Saturday, December 31, 2005

Thank heaven for little girls...

My mother began calling this trio of granddaughters “the Little Girls” when they were, oh, about 3, 5, and 7 years old. Old habits die hard, and she still calls them “the Little Girls.” It seems like only yesterday that they were back in the spare room at Grandma’s playing with the little girl toys – the baby strollers, the stuffed animals, the baby dolls, the miniature piano, and the dress-up clothes – that have now all been put away. The two older ones are now in college. I wish I could have spent more time with them as an aunt (and we say “ant” in our family!), but we only see them maybe once a year for a short time when we are on vacation. My sister and her husband, and my brother and his wife, have been excellent parents and have raised their daughters to be lovely young women.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Lord of the kitchen...

Page back to the blog entry I can’t figure it out for a “then” picture. That really wasn’t such an unusual sight on a day-to-day basis, especially when I had a lot of editing work to do. I don’t happen to have a “now” picture, but while I was in California, R decided to take over the kitchen. He has been less than happy with my housekeeping lo these many years—especially in the kitchen--and so now he has become Lord of the kitchen. He does the dishes after every meal (and empties the water in the dishpan), he cleans the counter, and he sweeps the floor. The kitchen has not looked this good in years. It gave me a very weird feeling, but I’ve decided to let it go and let him do it. He jokes that he is becoming more and more like my own father, who similarly took over the kitchen when he retired 25 years ago. My dad also does the laundry, but R hasn’t made any comments about taking over the laundry. I can always hope.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Trying not to stress out..

I am waiting in a silent prayer..
I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now, be with me now

Breath of heaven, hold me together
Be forever near me, breath of heaven
Breath of heaven, lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness...

...I offer all I am....
Help me be strong...
Help me be....
Help me....

(Chris Easton and Amy Grant (c) 1992)

Chilies relleno

Last night we had dinner at a Mexican restaurant and I ordered chilies relleno, which is what I normally have. Chilies relleno is one of the few Americanized Mexican meals, aside from tamales, that I do not make at home. The fresh chilies to make the recipe from scratch are not readily available in Podunk, Missouri. Earlier in December, when I was in Los Angeles, visiting my parents I thought it might be a good time make chilies relleno from scratch. My parents buy their produce from a Mexican market and I assumed there would be a wide variety of fresh chili peppers. I was right. I chose three long, dark-green chilies that looked promising and asked the produce man “are these the chilies that I need to buy to make chilies relleno.” “I don’t know,” he says. That surprised me. He talked with another man in the store and a few minutes later he came over and said, “Yes, those are the right kind.” When we got to the checkout counter, I picked up one of the chiles and asked, “Is this the right chili to make chilies relleno.” The cashier and the grocery bagger were both women and I figured they would know. The woman bagging the groceries gave me an odd look and said, “I don’t know.” The clerk said, “I don’t know.” I imagine I made their day: a stupid white woman asking about chiles for a dish that probably no “real Mexican” makes. I felt like an idiot. Later, my mom said “of course they don’t make it from scratch, they probably don’t have time.” My sister got a recipe for me off the Internet, and I set I forth to make chilies relleno. It was a disaster. The peppers were too convoluted, and I couldn’t get the skin evenly blistered to peel them. So, I just diced them up fine, dumped them in some beaten egg, fried the whole thing up, melted the white Mexican cheese on top, and had a delicious omelette.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Chaos at the feeding station

The “suet” feeders that I hang in front of several windows have been mobbed by a small army of yellow-rumped warblers ( Only a few showed up last year, so this sudden invasion is an unexpected surprise. I am thrilled to see them; however, we must not take a lesson from them. They are not polite, they are not patient, they do not share, and they do not cooperate. Another LGB (little grey bird) that I have yet to identify is also helping itself to the “suet—some warblers in their fall and winter plumage are difficult to differentiate and it may even be a vireo. I don’t have time to pour over the bird guide at the moment. Almost immediately upon returning home from my vacation, I was required to once again put my nose back on the grindstone.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

How pink were my towels...

Was the interesting title of an exhibition of art created by a woman I used to be friends with. One focus of her artistic interest was paper-making. She collected the lint – which happened to be from pink towels – from the screen in her dryer and used it to make fine paper in various shades of pink, from which she made a collage of sorts. I was reminded of this today when I peeled off pink lint from the towels in my own dryer. And then I thought about making paper from it, and then my Auntie Vera popped into mind. My father’s three sisters were all artistically creative in their own way; only Vera is still alive. I can remember so vividly one Christmas we spent with them when I was a kid. She had made the most amazing papier-mache ornaments using oranges and pears (and possibly small balloons) as the molds and had painted designs on them and decorated them in other ways. They were lovely. I think it would be fun to make something like that. The creativity gene that no doubt came from my grandmother manifested itself in my father in music, and musical ability is what I inherited as well. I have no skills whatsoever in the sort of craft that she was able to create, so the chance of lovely paper-mache ornaments coming from the lint in my dryer is remote indeed. Vera is a good sport. Once, my sister's pit bull mix came trotting to Vera, sniffed her shoe, and then hiked his leg and whizzed on her. He had never ever done anything like that before. We’ve been laughing about it ever since.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Over the river and through the woods...

I have very fond memories of Thanksgiving. It has always been one of my very favorite celebrations. And even as I write this, my parents, my brothers and their wives and children (one of whom is now married and will be bringing HIS wife!), and my sister and her husband and their children, and even some strangers to the family, are gathering to give thanks and enjoy each other’s company and good food. I’ve not celebrated Thanksgiving with them for many years, and I miss it. Growing up, the tradition was for me to get up very early with my Dad for the grinding of the cranberry relish, and he even brought it up when I spoke with him yesterday. They had a large metal grinder (maybe they still do!) with a hand-cranked augur that forced the food through disks with various sized holes. In this case, whole cranberries and oranges (and maybe something else, but I can’t remember). What a wonderful satisfying popping sound the cranberries made as they were ground up, and how wonderful the relish tasted later. Well, this is a day we set aside to think about being thankful. At the moment, the thing I am most thankful for is the power of forgiveness, not only the forgiveness God offers through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, but also power of forgiveness to heal and restore that is offered by lowly mortals (thank you, Teri). I am thankful that I do not have to live under a burden of guilt. I try to be thankful all the time. I have not gone as far as the suggestion in the daybook "Simple Abundance" to keep a daily gratitude journal -- but I do try to find something everyday to be thankful about and I do try to take nothing for granted...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Going tubular

Everybody who hates trying to get those tubes of biscuits to open raise your hand. I thought so. Usually what happens is that the tube does not pop when the wrapper is peeled, and so I’ll stick knife handle against it and maybe, just maybe, a little tiny pinch of biscuit will ooze out. I prefer to eat as little processed food as possible, and I have an oil-based biscuit recipe that I use when one of us gets a hankerin’ for biscuits so as to avoid the nasty hydrogenated stuff. But R occasionally picks up a tube or two of them when he goes shopping, and a few days ago, he brought home 4 tubes of the local generic variety (GAA!). So last night, I thought biscuits might go well with the shepherd’s pie I had made with some turkey, mashed potatoes, and leftover gravy from a Thanksgiving potluck we were at on Sunday. So I peeled the wrapper per the directions, and of course, the can did not pop open. So I tried whacking it a few times on the counter. That didn’t work, and so I yelled at Richard to come and help me. He began to beat the heck out of it, and in the process, the lid on the end flew off and biscuits were propelled out the end and onto the floor, the counter, the wall. We washed them off and ate them anyway

Monday, November 21, 2005

Trouble at the flagpole...

