Sparkling Spring

 

Eighteen inches of snow is never a welcomed sight, especially in the spring. Memories of last weekend, when the snow fell on us, lingered in my mind yesterday morning.  It felt like winter was never going to leave.  That snow was heavy and swirled about in the blowing wind.  It blanketed everything around and made me dread it even though it left sparkling flakes in the night.  Those sparkles would have appeared more beautiful early in the winter instead of early in the spring.  It felt awkward to have to stay in during a blizzard when all winter long Lila and I have been going for long walks on Saturdays.

Yet, not everyone was disappointed by the four letter word that begins with the letter “S.” Lila loved it.  Even though the snow was all the way up to her belly, she ran and jumped around like she was going through an obstacle course.  As she came back into the house, she ended up bringing a bunch of the snow along with her.  The flakes clung to her black fur.  She must have liked the cool feeling it gave her because she didn’t shake it off.  Lila tends to walk in the snow when we go for our winter walks.

After Lila and I left the house for our walk at 8:30 yesterday morning, the birds greeted us with happy songs. (We didn’t hear a peep out of any birds last weekend.)  The sun was peaking over to warm us and the bright snow spotted the grass making us wonder if winter was still holding on.  The temperature was 30 degrees.  We still had to trudge through some snow piles when we walked to the path.  The more we walked, the warmer it got.  My winter jacket, hat, and mittens were no longer needed, and I tied my jacket around my waist.  Others walking around the park had been more confident in the weather and wore lighter clothing.  The sun was warmer than I thought, and the wind was nowhere to be found.  It got to be 40 degrees by the time we got back home.

In spots, the green grass sprung out at us. Some trees had buds to show us.  Cardinals chirped a lovely tune to us.  Canadian honkers honked at us.  Robins hopped close to us.  Other birds dove in and out of trees around us.  Squirrels hid from us.  Wild turkeys flew up into a tree branch to get away from us.  The day brought us temperatures in the 60s.  It looks like all these things in nature think spring is sparkling through to leave winter behind.  I guess I think so too?  Whatever happens next, Lila will be happy.

Under the giving snow blossoms a daring spring. ~Terri Guillemets

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That’s Worth a Lot!

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Have you had to assemble anything lately – something that came with instructions? Did you notice that the instructions only come with pictures and a few names of the items that are inside the box? I find that not having words in the instructions to be confusing. If I can’t figure out the pictures, I end up watching a tutorial on YouTube. I’m glad there’s YouTube, but really, why can’t they include some words on the instructions to help us assemble our project?

Our lives would be so different, if we didn’t know how to read. The majority of my days are spent reading and writing at my job, and when I’m done with that, I pull out a book or my cell phone and read things from there. Plus, it’s the things you don’t think about every day that we’re reading that are so helpful. I’m glad to be able to read signs, recipes, patterns and so many other things.

Dad said he taught all of us kids how to read, and I want to thank Dad and my teachers for helping me. Statistics vary on what the literacy rate is because there are so many different factors to consider, but one site said one in 10 people in the world do not know how to read. When I was small, I needed extra help with reading, and I’m grateful I got that help.

Summer school was fun when I went the summer after first grade. I vaguely remember that there were about 12 of us. Besides working on our reading, we made time for playing, which is the part I remember best. Our summer teacher was our wonderful music teacher. Back then, we read the look-say readers Dick and Jane which used the whole word method of reading. Phonics hadn’t been introduced to us yet.

When my class got to second grade, we started getting the book order forms from Scholastic. There were so many books to choose from the colorful thin paper forms. When our paperback book orders arrived, it was such an exciting day. The books were bound together with a rubber band with our book orders on top. That’s when I learned that books are magical and can carry us off to different times and places to meet extraordinary or not so extraordinary people. The reader knows they read a good one when they get to the last chapter and feel sad that the story is coming to an end. It can be like saying good-bye to a good friend that you’re not going to see any more.

Pictures might speak a thousand words, but wanting to read the fun books helped us to learn how to read the other books. That helped us to read everything else, and that’s worth a lot!

The worth of a book is to be measured by what
you can carry away from it. ~James Bryce

Have you Met Gym?

