Sunday, August 29, 2010

Aubrey's Birthday!

This is my niece Aubrey. We celebrated her 11th birthday today.

She truly is a rockstar. She is smart and funny. She is unique. Everyone who knows her knows this. She has a crazy, funny imagination. She loves to read and writes her own cartoons.

Birthday Cake!

Making a wish...

Blowing out the candles.

Happy Birthday, Aubrey!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Faces in My Yard

These are all kitties that we have had spayed or neutered. They live in the bushes behind our house. So far, we have had eleven cats spayed or neutered. These are just a few who posed for me today.

The first photo is a mama kitty who has had one litter:

Next, the little calico female who was spayed just a week ago:

This white one with black spots is the brother of the little calico. He was neutered last week too. Their mother was just spayed this week.

Finally, the little black kitty. (Not so little any more, but we got used to calling them that.) She was one of a litter of four, all females. They were all spayed about six months ago. We adopted her sister, who was the friendliest of the litter.

Notice how her left ear is clipped? They do that so anyone can tell that a feral cat has been spayed or neutered.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Words of Rebirth

Last week I wrote that I was ready for a personal "rebirth". The next day I saw this sign in a catalog. It spoke to me (except the part about being loud, random and obnoxious) so I ordered it.

I have been more outspoken about things I would like to do, and the response has been very reasonable so far. No one seems to mind my speaking up for myself. Imagine that!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Stranded in Sparta

Saturday night's road trip story:

It was a damp, dark night. Fourteen of us were riding in a motor home. We were going home from a Three Dog Night concert at an outdoor pavilion in Kentucky. We were laughing and talking and listening to Joe Cocker on the the sound system.

The motor home slowed, then slowed some more. Finally, it came to a stop. The driver stood up. "We have a problem" he said. A warning light was on. The transmission wasn't working. There must be a leak in the fluid. Turns out we needed a hard-to-find form of transmission fluid that is used in this particular diesel-powered RV. Okay, no problem... we had pulled off into a truck stop. It looked a lot like this:

There was a cafe on one side and a karaoke bar on the other side (with a strip club in the back, we later found out).

But it was 10:45 at night and it was dark. We were an hour and a half from home, out in the "boonies". So it felt a little more like this:

A couple of our men walked over to the truck stop to see about some transmission fluid. Seems they didn't carry that kind at this particular truck stop. But there was another truck stop about two miles down the road.... why don't we check there? So, out came the cell phones. The truck stop down the road didn't carry that kind of transmission fluid either. More cell phones came out. Everyone started calling every truck stop they could think of along this stretch of road.

We decided to pinpoint exactly where we were. Exactly where is exit 57 along I-71 anyway? Turns out we were in Sparta, Kentucky. Or, rather, the countryside surrounding Sparta, Kentucky.

The town itself was off in the distance. Here's the post office in Sparta; it gives you some idea of how small a town it is.

By 11:30 the guys had run out of truck stops to call. No one had the right transmission fluid! What kind of RV was this?! By this time, half the fourteen passengers were outside milling around in the parking lot. There really wasn't enough room in the RV for fourteen people to remain sitting for a long period of time. Most of the women stayed inside, watching a movie on the TV screen. If we had been a younger group, we might have just kept on drinking and had a party, but we were too tired for that. Some even began falling asleep.

Someone came up with the idea that Walmart might carry this rare, precious transmission fluid. Was Walmart open 24 hours? No one was sure. Calling Walmart wasn't too successful. The person on the other line went to look and never came back. Finally, everyone started thinking who they could call at midnight to get out of bed, drive to the nearest Walmart, then drive an hour and a half to find us at exit 57.

A couple of the guys went over to the karaoke bar. One of them kept calling his wife on the cell phone to fill her in on what was going on over there. Of course, the guys joked about going to the strip club, but we talked them out of it, telling them there was probably a $25 cover charge and a drink minimum for watered down drinks. My own husband went over to the cafe and sat in a rocking chair outside (like at Cracker Barrel). He fell asleep in the rocking chair.

How did all this end? Well, my husband turned out to be the hero. He talked to a man, a limo driver, who was waiting to pick up some people when the bar closed and take them back to the casino where they were staying. Since it was another half hour till the bar closed (it was now 1:30 a.m.) he said he could take us to our cars an hour away. So four of us went with him, then headed in our cars to rescue the other ten people from exit 57. By the time we got to our cars, we got a message that a AAA-type service for motor homes had finally shown up with the fluid and they were on the road again.

We waited in our cars to see if the RV was going to make it. If they stopped again, we would just have to drive down the interstate southbound until we saw a northbound RV stuck at the side of the road, then somehow cross to the northbound side to rescue them. Fortunately, they signaled to us that they were going to make it, so the four of us went home. We got to bed at 2:30 in he morning.

