Sunday, December 10, 2017

Wildly Unpredictable Winter Weather

Winter came down to our home one night
Quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed slippers of snow,
And we, we were children once again.
-Bill Morgan, Jr.

Having lived in Georgia for the last twenty years, I have learned to accept that there is only one predictable truth about winters in Georgia:
Winters in Georgia are entirely and quite wildly unpredictable!

Having said that over and over again, even people who have lived here all their lives still do not seem to understand and accept the simplicity of this inerrant truth. This is why I always expect any winter front to be far worse than any of the predictions.

We were told up to three days ago that it might snow and that we might see accumulation of up to an inch on our decks and in the grass, a dusting perhaps. (We were also told that about a week ago and all we got was some rain.)

Two days ago that changed to possibly four inches of snow. The state had all bridges and overpasses prepared ahead of time. Georgia officials stepped up our winter weather preparedness ever since the terrible fiasco in January 2014: When it Snows in Georgia.

In the dark before the dawning day, it started with a winter mix of sleet and rain. I know because my Mishka woke me far too early for his morning outing and we were out in it. There already was some slippery slush on the steps but nothing that was not easily displaced by my low tread garden boots. (Do not let that sweet innocent look fool you. He is a just wanted to jump back into the snow after we just got him out of it.)

A friend in Arizona, who originally lived in Pennsylvania and may be missing those snowy winters, texted me to ask if we were snowed in yet. I texted back that here it is more about being "iced" in, because just few inches of accumulated snow ends up causing serious icy conditions, but I forgot that one should never say never in Georgia about winter storms.

The wintry mix changed to huge fluffy clumps of snow and by the end of the morning we had that four inches, but it was still snowing. The schools decided to end the day before noon.

The temperature was above freezing but the large fluffy flakes outpaced the melting of the fallen come-befores and my little world was blanketed in a wondrous white. We had a power outage for about two hours and then flickering in the power for about another 24 hours. Trees bowed under the unfamiliar weight and many lost branches, split, and fell over exposing the roots even though there was no wind.

The picture above is pointed in the same direction as the one below. You can see that our neighbor's tree split off a large branch. Those types of trees are notorious for splitting even with just heavy rains or a little wind when they are 20 years old. We just cut ours down a few weeks ago. (Yeah, I really have been doing other things when I have not been blogging.)

Since it was just snow and not ice, it probably would have been better if we had some wind that would have blown the snow off of the trees. So if you can imagine seeing six inches height of wet snow catching more flakes on the thinnest of branches, you can understand how amazingly different everything appeared to us. Well, not entirely did not stop snowing at six inches. I measured it at about nine inches at dinner time and it apparently has continued to snow all night.

Although my favored husband did make it home the night before, having to make a couple of detours around jack-knifed semi-trucks and accidents and working around vehicles parked on the side or the road or half in the ditch, Mishka decided to let him sleep and put his sweet wet nose in my face to say that I was the lucky pick again for his early morning outing. Mishka has discovered that he loves, loves, loves snow!


I measured and the snow was at twelve inches! TWELVE! (That's 30 centimeters for my metric friends.)

The temperature was just at freezing and it was predicted to dip down a bit and then will be rising enough for a slow melt. The sun was supposed to be hidden behind clouds today, but prediction has changed so today the roads will clear mostly and tonight everything will freeze again and that makes for patches of black ice, but for the most part all main roads will be mobile again—getting to them from the side roads is the problem.

This is the most snow we have ever seen here at one time, although I read that in 1993, before we moved here, a blizzard dumped 30 inches.

Why do I expect the unpredictability? If we had a strong relentless northwestern storm come blustering through like that 1993 blizzard, that would be more predictable, but when we have a weakening or stalling northwestern cold front that is just strong enough to slipstream the warm moist air up from the Gulf of Mexico in front of it making the northwest front turn into a southwest draw...well, it is not easy to predict if the moist warmer air will produce rain or the cold will prevail making snow or sleet. Amounts of any one of these depend on how slowly the storm moves east with one part trying to go southeast and the other pulling up toward the northeast making our area a point of turmoil.

Sunday Morning
As expected, after teetering around the magical temperature that turns water into ice, the weather decided to take a plunge into temperatures in the 20s at night. Then allowed some of the snow to melt in with temperatures in the 40s on Saturday to plunge again into the low 20's, so now what areas of the roads that did not dry out during the melting of the day are least until around noontime. We might not make it to church services, because our street and the roads to the main ones are icy but we will be able to go shopping and pick up my new bunnies around 3:00 since the sun will be out and temperatures are to be in the 40s again.

Typically, such crazy weather conditions are more likely to happen in January, but...Georgia!

I love its wild unpredictable winters.

My Lord, may we always be in surprised by Your creative ways that we cannot predict, even though we keep attempting to do so.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Chasing November

It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about? ~Henry David Thoreau

November is nearly over and I have not posted at all! At the end of October and the beginning of November were our annual trip to the apple country in North Georgia (we even took a few steps into Tennessee this time) and the Princess' Coffee Shop Recital.

I actually have a lot I could post, but as you know, it is not just the writing, but looking through pictures to post and uploading the video...and, yes, of course, I know I could just get it done instead of writing about what I should be doing! Sometimes I really hate technology. It makes it very easy to have more demands on my time.

However, the reason I am behind in getting things posted is because I have been focused on another interest that gives me much pleasure: our rabbitry. My husband and I agreed to focus on breeding pure bred Silver Foxes while still crossing with New Zealand Whites at times. As well as what we have been doing, we are going to offer them for sale with pedigrees.

For the past month after G's false pregnancy and then rebreeding, I have been looking at software for creating pedigrees and finally decided on one that allows some customizing and was not too costly. We do not have to get fancy for the pedigrees, but the artist in me never passes up the opportunity to create a logo. We all decided on a name for the rabbitry. I made new and improved cage ID cards, which one rabbit likes to nibble on, of course. (Thankfully, only one.) I also designed several forms to manage breeding and bunny assessments to put neatly in a purple binder, one that I picked up at a Goodwill that was calling to me without me knowing why at the time. Anyway, I am going to be managing the rabbitry unlike we had been doing before by keeping better records.

I was very happy to see no brokens (spotted) in this kindle. which would have eliminated the buck as a breeder in my breeding plans immediately. Although not absolute, having no brokens suggests that the NZW buck is not likely carrying the gene because the En (broken) gene is dominate.

The Steel is the second we have ever gotten and it looks like its mother in that respect, although Steels generally are disqualifying for showing in nearly all breeds, I find them to be pretty and look like typical wild rabbits.

The Ruby Eyed Whites were the most expected, since the mother carries the white gene and was bred with a New Zealand White. The white gene is actually recessive, but when there are two recessive white genes, cc, they will cover all the other genetics, so test breeding is the only way to determine what a Ruby Eye White is carrying. For instance, if the NZW we bred had the Steel gene, it would not be seen otherwise.

As big as a mystery REWs are, this time it is the Black that poses the bigger mystery to me. That one could resemble the Silver Fox fur, as it seems to have the no-fly back fur, but it is highly doubtful that the NZW sire would carry the recessive silvering gene. Like the white gene takes two to dominate the coat color, it takes two si genes to show silvering. The Black could be a self (solid) Black as it looks to be; or it could be a super or double Steel that makes the entire hair look black like a self; or it could even be a self Black with Steel that cannot be seen. Since the mother carries Steel and Steel is dominate, it would only take her one Steel gene for it to have Steel. If both parents pass on a Steel gene, then it could be a super Steel and so instead of the hair shaft looking black at the base and gold at the tips, it might appear completely black. Test breeding him and his father with self doe like my Silver Fox would reveal more about the father's genetics, but we are getting tight with cage space, even though that would be interesting.

Do you understand why I would want to keep records?

G's November Kindle
NZW/SF 75/25
1 Black (maybe with Silver Fox no-fly back fur but probably will not silver), 
2 Ruby Eye Whites, and 1 Black Gold Tipped Steel

On top of that, I decided to I would need to break a personal was more of a guideline to be honest. I have always said that it is not a good idea to try to maintain more than one blog, because a person cannot really compartmentalize the parts of her life: for instance, at one point I could have had a blog just for book reviews, but I was not trying to be a famous book reviewer, it was just something I enjoyed doing for a time, and what we read contributes to our perspectives in life. Truthfully, I rarely have anything one thing that would be worth a blog by itself because I am interested in so many things and rarely stick to anything for a long period of time. Yet, there are situations that make it quite wise to have a separate blog. This is one of those, so I will be creating a blog/website solely for the rabbitry separate from this blog. I am not even going to state the name of it here because I do not want it linked to this blog at all.

The reason I have decided this is two-fold. First, I want to be able to send prospective buyers and breeders and others looking for information about our rabbits and not know so much about our personal lives, especially those who could make trouble for us, as some people who believe that animals should have rights over people, have been known to do. Second, I really do not need to subject my sensitive readers to all that we shall be doing with the rabbits, which might include recipes and attempts at tanning hides.

So, speaking strictly about blogs, I shall keep the rabbitry apart from my sanctuary.

