Saturday, February 28, 2009

Swimming and surgery

Here are the girls having fun on Wednesday while mom is going under the knife. I didn't get to be with them for any of the fun - no room for me in the car. Sitting at home alone I felt like the kid who didn't get picked for the team but I'm very thankful that they got to go have some fun after a long dry spell. They absolutely love their new friend Madison, after dreading her coming, thinking she was going to take Anna's attention away from them. I knew Anna better than that and all four got along great, at least from my two's point of view! Madison let Jing play with her Nintendo DS and Jing has a new passionate desire to own one!

Surgery itself was a breeze - I have no memory of anything coming at my eye, which is what I was dreading. But post surgery has been a let-down. I have strained to do my work so long I was gasping with desperation to be able to DRIVE and to read better and see to do my work without intense squinting of my entire face with resultant constant eye strain and headaches. Well now I can't read hardly at all. They gave me reading glasses which enables me to read large type and computer type, as it is lit up brightly, but I can't read my watch, can't read prices in the store, can't pick up a book and read if the type is smallish. What I do type and read is double letters sliding into each other and just exhausts my eye and me. I know (hope!) eventually glasses will correct this but on top of another bit of bad news I have been pretty blue. Not even sure I can drive yet - too rainy today to attempt driving for the first time in five months.

The surgeon had asked me many times if I had a trauma in my left eye, which at this point is so thick with cataract I can only see vague shapes - no meaningful vision. I told him I knew of nothing. He cannot get a good look behind the cataract with any machine they have or with a slit lamp as it is so thick. He had told me he would try the traditional surgery but it had at most a 50% chance of succeeding. If not, he would go in and scrape my eye and something else I don't remember, some kind of compensation for muscles too weak to hold up the new lens. Well yesterday I said, "Please get this other thing out so I can see! When can you do it?!" He said, "I'm not going to do it. I'm not touching that eye."

He said I needed a specialist and that Lion's Club would probably not pay for that and even if they did I would probably not get accepted as a patient with no insurance. He is one of the top surgeons in the country so I am somewhat concerned about this. One of the ladies there told me he was very cautious. And they told me no glasses until both eyes are done, but they are going to have to change that as I can't live unable to read! My eyestrain between the new sharp distance vision and the double/blurry vision up close mixed in with an eye that is "way past 20/200" is almost worse in ways than when the cataract was in. I know part of it will be adjusting but I am somewhat blue about it at the moment, particularly since it's not the only serious issue on the board at the moment!

But for today, I have two happy chatty girls all excited about their adventure and for preservation of my spirit and need of more income I have decided to take the plunge after years of longing to try my hand at making sterling silver jewelry with Precious Metal Clay. I so need something new and exciting creatively to give me a spark right now. Can't afford it, but I'm getting the cheapest set-up, no kiln alas, and I hope it pays for itself before too long. I may even start a PMC newbie blog when my stuff comes!

Toss out a prayer for me if you can spare one. I could use all I can get right now.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Happy girls with visitors

We are so happy Anna and Cheryl and Anna's friend Madison are visiting. The girls were ecstatic to have someone playing plastic animals with them - their fave! Now they'll have something a lot more fun to do on Wednesday when I'm getting my eye poked at and cataract removed than waiting in the waiting room! Lily has outgrown her swimsuit and we ended up with a LADIES MEDIUM tonight so she could swim at the indoor pool at their hotel. She's 11, for crying out loud!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Happy 12th birthday Jing!

Hard to believe a year from today I will have a teenager! As I often say, it goes too fast.

Jing saw part of the Lion King in Chinese at the White Swan in China and then all of it in English soon after we got home, when she was 7, and five years later it is still her favorite thing. The vandals who trashed our house and stole many of our belongings got her CD player with her Lion King soundrack inside. I was going to replace that but I decided to get her the Lion King Broadway show soundtrack instead and found a DVD about a man who lived with lions. Hard to tell in the photo but she was VERY pleased! I have a feeling her school work and chores will be done in record time today, and I'll pretend not to notice if she sneaks a listen of the CD before they're done!

Happy Birthday Jing!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Georgie the aerialist

So here I am in our little hallway next to the kitchen. We have only a tiny countertop next to the sink, so I use the washing machine for mine. I'm working on assembling tomorrow night's dinner - a pile of fresh mashed potatoes in the middle of a sheet cake pan surrounded by a homemade beef gravy with green beans and a bit of hamburger with onions stirred in. Baked until hot and then for the last minute crisp some Libby's fried onions on top - oh yum! Well Georgie thought so too. When there is food she wants, which is anytime anything remotely edible is present, she jumps straight in the air - quite high! Boing, boing, boing, over and over like a spring. It's quite entertaining! Seriously, I could sell tickets! I have tried to capture it two or three times and this is the best I have gotten.