A night to remember...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Reunion

This is a little feral cat family in our back yard. The mother calico is in the foreground. She is with her two kittens, the little female who is looking at the camera, and the white male in the middle. I have written before about the feral cats that live behind our house. We have been doing trap-neuter-release. We trap them and take them to a not-for-profit clinic in Cincinnati. So far, we have had ten of them spay/neutered.

Five of them have been adopted. We adopted three; our neighbor adopted one; most recently, we found a home for the sweet little black kitten that let me pick her up from day one; the little feral kitten who wanted to be adopted. Her new family loves her!

I took the photo above today. We had the calico kitten spayed on Monday, and the white kitten neutered yesterday. The mother has been hanging around waiting for her babies to return. We released the kittens today, and the picture above shows their reunion. The mother was licking them all over, and they were in gathered in a huddle. It was nice to witness their little family reunion.

Tuesdays with Nieces - Cleaning Closets Edition

This is my niece Sarah in her closet. She was planning to organize it yesterday, and asked me to take before and after photos. This is "Before":

This is "During":

This is "After". All done!

Sarah is a newly-minted teenager. She celebrated her 13th birthday in June. She is a serious gymnast.

These are her medals:

And some of her trophies. The really large ones are on display at her gymnastics facility.

A beginning teenager still loves her American Girl dolls. Here they are, all tucked into their tiny beds:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tuesdays with Nieces

Today was the last Tuesday for me to stay with my nieces before school starts next week. I arrived at my sister's house at 9:00 this morning and stayed until 6:00 this evening. We had a nice day. We went shopping at two of their favorite places, Justice and Learning Express. I don't always take them shopping; this was Aubrey's gift for her 11th birthday next week. Aubrey is not very style conscious. She prefers reading and playing games. She has a great imagination but little interest in fashion. Her older sister Sarah is very style conscious. She teases Aubrey about her clothes. So today Aubrey asked Sarah to pick out some clothes for her.

It was very cute. Aubrey went into a dressing room and Sarah kept scoping out the store, bringing her bunches of things to try on. If you watch "Say Yes to the Dress" Sarah was like one of the consultants, running back and forth bringing clothes for her sister to try on. Aubrey would tell us to scoot while she changed, then open the door and model an outfit for us. We would critique it and she would make the final decision, making a "no" section and a "yes" section on the hooks on the wall. She tried a couple of things that I thought were really cute, but they convinced me to leave it up to them, so I did. She finally selected three items that they both approved, and I must say I liked them too.

Then we went to my house so they could see the latest kitten we just took in to be spayed. It was at my house recuperating in a crate in the back yard. I had a book about Greek myths that I thought Aubrey would like. I showed it to her, and she was reading it for the rest of the day.

Molly, the youngest, was very patient while we shopped for Aubrey. Her own birthday was just a month ago (everyone in my family is born in the summer). Finally, when we went to Learning Express, I bought her a sticker book that she played with the rest of the day.

For dinner they wanted to go to Skyline Chili (that's the famous/infamous "Cincinnati Chili" and they love to go there. Sarah always orders a small three-way (spaghetti, chili and cheese). Aubrey and Molly don't eat the chili; they usually order plain spaghetti with cheese on top. On the way, they wanted to stop at the pet store, which is next to Skyline. I hate going in there because I don't like seeing the puppies in cages, but they love to pet the kitties and play with the puppies that are out of the cages.

So that was my day today. I took my camera and took a few photos, but I have't downloaded them yet. I will do that tomorrow. It's kind of late and I am ready to relax.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Getting Organized

Today I worked on my new beginning. I worked on organizing. First, I tackled stacks of papers on my desk. I expanded my filing system and found a place for everything. Now I won't spend hours looking for papers I need.

Second, I organized all my cosmetics. This included tubes, jars, and bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, moisturizers, etc. I have a bad habit of trying new products. Some I like better than others. So I had too many leftovers lying around. When I find one I really like I usually buy it in multiples because every time I use one up and go to buy more, it's been discontinued. Sometimes I buy another of what I already have, because I can't find the one I already have. This morning I gathered them all together and sorted them out and found containers to group them in. Now I know where everything is. I probably won't have to buy another product for quite a while!

I went outside and walked, too. Fortunately, the weather was nice enough to get outside. The heat and humidity had finally subsided so I could breathe and not bathe in sweat. Also, I ate healthy food, and counted my points.

These were small steps toward my new beginning. One step at a time.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A New Beginning

I am starting over. I considered changing my name to "Renata" which means "reborn" but I decided that a name change was a bit excessive. But that's how I am thinking of myself... reborn. I am going to change my body and my mind.

I grew up to be a "good girl" which at the time meant to be quiet, polite, and self-effacing. My parents were strict. I learned to follow orders and never talk back. When my mother took my sister and me to a store, we had to walk with our hands behind our backs and not touch anything. We were not allowed to ask for anything. We were not spoiled; quite the opposite. We ate what my mother cooked. No "picky eaters" in our household. There was no such thing as instant gratification. We waited and saved our allowance for things we wanted.

