Sunday, October 31, 2010

Moments of Sweetness

Anyone who has raised children can attest to the fact that it is not simply ALL wonderful, sweet moments, strung together like some lovely set of pearls that a mother can wear proudly as she joins other similarly adorned mothers in a tea party or such.  No, there are many more, "Mommy, I'm Ready!!!"  which, loosely translated, means, "I've cacca'd in the potty like you wanted, so now, please come WIPE me," or "Mommy, Jennifer is LOOKING at me!!!"  (the unpardonable sin of siblings). 

Sometimes, in, fact, it seems impossible to think of these little creations of ours as sweet at all, despite the promise that "what are little girls made of?  Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice, That's what little girls are made of!"  Even little girls, at least MY little girl, was not ALL sugar and spice and everything nice.

Still, there were just enough of those sweet moments to hold the rest of the not-so-sweet ones together, to give a better valuation to the sweet moments, I suppose, a better appreciation.  I was looking through old photos this morning (again) and laughed when I came across some of the scenes I felt camera-worthy.  Back in those days, the film and developing was not cheap, and the cheap cameras at my disposal certainly produced a less than quality product.  Still, the focus of most shots was something "pleasing,"  -- no need to waste money on something displeasing, yes?

Well, sometimes I just could not restrain myself.  I have shots of my two, "hiding" from me, seriously thinking they could avoid the bath that was their daily routine, if Mom could not find them.  Of course, the fact that they chose to hide AFTER getting undressed for their bath rather limited their hiding places, then, didn't it?  Oh, what terrible mother I was... I snapped their picture and STILL required they take their bath.

Please don't notice the EMPTY TP!!

Yes, back in those early days, they bathed together... not so much for the "green" aspect of it, but I needed to be able to keep my eye on them and together was easier than separate... I only have ONE good eye, after all!

But also in the mix of photos I found some very sweet ones... candid ones where the children had no idea I was capturing their actions.  And these photos are my favorites... they are not necessarily smiling or "pretty" for the camera... they are just doing what they did... natural.

Stephen, 6 Reading to Jenn, 4

Of course, they also had their posing moments... the moments they worked hard for...  and for these I obligingly also snapped their picture.  Hallowe'en was always one of their favorites for such posing. 

I have no idea who this is!
On this Hallowe'en 2010, my children, now 29 and 27, are, I imagine, prepared to give candy to the little angels turned terrors for the night (or vice verse), in their own neighborhoods.  I will have no such trick-or-treaters out here in the boonies, but I have photos of sweet moments with which to remember those days!

Teddy, RIP, Our Black Cat of those Days
Happy Hallowe'en!!!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Five Yards for Five Dollars

Wal-mart did away with their fabric section a couple of years ago. I remember feeling sad that they had decided to take away the little "dream" section, where I could find the fabric I needed for any given project.  Now that is not to say I have done a great deal of sewing in the past few years, I have not, but I still enjoyed having the "option" of whipping something up, without a long drive over "across the water" to the real fabric stores.

This afternoon I went to do some much needed grocery shopping.  While in the one-stop-shop Wal-mart, I spied a table laden with bolts of fabric.  Each bolt had five yards of fabric, and each bolt was priced at five dollars.  Now, the fabric was gaudy and very poor quality, to be sure, but I still stopped and looked.  I swear, had there been a single acceptable pattern, or a decent piece of fabric, I would have bought it, JUST to encourage them to keep offering it.  But there was nothing I could find on that table for which I could imagine a use.

Disappointed, I moved on, no bolt of fabric in my basket, thinking about those very early days when I would use ANY fabric, just to afford myself the opportunity to sew. In those days, I rummaged through the attic, nabbing ancient and hideous black and white floral design curtains with which I made an equally hideous blouse.  I walked the mile and a half to the fabric store where I could purchase three yards of "something" for a dollar.  And those purchases of "something" became shirts, skirts, blouses and such.

