Sunday, December 20, 2009

Thank God for a neighbor with a snow plow!

Well, our neighbor came over this afternoon and plowed us out so we actually made it to Mass today. Our street is still snowy but Rte. 11 was fine and Int. 81 was clear. We went up to Winchester for Mass because our church only has morning services. We saw a few cars buried along the side of the road. They'll need major shoveling to get out. Our neighbor is going off to the Virgin Islands after Christmas and looking forward to warmer weather. They will be renting a yacht and touring the islands. They deserve a splendid trip for doing a good deed for the needy.

Sounds inviting eh? We will look forward to warmer weather too -- to melt some of the snow before we get more. This will definitely be around for a white Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

We're snowed in and not getting out anytime soon!

I took this photo of the swimming pool this afternoon and since then the snow has accumulated another four or five inches. When I last check with a ruler it was 17 inches, but when Larry checked it just now (8:30 p.m.) it was 18.5. It's pretty much flurrying now so I think that we are close to the Kreitzer official measurement. Now if only some brownie would come in the night and dig out our driveway.... There is no way we are getting out. It's about 100 feet long and the snow plows have left a mountain at the end. I think we will not be making it to Mass tomorrow. I can't remember the last time that happened. If we check out the road tomorrow and it isn't too slick we may walk. This is a good lesson in what things were like before the automobile.

This is the first year I remember two snowfalls in December. And winter doesn't even start for two days! Is this a harbinger or will it be like the summers when the hottest weather comes in June? Time will tell. One of my grandchildren (can't remember who) told me it would be a hard winter because the caterpillars were dark brown. Was that you, Brendan?

All you grammas out there watch out for reindeer!

This is one of my favorite Christmas songs. As Anne Shirley would say, "I suppose it was a romantic way to go for a gramma." But I'm not drinking any egg nog!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hear the Pitter-Patter of Baby Feet!

Neil called a few nights ago with "good news and bad news." He asked if we wanted the good news or bad news first, not a good strategy since I will always ask for the good news first. So he replied, "I'll give you the bad news first. We won't be coming for a visit next summer." My immediate thought was, "Are you moving back to Virginia?" It is a little hope always in the back of my mind. Larry, on the other hand, was more tuned in. "You're expecting a baby!"

Bingo! Must be the scientific mind. Next mid August or so a new little Kreitzer will enter the world stage.

So as we contemplate the Savior's birth we have another little baby on our minds and are already carrying the little one in our hearts.

Little nameless-for-now was heartily welcomed by his/her siblings when Neil and Martina announced the good news. And now Neil's project of the playscape has the future prospect of two more little hands and feet climbing, swinging, sliding, and playing.

Please pray for an easy pregnancy and delivery for this latest little grandchild, number nineteen among the earthly angels. The girls are currently up 10-8. So we will all be excited to see what this new baby does to the balance. (Twin boys would even things out, Martina.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

New desktop -- Some of my favorite little people!

After several weeks of snow and ice and cold weather, I decided it was time for a virtual break. So when my niece, Becky, sent a photo of the kids (five of my grand-nieces and nephews and five of my grandchildren) from last summer enjoying a popsicle break at our pool I decided to make it the "virtual summer escape" from wintery weather. So every time I boot up, I'll blow virtual kisses to my little virtual visitors. Okay, kids, get ready to start taking over the world for Jesus in about 15 years.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse....

I wish that were true, but since last Christmas at least one of the little critters was not only stirring, but chewing and chewing, presumably on a quest for bedding material to make a nest. When I pulled out my Christmas village this year I found my "snow" (which was new last year) had been sabotaged. The mouse didn't make his bed in the box which was filled to the brim with smaller boxes holding the church, the inn, Scrooge's townhouse and all the other acoutrements of the Christmas village, so now I have to wonder where his bed is. Yuck! Will I find lots of little mice somewhere? I hope not. The intrepid mouse hunter is on the trail -- i.e., the game's afoot. He also went and got me new "snow" so I could finish my project which decorates my dining room buffet during the Christmas season.

