Thursday, December 30, 2010

Birding Time Again!

While most folks think of a nice relaxing Christmas break, lots of crazies are gearing up the the annual Christmas Bird Counts. Here's the deal.

Over 100 years ago, somebody said, "Let's see how many birds there are in the world." And thus began the Audubon Society's Annual Bird Count Census. It's organized now, as opposed to folks just running around the countyside yelling out, "Six creepers!" and stuff like that. We now have Count Circles--areas that are deemed to be birdily important or just plain fun (like the Rudolph Ohio Count--get it--Christmas count????) NW Ohio has several very important count circles. The North Coast, aka northern Ohio along Lake Erie, is a Big Time Birding Area. The Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge is there, along with Magee Marsh State Wildlife Refuge, East Harbor State Park, Maumee Bay State Park, and the Crane Creek area. We, of the Oak Openings, are west of the Lake, having been left behind by the ancient Lakes Whittelsey and Warren. And though it sounds like there is lots of land left on the lake, don't be fooled. Most of the marshland/wetland is gone. Conservation, as usual, was too little too late. But I digress.

Back to count circles. A point is picked and a circle with a diameter of 15 miles is drawn on the map around that point. Ta-daa, a count circle. Teams of birders go out on a given day, from mid-December to early January, and count all the birds they can find. We count species and number of individual birds--it's a census.

NW Ohio has several count circles: the Toledo, the Islands, the Refuge, blah blah blah, and the Big One: The Grand Rapids/Waterville Count. The other name for this one is the Oak Openings Count. Birders spend their holidays scoping out where the good stuff is, and I ain't talking candy canes here. Maybe Sandhill Cranes, though. With or without this rotten head cold, I'll head out with my fellow birders for a day full of chickadees, titmices, hawks, and who-knows-what else on Sunday.

Kidding aside for a moment, this is an incredibly important chunk of research. Because of the longevity of the counts, we can use this citizen science for important longitudinal studies, not only of a given species, but of trends. For example, the trend toward having more boreal species in more southernly locales was among the first research-based evidence of global climate change.

Now back to the funny stuff. Oh, wait, I'm all out of funny stuff--the head cold does that. Anywho, there are birders all over the place scoping out what may or may not be here, and any rarities that turn up a week before or after Count day are tallied, so it all counts.

But here's where I need your help. Yes you! Fill your bird feeders, and if you live inside the Oaks Count circle, check your feeder on Sunday to see what and how many of the whats are there. Email or text me, so we can add your numbers to our tally. It really is important.

And if you don't live in my count circle, contact your local Audubon Society to see if there are still counts going on in your neck of the woods. Really, get out there and get birding.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ho, Ho, Ho,More Quilting Time~~ I wish!

After getting 11 pairs of jammie bottoms made and delivered for some of my grand-nieces and nephews, and 6 little felt ho-ho-ho oh-oh-oh banners for the grown-up girls done, I can now think about the next project.

Hmmmmm, the Badlands quilt needs a backing, quilting, and binding. IOW, the hard part. I'll shelve that for a while. Then there's FTD's Log Cabin quilt. I can't think of my self as a quilter yet, since I haven't done some of the basics--like a log cabin quilt. That is a repetitive process, and I think I could multi-task that one with other stuff. DD will get a quilt with hobo signs on it. I found a wonderful book at the Greybull WY quilt shop last fall which I'll use for his. Lesee, also on the list, the YNP postcard quilt, which will take a bit more creativity than I can muster at the moment, and several "quilt-by-number" things (as my cutie SIL calls them) that are easy, but take a chunk of time with no interruptions. So which will it be? Or I could win a give-away and add to the stash! Ya-hoo--now there's an idea with merit!

So here's my plan. Enter a quilt stash give-away contest. Lots of bloggers do this somehow--you know, the bloggers that actually make some dough off their blogs. That sounds like work to me. I guess I need to post a pic here from another blog. (Now I'll probably get tagged or something weird.) Then I write a "Queen for a Day" story about why I need more stash.
Well duh. Doesn't everybody need more stash? (Actually, I don't. I'm trying to live leaner--for our space considerations, financial considerations, and well, just for living leaner. But a girl's gotta quilt! Need more material--need stuff for the quilt-by-numbers projects, for the postcard project, and DD's hobo quilt. So, okay, here's a shout out for freebies!)

Oh wait, what a ditz! I'm supposed to write about what happened on our Christmas Eve. Wait, I did that--remember the 11 pairs of jammies and 6 felt banners? Now I remember what I did on Christmas Eve. I had promised myself 2.5 months ago that I wouldn't be at the machine on Christmas Ever--or worse, Christmas Day. Well, my bad. At least I was done on Christmas Eve. And wrapping is a snap around here, since I've been using cloth bags for like um, 20 years or so. Soooooo much beautiful Christmas material, and so few walls for any more quilts. So I make bags of all sizes for wrapping. Sew the bottom and sides, fold down a hem on the top, done. No lining, no finishing seams, no even bothering to change thread color. Cripes, the kids just yank the bags off anyways, so why worry about the details. The family thinks I should make them and sell them, but even with on-sale material, the cost/price/hassle ratio just isn't there. Then it would be work, not fun. See a theme here? So anywho, a nice big, new chunk o' fat quarters would just about round out my stash. Just about. . . . . :)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Home Tour

We had a nice turnout for the 3rd Annual Whitehouse Community Library Holiday Home Tour last Sunday. Numbers were a little bit down, I think, from past years. In part, it was due to the weather. We finally got some snow and of course it started right at 1 pm when the tour started and by 2 it was really coming down. At our house, we took turns shoveling the front steps.

We not only got the house decorated nicely, but it forced us to get several much needed fix-it/do it projects done. Since we didn't exactly finish the house 15 years ago when we finally moved in, we're now faced with repairs and finishing all at the same time. Among the 'do it' jobs were painting all the closet doors (only one left to do--the pocket door on the pantry), putting up a hand rail on the basement stairs, and trimming the bathtubs. Tom got them all up, now they all need to be painted. I hid several of the ickier looking trims with old woolen Pendelton coats. Yep, buffalo plaid was my decorating scheme. Among the repair jobs was to rebuild the bottom two basement steps. When we had the new floor with hot water heat added, the steps ended up being the wrong height. He made a new set and they look terrific and work terrifically.

And now that the Tour is over, and the house is clean and decorated, I actually got to spend some time sewing up jammie bottoms for the great nieces/nephews. 5 pairs down, 6 to go. I stumbled upon the world's easiest, one piece pattern so I can do one pair in less than an hour. Since the kids will all outgrown these jammies in a month or two, I really whipped through them--no pinked or finished seams, etc., etc.. If only I had some elastic here. Oh well, guess I'll have to make another trip to the fabric shop. After all, I used up my first coupon, and have one that's only good for the weekend. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Things I Wasn't Planning

I'm a list maker. When I make a list the item at the top is always: Make List. Then I get the satisfaction of crossing at least one thing off my list when I'm done.

My list for today included: Make List. Make meatloaf for supper. Email Home Tour map to print shop. Go to Library~~pick up wreaths and take to Invite!. Get check and gift certificates for Home Tour. Go to Print shop and pick up maps. Because of the Tour, I have time-specific things for Friday and Saturday, making today's list pretty important to get through.

Here's the abridged list: Re-decorate the Tree. See rest of list.

At 5 a.m. this morning, DD came into our room and said, "Mom, a bunch of your old special ornaments got broken. The tree fell down. Oh, and there's water all over the carpet." Had his list stopped at 'tree fell down', I'd have gone back to sleep. But DH and I both shot out of bed at the one about the water.


