What makes me smile

(The Best Socks in the Universe)

Alto2’s photo meme challenge to me involves three questions:

  • What makes you smile (other than Emma)?
  • What makes you sad?
  • What place/thing gives you peace?

I’m going to have to do this in three parts because I couldn’t limit myself to one photo for the subject of what makes me smile. Since I had to leave out Emma, I decided to leave out all other people in my life who make me smile.

There are a lot of things in life that make me smile. This is just a small, in no particular order, sampling. All photos are mine from the past year or so.

I started with The Best Socks in the Universe. They truly are the best socks in the universe. The first time I slipped them on my feet I grinned from ear to ear, loving the warmth, the fluffiness, the cushioning, the softness, the wonder of these socks. Working as a pharmacy tech, I was on my feet all day. Putting on The Best Socks in the Universe after a long day at work was pure heaven. They’re not actually called The Best Socks in the Universe (although they should be!). They’re made by Gold Toe Socks and I got them at their outlet store in Lancaster, PA.

(Fireworks)

Fireworks always make me smile, especially serendipitous fireworks. M and I frequently find ourselves wandering upon fireworks displays when we’re traveling. We’ve seen them in London, England and Edinburgh, Scotland as well as in all the places where we’ve lived: Columbia, South Carolina; Chicago, Illinois; Atlanta, Georgia; Huntington, West Virginia and southern Ohio; St. Louis, Missouri; Akron and Kent, Ohio. I’m sure we’ve lucked upon them in our travels throughout the U.S. too. Of course we always find a fireworks show to attend on the 4th of July. (M and I met on the 4th of July.)

(Turtle Beach)

Turtles sunning themselves by the side of our pond. There’s an area to one side and at the back of the pond where the turtles gather on sunny days to soak up the rays.

(The Purple Quit Fairy)

A friend sent this to me when I quit smoking. The Purple Quit Fairy helped me through many a craving.

(Hiking in Quail Hollow)

Hiking makes me smile. Perhaps it’s the endorphins kicking in from the exercise, but I think it’s because I love being outdoors at almost any time of the year.

(Wildflowers)

Wildflowers, domesticated flowers, flowers that are considered weeds, any kind of flowers. I particularly enjoy our wildflower meadow near the pond. We scattered the seeds and were surprised to see them come up (we hadn’t had much luck with them in the past). The meadow changes from year to year due to all the birds it attracts. The birds eat the seeds and usually leave a few while they’re at it.

(Snow)

Snow almost always makes me smile. I hear they may finally be getting a decent amount of snow in the Bogs this year. It’s too bad we’ll miss it. The pond is frozen and once there’s some snow on the sledding hill, we could be having lots of fun zooming down that hill.

(Hot air balloon)

Hot air balloons fly over our home in the Bogs quite frequently when the weather is right. We’ve also seen them land nearby.

(Books)

Piles and piles of unread books. Reading is another of my favorite activities. One of the things I’m enjoying most about this sabbatical is having the time to read.

(On the pond.)

Boat rides on the pond. Our pond is 1.5 acres. We have two boats: a row boat and a pedal boat. I’m better with the pedal boat than I am with the row boat (I tend to row in circles sometimes…lol!).

(Oktoberfest)

Festivals and celebrations of all kinds. When I was a child my parents used to take me and my siblings to the Farm Fair every summer. The first festival/fair M and I went to when we were dating was Serendipity Sunday.

(The Warhol, Pittsburgh, PA)

Play. I think this photo is a good representation of play. It’s the Silver Clouds room in the Warhol Museum. Seems to me that everyone who enters that room ends up smiling.

(Penguin at the National Aviary. Pittsburgh, PA)

Penguins!! Penguins always, always make me smile. That may well be why the first animal I learned how to draw was a penguin. 🙂

Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing. ~Mother Teresa


Sensuality

(Photo by Robin. 2006)

My first photo meme challenge is from Kel at the X facta. I don’t know if this is a bit of a cheat or not. On the one hand, I have posted this photo before. On the other, I didn’t post it on this blog. I think Kel should make the call on whether or not this is a cheat since this photo is a result of her challenge/suggestion for a photo meme.