First Snowfall of the Season: The Kreitzer Cotton Plantation!

One of the things I love about living in Virginia is the change of seasons. Spring brings the glories of dogwood, daffodils, cherry blossoms and azaleas. The summer is filled with plenty of swimming pool and beach weather. Fall in the mountains offers the glories of maples in full scarlet and gold and orange oaks, and the winter brings (at least a little) snow!

Our first snowfall of the season (December 5) was significant for this area - five inches of the heavy wet stuff that clung to the trees and gave us a real winter wonderland. .Unusual though: it looked like cottonballs sticking to the trees just like cotton plants. We had our own virtual cotton plantation. And if you don't believe how similar it was to the real thing, here's a cotton boll to prove it. All I needed to make the picture more perfect was some grandchildren to be picking (and throwing or rolling) those balls. Anyone up for a cottonball fight?

Monday, November 30, 2009

I Did It! I Wrote a Novel in a Month

You can read about it here and I'm uploading my winner's icon.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

"All Aboard:" A Visit to Wilmington's Train Museum

Wednesday was overcast and sprinkly so, after browsing through our collection of brochures, we decided on a trip to downtown Wilmington's Train Museum. It was located near the river boardwalk and had an engine and caboose outside. Inside were a number of interesting displays as well as an incredible model city with several railroads running through it. The museum had a scavenger hunt sheet and there would plenty of things to seek and find in the display.

We enjoyed exploring the caboose which was a little apartment on wheels with two benches that could serve as cots for sleeping. An interesting fact we discovered is that the engineer wasn't in charge of the train, but the conductor. And back in the caboose were two seats at the top where the railroad men could sit and keep an eye on the tracks and let the engineer know what was happening. Dad and I are still spry enough that we climbed up the ladder for the conductor's eye view out the caboose windows. Tomorrow: the miniature train city...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Wrightsville Beach: Not a warm welcome!

The first thing we did after arriving at the Wilmington, NC KOA was head out to the nearest beach. Wrightsville Beach was about five miles away, but when we got there we were in for a rude shock. There wasn't a free parking place in the whole darn town. It was ten dollars a day to park, the machines only took bills, and gave no change. All Larry had was a $20.00 and we weren't interested in staying for more than an hour or two which was a couple of dollars, but we had no singles for the machine and no change for the street meters.

Ironically, the place was pretty empty. We considered parking in one of the driveways of the empty houses, but if someone showed up we might get towed so we didn't. When you visit the beach in October you don't expect to be gouged for parking, but the $10.00 a day fee extends through October 31st - not even a reduction for the off season. (As cold as it was, it should have been the WAY OFF SEASON.) There wasn't a single free parking place in the entire town. It looked like even going for dinner, unless you were lucky and the restaurant had a lot, you'd pay for parking.

The town is clearly wealthy, but that doesn't keep them from exacting exorbitant fees for parking even in October. Larry said it was the way they keep the riff-raff out of their swanky resort.

A few days later we met a gentleman who said years ago he visited the beach and parked in a legal spot on the street. When he returned he found a police officer writing him a ticket. Why? The gentleman whose house he'd parked in front of had painted a yellow line around his car. Seriously! When he complained to the officer (who could see the obviously fresh paint), the cop just shrugged and said the man was an important person in the community. Talk about small town corruption, eh?
Makes you want to run right out and go to Wrightsville Beach doesn't it? After the first day we never went back and Wrightsville Beach is off our list of vacation spots EVER.

We finally found a meter that took credit cards and paid for two hours. But the entire experience left us with a sour taste. The elitists in Wrightsville can keep their resort to themselves which is obviously what they want to do. We'll head to warmer communities.

So here's Wrightsville Beach. Enjoy the photos because I'll never be back there to take more!

It's not too late to make this for Halloween. Get busy, Mom!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

40 Years, but who's counting?

As of October 4th (Feast of St. Francis) Larry and I were married 40 years! Wow! What young couple thinks about reaching that milestone on their wedding day? I was too starry-eyed to think about anything but my handsome new husband.