Thank you, my Lord, that we have choices in our lives and that while we cannot yet do homesteading as we would like, and we may never be able to, that we are able to do this much and that we enjoy it.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Flowing Oil

When a Christian tries to live by reason he is moving out of God’s country into the enemy’s land. We belong in the miraculous and the supernatural realm. –John G. Lake

I have heard of many wonderful miracles. I have seen healings where the person being healed said he or she could feel the healing taking place even though it was completely internal and I saw nothing. I have seen people healed of pain, which is a bit more visually obvious to others. I personally have been healed.

You would think I would not doubt God's love, but I do at times...because I am human and human nature is a harsh reality in a world of reality and harshness. We tend to believe what we see and know what is material. While unbelievers would say things like if there is a God, you would think He would make himself known, I see all His creation proclaiming Him—when I want to, that is. Sometimes—probably most times if I am to be honest—when I am sitting at a desk and typing our my thoughts, I see a desk and computer, same as unbelievers see. What I should see...well, what should I see?

God knows. God knows this. God knows this about us. God knows all this about us. God knows all this about all of us.

Yesterday, I saw a miracle. It was one of those miracles that I have have heard about yet never had seen for myself. This miracle started with a little prayer group in a little room in a little gift shop in a little city...just two hours away from my little space. Just a handful of people who prayed, who sought God, who were told to that He would show them something after the inauguration of the President in January. A new Bible of one of those members began to produce oil.

Oil so pure that it is clear and odorless. Thick and yet when placed in the eye or in the mouth it seems to becomes more like a water-based substance. When it began, they thought a grandchild had spilled something on it, When it continued to spread throughout the Bible, they placed it in a plastic bag. When it filled the bag, they placed it in the clear tote. The Bible stays engulfed in the oil that continually replenishes. In fact, God told them that as long as they do not sell the oil and give it away, it will replenish. It has been analyze and they were told it is like mineral oil but not. It is thicker and has properties that no one can explain.

God told them that they were to go out. Even in the sermon, the preacher mention how we are accustomed to say "come." Come to my church. Come to the alter for prayer. But Jesus told his disciples, told us to "go." So, this little group of people have had their lives changed because now they go out transporting a tote with a Bible producing oil to various churches to spread refreshing news about God and His love.

They have only gone where they have been told by God to go and they do not accept invitations. They give the oil freely but differently than when they first started. Weeks ago friends of ours watched quart jars being filled while the oil stayed at the same level. They watched people dipping their hands in it and yet it stayed clear. However, now that so many more people know about this oil, God has told them to just give out small vials. They fill vials on Monday night and send some out as they receive so many requests. They place the Bible in a tote until it fills and then in another. Oil is also dripping down in the prayer room.

One man, who goes to the prayer room on some Mondays, told us that when they open the Bible, each book has a different aroma! Imagine that from an oil with no fragrance.

What is the oil? They describe it as the presence of God, they call it Flowing Oil. To me, it is that and something that I would describe as a purest white light in oil form. It is like...pure love.

The oil will sometimes multiply on a person, usually one gifted with healing, but not always. Some say a small vial has lasted them a long time or would refill! And while the oil is a gift, I think the miracle was a small group of people, who were seeking God in prayer in a little room, being chosen to share this gift. Whenever we think, who are we...whenever I think, who am I is insignificant, I will think on these people, because I want to live in God's natural realm of the miraculous and supernatural.

My Lord, my world is so small, but keep reminding me that it is not insignificant. I was thinking of two friends of mine in particular yesterday. One who is struggling financially and in need of her finances to be replenish like this oil replenishes. Another, who has a very small church, who may be feeling their efforts are rather insignificant, but are not to You. I ask that you bless them both...significantly. Thank you, my Lord.   

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Intolerant Tolerant

The world needs anger. The world often continues to allow evil because it isn't angry enough. -Bede Jarrett

Where have I been for the last few weeks? I have been home, but my husband has not. This week makes for five in a row although he did come home on the third and fourth weekend. This weekend starts a week long vacation and we all need it!

What have I been doing for the last few weeks (since I have not been blogging)?  Quite a few things but it feels like hardly anything at the same time and that is probably since I spent too much time on a few things that cannot be fixed.

I am so disgusted with a wide range of immoral, unethical, and just plain disrespectful things that are going on in my country right now and those are the things I have been spending too much time on when I have been online.

  • Football players kneeling to our National Anthem and Flag so now children are doing it too is one of the latest. I really do not care why they are doing it, it is just wrong and disrespectful to our military, our vets, and all other who serve this country. To top that off, the blacks who are doing it are not considering how their enslaved ancestors, who endured being subservient to all free men and women, would have been appalled that they, who have the freedom to stand in equality, have decided to take a subservient knee. Actually, our founding fathers would have been even more appalled, because they were against kneeling to any man or object; they would only take a subservient knee to God.
  • The alphabet crowd that just seem to never have enough letters to fit in every kind of sexual deviancy making more demands about what we all must tolerate.
  • Politics and the Anti-Trump crowd, including the media, trying to make him look bad and take him down in any way they can. Enough said there.
  • Liberals with their specific agendas are not standing united against conservatives as they did but increasingly they are finding fault with everyone who does not support their agendas, including other liberals. The result: They are now in the process of eating their own! Bernie Sanders bowed out of a speech at the Women's Convention because the women on social media had a fit about a man speaking, apparently they want only women speakers. Black Lives Matter protesters use their free speech rights to shut down an American Civil Liberties Union speech, who is a defender of free speech, with chants, one being that the ACLU defended Hilter (meaning, the ACLU would defend—probably has defended—the free speech rights of any white supremacist). Which all just goes to show what I have known all along: The tolerant only tolerate what they find tolerable and never the intolerable, yet they never see themselves as intolerant. In the end, they tolerate very little, but demand the rest of us to tolerate much.
This world is becoming so wearing on my spirit. 

My Lord, I know it is not as bad as it could get, but that is what bothers me the most...and You, my Sweet Lord, are thought of little in all of this turmoil. Forgive us, forgive me, for that.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Background Workings of My Blog

It’s not lost on me that I’m so busy recording life, I don’t have time to really live it. -David Sedaris

Since March I have been considering giving my blog a new fresh look, but being that I have so many other more important things to do I decided to put that off. However, I began updating the css codes on my older posts so that all the fonts would be like the ones I have been using since 2011. It was low on the list of my priorities but I have been working this from time to time.

Then something else major happened to my blog that requires a great amount of time and patience to make it right again.

Since before I began blogging, I have had a Photobucket account. I stored all my blog pictures there and every picture on my blog was linked to there. This year, I decided to just up load them to Blogger directly when I make a new post to my blog and use Google Photos, which made it even easier to upload photos directly from my phone. So, I stopped uploading to Photobucket and I would call that a "Thank you, my Lord, for that nudge!" kind of thing, because....

A few months ago, I went to my blog to find that every single picture and graphic and including my backgrounds were replaced with this:

Sweet, right?

I thought I had misread and violated the original Photobucket policies and they just caught up with me, when I first saw this little annoying graphic that now took the place of every one of my pictures and graphics hosted there. But, no! I found that they could be seen not just on my blog but also several others as well as websites and other people were just as unhappy because it had just happened to them also.

Photobucket changed its policy in June of this year and did it in a quiet way, with a memorandum on their blog and then just no pictures. Now if I want to pay for 3rd party hosting that would be for the bargain price of $400 a year. Thank you, but NOT GOING TO HAPPEN! Some people use the pictures to make a profit from their websites, but I, and probably a significant number of others, do not. Some people complained that they were not able to download their digital images as if Photobucket was holding them for ransom, but they could. They just could not be see those pictures on their webpages.

I have downloaded all my pictures and graphics from my Photobucket account to my computer, even though most of them were already there. So, now I am working on replacing all my digital images by uploading them on each and every blog post. Photobucket is no longer my friend and I will be deleting my account with Photobucket. This unplanned project will take far more days than I have to spare, but my blog is important to me. I periodically download the entire thing to back up on my computer.

Why bother with all this? Because it is a journal of my journey in life and my walk with my Lord. In between the lines, I remember far more things that I did not share publicly. It not only gives me pleasure but chronicles many things with which I have struggled, loved, lost, and cherished. I am not ready to let it stay in a state of neglect and disrepair. I have seen so many blogs that have been abandoned or that have been deleted since I first found them. I wonder what happened to those people: why they started, why they stopped, where are they now. I feel a lost when they are gone, even though I did not know them,

No, I am not yet ready to give up on my blog.

Well, my Lord, it is not like I do not have enough to do already with this coming up as well. Please, help me to keep my priorities and perspectives in line with Yours.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Back to the Rabbits

There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace. -Aldo Leopold

We are trying to get back into raising rabbits. With all that was going on throughout this last year, we had only bred for one kindle about a year ago, so we have not really been raising rabbits...just feeding them. Not breeding broke down our cost effectiveness for having them. You see, we feed rabbits and then we buy less meat for ourselves and for our dog and cats. Our grocery and animal feed costs have risen so we are looking forward to getting them back down again.

