The “perfect” Christmas 

Hi Everyone! Hope you are warm and safe and dry. If I have any readers in Alaska, I hope you are safe and suffered minimal damage up there.  This was another week where on Monday I thought to myself, ” I will finish my blog post tomorrow”, which somehow turned into Saturday!  

I have finished the Christmas decorating and been subjected to hours of non-stop Christmas music by Miss L.  As always happens right before or just after Thanksgiving, I began to feel my inner Grinch seep out. This time I decided to stop and get to the bottom of this yearly phenomenon and to POSSIBLY exorcise it once and for all. If you are lucky you won’t have to read about it here next year and maybe I can redeem myself to my kids and future grandkids. Put your seat belts on because I’m down to about 10% of my original filter and have reached the Age of Honesty. This may turn into a series before the season is over.

First, I think somewhere in my lineage there is either Scandinavian or Shaker ancestry. Our modern Christmas is overwhelming to me. Too much stuff, too many lights, people, food, traffic, etc.  I’m pretty sure I can trace that back as far as my teenage years and at heart I am a minimalist that can’t seem to shake (but by George I’m trying) literal and figurative baggage. My idea of decorations for Christmas is a green tree with white lights and white ornaments, white candles on the mantle and some greenery. Boom. Done. Simple. Elegant.  When we get the new house finished  I will probably add a Moravian star on the porch. I have been told more than once that I don’t get the Spirit of Christmas. If it involves the above excess, then I don’t want it. The only Spirit of Christmas I have any desire for is the company of friends and family and the candlelight midnight service at church. 


Second, the expectations of what Christmas “should” be have been blown so out of proportion that there is no wonder people are depressed during the holidays. My parents tell of getting AN ORANGE as their treat for Christmas. My guess is that they savored every bite of that orange. What do we really savor during the frenzy of shopping, cooking, parties, ripping open piles of gifts? How the heck are we supposed to Martha Stewart our way through the holidays with a spotless house, hundreds of cards mailed, perfect hair, gourmet home cooked goodies and angelic (though sugared up) children? It’s a myth people. Concocted by marketers who each year are expected to out tear jerk last year’s Christmas advertising. I spent my whole career in advertising, marketing and retail. That is where Grinches are born! 

Gifts. In my perfect Christmas there would be no gift giving. The financial burden and stress that this causes so many people every year is the antithesis of what Christmas should be about. Gifts should be given spontaneously during the year and only to show thoughtfulness and true affection or appreciation. I can tell you that in my years as a young parent and later as a single parent, the cost of trying to gift everyone at one time AND make them HAPPY was nothing short of a horrendous burden. I worked two jobs for years just to pay the bills and tried to squirrel away money all year long just to try to have enough to buy gifts for my kids that would come close to what their friends would get so they would not feel different THEN prayed my car didn’t break down or an appliance quit on me and I would have to spend the Christmas money. 

Pay attention to the people in your circle. Is there someone who gets sick or has a conflict with that party every year where a $25 gift AND food is expected to be brought? Do they “conveniently” miss the meeting where everyone is expected to pitch in for the bosses’ gift? Do they “forget” that they needed to bring items for underprivileged children? Guess what. They are struggling to keep THEIR kids’ names off that Christmas tree! People, give up the gift and money expectations. Do what you can and leave everyone else to do what they can…AND DONT GOSSIP ABOUT THEM. They are losing precious sleep wondering how they are going to DO Christmas AND pay the freakin’ power bill. If you can’t understand why someone isn’t out fighting Black Friday crowds or throwing lots of Christmas Spirit money in every charity  pot that gets passed around, then appreciate how blessed you are not to be counting every quarter and give some grace to those who have to. When I say “grace” I don’t mean a handout. I mean understanding. Understanding that people deal with many different challenges during the Christmas season. Depression and grief don’t leave much room for joyous shopping or giving. Caregiving can suck the lifeblood out of others. Single parents deal with financial burdens, social stigmas and loneliness during the holidays. The Christmas Spirit should be giving understanding, support and non-judgement instead of expecting Starbucks cards, extravagant gifts and constant holiday enthusiasm. 