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Some people are afraid to meet Gym, because it can be intimidating, especially in the weigh-lifting room.  There can be some very muscular people walking around with very serious looks on their faces because it is serious business.  I’ve known Gym for years, and I’ve found it’s best to keep your chin up and act like you really know what you’re doing, and people will hopefully respect your space.

It’s a good idea to wear comfortable clothing when you meet Gym, but not too loose because you don’t want to get a part of your clothing hung up on anything. You could seriously knock yourself out if your shirt got stuck on a handle and you kept walking.  Next, be sure to nonchalantly observe other people’s attire because you might see a really cool shirt that you’ve never seen before or, if you’re lucky, an interesting tattoo.

If you see a person who is lying on the floor doing sit-ups, push-ups, and/or stretches in between the weight-lifting machines, try not to give them the evil eye and move on.  If you are very brave, let them know that they are not in the correct place to do calisthenics and stretching.  Point that person to the mats that were designed just for that purpose, which are also conveniently located away from the weight-lifting machines.  I think they put those mats far away from the machines so no one would get hurt – just saying.

If you are waiting to use a weight-lifting machine, and someone is on it staring at their cell phone, try not to get too disturbed even if it takes them several minutes to get done texting or reading.  Keep doing your rounds on the equipment and check back to see if they are done.  If the person is not bigger and scarier looking than you, point that person to the lobby where there are chairs that no one is using that were made just for the purpose of lounging.

It’s rare, but you might notice a person who likes to use a weight-lifting machine just to lift about 250 pounds once and then jump off the machine to take a rest.  They usually stand opposite of the machine to keep an eye on the machine because they keep repeating this process.  If you accidentally use the machine while they are resting, pretend that you have no idea that they can lift 250 pounds when you move the knob to the weight you can lift.  Even if they are staring you down with a holier than thou look on their face, play dumb.

People like to take ownership of a weight-lifting machine by leaving something behind like a towel, water bottle, or gloves.  If a person towers over you while you are sitting on the machine that they think is theirs, and they say, “I was using that machine,” even if they were not even close to it when you started using it, it’s best to get off and give them a mom look like they are not behaving appropriately.  If you’re good at that look, you will get an apology.

If a tour guide from the gym wants to use you as an example of how to use a machine, just smile and keep doing what you’re doing, even though you feel very uncomfortable at the time.  Don’t get nervous.  This is not a good time to fall off or jamb your foot and embarrass yourself.

If the weight-lifting room is too intimidating, you can always take a yoga class, play racquetball, go swimming, or take any other sort of class to stay away from these situations.  If you skip the weight-lifting room, though, you might miss out on some interesting adventures.

Maybe you have a few tips to share about your workout experiences.  Feel free to leave your comments here, if you do.  I hope your next workout is a good one.

The only bad workout is the one that didn’t happen. ~ Anonymous

Leave a Trail

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A couple of Saturdays ago, it snowed about six inches, and the thought of walking the dog on Sunday seemed like a challenge. I knew the sidewalk to the park was not plowed yet, but I put on my boots with the yak tracks and set off with Lila by my side.  As we walked along the snowy path, there was only one set of people tracks made by a person with smaller boots than mine.  It looked like the person marched through the snow lifting their knees with each step.  I tried to follow the footsteps because it would be easier than making my own.  The person who had gone this way before me did not appear to drag their feet.  I tried to do the same.

Lila didn’t worry about following someone else’s tracks. She walked and ran along and made her own path and didn’t care about ruining the blanket of pristine snow with her scattered trail.  Every so often, she stopped and put her nose straight in the snow in search of whatever had caught her attention.  When her snout was out from underneath the pile, her face was speckled with white flakes, and I wondered how she could tolerate that cold up her nostrils.  It didn’t bother her because she continued to do that all along the way.

Traveling was easier when we finally got to the plowed part of the park. Lila stayed to the side to walk on a tiny path of snow.  A lot of people were walking that afternoon enjoying how the fresh snow made everything spotless.  The clouds were light and fluffy too, drifting by like a summer day.

Lila was excited when we got back to the snowy path leading us on our way home. The path I’d followed about 45 minutes earlier was still there, but someone had walked over the tracks I made.  Even though we walked farther along the same way, I did not see the crisscross pattern of my yak tracks.  Every step was covered by someone else’s, but Lila’s tracks were where she left them.

