Saturday, May 19, 2018

“Well, it’s been real nice havin’ ya”

When one of my brothers and his wife had family over for celebrations, and he needed to bring the party to an end, he’d say something like

“Well, it’s been real nice havin’ ya.”

This was the signal for everybody wind it up and go home.

Naturally, it became a funny thing that we say to each other on occasion in various situations.

We arrived here in May 37 years ago, and in that time we have seen Baltimore orioles a few times in the yard. I bought an oriole nectar feeder years ago, and I can remember putting out orange slices for them. The oriole feeder eventually deteriorated and broke, and we hadn’t seen an oriole for several years, and I never bothered to get another one.

So, I was over the moon about 3 weeks ago when one showed up at the suet feeder, and then there was another… and another…. and another. We were eventually able to count 7 males and 2 females, and there were probably more than that.

I had the base of the old oriole feeder, so I had my dearly beloved enlarge every other hole on two hummingbird feeders to match the size of the hole on the oriole feeder. My friend told me they liked grape jelly, so we bought 4 jars of grape jelly and I put that out on small saucers in two places in the yard.

It was a mob scene. And not just at our house. The four couples at church who feed birds and have hummingbird feeders also had an unusual number of them. I noticed a bunch of them on the hummingbird feeders at the house by the park where I walk. It was like this whole area was a truck stop for these beautiful travelers heading north.

I had already decided once they got through the 4 jars of jelly that was it, and I was not putting out any more suet either.

And then by midweek last week they all left. The man who lives by the park said they left on Tuesday (I guess he was counting the days too). It was real nice having them, but I was happy to see them go.

Except it would have been nice if one pair had stayed and raised a family.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

You're asking me?

My friend calls and wants some fashion device.

Judy is going to a Big Band concert/dance at which family members will be playing, and she isn’t certain about what to wear. This would not be a problem if the event were held locally. People here generally do not dress up and basically wear what they want. I went to a wedding once where the bride’s grandfather arrived in a Dickey work shirt and pants. I have been to funerals where mourners came in bib overalls.

This is not local though, this is in St. Louis. St. Louis is the "big city." I have never been to an event like this in St. Louis to see what everyone else is wearing. I don't know if they have adopted the "California casual" attitude that is common back home, or if they are more upscale and elegant. But I imagine what might be okay in our little rural town might not blend in well with the crowd there.

I burst into laughter—not because she needs some help—but because I do not think I am the best person to be asking about this sort of thing. I clean up fairly well, but I don't have a very well-honed sense of fashion or style and have always “depended on the kindness of strang…” uhh, I mean my sister, to find appropriate clothes for me to wear to dress-up events. It is a shame Judy can’t call my sister and ask her.

But, she is my best friend. so I give it a shot. Judy describes a few things she is thinking about wearing, and they sound quite nice, and I agree that those will almost certainly be perfectly fine.

I laugh some more, and we hang up.

Just about then Richard comes in to tell me he is going to town, and I describe the conversation, and he laughs too.

Then says “You do realize that your shirt is inside out.”

Well no, I didn’t, unfortunately. I had gone to town that way earlier in the morning to run errands, and I was on display at the park, where I walked twice around the perimeter with another woman, at the bank, the grocery store, and the post office.

Did anybody notice? Probably not. But still…

Monday, March 05, 2018

Let the Adventure Begin...Again

“I found my missing compression stocking!”

I had an extensive blood clot in my leg several years ago that damaged the valves in some of the veins. I was strongly urged to keep my leg elevated, which I do by propping it on some storage containers under my work space, and to wear a compression stocking, which I also do. I have several types: some with open toes, some with open toes that I have sewed shut because they tend to creep up over the ball of the foot, and then there is my favorite, a skin-tone closed-toe model that feels silky like a nylon stocking.

I put the compression stocking on in the morning before I go off to exercise, and I usually peel it off in the evening when I am in the recliner reading. It frequently ends up in the crack between the cushion and the arm, which is where I expected to find it this particular morning. I didn’t.

Okay, sometimes I take it off when we are in bed watching TV after dinner. Perhaps it was under the covers. It wasn’t.

I had gone fuming around the house searching several other places where it might be, and had announced my frustration at not being able to find it.

I have a bad habit of picking something up and intending to put it away but then getting distracted before I get there and putting it down someplace not even close to where it should be and then forgetting where I set it down.

“Well,” he wants to know, “where was it?”

“Oh, I put it back in the drawer where it belongs.”

“WHAT?” Are you crazy? Putting it back where it belongs takes all of the adventure out of life.”

This from the person who has a sign by the bed: “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

In the meantime, he took the Easy-Off Oven Cleaner into his office. He says he has no clue why he did this. I mean, there isn't a grungy oven in there that needs to be cleaned, but there is one in the kitchen. He remembers seeing it in there near his work space, but, unfortunately, it isn't there now. He has no clue where it went.