I practice the Christian faith, the teachings of Jesus Christ, who didn’t do much of anything that was a societal norm. He was born in a dirty barn. The only ones who brought him gifts were three wealthy men. The shepherds and the Angels simply worshipped a miraculous birth and savored the moment. That was the perfect Christmas. 

Wishing you a week of miracles. 

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Thankful 

Hi Everyone!

I hope my U.S. readers had a wonderful Thankgiving and that the rest of you had a lovely week. Our Thanksgiving was nice though a few were missing from the table. My uncle who normally joins us, is not in great health and did not come this year. His always funny stories were missed as well as the brother banter between him and my Dad as they compare and argue over childhood misadventures. 

We had much to be thankful for this year. My daughter and son-in-law were with his family for Thanksgiving and though they were missed we are very thankful that the miscombobulated mess with my SIL’s job got sorted out and they were able to finally close on their house right before the holiday and host his family for Thanksgiving in their new home without a cloud of worry hanging over them. 

My son got home for a brief visit and is doing well. I will report later if he will be home for Christmas or off on another travel adventure. 

On Wednesday we welcomed our former trainee, Walker, back to our herd. His owners decided that their daughter had lost interest in riding. When we took him back to them in August after training we told them we would take him back should they decide to get rid of him. Let’s just say that when he came to us last Spring he was not in good condition and we were concerned to be taking him back to them. When he left us he was at full body weight. Though not as bad this time, he will be getting some extra food to cover those ribs and hip bones again.

When Miss L. came to live with us we asked her if she would be interested in riding and eventually having a horse of her own. Of course she said yes, but having a horse comes with much work and responsibility. So she has had daily barn chores for the horses for over a year now. She has learned them and done the work without too much grumbling (I have yet to meet a middle schooler that doesn’t have some complaints) so we have now given her Walker (who has been renamed Cinder) as her own horse. Of course the responsibility level went up as she will now be in charge of cleaning his stall (D. has been taking care of stall cleaning for all the horses) and Cinder comes with a full flowing mane and tail that will require as much upkeep as her own long hair. 

Cinder is a Tennessee Walker (thus the so-lacking-in-creativity former name) with a super gentle and friendly personality. We think he will be a good fit for her and since D. trained him we know the areas where he needs extra work as she becomes more proficient in her riding skills. I’m just happy to know he is going to be taken care of now. I fell hard for his sweet nature and couldn’t stand the thought of him alone in that pasture without his friends or proper food. 


We had to take Sweetie Pie the cat to the vet yesterday. The vet thinks she just has a virus so she is confined to her crate (which seriously cuts into her gypsy lifestyle) with meds for the next week. With it as cold and nasty as it is, she is not complaining too loudly about her time in the barn with a big warm blanket. We are thankful she doesn’t seem to have anything worse than a cold. We have gotten pretty attached to her as well. 

It’s a cold, rainy/icy day here today, but the wood stove is going and there will be Christmas decorating happening to add some cheer to this super gloomy day. I hope you all have a great week. Stay warm and safe. 

It’s Fall y’all

Hi Everyone!

I may have to call this “The Three Week Post” to cover last week, this week and next week. Soccer, never ending yard work, regular work, appointments and the fast approaching annual family gathering are keeping me very busy. This week alone involves three days of appointments. That may not sound too bad for those of you who live in civilization, but from here everything is an hour drive to the destination, the time taken by the appointment, then the hour back. Most of the time I have to work in necessary errands as well because, well, everything is an hour away! Pretty much one appointment shoots the whole day. By the time I get home it’s time to cook dinner and feed the humans and the critters. 

