Thursday, November 01, 2018

Fly like an eagle...

My birthday was last Wednesday, and I kept meaning to write something about that—especially after the wonderful day I had—but I seem to get derailed much more easily these days, and here it is a week and day later.

I had a lovely day. Several months ago, my dearly beloved asked me if I wanted to go to Rockbridge for lunch on my birthday. Rockbridge is rainbow trout and game ranch and is probably my favorite place to eat.
We rarely go though because he really dislikes driving there, and I don’t blame him for that. The drive takes a while. It’s 40 miles and change on a narrow two-lane road through the Ozark Hills. It is not a relaxing drive for the person who is driving. There are lots of unexpected twists and turns and hills, and turns on the hills – like the blueprint for a theme park roller coaster.

The woods are beautiful this time of year. The trout is delicious.

The river is wonderful.

But before we got there, we had an errand to run first. As we drove down the highway, just as we came even with our house, a bald eagle flew right over the car. We don’t see eagles very often, so that was a great visual gift.

Memories of birthdays tend to mush together as the years add up.  I know I couldn’t tell you what I did last year for my birthday… but I do remember very vividly the birthday I celebrated 10 years ago in Los Angeles. It was the last birthday that I celebrated with my mom.

I already wrote about it here so I won’t go over it again.

But I was looking at the pictures I took on that vacation, remembering my mom and the laughter and good time we had with the family, and the one of my dad putting together my birthday dessert really hit home. He frequently went around without a shirt, so I doubt a day went by that I didn’t see the “screaming eagle” tattoo that was so popular during WWII.
Seeing the eagle last Wednesday was a lovely reminder of him.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Another Fine Mess...

“Everyone moves with grace if they are in their proper element”
 Water Dancer by Jennifer Levin.
Well, I am not sure what my proper element is because I do not move with grace.

I am sort of a clumsy, uncoordinated person. I make messes. Some sort of clean-up will almost certainly be required after any activity in the kitchen that involves stirring, pouring, measuring, or transferring something from one container to another.

Yesterday at church I picked up a doughnut with chocolate icing. “Oh look,” said the woman next to me, “you’ve got it on your fingers and it’s on the table.” Sure enough. I did have it on my fingers and there were chocolate smears on the table. So she got the napkin and cleaned the table while I cleaned my fingers.

I mentioned to her that I was almost exactly like the wonderful character played by Joan Hackett in Support Your Local Sheriff!, who got flour all over her face in that hilarious scene where she is cooking dinner for her father and the sheriff. I burn my fingers now and then, but have never caught myself on fire. Fortunately.

This is probably going to be too much information, but bear with me here so you can grasp how awful this was. Our cat drinks a lot of water. We have had her tested for diabetes and other imbalances that might cause an animal to drink a lot of water, and everything was negative. So she also pees a lot. She is an indoor/outdoor cat, but she prefers to come inside to use the litter box.

She always pees right against the edge--sometimes over the edge, so I have to put plastic underneath the litter box--so instead of small, scattered clumps that can be sifted out with the slotted scoop, there is a thick ledge of it, usually running right across the back of the litter box, which I have to scrape off with the small shovel I used back in the day to scoop ash out of the wood-burning stove.

The last time I cleaned the litter box, which I do once a week, I bumbled this huge clump of urine-saturated cat litter. It hit my left foot (wearing house sandals), and a piece of it of it broke off and landed on the wood floor, where it left a big wet spot.

So I spent some additional time scrubbing the floor and cleaning the sandal and my foot.

We have had cats as pets for 35 of the 37 years we have lived here. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate cats. I am just tired of them. She is 18 years old. She can’t live forever, right? Well, I have been assured by two different people who know folks who have had cats that lived to 24 years. So we may have her a while longer, but I know that we will never have another pet cat.

