The Rockbridge County School System has been kind to me through the years. They hired me when I moved here in 1978 as a 6th grade teacher. After that they moved me to middle school 6th Grade English where I remained until I took early retirement in 1998. Then after my early retirement ran out and I wanted to return to the system, they rehired me as an In-School Suspension middle school teacher which was 6 years ago. So at 71, I am still working for them...what more could an employee ask for? I no longer get any benefits and am a non-contractural employee, but that suits me fine. They pay me a very fair hourly salary for a person my age, and I have no complaints. As far as I know, I am still on the payroll for the 2010-2011 school year which means I will still be teaching at 72....I actually started in the field at 20! It has been a long, long rewarding career. So to have a job where I like working with people who show me kindness and respect, I have to thank Rockbridge County Schools for all they continue to do for me and my family. They have stood by me for many years. For these reasons I have selected the school system as my Blessing #25.
“The best way to appreciate your job is to imagine yourself without one.” ~Oscar Wilde - 1854-1900
Some years ago my husband gave me the cutest pink "Life Is Good" coffee mug, and like with the other things he gives me, I consider it one of my treasures. Every morning about 5:30, he brings me that pink cup full of hot, freshly brewed Gevalia coffee. Needless-to-say, I am hardly awake when he deposits it on my night table, but it doesn’t take me long to start sipping away trying to force my eyes open and my brain to start functioning. I am one of those silly people that hangs out in the bed for 45 minutes, and then has to hit the floor running in order to have time to shower, dress, and get out the door by 7:00 for my 35 mile drive up I-81 - the truckers’ favorite route / the driver’s nightmare - to my school. Without him and that coffee, I do not think I could make it....remember, I am 71, and I am still going to that classroom everyday! Really, Genie, surely it is going to be time to retire before too much longer!!!!! Thank you , Buddy, again and again for being so faithful with that coffee. It is my Blessing #24.
The Appalachian Trail is a rugged hiking trail that begins at Springer Mountain about 100 miles from Atlanta, Georgia, and ends atop Mount Katahdin in Maine. It roughly follows the ridge line of the chain of Appalachian Mountains. In certain parts of the south, that ridge line is actually the boundary between some states. Technically, you can be walking with your left foot in Tennessee and your right one in North Carolina...pretty funky, don’t you think! No, I did not walk the 2,167 miles, but my husband did, and I am SO proud of his accomplishment.
There are four types of hikers:
1. Thru Hikers- These are the people that start in Maine and walk south or start in Georgia and walk north. They do the entire trail from one end to the other at one time usually taking 5-6 months. The mid-point is in PA, but the psychological mid-point is the little town of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, where the AT Headquarters are housed. When you go through there, they take your picture and you sign their book for history’s sake.
2. Section Hikers - These are the hikers that do the trail in sections, and this is what my husband did. You hike as far as you can during the time you have and them come back and do another section and another section until you FINALLY complete the entire trail. You don’t have to follow any order...you just hike from Point A to Point B, record it in your journal, and keep doing that over and over again.
3. Yellow Blaze Hikers - These are the people who thru hike or section hike, but from time to time hitch a ride and skip certain sections of the trail. They make better time than folks like my husband.
4. Pleasure Hikers - These are folk like me that just love to go up on the trail for short little hikes to enjoy the sights and the sounds of being out in the middle of nowhere. Some people stay a night or two while others do simple day hikes.
My husband was a section hiker who started hiking here in VA in 1992. After completing our state, he did all the sections in NC and GA, and once those were finished he started north getting from home to his hiking point by car, bus, plane, or paying drivers to pick him up, drop him off, pick him back up, and then get him wherever he needed to go to hook up with his return transportation back to VA. He NEVER yellow blazed one single mile of the trail. He walked each and every mile of it from beginning to end, and here is the photo that was taken by a fellow hiker when the summited Mount Katahdin on August 5, 2002...quite the prized possession, to say the least.
