Things that made me smile…

Some days when the pain is really bugging me, and I’m thinking about all the stuff I’m NOT getting done, I have to work on staying un-depressed. So to cheer myself up today, I’ve been thinking about things that made me smile recently.

* Reading emails from friends.
* Pictures of Ellie “helping” make cupcakes.

* My parrot crawling up on the couch to be with me.
* Jess thinking to stop and get feed without me having to ask.
* Jonathan offering to help me do evening chores without me having to ask.
* Bright red cardinals dancing on my windowsill looking for sunflower seeds.
* Being invited to be Scott’s friend (of Spanglish Gringo fame) on Facebook and then having to grin when I looked at his pictures there and discovered yet another similarity between Scott/Vero and Richard/Chrystie besides what I already mentioned in His Mysterious Ways. Both guys are TALL. The gals are, well… not so tall. A whole bunch not so tall!

These and other smile inducers are all around, but some days I have to work harder at seeing them. Somehow it's just easier to notice the bad stuff.

And now here's another smile - YOU just read my blog! Thanks!

Picture This!

Yesterday I got an email from a friend of mine who is a missionary in Africa. She wanted a picture of me to show to a mutual new friend living there. I started searching through past blog entries to find a good one (that’s really an oxymoron), and noticed I never finished making on-line slideshows of pictures I took while Dad and I were in Alaska.

That got me rather sidetracked, as I finished going through pictures from our time visiting Glacier Bay, Saxman Native Village, Ketchikan and Victoria. I discovered I hadn’t even discarded the obvious flawed pictures (blurred, bad lighting, etc.), so those got deleted as I picked through to find ones I wanted to re-size and put on-line.

By the time I finished that, I was tired of working on the computer, so I never did got around to finding pictures of myself, aside from a couple taken while I was in Alaska.

After doing morning chores outside and inside this morning, I needed to get some snail mail done, so once again I got sidetracked. FINALLY though, I got the letters out in the mail and sat down at my desktop computer to look for pictures.

Easier said than done.

For one thing, my hard drive was getting so full I decided I needed more room to store pictures. I have an external hard drive for back-up, but I like my pictures saved to at least TWO places, so if one fails, I don’t lose everything. When Richard was visiting back in November, he installed a new, second internal hard drive for me, and now that’s where I store one set of my pictures.

I said all that to explain one of the reasons it’s so difficult to find pictures. I moved most off the original hard drive (“C”) to the new hard drive (“F”), and I also have older ones backed up on the external hard drive (“G”). As usual I was short on time, and didn’t sort and organize the pictures as I should have. So it’s a hodgepodge of files that needs a good sorting… sometime.

For another thing, finding pictures of me is hard, well, because there aren’t that many. I’m usually the one BEHIND the camera, so I have lots and lots of pictures of Jess and family and friends and pets and farm animals, but me? Not so much.

Here's a picture Sharron took of me with my camera on one of her visits to the farm. (I shudder to think what might happen now that she has her own nifty digital camera!) She's not afraid to get out there and get dirty, so there's no telling what we might get into when she visits. This time, we happened to have a new goat kid.

I finally came up with 7 pictures for a photo page: 1 that Richard took, 1 that Sharron took, 1 that I set the timer and took myself, and 4 that a photographer took. I'm including a link to my page of pictures, just in case you want some photos capable of killing any vermin in your home.

So here ya are... just picture this.

Ellie banging away to beat the band!

Actually, little Miss Ellies IS the band here!

As for the expression, "to beat the band" -- I rather wondered how it got started. Research revealed several possible explanations, but it seems it simply means, "that you sang or played or shouted louder even than an orchestra and so, by later extension, came to refer to anything superlative."

So by banging on the cookware, Ellie can go to pot and beat the band at the same time!

Getting a move on…

Yesterday it rained off and on all day. A rainy day is a non-productive day for me. It’s just hard to keep pushing past the aches and pains to get anything done. Jonathan went out and helped me with the farm chores, and that was my big accomplishment for the day.

Today I’m hoping to do better. I’ve already got some bread rising in the breadmaker. I’m trying yet another new sourdough recipe called, “New England Pioneer Bread.” It has cornmeal and maple syrup in it, which supposedly the pioneers found locally.

