Again-Again? Really, Jen?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Clearly, my plans are nothing if not flawed (to the nth degree, I might add ;oP My grand (-ish?) plans for the first one or two or three November and/or December posts didn't quite go as I imagined them. Actually, as you probably noticed, they didn't go anywhere at all (outside of my own head, that is). *Insert self-deprecating eyeroll here* Mmmmph. Profound apologies; though I'll hereby solemnly promise not to promise that it won't ever happen again ('cause it probably will). Ha.

In any event, I will - I hope I hope - pick up where I left off in my posting next week. In the meantime, this video clip sums my current reality up quite well (not to mention in a far more adorable manner than I could pull off on my own ;o)

Yep, that about sums it up all right. Email friends can click here to watch.

Hugs to all, and to all a good night!

IDGIs and Issues

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Sometimes I have thoughts; lots and lots of thoughts. I have been told (are you listening Karen? ;o) that I have far too many of them for one person. Most of the time they are bouncing around my brain in a jumbled mess, though I have been known to form a coherent one periodically. I can't help but laugh when I see all of those "Ideas for Blog Posts" pins on Pinterest. I have enough post ideas running around in my head for 47 different people. What I DON'T have, is the time to sit down and bang them all out. Rampant running ideas aside, many other thoughts are questions. Lots and lots of questions. Some days (like today) I wonder if other people wonder the same things I do; particularly those niggling little things that you never can quite puzzle out. Since I am a total acronym junkie (which is often a self-entertaining pastime), it seemed only fair that I should come up with a suitable acronym in order to share them with you. IDGI = "I Don't Get It". Maybe I'm not alone in some of the things I just don't understand. Then again, it could be just me...
Photo Inset: One of the Mums I planted in the whiskey barrel planter in the visitor area (I was experimenting with erasing backgrounds and in a hurry to finish this post. I freely admit it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the subject in this paragraph, and I almost don't care (provided I don't think about it too hard, that is ;o)

A few of my IDGIs (not too many - I don't want to scare you ;o)

- Why is it socially acceptable for a 30-something (adult?!?) to wear their Batman jammies to the grocery store?*

- Why do we need attorneys to slap legalese all over everything? My personal favorite is, "Void where prohibited." Translation: It's no good where it's not allowed. Wow. Really?

- How do people on food stamps get to buy steak and lobster at the grocery store? I have a full-time job, and (with rare celebrational exception) I don't get to eat that stuff.

- Why do manufacturers put sweepstakes and/or prize labels on their packaging that say things like, "No purchase necessary, details inside"? Now I'm not the brightest bulb on the porch, but I'm pretty darn sure somebody's gonna make me buy it if I rip it open to check out those details.

- If I am inconsistent all the time, am I not therefore by definition consistent?

- How can it still be Black Friday now that it starts on Thursdays?

AND - as long as we're on the seasonal subject - when did Christmas start arriving before Halloween?

* Upon further consideration: Why does a 30-something guy even own a pair of Batman pajamas?

Do you have things like that running through your head? Or are you slowly backing away from your screen and reaching for a phone because you think I need professional help? (I probably do ;o)

Watch the Birdie!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

**A Picture Happy Post**

Because Jen couldn't finish her intended post. Again. I didn't even get a chance to visit all my favorite blogs or even answer anyone's comments this week; I hope you will all forgive me.

I put up a cedarwood bird feeder awhile back. It took the little birdies about a month to discover it, but when they did it was like grand central station. The first two photos are not so great; I was in the tacky room and shot them through the [dirty] glass, so they're pretty awful. I was extremely excited to see a [tiny] Tufted Titmouse there:

He was followed by Mr. and Mrs. Finch. Anni I could use your expertise here: House Finch or Purple Finch? She looks House, but he looks Purple. Do the two mix and match?

This next one is clearer, since I was outside. I caught this Crow hollering near the very top of a pine tree; probably warning everybody else about the female stalker on the loose down below ;o)

That afternoon, DH came to get me so I could (hopefully) catch a shot or two of a pair of squirrels who were zipping around the pecan trees in the front yard. See him?

AHA! So that's where all the pecans are disappearing to:

I guess he felt like he was being watched, because I only got one more shot of this little guy before he shot down the trunk and scampered off into the sunset. Well, so to speak anyway ;o)

His little partner in crime, however, did not seem to be the least bit concerned and remained in the tree just long enough for me to get one last photo:

Several days later, I managed to get a number of shots of a White Egret (gorgeous fellow!) as he hung out by a neighbor's pond. Even though I was a fair distance away, they still turned out pretty well. I think it's so neat that there is a hint of green near his eyes that almost perfectly matches the grass:

He sure was beautiful! His left foot almost looks like a skeleton's hand though, doesn't it? Kinda creepy, yet cool ;o)

Have a bountiful and blessed week, y'all!

Here, HEAR!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

WOW! It has been one crazybusy week around here - how about yours? Much to DH's delight, I lost my voice (stupid sinus infection) for an entire week; though I am finally getting it back again. Ugh. Sooo, this week is the post that I had planned to do last week. *Mmmph*. Well, at least it was last week's plan until everything went Kaflooey. (that's a technical term, and gesundheit, right?) *snicker* Shadow is, in case you're wondering, back to his egotistical and sassy self :o) I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before but on the off chance I haven't: One Sunday a month I try to go to "Deaf Church" with DD. I really enjoy the message, its format, and (of course!) the socializing. This month brought a very exciting guest to deaf church. Ronaldo Feliciano, who is deaf, is a pastor at Grace Bible Church in Tampa, Florida and performs a concert called "Music in Motion" in addition to preaching. Ronaldo's performance was on Saturday, and he also delivered the sermon Sunday morning. I've put one of his YouTube videos on here for you to see (below), but it is nowhere near as powerful as it is to see him in person. Very intense and passionate; simply awe-inspiring to watch. Outside of some very cold, wet, and windy temperatures, I don't think I've ever had so many goosebumps (the live performance is awesome ;o) The best part? He was extremely humble, and made it quite clear that any and all glory/admiration for his performance on Saturday and his teachings on Sunday belonged to God alone. What a neat guy; I sure hope he'll come bless us all again next year!

