Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Moment With God


God won’t ask what kind of car you drive.

He’ll ask how many people you drove who didn’t have transportation.

God won’t ask the square footage of your house. He’ll ask how many people you welcomed in your home.

God won’t ask about the clothes you had in your closet.  He’ll ask how many you helped clothe.

God won’t ask what your highest salary was. He’ll ask if you compromised your character to achieve it.

God won’t ask what your job title was. He’ll ask if you performed to the best of your ability.

God won’t ask how many friends you had. He’ll ask how many people to whom you were a friend.

God won’t ask in what neighborhood you lived. He’ll ask how you treated your neighbors.

God won’t ask about the color of your skin. He’ll ask about the content of your character.

God won’t ask why it took you so long to seek Salvation.

He’ll lovingly take you to a mansion in Heaven and not to the gates of Hell.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways, My ways,” declares the LORD.

Isaiah 55:8


Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Contribution To Black Friday

Forgive me for being a "day late (give or take) and a dollar short" as my mother would say, but I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving surrounded by family and loved ones. Although I've been "MIA" (missing in action) for a few days now from the blogging world, I spent a good portion of my Thanksgiving at my in-laws house with my husband's mother and father, 4 sisters, their husbands, his brother and girlfriend, assorted cousins, nieces and nephews, as well as my 2 stepdaughters and their significant others.  He has a large family and I think the final count at dinner was 31, which is pretty overwhelming when you're from a small family as I am.  But over time you get used to the noise and chaos and they're all extremely close so it makes for a nice get together. And the food! Good grief! Enough to feed everyone with leftovers to spare - and maybe a small country, too.  There is definitely much to be thankful for.  Since my own family is several hours away, I'll be spending my Christmas with them.   We usually have to alternate holiday visits this way so we get to spend time with everyone during the holiday season. 

Although the day after Thanksgiving was "Black Friday," I refuse to get sucked into the madness of setting my alarm before dawn so I can rush to the malls with the rest of the crowds.  Speaking of which, one of my stepdaughters, who works part-time at Bed Bath & Beyond, had to be to work at 3:15 AM to be ready for their store opening at 4:00 AM(!)  I'm sorry, but this is nothing short of insanity to me.  There is NO store or reason on this earth for me to be anywhere but home at 4:00 AM. Doesn't matter what deal they're offering (or even giving away for that matter), it will never hold any allure for me in this lifetime. I love the Christmas season and all the good things about this holiday, just not the commercialism and the "spend, spend, spend" nonsense that puts so many people into debt the rest of the year and takes away from the TRUE meaning of Christmas.  That being said,  while I didn't venture out into the wee hours of the morning (except to the hen house), I did make a very short trip to the mall at 2:00 PM as my one small contribution to Black Friday.  I'd seen a review of the book "Oogy" by Larry Levin a few weeks ago and decided to get this for my other stepdaughter, who, like me, is also an animal lover, and works as a veterinary technician at an animal hospital. Since she loves to read books about animals, among the other things my husband and I buy her at Christmas, she can usually count on a non-fiction book about an animal from me.  It's sort of become a tradition in the last 5 or 6 years and I know she looks forward to it.  I haven't read it myself yet but I'm sure I will. For those who are not famiilar with "Oogy," (which is the affectionate derivative of the word "ugly") it's the true story of  a pit bull who had been used as a "bait dog" in the horrible world of dog fighting.  A bait dog (makes me shudder to even say that!) is a chained animal which is used by fighting dogs as bait to bite until the dog is incapacitated or killed.  Oogy was used as such a dog. When he was found by the police who raided the dog-fighting ring in Philadelphia, he'd had his left ear torn off and was bitten so hard a piece of his jaw bone was crushed and according to the author, "there was a hole in the side of his head the size of a softball." Afterward, he was thrown into a cage and left to bleed to death. Although this is enough to make you want to lay down and cry for the rest of the day, the story does get better.  Oogy is taken to an animal hospital and expected to die there, but as fate would have it, is discovered by the Levin family who have brought in their terminally ill cat in to have put down when they meet Oogy. Despite all that he'd been through, Oogy had such a happy and outgoing spirit that the Levins fell in love with him and after several surgeries to repair his face, he is adopted by them where he continues to live happily with to this day. 

