Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!!!

I'm looking forward to wrapping and delivering the final neighbor gifts today and spending the next few days with extended family.

Next week I'll indulge in some computer time.  Until then.......Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

December Daybook

FOR TODAY (Simple Woman's Daybook)

Outside my window...
The sun is just coming up and a hard frost is covering everything.

I am thinking...
Of how I need to stop playing on the computer and plan my weekend activities to be most productive.

I am thankful...
For a new job for Sarah...we've been praying for one.
Good conversations with children.
A warm house on this chilly morning.
Finding new blogs to explore....I have learned and been inspired by so many blogs...

In the kitchen...
Only the coffee pot is going this morning.  John left early for National Guard and everyone else is still asleep. Later I'll cook a crock pot turkey breast for weekend eating.

I am wearing...
Pajamas and a warm fleece robe. 

I am creating...
Christmas gift baskets today.  I received the last ingredients in the mail yesterday. I'm not putting anything off this year and that is a big thing off of my list

I am going...
Shopping with Sarah today to get some items she will need for her new job.

I am wondering...
How in the world I'm going to get the strand of Christmas lights to work that went out at the top of the tree last year.  Decorating it won't happen until I do.

I am reading...
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (free on Kindle) I've always wanted to try out this book and have been rather pleased with it so far.
Give Us This Day  Advent Devotional
Gift of the Sea by Lindberg (reading and soaking up each chapter a little at a time)
I'll be getting the Christmas books out today......

I'm waiting for ....

I am hoping...
To have a productive but relaxed weekend.

I am looking forward to...
Growing in my faith this Advent season.

I am hearing...
I hear a's funny how I haven't heard this so much lately.  I love that sound in the spring and summer and hadn't realized the absence of it. Mostly I've just been hearing squirrels.

Around the house...
Lots of things are halfway done...vacuuming, decorating, switching from Thanksgiving to Christmas....

I am pondering...
How I'm going to get our family together for a Christmas card picture and get them out in time :-D

One of my favorite things...
Sitting in the dark with only the Christmas tree lights on reflecting on the season of Christmas.  It is such a special, quiet time for me.

A few plans for the rest of the week:
-Clean the downstairs
-Finish my Christmas gift baskets
-Mark a few more gifts off of my list
-Decorate a little more
-Practice playing the new liturgical music before Mass tomorrow (or it could be very bad!)
-Bake bread (it's been far too long)

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...

An Advent Wreath given to us by our children and a tree sadly in need of repair.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Day at Home

Early this morning I got up and ready for bus duty.  It's one day a week, and I really don't mind.  I like the time with other teachers and greeting the students as they come off of the buses.  Today was different.  As I was getting my last few things together to walk out the door Sarah asked me why I was up and stirring around.  "You don't have school.  It's all over Facebook." 

I don't have Facebook, and I had checked the river level anticipating it might be high, but I didn't check the school web page or I would have known that it was cancelled.  At least I didn't go to school and then find out....

I have done that before ;-)

I've enjoyed the day at home.  I ran some errands and while I was out snapped this picture of the back way into town.  Unless you drove on the couldn't get in or out.  Once the river crests, it goes down quickly, but the back water can linger.  I didn't get over to the bridge to take any photos..but I'll try to remember next time it floods. 

Flooding is a way of life in our county.  School regularly cancels for running water that covers the mountain roads and back water that sometimes takes days to allow access to many who live behind it.  Snow is also crippling for us.  For the past three years, school has been cancelled at least twenty to twenty-five days during the winter and flooding months. 

Since I live in town, I can generally go just about anywhere I need to go and today was the day to get caught up on some things like car maintenance and stocking up the freezer from our local meat market. After holiday weekends, I'm never quite ready to get back to work and this day was just the thing I needed.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Busy Days

It's been a busy few weeks and I have so many things to write about, but for today...I'll update with pictures.

Big news....I PASSED!  I found out last weekend that I am now a National Board Certified Teacher!  What a relief!  This was one of those things I took on last year and wish I hadn't.  It was so hard and time consuming.  I'm glad it's over. John brought flowers to me :)

Ben is back on the swim team.  He stopped swimming several years ago to focus on scouting and karate.  The coach finally talked him into coming back.  I'm a swim mom again!  I love this activity and have been so happy that we encouraged our children to do this.  They are all good swimmers (which is truly a skill to carry through life).  Emily and Sarah are lifeguards.  I hope Ben gets his certification now too.