Now, admittedly, the early works were only acceptable to me because they were "done."  They were not pretty.  They were not well made, but I had finished them, by George, and I was determined to wear my creations.  Thankfully, that was back in the day when there were a fair number of kids whose mothers still made their clothes... so mine did not stand out too badly (at least that is how I saw it.)

Always more of a "giver," I was anxious to share my work with my family.  I made shirts for my four younger brothers -- shirts which, I am fairly certain, they wore to please me, not because they liked them.  My poor mother, a home economics major in college, had to bite her tongue numerously as I, frustrated with some zipper or dart or something, asked her for help, and then declared she didn't know what she was doing.... Mom and I never did see exactly eye to eye.  She'd want me to baste my seams -- I'd want to just pin and stitch... I wanted to be DONE -- she wanted me to have a decent product.

As much as I really struggled in those early sewing days, I persevered, for I had a dream of getting a sewing machine my very own one day, nevermore to have to share the old knee-peddle Singer with Mom, or pay my sister for buttonholes on her new Kenmore.  And so I sewed and sewed and sewed....  One day, one of my brother's friends was over and asked me if I'd make him a shirt.  That was the day I was confident my work had reached an acceptable level.

I continued to whip up shirts and skirts, dresses and blouses, shorts and pants for several more years before, on Christmas of my senior year in high school, I found in the Christmas tree, an IOU from SANTA... I'd get my sewing machine when they went on sale after Christmas.  By this time, I was really sewing because I loved it, and I loved the creations I made.  In fact, when I started dating my first serious boyfriend, during my senior year, I made him several shirts.  He wore them, and I continued to add to his homemade wardrobe over the several years of our relationship.  When we eventually parted ways, the shirts went with him, but I kept sewing. In fact, when I met the man who was to become my first husband, my brothers asked him, upon meeting him for the first time, whether I had made him any shirts yet. I imagine he must have thought that a rather odd question, but to my brothers, if I really loved a guy, I would be making him clothes!

Over the years I continued to make a good portion of my own wardrobe, add my husband's wardrobe, and to make a LOT of the clothes my children wore, until they reached middle school.  By that time they were less impressed with the "Mom made this for me!" and were more interested in getting their clothes like the other kids did.  I was finding also that to make the clothes was becoming more expensive than purchasing them from the store... not designer brands, of course...just the basics.

Jenn in Mom's Creations
Stephen, sporting a Mom-made shirt

So, my sewing machine was used less and less... sure, I made Christmas stockings, mended holes in pants, and made the occasional dress for a "special occasion," but I was not living in the fabric stores as I had done for years.  I was happy Wal-mart had a fabric section with reasonably decent selections, so that when I DID have the desire to get creative, I could do so on the spur of the moment.  But those moments became further and further apart, and I suppose Wal-mart just couldn't justify continuing to offer all of that fabric, if everyone was like me... less and less.

Everyone Except MomMom,
wearing a homemade shirt!

Still, today, when I happened on that table piled high with bolts of cheap, gaudy fabric, I could not simply pass by without HUNTING for one bolt that I could take home... but I suppose it was not meant to be.  Oh well, I still have a cedar chest full of fabric I have yet to use.  And the fact that the sewing machine is at the Pond house and her electric cord and peddle are here at the Farmhouse.... well, you get my point... I'm not exactly prepared to sew a new creation then, am I?

Yep, My Maternity Clothes and
Mom's Wedding Dress -- Homemade

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Fond Farewell

We returned the Penske truck today.  I can honestly say, despite the fact that the cab did leak in the heavy downpours she was subjected to enroute, and despite the fact that the cargo area ALSO had a leak (minor damage to only one box as far as I know), it was a very good truck.  I am mystified as to why there was such a huge difference in the cost of renting the Penske versus the U-Haul version.  I'm telling you the truth, U-haul wanted three times what Penske charged us, for the same sized cargo area.

Maybe Not Exactly Water Tight?
I was a little sad to see the truck go.  We were supposed to return her by 11:26 AM today, but, due to work schedules, etc., we pulled into the lot at 11:31 AM... they did not charge us the late return fee.  The folks here in Gloucester were just as pleasant as the one in Fresno, CA where we rented her.  All in all, it was an excellent experience.

