Friday, September 28

2(20) + X = This Nontradtional Student

I understand life is a series of continual changes and bumps in the road. I'm learning that more and more as I embark upon life (once again) as a nontraditional student. I'm learning, because I'm paying attention.

The first challenge to overcome was the 85 million pounds of books to carry up 38 concrete steps only to walk uphill to a building and climb 30 steps to Math class. By spring, I suspect I'll have legs that will challenge Tina Turner's. I do this 3 times a week so I'm thinking this qualifies as exercise, right?

Parking deserves mention.
The parking lot I chose might be below 38 concrete steps, but the other two student lots are in the next county! I'm not 20 anymore so I try to park in the same county. (Well technically, I am 20-- twice and then some!)
But, I've figured out how to outsmart the young folks. If I arrive at least 15 minutes prior to class, I can easily find a space. Maybe it doesn't take a younger body much time to get to class. Or maybe they need that extra 10 minutes of sleep... who knows?

Another thing that has changed is that desks have went by the wayside for tables. I sit in front where there is always (elbow) room. The majority of the traditional students want to sit in the back, it seems.

I ask questions. If I don't understand or didn't hear, I ask questions. At this stage in my life, peer pressure is long gone.

I asked a question in math the other day about linear equations.
Mr. Math Professor said "Listen while I explain so I won't have to tell you this again."
Why would I not listen? I asked the questions, didn't I? Was that a "canned" response?
I ignored whatever implications were intended because I genuinely want to know so I can get through this algebraic nightmare!

After class, a young man in his 20s came up to me and offered further explanation. He then commented, "I bet it's been a really long time since you had math, huh?"
Without missing a beat, I said "Oh, about a hundred years."
(I'm doing okay.)

Now Biology is the killer for me... filled with long words I can't even pronounce, let alone spell. And I'm a good speller, too!
Dr. Biology bases all tests on lecture alone. We haven't cracked that $150 "required" book yet.
During Lab last week, I pulled out my fan to fend off a hot flash. I was waving it and my hair was flying when suddenly, a young man notices me.

"Hey, my grandma had a fan like that," he said. "She used to take it to church with her. She used it all the time."
To which I replied, "I bet I know why."

Dr. Biology saw me waving the fan and immediately went to the thermostat in an effort to adjust the room temperature. I explained it wasn't his thermostat that was the problem, it was my thermostat. He gave me a look of acknowledgment and walked back to the blackboard, trying desperately to hide his amusement. Okay Dr. Biology. That's fine. What do you say we check back and see how amusing hot flashes are when your wife hits menopause?

I'm settling in, I think.

When I begin my 30 minute drive to school, I have an escort to the end of the road. It makes me feel good that the dogs think they are looking out for me.

I've clocked old Jake here at 22 mph!

And when I park my car at home in the afternoon, this is the first thing I notice:

I'm establishing a routine. I'm sleeping better.
And on most nights, I fall asleep sitting up before 10 p.m.

Wednesday, September 26

Come Smile With Me

When I read Boomer Chronicles earlier this week, it was noted that another baby boomer site LifeTwo is presenting “How to Be Happy Week." Who doesn't want to be happy? Or happier?

One of the things suggested on Life Two was to make a list of the things that brought you pleasure or made you happy.

I'm jumping on the bandwagon and sharing my little pleasures so far this week:

  • My pal, Patriside, at Father Knows Nothing, has broken his month-long silence and is posting again. I'm delighted with the news he has to share. He's a good read anyway, without good news.
  • I made a 93 on my math test. Woohoo! It's starting to look a little less like Chinese and I actually know what to do with those equations these days.
  • My youngest, Jeni, has finished her clinicals for summer. She's in her last year of college, majoring in dental hygiene.
  • My oldest, Jess, doesn't require surgery for her tendinitis! She is also exploring a career change.

Now, don't be fooled into thinking that everything is just peachy. But, I have made a conscious choice to accentuate the positive.

(I'm also reading The Secret.)

Can happiness really make you age backwards? I'm willing to give it a shot to see.

So from now on, its smiles and giggles and laughs for me. And if you're ready to take plunge as well, check out what my friend Hoss, had to say about living life backwards.

Monday, September 24

If You're Feeling Especially Sinful

You have to give these Peanut Butter Brownies a try...
they are truly heaven on earth!

Peanut Butter Brownies
3 eggs
1 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups self-rising flour
3/4 Hershey's cocoa
1 cup chocolate chips

2 8 ounces packages cream cheese
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 Tablespoons milk

In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, butter, and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients and add to egg mixture, mixing well. Stir in chocolate chips. Set aside 1 cup for topping. Spread remaining batter into a greased 13-inch x 9-inch x 2-inch baking pan.

In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, peanut butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg and milk, beating on low just until combined. Carefully spread over batter.