Groups of Christian high school students meet occasionally at the flagpole to pray for their schools and their classmates. Great idea. I am at the flagpole every morning to raise the flag. The spotlight that is supposed to shine on the flag has burnt out so now the flag must be taken down at the end of the day. The flagpole rope is not continuous: each end has clip and these are hooked together when the flag is not on the pole. The other day, as I stood there with the flag draped over my shoulders (must not let it touch the ground) and prepared to hook the first clip into the top hole of the flag, the thought passed through my mind “What would happen if somehow this clip ended up at the top of the flagpole without the flag attached, how would we get it down?” A similar situation happened twice over the summer with the bird feeders that hang suspended from pullies that are attached to the eaves of our house. It was a simple matter then to just get the ladder and pull the end of the rope down. But then I shrugged it off, because the only way for that to happen (I thought) would be for someone to unhook the clips and deliberately pull the rope. So I got the flag attached to the clips and started hauling it up (mentally humming the Star Spangled Banner), and it was almost to the top when suddenly to my great shock, the top clip holding the flag came unhooked and the flag fell to the ground. I was stunned. There was the first clip almost at the top of the flagpole. So I told the boss and he came out and jiggled the rope thinking maybe it would come down but he only succeeded in pulling it higher. “How are we going to get this down,” he says looking at me very intently. “We must have a flag. I’m to old to try to shinny up this pole.” I felt terrible. So I thought a bit, and called the volunteer fire department and asked if they could send a fire truck over with a ladder. I left to go to exercise class and when I returned less than an hour later, the flag was flying proudly at the top of the flagpole. The fire chief called city hall and they sent a utility truck. I noted the next day when I arrived at work that somebody else had raised the flag. Wonder why?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Nuthin’ wrong with us....

Most people have experienced at least one cranky, miserable old person who has become that way either because of circumstance owing to ill health or bitterness for any number of reasons, or because they have always just basically been that way and their personality is now set in concrete. Today is my dad’s birthday. He is now 81 years old and, thank God, he is just the same, happy, cheerful and most definitely sometimes silly person today as he was when this picture was taken in late 60s, when he was in his mid-40s, I was a college student (19 or 20), and my sister was about 10 years old. This picture has been a source of hilarity in our family. I took after my father in the legs and hips and we both frequently stood one-legged at the sink while doing the dishes. He is no longer physically able to stand this way (and neither am I), but he still makes us laugh with his funny faces.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Too many cooks...

Being that I am a very uncoordinated and clumsy person (everything that I pour gets spilled, etc) I decided that after I got the filling for the custard pie prepared I would have R come and pour it into the pie shell because he, on the other hand, tends to be careful and meticulous (for now, I’ll skip his dropping a gallon of paint earlier in the fall) and very clean. So I opened the oven door, pulled the rack out slightly (naturally it tipped down slightly once it was pulled out), placed the pie shell on the oven rack, and invited him to pour the filling. And pour he did. And because the shelf was tilted slightly, it started to pour out the front onto the door and bottom of the oven. I got a pot holder and held up the rack. “Quick, get a cookie sheet.” So he got one and put it on the shelf under the pie to catch the overflow. After a little more slopping, he got the pie shell filled with as much as it would safely hold, and I took out the cookie sheet. But, instead of getting a pot holder to gently push in the oven rack, he just grabbed a wooden spoon and gave it a mighty shove, which sent wave of custard filling over the edge of the pie crust and created a nice lake of custard at the bottom of the oven, which promptly began to cook (the oven was blazing away at 450 degrees). When the pie was finished, I sprayed the inside of oven with oven cleaner and I guess I will be cleaning the oven today. The pie was good.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

"I can't figure out.... one woman can make such an incredible mess," announces my long-suffering husband upon viewing the kitchen at the end of the day. Me either. Martha Stewart I ain't. The kitchen is small, I'm a klutz and, well... seeing is believing.

Monday, October 24, 2005


At our son's first birthday (on or about when this picture was taken), I was 28 times as old as he was. Now, he is 28 and I am 56 (happy birthday to me) and for the next few months, I will only be 2 times old as he is. This strikes me as very odd. The difference between our ages has not changed, but the mathematical relationship has changed somehow. And on this day, the anniversary of my birth, my body definitely feels 56 years old, and I look 56 years old (I am looking more and more like my sainted mother as each day passes) but I am often startled when I pass a mirror and see myself, because inside, I don't feel at all like that middle-aged woman staring back at me. In fact, I still feel very much like the 28-year-old standing in the picture holding a squirming baby.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Golden Season

Summer is officially over, and the last of the wildflowers have started to bloom. They’re all yellow. It’s as though Nature is giving us a bright, cheerful last hurrah with these clumps goldenrod and asters before the arrival of Winter.

Monday, September 19, 2005

You’re alive only because you’re so stinkin’ cute.

Well, she’s a stinker all right— a stinker with a charming personality. Cats have a way of getting under a person’s skin, which I guess is a good thing, because they can be the most exasperating animals. Meet Skeeter, aka Squeaker (because of her squeaky little meow), aka Twinkletoes (because when N dumped her on us, we already HAD a cat named Skeeter). He eventually took our Skeeter to live with him (she later died). It seems to be our fate to end up with tortoiseshell cats. This is our second. The first, Big Kitty, was a lighter version (about the color of tree bark) and even, well uglier, than this one. Squeaker seems to always want to be where she isn’t. If she is outside, she wants in; if she is inside, she wants out. She was a city cat--and not trained well by her city cat mother--that was transplanted to the country, and she is stupid. She has the cat instinct to hunt and kill anything that moves all right, and she’s great at catching insects, but she has no discrimination about what is appropriate for her to be stalking. We’ve watched her slinking across the yard after a rabbit bigger than she is, down the driveway after full-grown deer (wonder what they were thinking as they watched this tiny cat inching toward them), and one morning at about 5 a.m., I caught her chasing a fox down the driveway. The fox was running only because I turned the outside light on. I hate to think what could have happened to her had I not gotten curious about the strange noise I was hearing outside. We hate her, we love her, she makes us laugh. A lot.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Road kill

I would hazard a guess that the outraged folk who attempt to disrupt the November deer-hunting season in some parts of the country don’t think too much about the carnage inflicted on wildlife by the automobile. Not just deer, which are killed by the hundreds of thousands every year on American highways, but smaller creatures too, including turtles, opossum, raccoon, skunk, armadillos, coyotes, fox, bobcat, snakes, birds, and insects. Insects? Yep. Of course, most insects that end up smeared on windshields or mashed into the grill of the radiator aren’t that important in the whole scheme of things, I guess, but occasionally.... well. A few days ago, I found a treasure—a luna moth in perfect condition in the middle of the frontage road on the way to work I did have a picture of the moth, but I posted it without permission so here is the link instead: As I passed it, it took a minute or to for my brain to register what I had seen, and then I turned around and went back for it. It was still alive, but barely. I presume it crashed into the side of car. After it died, I had R place a dollop of hot glue on its back and I attached a thread and now it hangs by my computer, flying in the breeze drawn in through the window by the whole-house attic fan.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Fall colors

Summer is ebbing, the days are getting shorter, and the first fall colors have appeared in the thicket (or what’s left of it) that buffers us from the highway. And it’s not the sugar maple, or the sweet gum, or the sassafras, the leaves of which all turn beautiful colors. Nope. Its the leaves of poison ivy that have turned a beautiful orange-peachy-red. Poison ivy. Doesn’t that beat all? Poison ivy, which brings much discomfort to my husband when the cat, who has walked through some happens to rub up against his legs, has a beautiful side as well. Hummm. I suppose there is a life lesson here.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Ocean water, go beachy

I have it on a good authority that “ocean water, go beachy” was one of the first sentences I spoke. This is not surprising, because my father loved going to the beach and we usually went to the beach every Saturday during summer, from the time I was very little. At first it was just me (and somewhere there is a picture of me in a seaweed hula skirt). Eventually four children would climb in the back of the pick up truck (and any neighbor kid who happened to want to go too) and off we’d go. I can only imagine how much my mother must have enjoyed those quiet Saturday mornings. I think my sister is the only one who carried on the regular beach trips with her children. She e-mailed me earlier in the week: “I got Dad down to the beach on Monday. What an absolutely gorgeous day. Perfect beach weather. Just loved it. He did okay walking along there. It is a bit of a struggle, mind you, for him especially on the sand but he plugged away and we made it without him falling down. The current and the white wash was pretty strong that day, and I just didn't think it wise for him to try to manage getting in the water much. I didn't want him to get knocked down. So I felt bad for him in a way, but he's fine about everything. Just so happy to get down there and see the sights and smell the smells and enjoy the beauty of the ocean....” And I guess that’s my dad in a nutshell. At nearly 81 years old, with two knees having been replaced and blind in one eye, he is full of joy at life and he has, along with the Apostle Paul, managed to learn the secret of “being content, no matter what the circumstances.”