I am, I think, a sensual person. I would venture to guess that most of us are, in some form or another. Picking one particular sense as a favorite was a tough challenge. I tend to plod through life rather slowly, enjoying being in the moment, and that brings about a heightened awareness of my senses.

My vision isn’t that great. I wear glasses to correct that, but I still miss out on a lot of details. I compensate for that somewhat with my photography. It allows me to see things I might otherwise miss. I can’t blame it all on my eyesight. I’m just not a very visual person in some respects. (One exception to this was at the Mummers Parade when I had to choose between seeing the costumes and listening to their music. I really wanted to see so I sacrificed sound for a little while.) I’ve often thought I’d make a poor witness to a crime. I don’t notice things like hair color, eye color, height, weight, clothing. Even with people I worked with on an everyday basis I would fail to notice new hair styles, cuts, or colors, new outfits, etc. I’d eventually notice. Just not right away. It would take a day or two. I pick up more on things like mood and personality. If asked to describe someone, I’m more likely to think in terms of happy or spacy or calm or sad or something of that nature.

I have a keen sense of hearing, something that used to drive my sons nuts because they could never sneak up on me. Or sneak out of the house or out of their bedroom. I enjoy live music, but often have a difficult time at concerts. Loud sounds, especially continuous loud sounds, physically hurt my ears making them crackle and pop, building up pressure until my ears ache. Ear plugs are wonderful things.

Like most people, I enjoy eating and the variety of tastes available in the variety of foods we have access to these days. I take my time when I eat, savoring the flavors. I’m a good cook and I think that’s due to a good sense of taste and an intuitive knowledge of what works well together. My olfactory sense is pretty sharp too, which is a good thing as they say smell has a lot to do with what you taste. I know one or two people who have lost their sense of smell and they lost their sense of taste with it.

The only sense remaining is touch. If I have to pick just one, then it will have to be touch. I enjoy the feel of the elements — wind, sun, rain, snow, and ice — when I’m outside. I like the contact of my feet with the earth, even through my shoes, although barefoot is always best if it can be done (cool grass, hot sand, squishy mud). There’s the feel of water when I’m swimming, silky and smooth if it’s warm, choppy and chilly if it’s cold. I enjoy light sensations (a gentle breeze, a soft touch of the hand or lips) as well as heavy sensations (a good massage!). I prefer natural fabrics such as cotton and silk, and it’s a very rare occasion when I’ll wear synthetics. I pretty much have to be forced to it.

I love hugs and kisses and contact with other people (especially my husband). Holding hands, snuggling, cuddling, tickling, carressing… all good things. And there’s nothing like a hug or kiss from my granddaughter.

I bet you’re wondering about the photo of the laundry and what it has to do with touch. Well, it’s the sheets, of course. Freshly laundered, soft, cotton sheets that have been hung outside to dry bring with them the warmth of the sunshine, the soft-crispness created by the wind, as well as the wonderful scent of fresh air. And this might be more than Kel (or anyone else, for that matter) wants to know, but nothing beats the combination of those fresh sheets and just shaved legs.

So, yes…touch. It’s a definite favorite of mine.

It’s the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something. ~ From the movie Crash, 2004

More photo memes to come. I’ll be tackling Alto2’s tomorrow. Thank you all for the suggestions. This is fun. 🙂


Another weather update

(Snowday 2. January 2007. Photo by Robin)

Yay! It’s snowing again. Those blurry white flecks and blobs are the photographic proof. It’s not likely to amount to much today. We have a few more chances for a good snow coming up this week. Perhaps winter has finally decided to hang around for a while.

Old Blue Socks has started a Photo Meme challenge. It sounds like fun. Let me know what you’d like to know about me (favorite color, favorite food, etc.) and I’ll respond in photos. Is there something about me or my life you’d like to see in a photo? I’ll be glad to provide (as long as it’s within reason).