Then we had another issue to overcome. Of our original three New Zealand White rabbits, two does and one buck, we had one doe who probably should have been put down months ago. She has recently been laid to rest because she was in pain and would have passed in a day or two.

We started with the three NZWs, but later added two Silver Foxes, a black with the blue gene buck and a blue doe. When we bred them together we usually got average of half of them being black and half being blue. We still have the blue doe although this will be her last year for breeding most likely and we had to put down the buck because of teeth and eating issues. I have been trying to find a black buck with blue to replace him, but the breeder we had gotten them from is not breeding them anymore. Silver Foxes are more rare and it looks like we are going to have to take a trip to get some. Since they are so rare and I like them so much more, my husband and I are considering raising Silver Foxes solely. They have smaller kindles with usually six to eight compared to the NZW which have had up to thirteen, but we lose less and the SF does are excellent mothers. The offspring do take about three to four weeks longer to go to full size for culling, but their coats and temperament are worth the bit of extra expense. Plus we could probably sell more as breeders, since they are difficult to find for those of us who are looking.

What we have now:

WS is a New Zealand White who was sexed wrong and put in with her brothers so she ended up pregnant, hence the name. Of all our NZWs she has been the gentlest so we decided to keep her as a breeder.

GG is a NZW and Silver Fox cross that is actually a Gold Tipped Black Steel. She was a real surprise to us after having crossed NZW with SF for two years and getting mostly brokens (spotted). We learn that the genetics causing the albino, called Red Eye White (REW) appearance in NZW also covers a lot of genetic coding, like the broken gene, that cannot be seen unless they are bred with another rabbit that is not a REW. We kept GG to breed with her father who had the steel gene, but we did not get another one and will not since he died of old age. (This is also is a picture of our latest modification in the kindling cage. The drop nest is supposed to help keep the kits in the nest. Even those who get dragged out will wiggle around and end up falling back in, which is very important because they need their siblings covered with mama's fur to stay warm enough to survive.)

The oldest and largest of our rabbits is MB, a Blue Silver Fox. She is also our biggest eater! I think this will be her last year of breeding which is why I am trying desperately to find a SF buck. She is a very good mother. I have never lost any of her kits.

For weeks during this summer we had no bucks. As I wrote, our NZW died of old age and the SF could not eat due to teeth issues, so we had to put him down. I found a NZW breeder who was selling off his stock to move. We planned to buy one buck, but he offered three for the price of one, so we got the three, two are brothers and the other a distant cousin, but we plan to only keep one of them as we begin to replace all the NZW with Silver Foxes. These bucks were a little young, but we tried a breeding with the rowdy distant cousin and GG.

GG was due yesterday and it looks like she is not pregnant, although I have had the does fool me before. Rabbits really do not show their pregnancies. Palpation can be done at two weeks half way through a pregnancy, but I have yet to master that. In fact, I have rarely felt the babies until the week of the due date and even then if there are many and they are small, I still cannot tell with certainty.

So, if I see nothing in the nest for the next two days we will try breeding her with the same buck to see if he can reproduce.

My Lord, please bless us with some Silver Fox rabbits, which have been so difficult for us to find, and may all our rabbits be healthy.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Heavy Metal

Every tooth in a man's head is more valuable than a diamond. ~Miguel de Cervantes

It is my third day in braces and I some perspectives that are vaguely familiar being that this is the second time around and some I do not remember ever having and some things that are just...different.

Right now I do not have braces on the very back teeth. I might later as this is sometimes done, I was told, or I might not need them on the back ones at all, which I am pretty sure I will because of the inward tipping. So, my back molars are not sore when chewing, but that is not to say that the gums are not slightly swollen due to all the other teeth being moved.

I well remember that the first three days from getting my braces on the first time and every adjustment thereafter were the worse days with pain and it was particularly hard to eat anything that needed chewed. I used to have a big meal after an adjustment and not really eat for a few days. That meal usually was a stop at a mom and pop burger joint just a few miles from the orthodontist office. I had to drive 20 miles to a larger town where they had an office only two days a week from my little town as their main office was another 20 miles further away from the satellite office in another city. It was the 70's and I was 17 years old when I started, so my diet has changed significantly since those days.

I started again with the big-meal-after tradition and take my daughter out when she has an adjustment, but she goes only about every eight weeks. Back in the day, I went every four weeks. New materials and techniques have made for less visits to be necessary in most typical cases. My case is not that typical, of was not when I was seventeen and it is not at fifty-seven. Sigh!

I also ate a bigger meal after I first got my braces this week, because I did not know exactly what to expect. Everyone says braces are more painful as an adult than they are for children, particularly those who have had them twice to know. (It is not all that uncommon to need them later again for some people and I just had to be one of them!) However, I was not very young when I started with braces the first time and I had them for over five years so the last few years I was an "adult" and there are certain natural changes that happen with the mouth in those years making moving teeth a bit more challenging, so actually the last few years for me seemed to be significantly more painful than the first ones and that pain lasted longer too. Basically, I had experience with the difference before, but gradually.

For years now, my diet has been far healthier than when I was in braces before. There are plenty of things I can eat that are highly nutritious that do not have to be chewed, like soups; yogurt; cottage cheese; vegetable, fruit, and protein smoothies; fruit popsicles; raw milk (I know it is drunk but it is a whole food) and such. Of course, there still are all the other things that I now try to eat only sparingly like pasta dishes, cheesecake, cakes, ice cream, shakes, and other simple carbohydrates and sugary foods.

As to needing braces again, part of that might be because of a procedure that was done at the end of my treatment all those years ago that is not done now, probably because it caused more problems than not. In those days, it was common practice to tip all the teeth inward and then bring them back up straight. I was told it set the roots better. I mentioned that to my orthodontist and he said that he had that procedure done to him as well and told the name of it to the technician, which I do not remember other than it started with a "b." He said the problem with the procedure is that the teeth did not always come back to a fully upright position and I can say that I well remember that after that my lower front teeth tipped inward, maybe all of them did, but it was those that I noticed.

Frankly, it was not until the wires were on my teeth that I fully realized how maligned they really are! Yikes!

Here is one thing I do not remember from my first experience. I noticed on the following day that I had them put on that even though I could swallow without any obstructions, I felt like I did not want to swallow anything, not even water. Being that I have an analytical mind, I gave that some thought. I think the mouth being overall irritated has something to do with it, but I also think it is having these unfamiliar rough feeling things on the teeth that I feel behind the cheeks and lips and having a natural repulsion of the possibility of swallowing them. It will diminish in a few more days probably.

The first time I was so very happy to have braces completely for free, I just found everything about them amazing! They were a badge of honor, a sign of the grace of God, and I just did not let anything about them bother me much as to getting used to them. Still, there were some things I could not deny away. I had raw areas and cuts in my mouth that rubbed against the braces at various times throughout all those years. Eventually the areas compensate and toughen up and were more resistant to being raw, but that is a that I am going through right now. I have placed the wax they gave me on every irritating bracket, but still...the corners of the lips are the worse places because of talking and smiling. I have to remember to smile above the braces.

Other things I did not remember until I got them on for a day is that my sinuses run more and...drooling! It is like a baby going through teething, even with a slight headache at times. There is just constant pressure going out in all directions from the braces. I am so much more understanding of the Princess having bad days!

I was wondering if the Princess and I should try to keep our appointments on the same day or purposely not. She is not worth much the first three days and I am thinking I will be the same, so if we take it easy at the same time, perhaps we make those homeschool days light and then jump back into the heavy schedule together. Or maybe it would be better if only one of us is going through this at a time. The orthodontist kind of settled that as he put me on a five week schedule for the time being and the Princess is on an eight.

The reason I am on five weeks is because I had a front tooth that dropped down due to the bone loss I was having because of my bite and he is working on trying to get it back up. I have been told over and over by everyone in any kind of dentistry that it will not go back up, even the orthodontist is thinking he can only get it to to a better position but not where it should be, yet he is giving it a try. Because it is so out of place compared to the length of the other teeth, he had the thinnest wire placed on my uppers and I felt the pressure on it immediately. So it will have to be nudged gently, which is why I need to go more often at first. I was warned that the tooth might even try to poke out as it goes up and to contact them if that is the case. As I said, I am not typical, but I am praying that God works a miracle and the tooth repositions to exactly where it should be.

When I went to make my next appointment, the scheduler looked up the Princess' next appointment which was four weeks out and moved her time to later that day so we could be in on the same day and same time. So, in a month we will be miserable at the same time, but after that that we will likely be on different days.

Last night, my husband and I ate dinner while listening to the Princess play at the restaurant. I had fettuccine Alfredo with shrimp with a salad and, yes, we shared a slice of cheesecake. I had forgotten how much everything gets stuck in braces, which is why it is always wise to brush immediately after eating, except I have wax on so many areas that I have to take all that off first, then brush, then put them back on. Also, I lost some of the wax when I ate my salad.

I have spent quite a bit of bathroom time on my teeth and gums to keep them healthy for years but now it is like everything takes nearly three times as long. I have a water pick, which works great after I removed the wax. I still have to floss with floss, which requires the floss to be threaded under the wire and it takes me ten times as long to floss that way. I also use those dental brushes that go between the teeth at the gum line. An electric toothbrush and a hand toothbrush are also used each day. Then I have to carry many of these things with me at all times in case I eat anything, which I actually already had been doing for years also.

