Friday, October 31, 2008

"A vast throng, which no one could count, from all races and tribes, nations and languages..."

Behold the cottonwood tree in our front yard. Unlike the maples in the background, it has already hunkered down for winter. And it too is crooked (see the previous post).

The tree is very sensitive to drought, and would have done much better had it been planted along the bank of a river.

We had fairly good rainfall throughout the summer, so it held onto its leaves a little longer this year than it normally would, but even so, by the end of September they had all turned yellow and fallen to the ground.

Behold a Cottonwood of another sort. I went to church here with my sister. Now, I've been in some big meetings of a religious nature in the past, and I attended a very large church in downtown Los Angeles for a while in the late 1960s, but this was probably the largest regular church service that I have ever been a part of. I am guessing between 900 and 1000 people were in the auditorium. This church is not hunkered down.

A black woman was sitting to my left, and as we stood to worship, I could not help but think about the vision of heaven that is presented in the Revelation. Just about every color of skin was represented in that auditorium, just as it will be in heaven, and we were worshiping together in harmony and peace and love, just as it will be in heaven. Racism will not have a place there.

About 30 years ago we left the melting pot of Los Angeles, and after a couple of years in Oregon, we came to a monoculture in the Ozarks. In the 2000 census, the population of the county where we live was 37,238; of these, 35,905 were white and the remaining 1333 were spread between 114 black, 362 American Indian, 134 Asian, 16 Native Hawaiian, 103 some other race, and 607 were two or more races. Counted separately were 450 Hispanic or Latino residents. So it is now 8 years later, but I suspect the figures haven't changed much.

I imagine if one were to survey residents here, most people in the county would say they like it just fine the way it is, thank you very much. There is some cultural diversity here, but this area of the state has a history of racism, as indicated by the post at this blog, which has a picture of the shameful billboard that brought this area some unwanted publicity not too long ago. Our town has few minorities of any sort. A Highway Patrol officer who used to attend our church told a story once about a black couple who had broken down on the highway at night just outside of the town, and he drove them about 40 miles to another county to find lodging because he feared for their safety.

It's a terrible legacy, and I would like to think that it can change someday.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Be it ever so crooked, there's no place like home.

I got home late last night and spent this first day back from my trip up to my eyeballs in new work that I had been assigned on Friday, and which is due back on Friday. I had to get organized and get everything transferred off the laptop, which went with me to California, and onto Porky, which is the name of my computer. The computers on our network are all named after characters on the Little Rascals. When Richard was assigning names to the computers, mine ended up being called Porky. Maybe he was trying to tell me something? I am no longer porky, so I may ask for a name change. Otay. I have chased that little rabbit long enough.... where was I?

Every moment I got to spend with my family in California was precious, but I was also very glad to come back to my family here and to my very humble Ozark house. The term "Ozark house" means something to people who live here. It means it was built by someone who "eyeballed" everything, probably did not have a tape measure or a plumb line, and used rough-sawn lumber.

The house is crooked. Everything in our house is crooked. We have been trying to fix it, but it is very difficult. None of the walls are straight or plumb. None of the rooms are square. In fact, one wall in our son's old bedroom is 7 inches longer than the other wall. Trying to do repairs on the house has been something of a carpenter's nightmare for Richard, who likes things to be square and straight and plumb.

Aside from the fact that part of the ceiling tiles in the living room are about to fall down, the two pressing concerns are the floor and the bathroom.

The tile is so old the pattern has been worn off. But the subfloor is not even, so we are not sure how to fix that so the tile won't crack.

Richard has been heard to comment "Somebody was very drunk when they laid the tile. It's probably the same guy who built the house in the first place and it's a shame that he didn't have a tape measure."

He has been gradually working through the house trying to fix it up a bit and straighten it out some... the bathroom is next on the list. And after he fixes the bathroom, he is not sure how he is going to get the door to hang straight, either.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Take a virtual stroll...

While this is automatically being uploaded at 5 a.m. today, I will probably have already been up for an hour and will be calmly and carefully going over the checklist one last time to make sure I have not forgotten anything before we calmly and carefully walk to the car by 5:15 so that we can arrive at the airport, which is 100 miles away, in time to catch the flight. I am thinking only positive thoughts that the flight will leave on time so that I can make the connection in Dallas/Ft Worth to travel on to Los Angeles.

