Monday, May 30, 2011

A Day to Remember

Memorial Day.  For me, Memorial Day has always been more than barbecues and a day at the beach.  My grandfather died in World War II, so Memorial Day is a day of ceremony and reflection.  In the small town where I grew up, the tradition was for the children to place potted geraniums on the graves with American flags on them.  I did that in the two cemeteries in the center of town when I was a Girl Scout.  At that time, the flags marked those who had been soldiers from the Revolutionary War through the Vietnam War.  Both of my grandfathers were buried in one of the cemeteries and I always made sure to place a geranium on one grandfather's grave and to go with my cousin to the other grandfather's tombstone.

 When I got to high school, I was in band, so Memorial Day was a day of parades.  Nine towns went to my high school, so we usually marched in 2 or 3 parades.  Always we'd march down the Main Street of the town and stop in the town cemeteries where the color guard would salute with their guns and 2 trumpet players would play Taps.  In one town, a flowered wreath was thrown into the river to honor those lost at sea.

Today, I'm in the local community band where we play a Memorial Day service at a local retirement village every year.  Many of the residents are World War II veterans.  As I watch them during the concert, it makes me think about how many lives are changed when a family member goes to war.  I wonder about my own small family - what my grandfather was like; how my grandmother's, great uncle's, and father's lives might have been different; if I would have had aunts and uncles and cousins - because my grandfather didn't come back from war.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Just Ridin' Around

Despite the gas prices, I like to ride around and see the scenery.  I think it may be genetic since everyone else in my family seems to do that too.  I had my husband totally lost when I first took him to my hometown because we'd go one way to get somewhere and take a different route back.  Then we went out to dinner with my dad and he did the same thing so my husband stopped being paranoid that I was just trying to confuse him so he couldn't escape on his own.

As part of the Lost Communities of Virginia project, we're working on a driving tour of Southside Virginia.  Yesterday, my husband and I went out to check the tour route so far.  It's tobacco country so there are lots of fields and farms and log structures.  Pretty back roads, wonderful patina-ed buildings with worn wood and rusted metal, red clay and freshly hayed fields, and nice views.  It was fun to find the occasional old store or gas station still open.  A nice afternoon of just ridin' around.    

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I'm in the midst of some life changes here. I've blogged about the books I have out this spring, book tours, and the trials of my introverted self.  But I'm also leaving one of my two part-time jobs.  I'm trying diligently to empty my brain of all the information my replacement will need and also planning one last event that will happen at the end of the month. 

I've had this job for a little over 4 years. Most of that time working 15 hours a week doing a job that should be 40 hours a week at least and would better be done by several people with full time jobs.  I recently got an extra 5 hours a week which lets me get paid when I have to come in early or work on the weekend for an event.

I gave my notice 2 weeks ago.  Today they were finally talking about how to replace me and have decided, despite the 3 page job description that I wrote, that the job is really only about answering the phone, giving tours, and going to meetings so it can be done in 10 hours a week.  Never mind the marketing, website, social media, financial management, purchasing, employees, etc. etc. etc.  I can't wait until the 31st.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Living With Fame

This spring's earlier brush with fame was pretty localized.  I wrote a book about the county I live in so the interested audience is much smaller.  I did a couple of book signings locally. I knew many of the people that attended.  I got good practice being an extrovert.  That was that. Back to my introverted self.

Well now I have another book out. This one is about the state. The audience grows. The publicity grows. I no longer know all of my fans.  The local practice was good, but I'm going big time (on the state scale) now!  I had a TV appearance and was on a live radio program.  I have taped 3 radio spots that haven't aired yet.  I have a presentation next week that will be on YouTube and other book signings and presentations scheduled in various places throughout the state.  My poor introverted self is cringing!

