Saturday, January 17, 2015

Tackling some granite

As my friends and family know, I spend a lot of time at Stone Mountain Park. The park is less than five miles from my house, and in addition to being a great place to get outdoors, it is also a great place to enjoy a work-out "en plein air." My favorite way to get exercise there is by climbing (and then coming back down) the aptly named "Walk-Up Trail."

For anyone not familiar with it, the Walk-Up Trail is a roughly mile long hike from the base of the mountain to the top. There is one main route, but there are some options so you aren't forced to do the exact same thing every time. The elevation change from bottom to top is 786 feet, and the weather can be quite different at the top from that at the bottom. Now, we're not talking Everest-like differences, but the temperature and wind can vary quite a bit. Plus, on a cloudy day, you can easily go from being under overcast skies to being in low clouds.

In any case, for the past six months or so, I've been pushing myself to try to do the hike faster. I have managed to get it down to a pretty consistent 40 - 41 minutes, and can even push it down to 38 or 39 if I do a good deal of jogging coming down. This year, I'm challenging myself to get under 38 minutes, which I know will mean either jogging the whole way down (challenging due to the terrain in a few spots) or running some bits going up.

Sadly, the weather the past two weeks has not cooperated (and the days it finally did, I have worked from dawn to dusk or been otherwise committed). However, much to my surprise, I did manage a 38 minute round trip (probably closer to 39, but still 38-something) this past Thursday, just before the rains came. (Okay, not quite entirely just before the rains came, but close. I got lucky, really.) And I was able to get some more cool pictures.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

iheartfaces Photo Challenge: Pets

Luckily, my buddy Calvin is pretty photogenic. As long as he isn't squinting at the camera lights. Here he is helping me with a craft project.

Enter your own photo at iheartfaces.
Photo Challenge Submission

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Flat Stanley

Grace M. from Oregon was nice enough to send Flat Stanley to visit me this year. I was very excited when he arrived and couldn't wait to show him around the south. Our first stop was to AARF Pet Central, the home of Atlanta Animal Rescue Friends. I have been volunteering here since last fall and they were having their 10th anniversary celebration.
Stanley was very impressed by the cake and enjoyed the human one. He thought the one for the doggies was really cute as well, but decided not to have a bite of that one!
He said "Hi" to some of the kitties in the cat room, but decided he didn't really want to go in and visit. Here he is hanging out with Hank. (Hank is still available for adoption!)
Stanley then got to go to craft night with me at my friend's church. A small group of ladies get together every month or so to hang out and be creative. Stanley wasn't all that into scrapbooking, but he had a blast exploring the model train display that was set up in the church gym. Stanley couldn't believe that he was taller than the tallest building in town!
He also had fun pestering the cows. Stanley says he likes this kind of cow much better than the other ones he's seen. He said these ones aren't scary at all.
Stanley also tried to play a trick on the trains coming out of the tunnel. Sadly, we waited and waited but the train just wasn't scheduled to come by any time soon.
Stanley eventually got bored with the trains and wandered off to some of the classrooms at the school. That is when he discovered that some of his family were from right here in Georgia! Stanley had a great time visiting with Flat Sara Kate and her friends and reading about all of their adventures!
Stanley got his own little adventure right here, too. He got to jump in a frog pond and play with all of the frogs. My friend Tracy says her students also love playing in the frog pond.
No trip to Georgia is complete without a trip to Stone Mountain. We decided to start off with some letterboxing. Some friends of mine had just planted a very special box for a very dear local letterboxer who is dealing with some health problems. Stanley thinks that there might be something hidden here.
What do you know? He was right! Thank you Stanley for helping me find this great box dedicated to Frank of Granny and Paw Paw.
Next we tackled the climb up the mountain. Stanley was a little worried about whether he could make it, but I let him know that I would help if he needed it. He was also a little worried about going up so high, but once he saw the views and the scenery, he forgot all about that. He loved all the neat looking trees on the way up.
But what he liked even more was the view of Atlanta coming back down. (It's hard to see, but I promise that Atlanta is out there somewhere.)
Stanley also got to help me surprise my husband, Fu-Hsuen, for his 40th birthday. He was out playing board games with his friends that weekend, so Stanley and I showed up and surprised him with a cheesecake.
Stanley also got the chance to take a little side trip when my husband and I went to Charleston, SC. While in Charleston, we visiting the only operating Tea Plantation in North America. Tea needs a certain type of climate to grow, and apparently the area around Charleston is perfect for it. Stanley really liked the sign showing how far away other tea plantations are.
Stanley was amazed to learn that only the new growth on the very tips of the tea plants is used to make tea. He also learned that green tea and black tea comes from the exact same plants. The type of tea you get just depends on how it is processed once it is cut off of the plants.
Perhaps the coolest part of the trip was on the way back to the hotel from the tea plantation. We learned about the Angel Oak tree at the plantation, and just had to stop. This tree is reported to be the oldest living tree on the eastern coast. Stanley was totally amazed, as were we. What a fabulous tree!
On the way back to Stone Mountain from Charleston, we stopped at Cypress Gardens. a swamp just outside of Charleston.
We did go for a boat ride, but Stanley heard that there were alligators in the water, so he stayed safely in my backpack. We didn't actually see any alligators on the ride, but did get to see some animals in their Swamparium. Stanley said his favorite was the alligator snapping turtle, but he was very glad that this fellow was behind a nice, thick piece of glass.
Thank you so much, Grace, for allowing Stanley to come visit. We had a great time!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Reading Meme, Part I