I was tickled to see the pint sized version of "Bella" seated in front of me for the concert. She's an awful lot smaller than our Bella is, that's for sure (click here to see our much bigger version). Isn't she adorable? Her "mom", Leslie, gave me permission to include her in this post. Bella is a hearing dog. Have you heard of them? Though nearly everyone is familiar with guide dogs for the blind, few are aware of hearing dogs for the deaf. Hearing dogs are also considered service dogs and function as ears for the deaf, just as seeing eye dogs function as eyes for the blind. Because the concert was so loud, Leslie was careful to cover Bella's ears to protect her hearing (photo below). The lighting was pretty dim, so my photos are nowhere near as clear as I would like (profound apologies there). I was even more tickled that my friend Kimby was able to make it to the concert; I hadn't seen her since school started (and I was waaay overdue for that particular friend fix!)

A little grainy perhaps, but still awfully doggone cute ;o)

Since we're on the subject of hearing, I have to show you what a friend of mind posted on Facebook the other day. Hearing aid decorating kits!  Isn't that the coolest thing ever? Karen, who is a teacher of the deaf and who also taught DD many years ago, posted them and tagged me because she remembered me meticulously painting DD's aids and adding some sparkly bling to up their "fun" factor. Back in the day, hearing aids were pretty much beige and BORING. Based in the U.K., My Lugs offers themed kits for both hearing aids (found here) and Cochlear Implants (found here). Like so many other family businesses, My Lugs grew out of personal experience. When the Ivermee's young son Freddie was diagnosed with a hearing loss (profound on one side and moderate to severe on the other) My Lugs was born out of the desire to make those oh-so-unappealing devices more appealing to a little boy (read the full story here). They even have a Captain America Minion kit - no way! What a hoot, right? There are photos of some of their kits "in action" here. Brilliant... just brilliant! If you know anybody with a child that wears a hearing aid or has a Cochlear Implant, please pass this information on.

Well, I suppose I'd better get a move on lest I find myself late for church (seeing as how this post spilled from Saturday right on over into Sunday morning - and Ack!). As always, thank you so much for reading this far and have a beautifully blessed week y'all!

Making the Most of An Almost Post

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Clearly I have had a boatload of fun this week because I am now sitting here scratching my head wondering where on earth the whole thing went. How can it possibly be Saturday? Yeesh. Shadow colicked on Tuesday afternoon (defined here for my non-horsey friends), and the week kind of went downhill from there. I was, however, extremely blessed to have had Kimby with me when I found our poor boy laid out by the water trough. Not everyone in your life would be overly keen on helping you push shove drag lug lead (a reluctant 1,100lb drama queen 'round and 'round the pasture for hours on end waiting for him to "go". She was a tremendous help in nudging him forward; all while keeping an eagle eye out for signs of impending poop from inside the danger zone (to the uninitiated: horse toots are toxic ;o) Brave girl.
Long story short: The colic turned out to be the byproduct of an abcess in Shadow's throat that had left him unable to properly swallow. He probably swallowed either a small stick or large, stiff piece of hay which scratched his throat. The inability to swallow properly likely caused him to panic, which led to the colic. DH gave him a shot of Banamine (which I hate using) for pain, and I put some DMSO on the abscess I'd [eventually] found in his throat latch. We left him resting fairly comfortably around 11p.m. He seemed to be feeling a bit better Wednesday morning, and a couple of hours after a second application of DMSO he was [finally!] able to swallow properly on his own. Of course all that stumbling around in the pasture half the night (for an early bird like me, anyway ;o) was apparently all it took for me to come down with a lovely sinus infection. half of Thursday was, most unhappily, spent at the doctor's office. And raspberries to that! :oP
[Photo inset: Shadow and I in shadow (hee) standing by the almost pond bright and early on Wednesday morning. We look weird, don't we?]

Since the post I had originally planned for today did not get written, I'm leaving you here (so to speak, anyway ;o) with an almost [finished] page of my joy journal. Everyone is blessed with gifts and talents from God (1Peter4:10 on the left side of the journal page), for her - or his - own. What's funny is that we don't tend to see and appreciate those things in ourselves; we often seem to focus on someone else's gift that we wish we had instead. To me? The neatest part is the way God often puts people in our lives who share our interests yet come with their own special set of gifts to help round us out better. Example: My friend Lori is gifted with the most marvelous outgoing and friendly nature - something I definitely wish I had. Friendly? Yes, mostly, though I tend toward reserved. Outgoing? Not at all. I am a terrible introvert (though sometimes I hide it well). I have a really hard time walking up to someone I don't know (like new people at church) and introducing myself, so God gave me Lori (though I'm betting this is all news to her *laugh*). All I have to do is follow her around on a given Sunday, and I wind up meeting everyone I don't know "safely". Betcha didn't even know you were being a blessing in that particular direction, did you chickie? :o)
Likewise, Kimby, who is gifted with that wonderful peace I know I've mentioned before. The kind of peace that puts you at immediate ease and always makes you feel like everything will be all right. The perfect complement to my tends to panic spaz-queen self. She also seem to always know just the right thing to say, too (the heifer); and for someone who is constantly eating her own foot, I'm telling you straight up that is a GIFT and then some! And quit rolling your eyes at me too, sistafriend. Heh Heh Heh. Sandy, with her warm fuzzy heart for critters and crazy sense of humor has an altogether different set of blessings that complete our friendship and brighten my day. There are, of course, many others. All of these remarkable people that the Lord has put in my life. What would I do without them? But I digress...
[Photo inset: My almost finished journal page borrowing some of Joanne Fink's Zenspiration with some scripture verses "dangling" down the left-hand side]