Seeing as I can't stand to waste anything, I guess I'll take y'all on a stroll through the field behind the house to the edge of the 150-acre woods, which is the western boundary of our land. I took these photos maybe 10 days ago, and they probably won't be"good" by the time I get back.

The field has become overgrown with pine and red cedar. And the boundary between the woods and the field has grown fuzzy now that the hickory and oak trees from the woods are beginning to slowly creep farther and farther into the field. Most of the color comes from the sumac.

There is quite a bit of sumac in the field. It produces red berries that are popular with the birds, which poop them out. The seeds sprout, and the sumac spreads.

It is a lovely patchwork of gold and brown to see the rolling Ozark hills from the window of a small airplane. Even though this area is sort of off the fall color radar, there are occasional blips.

There used to be barbed wire fence between our land and the woods, and a very important fence it was too. The owner had two big draft horse that were old and retired, but they still had quite a bit life left in them and once when the fence was down, they both came through the woods and onto our land. I was very afraid they were going to saunter out onto the highway and cause a terrible accident. And then I heard his voice calling them from the woods, and they turned around and galloped off home. And he fixed the fence.... but that was a long time ago, and now it is once again on the ground.

The woods are not particularly beautiful in terms of fall colors...

Oh, there’s a bit of brilliance here and there from a Virginia creeper up in a tree or small dogwood lurking at the base of an oak, but most of the trees here are the variety of oak where the leaves simply turn brown and fall to the ground. So, I can't begin to compete with some of the photographs of glorious fall colors that are appearing on the blogs, but I like the woods all the same

Because I will be on vacation until Oct 29, I guess the blog is going on vacation too, unless I change my mind and do something from my folks’ house.

In the meantime, that Wild Woman in Pennsylvania has given me an award. I am honored. I will think about who I want to pass the award on to and do something about it when I came back..

Monday, October 20, 2008

Our eight-legged friends...

I like spiders. It is just part of who I am. And I didn't think there were too many women around who shared this fascination with them.

But, I was surprised to learn some years ago that my friend, Sheila, who shares my interest in spiders, and she has kept me supplied with spider stuff. On Saturday, a group of us gathered for lunch for my birthday, and she gave me a spider candle holder and a spider pin to go along with a beautiful spider pin she gave me several years ago. On various previous occasions she has given me...
A spider pen...
Metal spiders...

A spider basket for the coffee filters....

and spider soap, among other things.

Between Sheila and another friend, Nancy, and my own efforts, I also have spider potholders, a spider tote bag for carrying stuff, a spider Christmas tree ornament, a spider necklace, a spider cuff-bracelet, another spider pin, a shocking purple T-shirt with a fluorescent spider web and a big black spider in the middle, and other spidery things.

No, she didn't give me a rubber spider hanging from sewing thread. I did that all by myself. And she didn't provide the cobwebs that I tend to forget to sweep down.

There are plenty of real spiders too. Go back and take a close at the picture of the spider soap, toward the bottom, hanging between the pottery and the frog.

True, it's a little fuzzy. I didn't even realize it was there when I took the picture. It's interesting how one can look right at something and still not see it.

This is my second favorite type of spider, the Argiope aurantia.

I rescued her on the road when Richard and I were taking a walk. And I know it is a her because the male spider of this species is very small. Yes, its out of focus. It wouldn’t stay still long enough to get a good clear shot. There is a nice clear photo of the spider here

A few days after that, Richard called me to rescue this very large wolf spider that was in the bathtub. How large was it? Biggest one I have ever seen, about as big as the palm of my hand. Maybe it was a variety of tarantula and not a wolf spider at all. How did it come to be in our bathtub? Did it crawl up the drain? The gray water from the house is not connected to a sewer, septic system, or a pickle pond -- it flows down a pipe out to the wet weather creek. We used to collect it in a 50-gallon drum and use it to water the garden, but that's another story.

I had to use a 2-gallon plastic pitcher to rescue it. Richard was worried its legs would be damaged if I tried to catch it in a pint-sized canning jar.

And off it goes, headed for freedom.

