Saturday, January 9, 2010

New Interest, New Blog

As you may have noticed, I'm not really posting to Sunnispace anymore. You can now catch me posting to The 12 Charities of Christmas: http://12charities.blogspot.com/. I've started this blog from new family charitable giving program idea that I had to keep the spirit of giving alive throughout the year!

I'm also posting charitable activities and all good stuff happening in our little corner of the world to my CharityJen twitter account: http://twitter.com/CharityJen

Hope to catch some of my old blogging buddies there!

Much love and many blessings to you...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Giving the dog a bone...

We were wondering what happened to Dasher's bone. We gave him this huge hokin' steamship round one day and he sat happily on the front porch knawing away. About an hour later, we realized he was just relaxing in the sun... no bone to be found!

How could this huge thing have disappeared in one hour? It was impossible! We figured another dog or curious kid came by and took it... although the fact that we heard no growling or other disturbance was a little unusual.

A few weeks later we got him another bone. Same size... huge. This time, we kept an eye on him. We watching him drag it to different areas of the yard. But, we had to go to dinner. We figured he'd be safe in the backyard with the bone... no other dogs... no kids.

But wouldn't you know it, the bone disappeared once again. This time, however, we had evidence. A few little smudges of dirt on his nose and paws told the story. He had buried it!

"What in the world?", we said. Why is Dasher buying his bones? Do dogs even do that anymore? Apparently so.
This article from PetPlace.com confirms this natural instinct:

Although dogs have been around for millions of years, they have only been domesticated for a few thousand years, and they spent a lot of time developing behaviors that helped them to survive. Being carnivores, dogs might sometimes kill a prey animal large enough to feed the entire pack, like a moose or a mammoth. Alternatively, when small prey animals were abundant , they might kill many of these bite-sized creatures. Either way, they often found themselves with more food than they could eat at once. However, they could never be sure when they would be able to find and kill another prey, and much time could pass – sometimes weeks – without them finding another meal. So to be on the safe side, they carried the bones, which were filled with nutrient-rich marrow, back to their lair, and buried them nearby. When food was scarce, they could always rely on the bones to keep them fed.

The article concludes with the question: "So, why do dogs bury bones in the ground? Because it's in their nature."

We've since discovered his secret burying place: a small corner of the garden beneath a pile of leaves. I don't want to disturb it to see if both bones are resting there, lest he choose another place in the yard, but it will be inconvenient when we plant our vegetables this year. Perhaps what he really needs is his own lair. We'll have to look into that...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Snow in the South

It's a pretty well known fact that the wonderful folks of North Carolina are not really "snow-savvy." The salt trucks get used maybe 2 or 3 times every year, usually for ice. Snow is just now seen very much in these parts and when it is, we really don't know how to act. There is a running joke that at the start of a winter weather advisory, North Carolinian's crave french toast... we all run to the store to buy bread, eggs and milk.

Four years ago, we had about an inch of snow hit in the afternoon during a weekday. The schools closed and everyone rushed from work to pick up their kids. Unfortunately, we were all on the roads before the salt trucks had a chance to run and every bit of road turned to ice. The Triangle experienced the biggest gridlock that was ever seen - roads were lined for over 10 hours with cars going nowhere. (It took me 5 hours to travel a normal 40 minute commute!)

Last week, the Triangle was hit with a snow storm - the biggest in 5 years! Luckily, we saw it coming and the salt trucks treated the roads before the storm hit. Schools closed the night before so kids had all day to enjoy the 5 inches of snow that fell blissfully from the frosty sky.

Despite growing up in Pennsylvania, I am in love with snow. Perhaps it's because I haven't seen it as often as I used to, but I d
elight in big, soft snowflakes swirling like feathers after a pillow fight - slow and dreamy with nowhere to go but right in my front yard.

Last year we were supposed to have a big snow storm but it never materialized. I was on pins and needles waiting for it and was hugely disappointed that it didn't come. But this year was a dream come true! The snow fell for almost 10 hours. Even though I was at the computer working from home, I could watch the snow fall and fall and fall. It was fantastic!

I was especially happy for my daughter and the kids in the neighborhood. They found a new sledding hill and frolicked in the snow until they were practically frozen. My dryer was on all day long as my daughter would come in ever
y couple of hours to exchange wet hats and gloves for dry, warm ones. What a joy to hear their laughter and see their excitement. I, too, took some time to walk around in the winter wonderland - well worth the 5 year wait!

