The Dreaded “C” Word

Introducing Two Awesome Grandsons

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If you have followed my blogs, you have met my two cats, Tiger and Prissy, and some other members of my family. But “Nanny Time” with my two youngest grandsons, Jason and Aaron has been limited. Last week I had the opportunity to take them to Galax, Virginia to visit with my sister. Jason will be 14 next month and later in the same month, Aaron will be 13.
Traveling with two teen age boys may not sound like much fun, but it was AWESOME. I knew they were well-behaved and that would not be a problem, but to hear the praise of my sister and brother-in-law and some 30 other strangers they met was very heart-warming. It made me feel very proud of them and the job their parents have done.
We began our journey with a stop at Natural Bridge, which I was concerned might be a bit boring in comparison to their “I-things” (which are strangers to me). But on the contrary, they were full of interest and enjoyed conversing with the Ranger we met. At my sister’s place, they learned to drive her golf cart and spent time feeding the fish in her huge natural pond. Then we went to the Alpacca farm nearby on the Blue Ridge parkway, and again, they were extremely excited to feed and pet these delightful animals and learn about their habits and care. Jason is going to study more about this so he can raise his own. (In Manassas City? – I think not.)

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Putt-Putt golf in Mt. Airy, North Carolina might have been enjoyable except that Nanny couldn’t take the heat so this event became abreviated.

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The real feature of the week was a Saturday block party which consisted of neighbors from a 5 mile radius. This was arranged by a recently arrived family from Michigan who met everyone at their “moving in” yard sale. About 15 families from the surrounding area, many of whom had lived there “forever” were practically strangers to each other (a wave as they passed on the narrow roads) became fast friends at the picnic. The food was varied and delicious; a rousing horse-shoe tournament and gettting-to-know-you conversations filled the afternoon, and the culimination of the day was a huge bon-fire, complete with roasted marshmallows and a sing-along. Being in the Eastern edge of the Bible Belt, the songs were mostly hymns and familiar choruses. The youngest couple had brought a banjo and a guitar, along with their lovely voices and their three young children. A full moon and scattered clouds provided a fabulous setting.
Have you ever attended a picnic with 30+ strangers that went from 4 o’clock in the afternoon until 11 o’clock at night? My teen-age grandsons made themselves completely at home in this setting and were practically the first to announce they would be attending the “Second Annual Peaks Mountain Block Party” in 2016.
Unfortunately, we had to pack up and head north on Sunday so the boys could start school the next day . I reluctantly released them back to their parents, having formed a tighter bond with them and gained a more appreciative insight into the lives of teenagers. They were pleasant travel companions, charming house guests and good ambassadors for their generation.
And that’s not just my opinion. Thank You, Ron and Laura, for sharing them.

A Love Story

Al and Tiger

Al and Tiger

Al and Tiger

When my husband, Al, and I moved to the Valley 10 years ago, we declared that we would be pet free. In the three years prior to our move from Northern Virginia we had buried three cats – cats that we loved and had been close companions. But our family thought differently. They thought because we knew nobody in the Valley we would be lonely. So as soon as we finished unpacking, early one morning my grandson arrived with a cat carrier, complete with kitten, a littter pan and bag of litter and a bag of “kittten chow”. “Mom said to bring this to you and not bring them back” was his message.
So, we now had a kitten.
He adjusted to us immediately and we named him “Tiger” because of his beautiful striped markings. He and Al bonded immediately. His favorite sleeping place was either on Al’s shoulder in the recliner or between his ankles on the bed. There was no question about whose cat he was.
As the weather warmed up and we let him outside, he began exploring. He instinctively knew the boundaries of our property and when neighbors walked their dogs, he bounded to the sidewalk and somehow conveyed to them that they were not to cross the line. A full size Schnauzer was so intimidated by him, that she would force her owners to cross the to the other side of the street as they approached our house.
Tiger soon discovered the storm sewer network under the street and would disappear into the drain near our house and reappear several houses away, which really concerned Al. But there was no way to prevent him from playing in what he considered his private playground. At least he came home in response to Al’s whistle.
Often when Al went on his daily walk down to the bottom of Chrystal Hill, Tiger accompanied him part of the way until Al made him turn back. Then he would sit on our sidewalk and watch for Al to return. They were true companions. I became involved in several Volunteer activities so they were frequently alone at the house. Al spent his time reading or watching sports on TV and Tiger was always nearby.
After about three years, I decided Tiger needed a kitten to play with. but I failed to consult him. A neighbor had a female cat who was producing a litter of kittens about once a year, thanks to a big long-haired yellow cat that begam roaming the neighborhood. Tiger considered him a trespassser (like the occasional dogs that came by) and they became serious enemies. When the neighbor’s cat produced a female kitten with tiger stripes and a few white markings, I brought it home and introduced it to Tiger. At first, he would have nothing to do with her, but he learned to tolerate her. When she got old enough to venure outside, Tiger became her protector and made sure she stayed within her boundaries. I named her Priscilla, but we call her Prissy.
Tiger had become used to having the run of the house, but when I brought Prissy in, I installed her in the master bedroom until she became litter-trained. From that time on, Tiger would not enter my bedroom. They eventually each staked out their sleeping quarters in the house and respected each other’s space; the same with their eating corners.
We have always allowed Tiger to come and go via the garage door which we would leave up a few inches until bedtime. Sometimes Prissy would follow him into the garage. One evening there was a cat fight in the garage and we saw the big yellow cat running away. Tiger came in with a bloody eye and Prissy came in shaking and ran and hid.
The next day we took Tiger to the Vet and were told he didn’t think he could save his eye. So I bathed it and put drops in it several times a day and gave him antibiotic pills while Al held him and talked soothingly to him. But when the Vet rechcecked him, he told us that the eye was full of cancer and would have to be removed. He adapted very quickly to being “half-sighted”, but his wandering days seemed to be over and he became more contented to stay home. This gave him and Al more time to keep each other company.

