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Being Florida born and bred I have never quite adjusted to snow events. A world transformed by white was out of the realm of my imagination and the first snow I ever saw I was 21 years old in Big Bear City, California. That snow was called Tapioca for its tapioca-like pellets, and I have never seen the likes of it since.

And then we had a whopper of an event a day or so ago here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. That storm named Izzy dumped seven inches that froze in place and dredged up lots of memories of other winters right here in rural Virginia.

In the early days years ago such a snow created magnificent excitement for those of us young enough to enjoy prepping and shoveling or just going outside to experience raw nature.

That was when my mother was living with us and I would call the power company and whine about having an elderly woman here who could not take the cold. Mom has been gone a long time and guess who is elderly here now!

In the old days we had to keep stocked up on wood for the woodstove, and I saved water in bathtubs, washing machines, and in any containers I could find, candles too, and lots and lots of comforters and blankets to cozy up in. I made stew that could be reheated on the wood stove. Never mind that it might take six hours to be heated to a palatable stage. And we got out the shovels too.

This latest storm has been a vastly different story.

The power stayed on but even if it went out the difference is we installed a whole house generator!

And because we have this remarkable new technology I should be happy to exclaim, “Let it snow.”

Because now:

There will be running water no matter what.

The microwave will work.

The toaster too.

The heat never goes off.

The freezer keeps on running.

Lights only go out for 10 seconds before the generator kicks in.

No candles necessary.

Progress! A better life. A safer future.

Then why do I feel sad? Maybe it is like people felt when the automobile replaced the horse and carriage. This first real winter storm since we got the generator has left me with a sort of wrung out memory. It was a ghost snowstorm that brought up all my old memories of bustling around preparing for a worst scenario.

I still keep a few jarred candles in a secret cupboard just in case. They are lonely reminders of more eventful days when I placed candles in every room and flashlights too.

I still filled two pitchers with water just in case. They are reminders that the need for water was paramount. Filling tanks and tubs and containers was a busy job indeed.

The wood stove has not been lit with a real fire in a long time. It once kept us so warm at times I had to open windows. There is still plenty in the woodpile but waiting for a forgotten necessity.

Yes, I did go through the motions of all the preparations I used to do, but eventually realized I could just sit back and watch the snow. There was that little glimmer of excitement as I watched the first flakes come floating down, but I actually longed to be in survival mode with all the old frantic preparations. I missed working to make my home ready to combat nature and then to bundle up in Aunt Millie’s crocheted afghan, enjoying reheated stew warmed for six hours on the woodstove.

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Well, the gang was all here for Thanksgiving in the country and it was a hoot (as they used to say in another of my previous eras). Son, daughter-in-law, 3 grandgirls and one Golden Doodle descended upon this quiet, mostly people-less, oasis of calm and serenity in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Even Elsa-the-dog was in shock and only began to adjust by Day 4.

Thanksgiving day and the day before were a frenzy of cooking. And in spite of my Grand-girl, Jessica’s brilliant pre-holiday spread sheet outlining each of our specially owned menu items, we largely proceeded to cook old favorites in our own unique ways. The results were a delicious (if not elegant) meal. This is not a criticism because there are obviously benefits to using paper plates liked fast cleanup and less chaos in the kitchen.

But I had envisioned setting the table with “good china” for the first time since the advent of Covid and in fact, bought a new cloth that would spotlight the glowing beauty, etc.

I think it was the day after Thanksgiving when we almost all went to the Great Valley Farm and Brewery just to check it out and for something to do. And for no real reason we stayed and stayed in a plastic wrapped bubble laughing and talking and of course sipping the wine and eventually the view, and made friends with a giant pit bull terrier named Ed who was happily visiting there with his own human family. And Ed was truly a gentle loving giant.

Since I had not had a drink in years you might understand why the giggles came on strong. I was also chilled since being housebound and not accustomed to real air. The girls noticed me shiver and proceeded to wrap up Grammy and the giggles got hilariously contagious.