I’ve found that I need to put much more liquid in the dough than the recipes in the cookbook, “Worldwide Sourdoughs from Your Bread Machine” calls for. Every one I’ve tried has needed a LOT more liquid. I know that sourdough cultures are supposed to vary in consistency, but considering every time you add to it, you’re supposed to add equal amounts flour and water, it amazes me that there is so much variation.

There is also “Birdie Bread” in the oven baking. I don’t suppose I ever make it the same twice. I start by throwing some eggs and cornmeal in the bowl, add some wheat flour, a little sourdough culture, olive oil, dried tomatoes, any leftover veggies I have, or fruits… just anything that’s available that might be healthy for a bird. Fortunately, I don’t have to make it very often, as I freeze most of it, just keeping about a week’s worth at a time thawed and in the fridge and ready to use.

The washing machine is busy, and the dishwasher has been emptied and starting to refill. As anyone who takes care of their home knows, there are always dishes and laundry to deal with. And trash cans to empty!

I’ve already done more today than I managed to do yesterday, so I guess I’m making progress.

His Mysterious Ways

Sometimes things happen in our lives that follow a wonderfully twisted path.

This particular instance begins with a great friend I have who lives in New York. We met on a list for goats, of all things. My email (tardis@..) caught her eye because she and her husband used to watch Dr. Who so they recognized a fellow fan. (The Doctor’s time machine is called a T.A.R.D.I.S.) From that beginning, we’ve been friends for years.

She also has trouble with neuropathy, especially in her hands. It’s a special treat to get an email from her since it’s so hard for her to type. She sent me one last week commenting on the pictures in this blog of Ellie learning to sit up, and how great that is, and how she’d seen a neat item in the news about little girls with cerebral palsy taking ballet, and that there was a book about it and she thought Muhammad Ali’s daughter had something to do with it. I figured if she went to the trouble to tell me about it, I needed to follow through and find out more.

So I searched. I found the book, Ballerina Dreams on Amazon, but no connection there to Laila Ali.

So I searched some more. After much poking around, I ended up on a blog called, “Spanglish Gringo”, at an entry about Dancing with the Stars, which Laila Ali was on last season. I’ll hereby confess we’re Dancing with the Stars fans at our house, so that intrigued me

Now understand, that was the ONLY connection I thought we had when I first landed on his website. I couldn’t see we had much in common. Besides the obvious difference of gender, I noted the following:

I live in the country. He lives in Los Angeles. In fact, I live on a farm. He’s in an urban environment that is totally foreign to me. His home has bars on the windows. We have screened windows we open in nice weather.

He’s steeped in a multi-ethnic culture. I have little opportunity for cross-cultural contact.

His family came to America on the Elizabeth some 20-30 years after the Mayflower. I haven’t a clue about my ancestry that far back

And whereas my kids are grown up, he’s just starting a family. In fact, I’m a grandmother, and he’s a relatively new dad. (So obviously, he’s also much younger than I am.)

But still, there was just something about the blog that piqued my interest. I noticed the cross hanging round his neck, and that he has a ministry in Los Angeles. Aha, a fellow believer, something in common after all. I decided to check out the blog and learn more.

Mind you, there are 3 years of archives, but I figured I’d just hit the highlights. Ended up I did much more than that, and spent yesterday afternoon reading the entire blog from beginning to end. Okay, I’ll confess I skimmed over some entries on sports and other things that don’t interest me so much, but that left a whole lot that was totally fascinating. I enjoyed reading about his ministry, his wife, and their families. He has some great quotes on the blog, and a lot of thought-provoking material.

Then I got to the entries about their struggle to adopt, the meetings with the adoption agency and social workers, putting together their portfolio for prospective mothers, and the hope of finding “their” child. That really resonated since Richard and Chrystie have been thinking about adoption, and through them I’ve learned more about the difficulties that entails.

It was great to read about their joy when they got a beautiful little girl. And she really is a little charmer. Her pictures in the “Friday Foto Fix” entries are one of the highlights of the blog. Off hand, I can only think of one other little girl that tops her! (Sorry guys, I’m a wee bit biased on this one!)