For me decorating the tree is a process. We always get a live tree from our friends~~Rhoades Christmas Tree Farm in Whitehouse. FTD's Scout troop helps out cutting and lugging trees for the customers and in return the owner makes a generous donation to the troop. DH and FTD have spent Sunday mornings in December over there for the past 4 or 5 years. This year, FTD didn't sign up for a shift working, but we did go pick out our tree. Much to my surprise and delight, both boys actively helped out picking just the right one. We have criteria: can't be a pokey tree. Can't be any taller than DH can reach. Must be fat, but not too fat to fit in the family room. Since our home is on the Whitehouse Library Home Tour this year, I gave the boys the option of putting a ginormous tree in the living room~~a good 12 footer, or a regular one where we always do. I was sure they'd go for ginormous. Again to my surprise, they want it where it's always supposed to be. How sweet.

We slayed the tree and brought it home last Sunday. It went up easily and this year we didn't prune much off the bottom, since there won't be many presents under it. And the boys got an actual chuckle when I told them that they both asked for stuff like video games, which take up no room at all. They both laughed and got my point. (Verra verra unusual that.)

We let the tree stretch out it's branches for a day or two and then put on the lights. Then the pretty little angel on top. Then the snowmen garland, then the red bead garland, and then the ornaments, all of which is done over a couple of days.

This year I decided to do something super special, partly for the home tour, but mostly because the boys would get it~~I got the ornaments from my Mom and Dad's out. I showed them the Woolworth and Shiny Brite boxes and told them which were Dad's special ornaments and which were Mom's. The boys haven't had a knock-down-drag-out fight in the house for a long time, and I figured the ornaments would be safe this year. So much for best laid plans of mice and men.

I don't have time to grieve over the loss of a dozen or so glass bulbs. There will be time for that when I pack the boxes away in January. But grieve I will. For a part of my childhood that's gone, for the ever present grief of missing parents and especially the boys' grandparents, and partly for my life now which never, ever goes as planned.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanks for the Birthday Wishes!

Wow, it's been overwhelming, really. First, more than 60 folks show up for Tom's birthday party last week and now dozens of folks sending me greetings on fb. Say what you will about fb, I find it to be fun. I love being part of my friends' lives again, keeping up on issues that are important to me, and just plain goofing off.

DH and I had dinner last night at the best restaurant in NW Ohio--Mancy's Blue Water Grill in Maumee. Perfect dinner, once again, beautiful venue, awesome staff, the complete package. If you haven't been there, you've really missed out. All of the Mancy's restaurants are simply the best. And I'll bet it's been more than a year since DH and I sat down together for dinner~~just the two of us. And after all these many (many, many) years, it's still a nice time. (And we went out last night because I had a couple of cavities filled today--not such great planning on my part.)

We had some birding fun this week. A friend posted on Rarebird that the students in one of his classes wanted to go owling. I volunteered the house and GL volunteered his awesome owl-finding skills. We've had weeks and weeks of warm, pleasant nights~~until Tuesday when the class was here. It poured and poured a nasty, cold, pounding rain right out of the north the whole day and night. Now mind you, we really really needed the rain. But it could have waited another couple of hours. And believe it or don't, GL wasn't able to call in one single bird. Some folks thought he got an Eastern Screech, but I didn't hear it. We did hear a huge tree fall in the woods--answering the age old question. I've gotta hand it to the students for putting up with this deal. Several of them were just wearing sneakers--I guess they figured we wouldn't actually go tramping through the woods. Surprise! We birders are a tough breed.

So thanks, Friends, virtual and otherwise, for making my birthday bright.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Another Birdie Day

This could become addicting--siting on the back deck while the birds buzz my head. It was so warm again today that I spent as much time outside as I could. That included catching up on some reading on the back deck. The birds must really be hungry because they just couldn't stay away. This is a pic from last winter, by the way, but I don't have any with no snow. I was quite surprised at the activity~~almost frenzied. And the birds really could have cared less about me sitting there. In the winter we let the kids sit on the deck with seed in their hats and wait for the chickadees to dine. I've rearranged the feeders in my never ending attempt to keep the squirrels and raccoons out. So far--no coons. They must not be desperate yet. But now the chipmunks have invaded. If they weren't so dang cute.

Later in the afternoon I was doing some computer work on the front porch, and saw the hawk cruise through the woods just across the street. Couldn't id it, but I'm guessing red-tail. It's been hanging around so I'm hoping it stays all winter.

On another note, the Whitehouse Library Holiday Home Tour is one month from today--had to believe with such great weather. And Sunday we set up the trains for the Toledo Zoo Lights Before Christmas. Way before Christmas this year!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sometimes the Birds Beckon

I've had a feeling of ennui today. Partly its the adrenaline let-down from DH's party~~which was tons of fun. So many good friends gathered altogether. The sun has been shining and the weather pleasant. I should be in the basement sewing, but I can't seem to drag myself to a room with so few windows. I tried working on some graphic projects on the computer sitting in the sunshine but I still couldn't concentrate. So I packed it in and headed out.

Our yard is 90% mature trees, with some brushy understory. In the summer, it's so thick we can barely see anything, but its nice and cool. The reflection of light off the leaves turns every room in the house to green. This time of year is among my favorites. I can see the landscape and the trees make interesting and ever changing shadows. Today I was hoping to see birds.

Our birds are awfully dang smart. If I'm in the front yard, I hear something out back and vice versa. Today was no exception. A hawk was calling from the back, maybe over in the neighbors property. I looked and I looked and I looked. Even with few leaves to block my view, it eluded me. I was also looking for the noisy thing that must live in the brush in the neighbor's ditch. It just kept telling me to "DO-it" over and over. But I sure couldn't find it.

All was not lost though. A small buck white tail was crossing the neighbors field when he realized I wasn't a tree. We looked at each other and I took one step forward. Off he went in that beautiful run, run, leap-soar that deer do. He stopped back at the tree line, and must have wandered back onto our property, but I couldn't spot him again. He was a young buck, just 2 tines on both sides with bit of another on one side. I don't think I've ever seen a buck on our property before, just does and fawns. It's not like out west, where the wildlife--elk, bison, wolves, and bears--wander through the yard. Deer are much more skittish, so this was quite a treat.

Just me and the deer and the birds. Ennui gone.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Quiltin' Time!

Last night was the first night I ever slept under a quilt I made. Yep. I've made lots of quilts to give away, lots of quilt pictures to hang on walls, to eat from, to use in programs, but never one for me to sleep under. It was nice.

I bought a kit about a year ago called Three Bears. I'll have to look the designer's name up. Dope that I am, I thought it was sized for a wall hanging. I started the first block last spring on the Gathering of Quilters retreat. I went with the the stars first, because I figured they'd be the hardest, and they were. Then I went with the mountains, and log cabins, and the bears, then the trees. There were lots and lots of trees. Then the fill squares. Some where in the middle of making the forest it dawned on me that I was making lots and lots of stuff. I looked at the front of the pattern page again and what do ya know--right on the front it says BED QUILT. I'll be danged. Basically its for a double bed, and of course we have a king. So then I had to start adding strips to make it long enough and wide enough. So then I had to keep adding more and more strips to make it fit over us when we sleep. Covering the bed is one thing. Covering two largish people who are trying to sleep is entirely another. I spent as much time figuring out how to add strips and what material to use as I did on the whole rest of it. That time also includes the time it took to make several more runs to the fabric shop.

I took the quilt over to Corner Quilts in Wauseon, Ohio for the quilting and binding. They have a gigantic machine for quilting and they also do the binding by hand. That's a ton of work. I dropped off my pine tree quilt for quilting, but I'm bound and determined to do the binding. Wish me luck.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Elder Aunties of My Tribe

Many American Native cultures celebrate and revere the "Elder Aunties of the Tribe." These women are considered to be the Wise Ones, the gentle ones, the strong ones. Maybe it's simply because they just physically outlast men, but I like to think it's because they carry so much within them. Men and boys take care of problems and joys in the here and now. They beat the crap out of each other, and then it's over. They get drunk and rowdy with each other, then go back to work. Women don't operate that way. We ponder. We wonder. We do act out of impulsive anger and joy, but not usually the way the guys do.

My Mom was one of those women--and interestingly, so was my Dad. Both kind souls, who could say nary a bad thing about anyone. They just took care of those bad people in their own devastating ways. You didn't want to be on the receiving end of one of their 'campaigns.' They got the things done that had to be done, and didn't sweat the small stuff.