M and I went to visit with my parents and siblings yesterday. We had a good time, as usual, and my abdominal muscles are sore, as usual, from laughing so much. It’s great to be able to see my family this often. My mother commented on our way out, “I feel like I have my oldest daughter back.” I’m glad we have this opportunity to be so close and to spend so much time with family. We’re usually lucky to see them once a year or so, if that.

Today was another lazy Sunday, hanging around the apartment, doing a few chores, but mostly just relaxing. Quite enjoyable.

Note to my visitors: Since I’m currently unemployed and likely to stay that way for a little while longer, I decided to sign up as an Amazon.com associate. I don’t expect to get rich, but might make enough, over time (heh…probably a LONG time), to buy a book or two. If the commercialization bothers you or you hate the ads, please let me know. I’m test driving it and if it doesn’t work out (causes problems with viewing the site or other issues), then it doesn’t work out. I was already linking to Amazon when I mentioned books in my posts so it seemed like a good idea to at least get something from it if people are clicking the links and ordering stuff.

The books listed in my Read 50 Books Project all link there and are part of the associates plan. There’s also a search widget at the bottom of the left column.

I don’t want anyone to feel obligated to use this stuff. I just want to let you know it’s there in case, you know, you’re thinking of ordering from Amazon.


A Taste of Winter

(January Snow. Photo by Robin. 2007)

Winter stopped by last night. It’s not staying long. We have cold temperatures today on the tail end of winter’s visit, but it’s expected to warm up again tomorrow.

M and I went out to dinner with friends last night. Near the end of dinner our waitress came by to tell us it was snowing outside. When we stepped out, after the meal, it was indeed snowing. By the time M and I walked across the street to our apartment, the snow was coming down pretty heavily. Once upstairs, we looked out the window to find a blizzard going on in Sabbaticalville. It didn’t last long, only about five or ten minutes. But it did white out everything, all those millions and billions and trillions of snowflakes doing a dance over, under, and through the streets, trees, and sky.

It was a beautiful sight, especially after it calmed down enough for us to see beyond the blur of white. Sabbaticalville looks pretty dressed in white. My photos don’t do it justice, but it’s difficult to take photos at night standing on a chair at a 5th floor apartment window with no tripod to steady the camera.

I like snow. I wouldn’t mind if it had snowed for hours. Or days, as long as the power doesn’t go out.

In other news…

There really isn’t much other news. M and I have settled in finally, not going out just about every night. This is probably a good thing as money tends to flow quite quickly in the wrong direction when we go out to eat, drink and be merry on a regular basis.

We recently watched a couple of movies that we borrowed from our local library. One was Strut!, a documentary about the Mummers. Thus ends the Mummers obsession for now. I hope. It’s a good little movie and well worth seeing if you’re at all interested in the people who are the Mummers. It’s kind of funny watching all those rough, tough working class guys put on make-up, don dresses, and if they’re in the string bands, learn to dance. I spent the next few days practicing my own version of the strut, allowing my inner Mummer to play and dance.

The other was Good Night, and Good Luck. George Clooney had an axe or two to grind, but it’s still a good movie (and since my politics are somewhat similar to his, I didn’t mind the axe grinding). It reminded me of the saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” It prompted me to start learning a little more about both Edward R. Murrow and the McCarthy hearings.

I’m currently reading Cell by Stephen King. It’s been a while since I last read a Stephen King book. I’d forgotten how engaging (and frightening) his writing can be. I gave up on King for a while, probably right after reading Needful Things or somewhere around there. I wasn’t enjoying his books anymore and they sometimes felt forced. I picked him up again when he finally started churning out the Dark Tower books once again. I thoroughly enjoyed the Dark Tower series and was sorry to see it come to an end.

We’re off to visit my parents and siblings tomorrow. I’m sure it’ll be fun and I’m looking forward to it. It’s nice to be close enough to visit once a month or so. I’m going to miss that when we move back to the Bogs.


The Duckiest Town on the Chesapeake!