Since I'm obviously headed for "short story long" here, *snicker* I'll add that this journal page is about the things that I have a love and/or propensity for and what I'm supposed to be doing with them. A reminder to self, if you will. The right side of the page looks like a scarf, which is something I have been known to crochet. Speaking of... Do you like the yarn ball "o" and hook "t"? I was pretty excited when I saw that the idea actually worked and you can [mostly] tell what they are. The word Art is only partially visible, and horses is right above that. What? You were expecting something else to top the list? (well silly you ;o) They're not necessarily in order of preference, but more how they fit best in the space. Everything gets done in pencil first, then it's made permanent with Staedtler pens. My hand-lettering still needs lots more practice. I haven't decided whether or not to add color to it yet - the scarf, perhaps? Or maybe I should just leave this page in black and white. What do you think?

Have a blessed week everyone, and thanks so much for reading this far!

Red Book, Blue Book, Old Book, New Book

Saturday, October 10, 2015

**Coffee and a Donut Post**

Since it's [almost] National Book Week, I thought I'd make books the subject of this week's post. As a self-confessed bibliophile, I readily admit to having no less than eight (yes, 8) bookcases scattered throughout the house literally brimming with books (I suppose one might say I've got a home full of tomes *snicker*). This includes - as indicated by the post title - books by Dr. Seuss. I mean, what self-respecting book-a-holic could miss out on that marvelous cadence of his? Anytime I find a topic I am interested in pursuing, the first thing I do is look for a book or two (maybe three) depending on the subject. I have books on drawing, painting, crocheting, tatting, various crafts (I'd bet Ann's got more), gardening, animals, birds (though probably not as many as Anni), nature, and using essential oils and herbs, and a bazillion other subjects. When we remodeled our house, my dad and I made three 7' built-in bookcases [pictured] for the master bedroom, where I keep most of my fictional reading.  Believe it or not, we used 5" baseboard molding for the shelves. It has a marvelous finished edge and it's the perfect width for paperbacks (in the event that there are any other DIY bibliophiles out there ;o)

I have multiple dictionaries from the picture kind to unabridged. I've hung on to them, even though I tend to use my phone most of the time these days. Then there is the recreational reading for all ages, as well as a plethora of horse books; big shocker there, right? (ummm..... maybe not so much). Thankfully, there is a terrific used bookstore located a few miles away that takes trades (barring that, Ebay is a great used book resource). The store is actually an old house, and they have books piled to the ceiling in every room. Love it! I often walk (sometimes skip) away with a great big stack of books for $5.  I think that's a good thing. Well, most of the time anyway; except when it comes time to dust. Then I might not be quite so excited (although I must say that a super duper shop vac with a brush attachment is a wondermous thing ;o) 
[Photo Inset: A few of my dictionaries - can't have too many, don'tcha know]

A Kindle for Christmas several years ago added a whole new dimension to my library. Crazy to think you can fit somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500 books in something that is less than half an inch thick and fits neatly in your purse, isn't it? Toss in an app for my phone and I suddenly no longer cared about having to stand in line anywhere. Why should I? I've got a book to read while I wait. One of the best things I discovered was earlier this year: Book Bub. Have you heard of it? For those of you who haven't, it is AWESOME. Book Bub puts out a daily email containing a list of free and reduced price books in a variety of genres. Maybe about ten at a time? Never counted. Anyhoo, most of them are for a limited time only (so get 'em while the gettin's good!). I have found a number of books by my favorite authors (usually the first in a series) as well as tons of new authors that I had never heard of for free. Free! For someone who cannot afford to fully fund her voracious reading habit - I have been known to blow through an entire series in one week when school is out - this is very exciting stuff. Plus, I'm not much of a gambler when it comes to test driving new authors with my money. It only took a couple of truly terrible reads - that had great sounding "blurbs" on the cover - to discourage me from buying unknown authors in the future. Did I mention that some of the books were free? Throw in the ability to "shelve" the books on Amazon when my phone library is full, and I wind up with digital shelf space akin to that of the New York City Library; AND it all fits in my pocket! *squeeee*
[Photo Inset: Part of my Karen Kingsbury collection - she is one of my favorite authors; even if she does make me cry.]