The trip was definitely a good one.  Spending that many hours in the cab of a truck with another person can sometimes result in getting on each others' nerves, getting in bad moods, etc.  But I can honestly say, Joe is an ideal travel companion... he does all the driving and never gets in a bad mood! 

Close Quarters
Over 3000 Miles Traveled
Me, I snooze when I want, and fool around with the camera and the computer... if I have to get some work done, I can do it while riding in the passenger seat of the cab.  My biggest complaint is, I suppose, a factor of age... after sitting for such long periods, I can barely move... I look like an 80 year old when I take my first steps after carefully climbing out of the truck.

Judy, Prepared for Anything!

One of the things I love about driving across the country, besides the pictures of the sights we see, is the opportunity to share stories.  We each come from a different set of experiences and every now and then something happens, or we end up in some town that triggers a memory... and so we share our stories.

One of these moments happened when we found ourselves ready for a break in Gallup, New Mexico.  To me, it was just another town I'd never seen, with ample food offerings and fuel choices.  To Joe, it was a trip down memory lane.  He told me of a time more than 30 years ago when, helping his sister and brother-in-law move across country to CA, the rented truck he was driving broke down.  This being in the days before cell phones, he had to wait until the police "discovered" him, hanging out in the shade under a bridge.

It was a fun and interesting story, wherein Joe remained in Gallup, NM for several days while the truck rental company found another truck, and reloaded his load onto the new truck so he could continue his journey.  Because the process took several days, he was put up in a local motel and he made friends with some of the locals.  And he discovered "blue corn."  The story was of a young man with big dreams ... dreams of fields of blue corn.  I had to laugh when he told me he'd wanted to be a farmer all those many years ago. Funny, I did far back as my teens, I wanted to live on a farm.

For typical reasons, neither of us ended up having a farm.  Until this year when we bought the old farmhouse.  We haven't really started the "farming" part of the whole deal just yet, but we have tried growing a few things, with some success.  Watermelons, tomatoes, and sunflowers were great successes for us this first season on the property.  Next year we will try some other crops, just to see what works well for us.  I'm doubtful that blue corn, that grows well in the New Mexico climate will do so well here, but I am tempted to try it, just because.  I have this vision of Joe, standing in amongst the blue corn plants and the sunflowers, just smiling at his successful crops!

So, yes, it was truly a "fond farewell" to that Penske truck today.  She inspired old memories, and she helped make new ones.

Tranquility in Arkansas
Resting in Oklahoma
Sharing a Meal with the King
Admiring the Aliens in New Mexico

Bidding A Fond Farewell

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Oh, Yeah!

What were we thinking?  I mean, seriously, what WERE we thinking?  On paper it seemed so "doable."  We would fly out to California on one way tickets, rent a 16 foot box truck, load up a couple of tons of "stuff" and drive back to VA.  Our trip would span more than three weeks, but the first two weeks of that time would be devoted to my work.  On paper, then, we had ten days to pick up the truck, load her up, make the drive 3000 miles across the country, unload the load and return the truck.  And that sounded completely OK to us.


Now, there were some additional constraints that potentially could make our goal a little tougher to reach.  For instance, even though we did have the truck for 10 days, I had to be back at work two days before the truck was due back.  And, since we rarely get to see family and friends in CA, while there, we had to incorporate a couple of get-togethers, setting us back further from our originally intended start date for truck loading.

So it was that we were really NOT prepared when we picked up the reserved truck, and we spent the next two and a half days loading her up.  (Our plan had been to "stage" everything on pallets so that when we picked up the truck, we could load her straight up in a matter of 12 hours or less... Oh, well.  And then we were on our way....two days after our intended departure, and three days after picking up the truck.

