Living proof that the Universe has a sense of humor.

Today I’m grateful to two nice people who made today a better day when I most needed it.

Posted December 17, 2014 | ADD-ADHD, Daily Gratitude, Having Your Own Business, Lessons I've Learned, OCD, Photos & Photo Galleries, Random Observations, Today I'm Grateful for..., Welcome to My Brain, Welcome to My Life, Working at Home | One Comment

Help!I’ve been working too hard and too much lately. I’m taking vacation from December 24th through January 4th, and anyone who has ever worked on a project basis knows that everyone wants everything finished before you go on vacation. That’s why I take so few vacations. I enjoy the vacation part; it’s the getting ready and catching up when I get back that gets to me.

To make things worse, several projects that I’ve been working on throughout the year, delayed at various times for one reason or another, all rose to the top at the same time. And even with those to work on, I took on a couple more “small” projects that I should have said no to. I’m much more inclined to say “yes” than “no” if someone asks me to do something extra or has an emergency. I need to work on that because I’ve gotten to the level of overwhelm when my brain shuts down.

This morning I woke up feeling awful. My stomach hurt; my head hurt; I had more trouble than usual getting started on my to do list.

During the day I had trouble focusing. I made careless mistakes. I reacted differently to people and events than I usually do.

Flooding AheadThis evening I let the sink in the kitchen overflow because I get busy wrapping a Christmas present before I realized that the dish pan I was running water into to rinse some towels in had slipped in the sink and covered the drain while the water was running. I got to spend two hours moving appliances, dragging everything else into the dining area, mopping, and getting the kitchen dried out before the water did any serious damage. (I’m very grateful I live on the ground floor.)

But two people gave me the gift of two bright spots in my day.

Lovely Gift

An unexpected, lovely gift from a new friend.

First, this morning my letter carrier (who comes early enough that he’s not surprised when I answer the door in my pajamas) delivered a package to me from a new friend who I’ve never met. I messaged my friend, and she told me to go on and open the package.

Inside the box was a lovely card wishing me a Merry Christmas with a note saying that she was glad we’d become friends, and a carefully and beautifully wrapped lovely vintage silver and red bead bracelet. It was such a sweet and unexpected surprise that I cried from sheer happiness.

Sunset - Jesus Saves

You can’t see it in the shadows, but at the top of the middle hill is the sign that says, “Jesus Saves.”

Second, I got a call inviting me to take a walk that I hadn’t planned on. Since my productivity level had sunk down to the negative numbers, I jumped at the chance. I wasn’t as light-hearted or “present” as I’d have liked to be, but the unexpected invitation to go out in the Big Blue Room was a wonderful gift.

I’m lucky that my friend and I both understand that not every day is a good day – especially when you’re tired.

There’s nothing like unexpected gifts of kindness from two friends to help put things into perspective. Even a water-covered kitchen floor. And neither had any idea how much those things meant to me today.


To them, and to the Universe for sending them to me today, thank you.


And thanks to the Universe for a wonderful afternoon for a walk, and a lovely sunset to end it.


Looking for a great present for your favorite Southerner?

Posted December 14, 2014 | Products Mentions & Reviews, What Someone Else Said, Writing | Leave a Comment

If you’re trying to find the perfect gift for someone who:

  • loves Appalachian culture,
  • knows that dancing is a competitive sport,
  • is inspired by people who inspire others, and
  • enjoys a fun, well-written read,

then CLOG! may be the treasure at the end of your gift giving quest.

I have a special interest in this book. The author, Dan Smith, is a friend of mine, and I got to read one of the early drafts. Click on the link above to read more about it – and check out the great reviews!

And, for your e-book reader friends, its available for Kindle, too.


Telling the story instead of just writing about it: Aunt Myrtle, her girdle, and Operation Santa Claus

Posted December 9, 2014 | Holidays, Lessons I've Learned, My Family - Past & Present, Random Observations, Welcome to My Life | One Comment

Telling my Story

Telling my story.
Photo credti: Dan Smith.

Tonight I had the opportunity to read at the monthly Liminal Artspace event held at Community High School in Roanoke. I’d written numerous times about my Aunt Myrtle and my commitment to the Operation Santa Claus program at Catawba Hospital, but this was the first time I ever got a chance to tell people about it in person.

I wanted it to sound more like a story than it usually does here, and I wanted it to make an impression without being maudlin. This is what I can up with.

Please remember the forgotten at Christmas.
You’d be surprised at who they are.

When I was growing up, I used to go through the things my mother had collected in her cedar chest. One day I found a pretty ring set with a garnet – my mother’s birthstone. I asked her where sheed gotten it, and she told me it has been a gift from her Aunt Myrtle, one of her father’s sisters.

