Friday, December 29, 2006


With a little bit of leisure time this week, I’m assessing what I might do with the structure of my regular routine so that I am less stressed and more productive with the time and space available to me. Some necessary and cathartic cleaning and purging is in order, as well as organizing drawers, shelves, and storage areas to be more efficient and useful. I need to get some filing done (ugh—one of my least favorite things to do), and archive some of the files that are taking up precious space. I need to create again, and it would help immeasurably if the space where I work was cleared of clutter, both physical and mental!

This applies to other areas of the house as well. The kitchen counters are littered with things that have never found a permanent home. Things we don’t use often can be relocated to a storage area, and the counters opened up for their real purpose—food preparation! Ken got several cookbooks for Christmas, and though he has less time to cook than he used to, and I am doing more of it than I did, there’s plenty of inspiration available to put that counter space to delicious use!

So, where to start?!! It always seems that to bring order to an area a little disorder is necessary in the process. Maybe an hour a day, every day, making a dent here and a dent there will lead to the solution. All I know is that I have to try.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

in my own backyard!

I've nicknamed them Winken, Blinken and Nod, for no other reason than that they are three names that go together, and the three young deer that habitate the neighborhood (along with the elder doe) are familiar enough that they deserve names. This morning I spied one of them in the yard and decided it was worth trying to get a picture. I fumbled for the telephoto lens, which has been packed away since we moved, and eventually unearthed it and got in onto the camera. By this time a second deer was in the yard, too, and I could see the other two through the brush in the yard behind us. The sun was striking one of them, and I tried my best to seize the moment and capture it on film. For whatever reason, the camera set a reading at a slow shutter speed (or maybe somehow the focus got shifted from auto to manual when I changed the lens), so all the pictures are out of focus, but the one here is the best. The near one bravely ventured toward the house, and though it didn't seem to mind that I had opened the back door to get a good shot, it was cautious, nonetheless. The pictures aren't of a quality to keep, but now that the telephoto has come out of hiding, maybe there will be another opportunity to capture them on film. Patience, and lighting...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

christmas report, part II

Our Christmas was an easy day, though plagued with a wee bit of fatigue. After getting to bed at about 1:30, I was up at 5:00 to make biscuits and sausage gravy for Junior for breakfast before he got on the road at 6:00. After we saw him off, we had a little bit of time just to chat, and then I headed back to bed for a couple of hours. Once up I took the dogs out (thank you, Juliet, for your extreme patience and endurance!), we took care of a few domestic details, and then decided that it might be a good idea to open presents! It was nearly noon by then, and it felt so civilized to have such a relaxed pace.

We took a couple of hours to open presents, had a late lunch, and then Ken popped in his new “DaVinci Code” DVD and I promptly fell asleep on the couch. Not a commentary on the film, but my fatigue! Later we grazed through dinner, enjoyed some time in front of the fire, and then called it an early night. It was a nice, just right kind of day.

Here’s a guide to a few pictures from the last few days…
~a family portrait, including dogs!

~When he wasn’t helping Ken at work, Junior spent a fair amount of his time with us crafting five gifts for Christmas, which he finished shortly before we left for church Christmas Eve evening. They were shadow boxes that he made and stained, and filled with flags that he had taken with him on combat missions during his last tour in Iraq, along with a certificate of authenticity, his Ranger battalion coin, a Joint Services Commendation Medal that he received during his last stint, some Iraqi currency, and two pictures (one from his Ranger graduation, and the other of him in his dress blues). He worked so diligently to get these done, and I’m so proud of his efforts, as well as his accomplishments!

~Both Junior and Ken suffered thumb injuries over the weekend—Ken smashed his thumb when it didn’t get out of the way of a hammer in time, and while cutting the Styrofoam for the shadow box Junior lost the tip of his thumb to the knife blade!

~We draped garland over the doorway between the living room and dining area.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

the christmas report,part 1

It's been a wonderful Christmas, and the day is still around the corner!

Ashley and Travis arrived late on Friday from Savannah, detained by considerable traffic between Atlanta and Chattanooga. But oh, they’re young! At 11:30 PM they sat down to begin playing cards, and I took my tired body off to bed. The day had been one of nonstop activity—grocery shopping, food preparation, errands, wrapping stocking presents, cleaning the house, making up the beds and doing laundry, and so on. Poor Ken managed to smash his thumb early in the day while he and Junior worked on a project, so his task list went immediately out the window, with a few items delegated to Junior and me. It was a little crazed!

