Thursday, January 31, 2008

It snowed today!

It snowed today, but thankfully it wasn't like the horrible ice storm we had here in December that left over 250,000 people without power (most of them for ten days).

Instead, it was a beautiful fall of big fat flakes. I could even enjoy it simply because it hasn't been sticking to the cement or pavement and making the roads icy (at least in my neck of the city). And the temperature is supposed to be above freezing tomorrow so it should all melt away. That kind of snow, I can enjoy.

As you can tell, Brownie loves it, too. She loves to scoot her ball around in it, letting it get buried under the snow, then pouncing on it and "finding" it. When we come in after she's done, then she waits for me to dry her off. While I'm getting the towel, she will come and rub her head on my pants to get the moisture off her head. When I finally get the towel on her back, she wriggles around and tries to help me dry her off. She's funny.

Now, we're just sitting here waiting for DaDa (pronounced "duh-duh) to come home. When we hear the garage door open, she runs and sits in front of the door to wait for him to come inside. If I'm not right there with her, she comes running to find me so I can come and greet him, too. When he opens the door, she wags her entire back half so hard that her tail is hitting the wall and the door. She is just so excited to see him. He will kneel down so she can put her paws on his shoulders and then she gives him "kisses" to let him know how much she missed him.

As soon as she's done with the greeting, she'll run to the back door and wait for us to come outside with her. If we aren't fast enough, she'll come running back around to find us to make sure we are still coming. We'll throw her ball a little bit and she'll run around the yard, then we'll come back in and just spend time together (usually in the same five foot of space). Besides her walks, I think this is her favorite time of the day.

I hear the garage door now, so I've got to get to my post.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I love my African Violets!

I love African Violets! I took this picture of one of my plants with my handy dandy new digital camera (which I still love). (Note the little cute "extra" in my plant. I have "extras" like that in almost all of mine.)

I have heard that this is a hard plant for people to grow and it may be, but mine have almost always thrived and bloomed throughout the whole year. I don't necessarily do exactly what "they" say to do, but here is the care I give mine.

  • It really needs to be in a window sill, preferably facing the east (or at least a window that gets a lot of sunlight). That brief period of time ten years ago when one of mine didn't bloom was when I had it on the piano two feet from the patio door (again, east), but two feet was too far.
  • I have several other types of plants to care for as well as my violets, so I just water all of them once a week. They say violets like to be in moist soil, but the most important thing is to not over water them or let them sit in water. Once a week works for me because I can remember to do it once a week. "They" also say to water from the bottom, but I don't. I just water from the top because it is easier for me. I don't end up having "water spots" on my leaves.
  • I pluck off the dead flowers, dead leaves, and yellowing leaves whenever I get a chance (probably not often enough, but whenever I think about it and have a few minutes). This lets the plant focus its energy on the flowers and healthy leaves.
  • It is probably also a good idea once or twice a year to give your violet a little violet food, which puts the nutrients back in the soil that your violet needs. If you don't do this, it will still be okay. I'm good if I remember once a year. The spring is a good time to do it because at that time, you can also remember to add a little soil to the ones whose soil is getting low and/or transplant some out of a pot that is getting too full (sometimes you can end up having five or six separate little plants in the same pot and it just gets to be too much for one pot and you'll end up with a plant with a lot of leaves that aren't a bright, healthy green).
  • These plants are also extremely easy to start a new plant. Simply pinch off one of the leaves plant it in a pot with potting soil in it. Remember to try to keep this pot moist to let your plant get rooted (I'd say try to put water in it at least twice a week--if you put them where you can't overlook them, you won't forget!). It honestly takes around three months before you start seeing new little green leaves poking up from the soil. I think an African Violet makes a nice gift--especially one that you've taken the time to grow for someone!

There you have it. I've had this same plant for twelve years and I look forward to many more years with my violets. I especially love looking at them in the winter when everything outside looks so dead (although we know it is all just dormant until spring). Just gives me that splash of color I need to keep on going. If I had more east facing windows, or even windows that faced west, but were high enough out of reach of children and dogs, I'd have more violets. As it is, all available window sills have at least two pots of violets on them, with the max being four to five which is all I can fit!

I wish you success with your African Violets and may their beauty brighten your life like they do mine.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Wildfire in the Oklahoma Panhandle

A wildfire swept through my community in the Panhandle of Oklahoma today. They have not had enough rain for several years now, so the dry fields of grass went up quickly and the fire was pushed along by 40-50 mph winds.