Even if a path has already been made, we don’t have to follow it, even though it might be easier. Sometimes we have to make our own new tracks.  Be like Lila, and make your own trail.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where
there is no path and leave a trail.  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

A Late Bloomer

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My daughter brought over an Amaryllis bulb that she received as a Christmas gift from one of her students. It came with a pot and some rocks, but Katie doesn’t know that she has a green thumb yet, so she gave it to me.  I planted the bulb in a pot right after Christmas and left it in a not so bright window, because that’s what the directions said to do.  Every day, I checked the bulb, and it didn’t grow.  It looked green on top and seemed as if the leaves were going to pop up and out at any time, but those leaves didn’t pop.  I knew it was alive, but yet I wondered if maybe it got frozen before it made its way to our house.  I seriously started to doubt the abilities of my green thumb.  Luckily, one weekend when we had company, I moved the pot over to the living room and forgot about it.

The living room is where the most sunlight comes into our house. A few days later, I checked the bulb, and it looked like the leaves had grown a little, but I wasn’t sure.  I checked again the next day, and sure enough, the bulb was growing, a very small amount at a time.  After it took off, every day, it seemed like it grew at least an inch.  Since I never had an Amaryllis bulb before, I didn’t know what to expect, but it looked like the buds were half of the plant.  Soon the plant had grown to about four feet tall and the buds were quite large.

When I told people about the Amaryllis, they asked, “Isn’t that a Christmas plant?” I read and found out that a lot of people grow them to decorate their homes for Christmas, but by the time mine was received and figured out where the sun could reach it, it didn’t end up blooming until a few days after Valentine’s Day.  I guess that’s what they call a “late bloomer.”

It’s not the bulb’s fault that it’s a late bloomer because it didn’t get to go into the dirt or didn’t get into the sun when it was supposed to. Sometimes things can be late by no fault of their own.  Maybe late bloomers don’t get everything they need to bloom on time!

I was thankful we got to watch this plant grow and brighten up our wintry surroundings. 🙂

No one becomes a late bloomer doing something they hate. ~ J.M. Orend

A Recipe of My Own

The other day, I was forced to create a recipe of my own. A friend gave me a bag of squash linguine from Sunrise Creative Gourmet. She received it as a gift and didn’t think she would like it because she doesn’t like squash. Since I never made that sort of pasta before, I tried to find a sauce to go with. The Sunrise Creative Gourmet website recommended making an olive oil and parmesan cheese sauce. It also indicated that roasted vegetables, chicken, or salmon would make a good addition. While I searched the Internet for a more specific recipe, a recipe that called for a third of a cup of olive oil looked like a good place to start. The rest of the ingredients didn’t sound appetizing, so I made it up as I went along, keeping the Sunrise Creative Gourmet’s suggestions in mind.

While the water for the pasta was heating up, I poured the olive oil in a large skillet. I had already sliced the chicken into bite-sized pieces. As the chicken cooked and filled the house with a delicious-smelling aroma, some of my favorite recipes came to mind, and this is what got combined:

Chicken, Squash Linguine with Olive Oil
and Parmesan Cheese Sauce

Ingredients:

1-16 oz. package of linguine (squash, if you can find it; regular, if you can’t)
1.25 pound package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 big clove of garlic, minced
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
½ cup red pepper, chopped into ½-inch pieces
15 grape tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup lemon juice
½ to 1 cup of shredded parmesan cheese

Directions:

Cook linguine according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook chicken in olive oil over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Add garlic, onion, and red pepper and heat until red pepper is cooked through. Add tomatoes, parsley flakes, salt, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and lemon juice.  Cover pan and simmer until tomatoes look a little wilted. If the pasta is done cooking, drain pasta, add pasta to skillet, and mix altogether. Top with parmesan cheese and enjoy.

The flavors blended together nicely.  The funny thing is that the pasta didn’t really taste like squash! It might have been that the onion and garlic overpowered that taste. Any old sauce would have tasted okay, but it’s better to have this recipe of my own.  Besides, this concoction disappeared faster than it took to make. If you try it, let me know if you like it!