Of course one of my favorite topics to read both recreationally AND for research is horses, of courses! Although there are a number of excellent training resources out there for working with horses, I think my favorite "go to" thought provoking people for training (though I much prefer to call it "playing with purpose" ;o) are Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling and Mark Rachid. Before I stumbled upon their writings, I had been pulling a little of this and a little of that from various trainers and making my own little pot luck version. The one thing that really bugged me, however, was the cookie cutter methods used in horse training; the "one size fits all" approach. Yes, some things do remain constant in training, but all of them? Surely not. Maybe because I viewed our horses as a collection of individuals, rather than a "herd" of horses. Individuals with their own unique personalities and interests. I'm sure the same is true for dogs and other animals as well. Right?
Both men push you to think about things that most horse people never stop to consider. Hempfling pointed out that the traditional round pen led to disoriention (page 69 Dancing with Horses), just as staying in a round room for an extended period of time would ultimately disorient us. This made total sense to me and is the reason we built square and rectangular training areas. Rachid introduced the concept of "Passive Leadership" (Horses Never Lie) which placed emphasis on becoming your horse's chosen leader as opposed to their alpha. Revolutionary stuff to someone who was raised on the "show 'em who's boss" method of riding (a role I was never comfortable in). Though I've read all his books, Rachid doesn't come this far east to do clinics. Kate at A Year with Horses has been kind enough to share her own experiences at his clinics with those of us less fortunate; she has a whole list of them on the right-hand side of the blog (the lucky heifer ;o)
[Photo Inset: One of several horsey shelves; complete with childhood Breyer #68 Legionario III]

Wondering how I became such a big reader? Aside from genetics which predisposed me toward right brain-ism (mom was an English major and dad a Journalism major; they met working at a newspaper - he was her editor) growing up we spent five weeks out of each summer at the beach; our annual family vacation. Believe it or not, there was no T.V. - at all - for five whole weeks. Shocking, but true and possibly the best thing my parents ever did for me. Once the sun went down there wasn't a whole lot do there (one small store and an ice cream parlor), and you can only play so many board games. *laugh* DH, who is a total news and reality TV junkie, cannot fathom why I readily ignore the tube in favor a good read  - poor guy ;o) This photo is of one of my childhood books (published in 1964). It is "Alice's Adventures Underground" and is a facsimile of Carroll's original manuscript complete with illustrations and slipcover. Yes, the pages shown below really are yellowed with age (and let's not even go there). Pretty neat, eh? I always loved the silly poem about Father William. Of course now I wonder what his teachers had to say about his penmanship. *laugh* (control+ will make it larger if you need to):

How about you? Are you a big reader too? Thank you so much for sticking with me and reading this far! *wink* Have a blessed week y'all!

How Come I Do Me Like I Do-Do-Do?

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Welllll... it looks like we can chalk another one up in the "What in the world were you thinking Jennifer?" column: otherwise entitled, "Self-Inflicted Stupidity in Spades" (which, as an acronym could be construed as "Si-Si's" - yes-yes's in Spanish - and accurately represents the sum total of an ongoing personal predicament). Okay, that was entirely too much digression [even for me]. Nice rabbit hole there, Jen. *UGH* I managed (yet again) to bite off WAY more than I could possibly chew. Do you do that? I do. On a regular idiot-friendly basis, I might add. I have a really, really rough time with the "N" word. As in NO. I have, quite literally, sat in meetings and bit my lip hard enough to hurt to keep myself from volunteering for something when I knew good and well it would be far too much and I'd wind up completely overwhelmed and stressed out. Unfortunately, an "Oh, I can do that" frequently pops out in spite of my best efforts to hold it in. Why? Not a clue. Boneheaded? Maybe. Glutton for punishment? Definitely. Most of the time, though, it happens simply because I want to help. The fact that I know that you can't possibly help everyone all of the time does not seem to stop me from trying. Sometimes, however, it's just a big fat brain blip (you know, the kind that comes with the triple threat of repercussions: STRESS, MORE STRESS and TOTAL MELTDOWN). A few weeks ago, my art teacher asked me if I wanted to go in with her on a booth for the local Art/Craft Show the following weekend. Obviously, I was in idiot mode at the time, because I responded with an enthusiastic "Oh, I'd love to!". Two days later, I found myself lamenting this decision, but was still delusional enough to think I could pull it off without too much trouble. Well ha. Ha, HA, HA. Delusional indeed.

By the following week, I was ready to pull my hair out (and I might have, too, except that it is finally starting to thicken again - plus, once the hair has left my head it kinda freaks me out to clean it up, because Ick."Why? Why do you DO this to yourself?!?" was my perpetual mantra. What is WRONG with you? Are you mental? Clearly, the answer was [is] a resounding Yes. I did indeed make it to the art show (in frazzled stressed-out-mess mode, but I got there!) and I have to say that it was SO not worth it. *rolling eyes* We're talking total bust. I have no idea where they advertised, but it was like a ghost town; the only thing missing were the tumbleweeds (not to worry though, I found one just for you). I can't even say I enjoyed myself, since I spent the better part of a day sitting there thinking of all the things I could have gotten done had I just stayed HOME. The only positive thing I can think to say is that I did sell two candles to my art teacher (she said they were Christmas presents for a couple of someones) so at least my portion of the booth rental was covered. I'm good with that, I guess. I mean it'd be even worse had I wound up paying to get so completely stressed-out, right? My art teacher did make me promise that I would slap her [really hard] should she ever ask me to do such a thing again in the future  (so maybe it wasn't just me then, eh? ;o)

On the upside, my friend Lori has gallantly volunteered to run interference for me in the future as my official Nay-Sayer. (I am to direct any and all requests for my assistance through her). Why, you might ask? Because I completely blew my shining moment, that's why. After a lengthy discussion (otherwise entitled, "See Jen Vent") with Lori and another friend Cathy after church - both of whom agreed that I had a big problem telling people "No" - they gave me a marvelously encouraging pep talk and pointed out that I was already overloaded by default (true). Then they had me practice saying, "I'm sorry, but I just can't." I don't know why it's such an issue for me, but it's HUGE. The biggest thing that bothers me about it? I wind up saying "No" to the people I don't want to say no to (like friends and family), or I miss my weekly blog post because I've already said yes ten too many times. So why on earth do I keep doing it? I sure wish I knew, because I absolutely infuriate myself sometimes. ARRGH! The topic turned to other things and it was quite awhile later that Lori said, "Oh, I meant to ask you; do you think you could fix a meal for the W--- family next week?" Taking a deep breath and thinking about the coming week's chaotic schedule, I closed my eyes and said.... "When?" Of course both of them yelled "NO! NO! YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO SAY NO!!" at me simultaneously. Apparently that was a test, which I failed. Dismally. *facepalm*
What's the definition of insanity again? Oh yes: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Oh dear.