I mean it too. Never

Saturday, October 13, 2018

So long, farewell…until next Spring

They arrive in early spring and keep us mightily entertained through the long, hot, summer days. Even before it is light enough outside for me to see them, I can hear them squeaking angrily at each other as they fight over who gets to land at the feeder and drink.

We put 4 feeders out on 3 sides of the house, all of them out of sight of the others, which is enough for each to have its own feeder, but it doesn’t work that way with them. They tend to move around the house in a group fighting furiously at each feeder. Once in a while two of them will land at the same time and each allows the other to tank up before they start the battle again.

Although 4 hummingbirds doesn’t seem like very many, it’s fine for us. In the past, my friend Judy, who lives about 5 miles out in the country, had as many as 50 or 60 of them, which meant a lot of sugar and a lot of work keeping the feeders filled.

Can you imagine what it might be like if they could do everything that they do but were much larger—say the size of Robins or Bluejays? Their spectacular aerial acrobatics would certainly become something to see. It might be dangerous to go outside. My father-in-law used to have a Chihuahua and I don’t believe I’ve ever met a nastier more unpleasant dog than that little bugger. I was always very thankful that it wasn’t the size of a German Shepherd.

It suddenly turned cold one night last week – nothing gradual about it – and the next morning all was quiet at the feeders. They have headed south and we hope they will have a safe winter along the Gulf Coast, or in the Caribbean, or Mexico, or wherever else they go.

I will leave the feeders out for another week, which are now being mobbed by yellow jackets, in case any stragglers come through. We will look forward to seeing them again in the Spring.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Lions, tigers, and dragons (?), oh my!

So I got a little carried away teaching Sunday School. We’re doing a good DVD series on prayer, and the “Bible Discovery” part of lesson took us to the end of Job, where Job has been wallowing in self-pity (and rightly so, I think) and demanding that God respond to his theological queries. When God shows up, He does not answer any of Job’s questions, but instead begins asking him questions: “Where were you…"

And I got a off topic a bit. We were supposed to be focusing on Job’s response at the end “I know you can do all things and no thought or purpose of yours can be restrained or thwarted…” . Some in the class may think I got off a little more than that and have well and truly gone off the deep end.

Keep an open mind…

Its snorting throws out flashes of light... flames stream from its mouth; sparks of fire shoot out... smoke pours from its nostrils as from a boiling pot over burning reeds... its breath sets coals ablaze, and flames dart from its mouth...

What animal comes to mind (the entire passage is Job 41)?

Fire-breathing dragon. Right?

Dragons are part of the folklore and mythology of just about every culture on earth, and I think that is because there were dragons on the earth once upon a time. Men have hunted many animals to extinction, why not dragons?

But then again, perhaps it really is just a crocodile.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Adventures in rural living

Chapter 1
Small towns appear about every 10-12 miles along the 4-lane highway that one picks up in Springfield to travel through this area of the state heading to Arkansas. The highway bypasses the towns, but there are plenty of access roads (our town has 3 exits on the highway), so none of these towns have died like what, unfortunately, happened to towns along the old U.S. Highway 66.

Some of larger towns have a Walmart. For us, the nearest Walmart is in any direction is about 25 (give or take a few) miles away, so going to Walmart is not a “quick trip” and is not convenient if we don’t have a lot of shopping to do.

Now the corporation that operates Dollar General Store came up with a brilliant idea: Put a Dollar General Store in each of the small towns along the highway. That way the residents in these small town don’t have to drive so far to go to a variety store.

But then the brilliant idea starts to dim. The corporation has some screwy ideas that can make shopping at the Dollar General incredibly frustrating. The store does not hire people to stock the shelves. The clerks who are supposed to be behind the checkout counter are required to stock the shelves during normal business hours, but they are not allowed to put a bell on the counter so customers waiting to pay for their purchases can alert the clerk. Sometimes you have to stand there at the counter and wait… and wait… and wait… for the clerk (who may be in the back of store) to realize someone is there. Another problem is that is even more frustrating is when something is gone from the shelf, it can be up to 6 weeks before the product is back on the shelf. We have experienced this numerous times.