Today looks like it may finally be the beginning of actual Fall weather here. Impending cold and dark brings on a flurry of activity to A) get everything cleaned up and ready for our chicken stew gathering and B) get all the dwellings ready for cold weather, including wood cut for our wood stove. We really don’t live in the Arctic like it sounds, but when the weather gets bad here, there is not a Lowe’s Home Improvement right down the road. Gotta be prepared. 

For a couple of months I have been working on some knitting during my copious down time and finished a small triangular scarf just in time for cooler weather. I will show the finished product when I get it washed and blocked into shape (hopefully that won’t be NEXT winter). 

I also dug out a colored pencil drawing that I started ages ago and never finished. No judging the photo. It’s still in the early stages.  I can’t paint right now because I just don’t have room and it’s asking for a disaster to even try. Drawing is safer and takes less room. It takes much more time though. I have yet to be able to do a simple drawing. I get sucked into the detail vortex and can’t get out. But the disaster factor is lower. As long as I remember to keep the pencils out of the reach of the dogs I’m good.


If you all will bear with me for a few weeks, I’m going to be taking a blog vacation until the beginning of November. I have a great deal on my plate right now including some behind the scenes stuff that I will eventually write about, but it adds to my  To Do list. We have a trip planned the weekend after the family get together so I barely recover from that and then have to pack. I live and breathe by deadlines even if they are self imposed so right now it is stressing me out trying to find the hour + that it often takes me to write this.  Yes, I agree that is crazy of me but I don’t think I’m going to change at this point. I am getting better at accepting my brand of crazy finally…after half a century. 

So, when I get back I should have all sorts of things to write about INSTEAD of why I’m so busy. Have a great few weeks, I hope the weather is good (my thoughts and prayers are with those of you in hurricane Michael’s path) and Happy Halloween! 

Mini Vacation 

Hi Everyone,

I am currently in the lovely Charleston, SC visiting my daughter, son-in-law and grand pups for a few days. Miss L. is at camp for the week and D. is staying home taking care of all the 4 legged kids there. I think he was ready for a few female free days to himself anyway, but I do appreciate him covering all the feeding and walking so I could get some quality time with my girl. Now that my kids are grown it’s harder and harder to have time to just hang out and talk. Most of our time together is at big family events since both of them live several hours away. 

It’s too hot to do much outside so we are just hanging out and may get out later this evening when the temps are a little cooler. The photo is of my grand pup Harley and I don’t have anymore to share at the moment. Hopefully there will be more exciting photos next week, but until then I hope you all have a relaxing week and stay cool!

With Thanksgiving

Hi Everyone,

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving if you are in the U.S.  After my whiney, pitiful last post, I’m happy to report that mine was very nice. Stress, exhaustion and the impending cross country move of my son was not a good combination. I would like to say that would be my last pitiful post but I still have Christmas to get through so no promises.


I did get to spend about a week and a half with the “boy” and his girlfriend came for a visit and had Thanksgiving with us. My daughter and son-in-law made it as well. It had been since May that I had seen them in person. Arden and I got in a 4.5 mile hike together along with my grandpup, Rainey. We had a houseful of people and 5 dogs so there were no dull moments. Top all that off with our well pump dying and life gets really interesting. Two and a half days without running water! Why do things like that always happen when we have people in??

Slowly, ever so slowly things are wrapping up with my SIL’s estate. Every week we think we are done at her house, but then something else needs to be done, looked for or moved. We have an impending deadline so hopefully this Satuday will be the last big day over there. Lots of furniture moving to be done as we get the last of the major items out. We are VERY tired of moving furniture! 

Somehow in all of this (I still have a job that requires my attention too) Miss L and I are making Christmas gifts, the Christmas tree is up, I am cleaning out our storage unit of unneeded furniture and the people and animals still get fed. Poor D. hasn’t had a day off in literally months. Even on his days off from his job he is moving furniture, working on the barn, processing deer meat for a few friends and working on the Honey Do list.  When he decides he can squeeze in a few hours of hunting I figure that’s as close as he is going to get to some R&R for another month. We will all be very happy to see 2017 go bye bye!


