Friday, February 27, 2015

and winter continues...

friend's backyard

cardinal in bird feeder in snow outside our front window

I started this post yesterday morning (Thursday). It was still snowing, but not sticking.  The temps rose above freezing and the sun actually came out,  so the roads were fine by afternoon.  We decided to get out while the gettin' was good.... and went to supper with youngest son, wife, and grand daughter.  Grand daughter was in fine form - singing her ABC's along with her mom's cellphone both in the car and at the Mexican restaurant!

This morning it's snowing again. In fact, it hasn't stopped all morning and we're getting pretty much ground coverage.  Temp is 25 F and I just got a notice that the college (where I take my pottery) is closing early today and will be closed tomorrow... so no class tomorrow.  

But on a good note:  One of our young black feral cats who was born in our yard and grew up here went missing about a week ago. We noticed this right away as he and his sister were always up front by the bay window looking in and watching us (they are about 8 months old). Suddenly she was alone.  We worried about him as he was not a skittish kitten and would run right up to the window if we tapped it. We call him *Braveheart*.  Anyway after a week of missing him (and in these below freezing temps), he finally turned up yesterday. (Secretly I've been praying that he was alright somewhere - so was really happy to see him.) We would really like to know where he was, but guess we never will. He's not talking, but he is acting a bit more skittish since he returned. 

Here's a pic of my first finished doggie quilt. For a first it's not bad - has a few puppy squares and some squirrels and a few birds...

front view

back view

and a view of my quilting set-up:

quilting by the fire-side

supporting cats helping me quilt

and I'll close with Tux keeping an eye out for that cardinal to return to bird feeder:

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Artic blast... Texas style

We are in day 2 of our *Arctic Blast*...  not anything like some of you are experiencing elsewhere... but life has come to a standstill here just the same. It doesn't take much sleet, ice, or snow here in Texas for schools to close and weathermen to warn people to stay at home and off the icy roads. It certainly doesn't take much to convince me. 

Not only did I once experience my car sliding sideways on ice, but I have personal knowledge of at least 3 people who have either slipped in the ice or been in some accident ice-related causing broken bones and injuries - some in their own drive-ways. No, when the weather is like this, we stay inside - only venturing out to feed and water the birds, feral cats, or any other critter who has to suffer the cold. We also provide hay, blankets, and heat lamps.

Luckily for us it never lasts too long. They're predicting the possibility of not sleet again, but snow tomorrow morning which means that the kids will probably have a third day off from school (which will make them deliriously happy). But outside of the days being overcast and dreary the rest of the week, the ice will more than likely be gone. 

Not here... we just close everything down (which is great as it never lasts too long)!

I did get 2 more quilts done - well, I got the pieces sewed together, but haven't done the borders or backing yet. It's rather comfortable to sew in the front room by the fire-place with the cats lounging on the chairs nearby for added support. And DH made *flan* from a recipe he saw on America's test kitchen. It was very good - and very rich.

That's about my news for the last few days. Don't have to cook tonight as I made a chicken broccoli quiche yesterday and we will have the left-overs tonight. 

Stay warm and stay safe!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

and the beat goes on...

Jack with Mardi Gras beads

Listened and watched the news about Mardi Gras in New Orleans last night. Apparently it was cold, but sunny  - so turned out fairly nice for the merry-makers.  My cousin said she'd gone to the parades earlier in the week, but stayed home Mardi Gras Day... too cold.

We never missed Mardi Gras when I was growing up. Mom and Dad took us to the parades and although we avoided the downtown area (a bit too crowded for kids - with people drinking and acting wild), we did shout the "throw me something, mister!" at the costumed people on the floats and were rewarded with tons of beads and junk!  These were usually *day parades*. As far as I can remember we only attended one night parade and the crazy people tossing fiery torches high into the air as they marched discouraged my mom from ever taking us again.