I have become an expert at painting in my dog's glowing eyes! Every photo I take indoors make them look like dogs from a horror movie. I'm getting quite good at it if I do say so myself! Here's the original.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

First crush revisited

To the best of my memory, my first crush was Sidney Poitier. It could have been James Stacy on "Lancer," the old Western, but I believe it was Sidney. I thought he was so handsome and elegant, the epitomy of a real man. Since young childhood and through the years, anytime "To Sir With Love," "Lilies of the Field," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," "The Defiant Ones" or any other Poitier movie came on I have been glued to the TV if possible. Even his elderly self makes my heart go pitter-patter! I felt so lucky when early this a.m. while changing channels trying to find something to get me through the last few hours of medical transcription I came across "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" just coming on. Sidney plus Spencer Tracy AND Katherine Hepburn. Delicious!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Georgie Hearts Norman

If a picture wasn't going very well, I'd put a puppy in it. NORMAN ROCKWELL

When you live with an obstreperous beagle pup, you learn quickly not to leave anything valuable lying around. If it is edible, it is eaten, if it is paper, it is shredded. But sometimes we forget and leave things exposed to danger. Apparently, Georgie took a liking to the kind face on this vintage magazine, and it was spared.

My sister recently brought this forgotten treasure to me from cleaning out my mother's house. Eternal square that I am, as a kid I subscribed to Saturday Evening Post. Norman Rockwell is my favorite artist and this issue arrived shortly after his death, when I was 18. I remember weeping when I heard he had passed on.

One of the shining bonuses of being a homeschool mom is introducing my children to artists, authors and musicians of quality, so it was fun to flip through this magazine and talk about the paintings and illustrations inside, though it wasn't the first time I had aquainted them with Mr. Rockwell. It contains my favorite N.R. painting - The Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. So simple, yet so profound. If everyone would just respect others who are different than them, so much turmoil, pain, hatred and death could be avoided.

When I go to farms or little towns, I am always surprised at the discontent I find. And New York, too often, has looked across the sea toward Europe. And all of us who turn our eyes away from what we have are missing life. NORMAN ROCKWELL

There is something so poignant about his paintings. The boy going off to war, both his father and his dog sad-eyed and grieving. The mother, chin in the air, marching her children out to church while the dad sinks down in the chair and sheepishly hides behind his newspaper. The doctor holding his stethoscope to the chest of a little girl's doll. The grandma praying over a simple meal in a diner with her little grandson as others look on. The beaming family being served Thanksgiving turkey. Little slices of life. Kind of like what we try to capture in these 365 blogs.

Commonplaces never become tiresome. It is we who become tired when we cease to be curious and appreciative. NORMAN ROCKWELL

This magazine arrived in my house 30 years ago this month to remember a treasured artist who had passed away in November 1978. But Mr. Rockwell is living still in his paintings and in the ideals he presented to America of the way things should be and the way they still, blessedly, sometimes are, if we can just remember what is important in this life.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Valentines arrive!

The girls checking out Valentine cards in the mailbox. These are from Grandmother and contained $2 spending money!

History comes alive

Today we walked down to get the mail and were surprised to find two fellas with metal detectors and worn canvas and leather pouches dangling from their persons emerging from next to this tree stump. The tree was over 200 years old - as told by one of these guys and also my landlord when it suddenly snapped like a twig and fell across our drive just before we moved in.

One of the gentleman was the historian for a nearby county, the other his buddy who is a research assistant for Georgia Civil War Research. The latter had left many business cards and notes asking permission to ramble around and further trace the raid of one General Kilpatrick, Union soldier, on August 20, 1864. General K's cavalry had gone through nearby Jonesboro, destroying the train tracks, cotton warehouses and stores, and after a battle on a farm ended up thundering down the road we live on, coming quite far in one day.
It is written in diaries they had to abandon the big Confederate howitzer they had captured from the middle of a battlefield, at great personal risk, in nearby Big Cotton Indian Creek as there was no bridge and it was too heavy to pull it across by ropes over the water as they did their other wagons. They lost over 60 pack animals there. (Our landlord took a metal detector to try and find it but they had just moved the bridge over and he thinks they covered over the cannon - he tried to find it with his metal detector but there was too much rebar.)
They came down a ways to our land and rather bashed their way through a contingent of informal Confederate soldiers - local boys and older men left behind, killing some, and burned the store and mill on our South River and crossed the bridge, burning it behind them. The entrance to the bridge runs right off our drive and we walk up on it nearly every day and stand in awe, imagining.