As Tiger and Prissy became more tolerant of each other, they eventually established a “play” routine. I think it was partly to garner our attention and entertain us. While we sat down to watch TV news and game shows, they assembled in the family room, Prissy on the foot stool near Al and Tiger on the floor nearby. First they engaged in a staring session, then, apparently one would signal with a twitch of an ear and the fun began. They raced though the house, over furniture, under furniture, sliding on rugs, occasionally tackeling each other and rolling around on the floor. This usually lasted 10 or 15 minutes until they would each flop down, tail wagging slowly until they fell asleep. When bedtime came, Prissy got on my bed and Tiger got on Al’s bed.

If one of them happened to be outside at bedtime, the other one would not settle down and would parade from one door to the other until everyone was safely in the house. Tiger beacame very protective of Prissy whenever the yellow cat came prowling around. Neither cat particularly appreciated visitors and after an initial greeting, would disappear for the duration of the visit.

After Christmas, as Al’s health and energy began declining, Tiger spent more and more time with him, either on the bed or in the chair – but never far from his side. When Al began sleeping more each day, so did Tiger – sometimes only leaving the bed long enough to eat and make a quick trip outside. The day I had to call the Rescue Squad to transport Al to the hospital, Tiger would not leave the bed when the Paramedics were attempting to transfer Al to the stretcher. I had to physically pick him up and remove him. The whole time Al was in the hospital, Tiger was miserable. He roamed the house, checking all the rooms and periodically staring out windows and doors.

When the ambulance returned Al home, Tiger wasted no time getting up on the bed as the paramedics settled him in. He became a permanent ficture at Al’s side and did not even move when the Hospice nurses were attending to Al. And when Al was conscious, he would stroke Tiger’s head. Nurses and visitors came and went, but Tiger kept a constant vigil for the remaining few days. I didn’t have to explain anything to him – he sensed what was happening. As I attempt to put my thoughts on paper, I realize the depth of the love that they shared.

After Al was gone, Tiger searched the house many times – for at least two weeks, returning to Al’s bed to sleep. Finally, he seemed to accept the fact that this was permanent and turned his attention to me. Suddenly he was “my” cat again and now he is constantly at my feet, on my lap or in my bed, as we comfort each other. If I sit in my chair to read or just ponder, he sits in my lap and occasionally raises a paw to my cheek and looks into my eyes. Yes, it was a real love triangle.