We literally moved that truck along the highways and byways as quickly as was realistically possible, with bad weather chasing us, catching us,  -- playing with us all along the route.  We stopped twice for sleep, and stopped five additional times to eat meals.  And, having left the Yosemite area of CA at 2:15 AM on Thursday, we arrived back at the old farmhouse here in the Gloucester area of VA at 12:30 PM on Monday.  Of course, we still had loads of chores to do, but we napped first and then completed our chores, finally calling it a night around 2 AM Tuesday morning.

The plan for Tuesday was for me to work during the day while Joe caught up on much needed sleep and then to work together in the late afternoon to unload the cargo from the box truck into the semi trailer we are using for storage here at the farmhouse.  It was a decent plan and rather well executed... at least until we started the unloading process.

In life there are many ways to accomplish one's goals... some require preparation, some allow for "seat of the pants" executions.  Since this was a rented truck, and the ground was "spongy" from recent heavy rains, and the access area to the semi trailer was iffy at best, we opted for the "preparation" model approach.  We started the preparation at 4:30 PM.

Semi Trailer, Swept and Ready to Receive Load

By 8:00 PM we had managed to sweep out the semi trailer to allow for storing the cargo in as clean an environment as possible and had managed to create a new driveway from the current driveway to the semi trailer, laying first road dirt and then a light sprinkling of gravel to reduce the possibility of getting the heavy box truck stuck in the wet ground.

Joe, making temporary road

Next we'd tried backing up to the deck leading to the semi trailer, using the ramp on the box truck to make a gangway to the semi trailer... that did not work. So, eventually, and through much careful maneuvering by Joe, we manged to get the truck backed up to another deck onto which we would make our ramp into the semi trailer.

Load to Unload

Ready to Unload

And then we decided to take a break, come inside and have some supper, and then try complete the job.  I also had a report I needed to complete for work...

At 10:30, with our appetites sated, I completed my work assignment while Joe returned to the work site to continue preparations.  By 1 AM, when I sent off my completed work assignment and return to the work site, Joe had successfully hung additional lights in the semi trailer and the back of the cargo truck, and created the ramp to get the boxes from the truck to the semi trailer.

Extra Lights Hung in Semi Trailer

For the next three hours we worked like crazy to get everything offloaded, our desire to complete the task fueled not only by the countdown of days to the required return of the truck, but by the weather predictions of more torrential rain, tornado watches, and generally bad weather approaching.

Halfway through -- Semi Trailer
Halfway through Truck
Wrapping up the Offloading

We finished unloading at just after 4 AM this morning.  The air felt very suggestive of rain and, though we'd originally planned to wait until morning to move the truck out of her unloading location, Joe became nervous that heavy rains would result in a truck stuck in the new, temporary driveway... so, despite the early/late hour, and the amount of work required to actually MOVE that truck, we decided to finish the job.

Sweeping up
Road Dirt Pile

In the final backing of the truck into the unloading location, the front wheels had pushed through a pile of the unused road dirt.  Joe was reluctant to try to drive back through that pile, so decided it made better sense to move the dirt.  He fired up the tractor at about 4:30  AM, thankful that our neighbors are not within earshot!  Thirty minutes later, with dirt moved, temporary driveway widened further and gravel sprinkled on top to aid in driving the truck over the fresh dirt, Joe was successful in getting her out and onto more "terra firma."

Early Morning Tractor Work
Joe Raking the new Temporary Road
Adding a Sprinkling of Gravel
Inspecting the Clearance to Get the Truck Out
We're in a Tight Spot (Oh Brother, Where Art Thou)

Safely Back on Solid Ground

Then it was just the cleanup of the tools and such, closing of doors, turning off of lights, and by 5:30 AM, we were finally able to go to bed.  I DID set my alarm, something I rarely do, concerned that I might oversleep my 7:00 AM "must be up" time.... I'm glad I did.  I was still tired when I arose, making my way to my office to start, once again, my work day.  I am very thankful my office is only about ten feet from my bedroom!  I would NOT have wanted to drive in that tired condition.

