It’s been an upsetting week around the porch. You know one of those weeks where if it could go wrong, it did.
The black screen of death appeared on my husband’s laptop.
We received bad and sad news from friends and extended family.
Satellite cable went out, which meant none of our favorite programs would be recorded until Direct TV can find our little mountain hideaway sometime next week. No Downton Abbey, no Castle, no Good Wife, no NCIS. Now that’s too much!
Unsettled and struggling for a blog topic, I surfed the web mindlessly for inspiration.
The soundtrack is licensed by Kenny G. who just happens to be my most favorite jazz saxophonist. The music alone is awesome.
The short video, shot on location in Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, won Best of Category at the International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula Montana.
It’s a gentle and soothing reminder of the wondrous world around us. A dose of peaceful nature. Watch and see if you don’t agree.
An extra special thank you to Patti Shene for sharing on her blog.
Tucker has a ball – an orange jingle ball to be exact. He actually has several balls – a blue one, a green one – but the orange one is his favorite. Perhaps it’s the jingle noise it makes that is so attractive.
Whatever it is, Tucker has been known to fall asleep with this ball between his paws. Whenever he is feeling stressed, he finds his jingle ball.
If you throw the ball, he will bring it back – again and again.
Rachel trained him to drop it right at her feet.
For a while, our morning routine consisted of whoever sat in a particular chair threw Tucker’s ball for him. If I happened to be in the kitchen fixing breakfast, the thrower would yell “incoming” as a warning.
On several occasions they forgot and I got pegged by the infamous orange jingle ball.
If he is feeling ignored, Tucker will throw his ball under a piece of furniture or the stove. Then he will bark until someone retrieves it. I would say he has us well trained.
One time a visiting young boy accidentally threw the orange jingle ball on the roof. Tucker was inconsolable. We lasted about two days before someone had to climb up and get it.
After that we insisted that the orange ball be his inside ball.
Unfortunately the green ball was too difficult to see outside in the yard, so I allowed Tucker to bring his orange ball outside for me to throw as I took care of the chickens. I did accidentally throw the ball into the chicken yard a couple of times. The chickens thought it was food.
This fall the leaves in our Texas town were particularly pretty. Not quite as stunning as when we lived in Connecticut but beautiful for here. It did present a problem – though. The orange jingle ball was difficult to spot.
We have begun the search for a replacement ball in case this one really disappears.
So far we have had no success. So we will continue to guard Tucker’s security ball for everyone’s sake.
AARs (After Action Review) are already a major component of my goal-setting method so following Bunting’s advice works well for me. Click here if you aren’t sure what an AAR is.
So without further ado, here is my 2013 in review (with AARs):
Writing:My second novel, Love in the Morning Calm released in November. For a list of all my books on Amazon, click here.
AAR for novel writing: It’s taking too long to get the stories out there! I need to write faster.
I wrote 143 blog posts, which drew 6,400 views and 96 followers. According to WordPress, my blog visitors came from 113 countries.
AAR for blog writing: Thank you, blog readers for stopping by now and then.
Travel: My husband and I traveled to Ireland with a tour. The idea was to research my book set in Ireland that will coming out this year. Traveling with twenty-six other delightful people does not leave much time for writing research.
AAR on overseas travel tours: Guess we’ll have to plan another trip.
Not exactly travel, but major locales change. We sold our Houston, Texas, home of thirty-three years and moved to our summer home in Colorado.
AAR on our move: Loving it!
Around the house: Life has been crazy since our move with projects! We remodeled our little cabin and added a garage, which is still not complete.
AAR on home improvement projects: Patience, patience, patience.
Life in General: We survived the June 2013wildfire in the Rio Grande National Forest. We are so thankful. So many lost homes and lives in Colorado wildfires last year.
My dear sweet aunt, a shining light in my life, went to heaven to join her husband, her parents, and her sister. Her passing brought home the reality of mortality and established me as the oldest living relative on my maternal side. Now that’s a sobering thought!
AAR on life: Cherish every moment!
Whether you choose to end the old year by setting goals or making resolutions or reviewing your accomplishments, I wish you a 2014 filled with success and happiness.
Thanks for starting your New Year with me.