But I've been thinking the past couple of days, as I do 'wimens' work (arg) about the Elder Aunties in my Tribe. My Mom had 5 sisters, all of who lived in the south. Mom moved north after the war and saw that there was a whole 'nuther world out there and she loved it. A world where black women could be serve in the Army with her, where women could be involved in politics, where churches didn't preach hate and fire and brimstone, but peace and justice. Dad had one sister, who, although I saw her every Sunday, was more of a ghost in my life. She was sort of here and sort of not. Although my relations, not my Elder Aunties.

I knew that my Elder Aunties were out there, but I didn't know it at the time. (Yeah, that's what I meant to say.) So here's a shout out to my Elder Aunties:

My best friend in Perrysburg was Sue B.. Her Mom and Dad were a full 10 years younger than my folks, which amazed me at the time. We all went to Church together. Susie didn't have a sister, just 3 brothers, all really nice guys. She and her Mom were really close. They welcomed me into their circle. How I loved them for that then, and still do now, even though I haven't seen either since Susie's Dad died several years ago. Mrs. B. lives near here somewhere. Just knowing that makes me feel better.

My bestest friend is Ginny. We met at Church camp about 1964. She lived in Van Wert, Ohio then moved to Farmington, Michigan. There were 5 or 6 of us kids who grew up with each other this way--the Cool Studs. We saw each other once a year for five years. We were pen pals. What fun for us. I hope kids today enjoy their e-pals as much as we did. By the time we reached high school we decided that once a year wasn't enough and convinced the camp staff to let us celebrate the New Year at camp, which we did. Then we learned to drive and were able to see each other more often. We went to each other's sports events and plays, proms and homecomings. We visited each other's colleges after that. Most of us kept in touch in a vague sort of way, but Ginny and I remain very close. We married within a year of each other, our kids are close to the same ages, and no matter how long its been since we've seen each other, we pick right up. As I reflect back, I realize that Ginny's Mom is also one of my Elder Aunties. I'd breeze into their house every few months and was one of her kids. Just like that. The lessons she taught Ginny, were lessons that reflected back to me. Thanks, Mom Perry. Love you.

There were others. . . .the wife of my college mentor, Mrs. Kapp. She taught us gracefulness and the true meaning of hospitality, with just a couple of contacts each year. Several women at my Church in Perrysburg--getting things done and doing them with grace and poise and clarity of purpose. When I worked for the Girl Scouts, I was all of 24 years old, trying to lead women 20 years my senior who were already moms. Several of them chewed me out constantly--nothing I ever did was right because "that's not the way we do it." But for every one of the crabs, there were half a dozen women who smiled, gave me that wise nod, and stood by me. Thanks, girls.

I so hope I will be remembered as one of the Elder Aunties. I know its a role I seek, but realize its a title I have to earn. Maybe someday.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Post You Could Care Less About

I've been cleaning for the past few days. Okay, for over a week. I haven't done a deep clean for a couple of years, and with all the sunshine we've had this fall, it was clear that some serious elbow grease was in order. The push this time is because we're having a surprise party for DH on Sunday (the surprise is that he turned 70!) We're having 30 or 40 folks for for an open house type deal. And that means: clean the pit.

I was actually sort of energized to do it because the basement has really come together. Except for some more electrical work and the drop ceiling, we're pretty much done. Even with the ugly pipes and filthy joists, the basement has taken on a really cozy feel. The crafty corner rocks, DD's train layout is great, and the Man Cave is still a work in progress, but that mess can be contained. DH's workshop is so crappy I cringe going in there but hey, not my problem. And the most luxurious place in the whole house? The basement attic. A few years ago, DH went crazy and bought 8 or 9 matching, heavy duty grey metal shelving units. We put them together and lined them up on "my" side of the back of the basement. I can get all my crap on the shelves, including all the camping gear, all the linens and cooking stuff for the apartment, all the old books, and all the Christmas stuff down there. And here's the cool part: I can find all of that stuff. Wow. Luxury indeed.

Having such a huge 15 year undertaking so close to finished, and certainly usable like it is, gives me that urge to clean the crap from the upstairs. Then I realized there isn't much crap anymore, so a good deep clean would really make this wonderful. Now mind you, I HATE TO CLEAN. AND I HATE TO CLEAN UP AFTER OTHER PEOPLE. Oh, my, sorry about yelling. After nearly 30 years of being married to a slob, a fact of which I was fully cognizant when I married him, and worse--20 years of children who can't tie shoes, much less make a bed, has been frustrating. I've tried the passive-aggressive approach which is do no cleaning, but they don't care. They really, really don't care. That makes it my problem. I have laid down several new laws this fall. Both boys are now "doing" their own laundry. Not there yet, not even close really, but in a year or so they should have it down. DH sorta does his laundry.

So look out Martha, here's Ranger Anna's tips for cleaning:

1. Okay, I'm stealing this one from Martha: Make your bed. Everyday. Having a nice, neat bed in which to climb after a long day really is grand.

2. No dirty dishes in the sink at bedtime. A couple of years ago a friend of mine and I decided we both needed to do this. So we checked up on each other and now it's just habit. BTW, psychologists say that if you do or don't do something for 30 days, it will become part of your routine. True that.

3. Don't use outside spray-with-the-hose window cleaner. DH tried it 2 years ago and the windows seem to be pitted now. Damn.

4. Clean the damn windows twice a year. Easier to get a little dirt off than a lot.

5. Our whole house vaaccuumm system really sucks. For deep cleaning it's awesome. For quick messes it's just a drag. The 30 foot hose is cumbersome and requires wrangling, but boy does it clean. And since the motor is in the basement, it's nice and quiet upstairs. We have a crappy vaccuumm for the usual messes. We also use that out west.

6. My newest favoritest cleaning thing: A Libman quick mop. Works as advertised which is really nice. I also use a Libman mop for the big jobs. I almost never promote a brand name because I figure they should pay me for advertising, but this is an exception.

7. Keep paper towels, window cleaner, handiwipes, bowl cleaner, scrubbers, etc. in each bath. Lots of folks have a basket they lug from room to room. Nope, uh huh not me. Keep that stuff right under the sink in each room. So easy to do a quick clean anytime with out having to find the stuff and getting distracted along the way.

8. Don't carry junk mail into the house. Go to mailbox. Get mail. Walk back to house through garage. Stop in front of garbage can. Sort mail. Pitch crap out. Seriously, this cuts our junk in the house by about 3/4.

9. If you buy something new for the house, be prepared to get rid of something old. Houses do have carrying capacities. I've reached mine and now really have to weigh the 'cost' of having something else. I've done this with my clothes for about 7 years now. Really, really helps to focus on stuff that really is right. (Trying desperately hard to teach DD my incredibly materialist one about this concept. He just wants it all.)

10. I don't really have a tenth thing.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Good News, Bad News

Good news--no more horrible political ads. Bad news--the results.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lovely Time of the Year

It's a luxury, to be able to enjoy this time of year. The sun comes up late and sets early and stays low in the sky. The leaves are off the tress, save for the mighty oaks, exposing the forest's secret hiding places. For most folks, that's a bummer. For me, it means the sun shines in every room of the house, exposing not only all the otherwise unlit and unseen spiderwebs, but it also paints the rooms in lovely ways.
In the morning, the sun shines though the front windows, painting moving shadow pictures with the pines. In midday, the family room's south window, usually deep in shade, is tossing light everywhere. In the long twilight, the sun stretches all the way across the family room into the kitchen and in the dining room to the foyer. I opened a kitchen cabinet, the one holding the everyday glass ware, and for a few fleeting minutes, the sun bounced around in and out of my glasses, shining as if lit from inside.
When the sun sets, the view from all three bedrooms is amazing--the woods seem to be glowing from within as the sun goes down. On bonus days, the full moon then rises, giving the bare branches light and glory, so intense that I have to go outside to see if it's real. And it is.

