Thursday, March 30, 2017

I've Got Sunshine On A Cloudy Day

What a difficult week. My mother is having some surgery tomorrow to remove three abscesses which has me concerned. I've been not-too-spiffy as well.  Nothing like stepping out of my VSP vehicle and hurling over the side of the 164 bridge. I've been dragging my okole for sure, as they say in Hawaii.

McDonald Garden Center is a happy place for me. Their staff is very knowledgeable and they stand by their products.  McDonald's is a small, family business which I like to support.  I know I'll always perk up if I stop by. Therapy AND gardening supplies!

McDonald Garden Center

I picked out some things and headed home. Looking around my front yard, I felt overwhelmed by the work I needed to get done. Instead of focusing on the entire yard (suffering from winter neglect), I decided to focus on one area only.  My potting bench.
This "bench" was assembled from a variety of discarded objects left out for the trash or given to me by folks who say "I know you can do something with this."  That top red part was a child's homemade doll house left on the curb after a move.  It made me sad, sitting there all forlorn.  I had to use it somehow.

Within an hour and a half I had potted and fed the plants I bought, cleaned up, and cut out the "woody" parts of the sage, marjoram, and lemon balm which have started to bloom once again. That first smell of lemon balm in the new year, so intensely lemony, smells like Spring. And makes me think of lemon curd. Thinking of lemon curd is always a good thing.

I was headed down the sorry ass road of pity.  As my mother always says, the good thing about self pity is that you know it is sincere.  I'd rather look back on a chill and cloudy day and say, "I made sunshine in the front yard."

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Rails to Trails and Peeps

My friend, Nancy (or should I call her my "unindicted co-conspirator") walked a newly-added portion of the Rails to Trails project over the weekend.  Rails to Trails

We gabbed and walked, stopped for water and apples along Bennett's Creek, and solved all the world's problems. She and I were traveling down the remnants of the old Seaboard Coastline Railroad, which operated until 1971 when the railroad was absorbed by Amtrak.  Not long afterwards, the tracks stopped being used. The "Juice Train" used to regularly traverse where we walked, bringing orange juice from Bradenten, Florida to Kearney, NJ.

Rails to Trails is such a superb idea for getting folks out to walk, bike-ride, roller blade, or even wheel chair down a newly-paved trail which (until recently) had been abandoned railroad tracks. I was delighted to see families out there walking or biking. In my area, this project will eventually become a 41-mile trail throughout the cities of Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Suffolk, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach.
We walked on an unseasonably warm March Saturday, listening to birds calling and spring peepers...well, peep.

THIS spring peeper or chorus frog
Just sayin'

Any adventure is not complete in my book until I find the abandoned house.  Not far from the McMansion houses of over 4,000 square feet (which you can see to the far right in the top picture) was the quiet old farmhouse below.

You know what a McMansion is right?  That's the ubiquitous new house with palladian windows and other fake details which I detest. I don't think you build them, you go into a planned development and have them Super Size it as you pass through the drive through. They are over-sized, soul-less, take up too many resources, and just generally annoy me.  McMansion

How can you tell if a house is a McMansion? They end up in a development with a made up name like The Myrtles at Hatton Point or some such. Then, you'll notice that all the street names are cutely coined by marketers who find some tie in with the development's name.

My mother has lived on "Balmoral Trace" and "Winster Fax." Seriously? My sister once lived in the "Cool Amber Forest."  Aren't forests green? My favorite made up marketing name of all time is "Tarleton Bivouac" in Williamsburg, VA. Try getting a pizza delivered there!  What happened to Main, Elm, Oak, or Maple Street?
The end of the trail landed us in Driver, Virginia, a small, quaint hamlet in the larger town of Suffolk. We found this farm stand:
I bought hydroponically-grown tomatoes from nearby Southampton County from this pile:
They tasted divine.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Abandoned Farmhouses and Honoring Those Who've Gone Before

There is nothing like an old, abandoned farm house to evoke a flight of fancy in me.

Yesterday's Sunday drive found us in the Elizabeth City, North Carolina area.  The back roads in this county (once nearly entirely agricultural) are full of old farm houses, the occupants long gone. I used to wonder how folks left houses with the curtains still hanging and furniture inside.

Then I realized that there were such homes in my husband's own family; the farm house he grew up in and his grandparent's farm house.  Due to sad spouses' deaths and happy remarriages, this was the state of the house Bruce grew up in.