Drop reserved batter by tablespoonfuls over filling. Cut through batter with a knife to swirl.

Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool.
Refrigerate until serving.

Picture This

Yes, it's a potato. I had almost forgotten about this picture, taken Friday before last at my little friend's house. Of course, she added the rawhide collar with bell and the tail.

Now that's definite creativity. I'd have probably hacked the thing up for something silly like potato rolls...

Sunday, September 23

You Never Miss The Water Until The Well Runs Dry

Yesterday, I put up Pear Honey.

Today I will put up pear honey.

The only problem I have with it these days is I have no help.

It makes me a bit sad as I peel the pears. Tasks of this nature invite idle conversation among its participants.

My mind wanders back to the time I had two eager-to-help little girls. I remember how the first year was a such thrill for them.
But, the second year wasn't met with quite the same level of excitement.

Sometimes I'd even be lucky enough to snag a friend of one of the eager-to-help little girls... one who had absolutely no knowledge of what it takes to make jelly.
And they'd be good until next season rolled around...

As the girls got older, I think they all became wiser. By some odd coincidence, extracurricular activities seemed to be scheduled the same weekends I had planned to make jelly.

But, at least they got a taste of what's involved.

And nowadays, they get a taste of pear honey in a care package from time to time.

Friday, September 21

Larger Than Life

Posted by Picasa
This hibiscus had gotten so BIG,
I really don't know what I will do with it once the temperatures hit the 50s.

But isn't it just beautiful?

Basic Training

It has come to my attention
that by allowing the deers to run freely in the yard,
I may be putting them in danger of hunters.

Momo thinks they are becoming too comfortable with people
and, as a result, hunters will be able to walk right up on them...
and kill them.

I've become a bit more forward since this realization.
I am trying to prepare them.
I walk sneakily toward them, and my camera is my weapon.

And they retreat!

Will they respond quick enough when it counts?

No, there is no hunting on our property
but, our property borders others' who DO hunt.

Beyond the trees, over the hill, are avid hunters.

I wish I could keep them safe,
but am coming to realize that it is not so.

Thursday, September 20

Anything Worth Doing...

I've come to realize just here lately--via my Abnormal Psychology class--that I may possibly be borderline obsessive-compulsive.

Friends and family members have casually thrown out the OCD acronym at various points throughout my life...

but it was meant as a joke, right?

Of course, there has been quite a bit of snickering when I mentioned this revelation to a few individuals...

I just feel like anything worth doing is worth doing right. I give it my all. I'll even redo, if necessary, to get the desired results. Does that make me obsessive? Or just conscientious, perhaps?

Okay, you decide:
  • I have kneepads so I can clean the tile on my kitchen floor correctly. You know, wipe the baseboards and get the corners clean while I've got all that at eye level. But, in my defense, I alternate the hands-and-knees routine with a sponge mop cleaning every other weak.
  • I have coasters to accommodate beverages for all wood surfaces. If you don't see them or understand what they're for, I'll clue you in.
  • I have to clean the cap on the toothpaste tube, ketchup bottle and mustard bottle. It should look newly opened for each use.
  • I have a mirror facing all windows and doorways to keep negativity OUT.
  • I have to have all my chores done before I can even think about playing.
  • I file everything.
  • I intentionally own automatic-shut-off appliances.
  • Every time I visit the in-laws, I find myself picking up the stray bits of catfood on the rug beside the cat's dish before I leave.
  • It bugs me that JB doesn't unfold his dinner napkin before use, so I have taken to shaking it out and putting it across his knee before I sit down to dinner.
  • I'm one of those people who feels compelled to straighten the clothes on hangers when I'm out shopping... and it drives me nuts to go in a dressing room and see a heap of clothes on the floor from the previous shopper.
  • I always hit publish and revise two or three times after that. Doesn't everyone?
  • I always notice a typo, misspelling or grammatical error when reading anything.
Am I OCD or just a bit of a perfectionist?

Wednesday, September 19

Peanut Butter Snowballs

I bought peanut butter days ago and put it out of sight in anticipation of making something special for JB. He loves peanut butter.

I am so bad... I doubled the recipe!

And this time, I'm a bit more on the ball... I photographed these early on!

Peanut Butter Snowballs
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 pound white candy coating (I used vanilla)

In a mixing bowl, combine sugar, peanut butter and butter; mix well. Shape into 1-inch balls and place on waxed paper lined baking sheet. Chill for 30 minutes or until firm.

Meanwhile, melt the candy in a double-boiler or microwave-safe bowl. Dip balls and place on waxed paper to harden.
Yield: 2 dozen

Tuesday, September 18

Potato Pan Rolls

I've made these three times in the past couple of weeks! Beautiful color and light-as-a-feather texture make these rolls perfect with any meal. The flavor is so pleasing, you'll want to share with friends and family.