And... for those of you who like doodle and draw, I started a [sketchbook] joy journal the other week. Faith based, and full of whatever it is that I feel like adding to it. Initially I just wanted to practice lettering, largely because it's an übercool skill to have. I figured I may as well find a fun way to do it, hence the journal. Since it's now October and we're all "in the pink" (so to speak), I thought I'd share this page with you. It's not finished - obviously - nor is it a masterpiece, but the journal has been kind of a (hit and miss) therapeutic thing for me in the evenings.
I sure do enjoy doing it ;o)
[Pitiful photo, compliments of the crummy camera on my cell phone. Meh. :oP

Speaking of artistic endeavors, somebody special (actually two somebodies, since the taller one included a note ;o) sent me a happy-happy-happy moment. Isn't it awesome? Look:

Soooo putting them BOTH in my joy box. Thanks so much for reading this far, and have a blessed week!

Adventures in Alzheimer's and Conversations with Mom

Saturday, September 12, 2015

I can't remember if I told you this (I'm pretty sure I didn't), but earlier this year I went to an art show and reception with my mom. Our art teacher had talked us both into entering something, which was a first for me. My dad had a meeting that afternoon, so he couldn't go with us (though he did go with mom later in the week to see our work "on display"). As someone who is completely non-competitive (can a person be anti-competitive??) I wasn't very excited at the prospect, but I did it for our teacher. And oh my, but Jen does a marvelous impersonation of a basket case. Oy. I'd never been to a juried art show before, so I had no idea what to expect. I had visions of people standing around criticizing my painting (it was only my second), laughing at it hysterically and wondering aloud who let the third grader in, or maybe I'd just trip over my own two feet at the reception and go sprawling; another of my call me grace moments (remember this post?). And silly me. Seems I needn't have worried about any of that. I was so doggone busy chasing mom around in circles that I didn't have time to even think about anything else. During the brief time we were there, mom managed to:

1. Dump an entire stack of cups in the punch bowl, then stick her hand in the punch to fish them back out;

2. Spill the cup of punch she finally managed to pour herself down the back of our art teacher's skirt when she gave her a hug;

- And (my personal favorite) -

3. Spend ten minutes digging around in a purse - pulling everything out repeatedly - before announcing in stunned surprise, "Heyyyy... This is not my purse!"


Thankfully, said purse belonged to a woman in the art class after ours, so at least it was someone we sort of knew. Even more of a relief? She had a really good sense of humor. I am telling you, by the end of that (mercifully short) reception I was wiped out. Alzheimer's, like so many of the trials we face in this life, often boils down to a laugh or cry scenario (and it's definitely a prayerful one!) In hindsight it's pretty funny, although now that I am facing a second show and reception next week I find myself reevaluating my sense of humor. On second thought...

Anybody want to go with me? 'Cause methinks I'm just a leetle bit scared ;o)
[Photo Inset: The watercolor painting I entered, "Ecclesiastes 3: Summer (Rose of Sharon).]

The conversations I have with my mother throughout the week (normal ones aside) range from tedious to hilarious. It is not always easy to speak in the same calm voice when answering a question for the 33rd time during a single conversation, but I sure do try (though sometimes I take so many deep breaths, I probably sound like an obscene phone call ;o) People with Alzheimer's are easily agitated, and sometimes this agitation can blossom into a major meltdown if you're not able to defuse it. It is incredibly helpful to have a bent sense of humor in such situations, so you can entertain yourself and calm the storm at the same time. I am, of course, a huge fan of multitasking (particularly when it works ;o)

I had the following entertaining conversation with mom the other day on the way home from art class:

Mom: [suddenly agitated] "Jennifer, I don't know where I am."

Me: [calmly] "Of course you do."

Mom: [panicking] "NO! NO! I don't! I don't know! I don't know! I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHERE I AM!!"

Me: [still calm] "You're in my car, Mom."

Mom: [annoyed] "Well I know THAT."

Me: [raising a brow] "See? I told you you know where you are silly."

Happily, mom found that observation hysterically funny, and for the rest of the ride she was just fine. Dodged a bullet there, eh? Whew!
[Photo Inset: Not terribly relevant, though it did put me in mind of the song "Bad Moon Rising" which is sort of apt when it comes to the volatility of an Alzheimer's patient. Ha. Taken with my "old" camera. The one I have now doesn't seem to be able to get the job done; I think I need some kind of filter - but quite frankly, I haven't a clue ;o)]

Guess that's all for this week - I'm off to try to shovel out the rest of our guest bedroom (the holidays will be here before we know it - ACK!) Thanks for reading this far, and have a blessed week everyone!

Why Do Thing 1 and Thing 2 Inevitably Lead to Things 3 and 4?

