Archive for November, 2011

Great Thanksgiving

Katie came home for Thanksgiving and that was a very good thing.  She flew into Little Rock Wednesday afternoon, and we drove down, picked her up, and went to my parents’ house.  It was really wonderful to have ALL SIX of us together for a few days.

We had a good visit with my folks, got to spend some time with brother, his daughter and her boyfriend, and ate lots of (as usual) wonderful food.  I had two private personal goals for the trip, and I was able to achieve both of them, so I felt successful.

We did yea and verily rake the back yard and portions of the side yard, as is our custom on Thanksgiving morning.  My mom has this nifty mini-rake that is perfect for beating the fallen leaves off the azalea and other bushes and then pulling them out from under said.  Jessica hit the ivy (truly a labor of love) while I tackled the bushes, and together, we got most of the backyard bushes and their surrounding areas clear of leaves.  We felt quite a sense of accomplishment.

That is, until the Llama appeared (barefoot, of course) on the roof with leaf blower in hand.  We won’t go into who had which ideas when about what, but Some Males decided that it would be good to get the leaves off the roof, too.  Yes, I would agree that that is a good idea, but in this case, the timing was poor.  When the Beast of Burden began raining down great showers of oak leaves on all the bushes and walkways that Jessica and I had so dutifully cleared, I – and I am guessing that I can speak for Jessica, too – almost wanted to cry!  Instead, we took deep breaths, waited till the leaf storm from above abated, and re-did all the work we had already done once.

I am fully persuaded that next year we should send the Llama up on the roof first, perhaps while the rest of us enjoy a leisurely breakfast, and only head out with rakes to conquer the yard once he’s given us the “all clear” from the roof.

Sleeping at my parents’ house when all six of us are present is always a bit of a challenge, but I think we managed pretty well.  Without setting up a tent out back, a percentage of us slept a percentage of the hours we were horizontal, and for that, we were all thankful.

I have also been clearly informed that Grandma’s Blue Bell ice cream (at some $6+ per carton) is vastly superior to the $3 per carton Great Value that’s stocked at home.  Well, ice cream is one of those cases where you really do get what you pay for, and it’s just an added incentive to go back to to Grandma and Grandpa’s house!

Now, when I was a kid, we went to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, too, but their ice cream was Graeter’s.  Ahhhhhh!  Just for grins, I went to their website and learned that I could order 12 pints (the minimum order) to be delivered to my home via UPS air for the princely sum of $120.  Let’s see, now. . . there are two pints in a quart and two quarts in a half gallon, so at $10 a pint delivered, we’d be looking at $40 for a half gallon.  That’s even a bit pricier than Blue Bell, but I choose to believe that it’s still the best ice cream in the whole wide world.  Oh, and there’s only one flavor:  chocolate chip.

Feed the birds

That’s a song from “My Fair Lady,” I think.  I like to see birds in our yard, and as everyone knows, the best way to see the birds is to feed the birds.

When we moved to our home over 15 years ago, it came equipped with a nice big wooden bird feeder on a pole in the back yard.  The pole was mounted in concrete in the bed of pink peonies, and the feeder featured clear plexiglass sides and sported a hinged roof, into which, over the years, we dumped innumerable hundreds of pounds of black oil sunflower seed.

Of course, the neighborhood squirrels all know our street address, and it took us quite a lot of experimenting to figure out how to squirrel-proof the pole.  I could give you a list of all things that didn’t work, but I guess all that really matters is the one that did:  an inverted massive plastic dome mounted on the pole about two feet below the feeder.  The dome kept the squirrels from climbing up the pole, but it did not keep them out of the feeder.

Walnut Shade squirrels are a uniquely resourceful sub-species.  They quickly figured out how to climb local trees and/or the smokehouse and fling themselves bodily out onto the roof of the feeder.  They landed with a “thunk” that caused the whole pole to quiver, and even though we have repeatedly trimmed back trees to prevent their acrobatics, they continue to launch themselves with a vengeance.  We have actually watched them leap 15 to 20 feet and stick their landings, gripping their claws catlike into the gradually-rotting wooden feeder roof.

