Monday, September 21, 2015

The Sting!

No, I’m not talking about the delightful 1973 movie with the complicated plot in which Robert Redford and Paul Newman set out to con (sting) Robert Shaw (the bad guy). No indeed

In this feature, The Crazy Dog Lady (me) and the Mollywog (the dog)

 go out walking on a Saturday afternoon and blunder into a swarm of yellow jackets (the bad guys).

About halfway through the mile walk, there is an abandoned house. The house has sort of a converted carport at the side, with a ceiling fan and a wooden porch swing on two chains anchored to the beams. The old woman who lived in the house before she died sat out under the fan in the afternoons and watched the world go by while she crocheted – she made afghans and those very handy towels with the crochet tops that you can attach to a stove or refrigerator handle, and all sorts of other things. I exchanged “waves” with her many times as I walked by. As the holidays approached she would have a yard sale and I usually bought some of her crocheted items for presents. I know there is an extended family with adult children, and one of them lived in the house briefly, but it has sat empty for several years now.

Often when I am walking the dog, I will stop and sit on the swing for a few minutes to rest if my back has started to hurt and to catch my breath – there is a very steep hill just before the house. I sit and swing for a bit, and the dog sniffs around the stuff that has been left there. I realize I have no business going onto the property and sitting on the swing, and I was punished for my indiscretion.

This time there was swarm of yellow jackets near the swing, low to the ground, that I did not see. Molly walked right in the middle of them. She got stung at least once on the leg—probably twice—and shot off like a rocket, and I, not able to move quite as fast, got stung 3 times: once on each hand, and then, thrill of thrills, one of them flew down the sleeve of my t-shirt and got me near the armpit.

I tried putting meat tenderizer on the stings when I got back to the house, but I guess my meat tenderizer is too old or is missing ingredient that is supposed to help neutralize the toxin in the sting. It stopped hurting after a while. I felt very sorry for poor Molly. She curled up in her bed and acted very depressed, and didn’t move – not even to eat – until I took her out at 9:30 for her evening squirt.

Within a day or so after that, I discovered we have two nests of a nest of these unpleasant insects on either side of the front door – one nest is in a gap between the old foundation of the house and the concrete blocks of the new addition Richard built, and the other is about 5 feet from our front door, in between the wood border of a flower bed. A steady stream of them go in and out of this small hole all day long.

I understand that yellow jackets here do not survive the winter because it is too cold, but I am not sure I want to wait around for the cold to kill them. We are investigating how to get rid of them safely. Once upon a time we found a nest of them farther away from the house in an abandoned chipmunk burrow, and we poured kerosene down the hole at night and lit it on fire. We can’t do that with either of these nests.

With two nests this close to the house, it seems inevitable that we will get stung again.

And I am not interested in a sequel of this adventure.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Fitting in

I saw a gaggle of 16 girls at the park training for softball the other day. It brought back memories of the women’s softball team in Orange, where we lived in the mid-70s. They were called the Lionettes, and they were very exciting to watch, and they were very good – they were the runner-up team in several world championship games.

But back to here and now, the young women jogged around the baseline. They lined up opposite each other and tossed grapefruit-sized fluorescent green balls back and forth. One girl was pitching to another girl, underhand. She was very fast. The ball zipped along only a few feet from the ground, smacking hard in the glove of the catcher. They were lovely to watch.

They were dressed in different sorts of athletic clothes, but they all had hair long enough to wear in a ponytail. Not one girl had short hair. Brought back memories of how important it was during the years I was high school, in the mid-1960s, to fit in.

There were about 556 graduating seniors in the summer class of 1967, so there was quite a bit more variety in the different types of hairstyles that the girls wore than

there is in the small high school here, which has a total student body of 363 students.

Much has changed and much has stayed exactly the same.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Following the rules

My dearly beloved husband had an outpatient operation yesterday to repair the umbilical hernia that he has had for a very long time. It had always bulged out some and it would go back in when he pushed on it. One morning about a month ago, when it bulged out and he pushed on it, it did not go back in right away. That scared him, and so he decided he had better get the thing repaired.

Finally. Hernias like that can be very dangerous if the intestine gets caught in it. so I was very pleased he was moving ahead with this.

He scheduled an appointment with a woman surgeon who turns out to be a really interesting person (she is also an Episcopal minister), and who told him that if that happened again, he should lay on his back, put ice on it, and think happy thoughts.