After awhile we moved on down the hill to the Halcyon Days Cider place and sampled all their delicious hard cider varieties which only amplified the giggles. There was more of course…. more food, more games, more talking and laughter.

The gang was all here and now gone. There is an odd empty feeling of quiet.

So we decorated the Christmas tree.

And all the while we were wishing the family and all of you wonderful friends in cyberspace a Christmas laced with great food, grins and giggles.

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I never tire of the sweeping view, especially whilst cooking and standing at the kitchen window.

How blessed we are to have found this place and recognized it as home.

Thirty-two years ago I would hum happily en route to this 20 acre plot where there was no home yet . It was a place in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia where we could imagine a future.

The land stayed unspoiled. The house Bill designed sustained us.

And “the future is now.”

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My friend Amy discovered this adorable little kitten abandoned and alone. Being a “dog person” with two dogs at home, Amy was not looking to add a feline to the mix. She found a foster family for the baby and was relieved to hand the kitten over. But the foster mom called in two days to announce she could not keep the kitty because her own dogs threatened to harm it.

What to do. What to do. Amy knew little about felines but made sure the kitty had enough food to eat and was healthy. As the days went by Amy became more and more attached and she named him Sam.

And it has been a love story ever since.

But the true love of his life is now Amy and the true love of her life is now Sam.

When Amy was sick for a few days recently Sam slept with her and never left her side and she would wake up to find Sam’s little paw on her face.

This is an ongoing story of course and it will make for a few more smiley faced blog posts.

But isn’t Sam adorable?

I am so glad he and Amy found each other and that Sam has found a real home.

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The 3 grands cooking

Complete with dogs and grandgirls and son and daughter-in-law, our house became a home again after nearly two years of no visitors due to the Covid-19 virus restrictions. I still think of the three grands as children but here they were, all gainfully employed and taking time from their busy schedules to meet up again and comfort this Grammy with the new hip.

The youngest grand-girl arrived with some beautiful flowers that promptly set off an allergic reaction. The middle grand put them out on the deck so we could see them through the glass doors but not get close to the pollen.

There were also Dove chocolate bites – no allergic reaction there. And a bandana for Elsa!

Then they cooked and made it a double celebration. Not only were we reunited after such a long time, but they also wanted to celebrate Bill’s upcoming birthday making a ham and noodles dish he loves. After telling them the story of his Mom making apple streudle, they looked that up and made that too.

While I was in surgery and Bill was biting his nails waiting, our son and daughter-in-law were taking care of Elsa and the house. I came home to Emmy’s famous chicken noodle soup and other fabulous dishes that kept her in the kitchen. and waiting on me “hand and foot.”

Son, Corky kept the house together, fixing things and comforting Elsa, who now loves him back and is pining for him. Though she kept up a steady stream of barking, she seems to be missing all the chaos.

Our middle grandgirl brought her GoldenDoodle 8 month old puppy (named Indie) who we decided to keep separated from Elsa. Elsa is a rescue and we were not really sure how she would interact. Fortunately Indie and the family fell in love with the pool, the weather was good and everybody was happy. I am not allowed in a pool of course so I watched from the kitchen window.

Daughter-in-Law, Emmy
Son, Corky

I always envied folks their family reunions but never suspected there would be one of my own. We are a relatively small unit but how lovely to know how committed we all are to each other and how much love we share.

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We hired a painting contractor to brighten up the exterior of the house we have lived in for over 30 years. Much like my face, the old cedar siding was severely faded and in need of an uplift.

Little did we know there would be a fleet of ten young college students who came to our rescue.

They were a well trained team of experts, each with his or her own specialty and each with his or her own assigned area.

These were girls and boys from all over the country who have opted to stay in town for the summer months, and I suppose this is a good way to earn extra dollars.

I forgot how much energy and strength there resides in the young.

Suddenly there was a hoard of energetic people all over the house.

A port-a-potty was brought in – well, not “in” – but out and available for their use.

Then the mob came with all their ladders and tools and strength and determination and began by power washing.