My Uncle Steve noticed the fire right behind the two homes at Slapout and went knocking on the doors and alerting the residents, who had no idea there was a fire in their backyard. That got them out of their houses and manning water hoses to try to protect their homes. He alerted the volunteer fire department and called my Dad and the calls continued to go out through the community. Fire trucks raced toward the community from everywhere, including Texas and Kansas, and neighbors piled into vehicles grabbing shovels and whatever else they could find to go help fight for their neighbors homes. Dad said there ended up being over 150 vehicles, including fire trucks, police vehicles, and other vehicles helping fight the fire.

The fire jumped the highway and gobbled up the two miles of grassland between there and the next homes within thirty minutes. Dad got my brother and headed to my other Aunt and Uncles house to make sure it was protected. He arrived there and the well house was on fire, but a fire truck was there putting it out. He thought it was safe to leave it to them and keep going on towards other neighbors houses. The highway was closed because the smoke over it was too thick to drive through. Dad said the flames reached thirty feet in the air. He went around the back way--at times they had to pause because the smoke was too thick to see to drive through.

When they got to the Well's house, Earl was there at his son's house with the sprinklers on trying to keep the fire away from the house. Meanwhile, the trees and field between Earl's house, his son's house, and the Laverty's house across the street were on fire. (Dad said the Laverty's had evacuated their house). Another neighbor pulled up and told Earl his cows were trapped in the field. Dad told him he had his son's house covered and Earl went off to see to his cows. The neighbor took my brother with him, leaving my Dad to keep moving the sprinkler around and do the best he could with the shovel he had to keep the fire that was licking at the yard from coming on in. At that time, the fire trucks showed up and started fighting the fire.

Dad left there and went to help Earl with his cows. Earl was frantic about his house and the animals there, so Dad said he'd take care of the cows and Earl left. Dad herded the cows into the corner by the gate, but he waited and watched the fire approaching. He didn't want to let the cows out into the road because of all the smoke and vehicles and he didn't want them to get hit. The fire was within 25 yards and more fire trucks came and they started fighting that fire. Dad went back around and made sure everything was under control before moving on. He said a neighbor with a big bulldozer/earth mover came riding in and would scoop up dirt from the bar ditches and head towards the houses, disappearing into the smoke to dump the dirt around the houses to keep the fire from getting to them, then he would reappear out of the smoke. When he got done at that house, he was driving off and one of his tires was flat, but he kept going. So did Dad. They both ended up at the same house next and helped there until they thought it was under control. Dad said when he left that house, the neighbor was on his rim, but just kept right on heading towards the next house.

And on and on it continued. When I talked to Dad, he had just come in at 7:45 pm, after being out fighting it all day. He said the fires were still burning, especially the trees. He just had to go in and get something to eat. He said my brother would probably be out helping fight it until midnight or so. All in all, several unoccupied buildings burned, including my Aunt and Uncles second house and well house (the house caught on fire while they were putting out the fire to the well house, but it wasn't noticed until smoke was billowing out of the house because it is thought the fire crept in under the stucco or went in through the electric line). One other house no one lived in burned down as well.

As far as we know, there was no loss of life. Who knows how many other heroic neighbors were out there that never saw each other because of the many miles of fire involved and because of the heavy smoke. I thank God for a community of people who care about each other and look out for one another. If you think of the Slapout community, please pray for them. They need rain (but they don't need flooding!). And those who had damaged or lost buildings or burned up grass fields or lost animals, need compensated for their loss so they can rebuild or at least don't have to suffer financially because of it. And all the fires need to be put on so there will be no more loss tonight, or any other night. And pray that beauty comes from the ashes.

Good, cheap support is hard to find

I bent over to tie my tennis shoe and I heard a sharp "crick-snap" sound. Unfortunately this was the second time in the past three months that I've heard the sound, but this time I knew pretty quickly what had happened. A quick check under my shirt confirmed it. There went the underwire in my second-to-last bra (right side, same as the last time). Wouldn't you know this was my beige one. The pink one was first to go in November which just left me with a light purple one (which will look oh-so-lovely under a light colored shirt).

I bought my three bras almost three years ago off of e-bay (after my last beige one bit it in the exact same way). They've all been Victoria's Secret bras. I must have paid full price for the one from six years ago ($40), but couldn't afford to pay $120 to get three new bras. That's where e-bay comes in. I found them on there for a total of $35 for all three. Exact same ones as in the store, but missing the "Victoria's Secret" tag (so you can't do nefarious things like try to take it back to the store and exchange it for $40 or a gift card for store merchandise).