Kneading the dough brought back memories of how I had made crescent rolls for special occasions when the girls were younger. Jenifer's favorite part was, of course, waiting for he dough to rise. When it had swelled appropriately, she'd wash and dry her little hands in anticipation of the big moment. I wish I had a photograph of the delight on her face as she put her fist into the dough to punch it down!

Potato Pan Rolls
2 cups medium potatoes, peeled and quartered (about 3 medium)
1 1/2 cups water
2 packages active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
1/4 vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons salt
6 to 7 cups flour

1. In a large saucepan, bring potatoes to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until fork tender. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid; cool to 110 to 115 degrees.
Mash potatoes; set aside to cool.
2, In large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in reserved potato liquid, let stand for 5 minutes. Add reserved mashed potatoes, butter, honey, oil, eggs, and 1 1/2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. The secret to light, fluffy rolls is to not add a fleck more flour than necessary to make it workable.
3. Turn onto floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

4. Punch dough down and turn onto floured surface; divide into 30 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball. Plane 10 balls each in three greased 9-inch round baking pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Note: Rather than making 30 dinner rolls, sometimes I make fewer by making larger sandwich rolls. Either way, they don't last long in this house.
Also, I have a large cookie sheet with sides of less than 1/2", so I just bake all rolls on that instead.

Sunday, September 16

To Everything There Is A Season

I have been processing a great deal of information since I returned to school last month. I've still not gotten a comfortable routine together... one that allows time for necessary academics, as well as household obligations and the ever-important downtime.

I haven't given up. I'm still working on it.

I do most of my homework in the wee hours when the world is sleeping and quiet. Once the sun begins to rise, it's as if the gates are opened and the race to the finish is on. Invariably, the day wins and I still have things on my list to do. Is it that time is moving faster or am I just moving slower?

But, I'm learning to prioritize.

JB tilled the garden for me on Monday and I planted Georgia Collards Tuesday. I checked yesterday and I have little bitty plants emerging already. I find comfort in knowing we will have something green from the garden in the dead of winter.

Yesterday, I noticed all these deer immediately behind the garden...

JB said he thinks they're waiting on the collards.

They seemed to get a bit annoyed with me and my camera,
and scattered just minutes later.

I lingered outside and caught this image:

I love fall (and spring) because they both explode with color.

The pink scattered all over the (southern engineered steps using pavers)
ground are blooms from those two huge crepe myrtles.

Saturday, September 15

The Right Way Or The Easy Way

The results of the Biology test came Friday. I aced the Lab and passed the other. I know now I just have to put more time in it than I would like.

I know this.

I beat the class average though, so I'm not complaining.

Since this is one of my real classes, (as opposed to a distance learning web class) I got the benefit of Dr Biology's 25 minute lecture to the class, immediately following the distribution of the test results.
He paced the floor, chalk in hand, and spoke adamantly about accepting responsibility and making good life decisions.

I doubt if he's 40, but his message was one I have heard many many years ago. Parts of it, I have told my daughters during the course of their lives.

I was encouraged to see an educator so intent on making a difference.

Wednesday, September 12

There's Always Rain Before A Rainbow

I've survived--at least for now-- the first round of Biology testing. Just overwhelming--all the terms I can't even pronounce and the stuff!

But... I'm still breathing and probably better because of it.

I can home after double testing ( I had a Lab test,too!)
and was greeted by rainbows!

Lots and lots of rainbows dancing all across my house.

Momo and I had bought these chandelier replacements at Tuesday morning,
probably a year or two ago,
and I hung them with suction cups from my west windows.

They make the afternoon sun just beautiful.
They reflect on the floor in the kitchen.

They dance on the kitchen cabinets.

I can see them on the living room wall and
all the way down the hall on the back door.

I had put clear faceted crystal knobs on the cabinets
in the Master Bath in Texas for the very same reason.

I suspect, the nurse is enjoying them these days.
I have a feeling she may see rainbows and perhaps, think of me.

Tuesday, September 11

It's All Cool

It took Blue no time at all to realize the vents were blowing cool air again. He has a habit of sticking his head just inches from the vent, in an effort to maintain his "coolness."

Being a Texas dog and all, one would think he could tolerate the heat. But no, he pants and his tongue curls up, and he looks as if he must just kill over at any minute.

Thank goodness, for him and for me, that JB fixed the main unit.

Monday, September 10

My Mind Needs A Break

I've noticed since I went back to school, my brain gets tired.
I'll study for a while and get so wound up,
it's like I've had entirely too much coffee or something.

My thoughts become quick and random... very random.

I caught the afternoon sun dancing in the corner cabinet.

The AC has had its tongue hanging out for sometime with the high temps--
only its been hard to tell whether it was me with my hot flashes
or the AC was actually going out.

Saturday, we decided it was the AC.
It gave it up completely.