I have included the You Tube video from the author so that you could meet Oogy in person.  What a great story with a very happy ending!


So this is how I kicked off my Christmas shopping.  And hopefully, it's the last I'll see of the mall for a while.  Of course I do intend to do more shopping - I'm not a  total Scrooge after all.  However, with any luck, I can finish the majority of it online where there are no crowds to contend with and I don't have to fight anyone over the last parking space in front of my computer ;-)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Birthday Weekend

Since Thursday was my birthday (Veteran's Day), I decided to take the day off work (it's not a holiday in my office) and since I'm normally off on Fridays anyway, planned to enjoy a nice, long 4-day birthday weekend.  It was all wonderful, of course, but where does the time go? Now it's Sunday night and before you know it, the weekly grind of commuting to and from the city will begin once again. (GROAN!)

In any event, I had a great birthday and I'm very grateful to God that he's allowed me to celebrate another year.  After I got up and fed the animals, I headed over to the indoor pool for a swim. Came home and tidied up the house a bit - I know, I should give the housework a rest on my birthday, but I was feeling energetic after my swim so I didn't mind - kind of unusual for me since it's the LAST thing I typically feel like doing!

In the afternoon, I told my husband that I'd like to take the dogs to the lake to stretch their legs and give them the opportunity to smell and see new things, which they always enjoy, and when we got home my girlfriend Judy had sent me roses that that were just beautiful.  Flowers are such a mood lifter, aren't they? Even though I was in a good mood anyway, her flowers raised my happiness factor up a couple more notches. The rest of the day was filled with phone calls and beeps of text messages from family and friends wishing me a very happy day.   

Later that evening DH and I went to a nice restaurant for dinner to celebrate and the food was delicious.  The crab bisque soup and mushroom caps stuffed with crab imperial were especially yummy...and needless to say, there was dessert, which my husband and I split.  It was called "The Cookie Monster" which was 2 huge chocolate chip cookies with vanilla ice cream sandwiched in the middle and topped with real hot fudge syrup and whipped cream.  True to it's name, it really was a "monster" of a dessert :-)  In fact, I could hardly walk when we left the restaurant after it was all said and done - but your allowed to overdo it on your birthday, right? I really don't eat like that very often (and Thanksgiving doesn't count either as far as I'm concerned.). Nevertheless, it was a great way to end the birthday evening. 

On Friday morning, Margie had a vet appointment for rountine shots (distemper and feline leukemia) so after her breakfast, which was served in my spare bedroom so I could shut the door and she couldn't run away, I tried unsuccessfully several times to put her in the cat carrier and she was just not having ANY of it.  She didn't scratch or bite me, but she just contorted herself in so many ways that made it impossible to put her in the carrier.  So I thought, now what?! I thought and thought. Then, lightbulb moment... the dog crate! This is much bigger, but it also meant I had to drag it from under the porch (no small feat, either), bring it inside and put her in it.  Since this was taking  more time than I anticipated and now I had to really hustle to get her to the appointment on time, I dropped a blanket over her, wrapped her up in it and got her in the dog crate.  This worked out much better, but once she got out of the blanket and discovered she was confined, she howled like she was being tortured. All the way to the vets office. Such a drama queen.  I tried reasoning with her about this being for her own good, so she didn't get very sick.  She wasn't persuaded. I turned up the radio. She howled even louder. Luckily we got there on time and the doctor took her right away.  For all her protestations the doctor didn't even have to sedate her to give her the shots (you remember that she is still semi-feral) and she really took the whole experience like a trooper.  I was SO proud of her.  And on the way home, she only howled for about 5 minutes and then gave it a rest. When I let her out of the crate she looked around, saw that the surroundings were all familiar, then gave me a dirty look and took off for the rose bushes, presumably to sulk.  I was worried that she'd be so traumatized that she wouldn't ever come back, but like clockwork, she showed up around 6-ish on my front porch expecting dinner. I guess the experience wasn't that traumatic after all.  Not enough to forego dinner anyway, which really worked out in her favor since she got Bumblebee tuna mixed in with her dry food for being such a good girl at the doctor's earlier in the day.  Yes, I know.  Spoiled rotten.