I liked Bruce's brother's solution.  He let us know about this first, but they demolished the old house. It lives on in our house in pictures.  My mother in law sent me the window from the chicken house, which I use to display vintage plates.

I was in that home only once, when my late sister-in-law, Margaret, was still alive. (I dislike that term late meaning deceased.  It sounds as though the person kept others waiting.) The little farm house was immaculate. When I think of the beautiful Margaret, gone much too soon, I see the round wooden dining table made of a dark wood with a gorgeous and very large cotton doily crocheted by Grandma Fodge on top.  So pretty.

England's Daily Mail had a terrific online article about an abandoned Welsh cottage nicknamed "Cloud House."  Abandoned Welsh House
Not only is Cloud House abandoned, but most of the contents are still in place, frozen in time,and looking as though the occupants just left, save for the dust.  Dan Circa, who photographed the house, thinks that the husband served in WW II.  I think the contents indicate otherwise.
Consider this rendering of Queen Mary, the former Victoria Mary of Teck, nicknamed "May" for her birth month. Mr. Circa photographed this vignette on top of a dresser. Queen Mary is a young woman early in her marriage. She was elderly when WW II started, which leads me to believe that the military artifacts are from "The Great War."

Mr. Circa relates that there is no evidence in the home to indicate the occupants' identities, so they shall remain unknown. I disagree.

On another Sunday drive last yea,  we came upon a completely abandoned historical district with an old general store, grain silos, etc.  The names of the store's proprietors were etched in stone. I researched them on, and learned all about the brothers who ran the establishment.

I wish I lived closer, because their identities and stories could easily be learned via tax and land records, British census information, probate records, local church information, death certificates, military records, and newspaper archives. How sad that these records were not pursued by Mr. Circa or the reporter, as I would love to know more about the folks who left behind their pictures, their glasses, their watches, and their lives.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Unmitigated Gall...We'll Sue the Police

How's the following as an example of our litigious society and pure, unmitigated GALL?  Or chutzpah, as we New Yorkers call it.

In 2009, when our former and beloved police chief Ed Hargis (nicknamed "Steady Eddie" was protecting Portsmouth, a terrible shooting incident occurred after a barricade SWAT situation.  A mentally-ill Vietnam veteran was killed by Portsmouth Police.  

Any death is regrettable, especially when someone who served our country is killed. Police never should have been involved in this situation. However, we have a broken mental health care system and a broken Veteran's Administration.  Sadly, police officials end up dealing with the aftermath every single day in every city in the US.

I won't name this man, but he had been diagnosed with PTSD, had weapons, and lived alone. The family couldn't deal with him, so they called a mental health care worker to assess him for treatment. The mental health care worker felt threatened and called police.

When two of the very brave responders realized that he did not have a phone in his home, they obtained a departmental cell phone for him to use. The officers approached his residence to throw the phone into an open window.  The point was to talk to this troubled man.  

He shot them both. Police returned fire to eliminate the threat to their fellow officers who were wounded out on the lawn. One officer, a SWAT member, has permanent nerve damage. Frank had to move off the Portsmouth streets where he is needed to a training position.  

What does the family do?  Do they feel any sense of sadness for the wounding of two of Portsmouth's finest?  Are they sorry that their relative permanently disabled a very fine officer and took him off the streets? Oh heck no!  Do they thank Portsmouth Police for trying to help their relative who had so many problems that they were unable to assist him alone? No. They sued Chief Hargis for $5 million for wrongful death.

Thank God that Portsmouth jury members had the courage to determine that Chief Hargis was not at fault in any way.Thank you to Judge Johnny Morrison, a black, liberal Democrat for seeing that justice was served by the verdict.This white conservative says, "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Steady Eddie has moved on as Chief of the Frederick Maryland Police Department. I miss his wise, measured leadership. My city's loss. Officer Frank Natale teaches the next generation of top cops in the Academy.  

I'm not sure what the Veteran's family is doing tonight, but I hope that they are considering their actions before God. I am sad for the loss of their family member, but their actions were a reprehensible money grab.

Finally, I sincerely hope that the family's attorney considers what the jury was telling her when they made their ruling.  A 30 % cut of a $5 million settlement is a lot of money.  Maybe being fair and equitable might be worth more.

Many situations involving marginalized society members are sad, unfair, and need remedy. However, when you stick a gun out the window and shoot two cops trying to help you and end up dead...perhaps it is not the police who are to blame.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Just Call Me Tippi Hedron OR Counting Crows

I see the most unusual things when I'm out and about working.