None of my siblings could make it in for Thanksgiving, but we still enjoyed a quiet dinner at my Mom and Dad's house. The lighting isn't great in these...but I'll share them editing is definitely something for me to learn soon.

Dad and Mom

Me and John

Ben, Emily, and Sarah

The meal was amazing....and the company just as good.  
I think we may have all had a little too much to eat :) (especially Emily)
I love this picture... (Sarah looked just like the other two until she saw the camera in my hand.)
  I think they enjoyed the meal!

Wiley enjoyed a little turkey too!

Cutting and stacking firewood the next day.

Broccoli growing in the garden....maybe we'll eat it for Christmas if it doesn't freeze too hard.

And Thanksgiving dinner leftovers....
I sauteed an onion, some chipotle pepper, sausage and rice dressing with salsa, threw in a little leftover chopped turkey and served it with melted cheese over chips.  YUM!!! Better than eating out.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Changing Life

I didn't take a close up of the ladies, but this is the college pool.
 In Januay we will move to a new HEATED therapy pool!
When I finally got the nerve up to start this blog, I was going through a lot of life changes like getting older, my children growing up, and just generally not feeling well.  I wasn't sure if it was in my mind or if there was really something wrong. Now I finally have an answer.  I have hesitated to blog about it, not wanting to complain, but it is changing my life and  is part of what I deal with now.  I knew I hurt more than I should and after ten months and lots of blood work, I now have the "official" diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis.  While I was working through all of that, I learned that I also had early signs of macular degeneration and osteoarthritis.  Recently my eyes have gotten worse due to dry eye causing corneal abrasions (probably a side attraction of the Rheumatoid arthritis). Thankfully this is improving quickly with treatment but my vision was compromised significantly for a while and really caused some frustration.

All in all, it's been a lot to take in at once...crippling arthritis and loss of vision! I find that I go through the adjustment pretty quickly...first, disbelief, then tears and grief (usually over in about thirty minutes), and then resignation.  The only thing is, I know I have been a little more quiet and pensive to those around me....not always responsive when I should be. I've tried not to feel sorry for myself and most of the time am successful, but it does get a little overwhelming at times.

I often remind myself how these conditions are treatable.  However, it has and will significantly change my life.  The rest of my journey is going to be much different than I ever envisioned.  I have always been in control and independent.  The bigger the challenge the better.  Now, big challenges are just too big. Things have gradually changed.  I am now really glad when I don't have to drive so much (teenagers are coming in handy!).  I no longer work myself to death getting something finished.  I'm in bed much earlier at night. I have to pace myself.  For the most part, I've been able to keep doing everything I've wanted to, do but with a little more difficulty.  Take the garden project...that would have been tackled completely two years ago.  I think though...this more methodical way might be better. The things I love to do like sewing, needlework, playing piano at church, gardening, backpacking and hiking may become harder and at some point, even impossible.

I'm learning to take better care of myself.  I am watching my diet, taking preventive steps, and investigating all the treatment options available.  I started water aerobics back in the spring (at the college) and have met the nicest bunch of ladies there.  We meet three nights a week (I go as much as possible, but some weeks don't make it at all!).  They are the sweetest people full of nothing but kindness.  Exercise is a little iffy other than that...but I have hopes to work on some core strengthening. 

The most wonderful thing about this whole year has been that I've slowed down.  I'm taking things in, pacing myself and just enjoying each and every moment.  I've noticed that now I don't procrastinate as much and even though I don't feel like I'm working as hard, it seems like more is getting accomplished. I'm really feeling good about moving forward. 

For the next few months, I'll have more appointments, more adjustments, more acceptance....but best of all, more chances to soak in this beautiful, wonderful life. It has been a hard year.  I've lost special people in my life and had some unpleasant health news....but I've also developed closer friendships, I've met new friends, stretched my faith, learned to accomplish things slowly and to savor every moment. isn't the same anymore...but these changes seem to be bringing as much good into my life as not...maybe even more.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Garden Update

     Back in the summer, I began making plans for downsizing our garden and relocating it due to growing trees blocking out the sunlight. I drew them up and then decided that I didn't want to take on too much.  We settled on building two beds to see how it worked out.  We ordered our garlic and onions (first time for garlic!) from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. 

