Snow Days and Jammies

Thanks to my Facebook teacher friends, I was recently introduced to some special days that occur during the winter solstice, “Jammie Days.” I had not heard of jammie days until this winter with its recurring snowstorms and school closings, so I’ve concluded there is a causal link between jammie days and what students and teachers jubilantly refer to as “snow days.”

Jammie days are not pre-planned and are celebrated in the privacy of individual homes after teachers and their children stop jumping up and down and screaming, “Yea, no school!” Protocols for jammie day celebrations vary somewhat, but are alike in that teacher-moms hang out all day in their jammies and do fun stuff with their jammie-clad children. Jammie day activities include such things as baking cookies, making donuts, decorating cakes, playing games, reading books, putting puzzles together, dancing, coloring, painting, and watching movies.

My response when I heard about jammie days was, “Say what?” In our household jammies on during the daytime would mean that: a) someone is ill or b) a burglar entered our house during the night and took all of our clothes. The former has happened, the latter not yet. It might seem that I have a hang-up about jammies, but that’s not the problem at all. What I have is a hang-up related to routine.

Of course, some might judge being tied to routine as a neurosis, and they might also believe that such neurosis is accompanied by all sorts of issues with which a psychiatrist would have a field day. Not so! In my view, it is perfectly reasonable that my early morning routine dictates being dressed for the day, having my hair done, and not leaving the dressing area until make-up has been applied.

So, because of my compulsive need to hold fast to habit, I’ll probably never have the pleasure of a non-illness related jammie day. Oh to be laid-back enough to hang out all day in my most comfy outfit!

To all you jammie day moms out there, I’d like to rename that day for you as “Gift Day,” a day celebrating God’s gift of a whole day to spend in any way you wish with your kids. Enjoy!


Water Conservation

The dream was vivid. I was attempting to style my hair with a blow dryer, but my hair, which was hanging in long, sticky strings down my back, refused to yield to the heat and round brush. The long hair definitely says dream because when my hair reaches the nape of my neck it’s time for a haircut.

I blame this dream, or maybe it qualifies as a nightmare, on our condo association’s newly formed Water Committee. Water is at a premium in Colorado and, as the population grows, finding new sources of water is an ongoing issue. However, that is not the kind of issue with which our committee deals. The mandate for our water committee is to come up with ideas and tips for saving water here in our little corner of the world.

I recognize the importance of this committee and applaud them for their research efforts and the seriousness with which they perform their duties. A few weeks ago the committee started researching ways to conserve water and invited residents to submit suggestions. Then they met and adopted some of the ideas. Subsequently they published water conserving “hints” in the Villa newsletter. Most were good tips:
• Having more xeroscaping in the commons areas
• Installation of water meters in each phase of the complex to monitor water use
• Using two hands to brush teeth (one to hold the brush and the other to turn off the water during brushing)
• Taking baths in ½ tub of water in place of showering
• Taking short showers, three minutes or less

Since reading the suggestions in the newsletter, some of the showers taken in our household have been timed. Do you know how long a three minute shower lasts? Three minutes! But the second suggestion was probably the reason for my dream. In my dream the installation of water meters in each phase of the community apparently got mixed up in my mind with the installation of an automatic shut-off valve on my showerhead. It was this valve that terminated my shower just as conditioner was applied to my hair. A source close to committee business laughed at my dream and assures me that there will be no takeover of my privacy.

I have been told that one suggestion did not make it through committee. Reasoning that our showers could do double duty and, thus, save some water, one concerned citizen suggested showering with a friend. Hmmm . . . We often have friends over for coffee and dessert, but how many friends do I have who might like to come over for a shower?

Maybe I’ll just stick to attempting to beat the clock! Meanwhile I should probably consider getting the door lock changed, just as insurance that no one installs an automatic shut-off valve in my shower.

Clipart: National Association Conservation Districts


Accidental Photographer

Trips, events, and family gatherings find me, camera in hand, snapping away. Anything or anybody within lens range is a target for becoming the next set of pixels.