Several of my on-line friends are doing a daily reading meme this month and have encouraged me to join. Me, being me, I'm waiting until the 21st to post any of my answers, and plan to do it in probably three hunks. With any luck, I'll finish with my answers before the end of the year:)

Day 1 - What was your favorite read from last year?
I had a slower than usual year last year, what with the various tragedies in my life and a crazy job, so it should have been easy to pick? Not so much. I've narrowed it down to two: The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford and The Guinea Pig Diaries by A. Jacobs. In the end, I'm voting for The Guinea Pig Diaries. Every month, A. J. conducts an experiment--outsourcing his life to India, following George Washington's Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior, and practicing radical honesty. Like his other books, very funny and entertaining.

Day 2 - Name a book that you have read more than three times.
I am not one who rereads a lot of books, but I think I have read Krakauer's Into the Wild three times, although I only have it documented twice. I've read Midwives by Chris Bohjalian and Next of Kin by Roger Fouts twice and will likely reread them both at some time. And if I decide to read the Discworld series in order, then I will have read The Color of Magic thrice. :)

Day 3 - What is your favorite series?
Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. So fun, so quirky. Fabulous characters. I also enjoy the Midnight Louie mysteries by Carole Nelson Douglas and Lilian Jackson Braun's Cat Who books.

Day 4 - What is your favorite book from your favorite series?
Mort. You just have to love Mort.

Day 5 - A book that makes you happy.
This is a really hard one for me. I enjoy books, I love books, and they give me pleasure, but I don't really think of them as making my happy. I know that some people have books that they come back to whenever they need a pick-me-up. So I'm just going to go with all of the Calvin and Hobbes anthologies. Nothing like naked Calvin butt to make me smile. Of course, given recent events in my life, I don't know if I could read them the same way right now, but they do make me smile.

Day 6 - A book that makes or made you sad.
So, pretty much every 'based on a real story' animal book I've ever read. Dewey, Marley and Me, etc. Face it. We all know how all of these books are eventually going to end, but we read them anyway.

Day 7 - Name a book that you think is underrated.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon. It had it's brief moment in the sun, but is a fabulous book.

Day 8 - What, in your opinion is the most overrated book?
Ok, I could start a flame was and say the Twilight series, but I won't. I do think that they are overrated, but they are not the most overrated. I'm going to go with The Celestine Prophecy on this one. Seriously, the man didn't say anything that dozens of other new age folk hadn't said before. I'd also like to give an honorable mention to The Secret.

Day 9 - A book you thought you wouldn't like, but ended up loving
This is another hard one, as I don't usually pick up books that I don't think I'll like. Let's go old-school on this one. In school, I had heard horror stories about Johnny Tremain and how awful it was and how I'd hate it. I didn't. I actually really enjoyed it.