Monday, September 7, 2015

**Coffee and a Doughnut post**

Have you ever noticed that when one thing starts to go wrong, it's often followed by another and another until you find yourself feeling like you're in the middle of a veritable landslide? Methinks I've been avalanched. Again. Maybe I should say Again, Again. Ohhhh the frustration of it all. ARGH! In recent years I've tried, with varying degrees of success, (or failure, depending on your perspective, eh? Ha) to make things as simple as possible for myself. Not always an easy feat, that, since I seem to have a tremendous talent for complicating pretty much everything. I've been told repeatedly by doctors to eliminate stress. Happy to. Piece of cake. Just one itty bitty problem there doc - exactly how do you avoid those stressful situations that are unavoidable? Eh? Of course sometimes (oftentimes?) you just can't. So I go visit my galpal Sandy and decompress :o) Anyhoo, right after school let out DH asked me to postpone my scheduled summer trip to Sandy's until the last week in July, as he had some vacation time that week and wanted to go with me. Faculty was due back on July 31st this year; which is considerably earlier than last year. Although I knew that going to visit my friend so close to the start of school would make things more hectic, I wouldn't have traded that visit for anything! I spent a little (okay, a LOT) more time scrambling when the "big day" (first day for faculty) arrived, but the important thing is that I made it; albeit thoroughly frazzled ;o)
Photo inset: Although the color of the horse may vary, this is my most favorite view in the whole, wide world! We'll call it my happy-happy-happy place *laugh* ;o)

About the time I went back to work/school, DD decided to come home for another (other) visit. Pretty sure I see more of her now than I did when she lived here ;o) Sometime near the end of her stay, during casual conversation, she made a comment along the lines of, "Oh, and I need to give the electric company some money, too...". It was with extreme trepidation that I chose to explore that particular sentence a little more deeply. Taking a deep breath, I asked her if she had actually paid her electric bill. "Wellllllll... I didn't really have enough money to pay it, but I will." "Oh, child of mine..." I thought, "This is NOT going to end well." I explained that the power company would probably not be as nice and understanding as Mr. Landlord has (he has been wonderful, allowing her to split her rent between checks when she didn't have enough to cover it all at once). I told her they would simply cut off her electricity, and it would cost her a small fortune to straighten it all out. I pointed out that having her power cut off in 100 degree weather would be more than inconvenient. For one thing, she would have to pay a hefty fee to have it turned back on. For another, she would lose everything in her refrigerator and freezer; not to mention how disgusting it is to have to clean out a bunch of spoiled food - learned that one compliments of Hurrican Opal who blessed us with 11 days without power and raspberries to that). "Ohhhhhh, wow.", said she. Well.

Didn't I get a text message saying that very thing upon her return home? *facepalm* The long and short of it? (though I think I'm mostly long here ;o) is that after two years of stubborness and self-inflicted stupidity (not to mention a boatload of monetary transfusions from her folks), DD has finally figured out that perhaps she wasn't quite as ready as she thought to move out. Why do we all seem to learn that lesson the hard way? Yeesh. I was happy to learn she wants to live closer to home again though - Hooray! SO, we've been house-hunting. It'll have to be some kind of major fixer-upper project in safe area (nearby, of course) that, hopefully, we can (almost) afford. In other words, we are praying for a miracle. The house hunting is, of course, being done in my spare time (of which I have none *rolls eyes*).
Photo inset: This photo has nothing to do with DD per se (other than the whole "baby bird having left the nest" thing - HaHa) but I thought I'd introduce "Gabe", a juvenile Cardinal, who has been hanging out in the Redtop near the feed room recently. I named him after one of my favorite pint-sized pals who happens to have a soft spot for Cardinals (you know who you are ;o) Juveniles are easily discerned from adults by their bedraggled appearance. Poor guy looks like he was chewed up and spit out at least once, don't you think? *laugh*

As if the snipe hunt for housing was not enough, just as school kicked into high gear in week two with students returning, my Dad told me that my Mom had been diagnosed with Dementia at her checkup. He was devastated, though I was not at all surprised. Actually, that was considerably better than the diagnosis I had been expecting. Quite frankly, I had been expecting to hear the "A-word" - Alzheimer's. Since I don't think I've really said a whole lot about Mom here, I need to give you some background first. I have found myself becoming increasingly concerned over certain things with my Mom over the past few years, some small - some not so small. I call my parents pretty much every day to make sure everybody's okay and we'll chat for a bit. I also see them all the time as they live only 4 miles up the road. Somewhere along the line, I started noticing that Mom was beginning to repeat herself quite a bit. She'd say things that were completely untrue or misrepresent things that someone said (like conversations she and my dad had while I was there). She'd lose track of where she was in a conversation and go down a rabbit hole (which could go on for miles). Sometimes she'd pull a comment from out in left field; or just sort of ramble a bit about things that made little sense before trailing off oddly. (Sidebar: If any of this is freaking you out from a personal perspective - don't worry - I can ramble and/or be irrelevant with the best of them, but there's a definite difference here ;o)

For the past two years, I would ask my dad to talk to the doctor about it every single time she had a checkup, but every single time he did she was able to answer all of the doctor's memory questions and was determined "just fine". I really got scared about a year or so ago when she asked me for directions to the bathroom - the one at my HOUSE - the same house we have lived in for 25 years. I started pointing out more and more things that concerned me to my Dad left and right, but he would just kind of shrug them off. Sometimes during our morning chats Mom would talk [literally] nonstop and then yell, "LET ME FINISH!" even though I hadn't said a single word during the entire diatribe. She became increasingly testy, and would snap and snarl at everyone. She became suspicious of everything, to the point of paranoia; accusing us of all manner of underhanded things. Most un-Mom like behavior.
Photo inset: The "science experiment" growing inside a cookie jar in my parent's kitchen. I have NO idea what it was in its former life, (Rosemary? Pine?), but I do know that in its current state it is just plain Scary. Yikes! I pointed it out to my Dad, who immediately threw it in the trash.