I don't really want to clean the oven, but I do need to find the Easy-Off even if I decide not to tackle the oven. I guess another adventure is in the works.

P.S. The elderly woman I was visiting in the nursing home every Sunday died early yesterday morning. I am so thankful that I got to know her. She was a blessing and an inspiration. I thankful for God's mercy that she was being well cared for and didn't suffer.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Knowing What to Say

I drive a 24-year-old Buick just-get-me-there-and-back-please-God-sedan, so that is why in the Fall a couple of years ago I was in our newer car heading off into the country to do something for my friend Judy at her house. Judy herself was languishing in the nursing home with a badly broken leg – I think she was there about 3 months, first with external fixation to stabilize the bone while she waited for the swelling to go down so the surgeon could repair it, and then recuperating after the 9-hour operation to get all the parts back together.

The radio has not worked properly in the car for a while, and the repair people at Toyota can’t seem to figure out why. The only station it picks up is a classic rock station. When I turned it on, I heard sort of a haunting, strange song with unexpected lyrics:

Teach me how to speak
Teach me how to share
Teach me where to go
Tell me will love be there
Oh, heaven let your light shine down

That song has been on my mind lately, because I find myself not being very sure about speaking or sharing things that are going to be helpful or beneficial. I wish I could be like my dad, who had a gift for visiting the sick and ministering to them in hospitals and nursing homes.

Heaven help me!!

Last Tuesday, the church folk gathered at the nursing home for a Valentines party for Bob and Pat, two members who are residents there now. Pat did not come because her condition had suddenly deteriorated. She was having pain in her legs, wasn’t eating, and couldn’t get out of bed. There were too many people there to visit with her, so I went back the next day.

This time she was her recliner, and so I sat next to her, and she grabbed onto my hand like a vice grip and did not let go. She had talked to her granddaughter in Indiana earlier in the day and told her to come because she didn’t think she was going to be alive very much longer. Her granddaughter had said ‘Hang on grandma. Don’t die until I get there.”

As Pat was telling me this she began to cry, afraid that she was going to die before her granddaughter got there. I started crying right along with her. Not sure how helpful that was. I found myself frantically trying to figure out what I could say to her to give her some comfort.

I told her the story about Richard’s father, who was in the facility in 1993. We were on vacation, and got a call from the staff that we needed to come back. He had pneumonia and was dying. It took us several days to get home. Richard immediately went to the nursing home to see his father. He died about 15 minutes after Richard finished visiting with him. The staff at the nursing home told us they were convinced he had “held on” until Richard got there.

So, I encouraged her to “hold on.” And she did. Her granddaughter came and had a good visit with her. Hospice took charge of her care and began administering pain medication, and probably some sort of tranquilizer as well, because yesterday, Richard and I went to see her, and there was quite a change. The “old” Pat, who loved to talk and had plenty of stories to tell, was gone, and in her place was “zoned out” Pat, with sort of blank expression on her face and who couldn’t seem to complete a thought or respond in the conversations we tried to start.

No one wants to see her suffer physically or mentally, but it is almost like saying goodbye to her before she is actually gone.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Bird Watching 101

People in the United Kingdom who like to watch birds apparently can get quite obsessive about it -- indeed, they have coined a term “twitching” to describe them.

I enjoy watching birds. There used to be a local chapter of the Audubon Society in town, and I went on several bird watching field trips with them, and I spent time sitting in a lawn chair in our front yard watching with binoculars, and I had a friend who enjoyed bird watching and I took her places – and on one memorable occasion when we stopped at an excellent spot in an old cemetery, I found my legs covered in seed ticks – but I was not a twitcher. Most of my bird watching these days is done looking through the windows of our house.

One of the last poems in my Ogden Nash paperback is about bird watching

Up from the Egg: The Confessions of a Nuthatch Avoider

Bird watchers top my honors list.
I aimed to be one, but I missed.
Since I'm both myopic and astigmatic,
Bird watchers top my honors list.
I aimed to be one, but I missed.
Since I'm both myopic and astigmatic,
My aim turned out to be erratic,
And I, bespectacled and binocular,
Exposed myself to comment jocular.
We don't need too much birdlore, do we,
To tell a flamingo from a towhee;
Yet I cannot, and never will,
Unless the silly birds stand still.
And there's no enlightenment so obscure
As ornithological literature.
Is yon strange creature a common chickadee,
Or a migrant alouette from Picardy?
You rush to consult your Nature guide
And inspect the gallery inside,
But a bird in the open never looks
Like its picture in the birdie books—
Or if it once did, it has changed its plumage,
And plunges you back into ignorant gloomage.
That is why I sit here growing old by inches,
Watching the clock instead of finches,
But I sometimes visualize in my gin
The Audubon that I audubin.
I had just read the poem the day before I went to the nursing home to visit the 92-year-old woman from church who is convalescing there from surgery to remove colon cancer but is not recovering as fast as she would like. She wants to go home!