The surgery went well. After he woke up, we moved to a room on the patient floor. We were told he had three goals to meet before he could leave the hospital: he had to be able to walk, he had to be able to pee, and he had to be able to drink liquids without vomiting.

After he was settled in the room I went to the cafeteria to get something to eat and when I was finding my way back to the room, I happened to meet a woman in the hall (a friend of a friend), whose husband died about 2 months ago. I told her to come back to the room. She talked and talked and talked about her husband and his death. Having had the experience of not being able to get people to engage when we tried to talk about our son’s death, we were happy to listen to her and encourage her to talk some more. Richard has this knack for continuing to ask questions to keep people talking and that's what he did to her. She tried to leave the room several times but he would ask yet another question and so she kept talking. I think it was good for her to do that.

He managed to walk, pee, and not vomit so we were able to leave the hospital. The doctor’s orders for his discharge were very extensive. He is not supposed to do the dishes, the laundry (or even lift heavy clothes), cook, shop for groceries, take the trash out, lift anything heavier than about 6 pounds, or drive, among other things.

The nurse who took care of him told him a cautionary tale about her husband who did not listen or follow the instructions after his umbilical hernia was repaired and he tore it open and is in terrible pain, and he can’t get it fixed because he can’t afford to be off work for another 6 weeks.

I suspect Richard will mostly behave himself, except this afternoon, I caught him at the counter chopping lettuce for his salad.

??? I said

“It doesn’t say anything about chopping lettuce,” he says. “What that about is they don’t want me lifting heavy pans (like your cast iron skillet).” He may be on a slippery slope here, and I may have to remind him of the rules.

In the meantime, I will have to be the housewife again for a while. He is a much better househusband than I am a housewife, and he is a bit obsessive about the right way to do certain things (like stacking the dishes in the drainer), so I expect he will be a little crazed by the time the restrictions are lifted.

This morning we struggled with the wide elastic binder that they put around him at the hospital. He had to take it off and put on again over his t-shirt because it was irritating his bare skin and he couldn’t seem to get it to back on the way it was. and me trying to help him wasn’t working too well. He has been wearing it all day like he is supposed to, but it is not quite right. I found some instructions on the Internet, so we will have to try again tomorrow to get it on the right way.

Friday, July 31, 2015

No tears were shed

We are gathered here today to celebrate the death of one of the Neotama floridana clan, who was feeling lucky, but instead, it was our lucky day. In the past week, she chewed a hole in an electric blanket that we had stored in plastic tub, most likely to line a nest she was preparing for her most recent litter, shredded some tax records, also stored in a tub, and chewed through our telephone line twice in three days. There was great rejoicing in the camp at her demise.

I suppose it is not fair to blame all of these events on this particular pack rat, because we have killed two others in as many days -- after about 2 weeks of setting traps -- both the old-fashioned spring variety and a live trap. 

We have since spotted a fourth rat in the basement...
and Molly informed us there is a rat lurking in the engine block of my car, which is temporarily disabled due to a transmission problem but will become permanently disabled if the rat is not caught before it destroys the wiring, hoses, connections, etc.

This seems to be a particularly bad year for them. Peacefully coexisting with these animals is not possible. Their predilection for chewing through electrical wiring makes them very dangerous. Trapping them live and then releasing them is not an option. One man who made a study of this discovered they must be moved at least 5 miles away or they will find their way back.

So it is war: us against them. I would like to think that we will ultimately win, but I’m not so sure.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Luxuriating in the dust

In her book A Window Over the Sink Peg Bracken writes of when she first looked through the window she had installed in her kitchen…
I was astonished at the way my mind took off in seven-league boots . . . . I was traveling eastward ho, across the ocean, past the Rockies and the small Idaho town where I was born, to the small Missouri town where I grew up, and to some other places where I may have grown up some more, though I'm not entirely sure about that
I sometimes wool-gather when I look through my kitchen window, but usually there are enough interesting things going on in the front yard to keep my attention firmly in the present...

A chipmunk full of nervous energy searches for sunflower seeds caught in the cracks of the wooden platform I feed birds on.

A turtle makes its way across the driveway, moving surprisingly fast for an animal that has a reputation for moving slowly.

Rabbits have created a dust bath in a sandy spot on the driveway. Two rabbits meet face to face near the public bath and creep cautiously toward each other. 

They touch noses and one sort of leaps away and they chase each other down the driveway.

A Brown Thrasher lands on the driveway and scurries over to the dust wallow and, as its name implies, begins to thrash around in the dusty place.

