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.

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.

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!

It Pays to Start Early

Today it’s not so much a “View” as it is “News”. on Wednesday, April 30, I became a GREAT GRANDMOTHER And not just any great grandmother – but TWO. Yes, TWINS – a boy and a girl. That is doubly exciting for me because so far I have only been presented with BOYS! Five of them. Finally, I can enjoy looking at frilly little dresses and bonnets. Don’t worry, Charlie, I won’t go overboard.

As I was patting myself on the back and thinking of all the joy those five boys have brought me, I realized that at my advanced age of 76, I won’t be able to do a lot of the things I did with the previous generation. I’m not so naive that think we can have over-nights and week-long visits, go sight-seeing and on picnics, to concerts, etc.

My next thought was why is being a GREAT grandparent so special? Perhaps it’s just that four generation families are somewhat of a novelty. I was partially raised by my maternal grandparents and occasionally visited their parents (my great grandparents). But they were “old” and they passed on before I became a teenager.

After pondering all of this, I reached the conclusion that, sadly, if young couples continue the trend of not starting their families until they are nearly 40, they most likely will not ever reach the “great”grandparent status. I think it is sad for the potential great grandparents and sad for the children who will never know them. I want my great grandchildren to remember me – even if it’s only that I sat in a wheel chair and worked on quilts or listened to strange “ancient” music.

So my advice to young couples is not necessarily to get married younger – just don’t put off starting a family too long if you want to experience what I am today by those two little bundles of joy, Brently and Mackenzie.

Three Quarters of a Century – WOW!

All my life I’ve marked my age by the decade or quarter century. The first Quarter was pretty exciting. I was a working mother and life was good. But when I reached the Third Decade, I suddenly felt I had somehow left “Young” behind me. By the Fourth Decade, I was a stay-at-home Mom with three kids – busy but not much excitement.
Then came the Half Century. A single Mom, a new career, a college degree and a grandchild. Life was still good but the body was beginning to show the wear and tear and required some tune-ups.
The next two decades were filled with good and bad events. Happiness and sadness. Lost my father and a son, but gained a daughter-in-law and more grandchildren. Enjoyed some traveling in the U.S. and Europe and entered into retirement and a second marriage and some miscellaneous post-retirement jobs. Also acquired a new son-i n-law. A new cycle of life began when I took on the role of parent to my mother and moved to the Shenandoah Valley.
I love the Valley – the pace of life is slower and the people are genuine – once they decide to accept you. Also, the Valley is so full of history, especially of the Civil War and I have become interested in reading about it. It’s so much easier to understand when you can identify places with the facts.
The Seventh Decade brought the beginning of a steady decline in health, requiring many repairs – 1 ear surgery, 5 eye surgeries, and 2 back surgeries. My pace of life became much slower. Now as I have completed the Third Quarter Century, I am finally beginning to feel more like my original self. I am looking forward to a more active decade. My body is slowly regenerating and my mind is racing ahead. Many dreams, many projects.
First on the agenda will be to complete the crib quilts before the birth of my first great grandchildren – yes, twins! I can’t begin to predict what will follow, but I feel I am ready for it. There’s painting to do in the house; there’s more landscaping to do outside; the church’s thrift store has expanded and requires lots of attention and there’s always the opportunity to volunteer at the local Library and meet many interesting people.
Keeping up with the family is almost a full-time occupation: one grandson is on the police force in Warrenton, Virginia and about to be the father of the twins; another grandson is an honor student (a junior) at Shenandoah University; another grandson is employed by Fairfax County Public Works, following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather; two more grandsons are excelling in sports (baseball and football).
My daughter and son have become mature, responsible adults and I am proud of family.
In my leisure, which is not abundant, I still enjoy reading, quilting, gardening and now, writing. Gardening is a bit of a challenge and I have to pay to have some of it done at my direction.
So three quarters of a century is not bad. Look out eighties, here I come!