 Last weekend we bought the wood, compost and peat that we'd need and then on Tuesday, Ben and I got started since school was out for Election Day. 

 In keeping with my new rhythm of working in small increments, I stopped when I got tired....even though only one bed was finished.  It turned out to be the right decision.  I took time over the next few days to read more about raised bed gardening and spacing.  Then I modified my plans accordingly.

When we placed the second bed on Saturday I felt good about how it will work out. Later, I'll add another bed in between these two.  I wanted to build several beds to be used for extended season growing, so I planned this covered wagon set up. In the spring I'll cover the frame with plastic to shelter fragile plants.  The tubing is removable for summer growth. I like it so far.  I feel very comfortable with this new way of growing things.  You can see the old garden just beyond the new beds.  I'll slowly fill in the low parts and seed it over starting at the tree line.

I sorted the garlic and planted it.  I'm planning on keeping a garden journal ,so I took the time as I planted to note the date, conditions, and the planting location of each variety.

It was a beautiful fall weekend that was perfect for outside work. Beds were cleaned out....and I used my pine straw mulch that I had gathered a few weeks ago. 



We've been steadily working toward winter.  Slowly but surely, we are tidying up garden beds and winterizing the house and outbuildings. There is nothing more peaceful or gratifying to me than working outdoors.  The sun was shining and the wind was blowing steadily, bringing storms to us later in the night.

I'm coming to grips with the upcoming cold weather and instead of dreading it as much as I was, I'm beginning to appreciate the change of seasons.  I've always liked winter...but this year have been slow to welcome it.  Being outside makes me appreciate every aspect of the changes heading our way.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Busy Week

This past week has been so full of activity.  I have really tried to just live in each moment.  I'm working on letting go of the stress of everything that still needs to get done around the house.  I'm looking for a new rhythm and think I'm on my way to finding it.

I've tried to take more pictures, but haven't been very consistent.  I need to learn more about taking pictures with my phone because it is just so convenient.  I also haven't spent much time learning to use photo editing software...that's just another item on my "things I'd like to learn" list. I could also add to that list not moving my phone too quickly after I've taken a picture! 

Here's a picture of Ben before a Halloween party last Friday night.   Unique, easy, and comfortable....I loved his costume choice!

Before John left for active duty on Sunday, Ben tried to give him a tutorial on "hashtags on Twitter".  I love this picture.  It is such an example of the generational differences in how we deal with technology. 

(not sure if I got that right...I"m still not on "The Twitter" as Betty White would say).
John loves technology,and so do I, but not quite as much. A lot of days I could just live without it. I think limits are incredibly important when dealing with it. Sometimes it seems the whole idea of Clouds, Twitters, Facebooks, etc. just are too big to wrap your head around. Neither one of us is on Facebook.  We made that decision two years ago and I have not felt left out enough yet to sign up.  Sometimes I'm the last to find things out, but I don't mind the trade off. 

Tuesday was the busiest day of the week with a dog appointment, college admissions fair, eye appointment, and evening Mass.
Wednesday morning dawned and was amazing.  I was at work extra early to meet a student teacher and was treated to this incredible site outside my classroom window......

It has been a reminder to me all week to look for the beauty everywhere.

We celebrated my mother's birthday Wednesday night and I realized as we left the restaurant that I hadn't taken any pictures....I'm going to have to do better on that front. My parents moved closer to us three years ago.  After living away from them for over twenty years, it has been a wonderful time together.  I am cherishing every moment.

The week closed out with afternoon tea with my neighbor and friend.  I chose to ignore all of the things needing my attention at home and we spent several hours just having "girl time".  I believe it is so important for women (and men) to establish a network of friends.  Afterward, we took a walk down the street to the college for some fall pictures.
This is one of my favorite trees in our whole town, but it wasn't quite at peak that day. 
Ginkgo trees are absolutely amazing in the fall!

John came home for the weekend before heading back to Fort Knox on Sunday afternoon.  Too late, we realized that if I had joined him at Fort Knox, we could have had a get away weekend. 
 As it was, we enjoyed our new rhythm and got two projects we've been planning underway. That will be another post (I've tried to remember to take pictures).

All in is so good. Even when days are difficult or frustrating with a variety of challenges, I have to remind myself of all the good.
I could spend every minute of every day being thankful and it still wouldn't be enough for all the blessings in my life.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Summer Is Over

Remember this box?