I still can’t believe he really did it. He is only 5’5” tall, weighs 135 pounds, and is not the steadiest guy on two feet. Thanks heavens for his hiking poles. How he climbed all those mountains and scaled those steep rocks I cannot imagine. I just know he had to have had a “Guardian Angel” beside him all the way because he made it without illness or injury It is truly a miracle in my book! When he finally got home, I met him at the Roanoke airport with this big yellow sign:
As you can see, there was NO going to Walt Disney World for him....he was coming home to me! I was so happy to see him and to finally have him back home again. Those two and three week absences...and there was one AWFUL one that lasted a month - were rough around this old house. I missed him, and so did the pets. It just wasn’t the same without him.vYou just realize how much you take for granted until you have to do without. My life was very lonely as our only means of communication were post cards and letters...and a call from a pay phone in a little town every once in a while. He talks about going back to Vermont and hiking up there again, and if that is what he wants then he must do it. He loves the peace, quiet, solace, and beauty of the woods and nature. He in one of those one in a million guys that asks for little, but has done so much with his life. He says he is very low maintenance...just give him a little food and water and he will be OK! That really is the truth.
Why is the Appalachian Trail to be considered a blessing? What more of a blessing could I ask for than to have my husband complete such an awesome undertaking with so much happiness and pleasure. When he’s happy, he makes me happy. I could never do it, but I pretended all the time he was out there that I was hiking, too. To see him so happy and so proud was wonderful. Yes, the Appalachian Trail was and is definitely a blessing for him and for me...and if you get the chance to "take a walk on the wild side", be sure to take advantage of the opportunity. It is out of this world and there is nothing else exactly like it anywhere in the United States.
“A man does not climb a mountain without bringing some of it away with him, and leaving something of himself upon it. ~Sir Martin Conway 1856-1937
I don’t know how many of you listen to NPR - National Public Radio - as I do, but if you do I know you must feel the same as I about the excellence of their broadcasting. I love classical music, and after 7 years of keeping In-School Suspension Rooms at two middle schools, I have actually turned on my students to the music. I know it is hard to believe, but it is the truth. There are days when some of the worst of the worst come in asking me to PLEASE turn my music back on so they can listen. They tell me it calms them helps them to get back on track so they can do their work. It is absolutely amazing. I love it, and now my students love it.
The music isn’t the only programing I enjoy. I adore Click and Clack and Prairie Home Companion....in fact, I put PHCompanion on my iPod so I can listen to it when I walk. Their news is the best, and the lack of commercials is wonderful.
Public Radio is really hurting financially with all of the cutbacks. This year our local station coming from Virginia Tech is telling us their need for donations is the greatest ever. Our faculty has been trying hard to get out the word, because not only are those of us who listen for pleasure going to feel the results of the cutbacks, the children that view the programs produced for the educational setting are really going to suffer. Many programs are up for the chopping block, and it is very sad.
I guess we as citizens of the greatest country in the world have become terribly complaisant over the years and have come to take things like NPR and PBS for granted. Well, it now appears we are all going to need to become more proactive and work harder to keep those things that really mean the most to us up and running. For me that is definitely NPR and PBS. This is the year for me to step up to the call and help all I can. I do not want to see the programming of my Blessing #21 be cut. It just means too much to me and to many that I know.
“The whole world is held together by radio. We all experienced the same heroes and comedians and singers. They are giants.”
~Woody Allen - 1935
“It’s not true I had nothing on. I had on the radio.”
~Marilyn Monroe - 1926-1962
“When television came roaring in after the war (WWII) they did a little survey asking children which they preferred and when p television or radio. And there was this 7 year old boy who said he preferred radio because the pictures were better.”
Oh, how I love the flowers in our yard. They are all so beautiful and colorful. Whether they are large or small I don’t care...just so they bloom. I love watering them, weeding them, and photographing them. My husband has a little “Harry Potter” room in the stairwell under the steps going up to the second floor where we have installed grow lights on a timer, and that is where he starts my plants from seed each year. It is such fun watching them sprout and then start to grow up towards the light until it is time to move them outside into the yard. Some years we get a special surprise when some pop up as freebies having made it over from last year. That is really a neat. The flowers here in VA are different from the ones I knew as a child growing up in South Florida, but that makes it even more exciting. Each year I learn something new.