Sunday, August 14, 2005

I’m so glad to be here and I’m not worried about a thing.

This sounds suspiciously like something Minnie Pearl might say (“How-dee! I’m just so proud to be here”). That’s not who it came from, although everyone in the family does tend to smile some when we hear it. When I was a teenager (back in the 60s), a motel a within short walking distance of the church we attended went out of business and was turned into a group home for mentally disabled people. These people began coming to church, which presented quite a challenge for the congregation. When the minister invited people to share testimonies, Barbara, this middle-aged woman from the home, would stand up and say, “I’m so glad to be here and I’m not worried about a thing.” This was a source of great amusement to the younger set, and I suspect some of the older folks as well. We did not behave with a very Christian attitude toward these poor people. In any event, what she said is rather profound. Today, “I’m so glad to be here [in my house, with R and without N].” N has moved out!!! He finished paying off the last credit card debt and he chose to move in with some other people. These people have got some problems and we urged him to just give it a week-long trial run to see how it goes. He spent a couple of nights there and then made up his mind. I saw him briefly yesterday afternoon and he said he really liked it. Now comes the other rest of it. Am I “not worried about a thing?” Well, I’m struggling. I know worry is a sin and I try not too, but my joy at having him gone is greatly tempered by the situation into which he has moved (which I won’t go into). The red warning flats have been run up to the top... but it’s out of my hands, that’s for sure (I say, that's for sure -- ok, now shame on me for poking fun at my step-grandma) , and besides, that’s tomorrow’s trouble and I guess I have enough to not worry about today

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Baja Pals

Mom says Dad’s week-long surf-fishing trips to Baja California first started in late 1950s. She knows because my sister (probably the best thing to happen to our family), who was born in 1958, was an “accident” that happened after his first trip. There was always a group that went, consisting of Dad, Gene Rogers (the minister at church), other assorted men, and eventually when he was old enough, my brother Andrew. They were serious about it. Called themselves “The Baja Pals”. They had the name printed on caps and windbreakers. They had a great time doing guy things there on the beach and they always brought home coolers of wonderful fish – ocean perch and halibut. Unfortunately, the 40+ year tradition finally drew to a close: Gene died, both of Dad’s knees had to be replaced, and he was no longer able to cope with the rough terrain at the fish camp. The Baja Pals were in good company when, on Aug 5, 1994, they laid the 35 fish they caught on the beach and took a photo. About 2000 years ago, another group of men went out in a boat with their nets but didn’t catch anything. Then they were told to put the net on the other side of the boat, and suddenly it was filled with fish. “Jesus said to them, ‘bring me some of the fish you’ve just caught.’ So Simon Peter got into the boat and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 156 altogether (John 21).”

Monday, July 25, 2005

Going batty...

Saturday morning when I drove to the fire house to pick up N, he said “look what I have, Mom.” It was a little blond bat (LBB) with a badly broken wing that had crawled out from under one of the fire trucks and it was sitting inside his fire cap. I assume it had flow into the cavernous area, crashed into something, broken its wing. and fallen to the floor. We brought it home, put it in a tub, and then tried to figure out what to do with it. Conservation office was closed. I guess people with problems requiring help from a Conservation agent are out of luck between 5 pm Friday might and 8 am Monday morning. I was able to give the LBB some water with an eyedropper. Then I called the local vet to find out if anybody in the area would treat a bat with a broken wing. In a nutshell: nobody will treat a bat with a broken wing because the likelihood of rabies is too high. Apparently, healthy bats don’t have accidents and break their wings. Best thing to do is put the bat down and then take it to the health department, he says, oh and by the way, you can get rabies from the bat even if you don‘t get bit. All you have to do is get its saliva or blood into an open wound or your eyes or nose.” Before I could even tell R this news, R comes in “I don’t want you to touch the bat at all. I’ve just been on the CDC’s Website yadda yadda (horror story of 4-year-old girl who dies of rabies after a bat spent the night trapped in her room.) The LBB bat was dead by Sunday morning and I buried it (I would like to have its skull, so I put a stone over the spot and will check back in a few months). Fast forward to evening: The new room we added on to our house is accessed from the outside by a stairway at the back of the garage. We keep the door there open because, for the time being, the whole-house attic fan vents into the new room (R will be cutting attic vents for it shortly and covering the access into the attic). We turned the fan on at around 7 p.m. to draw in the cooling night air. I shut off the fan just before we went to bed, and went to close the door to the new room and discovered a bat swooping through the room with barely a whisper. We turned the light on in the stairwell and in a minute or so the bat swooped out into the night.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Try it, you'll like it

My dear husband has no sense of adventure when it comes to new and unusual foods. He is especially not interested in the yogurt I have been making at home for many years.
Me: You really ought to try this.
Him: I don’t drink spoiled milk.
Me: It’s not spoiled milk! It is perfectly fresh milk that has lots of friendly bacteria in it that will help your digestive system.
Him: I don’t drink spoiled milk.
Me: Come on, just take a little. The taste really does grow on you.
Him: So does fungus, but you don't eat it.

Monday, July 18, 2005

LeeLee’s lulus

I was given a Hawaiian name that has given many people difficulty over years. They have trouble saying it, they have trouble spelling it. My husband often calls me Lee when he speaks about me to other people. A co-worker called me LuLu. My very first nickname—LeeLee—was given to me by my aunt, Betty Davis, who was my father’s older sister and a very brilliant woman. She had a PhD from UC Berkeley in zoology, specializing in parasitology and protozoology. In the years shortly after I was born, she was a research associate at Children’s Hospital and at USC, and so she and Uncle John lived nearby. We spent a lot of time with them, my first legitimate memory is of the fishing pole I received on my third birthday at their house. In 1953, they became the directors of the Hastings Natural History Reservation in Carmel Valley, and we still saw them often, both at the reservation and on camping trips. She had a tremendous influence on my life. My love of nature, which I never outgrew, came from her and John (he was an ornithologist). I persist in collecting dead bugs (she gave me a huge bug collection when I was a kid) and reptiles (we had a gallon jar of dead lizards and snakes at home). The former are pinned on a corkboard and, following her example, the latter in jars and bottles of alcohol or formaldehyde (latest find: a small copperhead killed by a co-worker). I didn’t know it then, of course, but the occasion of this picture – lunch at their house at Hastings Reservation in 1978 – would be the last time I saw Betty and John alive. She died of a brain tumor in 1981 and garnered a 27.5-column inch obituary in the Carmel Valley News. Uncle John died of cancer a few years later. I miss them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Christmas in July

My Christmas cactus gets very confused when I put it outside in the late Spring. It was glorious for most of June, and now just a single bloom is left.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Blood from a turnip

For many years, I could not give blood because I did not weigh enough. When I entered the 10th grade, I stood 5’4” and weighed 96 pounds. I was skeletal, and I am sure if it had been 2005 instead of 1965, there probably would have been child welfare investigators at my parents’ door, having been hotlined by school teachers wanting to find out what was going on. By the time I was 40 though, I had quit being skeletal thanks to age and quitting smoking. And now, I am heading for serious trouble. I look like a turnip standing on toothpicks (I have my father’s skinny legs). Not weighing enough is no longer an issue and now I am happy to give blood when the Bloodmobile makes its regular appearance in the basement of a local church. Only getting the bloodd is now the issue. I am a hard case, they say. On a rare occasion, when a good technician is working that draw, it goes well – the needle slides right in and the blood fills the bag. But more frequently, it can get painfully unpleasant. Today the old "can't get blood blood from a turnip" saw applied to me. Three technicians ended up getting involved, and I came home with punctures in both of my arms–and my eyes leaked a little bit while they were roto rootering around in there–but not a drop of blood flowed down the tube and into the bag. I didn't help myself to the refreshments they offered (cookies, mostly). I'm going on a diet, but after what I went through, I figured they owed me a t-shirt, so I took one.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Jose can you see

