Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Physical Therapy

At the end of December I traveled to Spain to visit my son, Michael.  The flight from Chicago to Madrid is almost nine hours long.  It involves a lot of juggling of luggage and sitting for long periods of time in confined spaces, and by the time I arrived, my shoulder was sore.  While there, we did lots of walking with camera, camera bag, cross body purse, and a backpack.  By the time I returned to Iowa on January 4th, my shoulder was really painful.  

For this reason I have been going through physical therapy two days a week.  The shoulder is getting better, slowly but surely.  In order to rebuild strength and flexibility, I have a daily regimen of prescribed exercises.  On the days that I have therapy, I usually am pretty sore afterwards.

I am very thankful for my physical therapist.  I am even more grateful for my good health.  I see many people going through PT who are recovering from serious accidents and illness.  I am glad to have the help to heal, but especially thankful that this is a minor injury from which I will recover.  It really reminds me how fortunate I have been.  

Monday, March 27, 2017

Growing and Learning

Today was my second to last drawing class.  We worked with Conte Crayons, which are a combination of compressed powdered graphite or charcoal mixed with wax.  This was totally new to me.  It was challenging and fun.

I love learning new things, and I am thinking about what class I want to take this summer.  I want to keep growing my skills, and when it comes to art, I can't do this without a good instructor.  I am thinking about learning to draw with pastels.  I like the idea of doing something with lots of color. The class that is being offered will spend time outside the Des Moines Art Center in Greenwood Park.  That idea really appeals to me.

Another thing growing in my house are the little tomatoes in the Aerogarden.  I wonder if I will end up with ripened edible tomatoes?

Saturday, March 25, 2017

RV Envy

This weekend is the RV and Camping Show at the Fairgrounds.  It's a great day to look at RVs and dream of better weather, because it is way too wet and dreary to actually be camping.  My sister, Jacci, and I went to check things out.

We come from a family where camping was a way of life.  Every year our parents would pack us all up in the station wagon, load the top carrier with the tent and sleeping bags, and we would head out for vacation.  I thought everyone did this.  It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized how fortunate we were

It is also a family tradition to get together at least once each year for Family Campout.  We have a big family get together with relatives from Iowa and Kansas, usually somewhere in southern Iowa.  Nine Eagles and Lake of Three Fires are two favorite destinations.  Some of us camp.  Some of us just drive down for the day to eat, and talk, and eat, and sit around the campfire, and eat.

For a long time I have wanted a small RV so I could pack up my dogs and head out to visit family and friends, and explore the out of doors.  So far it hasn't been in the budget, but I think I am getting closer.  That's why it is so much fun to go to an RV show and walk through all these vehicles.

I will not consider the $445,000 bus that costs three times as much as my house.  But some of these others might be in the running.  I like the high end finishings of the Winnebago Navion, but the Four Winds or Winnebago Spirit might be closer to my budget, and I would love to have either of them.

It's fun to look and dream!  Maybe I should buy some lottery tickets?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Three Hour Lunches

Three hours is the average amount of time that it takes for my friend, Nadine, and I to have lunch or coffee or wherever we get together.  We have spent longer, and occasionally our lunches are shorter.  It doesn't take that long for us to eat, but it does take that long to discuss all the important issues in our lives and analyze and solve the problems of the world.

I met Nadine in my first year of teaching, which was 1987.  We were teaching at Edmunds Academy of Fine Arts.  She was teaching first grade, and I was teaching fourth grade basic skills.  We didn't get to know each other very well that first year. I was in two schools that year, and we were in different grade levels, The next year, however,  I moved to first grade.  Edmunds was an open spaces building in those days, so we team taught.  We have been best friends ever since.

She has been there for me through all these thirty years and I feel truly blessed to know her and to have her in my life.  We have cried together, and we have laughed together.  We mostly laugh together. I can share anything with her, and I am so grateful to have her as my friend.

I have been subbing this week, but mostly working half days, so we were able to meet for coffee this afternoon.  It was short, only 2 1/2 hours. It made for a wonderful afternoon.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Des Moines Art Center

I am so grateful that I am able to take art classes at the Des Moines Art Center.  It is a wonderful opportunity to learn in such a great setting.  It's fun to use the equipment, and get to know other people who also have a love for art.  It is also gratifying to see my skills grow.  I could never do this on my own.