I don’t know much about photography. In fact what I do know would fit into a thimble and there would still be room to shake it around. When I look through the little screen-thingy, I give no thought to details such as composition, framing, lighting, and depth of field. To my credit, though, I do try to focus. Sometimes that even works for me! So, what others call me is a picture-taker; a lowly, untrained person who owns a camera and gets under the skin of real photographer-types.

Since photography (oops, picture taking) is so important in my life, my little Cannon PowerShot, and sufficient memory to support my habit for ten days, accompanied me on my trip to Europe. It was during this trip that I took my first incredible picture. This, of course, is my opinion, but I do have fairly good eyesight.

I remember that this high point in my picture-taking career occurred on a beautiful, sunny afternoon in London. The Palace of Westminster was posing for me across the Thames, and, on the fourth or fifth shot I took of that magnificent structure, I mastered photography with one push of a button. I knew instantly that I had taken a picture that met all of the requirements for being classified as great photography.

Of course, as I’ve been reminded often during my lifetime, for every positive, self-esteem-building thought, there is a negative, devaluing opinion. Not quite Newtonian, but, as did Newton, I’ve learned a few things from observation. So what was the reaction to my bragged-about photo? I quote, “You’re an accidental photographer.” This translates, “It was strictly by chance that you took what, without in-depth evaluation, appears to be good picture.” So, since it is well-known that chance is related to the density of occurrence, taking thousands of pictures would seem to be a good career-building activity for me.

At any rate, so much for thinking that I morphed into a photographer without taking a single class, serving an apprenticeship, or owning a $7,000 camera. Despite being shocked back to reality, this picture-taker has one photo that is framed and displayed in her home.


Church Owned Dwellings

My dad was a minister and I grew up living in parsonages. Parsonage is “church-speak” for a church-owned dwelling in which a minister resides. Such dwellings are considered by governing boards of churches to be a portion of ministers’ compensation packages (aka salary). Based on individual schemas for all things church, these dwellings are also known as rectories, manses, vicarages, and presbyteries.

As stated in a previous blog, Hubby is a minister. So, I went from parsonage living to apartment living in a college town, to parsonage living. This was after swearing that I would never marry a minister or be required to ever again live in a parsonage. So much for swearing!

Living in church housing can be any or all of the following: amusing, annoying, frustrating, funny, hilarious, comical, peculiar, or weird. I actually think the description of this strange housing arrangement can be handily summed up in one word, “atypical.” More fortunate ministers are eventually in an assignment where the church doesn’t own a home and the choice of an abode is the minister’s. By good fortune that happened to Hubby.

I have a whole collection of strange parsonage-related incidents stored in my memory, but, for this time, I’ll share just one.

Fresh out of college and with a diploma that attested to his preparation for ministry, Hubby accepted a little country church. A small white house across the lot from the church served as the parsonage.

When we arrived in the country, I found that there were no neighbors close enough to give a yell; that the kitchen cupboards were painted flamingo pink; that crayon drawings covered all of the upstairs walls; that there were see-through floors (aka cracks through which the basement home of rodent-type critters could be viewed); and that my view from the kitchen window was of cows grazing only feet from the back door.

I was twenty-one, had a little one still in diapers, and was expecting another. So, one bedroom on the main level became ours, the other a nursery. Thankfully, we were not there long enough to deal with the whole house, but my Dad did arrive with a gallon of white paint one day to “redecorate” the kitchen cabinets. Goodbye, nausea producing pink!

To say that this city girl was petrified out there in the country is not an exaggeration of fact. Even with reassurances that more crime occurs in the city than in the country, I moved about my dwelling in a perpetual state of fear. Doors locked at all times. The going down of the sun was synchronized with the going down of the window shades. While I hung laundry on the clothesline, my little daughter was in her stroller only feet away from me. As I moved down the line, I moved the stroller so she would be within reach in case the boogeyman arrived. If someone knocked on the door after dark and Hubby was away, the door remained unanswered.