And this is my favorite spider. Some years ago, back before digital cameras were invented, back in the era when people used film, Richard posed this little fellow on a matchbook cover and took his picture with the telephoto lens. I don't remember how he imagined to get it to still, but he did. Isn’t he a cutie? Shut up now, yes he is!!!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I've got my eyes, but am loosing my marbles

The two acrylic brown eyes that were featured in an earlier post are not mine. My family knows this of course, but other people who occasionally drop in for a visit may not.

They belonged to the late wife of a wonderful old man I used to clean house for -- he was in his 90s. She had to have an eye removed after an unfortunate accident on the golf course. One of his daughters who lives out-of-state came to the house for a visit and went on a clean-out-the-drawers and throw-away-the-junk rampage. They ended up in the trash, and I fished them out.

These are my eyes. Sometimes they are gray, sometimes they are blue, but they are definitely not brown.

At any rate, when I was a kid, I used to have quite a few marbles--some were very beautiful--and I did loose them on occasion when I played marbles with the neighborhood kids.

The marbles I feel like I am losing now are of a different sort altogether. I have been trying hard not to have a meltdown in connection with my vacation to Los Angeles on Tuesday. In the past when I flew to LA, my dad has always come to the airport to pick me up. Several years ago, after 911, the security measures at LA International made it more difficult for people to pick up arriving passengers. The family decided it would be better for me to take a taxi to my brother's house. Andrew and his wife live 1 mile from the airport. That way my dad could come there to fetch me.

This time, to avoid getting my dad involved so he won't have to leave to leave my mom--plus to save the $15 (or it was $15 last time, who knows what it is now) to go 1 mile in the taxi--I arranged with my lovely sister to pick me up.

My lovely sister.

And we have been exchanging e-mails about this. She says:

What airline will you be arriving to LAX on? When you land, or are about to land, give me a call on my cell phone, and I'll buzz on down there.

Jerry is coming with me, I think--so if we need to call you or you need to call again, he/we can do that without breaking the "no cell phones while driving" law...We'll pick you up on the "white zone" curb area.

Sounds simple enough right? Oh no, not to this fevered brain.... I started thinking about this... and thinking... and then began to have a meltdown. Thinking in terms of having to stand at the curb for a 30 minutes while she gets there and not knowing if my leg is going to be hurting, etc. etc. but managed to compose this rather calm e-mail:

My flight is on American Airlines -- from Dallas/Ft Worth and it is supposed to arrive at 12:15. But whether that will happen like it says, is up in the air (ha, a joke). If my flight from Springfield is delayed (like it was last time), I may miss the flight at Dallas. So I will keep you posted as best I can. Cellular phones can't be used on airplanes when they are in flight, so I guess I will have to call you after I land in LA.
I was wanting to avoid the $20 to take the cab... but trying to coordinate meeting me at the white curb sounds like it is going to be really complicated. Do we need to change the plan? Let me know if you would rather pick me up at Andrew's place.

Then after I sent that e-mail, I thought some more, took a few good deep breaths, and thought some more and sent this:
I am loosing it. Just loosing it here.... I don't know what the matter with me is. I need a tranquilizer. As soon as I possibly can after landing at the airport, I will call you and say

"Hi. I am here."

I will park myself on the bench at the American Airlines terminal.

You will hop in your car and drive to the airport. When you get there, one of you will call me on the cellphone and say, "We are here."

I will come out of the terminal and stand at the white curb.

You will drive up and I will get in.

Why do I make mountains out of molehills. Lord, help me....
She says:
Yeah - simple as pie. That is exactly what we will do. You call us.... Then we'll call you... and everything will be hunky-dory. Don't-a worry, as Onon would say.
"The white zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only. NO PARKING.
The white zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only. NO PARKING"
We have a little white Honda Civic now with tinted windows - black door handles. No big blue caddy. There'll be hundreds of little white cars zipping by, I'm sure... It'll make you a wreck. hahaha Pls don't stress.

Onon was the name they called Jerry's mother. She spoke with a very heavy Italian accent.

Me a wreck? Me stress? Oh certainly not, perish the thought. I want my sister. And yes dear, I will see you soon!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Gross but interesting

Sort of odd putting a "PS" at the top of the post, but... the smelly plant went back outside this morning, and just a minute ago I went outside to take a look at it and noticed this white stuff at the center. I got the magnifying glass. The white stuff is eggs and some of them have hatched into maggots. Eeeeuuuwww. Now I am wondering does the plant somehow eat the maggots that hatch from the eggs the flies have laid?