For several months, I have added one more treatment that I have kept a secret. I read about a device that orthodontists use to lessen the time needed in orthodontic care. This device is usually used with those having the plastic braces that go over the teeth and are "invisible." It is simply a device made to produce micro-vibrations through the teeth to stimulate the gums for twenty minutes. The one that orthodontists sell is highly overpriced but it is rechargeable and keeps count of how often it is used. I found a knock-off device that is a battery operated that runs for ten minutes and does not keep count on Ebay. I have been using it for months at night for twenty minutes and many of those deep pockets I had between my teeth and gums improved, so much that the periodontist only found two. I know I had more months before and I was taking extra care but I still think the little device (which is still overpriced for what it is, but way lower than the other) did stimulate my gums.

So, I am hoping with my orthodontic work and this gum stimulator and God 's blessing that my front tooth will go farther up than they think it can. Also the gum stimulator reduces the pain. I have been using it about four to five times a day, when I am feeling more irritated and it does take the edge of the pain.

So, all is going well. This is just me making adjustments to the braces.

My Lord, this will be for a short time, but presently it seems long. Help me to adjust quickly and well. Also help me keep focused on the results.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Bracing Myself

The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection. -Thomas Paine

Having been released after the periodontal surgery I had six weeks ago, it was time to move to the next phase. On Wednesday, which was also my birthday, I spent two hours in a dental chair for a thorough periodontal cleaning. I have had periodontal cleanings before, but this one was overkill if you were to ask me. Then the following day (yesterday as I am writing this), I spent another two hours at the orthodontist.

Braces again...40 years from the last time I had them put on at 17, almost to the month. I was thinking, hoping, that braces should make me look younger by at least ten years, but I do not think that worked. Maybe the wrinkles and whitening hair are giveaways?

So, I am trying to get used to the metal in my mouth and the tension on my teeth with its new aches, which is why I woke up at 3:00 a.m. and could not go back to sleep. I finally gave up sometime after 4:00 and here I am at my computer, having much to do, but not wanting to do it. Computers, although inherently innocent, are such terrible time wasting devices when they are not being used productively!

I have been rather productive the last two weeks as to organizing our homeschool and getting on a schedule. The Princess needs structure to get through her assignments (and I need it too). With her working on Friday and Saturday nights and having added giving piano lessons, she has to be even more flexible than before and do some assignments on some evenings.

While my mind is on getting her focused on her education and piano, I was also looking forward to starting back to work on my house clean up, repurposing rooms, and renovations...but my husband has been tossing around more ideas about the business we might be starting and these ideas are good, but just seem to be too overwhelming to try to put together with just the two of us...actually I am not sure that it will not be just mostly me.

He, of course, is feeling pushed into it because he is scheduled next week to start an install that keeps him away from home for five weeks straight, including weekends, which is against our rules, particularly because he is salaried, not eligible for financial compensation, and has to fight to get off for the extra days because they have him going all over the eastern side of the country, even though other co-workers are sitting at home. He was told that this customer would not buy the machine unless they were promised that my husband would be installing it and other customers also specifically request him.

On the manufacturing side, which is based in England, the Brits have decided to manufacture only one machine to streamline production on their end because of higher demand. So, instead of customizing the machine to the customers specifications at the factory, now the field engineers are to customize their base machine in the field. Therefore, an install that would have only taken three weeks, without working weekends, now can take up to six weeks straight because he is not just adding to the machine, but also removing things from it as well to send back to the factory, which seems to be counterproductive. All this time, the customers are getting impatient with the installer, because they expected to the machine to be production ready in two to three weeks.

My husband is one of their top break-fix guys as well as installer, so often what happens is that his manager is hounding him about finishing the install because there is a problem with a machine somewhere that no one else they sent was able to fix. By the time my husband gets there, the customer is needing to vent about how how the machine being down is losing him business because of how long the problem has persisted, but at the same time they are relieved to see him, because they trust him to actually fix it. He is in demand, which is great for job security, but it is wearing on our family. They need about three more field engineers but the manager cannot find anyone who wants to work for the company. Small wonder there.

I am still not sure what we are supposed to do and when we are to do it if we are. We have asked and are waiting for certain things need to fall into place, if having a business or being self employed are paths to which my Lord is leading us.

Meanwhile, I am in braces...and looking forward to a better smile on the flip side.

My Lord, thank you for the opportunity to have a nice smile again and help my family to find reasons for smiling. Please, my Lord, grab our hands tightly as if we are little children unaware of dangers around us as You lead us on the path You have prepared.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Home Education Fit for a Princess

We can get too easily bogged down in the academic part of homeschooling, a relatively minor part of the whole, which is to raise competent, caring, literate, happy people. -Diane Flynn Keith

I think all homeschooling parents start out with big dreams that their children with be absolutely beyond brilliant academically. We all look for the best of the best curricula and have a basic plan. Then comes maybe it all worked for the children, maybe some struggled a bit, and maybe what was working so well for one, or two, or three just did not work for others. It is then that parents realize that their plans, ideas, and dreams are not meshing with reality. I have only one child so I really need to get it right.

We had a serious set back two years ago when we felt we had no recourse but to pull the Princess out of the Learning Center within three months into her third year there due to situations going completely out of control. For one, she was not sleeping, had terrible anxiety, and was depressed. In part, that was because she became overwhelmed with her assignments and anxious about everything being on transcripts starting that year. Her science and math teachers did not tell us that she only handing in about half her assignments. Then to complicate an already concerning emotional state in the Princess, a very shy boy came into the picture, who had his own disturbing issues and was convinced he was in love with her, but took that to a very unhealthy level...with his mother enabling the whole thing. Even after we pulled her out of the school, where she was only taking two subjects, it took another six more months and a police report about him stalking her before the boy and his family finally stopped, though we had made repeated requests prior to that.

Although the Princess was improving with the pressure off from the school, I think it took another six months before she really relaxed and even longer for me. I felt it was far more important to have devotions and let her talk some things out than to keep to a strict assignment schedule most of last year. I began seeing more of those attributes I loved, that she had when she was younger, coming out. Last summer we switched from her from the Prentice Hall Algebra 1 textbook (made for schools), which she was over halfway through from the Learning Center, to Life of Fred Geometry. I did this because she always responded better to geometry and she learns math so randomly, so she has learned about algebra better from the geometry (insane to me, but works for her). I also have to say here that I really tried not to like Life of Fred, as the name just sounds idiotic to me and the story line is of a six year old math mega genius being a professor of KITTENS University...I mean, it just sounded too silly to be a serious math book. However, it is presented in story form to give a reason for the math. It is also a self teaching book and the Princess has been doing quite well with it.

Just as things were going in a better direction with the Princess, the Queen Mother fell last year...twice. The first time in June and the second time in December. Everything in our lives seem to take a back seat to working through the process of how much she would recover and where she would be living after rehabilitation and then trying to get her qualified for Medicaid. We homeschooled but not with the focus I was hoping we could have. I mean, we only bred our rabbits once last fall because everything in our lives was so up in the air. I am thankful to my Lord for the Florida house being sold so easily and quickly. That took so much off of us.

I went through all that to say that the last two years feels like we made very slow and halting progress in our homeschool. I had these plans, long ago, that the Princess would be taking a few college courses this year, her junior year, but now I feel that was not meant to be. So, I had some long talks with my Lord and my daughter and my husband and then myself. I needed to let go of some expectations and hopes to do what was best for the Princess, according to her desires and attributes. Even though she went to a STEM school for a couple of years and enjoyed it, she is not really a STEM type. She still knocks the sock off in language arts though!

One thing that is very different in her life than most kids her age is that she has been writing for a bi-monthly newsletter published by a local co-op health store about health related issues since she was fourteen. At first I helped her to understand how to write an article, as I have been doing that myself for about eighteen years for the same newsletter, but she now often submits her articles without giving me a chance to look them over and some are still being published, much depending on space and the worthiness of all the submitted articles from other writers.

Another thing is that while few, and by that I mean none of the friends she has, are working, not even one boy who is waiting to go to a trade school because he got his GED too late for the first semester. The schools are laying on homework so heavily that even all the piano teachers complaining how they are losing students because of it and not getting new ones. Highschoolers cannot really have a job and pass to the next grade these days. However, the Princess is playing piano usually two to three weekends a month and she has added taking on two young piano students, although the mother of one (also aunt to the other) has been sick so they have not yet started. The Princess has the benefit of using her talent to earn some money, improve her skills with the piano, and learn about being more self sufficient...and was that not my real goal in homeschooling all along?

With all things being considered, I also felt led to make a big change in science. I found a curriculum that integrates physics and chemistry without all the math. It will earn her two credits, but it is not as intense as the Bob Jones science book she was using at the Learning Center for nine grade. That usually had about 30 vocabulary words and six (usually more) major theorems per chapter that she was supposed to remember. I thought it was rather advanced and she was not moving through it very well. This new curriculum is lacking in labs, but I purchased extensive kits for chemistry and physics that was suggested when I called to inquire about the curriculum a bit more. We plan to do one of the labs each week. This curriculum is also written in more of a story form giving history about the discoverers and properties of the topics in a less textbook manner. She loves it!