When we were in college, we attended in groups... usually roping ourselves together in the crowded downtown area.  It was fun... no incidents that I recall.  Lots of great music, food, and drink!  And some really crazy costumes! By that time, Mom and Dad had joined a Mardi Gras Club and were on their own float... dressed up and throwing Mardi Gras beads to the masses.

And today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  So it goes...

Nothing else today to report.  Still playing around with my little clay critters. Here's a few more pics:

orange kitty - under-glazed but not fired

sleepy kitty (a work in progress...)

Have a wonderful rest of the week!


Monday, February 16, 2015

aging and retirement issues...

Oh lord, I was so tired when I left pottery class Saturday.  We worked on the hand-built kilns from 9am until 4pm.  I didn't realize how leaning over a table and hand-building for that long would affect my back. When I got out of the car at home, my back seized up... and for a few moments I couldn't move. But it passed and after a cup of tea, a Tylenol, and a hot soak in the tub, things were better. Ah, the joys of getting older!

And now for some other *issues*...

this about covers it...

This blog was originally planned to be about *our retirement years*. And I guess it actually is since we are in the mist of them and thus, everything we do has to do with our life in retirement. But I do tend to go off on tangents and speak of other things - like cats, pottery, quilting, family, likes, dislikes, etc. - and may not stick strictly to *retirement issues*.  

But today I will... (or at least I will start out that way). This issue is the constantly increasing cost of things. Nothing new of course, but now that we're on a fixed income, it's become an issue. I guess the government refers to it as the cost of living increase and this CLI is included in many things... even social security. However, although it's included (and I'm grateful for that), it never really covers the actual increase. 

In general, most things are going to increase with time and even though I understand why they must (at least for the most part), it still becomes an issue. While perfectly able to cover our expenses, I do find myself juggling things around to meet the unexpected increases as they occur. Recently we dropped the daily newspaper delivery service as the price has gotten beyond what we thought was reasonable... and after all, it was a luxury (and if I'm going for luxuries, I'll take chocolate and coffee over the newspaper any day).

This week we found out that our Internet/Cable/Phone service was going up $60/month! When we called to check on this, we were told that the other price we had was just an Introductory price and the time span for the offer was over. We were never told this was an introductory price and asked them what we could do (change some programs, reduce our channels, take out the land-line, etc.) to go back to what we were originally paying. Nothing apparently. So we dropped them and took on another service - one which was happy to have us and gave us the same service for less than we were originally paying the other company. Again... a luxury I guess, but we aren't ready to do without these services altogether. I do need PBS!

So it all works out... but it's a constant juggling act. And I imagine this will continue in other areas as time goes on. For instance, at the moment and for the last 10 or so years, we have carried a Long Term Care Insurance policy.  This past year the payments increased by more than 50% and we had to negotiate with them (changing some of the benefits to fit the payment we could afford).  And I fear that in the next 10 years, they may *price us out* completely. 

I guess the retirement benefits (owning one's own time) continue to outweigh the disadvantages (juggling the increasing cost of living on a fixed income). But my concern lies in whether this balancing act may become more difficult with time and age.  Right now DH and I can easily sit down and figure out how to overcome obstacles. But will this be true 10 years down the road? And will we be here 10 years down the road? Do we even want to be?  

OK, now I'm getting maudlin (is that the right word? - maybe I mean morose?).  Either way, let's not go there. Right now things are fine and retirement is wonderful. This is today and life is now, right?   

Back to *other things*....  (but I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on retirement issues)

sun and salmon are my choices!

I went to see our Gastro-enterologist yesterday. It was just a 4 month follow-up visit and all is well. But he and I talked a bit about things in general.  I asked him his thoughts on cleansing diets (my daughter is on *The Clean Diet*), probiotics, the necessity of vitamins, the case for additional Vitamin D, and B12, etc. It turns out he and I agree that if you eat right and exercise and have no particular problem, there's no need for additional supplements. This was good to hear because every time I pick up a bottle of multivitamins and read the list of ingredients (and don't recognize all the chemical names written there) I end up putting it back on the shelf.  I don't know what those chemicals are and I don't want to put them in my body. But on the upside, it's obvious  that I could never have a problem with drugs when I can't even make myself take vitamins!