This week we worked with charcoal.  I wisely wore black, which is good because it was messy.  In my Art for the Curious class last semester, we used charcoal at an early lesson.  I remember that time, I drew a skull, but after I had the basic sketch I didn't know where to go from there.  Since that time, we have learned a lot about value.  This time I felt that I had tools to continue to improve my drawing.

We have just two classes left, so I will soon be thinking about what I would like to learn next.

Sunday, March 19, 2017


I flipped on the television this morning and was channel surfing when I saw an advertisement for an Emergency Food Supply.  It was running on one of the Christian stations.  It caught my eye, because just the week before I had seen a large display of these same buckets at Sam's Club.  Costco also featured them in an ad.

The Emergency Food Storage bucket as featured in the Costco Wholesale flyer.  3/23/17 - 4/17/17.

The speaker on TV was talking about how important this was to have not just because of weather emergencies, or power outages, but because of the coming Apocalypse.  What?  My first reaction was what is the matter with these people?  Isn't that God's choice, not ours?  Are these people trying to bring an apocalypse about?  I just don't understand!  Furthermore, why are they cultivating fear, and then trying to make money from it?

Then I went to church.  Today's sermon was called Receive Reconciliation, and in his message, Pastor Dave was talking about how divided we have become as Christians.  How we judge one another, and limit ourselves to a group that shares our same views, rather than reach out and share and communicate with those who believe differently.  You know, like I had been doing just an hour earlier.

Once again, I came to church in need, and received an important lesson which will help me through the coming weeks.  Our scripture was from Romans 5.  I especially like verse 2-4,
Because of our faith, Christ has brought us to the grace in which we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to the day on which we will become all that God has intended.  But not only that -- we even rejoice in our afflictions!  We know that affliction produces perseverance, and perseverance, proven character; and character, hope.
So I choose hope!  I choose to keep working to make this world a better place, by doing whatever I can to be kind and caring.   I choose not to live in fear.  I choose to try to be a better person who takes the time to listen and understand others.

Later in the day I met my sister to walk at Copper Creek.  It was a breezy but glorious day.  When I told her about the ad for the the Emergency Food Supply, she reminded me that this fear seems to be cyclical.  There was a great deal of talk about the end of times at the millennium just 17 years ago, and again a few years ago when we reached the end of the Aztec calendar.  I had forgotten about all of that.

I am grateful for hope, I am grateful for my church and Pastor Dave, and I am incredibly grateful for my beautiful sister, Jacci.

I really loved the greeting that we began the worship service with:

                                       "He drew a circle that shut me out--
                                         Heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout.
                                         But Love and I had the wit to win:
                                         We drew a circle that took him in!"                                                                                      --Edwin Markham

I choose hope and love, and everything that goes with it!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Raised Bed Gardening: Step 1

I have a back yard garden that is long and narrow.  While I have great success with tomatoes, peppers and squash, I have yet to eat any of the green beans.  The bunnies always beat me to them.  Over the winter I did a lot reading about raised bed gardening.  I decided I am going to give it a try by building two raised beds.  By building the beds, fencing them, and possibly even covering them, I hope to add a little variety to my vegetable garden.

I did a lot of research into raised bed options.  My carpentry skills are limited, but there are a lot of kits out there.  With wood, rotting can be a problem, so I decided to build mine out of brick or stone. I had priced several types of stone and edgers at Menards and Lowe's.  Then a friend suggested that I check out the Habitat for Humanity Restore.   I sure am glad that I did, because I found five hole brick there.  Each brick is about a foot long, and they only cost me fifty cents per brick, a fraction of what it would have been if I bought new.  I should be able to build both beds for less than what one bed would have cost.

Today I laid out the foundation for the two beds.  I have to do some leveling of the ground before I actually build the beds.  I am going to use three layers of bricks to make the walls of the beds.  Next thing I have to figure out is where I can buy some garden quality soil.  Do you have any suggestions?