A few months ago, what we greatly feared did finally come upon us.  A male person graciously filled the bird feeder for me, and when he dropped the lid shut, one of the plexiglass sides shattered.  (A male person is reading this post over my shoulder, and he has informed me that the actual reason for the shattering is that a number of years ago, Josiah shot the plexiglass with a BB gun, rendering it structurally weak, causing it to gradually splinter more and more over time and eventually shatter upon roof-dropping impact.  The male person presenting that information is not Josiah.)

Once the plexiglass side was removed in all its shardiness, there was no way to hold the seed in, and so the bird feeder could not be filled.  This was sad for me, sad for the birds, and inconvenient for the squirrels.  The lonely, broken bird feeder stood sentinel on its pole, empty for over two MONTHS, much to my displeasure.

For my birthday, I asked for a bird feeder.  Knowing that in our family, if there’s a certain gift you would like, it’s best to give folks a link to the specific item, I went online to research bird feeders, and I learned that (A) you can no longer buy one a wooden one like our dead one, (B) bird feeder technology has come a long way in the past 20 years, and (C) even a smaller replacement costs an arm and a leg. I was looking for a durable, LARGE (doesn’t have to be filled so often), pole-mountable bird feeder with an easy-open roof.  Easy-open roof is a priority, because although right now Josiah or Andrew fill the feeder, I am smart enough to know that someday those guys will be gone and the task will fall to me.  I, being slight of stature, need a roof that’s easy to open, as I have to strain on tip-toe to do so.

Choosing to temporarily ignore cost, I did locate what I thought would be a quite acceptable bird feeder.  It was metal, which meant it would not rot.  It was pole-mountable, which meant (hopefully) that we could just unscrew the old one and screw on the new one.  It was green (although it also came in blue), which I thought would blend in well with the great outdoors.  It had a “huge”eight-quart seed capacity, which led me to believe that it would surely be even larger than our rotting relic.  But best of all, its little perches that the birds stand on while they eat were spring-loaded and adjustable; meaning that you can set the tension for the weight of birds you want to prohibit from accessing the seed, and when an overweight bird (or a bushy-tailed high flying rodent) steps onto the perch to feed, his own weight slams shut a little window that leaves him looking at the seed but unable to access it!  BRILLIANT!  I won’t mention the price of this nifty contraption, but it was not cheap.

Scott asked me to order myself the bird feeder for my birthday!

It arrived via UPS, and it sat in its large box under the dining room desk for quite a while, mainly because I was afraid to open it and find out that it wouldn’t work on our pole.  I can be silly that way at times.  However, I did eventually open it, and it was truly a thing of beauty.  It is smaller than the former feeder, but that’s just fine.

Scott and Josiah jumped through a lot of hoops and used a lot of tools and did a lot of going in and out and measured and compared a lot of things and discussed a  lot of options, but eventually they did figure out a way to mount that puppy on our existing pole.  Josiah also set the spring-load mechanism to allow blue jays and disallow squirrels, and the feeder is working BEAUTIFULLY!!!  I am so very pleased.

We are seeing all kinds of birds at the new feeder, and so far the only squirrels have been those who sit at the bottom of the pole, gaze upward longingly, and say to each other things like, “Well, son, when I was your age, we leaped off that branch right there and landed on the roof of that feeder.  I can still remember what black oil sunflower seed tastes like. . . “

Slower than Christmas?

That would be my trusty computer.  Right now, it’s kind of grunting and groaning under the weight of SO MANY gigabytes of memory in use. The little PC machine is getting older and slower, and it simply has to work harder to do all the tasks I expect of it.

Actually, my brain experiences similar overload responses several times a week.

But back to the computer. . . methinks it may finally be time to break down and buy a new one.  This situation has gendered much research and commentation in Walnut Shade as of late.