See more photos of our beautiful snow at Sunniviews!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Exploring the NC Flea Market

There is an extraordinary flea market held every weekend at the Fairgrounds in Raleigh. Vendors, antique dealers and junk peddlers from all over the country come to sell their wares at the outdoor venue. We've been going to the flea market periodically for years. The ornate iron pieces framing a large picture in our kitchen came from a woman who calls herself the "Iron Maiden" and travels all over country rescuing gorgeous iron from deteriorating old buildings. We've purchased bamboo wind chimes, bits of jewelry, skeleton keys, old postcards, stained glass and, my favorite find, the elusive monkey coconut.

Last weekend, we visited the flea market again. My husband found an antique chef's tasting spoon, I found an adorable miniature porcelain doggie and, after careful consideration of many tables, my daughter decided on an antique tin ray gun (just like the movies!) It was amusing to listen to the conversations among the vendors: one asked another to look for a certain type of knife with a particular stamp on it, one called to a rather large man named "Tiny" and said he saw a friend of his at a show in Texas, yet another couple argued over the purchase of an antique toy ("I told you not to spend that much on it - we'll never sell the dang thing.")

My husband bought some of his favorite boiled peanuts to eat while we wandered. I prefer the fresh popcorn and my daughter likes the whole pickles. This time, the woman at the counter called her the "Pickle Princess."

Wandering around in the brisk January air and searching for unusual trinkets is such a relaxing Sunday activity. The NC Flea Market is a gem its own!

View more photos of flea market treasures at Sunniviews.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I Choose The Jeep

In a world filled with grueling traffic, aggressive drivers, flat tires and cracked windshields, it's nice to see a positive message on the road every once in a while.

Last week, as I was driving to Qdoba's for "Dollar Taco Tuesday" day with my friends from work, I noticed a bumper sticker on a bright yellow jeep that said "The Meaning of Life is to LIVE IT." Below the sticker, the license place said "NJYLIFE"... Enjoy life!

When I saw "NJYLIVE", it reminded me of two others I noticed on the highways recently, "HGURKDS" (Hug Your Kids) and "PEACENU" (Peace In You.) It's interesting how these inspiring messages can refocus your attention to more important things in life, instead of grumbling about the guy who doesn't use a turn signal or the chic who just ran a red light while talking on a cell phone. These three license plates remind me of the importance of my family and make me thankful for the abundance of blessings in my life.

What a stark difference that peaceful feeling was to the one I felt when a monstrous, black truck with shaded windows and jacked up tires came barreling through traffic the other day, it's 6-foot long antennae swinging wildly. The truck was plastered with confederate flags, deer-hunter symbols, profane stickers about guns and country, and threats of violence for getting too close to it's bumper.

Theories of an apocalypse-type of event occurring in the year 2012 are starting to emerge and I can't help but wonder, "what if". What if all communication ceased, what if grocery stores were completely out of food, what if we were the survivors of a catastrophic world event? Amidst all the scenarios that run through my mind, I keep coming back to the yellow jeep and the black truck. If we did survive, it is my great hope that I survive with the yellow jeep folks.

On my own car, I have a bumper sticker that says "Breathe Deeply." One day, after dropping my daughter off at school, the gym coach who directs traffic stopped me and said, "I love your bumper sticker! I always tell my kids that it's so important to breathe deeply, to keep breathing - it helps us stay calm and resolve conflict. I love seeing your car in the morning, it's a great reminder!"

I truly believe that our actions and words have a chain reaction in this life. A kind word, a smile, an act of assistance to another can help create a more positive world. I'm so grateful for the yellow jeep and all the cars that spread peace and joy among us. We need it!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Door Decoration Winners Announced

Every year, the organization that I work for holds several holiday events. Among the Christmas party and potluck lunches, we have a door decorating competition. You may remember my post from last year about my design based on a quote I found: "A single candle can light a thousand and not be diminished... Happiness never dwindles when it is shared." I created a cardboard cutout Christmas tree, poked Christmas lights through the back and made strands of little cutout people decorated with glitter hearts to use as garland for the tree.