After working in the yard for a while, I loaded Winnie and Chloe in the car and we went walking at Copper Creek.  They loved it and I have two happy but tired little dogs now.

There are so many things to be grateful for;  my two adorable little dogs, an opportunity to get outside and work in my yard, and a beautiful sunshiny day.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Political Activism

Today I attended a town hall with Senator Joni Ernst.  This one was held at Sheslow Auditorium at Drake University.  I am far from a political activist, but I am trying to be a good citizen.  I am trying to be well informed, to research and verify stories, and to stand up and be counted.  That all sounds pretty good when I think about doing these things a week or two before the event, but I often want to forget the whole thing when the actual time comes.  This time I went!

I am very grateful for the people who stood up to ask questions.  Almost all were well thought out, and well spoken.  Most speakers used data and research to support their questions and positions.  Almost all were about important issues that are on most people's minds these days.  Some used humor to lighten the mood.  All, but one were respectful.  Unfortunately, Senator Ernst sidestepped most of these questions, and was vague about others.

I was grateful to see how many people came out to this event held during spring break on a mostly empty college campus, at 5:00 on a Friday, which also happened to be St. Patrick's Day.  It was a full house.  The auditorium was full of people of a variety of ages and varied experiences.

I went because I wanted to hear how Senator Ernst responded to the issues.  Mostly I went because I want our representatives to know that whatever they do, they are accountable to their constituents.

Along with occasionally attending events like this, I am disciplining myself to express my views and concerns to my representatives.  I discovered a website/app called Countable that is helping me to do that.  It lets me know what issues are up for votes during the week.  It also lets me know how my representatives voted.  The thing I like best is that you can put in your zip code to find out who your representatives are.  Then you can write an email that goes to all those representatives, two senators and congressman.  At first I was skeptical, but I have received responses from all three of my representatives.  I am looking at what I can and actually WILL DO to make  myself heard.  If you are interested, I suggest you check out Countable to see if it works for you.

This week I wrote to my representatives about my concerns about the American Health Care Act and I attended this town hall meeting.  I am pretty darned proud of myself!  This is what democracy is all about!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Garden Spinner

Growing things is fun, but sometimes it can be frustrating.  Plants don't sprout, they whither and die, or the bunnies and bugs eat them.  If the plants don't grow, I always have my garden art to add color and interest.  I have a turtle collection in the flower beds, solar lights, steel flowers, and garden spinners.  This is my newest garden spinner.  I love the colorful jewels, and it has a color changing light.  It was easy to assemble.  The only problem I had was pushing the stake into the frozen ground. I guess it's too early to plant anything.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Amana Colonies

It is spring break and many people are traveling this week. I know people who are as far away as Hawaii, Mexico, Florida and Texas.  My friend, Kathy, and I decided to take a day trip to the Amana Colonies, which is less than a hundred miles away.  I am very grateful that we scheduled it for today instead of yesterday. It was chilly, there was snow on the ground, but the sun was shining, and it ended up being a beautiful day.

Not everything was open this early in the season, but we had a wonderful time exploring the shops and galleries.  I especially liked the woolen mill and the broom maker.  There are seven Amana Colonies which were settled about 150 years ago.  You can learn more about the colonies by visiting their website:

This is one of the looms from the Amana Mills.  In the woolen mill and the furniture factory, you have an opportunity to watch the craftsman working.  We were able to not only watch, but also to talk with the broom maker, who explained how the straw is processed before being made into brooms.

You will also find a little humor here and there, including this giant rocking chair.

And this sign outside one of the businesses.

It was a wonderful day, and a good reminder that there are beautiful and interesting places to explore all around us.  You just need to take the time to notice them.  The thing I am most grateful for is the opportunity to explore all of this with a very good friend. It was definitely a wonderful spring break trip.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Garden Dreams

It is spring break!  We had temperatures in the sixties and seventies during February and early March.  Naively, I had imagined working in the garden sometime this week.  I have been reading about raised bed gardening, and have been collecting five hole brick to build my first bed.  It is piled by the backyard fence, just waiting.  The ground is covered with snow, so it won't be this week.