A sunset in autumn in Ohio is one of the greatest sights on earth. These are the days to savor.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Long Time, No See

Gee. I just checked and it really has been months since I last posted. My cop-out story is that with limited computer time at work, and this year's record breaking crowds leading yours truly to be really tired at the end of the day, I just didn't write.

But I'm home now, safe and sound. Back on Eastern Daylight Time, both boys are back in school, and we're back to normal. Well, as normal as we ever get.

I've also composed some outstanding posts while driving. Sadly, I can't compute and drive simultaneously, so those totally awesome thoughts go unwritten.

The one I should have written was going to be called "Happy Trails and Happy Feet." Another great summer season and new boots that fit! Woohoo! The longer version I was composing as I drove across South Dakota was much better, but not quite so succinct.

Today's post, were I not doing a round-up post would be called "The Perfect Day." The best month in NW Ohio is October. Last year was the most stunning I can ever recall. This fall hasn't been quite as dramatic, but today was a stunner. Wow. My friends in New England and the mountains both say they have the most beautiful fall foliage. They only say that because they haven't been here to experience a real fall. Someday they will be lucky enough to enjoy a beautiful fall day with us. So come on over, sit on the front porch, and enjoy a cuppa with us soon. We'll be looking for you.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

LIfe List Additions

I'm not a hard-core bird or animal "life lister" but I can add a couple more this week. First, we have one Trumpeter Swan on the Madison this summer. These birds often winter here, but we only have a few breeding pairs. We haven't had any breeders on the Madison for at least 3 years. So now we have one Lonely George, or Georgette. And we hope it can seduce a mate to stay with next summer.

Two days ago at the Junior Ranger Station, I was doing a bison program on the back porch, due to the 50+ bison in the valley. I caught a glimpse of something on the picture window, figuring it was one of our pesky ground squirrels. Not. It was a long-tailed weasel. Really pretty critter. It was running from hole to hole trying to find ground squirrel babies for breakfast. We didn't see it with any, but farther up the hill, we did see a mama ground squirrel give the weasel a run for its money.

Not a bad day at work. Yep, it's tough being me some days.

Friday, June 4, 2010

More Quick Trip Tips

Gosh, I have time to write for a change!

I haven't seen my yard in June for two years--this has been interesting! The back yard, where we had to take several trees down looks like a rain forest! Speaking of which, NW Ohio has had two record-breaking months of rain. Oh, shucks, I missed most of it.

I took a quick stroll in the front today--quick because my knee is killing me and because the skeeters nearly carried me away. Last spring I stained the front deck marine blue. Sadly, it turned out to be North Toledo Blue. Way too much of a good thing. This year I found some "fern green" stain, and DH re-stained it last week. Much more soothing on the eyes. I like it enough that I think I'll ask him to do the boardwalk this week.

And my flowers! Actually, they're mostly weeds, but that's the way I roll. Six or seven years ago, milkweed showed up in the rocks around the foundation in the front of the house. Since this is the host plant for Monarchs, I let the milkweed stay. Now it's growing like crazy, and looks really good around the house. I also bought a butterfly weed plant and a holly for each side of the porch. All are doing well. And wow! Today I found two itty-bitty catepiggles! I miss 'raising' Monarchs out west, so this has been a nice bonus for this trip.

The weedbeds between the yard and the road are looking good, also. Lots of native phlox and Sweet William that came from a can of seeds eons ago are also doing well. The Sweet William had several Tiger Swallowtails around.

The down side of Ohio in the summer? Humidity and mosquitoes. I managed to get about a dozen bites in my short foray. I know I'll be attacked by buffalo gnats in a couple of weeks, but at least I get to see buffalo! Nothing exciting about mosquitoes. All of my Claritin is out west, so I took a Benedryl--which induced a weird nap, complete with drooling. Sheesh.

The sky is dark and menacing now, thick with heat and humidity~~we're under storm watches for the evening. DD and DH are out rail-fanning with DD's club, FTD's best bud spent several hours over here, but when all is said and done, all is right with the world.

A Quick Trip Home

I've mentioned before that I don't often fly for trips or vacations. I prefer the car or the train, so I can see what there is to see out there. I also like to stop hither and yon and see what stuff the locals like in their own communities--especially if there are Junque stores and quilting shops.

But for FTD's "graduation" a flight home was necessary. DD and I left Bozeman at 1:00 Mountain Time and landed in Toledo at 10:00 Eastern Time. Amazing. And except for severely twisting a knee standing up after 4 hours of sitting, all is well.

Ohio is green and lush and humid. We left Wyoming in cold and slop, it's sunny and warm here. I know I shouldn't be amazed about this, but I am. Some folks take flying through time and space for granted. Those of us who don't do it often continue to stare out the windows, trying to pick out landmarks below, instead of looking sullen and bored with the whole affair, acting like the article in the journal is the most important thing in the world. (I suppose if the person reading is a brain-surgeon and the article is about the next day's surgery, well, that's okay.) But come on, traveling by air is remarkable (and probably not really possible). Do me a favor and act amazed about it.

DH and FTD have enjoyed being bachelors. They eat when they feel like it, didn't bother with all that cleaning crap I insist upon, and enjoyed the quiet. FTD finished his classes, with DH sending him to school even on Senior skip days. I would have let him play hookey, since it's part of the 'experience' of being a Senior. DH has no concept of social life, and since FTD's even more clueless, I guess it all worked out. Sigh. FTD will be in high school for two more years (maybe), so this social graduation is an exercise in just making it this far. When we planned his Eagle Scout ceremony last spring, we had in mind that that would serve as his "coming of age" event. And it was a great day.

Tomorrow will be bittersweet, more so for me that for most parents. Something like 90% of the AW grads will be going on to college or the military. My son goes back to 'job skills' training in high school. His name can't be published in the program, so as to protect him if our insurance company or the draft board decide he's out of school. All of the kids get blank folders tomorrow, but Tommy's will stay blank for at least another year. In a perfect world, he'd be able to get better insurance (and after getting several bills this winter, Medicare might actually be better), and a job where he's treated as a valued worker, not just the token disabled guy. In a perfect world, he'd fall in love with a charming young woman in a few years, and they would embark on a journey together. But this is our world. At least FTD is in love with me--that's one more person than many folks with autism can love. And I will love him and care for him until our dying days, high school diploma or not.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

T-Minus 4 Days and Success!

It worked. Two of DD's teachers pitched the idea of staying at his regular high school for another year, and he bought it. Wow. I am such a wizard. It really wasn't as hard as we thought it would be. His teachers added a couple of incentives--one of his jobs next year will be as an office monitor, the kids who run notes around the building and stuff, and he's now "training" to be a gym assistant next year. And according to him, he'll get to drive the golf cart around as part of his gym job! What!!!!!! omg. If they think he can do it, more power to him. So DH and I are really pleased that the system is finally working for him.

I took a busman's holiday today and drove out to Magee Marsh to check out the warbler action. I had more fun watching the warbler-watchers than anything else. I did get glimpses of 2 birds, and took some pics. I put my contacts in before I left, but they must be really dirty because I had to take them out when I got there. Taking pictures with glasses on is a pain and I'll have to re-learn how to do it. And our long lens is hard to focus. The auto focus is really weird, so I keep it turned off. But I also haven't come close to mastering it with or without glasses. Something to work on this summer.

Mystery bird pics-- since everyone else was taking pictures of them and going, "oohh" and "ahhh" and "great bird" and today's most uttered phrase, "That's a lifer for me" I decided to post these crumby pictures. Feel free to post id's for me! More (and better pictures) later.

Kudos to Kim Kaufmann for pulling off the "Biggest Week in American Birding." I have long maintained that if you want to promote something just print up glossy, full-color, tri-fold flyers and it becomes true. Kim went waaaaay beyond that to promote this. I have also long maintained that something like this should happen. My hat is off to Kim, and Julie Shieldcastle (founder) and the Black Swamp Bird Observatory. For those of you who don't know Kim, picture me, but on heavy duty steroids! Way to go, ladies!

