December 31, 2008


We send cards with the word Peace across them, but peace on earth feels like a hopeless dream. Sometimes I hum the old song, "Last Night I had the Strangest Dream" yet the words seem so naive and wishful. Still, the ideal is worth holding up... something to work towards.
Last night I had the strangest dream
I'd ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war.
And if you search for Peace Songs in Wikipedia, you are redirected to a long list of anti-war songs, organized by the conflict that inspired them.

Squirrel Teamwork

Charlie is hanging on the feeder, swinging it around so that birdseed falls to the ground. His siblings are crawling around below, eating the seed.

December 30, 2008

You Can Walk There from Here but...

It's a different world down at the ski slopes. Hundreds of people are skiing and having fun. The resort core is like a busy town this week, as vacationers take advantage of the days between Christmas and New Years.

The bungee-trampoline-climbing wall combo has been moved to the bottom of the ski slopes. Looks strange but kids enjoy jumping high in the air.

I took Ben down there in the car. (I wouldn't want to walk back up the steep hill to get home.) We parked at the library and walked over to the bunny slope to see what's going on. He likes watching children.

A man asked if he was a cocker-poodle. I said no, he's just a cocker spaniel who needs a haircut.

December 29, 2008

A Walmart Portrait

I was in Walmart last week and decided to have my picture taken in their studio. It was a weekday and nobody was waiting, and their package deal was really inexpensive.

I was surprised to learn that CPI is running their portrait studio now. I used to work part-time for CPI in a Sears Store, taking photos one after another on Sundays. (Fun but frantic!)

The photographer showed me the results on a monitor. I selected two poses, one for a set of prints (for Frank and my daughters) and the one you see here as an extra on a CD.

Back home, I brightened this one just a little and softened it very subtly in Photoshop. Then I uploaded it to the Walmart website and ordered it on a birthday card for Frank. The CD included a Release of Copyright form which I printed and took to the store with me. (Typically a photo studio owns the copyright of your portraits unless they specifically turn it over to you. The photographer had told me that buying the CD included the copyright, and their website includes cautions against printing material that belongs to someone else.)

Turns out Walmart did insist on seeing copyright information before they would let me purchase the card; in fact, their computerized cash registers would not ring up the card until the photo department examined the copyright ownership form and keyed in something to release the item. The process took extra time, but I'm glad they are protecting copyrights. In this digital age, it is so easy to "steal" pictures and other created works, and if you've ever earned money by creating things, you understand why respecting copyright is important.

Those Neon Pants

When we went to my sister's house on Friday, I wore a new pair of red pants because I thought they looked Christmassy. That is, they looked red to me, with a tinge of orange. When I saw the photos, I thought "Yikes! They look fluorescent."

They are Lands End corduroys in a soft knit fabric that's too comfortable to get rid of. I decided to dye them to be a less showy shade. So yesterday I used some black RIT dye to change them. They came out brown -- black takes two containers of dye and I only had one. But that's okay; I like brown slacks.

Pictured: Me, Marie, & Elias, with Shelby at our feet.

December 28, 2008

December 27, 2008

Holiday Lunch at Peggy's

Yesterday we drove to my sister's house and had lunch with her, her son and his wife. It's always fun to spend time with them.

Right: Peggy

Below Left: Marie

Below Right: Me

At the table: Marie, Michele, Elias, Frank, Peggy

Group in Peggy's House

Michele, Linda, Marie, Elias, and Peggy

Marie Plays Wii Tennis

She caught on immediately and played well!

December 26, 2008

More Christmas Day Photos

woman with cell phone

woman with camera
Above: Marie texting

Left: Lynn examines her new camera, a gift from Marie

Picture: Woman Laughing

I don't remember why Allison was laughing. I took this photo yesterday.

December 25, 2008

Dave, Allison, and Frank

Picture Taken 12/25/08

Marie, Lynn, and Me

Christmas 2008

Christmas Artists

Around 1973, Marie and Lynn show off their gifts in front of the Christmas tree.

December 24, 2008

Embrace Wonderment

Wow, it's Christmas Eve already! I still have things on my to-do list...

I'll take a minute to wish you a loving holiday and share a sentiment from today's Daily Word. (My Aunt Clarice used to send me that little magazine and now I subscribe to it myself.)

This is a time of tender caring and thoughtfulness, a day to share love, joy, and peace. Kindness, stillness, and anticipation mingle in the air. This is a season of embracing wonderment -- of beholding what is dear to the heart.

December 23, 2008

The Bongo Player, 1961

Here's my younger sister with a present she had just unwrapped, 47 years ago.