I had expected to have tomato and pepper seeds started by now.  I usually get them going by this time of year.  Other years I have just picked up seeds at Lowe's or Menards.  This year, however, I decided to order seeds from Henry Fields.  I placed the order on February 2nd.  I have contacted them twice, and still no seeds.

The best I can do is my Aerogarden.  I started two pods of cherry tomatoes a few weeks ago, and there are some little baby tomatoes on there.  In the meantime, I guess I will just keep reading gardening books, and dreaming of the time of year when I can get the garden going.  Those garden dreams are part of the fun of gardening.

If you are interested in reading about raised bed gardening, I recommend Raised Bed Revolution by Tara Nolan.  You can find it here.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Get Organized!

When I came down the stairs this morning, I was surprised to see the ground covered with snow.  A lot of it has melted now.  My only outing for the day was to walk to the end of the driveway to get the mail.  Instead of going out, I worked on some jobs here at home.

Jobs that involve decluttering and getting organized are on just about every "to do" list that I make.  While I make progress, I tend to get side tracked.  I often find a new project that I want to do, which involves, yarn, art supplies, or home improvement materials, which ultimately add to the clutter.  Today however was a victory!  Yesterday I went to Sam's Club to pick up some bins for organizing drawers. It turned out that they were on sale for half price, so I picked up some bins for the refrigerator as well.

It's amazing what you find pushed to the back of the refrigerator.  Some of it is unrecognizable. There are other items that you can't even identify how long they have been there.  I cleaned out the fridge, and organized everything into the new bins.  Any bets on how long I will be able to keep it that way?

I also cleaned out and organized drawers in the upstairs bathroom and my bedside table.  As well as sorting and shelving books in my office.  No pictures of that yet.  I have lots more to do up there.

During breaks I finished knitting this hat.  The pattern is called The Favorite Knit Slouchy.  The yarn is Malabrigo Rios.  The color is Solis.  I love, love, love knitting with Malabrigo.  The colors are fantastic, and the yarn feels so good.  I still need to block the hat, which will make the yarn even softer.

All in all, a really wonderful day at home.  I am grateful to have a warm and comfortable home, and today it is just a bit better organized.  For not having left the house, I am feeling pretty accomplished.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Good Neighbors

I received this beautiful bracelet from my neighbors, Holly and Ken.  They gave it to me to thank me for watching their dogs.  I love it, but I am even more grateful for having such good neighbors.

We have lived across the street from each other for about fourteen years.  Four years ago when I was laid up with a fractured foot and ankle, they watched out for me.  I had surgery to put a pin in my foot, and for four weeks I was confined to the house.  I couldn't put any weight on my foot, and was restricted to using a knee cycle.  They brought me my mail, and Ken kept my driveway clear.  It was February and we had a lot more snow that year than we have had this year.  I will be forever grateful for their help and support.

While we have always been friendly toward one another, I am an introvert, and it is just this past year that we have really gotten to know each other.  As a result, they took care of Winnie and Chloe when I went to Spain.  The hardest part of traveling has always been having to leave my dogs.  This made such a world of difference.  To reassure me, Holly sent me pictures throughout the week, so I knew the dogs were happy and safe.  It was wonderful!  I am grateful that I was able to do the same for them during this past week.

I love my home, and I love my neighborhood.  These wonderful neighbors have made it ten times better than ever.  They also have two adorable little dogs who I definitely fell in love with during this past week.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Neighborhood Watch

Ever vigilant, these dogs are keeping our neighborhood safe!  Always on guard, they announce the arrival of every intruder on the street.  Well actually they aren't exactly intruders.  Some are just innocent people walking down the sidewalk, or standing in their own yards, but they have been warned!  These brave dogs are always on Neighborhood Watch, except when they are napping.  All that barking takes a lot out of a dog.