My husband is a hiker, all of the children and grandchildren have been brought up around the mountains and the woods, and one of our closest friends is very knowledgeable on plants, trees, and flowers. On many Saturdays and Sundays we go hiking up into the mountains to enjoy the majestic views and to identify and photograph the little orchids as they are popping from the ground, the blood root, trout lilies, azaleas, mountain laurel and rhododendron to name a few. Those weekend walks are heavenly..though some of them turn into “Forced Marches” for me. The hills seem to keep getting steeper each year, but I’m not going to let that stop me. The guys give me a hard time, so I just grin and keep on hoofing it along with them.
Flowers and their beauty have added much to our lives. We nurture and treasure them. They are Blessing #22.
“What a desolate place would be a world without a flower! It would be a face without a smile, a feast without a welcome. Are not flowers the stars of the earth, and are not the stars the flowers of heaven.”
Considering the financial situation we all are finding ourselves in these days, the ability to own or to buy one’s home is indeed a blessing. My family is one of those fortunate ones who has been able to keep the homeplace by continuing to work hard at our jobs and to successfully make it from day to day without the fear of losing it. So many of those in our area have not been so lucky. Our farmhouse is over a hundred years old, has had 3 owners since it was built, is nothing fancy, but it is our “home sweet home" where we reared three wonderful children along with all kinds of pets. It is made of wood over which we have put siding for warmth, has a green tin roof which is great when it rains, and sits back across an old wooden bridge overlooking a babbling creek which carries just the perfect amount of water. All the time the children were growing up we had spring water, but about 10 years ago we finally dug a well...what a treat to have never ending water. The house sits back against a BIG hill and is surrounded on all sides by a total of 10 acres. We have never actually farmed the land other than planting lots of victory gardens, but have let our neighbors cut and bail the hay from our fields for their cattle. There is an old working barn on the property and two other usable outbuildings. Sadly, the owners before us knocked down the old springhouse which is a shame, but the water trough is still standing to remind us of what once was. At one time the old highway crossed the creek and ran right in front of the house - back in the house and buggy years - but that is no longer the case as the new road sits out across the bridge and a good ways from our front porch and our purple front door. It has 10 funky old rooms, not many closets, 3 chimneys and 2 fireplaces, NO usable attic and NO basement, a wonderful front porch held up by white columns overlooking the creek, and a two story deck we added on the back which abuts the hill behind. Fortunately, by the time we bought it there was indoor plumbing, and since then we have added on a wonderful huge handicapped friendly bathroom just in case one of us needs it in the future. Warm, cozy, and comfortable are the best words I can think of to describe it... but that tells only part of the story.
A home is basically a structure: large or small, attractive or not so attractive, neat or messy on the inside, well kept or pretty rough looking on the outside. What goes on within the walls is what changes it from just being a place to eat and sleep to that special place where family actually lives life to its fullest, loving one another, and watching generations grow and prosper as a caring group of related people. It is not the physical plant that makes a house a home but rather the people who live inside and how they conduct their lives. We love ours as do our children and grandchildren. It is a safe haven away from the trials and tribulations of our fast paced, stressful world. It is quiet and peaceful, a beautiful place to start the day serenely with the sun’s rising, the birds’ singing, and the frogs croaking. In the evenings it is the spot we return to tired, but oh, so happy to walk through its door and into the santity of its hallowed walls. After having lived our lives that in the best way we could, we can now return home to the peace and solace that our yard and four walls offer us. We love our old house, our land, and all of natures flora and fauna with which we share it. It’s a lovely spot nestled in the Blue Ridgie Mountains of Virginia where we plan to live out the rest our lives. Yes, we are among the fortunate ones to have a wonderful home, a wonderful family, and happy, fulfilled lives...31 memorable years we’ve spent here on this property and are still counting. Our home and what it gives to us is Blessing #20.
“A house is made of walls and beams; a home is made of love and dreams.” ~Author Unknown
With the end of school and all of the SOL testing, I have not been able to do as much on my sampler as I would have liked. This morning I got the idea of posting the total grid to date showing where I am. I certainly have a LONG ways to go before I can say all 100 squares for completed.