At any rate, all I can figure (after six years of study) is that they must make their underwire bras to last somewhere around 3 to 4 years then break making you have to go back and purchase more, the dirty buggers. It's a vicious little cycle (but hey, if I had the money, I'd be there buying bras in a heartbeat).

Unfortunately, I don't have the money so I did the only thing I could do--I went to Wal-Mart. I found two serviceable white ones that I could afford (total spent=$12.86). I thought that would be fine as it once again gave me a total of three bras. Until I wore one of the white ones twice and realized it was not comfortable at all. That's when I knew I needed to find at least one more.

I always look at the sales ads for the stores that interest me in the Sunday paper. I happened to see that Kohl's had their Bali bras on sale for $21.00. I had read a book recently where the lady in it had a Bali bra that broke and she mourned its loss. I thought if she loved it that much, maybe I should try one. Plus, I thought if I paid a bit more money for a bra it might be a little better quality (one can only hope).

I spent a good two hours in Kohl's searching for and trying on bras (one size and style definitely do not fit all). Not only did I try on the bras from the ad, but I happened to discover they had lots of discontinued bras on sale for $11.99 and $9.99 and other bras that weren't discontinued, but were on clearance for 80% off!! Those are my kind of bras. I bet I tried on at least fifty bras before I settled on three (peach-$3.00, pink-$11.99, taupe-$6.40, all originally $31.00!!!!!).

As I haven't had a chance to try them out yet, I can't say for sure how great they are, but I felt really good about the price I paid for them. A downside would be if they are discontinued, then I'm going to have to go through this exact same thing in three years (although these aren't Vicky's bras, so maybe I've got longer than three years??). Who knows really how long any bra will last? All I know is good, cheap support is hard to find.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My Sweet Brownie Girl

Thanks for bearing with me on the last post. Thought I'd go in and give you a picture I took today with my new digital camera (which is actually my very first digital camera). I'm very excited about it.

I ordered it off the HP website on Sunday. They shipped it to me on Monday and I got it today. I chose standard service (delivery in 5-7 business days) because I wasn't going to pay $15 extra to have it in two days and here it is!!! I am definitely going to their website and giving them five stars!

I know Brownie doesn't look too enthused, but I don't think she cared that I was taking her picture. She was focused on listening to some kids play on the playground at the apartments behind us and didn't really want to take her focus off that and smile for the camera. (Really, she is a sweet and friendly dog! She loves people. She loves to snuggle and give kisses. I could go on and on....)

This camera is a blessing because in pursuing my painting, I will now be able to take my own photos that I can paint from. The problem with regular film is that sometimes you are paying $7 to develop a roll of 27 pictures and maybe only half (if that) are any good. With digital, voila and the picture is ready for you to do with as you will. I can even crop in camera and change a color picture I just took to sepia tones or black and white. I am thrilled!

My camera is cute and tiny and light blue (not my first color choice, but I definitely wanted some color). I've already taken 23 pictues (all of Brownie and/or Brownie and I). I think I've probably also already deleted at least half that as well. This camera is simple and easy to use. It didn't cost too much and it came with its own battery charger. (I sound like an ad, don't I?)

There you have it. My first digital camera and you got to share in my excitement.

Cycles of Life

I've just been reflecting on the cycle of life. My grandma has been in the hospital the past three weeks and her sons and daughters (which includes my Mom) have been taking turns staying with her so she has never been there alone.

As a daughter myself, I ache for my Mom and aunts and uncles trying to balance their lives (and their children and grand-children) to take care of their Mom. I've cried and prayed because I'm not ready to lose my grandma, not ready for another loss. I can't even imagine losing my Mom (or Dad) and I know I have a lot to be thankful for because so many have reached my age and haven't had their grandparents around for years.

It is hard to face loss. It is like a part of our heart goes with them and we leave bits of ourselves scattered here and there with each loss we have had in our lives. Their places can't be filled by anyone else.

The bottom line is we are sad for us; for not having them around any longer. We can't pick up the phone and call anymore. We can't write them one last letter or give them one more hug. But from their perspective? To get to be in heaven with Jesus? To have a homecoming with their loved ones who have been waiting for their arrival? What joy! It is not that we will never see them again because we will. They will be among the loved ones waiting for our arrival.