After zooming through the drive thru, I stopped in a nearby residential area to drink my iced tea and eat lunch in peace.  I shut off the communication radio, hoping to relax for a few minutes.
As things quieted inside the car, I heard an odd sound, like folks muttering, outside. I saw no one. Even though it was freezy, I rolled down the windows.  I was hearing hundreds of birds in two live oak trees.  

Being an enormous fan of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds starring Tippi Hedren, I exited my vehicle slowly, hoping that none of them would get tangled up in my beehive hairdo or peck my forehead!

A huge group of them, and I mean HUGE, settled down in a vacant lot, intensely interested in something in the ground.  
Suddenly THE BIRDS noticed me and arose as a group, swooped past me and over me, landing back in the trees.  If you look closely at the middle tree on the left side of the pic above, you can see scores of them going back to the tree. Notice below how they "baptized" my work vehicle.
Except this one fellow.  This little bird was totally unimpressed by me, my presence or my law enforcement vehicle.  He just sat there, alone in the vacant lot.  If Van Gogh painted him, the result would be entitled "Wheat Field with Crow." Wheat Field with Crows

The bright sun on his feathers showed that he was actually dark purple in many areas.  
If those birds were peeps, I'd be the one in dark purple who was all alone in that field.  I hate doing what everyone else does.

Matthew 10:29 states, "What is the price of two sparrows--one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it."  This boggles my mind, that a loving Creator God knows even these small details.  I forget what I ate for breakfast sometimes.  

It is impossible for this beautiful world of nature to have spontaneously occurred when two atoms bumped in to each other. DNA in all its complexity and forms found in every living creature was not a happenstance.  The signs of an Intelligent Creator are everywhere in everything that we do.  If we pay attention...

Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen... (Romans 1:20)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Wordless Wednesday - Just Another Day at the Office

Springing Forward

I love falling back, but springing forward?  Not so much. Seems like I have the hardest time adjusting. Instead of being impatient with myself, I decided to go with my body's rhythm and work on routine things early this week. 

My breakfasts have been horrible lately!  Bagels, toast, English muffins, etc.  Now bagels are quite yummy, but they are terrible for my diabetic system.  In fact, a lot of what I have been eating this winter has been less-than-optimal for my body.

I forgot my supplements when I left for vacation.  I've been back since January 5, over two months, and haven't taken krill oil, garlic tablets, Vitamin C, and alpha lipoic acid since.  As you can imagine, I haven't been feeling tip top.  Today, I started back on them.

Susan Street publishes an amazing fashion blog for older women. Susan is exquisite, as far as I am concerned, but she is also fearless in pointing out what she perceives are "problem areas" and how to dress around them.  Susan is largely vegan in her eating and has some great tips. She's lost 40 pound and kept it off for quite a long time.  

Here's a synopsis of Susan's transformation in an interview:
Susan Street

And a link to her interesting, entertaining, and well written blog:
Susan Street Blog

Lest you think that her life has always been all sunshine and roses, if you read a few posts back, you will learn that she was once homeless.

If I don't take care of myself, no one else will. I started back on my go-to breakfast from 2016: an egg poached on a bed of cooked vegetables. First, I caramelize some onions in a non-stick pan.  This morning I heated a cup and a half of spinach leftover in the fridge. Then I added the egg and a scant amount of mozzarella cheese.  I turned the flame down to low, added a lid, and answered some email while it cooked.

This egg breakfast cooks perfectly each time and is much more healthful for me. On Sunday evening, I realized that the only fruit or vegetable I consumed all day was a slice of tomato on an egg sandwich!  Holy colon cancer, Batgirl!  Unhealthy habits often sneak up on me.

The American Cancer Society recently released some sobering statistics.  Colon cancer is two times more likely to occur in Millennials than in the 1950s.  Rectal cancer is four times as likely. This puts the instance of colo-rectal cancers back to similar statistics in the late 1800's!  Colon and Rectal Cancer Increasing in Young People

The famous Cleveland Clinic is conducting a study to scientifically determine the reasons for this change.  Many physicians feel that the increase is due to decreased dietary fiber.  GMO food and other unhealthful food with additives which the current generation consumes vs. the 1950 US diet is another possible factor.  So no more "single slice of tomato" days for me!

                                             Organic veggies from the Baltimore Farmers Market.  It is beautiful...  

