FMF Writing Prompt—Beyond

Sometimes I get beyond myself.

Life is busy. It has never seemed to slow down. When I was young it seemed so full and busy, and now that I am older with children all grown and gone, I feel even more busy! I am very aware of being on the short end of a good long life and I want to keep it full for as long as I am able. But sometimes I do get beyond myself.

Early morning time with Jesus saves my heart and soul. I would be done for without His comfort and presence in my life. He gives me hope and strength as I pour my heart out to Him.

“Put your trust in Him always, O people,

Pour out your hearts before Him, for

God is our refugee…” Ps 62:9

He saves me from myself. Glory to God.

Five Minute Friday—Present

Where ever you are, be there.

I heard that phrase a long time ago. It took a while for me to figure it out. However with the advent of I phones it suddenly became very clear. Probably because we always have the device on us. It seems now we are always talking to at least two people at the same time. One is in person, the other on the device. It rather feels unfair to both parties.

Is that one reason we as folks feel more lonely than ever before? It is a personal challenge to not do it, and give the person I am with in person my full attention.

Note: This is my first attempt to participate in this challenge of Five Minute Friday, please be patient.

In Focus #11—Still Life

I may be stretching the idea of still life. My mind tells me it consists mostly of fruits, flowers, and glass usually set on a table. I recall drawing still life objects in art class in school set up in this way.

However, my favorite old dictionary defines still life as any inanimate object, in addition to fruits, flowers and glass. So the subjects for this little In Focus blog are inanimate photos I have taken. Do you have any you would like to share? Please do! If you would add this blog title in your post, it will allow others to connect to this one (I think?).

Anyway, have fun, and share your still life photos as well.

The Dog and the Emu

They would not be called the best of friends.

Really, they would not even be called friends. Familiar, tolerant neighbors is probably the best way to describe these two. Edward, the Emu, is our neighbors’ bird. Dandy is our dog.

I met Edward a couple years back. His owner and I are horseback riders and have ridden together. He stays in the barn and fields with her horses. They all get along very well. Even her sweet dog has no problem with Edward. I have to say at our first meeting having the sense of something big coming up behind you is a little unnerving. Then out of side vision, a big bird face is looking straight into your eyes! I must admit, it rather sent a chill down my spine. He disappeared then reappeared around the other side of my face. I was assured he was fine. He has been at her barn for over fifteen years. Everyone there still had their eyes, so I figured all was well.

Dandy on the other hand does not necessarily agree. The first time he saw Edward out in the field, he would not even continue our walk. Instead, he turned straight around and high-tailed it home! It took a lot of encouragement and several walks later before he would stay with me. Once he realized Edward was in only part of the fields facing the roads, he decided it was safe to pass. Only he would cut way out of the way through the field opposite of Edwards. Then join me farther down the road. It was funny to watch. Edward walking slowly up and down the fence row, Dandy barking at him from way out in the opposite field.

Emus are a native of Australia. Second only in size the the Ostrich, the worlds largest bird. Small wings are hidden in its feathers, it cannot fly. It stands about 5.5 feet tall and weighs around 100 lbs. Female emus lay between 8 and 10 eggs in a flat nest on the ground. The males then sit on the eggs until hatched. Baby emus are striped, but lose these markings as they grow older.

Months have gone by now since their first meeting. Now Dandy runs to the fence barking at Edward. He knows Edward cannot get out. Many times he sits on our porch looking for Edward out in the field and barks at him, “I see you from here!” Now, they look at each other, Edward looking over the fence, Dandy looking through the fence.

I think they may be friends yet.

Edward, the Emu.
Dandy, the dog.
Watching each other.
Dandy now goes to the fence and barks at Edward.
Edward coming to see Dandy.
I see you from here! I’m watching you!

Thank you for spending time with us!

Nature Photographer

You should call yourself a nature photographer, my son recently told me.

This was a compliment, and it prompted me to study the content of my photographs more carefully. He and his wife are professional wedding photographers, and he owns a camera shop. In other words they know a great deal about photography.

