Tuesday, September 29, 2015

six years

This past Friday ~ September 25th ~ was the six year anniversary of my oldest son, Philip's passing. Those of you who've known me for awhile know his story. For those of you who don't, I have a Dedication to Phil tab underneath my blog header. In the meantime, here's a photo of my sweet boy from when he was around 14 years old. I had this photo on my computer and it's not dated, so unfortunately, I can't remember exactly how old he was in this photo. He had the sweetest, gentlest, shy smile.

As usual, Brian, Tim and I spent part of the day at the cemetery. It's a beautiful, peaceful place ~ more like a park setting. It's one of those cemeteries that only allows the flat headstones and there's plenty of trees. Most of Phil's ashes are in an urn which is buried at the foot of my dad's grave. Brian keeps three folding chairs in his car trunk so we parked ourselves by Phil's burial spot and sat and talked for over an hour before we went out to dinner. 

As we were leaving the cemetery, I noticed the stunning cloud formation above us and took a photo. It wasn't until I got home and uploaded the photo to my laptop, that I noticed the cloud was in a heart shape with a crack down the middle. WOW. How's that for a sign?

Now, if you'll indulge me for a moment, I'd like to share some words with you from a newspaper column that I just read this past Sunday.  It's from the September 27, 2015 edition of the Chicago Tribune. A man named Matthew Walberg wrote an article called, "What 9 Years Since My Son's Death Have Taught".

"I am not without hope, and I know I will see him again someday. But who knows when that day will come, so I've had to learn a lot about grief in these years - or at least learn a lot about how I grieve. I've learned that you don't get to practice how you'll handle something like this....

I've learned that life can be fun again, and I can laugh and enjoy it. At the same time, grief is like a giant block of granite: The sharp edges may have softened with the passing years, but it remains as hard and as heavy as it was the day it first crashed into my life. But I've discovered that sorrow has its own beauty. It brings depth and context to all the blessings in my life."

Thursday, September 24, 2015

monkey update ~ and hello to autumn

 Thank you for all your good thoughts, prayers and lovely messages for my cat, Monkey. He's doing much better after several cold laser treatments on his bladder. That technology is amazing! He's still not 100%, but he has one more laser treatment next week. This morning, I was in the backyard and happened to capture this photo through the screen. That's Zippo (my 16-year old kitty) on the left and Monkey on the right. Kiss-kiss!

 We said goodbye to a beautiful summer and autumn slowly slipped in, leaving us with stretches of blue, sunny skies and fields tinged in gold. Temps have been in the 70's. Just perfect.

 Most of the summer perennials - purple coneflower, black-eyed susan, phlox - in my gardens are drying up now, which always makes me kind of sad. Now the autumn sedum takes over.

Every fall, I photograph the color change of my neighbor's maple tree, simply because it is one of the most beautiful trees I've ever seen. It ends up turning a bright orangey-red. I noticed this morning that the leaves on top and on the right (in the photo) where the sun hits are just starting to change. Can you see it?

As for fall decor around my house, I'm keeping it simple. The front porch got the obligatory pot of mums...

and a new welcome mat from Target. I might add some pumpkins in October, but that's it.

In the living room, I decorated the buffet with the old window that I had outside all summer (rescued years ago from a rehabbed house in my neighborhood). The runner is really a scarf. I was going to donate it since I never wear it, then realized the colors matched the colors in the bird wall hanging. Ta da! The two vintage books in the middle are from our recent getaway to Galena. One is a scrapbook of brief sermons and poems and the other is the poems of Henry W. Longfellow.

Of course, every vignette looks better with a kitty.

The console table in the living room entryway...

Edited the day after the original post...I was just looking through the photos on my laptop and saw that I missed posting the photo of the ladder bookcase in my living room. So, here it is.

In the kitchen, I kept the china cabinet simple, too and added just a few decorative fall items that I've had for years. That little painting in the background is from one of those paint-and-pour classes I took last year. I know...it looks like I had too much pour and not enough painting instruction. ;-) In reality, I only had one glass of wine - and no instruction. My friends and I were not too pleased with that venue. But, I digress.

Some of the owls from my collection in the downstairs family room came upstairs to add a touch of autumn whimsy to kitchen shelves.

 And, that's it! The living room and kitchen are the only two rooms that I change up a little bit. How about you...do you go all-out with fall decorating or just add a few autumn touches here and there?