My husband’s birthday was last Thursday, and on Friday, he asked me to stop by Dollar General on the way home from aerobics class and buy a couple of packages of thank-you notes because he needed to send some. The store has a $5 off coupon on $25 of merchandise purchased on Saturday, but you have to spend $5 at one time to get the coupon. He figured two or three packages of thank-you notes would be enough to get the $5-off coupon.

So I went to the store and looked in the logical places for the thank-you notes. The store has a rather extensive collection of inexpensive greeting cards for most occasions and that is where I buy the greeting cards I send. After wandering up and down aisles and looking on end caps and not finding any packages of thank-you notes, I finally asked the clerk.

“We don’t have any,” she says, “some of the stores have thank-notes notes but not this one. We don’t carry thank-you notes here anymore.”

I stood there a little dumbfounded. “Why?” She shrugged her shoulders. She didn’t know.

Part of the joy of small-town living. A variety store that doesn’t have what one would think is sort of a basic need for polite society. One of the pharmacies in town may have thank-you notes, so I will have to check that out. Otherwise, getting thank-you notes will have to wait until we have a lot of shopping to do at Walmart.

Chapter 2

Our computer guy used to tease Richard that he has more redundancy than NASA. I mean, the man has backups, and then backups for the backups, etc. This obsession of his has gotten us out real messes many times so I am not complaining.

So Saturday arrives and hums along -- thank-yous were tendered by e-mail and he did not shop at Dollar General and spend $25 on merchandise -- until about 5 p.m., when my dearly beloved announces, “I’m going to take my shower now.” He comes back surprisingly quickly. Right in the middle of his shower, the water just stopped. Zip. Zero. Nada. Fortunately, he had not started to wash his hair.

You get that initial panicky feeling. What? No water? You see we are not on city water. Our water comes from well and is pumped into a pressure tank in small well house behind the house.

So he heads out to the well house. He installed lights and a switch to turn them on to keep the interior warm in the winter so the pipes don’t freeze. The lights don't work. So that tells him it is an electrical problem rather than a failure of the well pump or the pressure tank.

He goes to the pole where the electrical meter is and opens the box below the meter and discovers the breaker to the well house is tripped, but the breaker appears to be broken and can't be reset. He very carefully disconnects the wires from the meter to the breaker and from the breaker to the well house, after much struggle (grinding rusted screws etc etc.), is able to get the box apart enough so he can pull the breaker from the box.

In the meantime, I have heated a 2-liter bottle of water (we have numerous bottles of water stored in case of power failures) on the stove and washed my hair.

The True Value hardware in town stays open until 7 p.m., on Saturday so he decides to go to there to see if they have the breaker he needs. He is not hopeful about this. This is a small town True Value, after all. And so he disappears down the stairs to the garage.

My heart goes out to him. He is the man. He is expected to fix these problems. I have calmed down. We were without power for 3 days once after the remnants of a hurricane came through here, so we are prepared. We have 5-gallon buckets of water to flush the toilet with, 2-liter bottles of water for cooking and dishes… we can handle this.

Maybe 10 minutes later he comes back in the house, walks over to the sink, and turns the faucet on. He just happened to remember that he has a bunch of breakers left over from years ago when he did the electrical panel in the house. Guess what? He has the right-sized breaker to go back in the box, and he was able to get that wired up again.

Sunday morning when we were eating breakfast he says, "You know, that had to be God yesterday. He was leading me. I couldn't have figured all of that out by myself..."

Yes indeed.

He leadeth me: O blessed thought!
O words with heavenly comfort fraught!
Whate'er I do, where'er I be,
still 'tis God's hand that leadeth me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Watershed moments

People who get to know me well will eventually learn that I like spiders. I do not automatically kill every spider that I find in the house. We practice capture and release, unless it is a brown recluse that has is not being reclusive and is out and about (which is very rare). He will kill them, I usually let them scurry back into hiding. I suppose I am being foolish -- I knew someone who had to eventually have plastic surgery to repair the damage from a brown recluse bite.