You will notice that the dog population in our house has doubled this week.  Our neighbor dogs, Frankie and Fannie have been visiting with us, while their human parents have been out of town.  My wonderful neighbors, Holly and Ken, took care of Chloe and Winnie when I went to Spain.  I am so grateful to have such good neighbors, and I have been especially grateful for the opportunity to get to know these two wonderful little dogs.  I have definitely fallen in love with them.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

New Haircut

I got my hair cut today.  I decided to go a little shorter.  I like it, but what I really appreciate is having the flexibility to be able to do that and run other errands during the day.  It is really nice to be able to work part time.  I am grateful to be able to make choices about how to spend my day, whether it's haircuts, appointments or just hanging out with dogs.  It is a genuine luxury.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Drawing With Charcoal

Today was our seventh drawing class, with only two more classes to go.  Each class involves a new skill.  We are still working on value, the lightness and darkness of an object, but this time we are using charcoal.  We started out experimenting with the different thickness and hardness of the pieces of charcoal, just to explore what it would do.  Then we worked on our project.  It's a bit messy to use, but lots of fun.

Next time we will be using charcoal again, but that time we will be using thick pieces, which I have been warned will be really messy.  Wearing black seems like a very good idea.

I am so grateful for this opportunity to learn and try new things.  I am also very grateful for the patience of my instructor, Alyssa Tauber.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Winnie the Trailblazer

We have a nice size backyard, but no matter which part of the yard Winnie is coming from, this crazy little dog cuts across to walk along this trail she is blazing right through the center.  I can't explain why.  As you can see, the yard is pretty flat, and there is nothing obstructing her way along the fence or garden.  

This darling Corgi has a few other quirks as well. As you may know, Corgis are herding dogs.  Now I have a habit of plugging my cell phone into the charger right before I go to bed.  When I do, it makes a ding sound. That is Winnie's cue, that it is time to herd Chloe and I up to bed.  

In the morning, if she senses that I am awake, she begins barking to herd Chloe and I downstairs.  I really do not appreciate loud Corgi barks at 5:15 in the morning.  I do, however, love this crazy little dog, and I am very grateful that she came into my life.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Knitting Next Door

I mentioned in an earlier post that I love yarn.  This is the LYS, local yarn shop, where I buy it.  Knitting Next Door is way more than a place to buy yarn, however.  Thursday evening, I was there for my Afghan Crochet Class.  It is a place to take classes, but it's more than that.  I learn lots from the knitters and crocheters that spend time there as well.  If you're having problems with a pattern or not sure how to do a certain stitch, just bring your knit or crochet project, sit at a table, and someone is bound to be able to help you.  It might be Polly, who owns the shop, or one of the people who works there, or it may well be another customer.  Knitting Next Door is a community.  There are many people who meet there on a particular day of the week or just pop in when they can.  I often go in for just an hour, and end up staying for two or three hours.  Polly and the staff have made it that kind of welcoming place.  I am so grateful to know them, and to be able to spend time there.

Knitting Next Door is located in the Old Town area of Ankeny, Iowa.  If you want to check it out, here is a link to their website.  I must add a word of warning, however, By hanging out in this friendly atmosphere, surrounded by all these beautiful items, you will be tempted to buy things.  For example, those gorgeous embroidered bags in the top photo were calling my name, and one did come home with me.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Princess Chloe

This is my little Princess Chloe and her favorite toy, or what is left of it.  I am so grateful that this little dog came into my life.  It was truly a case of divine intervention.  About a year after my dog, Bailey, died, I was ready to add a new dog to our family.  I had been visiting the Animal Rescue League on a fairly regular basis looking for the right match.  I needed to find a dog that would get along with my Corgi, Winnie.  I also was looking for a small dog.  Lot's of dogs end up at ARL, but many of them are large dogs.  Often the little ones, are not there for long.

About three years ago, I had attended a DMEA meeting, and was on my way home for the night.  I had even turned into my neighborhood, when a voice in my head said, "Go to ARL!"

For a change, I listened.  I drove over and went back to see what dogs were there.  Way at the back was this wonderful little dog.  She had just been brought in from the veterinarian, and was scared. They told me she was a poodle-maltese mix.  She was also a matted mess.  When she saw me she was excited.  I asked to be able to spend time with her, and then I filled out the papers requesting to have her.  The next evening I brought Winnie over, so they could get to know each other.

When I first got her, her name was Princess.  I changed it to Chloe, and now Princess is her title.  I am so grateful that Princess Chloe is part of my life.  I love her so very much.