I kept reading and then, then! Then the posts about the problems their Isa was experiencing, the delays in development, the tests, and the upshot being here was another couple with a beautiful little girl whose MRI showed she had a stroke before she was born. Yes, like our little Ellie, their little girl has Cerebral Palsy. Reading the posts leading up to the diagnosis, and subsequent posts talking about her therapy and ongoing health problems, well, it sure hit home.

Now I don’t pretend to have the intimate knowledge about caring for a child with cerebral palsy that this couple now has, and Richard and Chrystie have. I’m just a grandmother of such a child, and I live far, far away. But it would seem we have much more in common that I first imagined.

Scott and Veronica of "Spanglish Gringo" fame, and our own Richard and Chrystie – I hope you all continue to nourish your marriages and spiritual growth, as you will no doubt have many times you’ll need to lean on each other and the Lord to meet the challenges of parenting special needs children. I pray that their Isabel and our Ellie will astonish us all with the things they learn and accomplish as their brains make new connections to make up for those lost because of strokes.

And I’m thankful for His Mysterious Ways, leading us places we would never think to go, helping enlighten and comfort us when we least expect it.

Molehill accomplishments for the day...

Once again, I’ve had another day with big plans but only small things got done.

The first order of the day was to go pick up the cat from the vet’s office. He was worse looking than when we took him, partly because the vet shaved off so much fur to get to the abscesses. After she cut out the necrotic tissue, it looked pretty bad. The whole procedure was hard on the cat and hard on the checkbook.

Before we let Spot out of the travel cage, we decided to make him a warmer place to stay on the front porch. Considering he has a big patch of naked skin, we don't want him to get too cold now! We found a box and old chair pad to put insdie it, and fixed it up on top of the pew out there. If he'll get in it, it should be a good protection against wind and cold.

Once Jonathan and I got that done, I headed out to do morning chores. Since it was above freezing, I figured it was a good time to scrub out some buckets and refill them. The electric heat is great to keep ice from forming, but the heated water gets pretty grungy mighty fast. I use a toilet bowl brush to scrub off the sides of the buckets. (And no, the brush was never used in a toilet!). That’s hard on the body with being bent over and that scrubbing motion irritates the thoracic neuralgia. But it needs done, so.....

Inside I did some laundry, helped Jonathan weather proof the basement door and the sidelights on either side, updated the farm website and did some other little things, and then there it was, time to do the evening chores, and now I’m sitting here trying to figure out what I’m fixing for supper. It’s been one of those days where I’ve thought about it off and on all day, but couldn’t come up with anything that sounded good that I wanted to do. I'll figure something out.

It’s also Day 2 on some new medicine, and tomorrow it will be Day 1 of new dosages for both of my thyroid meds. This might get interesting… I had to discontinue one supplement I was trying as it made me sick to my stomach. One step forward, 2 or 3 back.

But guess what? Tomorrow’s another day! How’s that for clich├ęs?
I’ll just have to see how many molehills I can manage and keep pushing forward.

Snow and Rain

About 4pm here, it started to snow. Not the Canadian up-to-your-eyeballs kind of snow, or Maine’s up-to-your-butt kind of snow, or even Iowa’s knee-deep kind of snow. No, we get you’re-lucky-if-it-cools-your-toes kind of snow. There were just a few flurries of flakes, sometimes hard enough to make it difficult to see, but mostly just a gentle swirl of snow falling lazily earthward. A little actually stuck to the ground, but later this evening it started to rain, so bye-bye snow.

Isn't that pitiful? This is what passes for a snowfall here!

One thing I’ve discovered, snow or rain, they both cause pain. And pain slows me down, so I haven’t got near as much done today as I’d hoped to do. I always have big plans for the day. Unfortunately, the mountains of work I plan to do usually end up being mere molehills of accomplishment when the day is done.

Still, every night I go to bed with big plans of getting MORE done the next day. It gives me a goal, something to aim for. I guess it’s good to keep trying and hoping to do better.

So tomorrow, I’m going to get LOTS done!

Movie Star Ellie Sits Up

More goodies from Canada!

Here's a little video of Ellie sitting up and clapping.

What a Canadian Cutie!!!

Ellie continues to make progress...

