Thursday, January 30, 2014

Once Upon a Time...

Once upon a time, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl: Gillian.  She was awesome.  Awesome, not in the contemporary vernacular: "awesome".  Hearken back to the day when one truly envisioned something as "awesome".  Gillian was AWESOME!  So much so, her father and I spent countless hours looking at her beauty, her movements, everything about her glorious being. God had given us an awesome baby girl.

And the next year, I gave birth to a glorious baby girl: Claire.  She was so beautiful.  Her amazing azure eyes peeped over the church pews and made church-goers laugh.  She knew how to work the crowd.  She followed her sister's lead, and the two of them were crowd-stoppers.

And then...
Whoa!  What's this?!??
This is a photo a day before Baby Graham was born.  23 years ago.

Yes. I am short, and my babies were all huge. I gave birth to baby Graham Michael the day after this photo.

Talk about a handsome baby boy!  And good?!  (That means "easy", in mother vernacular.) This boy was so perfect.  Happy baby, easy-everything: feedings, sleeping, awake-times, "let's frolic-with-the-sisters".

 And now, our baby Graham is twenty-three.

Amazing.  He is soon to graduate college.  Computer Science.  He ran track in college.  He plays the guitar.  And violin.

He is smart. Kind. Empathetic. Wise.

My baby.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hope Springs...

I have been looking at January's finances.

Post Christmas, post-property taxes, pre-birthdays, pre...



(I think Homer said this, but not in the same timeframe or context.)

Is this...?
It may be!...
What if?!??

I think we have paid our last college tuition. Eight years...

Could this be?!!

Another chapter, closed?

Hope springs eternal.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind

Blow, blow, thou winter wind
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.

Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most freindship if feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze thou bitter sky,
That does not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As a friend remembered not.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.


Act II, Scene 7,  As You Like It              

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Honeymoon Queries?

There was some rag question on Facebook today, asking, "Where did you go on your honeymoon and would you go there again?"

Ah, our honeymoon...Our 30th Anniversary (yes, until last week I thought it was our 29th, but the daughter of my great friend Karen set us (me) straight: I have been happily-married for thirty long years of wedded bliss, and my friend Karen, mother to the number-cruncher, celebrated her 29th Anniversary just a week or two ago.  (Karen & I had the tote board at 28 {her} and 29 {me} years.

Hey!  (I told that Spouse 'o Mine upon inquiry), "Time flies when you're having fun."
And we are.  Flying high. 
This time, thirty years ago (Aw, REALLY?!!) saw us counseling with our pastor.  My enjoying two bridal showers.  (I still blush to think of the really filmy negligée my sister Barb gave me, to the delight of the married church women in presence.  Now, I can laugh like one of them...)

As to our honeymoon?  Glorious.  (Yep, yep, in more ways than the obvious.)  We spent two days in Tulsa, Oklahoma, before flying to Rome, Italy.  We spent two days there, and then on a train bound for the Alps in Austria:

Where did you go on your honeymoon and would you go there again?

Oh, yes.  Yes.  Austria and Rome is where to go. We shall do it again. 

We spent a few days in Austria, experiencing high snowfall and skiing and and avalanches, before we made our way back to Rome and finally, Cairo, Egypt:
My Home-Away-From-Home for the next twelve months.  A very difficult year, but we survived and loved almost all of our newlywed year.  After all - aren't most newlyweds faced with trials and tribulations? Ours were less-financial and much more cultural.    

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Eagles and Births

Pooh.  Still no photo opps on Blogger.  The issue is wide-spread, and the solutions are not, in my case, working.  But here they are for fellow photo enthusiasts who would like to have a go:

1. Change your browser Google Chrome.  This is not bad, not bad at all; I switched over a few months ago.  Google Chrome is fine.  Somehow, though, I missed the boat as to how to sync my bookmarks, and I do have me a major list of bookmarks at my former browser, and so until I figure out my bookmarks (because I love them, all 1000 of them), I will hold off on this move for a bit.

2. Switch to HTML setting on Blogger. Again, not a bad move at all.  Unfortunately, for me, this did not solve the problem.

3. Upload your photos onto Picasa, and then upload them to your blog.  I opted out of ths for numerous reasons, but for no, the MAIN reason is...why have two more computer steps in my day??

And so, as it is, I will describe my day without photos.  Pics would surely be nice, but here goes:

I went out to a lake not too far from home (~ 35 miles), and went bald eagle hunting.  With a camera, silly, not a gun.  I saw lots of bald eagles over-wintering, and they are so big and pretty.  No wonder they are our national bird.  They deserve it.  And their nests are HUGE.  I am going to return to the lake soon and see what's up. 