It's the one from the shed I cleaned out back in July.  It holds green fabric awnings that we put up in the summer and take down in the fall.  When the weather warms up at the end of May, we work together to hang the awnings.  We live on a fairly busy street and they provide a lot of privacy. 

We spend most of our time on the screened porch during the summer. It adds a whole room to our house during warm months.   
This year I had big plans to recover the cushions, paint and  re-purpose some of the furniture around the house to make it a real outdoor room. 
Unfortunately, around August, I realized it wasn't going to happen this year and put my energy into other projects.....maybe next year.
Mid-October, depending on the weather, they have to come down. 
They have to be dry for at least three days before we pack them away for another season.
Tuesday was the day. 
Rain was coming and it was just too chilly to be enjoyable out there any more. 

It's a big job.
Our next door neighbor paid us a visit while we took them down and expressed her dismay that we were officially declaring summer over. 
That's the way it feels. 
Awnings down....Summer over.

The neat thing about these awnings is that they came with the house.  It's just one more thing to appreciate about this amazing old house.  We have them for the upstairs windows too. It is just "old fashioned know how" at its best. They cool the house immensely during the summer.
We take them down for the house to soak up the heat of the sun during the winter.

It was too dark to take a picture when we finished, so here is what it looks like today.

This weekend after the storms blow through, we'll be raking leaves for the garden.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Saturday Afternoon

Lately, I have been making an effort to live in the moment.  I try to accomplish the daily tasks around the house, but I am consciously making an effort to just stop and enjoy every moment as much as possible.  Yesterday afternoon the weather was amazing so I put anything possible off and enjoyed the day.

John and I walked to the edge of town and through the flood gates to climb this doesn't look very tall, and it really isn't, but it does provide a decent workout, beautiful scenery, and views at the top.

We walked around the back of the hill and up an old logging road.
Our town. 
There was still a lot of foliage blocking the best views...we'll have to go back soon to get more pictures :)

A little way down the steep side of the hill is a rock that John played on as a child.  He and his buddies named Ledge Rock. As a boy, he would hike up with a pot and a can of soup, build a fire and make lunch.  We ventured onto the rock (which I'm sure was much easier for fearless little boys) and spent a few minutes soaking up the sounds of the woods around us before we headed back down into town.

On the way down....
We finished the day with evening Mass and dinner with my parents and Ben. 
I like this deliberate living that I've been working on.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Beautiful Butterflies

Tuesday I worked in the yard ahead of a coming storm.  I hurriedly took care of some garden tasks that needed to be done before the rain.  Every other year I harvest a layer of pine needles to use as mulch around my hosta plants.  Somewhere I read that it deters slugs...I think this might be accurate.  The hostas haven't died off yet though, so I bagged up the top layer of needles and set them under the porch for use later in the fall.  I was careful not to take to many so the trees get the nutrients they need.  I think I've taken too many in the past.  I'm much more careful about doing that now. It 's much easier to do this before they get wet and covered up with fall leaves.

I have hopes to grow more greens this winter so I pulled this old frame out of the shed.  I'll try to repair it and have it ready to use before the frost/freeze forecasted for later this week.

While I was out in the back of the yard working on this, I looked up and saw five Monarch butterflies on the few sunflowers I have left. It's taken a lot of will power throughout the summer to leave them in the garden when I could envision how pretty they would be in vases around the house.  I was tempted to pull them when I realized they were keeping my fall cabbage from getting enough sunlight.  I resisted though because I really wanted to leave them out for the birds.  I never expected butterflies like this:

I started snapping as many pictures as I could. I take all my pictures with just the phone I carry in my pocket, and I didn't think it would do their beauty justice, but I am pretty pleased with these unedited shots.


They danced around the flowers, pulling away once they realized I was there.  I backed away and there they were again. I felt like this little guy was just staring me down.  Clearly I moved more than he did!

 I am so glad that I left that little source of nourishment out for them on their journey.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Country Mouse

I had a really good weekend.  I took the day off Friday to rest and recuperate from a very hard week.  There was a lot to do around the house, however....I didn't do any of it.  I rested.  That is what I really needed.  After everyone left for the day, I relaxed on the couch.  After a while, I got up, worked a little, and the took an afternoon nap.  I never nap but it was great.  The day was exactly what the "doctor" ordered. 