(A little history about Havre de Grace. January 2007.*)

After our visit to the Conowingo Dam, M and I made our way to Havre de Grace (“Harbor of Grace”), dubbed The Duckiest Town on the Chesapeake by Southern Living Magazine. Not a bad claim to fame, I suppose. The Havre de Grace website for tourists suggests it earned this title because this small town on the waterfront makes one feel just ducky. I suspect it has more to do with decoys and duck hunting. Havre de Grace is, after all, home of the Duck Decoy Museum.

Our plan was to go to Havre de Grace for lunch, but it was close to 4:00pm by the time we got there. That’s pretty typical of us when we go hiking or birdwatching. We lose track of time. Not that it matters except we only had about an hour of daylight left at that point so we sort of rushed around to see the highlights. We had hoped to take a stroll on the promenade, but the temperature was dropping and we were getting wimpy about the cold at that point (and don’t forget hungry, we hadn’t eaten since breakfast) so we ended up driving around for a quick tour of the highlights.

There’s not a great deal to see in Havre de Grace. What I enjoyed most were the views of the Susquehanna and the Chesapeake Bay.

And the food. We had some great crab cakes at MacGregor’s Restaurant which was on the waterfront. If you ever get to Havre de Grace, give them a try. They’re really good.

Without further ado, the photo tour of Havre de Grace…

(Outlet of the Susquehanna River. January 2007*)

(Chesapeake Bay. January 2007*)

The water was amazingly calm. The sky and water were almost the same color and might have blended together at the horizon line if the land hadn’t been there.

(Concord Point Lighthouse. January 2007*)

(A little lighthouse history. January 2007*)

(Another lighthouse view. January 2007*)

(Havre de Grace after dark. January 2007*)

(The main drag near the waterfront. January 2007*)

It really is a pretty little town. I’d like to go there again when the weather is nicer. M is ready to buy a condo and retire there. I’m all for it.

It doesn’t seem right to leave Havre de Grace without at least one photo of a duck decoy. Decoys were scattered all over MacGregor’s Restaurant. We didn’t make it to the Duck Decoy Museum this time around. Maybe next time.

(Just ducky! January 2007*)

*All photos by Robin.

Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind. ~Seneca


Conowingo

(All photos by Robin. 2007)

The Conowingo Dam, built in 1926, is a large hydroelectric dam located on the lower portion of the Susquehanna River in Maryland. Interesting tidbit: The dam is named for the town of Conowingo, the original of which is now under the reservoir created by the dam. The town was relocated about a mile or so away. To learn more about the dam, visit Wikipedia’s entry: Conowingo Dam.

The primary attraction of the Conowingo Dam are the birds. Lots and lots and lots of birds. Thousands of birds. There are mostly gulls (of many varieties), some herons and ospreys, and the main attraction: the bald eagle. When the turbines of the dam are running they suck large amounts of water and, most importantly, fish through the dam providing an excellent feeding area for piscivorous birds.

If you click on the top photo, you will see lots of little white flecks. Those are birds, mostly gulls. The same is true of the next two photos.

Unfortunately, due to security restrictions since 9/11, some of the viewing areas are closed. Getting a closer look at the birds is almost impossible.

Fortunately, the turbines were running when we got to the dam and so there were plenty of birds of various kinds to be seen. We saw several great blue herons and countless numbers of gulls.

The highlight was spotting the bald eagles. We saw some across the river from where we were, small specks in the trees. Then, on our way out, I saw one sitting in a tree just above us. Here s/he is:

S/he must have spotted us, too, and after allowing me one or two chances at a good photograph, took off:

Even though I didn’t think I’d get that lucky a second time, lo and behold, I spotted another just a few clumps of trees up from where the first one was. This guy or gal was having lunch:

Nice fish. Looks like a yummy lunch to me.