Today is my Dad's birthday.  I called him bright and early this morning to tell him Happy Day.  And also to tell him that I was purchasing a chunk of box elder wood for him.  Because that's what every Dad wants for a birthday present, right?  Dad replied that he wanted no presents.  And I countered with, OK, so it's a President's Day gift, OK?  Again, who wouldn't  LOVE box elder for a gift, I ask? 

(When Blogger gets their act together, I shall post some lovely things my Dad does with wood.)
Wait a minute; I can still post a link, right?  Here is my Dad's sculpture:

Also a birthday boy is my Kiwi nephew-in-law (my niece's newlywed husband).  He's been in our family for years, but last summer they threw a humdinger of a wedding party in the Rocky Mountains, and now he is stuck with us forever.  I kind of like that.  He is a photographer/videographer, doing all things wild and woolly around the world.  Happily, his latest escapade, Digital Nomad, can be viewed here:  (And he is the talent behind the camera.)

And that's all I have to say this evening.  Sukiyaki is a' callin'.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Windy Much?

I went online and sought a toothy quote about the wind.
All I could find were lofty airs about sails and wishes and such.
So here is my Quote of the Day:
Our barn door blew off. That's frustrating.
Tricia Webster Armstrong, 16 January 2014

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Farm Technology Spectrum

I tagged along on a tour today.  When we arrived, we had to show photo ID, sign in, explain why we were there, who we were there to see, what time it was, blah, blah, blah.  Upon entering any building or outbuilding, our tour guide was required to scan a security card and punch in security numbers in order for the door to open into the next chapter of our tour.

That Spouse ' Mine was showing some visitors around his workplace: the USDA Grain Science Lab.  Security is fairly strict there.  I don't show up at his place of work too often.  When I do, I usually meet him in the parking lot rather than do all the security clearance and THEN wait for him to escort me to and from his office or lab. 

This was a fun and informal tour. He showed us some NIR (near-infared ) spectroscopy instruments he has developed.  Since I can't post photos, I will describe his lab.  There are computers all around the perimeter of the lab, and most are hooked up to instruments of all sorts. That Spouse o' Mine is not the sole occupant of this lab, and the instruments in the lab are not his work alone.  One instrument that he is developing tests the protein content of grain, like soybean.  One instrument tests the moisture content of grain, like wheat.  He drops a grain of wheat into a tiny cylindrical space, where an NIR spectrometer gauges the moisture: 10%? 14%?  That's some intricate testing, given the size of a grain of wheat.  We saw moisture probes for large grain elevators.  There was an instrument for testing exact size of grains (e.g., corn kernels).  Another instrument can test the amount of "live insect" to be found in a tested amount of milled wheat.  (If you've never enjoyed playing in a truckload of wheat during harvest, you might be shocked to see the grasshoppers/grasshopper parts that are in these truckloads headed for the grain elevators.)

We heard about white corn and yellow corn: why some food manufacturers use one over the other (tortilla chips, yellow corn chips, corn tortillas, grits, and so on.)  Some food manufacturers are very interested in having completely white corn, and their growers have sought an instrument which will sort (by color) any kernel which might have a streak of red in it - something that often occurs in nature.

In a couple of months that Spouse o' Mine will be heading to Ghana for some work in post-harvest handling.  That is to say, "What do we do with the grain after we pick it?"   The U.S. Agency for International Development is leading a project in many countries in Africa and South America to improve farming methods in those areas.  Many years ago, that Spouse o' Mine worked for USAID in Egypt on a 2-year mechanization project.  To simplify what he did would be to explain, "Put your water buffalo away.  This is a tractor."

And there is the juxtaposition:  Teaching people what a tractor is, explaining what might be better than storing grain in termite mounds...and then turning around to work with food companies who want an instrument to test pistachio shells: are they open?  are they closed?

Monday, January 13, 2014

No Fun

It's not much fun writing a post about a beautiful sunrise, and attempting to upload and publish a photo to SHOW the beautiful sunrise.

Blogger is not playing nicely with us bloggers this week.  I hear they (Blogger Folk) are working on the issue. Until then:

Wowee.  What a beautiful sunrise it was!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Coffee, Anyone?