Monday, May 3, 2010

T-Minus 6 Days and Life Interupts

The good news: We'll have plenty of room in the cargo trailer. The bad news, a really tough school decision looms again.

For a couple of years, DD has said that he wants to go to Penta Career Center, the local vocational high school. As an added bonus, they've moved into a beautiful, amazing new building with all the coolest new stuff. DH and I thought we knew that the programs were all about. Last week we met with reps there and started being able to read, or listen, between the lines.

Kids in with disabilities are usually entered into the "Skills Center" where they learn "job skills." What we didn't pick up in our other conversations is that the kids in these programs aren't exposed to much in academics, or in particular careers. It's more a matter of finding a task that the child is capable of doing, not really picking up career skills.

First, remember my posts about parents of kids with special needs being in a constant state of grieving. Here we go again. We understand and recognize that our kids will probably never be rocket surgeons. Or brain scientists, either. But we still hold out hope that they will be able to find jobs with a higher level of skills. All parents want that for their kids. But now that we're nearing the cusp of adulthood, we're becoming painfully aware that even if we push and shove our kids to do more, they will never be 'fully employed.' Ever. So why do we worry about it? Why don't we just let them relax and enjoy the pleasures they do find in life? Why do we think our kids will be able to find jobs when there are plenty of able bodied and able minded folks out there? But even knowing that, we now hope that DD can stay at AW another year, so he can have another shot at picking up some academic skills.

Selling this idea to him will be tricky. Really, really tricky. I think--I hope--that if the teachers he loves at school pitch the idea to him, he might go for it. They'll have to be completely sincere and fully believe that it's the right thing for him. I've only been mulling this idea over for about 24 hours, but the more I think about it, the more comfortable I am with it. If only. . . .

Sunday, May 2, 2010

T-Minus 7 Days and Counting!

Okay, so I really don't have time to blog. But I need a break from clothes packing hell! The good news is that the kitchen/linen/uniform stuff is done and ready to go into the trailer. The food stuff is close to done and easy to finish. My civies won't take too long, and most of them are still packed from last summer anyway. That leaves. . . . teenager clothing. Arg.

If we were all four going out at the same time this year, or if two of us go out now and 2 follow later, and if we were all coming back at the same time, it would be a snap to pack. Unfortunately, since we've got an utterly wacky schedule this year, packing is going to be a real trip.

First, DD and I need traveling clothes. No problem. We throw the stuff the 2 of us need for traveling in a big ol' suitcase and call it done. But! I have to be sure he has clothes to wear when we come home for FTD's graduation in June. Okay, so I leave some of his least favorite clothes in the closet. But wait! Then he and DH have to drive back out, so he needs traveling clothes. Okay, pack a separate suitcase for that. Done. But wait! Tommy needs clothes out west, so I'll have to take those now. But he also needs clothes for 3 more weeks of school. Why do you ask, do I need to pack the suitcases for the boys now? Because DH is totally clueless as to what the boys wear, what they like, what they need, what fits, etc., etc.. God only knows what they'd show up with if I let DH pack.

I'm worried enough about letting him pack his own clothes. He keeps saying things like, "Well, I'll be 10 pounds lighter when I get out there, so I'll bring the 'skinny' clothes that I kept/purchased all these years." Take a deep breath, Mama. Think happy, serene thoughts. As kindly as I could, I says, "You know, Love of My Life, that we have no extra storage space out west for clothes. . ." "Oh. Yeah. Well," says he. Says I, "If you loose some weight while you're out there, we'll go buy you new stuff." "Hmmm," says he, "but I've been collecting this stuff for so long, and never got to wear it." "Hmmmmm," says I, as kindly as I can again muster. And so it goes. I've no idea what he'll bring out, but I did set limits on how many boxes he can bring.

The other fly in the packing ointment is that all three of them will drive home in mid August for school. They'll wear uniforms at Penta, so I don't have to worry about getting all their clothes home in August. I'll send traveling clothes, and pack the rest away to bring home with me in the trailer. Three grown size male humans in the butt-ugly Aztec with traveling gear is all the car will hold. (What an odd sentence.)

DH just surfaced to say he's got some of the fishing gear ready. Translation, "I might have it done by Thursday or so."

Back to the pack I go. I'm stalling on getting the office supplies done, I don't know why, but I can't seem to take enough stuff. I don't really need all that much stuff, but what if . . . We all have our Achilles tendon, and mine is office supplies. Oh. And books. Did I mention books. . . .

Madison, Hayden, and Lamar just sit back and laugh at me. Rotten little scoundrels.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

More Hiking with Kids!

I've been volunteering with the Metroparks again this spring. For alleged fiscal reasons, they fired half a dozen part-time naturalists. These good folks picked up most of the weekend events, so the full-time permanent staff could cover weekday events, like school groups. While I'm totally aghast and ticked about the action, I also fully believe that the importance of getting kids out into the field is more important that the ridiculous political goings-on of the current park administration. And so, I offer up my talents.

Today, I had the chance to take a dozen energetic first graders from Hiawatha Elementary School out for a romp in the Oaks. They were fun and lively and very very well behaved! Great group! They have perfected their chick-a-dee-dee-dee calls! And they were soooo quiet when we were listening for frogs. What a delightful way to spend the morning.

My group with Madison Wolf, Lamar Bear, and Hayden Bison.
Inspecting a salamander. Cool!
School chaperone who was up close and personal with the salamander. Great find!

The Furries with a new friend! A Timberwolf from Hiawatha Elementary!

Hayden, Madison, and Lamar wishing someone would share lunch with them. Or in the case of Lamar, that someone would be lunch!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fingerprints! I Now Have Some!

It only took the fibbies 7 tries to read my fingerprints and it seems they have succeeded. At least I'm cleared to begin work. . . I'll double check to see if they were readable or if I was adjudicated out of hand again. At any rate, I'm cleared for take off!

I've painted the inside of the cargo trailer--for no other reason than it's prettier. Sheesh. It's just nicer to be shoveling junk in there. Even Madison Wolf, Hayden Bison, and Lamar Bear like it better than the unpainted version. I put the carpet back in, am gathering stuff like lawn chairs and some other goodies. Tomorrow after school, I'll have DD start bringing the boxes up from the basement.

I've put the sewing goodies under covers for the summer, which was hard to do after visiting the Sauder Village Quilt Show this morning. Holy cow, there was some drop dead incredible stuff. I might go crazy next year and enter something just to say I've entered something. One of my friends won a ribbon in the challenge division. I'll look into that, too.

DD and I pull up stakes in 11 days. It's crunch time, but the things that are left are the hardest. My office box is always out of control, as it is again this year. Packing my clothes will be easy as will DD's but FTD and DH need at least 3 more weeks of clothes here, but DH wants me to take his summer duds with me. That will be a good trick, since FTD doesn't have enough clothes to make that happen. DH does, but he always over packs clothes no matter what. And we need to decide what camping gear to take. We either take too much and don't use it, or none and wish we did. There's not much middle ground here.

Speaking of the boys, we had FTD's final IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) meeting with the Anthony Wayne Schools today. Thank God. It has been a brutal process. I've only heard of one family anywhere who has had smooth sailing through the whole deal. Only one. There's something very wrong with the system still. DD's is next week and that will be much nicer.

FTD will get to walk across the stage for his 'social graduation.' Had AW done their job properly, he'd have enough credits to actually graduate, but they figure kids with special needs don't belong in the AW building, so they don't bother. I've been harsh on the district before and now that we're nearly done with them, I'm not feeling anymore charitable towards them.

But the saddest part of the whole mess is that even after getting job training at the vocation HS for the next 2 years, my kids will probably only be employable in sheltered workshops. The job market totally sucks for able bodied, able minded people--what chance do my kids have?

Did I ever mention that grieving is an on-going part of being a parent of kids with special needs?

The up side is that we're hoping the boys can get seasonal employment in the hospitality industry where ever I work. Cross your fingers. And come on over and help pack the trailer!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's Countdown Time!

With fewer than three weeks to go, I can really start counting down. Of course, it may be for naught, since I haven't heard about my fingerprints yet, but we'll hope for the best.

