Sunday, February 22, 2009

When Blog Friends Meet!

A little background: A few years ago my friend Michael met a gal named Annette on the internet somewhere (he can’t remember – which is surprising!), a little while after that Annette met Russell (no idea how that went down!) and then after that sometime Russell met, and married, Amy. Somewhere along the line Susan got to know Russell, Amy, and Annette though their blogs, and about a year ago, I also got to know everyone too. Up until now we have communicated with each other and shared events of our lives through our blogs, however recently it was decided that we would all get together for a weekend in West Virginia!

The adventure began at 1:30 on Friday when Susan and Michael arrived at my house! We headed out and arrived at the cabin at 4:30 pm! I was very excited to see that the cabin was about a ¼ mile from the road to Dolly Sods that I’d discovered when I went to Canaan Valley at Christmas! Since we had about 45 mins of daylight left we decided to drive up as far as we could – if you recall the road is dirt and does not get plowed or anything and when there is snow on the ground the road becomes impassable. We were about a mile in (it’s about 10 miles from “paved road to paved road on the other side) when we encountered a Jeep Grand Cherokee coming the other direction – the driver was clearly flagging us down so I put the window down to see what he needed. They said that they were headed to Washington and that they were lost, their GPS had lead them here but they didn’t know where “here” was. I said “Washington DC?” and the man nodded – I said “WOW, you are really lost!” He didn’t find it funny! Good thing I knew exactly how to get to Washington – so I told him and he drove off. I have no idea how they got all the way through Dolly Sods! This was one of a few times this weekend that we heard about how GPS had lead people astray in WV – I guess John Denver was right when he said “Life is old here” – a paper map is the only way to go!  A few miles later I decided that the snow was too deep and it was time to go back – there was no where to turn around so I ended up making a 15 point (or more) turn to avoid the ditch and steep drop off! After we got back to the paved road we headed into Petersburg to the hoppingest Pizza Hut this side of the Mississippi!

When we returned to the cabin, Russell and Amy were there! Soon after Annette pulled in! It was so great to meet everyone and put faces with blogs! We spent the evening talking, hanging out, and getting to know each other in reality! The cabin was equipped with a hot tub and Susan and Michael and I wasted no time getting in – prompting Russell and Amy to share with us Eddie Murphy’s Celebrity Hot Tub skit from SNL in the 70s! I attempted to post the You Tube video of it, but it won’t work! Google it and watch it, it’s funny! We were up until well after midnight enjoying each other’s company!

The plan for Saturday was to travel to Helvetia, WV for their Fachnat celebration! Helevtia is a Swiss town in the heart of WV and every year on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday they celebrate Fachnat where they burn old man winter and dance the night away! We were very interested in what this was all about!

To get to Helvetia you need to drive to the middle of nowhere, turn right, and drive another hour or so! 

When I looked at the map I was skeptical that we’d make it out there – it looked like a really long way! I was interested to see how close it was to Kumbrabow – a state park where my family has been going “turkey hunting” for many years!

It took about 2 hours of driving to get there – the scenery was magnificent and it was a stunningly beautiful day! We stopped for lunch at the Bob Evans in Elkins and continued driving! The road into Helvetia was very windy and twisty and fun to drive!

We arrived at 3:30, the festivities had begun at 3:00 so we thought we’d had good timing! The town was quite small – there were three stores, 2 of which were closed!?!? There didn’t appear to be much going on. We went into the arts and crafts store and I had a nice chat with the owner – she was interested in my family history of Kumbrabow, my mom’s upbringing in Dunbar, and my Godparents connection to WV Wesleyan and the NEA (or at least she pretended to be!). We poked around the town and enjoyed some browsing in the General Store/Post Office and then it was time to hit the buffet dinner at the Hutte Restaurant. The restaurant opened at 5 pm and we were waiting outside, there was one other couple waiting with us. At the stroke of 5 the door opened a lady clad in a feather boa and Mardi Gras mask opened the door to begin seating. She asked us if we had a reservation. We did not. She himed and hawed and finally told us that we could eat, but we only had 1 hour, at 6 pm we’d have to get up and leave. We agreed and she escorted us to a secluded room way in the back. We had just gotten settled when we heard the hostess in the room next door saying “You all can sit out here with these other people who didn’t have reservations either!” and then she escorted in a retired couple from Buchannan. Their table was set up facing ours so we ended up chatting with them and making some new friends!