December 22, 2008

Quick Health Update

We average 3 to 4 medical appointments a week between the two of us.
Two of these are for my physical therapy for tendinosis. My shoulder has improved a bit; I can raise my right arm higher than a week ago, but still not all the way up.
The physical therapist feels my progress is not as good as he hoped, so he called my primary care doctor and she referred me to an orthopedic doctor. That appointment is for January 6.

Avatar Made at Abi-station

I've also had a couple of appointments with Winchester Gastroenterology. I took the prescribed antibiotic for two weeks but I'm still having digestive problems. The doctor gave prescriptions for my symptoms. His office is scheduling another H2 breath test for me. In the meantime I am conducting an elimination diet on my own, in case a particular food or additive is contributing to my symptoms.

December 21, 2008

Tree at Last!

We finally got a Christmas tree. Bought it from the Boys Scouts in Woodstock.

As you can see, we got some sunshine this afternoon. I was glad to see it after several days of rain and sleet. In fact, ice made walking rather treacherous this morning.

Saturday's Shopping

We drove to Harrisonburg with the goals of checking out Macbooks and buying a Christmas tree. Well, Blue Ridge Mac was closed and no Christmas trees were found -- Lowe's had just sold out of cut trees. But we did some other shopping and went to Joshua Wilton House for my birthday dinner (which we had postponed from Monday). The restaurant is nice and well-known here in the middle Shenandoah Valley, so I'm glad we had a chance to dine there.

Guess we'll get a tree in Woodstock tomorrow or Monday. We need to start decorating - Christmas is almost here!

December 19, 2008

A New Fridge Fast

We got a new fridge yesterday. It's basically a newer version of our previous one with a different finish. It looks a lot like stainless steel but is less expensive.

I was impressed with how fast it was delivered. We ordered it from Lowes around 10 in the morning, after calling Frigidaire / Electrolux and getting a commitment that they would give us a substantial rebate. (After all, the refrigerator that broke down was less than two years old.) We were lucky on our timing; Lowes still had time to get our purchase on the truck for delivery the same day.

It's nice to have a working refrigerator again. And the faux-stainless with black trim is a good match for or stove.

December 18, 2008

Charlie Visits Our Deck

Our deck had its first squirrel-visitor of the season yesterday. I try not to encourage squirrels to come up to the deck because they have to either leap from a tree or from the roof to get up there, and I fear that one will miss the rail and get hurt. Maybe that's silly; they do acrobatics all the time. Anyway, I avoid using sunflower seed and other squirrel favorites on the deck feeders. Yesterday this fellow got hungry and decided to check out the less tasty seeds.

In the first picture, you may see a coating of ice on the branches. We had some sleet and hail earlier.

squirrel in birdfeeder

December 17, 2008

FRT21LR7AWF Bites the Dust

Our fridge is dying. The freezer has been going for a few days. We tried turning the dial to a colder setting, and then resorted to defrosting it manually. Finally we got a repair guy out here tonight. He said the compressor is bad. It costs $300 to $400 to replace it!

The irritating part is the Frigidaire is not quite two years old, purchased in early 2007. That year the warranty period was reduced to one year, so our repair is not covered.

Plus we lost much of our frozen food. Some things were still solid and could be saved, but items near the door were too squishy to keep. And some of those were things I can't buy around here: frozen non-dairy dessert, soy-free veggie burgers, and hot dogs that don't contain milk or nitrates. And two packs of turkey cutlets were partially defrosted but still had ice crystals so I broiled them - what I don't eat for lunch tomorrow will make a nice dinner for Ben.

Now we have to decide whether to fix it or just get a new fridge. In the meantime, Frank has hauled down the small fridge that was up in the garage apartment so that we don't lose more food.

December 16, 2008

A Bird House with a View

This purple martin house is on the golf course here at Bryce Resort.

I took several pictures down at our pretty golf course last month but this is the only one I've resized for the blog so far. My original files are really huge - good for prints but not efficient for the web.

December 15, 2008

How I Spent my Birthday

I spent my birthday going to the dentist in Front Royal. I wouldn't have minded except that it turned out to be an unseasonably warm day and I wished I could spend some time soaking up the sunshine. By mid-day the temperature was 60 degrees F.

But I spent almost three hours in a dental chair. I needed a crown and a filling, and Dr. Z. found a bit of decay in an adjacent tooth that needed an inlay.

I avoid novocaine because it makes me nauseous (and uncomfortably numb), and while drilling without it is painful, it's only for a minute -- really only a few moments longer than the time it takes enduring the long needle.

One neat thing: this dentist has a machine that makes crowns while you wait. He models the crown on a laptop and shows you the picture, then sends it to the machine, where you can watch it sculpting the porcelain.

