Monday, September 21, 2015

In the Pink

I had an EVENT to go to Saturday night.  It was a fundraiser for Grace Mission, which feeds and clothes the homeless and/or disadvantaged and also offers tutoring and mentoring to at-risk children.

I was home Friday night moaning over a sore belly when a friend facebook-chatted me asking if I'd like to go - she had a spare ticket.  I've been to a couple before, so gave her an enthusiastic YES.  Saturday was a quiet day, and I decided to start getting ready around 4.  Then I looked at the invitation - Cocktail Attire.

What?  Cocktail Attire? 

I only have one dress that might qualify, but I had no shoes!  My shoe wardrobe consists of my running shoes and a pair of "hippie" sandals.  Neither are new, and the sandals tended to smell like feet when it was warm out (it was in the 80s).  That left my running shoes.  If I had any other shoes, I couldn't find them (having rearranged my closet and room a few months ago).

So.  Running shoes.

What could I wear that would work for this fundraiser AND my running shoes?

Finally, I settled on a pink t-shirt with a crazy purple and pink and white skirt.  The trim on my shoes is pink, so that actually worked! 

As I approached the party, I saw lots of people in slinky black and high heels, floaty chiffon tops over sleek black pants.  Everyone looked so beautiful and dressy!  I felt a bit under-dressed in my t-shirt and running shoes.  While I was standing there, taking it all in, a car pulled up and a woman jumped out, came around and handed out a tiny old woman and her rolling walker.  The woman asked if she'd be okay to wait there while she parked the car.  It was hot.  The sun was still hot on the skin, so I offered to walk the tiny woman towards the party while her daughter parked the car. 

We walked slowly, chatting - and found a bench in the shade just before the table where you turn in your tickets.  We sat and I learned her name was Jerry and that she ran a pharmacy.  At 90 years old, she still goes every day.  I was thoroughly enjoying our talk when her daughter came to claim her.  We said goodbye and I realized that how I was dressed wasn't going to affect how much I enjoyed talking to the people I'd be with.

As it turns out, the men in their suits and the women in their heels weren't as comfortable as I was.  There was a silent group sigh of relief when it was time to go in and sit down for dinner.  Pastor Amanda, who heads up Grace Mission had actually ditched her shoes altogether by then and spent the rest of the evening walking around in her lovely dress barefoot.

It was a very good night.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Peaceful Surroundings

In the morning, after our 5 hour journey to the hotel room, we got up, had a lovely breakfast in the hotel diningroom and set out for North Wales.  We had two choices - we could go the coastal route or we could cut through the middle and drive through the mountains.  We chose the mountains.  I figured that if we got lost or had trouble, it would be better to do it on our way down than to have an issue when we were trying to get back to Manchester to catch a plane.

I've always approached Llanbedr from the southeast, driving up from London.  This was my first time seeing the northern part or driving through Bala (a semi-resort area about halfway between Manchester and Llanbedr).  I must say, it is even more beautiful than the southern route. 

Now that I actually have the hang of driving in England/Wales, I can enjoy the drive!  We took our time and stopped when the mood struck us, and rolled into Barmouth (south of Llanbedr) and drove around in there for a bit.  I showed the guys where the summer fair was and the train station and the grocery store I shopped at the last time I was here.  I took them along the beach road and we got out to stretch our legs a little before climbing back into the car for the last leg of our journey.

We stopped briefly in Dyffryn and bought some eggs, milk, bread, butter, cheese and ham before continuing on...

I knew the way from Barmouth and truly enjoyed the drive without worrying about maps.  Corky and Z were minorly concerned, but soon relaxed as they realized I knew what I was doing.  I talked about the various landmarks between and told them we'd be very close once we crossed the bridge over the Nantcol and turned at the Victoria Hotel.  When those two landmarks turned out to be real, they started getting excited!  We started heading uphill, made a sharp right and crossed another bridge, and when it seemed the road was ending, I turned up a steep drive and headed into the woods.  The single lane road was quite roller-coaster-y and I tooted my horn a couple of times coming up a totally blind hill or around a blind corner.  We passed through a stone wall and back out into the open fields and continued up a dirt drive, passing the Thomas' farm before finally arriving on family property.  I told both Corky and Z that if they opened a gate, they had to close the gate.  Nothing irks people faster than having their livestock roaming free.  Cattle grates can only do so much.  Z hopped out and opened three gates (and closed them) between the property line and the dooryard.  In the first field, we saw lots of sheep - ewes and lambs who came running, thinking that we might have food....  The guys were charmed before we even got out of the car.