I spent quite a bit of extra time with Mom this summer, and began to notice more and more things that disturbed me. What really terrified me? That so many of the things I noticed closely resembled the behaviors exhibited by my grandmother (my Dad's Mom). Nana had Alzheimer's, and she lived with us during what I sometimes think were the worst six months of my entire life (even after chemo and company). Not a very thing nice to say out loud, perhaps, but oh so true. At the time I agreed to care for her, I was under the impression that Nana was early stage Alzheimer's (according to Dad and the doctor) and she had been kicked out of the assisted living facility where she lived due to her diagnosis. With a job, a family, and ten horses (at the time) to care for, I really didn't want to do it (but my Dad pleaded with me so I did). Their house was two stories; my Mom would not be able to handle it; along with various and sundry other reasons that they were unable to care for her so it fell to me. Please don't misunderstand, I loved my grandmother but it was a frightening responsibility to take on (and little did I know just how completely it would overwhelm my life). Turned out that Nana was more like middle/end stages and the situation rapidly dissolved into a nightmare. Though we had a sitter while I was at work, once I got home I was IT. Nana didn't know who I was at all, but hated me with a passion, She hated DD as well.

Nana refused to "stay" anywhere. If I so much as turned my back for a moment (even to stir something on the stove), she was gone. Trying to feed the horses was awful - I was constantly running in and out of the house to check on her whereabouts (she had a lovely picture window in her room and a place to sit and watch the horses, but she would not stay there). She would repeatedly refuse to use her walker, then fall. She kept me up all night long "Sundowning". Sometimes she would try to leave the house; we had an alarm on her door and a baby monitor in the bedroom so I could listen out for her. It was awful. I can remember calling my Dad (who thought I was greatly exaggerating) in tears begging for a night sitter just so I could get some rest. It was quite expensive, so we ended up with a sitter once a week on Thursdays. That was pretty much the only decent night's sleep I could get. Although I had been ready to toss in the towel after the second week, I toughed it out for six long months until I could take it no more. How to put this delicately? I drew the line when Nana started playing with her food, after it had passed through her digestive system. If you're not quite following that, trust me when I tell you, you really don't want to know. In any case, taking Mom shopping and watching her look for her wallet in her purse by pulling everything out (including the wallet) only to put it all back in again then take it out over and over was something I'd seen before. So was the testiness, the rambling, and a hundred other little things. I don't even have the words to describe how badly seeing these behaviors in my own Mom frightened me.

The doctor referred my mother for an MRI, which is standard procedure for a Dementia diagnosis, and Mom asked everyone in art class to please pray for her because the doctor suspected she had a brain tumor (see what I mean?) One week later my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. My father is absolutely beside himself and has not taken the news well at all. He finally admitted to me the other day that somewhere, deep inside, he wondered but he just couldn't bring himself to go there. He'd taken the checkbook long ago, was doing all the cooking and even the laundry. She asks him five times a day what day it is (she also asks me the same question - over and over - during our morning chats). To be honest, I don't want to go their either (at all - EVER) but I'd much rather be proactive than reactive. Wouldn't you? He is adamant that she is "just" in the early stages, but I'm not so sure. From what I've read, I'm fairly certain that Mom is already in the middle stages of the disease (here). I am trying to ease my Dad into reality, without causing him any more stress (I'm worried he'll have a heart attack) but it's not easy. Right now I'm trying to talk him into getting her a really pretty bracelet (that she can't take off) with his name and cell phone number on it. Why? Because as I was watching for my Mom to come home after a "Circle Meeting" at the community clubhouse this summer (it's catty-corner directly across the street from their home), I caught sight of her as she walked right past their house and started off down the street. Stepping outside, I called out to her and asked where she was going. Without missing a beat, she looped around and walked back through the neighbor's yard saying, "Oh, you know, I just thought I'd go this way today." Man-oh-man, are we in trouble... Big, BIG trouble. *sigh*

So, now you know all the dirty details behind the missing posts (and why I think I've consumed about 50 pounds of chocolate in the last month ;o) Thank you so very much for reading this far, and I sure do hope you got to eat that doughnut. Have a blessed week and a happy Labor Day. Hugs!

A ('nother) week at warp speed and a failure to photograph

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Sooo, I'm thinking you may have noticed the lack of response to comments along with a missing post last Saturday (DD sent me a text asking me what happened to it - Mom finally face planted, honey ;o) As much as I enjoyed having a happy houseful, I had a tough time getting adequate rest and struggled really hard to function through a completely disrupted routine (something at which I do NOT excel). When DH's nephew and DD with their respective canine entourages unexpectedly extended their visits for two additional days, I wound up trying to pack for a trip to visit my friend Sandy in the middle of it all - my thought process frequently disrupted by conversations and canines alike. I normally spend the better part of a day packing; I like to do it systematically so I don't forget anything (and ahahaha right?). I should add that we all had a wonderful time, and I would not have changed it by having them leave any earlier than they did. Ultimately, we all ended up leaving the house for our individual destinations at about the same time Sunday, which was kind of weird. Sandy, who knows me too well, was extremely concerned I might forget my saddle in the midst of my eleventh hour packing frenzy . "Are you kidding?" says I, "That was the first thing I put in the car! I may wind up wearing the same clothes for three days or riding in my pajamas, but I WILL have my saddle." It's all about the priorities people, right? ;o) [photo inset: My Kincaid AP leather saddle with it's fabulously deep seat; it turned out to be incredibly comfortable considering the bargain basement price - BooYeah!]