I picked up nearly all the kitchen/bath non-perishables today. Just a couple more things to get yet--like TP which will hopefully go on sale soon. Stocking two kitchens is one of those interesting juggling jobs. Trying to guess how much of this or that to take always taxes my puny grey cells. But from today--3 weeks before we head out!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Packing Up, Not Quite Heading Out

It's that time of year! Hooray! I'm counting the days--less than a month until we head back out west. I indulged in some pre-packing this weekend. I did the linens a while back, so I took on the kitchen gear this time.

Packing to go west isn't too bad. There are a few clothing issues (which I could easily solve by just saying "This pile is my out west clothes and this pile is my at home clothes). But I have several favorites that I like for both places. There aren't too many cross-pollinated things, not being a clothes horse, but still more than I like to admit. And I only have one winter coat and I need that in both places. I suppose I could go hit the Good Will to find an out west coat. . . . hmmm.

Linens aren't too much of a problem. This year we're going to try a little foam pad deal that supposedly turns two twins into a king size bed. Three of our four years on the road we hauled out Select Comfort mattress with us and put in on two twins. Worked pretty nicely. It doesn't pack down really small, but smaller than a real king mattress would. One year, we decided to use the double bed that was provided. We barely slept a wink all summer. When you've had a king bed for 25 years, and your girth has significantly expanded in said time, well. . . . This year, since DH will only be out west for about 6 or 7 weeks, we're going to try another route. I'm hoping the beds didn't get moved out of our apartment. We had to do some fancy footwork to get 4 twin bed frames, springs, and mattress last year. We'll see. I'll have plenty of time to round them back up if I need to this year.

The real packing challenge comes with kitchen gear. I've accumulated almost enough stuff for the summer kitchen. DH has a couple of favorite pans, and I have a favorite pot, so I guess I'll take the pot, and he gets to keep the pan until he comes out. We really don't need the pan at home, because I've completed my Calphalon set here (Dang, I'm a savvy shopper--I've never had to pay full price for the stuff! And I think it's still made here in Toledo. Cool.) I'd like to keep it in the kitchen box, but he likes to use it here, so we lug it back and forth. There are a couple of other goodies like that--Pyrex dish in a warming carrier, good apple slicer, margarita cooler. And going out I can pack up all the stuff and still eat. Not the case coming home. Meal planning is an art when it's time to come home, especially since the nearest restaurant is 14 miles away. So I have to plan food we can eat without using real tableware, pots, pans, or microwave. Yea. Cereal it is for the last 2 days in the park.

Here's my packing tip for getting food on the way out. I stock up on all the basics here--flour, sugar, cereal, pasta, etc.. But I also take 2 empty coolers with us. When we get to Livingston or Bozeman, we hit the grocery and stock up on frozen and refrigerated stuff and get as much into the coolers as possible.

When we arrive at the apartment, Job One is put a frozen pumpkin pie in the oven, which means I need to get to a cooking sheet. I use the pizza pan for that. The apartment smells like home again in no time at all. Job Two is get the beds made. That of course means the linens have to be in the back of the cargo trailer, which works out nicely. The next day, the pizza pan is ready to pop pizza in the oven and we're really home.

This is the theory. . . it worked quite well last year, let's see how it plays out in real life!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

In My Spare Time

As if I don't have enough to do, I'm re-upping with the Girl Scouts. I loved my 7 years of Scouting as a kid, and my 3 years as a Scout professional. Now I'm playing with the Green Hat Society and getting ready to become a trainer again.

I sort of have some concerns about where Girl Scouting is headed. There is no emphasis on "troop team building" which could be a good thing for some girls, but I think we're missing a huge opportunity for most girls. I've always said that we might accidentally put ourselves out of business by teaching girls that they CAN be doctors, lawyers, rangers, pipe fitters, journalists, and astronauts, among many other things. And now that women are, they don't have time to be Scout leaders. Drat!!

So that begs the question why do Dads have time to be Cub and Boy Scout leaders and Moms don't have time to be Girl Scout Leaders? Studies show that even though women are working the same numbers of hours as men, they are still doing most of the housework. Trust me, it's hard work running a household. And it's work for which we do not get paid, nor can we count it towards our retirement benefits. Did I mention that it's WORK?

So, my gentle men friends, pitch in! Do the dishes without being asked! (By the by, 'doing the dishes' also means clean the kitchen up.) Do the laundry! (My Dad always did the laundry. It reached the point that he wouldn't let my Mom because he didn't like the way she folded stuff. My parents were soooooo cool.) Yeah, yeah, I hear ya whining that you do the mowing and shoveling of snow, but that ain't nuthin' compared to the daily needs of a household. Grab that broom, bro! Come on--the young women of this county need for you to pick up the slack. They need time outside just as much as boys do. They need to learn what it means to be decent, hardworking, giving young ladies. They need the support the Elder Aunties of the Tribe have for them and they need the time it takes to learn the lessons.

The Boy Scouts are celebrating their 100th anniversary even as we speak. The Girl Scouts will celebrate our centennial in 2012. Expect this Scout to be there every fun filled step of the way.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Project: Finished!

We've put the finishing touches on FTD's 'new' room! Hooray! And it looks just grand. Pictures and posters are back up, curtains back up, new lights, the whole works. Man oh man does it feel good to have this one under our belts. DD's room doesn't need much, so unless I get a wild hair next fall, we're done painting for a good long while. (The wild hair might be a new coat of paint in the dining room with it's 17' tall walls. . . . Scary scaffolding would be involved. . . . any takers?)

Here 'tis:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Perfect Weather

Today was the day. Utterly, completely fantastic weather. We don't get them like this very often in Ohio, so we savored it.

Every window in the house is open and it's nearly 10 p.m.. It was the kind of day where curtains fluttered in the windows, and gentle sunshine poured into every nook and cranny of the house. I actually spent most of the day cleaning (still in the process of bleaching every surface I can think of, as FTD is still sick). But even those chores are tolerable when the breeze is warm and gentle, and the sun warm and well, sunny.

It was truly a day to savor.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Yet Another Rock

Yet another issue with having kids with special needs is trying to figure out just how sick the kid is or isn't. This is a tough one for all parents, but for us, it's worse.

Take FTD, for example. He never complains about anything. Well, except he complains about DD a lot. He tries to please everyone. After he hurled on his brand new carpet earlier this week, we just assumed he was over-stimulated by new carpet, new bed, new position of bed, new room color, and so on. We carefully included him every step of the way and took it slowly, letting him absorb all the new stuff gradually. He didn't have a fever and didn't complain about pain anywhere. We let him stay home from school on Wednesday (despite knowing that we'll hear about it later from the school. It's about time for the "Your child should be in school more" letter that we frequently receive. No duh.)

He didn't eat much, but then he usually doesn't eat a lot during the day--a side effect of one of his meds. He seemed a bit off, but again, I chalked it up to nerves. He was starting to have diarrhea the following day, which is never fun. But it kept up. Not alarming amounts, just annoying amounts. Friday there was no school for anyone and he seemed better. This morning it hit the fan again. (On a Saturday, of course.) I finally asked him if he needed to go to the hospital to fix it. Yep, he said, take me now. That's nearly screaming for him. So 2 x-rays, 1 CT scan*, and 4 IVs of saline later, we're still at the hospital. This is his first overnight, and hopefully his last for many many years.

The upshot is that he either has a bacterial or viral intestine infection. Hmm. A type of flu. The type for which he didn't get a shot. I really didn't see this one coming. Had it been someone else, they probably would have been screaming and yelling and moaning and groaning, but not FTD. He's my trooper.

*Add a new funny story to my sidebar list: He got done with the CT Scan and said it was like being stuffed inside a roll of toilet paper! Isn't that just the best description of it you've ever heard? That's my boy!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Rock and A Hard Place

Having kids with special needs means our lives don't follow anything that vaguely resembles a normal schedule. There is no typical path for us to follow--you know, high school, then college or a gap year then college, then jobs, marriage, family. . .