Update on my back problems (because a few people have asked): I’m pretty much back to normal these days. After realizing I’d have to wait more than a month before our new insurance would kick in, I did a lot of research and designed an exercise program for myself that appears to have worked. I started with light weights and very short, very leisurely strolls on the treadmill. I’m now lifting 50 lbs. on the weight machines (which do a very fine job of supporting the back) and walking up to an hour on the treadmill with a top speed of 3.5 mph. Considering I couldn’t go more than 1 mph a month or so ago, I’d say that’s a vast improvement.

There are still a few exercises I’m unable to do or unable to do for long. Mostly things like reverse crunches and back extensions. Yoga is sometimes problematic, but modifications and props generally help. I get twinges of sciatica on rare occasions, usually when I’m trying to do something I shouldn’t be doing. My back often feels a little achy and tired in the evening, especially after a full day of activity. I am a long way from the horrid pain that had me depressed and barely able to move or walk or sleep for the last quarter of 2006.

In addition to exercise, I spent a lot of time icing my back and doing guided visualizations designed for healing. I’ve lost some weight too. Not a whole lot. Enough to make a difference apparently. (Actually, I’m not sure about the weight just yet because part of the Fitness Challenge I’ve been engaged in this month includes staying off the scale. I can only go by the fact that my clothing has losened.)

Today I started on the Weight Watchers Points plan, something I used a few years ago to lose the weight I’d gained when I quit smoking. Being practically crippled from pain was a big wake-up call for me. I have quite a bit of weight to lose and I’m going to use this time in Sabbaticalville to do it. All the usual excuses are gone. I have time to exercise, time to cook healthy meals, and time to take care of myself.

It is in moments of illness that we are compelled to recognize that we live not alone but chained to a creature of a different kingdom, whole worlds apart, who has no knowledge of us and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood: our body. ~Marcel Proust


The Greenway Trail

On Thursday M took off from work and we took a little daytrip to Maryland to hike on the Greenway Trail and to see the birds at the Conowingo Dam. We didn’t have the best of weather. It was cloudy and gray, a very gloomy day. The temperature stayed pretty steady, around 33-34 degrees (F). There was rain, possibly snow, and lots of wind in the forecast for the rest of the weekend. As it turned out, the gray and gloomy day was our best choice. The sun did come out on Friday and Saturday, but the wind was wicked, whistling and whipping so that the cold slices right through you. So, the gloomy day really was our best choice.

We did our hiking on the portion of the Greenway Trail that starts at the Susquehanna State Park. Had the weather been nicer, we’d have hiked from there to the dam (2.7 miles one way). About a mile into our hike we decided it was a little too chilly so we turned around and then drove up to the dam.

The hike starts near the Stafford flint furnace, a portion of which is still standing (pictured below). The best description I could find of the trail is at a mountain biking website. You can read the description here if you’re interested in more details.

Remains of the Stafford flint furnace. Stafford was once a thriving town and this is pretty much all that’s left of it. In the 1740’s, George Rock built an iron works (Rock Forge). Other furnaces, forges, mills, and industries popped up soon after. The population of the town fluctuated based on the rise and fall of the industries. At one point the town was prosperous enough to have a school and post office. Most of the town was destroyed by an ice gorge in 1904.

White flint was quarried nearby. The flint was layered into the furnace, alternating with wood, and set on fire. The heat dried out the water in the flint, causing it to crack into large pebbles. The pebbles were then ground into a powder. The powder was sent by canal to Trenton, New Jersey and used in porcelainizing pots and pans and in porcelain china.

The trail, at least on the portion we were on, is fairly flat and wide. Easy hiking. Some of it runs along an old railway grade.

The creek is almost frozen over. Gives you some idea of how cold it was out there.

This is an amazing tree. I took a photo of M standing near the bottom to give some perspective on just how big it is.

See what I mean? Big tree!

Close up of the bottom of the tree. It looks a lot like camouflage, doesn’t it?

The Susquehanna River. It was running pretty high and fast.

Another creek, running fast.


Remains of an old stone wall near the state park.

I’ll post the photos from the Conowingo Dam tomorrow. Or sometime soon.

(All photos by Robin. 2007)