What I have is a Classical literary child strong in languages and language arts, as she tests very high in grammar, reading comprehension, and writing structures. Heavily relying on living books, story-form books, was the method I began her teaching, so I am not surprised, but it was a bit challenging coming into high school level subjects to find curricula in the STEM world that would work well with her. At this point, it seems everyone is supposed to just get dry textbooks, as if the colors they can add now will make it more interesting rather than just being busy looking.

I updated my homeschool list of materials here on my blog and I added some of her activities and accomplishments because her piano and writing have not just stayed in the home. The little lady has been stepping out with her talents and that is really important to all of us. While she may not be the academic super star devouring and excelling in all subjects as I hoped she would, I have to remind myself one of the top reasons I was drawn to homeschooling and that to teach the child, not the subject, using the interests of the child and preparing her to be a self-disciplining, self-sufficient, responsible adult.

I have not been excited myself about homeschooling for over a year, until now. I feel that this direction is so very right for her and my Lord has told me this too.

Thank you, my Lord, for leading me to curricula that will work so well for my daughter and give her the time she needs to pursue her talents and interests.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

There's a Storm Coming!

The trouble with weather forecasting is that it’s right too often for us to ignore it and wrong too often for us to rely on it. ~Patrick Young

As if it was not enough to worry about my husband's oldest daughter and her family in the Houston area when Hurricane Harvey dumped the heaviest of rains for several days (and they were just fine, thankfully, with a little flooding in the roads mostly) now we have Hurricane Irma and its tagalong Hurricane Jose setting a course for Florida's eastern coast, towards the Queen Mother.

The Queen Mother is not very happy with any kind of change, but when she found out from some of the residents that last year they ended up in a school and some had to sleep on the floor...well, actually, I just cannot find the perfect word to adequately describe how she has been expressing her feelings on the matter right now.

I can think of only one time that she and her husband actually evacuated, coming here to stay with us two days, when the Princess was a young thing, and then they went scurrying back home in fear of looters and never did it again because they worried more about the house being away from it than the storm itself. In the fifty years they lived there, they never had flooding in the house, but I have seen row boats in the street once. So, all those years that we worried about them and then her alone with such storms, asking—begging, really—for her to move and now she is unhappy with us for where she is, which is closer to the coast than she was, but that is the facility we could get her in at the time being that she was not yet approved for Medicaid.

However, as messy as evacs go, my husband and I feel less stress about it because the Queen Mother is being taken care of by people rather than being alone in a house. The nursing home has had more time to plan and they are going to start the evacuation process today. They were considering a place further north and a bit more inland but since have settled on evacuating everyone to a sister facility in Orlando, in the middle of the state, which will likely also be affected, but usually not as badly as the coastal areas where they are presently.

However, this is a huge storm! I have heard of it described as the size of Ohio and in another place they measured the diameter against Florida, which very nearly took up the complete length of the state from the north border to its southern tip. It is massive and so very strong. I cannot imagine what it is like for the people in Barbuda, where every house has been damaged. Although it will have lost strength, it still will affect us here in Georgia as well. My husband is coming home and he may not be going back out at the beginning of next week.

We inherited a generator from the Queen Mother's house that my father-in-law bought many years ago and was never used but maybe once. It is not a very good one, but my husband was trying to get it working for more than just a few minutes so he could sell it and get the one he really wanted. It has always been our intention to become a bit more self-sufficient and prepared especially with two big freezers full of food.

So, yesterday my husband and I decided it was time to get one that really works, before people here decide to do the same. He knew exactly what model he wanted and how much it was. The problem was more about where to go pick one up, because while a number of chain stores claim to sell it, most of them have to ship it, and with a hurricane coming...well, it is just more iffy about whether or not we would get it before the storm hits. But instead of having to drive an hour away to a place that would more likely have it (I would have called first), I found a small local, family-owned business that had one in stock a few minutes away. They even put some gas in it to be sure it would run. I just love small businesses, they usually have such great customer service! Usually, their prices are higher, but not in this case, so good all around. They placed it in my van for me and now we have a generator, one that we can use for camping and hunting as well as power outages.

I would be happy except that it is in the back of my mind that this is a precaution against the damage this storm could cause.

My Lord, so many people are being affected by these powerful storms. Please, my Lord, be gracious with Your mercy and help us all to help those in need.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Fork in the Path of My Life

It is not your business to succeed, but to do right; when you have done so, the rest lies with God. -C.S. Lewis

I am sitting here at my computer contemplating....where I am in my life, how to get my house back in order (which is overwhelming me), getting back to homeschooling, keeping my daughter moving on the path I know that the Lord has set before her in this season, but more than all that, I am trying to find my footing as to my own path, which at this time seems to be in service between my daughter and my that all there is for me? Am I doing what God wishes of me?

Then there is this: My husband and I have come to that place where we see a fork, a place of decision where we must choose to take only one direction in the road of our lives, because we have pretty much ruled out standing in the same place and just looking at the fork. One way is far more predictable in its destination and has been a long time dream of ours, while the other—well, it could wind around to the same destination or go some undiscovered place that we will love more a place we would never hope to go with all kinds of regrets. Actually, the predictable way will have as many regrets because the other way has so much potential and yet-to-be-tried possibilities.

There have been a few—very few and now very precious—times when my husband and I stepped out in faith to do something we thought was completely illogical, far too risky, and quite possibly insane, except we also felt strongly that our Lord was telling us to do it and even though the voices of reason in my brain told me I should worry—and I did—still every time I went to the Lord, I was immediately at peace.

It is the difference between seeing is believing and believing is seeing (or believing in the unseen). In this material world, in our flesh, we look for safety and security, which is a desire at odds with our spirit. Our spiritual part looks to be closer to God, who is the only real safe and secure place to be, and that is its sole goal, except for bringing others closer to God as well. However, we are blind to the spiritual realms; at least, most of us cannot see and feel what is spiritual in the same way, with that same undeniable certainty, as we do what is made of matter. For instance, gravity is a undeniable certainty that everyone recognizes, but many people without the experience think that those of us who claim to hear God are...crazy, because to the unbeliever (or even unbelieving believer) hearing voices in your head is a mental disorder, especially if you think it is God talking to you (rather than except when it is God talking to you). However, developing spiritual senses is difficult and usually involves discomfort (not encouraging feelings of being safe and secure) in the material realm, the thing we try to avoid, but never really do. On the other hand, there is confirmation and manifestation of the spiritual into the material and that is when you see validation of what was believed, as in prophetic words come to pass as well as miracles and healings happen.

Sunday morning, my husband and I walked into our church service. As the praise and worship band started, I stood up and looked over to my husband who was messing with his phone, to turn it off, and waiting for him to stand with me. I had a momentary prayerful thought. You know the type where you simply think, "Lord, I feel a bit lost as to what I am supposed to do...," and you let that just trail off. I was not really expecting an answer, at least not immediately. However, as soon as my husband stood up and I tried to begin to sing, I had to sit down or I would have been on the floor. My Lord, apparently had much to say to me and it was going to be said right then, so I blocked out all the praising that I really wanted to do and just listened.

First, He told me how pleased He was with what we are doing for the Princess. Having her play piano at the restaurants, starting to teach piano, preparing for the competition next year, and even buying the grand. I felt His sweet approval for us all walking on the path open to all opportunities that He had provided for her. And I have noticed some changes in her; she is having less meltdowns and showing more respect and maturity...not all the time, but those few and far between occurrences are becoming more frequent.

Second, was about my husband...that new thing we had been thinking and talking about trying to decide if it really is the direction my Lord wants us to take, the risky one. The one that causes too much of an emotional reaction to be sure I am hearing God clearly. He was telling me that He had prepared the way and He is blessing us. Still, I asked for signs. I asked for three. My husband had asked for two.

My husband's first sign came when he was working out of state last week. One night he woke quite early in the morning and the framework of it all was just pouring out so fast that he actually did a voice recording so he would not forget anything. I would also count that as my first one as well.

My second sign was in that moment during the praise portion of the Sunday service. The third for me and the second for my husband was at the end of the service. Our pastor said he had been praying in tongues for hours throughout the week and he could have easily given everyone there a prophetic word. I remember thinking that he will probably not be calling on us, but he felt led to call out five and we were the fourth ones. As soon as he called our names, I was smiling and in tears. I knew that was going to be it, another sign.

He told us that God has seen all the things we have been doing in secret, things people did not know but that God did, and that He was going to bless us. He included the word "promotion."

My husband and I were particularly quiet as we left until we came home to sit down for lunch. I shared what my Lord had told me and, since the Princess was helping with the children during service, we told her about what the pastor had said. I asked my husband how he interpreted the term "promotion," to which he said that he tried not to think of the way he did but...he saw it as the second of the two signs for which he had asked. (Yeah, it was my third of three, too.) Then I learned during that conversation that my husband had thought I had talked to the pastor about what we were considering. I corrected him saying that I had not said a thing about it to anyone at the church...just one or two long distant friends.