We have to keep our kids in school somehow until they turn 22, because they won't be covered under DH's health insurance. Yes, they are both eligible for Medicaid, and we do use some of the services available to us from Medicaid, but we still prefer they be on our insurance. (For example, their psychiatrist isn't a Medicaid provider so who knows who we'd end up with--and our guy has been with us for over 10 years.) Neither of the boys will have a great deal of success in a college setting. Despite advances in support for kids with disabilities in colleges, I don't see it happening for our kids. They will forever be in minimum wage jobs, doing something they really don't like. I've mentioned before that being a parent of special needs kids means being in a constant state of grieving and here it is again.

FTD has now been accepted into the Job Skills program at the area 5 county vocational high school. Next summer, and yes I do mean next summer--August 18, which is utterly stupid, he'll start there. He honestly believes he'll be taking at least one or two drafting classes, which he loved at his current HS, but what he'll really be doing is cleaning and sorting and stuff like that in various businesses around town. I truly am thankful that there are programs like this for kids. But it utterly and completely breaks my heart that it's MY kid who needs it.

Part of me just wants to tell the schools to shove it, and to keep him home where I can love him and care for him and tuck him into bed every night. We could chuck all this school schedule crap and get him a part-time job at YNP again like he did last summer. The safety net is there for him, and we'll be able to provide financially also, so why do I put all of us through the torture that schools present? And why do I have this gut feeling that in the long run it won't make one damn itty bitty bit of difference.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

One Room~~Coming Along Nicely, Thank You

When we built our "new" house 15 years ago, I wasn't sure what colors to paint the rooms. So I didn't. The light plays very, very differently from room to room and season to season. For example, in the summer the living room seems green, even though it's very white.

So when the time came to do something with FTD's room, paint was necessary. Necessary because when we moved in I faux-painted the wainscoting area. It was supposed to look like logs, but because I forgot to shade the 'logs' to look rounded, it ended up looking like a stable, but there it was. This photo shows his room before, minus the wildlife and park posters that covered the wall.

It started with one of those chains of events: DD jumped into his bed one evening and crash! it's busted and busted good. The way things work around here usually, DD gets all the cool, new stuff. He's always been my 'material girl.' It looked like he'd need a new bed. But many years ago after visiting a friend's cabin in the UP, FTD said he would like to have a log bed like theirs someday. I said great. It's been 6 years and now this happens. DD gets the new stuff again. . .or does he? My brilliant niece, Sally Seam-Ripper, #5/8 (see my Derby posts!) said why don't we give DD FTD's bed and get FTD a new one. Doh. So I painted FTD's bed shiny black at DD's request--"It's Norfolk Southern colors, you know" and ordered FTD a new bed.

If only life were that simple. First I had to worry about the size of the bed. Since the boys are young men now, they really have outgrown twin size beds (DH says, "Well, I slept in a twin bed until I was 28. Hrumph." Yeah, dude, and you only weighed 120 lbs sopping wet.) But the boys' mattresses are about 10 years old and still in great shape, so Scotswoman that I am, I couldn't bring myself to cough up the dough for a full size mattress. He'll need it soon. . . but for a while at least, FTD will be sleeping on a twin mattress in a full frame.

But wait! The new log bed is finished so beautifully (Moon Valley in Clarkston MI) the faux painted stable walls had to go. And this is the room of a young adult, not a little kid after all.

It was time: Put colored paint on the walls! Yikes, what a jump for me! I really do love the serene white of the house, but it's time to go out on a limb. And of course, if we got new paint, well, he needs new carpeting, too. The stuff that was in there was a great industrial grade, very flat carpet that was great for little kids who had all manner of accidents. . . yeah. And it held up beautifully. But again, it's time for grown up stuff. We took the old carpet and put it up in his loft and it looks great up there. The rest will go to DH's workshop in the basement.

My color sense isn't very good--picking material for quilts makes me crazy for example. I know when I love something, but I can't tell if it's blue-green or grey-green the way BeeHive Betty can. So I asked another wonderful friend to help me pick out carpet and paint. We spent several hours at The Anderson's General Store and came home with paint. Our wonderful store associate told us that carpet would be on sale in two weeks--20% off instead of the 10% Geezer Discount I was planning on.

My new nephew said he could help with the painting, but only if we did it a couple of weeks ago. Since he's 6'5" tall, that's a great offer. We moved all of FTD's junk to various other places all over the house--the hall, the dining room, and his mattress went into the living room. Lovely. Just lovely. Not. We painted and then waited for the sale. Then we waited to get it installed and HOORAH! it went in today.

As soon as FTD got home from school, he and DH started working on the new and gorgeous bed.

And here we are now. The bed is put together, his clothes are back in the closet, and tomorrow I hope to get the stuff back on the shelves. In the meantime, FTD is doing that which he likes best. And he's back in the room he loves the best.

NEW POST SCRIPT: Exactly 12 hours after the carpet was installed, FTD woke up and barfed all over it. Poor kid. I think it was the excitement of having a 'new' room. Bless his heart.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Quilts, Quilts, Quilts

Now that I'm home from my first (of many, I hope) quilt retreat, I continue to be humbled by the remarkably talented women I met this weekend. They make it look so easy. (That line was the joke of the night, by the by!) The quilts they make and then give away just boggled my mind. Women from all, and I do mean all, walks of life, sharing a common love (or obsession), coming together to share a few tips with a complete stranger~~what a nice way to spend the weekend. I have several new ideas for my crafty corner, as well as many tips for my sewing work. My hat is off to the women of the Gathering of Quilters of NW Ohio. They only meet 5 times a year, so I hope to join them more often. And they don't meet in the summer, which suits my schedule perfectly.

The Crafty Corner Evolves
Over the last year, DH and I have made a concerted effort to finish the basement. We had hoped to do it many years ago, but the way our lives run, we're happy to be this far along now. (DH is working on his Man Cave, and hopes to have it pretty well along before he comes out West, and the ceiling will be next fall's Big Project.)

My crafty corner is almost complete. After talking to and working with so many talented quilters this weekend, I'm psyched to get my area finished. I need for DH to make a couple of table tops for me, and to pick up a few more necessities (good iron, good task lights, for example) and I'm ready to rock and roll. I rearranged tables, added a wire shelving unit, and fussed with how to store big pieces of material and the bitty bits that are left over. It still lacks the home-y-ness of my old sewing/office/laundry room, but once we get the mechanicals hidden it will come together.

Office/Sewing/Laundry Room Old Ironing Center

New crafty closet

I hope to pick up several of the final goodies tomorrow, including backing and batting for my Badlands Quilt (yes! Finished!) and the Three Bears Quilt. The Three Bears is going to be my YNP quilt. After I get these done, I'm going to make a quilt for FTD's new bed. More on that in a couple of days--the new carpeting should be here Tuesday so I'll get pics posted when we get his room put back together. I'd like to paint the Dining room and the "girls' bathroom" (ha!) but I really need to start concentrating on pre-packing for out west. I need to run through the kitchen boxes to be sure all the stuff is still intact, and the bedding needs to be re-packed, since we're going to try something a bit different this year.

Since I was up sewing until 3 a.m. the past two nights, I'm ready to hit the hay!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Off We Go

Quilts around the house

Well, I did it. I've left my family. I'll be back Sunday around noon, but for me to be gone from home for (gasp) 50+ hours, well that's something.

Beehive Betty and I are at a quilting retreat. Yeah, we rock. One of the local quilting guilds had two spaces left for their annual quilt-til-you-drop funfest, so we've tagged along. It's being held in a very nice facility called Wide Water Retreat, operated by the Methodists. In the main room of the lodge, which is sunny and nice, tables are set up with 3 to 4 women and their machines. I came nearly empty handed, and BB brought several of her bags to sew, but holy cow! You should see how much stash some of these gals brought! And they can sew. While I've never met a corner on a quilt that I couldn't mess up, the work these ladies do is awesome.

The real excitement for today, er tonite, was when someone cleaned one of the many irons, and it set off the fire alarm--it was about 1:30 a.m. so only about half the women were asleep. Well, that and the 20 or so women at the other end of the building. . . So no, we won't clean any irons tomorrow night.