Saturday was our virtual Christmas, with a leisurely breakfast (this because it was being made from scratch, and there’s only so much you can do to hurry things along under such circumstances!). After breakfast we rearranged some furniture in front of the fireplace and opened stockings. Travis was a riot. Except for food items most all the other stuffers were wrapped, and he tried to determine what was in each package before opening it (see photo). His first attempt: a lighthouse calendar, which he nailed right down to the theme of the calendar! Other amazing, accurate guesses included a combination lock (and yes, the color was blue), post-it “flags,” and some silicon gel used in diving. How he did this I do not know. I think the only thing that really stumped him were some pop-up sponges, but even those he determined were not “in their full form.” The dogs had stockings, too, and were quite attentive in their posture awaiting their treats!

After stockings we broke for a little noshing and grazed our way into the afternoon, when we shifted gears to presents. One humorous moment in the day occurred when Junior opened a gift that was labeled for him but turned out to be mislabeled, and was intended for Ken! (It was an easy mistake, the two boxes were the same relative size and weight, and had been wrapped in the same paper!). Ken’s gift (a tool belt), was from my dad, so to balance things out I also opened a gift from Dad: portions of the Willow Tree Nativity set to complete what Mom had given me a couple of years ago. See photo! From Ashley and Travis I received a Willow Tree figure (a girl holding a sheep—have you noticed that I have a thing for sheep?), and an Italian charm bracelet. Great choice! Now I can be on the lookout for charms to add to it.

When it got dark we headed to the Opryland Hotel to see their holiday decorations, lights and displays, and stayed there for dinner (picture below). Ashley and Travis shoved off to Travis’ parents’ house in Clarksville just as I was heading to bed, and Ken and Junior stayed up a bit for some further conversation.

Today has been more like an ordinary Sunday, with the exception that we’ve got a late service at church for Christmas Eve. This morning we actually had a crowd of 65 (40 is a high number), but there are lots of folks who are out of town, and those with kids won’t venture out late, so I’m not sure what sort of showing we’ll have. Parishioners worked very hard to set up the parish hall for worship, and did a fabulous job converting that space into a place that feels sacred. In fact, it inspired this morning’s sermon, and I was able to echo the gospel text of Mary’s Magnificat and say to them that their souls magnified the Lord.” It was a very meaningful worship for many, and tears were flowing!

Okay, this could become a book, so I will cease for now and resume later with further reports and any tales to share (there is at least one!). Good tidings to all, and Merriest Christmas from all of us here.

merry christmas eve!

It's been a few days of hustle and bustle getting ready for Christmas, and we had our celebration yesterday with the kids. Don't have time to write much now as I'm getting ready to head to church, but here are a few pics of "before," with stockings and the tree groaning with presents, LOL. A fuller report will follow later. Cheers to all!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

a good son

It has really been wonderful to have Junior with us this past week. He has spent many of his days working with Ken, but Sunday he joined us at church, sat through the brief annual meeting, helped put up decorations for Christmas, and snacked on the finger food offered (how is it that four of us brought meatballs?!?!?). Evenings we’ve spent with him as he got caught up on season three of “O.C.” (brand new TV territory for Ken and me), and in general kibitzing about. It doesn’t matter what we do, it’s just good to have him here. Nicest of all, in it’s own special way, is when he leaves in the morning with Ken and calls out to me on his way out the door, “’bye Anne—love you!” He’s a good son, and I’m going to hate to see him go when the time comes.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

anything can happen

Last week when South Dakota's Senator Tim Johnson suffered a brain hemorrhage, the nation went berserk speculating about the balance of political power that might result from his precarious health. Give me strength. Although the question certainly hung in the air, a little respect for the man was in order. How about prayers and good wishes for his recovery? The balance won’t shift until such time as the Senator is no longer able to serve, and until then…

But it just goes to show that anything can happen to alter life as we know it.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I received a phone call yesterday afternoon from the senior warden at my church. A small fire had broken out at the church in a room under the choir loft. The copy machine had melted (though not entirely), and was thought to be the culprit. Thank goodness the roof is in the process of being replaced, because it was the roofers who saw the smoke and called 911. Had they not been there, chances are high that the church would have burned to the ground, or at least damaged significantly.

This morning I made a trip to the church to check out the damage first hand. While I was there a representative from the fire marshal’s office stopped by, and he determined that an electrical short was to blame. The fire was contained to the room that had been serving as a bizarre storage area: odds and ends, Christmas decorations (that we had removed the previous day to decorate the church!), the copy machine, a refrigerator, the Sunday ledger of receipts, and other miscellaneous bits and pieces. A slightly humorous note: some sheet music survived the mini inferno, titled “In the wake of new disaster,” (it was written post-Katrina).

Things don’t look bad, but the pros have been there and given the place the white glove test. We didn’t pass. Anywhere. Smoke damage may not be visible to the naked eye, but it is omnipresent, as is the odor of burned plastic, rubber, and other assorted items. The smell was toxic, and I’m praying that my lungs recover quickly! It remains to be seen if we’ll be able to worship in the church on Sunday. Service Master has committed itself to cleaning the parish hall, but they were certain they couldn’t clean the nave and sanctuary in time. All we really need cleaned to worship is the pews. Either that, or we can all wear our best “get grubby and dirty” clothes for Christmas services.

Sigh. Anything can happen.

Monday, December 18, 2006

seven days to go

Have I mentioned that we have a gorgeous tree? It is full and perfectly shaped, with just enough space between the branches for hanging ornaments so that they don’t get lost! It is a Nordman variety, and our only regret is that it isn’t fragrant! We’re dealing with that in other ways, but every time I look at the tree it makes my heart glad. Here it is, with a few pictures of some of my favorite ornaments (and yes, there appears to be theme!). Presents are now wrapped and placed beneath, and I believe Santa may be making an early stop to add to the bounty. Can you hear the music in the background? I love Christmas…

Friday, December 15, 2006

'tis the season

It's been a good day, and though I wasn't on the receiving end of goodies at my doorstep, I think it qualifies as a big biscuit day. This morning I finished tagging and packing gifts that went into six boxes for shipping. This was after shipping out five of them yesterday! I loaded up the car with recycling, Christmas letters to take to Staples for folding, an item to drop off at the cleaners, and those boxes! They filled the back seat of the car, and I wondered what I was going to do when I got to the post office to get them from the car into the building. As I began to unload the boxes onto the sidewalk at the post office, a kind soul asked if I needed help, and the answer to that was a no-brainer! The wait at the post office was minimal--yahoo!--and then it was on the photo shop to order a few pictures. No wait there, either, and considering that it was lunch time, this was a minor miracle. Next stop--recycling. Piece of cake. Then lunch. Then Staples. Picked up something at Joann's, made a tour through Home Goods and found napkins to go with the Christmas table cloth I got from Mom, and then it was time to head home. Considering that the trip into Nashville and back is an hour of driving, all the above took place in four hours, which is amazing.

Back at the ranch I finished wrapping a few more gifts so that I could close down “wrapping central.” I had been using the guest room, and as of this evening, Junior is here to occupy that space! Tonight I’ll work on signing the letters and stuffing those into envelopes to be mailed tomorrow.

Progress. I like it. And I should sleep well tonight. Ahhh…….

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


When you round the corner at the end of our block you pass a house facing the perpendicular street. Next door to it is another house that faces the parallel street, and as you walk you approach its back yard. This morning as the dogs and I turned the first corner I noticed the shape of two deer in the second house’s back yard. In the dim light of dawn they were too obvious in appearance to be real deer, and I determined that they were probably lawn ornaments that had been added to the house’s holiday yard décor in the last few days. As we got closer my conclusions were confirmed.

But wait. There were deer in the yard! There is a “family” of four that we see pretty regularly—one older doe with three younger deer—as they have a habit of traversing our back yards in the early morning hours noshing on their leisurely breakfast snacks. They had spotted us before we saw them, and were stock still. This morning our usual family had guests with them, another doe and another young one. They stood watching us as I tried to determine whether to continue our pace forward, driving the dogs crazy as they picked up the scent, or wait until the deer decided to move off in another direction. Their position indicated that we were interrupting their route. Too late, Juliet saw them and began straining at the leash, and Dooley began to do likewise. The deer, calm as ever (they’re very familiar with the neighborhood), moved slowly to give us berth and continued to watch. They found a safe distance for them, and we continued on our way.

One of these days I want to have my camera handy when we encounter them. They’re not skittish (not usually), but they do like bad light!

Monday, December 11, 2006

marathon days

It was something of an intense weekend, packed as it was with special events, joy, fun and people we love. Let’s not forget, either, those successful errands! All told (errands excluded) we logged over 1400 miles in four days, traversing two time zones and five states to attend two rather different ceremonies. I can now report more precisely that Junior graduated from the army Reconnaissance and Surveillance Leadership Course, one of 43 graduates from across the country and including members of his own Ranger unit, National Guard soldiers, Marines, and others. At the other end of the spectrum we attended in St. Louis the baptism of Ella Noelle Marks (you all know her as Katie’s sister), followed by a celebration of her first birthday (which is officially on Wednesday).