Cousin Ben had not arrived yet, but Aunt Pip left the key in the door to Y Bwythn (literally The Cottage) where we would be staying.  We unloaded the car and headed upstairs.  Z set up in the bedroom with the twin beds and Corky and I headed for the king in the other room.  Once we were settled, we went for a walk.

I took them down behind the piggery.  A big storm had blown through a while before and there were huge trees knocked down all over.

One appeared to be resting on the roof of the piggery, but clean up from that storm seemed to be progressing slowly.  After inspecting the little stream and the downed trees, we walked back up to the field behind the main house.

There are varying stories of how old this house actually is.  When I was a kid, I was told it was 800 years old.  Recent geneology rememberances put it at around 400.  It's built of the fieldstone around the property (you can see a bit in the grass lower right in the picture above) and when I was here in 1980, they were about to build on a new kitchen (bottom right of the house), so Dad and I joined with Uncle John in his quest for rocks to build it with.  It was fun and interesting and involved a dynamite guy called Daffyd the Bang to blast rocks out of the ground.  At one point, we were in the woods and Grandma was there with us - Daffyd set the charge while we hid behind trees.  After the explosion, Grandma stepped out to see, just as bits of rock started raining down.  Uncle John yelled "Get back behind the tree - it's not the bang that kills you!"

We walked up the lane (the driveway into the dooryard) and back through the field we'd driven through and headed down towards the woods.  It looks so cool, dark and inviting just beyond the wall...

And we walked in a bit before turning off the road and onto a path.

It led us a bit deeper in until we started downhill and came upon a small reservoir formed by a dam.

The water supply for the farms on the mountain and down in the village.  I asked Grandma once where the tap water came from and she said it was God's own water off of God's own mountain.  There was no problem drinking water from the tap back then, but these days there's occasionally ecoli in the water supply, so if you're not a native, bottled water is suggested for drinking.  Ben keeps large jugs of bottled water in the Cottage for guests as well as a Brita water pitcher which we ran tap water through before boiling for tea.

After exploring the reservoir and woods for a bit, we headed back up the road towards the farm.  Z was captivated by the view - it was like nothing he'd ever seen before.
Corky was also busy falling in love with the place.  The rock walls spider everywhere all over the mountains and valleys, marking properties and containing sheep and other livestock.

As the sun began its slow descent (the sun doesn't set until nearly 10pm at that time of year), we headed back to Y Bwythn for a simple dinner of eggs, ham, toast and tea before watching a little telly and finally climbing the stairs to bed.


Tuesday, September 01, 2015

World Travelers...

School is back in and my son is taking an ACT/SAT prep course.  He's actually getting into this class.  It's making him think about what he wants to study, where he wants to go to college and what he might like to do to earn a living in the future.  My little boy is suddenly behaving a lot like a man - which is a good thing.

On the first day of class, his instructor asked if any of them had been overseas during the summer.  He admitted to me that he was absolutely thrilled to be one of two students to raise his hand! 

This past summer, I decided it was time to introduce my son and my husband to my favorite place in the world.  It is NOT in the United States.  I've been numerous times, and every time I came home, I would say wistfully that I wished I didn't have to come back (much to my husband's consternation).  Now, he understands.

I started saving money last year, thinking we might do this - my grandmother who lives there is 96.  She's still chugging along, but I realized that my opportunities to see her and spend time with her were becoming extremely limited.  It was time to act!  I got the guys downtown to apply for passports, and told Z that from now on, he should always have a valid passport because when opportunities to travel crop up, you want to be able to GO!

School wrapped up and the following weekend, we drove to Orlando to catch our plane.  My friend Jennifer babysat our car and took us to the airport. 