This year was a little different because I'm no longer in a cubicle. My team and I have moved into an office togeth
er (formerly a conference room) so our door decoration was a 3-person effort. My friend Maxine found a huge cardboard Santa that we used as the central focus. We thought we'd incorporate all of our kids in the design and opted for using their faces peeking out of the window of a house nearby. We created a winter-wonderland snow scene and left cookies by the door.

The winners were announced at our holiday party and we were shocked to learn that we had won first prize! What an honor! (It must have been because of those adorable kids!)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Rest In Peace, Sweet One

Just a follow up to my post from earlier this summer, Irresistable Pets, our sweet little Pumpkin-cat crossed over to cat heaven in September of last year. Pumpkin was a surprise birthday present from my husband in 1995 when we lived in San Francisco. We thought our big baby Johnny Walker Black (our first pet we acquired in Key West in 1994, who also passed away 3 years ago from liver failure, of all things) needed a friend to play with. They were indeed the best of friends, often heard playing "Cat-Olympics" in the middle of the night.

We are blessed to still have Paprika and Dasher but miss both Pumpkin and Johnny Black terribly. We are certain they are happily playing Cat-Olympics once again somewhere in the vast expance of the universe.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Honored!

Just a note... I'm honored to be featured on a literary blog called "A Bunch of Wordz: A blog for people who like to read" with my post from a few months ago about advice from the 1800's taken from a funny book I found in a thrift store. How special to have been featured on December 13! If you'd like to read the post on the Wordz page, click here!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sandman and Fairyland

I truly believe that the Sandman dreads Christmas Eve. While kids around the world anticipate this night more than any other night of the year, the Sandman probably grits his teeth and exclaims "in eight hours it will be over!" Because, guess what? All kids under the age of 12 are immune to the Sandman and his powers of blissful sleep. I am certain of this because year after year, we are awaken multiple times from our blissful sleep by our anxious daughter and her anticipation of Christmas morning.

This year was no different but we set the limit
of the final 'rise and shine' at 6:00 am. And despite the two clocks waiting by her bedside, surprisingly, she woke at 6:30 am.

We had a wonderful morning with our own family tradition of Bailey's and coffee (for the adults, obviously) and bagels with lox, cream cheese, capers, tomatoes, and red onion. Dasher got a big old bone, my husband got his much anticipated pressure cooker, I got my much anticipated carved wooden Santa and my daughter got her much anticipated Playmobil Magic Castle.

Imagine my surprise, however, when the box containing said castle, was filled with about 2,000 little itty bitty pieces and an instruction booklet about 20 pages long! "Some Assembly Required" was an understatement. I spent 2 hours of our lovely Christmas morning putting this thing together. As my beautiful daughter quipped "It's just like a puzzle, Mom!" Of course, s
weetie, how could I be so exasperated!?! I relaxed, sipped my Bailey's and coffee, and realized that I was in for the long haul.

The Magic Castle, however, turned our to be quite enchanting. My daughter started playing with Playmobil toys a few years ago when I came home with one of their Advent Calendars. What I love about these toys is their simplicity. They are timeless in their design. My daughter has been playing with them every since. The Magic Castle was the icing on the cake. The day after Christmas, a group of neighborhood kids were huddled around it playing kings and queens in a fairyland far, far away. What fun!

This year we started a new holiday tradition in
our neighborhood of caroling with the kids in the neighborhood. I think our poor elderly neighbor's were stunned by a group of 15 kids barreling into their front yards singing "Here Comes Santa Clause" at the top of their lungs, because only two folks of the 7 houses we visited even came to the door. No matter... the kids enjoyed hot chocolate and cookies at our house afterward and the adults enjoyed my husband's new Hot Spiced Wine recipe (which we proceeded to enjoy at every family gathering this season!)

So, if you're curious, here are some of the ingredients for the Spiced Wine: Merlot or Cabernet, apple cider, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, all spice, fresh squeezed oranges with rind. Heat and serve (do not boil) - yum!


A lovely Chri
stmas, indeed!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Our Little News Anchor

My daughter's school has a little news station where they make all the morning announcements. Every year, they select a new "Tech Crew." Lots of kids apply, but they can only choose 50. Imagine our surprise when my daughter was chosen! She is the 2008/09 Tuesday Morning News Anchor. Quite an honor!