After dinner the town was starting to pick up! Folks were tricking in and the restaurant was hopping! There was a parade at 8:00 followed by a square dance, both of which sounded like fun, but we had 2 hours to drive back to the cabin so we headed out! It was nice to drive part of the twisty, turny, windy, 1 lane road in the daylight!

It was a neat treat to get to see the town and enjoy just being with good friends in the mountains!

When we got back to the cabin Susan, Michael, Amy and I hit the hot tub, then we snacked on popcorn and watched Robot Chicken before heading to bed early!

This morning I decided I wanted to hike up to “Top of the Rocks” so after my shower I headed out. It was very chilly and windy! I hiked up, enjoyed the view and hiked back down. It was about a 1.5 miles round trip with maybe 500 ft of elevation gain. I hadn’t brought my hiking sticks because the trail description said that it started steep and then leveled out, well, it leveled out by WV standards! I headed back to the cabin ready for the fondue that Amy and Susan were preparing for lunch! When I got back however, Russell decided that he wanted to go to the top of the rocks so we headed back out and went back up! Russell has recently lost 60 lbs (Go Russell!) and climbing this mountain was a huge victory for him! We decided to get a rock and have all of us write our names on it and Russell would leave it at the top!

When Russell and I returned, it was fondue time! The guys weren’t interested in fondue so they took off for the McDonald’s in Petersburg while we ladies enjoyed a fabulous lunch of cheese fondue – made from a recipe in a cookbook that Susan bought in Helvetia! For dessert Amy made chocolate fondue! Amy and Susan were trying to come up with “Swiss” food and fondue was all we could think of – swiss cheese and chocolate! 

After lunch Susan Michael and I headed home! It only took 2 ½ hours and we were home before dark!

It was a wonderful weekend and I can’t wait to get together with my blog friends again! I also discovered Harman’s North Fork Cabins and am making plans to return there another weekend in the near future!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Doggie Funeral

As most of you know I had to put my dog, Daisy Mae, to sleep at the beginning of December. Today I went out to Shenandoah National Park to have a proper funeral for her and lay her to rest. I have been wanting to blog about this, but I really had no idea what to say. Of course the death of the a dog is a sad occasion, however, in my case this was one of the best things that happened to me in 2008. Allow me to explain.

I have allergies. Horrible, awful, life altering allergies. About 2 years ago I underwent allergy testing and learned that my dog allergy is off the charts. My doctor strongly urged me to get rid of the dog. I adamantly refused. Daisy Mae was a "senior citizen" dog and my relationship with her was "till death do us part". When I adopted Daisy in 2004 she was 6 years old and underwent an enormous adjustment period and some severe separation anxiety. She would howl for hours on end when I went to work or if I left her with unfamiliar people. She'd bonded with me and was comfortable with our arrangement and I couldn't bear to subject her to a huge change again.

So the dog stayed, and I suffered. I followed every suggestion from the doctor regarding environmental changes to reduce allergy exposure including replacing carpeting with laminate flooring, encasing the mattress, getting an air cleaner, banishing the dog from the bed room, etc. however my allergy symptoms didn't improve much. I finally decided that what I was experiencing was likely a mild form of anaphalxis - I know when most of us hear anaphalxis we think epi-pens and 911, I did too at 1st but have since learned that there are mild forms. I considered testing the theory one evening when I feeling particularly miserable - my doctor insists that everyone carry an epi-pen in the event of a severe reaction to allergy shots so I had one here and I thought if this is anaphalxis then that would help. The problem was that using the epi-pen involved 2 things I wasn't keen on: a self inflicted intramuscular injection with a big a** needle and a trip to the ER. I decided not to test the theory. Anyway, I'm digressing. The point is that despite a ton of medication, environmental changes, and allergy shots I was still miserable and I couldn't make it better. I was sure that the dog was responsible.

And I was right! I have been dog free for three months and have never felt better! I noticed a change in how I felt within days of the dogs death. I have energy to go out and have fun, all the symptoms I was having that I couldn't explain are gone, and I'm off almost all my meds (down to just 1 from 10!)! :-) I did have one allergy attack since, but it was the 2nd night at Canaan Valley and I know the room I was staying in was infested with dust mites. It feels so amazing to feel so good!

So you can see the mixed feelings here. I want to be sad, but my life is so much improved! She was a wonderful dog and was a wonderful addition to my life! The final piece of my job as "doggie momma" was to sprinkle her ashes somewhere that she would enjoy.