The weather the entire weekend was so beautiful, sunny, and fall-like that I spent a good portion of it outside during the day on Saturday and Sunday, marveling at all the Fall colors and communing with dogs, cats and chickens.  My version of heaven on earth.     

Happy Sunday Everybody :-) 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Wedding Anniversary

Exactly 12 years ago today, these 2 crazy kids (me & DH) exchanged "I do's" at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Port Tobacco, MD.  

Thought I'd share some pictures of the "happy couple" with all of you.   

I laugh now when I think about the things that would drive me nuts about this man years ago. I've always been a little bit high-strung and ornery anyway, but less so these days. I've mellowed a LOT since we first got married.  I guess I just don't take things as seriously as I did as a younger woman, and  thank goodness for that.  Looking back, the word "drama queen" would probably not be too far off the mark when describing me. 

I believe a happy marriage is nothing less than a blessing from God, but it requires a lot of nurturing and the commitment to make it work...followed by a good sense of humor and the ability to forgive and forget past mistakes without dredging them up at a later date. Let it go and move on. I'm certainly no expert on marital advice, but this formula has worked pretty well for us for the last dozen years.  That, and he's very easy to get along with. Takes a brave man to live with a ornery redhead.  Seriously. We're just not wired like everyone else. Proceed with Caution.     

Honeymoon in the Bahamas
Not sure where the time went with this young man, but I'm looking forward to the next 12 years (and more!) together.  We were talking about our upcoming anniversary yesterday and I said to him (smiling), "Can you believe that I actually STILL like you after all these years?!"

We're just taking it easy today but I plan to surprise him tonight with his favorite meal; stuffed shells, salad and garlic bread.  Next weekend he's taking ME out to the dinner of my choice.  

Have a GREAT Sunday Everyone :-)  

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Weekend Fun, Winter Guest and Halloween

Yesterday was a beautiful Fall day so we loaded the dogs in the back of the car and took them for a change of scenery to Terrapin Lake, about 5 miles from our house.  Needless to say, they thoroughly enjoyed themselves and usually take a good nap when they get home.  In fact, this is about all the strenuous exercise that Snoopy, who's around 13, can handle.  When he gets home from the lake he goes straight back to his bed and we don't see him again until dinnertime, although there's no escaping his snoring.  Loud. 

I spent Saturday night cleaning and getting my spare bedroom ready for our winter guest, Margie, my semi-feral cat who first showed up on my doorstep about 4 years ago, little more than a kitten and very skinny.  Having no experience with cats and nothing else to give her, I put a bowl of dry dog food out for her on the front porch.  When I told my husband  he said, "Now you'll never get rid of her - you know once you start feeding a cat they never leave." And I quickly responded, "Who said I wanted her to leave?" And that was that.  Fast forward 4 years later; she's still semi-feral, but has come such a long way.  After she'd been hanging around for about 6 months I trapped her (no way she'd let me pick her up!), had her spayed and got all her necessary shots.  It's been a little easier each time she needs to go to the vet for routine shots and general exam, but I still have to trap her.  Although she does let me pick her up and (briefly) cuddle with her, she'd still never willingly let me put her in a cat carrier. There's always trickery involved, which I feel bad about, but it's the only way I can get her to the vet. 

Margie's former home
Last winter was the first time that she actually spent the first of many winter nights in my house.  Because I believe she was living in the old abandoned house across the street, once someone bought the property and tore it down to build a new one, I was so afraid she'd never survive a winter without a roof over her head. After that I was on a mission. I had to get her into my house and stay in my spare bedroom. Not an easy task when you're talking about a feral cat, either.  Since I'd been feeding her every day for a long time she was regularly a fixture on my front porch when I got home from work.  But with my new plan in mind, instead of the front porch, I moved her bowl to the windowsill of the spare bedroom.  She was reluctant about the new location, of course, but once she figured that it was dinner there or not at all, she decided in favor of the windowsill.  That went on for about a week, then I opened the window and put the bowl on the windowsill inside the house.  Though she spent a lot of time pouting, pacing, and loudly meowing about this new dilemma, the hungry tummy won out and she moved again.  Couple of weeks after that, I moved the dish to the floor of the bedroom, right underneath the windowsill.  This whole process of getting her to trust me enough to come inside the house took at least a couple of months and by then it was getting really cold.  Although at first she would just eat quickly, then bolt out of the window as soon as she was done, she eventually began to hang out for longer periods of time in the room, where I sat just tapping away on the computer or surfing the internet - and wearing a coat(!), because I'd keep the window open so she could leave anytime she felt stressed about this new situation. It probably wasn't until late December that I was able to close the window and she didn't freak out about it.  Boy, the things you do for love!