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

a quick post about monkey

My Monkey boy isn't doing so well. I happened to be downstairs by one of the litter boxes yesterday evening and I noticed Monkey was squatting in the box for a long time, but it didn't sound like anything was coming out. He had a glazed look on his face. I immediately knew something was wrong.

 I called the vet and they were closing in half an hour, but they said to bring him in immediately. I know that male cats can be prone to urinary blockages, as their urethra is narrower than in female cats. This happened to my oldest cat, Zippo when he was younger, too. If not taken care of immediately, this blockage is fatal.

The vet examined Monkey and said he could feel a little bit of urine in his bladder, which was good. He used a cold laser to stimulate his bladder and ease the inflammation. He also received a shot of vitamin B12 and was sent home with oral Valium (!!).

 I hardly slept at all last night due to a severe headache and getting up to check on Monkey. This morning, I noticed Monkey was worse. He was lethargic and his tail was dragging on the floor. I gave him Valium (which was a huge struggle) and he threw it up five minutes later. I called the vet in a panic, and they once again told me to bring him in immediately. They did another laser treatment, plus were able to catheterize him. The vet said when he did so, urine and grit sprayed everywhere! Gross. But good. They are keeping him there all day for observation and another laser treatment. We're to pick him up in a couple of hours. And then I have to bring him back to the vet for another laser treatment tomorrow, and then possibly another one-two times later in the week.

Of course, all of this treatment is expensive, but we can't put a price on our fur baby's health, can we? We are here to be these beautiful creatures' caretakers. Though sometimes, I think the opposite is true.

Friday, September 18, 2015

anniversary getaway

This was us in 1983 - a year before we got married. We were just babies!

And here's us now, celebrating 31 years of marriage. A little less hair and more wrinkles, but at least we're in this aging thing together.

We took an overnight getaway earlier this week to the town of Galena. Galena is a small, historic town in the northwest corner of Illinois, right near the borders of Iowa and Wisconsin. One of the many things I treasure about this little town is the rollings hills and open farmland. Most of Illinois is flat, so to see hills and valleys in our state is quite exciting. I learned from Wikipedia that the reason Galena's land is like this is because it escaped glaciation back in the Ice Ages.

We didn't get into town until the early evening, so we just had a leisurely walk around the main shopping strip. Love the beauty of the historic buildings and the church steeples reaching towards the sky in the backdrop.

I have no idea what's going on with the horse in the window, but I found it creepy-amusing.

The next morning, we hit the main street again and browsed in the many stores. I have no idea what my honey was looking at in this antique shop, but obviously something piqued his interest.

Maybe this derby hat?

This is what piqued my interest. ;-) I was a good girl and only got a few pieces. I even still have one left!

We did the wine tasting thing, too ~ and it being a weekday, we were the only ones in the place. We had a nice, leisurely chat with the two employees. And we bought a few bottles of wine, one of which is a delicious strawberry-rhubarb. A nice sipping wine while sitting out on the patio in the evening.

Now here's an enterprising elderly woman in town! She stood right in the street in a parking spot, selling her doggy jackets. And she smartly parked herself right outside a pet goods store. My first glance was one of pity, but then as I observed her more, I began to think that she was actually enjoying herself.

To wind down the day, we had dinner at a fun restaurant. 
This is the waiting area. Someone has a great sense of humor and knows what attracts customers!

The inside had a lively, fun vibe, too. We originally wanted to have dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant in Galena, but we were disappointed to find out it's closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

After dinner and before heading home, we drove around the town looking at some of the pretty houses. The architecture and beauty of these houses are just stunning.

This mansion is a B&B. I looked online for prices and it said to call and inquire. My thinking is that if it's not posted and we have to ask, we can't afford it. Like when it says "market price" on restaurant menus.

When we slowly drove towards this house, I spied two deer in the lawn. They were parallel to each other and standing perfectly still, so my first thought was that they were lawn ornaments. Then one began to move and I yelled to Brian to stop the car so I could take pictures. They were so sweet, taking turns washing each other. I talked to them out the car window, cooing, "Hello, pretty babies!" Please don't tell me I'm the only one that does this. ;-)

As we were heading out of Galena to return home...

Hope you enjoyed the little virtual tour of Galena. Have a fantastic weekend!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

hardwood floors ~ one room at a time

We've lived in our house 25 years and naturally, a lot has changed during that time. Except for the master bedroom. It's always been last on our priority list. Sure, it's been painted a couple of times, but that's it. Guess that's what happens when you're busy raising a family and time and money are both scarce. 