The nursing home has hung bird feeders in front of many of the windows, including hers, and she does enjoy watching the colorful cardinals and the other birds. I was sitting on the love seat under the window sort of at angle and we were discussing the birds. I was half turned around and looking out to my left, and I saw a large black bird sitting on what looked like a tree limb at the edge of one of the buildings, which is barely seen in the photograph from her window. I thought perhaps it was raven because it looked too big to be a crow. Perhaps it was a vulture.

But it didn’t move… and it didn’t move… and so I finally got up and got closer to the class and realized what I was looking at was the profile of a small satellite receiver...

I have trouble with warblers sometimes...
unless they are mobbing the suet feeder and I can get good look at them...

but I am otherwise reasonably good at identifying the birds I see.

At least I thought I was. Now I’m not so sure.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Same old same old

Weather forecast for tonight: dark. Continued dark overnight, with widely scattered light by morning. -- George Carlin
Sometime in the early 1990s, my mother gave me The Book of Days as a present. I am not sure when exactly.  The year is organized in 5-day increments on a page with the date but not the actual day, so it is “perpetual.” Every other page is a painting or a detail of a painting from the National Gallery of Art. It is beautiful.

The first entry that I wrote in it was in 1993, when I noted on September 16 and September 17 that that I spent some time both days digging bulbs and replanting them in the front flower bed. Then on November 6, which would have been a Sunday, I got dressed for church and put on for the first time that year my long gray wool coat that was full of moth cocoons and worms. I had quit smoking by then but was still plagued by "smoking dreams," and I noted a few of those in November as well.

On March 4, 1994, I had cold. On November 4, 1995 I was working in the garden and dug up a toad that had buried itself for the winter and we were apparently having a problem with fruit flies in the house. 

Then in January 1998 I began writing a brief comment about that day’s weather.
  • January 6: cloudy, rain
  • January 7, temp dropping, rain, possibly freezing rain
  • January 8: Snow off and on all day. Not much accumulation
  • January 9: snow melted...
  • January 20: dry, in the 50’s.
In fact, January 20 was the last day that I decided to keep track of the weather, and I stuck it on a shelf and mostly forgot about it until I visited my sister in September and noticed she was writing scriptures or promises in a similar book every morning as part of her devotion time.

After I returned home, I decided to do the same thing. I have been using the book since January 1 of this year to jot a verse or part of a verse from that morning’s reading that speaks to me in some way (today’s verse: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer in whom I take refuge… I will call to the Lord, who is worthy to be praised…”).

When I saw the weather for today from 1998 -- 20 years later -- I went on the internet to check the temperature (every outside thermometer we have purchased so far has broken so we have given up) in town, and at that time it said 49 degrees.

So I called my friend Judy and asked if she would like to meet me for coffee. Although a friend came and got her on Friday for a doctor’s appointment, she had not driven off her place herself since last Sunday when snow started falling. The back country paved and gravel roads in these Ozark Hills can be very treacherous. Snow plows do not go down these roads, and the snow and ice can linger long after it has melted everywhere else because of the shade and the thick woods on either side. There are a few particularly steep hills between her house and town, and one is particularly dangerous – it is steep and curves about halfway down and deposits you at a low water crossing over a creek. That road is not safe to drive sometimes for days after a snowfall like we had on Sunday.

She was happy to meet me in town and we spent a delightful 90 minutes chatting (and each of us trying to remember what we had just been thinking about before it flew out of our minds) over very good coffee. Coffee that I found was good enough to drink black given that the person who served us forgot to bring cream for mine until I was about halfway done.

Afterward we went to the antique store next door, and I found a nice 8x10 picture frame for $1 in which I put the photograph of my brother behind the wheel of our dad’s pickup truck that he restored, dressed in costume, for his scene as an extra in a movie (I think it was Jersey Boys).

The weather today was about the same today as it was 20 years ago. As the day progressed, the temperature rose to 59 degrees – a welcome relief to the minus 3 the other morning when we woke up. It is lovely to see liquid water in the bird baths and that the snow has melted. It almost certainly will not last, but we’ll take it with joy while we can.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Don't try this at home

Having discovered that the nearly full bottle of cayenne pepper was ruined by mold or mildew or ?, and having gotten confirmation that it was not fit to eat from my dearly beloved, and being unwilling to hop in the car and drive to town pick up some more, I tossed it in the trash and decided to grind up red pepper flakes in my coffee bean grinder as a substitute.


Very bad mistake.

The fumes were immediate and powerful. I am relieved that I did not cough up part of my lung.

I will drive to town tomorrow and buy a new container of cayenne.