I have clearly stated what I want my computer to do:

~ Run Word, Excel, Firefox, Quicken, and QuickBooks with ease (and Publisher with difficulty, because I hate it)

~ Be compatible with our dinosaur version of Rosetta Stone, so Andrew can at least finish Spanish

~ Run and burn CDs

~ Run DVDs

~ Have multiple USB ports on the front to plug things in to

~ Accommodate mini-plug earphones (also with front jacks)

~ Run Lotus Organizer, or some similar scheduling program that can import my current stuff from Lotus

I think that’s about it, but there have been all kinds of discussions about things like laptops, big monitors, huge monitors, more than one monitor, desk rearrangements, and lots of words that I can’t even define, much less use intelligently in a sentence.  I have taken the Ostrich Approach to Computer Upgrades, which means giving your opinion, sitting back, waiting to see if something new appears, and if it does choosing to be thankful for it and attempt to learn all its new features with minimal frustration.

I’m a little concerned about that frustration thing.  Historically, I would not fall into the category of those given to change.  To say the very least.  I know that with whatever new computer lands on my desk, I will have to (A) learn a whole new operating system – note that the transition from 97 to XP was not without challenge, and now I will be staring down 7 each time I look at my screen; (B) learn new versions of Word and Excel – which, just from looking over other 7 users’ shoulders, I can tell are not set up in ways that are maximally congruent with my brain chemistry; and (C) do all that without owners’ manuals for reference, because nobody prints real books like that anymore – note that this lack of printed instruction leads invariably to either stress in the marriage (when I ask Scott for help) or frustration in the Pelican/Llama symbiosis (when I ask Josiah for help).

I am hopeful that one or more of the girls will be around when this grand shift occurs, as they tend to deal with me and my computer issues a bit more slowly, logically, and patiently than do some of the males in the household.

Then there’s the whole issue of learning to use a laptop as a laptop.  I really like the idea of a laptop; there are just a few specifics about them that are difficult for me:  their keyboards, their mice (their mice are MUCH worse than their keyboards), and their screens (which you have to keep adjusting to be able to see).  Then you also have the issue of charging their batteries and plugging and unplugging all the peripherals (my beloved keyboard, my beloved mouse, my critically important external hard drive, etc.)

Of course, I think my preference would be to use the laptop as a desktop (which is why Josiah suggested just getting me a new desktop), but while I may be perfectly content with that set-up, I fear that if my laptop just sits on my desktop and never moves, Scott will be frustrated that he spent the extra money and tried to set me up with a mobile system that I don’t use. That is to say, another opportunity for marital stress, which we would like to avoid.

The final issue as I see it – pun intended – concerns my 51-year-old eyes.  With my monitor at arm’s length, I can focus in my mid-range lenses.  However, the text has to be large enough for me to see it.  Once a laptop gets mounted up on a stand and moves 8 to 10 inches farther from my face, the text will have to be quite a bit larger in order for me to read it comfortably.  Some people may consider that font size downright huge.

One of the reasons Scott wants me to have a HUGE monitor is so that I can put two windows on it, side by side.  Now, that may well be a useful set-up, but it seems to me that if you want to put two windows on a screen where you used to put one, the text will have to be half as big, and it may well be that the aforementioned 51-year-old eyes won’t be able to read that text.

Ah, well.  I’m glad that I have chosen not to stress about this.  In fact, the only computer stresses I’ve had so far today have been when my computer wouldn’t let me update an email address in gmail, when it wouldn’t let me view my in-box, and when it wouldn’t let me play Words with Friends (online scrabble) with Katie.  Thankfully, after moaning to Josiah about those woes, I was able to come up with work-arounds:  I got on Scott’s computer to tend the email issues, and I conceded the game to Katie.

So far, I can still post to wordpress, and it seems to be not quite as slow as Christmas now.  = )



Creek road decor and. . . music?

In the past few weeks, some unknown person(s) have been turning our local creek road into a trash dump.