But now I must go try to get some beauty rest--it's 2:37 a.m. as I type, and oddly, I'm not all that sleepy. I have this horrid feeling I'll regret this tomorrow.

Friday, March 12, 2010

How Children Should Spend Their Days

We had a fog cancellation day. It really was murky. So the kids were home, which worked out well, since FTD is sick and can't really afford to miss any more days this quarter. That's one of the many hard parts of having a child who's nearly able to make it on his own in school, but not really. Sigh.

So since my niece's school was also canceled, she needed a sitter for my great-nephew Colin. He's a wild and wacky, bundle of energy six year old. Even though it was a bit overcast outside it seemed warm enough for a little walk. Warm enough indeed. Most of the time the humidity in Ohio is just unbearable. Today, the warm air was absolutely lovely. It was like a moist envelope of air, soothing inside and out. So off we went, DD, Colin, and I. My plan was to walk our road to the corner, down to the next corner and back home. Little boys with spring fever have other ideas.

We got as far as the next ravine over. We have a small ravine on our property, and the one just up the road is deeper. Deep by northwestern Ohio standards is 10 feet or so, but if you are only 3 feet tall, well, that's a huge ravine. And lo and behold, there's running water in the ravine. It's only about 2 feet across, but again, if you're only 3 feet tall, well. . . So here's how we spent our afternoon. It was wonderful. Within minutes, Colin had gone into the drink. Unfortunately, one of his shoes stayed there--and Lord knows they dug and dug to try and find it. Since one shoe was gone, I suggested that Colin give me the other one. He tossed it in my direction and eventually I found it. And oh yes, the boys were both covered head to toes in good ol' mud. Children need more face time with mud. Today was a perfect day for mud.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Tale of Four Boots, with some shoes tossed in for variety.

I've griped before about my boot situation. So here are the culprits:

On the top left:  My old beloved Wolverines.  The first time I put them on they fit perfectly.  Ah, bliss.  But alas, they are getting sorta grungy, current coating of mud notwithstanding.

On the top right: My new Wolverines--same size, make, and model as the others.  But alas!  They rub my little toe-sies to the point of absolute pain!  Arg!!! (They are for sale, size 6, women's Wolverines, seldom worn.)

On the bottom left:  My Official Work Front County Hiker Boots, in of course, cordovan, no stitching, polishable, and currently filthy.  They do need a good shine. . .  They are size 5.5, the perfect length, but are so narrow!!!!  I had the toes stretched a couple of days ago (along with my new Wolverines and dress shoes). That has helped some.  I also have the very obscenely expensive custom-made orthodtics in those boots.  The left one feels just fine and dandy, like I might actually be able to survive a whole day in them, but the right one still puts me into complete agony.  And did I mention that they squeak when I walk? Again, ARGGGGGGG!

On the bottom right: My unofficial dress shoes.  Made by Timberland called Smart something. Even though they are size 6, they're a bit tight, so I have to wear light weight socks, which is usually okay in the Visitor Center.  Hopefully the toe stretching will help.  They shine up pretty well.

So here's what I'm stuck with.  Boots that fit amazingly well, but are now too scruffy for work or boots that look grand but kill my feet.  Not a good situation.

My solution:  Figure some way to get permission to wear my ski boots!  They are the world's most comfortable things!  I bought them last winter off Ebay.  I have the old-fashioned skiis with three pins in the binding.  I've been through a couple of pairs of boots over the past 30 years, but couldn't bring myself to cough up the dough for new-fangled skiis, bindings, and boots.  So to Ebay I went.  I found these boots, leather, wool lined, three-pins, Norwegian made, worn maybe twice, complete with the original box and original sales receipt for $20.00!  That's twenty dollars!  Wow!!  Better yet, they are exactly like my first pair of boots and were originally purchased very close to the time I bought my first pair!  I totally and completely love them!
So back to the podiatrist I go, working under the assumption that the ski boots won't fly at work.  Drat.  The guy I'm seeing seems to think my issues are shoe related and there's nothing else he can do.  For the amount of cash my insurance company and I have dished out, I should be walking in gold-coated, cloud lined boots.

Most of the boot/shoe issue is related to the tarsal coalition issue I've written about before.  I've made jokes with our resident doctor-ranger-orthopedic guy about finding someone to just whack off my little toes and be done with it. (I've heard rumors that models have it done so they can wear pointy-toed shoes.  Dunno if it's true, being such a slave to fashion as I is and all.)  The aforementioned doctor-ranger-guy laughed and said with the economy as bad as it is, I might just be able to work a deal with someone!  I was making jokes with someone else when DD heard this and just about came unglued.  I had no idea he cared so much!

So I'm on my annual hunt for boots I can wear at work. What else do I have to do with my time?

Oh yeah, I can wait around and wonder how long it will take to get my fingerprints rejected again!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Springing Forward

All sorts of things happening in this time of change. We've actually had very nice weather for several days--odd around here. Warm temps are helping to slowly melt the snow, instead of the one-day-hot-blast that causes creeks to overflow their banks. The snow in our yard is and isn't melting in very odd patterns. I'm also taking bets on when the snow pile in the front of the house finally melts. It's nearly 5 feet high this year. In the past we've had snow there through all of March. This year, I'm guessing the pile will still be there well into April. Send your dollar bills with your pick for a date!

Wedding and Baby Bells
The niece's wedding reception and baby introduction party went well last Saturday. Nice group of people with whom to celebrate. K2's Mom and little bro came up from Alabama, and several other nieces/nephews of the family came to town. I set up the tables, decorated, and ran the kitchen for them, then hung around in the kitchen just like in the old days. A nice time, indeed.

These feets are made for walkin'. . . sorta.
I've been trying to get more walking done lately--which is a good trick as my feet and ankles are giving me fits. I have a congenital condition called tarsal collation, which means two of the bones in each ankle are fused together. The result is somewhat oddly shaped feet with no flexibility. The upshot is that walking/standing just plain hurts. I also exacerbated the situation in December by taking a little bitty tumble on a snowy sidewalk. Doh. I hurt my left ankle and subsequently my right foot developed a nasty little thing called plantar fasciitis. But wait! There's more! Then both feet hurt and it was time to bake cookies. And then I ate cookies, but since my feets were a-killin' me, I couldn't go walking or skiing. So then I gained weight for the first time in years, and then my feet hurt worse. Drat.

The painful solution comes in several parts. A-#1 is to lose some weight. After all, I've gotta fit back into my loverly green-n-greys in just 10 more weeks. So I'm now a member of Weight Watchers and have lost my first five pounds. If I continue at this rate, I'll be good to go when work starts. (And by the time of Miss Molly's party in August, I'll be ready to kick up my heels in cowgirl boots!)

I've also been to the podiatrist to have orthotics made for my work boots. These are basically really expensive Dr. Scholl's inserts. I've been back three times trying to get them to fit. The one in my left boot is pretty dang comfortable, but the one in my right is killing me. Now that I've been trying them, I can add tingling to my right foot. And here I thought it was suppose to feel better, not worse. Round four next week. I also took my dress boots, dress shoes, and regular boots to the cobbler to have the toes stretched. It has helped with the dress boots, but with the new arch killing me, it's a wash.

I'm pretty sure there's no medical procedure that can alleviate the problem. So I have to rely on getting boots that fit. And since we're only allowed to wear either the company issued Vasque boots or other leather boots with no extra stitching which can be polished with cordovan, that really, really limits my choices. I'm thinking about exploring the possibility of getting a medical "excuse" to have to wear some other type of boots. Maybe the back country Vasques would fit. Maybe pigs will fly.

On a Sad Note
A Law Enforcement Ranger with the US Forest Service, Chris Upton, was killed in the line of duty last week. He worked at a the Chattahoochee and Oconee National Forests in Georgia. A couple of guys were hunting coyotes and mistook him for prey. This story could be any of our rangers, anywhere, any time. A heart breaking story. More info here: