unfamiliar with this type of bread baking, is a term the folks around here who are of Swedish descent, use for the loaves of bread they make by forming a section of dough into a circle, rolling it out a little (or in some cases, a lot -individual choice on that aspect), prick holes all over the top of the loaves as they begin their second rise before baking.) I don't know the reason why the bread is shaped that way -by tradition -but it is and I know my kids and grandkids love it and so do I! The bread I make I use layer cake pans to put my loaves in to rise and bake my loaves don't really get all that big around but, because I always add a bit of honey to my bread dough, my rye bread has a little hint of added sweetness to it when it's done.

Jonathon and Aaron, my son's girlfriend's twins (age 8) love this bread and I haven't made any rye bread and taken up to them in quite some time now but today, they'll be receiving two loaves of Limpa Rye bread -one loaf for my son and their Mom and one loaf, just for those boys! Those two boys can devour a whole loaf of my Limpa Rye bread in the sitting for one meal -just the two of 'em! My version of a little spring treat for them, ya know!

This evening now I have to work! Yes, you heard that right -WORK!

Younger daughter, Mandy, is the sexton at our church and she had already cleaned the church on Thursday to have it ready for services tomorrow and made plans then to go down to Lebanon and Gettysburg this weekend to visit with some friends because she hadn't been informed that today, there will be a wedding taking place at our church and she isn't going to be here to clean the narthex and social hall and all the other areas of the sanctuary before services tomorrow so I volunteered to go out this evening and do the cleanup -make sure the carpeting is all cleans and sparkly, any garbage taken to the janitor's closet till it goes out Tuesday night for pick-up and in general, just make sure the whole building is ready and nice and clean. She was a bit upset because things had been a bit mixed up and no one had informed her about this wedding today therefore, she had made plans to go away for the weekend. Gonna have to make sure the wires don't get crossed again like that in the future now!

So, back to the kitchen now and get my bread moving along.

Enjoy the day and hope you have some way in your power to make something that will be healthy and tasty and also scent your entire home while it's being prepared in one of the best smells ever -freshly baked bread!

Nothing like it and a great way to enjoy the day a bit more when you have that to munch on too!

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Just Another Lazy Walk....

That would be me tonight -taking yet another walk, a very lazy one too, down good old Memory Lane.

The funny thing for me and memories is that the further back I go in time, it seems the clearer I remember things!

Much of the time I don't remember diddly squat of what I did yesterday or last week, much less last year. But think about things I did 40, 50 years ago, and wow -things do come there clear as a bell much of the time.

I spent a little over eight years of my life working in Washington, D.C. and most of that time was in the employ of a certain non-profit association, the name of which I won't go into now (although over the years of my blog I have mentioned it by name) but said organization is very much in a high publicity issue now and I don't want to get things confused with that issue.

I will say that I learned a lot while I worked at that place -from just being a clerk-typist when I started there, moved on to learn data entry when they converted their membership department over to an IBM system. After that, I spent time as a "programmer trainee" where I learned a good bit about COBOL programs but even more about how much more one could learn if you had a "sponsor" within a company's walls too. The trainee program for me didn't work out that well because I was too naive then and the prospects that could be gained by "sucking up" wasn't something I understood.

So, I transferred then to the Administrative Services part of the company and the man who was my supervisor there was one great boss, taught me a lot about not just the company but put me in charge of an area that had been faltering and under his tutelage, I learned about putting a program that was very similar to running a Green Stamp type program, finding ways to set  up a catalog that participants in our awards program could use to redeem their awards from various tournaments and such for items that were varied but very attractive and useful.

I knew nothing whatsoever about setting something like this up when my boss told me he wanted to put me in charge of this program. Absolutely nothing!

He started me off by telling me to start looking for general merchandisers as well as specific manufacturers and making arrangements, if possible, then with those I could get to work with us to order items from these various companies and have them "Drop ship" the item(s) requested to the individual at their home addresses.

That part really wasn't too difficult and in a short time, I had made arrangements with over 60 different companies to have selected items of theirs displayed in the catalog I was going to be putting together.

It was in that part of the job that I really had to learn a whole lot of different things -working with layouts, choosing a format and things like that all to get this thing set up and ready for the catalog printing then to take place.

It took me about six months from start to finish -finish being when everything was in order and the catalogs would be printed and back to us for release to those holding awards they wanted to redeem from our now new and improved catalog program.

And by the end of the first year after I started working on this program, for the first time since the program's inception, it showed number in the black instead of the red numbers that had come up in the prior two years!

I was really proud of myself for that achievement as was my boss. He had entrusted me with full responsibility over getting this catalog set up from start to finish and after that, it was up to me to keep those people who placed orders from it happy by processing their orders, handling any complaints or issues with any of the dealers we were working with and also, to continue finding other companies who would work with us in the future when we then revamped the catalog, making it bigger and better about 2 years later

The man who was my boss there in that section was my mentor for sure and to be totally honest, I have never worked for anyone since then who allowed me to pretty much expand my young wings and fly!

To this day, even though it's been over 40 years now since I left that place and moved back here, I still regard him as "my boss!"