We decided the event merited a second honeymoon, so we packed up our camper and headed out for ten days of fun in the sun. Well, not exactly. Our original plan was to go north into the Hudson Valley and visit the Shrine of the North American Martyrs and Niagara Falls. The weather report (highs in low 50s, lows in 30s) gave us a reality check and we decided to go south instead where the temps were about 20 degrees below normal, but not nearly as cold as the north. Good thing we shifted gears because the weather was bad, bad, bad in the northeast including the first snowfall of the year.

We headed to Wilmington, NC where we set down our temporary roots at the KOA for a week hoping to spend lots of time vegging out at the beach. Our trip down was pleasant. We spent the first (rainy) night at a KOA near Rocky Mount, but the weather next day was sunny and beautiful. North Carolina has some nice rest stops and I was shocked to see an azalea abundantly blooming when we stopped for a picnic. Does it bloom twice a year or was it just mixed up?

After a pleasant picnic lunch, we moved on to Wilmington. And yes, I did some of the driving. That's what I love about our Trailmanor. It's so easy to pull I'm comfortable doing some of the driving (as long as I don't have to back up). We pulled into the campground around 3:00 o'clock and set up. (To Be Continued...)

Friday, October 9, 2009

U.S. Army Golden Knights "Drop In" on Massanutten Academy

Living in a small town has its charms, not least of which is that you often hear about special events going on in town via the grape vine. Like last month. A teacher at Massanutten Military Academy who goes to our parish called to let us know the Army's Golden Knights parachute team would be visiting the school and the community was invited. It sounded fun so off we went at the last minute to sit in the stands and watch the show.

It started with the man on the ground marking the drop spot with a big X. All of the parachutists were within a few feet of the X. We watched the plane circle a few times and then the first parachutist dropped and we could see the smoke marking his path. Soon they were all in the air.

One paratrooper, a woman, unfurled the American flag during her descent. The last two connected up inflight for a tandem descent. They detached just before landing.

The students had a chance at the end to help the paratroopers repack their chutes and ask questions. The team was doing a drop later that evening at the Shenandoah County Fair. I happened to be taking a walk and saw them in the air again later. What fun! They said when they drop at night, they use flares and it's really spectacular. I'd love to see that.

The Golden Knights began in 1959 and are celebrating their 50th anniversary. Hit the hotlink in the first paragraph to visit their website.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Teeth Whitening Ads - Buyer Beware

See this before you send in for the "free trial" for teeth-whitening products. They aren't really free and you may not realize it if you don't read the fine print.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

They're on the move!

I'm keeping up with my walking despite a problematic right hip. I figure I better use it or lose it and the exercise doesn't seem to make it any worse. At any rate, a regular route is to the dam and back. I always stop at the river and look for the great blue heron because they are frequently fishing when I walk in the evening. No herons, but a flock of small birds flying about. I couldn't distinguish what they were at first, but after watching for a few minutes and noting the yellow band on the tail I thought they must be cedar waxwings. And sure enough some who rested on a tree branch a little nearer showed the distinctive Zorro mask and the crest.

How I love those dear little birds! It must be migration time for them because that's when you generally see them -- flying in a group and stopping, but not staying, for a short break.

If you haven't taken up birdwatching, you are missing out on one of life's most enjoyable offerings. God mentioned the birds and the flowers in the gospels as well as the fox in his den and other delights of the natural world, so all these creatures must have something to teach us. They all obey God's will by nature. Would that we did by choice instead of so often going our own way to our peril.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Jack Webb and Johnny Carsons Trade Tongue-twisters

I'm posting this for some clean Sunday fun. No doubt the clappers were taken from the Cathedral of St. Clotilde. Try these tongue-twisters yourself. Think you can do it as well as this dynamic duo?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Of Crepe Myrtles and Lives of the Saints

We have two crepe myrtle plants out front that we purchased several years ago on the way home from the Outer Banks. Last year they bloomed abundantly. This year one plant didn't bloom at all and the other got only a few flower clusters. We haven't figured out what the problem is: something missing in the soil? Too much rain? On strike?