So we said the hell with it and decided to take it outside for dinner.

We fired up the turkey cooker and dropped in some potatoes
and cooked big old burgers on the little grill.
I had made fresh potato rolls and a few were bun-size.

We stayed out in the backyard where it was much cooler well after dark.

When we came back into the house, this spider was
busy building his web across the patio doors.

JB and I followed his example,
and got busy opening windows
and putting the ceiling fans on helicopter speed.

We're installed two window units on Sunday so everything is fine... Not bad, really.
The AC should be fixed this afternoon.

Saturday, September 8

Oh, But How The Mind Does Wander

I've gotten in the habit of waking early. When I let Blue out for his morning run, sometimes I'll step out on the east stoop and take a look, just to see if Mother Nature will give me a clue as to what the day holds.

I was intrigued by the early morning fog and watched as it rolled slowly down from the hayfield and into the backyard.

The setting is very reminiscent to one of those old horror movies I watched as a teenager. I can almost imagine vampires or werewolves lurking behind the trees...

But the scariest thing around is one big fat cat, who is still guarding his almost-dried-up catnip.

Thursday, September 6

A Smile is Contagious

I've been given the “You Make Me Smile Award” by Don. It was really a nice surprise to find I was thought of , much less awarded!

I understand this award was created by Bridget at Miles to Go Before We Sleep, and is touching many people and sharing smiles across the Blogosphere!

So, in the true spirit of the award, I'm passing this one to 10 people who make me smile.

Old Horsetail Snake is always good for a smile, if not a giggle. Reading his blog is what inspired me to start my own!

Fluid Pudding was also one of the first blogs I read on a regular basis. Her daily antics with children and creativity are proof that a little insanity is definitely a good thing.

Throughly Modern Millie has an unwaivering optimistic attitude. She occasionally posts some great recipes, too.

Peaceable Imperatrix shares the importance of flexibility and family teamwork.

The End of Motherhood is a source of comfort to those who have experienced the empty nest.

Smart at Love empowers and offers a much-needed objective viewpoint on relationships.

Blackbird is just so eccentric... and eccentric people are always entertaining.

Jen on the Edge reminds me of my previous life with two little girls.

Slouching Mom who always tells a good story.

(Un)relaxed Dad opens his home with tales of his little one (and the one on the way).

Whew! That was tough to choose 10 because there are so many, many good blogs out there. But do please make a point of visiting these, if you haven't already.

Wednesday, September 5

Casting Shadows

I love early morning when the shadows stretch long across the yard,
forcing you to see things you hadn't even noticed before now.

It's All How You Look At It

Is it possible to just look at a hibiscus bloom and feel joy?

Does this mean I'm a true gardener or that I've just lost my marbles?

Tuesday, September 4

You Take The High Road, I'm All For Middle Ground.

I watched a clip on Christine's blog, and it made me start thinking about how we idolize perfection in relationships. Is perfection possible when men and women have such opposing viewpoints?

The middle ground is the desired goal--not perfection. Take it from someone who is on marriage number three.

The best I can recollect, marriage number one was done primarily to satisfy the family. Now, I'm not naming names or pointing fingers, but I was raised to believe that having a husband was one of the steps on the path to adulthood.

I was 20 or so when it happened, and remember distinctly how I had a gut feeling just seconds before I walked down the aisle.

But I quickly brushed it aside and went on. The marriage lasted 9 months.

I usually just try to ignore any reference at this point and just act like it never happened.

Marriage number two was the one that satisfied the next notch on the bedpost of life--a long marriage and children. It lasted 18 years and provided the maximum motherhood and wife experience.

Opposing viewpoints and morals burst that bubble.

And then I started all over again when I married JB, number three.

We had dated as teens and had the big blow up that made us part ways in 1978.

But somehow, 1400 miles apart and 23 years later, we meet again.

I'm about 6 years into this one, deemed the last rodeo by both us, before we married.

"Come grow old with me" is what sticks out in my memory as part of his proposal.

I understood these words as an unspoken acceptance of what may lie ahead.

A willingness to take things as they come and to work together.

And isn't working together the middle ground?

Monday, September 3

A Labor of Love

I'm sewing today.

My mind has been racing since I started digging through lots of old fabric.
Some pieces are vintage and some are remnants from sewing for my two girls.

Blue's been hanging pretty close.
I bet he thinks because we're both in the kitchen,
his odds of getting something from the treat jar are far better.

Or it could have something to do with the fact
I have everything spread out on the kitchen table.

The same table we eat our meals on...

The same kitchen table that
sometimes JB and friends will play guitar around.

But the kitchen is large--
and comfortable enough
to accommodate all kinds of activity.

Like lunch...

I'm having leftover Spinach Quiche for lunch this Labor Day.

No hamburgers and hotdogs today.