Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thankful Thursday

I woke up this morning to the sound of raindrops on our rooftop. I was thankful to hear the rain for two reasons: 1) we are already registering a deficit of rainfall in our area and predictions are for a very dry spring, and 2) the tree pollen is very high as an allergen right now and the rain will clean out our air for a time. Unfortunately, it was only a brief shower, but any moisture around here is a good thing.

I was also thankful to be awakened a little early by the rain because I have many things still to organize for Story Circle Network's national conference that begins tomorrow. I am very excited about the conference because of new writing opportunities and meeting new friends from all over the country. If interested in the conference, you can go to for more information.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

My Brother's Wife

Below I have posted the latest information from my brother for those of you who are following the progress of his wife at Mayo Clinic:

The doctor is now predicting that Jacki may only be in the hospital for 4 days. She will be in the kidney transplant unit at the hospital and cannot have flowers in her room. By the weekend, we'll know if she is going to be out of the hospital and at the apartment where she can have flowers. Both cards and flowers will then be much welcomed. I'll probably give you another report after we have seen all of the doctors. Thanks for all the support and messages.

Jacki's surgery is tomorrow so please keep her in your prayers.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I've Been Tagged

I was "tagged" by my daughter-in-law and fellow blogger , Kara. That means that I am supposed to tell you six things about myself that you might not know. Well, here goes:

1. I often wake up at 2:00 a.m. and do my e-mail. I love the quiet time to think and I sometimes get quite creative at that hour, thinking of things that might never occur to me at other times of the day or night.

2. I am an exercise nut! I think I am getting almost fanatical about it, but am determined to keep this body of mine in good shape.

3. I have had two hip replacements in the past year and a half and feel wonderful! Greatest thing I ever did for myself--thus the necessity to keep all those body parts (both old and new!) working well.

4. I love arts and crafts and really love learning new things, but once I learn the craft I usually don't stick with it long. However, I pick up the different skills again from time to time. Right now I am knitting socks, carving some wood, and re-visiting my oil painting days.

5. I do not watch much TV and I cannot handle emotional shows or movies. Same goes for books that are emotional--can't handle that anymore either. I love mysteries, though.

6. I record most of my dreams in my daily journal and try to figure out the meaning that they have for me.

Now that you know more about me than I thought I could tell you, I tag Connie and Patricia.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Birthday Boy...

Yesterday was the Birthday Boy's real birthday, so we invited him over for dinner. He accepted the invitation and we had a cake for him with real candles to blow out! I believe that was his third cake of the day. Lots of other people remembered that it was his real birthday also!

Last summer one of my daughters-in-law told me that in her family they don't have a Birth-DAY, but they have a Birth-WEEK and I have been hearing that more and more from other people. I guess our Birthday Boy believes in that also because he has been celebrating for almost a week now!

Way to go--blow those candles out! That's the way to celebrate! Let's eat!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thankful Thursday...

Today I am thankful for our wonderful neighborhood. We have lived in the same neighborhood for many years and, until recently, we were considered "the new kids on our block." However, in the past few years new people have moved in and have quickly blended into the scene. We have neighborhood gatherings; visits with shared meals, snacks, glasses of wine; help always available; and friendly smiles and waves as we go about our business. I feel very safe in our neighborhood and know that I have friends in each house. I am so thankful to be living here!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A New Adventure...

I did something new yesterday. Last week I signed up for a series of oil painting lessons and yesterday was the first class. I had prepared for the class for two days--both mentally and physically.

Several years ago--well, a bunch of years ago--I did some oil painting and I enjoyed it. However, I drifted on to other things as my boys were growing up and never went back to oil painting. Last summer I took a picture of two of my granddaughters wading into the surf at the beach and their lithe little silhouettes against the silvery, shimmery water and the puffy-cloud sky was the perfect picture. It just begged to be painted. Then, around Christmas, my brother sent me a lovely picture of mountains lightly dusted with snow that he can see from his house. I had pondered painting both pictures for quite some time, but had not found the right place or time until I happened to inquire about a class I saw advertised. It was close by, the price was right, and the work the students were doing was inspiring, so I signed up.

I spent the weekend looking through all my old oil painting supplies. I need not mention that I almost never throw anything away. As I looked through my brushes I found that the bristle brushes were moth-eaten and crumbling but my sable brushes were still in good condition! My paints were still usable, so I felt ready to begin. I took a trip back in time as I went through my paint box. Most of the supplies were mine, but some, including the box and my very favorite palette knife, belonged to my grandmother who also painted in oils. Just smelling the paints took me back in time, reminding me of summer visits to my grandmother's house where I sat near her easel and did some of my first artwork while she painted.