The historians had visited the plantation house foundation I pictured earlier on my blog and found a reed from an old harmonica, a handcarved silver buckle from a shoe, a stirrup, and some wonderful handmade nails with flat sides. On our second walk they were gone but Jing photographed the stump of the fallen tree that shaded the old plantation house, already a centruy old then.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Our own Lantern festival

When you're stranded at home and no one invites you anywhere, just have your own lantern walk at home! And since it's us, it's at 2:00 a.m.! It was probably 70 degrees today but night brought a delicious chill, and we set out on a walk under the full moon. It was beautiful out, and both girls and both dogs were full of zest, cavorting happily under the silvery light of the moon. Jing and Georgie sprinted back and forth while Lily, Matilda and I walked briskly along, relishing the quiet of the night with no traffic down on the road. The river makes an incredible shushing sound that is peaceful and lively all at once. Our own little Moon Kingdom. Everyone else tucked away in bed. Earlier the moon had glowed with a beautiful orange color, as though it wanted to appear as a lantern in honor of the Lunar New Year.

Happy Year of the Ox, my two sweet ox girls. I'm sorry I couldn't get you to any celebrations, but I'm so happy we have each other to share the year ahead.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Making Valentines

This is not exactly a great photo, and of course Lily has her blanket on her head, but I love going in and finding my girls sitting in a pile of bits and pieces, hard at work on new creations! The little clear container on the table is where Lily stashes bits of gift wrap, Hershey Kiss and gum wrappers, ribbons, buttons, string, stamps, pictures cut from magazines. She also has a storage bin with tons of scrapbook papers and bigger pieces. Jing mostly just draws or paints, but she does some constructing too.

Lily has never known anything else because I had to keep her busy when I was working from a 1-year-old up to 6-year-old until we got Jing, and from about age 2-1/2 on up I kept her supplied with all sorts of bits and pieces and art projects, and she would sit beside me, creating wonderful play-doh sculptures, pipe-cleaner animals and drawings and such.
Time in China was difficult with Jing, but one bright moment was when I gave them paper and markers, and Jing effortlessly filled a paper with the most adorable characters! In the beginning, she would make many small drawings on one page and then fill the back. Judging by the letters we got from her friends, paper was at a premium! They came on scraps of flimsy transparent paper. I sent them a big box of paper, crayons and markers. I love that my girls are wonderfully creative artists!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Our mud babies

I bought all but one of these clay dolls at a flea market years ago, falling immediately in love with them. Little pieces of the red thread to China. The one on the far right I got in Xi'an when I adopted Jing. I got to buy almost nothing that trip as there was a miscommunication with the agency. They told me all the China fees had been covered. I assumed that meant ALL the fees in China. But turns out they were not counting the physical exam or consulate fees as China fees, though they are IN CHINA, huh?! So the day we got to Guangzhou, our guide unhanded me of all but $27 - with four days to go before heading home!

My credit card was useless as I had lost my job after Dossier to China, a horrifyingly unexpected surprise, and was out of work and broke and basically charged it over the top to get there and get Jing home. Oh how frustrating! And scary! Me, a rather timid person, alone with a wild, unhappy child I could not communicate with and a dismayed new little sister who was being slapped, shoved and spat upon by her new sibling and no money! So just a few small souvenirs, mostly from Xi'an when I thought I had those extra hundreds! But I did get the kid, which was a miracle considering my circumstances, so who can complain!

It was a scary time, though. I had no idea what we would do as I had cancelled the White Swan breakfast buffet to save money. But a budget oasis presented itself right in the midst of the panic! Down the road we found a little grocery store where I got three orders of fried rice and three slices of watermelon for 7 yuan! We ate it every day and ate the fruit basket the hotel gave us and even squeezed in a meal at Lucy's, I think right before our money was pilfered, and we made it home with a bit of change in our pockets! What an adventure!
Well, I did not intend to ramble there but what memories! And so we came home with a few sets of terracotta warriors, many of which broke, the little clay doll, chops for both girls, a cheap toy car and plane for Jing and Lily and a couple of t-shirts plus shoes and two boys outfits for Jing - she gagged at the girls clothes I brought her and refused to wear them, and then refused to wear the boys' outfits she picked out, choosing to roll with sweat under the two layers of clothes she came in, including a heavy denim outfit with jacket. While I got cussed out all over China by little old ladies pointing their fingers at me and lecturing me angrily! We all hope to go back so we can relax and enjoy the trip and explore China together as a unified family! Hopefully with more than $27 in our pockets!

Puppy's SO Naughty! And YAHOO!