That was the punchline of a joke about the Star Spangled Banner that was popular back in the early 1960s. Joe and Sara, who ever they may be, have offered a fun little July 4 experience at their Website. Try it out at As a kid, July 4 centered round fireworks. Mom and dad were careful with their money, so not much was spent on fireworks, which were still legal then. They’d get a few boxes of sparklers, some Piccolo Pete’s, some “slugs,” and perhaps a few Roman candles. However, the neighbors, who were three elderly people raising a granddaughter my age, did have money to burn and so they would buy a big assortment of fireworks and bring it over to our house for my father to set off. What can I say – what kid doesn’t like fireworks? Our son was no exception, except we were even tighter with our money, I think, then my mom and dad. Sometime in the mid-1980s, my parents came to visit one year on July 4. We had gone to the fireworks stand and bought a small assortment of fireworks, including various sizes of bottle rockets. Bottle rockets? A small firecracker-type affair (plus propellant) on a stick that is placed in a soda bottle. When the fuse is lit, it shoots high up into the air and makes a very satisfying bang. One bottle fell over as my dad lit the fuse and the rocket came shooting in the direction of my mother. It missed, fortunately. But perhaps the most meaningful activity for me on July 4 in years past has been the tradition on National Public Radio of well-known people reading the Declaration of Independence. It’s quite moving

Monday, June 27, 2005

Carrying on...

Many millions of pictures of Yosemite Falls have been taken at this spot, and here are two more, taken 40 years apart. I took the one on the left in July 1963 with my Kodak Brownie camera. The man is my father, the barely visible head on the left is my sister, and the boy on the right is one of my brothers. The other brother was apparently at the campsite with my mother, who wasn’t so athletically inclined. Yosemite – tent camping, mind you, not RV’ing -- was a tradition Dad’s father started, and my dad carried it on. However, I believe this was my last camping trip to Yosemite. We had some serious car trouble on this trip. I suspect that was why subsequent camping trips were at places closer to home. He never got over his love for Yosemite, though. In later years, when that little 4-year-old head on the left grew up and had her own family, she arranged several other camping trips back to Yosemite involving tents and pop-up trailers because she wanted her children to experience Yosemite, too. And then almost exactly 40 years later, in June 2003, I flew to California so I could join my brother and sister and our parents for a long weekend at the park. We stayed at a motel on the banks of the Merced River, right at the park entrance. It was amazing, memorable weekend. The picture on the left is of my father and my sister’s children, who are standing almost at the very same spot. Note of interest: the tall tree on the right in the first picture is still there in the second one.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Happy anniversary to us'uns

This picture was taken on June 26, 1971. So it’s the 34th anniversary of the day we got married. Aren’t we precious? It’s been an interesting 33 years. I think we have had a good marriage. But we are not perfect people and it’s not been a perfect marriage. There were a couple of times when it would have been very easy to throw in the towel and leave the ring – but we didn’t. We’ve stuck it out, we’ve worked at it, and I’m glad. Would I do it again? You betcha. My parents just celebrated their 60th anniversary a few days ago. Sixty years! My parent’s marriage has been an excellent model of how a good marriage is supposed to go. And they have had a very good marriage indeed. I just wish we both weighed now what we weighed then....

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Old Gray Mare...

ain’t what she used to be... and that’s the truth. I was never an athletic sort, but even for me I can see that my body is slowly breaking down; one knee is shot, my shoulder is shot. I’m stiff. But complaining about aches and pains isn’t what this is about. Last Saturday I went to a garage sale. A woman was there that I had not seen for quite a long time. Her husband, who died 17 months ago, was the auto mechanic who took 6 months to do a simple repair on our car some years back. I spoke to her and said "Hi Carol." I could see in her face that she wasn't sure who I was at first, then recognition. We visited a minute, and then she said, "I didn't recognize you because you've gotten so gray." And then she added, "My hair hasn't changed color at all." She spoke the truth: her hair, indeed, has no gray in it at all although she is a good 10 to 15 year older than me, and she really didn't recognize me because I've gotten so gray. But, OUCH!. Did she have to tell me that?

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Happy Father’s Day

By the time the first Father’s Day was made official in 1966, my dad had been a father four times over, beginning with me in 1949. Eventually, three other children came along, but I had dad to myself for about 5 years before my brother was born. For a while, his job situation allowed him to be home during the day, so I hung with him instead of with my mom until he went to work in the afternoon. The smells that trigger warm childhood memories for me are not baking bread and apple pie, but lube grease and solvent for cleaning car parts (dad was an auto mechanic). He used to put me on the handlebars of a bicycle and ride me to school. No horror stories here of child abuse or mistreatment or emotional damage. I could not have asked for a better father... he still is a wonderful father. He did not turn into a cranky old man. At 80 he is still fun and full of life, and I love being with him. Dad loved to fish. The first birthday I can remember was when I was 3 years old and I got a fishing pole. And here we are on the banks of a river in the mountains somewhere in California. This scene was to be repeated many times over while I was growing up. A precious memory of a wonderful man. I love you Dad. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Private Screening...

Last night R and I went to the movies. We saw Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and we were the only people in the theater. We did not behave. We talked loudly about the movie and did all the things polite people are not supposed to do in a movie theater. We did not talk on our cell phone though. I liked the movie. Alan Rickman is the voice of the robot and he is hilarious. It has been many years since I read the book, and I really need to read it again. The public library doesn't have it though, which is really odd because I donated the book to the library some years ago. A bit of advice: The movie credits are very long and take forever to finish, but don’t leave before they are over. There is something very funny almost at the end.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Happy Trails or Go Climb a Tree...

Posted by Hello
In response to my cousin’s comment to an earlier post: A huge California pepper tree grew in the yard of the place where I lived as a kid. Up until I was about 11 or so, I spent many hours in the tree and under it -- that’s where my Roy Rogers tent was pitched -- playing games. It was a glorious tree, with a huge, lacy canopy and large gnarly limbs that grew close to the ground. It was easy to climb into, and no one ever fell out of it. One of the saddest days of my childhood was when my parents decided to have duplex apartments built on the lot and I came home from school to find the tree had been pushed over by a bulldozer.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Tick.... Tick.... Tick...

Naw, this isn’t about time, or a bomb! This is about those flat insects that suck blood--I've even seen them hanging off of birds--and swell up like a grey grape, and occasionally pass on awful diseases while they’re doing it. Then they drop off and lay eggs and more baby ticks are born. Seed tick story: I took a friend birdwatching in an old cemetery out in the woods early one morning. We are having a grand time, and then suddenly I felt this creepy crawly feeling on my legs. I looked town, and I was covered with hundreds of ticks the size of a pinhead who were all marching northward with purpose. We rushed back to her house and I leaped in the shower and scrubbed them off before they could attach. I am not a cruel person. I don’t kill things just for the heck of it. In fact, I go out of my way to save life. I rescue turtles; I pick up the pill bugs that find their way into the office and let them go outside, I fished a writhing earthworm out of a puddle yesterday and put it back on the grass. But there is something immensely satisfying about placing an engorged tick in a pair of pliers and squeezing. It makes a very satisfying pop.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Lost in the Dark

I almost hesitate to tell this story because I don’t want to sound like I’m blowing my own horn (seen on a bumper sticker: “Tithe if you love Jesus, anyone can blow their horn”). You’ll forgive me, I hope. I fail in so many ways to live up to the Christian ideals in the scripture so I feel somewhat relieved that I did actually follow through and do something right for a change.