As wet, grey, winter days go, this one was pretty good!  Last night I received an email from a friend: a call-out for morning coffee.  We two are part of a very loosely-organized group of women who meet periodically for coffee or lunch.  There is no set schedule to these gatherings, and rarely do all of us make an appearance at the same time - a very hit & miss group of friends.  We all work in some capacity, and all volunteer here and there, and we all have husbands and kids who are, at this point, either in high school, college or beyond.  Interestingly, I became part of this "Coffee" group almost thirteen years ago when we moved to Kansas. The women who welcomed me into their posse were part of a "Mom's" group some ten years earlier, who met when their toddlers went to nursery school, and the frazzled young mothers met for coffee and a support system.

There four of us who were to meet this morning.  I have been sliding down a chasm of cabin fever this week, which is unusual for me, the lover of all things holiday and winter. But winter with a negative temperature and "all dressed up with nowhere to go" kept me housebound for too long. Was I becoming a shut-in?!

At coffee, we laughed, we shared anecdotes, we caught up with each other after missing this time over the T'giving and Christmas holidays.  We discussed Alzheimers, which the mother of one coffee friend was diagnosed with a couple of years ago.  Another coffee friend shared the news of her four now-grown sons, the youngest of whom is educably retarded and lives at home with her and her husband.  I told my coffee friends that I was losing my mind: I found won-tons in my cupboard!    (Wontons should be kept in the fridge or freezer.  Why had I put wontons in my cupboard?!)  The other friend described her hike in the snowy park which resulted in her, her son and her husband, getting lost and ending up in someone's backyard.   We touched on the what-ups of GMOs, and church taxes in Europe.  (At this point someone mentioned that I had too much time on my hands. I concurred.)

It's fun, it's a blessing, and some days, it's a life-saving buoy to have friends like this.  We don't meet regularly, or often, but we all enjoy each other's company, shared experiences, and jocularity. 

So, this day was pretty good!

Thursday, January 09, 2014

2014: Year of the Trellis:

What a long week it has been.  Every American that I have been in communication with has been affected by the winter weather - or, as those spicy weather people prefer to advertise it: the Polar Vortex.  I wonder, is NOAA now hiring marketing grads to sell their weather reports?   Heck, yeah, it's cold.  It always is, in December, January, and February.  Some Januarys are cold and windy, or cold and snowy.  A few, back a couple of years, were cold and really, really icy (and this was bad.).  Not too many winters ago, Cousin Kent flew his plane in and ended up getting "iced in" for the four days before Christmas.   Some Januarys are just plain old cold, with no precipitation, liquid or solid, and that must make the weatherfolk crazy.  What in the world do they have to spread panic about?

I have friends thither and yon about the country who have experienced frozen/broken pipes.  That's bad. But really, that's not the end of the world.  It is very inconvenient.  Maybe expensive, and bad. Last week when all this VORTEX talk came about, I hearkened back to my dear old (and geriatric, too) friend, Mrs. Robinson, who lived on her own rural property by herself well into her nineties. We rented her pasture and pecan grove (~40 acres?) for our kids' horses and ponies.  Mrs. Robinson, of a certain winter afternoon, would go out and wrap her faucets with rags and then cover them with old buckets. 

I don't know what reminded me of Mrs. Robinson's practice, this decade later. But this week, there I was, out there in the single-digit snow, wrapping old rags and covering with feed buckets, the faucets and well pumps. Thanks, Mrs. Robinson.  We still smile at your memory, and the life lessons which we learned from you.

It has been a fair amount of really, REALLY cold days here in rural Kansas.  I renewed our Rec Passes, that Spouse o' Mine's and my own, to the university rec center.  We both needed it. Oh, so much.. Maybe him  (YES! YES!) more than me, but it has benefitted both of us this week, in the single-digit temps of early January.

This morning I awoke dark and early, as is the habit (DANG! the time change every year!!!!), and I announced nearly sixty minutes later to that Spouse o' Mine, after coffee had been brewed and after I had taken my morning shower, teeth brushing, and Google-News perusing...) that I might head out to the Kansas capital city (Topeka) for some winter fun & games. (READ: go to Barnes & Noble, SAM'S, and the local farm place for all-things-animal).

Such a rich life.

But I did not. I called a friend, and invited her to go to lunch. She was up for the 15-minute come-now-and-enjoy-my-company-because I-have-cabin-fever-and-am-wackos-invitation.

Thank you, Heidi.  Not only did I truly appreciate your ability to drop everything and join me, but our lunch was:
A)  Delicious
B) Mentally fun & games

And so, that's why I have the great friends that I have!!

Oh! Oh!!

The trellises?