The girls took this sad photo for the day. Remember Lily's lovely doll displayed on her dresser for CNY!? Well, Lily comes and tells me, "Mom, Jing walked into the room and saw a pitiful tiny hand on the floor. Then we found a leg." And she holds up poor Chinese Barbie, who apparently teetered off her perch and was viciously mauled by our rapscallion Beagle pup, who apparently couldn't find any tissues to shred and took it out on an innocent bystander. Luckily she was laughing about it. Lily, not the pup!
In happier news, Lions/Lighthouse of Georgia re-approved coverage of my surgery and exam for cataracts today (I had to reapply with the new year)! WAHOO! I had already hopefully made an appointment, so Monday I will be redoing my presurgery exam and setting up surgery! Thank you Victoria Jordan, you are wonderful! She couldn't even find my paperwork I had faxed and approved me just after talking to me! I think she was affected by the desperation of a caged animal in my voice!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Fun Mail!

New books have been a rarity for us because we used to be at the library at least once a week and at the thrift store frequently, where we could, on half-price day, fill a bag full of books for the price of one new one. But for the last few months, since we are stuck at home, I have treated us to a box from Amazon every three to four weeks. We desperately need something to look forward to.

The mail has taken on new importance, particularly when our book box is due to arrive. We used to get up and eat and I would get a bit of work done, and then we would walk down for the mail. Now we can't wait, and as soon as we get up we pull on our shoes while the dogs dance around and Tildy barks her exuberance, and we head out on our walk first thing. Sometimes I think we hope for some kind of miracle enclosed in the box with the red flag. No miracle today but what a thrill to find our box of books. The third book of the Austin series by Madeleine L'Engle arrived -- The Young Unicorns -- for us to read together, as we read the first two. And I decided to try a recent Dean Koontz.

The Austin series was one I read multiple times as a young person and even a young adult. Her characters were so real to me and I loved that people you got attached to in one series might pop up in another. I felt true anguish when one of her characters, Joshua in Arm of the Starfish, was killed. Reading "Meet the Austins" to Jing and Lily was very special to me. When I was their age and read it I was immersed into the warmth and love of this family. I dreamed of and yearned for the close family I would someday have and vowed to read to my children every night just as Mama Austin did. And now the dream is fulfilled, and the vivid warmth of these books is touching their hearts. I hope the circle continues and that my girls are someday piled on a couch with their pets and my grandchildren reading the Austin family series and all the other good books they can find.

As far as Dean Koontz, he is not an author I would have chosen on my own. I was badgered into reading him by a coworker who finally did me in by saying - "this book (Watchers) has the best dog character you will ever read." And I relented and soon was hooked! I have not read all his books, some with just too much violence. But there is a goodness in his books, always two or more people drawn together in a unique way who work together to fight against something dark, and the light and the good always win. The writing is gripping, the words painting a vivid picture, portraying a real emotion. Just as Madeleine L'Engle captured me so many years before.

I actually wrote Mr. Koontz a letter once and told him that only he could get a square Baptist girl to read books that included the liberal use of things like Glocks and eyeballs in jars! I told him he inspired me as a writer wannabe with his ability to make his characters real and worth caring about, and he replied with a full-page handwritten letter and sent me his latest hardback book, signed by him and his dog Trixie, her pawprint, that is! He encouraged me and said my letter was exceedingly well written and he could feel a true writer shining from that letter! I was elated to say the least that he would take the time to hand write such a lovely note! Unfortunately, when our house was vandalized it was lost in the mess, both letter and book, but I will never forget skipping down our long driveway with Lily looking up at me in awe, wondering why Mama was acting so giddy!

The other fun mail was a picture of my nephew Nate's and his wife Samantha's adorable twins who will be celebrating turning 1 year old this week. Happy birthday Kaden and Kaylee!

Front porch view - GREEN!

This is my view from my porch when I let my little Matilda out before I go to bed for the best part of the day - ah, the night shift! I was so surprised to see a new sheen of green - in early February! - that I ran and grabbed the camera. That's Georgia for you!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Star Wars on a Rainy Day

I introduced the girls to Star Wars a few months ago, and as I anticipated, Jing was enthralled! She bought a Star Wars Lego computer game with some of her Christmas money and has played it countless hours since with all the enthusiasm Lily gives to Nancy Drew games. I told Lily she looked like one of the Jawa in her blanket hood!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

My other girls

I tried to snap a candid shot of the girls doing their math on the computer - they have a teacher on tape for that this year, which has been an incredible plus to our homeschool of three NON-math-brained girls - but they would not cooperate, so I turned around in my chair from my work and snapped my other two girls. Ain't they cute!? I love working from home and being with my kids, but I also love having my pets around. They're a lot easier to get along with than many of the people I've worked with! I had a good laugh when the doctor told me I needed to go out and get a pet to help lower my blood pressure.