Photos have been a part of my life for many years. I have always said I take photos because I cannot paint! There is something magic about capturing a moment in time. I started when I was 10 years old.

My first camera was a Kodak camera. It had a cartridge that dropped in the back of it. It would take twelve photos. Later one could purchase a twenty-four picture cartridge. The flash was a four-use cube. It would turn with every photo taken. The directions included in this fancy camera box told users to always put the sun behind you ( the photographer) so it could shine directly onto the subjects.

It was great fun. Developing photos could be done via mail, or the local photography store. Going through the mail was cheaper, but slower. I sent mine off through the mail. It would take up to a week or more to get them back. How exciting it was to see just how they turned out!

On the back of each photo I would write it’s own description with the date, names of people (or animals), and the place it was taken. Finding old, family pictures with no details were frustrating and not of much meaning to me. So I spent much time getting the details correct. So much time, that I quite saving every photo I took and kept only the ones I liked best. I think this did as much as anything to develop my eye.

The most exciting camera I owned, and wish I still had, was a used Canon AE1 purchased at a camera shop. It was a great camera that taught me a lot about film, lighting, settings. It took my skill to a new, fun level. I started then having film developed at camera shops. Talking to the owners taught me much about film, light, and settings. All the photos of our five children were taken with that wonderful camera. It captured a large portion of life for me. I began entering my photos in local county fairs. Seeing a ribbon hanging beside a photo was very exciting! The back closure finally gave out so I set it aside, and left the joy of photography for a while (having a house full of teenagers took every moment of time). I am sorry to say I think lost it in the shuffle of our last move for I have not been able to find it. I may yet!

Later, family and business trips required a working camera. The Minolta Freedom Zoom 140EX was the one of choice to record these fun times. It was the first digital camera I owned. It came with us on our big six-week family outing out west years ago, where it fell from the roof of our truck and that ended that. However, I do still have that camera. Think I’ll take it to our son’s shop for repair.

Then came the Iphone. Photography has never been the same. I used it for years. Compact, easy to carry, nothing but keeping the battery charged was required. It did set me back on the path of picture taking again, and I am grateful.

The days of buying cameras are over now, as our son has helped get me outfitted with a wonderful camera and accessories to keep me busy for a long time. The Olympus OM-D camera works well for me. I use mostly the 12-100mm lens, and a fixed 300mm lens with a monopod. This camera can do more than I will ever be able to do, but it is fun learning. I have also taken several photography classes to improve my skill. I recall one teacher saying that photography is not complete until it is printed and shared with someone you love. My family gets a good many photos in the mail of times we have shared together!

So, as I have studied my photographs, I realize my son is right. I do take many nature shots. We live in the country. I see a lot of nature everyday. He is right, I am a nature photographer.

These photos tell a story (don’t all photos?), of the deer as I interacted with them through the lens of the camera. What story do they tell you?

In Focus #10—Handwork

Two years in the making to complete this handworked project.

The joy of picking up the final stage of it, i.e. framed and ready to hang on the wall was quite exciting. When I look at it all finished, I feel as if it took hardly any time at all. I guess in the course of a lifetime, it did not take that long. At the time it seemed like a never-ending project. But so did parenting, and now our youngest is twenty-eight years old! How strange a thing time is.

Speaking of our youngest. This cross-stitch is for her. She was the one who talked me into purchasing it while on a trip visiting Williamsburg several years ago on a bus tour. I tried for years to get her interested in cross-stitch, to no avail. She wanted me to do it. Ha! That is going to cost her.

Indeed, after I picked it up from the framing shop, I wrapped it and gave it to her with some very strict instructions. These are my exact words to her:

“I did this project for you. I hope you like it because I expect to see it hanging in a most prominent place in your home for the rest of my life. I shall look for it every time I come into you home. You must leave it on your walls until the day you put me six feet under. Then you can burn it, sell it, or give it away, whatever you like.

