Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tag Tuesday - Summer; And a Story: DIRT ROADS

The theme for Tag Tuesday is Summer, and although I made this card sometime ago, it is very relevant!

(click for detail)

If you want to know what I used, or to join in on the challenge, please go to Blog Challenge Garden.

23rd in the Tuesday Story Series

When I was a child, my parents had a frequent Sunday afternoon ritual of taking the family for a drive. Six children would pile into the car and off we would go, usually with no planned destination in mind, just whatever struck my Dad's fancy. Often the drives would take us to one of the many sea islands around Charleston. At that time, most of the islands were farmland and since my father was the County Extension Agent for the Charleston County area, he knew all of the farmers. Because his job took him to their farms for various reason, he also knew all of the back roads which wound around the islands. It would be those back roads we traveled the most often, and they were usually unpaved and unpopulated.

In that part of the south, live oaks with swaying Spanish moss are a large part of the local landscape. Spanish moss, which is actually not a moss at all but related to the pineapple plant, makes everything romantic in the daylight hours, and somewhat eerie or spooky at night if you weren't used to it. We would follow the winding dirt roads and see majestic live oaks, open fields of crops and palmetto trees by tidal creeks. If the tide was out, there would be little fiddler crabs scurrying across the mud banks as our car drew near, waving their one large claw in the air as if that would scare us away. Sometimes we would startle a deer as we came around a curve and it would leap off into the woods, or we'd see a hawk on a tree limb scanning the countryside for its next meal.

There were places where we would spy an old cabin across a field, leaning to one side, long abandoned and empty. In some spots, there would only be a chimney of brick standing as a lone sentinel, guarding the space where a home had burnt down. We would pass grazing cattle, and Dad would tell us what kind they were, or he would identify the crops in a field. We would seldom pass another automobile. 


Once in a while on a straight stretch of road, Dad would let one of the older children sit in his lap and steer the car. Of course he would be driving very slowly and had his hands hovering right above the child's hands. I remember the thrill of "driving" the car and even though it was for a very short distance, it felt like at least a mile to a young child! Often at the end of the drive, we stopped at a Dairy Queen for a treat, especially during the summer time. 

I always felt a sense of adventure every time we turned onto a dirt road, and the feeling has never left. I still love dirt roads and back roads and the expectation of discovery. Although I am not able to go for a drive as frequently, when we do, I always look for the beckoning back roads!

Enjoy the day!


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Er, what is that??

That may be what some people think when they see this painting.....

(click for details)

..... but it's an exercise for a painting class I am taking online. The exercise is to create depth without hard "lines of demarcation" between colors. It was not an easy thing to do, but I learned a lot. The scan shows more demarcation than is really there - it looks much better in person! My teachers liked it, so I'm happy about that and am moving on to the next lesson.

The name of the class is Chaos and Calm, Over the Edge Painting Techniques. If you are interested in the class, and others that are offered, click here. I never thought much about contemporary art until I started with the other class I was taking, Mixed Media Melange. Now I find I like it and look forward to learning more!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tag Tuesday - Number 7; And a Story: THIRTY YEARS

The theme for this week is the number 7:

Industrial #7
(click for details)

I had a lot of fun making this tag! If you want to know what I used, or to join in on the challenge, please go to Blog Challenge Garden.

22nd in the Tuesday Story series

Yesterday, my husband John and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary! I remember how hot is was the day we were married and how handsome John looked. I remember the little brick house we first lived in and the cherry red carpeting which showed any and all lint and debris - it never looked clean, even right after vacuuming. That house had an oil furnace with one large vent in the hallway, which was supposed to heat the whole house. Thankfully, Charleston rarely had really cold days, because the heater did not do well beyond ten feet of that vent. I remember that the last winter we were living in the house, the heater had to be repaired, and the fan was set too high so that when it ran, we had a layer of soot over everything, including the dishes in the cupboard! The old refrigerator in the kitchen kept that room warm in the winter and unbearable in the summer, because it poured out warm air from the bottom from running the motor. We had two window unit air conditioners on either end of the house, and they did not do very well in Charleston's hot and humid climate. But as a young married couple, we took it all in stride.