About nine years ago when my husband had lost his job, due to downsizing, and was out of work for the first time in his life, I spent hours on my knees in prayer and many days of fasting asking that he would be able to get a job before the severance pay ran out and I believed that my Lord told me that he would. We had just received the last check when he was called in to interview for a job based solely on his reputation (because even though he had submitted a resume, it was lost in the sea of data because it did not specifically fit the job description, a problem when you are versatile, I guess) and was given it that day. It did not pay as well as we were used to, but it was a job and we did not even have to pay one bill late. Two years later, still having only one vehicle and eking by, we felt the Lord asked us to double our tithe for six months, which was really crazy, because we would have to use up the meager reserves we had and every thing seemed to break, but we had no money to fix anything. On the sixth month my husband was called out of the blue by a recruiter who had come across his resume from three years before when he lost his job. He was offered a better paying job and promised opportunities, but those opportunities never manifested.

What I never told my husband is that when I was spending all that time praying and fasting as he was out of work, my Lord not only told me that he would have a job before we spent the last severance check, but that he would be "like a CEO." But that was about nine years ago and it has not happened at through the last two employers. Now I am thinking that God said "like a CEO," because if He had told me that my husband would be self-employed, I think He knew I would have lost it completely or just never really accepted it. In honesty, we could not have done it then or even all these years later, we simply did not have a safety net of savings, but it is a possibility.

But this is a one time deal, really. It is only because my husband has his inheritance, so if the business does not work out well, all that is gone and we have nothing to work toward our dream of having a small homestead. If instead we buy property and set up a little homestead, at least we will have that, but he will be stuck where he is as to his work. Yet, there is the possibility that we do both: that he has his own business and does so well that we can get the homestead property too, we just may have to wait a bit longer to get there.

There are several customers that request him. They would rather have him do all their work, because he strives to actually fix their machines, tries to save them money, is honest with them, and has good business ethics, besides he is one of the best in technical skills. I am bragging, yes, but it is true that he is the most popular and requested technician among the customers, which is why he travels and works more hours than most of his co-workers.

So, if we are to start a self-employment business, then I will be managing the office, so to speak, which I used to do. I actually was the office manager of a small sailboat manufacturer when I lived in Florida, so I did it all: payroll, buying parts and supplies, accounts payable and receivable, banking, sales receipts, letters, answer phones, make coffee (that I never drank), keep the president on schedule, and just about anything else they asked me to do. As it is, I am taking a guess that if my husband works ten full days a month with the fees he is planning to charge, that should cover all our expenses with a bit to spare, so if he works more than that, we should do well. Also, the company he works for presently also has hired contractors in the past and since customers request him, it would be beneficial for the company to contract him for some jobs as well.

Just a month ago, the company offered a former contracted tech a higher income than my husband makes and that is because they are desperate to hire more techs, even though they treat the ones they have badly and gave them all insulting raises in the spring, not even covering the rise in living expenses for the last three years since their last insulting raises. My husband has brought in about a third of their field techs. Most of those worked under him in another company and respect him. The guys call him when they have a problem, basically, both the men in the field and the manager treat my husband as is he is a field manager, which he was promised again just months ago, but it still has not happened. The stress between his mother's affairs, which are finally settled...mostly, and his job has aged him and he is too worn out to put any effort into starting out on his own right now.

And then there is this: Even though we both think God is guiding us to this, even though we think He has provided the signs, even though we are willing to try this, we do not have that certainty because it is so risky and emotionally charged. However, there is one thing my husband said that we agree on: If that is the path God wants us to take, it will work out.

My Lord, You have led us through some tough times and hard decisions. I trust You will lead us through this one as well and may the outcome be a testimony that glorifies You!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Fine Tuning a Souring Note

Nothing beats a live performance. Nothing. -Jonathan Demme

The Princess will be playing at another restaurant this Friday night. It has the same name as the one she has been playing, but in a different town about 30 minutes away. Apparently, the family owned all three of these restaurants but the one closest to us was sold to a man (friend, probably, or family, I know not) but the menus are the same. My husband approached the owner of this one when we ate there on Sunday afternoon while the Princess was at a park for a youth cookout event.

However, it was brought up in the conversation that the restaurant is not member of a PRO, so if they should come, the Princess would not be able to continue playing. All this week I have been trying to understand what performing rights organizations (PROs) do besides strong arming businesses offering live music to pay yearly fees. Now I understand a bit more. It is supposed to be about songwriters' getting their fair share of royalties and while I am for that, I am just not convinced that PROs really do work in their favor that much better as they claim to do. Not only do some charge a fee to the songwriter to become a member but they hold the venue responsible for the music played because a PRO charges fees according to capacity, as in how many people would possibly hear the music. The restaurant is suppose to pay a yearly fee to display a sticker around the entrance and so that music within the repertoire of whichever PRO the restaurant chose can be performed.

Now here is the ironic part: The Princess has been playing classical music written before 1922, that is before copyright law protected music. She did play about three or four songs that would be considered protected by copyright, so we have eliminated them from her list. The songs that are considered public domain are ineligible for any PRO repertoire. I had been encouraging her to learn more modern and better recognized songs, but now we know that is not in the best interest of keeping her venue. So even if another musician plays copyright protected music and a PRO tries to come down on the restaurant, the Princess can legally still play there because we spent Monday afternoon making a list of all her music to prove that she will only be playing public domain music. That gives her more marketability for small businesses that do not really have music as focal point to bring in business as would a bar with a dance floor. However, the PROs like to pressure the restaurants even if all the music performed there is not under their protection, because someone may play a song that is and the worse part is if songwriter is in one PRO, he or she cannot be in another, so the venue basically is pressured to be in all of them. Besides that I think the fees are a bit steep because coffee shops and small family restaurants offering a corner for budding musicians are really not into making money off the music and rarely pay the musicians.

I talked to the Princess' piano teacher about this and she said she played for years in a coffee shop and just played whatever she wanted without a problem. I mentioned that we are kind of out in the sticks so it probably is not as well monitored around us as it would be places like New York City and LA. However, ASCAP has an office in Atlanta and has been known to hire music teachers to sit in just waiting for any song that would be a violation. Also, it seemed to my husband that this restaurant owner has run into this problem previously or knows someone personally who has. So, we will try to stay outside of their domain and keep with the classical and public domain songs with our list handy and give a copy to the restaurant for their records.

The few newer songs that the Princess has learned have not been popular for several decades and the songwriter would not be making anything from them even with a PRO, which is why I wonder how they really make sure songwriters get their share. Of the four PROs in America, they all have their own structures for fee and membership pay outs some with a minimum, but basically songwriters and publishers only get a share of the fees based on how popular the PRO thinks the song is, as in how much it is played on the most popular radio stations.

We had a couple of copied copies of those public domain songs, but to make this completely above board, we are going to be looking them up to be printed off fresh to avoid any publisher's rights as well.

And all this so a young lady can play a little piano and earn a bit of change!

I have to make a note here that I find to be a bit of history that I just learned. One of the PROs tried to double its fee in 1940, which ended up in a radio boycott of all its music, including promo jingles! The radio broadcasters wanted to prove a point, the songs were popular because they were being broadcasted, not just the other way around. (Remember this was decades before the Internet and any portable recording devices.) During the boycott though, music that was beneath what a PRO would accept was used and at the time they were called such unPC terms as "hillibilly" and "race" and foreign as well as public domain traditional songs, but people actually began to like country, blues, jazz, and ethnic music. Radio broadcasting companies made their point about how much they influenced the music industry, so the PRO came to an agreement with lower fees.

I think the PROs model is antiquated when we consider how well we are connected the Internet today and that there should be a simpler and more efficient way to pay songwriters. Performers know what they are going to perform and where, and the venue can provide them with a number of seats. It seems to me that the PROs could be sure to pay the songwriters and publishers directly for actual performances instead of collecting a blanket fee, from which less popular songwriters do not see a penny, when their songs could be rather quite popular with pockets of local crowds. I know it would be more work for us on the performers' side, but I think the performers should be the ones to pay the fees directly and let capitalism work. It could just be pennies, but it is just like the 1940 radio broadcasters boycott proved: songwriters do not make money and become popular when their songs are not performed, so unless the song was rather popular, songwriters would probably offer performance licensing at lower rates to get more play and then they can raise the fees if they like. That is the only way songwriters are actually in control of their copyright.

I think PROs acting as the music mafia is actually damaging making those small venues disappear where the direct pay model would encourage more businesses to offer live music, instead of clamping it down so hard that everyone is afraid to whistle a tune. One PRO even went after the Girl Scouts for singing campfires songs in 1996 and forget about singing "God Bless America" in public! I mean, really, where does it end? What if I am humming a tune under copyright while shopping in a store? Can the retail store be sued for that?

It is just easier for a PRO to collect from a business or club than individual performers, but it is an outdated way to do it. I would happily pay composers directly a fee per use and develop a relationship to help promote their music if they would reject the PROs. From what I am reading on the Internet, I think other performers would also, but then there will always be some that do not bother to pay. Still, it would not be any worse for the ones lesser known who the PROs do not pay anyway, even though their song is performed.