May I tell you she loves it? After laughing at me and telling me she knows exactly where it will go. It reminds us both of a very special time we shared together with a lovely group of folks. Blessings upon blessings.

Oh yes, in case you are wondering, it is the Palace at Williamsburg. The cross-stitch was purchased in one of the beautiful gift shops there in Williamsburg.

TGS?

What in the world is TGS?

Tele-Granny School! What is that? It is the name I gave to the school our grandchildren and I have been having for over a year via the phone. So far we have had one hundred, twenty-one tele-granny classes!

I am often asked if we do our schooling over ‘face-time’. No. Just over the phone. We live out in the country and face-time is not always reliable (the regular phone is bad enough at times). Besides that, the phone is also challenging enough. I expect we would get very little school done if we could see each other. The boys would be ‘showing’ me all sorts of things—like planes flying overhead, bugs on the porch, hawks sitting in the trees, or funny things their little brother is doing! We have enough distractions as it is.

“Hey, Granny, WAIT! I want to tell you something!”. I hear this often just as we are getting started in a lesson!

“Ok, what is it? Don’t forget we have to do our lesson!”

“Wellllllll, Daddy took us fishing yesterday, wanna know what I caught?”

“Sure!”

Or

“Granny! Dad took me turkey hunting yesterday. You just wouldn’t believe the turkeys we saw! Let me tell you about them!”

And so the narratives begin. They are sweet, fun-filled stories of the joy of spending time with their daddy (our son). I am happy to hear all about it, but must watch the clock, as usually we plan an hour for lessons, with each boy getting half-an-hour. This is plenty time for all of us.

How did this begin? Welllll….two of my riding students are teenagers. They talk all the time about their grandma, and the times they spend with her. They are devoted to her! These teenagers love her, and find her interesting and fun! Unlike much of what I have heard since becoming a grandmother myself.

“My grandkids don’t like coming to see Grandpa and me anymore. They think we are boring,” or “It’s too quiet for them around here.”

I have heard these remarks for a long time. So, I asked these young people what they liked so much about their grandma: She is fun! She listens! She is interested in us! She plays games with us! She stays up late with us when we spend our ‘Granny summer camp week’ with her, and she buys all chocolate milk we can drink!

Their mom told me that their Grandma talks everyday with her grandkids. By-the-way, this is a home schooling family.

“Everyday?”, I asked.

“Yes!”, was her happy reply, “They do school together over the phone!”

“What? What do you mean?” this was so interesting to me. So, she proceeded to tell me about their phone school, the subjects they go over everyday of the week. This Grandma stays closely connected to her dear grandchildren via the phone. It is quite obvious how much they care for one another, and this school-over-the-phone has kept their relationship vibrant and strong. She lives hours away from them, in fact, in another state. So this is their means of staying tied together.

Our grandchildren do not live as far away. However, they live far enough away where going to see them everyday (and even once-a-week) can be difficult to manage. As it takes over an hour just to get to their house, this setup is a great solution to the ‘time’ problem.

When I approached my home-schooling daughter-in-law, she was more than happy to get started. What home schooling mom isn’t happy for help? I asked her how I could help her, she asked me what I would like to do, we came up with a plan and began the following week! She sends me her spelling lists for the boys. We pick the books out together, and make sure we have the exact same copies. This makes it easier when discussing them over the phone.

What subjects do I teach? My favorites! Bible, reading, memorization, poetry (they often write their own), and spelling. Every so often I do make a visit to their house, and the fun and laughter we have together is priceless. For we know one another and are friends.

Keeping on task can be a challenge sometimes, and some classes become more than an hour. I figure those are the bonding times between us, and I enjoy their wanting me to be a part of their lives! We have our classes two to three times a week. Everyday is not possible.

When listening to our grandchildren recite The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and to the Bible, or read out loud from the books we are reading I close my eyes and listen to those dear sweet voices, and thank God for this wonderful time.

You wouldn’t believe those turkeys Dad & I saw when we were out hunting, Granny! Let me tell you about them!