And in 3 days the house was stained and looks better now than when it was brand new!

Woosh!

Thirty years of fading and grime erased just like that.

It was like a reverse tornado that left us house occupants scratching our heads in wonder.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Peace and quiet are what I yearn for,

even more so in the golden years.

Instead the phone is ringing “off the hook”

with fake people scams and phishing,

so who has time to read a book?

Yesterday FedX and UPS came twice,

and sent the dog into a fit of barking

calculated to excite.

And others came to dig a trench and add a cable

for high speed internet to bring us up-to-date

that sent the dog a-running and a-barking

and the phone kept a-ringing

so peace and quiet have to wait.

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Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on Pexels.com

My father was a painting contractor in that long-ago time when houses were done with oil paint. I understand oil is still available but mostly folks use Latex now. Dad taught me to use a brush up and down with quality oil paint and then side to side to avoid visible brush marks! He had his own business, carried his ladders on a truck, and was much like the painters today in our little rural community in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

I thought I knew it all about how to choose a house painter because talking to them would be like talking to Dad again. I would join the world of estimates, numbers of men on the crew, gallons of paint needed, scheduling, etc. I knew it all.

I wonder though, what Dad would say to this story of trial and error in the selection process.

We would like to get the outside of our house painted/stained ASAP so the question was, “How do we find someone to do a good job and show up when expected?” In other words, we were looking for a professional, trustworthy painter like my Dad.

First we learned over time to go to friends for shared names and experiences. I did that and got two prospect numbers from a trusted friend who had work done a few years ago.

Neither telephone number worked.

Next I went online and got a name and an immediate response! Wow! Impressive. And Wow! We had an appointment with “Ambrose” (fictitious name) to come to our house the next day.

Meanwhile I remembered a company who did some minor painting for us years ago and although the crew were the biggest scariest looking men I have ever met, they had done a stellar job. So I called that number too. Again, a quick response and an appointment for them to come out the next day.

Finally, my son did a little digging and came up with another name we shall call “John”, who was just as responsive as the first two! And we had another appointment for the day after the first day of appointments.

None of this is very scientific but what the hay, this is country living right? They say three is a crowd but in the case of obtaining bids, I figured three was a reasonable number.

APPOINTMENT DAY

Ambrose showed up and was great to talk to and not only said he did painting but he also does handyman work! We were excited. He went around the house, took pictures and measurements and then said he would get an estimate back to us in a week. That was Monday. Bill liked Ambrose. We were both leaning toward Ambrose but needed to see the other two.

John (another fictitious name) was supposed to come Tuesday but arrived on Monday so he was eager. He is a friendly extroverted talker who quickly convinced us he knows what he is doing, but we were still leaning toward Ambrose. Nevertheless, John produced a detailed estimate by email on the same day. We are definitely not used to this level of professionalism in this heavenly place my Mom called “No Man’s Land.”

Finally, the big big guys who had once done some work for us came out and remembered us and our place. We were hopeful and were leaning toward them since we already had a record of their great work in our house. These fine fellows are what people around here call “locals” and of course they, in private, call the rest of us “foreigners” since we were not born here. True locals have a Virginia dialect that is sometimes difficult for us foreigners to understand but we all managed to communicate and they promised to produce an estimate next day.

This they did.

But their quote was twice as high as John’s. Their quote was very very high.

Nix the Big Guys because they were just too expensive.

Ambrose waited a whole week to contact us again. He did call in precisely seven days to let us know he had not done an estimate and to announce that he was too booked up to take on this project. Huh?

Nix Ambrose because he said he was not available.

And so we are now committed/contracted to have our house painted in late May by John.

We trust John,

we think.

I will keep you posted on this yet-to-be-begun project but at least you know some dubious steps to find a house painter :

  • Call friends.
  • Look online.
  • Remember good workers from the past.
  • Enlist family members to help.
  • Or you may have figured out that if you live in No Man’s Land, it will be just plain luck if you find a painter as good as my Dad. On the other hand, you may not want to paint your house with oil paint either.