Everyone should be so fortunate as to have someone like him to work with and for!,

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Light it up Blue!

Today is a day which has very special meaning to me -World Autism Awareness Day!

Those who I've been blogging friends with for a long time now -going on seven years come this September -know that I'm a Grandma and now, also a Great-Grandma too. I have a grandson, who will be 16 in August, a step-granddaughter who is now 21 and with the birth of her beautiful little baby girl two months ago yesterday, gives me the title of Great-Grandma. My son's girlfriend has three boys -twins who are now 8-year-old and her younger son who will be 5 in September and who are like grandsons to me. Then my younger daughter has two children a girl who will be 10 in October and her son, who will be 7 next week.

And it is because of those last two grandkids I mentioned that World Autism Awareness Day holds a very special meaning to me as both those kids, Maya and Kurtis, have autism.

I won't sugar coat anything here about things in this household and try to imply or impress anyone that trying to raise and cope with two children with autism is an easy-peasy as apple pie kind of thing because, truth be told, it isn't!

Much as I do love and well, let's face it facts being what they are, I adore Maya and Kurtis, really I do, but they can at times be royal little pains in the behind, just like any other 9-year-old or 6-year-old! Boy, can they ever excel at that!

I would also be lying too if I said that I have never wished at times that they didn't have autism because yes, I have done that and I'm pretty sure their mother has had moments too when she wished that Autism wasn't a prime factor for so many things in our lives. We'd both be liars for sure if we ever tried to deny having thoughts like that.

Today though, the realities of my grandson, Kurt and the autism factor and I really came face-to-face, up close and very personal you could say, as today my daughter received a packet from Social Security of what seemed like a kazillion questions pertaining to Kurtis and his abilities or more accurately stated probably would be his inabilities to function the same as is expected from otherwise "normal" 6-year-old boys!

I didn't count how many questions there were but there were -trust me -a whole lot and at the end of those questions was this very tiny block where the person filling out the form could write in further comments, expressing advancements he has made, all kinds of things that my daughter wanted to say about her son, things that are and were and will be important about him, his issues now and for the rest of his life but definitely not near enough space there to explain further anything.

I told her if it were me, I would just fill in there that he has a diagnosis of classic autism and that by itself should actually answer their questions.

I know it doesn't because he is that -yes, in that he does have autism but he is so much more than that -and yet, at the end of the day, it still shakes out to "He has autism!"

I think back though to when he was a baby and we noticed fairly early on many of the same things as had been present in his sister before she began receiving any kind of therapy and well before she was actually diagnosed as being on the spectrum. Her diagnosis though differs from her brother though in that she is PDD-NOS -which simply put means Pervasive developmental disorder -not otherwise specified -and that probably really tells you very little about her and her diagnosis. Suffice it to say, for her, it just means that she has many of the characteristics that describe a person with autism and it can cover a lot of turf with those few letters of the alphabet.

They both have a lot of characteristics/issues alike -sometimes one has more severe issues than the other and sometimes, it seems that they flip-flop too-back and forth! That may just be my interpretation of things on a day when there are more problem areas than there are at other times too though.

Not every child or adult with a diagnosis of autism have the same symptoms or problems or areas that are issues for them. Just as each of us who are considered to be "normal" are each different individuals, so it that truer yet with people who have an autism diagnosis. Each is different!

 I remember vividly though when Maya was first learning to walk and once she got her footing, the walk soon turned into a run in which she seemed to run and skip simultaneously and it always looked like she was kind of running sideways! She was also a "Toe-walker" but then, I recalled when her mother was little, she too was a toe-walker as is my former mother-in-law, who is now hitting close to 90 years of age! So, is that a classic symptom or not of autism -often it is, but it's just one of many things that can and often do come into play.

I don't recall ever being afraid of the diagnosis given to Maya or worrying about it because in my mind it is not a disease, but a disorder and through therapy, behavior modification, other types of stuff like that, she has come a very long way. She's in the 3rd grade, does very well academically and has a memory often like a vice! What goes in there gets locked in there! And sometimes the things she remembers just completely boggle the mind when we find out "Hey, she remembers this or that! Incredible!" because it can be things that you just would never expect a small child to recall!

And, in many respects, Kurtis is the same way -remembers things that you never expect him to recall. He has abilities to plan and put together things with Lincoln Logs and/or Legos that totally boggle my mind when he shows us some of his "engineering marvels" and explains to us what it is exactly that he has built and what it is for, could do in the real world, etc., etc.

But ask him to button his shirt, pull the zipper up on his fly or his jacket and he turns in to 2 hands, each with 5 thumbs! Tie your shoes, Kurtis -another thing that is too high on the expectation list for him to accomplish at this point in time.

His vocabulary is often very good and strong in that he will frequently use very big words and use them in he proper context but he doesn't really comprehend the meaning though of what he may have just said! He's doing very well too academically in his age category and grade level -first grade -but he does have a lot, a whole lot at times -of behavior issues. He recently as diagnosed though as also having ADHD and is now getting medications to help him to focus better, to give him a better way to direct his energies and so far, it does seem to be helping.