Molly

I am interested in trying out a slideshow feature on this blog for fun, and decided to use Molly as my experiment.

Molly belongs to our second son and his family. We kept her last week while they vacationed at the beach.

She is a sixteen-year-old Maltise. She has never stayed with us before, so it took her a couple days to feel comfortable. Age can be a wonderful thing. She had little concern for our dog, or two cats, which was a relief. She has a little trouble seeing well, and a bit more trouble hearing. It sure did not stop her from being all around the farm. Those little, old legs carried her around in a hurry. One second she was in sight, next second we had to go in search of her.

Good thing she is snow white, made it far easier to find her. We enjoyed her company for the week, and hope you enjoy these photos of her.

Hmmm…do not think slideshow turned out?

In Focus #9— That Old Country Flower?

“That is just an old country flower!”

Thus was the description of the humble little zinnia years ago. In fact, one could not even find them available in nurseries. It was one of those silly little flowers old country women planted in their gardens because they were cheap.

Well, every dog has it’s day, as my Momma used to say, and the day has come for this hardy, colorful flower. Zinnia belong to the sunflower family on the daisy side. They are a native in Southwestern United States. They are easy, easy to grow, and will self-seed if left in the garden over winter, though the next season flowers may not be the same as those first planted. They come in many different shapes in a huge variety of colors. They attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Every house is made more cheerful with a vase full of happy, colorful zinnias in it. Cut the spent blooms and these cheerful flowers just keep on blooming. In all colors and sizes. It is possible to purchase a specific type now-a-days.

I will let mine reseed next spring, and will also purchase a new package to mix in with them. The show next season will be splendid for sure. I have seen some blooms as big as a softball! These zinnias in my photos are a couple seasons old. I have noticed they are turning mostly red and orange. I am going to save seeds from the yellow, and white ones to see how that goes next year. In addition I will be purchasing a fresh package from the nursery.

Spent flowers, if one prefers, can be left out in the garden for the birds, most especially Goldfinches, to enjoy all through the fall and winter. They also make for pretty container plants. I have found full-sun to be their favorite choice, and moist soil. A huge bonus for us out here on the farm is they are also deer resistant, and may even help protect other plants from the deer.

For all these terrific reasons there is little wonder they were one of the favorites of—

‘we old country woman!’ Oh yeah!

Our chickens follow us all around the farm.

In Focus #8—Birds in the Hood

Catching photos of birds has always been a joy and pain at the same time. It seems my camera is always not on me when I see a great photo. Forget about running into the house to fetch it!

Bird watching has been a wonderful pastime for years, learned from my dear Aunt from many a walks in the woods. I started keeping a ‘life list’ of the species in my 30’s. I only have about 130 species checked off so far. The last, very exciting species I saw (and have only once) was the Bobolink!

Our feeder is filled daily with sunflower seeds. The bird bath is next to the feeder. Watching a bird take a bath will make one laugh! One day I’ll catch a photo of it. BTW, sunflower seeds attract Goldfinches as well (some folks insist thistle seed is the only feed to attract goldfinches). Truly, life is not the same without the beautiful, cheerful Goldfinch in it.

Another fun discovery for us with sunflower seed is how easily they grow all around the house and garden! We have beautiful sunflowers from the seeds the birds drop all around the house. We leave them on the stem and enjoy watching the birds, especially the Goldfinches, eat on them all through the fall and winter. Bonus! If your zinnias are left to dry out in your garden, you will see the birds eating them as well, plus they will re-seed themselves next spring. Double bonus!

There are many other birds around here on the farm than posted on this blog. These are the few that just happened to turn out rather nicely. Thought it would brighten the day to share a few of these lovely, happy neighbors that are all around us.

Thank God for birds. A friend of mine recently told me where she read “of another service rendered as the birds sing their praises in the morning…that somehow the vibrations of their voices actually affect and aid in the awakening of God’s creation for the day.”

Isn’t that a beautiful thought?