I got an email from Chrystie this morning, and she was telling me how yesterday Ellie hollered at her dad to get his attention, then proceeded to sit up ALL BY HERSELF from a lying position on the floor. Go Ellie!!!

Richard got a picture of her after she sat up:

She looks rather proud of herself, doesn't she? And well she should be!

Chrystie further reported that Ellie is doing some NICE crawling--on hands and knees--which is GREAT!!! It takes a lot of thinking and practice, practice, practice, to learn to crawl when you have Cerebral Palsy. Once again, "Go Ellie!!!"

Richard also sent a picture of Ellie modeling a sweater she got for Christmas:
I'll give you just ONE guess who sent her the sweater!

Turning rants to raves - update on Dad’s Printer Mailbox

I have been remiss in not updating my rant about Dad’s printer mailbox, and turning it into a rave. In my last post about it, “Ranting & Raving” on Friday, January 4th, I was complaining because I’d called customer support, and reached what I presumed was India since I was having trouble understanding the guy I talked to, and so many companies have taken to outsourcing their support to India. He definitely had an accent and I thought he sounded Indian.

But you know what they say about making assumptions. Same thing applies to presumptions I guess.

First, the update on the problems we were having. I called back later that same day to customer support, and this time I got hold of a VERY nice lady named Heather. She was easy to understand, paid attention to what I was telling her, and gave me some good advice on how to fix the printer mailbox.

One thing she told us to try was a “cheat code” which resets the machine. It worked immediately. Hooray! Dad was thrilled to have his mail printing out again.

And now today, in a surprising ‘small world’ and ‘that must be the power of search engines’ turn of events, I received an email from no less than the VP of Marketing for Presto, Mr. Radsliff. He’d read this blog, and was very nicely letting me know that Presto does NOT have a call center in India. (Remember what I said about the dangers of making presumptions!) Their customer service call center is located in Sault St. Marie, Michigan.

I’m impressed. VERY impressed.

He also wanted to help me get the problem resolved with the printer. I’m pleased I can tell him that we did indeed get the problem fixed later that day, with help from a different customer service representative. It was night and day between the two calls I made, with the second being sooooo much more helpful. Kudos to Heather! I wish I’d got her last name and could brag on her to the powers-that-be.

As with all technology, it’s frustrating when the printer mailbox is not working and you have no idea how to fix it. Fortunately, for the most part it’s very simple to use, and Dad hasn’t had any problems with it other than the one I mentioned, when it wasn’t dialing in as scheduled.

One bad call doesn’t spoil the product. I would definitely recommend the printer mailbox with the Presto Service to anyone who doesn’t want to use a computer for email. My dad is almost 82 years old, and LOVES getting email with the Presto service. He told me “It gives him something to look forward to”, and is amazed “that you can send pictures through the phone line like that.”

For my part, I’m amazed someone from Presto actually read my blog to see my comments. Those little web crawling spiders must have been busy since last Friday for it to show up on a search so soon!

So Presto Change-O once again! Dad gets email, and he’s thrilled!
And THANKS to Heather and Mr. Peter Radsliff, the Presto people that helped us out!

A storm door for the front entrance!

Over the holidays, Jess worked on installing storm doors on both the front and back entrances. The one on the front was more expensive and heavier, so he had Jonathan help him lift it into place.

Jonathan held it up while Jess secured it to the frame.
It took Jess two days to get all the right tools and get the door fully installed. He declared it's just as well he doesn't do it for a living! However, he did a great job, and here's what it looks like all set in place -

It's a really nice door. There's a screen that pulls down from the top when you want to allow air to flow into the house. When not in use, the screen rolls up into the top of the frame so you have a clear view the rest of the time.

And hopefully, it will make the entrance more weather proof and help the utility bills!

Wii would like to mail…

Richard wanted a Nintendo Wii. Ostensibly so the kids in his church group can play games on it when they have meetings/parties/whatever. I’m sure, however, he’ll make sure to get plenty of practice so he’ll know how to play the games (wink, wink).

There’s just one problem with Wii’s. They are hard to find.
Jonathan works at a toy store. He watched for Wii’s.
Finally, ONE Wii came in to Toys R Us. Jonathan bought it.