If it blooms... they will come

The annual migration of the plants from outdoors to indoors ahead of the first frost was almost over. Two days ago, just two were left.

This bad boy was still sitting on the porch by the first back door because I had some trouble figuring out where to stick him. So I put Richard to work rearranging things so he could come indoors. The room with the best light is his old office, which has been converted into the pantry-study-exercise room-dormitory-kitty prison. It's rather crowded in there right now.

And this one was still on the deck by the second back door because I knew it was about to bloom. I didn't want bring it into the area where our son sleeps, which is where the plants have to go for winter hibernation, while it was blooming.

And it looks like I broke the promise on the previous post. For indeed here is a picture of poop. Bird poop.

Let's clean that up, shall we? There, all better now.

A few hours later, the blossom unfolded.

And its smell appeals to a certain type of insect.

And they began to arrive in droves. Attracted by the putrid smell emanting from the structures in the center of the bloom.

By yesterday afternoon, the flower had lost its allure and the flies had stopped coming, which was a good thing, because there was a frost warning last night and so it --and the fern -- needed to come inside. And I do believe that the baby bloom that is starting to form on the left there is going to be nipped in the bud.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

One more conversation

Me: Can you download the pictures for me.

Richard: You are driving me crazy with this camera. You take pictures of everything.

Me: No I don’t.

Richard: You’d take pictures of poop if you could.

Me: No, I would not!!!

Richard (in a high falsetto voice): Oh look! There’s some poop. I’m gonna take a picture of it.

Me: I would not!!!

And that's the truth. I might take pictures of animal skeletons, but I won't take pictures of poop. I promise.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

6 Quirks

I have been tagged by Pennsylvania Wild Woman to participate in 6 Quirks. She writes one of my favorite blogs. Here are the rules for this exercise in social intercourse:

1. Link the person who tagged you.
2. Mention the rules on your blog.
3. Reveal 6 of your quirks on your blog.
4. Tag 6 fellow bloggers.
5. Leave them a comment to let them know.

Here are my 6 Quirks:

1. As it happens, one of my quirks is that I have an independent streak and I have a history of not always playing well with others. So, I am just semi-participating in this exercise. I'll tell 6 Quirks about myself, but I am not tagging 6 other blogs (I am curious about a couple though). I don't mean to be snarky about it; that's just the way I am.

2. I love the taste of raw meat. However, I no longer sample raw meat before I cook it because of the danger of contamination from bacteria and parasites. On rare occasions, I will order sashimi in a Japanese restaurant.

3. I am obsessive about saving anything that might be useful "later." Especially food. When we cleaned out the freezer, we found two half-pint jars filled with mysterious brown slush that turned out to be frozen coffee. Richard uncovered a jar of frozen "juice" from canned tuna, salmon, and mackerel that I made him save for making fish chowder (which I did make, and it was delicious).

4. Sometimes when I am doing repetitive things, I count the motions; for example, how many cuts it takes to slice a potato, how many times I slide the carrot across the blade of the mandoline. How many steps I take to go from room to room, how many seconds it takes me to vacuum the living room.

5. I like to collect weird stuff. I have a skull collection. Richard made me throw most of them away, but I still have a few small ones. I have a collection of mummified animals. I have jars filled with pickled reptiles and embryos.

6. I am obsessive about being places on time.

I am tagging Just Me, Miss Paula in Stitches, and Caprice of Electic. I am curious to know how quirky these women are, but if they want to participate, that's up to them.

Metamorphosis: An off-the-wall conversation....

Richard: Dinner is going to be a little late.

Me: Do you want me to come in there and help?

Richard: No! NO!!! No, I do not.

Me: No? Are you sure? I could....

Richard: It gets me all messed up if you come in here and start messing around in the kitchen when I am trying to cook dinner. You just stay out and leave me alone.

Me: OK! OK!!!

Well, I found this exchange hilarious. I guess its because I am still not used to this sudden switch in our roles in the house.

Richard walks around the house shaking his head.... I am becoming your father, he says.