Without my silver-with-a-big-white-apple-on-the-top MacBook Pro, I would probably be O.K. Sure, I could survive without him just like those less fortunate than I manage to do, but my life certainly would be different. I have a name for him just like I have for my flip flops....Mr. Mac. Here is my “Big Ten List” of the ways my sidekick helps me out day after day.
1. He provides me with hours of pleasure in the form of fun and games....especially my favorite, Solitaire...to be more exact...Fairway Solitaire. I have been playing that game since I was a child, and that was a LONG time ago.
2. He offers me a never ending and constantly updated flow of news and information about the world and other interesting people and things.
3. Since people - and that includes my own family - seem to have forgotten how to create handwritten notes, he let me use his facilities to send and receive emails.
4. Being so brilliant, he can correct my spelling, edit my grammar, define words I do not know, and even find quotations for me to use in my blog.
5. His “secret camera” makes it possible for me to see and talk to my little granddaughter and other friends and family at the same time. That really is amazing!
6. Knowing full well how forgetful I am and having a great calendar in his head, he NEVER forgets to remind me of important dates and appointments I need to keep.
7. Whenever I’m ready to start a new quilting, knitting, or sewing project, he takes me right to the perfect pattern I want to use....and that is WITHOUT having leave the house or buying a book. He’s been working hard trying to teach me how to be a frugal shopper.
8. If I ask him nicely, he will let me use him as a movie theater so I can watch my favorite old movies or TV shows I missed...wow!!!!! That is something else!
9. Once paying the charges for him to leave the birthing room and come home wit me, his mother, he hasn’t cost me a cent other than the expense of his health insurance policy. I am fortunate in that I found a full coverage insurance policy with an excellent health insurance company - Apple Care.
10. Finally, he is always there for me rain or shine, night or day. He never complains, though if I don’t give him enough “juice” on a daily basis, he runs down and feels pretty poorly. If he get too thirsty, he can’t even do anything. He’s exactly how Bill Gates described him...no matter how much I stuff into him, he doesn’t get any bigger or heavier. I think he really loves me, and I certainly love him!
Now, you all know why Mr. Mac is my Blessing #19.
“Man is still the most extraordinary computer of all.” ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy
When I was writing about Blessing #18, Special Gifts from My Husband, I went into detail about why my spinning wheel was and is so special. My knitting led to a yearning to learn about fibers, how they got from sheep to knit shops, and how they were dyed to get all the enticing and beautiful colors. I discovered to my amazement that sheep were not the only animals producing fibers, but rather dogs and rabbits had to be added to the list. I’m sure there are others, but these are the only ones I came to learn about. While attending one of the sheep and fiber festivals in our area, I met a lady selling the most precious Giant English Angora rabbits....you know what comes next. Yes, I bought one, brought her home, and we named her Miss Bunny because she was a proper, well-bred lady that wasn’t interested in courting or marriage. We bought her a condo...a double roomed hutch up on “stilts”, which sat under the big old oak tree in our front yard.
She grew into the sweetest pet and absolutely adored Buddy. Each morning when he would open the front door to go out for his daily run, she would start prancing and jumping all about her living room until he came over to talk to her and give her her breakfast. She ate really well: fresh carrots, lettuce, dandelions, spring water...she got only the best. For feeding her the great food, she paid us back by producing the BEST fertilizer. It did wonders for our 3-tiered compost container. She definitely earned her room and board. I would hold her in my lap and pluck her magnificent fur so soft it was mind boggling. When our little granddaughter would come for a visit, Miss Bunny’s cage was the first place she went. We’d let her out and the two of them would play together.
This all went on without a hitch until last summer. We were out in the Pacific Northwest visiting my middle son and his family. To be sure she had her water all the time, we would take Miss Bunny over to my friend’s house along with her condo, and she would spend the week on her front porch shaded from the sun. While eating lunch at a little Mexican restaurant overlooking the water, my cell phone rang. It was my girlfriend, and she was hysterical....Miss Bunny was up and about and perfectly fine at 7:00, and then at noon was gone. It was sosososo sad. We have since learned that this sudden death syndrome is not unusual. When we got home, she was already laid to rest out by our barn, but I knew she was up in Bunny Heaven with all of her little hopping two legged friends having a grand old time.