Well, it's finally time to start making our bedroom the way we truly want it. I'm not going to do a complete "before" with this post ~ that will come at a later time when I do a total "before and after". Hubby painted the walls a soft, light gray - Sherwin Williams Lattice. It's a cooler gray (but not sterile) with a bluish undertone. The next step was to rip out the 27-year old carpet. You heard me correctly. The carpet in our bedroom was the original of the house!

 This was what we lived with for 25 years: multi-toned beige, sculpted carpet. Stuff that's not even pretty when it's new! And don't be too impressed with the condition it was in after all that time. This was the part that was under the bed. ;-)

The flooring guys will be here bright and early tomorrow morning to install Bruce hardwood floors in the bedroom. This is the flooring we have throughout the rest of the house - it's engineered hardwood. We started 15 years ago with the kitchen, then had the living room and hallway done five years after that. Phil's old bedroom (now my office) was done four years ago, and then Tim's room had the hardwood floors installed last year. We live in a ranch-style house, so all the flooring (except for the two bathrooms) will be uniform now. I highly recommend Bruce hardwood flooring, by the way. It wears very well. After 15 years, our kitchen floor is still beautiful and shiny. The only downside is that it does nick and scratch easily, so I'm assuming it's not the best choice if you have dogs, because of their nails.

Here's a photo of the living room floor so you can see what will be put in the bedroom...

If you're curious as to what engineered flooring is all about and if it's right for you - check out this article from Mike Holmes. And for a good article on when to use engineered hardwood floors, click here for a great article with beautiful photos from Houzz. Not being compensated from any of these companies in any way. Just a homeowner who's a fan of these hardwood floors.

Friday, September 4, 2015

rallying with your community

 The small community in which I live is still reeling from tragic news about a murder a few days ago. To make matters worse, a young woman then played a hoax on local law enforcement, faking a situation in which police were called in from different towns, search dogs were brought in, and police helicopters were flying overhead. It is very unnerving when you are led to believe that armed criminals are on the loose in your neighborhood and being looked for, especially at night.

I had stayed up half the night, too afraid to go to sleep. I kept my ears glued to the police scanner while I kept up conversation with locals on a community Facebook page. 

Someone joked on the Facebook page that we all needed to meet in person and have a beer when it was all over. We didn't do so, but small meet-and-greet events have been put together in the past. A local businessman set things in motion last year with bringing the community together, and now several other small business owners have chimed in. We've met for tacos at local restaurants, there's now a weekly evening get-together over milkshakes at a local confectionery, and there's been different fundraisers and drives throughout the past year.
It doesn't take much to help others less fortunate than yourself, especially in your own community. We are not wealthy by any means, but it doesn't take a lot of money to help others. Food pantries always need donations. Go through your cupboards and pantry and donate some extra food. Or, each time you go grocery shopping, pick up a few extra staples and stash them away until you have a few bags to donate. If your community has a holiday clothing and coat drive (which mine did last year), clean out your closets. You could even pick up an extra coat or two at a thrift shop. Again, you don't have to have or spend a lot of money to help! An animal shelter in a nearby town lists their current needs on their web site. It only adds a few dollars to your grocery bill to buy a bottle of bleach and some paper towels. You could spend more money than that on a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

 Last month, the local businessman I mentioned above coordinated a school supply donation drive. As I did my normal shopping, I picked up crayons, pencils, markers, notebook paper, folders and index cards. My cost was $10 and a few minutes of my time. Volunteers then put together donated backpacks full of school supplies for local kids.

 My husband and I have also recently picked up extra corn and peaches at the farm stand and delivered them to a widow in our community who doesn't have a car. People had been posting on the community Facebook page about the delicious corn that was ready at farm stands and this woman had said how she'd love some corn, but didn't have a way of getting any. Again, only a few minutes of our time and a few dollars. What I got in return was the privilege of meeting a lovely human being, getting a big hug, and a lot of gratitude. You can't put a price on that.

 Just today, a young woman in our community took the courage to ask for help on the Facebook page. She and her young daughter were hungry. I won't get into the particulars of her circumstances, but another woman offered to buy the young woman some groceries and deliver them to her. (The young woman also does not have a car.) That got the ball rolling, and several other people had said they would help - including myself. I went through my pantry, cabinets and refrigerator and came up with two bags full of groceries that I could part with.

I am feeling thankful and proud to be part of such a caring community. I truly believe that what comes around, goes around. And that in blessing others, we will be blessed. One of my favorite quotes is from Mother Teresa: "We can do no great things; just small things with great love."

 Have a beautiful and safe weekend!