One terrifying memory from our short stay in that parsonage occurred on a dark night during the winter. Our second daughter had arrived and both girls were in the nursery. In the middle of the night I was awakened by a knocking sound coming from the direction of their room. Jumping out of bed while screaming at Hubby that someone was trying to break into the house, I ran the few steps across the hallway and into the nursery. Hubby groggily peeled his body from the warm bed and followed.

Arriving in the nursery, I switched on the light and saw something I don’t expect to ever see again – a walnut suspended about half an inch above the largest crack between the floorboards. As I stepped closer to the flying walnut, it began to jump up and down, the quick movements making a knocking sound against the boards. Brave Hubby, inspecting this phenomenon more closely, discovered that the jaws of a tiny little rodent were firmly clamped around the bottom of the walnut shell as a determined little critter tried to move the walnut from our level to his abode below.

I can laugh now!

Anyone who knows me and my relationship with parsonages will not be surprised to learn that the novel I wrote is about a young minister’s wife and that she lives in a parsonage. Do my experiences enter the story? Well, I’ll have to admit that shades of my past experiences do appear here and there, and that incidents involving how church people interact with the minister’s family and with each other appear on occasion.

FYI: My novel is scheduled for release in August.

Clipart from OCAL


Are You Still Breathing?

Hubby is a guy who has rarely been ill during his lifetime, so when I found him in bed unresponsive, panic mode resulted. That would be for me, not for him. After shaking him and demanding that he speak to me, the next voice I heard was on the other end of the phone line. The voice was saying, “Please be calm and answer my questions.”

Be calm? What kind of person responds to a distress call with that reply? I’ve decided this patient voice on the other end of the line was probably a recording, since nothing I said seemed to be processed and the voice continued on with a series of instructions and questions. My answers went something like this: “Yes, he’s still breathing.” - “That’s the correct address.” - “I need to put the phone down to unlock the door.” - “The door’s unlocked.” - “I’m still on the line.” - “No, his eyes are still rolled up.” - “I hear the siren now.”

Much of what happened throughout that long night is blurred in my memory, but I do remember some significant things:

•I can still picture the big boots of the firemen as, lugging bags of equipment, they entered our bedroom. (It may be that I remember the boots because new off-white carpet had just been installed in our home.) I remember the kindness in the voices of those strong rescue workers, the reassurance they offered as they sprang quickly into action (taking blood pressure and pulse, administering oxygen, inserting an IV needle, doing an EKG, calling medical personnel), I remember listening carefully to the detailed briefing they gave to the paramedics who arrived a few minutes later, and I remember vividly the very in-charge young fireman who wouldn’t let me go to my car until a neighbor volunteered to drive me to the hospital - no doubt because he thought me now to be crazy.

• I still remember how confident I felt when the crew of paramedics took over communication with the emergency room, rechecked vitals, arranged for transportation, and how reassured I felt that Hubby was in very capable hands as they carried him out the door and down the steps.

• I remember the care in the emergency room, the all night vigil, and wondering how things might have turned out were it not for the miracles of modern medicine.

Now one defibrillator and biventricular pacemaker, countless low-sodium dishes, and many prayers later, Hubby is enjoying good health again. Even knowing that his cardiologist gives good reports on every visit, I do have to admit that when I awaken during the night and can’t hear Hubby breathing, I reach over and touch him just hard enough to make him move. In that touch is my question, “Are you still breathing?”


My postscript for this entry has to do with low-sodium cooking. It took lots of experimenting to come up with tasty meals without the excessive sodium we were used to tasting in everything. I’m including one here, a vegetable soup recipe, for anyone interested in or needing to cook without salt.