At about 9:30 on Memorial Day I was in the living room watching TV, and R was in bed watching a different TV program (sometimes we end up watching the same program on separate TVs). Suddenly I heard voices that weren’t connected with the TV and then he was calling me. I went into the bedroom and he gestured at the back door where there was an old woman. She wanted to know if I new where “so and so” lived. No, I didn’t. I didn’t think too much about it at first because this is not the first time a person has showed up at our door looking for someone (the county road dead ends at our house).

I turned the outside light on for her as she walked back down the driveway and then I went to the kitchen window to wait for the car lights in the driveway to come on so I would know when to turn off the outside light. I waited for a few minutes without seeing any car lights, and then it dawned on me that she was on foot. I thought about this for a moment or two and then raced for the car and took out after her.

I couldn’t find her at first, but then I saw her walking across the churchyard next door. I asked her where she lived and if she would like a ride back home. “Oh yes,” she said, “I would like a ride back home.” Home for her was an apartment at the senior housing complex way the heck on the other side of town. It must have been 4 miles at least from her apartment to my back door. As I was driving her home, I wondered how long she had been wandering all over town. Then I worried that she didn’t really remember where she lived and then what was I going to do with her (the police station closes after 5 pm)? Fortunately, she had remembered correctly, and I saw her safely into her apartment. Now what?

Tuesday morning I went by the Senior Center in downtown, which has various activities for seniors and serves a low-cost lunch. I spoke to the director about her and she promised to call the manager of the senior housing to find out what she could about the woman’s kin to see if someone could check up on her. I just got a call back that the woman was confused because of a medication mix-up and not because of Alzheimer disease. So, the story has a happy ending.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Memorial Day Memories

Sylvia survived three of her children and her husband. Most of them are buried in a small country cemetery not too far from my house. She joined them there last fall at the age of 88. It was extremely important to her that the graves be decorated, and every year, she spent money she really couldn’t afford on hideous arrangements of plastic flowers to put on the graves on Memorial Day. She also sent money to her daughter-in-law in California to buy flowers so that her son’s grave would be decorated. As this Memorial Day approached, I couldn’t help but wonder if Sylvia’s two surviving daughters would drive the 90 miles from their homes to come here to decorate her grave with the dedication that she would have devoted to theirs had she survived. However, having said that, this business of decorating graves on Memorial Day was and is totally foreign to me. My parents did not believe in visiting graves or decorating them. In fact, my parents did not believe that children needed to be at funerals, so I did not attend the burials of any of my relatives (two great grandmothers, two grandmothers) who died when I was a child. Instead, it was a tradition that on Memorial Day we got up very early and drove to the Charlton Flats picnic area in the San Gabriel Mountains. My dad would set up his camp stoves and began getting ready to prepare breakfast—pancakes and sausage—for most of the people at the church we attended, who would begin to straggle in within an hour or so. Us kids would run around and play and have a good time, and eat lunch too, and as the day wore on, people would turn on their radios (not sure if these were transistor radios or car radios running on auxiliary power) and the sounds of the cars racing around the oval at the Indianapolis 500 would fill the picnic area. Then came the Memorial Day when the family left for the traditional breakfast without me. I was stuck at home working on a college term paper that had to be finished. There were no personal computers back then, these term papers were pounded out on a standard manual Royal typewriter. I think the church-sponsored breakfast came to an end about that time. People grow weary of doing the same thing over and over, year after year....

Friday, May 27, 2005

What I saw...

•When I was about 5 years old, I was standing by an old board fence that separated us from the neighbors. There was this white fuzzy thing on the fence. As I was looking at it, baby spiders suddenly came pouring out. I was mesmerized, and I have been fascinated by spiders ever since.

•May 1981. We had just arrived here from the west (Oregon by way of Los Angeles). It was getting dusky. My parents set up their pop-up camper for themselves and our son, and R maneuvered the U-Haul truck so we could begin unloading our household into the new house. We bustled around for a while, and just as R and I were getting ready to leave for town to find a motel to sleep in, there they were. Fireflies began flickering with their pale, greenish light. They were everywhere, hundreds and hundreds of them, rising and falling. I think we were already on overload from stress and excitement and just the sheer unexpected beauty of this place, and now we were well and truly stunned. We had no idea fireflies came with Missouri.

•When we were still attempting to raise some fresh vegetables, I had gone out to water the hill of squash I had planted a few days before. I had a spray attachment on the hose and I put it to the fine mist setting and began, to be frank, playing in the water. I had it shooting up high, hoping that as it fell, the fine mist would make a rainbow. Suddenly, a hummingbird flew into the mist, landed on the bare ground where the squash were to sprout, and began taking a bath in the spray. Again, I was transfixed by this sight. I think I almost forgot to breathe.

•I was moving toward the screen door at the back of the house, and just as I got there, a lizard darted across the deck and snapped up a cockroach. A few days later, I watched a lizard (perhaps even the same one) drinking water from a plant saucer sitting on the deck.

Nothing earth shattering or very profound, just things of wonder I have witnessed that I don't have to worry about seeing again and again in my mind's eye.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

You don’t need a weatherman to know the way the wind blows

It would not surprise me if some of the left-wing radical groups, similar to those that made their presesnce known in the late 60s, start agitating again given the political climate in the country, but this isn't about the SDS or the Weather Undergound. It realy is about the weather. I sometimes think weathermen are fairly useless. In this part of the country (south central Missouri) one can never really believe the forecast, but one can’t ignore it either. The farmers here, most of whom raise hay to feed cattle (row crops are difficult in these parts), are very much interested in the long-term forecast, because once a field of hay is cut and the hay is drying on the ground, they really don’t want it to rain. “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes and it will change” is frequently heard in these parts, and it is generally true. We are on the fringes of tornado alley, and this area has had several small tornadoes in recent years. Storms that came up so sudden that Doppler radar didn’t even pick up the tornado. We can hear the tornado siren where we live, but it didn’t even blow when the last tornado blew through the area a half-mile from our house. These storms here tend to blow up in the late afternoon. The day starts off sunny and bright, and by 3:30 or so thunder is rumbling in the distance. Almost every time we have lost power because of a thunderstorm, it has occurred right at dinnertime. R finally bought a small propane camp stove so we wouldn’t have any more half-cooked dinners left on the stove (everything is electric in the house except the heater). My ancient clothes dryer finally broke, and the appliance man who we used to call to fix these things – The Tinker – has retired. In any event, I’ve had the drier 25 years, and I bet it was 15-20 years old when it was given to me. We went looking for a dryer recently and were disgusted at what we found. Even the top-line models, approaching $1,000, only offered a one-year warranty. What does that say about the quality of the product? Not a whole lot. Right now, sheets on the clothes line that stretches between the porch and the barn are flapping gently in the afternoon breeze, but I note that it is clouding up, so I better head on out there and reel them in.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Spring (redux)

I already did one post about Spring, and although we are technically still in Spring, the changes that come about as part of the change of the season from winter have already taken place. The flowering trees and shrubs are finished, the maples have dropped their seeds, the unmowed grass is now 4 feet high and heavy with seed heads (and ticks). I really wanted to say something about the dogwood, which is one of the first things to burst into bloom, certainly before the trees in the upper canopy of the woods begin to leaf out. Lots of people have dogwood trees in their yards and they are spectacular. We ourselves have two mature trees that bloom and a small forest of 6 young trees that we planted about 5 years ago to replace a dogwood that got wiped out when the highway came through. But, the real experience of a blooming dogwood occurs when one drives by an area of woods where the wild dogwood trees are blooming. It is eerily beautiful. I just finished reading a novel by Willa Cather and she describes this very well: “On the steep hillside across the creek the tall forest trees were still bare... from out of the naked grey wood the dogwood thrust its crooked forks starred with white blossoms – the flowers set in their own wild way along the rampant zigzag branches. Their unexpectedness, their singular whiteness, never loses its wonder, even to the dullest dweller in those hills. In all the rich flowering and blushing and blooming of a Virginia spring, the scentless dogwood is the wildest thing and yet the most austere, the most unearthly.”