Whatever the reason, the poor blooming reminds me that our spiritual life is sometimes like that. We are the fruitless fig tree or the flowerless crepe myrtle that the master says to cut down and throw into the fire. But then the gardener begs for a reprieve. "Let me try to figure out what's wrong with this poor plant and fix it," he says. "If that doesn't work, you can cut it down later."

I think the Blessed Mother is our spiritual gardener always urging her Son to give us one more chance for a change of heart, one more opportunity to be a fruitful, flowering vine. All she needs to see is one flower, one tiny sign that our hearts are not completely sterile and she works the soil with her prayers and waters it with her tears.

Today is First Friday, when the Church invites us to reflect on the apparitions of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. It was she to whom He revealed His desire for devotion to His Sacred Heart and that Catholics attend Mass on nine consecutive first Fridays of the month in adoration. From an early age St. Margaret Mary desired to be united to Christ in his sufferings and He answered her prayer by allowing her to participate in a small way in his agony. She suffered from terrible headaches that sometimes kept her from laying her head on a pillow. She often spent entire nights in Communion with Christ.

If you want to draw closer to Christ immerse yourselves in the lives of the saints. It brought St. Ignatius of Loyola to conversion and many others as well.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Make a Retreat with the Lord

I've been home from retreat for just over a week and I'm longing for another already. The happy news is that I can always take a five minute break to meditate on the face of Jesus or a twenty minute rosary walk or read a short life of a saint from Ann Ball's wonderful collection, Modern Saints. The sad news is that I will not have a sustained time of quiet and meditation with the daily Tridentine Mass for another year at least.

The 2009 retreat was indeed a peaceful and prayerful withdrawal from the world at a particularly dark time for our culture as the unborn and the elderly become ever-more targeted by the death-dealers on Capitol Hill. It was good to get away from the bad news and focus on the good news of the Gospel. Since the purpose of a retreat, however, isn't to run away from the world, but to withdraw for a time to be able to more effectively do God's will in the world, I thank God for putting me right back into the midst of the fight. Every morning I put on the armor of God and prepare to hold my ground and do what I can to take some back from the enemy who often seems much more zealous for evil than we are for good.

So I will still periodically pulling out my pictures of Mattaponi Retreat Center and sigh and pray that I may go again next summer to refresh my soul once more. But here at home I will fight for the unborn and do what I can to share and defend the faith. May I always do it according to God's will with the help of the Blessed Mother.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Mr. Tumnus' Lampost

Wherever I go I am always on the lookout for Mr. Tumnus' lampost. When we lived in Alexandria, it was just around the corner and I always said hello to Mr. Tumnus when I walked by confident he could hear me even if I couldn't see him. Fauns are shy after all. I haven't found his lampost yet here in Woodstock, but I'm confident I will. On retreat in Maryland a few weeks ago I found it easily and kept my eyes peeled for Mr. Tumnus himself although I never caught a glimpse of him. But then you never know about fauns...and beavers...and bears...and other talking animals. They speak when inclined and can be private and quiet when they choose to be.

We have some deer who turn up in our orchard when the apples are on the trees and I'm sure if I asked they would tell me the apples are fine. Sometimes the babies stand on their hind legs and bat at the ones still hanging and then fling them around when they fall. Oh, by the way, if you meet mole, toad, and rat sit down for awhile and listen to their tales of the river. No doubt they will have a full picnic hamper that they will open and you can share treats as well as stories.

And don't forget to turn off the TV and introduce these delightful friends to your children. They will never fail to be pleasant companions for them and take them on exciting journeys to lands of adventure.