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.  (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

I don't think God wants a flabby, unfit, exhausted, and unwell house.

Friday, March 10, 2017

All I Ever Loved was Apple Pie and Ada

I've always had an affinity for, rather than fear of, graveyards. Tombstones often tell stories. In the Tidewater area of VA and northern North Carolina, one finds small or even single family cemeteries out in the country. Many of them are all but forgotten.

Each time I visit, I find a new story, even if I have been there many times previously. When I learn a story, I consider not only the family's grief, but the context of the times which they lived in.

Last night Bruce and Deb accompanied me.

We were looking rather ghostly ourselves against the brick walls of Portlock Cemetery.

Here's a story from my new friend Lewis Read, Jr.
I just love this guy at peace next to his beloved Ada. His inscription reads, "All I ever loved was apple pie and Ada." If it weren't so weird, I would leave an apple pie at his grave to remember his two loves.
Here's the sad story of tiny Mary Powers Walters who lived for less than one day.  I know she is safe in Jesus' arms, but her family must have mourned her deeply.  

In a few weeks after her passing, Archduke Franz Ferdinand would be shot, beginning the sad chain of events causing World War I. Soon many mothers would be terribly sad for sons who lived much longer than Mary, but fell in war.  As I read about the departed, I honor each Mary's case, nearly 103 years after her death. 

These gravestones below illustrate the cemetery's age. Many who succumbed to the terrible 19th century Yellow Fever epidemic which wiped away 10% of the local population are buried here.This epidemic is referred to as "the pestilence" in many inscriptions. Yellow Fever Epidemic.  Other graves denote those who served as troops of the Confederate States of America.
Moss and lichen obscure many of inscribed messages  They lean toward each other or the ground, as if exhausted.  Rain, snow, and wind battered them until they now can only be read by tracing the inscription.

The three of us walked and talked, while Lulu explored off leash and the sun slipped toward the horizon.  We are not disrespectful. We clean up after her (not needed usually) and often pick up trash from the grounds. 

On the way out, I saw this tree and figured out a longstanding mystery - the location of Ernie Keebler and all the hard-working elves who bake Keebler's cookies.
This is the basement entrance. Another knot-hole at the top probably leads to Keebler Company headquarters.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

What Do You Stand For?

Just in case you're having trouble seeing this pic I took (in amazement and dismay) of a North Carolina store front, this says, "Modern Witchcraft Classes: the art, science, and psychology of nature-based spirituality."  Yes, indeedy.

Please note the young man walking a small dog in the reflection.

Well, my psychology of nature-based spirituality is that I get really mad when birds poo on my laundry hanging on the line. Just sayin...

Other than that, my nature-based spirituality centers around God's glorious creation. I marvel at the intelligent Creator clearly evident in all of nature, from DNA on the cellular level to the great crashing waves of the Atlantic.

Now I am all about discussion.  I love to hear about how others encounter and experience a loving God. I support freedom of expression. But I felt so shamed about Christians when I saw this notice.

We Christians are supposed to be known by our love.  That includes love for God, love for each other, and love for others in the world. How sad to think of a searching and vulnerable university student, perhaps away from a home with values or maybe from a home with no values at all. He or she wanders into this location and then what?  I felt sick when I saw this.

So I am praying for everyone involved with this store, from those who work or own it to those who just wander in.  I didn't feel that walking inside and having a confrontation was a great idea, but prayer never alienates anyone. 

From the outside, I noticed that the shop had many occultist books, CD's, oils, crystals, etc. for sale.   In contrast, one can go to my church and have breakfast for free. My pastor and his associate would gladly give a Bible to anyone who needed one. We feed and shelter our homeless neighbors.  I feel sure that there are similar churches in this NC town several hour's drive away. My sincere hope is that a discerning public can see the difference.

So, back to my question, "What Do You Stand For?"  This question was mentioned during a recent phone convo with a dear relative who was frustrated with one of the kids. However, it also spoke to my spirit.  Who DO I stand for?'

When I don't want to deal with an annoying member of the public, what message am I sending about Who I Stand for.  When I don't practice excellence, what does that say about The One who rules my world? What does my behavior preach louder than my words?  

I want my behavior to say Jesus, Jesus, Jesus...24/7 and even when my dear husband forgets what I told him the day before.  Out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks.  I want the mouth to proclaim, "Jesus is Victor," not "Anne is annoyed." (or sick or uncomfortable or tired or hungry or doesn't like her outfit or is running late...(Feel free to insert whatever concern is standing in between Jesus, me, and the world.)