Now Jonathan is in Tennessee, and Richard is in Manitoba, so it’s a little far to “hand” deliver the Wii. The next option, of course, is to mail the package. However, mailing packages to Canada can get expensive. Fortunately, since Richard and Chrystie live near the US/Canadian border, they also keep a post office box in Minnesota. That makes things easy.

Well, it should have been easy.

Jonathan and I found a box to pack the Wii in. We taped and taped and got it all tucked in. We thought the Wii was good to go. We were wrong.

Our nearest post office is 8 miles away, so that’s where we went. Jonathan put the box on the counter, and the postal clerk weighed it. She asked if we wanted insurance. We said yes. She shook the box and asked what was in it. A Wii we said. She said it wasn’t packed securely enough and refused to insure it. “If you want insurance, go home and repackage it.”

What a waste of time. Every time I go to this particular post office and get this particular clerk, she always seems to be on a power trip and finds something to fuss about.

We headed home. We cut through miles of tape. We stuffed more Styrofoam peanuts in the box. We re-taped the package.

We went to a different post office.

It was night and day. The guy there was friendly and courteous. He weighed the package, told us what it would cost to mail it, asked if we wanted insurance and how much, and that was that. After spending most of the morning on the task, we’re done.

The Wii’s in the mail.

Bat Bird

My crazy parrot was in the kitchen, climbed up the pantry door and into the pantry itself. She wanted to climb down from one shelf to the next, but was having trouble getting there.

As you can see, she ended up going to the shelf above instead.

She hang around for a while, then tried again.

Finally she was successful. She is one persistent bird!

Ranting and Raving…

Day 4 of the New Year, and this year sure has had ups and downs already. Two steps forward, and sometimes 2 or 3 backwards, ARGH!

This morning I realized I hadn’t sent a copy of my daily humor mailing to my dad’s HP Printer Mailbox address. I rushed in to the desktop computer to try getting it out before the next dial-up time, sent it, then brought up the account to see if it had already dialed in for the scheduled time, or I’d beat it. Sometimes it’s up to 15 minutes after the supposedly scheduled time before the printer actually dials in, so there’s a little give and take there.

When I checked, I noticed the ink was really low, and the printer hadn’t dialed in since 1pm yesterday. It had missed 3 dial-in times. Since this is new technology to us, I thought maybe it wouldn’t dial in if the ink was low, so called Dad and told him to replace the ink cartridge.

He did that. All lights were go. The next dial-in time came. It still didn’t work.

I called Dad back and told him to use the “cheat code” to have the printer dial in even when it’s not a scheduled time. It chirped at him, but still no email was printed.

By this time, I’d looked through the F.A.Q. stuff and trouble-shooting pages at their website, but nothing seemed to fit. I figured it was time to call customer support.

Guess what I heard when I dialed in? “We’re sorry but we’re experiencing extraordinarily heavy call volume.” Not again! Is that every company’s mantra right now??? At least they didn’t tell me to call back later, but asked for me to stay on the line, then asked which of two sets of problems I had. When I pushed the button, the phone immediately rang elsewhere and I was connected...

And WHERE was I connected? To India of course! Heaven forbid an American company should use American people to man their tech support lines. No, they outsource it to India, and you get to talk to someone who may or may not have a good grasp of the English language, and who may or may not be understandable themselves. (Please read the January 10th blog for updates!!! This was in error!)

Did he help me out? Not really. All he could tell me was they were experiencing some difficulties with “their connectivity”, he’d send a sheet of paper from their end, and then see if Dad’s printer mailbox prints it out at the next scheduled printing time. If not, call back.

I also asked why people added to the friends list weren’t getting through, and got the same wheeze… see if it works at the next printing and if not, call back. Yeah, in other words, call back when it won’t be HIS problem, because he hasn’t a clue what to do!

I’d sure like to call a company and get IMMEDIATE and understandable help for a change!!!

Please read the January 10th blog for updates!!!

What a difference a day makes…

Yesterday I couldn’t get closure on anything. Today was better.

First off, I discovered my wandering tea went to the wrong zip code, and ended up in Grandview, TN, then was shipped back to the company in California. Apparently it just arrived back there today. The customer representative assured me they would expedite the shipment out again, and it should arrive in the right zip code by the middle of next week.