Since I was supposed to be born in January and didn’t like my December birthstone, I asked if I could have the ring. Mom gave it to me, and until I lost it a few years later, it was the only connection I had to a great-aunt I had never met and have never known existed until then.

I was 24 when my grandfather died. After his funeral I wandered around the family plot at Evergreen and found Aunt Myrtle’s grave marker. Myrtle Shoaf Ferrell was born on December 2nd, 1891, and died on November 9th, 1970, when I was ten. I wondered why I had never met her.

After the funeral, I asked my mother what had happened. She told me that at one point my Aunt Myrtle had lived with my grandparents. One day she rode the bus downtown and came home carrying in her hand the girdle she’d been wearing when she left. I thought that was extremely sensible – although I’d probably have put it in my purse – but my grandfather was mortified.

Vintage Girdle on eBay

And, believe it or not, you can still buy those “vintage” girdles and corsets…on ebay.

I’m sure there were other improprieties that my mother didn’t know about, because at some point in the early 1960s Aunt Myrtle was deemed not longer fit to live in polite society. She was committed to Catawba Hospital – a tuberculosis sanitarium that had been converted to a mental hospital in the late 1950s – and there she lived out the rest of her days under lock and key.

To the best of my knowledge, no one ever visited Aunt Myrtle. I never heard anyone talk about her when she was alive, and I don’t recall anyone mentioning her death or burial. Were it not for a garnet ring and a concrete slab in a cemetery, I would never have known she existed.

Aftward I did some research and learned that the majority of the patients at Catawba are elderly, indigent people with psychiatric issues. Most have no money and no family – at least none who will claim them. I also learned about the annual Operation Santa Claus program, which collects donations to get Christmas presents for the patients, who would otherwise have nothing. I’ve donated to it every year since.

People like to donate to organizations that support children, families, and animals and help give them have a nice Christmas. That’s a fine thing. I do that, too.

But because of my Aunt Myrtle, I also donate to the unwanted, the forgotten, the less easily lovable, and the less cute – but no less needy – patients at Catawba Hospital.

It’s my way of honoring her memory – and the part of me that wouldn’t want to wear a girdle, either.

Goodbye, November, and welcome to the Zombie Apocalypse…also known as the Christmas shopping season

Posted December 1, 2014 | Beloved Spouse, Holidays, Photos & Photo Galleries, Random Observations, Welcome to My Life | One Comment

November 30, 2014 Sunset

It looked for all the world like the Mother Ship was landing near Valley View Mall as the sun set this evening during my walk with my beloved spouse.

I’m hoping this is a harbinger of good things, and not the beginning of an apocalypse.

On the other hand, the crowds at the mall during the Christmas shopping season do bear an unseemly resemblance to an apocalypse of zombies. (Is that the correct collective noun?)

Zombies or not, Christmas at the mall can be pretty scary, so this is probably as close as I’ll get until January, except for driving by to get to Tar-jay for supplies – and even that’s sort of iffy.

But it was a pretty end to meteorological fall. Welcome, winter! Bring on some more snow!

Sunset, November 30, 3014

Sunset, November 30, 3014

An introduction to my favorite youngest niece by her trucktruck.

Posted November 28, 2014 | Cool Stuff, My Family - Past & Present, Personality Tests, Photos & Photo Galleries, Random Observations, Welcome to My Life | Leave a Comment

My favorite youngest niece, Ally

My favorite youngest niece, Ally.

I’ve already written about this year’s Thanksgiving dinner, but my Thanksgiving narrative wouldn’t be complete without including one of the guests who stayed outside: Ally’s girl, “trucktruck.”

trucktruck, front

Ally’s Ford F-150 extended cab pickup and animal rescue vehicle. Not the most common choice of vehicle for a 20 year old nursing student, but perfect for her.


So, what can we learn about Ally from trucktruck?

Ally and trucktruck have an unnatural ability to attract suicidal deer.

If you look closely, you can see the dent that the most recent encounter left on the passenger side of the hood. We’re trying to find a fix for that, but the options discussed so far – the application of doe urine and/or a chrome deer antler hood ornament – haven’t been, shall we say, deemed to be desirable.

trucktruck is not a fashion statement.

Some people buy SUVs and trucks as fashion statements. You look at their vehicles and think, “Why did you buy one of those if you weren’t going to use it?” trucktruck isn’t like that.

trucktruck as truck

Ally uses trucktruck like a truck. She carries stuff. She stops on the side of the road to rescue hurt animals. Happily, the police intervened before she could rescue the coyote she thought was an injured dog, but that’s another story.