Camp Kreitzer's Last Summer Fling

The last week of August was also the last big summer adventure on the Camp Kreitzer calendar. The Lauderdale kids came for a week and we had more activities planned than we could fit in the hours available. So we didn't throw rocks in the river or walk on the scary bridge. But we did: bake cookies; swim, take hikes on the Lion's Tale Trail and the Storybook Trail; go for lots of tractor rides; have a picnic and wade in the creek; spend a day with Dave and Jes and family for swimming, a campfire, and fireworks; eat lots of popsicles served from Brendan's Tiki Hut; spend a morning playing with friends; read Mr. Wolf's pancakes at least a dozen times; go to the library; stop at the farm to get fresh eggs; bake (and eat) cupcakes; go the Shenandoah County Fair and get armbands for the rides (but forgot the camera); and watched Brendan dance the hula.

We ended every day with a decade of the rosary and on the way to meet Tara and Lawrence on our last day, Ryan insisted that we "say the rosary for Mommy and Daddy." So we did.

It was a joyful end to the the Camp Kreitzer summer season. We have an open calendar for the fall including apple picking, hiking, and more campfires. Y'all come.

Friday, August 28, 2009

John passed the swallowing test -- Yippee!

Latest message from Heather:

Hi all,

Dad passed the swallowing test today. He had ravioli for lunch just couple hours ago. Yay! However, there are some standards that his food stuff has to meet.

No 7-11 coffee just yet. All liquids need to be thickened to a "nectar" consistency. They have special thickened drinks here at the hospital that we can ask the nurses for if need be. (Of course, they provide these things to him at meal time.) Also, no steak just yet. He cannot have anything that requires a lot of chewing. I.e. Cookies, crackers, apples. He can have things like chocolate pudding, or a burger that is cut up into small pieces. His breakfast, lunch and dinner are now something for him to look forward to and will be therapeutic in boosting morale. His meals will also be a continuation of his speech therapy in that he needs to concentrate greatly and eat slowly to ensure he is swallowing things properly. Eating is hard work for John, even though he feels as though he should be able to just tuck in. This is due to the impulsiveness that is a direct result of the part of his brain that was damaged during the stroke.

So in summary, we all need to be aware of his level of concentration and speed when/if we help him eat. It is perfectly acceptable and also necessary to ask John to slow down when he is eating or drinking. For that matter, it is also necessary in almost everything he now does.

There was also a family conference today with his case manager, Christine, and all of his previously mentioned therapists. As a family we all want what will be best for dad's healing process and whatever will help him regain as much independence as is possible. While at one point we thought going into a family member's or friend's home after acute therapy would be best, we have been reevaluating his situation. If John is to go into a sub-acute therapy setting, he will receive a minimum of 5 days of therapy a week. If he is to go into someone's home he would have 3 days of inpatient therapy a week. Inpatient meaning- therapists coming into the home. We are currently looking into the sub-acute therapy places available to us as the next temperary living situation. Dad's tentative discharge date is September 8th.

There are small steps happening every day here. Today we saw those small steps lead to a huge result.

See you around the hospital.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Quiet Week at Camp Kreitzer

Things have been quiet at Camp Kreitzer this week. We miss the giant (aka Matthew) and all his buddies. I especially miss having no excuse to go back to the roller rink and get back on skates.

Don't anyone tell me there is nothing to do in Woodstock. We have entertainment options galore. Hey we have a movie theatre with three screens. And a Cracker Barrel. The roller rink is more fun than the video arcade at Springfield Mall ever was. Brendan calls it the closest thing to paradise he can think of. And the County Fair is coming up in another week. (High times in the old town!)

The roller rink has a bumper car area and I was really eager to try them out, but I'll save that for another day. Ashley, Brendan, and Rachel seemed to enjoy them a lot and it sure looked like fun.

Meanwhile we've been catching up on laundry, sleep, lawn-mowing, bill-paying, returning things to their proper places, and watching The Monarch of the Glen on Netflix. I love the Scottish accents!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Heather's Report on John's Progress - Keep Praying!