But I think we eat well (at least most of the time). I love to bake, but we generally give the bulk of my baking to the kids and grandkids leaving a few pieces for DH and I to have with our 4 o'clock tea or coffee. We only eat fresh fruits and veggies (never canned and very little frozen since my Oncologist recommended this almost 15 years ago). We do eat chicken and fish... and red meat (although not a lot). We use brown rice and whole wheat pastas and breads... and we do use regular sugar (never artificial sugars as they will bring on a migraine as well as make me feel awful - almost like the flu). We hardly ever eat fried foods and I don't deep fry anything at home. But we do both enjoy fried catfish on occasion. This seafood restaurant we like sends us a 2 for 1 coupon once a month and we do use it.

And speaking of coupons... we do clip and use them... but only for the products that we would normally buy anyway. It doesn't amount to much, but I'd say that out of a normal week, we may save on an average of $5 - not a big savings, but every little bit helps.

I'll leave you with this picture I found recently of a cat at the Vet's. It was on a blogger's site and I would gladly give them credit if I could just remember where I saw it. Since our *Ghost* is not feeling well today, it made me think of her. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

it's about time...

this speaks to me...

This addresses my concept of retirement pretty well. This as well as this next one:

I like this too. And we don't have to even call it *art* just creative exercises... letting our minds and hands play.

Here are a few of the little critters my hands sculpt in my free time between projects. Remember - they are what I call *rough sculpted* meaning I just find a picture of some critter that I like and see how fast I can do a rough sculpt of it.... sometimes changing a few things here and there as I see fit and not smoothing things out or making them more realistic. These have been under-glazed, but have not yet had a first firing. 

taken with my iPhone and on shelf at home drying

(I have more, but the others are still just clay, not under-glazed yet)

What do you do for fun?

There's joy in creating... and it seems to be found in the process (not necessarily in the end product). Probably everyone's idea of re-creation is different - but for me it's either getting lost in the process (whether it be in a story being written or read, an idea being sketched,  a recipe being put together, or a piece of clay being worked) or losing myself to nature (on a quiet empty beach or a deserted tree-lined path). This (IMO) is the true meaning of re-creation - a place or state of being where a person's soul is *restored*. I find that during this process the passage of time is not noticed. And at the end of that time, one feels almost reluctant to return to the real world, yet in some ways more able to deal with it.

I watched Linda's video of ballet, an art that is indeed a creative endeavor. And it brings me back to a question that has always meandered through my head... *What makes people lean towards these different interests or ways of expressing themselves?*  I know from Joanne's blog that her interest in weaving comes from her Aunt Laura. But what if there's no particular person or event that one knows about... ? From where did that inherit need arise? Is there some unknown genetic tie or is it a infinite combination of traits and environment that came together to form this affinity? It's probably not even of interest to anyone else, but I've always wondered... (why one person loves math and another hates it, etc.)

(and another one: why anyone in their right mind would ever want to go into politics? The only 2 reasons I can think of... the altruistic one - to right the wrongs of the world... and the one that seems to ring true - Power!) And  IMO more power to anyone who chooses to jump into that snake pit...  (Ignore this tangent. I do seem to go off track on occasion)

It's Valentine's Day tomorrow so I want to wish all of you a Happy Valentine's!  DH and I don't really celebrate this holiday, but we did buy ourselves some dark chocolate macaroons at the Godiva shop and a small New York strip steak that was marinated in espresso chocolate at Central Market for the occasion (actually we would have bought both those things anyway... Valentine's just gives us an excuse).

Here's an old Valentine pic of Jack and Tux...