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Happy Mother’s Day.

“Her children rise up and call her blessed.” And indeed, we have. One only has to look at how her children treat her to see how much she is honored and loved by them. When I was born, my mother had an idea of what a little girl was supposed to be like. But I acted very much more like a little boy than a girl. And she had the God-given sense to let me alone, to let me be who I was, and not make me fit into a preconceived (whether personal or cultural) mold. I thank God that she is my mother.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

An Apple a Day

The local store has been selling "jonagold" apples for the ridiculous price of 50-cents a pound. I can't remember the last time I have seen good apples that cheap. To be sure, mealy, mushy, basically unedible red delicious apples (on the other hand, my late father-in-law loved a mealy apple) can be had for 39-cents a pound at times. These jonagold apples area outstanding. Where did these marvelous apples come from -- surely not after months in cold storage. It surely isn't apple season in the United States (is it?)!!! Did these come from the Southern Hemisphere? Well, no matter. Here I sit eating this incredibly good apple. Crisp, jucy (like its dripping out the corners of my mouth) , sweet. Have I died and gone to heaven? No, I see on the screen in front of a paper on carotid artery stenting, so I guess I am still firmly here. Nuts.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Primary colors...

Such a feast for the eyes today at the birdfeeders. A small group of male Goldfinches, resplendent in their bright yellow and black summer clothes, and next to them, the bright red Cardinal, and then on the ground, a vibrant blue Indigo Bunting. And at least three male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, dapper fellows in their black and white suits with the bright reddish-pink bib. And here comes an Orchard Oriole, a warm reddish chestnut brown--not nearly as spectacular as the Baltimore Oriole, but beautiful enough. And who might this one be? For several days now, we’ve had many good close-up views of this bird (olive green on top, yellowish on the bottom, no wing bars) as s/he lands on the suet feeder that hangs in front of the window and are reasonably sure it is a female Summer Tanager, but not absolutely sure. And briefly, just briefly, there was a Northern Waterthrush perched in the tree—or possibly a Louisiana Waterthrush, hard to tell in just a brief glimpse—in fact, maybe not either of those at all, but a Thrush for sure. To anyone not interested in birds this is terribly boring. Sorry. Although I no longer go out with binoculars and peer at the tops of trees for hours on end... once a birder, always a birder. And we learned today who has been responsible for the two mighty holes that have appeared in the barn. One opinion was that it might be an armadillo and I did, afterall, find an armadillo-snout-shaped hole in my hosta bed, another was that it was woodchuck. How much wood could a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood? I heard R calling “You wanna see who’s been making the holes in the barn? Come ‘ere.” So I went into his office, which has a clear view of the barn, and there, sitting on the raised threshold of the barn, is a very large.... groundhog. Sitting like a statute. S/he sat there for quite a while before ducking back inside. I guess we’ll let it stay there. It won’t hurt the cat, and she certainly can’t hurt it, we have no garden for it to tear up, and it can’t hurt the barn any—it’s already on its last legs because the leaking roof.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

By the light of the silvery moon...

Last night we had a comedy of errors with the cat. We don't have much trouble getting Twinkletoes to come in at night in the dead of winter, but as winter progresses toward spring and the nights aren’t so bitterly cold, she is a little less reluctant to come in. Oh, she’ll come in readily enough when she is called–she always comes when she’s called–but then she immediately wants outside again. As we’ve come to say about her “the cat always wants to be where she isn't,” and then she rushes around to all the doors wanting out. Leaving her outside all night is not really a very good idea. She is a very small and she is too stupid to stay out of trouble. Our first cat, Big Kitty, never wasted her time messing about with something she knew she couldn't kill. This one stalks grown rabbits that are bigger than she is, and deer; I’ve seen her chasing after possum and even a fox. Too many dangerous critters are out at night that could have her for a midnight snack: coyotes, big owls, and bobcats (supposedly). The raccoon might not eat her but could certainly seriously hurt her. And, of course, there’s the selection of tomcats who all think this place is their territory and pick fights with her. So, last night she came in around 9:45. N was already asleep (or supposed to be); R was about sleep, and I was up doing a few things. I heard a cat meow outside. I knew it wasn't Twink because she was in the house (running from door to door looking for a way out). Unfortunately, N didn't know she was in the house. The cat outside woke him up and he thought it was Twink, so he opened the door and called to her. I hollered at him that she was already in the house and he shut the door. Unfortunately, it was too late. A few minutes later, I did a room check and she was obviously not in the house. She probably shot for the door when she heard it open and she managed to sneak out when he wasn't looking. How is that possible? Oh, very possible. We have accidently locked her in the basement more times than I can count, her having snuck in when we weren’t looking. I tossed and turned for almost 2 hours fretting about her and then I finally got up and went outside and took a stroll down the driveway to see if she was anywhere around. The moon, which wasn't even a full moon, was up overhead by then and it was so bright it almost hurt to look at it. It also lit up everything with a pale light that was bright enough to cast a shadow. It was just lovely out. And sure enough, here came Twinkletoes trotting around the side of the house. She came over to me, and I grabbed her up and managed to get her back inside the house without getting clawed. No wonder other cultures worshipped the moon. I used to think that in earlier times when it got dark, people just went to bed. But I bet they didn’t, not when the moon was full. I bet they did all sorts of things by the light of the moon, especially out on the plains where there weren’t many trees to obscure the sky.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Walkin’ the talk

Since my last post, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on a certain situation and debating how best to write about it. So here goes: I’m getting feedback about a former boss at a business in town. This man was a very vocal member of a certain religious group. He never “preached” at the employees because that would violate work rules, but he talked constantly about his church and his activities at church and his children's involvement at church and the general values followers of this church are noted for. He projected this image everywhere he went – almost. He was not a good boss, and morale improved dramatically when he left. Anecdotes of him that are now trickling out are quite revealing. It’s like the rootbeer my dad made when we were kids (one used to be able to buy the Hires rootbeer extract which was mixed in a recipe containing sugar, yeast, and water). If it wasn't cold enough, the rootbeer would explode out of the bottle if the cap was loosened. One time, almost an entire bottle ended up on the ceiling of the kitchen, but that's another story. Stuff people kept bottled up about him while he was there has come spewing out. The way he behaved in front of his employees and in private totally discredited everything he thought he was projecting about his religious life. Walkin’ the talk is more than just a cliche. It is vital for anyone who is trying to convince someone that their beliefs are true, important, and life-changing. I guess it is important for all of us who have a belief system we are interested in sharing to make sure the life we live lines up with what we say we believe. In another somewhat more humorous incident, R’s long-time friend related a story of a diet-food-cult guru (they couldn’t eat anything yellow) who was caught in his hotel room at a big conference (that the friend was attending ) eating Twinkies and Doritos. That was the end of the guru.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Spring is sprunging

What can one say about Spring that hasn’t already been said? Aside from "new life" bursting out all over, the noise level has picked up some -- even before the sun starts to come up the hills are alive with the sound of “music.”(but I already wrote about this didn't I?) The migrants are returning, the Towhee has come back, the Killdeer is staking out a territory along the state right of way (they build their nests in the oddest places – maybe I’ll write about that sometime). Unfortunately, the habitat here has changed so much that the woodcock no longer shows up. For many years we were entertained by the males’ strange whirring courtship flight and their bizarre “song” which sounds something like “bzeep” (thanks RTP for that). And interesting things are going on here at night. Two raccoons were perched on the bird feeder in the wee hours of the morning last week twittering at the cat, who was sitting in front of the window (on my scanner) watching them. And last night when I went to retrieve the suet cakes for the birds (to keep the raccoons from eating them) I heard foxes barking in the brush a stone's throw from the back door (wonder what THEY were up too???) I've never seen the bobcat that the highway workers told us about but I heard it scream once -- at least I think it was bobcat. Well, here is William Wordsworth’s take on Spring for anyone who missed it in high school English:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced, but they
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee;
A poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company.
I gazed, and gazed, but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Happy Easter!
The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!!!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Fixin’ it up