The morning of the class I began to have butterflies in my stomach. Could I do this again? Would I be able to measure up in the class? Would I remember anything about painting? I almost backed out of going. I know how my kindergarten granddaughter feels now when her mother shoves her out the door on her way to school when she is reluctant to go. I froze on the threshold of the classroom and almost turned and ran. However, I gritted my teeth and walked in to see a welcoming teacher and a couple of friendly students with marvelous paintings. During the course of the morning I did some exercises concerning light and value and am quite proud of the three canvas pages that I did during the morning. When I completed the third exercise the teacher asked if I had painted before and I said yes. Her reply--"I thought so!" I guess I have not completely lost my touch--or my eye for light and value.

I am excited about painting my pictures now, but first I have to go through three more weeks of exercises the teacher requires before I am declared "ready to paint!" Sigh! I would like to begin TODAY!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

An Amazing Family...

We just returned from a friend's birthday party. He will turn 80 towards the end of this coming week. The amazing thing is that he is part of two families that gather for occasions at the drop of a hat. For this birthday celebration they assembled about 40 friends and relatives from all over the state. I counted at least five distant towns represented by family members. And the party included people of all ages from 7 years old to 80+. Some family members drove from 200 to 400 miles to be here. The birthday party was held this weekend because of the three-day holiday that allowed people to gather for a Sunday afternoon party.

On the right is a picture of the Birthday Boy with his cousin, Jane, the organizer of this family gathering. She is an amazing woman who contacted and gathered the relatives and friends, and orchestrated the delicious assortment of food, drinks and desserts that were served during the afternoon and evening--something for everyone!

On the left is a picture of the party in full swing with balloons, good food and lots of visiting going on. There were tables honoring several state football teams represented by the families. The birthday boy is a dyed-in-the wool UT fan, but some apparently support A&M and also OU. One family from Tech lamented that their school was not represented. Maybe next time!

Thanks for letting us be a part of your party and your wonderful family, Birthday Boy!
P.S. You can double click on each picture to make it bigger for better viewing.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Thankful Thursday...

Today is my husband's birthday and I am very thankful for my sweet husband. We have been married for 41+ years and I have been so blessed to have him in my life for all those years. Together we raised four fine boys and now we are enjoying life as retired educators. We both stay busy with various activities which include yard projects, exercise, travel, hobbies, and neighborhood activities.

The picture is one we took at Christmas with our two youngest sons and granddaughter, Ella. I am also thankful for our wonderful family and our six grandchildren with another one on the way!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My Brother's Wife...

My brother's wife, Jacki, has been quite ill lately. I asked him to write an explanation of her problems for all the family members to read. His sent me the following:

I wanted to give you a concise explanation of what Jacki faces in the near future with her medical condition. As you know, 2007 was an extremely difficult year for her. It began with a virus in late January or early February. During the winter and early spring, she was repeatedly hospitalized. At one point, she had to be flown by air ambulance to the Mayo Clinic for emergency treatment. While in the hospital, she suffered a fall and had a skull fracture. As the treatment continued, it was determined that she had developed thrombocytopenia, TTP for short. The doctors believed that one cause might be the failing kidney, and they removed it. The TTP continued. At one point, the TTP got so bad, coupled with her high blood pressure, that she had several seizures.

TTP is a blood condition that results in the destruction of the platelets in the blood and dangerous clotting. The next treatment for the TTP was to remove her blood several times a week and completely replace the platelets. Each treatment lasts four hours. This is on top of dialysis three times a week to clean the blood. Throughout most of the summer she had five or six four-hour treatments per week.

When we went back to the Mayo Clinic in September, the kidney transplant unit said that they would not do another transplant until the TTP was in remission for six months. During the fall, she continued the treatments to get the TTP in remission. Unfortunately, when we went for a review in January, they said that all of the treatments were accomplishing nothing and no remission was in sight. The hemotologist at the Mayo Clinic said that only one further plan was possible and that was to remove the spleen. However, there are enormous risks involved. The surgery is relatively simple, but the consequences are dangerous. Removal of the spleen may cause the TTP to run wild. It may cause the blood to clot uncontrollably, with the danger of heart attack or stroke. It may cause the blood not to clot and she could bleed to death. At one point, the doctor said that there was only a 50-50 chance of survival (though later he changed that to 60-40). Even if she survives, there is only a 50-50 chance that it will cause the TTP to go into remission. Because this is the only chance for Jacki to get rid of the TTP and be eligible for a transplant, she has elected to go through with the high-risk surgery. We will travel to the Mayo Clinic next week for surgery on the 31st. Each of our children will fly to Rochester for the surgery. With a little luck and everyone's prayers, we will find success. We will keep everyone updated. Joseph

The picture is one taken at Thanksgiving of Joe and Jacki with their son, their son's little girl, Isabela, and their daughter. Their younger son must have been taking the picture.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rainy Day Recipe

Today was cloudy and cool, with a little rain predicted. I felt like it was a great day for soup and cornbread, so I used the following recipe:

Salsa Verde Beef Stew
1 1/2 pounds boneless beef 1 T. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped 1 red sweet pepper, chopped
1 can Mexican-style diced tomatoes 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pkg. small carrots 4 stalks celergy, sliced
1 can pinto beans, drained 1 tsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsp. Italian seasoning 1 bottle beer
2 cups water
Trim fat from beef and cut into 1-inch cubes. Brown in hot oil over medium heat in large soup pot. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until meat and vegetables are tender--three to four hours. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with cornbread or warmed flour tortillas.
Hope you enjoy this Beef Stew with a Southwest flavor.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sisters' Weekend Together...