Here is her debut appearance:


video

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Locks of Love: The Day Has Arrived!

Hello! I'm back momentarily... With school starting for my daughter and my newest class (yes, I made it through English and am now onto Algebra !), I've had virtually no time to sit and post. Everytime we do something fun, I think - oh, I must publish this to my blog... then run out of time!

But, Dad called me today after I told Mom this morning that both me and my daughter got our hair cut for Locks of Love - and he said, please post pictures to your blog so I can see! So - here we go. My cut was last weekend, because I had planned it, and my daughter's this weekend, because she had to think about. But, we both love our hair and will be sending our ponytails off to Locks of Love this week! (See the dramatic video of my daughter's cut at bottom...)

Before:









During (for my daughter - mine was not nearly as exciting!):









After:









And after, after (you know, when the styling wears off...):









Dramatic Video:

video

Friday, June 27, 2008

Not much time... but happy thoughts!

I don't have much time right now but have been thinking happy thoughts thanks to ButterBeeHappy.com. I found this little website from another blog, can't remember which one, but I bookmarked it awhile ago and set up my account last weekend. (See my happy thoughts on my Bee Happy widget - scroll down the sidebar on the left.) It's a great way to remember all the positive things in your life, especially when things get really hectic...

Like now, for instance! My first college course in almost 20 years is proving to be a challenge and I am as rusty as an old Chevy. (Speaking of rusty old Chevys, check out these pictures on Sunniviews I captured a few weekends ago when my husband and I went for a drive. It's the antique car graveyard!)

My class is a 15 week English course compressed into 5 summer weeks. Class is held 3 times a week (Mon-Tues-Wed from 6 to 9 pm) and each one represents a week. It's very overwhelming but I can do it, I CAN DO IT!! Even if I have to spend hours relearning basic sentence structure like subordinating conjunctions, subject compliments and passive transformations! (Quite honestly, I really don't remember learning these in the first place...)

I just keep remembering this picture (at top) that helps release all my anxiety and fills me with peace. This was taken at the Koka Booth Aphitheatre at an event that our organization held this past weekend. The cool rain, that ended just before the concert, brought in a gorgeous mist that enhanced the setting sun. Fabulous! And, luckily, I can use those weekend working hours as flex time this week for more studying! Hurray! And I'm so happy that my craft room is squeaky clean (for the most part) so I have a great place to spread out and get some homework done.

I read a quote recently that went something like "The more we have to do, the more efficient we become." Too true!

P.S. My daughter spent some time with her Nana (my mom) earlier this week. Check out this post on my mom's blog - what fun they had together!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Back to School at 36!

Ok, I have a confession to make... I did not graduate from college. Not only did I not graduate, I never even really started. As soon as I set foot outside the doors of the hallowed halls of high school, I had made up my mind to start living as an adult - to make it in the world and pursue life as a genuine working stiff. Now that I look back on it, I'm reminded of that Monster.com commercial of the little kids who share their dreams of the future... "When I grow up I want to file all day, I want to claw my way up to middle management, I want to be paid less for the same job. i want to be forced into early retirement."

I have to say that I've been more lucky than others who might share my same circumstances. I suppose I was at the right place at the right time, the stars were in alignment for most of my working career, and/or fate has smiled on me kindly. I have a great job, I love my coworkers, love the work, love the mission - but several months ago, my boss looked me right in the eye and said, "You're not going any further than this without that little piece of paper." (Really, he was not being mean, he was (is) a good friend of my husbands and was giving me friendly advice.)

Truth be told, I'd been wrestling with this issue for many years. For awhile I thought my path was to show the world that one could be quite successful without a degree (gasp!), like some of these infamous folks: Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Lance Armstrong, Thomas Edison. (For real! Lookee here!) And, perhaps I would have continued that way except for a few revelations that occurred all at about the same time.

First was my boss' advice. Second was my contemplation about being a writer and the fact that I'd most likely be laughed out of a publisher's office without some kind of formal education. Next was a dinner we had at a friends house and a discussion with a 55-year-old woman who was pursuing a master's degree in an area completely unrelated to anything she'd ever done before or any education that she'd ever had before. I was awed that someone so much older than me was making such a dramatic change in her life.