My father began doing many of my mom's jobs in the years after he retired. Maybe because he didn't have enough to keep him busy, and then his knees deteriorated and he was no longer able to do the more physically demanding jobs outside. His ability to cook and clean and do the laundry has really helped during my mom's long convalescence from spinal surgery.

The difference is that Richard is not crippled by arthritic knees. There were subtle signs of the transformation when he took over doing the dishes about, oh, a year ago. Then in June he stepped up to the plate and began cooking, doing the laundry, and feeding the birds when I was stuck on the couch.

I am no longer stuck on the couch, however. I keep waiting for him to hand it all back to me, but much to my surprise, he is still doing the cooking and the laundry, and he feeds the birds. He seems to like being a househusband --- he’s very good at it too.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy anniversary to this blog...

My first post on this blog was 4 years ago today. I normally don’t go back and reread what I have written, but I did look at some of those earlier posts to get a feel for what I was writing about then. I see that I have a tendency to repeat myself. Toward the end of November 2004, I wrote about my neighbor Tony and his dog Chance when he brought us some deer meat.

...I was so touched by his kindness and generosity. I thought Tony was a rather scary guy when he and his girlfriend first moved in. He is big, he has tattoos, he is missing teeth, he rode a Harley (until he had to sell it to pay for cancer treatment), he looks mean; but, like his huge American bulldog (who is a sweetheart and I’ll write about her eventually), he has a heart of gold.

I did eventually write about Chance, earlier this month in fact.

On October 22, 2004, I told how Richard...

...found a cockroach last night and fed it to the spider that has spun a web close to the light by the closet. It has been there all summer, waiting patiently for a fly or moth to come to the light and get snared. He or she seemed very appreciate of the food...

and in a few days there will be another post about spiders.

The seed that later germinated into this blog is found in this rather grubby journal.

Now, I have sporadically written in journals since my high school and college days in the 1960s. Back then I usually only wrote when I was upset or angry, so it isn’t very helpful for me to go back and read these old journals. All it does is bring back memories of bad things I had forgotten. I don't write in them very much these days. If I am upset about something now, I try to offer it up to God and let it go.

This particular journal doesn’t contain too many of the details of daily life because the pages are not lined. I have a hard enough time writing legibly when there are lines, and when there aren’t lines, well it really is a mess. So, instead I have mainly used it note bits and pieces of information that might be useful on occasion, or to keep track of stuff of interest.

In 1993 and 1994, I monitored the warts that were growing on my hands, just out of curiosity to see how they waxed and waned.

I have had an ongoing problem with warts since the late 1960s. I have scars on my hands from warts that were removed. I later learned that warts usually go away by themselves. At the moment, I am wart free.

I taped down a map the dentist drew on how to get to the wonderful restaurant he recommended at the Rockbridge Trout Farm so I wouldn't lose it. We did have dinner there (mine was Trout Almandine). It was delicious.

If ideas for a blog topic pop into my head, I write them down before I forget. Sometimes I actually do write about them on the blog, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I can read what I have written, sometimes it takes a minute to figure it out. I was going to complain about items "made in China," but I changed my mind....

If I come across a sentence or phrase in a book that I find witty or clever or profound, I write that down too.

I've also taped down funny things I've seen in the newspaper, such as this advertisement for puppies with an amusing, obviously unintentional mistake. One might wonder what the father might have been if he wasn't also a dog. They probably meant to say father is also a purebred dog.

A picture of a hairstyle I particularly liked. She happens to be our representative in Congress.

I also found a note that I wrote on January 1 1994:

Richard accuses me of not being “productive...”

...because I am always reading books...

...or playing Zentris...

Zentris was an incredibly addictive game. I would start a game and look up and find 2 hours had passed. I remember reading a study that showed that many women were playing Zentris as a stress reliever.

...and the house is messy. He has a point. So I must endeavor to be more balanced. Brenda said in a letter that I should write about my life “experiences.” So I think I will start to write a book. We’ll just see what happens.

A few things have changed since then. Brenda died. I think she would have liked this blog. I haven’t played Zentris in years. The house isn’t quite as messy as it was; for example, instead of leaving my clothes from the night before laying on the floor, I have learned to pick them up in the morning. I still read books, but it takes me a little longer now to finish one.

As it turned out I did not start writing a book about my life experiences then, but I did eventually start writing this blog... 4 years later.