I'm really glad she finally came to her senses because as it turns out, we had one of the worst winters in history, and a record amount of snow in Maryland.  I don't believe Margie would have survived all the snow we got.  She stayed in the spare bedroom from about January to March and went out very little during that time.  I was surprised when I put a litter box in the room and she knew just what to do - there were never any accidents.  So glad about that!

Now the room is cleaned up and ready whenever she decides it's time to hunker down for the winter again. She even came into the room on Saturday night while I was cleaning up and as you can see, made herself very comfortable surrounded by her old friend, Mr. Bunny, who I told her would be waiting for her when she's ready to come back.

In other news, look at this fat little bumblebee I found in my kitchen today.  Lilly is the only canine member of the family who doesn't object to getting into costume any time of the year.  She also  makes a pretty respectable looking pirate, too, don't you think?

Well, what do you know? Looks like Lilly's not the only one in the Halloween spirit.  Even little Peggy wants to get in on the act! Why that little DEVIL!! 


Friday, October 29, 2010

One Woman's Addiction

The holidays will be here before you know it and I'm already feeling a lot of anxiety about it. 

It's not the crowds at the mall  I dread, or riding around for hours searching for a parking space, or  even stressing about what unique gift to get my father-in-law for Christmas.  None of that bothers me, at least not yet.  My anxiety actually deals with an  addiction I've had for a very long time. I don't talk much about if I can help it, but since Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away, it's probably best to get it out in the open now.

I am a dessertaholic.  That is, I'm totally and helplessly addicted to desserts/sweets and baked goods of any kind, and the holidays just bring out the worst in me.  You see, I have absolutely ZERO willpower when it comes to turning down desserts.  This is true for most of the year, but especially during the holidays.  In fact, I would even say that it's  already started.  Since this is Halloween week there seems to be bowls of candy everywhere you go.  Yesterday was a good example. I stopped off at the library on my way home from work to pick up a new book, and as the librarian was checking me out, I couldn't help but notice a big plastic pumpkin that was half-filled with candy of all sorts on the counter.  I knew, of course, that it was meant for all library patrons, but just to be polite I asked anyway; "May I?" To which she cheerfully responded: "Oh certainly! Help yourself!" So I fished out a caramel square and a little Reese's peanut butter cup, collected my books and off I went, happy to fuel my addiction once again. 

Last year at my in-laws on Thanksgiving there was somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 different types of desserts; pumpkin pie, 2 types of apple (your standard apple and dutch), cherry, turtle pie, and of course, my mother-in-law's signature pineapple upside down cake (which is out of this world, by the way). That being said, guess who had to sample a piece of ALL the desserts - while downing a glass of egg nog, too?   

Cake is my favorite.  Devil's food with homemade buttercream icing, but I must admit that red velvet cake runs a very close second.  There's a company in D.C. who had the idea recently to start a business called "Curbside Cupcakes."  It's a little pink van that stops at various locations around town guessed it, cupcakes.  A mobile cupcake business? Pure genius! When I first heard about them I said to myself, "Why didn't I think of that?" and  the little voice inside me responded, "because those cupcakes would never make it out of the parking lot if you were driving!" Truth be told, they probably wouldn't even make it ON the truck in the first place. And Curbside Cupcakes appears to be hugely successful, too, because they draw large crowds whereever they go. Knowing what you do about me now it should come as no shock that I've been guilty of standing in line for 45 minutes just waiting to buy one of their cupcakes.  I know it seems silly (and probably dumb, too) that I've spent 3/4 of a lunch hour to buy a cupcake. But these are not just any cupcakes. They're not like Hostess or even Tastycake (which I wouldn't turn down in a pinch, either). No, these are TO. DIE. FOR.  Fresh. Moist. And a thick slab of buttercream on top that seems like it's a mile high.  I can almost hear a choir of angels singing when I think about them. And what they're singing is Rod Stewart's, "If loving you is wrong, I don't want to be right."    