YOUR TURN: So how was your 2013?
To celebrate 2014, I’m offering a free copy of Love in the Morning copy to one lucky commenter.
A hawk is using our chicken coop as an all-you-can-eat buffet.
So far, the predator has carried off two of our bantams and tried to carry off a big hen, but apparently the hen was too heavy. The hen has tale-tell signs of claw marks on its back.
Another hen, named Little Gray Hen, died of unknown causes. I’m blaming the hawk.
Thanksgiving morning I looked out to see the hawk with another one of the bantams. My husband took his pellet gun outside and the hawk dropped the hen and flew off leaving the deceased hen on the ground.
My son asked if there was such a thing as hawk bait. Apparently, bantam chickens work great.
The hawk stayed away for a few days.
Then when I got home one morning this week, I heard a familiar cry from the chicken yard – “hawk, hawk!!!”
I raced out in search of the hawk, but couldn’t see it.
I saw no chickens either. Even the bantams were hidden under their coop. All the big hens cowered under the trees.
As I checked on them, the hawk flew away. He’d been somewhere close by watching and waiting.
A friend recently asked me about the intelligence of chickens. I’m not sure about their intelligence but something allows them to sense danger when humans cannot see it.
There have been no hawk sightings in the past few days.
Just in case, the chickens are keeping an eye on the sky.
From the inside cover flab: A Western Santa Claus-decked out in Levis, a ten-gallon Stetson, a cowboy vest, and with a bandana around his neck-makes his Christmas journey on a buckboard piled high with presents. Swooping in over the prairie to the amazement of sleepy residents and jackrabbits alike, a plump, jovial Santa parks his buckboard outside a peaceful ranch house. From boot-stuffing gifts to the faithful “hosses” pulling his “sleigh,” this is a Christmas tale rich in Texas tradition.
Gene Autry recorded the poem for Columbia Records in the 1940s or 50s. I have a copy of the original 78 record.
Take a listen to a later release:
These are some other Texas Christmas traditions we’ve brought to Colorado with us:
The Christmas tree tradition as we know it today began in Germany in the 16th century. Added lighting began with Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, who was awed brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens, wired tree branches to recapture the scene.
The custom was slow to gain popularity in American. Remember, the colonies were founded by Puritans who held to a strict sacred observation of Christmas. In fact, in 1659, hanging decorations brought fines for breaking a law that made any observance of December 25 (other than a church service) a penal offense.
Our tribute to our German ancestry.
As the numbers of German and Irish immigrants grew, the Puritan legacy lessened. Still, as late as 1840, Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans.
That view began to change when a sketch of Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, standing with their children around a Christmas tree, appeared in the Illustrated London News. By 1846, the custom of setting up a Christmas tree arrived on the east coast.
Early Americans decorated with homemade ornaments, fruits, and garland of popcorn or cranberries. Electricity brought lighted trees. Perhaps the most famous lighted tree is the one in Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree displayed for the first time in 1931.
Christmas trees play an important role in decorating for us. Even if we’re not at home we decorate a tree. That’s our grandson Michael decorating the tiny artificial tree we used the year we went to Frisco, CO, to have ourselves a white Christmas.
When we lived in Texas, we had trees in every room. Each tree was special. A tree with Texas state capitol ornaments graced a corner of the dining room.
Two trees with White House collectible ornaments sat on the dining table.
Upstairs in the loft, we set up a Victorian tree with our vintage ornaments surrounded by children’s toys…a tribute to Albert and Victoria.
Some years we had creative trees like this one done by our grandson Matthew from giant TinkerToys.
On the kitchen table, you’d find a gumdrop tree. A tradition started by my Irish grandmother.
This year we’re in our new home in Colorado in the middle of adding a garage addition with a bedroom and studies above.
All our Christmas decorations are in storage awaiting the new space. 🙁
But Christmas will not be Christmas without a tree so we bought a small living tree that we’ll replant when we do landscaping in the spring.
Looks a bit like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.
Soon, our daughter and her family will arrive, and we’ll go into the woods and cut a real tree.
Then it’ll really feel like Christmas around here.
Is a Christmas tree part of your holiday tradition?