Everything else….

Hello Kitty bow on a...what?

Hello Kitty bow on a…what? I’m going to have to ask about this one.


I’m glad her parents chose names with good initials!

Mossy Oak

Mossy Oak: Outdoorsy girl


She’s an EMT.

Silly Boys Trucks Are for Girls

I think we have someone who defies social stereotypes. (Yay, Ally!)


She loves JMU.

Get in, Sit Down, Shut Up & Hold On


Fire & Rescue

She started her career path at Read Mountain Rescue Squad.

I hope, if you’re a decent person with a great sense of humor, a loving heart, and an appreciation of uniqueness, that you get to meet Ally one day. She really is unique…just like the rest of us ;-)

A wonderful Thanksgiving with my family

Posted November 28, 2014 | Beloved Spouse, Daily Gratitude, Holidays, My Family - Past & Present, Photos & Photo Galleries, Today I'm Grateful for..., Welcome to My Life | 2 Comments

Three years ago my brother and I started a new tradition: Thanksgiving dinner at his house with my beloved spouse and my nieces, with food provided by The Fresh Market, delivered by my beloved spouse, and prepared for consumption by my brother – this year with the assistance of my increasingly kitchen-enabled favorite youngest niece, Ally.

It’s a wonderful, small gathering that lasts just long enough for us to enjoy each other.

The Family

Heather, Charlie & Ally at a Dukes football game, Fall, 2014

Heather, Charlie & Ally at a Dukes football game, Fall, 2014.

The Dinner

Thanksgiving, 2014: The Food Preparation Crew

The Food Preparation Crew: Buffy, Charlie, and Ally.


The Gene Pool

The Gene Pool: Ally, me, Heather’s stand-in, and Charlie.


The Girls

The Girls: Ally and I made sure Heather got some dinner, too.

For my family – related both by blood and
by marriage, I am truly grateful.


Today I am grateful for a whole bunch of people. And for my toilet.

Posted November 25, 2014 | Cats, Daily Gratitude, OCD, Photos & Photo Galleries, Products Mentions & Reviews, Random Observations, Today I'm Grateful for..., Welcome to My Life | 2 Comments

Plumber's Crack

Image credit: play.google.com

In the summer of 2013 my kitchen drain started to back up. A plumber, complete with plumber’s crack, came and snaked it out.

I didn’t know until three months later, when I moved the furniture in the adjacent bedroom, that he had punctured the Y-joint and created a leak. (The black mold in the bedroom carpet was my first clue.)

I got the carpet cleaned and the y-joint repaired and thought everything was fine…until a couple of month ago when I noticed spots in the vinyl on my kitchen floors getting darker and darker. Yes, it can take that long for water to seep under vinyl and darken the backing. And I found out it wasn’t a problem I could solve from the top down, so I called my Wonderful Apartment Manager. She said they would replace the tile in the kitchen once I renewed my lease, which was due very soon.

OCD much?

I am not obsessive.

Image credit: psychdigest.com

However, being just a little bit (major understatement) OCD about my living space, I wanted all the vinyl to match. (Silly me.) Bless her heart, my Wonderful Apartment Manager got the supplier to inspect the vinyl in my apartment. He declared it “defective” and agreed to replace all the vinyl (entryway, kitchen, bathroom, and utility room), charging the property only with installation. And, bless its little heart, the property management company agreed to pay the installation costs.

The installation was scheduled for last Friday, but at the last minute it was canceled because the vinyl cutting machine broke. I had moved everything out of the kitchen, bathroom, and utility room and didn’t want to leave it that way since I wasn’t sure when the installation would be rescheduled, so I moved all that stuff back. (OCD, remember?)

Tile: Before

This is what vinyl looks like when water seeps up under it and darkens the backing. Yuck.

I am not a morning person.

You know that moment when you wake up in the morning and you're full of energy? Yeah, me neither.

Photo credit: Pinterest.

On Monday at 8:00 AM I got a call from my Wonderful Apartment Manager telling me that the vinyl, with installation crew, was there, and that the maintenance guys needed to come over ASAP to take out the toilet and move the refrigerator and stove before the installation.

No, I wasn’t up and dressed at 8:00 AM. I had consumed only one cup of coffee and was barely functional. You can imagine me in my pjs, in an under-caffeinated state, emptying the kitchen, utility room, and bathroom as fast as I could so I could get dressed before the maintenance guys arrived. I’m sure it was comical, but by 9:00 AM everything was moved, I was presentable, if not decorative, and the maintenance crew came and removed the toilet and moved the appliances. At 9:30, three Spanish-speaking guys with pre-cut vinyl descended upon my apartment.