Low-Sodium Vegetable Soup
Recipe by Verla Powers - Makes 10 servings (approximately 91 mg sodium per 1 1/3 cup serving)

1½ lb stewing beef 480 mg
2 medium onions, chopped 6.6 mg
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped 2.04 mg
1½ tbs extra virgin olive oil 0 mg
6 large carrots (peeled and sliced) 151.2 mg
5 medium potatoes (peeled and cubed) 50 mg
2 medium potatoes (peeled/cooked/mashed) 20 mg
14.5-oz “no salt added” diced, stewed tomatoes 70 mg
8 oz “no salt added” tomato sauce 126 mg
½ tsp black pepper .25 mg
¼ tsp red pepper 1.75 mg
¼ tsp tarragon .25 mg
¼ tsp celery seeds 1.00 mg
1½ tbs sugar 0 mg
2 bay leaves 3 mg

• Cook stew-meat in no sodium water until tender. Remove meat to chopping board (save broth) and cut into small pieces. Put chopped meat into 6 quart crock pot.
• Heat 1½ tbs extra virgin olive oil in a skillet. Add chopped onions and finely chopped garlic. Sauté until tender. Add sugar and continue to cook while stirring until onions are caramelized. Add crock pot.
• Peel and slice carrots. Add to crock pot.
• Peel and cube (5) potatoes. Add to crock pot.
• Peel, cook and mash (2) potatoes - cover and refrigerate
• Puree stewed tomatoes, then add: tomato sauce, red pepper, ground tarragon, celery seeds, and black pepper. Stir well and pour into crock pot.
• Add broth saved from stew meat and stir well.
• Add enough no sodium water until liquid is 1 inch over the top of vegetables.
• Stick bay leaves down into the mixture on each side of the crock pot.
• Cover and cook according to crock pot directions.
• When vegetables are tender, remove bay leaves, add 1 cup water and mashed potatoes. Stir well. Turn cooker to low heat. Cover and continue cooking until the broth is hot.
Serve with no salt top crackers.

(I freeze the soup in two-serving portions.)


Naming Blogs

Who knew it could be so difficult to name a blog? Well, not me!

When I decided to start a blog, I had no idea that selecting a blog name would present a gargantuan challenge. While I’m sure that others more educated in the ways of technology than I know all about the basic rules for naming one’s blog, I did not realize those rules existed. Nor was I aware that there are blog naming tools on the internet that will generate names for the less creative who, despite their ignorance, decide to enter the world of blogging.

Because I’m me, and usually like to do things independently, I disregarded all suggestions I found on the internet and created my own list of potential blog names. There were twenty-nine. Then I carefully analyzed my twenty-nine possibilities. This process caused me to eliminate most.
• Not “me”? Gone!
• Antiquated? Gone! (Who writes a blog with pen and ink?)
• Perhaps unwanted connotations? Gone!
• Not creative enough? Gone!

When I finished with my analysis, there were five names left. So I went to the internet and “Googled” each of the five names. To my surprise I discovered that I’m not at all creative. All five of the remaining possibilities had been previously chosen by others as names for blogs, Ezines, or online newsletters. With the five finalists now eliminated, I still had no name for my blog.

So what do I do when I have a problem but no answers? I turn to family, of course!

“Very Verla” was the immediate response I got from my sister-in-law, JoAnn. Her reasoning? Alliteration captures attention and, put together, the two words signal that the blog is “me.” I liked the reasoning, even though I don’t care a lot for my unusual first name and would not have thought to use it as a part of my blog name.

My name is not a family name. In fact, I’m the only one in the family who was stuck with has the name, Verla. Going back several generations, one finds lovely ladies names in my family: Sarah, Anna, Jane, Mary, Angeline, Elizabeth, Katherine, Martha, Lauretta, Judith, Suzanne, Adeline, Amanda. But Mom and Dad were creative. No old family names for them! So, somewhere, and without even having the internet, they found the name, Verla. It became mine.

So, thanks to the newest “sis” in our family for the name of my blog. (I added “joie de vivre” to reflect the tone of the writing.)

JoAnn in Colorado - October 2010


Super Bowl Party

This morning when the sun peeked through the slats of the window-blinds in my bedroom, I groaned. Why was I so tired? I need not have asked that question since I already knew the answer. The culprit was the Super Bowl. Well, maybe more accurately, the ones who conceived the idea of making that event into a party.

Super Bowl games have never been a priority in my life. Actually, I have never watched a Super Bowl game. That means I missed the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” and I don’t know which companies have millions of dollars to spend on thirty-second ads. So, unless a high school family member is out there on the field and I’m sitting in the bleachers holding my breath and praying he doesn’t get hurt, football games just aren’t a part of my life.