I wish I could tell you about all sorts of cool, creative things I am doing but I don’t have much. I finished my second pair of knitted socks and plan to start a sweater next and I got in a drawing though it’s not finished yet. There are big plans in the works and hopefully I can share at least one of those next week if all goes well.  Right now the biggest thing I want to accomplish is getting my house clean and catching up on the laundry that piled up during our dry spell! 

My apologies for the same drawing twice. I can’t get it to delete!


Have a great week and be grateful for clean, running water. 

November?

Hi Everyone!

I am getting this week’s post done pretty much on time. Well, it’s 10:30 pm and I can’t get to sleep yet so I might as well be productive.  I also have plans to go hiking tomorrow with my son and need to clear some things off my To Do list so I can hike guilt free. 

Is anyone else wondering where the month of November went? How can next week be Thanksgiving?? I feel like I have been inside a tornado for months and things are whirling past me. I see them go by, but barely. 

This week has been another one of THOSE weeks where every day includes hours of travel and a stack of paperwork. I think we are almost done and then something else needs attention. I cannot begin to tell you how much I hate moving furniture right now, and boxes. I have temporarily cleared our guest room and main living area of boxes so that my son has room to function while he is here, but this weekend includes more furniture moving and even Thanksgiving day is likely to find us traveling Beverly Hillbilly style to and fro. Aaarrggghh! My goal for 2018 is TO NOT MOVE FURNITURE ANYWHERE!

On Monday I decided to at least give myself a short amount of time to enjoy a lovely Fall day and hiked around the farm and the neighbors’ farms. Tomorrow I am going to take time to enjoy some time with my son before he leaves for Hawaii the first of December. It will be almost a year before I get to see him again and dang it, I WILL NOT move anything tomorrow. Yes, I’m sounding a little stressed and frustrated again. This too shall pass.


I did manage to start a drawing and I’m still squeezing in a little knitting and quilt piecing to maintain my sanity. Next week begins the holiday cooking and decorating. I AM NOT READY! Can I just skip Christmas this year? For many reasons I just don’t want to do Christmas in 2017. 

I apologize for being such a downer this week. I got a little taste of normal life and then the abnormal moved back in this week with more furniture, boxes and people who don’t do their jobs. I will be taking a break next week. Both of my kids will be in for Thanksgiving and since they will not be home for Christmas I am going to try to get in as much quality and quantity time with them as I can. I have not seen my daughter since May and am not sure I remember what she looks like.

For those of you in the USA have a lovely Thanksgiving and for all of you everywhere I hope you have MUCH to be thankful for. I will be back in a couple of weeks and hopefully in better spirits. 

Life has gone to the dogs!

Hi Everyone!

Hope your August is off to a great start. It’s hard to believe that school will be starting soon and summer will be over.

I got a quick visit from my son this week and his new puppy, Rainey. What a cutie and he is just as laid back about life as Arden is. 


This week has been all about dog training. My dog, Kato, has become a Master Trainer over the year.  He has managed to turn my fearful other dog, Odie, into an almost well adjusted dog.  Kato has taught both of my daughter’s dogs a good dose of social skills in the limited time they have visited and he taught Rainey the fine art of tug this week. Kato is also Master Tugger and never loses that game. Kato lives for the tug!


During all the dog chaos I decided we should go ahead and bring Miss L’s dog, Dinah, into the mix.  Odie does not easily make friends and has had difficulty dealing with small dogs in particular. Now why would I do this you ask?  I have learned that when Odie is overwhelmed with new people and/or dogs he just gives up his bravado and hunkers down to watch the insanity around him.  Dinah is too small to continue living outside, especially out here where she would be considered a snack for some of the wildlife. 