I like to take pictures of spiders. Rest easy, here are just a few. I won't bore you to tears.


My birthday is very close to Halloween. One year a friend, who is a good with a sewing machine, was inspired to give me a tote bag and some pot holders made from spider web material.

The local market takes 5 cents off the total when customers bring in their own bags to put the groceries in. I have quite a few bags to use for this, and today I happened to grab the spider web bag as I headed out the door. Tuesday is “banana day” at the market, and the price-per-pound drops to 39 cents.

A young woman behind me at the checkout counter noticed the bag sitting on the conveyor

and commented that it was “cute.” So I had to explain that someone had made it for me because I liked spiders quite a bit.

She said she had severe arachnophobia. Her fear of spiders began when she was 5 years old. She woke up and a spider was on her face. That “did it” for her.

My interest in spiders began when I also was about 5 years old. I was out in our yard one day and I noticed this “fuzzy looking thing” on the wooden fence at eye level. I don’t remember touching it, but I must have, because suddenly hundreds of tiny spiders came pouring out from under, spreading out in all directions. I still remember how amazed and excited I was to see that.

Some researchers believe folks are born with an innate fear of spiders and snakes and that it is a “hangover from a survival instinct that evolved in ancient times.” I dunno.  Maybe.

I know that I was never afraid of spiders or snakes, and my parents (usually it's the mom who does this) did not teach me to be afraid of them. I think it would have been interesting to to visit with this young woman more about the topic but the line was moving. I wonder if she would have gone on to grow up to be afraid of spiders if she had not had that experience. Oh well...

In any event, our very different experiences as young children – hers and mine -- were watershed moments -- they certainly affected us for the rest of our lives.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Just another odd moment in the Ozarks

On the bench there was a jumble of oddments such as are to be found in every workshop, bits of cord, wire, metal tools, some bread and cheese which the mice had been at, a leather bottle…

The Wart was familiar with the nests of Spar-hark and Gos, the crazy conglomerations of sticks and oddments which had been taken over from squirrels or crows…

The Sword in the Stone, T.H. White.

When I decided I was tired of the name I had given this blog when I first started writing it, I knew I wanted to include “Ozarks” to reflect the south central area in Missouri where we live (very close to the Arkansas border), but I wasn’t sure what else to add. My friend Judy suggested the word “Oddments.” She and her husband owned a used book store, and when they went to book fairs, they would set up a table with the sign “Oddments,” indicating “these were unusual things that caught our eye that we thought would also catch somebody’s eye and think ‘well, this looks interesting’ and buy them.”

I was familiar with the word “oddment”, which the author T.H. White seems to find quite useful in the first part of his epic, The Once and Future King,  which I confess I have tried to read several times but can’t seem to get past the first 100 pages, despite colorful characters and delightful writing, but never thought to use it myself.

At any rate, all that to say this… I had one of those “odd moments” the other morning that brought home just how appropriate the word is.

I was walking the church loop when I saw something twinkling green on the barbed wire fence separating the asphalt from the goats. Of course I had to see what that was. And what a surprising thing it was!
I did not think this Japanese beetle (and another one I saw further along the wire) accidentally impaled itself or that it decided to sacrifice itself, as did the kamikaze pilots in WWII, as a way to atone for the damage it had caused in peoples’ gardens.

Nope. This is the work of a bird—the Shrike—which impales the prey it catches on barbed wire or thorns. I have never seen a Shrike on the wing, but I did find a dead one that had crashed into our plate glass window, so I knew a little bit about the bird and its habits.

I was just surprised to learn that they also catch and impale insects.

I don’t think anyone is going to shed a tear for these dead beetles.