Hola family and friends,

There Is a lot of good news from Kernan. As I mentioned before dad is undergoing 3 hours of therapy most days. This breaks down into an hour each of 3 kinds of therapy-physical therapy (pt), occupational therapy (ot) and speech therapy (st). In ot therapy they are mostly focusing on his upper body. Most of the time the leg comes back before the arm. He does feel greater amounts of pressure on his left arm, but cannot feel gentle touches. He also has trouble understanding where his arm is in space, as this is a much more subtle sensation.

In st they are concentrating most on his swallowing at the moment. He had a swallowing study done today where they x-rayed his throat to see what exactly is happening. What they found is that one of the throat muscles, that was damaged during the stroke, is hanging in the way. Not only is it causing a sensation of him having something stuck in his throat, which is why he is clearing his throat often, but it is also blocking the way for him to swallow down the esophagus. Instead, it creates a cavern for it to then flow into his lungs and possibly cause aspiration pneumonia again. They will be starting with electrode stimulation, either tomorrow or Monday, to get those throat muscles working again. For now he still has the feeding tube into his stomach.

During pt they are mostly concentrating on his lower body. As in standing again or learning how to reposition his body. However, this repositioning of the body flows into all of the forms of therapy. His center of gravity is off. Where most of us know how to balance ourselves, dad will have to relearn this. To him it feels as if he is holding himself up properly when he is actually leaning to the right. This is because he has forgotten the left side of his body. So his center of gravity, as he feels it, is centrally located on his right side. As he remembers his true center, and is taught to fight his now natural urge to lean, he will start to reawaken his left side.

Besides the feeding tube, the only other tube he is sometimes hooked up to is oxygen. This is mostly in the evening after a long hard day. It is difficult for Dad to keep his blood properly oxygenated with his left lung being diminished. When he is energetic and able to be more aware of his breathing, his oxygen levels have been fine.

Don't forget:
No eating and drinking in front of Dad, as he is unable to do so himself.

Please be his advocate when you are visiting. If he needs a nurse, you may need to help him get their attention. The call button he has at his disposal seems to work best.

See you round the hospital.

All My Daughters (Except Alice)

Sounds like a soap opera, doesn't it? But the only soap is the well-scrubbed, squeaky clean, all-American-girl goodness of these beauties!

Our 40th anniversary celebration got all of us together for the first time in about six years. All our children and grandkids were together for one big happy family celebration. But the overlap portion of the visit (with both Texas families here) was only a few days and they were filled with commitments, so I never had a chance to take all the girls out together. We finally had a girls' day out last Friday shortly before Neil and Martina left for their return trip to Austin on Sunday. I wish we had called Alice from the restaurant to say join the party in spirit, but I didn't think about it until just this minute. Sorry you couldn't be there with us, Alice. I love all you darling girls and hope you know it! Thanks for filling my mother's heart with joy. And keep loving those handsome husbands and those absolutely perfect grandchildren!

John's new home as he recovers

John is at Kernan Rehbilitation Center as he recovers from his stroke. Kernan has an excellent reputation and deals with many different types of traumatic injuries and strokes, etc. It is encouraging to see how this institution operates and to know that John will receive at least three hours a day of therapy. Larry and I will visit for the first time on Sunday.

Swallowing is still a problem and they are doing an X-ray today to see if there is something else preventing John's ability to swallow. Please keep praying for John's full recovery, and especially for his ability to swallow.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

More Exotic Critters at Camp Kreitzer

Never a dull moment at Camp Kreitzer. You've heard about swimming with the dolphins. How about swimming with the snakes? Neil was in the pool a few days before they left for home and who should come slithering up alongside him but this handsome critter.

I wish I knew how to add audio because this would be perfect with the jaws music. Someone said it looked like a western diamondback (Yes, that's a rattlesnake!), but actually it's a harmless milksnake and, when you see his actual size, not quite as intimidating.

So the critter census in the past few weeks is: one bear, dozens of little frogs, three crayfish, at least a dozen deer, lots of apple-gathering squirrels, countless visits to the hummingbird feeder by ruby-throated hummers and their mates, and an occasional chipmunk. Haven't seen any groundhogs so maybe the two we captured and took on a trip to the dam were the only ones.