Secondly, I received a reply to my email about the heater, and was assured the order did indeed go through as I placed it, and there were no extra charges on my account.

Thirdly, I took clothes back to Peebles I’d bought Jess for Christmas, many of which did not fit. Never mind that I bought two pairs of pants with the same waist size and inseam, one was WAY longer than the other. To make matters worse, the pants were cuffed, so there was no way to hem them up. And never mind that I had Jess try on clothes from his closet BEFORE I went shopping, and wrote down the sizes that fit. All my careful preparation didn't seem to mean diddly-squat, cause half the clothes I bought him still didn’t fit.

Somehow I got lucky today and all the clothes I swapped for to replace the clothes I bought that didn’t fit…. fit. Hallelujah! Have you ever tried to get all the pins and cardboard and bits of plastic back on a dress shirt so you can return it??? I was sooooooo glad I don’t have to do that again!

It’s nice to make some progress for a change. Hope the trend continues!

It's been one frustrating day!!!

Day 2 of the New Year, and already I’m getting frustrated trying to “get things done.” I’ve been trying to fix several different problems, but I don’t seem to be getting very far.

To start with, I placed an order for tea way back to the beginning of December. I placed the order by phone after the internet site wouldn’t accept my payment information. The company was closed over the holidays, and they must be swamped now that they’re open again, because I couldn’t get through to them.

I placed an order for a heater the day after Christmas, and had a question about that, and wouldn’t you know, when I called them, I got a “We’re experiencing heavy call volume. Please call back at a later time.”

I had another company I wanted to get hold of, and guess what, got the same message when I called them, “We’re experiencing heavy call volume. Please call back at a later time.”

What happened to putting people on hold? Now you have to call back whenever you think of it, and hope that when you do, you finally get through.

I sure hope tomorrow I can find someone who will actually talk to me!


Here’s hoping this year brings some GOOD news and happenings to everyone! But as is often the case at the start of a new year, I find myself reflecting on years gone by. Here’s a list of things from times past, in no particular order, that I’m going to miss:

#1 A desktop calendar. Not the sort that are “one a day” but an upright one like the farm calendar I made for 2007. Kind of this shape /_\ It was perfect for sitting on top of my computer monitor, and on the table.

#2) Aprons. As I’ve been doing more and more cooking, I find I miss the aprons my Granny used to make. NOT the smock version so often seen these days. They just cover your top. This kind had a loop that slipped over your head with a top part covering your chest, then tied around the waist and covered your skirt or pants to the knees, or thereabouts. It was great to wipe your hands on, for keeping flour off your clothes when making bread, and just downright handy.

#3) Snow on Christmas Day. And Christmas Day ONLY.

#4) More family nearby. Richard and Chrystie and now Ellie living in the Huntsville area again. NONE of the grandkids are close. I mean, Florida and Canada??? We have to travel long distances in opposite directions to see any of them!

#5) Flower gardening. My health keeps me from doing much of that these days and I miss big, beautiful, well-kept flower beds filled with unusual varieties.

#6) I miss being rich. Oh wait… I never was rich…. Well, wouldn’t it be fun to have so much money you could buy ANYTHING you wanted, and even better, be able to help out people whenever you wanted to???

#7) Lambs and goat kids. No babies this spring. What a bummer. Looking out our dining room window and watching a bunch of little lambs running around playing with each other like kids on a playground was such fun.

#8) My mother. She died the same year I graduated from college, but after all these years, I still get that pang once in a while of missing her. She so wanted grandchildren, and I know she would have been thrilled with all of them, and now the great grandchildren. I wish I’d treated her better, and been less intent on my own life and more aware of HER needs. Once someone is gone, there’s no way to make up for things.

#9) Living out in the boonies. Actually, there are parts I miss from a lot of places we’ve lived. I miss having fewer neighbors here. It doesn’t seem so rural anymore with subdivisions in every direction. I miss the log house we had in Wheeling. I miss being able to sit on the front porch of the house in Eureka and watch barges going up and down the river.

#10) And last, but not least, I miss my sanity. I’m just sure I had it sometime, but it’s been a VERY long time ago!