This is one of those times I want to fix the world, but it has become so convoluted that I also think it would be better to burn it and start over...but then mankind being what it is, the world arising from the ashes of the old would most likely have all the same elements that destroyed it.

There is far more behind the scenes than we first thought, but I thank you, my Lord, for guiding us and preparing us for what may come.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Three Pianos,
Two Young Students,
and a Princess in a Tizzy

Life is like a piano. What you get out of it depends on how you play it. –Tom Lehrer

Having a new piano that we can see from all angles of our living spaces just makes me think of Christmas, hence the "On the First Day of Christmas" kind of title. And God is surprising us with so many blessings right now that it is as if they are just pouring down on us, like a flooding rain after a years of drought!

It has been discussed with the Princess that besides playing in restaurants on the weekends she can, that she could also take on a young piano student or two. It would not be as much as she can make per hour in tips, but it would be steady and the rewards of teaching would be so worth it, because she will get so much in return. Of course, she does not know this yet, not having the experience. She has not really allowed herself to love to play again like she did when she was younger, but the new grand piano we think will help. What has most motivated her of late is making money at playing the piano and competing.

Her piano teacher told me that when she was in college for music, one of her professors told her that she needed to take on a few students during the summer. I cannot imagine this now, but apparently she simply hated that idea. She had no patience and it grated on her every time a child would hit a wrong note. However, at some point that changed for her and she found that she loved teaching and she had an incredible amount of patience. Then, just as we met, she found that she had a particular gift with teaching very young students that she did not even know she had previously. In fact, most of the parents of younger students have told me that she was referred to them by another piano teacher who would not take younger students or that she was the only teacher they could find that would take a younger student. My Princess was the very youngest she had ever and has yet ever taken, although there is one boy who started just a month in age later than she was and he went slow, until he could play a bit of jazz.

My reasoning for the Princess teaching is that when your own eyes are weary, seeing through another's young eyes can be renewing. Hearing the music she used to play and watching a child progress might be encouraging to her. Also, she will have to teach theory, ear training, and technique. The Princess has wonderful technique, but she has forgotten (or thinks she has) most of the music theory she learned and used to struggle with ear training. I always found that I learned more and it lasted better when I was teaching it and I used to teach the Princess music theory and ear training between her lessons, so I am hoping that works for the Princess.

I was talking to a friend and former neighbor, who moved about 25 minutes south and west of us and finally got back from visiting family in California, about how the Princess may be looking for two young students and she asked how much she was going to charge. We had been discussing it, so the Princess felt that $10 for each 30 minute lesson would be good. I was thinking more like $12 to $15, but since this is her first teaching experience, $10 probably is a good starting point. Experienced musicians and teachers charge around $80-$100 a month for 30-minute lessons. My friend immediately wanted her 9-year-old daughter to take lessons under the Princess and her 6-year-old nephew has been wanting to learn piano also. I was hoping for 4 to 7 in age, but we know the the girl so it will probably work out.

We also had already discussed what days and times, which really would only be Monday or Thursday nights. So my friend and I decided on 5:30 and 6:00 back to back on Monday. Again I was hoping for one child per night, because this is all so new for the Princess, but she will adapt, hopefully. We are not starting next Monday, as that day the Princess gets braces on her lower teeth and will probably be doubly uncomfortable, but the one after. (Prayers appreciated.)

Yesterday we both poured over the books she had used and searched online. I talked to her piano teacher telling her that we have gone from "she (her teacher) and I both thought this is a good idea" to "she (the Princess) has two students so she is doing this. Aaaaah!" This family has been looking for a piano teacher and there are just none around them. They are probably 90 minutes away from Trudy so there is no competition and Trudy is glad to help.

Since we missed a couple of lessons due to the competition and illness of late, I asked if we could come 30 minutes early next week so that she could go over what the Princess would cover in the first lessons. The Princess began younger so she had started with different books than neither one of these children will. She moved into both the series they will start with, but she moved into higher levels. So she never did the first books of the Alfred's Prep Course like the boy will probably need, because Music for Little Mozarts covered much of it, just slower paced for young students. She did not do the first books of the next level Alfred's Basic Piano Library, because it was covered in the Prep Course.

I suggested that she first start them on the digital piano and make the grand or the upright if we still have it, a kind of reward for sitting right (and not kicking). This will give us time to get our minds wrapped around the best way work this all out with the pianos. Piano rich and space poor, but it is what it is.

Speaking of the upright, since the Princess has two students, my husband suggested that maybe we do not sell it, but move it to the basement. That would less distracting for them and allow us to have our living space, because as it is right now, the pianos are in the middle of our living room and the digital is in the dining room, but we had plans for it to go into the hideout room once the Princess moves her clothes and sleeps in the current guest room...and, no, we are not ready for that yet. There is no place to escape to for the rest of us so this is the new plan and I already took off our listing on Craigslist.

However, the downstairs is cluttered with homeschool stuff, my husband's work and hunting stuff, and a desk that needs to be moved upstairs to the hideout room (that needs repainted) along with bin containers filled from the Queen Mother's house. We all need a real vacation but instead we need to use vacation time to clean up all together. I will say thank you, my Lord, that closing went through yesterday so that is the last we have to worry about the house in Florida.

My Lord, so much going on. Some coming to a close and some new things cropping up. Keep us on that path You have prepared for us and help my daughter really love music more deeply than she ever has.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Princess' Grand Tale

There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.
-C.S. Lewis

Once Upon a Time...
There was a father chaperoning his daughter, the Princess, to the Fine Arts National Competition, but there were no pianos on which she could practice, so he took her to a piano merchant so she could practice on the pianos there. Afterward, the father told his wife that they absolutely needed to get the Princess a grand piano.

I have always wanted to do that for the Princess, but finances and space were factors that we had not been able to overcome. Once I talked with a woman whose homeschooled daughter won a full scholarship at Reinhardt University, a fairly nearby private college well known for its music program. She was advised by her teacher to get her daughter a grand piano, so they put a second mortgage on their house and they placed the full-size grand in their living room, which was said in a way that I was sure they did not have much living room left to live in. However, since her daughter won a full scholarship, she saw it as a worthwhile investment. I so very much wanted to do this too, but this conversation was a few years ago at at time that we were particularly strapped for money so I knew a grand piano for us just was not going to be happening for a long while. Still in the back of my mind, I hoped for this.

Then I seriously began learning about what elements that makes a good piano, because I really did not know. (I am so thankful for the Internet at times like this.) After I felt a bit more confident about what to look for as to how it should be built, I began looking for a used baby grand with a reputable name that we could afford and fit into our living room. I was more interested in American made, however the Princess' piano teacher has a Kawai upright, which does have nice warm tones and told me that Reinhardt also just bought Kawai pianos. Of course, most people will say that a Steinway is what is mostly used in competitions here.

I found an American made Mason and Hamlin baby grand on Craigslist that I felt was worth the trip to see and hear. When I called Bob Rosenfeld, I learned that he did not just have the one piano but several. He is a piano collector, of sorts, but now he has lung cancer and his wife is having serious issues with her eyes, so he is selling off his collection. He asked me a bit about my daughter's playing and said he had a piano for her, but that I probably had never heard of it.

I immediate thought "Just what we need: another piano that no one has heard of." Whenever we tell people we have an Opus II upright piano, they all say that they have never heard of that brand. Even our piano technician has never seen one, except for ours. We bought it brand new at Steinway Piano Galleries in November 2005, when the Princess was four and a half years old. We call that story the Blue Note Christmas.

However, I made an appointment at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday for us to see what he had. I also called my piano tuner/technician to see how much he would charge look it over and when he was available, which he was not that for that day. My husband's flight was delayed twice the night before so he did not walk into our door until 3:00 a.m. The Princess still had a cold and was coughing a lot. I still had some tummy trouble left over from whatever the antibiotic had done to my digestive tract after the periodontal surgery. None of us was in good shape, so I thought about cancelling, but we went and I reminded the Princess to not get close to the man because he did not need a cold while battling lung cancer.

The Long Journey to a Far Away Land
Before I even placed the address on my GPS, I had an idea where we had to go and knew it would take about an hour to get there. It was pretty much my stomping territory not far from the Princess' piano teacher. However, when I saw it flagged on the map, I knew exactly where it was. I have driven past that home many times taking the Princess to her piano lesson from the Home Learning Center and back again. It has had a "for sale by owner" sign up ever since I can remember in front of their pond and two fake black and white cows. I had never seen the house, even in the winter because it is well-hidden from the road by trees and bushes, but once we entered the driveway, I could see the all brick home shaded by lovely trees and how well the landscaping was done. The road curves there and the house is a bit close for my taste, but it is not seen because of the wall of greenery that keeps their home secluded from the rest of the world. Unfortunately, it is a very busy road that will probably be widened in a few more years, and the traffic is noisy at the front of the house.