How Netflix Ruined My Writing Routine

It took a long while before Netflix made an appearance at our house. Before then, I rarely watched TV. I’d have one or two favorites I tuned into once a week, but once Netflix arrived to our home about two years ago, I got hooked. At first I was able to stick to my writing routine, but the idea that limits could be enforced flew out the window the moment I discovered the first episode of the first season of an addictive show: Breaking Bad. How would the main character, Walter White, weasel his way out of all the trouble he got himself into on a daily basis? I waited for what I thought was his true character – an honest chemistry teacher – to shine through and conquer his evil, nasty drug maker and dealer side. I was surprised how fast I got hooked because this show wasn’t even remotely similar to other shows I watched. I mean, Walter White is so different from Laura Ingalls Wilder from Little House on the Prairie!

Once I made it through all the episodes of Breaking Bad, a friend recommended Mad Men. Donald Draper loomed large over the television screen almost nightly. Mr. Draper’s charismatic personality charmed both women and men with his advertising talents, among other things. 😉  During each episode, I waited for what I thought was his true character – a person wanting to show love and be loved – dwindle away. Would he ever find happiness and stop being such a womanizer? You’ll have to watch and see.

As I commiserated to a writer friend about how I was becoming addicted to Netflix, she advised that writers should watch shows to give us ideas to use in our own writing. So I happily continued on while pen and paper waited on the sidelines. Netflix was like a box of chocolates sitting on the kitchen counter. I just had to have one more.

Parenthood became one of my favorites. The drama in the characters’ lives kept me hooked like any soap opera would. Even though there was a lot of arguing between the grown brothers and sisters, their young children, and the grandparents, it helped them resolve or work through the many problems they had to deal with. The series taught me a bit about autism since one of the children and an adult struggled with the disorder.

Heartland, a Canadian drama TV series about a family living on a horse ranch, was recommended by another friend. Finally, back to my Little House on the Prairie roots in a modern sense, I enjoyed seeing the beautiful scenery of Alberta and watching how Amy helped the traumatized horses get back to their normal lives. With a more relaxed story line, I was able to nod off and figure out what happened without hitting the rewind button. (This show is still in progress.)

At first, Switched at Birth didn’t seem like it had a realistic plot because the teenage girls that were switched ended up living close together after one of the daughters figured out she wasn’t her parents’ biological child. However, I enjoyed how the show brought up everyday problems of teenagers and how their friends and family found solutions. The series also shows the problems deaf teenagers and their families deal with and viewers might even learn some sign language along the way. (This show didn’t have a true ending, and I am not sure more episodes are forthcoming.)

The Tutors, a show about King Henry VIII, is a historical drama. This one had me Googling events to see if what was happening was factual. I ended up learning a lot about history but had to cover my eyes during the gory torture scenes. I kept waiting for the king’s life to get better, but I knew not to expect a happy ending.

Reign, a show about Mary, Queen of Scots, also captivated my attention. Even though we might think the life of a queen would be luxurious, it doesn’t look like a job for the weak and timid. I’ve read this show is not true to actual events, but it does seem to follow some of the life events of this queen. If you listen closely, you will hear modern tunes played by the orchestra. (The next episode will soon air on regular TV on the CW network.)

Doc Martin, a show which takes place in a seaside village in England, ends up being the one that gave me the most laughs. The small town scene helps the viewer get acquainted with the quirky characters of the village. I wonder if the grumpy doctor will figure out how to have a more pleasant bedside manner and be able to keep his wife and son close to his side. (Doc Martin has six seasons on Netflix. The seventh season will hopefully arrive to Netflix soon, and the eighth season will be its last.)

Now, all I have to do before I get back to my writing routine, is to get through the first season of Stranger Things, a new Netflix original series. The children in this show are what keep me watching. Will they find their missing friend? What worlds will they have to explore to find him? Will they find out all the mysterious super powers of the girl, Eleven?

All this busyness of keeping up with what’s on Netflix could have possibly ended up with a writer creating about five books the size of War and Peace!  I’ll never be able to catch up to Netflix, but maybe I can catch up on my writing.

After nourishment, shelter and companionship,
stories are the thing we need most in the world. ~ Philip Pullman