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This is Me, Elsa

They call me a Rescue Dog but I am really just a dog, a descendent of the mighty wolves of long ago. I actually remember bits and pieces of that ancient time when we depended upon our wolf families to survive. This leftover is a dog who still thinks the family/pack is everything.

I remember my ancient mother licking my face to tell me I was safe and cared for. And I remember roughhouse playing with my siblings as practice for real hunting and fighting. But mostly I remember the “now times” and my first, second and third human families.

My name is Elsa.

I am a little rescue dog with big wolf ideas.

In this life I have some bad memories.

My first human family did not really want puppies so they gave me to a kennel where I lived in a cage. Then a mean couple finally adopted me. I had a home but it was not a happy place because the man hit the lady and made her cry. I would growl at him and bark but he hit her anyway and he hit me too. I think he broke one of my ribs because it still sticks out and I don’t like anyone touching there. I also cringe and flinch if you try to pat me on my head.

The mean couple trained me to never to “go” on the grass. They thought the neighbors would complain. To avoid getting hit or kicked I learned to always go on the edges, on the concrete or gravel even though that was uncomfortable and sometimes hot on my feet.

I never learned to play either because there were no toys in that house. As hard as I tried I suppose I never did anything right because the mean couple ended up leaving me at a kennel. Their reason given was they simply did not want me. I was back living in a cage.

The next people who adopted me gave me back too and said it was because of hospitalization. I never bit anyone but maybe they thought I did. I am not sure why they were hospitalized. Then I was put in a foster program instead of in a kennel. The foster people tried to be nice but they had too many dogs to care for. Every Saturday they took us to a pet store in Virginia where people came to meet us and maybe take us away.

How I hated Saturdays! The noise was unbearable because all the foster dogs barked and cried at once. We were all so afraid of all the strangers and there was this awful smell of fear.

But there was a lady who walked with a stick who came in that Saturday.

They brought her a chair and they took me to a cage that was right next to her. I fought with the two attendants who were trying to put me in there when the lady said, “Please don’t put her in that cage. I will hold her.” And so I sat on-leash, next to the lady with my head on her foot, shivering and looking into her eyes to thank her in the only way I could.

That nice lady was named Dor and she was with another nice one named Emmy. They did not know me and I could not tell them how afraid I am of cars. Cars always take me to another horrible place. But Emmy and an attendant put me in the back seat of a car where I did some serious shaking and shivering. Emmy drove and Dor sat next to me. She wrapped me in her coat, held me close, and talked to me in a soft voice. She said, “It’s o.k. You are going home to a nice place where people will love you.” And she kept stroking my face and my ears like my real dog mother used to do and all the wolf mothers before her.

And I thought, “I will never forget this human. I will never forget.”

We drove for a long time to a house with other people and even a dog named Kota, who was much bigger than me and very very nervous. In fact, Kota turned out to be so nervous, she could not be still.

We went inside but I was sure they would soon take me to another kennel and another cage. I really wanted to explore but there were so many people talking at once and Kota kept running around nonstop. Finally I growled as if I were Mighty Wolf and scared Kota onto a chair with her mistress.

It was a relief to sleep that night in a dark room with Dor and Bill. I slept on a blanket at the foot of their bed and it was heavenly quiet. Everybody left in the morning except for Dor and Bill. Now we three would get to know each other and I somehow knew this would be my forever family,

I think I am as smart as any other dog, but it took a day and a night and some more experiences to believe I had a new home where the humans actually liked me.

Dor was the one human I decided to take care of.

I followed her everywhere and still do.

I sit behind her chair but if she moves I move.

I have been here two years now and all this time she thought I was the one who needed protecting. Even when I bark at strangers she thinks I am afraid for myself.

The truth is, I am protecting HER – not me. I do love all her soft words of praise and love and the gentle petting too. But I know my real purpose is to protect her and my family.

I knew this from the very first moment I heard her say,

“Please don’t put her in that cage. I will hold her.”

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