A Recent Visitor

There have been many visitors to our house since January – usually they are invited, or at least expected. This one was neither.
It was a quiet morning and I was working in the kitchen and doing laundry. I noticed Prissy sitting in the dining room, staring at something. Actually, she was crouched in front of the china closet, staring under it. Of course, she ignored me when I asked what she was looking at. Finally, I got down on my hands and knees to see for myself, but it was too dark. Getting up, not an easy task, I fetched a flashlight and got back down on the floor again. With the light I could see a dark lump of something that looked like a partial skien of black yarn.
Suspecting that it was not yarn I got up again to get a tool – a yard stick. When I prodded the lump, it uncoiled and quickly slithered out from under the china closet and recoiled behind the dining room door.
This was not exactly a new experience, but the first time I had to deal with it on my own.
First I went and got the broom and dustpan. When I attempted to sweep it up onto the dustpan, it quickly slithered back to the protection of the china closet. I realized the dustpan handle was too short. Then I remembered the snow shovel.
Instructing Prissy to keep an eye on our visitor, I retrieved the snow shovel from the garage, which I wedged under the door to form a ramp. When I first tried to coax it onto the shovel, it turned and slithered out at the far end of the china closet and stretched out on the floor. Barricaded by the broom, it finally returned to the cover of the china closet. I kept poking and prodding until it finally slithered onto the shovel. I quickly grabbed the shovel, slapped the broom on like a lid and dashed to the front door which, thankfully, I had propped open in preparation for this maneuver. I managed to reach the grass just as our visitor slid off the shovel. Last seen he was rapidly disappearing under the bushes in front of the house.
As I said, this was not my first such experience, but my first solo. Tiger and Prissy have been bringing in small garden snakes every Spring during the rainy season when the back yard floods. But this was the largest one I’ve seen. Usually they are only about 9 inches long. They are black with narrow light green stripes down both sides. I’m told they are not harmful, but they just don’t go with my decor.
Needless to say, Prissy lost her privilege of having he back door slightly open so she can come and go as she pleases. Now she must beg to go out and beg to come in. And she has to go through Customs when she re-enters.

The Cycle of Life

The cycle of life is an amazing thing to consider. Scientists and Engineers have spent years inventing and making machinery work, but long before that, God put living creatures on the Earth. In many instances the Scientist and Engineers have copied God’s creations, or at least the theory that makes them work.

Look at the things that grow on earth. Most of them start with a seed which produces a sprout, and some sort of flower, fruit or vegetable, and sometimes both. then it produces another seed in order to perpetuate itself. Humans and animals are similar in that regard. Warm-blooded animals evolve from a seed planted within the female by the male; in adulthood, the male continues to produce seeds which ae grown and nurtured by the female.

Other animals, such as birds, chickens, fish and snakes produce eggs, but “lay” them outside the body where they are sheltered and nurtured until they “hatch”. In all these instances, the parent animals know instinctively how to nurture their young. Not only did God design them, he gave them the necessary skills and knowledge to take care of their offspring. So far as I know, the Scientists and Engineers have not found a way to perpetuate their products; the manufacturing process must start from scratch.

Some plants reproduce themselves by their root systems, sending out roots that can travel great distances, with sprouts appearing along the way. Birds participate in the propagation of new plants by plucking seeds or berries from a plant in one location and flying to another location to drop them. Squirrels do the same with the nuts and acorns they harvest, and bees and insects use their pollination skills. God planned all of these details before he breathed life into us.

God also provided the food chain for the nourishment and perpetuation of his creations. Most of the offspring of plants are edible by humans and/or animals as are many of the warm-blooded species. Over time, natural causes have destroyed some of God’s creations, while others have succumbed to acts of aggression by other species, sometimes for food and sometimes for other reasons: fear, anger, self-preservation, rivalry, greed and territorial disputes.

I was told that blogging is a form of self-expression. When certain topics come to my mind, I sit down and start writing. I’m not sure where this train of thought came from, except that we have had a very interesting Spring and Summer season, and I marvel at Gods’ creations. Everything seems to be a bit off the usual schedule. How do the birds know when it is time to go South or return North? How do wild rabbits know where to hid their burrows so marauding cats can’t snatch their babies? How do bears know when it’s time to hybernate for the winter?

And what about human babies? Little girls instinctively cuddle baby dolls and stuffed animals, while little boys push anything that has wheels and make the appropriate mechanical sounds.

So, as I sit here at the top of my hill, observing all that goes on around me, I have plenty to occupy my thoughts. I thank God for the ability to see the many colors of spring and summer, the ability to hear the songs of the birds and the chatter of the squirrels, the laughter of the children, the bouncing of their balls on the pavement, the shouts as they race their bicycles and scooters, and the squeals of delight as they run through the sprinklers. They override the annoying sounds of lawn mowers, leaf blowers, rumbling thunder and torrents of rain and other miscellaneous noises. For instance, right now, there is an angry mocking bird sitting on the porch railing sqwaking at Prissy who is trying to take a nap. My guess is they have had a previous unpleasant encounter, and if the provocation continues, the cat will win. And so, the cycle of life continues.

Our Shrinking Generation

Our generation is shrinking – not in girth but in numbers. I attended another Memorial Service yesterday for one of our former social circle. That makes five in the past year or so. They all lived full, wonderful lives, but the holes they leave are very visible. We can sit around and tell great stories and laugh at remembered events, but THEIR laughter is missing.