It's only been a couple of years since I flew to England, but things have changed already...  You can pre-purchase specific seats for an extra fee (a rather hefty one at that).  If you don't, you can choose your seats for free 24 hours before the flight - but if you're not on the ball, you won't get what you want.  I did manage to snag a couple of extra legroom seats for Corky and Z, but I wound up sitting several rows up, squished between a snoring little Indian woman and a very large man.  It was not the most comfortable way to spend 9 hours..

We flew into Manchester rather than London, since it was relatively closer to the part of Wales we were headed towards.  I'd already rented a car and booked a hotel room because I knew we'd be too tired to drive down after the flight.

The car I booked was a stick shift, but I realized, having never actually driving in England, that I would rather have an automatic transmission so I could concentrate on the actual driving rather than working clutch and stick in an unfamiliar configuration while trying to navigate the streets.  In the end, we wound up with a Mercedes hatchback (!) for way too much money - but as it turned out, it was a very good move on my part.  Another good move was having traveler and rental insurance (more about that later). 

Having arrived, settled our car and loaded our bags, we set out for our hotel with directions from the rental place.  Now let me tell you this - road signage is NOT something the British road system is very good at.  And many, many intersections are round-abouts with between 3 and 7 roads to possibly exit onto (but not labeled well) made navigating difficult to say the least.  It's easy to lose your bearings when going around in circles.  The hotel was a Holiday Inn in West Manchester, in an area called Salford - supposedly about 8 miles from the airport.  FIVE HOURS LATER, after having stopped in a library in Eccleston and getting directions, we finally found the Sainsburys on the corner near where we were supposed to wind up.  It was enough to go on, and we finally found our un-signed road and the hotel with the sign hidden in the bushes.  Life is different in Manchester than in the US.  In the US, there would have been signage screaming everywhere - STAY HERE!  Just up the road a little more and you're THERE!  This journey felt like we were tracking down a national secret - and when we finally staggered into the hotel after being awake for over 24 hours (for me), it was a huge relief.  I can't even remember what we did about dinner (I think we walked to Sainsburys for cheese and crackers just to make sure our legs still worked), but when I hit that bed, I felt like I'd landed in a cloud and slept soundly (and, according to the guys, loudly) for at least 10 hours.

More to come.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Taking Charge of My Health

If you know me, you know I'm a big girl.  Not tall-big... round-big.  I've been fighting it my whole life and a couple of times, I passed by "normal".  The first time was as a teen and an anorexic.  The second time was while I was dating my second husband and we were ACTIVE all the time - riding bikes, climbing, hiking, walking... ALL.THE.TIME.  When I got pregnant, that was pretty much all she wrote - I couldn't get rid of the extra.  I tried dieting; I tried exercise; I tried, well, everything.  And I was tired.  So I got bigger and bigger.

I'm always shocked when I look in the mirror.  The outsides sure don't match my brain's image of myself.  I forget that I'm as big as a house until I look in a mirror - and I rarely look in the mirror.  I don't buy clothes, so I don't have that guide much either.

I turned 53 this year.  I wanted to go visit my grandmother in Wales while there was still time (she's 96), so I took my husband and son and introduced them to my favorite place on earth.  To do that, I had to fly, which is pretty uncomfortable when you're as big as I am.  And while we were there, I found I was limited in what I could do because my body hurt so much.  No problem going UP hills, but coming down made my hips scream.  I couldn't climb the mountain this time.  I had to wave goodbye to my guys as they set out to visit the cairn on top.

That trip made me realize something.  I might be 53 years old, but I can still change my life.  So I've started.  I'm blogging about that little adventure over at 53 And Change.  You can visit if you like.  Just be nice, okay?  I've said enough mean things to myself already.  It's time for a change.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Posts are coming

I suddenly feel like there is a lot to write about.  Boredom.  Aging and Alzheimers.  Maturing children.  So much has been going on that I rarely feel like I have time to write - but I realize that some of this stuff just needs to be put down before my head explodes.

Probably after this weekend...

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Yes. I'm a Nerd.

Today is April 23rd - Silence Day.  In the spirit of things, I show up at work with a couple of hash-marks on my arm.  As the day goes forward, a few more show up.  Then a few more.