For those years she was an important part of our extended family asking only for some food along with a morning visit from her dad, and giving so much love and pleasure to all of us. I missed out on animals growing up. We lived in town, and my parents did not allow any animals. Once I married all of that changed, and when we bought this little farm, it REALLY changed. Over the last 31 year here in Virginia, we have had chickens, 2 goats named Rosebud and Sagebrush, lots of goldfish, Pretzel and pony, and more dogs and cats than I can name. Pets are wonderful; they love us unconditionally, and we love them right back. We miss our Miss Bunny so this little square pays homage to her. She is my Blessing #19.
“What is a country without rabbits or partridges? They are among the most simple and indigenous animal products; ancient and venerable families known to antiquity as to modern times; of the very hue and substance of Nature, nearest allied to leaves and to the ground.”
For those of you who have “bad” feet, you’ll understand why I consider my flip flops - also known as my FF’s - to be a blessing in my life. I have weird feet with long toes and very big and painful bunions. When I was growing up in south Florida, it was the order of the day to wear Capezio’s...not the ballet shoe ones, but the leather ones with the super dooper pointed toes that cut across and put lots of pressure on the big toe joints. NOT GOOD, and as an adult I am paying the price for wanting to follow the flow and “be in style." Putting my toes into regular flats is pure agony, but there are those cold months that give me no choice but to get a grip, put them on, and just go on with life. Never do I wear even the lowest high heels....I cannot stand the discomfort. I either go barefooted in the house or put on the flip flops, and once spring arrives I breathe a sigh of relief, put the leather away, and bring out my collection of FF’s. The pain goes away...oh, happy day! They are relatively cheap and come in all sorts of neat prints and bright solids which makes it fun. Oh, my goodness....the old feet love the FF’s just as I do. They are absolutely the best! This choice is indisputable in my book....my funky flip flops have to be my Blessing #17.
"Between saying and doing, many a pair of shoes is worn out."
My husband is a very kind and loving person always trying to make my working life a bit easier for me. He does the usual “husband” things around the house like yard work and dumpster runs, but he also cooks on nights when I am too tired to put anything together and spoils me at 5:30 in the morning with hot coffee in an attempt to get me up and started on the right foot. Above and beyond these things, he really gets a kick out of giving me special presents, and two of these have become wonderful blessings in my life.
First came my “Irish Fiddle” which he surprised me with on our visit to Dublin, Ireland. For a number of years I had been playing old time music on a beat-up old fiddle I bought probably fifth hand in Galax, Virginia, the home of the famous Galax Fiddler’s Convention and lots of bluegrass and old time music...there is a distinct difference between the two....trust me! He had been saying he was going to get me a REAL FIDDLE one day, but I never thought it would happen. Well, it did much to my surprise, and was I thrilled! The owner of the music store knew the history of the old violin which made it even more special. It has a beautiful sound, and I have studied violin with it as well as playing lots of fiddle tunes at festivals and friends’ homes. It has brought me endless hours of pleasure and happiness through the years. The icing on the cake is how happy it makes Bud feel when I play it...that makes it extra special.
Second is my Ashford spinning wheel. After being an OCD knitter for more years that I can remember, I started becoming fascinated by fiber and how it got from the sheep to the knitting shops. One day I visited the dearest lady who had a yarn and spinning shop at her home out in the country. There I played with some wheels for the first time and was immediately hooked. Once again, Buddy came to the rescue, and before I knew it I had the most beautiful single pedal spinning wheel sitting in our living room. I have spun so much fiber on it, and that led me to learning how to dye my yarn with commercial dyes as well as dye we were able to create from the our apple tree. Spinning like music is food for the soul. It calms me when I am upset and gets me to focus my mind and body on calmness and beauty rather than worry and fear. The soft wool running through my hands and fingers is a feeling I love so much, and it’s such a treat being able to take raw fibers and turn them into beautiful and colorful yarn.
There you have it! My fiddle and my spinning wheel are two of my most special gifts from my husband. Now, you all can understand why I consider them together as my Blessing #16.