Ah . . . FEBRUARY

February is the shortest month of the year, most years having only 28 days; it could also be considered the strangest month of the year because every fourth year (Leap Year ) it has 29 days. Frequently, especially in this area, it is the coldest and snowiest month. February, in spite of its shortness has many Holidays or days of special observance:
February 2……………..Ground Hog Day
February 6 ………….Ronald Reagan’s Birthday
February 10…………..My Birthday
February 12…………Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday
February 14………Valentine’s Day
February 22………George Washington’s Birthday

Christians begin the observance of the 40 days of Lent on Ash Wednesday, which sometimes is in February.

February is also called Heart month and the emphasis is on Heart Health – important to all of us. Red is the unofficial color for February – red – the color of blood which sustains our hearts and our lives.

By some, February is considered the “Love” month, symbolized by the exchanging of sentimental greetings, candy, and flowers on Valentine’s Day. Red roses are considered the symbol of love. And that cute little guy, Cupid, is believed to go around shooting his arrows of love into the hearts of young adults; thus many wedding engagements occur in February.

February’s flower is the Violet, the lovely little purple wild flower that hugs the ground and blooms very early in the year, and the birthstone for February is Amethyst, a beautiful clear purple stone mined mostly in the mountains of South America. In ancient times, purple was considered the color of wealth and royalty.

Some February Challenges:
Love the Lord God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your being;
Love your Neighbor as yourself;
Count your Blessings and share them with those less fortunate;
Live a heart-healthy lifestyle – exercise and eat wisely;
Donate blood if you are able;
Donate to the Heart Association for research;
Respect and Honor our forefathers and our current leaders;
Appreciate and love the beauty of our World.

FOR GOD SO LOVED THeartsHE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY SON . . .

Ah. . . FEBRUARY

Time Consuming Losses

It must be old age – so many of my friends complain of the same ailment.  You’re right on schedule and ready to go out the door,   BUT you can’t find:  (take your pick)  

        * car keys 

        *glasses

        *sun glasses

        *cell phone

        *map and directions

And the search begins.  Obviously they’re not where they belong or you wouldn’t be going through this frustrating search.  So you try the next obvious place without success.  Where/when was the last time you used them?  What were you wearing?  A thorough inspection of every jacket, skirt, coat, and pair of slacks turns up nothing.  Now a slight bit of panic starts to creep in – but you’re not ready to give in.  After all, you built  a five minute emergency contingency into your schedule.

So sit down, take a deep breath and THINK!   Can you just forget the search and go without the lost item?  Not if it’s the car keys or your glasses.  Do you call and make apologies?  No – the phone number is on the paper with the directions.   Suddenly you realize that five minute bonus has expired and panic sets in full blast.  You  glance  around and the house looks like the aftermath of a drug raid.

It’s time to take another deep breath and begin the search again – this time more slowly and methodically.  Start with the purse – there are your keys,   It’s almost dark so don’t worry about the sun glasses; and yes, here’s the map and directions – which are useless without your glasses.  In utter frustration, you run your fingers through your hair . . . uh-oh!  There are the glasses, perched on top of your head!

Decision  time!  Do you call and cancel or do you make an attempt and blame your tardiness on traffic?  You choose the latter and as you traverse the strange roads, you berate yourself for the time wasted.  You must get more organized.

And then you draw comfort from remembering that most of your friends can tell of the same experiences.

 

I hate being late, but I am, frequently. Usually because I can’t find something I need. One of the worst offenders is the matching earring. So I spent 2 hours recently re-organizing my jewelry chest. We’ll see how long that lasts. The next item is my cell phone. Sometimes it can be located by calling it from the house phone – provided the battery is properly charged. But recently, after trying everything else, I went to my neighbor’s house, and asked permission to look in the back seat of her van because I remembered that my purse had upset on the way home from the restaurant the night before. Sure enough, there it was. My husbands’s glasses are another problem. But I have almost conquered that. When I get up in the morning I look for wherever he may have left them the night before and place them with the morning paper on his place mat at the kitchen table. They are his responsibility the rest of the day.
Do you suffer from this syndrome? Is there a treatment or a cure? I don’t think “sticky notes” are the answer – I’d soon have my whole house papered with them.
Of course, organization is the perfect answer, (a place for everything and everything in its place) but I think I received a flawed gene in that department when I was assembled. My last resort is to build in a longer “emergency contingency” when preparing to go out.
Happy Hunting!

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