My sister has been here this weekend and we have had fun visiting Mother, shopping, eating out, and sharing Christmas and Thanksgiving pictures (kids and grandkids).

She and her husband visited their son and family in Korea for Thanksgiving. They loved touring and experiencing interesting foods and shopping excursions while there.

For Christmas they went to visit their daughter and family in California. They spent much time on the beach and enjoyed playing with their new grandson and big sister while there.

We are looking forward to a time when all of our families and these cute grandchildren can be together again.
(If you would like to see these pictures close up, just click on the picture for a full-screen view.)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Thankful Thursday...

For about six years my mother has lived in a wonderful retirement center about five minutes from my house. She loves it there and I am so thankful that she is close by and happy with her life at 92. The past couple of years we have had to deal with a number of medical problems and one cropped up the past week that really worried me. I stewed about it for several days and finally went to the director of the assisted living for advice. I got some tough but good advice. Yesterday was the day that we were to institute a new program to help Mother, but it was my job to talk to her about it first. I accomplished my task and then left Mother in the hands of the assisted living staff. I walked out of the facility with an immense sense of gratitude that I had wonderful help in dealing with these problems and did not have to do it all alone. Thank you, thank you to all the wonderful and caring people who work at Mother's assisted living facility.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

No, Not Looking for Santa Claus...

My sweet husband heard that our neighbor's damper had fallen out of their chimney and down into their fireplace. He knows how much they enjoy their fireplace in the winter, so he went over to look at the damage and repeated a phrase that we in the family know well: "no problem" to fix it! The work took a couple of days with only a few bumps along the way and my husband was heard to utter another well know phrase around here: "these things take time!" After cutting new pieces of metal, numerous trips to the hardware store, visits with a neighbor known for his welding skills, lots of muttering, and some advice from the women watching and taking pictures, my husband is happy to report that the damper is now back in the proper place and working as well as it did before. It's a good thing, too, because it is getting chilly out there this evening! I am proud of my sweet husband who uses his talents and skills to help those around us!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Working, working...for Story Circle Network

Today I spent the entire day working on nametags for our Story Circle Network (SCN) national conference, but it is a labor of love. I have been involved with Story Circle Network for about 5 years now. It is a wonderful group dedicated to helping women write their stories. For several years I ran a program developed by SCN called Older Women's Legacy (OWL) designed to help older women write their stories. What fun that was! I still participate in a Continuing OWL writing group made up of a number of our former OWL participants who just could not stop writing. We published a collection of our stories last year just in time for Christmas.

Our national conference this year is February 1-3 and will be held in Austin, Texas. It is one of the most interesting conferences I have ever attended--very professionally done with women from all over the country attending. I always enjoy the workshops and learn more and more about writing. I will participate in a panel on blogs. They tell me that I am the newest blogger on the panel, so I will discuss my experiences with blogging for a little more than a month by that time. I will also do a workshop on "Words That Heal."

For those of you who might be interested in the Story Circle Network national conference you can go to for more information.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year to everyone! This is the time of year that I begin to work on my New Year's Resolutions. Looking back over my journal tells me that every year I seem to have similar resolutions: lose five pounds, work on fitness, tackle neglected projects, and so on.

I would like to report that I have begun my New Year's diet. My first step was to give all my fattening Christmas goodies to my ultra-skinny cleaning lady. Next I signed up for a free nutritional assessment at our fitness center. I have not done that in the past, thinking that I know all there is to know about nutrition--eat less and exercise more, right? However, it occurred to me that perhaps I did have something to learn, so I have my appointment with the nutritionist next Tuesday.

Today I had my quarterly fitness assessment and did the situps, pushups, step test and so on. I came out right about average on everything except one flexibility test. The fitness lady (cute, tiny, young, flexible!) told me to work on flexibility a bit more, so its back to the stretching. I'm working on it!

And today we took Daisy to the vet for her yearly physical. She passed and only tried to bite the vet once--when she picked up Daisy's tail and stuck the thermometer "you know where!" Seems that Daisy is in pretty good shape for her age.

Next week I have my physical with a new doctor. The doctor that we have loved all these years has stopped practicing--he has cancer. That's not fair! I will miss him greatly as I begin with a new doctor--hope this one listens as well as the one we had been going to.

And, lastly, I have begun updating our address book on the computer. Well, updating is a misnomer because our address book disappeared from our computer a while back, so I am taking the printed copy I had the sense to make and am reentering all the information and correcting as I go along. We do intend to send out our "annual" Christmas letter soon and we will need those updated addresses (I know, I know--Christmas has come and gone, but "these things take time!").

Once again, I hope that y'all have a very Happy and Healthy New Year!