20 June, 1981

We had planned on going to Scotland, or Ireland, or elsewhere to celebrate this 30 year milestone in our marriage, but because of my illness, we realized last year that we would not be doing anything like that. We then hoped that perhaps I would be able to travel somewhere closer to home, but as June approached, we knew that was not going to happen either. Instead, we drove up to Saluda, North Carolina for lunch, which is about a 30 minute drive from where we live in South Carolina. It is a lovely drive, through the Greenville County watershed and the mountains. There is a sweet restaurant in Saluda where we've eaten before, called The Purple Onion, and we celebrated our anniversary there by dining outside. The weather was excellent, the food was delicious and we were content. We talked about our lives, the blessings the Lord had given us and that we were just happy to be together.

On our front porch.

The little restaurant in Saluda, NC.

The view from our table.

Another special treat was the gift our daughter gave us. She was at our house when we left, and had brought over an anniversary gift. It was a glass jar with 30 folded slips of paper inside, each with a special memory written on it in different colors of ink. We read them on the way to Saluda and they were all so special and heartwarming! We will keep the jar by our bed for a while and read one or two to each other before we go to sleep. 
It was a wonderful day! Even though I may pay for the travel with exhaustion over the next few days, I am so very grateful that I had the stamina to do what we did today.

 Thankful for all of our blessings! 


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Breaking Free

Yesterday I showed the baby Bluebird which had broken free of its shell to begin its new life. I mentioned that there was one egg left, and here it is! The baby inside is slowly breaking free of the shell with its tiny claw, you can see it there in the center. I think this is incredible and it puts me in awe of God's infinite powers of creation!

(click for detail)

It will take a long time to break free, but when it does, it will have built up the strength it will need to continue to grow into an adult Bluebird.

A happy Father's Day for the Bluebird family! And I hope you had a nice one as well!


Saturday, June 18, 2011

New Life

On our front porch, we have a nesting ledge, which last summer was a home for Carolina Wrens. This summer, a young pair of Bluebirds took up residence there. I say young, because their nest wasn't as well built as the nest in the Bird Box in the yard, where another family of Bluebirds have raised two broods so far. In the nesting ledge, the Bluebird pair had 4 lovely blue eggs, and yesterday, one of them hatched. I quickly took advantage of the situation to take the following pictures.

Just a few seconds old!

Don't be alarmed at my actions- birds do not have a keen sense of smell and contrary to the old wives tale, they will not reject the baby. After I put the baby back in the nest, the parents started feeding it right away. Today there are 2 babies and the other 2 eggs should hatch in the next day or two. I am just amazed at this tiny form of life, and that it all fit into the small egg! We've been enjoying watching the parents flying back and forth to feed their babies. Life is such a miracle!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


For months we have known we had a opossum living under our back porch. Sometimes the dogs stood over the spot where it was hiding and would whine and bark, and you could hear the possum growling and spitting back at them. Our Wildlife camera had captured photos of it roaming around during the night, and once and a while the dogs would be out in the evening when it had come out from under the porch, and they would chase it back. We have been trying to capture it in a "trap and release" trap for several weeks and it as been too wily to get caught. Until a couple of days ago!

We switched from putting peanut butter as an enticement to trying cat food. After the third or fourth day of that, the possum let its guard down and suddenly found himself no longer free! The dogs discovered it the next morning and were in a frenzy to "greet" it personally; the poor thing would never have stood a chance if it had been able to get out of the trap!

The creature was loaded into the car, driven for about 11 miles, then released. I didn't know it could move so fast as I watched it scramble up a hillside in broad daylight. I hope where ever it is, it is safe and happy. I just don't want it back here!

It's almost cute... almost.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tag Tuesday - A Bird; And a Story: THE INVISIBLE ILLNESS

Today's tag features a bird as the focal point. 

(click for detail)

For how I made it or to join in on this challenge, go to my Blog Challenge Garden.