Probably on every one’s mind, but unspoken, is “Who will be next?” “What will happen when I am gone?”

A word comes to mind – PREPARE. Spiritually, I am ready, but realistically I am not. There are photographs to label and organize; drawers and closets to clean and filter. Long over-due letters and cards to write, phone calls to make, friends to visit. Affairs to get in order.

As we observe the struggle of the families as they attend to the very necessary details of closing out a loved one’s life, we become aware of the pain and sorrow this sometimes causes. It should serve as a “kick in the butt” to get our own houses in order.

Some people are already very organized, but I am not. I have trouble just keeping up with today’s fast-paced life style. It may mean giving up something I WANT to do and concentrate on what I NEED to do. Funny, but that phrase sounds familiar. I seem to remember hearing it when I was young and maybe even saying it to my children. There are WANTS and NEEDS. We have to learn to identify the difference and govern ourselves accordingly. If I’m as smart as I think I am sometimes, maybe I’ll change my life style just a it and take care of some of the NEEDS so I’ll have more time to enjoy the WANTS.

For starters I’m going to stop dreaming that I will ever again wear that beautiful royal blue dress I made for a special party 30 years ago; same with the mauve dress I bought for my wedding 16 years ago, and on and on and on. Somebody out there somewhere is bound to NEED them.

Next, I’ll devote a part of every evening to up-dating photo albums and labeling and adding photos that are stored in umpteen boxes in the basement. Same thing with recipies I’ve collected from relatives and friends over the years. I know which drawer to look in and which scraps of paper contain delicious details, but I can’t expect my daugher and nieces to know that.

And while I’m at it, a list of assets and their location should be up-dated, as well as information about insurance and car title and deeds, etc. I was a terrific secretary to others, but my own filing system leaves a bit to be desired.

I want to leave my children a legacy, but not one that identifis me as a haphazzard pack-rat. When that shrinking circle of friends gathers, I want to be able to laugh WITH them from beyond, not cringe as they laugh AT me and moan about the mess I left.

It’s something to think about.

A December View

A December View

A December View

Memories

It’s the first day of school around here which brings back a flood of memories. When I was in school, it seemed that it always rained the first day. Maybe that’s because for my last six years of school we lived in a rural area and I had to walk one mile to the bus stop.
Nevertheless, the first day was always exciting. Seeing old friends again, and cautiously meeting new ones. In most of the schools I attended, we were pretty sure who our next teacher was going to be, so the first day was filled with either joy or fear. Teachers had reputations.
Of course, today, with all the modern technology, the kids receive their class schedules, teacher information, etc. before the first day, so there aren’t too many surprises. But there’s still the excitement of beginning a new year.
Starting with the preparations – new clothes, and new school supplies. When I was growing up it was the only time we went shopping for new clothes and shoes. And a lot of that was done in the Sears Roebuck or J. C. Penney catalogues. School supply shopping was done at the Five and Dime. Who remembers fountain pens and bottles of ink? The funny little bottle with a pocket-like place on the inside for filling the pens with the plunger? And the hole in the corner of the desk for holding the bottle. My dad liked purple ink – that would have gone over big in Strasburg! But most people used blue or black. But it didn’t really matter what color it was if you spilled it – it all made a big permanent stain. And, of course you had to have a blotter.
Ah, the memories! Composition books; three-ring binders, subject dividers, art gum erasers, pencils (No. 2 of course), crayons, Elmer’s glue, blunt scissors, pocket dictionaries, construction paper, and lined notebook paper.
Now things are so different – it’s lap-tops, electronic tablets, flash drives, etc.
Recess was so much fun – jump rope (remember Double Dutch?), jacks and marbles. If you were pretty good, the boys would allow you to join their circle, especially if you had a really neat “shooter”.
I have one grandson entering middle school for the first time, another going into his first year of high school and another one entering his senior year of college. All of them are experiencing different emotions. I look forward to hearing about their new experiences.
From my spot at the top of the hill, I can watch over a dozen children board the big yellow bus. They’ve had a lot of fun all summer, riding their bikes and scooters and playing tag and ball and hide ‘n’ seek. I’ll miss the squealing and associated noise during the day.
Then in a couple of weeks, they will take turns knocking on my door with their school fund raising projects. I’ll have to decide between candles, popcorn, pizza, wrapping paper, etc. which I will have forgotten I ordered until they come around with their deliveries.
Ah, the memories!
And God Bless the Teachers and the Bus Drivers!

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