By the time I got out of there, I was tired and hungry. We got some Chinese food, which was soft enough to eat with sore gums. We shopped for groceries and came home. We'll do a nice birthday dinner later this week. Monday night is not a great night to go out anyway.

December 14, 2008

Local Minister-Hero, 1776

At Court Square in Woodstock, Virginia, a new statue of John Peter Muhlenberg has been erected only a few yards away from a bust of him. Muhlenberg was a Lutheran Minister who became a local legend when he left the ministry to serve in George Washington's army in 1776 and recruited other men in the Woodstock area.
bust of manstatue
Bust of Peter MuhlenbergNew Statue of Muhlenberg

On the base of the bust are various inscriptions:

Clergyman - Soldier - Statesman

John Peter Muhlenberg

October 1, 1746 - October 1, 1807

Major General

A time to pray
A time to fight
January 23, 1776

The legend tells us that Muhlenberg preached his farewell sermon, saying there is "A time to pray, A time to fight," and threw off his clerical robe to reveal a military uniform underneath. Recent research shows that the dramatic moment may have been exaggerated in stories, but there's no doubt that Muhlenberg became a significant officer in the American Revolution and afterwards served his country in various positions.

December 13, 2008

Museum in Port Republic

kemper houseHere is the museum in Port Republic, VA. It's not open in the winter but we were fortunate to find it open on a Sunday afternoon in the summer. It's in the Kemper House where Turner Ashby's body was taken after he was killed in the Battle of Harrisonburg in 1862.

I've written about Port Republic several times. (Click to see all my posts on "Port.") We find the town charming and considered purchasing an old home there except for the fact that it had flooded several times.

Recently I submitted a page on the Palmer Lot Marker in Port Republic to the Historical Marker Database. I've contributed other marker photos to that site because I find it to be a useful resource when I'm working on my Civil War field trip pages and also when I'm planning a visit somewhere.

December 12, 2008

Slow Tendon Healing

We've wanted to play Wii Sports for a while but I was afraid that swinging my arm would re-injure my shoulder. My right shoulder has been sore and unable to move normally for about four months now. Anyway, a week ago I was talked into playing Wii bowling with my left hand.

I am not left-handed but I've had to use that hand a LOT over the past four months. Extending my right arm too far can cause me severe pain, and Wii Sports is best enjoyed by swinging your arm around as you play the games. Anyway, I "bowled" left-handed better than expected and even beat Frank a few times.

On Wednesday I went back to the physical therapist. He measured my range of motion and felt that I had not progressed very much. He said he would report to my primary doctor and see if she recommends seeing an orthopedic doctor. He does not feel that physical therapy is doing much for me; I have reached a plateau. He predicts that I will gradually improve without the therapy and after that, physical therapy might help me again.

When I left that appointment, I headed straight for Peebles Department Store to get a couple of cardigan tops. I have plenty of winter pullover tops but taking them off without causing pain in the shoulder is difficult. A front-opening top worn over a tank top does not require contortions to remove, and I figure if I'm not healing fast, I might as well make it easier to get dressed. I bought a button-front aqua sweatshirt and a zip-front black one.

On Thursday I went to yoga class for the first time in a month and did a very limited version of exercise. Some of the poses are impossible at this point.

Meanwhile, Frank has come down with a sore throat and has been taking it easy the past few days.

December 11, 2008

A Photo from 1959

This is a 1959 photograph of my siblings on a vacation trip. I believe we were staying in Stevensville, Michigan at a lakeshore rental cottage.

Peggy and Rick appear to be getting a bucket of water from a pump. Carol is sitting at the picnic table. If she were still alive, she would be 63 today.

Coming Home

We made it home safely. After the long but uneventful flight back east, we landed at Dulles at 9 PM. Yet we did not get to our car until 10:30. So I'll gripe about that for a minute.

The plane was crowded so of course it took a while to disembark.
We walked to the "People Mover" bus gates and there was a crowd. The first bus was full and we made our way onto the next one, which had no seats left so we had to stand up as the bus lurched over the tarmac. 
Then we walked to baggage claim and waited. And waited. Eventually some bags came out but not ours. After a long wait, only four other people were left watching for baggage. Finally we got our suitcase and we went out into the cold to catch the bus to the "blue" economy lot. One pulled out before we reached it so we stood in the freezing cold and waited. The green lot bus came and went, then the gold lot bus. Time passed, five employee buses passed, another green bus... When a third green bus pulled up, we and other freezing passengers pleaded with the driver to call for a blue bus. About five minutes after that, our bus finally came and took us to our car.
We drove to Chantilly and found not much open except for drive-through lanes at restaurants so we got some fast food before making the long drive home. Fortunately our bodies were adjusted to western time, so getting home at 1 AM was not too much of a hardship.