The Invisible Illness
21st in the Tuesday Story Series

Today, I'm not really telling a story or relating a past experience. Rather, I'm speaking of a present ongoing experience, because it's part of my life. I have an invisible illness. There is no cast on a broken appendage, no tell tale sign on my skin, nothing that requires life saving treatments such as chemotherapy. And as with most invisible illnesses, society as a whole doesn't understand it because it does not fit into a neat and tidy box of medical descriptions. I have Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, commonly called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, an auto immune disease.

Twenty years ago, fibromyalgia was considered a women's problem, and a mental issue. Now, you see ads for medication on television and in magazines promising to help those who suffer from fibromyalgia. As my doctor mentioned to me recently, probably in twenty years, ME/CFS will be considered mainstream as well, and then all of those who struggle with it will be "legitimately" ill. But for now, most of us bear the doubts of those around us.

I used to own my own antiques business and traveled by myself. I, along with my husband, homeschooled our daughter, who is now 27. I sang in the church choir, planted gardens, researched genealogy, traveled with my husband, oversaw a 600 member organization and worked part time in a friend's antique mall. My husband and I raised a mentally impaired and emotionally disabled adopted child, dealt with an incompetent Mental Health system, and fought with doctors about treatment for this child, which required us to be up to date with the latest medical research. We still deal with current issues involving him.

Three years ago, my life radically changed. The first year I could hardly move from the bed. I was exhausted, with a heavy liquid exhaustion like I have never felt before. My mind became muddled, my stamina was completely gone and I felt that I barely existed. Doctors had no answer. Basically, ME/CFS is defined by what it isn't - in other words after testing for, and ruling out, everything else, ME/CFS was what was left. Over the past three years, I have had to accept where I am, and realize that in all probability my life will never be the same. Though I have improved somewhat (I actually planted several flowers in a flower bed last week), it is highly likely that I will always struggle with relapses and will have days in which I can only lie on the bed. I still have trouble remembering words and thinking clearly, and find that I become overwhelmed very quickly with crowds, large stores and loud sounds. When I overdo, I pay by being unable to move, or with pain. I can not drive any further than the small village we live near without becoming too exhausted to drive back home, so I have to be driven to any appointments by my husband or daughter.

The cost though, is higher than loss of a certain quality of life, this illness also costs in the changes in peoples perception of you. There is a book by Joy Selak entitled You Don't Look Sick! where she describes what has been like for her to live with an invisible illness. The title comes from a comment made to her when she was explaining that she was ill to someone new. I have heard that so many times! And to this day, I am not sure how to answer it - You Don't Look Sick!  - "thank you" ? (for what, don't you believe me?) or "But I am sick really"? (that really sounds convincing!) or "Gee, I'm sorry...." (I really wish I did look sick, you know..). Friends who don't really know what to say, or get tired of waiting for you to feel better just fade away, even people whom I have known for 25 years or more.  Most of my family do not think I am ill, and that, as one put it, "it's all in my head." I have dealt with grief, sadness and anger through this illness, and at times been very lonely.

However, I am not alone. My faith has deepened and sustains me, my husband John, daughter Tabitha, and sister Judy have become like precious gold to me. The small handful of friends that I do have bring laughter and encouragement into my life. I have discovered that I have artistic talent, which may have never happened if my life had stayed the same. I have seen that it doesn't pay to fret over things and I don't need to try to control my surroundings. Recently I was on our front porch, pruning some flowers in hanging pots, and I suddenly realized a sweet breeze was blowing, I could hear Bob White quail calling, and birds scolding around the bird feeders. The horses in the pasture across the road were enjoying the sun. There were no other sounds and for that instance, I felt such peace. 

I encourage you if you know someone who struggles with ME/CFS, Crohn's, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Guillian Barre Syndromeany kind of illness or injury which is chronic and limiting, be their friend. Believe them, and encourage them. Don't ignore them, or forget them. Send a card occasionally, or call. Love on them. Read The Spoon Theory and you will get a much better idea of what life is like with an invisible illness.