Day 10 - Favorite classic book
Dracula. Anyone surprised by this? Come to think of it, I've read this one at least twice, too. Might be time for a third go:)

More soon. Or soonish. Probably.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tribute to Hobbes, Part 1

June 28, 2011 - January 17, 2012

My husband and I adopted Hobbes (and his brother Calvin) on October 30, 2011 after losing our buddy Thrasher in September. Little did we know that our time with Hobbes would be so short. About two weeks after we brought the boys home, Hobbes got sick. We went to the vet and were given antibiotics for a respiratory infection. After a week on them, Hobbes was almost back to normal. The next day (the day before Thanksgiving), he took a sudden turn for the worse and ended up at the kitty hospital. He came home from there that Friday with a diagnosis of Feline Infectious Peritonitis, a horrible, fatal disease.

We were lucky to have almost two more months with him before he walked himself across the Rainbow Bridge, leaving us all a whole lot sadder. While there had been many days when I thought the end was near, it became very apparent on his last day that he was leaving. I am very grateful that he chose to sleep with me that whole night instead of getting out of bed at 3am like he had been doing for weeks, but when he got up and could barely walk, I knew it was time to say goodbye.

I had been telling him for weeks that it was okay if he wanted to go, and his buddy Bodhi had just recently taken the same trip, so I told him that Bodhi was waiting for him. I told him that we loved him and that we would miss him, but that we would never forget him. I gave him a kiss and scratched his chin and left him alone for a bit to decide.

When I went back upstairs, he was gone. As much as it pained me, I am so grateful to my brave little boy for leaving on his own and not forcing me to make the decision to end his life. One of the awful things about this disease (one of many) is that it causes extreme anemia as well as neurological problems, both of which resulted in Hobbes not being able to groom himself. I had promised him that I would make sure he was pretty and clean and soft again when he made his trip, so I washed and brushed and dried him.

It was also very important to me that his brother Calvin be a part of this in the hopes that somewhere in his little mind he understands that his brother is gone. They hadn't really been able to be around each other once Hobbes got sick because Calvin plays very roughly and Hobbes just couldn't handle it, so it was important to me that they had this time together now. Amazingly, Calvin seemed to understand and was very gently with his brother.

Calvin tried to 'wake' his brother up. He'd paw his nose and at one point (when I walked away for a minute), he even brought his brother his favorite toy. This absolutely broke my heart.

Once Hobbes was clean, I just sat with him for a while. I cuddled him and stroked him and looked at his beautiful face.

The next day, we took Hobbes to Paws, Whiskers, and Wags to have him cremated. The sun came out that day, and it was so nice to see him in a sunbeam one last time. The staff were surprised to see us back so soon and we assured them that we had not wanted to see them again. Lisa was wonderful and gave us all the time we needed to say our final goodbyes. While we waited to get his remains back, we went and saw his foster mother, Gwen, at Camp Kitty. We shared some laughs and some tears before going back to pick up our precious Hobbes. He is now nestled with Thrasher on our mantle.

Dear, sweet Hobbes, we miss you. We miss you so much. I hope you are having fun with your little pal Bodhi and I'm sure my Thrasher is watching out for you two now.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2012, the stakes are high for you

So, even if I don't post another post the entire year, I have been pretty good at doing a year-end numbers type post. Not going to happen this year. I figure that any year that would include a statistic about "number of crematory visits" doesn't really deserve a year-by-the-numbers review. And as I am waiting for one more visit, I'm not sure that I'm ready to start 2012. Maybe we'll start at Chinese New Year. I'll get back to everyone after I know.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Someone owes me a pair of socks now.

And she knows who she is:)

But anyway. (Please excuse the blurriness of tho photos--I was taking them in bad light and I have no idea what settings the camera might be on right now.)

I declared today, September 4th, the first official day of Halloween sock season. Yes, it may seem early to some. For me, not so much. I didn't actually make it through my entire collection last year, and I don't want to see that happen again. By starting today, I should have a little wiggle room, as long as I don't buy too many new pairs and as long as I don't consider all of the solid-colored (yet predominantly orange, purple, or green) socks that came in Halloween multi-packs as actual Halloween socks. (They are in general rotation, so I consider those one every day socks.)

So far, I've worn one pair. (For those who need to know, I wore the white ones with the black cats in the bottom row of the second photo.) The knee socks are a particular challenge as I need the rest of my ensemble to show them off sufficiently. And if anyone is curious, I am open for new donations.