First, a TV and piece of carpet appeared in the little parking area near the bridge.

Last week, a small sofa, a filing cabinet, and a big box of junk appeared about 100 feet on down the road. These eyesores have been bothering me when I walk down by the creek, but I try to ignore them and go on down to the section I like best.

However, insult was definitely added to injury when Scott and I walked the entire length of the road – all the way to the low water bridge – this past Saturday. A half mile down, just past everyone’s favorite swimming hole, a larger file cabinet and a brown refrigerator had been dumped! This was the last straw for Walnut Shade Mom. I told Scott that someone needed to do something about this, and I know from experience that whenever I say that, the someone usually ends up being me.

I was really steamed. Our creek road is one of the loveliest walks you can imagine, and to have so much JUNK piled along the road was simply unconscienable. (Is that word spelled right?) What bugged me more than the trash itself was the fact that even if we could figure out how to get someone to come haul it all off, since we didn’t know who was dumping it, they might return with another load at any time. Sigh. I not only wanted the mess cleaned up; I wanted the culprit ARRESTED!

Imagine my shock and awe then, when, just as we emerged back onto the highway, a black SUV pulling a flatbed trailer turned down the creek road. A woman was driving it, and a young man of about 14 was in the passenger seat.

Now, you must understand that the creek road doesn’t go anywhere. It follows the creek upstream for a mile, then crosses the low water bridge and ends at a posted piece of property with a locked gate. On the other side of the gate is a large field that is, in some years, mowed for hay. On the very far left side of the field, not visible from the gate, is a house that, to the best of my knowledge is usually vacant. In other words, the ONLY reason to drive down the creek road is to view the natural beauty and turn around and drive back out.

So this SUV pulling a flatbed trailer would look a little out of place anyway. It was shiny clean SUV, and the creek road is first VERY muddy withe several unavoidable deep puddles, and later a afoot deep in loose gravel. Driving the creek road is not for the faint of heart or wimpy of vehicle. In fact, we don’t presently own a vehicle that could drive down there without getting stuck.

But THIS SUV was very special, because mounted on the flatbed trailer that it was pulling – and fastened down by several orange ratchet straps – was a brown baby grand piano. No, I’m not kidding. Yes, only in Walnut Shade. WHY anyone in her right mind would pull a baby grand piano down the muddy, deeply rutted, gravelly-enough-to-send-you-fishtailing creek road is totally beyond me, but I did get her license plate number. And I did sit on our front porch for 50 minutes, waiting and watching to see if she came back out with the piano or without it.

She never came out, and all we can figure is that she wanted to shoot some video of her son playing the piano out in the woods with the birds singing and the creek rushing by in the background – probably to enter into some talent contest.

In any case, the next time I walk down the creek road, I will be scanning for abandoned baby grands, and the county has already assured me that they will have someone out in a few days to investigate and hopefully haul off any non-musical trash littering that roadside.

Trying to re-establish my blogging habit

It’s been a little challenging, because right now, the most important things going on are more internal challenges and changes (heart issues), as opposed to activities that are interesting to write about.  I am very blessed and excited to be experiencing God’s love in deeper ways than every before.  He is most gracious and good!

Here’s one practical thing.  I think it stinks that gmail changed its whole look, and when my Llama-Tech assistant switched me from Chrome back to Firefox, I also have smaller text that’s hard to read.  No non-geek person should have to deal with TWO such significant changes on the same day.

We have a new church, and I like it.  Our pastor’s sermon last night was entitled “Conflict Resolution.”  It was really powerful and made me do a lot of thinking.  When I’m not blogging, I’m generally thinking and trying to process what I’m learning.  Some of us learn new tricks rather slowly, so it takes a lot of time.

Tonight I won a game of hearts.  That’s a game that I always lose, so my victory was both unusual and pleasant.  We also learned that while Jessica can raise one eyebrow and Andrew can raise one ear, Scott can raise one nostril!  Oh, the grand trivia one can learn from walnutshademom!

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