What a different world we live in now! American society is hyper-competitive. In many situations it is the individual who puts himself first who gets ahead. In order to be noticed, one must "blow his own horn". You know, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Don't get me wrong. I don't intend to be selfish or pushy. But I think I need to stop being quite such a door mat. I have to get a back bone. I have to start voicing my opinion.

As far as the body is concerned... where do I begin? I am out of shape. I get winded going up a flight of stairs. Too many parts of my body jiggle. I don't exercise. Well, that is going to change. I am going to get some form of exercise every day. I am going to go back to Weight Watchers principles of counting my points. I went to Weight Watchers some years ago, and I lost weight. That weight has gone back on in the years since. I've been eating too many sweets and too much ice cream. Those things are not going to come into my house anymore.

There are things in my life that I want to happen. Instead of wishing they would happen, I am going to do all I can to make them happen.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Loon As A Totem... What It Means To Me

In my previous post I talked about listening for the call of the Loon during our visit to the lake in Michigan. I found this clip on YouTube, where you can listen to the Loon.

Did you listen? Isn't it a haunting sound? I remember the first time I heard it. Years ago, I was spending the summer at a cabin on a lake. I loved to sit on the screened porch watching the sunset. The lake was quiet as the sky grew darker by the minute. Then I heard the Loons calling. The sound was evocative of summer on the lake. Funny, but it was one of the strongest memories that stuck with me.

Susan, on her blog has talked about animal totems. Remembering this, I looked up what the Loon as a totem means. Here is what it says:

"The haunting call of the Loon tells you that the hopes, dreams and wishes
that you have tucked away will come to the surface."

This certainly speaks to me. I think it must speak to most people, because I think we all have hopes and dreams tucked away. I have recently realized that my hopes and dreams can't stay tucked away much longer. At my age, more of my life is behind me than ahead of me. I have to start realizing those hopes and dreams. I dream of living near the ocean. Any ocean. I feel most like myself when I can hear the roar of the ocean and feel the sea breezes and walk on sand in my bare feet. I love floating on my back and feeling the water living beneath me. I have visited the ocean, but have never lived there. So, the Loon totem is telling me to make it happen.

Sound crazy? Will you forgive me if I say "looney"? Some people have called me "mooney". As a moonchild (born under the sign of Cancer the Crab) I guess it's true. Hey! A crab lives near the ocean too, doesn't it? Sorry... rambling.


A litter of four kittens has been living in our back yard for about two months. They are feral, so they run from us when we open to door to come outside to feed them.

One of them, however, never ran. Rather, she came toward us and acted friendly. To my surprise, she let me pick her up. I took her to the vet and had her treated for an eye infection and fleas. I was becoming attached to this sweet little kitten. Every time I went outside she came up to me and let me hold her. My husband said "no more cats" since we already have four in the house. I might have adopted her anyway, but my nextdoor neighbor found another cat lover who was looking for a kitten.

I agreed to let the cat lover's family adopt her. Today the cat lover came to pick her up. She had bought a nice little carrier for her, and some toys, and said her daughter was so excited looking forward to the kitten. I think she will be happy with her new family. They promised to keep me updated about her, and to send photos. Still, I cried a little after they left. I will miss that little kitten.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Cool Vacation... Part II

Here are more photos from our vacation at the lake.

The lady in the middle is the friend who let us use her cottage by the lake. Here, we met her so she could give us the keys and directions on how to get there. On the left is my husband and on the right are his daughter and granddaughter, who went with us.

On the way up, we stopped at a different lake to see a log cabin that used to belong to my husband's family. His great grandfather built this cabin himself. It had no running water and no electricity. It had an outhouse and a pump. I stayed in it once when I first knew my husband, before his parents sold it. I still remember getting up in the middle of the night to go out to the outhouse. Not fun!

We stopped here for ice cream. This place has been there for 35 years. It has 60 kinds of ice cream and the scoops are giant-sized. Yum!! It's a must-stop for any trip to the lake.

On our first day, I took a walk. These are some of the photos I took:

As I said, I like trees.

And, I like houses surrounded by trees:

Doesn't this look like the perfect place to spend a summer day?

All the houses back up to the lake:

Here is the dock behind "our" cottage:

Some ducks came to visit:

Ashley caught a fish:

Mike caught a fish:

Fishermen on the lake:

I did a lot of reading, walking, and taking photos.

I took photos of fishermen fishing:

And birds flying at sunset:

And interesting mailboxes:

The sunroom... a very nice place to read:

We had a campfire and made s'mores. My husband says it was the first s'more he's ever had... where has he been?!

We played games:

My main wish was to hear the call of the loons on the lake. I saw a loon twice, but it dived under the water before I could get a photo of it. But, on our last night there, the loons were calling. I finally got to hear the loons! My vacation was complete.