Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My Oddball Ancestors

I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that I come from a long line of oddballs and unconventional ancestors. Some might call them eccentric, and others might call them weird. I choose to call them inspiring, free-thinking, and dear.

Will and Matilda McNeal (my grandparents)

My grandfather McNeal was a collector. He collected paper bags, boxes, string and tin pie pans. Being a bit of a neat freak, he quite naturally kept these items in neat and orderly fashion. He kept the string in a ball. Whenever he added more string to it, he would just tie it on and roll it around the ball. Back into the kitchen drawer it went until he needed it to wrap packages or tie tin cans together for an impromptu communication device for children.
True to his sense of order, he stacked the paper bags, neatly folded, of course, according to size in a corner of an empty room next to the kitchen. I know for a fact that you can never have enough paper bags. They’re perfect for art projects, wrapping gifts, writing that scene that may have just popped into my head, and preparing a package to send off in the mail.
The pie tins were all neatly placed in a tidy stack after my grandfather washed them. Who hasn’t needed a pie tin at some time? They’re great hung from strings in the garden to keep the birds from carrying off the seeds, and handy for making Halloween masks and stars for on top of the Christmas tree as well as making all sorts of shiny ornaments. Pie tins make perfect bird feeders and bird baths, too. 

Pop on Ocean Weather

Not to be left out of the eccentric circle of relatives, my dad had a few quirks, too. Pop believed every lampshade had a secret desire to be a bulletin board. Whenever he found an interesting article in the newspaper or a picture of something he liked, he pinned it to a lampshade. He and my grandfather had the idea that books can be turned into scrapbooks. I have a couple of books with newspaper articles and magazine pictures pasted onto their pages. I never understood that one. In our large kitchen sat a breakfast nook by a window with Pop’s birdfeeder so we could watch birds there while we ate. Pop built the nook and added several shelves behind the seat on one side. This was his “office” where he kept his microscope, slides and other hobby paraphernalia.  I think I mentioned before that my dad thought the big freezer was an animal mortuary. I never knew what I would find in there. Once he put a cat in a paper bag with its tail hanging out for me to identify when I got home from school. He found the cat on the road in front of the house and thought it might be mine. It wasn’t, so he buried it. Another time, he had a huge horned owl someone hit with a car in there to keep until he could get it to the Rapture Center for study. He dug up an ant hill, bagged it, and put it in the freezer to keep until he could construct an ant farm for my oldest nephew. The ant farm turned out pretty nifty, but he didn’t get the queen, so they all ended up dying. .  My mother was so tolerant of my dad’s quirks. She never fussed at him to clean up his mess—or mine, either.

Mom with her new perm and me on my maternal grandmother's farm--a whole other strange story

And speaking of Mom, she had her own little eccentricities, too. Mom hated to iron. She would sprinkle all the clothes, roll them up tight and place them in the freezer to keep from getting mildew until she got around to ironing—which barely ever happened. We ironed as we needed something. There was seldom room for actual food in the freezer.
Of course, there’s more, but I've probably already made you gasp and shake your head. My parents and grandparents were “different”, but for all their weirdness, I feel so lucky to have had them…just the way they were.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Midwinter Blues and Exercise

This is my idea of dealing with winter.

Here we are in the middle of winter. It's that place where the light at the end of the tunnel isn't quite visible yet and all the really fun holidays are behind us. Working on either of my WIPs seems to take an act of sheer will like deciding to go out and plow a field with a spoon. Well, what'd you do to keep the blahs from taking over?

I read an article that said exercise improves your mental outlook and your physical health. My sister swears that it keeps her depression at bay. She goes to the gym like it was church and takes long walks as if it was fun. I hate her. I'm more the slug type. I like to conserve my energy. I think naps are beneficial.

In my younger days I would walk every where and thought exercise was just part of the daily routine. I don't think I really knew how age could change things. It all seemed so easy then. I remember practicing the bagpipes and losing 2-3 pounds from the effort. Those were the days, my friend.

I could probably hibernate for the entire winter laying around watching TV or reading, but my doctor seems to think exercise might help me get some wight off and give me some more strength. What do doctors know?

Well, I've been giving this whole exercise thing some thought. Along with the physical benefits, I want to see if exercise will help me through this infernal winter and improve my spirits.

Have any of you tried to use exercise to chase away the winter blues? What do you do to get your happy back? I expect a full report.