My supervisor emails me - "Should I be concerned?"  Other people wonder but don't ask, and one asked me if I was being marked up for surgery and wow-what-kind-of-surgery-would-that-be???  On FaceBook, there were lots of "likes" and comments for me and for other people who also showed up with hash-marks on their bodies around the world.  Mine were quite tame.  It was obvious to me that not all the world is a fan of Doctor Who.

This got me to pondering fandom.  What is the allure?  Why do some things catch our imagination so strongly when other things you think would - don't?  What do we get out of it?

I realize, now that I'm actually thinking about it, that I've been a fan-girl for most of my life.  It started with a show called Star Trek.  Dashing, fearless Captain Kirk - leading his courageous crew on a five year mission in space, while removing his shirt and getting the girl every chance he got.  Alien Mr. Spock was his first officer; a Scot was his chief engineer; Russian navigator and Japanese pilot.  His communications officer was a black woman.  Very forward-thinking for the later 1960s... 

There were many versions of Star Trek - different casts, different uniforms, different ships.  My mom was a huge fan of "The Next Generation".  I liked, but couldn't stick with "Deep Space Nine".  "Enterprise" may be worth a look, but I haven't gotten around to it, and my family watched the entire "Voyager" series last year but tried to stretch it out because it was so good.

And then there were the movies...  with the original cast, then later with the Next Generation cast - and finally, a prequel to the original series that was probably the best prequel I've ever seen.

Star Trek fired the imaginations of people everywhere.  Adventure, romance and GADGETS!   A lot of the technology we have today was dreamed up for Star Trek and made into reality by scientists and engineers inspired as children by this show.  Not a bad legacy for my first fandom.

Star Trek lasted a long time, but then came Star Wars!   I actually can't remember the first time I saw a Star Wars movie - though I do remember seeing Return of the Jedi in the theatre.  I don't think I actually became a fan until I had my son, whose fascination with robots and armor and space ships was catching.  We watched the original three movies over and over again and saw the next three in the theatre soon after release.  I know it's not cool, but I confess that I love ALL of the Star Wars movies.  We've had posters and Lego sets and shirts and figurines - if it was related to Star Wars, we owned it, including our own R2-D2 (yes, that one in the video is ours - and that's Z asking the question).

Harry Potter has been a favorite since he was first written.  When my son was born, my aunts in England bought me paperback copies of the first two books and sent them to me for him.  I read them to him before he had any idea I was reading.  His early lullabies were the sound of my voice reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.  He grew up enjoying HP, but I loved all the books and all the movies.  I was heart-broken when JK Rowling decided she was done with Harry.

And I was thrilled to hear the rumor recently that she might write another book featuring those same characters as grown ups.  I don't know if this will happen or not, but I really do hope so!

Then there are the Avengers.  I'm late to this party, really only got here for the movies, though I know there are comic books.  I've seen most of the Avenger movies now and am looking forward to the new one that comes out next week.  My son and his friends are going and I asked if I could come too.  This was greeted by a sigh and an eye-roll, but he said I could come if I sat far away... 

Not long ago, another comic book franchise came out with a movie - Guardians of the Galaxy.  I'd never heard of them, didn't know what to expect, but I really enjoyed the movie and if another came out, I'd go see it.  Not sure that qualifies as fandom though.

My love for Doctor Who does!  Again, late to this party, but I'm the one dancing on the table.  I haven't see the classic ones - I began with the reboot at number 9 with Christopher Eccleston and Rose.  Everyone seems to have a favorite Doctor and if pushed, I'd say Nine, but really, I love them all.  All the companions too.  And River.  I was thrilled to actually be in London when the 50th Anniversary episode aired.  I sat in my grandfather's house with the British Whovians in my family and thoroughly enjoyed the moment.

So... fandom.  Is it a phenomenon that pulls misfits together?  People who are part of a fandom seem to be regarded as "other" by the so-called normal people.  I don't know if that is true across the board, but speaking for myself, it gives me something in common with other people.  I've never been very good at making friends.  I have some, but I guess I'm not the kind of friend one calls up to hang out with.  I'm good at problem-solving and listening, but a night out drinking or dancing?  No one calls me for that - and I'm kind of glad.  I don't enjoy those things much.  I'd rather hang out with people who want to play board games and eat pizza and have conversations. 