Like most small dogs, Dinah makes up with attitude what she lacks in size.  After three days of being inside with two big dogs she has essentially convinced them she is a force to be reckoned with. Though she is slowly warming up to them, all she has to do is show her little teeth and both dogs retreat to the safety of the sofa.  This morning though, she seems to be allowing Kato to be in her personal space more and is taking some interest in playing with him. Hopefully in about a month I can post a picture of all three dogs happily snuggled on the sofa. Of course, I will need to find a new place to sit. Now if we can get her properly house trained. Miss L is learning all about doggy parenthood and the responsibility that is involved in proper care and training of a pet. 

Other than visiting with my son, lots of home cooking while he was here, and wall to wall dogs, I managed to finish the commissioned drawing of the barn. All done and delivered to its new home!  This is one of THE MOST DETAILED drawings I have ever done. If you have seen my work in the past you know that is saying a lot. 


My clients wanted to have the details of the old construction and the old boards plus some of the surroundings. The finished size was 16″ x 20″. I’m very surprised it did not take me longer. I gave up trying to keep up with hours. 

Since I do not have much space right now to work, I think I am going to concentrate on drawings but want to add some color without dragging out lots of paint. Some experimentation is in order I believe. 

The upcoming week may very well turn into another crazy, on the road week. I am supposed to be getting some of he legal paperwork I need and there is school shopping and soccer sign ups to do.  Hopefully I will get to check in but forgive me if it doesn’t happen.

Have an awesome week! 

Wanting what you don’t have

Hello everyone! Yes, last week was a doozy and I did not get to write a post amid the scrambling to get everything done before the family chicken stew. Which, by the way, did not happen…the getting everything done, that is.  As often happens, at least with me, the list is unreasonably long.

Most of the family made it including some that live a good distance away and hadn’t seen the others in several years. I had planned to share a few pictures, but got so caught up with visiting, fixing food and chasing grand babies that I forgot to take any. I did get this one. No, this is not our mess. We had everything cleaned up when we went to bed but forgot to take the trash out of the can. Our ever rowdy raccoons evidently had their own party. image

Switching subjects now. How do you like that subtle segway??  Here are a few wins and failures that have happened recently. Knowing that I can’t possibly be the only creative person that has as many, if not more, bombs than winners, I like to reassure my readers that they aren’t alone. If I AM the only one that bombs projects- please don’t tell me. I like my little fantasy world.

So, for the bombs first (I like to end on a high note). I so very, very much want to be able to paint luscious, loose, moody oil paintings (only with acrylics because I don’t like the oil solvents). I try so very, very hard, but this is what I get. Not what I am going for at all. The brown bottles below are more what I want to achieve, but I did that one first so it sort of feels like a fluke. ☹️ 

After I did my deer skull drawing it began to dawn on me that maybe I’m better off sticking to what I do best. It’s like having lovely straight hair, but always wanting curls. You want what you don’t have. I am in my element with pencils and charcoal in my hand, but want to paint.

These drawings are virtually effortless for me. I occasionally have a bombed drawing, but with painting I have many more failures than successes.  The problem is that I don’t always want so much detail in my work. I am not trying for photo realism. That’s what photography is for. BUT I DON’T KNOW HOW TO STOP MYSELF once I get started on a drawing. It’s truly frustrating.


Any suggestions would be appreciated or jump in and let me know if you deal with a similar problem.

Gotta go get horse feed. Have a great week!!

Hurricane Matthew

Just a quick check in this week. Thursday brought both of my kids home as they evacuated the coast. Along with them came two friends and two dogs. We have been cozy in our small house but it has been good to see them and know they are safe.

Right now I am listening to the wind blow and buckets of rain fall. Last night the rain and wind brought down a tree in our back yard that barely missed the house. We are almost in the mountains near the Virginia border.  If we are getting this much rain and wind I don’t want to be anywhere near what they have been getting on the coast.

With all the company, dog refereeing and cooking, there has been no time for writing. I will be back at the end of the week. Until then, my thoughts and prayers are with all those who are facing a daunting clean up this coming week. image