The night before Daisy died I decided that I wanted to have her ashes returned to me and I was going to take them out to one of our favorite trails in Shenandoah National Park and allow her to have her final resting place somewhere she loved.

Our 1st New Years Eve together it was "unseasonably" warm (funny how nearly every winter it just gets warmer and warmer...that's another blog for another time!) and I decided that Daisy and I would go for a hike. When we got to Shenandoah though I discovered that Skyline Drive was closed because despite the warm weather it was snow covered. Daisy and I went around to the Old Rag parking area and hiked up the Nicholson Hollow trail. The trail ran parallel to the Hughes River which is a really cool mountain stream with big boulders and waterfalls. I fell in love the trail and wanted to hike it again. Daisy was also loving it! I let her off the leash and she loved sniffing and exploring.

Remembering that day I knew exactly where I wanted to sprinkle her ashes, along the banks of the Hughes River. I'd planned on doing this on New Years Eve this year - just to keep with tradition, however I decided to go to Canaan Valley and take care of myself which was a needed thing! I'd stashed Daisy's ashes in the basement, behind a box a fabric because the idea of having her remains hanging out on the hutch kinda weirded me out so I'd actually forgot all about having her funeral, until today. I was supposed to go to Susan's to help set up Baby's Jack's nursery, however she Twittered about 11:30 that she didn't really need the help and suddenly I thought, today's the day!

It was ultimately very anti-climatic. It wasn't sad or difficult like I'd thought it would be, it's didn't weird me out at all like I'd expected, it was just what needed to be done! It was a lovely afternoon and I had a nice drive out to the park. I was totally alone on the trail, which is how I like it! There were occasional snow flakes falling which made it fun! Daisy always loved the snow! I found a good spot and sprinkled "her" all over the ground (I have no idea about the legality of this, so let's keep this as our little secret! I'm pretty sure it's ok to sprinkle human remains in a NP, so I'm guessing canine are OK too. I googled it but couldn't find an answer!). I then hiked back, enjoying the chilly air and the sunshine.

Daisy Mae was a good dog. She loved food, sleeping and having her hip/backside scratched!
Good bye doggie!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Movie Reviews: Frozen River, Kung Fu Panda, The Visitor

I had a paper to write this afternoon for my Human Development class, this is one of those assignments that you do to get it done, it's BS101, so I thought that it might be a good time to rent a movie and watch it while I got the paper done. I'd been planning to go over to Blockbuster to get Juno, I'd seen it in the theater last year and LOVED it and wanted to see it again, when I got an e-mail from my friend Doug. Every year he and his wife Kristen throw an Oscar party and Doug was writing us all to tell us what Oscar nominated movies were out on DVD. Even though I'm probably not going to make it to the party next weekend since I'll be driving back from West Virginia I decided that I'd check out some of this years contenders.

When I got to Blockbuster I pulled Doug's e-mail up on my iphone and attempted to located the movies in the store. I wonder what beef Blockbuster has with the alphabet and why they can't simply put the movies in ABC order, that would make life a lot easier! From the list I found three that I thought I'd like: Frozen River, Kung Fu Panda, and The Visitor. Here they are in the order I watched them:

Frozen River: I did not enjoy this movie, it reminded me of Thelma and Louise meets Fargo - it was weird, maybe I just didn't get it.

Kung Fu Panda: This movie surprised me! I didn't think I'd like this movie. While I do enjoy animated movies, especially the Disney and Pixar movies, a Kung Fu fighting Panda just wasn't going to do it for me. I was really surprised by this movie! It was about this cute and cuddly Panda who has to find his true destiny! It's all about perseverance and finding your way even when it's hard - and realizing your true potential even when others don't see it! It has a large amount of fighting scenes but it's nothing over the top. I'm really bummed that this one is rated PG - it's a movie I would willingly show in my classroom!

The Visitor: This was an interesting movie. Wayne is a college professor who lives in Connecticut and has an apartment in NYC, he goes to NYC for a conference and discovers that there is someone living in his apartment! There are two people who are from Africa living there and making their living in the US. As the movie progresses Wayne develops a deep friendship with the couple and fights to keep them here after it's discovered that they are illegal. This is a deeply touching movie about finding friendship and healing in unexpected places! I really enjoyed this one as well and am hoping to see it win next week!

Now I'm watching Juno and cracking up!
4 movies in one afternoon/evening has got to be some kind of record for me!
Oh and the paper - only half done, about 1/4 of the way through Kung Fu Panda I was too into the movie and I got out my crocheting and the paper didn't happen!