It behaves exactly like the birds that take a bath in the water I have provided in the birdbath a few feet away on the grass. It flaps its wings and spreads its tail and splashes in the fine dust. It lays down writhing and flinging the sand around with its beak, attempting to get the particles into its feathers.

The bird acts like it is in ecstasy.

It gets up, shakes itself, and runs across the driveway into the brush, and then a half-a-minute later it comes running back and does it again, and then finally flies off.

We’re often shown scenes in movies of beautiful women preparing to luxuriate in the perfect bath. They light candles, pour fragrant oil or bubble bath tub as it fills, and then lay back in the steaming water. I have to say that bird was enjoying its bath every bit as much, without all the extras.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The benefits of careful pruning

The tulip poplar we donated in our son’s memory was planted in the park in March 2012.

It was less than 3 feet tall and was basically a bare stick.

Within a week, another tulip poplar was planted next to our tree. It was the same size and also a bare stick. Both trees soon begin to put out leaves. Our tree had a small setback when the tip got broken shortly after it was planted, but it recovered nicely.

We watered both trees that summer, the next summer, and the summer after that to make sure they would survive through July and August, when is very hot and little rain normally falls.

In 2013, our tree was very healthy and growing well.
So was the tree next to it, and they were about the same size.

And then I began to carefully prune our tree. Richard did not want me to, but I explained that it really was OK, that I wasn’t going to do a hack job on it, and that the tree would benefit from it. As we walked around the park one day before he finally agreed, I pointed out that none of the big trees in the park have limbs below about 5 feet. Eventually, all of the lower limbs on the small trees would be cut off anyway, so there was no point in the tree putting its energy into these lower limbs.

Don’t worry, I said, the tree will be fine.

The family that donated the tree next to ours has not done anything to their tree since it was planted. Both trees are healthy and are growing well, but now, 2 years after I began pruning our tree...
 the difference in the two trees (ours is on the right) is quite obvious.

It’s hard not to miss the object lesson -- sometimes we need to prune things out of our life that can stunt our growth or divert our energy away from things that are more important. Taking secateurs to a thumb-sized tree limb is one thing, and applying them to our own lives is quite another. And not always very easy. Jesus certainly talked about the importance of pruning when He compared the need to prune grape vines so they bear better fruit with the pruning God does in us so that we produce better fruit in our own lives.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Learning Some Life Lessons: Have I Finally Got It?

As long as we are alive, life presents us with opportunities to learn life lessons. Sometimes these are huge and come at a great personal and emotional cost, and times they are rather inconsequential in the whole scheme of things, but just like the little foxes that ruin the grapes, even an in inconsequential event can have a big effect on how we feel about ourselves.

I have had some experiences recently of the more inconsequential variety that have taught me a couple of lessons:

Three times a week I eat for breakfast, along with the homemade yogurt I regularly eat, a serving of frozen mixed fruit with berries (raspberries, blackberries, and sometimes blueberries) that has been thawed. The thawed berries produce quite a bit of juice at the bottom of the bowl.

Twice last month I went to town to pick up the mail after eating my breakfast and came home to find that I had dribbled purple berry juice on my chin. Both times I met people at the post office and visited with them, so they had plenty of opportunity to observe that my face was dirty.

After the second embarrassing episode I learned life lesson 1:

Always check my face after I eat the fruit and before I leave the house. Always. No exceptions

And I have done so, and that hasn’t happened again.

On Saturday we had chopped spinach as one of the vegetables for our evening meal. I play the piano for a contemporary service at a local church, and so about 45 minutes after we finished eating, I changed my clothes, went into the bathroom, looked at my face in the mirror, and combed my hair, and left.

When I got home, my dearly beloved greeted me as I walked in and said something funny that made me smile, and then he started laughing and wanted to know did I realize I had spinach in my teeth? Had I done much smiling or laughing at the meeting?

No I didn’t know…. and yes I did. Of course I did—well, perhaps not laughing but certainly talking and smiling.

And then we had an interesting discussion about how people will not tell you when something like that is wrong.

To say I felt embarrassed about the spinach in my teeth doesn’t quite cover it. 

So life lesson 2:

Always brush my teeth before I leave the house. Always. No exceptions.

Today it was once again a day for a frozen fruit with berries for breakfast This morning before I left the house I did not forget to inspect my face in the mirror (it was clean), and I remembered to brush my teeth, and when I did, I observed blackberry seeds stuck in my front teeth.


To quote Professor Henry Higgins: By George, she's got it! By George she's got it!