Saturday, I followed it up by getting up and on the road to Lexington by 6:00 AM.  Yes, not just up...but ON THE 6 AM.  John had National Guard so we went along for the weekend and spent it with Emily at her apartment.  Sarah held down the fort and was amazing (She cleaned, did laundry for me, and studied all weekend)!  I came home to piles of folded, ready to put away laundry...fantastic!

I had a long list of things to accomplish in the "city". We live in a small town and selections are often just not available.  Ben needed clothes...he's still growing and we put off buying pants until the weather has gotten cold enough that I can't send him to school in shorts every day. We got an early start on the stores Saturday morning and were finished in record time (boys are much easier than girls).  I did some "stocking up" shopping of all the things I can't find at home. We had a nice dinner together with John and then I went out with Emily for some "mom and daughter time".  I rarely get that with her and enjoyed every minute.

We returned home after John finished up on Sunday, took a walk in the beautiful fall air and just relaxed until it was time to get ready for the week.  It was just a really nice weekend.

Here are some things that I learned from our shopping trip to Lexington:

1. Boys usually know what they want and will choose not to buy something rather than try it on.

2. I have conquered my desire to purchase things....of all the shopping and stocking up that I did (I only go about once every three months), I came home with one item just for me.....a new Rubbermaid mop. I know...I'm just so exciting.  I love it.  Hopefully the floors will be a little cleaner now....but I wouldn't count on it....there's nothing wrong with hoping though.

 3.  Sam's Club no longer has power over me....I can go in and out and only buy what is on my list. I only bought what I could not buy locally.  I like that.

4. The store I went to in Lexington didn't stock the same amount of baking products as our little stores do.  An example was a huge grocery store had less flour on their shelf than the smallest of our stores at home.  I thought that was so interesting.  Less flour and more people.  What does that mean?  Was it just that store...the market....or is the economy so much better in that area that people spend more income on prepared food...the questions are endless and I'd like not to speculate, but find it hard.....

5. I am really out of touch with what is truly available to consumers out's the one picture I took this weekend ....and you'll never guess what this gigantic selection is.....

DUCT TAPE!  I was in awe.  I felt like the country mouse in the city.....who knew?!  I told John about it, showed him the picture, and he just said, "How else are you going to be able to repair that zebra print duct if it got a hole in it?  You just wouldn't be able to."  I laughed hysterically :)  My children asked me last night when I showed this to them, "Haven't you seen the duct tape fashion shows Mom?   I guess not.

I am always so glad to get home.  I'm not used to all those people, all that merchandise, all those choices, all the time driving from place to place, all the cars and traffic, all the decisions.  It exhausts me.  I'm sure if I lived there all the time, it wouldn't bother me and might even energize me. I have lived in New York City and know the value of city living.  Its just that I'm not as comfortable with it now as when I was younger. An interesting thing to add here is that when John wanted to move back to his hometown, I was so hesitant....I had never lived anyplace so "small" before, but it has worked out just fine.

I know that having to substitute an ingredient in a recipe, or just not making one because you can't get the ingredients unless you order them, really isn't so bad. 

So....I'll just be the country mouse who every now and then has an enjoyable visit with the city mouse....

It works for me :)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Getting Organized - Step by Step

When our children were little, we lived in an old house with no coat closet and very little storage.  I found a neat way to store our gloves and hats by using a shoe holder on the back of the basement door. 

When we moved to this home, we had a coat closet, so I put a basket in the top of it and stored our hats, gloves, mittens, etc. there. 

It has never really worked because it was so deep and I'm so short.  I had to take the basket down and everything would be piled up behind it. 

A few weeks ago, I decided to do something about it to get ready for winter. After looking in three different local stores, I finally found a shoe holder that wasn't plastic and could be seen through.

Our basement door is right next to the coat closet, so I cleared out all the piled up stuff at the entrance to our basement (all the stuff that should have been put away and never was :))
and hung a new shoe holder up just like we used to have. 

Now it looks like this:

The little pull string light above it broke and still has to be replaced, but when it is fixed, it will be so easy to just take a look and find a PAIR of gloves or mittens!

Here's what the closet looks like now:

Only toboggans in the basket two scarves that were too big for the shoe holder on the shelf. 

After I took this picture I added a lint roller to one of the pockets since I can never find it when I need it.  The rest of the pockets will fill up as I find misplaced gloves all around the house. 
 We have them tucked here and there, but soon they will all be in one place.

Now I'm all ready to get decked out for the cold that's coming!