There it sits in all its splendor. A bowl of steaming hot gray glop. Oatmeal. A healthy, nutritious breakfast that is about as appetizing as wallpaper paste. So, how to make this palatable? Well, let’s add a couple of tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter. Hummmm. These raisins look good, throw them in too. Let’s see. A little brown sugar. You know what would really taste good? Some chocolate chips. And a little milk. And guess what? It’s peanut butter oatmeal cookie dough! Yummy.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

A Map of the World

As noted in an earlier post, we are almost certain our 28-year-old son has Asperger Syndrome. We first became aware of AS when we heard a report about it on NPR as we were driving home from California several years ago. The longer we listened, the more we began to realize that this was a perfect description of our son. At one point we sort of simultaneously looked at each other said “That's him!!" The Internet has a number of helpful Websites on AS; one has a nice list of typical AS behaviors (only now I can't find the URL) . When I looked this list, I saw that he exhibits all of the behaviors except #4, which was an interest in maps, charts, routes, that sort of thing. “Well,” I thought to myself, “at least he doesn't do all of the things on the list.” I took some small comfort in this. Then, a couple of days ago he says to me "Mom, did I ever show you what I got at this clearance sale at the mall. It only cost $50." And then he emerges from his bedroom with two framed reproductions of very old maps of the world that attempted (and failed, in my opinion) to replicate the beautiful illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Age. And then he rambles on about how he wants to find a reproduction of one of those "flat earth" maps. Very big sigh...

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Doorbell from hell

This morning a Jehovah’s Witness woman came to the door. I think it was just a fluke that her presence at the back door coincided with the doorbell beginning to ring and ring and ring and ring (it did not stop). She left, thinking nobody was home, and by the time I got to the door she was already headed for the car. After she had trudged halfway back up the driveway, I politely told her to go away and then yelled for R to “do something” about the berserk doorbell. He turned it off. Then about 5 minutes later, the doorbell in his office began to ring and ring and ring and would not stop. We assume this must be connected with the construction crew on the other side of the highway laying pipe. They are probably using CBs or some other type of radio to talk to each other as they work. I believe both doorbells are now turned off -- permanently I hope. We were thinking about rigging up a doorbell and training our cat to use it so we could let her in instead of her clawing on the screen door. R says, do you really want the cat ringing a bell every time she thinks she wants in? Oooh. No. I don’t. This is the cat that goes out the front door, runs around to the back to be let in and then within a minute or two is heading for the front door again to be let out (in other words, she wants to be where she isn’t). I think we will just retire the doorbells for now.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Ladybug ladybug, fly away home

Even though it will not officially be Spring for what, another 20 days or so, the daffodils have begun to bloom and the birds have started to sing, as have peepers who have come out of the mud out at the pond in the lower field (I guess frogs don't really sing, but it's a sweet sound). And hundreds and hundreds of ladybugs that congregated on the warm south-facing walls of our house on bright fall days getting ready to hibernate for the winter in the cracks and crevices of our house have emerged inside the house and are everywhere. Falling in our food, crawling in our clothes. I’ve given up trying to get rid of them. It’s the same at everybody’s house. Oh yeah, the ants are back as well.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Someone’s ringin’ the bell.

Well, not actually. When it became obvious that we could no longer hear delivery people when they drove up the driveway (dog went deaf, the new construction blocked the sound) we installed a wireless, battery-operated doorbell. And it worked fine. Delivery people pressed the button and the bell went “ding dong” and we were happy. But then we noticed that the bell would ring when nobody was there. Ghosts? Nope. The CB radios from truckers on the highway are activating the doorbell says someone who knows these things. You can open it up and reset the frequency, says he. Well, R never got around to doing that and eventually the battery wore out on the bell so it no longer rings if the delivery person presses the button. But it still rings when the truckers go by – sometimes at 3 in the morning.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Normal? What is normal?

He has now worked for a week at the sawmill. He didn’t get fired. He didn’t quit. Having him gone between 6 a.m. and 4:45 has helped a great deal to restore a sense of normalcy. And it has given us a break from the unrelenting oddness of his behavior. I think -- as long as he continues to work -- I think I can manage fairly well having him living here. But, on the other hand, today I found an empty bottle of 400-U Vitamin E gelcaps. There had been 120 in the bottle and he'd taken them all in less than 2 weeks, popping them like candy. You do the math. I don't have time to look on the Internet for the symptoms of Vitamin E overdose. I just hope it didn't do any damage. Oh Lord, have mercy. Every day that he keeps the job is $50 more that can be used to begin to reduce his debt. We have suggested he see a credit counselor. No. He wants to solve this mess himself. And maybe he can. And maybe he can move out in 6 months. Can we last 6 months without going nuts ourselves? Here comes that hope again….

And in response to a promotion for wrestling I saw the other day, that for some reason infuriated me:

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not be televised....

The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner,
because the revolution will not be televised…

The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver's seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

That's just part of a much longer song. I heard it a lot "back then" on the FM dial in Los Angeles, when many black's were full of rage and doing things about it. I had to laugh when I saw a picture of Angela Davis at a party with "important people" in a People magazine a few years ago with a caption identifying her as a "social activitst." Now I'm wondering if there's going to be a revolution in this country in another 4 years when the full impact of the Bush Administration's campaign to bankrupt the country by running up a crushing debt (and let's hope and pray the US doesn't need to bring freedom to any more countries!) begins to have its effect on the middle class and the poor.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

A hard day…

Can I just bypass February 12? We acknowledged our son’s 28 birthday yesterday. As an interesting (to me) aside, at his first birthday, I was 28 times older. Last year I was exactly twice as old and this year, a little less than twice his age. Sort of an interesting mathematical conundrum, I think. He has been living with us now for a week and is miserable and unhappy – there literally is nothing to do here in this small town compared with St. Louis, plus he gave up his apartment, his furniture, his fish, his “life”. But, it was either come back home or go to a homeless shelter. Tomorrow he starts work at a sawmill, so perhaps that will help. He’ll have something to do and will start earning some money, but even with the job and living at home, he may have to declare bankruptcy. There is a grief associated with being the parent of child who isn’t quite “normal.” I have no way of knowing how it compares to the grief of having a child die. I had a dear friend who was 88 years old and had buried three children. She still remembered the day her 3-year-old died some 65 years earlier. But I do know that this other kind grief is also intense and long-term. Hope always tries to spring eternal, but in our case it just keeps getting slapped down. And now that the Republicans are in power in this state, their first order of business (according to the State of the State speech) will be to dismantle the social services programs for poor people (Medicaid, in particular). So I don’t know what kind of mental health help we can get for him. And just what no one needs is yet another sappy, tear-jerker “best dead dog in the world” story, but here it is: Two years ago on Feb 12 we had to put Little Dog to sleep and it was all our fault that this happened because we neglected to have his teeth cleaned. He was a wonderful companion for 14 years, and I miss him terribly. And then there’s the guilt on top of that. It was easy to forget when Big Kitty died – I have no clue at all except that it was probably in the Spring. The unfortunate coincidence of Little Dog needing to be put down on the same day that our son was born means I will always be able to remember. RIP Little Dog.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Let’s go this way…no, that way…no, the other way

Yesterday as I was driving down the frontage road to the state highway to go to town, I noticed a large skein of geese in a semi-V formation, flying sort of parallel to the direction I was headed. They slightly veered more in my direction so that by the time I reached the highway, they were overhead. Then they suddenly seemed to forgot where they were going and how to get there, and they began to rapidly shift directions, veering left, veering right, then finally just milling around in a semi-circular formation, all the time honking at each other. I sat there at the stop sign watching them for a while until they finally got it together and headed off again. Why do I feel like I could be one of those geese right at the moment? Hint: he will be 28-years-old on Saturday.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