The Universe intervenes.

I had made arrangements with a friend to be at his house when the installation was done, but there wasn’t time for that on such short notice. However, as is the way of the Universe, it worked out well since the installers weren’t sure they were supposed to replace all the vinyl (three rooms and the “foyer”). Somehow I was able to convey this to them in English without having to use Google Translate to figure out how to say it in Spanish.

Plus, the smell of glue was awful, so since I was there and the weather was pleasant, I was able to open the windows to keep Stripey from being asphyxiated by the fumes from the glue. By noon I had new tile. By 12:30 I had a toilet again.

Tile: After

New tile. Nice color, nice pattern, no stains!

So today I am grateful for:

My Wonderful Apartment Manager, for the vinyl suppliers, for the management company, for the maintenance crew, for my friend with the kind offer, for the nice weather, and for my attractive new, unstained tile. And for toilets.

Definitely for toilets.

Catawba Hospital Operation Santa Claus 2014

Posted November 9, 2014 | Cool Stuff, Holidays, Lessons I've Learned, My Family - Past & Present, Products Mentions & Reviews, Welcome to My Life | Leave a Comment

Catawba Hospital Operation Santa Claus 2014At Christmas, it’s easy to donate to charities for children, pets, and the homeless. Catawba Hospital’s Operation Santa Claus program is an opportunity for you to open your heart and give outside the typical stereotype: to elderly psychiatric patients living a state hospital because they have nowhere else to be and no one who can take them in.

As long as I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve written an annual post about the Operation Santa Claus program at Catawba Hospital:

If you read even one of the posts above, you’ll learn why this program is so important to me and why I publicize it here every year.

The Bottom Line

Donations to Operation Santa Claus or performances for the patients at Catawba Hospital are, in many cases, the only ways that the elderly psychiatric patients have to experience Christmas.

Please download one of the brochures below and give what you can. Donations of presents (needed items are specified in the brochure), money, or talent (visits, concerts) are all appreciated – not only by the patients, but also by the staff who take care of the people that no one else will.

Catawba Hospital Operation Santa Claus 2014 Brochure, Page 1

Operation Santa Claus

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for any help you can give.

Best wishes from me and my family
to you and yours
for a loving holiday season.

Two “work at home” life hacks for a happier day

Posted November 8, 2014 | Having Your Own Business, Lessons I've Learned, Welcome to My Brain, Welcome to My Life, What Someone Else Said, What Someone Else Said, Working at Home | 3 Comments

Too Many AppsI read a lot of time management tips, and I’ve tried any number of time and project management applications. I store that advice in the reference section of my brain, where it does absolutely zip to help me manage my time better.

It’s not until I clearly identify what my problem area is, how what I read applies to it, and plan what I will do differently that I can make a change. That doesn’t happen very often, but recently the light bulb came on, and I made two changes to my day that have made a huge difference in both my behavior and my state of mind at beginning and end of the day.

The Problem(s)

Email OverloadI used to check my email inbox first thing in the morning. I might have sat down at the computer with a task or goal in mind, but once I got into my inbox, one email could derail whatever plans I had.

I was letting my priorities and activities be driven by other people. By the end of the day I might have gotten a lot of stuff done, but because I hadn’t accomplished – or even worked toward – my goal, I felt dissatisfied, uneasy, and resentful. Not good feelings to have when I’m working with my clients.

The Solution(s)

Ready, set, go!
Before I go to bed at night, I identify one thing that it’s important to me to accomplish the next day.

When I sit down to work the next day, I work on that one thing before I check my email.

The Results

CheckmarkAt the end of the day, I have a feeling of satisfaction.
I got at least one thing accomplished that I wanted to accomplish. Maybe I didn’t get through my entire to do list, but having gotten that one thing done, I feel much better when I do dive into my email box and respond to other people’s requests.

Occasionally I don’t check my email until the afternoon.
This may annoy some people, and I may miss an opportunity that I may or may not have wanted, but I’ve trained most of the people with whom I interact with regularly to message or call me if they have something they need me to do first thing.

And I trust that if there is something in my inbox that is important, that the Universe will do something to make me see it. That may sound a little la-la, but if you ask the Universe to make you aware of what you need to know when you need to know it and trust that it will, it’ll happen. Really.

Your life vs. someone else’s plans

Posted October 27, 2014 | Web Wisdom, What Someone Else Said | 2 Comments

If you don't design your own life plan, chances are you'll fall into someone else's plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much. - Jim Rohn

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    JanesonThanksgiving 2014

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