I don't know what God plans for grandma--whether she has ten more years or whether she only has ten more days. I continue to pray for her healing and for the strength and grace on my family who are caring for her. But I know that either way, it will be okay.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Eight shots in the night

I was sleeping soundly last night when shortly after midnight, I was awakened abruptly by the sounds of BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM (pause), BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. I know how many "booms" there were because even though not fully awake, I recognize the sound of a gunshot and I replayed the sounds in my mind and counted that there were eight shots fired. I guess I count in case I am ever asked. (After serving on a jury last year, I noticed details like that are important.)

The shots were so loud because the action was taking place at the apartments right behind our house (the same apartments pizza places do not deliver to after dark). I did not move. Our bed is positioned between two windows, so to move would be putting myself at risk. After a minute, my husband came into our room (he had been on the computer in the kitchen, right in front of a window). He said when he heard the shots, he hit the floor (that should tell you how loud they were).

He left our room and I continued to lay there listening for police sirens. Oddly enough, no sirens ever sounded. I'd say within about four minutes of the shots, I heard a bull horn and a voice saying, "Put your hands out the window and surrender your weapon." They must not have complied because bullhorn man repeated what he had said a second time.

Evidently, my husband slipped outside at some point to peer through our fence and see what was going on. He said there were about four police cars outside surrounding a vehicle. They had two people out of the car and up against it with their hands on the vehicle and they were getting patted down. I don't know what (or who) they had been shooting at, but I suppose more info will be on the news today.

After that, I really had a hard time going back to sleep, but not because that was unusual for our neighborhood. For a while, we were hearing shots weekly and the police helicopter flying overhead was only remarkable on the weeks we didn't see it. They did get security at the apartments behind us within the last four months (we know because it was in the news) and that has cut down on the problems dramatically.

They say the safest place to be is in the will of God and I do believe it. I love my little house and my big yard (my yard is so big we could fit another of our house in it). But I don't go out much after dark and I do pray for safety and protection over us coming and going. That's really the only way I can leave my house is by leaving everything in God's hands.

As to why I couldn't get back to sleep, I think it was a combination of things--adrenalin, trying to remember the details so I could blog about them today, and maybe, not quite being able to shake the feeling that for those three seconds, I didn't feel safe.

But today (after seeing there are no bullet holes in my fence and no crime scene tape anywhere), it just seems like a bad dream. The light chases the dark away (in more ways than one), and I'll go get my shower because I really need one as much as I need to do the praying while I'm in it. I skipped yesterday (What??? It was a Saturday.) and I definitely feel the need of both today.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I have more in my closet than just clothes...

I had to go back into my closet today, but when I came out, I felt better. For whatever reason, in my house I feel the presence of God more strongly in my closet than I do in any of the other rooms. Maybe because it is a such a small space and God really fills it and overflows out of it? Or maybe I just take the term "prayer closet" very literally?

At any rate, I go into the closet when I have heavy things on my heart and mind and I close the door and I sit there. Sometimes I rant and rave. Sometimes I just sit quietly and breathe. Sometimes I wait to hear what He has to say. Sometimes I don't hear anything over the sound of my heart breaking. Today, I was on my knees and asking God for what I need. I managed to quiet my mind enough to realize He was there. And for today, it was enough.

I don't go into the closet near as much as I should or even near as much as I need. Of course, I pray daily (can't go a day without protection), but until recently just did that here and there throughout the day. A series of events turned my daily shower into the place I now petition God from.

I have always taken long showers, but beyond knowing they were long, I didn't think much about it (I do like to be thoroughly clean). When it was pointed out to me that I take exceedingly long showers, I thought about why I did and I discovered the reason! I like to think. My mind can jump from topic to topic and I was getting some of my best thinking and planning and ideas while I was showering. It's kind of like multi-tasking. Plus, I don't really take time during the day just to think, so that was my time to think.

Well I decided in the effort of trying to take a shorter shower, I'd just have to stop taking the time to think and just focus on the task at hand. Lovely thought, but hard to do after years of free-thinking during that time. (I only decided to try to take shorter showers after realizing that I did kind of not want to shower due to the amount of time it was taking me.)

Anyway, with my husband going to work and having a rough time of it there, I decided he could not leave the house "unprotected" again. The logical prayer time would then be before he leaves the house, thus making my shower once again multi-purpose. (I don't know if this is a good thing or not, but praying seems to take up less time than free-thinking.)

There you have it. Oh, you're wondering when I now do my free-thinking? When I go for a walk, of course!