After Thanksgiving my dessertaholism will only get worse. Somewhere around late November, baked goods of all sorts will start to appear in our office kitchen.  I'll go in for my morning cup of tea and there, calling my name, will be some yummy cinnamon coffee cake or tempting little holiday cookies in all sorts of cute shapes like Christmas trees, snowmen, Santa, or holiday bells.  I think it's practically a law (or should be if it isn't) that you can't drink hot tea all by itself - there really needs to be something solid to accompany it.  It's probably better for your digestive system, too, don't you think? 

Don't get me wrong; I like fruits and vegetables and eat them, too.  But a salad doesn't make my heart sing with joy like devil's food cake or a hot fudge sundae. Or my mother's recipe for peanut butter cookies.   

Part of me feels bad in the sense that I know this is not the healthiest way to live and I really need to limit myself to maybe just one "treat" day a week.  But a bigger part of me (i.e., my inner sugar addict) is also shouting, "LIFE IS SHORT. EAT DESSERT FIRST!!"   

Monday, October 25, 2010

Haunted Eastern Shore

Since it's getting close to Halloween, I thought it would be fun to sign up for a "Haunted Bus Tour" sponsored by our local community college yesterday.  The tour was from 12:00 to 4:00 PM  and narrated by Mindie Burgoyne, who wrote the book "Haunted Eastern Shore."  I don't think my husband was that excited when I enlisted him on this adventure with me, but he was a good sport anyway, even though it was an absolutely beautiful day, and he was probably missing out on some good fishing.     

On this tour the author took us to various sites on Maryland's Eastern Shore that had been the subject of ghosts sitings, hauntings, and other paranormal activity, some that had been occurring for hundreds of years.   

It was no surprise that our tour took us to a couple of very old cemeteries dating as far back as the early 1700's, including the cemetery behind St. Paul's Episcopal Church where the actress Tallulah Bankhead is buried, who lived a relatively short but troubled life, marked by alcoholism and drug abuse. Our group walked over to Ms. Bankhead's gravesite where we learned the legend that if you lay down on her grave at night with your ear pressed to the ground, you could hear her singing.  Suffice it to say that I won't be doing that anytime soon.  Or even thinking about going to graveyards at night for that matter.  

Though we went to several haunted sites, my favorite was the Kitty Knight House which dates back to 1773. The home still remains today and in fact, operates as a thriving Bed & Breakfast, as well as fine dining establishment in Georgetown, MD that overlooks the Sassafras River. As we gathered in an empty dining hall of the restaurant, the manager gave us a little history of the Inn, including her personal accounts of strange events that have occurred since she's been employed there (over 10 years now).  Apparently the ghost of Kitty Knight, quite a prominent woman of society in her day, still inhabits the place.  For example, the front desk will occasionally get calls from room 4, which was Kitty's bedroom during her lifetime. However, this happens even when no one is booked in that room. When they answer the phone, no one is there. When the staff has investigated, they find the room locked. When entering the room, they find it empty.  There have also been other reports from Inn guests, as well as members of the staff, of doors closing by themselves, shadowy figures of a woman on the wall, and hearing voices. The Inn even had to remove Kitty's rocking chair from her bedroom because guests complained about it rocking on its own. 
I reminded my husband that our anniversary was coming up in November and asked him how he felt about coming to this B&B for dinner, then spending one night in room 4 (Kitty's room), just for the fun of it.  He told me that if that's how I wanted to celebrate my anniversary, I'd be spending it alone since he was not at all interested in sharing a room with Kitty Knight.  

Not sure if I buy into all of the things we learned about yesterday, but I think my Irish heritage appreciates a good yarn and the folklore surrounding some areas of the Eastern Shore.  I had a great time and enjoyed the whole tour.  I bought a copy of the author's book because she did an excellent job in  researching this subject and collecting the stories she compiled into a book.
Besides, if I ever find myself in a situation where I need to tell some good old-fashioned ghost stories, I've got it covered - and can say I've been there, too.

Who knew the Eastern Shore could be such a creepy place?