The unexpected late hour of Junior’s graduation (3 PM, when we anticipated a morning ceremony) put us home late on Friday, and Saturday morning I had to catch up taking care of a few things that I had hoped to get accomplished the night before. Those delays made for a later than desired departure for St. Louis, where we had a few wedding gifts to return before stores closed that afternoon. En route to the Gateway City we also had a change of venue for our accommodations that night, shifting from one location to the home of some friends who get the hospitality award for going beyond expectations—they had returned earlier that day from a week in the Bahamas! We joined them in time for a delightful happy hour and then dinner at a small Italian restaurant called Mangia! Yum! It was a very pleasant evening and good to get caught up with them (these are the same friends whose son is getting married in Napa in the spring!).

Sunday morning was Ella’s baptism and birthday party, where Ella rose to the occasion (literally) by standing on her own for the first time while we were all gathered to encourage her and applaud madly.

We departed a little earlier than usual from those festivities to make one more gift return on our way out of town, and then pointed the car southeast and said, “Go!” It did.

We are glad to be home, reunited with beloved four-legged children and faced with the next set of lists. Among the items on mine today is getting a new car windshield installed, making a card for our new presiding bishop that I will take with me tonight to be signed at our annual clergy women’s Christmas dinner, making a dish to take to said dinner, begin writing our Christmas letter, and a couple of errands on my way to the same said dinner. I still have presents to wrap to get shipped, but I suspect that won’t happen today. That’s what tomorrows are for!

And speaking of lists, I’d better start tackling it!

Friday, December 08, 2006

reporting in...

As a latecomer to anything resembling military life, and I would NOT say that life resembles that now, I had to smile this morning when my "wake up call" was in the form of the cadence of a unit of soldiers on their morning round of physical training. They didn't pass right outside our window, but close enough! Reminds me of a time when I attended a Scottish dance summer program for a week, and our wake up call then was the sound of bagpipes as a piper marched into the quad and around below our windows. That sound (like this morning's) was a gradual crescendo, and definitely music to this girl's ears.

Anyway, we had fun last night—out for dinner, a quick stop at Winn Dixie to pick up a deck of cards, a swing through Starbucks, then back to our “quarters” for a few rounds of rummy. I don’t play cards very often, so I always have to relearn, but I did okay.

Shortly we’re heading to breakfast, after which we’ll have a long stretch of day to hang out until a very late graduation at 3:00. It’s going to make for a late night getting home, but thems the breaks, as the saying goes.

Y’all have a good day!!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

greetings from ft. benning!

We've arrived here for Junior's graduation from advanced recconnaisance training and are about to head out for some basic shopping before heading to dinner. It was an easy trip, with the exception that our curbside pickup lunch order was totally messed up. A phone call to the manager to register my complaint seems to have resulted in gift cards being sent homeward. We'll see! In the meantime it's great to see Junior and to have this time together. Ashley has just arrived, too, and today is her birthday, so we'll be celebrating her tonight, and Junior tomorrow. Not a bad way to celebrate a couple of days! Y'all be good!!!!

Monday, December 04, 2006

party attire

Heading into the holiday season two years ago I faced a fashion dilemma. I had owned two Christmas sweaters in adulthood, and one of them, perhaps my favorite for more than ten years, became an unfortunate casualty of the wash. I was down to one, and that simply wouldn’t do. A girl needs options, after all, even if she doesn’t get invited to holiday parties because the people she knows just don’t throw parties!

Anyway, I decided to rectify the Holiday Sweater Problem and added a new one to the wardrobe. It was quite adorable, if I say so myself, but wouldn’t you know it, the first time I wore it I managed to splatter small bits of barbecue sauce onto the front. It was a “wash by hand” sweater, and we all know what that means—it would be months before it would be wearable again!

So last year I indulged myself and bought two more sweaters, ready for whatever action might come my way. I’d resorted, frankly, to wearing them at home even if I never stepped one foot outside the door, so they would get some use! This year, we actually got invited to a holiday party over the weekend. Time to pull out the seasonal attire and dress up in full holiday regalia (which simply meant donning the sweater). But imagine my surprise when, at least among the first dozen women to show up at this party, none of the women were adorned with holiday fashion or even holiday color. In fact, half of them were wearing skirts! I gasped inwardly—I was out of fashion touch, and now I had a closet full of sweaters that would languish!

Eventually I was joined in my state of fashion staleness by two other women (one older than me, which makes me think this is a generational thing), so my pulse relaxed a tad, but it make me wonder. Is seasonal attire generational? Socio-economic? Dictated by Paris Hilton and her cronies? I’m at a loss. But I have decided this much—I will wear my fashion without apology and enjoy the festive look. Who cares, anyway?


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