One of the last revelations was a sermon from our minister about
pleasure versus meaning. For instance, there are many things that are pleasurable, such as gazing at a stained glass window, but without meaning, the delight fades fast. So what was my meaning? What was my focus? Making jewelry, painting flower pots, gardening? I needed a direction, a goal.

The final revelation and perhaps the basic truth - I was scared. I was afraid of the results of a placement test after my miserable performance on the high school SAT's. I was afraid of the enormous cost. I was afraid of going back to school "at my age" and being in a room with tittering 20-year-olds. I was intimidated beyond comprehension. I found reason after reason for not even considering it.

But I finally came to a point where I had the courage to face all of it - I finally let go of all my fears in great rivers of meditation and the faith that God would take care of everything. Was I still nervous? Oh, yes, and just about turned around to go back right home on the day I had to take the dang placement test. And even though I stunk at the math segment of the test (not unexpected), I sailed through the rest... 97 in reading, 99 in writing! I cannot even tell you how thrilled I was after the aforementioned SAT scores. Honestly, I just about burst into tears standing right there in the testing room with the teens accompanied by their mothers (who were my age!)

So, I figure it will take about 8-10 years for this to all be finalized. Just about the time my daughter graduates from high school - won't that be a novelty? But, I'm kinda glad it worked out this way. I hope it will be a shining example to my daughter that it's never to late to pursue a new path in life. She will probably understand more about the college experience than others, having a mom going through it during her formative years.

I still don't know how I'm going to manage with working full-time at a pretty demanding career, a daughter with a packed social calendar, a home, bills, laundry, etc. But I'm blessed with an incredibly supportive husband and family, and I know we'll all be A-ok.

My first class starts tomorrow night. Stay tuned! I'll probably have lots of fun things to say about it...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Irresistable Pets... that drive me crazy!

Don't get me wrong, I love my pets. They are a huge part of our little world. Our dog, Dasher, is the such a mild-mannered, sweet and intelligent creature. Our 2 cats, Pumpkin and Paprika are one-of-a-kind: funny, devoted and loving.

But... dang if those animals don't drive me crazy sometimes!

It was a Sunday morning and I purposely woke up early to have a little me-time. To sit in the quiet of early dawn, enjoy my coffee and do a little journal writing. Dasher and Pumpkin followed me out to the kitchen and went straight to the back door so that I could let them out, which I did. I went back to making the coffee. Dasher finished his little morning business and wanted back in. I let him in..., Pumpkin didn't follow. No problem - I made myself comfortable on the chair and waited for the coffee.

But then I hear Paprika, who is usually out all night, at the front door mewing to come back in. I go to get her and Dasher follows - he wants out the front door to see whats going on just as Paprika comes in. I let him out, pour a cup of coffee and get comfortable on the chair.

Then I hear Pumpkin at the back door and notice that Paprika is sitting by the hallway door, which I kept closed so as not to disturb the sleeping kids from their wild pillow-fighting, ice-cream eating, movie-watching sleepover. So I let Pumpkin in the back door and Paprika down the hallway just as Dasher wants back in the front door. Good grief. I refresh my coffee and have a seat. Again.

But then, Pumpkin decides she wants down the hallway, too. So, I get up to open the door. Dasher follows. Apparently he wanted to be down the hallway this whole time! Hallway door is closed. I settle in. Again.

I'm enjoying my coffee and writing away whe
n I decide that a crunchy granola bar would be very tasty, so I open one. The animals hear the crinkle of the wrapper and come racing down the hallway in a pack (I should note that the hallway door is a bi-fold which they can open by themselves from the inside.) Dasher sniffs and is not interested in granola, he'd rather chase squirrels, which he decides to do at that exact moment and goes to stand by the back door. Pumpkin and Paprika, while not necessarily interested in granola, decide that I might pull out something more interesting, so one plops down at my feet while the other settles on the side of the armchair and waits. I get back up to let Dasher outside and Paprika decides that's a fine idea as well, so she follows. Pumpkin decides that she wants to be nowhere else except sitting right down in the folds of my journal. Good grief!

But what would I do without my little sweeties to make life interesting! I did finally get everyone settled and had a very relaxing morning before the household awoke and our busy day began.

See more pictures of Dasher on this post from last year: "Ode to my Dog"