A Series of Unfortunate Events

My sister, who is an elementary school librarian, told me about the Lemony Snickett books and how interesting and clever they were. So I started reading them, and yes, they were indeed very clever and amusing—at first. But by the time I had finished book 4, the cleverness had worn off, and they were mostly just depressing. Our son, who will be 28 years old next week, is now reaping the consequences of a many bad decisions (especially the one that got him fired) and he has now become a victim of a series of unfortunate events. Tomorrow R will go to pick up as much of his stuff as can be crammed into the back of our small pickup (N’s ailing car may or may not make the 180 mile trip) and he will be moving back home with us. We would really prefer that he remain independent, but we can’t afford the $2,500 to fix his car plus the $1,000 a month to keep him in St Louis until he can find another job, plus pay off his bills. So, he has lost “everything”, will likely have to file for bankruptcy (except he has no money to file for bankruptcy!), and is understandably very depressed. We are also depressed because the “empty-nest life” which we have come to enjoy quite a bit in the 7 years he has been gone will be turned upside down as well. However, the alternative for him would be homeless on the street and we won’t let that happen. We love him, but he is a very difficult person. We’ll just have to muddle through this as best we can and trust God will see us through. And that he is able to find a job and move out ASAP!!!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Squirrels, squirrels, and more squirrels

I have just returned from taking squirrel #15 to its new home at the abandoned KOA kampground – in fact the live trap is still in the back seat of the car – and here comes yet another squirrel to the bird feeder to consume every last sunflower seed it can find. Is there no end to the squirrels? I guess whatever predator it is that is supposed to be keeping the squirrel population in check is either (1) gone South for the winter, (2) not doing its job, (3) or has been wiped out. This is depressing. When one who enjoys feeding the birds has been invaded by squirrels, there are several options. Put up more feeding stations than there are squirrels so while the seeds are being cleaned out in one location, the birds can get seeds at another. Invest in some squirrel-proof bird feeders -- and there are some that do work. Remove the squirrels (either alive, which we have done) or dead (not practical here because he’d be shooting toward the highway). Oh yeah, quit feeding the birds, which might ultimately be the most economical solution but not acceptable because I get so much pleasure watching them. Oh hum. Excuse me while I go get the trap…

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Eat to live…. Or live to eat..

My half-cousin Jeanie (we had the same grandpa) is a very intelligent and perceptive person. We only met a couple of years ago via the Internet. I was not even aware she existed until she and my sister happened to connect on a genealogy Website. She is an anthropologist, did field work in Papua New Guinea (, and was a college professor until she retired a few years ago. We have exchanged many e-mails, and I have had the pleasure of meeting her twice, the last time in November when she came to meet my father and his sister for the first time.

In one of the fascinating conversations we had during the week we spent together in Los Angeles, she was talking about the differences in the attitude toward food between the US and PNG. She says the isolated villagers in the interior of PNG have a very boring diet, consisting of yams, manioc, various dark green vegetables and fruits, no grains, certain grub-type insects, and little meat. If I remember correctly from my own anthropology classes in college, pigs do play an important role in the social life of the rural people but are eaten only occasionally at ceremonies and such. At any rate, the people eat only to survive, not for the sensual pleasure of it. And, not surprising, although they have pot bellies because of the large amount of fiber they must consume, they don’t overeat. And as a result, there is little obesity, and very few of the food-related illness that plague Westerners, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. The women don’t get osteoporosis, the girls hit puberty very late (sometimes not until they are 18). Course they may have other diet-related health problems because of low protein (anemia, and so forth), but at least they aren’t fat. Along with that, they must work very hard to survive. Very strenuous physical activity is part of everyday life – especially the women..

And then there’s us. We, on the other hand, live to eat. We live for the sensual pleasure of consuming food – far more food than we need. That coupled with our general lack of physical exercise has meant…. well, just LOOK at us. No. On second, thought, let’s don’t.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Why you Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

I’m almost positive I have heard that, or a similar epithet, in an old western movie, but alas, searches of both Google and the Internet Movie Database came up empty. In any event, I’d have to say if that epithet had been uttered in some movie dialogue, it was very unfair to the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker. Blue Jays are “showy, noisy” (says Peterson's Field Guide) and the most aggressive birds that come to the feeder. Some of the smaller birds are also aggressive, but they are not very big and the other birds don’t pay them much attention. Blue Jays are like the school bully: large and intimidating, full of bluff and bluster. A Blue Jay arrives and the rest get out of its way – it doesn’t play well with others. Except today I watched a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, a bird that gives the impression of being a rather mild, easy-going sort of fellow -- and certainly not aggressive -- stand its ground when a Blue Jay approached the suet cake it was eating. Not only did it not give way to the larger bird, it jabbed at the Blue Jay, sort of lunged at it. The Blue Jay immediately gave up and flew off. There must be a life lesson from this, just not sure what it is.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Hangin’ in thin air

I have observed an interesting phenomena a few times since we moved here when the conditions are just right. Frequently, when its supposed to be winter, the weather will warm and we’ll have a terrific thunderstorm and lots of rain – in fact, last week a tornado cut a small swath of destruction through the countryside just south of here – and the wet-weather spring in the woods behind the house will begin to flow (as it is doing right now). Our driveway turns into a mini-pond at the bend where all the runoff from the field collects and it trickles out across the driveway into a channel that flows eventually into the Eleven-Point river system. And after a few days of 50ish weather, winter will return again in full force and the temperatures plummet into the teens and below (as it has, in fact, done). The wet-weather spring will continue to flow for a week or so after a heavy downpour, but eventually it peters out. If the conditions are right, the surface freezes, but underneath, the water continues to flow until the spring finally quits. This leaves a sheet of ice suspended in mid-air. It’s quite lovely to see, but there is also an immense sense of satisfaction walking down the channel smashing the ice and hearing it tinkle as it hits the ground. As already noted, it has gotten very cold since the torrential rain a few days ago, and I’ve got a stick ready.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Aaaaaaaaahhhhhh oooouuuuuuuuoooooooo

No, it’s not a werewolf in London, it’s just me, howling at the moon, which is about the only action I can think of off hand that makes any sense. (Humm, do I use this as a segue into the interesting vocalizations of the coyotes in the area -- although I never actually heard them howling at the moon? No, another time). I have been trying to post at least once a week (on Sunday) but thought better of it so soon after our son’s 3-day visit ended last Saturday. R and I were just numb—emotionally and every other way—by the time he left. One minute my heart was breaking (Mom, I just wish I could be normal like everybody else and Mom, you still love me, right?) and the next minute I was so angry I wanted to kill him, which was my state of mind as he backed down the driveway. Just before he left, we all went to the clothes dryer so I could help him sort the last of the clothes he had brought with him to wash and had gotten mixed in with ours. R reminded him not to forget his toothbrush. Much to our dismay (we should not really have been surprised by this, of course), we then learned that he had not bothered to bring a toothbrush with him. We have had several conversations with him in the past about the importance of bringing personal hygiene items when he comes to visit, but it seems not to have sunk in. So I asked the obvious question:
Me: You mean, you haven’t brushed your teeth for 3 days?
Him: Oh yeah. I just used one of the extra toothbrushes in the bathroom.
Of course, there are no extra toothbrushes in the bathroom. He used R’s toothbrush. What threw me for a loop was that he said nothing about when he arrived, such as Mom, I forgot my toothbrush, do you have one I could use? and that he had every intention of leaving without having said a word about it. Maybe ignorance is bliss. R seemed to take it in stride, but I was furious. I let him know it too, but it won’t do any good. He simply does not think like everybody else (I hesitate to use the word normal here). In any event, our son now has his own slightly used special toothbrush in the medicine cabinet. This is not a phase he will outgrow. It’s never going to get any better… aaahhhhh ooooooooooo.