But you know what?  This week wasn't so bad.  I think because I know that I don't have to do this all the time, it's okay.  And because my husband was there to take care of the details like getting me to where I needed to go.  I managed to make sense in the live spot.  I looked fine on TV.  I answered questions at the book signing.  I'm learning to make small talk.  I'll get through it.  I'll try not to turn into a diva!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Beautiful Drive

We live in the mountains of Southwest Virginia.  The mountains are always with us, everywhere you look.  They might be topped with snow, shrouded in clouds, hazy, crisp, touched with a wisp of fog, green, red, blue, just depends on the day.  The trip to and from work is beautiful and always different depending on the temperature, time of day, light, precipitation, season. 

The mountains are part of life here and we take them for granted.  There are beautiful views, but they are seldom photographed, just viewed from the car or house window.  I have views from the tops of the mountains to the main road, but no photographs from the road to the mountains.  Today seemed particularly pretty.  I'm not sure if it was the fact that spring has reached the tops of the mountains, the way the light was creating shadows in the valleys like a green leafy blanket covering the slopes, that it was clear enough to pick out the individual trees, the warm weather, or if it was just my mood.  A beautiful drive. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

One UFO Finished!

I finally finished a 2010 Christmas present this weekend and removed a UFO from my list! The present, which I gave my sister-in-law unfinished at Christmas, is a Swedish Embroidery blanket.  I finished the main part of the embroidery in December, but didn't get the blanket stitch edging done until Saturday.  I don't see her often so I had procrastinated, then completely forgotten about it.  We're going to see her next week, so it was time.  It's been freshly washed and decatted too, important since the Smiling Cat helped me make it and my sister-in-law is allergic to cats. 

If you aren't familiar with Swedish Embroidery, it's essentially yarn woven through monk's cloth which has a distinctive weave of 4 horizontal and 4 vertical threads per block.  I learned the technique in a short class and I decided to try something larger. You can buy the monk's cloth at JoAnn's and other fabric stores along with an instruction book.  I followed a pattern book for this blanket, though I might try creating my own design if I make another.  They suggest using acrylic yarn so that the blanket is completely machine washable, but I'm a bit of a yarn snob, so I used wool which handles much better.  That just means the blanket has to be hand washed and dried, though I used the hand wash cycle of my washing machine which worked just fine.

Glad to move the blanket from UFO to FO status!

Friday, May 6, 2011


The Smiling Cat and my husband have a difficult relationship.  He's more of a dog person and doesn't want to like her on principle (but secretly does anyway).  She doesn't want to upset me by hanging out with him and potentially dissing the hand that feeds her.  So the Smiling Cat only hangs out with my husband when she's desperate or I'm not in the room.  Usually, she'll jump down from his chair just before I enter and will try to look all nonchalant cat-like as she breezes past.

But, we were gone on vacation for a week and apparently things got especially lonely and desperate because not only did she hang out with my husband, but she relaxed on him like he's one of her cushy cat beds.  She even let me come in the room, leave and get  the camera, and come back and take pictures.  Maybe I've been replaced?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

It's a Jungle Out There

Vacation tip #1: Don't "Weed and Feed" the yard just before you go on vacation.  Our lawn is about hay-worthy.  It's so deep the bunnies are likely to get lost if they don't eat faster.  And then, it's either rained or we've been busy every evening since we got back.  And so, we've got a jungle.

Not our yard, but still jungly.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Confession Time

Time to confess: the week of digital cold turkey?  It was a week at the beach.  How hard can it be to stay away from all those bright screens when the waves are crashing outside the door and the soft sand and warm sun are beckoning?  Not so hard at all.

I had to bring my cell phone with me due to some potential scheduling needs at work.  Since I barely use it except to talk to my husband who was with me and it's just a basic call and text model, it seemed fine for the digital cold turkey week.  My dad's wife texted to wish us a Happy Easter.  Somewhat unusual, but still in the cold turkey realm.

Then the storm from hell passed through our home area in the middle of the night along with its hail and tornadoes.  Our county has a Code Red warning system that calls when there's an emergency.  We had tornado warnings so my phone started ringing up a storm (so to speak).  I work for the local university that also calls for emergencies.  More phone calls.  In the middle of the night.  Glad the system works.  Glad there wasn't any damage at home.  But, sheesh, that made for a long night.  Apparently cold turkeys gobble.