Leaving the Seattle Tacoma Airport

view from plane


lightsPart One of our visit to Zoolights in Tacoma:
The zoo is decorated with colorful holiday lights in various configurations including animal outlines. The most fun ones are animated! The display uses LED lights and they are sharper without the halo that you see around incandescent bulbs, so they don't look as warm as the Christmas lights I''m used to. But they are bright and entertaining.

I snapped several photos that were badly blurred like the one on the left. The exposures were long because of the darkness, and I have a slight tremor that seems magnified now that my right shoulder is (still) weak, so the only steady pictures were ones where I found a post to hold the camera on.

In daylight, I compensate by taking duplicate pictures so that one is likely to be sharp. I really need to use a tripod.

December 10, 2008

December Evening at the Zoo

On Sunday evening we went to Outback for dinner. The rain stopped and we went to see Zoolights.

Right: Josie, Ryley, Doug, Frank

Below: Jo and Ryley with wolf silhouette. 

December 9, 2008


Josie and Susan

This merry-go-round is at the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma. It was restored by the Washington Antique Carousel Society, which replaced the long-lost carved animals and fixed up the original mechanism, thought to be orginally built around 1917 in Kansas.

Left: Doug and Ryley

December 8, 2008

Early December, Washington State

There is still a touch of autumn in the Tacoma area. Temperatures have been cold but maybe 5 degrees warmer than those we left in Virginia. I was glad I brought my warmest jacket.

We had some rain yesterday; otherwise, we had partly cloudy days. The days are shorter here because the latitude is farther north.

December 7, 2008

Bike Girl

child on bike

Board Game

Travails of Travel

We flew to Seattle on Thursday and it made for a long day. We live two hours from Dulles so I have to plan for plenty of time to get there and get through security. We got up at 5:30 AM for a 12:30 PM flight. I allowed extra time:
  • 2 hours 15 minutes to get ready, pack the car, and get on the road.
  • 15 minutes to stop at the kennel in Woodstock
  • Two hours to drive to Northern Virginia
  • Half an hour to grab something for lunch since I can't get allergen-free food on the plane
  • 2 hours to park at the airport, take the bus to the terminal, go through security, take the other bus to the gate, etc. I knew I'd have to get my boarding pass at the airport because I had been unable to do so online the night before, although Frank was allowed to get his.
This seemed safe and it turned out to be enough but just barely. My unexpected delay was getting sick. I had just purchased a prescribed medication the previous afternoon, and decided to follow directions for my second dose and take it on an empty stomach. Big mistake! I was so nauseous I had to stop for a while and put everything on hold until I started to feel better and could walk around without reeling from dizziness.

Fortunately, things went more smoothly after that. The kennel was not busy for a change and so processed Ben's paperwork without delay. We didn't hit significant traffic jams. I purchased a chicken lunch in Chantilly and took it with me to eat at the airport. We had enough time to pull up at the departure area and drop off the big suitcase at United's outdoor baggage check-in. (Frank had been able to do an internet baggage check-in the night before, which seems almost useless to me except that it saved us three bucks.) Then we parked in the economy lot and took the shuttle bus back to the airport.

I tried to get my boarding pass at a machine. No luck. I tried a different machine. It simply would not process me. I had to find the correct line and wait in it for a while. Finally it was my turn and I got my boarding pass. We headed for security and had the usual delays as we waited to be humiliated by having to strip off jackets and shoes and place our cellphones, keys, and so on in bins to be looked at. Eventually we got all that stuff back in place and got our shoes on, took the diesel-stinking old bus they call a mobile lounge, and found our gate. Frank went up to see if any seats at become available since few were left when we booked our flight two weeks prior and we had each gotten a middle seat in a different row. Meanwhile I wolfed down my chicken and rice. He was told that nothing else was available, and boarding began before he had a chance to eat the snacks he had bought. Then our name was called and we learned that someone else had changed seats so now we could sit together and he had an aisle seat.

This was a great improvement although the leg-room is so slight on United that we were still uncomfortable all the way to Seattle. And getting in and out of the tiny seat was hard for me because with my right shoulder still sore, I couldn't push myself up on that arm to help with the necessary contortions. At least our flight actually arrived there a little early.

P.S. After I was unhappy with United Airlines last year, I refused to use them for a while. Unfortunately, they took away my accumulated frequent flyer miles because i didn't have activity on the account for 18 months! I hope to find a better airline flying nonstop to Seattle before we make this journey again. United seats are just too cramped, and some of their employees are rather surly. Not recommended.

The Christmas Pageant

We saw Ryley and Josie perform in the Christmas Pageant at their church. Josie is the shepherd in the front row, second from right. Ryley narrated the first part of the program.