My dislike of football may account for the fact that, in the past, I have not received invitations to Super Bowl Parties. It makes me feel much better about myself to believe this rather than to think my presence isn’t desired. So, this year when I was invited to my very first ever Super Bowl Party, I was ecstatic. Well, at least to share the evening with friends.

Etiquette and expectations for a football party were a mystery to me. However, I did find Super Bowl Party etiquette guidelines on the internet. The main guideline, I discovered, was to “be cheerful and pleasant at all times.” Check! I could do that.

I’m sure I must have felt like a high school freshman headed off to a first homecoming dance as I set out with Hubby to our mountain destination. We accepted a ride with friends who have radial studded snow tires on their car and our rapid trip up the mountain gave us an education concerning the importance of investing in these tires. About an inch of snow was on our condo drive when we left home. Arriving at our party destination, we found snow piled high. During our ascent through steady snowfall, the super-tires probably shaved fifteen minutes off of our trip time.

We arrived at the beautiful and food-filled home of our friends, where, as soon as the “talking heads” of football dominated the screen, the party divided into two camps – the Super Bowl camp and the game camp (aka Scrabble and card players).

The game people, being closer to the food, consumed enough snacks to constitute a meal. That was before pizza, salad, and homemade pie were served. The smorgasbord of snacks included several varieties of chips, crackers, a veggie platter, a fruit platter, stuffed jalapeños, deviled eggs, and homemade toffee and truffles. There were “personalized” dips for every kind of chip, cracker, and platter. I had no idea that the various varieties of chips require their own dips.

Right in the middle of the card game, when I was just getting the rules in place and might have actually been the winner of that round, whoops of victory for some team caused our game to come to an abrupt end. And, even though I was not supporting a team, I was happy that the team with the pretty green and gold uniforms won.

So now I’ve come full circle regarding why my morning was not greeted with a smile. It is because at 2:00 a.m. sleep was still a hope for me. Maybe at my next Super Bowl Party I should watch the game and not sit at the table next to the snack buffet. Or not!

Oh yes, did I mention that the stuffed jalapeños peppers were scrumptious?


Caution, Charlie May Cause Swearing

CHARLIE  (Photo by Merrill Powers)

Charlie is a resident in our condo complex. While he came to the complex without a name, he became affectionately known as Charlie after he adopted my neighbor as his best friend (BF) and said neighbor named him, Charlie. Most people think that a dog is man’s BF, but Charlie has set out to disprove this and show everyone in our community that a deer is actually man’s BF.

Probably my neighbor’s gardening talent is the reason this beautiful buck made his choice concerning who he wants as a pal.  While most of us are content with the minimal and not very colorful landscaping provided by the association, our neighbor has a big commons area around his condo, and that space has become his private flower garden.

My neighbor is a great guy, but Charlie’s choice to make him his BF is probably less a rebuff of the rest of us than it is an attraction to the beautiful flowers growing all over the commons area surrounding his condo.  You see, Charlie thinks the best snacks in the world are geraniums and other colorful flowers. 

My neighbor is quite patient.  Anyone who observes him putting up his Christmas decorations and tending his flowers knows that.  Neighbors often go over to visit with him while he is working, and we all get the same broad smile and welcome.  But following the first round of geranium consumption, Charlie needs to stay his distance. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to get that, and this is the root of the problem.

A summer day scenario in my neighbor’s yard might be played out as follows:

Neighbor is planting and tending flowers and shrubs.

Charlie walks up behind neighbor and stops. 

Neighbor looks up and commands, “Charlie, get out of here!”

Charlie turns and retreats a short distance, probably five feet. 

Neighbor turns and continues to care for the plants.

Charlie again sneaks quietly up behind neighbor. 

I’m not sure how many times I saw this scenario replayed before I learned that we must avoid Charlie at all costs.  He really might cause swearing!

Clip Art: arthursclipart.org & Dan’s Free Clip Art Library