So, tomorrow we will return the rental truck on time, and without any damages during our use.  And with that, we will have completed the move of more than two tons of "stuff" from the west coast to the east coast of these United States....  I am still scratching my head and wondering, "What WERE we THINKING???"

Out next cross-continental trip will be a relaxed one, without hard deadlines, and without huge cargo hauls.... maybe even with good weather the whole way??? Well, I can dream, can't I?

Crossing the Bridge at West Point, VA
From the next Bridge, West Point, VA
Following the Fall Colors Home

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Yes, It's Good, to be Back Home Again

Monday dawned in the Blue Ridge Mountains, somewhere just northwest of Roanoke, VA.  The sky was beautiful, but the light too low to catch anything much but a blur of pinks and blues from the cab of the moving truck.  I did try, but I think I'll spare your eyes from the results of those earliest attempts.

Blue Ridge Mountain Dawn -- Side Window
Blue Ridge Mountain Dawn -- Front Window

The day started out sort of foggy, so even when we stopped at a "vista point" to take in the view from the heavily littered pull-off, we were only able to capture a hazy photo of the valley below.

Hazy View of Valley
While we were doing our standard routine, both of us taking pictures and Joe taking pictures of both of us, a car pulled up, a man jumped out and ran up to us. "My wife told me to help you take a picture of the two of you," he said with a smile.  Joe, tired from nearly 24 hours of straight driving, didn't have the energy to explain that he can capture the photo of the two of us with the fish-eye lens.  Instead, he handed to helpful Harry his camera, we worked up a couple of tired smiles, he snapped the photo, we thanked him, and he was on his way.

Tired Travelers in Blue Ridge Mountains
AFTER he left, I mentioned that the man, though a stranger, had looked very familiar to me.  Joe was surprised because he'd thought the same thing.  I'm thinking he might have been one of the musicians we played with during the summer 2009, at a lovely little "all musicians welcome" jam session in the Blue Ridge mountains.  I will have to look back at the video I shot that day to see whether he IS on that video.

From there it was another 4-5 hours of driving and we were finally rolling along the familiar roads of Gloucester, VA, making our way home to the old Farmhouse in Mathews.  The fall leaves here are offering some decent colors, though the rain, clearly following us, was not far behind and the accompanying gloomy skies did not offer the beautiful backdrop for their colors that the crisp blue fall sky would have.

Fall Colors under Cloudy Skies

More Bad Weather Threatening
Nearing Gloucester, VA... Brief Break in Weather
Road Leading to Our Farmhouse
Back home, the dog and cats were exceedingly happy to see us.  Killian, the "talker" of the trio, continued to voice her enthusiasm about our return for the next several hours.  The cats, simply looked expectantly at their food bowls in anticipation of a mid-meal "snack."  Nothing has changed!

Well, to be honest, the old farmhouse looked rather abandoned when we pulled up.  Under the gray skies, the grass needing mowing, the trees losing their leaves, the grass trying to take over the dirt and gravel roads, screamed to us that they have been neglected for more than three weeks and, that if we don't move quickly, they will simply return to their natural state of field and forest.

Home Again
Gray Skies Return...but We're Back Home!
Flowers are Still Trying

3000 Miles Later, Virtually No Shifting of Load

Still, we were exhausted from the last push, so after taking my conference call for work, unloading our luggage, and eating a small snack, we crashed, taking a four hour nap.  We were tired when we awoke, but we still had much to complete before we could call it a night.  We had to drive to the airport to pick up our car (24 days in the lot there), go to the pond house and verify everything was in order for the open house to be held today, pick up the mail that had been held for more than three weeks, get a LITTLE grocery shopping completed, and unload the pictures from our cameras.  We hit the sack at 2:30 AM, having barely completed all of these required tasks.

John Denver said it pretty well in his song,

Hey it's good to be back home again,
Sometimes, this old farm, feels like a long lost friend,
Yes, and hey it's good to be back home again...

Yep... More Work Ahead
Well, I'd better get to work.  Nothing changed because I was on vacation... my work is piled high and I must attend to it!