Yes!  I am so on the trellis hunt this week! Tonight I spent way too much time on Pinterest, of which I am NOT a member, but I have really been enjoying the "TRELLIS" photos I have been finding on there.  So, just be prepared...2014 at the Armstrongs is WAY going to be the year of the Trellis. 

Yep. Come on and help us. We welcome the company and the horticulture.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

January, Day Two

It is 13º outside, with snow on the ground, and no wind.

No wind is the operative word.  Yesterday's 18º and 14 mph north wind told us a much different story - especially walking and running back to the house in that old north wind.  I have always poo-poo-ed a "wind-chill factor", because the insipid weather TV folk make such a big durn deal of it. But, yes, there was a real wind chill on the only exposed parts of my body during yesterdays' walk-run.  Only my eyes and eyebrows were exposed to the windy temps yesterday during my 5K walk-and-then-some-run, and I have to tell you: last night my eyes stung and were bloodshot. 

Bleak midwinter.

Note to self: renew that University Rec Center pass.  Needs are needs; that Spouse o' Mine is grumpy...

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

A New Page

I was reading off and on all day today, New Year's Day.  It was c-c-c-cold and north-windy all day, and the two of us, that Spouse o' Mine and I, had very little planned for our first day of the New Year.

Something I read was about eleven resolutions to make me a better person.  Heck, I was on that wagon before the ponies were hitched. What could possibly make me a better person,  I asked myself?  (Maybe less bravado and more modesty.  Yep...)

#1: Physical exercise.  Well, thank my lucky stars that both of us had cabin fever today.  We got on all our cold weather gear and headed out the door and down the road in 18º and 14 mph north winds.  That Spouse o' Mine ran 4K, and I walked 4K and ran 1K.  Jiggety-jig!  We are better people for it, I guess.  Even though my eyes are red and stinging tis evening, after the northern 2k hike back to the house in that wind.  Bah!  Humbug.

#2: Less television.  We can very nearly say we can't watch less television. A few months ago we opted to close our satellite television account.  I had mentioned that we were paying over $100/month and perhaps 50% of our channels were infomercials, and of the other, we only watched a few choice channels.  We both worried that we would miss our sports channels (and the jury is still out, especially on these dark, cold winter evenings), but so far we are content with our decision. We have a thing called Chromecast ($35) which allows us to pull things upon the internet via laptop, smartphone, whatever, and then it streams to our TV, wirelessly.  Very nice.  We watch things from Netflix and Hulu, and other regular TV channels (HGTV?) as well.  Not for everybody, but for us, it seems to be good fit.

#3: Go outside.  We have always been know as the neighbors who are "always outside". Enough said.

#4: Read fiction.  Whoa, there!  I am not a good fiction reader.  I used to be, but it seems (to me) that so much fiction being published nowdays is drivel, with a capital D.  So I shall have to ponder this one...

#5: Give. I think this means financially?  this one should become easier later in the year when we eventually pay our FINAL semester/quarter of college tuition.  Yes.  Three kids in and out of college.  Eight years.  (How did my parents do it with five kids all in school at the same time?!)

#6: Serve.  I am doing that.  And while I choose to keep it private, I do feel like it is worthwhile to me as well as to those I am serving.

#7: Buy less stuff and more experiences.  You know what?  I think this just happens as one gets older.  At least, it seems to be our practice.

#8: Display gratitude.  I can work on this one.

#9: Practice smiling. I practiced this concept at the local Wal Mart the other day. Amazing.  I hate Wal Mart.  Apparently, lots of other people do, too.  Or else they are all lost in thought whilst going through the aisles.  But I slapped a smile on my face each time my cart passed another, and you know what?  That person SMILED BACK at me. It's like magic.

#10: Stop and just play.  I do this a whole heck of a lot, and perhaps I should turn the dial down on this concept...

#11: Determine to be happy.  I do steer clear of negativity.  Again, though, I could maybe turn the dial down on this one.  One can be determined to be happy, but I think we all should be recognizant that there are some instances and people who simply cannot determine this emotion at a given time.

OK.  All-in-all, I think if I am to believe this psychological study(ies) I am pretty-well set for 2014.  But I know in reality, there is a whole lot more that needs doing to make a person whole and happy, as well as those around her.  (Me).  And so I shall dutifully observe the things that need doing and improving in my year, and keep plodding along.

On another note, we were to go to some friends' home for New Year's dinner tonight, but the snow swept in and the temps fell to 11º , and the hostess called and said she would understand if we chose to take a raincheck.  And so we did!  Tonight we shall have pork loin, broccoli, and butternut squash soup, in the warmth of our own home.  It works.

Happy New Year.
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