Almost 5 years ago though, he had no vocabulary at all. NOTHING! Could not even express to us that he wanted Milk until finally, one of his therapists managed to teach him sign language for the word "more" and he was able then to indicate to us that he wanted More of the milk or other things in his surroundings. It took what seemed at the time like forever to wean him from a bottle to a sippy cup until in the process of doing that, we discovered he had to lie down to drink as he didn't have the muscle tone needed to sit up and hold a bottle, much less a sippy cup upright and drink from it!

Today, most often the first words out of his mouth when he gets up in the morning, when he comes flying into the house as he returns home from school will be "I want chocolate milk!" His world totally revolves around that magical substance, chocolate milk. It solves many problems and cures so many hurts, you just can't imagine the power of that substance until you see him in action with it!

But those are just a few of the things -a very few -about Maya and Kurt and they don't come near to describing what they are really like!

As far as I am concerned, they are absolutely perfection personified! Yes, I am an adoring and doting at times, Grandma! I confess to that for sure! I don't know what my life would be without them and their often quirky, sometimes annoying, frequently mischievous ways!

I do know though that life without them would be very dull, lacking in color, contours, and so many other things that they bring to the forefront here and keep things moving and very, very interesting.

And it's that part that is these two that I would never want to change!

Although, I definitely will say this -I could live quite contentedly though without the meltdowns that crop up from time to time and often over the things you would think least likely to set either or both of them off too! That is just one great big "Go Figure" for sure!

All I want too from others is that they see these two for who they really are and accept them and their talents -which are many -as being valid and often quite outstanding too!

I can't ask people to understand the wheres and whys and what ifs and such when their behavior takes a bad turn but try at least to understand the wiring in their system may have just taken a bit of a short circuit and with a bit of comforting when needed, and yes, even discipline too when necessary, they will turn into a little angle then often, right before your eyes.

So many of the traits they have are no different in many ways than were the things their mother did, or their uncle or aunt too when they were growing up but with Maya and Kurt, often there is this little twist at times to make their actions and reactions just be a trifle off center from others.

Do I have expectations for a great solid future for each of them? I pray for them daily that they receive the therapies they need to continue to grow and mature and eventually become a very worthy contributor to society.

Some things along those lines though of expectations may take them just a bit longer to achieve than it may for others but there will be no giving up on either of them to strive for them to be the best they can possibly be!

Some may say or think that this is dreaming the Impossible Dream but hey, if there's one thing I've always been, it's a dreamer and what better thing then to dream about but for them to have a full and happy life.

I can happen, ya know. Really, it can! You have my word on that!

Vehicular Addiction!

Folks around these hills who know me, generally also know my son but there are a whole slew of folks I do believe who know my son but not me. I doubt anyone though who knows him but not me will see this post but that's okay. I'm hoping maybe my son might see it but even that too is doubtful because he's not really into following the words his old Mom puts forth here.

Although, I can usually count on him to make comments to posts I put on my wall on Facebook and sometimes, the stuff he comes out with there are true to form for him with many of them being very comical and fun to read. Sometimes too, he will wax philosophically or show his truer colors of being much like his Mom and that means he is often also a very sentimental slob.

But the one thing just about anyone who knows my son will recognize about him very quickly is he is addiction, totally, to cars and trucks! And he is extremely partial to older vehicles, especially if they are of the Chevrolet brand!

He has a pick-up truck -I'm going to venture out on a limb here as I am not sure offhand, what year his pickup truck is -either a 1971 or maybe it's a 1973 Chevy and it is an unmistakeable sight on the local roads here too because it is painted a very, very bright (sassy, really) yellow!

Now he baby's that truck as much as is humanly possible to do to with a mechanism like this vehicle is!

Now that he has a beater-type older jeep to run back and forth to the place where he has to park his big truck, during the winter months, he slaps his pickup in the garage so it won't get harmed by the winter elements.

classic car covers for it -well, in his instance, it would have to be truck covers I suppose but you get my drift there, I think, don't 'cha?

Truthfully, I never even thought of this though until today when I stumbled across this website and thought, gee, wonder why he never did invest in something like that?

I was totally surprised too this past Saturday when I drove past his house and saw he had the yellow truck out of its garage spot and all washed up, shined up, looking really spiffy and winter weather isn't totally finished with us just yet! Brave soul he was to bring it out in the early spring air for a shampoo and set maybe you could say.

I know though he wasn't going to take it out much to drive around just yet because of there still being an overabundance of mud around here though.

But as much as he professes to love this ride of his, I really do think the least he could do is buy something to put over it and keep it shinny and nice as well as warm!

He has another vehicular addiction too besides this pickup truck and that would be to old model Volkswagons. He does love, love, love them too and if anyone is crazy enough to strike up a conversation with him and they make mention of Volkswagons, he's sure to launch out with reciting a history report all about VWs and how wonderful they are!

Just a word to the wise there if you don't want him to talk you ear off or you have no interest at all in cars, don't look for conversations about many other things than cars/trucks/Chevy or VWs!

And that's fine, my Favorite Son cause I still love you all the same!