A Wise Adviser Guides the Princess in Her Choice
As I wrote previously, the first thing Mr. Rosenfeld did was take us to a large barn behind the house that had a few stables on one side, but no animals, and a cement floor. It also had several covered pianos, at least five if I am recalling that correctly. All of them were far bigger than we would have room for. He uncovered the very first one, a nine foot, 100 year old, concert grand Steinway perfectly tuned and invited the Princess to sit saying he wanted to see her play. She was impressed that the old piano played rather well and had good key action. He was rather impressed with how her hands floated over the keys and told her he knew exactly which of his pianos would be the best for her. We covered up the old Steinway and were led back to the house.

In the garage, only because they had just had a water leak and part of the interior needed some work, was about five or six more pianos and he told us there were more in the house. These were smaller, baby grands and an upright or two. He led us straight to the Petrof.

Since he had mentioned the Petrof when we talked on the phone, I had done some research. He had been quite honest when he told me that it was well known in Europe and used in many schools there. Petrof has been made in Czechoslovakia since 1864. These pianos are well known for their warm tone and bell-like clarity particularly on the high notes. I fell in love with Petrof as soon as I heard the first video I found online of one being played, but in person...ah!

My daughter played it and my husband was already sold. A bit later I asked the Princess to play the Mason and Hamlin beside it. The Petrof looked brand new and the Mason and Hamlin looked older. The Petrof just sounded so much better: brighter, clearer, yet warm. She said she liked the Petrof the best. We were told that the Petrof's original owner was a doctor and it had only been played a few times. I asked Mr. Rosenfeld why had not played it himself and he said that his hands had been so shaky and that the cancer treatments make him weak. He did not say how long the piano had been in his possession, but he did play it a little for us.

I was concerned a bit because we did not have an third party expert opinion there, but...well, Mr. Rosenfeld seemed like a man who likes fine things, knows his pianos, and did whatever it took to keep these pianos in pristine condition, and this one actually looked brand new. My husband, being the better judge of character than I am, felt that he was trustworthy and honest about the pianos he had.

My husband is also the real haggler in the family, which did not use to be my thing, but I have since grown. Still my husband did not even start to bargain nor did I, probably because Mr. Rosenfeld kept coming down in price on his own even though he told us several times that we could sell it for more and that replacement value is around $70,000. He was not the type of person to sell a piano just to sell it. He really wanted that piano to go to someone like the Princess who would play it and he really wanted to see the Princess have that piano, which would have made me a bit suspicious usually and I thought it might be better to try other pianos to compare—although I know that usually leads to me being more indecisive—but I just felt at peace like God had led us there. In fact, when I asked my Lord in that moment, I thought I could hear angels singing as if all of heaven was saying, "Yes!" I just felt the Lord had provided and set this all up for us, for that particular piano, for that moment. And as if it was another sign that is was our piano in waiting for us, it was made in 2001, the Princess' birth year.

When he first mentioned the Petrof on the phone, I looked up his listing on Craigslist. At the time he had it listed for $12,800, which I thought would have been a fair for-sale-by-owner price for a 2001 Petrof IV, when I look for comparisons on the Internet, but he changed the listing to $10,800, which was better. He talked himself down to $8,000 with delivery and threw in some free music he had in boxes, so the Princess would have music that would be familiar to the restaurant patrons, because he really was impressed with her. I wrote out the check on the account that would not cover it until Monday and told him I would call when the money was transferred and available. We quickly picked a few pieces of sheet music, but we realized that he was tiring, so we decided it was time to go. He promised to go through the music and send more along with the piano that would most likely be delivered on Wednesday.

As we were leaving, he began telling us about five acres of property he had close to Reinhardt University with a waterfall of which he owned both sides. My husband said he would like to see it. The price was too high for us and just plain too high, but that will probably not be the final price, so...who knows? My husband is intrigued, but I was just thinking about the next step with the piano.

Searching for Fairy Magic
On Monday, I called Steinway Piano Gallery to get some background on our Opus II that no one has ever heard of, since we bought it there, because we would like to list it for sale with some info on it. I talked to someone, not sure if he was a salesman, manager or owner, but he was rather helpful and informative. He told me that business had been sold since the original owners who made Opus II their house brand with focus on solid-made entry-level affordability. However—and this gets confusing so stay with me here—"Opus" was a trademark owned by Steinway, the American piano manufacturer, which has no ties with Steinway Piano Galleries, the store, other than the store sells Steinway pianos, as well as other brands. The owner of the trademark was not using it, but still owned it. I would think the "Steinway" in the store's name would be a bigger trademark issue.

Opus pianos were only sold for a few years and then the name was changed to Cristofori, which is the name of the inventor of the piano. So, I actually have a Cristofori V430 French Cherry Console but with the Opus name. That was very helpful because even though this model is no longer made, at least I can find them on the Internet for comparative pricing.

Somehow we went from there to why I was selling it and I explained that we had bought a Petrof grand. The man said he used to sell them. Since he was willing to share his piano knowledge, I learned something about our new piano too. I knew that Petrof had come under state ownership in 1948 and that some felt the quality was not consistent until it was reprivatized between 1991 and 1998, which made me happy that we have a 2001. However, he also explained something I did not know. Petrof pianos were less expensive, some even say under priced, possibly because Czechoslovakia changed from their own currency to the Euro in May 2004. Afterward, Petrofs when up in price. The IV is a now retired model, but to replace it with the same size Petrof piano, the P 173 Breeze, which has been improved some, looks like it would cost around $69,000 to $79,000. I have even seen an original retail list price of $79,000 on a 1998 P IV that was sold used for $17,999 recently at a piano store. Regardless of what it was or what it would cost to replace it or what others are selling for, I think it was worth what we paid for it and necessary for the Princess—there is just something more special about playing a grand.

The man proceed to ask me where I had purchased the new one and I told him from a man in the Woodstock area. "Not Bob Rosenfield." I corrected him with "Rosenfeld" and asked why. Then he said he was not going to say anything on that, so then I was second guessing this purchase...and again the Lord was telling me all is well.

The Princess' Slipper
Having purchased the 2001 Petrof IV with delivery set on Wednesday, I began third guessing all of it, but when I would go to my Lord, I still felt that was our piano, actually my daughter's piano. We went to church on Sunday as everyone was feeling a bit better and that evening my husband flew out to work. I would be handling arranging the living and fitting in the very big piano into our shrinking living room.

I looked up the dimensions again. It is just a tad under 5'8" (172 cm) long and around 5' (152cm) in length. Although generally thought of as a baby grand by many, it is kind of on the cusp, and others would say it is a parlor grand or medium grand or even just a grand. I began measuring our space and moving furniture on Monday, because the next day we had errands and I did not want to try to do it all last minute on Wednesday when I did not know when the delivery would be.

There were only three places—corners of the room, really—where this would work, we had originally thought, but the measurements ruled one out immediately. Besides it would be in sunlight, but just in the earliest hour or two have the sun was over the horizon, thanks to our front porch, and we could have drawn the drapes at night. The second corner was where her Opus already was, which would have made it a bit too close to the fireplace that we do use in the winter. The upright does not have that problem as it is against the wall and not sticking out near the fireplace. So, by the process of elimination, the very best fit was in the corner near the steps going up to the dining room. The piano is would be the very first thing people will see when they walked into the door.

We moved everything over towards the eliminated corners to give the piano movers as much room as we could to maneuver, so the following picture is before we rearranged the furniture. They arrived in the afternoon and they really needed a fourth man. Because of my lovely rock tiered garden in the front and the five steps up to the porch, it was not easy to line it up on the ramp and the ramp was too steep for just three men to push up a 750 pound piano. The Princess and I both gabbed a strap and pulled with them and we got it. I must say here, though, watching a piano being moved and set up is a harrowing affair, to say the least!

I asked the piano mover, who is also the piano technician that Mr. Rosenfeld uses, how long he had known him, because Bob had told me already. Twenty years he has been tuning and moving his pianos. I then mentioned that I noticed Bob is rather particular about his pianos so he must be a rather good technician and mover. He agreed that Bob was particular. At that point, I thought that Mr. Rosenfeld has probably been trading and selling pianos for years and Steinway Piano Galleries sees him as competition.

Living Happily Ever After?
It is so amazing how that same piano looked so much smaller in those big spaces with other pianos around and now it looked huge taking about a fifth of my living room space! However, I decided I really like it where we decided to place it because divides the walkway from the front door to the dining room or to the living room and it pulls over the rest of the living room closer to the fireplace, without having to move the TV. It looks cozier but not too crowded that it is uncomfortable, at least for me. There is a bit of a problem: we also still have the Opus in the living room. So for now, my couch is angled between the two pianos so that one end is a bit behind the curved side of the Petrof and the other is in front of the Opus, not against the wall where I would prefer it and would be if the Opus was not there. However there is plenty of space to get round and, well...I like it. The grand is worth it.

It is kind of funny, really. The digital piano is often set up in our dining room, so basically all three pianos are within about ten feet of each other right now. (My Roland keyboard is still downstairs.) But the funnier thing is...well, you will have to read the next post for that one.

My Lord, thank you for this beautiful addition to our lives. My daughter plays it so well. You truly are a God of Wonders!