Perhaps the thing about a science-fiction fandom is that you DO think differently.  I have ideas that don't fit in with what the world regards as normal, but in my own little fandom all things seem possible.  It's one of the things that makes me want to write, those ideas.  Would anyone read?  I have no idea.  Maybe my family would...  That would be them in the next picture.
The right way to celebrate Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Just a Few of the Women Who Inspire Me

When I was growing up, the most artistic person I knew was my mother.  She would tackle things like photography and oil painting and once she'd mastered it, she stopped doing it.  The only exception to this was sewing, which she did until her eyesight  wouldn't let her do things like threading the needle.  Her work was always awesome.  Being a mother to six kids, I'm sure she needed some kind of outlet, an escape from the craziness of mothering that many kids, but she couldn't go far, so her outlets were artistic.

I never thought of myself as being particularly creative.  The only thing I really felt like I could do was write.  Give me a blank sheet of paper and tell me to draw something and I'd still be sitting there a half hour later trying to come up with an idea.  Give me the same blank sheet and tell me to write something and I'd have both sides filled up and ask for more within 10 minutes.

These days, I'm trying all kinds of things.  It's not that I have more time on my hands - I don't.  It's not that I suddenly feel like an artist either.  But as my circle of friends on FaceBook widened, I realized that I am attracted to creative people.  Some of them were "friends" before FaceBook - blog friends who would post about this or that, but WITH FaceBook, I've come to realize just how daily their creation is.  They always have a paint brush or a crochet hook or a wooden spoon in their hands - not just during great gasps of inspiration.

Thanks to these wonderful women, I've been inspired to do things daily myself - and I'm trying everything!

Christine started out as a blog writer.  She would bring me to tears on a regular basis and I wished I could write as beautifully and movingly as she did.  Once she felt like she'd said what she needed to, she stopped writing that blog and I missed her so much!  Then I found her on FaceBook and I absolutely love what I see her doing these days!

Loved this and bough it

I love these.  I've asked her to make me an oval ring for my Mother-in-Law.

Lisa has moved around a lot and done some traveling.  Her hands are always busy though!  She knits some beautiful things and seeing her stuff made me want to try my hand at crochet again.  She's also a wonderful photographer!  Her blogs and FaceBook page are full of her marvelous pictures.  

A beautiful picture - timely for Easter season

This blanket is just amazing

Karisma is also a master of the yarn arts.  She crochets and knits and makes beautiful tiny things for babies as well as hats and sweaters for bigger people.  She also has an amazingly green thumb and a lovely garden that she harvests to feed her family.

I admit this makes me a little jealous of her skills!

I wish I had her green thumb!

Memory has been a watercolor artist for as long as I've "known" her.  She comes by it honestly - her father was also an artist of some renoun.  She has her own style though and it really speaks to me.  She was my first artist that I bought art from and I still love my painting.  In recent years, she married a wonderful man and they opened a restaurant together.  Now, in addition to painting, she cooks and sings at the restaurant. 

I just love her style

I bought this one - perfect for my bedroom.

It's probably a good thing I live far away - I'd eat at her restaurant every night!

Pattie is also a painter.  She caught my eye several years ago when she donated some work to my tv station.  It was displayed in the lobby and I just loved her chickens.  Dad had just started keeping chickens and I wanted to get him one for Christmas.  It was not to be - then.  Now I have several of Pattie's pieces and every time she tries something new, I love that as well.  She's local, so I've actually met her and spent time with her.  She donates her time to our public radio station, and often she donates some of the proceeds from her art to various animal rescue agencies.  She loves animals and it is very obvious in her work.  I have a set of pictures she painted of my own animals and I love them.

I want one of her owls someday

Not the exact chicken I gave to my dad, but close!

Pet portraits - Pattie is pretty famous for those!
There are more women out there who inspire me every day to be more creative, more spiritual, healthier and happier.  If I wrote one blog post about all of them, you'd never get away from me.  So I'll start with these four remarkable, amazing women.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

And thank you, Christine, Lisa, Karisma, Memory and Pattie.  You have no idea how much I treasure each one of you.