Gratuitous Pygmy Hedgehog Pics
My sister's hedgehog.  What? Your sister doesn't have a hedgehog? I'm shocked.  That little hedgehog ear is killing me!
Those little paws are adorable.  He is in my sister's purse in a green blanket.  I think they were in Walmart, which I cropped out because Walmart isn't cool. I'm guessing they were picking up hedgehog food or little hedgehog outfits.  Maybe a hedgehog toothbrush...could be anything.

Now that you've seen the hedgehog, it should come as no surprise that my sister once had an excused absence note from my mother which read, "Please excuse Kerry's absence yesterday from school. She was bitten by a camel."  

The odd thing was, it was true and Kerry hadn't been to a zoo!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Chopsticks Have Nothing Profound to Say

An unexpected witticism always charms me. I wonder who thought to print this on disposable chopsticks because he or she must be rather special.

Noodle shops have been all the rage in New York City for over ten years.  Recently, these restaurants have been popping up here in Tidewater, Virginia. We headed across the River to Norfolk last night to Noodles and Company.
Fresh and flavorful with a surprising heat that snuck (yes, I know that isn't grammatically correct) up on me. 

After dinner we walked to Farm Fresh for some groceries.  Along the way, we passed my favorite, "Little Dog Diner."  Years ago, this was the Donut Dinette.  It was open only for breakfast and lunch.

In the evenings, we would see an employee through the windows of the closed diner, making donuts for the next morning.  A dear little white dog with a patch of black over one eye sat watching his master.  He would sit on a chrome and red leatherette seat at the lunch counter.

I wonder if that employee ended up purchasing the Dinette, re-naming it The Little Dog Cafe.  The building has been on that Colley Avenue corner since before WW II.

We walked on in last night's relative warmth to pick up a few things; cream cheese, cilantro, Brussels sprouts, green seedless grapes, and bananas, if you must know.

Farm Fresh always has beautiful flowers and last night was no exception.
 And these...
I love to photograph them and then go home to make an arrangement from my yard.  This time of year I use budding trees. Afterwards, I congratulate myself on saving $10.

As Robert Herrick said, 

GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may, 
  Old Time is still a-flying: 
And this same flower that smiles to-day 
  To-morrow will be dying. 
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,         5
  The higher he 's a-getting, 
The sooner will his race be run, 
  And nearer he 's to setting.

(It isn't poetic to gather tree branches.)

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Who Can Take a Nothing Day?

...And suddenly make it all seem worthwhile.  

My husband, that's who!

Bruce concluded his work early the other day.  My work hours are flexible, so I was able to join him for a late lunch.

You know how you drive around town on an errand and notice a cozy little restaurant and say to each other, "We should try that some time, it's cute."  Well here's the place that we've been saying that about for over two years. Corner Cafe

Inside, there are tables and chairs and a small lunch counter.  The walls are painted bright red with white and black trim.

While we waited for our hot dogs and slaw, I noticed a young black man at a table near the door.  With a shaved head and a beard, I think some folks might have felt intimidated by his looks. 

Two little old white ladies with curly perms were struggling to open the door.  They were commenting to each other all "bless your hearts" and "I declares."  They reminded me of dandelions gone to seed with bobbing grey/white tops.  

The wind was buffeting both of them.  The young black man jumped up and assisted them in and to a table.  I sipped Luzianne iced tea and noticed that all the diners were nearly equally divided in race. We were all sociable and talking across the tables. 

Whatever we may see about racial tension on the news, most of America is more like the crowd at the Corner Cafe. Isn't the bottom line about all this kindness and the Golden Rule?

What a swell place the Corner Cafe is and how we enjoyed our chili dogs!  We didn't indulge in dessert, but goodness, what wonderful old-fashioned cakes and goodies were on the menu.  As I looked at this picture, I thought that it could be 1950 or even 1940, rather than 2017.
Those are mandarin oranges on top of the orange cake and glace cherries on the top of the coconut confection to the right.  

The sky was dark when we went in for lunch, but had brightened to blue by the time we got to the library.  At the Corner Cafe, it definitely looked like winter.
An hour later, we were at the library across town.  Magically, it was spring.  Bees buzzed audibly, the trees were lacy with white flowers, and the daffodils bloomed.  I've heard of "micro climates" before, but this was quite amazing.