I don't know what it is, but every time I start up the driveway to Sandy's I can feel myself start to relax; feeling tension I don't even know I'm carrying magically dissipating. Amazing, really, and the reason I have dubbed her house "Sandy's Spa". *laugh* We went for a couple of leisurely trail rides on Monday and Tuesday through some fabulous forest trails about five minutes from her house. We had the most marvelous time! There are approximately 82 miles of trails there for riders and hikers - isn't that awesome? Of course we had to leave pretty early in the morning; it was HOT. Thankfully, the woods stayed fairly cool although we did cut our ride short on Tuesday due to the extreme temperatures (I kept a watchful eye on both the temp and the all-important heat index with my cell phone - what did we ever do without them?) We saw three deer - one, then two - they were there one minute and gone the next. It's amazing to me how they can just "vanish" into the dense underbrush without a sound. I wish they had held still long enough for a photo op (and I'll bet you do too!) but they were so fast, that by the time it registered they were long gone. Well, poop eh? ;o) The most fascinating thing this year was the butterflies; they were everywhere! I remember asking where they were hiding last year as we rode through Butterfly Crossing; there weren't any butterflies at all (I felt cheated *sniff*). This time, however, I was delighted to see Tiger Swallowtails, Black Swallowtails and a number of others whose names I don't  know fluttering in and out of the trees and happily chasing each other all around the trails. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of them either (and how sorry is that?) [photo inset: A small section of the map showing the many different criss-crossing trails]

On Tuesday afternoon, DH and I accompanied Sandy to rescue a sheep and a goat. [photo inset] Meet Amanda. Can you imaging wearing those winter woolies in the southern summer when the heat index was 105? Turns out that this is about three years worth of wool. Ack! The woman who was "baa-bysitting" *cough* (sorry) spoke to Sandy and explained the situation. It seems that a few years ago her owners, who were having a serious medical crisis (which I definitely understand), had asked her if they could leave the goat and sheep in her pasture until they were able to come back and get them, but then never did (I'm having a tough time with that part). I mean, three years? Yeesh. In any case, the two of them had been pretty much without human contact for the past three years (outside of the woman feeding them) and they had grown pretty wild. The woman said she would try to get them into a large pen for us. When we arrived, the goat managed to duck under the fence and headed straight for the hills, but Amanda couldn't fit so she took evasive maneuvers. You would think that a sheep carrying that much wool wouldn't be able to go very fast. Well let me tell you, that girl could RUN. It took the four of us slowly moving inward with our arms spread out to maneuver her into a small holding pen. I couldn't believe she didn't keel over from a heat stroke; all of us were just sure she would, but she didn't. Once she was penned she settled a bit and Sandy was able to put a halter on her and walk her (rather reluctantly) into the trailer, with Amanda yelling her head off the whole time (poor girl). We never did catch that goat (Sandy and her husband were going to go back for her at another time).

Of course the first thing Sandy did when we got back was to shave all that wool off. Although Sandy had never actually sheared a sheep, she'd been a professional dog groomer before and was pretty doggone (ha) handy with the clippers. She went after the clippers while I grabbed the big box fan from the house to try to keep them cool and then DH and I watched her go to town. I got an empty 50lb feed sack and stuffed the wool in there as it fell to the floor; when that one was overflowing, I started on another. We wound up with three bags full - just like in the nursery rhyme ;o) Unbelievable. You know she had to feel so much better without all that extra weight - not to mention about a hundred degrees cooler! Sandy turned her out with the goats who had, apparently, never seen a sheep before. I got some free entertainment as Amanda, (who was in the market for a new goat gal pal to hang out with), ran after the goats to find a friend. The goats, thinking it was some kind of weird alien invasion, scattered briefly before converging into a panic stricken bleating blob and taking off down the hill. Poor Amanda - it seemed nobody wanted to be her friend. She sure tried though:

and tried:

and tried:

Eventually, she gave up and stood there for a moment [photo inset] before turning to look stonily at the billy (the only one brave enough to go near her). Of all the missed photo ops over those two days, this is the one I lamented the most. Amanda appeared to be deep in thought, when she suddenly dropped her head and leapt at the billy. WHAM! Her head connected solidly with his side, sending the billy crashing to the ground. Honestly? It was hard to say who was more shocked: me or the billy. I guess he was pretty mortified; he lurched to his feet and hightailed it around to hide behind the barn. Nothing like a little public humiliation, eh dude? Beat by a girl, no less; how embarrassing. Pretty sure I know the answer to the friendship question from HIS perspective, don't you? After a late supper it was time to head home (*sniffle*). I think I fell asleep about 5 minutes after we hit the road; I was pooped ;o) We got back around midnight (late nights: something else I do NOT excel at). I pathetically crawled out of bed on Wednesday morning, fighting hard throughout the day to keep my bloodshot and gritty eyes at half mast. Didn't staying out late used to be easier? Don't I have vague and distant memories of staying out all night and/or getting home in the wee hours, yet still being fully (even mostly would work) functional the next day? Where did that ability go and how do I get it back? Yeesh.

Reality arrived a scant two days later (on Friday), with the beginning of school for teachers. I think this was our shortest summer ever; we wrapped up the year the first week of June and we're back to work the last week in July (wow). I did manage to edit the butterfly photos for you and put them in a short [lightbox enabled] slideshow. There are two Tigertail Butterflies, and one of them (the first photos) appears to have had a narrow escape from a predator. For my email friends, click here to watch it. Enjoy:

As always, thanks so much for reading this far and have a blessed week!

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