Sunday, February 8, 2015

clay, fabric, doctors, grandkids, and guilt

It's been a busy week. One where I had a dentist appointment (I really really don't like to go to the dentist - not even for cleanings!), quilting, pottery class, and baby sitting 2 days this week. Now this may not seem like much for some of you who are extremely active, but for me it was a lot. And it's not that I don't enjoy all of it (except the dentist part) - because I do.... but I've found that I work better at a slower pace (having a quiet day once or twice a week works best).  

IMO - by now - we all know our own bodies, minds, and souls well enough to know under what conditions we work best. And I work best when the pace is not hectic. Not that I haven't had to endure hectic times. I imagine we all have. But some people (my daughter included) work best under these conditions. They like the pace, and feel lost when things slow down (although this may change as she ages). But age isn't the culprit in my case, I've always been more comfortable when there *time* to spare.  

Owning my own time is extremely important to me. And the freedom to do this since retirement is something I don't take lightly. Sometime I wonder why this is. Is it because we go from elementary school to high school to college to marriage to kids to work, to caring for parents - that this sudden free time offered by retirement is held so dear.  Although school and school work were never my favorite things, they were tolerated well and I got good grades. Marriage and kids filled my days with love and responsibility, work helped meet our expenses and I got to work with animals which was an additional boon , and taking care of mom when she moved in with us was a bittersweet joy.  

When I look back, I always disliked deadlines. If I could work at my own pace, life would be simpler. Of course there are always deadlines in life... but now... not so much. If I wake up and don't feel like doing something, I can just not do it (for the most part anyway). It's a small thing, but means so much. Perhaps because I own my own time, there's less guilt?

I can remember when being sick, I'd feel guilty if I didn't go in to work... because I knew it meant more work for someone else. Now looking back, not exposing others to illness is more important. Hindsight.  But guilt comes with the territory. Being brought up Catholic, guilt is built-in.  I remember somewhere sometime being told by one of the nuns that taught us that chewing gum made the Blessed Mother cry.  How's that for a guilt-getter for a child?  Fairly harmless, but effective. I never chewed gum.

Moving on - Here are a few photos of some pottery I'm playing around with:

And lastly, here are some pics of a few of my favorite things:

left to right: Julie, Molly, and Tux

Molly (21) hugging Tux

Great Dark Chocolate!

Oh, and my finished small quilt now looks like this:

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Freedom of Choice... my view

I wrote this blog a while back, but never posted it - probably because it touches on personal beliefs that some may find offensive. Personally I find that people tend to be too easily offended these days... (IMO)

This is one of those sayings that are a big part of my philosophy. My thoughts are generally expressed a little differently, but mean the same. I believe that our choices decide our lives... and while we are free to choose, we must also be accountable.

Those last words, *be accountable* are extremely important because there are not many (if any) people in the world who have gone through life without having made a few bad choices. And that's OK, as long as we realize that even those bad choices played a part in who we now are. We have to "own" them... maybe even forgive ourselves for them... although I find the later one of the hardest things to do. 

How does one forgive one's self? So much easier to forgive others. I can always forgive another by convincing myself that their intention was not to hurt. This doesn't work when dealing with myself... not meaning that my intention was to hurt... but because the fact exists that I did cause hurt... intentional or not... and that in itself is painful (and hard to forgive).

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”    

This is another quote that I believe holds a lot of truth...

Recently I read a blog that was talking about quotes and essays similar to these. What I took from that post was that the writer thought the author of these words "preachy".  IMO the fact that a person believes these things are helpful in life in no way promises that the author follows through... only believes that there are some truth in these words and wants to share. 

Lots of quotes exist.  Some strike home with some of us, and some fly right over our heads. Some that we've heard a thousand times and meant nothing, suddenly ring true. Why? I have no idea. But I believe that we are a wonder unto ourselves - meaning each of us is unique and there's something marvelous about that. 

This is why I feel that the bible which is always being poked, prodded, and translated... is a very special book... not because it was passed on to us by Christ (as significant as that is), but because it speaks to each of us in a different way.  There is no one way, but as many paths as there are people.